Mike Aresco

There’s no rush for a 12th Big East team, because it doesn’t improve much

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Today, Big East Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco told reporters that the conference is looking to add a 12th team after the recent losses of Boise State and San Diego State.

“We probably at some point will add a 12th team,” Aresco said. “We are going to have 11 when Navy comes in ’15. We’ll have 10 this year. There’s no urgency, but we think we’ll probably think about adding a 12th team.”

First of all, kudos to Aresco for not pushing the issue too much. He’s accepted they’re going to be at 11 for at least a season. In an age when teams and conferences are looking to move as quick as possible, sometimes patience can help out when making a move that, at least Aresco is hoping, will last a long time.

But no matter what you do, Mike, it will never be the same Big East.

Yes, it’s a take that has been echoed many times over for a year or so now. But it’s not just in the drive for a 12th team that makes me say this. It’s with the seemingly unabashed notion that the Big East can still be up with the rest of the college basketball  world — and really, the rest of the college sports world — that Aresco speaks of.

That’s the main reason I like the direction Aresco is taking. There’s no pressure to add the 12th team so quick, because plain and simple, there isn’t a 12th team that can truly improve the Big East’s stature going forward. At least not one that hasn’t left or isn’t already set to leave.

Looking at the possible candidates, it’s not exactly an easy pick. The team will probably come from Conference USA or even the MAC. Because conference realignment, in all its ridiculousness, has been predictable when it comes to where the new teams come from. The Big East is becoming Conference USA. Conference USA is becoming the Sun Belt Conference and so on. Everyone thinks they’re taking a step up, but they’re really just staying put, with a few new neighbors and a new conference logo attached to a few more dollars in their budgets.

Because that’s what it’s all about, more money in the budgets.

And I think Mike Aresco understands that. Whoever he gets, he believes that that program will benefit the Big East. He no doubt knows what he’s doing, so I’m willing to bet the yet-to-be-named 12th team will, at least to a certain degree, help the Big East stay relevant.

But there’s no way that any of the teams that departed or are departing the Big East can be replaced. So with that, Aresco is able to take his time. Watch the teams looking for an opportunity, and then invite the one with the best chance at helping the Big East stick around. Even if that means becoming Conference USA-plus.

David Harten is the founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

 

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.