Teams operating on the Big East Bubble
With UConn, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Providence almost assured bids in the NCAA Tournament, it’s time to discuss which Big East teams are playing on the bubble.
NIT Champions, and local favorites, St. John’s are a team in chaos. Looking forward to the senior leadership of Willie Shaw, the Red Storm were less than shocked when the guard was arrested by police in Queens for marijuana possession with former St. John’s teammate Marcus Hatten. Shaw was suspended last year when he violated the team’s drug policy. Now he’s been thrown off the team.
Coach Mike Jarvis is in jeopardy of losing his job. With a 2-4 record, rumors of his firing have been circulating since the beginning of the season. A weekend thrashing by Duke and a less than impressive win over St. Francis of Brooklyn, have led the Johnnies faithful to call for Jarvis’ head.
It’s been quite a few years since the Red Storm have made the NCAA Tournament, and university president, Fr. Donald Harrington, may act before the season is done. With a storied tradition, losing is not tolerated at St. John’s.
Although the Red Storm currently has the worst record in the Big East, they still have the talent to make the NCAA’s. Senior forward Grady Reynolds and sophomore guard Elijah Wood will spark the offense this year.
With seven graduating seniors, good recruiting will ultimately determine if St. John’s can remain competitive in the next few years.
St. John’s will wait two weeks for their next opponent when they face #10 Georgia Tech on December 21.
The Georgetown Hoyas have started the season by going 6-0. Granted, the competition has not been great, but in the short NCAA basketball season, wins are wins. The only tough out-of-conference opponent Georgetown will face is Duke. All the other non-Big East opponents are essentially push-overs. While the Hoyas have a weak schedule, the team is very capable of earning a bid to the tournament.
Senior guard and co-captain Gerald Riley was named Big East co-player of the week on December 8. Riley averaged 22 points and 7 boards a game for the week. The Hoyas will also be looking to sophomore standout Brandan Bowman for leadership and buckets. Capable of playing either the 3 or 4 spot, Bowman is averaging 18 points a game, and gives Georgetown a tremendous presence in the paint. The Hoyas next home game will be against lowly Elon College on Saturday.
With the well-respected Louis Orr at the helm, Seton Hall stands a chance to earn a tournament bid. The Pirates will be rallying behind senior point guard and All-American candidate Andre Barrett. The energetic player is capable of changing games with his scoring and passing abilities. Leading the team with 18 points a game and more than seven assists per game, Barrett is the leader and main distributor of the Pirates offense.
Having made the transition to shooting guard, junior John Allen can also be called upon to perform in clutch situations.
While Forwards Marcus Tony-El and Andre Sweet give the Pirates the ability to score, ultimately Seton Hall lacks depth with rebounding and an inside presence.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the team will be without undersized sophomore center and shot-blocker Kelly Whitney, who was forced to take at least part of the season off to attend to his academic studies.
If Seton Hall are to earn an NCAA bid this year, they will need to establish an inside game and not rely on the long-range shooting abilities of Barrett and Allen.
After Wednesday’s loss to #25 Louisville, the Pirates next game will be against St. Peters at the Continental Arena on Saturday.
Although they’re bailing to the ACC in a few years, Boston College could represent the Big East in the tournament. Without the leadership of Troy Bell, the Eagles will look to new sources for inspiration.
That inspiration comes from fifth year senior, Uka Agbai, who has returned from a near paralyzing injury to rejoin the team. The player, from Queens Village, NY, has recovered to become a presence in the middle.
The rest of the BC team is young and exciting. Sophomore Craig Smith is leading the team with 14.7 points per game and more than 8 rebounds per game. Freshman forward Jared Dudley is averaging 10.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
While Boston College’s strength is in the forward position, the young backcourt of Steve Hailey and Louis Hinnant are dishing out lots of assists and feeding the big men.
Despite losing to Atlantic-10 and #12 powerhouse, St. Joe’s, Boston College’s 6-1 record is indicative a good team. Coach Al Skinner lamented the move to the ACC, but will certainly lead a competitive Boston College while he’s still in the Big East.
The Villanova Wildcats are 5-2 this season. With a comprehensive win at Philadelphia rivals, UPenn, Villanova seem poised to make an impression on the selection committee this year. With a tough out-of-conference schedule that includes #7 Kansas and #12 St. Joe’s, the Wildcats will earn any recognition they get.
The impressive sophomore backcourt of Allan Ray and Randy Foye are capable of scoring, dishing-out and rebounding.
Forward combo Curtis Sumpter and Andreas Bloch may average double-doubles for the season.
While the team may be high scoring, the Wildcats defense is suspect and could lead to them losing some games. Giving up 103 points to Redlands in unacceptable. As is losing to Chaminade, a Division II opponent. As their competition improves, Villanova’s true colors will be displayed.
Nova will play their first home game against Northeastern on Saturday.
If the Big East is to earn a sixth bid to the NCAA’s, it will likely be Seton Hall, Boston College or Villanova. Georgetown and St. John’s are long shots, but have the talent to make the big dance.
Virginia Tech, Miami, West Virginia, and Rutgers all look to be out of contention for the NCAA but in a highly competitive Big East, anything is possible.