Big East/SEC Challenge isn’t even close — Weekend Review

The Big East, shocker, dominated the SEC, shocker!

Kentucky blows out St. John’s – The Red Storm got blocked 18 times and the Wildcats look like a team that could win a national title, while St. John’s is a young team with a lot of potential. God’sgift Achiuwa had a strong performance with 18 points and 10 boards.

Georgetown upsets No. 12 Alabama – Jason Clark is doing exactly what he has to do and that is dominate for the Hoyas. The senior guard had 22 points, while big man Henry Sims has provided a nice contribution this year. The Hoyas weren’t projected for their typical high seed, but this could be a season changer for G’Town.

Syracuse tops the SEC’s best, Florida – The two top teams in each conference hit the court at the Carrier Dome and better team prevailed. Fab Melo has really impressed me this season and I believe Cuse is a team that can be a Final Four contender. With another tough season of Big East basketball ahead, this win against at top-10 team will go a long way.

Louisville downs No. 19 Vanderbilt – Peyton Siva is clutch, plain and simple. Louisville has impressed me early and I think Siva has the chance to have a special year. He’s proven that he is capable of big-game moments and this Cardinal squad has a backcourt that can compete with the Big East’s best.

Marquette picks up big road win over Wisconsin – No one wins at the Kohl Center, I mean nobody. That is unless you play in the Big East. Even without starting point guard Junior Cadougan, who was suspended for team violations, the Golden Eagles still were able to knock off the No. 7 Badgers. Marquette could be another team that joins the ranks of – Cuse, UConn, and L’Ville as the tops of the Big East in 2011-2012.

Providence 76, South Carolina 67

Ole Miss 70, DePaul 68

Seton Hall 81, Auburn 59

Cincinnati 57, Georgia 51

24 Mississippi State 75, West Virginia 62

10 Connecticut 75, Arkansas 62

17 Pittsburgh 61, Tennessee 16

LSU 55, Rutgers 50

Advertisements

Top 5 Big East teams through Week 4 — Tuesday Top 5

1. Syracuse (7-0)

Photo Courtesy of SU Basketball/Flickr

The Orange look good to start off the year with a NIT Season Tip-Off Championship and solid wins over Virginia Tech and Stanford, but the real test comes Friday, Dec. 2 vs. Florida. Syracuse has the deepest team I’ve seen in a while with 10 guys that can contribute. I like the slimmer versions of Dion Waiters and Fab Melo to go along with a great core that includes Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, and Brandon Triche.

2. Louisville (7-0)
Louisville remains unbeaten and got a nice victory over Butler without starting point guard Peyton Siva. With Siva running the show I think the Cardinals could be an explosive team. For that to be true Louisville also needs to stay healthy, especially the strong backcourt of Siva, Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric.

3. UConn (6-1)
Blowing a 17-point lead and losing to Central Florida was a wakeup call to the defending National Champions. It was the first tournament loss in a long time, but showed the gaps they need to fill without Kemba Walker. The next day in an overtime win over No. 20 Florida State, the Huskies may have found it in Ryan Boatright. The freshman guard is another playmaker and can help running the team with Shabazz Napier being an improved scorer this season.

4. Marquette (6-0)
I’ve been saying this all offseason, that Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder will be the one-two punch that carries the Golden Eagles. They are undefeated, but still they haven’t played anyone. Besides the two-point nail biter against Norfolk State, Marquette hasn’t been challenged. They will this Saturday though, when they take on the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers on the road at the tough-to-win-at Kohl Center. If they win, a slide up in the rankings is likely.

5. Pittsburgh (5-1)
The Panthers took a rough 86-76 home loss to Long Beach State early in the season, but have recovered with three straight. I still like this team. Ashton Gibbs is a great player to have at the center of your team and if Khem Birch can do what he’s done in his first two starts (10 rebounds vs. Penn; 11 vs. Robert Morris –both wins), Pitt might have a shot this year.

UConn upset, Cuse wins NIT, Abromaitis out for year – Weekend Review

UConn loses to Central Florida – Huskies blow a 17-point lead and struggles against a 2-3 zone. Need lots of work if they want to top Syracuse. Ryan Boatright played his first game Saturday in a 78-76 overtime win over No. 20 Florida State. The freshman had 14 points and three assists. He adds another ball handler and will help this team in the long run.

Photo Courtesy of Brandon Weight

Syracuse wins NIT – The Orange, in the wake of the Bernie Fine scandal, won the NIT Season Tip-Off in a convincing win against a solid Stanford club. This Cuse team is deeper than usual. Also Fab Melo looks great since dropping over 30 lbs. in the offseason. Right now tops in the Big East.

Louisville sneaks out win over Ohio – Rick Pitino won his 250th game with Louisville in a close one, but I like Louisville right now. They beat Butler without Peyton Siva, who is their key player and would I picked to have a breakout season.

Villanova downed by Saint Louis – This loss isn’t terrible because I believe that Saint Louis is an overlooked team, they’ll compete against Xavier and Temple this year. The Wildcats are young, but Maalik Wayns had a career-high 29 points.

Cincinnati upset by Marshall in OT – I really think the Bearcats could take that next step and be a legitimate Big East contender this year, but after this loss I don’t know. The Thundering Herd could be the second-best team in C-USA, but this is a win Cincy should have had at home.

Pitt takes care of Penn/Robert Morris– Panthers had a little hiccup in that loss to Long Beach State, but I think they’ll make up for it if they can get good wins over Tennessee and Oklahoma State. Also Khem Birch recording 10 boards in his first start against Penn is a positive. The freshman added 11 in a 10-point win against Robert Morris.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Wickham

DePaul moves to 4-1 – The Blue Demons picked up a pair of wins against Texas Tech and Arizona State this weekend. I like this team. Oliver Purnell shows he can rebuild. He’s got two good young pieces in Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin and from this point on a pretty easy non-conference schedule.

South Florida takes care of FAU – A couple of nice wins against Georgia Southern and Florida Atlantic without Augustus Gilchrist. They need the big man back soon with road games against VCU and No. 14 Kansas coming up.

Notre Dame loses Abromaitis – Senior forward Tim Abromaitis is out for the season with a torn ACL. Abromaitis was averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on the year. Mike Brey is a great coach and will see how good he is in the coming months.

St. John’s loses to Northeastern – It’s a young team and a short rotation. Also not favored by a tough schedule. The Red Storm have losses against No. 16 Arizona and No. 18 Texas A&M. Coming up is a game against soon to be No. 1 Kentucky.

Friars lose first two – It’s going to be a process by I feel Ed Cooley has this team on the right track. This year is just going to be a tough one for Providence. However Vincent Council has a had a good year averaging 18 points and 5 dimes.

Tuesday Top 5: Players Ready for a Breakout Season

5. Augustus Gilchrist, senior F – South Florida

Photo courtesy of SUBasketball/Flickr

Last season Gilchrist averaged 13 points and six rebounds a game. He is a long body at 6-foot-10. Gilchrist has battled through injuries in the past, but if he can remain healthy this guy is primed for a big season.

Once again he’ll be the focal point of the offense. He has a lot to offer on the offensive end, as he is one of the few big men with a solid mid-range jumper, which expands the defense.

4. Cleveland Melivn, sophomore F – DePaul

Photo courtesy of SUBasketball/Flickr

Melvin surprised a lot of people when he averaged 14 points per game on his way to Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Barring a sophomore slump, Melvin should have an even better season. He will be the leader of a young, but talented DePaul team.

After a year of Big East basketball under his belt, expect big things from this sophomore forward. At 6-foot-8 and 210-pounds, Melvin is tough matchup due to his size and mobility.

3. Yancy Gates, senior F – Cincinnati

Photo courtesy of Pat Strang/Flickr

The senior forward, Gates averaged 12 and seven last season for an improving Bearcats team.

Gates is a handful on offense, he can step away from the basket and shoot, although his shooting needs to improve. He can also punish defenders in the paint.

Gates may not have eye-popping numbers this year, but he could be a name you hear often, as he will be the headlining attraction to an up-and-coming Cincy team.

2. Peyton Siva, junior G – Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals point guard returns after an improved sophomore campaign. Siva averaged just under 10 points a game, dished out five assists, and recorded three rebounds a game even though he is listed at 5-foot-11.

Siva is ready for a breakout season because he crafty and strong point guard. Siva penetrates as well as any guard in the conference and is a tough defender (two steals per game 2010-2011).

He improved a lot from his freshman to sophomore year, let’s see if he can improve from sophomore year to junior year.

1. Maalik Wayns, junior G – Villanova

Villanova has a recent history with short point guards. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher both had successful careers for head coach Jay Wright. This year, Wayns should take the reigns in the Wildcat backcourt.

Wayns averaged just under 14 points per game last season to go along with four assists. But since January, Wayns really took off. In Villanova’s last 19 games, the 6-foot-2 point guard scoring in double figures 14 times.

Wayns is lightning quick and can get to the rim, but like Siva needs to improve on his shooting.

Louisville Season Preview

2011-2012 Projected Starting Lineup

albcaesars/Flickr

G Peyton Siva
G Chris Smith
G Kyle Kuric
F Jared Swoopshire
F Rakeem Buckles

Key reserves: Stephan Van Treese, junior; Chane Behanan, freshman; Wayne Blackshear, freshman; Mike Marra, junior

Louisville battled through injuries last season and looked good going into the NCAA Tournament, but after a shocking loss to Kenneth Faried and Morehead State had me scratching my head.

Bailey Richards/Flickr

But Louisville comes back looking strong in 2011-2012. Peyton Siva showed that he can be a dynamic point guard in the Big East and I believe he will have a breakout season.

Jared Swoopshire should be coming back after a missing all of last season with an injury.

Louisville also has a great core of guards: Siva, Chris Smith, and Kyle Kuric. The backcourt is the strength with an undersized frontcourt.

Even if Cardinals have a so-so year, it’s okay because Rick Pitino has set the foundation for the future. Louisville had the 8th incoming freshman class according to ESPN. Forwards Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear look to make immediate impact this season.

The only concern I have with the Cardinals is Pitino. Never been a fan of Pitino, especially

Bailey Richards/Flickr

when he ran the Boston Celtics into the ground. But to me it appears Pitino is just waiting to make that jump to the studio. Even after a stunning first round exit last season, Pitino had no problem providing analysis throughout the rest of the tournament. Is Pitino more focused his team or his future career?

ESPN, CBS Rick Pitino is walking through that door.

Preseason All-Big East

Jeremy Lamb, UConn

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 11.1
RPG: 4.6
APG: 1.6

Lamb is also my preseason Big East Player of the Year. He came on late last season and provided that extra scoring option alongside Kemba Walker, which was needed for the eventual national champions. Lamb is a top NBA prospect entering his sophomore campaign. He is a lanky 6-foot-5 with a deadly stroke and moves extremely well without the ball. Lamb can also able to create for himself by getting to the rim. With an incredible wingspan that stretches out over seven feet Lamb is also a good rebounder and underrated defender.

Kris Joseph, Syracuse

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 14.4
RPG: 5.0
APG: 2.1

Joseph could have left for the NBA this summer and probably would have been a first-round pick. But he decided instead to return for his senior season in hopes of winning a national title. Last season Joseph was asked to fill the role of Wesley Johnson and he did a nice job once he began to play his own game. Joseph is a great athlete. He’s quick and is hard to stop once he penetrates the lane. He’s also versatile defender. Jump shot still needs work, but overall it seems Joseph improves each year.

Maalik Wayns, Villanova

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 13.8
RPG: 2.8
APG: 4.5

Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are both gone. Villanova’s offense this season will go through junior point guard Maalik Wayns. He’s the Wildcats top scoring threat and he’s a good one. He came on later in the season, averaging over 20 in Villanova’s last four Big East games. He is one of the quickest players in the Big East. Despite his 6-foot-1 stature, Wayns has no problem getting into the lane and scoring over bigger opponents. His shot needs to improve and Wayns needs to continue to cut down on the turnovers.

Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 16.8
RPG: 2.3
APG: 2.8

Gibbs tested the waters of the NBA Draft this summer, but decided to return to Pitt. Good news for head coach Jamie Dixon, he retains one of the conference’s best three-point shooters. Gibbs knocked down a remarkable 49 percent of his threes last season. Gibbs has a pure stroke from deep. He can come off the dribble or catch and shoot. Gibbs is steady with the ball and rarely turns it over. With only two returning starters this season for the Panthers, Gibbs will have to step up his game, not just his scoring.

Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

2010-2011
PPG: 15.4
RPG: 6.1
APG: 1.9

Like Gibbs, Abromaitis is another great shooter from deep. Abromaitis knocked down almost 43 percent of his three-point attempts last season. Although he known to stretch the defense with his shooting, the 6-foot-8 senior, is not a bad scoring threat inside. He uses an array of shot fakes and ball fakes to get his defender off balance and then beats them with mid-range jumper or finishes at the basket. Overall, he’s a complete player offensively.

Honorable mention: Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette; Peyton Siva, Louisville; Yancy Gates, Cincinnati; Kevin Jones, West Virginia