The Week That Was: December 4-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Introduction

As far as TWTW is concerned, December is one of the worst months of the sports calendar, just edging out July when all there is to watch is baseball and a couple of golf tournaments. In December, you have the end of the NFL regular season and the potential of teams tanking for draft picks or teams resting players for the playoffs. You have about a 30-day break until college football becomes interesting again. And a lot of the time you have uninteresting college basketball matchups. December’s the time of the year that coaches schedule easier opponents to make sure everything is in order before conference play begins.

Yet this week, there’s plenty to talk about. We had the Jimmy V Classic featuring Michigan State-Syracuse and Kansas-Memphis. There was a basketball experiment at Illinois. And oh yeah, Duke just might have lost Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season.

Off we go …

What We Learned

Boeheim Has a Lot to Be Pleased About

  • Tom Izzo is not happy with his Spartans right now. Izzo had strong words for his team after MSU’s lackluster effort against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden, in which Michigan State looked soft and tentative against a physical and charged-up Orange squad and lost 72-58. Here are a few of Izzo’s money quotes from the postgame presser, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press. “I’m as disappointed in that performance as I’ve been in any since I’ve been at Michigan State. …We turned into a pretty-boy jump-shooting team instead of the blue-collar, fist-fighting team we should be. … I feel like the New York Jets.” On the bright side, Izzo at least was sensitive enough to compare his team to the Jets and not the local team — no child should ever be talked about in the same sentence as the Lions. Izzo’s concerns are justified, though. The Spartans have gone 1-3 in their four biggest tests to date with their one win being a five-point triumph over Washington in Maui. And against Syracuse, MSU got decimated in the paint as Rick Jackson exploded for 17 points and 16 rebounds. That’s not a good sign for a team that has to face Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson several times in Big Ten play.
  • If Izzo is disgusted with his team’s play, then Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has to be ecstatic with how quickly his team has adapted to life without Wesley Johnson. For anyone who thought the Orangemen were just getting by after close calls against Georgia Tech and N.C. State, their beatdown of Michigan State confirmed their legitimacy. Syracuse is 9-0, and its vaunted 2-3 zone is as effective as ever. Opponents are only hitting 37.6% of their shots for the floor (222-515) and are shooting a paltry 28.1% (68-242) from downtown. If freshman Fab Melo (2.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG in 13.4 MPG) ever gets going, then Syracuse should compete for a Big East title.
  • Apparently Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings and Missouri’s Mike Anderson hate timeouts. They think they’re worthless exercises, and there’s no reason to talk to your team during the game — even to, say, draw up a final play of a tied game. That’s the only conclusion that could be made after watching the Tigers-Commodores rock-fight of a game Wednesday night. Both coaches left two timeouts on the board during regulation, and Anderson didn’t call a timeout once the Tigers crossed halfcourt down 72-71 with about 25 seconds left to draw up a possible game-winning play. Ricardo Ratliffe bailed out his coach when he hit one of two free throws after drawing a foul. In overtime. it was Vandy’s turn to neglect to talk things over on the sidelines. After Michael Dixon tied the game at 82 with 33 seconds left in the game, Vandy took the ball and decided to freelance a play. It didn’t work. Dixon stripped Brad Tinsley with about eight seconds to go, and his layup and free throw won the game for the Tigers. You know who didn’t win, though? Anyone who appreciates competent end-of-game coaching.
  • Is Notre Dame a fraud? Time will tell as the Irish’s uneven performance against Kentucky did not validate their inclusion into RTC’s top 25 (The Irish checks in at #23) nor did it show that they will fade from the national scene once conference season starts. When the Irish are hitting their outside shots, they can light up just about any team in the nation. ND hung 40 points on Kentucky in the first half when Ben Hansbrough buried five 3-pointers. But in the second half, the outside shots stopped falling and the offense sputtered. Without a great inside presence, the Irish are too dependent on their perimeter game and vulnerable to shooting slumps. When Kentucky amped up the pressure, ND went 6-30 from the field. Checking in with our friends at KenPom, there are reasons to think that the Irish’s early success was a mirage. Notre Dame isn’t a great defensive team. The Irish rank 81st in adjusted defensive efficiency, and the defense isn’t forcing turnovers. According to KenPom, Mike Brey’s team forces TOs on only 15.6% of opponent’s possessions — good for 341st in the nation.
  • Kansas is doing just fine without Josh Selby. Yeah, the Jayhawks just barely got past a frisky UCLA squad last Thursday, but they had no problem dismantling Memphis by 13 points at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Eight Jayhawks scored at least six points in the win, four scored at least ten and no one finished with more than 16. That’s balance, the kind of balance that makes you believe Kansas’s 57.1% night shooting wasn’t a fluke, in fact the Jayhawks are the #1 team in the nation in effective field goal percentage (62.7%) according to KenPom. The only area in which Kansas failed to impress Tuesday is turnovers. The Jayhawks committed 22 turnovers against Memphis, but we think that problem will fix itself with the addition of another capable ball handler in Selby.

Pour This Man A Gin

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The Effect of a Potential NBA Lockout on NCAA Basketball

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2010

Since Gordon Hayward‘s half-court heave bounced off the rim in Indianapolis just two weeks ago there has been a spate of early entries. While it is not shocking to see a number of underclassmen enter the NBA Draft before they are probably ready to leave the college ranks, the sheer number of early entries is surprising. As Chad Ford recently pointed out, all 18 of the top-rated prospects on ESPN’s “Big Board” have declared for the first time [Ed. Note: Patrick Patterson has not officially declared, but signs are pointing towards an announcement this week] and all of them still have eligibility left to come back to college (Jan Vesely and Donatas Motiejunas are international players who could have gone to college, but the fact that they opted to enter the draft is not the least bit surprising). Is this just a random occurrence (I mean some year had to have the most underclassman ever declare) or is there something more behind it? It’s true that many of these guys could come back for an extra year or two (or three in some cases), but we have a sneaking suspicion that most of them will keep their names in the draft especially since nearly two-thirds of that group has already signed with an agent or is expected to in the near future.

Cole may or may not be living here next year (Credit: AldrichMansion.com)

The big question for college basketball fans is what caused this mass exodus from campuses across America. College life certainly has not gotten any tougher for these athletes (and that’s for a guy who averaged 2.7 PPG so you can imagine what kind of perks an All-American gets) and while next season’s NBA salary cap is higher than it was expected to be, it is still $1.6 million less than this season’s salary cap. The real reason behind the exodus may have less to do with the college game than a rumor that has been gaining steam over the past six months — there might be a NBA lockout after the 2010-11 season. We would normally dismiss this as purely speculative message board talk, but there have been numerous major media outlets that have published articles recently about the possibility of a lockout:

At this point all of this could just be idle speculation although with the numerous prominent media voices chiming in on it the possibility of a NBA lockout has to be considered. Even though many of these players will have NBA careers that will exceed a decade we can understand their apprehension at having to wait two more years (coming back to college for one year followed by a potential NBA lockout season) before getting an NBA contract. On top of that, there is a good chance that a lockout would result in a significant restructuring of contracts in a way that would not be favorable to the players. Billy Hunter can posture all he wants about the strength and unity of the players, but the owners have much bigger bankrolls than the players do to live off of during a lockout (see Antoine Walker‘s case for a little background on the financial sensibilities of some NBA players) and they also have streams of income coming in from sources outside of basketball. We would not be surprised to see the owners force the players to accept contracts that are more like what NFL players have to deal with — guaranteed up to a certain point with bonuses up front, but the owners having the opportunity to cut the cord at the first sign of a drop-off in a player’s ability.

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