Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2011


Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter (@vbtnBlog)

Ed. Note – This post was written prior to Wednesday night’s action.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25: The release of the AP and Coaches polls on Mon., December 26 showed no Atlantic 10 conference member for the first time in 12 weeks (going back to January 31, 2011 – week #13).  A Xavier three-game losing streak, coming on the heels of the bench clearing brawl in the “Crosstown Shootout” dropped the Musketeers from #15 in the December 19 poll right out of the Top 25. Saint Louis’ own five-game winning streak includes a win over Division II Illinois-Springfield, Alabama State and Arkansas State — not a slate of opponents that will wow the voters.
  • Early Season Invitational Tournaments – Final Tally: The only good news out of the Diamond Head Classic was that the Musketeers finally broke their three-game losing streak with a win over Southern Illinois in the invitational tournament’s seventh place game. Invitational tournament formats frequently match A-10 teams with power conference opponents on neutral courts, giving the conference their best opportunity for quality wins. Results for the 2011-12 season:

At the end of the first cycle, the conference held a promising 21-13 (0.600) margin with six first and third place finishes, suggesting the team either swept the field or won the first two games (before dropping the final). The brightest lights were Dayton (winner of the Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (who beat three power conference schools on their way to the championship in the 76 Classic). Temple may have disappointed slightly, but the Owls, along with Richmond, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s, posted very respectable results in their tournaments.

  • Free Todd O’Brien? Attention to the resurgence of the Saint Joseph’s program was diverted two days after the Hawks’ best win of the season, a 16-point drubbing of Big 5 rival Villanova, when Sports Illustrated released fifth year senior Todd O’Brien’s side of his attempt to take his post season eligibility at Alabama-Birmingham instead of Saint Joseph’s. Buzz about Phil Martelli’s squad notching 10 wins before the start of conference play (virtually certain given their last two out of conference opponents) was pushed aside with the details of the Todd O’Brien imbroglio. The fifth year senior, a transfer from Bucknell who started 28 games in the 2009-10 season and was a serviceable rotation player last season, completed his undergraduate course work over the summer and enrolled in one of Alabama-Birmingham’s MBA programs and play for Mike Davis in his last season of eligibility. Saint Joseph’s, however, denied O’Brien’s application for a Graduate Student Transfer Exception (a release from his athletic scholarship) with no explanation given. O’Brien went public with his version of events, and so far, Saint Joseph’s, and specifically Martelli, has cited student confidentiality as the reason for not responding.

Fordham (Dereck Whittenburg and Jio Fontan), Providence (Keno Davis and Joseph Young) and Siena (Fran McCaffery and Kojo Mensah) were warning signs that Saint Joseph’s ignored. Though Martelli, as did McCaffrey, Davis and Whittenberg before him, may feel justified in denying O’Brien his release (fans and “program insiders” floated three variations of “Todd O’Brien is a bad boy” in the first 24-48 hours after the story was released), the veteran coach has to understand that the notion of a coach and program were gamed by a scholarship athlete never gets much traction with the public, and the university’s strategy of not talking about it gives O’Brien all of the air time on this issue.

Todd O'Brien (right) and Phil Martelli (left) Have Been Caught In A Verbal Tug-Of-War

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Game On: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 29th, 2011

Last night we got the first glance of how Maryland will play with a full complement of players, and frankly, it looks pretty good compared to the shaky team that started the season. Point guard Pe’Shon Howard managed 11 points on only three field goal attempts while contributing eight assists and six rebounds against overmatched Albany. Meanwhile, Alex Len scored 14 points on nine shots while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds and three blocks. Both players demonstrated a bit of rust, turning the ball over a combined 11 times, but it’s easy to predict that to improve as both players get more live-game experience with their teammates. If these two can mesh with the rest of the team, the Terrapins become a much more dangerous team.

A Surprisingly Competitive Game

  • Yale at Wake Forest at 7:00 PM

The days of the ACC running roughshod over the Ivy League seem to be coming to an end. With a ranked Harvard team taking on a pitiful Boston College team, the honor of the ACC largely rests in the hands of Wake Forest. If this game was in Connecticut, I’d pick Yale in an instant, but in Winston-Salem the game is more evenly matched. Yale is a legitimately talented team with the height and skills to match up against the Demon Deacons. Both teams rely heavily on getting to the free throw line and though this isn’t true 99% of the time people say it, this game may come down to who can make the most free throws.

For Fans Only

  • Harvard at Boston College at 7:00 PM on ESPN3.com
  • Elon at North Carolina at 7:00 PM on ESPNU
  • Campbell at North Carolina State at 7:00 PM
  • Georgia Tech at Fordham at 8:00 PM on CBS College Sports

All of these games look to be fairly lopsided affairs, though the one game where the ACC is an underdog (Boston College against Harvard) has the spice of regional rivalry and role-reversal power dynamics. The North Carolina State game will give Wolfpack undergraduates and Campbell Law students an excuse to yell at each other in their shared Hillsborough St. bars. Fordham is not a very good team, but they are playing at home against an inconsistent Georgia Tech team. The Jack Wooten Classic gives another former Tar Heel an excuse to return to the Smith Center, but beyond the appeal of watching a former walk-on serve as an assistant coach, this game should turn into a rout very quickly.

Share this story

Baylor Preserves Its Undefeated Record, But Hardly in Encouraging Fashion

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

Baylor beat a top-15 team on Wednesday night, and that’s terrific. The undefeated Bears locked down Mississippi State on the final possession of the game to ice the win, holding the Bulldogs to 41% from the field and they actually won the rebounding battle for a change. For good measure, they even threw down a few electric dunks in the second half to give a partisan crowd in Dallas something to cheer about. But this 54-52 win wasn’t anything for Baylor to brag about. In fact, the play on the court at the American Airlines Center hardly resembled a marquee matchup between two ranked squads. After Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson combined for five three-pointers in the first half, the Bears failed to make a trey after halftime and finished with almost twice as many turnovers (15) as team assists (8). With scouts from nearly every NBA franchise in the building, star Perry Jones scored just eight points, and Baylor’s big men looked frustrated all night against the beef and length of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. Scott Drew‘s halfcourt offense was not pretty in the second half, and that was punctuated by several missed layups, missed free throws and silly turnovers near the end of the game.

Baylor Knocked Off Mississippi State, But It Wasn't Pretty (credit: Austin Statesman)

You think that’s bad? Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney committed a technical foul with his team leading by two points in the final minute, and after BU took the lead, the Bulldogs’ final possession consisted of a few passes 30 feet from the basket and a wild, contested mid-range attempt by Rodney Hood to end the game. It was blocked, but you could have guessed that. The Bulldogs scored just 19 points in the second half, one less than Baylor’s 20. Point guard Dee Bost‘s struggles from three-point land continued with a 1-5 effort, and as usual, Sidney dominated when he played but only logged 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Rick Stansbury‘s team shot seven free throws but made just three, and it also finished with just nine team assists.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Game of the Week: UCLA at Stanford

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, there was no way we would have picked this game to be the most interesting game of the first week of Pac-12 play. While Stanford has been a pleasant surprise through their non-conference schedule, UCLA was on the very short list of the least enjoyable teams in the conference to watch. However, the Bruins have quietly strung together five straight wins albeit against abominable competition and the Cardinal, coming off a tough home loss to Butler, have to prove that they are capable of contending for the regular season title. In short, while both of these teams have plenty of doubters, and rightfully so, each has a chance to earn a modicum of respect by taking care of business on opening weekend.

Stanford’s loss to Butler last week could be explained away in a variety of ways: it was their first game against significant competition in two and a half weeks; the home crowd was absent most of the students and provided little boost to a sleepwalking team; the Bulldogs got plenty of fortunate bounces; and really, it’s a loss to a fast-improving team that has been the national runner-up the past two seasons. Regardless of the excuses, it serves as a reminder that the Cardinal have largely built their status as one of the conference favorites on a loss – a hard-fought six-point defeat against Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game. They have a win over North Carolina State (in which they had to fight back from a 12-point second half deficit) and a win over Oklahoma State, but neither of those teams look like future recipients of an NCAA Tournament invite. So, there is little so far in the positive results category to indicate that this Stanford vintage is significantly better than last year’s 15-16 team that won seven conference games.

Josh Owens, Stanford

Josh Owens Has Been Stanford's Emotional Leader & Go-To Scorer (Credit: Zach Sanderson)

However, if you dig deeper into the metrics, you see a Cardinal team that is winning games because of excellent defense (only twice this season – in the loss to Butler and the uneven win over NC State – have they allowed more than a point per possession), while doing almost all the things that you want to see an efficient offensive team do (they shoot it well, they hit the offensive glass and they get to the free throw line). Only their turnovers on nearly 22% of their offensive possessions present cause for alarm, and that should be a number that sinks as their primary ballhandlers (sophomore Aaron Bright and freshman Chasson Randle) get more comfortable. And if you trust only the eye test, you see a team that appears to run a lot more smoothly than they did last year, when deep into the season the Cardinal appeared to be out of sync on both ends of the court. Bright has taken over as an extension of head coach Johnny Dawkins on the floor, senior center Josh Owens is the team’s emotional leader and go-to scorer, Randle is a steadily improving freshman, and there are a handful of other nice pieces elsewhere on this roster (Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell) ready to make positive contributions on both ends. This is an improved Stanford team, but they’ve still got to prove it and they’ll have plenty of chances, starting tonight.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Past Imperfect: Richie Parker’s 15 Minutes of Infamy

Posted by JWeill on December 29th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Every two weeks, RTC contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Email) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the saga of New York City prep star and convicted felon Richie Parker.

There was never any middle ground when it came to Richie Parker. Either he was a criminal, a thug who represented everything wrong with the college game – that “win at all costs” mentality – or he was a kid who made a mistake he was overpaying for, a victim of a system rigged to punish and punish again a repentant man, no, a kid because of intense media pressure and political pressure and just flat out pressure.

So which was it? Was he trouble, a felon who shouldn’t be given chances that wouldn’t have been afforded a kid who couldn’t run, dunk and shoot a basketball like he could, or was he the quiet kid without a speck of bad behavior before who lost his senses for fifteen minutes on Jan. 13, 1995, in a high school stairwell when he and a friend intimidated a freshman classmate into performing oral sex?

Or could he be both? Or neither? Everyone had an opinion.

Parker's saga was a Sports Illustrated cover story in 1996.

Tabloids put the story on the cover and sports talk shows had a field day. Women penned editorials detailing their own stories of rape and abuse to show that no matter how repentant Parker was he would never have to suffer the lifelong fate of his victim. Some spoke movingly of second chances and of the mistakes they’d made. Women’s groups around the country mobilized. The victim’s family eventually publicly forgave him. Everyone had a stake, and everyone had firm convictions. And caught in the middle was Parker: 6’5”, athletic, shy, the eye of a storm all about him.

In June, Parker apologized to his victim, pleaded guilty to felony sexual abuse and was sentenced to five years probation and counseling, but that did nothing to quell the furor. Far from it. Now he was officially a felon. The school he’d accepted a scholarship promise from, Seton Hall, reneged on its offer under pressure. Wouldn’t be the right message to send, its president said. George Washington University, whose progressive and creative president offered a scholarship to both Parker and the victim, eventually also caved to intense dissatisfaction from alumni, trustees and student groups outraged by the possibility of a sex offender gaining admittance to their institution. Utah and Oral Roberts and Fresno State and Southern Cal backed off even sooner, the moment administration officials were tipped off of their coaches’ interest in Parker, usually by tabloid reporters like Barry Baum of the New York Post, who made his name breaking Parker stories that year. People lost jobs over Richie Parker.

Ultimately, there were no basketball options left for him after his plea deal. No administration was willing to have its reputation sullied in the press for admitting the radioactive Parker. And the press kept finding out who was interested and with a single phone call would end that interest immediately: ‘Did you know your coaches are recruiting a sex felon?’ Parker’s mother, Rosita, suffered chest pains from all the stress. Parker simply kept staring at his shoes, his once bright future vanishing before him because of those impulsive, those irrational, 15 minutes in the stairwell, a quiet kid now retreating further into his shell.

Rob Standifer, the coach at Mesa Community College in Arizona, took a chance on Parker. But while Parker flew out west, Mesa athletic department and  administration officials learned about him at the last minute and balked. Standifer was forced to resign. The school did allow Parker to matriculate but he couldn’t play ball. But after everything he’d been through, that was OK with Parker. Out there, far away from the turmoil of the city he’d been a basketball star in, he could work on his grades and keep in shape, all with the faint hope that someday he would get the chance to play college basketball, other than the NBA the only thing he’d ever really wanted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who’s Got Next? Jarnell Stokes Volunteers, Torian Graham Confused And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on December 29th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Commits To Tennessee, Will Enroll In January

Maybe This Is What Swayed Jarnell Stokes To Tennessee.

Top-25 Senior Picks Volunteers Despite Late Kentucky Push. It’s been a long road for Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes but the recruiting process for him is finally over. The 6’8″, 250-pound big man committed to Tennessee last Thursday after transferring to Oak Hill Academy (VA) over this summer, then changing his mind and transferring to Southwind Central High School (TN) where he was ruled ineligible to play his senior season of basketball. He will be joining the Vols in January and looks to help them in every phase of the game. Stokes is the type of player who can help Tennessee on both ends of the floor, especially in rebounding — an area that Cuonzo Martin’s team could really use some help in. He picked UT over Memphis and a late push by Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Opposite of what many people many think, the difficult part of the transition for Stokes won’t be the physical aspect, it will be the mental part given the fact that he’ll have to face a sharp learning curve. His impact will be limited this year but he will still be a contributor and he’ll get an early head start on making the jump from high school to college compared to everyone else in the Class of 2012. He was never going to be a four-year player anyway so the Vols are simply getting an extra semester out of the Tennessee native.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Ricardo Ledo (Providence) on recruiting junior star Nerlens Noel and others: “If I could choose any player to commit to Providence, it would be [Class of 2012 power forward] Chris Obekpa and I’m also trying to help out with [Class of 2013 center] Nerlens Noel. I’m trying to get [Class of 2012 small forward] Jakarr Sampson on board and a couple more I haven’t named. I just tell them about the Providence atmosphere and to try to start something new, don’t try to be like everybody else and go to a school just because of the school’s name. I just tell them to be your own man, set your own trend.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: Conference Tip-Off Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

  1. Picking up where we left off yesterday, we’re continuing to look ahead to tonight and the start of conference play (completely ignoring Colorado’s 92-34 demolition of New Orleans last night). We’ve got CBS’ Matt Norlander picking California and Stanford as the teams to beat (and give him credit for not putting the entire league under his “Still Unproven” category), while Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News also throws his support behind Mike Montgomery’s team. After browsing through all the Pac-12 picks coming from elsewhere and devising our own (which you’ll see later today), it is clear Cal, despite all its flaws, is the clear favorite in the conference.
  2. It’s the first year of unbalanced scheduling in the conference, as the beautiful home-and-away round robin of years’ past is no longer. And, taking into account that California is the favorite in the conference while Stanford and Oregon State are popular choices to challenge for the title, Arizona seems to be sitting in the (wild) catbird seat with regard to scheduling, skipping a trip to the Oregon schools while missing a visit from the Bay Area schools. The Washington schools also seem to be a little fortunate, as they get to skip the trip to the Bay Area, but miss out on a second chance at Utah and Colorado at home.
  3. USC has struggled to a 5-8 start to the season, they’ve got the 248th ranked offense in Division I (according to Ken Pomeroy) and their top five players have played 73.8% of their total minutes. But not to worry, Trojan fans, your intrepid head coach has a plan: try harder! Brilliant! Rather than install any type of coherent offense, Kevin O’Neill says “let’s just do a few more wind sprints.” Certainly USC’s got some incredibly raw parts offensively, but if I were to make a list of the Trojans top five problems in their first 13 games of the season, I’m quite sure effort would not be among them. For instance, tonight when USC travels to California to face the Human Floor Burn, Jorge Gutierrez, it’s a good bet that even he won’t outwork USC. Expect the conference opener between these two teams to be low-scoring, ugly and, well, won by the Golden Bears.
  4. Looking around the rest of the conference, let’s get a quick injury update in advance of opening night. Oregon senior forward Tyrone Nared is not quite ready to return to play after tearing an MCL a little more than two weeks ago, leaving the Ducks with just nine scholarship players for their trip to the Washington schools this weekend. Aziz N’Diaye is back for Washington, having played in their last game against Cal State Northridge, but his return to the starting lineup remains questionable. Richard Solomon still has not practiced for Cal following a stress fracture in his foot two weeks ago, and as a result, is unlikely tonight.  And UCLA’s Lazeric Jones and Norman Powell are expected to play tonight at Stanford after each sprained their ankles during Monday’s practice. Both have been able to practice the last two days and should be good to go.
  5. When Oregon State kicks off conference play tonight with a trip to Washington, they will do so with the most optimism surrounding their program since the days of Gary Payton a couple of decades ago. Their 10-2 record in non-conference play is their best start to a season since 1989-90, Payton’s senior season, and what’s more, this team is fun to watch: They lead the conference in scoring, assists, steals and shooting. The Beavers have never led the conference in scoring (with statistics going back more than 50 years), but with some highly efficient offensive play and a defensive game plan built around forcing turnovers through pressure, this could be their year to do so.
Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 12.29.11

Posted by bmulvihill on December 29th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

As we head into 2012, early tests against conference foes are a true litmus test for teams looking to make the NCAA tournament. Let’s take a good look at Oregon State and BYU on the road to see if they have what it takes.

Brandon Davies leads BYU into its first West Coast Conference game against St. Mary's (Getty/E. Miller)

Oregon State at Washington – 9:00PM EST on Root Sports (***)

  • Oregon State is one win away from equaling last season’s win total of 11. The Beavers have very good offensive numbers – 54.9% eFG, 47.7% FTR, and 54.8% two-point shooting. However, their efficiency takes a hit because of turnovers and poor offensive rebounding. Craig Robinson’s team faces a very tall Washington team that can create problems for OSU on the boards. Defensively, the Beavers do a great job at creating turnovers. They rank 5th in the nation in TO%. Keep a close eye on OSU’s Jared Cunningham and his ability to disrupt the Washington offense.  If the Beavers are able to create turnovers and hit smart two-point shots, they will equal last year’s win total in just 13 games this season.
  • Washington has been very disappointing this season. If they have any hope at making the NCAA Tournament, they must roll through much of the Pac-12, starting tonight. This team falls apart on defense. They create very few turnovers and do not defend the three-point shot well. Interestingly, Washington must create turnovers to win.  They are 0-5 when the defense creates turnovers on less than 18% of the opponent’s possessions. To give you an idea what that means, Coastal Carolina ranks 304th in the nation with a defensive turnover percentage of 18%. So, the Huskies do not have to create a lot of turnovers, they just have to create some and they will win.
  • Expect an up-tempo game with both teams averaging over 71 possessions per game. This game hinges on turnovers. If the Beavers can limit their turnovers and allow their offensive to produce the way it is capable of producing, they will win. If  Washington can use its length and put more pressure on the ball to create turnovers and transition baskets, they will win.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 29th, 2011

  1. Mississippi State met sixth ranked Baylor on Wednesday night in Dallas, Texas. The most anticipated matchup was in the post where Bulldogs’ forward Arnett Moultrie got the best of NBA prospect and Baylor sophomore Perry Jones III. “He was a good player,” Moultrie said. “My goal was to lock him down defensively. I think I did pretty good. I don’t think he was the reason they won the game.” Moultrie grabbed 10 rebounds and scored eight points, while holding Jones III to eight points and six rebounds on 4-13 shooting. Jones III looked out of sync offensively, and was not able to establish position on Moultrie in the post all night. Despite shutting down Baylor’s top offensive option, the Bulldogs lost 54-52.
  2. It appears as though Florida guard Mike Rosario will make his return from a back strain that has caused him to miss the past two games. The team that Florida plays on Thursday? Rutgers, Rosario’s former team, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years. Rosario is averaging 9.4 points per game coming off the bench for the Gators. He averaged 16.2 and 16.7 points per game in his first two years at Rutgers, and expect Rosario to give a little extra effort to put up those kind of numbers on Thursday. It should be an emotional game for the junior transfer, but regardless of the opponent, it is good to see him return to action.
  3. Kentucky’s Terrence Jones isn’t ready to offer any insight into his poor performance against Indiana a couple of weeks ago. “It happened,” Jones said. “The game is over. We just have to move on. There’s nothing I can do to change what happened.” Not that you need a reminder, but Jones scored four points, grabbed one rebound and committed six turnovers in the Wildcats’ loss in Bloomington. “It’s tough because we lost,” Jones added. “Anything else doesn’t matter to me.” Jones returned to action against Lamar on Wednesday night, adding nine points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. Emotions will be high when Louisville comes to Rupp Arena on Saturday, and Kentucky will need Jones at 100 percent both physically and mentally.
  4. Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist compared himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow when asked about being the Wildcats’ MVP so far this season. Blasphemy! Nobody is like Tebow. Although Kidd-Gilchrist has achieved a cult-like status in Lexington with his hard work and tremendous effort on the court. Wildcat fans have taken a liking to his production too, as Kidd-Gilchrist averages 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Kentucky retailers have even created a MKG for MVP t-shirt. “I don’t get into all that,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I’m just a winner. That’s it. I’m like Tebow. I just want to win the games. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”
  5. ESPN’s Andy Katz took a look at the SEC in his conference power rankings. While Kentucky and Florida topped the list, the most interesting and difficult team to rank is Vanderbilt. Katz writes, “It’s hard to push the Commodores down too far, even though this team has struggled mightily during the early part of the season. The Dores get yet another challenge this week at Marquette.” Vandy’s matchup with Marquette on Thursday night is about redemption. The Commodores have fallen significantly from their top 10 ranking in the preseason, and it is becoming more and more difficult to leave Vandy at the top of the rankings in the SEC. The 2011-12 ‘Dores just don’t look like a team that will be able to break coach Kevin Stallings’ losing streak in the NCAA Tournament.
Share this story

Big 12 Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

  1. Though Missouri has appeared immortal during the first two months of the season, a second-half lapse against Illinois last week has at least one writer questioning whether the Tigers’ field goal percentages will hold up throughout the season. Kim English has rebounded from a tough junior season to shoot 53% from three-point range this season, and Ricardo Ratliffe‘s numbers are just absurd (76% from the field). As a team, Missouri has seen enormous jumps in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage, and yes, it would be silly to think that some of these numbers will hold up. Still, even in that swoon in the second half in the Braggin’ Rights game, the issue wasn’t necessarily that MU missed a bunch of open shots. That happened under Mike Anderson a lot, especially on the road. Instead, it seemed that things broke down because of poor passing, no ball movement and a lack of poise. When Frank Haith‘s pick-and-roll offense is really working and the ball is in Phil Pressey‘s hands, he will find guys like Ratliffe, English and Marcus Denmon for a lot of open looks. And that’s partly why these statistics have skyrocketed.
  2. In this era of realigning conferences with complete disregard for geography, it’s refreshing to see that TCU will save a lot of time and money by moving to the Big 12 next season. According to one example in the article, the men’s basketball team will save almost 4,000 miles in road trips next year, and the football and basketball programs (both men’s and women’s) will combine to save about 16,770 miles. That’s a lot of fuel money in the bank, and hey, it can’t be bad for the environment either. And although TCU officials won’t say how much money the school will make from the move, one spokesperson said “it’s no secret” that the university will make a good deal of money off the move.
  3. And if you’re interested in a recap of Texas A&M‘s move to the SEC, here’s a full rundown of the situation. As you can imagine, the sports media talk in College Station was dominated by the SEC during the past year, just as it was in Columbia, Missouri, and every other college town with realignment implications. The article also points out that the SEC stuff overshadowed success from several A&M athletic programs. In fact, the Aggies won three NCAA titles and seven Big 12 titles, but this particular website thought realignment news was more important in 2011.
  4. Oklahoma State needed two overtimes to defeat SMU last night, and the victory wasn’t exactly pretty. But the win is a sign that the Cowboys are not letting transfers dictate this season. Senior Keiton Page, who started at point guard after the defection of both Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell during the past eight days, said his teammates “have been great at keeping their heads up and their emotions high.” That cannot be easy to do amidst all the turmoil, but even freshman point guard Cezar Guerrero, whose playing time will increase dramatically now, says the team chants “1-2-3… family” after every huddle. That’s got to count for something, right?
  5. Residents of Kansas City love to talk about bragging rights between Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, and that prompted one sports journalist with the Kansas City Star to dedicate a multimedia session to the topic. The Tigers look like the Big 12 favorite right now, and Kansas will certainly be in the mix for an eighth-straight title despite that loss to pesky Davidson. As for Kansas State, the Wildcats may be the most intriguing team in the league right now. After winning the Diamond Head Classic, it’s obvious that Frank Martin‘s team will once again find itself in position for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. As always, it’ll be a fight this winter to see which of the Kansas City-area programs will come out on top.
Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 29th, 2011

Only one game last night, but tonight we resume full-on Atlantic Coast Conference action. Last night was the debut of Alex Len, a 7’1″ big man from the Ukraine who is as skilled as he is giant. He looked pretty good in his debut for Maryland. Then again, this picture from his Twitter account is even better:

Alex Len Will Break You

I, for one, am excited for a season with 100% more Alex Len.

  1. Shelby Star: North Carolina State is moving the ball incredibly well. Over the past four games, 75% of Wolfpack field goals have been assisted. As a team, they are averaging 17.4 APG, good for second best in the ACC, behind only North Carolina. This is pretty impressive, but the article doesn’t get into how good NC State looks in terms of tempo free statistics. According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the Wolfpack actually leads the ACC in percentage of field goals assisted (62.8%) and are the 26th passing-est team in the country. For reference, last year the team only assisted on 55.3%, not even ranking within the top one hundred nationally. The statistics seem to back it up:  the culture of the Wolfpack is really changing.
  2. Boston Globe: It’s easy to disparage Matt Humphrey, the shot-hogging, terribly inaccurate inexplicable focal point of Boston College‘s terrible offense. That’s a shame too, because it’s easy to forget that Humphrey is a person, in truth, just another college kid. He had a hard time fitting in at his old school and after an awkward year of waiting is having a hard time fitting in at his new school. Julian Benbow’s profile of the swing man is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand one of the most confusing players in the ACC.
  3. Washington Post: Paul Jesperson made his college debut on Tuesday, playing for short-handed Virginia which lost two players to transfer over the weekend. Jesperson, this time last week, had expected that he wouldn’t be playing until next season, taking a redshirt. This profile goes over how Jesperson made the decision to step up for his team and take to the big stage of college basketball.
  4. Baltimore Sports Report: The ACC is not very good this year. The typically excellent league is in a down year, and the conference’s combined non-conference record reflects the overall weakness of this year. While Duke and North Carolina appear to be as strong as ever, the ACC middle class appears to have fallen through the basement. Still, the non-conference schedule isn’t completely finished and the article includes some speculation about how a number of teams (notably Miami and Maryland) might be able to finish strong.
  5. ESPN: A nearly twenty year old record is poised to fall. Between 1992 and 1994, North Carolina won 25 home games in a row, setting a Dean Smith Center Record that remarkably stood up, even in the midst of two national championship runs. When the Tar Heels take on Elon tonight, they have a shot of tying a record that neither Vince Carter, Raymond Felton, or Tyler Hansbrough could match. A win on Sunday against Monmouth would break the record. These kinds of streaks are ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a nice reflection of what this team has accomplished so far.
Share this story

Big East Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 29th, 2011

  1. As discussed here yesterday, Rick Pitino made headlines when he stated he would not continue coaching once his contract expires after the 2016-17 season.  We linked to the ESPN story in that post and have done so again here because it is important to highlight Pitino’s quote.  He said, “My contract’s going to run out in 2017. I’m not coaching anymore after that.”  Yes, we have to break out the Lee Corso voice here…”NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”  Just a day later on ESPN’s air during Louisville’s game against Georgetown, announcers John Sciambi and Dick Vitale discussed the matter, saying they spoke to Pitino about it prior to the game.  According to Sciambi, Pitino said his comments were “misconstrued,” and that they were a “tongue-in-cheek type of thing.”  Further Sciambi said Pitino indicated he “never alluded to retirement” and “in no way was he implying that we was going to stop coaching.”  OK then.  While his backtracking is not a surprise, his explanation is a bit of a head scratcher.  Either Pitino was misquoted by just about every news outlet in the world the other day, or he as a great future in politics whenever he does decide to hang up the whistle.
  2. In a continued homage to Lee Corso, when # 4 Louisville dropped its first game of the season, a 71-68 home loss to #12 Georgetown, Cardinals’ freshman Chane Behanan was rendered incorrect.  Behanan predicted an undefeated Louisville season a week-and-a-half ago following an eight-point victory over Memphis.  Behanan said at the time, “We’re the number one team in the country in my eyes. We’re going undefeated. Point blank, period.”   Clearly no one, including us, took Behanan’s comments all that seriously, nor was anyone holding him to his bravado.  He must have been somewhat convincing though.  Two people actually bought in and gave Louisville first place votes in this week’s Associated Press Poll.  In a related story, RTC’s crack team of investigators is reviewing Behanan’s family tree for college basketball writers.  However what Behanan, his teammates, and the Louisville faithful may have been guilty of last night is complacence. Louisville has a huge game coming up on New Year’s Eve at #3 Kentucky, and dare we say they may have looked past Georgetown a bit?  There was even a comment during the ESPN broadcast that the KFC Yum! Center seemed somewhat low key. Whether Louisville let down their guard a bit or not, take nothing away from the Hoyas (12-1).  They are rolling.  Since their four-point loss to #17 Kansas on November 21, Georgetown has won nine in a row including three over teams that were ranked at the time.
  3. While West Virginia won its game on the court last night (83-69 over Villanova) they lost a decision in the court on Tuesday.  Providence (RI) County Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein said “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND” to the university’s desire to have decisions regarding the timing of their official defection to the Big 12 rendered outside of Rhode Island.  ” (Hey, it may be lame, but it’s a theme.  At least I did not emerge and put on one of those old colonial judge wigs. See… you chuckled just then.) Rhode Island is the location of Big East headquarters, and a darn fine state in its own right. The court also denied West Virginia’s request that a suit filed against them by the Big East be rejected.  Big East bylaws stipulate that any school electing to leave the conference must wait 27 months before it can formally do so.  West Virginia filed suit against the conference challenging the rule, as it wants to enter the Big 12 in time for the 2012 football season.  The Big East then quickly filed the aforementioned countersuit saying that West Virginia’s suit is baseless and they must abide by the rules they previously agreed to.
  4. Fab Melo’s development and credibility took a nice leap forward last night as he notched his first career double-double, hitting career-highs in scoring with 12 points and blocks with 10 in a 75-49 rout of Seton Hall.  The 10 blocks also set a Syracuse record and he missed a triple-double by just three rebounds.  As noted here yesterday, a key indicator in the maturation of Melo would be his performance against the type of frontcourt competition the Big East brings night in and night out.  So far, so good.  Seton Hall came into the game at 11-1 with some nice wins over the likes of Virginia Commonwealth, St. Joseph’s, Auburn and Dayton.  Check.  Seton Hall has Herb Pope who is a beast and came into the game averaging 20.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest.  Pope finished last night’s game with four points, nine rebounds and six turnovers.  Check.  It has been well documented that Melo came into this season in much better shape, which is helping him to stay on the floor and concentrate on basketball over fitness.  With the fitness hurdle cleared, his confidence is growing which can only help.  “I wasn’t surprised,” Melo said after the game “I’ve put a lot of work in. I’m still working hard to get better and I’m sure you’ll see better things from me. You’re going to be more surprised.”
  5. When the schedule came out, Rutgers fans certainly had today’s date circled on their calendars as the Scarlet Knights will be hosting #10 Florida tonight.  While it is always great to welcome one of the country’s top programs into your arena for a non-conference game, the cherry on top in this one is the return of Mike Rosario. Rosario starred at Rutgers for two years, scoring over 1,000 points in a Scarlet Knight uniform before transferring to Florida.  He is a hometown kid who played for legendary coach Bob Hurley, Sr., at Jersey City’s equally legendary St. Anthony’s High School.  Despite Rosario’s individual success at Rutgers, as a fine Star-Ledger/NJ.com piece by Brendan Prunty points out, he did not see a near-term opportunity to win in Piscataway.  That, coupled with the departure of Fred Hill, the head coach who recruited him, prompted Rosario to explore his options and ultimately head south to Gainesville.  Rosario (9.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG this season) has missed the Gators’ last two games with a nagging back injury and his status for tonight’s game is questionable, but he says he is ‘100 percent right now’ and will play in the game.
Share this story