Monday, March 9, 2009

10 Great Ensembles Of the Big East - Last 15 Years

With the Big East Tournament starting this week at Madison Square Garden, arguably the greatest post-season conference tournament gets underway in all of college basketball. (I await the ACC backlash.)

That said, let's take a look back at 10 of my favorite ensemble casts from awesome Big East teams in the last 15 years. By "ensemble cast" I mean a great group of guys that played together at some point on the same team. For example we could cite the Cuttino Mobley, Lamar Odom, Tyson Wheeler Rhode Island squad of the mid 90s.

These are in no particular order and I say the last 15 years because that is far back as I can reasonably discuss. With that I present "the man" - the clear leader of the team, the "best supporting actor" - a great sidekick who was nasty in his own right, and "the big cat" generally a center or forward that was also a beast. Please feel free to comment with your own favorites.

Georgetown Hoyas - 1995-96

The man - Allen Iverson - Before he was tatted up and talkin' about practice, this guy did it all for the Hoyas and for the first time in a while had G-town led by someone other than a center.

Best supporting actor - Victor Page
- God knows where he is now but the lefty had a smooth jumpshot and took some of the offensive pressure off A.I.

The big cat - Othella Harrington
- Another southpaw that could clog the middle and score, he eventually made a decent little NBA career for himself.

UConn Huskies - 1995-96

The man - Ray Allen - Ray Ray's jumper was the smoothest thing in the big east that year and let's not forget his off balance floater that dumped the above Hoyas out of the tourney.

Best supporting actor - Doron Sheffer - Saw an increase in Connecticut housewives naming their newborn's Doron and this guy also provided some scoring punch hitting 41% from 3.

The big cat - Travis Knight - Your classic white center that was reliable in college but not great in the NBA. Decent outside shot and he got to play with Ray Allen. I'm bitter from Knight's tenure with the Knicks.

St. John's Red Storm- 1998-1999

The man - Ron Artest - Ron put the Redmen, Red Storm, whatever, back on the map for the first time since the Mullin years. Sadly they are back off the map these days, while Ron has gone on to show he's very talented and possibly insane.

Best supporting actor - Eric Barkley - Just a frosh on this team, Barkley would later become the face of the Johnnies. He, like Omar Cook and a host of others, has vanished.

The big cat - Bootsy Thornton - Really a guard but could play a ton of minutes and took pressure off Artest. It's sad he wasn't big in the league because a name like Bootsy doesn't come along very often.

UConn Huskies - 2003-2004

The man - Ben Gordon - Born in England, he dominated New England for a span and led the Huskies to an NCAA title. He has now been underused in the NBA for reasons only known to Vinny Del Negro.

Best supporting actor - Rashad Anderson - Wins the memorial "Scotty Thurman" award for lights out college shooter who dropped off the face of the earth after college. Also, sported a money beard.

The big cat - Emeka Okafor - Just a beast on defense and in the rebound column while also putting up points at a solid clip. Is now carrying the Bobcats on his oft injured back.

Providence Friars - 1996-1997

The man - God Shammgod - Ridiculous handle on this guy to go with a great name, he may have deferred to the big cat in overall best player status, but he was pretty good.

Best supporting actor - Jamel Thomas - Another member of the Marbury clan strikes, by all acounts Jamel is normal and has had a solid career overseas.

The big cat - Austin Croshere - His NBA career has really revealed his outside shooting, but could do it all for PC back in the college days.

Pittsburgh Panthers - 2002-2003

The man - Brandon Knight - A stellar point guard following in the footsteps of brother Brevin, but with a better build. Seemed to have an eternally injured ankle but still made plays.

Best supporting actor - Julius Page - Another great scoring option on this squad to assist Knight, who wins in a Page vs Page match? I can't tell.

The big cat - Chevon "Chevy" Troutman - Built like a truck, Troutman looks like a poor man's Tyson Chandler but was a physical presence for the Panthers that, as this season has shown, is often their m.o.

Syracuse Orangmen - 2002-2003

The man - Carmelo Anthony - Only took one season for 'Melo to get Boehim that elusive NCAA title, the rest (as you know) is history. He's had a nice little run in the NBA.

Best supporting actor - Gerry McNamara
- A few seasons before Gerry single-handedly willed the Orange through the Big East tourney and into the dance, but he was gunning threes even in his first year.

The big cat - Hakim Warrick
-His tea bag dunk on Royal Ivey puts him on hallow ground forever, and I believe he blocked the shot to secure the title game win, so double bravo, Hakim!

Seton Hall Pirates - 1999-2000

The man - Ty Shine - Took over for an injured player (see below) to help spur this squad on to the Sweet 16. A year later, newcomer Eddie Griffin would say, "Let's have a punch fight. I go first."

Best supporting actor - Shaheen Holloway - Love what this guy did a few years later with Cohen's Optical in the Jersey Shore Basketball League. Was a leader on the Pirates' team until an ankle injury hurt him.

The big cat - Darius Lane - Just a hustler, could can the medium range J and provided some toughness down low for a guard-orientated team.

West Virginia Mountaineers- 2005-2006

The man - Mike Gansey - Transferred in from St. Bonaventure and did wonders as a driver and perimiter player. Really made the squad one of the fun teams to watch over the years.

Best supporting actor - Patrick Beilein - The coach's kid, he brought the pain from downtown. Able to stretch the D and nailed a host of outside J's in a shoot happy situation.

The big cat - Kevin Pittsnogle - Now a little over his playing weight and teaching grammar school in the boondocks, he was a fan favorite for the Mountaineers. A big man who could also bury the big shot from deep.

Villanova Wildcats - 2005-2006

The man - Allan Ray - A solid scorer who became a household name on the Villanova scene along with the two others on this list. Damn him, however, for helping defeat the Monmouth Hawks in the 2006 Big Dance.

Best supporting actor - Randy Foye - Could also have been tabbed "the man" as he was equally important to the success of these Wildcats. They perhaps didn't reach their total potential with this solid group.

The big cat - Will Sheridan - The next in a line of lanky athletic big men to roam the middle for the Wildcats.

Note: Shoutouts to the Kerry Kittles era at Villanova and the John Wallace era at Syracuse.

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Rusty said...

Big East? Please!!!!

ACC is the preeminent conference in college basketball. I mean, what stat or record should I quote to show our dominance? RPI? NCAA Championships?

The guy who said the Big East is better is up there in the dumb ranks with the guy who came up with Smokie and the Bandit Part III . . . it doesn't even have the Bandit!!!!

Russianator said...

The post was about the best conference TOURNAMENT, which is easily the Big East.

Madison Square Garden trumps Greensboro or where ever they play that ACC thing. From Pearl Washington and Walter Berry to the heroics of Gerry McNamara and the dominance of Pitt and UConn the Big East Tournament is played on the biggest stage, with the best atmosphereand produces the most exciting games.

It might even be better than the original Smokie and the Bandit