Texas Trampled: Longhorns Need to Find Offensive Purpose Before Big 12 Play

Posted by mpatton on December 21st, 2011

Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from tonight’s Texas vs. North Carolina game in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina absolutely pummeled Texas from buzzer to buzzer Wednesday night in Chapel Hill. From the opening tip the Tar Heels came out swinging, and the Longhorns immediately departed from the game plan. Needless to say Rick Barnes was livid after the game. He noted his team’s lack of offensive discipline, which he implicitly tied to Myck Kabongo‘s poor first half play. Apparently, Kabongo abandoned the team’s plan for the opening possession for the second straight game. After a horrendous first half, Barnes only played his freshman point guard two minutes in the second half. Why? “Guys aren’t gonna play if they don’t want to play.”

Myck Kabongo is still Adapting to the College Game.

Inconsistent point guard play has plagued Texas two of the last three seasons. Two years ago, Barnes rotated Avery Bradley — a score-first guard — and Dogus Balbay — a defense-first creator — at the one to mixed success. The Longhorns climbed to the top of the polls only to plummet in conference play before eventually losing to Wake Forest in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year, again Barnes employed two point guards with Cory Joseph and Balbay running the team. The team’s offense was significantly more productive thanks in large part to Jordan Hamilton’s development and Tristan Thompson’s ownership of the offensive glass. Coming into this year it finally looked like Barnes had one point guard, the freshman Kabongo.

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Is One-and-Done On Its Last Legs?

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2011

God, let’s hope so.

Hopefully We're Putting This Era to Bed Soon

This site has been on record for a number of years fully in support of a two-and-done NBA rule that would have several corresponding effects.  A brief outline:

  • Here, we explain why having stars develop their marketability in UNC, Texas or UCLA uniforms rather than sitting the bench for a couple of years in the NBA is not only better for the individual player and NBA teams using the NCAA as its minor league, but also for the sport of college basketball.  Casual fans get more excited when they recognize the star players on the marquee teams (think: John Wall vs. Avery Bradley).
  • As we explained in this piece, college coaches who publicly support the preps-to-pros or MLB model (where a player can go pro either out of HS or three years later) are either being disingenuous to appear like they truly care about players’ best interests, or they’re forgetting just how frustrating and wasteful it was. After spending years recruiting elite players only to have them bail to the pros in late spring of their senior year, coaches were left scrambling to find last-minute replacements and having to explain to their fans why they had huge holes in their lineups the next year (see: Shaun Livingston, Gerald Green, JR Smith, et al).
  • And in this analysis, we showed that although having elite freshman talent might seem like the right thing to do, it probably won’t win you a championship in the current environment.  Depending on what Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Jeremy Lamb do this month, as few as five and as many as eight one-and-dones have played in the Final Four in the last five years, with Lamb the only player to have won a title (as a second banana behind a NPOY candidate, mind you).

As we approach the expiration of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and players at the end of June, we’ve anticipated that an extension of the one-and-done rule to two years would be a significant chip on the bargaining table.  A report last week from Yahoo! Sports suggests that “about two-thirds” of NBA owners want to see such a rule implemented in the new deal next season.  The players’ union is against it for obvious reasons, but as this PBT article outlines, if it comes down to a situation where major-dollar negotiations hinge on protecting its union-member veterans in exchange for requiring another year of college for future members, we know which outcome is the most likely.

 

Teams Like This Make the Sport Popular (AP)

What does it mean?  The game of college basketball is probably as popular as it’s ever been in terms of whole numbers, but among the all-important casual fans, it perhaps pales to what it was two decades ago when most players stayed a minimum of two years.  We can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked to some of these folks about college hoops only to have them shrug their shoulders with indifference and say something like,”I just don’t like having to learn the new good players every year.  There’s no continuity.”  We can argue just how truthful that statement might be, but the important part is that the perception exists. The possibility of another transcendent team like Michigan’s Fab Five (where fans got to know every single starter intimately for two solid seasons) simply hasn’t been possible in the last fifteen years; with the strong possibility of a two-and-done rule taking hold soon, college basketball fans will finally get back to the glory days of watching great teams develop over a longer and more natural period of time.  If you love the game (or even if you only like it), this should be something we can all get behind.

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Abdul Gaddy

Posted by jstevrtc on August 27th, 2010

Rush The Court presents the inaugural edition of One on One: an Interview Series, which we hope to publish weekly on Friday mornings throughout the year.  If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

As Abdul Gaddy heads into his second season under head coach Lorenzo Romar at the University of Washington, he has a lot to prove. Ranked as the second-best point guard prospect in the class of 2009 (behind the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, John Wall), Gaddy had a disappointing freshman season, averaging just four points and two assists per game despite starting in each of his team’s final 27 games. Romar said that as the season wore on, he noticed that Gaddy’s confidence dipped, and a big question on the minds of many college basketball fans is when will we see that calm, cool and confident Gaddy who earned such lofty appraisals in his high school and AAU days.  Andrew Murawa, a contributor here at Rush The Court as well as our Pac-10 and Mountain West correspondent, talked with Gaddy earlier this week, and we asked him about the recruiting process, his freshman season, and what to expect from the 2010-11 version of the Huskies.

Rush The Court: When you came out of high school you were regarded as the second-best point guard prospect in the country behind John Wall. Did you pay a lot of attention to those recruiting rankings when you were in high school?

Abdul Gaddy: At the beginning, no. But, as I became the second-best point guard and all that, I kind of did pay attention. I thought it was a great honor for me, so I kind of got into it and thought it was pretty fun, just to see all the rankings, so I kind of got into it a little bit.

Gaddy's confidence was low for most of last season, but he recovered late, settled into college life, and his team won 14 of their last 17.

RTC: You played at events like the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic and the Boost Mobile Elite 24 at Rucker Park, where you got to play with and against some of those same guys in those recruiting rankings. What was that like?

AG: It was fun to play against those guys, the top-ranked guys in my class. They were all stout competition. They brought out my competitive nature. Having fun, playing the game of basketball against them, just to see how I measured up against them, was great. It was a good measuring stick for myself to see where I was at and how much better I needed to get.

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2010 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

After another summer of loud belly-aching, moaning and groaning about how the NBA’s one-and-done rule is methodically destroying college basketball as we know it, we’re left with the fact that, in reality, only eleven players from the prep class of 2009 found their way into the 2010 NBA Draft pool.  As it turns out, approximately 90% of the RSCI Top 100 players from last year’s freshman class will return to play another season of college basketball in 2010-11.  And this is not unusual.  In the four NBA Drafts where one-and-doners were forced to attend at least one year of college (2007-10), there have been a total of 35 such players, or around nine per season.  There are obvious problems with the NBA’s one-year rule that we won’t get into here, but we shouldn’t be losing our heads over what amounts to a handful of players each season.

And what about those players — how did it go for them?  We can safely presume that if you’re good enough to be one-and-done, a year in college probably worked out well enough for you (ahem, Tommy Mason-Griffin excepted).  But we’re more interested in the schools.  How did recruiting and ultimately matriculating a one-and-done player work out for those institutions?  Put in real terms, was bringing a player like Derrick Favors on campus at Georgia Tech for one year worthwhile?  What about Calipari’s den of young Cats?  You may recall that we did this school-centric analysis in each of the last three summers (2007, 2008, and 2009), and the basic conclusion that we’ve found is that one-and-done players have generally benefited their schools in the two areas that matter most: 1) wins; and 2) marketability.  Let’s take a closer look at this year’s group.

2010 One-and-Dones

Kentucky – Well Worth It. Say what you want about the meltdown of Calipari’s Cats in the Elite Eight against a tougher, more experienced West Virginia team, but the fact that Kentucky brought in the #1 recruiting class of 2009 and delivered on the implied promise that Cal’s system develops NBA draft picks is why his cadre of one-and-dones (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton) was well worth it.  And here’s the what behind the why: four five-star prospects arrive in Lexington next year (Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones) and two more are signed on for 2011 (Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) with several others lurking in the wings.  Not every one of these players will become a one-and-doner, so eventually Calipari will be able to season some experienced talent around his annual lottery pick arrivals (see: 2008 Memphis) to give himself a great chance to win that elusive national title.  As far as the difference in Q rating from the Gillispie era to now, it’s like that $22M/year Tiger Woods lost in endorsements since last November somehow ended up in Lexington as gold-plated streets.  UK has become the program du jour for the young, moneyed and hip, and when the head coach infamously stated that this year’s NBA Draft night was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he’s referring to marketability.  The pitch: come to Lexington, play a fun style of uptempo basketball, win 30-35 games, market your brand on television through our deals with CBS and ESPN, have a shot to win a title, meet celebrities such as LeBron James and Drake, and end up shaking David Stern’s hand in a year or two…  not exactly fraught with hard decisions.  If Calipari can keep his program in the headlines for the right reasons, this class will be looked at as the tipping point for a whole new era of Kentucky basketball.  Definitely well worth it.

John Wall Was Only the First of Many Cats to Meet Stern

Marshall – Well Worth It. If you recruit a player who wasn’t even ranked in the RSCI top 100 and he ends up dominating your league as a freshman center to the point of becoming the Conference USA defensive POY and leading the nation in blocked shots, it was well worth it.  Hassan Whiteside’s one year in Huntington led the Thundering Herd to its best season in over two decades, culminating in a fourth-place finish in CUSA, big late-season wins over UAB and Tulsa, and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIT.  For a program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1987, any postseason appearance is a great year, and Whiteside’s patrolling of the paint had no small part in it.  The unfortunate part of Whiteside’s meteoric rise is that the Herd had such a good season that as a result it also lost its head coach Donnie Jones, which may impact the long-term marketability aspect of Whiteside’s year there.  Nevertheless, we doubt anyone at Marshall regrets the year that both Whiteside and Jones resided in Huntington together, so we think that this was a huge boost for a mid-major program not used to having such players around.

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2010 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Posted by zhayes9 on June 25th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:

Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images

Winners:

Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.

John Calipari - As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.

Paul George - It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.

Greivis Vasquez’ reaction - I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Avery Bradley

Posted by rtmsf on June 9th, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Avery Bradley

School: Texas

Height/Weight: 6’3, 180

NBA Position: SG

Projected Draft Range: Mid to late 1st round

Overview: The much-hyped Avery Bradley experienced an up-and-down four months in his one and only season in Austin. Bradley helped transform Texas into an early season Final Four favorite, providing head coach Rick Barnes with exemplary perimeter defense paired with Dogus Balbay and even mixing in a taste of 20+ point offensive explosions along the way. Bradley’s most prominent stretch came in the middle of the Texas campaign just prior to their unfortunate collapse when the lengthy guard dropped 29 vs. Colorado and 24 at Iowa State in back-to-back early January performances that surely raised the expectations of the burnt orange faithful. After those virtuoso scoring nights, Bradley would post ten points or less in ten games until the Texas season came to a shocking end in the first round against Wake Forest (Bradley shot 4-15 for nine points). Of course, scoring doesn’t tell the entire story of Bradley’s game; stellar perimeter defense, explosiveness/athleticism and the ability to grab a key rebound in Rajon Rondo-like fashion all prompted enough NBA GMs and scouts to give him a first-round guarantee. Still, Bradley leaves Texas with little accomplished in a year that was supposed to reap major achievements.

Bradley Showed Considerable Promise in his Freshman Year

Will Translate to the NBA: Bradley isn’t necessarily known for his offense, but a 38% three-point mark as a freshman is exceptional. He has the ability to run off screens for catch-and-shoot opportunities from deep or pull up off the dribble and utilize outstanding elevation to get his shot off. It would benefit Bradley if he could perfect a floater in the lane to avoid relying too much on his sometimes inconsistent jump shot. A player with intelligence beyond his years, Bradley knows how to read opposing defenses and boasts the quickness to create just enough room to find an open look. What can make Bradley a real asset at the next level is his defense. His on-ball defense is phenomenal for a 19-year old, so good it could be used for an instructional video. You will rarely see Bradley lose focus or not be in a low defensive stance on that side of the floor. Bradley is also a very gifted off-the-ball defender, always chasing his opponent around the court. Even if he’s a bit undersized, peg Bradley and his 6’7 wingspan on a top shooting guard in the NBA and he would be able to hold his own right away.

Needs Work: With Bradley’s height, point guard would seemingly be the ideal position for him at the next level, but he simply lacks that ability at this stage in his career. Running the point takes an endless amount of practice and repetition, meaning it’s extremely long odds that Bradley ever learns how to play that position effectively. He’s never been apt at playmaking or setting up teammates for open scoring opportunities. His court vision is well below average and often times at Texas the ball would deflate in his hands. Bradley will have to play shooting guard in the NBA and could be frustrated with those bigger defenders. It doesn’t help that he wasn’t exactly proficient at scoring on penetration in his one year at Texas and rarely got to the free throw line (where he shot a ghastly 55%). At 6’3, his future NBA coach will likely have to match Bradley on the defensive end with either a point guard or a shorter two-guard to prevent a destructive height mismatch.

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Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape

Posted by zhayes9 on April 30th, 2010

With the NBA Draft deadline moved up to May 8 this year, we’ll be able to formulate next year’s college basketball landscape sooner than ever before. The decision of many on the fence could dramatically alter the style, roster and makeup of everyone from Kentucky to Richmond. For many of these super-talents such as North Carolina’s Ed Davis, the decision was probably made a long time ago. But for those like fellow ACC foe Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech, their status is very much up in the air for 2010-11. He’s just one of many upcoming decisions that could change the outlook of an entire conference.

Many columns dealing with early entries dissect whether the decision was smart or short-sighted, whether the choice to enter their name was the proper call for their careers. Personally, I don’t care so much about their personal career paths, but about how their decision affects college basketball. Instead, the focus of this column will be on how each early entry to put their name in the draft changes their respective schools’ chances when winter approaches.

Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky)- Many around the Kentucky program believe Orton and Bledsoe are history, but refraining from signing with an agent leaves the door slightly ajar. If one or both return to Lexington, the Wildcats vault ahead of Tennessee as the SEC favorites. Returning to school would be even more beneficial to Orton, a player that didn’t establish himself playing behind Cousins and Patterson, but only showed glimpses of his superb athleticism, defensive prowess and developing low-post moves. Pair Orton in the post with Swiss import Enes Kanter and John Calipari is in business. Put Bledsoe with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb or Darius Miller and the same holds true. Calipari’s loaded class certainly screams reload rather than rebuild, but the returns of Bledsoe and/or Orton would vault expectations even higher.

Gordon Hayward (Butler)- The “babyfaced assassin” (h/t Gus Johnson) might have the toughest call of any early entry this spring. A relative unknown to casual fans just one year ago, Hayward burst onto the scene with a stellar NCAA Tournament, leading the charge behind Butler’s miraculous run to the national title game. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Hayward possesses guard skills in a 6’9 frame and may even go in the latter half of the lottery should he keep his name in the field. Butler would also drop to a ranking similar to the one they enjoyed in October last year. If Hayward returns, it would be a crying shame if Butler isn’t the #2 team ranked preseason behind Duke. The only starter departing is glue guy Willie Veasley. That’s right: Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard would all return to school for another March push.

Avery Bradley (Texas)- Sources told Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman that Bradley was likely to stay in the Draft, and quite honestly I can see why. Teams that are looking for a backup point guard with the ability to defend and attack the basket will be flocking towards Bradley near the mid-first round. Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph committing to Texas last week takes some pressure off of Rick Barnes if Bradley should opt to stay in the draft. The Longhorns grossly underachieved with Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James; with all three departing, expectations can’t possibly be sky high for Texas, although Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor should all take steps back this season. Texas is a top-15 team regardless of last season should Bradley, Joseph, Dogus Balbay, J’Covan Brown and Jai Lucas round out a loaded backcourt. I suspect Bradley has played his last game in burnt orange, though.

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Comings & Goings: UK’s ‘Fab Five’ Gone; Gaudio Out at Wake

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2010

HUGE DAY.

John Calipari has a major rebuilding task ahead of him in the 2010-11 season, as his five best players are leaving the program for the bluer waters of the NBA Draft.  In a move that shocked absolutely no one, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton all declared today, leaving UK with just a handful of returning scholarship players heading into next season.  According to KSR, however, P-Pat has yet to file his papers although he would undoubtedly become a top fifteen pick when he does so.  If all five of these guys stay in this year’s draft, it’s likely that each of them would be selected in the top twenty, a first in the history of the event.  This begs the question, of course, whether we should be impressed by so many draft-worthy players on a single team; or by the curious fact that five top twenty picks couldn’t even make it to the Final Four despite an embarrassment of talent at its disposal.

Ohio State’s National POY Evan Turner also declared that he will enter the draft today, and as the presumed #2 overall pick he is making a good decision.  The multi-talented point forward has a chance to become an outstanding perimeter player at the next level, and we’re very happy that his year turned out the way it did after a horrific fall in December threatened to derail his season and (potentially) career.  Some other names that threw their hats into the ring today were: Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who is expected to fall into the #8-#20 range, Xavier’s Jordan Crawford (late 1st/early 2d round), Cincinnati’s Lance Stephenson (late 1st/early 2d round), Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside (late lottery pick), Oklahoma’s Willie Warren (early 2d round), Dayton’s Chris Wright (mid 2d round), Texas’ Avery Bradley (late 1st round), and Florida’s Alex Tyus (undrafted).  Stephenson is the most interesting case study in why we should never listen to players during the season with respect to this stuff, as he clearly stated earlier this season that his return to Cincinnati for a sophomore campaign was ‘definite.’   He’s already signed with an agent, so that sophomore season will have to occur elsewhere.  Can we just say this again for the record?  Please, please David Stern — negotiate a two-year rule for players after their HS class graduates or none at all.

Moving to coaching news, the surprise of the day was the abrupt dismissal of Wake Forest’s Dino Gaudio by the school on Wednesday.  Gaudio was 61-31 in three seasons at the school, but what sealed his fate were his 1-5 postseason record that included two epic collapses down the stretch of the last two years.  It’s unlikely Wake AD Ron Wellman would make this move without a serious candidate in mind, so we should expect to see this position filled in a matter of days.  In more pleasant news, Cornell’s Steve Donahue accepted the job at Boston College, which makes a lot of sense given his northeastern pedigree, and the Rutgers job may be opening up as soon as Thursday if Fred Hill is canned as a result of his bizarre insubordination in the form of attending a baseball game (JR Inman must be ecstatic!).

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First Round Game Analysis: Thursday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Thursday evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Northern Iowa vs. #9 UNLV  (Oklahoma City pod)

The Midwest Region’s first game of the tournament features two teams battling for the privilege of going up against Kansas in the next round. What press there is about Northern Iowa, Jordan Eglseder gets most of it. UNLV will also have to watch out for senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh, a streaky three-point shooter who’s had five straight games in single figures and is due for a run. It was thought at the beginning of the year that UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield would do a little more sharing of the scoring burden for the Runnin Rebels this year, but it’s been Willis who’s shouldered most of the load. At 17.5 PPG, he averages a full seven points more than the Rebels’ next leading scorer, sophomore forward Chace Stanback. Both of these teams take good care of the basketball and, even though neither of them is going to give the scoreboard operator much of a workout, the game itself should be a good one between two teams of similar talent. We hope all these guys get to enjoy the trappings of the tournament… because it won’t last long, sorry to say.

The Skinny: In a game played in the mid-50s (both in tempo and era), look for UNI to make the key plays down the stretch to win this one by four.

7:15 pm – #1 Kentucky vs. #16 ETSU  (New Orleans pod)

If any #16 seed is going to be the first to topple a top seed in this bracket, here’s your best shot. East Tennessee State was in this exact position one March ago and took #1 Pittsburgh to the wire. In fact, the Buccaneers trailed by just three points with 2:47 left in a contest usually reserved for monumental blowouts. ETSU was expected to rebuild after losing four starters from the Atlantic Sun champion of 2008-09, but the Bucs pulled off two upsets in the A-Sun Tournament and toppled Mercer in a true road game, meaning ETSU and former UAB headman Murry Bartow are dancing for the second straight campaign. One player who may give the top seed Wildcats some trouble is a 6’4 wing named Tommy Hubbard that has finally harnessed his talent and is one of the most improved players in the nation. Let’s be honest here, though: Kentucky should roll over the underdog Bucs. The Big Blue has more athleticism and pure ability than any team in the field, never mind the A-Sun champion that finished the season with 14 losses. No guard can come close to contain the blazing speed of John Wall. DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson should have their way on the boards. Even a few breathtaking alley-oops could be in store for the ESPN folks to feast on. Last year Cal State Northridge gave John Calipari’s Memphis team a real scare in the first round. Expect the Kentucky head coach to learn from that game and have his squad prepared to blow the doors off ETSU from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

The Skinny: Kentucky will spend most of the game up 20+ before calling off the dogs Cats to win by fifteen or so.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (11-0, 25-1) - The Jayhawks have pretty much made the rest of the Big 12 look like they belong in the Pac-10. The only game remaining on KU’s schedule where they have a reasonable chance to lose is the last game of the year, at Missouri.
  2. Kansas State (7-3, 20-4) - The Wildcats took care of the bottom feeders, beating ISU, CU, and NU in their last three games. They have another cake game at home against Nebraska and then they have a tough four game stretch starting with Oklahoma and ending with Kansas.
  3. Texas A&M (7-4, 18-7) - TAMU had the opportunity to pull off a huge upset on Monday night, but Kansas was just a little tougher and grittier down the stretch.
  4. Baylor  (6-4, 19-5) - What a win for the Bears over Missouri. After a very questionable intentional foul call on the Bears, Baylor came back and won the game on an Ekpe Udoh tip in. Baylor has already solidified their NCAA tournament hopes, but now they’re in a five-team battle for a top four seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
  5. Texas (6-4, 20-5) - Well if the 40-point win over Nebraska wasn’t a statement game, I don’t know what a statement game is. UT really needed to clear their heads before they start a road trip against two teams desperately in search of another signature win (Missouri and Texas Tech).
  6. Missouri (6-4, 18-7) – It was heartbreak city for the Tigers in Waco on Saturday.  Mizzou needs to beat Texas if they want a bye in the Big 12 Tournament.
  7. Oklahoma State (5-5, 17-7) - James Anderson came to play against Oklahoma, and unfortunately many OU players did not, literally.
  8. Texas Tech (4-6, 16-8) – The Red Raiders were so close to getting back to .500 in the conference, but they just couldn’t hold the lead against Texas A&M late in the game.  TTU needed that win because their next three games should be losses.
  9. Oklahoma (4-6, 13-11) – As if things weren’t bad enough in Norman, now they have two freshmen suspended (including Tiny Gallon), and Willie Warren is out with an illness. This year has got to be one of the biggest disappointments at Oklahoma for quite some time.
  10. Iowa State (2-8, 13-12) – The Cyclones were my sleeper pick this season, but that didn’t pan out nearly as well as I would’ve liked it to. Marquis Gilstrap will be back next season, but Craig Brackins will probably be going to the NBA.
  11. Colorado (2-8, 11-13) – If Colorado just had a big man they would probably be closer to around .500 in the conference than where they are at right now. Cory Higgins and Alec Burks are talents that will help them next season (if Higgins skips the draft), but other than those two players there isn’t much the Buffaloes have to throw at you.
  12. Nebraska (1-9, 13-12) – The 40-point loss could not have helped Doc Sadler make a case for why he should keep his job.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State. Anderson went for 31 points against his archrivals. Right now he is almost guaranteed the conference Player of the Year honor in my book.

Team of the Week – Baylor Bears.  They cut it close against Nebraska and Missouri, but they ended up getting two huge victories. Ekpe Udoh, LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter are some of the best players in the conference and it’s scary that they’re all on the same team.

This Week’s Predictions

  • Texas Tech at Baylor (Tuesday February 16, 8:00 PM ET) - I don’t think its possible for TTU fans to fathom making the NCAA Tournament after the loss to TAMU on Saturday. Sure, if the Red Raiders won at Baylor it would be a huge win but it wouldn’t do enough for them in the long run. I don’t see Tech giving Baylor much of a game. The three-headed monster of Udoh, Carter, and Dunn are going to be too much for Pat Knight and his Raiders to handle.  Winner: Baylor
  • Nebraska at Kansas State (Wednesday February 17, 7:00 PM ET) - It’s going to be tough for NU to play hard after that forty point loss against Texas on Saturday. Kansas State will also show no mercy now that they’re moving up in the national rankings. Look for Jacob Pullen and company to continue their winning streak.  Winner: Kansas State
  • Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Wednesday February 17, 8:00 PM ET) – This is a must win game for OSU because right now the Cowboys are squarely on the bubble. OSU cannot afford another bad road loss and they need to keep this winning streak going if they want any shot at a top four seed in the conference tournament. With all that said, I think Iowa State will pull off the upset behind great play from Marquis Gilstrap and Craig Brackins. The Cyclones almost pulled off a win at Missouri last Wednesday and I think they will find a way to contain Marshall Moses, which will leave OSU throwing up a lot of bad outside shots.  Winner: Iowa State
  • Oklahoma at Colorado (Wednesday February 17, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) - I like Colorado in this game for various reasons. First, I’ve always liked the scoring duo of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. Second, there is no guarantee OU will even have some of their “better” players on the floor. Third, it’s in Boulder, which can be a pretty tough place to play.  Winner: Colorado
  • Texas at Missouri (Wednesday February 17, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) – This is definitely the most intriguing game on Wednesday’s slate. Texas is on a roll it seems after blowing out Nebraska. Missouri is trying to forget the heartbreaking loss to Baylor and get another signature win for their tournament resume. The Longhorns’ big weaknesses are turning the ball over and shooting free throws, two things that Missouri will make you do if you want to beat them. Missouri’s glaring weakness is the fact that they don’t have a big frontcourt player that can compete with the likes of Damion James and Dexter Pittman. I’m taking the Longhorns in this game because they are the hot team and I think they might be gelling at the right time.  Winner: Texas
  • Baylor at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 20, 1:30 PM ET) - James Anderson has had some pretty impressive performances at home this season, and I believe he’ll continue with that trend on Saturday when OSU avenges their loss to Iowa State and upsets a ranked Baylor team at home. The Bears have seemed to garner a ranking and then lose it the next week every single time they’re in the polls, so I don’t see why that will change this week.   Winner: Oklahoma State
  • Texas at Texas Tech (Saturday February 20, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) - The Longhorns put up 93 points on TTU the last time these two teams played so I don’t think there’s any question that this one will be high scoring. If the Red Raiders want to win they need to contain the inside and force Texas’ young guards to make shots. Sometimes Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton will make their shots, but I think you’re better off putting the hands in the game of those young guards than James or Pittman on the inside if your Tech. Still, it won’t be enough to stop the Longhorns, even in Lubbock.  Winner: Texas
  • Colorado at Kansas (Saturday February 20, 4:00 PM ET) – Here is the rematch of one of the most surprising games in the Big 12 this season, in which Colorado overcame a 16-point deficit to force overtime in Boulder. This time around I don’t think CU has any chance and this should be all but over before the second half begins.  Winner: Kansas
  • Texas A&M at Iowa State (Saturday February 20, 4:00 PM ET) - The Aggies play an up-tempo style of basketball that the Cyclones just can’t compete with. Mark Turgeon is making a case for Coach of the Year in the conference after losing Derrick Roland to a gruesome injury earlier in the year, and Turgeon will be able to lead TAMU to victory even if it is a close game.  Winner: Texas A&M
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma (Saturday February 20, 6:00 PM ET ESPNU) - In my season preview I listed this as the game that would be the battle for third place in the Big 12. Obviously I was way off, but KSU does have the opportunity to distance itself from the pack if they can pull off a win, which is sometimes tough to do in Norman no matter who is on the court for the Sooners. In the end, however, Kansas State will have enough firepower to wipe OU off the court.  Winner: Kansas State
  • Missouri at Nebraska (Saturday February 20, 6:00 PM ET) - Mizzou had a rough time in the first 30 minutes with Nebraska when they played in Columbia. However, it was one of Missouri’s worst shooting performances of the year and they still won by 17. If the Tigers can shoot well out of the gate this one shouldn’t be too close.  Winner: Missouri 
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Messing With Texas — What Happened Here?

Posted by jstevrtc on February 9th, 2010

If it wasn’t being asked before, it sure as heck is now.  The biggest question in college hoops on this day — the Day After Kansas versus Texas facsimile-of-Texas — is what exactly has happened to the Longhorns.  This former 17-0 and top-ranked team has now lost five of their last seven, including consecutive defeats at the hands of their most bitter rivals, Oklahoma and Kansas.  With the exception of Damion James, the rest of the Longhorn squad has entered this part of the conference season with not even anything close to the spark with which they began the season.  Kansas did their part in living up to the bargain of the Kansas-Texas game hype.  Why not the ‘Horns?

James needs more floor time and more touches

From here, we see two levels to the recent backslide in Austin.  First, Texas has three star freshmen in Avery Bradley, J’Covan Brown, and Jordan Hamilton, all of whom play substantial minutes and take a good chunk of the shots for the Longhorns.  In Texas’ five losses, though, those three have shot only 47-146 (32%), and this accounts for over a third of the team’s shots in those games.  In their last five wins, they’ve shot 68-139 (49%).  When you have a team that relies heavily on freshmen, you invite this kind of inconsistency.  We’re sure he’s addressing the issue in practice, but Rick Barnes can right this ship rather quickly if he can get his freshmen to buy in to the concept of taking not only fewer shots on the whole, but better ones.  The two starting seniors, James and Dexter Pittman, can also help with this.  James is only averaging 29.7 minutes in a given contest; Pittman (a 67% shooter from the field) is on the floor for an average of 19.7 MPG — not even a half.  Having big-time freshmen is great, but it’s time for the Longhorns to rely on their seniors, and it’s time for those seniors to demand the basketball.

The second tier to Texas’ recent woes is more abstract.  As we alluded to in our most recent ATB, this is the time of the season when players hit the wall (especially freshmen).  They forget the fundamentals, they forget the little things that need to be done to win.  Yes, there is a chicken-and-egg aspect to this question, but when you start settling for threes early in the shot clock and stop getting the ball to your 67% shooters and your POY candidates, you’re just going through the motions.  When you’re the top rebounding team in the nation — Texas averages 40.8 RPG as a team, the best there is — and you stop boxing out, then you’re mailing it in.  Ask yourself — is what we’re seeing now the same Texas team as the one from the first 17 games of the season that attacked their opponents on all fronts and put teams away early?  Are they attacking the boards with the same ferocity?  We say no on all counts.  Telling fact even though they pull down the most rebounds of any squad in the game, in their losses (and even in recent wins) their opponents have kept up with them on the glass or even out-rebounded them.  Texas can help their cause by getting back to the little things, and especially the things they already do well.

We’ll be the first to admit that these fixes that we’re recommending sound pretty simple — calm down the freshmen, get the ball to your seniors on the inside, get back to fundamentals, care more about what you’re doing — but even when dealing with complex problems on a team, the best solutions are often the simplest ones.  We know Barnes is preaching this stuff in practice.  We’ll see if the Longhorns are listening.  If they’re not, teams will continue to find it pretty easy to mess with Texas.

 

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