Morning Five: 07.27.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2010

  1. The extortion trial of Karen Sypher began Monday in Louisville, and the blockbuster allegation of the day came from the defense.  Sypher says that Rick Pitino threatened to have her “put in concrete in a river” if she didn’t keep quiet about their affair in 2003.  It’s going to be educational to see how the defense tries to spin this so that Pitino is viewed as the guilty party considering the amount of evidence that the feds already have in this case.
  2. The second installment of the Flourishing Five came out yesterday, and the Wisconsin Badgers are the #4 pick.  As a reminder, CBS Sports is picking the five collegiate programs with excellent basketball and football programs.  #5 Pittsburgh was named last week.  The Badgers are a solid choice.  We’re going to predict that the next three (in order) are: Florida, Ohio State and Texas.
  3. This is an interesting article from Dennis Dodd about how the ACC hasn’t shut the door on future expansion, having mocked up 14- and 16-team scenarios.  The ACC has to know that as a lesser football conference, it behooves them to be more proactive in this arena rather than waiting to get raided by the Big Ten and/or SEC at some future date.
  4. The thing is, when Tom Izzo says that he believes Purdue is the Big Ten favorite next season, he realizes that his team (not the Boilermakers) will probably be standing later into March and April.  Would you bet against this guy in the postseason given what he’s been able to accomplish the last two with much the same cast of characters?
  5. The Ivy League is still the Ivy League, regardless of the success of Cornell making the Sweet Sixteen and Harvard’s Jeremy Lin getting signed by the Golden State Warriors.  But there are some league insiders who believe the added attention that the conference has received will only help recruiting the type of players who would have otherwise gone to BCS schools.
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Recruiting Makes For Strange Bedfellows: Kentucky v. Washington

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

You’d be hard pressed to find two major state research universities with as little in common as the Seattle-based University of Washington and the Lexington-based University of Kentucky.  UW is an urban university located in the gorgeous setting of the wet and wild Pacific Northwest, filled with faculty and students who intravenously inject java into their arms and generally fall on the crunchier side of the political spectrum.  UK, on the other hand, is a suburban school located in the heart of America’s unparalleled horse country, just as proud of its southern hospitality and bourbon as its staid conservativism.  To call these two schools separated by 2,450 miles burgeoning rivals on the basketball court seems as weird as offering Florida v. Minnesota or Arizona v. Rutgers as reasonable comparisons.

A New Rivalry on the Horizon?

Yet over the last few months, the two basketball programs have made up for their lack of on-court rivalry (Kentucky leads the all-time series 1-0) with one in the hideaway gyms and family rooms of blue-chip prospects.  The long arm of UK coach John Calipari’s recruiting prowess has collided squarely with the growing hotbed of talent residing in the upper left corner of the country, resulting in several high-profile head-to-head battles over recruits and most notably impacting Lorenzo Romar’s UW program.    The latest in that string of faceoffs has come in recent weeks over the services of Seattle guard Tony Wroten, Jr., a 6’5 lefty guard and rising senior who missed all of last year due to a football-related knee injury, yet whom most scouts believe has top ten talent

Wroten (@ToneTone13) is a Twitter phenomenon, playing up his ongoing recruitment with re-tweets of others’ speculation, but despite a recent statement that all the schools on his list have an equal chance for his services, the smart money suggests that he’s down to his hometown school and the lure of the bluegrass.  Part of the reason for this is that he’s good friends with two other UK commitments in the Class of 2011 — top ten prospects Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague – but seeing John Wall and Eric Bledsoe coexist and excel in UK’s dribble-drive offense last season is another big carrot.  Nevertheless, the pressure is on Romar to hang onto a local product who grew up playing pickup ball on the Washington campus and who is the second cousin of former Husky star Nate Robinson, especially in light of the fact that only a few months ago Calipari recruited two players to Kentucky — Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones — after both had verbally committed to play in Seattle.  In many UW circles, Wroten is a must-get for Romar. 

After losing out on two big-time prospects and potentially a third to Kentucky, Washington fans are in no mood for another sucker-punch to the gut from Calipari on the recruiting trail, but there could be an opportunity for Husky supporters to exact revenge where it really counts — on the basketball court.  Both teams are participants in the 2010 Maui Invitational this coming November, and although the brackets are not yet set, we have to believe that ESPN and the Maui officials will bend over backwards to make a UK-UW game happen.  Washington guard Isaiah Thomas is apparently ready for it, as he has already gotten snippy with his comment over the weekend that Kentucky fans (along with regional rival Oregon) are “both kinda stupid.”  Regardless of whether Wroten eventually commits to UK or UW later this summer or fall, the heat in this bizarre intersectional rivalry stands to increase and we as the impartial onlookers will just sit back and enjoy it. 

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Sypher Extortion Trial Against Pitino Begins Today In Louisville

Posted by jstevrtc on July 26th, 2010

As if the drama of conference realignment and the fate of the play-in games wasn’t enough for your summer, the college basketball world now turns a reluctant eye to Louisville, where the Karen Sypher extortion trial begins today.  It’s been about seven years since whatever happened between Sypher and Rick Pitino in that Italian restaurant happened, and the sorting out of this whole mess started earlier this morning in the U.S. District Court in Louisville.  The trial is scheduled to last a couple of weeks.

In addition to the extortion charge, Sypher is accused of retaliating against Pitino after he went public with the news of the single-night affair, and then lying to federal agents about it.  The linked article above from Louisville’s Courier-Journal describes how, even though it might seem like prosecutors have a pretty sweet breakaway dunk in this business, they’re not making the mistake of just assuming a win.  They’ll have to prove everything we’ve been hearing about in the media — the false rape claim, the lies to federal prosecutors, the exchange of money and cars, and so on — to get a victory, here.

July madness begins in Louisville.

That Sypher may have had some experience with this extortion stuff even before her dealings with Pitino doesn’t help her cause.  And the very first page of the Courier-Journal’s article notes how prosecutors will introduce evidence that Sypher had sexual relations with both of the men whom she used to make the actual threats against Pitino, including performing “a sexual act” for one of them — a guy named Lester, and honestly, how can there not be a guy named Lester involved in all of this? — on the very same day that he made the initial threatening call to Pitino.  Also, according to this update from the Courier, in Sypher’s attorney’s opening statement, he alleges that Pitino “suggested something involving concrete and a river” after Sypher said that she didn’t want an abortion.  Feel that?  That’s your skin crawling.

While it will be interesting (and a little gross) to watch the events play out in Louisville over the next two weeks, we’re even more intrigued by the possible effects this could have on the Cardinals when the time comes to actually play basketball again.  Will Pitino’s players respect him as a coach or look at him more as a man who dishonored his wife?  Will the added media attention (because even though the trial might be over in two weeks, this all won’t just end in two weeks) be a distraction from basketball?  Will these legal issues and the increased rumblings in the city of Louisville about the absence of a national title under Pitino have him wondering if it’s time to move on? Or will his players rally behind their coach, buy into his system more than ever, and return Louisville to the later reaches of the NCAA Tournament?  If he makes any statement to the media over the next two weeks, be ready for Pitino to rhapsodize about how these are the greatest days of his life and how he’s never been less stressed than he is right now.  Which means that he’s in hell, and can’t wait to get back to basketball.  Can you blame him?

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Drexel’s Leading Scorer Busted For Armed Robbery

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

We know that Philadelphia is a tough town, but this is ridiculous.  Stories like this always amaze us given the risk/reward matrix, but Drexel University’s starting point guard (Jamie Harris) and a backup forward (Kevin Phillip) spent the weekend as fugitives from justice while Philly police searched for them in light of a videotape showing the pair leaving an apartment after an armed robbery (with a third accomplice named Devon Bond) last Wednesday night.  The two surrendered to the authorities today, and if the allegations that the Dragon teammates were involved in the robbery turn out to be true, it’s two more lives destroyed in an incomprehensible way. 

Bonehead Brothers (AP/M. Perez)

As the story goes, the pair (along with Bond) allegedly busted in on a woman (also a Drexel student) in her apartment whom they thought was holding a “big stash of cash.”  They brandished handguns and ordered the woman to hand over the money, but it turns out that their carefully-begotten information was bad — the woman was not in fact flush with cash, so they instead stole her iPhone (and another cell phone of unknown origin).  Based on information later supplied by the woman to the police, Bond was arrested last Thursday, and she then fingered Harris and Phillip from a photographic lineup over the weekend. 

So we ask, again — what kind of mental processes must go through people’s heads to ever think that this was a good idea?  The victim saw the players’ faces during the robbery.  Bond, Harris and Phillip all live in the same apartment complex.  The entire thing is caught on videotape (including Bonds’ ridiculous attempt to act as one of the victims by lying on the floor during the robbery).  Not to encourage criminal behavior of any kind, but it is shocking that people will put their entire lives on the line with such limited forethought. 

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint commented that he’s “trying to figure this thing out,” but there doesn’t seem all that much to figure other than the fact that his top returning player (Harris), a rising senior and the anticipated centerpiece of a team looking to move into the top echelon of the CAA next season, will likely not be available to him.  Nor will he have the rising junior Phillip, a hustle guy who fit nicely into the rotation last season.  What he does know for certain is this: his two knuckleheads combined for 44 steals last year while on the playing court, but it’ll be two steals from last week on a hot, dark night in Philly that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. 

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Recruiting Rumor Mill: 07.26.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 26th, 2010

This week’s action was mostly centered around Las Vegas (and we will certainly talk about Vegas), but there as always there was news from across the rest of the nation. Based on the way that these AAU tournaments run most of our “news” comes from tweets from courtside observers, but we do have a few articles sprinkled in here. If you have a hot recruiting tip or news that you want to share with us, e-mail us at rushthecourt@gmail.com.

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Morning Five: 07.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

  1. We’re starting to become concerned about the fall that Bob Huggins endured on Friday that sent him to the hospital with four broken ribs.  Initially it was believed that he would released on Saturday, but as of late Sunday night, Huggins was still being held in a Las Vegas hospital for observation purposes.  Doctors were apparently concerned about bone fragments that could cause other problems, and anyone who has had such an injury says that there is a great deal of pain while breathing.  Regardless, we hope that Huggins can get out of the hospital soon and resume his normal activities of recruiting, coaching and scowling at people.
  2. This article at Fanhouse argues that USC basketball got off fairly easy in light of the OJ Mayo scandal and the subsequent penalties (or lack thereof) handed down by the NCAA.  Um, we guess?  What seems to be missing in this analysis is that the athletic department unsuccessfully threw Trojan basketball to the wolves in an effort to save the football program from harsher sanctions.  But at least they were proactive in getting in front of the problems and making the organization think that they were serious about self-policing in at least one sport.  If USC had been as cooperative with punishing themselves over Reggie Bush’s indiscretions as they were with OJ Mayo, the gridiron Trojans may not be facing a two-year ban from the postseason.
  3. The Pac-10 coaches are discussing how the league plans to handle dividing up the new twelve team conference and everyone seemingly agrees on one thing — they don’t want to lose out on the fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California.  And with good reason, as the ten teams last year had 33 players from SoCal on their rosters, nearly 25% of the entire league’s cache.
  4. This article on Dan Beebe, the “Savior of the Big 12,” paints a much different picture than the one that was being bandied about when it appeared the implosion of that league was imminent.  A good lesson learned here.
  5. Former Oklahoma all-american and jazz musician Wayman Tisdale, who passed away from cancer in 2009, will be honored in perpetuity as the namesake for an award handed out by the USBWA to the top freshman player in America.  Given that nowadays the top rookie is often the best collegiate player in America as well (John Wall, Kevin Durant), this is a great way to remember the gentle giant from Tulsa.
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Bob Huggins Trips and Breaks Four Ribs

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2010

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins tripped over a coffee table and broke four ribs last night in his hotel room in Las Vegas.  As Gary Parrish first reported on Friday night, Huggins was taken to the hospital and treated with the expectation that he will be released today.  [Update: reports are that he will spend Saturday night in the hospital for further observation.]  The 56-year old coach had a heart attack some eight years ago, but the reports coming out on this story are that this accident had nothing to do with his ticker.

Who Was Huggs' Da'Sean Last Night?

Nevertheless, this incident is the second known situation in a span of just over two years where Huggins has lost his balance and fallen hard enough to be taken to the hospital.  In May 2008, the curmudgeonly coach tripped in the Charlotte airport, hitting his head on the pavement and causing a brief scare although he was ultimately fine.  We hesitate to fall back on the easy “What Happens in Vegas” joke, but considering how far Huggins has come since his DUI arrest in 2004, a little public scrutiny won’t hurt him.  For the sake of his personal and financial health (there is a substance abuse clause in his WVU contract), we hope that these incidents are the result of general clumsiness and nothing more sinister.    After all, given his redemption, we’re actually starting to like the guy.

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Anthony Davis Narrows It Down To 3 Schools

Posted by nvr1983 on July 23rd, 2010

Earlier this week we brought you a short feature on Anthony Davis, the star power forward recruit out of Chicago who has been lighting up the AAU summer circuit. With his rise up the recruiting rankings we expected the number of offers for Davis to be rising by the day. Instead, as Adam Zagoria reported earlier today, Davis has been narrowing down his list and after eliminating UNC from consideration the list stands at just three schools: Syracuse, Ohio State, and Kentucky. Although his father Anthony Davis Sr. states that his son “should have a decision hopefully soon” he adds that the family “doesn’t have a timetable.” So at this point we don’t know if Davis will commit before his senior season starts (Davis will reportedly take “a couple looks” at each of the three schools so don’t expect an announcement in the next week or two) or this could drag on to be another Terrence Jones situation. In any event, this announcement will only make college basketball fans salivate even more over the potential for Davis playing alongside Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, and Dion Waiters at Syracuse or alongside Jared Sullinger, William Buford, and Deshaun Thomas at Ohio State or alongside Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Terrence Jones at Kentucky when the 2011 NBA lockout happens.

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Dana O’Neil Opens Eyes With Poll of Coaches

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2010

As we mentioned in today’s Morning 5, Dana O’Neil’s enlightening piece exposing the raw perceptions that coaches have on their peers in the world of college basketball and the sport in general is fascinating stuff.  It’s obvious that she knew it too, as the bulk of the article was filled with direct quotes from anonymous high-major coaches telling the truth as they saw it.  There is a lot of meat to this article — numerous raise-your-eyebrow statements that had us questioning and hopeful for more.  So we thought it might be interesting to cherry-pick the nine quotes that we thought were the most compelling and do what we do (make inappropriate comments and wildly speculate about things).  Enjoy.

Dana O'Neil Sheds Light on Unseen Areas of the Game

Regarding fraternity among coaches:

“It’s sad,” another coach said. “I grew up in this game with an idea of what I thought it was or what I thought it should be. Now I see it’s not like that at all. You have low- to mid-major guys aspiring to move up who will do anything to get there and you have guys who, once they get used to a certain lifestyle, will do whatever it takes to keep it.  There’s less of a brotherhood here than there is in football and that bothers me,” another added. “We have more guys stabbing each other in the back or using you guys [the media] to go after their agenda. That’s a big problem.”

We found this quote somewhat surprising in that we figured that competition among football coaches would be even more intense given the structure of their system, where the pyramid is extremely top-heavy and the small schools have virtually no chance to get there. 

On gender roles:

Along with the coach who called the women, “the gestapettes,” another said, “If the NCAA was serious, they’d hire someone who knew what they were doing, not these women out here trying to get a husband.”

Sexist caveman coaches, for the win!  Dana must have especially enjoyed hearing those quotes as the only nationally-focused female college basketball writer of note in the industry.  Ridiculous, and we’d happily buy her a Cosmo if she would tell us who these cretins were (see what we did there?). 

On recruiting to name-brand schools:

Here’s what I think happens a lot — a team loses a kid to someone else and all of a sudden that someone else is cheating. Every time North Carolina loses a kid, someone else is cheating. It’s like there’s so much arrogance with them; they can’t believe someone would rather go somewhere else, so the other team has to be cheating.

We hear this from fans of the major schools (like UNC) all the time.  Seriously – ALL the time.  But it was enlightening to hear it coming from the coaching ranks as well.  We guess nobody is excused from the tendency to blame extraneous factors when things go wrong.  Not even coaches. 

On expense accounts:

One of my players [who left early for the draft] was working out with another top-five draft pick.  They got to talking and my kid said something about not having money or whatever on campus. The other kid said, ‘My coach set up expense accounts all over town for me. Yours didn’t?”

We discussed this one on the M5 and in the comments.  If we assume that the coach in question was talking about the most recent NBA Draft (fresh on his mind), then we’re talking about four schools here — Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse or Georgia Tech.  One commenter pointed out that DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors worked out together in New Jersey before the draft.  Connecting a few dots together, we can make some further assumptions about which school was setting up expense accounts and which school wasn’t.  Or, we could just admit that this is nothing more than rumor and means absolutely nothing. 

Regarding phone call violations: 

I get a kick out of the phone calls. Who gets caught with that anymore? It’s a joke. They’re out there catching the guy with the one phone. How about the guy with two and three bat phones?

This quote really makes the UConn assistant coaches and Kelvin Sampson look stupid, right?  Even low-level drug dealers and amateur terrorists  know that you should use burners for any illicit calls. 

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20 At The Top: Big East Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

There’s little doubt remaining that the Big East is the superpower college basketball league. When it’s pegged as the premiere conference prior to the season, it always seems to live up to the hype. When prognosticators predict its decline, it surprises us all and we’re left wondering why we underestimated the Big East again. Some team like Syracuse of last year emerges and elevates the conference to higher levels. Even with record-breaking seniors such as Scottie Reynolds, Luke Harangody and Da’Sean Butler moving on and lottery picks Wesley Johnson and Greg Monroe also departing, the Big East should be strong once again in 2010-11. The fight at the top will likely pit Villanova, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Syracuse and a sleeper that’s yet to be determined. As I did with the ACC and Big 12, here are your top 20 players heading into next season in what could be a guard-dominated Big East:

In a close race, Freeman is the best of the pack

1) Austin Freeman, Georgetown- I had a difficult time ranking the top six in this list before ultimately settling on Freeman at the top spot for a handful of reasons, notably perimeter shooting, efficiency and basketball IQ. He had the least question marks and negatives to his game than any of the other candidates. Freeman emerged as a sharpshooting weapon in Big East play for an up-and-down Hoyas team. Some may credit his career high three point percentage on defenses keying on Greg Monroe, but 44% is still a fantastic total even shooting alone in an open gym. Freeman utilizes his strong frame to fight around screens for open looks and possesses a picture perfect shooting stroke. One has to be intelligent on the basketball court if you want to play for John Thompson III; Freeman limits his turnovers and ranked near the top of the Big East in both offensive rating and efficient FG%.  Where Freeman can improve during his senior year is using that frame to be more aggressive to the rim. Shooting under 100 free throws on the season isn’t going to suffice with the Hoyas lean frontcourt depth. Having an entire summer to deal and manage with his diabetes- a possible factor for his fading down the stretch last season- will certainly help to a degree.

2) Corey Fisher, Villanova- It’s now Corey Fisher’s team at Villanova. With Scottie Reynolds’ decorated four seasons a thing of the past, Fisher will play the lead role in 2010-11 for Jay Wright. The expectation doesn’t change perennially for Wright-coached teams along the Main Line: contend for the Big East crown. Fisher is a tough kid from the Bronx that should be able to shoulder such pressure. The 6’1 speedster has improved through each of his three seasons in Philly, bumping his FG% up to a solid 45% clip as a junior, remaining dependable at the charity stripe and greatly increasing his three-point shooting to  nearly 40%. His floor skills and court vision also lead me to believe he can handle running the up-tempo Nova attack and he continues to be a headache to try to defend. His spot-up jump shooting has always been a strength and Fisher also features a series of tricky floaters, up-and-under moves in the paint and an impressive dribble-drive repertoire. The only caveat: a five-minute suspension in Villanova’s first round NCAA Tournament game last March does bring maturity into question.

3) Kevin Jones, West Virginia- Jones has come a long way from two summers ago when his home state Syracuse Orange wouldn’t even offer him a scholarship. Now faced with the departure of Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, Jones knows head coach Bob Huggins is expecting him to be the featured offensive threat for the Mountaineers. A tremendously hard worker on and off the floor, KJ improved his game in every capacity from his freshman to sophomore campaigns and was an under-appreciated player nationally during West Virginia’s Final Four run. He was a huge factor in WVU finishing second in the nation in offensive rebounding, upped his three point percentage from 21% to 40% and his PPG more than doubled as a result. The 6’8 power forward plays bigger with a lengthy wingspan and tremendous energy. His turnover rate is also very small for an underclassman. Jones may never become a star due to his dribble penetration limitations and inability to create his own shot consistently, but there’s two years left of eligibility at Morgantown for him to prove more critics wrong.

4) Kemba Walker, Connecticut- Lost in the tumultuous season in Storrs was the marked improvement in Walker’s overall floor game, erasing what was a fatal flaw and continuing to excel in other areas. Walker put in tons of work last summer boosting a weak outside jump shot and it paid off tremendously when practices turned into games. His jump shooting both outside and inside the arc transformed from a liability to one that opposing defenses had to respect. With Jerome Dyson no longer hogging the ball on the perimeter and taking ill-advised threes, Walker will have to learn to balance being the depended offensive weapon for the Huskies and also limiting poor shot selection that tends to show up on occasion. One area of his game that doesn’t slump is his quickness from baseline to baseline that would make Ty Lawson blush. His court vision and passing ability are also strengths; after all, he did average 5.1 APG on a Connecticut team that often struggled to score en route to the NIT last season. While his smaller stature does allow bigger guards more room to elevate over him for shots, Walker makes up for that with quick hands and feet on defense, always primed for a big steal and bucket on the other end in the blink of an eye.

5) Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame- The most dependable Irish player last season will have to do even more in a rebuilding 2010-11 with Luke Harangody, Ben Hansbrough and Tory Jackson all departing. Abromaitis was quietly one of the most efficient players in the nation as a junior, a season in which he really came out of nowhere after redshirting the prior year. His basic stats were more than solid: 16.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 50% FG, 87% FT, 43% 3pt. But what if I told you Abromaitis ranked second in the nation in offensive rating among players who used 20+ percent of his teams’ possessions? Or that he finished second in the Big East in efficient FG% and among the top echelon in turnover rate? While those stats could go down during his senior season while defenses key on him more often, don’t lie and tell me those numbers didn’t at least sort of shock you coming from Abromaitis. He’s under-appreciated nationally but primed to make more of a name for himself this upcoming season. His 3.7 GPA in finance and First Team Academic All-America honor means more to me than an underage drinking arrest from last weekend.

6) Kris Joseph, Syracuse- Joseph is a player I expect to take off this season and eventually become a first round pick, especially with Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins’ departures opening up plenty of opportunities to shine. Joseph’s minutes doubled as a sophomore and so did his production. The physical tools are evident, and if the athletic Montreal native just adds some more bulk this summer, he could be an effective weapon at either the 3 or 4 spots for Jim Boeheim next season. Joseph loves to face up and beat his defender off the dribble or pull up for a reliable foul line extended jumper, although his range doesn’t extend much further out towards the arc. That athleticism and impressive motor also leads to plenty of free throw opportunities and there’s no reason to believe Joseph can’t average close to 7-8 RPG in 32-34 MPG for the Orange in his junior season. Whether it’s Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Rick Jackson or one of the hyped freshman, someone must make a huge leap if ‘Cuse wants to repeat as regular season Big East champs. I’d put my money on Joseph.

Ashton Gibbs could be an all-Big East performer

7) Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh- There are flaws in Gibbs’ overall game: any time a guard averages 1.8 APG in just under 35 MPG, his skills as a distributor are probably not overwhelming. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon may have to play Travon Woodall at the point more often than he’d like this season because of that very fact. Gibbs’ defense also isn’t superb. But few in the country can get as hot as Gibbs scoring the basketball. Blessed with a quick release and unlimited range, Gibbs will be the #1 weapon on a balanced Pitt scoring attack in 2010-11. The most improved player in the conference last season, Gibbs has the offensive repertoire to score nearly 20 points per contest for the Panthers. His three-point percentage of 44% as a freshman is much more likely to be repeated than his 39% clip of his sophomore year. There’s no doubt Gibbs can light it up on occasion, but scoring efficiency, as well as improvements in other facets of his game, will be necessary for Pitt to reach their first Final Four since 1941.

8) Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall- Where to rank Jeremy Hazell was one of the biggest challenges I encountered making this list. I’ve seen him do some incredible things on the court, single handedly bringing the Pirates back from nearly insurmountable deficits when he finds the right shooting stroke. Averaging over 20 PPG in the Big East is nothing to sneeze at, even if that number is in large part a result of former coach Bobby Gonzalez’ high possession strategy. In a two game stretch against West Virginia and Syracuse last year, Hazell attempted 64 shots, so it’s fair to conclude he can win you games with his shot and lose you games at the same time. There’s seemingly no heat check for this senior. Hazell’s long wingspan and good hands make you think he could be a solid defender, but he often becomes lazy on that end. Hazell also needs to work on penetration and creating his own shot rather than relying on catch-and-shoot plays. He can become too predictable and easy to defend with such an unbalanced offensive game. Even if the defense picks up on that and he’s covered, it really doesn’t matter: Hazell will shoot anyway. Still, make no bones about it, his return to The Rock for a senior campaign gives new coach Kevin Willard a legitimate shot of dancing in March. He’s that explosive of a scorer.

9) Chris Wright, Georgetown- Wright and fellow Hoya Austin Freeman will form one of the best 1-2 backcourt punches in the nation next season. Fairly inconsistent for most of his junior season, Wright really turned on the jets in March, scoring in double figures every game and probably would have garnered Big East Tournament MVP honors had Da’Sean Butler not gone all Superman again. He was also the only one seemingly interested in preventing Georgetown from being embarrassed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Wright has a strong body and is a sneaky good athlete. His jumper has been just average throughout his Hoya career, but the solid mechanics gives evaluators hope it can drastically improve as a senior. Wright excels defensively, providing JTIII with max effort on every possession and is a reliable free throw shooter, an imperative strength for a point guard. The Hoyas won’t have much in the way of backcourt depth after Wright, Freeman and Jason Clark unless freshman Markel Starks makes an impact right away, so 35-37 MPG may be in the cards again for Wright.

10) Gus Gilchrist, South Florida- An ankle injury in mid-December derailed Gilchrist’s sophomore season, but prior to the injury there were few more productive big men in the conference. The inside force working alongside dynamite scorer Dominique Jones, Gilchrist scored 18 or more points and grabbed seven or more boards in six of the Bulls first eight games. Utilizing a huge 6’10, 235 pound frame to bully over defenders, containing Gilchrist was certainly a chore for his overwhelmed opponents. Still, it’s worth noting that none of those opponents reached the NCAA Tournament, and when Gilchrist did return from the injury in mid-February, his statistics dipped substantially against Big East foes save a 21/6 against woeful Providence. It’s far from a sure thing Gilchrist takes the Big East by storm as the number one option in Tampa. He absolutely has the capabilities, the body and the potential, though. Great size, toughness and physicality in the paint all help Gilchrist, but it’s rounding out his game with a  constantly improving shooting stroke that has USF fans drooling over what could be a breakout season.

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Morning Five: 07.23.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2010

  1. We hope to have more up on this later today, but this article by Dana O’Neil quoting prominent college coaches (anonymously, of course) about what is wrong with college basketball is reaching an epic level of buzz right now.  There is so much good material here that it’s difficult to pinpoint the best part, but one particular quote stuck out…  “One of my players [who left early for the draft] was working out with another top-five draft pick,” a coach said. “They got to talking and my kid said something about not having money or whatever on campus. The other kid said, ‘My coach set up expense accounts all over town for me. Yours didn’t?” If we assume that the coach is referring to the 2009-10 season, he’s got to be talking about Kentucky, Ohio State, Georgia Tech or Syracuse, right?  Who is your money on?
  2. Luke Winn gets all the tough assignments.  This week he’s reporting back the Alps of Austria with the twenty NCAA players who performed the best in the European Under-20 Championships.  Ok, maybe he wasn’t actually there (we have no idea, actually), but he still comes up with a good list.   Leading the way is… say it with us, now…  Arizona’s Kyryl Natyazhko from the Ukraine.  The 6’11 rising sophomore averaged 17/8 in the tournament, which is great news for Sean Miller’s team as they bring back a deep front line with Derrick Williams, Jamelle Horne and Solomon Hill.  Natyazhko only played eleven minutes per game last year, but with numbers like that, there are signs that he could have a breakout year in the desert in 10-11.
  3. In this article, Seth Greenberg comments on the First Four expansion of the NCAA Tournament, which some folks are humorously calling the Virginia Tech Invitational.  You have to figure that the Hokies would have gotten a bid in two of the last three seasons had there been a 68-team field, so there’s probably some truth to that quip.
  4. Rob Harrington of USA Today takes a look at the summer recruiting circuit to see what themes have emerged as Las Vegas gears up with over 600 AAU teams in town for its various events this weekend.  A quick primer — Michael Gilchrist is still #1, there has been no apparent “Butler Effect,” and players are milking the process to announce in made-for-tv style events.
  5. CBS Sportsline is doing an interesting piece called the Flourishing Five to while away the summer months where they break down the top five college programs in America who are at the top of the heap in both basketball and football.  Their #5 choice is Pittsburgh, an interesting one to say the least.  The obvious choices for the top two are Texas and Ohio State, but who are the others?  Florida has to be considered among the top four, but the other one is a bit perplexing.  Would UNC be an option with Butch Davis now at the helm in football?  How about Wisconsin with Bo Ryan and Bret Bielema getting it done?  The top four should be released over the next couple of weeks.
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Tubby Tattles; Memphis Reports Pastner Violation

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

Today Josh Pastner probably feels a little like we do when our mother-in-law catches us glancing at another woman other than our wife.  We know that nothing good will ever come of this, and yet, we also know that there’s about a 99.9999% chance that it will come up ‘accidentally’ in a later mother-daughter conversation with said wife.  So what can you do?  You stew for a while in the hopes that the 0.0001% comes in, only to overhear MiL-so-dear talking to her own mother on the phone about how inconsiderate and horrible of a person/husband you must be, so you decide to take matters into your own hands by telling your spouse before she can get to her.  It doesn’t always work out well — a stern glare, a few harsh words, and another lost chip at the bargaining table — but you take your medicine and slink back to your nesting hole, tail tucked and defeated. 

Part of the Learning Curve for Pastner

Last week Pastner was in Minneapolis on a recruiting trip when he became aware that Golden Gopher forward/headache Trevor Mbakwe was playing in a summer pro-am nearby.  Memphis is recruiting Mbakwe after he was forced to sit out all of 2009-10 at Minnesota due to an assault charge he is facing from his freshman season at Miami-Dade CC, so Pastner went to the gym to watch him play.  Since Mbakwe is still officially on scholarship at Minnesota (he is asking for a release) and the pro-am was an uncertified event, Pastner was in violation of NCAA rules in watching him perform.  In a story from the Pioneer Press on Wednesday, Tubby Smith became aware of this violation, and, still hoping to get Mbakwe to play for him next year, threw young Pastner (who has a reputation for aggresive recruiting)  under the bus

“I think they probably misunderstood what the rules were,” Smith said Tuesday. “It might have been miscommunication or something. I don’t know.”

Memphis responded today that the athletic department has already contacted Conference USA and the NCAA about the violation, and that Pastner was completely guiltless in this matter.  The Tiger storyline is that a compliance officer in the UM athletic department approved Pastner’s appearance at the event, and that she had misinterpreted the rules in this case.  Nicole Green was named by Memphis as the party at fault, and color us skeptical, but if a person with several years of experience in compliance makes that kind of mistake, then she is either: a) incompetent, or b) the fall gal.  Either way, Memphis and Josh Pastner probably should look into shoring up that compliance department because the Tigers cannot afford to lose out on talents like Mbakwe over silly violations like this. 

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