Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2012

  1. Despite all the struggles that the Pac-12 went through this season, the conference came into Tuesday night with the most teams of any conference in the nation still playing basketball. Unfortunately, none of those teams were in the NCAA Tournament, with two in the NIT and one in the CBI. And, the results last night trimmed the number of Pac-12 teams to just two. Stanford is among those two, as it took care of business in the matinee at Madison Square Garden, knocking off Massachusetts 74-64 behind 13 second-half points from sophomore wing Anthony Brown, part of his game-high 18. However, in the nightcap, Washington fell in overtime to Minnesota, nixing the chances of an all-Pac-12 final. Terrence Ross led the Huskies with 21 points, but now UW fans have to hold their collective breath as they wait to see if he and/or freshman Tony Wroten will enter their names into the NBA Draft, as expected. The Gophers move on to face the Cardinal for the NIT title on Thursday night.
  2. While Pac-12 teams are shut out of this weekend’s Final Four in New Orleans, there is some representation in the weekend’s festivities, as Oregon’s Devoe Joseph and California’s Jorge Gutierrez will both play in the Reese’s Division I College All-Star game on Friday. Meanwhile, Duck fans will also be able to root for Olu Ashaolu in the State Farm Slam Dunk content, on Thursday night.
  3. Despite a difficult season but as we expected all along, there does not appear to be any forthcoming changes in the head coaching positions at any of the Pac-12 schools. Still, every time a new position opens up, certain Pac-12 coaches are mentioned in connection with those jobs. Dana Altman’s name was floated in relation to the Nebraska job, Johnny Dawkins has been suggested as a possibility at Illinois, as has Lorenzo Romar, and now Tad Boyle is rumored to be a possibility at Kansas State. Luckily, most fan bases around the conference can see right through these rumors. The Husky Haul takes umbrage at the idea that Romar’s name gets mentioned seemingly every time any other big position comes open. And likewise, The Ralphie Report laughs off the notion that Boyle is going to walk out on a young and talented Colorado team with a bright future. While either of those guys may leave their respective institutions at some point in the future, Illinois and Kansas State are not going to be the places to steal them away.
  4. There is a possibility, however, that there could be some shakeup on the Colorado bench. In the wake of Tim Miles’ move to Nebraska, Colorado State is in search of its next head coach. Assistants Jean Prioleau and Mike Rohn could each be considered by CSU for its open position, and while Boyle is in no hurry to see either one of them go, he would “love for them to get an opportunity.” There has been a lot of talk about Weber State head coach Randy Rahe landing at CSU, but until the coaching carousel stops spinning, either of Boyle’s main men could be candidates elsewhere.
  5. Lastly, we’ll wrap up a Colorado-heavy Morning Five by pointing you to The Ralphie Report’s third part of its look ahead to next year’s Buffalo team. This part focuses on the six newcomers to the program, making up a Top 25 recruiting class for Boyle. The argument begins as to who is the most anticipated of these newcomers; is it Josh Scott, the 2012 player of the year in Colorado, or maybe Xavier Johnson, another southern California kid stolen by Boyle out from under the noses of UCLA and USC? Maybe it is super bouncy forward Wesley Gordon who could be an excellent backup to Andre Roberson, or versatile wing Chris Jenkins? Xavier Talton is the team’s fifth recruit, an in-state combo-guard who may be a work in progress, while Boyle just added guard Eli Stalzer, a teammate of Johnson’s with the reputation as a pure point guard. With plenty of talent returning for the Buffaloes, getting contributions from a few of these guys could turn CU into a national player next season.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2012

  1. We mentioned Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich as a possible replacement for Frank Martin yesterday, and a media outlet in Bloomington now claims he may be on the Wildcats’ short list. Despite his lack of an NCAA Tournament berth, Jankovich makes a lot of sense. Forget for a moment even that he’s a former point guard for Kansas State. Beyond that tie, he also learned the ropes from Bill Self as an assistant, and his tenure at Illinois State hasn’t exactly been rocky. In fact, it’s been relatively successful. Here’s a decent comparison: when Oklahoma State hired Travis Ford, he had only reached an NCAA Tournament at Eastern Kentucky. Ford’s previous stop at Massachusetts had also only resulted in NIT appearances. Ford hasn’t yet been proven as a home-run hire, but he’s done good things in Stillwater. Jankovich could do the same in Manhattan.
  2. Adding to the mystery of the Martin situation, both he and athletic director John Currie have denied reports of a strained relationship between the two. That’s nice to hear the two men parted ways on solid terms (publicly, at least), but that leaves us even more confused. If there was no issue with the AD, why leave for a school with less tradition and an athletic program with less emphasis in basketball? It’s not a stretch to say South Carolina is the worst job in the SEC, and it’s probably one of the worst BCS-conference jobs in America. It just is. So when Martin says he just wanted a new challenge, we hope he really believes that.
  3. Watch out, Big 12, the SEC Tournament may be invading your territory. Kansas City and St. Louis could eventually be in play for the conference tournament, but there are no open slots until at least 2016. If either city lands the SEC Tournament, though, you can expect some backlash from the Big 12. We have a feeling these two conferences will not be playing nice for the next several years.
  4. Kansas is the only team in the Big 12 still playing, so we may as well throw some Final Four previews at you. This one comes courtesy of Jeff Borzello at CBS Sports. As he points out, the Jayhawks’ title chances may hinge on their ability to execute offensively. They will shut down anybody they face in New Orleans on the defensive end, but offensively, they have to show up like they did in the first half against North Carolina on Sunday. Self’s teams normally execute as well as anybody in America, so there should be no doubt that his team will be focused against Ohio State this weekend.
  5. With TCU joining the Big 12 in July, it must overhaul its men’s basketball program to keep up with the competition. Luckily, the Horned Frogs are pumping in millions of dollars to upgrade their basketball facilities, and that’s the first step toward this project. On the basketball side, they are actually not all that far behind. Coming from the Mountain West, it’s not as though TCU is foreign to the idea of good basketball, and it made strides this year with a post-season appearance.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 28th, 2012

  1. One coaching vacancy in the Big Ten has been filled as Nebraska welcomed Tim Miles as the newest leader of their basketball program. Miles comes with a solid resume from Colorado State, but some former players have expressed disappointment that the school wasn’t able to get a coach who moved a needle a little more. Miles was able to guide Colorado State to the NCAA Tournament this year, which is something the Huskers were unable to do, but his lack of experience at the helm of a big-time program has given some fans pause knowing that competing in the Big Ten is different than the Mountain West.
  2. Meanwhile, it appears that Illinois will soon have their man, as a deal appears imminent with Ohio head coach and former Ohio State assistant John Groce.  However, since Illinois publicly courted other candidates, including VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens, and came up empty; many who have been following the hiring process are wondering whether becoming the head man of the Illini is still a premiere position. Some have used the term “national embarrassment”, and while I think that is harsh, it is true that Illinois has been publicly rebuffed by a number of candidates.
  3. Michigan State has a storied basketball program, and that has led to the Spartans honoring nine former players by retiring their jersey numbers. Tom Izzo thinks that there should be a tenth jersey hanging from the rafters, and he wants that jersey to belong to Draymond Green. Green was honored as an AP All-Amerian first team member this week, and his leadership off the court and skills on the court certainly would qualify him to join Spartan lore. Izzo has noted that the leadership and chemistry from this team is not lost on the younger players, and State will be looking for a couple of leaders to fill the void left by Green come next season.
  4. With the Final Four back in New Orleans, decided to reminisce about some classic moments when college basketball’s premiere event was held in the Big Easy. Two Big Ten moments made the list, one being Keith Smart’s epic shot against Syracuse in 1987 and the other being Chris Webber‘s infamous timeout against North Carolina in 1993. The best and the worst of the NCAA tournament, both taking place at the same site, six years apart.
  5. Though their NCAA Tournament exit was heartbreaking, Wisconsin gave Syracuse a run for their money, and while senior point guard Jordan Taylor will certainly be missed, the Badgers will bring back four starters from a team that won 26 games this year.  It is never easy to replace a leader at the point guard position, but Wisconsin will return 71% of its scoring and 84% of its rebounding next season. The future looks good in Madison for the Badgers to again be a factor in the Big Ten.
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The Ultimate Breakdown: Ohio State vs. Kansas

Posted by zhayes9 on March 28th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court. You can read his Louisville-Kentucky breakdown here.

It was clear from the first game of the season that everyone’s favorite breakout player, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, was going to live up to the hype. At the same time, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, a first team All-American as a freshman and preseason All-American as a sophomore, was widely viewed as the premier big man in the country. It only took a quick glance at the calendar for December 10 to stand out: Ohio State at Kansas. Or more accurately: Sullinger at Robinson. Unfortunately, Sullinger’s body would spoil all our fun. The Buckeyes’ leading scorer sat out the visit to Allen Fieldhouse with painful back spasms and Ohio State limped to an 11-point loss.

Barring a freak accident in the next three-plus days, the Ohio State-Kansas sequel won’t lack one of its biggest stars. Sullinger is healthy and Robinson is ready, two exceptional talents and future lottery picks banging bodies in the post with a trip to the sport’s brightest stage on the line: Monday night at the Final Four. Of course, Ohio State-Kansas is about much more than two players. It’s about Tyshawn Taylor trying to take Aaron Craft off the dribble. It’s about Travis Releford chasing William Buford all over the floor. It’s about Bill Self and Thad Matta matching wits on the sidelines. Heck, I’m sure Jeff Withey will be matched up with Sullinger for a good portion of Saturday’s game.

Louisville-Kentucky may be the Final Four main event, but you may want to stick around for the after party.

Sullinger and Robinson will finally go toe-to-toe. Oh, and it's at the Final Four.

Backcourt- The much-maligned Tyshawn Taylor posted a redemptive senior season, staying out of Bill Self’s doghouse, limiting turnovers and shooting a robust 39 percent from three. Taylor is a tough cover due to his blazing speed, swift crossover and irrepressible confidence, a characteristic never more evident than when Taylor pulled up for a 3-on-1 three-pointer late in Kansas’ Elite Eight win over North Carolina despite the fact he hadn’t made a shot from behind the arc in the entire tournament. His running mate is the much-improved Elijah Johnson, a bit player turned double-digit scorer and clutch shot-maker. We might be talking about Robbie Hummel’s unprecedented run to the Final Four if Johnson didn’t bail out the Jayhawks during a Robinson/Taylor no-show in Kansas’ second-round escape against Purdue. Travis Releford is Bill Self’s go-to perimeter defender. He’ll receive the challenging task of chasing William Buford around screens for 40 minutes. Buford underachieved relative to inflated expectations this season, coming off an extremely efficient junior campaign, but ask Michigan State if he’s capable of exploding at any moment. Lenzelle Smith is essentially Johnson’s clone, a 6’4” glue guy who’s canned his fair share of clutch shots this tournament. The matchup to track is Aaron Craft, far and away best perimeter defender in the country, and Taylor with his athleticism and quickness. Taylor went 1-of-4 from the floor with six turnovers guarded by Craft in their December meeting. Slight Edge: Ohio State.

Frontcourt- Equally tantalizing are the frontcourt matchups: DeShaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger vs. Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson. Thomas is the leading scorer in this year’s NCAA Tournament, a versatile southpaw who shot a phenomenal 61 percent from two and has never met a shot he didn’t love. That irrational confidence is to Thad Matta’s benefit on the offensive end, but the kindest way to describe Thomas’ defensive effort is the anti-Aaron Craft. It’ll be interesting to see if Self shows some triangle-and-2 or zone so Robinson or Withey don’t have to chase Thomas around the floor. The scenario is similar to when Kansas faced Missouri’s four-guard attack, but there’s no Matt Pressey on Ohio State you can leave unguarded. The one-on-one scrap we all want to witness is Sullinger vs. Robinson. According to Synergy and Luke Winn’s tournament blog, Sullinger is much more efficient away from the block than Robinson. The Buckeye star is fully capable of utilizing the mid-range jumper he perfected last summer, while Robinson is a superior overall rebounder. Withey actually posted a higher block percentage than Anthony Davis, but isn’t much of a low-post scoring threat outside of dunks and put-backs. Slight Edge: Ohio State.

Bench- Much like Louisville and Kentucky, the bench simply isn’t a major factor for either side. Remember 2012 the next time somebody denounces a team’s Final Four chances because of their lack of depth. While Matta has always rejected using more than six or seven players, backup big men Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams simply holding the fort while Sullinger was on the bench for 13 minutes during the first half of Ohio State’s regional final win over Syracuse may have saved their season. It’s doubtful that Williams, backup point Shannon Scott or backup wing Sam Thompson will see more than a few minutes combined because of the stakes, unless of course foul trouble is a factor. Kansas doesn’t have a bench due to a combination of early entries, recruiting whiffs and graduation, an obstacle that renders the job Self did this season even more remarkable. Connor Teahan has the reputation of a solid shooter, but he’s canned only 34 percent from deep on the season. Kevin Young will spell Robinson or Withey. His 6’8” frame is actually a better matchup opposite Thomas. Slight Edge: Kansas.

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SEC Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 28th, 2012

  1. Tennessee Volunteer center Kenny Hall has been reinstated by Cuonzo Martin. “Kenny’s back in the fold,” Martin said Tuesday morning. “Kenny is a good young man, and I believe he has learned a valuable lesson and he’s ready to move forward.” Hall will rejoin team workouts after being held out of the final nine games of the season. He will join a front line that includes Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes, who both had outstanding seasons, for a promising second year under coach Martin.
  2. High school standout Shabazz Muhammad confirmed that he will decide on his college choice on April 21. He is down to five schools, but Kentucky, UCLA, and Duke are the leaders for his services. The Cats are likely to lose as many as six or seven players from their current roster, but still have a solid class coming in and John Calipari‘s success with getting freshmen into the NBA draft only helps him continue to recruit the nation’s best. Of course there are still lingering concerns about Muhammad’s eligibility.
  3. Even while Kentucky prepares for the Final Four that doesn’t mean Calipari isn’t still recruiting for next season. The Wildcats are reportedly one of at least two schools (North Carolina is the other) that has reached out to Connecticut senior Alex Oriakhi to inquire about a transfer to UK. With Kentucky’s frontline about to be decimated by the pro game, Oriakhi could play significant minutes for a team with the potential to go very deep in the NCAA Tournament again next year. Whether or not he plays next year depends on the decision by the NCAA on UConn’s appeal of its 2013 NCAA Tournament. If the Huskies win and can play in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Oriakhi would have to sit out a year, but if they lose and are kept out, Oriakhi is eligible immediately.
  4. After Mississippi State’s season ended, Renardo Sidney is preparing to boost his stock in the upcoming NBA draft. Sidney and his agent think his draft status is fairly simple. “Right now we’re just working on losing about 30 pounds. We’re not worried about my game because my game has always been there. It’s always been about the weight. We’re working to get 30 pounds off me and see where it goes from there.” And Sidney is right. Unfortunately, he has always known weight was an issue and didn’t do anything about it while he was in Starkville.
  5. The 2011-12 Florida Gators left a lasting impression on coach Billy Donovan. “A team that was really young and immature in a lot of ways and in front of my eyes I got a chance to watch them grow up and mature competitively. To see where Patric Young was at the start of the year, in January, to see where they finished. To see before Brad (Beal) was in November and December, see where he finished. Same with Erik Murphy. Our guys grew up.” Unfortunately for the Gators, they returned to that same immature team for the final eight minutes of their Elite Eight matchup with the Louisville Cardinals.
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ACC Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 28th, 2012

  1. Durham Herald-Sun and Inside Carolina: The ACC is very involved in the race to get Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi. According to Jeff Goodman, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Florida, Temple, Xavier, UCLA, Missouri, George Mason, Virginia Tech, Virginia and UNC Charlotte have all reached out to the rising senior big man. Additionally, Kentucky, Florida and Missouri may not be able to recruit him because the SEC has a rule against one-year transfers. I’d be a little surprised if Oriakhi ends up at North Carolina (though he should definitely wait a couple weeks to see who will be coming back) or Virginia Tech, but Duke and NC State certainly have a lot of need and Virginia would have tons of minutes too.
  2. BC Interruption: Speaking of Connecticut and Oriakhi, apparently the suits in Storrs aren’t interested in Oriakhi transferring to Boston College, according to Eric Hoffses. I haven’t seen this from any major media outlets yet, but it wouldn’t shock me to see the Huskies holding a grudge against the former Big East member. Unfortunately, Boston College is the closest to home Oriakhi could get at a major conference school, as he grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts.
  3. CSN Washington: It sounds like everyone may have jumped the gun on Sam Cassell, Jr.‘s, commitment to Maryland. That is to say, he’s not committed. But the younger Cassell definitely made it sound like he was on Twitter. This makes me think his father told him to take his time and take more visits to try and inform his final choice. I’d be a little surprised if he doesn’t end up in College Park, but we’ll have to wait to find out.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: One assistant on Tobacco Road was tapped for a head coaching gig, but it wasn’t Chris Collins. Jerrod Haase, a longtime assistant for Roy Williams, will be moving on to coach UAB. Haase played for Williams in the mid-1990s at Kansas before joining his staff in 1999. The new question is who will replace him. Jackie Manuel and Bobby Frasor are putting some time in with the team now, but I’m not sure their couple years of experience each merits an assistant coach position already.
  5. Orlando Sentinel: The Leonard Hamilton updates have disappeared recently. First he was tied to the Illinois coaching opening; then he was receiving a contract extension. But neither has been confirmed or even furthered so far. Instead, it looks like business as usual for Hamilton, whose stoic on-court demeanor carries over to his laconic disposition when addressing things pertaining to himself. No news is probably good news for Seminole fans (as is Hamilton’s age), but here’s to hoping he stays in Tallahassee.
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Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2012

  1. Frank Martin was introduced as the new head coach at South Carolina yesterday. We are usually indifferent on most coaching hires because they are usually involve hiring successful coaches from lower-tier programs, unsuccessful coaches from higher-tier programs, or unproven assistant coaches. It is rare to get a successful coach from a higher-tier program, but South Carolina managed to do it. Overall, it appears to be one of the better hires that we can remember at least as of the time of the hiring although Martin will have to deal with the some very strong programs around him. Martin will also have to deal with a program and a culture where one of the team’s star players, Bruce Ellington, cannot decide which sport he wants to play.
  2. John Currie, the athletic director at Kansas State, was quick to refute the growing speculation that a rift between he and Martin was a driving force in Martin’s decision to head to South Carolina. Currie was busy yesterday not only starting a search for a new coach and denying that his relationship with Martin was the driving force behind Martin’s decision, but also reporting that the evidence behind the school’s suspension of Jamar Samuels before the team’s game against Syracuse was that somebody found the wire transfer receipt in  the garbage. As several people have pointed out this report seems a little strange and there has been plenty of speculation that it was a ploy to help drive Martin out without having to face the wrath of boosters. We are not sure we believe that either, but it certainly has been an interesting few days in Manhattan, Kansas
  3. As we noted on Twitter yesterday we have seen athletes do a lot of dumb things with social media/networking, but Jonathan Holton appears to have taken it to another level. The Rhode Island freshman was arrested yesterday morning after reportedly posting unauthorized videos of sexual encounters with two female students onto his Facebook page. Holton, who is facing two felony counts and up to three years in prison along with a $5,000 fine, was released and warned not to contact the two alleged victims. We suspect this is not the type of start that Dan Hurley wanted when he took over the job at Rhode Island.
  4. C.J. McCollum is using his phenomenal performance against Duke as a sign to take his talents to the next level and he will enter his name into the NBA Draft. The Lehigh junior guard will not hire an agent for now, which will allow him the ability to withdraw from the Draft by April 10. If you are looking for an eventual source for whether or not McCollum stays in the Draft, you might want to check out The Brown and White, the Lehigh online student paper, which McCollum, a journalism major writes for. Surprisingly, McCollum did not release the story to his paper first and instead went through the school’s athletic department. We cannot give C.J. much direct advice on the court, but in the journalism industry it is generally a good idea to break your own stories rather than giving it away to other sources. Another junior, Georgetown‘s Hollis Thompson, will be entering the Draft and plans to sign with an agent. Thompson, who put him name in last year before pulling out, is making an interesting decision because unlike McCollum, who most consider a mid- to late-first round pick, Thompson would be hoping to be a late second round selection at best.
  5. Yesterday, Connecticut formally released Alex Oriakhi from his scholarship. As we noted when the news first broke, whether or not Oriakhi will be able to play next year is dependent on how the NCAA rules on UConn’s appeal of their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban. If UConn loses its appeal, Oriakhi can play next year, but if they win the appeal, he has to sit out a year. There will be no shortage of suitors for Oriakhi, but there is at least one school that Oriakhi will not consider–Duke. We are not quite sure of why Oriakhi is so strongly opposed to becoming a Blue Devil, but it is an interesting choice because he certainly would be able to get major minutes playing for them and would also have plenty of opportunity to showcase his skills on television.
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Deconstructing the Louisville-Kentucky Rivalry to the Rest of America

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2012

So we hear that there’s an interesting rivalry game going down in New Orleans on Saturday. It’s a good thing that nobody has decided to write about it or talk about it yet; that means this piece will be first on the scene.

Game of the Century in the Commonwealth (h/t Card Chronicle)

All kidding aside, Dream Game II will without question be the most-watched event in the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s history. While the Kentucky Derby may get more worldwide attention, the truth is that most Kentuckians don’t know any more about the Sport of Kings than they do about navigating the New York City subway system — the first Saturday in May is mostly viewed as a neat aside for the state to put on its happy face and throw a grandiose party. But as far as college basketball, this is a sophisticated crowd whose knowledge and passion cuts through all the cultural, class and racial fissures that exist in any modern society. And this rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky exhibits that perhaps better than any other such local tussle in the sport — let’s look at the reasons why.

  • The Good Folks of Kentucky Are Bats#!t Crazy About College Basketball. We very much mean this in a complimentary way. Take a normal August, for example.  While the rest of the nation is caught up in pennant races, backyard barbecues, and the imminent start of college football and the NFL, Wildcat and Cardinal fans are calling into local talk shows and signing on to message boards to discuss the latest word from summer pick-up games and recruiting rumors. When Rick Pitino went through his 15 seconds of fame several summers ago, the coverage of Karen Sypher and the entire debacle saturated both Lexington and Louisville news media for weeks. It’s no secret that college hoops is a 365-day per year commitment in the Commonwealth, and such near-obsession with the sport magnifies the importance of the standing of the two major programs on a regular basis.
  • UK Fans Are Not Over Pitino’s Return to the State. And they never will be. What you have to realize is that from 1989-97, Rick Pitino as the young, brash and highly successful coach of the Wildcats was as big as big gets in the Bluegrass. Not only did he resurrect the Kentucky program from the very public shame of a devastating probation, but he captured hearts and minds from Paducah to Pikeville with his intoxicating and fun style of basketball featuring three-point shooting, full-court pressure defense and a deep, active bench. When he left for the Boston Celtics in 1997 after three Final Four appearances and a national title in 1996, most UK fans were sad but thankful for how he had rebuilt their proud program. That all changed four years later after Denny Crum’s retirement when he returned to take over the head job at Louisville. Suddenly those same fans who had adored the charismatic coach in Lexington looked at his return as nothing other than a traitorous Judas Iscariot. The thinking went: “Out of all the good D-I coaching jobs in America, he had to choose Louisville?” Can you blame them?
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Checking In On The ‘Other’ Tournaments – NIT, CBI, and CIT Championships Get Decided This Week

Posted by EJacoby on March 27th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Only four teams out of 345 are truly happy with how their seasons have turned out, and they’re the four headed to New Orleans this weekend for the Final Four. But there are hundreds of other schools that didn’t even get a chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament that need to work that much harder to get their shot next season. That’s what the NIT, CBI, and CIT tournaments are for – not all teams are motivated to compete (see: Seton Hall’s second round NIT loss as a #1-seed), and these tourneys may not draw many casual fans, but they’re important for players, coaches, and fans who want to see their teams finish strong and work on reaching the Big Dance next season. The beauty of March Madness is that a CBI team this season could be in the Sweet Sixteen next year. You never know who that’s going to be. Let’s take a look at who’s left in the ‘other’ postseason tournaments, which all come to a conclusion this week before the Final Four…

NIT (Semifinals)

The 32-team NIT tournament draws intrigue as the best teams that got ‘snubbed’ by the NCAA Tournament with a chance to validate their seasons with a championship in Madison Square Garden. We’re down to four teams and the semifinals begin tonight (Tuesday).

Tony Wroten, Jr. and Washington Still Have Plenty to Play For (Getty Images/N. Laham)

#1 Washington vs. #6 Minnesota. Call the Pac-12 the kings of mediocrity this season. The conference only sent two teams to the Big Dance (who combined to go 1-2) but it has two teams remaining in the NIT semis and one of the two teams competing in the CBI finals. Washington might be the single most talented team in the country that didn’t get a chance to play in the Big Dance, and the Huskies are proving it in the NIT. Led by several talented athletes looking to build towards next season or perhaps even boost their NBA stocks, UW is the favorite here. Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross are two of those players with NBA thoughts and both are playing exceptional basketball right now, with Ross being the NIT’s leading scorer at 26.3 points per game. Minnesota, meanwhile, has had to play all three games on the road to get here, grinding out victories in typical Big Ten fashion. The Golden Gophers have been motivated by the news that their leader Trevor Mbakwe (injured all season) has been granted a sixth year of eligibility to play next season, so there is plenty of hope for the future. Explosive forward Rodney Williams has been leading this team and will also be back next season. Tubby Smith’s team has been playing hard but will be underdogs against this loaded UW squad.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2012

  1. While college basketball as a whole is in that dreaded five-day lull between the Elite Eight games and the Final Four games, we’ve at least got some leftovers to keep us sated as we wait. Last night’s menu featured game one of the three-game CBI championship series, and Washington State, playing without its best player Brock Motum, built a 12-point second-half lead against Pittsburgh, then held on to win, dodging a last-second shot to emerge as a one-point winner. Senior Abe Lodwick picked up the slack for the Cougs, going for 16 points, while junior point guard Reggie Moore had 14. After the opening-game win in Pullman, the Cougs will now have to win just one of the remaining two games at the Peterson Events Center in order to claim the CBI title, with game two coming on Wednesday. Motum, who wore a protective boot on the bench on Monday night, could return for game two, although he’ll be a game-time decision.
  2. Oregon State got news on Monday that junior guard Jared Cunningham would be “testing the waters” with the NBA, meaning that he has until April 10 to announce his intention to return to school rather than become eligible for the June draft. Of course, due to increasingly player-unfavorable rules enacted by the NCAA, this means that Cunningham really will have very little opportunity to get any feedback from NBA executives as to his potential readiness for the league. So, for the next couple weeks, Beaver fans looking forward to an exciting 2012-13 season have plenty of reason for feelings of unease, but can at least comfort themselves in knowing that this has been the plan for Cunningham all along.  All indications are that he’ll return to Corvallis next season, not only in an attempt to improve his own draft stock, but in hopes to get his team to the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek is under fire recently for the unprecedented rate of scholarship players to leave his program early – 12 players in four seasons. However, Sendek still feels that the program is on the right track, noting that only one of those players who left wound up transferring to another power conference school (Victor Rudd to South Florida), with the rest of the players downgrading to a mid- or low-major program that is more in fitting with their talents. While that’s certainly true, the other side of the coin is that Sendek, then, has been recruiting players who aren’t talented enough to be impact players at a Pac-12 school. And, as Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic notes, of the 14 players who have signed with ASU between 2008 and 2010, 11 have left, leaving only Ruslan Pateev, Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski remaining from those recruiting classes.
  4. It may not be a video that Arizona fans would care to watch, but this recap from the Big Ten Network of Arizona’s collapse against Illinois in the Elite Eight seven years ago seemed particularly relevant this weekend as Florida collapsed against Louisville. While Florida’s folly was more of a slow-motion fade, for some reason watching that inevitability on Saturday brought back the exact same feelings I felt in 2005. A team that had fought its way to a well-earned late double-digit lead on the road to a Final Four somehow suddenly found itself in peril; certainly not a great moment in Pac-12 (nee  10) history, but an iconic one.
  5. Just to cheer up Wildcat fans a bit, there is talk that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell may wind up at Arizona. McConnell announced his intention to transfer from the Pittsburgh school last week, and rumors immediately swirled that Tucson would be a strong possible landing spot for the point guard who averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year. With Josiah Turner’s status in doubt, the Wildcats are in desperate need of a point guard to pair with their 2012 recruiting class currently ranked as the best in the nation, although McConnell would need to sit out a year before being eligible in the desert. Nevertheless, if Turner does indeed wind up returning to the program, that could preclude McConnell from coming west.
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