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Big East Conference Preview

November 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Big East Conference Preview

by Stephen Murphy

The complexion of the Big East will soon be dramatically changed, causing resentment around the league. UConn Coach Jim Calhoun has publicly stated that he does not want to schedule any contests with Boston College after this season. Syracuse administrators had some charming comments for the Eagles officials, and Miami has filed a counter lawsuit.

In the latest chapter of conference musical chairs, the University of Miami filed suit against the Big East Conference and the University of Connecticut, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia. The suit alleges breach of contract and a conspiracy to defraud on the part of the conference and the individual schools. Miami also sued the University of Connecticut for defamation.

It’s the latest in a ‘he said, she said’ leaving some athletic administrations in the Big East just waiting for the final makeup of the league. Since the University of Miami gave its notice of intent to leave the Big East and paid the necessary $1 million exit fee, it has been subjected to lawsuits and verbal assaults, most notably by the Connecticut attorney general.

The Big East men’s basketball conference will consist of one division in 2003-04. The 14 conference members will all play each other at least once. Each school will play three others on a home-and-home basis, face five schools at home only and five schools on the road only. For 2005-06, the Big East will invite five C-USA schools. These schools are Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida for all sports, and Marquette and DePaul for everything but football. Such a move would give the Big East eight football members and 16 overall members for men’s basketball. The Big East could also add Central Florida or a combination of Army and Navy as affiliate members in football. When will the war of words between Britton Banowsky and Mike Tranghese begin?

2003-04 All-Big East Team
Emeka Okafor – UConn (MVP)
Ben Gordon – UConn
Chris Thomas – Notre Dame
Ryan Gomes – Providence
Hakim Warrick – Syracuse

Second Team
Billy Edelin – Syracuse
Drew Schifino – West Virginia
Julius Page – Pittsburgh
Craig Smith – Boston College
Andre Barrett – Seton Hall

Comeback Player of the Year:
Uka Agbai – Boston College

Newcomers of the Year:
Charlie Villanueva – UConn
Tyler Relph – West Virginia

Connecticut Huskies (23-10, 10-6, 2nd in East)

The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team has been selected as the preseason No. 1 team. In addition, Hoopville has also chosen junior center Emeka Okafor as the preseason player of the year and a first-team preseason All-American. Jim Calhoun enters his 31st Season in Coaching, his 17th at UConn. His record and accolades speak for themselves. Strangely, the biggest decision in Calhoun’s career is one he didn’t make. Emeka Okafor, the best shot blocker in Big East history, chose not to apply to be a Rhodes Scholar. This is likely because he will be rejecting Allen Iverson and Kobe (assuming he is not playing for the Colorado Penal League) next year in the NBA. Coach Calhoun said it would not surprise him to see Okafor’s name prefaced by “Senator”, or “CEO” one day. By far the smartest defensive player to come along in some time, Okafor will be providing plenty of stuffing well after Thanksgiving this year, as he will lead the Huskies far in to the postseason. He is already compared to the greatest center in the league, and while comparisons are never fair, doubters are quick to point out his offensive deficiencies. But people of high roundball intelligence will tell you Alonzo Mourning, and Patrick Ewing never became good shooters until after they left for the NBA. You can’t doubt him; opposing teams will be unable to get off layups in non-transition play. His flexibility allows the Huskies to strengthen their defense out on the perimeter. Normally the game plan is to stretch out a team’s defense, allowing your team to get off a high percentage shot. Okafor is stretching defenses and it work’s in the Huskies favor. The kid is a rare breed; he will get numerous 2nd and 3rd chance opportunities. 20 points and 20 boards will not be uncommon, as Emeka will get the consensus selection for National Player of the Year.

UConn continued to dominate league play last year with a 23-10 record (overall) and a trip to the Sweet 16. Most will predict nothing less than a Final Four appearance. Another integral part of this upcoming season’s success will be the play of shooting guard Ben Gordon. Gordon averaged just under 20 points last season, torching teams with his shooting from the perimeter, reflecting the play of Ray Allen. Ben needs to put the ball on the floor more, which is necessary for UConn’s success. Note to Gordon: Call ex-Husky Kevin Ollie, have a sit down, learn a thing or two from the NBA point guard. If Gordon can add penetration to his game it will ease the pressure off Okafor. Gordon can be the catalyst, with little worry having Emeka there to clean up should there be a miss. Okafor will be the reason Ben Gordon is a 1st-Team Big East selection at the end of the season.

Prior to last season Calhoun said he would not be surprised to see Gordon lead the team in scoring, what will he have to project this year? Let us not forget Taliek Brown returns for his senior season, having him around for his superb defensive contributions will make this season one other teams might want to quickly forget

UConn has made some key additions, led by the versatile 6-10 Charlie Villanueva to a veteran team and is the preseason No. 1 team. In addition to Gordon and Okafor, the Huskies return senior point guard Taliek Brown, sophomore small forwards Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson and sophomore power forwards Hilton Armstrong and Marcus White. The Huskies lost reserve guard Tony Robertson and reserve forward Mike Hayes, but added talented freshman point guard Marcus Williams and backup center Josh Boone along with Villanueva, who is battling Armstrong for a starting slot. UConn will open play in the 2003 Preseason NIT with a home contest on November 17, 2003 against Yale at 7:00 p.m.

In addition to its home-and-home series with the Fighting Irish, Panthers and Orangemen, UConn will host matchups against Georgetown, Miami, Providence, Seton Hall and West Virginia. The Huskies will play road games at Boston College, Rutgers, St. John’s, Villanova and Virginia Tech.

Syracuse Orangemen (30-5, 13-3, 1st in West)

According to some westerners, the sun rises in the East but settles in a finer location. Last season the sun in northern New York (via New Orleans), as Carmelo made a pit stop for a year prior to becoming a Nugget.

The focus may stay on the Big East for the entire season, last year’s playmakers are back (with the exception of Carmelo) mature, and ready to contend. The Big East sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament and all of these teams made it to the Sweet 16, becoming the first conference to do so. Ultimately the ‘Cuse brought home the prize, and in compelling fashion. It is said that a team that wins dramatically early becomes stronger. Syracuse barely pulled away from Auburn, then went on to show Oklahoma the ‘Price’ wasn’t right for Hollis, then told T.J. his Ford didn’t have any turbo in the Final Four, and finally outdoing Kirk Heinrich, and Nick Collison and shocking the world.

The Orangemen will raise their 2003 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship banner before their game with the Harlem Globetrotters on November 11th. Maybe this will take away from the hard feelings and the interesting comments made by Syracuse Chancellor Kenneth Shaw, and AD Jake Crouthamel. These comments were attributed to Boston College departing our beloved Conference to join the ACC. Shaw and Crouthamel felt BC used questionable tactics by being involved in discussions to strengthen the Conference before accepting their belated invitation to the ACC. They feel the ACC has intentionally tied to destroy the Big East with the motive of attempting to eliminate it as a competitor.

Farewell, who cares? What was the consensus when the Big East raided other Conferences years ago prior to their inception? Get ready for two years from now when Rick Pitino forces UConn to play at the Hartford Civic Center due to the Gampel Pavilion not being able to hold 25,000 plus with these two teams ranked in the top five of the country. Both Shaw and Crouthamel contend that they made a commitment to the Big East, recommitted especially after these recent debacles, and look forward to a competitive and profitable future. Let’s move on to what counts, basketball.

The Orangemen lose Final Four MVP Carmelo Anthony and senior guard Kueth Duany (graduation), but have reinforcements ready to repeat last years triumph. Hakim Warrick who started all 35 games for Cuse, was second in points to the #3 overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft steps in to the lead role. Hakim Warrick, who was voted the Conference’s Most Improved Player, and is the most versatile player in the country, joins the sophomore duo of Gerry McNamara and Billy Edelin. McNamara also was a Big East All-Rookie selection after averaging 13.3 points, 4.4 assists, and leading the conference in free throw shooting. Mcnamara also made the Final Four All-Tournament Team. Edelin 6-4 from Silver Spring Maryland, overcame legal troubles and proved to be a big spark to the national champs looks to duplicate his 9 point average per game. Josh Pace who is a Junior will be a valuable reserve, and Louis McCroskey, a 6-5 big time recruit provide extreme depth.

Craig Forth with split time at center with Jermey McNeil. Forth is the tallest member of the Orangemen squad at 7-0, he averaged slightly under 4 points, and four boards per game. McNeil is the swatter of the squad, rejecting almost 3 shots per game. Demetris Nichols and Sophomore Matt Gorman will be auditioning for the small forward spot, Terrence Roberts will rotate between small and power forward. Assistant Coaches have made phenomenal strides in recruiting, especially Troy Weaver. These recruits in time will help dampen the effects of Carmelo Anthony’s early departure.

Pittsburgh Panthers (28-5, 13-3, 2nd in West)

Splitsburgh…Gone is Brandin Knight and Ben Howland

Ben Howland has replaced Steve Lavin at UCLA. Howland’s tenure was the shortest in at Pitt in 81 years. Howland gets Hollywood money, he gets his dream job, he gets a program that will always be nationally prominent, and he gets to take his family home to California. Howland replaces Steve Lavin, who was fired March 17 after the Bruins went 10-19 for their first losing season in 55 years. Lavin left with a record of 145-78 in seven years. He took the Bruins to round of 16 of the NCAA tournament five times in six years, a feat matched only by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“Ben Howland is an outstanding basketball coach, one of the best in the entire country, and he is the man we want to run our program,” athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a statement. “He has built winning programs throughout his career and we expect that he will return UCLA basketball to the nation’s elite.” Big Ben leaves behind a bunch of kids who came to Pitt thinking they were going to play four years for him. Howland’s seven-year contract only validated those expectations.

Pitt’s players feel betrayed, another one of the Big East’s NCAA Sweet 16, the Panthers look to perform under new tutelage. After failing to land Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser, Pitt turned to Jamie Dixon. Dixon, a TCU grad and an integral figure in the University of Pittsburgh basketball program’ the last four seasons, was named the Panthers’ head coach on April 15, becoming the 14th coach in the school’s history. Pitt opens November 14th against Alabama hoping to duplicate the success of the last three seasons. Success should come, but without the contributions of Brandin Knight who helped the Panthers to their winningest four-year period in school history.

The Panthers will still have spectacular play and a balanced scoring attack. Julius Page, a Preseason All-American candidate with teammate Chevon Troutman. Named a consensus All-District and All-Big East selection in 2002-03, Page returns for his senior season after leading the Panthers in scoring. He netted double figures in 25 of 32 games, and hit 48 percent of his field goal attempts. In his three-year career, the six-foot-three-inch guard has started 92 of 100 games played, scored 1,116 points, hit 154 three pointers and averaged 3.0 rebounds.

Chevon Troutman only started three games, but his presence was always felt immediately. He has contributed primarily in the low-post but also can play on the perimeter. Troutman is a tough, talented rebounder, athletic defender, and fierce competitor. Troutman will expand his game with a starting role in 2003-04. He emerged as a key contributor towards the conclusion of his freshman season and carried that success over to the 2002-03 campaign.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-10, 10-6, 3rd in West)

Decisions, decisions. As mentioned earlier, we know the impact on UConn with Emeka Okafor’s choice to return. Notre Dame felt the benefit of a similar decision, as junior point guard Chris Thomas withdrew his name from consideration for the 2003 NBA Draft. Thomas, a 6-foot-1-point guard, said in May he would stay in the draft if he thought he would be among the first 20 players drafted. He later changed his mind and said he would stay in the draft only if he were a first-round pick. He never hired an agent, which would have prevented him from returning.

Thomas is a First-team Preseason All American, a genuine playmaker with incredible ability, and is a great catalyst to an offense somewhat dwindled from last season. Retaining Thomas means everything to Brey, especially this year as the Irish get off to an early start with scrimmages in Barbados.

Losing to Arizona in the 2003 NCAA Tournament left the Irish with an empty feeling. The team approaches this season’s early start without Matt Carroll and Dan Miller. That means ND will have to turn to another hot hand in its next overtime game against Georgetown. Coach Brey loses two of his dependable weapons to graduation, and now has to search for replacements. I guess you can’t have ’em all.

The early practices because of the Barbados trip will give the Irish a chance to see how freshmen guards Colin Falls and Russell Carter fit into the Irish system. Omari Israel, the third Irish freshman, may sit out the 2003-04 campaign while he recovers from knee surgery. ND should be solid defensively with Jordan Cornette and Torrian Jones, who have a defense-first mentality.

Brey had to quickly identify his core group of players; those being Cornette and Jones, along with Tom Timmermans, Chris Quinn, Chris Thomas and Torin Francis. During their short offseason Mike Brey named Torrian Jones a captain, which has been long awaited for by Jones. Jones will be relied upon as a leader. Rick Cornett and freshman Colin Falls could see significant playing time, possibly being two players to fill out an eight-man rotation. Falls comes to Notre Dame from Loyola Academy in Park Ridge, Ill. Throughout summer workouts, the Irish looked at Falls to fill the outside shooter role they lost with Carroll and Miller graduating. Receiving a bunch of passes on open looks from the outside, Falls passed up a number of chances and played the role of a shy new guy. Brey and the coaching staff have been telling Falls to be greedy.

Providence Friars (18-14, 8-8, 4th in East)

Coach Tim Welsh is ecstatic to welcome back guard Abdul Mills. Mills was the team’s leading scorer two seasons ago, but sat out last season with a hip injury. Welsh also welcomes back almost everyone from last season. The Friars finished 18-14, won eight of its last 11 games and played three games in the NIT. Mills can be teamed with guards Sheiku Kabba, who averaged 10.0 points last season and Donnie McGrath, who made the Big East All-Rookie Team. The Friars were 13-2 when Kabba reached double figures. McGrath, who saw most of his action at the point, averaged 9.1 points and 4.3 assists. Six-five freshman Dwight Brewington will provide some depth in the backcourt.

No one is happier than Ryan Gomes to get Mills back. Gomes, who is the key to success in the frontcourt, hopes to have a lot of pressure taken off by Mills’ return. The 6-7 junior was an All-Big East Second Team selection last season after leading the squad in scoring (18.4) and rebounding (9.7). He posted 17 double-doubles and led the Friars in free throw shooting (84.0). As a team, Providence was second in the nation from the line with a 77.9 free throw percentage.

Center Marcus Douthit brings back his defensive tenacity – he became a defensive force by blocking 3.0 shots per game, which placed him 11th nationally. The Friars have also gone global, as they have three forwards from Europe. Junior Tuukka Kotti, who is from Finland, averaged just fewer than eight points and four boards while starting 22 times. The other two are seniors Maris Laksa, an underrated forward, and Chris Anrin, an outside shooting threat. Laksa hails from Latvia while Anrin is from Sweden.

Junior Rob Sanders is also in the frontcourt mix. A starter in 10 games, Sanders was usually a spark defensively and on the boards. Six-nine freshman Herbert Hill, who was redshirted last season, has a reputation as a strong rebounder and shot blocker. Freshman Jeff Parmer, a 6-7 forward, will try to make the forward position a little more crowded. With experience, a little fortune, and a hungry team, look for the Friars to make some noise this season.

Seton Hall Pirates (17-13, 10-6, 4th in West)

Last season, Louis Orr earned Big East Coach of the year honors after starting out at 5-7. The New Jersey Legislature even saluted Seton Hall men’s basketball and Orr in their June 23rd Legislative Session. Orr will be looking to continue that momentum into 2003-04, and with four starters returning, another post-season bid could be in Seton Hall’s immediate future.

Senior returnee Andre Barrett runs the club. The 5-10 point guard, who has started every game in his career earned All-Big East Second Team selection last season after averaging 16.7 points and 5.3 assists per game. Barrett also averaged 37.9 minutes, the most in conference play. Barrett also brings experience he gained from joining the United States team in the Pan American Games.

Barrett teams with Pirate swingman John Allen. Allen a 6-5 junior and a strong mid-range shooter makes the transition to shooting guard to join Barrett as one of the best backcourt duos in the Big East. Allen netted 13.9 points per game last season. 6-6 forward Marcus Toney-El returns for his senior season after averaging 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. Orr considers Toney-El one of the team’s top defenders and looks for the senior to add leadership and the intangibles to the Pirates this year.

A blow to the Pirates will be the loss of Kelly Whitney, who is going to miss part of the basketball season so he can concentrate on his studies. Whitney will practice with the team, but will not participate in games. Currently limited in practice with a torn tendon in his right thumb, Whitney started all 30 games last season, averaging 11.0 points and 6.1 rebounds. He shot a team-high 52.8 percent from the field and blocked 30 shots. He was selected to the Big East Conference’s all-rookie team.

Andre Sweet, who had to sit out the 2001-02 season, succeeded in his role as the team’s “sixth man” and became one of the most dependable Pirates. The 6-6 forward led all reserves in scoring (8.1 avg.), rebounding (4.5 avg.) and minutes (20.8 avg.). According to Orr, “it’s who’s on the court at the end of the game” Sweet will be one of those players.

Senior Damion Fray is by far the most athletically gifted Pirate, and can contribute in many ways. Fray can add great energy and intensity and is capable of making plays with his athleticism, especially rebounding on the break, and inside scoring. Fray and sophomore J.R. Morris can score on the offensive end.

The Hall also has a 7-footer that saw limited action, and has been making improvements. Alex Gambino can team with Eric Davis a 6-9 sophomore, who missed the first six games of the season with a stress fracture. This combo gives the Pirates good size.

Donald Copeland, a 5-10 sophomore, is Barrett’s backup at point guard. His ball handling ability allowed Orr to move Barrett to the two-guard. Copeland’s playing time increased during the season as he gave the Pirates a solid 3-point shooter and a top-notch defender.

West Virginia Mountaineers (14-15, 5-11, 6th in West)

If the fans in Morgantown can learn to behave after a victory, things might not be as bad this season. One upset on the gridiron, and students poured onto Mountaineer Field and tried to tear down the goal posts but were turned back by police who used pepper spray and force to clear the field. Within minutes, fires were set in the streets. More than 100 were reported.

The Mountaineers were a consensus pick to finish last in the West Division last season, the exceeded expectations, but only slightly. West Virginia only had one returning player who had started more than 10 games. Head Coach John Beilein was still able to muster a 14-15 season, with a 5-11 Big East record.

Things could be on the move upward, after starting three freshman and two sophomores last season. Beilein’s second Mountaineer team will be a little more seasoned. The three starting freshmen center Kevin Pittsnogle and guards Johannes Herber and Jarmon Durisseau-Collins all started every game. Pittsnogle made the All-BIG EAST Rookie Team after averaging 11.6 points and shooting 47.6 from 3-point range

Drew Schifino, who was clearly one of the league’s most improved players last season. A 6-3 junior, he was fifth in the Big East in scoring with a 20.1 average and earned third team all-conference honors. Schifino returns for his Junior season, and will be nicely complimented by Freshman point guard Tyler Relph..

Beilein has said its possible the Mountaineers could play both 6-foot-11 Kevin Pittsnogle and D’or Fischer at the same time. This could pose matchup problems for opposing defenses. Pittsnogle developed a reputation as one of the nation’s top shooting big men, connecting on 47.6 percent of this three-point attempts in 2003.

Starting young is key to helping a young team grow. Four freshmen should see significant playing time. Tyler Relph, the “Mr. Basketball” of New York State, will push for playing time at point guard. The other three rookies are forwards: 6-7 Brad Byerson, 6-5 Franklin Young and 6-7 Jerrah Young.

Beilein has some sketpicism about starting two centers at once. He is aware that there are some drawbacks to having two centers on the floor at the same time. This is just one of many phases in a multi dimensional world for the new coach, how the Mountaineers develop remains to be seen.

St. John’s Red Storm (20-13, 7-9, 5th in East)

Mike Jarvis seemed to lose his grip on the Red Storm in a game against Duke last season, when the Blue Devils defeated St. John’s behind a 9-1 run. But Jarvis rallied the troops, leading St. John’s to an NIT title. This season, St. John’s must follow that act without Marcus Hatten, a.k.a. “Mr. Clutch.” Fortunately, “Showtime” is still highlighting the Red Storm roster.

His name is Daryll Hill, who sat out all last season because of academic struggles. Hill was as a slasher in practice, at times outperforming Hatten. Showtime can light it up from the outside, reminding the Johnnies of alumnus and former thriller Bootsy Thornton.

Elijah Ingram will again run the point this season. His mission is to create opportunities for Showtime. Willie Shaw is also back. The swingman returns for his senior season along with Grady Reynolds and Kyle Cuffe. Reynolds battled legal problems last year based on allegations of assaulting his girlfriend.

At center, St. John’s lacks depth and inexperienced. Mohamed Diakite returns after missing all of last season with a bad back. Abe Keita, and Curtis Johnson will also be available to provide minutes. Freshmen Lamont Hamilton and Tyler Jones may be asked to contribute immediately.

Villanova Wildcats (15-16, 8-8, 3rd in East)

Coach Jay Wright thought last season could be the super-‘Nova season with four returning starters, including phenom Gary Buchanon. The promising season turned disastrous, however, when tendinitis sidelined Jason Fraser and several Wildcat players received suspensions for abusing phone privileges. Some team members will miss some games at the start of the upcoming year.

This year’s club will have to replace guard Gary Buchanan and forward Ricky Wright. Buchanan led the team with 15.4 points per game and Wright averaged 12.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game as a dependable low-post scorer.

Wright will depend on seven underclassmen among his top nine players. To complicate the Wildcats’ situation, senior guard Derrick Snowden could miss the season because of a knee injury suffered in August.

Georgetown Hoyas (19-15, 6-10 5th in West)

Gone are four-year starters Kevin Braswell and star forward Michael Sweetney. With Sweetney bolting G’town for the NBA, the Hoyas their most productive low-post players in Big East history. The Hoyas lack a go to star player; something Hoya fans have grown used to over the years.

What the Hoyas lack inside, they make up for with a wealth of athletic perimeter players. Esherick must shift his focus from pounding the ball into the post to Sweetney this season. Georgetown has a tradition of outstanding low-post players – Merlin Wilson, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutumbo, Sweetney. This year, however, will be different.

Esherick and the Hoyas will depend on senior guard Gerald Riley. Riley, a 6-6 small forward, is back as a starter. One year ago, Riley started every game averaging 14.1 points a game. He was lethal beyond the arc, shooting 42 percent. Riley is the team’s most proven scorer. The 6-6 forward, who can also play the two, He hit 41.5 percent from 3-point range. Last season Georgetown looked to Kevin Braswell to provide consistency, there’s no question Gerald Riley will be counted on from Esherick and the Hoyas. Courtland Freeman returns as the Hoya with the most experience. Freeman is eager to contribute, having battled various injuries throughout his career. Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw, a forward/center looks strong coming off a redshirt freshman season.

With so much inexperience, the baby Hoyas will have ample opportunity to earn playing time. Freshman Matthew Causey is a solid point guard candidate. Rayshawn Reed will compete for time at both guard positions. A pair of 6-8 freshmen, Sead Dizdarevic and Ken Izzo, will also contribute.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-16, 4-12, 7th in West)

The Knights were third in the Big East in turnover margin last season They didn’t shoot the ball well, however, finishing 13th in field goal percentage. In response, third-year coach Gary Waters brought in a recruiting class designed to deliver a more potent scoring punch to help the Scarlet Knights compete against several of the Big East’s loaded squads..

Swingman Ricky Shields and forward Herve Lamizana will be Rutgers’ leaders and must prove so on the court. Lamizana, a 6-10 senior, can play either forward spot. One of the league’s most versatile players, he averaged 10.6 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game and 3.0 blocks per game. In two seasons, Lamizana has blocked 152 shots. Forward Sean Axani started fifteen games last season and averaged 4.2 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game. He can play power forward or center.

Our Nearly Dearly Departed Brothers

Miami Hurricanes (11-17, 4-12, 7th in East)

In eight of the Hurricanes’ twelve Big East losses, Miami lost by five points or less. Two of those required overtime. Coach Perry Clark hopes last year’s experiences turn into this year’s victories. Superstar Darius Rice returns for his senior season, which will also mark Miami’s final Big East tour before joining the ACC. Rice averaged 18.7 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game. Four times last year he hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation to either win a game or send it into overtime. An All-Big East Third Team selection, he should be one of the league’s premier scorers.

Miami has a trio of guards who played much of last season as freshmen. Robert Hite showed promise at shooting guard. Armando Surratt started fifteen games and frequently ran the point. Eric Wilkins earned nine starts and averaged 4.4 points per game while excelling defensively. Last year, Miami led the Big East in steals.

Boston College Eagles (19-11, 10-6, 1st in East)

The best Big East basketball program to bolt for the ACC, Boston College will have to find a way to play without its hero, Troy Bell, the program’s all-time leading scorer. Ryan Sidney, who would have been the Eagles team leader, will not return for his senior year because of personal reasons. In addition to these losses, Craig Smith had arthroscopic surgery on his knee and might not be available for the start of the season. Smith was named to the pre-season All-Big-East squad.

Smith was one of the nation’s top freshmen last year, starting 28 games and averaging 20 points per game and eight rebounds per game. Smith earned Big East All-Conference second team honors and All-Rookie first team honors. His 60.8 percent shooting percentage was tops among all Big East players.

Junior center Nate Doornekamp is also on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. The injury will sideline Doornekamp for six to eight weeks. Boston College’s three returning starters must carry the Eagles until the other players heal. Uka Agbai, a 6-8 power forward, returns from a neck injury. Agbai averaged 12 points per game before the injury.

Virginia Tech Hokies (11-18, 4-12, 6th in East)

The Hokies are another Big East team entering its final season in the conference before joining the ACC. Virginia Tech will have a new coach at the helm in Seth Greenberg. Arriving from South Florida, Greenberg has the unenviable charge to resurrect a mediocre basketball program. A move to the tradition-laden ACC will not make his job easier, but an improved record in the Big East this season would be a fine start to his latest coaching challenge.

The only two seniors on the roster will be the team’s cornerstones. Bryant Matthews and Carlos Dixon are talented and experienced wing players. Last year, Matthews became the first player in Big East history to lead his team in scoring (17.3 points per game), assists (64), steals (48) and blocks (34). A starter in every game, he also led the team in minutes played.

Random Thoughts

We still may have underestimated Emeka Okafor’s ability . . . Mike Brey is in huge debt to Chris Thomas . . . Billy Edelin is eager to put the past behind him . . . Chevon Troutman won’t stay four years at Pittsburgh . . . It was very professional of Steve Lavin to predict success for his successor at UCLA Ben Howland . . . The academic troubles of Kelly Whitney are going to stall Seton Hall. . . Craig Esherick and Mike Jarvis could be feeling job insecurity after this season . . . Will Showtime be worth the price of admission at St. John’s? . . . In a few years we will refuse to believe Virginia Tech played in the Big East.

     

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Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 17, 2017

May 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we start with the NBA Draft Lottery, then talk about a big pickup for Duke, important transfers, the coaching carousel winding down and much more.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

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Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.