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Crosstown Shootout hurts city of Cincinnati most

by - Published December 13, 2011 in Columns

There is no doubt that you know what happened in my home city of Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon.

One of the best rivalries in all of sports — not just college basketball — was taking place just a couple of minutes from where I sit writing this. The Crosstown Shootout is something that not many people outside of Cincinnati fully understand.

The best way I can describe it is to make a small correlation to the Civil War. We’ve all heard stories about brothers fighting brothers over their differing beliefs.

That is the case in Cincinnati. I can think of more than a few examples of families that have both die-hard University of Cincinnati supporters and die-hard Xavier University supporters. … Continue Reading

Big East dominates SEC-Big East Challenge

by - Published December 8, 2011 in Columns

We’re still a few weeks shy of the beginning of conference play in the Big East, but this past week gave us some of the best tests these teams will see in the nonconference season with the SEC-Big East Challenge.

These interconference events are great hooks for college basketball fans trying to get out of the malaise of colder weather and bad local football teams. ESPN dreams up match ups that force some teams (cough, cough, Cincinnati) to play at least one decent team before they get into the rough and tumble life of conference play.

This year, the Challenge expanded from its normal eight-team, two-night format to include 24 teams in 12 games over the span of three nights. … Continue Reading

No cause for alarm in the Big East

by - Published November 29, 2011 in Conference Notes
bigeast

One of the best parts of the early college basketball season is that, year after year, the big-time programs of the BCS conferences (mostly) load up on cupcake teams from lesser-known conferences to begin their campaigns — and those teams prove to be more substance than fluff.

More often than not, those cupcakes turn out to give some of the more talented squads from conferences such as the Big East a run for their money, even knocking off a few of them along the way.

The Big East has had its fair share of losses in the early going as some of the teams we picked to be contenders for the conference championships are dealing with some early season growing pains. … Continue Reading

Big East has some close calls but remained unscathed — until today

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Columns

Editor’s note: West Virginia just lost to Kent State 70-60 in a game played this morning as part of ESPN’s 25-hour marathon of college hoops. Figures.

Now that we are a week into the 2010-11 college basketball season, the Big East started the day as one of four conferences that could say every one of their teams made it through the opening weekend without suffering a loss; the ACC, Big 12 and Mountain West are the others.

Although you would expect most of the Big East to make easy work of their early season cupcake opponents, the parity of college basketball that has become prevalent in recent years showed itself once again with some big-time programs needing some solid play to hold off so-called mid-majors. … Continue Reading

2011-12 Big East Conference Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Columns

The Big East Conference as a whole is in flux as we start the 2011-12 college basketball season, but all that realignment is still a year or more in the future. The strongest basketball conference in the country last year sent a record-setting 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament.

The Darlings of the Dance were the Kemba Walker-led Connecticut Huskies who went on a tear winning five straight games to capture the Big East’s automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. The Huskies went on to win six more games and win the national title, defeating the Butler Bulldogs, 53-41. … Continue Reading

Cincinnati Bearcats 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Cincinnati Bearcats

 

Last Year:

26-9 overall, 11-7 Big East (T-6th)

Coach:

Mick Cronin (6th season, 87-77)

Projected starting five:

G: Cashmere Wright, Jr.
G: Dion Dixon, Jr.
G: Sean Kilpatrick, So.
F: Justin Jackson, So.
C: Yancy Gates, Sr.

Important departures:

Rashad Bishop 8.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.7 apg
Ibrahima Thomas 5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg

Inside the numbers:

66 percent scoring returning
64 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Shaquille Thomas, 6’6”, 165 – Rivals #81
F: Jermaine Sanders 6’4”, 205 – Rivals #131
G: Jeremiah Davis, 6’3”, 195 – ESPNU Pos. #43

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 12/10 at (15) Xavier
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/18 – 1/23 at (4) Connecticut, at West Virginia, at (5) Syracuse

Prediction:

5th in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

A lot of how the Bearcats do this year is dependent on Yancy Gates and his “want-to.” Gates has been hit-or-miss in his time in Cincinnati, playing up to his potential at the end of last season, which has given Bearcat fans the hope that he will continue his upward trend. However, Gates’ midseason dismissal for lack of effort looms in the back of the minds of Cincinnati fans.

Returning four starters from last year should help the Bearcats continue their trend of regaining national prominence. Sean Kilpatrick has a lot of expectations to fulfill this year. The sophomore is touted as UC’s microwave, giving Cincinnati an outside threat to balance Gates on the inside.

Coach Mick Cronin has handled predicament well over the past six years at the helm. Taking some hits along the way, the Cincinnati native has once again brought the Bearcats into the preseason rankings with the belief that 22nd is the lowest they will be ranked all year. A solid starting five and a talented young bench should help the Bearcats build on their second-round dismissal from the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

Next: Connecticut Huskies

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Connecticut Huskies 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Connecticut Huskies

 

Last Year:

32-9 overall, 9-9 Big East (T-9th)

Coach:

Jim Calhoun (25th season, 605-228)

Projected starting five:

G: Shabazz Napier, So.
G: Jeremy Lamb, So.
F: Alex Oriakhi, Jr.
F: Roscoe Smith, So.
C: Andre Drummond, Fr.

Important departures:

Kemba Walker 23.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.5 apg 37.6 mpg
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel 5.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 16.6 mpg
Charles Okwandu 2.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 15.4 mpg

Inside the numbers:

53 percent scoring returning
70 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

C: Andre Drummond, 6’10”, 275 – ESPNU #2
G: Ryan Boatright, 6’2”, 165 – Rivals #42
F: DeAndre Daniels, 6’8”, 180 – Rivals #10

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 1/21 at Tennessee
Toughest in-conference stretch: 2/6 – 2/18 at (8) Louisville, at (5) Syracuse, vs. DePaul, vs. (21) Marquette

Prediction:

3rd in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

Despite losing their All-Everything floor general Kemba Walker, the defending national champs might have even more talent in 2011-12 than they did on the title squad. Returning All-Rookie team selections Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, the Huskies also have big man Alex Oriakhi as well as a top recruiting class that expects to see major playing time right out of the gate.

Andre Drummond, one of the nation’s top high school centers looks to be inserted into the starting lineup, and Ryan Boatright should see some time as Napier’s backup whenever he becomes eligible. The question in Husky-land isn’t whether or not this team will be able to live up to last year’s accomplishments; it is if they can match them.

The postseason runs through the Big East and NCAA tournaments masked the fact that the Huskies were perfectly mediocre in conference play, ending at 9-9. With most of the championship team returning in 2011 as well as the influx of top recruits, folks in Storrs will be calling this a reloading year, not rebuilding.

Next: DePaul Blue Demons

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DePaul Blue Demons 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

DePaul Blue Demons

 

Last Year:

7-24 overall, 1-17 Big East (16th)

Coach:

Oliver Purnell (2nd season, 7-24)

Projected starting five:

G: Jeremiah Kelly, Sr.
G: Brandon Young, So.
F: Cleveland Melvin, So.
F: Tony Freeland, Jr.
C: Krys Faber, Sr.

Important departures:

Jimmy Drew 6.4 ppg. 3.3 rpg, 2.1 apg
Mike Stovall 5.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.2 apg
Devin Hill 5.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.0 apg

Inside the numbers:

80 percent scoring returning
78 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

G: Shane Larking, 6’0”, 170 – MaxPreps #68
G: Charles McKinney, 6’4”, 190 – ESPNU Pos. #51
C: Derrell Robertson, 6’9”, 215 – ESPNU Pos. #56

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 11/24 Minnesota
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/1 – 1/8 vs. (5) Syracuse, vs. (11) Pittsburgh, at Villanova

Prediction:

15th in BE; 10+ wins

What to expect:

DePaul returns a good and young core of last year’s team that showed flashes of possibly big things to come. Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin enter their sophomore seasons after gaining quality experience in the freshman seasons, playing the majority of the games for the Blue Demons.

Senior PG Jeremiah Kelly who led the team in minutes played and steals last season will aid Melvin and Young. Krys Faber will be the Blue Demons’ man in the middle and give Oliver Purnell’s team the big body they need. Tony Freeland will round out the starting five after averaging nearly 10 ppg last year.

Purnell is installing his system of full-court pressing that showed it could keep DePaul close against Louisville, West Virginia and Villanova last year, but unfortunately for Blue Demons fans, it looks like it will take a few more years to realize Purnell’s dream of building the success he enjoyed at Clemson.

Next: Georgetown Hoyas

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Georgetown Hoyas 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Georgetown Hoyas

 

Last Year:

21-11 overall, 10-8 Big East (8th)

Coach:

John Thompson III (8th season, 159-66)

Projected starting five:

G: Markel Starks, So.
G: Jason Clark, Sr.
F: Hollis Thompson, Jr.
F: Nate Lubick, So.
C: Henry Sims, Sr.

Important departures:

Austin Freeman 17.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg
Chris Wright 12.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.3 apg
Julian Vaughn 7.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5 apg

Inside the numbers:

43 percent scoring returning
63 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Otto Porter, 6’9”, 200 – ESPNU #42
C: Mikael Hopkins, 6’8”, 210 – ESPNU #78
G: Jabril Trawick, 6’5”, 200 – ESPNU #80

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game(s): 11/21 at (13) Kansas, 12/1 at (17) Alabama, 12/22 vs. (9) Memphis
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/28 – 2/8 at (11) Pittsburgh, vs. (4) Connecticut, vs. South Florida, at (5) Syracuse

Prediction:

8th in BE; 20+ wins; NCAA Tournament berth

What to expect:

The Hoyas lost their two leading scorers, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, but reloaded with the No. 15 recruiting class according to ESPNU. Although we don’t project any of the newcomers to start right away for the Hoyas, don’t be surprised to see Otto Porter, Mikael Hopkins or Jabril Trawick play some significant time for JT3.

Georgetown isn’t doing itself any favors with their nonconference schedule, playing three top 25 teams before opening the Big East with Louisville Dec. 28. The last time we saw the Hoyas, they were getting in a little skirmish with a Chinese team, but perhaps that fight could do something for the chemistry of the young team.

Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark will be the leaders of the team with Clark finally getting his time to shine. Thompson is one of those long swing guys who can cause match up nightmares for opposing coaches. Sophomore guard Markel Starks could become the facilitator that the Hoyas lacked after Wright’s wrist injury last year. As usual, JT3’s boys will have the athleticism and talent to beat any team on a given day.

Next: Louisville Cardinals

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Louisville Cardinals 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Louisville Cardinals

 

Last Year:

25-10 overall, 12-6 Big East (T-3rd)

Coach:

Rick Pitino (11th season, 245-96)

Projected starting five:

G: Peyton Siva, Jr.
G: Chris Smith, Sr.
F: Kyle Kuric, Sr.
F: Chane Behanan, Fr.
C: Gorgui Dieng, So.

Important departures:

Preston Knowles 14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg
Terrence Jennings 9.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Inside the numbers:

66 percent scoring returning
67 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Chane Behanan, 6’6”, 250 – Rivals #21
F: Wayne Blackshear, 6’5” 210 – Rivals #36
C: Zach Price, 6’1”, 240 – Rivals #67
G: Kevin Ware, 6’4”, 167 – Rivals # 70
F: Angel Nunez, 6’8”, 190 – ESPNU #91

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game(s): 12/2 vs. (7) Vanderbilt, 12/31 at (2) Kentucky
Toughest in-conference stretch: 2/23 – 3/3 at (22) Cincinnati, vs. (11) Pittsburgh, vs. South Florida, at (5) Syracuse

Prediction:

4th in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

One of the strongest recruiting classes in the nation gives the Cards more than enough to replace Preston Knowles and Terrence Jennings. As Louisville showed last year, they don’t have any real standout players, although Siva is on the cusp and Kyle Kuric showed on multiple occasions last season he can take over the game — and win homecoming king.

Louisville’s depth give the Cards the chance to wear out their opponents running Pitino’s full-court press, creating turnovers and forcing tough shots late in the shot clock. With Siva and Kuric in the backcourt, accompanied by Chris Smith, the Cards will look down low to Gorgui Dieng.

Dieng will take Jennings’ place on the low block and will act as the last line of defense if a team were to break the Cardinals’ pressure. Dieng’s length gives him the ability to alter shots around the rim, although Dieng, as well as the team as a whole, could benefit from picking up more boards. If the Cards can get past the idea of only having one ball between their dynamic playmakers, look for Louisville to make a run at a league and possibly, a national championship.

Next: Marquette Golden Eagles

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