The NFL Draft just kicked off and it looks like there won’t be too much drama to the first round as ESPN has paraded the last two weeks. At the moment, just about every projection under the sun has zero Big East players going early in the draft. And that’s a break from the norm as the conference has produced a lot of great players in the last couple of years. Regardless, I will be live blogging about each Big East player taken in the Draft and include some analysis on how that player will fit with their new team and give some way-too-early prognostications on which player(s) will contribute the most this upcoming season. Check back for more!
With an illustrious basketball season finished, albeit with a Big East Conference member National Champion in UConn, it is time to take a look at the end of Spring football practices around the Big East. While a full Spring review/Fall preview will be published after each Big East affiliated team finishes their practices/scrimmages/Spring games, let’s take a glance around the conference and see what the Big East blogosphere has to say about the end of Spring football.
Bearcat nation is looking ahead to the Fall of 2011 after an extremely disappointing 2010 gridiron campaign, and the early returns look good for Butch Jones’s second season. However, some eyebrows in the Queen City have been raised after a look over the Bearcats’ roster showed some familiar faces are missing…but on the flip side, some familiar faces are sticking around for another year in the Black and Red.
Following the monumental BCS birth last Fall, Husky fans were hoping their reign at the top would last longer than one season..and according to the UConn Blog the conference champs are putting the pieces together for another run. While another Big East title will come with help from someone other than Jordan Todman, the Huskies are evaluating their talent for the upcoming Summer and Fall.
Charlie Strong strong-armed the Big East this offseason with a stellar recruiting class and that has Cards fans already excited about football’s opening weekend. But the real Louisville fans will be checking out the Spring game…and competing against each other at the same time.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Though the beginning of last season was on par for a Charlie Weis season, Brian Kelly was able to work his trademark magic and get things turned around. Now the Fighting Irish are looking for the next crop of skill superstars, and some of those offensive and defensive questions could be answered during their Blue-Gold Spring Game.
It’s the dawn of a new era in the Steel City and Panthers faithful are hoping Todd Graham’s traditionally explosive offense can take form with the help of former WVU O-Coordinator Calvin Magee, but not everyone is on board just yet. However some Pittsburgh players are looking ahead to an exciting Spring game, and an even better Summer and Fall.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Greg Schiano is surely searching for answers to patch up a weak offensive line that hindered his offenses production in 2010, but he says one Rutgers’ offense mainstay should be just fine at his new position. And supposedly the aura or ghost or some strange spirit of Barry Sanders was present at a recent Rutgers practice.
South Florida Bulls
This could be the big year Bulls fans have been waiting for, as the team’s talent may finally meet it’s Florida-speed. However, the biggest question heading into the offseason was “What is up with the quarterbacks?” It probably wasn’t phrased exactly like that to head man Skip Holtz, USF’s quarterbacks made some strides in their Spring game.
The Orange had a surprising turnaround season under Coach Doug Marrone, capped by their thrilling Pinstripe Bowl victory over Kansas State. Now Syracuse nation is paying close attention to Spring football again, and their recent practices ended nicely…in fact, the coaches are so comfortable with the squad that the roster is set for the Spring game.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Like their Backyard Brawl rivals, there’s a new Sheriff (or Sheriffs) in town…err Morgantown. Offense guru Dana Holgerson has been pleased with his side of the ball so far, but is still a little unsure how things will shape up in the Fall. Yet it appears the injury bug is already hurting the Mountaineers, and it’s a senior leader too.
9:24 – Houston, we have tip-off! The 2011 National Championship is underway and it’s a battle of the dogs. The UConn Huskies and the Butler Bulldogs are ready to square off and it should be an excellent game, maybe Brad Stevens can make due for his team’s heartbreaking 2 point loss in last year’s National Championship game against Duke…while Calhoun looks to bring home Connecticut’s third championship.
9:27 – U-G-L-Y…this game is looking bad right now. UConn leads 4-3 early but neither team can connect on close and long distance shots. Honestly, both teams look like they should be competing for the NIT Championship at the moment.
9:31 – First TV timeout, UConn up 4-3 and it is not looking good for either team. Kemba Walker is unusually out-of-control and the timeout comes following an abusive blocked shot on the Big East’s Player of the Year.
9:35 – Big three there by Howard, Butler is going to need their dynamic duo of Howard and Mack to show up tonight if they hope to have any chance against the bigger, faster, and more physical Huskies.
9:36 - Oriakhi sinks a baby shot, ending an 0-8 streak for the Huskies.
9:40 – Walker gets it going with his fifth straight point. A beautiful, slicing drive through the paint culminates with a Kemba “and-one.” That is a site Big East opponents have seen all too often this season. UConn leads 13-9.
9:47 – Nearing the half-way mark here in the first half and the game is 13-11 after a nice hook shot from Butler. Both of these teams seem to be a little nervous and without much composure. Butler has to be happy with the inefficiency of UConn at the moment.
9:51 – 9:02 remaining here and UConn is already in the bonus. Mack hits one of two free throws and the Huskies are still clinging to a one point lead.
9:54 – Long range “Jimmer” three there for Butler, putting the Bulldogs ahead by 1 (16-15) with 8:44 left in the half. Calhoun needs to get some offense on this possession because Butler usually feeds off big shots. Lamb is also on the bench with his second foul, that could hurt their already anemic scoring output.
10:05 – Almost three minutes to go here and not a lot has changed. UConn continues to look bad on offense, ditto Butler. At least the Bulldogs can rest on back-t0-back ultra-range threes. Tie score at 19-19.
10:07 – Walker commits a charge and now must sit the rest of the half with 2 fouls. So far the combination of Walker and Lamb has been grossly ineffective, hopefully for UConn and the Big East that doesn’t continue in the second half.
10:10 – Return of the Mack! After being held nearly scoreless throughout the first half, Sheldon Mack connects on a monster “eye-goggle” three to end the half. Stevens’s squad takes a three point advantage into halftime (22-19) and Connecticut finished the first period with no points over the last 6 minutes of the half…that’s right. Zero. Nada. Zilch. While there has to be something to say abut the fact that Walker and Lamb both have 2 fouls apiece and Butler boasts 6 total as a team, the Huskies look completely clueless right now.
10:36 – Second verse, same as the first. Butler opens up the second half with a deeeep three and builds up a 4 points lead.
10:39 – And there you go! Walker and Lamb combine for 5 straight and UConn clearly knows what they need to do to pull out the win. Keep feeding your stars and see what happens, it has worked all season hasn’t it? UConn leads 26-25.
10:46 – Now it’s Butler’s turn to go stone cold from the field. Mack and Co. are 1-10 for the field this half while UConn is playing with a lot of energy on both ends of the court. Where is Matt Howard?
10:49 – Silence from the Lamb! A tip-out steal leads to fast break slamma jamma for the freshman Lamb. If the Bulldogs don’t respond soon this game could get out of their control, as Kemba and Lamb are running the show right now. UConn extends the lead to 5, 31-26.
10:54 – Butler connects on their first basket since their three to open the half. And yet they find themselves down by only 5. 33-28 going into the timeout.
11:01 – Four straight from UConn’s Lamb and a beautiful, twisting finger-roll form the All-Star Walker and the Huskies are up by 11 (39-28). Butler did fight back from this same deficit against Florida, but UConn is in complete control right now.
11:07 – Butler has scored 8 points this half and there is less than 7 to play. Just absolutely horrific offense from the Bulldogs, they literally just got their first points in the paint…just astonishing. Oriakhi’s thunderous “and-one” dunk gives UConn a 13 point lead with the free throw to come after the timeout. This game has been ugly all around but the Big East Champions definitely look superior in every regard.
11:12 – Matt Howard is alive! I thought a Monstar had stolen his powers and was running roughshod on the street courts of Houston. His two free throws pulls Butler to within 12 but the Huskies keep getting easy looks in the paint.
11:14 – A three from Butler cuts the lead to 11 but Calhoun’s troops continue to play stifling defense. Ball back to the Huskies now.
11:18 – Back from the last media timeout here at the 2011 NCAA National Championship and the University of Connecticut is up by 13. Under three minutes to go now and this is UConn’s game to lose now.
11:21 – Mack snags his fourth point of the half on a clutch three but it’s not going to be enough. Lamb continues to score and now boasts 12 points in the half.
11:22 – Don’t look now but Sheldon Mack just collected his second three. However, Walker answers on the other end after an obvious intentional foul that wasn’t called. It’s a ten point game with under 1 minute to play.
GAME OVER – The University of Connecticut Huskies are the champions of college basketball for the 2010-2011 season. After completing a stunning 5-game run through the Big East tournament to capture the championship, Walker and Lamb led their team through a dream stretch in the NCAAs to bring home UConn’s third National Championship.
Player of the Game: Jeremy Lamb – His 12 second half points were key to his team’s success and whenever there was a play to be made or a rebound to be had, Lamb was there to bring home the bacon. Kemba Walker was undoubtedly the team’s greatest player in the tournament, but Lamb stole the show tonight…and he is only a freshman.
State of the Game: 18% Butler set the record for the worst shooting performance ever in an NCAA National Championship game. They only recorded 19 points in the second half and nearly half of those came in the closing minutes. Though UConn was the more impressive team, and their defense surely had an effect on Butler’s performance, Brad Stevens’ team has no one but themselves to blame for this loss…unfortunately for the small private school from Indianapolis, it is their second in row a National Championship game.
UCONN WINS! THE BIG EAST CAPTURES YET ANOTHER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD!
After a very hectic week, I decided to make up for my neglect of the Big Beast and offer a live blog for the UConn vs. Kentucky Final Four clash. With Connecticut the last Big East team remaining in the tournament, it’s up to Kemba Walker and his band of Huskies to take on the sensational freshman Brandon Knight and the Wildcats in a battle of college basketball blue-bloods. Tipoff is set for just before 9 PM and the Big Beast will be there every step of the way to offer insight, analysis, and some good hearted trash talk. Check back for more this evening!
9:07 – Here we go! Introductions are under way and UConn is set to come out. And anytime I see Calipari I think of a slime ball in a well-tailored suit.
9:10 – Walker and Lamb really need to keep on their trailblazing path if they want to win this game tonight. Kentucky can score points in a hurry and UConn can’t afford a slip up from either of their stars.
9:13 – UConn switches it up on their first possession and goes down low. Easy bucket…but Jones gets the better of the Huskies on the opposite end.
9:15 - Lamb gets it going with a nice jumper, Calhoun needs to get his guys to clean up the defensive glass though.
9:20 – First TV timeout and Kentucky leads 10-8…Jones is killing them right now with a three-point goggle three and ugly fast break layup.
9:29 - Big block there for UConn, they need to assert themselves early…Kentucky can be intimidated.
9:35 – Kemba Walker! Thunderous move down the lane and a nice and-one for UConn. Up by 5, 17-12.
9:37 - Timeout Kentucky…UConn is playing in-your-face defense and frustrating UK’s freshman trio…keep it going guys.
9:39 – Lamb to the hoop again. He looks good tonight, but Brandon Knight and Jones are fueling a 5 point Kentucky run. 23-19 Connecticut.
9:47 – UConn is really controlling the game right now. Kentucky is off-balance on offense and Walker and Co. get getting easy looks. Pretty similar to how UK finished the half against West Virginia earlier in the tournament.
9:51 – Right out of the timeout and UConn gets a layup from Lamb. Calhoun’s squad is composed at the moment and are playing far more aggressive than the Big Blue.
9:55 – Halftime. UConn leads by 10 (31-21) and is really dominating this game. Kemba almost has a double-double at the half and Lamb is playing equally as well. If the Huskies can make some adjustments defensively to keep UK off the glass, this game could get out of hand in the second half. Unlike their Big East counterpart WVU, UConn has to keep attacking the basket and working for easy looks to build off their lead over Kentucky. It will be interesting to see if Walker can continue to lead the team against what will be a UK offensive assault in the second half. But if there is one thing that Walker has shown all year, it is consistency. And that more than anything could (and should) lead the Huskies to the victory.
The first day of the tournament is in the books and so far my bracket is looking pretty good. I don’t think anyone on the planet had Morehead State over Louisville (maybe some obscure animal on a remote island chose a coconut painted with Morehead’s logo on it over the Cardinals’ coconut, but I doubt it). I thought the loss of D.J. Kennedy would hinder St. John’s and it all but destroyed their season (literally, a blowout loss to the Zags is not what many had in mind). Cincy, WVU, UConn, and Pittsburgh all held serve in their games and for the most part looked impressive. As for the other teams waiting to play, I have continued the mini-synopsis of each team below.
On Upset Alert: Villanova – Ok, so technically it’s not an upset considering Nova is the 9 seed and George Mason is the 8, but any time an historic Big East powerhouse loses to a Colonial Athletic Association team it should be considered an upset (remember UConn – George Mason?). I’m still shocked that Jay Wright’s squad looks to have taken the second half of the season off with the Wildcats severely limping into the NCAAs. On the other hand, George Mason is riding high with a double-digit win streak and a thirst for Big East blood (and revenge from a heartbreaking loss to Nova in an early-season tourney a few years ago). Things could go easily for Villanova or they could be, well, upset.
One and Done?: Georgetown – There is some good news heading into the NCAA tournament for John Thompson III’s team, senior guard and team leader Chris Wright is going to play…but to what extent he is able to perform for the Hoyas will decide their tournament fate. G’town looked horrible after Wright broke his hand (literally, horrible, like Depaul bad) and if he isn’t able to go 100% it could be a disastrous loss to in-state foe Virginia Commonwealth. VCU believes they can play and beat the Hoyas and when the underdog has confidence and momentum heading into a tournament game, anything can happen. For Austin Freeman’s sake I want nothing more than the Hoyas to make it to the second round, but this could be a one and done deal.
Guts = Glory?: Marquette – No team in the Big East has more scrappiness and guts than the Marquette Golden Eagles, and their late-season push to make the tournament field shows that. Buzz William’s team has yet to suffer an abysmal loss on the season and their close performances against top competition show that it doesn’t always take talent and athleticism to win ball games. If Marquette is able to enforce their will on A-10 counterpart Xavier, then look for the Golden Eagles to pull the upset on the Musketeers. All they have to do is stick to their rough, in-your-face style of play and they should be fine.
Putting up a fight: Notre Dame – Outside of Pittsburgh, Notre Dame has been the most consistent and complete in the Big East (and they beat the Panthers at The Pete too). Mike Brey has his senior-laden team firing on all cylinders and if not for a late-game hiccup against Louisville in the Big East Tournament then the Fighting Irish could have captured the crown and the coveted #1 seed. However, Hansbrough and Company received a #2 seed and now look to make a deep tourney run for the first time in years. I myself have several brackets with Notre Dame making the Final Four and if the team chemistry and smart play continues, there is little reason to believe it won’t happen (unless you are a Purdue or Kansas fan).
Don’t forget about us!: Syracuse – Usually every time March comes around the Orange are at the top of discussion list for the Big East’s NCAA tournament hopefuls. But this hasn’t been a usual year for Jim Boeheim’s team. However, after the midseason meltdown, the Orange have rallied magnificently and look to be one of the stronger teams in the field. Seeded as a #3, Syracuse could get a rematch with Marquette (who beat the Orange in the regular season) in the third round and then possibly move on to play a UNC team that has been on fire as of late in the ACC. If all goes as planned for Syracuse they should find themselves in familiar waters in the Elite Eight and at least the Sweet 16. If that is the case, then you can bet you will hear a lot more about the Orange over the coming week(s).