Morning Five: 08.19.11 EditionPosted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2011
- It’s official. USC point guard and best returning player Jio Fontan will miss the entire 2011-12 season with a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during an exhibition game in Brazil earlier this week. Fontan was flown back to the US for an MRI, but word leaking out of the USC camp all week indicated that this was a rather concerning injury rather than a simple sprain. Fontan was to be the Trojans’ only returning starter from a team that snuck into the NCAA Tournament as a member of the inaugural First Four, and as the captain and floor leader, he was going to be relied upon to shoulder much of the responsibility in leading a young team. Head coach Kevin O’Neill will now have to hope that incoming freshman guard Alexis Moore, a three-star player from nearby Long Beach, will be up to the task. The only possible silver lining Trojan fans can draw from this is that next year’s team will develop considerable experience on the fly so that when Fontan hopefully returns in 2012-13, USC will be in a much better position to make another run at the postseason.
- Duke’s next great freshman made his debut in China this week during the Blue Devils’ exhibition tour, and although he did not manage to get into a chair-throwing brawl, he had his ups and downs. In two exhibitions against the Chinese junior national team, Austin Rivers had 18 points (8-15 FG) and five assists in a 77-64 victory Wednesday, followed by a 12-point (5-16 FG), seven-turnover performance in a 76-66 victory on Thursday. Duke won both games despite a herculean effort on the part of the Chinese referees (yes, we may have discovered the one place in the world…) — in their two games, China shot 72 free throws to a Duke total of 25, nearly a 3:1 ratio (you may recall that Georgetown got a little perturbed by a similar officiating pattern in its game on Wednesday). Notwithstanding the choppy play of Rivers, it has been Duke’s junior forward, Ryan Kelly, who has looked fantastic thus far. Kelly has averaged 17/11 while shooting a scorching 75% from the floor in the two games. Considering that China has significant size in its lineup and that the frontcourt represents Mike Krzyzewski’s greatest area of concern heading into next season, Kelly’s play is tremendous news for Duke fans worldwide.
- Villanova rising junior and team captain Isaiah Armwood announced on Thursday that he will be transferring out of the program. Although he started in every game on VU’s recent exhibition trip to Europe and is considered a key “heart and soul” type of player, it didn’t appear that the minutes were going to be there for him in a crowded frontcourt next season. The Wildcats return an improved Mouphtau Yarou and adds freshmen Markus Kennedy and JayVaughn Pinkston (back from suspension), so Armwood perhaps saw the writing on the wall in deciding to leave. He will have two years of eligibility remaining and is reportedly looking at schools such as Maryland, George Washington, Iowa and Texas Tech. Armwood hails from the Baltimore/DC corridor and has ties to former VU assistant coaches now at Iowa and TTU.
- Thursday the MAC announced that it would be changing its 2012 MAC Tournament format to give its two best teams byes to the conference tourney semifinals in the hopes that one of its best teams will ultimately win the league and represent itself well in the NCAA Tournament. This mirrors what the Horizon League has done for the better part of a decade, and although there’s no Butler in the MAC, five of the last seven MAC Tournament champions were seeded #4 or worse coming into the postseason. The new format will give the top two seeds a significantly greater chance of winning the coveted automatic bid, and presumably, a better chance to do some damage in the NCAAs (although #9 seed Ohio still says hello, Georgetown). We’re on board with this idea in principle — whatever these smaller conferences can do to make the regular season more meaningful is a good thing from our view.
- The Lapchick Character Award is given annually to coaches who “have shown the characterand coaching ability of [St. John’s and New York Knicks head coach] Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick.” This year’s trio is no exception, and well known to students of the game: former Princeton legend Pete Carril, former Mt. St. Mary’s head coach Jim Phelan, and former Virginia women’s head coach Debbie Ryan. The three will be honored at a ceremony on November 17 at Madison Square Garden during the 2kSports Classic (of which St. John’s is a participant). They collectively won over 2,000 games — Phelan, 814; Ryan, 739; Carril, 514 — and never ran afoul of any ethical behavior over their many years of coaching. A deserving honor to three tremendous coaches.