Big East Hoops

Archive for December, 2006

West Virginia 81-Connecticut 71

December 30, 2006 11:36 pm by donald

Big East conference play tipped off today as West Virginia handed Connecticut its first loss. It was UConn’s first away game of the season, and the first Big East game for four of Connecticut’s five starters. The inexperience showed; UConn was frazzled by West Virginia’s homecourt advantage. It wasn’t just West Virginia’s fans that made it difficult for Connecticut to get into a rhythm. It took a half for Connecticut to solve West Virginia’s 1-3-1 zone — Calhoun noted:

The 1-3-1 looked like a Rubik’s cube to us.

On offense, West Virginia backdoored UConn a few too many times. The loss exposed Connecticut as a team hyped for its promise and its Connecticut name. On the other hand, West Virginia looked impressive executing its precise offense. I’m not sure they’ll be able to dominate many other Big East teams with their zone defense, but it sure as hell worked today.

Some observations from the game:

  • UConn will have even more problems with a 2-3 zone. They lack consistent outside shooters and a forward capable of flashing to the free throw line and making a quick pass behind the zone. I predict two rough mid-season games against Syracuse.
  • Joe Alexander is a wonderful surprise for Mountaineer fans. After averaging 1.3 ppg in his freshman year, Alexander is scoring roughly 12 a game this year. The man with two first names is a man of many talents: today he played the backcourt position in the 1-3-1 a few times, blocked a Thabeet shot, and drained a three. I was impressed by his athleticism, especially his drive in the beginning of the second half where he went baseline and dunked.
  • Thabeet isn’t a top ten draft pick and he’ll stay another year at least. He’ll be exposed again and again as being extremely raw. Among his flaws: bringing the ball down when he receives it in the post, inability to finish against any sort of defense (note the 0-3 performance today), taking too long to gain composure to go up for a score once he’s received a pass, tipping rebounds instead of grabbing them, and using elbows to clear out space instead of his ass. He also has a really small head that looks strange.
  • AJ Price and Jerome Dyson throw looping, no-look passes when simple chest passes will do. In general, they play with too much flair and need to play with more substance. What happened to the good old days of UConn point guards like Kevin Ollie and Taliek Brown?

Read more about the game from a Husky and Mountaineer blog.

Bigeasthoops.com Top 25, week 3

December 28, 2006 4:57 pm by Dan'l B

Top 25 Schools (complete list)

#   School             W- L     Rat    SoS   (r)  NCSoS   (r) -1W
1   Florida           11- 2    27.5    1.0 (159)    1.0 (168)   2
2   North Carolina    10- 1    27.2    5.1  (42)    5.1  (49)   1
3   Arizona            9- 1    24.9    8.2   (7)    8.2  (11)   3
4   Connecticut       11- 0    23.5   -3.3 (295)   -3.3 (300)   6
5   Texas A&M         10- 2    22.8    0.3 (184)    0.3 (192)   7
6   UCLA              10- 0    22.4    7.4  (13)    7.4  (17)  15
7   Kansas            10- 2    21.4    2.5 (108)    2.5 (123)   8
8   Villanova          8- 2    21.2    4.3  (64)    4.3  (69)   4
9   Notre Dame        10- 1    20.2   -2.2 (267)   -2.2 (271)  18
10  Ohio St           10- 2    20.1    5.2  (38)    5.2  (44)   5
10  Wisconsin         13- 1    20.1    1.4 (142)    1.4 (152)  26
12  Duke              11- 1    19.5    8.8   (3)    8.8   (6)  12
13  Oregon            11- 0    19.4    0.4 (183)    0.4 (191)  11
14  Maryland          11- 2    18.5    4.7  (51)    3.7  (87)   9
15  Gonzaga            9- 4    18.4    8.5   (5)    8.5   (9)  16
15  Illinois          12- 2    18.4    4.8  (48)    4.8  (57)  10
17  Indiana            8- 3    18.1    4.7  (51)    4.7  (59)  22
17  Clemson           12- 0    18.1   -0.9 (227)   -0.9 (232)  21
19  Kentucky           9- 3    17.6   11.1   (1)   11.1   (2)  28
19  Memphis            9- 3    17.6    5.4  (31)    6.3  (26)  37
21  Georgia            7- 2    17.5   -0.4 (210)   -0.4 (220)  14
22  Virginia Tech      8- 3    17.2    4.6  (54)    4.2  (71)  28
23  Georgia Tech       8- 3    17.0    4.9  (45)    5.2  (44)  37
24  Butler            11- 1    16.9    8.0   (8)    8.8   (6)  13
24  Missouri St        9- 2    16.9    2.9  (99)    2.8 (113)  17

The rest of the Big East

29  West Virginia      8- 1    15.5   -2.9 (283)   -2.9 (289)  30
34  Georgetown         9- 3    15.3    1.4 (142)    1.4 (152)  33
38  DePaul             7- 5    14.8    7.4  (13)    7.4  (17)  55
39  Pittsburgh        11- 2    14.7    3.5  (88)    3.5  (94)  51
52  Syracuse          10- 3    12.6    2.0 (122)    2.0 (136)  54
59  Marquette         11- 2    11.1    1.4 (142)    1.4 (152)  51
74  Providence         9- 2     9.0    1.5 (141)    1.5 (148)  64
78  Louisville         7- 4     8.4    3.2  (94)    3.2 (105) 110
92  Seton Hall         6- 2     7.2    0.0 (195)    0.0 (202)  74
99  Cincinnati         9- 3     6.2    1.4 (142)    1.4 (152) 103
128 St John's          8- 3     3.3   -2.9 (283)   -2.9 (289) 104
150 South Florida      7- 5     1.1   -3.0 (288)   -3.0 (293) 133
209 Rutgers            5- 5    -3.5    1.4 (142)    1.4 (152) 224

Top 10 Conferences (complete list)

#  Conference                 W- L     Rat    SoS  (r)  NCSoS  (r)
1  Atlantic Coast           105-32    13.9    3.3  (3)    2.6  (7)
2  Southeastern             107-30    12.8    1.9  (9)    1.9 (11)
3  Big Ten                  103-35    12.1    2.4  (6)    2.4  (8)
4  Pacific 10                88-22    11.7    2.0  (8)    2.0 (10)
5  Big East                 136-43    11.3    0.8 (17)    0.8 (18)
6  Big 12                    97-36    10.4    0.5 (22)    0.5 (24)
7  Missouri Valley           76-30    10.1    2.3  (7)    1.8 (12)
8  Mountain West             69-31     5.0    0.6 (20)    0.6 (22)
9  Conference USA            65-48     3.9   -0.1 (23)   -0.2 (25)
10 West Coast                41-56     3.6    4.3  (1)    4.3  (1)

Projected Big East Standings (view page)

#  School            pW*- pL*   pCSoS*   (r)     pW*- pL*      PS?
1  Connecticut      13.7- 2.3      9.3  (16)    26.9- 3.1   NCAA-1
2  Notre Dame       12.6- 3.4     10.0  (15)    24.6- 4.4   NCAA-3
3  Villanova        11.9- 4.1     12.7   (1)    22.7- 6.3   NCAA-2
4  West Virginia    10.2- 5.8     10.8  (11)    20.6- 7.4   NCAA-8
5  Depaul            9.8- 6.2     10.9  (10)    17.7-11.3  NCAA-10
6  Georgetown        9.6- 6.4     12.3   (3)    19.2- 9.8   NCAA-9
7  Pittsburgh        9.3- 6.7     12.0   (6)    21.9- 9.1  NCAA-10
8  Syracuse          8.3- 7.7     12.1   (5)    19.3-10.7      NIT
9  Providence        7.5- 8.5     10.2  (14)    17.7-11.3      NIT
9  Marquette         7.5- 8.5     12.0   (6)    19.5-10.5      NIT
11 Seton Hall        6.5- 9.5     10.4  (12)    14.9-13.1      NIT
12 Louisville        6.4- 9.6     12.2   (4)    15.2-13.8      NIT
13 Cincinnati        5.9-10.1     10.4  (12)    15.7-14.3      NIT
14 St John's         4.0-12.0     11.3   (9)    13.0-16.0
15 South Florida     3.4-12.6     11.6   (8)    11.8-18.2
16 Rutgers           1.5-14.5     12.4   (2)     7.3-20.7
  • If, for the sake of discussion, I give these rankings more credit than they deserve, the threshold for NCAA tournament at-large consideration is a rating of about 13.0. Seven BEast schools are solidly above that threshold, with an upper-tier of UConn, Villanova, and the Irish, and a mid-tier of WVU, the Hoyas, DePaul, and Pitt. Syracuse and Marquette have put themselves on the bubble.
  • Clearly, the rest of the season will be much more important than what we’ve seen so far. These rankings and ratings are intended to give some perspective on the quality of play and competition thus far. From here, performing above .500 in conference play and doing well in the conference tournament will move these teams up and down significantly.
  • Pittsburgh played great basketball in their first half-dozen games and looked like the upper-tier team that their ranking predicated. The second half-dozen was not so satisfactory. NIT-quality teams would produce that record, with medicore results against subpar schools — wins by 14, 17, and 3 over R. Morris, Duquesne, and Buffalo — and unimpressive games against big conference schools on the road. Saturday’s victory over a decent Dayton squad was a much better performance, and if those types of games continue, it will be a matter of time before Pitt rises back to the top.
  • The small conference schools are sliding. Butler and Missouri St. are barely in the top 25 and Wichita St.’s recent losses have pushed them out. Only Gonzaga has held steady at #15.

Louisville’s Lineup

December 26, 2006 3:02 pm by Mister D

L’ville 82, Miami (Fla) 59

Terrence Williams and Juan Palacios secure the front line for the Cardinals. They’re tall, athletic, fast, lanky–everything you’re looking for in post players. They consistently rebound, score, play major minutes (~30 per game), and tend to be unselfish with the ball. Center David Padgett, though slowed by years of injury, is a tremendously talented big man whose good footwork and excellent court savvy translates into quality minutes.

So, why was Louisville 5-4 and looking like a big disappointment after their performance against Kentucky?

Their backcourt.

Coming into the season, most thought that senior guard Brandon Jenkins, and sophomores Andre McGee and Will Scott would carry the Cardinals to an NCAA Tournament berth. However, game after game, observers would see inconsistent play, the inability to get to the basket, and worst of all, woeful outside shooting from the guards. Though it pains the Louisville faithful to admit it, such performances might have been expected. Jenkins broke his leg and sprained an ankle back in August, and McGee is coming back from knee surgury of his own. Injuries of this magnitude and severity are not easily overcome. As a likely result, both players have been below average this year, and both are perhaps pressuring themselves too much, laden with unrealistic expectations of their physical capacity to play basketball at a high level–especially the senior leader, Jenkins.
Consider Louisville’s loss to Kentucky. The Cardinals, despite their awful shooting, were still able to keep the game close due to their frontcourt’s athleticism. It was one of those games that could have been a win…an easy win…had Louisville’s backcourt been able to make a few shots or draw a few more fouls. Instead, starters Jenkins and McGee were a combined 2-13 from the floor, and a combined 1-2 from the foul line. The former stat suggests that they’re not able to keep defenders honest by making the outside shot; the latter stat suggests that they’re not driving the lane and drawing double-teams and/or fouls. Guards have to be able to do both–Louisville could not to either…until this past weekend.

Rick Pitino, apparently, had seen enough. Against Miami, Pitino started his two freshmen guards, Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith. Sosa, a slasher with a confident air about him, went just 1-6. However, due to his fearlessness in the lane, he was able to get to the foul line for 7 attempts. At times he’s a ball-hog, but no one is questioning his ability to get into the lane. Smith is more of a spot-up shooter, and he showed his ability going 8-11 from the floor (including 6-8 from three-land). When you get this kind of performance from a young backcourt, it makes the already solid frontcourt that much better…and then good things happen, like a 23-point drubbing of an ACC team.

So watch out for Louisville’s all-freshman backcourt. One can penetrate and disrupt the defense, one can shoot the lights out and keep defenders honest. If Pitino sticks with them and uses the upper-classmen off the bench, Louisville could improve their team balance, do some serious damage in Big East conference play, and easily make a run at the NCAAs.

Figuring out Pittsburgh

December 22, 2006 12:32 pm by donald

We just can’t figure out Pittsburgh. They’re playing well and they have talent. So why have they been “underperforming” and losing these games that they can win? Big Willie thinks its their free throw shooting. I think it’s their inability to react within games (leaving Butch open possession after possession even after he had hit shots) and their weak rebounding (pitthoopsblog agrees as well).

But maybe the real problem is we’re overestimating Pittsburgh. Panther Rants has a great post today about just this:

Is there a major problem with Pitt basketball this year, and if so, what is it? The defense and rebounding aren’t as good as past years, but when you compare it to other top years, it’s not nearly as bad as people think. … The point is, Pitt looked better on defense and rebounding in past years because they played a lot less competition. … Is playing better competition exposing the Pitt program?

Pitt was overrated this season because people saw alot of good players and assumed they would just get better. But the players were already at the limit of what they could do. Pitt players are always at their own limit. That’s what makes the program so successful, despite not having the talent that others do. When people see a sophomore at an elite program score 10 ppg, they assume as a junior they will score 15 ppg. And usually they are right. But that doesn’t happen at Pitt. Their ceilings aren’t as high, and just as important, because of the kind of character they have, they reach their ceilings early.

So maybe the problem is our expectations. Perhaps. But when I see Pittsburgh play, I get a different feeling. I think they’re damn good and have enough talent — both LeVance Fields and Ronald Ramon have tons of game. Last year, Fields went nuts at the Big East Tournament.  As for Ramon…he shot more than 50% (32-63) from three last year. How can you not capitalize on that talent more? Again, my gut is that everything’s there. We’re not overrating them. They’ve just lost two tough games on the road. Nothing’s wrong with them. I stick with Big Willie’s prediction: they’ll be the highest rated Big East team at the end of the season.

Will somebody please make a foul shot??!!!

December 21, 2006 11:51 pm by Big Willie Style

Oklahoma State 95 – Pittsburgh 89

okso10712220314.jpg

Aaron Gray was good. Mike Cook was good. Antonio Graves was good. Their defense was good. They played well on the road. And they lost. And there’s one reason they lost: free throws. Pitt missed 6 free throws in the final 5 minutes of regulation and the first overtime. And this is certainly something that Jamie Dixon should be up in arms about.

Pitt teams have never been good at making foul shots, and tonight’s loss was another example of why you need to be good at the most basic of basketball skills. Perhaps this is why Pitt always goes down in the NCAAs and has only won a single Big East Tournament title. When you play good teams, the games are close, and in order to win those games, you need to make your foul shots. Pitt does everything else well. They’re a deep team that has good perimeter players, and although it has been criticized recently, they do play very good defense to the point it shocks you when other teams shoot well against them. But they don’t shoot free throws well. From Ontario Lett, to Brandin Knight, to Chris Taft to now Aaron Gray. If Pitt expects to live up to their lofty expectations, Jamie Dixon better have that team working on their free throws. Otherwise they’ll be the same old Pitt.