Skip to content

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

Dec 30, 2012, 5:15 PM EST

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. Why Duke’s road win at Virginia was so shocking

    Feb 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EST

    Duke Virginia Basketball AP

    Duke’s road win at Virginia was one of the most shocking results of the college basketball season.

  2. Missouri freshman guard suspended

    Feb 1, 2015, 12:15 PM EST

    Missouri v Kentucky Getty Images

    Missouri has more issues off-the-floor as a freshman guard is suspended.

  3. Holy Cross forward Malcolm Miller makes a case to be in the college dunk contest (VIDEO)

    Feb 1, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Holy Cross v Syracuse Getty Images

    Holy Cross senior forward Malcolm Miller makes a case for the college dunk contest in a new video.

  4. The end of the Division II Drury/Quincy game is one of the best college basketball finishes of the year (VIDEO)

    Feb 1, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    bundy

    The ending to a college basketball game doesn’t get much better than this.

  5. Pregame Shootaround: Only 12 games on Sunday, but one is a classic Big Ten rivalry

    Feb 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Branden Dawson, Brandon Nazione AP

    With the impending football game, not a lot of college hoops on Sunday.

  6. Three-plus months after undergoing brain surgery, Santa Clara senior forward makes season debut

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:43 PM EST

    Santa Clara Athletics Santa Clara Athletics

    Andrew Papenfus made his season debut for the Broncos Saturday night, just over three months after a benign tumor was removed from his brain.

  7. Briante Weber suffers season-ending knee injury in No. 14 VCU’s loss to Richmond

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:42 PM EST

    Briante Weber, Shaka Smart Briante Weber, Shaka Smart

    Kendall Anthony scored 20 points in the second half to lead Richmond to the 64-55 win, but the status of Weber is VCU’s greatest concern.

  8. No. 4 Duke ends No. 2 Virginia’s unbeaten season

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:03 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    No. 4 Duke lands a stunning, come-from-behind win over No. 2 Virginia.

  9. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell channeled his inner Grant Hill Saturday afternoon (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:31 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    In the midst of Louisville’s comeback from an 18-point deficit, Montrezl Harrell showed why he’s considered to be one of the best athletes in college basketball.

  10. Foul line, offensive rebounding aid No. 13 Louisville’s comeback effort

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:02 PM EST

    Montrezl Harrell, Justin Jackson Montrezl Harrell, Justin Jackson

    Louisville outscored North Carolina by 16 from the foul line and by 15 in second-chance points, which helped them erase an 18-point second half deficit.

  11. Saturday’s Snacks: No. 4 Duke rebounds to beat No. 2 Virginia, and No. 8 Notre Dame falls

    Jan 31, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Cameron Wright, James Robinson Cameron Wright, James Robinson

    Also of note Saturday afternoon was No. 18 Northern Iowa rolling past No. 12 Wichita State.

  12. Seth Tuttle, No. 18 Northern Iowa roll past No. 12 Wichita State

    Jan 31, 2015, 6:39 PM EST

    Seth Tuttle Seth Tuttle

    UNI went on a 22-6 run over a ten-plus minute stretch as they moved into a tie for first in the Missouri Valley.

  13. No. 8 Notre Dame upset by Pitt

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:11 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Pittsburgh Getty Images

    Jerian Grant, Notre Dame see comeback fall short at Pitt.

  14. Trevor Lacey’s insane 3-pointer gives N.C. State a buzzer-beating win at Georgia Tech (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:34 PM EST

    Justin Jackson, Trevor Lacey, Marcus Paige AP

    Trevor Lacey makes one of the best buzzer-beaters of the season to give N.C. State a road win at Georgia Tech.

  15. POSTERIZED: Florida’s Alex Murphy dunks all over Arkansas defender after breaking a press (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:45 PM EST

    Mississippi St Florida Basketball AP

    Florida’s Alex Murphy with a nominee for Saturday’s dunk of the day.

  16. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl greeted with cheers during first return to Tennessee (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:15 PM EST

    Auburn Tennessee Basketball AP

    Bruce Pearl received a warm ovation from Tennessee fans in his first game back as an opposing head coach.

  17. Injured Illinois guards suspended indefinitely

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:34 PM EST

    Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Young AP

    Illinois will continue to be without two injured guards as both players were suspended indefinitely.

  18. UMBC loses leading scorer for the rest of the season

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:15 PM EST

    Maurice Walker, Aaron Morgan, Cody Joyce, Wayne Sparrow AP

    A tumultuous season gets worse for UMBC.

  19. POSTERIZED: Louisiana Tech’s Raheem Appleby goes over Western Kentucky defender for big dunk (VIDEO

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Raheem Appleby, Markel Brown AP

    Raheem Appleby showed surprising hops as the 6-foot-4 guard threw down a solid dunk over a Western Kentucky defender.

  20. Rick Pitino on Terry Rozier’s impending NBA Draft decision: ‘He’s not coming back’

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Louisville head coach Rick Pitino believes one of his underclassmen will definitely leave for the NBA.