SEC M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Did anybody really think Louisville center Gorgui Dieng wouldn’t play against Kentucky? Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino originally said Dieng wouldn’t play in the nationally-televised clash with Kentucky this Saturday — just last week, Pitino said, “Gorgui’s latest exam with the doctor didn’t go as well as my optimism was. The last X-ray we thought it would be healed, and it was not.” What a difference a week makes? Dieng recently practiced for the first time since injuring his wrist on November 23, and now Pitino and Dieng are hopeful he will be in the lineup to play against Kentucky’s big guys. “We’ll see how it goes today,” Pitino said. “And then we’ll make a decision.” The Kentucky and Louisville rivalry just wouldn’t be the same without a little pregame drama. Kentucky’s young bigs could struggle against a shot-blocking presence who rebounds as well as Dieng.
  2. Of course we will be inundated with Kentucky and Louisville previews this week to prepare for one of the biggest non-conference games on the slate, but if you’re looking for the key to the game it is probably in Kentucky’s defense. And thankfully, A Sea of Blue has us covered with an in-depth look at the Wildcats’ defense this year. As for the long and short of it, Kentucky is preventing opponents from shooting at the rim and not allowing three-point looks at a rate similar to last year’s team. That’s definitely a good thing going into a contest against a team that loves the three. Can Kentucky force Peyton Siva and Russ Smith to take contested shots from deep within the mid-range area? That question just might decide the game.
  3. Missouri beat its other border rival Illinois last weekend, and the Tigers are not taking a break to celebrate. Instead, Mizzou spent Christmas Day practicing instead of taking time off to be with family. “Our normal prep work is three days before a game,” head coach Frank Haith said. “Tomorrow’s a travel day, but we will get in in the morning and get some work done before we get on the plane, and then obviously, the day before when we get there, it’s a lot of shooting. That’s normal practice for us in terms of our prep work to get ready for a game.” Haith plans to give the team some time off after its game Friday against UCLA, which is great news for the players’ families who can buy them presents at half off in those day-after-Christmas sales.
  4. Laurence Bowers was named SEC player of the week for his outstanding performance against Illinois, finally getting some kudos from outside of the state of Missouri. But of course, he’s still getting some praise from within Columbia too. “He’s the truth; he can do it all,” said senior forward Alex Oriakhi. “It’s just a joy to play with him.” Bowers leads the team in scoring and field goal percentage and is second in rebounding average. His offensive rating and effective field goal percentage are both the highest of his career and among the best in the nation while taking almost 30 percent of the Tigers’ shots. Bowers’ continued development alongside Oriakhi in the post could be the key to Mizzou staying near the top of the SEC in its first season.
  5. What would the Christmas season be without dancing elves? And not just any dancing elves — this video has dancing elves with Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin’s head. Enjoy and happy holidays.
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Braggin’ Rights Win Over Illini Reveals a Different Missouri Team

Posted by dnspewak on December 23rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report from the Scottrade Center following Missouri’s 82-73 victory over Illinois Saturday night. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

It was an unfamiliar sight. The big, bad Missouri Tigers ferociously attacked the offensive glass on Saturday, flying over Illinois at every opportunity and bullying the Fighting Illini with their size and strength. Phil Pressey, who missed his first 15 shots from the field, could have missed 100 shots for all he cared. Every time Pressey clanked another floater off the rim, Alex Oriakhi was there to clean up the mess. By the end of Missouri’s 82-73 Braggin’ Rights victory at the Scottrade Center, he’d tallied 14 rebounds — seven on the offensive end – and cemented himself as the face of the Tigers’ new identity.“Alex is just a monster on the glass. We see that every day in practice. We call it eating,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said. “That’s how Alex eats.” His diet is starting to rub off on his teammates. Bowers grabbed 10 rebounds, too, and scored a game-high 23 points in a contest that featured a near-brawl in the first half during a tie-up. In fact, the game teetered on the brink of an all-out brawl for 40 minutes. The officiating crew rarely blew the whistle. As the second half wore on, Oriakhi and the Tigers clamped up defensively, out-rebounded the Illini by 22 and powered their way to a fourth straight victory in the Braggin’ Rights series.

Missouri v. Illionis

Missouri Showed Some Real Toughness Saturday Night (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

Notice the key word here: “powered.” In every way, the Tigers flashed their new identity as a tough, in-your-face squad who will fight you for loose balls and make you miserable on the offensive glass. That’s an absurd and fairly unbelievable identity for this program, considering the team has seemed to perpetually lack size for several years. When MU hired Mike Anderson in 2006, he implemented a style of play tailored toward speed, quickness and guard play. He recruited tough kids who could guard, and he recruited forwards who could run the floor, but he never recruited a traditional big man. For five seasons, Missouri compensated for an inability to rebound by forcing turnovers and scoring in transition. Sometimes, it worked, like during a run to the Elite Eight in 2009. Other times, though, it left Missouri fans shaking their heads when opponents would manhandle the Tigers on the boards and in the paint. When Anderson left for Arkansas, he left Frank Haith with a terrific set of guards, which he coached to 30 wins using a four-guard attack. They were fun. They were gunners. They won by outscoring you. But Kyle O’Quinn and Norfolk State eventually exposed the guard-heavy attack in the NCAA Tournament.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 21st, 2012

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

A top ten battle with a bit of recent history leads a solid slate of games this weekend. We are down to the last few non-conference games before we go full tilt into the conference season starting in the new year. It is going to be interesting to see who starts to separate from the pack as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#8 Kansas at #7 Ohio State 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****)

Kansas' Jeff Withey Builds A Case For Most Improved Player. (AP)

How will Ohio State deal with Jeff Withey? (AP)

  • Kansas beat Ohio State twice last season.  Once in the regular season in Lawrence and once in the Final Four. Both teams are without their main contributors from last season in Jared Sullinger for OSU and Thomas Robinson for KU. The key for Kansas in both wins was field goal defense. They held OSU to under 40% shooting in both outings. The Jayhawks come into this game with another solid defense led by center Jeff Withey. Withey provides an inside presence that the Buckeyes will need to game plan around. They had trouble with Duke\’s Mason Plumlee in last month\’s loss to the Blue Devils. Plumlee put up 21 points and 17 rebounds against a Buckeye team that is a bit thin on the inside. While Withey\’s offensive skills may not be as refined as Plumlee\’s, he is capable of putting up 20+ points and will certainly be a major factor on defense. Additionally, pay close attention to the KU guards. Travis Releford, Ben McClemore, and Elijah Johnson are big guards. Look to see if they can take advantage of their size.
  • Ohio State has only lost two non-conference home games since Thad Matta got to Columbus in 2005. They lost in 2008 to North Carolina and in 2009 to West Virginia. While OSU is struggling a bit to find a legit second and third scoring threat, it’s hard to argue against a record like that at home. I learned that when Notre Dame beat Kentucky earlier this season. Still though, DeShaun Thomas is going to need help on the offensive end if Thad Matta and company are to keep that home record intact. Watch Aaron Craft, as he will be the X factor for the Buckeyes. He is averaging just under 10 points a game thus far but is capable of more. Watch the match-up between Craft and Johnson for Kansas. Johnson is turning the ball over frequently (25%) and Craft is one of the best ball thieves in the business. If he can create turnover and get the Buckeyes out on the run, OSU will be in good shape.
  • It’s tough to argue against Ohio State’s home record and they are still a very talented team, but I think Withey and the big guards make the difference in this contest. Look for Withey to shut down any second chance opportunities and defend the hoop against a slashing Thomas. Plus Kansas has this to inspire them.

More Great Action

#14 Missouri vs. #10 Illinois  6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Illinois’ win at Gonzaga may be the best win of the year thus far, along side Butler’s OT victory against Indiana. As it turns out, Illinois beat Butler as well, so it’s time to take John Groce’s team seriously. The guard match-ups should be excellent in this game. The keys for Missouri will be creating turnovers and getting offensive rebounds. The Tigers aren’t turning teams over like they have in the past but the addition of Alex Oriakhi has helped the rebounding situation tremendously. Mizzou ranks 7th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tigers will still have to contain Illinois’ Brandon Paul, however. If he gets loose like he did against Gonzaga, it will be another nice win for the Illini.

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SEC Freshmen Report: Volume I

Posted by CNguon on December 21st, 2012

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @anchorofgold.

The SEC has always been home to some of the NCAA’s most talented newcomers. Much of that has to do with Kentucky’s one-and-done superstars, but Lexington’s five-star recruits aren’t the only players making an impact for Southeastern Conference teams. Several under-the-radar prospects – and some of them big names – are starting to get the feel for the NCAA game and bringing value to their programs early in their careers. As a result, teams like South Carolina and Auburn can put a little extra confidence behind their rebuilding efforts.

Nerlens Noel,

Nerlens Noel (Ken), Michael Carrera (SC) and Negus Webster-Chan (Missou) are just three of many freshmen making an impact this season in the SEC East

So who should SEC basketball fans be looking out for with conference play looming? Every week, we’ll look at how the best freshmen in the SEC have performed in their inaugural seasons. We’ll break the league down football-style into East and West divisions to provide an in-depth look at the young guns that may end up dotting all-SEC teams for years to come. This week, we’ll start with the East by introducing you to the most talented first-year players that the conference has to offer. While a team led by newcomers has carried Kentucky through an up-and-down first two months, teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are also leaning on rookies to carry them to the postseason. Here’s a breakdown on those fresh faces in the (former) SEC East and how they’ve impacted their teams so far.

SEC East

uk freshmen

Kentucky: Kentucky, a team replacing all of its starters in 2012-13, has easily gotten the strongest return from its freshman play-makers this winter. Nerlens Noel has been as good as advertised, and Willie Cauley-Stein has shown a combination of size and skill that suggests that he’d be a starter for almost any other team in the SEC this winter. The two have combined for 18 points, 14 rebounds, and nearly six blocks per game as the Wildcats’ primary big men. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have carried the ‘Cats offensively. Both have shown well-rounded offensive play, while Poythress in particular has shown some defensive chops that could make him a nightmare matchup (a 7’1” wingspan and the size and strength to cover both forward positions) as the season wears on. However, both have struggled with turnovers early in the year, and their talent hasn’t been enough to cover up UK’s relative inexperience in three early losses. Kentucky may have gotten off to an unexpected start thanks to those losses, but they’re also playing on a steeper learning curve than most teams in the SEC. The development of their freshman class will be one of the conference’s biggest stories to watch once league play unfolds.

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Set Your DVR: Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The Battle 4 Atlantis and the NIT Tip-Off continue over the weekend with some very interesting match-ups. So grab some Thanksgiving left overs and settle in for some good hoops.

#5 Michigan vs. Kansas State (PNIT Finals) – 4:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

The Wolverines are going to need better three-point shooting from Tim Hardaway Jr. against Kansas State. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Both Michigan and Kansas State. are coming off tough semifinal wins in the NIT Tip-Off. Michigan was able to pull out a victory with strong second-half defense in the 1-3-1 zone and great defensive rebounding. While the Wolverines are not going to win many games going 3-17 from three-point land, it is encouraging to see them win with their defense, particularly because Kansas State brings a strong defense into any game. The Wildcats are only allowing teams to shoot 27.4% from downtown and are creating turnovers on 28% of opponents possessions. K-State also had eight players go double-figure minutes against Delaware while the Wolverines only had six players go into double-figure minutes against Pitt. The Wolverines could get tired in the second half due to K-State’s physical play if they do not get more minutes from the bench. KSU is going to have to improve its shooting significantly if they want to walk away with a big win. They’ve shot 41.5% eFG against Delaware and 44.8% eFG through five games this season. The Wildcats need to shoot over 50% eFG to have a chance at winning this one.

#23 Cincinnati vs. Iowa State (LV Invitational) – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on CBS College Sports (***)

  • While Cincinnati and Iowa State have two common opponents already, Campbell and North Carolina A&T, its tough to glean any significant information from the games because both were blowouts. The Bearcats come into the game with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.4, which is good for 11th in the nation. They are cleaning up on the defensive boards and shutting down two-point shooting. ISU is ranked 16th in the country in two-point shooting, hitting 56.9% of their shots inside the arc thus far. Keep a close eye on who wins the battle in the paint, as it should determine the winner of this one.

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SEC M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Remember those god-awful camouflage uniforms that North Carolina and Michigan State wore last season during the Carrier Classic game? Yes, the ones that gave you the second worst headache of your life after the Baylor highlighter yellow unis? Well, Florida has leaked its version to be worn on November 9 against Georgetown in the second Carrier Classic in Jacksonville, Florida. When Alligator Army reached out to a Florida spokesperson, they commented that the leaked version of orange camo are “an early rendering of the uniform concept. The final look may vary from that photo.” While we prefer to focus on basketball, the early uniform watch can be fun for one reason — to spark some good ole’ fashioned debate. So, RTC community, what do you say about the orange camouflage that Florida will wear for its Carrier Classic matchup? Like? Dislike? Don’t care?
  2. Not much of significance can be extrapolated from a 91-58 exhibition beatdown, but that won’t stop us from trying. The blog site for KBIA 91.3 FM in Missouri liked what they saw from guards Earnest Ross and Keion Bell in their Tiger debut. We talked about Ross’ lights-out shooting in the Halloween edition of the SEC M5, but Bell’s impact was equally as impressive, as the athletic guard scored 20 points in 29 minutes of play. KBIA brings up an interesting question of whether Bell could be an effective backup point guard to spell Phil Pressey for brief periods this year. In his three seasons at Pepperdine before transferring to Mizzou, Bell was among the nation’s leaders in turnovers, ranking as high as fourth in the nation in turnovers per game in 2010-11. He dished out just one assist with three turnovers against Northwest Missouri State.
  3. Many believed former Connecticut forward Alex Oriakhi might still be with the Huskies if not for a postseason ban, but Oriakhi says that is not the case. “I would have still left,” Oriakhi said. It seems that Oriakhi was seeking a level of happiness that he has found with his new teammates and coaching staff at Missouri. “The chemistry is unbelievable,” he went on to say. “Everybody has a general liking for each other. Anytime I walk into the locker room, it’s just straight jokes. I can’t wait to get in there. The relationship with the coaching staff, I’ve never had that type of relationship before. It’s honestly a joy to come in here and work every day.” Missouri fans have to like the sound of that. Oriakhi obviously can be a tremendous asset for Frank Haith and the Tigers, but his statistics took a dip in the year after winning a national championship after averaging 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in his sophomore year with the Huskies. Perhaps his satisfaction played a role in that, and his new surroundings could mean Missouri will get him at his full potential.
  4. The Auburn Villager sees Auburn basketball in a position that it hasn’t been in before and may never be in again. As the post points out, “basketball is in a position — however ultimately unfortunate for Auburn fans as a whole — that it doesn’t always find itself in on the Plains. Basketball could provide a reprieve from all the losing and one-step-forward, entire-mudslides-back that have occurred so far on the football field.” Gene Chizik’s squad is in unfamiliar territory, trudging along with an 0-6 conference record and a 1-7 mark overall. Meanwhile, hope is high for Tony Barbee and the basketball team. Auburn put up 108 points in its first exhibition game by showcasing a much improved offense, and with an area normally captivated and concerned only with football, this is a great opportunity for the basketball team to seize some momentum going forward.
  5. Florida’s Billy Donovan has some concerns heading into the start of the season. In the Gators’ scrimmage last weekend against Rollins College, Donovan thought rebounding was a major issue for his team. “Because it was Rollins and clearly we had a size advantage for us in the scrimmage, we outrebounded them by a large margin,” Donovan said. “But I still didn’t think we rebounded the ball well in the game.” Currently, Donovan plans to go with a three-guard lineup becauase his roster is thin in the frontcourt. Look for Donovan to find ways to keep forward Will Yeguete on the floor. While Erik Murphy is likely to gain the nod in the starting lineup because of his offensive efficiency, Yeguete is the far better rebounder of the two forwards at 6.3 rebounds per game last season.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #8 Connecticut

Posted by mlemaire on October 30th, 2012

Few new coaches in the country will have a more difficult job this season than new Connecticut head honcho Kevin Ollie. Not only does Ollie has the unenviable task of following the most popular and successful coach in the program’s history, but he also has to find a way to overcome the departure of some of the team’s most talented and productive players and he has to find a way to motivate his team because previous academic issues forced the NCAA to bar his team from the Big East and NCAA Tournament. Oh and did we mention that Ollie is on a one-year contract and will be under heavy scrutiny all season as the athletic department decides whether to keep him around or chase a bigger name? Needless to say, Ollie has his work cut out for him. The good news is that Ollie’s staff is chock-full of former Division I head coaches and there is still plenty of talent leftover from last season’s tumultuous run. Depth will become a problem and struggles could turn into a freefall without any postseason to play for, but there are certainly enough pieces in place to at least give Huskies’ fans a glimmer of hope heading into a new era of UConn basketball.

2011-12 Record: 20-14, 8-10

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Second Round, lost to Iowa State 77-64.

Point Guard Shabazz Napier Is The Unquestion Leader Of One Of The Conference’s Youngest Teams.

Schedule

Ollie’s career on the bench will start with a bang when the Huskies kick off the college basketball season by playing a very talented Michigan State team on board on active aircraft carrier, and the rest of the non-conference slate won’t be much easier. Last year’s America East champion, Vermont, lies in wait immediately following the opener and the Paradise Jam Tournament with a first game against Wake Forest follows that. Don’t forget about the Jimmy V Classic where they will square off with a very talented North Carolina State squad.

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Considering the Highest Impact Transfers in 2012-13

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 23rd, 2012

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

There were few topics more thoroughly dissected and debated this offseason than transfers. The discourse began not one month after the coronation of last season’s National Champion Kentucky Wildcats with Jared Uthoff’s highly-publicized transfer tug-of-war with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. It continued when the NCAA released word (via ESPN’s Outside the Lines program) of its intentions to review transfer guidelines as part of a larger concern over a the growing frequency of player movement, much of which – as quantified  by SI.com’s Luke Winn – is characterized by a nontraditional upward flow, whereby players seek to improve their competitive situations by jumping to better teams in high-major conferences. There is a growing fear, one that bears out in Winn’s numerical analysis, that coaches are using the pool of dissatisfied players in lesser conferences as a secondary recruiting market, that mid-major teams will increasingly suffer the possibility of having their players lost to a “poaching culture” of high-major powers plucking the lower ranks’ top talents.

After being overtaken by Kendall Marshall, Drew left UNC to reignite his career in Los Angeles (photo credit: US Presswire)

This is a legitimate concern. The NCAA will likely implement policies to cut down on the various loopholes and pathways in which players are allowed to relinquish their initial commitments in favor of joining a new program, or at least skew the cost-benefit analysis of making such a move towards staying put, but those changes may not come to bear for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we’re left with a college hoops landscape where established players with proven track records can pack their bags for greener pastures. This year’s batch includes several players who could alter their new teams’ seasons in important ways. The list of newly-eligible transfers is long and varied, so I highlighted 10 newcomers whose first seasons in new locales should find immediate success. As is the case with all of these preseason lists, the qualifications for inclusion are at best fuzzy, and at worst, flawed. There are a lot of transfers, so narrowing the list wasn’t easy. So before you rage against your favorite team’s new hot shooting guard being left out of the group, remember to take into account the sheer numerical backdrop from which any selective transfer-based analysis is grounded.

Herewith, in random order, the list:

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SEC Preview: Missouri Tigers

Posted by DPerry on October 22nd, 2012

Go back to March 2011: Missouri, after just sneaking into the field of 68, had just been trounced by Cincinnati, capping off an unremarkable season in unremarkable fashion. The Tiger faithful may have had more ambitious goals entering the year, but they could hardly complain. Their team had recovered admirably from the calamitous Quin Snyder reign and were establishing themselves as a secondary Big 12 power. Head coach Mike Anderson demanded relentless defensive intensity and valued athleticism, ensuring a brand of exciting basketball that didn’t always accompany wins. If that wasn’t enough, after Arkansas came calling, Anderson soundly denied rumors that he would jump ship, claiming instead that he intended to retire in Columbia. Armed with a committed coach and a roster bursting at the seams with returning talent, Missouri was in position to challenge longtime rival Kansas and rising Baylor for conference supremacy.

Frank Haith had great success in his first season, but he can’t afford a letdown in Year Two

What followed made for one of the most compelling storylines of last college basketball season. Anderson took the job in Fayetteville and Missouri was left scrambling for a replacement. After being rejected by their first few choices, the administration hired Miami’s Frank Haith, a decision which was met with a resounding “Huh?” Haith’s record with the Hurricanes (a .384 ACC winning percentage and one NCAA tournament appearance in seven seasons) would have made you think he was more likely to get the can than an offer to move to a superior program. Shortly thereafter, the college basketball gods rubbed a little salt in Missouri’s wound, as Haith was implicated in the Nevin Shapiro scandal, leading some fans and members of the media to call for a suspension. Add in a season-ending injury to forward Laurence Bowers, and the relatively high expectations for Tiger basketball plummeted. Unless you’re a newcomer to college basketball (in which case, welcome), you know how the story ends. Missouri rode a 14-0 start to a Big 12 Tournament title and a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The guard-heavy offense flourished in Haith’s system, finishing as the most efficient in the nation. Its first-round shocker against Norfolk State notwithstanding, Missouri can reflect fondly on the 2011-12 season.

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Pac-12’s Five Most Important Non-Conference Games

Posted by KDanna on October 10th, 2012

The best thing about October isn’t watching football or the MLB playoffs; no, it’s all about analyzing college basketball non-conference schedules. Where are the potential RPI boosts? Trap games? Guarantee ones? So many possibilities for those ’12 or ’13 tilts!

But way out west, promise has quickly turned into embarrassment in November and December for the Pac-12 in recent years. Last season, the Pac went 9-38 against teams that finished the regular season in the RPI Top-100 and 3-28 against those finishing 50th or above, according to realtimerpi.com. Numbers like those are why Washington didn’t get an at-large bid even as the conference’s regular-season champion. So, it goes without saying that the first two months of the season are HUGE for a conference like the Pac-12 to regain respect around the college basketball world. With that in mind, we’re ready to begin circling some dates to keep an eye on in the conference calendar. Here are my choices for the five most important non-conference games for the Pac in 2012-13, in order of appearance:

Maui Invitational

USC Will Represent The Pac-12 At The Maui Invitational This Year (Alex Prosperi, EA Sports Maui Invitational)

1. USC vs. Illinois (November 19) - Talk about the ultimate RPI-boost game. Illinois is the Trojans’ first-round opponent of the Maui Invitational, which means a certain D-II team will be lurking in the consolation bracket. If the Trojans beat the Illini, they get to play Texas, another high-quality RPI opponent. If the Trojans lose… that’s right, Chaminade is up next (assuming Texas doesn’t Oklahoma 2010-11 it). In case you were wondering, the Silverswords are not a high-quality RPI opponent. Neither the Trojans nor the Illini are coming off storybook seasons (USC went 1-17 in an extremely down Pac-12, while Illinois absolutely imploded, finishing the season 2-12 after a 15-3 start), but a little early-season karma can do a body of work good. And, we’ll get a chance to see just how much difference USC’s new faces (like Ari Stewart, J.T. Terrell and Eric Wise) and newly healthy returnees (with senior point guard Jio Fontan exhibit A) can make.

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Taking Stock of UConn’s Transfers: Who Ended Up Where?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 27th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Between its poor chemistry, inconsistent performance in conference play and seemingly complacent disposition on the court, the 2011-12 UConn Huskies could never regain the competitive drive that propelled its National Championship effort one year earlier. Despite a wealth of returning talent – including small forward Jeremy Lamb, shooting guard Shabazz Napier and big men Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, not to mention a highly-touted freshmen class featuring center Andre Drummond and point guard Ryan Boatwright – Jim Calhoun’s squad never developed the leadership dynamic it needed and failed to discover an effective way to mesh together the holdovers from the previous season’s title-winning team. The powerhouse program experienced an unexpected down season, but that was the least of its concerns. As penalty for failing to meet the NCAA’s minimum four-year and two-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, UConn was ruled ineligible for the 2013 postseason. Despite an appeal for alternate penalties and a waiver request – filed under the claim that recently instituted reforms had led to improved academic performance over the past two years – the NCAA held firm on its verdict. The program that just one year earlier was riding an all-time high after winning its third national championship had bottomed out, but the lost hope of a 2013 postseason appearance wasn’t nearly as concerning as the resulting personnel departures it prompted.

NCAA rules prevent Smith from playing this season, but he should join a talented UNLV frontcourt in 2013-14 (Photo credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo).

Following UConn’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to eight-seed Iowa State, the quasi-exodus began in earnest. First Oriakhi announced his intention to transfer, a move that – according to an NCAA rule enabling Oriakhi to bypass the customary one-year wait period because of UConn’s ineligibility for postseason play – enabled him to find a school with a legitimate chance of participating in the 2013 postseason. Big man Michael Bradley followed suit soon thereafter. Smith was the third to leave the program, marking a severe depletion of frontcourt talent and depth. And that’s without mentioning Lamb and Drummond, who – whether motivated by the postseason ban or otherwise – declared for the NBA Draft. The NCAA on Friday issued a ruling on Smith’s eligibility for the upcoming season. The result was hardly surprising, but it nonetheless compelled me to delve into the whereabouts of the three UConn transfers and investigate their prospects for the upcoming season. Below you’ll find a brief summary of each player’s state of affairs as they prepare for life at their respective new programs.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on August 2nd, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Connecticut.

1. It’s official; there will be no postseason play for the Huskies in 2013.

There was only one truly major story that came out of Connecticut this summer but it was a doozy. The Huskies got into hot water with the NCAA because the program’s APR score wasn’t high enough to meet NCAA standards from 2008-11. The NCAA as a result dropped a postseason ban on the program because of its lackluster APR score and the university and the program have been fighting to appeal that ban ever since.  By the middle of July, they had run out of appeals and it became official that the UConn basketball program would not be participating in any postseason tournaments next season. The logic behind the ban makes sense, but it still seems unfortunate to punish the players directly, many of whom weren’t even on the team during the years in question. It also is truly unfortunate to punish the fans of the program. I am sure Storrs will still be rocking when big names roll through town,  but it is going to be tough to stay invested and motivated in your team’s success when you know no matter how well they do, there won’t be any pot of gold at the end of this proverbial rainbow.

2. A lot of pressure falls on the young shoulders of Omar Calhoun.

There Will Be No Postseason For Jim Calhoun And His Huskies Next Season

As if the postseason ban wasn’t enough of a stomach punch, the program also watched as its two most talented players – Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond – left for the NBA; one of its captains – Alex Oriakhi – transfer because he was unhappy; and another key contributor – Roscoe Smith – transfer out so he could play small forward. Needing to replace a lot of scoring and talent, the coaching staff brought in exactly three players. There is 6-foot-10 Philip Nolan who should provide defensive support in the post but is really raw offensively. There is Leon Tolksdorf, another German recruit who at the very least should provide much needed depth to a frontcourt sorely in need of it. And then there is 6-foot-3 combo guard and New York City native Omar Calhoun. Calhoun is strong enough psychically and multi-talented enough offensively to step into a contributing role immediately. After all, he hasn’t even been on campus for more than a few months and already has held his own against arguably the program’s best player ever in a game of one-on-one. But the Big East won’t be a one-on-one scrimmage, and Calhoun will need to learn quickly, because the Huskies need a lot of help across the board especially given the scoring exodus that took place during the offseason. Calhoun has all the tools to fill some of that scoring gap right away, so he should be ready to make the most of this opportunity.

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