Big East Takes Note Of Hibbert, Wallace

All-Big East pick Jonathan Wallace averaged 11.4 points last season.
All-Big East pick Jonathan Wallace averaged 11.4 points last season. "I'm happy for him. Little Buddy needs to get some recognition," Roy Hibbert said. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2007

NEW YORK, Oct. 24 -- Jonathan Wallace expected to open his Big East media guide Wednesday and see a picture of his Georgetown teammate, center Roy Hibbert, under the heading of "Preseason Player of the Year." However, he did not anticipate seeing his own picture just to the left of Hibbert's, as one of the 11 players voted to the preseason all-Big East team.

"Roy told me I made the first team, and I thought he was joking," said Wallace, a senior guard. "But I started reading around and saw I did. I thought it was funny."

Hibbert, however, was thrilled. The 7-foot-2 senior, who considered jumping to the NBA after averaging 12.9 points on 67 percent shooting, generally attracts the most attention for the Hoyas. But Hibbert said he thinks Wallace, who came to Georgetown as a walk-on and will leave as a four-year starter, is the real star of the team. Wallace averaged 11.4 points and made 49 percent of his three-point attempts as a junior.

"I'm happy for him. Little Buddy needs to get some recognition," said Hibbert, who is more than a foot taller than the 6-1 Wallace. "He does so much for everybody. The biggest part of my personal success is that we've had Jon playing well. People don't collapse down on me when Jon is hitting shots. I get the ball, and I look for Little Buddy over there in the corner so he can hit a three."

Hibbert and Wallace are among the eight players back for Georgetown, which won 30 games and swept the Big East regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the Final Four. They're also among the reasons why the Hoyas were picked as the co-favorites to win the conference, along with Louisville. Both Georgetown (13-3 Big East) and Louisville (12-4), which lost only one regular from a team that lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament, received eight first-place votes in the preseason coaches' poll.

"The preseason poll is, for lack of a better way to put it, it's a popularity contest," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "Once the ball goes up in the air in a couple of weeks, and once we start playing each other, we'll be able to sift through and see where we really stand."

Marquette, which brings back five starters, was picked to finish third, followed by Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Connecticut.

"I think this year more than any other year, you can't pick a favorite," Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said. "This is the deepest I've seen the Big East in quite some time."

To that end, several coaches expressed concern about whether or not that depth will be recognized on Selection Sunday, both in terms of invitations and high seeds.

The Big East sent a record eight teams to the NCAA tournament in 2006, but only six -- Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame and Villanova -- received bids last season. Syracuse, which finished 10-6 in the conference and won 22 regular season games, was left out.

"What concerns me is that I don't want our league to be taken for granted because we're 16 teams," Commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "There does not need to be some artificial number [of NCAA bids]. . . . I have coaches in this room that feel that we are being arbitrated against."

Said Villanova Coach Jay Wright: "We've got to make sure that we don't limit the number of teams from any conference that go. We have to talk about the percentage [of teams] that go from a conference."

Teams have the added challenge of playing 18 Big East games this season; under the expanded schedule, teams will face every team at least once, and three teams twice. Tranghese acknowledged that because of the sheer size of the league, there will be inequities in the scheduling, and "that makes it even harder for our more talented teams."

Pitino has been the most outspoken critic of the expanded schedule, mainly because he feels his team has one of the most difficult slates: home-and-home games with Georgetown, Marquette and Rutgers, as well as single games at Connecticut, at Pittsburgh, and at Providence.

"I'm very close with Mike Tranghese and [senior associate commissioner] John Marinatto. They're both Italian. I was coaching at Providence when they both were there," Pitino said. "They like me a great deal; we're very close friends. But they like God more. They're much closer to the Catholics than they are friendships. They could care less if I'm floating in the East River. They just threw me into the East River, floating with a lot of my Italian friends, because that's the way that schedule was made."

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