Monday, December 24, 2007

Vinny Pezzimenti Moment -- Week 6

Vinny appears to be moving to the front of the Villanova bandwagon, as he ranked the 'Cats #16 on his ballot last Monday. This is the second week running Vinny has been among the writers who ranked Villanova higher than their consensus spot. Happily Seth Davis and Ed Graney both joined the bandwagon when they ranked the Wildcats #23. Maybe with some of the unsettling results in the past week they will move the 'Cats up a spot or two on their ballots. There are still (as of last week's poll) nine voters who left Villanova off their ballots completely. It's what makes this a great country, no?

My Big East Blogger Poll for this week:

1 - Pittsburgh
2 - Marquette
3 - Georgetown
4 - Villanova
5 - West Virginia
6 - Connecticut
7 - Louisville
8 - Notre Dame
9 - Providence
10 - Seton Hall
11 - Syracuse
12 - South Florida
13 - DePaul
14 - St. John's
15 - Rutgers
16 - Cincinnati

Player of the Week: Levance Fields, Pittsburgh

Rookie of the Week: DaJuan Blair, Pittsburgh

Who's Up...Who's Down...
While virtually all of the Big East are through with finals, many are, with Christmas in mind, still working their way through their stocking stuffers and resume builders. This was not the case for Georgetown and Pittsburgh, two teams in the first quartile. Both put their unbeaten records on the line against two other unbeatens. And produced mixed results. Another shake-up among the first quartile elites is indicated. I moved Pitt to the top spot in the wake of their win over Duke, a team that beat Marquette in Maui last month. And I dropped the Hoyas 2 spots to #3. Losing to Memphis was only part of the rational. With a very close loss I might have justified keeping the Hoyas in the top rank, after all, the latest AP poll had the Tigers ranked #2, while the Hoyas were ranked #5. Losing to a higher ranked team should be no surprise. It was the -14 point margin that caught me short. I anticipated at least one "Are you kidding me?!" loss for the Hoyas in their OOC, the product of integrating freshmen/transfers into Coach Thompson's Princeton Offense. But the margin (and some of the play during the second half -- I caught the game on ESPN) suggested the Hoyas have a few vulnerabilities that may be, by the right team in the right circumstances, exploited in the Big East season. As for West Virginia over Villanova, I am going to wait on that a bit longer. Neither was especially noteworthy in their wins over mid/low majors over the weekend. I did shuffle the bottom quartile around to reflect recent wins/losses...again. I rotated Rutgers, St. John's and DePaul to reflect the formers losses and the latter's wins. The Scarlet Knights lost to Rider of the NEC, the Johnnies lost to a struggling Tulane squad (CUSA) to close out a 1-2 run in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii, while the Blue Demons beat La Salle of the A10 (and Big 5) to finish out their otherwise disappointing 1-2 run in the San Juan Shootout Tournament. Cincinnati, on the heels of their loss to NC State, remains firmly in control of the #16 spot.

Player of the week was difficult this time, as there were a number of terrific individual efforts that caught my eye...
Connecticut's Stanley Robinson turned in a high scoring double-double against Maine. His 32 points was (I believe) a career high, and coupled with his 11 rebounds, produced his second double-double this season. The Maine squad, out of the American East conference, could not match the Huskies athleticism, as the huge edge in offensive rebounds (UConn grabbed 55.0% of their ORebs, while Maine managed to grab only 22.9% of their ORebs) and blocks suggested. Connecticut is a great shot blocking team, but they turned in their third best performance against the Black Bears, blocking nearly 18% of Maine's FGAs. Robinson has had a very nice run in his last three games.

Notre Dame's Luke Harangody turned in another double-doubles last week. This latest one, against San Francisco, was a 23 point (8-17, 0-0, 7-9), 10 rebound (5-5) effort in 28 minutes of play. Harangody also turned in one assist and two steals. This is the third consecutive double-double this for Harangody, as he recorded a 14 point, 12 rebound effort against Northern Illinois on 12/8 and a 19 point, 14 rebound night against Kansas State on 12/4. This is Harangody's fifth double-double in ten games so far this season. The sophomore is on his way to Player of the Year-type numbers.

Providence has three candidates for player of the week honors, streaky off guard Weymini Efejuku, sometime center Randall Hanke and Geoff McDermott. Efejuku scored 22 points in 26 minutes versus Sacred Heart. He was 6-11, (3-5, 3-6) and 7-9 from the free throw line. Efejuku posted an eFG% of 68.2 and a PPWS of 1.44. This was a double-double performance as Efejuku grabbed 10 rebounds (1-9). He followed Sacred Heart with another noteworthy effort against Florida State. He scored 25 points (8-14, 2-3, 6-11), dished 4 assists and recorded 3 steals in 33 minutes of play. Randall Hanke also turned in a terrific performance against Sacred Heart, scoring 20 points in 21 minutes. He was 8-11 from the field and 4-4 from the line, thus posting an eye-popping eFG% of 72.7 and a PPWS of 1.55, numbers reminiscent of his sophomore year as a Friar. He followed with another extremely efficient offensive performance against the Seminoles, scoring 15 points and posting an eFG% of 75.0. Geoff McDermott was the third leg of the Friar offensive juggernaut this past week. He started with a "quiet" 21 point (6-8, 0-0, 9-14), 10 rebound (4-6) double-double performance. McDermott also had a pair of sixes -- assists and blocks. He logged a second double-double against Florida State on Saturday. But this one was points and assists -- he scored 12 points while dishing out 10 assists in Providence's 101-95 win over the Seminoles. His 2 game total included 33 points, 17 rebounds, 16 assists to go with 6 blocks and 6 steals.

My vote however, is going to go to Levance Fields of Pittsburgh, for his work in the Pitt-Duke game. Fields scored 21 points in Pitt's come-from-behind (by 13 points) victory over Duke in Madison Square Garden on Thursday. He delivered the dagger with about 5 seconds on the clock in the overtime period. After freezing his defender with a cross over dribble, Fields stepped back over the line and nailed a 3 to give the Panthers a 1 point lead. Another Panther, DaJuan Blair, gets my vote for Rookie of the Week, also for his performance against Duke. Blair's 15 point (4-8, 0-0, 7-15) 20 rebound (6-14) performance against #9 Duke last Thursday was tremendous. And he did this opposite Kyle Singler, Duke's MDAA freshman center. In their "Battle of the Freshman Centers" Blair acquitted himself very well, scoring only 2 fewer points but out rebounding Singler 20 to 5. Blair also had 1 assist, 3 blocked shots and 1 steal to Singler's 2 assists, 0 blocks and 1 steal. In short, Blair turned in a very noteworthy performance and did it against one of the best freshmen in the country.

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