College / Mar 9, 2010 / 8:30 am

5 Things to Watch for during the Big East Tournament

Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson

It’s Championship Week in college basketball, otherwise known as the week of tournaments before THE Tournament. And honestly, it seems this year people only really care about two conference tourneys: the Big East and the Big 12 … and maybe the ACC based on history and hype.

Yesterday I previewed the Pac-10 as a tune-up, but now it’s onto the real heavyweights. First up: the Big East. With five teams ranked in the AP Top 25 and up to six players projected to go in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft, it’s the deepest and perhaps most talented conference in the country. The Big East Tournament has provided some of the most memorable moments in college basketball over the last 15 years, from the Allen Iverson/Ray Allen shootout to the six-overtime epic between Syracuse and UConn. What’s in store this year?

5 THINGS TO WATCH FOR DURING THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT

1. Can Syracuse live up to the pressure of a No. 1 seed?
Shortly after taking over the top spot in the national ranking last week, the Orange were beaten convincingly at Louisville, one of the Big Dance bubble teams. Jim Boeheim‘s squad (28-3) has all the elements of a Final Four favorite — experience, defense, depth, shooters, big men, a solid backcourt, and versatility — but they have to prove the crown of expectations doesn’t weigh too heavy on their heads. Junior Wesley Johnson and seniors Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku comprise and talented and tough Big Three, but they’re potentially looking at three rivalry games in three days at a neutral site against three Top-25 teams.

2. Lance Stephenson’s Homecoming Party
For all the hype he got in high school — I heard this one magazine even said he could be an NBA star at 17 years old — this is the biggest stage on which “Born Ready” has performed. The Cincinnati freshman has played at Madison Square Garden numerous times before in city championship games and prep showcases, but this is the first time Stephenson (12.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) has been under the bright lights with this much on the line: Forget the Bearcats (16-14) slim chances of running the table and earning an NCAA berth, this week will play a big factor in determining whether Lance goes pro or not. The last time he played at MSG, a predatory St. John’s crowd gave the hometown kid an earful and watched him commit a backbreaking turnover in a Cincy loss. But having followed Lance over the past four years, I know he tends to play big in the biggest games.

3. Which version of Georgetown’s backcourt will show up?
You can’t watch a Hoyas game without getting an earful of announcers fawning over Greg Monroe. (I love G’town, and even I have to admit it bleeds into mancrush territory too often.) But this team is only going as far as its guards can take them. Juniors Chris Wright (14.2 ppg, 4.0 apg, 1.7 spg) and Austin Freeman (17.2 ppg) have been at their best in Georgetown’s biggest wins: Freeman scored 33 to beat UConn, 25 to beat Villanova, 20 to beat Duke, and 29 to beat Louisville; while Wright put up 27 points in a win over Pitt, and 21 against Duke. Subsequently, the backcourt (mostly Wright) has struggled in many of Georgetown’s losses. Wright is an explosive scoring PG who — for better or worse — has some T.J. Ford in his game. Freeman was diagnosed with diabetes last week, and while he responded with a 24-point effort against Cincinnati, his health could become an issue as the Hoyas face a potentially grueling tournament schedule.

Villanova's Scottie Reynolds

4. Senior Night
For every Big East team teetering on the Bracketology bubble, there are a pair of seniors who can seize the day and play themselves into the Tournament this week: UConn has Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson; Louisville has Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith; Marquette has Lazar Hayward and Maurice Acker; and Notre Dame has Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson. As for the at-large locks, there are a handful of seniors that will have a strong say in which team leaves MSG with the conference title: Scottie Reynolds at Villanova, Da’Sean Butler at West Virginia, and Rautins and Onuaku at Syracuse.

5. Herb Pope vs. Jamine Peterson
Also known as the most intriguing matchup you won’t hear anything about. Overshadowed in the star-studded Big East, Seton Hall’s Herb Pope (11.2 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.0 bpg) and Providence’s Jamine Peterson (19.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg), both sophomore forwards, have quietly been two of the most productive players in the conference. They’ll square off when the Pirates and Friars meet at 7 p.m. EST tonight. Pope and Peterson are unique talents with unique backgrounds: Pope was a high school All-American whose fast track to the NBA was derailed when he got shot four times in March ’07, and is now playing his first year at Seton Hall after transferring from New Mexico State. Peterson is a late bloomer who sat out last year as a non-injury redshirt. At 6-8, Pope is more of a classic power forward; the 6-6 Peterson is an undersized four (a natural three) with enough strength and athleticism to make up for his lack of height. Providence’s run-and-gun system allows Peterson to feast on transition buckets and putback dunks, while Seton Hall’s system calls for Pope to get the rock inside in the rare occasions when Jeremy Hazell isn’t jacking up shots. Providence probably has the worst defense in the country and they play small. If they’re going to snap their 10-game losing streak, Peterson has to help contain Pope in the paint.

Check out there other Big East stories:
- Villanova’s Antonio Pena finally making a name for himself
- College Basketball’s Top 10 Future NBA All-Stars
- Brandon Triche is taking Syracuse to the National Championship

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  • http://dime eyes

    Just wanted to say thank you to the coaches of the High School U.S.A. committee. That send a message loud & clear. You don’t cut the best player in the country. Only when you’re from NYC. Can someone please name me 10 legit players better in college. He definitely went to the wrong program/system. Would have faired better even at Maryland. I really really wish he went to Kansas & brought his brother or sister on the roster. Like Xavier”Overrated”Henry. Size kills when you have no skills. Lance going to Cincinnati was like Felipe going to St.Johns. You just don’t do it. They kill your career like the Knicks. Still a heck of a talent. Too bad the scouts & experts can’t see through that.

    It’s funny the timing of one good game could propel you to lottery. While one bad game or missed FT/Turnover could drop you to 2nd round or not even being drafted.

    Also if Scottie Reynolds goes lottery & Sherron Collins goes 2nd round. Aside from poor evaluations & clueless people at the combine. Basketball is definitely rigged. Screw Talent. Stern,Coaches & Refs decides games. LOL.

  • http://dime eyes

    Under the radar players who could be legitimate cheap upgrades in the L. They have the grit & skill required to skill. Namely also no hype which means there is much more substance than players ranked & always drafted ahead

    Jeremy Hazell,Justin Burrell,Anthony Mason Jr,Jerome Dyson,Corey Fisher,Dominique Jones,Lazar Hayward,Kemba Walker,Edgar Sosa,De Sean Butler,Scoop Jardine

  • http://dime eyes

    Skills required to succeed* Apologies^^^^^

  • Papa Smurf

    not one word about Pitt, yet an entire section dedicated to overrated NYC-hype Lance Stephenson. give me a break

    adrian autry . . . felipe lopez . . . omar cook . . . Lance Stepheson

  • sans

    I swear the point for Cincy ha been frezing out LAnce all season. Everytime I watch them, the point is jacking horrible runners (talkabout a lot of Tj Ford in his game) and refusing to give up the rock to Lance’s side of the floor….

  • routeattack

    papasmurf i was about to say the same thing.

    pitt never gets recognized enough even though EVERY YEAR since 2001 they have been a top 25 team.

  • Alee-Mo

    People always complaining about a problem but offer no solutions.

    OK, Pitt fans, tell us what about your team should make the “Things to Watch” list? Other than just being good, there’s nothing interesting about Pitt this year.

    That said, AB, you should have mentioned this Dominique Jones kid from South Florida. I’m watching him do work against DePaul right now and the boi is NICE.

  • Papa Smurf

    Alee-Mo,

    Make yourself useful. Get your fat ass off the couch, get on your knees, and lick my blue balls.

    Second seeded Pitt was picked to finish 9th in the Big East. People are certainly interested in seeing if they can continue to overachieve.

    You tell me how that is less compelling than another story about overhyped NYC garbage.

  • Alee-Mo

    Getting a little overheated about some college kids, I see. Might explain why you’ve got blue balls in the first place.

    So Pitt was underrated going into the season … and? So was Syracuse, so was Marquette. And UConn and Louisville were overrated. Doesn’t exactly make Pitt a must-watch team.

    Whether or not Lance is overrated isn’t the point. It’s that he’s worth watching. People who haven’t seen him play want to see what the hype is about. People who have seen him wanna know if he’ll play big on the big stage. Either way, he’s a more interesting story than Ashton Gibbs.

  • Papa Smurf

    No, Lame Lance really is not more interesting. He’s a slightly above average player who will end up playing in Turkey in the near future. Nobody really cares about a player who has put up 12 ppg and 5 rpg for a mediocre team. Nothing he does during this tournament is going to negate the unimpressive body of work he has compiled during the season. The only people who care about him are the gullible clowns who buy into every over-hyped NYC prep star.

  • Alee-Mo

    Obviously you’ve been watching Lance, so you’re feeding right into what you supposedly hate.

    And you can’t say “nobody cares” and then turn around and say Lance is overrated and all hype. The reason you have hype is because people do care. Somebody like Dante Taylor has no hype, hence nobody cares about him.

  • Papa Smurf

    I’ve watch Lance because I watch basketball generally (including the game Pitt beat him). I have not gone out of my way to watch him. I haven’t fed into anything.

    I certainly can say that nobody cares about Lance at this point in the season. He WAS all hype and overrated. Now that he has played a full regular season and proven to be mediocre, nobody cares about him.

    Nice try, gullible clown.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    Early thoughts:

    * Alee-Mo is right, I should have written about Dominique Jones.

    * Terrible showing by UConn. St. John’s just wanted it more. Ater Majok passes the “Who the f*** is that giant?” eye test, but he was getting dunked on every time you looked up.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    Man, Jay Williams and Doug Gottlieb and KILLING UConn right now. Jay said they have no heart, that guys didn’t want to be on the court, that Kemba was the only player who cared. Specifically called out Jerome Dyson and Gavin Edwards for not showing up.

  • http://dime eyes

    Gavin Edwards who. The guy from Prison Break. This has to be one of the worse assembled UConn teams to date. They have no talent. 3 man teams can’t cut it in the Big East.

    Papa Smurf. Where you from? I’m pretty sure Lance would run your man or players down. Don’t talk or judge by what you see on college ball. Coaches would lead you to believe all NYC players are overrated. Why recruit them in the 1st place. If a team was assembled of just NYC players you really think they’d lose. Ebanks,Fisher,Lamont Jones,Samardo Samuels,D.Strickland,
    Jarid Famous,Travon Hughes,Terrel Holloway,Malcom Grant,Lance Stephenson,D.Hardy. All those players are just hype or are you just mad son.

    Lance would be in the league looking better than a lot of scrubs now. Had it not been for the most unfair & stupid rule ever. To save face on teams not knowing &^%$
    about basketball. He has a pro game. Have you ever heard of some players being better pros. I’d rather have him than a Redick,Morrison,Dominique James, type of college star. That cannot hold their weight in a man’s league. #’s lie. Nick Calathes is doing what overseas. He’s not playing. What is Rubio doing overseas.

    Lance you should have went to the Jayhawks & won that National Championship with Sherron Collins. Instead we have some wanna be hyped Slam Diary of a player. Who even Scottie Reynolds would thrash. So much for the experts.

    I know for a fact if the best talent from New York City went anywhere. It would be a good game. We hold our own against anybody. They don’t call us the home of the guards for no reason. Were still one of the mecca’s. The New York Knicks don’t represent us in no shape or form. One of the ushers at the garden will kill the Knicks backcourt right now.

  • Papa Smurf

    Stop using the name “eyes,” because you can’t see shit.

    More woulda, coulda, shoulda about an NYC playground baller. I used to live in NYC. There are plenty of good NYC ballers; Lance just ain’t one of them.

    And I’ll talk about whatever I goddamn please. You don’t like it, then tell your boy start living up to the hype.

    Your statement about the ushers at the Garden demonstrates just how delusional you are.

  • http://dime eyes

    I still can see that you use the name Papa Smurf. What a groovy name. Your a little angry. Log off & log on. You’ll be okay. Lance would bust you up. Used to live in NYC. What does that mean? You got some pass or know what. Take it easy blog bully. Your tone is little high.

  • Papa Smurf

    eyes,

    Do you really have a hard time figuring out what I mean when I say I used to live in NYC? IT MEANS I USED TO LIVE IN NYC!

    Lance WOULD bust me up, huh? More woulda, coulda, shoulda. When’s Lance going to actually do something?

    Calling BS on suckers ain’t being a bully.

  • e

    LOL @ papa smurf deep inside this guy is a big lance stephenson fan thats why he is so hostile he hasnt had the chance root and give lance the props he fell lance deserves LOL papa smurf is a lance stevenson stan when lance does his thing in the league i bet he will be the one on here saying i told yall so LOL hahahaha this guy is hilarious