Big 12 Weekend Primer: New Years Weekend

Posted by dnspewak on December 30th, 2011

With holiday bowl games and a national showdown between Louisville and Kentucky on New Year’s Eve, there’s not a whole lot of Big 12 basketball to talk about this weekend. But six league teams will still compete during the next two days, and most notably, undefeated Missouri will hit the road for the first time in 2011-12. And if you’re not interested in watching John Calipari and Rick Pitino scream at each other for 40 minutes on CBS this Saturday, Oklahoma State will host Virginia Tech on ESPN2 during the same time slot.

  • Missouri (12-0) at Old Dominion (6-6), Friday 6 PM CT (ESPN2)

Kim English and the Tigers Still Need to Prove They Can Win on the Road

Eight days ago, Missouri showed its human side for the first time this season. After obliterating the likes of Notre Dame, California and Villanova, the Tigers nearly blew a double-digit lead to Illinois in the second half before recovering for a 78-74 victory in the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. That second half stretch, which featured poor passing, forced shots and turnovers by every player on the floor, marked the first time Missouri had ever looked rattled in a basketball game this season. Though half of the arena was wearing black and gold, the Illinois crowd came alive late in that game, and it was the Tigers’ first experience in a hostile environment. For a team that finished 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year, this is the last major concern for Frank Haith to tackle: Can his team win on the road? Old Dominion may be 6-6, but don’t write this off as a down year for Blaine Taylor‘s program. For the uneducated basketball fan, losses to Northern Iowa, Vermont, Fairfield, UCF and Richmond may not look very good, but we know better than that. All six losses for ODU (also including Kentucky) have come against league front-runners with at least outside shots to win their respective conferences. Hosting one of its most important non-conference games in recent memory, Missouri will have to deal with a rowdy and electric crowd in Norfolk. Yes, the Tigers are much quicker, and they obviously have much better guards. There’s a reason Mizzou blasted an even stronger Old Dominion team in Columbia last season. It’s a new season, though, and again, Missouri has no reason to be confident in a road setting until it proves it is not the same team as 2010-11. The formula for an upset here is simple: The Monarchs need to slow the tempo and let their defense go to work. Kent Bazemore is arguably the best defender in college basketball, so expect him to hound Marcus Denmon all night, and ODU has a couple of decent shotblockers in Nick Wright and Chris Cooper. ODU isn’t nearly as big or physical as it was a year ago, but it is still a sound rebounding team that won’t let MU get many second chances. This is a Blaine Taylor team we’re talking about here, after all. If Missouri stays hot from the perimeter, it won’t need to dominate the boards to win. Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon need to initiate the offense like they did in the first half against Illinois, as opposed to that disastrous second-half stretch. If that happens, the looks will be there for Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe.

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Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the official RTC Star System.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 30th, 2011

  1. Opening night in conference play was an exciting one, so let’s jump right into it with the game of the night, where Stanford held off UCLA, needing a Josh Huestis block of an attempt by Lazeric Jones to preserve a 60-59 victory. After giving up the first four points of the game, Stanford bounced back with a 15-2 run and never again trailed, although UCLA had multiple attempts to regain the lead in the second half. Jones led the charge for the Bruins, reeling off a career-high 26 points, but it was a couple of threes by Stanford freshman Chasson Randle wrapped around another three by sophomore Anthony Brown that broke a late tie and gave Stanford a five-point lead with five minutes to play. Randle had struggled on the night, hitting just one of his ten other attempts from the field and getting exposed on the UCLA pick and roll throughout the evening, but came up big down the stretch. Prior to the game, Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins announced that junior guard Gabe Harris would miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his injured right knee. Harris had been averaging over 13 minutes per game off the bench.
  2. Up the road a stretch, California had to withstand a late charge from Maurice Jones and USC to pull out a four-point win. Jones hit three 3-pointers in the final four and a half minutes to bring the Trojans back from a 16-point deficit, and were right there, just a point back with the clock running down when Trojan sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon swatted Jorge Gutierrez’s layup attempt. However, the ball wound up in the hands of Allen Crabbe who, in his own words, “just threw it up” from behind the three-point line and was fouled by little-used Eric Stangis. Crabbe hit all three free throws and the Bears escaped. If there was ever a game for Gutierrez to shine in, it was this gritty, hard-fought game, and he certainly stood out, leading his team with 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and four steals. However, his uncharacteristic two-of-seven night from the line was crucial in keeping USC in the game. Even more concerning for Mike Montgomery was his team getting absolutely crushed on the glass, allowing USC to grab 50% of the available offensive rebounds and 74.1% of the defensive rebounds. As expected, sophomore forward Richard Solomon did not play for Cal due to a stress fracture in his foot.
  3. Things were significantly less dramatic in the state of Washington last night, although for a brief moment it looked like Oregon State was on its way back from a 20-point deficit to make the Huskies sweat a bit down the stretch. After a wild Ahmad Starks three-pointer brought back to within 83-80, U-Dub closed the game on a 12-0 run to finish off the Beavers. The big story in the game was the played of Husky freshman guard Tony Wroten, who had 26 efficient points on 10-16 shooting, nine rebounds, four assists, just two turnovers, and hit five of his seven free throw attempts. While Wroten has now scored 20 or more in four of his last five games, this was far and away his best game in a young career. Lorenzo Romar also got significant production from the rest of his roster, with five other players – including sophomore wing C.J. Wilcox, who came off the bench for the first time this season – scoring in double figures.
  4. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night in the conference was Oregon going into Spokane and taking apart Washington State, ending the Cougars six-game winning streak in spectacular fashion. While senior forward Olu Ashaolu gets the honorifics after scoring 23 points and grabbing ten rebounds, it was a total team effort for the Ducks, as they shot a ridiculous 78.6 eFG% and controlled the glass. As Craig Powers at CougCenter points out, Oregon scored about 1.31 points per possession on the night, a number that is a bit out of whack since the Ducks spent the last several minutes trying to run out the clock. In the first half, OU scored almost 1.8 points per possession. There’s a long way to go in the season, but this had to be a concerning outing for Washington State head coach Ken Bone.
  5. When Utah tips off its first conference game in the Pac-12 on Saturday at Colorado, it will do so without senior guard Chris Hines. Hines broke his left thumb three weeks ago against BYU, and has been playing through the injury for the Utes last three games (including its only two wins of the season), but head coach Larry Krystkowiak says he can barely even catch the ball, so Hines will sit for the time being. Unfortunately for the under-talented Utes, Hines’ backups are banged up as well, as walk-on Alex Mortenson is out after suffering a concussion in practice this week and junior Cedric Martin has been struggling with plantar fasciitis this week and will be a game-time decision on Saturday.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 30th, 2011

  1. As a walk-on for more than two years, Bubu Palo has been a bargain for Iowa State. Palo emerged as a reliable backup point guard, and it’s not a stretch to say he may be the most underrated role player in the league. Thanks to those contributors, the Cyclones have placed Palo on scholarship, and we can’t think of a more rewarding late holiday present. Palo, who grew up in Ames, learned after the end of the fall semester that he won’t have to pay for school this spring. So far, he’s averaging more than two assists per game in 2011-12, and he’s also a tenacious defender with a knack for doing the little things on the court. That sounds like a scholarship player to us.
  2. Jeff Goodman at CBS wrote this recap of the Big 12 season so far to prepare us for conference play next week. Interestingly, he chose Baylor above Missouri, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that the Tigers have been the trendy pick in the media to win this conference. Right now, it does at least look like a three-team race between BU, MU and Kansas, though it’s impossible to tell how the year will shake out. Texas A&M has struggled even since Khris Middleton returned, but Billy Kennedy should eventually get things rolling in College Station.
  3. Frank Martin is always great for a sound bite. This time, he made some interesting comments about his team’s offensive play, and he’s actually quite pleased with the way this team has scored. “I get a kick when I read people saying we play bad offense and we’re averaging almost 80 points a game. If we play good offense, how much would we score?” You heard the man: Kansas State can score this year. It’s not just a defensive stalwart. Rodney McGruder is a full-fledged star scorer, and Will Spradling has been the answer at the point. The Wildcats have a ton of different offensive options both in the starting lineup and on the bench, so it’d be a mistake to label this team as a gritty, offensively-challenged group.
  4. With Indiana and Louisville both losing this week, Missouri is now one of just four unbeaten teams in Division I basketball. How much does that mean exactly? Well, it means almost nothing at this point. The Tigers will play their first true road game of the season tonight at Old Dominion, and we’ll find out if MU has improved in this area after finishing 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year. If MU can turn into road warriors, who knows how long this little run could last? To stay undefeated entering a College Gameday showdown with Kansas on February 4, the Tigers would have to win at ODU, Kansas State and Baylor, among others. It’s possible, sure, but the Tigers will probably falter at some point before that game.
  5. Texas Tech isn’t a good basketball team right now, and people don’t like to watch bad teams lose. That’s why the TTU athletic department is offering one-dollar tickets for an upcoming game against Southeastern Louisiana. That’s not a bad deal, especially if the Red Raiders can score a win against an overmatched opponent. Apparently, this promotion was also in play during a recent win over Cal State Bakersfield, and it’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts. Our guess is the ticket prices will probably rise just a tad once Billy Gillispie turns this program around.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 30th, 2011

  1. The plan going into Vanderbilt’s win over Marquette on Thursday night was to ease Festus Ezeli into action. Ezeli played limited minutes (17), but looked good scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. Despite his positive play, head coach Kevin Stallings says that Ezeli isn’t yet at 100%. “[Festus] has looked better the last few days,” Stallings said. “I would probably say he’s at about 75% and may be starting to inch above that. We’ll just keep trying to give Festus some time and see how it goes.” The play of both Ezeli and the entire Commodores team last night has again brought up the question of who this Vandy team really is. Vanderbilt hasn’t looked the part of a Top 25 team for most of the year, but lived up to its preseason hype in the win over the Golden Eagles. The Commodores’ inconsistent play and the return of Ezeli to full health remains the most intriguing storyline going into conference play in the SEC.
  2. Louisville plans to put Kentucky’s freshman point guard Marquis Teague to the test on Saturday. Although Teague had begun to play better of late, he reverted to his old ways in committing six turnovers in UK’s win over Lamar on Wednesday. Before he started talking about turkeys during the Marquette and Vanderbilt game, ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said, “Louisville will extend pressure and try to wear down Marquis Teague. They’ll try to get into Teague.” Teague, of course, thinks he knows how to handle the pressure. “The easiest thing with the press is if you pass through it, you don’t have to waste energy,” he said. “It’s when you try to dribble through it that you get tired.” Which version of Teague will show up? We will find out on Saturday if the young point guard is up to the test against what is likely the best defensive pressure the Cats will face all season long.
  3. The guys at A Sea of Blue make the case that the Kentucky and Louisville rivalry is the best in the nation. While conventional wisdom says North Carolina and Duke create the premier matchup of the college basketball season, they also meet two to three times per season. In a typical year, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils split the season series, and go forward without real bragging rights over the other fan base. But with Kentucky and Louisville, “you have 365 days, more or less, to suffer at the hands of your rivals. If this all sounds extreme, it is, and insanely exciting. And that’s why this rivalry is the best. There are no half-measures, no splits, no draws — only victory, and defeat.” And as ASoB points out, “being the loser is P-A-I-N-F-U-L, especially when you live behind enemy lines.” A lot is on the line on Saturday, and we will all benefit by witnessing a great game filled with the emotion and passion of a true rivalry.
  4. Auburn coach Tony Barbee has been pleased with the Tigers’ defensive effort , but acknowledges a lot of work needs to be done on the offensive end. “Offensively, we were anemic tonight,” Barbee said. “Hopefully, we can chalk it up to being an off night. More of a concern was we didn’t have guys make plays when they had an opportunity to make plays.” Unfortunately for Auburn, the offensive struggles are more of a season long trend than simply an off night. The Tigers are currently shooting 44.8% from the field, and just 33.8% from beyond the arc on the season. Barbee’s squad ranks #233 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is the worst in the SEC. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for Auburn fans, but the Tigers’ defense isn’t that good either, ranking 11th out of 12 teams in the SEC in adjusted defensive efficiency. Not a good sign heading into SEC play.
  5. Jarnell Stokes has reached celebrity status in Knoxville, and he hasn’t even played his first game yet. After spending the day signing autographs and talking with Volunteer fans, Stokes said, “I’m no savior, I’m a basketball player. But I’ve always been a winner, and I plan on being a piece of what Coach [Cuonzo] Martin is putting together here. The fans here, man, they’re great. Today was awesome.” The Vols could use a little extra boost to push them over the edge. All six of Tennessee’s losses this season have been by 10 points or less. Four of the losses were decided by less than five points. One little addition (or one major addition in the case of Stokes) could be the difference between a win or another close loss for Tennessee.
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Big East Morning Five: Rutgers v. Florida Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 30th, 2011

  1.  There were just three games involving Big East teams played last night but, with apologies to Vanderbilt‘s surprising shellacking of Marquette, there was one game that stood out and that was the stunning upset Rutgers pulled off last night when they beat #9 Florida in double overtime. The victory was monumental enough that we figured we should devote a full post to what we learned about Mike Rice’s young team last night and what it means. So enjoy our Morning Five…er, Six.
  2. In the case of Rutgers and former guard Mike Rosario, the Scarlet Knights got the last laugh. As we noted yesterday, Rosario left Rutgers because he wanted to put himself in a position to win games quickly, and yesterday was supposed to be his vindication. Well, he only played 14 minutes, scoring five points on six shots, and he left with some crow to eat on the trip back to Gainesville. Sure, the game seems more like an aberration than a burgeoning trend and Florida is probably still a better bet to win more games while Rosario is still in school, but it must be nice for Rutgers’ fans who called Rosario a “bum” during pre-game warmups and serenaded the local product with chants of “Jersey hates you”. Rosario was supposed to be the savior of the Scarlet Knights’ program, but it looks like the program will be just fine without him.
  3. Rutgers freshman Eli Carter might not be Bernard King, but he is going to be really good. Classmate and teammate Jerome Seagears said Carter reminded him of the Knicks’ great and despite the obvious size differences and small sample size, Carter certainly did his best impression last night, finishing with 31 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds. It did take him 24 shots to score his points, but he played a whopping 46 minutes and the 6-foot-2 combo guard could not be stopped by anyone Billy Donovan tried to put on him. Carter wasn’t the most heralded guard in Rice’s ballyhooed recruiting class, but he has now scored double-digit points in all but two games this season and he is chipping in nearly three rebounds per game to boot. He also seems to be more assertive when it comes to taking shots, and while this could backfire if the freshman gets too confident, he has the ability to take over games when he is hot — like he was last night. He is still learning, and his assist-to-turnover ratio leaves a lot to be desired, but he still doesn’t have 15 collegiate games under his belt and he just carried his team to its biggest win its years on national television against a Top-10 opponent. Not that it really needs to be said anymore, but keep an eye on this kid.
  4. On this night, the Scarlet Knights were the embodiment of their coach’s spirit. Much has been made of Mike Rice’s decision to come to Piscataway and try to rebuild a program with barely any notable basketball history. But Rice has attacked the job with seemingly limitless energy and determination and there is now reason to believe his vision is beginning to take shape on the court. His team showed a similar work ethic and never-say-die attitude last night, coming back from not one but two deficits in regulation and the first overtime, including a seven-point gap in the final 2:48 of regulation. Every coach in any sport tries to give his team an identity but Rice has molded his team in his own identity. The Scarlet Knights are still very young and still don’t look like a tournament team quite yet, but I seriously doubt anyone will overlook the team full of overachievers and scrappers again this season. Rice has practically made a past time of playing up his team’s underdog role and his team has embraced it. The Gators are a legitimate contender this season and every time it looked like they would use their superior talent to pull away, Rutgers kept the game within reach, and a lot of that has to do with the mentality their coach has instilled in them since the start of his tenure.
  5. Speaking of Rice’s rebuilding efforts, his plan appears to be ahead of schedule. Don’t look now but the Scarlet Knights have won their last four games after last night’s thriller and their young players are starting to gel together just in time for conference play. There aren’t many teams in the conference with an exciting trio of freshman guards like Carter, Seagears, and Myles Mack, all of whom played more than 30 minutes in the win. And redshirt freshman Kadeem Jack might be the most talented of all of Rice’s young players, and he is just now getting back onto the court after injury sidelined him for all of last year. If he can pick things up quickly and play at 100 percent, the Scarlet Knights have a really nice nucleus to build around, and you better bet Rice plans to keep building as fast as possible. The team doesn’t have any committed recruits for the Class of 2012 yet, but Rice doesn’t have many scholarships to hand out and he does get the services of Kansas State transfer Wally Judge next season as well. A quick look at the box score from Rutgers’ games show that the team will return every meaningful contributor from this year’s team and Rice is too good a coach to let the team rest on its laurels now. The victory over Villanova last season was nice but this win over a team as talented as Florida is a real statement victory that Rice can now hang his hat on and point to when he tells recruits that Rutgers is ready to compete on a national level.
  6. But let’s also remember not to get ahead of ourselves. If you looked when I told you not to, you will see that while Rutgers has indeed strung together four consecutive wins, opponents like Stony Brook and New Jersey Institute of Technology aren’t exactly worthwhile competition. If you kept looking, you will also see that Rutgers has losses to perennial powerhouses like Illinois State and Princeton on their resume. The win over Florida shows that the inexperienced team has plenty of potential, but this season has proven that potential isn’t always realized every game of the season. The Scarlet Knights played a rather mediocre non-conference schedule, and now they have the luxury of playing three ranked teams and West Virginia twice before the calendar even hits February, and it won’t get easier after that either. Freshmen, especially ones called upon to play as many minutes as Seagears, Mack, and Carter play, are prone to mercurial moments. One game Carter is going off for 31 points, but two games before against Stony Brook, he scored just 11 points and had five turnovers to one assist. Rutgers can play with anyone in the country because they work hard and they fight for the entire game, but they still aren’t deep enough or experienced enough to make the NCAA Tournament, no matter how watered down the Big East is this season.
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Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2011

  1. For a freshman who had minimal impact in his one semester on the court Khem Birch is making quite a bit of news. Birch, who decided to transfer from Pittsburgh at the end of the fall semester, has released the list of the schools that he is consideringFlorida, UNLV, Gonzaga, Washington, Xavier, and New Mexico State. Birch also attempted to clear the air on his departure saying that he “didn’t think it was the best place” for him and that his departure was not due to disagreements with Jamie Dixon or what people around him were telling him to do. One school that is noticeably absent from Birch’s list is Missouri after there were rumors circulating that the school had “tampered with” Birch before obtaining a release based on tweets from Jeff Goodman (#1 and #2) earlier in the day. Frank Haith denied these allegations, but it is interesting that Missouri was mentioned as a leader for Birch on December 19 and now they are not even on his list.
  2. Pat Forde published an excellent column yesterday on St. Louis coach Rick Majerus discussing the program he inherited and how he helped build it up into the borderline top 25 team that it is today as well as his difficulties dealing with the declining health of his mother. Surprisingly one thing that Forde did not touch upon was Majerus’ health including the cardiac surgery he had over the summer in Salt Lake City. Outside of that missing element this is a good review on Majerus and the St. Louis program in case you have not been paying close attention to Majerus after his stint at ESPN. If the Billikens continue to perform at the level they have so far this season, this will be the first of many pieces on Majerus that you will be seeing in the coming months.
  3. Those of you who remember the 1994-95 Duke season will remember the name Pete Gaudet. A long-time assistant to Mike Krzyzewski, Gaudet took over midway through the regular season when Krzyzewski took a temporary leave of absence to deal with back issues. Gaudet guided the Blue Devils to a 4-15 record, which included the memorable double overtime loss to North Carolina, during his temporary stint as head coach. Duke eventually had the NCAA assign these wins and losses (mostly the latter) to Gaudet. St. John’s appears to be taking the opposite approach with Mike Dunlap, who is acting as an interim coach while Steve Lavin, as the NCAA and Big East have advised the school to continue adding the victories and losses under Lavin’s name even if Dunlap is coaching. We are not sure how the NCAA will handle this at the end of the season, but we imagine that there are large groups of people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky, who will not view this favorably even if it is only temporary.
  4. It is a little late for Christmas, but we think that Connecticut will be happy with a belated $4.5 million gift from Peter and Paula Werth towards the construction of a new basketball practice facility. The donation puts the school halfway to its goal of raising $30 million for the new facility. This isn’t the first major donation that the school has received as you may remember the Burton family donating several million dollars to the school then sending a scathing letter to the school demanding their money back before eventually agreeing to let the school keep the previously donated money. The Werths made their family fortune through Chemwerth, which manufactures active pharmaceutical ingredients that are sold to pharmaceutical companies worldwide. Interestingly, neither Peter nor Paula attended UConn, but all three of their children did and the Werths have been season ticket holders for football and both men’s and women’s basketball. We are assuming that they will get their season tickets comped by the school from now on.
  5. Since this is the last Morning Five of 2011 it is a good time to look back at the past calendar year and look forward to the coming year. Luke Winn recaps the past year by ranking the top 10 stories of 2011 and as usual is right on the money. We are sure several people will argue that “Jimmertime!” should be higher on the list, but when we believe that when we look back on this year in 20 years at least three of the four stories above it will definitely be more memorable (perhaps not #3). While Winn is looking back, Seth Davis is looking forward to the new year and offers up 10 bold predictions for 2012. As you would expect these are not as detailed as Winn’s recap stories since they are basically just educated guesses, but Davis does make some predictions that will certainly get a few fan bases worked up.
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Night Line: Rutgers Showing Flashes of a Promising Future

Posted by EJacoby on December 30th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

For most of the last decade, Rutgers has been an afterthought of the Big East conference, synonymous with the bottom of the standings. The Scarlet Knights haven’t finished better than 5-13 in Big East play since 2006. But since Mike Rice was hired as head coach last season, the team has shown improvements and the losing culture of the program could be making its way out. On Thursday night, the Knights took down the ninth-ranked Florida Gators at home, providing flashes of great basketball and sending students to rush the court. With a young core of players who will all be back next season, Rutgers may finally be building a successful team that fans can look forward to watching.

Eli Carter Led Rutgers' Upset of Florida and the Ensuing RTC (AP/M. Evans)

This Rutgers team features a talented group of freshmen that already has made its mark on the program, as rookie guards Eli Carter, Myles Mack, and Jerome Seagears are three of the four leading scorers on the team. Carter scores a team-leading 12.8 PPG after going off for 31 points in the double-overtime win over Florida, while Mack (10.8 PPG) hit several clutch three-point shots as part of his 14 points in the win. Seagears leads the team with 2.4 assists and adds 8.2 points per contest. In addition to the frosh guards, the Scarlet Knights’ other leading scorers are sophomores Gilvydas Biruta (10.9 PPG) and Mike Poole (7.2 PPG), and junior Dane Miller (7.2 PPG). Strong forward Biruta is the team’s leading rebounder (6.0 RPG), while Miller contributes across the board to the tune of 5.6 boards, 2.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 56% from the field. Everyone will be back next season and should improve, giving the Knights and their fans plenty to look forward to.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Seven

Posted by cwilliams on December 29th, 2011

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

I like to think of the holidays as the eye of the storm that is the college basketball season. We have blown past the pre-season tournaments and early marquee match-ups. During the holidays, we have fewer games and fewer prestigious opponents. But now that the holiday season is coming to an end, we are thrown back into the storm. Gear up folks, conference play is almost here.


  • Pierre Jackson: On December 23, Pierre Jackson returned to his hometown of Las Vegas as Baylor battled West Virginia. Jackson made the most of his homecoming, dropping 23 on the Mountaineers and leading his team to an exciting overtime victory. That alone is enough to earn you an “alley-oop”. But Jackson wasn’t done. Last night, against Mississippi State, Jackson scored the game-winning bucket with 28 seconds left, securing Baylor’s 13-0 record, the best start in school history. While the preseason projections focused mostly on Perry Jones and Quincy Acy, Jackson is making his name known on a talented Baylor squad.
  • Oklahoma Sooners: Lon Kruger faced a daunting task this preseason, having the job of turning a depleted and underachieving Sooner squad into winners. Kruger has not blinked, however, and neither have the Sooners, as they are off to an impressive 9-1 record. The Sooners have beat Washington State, Arkansas, and Houston. Their lone loss came against a talented Saint Louis team. The key? Rebounding. The Sooners rank 4th in the nation in rebounds per game, with 42.2 per game, while gathering 44.3% of possible offensive rebounds (#3 in the nation) and holding opponents to only 29.7% of offensive rebounds. The Sooners will be tested in their game against Cincinnati tonight, and when they open conference play at Missouri.
  • Perfection: Four teams remain undefeated in the world of college basketball world. Two of them are in the Big 12, Baylor and Missouri. According to my calculations, that’s half of the teams. Not too shabby, Big 12.


  • Texas A&M: The holiday season has not been kind to the Aggies. The Aggies fell hard against Florida losing by 20. Five days later, the Aggies hosted Rice, and were shocked by the Owls in a 65-58 loss, snapping A&M’s 67-game home nonconference win streak.
  • Le’Bryan Nash’s Homecoming: When Oklahoma State traveled to Dallas last night, Nash’s hometown, to take on Southern Methodist, expectations were high for Nash’s return home. Nash, however, was quiet all night, going 2-10, dropping only 4 points, and playing sparingly when the game got close. Yes, this is a bit unfair, as sometimes homecomings can be ruined by higher expectations. It didn’t help that SMU was triple-teaming Nash at one point, either.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VI

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 29th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. This week’s was delayed due to the lack of college basketball over the weekend. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….defenders who are willing to risk being the #1 highlight on SportsCenter. Two brave Texas Longhorns bit the bullet last week against North Carolina, and they paid a hefty price. First Dexter Strickland went up and over his Texas defender for the poster slam. Then, P.J. Hairston put on a hit that would make NFL safeties smile before throwing down a one-hander.

I LOVED….the strong early showing from the Big Ten. I’m the first to admit that I don’t love the style of play from this conference, but it’s nice to see so many teams with quality wins early in the year. On the top of that list is Indiana, which finally dropped its first game on the road against Michigan State (more than excusable). If Tom Crean’s revitalized Hoosiers can put together a decent conference season and Michigan State continues its strong recovery, you could be looking at a lot of high seeds from the Big Ten come March.

Crean Has Turned Indiana Around

I LOVED….a name like Fab Melo of Syracuse. First off, you can’t go wrong when you are a seven-foot Brazilian named Fab. Combine that with an identical last name to the program’s national championship hero/NBA star, and it’s almost too much. And if Fab puts up more games like the 12-point, 10-block, and 7-rebound performance against Seton Hall, Cuse fans will be chanting his name plenty by the end of the season.

I LOVED….the Georgetown Hoyas setting me up again. After Wednesday’s big win against Louisville on the road, they’re 11-1 and rolling. So just like the last few years, I will get too excited, expect big things, think this year is different, and end up frustrated with them all season and still picking them too far in my bracket. Oh well, at least I’m prepared early this time around.

I LOVED….this feel-good moment around the holidays, with UConn’s Andre Drummond giving back his scholarship to teammate Michael Bradley, who initially sacrificed it so that UConn could have room for the star recruit.

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