Morning Five: 05.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 17th, 2011

  1. Late last night news broke that Arizona point guard Lamont “Momo” Jones had decided to transfer and was likely headed back to the New York City area. Although Jones has not issued a statement about his transfer, Arizona coach Sean Miller has confirmed the reports that was indeed transferring. There has been plenty of speculation about why he was transferring, but much of it has centered around either his desire to go home to be near a sick family relative (reportedly his grandmother) or the logjam in a Arizona backcourt that will be loaded even without Jones, who averaged 9.7 PPG and 2.4 APG as a sophomore. We will have more on this story throughout the day as it develops.
  2. Later today Valparaiso is expected to name Bryce Drew as the successor to his father Homer Drew as the next coach of the program that he helped make famous. This is not the first time that Homer has stepped aside to let his son take over the program. In 2002, Homer stepped aside to let Scott Drew take over as coach at VU, but he stayed there just one year before leaving to take over at Baylor following the Dave Bliss era. Homer stepped back into his previous position where he has remained despite failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the past seven seasons. Bryce has served as an assistant at the school since 2005, but is best known for his miraculous shot against Mississippi in the 1st round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament and leading them to the school to its only Sweet 16 appearance.
  3. Last summer UNLV had to deal with domestic violence charges against its top returning scorer (Tre’Von Willis) and it appears that this summer it will have to deal with DUI charges against its top returning scorer (Chace Stanback). Stanback was arrested early on Friday near the Thomas & Mack Center on suspicion of driving under the influence. He is out of custody and is expected to appear in court on August 11. It will be interesting to see how new coach Dave Rice deals with the arrest both before and after the court appearance. Rice comes from a strict program at BYU (remember Brandon Davies), but he was also on the Jerry Tarkanian teams of the early 90s that had a more laissez-faire approach to punishment.
  4. One of the bigger stories in the college basketball world yesterday was Dana O’Neill’s story about former Villanova guard Will Sheridan publicly announcing that he was a homosexual. While we understand that this will be a big story and undoubtedly generate a lot of page views for ESPN, we are looking forward to the day when this isn’t even a story. The column itself is pretty interesting and takes an in-depth look at Sheridan’s life after Villanova, but the most interesting thing to us is that his teammates knew about it and didn’t seem to care. In our mind, that seems to be the biggest obstacle for a player “coming out” while they are still active. The fear of being ostracized seems to be within the realm of possibility and we have to applaud the Villanova players who were aware of it for how they handled “the news” and never let it get out or seem to bother them as we have seen with the recent Kobe Bryant controversy that there are still many ingrained attitudes about homosexuality that may be difficult to break in the world of sports.
  5. President Obama welcomed the national champion UConn Huskies to the White House. Unlike some recent championship ceremonies this one was without controversy although Kemba Walker apparently had a tough time getting there as he missed one flight and had another flight delayed before eventually finding his way to Washington, DC. The ceremony itself was fairly mundane except for a few jokes that Obama made about how UConn reminded him of his busted bracket (he picked Kansas to win) and his difficulty with the name of Adolph Rupp.
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Where Does Jim Calhoun Rank Historically?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2011

We realize that Jim Calhoun hasn’t decided to retire yet and there is still a pretty good chance that he will come back for at least one more season given his frequently stated desire to always look for a fight. Still we think that it is reasonable to suggest that even if he doesn’t retire during this off-season he will be retiring in the near future given his age (he will turn 69 in May) and well-documented medical history. So we ask the question that has been on the minds of many journalists during the past few days: where does he rank historically?

Calhoun already has quite a legacy

By almost any measure (ignoring the opinions of some rival fans) Calhoun would be considered a top 10 coach all-time putting him into a category that includes such luminaries as John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, Phog Allen, and others. That much is obvious, but once you get into that group the measures used to differentiate those coaches gets more subtle. Certainly a coach would need to have longevity and a consistent record of putting winning teams on the floor, which could be measured by the career wins. A good bar to set there would probably be 600 wins. If you want to argue for a higher standard be careful because the legendary John Wooden “only” had 664 career wins, a number that many current number-crunching analysts would deem paltry compared to others in this group. Winning championships is certainly important, but as this season clearly demonstrated it doesn’t necessarily reflect having the best team, which Northern Arizona coach Mike Adrus indicated with his vote in the final coaches’ poll. Still at some point that is what the sport boils down to. When we look back at this season we will remember UConn’s tournament run more than Pittsburgh‘s excellent regular season. Setting the bar at 2 NCAA titles narrows the group down to 13, but includes individuals like Billy Donovan, who picked up his championships in back-to-back years, and would have a hard time making a list of top 10 active coaches much less top 10 all-time. It also leaves much to be desired when you consider that highly successful coaches like Jim Boeheim and John Thompson only have one championship each despite having a much bigger historical impact on college basketball than Donovan (at least to this point). The next factor would probably be a coach’s impact on the program and the game, which is a more nebulous concept and consequently impossible  to quantify. Still all other things being equal you would probably have to give the nod to someone who turned a program from an also-ran into a national power over someone who took over at a traditional power and continued to win even if that coach did bring the program up a notch or two. Others have undertaken the endeavor of trying  to rank coaches in order with The Sporting News being the most notable among them, but that isn’t our objective (at least not for today). Instead we will focus on Calhoun, his legacy, and his place in the history of the game.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 3rd, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Kemba Walker finally admitted what most onlookers believed: he’s getting tired. While his supporting cast has stepped up, he’ll need to reach back for just a little more on Monday.
  • Elite company awaits Jim Calhoun if the Huskies beat Butler. With one more win, Calhoun would become just the fifth coach in NCAA Tournament history to win three titles. The others are John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Adolph Rupp.
  • Shabazz Napier cooly made the decisive free throws to put Connecticut up four with two seconds to go. As a freshman at the Final Four, it takes a lot of guts to succeed in a pressure situation like that.
  • UConn’s freshmen starred alongside Kemba Walker, but senior big man Charles Okwandu has fought perhaps harder than anyone in the Huskies locker room for his spot on the team.
  • The news of Nate Miles‘ willingness to speak with the NCAA about his recruitment comes at an inconvenient time for UConn, and at least one columnist believes the gesture is reprehensible and that any new information revealed will be tough to vet.
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Two Minutes’ Hate: The RTC Rivalry Series — Kentucky vs Louisville

Posted by jstevrtc on December 31st, 2010

One of the best things about college basketball is the rivalries. Whether rational or not, rivalries usually manifest themselves through the players and fans of the involved schools in the form of true, unmitigated disdain for the other side. Because we love making trouble, and with apologies to Orwell, we give you the Two Minutes’ Hate, a series of posts in which we give fans/bloggers/writers of both sides of a given rivalry a chance to vent about the other side, with minimal but identical prompting from us. We encouraged them to cut loose and hold nothing back, and we’ll be doing this with various rivalries throughout the year as such games arise. If you want to nominate a rivalry or even offer a submission, email us at JStevRTC@gmail.com. And remember, the published opinions are those of the respondents and not necessarily those of RTC, heh heh.

Today’s Rivals: Louisville and Kentucky

Coaches Crum And Hall Might Be Smiling Here, But BOY, Do These Two Teams Hate Each Other.

First, speaking on behalf of the Cardinals, we have Mike from the excellent Louisville site Card Chronicle. You can follow him on Twitter here. And you should, if for no other reason than because his bio describes him as the “fourth-ranked Chaucer scholar in the Ohio Valley.”

1. In your opinion, what was the Ville’s greatest win over UK?

The 1983 “Dream Game” without a doubt.

Even after Louisville had established itself as a national power, Kentucky refused to play them. The game finally happened in ’83 when the teams were paired in the same region and met in the Mideast Regional championship on March 26 in Knoxville. Despite a buzzer-beating shot by Jim Master to send the game into overtime, the Cardinals ran off 14 straight points in the extra period and prevailed, 80-68.

The U of L community erupted and quickly the governor, legislators and even the boards of trustees at both universities began to talk about a series between the two. Shortly thereafter, the announcement was made that Louisville and Kentucky would begin playing each other annually.

The game played a huge role in making the rivalry what it is today. If Louisville loses that day, the two might still not be playing annually.

2. What was the most painful loss?

Probably the ’04 game where Louisville led by 15 at half and as many as 18 before the Cats came all the way back and won it on Patrick Sparks‘ free-throws with less than a second left. Sparks walked twice. Neither were called. Louisville won the game.

Still, we went to the Final Four a few months later and UK didn’t.

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Morning Five: 12.09.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2010

  1. It might upset the majority of the college basketball world, but Cameron Indoor was the center of the college basketball universe for yet another night. The clear big news of the night was Coach K surpassing Adolph Rupp on the all-time Division I wins list (more on that in After the Buzzer), but the bigger issue for Duke and the rest of college basketball this season is Kyrie Irving‘s injured foot, which will reportedly keep him out for at least a month. The Blue Devils have the players to continue to win during Irving’s absence, but it raises the possibility that Irving might not be completely back later this season, which suddenly makes Duke seem much more vulnerable. Or maybe not…
  2. The other big story of the night was Jimmer Fredette‘s homecoming against Vermont in a game that was moved to Glenn Falls, NY. It has been talked to death and was even covered in one of our RTC Lives last night, but we would be remiss if we didn’t provide you with this picture that sums up the atmosphere last night:

    The star of the night (Credit: T.J. Hooker / PostStar.com)

  3. Earlier this year we mentioned the field in the 2011 Maui Invitational as the most loaded in the famed tournament’s history and yesterday we mentioned the coming 3-year series of games between Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan State billed as “The Champions Classic that we can safely say is the best planned set of games we can remember seeing. All of this begs the question, after all the talk by college football/BCS defenders about how the BCS makes the college football regular season more important than the college basketball regular season: is it possible that college basketball might be developing the better regular season too?
  4. We’re sort of confused about how everyone is talking about “must-win” games at the beginning of December. While Joe Lunardi doesn’t quite fall into that category yet, he is already questioning the potential NCAA Tournament credentials of Butler and Gonzaga, a pair of perennial NCAA Tournament teams. (Insider Access required, sorry.)
  5. Finally, yesterday we brought you differing opinions from Jason King and Jeff Goodman about the impact that Josh Selby’s return would have on a Jayhawk team that was already playing well. Opinion was divided on whether the impact would be positive or destructive, so Mike DeCourcy decided to weigh in and you can count him in the camp that believes that Selby will make Kansas an even better team.
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ATB: Coach K Climbs to Third All-Time in Wins

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2010

The Lede. A Leader Who Happens To Coach Basketball. If you can’t stand Duke and/or Coach K you might want to stay off the Internet for a while because you are going to be hearing about them a lot over the next few months. While the Blue Devils picked up their 19th straight win and 27th in 28 games, this game will be remembered (particularly by those in The Bluegrass State) as the game where Coach K surpassed Adolph Rupp on the all-time Division I wins list. In Duke’s first game without Kyrie Irving, who could be out indefinitely with a toe injury, the Blue Devils relied on their superior athleticism, depth, and execution to crush a respectable Bradley team, 83-48. The Braves’ four losses this season coming in were by a combined 22 points, but they weren’t that fortunate tonight as the Blue Devils blew them out by 35 points. Playing in place of Irving, Andre Dawkins was more than adequate as he scored 28 points including 8 of 14 from beyond the arc. Duke may not be the same dynamic team without Irving, but they are still really, really good. As for Coach K, now that he has passed Rupp for third he only has two more coaches ahead of him (Dean Smith at 879 and Bobby Knight at 902). We don’t think we need to tell you about the type of hysteria that you will see when he approaches those two living legends in the coming weeks and months.

Coach K has his sights set on The General

Your Watercooler Moment. Playing with a women’s ball in Illinois. Coach K might have dominated the mainstream college basketball media’s attention tonight, but the Twitter-verse was dominated by the strange situation in Illinois where the Fighting Illini and Oakland Golden Grizzlies played the first seven minutes of their game with a women’s basketball before Mike Tisdale noticed that something felt wrong and pointed it out to the official who switched the ball. Having dealt with that the Fighting Illini rallied from down nine early to defeat a tough Golden Grizzlies team by a score of 74-63. Although we would like to be able to attribute the Golden Grizzlies early success to playing with a women’s ball (they outscored Illinois 15-6 while playing with the women’s ball and were outscored 68-48 with the men’s basketball) that would be selling their effort short as they led the #16 team in the country until there were 15 minutes left in the game.  Demetri McCamey scored nine points in 62 seconds to give Bruce Weber’s squad a quick seven-point lead, which they never relinquished after that point.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • Steve Fisher’s Quips.  His team is now 9-0 after defeating California tonight, but the longtime coach of the San Diego State Aztecs thinks that his home folks might be going a little overboard with their support and faith of the team.  As he put it, “they think we can play the Celtics… and if Kevin Garnett didn’t play, they think we’d have a chance.”  In this clip, he also talks about how big of a deal it is for his squad to defeat a Pac-10 opponent on their own floor, as it hasn’t happened for a very long time (the answer: SDSU last did it in 1982 vs. Oregon in Eugene, well before Fisher could even spell Fab Five).

  • Glens Falls, New York.  Seemingly an entire town came out to watch its prodigal son, Jimmer Fredette, return to play basketball.  The star guard scored 26 points in variety of ways to thrill the beyond-capacity home crowd at the Glens Falls Civic Center tonight.  Take a read through Tae Andrews’ RTC Live at the arena tonight — people were sitting or standing in every available space in this building.  We love to see support like that — more teams should do this sort of thing for the local HS heroes that move on.

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ATB: Thank God We’re Not the BCS Weekend Recap

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2010

The LedeThankfully We Decide Our Champions on the Court.  And we don’t use awful naming conventions when doing it.  Imagine if the First Four was actually called the Toys “R” Us First Four, or the Final Four became the Batesville Casket Company Final Four?  That’s essentially what we’re looking at with some of these absurd bowl names — our favorites: the Beef “O” Brady Bowl and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.  Maybe the two bowls should morph together and then they’d have the whole eating thing figured out.  On to more serious issues, though.  For seemingly the fourteenth consecutive year, the BCS national title game featuring Auburn and Oregon is not without controversy, as there are three unbeaten teams left standing with only two spots available.  Perhaps you’re of the opinion that a school like TCU (12-0), with its weak schedule and lack of gridiron pedigree, is not worthy of playing in that sports’ marquee event.  To this we say: neither was Butler.  Yet somehow the small college from the north side of Indianapolis that didn’t belong there found itself capable of beating two of basketball’s best coaches (Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo) and come within a hair of beating its best (Mike Krzyzewski).  It’s an absurd system that if used in basketball would guarantee that Duke would have won at least ten “mythical” national titles in the last twenty years, while robbing us of the magic of schools like George Mason and Butler along the way.  Critics of the system correctly point out that FBS college football is the only NCAA sport that does not have a playoff system to determine its champion, but it’s also the only American sport that becomes less interesting as the season progresses.  The single most exciting time is kickoff weekend, when anything seems possible.  Enjoy your BBVA Compass Bowl featuring a 2-6 SEC team, folks — we’ll be over here watching games that actually build up to something.

This Weekend’s Marquee Games.  For additional analysis on the major games from Saturday check out our Instant Analyses from Saturday (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Zeller Was Great Against UK on Saturday (AP/G. Broome)

  • Over 4,000 Wins in Chapel Hill. But it was the embattled Tar Heels of North Carolina who added win #2009 on this day, as Tyler Zeller reminded us how good he can be when he asserts himself (27/11/5 blks).  In a wrinkle we’ve never seen before, Zeller fouled out the entire Kentucky frontline with his play inside; his length (along with teammate John Henson’s) frustrated UK star forward Terrence Jones for the first time all season (3-17 FG for nine points).  The Carolina guard play still left something to be desired, shooting 6-24 from the field and totaling 21 points, but this is a known commodity — Carolina’s rise and fall this season will generally rest on how well their big men play each night out.  We came away from this game thinking that we were viewing two flawed teams — Kentucky on the inside, and UNC on the perimeter — but that Kentucky, despite losing the game, has the greater upside.
  • National Title Rematch. Butler proved for more than a half that it wasn’t going to quietly skulk away into the night after its run to the national championship game and a shaky start to this season.  As our correspondent Matt Patton wrote from the game: “First off, Butler can play: people have been down on the Bulldogs after they were blown out by Louisville and upset by Evansville, but they showed that they still have some star power and one of the smartest coaches in the game in Brad Stevens.  I thought Stevens really kept Duke on their heels the first half, giving the Blue Devils fits with a triangle and two zone and expertly controlling the tempo during the first half.  Butler also showcased some impressive depth, outscoring Duke’s talented bench 33-13 (a large amount of that credit goes to Shawn Vanzant, who had a spectacular second half).  If the Bulldogs take care of the ball like they did today and keep their stars on the court (i.e. minimize fouls and injuries), they can still surprise some people come March.”  We don’t disagree at all.  Butler isn’t a top ten team, but they will always play legitimate defense, and once they get their sea legs under them, nobody will want to face the Bulldogs (again) next Spring.
  • Battle of Seattle.  We haven’t been as high as many others have been on Gonzaga this year, and any injury to Elias Harris notwithstanding, the reason was fully on display Saturday in the Battle of Seattle game against Illinois: the Zags don’t defend.  Illinois has never traditionally been a high-octane offense under Bruce Weber, but against a Gonzaga defense that would rather reach than move, Illinois repeatedly picked Mark Few’s team apart for wide-open threes (12-23) and dunks.  Giving up twelve treys is a problem against any team, and this is the second time this season that the Zags have done so in a loss (Kansas State was the other).  This definitely appears to be Weber’s best Illini squad since the 2005 national runner-up, and it helps in that Illinois has six players capable of putting up double figures any given night.  The maturation of Brandon Paul in particular from a gunner incapable of taking a good shot in the flow of the offense (33% last year) to a disciplined shooter (52% this year) has been a pleasure to watch.  This Illinois team is capable of big things this year.

SoCal Upsets. The most surprising upsets of the weekend came at the very end of it, as the two biggest Los Angeles programs made news in one way or another.  First, UCLA, coming off a loss against top-five Kansas on Thursday night that universally slammed the officials for bailing the Jayhawks out, must have still been feeling the effects.  They allowed Montana (without Anthony Johnson, mind you) to come into Pauley Pavilion and shoot 52% in a 66-57 victory that must have UCLA fans scratching their heads perplexed.  The two stars of the Kansas game, Tyler Honeycutt and Joshua Smith, combined for 4-20 shooting and 15 total points.  Meanwhile, on the other side of town, USC, a team who had already racked up bad losses against Rider, Bradley, TCU and Nebraska, managed to completely flummox the young Texas Longhorns for an easy 73-56 victory.  If you saw either one of these results coming, then you’re well beyond the scope of this site.  Unbelievable.

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National Championship Game Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on April 4th, 2010

RTC has attempted to break down the NCAA Tournament and Final Four games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses. Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds. Here are our thoughts on the national title game. Whomever you’re rooting for, we hope you enjoy it.

9:07 PM — #1 Duke vs #5 Butler

The six months since practices started have passed like a dream. As fans of college basketball, we travel this road every year from mid-October to early April. We always know our destination well in advance, we just don’t know who we’re going to find there. Therein lies the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. The entirety of that six months is spent trying to determine one thing: who’s playin’ on Monday night.

What a situation in which we find ourselves at the end of this particular journey. The fates have determined that the answer to the second most important question of the season is, “Butler and Duke.” There’s only one question left, the biggest one of all. All those practices, weightlifting sessions, sprints, miles, interviews, and games for each of these players on those two teams is now distilled down to one query:

What will you do on Monday night?

Hayward can guard anyone on the floor. And probably will. (AP)

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 22nd, 2009

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky 12-0
  2. Florida 8-2
  3. Tennessee 8-2
  4. South Carolina 8-3
  5. Vanderbilt 8-3
  6. Georgia 5-4

WEST

  1. Mississippi 10-1
  2. Mississippi State 9-2
  3. LSU 8-2
  4. Alabama 7-4
  5. Arkansas 6-5
  6. Auburn 5-6

Kentucky set a new standard in college basketball as they became the first program to win 2,000 wins in an 88-44 romp over Drexel.  John Calipari is more than exceeding expectations with a 12-0 record and a #3 ranking in both polls.  UK appears to be gelling right now and are clearly setting the standard in the SEC. Unfortunately, the UK game was about the only highlight in the SEC this week as both Florida and Tennessee suffered head scratching losses.  The two Mississippi schools are starting to rise and play very well and the SEC is turning into a five or six team race.

In the polls, the Wildcats hold on to the number 3 ranking in both polls.  Tennessee falls out of the top ten to 14 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top #25.  The Florida Gators fell to #18 in both polls after their second straight loss.  The Ole Miss Rebels did move up to #15 in the AP Top #25 but are at #21 in the ESPN/USA Today. Despite a few strong weeks, Mississippi State would appear logically to be the next SEC team to crack the polls but they are not getting much love from the voters and it may be a couple more weeks before a 5th team joins the rankings.

Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He averaged 9.5 PPG on 88.9 FG% to go with 5.0 RPG and 3.0 blocks in two wins.   Georgia’s Trey Thompkins named SEC Player of the Week.  He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in a victory over Illinois .

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:

Just a few stocking stuffers strewn through the week, but the real present of the week is the Mississippi/West Virginia matchup.  Here is a look at some of the key games this week:

12/22:  South Alabama (8-4) @ Florida (8-2) – 7 PM – ESPN 360

12/22:  Missouri State (10-0) @ Arkansas (6-5) – 8PM

12/22:  LSU (8-2) @ Washington State (9-2) – 10 PM

12/23:  Long Beach State (6-4) @ Kentucky (11-0) – 1 PM

12/23:  Mississippi (10-1) @ West Virginia (8-0) – 7:30PM – ESPN2

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST

Kentucky (#3, #3) — Kentucky, behind Patrick Patterson’s 21 points, overcame an overall sluggish performance and pulled away from the Austin Peay Governors late for a 90-69 win on Saturday.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and John Wall threw in 11 to lead the Wildcats.  With the 11-0 start, Calipari eclipsed Adolph Rupp’s record for best start by a first year coach.   UK was a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line in the game and that helped to thwart any Governor’s comebacks.  Two days later, UK assured there would be no drama in getting their 2,000th win as they jumped out to a 56-20 halftime lead en route to an 88-44 romp over Drexel.   Patterson and Cousins each had 18 points and Cousins grabbed 13 boards to lead UK.  An amazing stat from the week is that UK went 35-37 from the free throw line for the two games.

Florida (#18 , #18) — The Gators blew an eight point lead and were upset by the Richmond Spiders 56-53 on Saturday night.  This was the second straight loss for UF, who started the season 8-0 and reached #10 in the rankings.  It was a sloppy game as both teams shot 38% and despite having a 10 rebound advantage, the Gators were outhustled by the scrappy Spiders.

Tennessee (#16, #14) — Tennessee opened the SEC week Tuesday night with a 77-58 win over the Wyoming Cowboys.  The Vols only led by one at the half but had a very good defensive second half and pulled away for the win. Scotty Hopson continued to pace the Vols with 14 points and Wayne Chism had 13.  It does say something about the Vols overall strength when they can win by 19 despite being outrebounded and going 4-20 from beyond the 3 point line.  On Saturday, Bruce Pearl suffered his worse loss at Knoxville and the #8 Vols were routed 77-55 by the 4-4 USC Trojans.  Hopson was the only Vol that turned out to play and he had 16 points.  In comparison, the rest of the starting lineup scored just 23 points.  Tennessee could not mount any challenge to the Trojans with their 2-22 three-point shooting.

South Carolina — The Gamecocks broke open a 52-all tie with a 24-6 run to pull out a 76-58 win over the upset-minded Richmond Spiders last Wednesday.  Devan Downey led the way with 18 points and Johndre Jefferson had a nice performance off the bench (12 pts, 8 boards) to help South Carolina continue to win without Dominique Archie.  On Saturday the Gamecocks suffered a crushing lost to the Wofford Terriers, 68-61.  South Carolina had won the previous 21 meetings against Wofford, who have also beaten the Georgia Bulldogs this year.  Downey led the USC scoring with 17 and Brandis Raley-Ross had 14.  The Gamecocks rebounded from the devastating news that Archie is lost for the year by blasting the Furman Paladins 81-57 Monday night.  Sam Muldrow and Devan Downey both had 16 to lead the Gamecocks.

VanderbiltJeffrey Taylor had 20 points on white hot 10-11 shooting as Vanderbilt rebounded from a rough week last week with a 84-71 win over the Tennessee State Tigers.   A.J. Ogilvy, apparently relegated to the bench for now, added 11 points and 6 boards in just 15 minutes.   The Commodores had a great shooting night, hitting 67.9% from the field.  Then last night the Commodores used 60% shooting to blast the Mercer Bears 99-59.  This was a game where the Commodores got a lot of production off their bench with 17 points from John Jenkins and A.J. Ogilvy had 11 points in just 15 minutes.

GeorgiaTrey Thompkins hit four straight free throw attempts in the final 22.2 seconds to finish with 21 points and help Georgia beat Illinois 70-67 on Saturday night.  This was was the biggest win of the Mark Fox era as the Illini came into the game at 8-2.  Travis Leslie added 17 points as the Bulldogs improved to 5-4.

WEST

Mississippi (#15, #21) — The Ole Miss Rebels are becoming King of the Comeback as they came from behind in the third straight game to force OT vs the UTEP Miners on Wednesday, then dominated the extra period en route to a 91-81 victory.  Chris Warren had a career high 32 points and 5 3-pointers.  Terrico White added three treys and 19 points.  The Rebels won their 6th game in a row with a 108-64 romp over the Centenary Gentlemen on Saturday.  Ole Miss hardly broke a sweat in posting a 30 point halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way.   The Rebs were led by White’s 17 and the team nailed 11 treys to key the romp.

Mississippi State — Mississippi State used 63% shooting to put away the Wright State Raiders 80-69.  The Bulldogs got impressive showings from their guards rather than their forwards.   Barry Stewart hit five treys and had 21 points while Dee Bost had 11 assists to key the Bulldog win.   Jarvis Varnado, who entered the day leading the nation in blocks this season, added five more to help Mississippi State to its sixth-straight win in a 70-64 victory over Houston on Saturday.  If that is not enough, Varnado added 17 boards and 13 points.  Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost both added 15 points for the Bulldogs.

AlabamaMikhail Torrance scored 15 points and had seven assists, and JaMychal Green added 14 points to lead Alabama to a 60-45 victory over Samford.  The game only featured six free throws and a total of 15 fouls between the two teams.  In their other matchup, the Tide came out flat and were generally dominated in a 87-74 loss to #22 Kansas State.  Alabama did manage a late run that cut an 18 point deficit to seven, but ran out of gas as Kansas State pulled away again.  Torrance had 20 and Green added 17 for the Alabama cause.

LSUTasmin Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining in the game lifted LSU to a 63-60 victory over Nicholls State on Thursday night.  LSU continued it’s trend of struggling with lesser teams with the 3-9 Colonels.  Mitchell was 11-14 for the game and had 27 points and Storm Warren had a double double with 13 points and 11 boards.  Bo Spencer scored 22 points, including two important free throws in the final minute, to lead LSU to a 65-61 victory against Rice on Saturday.  Mitchell had a double double with 10 points and 12 boards as LSU improved to 8-0 at home.

Arkansas — On Wednesday, the shorthanded Razorbacks had to face Alabama State without the SEC’s leading scorer Rotnei Clarke (tendinitis) but still got a compete team effort to beat the Hornets, 76-51.  Michael Washington had 22 points and Marshawn Powell 13 to help the Hogs.  Washington scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Arkansas held off Stephen F. Austin 72-69 on Saturday.  Stefan Walsh added 13 points off the bench as the Hogs moved above .500 at 6-5.

Auburn — The Tigers let a great opportunity for a signature win slip through it’s fingers with a 76-72 loss at Florida State.  DeWayne Reed and Frankie Sullivan both scored 17 points and the Tigers nailed 13 treys but could not close the gap for the upset win.  On Sunday, the Tigers became a signature win for another program as they lost 107-89 to the Sam Houston State Bearkats.  Auburn became the first SEC victory for the Bearkats who threw 92 points up on Kentucky earlier this season.  Reed’s 19 led the way for the Tigers.

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UK2K

Posted by jstevrtc on December 21st, 2009

On Monday night, the University of Kentucky will welcome the Drexel Dragons into Rupp Arena for a 7:00 PM ET tilt that — no disrespect to Drexel, here, we’re just playing the percentages — could give UK its 12th win of the season against no losses, and could further the record for best start at UK for a first-year coach.  Previously held by (no surprises here) Adolph Rupp, who started the 1931 season with ten straight wins, John Calipari took that record for himself with the Wildcats’ win over Austin Peay on Saturday.

Just your typical Monday night, post-finals week, holiday season, non-conference game, eh?

Oh, yeah.  There’s this other thing.

As you likely know by now, a win over the Dragons on Monday evening will mark win #2,000 for the Kentucky program.  They’ll beat North Carolina to that finish line by eight wins, or about a month.

While acknowledging how impressive that number is and what it means to Kentucky fans, the players and coaches in Lexington are largely dismissing the occasion with a sort of wave of the hand, seeing it not so much as a finish line but a milepost on the way to another finish line located in Indianapolis in early April.  That makes sense, when you figure that Calipari himself will only be responsible of 12 of those 2,000 wins, and that even the three current Kentucky seniors — Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, and Mark Krebs — can lay claim to only 74 of them, a mere 4%.

Any wearer of the Kentucky uniform, past or present, should certainly feel a part of this achievement.  No doubt about that.  Calipari said it best, though, in a recent AP story about reaching 2,000 wins when he simply said, “It’s important to the Commonwealth.”

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Knight’s Calipari Remark — Let It Go

Posted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2009

No doubt by now you’ve heard about Bobby Knight’s return trip to Indiana last night to speak at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and the lick he got in on Kentucky head honcho John Calipari.  Just so we’ll have it in front of us, here’s what the General said:

“We’ve gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that’s why I’m glad I’m not coaching.  You see, we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching.  I really don’t understand that.”

That’s from the ESPN.com report on Knight’s trip to Indianapolis for his speaking appearance.  The initial reaction for most people is going to be to question Bob Knight’s definition of integrity.  They’ll reel off a laundry list of Knight’s transgressions and try to discredit him in that fashion.  They’ll assault his character and call him all kinds of nasty names.  Much will be written about the irony of Bob Knight accusing another man of a lack of integrity.

Forget the slam...does he have his facts right?

Forget the slam...does he have his facts right?

Of greater importance to us, though, is the actual content of what the guy said.  Everything you read is going to focus on his slam of Calipari (though he didn’t actually say the name, for some reason), but we think any examination of the statement should start with a much more basic question:  is what he said factual?  Were things really “cleaner” back in the good ol’ days of Knight’s time of prowling the sideline?  And did John Calipari really put two schools on probation?

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Thoughts On The Sporting News’ Top 50 Coaches List…

Posted by jstevrtc on July 31st, 2009

By now you’ve probably seen the list published earlier this week by The Sporting News naming their Fifty Greatest Coaches of All Time, across all sports.  And most likely you’ve at least seen that the legendary John Wooden tops that list, a selection about which this blogger has not heard one single detractor, not even one with a bad argument.  What’s interesting to me is the names from the college basketball world that follow Wooden on that list.  Here they are; I added two coaches at the end who did not make the TSN list (though one would think they might) just for the discussion:

TSN all-time coaches

The first thing that strikes me is where John Wooden ranks on the all-time Division 1 wins list.  21st??!?  It’s always been obvious that in these lofty heights number of wins has never been a great indicator of coaching ability, since teams just didn’t play as many games until the 80s when that number really took off.  That would seem to make winning percentage a more important statistic.  But not on this list, it appears.  If that statistic mattered here, you wouldn’t expect Dean Smith to be quite as high, and you’d expect Adolph Rupp to be higher; you would certainly expect Roy Williams to at least make the list.  Final fours?  Nope.  Dean Smith would be appropriately stationed, but Mike Krzyzewski would be higher along with Rupp, and again you’d think Williams would get on.   And so on.  No single major statistic appears to have guided the thinking, here.

The question is, does this reduce the validity or credibility of the list?  According to TSN, their panel consisted of “seven World Series-winning managers, four Super Bowl champion coaches, and the winningest coaches in the NBA, NHL, and college basketball.”  I’m not saying they necessarily got anything wrong — who better to ask about coaches than players and other coaches?  It is at least obvious that there’s only one thing the panel considered, at least in terms of how the best coaches in college basketball fell on the list — reputation.

No contest.   (credit: scout.com)

No contest. (credit: scout.com)

The selection of Wooden at the top cannot be argued because he’s got the reputation, the aura, and too much of the overall look of the statistics on his side.  After that it’s a crapshoot depending on what you think is the most important determiner of coaching greatness.  To the TSN panel, it’s something akin to curb appeal that influenced them.  Would Bob Knight not have been higher than 16th on an all-time coaches list were it not for his acerbic nature?  Would Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith have been closer together were it not for Rupp’s reputation (whether you think he deserves it or not) as a bigot, and/or Smith having an image bordering on — dare I say it — holy?  Is Roy Williams still being punished for his inability to win the big one while at Kansas?  And what of Pat Summitt?  She’s the only one who could even challenge Wooden in terms of college basketball coaches; her numbers are barely conceivable, and then you throw in her 1oo% graduation rate (yes, that’s right, every Tennessee player on her watch who has completed their eligibility there has also graduated).  Should she be higher than 11th on the whole thing?  And if you want to talk about the effect of reputation on this list, there probably isn’t a better example than the appearance of the late great Pete Newell.  Only 357 games coached, a single title, only two Final Fours, and the lowest winning percentage on the coaches on the above list.  But he goes and forms the Big Man Camp — and eventually what he would call the Tall Women’s Basketball Camp (I guess “Big Woman’s Camp” wasn’t an appealing name for such a place) — and finds a way to coach players in a way that didn’t directly show up as wins and losses, and here he is, on the overall list ahead of people like Joe Torre, Tom Osborne, Toe Blake, and Chuck Daly.  In addition, if you ask any coach, they’ll tell you that, before he died, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a better coach and man than Mr. Newell.  Does he belong on the list?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know one thing — the list generates great discussion (especially in the summer lull), so come on…let’s hear from the Duke fans who think Coach K got screwed, let’s hear from the UNC fans who think Smith-Williams should be 1-2.  Let’s hear from the UK fans who think Rupp is too great to be even considered on such a list.  Knowing the passion of college hoop fans and the readers of this site, it should be good.

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