Fabulous Freshmen Usher in Next Era for Indiana

Posted by Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) on November 22nd, 2013

Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Washington and Indiana in New York.

Even the elite programs of college basketball will not contend for a national championship every year. There are ebbs and flows within every program, like when the big recruiting class gives you hope and the devastation when your superstar leaves prematurely. If everything goes well, the top programs will always contend but can only make a legitimate run at the title every few years. Last season was supposed to be that year for Indiana. They had Player of the Year candidates in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. They had experienced seniors in Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. They had depth, shooting, size and they spent several weeks at the top of the polls.

wash indiana 2ksports

Indiana

The Hoosiers also went cold at the wrong time, bombing out to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. Now, Oladipo is trying to figure out how to take care of the ball with the Orlando Magic. Zeller is trying to finally break into double figures for the Charlotte Bobcats. Watford and Hulls are only present in the record books, no longer on the court. No one expects Indiana to seriously contend for a national championship this season.

Yet last night against Washington at Madison Square Garden, Indiana showed it may not be too long before the Hoosiers are back near the top, and that was thanks to the presence of two promising freshmen, Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams. Vonleh is a long, skinny post player who can be devastatingly active on the glass when he chooses. Physically, he looks like a younger Chris Bosh but he plays a different game, staying closer to the basket and doing his damage on the boards. Indiana plays a similar style to last season with Yogi Ferrell pushing the tempo and attacking defenses, but unlike that group spearheaded by Zeller, they do not spend a lot of time working the ball into the post. Right now Vonleh is left to find scoring opportunities from offensive rebounds and the occasional pick-and-roll finish.

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Previewing the Holiday Tournaments: A Big Ten Perspective

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 21st, 2013

The holiday tournaments tip off today and college coaches are huge fans of their teams participating in these events. With the quick turnarounds and neutral court sites, the events give players a glimpse of what their conference and postseason tournaments will feel like. From the prestigious eight-team Maui Invitational to the four-team Barclays Center Classic, each tournament provides valuable experience for teams and coaches alike to prepare for a postseason atmosphere. Along with gaining that precious experience, teams can also improve their non-conference resumes just by showing up. A couple of good performances or a holiday tournament championship looks pretty attractive to the selection committee in March. This year, the Big Ten has nearly the entire league competing in some sort of holiday tournament (Illinois and Ohio State are the two absentees). Let’s break down each of them, starting with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Charleston Classic and 2kSports Classic, beginning today.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Butler vs Illinois

Illinois Jump Started its NCAA Tournament Season A Year Ago in Maui

Puerto Rico Tip off: November 21-24

  • Teams: Michigan vs. Long Beach State, VCU vs. Florida State, Georgetown vs. Northeastern, Charlotte vs. Kansas State
  • Favorite: VCU
  • Projected Michigan Finish: 3rd
  • Michigan Player to WatchDerrick Walton Jr.
  • The Skinny: In the eight-team field, Georgetown, VCU, and the Wolverines are the clear front-runners. Georgetown lucked out as they are on the opposite side of the bracket of both Michigan and VCU. This means that a match-up of last year’s NCAA Tournament third round game between the two schools is likely in the semifinals. Last year, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. shredded Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense on its way to a huge victory. Now, Walton is set to run the offense for Michigan and go up against a veteran VCU backcourt. This game could spell major trouble for John Beilein and his staff, but could also be an important teaching moment.

Charleston Classic: November 21-24

  • TeamsNebraska vs. UMass, UAB vs. New Mexico, Georgia vs. Davidson, Clemson vs. Temple
  • Favorite: New Mexico
  • Projected Nebraska Finish: 5th
  • Nebraska Player to WatchTai Webster
  • The Skinny:  The Cornhuskers play UMass and then either New Mexico or UTEP in the next round. New Mexico is a top 20 team while UMass is expected to compete for a NCAA bid out of the Atlantic 10. Chaz Williams for UMass is an explosively fast guard who can distribute the ball well and shoot lights out from three. Tim Miles will have his work cut out to try and stop Williams, and the freshman Webster will get a nice welcoming from the “Chaz Master.”

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John Groce’s Bad Day Still Doesn’t Change Illinois’ Upward Trajectory

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 15th, 2013

The bad news started early. Quentin Snider changed his mind again, deciding to spurn Illinois and going back to his original verbal pledge to Louisville. This news snowballed on at about 3:15 PM when Cliff Alexander, a potential one-and-done type that could lead a team to the Final Four, decided to leave his home state and go to Kansas instead of the Illini. In a few short hours, Illinois went from having a top five class to one with only one ESPN top 100 recruit (Leron Black). So what I’m advising all the Illini fans out there to do is as follows: Take a deep breath, count to 10, and then hear me out when I say that everything is going to be fine. I’m not just patronizing, I really believe the Illini are a program on the rise with or without Alexander in the fold next season. Here’s why.

Even after losing out on the Cliff Alexander sweepstakes, John Groce still has Illinois on the rise.

Even after losing out on the Cliff Alexander sweepstakes, John Groce still has Illinois on the rise.

If people watched the announcement live on ESPNU like I did, you could see someone who appeared torn up by the decision he was about to make. If Illinois was as close as it was rumored to be, then it shows that Groce is almost ready to kick in the door and end the long trend of top 30 Chicago talents playing elsewhere. He made a distinct impact on Alexander, and for the Illini to get that close when in the past he might not have even considered them, shows Groce is going to get more Chicago elite recruits to stay in state. It’s only a matter of time. He already got a commitment from 2015 wing D.J. Williams from Chicago Simeon High School, and has a chance to add two more from in Jalen Brunson and Charles Matthews. What a miss on Alexander means is that it might be a little bit more of a baby-step progression as opposed to the huge leap that would have happened with Alexander on board. Regardless of today’s results, the program is still in great shape for next year and beyond.

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Big Ten M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 15th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Friday at 4:00 PM ET marks a huge day for Illinois as five-star forward Cliff Alexander will announce his college decision — he is down to Illinois, Kansas, DePaul, and Memphis. The Chicago native has his decision in mind and most believe it will be either Illinois or Kansas. Kansas has long been the favorite for Alexander, with Jayhawks’ assistant Jerrance Howard recruiting him since he was an eighth-grader. But Illinois and John Groce have made a late surge and have some momentum. If Alexander puts on the Illini hat Friday, it will not only represent Groce’s growing recruiting presence in Chicago, but will also signal that Illinois is ready to get back to being a national power.
  2. Along with Alexander, elite Class of 2014 prospects Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Stanley Johnson will also announce Friday afternoon. Besides Illinois for Alexander, no other Big Ten team is in the running for these three recruits. But that doesn’t mean the Big Ten is done recruiting top prospects this year. Indiana is heavily pursuing point guard JaQuan Lyle, a former Louisville commitment. Minnesota and Rashad Vaughn have mutual interest. Vaughn, a shooting guard from Golden Valley, Minnesota, would be Richard Pitino’s first major recruit during his short tenure as a head coach. Also look out for Ohio State to continue to pursue consensus top five player Myles Turner, a center who has been compared favorably to former NPOY Anthony Davis.  The Buckeyes already have one of the nation’s best 2014 recruiting classes and all that is missing is a talented big man like Turner.
  3. Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans are coming off a huge Tuesday night victory over Kentucky. Despite the monster win, Izzo is not pleased with his team’s effort on the boards. Adreian Payne battled foul trouble in the second half and that limited his effectiveness. Izzo desperately needs either Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling or Alex Gauna to become a consistent rebounder who the Spartans can lean on to average at least seven boards a game beyond Payne’s production. Gary Harris is another player who Izzo wants to see increase his rebounding activity.  He only averaged 2.5 rebounds per game last season.
  4. Iowa has found a stud player via the transfer hub in Jarrod UthoffWith two scholarships open for the class of 2014, head coach Fran McCaffery said he might turn to the transfer trail to fill them again. Transfers have become increasingly important to college programs, especially when they can get waivers to play right away. Don’t be shocked to see Iowa possibly pick up two graduate students for next season who will be granted immediate eligibility.
  5. There are two major games involving Big Ten teams this weekend. First, #10 Ohio State goes to Milwaukee to take on #17 Marquette Saturday. Look out for the important match-up in the post between Amir Williams and Davante Gardner. Gardner was a first team all-Big East preseason selection and will be a handful for Williams, who has never lived up to his McDonald’s All America hype. On Sunday, #7 Michigan travels to Ames to take on Iowa State. Both teams will each be without a key player, though — Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim is out with a bad left knee and Michigan’s Mitch McGary is not expected to play due to a nagging back injury. It’s not a huge deal now, but each team clearly needs its respective injured player to get healthy by the time conference play starts.
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Big Ten’s One Loss Record Supports Early Claim for Best Conference

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 14th, 2013

The start to the Big Ten season has certainly gone well. Granted, there have been a few closer games than expected (we’re looking at you, Indiana and Purdue) and one loss, but nonetheless, the conference now sits at 23-1 going into Thursday morning. (It should be noted this topic was originally written with the assumption Penn State would not lose and the Big Ten would still be undefeated, but alas, we’ll settle for 23-1). It also has two of the biggest signature wins of the young season with Michigan State over Kentucky and Wisconsin downing Florida on Tuesday night. That said, the Big Ten is the only power conference to have only one loss and sits tied with the WCC for best record overall as the only conference with just one loss. The next closest leagues are the Big East and AAC with three losses each. Granted, overall record isn’t the only way to measure conference strength, especially this early in the season with high-major schools playing teams they should beat. Still, it’s an impressive start and worth taking a look at the next few days to see exactly how long the Big Ten can keep it up. This post projects the next four days to determine how likely it is that the Big Ten stays at the one-loss plateau heading into next week.

Gary Harris led Michigan State to No. 1 in the country and the Big Ten sits as the top conference early on, too. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Gary Harris led Michigan State to No. 1 in the country and the Big Ten sits as the top conference early on, too. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Today: Maryland Eastern Shore at Iowa; Northwestern at Stanford

This is a legitimate underdog situation for the Big Ten. Iowa should cruise in its home game against UMES, but the Wildcats are traveling west to play against a good team in its building. Stanford may have given up 112 points against BYU, but the Cougars are no slouch in the WCC.

Loss probability: 80 percent. It’s Northwestern on the road.

Friday: Samford at Indiana; Columbia at Michigan State

If Northwestern pulls off the upset, the Big Ten is looking at 25-1 heading into the weekend. In these two Friday games, Indiana and Michigan State will be heavy favorites. The Hoosiers got their wake-up call against an inferior team on Tuesday night and won’t let that happen again. Michigan State just beat Kentucky, and they aren’t losing to Columbia with a veteran squad coached by Tom Izzo.

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2013-14 RTC Season Preview Materials: Easy Links to Everything

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2013

seasonpreview-11As we’re typing this, the first college basketball game of the 2013-14 season has already begun, at the All-Military Classic in Lexington, Virginia, between Air Force and Army. This soldier-on-soldier match-up represents the first of some 10,000-plus regular season games that will be played around College Basketball Nation this season, and although there’s no organization on earth that can adequately cover, consider, review and analyze all of them, we’re certainly planning on doing our best, in this, Rush the Court‘s seventh full season of coverage.

The Armed Forces Classic Tips Things Off in Earnest Tonight

The Armed Forces Classic Tips Things Off in Earnest Tonight

We have some new offerings for you this year. Not everyone has time or interest in reading through thousands of lines of copy, but everyone enjoys pictures and video. To that end, we’re ramping up our TumblRTC this year to provide some fun to pair with our analysis. Additionally, there’s so much good video available nowadays that we’ve decided to build our own YouTube channel, rushthecourtTV, which is already curating some fantastic stuff — from conference-specific video streams to game highlights to oddball videos to, of course, the best RTCs of the season. It’s well worth checking out periodically if you know you’re going to have some time to kill.

Longtime readers will know that we’re also continually active on Twitter (@rushthecourt) and Facebook (rushthecourt), but to keep the visual trend going, you can also now find us on Instagram (rushthecourt) these days. We encourage everyone to find us on social media to share pics, videos and whatever else related to college hoops all season long. As we move into games, let’s take a breath and review all the great stuff that our crack staff of writers — the best in the college basketball business — have produced this month. From 20 Questions to 30 Reasons We Love College Basketball, we’ve got you covered. Enjoy the ride with us this year.

Superlatives

Key Preview Questions

RTC Interview Series Previews

RTC Podcast Previews

Conference Microsite Previews

The Other 26 Previews

Let’s tip things off!

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Running Down Our Big Ten Preview Posts

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 8th, 2013

Folks, the season is finally here! With three ranked teams in the top-10 of the national polls, the Big Ten is ready to once again make its case as the deepest conference in college basketball. Over the next five months, our team of Big Ten writers – Jonathan Batuello, Brendan Brody, Deepak Jayanti, Max Jakubowski and Alex Moscoso – will provide our insights about the conference we love. To prepare you for the season, we’ve outlined all the posts we’ve written about each of the 12 teams in the league, listed below (sorry, Minnesota, we owe you one).

Which Big Ten Team Will Be Playing Into April Like Michigan Was Last Year?

Which Big Ten Team Will Be Playing Into April Like Michigan Was Last Year?

Overall League Coverage

Michigan State

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Here’s the Big Ten Hoops Must-Follow List

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 8th, 2013

We live in the Twitter era, where following certain beat writers and correspondents with direct access to Big Ten programs will help you as a fan keep up with your respective teams throughout the season. At the Rush The Court Big Ten microsite, we will also attempt to provide insightful opinions and analysis about the Big Ten over the next five months. You can follow our writers – Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso), Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g), Brendan Brody (@berdnon4), Jon Batuello (@jcbatuello), Max Jakubowski (@airmax11267) –  for all the latest articles about Big Ten hoops. The following is a list of writers who consistently provide excellent coverage about specific Big Ten teams and should be followed on Twitter by all Big Ten fans.

If You Follow These Big Ten-Related Accounts, You'll Be Covered

If You Follow These Big Ten-Related Accounts, You’ll Be Covered

Enjoy the Big Ten season by following these writers and staying close the Rush The Court Big Ten Microsite!

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Three Big Ten Seniors Who Need to Break Out This Year

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 8th, 2013

A player entering his senior year will be filled with all sorts of emotions. He might be a little glum that this is his last ride or he might be filled with excitement that he could lead his team to a conference crown and possibly more. No matter the feelings, each senior needs to be a leader on the court for his team and provide a little extra production when called upon. Michigan State’s Draymond Green, for example, put up incredible numbers in his senior campaign for Michigan State two years ago and Brandon Paul of Illinois emerged as an All-Conference player to lead the Illini to a surprising NCAA Tournament bid last season. There have been many others and there will be more, but here are three Big Ten players who need to step up in a big way for their final seasons on campus:

Bertrand will be the motor behind the Illini's offense this season. (Getty)

Bertrand will be the motor behind the Illini’s offense this season. (Getty)

Joseph Bertrand, Illinois, Shooting Guard: The Illini graduated their top two perimeter players in Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson. Groce’s perimeter-oriented offense was a perfect fit for the duo, who hoisted threes any chance they got and made enough of them to drive their team into postseason play last year. With those two now gone, Bertrand will become a primary scoring option. He has great athleticism and leaping ability which allows him to get to the rim, and when he gets fouled, the senior sports a 77 percent conversion rate from the line. The Illini might at times run with a smaller lineup featuring Bertrand at the four because he is a decent rebounder for his size. On the offensive end, Groce has to allow Bertrand to isolate occasionally, as he can either beat his defender to the rim or force opponents to bring help defense and leave the shooters wide open on the perimeter. If Illinois wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, it will need a big year from the senior Bertrand.

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Big Ten M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 8th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The dawn of a new season is finally upon us. Friday marks the first game for nine Big Ten teams, plus three other teams will begin their seasons on Saturday. Here is a schedule for your viewing pleasure. The biggest game Friday in the Big Ten will be Wisconsin’s contest with St. John’s. A win would be a résumé builder for either of these teams, as both are expected to make the NCAA Tournament. A player to watch in this game for the Badgers is John Gasser. He missed all of last season with an ACL injury.
  2. Speaking of injuries, Michigan’s Mitch McGary has been officially ruled out for Friday’s game and his future status is still unknown. McGary has been dealing with a lower back injury since September, and there are rumblings that the preseason First Team All-American could be sidelined until conference play. If that turns out to be true, the Wolverines will be extremely shorthanded in the frontcourt for the next two months. Non-conference games against Iowa State, Arizona, Duke, Stanford and the Puerto Rico Tipoff could provide Michigan with some major problems.
  3. It’s never too early for bracketology. Both CBS and ESPN released their preseason brackets this week, and ESPN included Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa from the league while CBS had the same six plus Purdue. The Big Ten is expected to get anywhere between six and eight bids this year. Also noteworthy was that Michigan State was a projected #1 seed in both brackets. A number one seed for Tom Izzo and the Spartans would mean they would most likely go through the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis.
  4. Illinois was in neither of the bracketology projections and may not get back there again this season, but they are surely headed in the right direction. Head coach John Groce has a great group of transfers who will be eligible next year and also brings in another nationally-ranked recruiting class. That recruiting class may climb even higher if Groce can land Chicago product Cliff Alexander, a five-star power forward who is expected to choose among a small group that includes the Illini. Illinois may regress this season, but the long-term future does look extra bright in Champaign.
  5. Five-star prospect Reid Travis will announce his college destination today with Duke, Stanford, and Minnesota as his finalists. Duke had long been considered the front-runner, but the Golden Gophers have had a huge momentum swing lately.  Travis, an extremely athletic power forward, would be a huge pickup for coach Richard Pitino and his staff. Scouts have likened his game to C-list celebrity Kris Humphries, who by the way, played his collegiate ball at Minnesota after de-committing from Duke. Coincidence? I think not.
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The RTC Podcast: 2013-14 Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2013

seasonpreview (1)

That little countdown clock in the uppper left of this site says it’s about 24 hours from the return of the college hoops. We’ve got you covered. Throughout this preseason, the RTC Podcast has been putting in some serious recording work. Led by hosting and producing stalwart Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), we have now dropped a total of two preseason podcasts (Part I, recorded in mid-October and featuring guest Mike DeCourcy, can be found here) and seven conference-specific podblasts (listed below).

Today’s Part II of the national preseason podcast is a festive one. Anything is possible! Perhaps an All-America team that will look nothing like the postseason version. Perhaps a trip to the Final Four from a school that was last seen running Steve Alford out of town (no, not that one, keep thinking). Maybe even a new bandwagon to replace the Maize and Blue (alright, not really to replace… more like supplement). There might even be a t-shirt contest in this week’s edition. The point is that we’re all in a great mood with real, live games starting very soon, and we hope you’ll join us for a listen.

Keep in mind that from now until the second week in April, the podcast will publish once early in the week with a review of all the big weekend action, and the RTC Podblast, a much shorter 15-20 minute quick hits version, will publish late in the week reflecting on all that week’s action. As usual, the rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-1:45 – Open
  • 1:45-3:40 – ACC Preview Takeaway
  • 3:40-5:00 – AAC Preview Takeaway
  • 5:00-6:25 – Big East Preview Takeaway
  • 6:25-7:28 – Big 12 Preview Takeaway
  • 7:28-8:21 – Big Ten Preview Takeaway
  • 8:21-9:15 – Pac-12 Preview Takeaway
  • 9:15-10:40 – SEC Preview Takeaway
  • 10:40-16:47 – Randy Officially Picks a New Bandwagon
  • 16:47-27:18 – Rush the Take with Chris Johnson
  • 27:18-33:14 – All-America Discussion
  • 33:14-45:16 – You, Me and the AP: Top 25 Talk
  • 45:16-50:43 – Opening Weekend Preview
  • 50:43-57:11 – Final Four Picks/Wrap
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Introducing the RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 5th, 2013

In honor of the college season finally tipping off Friday in various locales, we at the Big Ten microsite decided to get together and vote for our preseason all-league teams. We will cover potential Sixth Man of the Year candidates and reveal our preseason Freshman of the Year later this week. We’ll also be revealing how the teams will finish in the league standings four at a time starting Wednesday. Today we introduce our preseason All-Big Ten Second Team; the First Team will be unveiled tomorrow.

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

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