Friar Basketball

On the Boston Shootout, UNLV’s Rise, the Overstuffed BET, and more

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1. Next weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Boston Shootout, an event that has seen stars like Patrick Ewing, Paul Pierce, Chris Mullin, Adrian Dantley, Bernard King, Doc Rivers, Mark Aguirre, Marcus Camby, Lamar Odom, Pearl Washington, Baron Davis, Kenny Anderson and countless others over the past four decades.

Taking place in an ideal location for this type of event, at the Cousens Gymnasium on the campus of Tufts University, this year’s field looks stacked with host BABC welcoming AAU powers Albany City Rocks (NY), the New England Playaz (MA), Eric Gordon All Stars (IN) Mass Rivals (MA) and more.

It has the potential to be a great event this year.

2. It’s hard to say UNLV basketball is “back”, especially after they’ve quietly made the NCAA Tournament five times over the past six seasons, but Dave Rice’s program certainly seems primed to take the next step with an influx of talented newcomers on the way.

In his first season as the head coach at UNLV, Rice’s group won 26 games (including one in the NCAA Tournament) and upset then-#1 North Carolina in November.  With the recent commitment of 6’8, 230 pound Canadian Anthony Bennett (#7 nationally in 2012 per ESPN) and transfer of former UConn starter Roscoe Smith, Rice may have a group that could return the Rebs to glory.

Bennett and Smith join Pitt transfer, and the class of 2011’s best shot blocker, Khem Birch, along with top 50 prospect Katin Reinhardt, adding to a core that already features honorable mention All American Mike Moser, who decided to return for his junior season after averaging 14 and 10 last year.  Smith will apply for a waiver to be eligible immediately next season, and he should get it considering Alex Oriahki got a waiver that made him eligible to play for Missouri this season due to Connecticut’s APR penalties.

Rice is a UNLV grad who played for Tarkanian on perhaps the most dominant college basketball team of the last 25 years, the 1990 UNLV national champions.  That group was the last team to win a title that wasn’t part of one of the BCS conferences, going 35-5 and featured three lottery picks in 1991, including #1 overall selection Larry Johnson.

The Rebels won the national championship game by 30 points, and scored over 100 on three different occasions in the 1990 Tournament, peaking at 131 against Loyola Marymount.  They ripped off 34 straight victories to open the following season before being upset by Duke, 79-77 in one of the most memorable games in Final Four history.

3. They’ve got bigger problems facing them, but the Big East’s push to include 18 teams (assuming the league actually has 18 basketball schools come 2014) in the 2014 Big East Tournament makes little sense, especially when the tournament already feels a day too long.

Chances are, if you’re an 18 seed in your conference tournament you’ve got a team with an eye on the door already, and when combined with potentially moving these Monday games to a venue outside of Madison Square Garden it doesn’t make for a memorable experience for fans or the players.

4. Without being asked by anyone, Clemson officials have made it known they’d leave the ACC, should the right offer come along.

Florida State board of trustees chairman Andy Haggard went public with his feeling that the Seminoles should “be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer.”

Rumors are floating of Miami joining both in a jump to the Big 12.

Conference realignment is far from over, and it will be fascinating from a Big East perspective to see which dominoes fall before the Big East can strike a new television deal in the fall.  The conference turned down a nine year deal reportedly worth more than $1 billion a year ago, and there is growing speculation that they may not see the same money now that Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and TCU have jumped ship, with other powers looking to do the same.

Potential defections of Clemson, FSU or Miami will only weaken a Big East that seems to lose schools every time the ACC looks threatened.

5. Quick, name the top returning player in the Big East next year.  Jack Cooley?  Otto Porter?  It’s early, but there aren’t many first round prospects in this group.  Georgetown’s Porter looks like a first rounder if he continues to improve, and Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear and Gorgui Deng could turn themselves into top 30 picks as well, but outside of Pittsburgh freshman Steven Adams there simply aren’t many home run 2013 draft prospects in the Big East.

The Big East could be pretty wide open next year, and for sleepers like Providence it could be a season to make a big leap up the conference ladder.

 

Picture courtesy of Rumble in the Garden

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