Big East Conference

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) moves around Delaware forward Barnett Harris in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Villanova’s Jenkins day-to-day with right knee sprain

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No. 17 Villanova’s win over Delaware Tuesday night came with a price, as junior forward Kris Jenkins injured his right knee during the first half of the 78-48 victory. Wednesday afternoon the school announced that an MRI as revealed that Jenkins suffered a sprain in the knee, and his status is day-to-day.

Jenkins is averaging 10.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game on the season, and he’s emerged as a key player alongside senior Daniel Ochefu in the Villanova front court.

The Wildcats won’t play again until December 28 against Big Five rival Penn, but two days after that they open Big East play against No. 6 Xavier. The Musketeers don’t lack for depth in the front court, led by Jalen Reynolds and James Farr, so having a healthy Jenkins for that game is of high importance.

“We’re relieved and thrilled for Kris that this is not as serious as we feared it might be last night,” Wright said in the release. “Kris has worked extremely hard and is an important part of our front court. Our Team Physician, Dr. Mike Duncan, and Head Athletic Trainer, Jeff Pierce, will continue to evaluate Kris’ progress as we look forward to a busy week when we return from Christmas break.”

Big East announces program geared towards helping freshmen transition to college

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In professional sports the rookie orientation program has been around for quite some time, with the governing bodies doing what they can to help their franchises’ newest additions with the transition to the pro level. Topics such as off-field behavior, money management and the history of the league are discussed, and in most instances the experience is a positive one for those who attend.

And while college athletic departments have orientation programs for their new student-athletes, no conference has put together such a program. That changed Tuesday, as the Big East announced that it will be holding a two-day “Freshman Fundamentals” program for its men’s basketball freshmen. The program will be held in New York City September 12-13, with panels consisting of former Big East players and workshops on media training and personal branding on the docket.

Big East Senior Associate Commissioner for Men’s Basketball Stu Jackson, who announced the beginning of the program, worked in the NBA in various capacities for 13 years before joining the Big East in 2014.This program seems to be along the lines of the NBA’s rookie orientation program, where its’ newest additions spend a couple days learning about the various aspects of being a professional.

This program could be a good one, especially when it comes to helping the freshmen understand not just the on-court aspects of the game but some off-court issues they’ll be faced with as well. While teams themselves do what they can to aid in the transition, hearing those lessons from a different voice (especially from former players) can have just as much of an impact on freshmen, if not more.

Former UMass guard Derrick Gordon headed to Seton Hall for final season

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Derrick Gordon, who began his playing career at Western Kentucky and then transferred to UMass, announced on Sunday that he’s decided to spend that year at Seton Hall where he’ll be eligible to play immediately. As a redshirt junior the 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in 2014-15, making the decision to leave the program shortly thereafter.

Gordon joins former Fresno State forward Braeden Anderson as transfers who will be eligible immediately for Kevin Willard’s team, with Anderson having two seasons of eligibility remaining. Gordon can certainly help the Pirates on both ends of the floor, as Seton Hall has to account for the loss of two key perimeter contributors in Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina (who left the team in January).

Among the returnees on the perimeter are sophomores Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington, and they add two more players in freshman Dalton Soffer and former Kansas State point guard Jevon Thomas (he’ll sit out this season).

Gordon, who last spring became the first openly gay athlete in Division I college basketball, joins the Seton Hall program at an interesting time for the athletic department. Friday morning Rev. Warren Hall announced via Twitter that he’d been fired as the director of the school’s campus ministry for supporting the “NOH8” campaign on his Facebook page.

The “NOH8” campaign began as a silent protest of California passing a proposition that amended that state’s constitution to ban gay marriage in 2008.

Rev. Hall also served as the team chaplain for many of Seton Hall’s, a Catholic institution, athletic teams. According to the Washington Post, it is the Archdiocese of Newark that handles decisions regarding the Director of Campus Ministry position and not Seton Hall.

Big East and Fox Sports to launch digital network

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On Friday afternoon the Big East Conference announced it would launch a year-round digital network with Fox Sports beginning this academic year. The Big East Digital Network will debut later this month providing live streams for up to 100 conference games.

The Big East Digital Network will be featured on the Fox Sports GO mobile app, the first conference to utilize such a platform.

“The Conference is proud to team with Fox Sports to introduce the Big East Digital Network,” Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman said in a press release. “While fans of the conference will be able to see all of our men’s basketball games on television, the BIG EAST Digital Network will allow easy access to other programming valued by our schools, including women’s basketball and Olympic sports competitions and features.  Thanks to FOX Sports GO’s reach, the Digital Network will provide substantial distribution of BIG EAST sports to a wider audience and better serve our student-athletes and their supporters.”

In 2013, after splitting from the original Big East, the Catholic 7 agreed to a 12-year rights deal with Fox Sports. However, the first year on Fox Sports 1 brought in less than stellar numbers for the new Big East basketball conference, according to Sports Illustrated.

The official launch of the Big East Digital Network is scheduled for Sept. 25 with the first contest to be a Georgetown-DePaul women’s soccer match.

Reports: Big East, Big Ten to announce scheduling agreement Monday

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In its first season the reconfigured Big East finished fourth in non-conference RPI and seventh in non-conference strength of schedule, with those numbers likely helping Villanova (two-seed) and Creighton (three-seed) land the high NCAA tournament seeds they received on Selection Sunday. However even with those solid computer numbers, it never hurts to further strengthen the schedules of the conference’s teams.

With that in mind the Big East will reportedly announce a scheduling agreement with the Big Ten on Monday, with Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal reporting the news Sunday. The Gavitt Tipoff Games will all be played within the first week of the regular season, with there being plans for eight contests to be played over four days in honor of the late Dave Gavitt. Gavitt founded the Big East Conference.

“We wanted to do something to pay tribute to Dave. The geographic affinity between our two conferences made it a natural to synch up,” said Big East commissioner Val Ackerman. “These [conference] challenges are not uncommon. We want to do something unique, by launching the season with a challenge.”

The event will begin during the 2015-16 season, and there has been no word as to whether or not this agreement will impact the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. That event has been played every year since 1999.

According to the Big Ten Network the games in the Gavitt Tipoff Games will be played on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the first full week of the college basketball season. Television network assignments will be controlled by the home team; games hosted by Big East teams will air on Fox Sports 1, with Big Ten hosted games airing on either BTN or ESPN.

The question now is what the first match-ups will be. With Rutgers and Seton Hall having already agreed to an eight-year series following the splitting of the Big East, that’s one game we’re unlikely to see scheduled. But what about the possibility of getting Georgetown and Maryland on the same floor? Would the schools allow that to happen, given the fact that they’ve played so infrequently over the years?

Butler already plays either Indiana or Purdue annually thanks to the presence of the Crossroads Classic, a four-team event (Notre Dame being the fourth team) that will be played through 2016 at least. Creighton plays in-state foe Nebraska on an annual basis, and the same goes for Marquette/Wisconsin.

What happens with this Big East/Big Ten agreement in regards to the games remains to be seen, but this is a good move for both conferences. It will help with scheduling, and it also has the potential to set up some games that will help both teams when it comes to putting together quality NCAA tournament resumes.

St. John’s sophomore center Chris Obekpa suspended for both exhibition games

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When St. John’s took the court for their Red Storm Tip-Off tonight they were without an important piece. Earlier Friday the school announced that sophomore center Chris Obekpa has been suspended for two games due to a violation of university policy.

The two games will be the Red Storm’s exhibitions against San Francisco State and Humboldt State, meaning that Obekpa won’t miss any regular season action as a result. As a result of the suspension Obekpa was also held out of tonight’s event.

“We expect our student-athletes to conduct themselves in a responsible manner in representing St. John’s University,” head coach Steve Lavin said in the release. “Chris understands this suspension can serve as a learning experience.”

As a freshman Obekpa was the nation’s best shot blocker, leading the country in rejections with an average of 4.0 blocks per game. His 133 for the season set records for both the school and the Big East. The good news for the Red Storm is that they will have him back when they open the regular season against Wisconsin on November 8.

The Red Storm were picked to finish 5th in the Big East this season, but with the return of all five starters (including guard D’Angelo Harrison, who was suspended for the remainder of the 2012-13 season in early March) and the addition of freshman guard Rysheed Jordan and senior forward Orlando Sanchez they have the pieces needed to outperform that prognostication.