ACC Stock Watch – Week Two

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 28th, 2014

We here at RTC hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, we kept on our eye on ACC hoops for you while you were eating and possibly dabbling in the football-viewing arena. It’s only week two in the season, but there continue to be teams and players who are continuing to excel or providing disappointing early returns. Below is this week’s ACC Stock Watch:

Trending Up

  • Duke. Sure, they’re obliterating lesser competition, but their win over Stanford in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic was a great sign because Jahlil Okafor was not dominant and yet the team was composed and beat a good Cardinal team. Tyus Jones (roughly five-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio through six games) and Justise Winslow (14 points per game on 45% shooting thus far) continue to show that they are beyond their years as freshmen and can help cover for a game where Okafor doesn’t play up to his standards.
Trevor Lacey had a sensational second week to keep the Wolfpack undefeated on the year (APPhoto)

Trevor Lacey had a sensational second week to keep the Wolfpack undefeated on the year (APPhoto)

  • Trevor Lacey, NC State. Lacey was billed as an impact freshman, and he certainly had an impactful week for the Wolfpack. Lacey averaged 23.5 points per game in NC State’s two wins over South Florida and Richmond this week, and even spent a large portion of the time handling the ball in lieu of Cat Barber. Lacey has hit the ground running, and has presented a great second option for Mark Gottfried at the point if Barber is playing erratically.
  • Justin Anderson, Virginia. As discussed here after last Friday’s win over George Washington, Anderson has tied for or been the lead man in scoring for this team in every game this season. Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year followed up a solid start to the season last week with a perfect shooting night against Tennessee State (7-7 from the field, 5-5 from three) to notch 20 points. Anderson might be the hottest player in the conference right now not playing in Durham.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Oklahoma in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Chris Stone on November 26th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, this time with Oklahoma in the Bahamas.  

Catching Up: Oklahoma opened its season led by an impressive performance from junior Buddy Hield. Hield, a likely All-Big 12 first teamer, scored 25 points and hit seven 3-pointers in the Sooners’ 25 point win over Southeastern Louisiana. However, Oklahoma stumbled on the road against Creighton in their second game when they gave up an 18 point lead in the second half and fell to the Bluejays in Omaha. OU bounced back against Northwestern State behind 20 points from junior Isaiah Cousins. The addition of TaShawn Thomas gave the Sooners one of the best starting fives in the Big 12 and although Thomas hasn’t lived up to the expectations yet (averaging just 8.0 points 4.3 rebounds per game), expect him to get acclimated to coach Lon Kruger’s system in the near future.

Buddy Hield will lead Oklahoma into the Battle 4 Atlantis

Buddy Hield will lead Oklahoma into the Battle 4 Atlantis

Opening Round Preview: Oklahoma opens the tournament on Wednesday afternoon when they square off with Steve Alford’s UCLA squad.  Alford has his team playing well and ranked in both of the top 25 polls. The Bruins have started the season with one of the top 10 offenses in the country according to KenPom with five players averaging double figure points through four games. Two of those players, Bryce Alford and Norman Powell, are scoring over 20 points per game. The good news for Oklahoma is that the Bruins have played one of the worst schedules in Division I so far. UCLA’s first four games rank 328th in strength of schedule according to KenPom. On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma should be able to challenge the perimeter players of UCLA with the likes of Hield, Cousins, and Jordan Woodard. The Sooners possess the outside shooting (40.9 percent on 3-pointers) to challenge the Bruins should Steve Alford choose to play zone and are balanced enough with the addition of Thomas against a man-to-man defense. With two high powered offenses, this contest will likely be a fan-pleasing, high-scoring affair. A win would bolster the resume of either team and, in particular, would be a great way for the Sooners to bounce back from their defeat at Creighton.

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Pac-12 Teams and Feast Week

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 24th, 2014

It’s Feast Week, an ESPN creation that began with the Maui Invitational and the Preseason NIT back in the mid-80s and has morphed into a month-long parade of mini-tournaments that serves as college basketball’s introduction. Pac-12 schools kicked off their involvement in these exempt events last week with middling success, as the Bay Area schools each notched one impressive victory followed by a sobering loss in a championship game against a top 10 team. This week, Arizona and UCLA represent the conference in what have become the premier events of their kind: the venerable Maui Invitational and the new kid on the block, the Battle 4 Atlantis. Below, we’ll take a look at the Wildcats’ and the Bruins’ draws in their events, along with Washington’s appearance in the Wooden Legacy and Oregon’s presence in the Legends Classic.

Maui Invitational: Arizona

Opening Game: vs. Missouri (11/24, 2PM PST, ESPN2). The Wildcats get started against a Missouri team that got off to a rough start under new head coach Kim Anderson, with a loss to UMKC on the opening night of the season. With last year’s top three leading scorers now gone, the Tigers are relying on sophomore point guard Wes Clark, freshman scorer Montaque Gill-Caesar, frontcourt specimen Jonathan Williams III and Hawaii transfer Keith Shamburger to provide offense. If Clark, Gill-Caesar and Shamburger can get hot from deep, the Tigers could stick around for awhile, but Arizona’s overall athleticism should give the Wildcats a significant advantage.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson And The Crew Will See An Increased Level Of Competition In Maui (Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson And The Crew Will See An Increased Level Of Competition In Maui (Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star)

Please God Let Us See: Arizona vs. San Diego State in the Championship Game

Let’s face it — this is by no means a classic Maui field. But if these two teams advance to the title game as expected, we could have a real West Coast classic on Thanksgiving Eve. A budding geographic rivalry, a match-up on West Maui would be something to be thankful for indeed. These teams faced each other twice last season with the Wildcats dispatching the Aztecs both times, including a Sweet Sixteen battle royale in Anaheim. With Steve Fisher needing to replace leading scorer – and just plain old leader – Xavier Thames, the Aztecs probably aren’t quite as far along as the Wildcats are, but they’ve got the length and athleticism to make guys like Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson compete against guys of similar ability.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 24th, 2014

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we are using current Kenpom ratings.

  1. EA Sports Maui Invitational: It’s the beginning of what ESPN has traditionally called Feast Week, and a big part of that annual tradition is the EA Sports Maui Invitational which starts today. Each year, one of the schools visiting Hawaii opens with host Chaminade, and this time it’s Pittsburgh (#43) in Game 3 (9pm ET – ESPNU). A look at the bracket shows that should the Panthers advance tonight as expected, they will be guaranteed two games against good competition. On Tuesday, they will face either San Diego State (#23) or BYU (#49), and a trip to the finals (Wed – 10pm ET – ESPN) would probably mean a meeting with favorite Arizona (#5). These games are of great importance to Pittsburgh, who plays another relatively weak non-conference slate otherwise. The only other game outside the ACC against a top 50 opponent is at Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Last season, it was the lack of quality wins that put the Panthers on the NCAA bubble until their ACC tournament win over North Carolina, so picking up at least one in Maui this week would be very helpful for Jaime Dixon‘s squad.
  2. Cancun Challenge: After a glance at the bracket, the field playing in Riviera Maya, Mexico is very weak compared to the other events this week. As luck would have it, Virginia Tech (#176) is the third highest rated team but they face the favorite, Northern Iowa (#64) in the Tuesday’s opening round (7pm ET – CBS Sports Network). Northwestern (#100) is the only other school in the field ranked in the top-245, so if the Hokies lose their first game they will likely have two games that won’t do much for Virginia Tech’s (or the ACC’s) RPI.
  3. Battle 4 Atlantis: In a few short years, this event has established itself as one of the best early season tournaments, annually loaded with elite programs. This year is no exception with six top-30 schools in the bracket. North Carolina (#15) takes on Butler (#53) in the opening game (Wed – Noon ET – ESPN2) and will face either UCLA (#18) or Oklahoma (#28) after that. If they get to the finals (Fri – 4:30 ET – ESPN), the Tar Heels could have the heavyweight matchup of the entire week, if Wisconsin (#4) makes it there as well. That would arguably give North Carolina the ACC’s “Best Non-conference Schedule” award by a mile. In December, the Tar Heels face Iowa at home (Dec. 3), take a trip to Lexington to take on top-ranked Kentucky (Dec. 13), and then have a neutral site game with Ohio State (Dec. 20).
  4. Orlando Classic: This one doesn’t start until Thanksgiving Day with Georgia Tech (#90) playing Marquette (#113) in the final game of the day (8:30 ET – ESPN2). A win in that one would probably send the Yellow Jackets to a Friday meeting with Michigan State (#13). Along with Kansas (#10), the Spartans are clear co-favorites in this event, with each of those teams trying to rebound from big losses in last week’s Champions Classic. A look at the bracket reveals a moderate field other than those two traditional programs. Of course, Marquette is an interesting opponent for Georgia Tech, now that long time Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski is at the helm of the Golden Eagles. But to beat his old ACC rival, Wojo will need to coax a better performance out of his team than he got this past Saturday, losing at home to Omaha by eight points.
  5. Barclays Center Classic: Virginia (#6) will close out the ACC’s early season tournament participation with a trip to Brooklyn for the Barclays Center Classic. On Friday, the Cavaliers meet LaSalle (#99) in the second game of the night (9:30 ET – NBC Sports Network), with (#94) Vanderbilt playing Rutgers (#124) in the opening semifinal game. The winners will meet Saturday for the championship (9:30 ET – NBC Sports Network) with the Cavaliers being heavy favorites to bring home the title, one week after Duke won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on the same court. The Barclays Center has established itself as a busy destination spot for November college basketball tournaments. In between the two aforementioned weekend events, the Brooklyn arena will host a stacked Progressive Legends Classic, beginning tonight with semifinal match-ups (Villanova vs. VCU, and Michigan vs. Oregon).
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Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. What was supposed to be a promising season for a young, talented Providence team has gone off the rails a bit as suspensions and injuries have reared their ugly heads. Ed Cooley lost Kris Dunn to injury for Sunday night’s showdown with national power Kentucky, while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remain suspended indefinitely. All three players, especially Dunn and Austin, were expected to be major contributors for a Friars squad looking for an NCAA berth, but for now Cooley has to dance with the players that brought him: “I’m going to coach the team that’s on the bus.”
  2. So Feast Week was fun, right? Well next year’s slate of exotic star-studded tournaments should also be a good one. Georgetown and Butler have signed on to play in next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will have a chance to face North Carolina, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UAB.  This is the second straight year where there will be some potential for all-Big East tournament match-ups, after Creighton and Marquette nearly faced off in the finals of this year’s Wooden Legacy. Conference realignment is the gift that keeps on giving, it appears. While UNC, Florida, UCLA and the like are tough potential opponents, one Casual Hoya commenter looked on the bright side of this slate:gtown NE atlantis
  3. God’sgift Achiuwa hasn’t made a huge impact for St. John’s on the court this season — the forward is averaging 1.4 points in 7.7 minutes per game for the Red Storm — but he’s doing great things off the court in his community. ‘Gift’ is among 201 nominees for the 2014 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams. A St. John’s release further details all of the great things that Achiuwa and the rest of the Red Storm are involved in around New York City:”In 2012-13 Achiuwa and members of the men’s basketball team participated in more than 131 hours of community service, volunteering their time at the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, the San Francisco Food Bank, the annual Red Storm Dribble For The Cure benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Men’s Shelter and in the Community Mayor program. The 2013 Dribble For The Cure raised $70,000 for pediatric cancer research in the New York area bringing its three-year total to $120,000.”

    While basketball is why we’re all here at Rush the Court, it’s always great to hear about the human stories and incredible acts of charity that so many of these players are involved with.

  4. Butler wasn’t picked by many to finish very high in the Big East this season, but the Bulldogs have done a great job managing a tough schedule thus far. Indy Star took a look at how each of the Big East teams have fared so far this season, and how the Bulldogs stack up, relatively speaking. At 5-2 with the ‘2’ being a two-point overtime loss to LSU and a near take-down of a star-laden Oklahoma State team, Butler has impressed: “Butler accomplished something in Orlando, even if it won’t show up in their season record: They proved they can play with anyone in the country. Simply put, they looked like an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s something few expected to hear about this Bulldog team.”
  5. Villanova is the talk of the conference right now coming off an impressive Battle 4 Atlantis win over a possible national championship contender in Kansas and another ranked team in Iowa. The Wildcats have a deep group of talented perimeter players, headlined by Kansas-game hero Ryan Arcidiacono and swingman James Bell, who is having a breakout season, but Jay Wright believes it is Rice transfer Dylan Ennis who has made all the difference for his club: “He shocked me. He played with great composure. He didn’t force shots. He was really impressive.” Ennis averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists at Atlantis — his first three games of the season — and was especially effective from long range, knocking down eight of his 12 three point attempts.  Nova’s schedule now becomes very Philly-centric, with games against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle over the next few weeks, but the biggest match-up for Ennis comes on December 28 when he travels to the Carrier Dome for a showdown with his little brother Tyler, who has been excellent so far this season as the starting point guard for the Orange.
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Reviewing the Performance of ACC Teams in Feast Week: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2013

Today we will review the final six early season tournaments involving ACC teams. To see the recap we did covering the first seven such events, click here. The ACC completed a successful Feast Week with two more championships giving the conference a total of five titles in 13 tournaments. This performance should give the ACC some momentum going into this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With another good week, perhaps the conference will overcome the negative impact from some of those bad early non-conference losses.

Syracuse Wins EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time. (Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse Wins the EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time.
(Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse became the second ACC newcomer to win an early-season tournament by beating #18 Baylor 74-67 in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Wednesday night. That followed wins over Minnesota, 75-67, and California, 92-81. Senior C.J. Fair was named the tournament MVP while averaging 18 points for the three games and tallying 24 in the finals. Also impressive was freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who scored 28 in the semifinals over Cal, and had an outstanding 18 to two assist-to-turnover ratio for the tournament. With the Orange’s third Maui championship along with Pittsburgh’s title in the Progressive Legends Classic, the new ACC schools are serving notice that they are ready to compete at the top of their new conference.

Duke did not fare as well in the other marquee Feast Week event, the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York’s Madison Square Garden. After beating Alabama 74-64 in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Blue Devils fell to #4 Arizona, 72-66, in Friday’s championship game. Coming into the week Duke’s defense had been struggling mightily and was the focus for improvement by Mike Kzyzewski. The Devils did look much better on that end of the court against good competition, but another glaring issue has not been resolved. Duke is still searching for production from its primary big man position – Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson combined for only two points in a total of 69 minutes over the two games.

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After Toppling Kansas, Villanova Beginning To Look The Part Of Big East Title Contender Again

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 30th, 2013

It’s not too difficult to conjure up memories of recent Villanova glory days. Just three and a half years ago, Jay Wright had his Wildcats heading to the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed, his program fresh off a Final Four appearance the year before. The Cats had won 12 NCAA Tournament games in the five years prior, and the 2010 team was both deep and young: Of the 11 Wildcats to average eight minutes a game that year, only two were seniors. The future was bright. And then Robert Morris happened. Villanova survived the #15 seed Colonials on that fateful March day (by the thinnest of margins: 73-70 in OT), but Jay Wright is still seeking his next Tournament victory. Saint Mary’s dispatched the Wildcats from the Dance two days later, and the three years since have witnessed a program mired in mediocrity. After a detour to the NIT in 2012, last year’s plucky group managed navigate its way back to the Tournament, but nobody was mistaking those Wildcats for the talent-laden teams of the early Wright era. A team built upon a similar foundation was expected this season – a gritty, defensive minded group that would be capable of stealing wins on their homecourt. All those things may yet be true, but after a convincing win over Kansas on Friday, it may be time to add one more descriptor to the 2013-14 Villanova Wildcats – Big East title contenders.

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night -- Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture Tonight?    (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night — Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture This Evening? (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

Last year’s Villanova’s team scored more than its fair share of big wins. They knocked off four of the Big East’s five best teams (all of whom were ranked in the top 20 at the time of defeat), but each of those victories came on the Wildcats’ home floor. Furthermore, when you remove that quartet of signature victories, Villanova went just 2-12 against teams that finished in in the top 75 of the Pomeroy Ratings. Throw in a charity stripe festival or two at the Wachovia Center – a +34 free throw differential assisted in the Nova upset of then #5 Georgetown – and you can see why last year’s team never quite established themselves as an upper-echelon Big East club.

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Big East M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Villanova is off to a strong start, and the bloggers over at Big East Coast Bias got together to discuss the Wildcats. The writers are all impressed by senior James Bell, who is off to a torrid start this season, averaging 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game through three contests. They also delve into Villanova’s standing among the “City 6,” the team’s non-conference slate heading into the Battle 4 Atlantis later this month, and the overall Big East play so far this season (hint: Doug McDermott is good).  The roundtable is a good read for anyone just getting caught up with this early season.
  2. Speaking of Doug McDermott, he flashed some early season heroics in an 83-79 win over a good Saint Joseph’s team, giving the Bluejays the lead with a late jumper and drawing a foul to secure a victory for the Bluejays in a come-from-behind victory. While McDermott will get a lot of credit for the win, and deservedly so with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, Ethan Wragge, Devin Brooks and Grant Gibbs all played huge roles in the victory as well. Wragge led the way for the Bluejays with 21 points, while Brooks scored 16 in just 21 minutes of play. McDermott has never really been a question for Creighton, but many wonder how the rest of the team will respond to the increased competition in the Big East; this win over Saint Joseph’s may have gone a long way towards assuaging some of those concerns.
  3. In college basketball recruiting, there are a few selector schools, and the rest of the nation is usually fighting an uphill battle against them when it comes to landing the true blue-chip prospects that define the sport. As a major program in a basketball hotbed like Chicago, one would think that DePaul would be a player in the local recruiting battles, but they are all too often left standing at the altar. The most recent example is Cliff Alexander, the third-ranked player in ESPN’s Top 100, had both the Blue Demons and another in-state program, Illinois, on his final list, before ultimately choosing Kansas. Chicago Sun-Times writer Ken Morrissey was none too impressed, calling the signing event “a funeral.” “I feel bad for Illinois coach John Groce and DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. When Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari loses a stud recruit, he shrugs and signs another McDonald’s All-American. For Groce, there is no shrugging. I’m guessing there’s something that looks a lot like dry heaving. A player of Alexander’s skills can make all the difference in the world to an Illinois. Or he can bring a program to its knees. I believe Illinois was kneeling Friday.”
  4. In happier Big East recruiting news, Seton Hall‘s lauded 2014 recruiting class is all signed and ready to go. The class, which is currently ranked ninth by 247sports.com, includes top shooting guard prospect Isaiah Whitehead, four star power forward Angel Delgado, guard Khadeen Carrington, and forward Ismael Sanogo. The class is expected to be a transformative one for a Seton Hall program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and has gone without a conference title for 20 years. The class also makes a strong mark for the Pirates in their local recruiting areas, with Whitehead and Carrington coming from Brooklyn and Sanogo making the short trip to campus from Newark.
  5. Much has been written about the Seton Hall-Niagara 102 free throw game and what it means for a game that is taking a large step to eliminate the hand-checking that we’ve seen slow down the game in recent years, but that wasn’t the only game with a Big East team that was hugely affected. Marquette-Ohio State, a rematch of last season’s aircraft carrier game that wasn’t, devolved into a brutal slugfest of a game, ending in a 52-35 Buckeye win, a game so hard to watch that it put CBS Sports‘ Matt Norlander to sleep: “I have no shame — in fact, I think this feeling is pride — in telling you that I passed out on my couch for 20 minutes while attempting to get through this one, knowing full well I had to write about it once it was over.”  Many of these games and free throw shooting contests have been hard to watch, but as a fan of the game I still hold onto hope that this is a good thing in the long run. Ugly games in November are a small price to play for exciting, clean basketball come March.
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Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule Edition

Posted by Todd Keryc on October 31st, 2013

In a little more than a week, the 2013-14 college basketball season will begin. Before it does, let’s take a closer look at the Big East schedule using today’s holiday to break it down.

TRICK: Non-Conference Play Will Mean More to Big East Teams This Season: You may have heard by now that a few prominent teams left the Big East this offseason. Of the top 10 teams from last year, six of them have left for other conferences. That includes two Final Four teams and five NCAA Tournament teams, with UConn’s APR issues being the reason for their exclusion, not their performance on the court. The departure of these perennial powerhouses means Big East teams will be missing important opportunities this year to register key wins against highly-ranked opponents. This puts added pressure on them to schedule serious non-conference games and to make those outings count, rather than relying on league play later on. Georgetown took note and did something smart, scheduling Michigan State for a neutral site game on February 1 in New York. They also have big non-conference games early against Oregon in South Korea and on the road at Kansas.

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

TREAT: A Chance to See A Couple of Old School Big East Rivalries: While most Big East fans were heartbroken when some of the league’s biggest names walked away, there is still the chance to see a couple of old match-ups unfold in non-conference play. Next week, Boston College visits Providence in their annual New England meeting, a rivalry that continued even when BC left for the ACC in 2005. On December 8, fans of New Jersey basketball will see their two premiere programs meet again as Seton Hall heads to Rutgers. The two biggest match-ups for Big East fans both involve old friend Syracuse. The Orange returns to its downstate home, Madison Square Garden, to take on longtime rival St. John’s on December 15. Then, on December 28, Syracuse is at home and will take on familiar foe Villanova.

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Examining ACC Teams in Early Season Tournaments: Part III

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 31st, 2013

As part of our preseason coverage on the ACC microsite, we will be looking at ACC teams competing in early season tournaments in a three-part series . Today we present Part III, which includes a look at the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Barclays Center Classic, the Corpus Christi Challenge and the Wooden Legacy. Here are links to the earlier two parts in the series – Part I and Part II.

In this final look at ACC teams in early season tournaments let’s examine just how important these events may be to the conference this year. The topic of “Greatest Conference Ever” has been a popular discussion point for the rebuilt ACC. There are many popular measures used to compare conferences, including National Championships, Final Four appearances, conference RPI, and non-conference winning percentage. But most folks judge conference strength by the number of NCAA Tourney bids that are earned. So is there a correlation between a conference’s performance in early season tournaments and the number of NCAA bids they get?

Duke Celebrates the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Championship  (Photo Credit: cbssports.com)

Duke Celebrates the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Championship (Photo Credit: cbssports.com)

Looking at the last three seasons provides an answer. Over that time, the two heavyweight conferences have been the old Big East and the Big Ten. From 2011 to 2013, the Big East received 28 NCAA bids out of a possible 47 (60%), and the Big Ten is right behind with 20 out of 35 (57%). The ACC has lagged way behind those two conferences with only 13 bids out of 36 (36%). Over those same three seasons, seven different Big Ten schools have combined to win nine early season tournament titles. The Big East has also claimed nine titles with eight different schools. Ironically, only new ACC member Syracuse won more than one of those. Meanwhile the ACC only claims five such titles, and even worse for overall conference strength, Duke has won three of those. By comparison, the Big Ten won five tournament titles last year alone. Furthermore, the record-setting 11 bid Big East in 2010-11 won six early season tournaments, which clearly established it as the dominant conference of that season well before conference play even started. If the ACC wants to get to that level again soon, they need to start by winning four or five of these events for a change.

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Minnesota Proved Its Worth at Atlantis, But Must Make Improvements to Reach Elite Status

Posted by KTrahan on November 27th, 2012

Minnesota has yet to prove that it can be an elite team, but after a strong three-game stretch in the Battle 4 Atlantis over the weekend, the Gophers proved they can be an awfully good one that can contend for the Big Ten title. After losing to Duke in the opening game, Minnesota came back to defeat Memphis and Stanford to close out the tournament. Of course, preseason tournament wins aren’t all that meaningful, but if anything, the Battle of Atlantis showed us one very good thing for the Gophers: They can score from anywhere.

Tubby May Have His Best Team at Minnesota (AP)

This isn’t a guard-dominated team or a forward-dominated team; players at both positions stepped up in each of the games. The guards — particularly point guard Andre Hollins — are good. Hollins scored a career-high 41 points against Memphis and was a pivotal player in the Stanford game. He had been considered a possible breakout player in the preseason, and so far, he has shown that he is certainly worth the hype. The Gophers’ two other stars — forwards Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe — have also been impressive, as has the frontcourt that out-rebounded every opponent at Atlantis. Minnesota’s ability to be successful at all five positions makes the Gophers very difficult to defend, given how many scoring options are on the floor.

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ATB: Duke Makes Statement, Gonzaga Rolls Through Old Spice, and Rethinking Officiating Fundamentals…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 26th, 2012

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

The Weekend Lede. Battle 4 Atlantis Caps Terrific Set of Early-Season Tourneys. It is always a treat when two top five teams meet this early in the season. The high drama is typically saved for March, but the increasingly tasty match-ups served up by various exempt tournaments during Feast Week whet our appetites for the thrillers five months down the road. Saturday night brought us our first true marquee clash, with No. 2 Louisville meeting No. 5 Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis final. The showdown in the Bahamas emanated a Tourney feel, and the backdrop – the sleek blue tridents, enveloped in darkness, overlooking the dim courts – only tacked on more intrigue to the proceedings. As these early-season tournaments wrap up, let us celebrate this season’s wonderful slate, and hope for a similarly tantalizing selection next season. And in case you somehow got the impression the B4A was the only big event around, think again: the nation is peppered with sneaky-good match-ups and draws. Shall we dive into the weekend’s tourney festivities?

Your Watercooler Moment. Did We Overestimate Louisville?

It’s far too early to make definitive statements about Lousville’s bottom-line. The Cardinals will be fine (Photo credit: Getty Images).

In the wake of Saturday night’s events, it’s certainly a legitimate question. Just as he did in that mostly forgettable 1992 meeting between Kentucky and Duke, when some Laettner dude hit some “shot,” Coach K got the best of Rick Pitino in the Blue Devils methodical deconstruction of the Cardinals hounding defense. Duke was no doubt the better team on the floor – Mason Plumlee has officially entered the National POY discussion; Quinn Cook proved he can be the perimeter sparkplug Duke needs him to be; Rasheed Sulaimon is a better fit system-wise than Austin Rivers was last season. There are plenty of things to like about this Duke team, and all systems were a go throughout their run in the Bahamas. Which is why I’m loathe to downgrade the Cardinals after the championship loss. The Cardinals clearly have some tinkering to do on the offensive end (it also doesn’t help when your defensive anchor and swatting connossieur, Gorgui Dieng, is sidelined with a wrist injury). Backcourt mates Peyton Siva and Russ Smith were out of sync. Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear were non-factors. Transfer Luke Hancock still needs to find his role. All of these are problems that need to be addressed – and they will be. Pitino’s Final Four team of last season wasn’t nearly the same team in November, and I expect a similar gradual development from this year’s bunch. It won’t be long before Pitino will iron out the kinks, find an optimal rotation and have his team firing on all cylinders. The Cardinals are taking their lumps early, and growing through tough losses against good teams. Saturday night’s result was more about Duke’s potential, and less about Louisville’s shortcomings.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits…

  • Mark Few’s Best Team Yet? Reclaiming sole possession of the WCC crown was an expected achievement for Gonzaga this season. But after six wins to begin the season, including two over Big 12 foes Oklahoma and West Virginia and one over reigning SoCon champion Davidson in the Old Spice Final Sunday, it’s time to set a new bar. Gonzaga has talent at every position, from floor operator Kevin Pangos to versatile forward Sam Dower to the recently eligible Kelly Olynyk. And if they can sustain this intensity into the league season, they’ll peak just in time for Tournament play. Let’s not rush to judge: The Bulldogs have Illinois, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State on tap before they enter WCC play. Beginning with a home date with the Illini on December 8, the turn of the calendar will reveal the depths of Gonzaga’s potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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