The College Basketball Notebook

November 29, 2010 7:08 AM

The Big East's Thanksgiving Feast

SyracuseHoops.jpgThe Big East might be struggling in football, but its calling card of basketball is rolling along just fine. Syracuse, Notre Dame and St. John all won holiday tournaments over the weekend. Syracuse took a two-day trip to Atlantic City where they beat Michigan and Georgia Tech. The Orangemen's success last season, when they won the conference championship and earned a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament came because of their physical frontcourt, and that was in evidence again today. Kris Joseph scored 41 points in the two wins, and Rick Jackson hit the glass for a combined 31 rebounds. Even with the loss of Wesley Johnson, Jim Boeheim has another quality team up front and will be able to again handle the rigors of Big East play.

Notre Dame became renowned for its high-tempo games during the Luke Harangody era, also earning the reputation for being a little soft. Mike Brey's team won the Old Spice Classic in Orlando by being able to win ugly. They took home the championship last night over Wisconsin 58-51 by winning the rebounding wars 40-28, and outscoring the Badgers 20-4 from the free throw line, normally an area Bo Ryan's program enjoys a decisive edge. The Irish got to the finals by getting a horrifically ugly win over Cal when neither team was able to shoot 30 percent from the floor. Notre Dame won that game from the line too, 26-6 at the stripe. It was more of the same in the first round when ND's 89-83 win over Georgia was keyed by a 30-10 scoring advantage on free throws. When something happens that consistently it's not about officiating, it's about one team making themselves hard to guard on offense and staying disciplined on defense. Mike Krysewski's made a Hall of Fame career doing it at Duke and Brey is one of his disciples.

St. John actually started this Big East sweep on Saturday when they won the Great Alaska Shootout by beating Arizona State. This event has declined a lot over the years and these were the only two marquee programs up in Alaska. And we're stretching it to even call the Red Storm and Sun Devils "marquee". Steve Lavin is hoping to get St. John's turned around and he has a cornerstone in forward Justin Brownlee, who led the team in scoring each night, scoring 20 in the finale.

UNLV was the non-Big East team that got in on the tournament winning, as they captured the 76 Classic in Anaheim, beating Virginia Tech in the final. The Rebels look really good early on and no one looks better than swingman Chace Stanbeck. He's hit double figures in every game, including 17 in the win over the Hokies. UNLV had already beaten Wisconsin earlier in the month and look set to be a serious factor in the Mountain West race and an NCAA Tournament team.

Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football , game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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