Friday, October 31, 2008

Game On: Last Minute Sports Halloween Costumes

So it’s All Hallows Eve. It’s around 1 p.m., you don’t have a Halloween costume and you’re heading out tonight with no idea of what do wear. Here’s an idea: You’re really into athletics, so why not go as something based around competitive sports. This is my new list (back by popular demand) of last minute sports costumes that will really crank up your Halloween spirit. At the very least it will really bubble your Halloween brew.

If you’re going out trick or treating with a friend who’s a Rutgers football fan it might be fun to go out as Inconsistent Mike Teel. It’s a perfect setup. When you knock on the door and the lovely household owner asks who you are and you say, “Well, I’m suited up on this spooky evening as an Inconsistent Mike Teel.” Then when the lady boos you like most Rutgers fans boo Mike Teel (prior to the Pitt game) you can slap your friend who, guess what, happens to be dressed as RU defensive back Glen Lee’s helmet.

If you’re a Yankees or Mets fan you could make fun of your current situation at second base if you go trick or treating. If you go as Robinson Cano when someone gives you candy you can short arm the candy or miss throwing it into the pillow case much like the lazy Yankee. If you go as Luis Castillo you can ring the doorbell, back up 10 feet and then take a long time to walk to the door. Then say, “I have bad knees and am the oldest 33-year-old player you’ll ever see play, I’m Luis Castillo.”

It’s easy to dress up as Knicks guard Stephon Marbury. Everything on his Steve and Barry’s clothing line is about 10 dollars, and you could look just like him. If you head to Philadelphia for tonight’s Knicks game dressed as Starbury, you might even have as good of a chance to play as Marbury himself. (Yes, I know I’ve used this joke before, but it was too tempting. By the way, I have two pairs of Starbury shoes.)

On a side note, my friend and former colleague Mike New once went as Unshaven Luke Longley (former Bulls forward) to a Halloween party. No one got it.

If you have a big group of friends who are Rutgers basketball fans, you could go as all the players who’ve transferred away from the Banks over the past 10 years. But I think only Paris Hilton has that many friends.

Can someone please go to the Phillies Parade today dressed as Joe Carter just to see what happens. Although a parade on Broad Street might be interesting enough.

I always thought it would be funny if you dressed up as a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan and a friend dressed up as a rally monkey. People might get the wrong idea, heck that they will definitely get the wrong idea, but isn’t that what Halloween is all about.,, This might be unrealistic, not because it’s hard to find a monkey costume, but because it’s hard to find an Angels shirt.

Happy Halloween!

Classic horror film
A good list to find a scary movie to watch tonight

The Morning Run

Happy Halloween! Hopefully Mischief Night did not leave too much toilet paper on your front lawn or yolk stains on your house, and if they did here are some links to cheer you up:

Remember that conversation about which was the worse conference in football this year? Well the answer is here and it's not even close.

The NHl is already on thin ice (sorry had to use that pun) but now former NY Ranger Jaromir Jagr says that it could be worse after the league missed out on a big chance to go global

The story just keeps getting worse for Isiah Thomas

Have you heard all those stories about how Barack Obama plays basketball? He might not be the best in the family

New Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni won some fans over with his opening night win, but it looks like the love isn't mutual

That little school down in Durham, NC is retooling and after a few down years, it may be back to its old winning ways

Have you heard the one about the NFL coach that dropped his pants at halftime

Hansbrough Out Indefinitely

North Carolina senior, All-American post-player Tyler Hansbrough is out for an extended period of time with what the Tar Heels are calling a "stress reaction in his leg." According to team medical staff, the injury could result in a stress fracture if not treated properly.

UNC was named in the No. 1 team in the nation yesterday in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, garnering 775 points and all 31 first-place votes.

The Tar Heels have a tough early schedule, as they face Kentucky on Nov. 18 and are a part of the late November Maui Invitational.

Rutgers squares off against North Carolina on Dec. 28 in Chapel Hill.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Jersey's Team

Let's face it, New Jersey needs an NBA team. Yeah, the Nets play out in East Rutherford, but they get no love from Garden State citizens. One of the league's worst arenas combined with one of its most listless fan bases, makes for a general lack of excitement for the team from Hoboken to Atlantic City. Any given day, you can buy a ticket to a Nets game and two quarters later probably end up spitting your lame rap of Jay-z's lyrics to Hova himself. The organization regularly ranks among the NBA's worst in attendance. Even during the 2002-03 season when they were defending Eastern Conference Champs (give Nets fans a break for the year prior, nobody saw that run coming so there was not enough time to jump on the bandwagon) they were 23rd in fans drawn. Needless to say that in the state of NJ the Nets are the old philosophical question, if they played in an arena and nobody was there to see them, should anyone care? Or something like that.
Conversely the state of New Jersey has long been a haven for prep basketball stars. The list is a long one: Hall of Famers Tommy Heinson, Willis Reed and Rick Bary, current NBA players Tim Thomas, JR Smith, Andrew Bynum and Al Harrington. Don't forget the guys who were born in NJ but bred elsewhere: Cherry Hill's Mike Bibby and Newark's Shaquille O'Neal. New Jersey is boon to basketball, just ask Coach K down in Durham, where it seems he brings in a Garden Stater every year.
But the irony of course is that the Nets never caught on and now they're trying to move out. So let 'em. I am officially announcing that the state should let them go to Brooklyn and become a step-dad to another team: the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings are a veritable who's who of NJ basketball. Quincy Douby, the former Rutgers star and still Scarlet Knight icon, was their first round pick a few years back. Sure he hasn't panned out yet but those 34 points against the Lakers last April is hope.
Jason Thompson was the team's first round pick this past June from Rider, where he tore up the MAAC. Then he tore up the NBA too, dropping 18 and 10 in his debut.
But wait, there's more! John Salmons is from nearby Philadelphia, a city so close half of the state thinks it resides there. Mikki Moore played for the Nets and became a fan favorite. Francisco Garcia is from the Bronx, a short ride away from North Jersey. And don't forget Bobby Brown. Ok so its not THE Bobby Brown, who used to live in NJ after becoming a star for New Edition, but it's our team team and it's our prerogative!
So good bye Nets, hello Kings. I hope you like your arenas quiet and empty.

Bynum to Remain a Laker for Four More Years

It is not often that one gets to mention a graduated Middlesex County basketball player getting a lucrative deal in the NBA.

Today, the Los Angeles Lakers extended former St. Joseph's (Metuchen) center Andrew Bynum through the 2012-2013 season at a price tag of $58 million.

The much-improved, 7-foot center will earn $2.8 million this season before the new terms go into effect.

The Morning Run

It's time for another morning run around the world wide web and bring you some good reads:

Jerry Carino on Rutgers media day

An interesting study showing that rebounding is the most likely basketball activity to lead to injury. This still doesn't explain why Eddy Curry misses so many games.

A great site for all those that love the NBA and have a sense of humor. Oh, and like Canadians

A blog covering Villanova basketball and the Big East, and does a damn good job of it

Hardship waivers will have a big sway on how the Big East season might progress this year, just ask Seton Hall, and ESPN’s Dana O’Neil has a story on how coaches need to take an Advil when dealing with one

SI’s Luke Winn profiles how former Marquette coach Tom Crean is adjusting to Indiana. Despite however Crean has been doing in Bloomington so far, it will be an uphill climb for him. The Hoosiers lost their two best players from last year as DJ White graduated and Eric Gordon left for the NBA. This passage sums up how bad it is:
“When the Hoosiers' assistant coaches, Tim Buckley, Bennie Seltzer and Roshown McLeod, joined us, Crean announced that "we just lost one of our best players" -- and then pointed to McLeod's broken wrist, which was in a brace after a collision with freshman shooting guard Matt Roth. One has to assume that McLeod, who starred at Duke and played four seasons in the NBA from 1998-2002, was by far the Hoosiers' best player in practice.”

The NY Daily News’ Dick Weiss has a quick preview of the MAAC and a good story on one of its coaches

Things are definitely bigger out in Texas, but this is the story of how one Longhorn got smaller

The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon gives a few reasons to look forward to the new NBA season

Breaking News: Official ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll Released

If there was any doubt that North Carolina is the perceived No. 1 team in the nation or that the Big East will be dominant, today's ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll confirmed both assumptions.

UNC garnered all 31 first-place votes, claiming the top spot with 775 points.

Two Big East teams, Connecticut (707) and Louisville (694), check in at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively and are the only two squads within 100 points of the Tar Heels in the poll.

Another duo of Big East squads are in the Top 10, with Pittsburgh at No. 6 and Notre Dame rolling in at No. 9.

Other teams from the 16-team conference in the Top 25 are: Marquette at No. 17, Georgetown at No. 18 and Villanova at No. 25.

Syracuse and West Virginia were in the "others receiving votes" category.

So, in case you didn't realize it, that's seven Big East teams in the Top 25 and nine in the Top 40... a pretty intimidating fact for the other seven schools with the season just 15 days away.

Dominic Cheek Update

Word has it that St. Anthony's star Dominic Cheek will be visiting Rutgers and soon. Cheek reportedly has a visit to the New Brunswick campus scheduled for November 7. There is no word of whether it will be for the day or if he will stay for the game vs. Syracuse the following day. That obviously means he still has Rutgers on his list of possible college destinations but he has kept the order under wraps.

Knicks Run In Opener, Curry And Starbury Do Not

Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni made a statement last night on and off the court in his debut. First off, the Knicks looked great for 95 percent of the game in their 120-115 win over the Heat, and secondly, neither Eddy Curry or Stephon Marbury saw the floor.

D’Antoni’s offense worked like a charm in his first look at the Garden as head coach. The team moved the ball great compiling 27 assists and looked energized.
After a dreadful preseason, Jamal Crawford scored 13 of his 29 points in the first quarter and looked solid. Zach Randolph and David Lee both looked comfortable in the new style of play and both passed the ball well.

Wilson Chandler (former DePaul forward) can really be an exciting NBA player — especially in this system. He also has a knack for posterizing dunks and a great nose for the basketball (by the way The Knack were an underrated rock band).

The Knicks did let the Heat get back in it late in the game after being up by as many as 23 points. As Knicks color commentator Walt Clyde Frazier pointed out, “the Knicks don’t have a killer instinct.”

But Knicks fans will take any signs of hope and last night they got it. But no need to get too crazy, the Heat looked awful and the Knickerbockers will now have to travel to Philadelphia to face a very talented Sixers team Friday.

— When asked why he didn’t play Marbury in the post-game press conference, D’Antoni didn’t really give an answer, which is classic. Instead, he said, “I would be mad too.”
— Knicks rookie Danilo Gallinari saw his first NBA action after missing the entire preseason. He played only four minutes and went 0-for-2 from the floor. But he played more than Curry and Marbury, which isn’t saying much being Phil Collins (who was sitting courtside) saw as much time as Starbury and Mr. Softy.
— Heat rookie Michael Beasley looked shaky in his NBA debut

Wilson Chandler dunk from the preseason
Mitch Lawrence's column on King James possibly playing in New York in 2010

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Early Evening Run

After a busy day at Rutgers men’s basketball media day, here are your tidbits in and around college sports:

The Lute Olson situation at Arizona is only getting worse for the Wildcats. After losing three 2009 commitments following his departure, one of them has landed at another PAC 10 school. Abdul Gaady, the No. 2 point guard in the nation according to the ESPNU 100 has given Lorenzo Romar’s University of Washington squad a verbal.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are the undisputed No. 1 team in the nation heading into the 2008-2009 campaign. Friday night they had their first inter-squad scrimmage of the year. 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller shined with an unofficial double-double.

On the football end of things, the Cincinnati Enquirer put out an interesting story today about the development of the Bearcats’ program and the cost of becoming big-time.

The Charlotte Observer has a unique take on the effect that the emergence of the Big East as the nation’s premier basketball conference has had on the ACC. ESPN’s Jay Bilas comments on how the NCAA rejected the ACC’s conference RPI proposal.

For video of Fred Hill’s media day press conference, go to and click on the video link on the right side of the page. More to come later…

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Interview with the Commissioner of the Big East

I got the chance to speak one-on-one with Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese last week and here it is. It's a little long but well worth it for Rutgers and Big East fans.

Mike Vorkunov: What do you think of how Rutgers has progressed as a program in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football… what do you think of where the program has come?
Mike Tranghese: “When Rutgers came into our league, I told our people they were a sleeping giant. They’re the state university of New Jersey… that means a lot… a great educational institution to have them and I think that Greg by what he did with the football program has made people believe that Rutgers can be very special not only academically which they already are but athletically and I think we’re beginning to see that. Now the football team is struggling this year, but that’s cyclical stuff… Greg’s got the football team on very sound footing… Fred’s getting better players and Vivian has had great teams and everyone tells me that her recruiting class is terrific so I think if you’re a Rutgers fan… good things ahead.”

MV: The football team is struggling this year on the field and had some problems with the stadium expansion in terms of reaction to it from the fans and alumni, do you look as this as a blip on the screen or a problem due to the finicky nature of New Jersey sports fans and Rutgers fans?
MT: I don’t know enough about the stadium issue and how fans feel about but Greg’s just taken this program to a whole new level. Knowing Greg the way I do, he’s such a hard worker that he’s going to win. If you’re trying to compete at the highest level, you need facilities. If you don’t have facilities, it’ll eventually come back to bite you. It’s just the way it is, the nature of what college football is. I think Bob Mulcahy and Greg have pushed hard on the stadium because there’s kind of interest in the program now, so I look at the stadium expansion as a positive thing. Now, whether New Jersey voters are going to support it, that’s up to them to decide.

MV: What do you see in the future for the entire athletic department at Rutgers?
MT: Success… more than they’re having now. They’re having a lot of it now, but I think they have even more ahead of them. I think Greg someday will get Rutgers into the BCS, a major bowl game. Vivian’s come so close to winning the national championship… nothing would please me more to see her finally win one and Fred’s got the men’s program heading in the right direction.

MV: What was it like at the beginning of the Big East when it was formed? Is the job harder now or was it harder back then because you were starting from the ground up trying to fight your way to becoming one of the major conferences?
MT: I think it’s significantly harder now. Pressures are greater… you’re operating in the limelight. Back then when we formed in 1979, we were just scratching to get somebody to write about us, just a different time. It’s much more challenging now. It’s harder to stay on top than to get to the top. We’re there now, we just have to keep fighting to make certain we stay there.

MV: Why did you decide to step down as commissioner?
MT: Done it for 19 years… that’s a long time. Fear of flying… I have a terrible fear of flying. Just I’d had it… just didn’t want to fly anymore to be quite candid with you.

MV: Any plans for the future? Just going to kick back?
MT: No, I’m going to work… I just don’t want to fly. Looking at doing some things… teaching or consulting… things like that. No, I feel good and I still have a high energy level so I want to continue working. I just want to stay off airplanes.

MV: You talked about how great the Big East Tournament is in March. If you could just describe it in one single way, how would you try to describe it to non-fans?
MT: It’s like chaos and bedlam and noise and frenzy and the fans are frenetic in their support. It’s crazy, it’s wild, you gotta be there to experience it. If you love college basketball, you have to get to New York either for Friday or Saturday night. They’re the two most special nights of the year for college basketball in my perspective.

Rutgers vs. the MAAC

The Scarlet Knights men's basketball team's out-of-conference schedule for 2008-2009 has been deemed "filled with cupcakes" prior to the Dec. 28 tilt at North Carolina.

Rutgers, which went 1-2 last season against the local MAAC (losses to Rider and Saint Peter's and a win over Manhattan), will get three more shots at the conference in the first two months of its slate.

RU takes on Marist in its opener on Nov. 14 at the RAC, squares off against Saint Peter's at the RAC on Nov. 30 and travels to Trenton to face off against Rider on Dec. 6.

The MAAC preseason polls have been released for the 10-team league, with Rider at No. 3, Saint Peter's at No. 9 and Marist at the bottom at No. 10.

Rider forward Ryan Thompson, the brother of 2008 NBA first-round pick Jason Thompson, made Preseason First Team All-MAAC.

Siena was picked to win the league, just seven months removed from stunning Vanderbilt in an opening round 4-seed vs. 13-seed match-up in the NCAA Tournament.

NBA Preview

With the NBA season set to get underway this week, we thought it was appropriate to give a little preview. This post will have my and Brian Johnson's picks for the playoffs, the awards and some sleepers. Later on we'll go a step further and explain what to expect this year in more depth.

Brian Johnson:
East Champions: Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division Champions: Boston Celtics
Central Division Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers
Southeast Division Champions: Orlando Magic
Playoff Teams:
1.Boston Celtics
2.Cleveland Cavaliers
3.Philadelphia 76ers
4.Orlando Magic
5.Toronto Raptors
6.Detroit Pistons
7.Chicago Bulls
8.Miami Heat

West Champions: New Orleans Hornets
Northwest Division Champions: Utah Jazz
Southwest Division Champions: New Orleans Hornets
Pacific Division Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
Playoff Teams:
1.New Orleans Hornets
2.Los Angeles Lakers
3.Utah Jazz
4.San Antonio Spurs
5.Dallas Mavericks
6.Houston Rockets
7.Portland Trail Blazers
8.Phoenix Suns

Mike Vorkunov:
East Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlantic: Boston Celtics
Central: Detroit Pistons
Southeast: Orlando Magic
Playoff Teams:
1. Boston Celtics
2. Detroit Pistons
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Orlando Magic
5. Toronto Raptors
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Miami Heat
8. Charlotte Bobcats

West Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
Pacific: Lakers
Northwest: Utah
Southwest: New Orleans
Playoff Teams:
1. New Orleans Hornets
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Utah Jazz
4. Pheonix Suns
5. Houston Rockets
6. San Antonio Spurs
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Portland Trailblazers

NBA Champions: Boston Celtics (Brian Johnson), Los Angeles Lakers (Mike Vorkunov)

The Awards
Brian Johnson:
MVP: Chris Paul (Hornets), Sleeper: Dwight Howard (Magic)
Rookie of the Year: Greg Oden (Trail Blazers), Sleeper: D.J. Augustine (Bobcats)
Comeback Player: Dwayne Wade (Heat), Sleeper: Elton Brand (Sixers)
Most Improved Player: Jose Calderon (Raptors), Jeff Green (Thunder)
Defensive Player of the Year: Kobe Bryant (Lakers, Sleeper: Ron Artest (Rockets),
Breakout Player: Lou Williams (Sixers), Sleeper: Wilson Chandler (Knicks)

Mike Vorkunov:
MVP: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Sleeper pick: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
ROY: Michael Beasley (Heat), Sleeper pick: Eric Gordon (Clippers)
MIP: Luol Deng (Bulls), Sleeper: Jeff Green (The Team Formerly Named as the Sonics), Ray Felton (Bobcats)
COY: Dwyane Wade (Heat), Sleeper: Sean May (Bobcats)
Breakout player: Kevin Durant (The Team Formerly Named as the Sonics)

All-NBA First Team:
Brian Johnson:
Guard: Chris Paul (Hornets)
Guard: Kobe Bryant (Lakers)
Forward: LeBron James (Cavs)
Forward: Tim Duncan (Spurs)
Center: Dwight Howard (Magic)

Mike Vorkunov:
Guard: Kobe Bryant
Guard: Chris Paul
Forward: Amare Stoudemire (Suns)
Forward: LeBron James
Center: Dwight Howard

The Morning Run

On the first run of stories this surprisingly snowy morning (who had Oct. 28 as the first day they would look outside in New Brunswick and decide they need to call Mr. Plow?), there are a few interesting piece of news:

Georgetown alum Patrick Ewing Jr. learned yesterday that he did not make the final cut to make the NY Knicks roster. So another Ewing let go by the Knicks, and this time they didn't even manage to get an over-the-hill Glen Rice

Remember all that talk about the NJ Nets leaving East Rutherford for beautiful Brooklyn. Whoops. No work has started on that arena, and owner Bruce Ratner is finding it hard to find investors in a $900 million development in the middle of a semi-recession. And the NY Daily News reports that Ratner may have tried to sell the team. Could things get any worse for Nets fans? Yes, the first time Vince Carter is out 2-4 weeks.

Dick Vitale released his top 40 team back in September
, it just wasn't found till now, but Dicky V is only another among a line of pundits showing the Big East some love. Three teams in the top six, seven in the top 16, and nine overall.

SI's Arash Markazi was able to catch breakfast with John Wooden, and it produced a great reader for those wondering what the Wizard of Westwood is doing in his retired days

Looks like former Marquette coach Tom Crean is making good in his first months at Indiana

The Washington Post has a story on the beginning of Midnight Madness

Player to Watch: Dar Tucker

Nobody is talking about DePaul.

They were picked to finish 15th out of 16 in the loaded Big East and Jerry Wainwright’s crew isn’t being given even the slightest chance of challenging for a middle-of-the-pack spot.

While the days of Wilson Chandler and Sammy Mejia are over, the Blue Demons now have a very talented sophomore forward with a dynamic skill set—6-foot-4, 210-pound Dar Tucker.

Tucker, a Saginaw, Michigan native, made the All-Big East Rookie Team is 2007-2008, while garnering weekly conference honors in the first week of January.

It’d be easy to give all his single-game scoring statistics and let them speak for his play, as he averaged nearly 14 points and 5 rebounds per game on an 11-19 squad.

However, the fact that two of his dunks were highlighted on Sportscenter’s “Top 10 Plays of the Day” gives you a little insight into the finishing ability of a player undersized for his position.

The southpaw can put the ball on the floor, has strong moves to the lane, jumps out of the gym and is certainly a player to look out for as the season gets underway.

The pundits can sleep on DePaul, but if opponents get complacent and forget about Dar Tucker, they’re making a huge mistake.

NOTE: Dar’s birth name is Darquavis

-- Image courtesy of

Monday, October 27, 2008

Notes for the Week to Come

In the next couple of weeks, we will be busy setting you up for the NBA and college basketball seasons (specifically the Big East). The next four days or so are especially packed with events, so there should be even more to come:

Tuesday (slightly unrelated, but local nonetheless)-- Rutgers vs. No. 4 St. John's in Big East men's soccer action at Yurcak Field in Piscataway (it's basically win-out or no conference tournament for Bob Reasso and company).

Wednesday and Thursday-- Rutgers men's and women's basketball Media Days

Friday-- Highland Park (5-1) vs. Middlesex (6-0) @ JP Stevens High School in Edison-- a Central Jersey Group I football tilt with the Gold Division title on the line and state tournament implications.

Owls' coach Rich McGlynn told me last night that Bryant Fitzgerald's performance at Spotswood was dominant and that his squad's intensity level is "exactly where it needs to be for a must-get game."

NOTE: It's pretty exciting to realize that the Scarlet Knights' men's and women's basketball teams open up the 2008-2009 campaign at the RAC in a mere 19 days... a return to the hardwood is near.

Gary Waters Gets an Extension

Former Rutgers basketball head coach Gary Waters received a contract extension through the 2012-2013 season today from Cleveland State University.

In his 12 years as a head coach at Kent State, Rutgers and Cleveland State, Waters has posted a 202-169 record.

In his orginal deal signed in April of 2006, Waters' base salary was $225,000.

His Vikings squad went 21-13 last year, losing to Butler in the Horizon League championship game. The 2008-2009 team will return four starters, including explosive, former St. John's guard Cedric Jackson.

Could Mike Teel Win America's Vote?

You may have heard about the day Rutgers QB Mike Teel had Saturday. Yeah, it wasn't bad. 6 touchdown passes, 14-21 passing for 361 yards, and one witty quote.
“If we were at home I would’ve been run out of the stadium,” Teel said about his only interception of the day.
USA Today noticed Teel's accomplishments and nominated him for its Player of the Week award (OK maybe not for the quote).
You can vote here

Big East Roundup

The season hasn't started yet and Cincinnati already has a big loss. Freshman Cashmere Wright tore his a ligament in his knee and is out for the season. Along with having one of the best names in the Big East, Wright was expected to take over point guard duties for the Bearcats, allowing the conference's top returning scorer Deonta Vaughn to move over to the 2 guard and go off. Looks like Mick Cronin is going to have to change his plans and move Vaughn back as the team's starting point guard.
Wright was ranked a four-star prospect by and along with five-star prospect Yancy Gates, helped Cinci pull in the fifth best recruiting class in the conference and 30th best in the nation.

Look who SI's Luke Winn has as a potential tourney sleeper? Notre Dame. Winn is a little late as the Fighting Irish had a pretty good year last year and return almost the same squad, including the Big East Player of the Year and my favorite gunner in the country, Kyle McLarney. Throw in Tory Jackson, and it doesn't seem like Winn is really going out on a limb.
Story Here

Some more Links:
Breaking Down What Went Down With Lute Olson
Will Patrick Ewing Jr. Make the Knicks?

Highland Park-Spotswood Game

As promised here's the link for my story in the Home News Tribune on Highland Park running back Bryant Fitzgerald. I'm also linking my brother Brent's story on the North Brunswick-Colonia game.

Highland Park Story
North Brunswick Story


Greatest Video Ever?
Rutgers Recruit Dane Miller Dunking

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Record-Setting Day for Rutgers

The dust has settled on Rutgers football’s 54-34 upset of No. 17 Pittsburgh at Heinz Field and I am still in awe of the Scarlet Knights’ performance even after returning to New Brunswick from a weekend in the Steel City.

Let’s take a look at some of the records that fell or were in jeopardy throughout Saturday evening’s Big East clash.

Rutgers fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Teel:

Teel became the first player in Big East history to throw for five touchdowns in the first half of a league game.

Teel’s six touchdown passes were a Rutgers record, surpassing the previous mark of five by both Mike McMahon in 2000 and Highland Park-native (shameless plug) Rich Policastro in 1969.

Teel was only the fourth Big East player ever to throw for six touchdowns in a conference tilt.

The six TD passes moved Teel into a tie with Ray Lucas for second all-time on RU’s passing touchdowns list.

Rutgers junior wide receiver Kenny Britt:

Britt’s 79-yard reception in the first quarter was the longest of his career, passing a memorable 67-yard sprint down the right sideline in 2006 against Louisville.

Britt had three touchdown receptions in the first half, but slowed down a bit after intermission as the Scarlet Knights went to a run-heavy set. The school record for touchdown catches in a game is four by Chris Brantley—in a 50-49 win over Virginia Tech on Homecoming 1992.

The 54 points was the most Rutgers has scored against a Big East opponent since putting up 63 against Temple in 1993.

UNRELATED NOTE: It is my pleasure to revel in Highland Park’s shutout win over Spotswood yesterday to improve to 5-1, riding Bryant Fitzgerald’s monstrous day first reported here by Brian Johnson. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for some Central Jersey high school football analysis.

Sunday Afternoon Run Around the Big East

Nate Miles, the Connecticut recruit who was recently expelled from the school, has found a new home.'s 79th best player in the upcoming freshman class will now suit up for the College of Southern Idaho. Miles started classes at the Twin Falls, Idaho campus but due to junior college rules, can't start playing until Feb. 6.

St. John's is getting some love. An award has been named after Joe Lapchick, the former Red Storm and New York Knicks coach. An inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Lapchick coached St. John's to a 334-130 record and four NIT championsips (back when the NIT meant something and was the national championship) in 20 years over two stints at the school.
The Joe Lapchick Character Award will go to the coaches who have shown the coaching skills and character of the legendary coach. The first winners of the award will be honored next week and will include another former St. John's coach, Lou Carnesseca, Pat Summit and Dean Smith.

A story describing Connecticut's coaching lair
A big-time Villanova recruit is ready to further the legacy
Isiah Thomas still making dumb decisions
Steve Politi ranks the best Big East campus for a road trip
Pick of the Day: Look out for this guy in the 2009 NBA Draft


What better way to celebrate a big Rutgers win than to go a little crazy. And the man best known for going a little crazy is Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez. I got the chance to ask Bobby a few questions on this year's Pirates team, his talk with the commissioner and what he thinks of Fred Hill. Gonzalez gave very long and articulate answers, except for one topic. Take a guess on what.

On how is going to coach if he only has 8 players:
"Well I think we gotta be more judicial and conservative in pressing and substituting and playing zone and things like that. You saw coach Boeheim at the end of the year, now it was probably easier for him bc the 7 or 8 guys he had, five of them are pros. And the other thing is he plays 2-3 zone, so it was easy. We like to press and run and I like to have 10 guys, and so if we do have 8 guys eligible or something like that its going to be a challenge. But I think that I’ve been there before, its not like I havent coach there before, our first year at Seton hall, other years when I was at man. Its just a challenge you gotta go out and get the most out of your team, make them reach the ceiling, show up for the games. Coach them for the game, try to win every game."
On his summer meeting with Mike Tranghese:
We had a great conversation because I think that he really feels that I came in 2 years ago, with the same, I don’t wanna say chip on my shoulder, the same way Jim Calhoun was. Certain guys came into the league thinking “Hey the older guys are getting the breaks, the older guys are getting the calls.” and I sort of came in that way, like I gotta fight and scratch and claw and kick and punch. I think that he said that 'Bobby you can coach with anybody in this league. You’ve proven that you can coach, you’ve proven that you can recruit' and I think what he was looking to tell me was, and it wasn’t just about the suspension, it was about basically that I shouldn’t have to feel that I have to fight scratch and claw for everything, that I already have that respect. Basically the better team you get, the more calls you get, the better whistle you get, and the easier it is as a coach. Because now everything is not life and death. Dean Smith used to say a lot 'if you're gonna make everything life and death, you’re gonna die a lot of deaths.' And in the first two years at Seton Hall, for us, everything has been life and death. If we win the game at the buzzer against Villanova, we’re probably in the NIT. If we don’t lose Paul [Gause] maybe we go to the NCAA. We don’t have much margin for error right now so for us in our first couple of years, its been life and death. And that’s why as a coach your under internal pressure, just fighting, scratching, clawing. And we had a great talk, me and him, because he basically was saying that look you know the suspension wasn’t anything that anyone is going to hang on to. It happened. You know Coach Calhoun I guess got reprimanded earlier in the year he had to write a letter of apology. Later in the year when I got suspended for a game, it wasn’t because he was a Hall of Fame coach and I wasn’t. It was because they sent a warning to say if anybody else does this, they're gonna get banged... And I unfortunately did pretty good last year but picked the wrong time to get in trouble which was the last game of the season, out of frustration because we lost three in a row and we lost at the buzzer. And I just went to the press conference and said the wrong things at the wrong time. And that’s kind of what the conversation was about. It was a positive conversation.
On the Seton Hall-Rutgers rivalry:
I think whats happening is, if you have two guys who are getting better players and the teams are getting better then that means the rivalry is going to get better and there's gonna be more excitement and its going to make more of a difference. In other words, when I got here everybody said there wasn’t a lot of drama or interest because it was like watching the paint dry. Neither team was very good, there wasn’t much going on with recruiting and it just didn’t have a lot of zest. And I think now that Freddy Hill is at Rutgers. We’re at Seton Hall, we’re scratching and clawing, getting some better players, they're getting some better players...They're bringing in NY/NJ, we’re recruiting NY/NJ, so whats happening is I think its going back to the way it used to be back in the day when u had kids that grew up and knew each other real well and played high school ball and AAU ball against each other. Now all of sudden they're taking it to the Big East, playing against each other Rutgers-Seton Hall. And I think that was missing for a while and that’s coming back now. When they get guys like Corey Chandler, we get Keon Lawrence, two kids from Newark that grew up together. I think the rivalry is starting to pick up because of the Metropolitan area kids that are being recruited and the level of talent. The better both teams get, the more excitement the rivalry has. If we’re both picked 15 and 16, people say neither team is good, how exciting is the rivalry. If we keep moving up, the better it gets.
On his relationship with Fred Hill:
I think we respect each other. And it's professional and that’s the most important thing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rutgers 54 Pittsburgh 34

For the first time all season, Mike Teel looked like the quarterback that threw for 3,000-plus yards in 2007.

Teel let loose some bottled-up frustration on the No. 17 Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2, 2-1 in the Big East), by throwing for 361 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in a 54-34 Rutgers win at Heinz Field Saturday.

RU (3-5, 2-2 in the Big East) used an uncharacteristically-open playbook to baffle the Pittsburgh defense, as the Scarlet Knights put eight touchdowns on the board—nearly equaling their season total of nine against FBS opponents leading into the game.

Junior Kenny Britt had 5 catches for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns, while junior Tim Brown added 132 yards and 2 scores as well. Sophomore running back Kordell Young contributed with 85 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns to cap off the offensive explosion.

It was literally as if Rutgers fans were watching a different team—perhaps one that needed an influx of criticism to help them break out their shell.

Pittsburgh star sophomore running back LeSean McCoy did compile 146 yards on 26 carries for a career-high four touchdowns, but his efforts went for naught.

The turning point of the game happened with around a minute to go in the third quarter and Rutgers leading 41-31, when Pittsburgh back-up quarterback Pat Bostick was in the midst of driving the Panthers down the field.

Bostick was hit hard in the middle of his throw by senior defensive lineman Pete Tverdov and the pass was intercepted by senior linebacker Kevin Malast, who scampered 75 yards down the field to the Pittsburgh 8-yard line. Young scored on the next play.

NOTE: Rutgers’ next game is Saturday Nov. 8 in Piscataway against Syracuse

From Heinz Field...

Rutgers has defeated Pittsburgh in a Big East football match-up at Heinz Field 54-34.

More to come later after an offensive onslaught by the Scarlet Knights in the Steel City...

Bryant Fitzgerald is Fast

If you guys haven’t had a chance to see Highland Park's running back Bryant Fitzgerald, do yourself a favor and head out to an Owl’s football game.
I’m not even plugging Fitzgerald because our own Danny Breslauer is a Highland Park alum, the kid is the best player I’ve seen play this year.
He ran for 244 rushing yards, 329 total yards and four touchdowns today against Spotswood on a field that was drenched in puddles.
Oh, and his partner in crime, Nate Smith (brother of Philadelphia Eagles Tight End L.J. Smith) isn’t bad also. Both players have D-1 offers.
You can read about the game in my story in the Home News Tribune tomorrow, which I’ll also post here.


Fitzgerald's rivals page
Smith's rivals page

Mason Makes Storm No Laughing Matter

St. John’s is my sleeper this year. No, maybe the Johnnies aren’t a team that will make the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll be better than everyone is predicting.

Sure, Rutgers coach Fred Hill has brought in an elite recruiting class and Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez has given Seton Hall more attention than St. John's.
But Norm Roberts and his Red Storm have a couple of things going for them this year that neither of the other local teams have.

Roberts has the best player in the New York City-New Jersey area in senior forward Anthony Mason Jr. and has the area’s best post player, sophomore Justin Burrell. Yes, Mason is better right now than RU’s Corey Chandler, Anthony Farmer and Mike Rosario and better than SHU’s Eugene Harvey and Jeremy Hazell. Mason was banged up all of last year and still averaged 14 points a game. He is a very dynamic player who can score in many ways. He’s probably one of the top 10 players in the league, and no one talks about him. Seton Hall fans should remember that he single handedly beat the Pirates last year in a crucial game.

And Burrell has a repertoire of proven post moves that neither of the RU or the Hall post players have — Echenique definitely has the moves, but is a freshman.

If Norm Roberts has a healthy Mason and an improved Burrell he has a great core to work with. He also had a very young team last year, and D.J. Kennedy showed he can be a solid Big East player.

And everyone can bash Roberts, but the fact is that he won two more league games than Hill last year with an injured Mason for most of the year and seven freshman playing. And I don’t think Seton Hall can keep up with St. John’s with a roster only eight players deep.

So, even though I’m not predicting an NCAA berth for the Red Storm, they will be a tough team to face. They will not be the laughing stock in the league like many are assuming.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Welcome to the Big East Keno

This blog has already mentioned the new coach in Marquette twice (make that three times) but hasn't given any love to the new head man at Providence, Keno Davis. Davis came over to the Providence school after winning Coach of the Year at Drake last year. In his first year of college coach EVER. Now that's a pretty good freshman season.
The preseason Big East poll projects his team to finish tenth in the conference and Louisville coach Rick Pitino went one step further and called them a sleeper team that he doesn't think his team is better than. But preseason talk is just talk, but Keno Davis continued it and gave a first hand perspective about how his first few months are going.
"Teams doing well. I would rather have had more than 2 hours a week up till this past week. I think we’re doing OK. We’ve been trying to put in everything as quickly as possible then slowly breaking it down piece by piece because we need to need to get off to a good non-conference run. We can’t worry about the conference right now. We gotta worry about our first game."
That non-conference schedule is ten games long and includes two BCS conference teams in Baylor and Boston College, and a strong mid-major in Rhode Island.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Off to Pittsburgh… a few thoughts before hitting the road

I’m leaving New Brunswick for western Pennsylvania in the morning to broadcast the Rutgers-Pittsburgh football game, so here’s a few miscellaneous thoughts before I let Mike and Brian hold down the fort for the weekend (unless the city is extremely boring).

Rutgers men’s basketball was picked to finish twelfth in the Big East conference by the league’s coaches. I have to say that I was surprised by how high RU was slotted. It is really a testament to Fred Hill’s recruiting as well as a clue that the coaches know the talent is in place for the Scarlet Knights.

Despite winning the award last season, I disagreed with the pick of Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody as the preseason recipient of the Player of the Year. In my opinion, the most skilled and well-rounded player is Louisville’s Terrance Williams and I think he’ll romp through out-of-conference play after recovering from his knee surgery.

All three of the honorable mentions for the All-Big East First Team were snubbed from their rightful spots. Connecticut forward Jeff Adrien (who I profiled earlier), Marquette guard Dominic James and Louisville combo forward Earl Clark (he was listed as a G/F/C while at Rahway HS in NJ) all deserved to be first-team players.

Georgetown freshman forward Greg Monroe along with former St. Benedict’s (NJ) forward Samardo Samuels were both good picks for Rookie of the Year. Rutgers’ Gregory Echenique and Mike Rosario are both dark-horse candidates for the award, as they’ll have to carry a solid workload for the Scarlet Knights to succeed.

Off to Pittsburgh… lots of rain expected at Heinz Field on Saturday.

The Commissioner and more Big East blabber

Mike Tranghese, the commissioner of the Big East himself, gave a few words on what he thought is going on at Rutgers.
"When Freddy took over the program we talked. He knew that the program was going to take time and the problem that Freddy has is that the mountain is so tough to climb. Because he's staring at Georgetown and Syracuse, Villanova, Marquette, Notre Dame and those people aren't slipping. Freddy has upgraded the talent level. I think interest in Rutgers basketball has been restored to a very high level and they're gonna be better this year. The question is how much better?"
Expect a one-on-one interview with Tranghese sometime next week.

Pittsburgh's seemingly always injured point guard Lavence Fields gave an update on his current rehab.
"Its alright. It's where it should be. Obviously it's not 100 percent yet but I'm doing everything I can and I'm doing everything right, so its moving along."

St. John's head coach Norm Roberts went Charles Darwin on us when he described how tough it is to play in the Big East.
"In our league you could be playing in a 10 day span, 3 of the top 15 teams in America. There's no other conference in America that does that. Its almost survival of the fittest."
We can't quite tell if he was just using hyperbole or talking about that Jan. 3- Jan. 11 stretch where his team takes on Notre Dame, goes to Pitt, and comes home for Connecticut. Or maybe that 11 day span where the Storm face Louisville, go to Marquette and plays Duke at the Garden. Yeah, that's a tough schedule

Breaking News

Some big news just hit the college basketball world. Long-time Arizona head coach Lute Olson may be quitting. ESPN's Dick Vitale reports that a source told him it may be the end for Olson.

For the full story, go here

Everything is OK in Milwaukee

Remember those questions of how Buzz Williams would do as Tom Crean's replacements? Well the early word out of Wisconsin is that everything is going fine. I could tell you but I'll let the coach speak for himself.
"Everybody makes such big deal of how seamless of a transition its been. The reason its been a seamless transition is bc of the maturity and wisdom of these four guys... They've embraced what we've done," said Williams.

Those four guys Buzz is talking about are the members of his team representing the Golden Eagles at Media Day: Wesley Matthews, Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Dwight Burke. Matthews explained why he thinks the relationship is working out well from the players' perspective.
"I think its an adjustment in both ways. He's adjusting to us, we're adjusting to him. But at the same time we've got a common ground of wanting to win and whether that's us coming off the bus and saying 'we need to do this, we need to do that.' Alright he's going to be all about it because we're the ones that are going to be on the floor. And we have confidence in him, just knowing him as a person, his background. He's all about us. He's passionate about the game and he wants to win so he's going to give us the freedom for us to be us and win games."
It's only October but it sounds like Marquette is ready for a big season and Buzz could be the reason.

Picking a Favorite

I wrote a column for the Daily Targum breaking down the favorites for the Big East this year, here it is:

Picking A Favorite Not as Easy as It Looks

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pitino at Home for a Day

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino’s roots run deep in New York City, all the way back to his days playing basketball at St. Dominic High School on Long Island.

So, every year for Big East Media Day, Pitino gets a chance to return to the building in which he made his first NBA head coaching stint with the Knicks. Instead of reflecting on those mediocre 1980s games, he gets a chance to boast about his talented Cardinals squad.

Louisville was selected second in the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll Wednesday, only behind a stacked Connecticut squad. Pitino was overly humble about his team’s standing in the mega-conference.

“I could honestly say there’s no North Carolina in this conference,” Pitino said. “I think there are seven teams ranked in the Top 25. I know we’re one of them but I know we’re not better than Villanova. We’re not better than Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, any of those ranked teams. I know we’re not better than the four sleepers—Syracuse, West Virginia, Providence and Cincinnati. I know we’re not better than any of those teams so that’s 11 that I know we’re not better than.”

Somehow, I’m not so sure that Pitino really thinks his Cardinals are the 12th-best team in the Big East, but it’s a refreshing commentary nonetheless. He also believes that ten teams from the conference could potentially make the NCAA tournament.

Pitino lamented about how hard it is to establish rivalries in the 16-team Big East. He mentioned the old days with Syracuse and Georgetown and hopes that the conference can soon build up some of its showdowns to that level of meaning and intensity.

"I don’t think you have the rivalries now that you once had," Pitino said. "Because remember back then there were eight teams. St John's, Georgetown with Berry, Mark and Patrick, and those guys stuck out. You had Connecticut and Syracuse. You had your rivals being built. And you don’t have that as much anymore because there are too many games, too many teams to build a certain rivalry. Now we have one with Marquette or Cincinnati because we’re coming over from Conference USA and they were our rival in Conference USA. Syracuse-Georgetown, I’m sure is still a big rivalry but that’s because of old traditions. Its tough to build a rivalry right now in this conference. I cant pick out one team right now that is our rival."

Exclusive Interview With Chris Carlin

I was able to grab the Rutgers football and basketball play-by-play man for a quick interview before Friday night's MidKnight Madness. Here it is:

MV: How’s it feel to be the “Voice of Rutgers?”
Chris Carlin: [laughs] You know I’m still a little uncomfortable with it but its excitng. I’m a Jersey guy, I’m from here, I love the state. And its terrific to be a part of what’s going on here between what Greg’s done with football and Freddy’s doing with basketball. It’s just terrific. Bob Mulcahy deserves all the credit in the world for building this into what its starting to become.
MV: You have been doing football for a while, how does it feel to add basketball to the repetoire?
CC: I’m really looking forward to it. You know I’m really honored that they asked me to do it and like I said its kind of a passion of mine to get to see the state really get the level of respect that we’re getting out of it. So it’s a lot of fun.
MV: You caught a little bit of flack when you got this job. Did you pay attention to that at all or did you brush it off?
CC: Sure, I would understand it. Bruce did an unbelievable job for a long time. It’s certainly something that you would expect. And he could not have been more gracious about the whole thing and if I could do half the job that he did, I will have more than accomplished anything I set out to do. He really is a terrific guy and did a lot for Rutgers. It’s an awkward situation but I appreciate how he handled himself with an incredible amount of class.
MV: Do you have any expectations for this year or are you just going to ride it out?
CC: just going to ride it out. I’m really just looking forward to it. You can definitely see where the progress is being made. I think that more than anything else, you can see that there is a level of excitement around this program that I think everybody is real fired up to get behind. So I can’t wait to get going.

3-Point Line Discussion at MSG

For the second year in a row, Big East Media Day was filled with questions surrounding a structural change.

Last year, the fuss was over a slight altering of the schedule from 16 to 18 conference games. Today, the spotlight was on the movement of the 3-point line back one foot to 20-feet, 9-inches, over 21 years after the advent of the trey in the college game.

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, whose team shot a lowly 32.8 percent from behind the arc last season, believes his initial fears about the change were a slight overreaction.

“Originally, I thought it would be a big difference,” Cronin told The Big Beast’s Mike Vorkunov at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. “After the fall, preseason workouts and practice for about a week, I don't see any difference. I'm optimistic it will have the effect the committee wanted it to have, which is open up the interior.”

Georgetown senior guard Jessie Sapp, who shot 41.1 percent from deep last season, doesn’t think the new line will have much of an effect.

“Guys have been shooting from that, what is it like, a foot? I think guys have been shooting from that far since the four years that I've been here,” Sapp said. “I’ve always practiced shooting from behind this line.”

Surprisingly, one of the few pessimistic comments regarding the move came from nationally-respected Notre Dame senior shooter, Kyle McAlarney, who nailed 108 threes last year.

“For average shooting teams its going to play a huge part because it’s a foot back and guys will be more reluctant,” McAlarney said.

More to come on the day’s festivities…

Big East Men's Basketball Media Day at MSG

Quick notes coming in from Big East men’s basketball media day… Mike will provide all the in-depth coverage upon his return from NYC.

Notre Dame junior forward Luke Harangody was named Big East Preseason Player of the Year, just six months removed from receiving the award after the ’07-’08 campaign.

Harangody was one of two players unanimously selected for the Preseason All-Big East First Team—the other being Pittsburgh junior forward Sam Young.

Two forwards—Samardo Samuels of Louisville and Greg Monroe of Georgetown-- were tabbed Preseason Co-Rookies of the Year in the conference.

Connecticut was chosen to take the Big East title by the league’s coaches, receiving nine first-place votes in the process. The Huskies were 24-9 overall and 13-5 in league play last season.

Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame all received first-place votes.

LOCAL TEAMS: The three New York City-area schools found themselves in order in the Big East standings at the 12, 13 and 14 spots. Rutgers was selected 12th, followed by Seton Hall and St. John’s. DePaul and USF rounded out the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rutgers @ Pittsburgh Football—Saturday October 25th 3:30pm EST

When Connecticut kicker Tony Ciarvino’s field goal bounced off the right upright with just over a minute to go last Saturday, Rutgers football had survived Homecoming 2008 with a 12-10 win over a rival.

Now sitting at 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the Big East, the Scarlet Knights have found some life in their defensive front seven to offset a lack of offensive production.

RU pressured Huskies quarterback Zach Frazer all game, forced a game-winning safety (Blair Bines) and held the nation’s leading rusher in Donald Brown to 107 yards.

However, their reward for the grind-it-out victory is a trip to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Satuday to face the No. 17 Panthers. Dave Wannstedt’s Pitt team has won five in a row after an opening game loss to Bowling Green.

Highlighting the Pittsburgh attack is future NFL running back, sophomore LeSean McCoy. He has rushed for nearly 700 yards and has 10 touchdowns through 6 games, leading his squad to 27.8 points per contest.

On defense, All-American and fifth-year senior linebacker Scott McKillop leads the way in almost every category. His 61 tackles (44 solo) are tops on the Panthers, as are his 9.5 tackles-for-loss. McKillop has added 3 sacks as well.

Pittsburgh’s passing game has been mediocre, with red-shirt junior Bill Stull compiling only 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions so far, despite a trio of stud wide receivers in Derek Kinder, Oderick Turner and Jonathan Baldwin.

NOTE: Pittsburgh has not defeated Rutgers since 2004.

RADIO: The game is NOT on television. You can listen to Chris Harring and me on play-by-play, with coverage starting at 2:00pm on WRSU 88.7FM or

Monday, October 20, 2008

Big East Player Profile: Jeff Adrien

Over the past decade, Connecticut has been the Big East’s version of “Frontcourt U.” From Jake Voskuhl to Emeka Okafor to Josh Boone and Charlie Villanueva, the Huskies program, headed by Jim Calhoun, has turned out NBA big men regularly.

While the ’08-‘09 Connecticut team has a bona fide first-round pick in 7-foot-3 junior center Hasheem Thabeet, the majority of the production underneath comes from 6-foot-7 senior bruiser Jeff Adrien.

As Mike alluded to, the Huskies had their share of off-season problems, including injuries and expulsions. However, Calhoun certainly doesn’t have to worry about bringing back a consistent, veteran presence down low.

The 243-pound Adrien has averaged over 13 points and 9 rebounds per game each of the last two seasons, while shooting right around 50 percent from the floor.

His junior year was especially balanced as he put up 489 points and 301 rebounds in 33 games for averages of 14.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Despite being undersized for his style of play, the Brookline, Mass. native is best known for his near seven-foot wingspan and strength at the rim.

It’s hard to be a returning First-Team All-Big East selection and somehow find a way to be the under-the-radar player in your own team’s frontcourt duo. It’s an alarming accomplishment for the man who led the Huskies in points and rebounds last season.

STAT OF NOTE: Adrien leads active Big East players with 33 career double-doubles and he has scored in double figures 59 times over his three-year career.

Midnight Madness across the Big East

Midnight madness is always crazy and inevitably has its highlights. Here are two good ones.

Breaking News: Syracuse's midnight madness was pretty cool. Actually breaking backboards would be a better way to describe it. Big man Arinze Onuaku went all Darryl Dawkins on the rim in the Carrier Dome. Off of an alley oop, Onaku broke the backboard of the basket and turned the scrimmage into a half-court affair
A clean break

Somehow I missed this last year but just saw the video, so it had to be shared.Georgetown had Jerry Rice show up at its edition in 2007. The former Dancing with the Stars runner-up, oh and the best wide receiver ever, showed that he can still get down.
Jerry Rice can dance

Injuries, Eligibility and UConn

What the hell is going on in Storrs?
It's been a hectic past few months for Connecticut. They were bounced early from the NCAA Tournament. AJ Price tore his ACL, another point among a roller coaster like pattern of failures for the point guard at his time with the Huskies. Now the last few weeks have dealt an even bigger blow to the Big East Power.
Just as Price was finally allowed to workout no holds barred, UConn lost another player for 2008.
Freshman Nate Miles was expelled from the school after he violated a restraining order. The recruit who originally committed to the school in fall of 2006, passed academic requirements in June, looked to be a starter on a team decimated by player losses.
Miles was supposed to start in place of Stanley Robinson. Robinson lost his job and his place on the team and in the school as he became academically ineligible, and according to ESPN's Andy Katz, is currently working at a sheet metal factory in Willimantic, Ct.
Compounded with that is news that freshman Ater Majok, a 6'10" forward, is sitting at home in Australia waiting to be cleared by the NCAA.
It's going to be an interesting year for coach Jim Calhoun as he also had guard Doug Wiggins leave the program, currently deciding on a school to transfer to. And Jerome Dyson is one failed drug test away from missing an entire season after already getting caught once.

Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf received an extra year of eligibility after winning a hardship waiver. After playing 10 games last year and averaging 17 ppg and 3.9 apg, Devendorf tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. He will be a junior this year.

Outside the Big East
Kenny George, the 7'7" center from UNC-Asheville had a fraction of his right foot amputated three weeks ago. It was a reactionary move in an attempt to help George overcome a potentially deadly staph infection named MRSA.

Big East Talent Tries To Break Into NBA

With Midnight Madness over and the NBA preseason nearing an end, here is a quick update of what Big East players from the past three years are currently on pro-rosters. This does not necessarily mean some of these players will make the final spots on their team’s respective rosters.

First we’ll start with the local teams. The Knicks will see major minutes this year from former DePaul forward Wilson Chandler, while former Hoya Patrick Ewing Jr. is vying for a final spot on the team — but will most likely start the year in the D-League. Josh Boone (Connecticut) will still see productive minutes for the Nets this season.

Former DePaul forward Andre Brown is currently playing for the Bobcats. If anyone remembers, Demetris Nichols (Syracuse) almost made the Knicks’ roster last year, but is now on the Bulls preseason roster along with Pittsburgh big man Aaron Gray. Syracuse’s own “overrated” sharpshooter Gerry McNamara is trying to make the Utah Jazz final cut.

Marcus Williams (UConn) returns to Golden State, while former Notre Dame forward Rob Kurz surprisingly is still on the Warriors preseason roster. Hoyas big man Roy Hibbert will begin his NBA career with the Indiana Pacers, while Joe Alexander (WVU) joins the Milwaukee Bucks. Trying to make the final roster for the Clippers are former Villanova star Curtis Sumpter and former Marquette swingman Steve Novak.

Memphis will once again look to get great contributions from Kyle Lowry (Nova) and will look for Rudy Gay (UConn) to dominate the league. Right now, the Heat roster includes Chris Quinn (ND) and James Padgett (Louisville).

Randy Foye (Nova) will once again be running the point for Minnesota, while Jeff Green (Georgetown) looks to improve on a solid rookie season for Oklahoma City. Joining Quincy Douby (RU) in Sacramento will be Syracuse stud forward Donte Green. And Rutgers fans will be happy to see fan favorite Darryl Watkins (Syracuse) on the Spurs roster.


My story on the JFK-South River football game

Phillies fans need to be less lame

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Big East Player Profile: Dominique Jones

Dominique Jones may not make your All-Big East preseason team and there’s probably a good chance that some fans couldn’t even tell you which team he plays for.

Jones, a rising sophomore guard at South Florida, was a unanimous selection for the conference’s All-Rookie team after his ’07-’08 season produced a 17.1 points per game average (good for seventh in the league).

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Florida native was the only Bull to start all 31 games last season—a USF squad that battled with Rutgers to escape the Big East cellar until the first weekend in March (Jones beat the Scarlet Knights on March 1 at the RAC on a basket with 37 seconds left).

This dynamic scoring freshman garnered honorable mention All-Big East accolades after averaging 18.2 points per game in league games (third best total in the conference).

While his 4.6 rebounds per game were also impressive out of the guard position (in a notoriously tough conference underneath), his game-by-game scoring totals were eye-popping.

Jones put up double figures in 28 of 31 games, went for 20 or more points in 10 games and had three games over 30 points.

He was named Big East Rookie of the Week four times—once during a seven-day span when he scored 30 points in consecutive games.

Jones, whose 530 points on the year were a USF freshman record, is expected to once again lead Stan Heath’s backcourt as the former Arkansas coach continues his rebuilding process in Tampa.

NOTE: Jones hails from Lake Wales, Florida… the same hometown as Phoenix Suns frontcourt star Amare Stoudemire.

The Ethics of a Fan

In today's Star Ledger Steve Politi wrote a column about the negative response that Mike Teel received yesterday and all season long. Teel, because he is the face of the program and arguably the face of their 2008 ineptitude, has become a rallying point for fans and their vituperative reactions. Yesterday he was booed unmercifully IN A WIN.
While this blog does not really deal with Rutgers football, it does raise a good question: should fans boo student-athletes so viciously and indiscriminately?
Let me put up a believable situation. Perhaps a RU team that is maybe a little young and inexperienced has an unforseen start to the season and then struggles when the Big East schedule begins. By mid-February they are only 2-8 in the conference coming into their matchup with Seton Hall. Would Anthony Farmer and JR Inman deserve the same response abuse from the fans if, as the seniors on the team, they are underperforming like the team?
It's a tough question and we would love to hear what you think. Just leave a comment, you don't need to have an account to do so.

What to Expect

Now that practice is underway around the college basketball nation, Media Days and exhibition games are quickly approaching. You can expect previews, game recaps and interviews right here at The Big Beast.

Wed. Oct. 22-- Big East Men's Basketball Media Day at the MSG Theater

Expect analysis and notes on the 16 Big East teams following this access date to players and coaches around the conference.

On the Rutgers end of things, we will talk to the freshmen in the coming weeks and lead you up to the Mon. Nov. 10 exhibition against Caldwell at the RAC.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Meet Your 2008-09 Scarlet Knights

This is the team introduction from MidKnight Madness. Yes, it is a little (ok really) blurry and the audio isn't that good. But you can see Mike Rosario kiss the Barn floor and the first glimpses of Pat "Action" Jackson, The Beast, and Greg Echenique. So excuse us for the technical stuff but we're trying to get you as much as we can.
There will be much more to come in the way of interviews and video, including remote from other Big East locations and you can be sure we'll let you know all you need to know about the Big East season that is now under a month away.

Hamady N'diaye at MidKnight Madness

This is a Big Beast special. Originally heard on WRSU's coverage of MidKnight Madness, Danny Breslauer goes one-on-one with Rutgers starting center Hamady N'diaye about his reaction to the event and the student turnout. This will be the first among a season long series of interviews exclusive to The Big Beast!

Rutgers Does it Right at the Barn

The level of anticipation at the College Ave. Gym on Friday night was extremely high and fans did not walk away disappointed from the first true MidKnight Madness of Fred Hill’s Rutgers tenure.

Everything was relatively well-orchestrated, from the Cheer vs. Dance Team basketball game to the three-man weaves the Scarlet Knights put on display for the near capacity crowd at the building RU used to call home.

It was hard not to feel a little nostalgic, even if I’ve only heard stories about 1976 games at the Barn from my father. The pep band was boisterous and I could imagine paint chips falling from the ceiling.

The night was even interactive as the players brought fans out of the crowd on the court to participate in shooting contests. It’s as energetic as I’ve ever seen this group of Scarlet Knights. Everyone was smiling and every dunk had a little extra feeling in it.

Fans had their first non-summer league looks at scholarship freshmen Mike Rosario, Greg Echenique, Patrick Jackson and Christian Morris in addition to the rest of the squad.

Head coach Fred Hill and junior center Hamady N’Diaye took the microphone to address the faithful and thank them for their attendance.

RAC PAC (the improved student section) representative Adam Helfgott gave an outstanding spirited speech to rally support and encourage fans to keep coming out.

The Scarlet Knights open up their ’08-’09 campaign on Nov. 14 against Marist at the RAC at 8:00pm.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some Pre-Season Poll Fodder's Andy Katz released his personal Top 25 ranking and while it isn't official and you won't see any numbers to the left of team names based on his poll, it does raise an intriguing point. Is the Big East the best conference in the nation?
I know that Danny touched on this point earlier, but here is some empirical data to back it up, even if it someone else's opinion.
Katz has five teams in his top 20, and it would not be too difficult to see the same when the first AP poll comes out in a few weeks.
Connecticut is the top Big East team, up at No. 2. Contingent on A.J. Price coming back at full strength, the Huskies will definitely be a top 7 team.
Louisville is right on the Huskies' tail, coming in at No. 3. With Terrence Williams' injury not extremely serious, their biggest problem will be figuring out who is the first option.
Pittsburgh comes in at six. Of course this is all dependent on a healthy Levance Fields. They are a different team without him.
Notre Dame is at No. 11 and Marquette stands at 19. These two teams are eight spots apart but worlds away. The Irish are well rounded and have one of the best in-out combos in the country. Kyle McLarney and Tory Jackson are also as good a backcourt as you will get in the Big East. The Golden Eagles have the outside threats but their lack of inside scoring may become a big factor once conference play starts. And who knows how the team will adapt to Buzz Williams as its new coach.
Katz also lists Villanova, Georgetown and Syracuse as teams that just missed the cut.

Two quick preseason injuries of note

Big East teams haven't even stepped on the court for their first official practices and two of the conference's elite players will miss extended preseason time.

Pittsburgh senior guard Levance Fields is out for an unspecified period after having a second operation on his left foot. Fields was out seven weeks last season after breaking the foot, and averaged approximately 12 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game.

Interesting side note: If Fields is unable to go in the squad's Nov. 14 opener against Farleigh Dickinson, freshman Travon Woodall is expected to assume the point guard role. Woodall, a 2008 graduate of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, played alongside highly-touted Rutgers freshman Mike Rosario on a Bob Hurley-coached squad that finished 32-0 last season.

Additionally, Louisville senior forward Terrance Williams is out four to six weeks after having successful knee surgery this week. He had suffered a medial meniscus tear in his right knee during a pickup game on Tuesday. Williams has over 1,100 points in his career playing for Rick Pitino and posted two triple-doubles last year.

MidKnight Madness Tonight

While Midnight Madness celebrations tip-off around the nation tonight, the Rutgers festivity with a "K" in its name takes its act across the Raritan River to College Ave in New Brunswick.

Historically, Rutgers has held MidKnight Madness at its home court, the Louis Brown Athletic Center (the RAC) on the Livingston Campus. Tonight, however, the men's basketball team for '08-'09 will be introduced to the students and the public at the Barn (the College Ave Gym).

The Barn holds a soft spot in many Scarlet Knights' fans hearts as RU played there until 1977 and had its home games in the building during an undefeated 1976 regular season (Rutgers went to the Final Four that year at 31-0).

The old-school building is now used for recreational purposes and Rutgers expects a sizeable crowd in the facility that can hold approximately 3,000 spectators. Doors open at 9:30pm with the show starting up at 10:00pm.

More to come later...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Big East Puts Nation on Notice

As preseason magazines hit the newsstands last month, the age-old debate about what conference will reign supreme in college basketball returned for ’08-’09.
On the gridiron, it is clear that the SEC is the cream of the crop, but it hasn’t usually been as straightforward on the hardwood.
In the northeast, sports fans are fortunate enough to be surrounded by the highest level of basketball in the country. The power group of 16 to watch this year is the Big East.
Look no further than the pundits’ Final Four projections for an indication of the Big East dominance that is expected to ensue on Friday night with Midnight Madness festivities occurring around the country. basketball editor Bob McClellan has three Big East teams (Notre Dame, Connecticut and Pittsburgh) among his four national semifinalists.
ESPN The Magazine writer Elena Bergeron states that the conference is “clotted with Final Four potential.”
Looking around the league, you can find All-American candidates at nearly every position.
Louisville’s versatile swingman Terrance Williams, Connecticut’s 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet, Notre Dame bruiser Luke Harangody and Marquette guard Dominic James highlight the talented group.
While the conference could potentially put nine teams in the NCAA Tournament this season, conventional wisdom says the bevy of powerful squads will beat each other up all year.
Time will tell which teams will emerge from the middle of the pack logjam in the behemoth conference, but one thing is for sure—the Big East has put the nation on notice.

Seton Hall’s Rocky Road

When Bobby Gonzalez left his position at Manhattan College to take the Seton Hall head coaching gig, his goal was to bring the Pirates back to the top of the Big East—a conference the institution helped create.
After the 2007-2008 season ended with SHU being left out of the NIT, fans expected Gonzalez’ off-season work to temper their criticisms of his on-the-floor actions. Cue a rocky couple of months.
Newark Weequahic’s Keon Lawrence spurned Rutgers and Seton Hall offers in early 2006 and took his services to Missouri.
After a falling out, Lawrence decided to head home and South Orange was his destination. His hardship waiver to play this year has not yet been approved.
Talented 6-foot-9 forward Herb Pope transferred out of New Mexico St. to join Gonzalez and company, but his request to play immediately has been initially denied.
The Michael Glover saga may finally be over. The 6-foot-6 forward’s lawsuit to restore academic standing has been dismissed before the supposed impact player could ever see the floor at SHU.
6-foot-11 commit Melvyn “Big Mel” Oliver is waiting to hear whether he will get through the NCAA Clearinghouse to add much-needed depth to a depleted frontcourt.
To make matters worse, transfer forward Robert “Stix” Mitchell will serve a suspension for violating transportation rules during his red-shirt year.
Seton Hall returns talent in the backcourt that you’ll hear about during our team previews. But, starting a season with only eight scholarship players would give any coach ulcers, especially one with Gonzalez’ intensity level.

Quincy Douby Documentary

This is a must see for anyone who wants to see the neighborhood where former Rutgers basketball star Quincy Douby grew up in or for anyone in the world who has 20 minutes to spare.

The Quincy Douby Story

Grab some popcorn and enjoy.

(Note: the videos can also be seen on the right, the first and third videos)

Is Marquette Going to Look Golden Again

Dominic James is back. So are Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews. But there seems to be a new buzz around the Milwaukee campus. But it’s not too hard to pinpoint, it’s new head coach Buzz Williams.
An assistant last year for now-Indiana coach Tom Crean, Williams took over the helm of the Golden Eagles last spring and quickly experienced some turbulence.
Alumni and fans questioned the move, wondering if the little known life-time assistant had the cache to recruit big-time players or was experienced enough to coach in the rough and tumble Big East.
The answer to the first question has been unclear. Almost immediately after being named head man, Marquette’s top recruit Tyshawn Taylor expressed his desire to de-commit. Unable to make Taylor change his mind again, the guard ended up in Kansas. But the Class of 2009 is looking at Williams more favorably. He has earned a verbal commitment from’s 10th best recruit Junior Cadougan, a point guard who fill the job that will be wide open after James graduates and was supposed to be filled by Taylor.
As for the second question. Well its too early too tell. Williams has only one year of head coaching experience, in 2006-07 with New Orleans. That season did not go so well for the Privateers, as they finished 14-17, but nonetheless an improvement over the 10-19 mark the year prior.
So what is the final decision on the new hire? Who knows. But vindication for Williams or his haters might come quickly as the Eagles face a tough early stretch that will see Wisconsin visit and trips to Tennessee and North Carolina State on the schedule, before opening conference play against Villanova.

SI’s Luke Winn takes an inside look at what makes Buzz Williams tick

Drought on the Banks

When a person turns 18 years old, they’re considered legal. They can drive a car without supervision and even order products off the infomercials on television.
When the first week of March 2009 rolls around, it will have been 18 years since the Rutgers men’s basketball team made the NCAA Tournament.
Rutgers started its drought in the latter stages of the Bob Wenzel years, which brought little in the form of success, and then moved on to a slick, New Jersey-connected Kevin Bannon before the 1997-1998 campaign. His recruiting paid dividends as Dahntay Jones and Todd Billet flocked to the Banks.
When the duo transferred to Duke and Virginia respectively within a year of each other, warning signs were evident. When 2000 rolled around a naked free-throw shooting scandal hit the papers. Bannon was on his way out and the RU program’s perception was tattered.
Enter Gary Waters of Kent St., the clean-cut coach the school was looking for. Despite five years of relative mediocrity, Rutgers saw the RAC become a home-court advantage again, a star in Quincy Douby display his endless talent and a 2004 NIT runner-up finish.
After what appeared to be a “force-out” of Waters, highly-regarded recruiter and New Jersey product Fred Hill was hired. Two 10-win seasons later and Scarlet Nation is begging for a return to at least the mediocrity of the late 90s.
When RU opens up the 2008-2009 season on Nov. 14 against Marist, the excitement to see the squad will be at a high. With All-American freshman guard Mike Rosario and young talents in freshman center Greg Echenique, sophomore guard Corey Chandler and junior center Hamady N’Diaye, one can expect an improved Scarlet Knights team.
How long will it be until RU hears its name called on CBS again in March? Scarlet Knights fans hope the drought doesn’t reach any more age milestones.

And Here We Go...

Welcome to the Big Beast, your hub to the metropolitan area sports scene! I, Brian Johnson — along with WRSU Sports Director Danny Breslauer and Daily Targum Associate Sports Editor Mike Vorkunov — created this blog to provide insight, analysis and humor to all things related to New Jersey sports. That, of course, includes Rutgers, Big East, high school and professional sports.
All the best things in the world start small, and this blog is no exception. George Clooney didn’t just show up on the set of “One Fine Day” and get to neck with Michelle Pfeiffer. No, he had to pay his dues on the small television screen. Remember Velociraptors were baby raptors before they grew into flesh-eating theropods. But the Big Beast is finally up, and in the near future we all will break down sports issues through features, columns and video.
In case you were wondering who in the world is Brian Johnson — which I’m sure you did this very instant — I’m about to tell you briefly.
I was the Associate Sports Editor at the Daily Targum for two years and spent those years as the Rutgers men’s basketball beat writer. I’ve also worked for Sports Illustrated On Campus, the Associated Press and the Home News Tribune.
As the great T. Rex lead singer, Marc Bolan, once asked, “Is it strange to dance so soon? I danced myself right out the womb.” Well I’ve been covering sports right out of childbirth, so I know what Mr. Bolan was thinking.
And I’ll leave the description of the blog and myself die there and let the blog entries to follow take care of the rest.