Big East M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 8th, 2013

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  1. Managing pregame nerves is a key for any team, especially at the beginning of the season when freshmen are being introduced to the college level and other players are taking on new and more important roles. The nerves haven’t avoided Creighton, which opens up the season at home tonight against Alcorn State, but for the most part, it sounds like the Bluejays are handling things well… or, at least more cleanly than some of Greg McDermott’s former players: “I once had a guy that would throw up before every game,” the Creighton coach told The Omaha World-Herald‘s Steven Pivovar. This Bluejays team is experienced, with a ton of returning pieces in both the starting rotation and coming off the bench, so nervousness about the 2013-14 season should be at a minimum. They do exist, though, as guard Grant Gibbs acknowledges: “Pregame jitters are real, especially if you haven’t played in front of a lot of people. I think that’s the biggest adjustment, having a lot of people watching you. But it’s still basketball, and it’s something you have to deal with.”
  2.  MyCentralJersey.com’s Jerry Carino filed a lengthy preview of the Seton Hall season yesterday, complete with the presumptive strengths and weaknesses of the team as well as a schedule and full roster breakdown. Carino believes this to be the deepest Pirates squad in years, and expects Kevin Willard to run as many as 11 players on to the court on a nightly basis. He’s excited about the shooting and play-making ability of guard Sterling Gibbs, who will man the point for Seton Hall this year. The schedule, without powerhouses like UConn, Syracuse, and Louisville getting in the way, should open up a bit for a team like Seton Hall that was constantly fighting to stay afloat in the old Big East. It may be a good sign that Carino’s negative list is a bit less tangible; he lists “injury hangover” and a void in vocal leadership along with a lack of depth as guard, as the reasons that Seton Hall may struggle this year.
  3. Georgetown is over in South Korea in anticipation of tonight’s Armed Forces Classic match-up with Oregon, and the Hoyas spent their first day at Camp Humphreys touring the facilities and meeting with soldiers in between practices. The team also held a clinic for the children of soldiers on the base. Forward Nate Lubick is especially grateful for the chance to connect with those serving overseas for the United States: “This was just a great opportunity to get a close up look at what life is like for the men and women who protect our country. We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to come here and play a game and to thank them for all they do.”
  4. St. John’s has been great at manufacturing top freshmen during the Steve Lavin era, and this year’s top newcomer may be the most important. Rysheed Jordan, a highly-touted point guard out of Philadelphia, has been given the keys to Lavin’s offense, a unit with a lot of talent at its disposal between fiery shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison and athletic sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, last year’s top Big East freshman. However, it sounds like he may make a huge impact on the other end of the floor as well. According to Lavin: “He’s one of the more special talents. He’s so disruptive defensively. There’s no frills in his game. He’s all business in practices and games. He’s all about winning and already taking leadership.” Hopes are high for a St. John’s team that has been compiling talent under Lavin, but has yet to really break through with his guys. If Jordan, who is donning the number ’23′ on the back of his red jersey, lives up to the high standards he is setting for himself, the Johnnies may contend at the top of the Big East and play meaningful ball in March.
  5. Butler guard Jackson Aldridge is having a rough go of it as of late – his playing time seems to be waning as the team has brought in impressive young players at his position, and his best friend Andrew Smeathers recently announced that he would leave the program. Despite this adversity, Aldridge has said that he will not be going down the same path as Smeathers, and will stick things out with the Bulldogs: “Leaving is not for me. As this whole (situation) has been going on this week, people don’t understand, just how attached Andy was, and I am, and everyone else is, to this program and this place.” Aldridge’s minutes were cut last year as a sophomore to six per game after averaging almost 14 MPG as a freshmen, when he also contributed 3.7 points per game. A paltry 17 percent field goal percentage is probably a major reason for the drop-off. In the team’s first exhibition this year against Nova Southeastern, Aldridge had a nice performance, scoring eight points and dishing out two assists in just 10 minutes of action. He was not quite as impressive in the second exhibition against DePauw, scoring two points in 11 minutes, but more performances like his first exhibition could help him clinch a decent role in the Bulldogs’ rotation.
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Michael Carter-Williams Impresses Jim Boeheim in a Rhode Island Homecoming

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 10th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite writers who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Syracuse and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has had more impressive games this season than last night’s 17-point, six-assist, six-rebound, five-steal effort against Providence.  The 6’6″ guard, who grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts, and played his high school ball 15 minutes from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, Rhode Island, has flirted with triple-doubles on various occasions this season, missing the milestone by a single assist or rebound three times already. Last night, the general steadiness with which Carter-Williams ran Jim Boeheim‘s offense impressed the venerable head coach.

Carter-Williams' steady point guard play helped Syracuse grind out a win at Providence.

Carter-Williams’ steady point guard play helped Syracuse grind out a win at Providence.

Carter-Williams’ play for Syracuse this year has been almost revelatory, considering the sophomore played few meaningful minutes last season. After the game, when asked about his guard’s ascent from little-used freshman to All-American sophomore, Boeheim made a comparison to perhaps the greatest point guard in school history:  Sherman Douglas, who sat behind Pearl Washington as a freshman before leading the Orangemen to a national championship game berth as a sophomore. Boeheim spent a large portion of his presser discussing Carter-Williams’ play, as one would expect in Providence, saying that “MCW” is “playing as well as you can expect.”

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Big East M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 31st, 2012

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  1. Early in the season, one of the things that the 2012-13 Syracuse Orange seemed to have on the 2011-12 edition was reliable three-point shooting. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney can both act potentially as knock-down shooters for Jim Boeheim. Syracuse has struggled to score recently, and poor outside shooting is one of the main reasons for this lull. The Orange are now shooting 32% from behind the arc this season, and are just 5-of-33 since halftime of the win over Detroit. Boeheim acknowledges this issue, but doesn’t offer up much in the way of a detailed solution after Syracuse’s win over Alcorn State: “Well, it is what it is… Whatever the stats are, they don’t lie. Shooting stats don’t lie. Some people think they do. But they don’t.”
  2. With a dwindling lead against archrival Kentucky, Louisville’s Russ Smith started doing what he’s done all season – he made huge plays. Pat Forde describes how strange it is for Cardinals fans to think of Smith as their star, even this far into the season: “The improbable rise of Russ Smith as a s-s-s-star (hard to type with a straight face) has keyed everything Louisville has done last March and so far this season.” Louisville is right about where most people expected they would be, but Smith’s breakout has shifted the focus off of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, the players that people expected to lead the Cardinals to a great 2012-13 season.  Siva, Dieng, Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, and a slew of other Cardinals are still very dangerous college players, and when combined with the dynamo Smith, who is averaging a shade under 20 points per game, Louisville is set to make major noise come March.
  3. GoLocalProv sports writer Scott Cordischi thinks that Providence coach Ed Cooley needs to ‘cool’ it down with regards to calling out his players after games. When asked a question about LaDontae Henton’s stretch of 24 straight points for the Friars in a loss to Brown, Cooley ignored Henton’s offensive outburst and put down his defensive performance, calling it “awful.” Cordischi also notes that Cooley alluded to the team as soft with regards to Bryce Cotton’s injuries, and earlier in the year diminished a 13-assist effort by Kris Dunn in his first collegiate game, calling it “gross.” While many coaches in all sports use the media to motivate their teams, I can see where Cordischi is concerned that Cooley is being too negative with respect to his players. Losses to teams like Brown are frustrating, but those thing will happen with a young, raw team like Providence.
  4. The transfer of Malcolm Gilbert from Pitt to Fairfield may be disconcerting to some Panthers fans, but it isn’t coming as a huge surprise to Jamie Dixon. Gilbert has always wanted to play with his brother Marcus, who is a freshman forward for the Stags, and he will have a chance to do that next season by leaving between semesters. Pitt fans may worry about this becoming a trend for Dixon’s program after losing Khem Birch last season, but the guys at Pitt blog Cardiac Hill don’t seem to be too worried, as this transfer seems to be more about an opportunity elsewhere rather than an issue with Dixon or the Panther program.
  5. USF star Anthony Collins was taken off the floor on a stretcher after being kneed in the head while diving for a loose ball during a 61-57 win over George Mason. After the game, Stan Heath said that Collins had feeling in all of his extremities, which is obviously a positive sign, but it is always jarring to see a player taken out of a game like that, especially in today’s sports world where concussions and head injuries are so prominent in the public consciousness. The Bulls also lost Victor Rudd to a concussion in the second half, and are very banged up heading into Big East play.
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Middleton Nearing Return for Texas A&M

Posted by dnspewak on December 6th, 2011

Khris Middleton could be returning to Texas A&M at exactly the right time.

The preseason All-Big 12 wing played in the Aggies’ season opener, but he underwent surgery for a partially torn meniscus in mid-November and has not played since. According to a tweet by Jon Rothstein today, Middleton participated in a full practice yesterday for the first time since his injury. Although no news outlets have reported anything about his official return yet, we’ve got to think A&M will have its star back by the time it plays Florida on December 17.

Middleton Is Back on the Practice Court After a Knee Injury

Without Middleton, the Aggies have managed to avoid disaster. At 6-1, they own a one-point win over St. John’s and have handled all of the inferior opponents on their schedule. But Billy Kennedy’s squad has also looked far from perfect. In its only true test of the season against Mississippi State in the NIT Tip-Off at the Garden, the Bulldogs embarrassed the Aggies, running away with the game during the first 10 minutes of regulation. Without Middleton, A&M looked lost offensively, and that has carried over throughout his month out of action. A&M struggled to pull away from the likes of Alcorn State and Stephen F. Austin, and they have been especially poor from three-point range. Against Alcorn, for example, they missed all 17 three-pointers they attempted.

If Middleton can return to A&M sometime during the next week, he could suit up for the game on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. The Aggies can survive without Middleton in the short term, but they’ll need him at full strength when they face the Gators. Middleton brings more than just his 14.4 points per game from the 2010-11 campaign. With a developed inside game as well the ability to shoot, he’s a matchup problem for almost every team. When he hits the court for the first time since his surgery, the dynamics of A&M’s team will change dramatically — for the better.

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Morning Five: 09.01.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 1st, 2011

  1. The SEC is hungry and continues to feed. Texas A&M is a nice meal but won’t suffice, and this is not a good thing, according to Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy. He asks the important and logical next question: who’s next? Not only does he list the schools most likely to be willingly absorbed by the SEC, he explains why each school should resist the temptation to allow that to happen. And if you think this is all about money, think again. There’s something more sinister fueling the current thinking behind conference realignment.
  2. We think he’s still mad at one of our editors who recently decided to root for Liverpool in the EPL, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t give credit to SI.com’s Andy Glockner and his article yesterday listing five teams that are due for a run of improved luck in the upcoming season. These squads weren’t randomly selected; each one finished in the bottom 50 in men’s D1 basketball in Ken Pomeroy’s luck statistic. A couple of Big Ten teams made the list, but the team that intrigued us the most was an Atlantic 10 side that hasn’t seen the NCAA Tournament in 11 years.
  3. Most of the time when we mention stories on former college basketball players, it’s a star who’s recently graduated/left the game who has done something altruistic with part of their big new paycheck, or dunked on someone in a summer league, or tweeted something stupid, and so on. Take a few minutes out of your day like we did — assuming you didn’t do so yesterday — to read the story by ESPN’s Dana O’Neil about a former Alcorn State player who found himself in the middle of the civil war in Libya and the unfathomable ordeal that became his attempt to get out of there. We can’t imagine the frustration that must seethe within a man who, when his government tells him, “You should make for the local airport,” gets to say something to the effect of, “Oh, really? Yeah, it’s burned down,” as AK-47s clatter a few hundred feet away.
  4. With a recent front office changes that had to please him and a top recruit suddenly on the way for the approaching season — plus, he had been running things from the office over the summer and has certainly been out recruiting – pardon our lack of surprise about the big news out of Connecticut yesterday confirming Jim Calhoun is indeed going to return to coach the Huskies. Nothing’s changing. Everything’s the same. Wait just a moment, this just in from the RTC overseas services wire…yes, sources are confirming to our man on the ground in Spain that Generalissimo Francisco Franco — say it with us, everyone – is still dead.
  5. Because of recent examples that lend support to the theory, we hear so much talk these days about the negatives of college sports, so often reading phrases like “cesspool of corruption” and “miasma of deceit” (both real) to describe intercollegiate athletics in our time. It’s therefore nice to hear, even just once, an example of a college athlete openly defying the seduction of riches, thereby denying the doomsayers and Debbie Downers another headline. In that spirit, we give you North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, via Twitter yesterday:

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930 And You: The 2011 Tournament Under The New APR Rule

Posted by jstevrtc on August 17th, 2011

The new APR rule is a fact. 930 Or Bust is happening. So let’s talk about it.

On the ESPN blog last week, Diamond Leung, a gentleman we’re happy to file under Official Friend Of RTC, posted an article in which he listed the 12 teams that would not have been eligible to compete if the new APR standard had been applied to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. #1-seed Ohio State? Watching from home. Kawhi Leonard and San Diego State? Sorry, they’d have been studying for finals and not playing basketball. Leung also noted how eventual champion Connecticut would not be invited to the 2012 edition to defend its title since, according to the latest numbers, over the 2006-07 to 2009-10 academic periods the Huskies managed an APR of just 893. They could go undefeated throughout the entire 2011-12 season and it wouldn’t matter. In that scenario they’d win as many NCAA Tournament games as Centenary.

Bill Carmody and Northwestern (18-13) May Have Been Dancing Last Year, Had the New APR Rule Been In Play

Mr. Leung’s article got us thinking: if there would have been 12 fewer teams in the Dance last March, who would have replaced them? Among the unlucky 12, seven were automatic qualifiers through conference tournament titles and five were at-large entries. A quick examination of who would have replaced the disqualified teams shows how putting a binary, all-or-nothing, you’re-in-or-you’re out emphasis on a specific number would have affected the Tournament; as you’ll see, the reverberations go deeper than just the aforementioned 12 teams.

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O26 Primers: Conference USA, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC and WAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 9th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

With three conference tournaments concluding last night, it is only appropriate that five more get underway today. Conference USA and the Southland Conference are two of the most balanced leagues in the nation, while the WAC and Mountain West were just the opposite as they were dominated at the top. The SWAC is always a bit of a mystery come Championship Week and tournament time, but Texas Southern is the class of the league this year and will no doubt do their best to bring respect to the league if they are fortunate enough to advance to the Dance.

Conference USA

The Favorite: UAB won the regular season title with a 12-4 record, but that means very little in the ultra competitive CUSA this season as five teams are just behind the Blazers. There is something to be said though about UAB’s strong play down the stretch and the steady play of Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore. These reasons alone amidst several injuries that Mike Davis‘ club has overcome makes UAB the slight favorite over the rest of the bunch.

Dark Horse: Southern Mississippi is one the teams that are nipping at UAB’s heels. Although they fell in their last three games of the regular season, Larry Eustachy’s squad proved throughout the year they can beat anyone in the conference. Having Gary Flowers roam around the pain never hurts either.

Who’s Hot: UAB has won their last four games and seven of eight heading into the tournament. As well as UAB is playing, it would be very easy for that to stop on a dime. Throughout each week during the conference schedule, it appeared that one team in CUSA was emerging as the top dog, but they would quickly fade. Can UAB keep their streak going all the way into the NCAA Tournament?

Player to Watch: Papa Dia, Southern Methodist’s senior forward all the way from Senegal, is enjoying the best season of his career as he is averaging 18.5 points and 9 rebounds a game. In each of the previous three seasons, SMU has been below .500; Dia and his teammates clearly have something to prove in this tournament.

First-Round UpsetCentral Florida over East Carolina. UCF was the nation’s favorite story in the early going as they jumped out to a 14-0 record with wins over Florida, Miami (FL), and Princeton. The Knights then went onto lose eight straight games, thus proving that their early success was a fluke. Now, UCF has won five of seven games and if they can regain that success they had in those 14 games, a victory over East Carolina is absolutely within reach.

How’d They Fare? After going 7-9 in the conference, Houston caught fire in the tournament to surprise everyone by winning the title. In doing so, the Cougars stole a bid from a team on the bubble and earned a #13 seed in the Tournament where they lost to Maryland 89-77. UTEP—the team Houston beat to advance onward—was trounced by Butler as a #12 seed.

Interesting Fact: The last team to win an NCAA Tournament game hailing from Conference USA not named Memphis was Louisville in the 2005 Tournament. The ‘Ville advanced all the way to the Final Four that year where they lost to Illinois 57-52 in the semifinals. Both UAB and Cincinnati also won Tournament games that year.

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Laettner, Thompson and West Among 2010 Collegiate Basketball Hall Class

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2010

While this week’s CBE Classic will showcase some of the best players and top coaches in college basketball right now, the game paid tribute to a group of dignitaries whose contributions to the game over the last 70 years Sunday night.

Christian Laettner, David Thompson and Jerry West were among those inducted to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. Laettner, who is still asked about his famous jump shot to beat Kentucky in 1992, left his mark as the NCAA Tournament’s all-time leading scorer and the only player to start on four Final Four teams. During his induction speech, Laettner recalled his connection to the game and to Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.  “I knew he was passionate about it and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.  Another of Laettner’s March records is a 21-2 record in the Big Dance, a mark that he says may not fall due to the trend of players leaving early and the overall competition that the NCAA Tournament brings.  “There’s a good chance that it won’t happen because the kids want to get to the big money so fast. You never say never, though. After we repeated (in 1991-1992) everyone said ‘no one will ever repeat again,’ and Florida did it.”

Eighteen years after “The Shot,” Christian Laettner remains one of the most decorated players in NCAA Tournament lore.

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Around The Blogosphere: A Night Of Chalk

Posted by nvr1983 on November 18th, 2010

After a frenetic 24 Hours of Hoops, we returned to a much more mundane night of college basketball. If you are interested in participating in this feature, e-mail us at rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Top 25 Games

  • #6 Villanova 82, Boston University 66: “The Wildcats punched their ticket to NIT Tip-Off semi-finals in New York City with an 82-66 win over the Terriers of Boston University. The victory however, added the bitter to the sweet. While Villanova secured their spot in the NIT Tip-Off Final Four and in the process ran their Pavilion winning streak to 38 consecutive games, the win came against former Associate Head Coach Patrick Chambers who left the Main Line in the 2009 off season to take up the first chair at BU.” (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • #9 Purdue 103, Alcorn State 48: “Purdue not only handled their business, they did it in, as mentioned, historic fashion. The starters were really only in for the first half and even then none of them played a full 20 minutes of action. The game was 59-17 at the half. Chew on that for a second. Up forty-two points at halftime.” (Boiled Sports)

Other Games of Interest

  • UConn 89, Vermont 73: “Tonight’s 89-73 victory over Vermont answers a longstanding question of mine: could Kemba Walker win the America East Conference by himself? Yes. Yes he could.” (The UConn Blog)
  • Tennessee 60, Missouri State 56: “We’re still learning with this team, and so far so good on the most important stat: the Vols are 3-0 and made it to the Garden. The tests will keep getting more difficult – I know Wake is down, but VCU beat them by 21 on their home floor, to go with a 13 point win over Winthrop and a 15 point win over UNC-Greensboro. And Villanova is a National Championship contender. If we’d like to be one too, we need to keep growing, and keep winning. This visit to New York will be an educational field trip.” (Rocky Talk Top)
  • Marquette 89, UW-Green Bay 69: “Marquette stomped in-state rival UW-Green Bay last night at the Bradley Center, 89-69. The Warriors’ depth continues to impress in these early non-conference tilts.” (Cracked Sidewalks)

Analysis

  • Texas Basketball Finally Has An Offensive Identity: “After having complained for years about Barnes not having an offensive philosophy, it seems almost too good to be true that he has finally adopted an offensive system. As a result, as long as Barnes can avoid the same mistakes he made last season — and his willingness to look long and hard at himself and the program over the last few months bodes well in that respect — then the Longhorns may be able to make the leap to an absolutely elite program capable of consistency challenging for national championships over the next few seasons.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
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RTC Conference Primers: #31 – SWAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 4th, 2010

David Ely is an occasional contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Jackson State (15-3)
  2. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (13-5)
  3. Alabama State (12-6)
  4. Texas Southern (11-7)
  5. Alabama A&M (9-9)
  6. Prairie View A&M (9-9)
  7. Mississippi Valley State (9-9)
  8. Grambling State (7-11)
  9. Southern (3-15)
  10. Alcorn State (2-16)

All-Conference Team

  • Junior Treasure (G) — Texas Southern
  • Tyrone Hansen (G) — Jackson State
  • Savalance Townsend (G) — Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • De’Suan Dixon (F) — Jackson State
  • Shannon Behling (F) — Mississippi Valley State

6th Man:

  • Cornelius Hester (G) — Alabama A&M

Junior Treasure (with ball) is the best among the bevy of guards featured in the SWAC. (AP/Val Horvath)

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Morning Five: 11.10.09 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on November 10th, 2009

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  1. Opening night went pretty much as predicted in terms of winners and losers, but we did see a couple of notable events.  Ohio State (16) rolled over Alcorn State 100-60 behind Evan Turner’s triple-double of 14/17/10; OSU’s only other trip-dub was in 1986 when Dennis Hopson drilled Ohio University with 27/11/10.  Elsewhere, Syracuse exorcised the Le Moyne demons and put Jim Boeheim into the 800-win club by beating Albany 75-43; California was up by as many as 18, then got a little more than they wanted from a very game Murray State squad, but the 13th-ranked Bears still prevailed 75-70; and defending champs North Carolina (6) started the celebration of their 100th year of college basketball by donning throwback uniforms (with red highlights!  *gasp!*) of the undefeated 1957 title team (a message being sent, there?) and spoiling Isiah Thomas’ coaching debut with Florida International by beating them 88-72.  If you need more information, we’ve got detailed writeups of each game in our After the Buzzer post from last night.
  2. You’ve heard enough from us — Luke Winn is all over last night with his Opening Night Impressions.  His points, as usual, are all right on the money, especially his concerns about Cal’s lackluster play and the “teams of November.”
  3. In the Syracuse win, guard Andy Rautins rolled his left ankle on an opponent’s foot and told the media afterwards, “It hurts.  I rolled it pretty good.”  He claimed that he would “take it day to day, see how it feels.”
  4. Seton Hall guard Keon Lawrence was arrested and charged with DWI and driving with a suspended license after crashing his car into another motorist while driving the wrong way just before 3 A.M. on Monday.  He and his passenger were taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries; although the exact value has not yet been released, his blood-alcohol level by blood testing was said to have been over the 0.08 legal limit.  Despite media reports of the DWI charge and the fact that he has been suspended from the SHU team, Lawrence is denying that either of those is true.
  5. With their win over FIU on Monday night, North Carolina (1,985) is within three games of all-time wins leader Kentucky (1,988).  Kentucky will get a chance to stretch the lead back out to four wins this Friday when they open their season against Morehead State in Lexington.  If both teams stay out of the loss column until then, they would be at 1,995 to 1,992 when they meet each other at Rupp Arena on December 5th.
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Full Breakdown Of The Top November Tournaments

Posted by zhayes9 on November 8th, 2009

seasonpreview

What’s the best part of the college basketball season kicking off? The early-season tournaments, of course! Coaches vs. Cancer, Preseason NIT, Maui Invitational, Anaheim Classic…these are our first opportunities to see the top teams in the nation, gauge exactly how much of a force they could pose this season, evaluate the progression of upperclassmen and estimate the talent level of the much-ballyhooed freshmen. The preseason tournament fields this season are not quite as loaded as in year’s past (you’ll recall last season Maui featured three top-ten teams, although two — Texas and Notre Dame — didn’t pan out), but there’s plenty of potential for memorable early-season classics. Let’s delve into the cream of the crop in November:

2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer (Regionals: November 9-11, NYC: November 19-20)

* RTC Live will be at the California subregional and the NYC semis and finals.

The Field: The powers-that-be decided to avoid any clunker matchups at MSG in mid-November, so they’ve given the four hosts — North Carolina, California, Ohio State and Syracuse – an automatic pass to the semifinals in NYC, so don’t expect any Gardner-Webb Cinderella stories invading the Big Apple. The tournament kicks off Monday and Wednesday at all four sites with Syracuse battling Albany and Robert Morris, California taking on Murray State and Detroit, North Carolina facing Florida International and North Carolina Central and Ohio State matched up against Alcorn State and James Madison. The semifinal games are set for November 19 with Syracuse vs. California as the under-card and North Carolina vs. Ohio State in the nightcap.

The Sleeper: The bigger news, in my opinion, that came out of the Carrier Dome last Wednesday when Syracuse stunningly fell to Le Moyne was not the final score, but Wesley Johnson scoring 34 points after a clunker in the exhibition opener. Big-time programs have been stunned in exhibitions before — you’ll recall Michigan State fell to Grand Valley State a few years back and still reached the Sweet 16 — and Syracuse was primarily experimenting with a man-to-man defense that Jim Boeheim could very well scrap for the season. Johnson exploding for 34 points shows he could be the go-to scorer Syracuse needs with Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf no longer manning the orange.

The Pick: I’ve been on their bandwagon all off-season so why not? My pick is Ohio State. Dallas Lauderdale keeps saying he should be ready to play. They return all-around performer Evan Turner who has a triple-double in his plans this season. William Buford and Jon Diebler can shoot the lights out and should really extend the Carolina defense. Receive steady point guard play from P.J. Hill and Jerime Simmons and that’s a possible top-ten team. I’ll take the Buckeyes to knock off UNC and California.

CBE Classic (Regionals: November 15-19, Kansas City: November 23-24)

*RTC Live will be at the semis and finals.

The Field: Much like the 2K Sports Classic, the semifinals are already set for Kansas City pitting Texas against Iowa and Pittsburgh against Wichita State. The four regional games are as follows: Texas facing UC Irvine and Western Carolina, Binghamton and Eastern Kentucky visiting Pittsburgh, Fairleigh Dickinson and Arkansas-Monticello taking on Wichita State and Iowa getting Duquesne and UTSA. The one possible upset here (not that it matters) is a high-scoring Duquesne team upsetting Big Ten bottom-feeder Iowa.

The Sleeper: It’s really hard to see Texas not annihilating this field, but could Wichita State knock off Pittsburgh? The Panthers won’t have Gilbert Brown (suspension) and possibly Jermaine Dixon (foot injury) for this one while already attempting to overcome the loss of DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields and Sam Young. Gregg Marshall returns seven of his top ten scorers for a squad that could linger near the top of the MVC led by senior guard Clevin Hannah and junior forward J.T. Turley, who is poised to become a star. If the Shockers can contain freshman forward Dante Taylor, they could live up to their name and pull a shocker in Kansas City.

The Pick: I have Texas ranked #2 in my preseason top-25 and they don’t have much sterling competition in this field. Pittsburgh was depleted by losses and may not even be an NCAA tournament team this season, Wichita State is a few rungs behind Creighton and Northern Iowa in the MVC and Texas’ first round opponent, Iowa, won’t be able to stay on the floor with the supremely talented Longhorns. Rick Barnes’ team is extremely deep at every position and could be a national title contender if Florida transfer Jai Lucas or newly-eligible J’Covan Brown provides stability at point guard. Damion James and Dexter Pittman are constant double-double threats inside.

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