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Lords of the Hoops: USA U19s Win Gold In Worlds

Get lost, Frodo and company.  Liv Tyler, you can stay.  But recognize, today, it’s the USA U19s who are the toast of New Zealand.

In an event we’ve had a fun time following this summer at RTC, the USA Under-19 squad took the gold medal at the Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand over the weekend, going a perfect 9-0 for the tournament.  Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas) led the Americans with 18p/2r/6a/5s in the finals against the U19s from Greece, with UTEP’s Arnett Moultrie adding 10p/9r/2a.  The USA placed two players on the All-Tournament Team (which, in New Zealand, is apparently called the “All-Star Five”), namely Taylor, and Butler’s Gordon Hayward.  The title is the Americans’ first in this competition since 1991.  Incidentally, if you’d like another name to watch out for (we had previously told you about Rutgers’ Mike Rosario who played for the Puerto Rico U19s and the 54 he plopped on last-place France), don’t forget Croatia’s Mario Delas.  He was named the tournament’s MVP and is currently set to go 18th on nbadraft.net’s 2011 mock draft.

Sing it proud, guys.  (Credit:  usabasketball.com)

Sing it proud, guys. (Credit: usabasketball.com)

The final against Greece was indicative of the entire tournament for the US squad in that it was a true team effort.  In the final, all but one player on the team played at least 11 minutes and there were seven players who contributed at least seven points.  Jamie Dixon (Pitt), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) crafted a US team with players suited for those crazy, confounded international rules, not to mention one that produced an extremely balanced attack, and they brought home the hardware.

Of course, the big question is what each individual player will take from this experience — besides a sweet gold medal which looks a little like a NYC subway MetroCard tied to a lanyard, and what I’m sure are some lovely photos of the NZ countryside — and how he’ll apply it to the rest of his college career.  Travel of this nature can only help to broaden a young man’s mind; and we all know that everyone wants to beat the tar out of the United States whenever they get the chance and that everyone guns for us.  That’s a sentiment some guys on this team (like Taylor from Kansas, Darius Miller from Kentucky, eventually Seth Curry from Duke) might be used to, and while that environment provides invaluable experience for everyone involved, it’s especially good for players from smaller programs.  Doesn’t look like Moultrie or Hayward had a problem with it, eh?  It’ll also be interesting to see if Southern Illinois makes a jump forward this year with Lowery having spent quality time around two of the best in the business in Dixon and Painter.  In any event, great work all around, gentlemen!  Enjoy showin’ off the new bling.

Other 26 Previews: Ivy League

Michael James is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League. You can also find his musings on Twitter at @ivybball.

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With Alex Rosenberg back in the mix, is it Columbia's year? (USA TODAY Sports)

With Alex Rosenberg back in the mix, is it Columbia’s year? (USA TODAY Sports)

  • Unusual SuspectsThe last time Harvard failed to receive a first-place vote in the preseason Ivy media poll, Cornell was wrapping up its three-peat in a season that would see the Big Red ultimately advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Five Ivy titles and four NCAA appearances later, the Crimson finds itself slotted fourth while the first-place votes were split as evenly as possible across the three favorites: Columbia, Princeton and Yale. Those three schools have combined for just one NCAA appearance over the last 11 seasons, and the Lions and Bulldogs haven’t made the Tournament since the 1960s. Yale arguably has the inside track after winning a share of the Ivy title last season, but Princeton returns all of its key contributors from a team that finished a strong third, and Columbia not only brings back a substantial portion of its squad but also adds former first-team All-Ivy forward Alex Rosenberg, who missed last year with a Jones fracture in his right foot.

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Morning Five: 07.21.15 Edition

  1. Last night, Harry Giles, the top recruit in the class of 2016, announced his five finalists: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Wake Forest. Giles, a 6’10” forward from Winston Salem, has been reported to be interested in playing alongside Jayson Tatum, a top five recruit in the class of 2016 and Giles’ roommate while they played for Team US in the U19 FIBA World Championships. Given that Tatum committed to Duke earlier this month it would seem that the Blue Devils would be favorites for Giles although the hometown pull of Winston Salem and the fact that Chris Paul is the sponsor of his AAU team (and probably in Giles’ ear a lot) could sway him to go to Wake. Giles has not set a date for when he will make his choice, but if you want to learn more about him be sure to check out Luke Winn’s profile on Giles.
  2. Yesterday, the NCAA announced some tweaks to its NCAA Tournament selection process that address the play-in games (yes, that’s what they are) and how the highest seeded teams are placed in the bracket. The play-in game change is a really just a revision in the language that gives the Selection Committee the autonomy to select whichever teams it sees fit to be placed in the play-in games. As you may remember this past March, UCLA’s inclusion in the main field without having to even win a play-in game generated quite a bit of controversy given their unimpressive resume. UCLA avoided the play-in games as they were not technically one of the last four teams in. If that happens again this year, the NCAA can point to this clause as a reason to put a team like that in the play-in games. The other change allows the Selection Committee greater freedom in balancing its top two seed lines. Now instead of focusing on geography when placing these teams they can focus on competitive balance. An example of this was the near-meltdown last year on Twitter when Wisconsin and Kentucky were almost placed in the same (Midwest) region. While they won’t go to the S-curve that Joe Lunardi loves to talk about, they will try to make the top two seed lines more evenly balanced.
  3. The NCAA also announced yesterday that it will be distributing an additional $18.9 million to its member schools to help offset the schools expenses for cost-of-attendance, additional food, and various other expenses. The money will be distributed evenly to every Division 1 school so it works out to around $55,000 per school. While that might seem like a small amount (and it probably is to the big-name programs), it is actually a fairly large sum of money to schools that operate on more modest budgets. This $18.9 million will be in addition to the more than $500 million the NCAA already distributes to the schools and conferences. Having said that, we’re sure that Mark Emmert and the rest of the NCAA big shots in Indianapolis will still manage to get by.
  4. As much as we hate what some lawyers do, we have to admit that occasionally be of some use. Such is the case of Austin Nichols, who announced that he was transferring from Memphis at the beginning of the month. While the announcement was not that unusual given the mass exodus out of the program, the timing irritated many within the Memphis program as well as few writers who voiced their displeasure with his timing. So when Memphis announced that they would not be granting Nichols a release to any AAC schools, Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa, and Providence most people assumed it would be a drawn-out battle between the two sides particularly since Virginia is widely considered the favorite to land Nichols–they had been one of his favorites before he went to Memphis and there are reports that billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II may be steering him there. Instead of waiting for Memphis to give in to public pressure, the Nichols’ family hired a high-priced attorney who cited the Sherman Antitrust Act while questioning the legality of the transfer restrictions. If you thought the Ed O’Bannon case was bad for the NCAA, you can imagine what an antitrust case would have looked like. As you can imagine, Memphis quickly “reviewed” the case and removed any transfer restrictions.
  5. If you want to know why conferences (and in some cases schools) are so eager to get their own TV networks, we would refer you to the report that the Big Ten distributed $1 million to each of its schools for the 2014-15 fiscal year from the revenue it generated from the Big Ten Network. While the BTN has been profitable since the 2011-12 fiscal year, the conference had been holding back that money to deal with conference realignment. The $1 million per school may fall short of what some other conferences have been able to generate, but when it makes up approximately 3% of the money a school receives from the one of the most prominent conferences in America it is far from an insignificant amount.

Morning Five: 07.08.15 Edition

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It has been quite a while since we did our regular Morning 5s for a variety of reason (work, life, etc), but we’re back now and will be doing these more regularly. We won’t be posting these daily until the start of the season at earliest, but we will probably be posting once or twice weekly depending on how much news is out there. We won’t be going over all the news that happened since the last time we did one of these because that would be a 10,000-word post and that is only if we kept it brief.

  1. Lost in the hysteria around the Women’s World Cup title was the fact that the US also won another significant world title on Sunday: the FIBA Under-19 championship. While their win over Croatia wasn’t the prettiest thing you will ever see, it was nice to see some of our top prospects play together against high-level competition. There are a ton of places we could point you recap the action and highlight the guys you should be keeping an eye on, but we will just direct you to a pair of excellent columns from Luke Winn and Jon Givony. Winn’s column is a sweeping overview of Team USA with particular attention to Jalen Brunson (going to Villanova) and Harry Giles (a rising high school senior who is the projected #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft). Givony is still putting together his review posts, but his look at the top five point guards is informative and helps you look outside of Team USA, which is important because many of these international players will end up playing college basketball. We expect that Givony will review the other positions in the coming days so watch out for those.
  2. Having a top-tier player decide to transfer is not shocking in the current era, but when that player announces his intent on July 7–like Austin Nichols did yesterday–it certainly catches your attention. The rising junior forward, who averaged 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last year, informed Josh Pastner of his decision last week, but did not publicly reveal his decision until yesterday afternoon when he announced his intendt to transfer from Memphis. Pastner, who says he was caught off-guard by the decision, has stated he will not release Nichols for his transfer. While most people will be quick to criticize Pastner and his staff for not granting Nichols a release, the timing of this announcement is at just about the worst possible time for Memphis since every high-level recruit and transfer for the upcoming season has already committed to play elsewhere. In the end, we suspect that Nichols will get his release, but that may depend on what we find out about why Nichols decided to transfer in early July. As for Pastner, Nichols will be the seventh player to transfer from the program since last year. Given how underwhelming the program has been during his time there, we are not sure how much longer he will last in Memphis.
  3. Coming into this season, Eron Harris was expected to play a big part in Michigan State‘s attempt to make another run to the Final Four, but that may be in jeopardy as the junior transfer was arrested early on July 1 for driving while intoxicated leading Tom Izzo to suspend him indefinitely. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore at West Virginia in the 2013-14 season, sat out last season as one of the few transfers in the country who did not qualify for a transfer waiver. Harris will be arraigned on July 17 and faxes a maximum of 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. Given what we have seen in these case we doubt that Harris will spend any time in jail. At most he might get a suspended sentence or do some community service and then it will be up to Izzo to decide how much time Harris will have to miss.
  4. We will admit that we don’t pay that much attention to high school prospects until they are seniors and even then it is mostly around the time that high school All-American teams are announced that we start to recognize names. So when we saw posts on Twitter about how Florida State had landed a 5-star recruit, we initially assumed it was for football because even with their surprising incoming freshmen class the Seminoles have never been considered a threat for top basketball recruits. That was not the case with 6’9″ forward Jonathan Isaac, who climbed up the rankings rapidly in 2015, as the rising senior announced that he was committing to FSU. The decision took some by surprise particularly since Isaac had previously stated he was considering 12 schools including Kentucky and LSU (we know it seems weird to mention them, but with their incoming class they deserve it). In the end, it appears that FSU’s early pursuit of Issac–they had been recruiting him for two years even when he was less highly touted–paid off. Of course, there is still quite a bit of time before Isaac would start playing in Tallahassee so we wouldn’t write this one in pen just yet.
  5. The NCAA released its annual attendance report earlier this week and while the figures aren’t exactly shocking they are worth looking at for some interesting trends. You can read plenty of articles or tweets about how you can play with the numbers in the NCAA report, but attendance was basically steady (up or down a little bit depending on how you calculate it). Syracuse repeated as the leaders in home attendance narrowly edging Kentucky for the second year in a row in that category after Kentucky had finished first 17 of the previous 18 years. While that is particularly impressive for Syracuse with a mediocre team that self-imposed a NCAA Tournament ban, it is worth noting that the Carrier Dome has the capacity for more than 10,000 more fans than Rupp Arena can seat and if they built 10,000 more seats in Rupp they would have been filled for Kentucky this past season. Although Kentucky was not able to overcome its seating disadvantage in that category, Big Blue Nation came through giving the Wildcats a decisive edge in overall attendance (home and away). It is worth noting that Duke would have been much closer to Kentucky in that category (Wisconsin came in second) if they did not have their own home seating disadvantage with almost 13,000 fewer seats for home games. Duke will just have to comfort itself with taking home the national title.

Seven Sweet Scoops: Derryck Thornton & Duke’s Big Night, DeAndre Ayton, Thon Maker & More

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Duke Attracts Five-Star Recruits For Rivalry Game

It was a great last Wednesday night in Durham. Not only did Duke notch a thrilling comeback victory against their Tobacco Road neighbors from Chapel Hill, but it also did so in front of a few high-profile recruits from the classes of 2015 and 2016. From this year’s senior class, five-star senior power forward Caleb Swanigan (No. 11) was in Cameron Indoor Stadium on an official visit along with Luke Kennard, a five-star shooting guard who has already committed to the Blue Devils. Last week we touched on some of the schools interested in the 6’8” Swanigan, but since then the Indiana native has taken in Purdue’s victory over Nebraska in addition to the UNC game. The Duke coaching staff is looking to add another big man to the mix to replace the expected loss of freshman superstar Jahlil Okafor. So far Duke has 6’10” Chase Jeter, a five-star power forward, locked up in addition to Rice transfer Sean Obi, who is currently redshirting after averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game at Rice. In addition to Swanigan and Kennard, the Blue Devils also hosted Harry Giles, the No. 1 prospect in the junior class, as well as the top two point guards in the junior class in Derryck Thornton (No. 5 – 2016) and Dennis Smith (No. 6 – 2016). Giles and Smith are both local North Carolina products and have offers from both Duke and UNC in hand. Giles noted, “I’ve been to every Duke and UNC game at both places, and this was the craziest and best game,” he said. “I plan on attending the March 7th game at UNC, too.” It could have turned out to be a somber ending for Duke and its prized recruits in attendance, but instead they were treated to another Duke home win and a raucous celebration.

2. Derryck Thornton and Reclassification

While senior Caleb Swanigan was taking his official visit to Duke, junior point guard Derryck Thornton was making an unofficial visit all the way from Nevada. After the game, ESPN’s recruiting staff caught up with the two propsects with the most noticeable quote coming from Thornton. “They want to know if I would consider going to the class of 2015 because Tyus Jones could be leaving,” he said. “I believe I could take that step both academically and on the court. It’s something I definitely have to think about and discuss with my family.” That quote sticks out for a few reasons. While Tyus Jones was a top 10 recruit coming out of high school, his NBA stock wasn’t nearly as high due to concerns about his height and athleticism. Right now, DraftExpress lists him at No. 26 in the draft, but with his recent play Jones could be getting more serious about his draft potential. Duke has not recruited a point guard in the 2015 class yet, and given the aforementioned quote, Coach K is most likely trying to prepare his program for a possible departure. Thornton is one of the top point guards in his class and might be considered the best “pure” point as well. He has strong interest from Kentucky in addition to Louisville, California, and Miami. Will he think about re-classifying? Read the rest of this entry »

Conference Tournament Primer: Sun Belt Conference

Championship Fortnight continues with the last five conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt and WAC.

Dates: March 13-16
Site: New Orleans Lakefront Arena (New Orleans, LA)

SunBelt

What to expect: Georgia State won the regular season Sun Belt title by five games and will be the clear-cut favorite in New Orleans. The Panthers are lethal on the offensive end, led by a pair of guards – coach’s son R.J. Hunter and Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow – who average more than 17 points per night and rarely turn the ball over. They rank among the 25 most efficient offenses in the country, a scoring prowess that enabled them to win 14 straight games earlier this year (school record) and finish 17-1 in the conference. However, the top seed has not won this tournament since 2009, including a recent stretch of three-straight champions seeded fifth or worse, and talent does exist elsewhere — Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton is a legitimate NBA prospect, while his frontcourt teammate Shawn Long averages 19 points and 10 boards a night. Arkansas State and the Ragin’ Cajuns both gave Georgia State trouble in the regular season. Western Kentucky, meanwhile, has a chance to win this tournament for the third straight year. Any one of those three could spoil the Panthers’ outstanding run.

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Rasheed Sulaimon Crescendos While Quinn Cook Spirals

Rasheed Sulaimon came into this season with high expectations for himself, as did most all of college basketball and Duke fans. Sulaimon had averaged 11.6 PPG in 29 minutes per game as a freshman and was coming back better than before, surrounded by even more talent. The shooting guard position seemed to be Sulaimon’s to lose as well, with freshman and fellow Texas native Matt Jones the only other true shooting guard on the roster. Sulaimon was riding an extreme high after his very successful freshman campaign and his gold medal winning summer on the U-19 USA Team, making him a back-to-back gold medal winner. There were even whispers of the 6’4” Texan making the leap to the NBA, but his draft stock never firmly solidified itself in the first round.

Rasheed Sulaimon rises up to send it to OT versus unbeaten Syracuse (Footbasket.com)

Rasheed Sulaimon rises up to send it to OT versus unbeaten Syracuse. (Footbasket.com)

Unfortunately for Sulaimon, this type of performance didn’t materialize and surrounded by talented offensive threats like Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, he wasn’t having the ball in his hands as much as he would’ve preferred. Sulaimon made his living as a slasher his freshman year, darting into the lane and creating his own shots. With shooters and primary offensive options like Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly spotting up, this worked well for last year’s Duke team. But with Parker doing exactly that at a much higher clip, those lanes were shut down and a lot of touches for Sulaimon were disappearing. Instead of adapting to a new style of play and efficiently playing alongside Hood and Parker, Sulaimon resisted and was thrown into Coach K’s doghouse where he stayed up until recently, even chalking up a dreaded DNP-CD in December against Michigan. Sulaimon didn’t exactly “break out” immediately after that game versus Michigan, playing only 5 minutes versus Gardner Webb. But since the December 19 game versus UCLA, Sulaimon has been improving and playing with a newfound sense of confidence, outside of two outliers at Clemson and Pittsburgh. Read the rest of this entry »

Big 12 M5: 11.27.13 Edition

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  1. For Bob Huggins and West Virginia to rebound after a dreadful season last year, improved point guard play this season was identified by Huggins in the preseason as a must. That responsibility falls on junior guard Juwan Staten. In a 78-60 win over Old Dominion on Tuesday in the Cancun Challenge, Staten finished with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting while dishing out 9 assists against just one turnover. West Virginia will play tomorrow in the championship game against the winner of St. Louis and Wisconsin, who will provide a formidable test for the Mountaineers to determine how they stack up against some of the better teams in the nation.
  2. On Monday, Gary Bedore of KUSports.com explored the possibility of Kansas head coach Bill Self replacing Mike Krzyzewski as head coach of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team when Mike Krzyzewski hangs up the whistle in his Olympic coaching career after the 2016 games. Self, however, doesn’t feel the possibility is very realistic with names like Doc Rivers and Greg Popovich also thrown out as replacements. During the offseason, Self addressed the possibility of eventually coaching at the NBA level, saying if given the opportunity, he might be tempted to consider it. After landing the Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor duo who teamed up for the USA U19 team, it’s hard to argue that Krzyzewski’s involvement in USA Olympic hoops hasn’t at least benefited in a small way his recruiting at Duke.
  3. After struggling to a 3-3 start against what was considered to be a fairly soft non-conference schedule, Kansas State will look to use the short Thanksgiving break to regroup as their schedule intensifies with a home match-up against 3-0 Ole Miss on December 5, followed by a neutral site (although only by definition) tilt with Gonzaga on December 5 in Wichita, Kansas. Through the first six games, Bruce Weber’s squad has averaged 62.7 points per game, ranking 326 in the nation out of 351 teams. If there’s a silver lining for Wildcat fans, Weber’s complicated motion offense took a bit of time last season before really clicking and helping K-State finish in a tie for first place in the Big 12.
  4. We talked Monday about the suspension of Oklahoma State freshman guard Stevie Clark, and on Tuesday, head coach Travis Ford released a statement on the situation, saying that Clark was not with the Cowboys due to personal matters and continues to be a valued member of the Cowboy basketball family. On Monday, there was a thought that perhaps Clark had left the team, although his mother denied the rumor. Regardless, his departure from the Oklahoma State lineup will be something to keep an eye on moving forward and whether it has a significant impact on the Cowboys’ overall play.
  5. Speaking of Oklahoma State point guards, if you haven’t had a chance to see this yet, take a look at the 70-foot shot Marcus Smart drilled to end the first half against South Florida on Monday night. Smart picked right up where he left off against Memphis, scoring 23 points in the first half and 25 total to go along with four assists and four steals in a 93-67 rout. Smart’s intensity early this season appears to be destined to remind everyone that he’s still among the best in college basketball this year.

Morning Five: 07.10.13 Edition

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  1. Summer is the season for college basketball players to improve themselves. Whether that means lonely nights in the gym getting up thousands of shots, long hours in the weight room fantasizing about drawing contact and-1, or organized games against real teams from other countries, the point is the same. Get better. The FIBA U-19 World Championships featured a number of players either entering or returning to our game next season, and Mike DeCourcy breaks down the top eight performers from the Prague, Czech Republic, event where Team USA won gold. The article is in the dreaded slideshow format, but we’ll offer an olive branch in that DeCourcy actually writes a good several-paragraph narrative about each player — in other words, the click-throughs are worthwhile. And that Aaron Gordon kid headed to Arizona? He’s going to cause quite a stir next season, even though he’s one of the few impact freshman who won’t be residing in Lawrence, Lexington or Durham. 
  2. So who’s got next? We’ll find out very soon, as the first of three separate key four-day recruiting windows for college coaches opens this afternoon at 5 PM ET. For a nice primer on the where, the who, and the when, as well as the key storylines and coaches feeling the most pressure to perform, CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Borzello hooks it up with a comprehensive analysis. The biggest thing we’re interested in over the next few weeks are any tells that the Class of 2014’s top two prospects — Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones — end up as a package deal somewhere. It’s extremely rare that the top two players in a single class view themselves as an inseparable and dynamic duo, but that very well could be the case with these two. He also touches on the difficulties that new Butler head coach Brandon Miller faces, as well as UCLA’s Steve Alford and Minnesota’s Richard Pitino. Fair points, all. (Side note from the get-off-my-lawn crowd: Can we lose the recruitnik notion of the shortened usage of the word “commit” to refer to “commitment?” Commit is a verb. Seriously, there’s no gray area here.)
  3. One of DeCourcy’s summer stars at the U-19 was Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, and the defending national champions have managed to stay in the news in a variety of ways lately. The best news we’ve perhaps heard all summer is that Kevin Ware and His Broken Leg are rehabilitating at a phenomenal pace, so much so that head coach Rick Pitino believes that his rising junior will be ready to play basketball again in October. It turns out that the doctors who said the clean break of his femur was actually somehow a “good” thing compared to the alternatives were exactly on point. Pitino’s comments were made at a press conference announcing that Louisville’s 2013 Final Four floor will be auctioned off in pieces to raise money for pediatric cancer research and care. Kentucky did a similar thing last year — proving, once again, that these two programs will stop at nothing to one-up the other, even in causes of virtue — raising over $200,000 in the process.
  4. The old adage is to follow the money, and in the case of North Carolina’s PJ Hairston and his association with Haydn Thomas and his propensity for spending tens of thousands of dollars on rental cars (seriously, who does that?), the flow of cash keeps getting more interesting. USA Today Sports reported on Tuesday that four of Thomas’ (or his roommate Catinia Farrington’s) rental vehicles had received a total of nine unpaid parking tickets on the UNC campus between the dates of February 22 and May 28 of this year. And yet, Haydn in previous media reports said that he has no association with the school and doesn’t even like the Tar Heels. Roy Williams, for his part, is waiting until all “the facts are in,” and so is everyone else. But isn’t there really only one question that matters here — what is Hairston’s true relationship with Haydn and why is he driving around committing crimes in Haydn’s vehicles?
  5. Conference realignment has been largely viewed as a pox upon their houses by most of us in the college basketball community over the last several years, as traditional basketball leagues have been folded, spindled and mutilated into something resembling nothing like their former selves. But as ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil writes, “what if we were all wrong?” Her point is that the basketball armageddon that we all foresaw may not have actually come to fruition. The ACC, always and forever at its heart a basketball league, has improved its stock substantially with the addition of basketball schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse, not to mention a strong Notre Dame program (with Louisville to come). The new Big East is all about roundball, with Creighton, Butler and Xavier joining a strong group of the Catholic Seven headlined by stalwarts Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova. Even the national darling Mountain West added Utah State, a strong and well-supported program that will challenge the likes of San Diego State, New Mexico and the rest for wildest fan base. While we’re not completely sold that all these moves are for the greater benefit of the sport, what choice do we have? Let’s lace ’em up and see what happens.

Team USA’s U-19 Title Hints at an Awesome Upcoming Season

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

The hype leading up to the 2013-14 college basketball season will be immense. It already sort of is, when you really think about it: Andrew Wiggins’ announcement to join Kansas set the college hoops world aflame. Duke’s Jabari Parker was plastered on the cover a Sports Illustrated magazine comparing him to LeBron James. Kentucky’s recruiting class is being described in the loftiest echelons of hyperbolic recruiting praise. A host of talented sophomores spurned probable NBA riches for another go with their respective college outfits. Everything about the upcoming season looks great. I can’t wait.

A championship run at the FIBA world championships is yet another testament to the quality and depth of the young talent college hoops will have on offer this season (Craig Miller, USA Today).

A championship run at the FIBA world championships is yet another testament to the quality and depth of the young talent college hoops will have on offer this season (Craig Miller, USA Today).

Over the weekend, some of the USA’s best players age 19 and under put those expectations on the line in international competition, and held serve in convincing fashion. Team USA beat Serbia Sunday, 82-68, to earn the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 World Championships. Taking home first prize was no guarantee for the Red, White, and Blue, who have won just three of the last eight U-19 FIBA crowns, including 2011’s lamentable fifth-place finish. International basketball – and all the well-coached, cohesively groomed, fundamentally-drilled international players, international rules, and international travel quirks compacted within – is an entirely different breed of hoops. Former US teams as high as the senior level have struggled to adapt to FIBA-regulated play, and this team, for all its massive talent advantages, was not immune to those very same issues. Basketball’s recent popularity worldwide – plus, you know, us not winning every single time we step on the floor – has made one fact exceedingly clear: There are no foregone conclusions in international basketball. Team USA’s U-19 group was not willing to make any.

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