AAC M5: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on November 29th, 2013

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  1. Houston freshman big man Ahmed Hamdy is one of two Egyptian players ruled ineligible this season by the NCAA, but both say they relied on the advice of a former Division I coach. Their infraction was spending an extra postgraduate year at a Texas prep school upon the advice of Marco Morcos, an Egyptian who was an assistant at both FIU and Rice and who helped bring them to the US. Morcos denies he advised them to stay, or that he had any particular influence over their decision. It seems, rather, that this is a rather stark example of exploitation; Hamdy and Aly Ahmed, a sophomore at Cal State Bakerfield, barely speak English, and a number of adults seem to have been trying to push them in directions advantageous to the adults rather than the teenagers. And yet the NCAA, as it so often does, punished a technical violation of the rule without the appearance of common sense having been applied. Here’s hoping Hamdy and Ahmed get past this and find the chances they deserve.
  2. Memphis rolled past Siena 87-60, a necessary first step toward a potential rematch with Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic. That’s something they claim to want, despite how poorly it went the first time. Now it’s obvious that the Tigers would like to win the Old Spice Classic – they play LSU in Friday’s semifinal – and that would likely require beating the Cowboys on Sunday. At least this time it wouldn’t be in such a hostile environment. But still, they lost by 21 the first time after trailing by as many as 32. The game was a blowout after a tight first 10 minutes, and it doesn’t seem that they’ve had enough time to patch up the flaw that the Cowboys so easily exploited, namely their lack of an ability to run an offense with anything approaching efficiency.
  3. Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin is most thankful for his three senior captains – Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, and Titus Rublesto whom he gives much of the credit for the team’s 5-0 start. In particular, he says their sustained effort has allowed the Bearcats to pursue their pressure defense for the full 40 minutes. The results so far, even against a fairly weak schedule, are hard to dispute. According to KenPom, Cincinnati ranks #15 in adjusted defense, #13 in opponents’ effective field goal percentage, and a lofty #6 in turnover percentage. But probably most important is that all three are playing substantially better on the offensive end in the early going. Of the trio, only Kilpatrick managed an offensive rating over 100 last year at 108.5. His offensive rating through five games – an admittedly small sample size, to be sure – is a ridiculous 150.7, good for #11 nationally. Jackson and Rubles have seen similar improvements, from 82.5 and 87.8, to 109.7 and 108.3, respectively. If the trio can continue to produce on the offensive end, the Bearcats will likely exceed expectations based on the perception they would struggle to score.
  4. Louisville had a wildly successful year athletically in the 2012-13 academic year, including its third basketball national championship and the election of coach Rick Pitino to the Hall of Fame. Now the school apparently plans to buy airtime on ESPN to relive the highlights, which also includes a Sugar Bowl win and a trip to the College World Series, among others. Pitino told WDRB that the school is producing a “Year of the Cardinal” special as a marketing tool. Athletic Director Tom Jurich has been rightly hailed as perhaps the best in the country at what he does, and this looks to be another outside-the-box idea that could pay long-term dividends for the program.
  5. The news cycle has mostly moved on from Chane Behanan’s championship ring-gate, but Louisville still hasn’t officially weighed in beyond saying that it’s looking into it. That probably is just because of the holiday, but we’ll see if they have anything more to say before returning to the court against Southern Mississippi at 7:00 PM Friday night. Guessing not.
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ACC M5: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 29th, 2013

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  1. Washington Post: Huge news out of College Park this week, as Dalonte Hill has resigned from Maryland’s staff. That opened up a spot for Dustin Clark to be promoted and Juan Dixon to be hired as a special assistant (after he completes his degree). According to Dixon, he’s always wanted to be a college coach, so he’s been in Mark Turgeon’s ear about getting onto the staff during the past few months. If Dixon is half the coach as he was a college basketball player, this will be a great move. He should be an invaluable tool in recruiting local guys (although he can’t go on the road).
  2. Orlando Sentinel: Ian Miller is a big part of Florida State’s dramatic turnaround. Montay Brandon definitely deserves some credit, but Miller’s offensive prowess and experience make him a key cog in Leonard Hamilton’s machine. Last year Miller was injured and unable to practice, but he dropped 25 pounds and is back to being the exciting player people predicted he would be when he transferred. It’s clear from his comments that his injury caused Miller to rededicate himself to the game.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: This Dan Collins interview with Devin Thomas seems especially prescient considering how closely Wake Forest played Kansas. However, Thomas needs to learn when to walk away, as shown by his two technical fouls over the course of two minutes. Watching the game it was unclear exactly why he got the techs, but he can’t put himself in that position to begin with. Still, after the Demon Deacons played Kansas competitively (even spotting them free throws from three technical fouls while missing boatloads of their own), it’s clear that Wake Forest’s record wasn’t just a fluke.
  4. CBS Sports: Jabari Parker is something else. Matt Norlander does a pretty good job putting his uniqueness into words with this ode after Duke’s win over Alabama. There’s still room for improvement (especially on defense), but Parker is a force rarely seen at the college level. He has range, a post game and an unbelievable array of moves all over the court. One concern for Duke has to be Rodney Hood’s no-show on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils need him to be a factor (and to stay out of foul trouble), but another amazing stat is that Parker has scored 20 in every game thus far.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: The News & Observer ran a special section on Dean Smith in honor of his recent Presidential Medal of Freedom award. While you’re reading Andrew Carter’s article, don’t forget to check out the timeline of Smith’s career or his record. Smith’s mentored everyone from Eric Montross to Roy Williams to John Swofford.
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Big East M5: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 29th, 2013

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  1. ESPN.com published its third big board for the NBA Draft next summer and the Big East was represented by two players, Doug McDermott and Semaj Christon. McDermott was ranked 20th by Chad Ford, who raves about offensive efficiency and McDermott has definitely impressed thus far this season, averaging 27.5 points on 55 percent shooting. His offensive game is multifaceted as he can shoot the ball at a high level, get to the rim off the dribble, and also has several nice moves in the post. His lack of athleticism and the hype surrounding the freshman and sophomores in the class is pushing his stock down, but another very strong season could help him make his case for a high pick next June.
  2. Villanova breezed by USC yesterday with some help from Dylan Ennis for the first time this season. Ennis transferred in from Rice last season, but his first season with the Wildcats has been delayed because of a broken hand. He scored 14 points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting, while adding great energy off the bench. The Wildcats will play Kansas today in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in what will be a very difficult game. Jay Wright saw several of his key players step up against the Trojans, but Ennis will provide a steady hand in the backcourt off the bench and his scoring could be an added asset for an already good team.
  3. Xavier lost a heartbreaker to Iowa last night in the Bahamas. They ended up losing the game in overtime, but the Musketeers’ best player, Semaj Christon, could not play the final 15 minutes while suffering from cramps. He exited the game with 10 minutes left in the second half and Xavier leading 52-40. He was tended to by the coaching staff to the side of the bench, but with a minute left in regulation he returned to bench, giving hope that he would return to the action. He stood in front of the bench for the rest of the game as the Musketeers lost their upset bid in the extra period. Xavier has a rematch with Tennessee today, and after beating the Volunteers by four last month at home, Chris Mack will need Christon to be ready for this one. Xavier went on a five-minute scoring drought after Christon exited, proving how importance the super sophomore is for the Musketeers’ offense.
  4. What small, Catholic school’s basketball program does not have any top 100 recruits, just left a mid-major conference, and arguably has the best offense in college basketball? You could probably figure out that the program is Creighton. John Gasaway wrote an interesting article about the Bluejays’ explosive offense, led by Greg McDermott and his two time All-American son, Doug. The Bluejays have averaged 1.26 points per possession in their first four games and have scored at least 40 points in their first nine halves. A key to their high scoring is having four players who can shoot the three effectively, with a pass-first point guard running the system. This puts pressure on the opposing teams’ big men to get out and defend the perimeter, which has resulted in the  Bluejays’ shooting 46 percent from deep, a remarkable number. The article is a great read and well worth the time.
  5. After going 4-1 on Thursday, Big East teams are involved in seven more games today. Highlighting the day will be Butler taking on Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic and Villanova playing Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Both teams will see two of the most exciting and best players in all of college basketball, Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins. Today will be each team’s best chance for a huge upset this season, but a loss would still set them up well for a good third-place game. The weekend could also see Marquette meet Creighton in the finals of the Wooden Legacy, if both win their games today. That would be a great game as both teams are playing well right now. Nobody has been able to stop Creighton yet, but Buzz Williams will throw some wrinkles at McDermott if they do in fact meet.
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Morning Five: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 29th, 2013

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  1. When Andy Enfield made his statements criticizing Steve Alford and Tim Floyd we figured that he would hear about them. We just never figured it would be in a public place in front of journalists. As Seth Davis detailed, Floyd approached Enfield and began yelling at him in front of Enfield’s wife and a group of onlookers. Assistants for both schools had to step in to separate the two. It’s unfortunate that the two had to air out their differences so publicly, but Enfield had to expect some blowback after his arrogant comments.
  2. It appears that the Chane Behanan 2012 Final Four controversy has come to a rather abrupt end. Upon hearing about the auction Behanan’s mother called his grandmother, who he had given the ring to. She said that she had put it in a box in her bedroom, but when she checked she discovered that it was not there. When the family contacted Gray Flannel saying that the ring had been stolen the company promptly returned the ring to Behanan. While it is a plausible story it does seem strange that the company gave the ring to Behanan so quickly if they did any investigation at all into his claims.
  3. Floyd and Enfield may have embarrassed themselves with their actions, but they were not the only ones in the college basketball community to embarrass themselves. Craig Neal‘s wife, Jean, has been accused of attacking a school administrator and could be heading to court as a result of it. Former El Dorado High School assistant principal Susana Stanojevic has filed a lawsuit claiming that Janet Neal assaulted her after a high school basketball game in February in which Janet’s son played. Stanojevic is claiming that the school board knew that Janet had a history of such outbursts and did not protect Stanojevic from her. It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Stanojevic has filed a lawsuit against the school board.
  4. When Dalonte Hill was arrested for the third time for a DUI we figured it was only a matter of time before he stepped down (or was forced to do so). On Wednesday, after having taken a leave of absence from the team from quite some time, Hill finally officially resigned. Hill’s primary role was to help the team in recruiting in the D.C. metro area, which is something that he did to a degree, but not at the level that was needed to make the Terrapins competitive in the upper echelon of the ACC (and soon to be Big Ten). Although the news is certainly negative for Maryland as they attempt to increase their reach in recruiting, they did get one positive as they announced that Maryland legend Juan Dixon was joining the staff as a special assistant to Mark Turgeon.
  5. We have heard a lot of strange excuses for why a player is not eligible, but that of two Egyptian players–Aly Ahmed and Ahmed Hamdy–is a new one. They claim that they were misled by former Rice and FIU assistant Marco Morcos who told them to spend a second year in prep school prior to entering college despite NCAA rules arguing against that. For his part, Morcos denies any influence. Although the schools where the two players are waiting at now (Cal State Bakersfield for Ahmed and Houston for Hamdy) appear to be confident that the NCAA will change their mind based on the report that Morcos misled the two players we tend to agree with John Infante that the two are out of luck because they need to know the rules.
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Rushed Reaction: Creighton 88, Arizona State 60

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 29th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after tonight’s Wooden Legacy quarterfinal between Creighton and Arizona State.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Devin Brooks is a Wildcard. Tonight, the junior college transfer was transcendent, scoring 23 spectacular points in just 19 minutes of action. The book on him is “great athlete, great off the bounce, but prone to getting a little out of control, average defensively and with an inconsistent jumper.” All those positives showed through tonight as he was able to beat his man off the dribble with regularity and score at the rim. But all those negatives? Non-existent. He knocked down all four of his three-point attempts (he was 0-for-2 from deep previously), did a quality job defensively, and played like a veteran all night. While Creighton certainly isn’t a team that needed an extra boost offensively, Brooks does give them an athletic and confident scorer unlike anyone else on the roster.

    Devin Brooks Was A Revelation On Thanksgiving Night, Dropping 23 Spectacular Points (WBR, Mike Spomer)

    Devin Brooks Was A Revelation On Thanksgiving Night, Dropping 23 Spectacular Points (WBR, Mike Spomer)

  2. Creighton: Defensive Powerhouse. Arizona State is a very good offensive team, and Creighton, somehow, held the Sun Devils to fewer than 0.9 points per possession. Jahii Carson got 15 points, but it took 12 shots for him to do that and he turned the ball over five times in the process. The game plan for Creighton was simple: Hound Carson with a quick guard like Brooks or Austin Chatman relentlessly, and keep several other sets of eyes on him at all times. And once Carson gave it up, make him work real hard in order to get the ball back and force other guys to beat them. It worked flawlessly, as the rest of the ASU squad shot a combined 17-of-46 (36.9%) from the field. The key for the Bluejays going forward will be to keep the type of defensive intensity they showed tonight on a nightly basis, not something they have proven capable of doing in the past.
  3. Lost Weekend for Arizona State. With the loss to Creighton, the remainder of this weekend for Herb Sendek’s team is about improving as a team; there are no other chances for good wins remaining for the Sun Devils in Orange County. They’ll play Charleston tomorrow and then likely Miami (FL) on Sunday. And god forbid they have a hangover after this game and drop one of those. Sendek will get a chance to see how his team bounces back from its first loss of the season and first taste of adversity this year, but he’ll also want to see his team work on a few weaknesses that were exposed tonight.

Star of the GameDevin Brooks, Creighton. A 23-point night on 9-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-4 from deep, all in just 19 minutes. Yeah, that’ll work. But the bigger story was his confidence in doing so. A New York City guard with the type of game that phrase evokes, Brooks showed no hesitation under the bright lights. He broke down his defenders off the bounce early and finished well at the rim. And then, once he had his mojo going, he drilled three after three despite a scouting report that said to lay back on him and let him take jumpers. Even his own head coach, Greg McDermott, admitted that he cringed the first time Brooks jacked up a three. While the kind of production he laid down tonight isn’t maintainable, if he can be a consistent force on both end of the court, this Bluejays team just got a whole lot scarier.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Washington State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 28th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So Far: Washington State has looked awful in the first three weeks of the season. After sneaking by Cal State Bakersfield on opening night, the Cougars handled Lamar with ease nine days later. They then made the short trip over to Spokane to face Gonzaga, where they were easily dispatched by the Bulldogs, 90-74. That wasn’t the low point, however. That came three days later in front of a sleepy home crowd at Beasley Coliseum, where lowly TCU came in and pulled off a stunning 64-62 upset.

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

First Round Preview: Washington State meets Butler in Lake Buena Vista on Thursday morning. The Bulldogs have started the season at 4-0 and their best win came in overtime against Vanderbilt last week. They feature as balanced an attack on the offensive end of the floor as you’ll see in this field, with both forward Khyle Marshall and guard Kellen Dunham averaging 15.8 PPG a piece. Where the Cougars have been struggling is on offense, and junior Alex Barlow will prove to be a pesky pain in the side for their guards. He’s averaging 2.0 SPG and recorded three of them in Butler’s game at Ball State last Saturday.

Potential Later Round Match-up: If the bracket holds, it looks like the Cougs will face Purdue on Friday and Siena on Sunday. These aren’t exactly opponents that will provide a huge boost to the RPI, making a possible upset of Butler even more important. The Boilermakers have opened the season at 5-1, but that record doesn’t look as good when you consider the fact that the best win came against Eastern Illinois. Everything goes through sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson for head coach Matt Painter, who is scoring at a 13.8 PPG clip and averaging 4.4 APG. Siena has opened the year at 2-4 with wins over St. Bonaventure and Cornell. It faces Memphis in its opener at the Old Spice Classic.

Outlook: While two wins may be possible, in all honesty the Cougars should be expecting one. Until Ken Bone’s guys show some resemblance of an offense, it’s going to be best to keep the expectations low in Pullman.

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Title Game Tilts, Coach Fights & Parker Shows Off

Posted by David Harten on November 28th, 2013

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Wednesday night made for one of the better nights we’ve had so far in this year’s college basketball season. It’s holiday tournament time — the three days in Maui were capped, the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off got underway, and a host of other tournaments across the country start today. Trophies were raised and big performances were necessary… and Syracuse and Baylor made it tough to appreciate having 20/20 vision in what I like to call “the day-glow game.”

Let’s take it to the best tweets of the night, shall we?

The top games on the night came in Madison Square Garden, with Duke taking Alabama after Arizona got all it could want from Drexel, and in the Lahaina Civic Center, with Syracuse and Baylor playing for all of the surfboards in Maui. As far as the Blue Devils’ play was concerned, it wasn’t the start they envisioned.

Arizona also fought back after trailing by as much as 19 to the Dragons, pulling away very late for the win. Drexel suffered more than a loss on its record, with one of their better players in Damion Lee exiting the game in the second half with a knee injury. The good news is that Dragons’ head coach Bruiser Flint said the team doesn’t believe there’s any serious damage.

And before things got underway in the Maui title game, Dayton proved its worth in the third place game, beating California, 82-64. As possibly the most impressive team in the tournament, you’d expect this to be a huge confidence boost for Devin Oliver, coach Archie Miller and the rest of the Flyers.

Staying in Hawaii, Syracuse started fast against Baylor, thanks mainly to Tournament MVP C.J. Fair’s scoring and Tyler Ennis being the steady presence at the point.

Oh, and between the Orange and Baylor’s uniforms, the television was tough to look at.

We cut back to Duke and Alabama, where midway through the first half, Blue Devils’ wunderkind Jabari Parker hit possibly the most impressive shot of the night, with a turnaround, baseline fadeaway over a defender that made so many in attendance and watching on TV say “that’s an NBA elite-level shot.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on November 28th, 2013

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

 

Highlights and Lowlights From the Week (from highest to lowest)

Looking for high profile wins in the early season invitational tournaments and traditional home-away settings, the conference had some bright spots but overall the results were mixed:

Big man Cady Lalanne has been outstanding for UMass. (Maria Uminski/ Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

Big man Cady Lalanne has been outstanding for UMass. (Maria Uminski/ Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

  1. Massachusetts — The Minutemen were voted #24 in the AP’s Top 25 on the strength of their weekend at the Charleston Classic. Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad ran their winning streak to six with wins over power conference representatives Nebraska (81-65) and Clemson (62-56) and (then) #19 New Mexico over the course of the Charleston weekend. Center Cady Lalanne became the much anticipated low post beast, scoring 47 points on 17-of-36 (13-of-16 from the line) shooting while grabbing 35 rebounds over the three game run. He logged two double-doubles in the three game set. Chaz Williams is the guiding force for the squad (and he did not disappoint in Charleston either), but if Lalanne (along with Maxie Esho and Raphiael Putney) emerge as legitimate threats game-to-game, this Massachusetts squad will challenge for the conference title. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: Thanksgiving Day Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 28th, 2013

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  1. Things didn’t start out great for the Pac-12 on Wednesday night, as Arizona spotted Drexel 19 early points in the first half of their NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinal, and, make no mistake, Arizona looked completely awful in that first half. The Wildcats recorded zero assists in 20 minutes, their frontcourt looked overmatched against a smaller Dragons frontcourt and in no way, shape or form, did the Wildcats look like a Top 25 team, much less the top five team that both the most recent AP and RTC polls declared that they were. But, after what was likely a blistering halftime locker room speech, Kaleb Tarczewski, Nick Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, in particular, were impressive in leading their squad back from the brink to earn the much-sought-after match-up with Duke in the championship game on Friday evening. Must-see-TV, indeed. Oh, and those of you who wrote off UCLA after a similarly tough battle with Drexel, do you care to re-assess? Likely not.
  2. At roughly the same time as the Wildcats were struggling with the Dragons, California was in the process of getting pretty well handled by Dayton. Certainly, the fact that the Golden Bears were again playing without one of their best players in Richard Solomon – out due to a corneal abrasion — didn’t do much to help their cause. But, aside from senior point guard Justin Cobbs, who scored Cal’s first 12 points of the second half and wound up with 31 on the night, and David Kravish (12 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks), Mike Montgomery got almost zero production out of the rest of the gang. After an intriguing start to the Maui Invitational, with that win over a tough match-up in Arkansas, Golden Bears fans are left wondering what could have been had Solomon been able to go.
  3. Utah had quite a bit more success on Wednesday night, albeit against lesser competition. Still, if you haven’t gotten around to taking a peek at Ute junior college transfer point guard Delon Wright, it is about time you avail yourself of that opportunity. Once again, Wright proved himself to be a versatile, jack-of-all-trades guy for head coach Larry Krystkowiak, scoring 23 points, handing out seven assists, swiping seven steals, snatching four boards and even swatting a shot. And, for good measure, he made a statement about the supposed weakness in his game: his outside shot. Wright knocked down both of his two attempts from beyond the three-point arc as well in the Utes 19-point win over Ball State.
  4. We take a step away from the court to mention that Oregon head coach Dana Altman was awarded with a three-year contract extension by his university on Wednesday. After the extension, his current contact keeps him in Eugene through 2020, dialing in his compensation at $1.8 million. Given the highs to which  Altman has led the Ducks in his three-plus years on campus so far, this formality is a no-brainer. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Altman, by the time his tenure at Oregon is up, has vaulted the Duck basketball program to the levels that Chip Kelly, et al., have launched the Oregon football progam.
  5. And, while we don’t actually have any football games in conference until the day after Thanksgiving, just in case we don’t get a chance to assemble a Morning Five tomorrow night, due to some combination of turkey, stuffing, beer and Arizona State/Creighton (not necessarily – but likely – in that order), we thought Connor and I would unveil our picks for the football weekend herewith. Last week, again, both of us went 3-3 on the week, bringing our totals on the year to 64-21 for Connor and 63-22 for me. In case you need a little help with those numbers (believe me, I can relate), that puts me a game back. With this the last big weekend of football, it is fitting that Connor and I have enough differences of opinion in our picks this weekend to make this interesting. We’ve selected USC/UCLA as our game of the week, even though it is as meaningless as any other game this weekend in the grand scheme of things. But, really, in a week with USC/UCLA, Oregon/Oregon State, Washington/Washington State and Arizona/Arizona State, there clearly ain’t anything approaching a meaningless game on the slate. Anyway, our picks:pickem-rivarlyweek
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: USC in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 28th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So FarUSC opened its season with one if its toughest non-conference games, a road trip to Logan to face Utah State. Things didn’t go in head coach Andy Enfield‘s debut as the Aggies blitzed the Trojans from the start and got the 78-65 win. Since then, however, USC has won four in a row, including a 14-point victory against regional rival Cal State Fullerton. Junior guard Byron Wesley has shined the brightest in Enfield’s up-tempo offense, averaging 19.8 PPG and grabbing a cool 8.8 RPG.

Enfield And Wesley Are Off To A 4-1 Start In 2013-14 (Los Angeles Times)
Enfield And Wesley Are Off To A 4-1 Start In 2013-14 (Los Angeles Times)

First Round PreviewUSC meets 4-0 Villanova in the first round Thursday morning. The Wildcats have not had an opportunity to get a signature win, but they did dispatch a good Towson squad, 78-44. Five days later, however, they struggled to pull away from a mediocre Delaware team and barely held on for a four-point win. They are led by junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who is averaging over 20 PPG. For the Cats to escape the tournament opener, defending the endless list of USC bigs will be key. If they are able to limit their looks inside, Nova should definitely win this one.

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Minnesota Half-Court Defense is Cause For Concern

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 28th, 2013

Ed. note: Minnesota finished up its Maui Invitational trip with an 83-68 win over D-II Chaminade on Wednesday afternoon.

Things were going so nicely for first-year head coach Richard Pitino and his Golden Gophers. They had won their first five games in convincing fashion; junior guard Andre Hollins was looking like a possible Big Ten Player of the Year candidate; and they had just taken it to top-ranked Syracuse losing only in the final minutes of their opening round game at the Maui Invitational. They entered their second game in Maui against an Arkansas team who had lost its most electric player in B.J. Young and was not expected to make the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, according to KenPom, the Gophers were expected to win the game by a 10-point margin. Things went as planned in the first half as Minnesota took a five-point lead to the locker room, but after that point, the bottom fell off for Pitino’s squad. The Gophers’ ineffective half-court defense allowed the Razorbacks to come back and win the game, 87-73, and the game tape it created may haunt them throughout the rest of the season.

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Richard Pitino is trying to implement his father’s pressure defense in Minnesota, but its the half-court defense that may cost him.

As one of our fellow RTC Big Ten microsite columnists pointed out earlier this season, the press defense is a feature Pitino is trying to instill at Minnesota. Pitino learned the art of applying  a press from one of the best in the business, his father Rick Pitino. This focus on the press has helped them blow some lesser talented teams out in the early schedule, but it was a complete disaster in the second half against Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored 11 points off turnovers in the second half, but the remaining 41 points were scored in the half-court. Once Arkansas figured out how to break Minnesota’s press and began their offensive sets, they exposed Minnesota’s zone defense.  Unlike Syracuse, the Razorbacks had more than one shooter capable of dropping threes over the zone (four different Razorbacks hit from deep in the second half). They confused Minnesota by switching from attacking with three-pointers and drives, and the Gophers were completely feckless in stopping either. The Razorbacks’ 76 percent true shooting percentage (5-of-7 3FGs, 17-of-28 FGs, 13-of-14 FTs) for the second half was easily the team’s best of the year. The Gophers have been working on their press defense all season, but perhaps as a result, they seem to have completely forgotten what to do when they’re in the half-court.

Last year, Louisville provided a prime example of an elite team winning the National Championship while implementing the press on a consistent basis. So this isn’t a gimmick Pitino is trying to enable to mask some other defensive deficiencies. But the Big Ten is at its heart a half-court league, and Minnesota will find itself in numerous situations where it will have to rely on half-court defense to win games. If they can’t shore up that defense enough to at least provide some element of resistance, the conference schedule will expose this Minnesota team night in and night out.

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Purdue Gets First Chance For Marquee Win Against Oklahoma State

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 28th, 2013

It hasn’t been an ideal start for Purdue, but none of that will matter against No. 5 Oklahoma State this Thanksgiving day. The Boilermakers haven’t been dominant yet this season, but they have overcome some early rebounding troubles to remain undefeated through five games. As turkeys are going into the ovens a bit later today, Matt Painter‘s team will take the floor in its first chance at a resume-building win in the first game of the Old Spice Classic. For a team hopeful to return the NCAA Tournament, a win over Oklahoma State would be a statement win by itself, and guarantee two other games against quality competition (Butler, Memphis, LSU and St. Joseph’s highlight the other top teams in the event). Travis Ford’s team has been very impressive early, averaging more than 100 PPG as the Cowboys have demolished every team it has faced, including Memphis by 21 in Stillwater. For the whole tournament, fellow RTC writer Max Jakubowski projects a seventh place finish for Purdue in the event. Second-to-last wouldn’t exactly be a strong performance for Purdue, but let’s look at some keys for Purdue to have any shot at pulling the stunning upset at Noon ET today.

Matt Painter's team has its first chance for a big win on Thanksgiving against No. 5 Oklahoma State.

Matt Painter’s team has its first chance for a big win on Thanksgiving against No. 5 Oklahoma State.

  • AJ Hammons and Jay Simpson Dominate Inside. It’d be easy to start with Marcus Smart, but realistically, Purdue isn’t going to stop him. So let’s focus first on Purdue’s biggest advantage with its height and big men inside. The Cowboys don’t have a particularly large front line and it’s top players are guards, which means that the Boilermakers need to go inside early and often in this game. If Hammons and Simpson don’t have big games, it could get out of hand very quickly. Read the rest of this entry »
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