Big Ten M5: 03.20.14 March Madness Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 20th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. It is finally here. Not counting the play-in games (sorry Iowa), the NCAA Tournament is here and the Big Ten sees plenty of action. Four Big Ten teams are in action in the NCAA Tournament today. With this in mind the predictions are final and play begins, and Michigan State got a huge supporter on its already overflowing bandwagon. President Barack Obama made his picks and had the Spartans as the last team standing. With how the Spartans have played lately they have become a hot team to pick as the favorite to make it to the Final Four from its regional. The big question is if this team has finally gelled with everyone healthy. If it has, Obama and plenty of others will have made the correct pick on national champs.
  2. The Selection Committee had plenty of juicy second round (seriously, can we drop this first/second round game stuff already?) games and one certainly is Ohio State against Dayton. The instate match-up of little brother versus big brother with more than a few compelling storylines. There is the obvious state match-up implications of the major conference foe against the mid-major as Ohio State rarely schedules fellow Ohio schools (its last game against Dayton came in 2008 in the NIT). Then there is Thad Matta going against a former assistant coach in Archie Miller. Let’s also add in Dayton’s Jordan Sibert, who transferred from Ohio State. Not to mention this could be Aaron Craft‘s last collegiate basketball game. With all of this surrounding the opening game of the second round, it is plenty enough of a reason to take an extended lunch break.
  3. Bo Ryan is used to the NCAA Tournament. He’s been there plenty of times, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand its significance for Wisconsin‘s players. He makes sure to allow his guys to enjoy the moment and not just focus on the “business at hand” when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. It’s an interesting approach to hear, but also refreshing because Ryan is right. While he may go year after year, most of these players have at most four chances to make it here, so it means more to them to enjoy the atmosphere and chance to be there. Still, with its opening game against American the Badgers are focused on a team that plays a methodical style and pace. It likely helps Wisconsin having played Northwestern this year (who uses the same Princeton style offense as American), so don’t be surprised if the Badgers don’t struggle too much with this slower pace and get to enjoy the NCAA Tournament for at least one more game.
  4. Michigan certainly would love to make it back to the National Championship Game again this season. That chance starts by having to avoid the upset to a No. 15 seed in its opening round game, the same No. 15 seeds that have sprung three upsets in the past two tournaments. This is something the Wolverines are certainly aware of as they take on Wofford. It likely helps Michigan that it knows what it takes to make it back to the final and that it can’t overlook a single opponent on the way. Still, the most interesting perspective may be that the Wolverines are preaching not overlooking Wofford while using the belief they are being overlooked to the make the NCAA as motivation.
  5. While the future certainly looks bright for Illinois, that doesn’t mean the seniors want to see their careers end yet. The Fightin’ Illini got a huge game from Rayvonte Rice as they won their first round NIT game last night by coming back against Boston University. Rice dropped 28 points as he said after the game he wanted to make sure he extended seniors John and Joseph Bertrand’s careers. For a game that started terribly for Illinois as it trailed 30-13, Rice helped them respond and comeback. This extends the season at least one more game with the second round NIT date TBA against Clemson.
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Morning Five: 07.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. Tuesday was the day for the Louisville Cardinals to visit the White House to celebrate their 2013 national championship, and perhaps the very best part of the entire proceeding was the extremely lukewarm applause at the top that Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received when introduced by the POTUS. Obama gave his standard spiel of light-hearted remarks during the 10-minute event, referencing how Rick Pitino’s motivational technique of promising to get a tattoo “busted” his bracket and avoiding mention of the “other” school where the head coach won his first of two national titles. Pitino, to his credit, exalted the president while hitting on the themes of loyalty and perseverance that have come to define his teams at Louisville — giving Obama a Louisville Slugger engraved with his name to handle any future disruptive press conferences. For a much more detailed description of the Cards’ visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, check out Eric Crawford’s report from WDRB.com; and The Dagger has some great pictures that the players and entourage took while there. The entire press conference is at the bottom of this post.
  2. While Barack Obama has certainly taken his share of sniping in accordance with his lofty geopolitical position, the NCAA’s Mark Emmert may have taken even more concentrated vitriol from a unilateral perspective  (at least the Democrats support Obama; few seem to like Emmert). “One misstep after another,” as one administrator in this ESPN.com piece from Mike Fish and Dana O’Neil describes his three-year tenure as president of the organization. The accusations against the NCAA boss are lengthy, including not only mishandling of both the Penn State and Miami (FL) investigations, but also a general misunderstanding of the desires of his membership and a combative, at best, relationship with the media. It’s a really interesting read about the travails of the organization under his direction, and points again to a burgeoning restlessness among everyone that the NCAA’s days as a serious player on the American sports scene are effectively numbered.
  3. One school that certainly has no love lost for Emmert is Connecticut, given that the NCAA banned the Huskies from last year’s postseason as a result of its low APR scores. But, as Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog writes, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are back in Storrs and ready to make up for a lost season with a major postseason run in 2013-14. Louisville has to be considered the favorite in the spanking-new AAC, but the Huskies are a very interesting second banana. Kevin Ollie returns most of his key pieces from a 20-10 (10-8 Big East) squad that will no doubt enter next season with a major chip on its shoulder. If the chips fall into place for Boatright and Napier next season, there may not be a better backcourt in America. Only time will tell.
  4. What’s good for Duke is good for Team USA? That seems to be the correlation, as SI.com‘s Ben Golliver relates that Mike Krzyzewski‘s original decision to retire as USA Basketball’s head coach was more about reaching another four-year milestone at Duke than it was about international hoops. Basically, Coach K asked himself at the end of the 2012 Olympics whether he felt that he’d still be coaching at Duke in 2016, and at the time, he wasn’t sure of the answer. Since he believes that Team USA’s head coach should be actively involved in the sport — as he put it, “on the firing line” — he thought it would be best to give up the gig. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may have sensed Krzyzewski’s eventual 180, as he kept the job in waiting until Coach K decided last spring to return (stating that he is “sure he’s going to coach for a while.”). Given K’s 62-1 record and uncanny ability to get multi-millionaires to play team basketball for the USA jersey, this is a great, great thing.
  5. In our sport, summer is the time for testing out new things and the statistical wizardry over at KenPom is no exception. Yesterday the vaunted statistician announced a new metric to his suite of team data points yesterday: average possession length (APL).  As always with KenPom, the beauty of this new metric lies in the detail. Tempo is a measure that tracks efficiency, but APL simply tracks how long you are either holding the basketball each possession, or defending the basketball each possession. The 2013 listing is here (subscription required), but as Pomeroy notes, the correlation is already clear in viewing the last four years of data. Great defenses tend to correlate well with high defensive APLs — it’s harder for an offense to find a good shot — which begs the question whether faster-paced offensive coaches may be incentivized to slow things down to make their teams better overall. An interesting intellectual exercise, no doubt.

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Morning Five: 07.17.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2013

morning5

  1. We’re more than officially in the dog days of summer but only the truly committed scribes work all summer covering the sport we love. Seth Davis is one national commentator who came out of his slumber this week to report from Las Vegas with a Hoops Thoughts column on Michigan’s Mitch McGary. The rising sophomore took the college basketball world by storm last March, going from a role player to a key cog for John Beilein’s national runners-up, but as McGary explained to Davis: “So far I’ve only cracked the glass. Next year I’m trying to break through it.” The piece delves into some of McGary’s lesser-known history, specifically his struggles with academics as a result of ADHD, his workout and diet regimen that he enabled midway through last season to give himself a shot at more mobility (and playing time), and his non-decision to enter his name into the NBA Draft because he simply enjoys college life. Great read, especially in mid-July.
  2. Another likely star returning to school for 2013-14 is Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, fresh off a FIBA world championship in the U-19 division. USA Basketball announced its National Team Mini-Roster on Tuesday, and the rising sophomore Cowboy was the only collegian of 29 players selected. The group of mostly young, rising NBA stars will meet in Las Vegas to compete next week, although no roster spots on Team USA are officially up for grabs. This is simply an opportunity for the players to prove themselves against their peers for future international events. Smart of course is unlikely to make the men’s national team roster for the Worlds in 2014 or the Olympics in 2016, but playing against the likes of Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, George Hill, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and John Wall at his point guard position cannot hurt his overall development. Watch out, Big 12.
  3. Louisville‘s visit to meet President Barack Obama will occur next week, on July 23 at the White House. The school waited a bit longer than normal to schedule the event, so that players Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock could attend the event after stints in summer international tournaments. While in The District, the team will also make time to tour the Capitol Building with senator and minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). When McConnell isn’t busy tormenting his Democratic opposition in the back rooms of DC, he spends quite a bit of time in Louisville taking in the Cardinals’ biggest games. Although as far as celebrity fans go, we’ll stick with Ashley Judd 70 miles down the road. Sorry, Mitch.
  4. Tuesday was the start of SEC Football Media Days, and why do we care? Well, in large part because South Carolina head coach and immodest rabble-rouser Steve Spurrier again went on record stating that the entire SEC — according to him, all 28 football and basketball coaches — is in favor of payments to their revenue-producing players. The stipend he mentioned yesterday amounts to approximately $3,600 per player per year and a little over a quarter-million dollars in annual costs — a relative pittance in a business that regularly deals with annual budgets in the eight- and nine-figure range. And why wouldn’t they want to pay players? It would give them yet another carrot in the recruiting wars against some of the smaller schools and conferences, while correspondingly eliminating much of the regulatory nonsense with monitoring and enforcing illegal benefits that amount to a night out for dinner and a movie.
  5. While on the subject of football crossing over with basketball, Colorado quarterback Shane Dillon announced on Tuesday that he is giving up the gridiron effective immediately so that he can pursue his passion on the hardwood at another school. A 6’5″ wing in high school where he averaged a robust 25/12 for Christian High School in southern California, Dillon suffered a shoulder injury and was looking at starting next season third on the depth chart for the Buffaloes. He asked Tad Boyle if he had room for him on his team, but all the scholarships were filled and Dillon isn’t willing to walk on. He’ll look to make his transfer decision in the next few weeks, with a school in the WCC and Big West perhaps his most likely destination.
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Craig Robinson Notches His Second Win of the Week

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 10th, 2012

Oregon State Head Coach Craig Robinson sat in front of the pressroom Friday night after with a smile on his face after his team’s home opener. It was his second win of the week, he said. The first was Tuesday night, when his brother-in-law won another term as President. And while Barack Obama’s final Electoral College score of 303-206 (pending Florida’s final count) over Mitt Romney was significantly higher than the 102-83 final score that the Beavers posted on the Niagara University Purple Eagles at Gill Coliseum Friday, Robinson sympathized with the stress his brother was under. “You think about me coaching 30-something games a year, they only have two games, your first election and your second election,” Robinson said. “The pressure is immense.”

It’s Been a Good Week For Both Gentlemen (credit: NYTimes.com)

To be fair, Robinson had a scoreboard to tell him that his Beavers led this one wire-to-wire by as many as 25 points. Beaver forward Eric Moreland scored 14 points on a perfect 7-7 mark from the field and pulled down 13 boards as the Beaver’s dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. “I just let the game come to me,” Moreland said afterwards. “They’re a smaller team, so we wanted to be able to take advantage of that.” OSU pulled 52 total rebounds and scored 48 points in the paint, while limiting Niagara to just 16 points inside. Six Beavers scored in double digits, with Roberto Nelson leading all scorers with 22.

But if the lane was the Beavers’ domain, a “blue state” to continue the political metaphor, the area beyond the three-point spent much of the game as a “red state,” firmly under the control of the Niagara backcourt. The Eagles scored their first 18 points from outside, going 6-7 on three-pointers during that stretch. A Malcolm Lemmons layup off a steal with 10 minutes left in the first half was their first two-pointer of the game. By the end of the first half, the Eagles had shot nine of 16 from beyond the arc. Many of those looks were wide open as Niagara took the ball down low and drew in the defense before kicking out to a shooter like Marvin Jordan, who led the Eagles with 17 total points. “You can’t help off of a guy who’s a terrific shooter,” Robinson said. “That’s something we’re going to learn from and have to get better at.”

On the other end, the Eagles rolled out a matchup zone defense that frustrated the Beaver’s shooters early. “You guys don’t know how hard it is to play your first game of the season against somebody who plays a matchup zone,” Robinson flatly told reporters. “We kind of had to figure that out on the fly.” When they did, the Beavers spaced the floor with their post play and set up their own shooters outside, turning the “red state” their way by  draining three-pointers on four consecutive possessions in a two minute stretch midway through the second half to open the lead to 25. They finished the game shooting 13 of 24 from downtown, with Ahmad Starks putting down six of them. After holding that 25-point lead for another five minutes, Robinson was able to go to his deep bench, a fact that Starks saw as a sign of a job well done for him and the other rotation players. “Everybody took care of business and we got to the century mark so [Robinson] was able to get people into the game, get some time and get the college experience.”

Robinson was pleased with his team’s performance as well. “I was really pleased with this game,” he said. “I thought our guys came out ready to play.” And with the election now over and decided, Robinson could enjoy his team’s success. “That makes this night even better.”

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Morning Five: 10.05.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2012

  1. It’s amazing how a single press conference where a couple of 17-year olds announce a decision can simultaneously cause Twitter to explode as well as create a serious butterfly effect for the rest of an entire sport for the next couple of seasons. Yet ESPNU’s airing of Andrew and Aaron Harrison‘s formal announcement of their college choice on Thursday afternoon did just that. The verdict: John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, setting in place the opportunity now for the national championship coach to quite possibly bring in the most talented (on paper) haul that the sport has ever seen. The Wildcats are still in heavy pursuit of Julius Randle, and the rumors that the overall #1 player in the Class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins, might re-classify to play with this group aren’t diminishing. Presuming that Kentucky keeps a substantial portion of the class that entered school this fall, UK could possibly have a 2013-14 squad with more and deeper talent on the floor than the team that just cut down the nets in New Orleans. As for Maryland, their fans are devastated with the twins’ decision, but Calipari has built a self-sufficient success/marketing feedback loop that hasn’t been seen in the sport since — dare we say it — Duke’s run of five straight Final Fours two decades ago.
  2. Maybe it wasn’t a great day for Maryland, but Thursday was a fantastic day for North Carolina, the ACC, and the game of college basketball. The black cloud that has been hanging over Roy Williams related to an unknown mass on both of his kidneys has now extinguished in the best possible manner. Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported on Thursday evening that a biopsy on Williams’ left kidney came back as non-cancerous, matching the diagnosis of his previous biopsy on his right kidney from a couple of weeks ago. Not only will this allow Williams considerable peace of mind heading into the start of official practice next week, but he will not have to endure any further medical procedures as a related outcome. Just great news all around.
  3. We mentioned this might be coming in yesterday’s M5, and sure enough, Texas Tech pulled the trigger on Thursday. The school hired its current day-to-day interim head coach, Chris Walker, as the 2012-13 interim head coach, which we guess is more or less like being promoted from a day worker to a temp. Hey, whatever works; there’s not much job security in coaching anyway. It’s certainly no secret that Walker ambles into a difficult situation this season — last year’s Red Raiders squad was an unmitigated disaster, going 8-23 with only a single win (vs. Oklahoma) in Big 12 play. He inherits a group that not only has no concept as to how to win at the high-major level, but who also was near mutiny level just over a month ago. If there were ever a situation designed for a coach to fail, this might be the one. Nevertheless, we wish Walker well as he takes on what will no doubt be a very stressful season.
  4. A couple of leagues released some preseason predictions on Thursday, with the Big 12 coaches giving their very early awards for first team. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson was chosen as the preseason POY, with Kansas’ Jeff Withey, Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder, Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash, and Texas’ Myck Kabongo rounding out the team. The Atlantic 10 also released its preseason media poll and awards yesterday, with St. Joseph’s and St. Louis virtually splitting the top spot, and VCU, Temple, Massachusetts and Butler also getting some first-place love. With all its transfers and turmoil, Xavier, typically in one of the top two preseason spots in this league, was picked ninth. The first-team recipients were: Kevin Dillard (Dayton), Chris Gaston (Fordham), Chaz Williams (UMass), Kwamain Mitchell (Saint Louis), and Khalif Wyatt (Temple).
  5. President Barack Obama has had a busy week preparing (or not preparing, depending on whom you ask) for the first presidential debate with Mitt Romney and flying around the country giving stump speeches. On Thursday, after numerous Twitter solicitations from Wisconsin forward Zach Bohannon, Obama stopped by the school in Madison and met with the team for a few minutes before heading on to, you know, run the country. Bohannon’s reaction was pure joy, as he tweeted out: “What an honor to talk and get a picture w/ President Obama! He even promised to come play with us once the election is over!” In such a polarized and disrespectful political environment that we currently live in, it’s great to see that some people are still excited about the honor that the position bestows. Good on you, Mr. Bohannon. You either have a great career ahead of you in PR or politics, or both. Keep on keepin’ on.
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Morning Five: 09.05.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 5th, 2012

  1. Reading the tea leaves in the case of Dez Wells‘ whirlwind tour of several prominent basketball schools over Labor Day weekend turned out to be advantageous, as the rising sophomore wing on Tuesday decided to commit to Maryland. If you recall, Mark Turgeon’s program was the only school among the three he visited — Memphis, Oregon, and Maryland — where he tweeted out transparent clues such as #terpnation while he was on campus. The Terps will without question file a petition with the NCAA for an immediate waiver that would allow Wells to suit up next season rather than having to sit out the typical transfer year. Although we’re uncertain if there is a precedent for a player arguing as a basis for the waiver that he was wrongfully expelled from a school, the NCAA may face a veritable uproar if Wells is forced to sit out a season because of what an Ohio grand jury has decided is no fault of his own. And regardless of which year Wells actually suits up at Maryland, the news on Tuesday that the elite Class of 2013 Harrison twins will spend Midnight Madness at the Comcast Center has things looking up for Terp Nation indeed.
  2. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, the NCAA’s compliance and eligibility staff sure doesn’t seem to have much of an opportunity for vacation time right now. Providence super-recruit Ricardo Ledo told GoLocalProv.com on Tuesday that he expects to have a decision in place on his eligibility sometime this week, and if you take the new college enrollee at face value, he says that he’s sticking around PC no matter what decision the NCAA makes. The site makes reference to three likely scenarios involving Ledo’s eligibility, but it doesn’t seem to contemplate what to us is the likeliest scenario: that Ledo is allowed to practice with the Friars this season but must sit out a number of regular season games as a fair punishment (think: Josh Selby). Guess we’ll find out soon enough.
  3. We mentioned yesterday that Texas Tech head coach Billy Gillispie remains in a Lubbock hospital relating to a medical incident he experienced when his blood pressure reportedly spiked to dangerous levels last Friday. Nothing appears to have changed on that count, as Gillispie was still a patient at the facility as of Tuesday night, but with the report released by CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman exposing to the world the many shenanigans that the head coach has allegedly pulled, he may as well not pass go nor collect $200 on the way back to his campus office. You really need to read the article thoroughly to understand the breadth of the problems and the climate that Gillispie has engendered there, but they range from a musical chairs of hirings, firings and player transfers, forcing players to practice for as many as eight hours a day, and making them practice or play while nursing severe injuries. We’re really trying to figure out how this guy could have been so successful at UTEP and Texas A&M if he was using these or similar coaching tactics at the time, but perhaps these recent problems are isolated manifestations of his Kentucky debacle.
  4. The Athlon Sports College Basketball Yearbook won’t be out on news stands for another three weeks, but Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journalalready has a bead on the top three teams in this year’s publication and they have a rather lower midwestern/upper southern feel. Coming in at the top of the list is Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers; moving southeast 90 miles, we run into Athlon’s #2 team, Louisville; then, moving east another 70 miles you hit their #3 team, Kentucky. It’s a solid trio, as each team will no doubt do some damage this season. Still, we have considerable trouble with the placement of a team in the preseason top five when quite literally more than 90% of its scoring is now playing in the NBA. Apparently the good folks at Athlon do not care to recall that last year’s Wildcats team returned experienced talent in Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb to join all those fabulous freshman, two of whom were better than anyone entering college basketball in 2012-13.
  5. We’re honestly not sure why anyone outside of the punditocracy watches the snoozefest known as political conventions these days, but if you happened upon the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last night you may have caught Michelle Obama’s brother-in-law, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, make a quick recruiting pitch at the start of his dual speech with Barack Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-ng: “Any seven-footers out there, give me a call.” Obviously, the sheen of Robinson’s status as the First Bro-in-Law has worn off by now, but you never know where you might find unexpected leverage — maybe some young political-minded player out there will remember Robinson’s request in a few years and choose to make a visit to Corvallis one of his stops.

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Morning Five: 12.07.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2011

  1. The Big East is expected to announce today that it will add five schools to its football lineup starting in the 2013 season, and the lucky ‘winners’ are quite literally all over the country. Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, SMU and Rice Houston will join the league in two years, with BSU and SDSU opting to join as football-only members, while the other three come on board in all sports, including basketball. We honestly never thought we’d see a day where the mighty hoops conference that Dave Gavitt created among a number of small private Catholic schools in the northeastern corridor would ever become a safe haven for the likes of a Methodist school, Phi Slama Jama, and a Florida commuter school, but the times they-are-a-changin’. Think of it this way — at least we’ll get to see more of Matt Doherty on national television.
  2. Shouldn’t we just go ahead and pre-write the story where UCLA’s Reeves Nelson is permanently booted from the team? For the second time in the young season, the moody Bruin forward was suspended indefinitely by head coach Ben Howland for “conduct unbecoming a UCLA player.” The latest incident that drew Howland’s ire had to do with Nelson’s apparent laughter/smiling on the bench as Texas stormed back to beat his team on Saturday afternoon. If you read the comments from some of Nelson’s teammates and Howland in the LA Times article, you get a strong sense that the enigmatic forward is unlikely to figure it out. It would probably make the most sense for UCLA to move on in trying to rebuild its program without Nelson acting as a regular distraction, but we’ve been surprised with how much patience the head coach has shown with him.
  3. Let’s stay in the Pac-12, also known as the conference of unhappy players, apparently. Merely one day after Arizona head coach Sean Miller noted that his freshman point guard, Josiah Turner, may get the start in tonight’s key game against Florida, the young player was suspended for that game for an undisclosed violation of team policy. Recapping the league’s recent player woes, we already know about UCLA’s Nelson. Arizona’s Sidiki Johnson and Oregon’s Jabari Brown didn’t even make it to their first semester break before deciding to transfer. Utah’s Josh Watson has been suspended indefinitely, as has California’s Richard Solomon. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson still has not been cleared by the NCAA to play this season. Things have already been a disaster on the hardwood for this conference; it appears that the instability of the league carries over to its personnel as well.
  4. It’s rather hard to believe that he’s been around this long, but Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis picked up his 700th career victory on Tuesday night against The Citadel. Nearly 80 of those wins came as the head coach of NAIA’s Cumberland College, but his 622 as the top man at South Alabama, Clemson, Auburn and CCU puts him currently at #8 on the list of active coaches, ahead of such names as Rick Pitino and Mike Montgomery. Ellis always struck us a little bit as a guy who would be happy so long as he was coaching anywhere, but he’s turned the Chanticleer program into a powerhouse in the Big South (64 wins in the last two-plus years), and with a solid core led by Anthony Raffa and Chris Gradnigo, we don’t think he’s going to retire anytime soon.
  5. President Barack Obama made headlines on Tuesday with a speech he gave in Osawatomie, Kansas, yesterday, when he referred to the steadily-shrinking American middle class as having reached “a make or break” moment in its history. Harking back to a speech given 101 years ago by Teddy Roosevelt in the same spot, Obama stated that the crisis of income inequality and opportunity in America was the “defining issue of our time.” We won’t speculate on the merits of his argument, but it’s curious that he delivered one of the more notable speeches of the third year of his presidency immediately after meeting Kansas head coach Bill Self. Perhaps the leader of the free world felt so burned by KU’s NCAA Tournament meltdowns the last two seasons that it stirred up the orator in him to make a compelling speech.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Thanksgiving Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 24th, 2011

  1. We have to start our Turkey Day post by getting right to the team that Pac-12 fans are currently thankful for, the last remaining undefeated team in the otherwise underachieving conference, Stanford. The Cardinal continued their strong start Wednesday night with a thorough 15-point handling of a solid Oklahoma State squad in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Senior forward Josh Owens continued his strong start with 21 points on 10-12 from the field, while below-the-radar point guard Aaron Bright had 15 points on 6-9 shooting, with three three-pointers mixed in there.  Further exciting Cardinal fans is the continued emergence of freshman guard Chasson Randle, who played his best game of his young career, scoring 17 points, including three threes of his own. However, while OSU was a step up in competition for Stanford, they should be prepared for another big jump in the talent level of their opponent, as they face RTC’s #5 team in the nation, Syracuse, on Friday afternoon in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
  2. Elsewhere in the conference Wednesday night, there were two more losses coming from among the four teams considered to make up the top tier of the Pac-12 prior to the season, as UCLA continued its disasterous season with its fourth loss on the young season and Arizona dropped its second straight. The Bruins lost by 16 to Michigan in Maui to mercifully end their trip with only a throw-away win over Division II Chaminade and some Hawaiian Airlines frequent flier miles to show for their effort. Meanwhile the Wildcats had their 22-game home winning streak broken by a game San Diego State squad. If there was a bright spot for Arizona, it was their freshman backcourt duo of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson turning in double-digit performances. While Johnson has been solid from the get-go in Tucson, Turner has had his much publicized struggles. However, he is improving almost every time out and could have his breakout performance in the near future. On the down side for the Wildcats, however, Sean Miller spoke about the Sidiki Johnson suspension following the game and noted that Johnson did not return with the team to Tucson and remains in New York. Miller said that he and Johnson “have an agreement and if he meets this agreement, he could potentially be reinstated.” However, Miller then added, “he could also be dismissed.” Asked later is he was optimistic about Johnson meeting the agreement, he simply said, “no.”
  3. After California’s 39-point loss to Missouri on Tuesday night, Golden Bear fans had to be asking themselves: “Does this really look like a team capable of winning the conference championship?” Upon further research by Jeff Faraudo, no team from any incarnation of what is now the Pac-12 conference (i.e., the Pac-10, Pac-8, AAWU or PCC) dating back to 1950 has ever lost a non-conference game by as many as 39 points and gone on to win the conference championship. Maybe, given the possibly historic weakness of this year’s Pac-12, that streak can be broken. And maybe Tuesday night was simply a matter of a Cal team playing a poor game against a Missouri team that could do no wrong. Still, that was just another in a long line of black eyes for conference teams this season. After Wednesday night, the conference is 33-20 thus far on the season.
  4. There is not a whole lot of hope around the conference thus far, but one team that has inspired confidence among its followers, Oregon State, will get its own dash of hope this weekend. The Beavers and head coach Craig Robinson are in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend for a match-up with Towson on Saturday, and, of course, will be spending some time visiting with Robinson’s brother-in-law, some guy by the name of Barack Obama. The Beavers spent some time Wednesday with the First Family working at a food bank in the D.C. area, and will get a chance to visit the White House likely on Friday. And, while we’re on the topic of the Beavers, I would be remiss if I didn’t point you in the direction of Rob Dauster breaking down Jared Cunningham’s defensive work against Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins the other night. Great read and great analysis.
  5. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to make sure I keep this post relatively positive. I’m not going to link to Bruin fans absolutely losing it over their team’s oh-for-Division-I start. I wouldn’t possibly send you in search of those same Bruin fans ripping Ben Howland’s personnel decisions (like Norman Powell, Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane are going to turn this team back into a Pac-12 front-runner). And I certainly wouldn’t encourage anybody to take a look at SB Nation’s power rankings of the eight Division I programs in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, in which UCLA is a distant sixth, behind (among others) a Pepperdine team that may finish last in the WCC, a Cal State Fullerton team that already lost to Houston Baptist this season, and a USC team that scored 36 points in losing to Cal Poly. Nah, you don’t want to read those. Go enjoy some turkey instead. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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UConn Visits the White House: Obama Reflects on “Adolph Ruff”

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2011

It’s a traditional rite of springtime, one just as certain as the March rains, the April cherry blossoms and the May political posturing that takes over Capitol Hill as we head into yet another election cycle in Washington, DC.  Jim Calhoun’s Connecticut Huskies spent Monday on the Hill, visiting President Obama in the time-honored American sporting tradition of meeting the president and having him butcher players’ names and stumble over specific facts from his speech.  These events are always somewhat awkward, as the leader of the free world tries to speak knowledgeably about a team he usually knows little about while the team honored does its best to genuflect and not trip all over themselves in front of such a dignitary.  You can watch the entire nine-minute proceeding below, but we wrote up a few of the highlights just in case you don’t want to waste the time.

In keeping with the measured yet light-hearted tone of these things, Obama tried to inject levity into the proceedings throughout.  He began with a comment about how UConn winning the title was bittersweet for him, as he was “reminded once again that [his] bracket was a bust.”  Luckily, he had a ready-made excuse in the form of ESPN’s Andy Katz, who he claimed told him “there’s no way UConn’s winning” the title.  Not to go all factcheck.org on the Prez, but he’s guilty of a little naysaying here — his bracket on ESPN.com finished in the 87th percentile, which is about forty percentage points better than his current approval rating.   

One unintentional piece of humor from the speech was when Obama listed off the names of coaches with three or more national titles to honor Calhoun, now also with three.  After mentioning John Wooden, he listed someone named “Adolph Ruff” as a coach who, along with Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski, represent the group of elite coaching giants that the UConn head man has now joined.  We won’t get into the dripping irony inherent in the first black president of the United States mis-pronouncing the name of a basketball coach [Adolph Rupp, incidentally] who, rightly or wrongly, has come to represent a bygone era of southern white racism, but needless to say that it’ll probably become some enterprising UK student’s senior thesis soon enough [start at the 2:05 mark of the video].    

Jim Calhoun spoke for a few minutes and was surprisingly a little tongue-tied even though he’s been to the White House two other times as a national championship head coach, but he found his bearings the more he spoke.  It was abundantly evident during UConn’s March/April run that Calhoun was in love with his team last year, and he punctuated that sentiment with a remark tying back to Obama’s presidential campaign of 2008: “You know what?  Yes, we can.  [applause]  And like you, Mr. President, yes, we did.”  Obama responded with encouragement to the Huskies to make another run at the title next season, and after some friendly banter with Kemba Walker about playing one-on-one [“as long as he’s wearing street shoes and a suit”] and the receipt of a special B. Obama #1 UConn jersey followed by a few pictures, the event was over.

These things are always fun in the same way that watching Christopher Guest movies are fun — you spend the entire time waiting for something incredibly awkward yet insanely hilarious to happen.  Maybe we didn’t reach that goal in this year’s honoring of the national champion, but presidents tend to get goofier the deeper into their terms they go.  Give it some time.

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Morning Five: 03.16.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2011

  1. Every year there are a few lucky individuals who beat the odds and end up on top of national pools through a variety of reliable methods (based on team color, mascots, or personal allegiance) for picking their bracket. Other individuals get their brackets analyzed just because of who they are. Two individuals who fall in that latter category are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Barack Obama. While James and Wade announced their brackets already (picking Ohio State and Marquette, respectively), President Obama will reveal his on the noon edition of SportsCenter today although it has already been revealed that he has gone with chalk again selecting all four #1 seeds to make it to Houston.
  2. If you are looking for a more intellectual way of filling out your bracket we highly suggest that you check out the latest from Luke Winn who goes through each region looking at the offensive and defensive efficiency stats for the top four seeds in each region with a particular focus on the top seed in each region.
  3. For nearly every event there is an individual who spends most of their time ripping apart the way things are because they prefer the way things were. Despite being one of the most beloved events in American sports the NCAA Tournament is not immune to this phenomenon as Michael Wilbon uses his new platform on ESPN.com to take plenty of shots at the NCAA and college basketball in general. Wilbon actually used the same exact argument(s) on both PTI and The Tony Kornheiser Showso much so that it feels like certain passages are lifted directly from one of those appearances. Or is it the other way around? While Wilbon makes a few valid points (who wouldn’t love to have had John Wall or Blake Griffinhang around for all four years?) he lacks any reasonable arguments for how to turn things “back to the way they were” without infringing on the liberties of the individual players that he defends so vigorously on-air. What drives us even more crazy is the argument by Jay Bilas that so many 11+ loss teams making the field is clear evidence that this is the weakest field ever. It seems pretty clear to us that Bilas hasn’t been spending much time in court (and if he has his clients probably haven’t been winning much) as that argument would fall apart in any Logic 101 class. Let’s just move on…
  4. Most of the news in the past few days has been about the NCAA Tournament and coaching firings, but we also expect to see quite a few fairly big names transfer schools. These are often hyped recruits who failed to live up to expectations and are looking for a fresh start. In other cases it is a player who performed well at a smaller school and is looking to try his talents at a higher level of college basketball. Sam Maniscalco appears to fall into the latter category. Although he will graduate from Bradley in May, the 6′ guard, who averaged 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season still has another year of eligibility left. Following the firing of coach Jim Les10 days earlier, Maniscalco opted to transfer to Illinois although he refused to explicitly state that as the reason. Maniscalco’s toughness and experience could be a big boon for Bruce Weber, who will enter next season without an experienced point guard following the graduation of the enigmatic Demetri McCamey. Maniscalco is expected to be eligible to play for the Illini next season because he will be transferring into a master’s program at Illinois.
  5. For those of you who have a few extra dollars, you may want to keep your eyes out for an upcoming auction that will feature the original round center section of Pauley Pavilionthat was used between 1965 and 1982. During that period UCLA won 8 men’s national championships. The section is currently owned by a UCLA alum and was signed in 1998 by John WoodenKareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Sidney WicksWalt Hazzard, and many other UCLA legends. The auction is expected to run between April 15th and 30th (likely found on the company’s website at that time) with the majority of the proceeds going towards medical research.
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Morning Five: 11.29.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 29th, 2010

  1. Here’s hoping everyone out there in college basketball land had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  The next five weeks will be a blur between now and the new year, but by the time the calendar moves into 2011 we should have a pretty good idea as to who the half-dozen legitimate contenders for the crown are (and the multitudes of pretenders vying to be taken seriously).  Even though exams loom and the interminable bowl season kicks off in earnest soon (featuring 2-6 SEC teams!), we’ll happily plod along with our college hoops addiction and of course, invite you all to join us along for the ride.
  2. The scariest news of the weekend was at the 76 Classic on Sunday where Stanford star Jeremy Green collapsed as a result of dizziness and stomach pain after the Cardinal’s 81-74 overtime win over DePaul.  RTC’s Andrew Murawa was on the scene there in Anaheim and reported as to what he saw and heard there.  The great news is that after Green was hospitalized and received IV fluids, it appears that he will be fine.  Always great to see that word “fine” associated with something like this.
  3. Mike DeCourcy breaks down the upcoming ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which tips off on Monday night with an oddly placed Virginia at Minnesota game.  You probably recall that the Big Ten won its first-ever challenge last season, 6-5, and comes into this year’s tilt with a decided claim as the top conference in America.  DeCourcy decides to get a little crazy with his prediction that the ACC will actually re-take the crown this year.  As for the first game tonight, Minnesota will be without Al Nolen, who is nursing a foot injury, and Rodney Williams, who has an ankle injury.  It seems as if Tubby Smith’s team there can never get everybody on the floor at the same time (Devoe Joseph has been held out for a rules violation).
  4. President Obama, recovering well from twelve stitches he took to the mug during a Friday pickup game, showed up with family in tow to watch the First Bro-in-Law, Craig Robinson, lead his Oregon State team to a victory over DC-based Howard on Sunday.  While there’s nothing particularly novel about Obama’s love for hoops, especially the collegiate variety, we feel compelled to mention this in the unlikely scenario that he’s a closeted RTC reader and wants to offer us a chance to interview him prior to next year’s Tournament.
  5. You may have missed this among all the weekend’s action, but nothing gets past the crack crew around here.  It was just a few short days ago that California was getting some love as a possible Pac-10 contender this season after beating Temple on Thursday (after all, who isn’t a contender in the Pac-10?).  But that talk died down after the five-point stinker of a half that Mike Montgomery’s team threw up against Notre Dame in a  57-44 loss on Saturday.  Yeah, you read that correctly : five points.  The Bears went the final 10:44 of the first half without a single point, but amazingly, that’s still not the record for fewest points in a half of a D1 game — Savannah State produced only four points in a game two years ago against Kansas State.  Still, Cal is a long way from SSU in terms of resources and expectations; but those may need to be tempered somewhat after a weekend filled with struggling offense in Orlando (Cal also lost to Boston College on Sunday, scoring only 46 points).
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Duke Visits White House

Posted by rtmsf on May 27th, 2010

First of Several Meetings Between O & K?

In the annual ceremony for the NCAA Champion at the White House Rose Garden, Duke’s 2010 title-winning team visited with President Barack Obama today in a jocular proceeding where the CiC quipped that the Blue Devils won it all in an effort to stick it to him after he picked UNC to win the crown in 2009.  Other than starting off by calling Coach K’s team the “Bluke” (presumably) Due Devils, his best line came later in the speech when he ragged on his assistant (and former Dookie and teabagger extraordinaire — but not that kind) Reggie Love for shooting too much during pickup games.  If you remember Love’s game at Duke during the early 2000s, you’re aware that the bruising forward’s few minutes were meant for hustle, defense and rebounding — his career total of 75 points attests to that fact. 

The entire ceremony is below.   

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