RTC Summer School: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2012

This weekend represents the end of the summer, and as such, our last offseason status of the high mid-major leagues. Up next: the Atlantic 10.

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Five Offseason Storylines

Majerus Will Be Missed by A-10 Fans and Foes Next Season

  1. The Evolving Conference. Recruiting new members to replace those moving on, hiring new coaches to meet rising expectations and postseason performance, and finding a brand new venue to highlight the conference championship tournament, the Atlantic 10 and its individual members continue to respond proactively to the Division I conference realignments of the past eight years.
  2. Changing Membership. “Atlantic 10” is a misleading description for this conference. The footprint stretches from Kingston, Rhode Island, south to Charlotte, North Carolina, and west to Saint Louis, Missouri. The membership will expand from 14 to 16 for the 2012-13 season (only… at this point). The “not quite Atlantic, not quite 10” conference will add Virginia Commonwealth University (late of the Colonial Athletic Association) and Horizon League powerhouse Butler, before returning to 14 teams in 2013-14. Two schools – Temple, a conference stalwart since 1982 will depart for the Big East, and Charlotte, a member since 2005, will rejoin Conference USA. The faces may change, but all the departing and arriving members share a common passion – outstanding college basketball.
  3. Changing Faces. Since expanding to 14 teams in 2005, the conference has welcomed 14 new head coaches, an average of 1.75 new regimes per season. In the early weeks of the 2012 offseason both Rhode Island and Duquesne fired their head coaches. Jim Baron’s curmudgeonly reputation was tolerated (barely) as his teams recorded four consecutive 20-win seasons. The 25-year veteran (11 in Kingston) had no good will to draw on as the Runnin’ Rams struggled through a 7-24 season. Rhode Island AD Thorr Bjorn tabbed Wagner head coach Danny Hurley as the man to bring the program back to the NCAA Tournament. The offseason shocker came with Duquesne AD Greg Amodio’s announcement that 18-year (the last six at Duquesne) veteran Ron Everhart was out. Everhart interviewed for the Penn State job in the 2011 offseason before he withdrew from consideration (much to the relief of Dukes fans). Duquesne hired 14-year veteran coach Jim Ferry, who spent the last 10 years at Long Island University, to bring stability to the roster and coaching staff.
  4. Changing Venues. When Saint Bonaventure cut down the nets in Boardwalk Hall last March, the conference closed out a six-year run in the venerable old facility. The 2012 conference championship will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on track for completion next month. The brand new venue offers 675,000-square feet devoted to state-of-the-art sports and entertainment with an 18,000 seat basketball arena as the centerpiece. Given the access to the New York City media, will the stage be bright enough for the geographically diverse membership, which includes seven members not located along the Mid-Atlantic coast?
  5. Rick Majerus Takes a Leave of Absence from Saint Louis. For those who attended postgame pressers hosted by the Billiken mentor last season knew that head coach Rick Majerus was in fragile condition. Though he was attentive and animated during the games, his voice was lower and answers more deliberate than in previous years afterward. Athletic Director Chris May’s August 24 announcement that the 25-year veteran — the last five with Saint Louis — was in California “undergoing evaluation and treatment for an ongoing heart condition” and would not take the first chair this season at SLU was not surprising. Jim Crews, a former head coach at Evansville (1986-2002) and Army (2003-09) will assume the job on an interim basis. Crews was hired in October 2011 and was set to start his second season as an assistant when Majerus made the decision to step aside temporarily. Crews will be assisted by Jim Whitesell, also hired last offseason. The timing – late August after a stent operation in July – speaks to both Majerus’ reluctance to step aside and to his confidence in Crews and Whitesell.

Reader’s Take I

 

Summer Team Notes

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Utah Week: Breaking Down The Schedule

Posted by AMurawa on August 31st, 2012

Coming off a 6-25 season and breaking in 10 new players, you can hardly blame the Utes for dialing their schedule back significantly. But this? Three games against non D-I opponents? Zero non-conference games against opponents from BCS conferences? Eleven of the 13 non-conference games inside the state of Utah? Well, one thing is for sure: The Utes will improve on last year’s record. Here’s the schedule, with analysis below:

Easy Stretch: If Utah wanted to ease into the 2012-13 season, they picked the right three teams to do it with. The opener on 11/2 against Simon Fraser is just an exhibition, but things don’t get a whole lot tougher when Division III Willamette visits for the official opener a week later. A week after that, Utah gets its first D-I opponent on the books when Sacramento State (10-18 in the Big Sky last year) visits. A 2-0 record out of the gates is imperative.

Early-Season Tournament: While other Pac-12 teams are traveling to exotic locations and facing highly-regarded opponents in their early season tourneys, the Utes are staying right at home over Thanksgiving weekend and hosting a trio of teams in a round-robin format. Their three opponents – Idaho State, Central Michigan and Wright State – combined to go 33-61 last season, making this a very manageable stretch for the Utes. Still, last year Utah lost at home to teams like Montana State and Cal State Fullerton. If they can take care of business in this tournament, that will be the first sign of proof that the Utes of 2012-13 have taken a step forward. A 5-0 record following Thanksgiving weekend is not out of the question.

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On Geron Johnson and the NCAA’s Ethical Dilemma

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 31st, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Over the next nine weeks, UCLA and Kentucky fans will hold their breaths as the NCAA continues its ongoing investigations of Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel, the two top players in the incoming Class of 2012. Both players face questions over potential impermissible benefits received during their recruitments. The NCAA has yet to hand down punishment and may never do so unless clear evidence of illicit activity is identified. But the longer both cases remain unresolved, the mere prospect of a lengthy suspension – even if no indication has been given of any type of punishment – is troubling not only for the players themselves, but for their coaches and the programs planning to embrace them this fall (if only for one season). Playing without Muhammad or Noel in any extended context would drastically alter the strategic composition of their respective teams, with either loss holding massive implications for potential league and national championship runs.

Pastner is confident Johnson will behave during his two-year stay at Memphis (Photo credit: Greg Bartram/US Presswire).

While the NCAA explores the recruitments of these two high-profile stars, diligently turning over every rock in an attempt to unearth legitimate evidence of illicit recruiting activity and expending considerable resources in doing so, Memphis on Thursday officially welcomed the newest member of its 2012 recruiting class. Geron Johnson, a highly-touted shooting guard from Dayton and the third member of the Tigers’ class, is eligible to play for the Tigers next season. Johnson is, in short, of questionable character. He has a long history of off-court transgressions, from marijuana charges to an attempted burglary in high school to allegations of stealing another student’s cell phone. Since graduating high school as a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2010, Johnson has been defined as much by criminal misconduct as his talent on the basketball court. After enrolling at two junior collages – Chipola College (FL) and Garden City College (KS), both of which revoked his membership after separate transgressions – Johnson resurfaced on the 2012 recruiting market as one of the greatest risk/reward prospects in recent memory. Does tremendous ability on the basketball court override significant character red flags? Is Johnson worth the trouble? Memphis coach Josh Pastner certainly thought so, to the point where he felt comfortable offering Johnson a scholarship, who promptly fulfilled the school’s academic requirements and gained clearance to play for the Tigers in the upcoming season. There are no potential academic or eligibility roadblocks standing in his way, and the NCAA has no grounds on which to block his immediate enrollment at Memphis. Johnson, bearing  a resume most employers would instinctively reject, will play two years on scholarship, provided his future behavior doesn’t prompt a third consecutive expulsion.

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Morning Five: 08.31.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2012

  1. We know that all of you like us have spent the last couple of weeks waiting with bated breath to hear the official explanation as to how Julius Peppers‘ depressing UNC transcript ended up on an NC State message board. We now have our answer. According to North Carolina administrators, the saga began 11 years ago when a staffer made a test record of a de-identified copy of Peppers’ transcript and placed the original file on a secure server. Subsequently, during a 2007 technology migration to a new system, Peppers’ original transcript file came over with it and ended up on an unsecured server. It sat there for five years until some enterprising Wolfpack fan exhumed it a few weeks ago. UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said on Thursday that he personally apologized to Peppers for the privacy transgression, but it wasn’t clear from his statement whether that phone call came before or after Peppers made a massive scholarship donation of $250,000 to the school.
  2. There was some big player movement news on Thursday as Memphis announced that junior college superstar Geron Johnson has matriculated at the school and is eligible to play immediately. Johnson has spent a career moving around and getting arrested rather than playing basketball — he was dismissed from both of his junior college teams, as an example — so this should make for an interesting situation under Josh Pastner next season. With a strong group of Tigers returning, the addition of a player the caliber of Johnson on the perimeter could potentially convert Memphis from a Sweet Sixteen team into a Final Four team. On the other hand, history has quite clearly shown that Johnson does not know how to avoid becoming a distraction. As a parallel, former Tiger Jelan Kendrick caused all sorts of headaches for Pastner before he was finally dismissed from the team on the eve of the 2010 opener, so the head coach clearly isn’t afraid to cut a trouble-maker loose. All in all, it’s probably worth the risk to Pastner to see how Johnson handles the first half of the fall semester and first few weeks of practice before making a final decision on whether he’ll wear the uniform next season.
  3. While on the transfer tip, Fresno State announced on Thursday that former Oklahoma State guard Cezar Guerrero has enrolled at the school and will pursue a waiver request with the NCAA to play next season. The rising sophomore spent a successful first season at OSU, averaging six points and a couple dimes per game in just about 19 minutes per contest, but he wanted to move closer to his hometown of Los Angeles to be nearer to his ailing mother. The Bulldogs were not very good last season, but with Guerrero possibly in the fold and a couple more nice transfers coming in (Kansas’ Braeden Anderson and Pacific’s Allen Huddleston), Fresno could be poised to make a leap in the rugged Mountain West. One other transfer note: former Xavier player Dez Wells is apparently looking hard at none other than John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats.
  4. We can’t say that we’ve every actually made it over to Terre Haute, Indiana, but if we ever had, you can rest assured that the very first thing we would have done was to make a beeline to the Indiana State campus and ask directions for the statue of Larry Bird. Imagine our surprise when our fake-traveler self would have learned that, alas, there is no such thing. At least not at ISU. Our next question,”how is this possible,” probably would have been met with a shrug and a “good luck,” but when we learned Thursday that Bird’s alma mater was finally making plans to build a 15-foot bronze statue of the Legend, we made a mental note to do a visit there eventually. Here is a short list of big-time basketball schools who cannot claim one of the top 10 basketball players to ever walk the earth: Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, Georgetown, Indiana, Connecticut. But you know who can? Indiana Freakin’ State. How can it take 34 years to get this done — astonishing.
  5. What might be even more astonishing is when schools claim national titles that the simply do not have. Our disgust over treating Helms Titles in the same way as national championships won on the court is well-documented, but how should we feel if a school begins claiming that other (non-NCAA) tournament titles are also “national championships?” Can Pitt claim a national title for winning last year’s CBI? Does Mercer have one for winning the CIT? Well, Louisville has pushed forward with a new adidas t-shirt suggesting that the school (who, incidentally, has won NCAA championships in 1980 and 1986) has won four national titles. A little deeper research performed by Kentucky Sports Radio (who else?) shows that the Cards won a tournament called the NAIB in 1948 and the NIT in 1956. Is this trend of claiming national championships from whole cloth marketing genius or shameless deception disguised as celebration? We’re tending toward the latter. Don’t do this, Louisville.
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Utah Week: Ten Newcomers Breathe Life Into The Program

Posted by AMurawa on August 30th, 2012

As head coach Larry Krystkowiak begins to remake the Utah roster more to his liking, he welcomes in 10 new players next season, including three newly eligible Division I transfers, a couple of student-athletes returning from two-year LDS missions, four freshmen, and a junior college transfer. Coupled with three returning seniors, Utah will have a significantly more experienced team. Likewise, the talent level takes a big bump up from last year’s hastily assembled roster. Below, we’ll run down each of the newcomers in our guess as to the order of their importance to the 2012-13 squad.

Jordan Loveridge, Freshman, Combo Forward, 6’6” 225 lbs, West Jordan High School, West Jordan, Utah – The 2012 Player of the Year in Utah was a huge get for Krystkowiak, the first step in proving that the new head coach can protect his back yard. As a senior, Loveridge led the state in both scoring and rebounding, notching 18 double-doubles along the way. In the Utes’ summer trip to Brazil, he scored in double figures in three of the four games and averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game in limited minutes during that stretch, prompting even further hope for UU fans that Loveridge will be a special player. Still, Loveridge is a guy most suited to play the four, and at 6’6” that could prove to be something of a problem in the Pac-12. He’s got long arms, a great basketball IQ and the ability to extend his game out beyond the three-point line, but he still needs to prove his effectiveness against Pac-12-caliber competition. Eventually if he polishes his perimeter handles, he could shift to the three spot full-time and turn into a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Jarred DuBois, Utah

Jarred DuBois Leads A Trio Of Transfers That Will Remake The Ute Backcourt (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Jarred DuBois, Senior, Combo Guard, 6’3” 180 lbs, Loyola Marymount University – A graduate student transfer from LMU, DuBois is a playmaker. Unfortunately, there have been times in his career when the number of plays he makes for the opposition are greater than the number of plays he makes for his own team. Still, if he can tighten up his handle, take better care of the ball and – this might be the toughest of his assignments – shoot a decent percentage from the field, DuBois has the athleticism and toughness to be a major asset for the Utes. His best season at LMU was his sophomore campaign where he hit 59 threes at a 40% clip while handing out a couple assists per night and keeping his turnover rate low. If he can replicate that type of line, he’ll be an upgrade in the backcourt.

Aaron Dotson, Junior, Shooting Guard, 6’4” 204 lbs, Louisiana State University –Dotson, a native of Seattle, committed to LSU as a highly regarded member of the 2009 recruiting class, ranked #45 overall by ESPNU. In two years at LSU, Dotson earned 38 starts (out of 63 games), averaging 6.8 points per game in his sophomore year, by far his most effective season. He struggled mightily as a freshman, turning the ball over regularly and shooting just a 32.6% eFG. While his turnovers remained steady as a freshman, Dotson improved his shot as a sophomore, leading the Tigers with 37.5% from deep, but with his mother fighting breast cancer, Dotson decided it was time to head back across country and play closer to home. His size and athleticism coupled with a sweet stroke from three mean that there is plenty of upside here. If Dotson is able to harness his talents, he could be a revelation in the Pac-12.

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Dez Wells Saga Reveals Misplaced Priorities of Xavier Disciplinary Process

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 30th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

When Xavier announced earlier this month the expulsion of star guard Dezmine Wells, the move seemed rash and awfully premature. At the outset, the school was reticent to release any specific details and we were left to assume Wells’ dismissal was completely within bounds, that his actions were heinous and severe enough to warrant such decisive punishment. XU termed Wells’ transgression a “severe violation of the Code of Student Conduct”, but claimed “federal privacy law restrictions” prevented a more thorough explanation. CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman reported the incident involved sexual misconduct, which put Wells – who, in the immediate aftermath of the allegations coming to light, didn’t respond to the school’s actions – in a particularly bad light. As XU’s best returning player, Wells’ actions damaged not only his own reputation but his former school’s prospects on the court next season. Several developments over the past week and change have shifted the tenor of that narrative.

The specious allegations against Wells gave XU all the evidence it needed to expel him (Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images).

An Ohio grand jury exposed the XU conduct board for its hasty litigation process, essentially claiming that the suit was improperly adjudicated in a way that violated the basic tenets of the American judicial system. Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters officially denounced the XU’s criminal charges and called its disciplinary process “seriously flawed.” XU in response held firm to its protocol and refused to back down after the grand jury’s ruling. The school reiterated its stance on Wells’ actions under the contention that its ethical and disciplinary standards differ from those of the American justice system, and thus covered itself against criticism from the suspicious eyes of nuanced legal officials like Deters. In a statement released to ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil, XU justified its retributive protocol:

The process used by the Xavier University Conduct Board is the standard used in American universities. The XU Conduct Board heard evidence that may or may not have been heard by the grand jury. After the Conduct Board reached its decision, the matter was considered and upheld by an appeal board of members of the student body, faculty and staff and is final.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 08.30.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 30th, 2012

  1. While most of the nation is focused on college football in late August, the revealing of the college basketball TV schedules gets everyone into the hoops frame of mind once again. This year, of course, changes everything inside the conference, as every inter-conference game will be televised. Whether it’s the ESPN family of networks, the Pac-12 Networks, FSN, or CBS, every single one will be shown somewhere. The Pac-12 revealed that TV Schedule yesterday, both for non-conference and in-conference games. It’s pretty incredible to look at.
  2. With the TV slate revealed, both Oregon schools released their schedules today. Visits from Vanderbilt and Nebraska, not to mention a road game at UNLV, highlight Oregon’s schedule, while the Beavers will take on New Mexico State in Corvallis, Alabama in New York City, and Kansas in Kansas City. As you can tell, both teams still need to add one more opponent. Oregon State’s slate features an interesting game with San Diego on December 22nd to be played at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Not only will it help the team get a feel for the place before the Pac-12 Tournament is held there in March, but it will also be played a mere two and a half hours after the completion of the Las Vegas Bowl.
  3. In case you haven’t read enough on how foreign summer tours help bond teams together, check out this post-China piece on UCLA. On the court, the Bruins dominated in their three games. Without the help of Shabazz Muhammad, who was held out of the trip due to an ongoing NCAA investigation, the Bruins dominated anyway, winning all three contests by a combined 118 points. Those with the Pac-12 Networks got to watch a replay of the Bruins final game, a 92-63 win over the Shanghai Sharks, and they were treated to Travis Wear and Kyle Anderson relentlessly attacking the Yao Ming owned club. Wear and Anderson finished with 26 and 21 points, respectively.
  4. In what is usually a slow time in the world of college basketball recruiting, 2013 recruit Egor Koulechov reaffirmed his committment to Arizona State after the loss of two assistants on the Sun Devil staff last week. The small forward chose Arizona state over Providence, Richmond, Rutgers, and UAB.
  5. It’s back! After starting in mid-season last year with a Pick’Em Contest, Drew and I will kick things off (get it, cause it’s football) right at the beginning in 2012. Each week we’ll put our picks for the weekend games here, reveal the current standings to you as we go along, and eventually declare a winner at the end of the year. Each week we’ll pick the most interesting game and try to call a score on that one (in bold below), while the other games we’ll pick straight up. Here are our picks for this week:
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Northern Colorado at Utah Utah Utah
UCLA at Rice UCLA UCLA
Washington State at BYU BYU Washington State
Northern Arizona at Arizona St Arizona State Arizona State
San Jose State at Stanfod Stanford Stanford
Nevada at California California California
Colorado vs Colorado State Colorado Colorado
Hawaii at USC USC USC
Toledo at Arizona Arizona Toledo
San Diego State at Washington UW 28-24 UW 27-17
Arkansas State at Oregon Oregon Oregon

 

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Morning Five: 08.30.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2012

  1. Is before college football kicks off too early for the 2012-13 All-America team to come out? Not if you’re the bible of preseason college basketball, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. Chris Dortch, its longtime editor-in-chief, tweeted out the annual’s five selections for next season’s individual honors. The recipients are Florida State’s Michael Snaer and Louisville’s Peyton Siva at the guard slots, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas as the forwards, and Indiana’s Cody Zeller at center (the cover featuring all five players is shown here). We’ll break these selections down a little more later today but some notable omissions on the first team are Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Michigan’s Trey Burke, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, North Carolina’s James McAdoo, and NC State’s CJ Leslie, among many others.
  2. Speaking of college football, tonight represents the start of the gridiron season as we head into Labor Day Weekend. And as everyone reading these words knows, Labor Day Weekend represents the beginning of fall. And fall means Midnight Madness really isn’t very far away — 43 days to be exact. Many schools have had their events scheduled for a while, but Pittsburgh has decided to shake the negativity off of last year’s disappointing season by doing something completely different. The Panthers have not hosted a Madness event since 2003, but to celebrate the school’s 225th anniversary and Homecoming weekend, Pitt is planning on building an outdoor “arena” and holding court under the stars. In the case of rain or a particularly bad cold snap (not unheard of in western Pennsylvania that time of year), the event will move indoors. But given the huge success of last year’s Carrier Classic playing a real game streetball style, we hope that this thing goes off without a hitch. Maybe someday this trend will result in real games hosted from Rucker Park to the Venice Beach asphalt — all the guys who grew up watching the And-1 mix tapes can dream, right?
  3. It’s not very often, well, ever, that we get a tip about something called the “Jewish Dwight Howard.” Yet that very email dropped into our inbox yesterday and, sure enough, Northwestern announced on Wednesday that it was adding a preferred walk-on by the name of Aaron Liberman to its roster. The 6’10” big man hails from California but spent last year in Israel, and will now join a Wildcat front line that boasts five players 6’8″ or bigger. Despite choosing to walk on for Bill Carmody, he received interest from a number of schools including Boston College, USC, Pepperdine, and Yale. Whatever the case, we can’t wait to see Liberman, replete with his yarmulke on top of his head, enter a game next season. Let’s hope that his college career turns out a little better than Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Jordan,” did 10 years ago.
  4. While on the subject of big men, we realize that this is not going to be a popular position for many basketball fans, but the Pac-12 Networks announced its hoops schedule of over 150 games next season along with the caveat that Bill Walton will return as a color analyst after two years away from the business. He will also do some Pac-12 games for ESPN from time to time. Love him or hate him, Big Red has a certain giddy excitement and accompanying way with words that is utterly unique to him and him alone, and for that reason, we’re excited to have him back in the fold. Now… about figuring out where on our cable package the P12 Network actually resides…
  5. Indiana’s Tom Crean took a considerable amount of heat earlier this week for his (mis)handling of scholarships that resulted in fifth-year senior Matt Roth losing his scholarship from the school. With a top recruiting class entering Bloomington, Roth ended up as the odd man out heading into next season. But in an interview that Roth gave to Peegs.com earlier this week, Roth quite clearly stated that he had no hard feelings against Crean and had been completely aware dating back to the end of last season that losing his spot was a distinct possibility. While it’s great that Roth feels like he was informed, that doesn’t make Crean’s decision to recruit over him any more tolderable. Yes, college basketball is big business, and yes, players are not guaranteed four-year scholarships… but, does that make it right? Every coach in America gets 13 scholarships to play with — if he can’t win with 12 spots filled with elite talent, he’s not going to win.
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Utah Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on August 29th, 2012

Just three players return who have spent time in a Utah uniform before, but between the three of them Larry Krystkowiak will welcome back three seniors, hopefully destined for leadership roles. We’ll break down those three guys below in order of their most recent scoring averages.

Jason Washburn, Senior, Power Forward (11.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG) – There is likely little argument that Washburn was the Utes’ best player last season. Their lone player who could be classified as an efficient offensive talent, his shooting percentages dipped a bit as he got more shots and saw more possessions run through him. Still, he nearly doubled his previous career high in points and bumped up his rebounding average by more than two per night. Physically, he’s certainly not the most dominant force ever, but at 6’11” he couples a nice touch on his mid-range jumper with decent post moves and an ability to disrupt opponents on the defensive end. With 7’3” David Foster expected back from a foot injury this year, the Utes should be not only the tallest Pac-12 team in the middle, but the most experienced one. Problem is, they’ll also be one of the least athletic ones.

Jason Washburn, Utah

Jason Washburn Led The Utes in Points, Rebounds and Blocked Shots And Was The Only Player To Shoot Better Than 50% From The Field Last Year (Associated Press)

Cedric Martin, Senior, Shooting Guard (7.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG) – Last year was Martin’s first in Salt Lake City after using his first couple of seasons of eligibility at Lee College in Texas. He jumped right into the fray immediately and wound up averaging more than 30 minutes per game and turned into one of the team’s better offensive players. He knocked down 49 three-pointers (at a 37% clip), filled the stat sheet in other areas and, by the end of the year, was the team’s best perimeter defender. With three newly eligible Division I transfers coming in around the perimeter, not to mention a couple freshmen guards, Martin will have more competition for minutes, but with his experience he should be able to earn minutes at the wing.

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Big 12 Weekly Five: 08.29.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on August 29th, 2012

  1. Because it just wouldn’t be a Big 12 Weekly Five without the dreaded conference realignment talk, new league commissioner Bob Bowlsby said last week he’s happy with 10 teams in the, uh, Big 12, for now. Naming inconsistencies aside, he has a point. Bowlsby told the Kansas City Star that a 10-team league allows for more flexible scheduling, and from a basketball standpoint, the idea of a true regular-season champion is appealing. Ten teams affords the Big 12 the rare opportunity in hoops to allow for home-and-homes with every opponent, so although an expansion may drive more revenue into the Big 12, we’re perfectly content leaving things the way they are.
  2. Hold on, folks: The Darrell Williams case isn’t over yet. The defense says it has new evidence in the case, and it’ll now try to convince a judge to grant the former Oklahoma State forward a retrial after a jury convicted him of rape this summer. There’s no word on what evidence the defense will present, according to the Associated Press, but Williams’ conviction is beginning to gain national notoriety after staying under the radar throughout the original trial. Reverand Jesse Jackson is now fighting on Williams’ behalf, and his supporters claim the lack of DNA evidence and possibility of misidentification means he got a raw deal. One of the victims in the case doesn’t see it that way, telling the AP that she is “infuriated” and that “they don’t know what happened to me and the other girl.”
  3. Kansas returned from its trip to Europe with two losses, which seems mildly concerning but probably affects little in the long run. Kansas State lost two games in Brazil, after all, and it’s August, not March. But Bill Self is never one to mince his words, and he ripped his team in an interview with CBS’ Gary Parrish recently. Parrish asked who stood out on the trip. Self’s response? “Really nobody. Nobody really impressed me. Everybody was just OK. [Senior guard] Elijah [Johnson] wasn’t great. [Senior center Jeff] Withey wasn’t great. [Senior guard Travis] Releford wasn’t great. I’d say [freshman forward] Perry [Ellis] showed as much promise as anybody in terms of scoring. But he has a lot to learn.”
  4. Iowa State has rewarded athletic director Jamie Pollard with a five-year extension, and he’s got Fred Hoiberg to thank in part for that. The deal provides a little more stability to Hoiberg’s staff, who can now work under a solid administration with excellent school support. When Pollard first hired Hoiberg, it wasn’t met with a lot of optimism around the nation. Sure, bringing The Mayor back to Ames fired up the fan base at home, but he had no coaching experience and seemed like a major risk. A disastrous stretch in Big 12 play during his first season didn’t calm any fears, but Hoiberg’s breakout year in 2011-12 made Pollard look like a genius.
  5. Let’s end this Weekly Five with some kind words for one of the league’s doormats. Laugh at Texas Tech all you want, but as this blog astutely points out, there’s more talent for Billy Gillispie to work with in 2012-13. The assessment is overly optimistic, sure, but there’s reason to believe that Gillispie’s second season could be a significant stepping stone in this rebuilding project. First of all, Tech will have a fresh roster after several transfers this offseason and a giant group of Class of 2012 newcomers. Most importantly, that recruiting class includes several new point guard options, including Josh Gray, who just might be one of the league’s most important freshmen next year. That position plagued the Red Raiders a year ago. Gillispie knew that and immediately went and found new options. Look at the bottom of the article, though, and you’ll really see why Red Raiders fans should feel decent about their situation. Billy Gillispie has done this before. It didn’t work at Kentucky, but he was a proven winner before that — a tough-nosed overachiever with the ability to sap every bit of talent out of his roster. That’s why he’s a perfect fit in Lubbock.
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ACL Well: Analyzing Six Huge Returnees From ACL Injuries

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The fickle nature of college hoops owes itself to a number of different factors. Every year there are a handful of teams that underperform or overperform versus expectations for various reasons, from team chemistry to coaching philosophy to collective work ethic. Perhaps the most uncontrollable element of a team’s performance is injury, the sudden and often catastrophic medical ailments that – in the blink of one single cut to the hoop, defensive rotation or hard sprint down the court – dramatically alter teams’ seasons and programs’ trajectories. Last season we saw several injuries to key players, some more impactful than others, fundamentally shift the competitive balance in various leagues. For those players, the situational outlook was bleak: not playing competitively with the team you’ve spent all summer practicing with just plain stinks. But for the most part, their departures faded into the periphery as the season wore on, players began furiously rehabbing their various injuries, teams adapted and college hoops rolled along with minimal fuss.

If Mbakwe can return to form, the Gophers could be poised for an NCAA Tournament berth (Photo credit: Tom Olmscheid/AP Photo)

There was a strikingly large proportion of one particular injury last season, or at least it seemed that way for several of the sport’s most influential medical breakdowns. It’s known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, and it’s one of the most common and oft-repeated of all athletic detriments. A complete recovery normally requires major surgery, between six and nine months worth of substantial rehabilitation and a cautious return to athletic activity. I’ve identified six instrumental players who experienced this very process after tearing their ACLs last season and all of them are expected to return – rehabbed and ready to go – for a redeeming 2012-13 campaign. Each player is rejoining their teams (or in some cases, new teams) under slightly different circumstances from which he left, with situational and rotational specifics dictating the terms of their returns. I’ve tried to dig into some of the circumstantial elements playing into these players’ comeback seasons and how you should expect them to fare this season. Here are the results of my research, a full-fledged breakdown of college hoops’ big-name torn ACL-returnees. Enjoy… and try your best to avoid a similar fate.

Trevor Mbakwe (sixth-year senior, Minnesota)

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Mbakwe. Way back when he still played for Marquette – the same year (2007-08) Mario Chalmers’ legendary three-point shot KO’d a high-powered Derrick Rose-led Memphis team in the national finals – Mbakwe missed the majority of the season with a knee injury. He recovered, packed his bags and moved on to Miami Dade Community College, where he averaged a modest 16.3 PPG/13.2 RPG double-double while earning Southern Conference Player of the Year Honors. When he eventually made his way to Minnesota, after sitting out the 2009-10 season while awaiting trial for a felony assault charge, Mbakwe unleashed the ferocious rebounding and inside scoring touch he demonstrated in the JuCo ranks on Big Ten forwards. Much to the chagrin of Tubby Smith’s middling program, Mbawke had only played one full season and six full games last year before going down with an ACL tear.

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Utah Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on August 29th, 2012

For the third straight year, Utah underwent rampant roster turnover in the offseason, with six transfers joining one senior (who had been dismissed from the team in the middle of last season) on their way out the door. There is a subtle difference this year, however, as the changes to the roster should benefit the program next season, allowing the new coaching staff to begin building with their own players rather than with the scraps they were able to assemble late in the recruiting period last offseason. In essence, last year was an audition period for all of the players on the roster, determining not only whether the coaching staff wanted each player back, but whether those players were interested in returning to the rebuilding job that is Utah basketball. Below, we’ll take a brief look at all seven players (not including Blake Wilkinson, a freshman last season who departed for an two-year LDS mission in May) from last year who will not return to the Utes.

Josh Watkins – Watkins was dismissed by Larry Ktystkowiak on January 18 last season for an undisclosed team violation which was just another in a long line of issues that brought Watkins to that point. The lone active senior on the roster last season, Watkins was supposed to be an example for his younger teammates, doing all the right things on a team where everything else was going wrong. Still, Watkins played a valuable role for Krystkowiak last year; the dismissal of the team’s most viable offensive threat in the middle of the season showed everybody else that nobody was above the team. Watkins, to his credit, completed his degree in May and acknowledged that despite his dismissal he still regards Krystkowiak as a “great coach.”

Chris Hines, Utah

Chris Hines Was The Utes’ Most Prolific Three-Point Shooter Last Year, But He’ll Be Playing His Senior Year At Drake Instead (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

Chris Hines – Following his graduation in May, Hines took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduates to transfer without having to sit out a year. As a result, the team’s most prolific three-point shooter from 2011-12 will be matriculating at Drake this season. While an experienced veteran like Hines could always be valuable, the fact that the Utes have transfers Aaron Dotson, Glen Dean and Jared DuBois ready to step in this season lessens the blow considerably.

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