Jay Wright

Jay Wright: the Catholic 7 could be ‘best basketball conference’


The big news over the weekend was that the Catholic 7 — Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul — made the official announcement that they would be leaving the Big East.

It’s a crushing blow for folks that grew up on college hoops in the Northeast, but it’s something that we all saw coming miles away.

There are still plenty of legalities and logistics (someone call UPS!) to work out regarding the future of these seven schools — and of the programs that will be scooped up in an effort to get to ten or twelve teams — but the one thing that I thought we all could agree upon is that college hoops will forever be different in Big East country. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, and this league isn’t destined to become the next Patriot League, but it certainly isn’t on par with what the Big East was as recently as 2009 (when they got three No. 1 seeds) or 2011 (when 11 teams made the tournament).

Apparently, no one told Jay Wright.

“I think it could be the best basketball conference in the country,” Wright told CSN Philly. “If you look at, top to bottom, who had got the best teams top to bottom, it could be the best.”

C’mon, bro.

I understand coachspeak and spin and all that, but there is simply no way that Jay Wright truly believes what he just said.

In the not-so-distant future, his Villanova program is headed for a conference where the majority of the progams — St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul — haven’t been relevant for at least a decade, maybe more. His Villanova team has been on a downswing since somewhere around January 2010, and losing the affiliation with the Big East isn’t exactly going to make Andrew Wiggins want to put the Wildcats on his list.

There are two healthy programs currently associated with the Catholic 7: Georgetown and Marquette. Marquette isn’t currently ranked in the top 25 and Georgetown had a three game stretch this season where they averaged 48.3 points.

That’s better than the ACC, which will eventually includes Duke, UNC, Syracuse and Louisville, among many other? Or the Big Ten, where Michigan State is a top 15 team and the sixth-best team in the league? That group may not even be a top eight conference, not with how strong the MWC, the WCC and the MVC are.

The reason that the Catholic 7 are targeting programs like Butler, Xavier, Creighton and VCU has less to do with filling out a full conference roster than it does adding quality programs to remain relevant nationally.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.