Tag Archives: Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament

Xavier Basketball: 5 Storylines for the Musketeers in 2013-14

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Despite not making the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005, the future looks bright for the Xavier Musketeers. The 2013-14 season will usher in Xavier’s transition to the Big East, the addition of Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook to the starting lineup and the development of reigning Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year Semaj Christon.

With head coach Chris Mack at the helm, the Muskies will look to improve upon their 17-14 record and seventh-place finish in the A-10 last season. Xavier is in its second year of rebuilding the program.

The Musketeers will rely on a lot of youth next season with five freshmen and two sophomores on scholarship. Xavier can expect a lot of competition for playing time as well as depth on the bench—something the Musketeers lacked last season—as it enters a new era in the Big East.

Semaj Christon earned Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors last season.  (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Semaj Christon earned Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors last season.
(Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

1. Playing in the Big East

In the midst of conference re-alignment, the Big East became a revolving door as the “Catholic 7” of Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence and Seton Hall separated from the rest of their conference; the Catholic 7 then added Xavier and Butler from the Atlantic 10 in addition to Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference to form a 10-team conference.

Despite sending five teams to the tournament last year, the A-10 has historically been regarded as a second-tier conference full of mid-majors. Xavier has achieved sustained success in the postseason that has exceeded the expectations for most mid-majors.

Xavier has 11 NCAA tournament berths in the past 13 seasons; the Musketeers have had three Sweet 16 and two Elite Eight appearances in that stretch. The Muskies will get the opportunity to take their program to the next level in the Big East.

The Big East is still one of the better basketball conferences, regardless if many fans add the qualifier “new” in front of it.

Butler has proven that it’s a program capable of making deep runs in the tournament.

Georgetown returns the majority of its roster from a Hoya team that had a 25-7 record and tied for a Big East Championship last year.

Creighton’s senior forward Doug McDermott will be one of the preseason National Player of the Year favorites after averaging more than 23 points and nearly eight rebounds per game last season.

Plus, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi projects for five Big East teams to make next season’s tournament in his first 2013-14 bracket.

The Big East Tournament will be held in Madison Square Garden, and ESPN New York reporter Kieran Darcy reported that the Big East agreed to a 12-year deal with Fox Sports.

The combination of star players, tournament-bound teams, major venues and multi-year television deals means that Xavier will have more national exposure than ever before.

2. Playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis

On Thanksgiving weekend, the Musketeers will play in the Bahamas in the Battle 4 Atlantis along with Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, USC, Vilanova, UTEP and Wake Forest.

While the matchups have not been announced for the tournament, Xavier has the opportunity to play a potential Top Five team in Kansas, who recently added the class of 2013’s No. 1 recruit, Andrew Wiggins, and a fringe Top 25 team in Iowa, who returns its top five scorers from last year’s Hawkeye squad that lost in the NIT Championship and finished the season with a 25-13 record.

It could also face USC and the Trojans’ new head coach Andy Enfield, who led No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 last year, and Tennessee, who CBS College Basketball Insider Gary Parrish said should be considered a Top 25 team after the announcement of Antonio Barton’s transfer from Memphis.

The Musketeers could potentially face challenging competition in the Bahamas, which would help the strength of their nonconference schedule, and the tournament can only help Xavier’s case to make the NCAA tournament in March.

Xavier has not faced a Top 10 team in its nonconference schedule since 2008, and playing multiple ranked teams in consecutive days would prepare the Muskies for the challenges that lie ahead in the Big East.

3. The Development of Semaj Christon

Xavier’s point guard won A-10 Freshman of the Year honors last season after averaging 15.2 points and more than four assists per game.

Christon suffered his share of growing pains; he turned the ball over 10 times against VCU, made just one of his nine shots before fouling out in a four-point loss to Tennessee and he was 3-of-11 from the field against Wake Forest, to name a few of his less-than-stellar performances.

However, the Cincinnati native was one of the bright spots on an inexperienced team that lost its top five scorers from the 2011-12 season. Christon led Xavier in points, assists, steals and free throws attempted last year.

His best statistical game of the season was a 20-point, seven-assist and seven-rebound effort in an overtime win against No. 16 Saint Louis as Xavier made one final push for an at-large bid to the tournament.

Xavier coach Chris Mack tweeted this spring that Christon will be one of the team’s captains as a sophomore, so he will have a larger leadership role next season.

Just as the point guard will have an opportunity to improve in the locker room, he has room to get better on the court as well. Christon made just 25 percent of his 28 three-point shots and connected on only 67 percent of his free throws. While he averaged nearly five assists per game, he turned the ball over almost four times per game.

Xavier’s success in the inaugural season of the “new” Big East starts and ends with Christon.

If he can make strides upon the promising foundation he laid in his freshman year, he could become one of the premier point guards in the country and even be in the discussion for Big East Player of the Year.

4. The Fab 5

Xavier coach Chris Mack put together an impressive five-man freshman class for next season that has flown under the radar.

Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds were both given a grade of 92 by ESPN.

Davis and Reynolds were supposed to play last season for the Musketeers, but the NCAA denied the eligibility of both players, according to former CBS Sports college basketball writer Jeff Goodman. Goodman wrote that both players paid for their first year of school at Xavier University and could not practice with the team.

Reynolds is a 6’9″ forward who was originally a 2011 commit before he attended prep school at Brewster Academy in New Jersey for one year. He will be two years older than most freshmen.

Davis is a 6’2″ guard from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.

In addition, Xavier will have Brandon Randolph, a point guard out of Inglewood, Calif. who is ranked No. 86 on ESPN’s 2013 Top 100 players list.

Kamall Richards is the fourth member of Xavier’s freshman class. The 6’6″ small forward is a 3-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.

The Musketeers’ most recent commitment was from Aleksandar Vezenkov, a 6’8″ Bulgarian forward who has experience playing on the Bulgarian junior national team and the Greek professional team Aris, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Shannon Russell.

With half of Xavier’s 2012 recruiting class, which was ranked 14th in the country by ESPN, beginning their college careers next season, in addition to the three 2013 commits, the Musketeers’ freshman class has a bright future.

5. The Impact of Transfer Players

After sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook, a junior center, will provide the Musketeers a big body in the middle. At 6’9″ and 275 pounds, Stainbrook averaged more than 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game as a sophomore for the Broncos.

In two seasons at Western Michigan, Stainbrook registered 10 double-doubles and scored a career-high 32 points against South Dakota State as a sophomore.

The native of Bay Village, Ohio also had the chance to prove himself against some of the country’s top teams. He made seven of his eight shots against No. 19 Illinois in his freshman season in a 16-point effort. In his sophomore year, Stainbrook scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds against No. 5 Duke.

With the loss of Travis Taylor (11.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game) and Jeff Robinson (6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game) due to graduation, Stainbrook will have the opportunity to start immediately in Xavier’s frontcourt.

Similarly to Christon, Stainbrook was selected as a team captain by his teammates for the upcoming season, so he has earned his teammates’ respect despite not playing in a Xavier uniform yet in his college career.

On May 17, Xavier added a second transfer, former Indiana guard Remy Abell, to its roster. While the sophomore will have to sit out the 2013-14 season, he will be able to practice with the Musketeers and make his teammates even better.

Abell will bring the experience of practicing with two All-Americans, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, to Xavier, so he has seen firsthand what it takes to play at the highest level in college basketball.

Bracketology Report: Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats—(19-7, 7-6)—10th in the Big East

Strength of schedule: 31

RPI: 42

BPI: 21

Good wins:

  • 77-66 vs. Oregon
  • 70-61 @ Pittsburgh
  • 71-69 OT vs. Marquette

Bad losses:

  • 54-50 @ Providence

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/21 @ Connecticut
  • 2/24 @ No. 24 Notre Dame
  • 3/2 vs. Connecticut
  • 3/4 @ Louisville
  • 3/9 vs. South Florida

Even though Cincinnati has six conference losses and sits towards the bottom of the Big East standings, the Bearcats have been competitive in every game they’ve played in this season. Four of their losses have come against ranked opponents and another was against an unranked New Mexico squad that is now No. 16. UC has lost two games by one point, in addition to three other losses by six points or fewer. The Bearcats have proven that they’re a tough out but they lack quality conference wins, which are readily available in a conference with six ranked teams.

Cincinnati has held its opponents below 70 points on 23 occasions this season. However, the Bearcats’ offense leaves them susceptible to close losses in low-scoring games. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with his 18 points per game average on 41.6% shooting. Senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are the only other Bearcats to average in double figures in scoring. UC’s offense is too guard heavy and Cincinnati is lacking an inside scoring presence that the team had last season with center Yancy Gates.

Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)
Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Cincinnati’s résumé is certainly tournament worthy but the Bearcats still have lots of room for improvement. At this point, UC is on pace for a seven, eight or nine seed. With four games remaining against Louisville, Notre Dame and Connecticut, who are fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Big East, respectively, the Bearcats could move up to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed if they run the table. A strong showing in the Big East Tournament would allow Cincinnati to be in the discussion as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

Prediction: Cincinnati will lose at Connecticut and Notre Dame, then end its three-game losing streak with a home victory over UConn. The Bearcats will lose on the road to Louisville and end the regular season with a win over South Florida to finish the season 21-10 (9-9). UC will be the No. 10 seed in the Big East Tournament. Cincinnati will win its first game and lose the second. The Bearcats will be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

College basketball stock report for week 16

After five consecutive weeks of teams moving up to the No. 1 spot one week and then back down the next as if there was a revolving door for the top spot, Indiana has held on to the No. 1 rank for the past three weeks. Miami (FL) has continued its ascent up in the polls from No. 25, No. 14, No. 8, and No. 3 to No. 2 and 23 first place votes behind the Hoosiers.

The Big East leads all conferences with six ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten with five and Big 12 with three.

With three weeks left of regular season conference play, here is my college basketball stock report:

BUY

Michigan State Spartans-(22-4, 11-2)-Ever since losing by five on the road to No. 7 Indiana, the Spartans have rattled off five wins in a row, including a 23-point drubbing of No. 4 Michigan. Michigan State is tied for first in the Big Ten with the opportunity to have sole possession of first place with a game against No. 1 Indiana tonight in East Lansing, Mich.

Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)
Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.
(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)

Georgetown Hoyas-(19-4, 9-3)-The Hoyas have taken advantage of Syracuse’s three losses in the Orange’s last six games; Georgetown has won seven straight games, including three against ranked Big East opponents, and is in a three-way tie for first place.

Gonzaga Bulldogs-(25-2, 12-0)-Gonzaga has won 16 of its last 17 games and the Bulldogs’ only loss in the new year was a one-point defeat at the hands of Roosevelt Jones and the Butler Bulldogs on the road. Gonzaga played and defeated the four teams remaining on its schedule by an average of nearly 13 points this season. It would be no surprise if the Bulldogs do not lose until the NCAA Tournament.

SELL

Butler Bulldogs-(21-5, 8-3)-Butler has proven that its best is very good after the Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Indiana in December. However, Butler has lost three of its past eight games. Even though the Bulldogs play in an improved A-10, they have gradually fallen from their top 10 ranking.

Michigan Wolverines-(22-4, 9-4)-There is no doubt that the Wolverines have a roster that has the ability to play in Atlanta for the Final Four but Michigan has slipped up several times lately. The Wolverines lost three of their past five games. All four of Michigan’s losses this season have come on the road and the No. 7 team in the country will have to be able to play away from Ann Arbor, Mich. in order to go deep in the tournament.

Cincinnati Bearcats-(19-7, 7-6)-Cincinnati has been ranked for most of the season but fell out of the top 25 this week after losing three of their past four games and four of seven. All of the Bearcats’ losses have been by ten points or fewer, with four of them being by less than five points, UC has struggled to emerge as one of the best teams in the Big East. Cincinnati is tied for ninth in the conference with games against Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville remaining on its schedule. The Bearcats were projected to be a No. 3 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projected NCAA Tournament but they are falling quickly.

HOLD

Notre Dame Fighting Irish-(21-6, 9-5)-In the past two weeks, Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Louisville in five overtimes and No. 20 Pittsburgh on the road. However, the Fighting Irish also lost to No. 9 Syracuse by 16 and unranked Providence by 17. Notre Dame has a lot of potential but the team has been too inconsistent.

Marquette Golden Eagles-(18-6, 9-3)-With the exception of a loss at Green Bay in December, Marquette does not have any horrible losses this season. The Golden Eagles were routed by Florida and Louisville, two teams that have been at the top of the polls for most of the season, but they have faired well in their conference schedule. Marquette hasn’t proven that it’s a great team but has exceeded expectations in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences. With four road games and two matchups against ranked opponents remaining on their schedule, the Golden Eagles have a challenging home stretch before the Big East Tournament.

Sorting out the Top Undrafted Free Agents in the NBA of 2012

With only two rounds in the NBA Draft, a handful of talented graduated seniors and second round hopefuls are passed on and left to sign as undrafted free agents, play overseas, or start their post-basketball lives. Scouting reports of “He can’t create his own shot” or “undersized” or a recent injury scare teams off. Whatever the case may be, there was no shortage of undrafted talent this year.

Scott Machado-PG-Iona

Courtesy of http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Scott-Machado-7024/

Machado lead the Iona Gaels to a 25-8 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament as a 14 seed. He averaged 13.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and an NCAA-leading 9.9 apg. If his assist numbers aren’t enough for a point guard prospect, Scott Machado shot 49.5% from the field and 40% from behind the arc. According to the New York Post, Machado has heard from the Bobcats, Raptors, Cavaliers, Hawks and Rockets. The Atlanta Hawks are the best team on the Iona product’s radar, with a 40-26 record and a playoff berth last season. Between Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jeff Teague, the Hawks have a number of offensive weapons for Machado to be successful in the NBA.

Kevin Jones-F-West Virginia

Courtesy of http://old.post-gazette.com/pg/10346/1109883-135.stm

Kevin Jones was the heart and soul of West Virginia’s men’s basketball team. As a senior, he averaged a double-double with twenty points and eleven rebounds per game. Jones was a major reason why the Mountaineers made appearances in the NCAA Tournament all four years that Jones was at West Virginia, including a Final Four run in 2010. Kevin Jones had interest from the Charlotte Bobcats as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed with the Cavs yesterday to a three-year, partially guaranteed contract.

Tu Holloway-PG-Xavier

Courtesy of http://www.madduxsports.com/blog/xavier-vs-butler-former-conference-rivals-face-off-inside-hinkle-fieldhouse-20063/

Sadly, Tu Holloway will forever be remember for his role in the 2011 Crosstown Shootout brawl instead of his fantastic play as a Xavier Musketeer. Last season, Holloway lead the charge for the Muskies, who finished with a 23-13 record and made their third Sweet Sixteen appearance since Holloway’s freshman year. He averaged seventeen points, five assists, and four rebounds during his senior year. Holloway worked out for fourteen NBA teams before this year’s draft so it is likely that he will be invited to participate in the NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas in mid-July.

William Buford-SG-Ohio State

Courtesy of http://www.rankopedia.com/Best-Player-in-the-2011-NCAA-Men’s-Basketball-Tournament/Step1/23897/.htm

William Buford played significant minutes from his first year on campus at Ohio State. He averaged double-digits in points per game all four years as a Buckeye. His senior year averages were 14.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 2.9 apg. His biggest contribution to Ohio State was his spot-up jump shooting and he can be a marginal player when outside of that role as a shooter. Buford was a member of the Buckeyes when they made it to two Sweet Sixteens. The Ohio State graduate has not had any offers from NBA teams but the international route is definitely available if he would like to continue his basketball career.

Henry Sims-C-Georgetown

Courtesy of http://themajors.net/detroit/?p=8473

Henry Sims took great strides in his off-seasons at Georgetown to progress from a player who averaged less than two points and two rebounds per game to a starter who averaged twelve points, six rebounds, and four assists per game his senior year. Watching Sims have the game of his life by putting up 22 and 15 against Yancy Gates and the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Big East Tournament showed me what kind of player he can be when at his best. Scouts questioned his passion for the game and why it took three seasons for him to put up the numbers that he did last year. The Washington Wizards worked out Henry Sims before the draft but with four players who can play center on their roster, it would be extremely difficult for Sims to make the team if they do invite him to join their summer league team.

Hollis Thompson-F-Georgetown

Courtesy of http://dc.sbnation.com/georgetown-hoyas/2011/4/22/2127300/hollis-thompson-georgetown-nba-draft-2011

After averaging thirteen points and six rebounds per game for Georgetown during his junior year, Hollis Thompson forgoed his senior year to enter the NBA Draft and must be regretting that decision after not hearing his name called for any of the sixty picks in the draft. Thompson is an excellent shooter, especially from the outside considering his size as a 6’8″ forward. He was a 44% three-point shooter during his three years as a Hoya and made an impressive 46% of his shots from behind the arc during his sophomore year. He worked out for the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers and will likely spark interest from an NBA team because of his combination of size and excellent shooting ability.

J’Covan Brown-G-Texas

Courtesy of http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120312/SPT0101/303120160/Texas-doesn-t-lack-talent

It is hard to believe that a player who averaged twenty points per game in the Big 12 could go undrafted. Somehow, J’Covan Brown of Texas managed to do so. Similarly to Hollis Thompson, Brown left school after his junior year for the NBA Draft. Last season, he had four thirty-point games, including a thirty-four point performance, going 6-7 on three-pointers, against then #9 Missouri. While his rebound and assist numbers are low, J’Covan Brown is a proven scorer and those categories are not critical to a shooting guard’s success. The 2011-2012 Big 12 scoring leader will not be upset for long about being undrafted because he was picked up by the defending NBA Champions the Miami Heat as a free agent. The Heat could use some fresh legs and a good shooter like Brown to go along side of veterans Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Ray Allen (if the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers made decides to sign there).

Casper Ware-G-Long Beach State

Courtesy of http://thefrontofficenews.com/2011/11/18/long-beach-states-casper-ware-is-primed-for-a-big-season/

Long Beach State had more last year than just a cool name, sweet jerseys, and an NCAA Tournament appearance. They also had senior shooting guard Casper Ware, who averaged 17.4 points per game. Ware was one of the leaders on the 49’ers and helped them to a 25-9 record last season. His best performances were his 28, 29, 30, 33, and 38-point games in the regular season, two of which were against Pittsburgh and North Carolina. Of Ware’s three offers, from the Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, and Detroit Pistons, he chose to become a Piston as a member of their summer league team.

Jordan Taylor-G-Wisconsin

Courtesy of http://www.draftexpress.com/article/NBA-Draft-Prospect-of-the-Week-Jordan-Taylor-3633/

Jordan Taylor’s best season as a Wisconsin Badger was his junior year, in which he averaged eighteen points, five assists, and four rebounds per game. He shot 43% from the field and from behind the arc and had an 83% free throw percentage. While his senior year numbers weren’t quite as remarkable, he was still a very competitive player in the Big Ten and lead Wisconsin to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost by one point to the Syracuse Orange. Taylor drew interest from the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks and settled on the Hawks because they start their summer league games earlier.