Steven from the NC State blog Backing the Pack was nice enough to participate in a special NIT edition of Bulls Recon. Both Voodoo 5 and I sent over some questions, and the answers are below. Check it out after the jump.

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With the season finishing up, I was able to get in touch with a bunch of highly respected bloggers around the Big East to create the 1st Annual Big East Blogger Awards. The following blogs were nice enough to send in their ballots for this historic event.

Orange 44 (Syracuse)
Pitt Script (Pitt)
UC Huskies (UConn)
Rakes of Mallow (Notre Dame)
The UC Bearcats Blog (Cincinnati)
Cracked Sidewalks (Marquette)
Eye of a Panther (Pitt)
Casual Hoya (Georgetown)
Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician (Syracuse)
On the Banks of the Raritan (Rutgers)
Voodoo 5 (USF)
The East Coast Bias (St. Johns)

I really appreciate everyone coming together so quickly in getting their ballots over to me. Now without further ado, your 2009-2010 Big East Blogger All-Conference Team.

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This game is so big that we decided to do another Q&A. I went to Kevin Meacham at The UConn Blog, another excellent entry to the Husky and Big East blogospheres, to get his take on Saturday’s critical North-Mid-South-East NCAA Tournament Bubble Regional Divisional Semifinal. My answers to Kevin’s questions should appear over there on Saturday morning.

(We also figured out that the only person on the face of the earth who writes longer answers to questions than me is him.)

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1. What do the Huskies like doing on offense and defense? Who should we look out for, and are there any hidden X-factors lurking?

On offense, expect a lot of dribbling around and accomplishing nothing, followed by a wild drive from Kemba Walker or Jerome Dyson. That’s only 20% sarcasm.

UConn doesn’t shoot the 3 much (last in the country in percentage of points from 3-pointers) or well (Walker’s our best 3-point shooter, at 37 percent). The post players are really raw on offense, and the guards rarely look down low anyway. Stanley Robinson can jump over everybody, but he’s more content to pass the ball around the perimeter and wait for putbacks and alley-oops.

As you might be able to tell from my rant, UConn’s offense has been a series of frustrations this season. There was a brief stretch of games (@ Villanova, vs. WVU) where Walker took over and got to the free throw line 15-20 times per game. Then Notre Dame realized that no one on UConn can hit a jumper, and they played off Walker and Dyson, forcing them to shoot. Or turn the ball over, in Dyson’s case. This was not an anomaly.

Defensively, UConn is pretty much a man team. The Huskies’ experience with zones hasn’t been wildly effective (an extreme example: they blew a 19-point lead to Georgetown by sitting in a zone and letting Austin Freeman catch fire).

Dyson and Walker have reputations as good on-ball defenders, and have looked good in many games this year, but Notre Dame’s guards did a good job of beating them off the dribble. If you do that, you might get blocked on the way to the rim, but you’re as likely to either a) get an offensive rebound because the weakside post defender came over to help and block a shot; or b) you’ll get to the free throw line.

The X-factor will be the foul differential. UConn lives at the free throw line (20th in the country in % of total points on FTs, 38th in the country in fewest % of points allowed from FTs). If you can even that disparity out by getting to the rim – UConn’s bigs seem foul-prone lately – you’ll be in good shape.

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In advance of our huge game against Connecticut this Saturday, Mike Grant over at UCHuskies.com as nice enough to do a Q&A before our NCAA Elimination game. You can check out my answers for a couple of his questions here.

1. What the hell happened vs. Notre Dame?

Total no show.  Stanley Robinson, who had scored in double figures in 30+ consecutive games, played 35 minutes and took 4 shots.  4.  Jerome Dyson has been struggling lately, and Wednesday night his struggles were front and center.  2-14 and 5 turnovers.  Notre Dame played terrible, they scored 17 points in the first half…and won.  Just a no show by the Huskies.

2. Give me some hope on Saturday. What can USF do to bring home a win this weekend.

I don’t think it’s a longshot by any means that USF wins this game.   The way the Huskies played Wednesday was as if they’re in the tank.  I don’t think anyone knows what to expect out of this squad, not even Calhoun.  The only thing consistent about the Huskies is that they are inconsistent.  If they couldn’t get up for Notre Dame, when most people felt all they had to do to get into the tourney was win the last two games, why should we expect a nice showing Saturday?  With all of that said, the Huskies, when playing well, are capable of beating anyone.  So you want hope?  Hope the same team that scored 48 points in a home loss to Cincy, and 50 points in a loss to Notre Dame shows up.

3. Gavin Edwards is having a pretty good senior year after being glued to the bench the past 3 years. What has he done to improve himself this season?

Gotten minutes.  It’s a little bit of a misnomer in my opinion that Edwards is much improved from last season…he was just playing behind Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet.   Check the numbers : This year he’s averaging 10.8 points and 6.7 boards in 30.8 minutes.  Last season he averaged 3.8 points and 3 boards in 11.7 minutes…if you plug his junior season numbers into 30.8 minutes, you’d get 10 points and 7.9 boards.   He’s just finally getting an opportunity, he’s always been talented.

4. I’m sure this is being asked a ton, but do you think Coach Calhoun’s health will force him to retire after this season?

No, I don’t believe it will.  Calhoun is way too much of a fighter to go out like this.  I do however believe that if he were to miss extended time next season as well, it would be best for all parties if coach hung it up.

5. Any predictions for the game? Who would win in a fight between Gavin and his USF OL brother Damien? Over/Under on Stanley Robinson dunks?

My prediction, 71-65 Huskies…because I have to believe that Jim Calhoun finds some way to motivate these kids.  The last time they played as poorly as they did vs Notre Dame was vs Cincy, and they came out and won the next three.  So I’ll hang my hat on that, because I’ve got to hang my hat on something.  I’ll set the Stanley Robinson dunk o/u at 2.5.  Fight between Gavin and Damien?  Tough one…Gavin’s got the reach, Damien’s got the weight advantage…I’ll go with Brittney Griner.

Bonus 6th Question! Since this play happened during a UConn/USF game, do you know what Voodoo 5 stands for?

I don’t, and I’ve been wondering…my best guess:  2007 at the Rent, USF ball, 3rd and goal from the one, Huskies up 22-15 about a minute to play…Grothe rolls left and is sacked by UConn LB Greg Robinson.  Was the play call VooDoo 5?  I have one of the pylons from that game…back corner of the end zone
Mike was really close on the play. Same scenario, wrong year. One of these days we will talk about the name of the blog. So go check him out if you haven’t already, he does a great job running the site. Hopefully we will have another Q&A up today, along with an Ode to our Seniors.

I was able to get John over at Chicago College Basketball to spend some time out of his busy schedule to talk a little about DePaul hoops, their coaching situation, and USF commit Lavonte Dority.

1. How has the team responded after Tracy Webster took over for Jerry Wainwright?

When Tracy Webster took over there was a new feeling of life breathed into the program for a while. The win over Marquette certainly helped things as well, but in general the team has played harder under Webster than they appeared to towards the end of Wainwright’s tenure. Now the problem appears to be that the Blue Demons can’t put two halves together. They’ve been able to get a jump on teams like Rutgers (twice actually) and play tough for a half, but they haven’t been able to get another victory. The team has a little bit of a different look now too because Webster trusts his talent a little more than Wainwright and Mac Koshwal has been consistently healthy while he’s been coaching.

2. Can you give everyone a brief breakdown on what DePaul likes to run on offense and defense?

In general the Blue Demons like to inside-out on offense. They’ll feed the ball into Koshwal and hope that he can create. In the half court set DePaul just isn’t that effective because they’re not good enough shooters. Thus forcing turnovers and getting into transition is something that can really help the Blue Demons. If they don’t force a turnover though the other team is probably scoring. While DePaul mixes up the defensive looks, nothing has worked particularly well. Syracuse is the only team to score less than a point per possession during DePaul’s 10-game losing streak and that was just cold shooting.

3. Willie Walker looks scoring has improved immensely this season. Is his increase in scoring just added touches from the departure of Dar Tucker, or has he made the leap?

Walker has had to do pretty much everything for DePaul at times this season. He’s play off-guard, point guard. He’s been the primary ball-handler and go-to-guy when Koshwal was out and he’s the lone senior on the team so he answers 90% of the media’s questions. It has to be exhausting. And that’s before accounting for the fact that Walker has played over 93% of DePaul’s minutes this season.

Most of the uptick in output has come from being the only consistent scorer on the team when Koshwal was injured. You can neutralize Will Walker. Louisville did a great job of it in their win at Allstate Arena a little over a week ago. If you put a big, athletic guard that is committed to running through the screens on him he’ll have problems.

All of that though isn’t to diminish what Walker has accomplished this season. He’s a good player and he’s had a wonderful career at DePaul. It’s just that he never should’ve had to be the lead guy for a Big East caliber team.

4. Have there been any coaches campaigning for the job yet?

Rick Majerus would apparently love to leave St. Louis and come to Chicago. Steve Lavin seems to want in. DePaul doesn’t want either, I don’t think. It seems like the administration is trying to get a young, hot name this time around and might be willing to pay a bit more to do it. Wishful names like Dayton’s Brian Gregory, Butler’s Brad Stevens and Siena’s Fran McCafferty keep coming up in discussions amongst the DePaul fan base. My guess is the Blue Demons will have to settle for something a little below that tier of coach, but they’ll find a guy who can energize the fan base. DePaul has to.

5. USF has a commit from Chicago G Lavonte Dority. Have you seen him play, and if so can you give us a scouting report.

I haven’t seen Dority and Foreman this season as covering 5 NCAA Division I schools keeps me quite busy during basketball season, but I make it a point to attend the Chicago High School Classic (http://www.chicagohighschoolclassic.com/) which features a lot of the talent from the area. Hopefully Dority will be at the event this season and I’ll be able to give a report then. Check back with me after April 9.

Thanks to John once again, and if ever want to read up on Chicago’s College hoop scene, head on over.

David over at the awesome Providence site FriarBlog was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule and answer some questions about what the Friars have done since we met last month. I answered a couple of questions for him as well and you can see them here. Check him out, and bar none the best blog logo in the Big East.

1. How did Lady Gaga Night go at the Dunk vs. Syracuse?

I didn’t see anything on TV or hear about it from anyone at the game, so I have no idea.  Maybe the whole thing was a big joke?  If so, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.  The “Black-Out” was a reasonable success, but there was way too much ORANGE for my liking.  When you are ranked #4 and have only lost two games all year, the fans are going to travel well.

2. Did you expect Greedy Peterson to do so well this season after redshirting last year?

Greedy came out of nowhere this season.  Everyone knew he was an athletic freak, but his shot and knack for getting to the rim have been a pleasant surprise.  The question is, can he take it to the next level?  Peterson still has a lot of work to do on the defensive end — if he can really elevate his game to be a great two-way player, the Friars can have a really special player for the next two years.

3. I know that you guys have an extremely young team, how are the newcomers doing in the Big East this year?

We’ve seen some very good things out of the newcomers this season.  Point guard Vincent Council could be considered the best player on the team, and is a shoe in for All-BIG EAST Rookie team.  His court sense is great, and he can penetrate to the hoop and continually set up his teammates for easy buckets.  Forward Bilal Dixon (who redshirted last year) just keeps getting better and better as the year goes on, and looks to be a team leader type with the passion he shows out on the court.  However, as we saw against Syracuse both times, Dixon will sometimes get overmatched at the center position.  He’s more suited to be a 4, but Providence’s lack of size or depth there means he’ll be up against the BEASTS of the EAST.  Other than those two and Duke Mondy, PC hasn’t seen much from any other newcomer.

4. How is recruiting going for you guys. Anyone we should keep an eye on next season?

Keno and his staff landed two Top-100 players, both who Providence got on early and have really come on strong this year.  Gerard Coleman (ranked #54 in ESPN) could be an impact player as a scoring guard and an elite defender.  Joseph Young is a sharpshooter (and best player) on the best High School team in the nation — The Yates (Texas) team that scores almost 200 points game.  They’ll have a lot of expectations for their first year in Friartown, but it will create a very strong backcourt for the next several years.

5. Any predictions? Over/Under of 200 points? Number of Greedy putback dunks? Times Dominique Jones slashes through the defense?

The Friars just got done with an absolute brutal stretch (4 top 8 teams in a row), and have lost 7 games in a row.   Even though USF brings up bad memories of that meltdown at the DUNK, I think they are due for a win.  They have definitely been prepared over the last two weeks.  I think Dominique Jones (even if sick) will get his points, but I think all the national attention of the poor defense will hopefully motivate the Friars to clamp down.  Providence 75-70!

Bonus 6th Question. Since you guys play at the Dunkin Donuts Center I have to ask, what do you get when you go to DD?

That is quite possibly the best question any BIG EAST blogger has ever asked me.  During the fall/winter, I always go with a large French Vanilla with milk and sugar.  In the late spring and summer,  I rock large Iced Coffees left and right.  I like the French Vanilla, but have been also mixing it up with Toasted Almond.  I’ll rarely get food there, but if I do it’s a chocolate glazed donut.  Can’t beat those!

Thanks to David once again for answering the questions, and I can’t fault him for his selections at Dunkins, although I go for a blueberry cake donut when I drive on through.

Scott Carter of the Tribune wrote about the upcoming baseball Florida Four at Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday. USF will play Miami, followed by Florida and Florida State. It should draw a huge crowd by college baseball standards and it gives everyone some good non-conference competition. So Scott was wondering, why can’t it happen in basketball?

Back in the day, it actually did happen. Since Miami didn’t have a basketball program then, the Florida Four were the Gators, Seminoles, Bulls, and the Dolphins of Jacksonville. There were two Florida Four tournaments, in 1981 and 1982, and USF won them both. (For a long time, up until the air-inflated roof was replaced during my student years, USF had banners hung in the Sun Dome commemorating these two wins. Pretty lame in retrospect, but hey, we don’t have much to work with here.) There’s a great article in the Sports Illustrated vault about the first tournament being a symbol of college basketball’s rise to prominence in the state.

Ultimately, though, the athletic directors – including some guy named Paul Griffin who was Jacksonville’s AD – agreed to stop the series because of a host of factors. They couldn’t sell enough tickets to make everyone happy, students had to pay full price for tickets so they didn’t show up, and the teams were already scheduling each other outside of the tournament. Plus USF and Jacksonville were already in the same conference, which meant Florida and FSU could never play each other in the semifinal round.

You could overcome the money problem. Put it on Sun Sports or something and you’d be fine. There are a lot more people in the state and alumni of the four schools than there were 30 years ago, so tickets would be sold. And the students not getting free tickets when they were holding the Florida Four on campuses, that was just stupid. But the real problem is FSU and Miami being in the same conference. On top of that, they’re mirror opponents in the ACC, so they play each other twice a year. I’m sure they’d want to avoid playing a third time at all costs, so there goes a tournament. If you worked around it and just did a one-night doubleheader, not only could FSU and Miami not play, but that would also mean USF and Florida could never play each other, which would turn off a ton of our fans. (Ultimately I think this will kill the baseball Florida Four, or limit it to an occasional thing.)

The only way this could possibly happen is doing a round-robin. Have everyone play everyone else, and then the winner of the Miami-FSU season series gets one win towards the Florida Four. But that might be a longshot too. I think the other three schools would be willing, but Florida would probably nix it. The Gators have a national profile and I can see them wanting to get into big-time TV games when they want a non-conference challenge. That doesn’t leave them a whole lot of time to add Miami and USF to their schedule. Maybe they’d do one, but probably not both.

It kind of sucks. Only the Gators have any basketball rivals, and they’re all in the SEC. USF, Miami, and FSU would have a lot to gain from getting the Florida Four cranked up again as a round-robin. But it doesn’t benefit UF, and they hold most of the cards. I just can’t see it happening. Sorry, Scott.