Big East Hoops

Archive for the 'Villanova' category

Making a name.

March 14, 2009 8:55 pm by Mister D

Sure. We know what Championship Week and March Madness are all about: the drama and the tradition of the best college basketball teams in the nation going head-to-head, trying as hard as they can to make it to the field of 65. And for those that do make it, it’s about playing in a do-or-die tournament that’s probably the most exciting in the world.

But beyond those general, overarching pursuits, this time of year is also about college players making a name for themselves (and, potentially, millions of dollars in a sweet NBA contract because of their name recognition).

I’ll give you an example. Last year, which names did you hear constantly throughout the season? Michael Beasley. OJ Mayo. Kevin Love. But who, after an amazing NCAA Tournament where he went from a no-name point guard to absolute stud, was the first pick in the NBA draft and the likely NBA rookie of the year? Derrick Rose. He went from nobody to mega-star.

Rose went from little-known guard to #1 pick.

In fact, there are several guys every year who start out the month of March as relative no-names, and who play their way, either by way of their conference tournament or the NCAA tournament, into the NBA. Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, Brandan Wright, Jeff Green. I could go on.

The point is, these guys made a name for themselves in March, and they decided to capitalize on it. If they’re smart (assuming they care about making lots of dough), athletes will make the jump and cash in on their name when the buzz is up and player stock is high. After the past 48 hours, I fully expect Jonny Flynn to do this. A few days ago, nobody outside of the Big East knew who Jonny Flynn was. Now, everyone knows this guy is a warrior, a talented floor general, and somebody with tons and tons of heart who also happens to be quite marketable. As much as I love his game and would not want him to leave, I actually think he should leave. His name recognition will never be higher. His stock is up. Sell. There are perils if you don’t.

Donte Greene made the jump.  Maybe Jonny should too.

We said on this site a two years ago that super-frosh Scottie Reynolds, after he dropped 40 on UConn (in Storrs, no less) late in the year and had an amazing Big East Tournament, should have left for the NBA. Was he polished enough for the NBA? Probably not. Was he a little soft? Probably. But his name recognition was huge. He was all over the national media, and we argued that he should have cashed in and gone to the NBA because the opportunity might not arise ever again.

Two years later, he’s still a great player on a solid Villanova squad. But all of a sudden he’s the second-best player on his team, and he isn’t glowing in the national spotlight (especially not after scoring 2 points on 1-6 shooting in the Big East semifinal the other night). Now, maybe he goes nuts in the NCAA Tournament this year and turns some heads. And maybe he gets a shot at the NBA after a stellar senior season. I still like his game, and I think he could make it in the next level. But he had the chance at making millions back in 2007, and he missed it.

So if you’re reading this, Jonny, think on it. Guaranteed cash in an economy like this? Be like Derrick. Don’t be like Scottie.

There’s a game tonight?!?

February 13, 2009 2:31 pm by donald

Not only is there a game tonight (strange, as usually only the Ivies play on Friday night — can anyone explain why there’s a game tonight?), but it might be the best game this week — Villanova goes to West Virginia.

Let’s look at the facts.

Villanova comes into the game smoking hot offensively, having scored 94 against Providence, 102 against Syracuse, and 102 against Marquette, and not surprisingly, having won all three games. Indeed, they haven’t lost since they played UConn close on January 21st. They’re ranked #13 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. Also, Big Willie Style fears them. Anything that puts fear in the heart of Big Willie puts fear into my heart.

On the other hand, West Virginia comes in ranked #7 in the country by Ken Pomeroy — above teams such as Oklahoma and Wake Forest (ranked #2 and #7 respectively by the AP), and namely above Villanova, ranked #12. They’re predicted by Pomeroy to win the rest of their games, including tonight against Villanova, their next game against Notre Dame, and their last game against Louisville (all notably at home). And Dan’l B fears them. Anything that puts fear in the heart of Dan’l B puts fear in my own heart.

What this game (and how West Virgina does for the rest of the season) represents is new school vs. old school. New school is Ken Pomeroy, Dan’l B, tempo-free statistics, favoring close losses over good teams over big wins over bad teams, and believing there’s no such thing as clutch play. Old school is Big Willie Style, watching tape, gut instincts, valuing any type of win over any type of loss, and believing that some players rise to the occasion when others do not. And New School and Old School just don’t agree on West Virginia — they don’t even get one measly vote in the AP poll, but they’re ranked 7th in the country by Ken Pomeroy.

New School vs. Old School. Who do you like tonight?

The Second Five

November 11, 2008 10:39 am by Coach O

the first five teams are all serious contenders for the Big East title. That doesn’t mean that the next group should be counted out. Each of the 2nd five could rise up to challenge UConn or Louisville for the championship.

6. Syracuse –

Frontcourt – The loss of Donte Green will take its toll on the SU frontline. Arinze Onuaku was a pleasant surprise in the low post for the Orange. He averaged 12.8 ppg and 8.1 rg and played tough in the paint. The other man in the frontcourt is still in doubt. Because of the plethora of guards available, Boeheim may use 6-5 Paul Harris as the power forward. A voracious rebounder and a 14.5 ppg scorer, Harris also averaged over 8 boards a game. The problem with that is a lack of height. If Harris moves to the ’3′ position, Krostof Ongenaet has starting experience and is 6-8. Grade – B

Backcourt – Jonny Flynn was Big East co-rookie of the year last season. He is a proven point man and also contributed 15.7 ppg. Eric Devendorf is back and will try to continue his 17 ppg average that he had when he went down last year. So now with Devendorf and Flynn that should be enough, right? No….. Andy Rautins, a sharpshooting small forward is returning after a year off with injury. So a backcourt of Flynn, Devendorf and Rautins would force a move of Harris to the ’3′ position. Grade – A

Coaching  – Jim Boeheim still gets the most out of his players. He is a Hall of Fame and National Championship coach and has a very talented group here this year. Grade – A-

OVERALL  – SU can give some teams fits this year and have the talent to make a run at the title. Will they miss Donte Green? Probably. Will they miss his crazy shot selection and defensive indifference? Not at all. If the orange can improve their defense this season they will finish higher than 5th. If not, I see them in 6th place. Grade B+



Frontcourt – Dante Cunningham had a solid season last year. he averaged in double figures and over 6 rpg. Antonio Pena and Shane Clark are adequate post men and Casiem Drummond will backup both post positions. All major players down  low are 6-8 except Drummond who is 6-10. The Cats hold their own down low but will have trouble with the frontlines of the top rated teams. Grade – B-

Backcourt  – Scottie Reynolds will win some games for Nova. He will also lose some. Sometimes Reynolds needs to involve teammates when his game goes south. He is one of the most talented and exciting guards in the country. Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes will split time at the point. The problem here is that Reynolds controls the ball most of the time and the point guard occasionally gets involved in his offense. Dwayne Anderson will start at the ’3′. His outside shooting won some key contests for the Cats last year. When Anderson and Reynolds are on their game, Nova can beat anyone. Reggie Redding lends experience behind Anderson. Grade A-

Coaching – Jay Wright is a great coach. He has shunned the NBA and isenjoying his stay in Philly. He will get the most out of his group and probably lose some hair when Reynolds gets out of control. Grade – A-

OVERALL  – Nova is a dangerous team. They went to the Sweet Sixteen last year and did not lose any key players from that team. But they will also lose a game or two that should be easy wins. Grade – B


Frontcourt – Roy Hibbert will be missed. His steady play (and 3 point shooting) was a plus for the Hoyas. But DaJuan Summers is a talented player and can take his game to the outside if necessary. 6-10 Greg Monroe looks to start at center but he is a Freshman. FSU Transfer Julian Vaughn and Henry Sims (Fr) will backup down low. Grade C+

Backcourt – Jesse Sapp returns after averaging 9.7 ppg last year. Austin Freeman had a great freshman year and brings experience on the perimeter. Chris Wright recovered from his injury to get valuable minutes last season. But Jonathan Wallace will be sorely missed by GTown this year and no one will immediately take his leadership place. Grade – B

Coaching – JT3 was the media darling two years ago when he led the Hoyas to the Final Four. Last year was more of a struggle as teams worked on getting Hibbert into foul trouble. This year there are some question marks. Can Summers lead this team into the top 5? Don’t think so. Losing Wallace and Hibbert may be too much to overcome. 7th or 8th looks about right. Grade – B-

West Virginia

Frontcourt – Year two of the Huggins reign is here and Joe Alexander is gone. Good news and Bad News. Da’Sean Butler returns, but at 6-7 he is more a swing player than low post presence. Wellington Smith, John Flowers, and Cam Thoroughman are names that really don’t strike fear in opponents eyes down low. Devin Ebanks is a freshman that may make an impact. Grade C-

Backcourt – Alex Ruoff returns and will be a top long range shooter for the Neers. Joe Mazzulla should take over the point after logging impressive minutes last year. That leaves the ’3′ where Butler should play if he is not needed at the power forward. Grade – B-

Coaching – Huggins didn’t take long to get WVU going last year in his style. It makes sense that they should be familiar with the new tough man to man D and hard-nosed offense. He always has his teams playing hard. Grade B+

OVERALL – Losing Alexander and Darris Nichols may be too much to overcome in this tough league this year. WVU should be in the top 10 in the BE but barely. Grade C+


Frontcourt – Mick Cronin has done a marvelous job taking a team with only a handful of scholarship players two years ago and making them a respectable foe last year. Mike Williams transferred from Texas and then was injured all last season. He is expected to anchor the low post in the absence of John Williamson. Anthony McClain and Kenny Belton will man the center position but neither has shown any flashes of brilliance thus far. Yancy Gates is a freshman who may break into the starting lineup during the season. Grade C-

Backcourt – Deonta Vaughn is one of the most exciting players in the league. Vaughn won some games on his own last year and may have to do the same this season. Larry Davis has experience but brings a 4.3 ppg average which doesn’t compliment Vaughn too well. Rashad Bishop should be the small forward this season after starting 20 games last year. Grade B

Coaching- As said earlier, Cronin has to be admired after what he has done to bring this program back from the disaster of two years ago. He shows enthusiasm on the bench and that translates to his players. He has also been successful in his recruiting efforts. Grade – B

OVERALL - Vaughn will draw most of the attention from opponents and will have to work for every point he gets this year. There is some talent here but not enough to compete with the big boys at the top of the conference. Top 10 finish will be a struggle. Grade – C



Slippery slope

February 24, 2008 11:33 pm by Dan'l B

The bubble analogy is at best acceptable. I wouldn’t miss it when something else takes its place. If soap has to be involved, I’d rather picture cagers trying to climb a slope doused in soap than see them as either (1) a bubble itself, (2) sitting “on a bubble,” or (3) trying to keep a bubble from floating into something sharp. The slope evokes how difficult it can be to climb up and how easily one can fall back or out of it.

I’m nervous about the Big East.

Pittsburgh might have the right kind of profile to be snubbed. There’s nothing EVER wrong with beating Duke (Thank you again and again Mr. Maynor, too) – should Wake and Miami dance? – but that can’t be the only bullet point for Pitt to lean on. There’s other good wins, but they’re at home. The road/neutral record is reasonable at 5-6. I’d give them credit for “tough” losses at Marquette and Notre Dame if they’d kept those close. The real danger is if Pitt drops one of their remaining home games. I don’t particularly like their chances at Syracuse or WVU, so a flat performance against Cincinnati or DePaul could easily spell doom in the form of an 8-10 conference record and a 1-6 record to close the season. Even at 9-9, Pitt needs to show something in New York.

West Virginia should have an easier time of it – the stacked schedule is all but gone, leaving three games where they should be favored and a 4th in which close-game karma ought to swing back their way (against UConn). They should come out 11-7, with the superficially impressive 6-2 closing mark. I like their chances a lot better than Pitt’s.

Syracuse has lots of climbing to do (or, if you prefer bubbles, a Kentucky-borne breeze pushed their gossamer sphere awfully close to the dreaded thorn bush today). Their last chance to post a solid road win has come and gone. I think they can defend the dome against Pitt, but it’ll be close. Ditto for Seton Hall on the road and certainly Marquette. Even if they claw back to 9-9, the profile looks suspiciously similar to (and perhaps even worse given the disparity in conference records) last year – nothing good to speak of outside the Carrier Dome. One win against likely tournament teams. It’s just about necessary to run the table.

Villanova has exactly what it needs to have a chance – some momentum already building and a couple marquee matchups coming up. The Big East’s hottest teams are on deck and in the hole. Both Marquette and Louisville have been rolling for some time. Should Nova take one or especially both games, they look completely different. I like their chances to sneak up on one of the big boys in the next week. If they can carry that into a 10-8 finish, it’ll complete their own 6-2 finish to the season.

And that’s about it. I predict seven for the Big East – Syracuse will be left out this year (rightfully this time), West Virginia will cruise in and make me proud by upsetting somebody big, and Villanova will take Pitt’s place (they split a home-and-home this year in case you’re wondering). Cincinnati and Seton Hall, better luck next year.

Reverting to the mean

February 23, 2008 2:25 pm by donald

Dan’l B noted that West Virginia is actually quite a good team who suffers from a low ranking because of losing a bunch of close games. UConn, up until today, had been winning a bunch of clos games. So it didn’t surprise me today that they lost in a close game against Villanova — one of these coin flips had to end up being tails. Here are the highlights, courtesy of ESPN:

Here are some quick thoughts I had. I’ll let Coach O affirm/negate my observations — perhaps he saw something different in person (if he ever made it to the game):

  • Scottie Reynolds is so absolutely dangerous when he gets his shoulders square. He has one of the best-looking shots in the Big East.
  • UConn typically plays a high post-low post game with Adrien in the high post and Thabeet in the low post. That makes sense superficially — Adrien is the power forward, is shorter, and has more basketball skills to make better decisions; Thabeet is 7’3” and is the center. But I think having Thabeet up top and Adrien down low is at least something to continue to try out. Thabeet surprised me with two great passes to Adrien down low, so perhaps his basketball skills aren’t that bad. Adrien is a better finisher than Thabeet and also can catch the ball in traffic. Here are two examples from the game:

    Both nontrivial passes — in the first one, he leads Adrien a bit, and in the second, he throws a left-handed, wraparound bounce pass.

  • Villanova has the best jerseys in the Big East (although Marquette’s powder blue uniforms are pretty close). Syracuse and UConn have the worst jerseys.