Big East Basketball: 2017-2018 Conference Preview

 

big east ball

Coming back from a relatively underwhelming 2016-2017 campaign, the Big East looks poised to make a bold statement this year to competitors from all conferences, while also securing a handful of bids to the NCAA Tournament in March. Big East play is bound to be exciting for everyone, so let’s break the conference down for a preseason preview and our predictions. 

 

PROJECTED FINISHES 

  1. Villanova — Few people will be surprised to find Villanova atop the Big East for the fifth year in a row. Not only should the Wildcats survive without superstar Josh Hart, they look poised to return even stronger. With redshirt freshman Omari Spellman cleared to play and Jalen Brunson set to step into the leadership position, the Wildcats should clinch the Big East without too much competition.
  2. Xavier — Xavier surprised a lot of college basketball fans last year with their trip to the Elite 8, but if the same happens this year, it would come as no shock. Trevon Bluiett’s decision to return to the Musketeers and forgo the NBA Draft will be a large part of Xavier’s dominance, but the return of shooting guard JP Macura to the wings could prove to be just as lethal.
  3. Seton Hall — It seems like it has been too long since the Pirates have been a dominant basketball team, and that time of waiting is over. Seton Hall returns arguably the strongest trio of seniors in the country (Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, and Angel Delgado) who will run the court with veteran talent. Delgado, a 6’10” power forward who can double as a center, threatens to average double-digit numbers in both points and rebounds per game.
  4. Providence — Providence finished top five in the Big East last year, surprising many people who wrote them off preseason as a team in a rebuilding year. Kyron Cartwright is one of the best point guards in the Big East and could easily lead the conference in assists; the Friars bring in more talent this year in freshman Makai Ashton-Langford, giving them the depth they need to threaten for an NCAA Tournament bid, and a run once they get there.
  5. Creighton — Marcus Foster is a beast, simply put. As a junior shooting guard last year, he averaged over 18 points per game; this year, he could break 20. The loss of Cole Huff and Isaiah Zierden puts a considerable hole in their production, but they should have the depth to stay near the top of the conference table.
  6. Marquette — The name Markus Howard may not mean much to people outside of the Golden Eagles fan base, but it will after this season. Last year, he shot just under 55% from three, even more astonishing numbers when you consider he was a freshman. Look to him to lead a very high scoring Marquette offense this year.
  7. Butler — The Bulldogs had good reason to be excited for this year, after being the only team in the NCAA to beat Villanova twice last season. But the late departure of Coach Holtmann may leave the new coach, LaVall Jordan, with a team in disarray. With a handful of talented players in back-court transfer Paul Jorgensen and guard Kamar Baldwin, Jordan could easily take the only team to beat Villanova twice last year to the top, but it’s too early to tell.
  8. St. John’s — The Red Storm have talent in point guard combo Marcus Lovett Jr. and Shamorie Ponds, who should account for most of the team’s offense. The team’s depth does not go much farther beyond these two however, and unless forward Bashir Ahmed can utilize his seniority, St. John’s could quickly fall to the bottom of the conference without a solidified leader.
  9. DePaul — DePaul has had a tough struggle on the court in recent years, finishing at the bottom of the conference table with two wins last season. This year, transfer Marin Maric and junior shooting guard Elijah Cain will help to begin the program’s revival, but it won’t be enough to bring them up more than one or two spots with the tough competition in the Big East.
  10. Georgetown — The Hoyas will be an intriguing team to watch this season, as it will be the first year with Georgetown and NBA legend Patrick Ewing taking over as head coach. His roster is rag-tag at its best, anchored by center Jessie Govan who is one of the few able to do damage to opposing defenses. Ewing’s name and basketball expertise will help Georgetown basketball rebuild, but for now they’ll be stuck at the bottom of the Big East.

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NBA All Star Game Change Is A Step In The Right Direction

All Star Game

In a head-turning decision this past week, the NBA has officially changed the All Star Game rules. The new game format will go into effect for the 2018 All Star Game, so let’s go over how it may play out. 

Ever since the NBA introduced the concept of an All-Star Game In 1951, the structure has remained more or less the same. Throughout the season, fans get to vote on the best players in the league from both conferences, and the players from each conference with the most votes play in an exhibition match at the end of the All-Star weekend for entertainment. However, it’s no secret that in recent years the game has turned into a farce. The winning team scoring nearly 200 points in what seems to be a combination of the dunk contest and 3-point shootout. Thanks to the new rules made official this past week, the game is finally changing for the better.

First, let’s go over what the new All Star Game will consist of. The premise of the game remains the same: two teams made up of NBA all stars facing off against each other in an exhibition match. However, instead of the two teams consisting of the best talent from conferences East and West, this year’s game has a different twist. The two players, regardless of conference. who receive the most votes will now act as captains of either team, and build their team from the remaining 22 voted players.. Some speculate this is a result of so much of the league’s talent moving from the East to the West. While the ASG has been dominated by the West (11-6 in the last 17 years), it is unlikely that this was the sole reason for the change No more East vs. West, just an eclectic pool of the NBA’s highest quality. At the end of the game, the victor gets to donate the winnings to the charity of their choice. Frankly, this change could not have come soon enough.

Any basketball fan who has watched the game in recent years knows it is hardly entertainment. And while there’s no reason for the players to be leaving every ounce of energy on the court as if it were the Championship, the lackadaisical and nonchalant play mirrors that of a pickup game of HORSE among schoolyard friends (who also just happen to be 6’7″ and able to hit a shot from anywhere beyond half court).

With the new rules in place, players have more to play for, and possibly more to play against. Modern rivalries now have the possibility to face off instead of playing on the same team (Durant vs. Westbrook, Harden vs. Curry). But arguably the most intriguing rule change comes at the end, when the winning side decides on their charity of choice. If there was one way to successfully poke the All Star Game with the cattle-prod of competitiveness, it was through charity. Whether it be Lebron James and The Lebron James Family Foundation, Stephen Curry and his Nothing But Nets campaign, or just about any all star and their associated charity of choice, you would be hard pressed to find an NBA player who isn’t actively running or supporting a national or international charity.

While the new rules are hardly Adam Silver’s sweeping declaration demanding the game to be a medieval joust between Lebron and Curry, they are at the very least a step in the right direction. Kudos to you, National Basketball Association.

If you want to read more in depth about the NBA’s change to the All Star Game, click here.

 

Twitter: andrew_mck11   

Five Games to Watch in this Year’s Pac-12

Pac-12 Basketball

With the recent release of the Pac-12 Conference’s schedule for the upcoming 2017-2018 season, let’s take a look at some of the more exciting matchups.

Oregon Arizona

1. Oregon @ Arizona (Week of Jan. 10)

Possibly the most anticipated game of the Pac-12 season, Oregon and Arizona ended last year as the conference’s co-champions. Needless to say, this game is a must win in the eyes of both teams; beyond the contest, each roster has something to prove. Arizona may be looking like the stronger team as the season approaches, but undoubtedly both squads return this year with depth, talent, and an itch to show who deserved the crown of the Pac-12 more last year.

USC UCLA

2. USC @ UCLA (Week of Jan. 31)

The classic Golden State matchup, USC v. UCLA never disappoints. USC may be looking forward to the matchup more so this year, now that Lonzo Ball’s dominance has moved just a short way down the road to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, with UCLA’s return of Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh, the Trojans will be no easy challenge to overcome. Bleacher Report preseason rankings finds USC at number ten, thanks to the return of Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu, and Shaquan Aaron. If USC has plans of joining the conference’s elite this season, beating rival UCLA is a good place to start.

UCLA Arizona

3. UCLA @ Arizona, USC @ Arizona State (Week of Feb. 7)

The combination of four powerhouse Pac-12 teams, not just two, highlights this week as one of the most anticipated of the season. While we know the talent that USC, UCLA, and Arizona will be returning is bound to be strong this season, ASU’s squad cannot be overlooked, and will certainly pose a threat to the Trojans, as USC heads to ASU’s home court. With one of the highest scoring backcourts in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils will utilize the ability of their combination of guards to score from the outside, as well as pester the Trojans with under the rim talent.

ASU Arizona

4. Arizona @ Arizona State (Week of Feb. 14)

More commonly known in the southwest as the Duel in the Desert, this fierce rivalry mirrors that of USC and UCLA. No matter what the difference in talent is between these two teams, this game will always be interesting. This year, fans are lucky enough to have two teams that are not worlds apart for the most part. Both sides have talented players returning, and neophytes waiting to be tested. Realistically, Arizona does have the better team–all the reason that their matchup away at ASU is just a bit more anticipated.

Stanford Cal

5. California @ Stanford (Week of Dec. 27)

Ok, so maybe people have their doubts about California; granted, they did have quote an exodus of talent at the end of last season. However, they have a lot of potential to be a good team if they use it correctly. A new head coach means a new coaching style, which means confusion for opponents. Playing against a new coach in college basketball can often leave teams just as baffled as playing against new players. Returning players include defensive threat Kingsley Okoroh, as well as Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee, whose scoring ability will have to be put to good use if Cal wants to see a chance at beating Stanford.

Twitter: @andrew_mck11

An Early Look At The ACC

ACC Basketball

We are 51 days away from the college basketball season. While college basketball season is fast approaching, many of us cannot have the new season come soon enough. With that said, let’s take an early look at the ACC for next season. Here’s our 1 through 15.

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Kentucky’s Alumni Game May Come With a Twist

Anthony Davis, Kentucky

Kentucky’s 2017 Alumni Game May Come With A Twist

First, Kentucky played each other. Then, they played North Carolina. Now, Kentucky is looking to play an NBA team in their yearly alumni game.

It has been the classic Calipari question for nearly eight years running: could a team of all Kentucky alumni  really beat an NBA team? Well, according to Kentucky Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy, “I don’t care if they combine themselves, they’re not taking down Big Blue Nation.” However, whether or not Peevy will be able to pull off this seemingly difficult feat before the scheduled date of August 25th is another question entirely.

Say Peevy pulls it off.; he gets all the NBA talent he hopes to bring in, on both sides. Say millions of Americans across the country tune in to watch. How does the game go? The success of the game largely hinges upon one factor: whether or not Peevy’s “Big Blue Dream Team” faces up against an established NBA super team–we’ll use the Warriors as an example–or a combination of five of the league’s best players, barring Kentucky graduates. Why does this fact matter? It’s simple.

Could Kentucky Win?

Let’s line up Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia on the court, face to face with what would likely be John Wall, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony Towns, and DeMarcus Cousins (sub in MKG for a big man if you want). Would Kentucky win? It’s unlikely; Golden State are NBA champions two of the past three years, they practice and play together on a daily basis, and know each other back to front. They have grit and determination, and after all, that’s what it takes to win championships. While the players cannot realistically be expected to give 110% for 48 minutes with the risk of injuries, there is no reason a roster of Big Blue talent like said team would go down without a fight. The game would be intense and interesting, nationally loved, no matter the outcome, so much so that the only sporting event that could possibly follow it up would be a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor (set to take place on pay-per-view the following day).

Now, take those same five Kentucky alumni, and place them on a court with LeBron James, Russel Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Marc Gasol (or any combination of five NBA All-Stars you can imagine), and the dream game that DeWayne Peevy so greatly desires turns into a glorified All-Star game, with scores that toe the line of 200-200, as in the year’s past. Two teams of hand picked All-Stars pitted against each other see the game as nothing more than what it is: an All-Star game. The intensity and interest from the players drop exponentially, and the flashy and showy dunks with no opposition continue to flow; if you think defense is a dying art in league play, this game would put it in a mental coffin for you.

Though at the end of the day, no matter who steps on the court to face the Big Blue alumni, the game can only help the NBA. With each passing year, basketball becomes harder and harder to watch. Fans are tired of seeing the same small handful of teams provide the only real competition in the league; the past three championships have pitted the same two teams against each other each year, and the three prior to 2015 saw only one contest that was not between the Spurs and the Heat, and even that one included the Heat as well. The truth remains that the National Basketball Association doesn’t offer the fights and power plays of the NHL, or the relegation factor and cutthroat Champions League race of European soccer. A small yet necessary step in the right direction, games like the one Athletic Director Peevy has in mind have the possibility to peak fans’ interest and attract new viewers to one of sports’ most dynamic games.

 

Follow Andrew more on Twitter: @andrew_mck11