Three Questions: Where Does Kansas Go From Here?

Posted by Kory Carpenter on April 1st, 2014

It’s been a week since another tough NCAA Tournament loss for Kansas and fans are still scratching their heads at how the Jayhawks went out this season. Few people expected a Final Four berth if freshman center Joel Embiid remained sidelined with his back injury, but a third round loss to #10 seed Stanford was still a shocker. The Cardinal weren’t a particularly good team this season and didn’t appear to pose much of a threat heading into last Sunday’s game. But for the second straight season, the Jayhawks were reminded of how important guard play becomes in March. Starting point guard Naadir Tharpe finished with five points on 2-of-8 shooting with only two assists and two turnovers in the loss. Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden combined to shoot 2-of-11 with six points, and that was all she wrote for the Jayhawks in Saint Louis. Bill Self has plenty of talent coming back and a few top recruits arriving in Lawrence, but he will have some substantial holes to fill as well. Andrew Wiggins has already announced his departure, while Joel Embiid is still reportedly undecided, but it is expected that both players will enter the NBA Draft as high-lottery picks. Here are three questions surrounding the status of the Kansas program heading into the offseason.

Will Naadir Tharpe improve enough next season? (Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star)

Will Naadir Tharpe improve enough next season for a run in March? (Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star)

1. Will Point Guard Troubles Doom Next Year’s Team Too? Kansas was sent packing early for the second straight season largely because of mediocre point guard play. Elijah Johnson was forced to play out of position at that spot last year because Self didn’t yet trust Tharpe in that role. Self had no other realistic choice at the position this time around, but his averages of 4.5 PPG and 2.5 APG against Eastern Kentucky and Stanford weren’t good enough for this time of year. Looking to next season, Kansas could remain in trouble at the slot. Tharpe will have another year of experience under his belt, but he also loses two of the better offensive weapons in the country. His backups — rising sophomores Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp — dabbled at the position but were unable to outplay him, leaving Self to go with Tharpe in the NCAA Tournament. On the recruiting trail, Tharpe’s just-good-enough game may have scared some better prospects away. Kansas went hard after five-star point guard Tyus Jones, but did the talented freshman want to risk losing playing time to a senior in Self’s system? Heading to Duke might have been the safer bet.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode XV, Player and Coach of the Year Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 6th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

As the college basketball regular season wraps up, I thought this would be a good time to run down my Coaches of the Year and Players of the Year in each of the major conferences. Here goes…

ACC

  • POY: T.J. Warren, NC State (24.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG). Warren has been a tremendous bright spot on an otherwise mediocre Wolfpack squad. Since a rough four-point game against Virginia on January 11, Warren has scored at least 20 points in every game he has played (he missed one game due to injury). At 6’8” and an athletic 215 pounds, Warren is a match-up problem for nearly every opponent. He has had eight 30+ point games (only one fewer than Doug McDermott), including Monday’s 41-point explosion in a road win at Pittsburgh. Some may disagree because NC State is not at the top of the ACC, but a season like this where Warren brought it night after night deserves special recognition.
Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

  • COY: Tony Bennett, Virginia (25-5, 16-1 ACC). Bennett’s teams have always been terrific defensively and this one is no exception. Ranked third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, Virginia has allowed only four ACC opponents to score 60 or more points this season. Even in a league with a tempo as slow as this year’s ACC, that is a remarkable statistic. Virginia was a trendy surprise pick but I am not sure anyone thought it would turn out to be this good. The Cavaliers were picked fourth in the preseason ACC poll but currently hold a three-game lead over Syracuse and North Carolina with just one game to play.

American

  • POY: Russ Smith, Louisville (18.0 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG). This was a really close call between Smith and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick but I am giving Smith the slightest of edges. Both mean so much to their respective teams but Smith’s decision to return to Louisville for his senior year has proven to be a wise one. Smith is enjoying the best shooting season of his career (46.8 percent) and has matured greatly. He is playing smarter and has led this Louisville team to a 25-5 overall record. The Cardinals again have the look of a Final Four contender and Smith is the primary reason why.

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Chaotic Weekend Builds Drama for Regular Season’s Final Act

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 3rd, 2014

It was a weekend that saw 11 ranked teams fall, an unlikely band of Shockers find a small slice of immortality (the regular season variety), and an already jumbled NCAA Tournament bubble grow exponentially more confusing. Ever predictably, the arrival of March meant great drama for college basketball fans. With one week now left in the regular season, here are three key storylines that emerged from a riveting weekend of action on the college hoops hardwood.

Last #1 Seed Up For Grabs

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, And Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, and Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Presumptive #1 seeds Arizona, Florida and Wichita State were all able to avoid the upset bug this weekend, and barring multiple losses in the next two weeks, each seems adequately safe on the top line. But with Syracuse continuing its mini-slide in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, that fourth #1 seed has no apparent owner heading into the season’s final week. By my count, no fewer than eight teams should still be in play for the honor, although scenarios for five of those squads — Creighton, Michigan, Wisconsin, Villanova and Virginia – would almost surely include winning out through their conference tournaments, and then also getting help from elsewhere. The trio with the firmest grasp on their own fate — Duke, Kansas, and the aforementioned Orange — may not be doing as much Championship Week scoreboard watching as those five teams, but all would still likely need to win out to earn that last #1 seed. But before those three schools face the gauntlet that will be the Big 12 and ACC Tournaments, there is still business to be tended to this week. Despite a date with surging rival UNC (at Cameron), Duke may have the easiest list of chores among the three: KenPom’s predictor gives the Blue Devils a 68 percent chance of finishing off the regular season with a pair of wins. Kansas faces Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse before concluding the regular season with a visit to West Virginia; the latter contest offers a challenge sufficient enough to leave KenPom predicting that a Jayhawks’ final week sweep will occur only 60% of the time (and that number probably does not account for the likelihood that Joel Embiid sits out). Syracuse shouldn’t look past Georgia Tech on Tuesday (don’t forget those Boston College Eagles!), but its Sunday trip to Tallahassee is a significant landmine — significant enough that the Orange are expected to polish off their regular season with two wins just 48 percent of the time. The margin for error is thin for all three of these teams; a loss – no matter where it comes from – would all but end dreams of that fourth #1 seed.

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Big 12 M5: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 28th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. For a Kansas team hoping to push for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, finishing the remainder of the season without another loss looks like it’ll be a necessity, and even that might not be enough to earn a spot on the top line on Selection Sunday. One of the teams that appears to be poised for a #1 seed ahead of Kansas is, of course, Wichita State. On Thursday, Kansas head coach Bill Self said that he believes the Shockers should earn a #1 seed if they finish the season unbeaten, given how hard it is to consistently win on the road regardless of strength of schedule. If things play out like they could, we might find a situation where Wichita State and Kansas are in the same region as the #1 and #2 seeds. That would certainly be all the Sunflower State could handle.
  2. Competition in the Big 12 has been nothing short of stellar for most of the season, but as Dave Skretta of the Associated Press points out, we might be reaching a point where the league is cannibalizing itself. Because there are so many quality teams from top to bottom, beating each other could potentially have a negative impact on the number of berths that the league receives to the NCAA Tournament.  The last two weeks of the season are sure to have several games that will have a significant impact on the postseason, let’s just hope the selection committee is aware of just how tough it is to win in the Big 12 this season.
  3. In a sport like college basketball where so much of the talk is centered around underclassmen, it’s refreshing to hear some of the senior night stories that will take place in the next few weeks — such as this one about Oklahoma seniors Cam Clark and Tyler Neal.  While Neal has the luxury of welcoming his parents to every home game, Clark will for once have his parents in attendance as he plays his final game in Norman.
  4. One of the biggest reasons for the turnaround that Rick Barnes’ team has experienced at Texas this season is the improved play of big man Cameron Ridley. On Wednesday night, Ridley saw the type of size on Baylor’s front line that he can expect to see at the NBA level, and his performance didn’t disappoint. We’ve seen similar play at times from Ridley throughout the season, namely the home game against Kansas where Ridley dominated the talented Jayhawks’ frontcourt. For Texas to excel in postseason play, you can bet that Ridley will need to continue to have a significant influence.
  5. Speaking of postseason play, Bob Huggins’ West Virginia team is currently in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid, but will need some big wins down the stretch to get there. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they will continue to be without the services of Terry Henderson, who has been out of action with an undisclosed illness since a game against Kansas on February 8. While West Virginia officials couldn’t get into the details of exactly what is wrong with Henderson, they believe he is appearing to come out of whatever is bothering him. It looks like superbly talented point guard Juwan Staten will continue to shoulder most of the load for the Mountaineers.
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RTC Bracketology: February 20 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on February 20th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries. 

With Syracuse‘s surprising loss to Boston College Wednesday night, the Orange are still a top seed but they are no longer the top overall seed. I now have Florida, which has won 18 straight games after last night’s overtime victory over Auburn, as the top overall seed. The Gators have not lost this season while at full strength and their worst loss is at Connecticut on a buzzer-beater. Compared with a loss to a bad BC team in the Carrier Dome, that sounds very forgiving. Arizona also survived at Utah on Wednesday night  and remains on the top line,  although the Wildcats are playing with fire recently.

The biggest loser Wednesday night was Minnesota, which lost to Illinois at home. The Gophers remain in the bracket, but barely. Baylor enters the field after a win over Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys hung on to their slot, although I’m not confident either one of those Big 12 teams will be in the field come Selection Sunday.

Last Four In: Oklahoma State, Saint Joseph’s, Baylor, Tennessee (note: #12 Georgetown was slotted down for bracketing reasons)
First Four Out: Dayton, BYU, West Virginia, Oregon

Bids by Conference: Big 12 (7), Pac-12 (6), Big East (6), Big Ten (6), Atlantic 10 (5), ACC (5), SEC (4), AAC (4), Mountain West (2)

bracketfeb20

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College Basketball by the Tweets: The Marcus Smart Shove Edition

Posted by Nick Fasulo on February 10th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

College basketball had its Richard Sherman moment Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas, as Oklahoma State superstar Marcus Smart shoved a notable Texas Tech fan named Jeff Orr to spark a flurry of discussion via Twitter. Even if you weren’t watching the Cowboys suffer their fourth consecutive loss, one quick check of your news feed would have immediately brought the story to your attention, along with varying opinions and perspective surrounding the incident. We now know that Smart has been suspended for three games. Below is how the story evolved from the initial reaction up through Sunday’s announcement of Smart’s suspension.

The Initial Reaction

It all started — for me at least — with a Vine of the Smart shove posted by CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander:

Within minutes, everyone had responded to the shove.  Some people immediately knew a developing story was afoot. The very first with the trigger was Pat Forde:

The subsequent knee-jerk tweets are fascinating to look back on. Certainly nobody is in the wrong, but based on what we learned, these now feel like nascent observations.

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The RTC Podblast: Best Conference Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 24th, 2014

It’s been an interesting week around the college basketball universe, and the RTC Podblast is back to lead you through it. Actually, that’s not true. This is a bit of a different podblast, mostly because we weren’t able to get our Rush the Takes segment recorded as early in the week as we usually do. So in this one, we review a few of the week’s better results but also spent some time talking Big 12 basketball with ESPN analyst, Fran Fraschilla. As always, he was an informative and engaging guest, and we were pleased to hear his takes regarding what some argue is the best league in college basketball this season. The full rundown is below.

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast/podblast on iTunes so that you’ll get all of them immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-4:11 – Michigan Launches Themselves Towards the Top of the Big Ten
  • 4:11-7:50 – Minnesota Notches Another Big Ten Upset While Wisconsin Continues Their Slide
  • 7:50-19:10 – Rush the Takes With Fran Fraschilla
  • 19:10-23:25 – #RootForTheSuit and Top 25 Weekend Preview
  • 23:25-30:09 – Non-Top 25 Weekend Preview (With a Pac-12 Digression)
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Checking The Panic Meter: Which Teams Should Really Worry About Their January Swoons?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 24th, 2014

As Brian Otskey noted earlier this week, January losing streaks have caused a number of once-top teams to tumble down, and in some cases, out of the polls. The rigors of conference play have deflowered those gaudy late December records, prompting a number of far-sooner-than-expected reality checks. Past history will tell you that some of these January slumps will be reduced to mere blips on the radar by March (e.g., the defending champion Louisville Cardinals lost three in a row in the first month of 2013), while others are indeed the beginning of a fade into college hoops oblivion. Wondering about future prospects for fading powers? Here’s a look at where the panic meter should be (10=High Panic, 1=Nothing to worry about) for five of college basketball’s most downward-trending squads.

Georgetown: Panic Meter=10

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

With Jabril Trawick not expected back anytime soon (broken jaw), and Josh Smith out indefinitely due to academics (don’t forget that Greg Whittington’s “indefinite” academic suspension a year ago eventually caused him to miss the Hoyas’ final 19 contests), Georgetown is clearly undermanned right now. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has been brilliant, and Markel Starks intermittently so, but finding offensive contributions from players who aren’t 6’2” guards has proven impossible since Smith‘s suspension began. With the 10-day forecast looking especially gloomy — top-15 teams Creighton, Villanova and Michigan State are up next for JT3’s club – Georgetown’s season could be very close to finished by the time Super Bowl Sunday arrives. Even if the Hoyas can get Smith and Trawick back by early February, a challenging closing stretch awaits: Six of Georgetown’s final seven opponents are currently ranked in KenPom’s top 75. It’s probably not the way Georgetown wanted to find March peace, but Hoyas’ fans may finally avoid their annual NCAA Tournament heartbreak.

Wisconsin: Panic Meter= 1

If you play basketball in the Big Ten, you are going to lose games. The league is simply too strong top-to-bottom to cruise the entire winter without resistance. Yes, Michigan and Michigan State – losses are coming for you as well (beginning for one of the two on Saturday). In any case, Wisconsin should be just fine. Aside from some struggles from three-point range (likely temporary), the uber-efficient Badgers’ offense has continued to roll, even through their current three-game losing streak. The defense could stand to improve marginally (55th nationally in defensive efficiency), but there is just too much offensive firepower in Madison for Bucky’s train to go too far off the tracks.

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The RTC Podcast: Rankings vs. Resume Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2014

We’re a bit later this week because of some issues involving Richard Sherman, MLK Day and a snowstorm named Janus (seriously?), we’re back with this week’s RTC Podcast. Of course, if you were already an iTunes subscriber, you would have already listened to the recording because it dropped much earlier on Wednesday over there. We highly suggest that you make it a part of your regular podcast rotation by subscribing on iTunes. What’s the worst that could happen?

In this week’s edition, hosted by the inimitable Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), we forgo the Rush the Takes segment in favor of really digging into the key midseason question of distinguishing between a team’s ranking and a team’s resume. And never the twain shall meet. We go back and forth on this during a discussion of several teams, and as always, have a great time doing it. The full rundown is below.

  • 0:00-7:52 – Kansas and the End of the Big 12 Title Race
  • 7:52-18:22 – Fallout From Creighton’s Three-Point Shooting Clinic in Philly
  • 18:22-23:50 – Syracuse and Pitt Have a Classic Big East Battle (in the ACC)
  • 23:50-28:59 – #RootForTheSuit and #CheerForTheEars in the Rankings
  • 28:59-33:50 – Concern for Struggling Teams
  • 33:50-38:54 – You, Me and the AP (Florida)
  • 38:54-44:13 – You, Me and the AP (Louisville)
  • 44:13-47:33 – Week Preview
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Is Baylor Overrated? Of Course!

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 16th, 2014

The Baylor Bears are currently the 12th best team in the land (says the Associated Press), and are considered by many to be both a Big 12 title contender and Final Four threat. The Bears are deep and talented (as usual), and Kenny Chery has been remarkable enough to make Bears fan already forget their preseason fears of a life without Pierre Jackson. But after Wednesday night’s discouraging no-show of an 82-72 loss to Texas Tech – a game in which Baylor trailed by 21 at halftime – I think it’s high time we reassess Scott Drew’s team. They are a talented bunch, no doubt; but are the Bears as good as we first thought?

Cory Jefferson And The Defensively Challenged Bears Would Be Well-Suited To Replicate Their Offensive Efficiency On The Other End Of The Floor

Cory Jefferson And The Defensively Challenged Bears Would Be Well-Suited To Replicate Their Offensive Efficiency On The Other End Of The Floor

Baylor had already risen all the way to seventh in the polls this season, but another decisive Big 12 road loss (at Iowa State) knocked them down to their current spot. The Bears followed the standard prescription for reaching the upper realms of the poll: Enter the season ranked, possess a solid reputation of recent success, and then it doesn’t really matter who you beat — just win a bunch of games. Twelve of 13 did the trick for Scott Drew’s team, and that one loss was commendable – a seven-point defeat to second ranked Syracuse in Maui. But if we reevaluate Baylor’s current list of victories, the rise in profile that accompanied its jaunt up the polls may feel a bit hasty. Wins over Kentucky and Colorado are nice, but Arkansas and Washington can also claim that. Furthermore, make sure to note that those two games – both played in Dallas/Fort Worth — should be considered far friendlier for Baylor than the attached “neutral site” title would suggest – especially as the Bears struggle on the road here early in conference play.

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Is The Pac-12 The Nation’s Best Conference?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 2nd, 2014

A week ago now, Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com tried to determine which was the best basketball conference in America this year. He broke down overall records, record vs. top 25 RPI, record vs. top 50 KenPom, record vs. the top 10 conferences, and more. The numbers have changed a bit since then, what with an extra week of games, but the post is still worth a look as conference play has tipped off in earnest this week. Below, we’ll reference those numbers and some of his findings as we try to determine the answer to the following question — Is the Pac-12 really in the hunt for the title of best conference in the nation?

Is The Pac-12 The Best Conference? Here's A Hint: Probably Not

Is The Pac-12 The Best Conference? Here’s A Hint: Probably Not

First, understand that this exercise is really sort of meaningless. Conferences don’t advance to the Final Four or win national championships – teams do. And depending on what criteria you’re looking for, you can make all sorts of arguments as to which league is the best. Is it more important to have a grouping of elite teams; or do you want to have a big chunk of teams that are good; or are you impressed by conferences where the bottom quarter of the league is capable of beating anybody? (Note: if you are interested in that last criterion, feel free to throw the Pac-12 with its triumvirate of Oregon State, Washington State and Washington out.) But it is a fun argument to have over a few cold beverages, or over Twitter or, really, anywhere. So, why does the Pac-12 deserve to be in this discussion?

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The Quiet Cowboy: Markel Brown Keeps Producing For Pokes

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 23rd, 2013

We all know Marcus Smart. We first met him last winter, when he was busy terrorizing Big 12 opponents as a freshman. However, it turned out we didn’t know everything about Marcus back then, because he wound up shocking us all in April with his decision to eschew the NBA Draft for a year. But boy, have we had the chance to get to know him all over again this winter. By virtue of conducting Oklahoma State’s red-hot start, Smart’s name has dominated headlines for the past six weeks, and rightfully so. After all, among the many individual stretches of Smart’s dominance was this display. And this shot. Many will tell you he is the current favorite for National POY, and if you feel like arguing with them, good luck. So far, Smart has been that good.

Markel Brown -- Not Marcus Smart -- Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

Markel Brown — Not Marcus Smart — Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

But hiding somewhere behind the nation’s love affair with Marcus Smart – a fling I’m OK with, for the record – is a pretty freaking good basketball team. That basketball team improved to 11-1 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, dispatching a solid Colorado club (now 10-2) in the process. Smart was his typically proficient self (18 points, three assists), but that night served to remind us that he has some pretty capable teammates as well. Phil Forte, owner of the nation’s third-best individual efficiency rating entering the night, made four threes en route to a 16-point effort. Le’Bryan Nash pitched in with 15 points of his own, and did a little bit of everything else, contributing six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three LOUD blocks. But of all the Cowboys who contributed to the cause, it was senior Markel Brown who offered the biggest lift. The senior scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and even chipped in three assists: a domineering effort, indeed, and on a sizable stage. If you didn’t know all that much about the Pokes before Saturday night, Brown’s performance surely rated as eye-catching. But if you did? Just another lethally efficient demonstration from one of the nation’s most underrated players.

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