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Tag:Big East
Posted on: January 18, 2012 10:37 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 10:45 pm
 

Cincy, quite clearly, second-best in Big East

Cincinnati's win Wednesday night at UConn improved the Bearcats to 5-1 in the Big East. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Matt Norlander

STORRS, Conn. — Cincinnati flew into Hartford, took the 30-minute bus ride to Storrs and stole the title of Big East’s Second-Best Team from Connecticut Wednesday.

The Bearcats hung on at Gampel Pavilion, 70-67, after Sean Kilpatrick sunk a kill shot on Connecticut with 2.7 to go. I was sitting 10 feet from where it happened. It was awesome, and it positively froze the frenzied Gampel Pavilion crowd just seconds after Shabazz Napier tied the game, completing a 10-point comeback in less than two minutes for the Huskies.

The win offered more answers about who Cincinnati is, its dynamics, how tough it can be and why it’s as stable a group as you could ask for in wake of what will most certainly go down as college basketball’s ugliest moment of the season.

Yeah, that fight, it needs to be mentioned again. You think I want to get into this? Not really, but it’s legitimate subtext to Cincy’s season. Going to be that way the remainder of the way, through March or April. Fair or not, it’s a prologue to every big game they play. That will diminish as the season goes on, but it merits mention in mid-January because, Wednesday night, Cincinnati earned its Marquee Win (it was the first home loss for Connecticut this season) and biggest moment following that fracas against Xavier more than a month ago.

The players don’t much care about their perception; it’s refreshing to see how light-hearted they are about it. Afterward, the press peppered them with questions about really hitting a stride more than a month away from the fight. The players took all the questions, answered them in full and without a stock, trite tone in their voices. Throughout the game, UConn fans taunted the Bearcats, particularly Yancy Gates, who threw the sport’s more infamous sucker punch. Gates didn’t ignore it.

“We laugh when we come in and student sections are still yelling about it,” he said. “Actually, it’s kind of amusing. It happened, we’ve moved on, and become a better team. It could’ve easily gone another way.”

The way it’s going (15-4 and 5-1 in the Big East) is turning into one of college basketball’s most surprising storylines. UConn will still be considered a better team than Cincinnati right now by some, but the record shows the Bearcats are No. 2 in the standings with wins against Georgetown, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and UConn. Think the Huskies can claim better? Florida State, West Virginia Harvard … Notre Dame. And 4-3 in the Big East.

It’s these kind of wins, the wins no one really expects them to get — hello, UConn was considered (still is?) a national title contender — that tussle convention and expectation on its side. The Bearcats needed 11 3s to do alter the national perception of them tonight, but Mick Cronin will take it any way he can get it. Especially tonight's oh-thank-you-God way. The Bearcats don't win normally get these kind of games to end on their side.

The confidence is there, consistently, for this team now, as high as it’s been all season, players said following the finish. Cronin looked as loose as I could ever remember him after he traded in his suit and tie for Cincinnati wind pants and a gray hoodie. He shared a moment, one of his favorites from this season, so far. It didn’t come Wednesday night.

“I saw a change in our team recently,” he said. “There was a comment made in our locker room — because Pitt is still Pitt; I don’t care what anybody says, and the way they’re playing, they’re back to playing well — and I heard one of our players say, ‘We just beat Pitt at Pitt. We must be really good.’” The mental state in this league, when you’re trying to build a program and break down the hierarchy, as coach you don’t know how real all that stuff is. I hear the media talk about it, but anyway, when I heard one of our players say, ‘We’re better than Pitt,’ you can tell it meant a lot to them.”

For Kilpatrick and other Bearcats, the Pitt W was the big one this season; they admitted as much. (Pretty big of Kilpatrick to say that after winning Wednesday's game the way he did.) Cronin said tonight was bigger. Of course it was. When the schedule was released over the summer, Cronin scoped it immediately, but carefully. His eyes looked for the big games, particularly the UConn one, which he knew would be on the road. He was hoping it would be at the XL Center, in Hartford, where the Huskies play many of their home games. Nope. “STORRS, CONN.” it read. And so he knew how big this would be, even before knowing how good his team would become or the PR mess that awaited him a few months down the way in the Cintas Center.

“Coming into adversity like this, at UConn, you need to know how to close it out. We did,” Kilpatrick said.

Most recently, Cincy was the one in need of a chase late to get a win. Not tonight. The Bearcats staved off a rally, led by Napier, who was throwing the ball at the hoop from 23 feet again and again, from the same spot on the far left side of the floor.

There was no buckle for Cincy. It earned a 10-point lead with less than two minutes to go and got a brand of road win that 10 other teams won’t lay claim to this year. This team is better than you want to believe. Time to set your notions of what this team is to the side for now. The Big East, in a down year, has Cincinnati as its second-best team. It may not last for more than a week or two, or maybe this team gets to Manhattan with a 14-4 league record and a complete tonal change on its season.

The group is capable of a lot right now. It remains to go the good way.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 10:02 am
 

Podcast: Burning down the house

By Matt Norlander

The hump day pod has the normal dynamic duo of Parrish and Goodman on again, but this one's different from others in that, we're not as jump-to-different-topic-minded. The discussion is very conversational, and we sort of get to stretch out on a few big, mainstream points in hoops right now.

Goodman did this from the terminal of an airport, but fortunately the intercom system doesn't interject too much. He also did this on about 13 hours of sleep in four days. Trooper, that guy.

Speaking of troopers, the police -- well, just get to listening to the podcast to find out.

Topics:
  • From the beginning: Watch out. You might get what you're after ... Gary's house almost burned down. So that's going to take a few minutes.
  • 8:25: Baylor-Kansas, though we're 36 hours removed, gets first dibs on hoops topics. This is an elongated discussion that goes a few different places. "I'm not sold on this Baylor team being a Final Four-caliber team," Goodman says.
  • 20:22: Thought we discussed UNC plenty on the Monday podcast with Borzello, Goodman in particular wanted his chance to address everything regarding "soft" North Carolina right now. Again, we hit a number of tentacles on this beast.
  • 31:41: The conversation shift to Syracuse, who deserves some of our time, no doubt. We get into them. I think they're going to the Final Four, barring something pretty shocking. My confidence is that high.

Continued thanks from me to you for keep coming back and listening. Please: spread the word. Hoops season is ramping up, and I'd love more hate mail. Spread this page and the iTunes subscription link to anyone you'd think would like this sort of think. We post three times per week, with the Wednesday show being a low-rent sitcom wannabe of a half hour, thanks to CBSSports.com national writers Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman Skyping in their opinions. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.


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Posted on: January 18, 2012 8:57 am
 

Wakeup Call: Heavy on the Syracuse links

That's his. Anthony Davis' defining position in photos to come. That's his move. (AP)
By Matt Norlander

Yes, the news of the day relates to the Stop Internet Privacy Act. The Internet will win this fight. // If SOPA's got you down, Drunk Ron Swanson will turn you around. // Jimmy Traina was kind enough to link to the blog yesterday, so I've gotta return the favor. He's a master at the link love. // I'm thankful for the Lionel Richie mash-up, but who has the time for this?

★ Why Wednesday's a notable day in hoops for Philadelphia teams.

★ Yes, the more we see all the games, the more Thomas Robinson distances himself in the POY race.

★ Oh, you wanted more proof of the T-Rob dominance? Look at what POY voters are thinking right now.

★ Last night, Anthony Davis had what will probably go down as one of the five best games of his college career.

★ If you missed this, know the NCAA is coming with even harsher penalties. It means biznass this time, guys and gals.

★ You're not likely to agree with this new rankings system of valuable players, but give it a read first before you cast it aside.

Forde Minutes is back, and can I just say I'm thankful a man named perfectly for such a column delivers consistently with such great material.

★ A terrific, simplistic elucidation of how balanced and good and reliable Syracuse is. On today's podcast, I foolishly say I think this team is destined for New Orleans.

★ Why Syracuse's lack of a challenge so far (I disagree in some degree with that assertion) shouldn't be a worry for Orange fans.

★ Yet Orange fans do worry and inferiority and anger so well. Why is that?

★ Why not one more SU link. If you want an indicator to why the Orange won't get to New Orleans, this is the biggest ace.

★ It's not often teammates put up more than 25 apiece in a "big game," but it happened when T-Rob and Tyshawn Taylor did it Monday night. Here are other recent occurrences.

★ In my opinion, any gray jerseys that don't have GEORGETOWN across the front can find a bottomless hamper.

More evidence to support my K-State-has-been-overrated-all-year
stance.

★ To be clear, Georgia State stands little chance at acquiring an at-large.

★ How a student manager leads a team to victory.

► From over the weekend, it's a walk-off alley-oop! Staggered double screen, you gotta see it coming.



♬ I'm not a very big Silversun Pickups fan -- I feel like this is a quintessential band for 17-year-olds -- but there are a handful of compositions this new-age alternative band has that pacify me.

Posted on: January 17, 2012 7:12 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 7:17 pm
 

Buckles tears ACL, will miss next season too

Louisville junior Rakeem Buckles will miss the rest of this season and all next season with a torn ACL. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Louisville’s injuries have been piling up all season, but now they will affect next year’s campaign as well.

Rakeem Buckles will miss the remainder of this season and all of next season with a torn ACL in his left knee. The junior forward tore the ACL in his right knee just 11 months ago.

“I don’t think any of us could imagine this happening to such a fine young man,” head coach Rick Pitino said in a release. “All of us are just crushed.”

Because Buckles has already had one major knee surgery, his recovery will apparently take “well over a year,” according to Louisville trainer Fred Hina. Buckles returned after nine months and played in his first game on December 7 against IUPUI.

Even though he has been playing only 13 minutes per game, he’s been one of the more efficient rebounders on the Cardinals. Buckles, a 6-foot-7 Florida native, had been averaging 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 11 games.

This is Buckles’ fourth injury in the last two seasons, as he also had a concussion and broken finger during his sophomore campaign. He is the eighth Louisville player to miss a game with injury this year.

The loss of Buckles severely hurts Louisville’s interior depth. Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan will continue to start, but now the only player to back them up is combo forward Jared Swopshire. Stephan Van Treese hasn’t played since November, while freshman Zach Price has appeared in just seven games this season.

Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:06 am
 

Steven Adams will not be savior for Pitt

By Jeff Borzello

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Of all the top players at the Hoophall Classic over the weekend, the one player everyone wanted to see was Pittsburgh signee Steven Adams.

A 7-footer from New Zealand, Adams had only played basketball on U.S. soil a couple of times – and the reviews were outstanding. Many had him pegged as a top-five player in the class of 2012 and a future lottery pick.

On Sunday night, Adams went against New Hampton Prep and was, well, underwhelming. He only played five minutes in the first half after getting hit in the head, and finished with five points, four rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes.

“It was a bad setting,” said DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony, who had seen Adams prior to the weekend. “He got off the plane about a week ago, he’s out of shape and he hasn’t really played in six months.”

Adams has dominated at Adidas Nations the past two years and also put up 23 points and 14 rebounds against Nerlens Noel, the No. 2 prospect in 2013, on Saturday. Those sorts of performances only heightened the hype for his arrival at Blake Arena.

“It was nothing I was used to,” Adams told reporters of the crowd and environment. “It was pretty scary.”

“He was very, very nervous,” Givony said. “He’s never played in an atmosphere like this, never played in an organized setting. The best competition he could find was going against 5-foot-11 guys in New Zealand.”

Adams did show flashes of his potential, though. He is very good on the defensive end, with a nose for the ball. Adams was active on the offensive glass, getting two baskets off of putbacks. He moves well and demonstrated some athleticism – although he also seemed stiff on other plays. Moreover, he didn’t seem like he had a ton of post moves in his repertoire, leading Givony to say that Adams needs guards around him who can create shots and open looks around the rim for him.

This is the last thing Pittsburgh fans want to hear, especially after a seven-game losing streak and an 0-6 start in Big East play, but Adams will not be a savior next season.

“People need to temper their expectations of him,” Givony said. “He’ll be a 15-20-minute per game type of player. People expect him to come in and be a Jared Sullinger or an Anthony Davis. That’s not him.”

While Adams still might end up as a top-five pick due to his ceiling, it might be a couple of years before we see that on a consistent basis.

Photo: Adidas

Posted on: January 16, 2012 11:41 am
Edited on: January 16, 2012 12:04 pm
 

Podcast: Why does UNC's 33-point loss matter?

By Matt Norlander

If a team gets beatdown like UNC did at Florida State Saturday, does it mean they won't win the title? Well, nobody's ever lost by 33 and gone on to cut down nets. In fact, no one's ever lost by more than 27 in a season and gone on to win it all.

CBSSports.com recruiting savant and bro supreme Jeff Borzello calls in from the Hoop Hall Classic to discuss Carolina's chances of bucking that trend, as well as Roy Williams taking his team off the floor before that game was over. Bro-zello and I also get into the Ryan Boatright situation at UConn -- he's sitting out of games again, pending NCAA review of his eligibility -- as well as a look ahead to tonight's huge game: Baylor at Kansas.

Here it is:
  • From the beginning: Borzello's watching the best high school tournament of the season, the Hoop Hall Classic, up in Springfield, Mass. For people that follow this stuff, or want more, he runs down the essentials.
  • 7:13: It's on to UNC. That huge loss. No team's ever loss by more than 27 points has gone on to win a title that season. Why should UNC be any different?
  • 13:40: Roy Williams complied with Leonard Hamilton's suggestion of getting UNC's coaches and guys sitting on the bench off the floor before the storm. But the walk-ons on the court? Left for dead. Williams deflects talk from the loss. Brilliant.
  • 16:24: Ryan Boatright is again ineligible. He sits and waits while his situation is reviewed. Why's this happening right now and what's the crux of the problem?
  • 20:21: The nation's most underrated great player? Arnett Moultrie.
  • 23:24: Advance of Baylor at Kansas, which amounts to a game that could have some more big-picture reaction if Baylor smothers the 'Hawks.
  • 26:42: Some gib-gab to finish up. Insanity workouts, Borzello trying to drop 20 pounds in two months, the NFL playoffs, 30-person birthday parties at german restaurants.

Continued thanks from me to you for keep coming back and listening. Please: spread the word. Hoops season is ramping up, and I'd love more hate mail. Spread this page and the iTunes subscription link to anyone you'd think would like this sort of think. We post three times per week, with the Wednesday show being a low-rent sitcom wannabe of a half hour, thanks to CBSSports.com national writers Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman Skyping in their opinions. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.


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Posted on: January 14, 2012 6:02 pm
 

Afternoon Delight: Big Ten home dogs hold serve



By Matt Norlander

On busier Saturdays and Sundays this season, we’re not going to make you wait until the end of the slate of games to catch up with all that’s happened. Afternoon Delight (3-pointers in flight!) recaps the first five-or-so hours’ worth of action, the perfecta appetizer right before dinnertime.

A very nice win for Iowa, and so the Tebow craze continues. I think benchwarmers are starting to revolt against all that time they spend not playing. Now they’re trying to get the attention on themselves. It’s working.

The best we’ve seen so far: Kentucky 65, Tennessee 62. Now, bear in mind, this post is going up as Kansas is fending off Iowa State and San Diego State is tied with UNLV with a few minutes remaining. I’d wait ‘til those games finish, but I’ve got dinner plans. I know—I’m sorry! We’ll have coverage from that game and all the dinnertime-and-after results as the night goes on.

So anyway, UK went into Knoxville and didn’t get done like Florida got did last Saturday in an early tip. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis continue to amaze; the two combined for 35 crucial points and 20 even more crucial rebounds. Jarnell Stokes played his first game for Tennessee. He made the Vols look real, real good.

Deserving of a free dinner at the restaurant of their choice: Northwestern, hello! We can’t downplay the significant of this win, right now, for the Wildcats. They hosted Michigan State, who’d won 15 straight games, and got out with a decisive 81-74 win. There’s so much to go (I only hope NU is bubble-worthy when I see them at Indiana next month), but beating tournament teams at home gets you closer. More times than not in the past decade, I guess ever, Northwestern doesn’t beat the good teams at home.

No soup for youNorth Carolina — need I say more? Actually, I already did.

Afternoon all-stars

  1. Shabazz Napier had to play 40 minutes because Ryan Boatright is sitting again while the NCAA and UConn review his eligibility. No matter — Napier played 40 minutes, scored 16 points, only had one turnover and put up five assists. Bigtime game for the soph.
  2. I’ll have something up on Arnett Moultrie tomorrow. I talked with him a few days ago, and damn do his quotes to me sound prophetic. Moultrie and Mississippi State got a nice home W against ’Bama today, 56-62. Moultrie went for 25 points and 13 boards. He’s getting close to being a top-10 Player of the Year candidate. Monster showing.
  3. Maalik Wayns. Had THIRTY-NINE, 13 rebounds and six dimes in Villanova’s 82-78 loss at Cincy, which was a very entertaining game, might I add.
  4. Phil Pressey finished with 18 points, 10 assists, two steals and not a one giveaway in Missouri’s cruise-control home win against Texas.

Other daytime action worth your attention

  1. It was a great team effort from Iowa. The Hawkeyes nipped Michigan in Iowa City, 75-59. No chairs were damaged, and Fran McCaffery got his team to respond. Props to him and the ’Eyes.
  2. Baylor’s 106-65 killshot to Oklahoma State has to be mentioned, because it’s a look into how scary-good Baylor can be. This won’t be among the top-10 talked about results from today, but after that W over K-State on the road, and now this at home? Baylor a top-three team now, yes?
  3. Best game no one really noticed: Saint Louis finished off Charlotte 68-67, a win the Billikens absolutely had to have on the road. Top-five game of SLU’s season right there.
  4. What can I say, I have my doubts about Kansas State. Yes, this can tie into our road-woes theme, but I think the Wildcats aren’t that good. KSU never even had a lead in its 82-73 loss at Oklahoma.
  5. Oregon 59, Arizona 57 pretty much kills off the slimmest of at-large hopes Wildcats fans had. We’re talking ’Zona needing to reel off 10 straight wins to enter the bubble picture now.
  6. New Mexico and Wyoming is what we’ll close up with. The Other Big MWC Matchup finshed with New Mexico winning 72-62 on the road. Wyoming will have to steal its SDSU and UNLV home games if it wants to make a run at the tournament.

Delightful thoughts

  • Xavier rolling again after beating the Bonnies.
  • Kevin Jones took just one 3-pointer. West Virginia beat Rutgers by 24. I told ya!
  • It was 62 years ago when second-ranked Kentucky went into Knoxville and fell.
  • This is not delightful. Virginia Tech lost at Boston College. Seth Greenberg is now on the NIT bubble.
Image via Trent Condon
Posted on: January 13, 2012 2:32 pm
 

Georgetown hosts Chinese high school team

The Hoyas took the extra effort to repair the image and relationship between American and Chinese basketball this week. (AP)

By Matt Norlander


In the midst of a surprisingly good campaign, Georgetown hoops didn't need to do this. Didn't need the PR or the reminder of what happened last summer with the Bayi Rockets. But Georgetown's claimed all along that fight marred, only temporarily, what was an incredible trip. There were games after the fight, games that started and ended without a problem.

Seems the Hoyas are doing their best to make their team synonymous with good global diplomacy, as they hosted a high school team from China this week. USA Today's Nicole Auerbach reported Georgetown was a planned stop for Nanyang Model High School. Perhaps it was in an effort to -- I guess "ease tensions" is too strong a phrase so I'll go with -- relax the relationship between American and Chinese hoops. A small but meaningful meet-up.

The Chinese players took photos with [Georgetown coach John] Thompson [III], and they also received pins and Georgetown T-shirts from the coach. More than most, Thompson understands and appreciates foreigners welcoming a basketball team with open arms and helping them explore a new culture.

"We had a great experience over there, the time we were in Beijing and Shanghai," Thompson said. "Part of that, above and beyond the basketball component is the cultural exchange, learning about their culture.

"This team is coming over here for a couple of games, and they contacted us. We just wanted to welcome them here and show them a little bit of Georgetown."

The team is from Shanghai and in fact is the same school where Yao Ming played ball when he was a young, sprite 160 centimeters or so. According to the trip organizer, Joe Cooley, this kind of host-and-play trip is the first of its kind for a Chinese high school team. It's also made stops in Chicago, Buffalo and Pennsylvania. They're also heading up to see a Knicks game this weekend, according to Auerbach's article.

Good on Georgetown, who plays at St. John's Sunday.

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