Team of the 2000s: #8 – Memphis

Posted by jstevrtc on August 11th, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

We already know that this selection is going to cause some consternation among teams that weren’t selected as high.  It’s ok.  We get it.  The selection process ultimately comes down to a matter of taste, and Memphis blended with our palates a little better than the others.  If you disagree, let us know…

#8 – Memphis

team2000memphis

Overview. In the period from 2000-2009, few college basketball programs “felt” bigger than Memphis.  John Calipari showed up to run the show in 2000 and everyone knew what was to come — big-time recruits, lots of one-and-done types, scads more wins, deeper advancement in the NCAA.  Also on the way, whether justified or not, was that dirty feeling that comes with knowing that your program is being led by a fellow on whom you always feel you — or maybe a private detective you’ve hired — need to keep a close eye.  In terms of the on-the-floor expectations, Calipari delivered exactly what was expected of him; after a couple of warm-up years things improved and then really took off in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons when Memphis and their collection of ridiculous interchangable-part type athletes rode Calipari’s Dribble-Drive Offense to consecutive regular-season 30-3 records and Elite Eight apperances.  As a basketball power, Memphis was taken more seriously than it ever had been and it looked like Calipari was building a Leviathan.  The 2007-08 squad validated this by putting up such impressive numbers as achieving the school’s second-ever #1 ranking, a 38-win season (jeez), and its first Final Four since the days of Keith Lee and Dana Kirk back in 1985.  Then, in the championship game…well, in case you didn’t see it….about two minutes to go, up by nine, they….um….well, just check this out.  Even with this, even if you didn’t agree with all of their methods, the Memphis program had still reached elite status in the college hoops world.

calipari coaching memphis

Pinnacle. No question, things were sweetest in Tigerland when they posted that 37th win and made it to that 2008 Final Four.  That particular Memphis team, with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose and a litany of other high-flying gazelles — you remember the likes of Joey Dorsey, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, I’m sure — was so athletic that you forgot about any possibility of, er, shadiness.  For the most part, you just enjoyed the show.  A case could definitely be made for a co-pinnacle for this program mere days later when they were, as noted above, up by nine in the final with only a couple minutes left between them and the true goal inherent in any lofty expectations — a title.

Tailspin. The 63-63 tie that resulted from Mario’s Miracle.  When Mario Chalmers hit that jumper, things were never the same therafter.  You could feel it coming.  Kansas was on fire in that stretch and Memphis couldn’t hit a free throw, but it was that shot, that boot to the forehead, that has started the Tiger program on its tailspin.  The next season (2008-09) was a disappointment by comparison, ending with an upset loss to Missouri in the Sweet 16 even though Memphis was again a popular and sexy pick for the Final Four.  Then came the departure of John Calipari to Kentucky and the NCAA allegations of Derrick Rose’s test-taking naughtiness.

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: C. While Calipari seems to be pretty much off the hook in this Rose business — and Derrick Rose as well, just because he moved on — in the near future the Memphis program could still possibly feel the NCAA’s bitch-slapping pimp hand, and that Pinnacle as described above could be erased from the history books altogether, meaning Memphis might have to pack up the Aerostar and vacate their ’08 Final Four and all 38 of those victories like they never happened.  Enter former Arizona (and single-season at Memphis) assistant Josh Pastner.  Already known among coaching insiders as a hell of a recruiter, he knows what it takes to win; he was a walk-on on Arizona’s 1997 championship team.  It’s not like he’s going to let the post-Calipari roster totally collapse, and he’ll most certainly bring in his own high-level studs.  The question is, given the recent achievements of this program, how much time will he be allowed?  It’s difficult to speculate as far as an outlook for this program until the NCAA decides what they’re going to do to them, if anything.  The buzz around the program is more positive than you might expect, and that’s because of Pastner.  If he’s allowed the time to get over any penalties the NCAA might unload on the program, it will still be quite a while before they return to the level they achieved in the late 2000s.  But, in the end, I’ll bet that this program will do a little better than, say, to go the way of their former home — the now-empty Memphis Pyramid, previously the residence of the NCAA’s Tigers, NBA’s Grizzlies, numerous concerts and conference tournaments, and more recently (but no longer) the home of the biggest and most oddly-shaped Bass Pro Shops you’ve ever seen.

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06.28.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 28th, 2009

Let’s get caught up after a glorious weekend…

  • Elliot Williams to Memphis.  Nothing surprising here, as we reported last week that Elliot Williams was leaving Duke to move closer to home to attend to his mother’s illness.  The only school that made reasonable sense was his hometown University of Memphis, and Gary Parrish reported yesterday that Williams will indeed become a Tiger.  If Williams can get the NCAA to approve his hardship waiver so that he can play next season, he should walk right into a starting position at the PG spot for Josh Pastner’s squad.  While we’re on the subject of Memphis getting new players, former Kentucky player (well, he never actually played) Matt Pilgrim is probably transferring to Memphis with the assistance of new UK coach John Calipari.  Pilgrim, a transfer from Hampton who sat out last season at UK, wasn’t part of the new regime’s plans.  Since he didn’t want to leave Lexington but was no longer welcome, Coach Cal is trying to facilitate a seamless transfer for him.
  • The NCAA Shell Game. Seth Davis wrote an article last week that illustrates just how one-sided the NCAA scholarship system can be.  When new coaches (e.g.,Isiah Thomas and John Calipari) get to their new schools, they often feel the need to run off players (such as Pilgrim, mentioned above) who don’t fit in their lofty plans for the program.  That’s all fine and well for replacing lesser players, but the whole house of cards gets exposed when a coach wants to keep a player who otherwise would like to transfer.  Meet Freddy Asprilla, a 6’10 Colombian center at FIU who had a great freshman year and wants to transfer to a major conference school, but whom isn’t being released by FIU simply because, well, they don’t have to.  There’s an adage about the deck getting stacked somewhere in here.
  • FIU Cheerleading.  We know it’s purely coincidental that FIU is enabling cost-cutting measures by cutting its cheerleaders during the same year that they hired Isiah Thomas to coach their men’s basketball team (Thomas isn’t taking a base salary this year).  Still, the rich irony of FIU wholly dismantling the cheerleading team within months of Thomas’ arrival on campus isn’t lost on anyone.  Sometimes the unintended consequences are more compelling than the intended ones.
  • NBA Draft DetritusGary Parrish: the NBA will find you wherever you play.  Luke Winn: behind the scenes at MSG, and raising legitimate questions as to Ty Lawson and DeJuan Blair’s draft positions.  Jeff Goodman: Brandon Jennings made the right choice to go to Europe.  More Parrish: like RTC, he also thinks Demar DeRozan is going to be a stud.
  • More Quick Hits.  Marquette’s Maurice Acker: done with basketballRenardo Sidney: stop delaying, NCAAJeremy Tyler: headed to Israel Brian Ellerbe: new assistant at GW.  BYU’s Dave Rose: now cancer-free and returning to coach this fall.   William & Mary: considering an asparagus mascotRoy Williams: Aw Shucks… the RW Story, on sale in November.  Antonio Anderson: those Ws are ours!
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Calipari to Kentucky

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2009

After a weekend full of speculation about who would replace Billy Gillispie as the next head coach at Kentucky it looks like we finally have our answer in the form of John Calipari. Our sources had been mentioning Calipari as a potential replacement for Gillispie as early as a week ago, but that was obviously delayed by the fact that his Memphis team was still playing in the NCAA tournament. Fortunately, for the administration at Kentucky, even after last year’s title game collapse against Kansas, Calipari still didn’t think it was worthwhile having his team work on free throws and as a result they were bounced by Missouri in the Sweet 16 (their lack of defense against Missouri didn’t help their cause either).

95204093_memphis_v_houston

Although the details of the deal have not been released yet, it would be safe to assume that Calipari is at around the $3 million/year figure that our source was saying it would take to lure him away from Memphis (9pm update: ESPN is now reporting the offer is 8 yrs/$35M). In addition, Kentucky will have also have to come up with the money to compensate for the $5 million bonus Calipari would have collected had he finished his contract at Memphis, which ran through the 2012-13 season at $2.5 million/year. (Break open those checkbooks Wildcat boosters!).

What might be even bigger than the physical switch of Calipari for Gillispie on the sidelines is the potential chain reaction this could have on the Memphis/Kentucky recruiting classes and Tyreke Evans. Going into today, Kentucky only had one 5-star (Daniel Orton) and one 4-star (Jon Hood) recruit who had signed a letter of intent to play in Lexington. With the addition of Calipari, the Wildcats would almost certainly get DeMarcus Cousins (the #2 overall recruit) who has committed to Memphis, but did not sign a letter of intent, and potentially Xavier Henry (the #3 overall recruit) who signed a letter of intent at Memphis, but could petition the NCAA for a release (4-star recruit Nolan Dennis has stated that he has an agreement with Memphis that he will be released from his letter of intent if Calipari leaves). In addition, they would suddenly be in the running for John Wall (the #1 overall recruit) who has not committed to a school yet, but is said to be very high on Memphis Calipari. Adding 2 of those 3 to a Kentucky lineup that leaned heavily on Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks this year would almost certainly make the Wildcats go from a NIT participant to Final 4 favorites. If Calipari were able to pull off a miracle and get Henry released from his letter and bring all three with him to Kentucky to go with Patterson, Meeks, and Orton, the Wildcats would suddenly emerge as the prohibitive favorites and the fans in Lexington might start having visions of the 1996 Kentucky team running through their heads for the next six months.

What would happen to Memphis? Disaster. Tyreke Evans, who has seen his NBA draft stock rebound after slipping during his difficult adjustment to the college game, would most likely head to the NBA leaving the Tigers without a true star for the first time in years (Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson are both seniors). Losing such a great recruiting class (one of the best since the Chris Webber-led “Fab 5″) would be a crushing blow to a program that has risen up from playing in Conference USA to become one of the premier programs in the nation in the past 5-10 years. The next question for Memphis is who will replace Calipari on the sideline. Current reports indicate that Calpari is pushing for his long-time assistant Tony Barbee to be named as his successor, but it’s likely that the Memphis AD will look to lure big-names such as Mike Anderson or Tim Floyd to what has become one fo the premier coaching destinations in the country.

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NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

bcs-fail

With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings  based on the teams involved. Here are the results:

bcs-2009

If you want to try and follow along, here are the BCS criteria.

Now onto the match-ups. . .

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NCAA Preview: Memphis Tigers

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

Memphis (#2 seed, West, Kansas City pod)

vs. California State Northridge (#15)
March 19th, 12:25 P.M.

Vegas Line:  Memphis -19.5

memphis-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Conference:
Conference USA, won the conference tournament
Coach:
John Calipari, 251-68 at Memphis
08-09 Record:
28-3, 16-0 C-USA
Last 12 Games:
12-0
Best Win:
68-50 v. Gonzaga, February 7th
Worst Loss:
70-79 v. Georgetown, December 13th
Off. Efficiency Rating:
111.8/ 39th overall
Def. Efficiency Rating:
79.4/ 1st overall

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s):  Tyreke Evans- 16.6 points/game, 5.5 rebounds/game, 3.8 assists/game, 2.1 steals/game
Unsung Hero:  Antonio Anderson-
10.2 points/game, 4.9 rebounds/game, 4.1 assists/game, 43.8 FG%
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s):  Tyreke Evans-
projected 36th overall
Key Injuries:
none
Depth:
26.6%, 270th overall
Achilles Heel:
The Tigers are extremely athletic, but they don’t shoot the ball particularly well. They only shoot 32% from behind the arc as a team, and they still shoot under 70% (69.6) from the charity stripe as a team as well. Tyreke Evans has been a solid point guard, but his strength is his drive and kick ability, but if there is no one out there to shoot, they will struggle.
Will Make a Deep Run if…:
The Tigers are easily the best defensive team in the country, but one gets the feeling that the offense truly revolves around the turnovers they create, and the play-making ability of Evans. If Evans doesn’t turn the ball over and the team continues to suffocate the opponents, they have a great shot at the Final Four.
Will Make an Early Exit if…:
Evans turns the ball over a lot and the Tigers go cold from behind the arc, they will really struggle. They won’t struggle in the first round, but
Maryland and California are both solid teams with really good players that can play defense and create their own shots. If the Tigers aren’t able to get out on the break via created turnovers, they will have trouble scoring against the Terps or Bears

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008, lost to Kansas in the National Championship game.
Streak:
Three consecutive years
Best NCAA Finish:
They have lost in the National Championship game in 1973, and 2008.
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present):
+0.17 wins per appearance

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: None
Distance to First Round Site:
452 miles away from Kansas City, Missouri
School’s Claim to Fame:
Kentucky might have Ashley Judd, but the Tigers have Justin Timberlake!!….Ok, kidding! I scoured for a real claim to fame, and really all I came up with was that Michael Wilson, a former Tiger and current Harlem Globetrotter, holds the record for highest slam dunk (12 feet) ever. So there’s that.
School Wishes It Could Forget:
The misfortunes of the 1985 Final Four team.
Prediction:
Despite their soft schedule, the Tigers should have no problem reaching the Sweet 16. A match-up between Missouri and Memphis would be awesome to watch for defensive minds, and Missouri has the type of players to exploit Memphis’ lack of a true point guard. However, I think Calipari’s squad will get through Missouri before succumbing to UCONN in the Elite Eight

Major RTC stories: Reflections on Monday Night

Preview written by… Mike Lemaire

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Conference USA Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

Memphis passed its last regular season road test and now only has a few games to go to return to the “promised land” that they’ve never really left.

While the Tigers’ dominance over the rest of CUSA is nearly unparalleled in the history of modern college basketball, it doesn’t mean that every other team is chopped liver. Basically anything can happen in a tournament setting and the Tigers have endured a few close calls this year.

2009-cusa-tourney-bracket

So here are the teams as they are seeded and some pertinent info:

#1: Memphis Tigers

Coach: John Calipari

Record: 28-3 overall (16-0 in CUSA)

Players to Watch: G Tyreke Evans, F Robert Dozier, F Shawn Taggart, G Antonio Anderson

Season Highlights: In a year that many thought would be fraught with ‘rebuilding’ and the like, the Tigers continue to look dominant. The arrival of the latest one-year wonder: Tyreke Evans, has allowed the blue and gray not miss a beat from last year’s final four squad. But the veteran leadership of guys like Antonio Anderson, Doneal Mack, Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier has been a huge factor too. They suffered early-season setbacks against Xavier and Syracuse, but they’re currently riding 20+ game winning streak. There have been a few close calls and at the end of the day they’re still undefeated against the rest of the conference.

They Will Win If: They simply show up and play their game. I don’t want to imply that the Tigers will simply cream whomever they play, because they could well lose. But they’re playing an extremely favorable draw on their home court. This is a recipe for success and it also doesn’t hurt that they’ve won over 50 games in a row against CUSA teams.

First Game: vs. the winner of #8 Tulane/#9 East Carolina; Thursday at 8:30 pm.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2009

dynamite1After my trip to Chapel Hill last weekend where rtmsf handled all of the duties for Boom Goes the Dynamite while I mingled with ESPN personalities and college basketball stars, I will be in charge of today’s edition while rtmsf does relationship stuff with his significant other. Pretty weak if you ask me. . .

11:00 AM: Although we are a men’s college basketball site, we feel that it’s appropriate to mention the passing of Kay Yow, the former NC State coach, to breast cancer (or more precisely complications related to breast cancer). We can’t really do justice to her impact on the women’s game so it’s probably better just to refer you to a chronology of her life.

11:10 AM: The Notre Dame GameDay crowd looks a lot larger than what I saw last weekend at UNC. I am not sure if it is just a bunch of camera tricks by the GameDay crew, but they definitely have more signs. It may be that UConn is much, much better than Miami was last week or that the UNC crowd may be a bit jaded, but the Chapel Hill crowd was not as into the GameDay experience as I expected them to be.

11:45 AM: Digger Phelps has been doing a good job of working the crowd, which he also did last week at Chapel Hill (even off camera), taking the homer pick of Luke Harangody as his choice of tough player after the other analysts picked Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, and Stephen Curry to boos. As expected the crowd went wild with Digger’s pick. A little later in the show, the crowd gave the stereotypical college crowd response to a Duke segment by chanting “overrated”. Not surprisingly, the analysts all defend Duke. Appropriately enough, Bobby Knight calls out the Notre Dame students by questioning their education. It looks like he is getting more comfortable with his role on ESPN.

11:50 AM: Another awful half-court shot. Where does ESPN find these guys? He deserved to be embarrassed like that on national TV for popping his collar. Someone should tell him that hasn’t been cool since. . .actually it has never been cool. Congrats on the airball.

Noon: Wow. All of the GameDay guys except Knight picked LSU to beat #13 Xavier. I guess it’s in Baton Rouge, but Xavier is definitely the better team. Least surprising pick of the day: Digger picks Notre Dame. Knight abstains from picking a team.

12:15 PM: Duke is off to a good start against Maryland after Jon Scheyer opens the game with two 3s. What’s going on with Brian Zoubek? He actually looks like a legitimate center today. I have seen him play several times this year and he certainly has improved from last year, but he has never played like this. If he can do this even for spurts this year, Duke might have a legitimate chance to win the title this year instead of their usual great regular season and flop in March.

12:20 PM: Villanova is tied at 10 with USF 6 minutes into the game. Dante Cunningham has 8 of Villanova’s 10 points. I don’t have much else to say about this game since I don’t have ESPN360 available since I am out of town. If anybody has this game on TV, let me know if anything interesting happens.

1:00 PM: Duke goes into halftime with a 25-point lead despite having one of the ugliest possessions I have ever seen to end the half. Do you remember when the Duke-Maryland games used to be the best games of the season? I still remember trying to figure out where I could go to watch the game on TV my freshman year of college. (My school didn’t believe in providing cable to dorm rooms.) Meanwhile in Tampa, Villanova is struggling against USF (tied at 32 at halftime).

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2009

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

  1. Memphis: 14-3 (4-0)
  2. Houston: 11-4 (2-1)
  3. Southern Miss: 11-5 (2-1)
  4. Tulsa: 12-6 (2-1)
  5. UTEP: 11-6 (2-1)
  6. UCF: 11-6 (1-2)
  7. UAB: 10-7 (1-2)
  8. East Carolina: 9-7 (1-2)
  9. Marshall: 8-9 (1-2)
  10. Tulane: 7-9 (1-2)
  11. SMU: 6-9 (1-2)
  12. Rice: 6-11 (1-2)

This week in Conference USA basketball was full of the various surprises and dramatics that make college basketball season something special.  However when the dust settled this week, the same team was still the proverbial ‘King of the Castle’ and still nobody else from the pack has distinguished themselves.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2008

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

The week of final examinations usually equates to a slow basketball week and Conference USA is no exception to the rule.

In fact Houston, Memphis, Tulane, Rice, ECU, UAB, UTEP, Marshall and SMU all refrained from scheduling games during the week.

However there were a few games and storylines worth talking about in this rather uneventful week: Read the rest of this entry »

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #8 – Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2008

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Memphis  (34-1, 16-0)
  2. UAB  (26-9, 12-4)
  3. Tulsa  (22-13, 11-5)
  4. UTEP  (21-12, 10-6)
  5. Houston  (20-13, 9-7)
  6. Southern Miss  (19-15, 9-7)
  7. Marshall  (18-15, 8-8)
  8. UCF  (17-16, 8-8)
  9. Tulane  (14-18, 6-10)
  10. SMU  (13-20, 5-11)
  11. ECU  (11-21, 4-12)
  12. Rice  (9-23, 2-14)

conference-usa-logo

WYN2K.  The story of Conference USA basketball the last few seasons has been the absolute dominance of Memphis. This year should be no different as the Tigers return a great combination of veteran talent and blue chip freshmen. To put it in perspective, they have not lost a Conference USA game since an 80-74 loss at UAB on February 2nd, 2006. Despite the recent Tiger dominance, the arrival of quality coaches like Tom Penders (Houston), Mike Davis (UAB), Larry Eustachy (Southern Miss) and Ben Braun (Rice) has helped raise the level of play. There is enough talent in the conference to get two NCAA tournament teams and a few other teams in the other postseason tournaments. There will be close calls, but in the end none of the other teams will score that elusive upset over Memphis.

Predicted Champion.  Memphis (#2 seed NCAA). It’s really too easy to predict this one. I realize that the three most valuable players from last season: G Derrick Rose, G Chris Douglas-Roberts and C Joey Dorsey are all gone, but there are some talented players ready to step in. The star of Memphis coach John Calipari’s latest collection of blue-chip prospects is G Tyreke Evans from American Christian in suburban Philadelphia. Evans was one of the most highly-sought out prep point guards in the nation and is the heir apparent to Rose at the position. The other incoming player that should see a lot of action is F Wesley Witherspoon, a small forward from Lilburn, Georgia. Among the returners, F Robert Dozier is without a doubt the best athlete in the low post and is the leading returning scorer (9.2 ppg), rebounder (6.8 rpg) and shot-blocker (1.7 bpg). Depth abounds at the guard position where Willie Kemp, Antonio Anderson, Shawn Taggart and Doneal Mack all have proven they can step up in key situations. The only area where the Tigers lack a proven commodity is at the center position, where Joey Dorsey starred the past couple of seasons. But there is the enough talent on this roster to dominate the Conference USA field and make another deep run in the NCAA tournament.  Here’s a bone for UM fans (last year’s highlight mix)…

Others Considered.  Do not sleep on UAB (NCAA #9) this season. If there is any team in this conference with a legitimate shot at making the NCAA tournament outside of Memphis, it’s these guys. They were missing point guard Paul Delaney III for practically all of last season and still ended up finishing second behind Memphis in conference play. The Blazers also return the best shooter in Conference USA, Robert Vaden, and a solid scoring threat at small forward in Lawrence Kinnard. I could definitely see these guys getting in the dance as #9 or #10 seed if they avoid the costly slip-ups. Don’t call these guys one year wonders either because Blazer coach Mike Davis’ 2009 recruiting class is one of the best in the country. There is an outside shot that Tulsa (NIT) could make the NCAA Tournament with their very experienced squad. The Golden Hurricanes have Jerome Jordan, a 7-footer who has the NBA scouts drooling and is poised for a breakout year after a dominant finish last season. It doesn’t hurt Jordan that he has an all-conference point guard in Tony Uzoh getting him the ball. There is an interesting collection of incoming talent on this Houston (NIT) squad, including former St. John’s F Qa’rraan Calhoun and G Desmond Wade, a point guard from New Jersey who led his high school team to two state titles. But the Cougars lost way too much talent to seriously consider making the NCAA tournament. I have similar feelings about UTEP who returns one of the best athletes in this league – Stafon Jackson – and in the low post they bring in talented Memphis transfer Kareem Cooper. The Miners return most all of their key players from last season, but I’m just still not sold that they can put it all together under Coach Tony Barbee and make the NCAA Tournament. If nothing else, the Miners will be extremely tough on their home floor, the Don Haskins Center. Former national Coach of the Year Larry Eustachy has the most experienced team in the league at Southern Miss. Guards Jeremy Wise and Courtney Beasley are all-conference level guards who give the Eagles and Eustachy a shot at being a top-echelon C-USA team.

Important Games.  Every time Memphis plays a top-half Conference USA team it could be an interesting contest, since a lot of teams seem to ‘play up’ for the Tigers. But I doubt anyone will beat the Tigers at FedEx Forum this season, so the road games will be the most interesting challenges. Specifically, trips to El Paso and Birmingham loom large on the Tigers’ schedule. There are also a couple of contests that will determine who is behind Memphis in the conference pecking order.

  • UAB @ Houston (01.10.09)
  • UAB @ Tulsa (01.28.09)
  • Memphis @ UTEP (02.21.09)
  • Memphis @ UAB (02.26.09)
  • Conference USA Championship Game (03.14.09)

RPI Boosters.  If this league wants to move past its status as a ‘one-bid’ league then they’ll need to pull of at least a few decently high-profile upsets in the non-conference season. There are opportunities for every team in the league to get a marquee win at some point. Memphis will not be included in this particular list because they will be favored in most, if not all of their games this season. Not all of these are booster games against big conference foes, there are also some interesting match-ups against other mid-major teams.

  • Tulsa @ Oklahoma State (11.20.08)
  • UNLV @ UTEP (11.24.08)
  • VCU @ East Carolina (11.25.08)
  • Miami (FL) vs. Southern Miss (11.21.08) @ Paradise Jam (VI)
  • Rice @ Texas (11.27.08)
  • Western Kentucky @ Tulane (12.06.08)
  • SMU @ Texas A&M (12.17.08)
  • UAB @ Louisville (12.29.08)
  • Houston @ Mississippi State (01.03.09)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.  As compared to the past few seasons, this is a much deeper and generally more talented group of Conference USA teams. Even the middle of the pack teams like Marshall, UCF and Tulane could put some scares into the top teams. But this conference is still fundamentally Memphis and the proverbial eleven dwarves at the end of the day. The other teams are gradually getting stronger and this could become one of the better “mid-major” conferences in the next few seasons.

Neat-o Stats. 

  • I know I’ve made the point ad nauseum, but Memphis has absolutely dominated the Conference USA competition in the past three seasons. The Tigers’ combined record in C-USA play in those three seasons: 45-1. If that’s not domination, frankly I do not know what is.
  • Since basketball powers Marquette, Cincinnati, Louisville, and DePaul left for the Big East in 2005 there’s only been one season where the C-USA has had multiple NCAA tournament teams. In the 2005-06 season, both Memphis (#1 seed) and UAB (#9 seed) qualified for the tournament. No C-USA team besides Memphis has made it to the Big Dance since.
  • Incoming UCF freshman big man Jakub Kusmieruk may be the biggest guy in all of college basketball since the 7’7” Kenny George of UNC-Asheville had to retire due to injury. Listed at an astonishing 7’4” and 295 pounds, this native of Poland is worth keeping an eye on. He probably won’t see too many minutes in his first season, but all indications are that the kid has a good work ethic and can become a force in the low post for the Golden Knights.

65 Team Era.  It’s amazing how far CUSA has fallen since the great exodus of 2005.  Consider that in 2004, the league earned SIX bids to the NCAA Tournament, racking up four first-round wins.  Now it’s very fortunate to get a team other than Memphis into the Big Dance (only happening once – UAB in 2006).  Thus, the historical stats (48-42, .533) don’t hold much meaning because the league has changed so much from its current iteration. 

Final Thought.  The quality of basketball in Conference USA has taken a dive since the “basketball” teams all left for the Big East and Atlantic 10. But it would be foolish to presume that no team outside of Memphis is worth talking about. In fact this conference’s best days of basketball are ahead of them. UAB is bringing in a top-rated recruiting class and has a couple of serious NBA prospects on their roster currently. UTEP has Stafon Jackson and he could be the best athlete in all of Conference USA. While they aren’t tournament contenders right now, Marshall brought in an impressive recruiting class that includes Florida’s Mr. Basketball, Shaquille Johnson. Outside of Memphis few C-USA teams have players leave early for the draft, but Jeremy Wise is a great combo guard and could be the best player in Southern Miss history. There are multiple strong OOC games for C-USA teams to prove themselves in. Basically the onus is on the teams outside of Memphis to make a name for themselves and continue to elevate the national opinion when it comes to Conference USA basketball.

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2008 Early Entry Winners and Losers

Posted by rtmsf on June 16th, 2008

Whew. After an exhausting day trying to track the news feeds seemingly every minute to figure out who was staying and who was leaving college, we can finally take a deep breath and start to sort out what this means for all the parties involved. Of the 69 early entries of US collegians submitted to the NBA league offices last month, 35 will remain in the 2008 NBA Draft pool. Here are the 35 early entries:

  • Joe Alexander, West Virginia
  • Ryan Anderson, California
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas
  • D.J. Augustin, Texas
  • Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas State
  • Mario Chalmers, Kansas
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
  • C.J. Giles, Oregon State
  • Donte Greene, Syracuse
  • Kalen Grimes, Missouri
  • Eric Gordon, Indiana
  • DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
  • Kosta Koufos, Ohio State
  • Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State
  • Shawn James, Duquesne
  • Davon Jefferson, Southern California
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford
  • Robin Lopez, Stanford
  • Kevin Love, UCLA
  • O.J. Mayo, Southern California
  • Richard Hendrix, Alabama
  • J.J. Hickson, North Carolina State
  • George Hill, IUPUI
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA
  • JaVale McGee, Nevada
  • Kojo Mensah, Duquesne
  • Trent Plaisted, Brigham Young
  • Anthony Randolph, LSU
  • Walter Sharpe, Alabama-Birmingham
  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
  • Brandon Rush, Kansas
  • Marreese Speights, Florida
  • Bill Walker, Kansas State
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

We’d Be Excited Too, Roy

Today’s Winners

  • Roy Williams. Ole Roy could slip into a coke-induced coma for half of next season and still watch his team win 30+ games and make the Final Four. Why? Because the nation’s top backcourt (Ty Lawson & Wayne Ellington) and sixth man (Danny Green) all decided to return to Chapel Hill today to join forces with the reigning NPOY and a top five recruiting class. Yeah, apparently Roy is living right.
  • Lute Olson. It’s been a rough year for Olson, what with all his divorce proceedings and the loss of Jerryd Bayless to the NBA. The surprising return of the sensational Chase Budinger for his junior season provides Olson a key bulding block to get his program back on track.
  • Mark Few. Few only had to sweat out his beefy point guard Jeremy Pargo’s decision, but this player remains the key to Gonzaga’s success next season. With Pargo back to run the system, interior players such as Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt can expect the ball in the right place at the right time.
  • Mark Gottfried. Alabama was facing a seemingly unthinkable situation where they would lose their best player from last season, forward Richard Hendrix, while simultanously losing their best player from two seasons ago, point guard Ronald Steele, even though Steele sat out the entire last season due to injury. We’ve shown previously how important a healthy Steele is to the Alabama attack, and with the additional return of Alonzo Gee to help offset the Hendrix loss, Gottfried must feel as if he dodged a serious bullet.
  • John Calipari. Why is he here? Didn’t he lose super-frosh Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the NBA? Well, yes, but he also retained the services of Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier, which when combined with incoming stud wing Tyreke Evans, there will be more than enough talent for Calipari to roll through CUSA pretty much unscathed again. Calipari isn’t as big a winner as some of the above coaches, but today was a good day for him.

Tough Day For Howland, But He Knows He’ll Have More Chances

Today’s Losers

  • Ben Howland. There was some talk that Kevin Love may return to Westwood, but that quickly died down. When Russell Westbrook decided to leave as well, few were surprised. Josh Shipp made the wise choice to return, but today’s decision by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to leave early has to leave UCLA fans scratching their heads – he’s unlikely to be drafted in either round, according to some people.
  • Rick Stansbury. It’s bad enough that all-SEC guard Jamont Gordon left Stansbury’s Mississippi St. program, but it’s even worse when there’s a strong sentiment that Gordon may not get a sniff of the second round. This feels a lot like Kennedy WInston from Alabama a few years ago.
  • Bill Walker. Yes, he gets his own mention here. The popcorn munching, towel-pissing, former K-State guard had it in his head all along that he was going League. So even though he sat out the NBA Predraft Camp and then proceeded to seriously hurt his knee during a workout last weekend – giving scouts even more pause about his shaky sticks – Walker decided that he was ready for the NBA and shouldn’t be too surprised if he finds himself in the D-League next season.
  • Bill Self. How bad can it be if you just won the national title? Not very. Still, there was a chance Mario Chalmers would return next season to lead Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and the other Jayhawks back to another F4 opportunity. Only Collins of the quartet of he, Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush is returning, but somehow we think Bill Self is still smiling.
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05.27.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 27th, 2008

Some post-Memorial Day items of interest…

  • Former Georgetown guard Jeremiah Rivers will transfer to Indiana (perhaps he sees immediate PT awaiting in 2009-10?).
  • Who’s coming back? Memphis guard Antonio Anderson, Marquette guard Jerel McNeal and Alabama guard Alonzo Gee declared their intentions to return to school, ensuring that Memphis will have at least one starter back from its national runner-up team. One intriguing name who is still undecided, WVU’s Joe Alexander, described his daily routine in Vegas getting ready for the pre-draft camp.
  • Speaking of which, the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp begins tomorrow. Here is the list of players invited.
  • Frank Burlison at Scout.com has an interesting rumors/tidbits report on where players are likely to land in the NBA Draft – his most interesting takes were questioning Michael Beasley’s true size (6’8ish?) and Robin Lopez getting selected before his more accomplished brother, Brook.
  • It’s official – Mike Jarvis will take over as the head man at Florida Atlantic.
  • There will be no payout for Bill Duffy Associates, the agency allegedly supplying OJ Mayo with money through street agent urchin Rodney Guillory, as Mayo has “restructured” his inner circle by parting ways with his BDA agent, Calvin Andrews.
  • Will the Class of 2008 produce far fewer 1-and-dones than the last two years?
  • We always thought there was something bizarre about the NCAA F4 ticket-request process. Looks like we weren’t the only ones.
  • We’ll end with Joakim Noah’s completely unsurprising evening in Gainesville Saturday night.
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