ACC Team Previews: Virginia Tech

Posted by KCarpenter on October 31st, 2011

For what it’s worth, I think Virginia Tech should have made the NCAA Tournament last season. I have a hard time believing that this team was worse than Villanova, Marquette, or Missouri, to name a few of the other power conference teams that got the bubble nod while Virginia Tech was overlooked once again. I understand the case for those teams, but believe me when I say that last year’s Hokies were a tough, resilient team stocked with great players. Malcolm Delaney was a great basketball talent and his fellow seniors, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell were all excellent starters for Seth Greenberg.  Despite all the injuries that this team suffered, his core held strong and led Virginia Tech to repeatedly strong conference showings. These guys are now gone and a new era of basketball in Blacksburg begins.

Seth Greenberg Will Have To Rebuild The Hokies Now That The Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen Era Has Ended

A few holdovers remain, though, and that continuity will be important for what promises to be a relatively inexperienced team. Starters Erick Green, along with seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila will have to be strong leaders on a team that is in transition. Despite the graduation of the legendary senior class, the transfer of the surprising Hokies’ leader in offensive efficiency, Manny Atkins, and the loss of Alan Chaney because of concerns about the promising big man’s heart condition, there is a real case to be made that Virginia Tech is gaining more than it’s losing. With contributors like Hudson and J. T. Thompson returning from injury, VT is regaining a guy who averaged 15.2 points per game and once scored 41 against a hapless Seton Hall team as their sixth man. As big as that will be for the Hokies in 2011-12, the real story for this team is its freshman class.

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SEC Morning Five: 10.31.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 31st, 2011

  1. On this All Hallows’ Eve, Southeastern Conference teams prepare to survive yet another season where they are removed one-by-one from NCAA and SEC title contention in horror-movie style. Typically Auburn is the first victim, going missing early in the season and then tripping up other SEC Survivors late in the season. To avoid a similar fate head coach Tony Barbee will need to find more offensive production. Returning junior guard Frankie Sullivan from injury last season is a good start. Sullivan averaged 12.7 PPG when he was healthy during the 2009-10 season. Sullivan will be paired up with sophomore guard Varez Ward, who scored 18 points in an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Sullivan and Ward, a transfer from Texas who recovered from a ruptured right quadriceps tendon last season, must be two of the Tiger heroes that can last until the climax of the season to give Auburn a fighting chance.
  2. Alabama also didn’t survive to the NCAA Tournament last season. The Crimson Tide spent most of the conference schedule fighting off mortal wounds inflicted upon themselves with some terrible non-conference losses in November 2010 and a weak non-conference schedule overall. (Losing to Saint Peter’s is like the horror-movie hero running from the villain only to impale himself on a pitchfork.) This season’s non-conference schedule is improved; but to truly survive Anthony Grant’s team will need production from its newest members, including freshman phenom Trevor Lacey, to provide much-needed perimeter scoring and fill other roles.
  3. LSU is also piecing together the right combination of players and coaching in order to survive the SEC and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. The Bayou Bengals have a more talented roster, including freshman forward and McDonald’s All-American Johnny O’Bryant to provide immediate playmaking. LSU coach Trent Johnson has apparently found some improvement for himself when reflecting on last year’s team. In SEC Basketball Media days, Johnson admitted, “last year with some injuries there were some games that got away from us. And I thought that it wasn’t them; I suppose it was me.” The coach compared this season’s team favorably to his 2008-09 NCAA Tournament squad. Perhaps with a clear heart Johnson and his Tigers can replicate the success they’ve had in previous versions of the SEC Horror Picture Show.
  4. Florida coach Billy Donovan is doing the time-warp again! Donovan is the SEC’s longest-tenured coach starting his 15th season. (Check out Alligator Army’s 15-for-15 season-preview series written in honor of the Gator coach.) The coach recently reflected on his tenure for reporters, including sharing his reasoning on turning down a second round of interest from SEC East rival Kentucky in 2009.
  5. Speaking of Kentucky, freshman forward Anthony Davis says “OOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!”

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ACC Morning Five: 10.31.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 31st, 2011

  1. Miami Herald: In our ironic post of the day a Miami Herald op-ed contributor took the NCAA to task for its recent proposal to grant an optional extra $2,000 for cost of attendance. Best quote: “Why should the University of Miami not have the power to provide whatever amount of money required to get a commitment from that player?” Well, Miami did (allegedly) provide money, parties and just about everything else for its recruits (and student-athletes) thanks to former booster Nevin Shapiro. Even as I jest though, Darren Heitner’s opinion is an important one. He’s a lawyer and professor at Indiana University. This article is far from the only one of its kind. The cost of attendance scholarships are only a drop in the bucket.
  2. ACC Sports Journal: Dan Wiederer presents his recap of North Carolina‘s turnaround in the middle of last season starting right after the Tar Heels were blown out by Georgia Tech. It’s easy to forget how much last year’s team struggled to start the season. Even after the Georgia Tech debacle, UNC looked like it was going to be blown out by Miami before a steady run brought them close enough for Harrison Barnes to knock down the first of his clutch shots for the win. Wiederer presents the story chronologically, looking at game performances and giving some additional insight into the sudden departure of Larry Drew II. Both parts are a must-read.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Bad news for NC State. Wolfpack guard and only returning senior CJ Williams is out indefinitely with a hairline fracture in his left thumb. Mark Gottfried projected Williams as a starter and a double-figure scorer for NC State this season. Williams is lucky, though, in that the injury is to his off-hand, which should allow him to return sooner than if it was on his strong hand.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Maryland has an army of five walk-ons this season thanks to a depleted roster. That doesn’t even count John Auslander, who walked on last season but received a scholarship from Mark Turgeon this year. The story also profiles walk-ons Spencer Barks and Jonathon Thomas. Right now it sounds like the non-scholarship players are mainly for bodies in practice in the like, but Turgeon isn’t opposed to playing some of them a few minutes if needed.
  5. Charlotte Observer: Duke and North Carolina got their exhibition games going over the weekend with the Tar Heels taking care of UNC Pembroke, 102-58, and the Blue Devils pulling away from a pesky Bellarmine team, 87-62. UNC Pembroke stuck with the top-ranked squad from Chapel Hill until the end of the first half before giving up a 14-0 run, and North Carolina never looked back. Duke had a little more trouble with D-II National Champion Bellarmine, and the youth of the team showed in its turnovers. Duke committed 20 turnovers on the evening and didn’t open up a sizable lead until the second half. I’ll say it now: this team is very inexperienced.

Picture of the Day: In honor of Halloween, here’s a Duke jack o’ lantern (h/t @DarrenRovell)

Happy Halloween!

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Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2011

  1. As we’re now officially only one week from the first real games on November 7, practices have moved from the getting-to-know-you phase to setting of pecking orders and definition of roles. Unfortunately, one of the side products of two weeks of full-on practice is injuries, and a few notable names have already gotten banged up in the last few days.  Louisville freshman Wayne Blackshear will miss the entire season after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder; he had already missed most of the summer with an unrelated left shoulder injury and had only been cleared to return to practice just last week.  The McDonald’s All-American was expected to help the Cards supplant the loss of Preston Knowles’ scoring abilities, as Blackshear is an impact scorer from the wing. With all of the walking wounded on Rick Pitino’s team these days — Rakeem Buckles, Stephan Van Treese, and Jared Swopshire have all had injury issues — you have to wonder if the Cardinals will be able to field a complete team this year.
  2. In other injury news, Vanderbilt All-American candidate Festus Ezeli gave Commodore fans a fright last week when it was reported that the center sprained the MCL and PCL ligaments in his right knee and will require six to eight weeks for its rehabilitation. As we noted on the SEC microsite Friday, Ezeli’s absence from the Vandy lineup will force head coach Kevin Stallings to trust in his backups, senior Steve Tchiengang or redshirt freshman Josh Henderson, neither of whom have the athletic ability nor experience that the all-SEC player brings to the post.  In news considerably less consequential, Connecticut superstar freshman Andre Drummond received a concussion and a broken nose in practice on Friday that will likely keep him out of this week’s exhibition game against American International College. Drummond isn’t expected to miss more time than that, but he will have to wear one of those protective plastic face masks for the next six to eight weeks as his nose heals.  It’s already difficult enough for a freshman to become accustomed to the speed and athleticism of college basketball; it’ll be interesting to see how wearing that annoying mask might impact Drummond’s play in the early going this season.
  3. While on the topic of UConn, the NCAA officially announced late last week that schools wishing to play in the 2013 NCAA Tournament will need to meet a two-year APR threshold of 900, or a four-year APR threshold of 930, in order to qualify. A university source told CBSSports.com that the school’s men’s basketball APR score for 2010-11 is expected to be approximately 975, which when averaged with 2009-10′s 826, will not be good enough (900.5). The four-year rolling average (888.5) would also come up short, which begs the question as to whether the NCAA will stick to its guns by keeping one of the sports’ marquee programs out of the Dance in 2013, or whether it will allow the Huskies a waiver opportunity by virtue of it showing ‘improvement’ or some other remedial measure.
  4. Late last week California head coach Mike Montgomery revealed that the surgical procedure he underwent recently was because of ‘high-grade bladder cancer’ and that he’s now 100% free of the disease. The 64-year old coach told assembled media in Los Angeles on Friday at the Pac-12′s Media Days that his doctors found the disease at the perfect moment to ascertain its danger and treat it before it got out of control.  With Montgomery bringing back perhaps his best team to Berkeley this season, we certainly hope that the irascible coach continues on a path of sustained wellness and remission from cancer so that he can concentrate on hardwood and basketballs rather than hospitals and bedpans.
  5. We plan on having more on this later today on the Big 12 microsite, but if you stumbled across ESPNU yesterday during your NFL Sunday, you may have been surprised to find Missouri playing something called Missouri Southern on that channel.  The One State, One Spirit Classic took place yesterday evening in Joplin, Missouri, site of Missouri Southern State University and ground zero of a deadly F5 tornado that rocked the town on the late afternoon of May 22 earlier this year. Over 150 people were killed and hundreds of Joplin homes and businesses were decimated that day, so Sunday’s exhibition game between the state’s flagship program and the local D-II school embodied the spirit of Show-Me Staters in an outpouring of support that will never be forgotten.  ESPN’s Dana O’Neil interviewed MSSU player Jordan Talbert about his reflections on that horrifying day (linked here because ESPN thought that the giant logo on the microphone didn’t identify who made the video clip clearly enough).
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Kansas Suspensions Raise Additional Questions About The Jayhawks

Posted by nvr1983 on October 30th, 2011

To most people today’s decision by Bill Self to suspend Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson for the team’s two exhibition games would seem to be a non-issue as the games do not really count and even if Kansas were to lose one or both of those games it would not mean much in the grand scheme of things as the recent past has shown us. Self even tried to pass off the suspensions as not worth discussing when he issued the following statement:

Tyshawn and Elijah have both been terrific since school began in August. They’ve not only performed well, they have been very responsible and disciplined the first few months of the school year. But during the offseason they violated a rule that I told them, because of some past experiences, their punishment was going to be severe and I was going to hold them out of the two exhibition games. They have been aware of this for several months and also are disappointed, but have had very positive attitudes about it. I will not comment about this further. Losing two players and Thomas being questionable for Tuesday’s game probably changes the look of our team as much as anyone in the country. This gives a chance for our young guys to play under the lights and see how they react.

Do You Trust This Man To Lead Your Team?

The fact that two upperclassman (a senior and a junior, respectively) on a young team would break rules that would merit a suspension raises larger questions for the Jayhawks this season. Coming into the season, many analysts questioned whether the Jayhawks could continue their dominance over the Big 12 despite losing most of their scoring from last season particularly when they lost several highly touted members of their freshman class due to NCAA Clearinghouse issues, but in the end the general consensus is that Kansas has a solid chance of winning the conference again due to a combination of solid veteran play (specifically Taylor and Thomas Robinson), Self’s coaching, and weakened competition within the conference. While the last two are still valid reasons, we have to question the leadership within the team. Self continues to talk to the team and media about instilling discipline, but when Taylor, who has had this fair share of run-ins with the law (point plankn, anyone?), is one of your leaders we would have serious concerns about your team. We might have been able to excuse Taylor for his idiotic behavior (and typos) if that had been an isolated event, but there was also a much less publicized incident last season that resulted in a brief suspension.

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20 Questions: Which Non-BCS League Will Be the Best This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the Pac-12 and Mountain West correspondent for RTC and a microsite writer. You can find him on Twitter @amurawa.

Question: Which Non-BCS League Will Be the Best This Season?

In each of the past four years, the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley Conference have all been ranked by Ken Pomeroy somewhere between the seventh- and tenth-best conferences in the nation. Going back nine years, at least three of those conferences have been among the top ten conferences in the nation every season, and no other non-BCS conference outside of these four has rated higher than ninth in that span. Now, as good as the Colonial may be this year, as good as the West Coast Conference or even the MAAC may be this season, I’m willing to wager that this year will be no different. One of the MW, the A-10, the MVC or C-USA will be the best non-power conference this season.

The Mountain West Will Take a Step Back With Losses of SDSU Stars (and BYU)

Further, I’ll be willing to wager that the Mountain West, a conference that has only once in that span ranked lower than eighth, will not be the best of those conferences this season. Last year as it rode BYU and San Diego State (not to mention UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico), it was almost unquestionably the best non-power conference. But, gone are Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard. And in fact, BYU is gone altogether, as is Utah. UNLV and New Mexico return, and both of them will be very good, but SDSU will take a big step back this season, Colorado State looks to be ordinary, and the rest of the conference ranges from unspectacular to bad.

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RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can find him on Twitter @vbtnBlog.

Reader’s Take I

The A-10 has earned three invitations to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. Xavier and Temple, as they have for the past two seasons, will claim two bids.


Top Storylines

Xavier's Tu Holloway Is A First-Team All-American Candidate And One Of The Nation's Best Seniors

  • A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
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Big 12 Preseason Podcast: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 29th, 2011

Less than a month into the Big 12 microsite, you’re probably already tired of reading myself and Clark Williams ramble about realignment, injuries and a host of other topics.

Get Yourself a Listening Device and Join Us!

Well, we’ve got good news for you: now, our ramblings will now appear on a weekly podcast. This week, Clark and I informally discuss the preseason expectations of each team in the Big 12, and we air out our disagreements over Baylor‘s prospects this season. Unfortunately, we’re pretty cordial with each other. So if you think you’re about to listen to Crossfire, think again.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #8 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#8 – Where Get On That Floor Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC

Posted by AMurawa on October 28th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

USC Trojans

Strengths.  Defense. In Kevin O’Neill’s first two years at USC, his teams have ranked 2nd and 28th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. While the Trojans will not look like what O’Neill expected them to look like even a few months ago, you can expect them to be similarly stingy on the defensive end. With 7’0” sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon an intimidating shot-blocking presence inside, O’Neill could play 7’1” James Blasczyk alongside him and Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller, an athletic combo forward who is capable of guarding multiple positions, at the three. And freshman wing Byron Wesley could be the Trojans’ defensive specialist for years to come. And while 5’7” point Maurice Jones is capable of being taken advantage of in the halfcourt, he’ll cause his share of problems for opposing ballhandlers in the open floor.

Weaknesses. If defense is the strength, is it too broad to say that offense will be this team’s weakness? Well, it will be. With senior point guard Jio Fontan out for the season with a torn ACL, the Trojans are left with no one who is an obvious choice as a go-to scorer. Jones is lightning quick and a streaky shooter, but no one expects him to carry this offense. Freshman guard Alexis Moore will play alongside Jones, and while he is a natural scorer, he could stand to work on his jumper and his shot selection. And Fuller, although a versatile forward, gets by more on grit and toughness than a refined offensive game. It seems like every offensive possession could be a struggle for the Trojans.

Maurice Jones

Maurice Jones May Be Small In Stature, But He'll Need To Be Big For The Trojans

Nonconference Tests.  USC plays in the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend for the first big tests of their season, when they face UNLV in the opening round before playing either South Carolina or preseason #1 North Carolina in the second round. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier from there as they travel to Minnesota early in December before hosting New Mexico, Georgia and Kansas at the Galen Center throughout the month.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  It’s a brutal end to the season for USC. They host California and Stanford early in February, then play three straight road games against UCLA (although that “road” game is literally just down the road from USC’s campus) and the Arizona schools, before wrapping up the season with the Washington schools visiting Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

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The AP Preseason Poll: North Carolina #1 On All But Three Ballots

Posted by KCarpenter on October 28th, 2011

The first AP poll repeats the refrain of the offseason: North Carolina is the best team in the country. Amassing 62 out 65 first-place votes, the Tar Heels ran away from the rest of the field. This is no surprise and pretty much matches what the coaches thought last week. Like in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, Kentucky came in second with Ohio State and Connecticut not far behind. One first place vote went to the Buckeyes and two more to the Huskies, with the Wildcats getting no votes at the top spot. While that’s a slight difference from the coaches poll where Kentucky got the only non-UNC vote, it pretty much lines up with the conventional wisdom: Going into the season, there are four clear top tier teams, with the debate being over who goes in slots two through four. While guessing which writers submitted the minority reports favoring Connecticut and Ohio State is an entertaining game, the AP is happy to spoil that fun by posting the voters and their ballots online.

As for the rest of the ACC, Duke comes in at sixth, the same as in the coaches poll. Contributing to this mounting sense of déjà vu, Florida State once again finishes just outside the top twenty-five at the the twenty-sixth spot. Virginia, despite receiving a vote or two in the coaches poll, doesn’t get any love from the AP’s panel. Interestingly enough, the only other team to receive votes outside of last year’s top three finishers is Miami, a team that is returning a lot of highly skilled players and deserves a little more love than it’s been getting. In any case, the preseason is winding down and this poll will soon be forgotten as actual basketball games take the place of educated guesswork. I don’t know if that’s any consolation to an overlooked team like UVA, but it’s something.

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Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli Sprains MCL & PCL

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 28th, 2011

Vanderbilt’s hopes to challenge for a high NCAA Tournament seed have become a little more complicated. Senior center Festus Ezeli sprained the MCL and PCL ligaments in his right knee during Tuesday’s practice. Luckily for the preseason All-SEC Second-Teamer, the injury does not require surgery and he should return within six to eight weeks.

We Hear Ya, Big Man. Get Better Soon.

Senior forward Steve Tchiengang will likely replace Ezeli as the starting center. Redshirt freshman Josh Henderson was already planning to see more action due to Ezeli’s NCAA-mandated six-game suspension for ineligible benefits. Now Tchingang and Henderson will need to extend their roles through nearly every significant non-conference game for the Commodores: November 21 vs. either Texas or Oregon State in the TicketCity Legends Classic Finals; November 28 vs. Xavier featuring the recently reinstated 7-footer Kenny Frease; and December 2 at Louisville where Ezeli was expected to be productive against Cardinal centers Gorgui Dieng and Stephan Van Treese.

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