Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
With Big East action now in full swing, here are Five Questions for the upcoming games:
1. Can Pitt beat Georgetown?
The Hoyas are coming off a thorough beating of No. 2 UConn, the preseason favorite to win the conference, in Hartford on Monday. Now the No. 3 Panthers come to town Saturday (noon, ESPN) and could give the Hoyas trouble. Georgetown beat UConn with Greg Monroe taking Hasheem Thabeet away from the basket and then dishing off for backdoor cuts. But Pitt has a lot of big, physical defenders in DeJuan Blair, Tyrell Biggs and Sam Young, which should make it harder for the Hoyas to score on backdoor cuts. Will the same strategy work?
2. What is up with Louisville?
Picked No. 2 in the Big East, the Cardinals have lost to Western Kentucky, Minnesota and now UNLV. You have to question whether the loss of David Padgett means more than we otherwise thought. This team has a lot of talent in Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels, but no true point guard. How good will the Cards be in the long run?
3. How many losses with the conference winner have?
UConn was projected to win the conference and the Huskies already have one loss. You have to figure the top teams will all beat up on each other, meaning the winner could be a team with three or four conference losses. That, in turn, could hurt that team come Selection Sunday. The Big East winner won’t have a sparkling 30-2 record, like Memphis has had in past years. Could the conference winner get a No. 2 seed?
4. When will Rutgers get its first victory?
The Scarlet Knights are in the midst of an unprecedented stretch in which they’re playing the No. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the nation in a row. After losing to North Carolina and Pitt, Rutgers must visit No. 2 UConn on Saturday (7 p.m., SNY), and you can bet Jim Calhoun and his troops won’t be in a good mood after losing handily to Georgetown. After that, Fred Hill’s club hosts a Marquette team that just beat Villanova; a Syracuse team that has wins over Kansas, Florida and Memphis; visits Cincinnati; and hosts Louisville. After that stretch, Rutgers visits St. John’s at Madison Square Garden Jan. 24 and Seton Hall Jan. 29. It’s not hard to imagine an 0-6 start before meeting the two local opponents.
5. How much will John Garcia’s return help Seton Hall?
The Pirates played without their best frontcourt player for four games, and lost at Syracuse, 100-76, on Tuesday night. Without Garcia, who has been bothered by problems with his surgically-repaired knee, Seton Hall relied on sophomores MIke Davis and Brandon Walters, who were outmuscled and outclassed by Arinze Onuaku and Syracuse’s front line. Garcia should return for Saturday’s games withDa’Sean Butler and West Virginia at The Rock. Can the Pirates get a home win over a quality opponent with him back in the lineup?
**Finally, here’s a good story about Brooklyn native Phil Taylor, playing for Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler instead of Brooklyn Lincoln. Dylan Butler wrote it for fiveborosports.com.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.