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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Men’s Big East Notebook

Player of the Week: Dwight Hardy, senior guard, St. John’s

It was an excellent week for the St. John’s Red Storm, which won both of its games, and much of the credit can go to Dwight Hardy.

After pouring in a Big East personal-high 28 points in an 80-68 win over Marquette on Tuesday, Hardy drove in for a lay-up with less than two seconds left to knock off then-No. 4 Pittsburgh 60-59 in Madison Square Garden.

The Red Storm entered both top-25 polls this week, at No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the AP Top 25.

Game of the Week: No. 20 Syracuse at No. 11 Georgetown, Feb. 26, 11 a.m.

The Orange will be looking to exact revenge on the Hoyas when the two teams meet Saturday afternoon. On Feb. 9, Georgetown senior guard Austin Freeman finished with 14 points in a key 64-56 victory over Syracuse. Syracuse senior forward Rick Jackson finished with just four points and eight rebounds against a much weaker Georgetown frontcourt, so look for him to bounce back this time around.

Syracuse (22-6, 9-6 Big East) currently sits a game behind Georgetown (21-6, 10-5) for third place in the Big East, while the Hoyas are still within reach of Pittsburgh (24-3, 12-2 Big East) for first place. Currently, just two games separate second and 10th place in the nation’s most competitive conference.

Cincinnati looking like a lock

It’s that time of the year again when experts around the country make their projected tournament fields and the term “bubble” is thrown around any time college basketball is brought up.

For the Cincinnati Bearcats, that label may not apply to them after last week’s showing.

Coach Mick Cronin’s club won both its games, including an impressive 63-54 win over then-No. 16/16 Louisville on Wednesday and a 93-81 overtime struggle against Providence on Saturday. Sophomore guard Cashmere Wright, averaging 9.6 points, finished with 20 points against Louisville to give the Bearcats their first win over a ranked team.

After beginning the season 15-0, the Bearcats dropped five of their next eight games and fell to 5-4 in the Big East. Since then, they have won three of their last four and, with eight conference wins, look like a team destined for the NCAA Tournament.

“Everybody doubts us on the court — we don’t care,” junior forward Yancy Gates said in an Associated Press story. “It doesn’t matter to us.”

The road does not get any easier for the Bearcats, who will play three ranked opponents, including Georgetown twice, in their final four games to close the season.

For Cronin, that’s just life in the Big East.

“Just like everybody else, we’re just trying to scrap and find a way to win in our conference,” Cronin said. “We’re trying to find a way to make sure you have a winning record in the Big East. It’s a lot easier said than done.”

Big East Coach of the Year

Each Big East team has three or four games remaining in the regular season, so the award for Big East Coach of the Year will not be known until everything is said and done. With no clear front runner, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun all have reason to receive the honor.

Pitino’s squad was ranked in a tie for eighth with Marquette in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, so the fact that it is now tied for fifth and just a game out of second place says a lot.

Pitino lost his top three scorers from a year ago, and junior forward Jared Swopshire was lost for the season to a groin injury right before the season began. Still, the Cardinals haven’t missed a beat.

Senior guard Preston Knowles has stepped up as the senior leader on the team, while sophomore guard Peyton Siva and junior wing Kyle Kuric have also filled holes left by graduations and injuries. The Cardinals are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and it’s in large part thanks to Pitino’s strict coaching.

Much like Louisville, Brey and Notre Dame lost a large chunk of their scoring from 2009-’10 but are actually playing better than a year ago.

The No. 9/9 Fighting Irish lost the program’s all-time leading scorer Luke Harangody and guard Tory Jackson to graduation, but senior guard Ben Hansbrough and senior guard Scott Martin have picked up the slack, making the transition much easier on Brey.

Selected seventh in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Fighting Irish have a chance to win the Big East outright and be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a far cry from preseason expectations.

Calhoun has done a phenomenal job in 2010-’11 with a young Huskies squad, but it would be hard for anyone not to win Coach of the Year when he has junior guard Kemba Walker putting 22.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists for him every night.

Starting three freshmen the majority of the season, the Huskies have won 20 games, including wins over currently-ranked teams like Texas, Villanova, and Georgetown, and are a team that could do damage in March.

Even the Huskies’ fifth starter, Alex Oriahki, is a sophomore center with limited experience. Calhoun has done an excellent job keeping his young guns calm and collected while taking on the heart of the Big East.

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  • M

    Mark StrotmanFeb 27, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Lavin was a silly omission on my part. I have gotten a few responses on not including him. I still believe it is Pitino’s award to lose, however. Lavin has 8 seniors on his roster, but easily should have been included in the discussion.

  • G

    gbFeb 25, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    steve lavin should win that award. Not pitino or calhoun – definitely not calhoun considering hes suspended and the team is going backwards and is obv dependent on one guy meaning he hasnt developed enough around him. Why didnt you include lavin?