Roundtable: July (Part 1 of 4; look for part 2 on Wednesday)
Once again, I have asked some of the bloggers who cover Big East basketball to participate in a summer roundtable. Those who could participate contributed answers to 4 questions about players leaving, new recruits, future recruits, and the concept of the Big East being "down."
So we have a robust set of answers, opinions, and educated guesses from some of the best in the league, if you will, on the teams' talent bases - who's leaving, who's coming, and who's being recruited. Read up! Get to know what your team lost last year, and check back for words on who's coming in, the strength of the league in men's basketball, and the names behind the recruiting battles.
Cincinnati: Bearcats Blog (BB)
Connecticut: TheUConnBlog (TUCB)
DePaul: Blue Demons Nation (BDN)
DePaul: Chicago College Basketball (CCB)
Georgetown: Hoya Prospectus (HP)
Marquette: Cracked Sidewalks (CS)
Pittsburgh: Cardiac Hill (EP)
Seton Hall: GonzoBall (GB)
St. John’s: Rumble in the Garden (RITG)
Villanova: The Nova Blog (TNB)
Villanova: Villanova by the Numbers (VBTN)
Villanova: VUHoops (VUH)
Part I: Q1: For 2010, which players will be leaving the squad? What holes will need to be filled?
answers, after the jump.
GonzoBall: In 2010 the Seton Hall Pirates graduated Eugene Harvey and 5th year senior John Garcia. While Harvey played an integral part of the 2009 Pirates at the point guard position, he left the reigns of the team in the very capable hands of junior Jordan Theodore. Garcia gave everything he had on the court unfortunately, his knees just wouldn’t allow him to play at the highest level for a sustained period of time.
Both of these captains will be missed on the court, but more than anything, they will be missed for their off the court leadership and experience. They were true warriors who fought to the end for the Blue and White.
Also leaving the team due to other circumstances were center Melvyn Oliver (transfer) and wing Robert "Stix" Mitchell, who was dismissed from the team last year.
The biggest hole for the Pirates that needs to be addressed is the health of forward Herb Pope. After collapsing during a workout in April, he spent a month in the hospital recuperating. If Pope is able to play again at the level the Pirate faithful have come to expect, South Orange should have a buzz not seen since the 2000-2001 season.
Another hole that needs to be addressed is at the center position. Pope played out of position at times and a backup for Pope needs to be found. Incoming freshmen may be expected to fill in for Pope at the 4 or 5 depending on which lineup the coach will run out on the floor.
Bearcats Blog: The players leaving UC are Deonta Vaughn, Lance Stephenson, and Steve Toyloy. Maybe Rashad Bishop after getting suspended before the Big East Tournament. The holes that need to be filled are perimeter needs, and more importantly, someone to be the alpha dog. UC needs someone who can make the outside shots as well.
They lost the 2 best (only?) playmakers from last season, and there is a huge scoring gap left. They are going to miss Lance Stephenson's passing and rebounding as well.
Chicago College Basketball: DePaul is saying goodbye to a number of players. Will Walker graduated, but the rest of the Blue Demons are heading out due to other circumstances, mostly centered around the arrival of new head coach Oliver Purnell. Mac Koshwal left early in the hopes of beginning his pro career, but he went undrafted and now most likely will have to go the Developmental League route that his former classmate Dar Tucker has been trudging down. Little used 7'2" center Kene Obi is transferring to a Division II school where he will get more playing time and walk-on Nate Rogers left for UMKC.
Even before Walker and Koshwal left there were holes to fill. Now the Blue Demons are essentially going to be holding open tryouts for almost every position on the court.
Blue Demons Nation: DePaul lost the services of 6’0" guard Will Walker, who completed his four years at DePaul, and 6’10" Mac Koshwal, who declared for the NBA draft, but was not selected. These were the Blue Demons top two scorers this past season, and Koshwal was, in many games, the only Blue Demon who seemingly could rebound. 7’2" project Kene Obi decided to transfer out, but in 3 years with DePaul (one of which was a redshirt year), Obi showed little.
With the loss of Koshwal and Walker, the Blue Demons will need to find someone to pick up the slack scoring, and especially with the loss of Koshwal, on the glass. DePaul returns juniors Devin Hill and Krys Faber up front, but neither has had a good amount of consistent impact in their first two years.
Hoya Prospectus: Georgetown is losing one player from last season: Greg Monroe, who was the 7th pick in the NBA draft.
His loss will be a big blow to the Hoyas, as Monroe served as both the focal point of the offense (his 28% Poss usage rate is the highest by a starter under JT3 at Georgetown) and the primary defensive rebounder (his 25% DReb rate was nearly double that of the next regular [14%, Julian Vaughn]).
With Monroe leaving and only two players listed taller than 6'7" returning (Vaughn and Henry Sims), the Hoyas will be tempted to play small this season.
Georgetown struggled defensively down the stretch last year, especially in limiting opponents' shooting [Def. eFG% = 47.4%, worst since 2005-6]. While height isn't the biggest determinant of defensive ability, it sure does help. Moreover, the Hoyas will need strong rebounding - Julian Vaughn seems to have a talent for offensive rebounding, but Henry Sims is the only returning player able to gather at least 14% of defensive rebounds. The rest of Sims' game is suspect [ORating = 84], so he'll have to show some big improvement over the summer to earn playing time.
The Princeton offense is primarily run through a point-forward or point-center (think Monroe or Jeff Green at Georgetown). With no obvious big man to run the offense this year, will Coach Thompson allow his returning guards (Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark) to take over the show? Will the burgeoning talent of Hollis Thompson (and Vee Sanford) force the Hoyas to play small?
Cardiac Hill: Pitt is fortunate as among contenders, they're perhaps losing the least. Gone from last year are starting shooting guard Jermaine Dixon and little-used reserve Chase Adams. Dixon was widely regarded as Pitt's best defender, so his loss will hurt a little. But whoever replaces him should be able to match his offensive output, which was about ten points per game.
The starting rotation is not yet set, but I expect senior forward Gilbert Brown, who came off the bench last year, to be inserted into the starting lineup. If Nasir Robinson is bumped from the starting lineup, there could be more shuffling, however.
Losing Dixon will hurt a bit, but compared to what other teams are needing to replace, Pitt is in pretty good shape.
VUHoops: Villanova saw two players leave to graduation and one for less-fortunate reasons. Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding completed their eligibility and will move on to pro careers (Scottie with the Phoenix Suns, and Reggie was last seen packing for Cyprus). Taylor King hasn't left Villanova per-se, but he won't be playing basketball again.
While it may be tough for anyone to fill Scottie's shoes, the holes left behind aren't such a challenge. I can't begin to read Jay Wright's mind on who takes over the 2 and 3 spots exactly, but some combination of Dominic Cheek, Corey Stokes or Malik Wayns is likely. All of whom seem like an upgrade over Reggie Redding, at least offensively. The hole left by Taylor King's departure will likely be filled by giving more minutes to the bench.
Villanova by the Numbers: Reggie Redding and Scottie Reynolds (graduated in May) -- the loss of two four year starters, one the all-time #2 scorer, was expected.
Taylor King -- voluntarily left the program in late June. King's decision, taken apparently at his initiative, followed his "teaching point" suspension, one of several late season suspensions which hinted at stresses/distractions among the members of the squad. King will finish at Villanova and earn his degree, but will no longer participate in basketball activities. King was a strong contributor at the beginning of the season, but tailed off significantly through January, February and March.
Doug West and Kyle Neptune -- Neptune, the Director of Basketball Operations since 2008, joined Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich's staff as an assistant coach, while West, a star forward for the Wildcats in the late 1980s who went on to have a 10+ year NBA career, left to pursue business opportunities. The media (electronic and ink) tend to focus on the movements among the "first chairs" in Division 1, but this marks the third season running in which Villanova had to fill two staff openings -- a blessing to be sure as virtually all assistants have gone on to either the NBA or D1 head coaching jobs -- but a disruption to the program.
Minutes and scoring, primarily in the back court and on the wings, are the first order of business. Reynolds, Redding and King contributed 34% of the playing time, 38% of the scoring and about 41% of the team's assists and steals. The 2010 Wildcats took a step back from the 2009 Wildcats in defensive rebounding, something the 2011 edition will have to address as well.
I doubt the staff looks to the newcomers (James Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston -- see below) to step in right away to fill those needs, as the 2010 entering class (Isaiah Armwood, Dom Cheek, Maalik Wayns and Mouphtao Yarou) has a year of D1-level experience and 33 games in Coach Wright's system (beneficial on the defensive side, as Villanova tends to run several complicated, rules-based defensive schemes), going into the 2011 season. Some in the Nova Nation have suggested one or more of the rising sophomores were "held back" by the time allocated to the seniors (and Taylor King). All water under the bridge at this point however, as there will be plenty of minutes to distribute and scoring opportunities to seize.
The Nova Blog: Villanova loses All-American Scottie Reynolds, G/F Reggie Redding, and walk-on G Russell Wooten.
Jay Wright is going to have to replace Reynolds' production (most notably scoring) first and foremost. Who on the team can do that? Not sure, but Corey Fisher, Maalik Wayns, and Corey Stokes are going to have to step it up. Redding brought toughness and defense, and I don't think we will miss him too badly. We're a relatively strong defensive team and Stokes should be able to step into that role relatively easily.
Cracked Sidewalks: Let's start with the seniors and specifically the departure of Lazar Hayward, who was selected with the final spot in the first round of this year’s NBA draft. Despite his tweener height, Lazar was a great four year player who frequently guarded the opponent’s post. We also lost diminutive guards Maurice Acker and David Cubillan. Neither player was exceptional defensively, but both were offensively efficient players with limited usage. MU also lost 7’2 freshman Youssoupha Mbao, who transferred to Marshall after playing very few minutes last year.
As you might imagine, Marquette will need to fill holes at the point guard spot and then try to find a way to replace Lazar’s contributions. His defense and rebounding will be missed. In addition, MU will have to find a modest post presence. 6’10" Chris Otule will return to the squad after redshirting last season.
Rumble in the Garden: St. John’s major upheaval is in the coaching staff, of course, but a pair of players have left the squad – Anthony Mason Jr., the sometimes injured guard/ forward who is currently playing with the Miami Heat’s summer league squad (he’s been injured and hasn’t gotten into a game), and Omari Lawrence, who decided to leave for Kansas State. He says he’ll walk on with the Wildcats for his redshirt year (according to NCAA rules). Too bad he didn’t see a reason to stay, but his foul-drawing physical style from the wing will serve him well under Frank Martin.
There aren’t a lot of holes that need filling – a backup at the wing behind DJ Kennedy, who will play 30-35 minutes anyway. The team could use more impact at point guard and more consistent inside play, but the 9 seniors should take up the majority of the time; the lost minutes will be distributed among returning players, mostly.