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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College Hoops Expanding Global Reach With Armed Forces Game in South Korea

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 1st, 2013

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

For many years, the college basketball season would tip off with a relative murmur, drowned out by the football-crazed environment that consumes November. Changing this dynamic has been one of college hoops’ biggest priorities in recent years. Not only has the sport devised new, innovative, quasi-gimmicky events, the NCAA Tournament selection committee did away with its traditional emphasis on the “final 12 games of the season” in order to give equal weight to the entirety of a team’s campaign. The non-conference season has never meant more in the eyes of the selection committee, and if you don’t perform in November in December (or fill your schedule with small league opponents and other RPI anathema), turning in a merely “decent” league season won’t make amends for your cautious and/or unsuccessful pre-New Year efforts. Non-league games are important, and college hoops has sought to highlight their importance by spicing up its typically mundane season opening with eye-opening events like ESPN’s 24-hour marathon, the compacted Champions Classic and other innovative ventures.

If this year's AFC even comes close to last season's game in Germany, it will be considered a success (AP).

If this year’s AFC even comes close to last season’s game in Germany, it will be considered a success (AP).

One of the sport’s more successful recent season tip-off undertakings was the Carrier Classic, which conflated patriotism and Veterans Day college hoops in unique and aesthetically enthralling way. The 2011 game was a huge success: President Obama sat courtside with hundreds of troops in uniform aboard the USS Carl Vinson while Michigan State and North Carolina played a “just OK” game in front of some of the more gorgeous vistas of any sporting event I can remember. It felt magical, or something close to it. One year later, the water cycle did its thing, players and coaches alike decried hazardous court conditions, and despite the event’s commendable patriotic intent, most everyone had agreed that whole boat idea wasn’t going to work out any more. The 2012 Armed Forces Classic was a safer alternative, imbued with the same troops-honoring purpose, and staged on far-flung defense bases in a five-year rotating cycle including all five military branches*. Last season, UConn and Michigan State faced off at Ramstein Air Base in Germany; In 2013, the AFC is setting up shop even further away from the Continental United States. ESPN’s Andy Katz dropped the news Tuesday afternoon: Georgetown and Oregon will kick off 2013-14 at Camp Humphreys Army Base, located 45 miles south of Seoul, South Korea.

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Morning Five: 07.31.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2013

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  1. Last year’s Armed Forces Classic between Connecticut and Michigan State on an air base in Germany may not have brought the same razzle-dazzle that the original aircraft carrier game in 2011 did, but it was easily the most compelling opening night game last season for any number of reasons. The weird midnight local time tip, the aircraft hangar setting, the wild military crowd in attendance, Kevin Ollie’s first game as a head coach, the start of UConn’s “lost season,” a Jim Calhoun appearance, and yeah, even a pretty good game. Next year’s event seeks to do us one better, as Andy Katz reported on Tuesday that the 2013 version will be held at US Army base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, resulting in the first college basketball game to be played in Asia since Ralph Sampson’s Virginia group was about to lose to Chaminade. The participants will be Georgetown and Oregon, with both teams expected to be good next season and hoping to get an early non-conference quality win. Georgetown certainly hopes this trip goes a little better than the last time it visited Asia, while Oregon’s representation continues the Pac-12′s ongoing push to marketing its products on to the other side of the Pacific Rim. We can’t wait. 
  2. Speaking of Pac-12 schools in the Beaver State, Oregon’s rival could be coming apart at the seams. Already on the hot seat for a middling 77-88 (31-59 P12) record in five years in Corvallis, Craig Robinson was hoping to have his most talented and experienced team returning intact next season. With the news released on Tuesday that starting frontcourt mates Devon Collier (13/6) and Eric Moreland (9/10) were suspended indefinitely for undisclosed team violations, there is valid reason for concern that the Beavers are facing a meltdown 2013-14 campaign. The good news is that the pair will be allowed to continue their strength and conditioning training as well as summer workouts, so perhaps these suspensions are merely of the ‘send a message’ variety. There’s one thing we can bank on, though. If Robinson doesn’t have Collier and Moreland at his disposal next season, he’d best polish off that financial services resume for a pending move back east.
  3. How about some better news? The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2013 earlier this week, and the names include some of the all-time greats in our sport. The headliners are 1968 NPOY Elvin Hayes (Houston) and 1975 NPOY Marques Johnson (UCLA), along with six-time NCOY Gene Keady (Purdue) and Villanova national championship head coach Rollie Massimino. Wichita State superstar Xavier “X-Man” McDaniel was also selected, in addition to Tom McMillen (Maryland), Bob Hopkins (Grambling), and a unique team inclusion: the entire 1963 Loyola (Chicago) national champions. That team was notable in that it started four black players on its title team, some three years before the more-ballyhooed Texas Western squad won its Brown vs. Board of Education game against all-white Kentucky. Former Washington State and USC head coach and Nike representative George Raveling was also chosen to the Hall for his work with the shoe company (a “contributor,” they call it). The ceremony will occur as part of the CBE Classic in Kansas City on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. A deserving group.
  4. Among the latte-sipping class, you’ve pretty much arrived if you’re mentioned in The Economist. The high-brow publication from the United Kingdom has long been considered one of the most cogent analytical voices on international economic matters in the world, and particularly so among US policy-makers and business leaders. Rarely do sports, especially college sports, find space on the magazine’s pages, but last week the rest of the world was introduced to Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit against the NCAA. Many people reading this kind of material are likely clueless about the history and importance of the NCAA, but the tone of the piece again shows how, as a matter of public perception, the organization has already lost the coasts. People all across America still love college sports — the eastern and western edges of the continent included — but the growing consensus among the educated and wealthy concentrated in those areas is that the NCAA is exploiting 18-22 year olds for its unjust enrichment. The O’Bannon case has a long way to go still, but don’t think that the judge and principals involved didn’t notice The Economist’s wandering eye.
  5. Every once in a while Deadspin comes up with some sort of analysis that doesn’t involve genitalia jokes or athletes (and their wives, sorry, WAGs) doing dumb things on Twitter. Last week Patrick Burns wrote up a comprehensive analysis of watching an entire year (2012) of the 11 PM ESPN Sportscenter to see which sports, teams and personalities received the most coverage. There were no surprises at the top of the list, of course, with the NFL (23.3% of all available minutes) and NBA (19.2%) in dominant positions, followed by MLB (16.8%) and college football (7.7%). But perhaps surprisingly given how pigskin drives all the money-making decisions at the school and conference level, Sportscenter spent nearly as much time talking about college hoops (6.8%) as it did on the gridiron. The most talked-about team, as you can imagine that year, was Kentucky (0.9% of all minutes). True, Sportscenter is but a single proxy for the importance of American sports culture, but it’s an important one nonetheless.
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Armed Forces Classic Puts Michigan State Back in the Opening Week Spotlight

Posted by KTrahan on September 20th, 2012

If there’s a unique place to play a basketball game, Michigan State will probably find a way to play there eventually. The Spartans opened the 2011-12 season by playing North Carolina on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the inaugural Carrier Classic. Now, Tom Izzo’s squad will be opening up the 2012-13 season somewhere even stranger — in an airplane hangar at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. MSU will take on Connecticut in the inaugural Armed Forces Classic, the first regular season college basketball game to ever be played in Europe.

Last Year’s Inaugural Carrier Classic Set the Stage for Michigan State’s Entry Into This Year’s Armed Forces Classic

Games in strange settings are a clear trend in college basketball, with the Carrier Classic moving into its second year, Pittsburgh playing its Midnight Madness scrimmage on a street corner and now the Spartans and Huskies flying all the way to Europe to tip off the season. Michigan State has been a pioneer in the movement, as evidenced by the Spartans’ openers last season and next. Athletic director Mark Hollis has been a visionary in helping his team gain exposure on the national stage by scheduling games that draw in a national television audience. The media-savvy Hollis and his athletic department have grown the Spartans’ national presence across all sports, but basketball in particular. With most teams choosing to play cupcakes during the first few weeks of the season, last year Michigan State immediately threw itself into the national spotlight against a loaded North Carolina team in the Carrier Classic, both due to the magnitude of the match-up and the uniqueness of the event. It was big for the sport as a whole too, as college basketball stole the spotlight, if only for a day, in the heart of the football season.

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Morning Five: 09.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2012

  1. Yesterday North Carolina announced that Roy Williams had undergone successful surgery at UNC Hospitals to remove a tumor from his right kidney, the likes of which was discovered last month during a routine physical of the 62-year old head coach. Although Williams’ prognosis is good and he is expected to be back on his feet and ready for the start of practice in just over three weeks, there is the possibility that he may need to undergo a second surgery to remove a different tumor on his left kidney. Although the news release didn’t mention the dreaded “c” word related to Williams’ health, it’s safe to assume that there is at least some cause for concern on that front. The NYT reported Wednesday that the severity of the removed tumor is currently unknown and his test results should be back within a week. Meanwhile, we’re all crossing our fingers for a coach who, as The Dagger reminded us, has spent the better part of his years at UNC pushing philanthropic causes related to fighting cancer. Good luck in this battle, coach.
  2. Former Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun is no stranger to health issues including cancer (a three-time survivor), so hopefully he won’t have to spend any of his golden years fighting that particular disease again. Now fully settled into retirement his new role as UConn basketball advisor/fund-raiser, he’ll certainly have more free time, and as the Hartford Courant reports, the financial resources by which to truly enjoy himself. Calhoun’s decision to make no decision on his retirement until after the payroll run on September 7 ensured that he would receive a lump sum payment of $1.3 million for speaking engagements and appearances this year, while his negotiation of another lump sum payment in January to $1.15 million and his biweekly salary going through next March means that the three-time national champion will receive in the neighborhood of $2.75 million for not coaching the Huskies this season. He also has an option to receive another lump sum $1 million retirement payment next spring, which would put his golden parachute year into elite territory, for sure.
  3. Kevin Ollie is the new top guy at UConn, and his first regular season game will make history in more ways than one — not only does his hiring represent a new era in Connecticut basketball, but he will stalk the sidelines for the very first time as a Husky some 4,000 miles away as part of the first college basketball game ever played in Europe. The Armed Forces Classic will feature Michigan State and Connecticut lacing them up at midnight local time in an airplane hangar at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It will also serve as a nice homecoming game for German-born Huskies Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolf, and Leon Tolksdorf, none of whom probably never imagined they’d get a chance to play NCAA hoops on their home soil. One interesting caveat with this news release is that there are plans to move this event around in the future, potentially opening up the entire world to the beauty of early November college basketball.
  4. The nation’s top player in the Class of 2014, and some say the top player in the world’s prep ranks, Andrew Wiggins of Huntington (WV) Prep, is considering a reclassification (Nerlens Noel-style) into the Class of 2013 instead. According to his high school coach, Wiggins already has taken and passed most of the NCAA’s requisite core classes, meaning that he theoretically has the option if he and his parents feel that’s the best course of action for his development, and ultimately, NBA riches. Huntington is only two hours east of Lexington, and John Calipari has already made waves recruiting Wiggins, so you have to wonder if the Kentucky head coach has his eye set on making the Class of 2013 (including a reclassified Wiggins) his own personal Dream Team. UK is already on the list of every player in the top five of Rivals’ most recent rankings — Calipari might just redefine what college basketball recruiting is all about if he pulls this off.
  5. So… about that Harvard basketball bandwagon? Yeah, many Crimson students aren’t really feeling it much anymore. According to Bill Pennington’s Quad post at the New York Times, the campus euphoria that surrounded the team’s Ivy League championship and long-overdue appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season has largely dissipated in light of the recent academic scandal involving co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Even though the class in question where the cheating is alleged to have occurred (Government 1310: Introduction to Congress) involved over 125 students with varying interests and affiliations, the focus has largely been on the presumed guilt of Tommy Amaker’s players and what it says about the interplay between college athletics and academics as a whole. It’s an interesting read and well worth your time.
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