Get to the Point: Season Preview Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on November 7th, 2011

Zach Hayes and Brian Otskey are both RTC contributors and will converse on various pressing issues around college basketball all season long. Follow them on Twitter at @zhayes9 and @botskey.

Zach: The interminable college basketball offseason is on the brink of conclusion. I don’t know about you Brian, but when 7 PM rolls around tonight and St. John’s tips off against William & Mary on ESPNU, my life will become exponentially better.

There’s potential powerhouse teams in Chapel Hill, Lexington, Storrs and Columbus. Numerous lottery picks opted for another year on campus over jumping ship to the pros early. There’s a breadth of developed, refined seniors lining rosters of expected contenders. Until resolved, the NBA lockout will shine a bright spotlight on the college game. The Big East is once again stacked at the top, while wide open races will render the Big 12 and Pac-12 intriguing all season long. Needless to say, this is shaping up to be quite the memorable season.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss North Carolina right off the bat. As soon as Harrison Barnes decided to spurn the NBA, expectations for Carolina vaulted to national championship or bust. Just nine months ago, the unranked Tar Heels lost at Georgia Tech by 20 to fall to 12-5 following a season that ended in the NIT. It’s been a remarkable turnaround in short order. Do you see any future pitfalls for this team? One has to be the lack of a backup point guard in case Kendall Marshall goes down. The other is outside shooting. Carolina made just 33% of their threes last season, but they have plenty of candidates to improve on that mark, from Barnes to a healthy Reggie Bullock to touted freshman P.J. Hairston. The third would be the one-and-done nature of the NCAA Tournament. Anything can happen in one 40-minute contest. Just ask Ohio State, a dominant team across the board a year ago that lost just two games at Purdue and Wisconsin during the regular season, but fell to a peaking Kentucky team in the Sweet Sixteen.

Carolina has to go into 2011-12 considered the best team in the nation, but I picked Kentucky to take home the title in my preseason Bracketology. I didn’t make the pick just because I like being contrarian and rebellious. I made the pick because I firmly believe that John Calipari finally has the ideal mix of experienced returnees and ultra-talented freshman to take the crown. Terrence Jones is bulked up, mature, focused and ready to be a Lamar Odom-type mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. Doron Lamb shot 48% from three… as a freshman. I love the glue guy skill set that Darius Miller brings, even though the reigning SEC Tournament MVP can be so much more. I know what you’re thinking: freshman point guard. Gerry McNamara says hello. Marquis Teague is the real deal, blessed with a blazing first step and tremendous court vision. He’s also more of an ideal point guard for the dribble-drive motion offense that Calipari prefers than Brandon Knight, who was involved in much more high screening action to utilize his strong outside shot.

Terrence Jones' return is one reason Zach is bullish about Kentucky

Your thoughts on North Carolina and Kentucky? Can anyone seriously defend picking any other team in the nation to hoist the trophy in Indianapolis next April over these two?

Brian: You read my mind. Not only is Kentucky’s point guard a freshman, six of the eight players expected to see major minutes are freshmen or sophomores. You know I’m big on experience and to me that trumps talent in certain (not all) situations. I know many will disagree with that line of thinking. There are exceptions to every rule. Obviously this is a talented team and you’d be nuts not to put them in the preseason top three. However, don’t underestimate the loss of DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson. Liggins was clearly Calipari’s best defender while Harrellson did all the dirty work in the paint. Terrence Jones can’t do all the rebounding by himself so somebody has to contribute in that regard with Harrellson out of the picture. It may not be much of a problem with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kyle Wiltjer coming in but I think it’s unreasonable to expect freshmen, even as talented as this group is, to consistently put forth that effort. They’ll need some time to adjust to the speed of the college game. Kentucky will go far in the postseason but I will most likely not pick them to win it all. When the pressure cranks up, even the most talented freshmen will get nervous. That’s what I think will hold UK back in the end.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #1 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 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 the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#1 – Where Welcome Back, Luther Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #2 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 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 the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#2 – Where Campus Hysteria Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #3 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 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 the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of FanDuel.com to tip off the season. The league, which is completely free to enter, starts on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and features $200 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

#3 – Where Shaka the World Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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RTC Conference Primers: #4 – Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 3rd, 2011

Matt Patton of RTC’s ACC Microsite is the RTC correspondent for the ACC. You can find him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.

Reader’s Take I

The ACC looks like it has three tiers this year. The top: North Carolina, Duke and Florida State. The bottom: Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. And then there’s everyone else.

 

Top Storylines

  • Can North Carolina Win Its Third Ring in the Roy Williams Era?: By all counts, yes. And to this point I haven’t heard any “undefeated” nonsense from anywhere, which means people’s expectations aren’t totally out to lunch. There are several other very good teams this year. Last year’s Tar Heel team wasn’t unstoppable, even at the end of the season (they lost to a #4 seed, remember?); I don’t expect them to be unstoppable this year, either. But if you’re looking for the most complete team with the fewest unknowns, you won’t find it anywhere else in college basketball. My one peeve with the offseason coverage of this team is the idea that four of the five starters should be first team All-ACC (or even All-American). There are only so many possessions in a basketball game. Only so many players can be integral. Part of the intimidating nature of this team on paper is that no one player controls the team’s fate: On any given night, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller or John Henson are all candidates to blow up the scoreboard (though in Henson’s case, it’s usually keeping opponents off it). It’s the fact that the combination could be more than the sum of its parts that makes the Tar Heels a lock for preseason number one.

Another Season, Another Set of Huge Expectations in Chapel Hill

  • Will Florida State Challenge Tobacco Road And Make The ACC Interesting Again?: Yes. I was pretty low on Florida State for my summer update, but I’m currently very high on the Seminoles. Specifically, I think Bernard James is the best defender in the country (though John Henson is a significantly better rebounder), and Jeff Peterson will be able to find offense more effectively than Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen last season. Oh, and the Seminoles are also hungry after an ugly loss to VCU left them stranded in the Sweet Sixteen last year (and they then had to watch the Rams march on to the Final Four).
  • How Will This Year’s Batch Of New Coaches Fare?: I think Jim Larranaga will objectively perform the best, but I also think he has the most talent at his disposal. Against my better judgment, I’m warming up to this NC State team and Mark Gottfried’s leadership (at least for the first few years). As for Georgia Tech and Brian Gregory, yikes. There’s been a little recent buzz about the Yellow Jackets being better than people expect (which is a very low threshold), but I don’t see it. Gregory has an undermanned roster full of guys he didn’t recruit with nothing to speak of in the post, and he doesn’t have a dedicated home court. Not the combination for success. In College Park, Mark Turgeon should return Maryland to regular conference title contenders again once he reopens the pipeline to Washington, D.C., talent.
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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #4 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 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 the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of FanDuel.com to tip off the season. The league, which is completely free to enter, starts on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and features $200 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

#4 – Where The Unthinkable Occurs… Twice Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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20 Questions: Which Transfers Will Have the Biggest Impact This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist.

Question: Which Transfers Will Have the Biggest Impact This Season?

Every year, college basketball fans draw up their preseason predictions of conference champions and NCAA Tournament fields based on returning players and incoming recruits.  But each year, a handful of key transfers play a pivotal role in leading their teams to a conference championship or NCAA Tournament bid.  Which transfers are most likely to play that role this year?

Pierre Jackson and Gary Franklin, Baylor — With the return of Perry Jones and the addition of blue-chip recruits Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello (coming soon to an All-Name Team near you), expectations for the upcoming season in Waco are high.  The Bears have more raw talent than almost anyone in the Big 12 and have a realistic shot at a conference crown.  But Baylor also had quality talent and relatively high expectations last year, only to find their season upended by mediocrity at the most important spot on the floor — the point guard position.  AJ Walton was thrust into the role of replacing Tweety Carter and responded by posting an obscene 32.1% turnover rate.  In a not-unrelated phenomenon, the Bears finished the season ranked 322nd in Division I in team turnover percentage.

The Development of Franklin and/or Jackson Could Be the Difference-Maker for Baylor This Season

If Scott Drew can’t find someone to settle things down at the point this year, the Bears may disappoint again.  And that’s where Jackson and Franklin come in.  Jackson is a well-regarded JUCO transfer and Franklin a formerly touted recruit who transferred from Cal after just a semester.  Franklin will not be eligible until the spring semester, but both will have a chance to pin down the starting point guard job.  If either proves to be a stable floor general, the Bears could have their first conference championship in more than 60 years.

Iowa State’s Starting Lineup — Okay, so maybe the entire starting lineup won’t consist of transfers, but it might come close.  Fred Hoiberg is trying to resuscitate the Iowa State program by resuscitating the careers of several D-I talents, including Chris Allen (Michigan State), Royce White (Minnesota), Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois), and Chris Babb (Penn State).  They make this list as a group because collectively, they will have the single biggest transfer impact on any BCS program this year.

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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2011

Steve Fetch of Rock Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can find him on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • This is of course the last year for Texas A&M to leave its mark on the Big 12, and it could be Missouri’s as well. Both teams enter the 2011-12 season with serious conference title hopes,  but each comes with some question marks. Missouri lost Laurence Bowers to an ACL injury, which really puts a strain on their interior depth. They didn’t rebound terribly well in the first place, ranking 317th nationally in defensive rebounding, and the loss of the 6’8” Bowers, who was their best returning player on the glass, won’t help. A&M meanwhile still has Khris Middleton, but do they have anyone to get him the ball? Dash Harris had a turnover rate of almost 30% last year and an assist rate of only 21%
  • Speaking of those two, the Big 12 has four new coaches this year, with Texas Tech and Oklahoma joining A&M and Missouri as teams with new head men. The Big 12 hasn’t had this many new coaches since 2007 when six of the twelve schools had first-year men on the job. I took a look at  how coaches in the Big 12 have done in their first year on the job and compared it with the historical performances of the programs who have new coaches at the helm this season, and it looks like all four could be in for rough times initially.
  • Kansas has won at least a share of the last seven Big 12 titles, but in order or the Jayhawks to make it eight, Bill Self will have to do his best coaching job yet. He lost both the Morris twins and Josh Selby to the NBA, as well as the underrated Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar to graduation. What’s more, incoming freshmen Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor and Braeden Anderson were all deemed ineligible. Kansas still has some talent to work with, especially Thomas Robinson, who had a tremendous summer.

Even Bill Self Has Admitted That This Season Will Be A Challenge For The Perennial Blueblood

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Kansas (14-4)
  2. Baylor (13-5)
  3. Missouri (13-5)
  4. Texas A&M (12-6)
  5. Oklahoma State (10-8)
  6. Texas (9-9)
  7. Iowa State (7-11)
  8. Kansas State (5-13)
  9. Oklahoma (4-14)
  10. Texas Tech (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #5 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 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 the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#5 – Where Onions!!! Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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20 Questions: Who is the Best Defensive Player in College Basketball?

Posted by dnspewak on November 1st, 2011

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference and a Big 12 microsite staffer.  

Question: Who is the Best Defensive Player in College Basketball?

Measuring the top defender is a near-impossible task in almost every sport. Offensively, you’re golden once you take a few glances at the right statistics. The top quarterbacks in the NFL throw the most touchdowns and complete the most passes; the top players in college basketball score the most points and make the most shots; and the top hitters in baseball collect the most hits and drive in the most runs. It’s a a very simplistic way to look at the world, of course. But it’s true. Arguing who the best offensive players are in every sport, including college basketball, are easy, straightforward discussions.

But defense? That’s a whole other story. Do you measure the top defenders by blocks? Steals? Or is it deflections, opponent’s field goal percentage or some other hidden statistic only understood by sabermaticians?

The point is, selecting the nation’s top defender is a subjective task based on a variety of criteria. Most of all, it’s based on the individual impressions we form of players as we watch them compete, whether live or on television. For example, the statistics showed that Jimmer Fredette led the NCAA in scoring last season and shot 40 percent from behind the arc. But Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore won the Defensive Player of the Year award but did not even finish in the top 15 nationally in steals per game.

Taylor Draws the Toughest Assignment Each and Every Night

ODU’s Bazemore is certainly a candidate for this honor again, but we’re going to go in a different direction here. Our choice for the best defensive player in the country is Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor, a 6’7” forward with a multitude of assets on both ends of the floor. In his three years at Vandy, Taylor has gotten the opportunity to shut down players as varied as Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks, South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Missouri’s Kim English, and many others. He has proven that he won’t back down from any defensive challenge, and he’s got the strength and versatility to match up with any collegiate position Kevin Stallings needs covered.

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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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2011-12 RTC All-American Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on November 1st, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @zhayes9.

The 2011-12 Rush the Court preseason All-American team only verifies the notion that the ongoing NBA lockout was a godsend for college basketball.

It can be argued that, if the NBA was enveloped in a state of stability with an agreed-upon revenue split and owners raking in profits everywhere from Boston to Sacramento, this All-American team would have a completely different look. If first-teamers Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones, along with second team selection Perry Jones, felt completely comfortable they’d be gearing up for their first professional game right about now, they may have opted for guaranteed riches instead of another campaign on campus. We’ll never know if, say, Sullinger was 100% coming back to Ohio State regardless of the Buckeyes early exit in the NCAA Tournament or a mid-season promise to Thad Matta.

One thing we do know: college basketball fans certainly aren’t complaining.

Without further ado, here’s this year’s first, second and third RTC All-American teams. Get ready to hear their names a lot over the next five months.

First Team

Taylor Was a Unanimous First Team Selection

G- Jordan Taylor, SR, Wisconsin- Given his leadership abilities and on-court performance, Taylor is everything you want in a collegiate point guard. He’s developed from a sporadically-used freshman into one of the most efficient backcourt cogs in America. Taylor led the nation with a 3.83:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season and was named to the Big Ten all-defensive team. His scoring prowess was on full display during a monumental win over top-ranked Ohio State when Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half. He added a career-high 39 points at Indiana three weeks later.

G- Tu Holloway, SR, Xavier- The reigning Atlantic 10 POY is the engine that fuels Xavier’s potent offensive barrage. Holloway was asked to play an astounding 94.5% of available minutes last season and took full advantage, finishing second in the A-10 in both assist rate and free throw rate while compiling absurd 20/5/5 averages. Xavier legend David West was the only non-senior All-American in school history before Holloway earned third-team honors as a junior. Opposing guards also must respect Holloway from deep (35% 3pt). Expect him to become a household name by next March.

F- Harrison Barnes, SO, North Carolina- A preseason All-American last year, Barnes struggled under the weight of unfair expectations before exploding in the second half of the season, averaging nearly 16 PPG in league games, including 40 against Clemson in the ACC Tournament. Barnes only improved during the Heels’ Elite Eight push (21.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG), showing a new-found aggression and confidence sure to continue into his sophomore year. Barnes finished eighth in the ACC in scoring, posted the fifth-highest scoring average ever by a Carolina rookie and scored in double-figures 30 times last season.

F- Terrence Jones, SO, Kentucky- If the reports are true that Jones has added 10 pounds of muscle and improved his conditioning to avoid a repeat of last season’s second-half decline, the SEC better watch out. Jones averaged 16/17/4 during the loaded Maui invitational, scored 35 vs. Auburn and averaged a robust 16/9 as a freshman, but his contributions extend deeper than scoring. Jones finished near the top of the SEC in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, defensive rebounding percentage and block percentage.

F- Jared Sullinger, SO, Ohio State- The third sophomore to earn first team honors, Sullinger garnered the most votes among our panel for National Player of the Year. Sullinger was the most productive freshman on the planet last season, averaging 17/10 on 54% FG in 31.7 MPG. An unstoppable force in the paint from day one for Thad Matta, Sully drew double teams, crashed the backboard and instantly becamethe Buckeyes most reliable scorer. Sullinger has shed some unnecessary baby fat and spent the offseason developing a face-up game to compliment his advanced post repertoire.

Second Team

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