Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: And Away We Go…

Posted by AMurawa on October 31st, 2012

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.

As October slides towards November and the fall grows cooler, a great yearly tradition begins to take shape. From Cameron Indoor to Pauley Pavilion, young men across the country focus their attention not on the orange of the leaves, but on the orange ball and orange rim of their chosen game. The cooler weather not only signals that it’s time to break out the sweaters and scarves, but that college basketball season has once again arrived. This phenomenon is no different in Eugene, Oregon, where the turning leaves have been mostly washed away into gutters and down storm drains by the ever-present rain. As water drips off of the high, sharp roof of Matthew Knight Arena, the University of Oregon Ducks team within works to prepare for the new season.


The opening tip of the 2012-13 basketball season for the Oregon Ducks, at home Monday against Concordia University.

“New” really is an operative term for the beginning of basketball season at many schools. Whether due to graduation, transfers, or the lure of fame and fortune in the NBA, a new year invariably means a new roster. The best of college hoops often have to deal with this sort of turnover more than others: Last year’s national champion, Kentucky, must replace its entire starting lineup and then some, with seven players graduating and/or entering the NBA Draft. When the season begins anew, their replacements are assembled and then given only a few weeks of official practice to adapt to the new environment, get into shape, and meld themselves into the larger team.

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Rejoice, Oklahoma State: J.P. Olukemi Eligible For Entire Season

Posted by dnspewak on October 31st, 2012

For once, Travis Ford can take a deep breath and smile. After injuries and transfers marred a difficult and humbling 2011-12 campaign, Ford learned Wednesday that the NCAA has ruled senior wing J.P. Olukemi is eligible for the entire season as opposed to simply the first semester. If you’re wondering why exactly Olukemi originally could only play the fall semester, get ready for a tricky (late Halloween pun intended) and mysterious story. Years ago, he took a few junior college classes after his prep school shut down the basketball team, which unknowingly caused him to waste a semester of eligibility per NCAA rules. That’s why it appeared he may not be eligible for the second semester until the NCAA granted Olukemi and Oklahoma State a wavier on Wednesday. We’ve never heard of a scenario in which a player could not compete during the second semester — we’re used to dealing with players who must sit out first semesters after transferring — so it certainly was a bizarre circumstance.

The NCAA Helped Oklahoma State Out By Ruling J.P. Olukemi Eligibile

So congratulations, J.P. And congratulations to Oklahoma State, which lost Brian Williams to a season-ending injury earlier this preseason. Olukemi is perhaps the best athlete on a team full of guys who can jump out of the gym, and the Cowboys could have really used his abilities a year ago. This guy can not only leap like no other, but he’s also a handful to guard when he’s slashing and attacking the rim. He helps on the defensive end too since he can guard a variety of positions. Olukemi may not be a star, but he’s an all-around solid player and athlete with a higher ceiling than most. When Big 12 play gears up, the Cowboys will now have a bunch of big, physical hybrid guards and wings: Markel Brown (6’3”), Le’Bryan Nash (6’7”), Marcus Smart (6’4”) and Olukemi (6’6”). Now, if only Olukemi were a point guard, maybe Travis Ford would be able to rest a little easier at night. After Cezar Guerrero’s transfer, that’s the troubling position for this team, and it could be up to Smart to fill that duty.

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Big 12 Team Preview #9: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 31st, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Monday, Danny Spewak (@dspewak) took care of previewing the TCU Horned Frogs. Today, Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) previews the cellar-dwellers from a year ago: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were not a unanimous choice among the Big 12 microsite writers to finish ninth in the conference but we’re guessing we still won’t find much argument with this selection either. 

The Skinny: 

  • 2011-12 Record: 8-23 record, 1-17 in the Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: G Javarez Willis, F Robert Lewandowski
  • Head Coach: Chris Walker, 1st season
  • Projected Finish: 9th

Walker now makes three different coaches in three seasons. (Associated Press/Zach Long)

Interim head coach Chris Walker undoubtedly has a tough act to follow but at the same time he doesn’t. Former head coach Billy Gillispie had as tumultuous of a season that a coach can have. He broke NCAA practice rules more than once, was reprimanded by his athletic director for those trangressions, and his team stunk it up on the basketball court. Since the bar isn’t set very high at this point, I’m sure Walker can win more than eight games and look somewhat competitive in Big 12 play. This is Walker’s first opportunity at a head coaching job but like many first-timers, he too was a well-traveled assistant coach. He started off at Loyola Marymount in 1992 (this was the post-Paul Westhead/Kimble/Gathers era), left for Vanderbilt in 1996, went to Pepperdine in 1999, back to his alma mater Villanova in 2000, then headed to UMass in 2001, before going to New Mexico in 2007, and then back to Villanova in 2009 before arriving last season in Lubbock. For a man thrust into as awkward a situation as any, Walker is saying all the right things and then some. On “wearing” the interim tag:

“It’s all about attitude. I was remarking to somebody the other day there are a lot of interim coaches out there, they just don’t know it. I look at this situation, and people look at it as if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. It took me six months to live. I’ve really flipped it and said it’s six months to give. I’m head coach for the first time in the Big 12. I’m going to give everything I have to the University, to the players and the community of Lubbock.”

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Vanderbilt Guard Dai-Jon Parker Suspended

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 31st, 2012

Coming off its first SEC Tournament title since 1952 and losing a majority of their offense from last season due to the NBA Draft or graduation, Vanderbilt already knew it would have to replace many pieces on this season’s team. Today, they will have to add sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker to the list because of a non-academic suspension. Head coach Kevin Stallings announced Tuesday that the projected starting shooting guard will be suspended indefinitely because Parker “failed to uphold the high standard that we expect of a Vanderbilt basketball player and will be disciplined accordingly.” Parker and sophomore Kedren Johnson were expected to fill the voids left by Brad Tinsley, John Jenkins, and Jeffery Taylor, all upperclassmen who left after last season due to graduation or to pursue professional careers. The guard trio of Tinsley/Jenkins/Taylor provided Vanderbilt’s most dangerous weapon: 244 three-pointers on a blistering 43% clip and high offensive efficiency numbers. Parker and Johnson, on the other hand, were substituted into the rotation last year with very minimal roles.

Who will replace Dai-Jon Parker in Vanderbilt’s already depleted backcourt?

The departures of Tinsley, Jenkins, and Taylor, as well as experienced defensive big men Festus Ezeli, Lance Goulbourne, and Steve Tchiengang, made up arguably Vanderbilt’s most well-rounded team in the Kevin Stallings era. The Commodores’ offensive efficiency (115.7) ranked #11 in the country while their defensive efficiency (92.7) was solid at #30. Sky-high expectations after winning the SEC Tournament over heavily favored Kentucky  quickly came crashing down when Vanderbilt lost to Wisconsin in the Third Round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, one step short of the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2007.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: West Coast Conference

Posted by CNguon on October 31st, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the WCC. You can find him on Twitter at @mvern1

Top Storylines

  • Keeping It Going: Between the two, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have monopolized the WCC in recent years – the Zags since since Gonzaga began its dominant run of WCC titles in 1999, and Saint Mary’s since winning the WCC Tournament Championship in 2010, splitting the regular-season conference title in 2011 and winning both the regular-season and tournament titles in 2012. Can these programs keep the dominance alive in 2012-13?
  • Delly a repeat?  The WCC has seen numerous repeats as Player of the Year: Quintin Dailey and Bill Cartwright at San Francisco, Doug Christie and Dwayne Polee at Pepperdine, Steve Nash at Santa Clara. The last time was Blake Stepp of Gonzaga in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. Can Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s become the first repeat winner since Stepp?

    Chances Are These Two Guys (Randy Bennett, left, and Mark Few) Will Run Into Each Other Quite A Bit This Season

  • Will San Francisco re-write history? The established template for success at the mid-major level is consistency: Keeping your players around for four or five years so experience will trump the athleticism of superior teams whose players jump to the NBA. San Francisco has turned that template on its head since the end of last season, watching eight members of its 2011-12 roster head for the exits (nine if you count reserve senior guard Jay Wey). Outstanding seniors Rashad Green and Angelo Caloiaro were already out the door because of graduation, but Rex Walters could look forward to having sturdy post man Perris Blackwell and shooting guard Michael Williams back to anchor this year’s team along with starting point guard Cody Doolin. But when Blackwell and Williams caught exit fever and little-used reserves Khalil Murphy, Avery Johnson, Charles Standifer and Justin Raffington joined them, the Dons’ roster was severely depleted. Walters didn’t spend a lot of time bemoaning his fate, going on an energetic recruiting mission to fill the holes. But this year’s Dons will be an interesting experiment in how well a mid-major program can get back on track with a large-scale roster turnover. The Dons last season reached the 20-win mark for the first time in thirty years, but it will be a big surprise if they match that in 2012-13.

Reader’s Take I

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Saint Mary’s (14-2)
  2. Gonzaga (13-3)
  3. BYU (11-5)
  4. Loyola Marymount (10-6)
  5. San Diego (8-8)
  6. Santa Clara (7-9)
  7. Portland (4-12)
  8. San Francisco (3-13)
  9. Pepperdine (2-14)

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Which Big Ten Player Will Not Make the 2013 AP All-America Team?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 31st, 2012

The preseason AP All-America team consists of three players from the Big Ten – Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Debates have already begun across every B1G fan forum regarding which players might be overrated or who might not meet their relatively high expectations. Only one player from last season’s preseason list finished the season as an All-American – and it was the Big Ten’s very own Jared Sullinger. Let’s examine which of this year’s elite Big Ten players are most likely to drop off from these lofty expectations that have already been attached to them.

Will Trey Burke and Cody Zeller finish the season on the All-American team? (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller

Zeller is the best big man in the country. He is also the best player on the #1 team in the nation, so there’s not much to argue about Zeller’s selection to the preseason team. His numbers will be there (15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG) unless Indiana completely abandons him during certain stretches of the game. But if the Hoosiers commit to running the offense through the post, Zeller will stuff the stat sheet all season long. During conference play, there are very few forwards who can match up with Zeller’s offensive arsenal. Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe has the offensive skills but has yet to show that is committed on the defensive end. Michigan State’s big men – Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne — will play good defense because Tom Izzo demands it, but neither of them have the athleticism to defend Zeller’s post moves. Does Indiana need to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four for Zeller to remain in the national spotlight? Not necessarily. As long as they remain near the top of the league and among the top 10-15 teams nationally, he will get credit for leading IU as a contender. Overall, there is no reason to believe that Zeller might not finish as a first-team All-America selection and he may even finish the season as the National Player of the Year.

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #9 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#9 – Where Didn’t See THAT Coming Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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Trick or Treat: RTC Hands Out Its Halloween Goodies

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 31st, 2012

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

At this time of year, when the visible signs of Autumn truly take form, you know two things. The first is that actual college basketball games are upon us. Not just speculation and hearsay; the game itself, the basis for all that hype and buildup, is right around the corner. Then there’s Halloween, the consummate Fall holiday, promising a bounty of tricks and treats for costumed children nationwide. Though you’ve most likely outgrown the days of door-to-door candy voyages and late night sugar binges, the last day of October still has meaning. College basketball deserves a place in the festivities, too. Like all Halloweens, you can’t mention confectionery tweets and scary costumes without trickery and mischief. After all, there is a separate holiday for that. To hit both sides of the coin, we’re bringing five tricks and five treats to our favorite teams, players, coaches, places and whatever else can be boxed into the college hoops realm. The mixed bag features a random compilation of offseason developments (both good and bad), preview-centric topics and some of the biggest storylines as we approach this season’s opening tipoff. As the bombardment of polls, rankings and All-America teams from various media outlets continues, consider this a refreshing tweak on your annual preseason college hoops diet. And I can promise you this: Much like your Halloweens of old, the pillow bags teeming with your favorite comestibles, this here holiday treat will not lack for taste. Though to maximize your Halloween satisfaction, consume this savory treat in tandem with a hearty serving of the real-life version (and make sure to stay clear of the tricks) – satisfying your palette, and your thirst for college basketball. There are few better ways to do Halloween.

Five Treats 
to be delivered upon…
1. The Hive Minds of Patriotic Scheduling.

The 2011 Carrier Classic will go down as one of the most memorable non-conference games in recent history (photo credit: AP)

Last season’s Carrier Classic played aboard the USS Carl Vinson was a spectacular way to christen the 2011-12 season. It featured two brand-name programs (Michigan State and North Carolina) and two coaching legends competing before a backdrop of gorgeous vistas, with a uniform-clad naval crowd and President Obama taking in the proceedings. More importantly, it captured some of the national sports attention usually reserved for football this time of the year and sparked a minor interest in the college hoops non-conference season. The shipside fun will come at you threefold this season, with Ohio State-Marquette, Syracuse-San Diego State and Florida-Georgetown all playing November 9 games on military vessels. But this year’s non-conference slate is outdoing last year’s offering: Michigan State will begin its season with a game against Connecticut at the Ramstein Air Force base in Germany. MSU AD Mark Hollis, we salute you.

2. NCAA Reform.

Since taking over as NCAA president in 2010, Mark Emmert has presided over an organization riddled with nonstop criticism. Most complaints attack the NCAA’s infractions committee, its obscure and inconsistent punishment guidelines, and the pace of its proceedings. Through it all, Emmert voiced his desire to pass NCAA reform. On Tuesday, his vision was realized. Among other streamlined legislative tweaks, the new four-tier penalty structure places a greater responsibility on coaches to police their respective teams. It also helps clarify and distinguish the parameters dictating violations and punishments, meaning we’re likely to have a better sense of the previously muddled relationship between violation classification and punitive severity. We’ve always wanted clarity, and now it’s here. This applies to all college sports, but for college basketball in particular, where recruiting violations and agent activity run rampant, the rule changes are a decided proactive move.

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Pac-12 M5: The Halloween Edition

Posted by KDanna on October 31st, 2012

  1. Happy Halloween, everyone. Arizona will treat its fans to an exhibition against Humboldt State tonight at the McKale Center. Exhibitions are usually for the die-hards, but probably more than a few casual fans will make their way over to the Tucson campus to catch a glimpse of the third-ranked recruiting class in action for the first time against somebody other than themselves. One question surrounding this class is whether it will be able to live up to the hype better than last year’s class. Remember how highly touted the trio of Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner and Angelo Chol were? All signs point to Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley  and Gabe York as able to deliver in a bigger way this season, but one can never be 100 percent certain until they perform in a game. This contest will also provide Wildcat supporters with a first look at point guard Mark Lyons in an Arizona uniform, as the mercurial senior averaged 15 points per game last year at Xavier. It’s also worth mentioning that the Wildcats lost their exhibition opener last year to Seattle Pacific, but I find it hard to believe that a similar result will be produced against Humboldt State on this night.
  2. The NCAA approved tougher sanctions against those programs and coaches who buck the NCAA law. A couple of the more striking provisions are that NCAA violators who are found to be in “serious breach of conduct” could potentially suffer similar punishments to the one handed out to the Penn State football team (a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine). Also, if an assistant coach commits a serious violation, the head coach must be able to prove that he or she was unaware of the assistant’s actions; if not, the head coach could be suspended for anywhere from 10 percent to the entire season. All changes will go into effect starting August 1, 2013. While the coaches who are quoted in the various articles seem to be largely in favor of these tougher sanctions, it obviously still remains to be seen how effective these changes will be. As has been the case throughout history, cheaters will find a way to continue their cheating ways. Hopefully these tougher penalties will accomplish the NCAA’s and everyone’s goal of a markedly cleaner collegiate athletics scene.
  3. Another day, another CBS Sports list. On Tuesday, it was the top 50 shooters in the country, a list that made space for three current Pac-12 players: Washington’s C.J. Wilcox (No. 11), California’s Allen Crabbe (No. 12) and Stanford’s Chasson Randle (No. 41). Additionally, former Husky and current Texas A&M Aggie Elston Turner made the cut at No. 19. No real gripes here, but perhaps Aaron Bright was also deserving of a nod, especially considering his play during the 2012 NIT, a five-game run that earned him NIT Most Outstanding Player honors. What’s noteworthy with this list is that 35 of the 50 players come from non-power conference schools, including representatives from Texas Pan-American and Texas Southern. For those not curious enough to check out the list, former Razorback-turned-Butler Bulldog Rotnei Clarke holds down the top spot.
  4. Earlier this week, ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan released his top 10 rebounders in the country, and Colorado’s André Roberson topped the list. We’re probably a little biased here at the Pac-12 microsite because we get to see Roberson play so often, but there’s no faulting Brennan for this selection. Roberson is an elite rebounder thanks to his hops, long arms and overall very high basketball IQ. There were spots during last year’s Pac-12 Tournament where Roberson looked like a future lottery pick, especially when he started to knock down a few threes. He certainly has that kind of upside, and big things are expected again of the only guy in the Pac-12 to average a double-double last season. There were no freshmen in Brennan’s top 10, but Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett of Arizona both made his “freshmen to watch” mentions.
  5. Lastly, the Pac-12 announced its talent lineup for the Pac-12 Networks’ men’s basketball coverage for the upcoming season. Headlined by Bill Walton, other analysts include Don MacLean, Ernie Kent, Lenny Wilkens and Detlef Schrempf. The play-by-play lineup doesn’t necessarily include as many big names, but all are very good broadcasters and will not disappoint viewers. The most famous of the play-by-play guys is probably Ted Robinson, a two-time Emmy winner who has done just about every sport imaginable. Overall, it’s a very intriguing lineup of broadcasters and it should keep Pac-12 Networks broadcasts for men’s basketball entertaining.
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #7 Pittsburgh

Posted by Will Tucker on October 31st, 2012

Despite being picked fourth in last year’s preseason Big East coaches’ poll, Jamie Dixon’s squad went 5-13 in conference play and finished at a dismal 13th place in the standings. Pitt fans expect a big rebound from the disappointment of last season: Their team returns fifth-year senior Tray Woodall, seven of its nine top scorers, and a blockbuster recruiting class featuring hulking Kiwi Steven Adams, the school’s highest-ranked basketball commitment of all-time. Big East coaches seem to agree that Pitt is on the uptick, placing Pitt sixth in last week’s preseason Big East coaches’ poll. While the writers at RTC’s Big East microsite have their reservations about Pitt’s ability to reverse course over a single offseason, there’s enough talent at Jamie Dixon’s disposal to envision a substantial improvement. But the loss of leading scorer and leader Ashton Gibbs, coupled with lingering doubts about Woodall’s health, makes it difficult to place Pitt any higher in our predicted standings.

2011-12 Record: 22-17, 4-14

2011-12 Postseason: 5-1, College Basketball Invitational Champions

Tray Woodall is the key to Pitt’s success (Photo credit Fred Beckham/AP)


Pitt opens up the season with a fairly rigorous non-conference slate. Oakland, Detroit and crosstown rival Duquesne will test the Panthers in November, while neutral-court games in Madison Square Garden against Michigan, Virginia and Kansas State could materialize depending on how the Preseason NIT bracket unfolds. Apart from that tournament in late November, Pitt won’t leave the familiar confines of Pittsburgh until January 5, when it travels to Rutgers.

The Panthers draw a fairly advantageous Big East schedule in 2012-13, with home-and-home series against Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul and Villanova (two of whom we predicted to finish in the bottom third of the conference). The most brutal stretch of the Big East schedule takes place between the end of January and the third week of February, when Pitt plays at Louisville, Syracuse, at Cincinnati, at Marquette, Notre Dame and at St. John’s. How the team weathers that gauntlet will likely define its season.

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