That’s Debatable: Mid-Season Awards

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: Unbelievably, we’re already halfway through the regular season.  Who are your mid-season award winners for POY, COY and FrOY, and who is your surprise team for the second half of the season?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

I still have to go with Kemba Walker for POY at this point. The Connecticut guard just about single-handedly won the Maui Invitational for the Huskies and poured in 20+ points in every game from November 17 to December 31. Big East teams undoubtedly are going to defend him better but if the season ended today, he’s my choice. Staying in the Big East, my mid-season COY is Notre Dame’s Mike Brey. The Irish coach, now in his eleventh (!) year in South Bend, has made a contender out of a team picked to finish seventh in the league. Notre Dame has a great chance for a double-bye at MSG in March and has already knocked off Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Georgetown and Connecticut. Freshman of the year has to go to Jared Sullinger and it’s not even close. Sorry, I’m not taking Kyrie Irving who’s missed almost half of Duke’s games (through no fault of his own mind you). I just can’t do it. As for my sleeper, I’m with Seth Davis. Watch out for North Carolina in the second half. Provided they stay healthy, the Tar Heels will roll to second place in the down ACC and get back in the top 25 at some point.

Kellen Carpenter, RTC contributor

Half-way through and I feel like things have barely even started. That said, the season could last until May and I still doubt I would change my mind about Jared Sullinger. I just love watching him get crafty around the basket. He is a rare talent and the clear choice in my mind for Player of the Year, and I guess that means I have to give him Freshman of the Year too. Sorry, Kyrie: just bad luck. As for Coach of the Year, I’d give it to Steve Donahue. Though Boston College’s defense has gotten worse, he has supercharged the offense and when the players are rolling, it is a thing of terrifying and undeniable beauty. Seldom have I seen a team so completely and suddenly transformed. And for the second half of the season, I’d urge everyone to stay up a little bit later than usual and take in some Arizona games. Don’t let the loss to Oregon State fool you: This team is for real. Derrick Williams is a terrific player and I have a feeling that the Wildcats are going to be dangerously underestimated in March.

Matt Patton, RTC contributor

Player of the Year is totally up in the air, but right now I like Jon Leuer from Wisconsin.  Without him the Badgers are a low-end Big 10 team with a good point guard (think Penn State with Talor Battle).  With him they’re a sleeper contender and top 25 team.  I think I’d give Coach of the Year to Mike Brey of Notre Dame with San Diego State’s Steve Fisher coming in a close second.  I think Brey has taken a team with very little buzz to a place not many people outside South Bend were expecting.  He’s done a terrific job getting the most out of his players so far, and after their win over Georgetown I think the Fighting Irish are for real.  Freshman of the Year goes to Jared Sullinger.  Kyrie Irving would have a shot if he wasn’t hurt, but with him sidelined and Terrence Jones’ recent struggles I think Sullinger is a no brainer.  He makes Ohio State a truly elite team and is arguably the most polished interior force in college basketball.

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That’s Debatable: New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: You have one New Year’s resolution to make and you can choose it on behalf of any figure in the world of college basketball.  What is that resolution and who is it for?

John Stevens, RTC editor/contributor

I’m going to take the low road and use this space to tell everyone what I they think they should do, because I know people love hearing that, especially when it’s unsolicited. But as I visit various gyms and arenas in my travels around this part of the country doing RTC Lives or whatever, I will beg as many college basketball fans as I can to resolve to come up with a NEW AIR BALL chant, if there really has to be one, and to abolish the “overrated” chant. Everyone knows why “overrated” is ludicrous. But the air ball chant is about 30 years old, and it’s time to upgrade. I tweeted about this a few nights ago and got GREAT responses, so I’m confident that a better idea exists out there. There are a few student sections who tout themselves as the best in the nation — Duke, Xavier, Utah State, Kentucky, this means you — and I specifically challenge you to rise to your claims and come up with something new and humorous, but doesn’t involve insulting the shooter’s mother or use a “clap, clap, clap-clap-clap” at the end (liked those responses, but there are too many of those). Send your proposals (or insults) to me at JStevRTC@gmail.com, or just use them during games. I’ll be listening. Happy New Year.

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor

Here’s a New Year’s resolution for Randy Bennett: get over the hump in 2011 and knock Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference throne. The Bulldogs’ streak of 10 straight league titles is the second longest in the history of college basketball. In six of those seasons, Gonzaga finished either undefeated or 13-1 in the WCC, and it hasn’t lost more than three conference games since 1998. St. Mary’s has established itself as the Zags’ main rival, though, with three straight second-place finishes. If they can ignore the scary numbers mentioned above, the Gaels may have a shot to win this league. They’ve got great guards to lead their efficient, unselfish offense, and former San Diego forward Rob Jones is a valuable frontcourt contributor with NCAA Tournament experience. St. Mary’s may not have many quality wins, but its only losses came at San Diego State and in the final seconds to BYU. Despite an 8-5 record, Gonzaga’s probably still the favorite to capture an 11th straight regular season championship, especially now that Elias Harris appears healthy and more comfortable on the court. But it’s a brand new year in 2011. The gap in the West Coast Conference is quickly closing– and St. Mary’s will need to take advantage of the opportunity.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

This year’s New Year’s resolution is reserved for Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones.  Be smart about your future.  There’s about a 99.9% chance that the NBA is headed for a long impasse beginning next summer, and if you decide to take your chances with the June draft, you’ll certainly be rewarded with a high selection.  But you won’t play (nor will you get paid a dime) until well into 2011 in what would have been your sophomore years.  Please don’t listen to the agents who will tell you that they’ll float you financially until the lockout ends or that two months of a season is better than no season at all.  The last time things looked this ugly between ownership and labor, nobody played a professional game until February, and there’s no guarantee that this dispute will be shorter this time around.  Do your due diligence, of course, but if it looks as if both sides are settled in for a long negotiation, head back to college and continue to develop your games in a college hoops season that would boast the most talent among its players in the last fifteen years.

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That’s Debatable: Santa’s Wish List

Posted by rtmsf on December 24th, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: Santa is stopping by your house this week, and he’s bringing you one thing that you really want this college basketball season and he’ll take one thing away when he leaves.  What are those two things?

Ned Reddick, RTC contributor

My wishes for Christmas are pretty simple. I would ask Santa to bring Kyrie Irving back. No matter what you think of Duke it would be difficult to find a part of his game that a basketball fan would not enjoy. He’s fundamentally sound, athletic, and he plays hard. Although his absence makes the season more interesting in the sense that it makes the championship picture less defined, with Irving suiting up for the Blue Devils they would be the heavy favorites to win the title. With him on the sidelines in street clothes they are just one of about four or five teams that have a legitimate shot at the title. As for taking something away I would ask Santa to make players stop putting themselves in bad situations. I know they are just college students who as a group tend to do dumb stuff, but I wish they could stop taking things that the NCAA deems as impermissible benefits (like clothing or money) or just breaking the law (like a DUI or stealing other people’s stuff). It’s unfortunate that they are willing to risk a potentially lucrative career for a short-term pleasure so I hope Santa can take that away.

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

This is a bit out of left field, plus it will never happen, but I’d want to see live video of the debate inside the committee room in the days leading up to and on Selection Sunday. I think it would be fascinating to see what they focus on rather than what we fans and the media lurch onto as the most important criteria. I’m glad the NCAA allows the media to participate in a mock bracket for a few days because it’s fun to read about the process and how they went about it, but nothing compares to seeing the real thing. Also, last year’s bracket was riddled with procedural errors and I’d be interested to see if they really focus on that or not. As for what I’d get rid of, that’s easy. All the agents, handlers, AAU coaches, etc. that make up the nasty part of recruiting. Seriously, why does a high school kid have to have his “people” decide where to go or what to do? What person that age has to have an entourage? It is terrific that the NCAA appears to be cracking down but they have a long, long way to go.

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

Well, I asked Santa to bring me the title of the commissioner of all sports, but he just mumbled something under his breath. “But Santa, all I want to do is ban the use of domed stadiums in sports that are meant to be played outside,” I said, but he saw right through that, knowing that a college football playoff would be coming along right after that. And you know Santa, he’s a big fan of those bowl games. Anyway, after some haggling, Santa has promised me a couple of four-day national holiday weekends in March. He’s got an in with the holiday creation board for some reason – I’m guessing blackmail, but you never can tell with Mr. Claus. He’s a mysterious one. And, just as a personal favor to me (we go back quite a ways), when he leaves on Christmas morning, he’s taking away four NCAA Tournament at-large bids, although I suspect he’s just going to dump them somewhere near the site of the Great Alaska Shootout on his way back home.

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That’s Debatable: Contenders and Pretenders

Posted by rtmsf on December 18th, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: Zach Hayes wrote an article this week examining the teams he viewed as contenders and pretenders at this point; with that in mind, who is your top contender and top pretender through the first six weeks of the season?

Matt Patton, RTC contributor

I think I have to stick with Duke for contender.  If Kyrie Irving is definitively out the whole season and Josh Selby turns out to be of a similar caliber, Kansas would probably slide up to that spot.  Ohio State comes in a relatively distant third until I see them play some conference games.  But I think the Blue Devils are the most complete team in the country: a great coach, a great backcourt and a very good (though shallow) frontcourt.  Even without Irving, I think Duke could still be the best in the country.  It’s much closer, but they still have two great senior leaders with proven postseason success, Mason Plumlee, and a couple sharpshooters who will put up 20 if you leave them alone.  On the pretender side I think the obvious choice is Connecticut with Syracuse as the bizarro runner-up.  That’s a team waiting for the wheels to come off.  Kemba Walker has carried them so far, but teams in the Big East are going to lock in on Walker and force someone else to make big plays.  Maybe Jim Calhoun will find a way to keep things going, but I doubt it.

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

I’ll go with BYU as my top contender as they have an outright star in Jimmer Fredette and a solid supporting cast around him. The Cougars are a strong defensive team, ranked ninth in effective field goal percentage against. BYU also takes terrific care of the ball, second in the country in turnover percentage. Once they start shooting the three-ball better, this team will really take off behind Fredette, Jackson Emery and company. As for my pretender, it was a tough choice between Connecticut and Tennessee but I’m going to disagree with my good friend Zach and go with the Volunteers. I thought Bruce Pearl’s club was overrated even before the loss to Oakland and they may have peaked already. Tennessee’s great free throw rate is bound to drop plus they already give most of it away on the other end, ranked #288 in opponent’s free throw rate. The chip on their shoulder, playing so hard for Pearl despite his troubles, will eventually wear off and they’ll miss his presence on the sideline when he’s out for eight games. Tennessee turns it over too much, is not a great three-point shooting team and gives up almost 70 PPG. I realize they play an up-tempo style but that’s too high for my liking. Tennessee is still a good team that will contend in the SEC but I don’t see them as the national contender many have proclaimed them to be.

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

Despite Tennessee’s somewhat surprising loss to Oakland last night (ed note: this was written prior to UT’s loss to Charlotte on Friday night), that team to me is still a bona fide contender. Sure, the bad Scotty Hopson appeared for the first time this season, a somewhat scary flashback to last season’s inconsistency which we were all but promised was a thing of the past. And yes, it is awful hard to want to throw the ball into your big senior center Brian Williams in tight games when you know he’s no better than 50/50 to make free throws. But the not-so-secret weapon that convinces me that this Volunteer squad will be a force to be reckoned with is freshman Tobias Harris, who Bruce Pearl and company are only beginning to get the best out of. Eventually more and more of the Vol offense will run through Harris and, being a more than capable creator for teammates, he can get more open looks for Hopson, create easy opportunities for Williams, and just generally make the entire Tennessee team better. While some will see the Oakland loss as a sign that Tennessee is just a pretender, this Volunteer team you see now is but a pale shadow of what could become by March.

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That’s Debatable: Impact of Kyrie Irving’s Injury on Duke

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com

This Week’s Topic: News was released yesterday that Duke superstar point guard Kyrie Irving could be out from a month to the rest of the season with a toe injury.  How will this impact the nation’s #1 team and its team chemistry?  Does this mean that the way-too-early undefeated season talk is now ludicrous?  Give us your thoughts.

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

An injury to the starting point guard of the best team in the nation? Yes. That matters. The argument could be made that Kyrie Irving had been the best player on the Duke team in the early going, and now without him for the near future, or potentially the whole season, the Blue Devils will have adjust their roles on the fly. Luckily for Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has a couple of excellent guards in reserve – look no further than sophomore Andre Dawkins’ excellent first performance in the absence of Irving – but while the loss of Irving in the short term could be dealt with, the potential loss of Irving for the season would be a blow to their national title hopes. Sure, Duke still has enough talent on that roster to remain the favorite for the national title, but anytime you lose one of the most dynamic players in the country, that’s an awful blow. Until more is known, the Devils will need to plan for the rest of their season as if Irving will be unavailable, with their backcourt taking on new roles and new minutes, but if there is anywhere around the country where the potential loss of such a player is manageable, it is in Durham.

Matt Patton, RTC contributor

The way-too-early undefeated talk was always ludicrous, but that’s why it’s fun.  The truth is: Duke is a very good, arguably great, team that’s won eight good games.  To go undefeated they’d have to win 32 more in a row.  That alone is ludicrous.  Talk shouldn’t get serious until February.  I don’t think Irving’s injury will hurt “undefeated” chances unless he’s out for longer than a month.  Right now Duke is looking at cupcake city until Miami (home) on January 2.  Miami is a pretty good, although inconsistent, team, but I don’t think they’re good enough to go into Cameron and win with or without Irving.  He seamlessly integrated into the offense to start the season, and I think he can do it again.  If anything this could help Duke’s team mature: especially guys like Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry and Miles Plumlee.  Curry especially could see a lot of extra time at the point spot, which should make the team run better without Irving (so far they’ve struggled at times without his presence).  Duke won’t be better without Irving, that’s ridiculous.  But the time without him could really help some of the role players improve with in-game experience.

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

It doesn’t matter much if he’s out for a month or two. If Kyrie Irving is out for the entire season, the primary impact will be on Duke’s NCAA title chances. They’ll still win the ACC and probably get a top seed in the tournament but the loss of Irving will be felt in the later rounds when they run into similarly talented opponents. The schedule between now and the end of January isn’t tough at all, even without Irving. The toughest games are road trips to Florida State and NC State, two games in which the Blue Devils will still be strong favorites. As has been pointed out by many, Duke does not play a currently ranked team for the rest of the season though I have a feeling North Carolina and possibly Temple will find their way back into the rankings at some point. In all likelihood, Coach K will turn to Andre Dawkins as his fifth starter and shift Nolan Smith over to point guard. That shouldn’t be a problem for the experienced Smith, already averaging five assists per game. As for the undefeated talk, I’ve maintained it has been ludicrous from the beginning. Duke is not some otherworldly team. They are the best but they’re going to lose at some point during the regular season. I don’t know who will beat them but it’s going to happen. This is college basketball where anything can happen on any given night.

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That’s Debatable: On the Conference Challenges…

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com

This Week’s Topic: The ACC/Big Ten Challenge just ended, and the Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge began last night.  The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series gears up in earnest this evening after one game last weekend.  The Big East/SEC Invitational starts next week.  Are you a fan of these conference challenge events and what would you suggest to the powers-that-be to improve them?

Brian Otskey, RTC Contributor

These inter-conference events are good publicity generators and certainly give teams opportunities for quality wins early in the season. I’m a fan of the concept but aside from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, these events do not receive enough national coverage. ESPN is obviously the driving force behind the ACC/Big Ten but I’d like to see them become more involved in the other events. The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series would be a good start. ESPN televises some games but most are on FSN, stretched out over almost a month. Then we have the Big East/SEC Invitational. The Worldwide Leader covers it but the event has just four teams from each league competing. I realize the Big East is a 16-team monstrosity but why can’t we have 12 Big East teams play all 12 SEC teams over three days? Instead we have two games per night at neutral locations played over two non-consecutive days, hardly creating any buzz. When it comes to the Mountain West and Missouri Valley, let’s face it: most casual fans don’t care about non-name teams competing against each other. It’s a sad reality for us diehards, but casual fan interest makes the money and drives ratings.

David Ely, RTC Contributor

I think any event that prompts teams from the big conferences to play each other rather than the smaller schools is a good idea. Duke playing Michigan State is much better for the sport than Duke-UNC-Asheville or Michigan State-Eastern Michigan. That being said, there are things that could be done done to re-energize these events. I for one am tired of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It’s time to mix up the conferences. Give me an ACC/Big East Challenge to pit the two supposed basketball meccas against each other in a winner-takes-all series. How about a Big Ten/Big 12 Hardwood Series? There’s already a little bit of bad blood between the two conferences because of football realignment. Basketball should capitalize on that hatred. Whoever wins the first series gets the Texas football program? 

Zach Hayes, RTC Editor/Contributor

I’m a huge fan of these conference challenge events. It forces coaches to play true road games against quality opponents and sets up marquee matchups that normally may not occur. Two years ago, I distinctly remember Duke was sent to Purdue in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge in a battle of top-10 teams. Because Coach K prefers to play neutral site games in most years rather than visit the home floors of elite non-conference competition, that Duke-Purdue game felt like a rare treat that wouldn’t have happened if the ACC-Big Ten Challenge was never invented. As someone that appreciates the mid-major game, the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, while it lacks a premiere TV deal, is a fantastic way for quality Cinderella candidates to face off in December. The only change I would make is moving the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to open the season in mid-November. This solves the problem of a lackluster, trickling start to the college hoops season and instead the campaign would open with a bang that Michigan State-Duke or Purdue-Virginia Tech provides. Surely those two conferences would welcome the change as well, with basketball-starved fans tuning in to ESPN in even greater droves than in the current setup.

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That’s Debatable: Giving Thanks

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.  And have a beautiful Thanksgiving, everyone.

This Week’s Topic: It’s the time of year to give thanks.  What college basketball related thing are you most thankful for this season?

Matt Patton, RTC Contributor

Early season tournaments.  This year feels like one of the best years ever: the Maui Invitational (Kentucky, Michigan State, Washington and UConn), Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Vanderbilt, Minnesota and UNC), 2kSports Classic (Pitt, Texas and Illinois), and CBE Classic (San Diego State, Gonzaga, Kansas State, Marquette and Duke) all highlighted at least three at-large NCAA teams with an astounding 13 teams that have appeared in the top 25 counting UConn’s imminent inclusion.  That’s really unbelievable when you think about it: we saw 15 probable at-large bids face off against at-large talent, and the conference season is still a month away!   Some early season tournaments are jokes (here’s looking at you, Cancun), and it’s annoying that the Puerto Rico Tip-Off takes place in a gym the size of my high school’s (with horrible attendance to boot).  But don’t act like it wasn’t awesome to see Duke battle Kansas State on a “neutral” floor two hours from the Little Apple, or Washington and Kentucky take their talents to Maui (and the impressive mobility of Big Blue Nation for migrating across the country).  These are the nonconference clashes of titans that normally take place only in our sleep, in March, and now in November.

Zach Hayes, RTC Editor/Contributor

I’m most thankful for the seniors that have stuck around to play college basketball for four years. Given the pressure of today’s one-and-done-or-failure mentality, the seniors that have graced the college hardwood for four seasons truly represent what this sport should be about on and off the court. Whether it’s Kyle Singler’s silky smooth jumper, the end-to-end quickness of Corey Fisher, the rebounding prowess of Kenneth Faried, the scoring artistry of Jimmer Fredette or the leadership qualities of Kalin Lucas, these wily veterans will have dazzled us loyal hoop viewers from their first day at practice as a freshman to the moment they receive their college degree. They didn’t appear and disappear from our lives after four months. They didn’t decide to play overseas and collect that first paycheck as soon as possible. After studying how they’ve improved and tracking their ups and downs after four winters, these players almost seem like family. They take us back to a time when staying through your senior year was applauded rather than stigmatized. Mr. Singler, Fisher, Faried, Fredette, Lucas and all the rest of the seniors that deserve so much more attention than they receive, I thank you.

Brian Otskey, RTC Contributor

I’m most thankful for the NCAA, believe it or not. The much-maligned organization has had a very good year. Most importantly, they resisted the urge to expand to a 96-team tournament which would have been an unmitigated disaster. Just imagine a 5-11 NC State team or 6-12 St. John’s making it into the tournament. That would have likely happened last season under a 96-team format. I realize they are probably not done with expansion but let’s give them some credit for holding off, at least for now. The NCAA has also cracked down on some name brand programs, most notably Kentucky, declaring Enes Kanter ineligible. This was the correct decision as there is just no way a professional athlete should be able to play an amateur sport. Connecticut and Jim Calhoun have also come under fire from the “new” NCAA. Don’t forget Bruce Pearl’s situation, Baylor being the subject of an investigation and Oregon as well. I’m sure there is more out there and hopefully the organization will continue its crackdown in the coming years. The NCAA is still a heavily bureaucratic operation with many problems but 2010 has been a positive step in the right direction for collegiate athletics.

Brian Goodman, RTC Editor/Contributor

I’m thankful for Marquette and Connecticut turning heads with their performances this week. The preseason rankings in the Big East read as Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown and everyone else. Marquette was tabbed eighth; the Huskies tenth. While the top two have handled things on their end, Jim Calhoun and Buzz Williams’ squads are already in the kitchen cooking up some crow. Five time zones away from Storrs, UConn made an early splash in Maui on par with last year’s party crashing from Syracuse in New York City. The Huskies were predicted to finish in the bottom half of the conference, and those who cover the Big East hitched their wagons to Austin Freeman for individual honors over Kemba Walker. The Husky junior’s response is loud and clear, exploding for 90 points over three games at Lahaina. The nation awaits the conclusion of the NCAA’s investigation into misconduct on the part of the Huskies’ staff, but in the meantime, credit Calhoun for keeping his young team sharply focused. Yes, the Golden Eagles left Kansas City with two losses, but they gave #1 Duke far more than #4 Kansas State could manage against the Blue Devils. The next night, they nearly sent Bulldog Nation into panic mode before falling short. Marquette will readily take on any challenge thrown their way and fight harder than many of the nation’s premier teams to make a name for themselves. Despite their lack of a consistent post option, they will never use it as a crutch. The Big East is at its best when these two teams are in the thick of things.

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That’s Debatable: What’d You Learn From ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon?

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: What did you learn from this year’s ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon?

Dave Zeitlin, RTC Contributor

I learned that anyone who doesn’t root for St. Mary’s is clearly racist towards large, awkward-looking Australians who tend to never miss shots. I learned that it will likely be a running theme all season for people to joke that Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole looks like a 15-year-old, but all I’m going to say is that I think he’s going to be a damn good head coach — his early-morning loss to Kent State aside. (Am I saying this because I’m legally obligated to mention a Penn alum in everything I write for RTC? Yes.) I learned that sometimes you just have to click the channel down button on your remote when there’s a better women’s game going on. (Sorry, Florida, you should have kept it close. The UConn-Baylor showdown was far more exciting.) And finally, I learned that if any other sport tried to pull this off, you’d fall asleep faster than Steve Fisher after dinner – which shows college basketball is truly the best sport on the planet. Actually, scratch that last one. I didn’t learn anything new there.

Kellen Carpenter, RTC Contributor

Jared Sullinger is for real. Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving, who I thought would be dueling for the position of best freshman in the country, are now both more than a few steps behind in their own race. While I tried not to read too much into how Sullinger dismantled the overmatched Aggies of North Carolina A&T (where he put up 19 points and 14 rebounds in 21 minutes), it’s impossible to ignore his domination over a ranked team like Florida, where he put up 26 points on an efficient 17 shots and pulled down 10 rebounds a full half of which were offensive. His offensive game is as polished as advertised and his passing from the post is sharp beyond his years. His play isn’t perfect, but this is where I remind you that he just played his second game in a college uniform. Can you imagine the havoc this guy is going to wreak in the spring?

John Stevens, RTC Editor

It’s de rigueur to heap praise all over ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon (as much as it has become, apparently, to live-blog the whole thing), and I usually fall right in line, but there’s one change I’d recommend — fewer games with more time in between. Wait, hear me out first. As it is, the games are packed over a few channels and it only takes one 60+ foul game and/or an overtime thriller to throw the whole thing off schedule. Then you’ve got games switching channels (a pinch, if you’re DVRing), simultaneous games of teams you want to see, and the occasional joining-in of games that have less than ten minutes remaining in the first half. And if there’s prime-time programming on a spare ESPN that the decision-makers refuse to bump or leave early, you’re screwed until the schedule clears. Three or four fewer games and a 30-minute buffer would help release the pressure buildup, it would mean less juggling of games between channels, and would prevent the late join-ins. There’s not much wrong with the marathon, but I think this is one of the few improvements that could make it even better.

Matt Patton, RTC Contributor

Virginia Tech has a long way to go.  Count me as one of those people who thought the Hokies would be a beacon of consistency after returning five starters on their way to finishing second in the ACC.  Kansas State really made Virginia Tech look bad, even without playing Curtis Kelly or Jacob Pullen the first half.  Even on the road, a top 25 team should have been able to take advantage of a team playing without its two best players.  I expect them to improve, but Virginia Tech showed me the reason they were left out of the Big Dance last year.  The second thing I took away from the Marathon was Florida’s press.  I know Ohio State has some point guard questions, but pressing gave Ohio State open shot after open shot.  The Buckeyes shot over 60% from the field on the road, largely thanks to the quality looks they were getting.  I can’t count the number of times Aaron Craft would sprint up the court, forcing Florida’s post man to leave Sullinger all alone for a free dunk.  My final takeaway was no surprise: San Diego State is the real deal (and Gonzaga was a little overrated).

Zach Hayes, RTC Editor/Contributor

I learned that Ohio State can win a national championship. With Jared Sullinger providing a scoring presence in the paint to complement a talented, multi-dimensional supporting cast in William Buford,  David Lighty and Jon Diebler, the Buckeyes’ road thrashing of Florida in which they surrendered just eight turnovers against the constant Gator pressure was the most impressive victory of the marathon. I also learned that San Diego State is the best team in the West. Billy White’s 30/9 and stud sophomore Kawhi Leonard’s double-double spearheaded a slaying of Gonzaga on a home floor where the Zags are 77-5 since 2004. The Aztecs are a legitimate Elite Eight contender. I learned that the freshman that will have the most impact for Josh Pastner’s heralded recruiting class is Memphis native Joe Jackson and Clint Steindl’s emergence may be the difference between a NCAA or NIT bid during the post-Samhan era at Saint Mary’s. I learned that Rick Pitino is at his best when he’s counted out and that Kansas State can win without big contributions from Jacob Pullen or Curtis Kelly. Most of all, though, was what was reinforced rather than learned as I watched 26 hours of hoops on Tuesday: college basketball is the greatest sport on earth.

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That’s Debatable: Looking Back at Regional Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2010

We did this last week and it seemed to work pretty well, so let’s do it again.  Here are five questions from the past weekend’s action with a look ahead to the Final Four. Each of the below polls will allow comments, so let’s build some discussion through there.

Q1: What Was the Biggest Surprise This Weekend?

We’re going with Mazzulla on this one.  He came into the game averaging a bucket per contest, yet he shredded the Kentucky defense for easy layups multiple times over the course of WVU’s win over the Wildcats.  Many of the others were also surprising, and if we had to choose a #2, it would probably be Butler defeating Syracuse and K-State.  Not so much because we don’t believe in the Bulldogs (we do!), but just because how methodically they shut down the guards of both of those elite teams.

Q2: Butler: Cinderella or Legit Championship Threat?

We’d be more inclined to think they were a legitimate championship threat if they didn’t have to face a team in Michigan State that thrives on street fight defense.  It’ll be just another day at the Big Ten office for the Spartans in playing the Bulldogs, and there’s no way that Tom Izzo will allow his team to look past them.

Q3: Was JP Prince’s Foul on Raymar Morgan Legit?

Yeah, it was.  We’ve slowed it down a few times and there was enough arm in addition to ball there to warrant the call.  The mistake was letting MSU beat the Vols down the court to the blocks.  If UT had gotten back better, they might still be playing.

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That’s Debatable: Five Questions for Discussion

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2010

This one is for our readers, who are with the exception of a few notable gadflies, the most knowledgeable and erudite group of college hoops fans around.  Rather than just giving our opinions on some of the big controversies and issues of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, we want to throw it at you guys.  What do you think?  Each of the below polls will allow comments, so let’s build some discussion through there.   

Q1: Does Last Weekend’s Performance Show That the Big East Was Overrated?

Our answer on this one is a resounding yes.  Eight teams down to two, and four of them among the top twelve seed positions?  The Big East was historically good last year but they failed pretty miserably on the big stage this year. 

Q2: What Was the Biggest Surprise of the Weekend?

A lot of good choices here, but we have to go with Cornell’s margin of victory.  It doesn’t shock us that the Big Red are in the Sweet Sixteen, but the way in which they completely solved two of the better defensive teams in the country in Temple and Wisconsin is astounding. 

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That’s Debatable: Early Conference Race Surprises

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2010

Each week RTC will posit a That’s Debatable question or topic that is relevant to the world of college basketball.  Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, we’ll post the thoughts from our core editing crew (in 200 words or less), but we’ll also be expanding to include our contributors and correspondents as appropriate throughout the season.  We also invite you, the readers, to join us as we mull over some of the questions facing the game today.  Feel free to send us your takes and/or leave them in the comments below.

This Week’s Topic: We’re at least three weeks into every conference’s season.  What teams have surprised you, good or bad, so far?

zach hayes – editor/contributor

The most surprising team through January this season has to be Syracuse. Every single player on the Orange roster has developed, refined and improved their game from last season, most notably Andy Rautins. Rautins is more than just a spot-up three-point bomber now. He’s a steal and assist machine with tremendous court vision and a consistent jump shot. Jim Boeheim hyped Wes Johnson as an immediate all-Big East player right away, but few believed the legendary coach. Turns out the Iowa State transfer has actually exceeded expectations, establishing himself as a deserving lottery pick with incredible athleticism and a deadly mid-range jumper. The big men in the middle — Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson, along with emerging Kris Joseph — are the primary reasons why Cuse leads the nation in FG%. The biggest surprise to me on the other end of the spectrum are the disappointing Washington Huskies. Five-star freshman Abdul Gaddy has yet to transfer his talent to the college game, Isaiah Thomas is shooting under 40% from the floor, and the supporting cast is simply below average. The Huskies should be dominating a woeful Pac-10 given their talent level, and yet now it appears they may be destined for the NIT come March.

john stevens – editor/contributor

I’m betting everyone’s going to write good things about Virginia or Temple or bad things about Connecticut or North Carolina, so I’m going to go a little smaller in terms of conference profile and give some love to UAB in the CUSA.  I remember back in our CUSA Pre-Season Conference Preview, we had UAB projected at EIGHTH with a total of six wins.  Failing a huge dropoff, it’s time to take our lumps on this one.  They’ve already got five conference wins and they’re tied with the Tulsa squad that we said would win the thing.  We didn’t even mention them in the list of possible contenders.  They made the AP Top 25 this week and are on the cusp of the ESPN/Coaches’ version.  Known more for their prowess on defense more than anything else, if you look at their statistical profile, there’s nothing that just jumps off of the page at you.  Fact is, when you watch them, what you see is just a bunch of hard-playin’ Blazers who are probably going to out-dive you for loose balls and who will hit the offensive glass in force.  And that forward tandem of Elijah Millsap (16/10/2 SPG) and Howard Crawford (13/5) isn’t easy to guard, either.  Lots of ways to go with this week’s question, but considering what we predicted, UAB has to be my surprise of the conference season so far.

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That’s Debatable: Upset Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2010

Each week RTC will posit a That’s Debatable question or topic that is relevant to the world of college basketball.  Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, we’ll post the thoughts from our core editing crew (in 200 words or less), but we’ll also be expanding to include our contributors and correspondents as appropriate throughout the season.  We also invite you, the readers, to join us as we mull over some of the questions facing the game today.  Feel free to send us your takes and/or leave them in the comments below.

This Week’s Topic: It was Upset Weekend in college basketball, as more than half the ranked teams took a loss.  What was your favorite part of the weekend?

nvr1983 – editor/contributor

Without question the best part of the weekend was watching depleted Tennessee “shock the world” on Sunday afternoon against #1 Kansas while most of the country was focused in on the awful NFL wildcard games (ok, the Green Bay-Buzzsaw game was pretty entertaining). Although Tennessee has managed to continue to disgrace itself (first Lane Kiffin’s football players now Bruce Pearl’s carful of idiots) the university can take some pride in Bruce Pearl’s six scholarship players and the handful of walk-ons that did suit up and play. While the upset showed us some of Kansas’s weaknesses that most people saw in their narrow victory at home over Cornell, the game was more important for what it showed us about the Volunteers, which may be an appropriate name for a team using so many walk-ons. Right now there might not be a more difficult to read team in the nation. And isn’t that part of what we love about college sports?

john stevens – editor/contributor

Are you kidding me with this?  My favorite part of the weekend?  Did you not read about how I met Ashley Judd while on my assignment in Lexington for Kentucky/Georgia?  Please.  The woman shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye and spoke to me.  What, you expected me to write something about Tennessee/Kansas?  Get over yourself.  Fine, if you need more of a basketball answer, for me the best part of Upset Weekend was playing the waiting game.  Weekends like the one we just had occur once or maybe twice in a season.  One of the coolest things about it is wondering what the next upset’s going to be as you move through the day.  After a couple of early ones, you start wondering if you might have a true Upset Weekend on your hands, and then it happens.  Teams just start falling, one after the other, in exciting games that often have incredible finishes.  The trend spreads across the country like a virus and, as the upsets get bigger, the phone calls and text messages and tweets from friends and fellow hoop-lovers really start cranking up.  That’s why this version of Upset Weekend was special: it ended with the biggest surprise of them all, with everyone watching.  Hmmm.  I wonder if Ashley enjoyed Upset Weekend…

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