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SB Nation New York 2011 Big East Basketball Awards: Dwight Hardy Our MVP Choice – SB Nation New York

By Jared Smith

Contributor

St. John's Dwight Hardy, right, scores the game-winning basket as Pittsburgh's Gilbert Brown defends late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York. St. John's defeated No. 4 Pittsburgh 60-59.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Marshon Brooks (G – Providence), Kemba Walker (G – UConn), Dwight Hardy (G – St. John’s), Cleveland Melvin (F – DePaul), Connecticut Huskies, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Pittsburgh Panthers, St. John’s Red Storm, Villanova Wildcats

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Mar 4, 2011 – One of the most exciting Big East Conference basketball regular seasons concludes Saturday with all 16 conference teams playing its finale. The soon-to-be completed 18-game conference schedule featured many outstanding players, memorable moments and solidified that the Big East is the nation’s best league. Here at SB Nation New York we blogged about all of it. Now, we’d like to finish the season with a bang.

Starting Sunday afternoon, when the Big East Tournament seeds are finalized, we will have a complete rundown of the bracket. On Monday, we will post a full preview of the tournament’s first two rounds and launch two StoryStreams: One Stream will be a complete breakdown of each of the conference’s 16 teams. The second will update you on all the breaking news, scores and story lines at Madison Square Garden. (I can promise that if Charlie Sheen shows up to catch a few games we won’t blog about it.) However, before we get to all of that, let’s hand out some hardware.

Helped by SB Nation New York’s Howard Megdal and Chris Celletti here are the SB Nation New York 2011 Big East Basketball Awards:

Big East Basketball Player Of The Year:  Providence Friars‘ senior guard, Marshon Brooks.

“Brooks set a Big East record with 52 points on Feb 23 in a loss against Notre Dame. He leads the Big East in scoring with over 25 points a game and is in the top-10 in rebounding in conference, pulling in over 7 per game. He’s been the best scorer in the league all year” – Celletti.

At the beginning of the year, it seemed that Connecticut Huskies junior guard Kemba Walker was a lock to earn this award, but it’s a long season and consistency wins out. Brooks is a three-time Big East Player Of The Week honoree, the latest coming Monday, Feb. 28, and is currently the nation’s second-best scorer. Unfortunately for Brooks, Providence traveled a rough road through conference play and didn’t win much. That hurt his candidacy for The Bob Cousy Award and the Naismith Award, but we know better. Brooks was spectacular.

Big East MVP: St. John’s senior guard, Dwight Hardy.

“St. John’s renaissance is due largely in part to the play of Hardy,whose game has reached an incredible level in Big East play. Without Hardy, who knows where the Johnnies are. With him, and especially if he continues his hot play, St. John’s could win the Big East Tournament and be a Sweet 16 team” – Celletti.

A three-time Big East Player Of The Week award winner, Hardy is the leader of the conference’s hottest squad. There are many unmeasurable reasons why Hardy deserves this award, but if you need a statistical reason here it is: In the Red Storm’s first 19 games, which featured an 11-8 record, Hardy tallied a total of 275 points (14.5 ppg). Since then, the Johnnies are 8-2 overall and the 6-foot-2 guard has scored a total of 249 points (24.9 ppg), including two collegiate-best performances of 33 and 34! At his current pace, Hardy will compile the same amount of points in eight less games. The Bronx native is easily the most valuable player in the Big East.

Big East Freshman Of The Year: DePaul Blue Demons‘ forward, Cleveland Melvin.

“How about a little love for the bottom-dwellers? Coach Oliver Purnell has a good building block in Melvin, the 6-8 forward who has shown a great ability to score the ball. He was named Big East Rookie of the Week three times, and scored over 20 points 8 times as a freshman” – Celletti.

“A tremendous interior scorer with perimeter game, he’s like a souped-up Wilson Chandler” – Megdal.

The trend in the Big East Conference has been a stellar freshman being a part of a quality team. That isn’t the case this year with Melvin, who led the last-place Blue Demons and all freshman in scoring with 14.3 points per game. Unfortunately for Melvin, who suffered a season-ending thumb injury in a loss to St. John’s, Feb. 23, the basketball world will not be able see his talents in the postseason.

Big East Soon To Be NBA Star: UConn junior forward, Kemba Walker.

“I think Walker will be a top-10 NBA point guard by next season. But this is also a reflection on the relative scarcity of sure-NBA players in this year’s Big East. Rick Jackson of Syracuse and Yancy Gates of Cincinnati have a chance to be solid backup forwards at the next level. Marshon Brooks, despite defenses keying on him, has shot 49 percent from the field, and even grabbed 7.2 rebounds a game. But it is hard to tell how much of his stat line is inflated. Honestly, the best NBA’er outside of Walker is probably Melvin” — Megdal.

It took three categories for Walker to get mentioned, but I think this award fits the 6-foot-1 guard best. Why did Walker miss out on POY and MVP? It came down to his team’s second-half struggles, which dropped the Huskies (21-8, 9-8 Big East) into a three-way tie for ninth place in the conference standings, and Walker’s disappearance from national relevance. Yes, at one time Walker led the nation in scoring, but as of Thursday he’s now sixth. However, Walker was really good this year. His talents will easily transition to the NBA.

Big East Best Team: Pittsburgh Panthers.

“Pitt is the Big East’s most complete team. They are solid all around; Ashton Gibbs gives them a perimeter threat, Gary McGhee does the dirty work down low, and Brad Wanamaker is that kind of do-everything player that Jamie Dixon seems to find all the time” – Celletti.

On Dec. 27, the Panthers defeated then No. 4-ranked UConn, 78-63. A week later, Jan. 3, Pitt jumped into the top 5 of both college basketball polls. Since then, the Panthers have been ranked as high as No. 2 and have not dropped out of the top 5. Add that seven out of the 11 SB Nation Big East Power Rankings, posted by The UConn Blog, have had the Panthers ranked No. 1. That’s enough proof to easily honor Pitt as the conference’s best regular season team.

Big East Most Surprising Team: Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

“The Irish came into this season as an NCAA Tournament team. I’m not sure there were many people who envisioned them as a No. 2 seed, or perhaps even a No. 1, which they could get if they win the Big East Tournament” – Celletti.

“With their lack of depth, (Notre Dame) seemed like a great candidate to wear down through a grueling Big East schedule. Well, ask Villanova if they are worn down” – Megdal.

Despite not appearing in the preseason to -25, being predicted to finish seventh by the conference coaches and ranked No. 9 in the first SB Nation Big East Power Rankings, Nov. 15, the Notre Dame basketball program proved naysayers wrong. On Jan. 24, the Irish defeated then No. 2 Pittsburgh and propelled themselves into the top 10, a place they never left.

Big East Best Regular Season Moment: Hardy’s last-second, base-line layup that helped St. John’s down then No. 4 Pittsburgh, 60-59, Feb. 19, at Madison Square Garden.

“… Was there any better than Dwight Hardy’s incredible, twisting, breathtaking layup to knock off Pitt at the Garden? St. John’s wasn’t yet ranked, and this was their toughest test yet, with big-bad Pitt in town and a packed World’s Most Famous Arena. It came down to the last play, and while at first it looked as though Hardy was going nowhere, he improvised and made the biggest shot for St. John’s in a really, really long time” – Celletti.

“It was a gift for sportswriters looking to have a definitive moment to declare, ‘St. John’s is back'” – Megdal.

That play propelled St. John’s into the top 25 for the first time since Nov. of 2000 and cemented an NCAA Tournament berth, the program’s first since 2002.

Megdal’s Big East Tournament Projected Winner: Villanova Wildcats.

“I have less confidence in this pick than I did when I asked Karen Brusato to the eighth-grade dance. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of 11 teams won the Big East Tournament. My pick of Villanova is due to the fact that they are too good to keep playing as they have, and Jay Wright is one of the best coaches in the Big East. But seriously, this shapes up to be the best Big East tournament ever. Put it this way- with all 11 teams likely to be an 11 seed or better, the Big East Tournament will have more quality than any NCAA regional.”

Celletti’s Tournament Winner: St. John’s Red Storm.

“If this tournament were anywhere else, I wouldn’t pick the Johnnies here. But big-time hoops is back at MSG, and St. John’s has been dominant at the Garden this year. They’ve won five of their last six there, with wins over Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke, UConn and Pitt. Sadly, I think they bow out early in the NCAA’s because of their spotty play on the road.”

My Tournament Winner: Louisville Cardinals.

Pittsburgh seems to find ways to lose big games, Notre Dame has a terrible Big East Tournament history (not one finals appearance), Big East coaches know how to beat SU’s 2-3 zone defense, St. John’s hot streak is finally over, which means the Cardinals will bring home their second championship in three seasons.

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Jared Smith

Contributor

Former Sports Clerk-Writer at the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, NY, who is a fan of Syracuse University football, basketball, lacrosse and the Big East Conference.

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Continue reading here: SB Nation New York 2011 Big East Basketball Awards: Dwight Hardy Our MVP Choice – SB Nation New York

The Bachelor Review: House and Home – Poptimal.com

It’s the week we’ve all been waiting for on The Bachelor, as Brad Womack takes time out of his busy schedule of delivering flowers to visit the homes of the four remaining bachelorettes. Week 8 marks the beginning of the end for these romantic hopefuls, and I find myself gleefully looking forward to the tearful rose ceremony departures that await. I’m not proud of what I’ve become.

Brad greets us from the exotic locale of New York City, where he’s preparing for the high-stakes tour of the U.S. which will bring him one step closer to the most important day of his life. He admits that he’s nervous before adding, “Also, I’m thinking a lot.” Don’t hurt yourself, buddy. Our bachelor gives us a refresher course on the women he’s considering. Chantal is confident and unpredictable, but she’s also emotional. Brad can envision a future with her as his wife, but he’s afraid of her “roller coaster” of emotions. I wonder if her occasional bouts of annoyance and insecurity might have something to do with the completely unfair, unnatural, and demanding conditions of the game. Probably not. You know those women, always insisting upon personal attention and reassurance in a new relationship, what with those irrational and reckless emotions and all. The best thing Brad can say about Ashley is that she’s “energetic and bubbly,” meaning he would have liked to party with her in college but the chances for procreation are slim. The editors break out the raunchy 90s-era rock n’ roll guitar for Shawntel, whom Brad describes as “beautiful and unassuming” with “no drama.” He says something about Emily, but I’m too distracted by how much like a living Barbie doll she looks. “One of these women is going to be my wife,” Brad intones insistently. This show’s track record is so good that I have no reason to doubt his certainty.

First we’re off to Seattle for Chantal’s hometown date, and Brad could not be more excited to see her. Chantal, for her part, is glad that the “tables are turned,” that she gets to rule Brad out if her family doesn’t approve. We’ll see in a few moments why that probably won’t be a concern. Brad, upon his arrival to the city, makes a point to gush about how beautiful the place is while reminding Chantal that there’s no chance he’d ever live anywhere but Austin, Texas. Brad visits his date’s house, which she shares with two cats and a dog. He’s visibly miffed upon learning that he’ll inherit these pets should he choose to propose to Chantal. Claiming that his downtown loft is small with no closet space, Brad starts to second-guess his intentions of following through with this thing. What happened to that massive property in L.A. to which you drove Michelle for a visit, Brad? Don’t tell me it was a hollowed-out model home rented for a single day of shooting by the producers.

Chantal walks her man into her parents’ impossibly huge mansion of a house. In this moment, I’m more interested in what these people do for a living than whether or not they’ll embrace Brad as a son-in-law. I hope they’re bloggers. Brad, Chantal, and the clan sit down at a dinner table borrowed from the set of The King’s Speech and pour wine from crystal carafes. Mom and Dad pay as much attention to Brad as their prescription-pill-induced apathy will allow, their botox-injected faces frozen into accommodating grins. Chantal and her father leave the table so that she can tell him in private that she definitely had that “feeling” when she first looked upon Brad, prompting Daddy to wistfully recall the elusive sensation of human emotion and insist that he felt that feeling once, too, long before the rigor mortis set in and he became a mere shell of the man he once was. In response to Chantal’s tacit request for his blessing, her father is all, “Yeah, a quick on-camera chat with Brad about his family and a cold exchange of clichés about capitalism and the value of working your way up in this country should totally do the trick.” Brad and Dad have their requisite sit-down and tour of the mansion halls before the old man gives his “total blessing” to the impending union. Dad says, “We may not see you ever again,” before he underscores his full support for the couple’s likely verbal commitment to wed. I love how realistic Chantal’s father is. Either he and his wife must soon return permanently to the public wax museum in their attic, or he can already tell that Chantal’s new address will be a 5 x 7 clothes closet in an Austin loft. Either way, he doesn’t want to fool himself.

It’s on to some place in Maine called Madawaska, where Ashley awaits to show Brad the sights. I’m finally realizing why I neither enjoy nor care about Ashley. I think it’s because she’s intensely, relentlessly obnoxious. That has to be it. Ashley starts the day by chattering and bouncing around in a restaurant while introducing Brad to the French-Canadian dish of poutine, consisting of french fries topped with cheese and brown gravy. The background actors at the surrounding tables look especially wooden and uncomfortable as they mime sipping coffee and sharing idle conversation. Brad and Ashley order their dish, each of them visibly thrilled to be trying fried food for the first time. What arrives at the table is a gloppy, gooey mess of disappointment, much like the sticky gob of forced chemistry bonding the two lovebirds together.

Brad and his spunky mate decide to purchase large Maine lobsters for their family dinner. At the market, Ashley is greeted by a live crustacean and leaps back as if she’s never encountered such a creature in her life. It’s apparent that she’s never been to this city before today; I’m reminded of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, featuring a Blackberry-addicted ex-governor attempting various outdoors activities for the very first time while repeatedly assuring viewers of her prowess. Ashley leads Brad into her quaint home, where her siblings and parents fawn over the couple with a desperation I’d never have thought to imagine. Ashley says to the camera that this is “the closest [she’s] ever felt to being in love with Brad.” Catch up to the other contestants, lady! This is a sprint, not a marathon!

Ashley’s soon-to-be-brokenhearted relatives are way too chipper for my tastes, but sitting at the head of the table is the most bewilderingly handsome mountain man in the northeast, so I’ll allow it. Still, we need a new phrase for “trying too hard.” At least a couple of them remind Brad that he should be prepared for Ashley to finish her dentistry schooling, despite his plans for them. Brad does not like that idea; he was under the impression that his proposal would automatically and irrevocably erase any preexisting hopes and aspirations of his betrothed. At the end of the evening, Ashley’s parents welcome Brad to their family, “whatever the outcome is,” which is a stark contrast to Chantal’s father stating that he’ll probably never lay eyes on his potential son-in-law again, even if he were to join the family for good. Beggars can’t be choosers; Ashley’s folks seem like they’ve been trying to unload her for quite some time. Yes, I’ve heard that chihuahuas are high maintenance pets.

Shawntel is up next, granting Brad a tour at her funeral home in Chico, California, where she immediately places him on an embalming table for a lengthy demonstration. This seems like a smart thing to do with a man whose only reservation about marrying you is your unfortunate occupation as a funeral director. While Shawntel describes cremation, I realize I’ve been grinning sadistically throughout this scene. Brad admits to being supremely unsettled by the concept of death, but Shawntel goes on blabbing about how she’s elbow-deep in the guts of the deceased on a daily basis and how much she loves the smell of formaldehyde in the morning. I fully expect Brad to give her that old speech about how even though there’s no rose on this date, he’d like her to head for the limo right now, since he sees them more as great friends than life partners. Because he came all this way, after all, he decides to bite the bullet and meet Shawntel’s folks. It’s just a formality at this point.

Shawntel’s father seems blindsided by her participation in this game, as he spends the whole night talking about how his family funeral home must be handed down, and he won’t hear of Shawntel moving to Austin and leaving the community behind. Apparently, during her little vacation in L.A., Las Vegas, Costa Rica, and Anguilla, a former schoolteacher’s son passed away prematurely, and Shawntel and her professional skills were greatly missed. I’m now praying silently that Brad has mercy on this poor girl’s family and sends Shawntel packing at the next rose ceremony. Chico needs her. She can’t desert her friends and neighbors for a promised but unlikely marriage. Don’t continue to lead her on, I plead to Brad’s face on my screen. (As a seasoned reality show viewer, I do realize that Shawntel’s time in Chico has already come to an end and I’m only deluding myself that her father has any hope of reconnecting with the daughter he’s loved for so long. She’ll be back in L.A. on Dancing with the Stars next season.) In a conversation with Shawntel’s mother, Brad hesitantly drawls, “I sure do care about her an awful lot” in the casual but tender tone generally reserved for a trusty steed back on his farm in downtown Austin, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get my wish.

It’s Emily’s turn in Charlotte, North Carolina. In her case, there are no parents or siblings in sight. I’m a little upset that she and her young daughter had to wait patiently for the cameramen to set up their equipment before running toward each other in a field of grass and flowers for their emotional reunion. Emily quickly tells her little girl that she’ll soon be meeting a new friend that Mommy made while she was away. “I wasn’t going to put you on the spot like this, sweetie pie; I had decided not to let him meet you yet. But then Mommy was told to revisit that little contract thing she signed and she realized that she didn’t have a choice! Here, honey, this is my new friend Brad,” she explains. Emily’s mini-me isn’t buying it until Brad gives her a butterfly kite, which would win over even the strongest of us. They fly the kite around and continue to put the shy child on the spot by asking her forcefully why she isn’t into the whole thing. She caves to the pressure and giggles once or twice, which is enough to convince Brad that he’s ready to be her new dad.

Emily takes Brad to her house and wonders to the camera if he’ll be okay with the “simplicity” of her life. The editors swiftly cut to reveal the most elaborately, opulently decorated playroom I have ever seen. It’s where Marie Antoinette’s children would have opted to spend their leisure time had they not been confined to that stuffy castle. The new makeshift family plays on the floor, and Brad seems sincerely honored to be a part of the evening, stating that he is ready to be a husband and father, that this is his absolute dream. I kind of believe him, to my own surprise. Once the little princess is tucked into bed, Emily and Brad can settle in on the couch to chat. Brad, out of respect for the sleeping girl upstairs, refuses to make out with Emily. He can’t imagine kissing her while her daughter is so close and innocently dreaming, unaware that her mother has just spent several weeks in a competition for a reality star’s prop engagement ring. Brad apologizes for not being physically affectionate and reassures Emily that he hasn’t lost interest. Okay, now I want to marry this guy. That’s the most integrity he’s displayed so far. I can’t wait for my chance in round three of his search for a wife. Alas, Emily gets her way in the end. I literally say, “Awwww!” out loud as she attacks him with a kiss in the doorway before saying good night. What has this show done to me? I have no fight left in these old bones.

The rose ceremony is too much to take this week. All of the women look gorgeous and sleek as they silently await the announcement of their fate. As we already suspected, Shawntel’s journey ends here. Brad doesn’t scapegoat her family or her dad’s business for his own disinterest; he tells Shawntel that he just doesn’t feel the spark, and he’d hate to let her proceed any further with false hope. Shawntel cries daintily and exits with class, bemoaning the fact that she’ll likely never meet another man who treats her as well as Brad did. I hope she encounters a suitor with the budget, resources, and date-planning staff of a major television network, because she deserves all the happiness she seeks.

NEXT WEEK: The helicopters are back- this time in South Africa!

Season 15, Episode 8: original airdate February 21, 2011.

The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8/7c.

Not the monogamous type? Read “The Final Four” by Liz Cooper

Images courtesy of Rick Rowell and ABC.

 

Continue reading here: The Bachelor Review: House and Home – Poptimal.com


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