Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 24th, 2012

  1. It seems like we’ve been doing a lot of this lately, but we all should get used to it because three of the top six leaders in Division I men’s basketball all-time wins are actively coaching and within 50 wins of each other. With Syracuse’s win at Cincinnati last night, Jim Boeheim earned his 877th career victory to pass Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for fourth place on the career wins list. With three more wins he’ll pass North Carolina’s Dean Smith (879) and with 26 more he’ll move past Bob Knight (902) for second place behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (916 and counting). Just behind Boeheim is Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, sitting at 867 with a reasonable shot to pass Rupp himself before the end of this season. After Calhoun, it’s a substantial drop to the next active coaching leader, UNC’s Roy Williams with 659 wins to his name.
  2. Not only did Murray State receive positive national news on Monday when the school achieved its highest-ever national rankings (#11 AP; #9 USAT) as the last unbeaten team in America, it also received good news in the form of the return of a key player from injury. The Racers’ starting all-OVC forward, Ivan Aska, has been cleared to return to practice after missing several weeks with a broken hand, and is expected to be back in action for Saturday’s game against Eastern Illinois. Despite season averages of 13/6, Steve Prohm’s team was able to make do without him in the lineup, although the Racers were outrebounded in four of the six games he missed. With the burly senior back in action going forward, Murray State’s already-deep team will become even more dangerous.
  3. Speaking of Murray State, Seth Davis‘ Hoop Thoughts this week focuses on a program that is a lot better than most people are aware of. For example, only three other programs can claim longer streaks of winning seasons than the Racers (now at 25) — a not-shabby trio of Syracuse, Arizona and Kansas. The current squad, certain to win the OVC regular season title this season, is the two-time defending champion, and the junior class — led by Isaiah Canaan (18.7 PPG, 4.0 APG) and glue-guy Ed Daniel (7.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG) — has gone an astounding 74-14 in its two-plus seasons together. Those two players were instrumental in the Racers’ 66-65 upset of Vanderbilt in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, and everyone forgets that it was upstart Murray State who gave Butler its toughest test en route to the Final Four that season, barely escaping the Racers, 54-52. This is no flash-in-the-pan program, and Davis eloquently makes that case.
  4. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and will become a Razorback at the semester break next season. The Fayetteville native averaged 4/3/2 APG in eight games for the Cowboys this season, but he apparently believes that getting back home and into Mike Anderson’s up-and-down style of play will help further his collegiate career. Next door to Arkansas, Memphis guard Charles Carmouche is considering sitting out the remainder of this season because of recurring pain in his knees (tendinitis). The danger with this strategy is that there’s no guarantee that the NCAA would approve a redshirt season for the senior, so he runs a significant risk of his career being finished if he is ultimately denied. He’s only seen action in seven games this season, but that number represents more than the maximum 20% of a team’s scheduled games to qualify for the hardship waiver. Given that fact, he’d need to make a compelling case to the NCAA to earn the extra year, certainly no easy task.
  5. Finally, after a compelling weekend of college basketball where three of the top five ranked teams lost and a number of other intriguing storylines emerged, The Onion reminds us that it’s all just fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Love this line: “College basketball went on to remind fans it puts a great deal of work into making each season dramatically satisfying, unlike college football, which just hands its championship to whichever school’s boosters give it the most money that year.”
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RTC Instant Analysis: Mid-Afternoon Games

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2010

As part of our on-going attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage on-line, we are introducing a new feature where we give your our thoughts after each set of games over the weekend. We’ll be back a couple more times today for some instant analysis/commentary:

  • 8 PM for the 4-6 PM games
  • 10 PM for the 7 PM and 8 PM games

Mid-Afternoon Games

  1. Butler Looks More Like Butler.  Billed as the rematch of the national title game, it hasn’t taken long this season to learn that Duke is probably better and Butler is probably worse than they were last season.  But for much of the game today, Butler was competitive with Duke, and we were happy to see that.  Butler didn’t look like Butler in losses against Louisville or Evansville, and the reason for that had to do with defense.  It’s hard enough to beat Duke as it is, but you have literally zero chance if you let the guards get off from behind the arc.  Butler held the Blue Devils to 31% on 8-26 shooting from deep, which when you consider their numerous options (Singler, Smith, Irving, Curry, Dawkins), is about as good as you can ask for.  Still, it was Irving’s mini-explosion with consecutive treys in the second half that gave Duke some separation and allowed the Devils to hang on down the stretch to get the win.  Ronald Nored’s return from a concussion was great to see as well, because his on-ball defense is absolutely essential to Butler’s success, and there was no better example of that than when he cleanly stripped Kyrie Irving on the wing when he exposed the ball.  We’re not sure that anyone has ever done that to Irving in his entire life before, which shows just how good of a defender Nored is.
  2. Duke Has So Many Weapons.  Coaches preach that defense wins championships, but they privately know that defense only puts you in position to win.  You still need to have a diverse set of offensive weapons to cut down the nets.  What makes Duke so unique among the many contenders this season is that they have at least five players who can put the ball on the floor and beat you off the dribble in addition to the outside; when that’s combined with the serviceable interior offense of the Plumlees, it gives Coach K a ridiculous amount of effective options to get points when he needs them.  No better example of this was when Duke found Kyle Singler, who calmly dribbled himself into a contested 18-footer from the right wing — all net.  At the collegiate level, there’s nothing most teams can do about that shot, and Duke has multiple players capable of putting points on the board in those tough spots.  Of course Kyrie Irving is the best example of this phenomenon — his 17 second-half points ultimately drove Duke to the win, and it is his God-given ability to switch gears and score the ball anywhere on the floor that makes him nearly impossible to guard.
  3. Coach K’s 876th All-Time Win.  It’s really not even up for debate that Coach K with his four national titles and countless Final Four appearances is the second-best college basketball coach of all-time.  With today’s win over Butler, Krzyzewski tied the legendary and controversial Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp with 876 career wins, as he quickly marches toward his mentor/coach Bob Knight’s all-time record of 902 wins.  In an early Christmas present for UNC fans, K will mostly likely tie Dean Smith, with 879 wins against Elon on December 20, and pass the legend a week later against UNC-Greensboro.  If you want to project it out, given just how good this Duke team is, Kryzyewski will likely break the all-time record early in the NCAA Tournament.  Our prediction: the Sweet Sixteen.  Of course, the only number that matters to K is five, and we can’t blame him for that mentality — he has an excellent opportunity to win his fifth ring this year.
  4. Amaker Close But No Cigar.  It was a homecoming of sorts for Tommy Amaker at Harvard today as he visited his former school Michigan for a game that he had personally scheduled as the head coach there from 2001-07.  For much of the game, it appeared that Amaker would have the last laugh, as he did in his first season when the Crimson beat Michigan 62-51 in Cambridge.  However, despite a 12-point lead early in the second half, the Wolverines clamped down on defense and got sixteen second-half points from Stu Douglass (including four threes) to come back and win the game.  This will still end up being a “good” loss for Harvard, but the other storyline from this game is that John Beilein’s team may turn out to be better than expected this year.  Predicted at the bottom of the Big Ten, the Wolverines already have wins at Clemson, vs. Harvard and close losses to Syracuse and UTEP.  We shouldn’t slot them into the Tourney yet, but they’re playing tremendous halfcourt defense and are showing some signs of life.
  5. Pac-10 Finally Notches a Win.  As of this morning, the Pac-10 had an 0-5 record in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.  California ended the winless streak with a road win at Iowa State this afternoon.  Neither team is really very good, but we’re fairly amazed that the Bears’ Mike Montgomery has figured out a way to beat anybody with a lineup that includes some of the players he has at his disposal.  In two other B12/P10 games today, Washington put up 61 first-half points at home against Texas Tech, and Oregon State takes on Colorado (simulcast at RTC Live) later tonight.  If OSU can eke out a road win tonight, with four games left in the series, things could be interesting.  Of the remaining four games scheduled, only Texas’ visit to USC on Sunday would appear to be a game where the Big 12 was favored.
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