Archive for December, 2011
December 29, 2011 7:29 pm by Big Willie Style
I’ve been saying it for years and still feel the same way and I am reminded of such by watching tomight’s Rutgers-Florida game. Rutgers fans are the best in the business. Sure the team isn’t always the best, but the students and fans are always right on. No stupid choreographed chants or cheers like Duke or Notre Dame, just great noise and energy despite not always having the best squad. Big ups to the Scarlet Knights.
December 27, 2011 11:08 am by Big Willie Style
Ok everyone it’s time for another season of Big East basketball. And with conference realignment blowing up the Big East that we’ve come to adore, who knows if this is the last time we get to do his with this bunch of schools. So let’s embrace and enjoy.
Last year picked the winners at a rate of about 72%. This year, I’ll try and do better for you. Here’s what’s on tap this Holiday week:
Pitt travels to Notre Dame and for those of you who haven’t paid attention since last March, the Irish are not nearly the competitive squad they had last year. Pitt should crush the Irish in this one.
St. John’s hosts Providence tonight as well and although I believe playing in Carnesecca Arena helps the Red Storm, I’ll go with the visitors as well. Take the Friars tonight.
We’ve got some exciting matchups Wednesday evening and we’ll start with West Virginia hosting Villanova. Although I don’t really know what to make of either team so far, I lean with the home squad here and take the Mountaineers in a very close game against Nova.
Syracuse hosts Seton Hall in their season opener and everything is telling me to take the Pirates in an upset of the #1 ranked Orange. However, it’s early in the season and I’m not throwing up an Hail Mary’s in my predictions yet. I’ll take Syracuse, but very, very close.
Look for Georgetown to be impressive on the road again as they take on Louisville. But look for the Cards to edge one out against the Hoyas.
Finally, UConn travels to Tampa to take on the USF Bulls. They’ll have no troubles here and the Huskies will roll.
After a few non-conference matchups on Thursday, we’ll have Seton hall hosting West Virginia on friday night. I’ll take the Pirates here. Perhaps I think Seton Hall is better than they actually are?
December 24, 2011 12:36 pm by Coach O
This is the 4th of 4 preview articles
USF – After moving through the pre-Big East part of the schedule, the Bulls hope that if they become healthy they can compete with the mid-level teams in the league once the games begin. USF opens with UConn which will be a tough home opener. After that game the Bulls have six league games that they have a chance to win before traveling to Marquette on January 24th. Augustus Gilchrist has been steady among the team leaders in scoring and rebounding. Jawanza Poland had a great debut with 13 against Cleveland State after sitting out for injury and a two game suspension. The Bulls will go with a Freshman Anthony Collins at the point which will cause problems in the early going. USF has to travel to Marquette, Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville during the season, a tough assignment with a young point guard. Toarlyn Fitzpatick, Victor Rudd and Ron Anderson must step up to move USF out of the bottom four.
Syracuse – Right now the Cuse is sitting on top of the NCAA world. The Orange has met every challenge successfully so far and the outlook is that they will continue to be a favorite to win the Big East. The comeback at NC State is an example of the team keeping composure and allowing the talent to show through at the end. Opening the league schedule with Seton Hall, DePaul and Providence should allow SU to be 3-0 before hosting Marquette on January 7th. Games at Louisville and UConn in February should be the toughest but the Orange will have both of those teams at home during that month should be the equalizer. Kris Joseph is a leading candidate for player of the year. He can do it all. Add to that mix the outside shooting of James Southerland, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Brandon Triche along with the inside strength of Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas and you have a winning combination. Look for the Cuse to be among the leaders all season and compete with Louisville and UConn for the title.
Villanova – The early season woes continue for Jay Wright. Malik Wayns and Mouph Yarou have been steady but Dominic Cheek has yet to shake off his poor shooting slump. Nova has struggled on defense allowing opponents guards to have a field day with their scoring. Losses to Saint Louis and Santa Clara were disturbing. Temple and St. Joseph’s showed that the Cats no longer rule the roost in Philly. Opening the Big East schedule at WVU and Marquette is no picnic. Visiting Louisville, Pitt and Georgetown during the season will be a severe challenge for this team. Even if the big three players have a good season it may not be enough to move Nova above the middle of the pack. This may be Wright’s most disappointing season at Villanova. The team in the past has started strong and faded at the end. They cannot afford to do that this year.
West Virginia – Seven Freshmen have moved onto the roster and the Mountaineers are hoping they can adjust to the Big East wars quickly. Kevin Jones has been a force both on the scoresheet and on the boards. He is a true star and along with Truck Bryant they can lead the Neers to some impressive wins. Deniz Kilicli is solid down low and he continues to improve his game while impersonating the mascot. But the question is…. can WVU be successful in league play with two frosh at the point? Both Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne have been good leading the team but Huggins may have to move Bryant back to the point at times when the going gets tough in league play. A meeting with Top Ten team Baylor tested the young players before they move into a soft beginnning of the league schedule, hosting Villanova before visiting Seton Hall and Rutgers. Tough road games at UConn, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh look to be tough to win so the Neers must win home contests to approach the top four. They meet Pitt, Notre Dame and Rutgers twice, with only Pitt looking to be a tough match. Although WVU may not make the top four, they should be close behind at the end of the season.
December 19, 2011 9:34 am by Coach O
Third of four preview articles.
Providence – The Friars are 9-2 and as long as they stay away from the Iowa schools they should be ok. On two days in November they lost to Iowa State and Northern Iowa. Other than that they have been perfect. PC has nice wins over South Carolina and BC and expected victories over assorted eastern mid-majors. Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton are leading the Friars in scoring with Gerard Coleman pitching in with over 15 PPG. The one troubling aspect here is that all three are averaging over 36 minutes per game. This just will not work in Big East games where much more physical play takes place. With little or no bench support PC cannot survive the wars in the Big East. LaDontae Hinton has been a pleasant surprise as a freshman frontcourt player but after him there isn’t much. They should be competetive with St. John’s in the opener and Seton Hall in their fourth game but meet Syracuse twice, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette and Pittsburgh in their first eight league games. Look for the Friars to be better than last year but they probably won’t crack the top half in the standings.
Rutgers – Five losses in the first eleven games and not a win against an opponent considered to be a Big East caliber team have the Scarlet Knight fans wondering if things are going to be any better soon. Coach Mike Rice is still trying to find a lineup and RU is struggling to find an easy victory in the part of the schedule set up to pile up the W’s. Rice had counted on Dane Miller to be the leader after a stellar Frosh season but Miller has been up and down so far. Gilvydas Biruta is the leading scorer and rebounder, not a good sign for a positive outlook. After opening against USF the Knights will host WVU and UConn before traveling to Pitt and West Virginia and may be winless after 5 league games. Finding a leader and a go-to guy is a must and with a very young and inexperienced squad it will be a tough chore. RU will always be tough to play at the RAC but this team doesn’t have the horses to make a run at the top half of the Big East standings.
St. John’s – How do you lose 12 seniors and still remain competitive? Steve Lavin must come up with an answer for this question to help the Johnnies approach the results of last year. Add to that the loss of Nurideen Lindsey who left the squad last week and the answer becomes more complicated. having only six scholarship players doesn’t help. Three recruits didn’t qualify, Amir Garrett cannot play until the second semester, and four walk-ons were added to allow the Red Storm to have enough players to scrimmage in practice. Moe Harkless has been the best player so far averaging almost 15 PPG and over 8 RPG. Gods’Gift Achiuwa, Sir’Dominic Pointer and D’Angelo Harrison give SJU the distinction of the team with the most apostrophes in their names. But that’s not going to carry the Johnnies far once league play begins. They open with PC, then travel to UConn and host Louisville to create a tough stretch for the young Red Storm. Bottom four outlook for St. John’s this year.
Seton Hall – Herb Pope is still around……. Jordan Thoedore will get him the ball…… The Hall is 9-1. All good news for the Pirates’ followers. This team has been a pleasant surprise in the early going. Fuquan Edwin is averaging 14PPG and 6 RPG in support of the two leaders. But after these three leaders there is not much. Kevin Willard has gone pretty much with a six man rotation and that just won’t float during league play. But the Pirates open at Syracuse and then host WVU and UConn, and if they can win two of those first three games the schedule then becomes much easier. Can Pope continue at average 22 PPG and 12 RPG in the tough league games? So far he has stayed out of serious foul trouble but can he do this against the physical front lines he will meet? Can Theodore keep up his 15PPG and 7 APG during league play? These are the questions that will define SHU’s season. The thought here is that the Hall should crack the top half of the league and give some favorites fits during the league games.
NEXT: South Florida, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia
December 15, 2011 9:12 am by Coach O
This is the second of four previews.
Louisville – The Cards have started strong and are currently the #4 team in the country. They have steamrolled through the early season to go 9-0 with an impressive OT win against Vanderbilt. It will be interesting to see how UL fares in a tough late December stretch that starts with a game against Memphis Saturday and includes games against Georgetown on Dec. 28th and at #3 Kentucky on New Years Eve. The early January schedule looks winnable and gets tougher as the Cards move into Mid-January at Marquette and at Pittsburgh. Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith have been the leading scorers, both averaging in double figures. Gorgui Dieng is pulling in 9 rebounds per game and Chane Behanan is right behind with more than 8 per game. But the leader of the Cards is Peyton Siva, the point guard who is averaging 10 points and 6 assists per game. Louisville has been hit real hard by the injury bug, losing Mike Marra for the season, Wayne Blackshear and Stephen Van Treese for the early season and are waiting for Rakeem Buckles to return to form after off season ACL surgery. Once the Cardinals get to full strength they should be one of the challengers for the league championship.
Marquette – The Golden Eagles are 9-0 and ranked #11 in the country off a strong start with a key win at then #7 Wisconsin. Darius Johnson-Odom is scoring at a 19 PPG rate closely followed by Jae Crowder who is averaging over 17 PPG. Buzz Williams made probably the best JUCO recruiting grab last year with these two. Crowder is also leading the team in rebounding. The guard play has been outstanding with Junior Cadougan averaging 6 points and 6 assists and Vander Blue with 11 PPG and 4 APG. The big loss so far has been Chris Otoule tearing his ACL and he is uncertain to return this season. Davante Gardner will take his spot in the lineup. Todd Mayo has been a spark off the bench scoring 11 PPG. The early season Big East schedule shows games at Georgetown and Syracuse the first week of January and those two road games may define the Eagles season. Marquette will meet Villanova, Georgetown and Cincinnati twice this year and are at Syracuse and at UConn so they will be tested throoughout. Look for Marquette to be in the top half of the standings at years end.
Notre Dame – Losing top scorer and pre-season All Big East first teamer Tim Abromaitis has Mike Brey looking for some answers to keep the Irish afloat. Ugly losses to Missouri, Gonzaga and Maryland have shown that ND might not fare too well in the league this season. The team was not only hit with the loss of Abromaitis but suffered through a flu epidemic and the inability of co-captain Scott Martin to step up and lead. The best players for the Irish so far have been Soph point guard Eric Atkins (13.9 PPG, 3.7 APG) and Jerian Grant (12.4 PPG). Jack Cooley has been outstanding in the early going against weaker opponents but has struggled versus stronger teams. After a meeting this week at #20 Indiana, the Irish open the league season with Pitt, at Cincinnati, at Louisville and then host UConn in the second week of Big East games. ND could very well open 1-4 and then hit the road to Rutgers before hosting #1 Syracuse. Looks like a long season in South Bend.
Pittsburgh – The #14 Panthers have won seven in a row and might extend that streak to 14 before visiting #11 Marquette on Jan. 14th. So the possibility of 16-1 exists but then Pitt follows the Marquette visit with a trip to #1 Syracuse two days later and then host #4 Louisville five days after that. A tough stretch that the Panthers hope to have Travon Woodall back for. Without Woodall those three games might be a problem, but with him Pitt may just come out of their toughest part of the schedule in pretty good shape. Ashton Gibbs continues to provide senior leadership scoring almost 19 points a game. He is a candidate for player of the year in the league. Nasir Robinson is a quality forward with 14 points and 6 rebounds a game. Dante Taylor averages 9 PPG and 6 RPG to supply depth in the frontcourt. Add point guard Woodall to this mix and you have a championship contender. The Panthers are still a young team and having to make trips to#11 Marquette, #4 Louisville, #1 Syracuse and #9 UConn during the schedule makes Pitt’s goal of a league championship hard to attain. Still, they will be among the elite and probably a top four team in the final standings.
Next – Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall