Skip to content

Conference Catch-ups: Despite realignment, Big East will be competitive

Dec 30, 2012, 5:15 PM EDT

Peyton Siva AP

Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Missouri Valley Conference Catchup:

Favorite: No. 3 Louisville

Russ Smith has matured his game and is turning into a go-to scorer. Yes, he still takes a lot of shots and it wouldn’t hurt to shoot better than 43 percent from the field, but he is beginning to take better shots and, along with Peyton Siva, makes up one of the nation’s toughest backcourts.

Contenders:

Syracuse

The Orange suffered their first loss of the season to Temple, due in large part to the Owls’ ability to force Michael Carter-Williams away from distributing and into scoring the ball. Once he gets back to facilitating the offense, Syracuse will keep running like a well-oiled machine.

Cincinnati

They climbed as high as 8th in the national polls before a loss to New Mexico. That will likely be as high as they get all season, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a legitimate Sweet 16 contender. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright are dangerous.

Pittsburgh

The backcourt duo of James Robinson and Tray Woodall is proving to be a good one. Talib Zanna’s development has helped to solidify the Panthers’ inside presence. They don’t turn the ball over much, which will help in Big East play.

Notre Dame

Jack Cooley picked up where he left off last season and is averaging a double-double of 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Combine that with consistent guard play from Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins and the Irish are in business.

Georgetown

Yes, we saw an abysmal offensive performance in the Hoyas’ ugly win over Tennessee early in the year, but we should see the Georgetown team we saw in Brooklyn as the year progresses. Otto Porter continues to be the do-everything guy who makes it all work.

Biggest Surprise: Connecticut

A mass exodus of talent from Storrs, a new coach, and a postseason ban should have been enough to sink the Huskies, but Kevin Ollie has gotten his team on the same page and off to a 10-2 start. Ollie was rewarded with a five-year deal worth close to $7 million, which can only help his comfort within the program, giving him some job security.

Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have proven to be a formidable combo in the backcourt, averaging 16.8 and 16.1 points per game, respectively. DeAndre Daniels has doubled his minutes this season and responded with production, putting up 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game.

The true test of Connecticut’s resolve might come as early as mid-January, when the Huskies face No. 21 Notre Dame, then No. 4 Louisville, then No. 24 Pittsburgh in the span of a week.

Biggest Disappointment: Providence

Let me say first that it’s not Providence’s fault. They lost Ricky Ledo to an NCAA ruling at the beginning of the season. Kris Dunn and Vincent Council just recently got into the rotation after working through injury. They’re still 8-4, despite those road blocks, in a conference that has done well overall in the non-conference. Ed Cooley is building a contender at Providence, though. With his presence on the recruiting trail and what he has been able to do with the assets he already has, the Friars are on the upswing in the long-term.

Player of the Year: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

Cooley is averaging a double-double of 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds. He’s been comparable to Mason Plumlee of Duke so far, which is saying something. If Notre Dame wants to make a run in March, he’s going to be the guy who gets them there.

Also of Note: Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), Russ Smith (Louisville), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Otto Porter (Georgetown)

Best Freshman: Chris Obekpa, St. John’s

Obekpa leads not only freshman but the entire nation in blocks with 5.3 per game. He has changed the complexion of Steve Lavin’s defense, allowing the Red Storm to take more chances on the perimeter because Obekpa is around the rim to block shots. He adds a solid 4.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, as well.

Also of note: James Robinson (Pittsburgh), Omar Calhoun (Connecticut), Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova)

Three Predictions:

1. Notre Dame will end up as the conference’s fourth best team. Cincinnati and Georgetown are ahead of the Irish right now, but Cooley, Grant, and Atkins shouldn’t be discounted.

2. Connecticut will finish as an NCAA tournament-worthy team, though they can’t qualify. Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier make up one of the strongest backcourts in the conference and Omar Calhoun is emerging as a legitimate option in only his freshman season.

3. Otto Porter will make himself a lottery pick by the end of the year. The same Michael Kidd-Gilchrist worked his way to the top of the draft by being a lot of different things well, Porter will do the same to a lesser extent.

Power Rankings (* = tourney team):

1. No. 4 Louisville *
2. No. 7 Syracuse *
3. No. 8 Cincinnati *
4. No. 21 Notre Dame *
5. No. 18 Georgetown *
6. No. 24 Pittsburgh *
7. Connecticut
8. Marquette *
9. South Florida
10. Villanova
11. Seton Hall
12. Rutgers
13. St. John’s
14. DePaul
15. Providence

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Latest Posts
  1. Big East announces program geared towards helping freshmen transition to college

    Sep 2, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    BigEastLogo

    The men’s basketball freshmen will meet in New York City September 12 & 13.

  2. ACC releases its full conference schedule

    Sep 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Mike Brey AP

    The ACC is loaded this year, which will make for a fun conference schedule.

  3. Four-star Class of 2016 guard sets five official visits

    Sep 2, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    tyson carter

    Mississippi guard Tyson Carter is one of the biggest stock risers of July.

  4. Two players in Arkansas forgery case plead not guilty

    Sep 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Marcus Paige, Anton Beard AP

    Two in the Arkansas forgery case pleaded not guilty.

  5. Josh Jackson, Harry Giles stay at top of new Rivals150 Class of 2016 national rankings

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Harry Giles (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Josh Jackson and Harry Giles are staying on top of the Rivals150 in the Class of 2016.

  6. The American releases full conference schedule

    Sep 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The American has some talented teams entering the 2015-16 race.

  7. Jalen Rose planning a book about the Fab Five

    Sep 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Jalen Rose isn’t done telling the story of the Fab Five. A new book is reportedly coming.

  8. Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers out for the season with torn ACL

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    Siyani Chambers, Anthony Thompson AP

    Siyani Chambers is leaving Harvard for the year after a torn ACL.

  9. Mixtape of five-star 2016 forward T.J. Leaf (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    TJ Leaf (adidas) TJ Leaf (adidas)

    T.J. Leaf is a hot name on the recruiting trail after decommitting from Arizona.

  10. Tom Izzo calls Denzel Valentine’s play during foreign tour ‘unbelievable’

    Sep 1, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Denzel Valentine will be in contention for Big Ten Player of the Year this season.

  11. Four-star 2016 recruit Juwan Durham commits to UConn

    Sep 1, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    UConn landed its second four-star recruit in the Class of 2016.

  12. Four-star 2016 center sets four official visits

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Jayce Johnson is focusing on five schools as he’s set four official visits.

  13. Rivalry games highlight Georgetown’s non-conference schedule

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    John Thompson III AP

    Georgetown has some very intriguing games on the non-conference slate.

  14. Report: Arkansas signee Ted Kapita signs professional contract

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Arkansas Razorbacks Anderson looks on as his team takes on the LSU Tigers during the first round of the SEC men's NCAA basketball tournament in New Orleans Reuters

    Arkansas won’t be getting a boost from the four-star big man.

  15. Pitt adds junior college guard for 2015-16 roster

    Sep 1, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Big East Basketball Tournament - Syracuse v Pittsburgh Getty Images

    Pitt bolsters its backcourt with the late addition of a junior college guard.