The RTC Interview Series: One on One with NBADraftBlog’s Ed Isaacson

Posted by Walker Carey on June 25th, 2014

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get some input from an expert. RTC Correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the please of speaking with NBA Draft Analyst Ed Isaacson, the founder of NBADraftBlog.com. You can follow Isaacson on Twitter via @nbadraftblog.

Rush the Court: Joel Embiid’s back (and now foot) injuries are the hot topics leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft. How badly do you see this impacting Embiid’s stock and how would you approach these legitimate concerns if you were a team picking early in the draft?

Ed Isaacson: I do not think Embiid’s drop is going to be as drastic as Jared Sullinger’s (Note: Sullinger was medically flagged due to back issues) was in 2012 when he went from being a top six guy to being the 21st pick. My basic thought is that there is no way Embiid makes it beyond the Lakers at seven – if he happens to still be around then. If you are a general manager who is already on board with taking the risk with Embiid – he had a back problem in high school and had it again at Kansas – is the stress fracture in the foot suddenly going to be the thing that dissuades you from picking him? Once there is more information regarding the surgery and the timetable for his recovery, I think that will alleviate some concerns. I still believe Joel Embiid will be a top four pick.

Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

Joel Embiid and Teammate Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

RTC: Andrew Wiggins entered college with a ridiculous amount of hype. He was a very good player at Kansas, but it would be tough to say that he was a superstar. Do you believe his year in Lawrence negatively impacted his pro prospects and where do you see him ending up Thursday evening?

Isaacson: He is still the number one prospect to me. Even when Embiid was healthy, I had more value in Andrew Wiggins. One year in college is extremely tough to gauge a player and the Kansas system is much more different than at other schools. The main concern with Wiggins is the question if he is too passive on the court. The exact same thing was brought up last year in regards to Ben McLemore. I am not concerned. He is still a 19-year-old kid and I think he is going to be an All-Star. I have had him at number one throughout the process and I really think he is the best fit for Cleveland.

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The RTC Interview Series: AAC Preview with Dom Amore and Jason Smith

Posted by Walker Carey on November 8th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the AAC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two AAC experts in Hartford Courant reporter Dom Amore and Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jason Smith. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

amoresmith

A Couple of AAC Reporters Share Their Preseason Insights With Us

Rush the Court: Even with the departures of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng from last season’s national championship team, Louisville is still highly ranked and viewed as a contender for another national title. In the past few weeks, news broke that starting forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely. How will Behanan’s banishment affect Louisville in the conference race and what impact will it have on the team when looking at the national landscape?

Dom Amore: Chane Behanan is obviously one of the best players on the team. Along with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, he is one of the reasons that Louisville is ranked as high as it is. With the way that Rick Pitino has recruited, though, there are a lot of great players on that team, so it is going to have some depth. Due to that depth, Louisville is going to be able to handle Behanan’s suspension better than most teams would. Still, experience is going to be a huge factor in this league, and Behanan has a lot of that. Losing a guy as good as Chane Behanan and with the experience of Chane Behanan is going to be a problem, but with Louisville’s depth and amount of talent, it should be able to weather the storm until Behanan is able to return.

Jason Smith: I think it all comes down to how long Rick Pitino decides to hold Chane Behanan out for. It sounds to me that Behanan is going to be back. Everything you read says he is doing the right things to get back on the team. I expect him to be back at least by the time conference play begins. You add Behanan to the group Louisville already has with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell, and you see why Louisville is so highly ranked. Louisville is also adding Chris Jones, who is the reigning national junior college player of the year. Jones and Russ Smith are going to make quite the formidable backcourt. This team is clearly the favorite in the conference and is definitely among the contenders for the national title. There will still be some challenges. It is going to have to figure out who is going to be the big rebounder. Losing Gorgui Dieng created a hole in the frontcourt, so some things still have to be figured out. Still, top-to-bottom, you can see why Louisville is considered one of the best teams in the country.

RTC: Josh Pastner probably has his most talented team since has been the head coach at Memphis. What do you expect from the Tigers in their first season away from Conference USA?

Amore: It is really a great thing for Memphis to be in this conference. There are other teams in this conference – namely, Connecticut and Cincinnati – that might not be too thrilled to be in it. For Memphis, this is a huge and a great step up in class. Memphis won 27 games in a row to finish its tenure in Conference USA. While it really dominated that conference, Memphis has not really been rewarded with high seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Being in this conference where it will play Louisville, Connecticut, and Cincinnati twice will really help with its RPI and those other things that are looked at when determining NCAA Tournament seeding. It is going to be a bigger challenge for Memphis, but it does have a lot of talent and it should be able to do more with that talent in the new league.

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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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The RTC Interview Series: Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein.

Jon Rothstein Shares His Big East Preseason Thoughts With Us

Jon Rothstein Shares His Big East Preseason Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: The new Big East has formed with its roots based almost exclusively on basketball. What will that do for the conference’s reputation from a national standpoint?

Jon Rothstein: I think we are going to have to wait and see how these schools that are left in the conference perform on a national level. From the periphery, I think everyone is looking at the Big East as a conference that can send either five or six teams to the NCAA Tournament. That would put the Big East probably on the same par as the American Athletic Conference. A lot of its reputation is going to be formed by how many teams the Big East will send to the Tournament on a consistent basis.

RTC: Marquette has been the popular preseason pick to win the league. The Golden Eagles lost Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett from last season’s Elite Eight team, so what is it about this season’s squad that makes it so formidable?

Rothstein: This is the deepest and most talented frontcourt that Buzz Williams has had since he has been the head coach at Marquette. On the other hand, this is also going to be the least experienced backcourt that he has had. I initially picked Marquette to win the Big East at the start of the offseason, but going back on it now, I wish I had picked Georgetown to win the league.

RTC: What makes you believe Georgetown has the talent to win the league?

Rothstein: To me, Georgetown replenishes talent as well as any team in the country. The thing about the Hoyas that is interesting to me is that they are able to win with different styles. You saw them feature a perimeter attack when they had Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Austin Freeman. You saw them use an inside attack with Henry Sims leading the way. Last season, we saw Otto Porter really blossom and do a bit of everything. Georgetown always finds a way to win consistently, but it does it in different ways.

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The RTC Interview Series: SEC Preview with Dave Baker, Barry Booker and Chris Dortch

Posted by WCarey on November 4th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the SEC, we recently had the pleasure of speaking with three SEC experts in television analysts Dave Baker and Barry Booker, as well as Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor, Chris Dortch. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

faceprofile

Booker, Baker and Dortch Shared Their SEC Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Rush the Court: How good is Kentucky and what makes it that good? Do you expect the Wildcats to win both the SEC and the national titles?

Dave Baker: A lot of folks think that Cal can be a little blustery at times. I think he’s actually pretty frank in his assessments. Last year, he thought they were gonna be better than they were. He thought they were gonna be a good team; he didn’t they they could be a great team. But he’s really got that swagger back this year. And this team is an incredibly talented team. People can debate whether, coming into their college careers, this is the best recruiting class of all-time, but I can tell you, just in the couple of practices I’ve seen, there has been a marked difference in terms of talent level, attitude and the way these guys are working together. There are some natural leaders that have come in this class. Based on what I’ve seen, his confidence is well-placed. With what their expectations are, they certainly believe they should be in the mix at the end of the year.

Barry Booker: Kentucky has everything it takes to be extremely good. It has elite talent all over the court. I think Kentucky is the surefire favorite in the SEC and I believe it has to be considered one of the top contenders to win the national title. This 2013 recruiting class is just one of the best we have seen – by all reports. It seems like every year, Kentucky gets some of the best recruits. In a year like this, where Kentucky has an outstanding class and it has players like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein returning, it would be hard to see the Wildcats not being a top-notch team. It is amazing what John Calipari is doing in bringing in that top flight talent to replace top flight talent every year.

Chris Dortch: This historically great recruiting class gives coach John Calipari his most talented team ever, with at least seven future NBA first-round draft picks. Kentucky is definitely favored in the SEC and will be a title threat come March, but there are a handful of teams with more experience that are capable of executing a game plan and sending the Cats home short of the championship game.

RTC: Florida lost its three leading scorers from last season’s Elite Eight team. Are this season’s Gators a legitimate challenger to Kentucky in the SEC?

Baker: I think Billy and Florida will have another really good team. He’s got a situation down there where he just finds people to replace the players who have moved on. They are just incredibly consistent year-in and year-out. I know that they would have liked to have made some deeper runs in the NCAA Tournaments since their championships, but other than that, they’re just really consistent.

Booker: Absolutely. The Gators have gone to the Elite Eight three straight seasons and they are at that level again this season. I am not sure if you can call them number two – maybe Kentucky is 1A and Florida is 1B. If Kentucky does stumble and does not get things figured out, Florida can come in and take over at the top of the league. Freshman Kasey Hill is a dynamic point guard. Even with the departures from last year, Florida is still very strong on the perimeter with Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier. The Gators also return Patric Young inside – who is the best interior player in the league. This is a very solid team. It just has to stay healthy this season. The injury to Will Yeguete really hurt the team last season. It was never able to get back to the same level that it was at before the Yeguete injury.

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The RTC Interview Series: Big 12 Preview with Fran Fraschilla and Jason King, Part II

Posted by Walker Carey on October 23rd, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the Big 12, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to two Big 12 experts in ESPN Big 12 analyst, Fran Fraschilla, and ESPN.com college basketball writer, Jason King.  (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

*Make sure to start with Part I of the Big 12 Preview, published on Tuesday.

RTC: Oklahoma lost its three leading scorers from last season’s NCAA Tournament team. Where will the Sooners go to for their scoring in Lon Kruger’s third season in Norman?

Lon Kruger

Lon Kruger Faces a Transition Year at Oklahoma

Fraschilla: Oklahoma is one of the youngest teams in the conference. It is likely to start a freshman and three sophomores. I think if there is one guy who will be able to pick up the scoring slack, it is going to be sophomore Buddy Hield. He showed flashes of brilliance last year. He has a scorer’s mentality and can be very versatile. People are forgetting that Ryan Spangler, a transfer from Gonzaga, is now eligible and the last time he was on the court he produced a very solid performance in Gonzaga’s 2012 NCAA Tournament win over West Virginia. He will be underrated for about a third of the season before people realize he will be one of the best big men in the Big 12. This is a young Sooner team that still might be a year away, but I still expect it to compete for a spot in the postseason.

King: I think it is going to be a transition year for Oklahoma. I do not think people appreciated just how good players like Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, and Andrew Fitzgerald were for this team. Those were really good players – especially Osby — and I was glad to see that he got drafted because he was one of the best players in the league. The problem Oklahoma is facing now is that they are not bringing in guys who can replace those departures right off the bat. There are some young guys, but that production just will not be the same. A lot of pressure is going to be placed on the backcourt of Buddy Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak to produce. I do not know if Oklahoma is going to have enough to return to the NCAA Tournament. It might be one of those seasons where you go through some bumps and get guys some experience, so the program will be back where you want it to be next season. The one thing Oklahoma definitely has going for it is that is as well-coached as anyone in the league. Lon Kruger has proven time and time again that he can get it done as well as any coach in this league. Due to that, you can expect Oklahoma to win some games that they are not expected to win this season. I just do not expect the Sooners to win those game consistently enough. This could be a tough season in Norman.

RTC: West Virginia had a nightmare debut season in the league. The Mountaineers experienced a bit of a roster overhaul in the offseason, as Deniz Kilicli exhausted his eligibility and Jabarie Hinds and Aaric Murray transferred. Do you believe some of those losses are addition by subtraction and what are reasonable expectations for Bob Huggins’ team in its second year in the league?

Fraschilla: I do not think it was an addition by subtraction situation for West Virginia because those guys still played major roles for the team at certain times. I believe there is a solid nucleus there that can definitely play better than it did last year. Sophomores Terry Henderson and Eron Harris are guys who showed at certain points last year that they can put the ball in the basket. The key for the team this season is going to be Juwan Staten, the junior transfer from Dayton. Staten did not hit a three last season in his first season on the floor for the Mountaineers. If Henderson, Harris, and Staten can improve their play, I think West Virginia can compete for a postseason berth. I do expect the team chemistry to be much better this year and guys to be more in tune with what Bob Huggins wants.

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The RTC Interview Series: Big 12 Preview with Fran Fraschilla and Jason King, Part I

Posted by Walker Carey on October 22nd, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the Big 12, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to two Big 12 experts in ESPN Big 12 analyst, Fran Fraschilla, and ESPN.com college basketball writer, Jason King.  (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Rush the Court: The major storyline in the Big 12 this season will be what Andrew Wiggins does on the court for Kansas. What do you expect out of Wiggins in what figures to be his only season in Lawrence?

Fran Fraschilla: I think Andrew Wiggins is obviously an incredible addition. I am not sure if he is the alpha dog that people are expecting. He is a great teammate, an incredible athlete, and if anyone can get the most out of him in one year, it will be Bill Self. At times, he will take over games, and at other times, he will be content to stay in the background and let Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, and others dominate the ball.

Jason King: I think the expectations that have been placed on Andrew Wiggins are unfair. I think the hype surrounding him has gotten out of control. He very well might be the best player in the country, but comparing him to LeBron James is just too much. LeBron James was an alpha male coming out of high school. He was a big, strong, mean, aggressive guy. I believe Andrew Wiggins is a different type of player. I went to Kansas practice the other night and right now, his head is still spinning. He is still trying to adjust and learn the system. I think he is a special player, but he is a guy that may only average 13 or 14 points a night because he is playing with so many other very talented players. I think he will be just fine. It is just that so many people are expecting him to go in right away and score 20-22 points a night; and that probably is just not going to happen. We will still see plenty of highlights from him throughout the season and he will likely end up being one of the two or three best players in the country when all is said and done.

RTC: Focusing less on Wiggins and more on Kansas as a whole, what are realistic expectations for a very talented but young Jayhawks squad?

Fraschilla: Kansas certainly has the potential to get to the Final Four in Dallas and have a chance to win it all. Just like every other top team though, Kansas certainly has some deficiencies. Based on the talent level, the versatility of a lot of their players, and the proven leadership of Bill Self, I think Kansas is going to make a strong argument on the court that it is a team that can get to Dallas for the Final Four.

King: I think Kansas should win its 10th straight league title and anything less than that will be a disappointment. I think winning nine straight titles in a league like the Big 12 in this day and age with all the one-and-dones is very, very impressive. I believe no team in a major conference has done that since John Wooden’s days when I believe UCLA won 13 in a row. Winning the league title is expectation number one. I think the potential for this team is limitless. However, this is going to be a different kind of Kansas team. I think Kansas fans are so used to the Jayhawks just going out there and dominating mostly everyone from the start of the season to the finish. This is a team that won 31 games last year. I think this year, you might see it stumble a little bit more early on and drop some games early on that they would probably win in recent years. The non-conference schedule is the most difficult in America and it is the hardest I have ever seen Kansas play. Besides having to play Duke, you have the Battle 4 Atlantis, you have games at Colorado and at Florida, you have home games against Georgetown and San Diego State, and you have New Mexico at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I just think with this hard of a schedule and so many young players adjusting to the college level that there might be some setbacks early on. Bill Self is such a great coach that he will have these guys playing their best basketball and the right time of the year, which is mid-January and on.

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The RTC Interview Series: ACC Preview with Len Elmore, Mike Gminski & Bret Strelow, Part II

Posted by Walker Carey on October 17th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the ACC, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to several ACC experts in Maryland basketball legend and ESPN analyst, Len Elmore, Duke basketball legend and CBS analyst, Mike Gminski, and the ACC reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, Bret Strelow. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

*Make sure to start with Part I of the ACC Preview, published on Tuesday.

RTC: Hot seat talk in the preseason is often a bit overblown, but who are coaches in the league that are certainly under pressure to win now?

Elmore: When you look at Wake Forest with Jeff Bzdelik, that is going to be an issue right there. I think this is going to be a make-or-break year for him. Part of the fan base wants Bzdelik gone, another part wants athletic director Ron Wellman gone, and some others want both gone. Unfortunately, Jeff Bzdelik is definitely on the hot seat. I say unfortunately because Bzdelik is a solid teacher, he does well imparting the fundamentals, and has done a good job with some of the offseason stuff with some players over the last few seasons. I think when you look at Mark Gottfried at NC State, he is also a guy who has something to prove. He had some tremendous talent last season and the team just fizzled out. Beyond Bzdelik and Gottfried, you look at James Johnson at Virginia Tech and he just started, so he is going to be given a bit of a long leash. Brad Brownell does a great job with his guys at Clemson, but he has to get some players in there. Miami is going to be down this year with all its departures from last season, but no one can argue with Jim Larranaga and what he has been able to do with that program. I think when it comes down to it and you are looking at two guys who are going to feel some discomfort, they are going to be Jeff Bzdelik and Mark Gottfried.

Jeff Bzdelik: How Hot Can the Seat Get in Winston-Salem? (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Jeff Bzdelik: How Hot Can the Seat Get in Winston-Salem? (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Gminski: I would think Jeff Bzdelik at Wake Forest is squarely on the hot seat. He has been there since the start of last season and that pressure continues to mount. Other than Bzdelik, I am not sure if anyone can be considered to be on a hot seat. James Johnson is only in his second season at Virginia Tech, so he will get more time. Brad Brownell might be facing a little pressure down at Clemson, but I would not consider him to be on a hot seat. I think other than Bzdelik, every other coach in the conference seems to be in pretty solid shape.

Strelow: I think it always starts with Jeff Bzdelik and Wake Forest. The fan base there is very unhappy with both Bzdelik and athletic director Ron Wellman. The team did show signs of life at different points last season with home upsets over Virginia, NC State, and Miami. Last season, veterans C.J. Harris and Travis McKie led the way for them. Freshmen Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas also showed they were capable of playing at a high level. Harris is gone this season, but the other three are back and it feels like this is the first team made up of all guys that Bzdelik recruited. If things do not go well this season, the pressure is only going to intensify for Bzdelik and Wellman. Things could get ugly there if the team does not get off to a good start.

Brad Brownell at Clemson is another guy that I think could be feeling a bit of heat. I think everyone respects him as an in-game coach and a stand-up guy, but it is in recruiting where he has struggled a little bit. When you look at Clemson’s roster, it is not stocked with a ton of talent. In some order, Clemson and Virginia Tech will probably be picked to finish last and second-to-last in the league. I think patience might be growing thin at Clemson, but at the same time I am not sure if it has been knifing at them or not. I do not know how rabid the basketball fan base is there to get too worked up over the struggles. Brownell and Clemson certainly have an uphill climb this season. The cupboard is a little bare there right now.

RTC: Who will be the top three teams at the end of the season and why?

Elmore: I am going to go with Duke and Syracuse as the top two. I am hesitant to say North Carolina because of all the offseason problems, but if it can overcome those, it will definitely be in there. If North Carolina cannot overcome its issues, I am going to say either Virginia or Maryland could be in there. If you remember Virginia is returning a whole bunch of talent – most notably Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Maryland has a bunch of guys who can play and it is a scrappy team that can end up winning some games it is not supposed to win.

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The RTC Interview Series: ACC Preview with Len Elmore, Mike Gminski & Bret Strelow, Part I

Posted by Walker Carey on October 15th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the ACC, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to several ACC experts in Maryland basketball legend and ESPN analyst, Len Elmore, Duke basketball legend and CBS analyst, Mike Gminski, and the ACC reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, Bret Strelow. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Rush the Court: What kind of impact do you think the additions of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse has on the ACC as a basketball conference?

Gminski, Elmore and Strelow Give Their Thoughts on the ACC This Season

Gminski, Elmore and Strelow Give RTC Their Thoughts on the ACC This Season

Len Elmore: It is clearly going to make a tough ACC even tougher. Adding those three established programs into an already tough conference – with Duke and North Carolina plus upstart Virginia and a Maryland team that seems primed to do some damage – is going to lead to a lot of jockeying up an down within the league standings.

Mike Gminski: I think it definitely strengthens the conference. The ACC is adding three established programs that are used to winning and going to the NCAA Tournament. They are coming to the ACC from the Big East, which was a great conference. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse are all coming into the ACC looking to play in the upper half of the league immediately. From that standpoint, the addition of those three teams makes the ACC one of the top conferences in the country.

Bret Strelow: A lot of people have been very vocal about this. Mike Krzyzewski has probably been the first and foremost voice about it, as he believes that this will make the ACC the strongest league in, perhaps, history. I think the Big East had 11 teams make the NCAA Tournament a few years back and I think a lot of people are pretty optimistic that the ACC can at least push towards double-digit berths. I think a double-digit number would be on the high end with a baseline around seven or eight teams. Adding Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse is a big deal because those are three teams that win a lot of games year in and year out. I think the ACC had four teams in the Tournament last year, as the league had taken a step back a bit. But with the addition of those three teams, I think the league will be back to being a power league within college basketball.

RTC: Duke lost its three leading scorers from last season (Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee), yet it is still projected to win the ACC. What is it about this year’s Duke squad that has expectations so high?

Elmore: They have blue-chippers coming into the fold. They have two of the best newcomers in the country – from what I have been told – in Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and freshman Jabari Parker. These guys are coming in ready to play. Hood and Parker will have help from players like Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. Duke might not have the biggest team in the country, but it has guys who will be able to compete all over the court. It certainly could be the most athletic team in the ACC.

Gminski: This is going to be a different team for Mike Krzyzewski. It is not going to have the bigs that it has had in the past, so the style of play will be different. I think this year’s squad will play a bit more like Krzyzewski has coached his Olympic teams. They are going to be very diverse, much more up-tempo, and will have some versatility. They have two great new guys in Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and freshman Jabari Parker. A lot of people thought that even though Hood did not play last year, he might have been Duke’s best player in practice. Jabari Parker comes into the fold after being one of the best high school players in the nation. They will not have that big guy inside this season, but they will be much bigger and more athletic on the perimeter. I think they are going to be a very interesting team to watch.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Eric Reveno

Posted by WCarey on September 4th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

In a world of ever-evolving technology, Portland coach Eric Reveno is recognized as one of the leaders in bringing the use of technology to the world of college basketball. To paint you a portrait of Reveno’s use of technology and how the coach is viewed in the basketball community, here is a snippet of his biography on the Pilots’ website:

“Reveno, long recognized as a leader in the use of sports performance analysis technology, spoke in Sydney, Australia during the Fall of 2008 at a worldwide summit hosted by SportsTec, one of the foremost providers of video & technology solutions to the international sports community.  The cutting edge approach to technology has become a staple of the Pilot program in teaching, player development and recruiting.  As a result, Reveno was the lone representative from the United States asked to speak to an audience of performance professionals from some of the top sports leagues and organizations in the world.  Dave Telep, ESPN.com Senior Recruiting Analyst, said that, ‘Reveno is unofficially the most technologically advanced man we’ve met in college basketball. His new iPhone is wired up to the point where he’s got his recruiting database, clips of his offense, directions to gyms in Vegas AND his favorite Johnny Cash songs all in one.’”

After speaking with USC coach Andy Enfield, UCLA coach Steve Alford, and Butler coach Brandon Miller in the past few weeks, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with Portland coach Eric Reveno (@CoachReveno) about his use of technology, his career, and the rise of the Portland Pilots basketball program.

Rush the Court: Recently you tweeted about the opening of a Director of Basketball Technology position on your staff. What exactly does the position entail and how did such a position come about?

Eric Reveno's Use of Technology Sets Him Apart in a Static Coaching Business

Eric Reveno’s Use of Technology Sets Him Apart in a Static Coaching Business

Eric Reveno: The position really entails everything related to technology in our basketball program that we utilize to try to make us better. We use technology to help our players be the best they can be and our team be the best it can be. Our use of technology ranges from the obvious – video coordinating, video editing, statistical analysis – to the flat screen TV that we use as our Pilot Teaching Board. It serves as a video kiosk where players can come up and press different things to look at scouting reports, video edits, playbook stuff, and inspirational quotes. The position is essentially an IT person for the basketball office. It is a great entry-level position in-terms of getting involved in a basketball program, but a lot of what the job will be about is the technology. We want someone who is familiar and comfortable with what we use and how we use it. The position came about because we had a vision for a position that went beyond a usual video coordinator position. We gave the position a lofty title to help inspire greater things from the position.

RTC: What attributes are you looking for in a candidate to fill that position?

Reveno: Familiarity with sports technology and video editing software, comfort level and experience with Synergy software, experience in a college basketball program would be helpful, and knowledge of analytical statistics. We have received a good amount of interest and have 30 candidates that are all pretty intriguing for a variety of reasons. We have guys who have a passion for basketball with a background in analytics. We have guys who have been managers for college basketball programs, so they have some experience with video editing work. We have not really begun sorting the list of candidates out yet, but it is an impressive list of candidates right now.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Brandon Miller

Posted by WCarey on August 26th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Brandon Miller is a man who knows Butler basketball. As a point guard for the Bulldogs from 2000-03, he started 97 consecutive games and helped lead the team to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2003 NCAA Tournament – the program’s first such appearance since 1962. After his playing career concluded, Miller began a coaching career on the staffs at Xavier (2003-04), Ohio State (2006-07 and 2008-11), Butler (2007-08), and Illinois (2012-13). What is interesting about each stop in Miller’s assistant coaching career is that every head coach that he worked under – Thad Matta, Brad Stevens, and John Groce – has ties to Butler as an assistant and/or head coach. Following the 2012-13 season, Miller decided to return to Butler to serve on Stevens’ staff. Then, on July 3, Butler and the college basketball world in general were thrown for a loop when Stevens announced that he would leave Butler to take the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics. Butler athletic director Barry Collier acted fast over the holiday weekend, and on July 6, he named the newly-hired Miller as Stevens’ successor. After speaking with new USC coach Andy Enfield and new UCLA coach Steve Alford in the past couple of weeks, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking to new Butler coach Brandon Miller (@BUCoachMiller) about his playing days at Butler, his coaching career to this point, Butler’s recent summer trip to Australia, and the coach’s outlook on the future of Butler basketball.

RTC: You took the Butler job under unique circumstances. You had just arrived back at the school in April expecting to serve on Brad Stevens’ staff, but three months later, Stevens was off to the Boston Celtics and you were now the head coach at Butler. How has that transition gone and what excites you about being back at Butler  – now as the leader of the program?

The Bulldogs moved quickly to hire Miller. Navigating their conference jump won't be quite as simple (AP).

The Bulldogs Moved Quickly to Hire Miller to Its Top Hoops Post. (AP).

Brandon Miller: To answer the second question first, I think it is always special to be able to coach at a place where you have played. To not only play here, but to have a terrific experience here, is what makes it truly special. Having been an assistant coach here before, it made even more sense to come back to a program that really fits me. It is a program I believe in. It is a program I believe has done it the right way. The program parallels the values I have and what I want to do as a head coach. In terms of the transition, it has been terrific. I have had a ton of fun. Getting to coach our guys, getting out on the recruiting trail four days after I became head coach, and getting to practice with the current team for 10 days before we headed off to Australia has been a lot of fun. I think our players and our staff would agree that we have a lot of fun in a short amount of time.

RTC: A lot is made about “The Butler Way” and the small-town feel of the program. How would you personally articulate “The Butler Way” and what do you think makes the program so unique?

Miller: I think anytime you talk about the Butler Way, you are talking about getting the right people on the bus. It starts with the people and that is university-wide, whether it is the administration, the faculty, everyone in the athletic department, the coaches, and the players. It is about getting the right people on the bus who are going to do things the right way. There is high-character people that you work with every single day and there are high-character players that you coach. The Butler Way is a value-based basketball program – you talk about humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness – things that we not only talk about, but try to live by each day. Those have been our values for awhile – they have stayed the values through every transition, as our foundation has stayed the same. Some would even argue that it has grown stronger. The bottom line is that when those things happen, you just learn to do the right thing. That is something that we continue to talk about and continue to live. We work on those things as coaches every single day that we have our guys.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Steve Alford

Posted by WCarey on August 19th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

The great history and tradition of UCLA basketball hit some bumps over the past couple of seasons, so after an embarrassing loss to Minnesota in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero and the school’s administration decided to make a coaching change. Just six days after Ben Howland was relieved of his duties as the head coach, the school announced that it had reached an agreement with then-New Mexico coach Steve Alford to take over the reins of the program in Westwood. Alford is what one would call a basketball lifer. Growing up as the son of a high school coach, he was always around the game which helped him develop into one of the best players in Indiana high school history. Following an illustrious prep career, Alford went on to play at Indiana where he was the team MVP for all four of his seasons in Bloomington under Bob Knight and a star as a consensus 1st team All-American on the 1987 National Championship team. After a four season NBA career, Alford began a coaching career that has seen him make stops at Division III Manchester College, Missouri State, Iowa, and New Mexico. With a 463-235 career record and seven NCAA Tournament appearances under his belt, Alford and his style of basketball were just too attractive for UCLA to pass up in its coaching search. After speaking with the new USC coach Andy Enfield last week, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to the other new coach on the Los Angeles college basketball scene — UCLA coach Steve Alford — about his career, his new team at UCLA, and his outlook on the future of Bruins basketball.

Rush the Court: You accepted the UCLA job on March 30. How has the transition to the new job been and what have you been able to accomplish since that date

Only 48, Alford Came to UCLA With a Long Coaching History Already Behind Him (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Only 48, Alford Came to UCLA With a Long Coaching History Already Behind Him (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Steve Alford: We have just hit the ground running. When you go from having a real experienced team coming back at New Mexico – probably my best team. We were not going to have to do a whole lot of recruiting of the team and the classes in the future because we had everything in line with guys coming back and those type of things. It looked like it was going to be a casual offseason, but all of a sudden you make the transition and you start recruiting not just the 2014 class, but you also start recruiting your current team because they do not know you and they do not know your staff. We may have spent more time with our current team than anywhere else. We needed to go in and build that trust – and that takes time. I think over the last four months it has been a balance of all of us as families making a move to the Los Angeles area and that is transition, building trust and recruiting the players on the UCLA team, and getting a move on recruiting the 2014 and 2015 classes.

RTC: UCLA’s history and tradition is arguably the best in college basketball. How much was that a factor in you deciding to make the move to Westwood?

Alford: Probably a lot. It is not just the tradition, but what UCLA stands for as an institution. I have been here four months and no matter what building you walk into or what people you bump into – whether they be administrators, faculty members, students, athletes, or coaches – the whole campus just embodies excellence. The ability to come to a place where excellence is stressed in training, preparation, and taking care of the student-athletes (both academically and athletically) to prepare for an incredible future was very, very intriguing. Additionally, growing up in the state of Indiana and I was obviously a huge Indiana fan because of Coach Knight, but I also had an incredible understanding of John Wooden and the four letters of UCLA, which exposed me to their history and tradition. Growing up in Indiana, the two programs I followed the closest were probably Indiana and UCLA.

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