Butler v Marquette

Marquette searches for a rival in new Big East


Digging for basketball stories in the offseason is tough sledding. Oddly enough, as the first games draw closer, news gets even harder to find, and the reason is a familiar one for college hoop-heads: football done stole all our candy.

Any newspaper that covers college sports extensively is talking kickoff this week, so I’m going to take this opportunity to dig into a question of great interest to schools in the new Big East – the one without big time pigskin.

One of my favorite team-specific blogs is Paint Touches. It’s a Marquette site that eschews the easy storyline and goes for the deep dirt every time, often with an assist from tempo-free stats. Currently, editor Andrei Greska is looking forward to the announcement of the league slate, which should happen sometime in the upcoming week. His focus falls on the new/old league’s announcement that they will protect one “natural rivalry” for each school, pairing teams in unbreakable grudge matches.

I’ll focus on the one Greska thinks is most likely, and the one that sounds the most interesting. He ranked the perceived likelihood of each partner on a scale of 1-9, with 9 being the most likely to occur.

Pros: Closest school in proximity; easy for fanbases to travel; long history of playing against each other with over 100 games played; basically two home games for Marquette as more students go to MU from Illinois than any other state, including Wisconsin; gives announcers plenty to work with (Al vs Meyer)
Cons: Inferior quality the past decade leading to lopsided results; no bad blood
Likelihood: 9

Pros: Two fantastic games last season; similar scrappy/tough style; relatively close in distance;
Cons: New kids on the block; Brad Stevens is gone will the magic be as well?; Rotnei Clarke is gone
Likelihood: 7

Now, the physical proximity of Marquette and DePaul makes a ton of sense, and it is likely the league will pair the two. But god, what a stinkeroo. Honestly, DePaul and anyone is a stinkeroo right now. If anything, it’ll be a nice way for Buzz Williams to get some easy face time and swipe some Windy City recruits out from under Oliver Purnell’s nose.

The one that sounds exciting is Butler-Marquette. Rather than create a rivalry out of mutual disinterest, why not play on the visceral appeal of last season’s clashes between the Bulldogs and Golden Eagles? Two scrappy teams that build contenders out of players who don’t fit into any mold? Sign me up.

We’ll keep an eye out for that schedule announcement. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some creative thinking on those rivalries.

Big South Preview: Can John Brown take down Coastal Carolina?

High Point v Ohio State
John Brown, Getty Images
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big South Conference.

A month before the Big South Tournament started, seven teams were tied for first place in the conference standings. Once the tournament began, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds were bounced in the quarterfinals. Despite all the parity and chaos in the league, the tournament champion remained the same.

Coastal Carolina is eyeing a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament in its final season in the Big South before moving to the Sun Belt Conference.

The Chanticleers bring back Elijah Wilson, the Big South Tournament MVP, point guard Shivaughn Wiggins and power forward Badou Diagne. That trio could make a three-peat possible. Coastal Carolina boasted one of the conference’s most efficient offenses and defenses, and tops in both offensive and defensive rebounding 2014-15. The production of graduating guards Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron won’t be easily replaced, but if they defend and crash the boards like they’ve done in the past, the Chanticleers will be in a good position when they host the Big South Tournament again in March.

Like the Chanticleers, many of the teams across the Big South have lost start players. Of the 15 players named to the all-conference teams last March, only two of them return this season.

One of them is High Point senior John Brown, the ultra-athletic and physically imposing forward. Through his first three years he’s averaged 18.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s helped the Panthers win at least a share of the last three regular season titles, but has no NCAA tournament appearances to show for it. Click here and check out some of the dunks he’s thrown down over the years. Now imagine him playing on the first Thursday or Friday of the NCAA tournament. Fun, right? Surrounded by a cast of upperclassmen, Brown could finally get that shot this spring.

Winthrop graduated two double-digit scorers, including first-team selection Keon Moore. Keon Johnson will be the key holder over in a new-look perimeter that could feature not one, but two Division II transfers. Jimmy Gavin’s amazing journey was chronicled back in May. Roderick Perkins, a 6-foot-5 wing, was the second-leading scorer in all of D2 in 2013-14. Winthrop’s defense, rated as the most efficient in the Big South, returns a pair of shot-blockers — Xavier Cooks and Duby Okeke — the frontline. Zach Price, the former Louisville and Missouri big man, is eligible this season, as well.

Longwood could be a dangerous team, especially if the Lancers can get quality play from the back court. The Lancers have one conference’s best front courts. Shaquille Johnson is one of the league’s top athletes. Lotanna Nwogbo, the 6-foot-8 forward, is back after missing the last 17 games of conference play with a thumb ligament tear. In three full Big South contest, he was averaging 19.3 points and 12.0 boards per game. Gardner-Webb is dealing with the loss of Jerome Hill and Tyler Strange, but returns six of its top nine scorers, including Tyrell Nelson. Radford should be another potential sleeper. YaYa Anderson is joined by senior Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones, the potential breakout star of the league.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “In my mind, it would probably be High Point. There will be several teams that have really good players back, but High Point has several really good players back and John Brown has been one of the top players in the league for the last three years. Probably the team with the most experience, top to bottom, coming back is Coastal. I think they have four starters back, but I think they lose two really good players. On paper, as you look at it, Coastal makes sense to pick first.”
  • Sleeper: “I think a lot of people would say Longwood. I think they have a talented roster and they have a player on their team (Lotanna Nwogbo) I think a lot of people would talk about having a chance to be one of the better players in the league. He got hurt the second or third game in the conference season.”
  • Star to watch: “I’d say John Brown should be the favorite for preseason player of the year. There are a lot of good ones, but he’s definitely been really good for a long period of time. I think it starts with his motor and how hard he competes and how physical he is. He just stays after it every possession. He really plays so hard on both ends. He’s great at working at working on catching the ball at the rim and using his size and athleticism to score in the paint. Then he’ll get stuff in transition and on the offensive glass. He’s a monster.”


Brown, maybe the best dunker in all of college basketball, returns for his senior season after averaging 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 2014-15. The 6-foot-8 nightmare matchup plays with a consistent motor. He understands angles and where to position himself on the floor in order to get easy buckets. Brown also creates opportunities for himself in the open floor and offensive glass.


  • Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb: The 6-foot-7 center was top-10 in the Big South in both scoring and rebounding at 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a night.
  • Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina: Had a strong finish to last season, earning Big South Tournament MVP honors. The 6-foot-4 guard is the top returning scorer at 11.3 points per game.
  • Shaquille Johnson, Longwood: The best athlete in the conference not named John Brown, Johnson averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season.
  • DeSean Murray, Presbyterian: The Blue Hose will rely heavily on the 6-foot-5 sophomore, who recorded five double-doubles during conference play last season.



1. Coastal Carolina
2. High Point
3. Winthrop
4. Longwood
5. Gardner-Webb
6. Radford
7. Charleston Southern
8. UNC Asheville
9. Campbell
10. Presbyterian
11. Liberty

UMass freshman Pipkins waiting to be cleared

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One of the potential impact freshman in the Atlantic 10 is still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA.

Luwane Pipkins, who committed to UMass as a Rivals150 prospect back in May 2014, is still waiting to hear from NCAA Eligibility Center as the Minutemen enter the first week of practice, according to Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“He hasn’t been deemed anything yet by the NCAA,” UMass head coach Derek Kellogg told reporters on Monday. “He’s in limbo to a certain extent. He’s been running the hills of Amherst on his own and doing some things to stay in shape while we wait on his outcome.”

The 5-foot-10 point guard did not make the Minutemen’s trip to Europe this summer; needing to finish high school coursework before heading to Amherst for the fall semester.

Pipkins, rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals, could be a big part of the future for UMass basketball. Trey Davis and Jabari Hines are set to graduate this year, leaving the ball duties in the hands of the Chicago native. Kellogg has hit the recruiting trail hard in recent months, securing commitments from guards DeJon Jarreau and Unique McLean, as well as forwards Chris Baldwin and Brison Gresham, adding to a group of returners for the 2016-17 season that should include Pipkins and shooting guard Donte Clark.

UMass opens the 2015-16 season against Howard on Nov. 14 at home.