Checking In On… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 2012

Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • The Hunt for an Automatic Bid: One of the most intriguing storylines at the outset of the season was whether an improved Patriot League could send two teams to the Big Dance in March. With both Lehigh and Bucknell receiving attention in various national mid-major rankings, it was possible that one or both could play itself into the at-large bid conversation. Lehigh squandered two of its best chances to impress the selection committee, dropping games at Baylor and Pitt. The Pitt loss was particularly damning because a win would have generated more chances against quality competition in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals and/or finals. The Mountain Hawks will have to win the Patriot League Tournament to get another shot to play with the big boys this March.  Bucknell, on the other hand, had a more difficult non-conference schedule to begin with and has held up its end of the bargain with wins over Purdue, George Mason and New Mexico State.  The Bison would likely need to win at Missouri on January 5 and submit a dominant conference season, but the door is still open. If the Bison win the Patriot League tournament, the point will be moot, but if they suffer an upset, the league could have two in the Field of 68.
  • Wins From Top to Bottom: While Lehigh and Bucknell captured the preseason headlines, it bears repeating that six other Patriot League teams entered the season with high aspirations of their own. The Patriot League is an improved conference this year, with teams from top to bottom earning non-conference wins. Through Wednesday, the league had a cumulative record of 29-26. Many of those losses came in mismatches against schools from the power conferences, as was to be expected.  But the league has been far from a doormat. The eight Patriot League schools have mopped up some of the other conferences on the East Coast, going a combined 23-5 against teams from the America East, CAA, Ivy League, MAAC, MEAC, and NEC.  So while Bucknell’s wins against the Big Ten and WAC help elevate the standing of the whole conference, other schools are doing their part as well.

There may be no hotter player in the country right now than C.J. McCollum, who has connected on 21 of his 38 three-point attempts this season.

  • McCollum Sets Career Mark, Leads Nation in Scoring:  Move over, Rob Feaster.  Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum broke Feaster’s mark of 2,224 career points, which had stood since he graduated from Holy Cross in 1995. The Preseason AP All-American broke the mark during a 26-point effort against Sacred Heart on Sunday. McCollum has more than 20 games to pad his record. After he poured in 25 in the second half at Quinnipiac on Wednesday night, McCollum’s 26.3 points per game lead the nation. Eighteen NBA scouts showed up for Lehigh’s opening game against Baylor.  And in case you think all 18 were there just to get a first look at Isaiah Austin, 20 more showed up for Lehigh’s second game against Robert Morris. Most preseason projections had McCollum as a first round pick in this summer’s draft, and his play so far has only helped his stock. Most notably, McCollum has improved his three-point shooting.  He has hit 21-of-38 shots from beyond the arc, good for 55.3 percent.

Reader’s Take

 

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Big 12 M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 30th, 2012

  1. TCU basketball is doing an amazing job making us forget about this performance from a week ago. The Horned Frogs won their third game in a row last night, beating Southern Utah 61-52 in Fort Worth. Kyan Anderson had 21 points and six dimes while Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron scored 17 with 11 of them coming in the second half. So now they’re 6-2 but we all know this is a 6-2 that will be here today and gone come January. They don’t have a lot of weapons offensively and actually average more turnovers as a team than assists. I had the Horned Frogs finishing better than Red Raiders by season’s end and now I regret ever believing that. But it’s ok; this is a learning year. They will get there eventually.
  2. Cowboys Ride For Free has released their totally unbiased predictions from now until New Year’s Eve. On the schedule, Oklahoma State has games at Virginia Tech and home contests vs. South Florida, Missouri State, Central Arkansas, Texas-Arlington, Tennessee Tech and Gonzaga. CRFF has the Pokes going 6-1 with their sole loss coming against the Zags. I also think they’ll go 6-1 during the stretch but I see them losing to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg rather than Gonzaga. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Hokies can score toe-to-toe with OSU, but hey, 11-1 going into conference play? Sounds prrrr-etty good to me.
  3. Viva The Matadors dissects what’s trending for Texas Tech at the moment. According to the piece, Tech’s new style of “controlled chaos” is a big part of their recent turnaround. They’ve adopted a “40 Minutes of Hell” scheme with a 1-2-1-1 defense, forcing 13 steals a game, which is good for fourth in the nation. Those forced turnovers have led to more scoring opportunities, hence their 89 PPG scoring average. The Arizona game on Saturday means so much to the Red Raider program. They haven’t had a big-time opponent come to Lubbock since another top-10 team (Washington) lost to Tech in overtime back in 2009. Texas Tech fever: catch it!
  4. Baylor’s SB Nation blog, Our Daily Bears, had a nice feature exposing the Bears’ poor play on defense so far this season. The article uses a couple of defensive scenarios from the Baylor-St. John’s game in Charleston last week. On one Red Storm fast break, the Bears had three guys checking just one man. When you have a team with their size, athleticism and speed, putting three players on one guy in transition is not just unacceptable but nonsense. Another scenario was Baylor’s ineffectiveness to run a proper screen-and-roll defense which allowed the Red Storm’s D’Angelo Harrison to hit 6-of-9 from three-point land. Guess how College of Charleston runs their offense? Pick. And. Roll. So if a team wants to exploit the Bears, P & R seems to be the way to go. Think John Calipari is looking at that DVD?
  5. This FanPost I found on the Bring On The Cats has nothing to do with basketball. It’s a post that asks the question: What if each Big 12 team were different countries of the world? This will not make you a more savvy Big 12 fan than you already are, but what it will do is make you laugh while at the same time have you nodding your head in agreement at some of these answers. Have a great weekend, everyone.
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Big Ten M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 30th, 2012

  1. Tubby Smith’s Gophers are rolling and have shown great depth but Trevor Mbakwe’s playing time has been limited. Gopher fans might wonder why Mbakwe isn’t starting but Smith is trying to shape the other players’ roles as Mbakwe returns to 100% game shape. Elliott Eliason has earned his spot at the forward position during Mbakwe’s recovery and plays a bruising style of basketball that Smith appreciates. Mbakwe will eventually return to the starting lineup and his athleticism will certainly improve the Gophers, but Eliason provides a different type of game that can complement Mbakwe”s skill set. Eliason pulled down 10 rebounds against a tough Florida State squad on Tuesday night and showed why he can add value. Regardless of when Mbakwe returns to the starting lineup, Eliason’s development will only help Minnesota as they appear to be one of the top five teams in the B1G this season.
  2. Tom Izzo prefers to play a traditional lineup with a center and a power forward rather than four guards and a center. He has played Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne together for most of the Spartans’ games this season but he might move away from that lineup soon. Nix has great post moves and Payne can run the floor with the best of them; together, they can cause unique match-up problems to opposing teams but it could also lead to spacing issues on the floor with both of them cloggin the lane inside. Nix and Payne struggled on the road against Miami earlier this week and Izzo might try to experiment by playing four guards on the court at the same time to mix things up over the next few games.
  3. Is there a “Free Laquinton Ross” movement waiting to happen? Ohio State played an excellent game for 34 minutes on the road against Duke on Wednesday night but fans might be wondering when the sophomore wing will get more playing time. Ross only played 11 minutes but scored nine points against the Blue Devils while another sophomore wing, Sam Thompson, played 25 minutes. Thompson is a bit more mature on the defensive end but Ross can put up points quickly if given a chance. If Ross improves defensively, Matta might give him more minutes but it is only a matter of time before he has a big impact on games. The Duke game proved that the Buckeyes will be a very competitive team throughout the season in large part due to their depth at the wing position.
  4. Speaking of players who have been let loose this season, Illinois’ Tyler Griffey looks like a brand new player in Champaign. Griffey is not a traditional forward who likes to play in the paint but he has a great jumpshot and the new coaching staff has convinced him to pull the trigger from beyond the arc whenever he wants this season. Griffey has been shooting a whopping 56% from beyond the arc thus far and he hit the game winning shot against Gardner-Webb at home last Sunday afternoon. He will continue to play a significant role in the Illini resurgence as head coach Johen Groce’s offense relies on players who can consistently shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor.
  5. Michigan’s Trey Burke could have entered last year’s NBA Draft and probably would have been picked in the first round but he decided to come back for another season in Ann Arbor to lead his team to a Final Four. After a hot start during the first two weeks of the season, he is quickly rising up the NBA Draft boards as one of the best point guards eligible for next year’s draft. Burke has been shooting 48% from the field but his assists have gone up from 4.5 to 7.6 APG as well this year. The sophomore has adapted very well to playing as a true point guard and it should continue to bolster his position on the draft boards especially if Michigan makes a deep run in March.
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SEC M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 30th, 2012

  1. Michael Dixon is leaving the Missouri Tigers basketball team. News broke Thursday afternoon regarding another unrelated accusation made in 2010 against the Missouri guard purporting his involvement in a forcible rape case. The new information, found in a university police incident report, detailed Dixon’s alleged involvement but no charges were filed against him at the time. Later Thursday evening, a text message from Dixon to a friend of his revealed his intention of leaving the team because of the firestorm surrounding the player. There is no official word from coach Frank Haith regarding his dismissal from the team or if Dixon will remain a student at Missouri. Dixon had been suspended since October for a ‘team violation.’
  2. How bad is the bottom of the SEC this season? Bad enough that Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger is already worried about Ole Miss’ RPI rating come March. Kellenberger notes that five SEC teams are outside the top 200 in the RealTimeRPI.com rankings right now, and head coach Andy Kennedy is well aware that he has to play all five schools — Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State, Georgia, and South Carolina — a total of six times. While the RPI is not the primary factor for seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the numbers are given quite a bit of consideration. Many teams with quality in-conference resumes have been left out of the Big Dance because of their RPI, so Ole Miss needs a few upsets and quality wins to ensure an at-large berth and avoid the wrath of the bubble on Selection Sunday.
  3. The Mayans can claim their infamous ‘end of the world’ hoax centered on the year 2012, which many people still believe (not sure why). Many Kentucky fans might take the years 2018 or 2019 a bit more seriously, though. In an article for ESPN the Magazine, head coach John Calipari stated that he plans on being in Lexington for six to seven more years, a date many of the Wildcat faithful hope will never come. When then-head coach Tubby Smith left Kentucky for Minnesota in 2007, Calipari told ESPN he was “waiting on a phone call” but felt the timing was better in 2009 when he ultimately decided to leave Memphis for Kentucky. Calipari’s current contract ends in 2019.
  4. LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III strongly believes that his team is not getting the recognition that they should be receiving this year. As seen in this video in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, O’Bryant says that the Tigers are “a lot deeper than most people think.” He certainly has a right to stand up for his teammates, as LSU is now 5-0 on the season, led by O’Bryant with a double-double in each of his last two games.
  5. There was a lot of hype headed into the Florida-Marquette SEC/Big East Challenge game on Thursday night. Marquette was entering its first true road test of the season as well as a rematch of the Sweet Sixteen game (won by the Gators) from last year’s NCAA Tournament. Florida easily won the battle again, 82-49. The story that caught a lot of attention though was the move by coach Billy Donovan to keep Patric Young on the bench last night. Donovan did not start Young because of his “attitude” in practice and thus gave more playing time for Will Yeguete. Young was able to contribute off the bench however, recording three blocks in Florida’s rout.
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ACC M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 30th, 2012

  1. CBS Sports: So this Mason Plumlee kid looks pretty good, huh? Duke‘s middlest Plumlee has come into his own this season with a series of dominating performances that have him looking better than ever. Plumlee has been good  for most of his college career, but it looks like he has turned the corner from good to great this season. Right now, he arguably looks like the best player in the country on an excellent team that has already won more big games in November than most teams will win all year. Duke looks scary good right now, and a lot of that starts with this Plumlee.
  2. Boston Globe: Speaking of turning a corner, it looks like Boston College may be ready to turn one of its own. After a series of losses to start the season, the Eagles beat Penn State as part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge, led by freshman Olivier Hanlan’s 22 points (powered by a remarkable 19 free throw attempts). So, how did this Canadian kid end up at Boston College? It seems that it’s the payoff of head coach Steve Donahue’s surprising recruiting range (he’s as likely to draw players from California and Canada as conventional ACC territory) and Hanlan and his family’s own persistence.
  3. Washington Post: It looks like Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon will be out for the rest of the season. Tony Bennett has stated that the plan is for Brogdon to redshirt this year while he recovers from a broken bone in his foot that has not been healing as well as had been previously hoped. The pressure for Brogdon to return has been somewhat ameliorated by the return of senior Jontel Evans who had been dealing with his own injury. Evans played in Virginia’s last game against Wisconsin, coming off the bench to play a quiet 16 minutes.
  4. Daily Press: Virginia also figures to see some big changes in scheduling due to the departure of Maryland and the arrival of Louisville to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terrapins have met the Cavaliers on the hardwood twice every year for the past 71 years, a staggering history. Though the rivalry between the two schools isn’t as sexy as some other conference rivalries, it seems a shame to bid adieu to so much history. In John Swofford’s conference call about the addition of Louisville, the commissioner stated that the Cardinals would be basically follow Maryland’s old scheduling spot, which means that Louisville is going to be, at least on paper, Virginia’s official conference rival. It’s an understandable move, but one that seems a little silly considering the fact that the Cardinals might be a more natural rival for Virginia Tech, a school that used to share a conference (Metro) with Louisville.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: It’s not even really a debate: David Thompson is the best basketball player in the history of the ACC. Now, fans have a chance to buy some of his stuff. Like many of his similarly aged compatriots, Thompson is selling some of the mementos from his great career in basketball. One of these items happens to be his championship ring from North Carolina State‘s 1973-74 national title. Bidding ends Saturday if you happen to have at least $16,000 or so in cash that you want to plop down for a legendary piece of Wolfpack basketball history.
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Big East M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 30th, 2012

  1. The SEC/Big East Challenge got off to a competitive start last night with the conferences splitting four matchups and each conference scoring a decisive and impressive victory. St. John’s and Notre Dame each scored easy victories for the Big East while Marquette was blown out by Florida and Seton Hall lost a competitive tilt with LSU. The game of the evening was Notre Dame’s thorough dismantling of No. 8 Kentucky, 64-50. It was billed as a battle between youth and experience, athleticism and discipline, and after the Wildcats got off to a quick start, it quickly became apparent which traits would prevail. The young Wildcats struggled to find a rhythm in their first true road test and really look nothing like last season’s juggernaut, at least in the early part of the season. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish rebounded from a slow start and finished the game shooting 48 percent from the field and 53 percent from behind the arc. The low point for the Fighting Irish may have been when their fans RTC’d as the final buzzer sounded. The Fighting Irish are an experienced and talented team, so beating a bunch of freshmen still figuring out how to play together doesn’t count as a true upset, especially when they won so handily. Even guard Jerian Grant lamented the post-game celebrations telling reporters that the team expected to win the game. The fans should have expected that too.
  2. On the flip side, after Notre Dame handled Kentucky easily, Marquette had a chance to really put the Big East in the driver’s seat as they squared off against No. 7 Florida, and unfortunately, they ended up falling flat on their face. Coach Buzz Williams, ever the candid quote, called the 82-49 drubbing the worst loss of his career and said his team was “really bad in every way.” Williams knows his team better than anyone else, but some credit should go to the Gators, who look like one of the best teams in the country in the early part of the season. Yes, the Golden Eagles, with the exception of junior guard Vander Blue (20 points and four rebounds), were dreadful on both ends of the floor. But Billy Donovan’s club has experienced talent and depth up-and-down the roster, and Marquette is still trying to adjust to life without stars Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. It is clear Marquette is not as good as it was last year, and I think if the two teams played again in February the Gators would still win, but I would also bet that if that were to happen, we would see a different MU team than the uninspired club we saw last night.
  3. The other statement win for the conference came when the Red Storm stomped coach Frank Martin and South Carolina, 89-65 in New York. The Gamecocks’ lackluster defense allowed D’Angelo Harrison (26 points on 8-of-13 shooting) and his teammates to shoot nearly 57 percent from the floor for the game as the Johnnies controlled the game from the opening tip and overwhelmed the undermanned South Carolina squad. Steve Lavin‘s club is making noise like it could be a really good team as the season progresses, especially if Jakarr Sampson continues to blossom into a star and talented forward Orlando Sanchez gains his eligibility. The team’s two losses (to Murray State and Baylor) are respectable ones, especially for a team full of underclassmen just starting to play together, and the talent and upside of the roster is tremendous. They are deep and athletic across the board, even more so if Sanchez comes back, and they will only get better as the season goes on. Maybe the Lavin rebuilding project is further along than some think.
  4. The national contender that no one is talking about amidst this conference realignment hullabaloo is Georgetown. It makes sense since the Hoyas fields an FCS football program, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that while the Big East is crumbling, one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball remains. Coach John Thompson III didn’t seem too worried when he was asked about the changes, saying that change was inevitable in this day and age and that he didn’t want to get too caught up especially with Tennessee coming to town tonight. He also deflected questions about whether Georgetown would consider breaking off from the conference with other basketball-first programs like Marquette and Villanova to form their own conference built around basketball supremacy. It’s perfectly fine for Thompson III to focus on basketball since he will have very little influence on the direction the school takes, but school administrators and decision-makers should be very concerned about what the next step for their program is. They have a compelling product on the basketball court and multiple excellent athletic programs — albeit ones that don’t make as much money — and riding out the storm in a show of loyalty to the Big East sounds nice and all, but it could leave Georgetown in an unenviable situation should other programs like Connecticut and Cincinnati defect as they so desperately want to.
  5. DePaul appears to be on its way to another NCAA Tournament-less season, something that has become all too common in the last two decades for the Blue Demons, and to make matters worse, they still play in an outdated Allstate Arena that apparently is a real hassle for students and city-dwelling fans to get to. This piece is an excellent look at not only DePaul’s options when it comes to switching arenas when the lease with the Allstate Arena runs out after 2015, but also whether that will make any difference in the program’s long road back to respectability. One option being championed by the likes of Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a rent-free stay at the United Center, which seems nice until you start imagining what the United Center would look like for an early season thriller between DePaul and Austin Peay. The other, more tantalizing option is a new arena closer to campus that has the backing of none other than city mayor Rahm Emmanuel. The idea is the definition of preliminary and as the article pointed out, the new arena doesn’t solve the on-court woes, but it opens the door for improvement in student and fan turnout at the very least.
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Morning Five: 11.30.12 Edtion

Posted by nvr1983 on November 30th, 2012

  1. We were thinking it was a quiet day without any news about conference realignment or player eligibility and then we got what is probably the biggest news of this college basketball season (at least in terms of its effect): Michael Dixon will no longer be a part of the Missouri basketball team. Dixon’s departure reportedly centers around two accusations of sexual assault at the university separated by more than two and a half years. We still aren’t sure if this was a decision that Dixon made on his own or if he got a nudge from the Missouri administration, but he has announced that he will be continuing his career elsewhere. This situation obviously has some similarities to that of Xavier’s Dez Wells in that he too was accused of sexual assault but local authorities failed to bring charges against him. The difference is that it does not appear that Missouri expelled Dixon as Xavier did in Wells’ case, but the result appears to be the same — both players moving on.
  2. Media bans are amusing until you have a serious (non-legal) matter and then you are stuck with the media speculating wildly, which is what Josh Pastner is making everyone do now that co-captain Tarik Black missed last night’s game “to give [Black] some time to figure some things out”. Pastner was vague about what had led to Black’s absence and would not even comment on whether the junior forward was considering transferring. We understand a coach’s need to keep issues internal to the program, but it is beginning to seem like Pastner is using it as a crutch to hoard information that might be provide more ammunition for the growing chorus of people questioning his control over the program.
  3. We have been saying it in this spot for the past few days and yesterday Gregg Doyel joined the chorus of people proclaiming that the Big East is on life support. As Doyel poignantly notes, many of the original programs that are left in the next-generation Big East are too good for what they are being put through. St. John’s, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Providence deserve better — much better — and we don’t disagree with a word of Doyel’s article here. As much as we hate conference realignment, if we were a traditional Big East basketball school we would be looking at whatever options were open to get away from the sinking ship that the once-proud conference has become. The Atlantic 10 — sure. A Catholic school basketball super-conference — why not? Joining the ACC as basketball-onlys — make the call. But the way these remaining schools are tying their futures to the likes of Tulane and East Carolina? It’s embarrassing.
  4. We hesitate at RTC to ever link to a slideshow of any kind — they could be the most annoying aspect of modern web publishing — but this one seemed interesting enough to do so. The Memphis Business Journal unveiled an analysis of the 15 most profitable basketball programs in America earlier this week, and the school at the top spot with 2010 profits of $27.6 million — Louisville — might give people a little more indication as to why the ACC found the Cardinals enticing as a new member. There’s won’t be many surprises on this list with many of the usual suspects represented, but we were most surprised by the amount of expenses that #1 Louisville ($13.3 million) and #2 Duke ($13.8 million) had in comparison to some of its profitable contemporaries (e.g., #4 UNC = $6.5 million; #6 Syracuse = $7.5 million). Are the Cards and Devils serving their players meals in diamond-encrusted golden goblets?
  5. Seth Davis is back with this week’s Hoops Thoughts, focusing on Arizona State’s improvement in large part due to Jahii Carson, Jerry Tarkanian’s fitness for the Hall of Fame, and his usual assortment of tidbits, notes and other bullet-pointed errata. He gives mentions to Ed Daniels’ hair, Pe’Shon Howard’s jumper, the 70/20/10 rule, Gorgui Dieng’s wrist, and rooting for Kevin Parrom. Give it a read before you start you weekend — you won’t be disappointed and you’re likely to learn a few things in the process.
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ATB: Notre Dame Knocks Off Kentucky, Florida Destroys Marquette and Doug McDermott is NOT Larry Bird…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 30th, 2012

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

Tonight’s Lede. The “Other” Inter-League Challenge Doesn’t Fail to Entertain. There’s a power shift afoot in college hoops, a big, transcendent, diffusion of brand name programs. Thanks in large part to conference realignment, the sport’s epicenter will soon reside in the ACC and Big Ten. Those two leagues had their fun earlier in the week. On Thursday, the SEC and realignment-riddled Big East grabbed the national spotlight. The traditional Northeastern hoops power league may not stand on solid footing once all this movement settles down for good, but for one night, the conference provided a bit of magic. When Notre Dame ransacked the young Kentucky Wildcats on their home floor, proving the merits of veteran leadership and savvy over recruiting rankings, and temporarily accomplishing the seemingly impossible feat of distracting attention away from an Irish football National Championship season, this clip, culled from the annals of Gladiator, immediately came to mind. Thank you Notre Dame: we are entertained.

Your Watercooler Moment. Will The Real SEC Front-runner Please Stand Up?

Two words describe the Gators beatdown of Marquette in Thursday night’s SEC-Big East challenge tilt: balanced and dominant (Photo credit: AP).

I had serious questions heading into the season about Kentucky’s ability to completely turn over its roster and win an arguably top-heavy SEC. Thursday night’s loss confirmed my doubts. Throw in Florida’s 82-49 drubbing of Marquette, and I’m now fully on board with the Gators’ chances of stealing the league title from the young Wildcats. You may be wondering why I’m so bullish on Florida. This statistical anecdote may help explain: Against the Golden Eagles, a likely NCAA Tournament team, Florida had six players in double figures, and got just six points from leading scorer Kenny Boynton. If Boynton’s going to shoot 2-for-11 and Florida is still blowing a team out, just think what the Gators are capable of when Boynton’s locked in. We knew coming in that Billy Donovan’s team had a fair shot to dethrone Kentucky this season. Thursday night furthered that notion. We’ll get a better sense of Florida’s true value over the next couple weeks. The Gators travel to Florida State on December 5, then 10 days later go out west for a date with Arizona. Win those two games, and you’re talking about one of the best non-conference resumes in the country. Early as it is, this team has the looks of a Final Four outfit. When Billy Donovan has this much talent, national championship aspirations are not at all misguided. This team belongs in that conversation.

At the Buzzer. Your annual Notre Dame court rushing came before Big East play. This one was well-worth it – When you take down the basketball monolith from Lexington, a joyous celebration is in order. Even Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o got into the act (including an interview with Dick Vitale during the game).

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What Now For Missouri Without Michael Dixon?

Posted by DPerry on November 29th, 2012

Michael Dixon was expected to be a key contributor for the Missouri Tigers in their first SEC season, but after a second accusation of forcible rape, the senior guard revealed Thursday in a leaked text message to a friend that he would be leaving the program:

“Yea I’m done here bro I’m not gonna be here anymore another girl my freshman year pulled this … on me now it’s coming out and everyone is gonna think it’s real so I’m thru bro I appreciate you tho just let as many (people) as u can know”

Dixon’s Exit Leaves Missouri’s Backcourt in a Bind (Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Frank Haith, Missouri’s current coach, is not implicated in the situation, but current Arkansas coach and former Tiger Mike Anderson can’t say the same. Reportedly, Dixon’s initial accuser met with Anderson after the first incident [as he refers to in his freshman year], and though the coach didn’t pressure her to sit on her story, questions have to be asked about his treatment of Dixon in the aftermath. Anderson, through a Razorbacks spokesman, declined comment.

Dixon was the college basketball equivalent of James Harden for Missouri last season. On a team that featured four guards in the starting lineup, he was the best bench scoring option in the nation. The Kansas City product averaged 13.5 points and 3.3 assists per game, while shooting almost 49% from the field. In addition, he showed an outstanding ability to get to the free throw line, averaging almost four free throws per game and converting them at an 88% clip.

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Rushed Reactions: Notre Dame 64, #8 Kentucky 50

Posted by WCarey on November 29th, 2012

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed some quick thoughts from tonight’s showdown between Kentucky and Notre Dame

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Atmosphere At The Purcell Pavilion Was Electric Tonight. And the electricity began way before the game even tipped off. Notre Dame distributed black t-shirts to all fans in an effort for a blackout at the Purcell Pavilion. The blackout effort was successful (even though there was some Kentucky blue scattered throughout the crowd). The Irish basketball team did its part in the blackout by unveiling brand new black jerseys. Big Blue Nation is known for its road presence, but the Notre Dame faithful were successfully able to drown out the voice of the visiting fans. The Irish are now 41-1 in their last 42 non-conference home games and the electrifying atmosphere of the Purcell Pavilion continues to play a key role in that strong mark.
  2. Notre Dame’s Defensive Effort Was Outstanding. The Irish held Kentucky to just 50 points, which is 18 points lower than its previous season-low. Kentucky shooters were frustrated early and often by the stingy Irish defense, as the Wildcats only managed to finish the game at 40.4% from the field. The Irish defense was particularly tough in the first half, holding Kentucky to just a 37.5% shooting mark. Notre Dame’s terrific defensive pressure also forced Kentucky into a number of abysmal possessions, some of which led to 12 Wildcat turnovers. Wildcat freshmen Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel were stymied all night, as they combined to convert just 5-of-17 field goal attempts. Goodwin, in particular, had a very frustrating night as he was held to just three points, which was 16 points below his season average.
  3. Notre Dame’s Captains Provide Great Leadership. In a game where Notre Dame had the definite advantage in terms of experience, the Irish veteran captains stepped up and willed the team to victory. Junior guard Eric Atkins led the way for the Irish with 16 points and four assists. Atkins’ defensive effort on Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin was also notable, as he frustrated the talented freshman all night. Senior forward Jack Cooley put up another double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Cooley’s interior defense left Nerlens Noel frustrated and Alex Poythress in foul trouble. Senior swingman Scott Martin also put forth a steady effort for the Irish with eight points and four rebounds. If the Irish can consistently get great efforts from these three guys, they will be a tough team to beat when Big East play commences.

Star of the Game. Eric Atkins, Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s offensive effort was rather balanced tonight, but it was Atkins, who really set the tone early for the Irish. Scoring 13 of his 16 points in the first half, Atkins helped the Irish take an 11-point lead into the half, which allowed them to control the pace of the game in the second half. While Cooley, junior guard Jerian Grant, and freshman guard Cameron Biedscheid put together impressive performances, it was Atkins who emerged as the best player on the court for the winning team. Quotable.

  • “What disappointed me is that we did not compete. We did not execute. We did not play together.” Kentucky head coach John Calipari in response to what he thought went wrong for his squad tonight.
  • “We really prepared like an experienced group the past two days and we played like an experienced team tonight.” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey when asked how much of an advantage his team’s experience gave them in tonight’s game.

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Michael Dixon Leaves Missouri

Posted by nvr1983 on November 29th, 2012

Missouri‘s chances of replicating the (regular season) magic it had last year took a big hit this afternoon when it was revealed that senior guard Michael Dixon would no longer be part of the team. We still aren’t sure if Dixon or the school made the decision or if it was the always popular “mutual decision,” but Dixon, who has been battling an allegation of sexual assault, reportedly texted a friend the following message:

Dixon’s Departure Leaves A Lot Of Questions At Missouri (Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Yea I’m done here bro I’m not gonna be here anymore another girl my freshman year pulled this … on me now it’s coming out and everyone is gonna think it’s real so I’m thru bro I appreciate you tho just let as many (people) as u can know

Dixon followed that with this message:

I have never harmed anyone

Dixon is apparently referencing not only a current investigation by the school’s student council into a sexual assault charge that local prosecutors determined did not have enough evidence to press charges against him, but also apparently an accusation of forcible rape against him from January 2010. The other incident is explained in fairly graphic detail in the story at the link above, but the woman from 2010 reportedly did not press charges because she did not want her family to know about it and didn’t want to deal with the public fallout of accusing a basketball player of rape. According to an anonymous source (are there any other kind?), former Missouri coach Mike Anderson was aware of the accusation and suspended Dixon for “first few games because it wasn’t in the real season, and they needed him to play during the actual games.”

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Breaking Down the Thursday Night SEC/Big East Challenge Games

Posted by rtmsf on November 29th, 2012

The SEC/Big East Challenge tips off tonight with four games and will carry on throughout the weekend. The Big East microsite has you covered, with three reasons why each of its respective squads will win. As an added bonus, the SEC microsite counters with its own opinion on the Florida-Marquette game.

Three Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Win

  1. Experience. There is no one in the country with functional vision that thinks the Fighting Irish can match up with the Wildcats athletically, but that’s the beauty of college basketball, having the best athletes and most pure talent do not always translate into victories. Where the Fighting Irish do have the distinct advantage is in the experience department. Almost everyone in coach Mike Brey’s seven-man rotation has played in high profile games like this with the exception of freshman Cameron Biedscheid. Heck, forward Scott Martin was probably playing in big-time college basketball games while some of Kentucky’s players were still adjusting to high school. The Wildcats will be a force to be reckoned with once they learn to play together, but they are still figuring that out, giving Notre Dame a window they need to take advantage of. If they can punch Kentucky in the mouth early, it may be difficult for the young Wildcats to re-organize and come back in the game.
  2. Ryan Harrow’s Return. Technically the transfer’s return to the lineup after an undisclosed illness should be a boon for Kentucky. But, even though Harrow says he is ready, coach John Calipari has expressed concern about whether Harrow is up to game speed and it wouldn’t be surprising if his minutes were monitored closely. Fellow transfer Julius Mays and former walk-on Jarrod Polson have held their own in Harrow’s absence, but in the Wildcats’ loss to Duke, neither player made much of an impact at all. Notre Dame has a backcourt duo in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant that can score in bunches and so look for the Fighting Irish to try and exploit their backcourt advantage by taking it to Harrow or his backups on both ends of the floor. There is little doubt that Atkins and Grant are going to get plenty of scoring looks tonight, and if they start knocking down their shots and attacking the rim at will, Kentucky is going to be in a lot of trouble.
  3. They will play Mike Brey basketball. If you are interested in watching a style of basketball that is effective yet will offend all of your sensibilities, just watch the Fighting Irish on offense. Through six games, Brey’s club ranks #331 in adjusted tempo and anyone who is even remotely familiar with the Notre Dame coach knows that is pretty much par for the course. Kentucky has the athletic advantage and in the frontcourt, so they will be looking to run and force the issue offensively. By contrast, Notre Dame will only run if Brey falls asleep or gets kidnapped, and they will put a lot of effort into getting Kentucky out of its rhythm and making them play a slower pace than they want to. This strategy is ugly, but it has been proven effective time and time again as Brey has upset more talented teams by limiting their offensive opportunities and taking care of the basketball at all costs. This strategy may be particularly effective tonight because the young Wildcats may get frustrated by the languishing tempo, and the Fighting Irish have experienced guards and wings to run the offense patiently and effectively. The Irish have enough offensive weapons to hang with the Wildcats if the pace gets pushed, but if the game is played in the low 60s or high 50s, that will probably mean that Notre Dame has the Wildcats right where they want them.
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