College Basketball Trivia Corner: The Big East

By Lorenzo Tanos

We’ll be starting out this series of NCAA and NBA trivia articles with ten questions on the Big East conference and its rich history. Since the Internet has made it so easy to answer trivia quizzes (thank you very much, Wikipedia!), the answers will be included with each question. Note – some of the questions may relate to pre-Big East times, but this would only apply to charter schools.

  1. Which six schools have been a part of the Big East since its inception in 1979?

    Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Syracuse.Boston College was the seventh charter member, but moved to the ACC in 2005.

  2. Who was this highly-regarded St. John’s recruit who ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated before his actual NCAA career started?

    Felipe Lopez. You’d certainly remember he was the bee’s knees for quite some time, probably the best player to emerge from New York since Lew Alcindor. In four years spanning 1994 to 1998, he averaged between 15.9 and 17.8 points in a good, but not great college career. He bounced around the NBA a bit as a reserve wingman, bounced around the international scene, and is now a Spanish-language sportscaster.

  3. Which of these five players did not score at least 2,000 points in his college career?
    A) Terry Dehere (Seton Hall)
    B) Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)
    C) Allan Ray (Villanova)
    D) Ray Allen (Connecticut)
    E) Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)

    D – Ray Allen. While he’s by far the most accomplished player in this list, the fact that he played just three years for the Huskies contributed to his accumulating “only” 1,922 career points.

  4. Before Paul Pierce earned the nickname “The Truth” and became a legitimate NBA superstar, this player had the same nickname AND was also slated for NBA stardom, which never happened. Who is he?

    Walter Berry of St. John’s. Yes, he too could’ve been one of the NBA’s great small forwards, and he seemed destined on that path when he averaged 17.4 ppg as a second-year man in the 1987-88 season. However, attitude problems turned him into an NBA vagabond (four teams in three seasons), and by the ‘90s, he was lighting ‘em up as one of the top American players in Europe.

  5. Who were the members of Pittsburgh’s storied recruiting class of 1987? True or False – did any of them play in the NBA?

    Center Bobby Martin, forwards Brian Shorter and Darelle Porter, shooting guard Jason Matthews and point guard Sean Miller. None of them played in the NBA. Needless to say, this potential Fab Five precursor fell a bit short of expectations, but it’s not like they didn’t have productive college careers. Miller, in case you don’t know, is now the University of Arizona’s head coach.

  6. True or False – Legendary running backs Jim Brown and Ernie Davis both played and averaged double figures on the Syracuse Orangemen basketball team.

    True. While this predates the Big East by a good two decades, it’s still nice-to-know information. Long-time former NFL rushing leader Brown averaged 15.0 and 11.3 ppg respectively his sophomore and junior year, but as a senior, his focus was solely on football. Davis, who could’ve been one of the NFL’s greats if not for the leukemia that ended his life before he got to play a single down in the pros, averaged 10.2 ppg and an impressive (for a 6’2” guard) 9.6 rpg in nine games as a junior, his only exposure on the basketball varsity.

  7. True or False – Former Georgetown and Team USA Olympic head coach John Thompson played his college ball for the Hoyas.

    False. This is an easy one, but despite Thompson’s long-time association with Georgetown, he played for another future Big East school, Providence. He was also Bill Russell’s backup center in two NBA seasons with the Boston Celtics, from 1964 to 1966.

  8. These two Big East stars shared the same first and last name, played on the same Olympic team in 1988, and both played in the NBA. The forward had a far better pro career than the guard. Who are they?

    Charles D. Smith was Pittsburgh’s top player in the late ‘80s, a quick and athletic 6’10” forward/center who was drafted third overall in 1988. Despite being drafted high and enjoying a productive career, this Charles Smith is most notorious for choking big-time in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, getting blocked four consecutive times in a game that could have helped the New York Knicks upset the Chicago Bulls in the series.

    Charles E. Smith, on the other hand, was a 6’1” point guard for the Georgetown Hoyas who went undrafted and rode the bench in two NBA seasons. Recent years have seen him associated with drugs and gambling, a sad fate for one of the Big East’s better backcourt men of the late ‘80s.

  9. Which Big East executive was supposed to coach the 1980 U.S. basketball team that boycotted the Moscow Olympics?

    Dave Gavitt. At this time he was commissioner of the newly-formed Big East, a position he held from 1979 to 1990, and had just wrapped up a successful tenure as the Providence Friars’ head coach.

  10. This team from the 1993-94 Big East season went an impressive 7-2 in non-conference games, but unfortunately lost all 18 games against Big East opponents. Clue – they’re much better known as a football powerhouse.

    The Miami Hurricanes. Nobody in this team played a minute in the NBA, although ConstantinPopa was drafted in 1995 as a 7’2” second-round project, and starting forward Steve Edwards’ brother Doug had a very brief, very underwhelming NBA career.

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