The Big East is who we thought they were. That's why they took the damned court. See the preview notes for the league, Part I and Part II.
Most of the Big East's teams saw their first action last night. Here's how it went.
It wasn't a real crushing of the coach's alma mater, but Jay Wright's Villanova Wildcats controlled the Bucknell Bison, winning by 16 (68-52). Corey Fisher did not score 105 points, but he led the team in shot attempts. Malik Wayns and Corey Stokes joined Fisher in taking the bulk of the shots; the three of them averaged a bit under 36 minutes.
Goergetown had the toughest opening on paper, going on the road to play the local tough non-Big 6 team, Old Dominion. And the matchup was everything that was expected. It won't look great - nationally, who knows what an Old Dominion is (besides one's past stomping grounds?) - but they are tough, and that was a hard-earned 62-59 win. The Hoyas came from behind Austin Freeman and Chris Wright's scoring ability. The ODU Monarchs outrebounded the Hoyas and enjoyed plentiful trips to the free throw line. It's just one game, and the opener at that, as they learn to integrate new forwards where Greg Monroe used to play... Nate Lubick played 23 minutes, Hollis Thompson 27, and Henry Sims played... 7. I'm watching for the Sims breakout year. Guess it didn't start yet.
Syracuse handled Northern Iowa fairly well, with some bumps early on. But then they turned up the aggressiveness and finished off the Panthers, 68-46. The team was effective in stifling the Panthers' shooting from outside the arc, while Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson had nice scoring spurts. Fab Melo wasn't quite a game changer, managing 18 minutes before fouling out. Meanwhile, Scoop Jardine went 0 for 7 (with 4 assists and 2 turnovers) and Brandon Triche scored 5 points in 32 minutes. Here's hoping Jardine doesn't regress from the progress he made last year.
Marquette beat on Prairie View A&M, a SWAC team out of Texas known better for their marching band. Marquette won, 97-58. The interesting note from this game is that Buzz Williams started his tallest player (Chris Otule) and Reggie Smith, who I would have thought to start on the bench. Those guys, apparently, "dominated" in practice, and Williams sent a message that he's not messing around. Beyond that, Prairie View is a team brought in for a easy win. Vander Blue had a nice, balanced stat line of 7 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.
Seton Hall scheduled what is probably the most difficult opener of any Big East team - on the road at nearby Temple, ranked #22 in the AP poll. Temple opened up big leads on the Pirates with stifling defense, and won 62-56. Interesting to note that Temple really dominated their defensive glass, with the three top players combining for 28 rebounds. Other notes: Herb Pope struggled to score inside (1 for 8 inside the arc); Eniel Polynice (4 points) and Keon Lawrence (0) struggled to score; Patrik Auda and Jamel Jackson got around 10 minutes each.
West Virginia beat Oakland (MI) 95-71. The Mountaineers opened a 55-31 lead and cruised. Keith Benson did work for the Grizzlies scoring 22 points, but on 43% shooting; former Johnnie Larry Wright played the point. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers were led by John Flowers, and in rebounding by Deniz Kilicli; Johnnie West got 18 minutes of run and scored 9, Dalton Pepper scored 10 points in 10 minutes, and Casey Mitchell got the start, scoring 12. Noah Cottrill didn't play.
Notre Dame crushed Georgia Southern 98-61, playing at a fast pace (73 possessions) and defending well. And opening a ridiculous 62-23 lead. However, Tim Abromaitis struggled with his shot, going 1 for 6 inside the arc and 1 for 7 outside of the arc. Ben Hansbrough and the bench made up for it with good shooting and trips to the free throw line. Eric Atkins, the future point guard, played 22 minutes; Notre Dame started a huge lineup of four 6'8" players and Hansbrough.
Connecticut beat Stony Brook, 79-52. The Huskies played some excellent defense on the Seawolves (though only forced 11 turnovers). Jim Calhoun started freshmen Jeremy Lamb, Neils Giffey, and Tyler Olander. They played 24, 12 and 10 minutes, respectively. Shabazz Napier, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Roscoe Smith, and Donnell Beverly got some run. Lamb led the team in the percentage of shots he took while on the floor.
South Florida lost to Southern Mississippi, 60-53, being outscored in both halves. The Bulls actually took the lead in the second half for 14 minutes... and lost in the end. Stan Heath started Hugh Robertson and Shaun Noriega with Anthony Crater, Jarrid Famous, and Gus Gilchrist; Jawanza Poland led the team with 12 points in 28 minutes from the bench. Gilchrist went 4 of 13 from inside the arc, and 0-3 outside the arc. That's some shot selection, son.
And finally, Rutgers lost to Princeton, 78-73. In overtime, at least. The Tigers of Princeton are one of the top teams in the Ivy. But still, that's a little embarrassing. Dane Miller, Mike Poole, and James Beatty led the team in scoring, with Beatty showing a nice stroke from beyond the arc, and Mike Poole doing work inside. Mike Coburn had 0 turnovers, 4 steals, and hot some shots. Gil Biruta had a debut to forget, fouling out in 13 minutes and scoring a point. Princeton's freshman center Brendan Connolly had 11 rebounds.