Louisville picked No. 1 in Big East

Louisville picked No. 1 in Big East

NEW YORK (AP) Notre Dame coach Mike Brey walked into Big East media day at the New York Athletic Club, saw the table with a large card bearing the school's name and faked a sigh of relief.

``I thought we would be in a closet,'' Brey said Wednesday, anticipating the reaction to Notre Dame announcing last month it was leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference. ``I thought they would put us where Pitt and Syracuse were last year.''

This was the last Big East media day for Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who announced last year they were leaving for the ACC.

West Virginia left after last season for the Big 12. Pitt and Syracuse go after this season and Notre Dame could go after 2012-13 or wait one more season before leaving.

Conference movement is a way of life in college sports. Schools are playing in leagues whose names don't make sense anymore - by numbers or direction.

``The Big East is a committed group of schools,'' said new commissioner Mike Aresco, a former television executive. ``I'm no prophet but we think expansion has subsided and we have a solid core. TV is a hugely important issue. It provides financial stability for the conference, confidence for conference membership and also exposure in a wide variety of platforms for the schools.''

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim let everybody know right away all questions Wednesday would be about the Big East and this season alone.

``They knew we were going last year,'' Boeheim said when asked about how the other fans in the league might treat the Orange in their last conference visit. ``I just hope we have the same record as last year on the road (9-1 in true road games). They've never liked us since I've been here anyway.''

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said he thinks the Panthers playing their last season in the Big East is ``something to be written and talked about.''

``The Big East has gone through so many shifts with teams coming and going,'' he said, referring to the 17 schools that have joined (and some left) the league since seven charter schools began play in 1979-80. ``Players play. Coaches coach. There are six teams in the ACC that are Big East teams. ... The Big East is the best conference and it has been over the last several season. We're leaving a great place and going to a great place. It's not a big change. What it is is beyond our control. College athletics the way it is today is money, TV and all those things factor in. But for coaches and teams they just want great basketball conferences to play in.''

When the talk about teams going and coming (UCF, Houston, Memphis, Temple and SMU join next season) slowed down, there was plenty to go over about the upcoming season.

Louisville, which has three starters back from last season's Final Four team, was the unanimous choice for first place in the coaches' preseason poll.

The Cardinals, who won the Big East tournament last season, received 14 first-place votes and Notre Dame got the other, obviously from Louisville coach Rick Pitino.

``There are probably 40 schools right now that have a chance in college basketball the way it is today,'' Pitino said. ``Last year Duke, Connecticut and Pittsburgh were all ranked in the national preseason Top Ten. Duke lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Lehigh. Connecticut lost to Iowa State in the first round and Pitt didn't even make the tournament.

``You've got to be a great defensive team to make it to the Final Four and we are a great defensive team. We're not there yet with some things but we certainly are a good defensive team. ... We could have the best 10 players in America. We have 10 really good guys.''

Syracuse, coming off a school-record 34-3 mark, was second and Notre Dame, which returns all five starters, was third.

Cincinnati was fourth followed by Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette, USF, Connecticut, St. John's, Rutgers, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall and Providence.

Connecticut faces one of the biggest changes in the country following the retirement of Jim Calhoun, who will be remembered for turning a regional program into a national power in his 26 years in Storrs. He won an NIT championship in 1988 and national titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011. His teams won 10 Big East regular-season championships and seven Big East tournament titles.

Kevin Ollie, the man replacing Calhoun, used to run the offense for him as a point guard and also played relentless defense for the Huskies before heading off for a 12-year NBA career. Ollie's first season will be one that will end without participation in either the Big East or NCAA tournaments over academic shortcomings by the program.

``You see the NCAA tournament coming and you can get dejected and I have to control that,'' Ollie said. ``We have to accept it, face it and get over it. I would be lying to you if I said it didn't hurt.''

Shabazz Napier, a member of the 2011 title team, said there's nothing the team can do about the postseason ban. Still, Ollie has been working them harder than the previous coach did at this time of the preseason.

``It's been tough. Coach is a guy who will make you work and will keep pushing you. He's all about being in great condition,'' the junior guard said. ``He fills in the void of Jim Calhoun and he's really good.''

He was asked to compare the two coaching styles.

``As of right now there's not as much yelling but he'll get there. He's energetic,'' Napier said. ``Coach Calhoun would yell at you and get on you for making a mistake. Coach doesn't do that yet.''

Peyton Siva was selected preseason player of the year, the first time a Louisville player received that honor.

Joining Siva on the first team were Jack Cooley of Notre Dame, Vincent Council of Providence, Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati, Gorgui Dieng of Louisville and Otto Porter of Georgetown.

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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