Tag:Big East
Posted on: January 9, 2012 11:06 pm

Kevin Jones is not Pete Maravich, by the way

Jones has been very good, but he had a season-low five rebounds Monday night. (AP)

By Matt Norlander

HARTFORD, Conn. — Kevin Jones is in the midst of a First Team Big East campaign. He’s been the type of player this season most expected he’d be last season, when Jones was seen by some as the 2010-11 preseason league player of the year. He’s been a joy to follow, and the kid’s not yet gotten his due, by and large.

But he can’t live life 22 feet from the hoop. Kevin Jones is not Pete Maravich. And what Maravich was to LSU Jones is not to WVU. Why am I comparing Jones to one of the best, most creative, dazzling players in the history of basketball? I’m not. I made the mistake of asking WVU coach Bob Huggins if Jones taking eight 3s (he made three of them Monday night) is a worrisome thing for the Mountaineers. Huggins then said this.

“I don’t know, did Press Maravich worry about that with Pete? You’re an idiot if you don’t throw the ball to your best player. Are you worried Calhoun’s going to wear out Jeremy Lamb? Part of what we do is KJ shoots 3s.”

If KJ is going to shoot eight 3s per game, it’s unlikely West Virginia’s going to find happiness. He’s only matched his long-bomb output from Monday night once from earlier this season — but you can afford to shoot 3-of-8 from 3 against Alcorn State. When Jones shot seven 3s? A loss to Seton Hall. Six? WVU fell to Mississippi State.

Monday night, Jones was truly pushed out of the paint for the first time this year too, snaring a season-low five rebounds (he averages 12) in West Virginia’s 64-57 Mountaineers loss to UConn. Jones, who said is confidence is way up this year, admitted he “was assuming the shooting role more than the rebound role.” Jones is at his best when he’s everywhere, not acquiescing and merely taking what the other team gives. Sometimes teams give for a reason, a good reason. UConn does have a terrific front line, but the versatile WVU forward averaged 11.4 boards against Mississippi State, Miami, Baylor, Kansas State and Seton Hall — all teams with plenty of respectable, if not great, talent down low.

Jones was barked out of the paint by recently underwhelming Alex Oriakhi, and by Andre Drummond, who had the best game of his college career. The future NBA lottery pick was smiling throughout the second half as his game and his team’s momentum escalated. Drummond finished with 20 points, 11 boards, three blocks and two steals.

“Coaches said to be physical and he (Jones) won’t like it much because a lot of players don’t like getting pushed around,” Drummond said.  

Jones and West Virginia gave it away down the stretch, giving up the ghost unofficially with 4:58 to go, when Jeremy Lamb sunk a triple coming off a Jones turnover, giving UConn a lead they’d never hand back. Six and a half minutes prior to that, the ‘Eers had a 10-point advantage. Huggins said his freshmen panicked — and they did — but with Drummond in foul trouble, only Deniz Kilicli tried to make things happen inside.

You get Jones in there, the Huskies (already in the bonus) might make the game tighter, and even give back the lead in the final three minutes.  Huggins criticized his learning guards, when Jones, who was good but tunnel-visioned in how he wanted to score tonight, couldn’t adapt inside.

“Just dribble it and dribble it and dribble it and dribble it — and we don’t pass the ball. We don’t have Jeremy Lamb. We don’t have a guy who can create the good shot,” Huggins said. “If those guys were quarterbacks, they’d be terrible quarterbacks, because they just look at the first option.”

If we’re going to fully examine why WVU is flawed, Truck Bryant also must be drawn into the picture. Because while I’m focusing on what Jones didn’t do tonight, Bryant gave a patented Bad Bryant performance, and in the wake of some really nice ones the past two weeks. He was 2 for 13, “forced a bunch of stuff,” according to Huggins, and really didn’t help the offense out at all. There was no offense for much of the second half for WVU. Credit to UConn, sure, but if the Huskies knew nothing would happen inside, and the frosh guards weren’t able to handle it, then Jones had to do more than roll about the perimeter.

“It’s hard, and we’re not going to get it until there’s more games, but we need experience more than anything,” Jones said. “We’re up 10. We need to know when to take good shots and when to pass the ball around and pick.”

Jones wasn’t distraught afterward. He took the loss well because he sees the youth on this team. He said he takes the loss personally, but remains as confident as he’s ever been.

“Win or lose, I’m always confident with my team, but I’m bothered because this is the third game we’ve given away,” Jones said.

I think the senior’s got to get that final piece into this repertoire. To be an undisputed First Team Big East player, he’s going to have to take games before the freshman and Bryant are able to give them away. That means playing more inside and not taking the burden upon himself to shoot 33 percent of his team's 3s, as he did in Monday's loss.


Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:36 pm

Former A&M guard Jamal Branch picks St. John's

By Jeff Borzello

His transfer situation didn’t get the attention of Khem Birch, but former Texas A&M guard Jamal Branch also made his decision on Monday night.

The freshman is moving on to St. John’s, his father Jerome confirmed to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com.

Branch took a visit to the Red Storm’s campus over the weekend, and didn’t take much longer to make his decision. Originally, it seemed like he might wait a week and take another visit but he wanted to make his decision.

Branch left Texas A&M on December 29 after having an up-and-down 11 games for the Aggies. He was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school, and should be a huge addition for St. John’s when he is able to play.

Branch averaged 4.2 points and 2.5 assists at A&M.

Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:17 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 8:36 pm

Khem Birch chooses UNLV over Florida

By Jeff Goodman

It’s only been three weeks, but the recruitment of Khem Birch has taken plenty of twists and turns since rumors first started that he was leaving Pittsburgh.

On Monday, it ended: Birch is headed to UNLV, a source told CBSSports.com.

The 6-foot-9 Canadian power forward chose the Runnin’ Rebels over Florida. Xavier, Gonzaga, New Mexico and others were also in the mix at one point.

Birch was the highest-ranked player to ever commit to the Panthers, but he left the program after 10 games. He said in late December that he didn’t bond well enough with his teammates at Pittsburgh, and also that the style of play wasn’t ideal for him.

He averaged 4.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks at Pittsburgh.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: January 8, 2012 10:15 pm

Night Court: NFL rightly outshines today's hoops

Don't look now, but Michigan's the best team you don't know enough about. (AP)

By Matt Norlander

Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s slate of games …

Game of the Day: There was no game of the day. Tim Tebow sucked up all the dramatic energy from every other sport and packed it into what was the fastest overtime game in NFL history.

Win to brag about: Penn State’s not as easy to win at as you think. Indiana survived and got out of there with an 88-82 victory. Winning the games it should. Indiana’s on pace for a two or three seed right now, folks. Continues to be astounding. Tom Crean must be blasting a lot of Jon Secada on the way into work these days.

Loss to hide from: Wisconsin’s going to be one of the most tweeted and talked about basketball teams Monday, because the Badgers, although still a treading-water 12-5, lost 59-41 to Michigan, dropping their third straight. They’re a top-two KenPom.com as of tonight, which means my numbers-oriented friend out in Salt Lake has been taking a whooping all day for his system, which has its flaws.

Back to Wisconsin — as a team and regarding this loss. It signals to me a reason (or four) to not trust the Badgers the rest of the way. Even if they end up pulling out a third-place Big Ten finish, or something like that, I think the tendency to molasses themselves into this position will remain out there.

Player who deserves improper benefits: Let’s give some dap to a small-conference player. Siena junior O.D. Anosike had the best game of his college career, scoring 27 and grabbing 14 against Niagara.

Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Maryland’s Pe’Shon Howard hasn’t become the pick-up-the-slack guy the Terps need him to be. Terrell Stoglin and Alex Len can’t carry this team to respectability in the league this year. Howard was 1-of-8 and scored five points in Maryland’s 79-74 loss to N.C. State.

Numbers don’t lie

  • .78. Ohio State didn’t play today. It played yesterday, but per John Gasaway, the Buckeyes are allowing .78 points per possession in Big Ten play. That’s extremely frustrating for other teams.
  • 9.  Iona’s Scott Machado had nine assists against Marist today, which is lower than his NCAA-best 10.1 per game.
  • 14. The number of teams who scored 60 or fewer points on a slow -- take that both ways -- Sunday. The offense problem continues to invade our sport.

Three other notable results

  1. Purdue made little work of Minnesota, winning at The Barn, 79-66. Big day for Robbie Hummel, who scored 13 and had seven rebounds at the site where he first ripped an ACL two years ago.
  2. Drexel's had its problems. The CAA preseason favorite got to 2-2 by beating VCU -- once coming strong, now fading -- to the tune of 64-58 in Philly tonight.
  3. La Salle’s a 2-0 A10 team. The Explorers defeated UMass, 82-75. And they had foru players in double figures, tallied 21 combined assists and hit 12 treys.


  • Binghamton is still winless, now 0-15.
  • Per sources, Pitt drop-out Khem Birch will decide UNLV or Florida in the next 24 hours, most likely.
  • Fairfield has had a rough go of it. Goodman mentioned on Twitter that the Stags rank among the biggest disappointments in college hoops this season. He’s right. They’re now 8-8 after falling to much-improved Manhattan.
  • Butler may peter out to a slow death — or not. The 76-65 loss to Detroit today slows the Bulldogs to 9-8 and drops them to 3-2 in the Horizon.
  • The NFL was lame Sunday, refusing to allow fans at a hoops game watch the Giants game in the arena. If I’m Siena, I just do it discreetly.

On tap: Allow me to tease you with this: Beginning tomorrow, Borzello’s going to be putting up a daily post around noon or 1 p.m. that previews all the games upcoming, the ones worth your time and attention. So check that out and develop a habit of swinging by here during the lunch hour — as if that wasn’t already part of your routine.

Posted on: January 7, 2012 7:32 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2012 7:33 pm

Marquette starting center's season over

By Jeff Goodman

Marquette junior big man Chris Otule's season is over.

Otule suffered a left knee injury on Dec. 6, but was making progress and Marquette coach Buzz Williams anticipated he would return sometime in Big East play. 

However, Williams told CBSSports.com -- shortly after his team's loss at Syracuse on Saturday -- that Otule will have season-ending surgery on Tuesday after a setback last week. 

"We will apply for a sixth-year two years from now," Williams said. 

Otule wasn't a guy who put up impressive numbers (5.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), but he was key for Williams because he was a legitimate center. Now the Golden Eagles are either forced to play Davante Gardner extended minutes or have to play forwards Jae Crowder or Jamil Wilson in the middle. 

Posted on: January 6, 2012 11:35 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 11:44 am

Jay Wright, Jamie Dixon appear unlikely to dance

No Dixon, no Wright in the tournament? It's looking more likely, folks. (AP)

By Jeff Goodman

Jay Wright and Jamie Dixon were supposed to, at one time before Pittsburgh decided to bolt for the ACC, carry the torch for the Big East once senior citizens Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun left. 

Wright and Dixon have been two of the hottest coaches in America over the past few years. Both have spurned no shortage of big-time suitors and both have built their programs into national contenders. 

Both may be watching the NCAA tournament as spectators this season. 

Wright has led 'Nova to seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances - including an Elite Eight in 2006 and a Final Four in 2009. But this current group is just 7-8 after last night's home loss to South Florida. 

Dixon may not have led the Panthers to a Final Four, but he's been just as successful, going to the Big Dance in each of his eight seasons since taking the reigns from Ben Howland. Dixon actually had a chance to go to the Final Four, but lost to Wright in the Elite Eight in 2009. 

Now his team has lost four straight for the first time in the Dixon Era following last night's road setback to DePaul. The Panthers sit -- along with 'Nova and Providence -- at the bottom of the Big East with an 0-3 mark. 

Villanova, with a sub-.500 overall mark, has virtually no shot of getting to the NCAA tournament this season unless the Wildcats go on an insane run in the Big East. 

Pittsburgh has dug itself quite a hole with losses to two mid-tier Big East teams (Cincinnati and Notre Dame) as well as DePaul. The Panthers most impressive win to date? I'm not sure there is one. 

Dixon needs Travon Woodall back. He has missed eight games due to injury -- including the losses to Wagner, Cincinnati and Depaul. He played 18 minutes in the setback against Cincinnati, but was ineffective and has missed two games since. 

With Woodall, the Panthers can still make a run. However, he needs to come back healthy soon. Next up is a home game against Rutgers, but then comes the key stretch whether Pittsburgh can jump back into the NCAA tournament equation. Four of its next five come against ranked teams - including road games at Marquette and Syracuse to start. 

Just about everyone has down years. It happened to Kentucky in the Billy Clyde Gillispie Era, Jim Calhoun and Roy Williams were in the NIT not all that long ago. 

But few saw this coming with both Dixon and Wright. 

Posted on: January 6, 2012 10:17 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 10:58 am

St. John's has a secure future with Lavin

Jeff Borzello

From the outside, it might look like St. John’s is falling apart.

The Red Storm had a great year last season, going 21-12 and getting a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. Since then, they have lost two members of their vaunted class of 2011; had both commits from the class of 2012 rescind their pledges; and also had two players transfer. Moreover, head coach Steve Lavin has barely been able to coach as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery.

As a result, St. John’s has struggled so far this season. The Red Storm are 7-7, including losses to Northeastern and Detroit.

With all this said, the basketball program is not the house of cards that it looks like from the outside.

After talking with people inside and outside the basketball program on Thursday, there’s still excitement about St. John’s basketball. There’s optimism, there’s enthusiasm. While the Red Storm will certainly have a terrible record this year, it will be chalked up to a lack of experience and a lack of bodies. Most people think Lavin will turn it around next season.

Sources say the coaching staff is optimistic they will still get 2012 decommit Ricardo Gathers and 2011 decommit JaKarr Sampson. Both reopened their recruitments, but are still considering the Red Storm. They’re very strong with Our Savior New American (N.Y.) guard Felix Balamou and junior college forward Orlando Sanchez. St. John’s is also in the mix for top-100 big man Chris Obekpa.

2012 prospect Darrick Wood decommitted on Thursday, but sources say he might have had NCAA Clearinghouse problems down the road. Nuri Lindsey transferred last month, but sources say he too was having academic difficulties at St. John’s.

Former Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch, who left the Aggies last week, will take a visit to St. John’s this weekend. He’s a former four-star recruit who would be a major pick up at the point guard position for the Red Storm.

The biggest factor in all of this is Lavin. While people have been saying for weeks he might not return to coach this season, he is still on the recruiting trail and even attended the Red Storm’s game against Louisville earlier this week. St. John’s has maintained from the outset that he will wait until he’s healthy to return to coaching full-time; they still believe that. There have been rumors tying him to other head coaching jobs or going back to television, but St. John’s is not concerned about him leaving the program.

As long as Lavin is the head coach, there is excitement for St. John’s basketball. The fan support is still better than it was in the days of Norm Roberts, and the Red Storm are getting far more national coverage than they were a few years ago. If he leaves, of course, then the program will be set back several years.

Lavin is the key card. As long as he’s around, St. John’s will not fall apart.

Photo: US Presswire

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 6, 2012 8:56 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 9:01 am

Wakeup Call: Calhoun docked wins and losses

By Matt Norlander

This is what my friend did to his dog.

Space balls. // Yes, there is no topping this story -- at least until the end of January. // Turns out it's harder for Americans than for Europeans to rise from nothing into something. // Great job, stripes. // Hey, we know this is kind of awkward and all, but come on back home ...

★ I don't know what to make of this. It's a weird read. Not a surprising one ... but you're probably going to want to give it a look.

★ I had no idea Rose Hill Gymnasium is the oldest still in use by a D-I team. I'll be there tomorrow to see if Xavier's season turns to ashes once and for all.

★ And I'll keep all this in mind while seeing if Xavier can get a win it desperately needs.

★ Obviously Jim Calhoun shouldn't be credited wins or losses during his three-game suspension. The clarity was needed because all other times Calhoun's not coached games, he's still earned credit, which is stoopid.

#BIAHroadtrip is underway!

★ I liked seeing a deeper look at how Marquette really lost itself in blowing that game to Georgetown.

★ Agreed -- I think Wroten has a very good chance of winding up with the Pac-12 POY if Washington can get mostly right by the end of January.

★ Because Tom Crean definitely needs more energy during a game.

★ Newsflash: Villanova's awful season is being overshadowed by Pittsburgh's skid.

★ My immediate response to this was: I vehemently disagree. I believe Goodman's working on a story about this. Regardless, we'll have something up about it today.

★ I'm fairly certain this was the first time I was ever mentioned in Luke Winn's Power Rankings. I'm quite honored.

★ It may wind up getting overlooked, but Purdue's loss last night was bad news. I have no idea what's happening in college basketball.

There are signs of erosion with St. John's. Maybe this program won't have the long-term comeback to prominence we were expecting.

★ Most surprising of all? Grambling State won! WHAT! They are terrible. But so is two-win Alabama A&M.

► Sans the tea-pouring, this is how I prep for blogging on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.

♬ The further we move away from Alice in Chains' existence with Layne Staley, the more I appreciate what that band was doing in the early '90s. "Would?" embodies a sound only Chains could exhibit -- yet it got ripped off from 1995-2002 or so. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com