Morning Five: 07.13.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 13th, 2012

  1. The Carrier Classic and its descendents have received a fair amount of media coverage heading into next season, but hey, at least someone is trying to make the opening of the college basketball season interesting. Is it a cool grand worth of interesting? Our answer is… let’s just say that we’re banking on the free press pass. One of the new events scheduled for 2012-13 is the Navy/Marine Corps Classic in Jacksonville, Florida, which will feature Georgetown vs. Florida as part of a two-day event involving the hometown Jacksonville Jaguars (playing the Indianapolis Colts). Tying a college hoops game to the supernova of the NFL is probably never a bad idea, but we’re not sure that people will be lining up to watch a 5-11 team tacked on to an early regular season hoops game between two teams that have little to do with the other. All we can say is that we wish the promoters well with this idea.
  2. It’s not official yet, but it appears the NPOY Kentucky center Anthony Davis has all but locked up a spot on the men’s national basketball team with the news that Team USA forward Blake Griffin has a torn meniscus. Last night in Las Vegas, Team USA played an exhibition scrimmage against John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team, annihilating a group led by Edgar Sosa, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia by a score of 113-59. Davis contributed nine points in 10 minutes of action late in the game, including a four-point play where he knocked down a three that he said Calipari wouldn’t let him take at Kentucky. With all the national discussion about whether the 2012 team could defeat the original 1992 Dream Team (answer: they could not), it’s still very cool that this year’s version of Christian Laettner might actually make a significant contribution to the fortunes of the Olympic team.
  3. It’s somewhat hard to believe, but perennial sad sack athletic loser Caltech is in trouble with the NCAA. The Division III school which has more or less made a name for itself in these circles for its perennial athletic futility faces sanctions for playing 30 ineligible athletes in 12 sports. Although the basketball team finally broke through with a victory after a 26-year streak that ended in February 2011, that win will not be vacated as part of the NCAA sanctions. Still, the problem with the NCAA derived from an institutional process that allows students to shop for classes at the beginning of the semester — essentially making choices between Space Optical Aeronautic Engineering and Stochastic System Analysis and Bayesian Updating something that precludes athletic eligibility. Um, yeah.
  4. What’s this? A pair of elite prep twins that are not already slotted to enroll at Stanford? Despite the historical precedent of the Collins twins (Jarron and Jason) and the Lopez twins (Brook and Robin) playing college basketball on the Farm (not to mention the Morris (Kansas) or Wear (UNC/UCLA) twins), it appears that the next generation of phenomenal hoops twins are headed elsewhere. Andrew and Aaron Harrison are a pair of Texas-based top five prospects within the Class of 2013, and recruiters are rightfully treating them as a package deal to the Final Four and beyond. As Matt Norlander notes, Kentucky, Villanova, Maryland and Baylor are the schools on the leaderboard, but whoever gets the duo will certainly have to consider their combo fashion tastes as well as Aaron’s proclivity for skateboarding.
  5. Finally today, we end with yet another unintended consequence of conference realignment reaching down into the mid-major level. Boston University star Jake O’Brien, a senior forward who was once the America East ROY and an all-conference performer before suffering two years worth of injuries. He’s already graduated from BU, so given that his school is no longer allowed to compete in the America East Tournament, he’s looking for greener pastures for his senior season. In his last fully healthy year in 2009-10, he averaged 14/6 per game and will no doubt be able to provide some front court depth for a high-major team willing to take him on for a year.
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Morning Five: Independence Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 4th, 2012

  1. Happy ID4 to you and yours, folks. Try to stay cool out there but make sure to enjoy the barbecues, fireworks and time with family and friends that this holiday has come to represent. From our perspective, the Fourth isn’t just a celebration of the nation’s birthday (Happy 236th USA!), but it also marks just about the halfway point of the college basketball offseason. It’s been 93 days since Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans, and we’re just under 100 days until practice tips back off again with Midnight Madness. It’ll be here before you know it.
  2. People are still talking about last week’s NBA Draft, and with good reason. One of the top post-draft storylines among the blognoscenti has been how Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, and especially Perry Jones, III, and Jared Sullinger made poor financial decisions to stay in school for their sophomore seasons. It’s an easy ex post facto argument to make, but it ignores the fact that there are other extraneous values to sticking around campus for another year. Mike DeCourcy points out this very thing with respect to Jones and Sullinger through the prism of Indiana’s Cody Zeller, who, along with UNC’s James Michael McAdoo, is the top returning sophomore in college basketball next season. The key takeaway here is that even though players may have lost some of their elusive and fleeting upside by returning to school, they became better basketball players and more mature young men because of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and could pay additional financial dividends down the line.
  3. The Cody Zellers of tomorrow are of course already in the pipeline and it won’t be long before the Class of 2013 dominates all the recruiting news as elite prospects come off the board. As of today, only 15 of the Rivals top 50 prospects have committed anywhere, and only four of the top 25. But two names populating the top 100 recently made their decisions, and their ultimate destinations are places more familiar with the matriculation of elite academic types rather than athletic ones. This week Northwestern received a commitment from Jaren Sina, a player ranked #86 by Scout and #106 by Rivals, who is the highest rated player that Bill Carmody has ever signed in Evanston. This comes on the heels of the March decision by Zena Edosomwan to play basketball at Harvard after doing an additional college prep year, making it possible that the Ivy League school that reached its first NCAA Tournament in generations last year will garner its first top 50 recruit in program history (Edosomwan is currently #66 on Rivals and moving up).
  4. In a mid-major episode of the high stakes world of conference realignment, you may recall that Boston University announced last month that it was leaving the America East Conference for the Patriot League. As a result, the America East announced yesterday that BU would not be allowed to participate in next year’s men’s or women’s America East Tournament in Albany, NY. Citing league bylaws that were instituted in the mid-2000s after Northeastern’s departure to the CAA, BU will suffer the punishment no matter how good next year’s team might be. On the above-linked article, a commenter named “BU Athlete” said that he is “a BU Athlete and I feel absolutely heartbroken that someone who doesn’t even know the amount of effort I put in to my sport can ban me from playing my senior season.” It certainly sucks for the student-athletes such as this player (assuming his legitimacy) who probably doesn’t want to waste his senior year but also likely has no interest in transferring elsewhere at the last minute. Realignment — isn’t it fun?
  5. Finally, the 2013-14 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has announced its next chairman, Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman (the 2012-13 chairman, in case you’ve forgotten, is Xavier’s Mike Bobinski). Wellman has two decades of experience as an AD for the Demon Deacons and is widely respected in the industry for building a strong athletic program despite Wake’s status as one of the smallest schools in the FBS (Division I-A). Wellman will need to see considerable improvement in his basketball team, though, if he hopes to have a chance to walk out of the room as his school is discussed next year — Jeff Bzdelik’s squad has a miserable two-year record of 21-42 (5-29 ACC).
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ATB: Belmont’s At-Large Chances, Minnesota’s 11 Wins, and the Itinerant Laval Lucas-Perry…

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. It’s day two of Finals Week and, although tonight wasn’t as dry to the bone as Monday was, it was still rather light around the college basketball world. Still, a couple dozen games included a handful of ranked teams and even a questionable RTC in a place called Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Let’s jump into it…

Your Watercooler Moment. Belmont Loses to Middle Tennessee — Are Their At-Large Chances Kaput?

MTSU Fans RTC'd After Beating Belmont Tonight (Nashville Tennesseean)

Middle Tennessee State and Belmont tipped it off for the second time already this season — in a scheduling quirk, the two teams als0 played on November 20 at MTSU, a double-overtime Belmont win — but this time, it was the home Blue Raiders who held on for the close victory, 65-62. As we discussed in tonight’s Night Line, Belmont now has three losses in its first nine games, and even though the Nashville school remains every Pomeroy/Sagarin disciple’s mid-major darling (the Bruins are currently #26 in Pomeroy, #31 in Sagarin), it appears increasingly difficult to map out a scenario where the Bruins could earn an at-large NCAA bid should they lose in the Atlantic Sun Tournament next March. The A-Sun’s next best team is Mercer, rated #140 in Pomeroy, and the only other team in the top 100 on Belmont’s schedule is C-USA’s Marshall, which the Bruins will play twice (12/19 at Marshall; 12/29 at Belmont). Obviously, Rick Byrd’s team needs to win both of those — no easy task — and run the table in the Atlantic Sun to even get serious consideration for an at-large. Its non-conference SOS is currently rated #47 by Pomeroy, but it’s unlikely to rise much more than it is now, with each of its remaining four non-conference opponents ranking below that mark. Furthermore, its overall SOS will get progressively destroyed by 18+ games against Atlantic Sun teams during January through March. One of the peculiarities of the NCAA Tournament system is that a really good team like Belmont could find itself the victim of a catch-22 in trying to schedule as well as you can (Duke, Memphis) without actually winning any of the games. Yet, their hands are tied in that they’re unlikely to get many power conference teams to play them anywhere else. We’ll most definitely be rooting for the Bruins to get back to the NCAAs in March, but they’ll certainly have a lot of pressure on them to win that conference tourney again.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

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Weekend NCAA Diary from Tulsa

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

As you’re no doubt aware, we’ve had our cadre of correspondents traveling around the country to each of the eight NCAA sites over the weekend. We’ve asked the guys to produce a weekend diary of the games they witnessed including analysis, commentary and opinion concerning the sights and sounds at their venues. Our hope is that the diaries will give you insights into the games that you may not have otherwise had from watching them on television or catching the highlights package afterward. Let us know how we do…

Note: for all of the opening weekend diaries, click here.

Location: Tulsa, OK 
Round: Third
Teams: Kansas, Illinois, Texas, Arizona 
Date: 20 March 2011
Correspondent: Eli Linton

The Wildcats Escaped Twice This Weekend (Getty/T. Pennington)

 

  • There is a lot you could say about the Arizona and Texas game, but really what it comes down to is an old cliché: Arizona really did want it more. We could point the finger at Rick Barnes, or the poor play of Tristan Thompson, or the terrible referees who tried their best to ruin it–but Arizona should have never been in that game and they ended up winning. A huge effort from the bench kept Arizona above water while Williams struggled. Arizona’s superhero was just 4-14 from the field, But he stepped up when it mattered most…again. He was the best player in Tulsa–at least as good as the Morris twins—and it showed late in both games when Arizona needed him to survive.
  • A lot of people will make a big deal about the officiating this weekend, and I want to say that the crew in Tulsa that did the Memphis-Arizona and Texas-Arizona games (both the same three officials) were absolutely the worst of the year. Five seconds? Really? The NCAA needs to fire these guys. They are taking away from the games. I guarantee, if they do any of the Sweet Sixteen games, they will for sure make a costly call that could have been avoided.
  • Also, this game made me lose respect for Kansas Jayhawk fans. Nearly the entire arena was bought out by Kansas fans who were waiting for their Jayhawks to play that night. For the entire Arizona game , they sat on their hands doing NOTHING. No cheering, no expression. I couldn’t believe it. This was one of the best games I have ever seen live, and these Kansas fans didn’t even care. It made me so mad. So I officially declare Kansas fans the dumbest in college basketball. They know nothing about the sport.
  • I really felt bad for the Texas players after the game. The one bad thing about fantastic games like this is that there is always a loser. Jordan Hamilton and J’Covan Brown had 41 of Texas’ 69 points, both of them had career games, yet their heads were down during the press conference—they couldn’t even look at the press. They should be proud of how they played. It was a shame.
  • No matter how you slice it, Texas underachieved in the NCAA tournament again. Rick Barnes is now 20-19 in the Big Dance, and like Jamie Dixon in Pittsburgh, has a lot of angry fans who believe he can’t win big games–especially in the tournament. The Longhorns are a very talented team, and falling embarrassingly short YET AGAIN would be unacceptable at a basketball school. Lucky for Rick Barnes, Austin just cares about football
  • Kansas was handed a treat, playing so close to home. The BOK center was packed to the rafters with KU fans, and it really gave Kansas a home court advantage all weekend. The Jayhawks were not particularly impressive against either Boston or Illinois, but they got the job done. What was impressive was the play of the Morris twins; I guess you could say they had the opposition seeing double all weekend (bam!). But in all seriousness, they were phenomenal to watch in person. They shut down Illinois from driving inside, and I don’t see a team right now, other than Ohio State, that can match their big men.

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BGTD: Saturday Afternoon Tourney Sessions

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.  Twelve automatic bids will be decided on this day, let’s take a look at some of the top storylines so far.

  • Well, Hello, Memphis.  Nice to See You Again.  It’s seemingly been nothing but bad news out of the Memphis Tiger program this year.  From suspensions to players leaving to selfishness to really bad losses, pretty much everyone wrote Josh Pastner’s team off as a non-factor midway through the season.  Coming into the Conference USA Tournament, Memphis was considered one of several teams with a shot to win a balanced tourney, but with UTEP playing at home, the Miners were considered a slight favorite.  When the two teams matched up in today’s title game, you’ll forgive everyone for thinking the 74-47 beatdown the Tigers suffered two weeks ago might be indicative of what would happen today.  Instead, Memphis roared back from a 12-point deficit with six minutes remaining to nip UTEP by a single point and vault Pastner into his first NCAA Tournament as the head coach of the program.  This freshman-laden team has been unpredictable all year, but what #4 seed wants to see Memphis with its several Burger Boys opposite their draw as a #13 — are you serious?
  • The Re-Introduction of Harrison Barnes.  It’s taken most of the season, but the Harrison Barnes that UNC thought it was getting when it signed the top prep player in America last year has finally arrived.  In his last five games, he’s gone for a minimum of 18 points and has started to look the part as an elite scorer comfortable with the ball in his hands.  It culminated today in a 40-point explosion that tied the all-time freshman scoring record in the ACC (held by Tyler Hansbrough) and represents the largest scoring performance in sixteen years of the ACC Tourney.  He’s now hit ten threes in his last two games, not bad for a player who only hit 45 all season, but the more important thing for Roy Williams is that he’s playing and shooting the ball with confidence.  As long as the talented wing keeps playing like he has been recently, UNC can go as far as anybody in the field (although we wouldn’t recommend constantly trying to play catch-up, as the Heels have led for only 36 seconds during 80 regulation minutes).
  • Douglas Davis a New Ivy Legend.  In one of the best-played games of the entire Championship Week (it should have been on broadcast television rather than online), Princeton’s Douglas Davis had the moment of his young life when he dribbled right, pump-faked, and hit a fading-left step-through jumper to send Princeton back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.  Put the slightly-built junior guard from Philadelphia in the annals of Tiger history along with Gabe Lewellus and Bill Bradley as bonafide postseason heroes, and chalk Harvard and Tommy Amaker up as the hard-luck school who can finish first in everything except Ivy League basketball (no NCAA appearances as a member of the league).  Expect to see this moment many times over the next five days, as America has once again found its new favorite Cinderella to root for next week.

  • Nolan Smith’s Toe.  Whatever concerns there were over Nolan Smith’s injured toe from yesterday’s ACC quarterfinals, those fears were quickly erased today as Smith went for 27/6 assts in 39 minutes of action where he looked pretty much as good as new.  This is obviously a huge relief for Duke fans everywhere, because even with the deep backcourt Coach K has at his disposal, not even the top Devil can overcome losing two All-American caliber point guards in the same season.  The win over Virginia Tech sets up a blockbuster rubber match between Duke and North Carolina on Sunday, with the winner very likely making a claim on a #1 seed in the Southeast Region (and playing in Charlotte/DC the first two rounds).
  • More Auto-Bids. Other than Princeton, there were a few other automatic bids handed out this afternoon.  In the America East, Boston U. came back from a fifteen-point second half deficit on the back of its star, John Holland, who torched Stony Brook with a 14-0 streak by himself.  In the MEAC, Hampton ended the Morgan State stranglehold on that league (2009 and 2010 champs) in a game where losing coach Todd Bozeman accused a referee of “bias” against his team afterward.  Way to go, coach.  In the Southland, UT-San Antonio outlasted McNeese State with a young team that will head back to the NCAAs for the first time in seven seasons.  Welcome back, everyone.
  • Bubbling Up.  Penn State is clearly off the bubble and into the Dance after today’s impressive win over Michigan State… Similarly, Richmond is likely safe after moving on to the A-10 championship game with an upset win over Temple…
  • Bubbling Down.  Alabama could have used a better performance against Kentucky today to again prove its worth to the Committee, but that didn’t happen… UTEP probably needed to win on its home court with a double-figure lead late in the game to secure its bid…  Harvard is likely waiting another year, even though many people think they should at least be considered…  Michigan State is probably ok after two wins this weekend, but today’s loss ensures they’ll cause a lot of problems for some high seed next weekend.
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RTC Live: Stony Brook @ Boston U. (America East Championship)

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2011

Game #204.  There will only be one NCAA Tournament team from the America East, so the intensity from this one will be enormous.

When Vermont’s star forward Evan Fjeld went down with an injury in the middle of the Catamounts’ final regular season game at home against Boston University, the ensuing America East Tournament became wide open for the rest of the league. Vermont was the clear favorite to win, but Fjeld’s injury not only hindered himself but his team the rest of the way. Subsequently, Stony Brook played one of their most complete games of the season as they knocked off Vermont in the semifinals to move on to the championship game with Boston University. The sixth seeded Seawolves upset both of their opponents en route to the championship game, while Boston University had an easier road taking down #7 New Hampshire and #6 Hartford. The Terriers’ boast arguably the league’s best player in John Holland who has averaged in double figures in scoring for his entire career at BU, but Steve Pikiell is the architect behind one of the stingier defenses in the America East that does a great job of taking away the opposition’s main threat. Both coaches and teams will unquestionably be gunning for the coveted America East title. Boston University has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2002 and their head coach Patrick Chambers has never reached the Tournament as a head coach. Similarly, Pikiell—Stony Brook’s head man—has never been to the Tournament and Stony Brook has never won the America East. This will be an old-fashioned rock fight in Boston as Boston University and Stony Brook butt heads for the right to advance onto the most prestigious Dance in our nation. Join RTC live for an early 12:00 start to kick off your day full of college hoops.

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After the Buzzer: The Opening Night That Isn’t

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2010

College Basketball comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over the BCS and NFL
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

The Season Surrounds Us, But Where Is It?

We’re reminded of this (slightly modified) poem every year when one day we wake up and find ourselves facing an “opening” Friday night of 135 games with nearly zero hype and fanfare ahead of it.  Like the fog in Carl Sandburg’s world, the game creeps up and appears all around us rather damp and sticky, but unless you have an alt-network like ESPN-U or the Full Court package, you probably missed the whole thing.  And that’s sad.  We’re certainly not the first and we won’t be the last to belabor the point of just how badly the NCAA needs to work with its television partners so that there is a real opening night that celebrates the sport’s return.  But it’s only four days until the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops extravaganza — why not make that the season opener each year?  We hear it every day, folks — everyone is happy that college hoops is back on their sets and in their local gyms, but nobody is pleased with the week-long trickle followed by the firehose way in which the season begins every year.

Your Watercooler Moment. Tonight’s watercooler moment is that there were a handful of teams on opening night who already have pretty bad home losses on their NCAA Tournament resumes, regardless of how they do the rest of the season.  Let’s take a closer look.

  • Wake Forest.  Stetson chalked its first win over an ACC opponent in nearly thirty-five years by taking advantage of the Deacs’ weakness on the boards (+11) and the obvious adjustment of having a new sheriff in town (Jeff Bzdelik).  We knew Wake would struggle, but this is beyond expectations.
  • Tulsa.  Tulsa is not an easy team to beat in their house, but Appalachian State and its brand-new young coach, Jason Capel, pulled off the feat tonight behind 35/4 from Omar Carter.  There was some heat given over App’s hire of the 30-year old Capel, but after one game it looks like a grand slam, huh?
  • UTEP.  Tim Floyd’s first game in El Paso didn’t go so well as his star guard Randy Culpepper shot poorly (6-15) and Pacific picked up a very nice RPI booster win for the Big West over CUSA.
  • Auburn.  Nobody expects much from the Tigers this year (or, ever), but losing to UNC-Asheville in the christening of your new building isn’t the best way to start a hoops renaissance.  We have a feeling that Tony Barbee is going to rue the day he ever ventured onto the Plains of Alabama.
  • St. Louis. Rick Majerus’ Billikens sans its two knuckleheads dropped a home game to Austin Peay, 64-62, they type of game that SLU would have never lost had Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed still been on the team.  Even if Mitchell returns to the team in January as expected, St. Louis could be too far behind the eight-ball at that point to catch up.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Class of 2010. It was a very solid first night for the rookie class in college basketball tonight, with many players stepping right into productive roles from the opening tip.  More details on this below.
  • Temple. Despite not being able to hit anything from outside, the Owls manhandled Seton Hall on the glass and held the Pirates to 30% shooting in a good intrasectional matchup between A-10 and Big East.
  • Tu Holloway’s Second Half.  Holloway scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half when it appeared that XU was going to drop its opener to Western Michigan.  The Muskies have really struggled so far this year (losing an exhibition last week), but we have faith in Chris Mack that he’ll figure it out.
  • Brad Tinsley. The junior guard recorded Vandy’s first-ever triple-double tonight with 11/10/10 assts and 3 stls.
  • Morgan State.  Todd Bozeman’s team went west and eked out a win against a game Loyola Marymount squad that many believe can contend with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s this year in the WCC.  Great RPI win for the Bears.
  • Alex Oriakhi.  UConn will need its talented post to have a bunch more nights like tonight (11/18) if the Huskies hope to get back into the NCAAs this year.
  • John Henson.  The 6’10 sophomore resembled a young Tayshaun Prince in UNC’s win over Lipscomb tonight, going for a near triple-double with 10/16/7 blks.
  • Markieff Morris.  Forget his more-hyped brother — Markieff blew up the stat sheet with 14/15/5 assts/4 stls/2 blks in a dominating KU win.
  • Georgetown Backcourt.  Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark combined for 54 of the Hoyas’ 62 points in a really nice road win at ODU.  Georgetown is really going to struggle inside, though, as they were -11 on the boards and looked lost inside without Greg Monroe.
  • Keith Benson.  The Oakland center and legitimate pro prospect put up nice numbers against the bruising front line of West Virginia (21/15/2 blks), but his team simply wasn’t competitive (tough night for the Summit).
  • Kalin Lucas’ Return. Lucas showed no signs of his nasty Achilles injury from March as he dropped 18/3/6 assts in 26 minutes of action against EMU.
  • John Shurna.  The Northwestern big man dropped 31/9/3 assts in the first game of the latest NW attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time.  Gotta win games like these, though (and they did).
  • UMass Comeback.  The Minutemen came back from 21 points down at the half versus Rider to win comfortably by ten, 77-67.  Anthony Gurley had 31/4 in the winning effort which featured the student section exiting en masse at halftime.  Guess they shoulda stuck around?
  • Brandon Bowdry.  The talented Eastern Michigan forward exposed a soft spot in the Michigan State defense with a 32/15 effort that still ended in a loss.

… and Misses.

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RTC Live: Boston U. @ Northeastern

Posted by rtmsf on November 12th, 2010

Game #3.  RTC Live makes its first-ever visit to Matthews Arena at Northeastern for a battle of two local  rivals with something to prove this season.

Crosstown rivals Boston University and Northeastern open their seasons at Matthews Arena. The overall series favors the Terriers who lead 71-66 after winning the last two matchups, including last year’s epic overtime battle. This year the Terriers should be favored to win as predicted champions in the America East Conference. Boston is a very young, talented team lead by preseason all-Atlantic East players John Holland and Jake O’Brien–who iced last year’s game for the Terriers with a turnaround jumper in overtime.  But don’t count the Huskies out. Northeastern will have homecourt advantage (not to mention they want to avenge last year’s loss), and Chaisson Allen is a very good player (he averaged 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last season). The Terriers might be more talented, but they’re also very young and on the road. This should be a great game.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Northeast Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2010

It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is less than two weeks away and RTC is ready to jump into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials headfirst, like a ten-foot stack of those leaves that you just raked into a giant pile.  For the second October in a row, we’re going to bring you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this throughout September and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.  We begin in the top right corner of the country also known as the Northeast.

Northeast Region (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY)


  • Kemba Walker – Jr, G – Connecticut. Kemba Walker is a two-time RTC Impact Player, as he was slotted in this position prior to his sophomore campaign last season.  Many, ourselves included, expected the exceptionally quick point guard to have a breakout 2009-10 season that would result in the NBA Draft come June, but like the entire UConn program last season, things didn’t work out exactly as planned.    He’s your classic Boogie Down point guard in that he carries himself with a swagger borne on the playgrounds of New York City, he looks to attack the goal first and foremost off the bounce, and he often exhibits problems subjugating his own scoring in favor of keeping everyone else involved.  Still, there’s no denying the pure talent Walker possesses — he’s virtually unguardable in the open court with the ball in his hand, and his scoring (14.6 PPG), passing (4.9 APG), defense (2.1 SPG) and outside shooting (34% 3FG, up 7%) have all improved.  One problem area was that he was a turnover machine in the first half of last season (totaling 69 miscues through January 23), but after that the light appeared to click on and he cleaned up his handle the rest of the way with nine games of two TOs or fewer.  Even if he’s learned the value of possession, though, there are still areas of concern.  As the lead guard taking over for AJ Price last season, he presided over the tumultuous team chemistry of a proud program that suffered one of its worst seasons in Jim Calhoun’s tenure at UConn.  Also troubling was that his renowned ability to get to the rim and finish at a high rate fell off considerably (52% as a freshman; 43% last year), suggestive of  greater defensive focus placed on him and a tendency to over-penetrate.  NBA draftniks still like Walker as a late first-rounder when he decides to come out, so if he can finally make the expected leap from a very good collegiate point guard to a great one, expect to see him standing tall with David Stern on the stage at MSG next June (he is also on track to graduate in May 2011).

Walker Has a Heavy Load to Carry This Season

  • Charles Jenkins, Sr, G – Hofstra. For the Hofstra Pride, it begins and ends with Jenkins. After getting over some early season injuries last season, Jenkins took over and led his team in scoring in 16 of its last 18 games. He was the only player on the team to average double figures last season (20.6 PPG), and was clearly their go-to player in almost every situation. As a result, he’s earned plenty of accolades, bringing home last season’s CAA Player of the Year award as well as taking home his second straight Haggerty Award (presented to the best player in the New York Metropolitan area) and earning an Associated Press All-American honorable mention. He’s on track to wrap up his career on Long Island as the school’s all-time leading scorer, but he is also currently eighth on the school’s all-time assist list as well, a testament to just how much he does for this team. For a Pride squad that only returns three players that averaged more than two points per game last season (senior center Greg Washington and senior swing Nathaniel Lester are the other two), Jenkins will need to pick right back up where he left off last season when he scored 20 or more in the last nine games. Jenkins will play a ton of minutes (he played 39 or more minutes 18 times last season), take a bunch of shots (only once against a D1 opponent last season did he fail to take more than ten field goal attempts), and he’ll score plenty of points in a variety of ways. While he is an excellent three-point shooter (hitting 41% from deep last year – a nice improvement from his first two seasons), Jenkins is at his best when he puts the ball on the floor and gets into the lane, scoring with a variety of moves, creating easy looks for teammates or, ideally, drawing fouls and getting to the line where he excels as an 80-plus percent shooter. Jenkins has shown an ability over his career to play heavy minutes and carry the load of expectations without wearing down, and he’ll need to do it all one more time for the Pride to compete with teams like Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason for a CAA title and Jenkins’ first NCAA Tournament bid in an otherwise outstanding college career.

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Checking in on… the America East

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

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Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Standings

  1. Stony Brook    5-2
  2. Vermont     4-4
  3. Maine    3-3
  4. New Hampshire    2-3
  5. Albany     3-5
  6. Binghamton     3-5
  7. Hartford     2-6
  8. Boston University   2-6
  9. UMBC     0-6

Hottest Team. Stony Brook

We still have to see what the Seawolves do once they start playing better competition, but they have beaten the teams they should have and lost the games we expected. Regardless, they are the only team in the conference with a winning record, and what more can you ask from a team other than that.

Stud PlayerMaurice Joseph (G) Vermont – 14.8 ppg, 40% three-point.  Joseph has taken the step. Vermont needed a scorer this year that could take over if Marqus Blakely was taken out of the game by the opposing team. Joseph became that and more in the past couple games. It will be interesting to see if Joseph can continue this throughout the year.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. I

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2009

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DAVE ZEITLIN: Everyone these days has a voice. And sometimes, it seems, most people try to use that voice in the most loud and obnoxious way possible. This column won’t be like that. Yes, this column will be a running dialogue between two people (myself and fellow RTC contributor Steve Moore) that will focus on angles, trends, players, coaches, fans and everything else in our favorite sport (which, if you haven’t already guessed, is college basketball).  But we promise not to Stephen A. Smith you, or act like these guys. When we do have debates, they will be civil and funny — and in most cases, I will be right. But, really, our goals with this column are simple. If we can just generate excitement about college basketball, get fans of this site thinking, and end the threat of nuclear war forever, we will have done our job.

Why should you read us? Well, for starters, the column will appear in THE place to get your college basketball news, rushthecourt.net (that’s a plug, people). Secondly, we’re both award-winning sportswriters for Philadelphia-area newspapers (yes, we know no one reads newspapers; why do you think we’re writing this column?). Thirdly, we both really, really like college basketball. (Like a lot. Like in unhealthy ways. Like we may or may not sacrifice non-vital organs for the chance to touch Gus Johnson’s larynx.) And finally, you should feel bad for us since we both root for mid-major teams that have little to no chance of winning a NCAA tournament game. I root for the mighty Penn Quakers of the Ivy League (hence the name of this column), while Steve roots for Boston University, whose best all-time basketball player is Mike Eruzione, who played hockey. This column is our salvation.

Throughout the season, we will flood you with topics from around the college basketball landscape, while splicing in semi-informed opinions and slightly irrelevant historical and pop culture references. But we wanted to start with an interesting news story that is just coming across the wire: a study that finds that college basketball referees tend to show biases in certain situations. The study basically says that a) refs favor the home team; b) refs try to even the score; c) refs do like to make “make-up” calls; and d) Duke gets every call no matter what because how can you not be terrified of this man? I have a few thoughts on this right off the bat, but I’ll let Steve — the Robin to my Batman, or Billy Packer to my Jim Nantz — take the ball and run with this one to start.

STEVE MOORE: First of all, how come you get to be Batman? Secondly, I’ve touched Gus Johnson’s larynx, and it wasn’t all that memorable. Bill Raftery’s onions, however…well that’s a different story.

Anyway, Dave did a good job of introducing our lame attempt at analysis and humor, so I won’t try to one-up him there. Except to point out that people do read newspapers (like my grandfather), and that Mike Eruzione is a national hero who doesn’t appreciate being mocked. I asked him.

Now to the topic at hand. I didn’t need a professor to tell me that referees are biased, especially toward home teams or when they know people are watching on TV. The question really is: Does it matter? I would argue that it doesn’t, and that it’s actually better for the game this way.

Do you really want your officials to not have a mind of their own? With all these debates about out or safe, strike or ball, or handball-that-destroyed-the-hopes-of-an-entire-Guiness-drinking-nation, we always hear people say “I just want them to get the call right.” Well in basketball, the only calls we have that are similar to those are whether a shot is released before the buzzer — and we already allow replay for that situation. Everything else is subjective, and open to interpretation by reasonable men (and women) who work just as hard as the players.

Every basketball fan knows that the home crowd sways officials — that’s why there’s such a thing as homecourt advantage. And make-up calls are a part of the game that we may scream about as fans, but they work out in favor of your team just as often as they hurt (unless you’re playing Duke). I was all set to come out and say that officials should be fair and never let the crowd influence them, etc., etc. And I’m sure none of them do it consciously. But think about it: Would you really want every game officiated by a robot? By an objective observer who doesn’t understand anything about flow, rhythym, or a certain spot in the game? Whether you like it or not, a foul in the first half is not the same as a foul in the second half — and it shouldn’t be. Let the players play. That’s another mantra we always hear. Well, by the strict definition of the rule book, there is likely at least one foul on EVERY POSSESSION in a college game. Everyone moves their feet on screens, everyone travels, everyone palms the ball, and everyone uses their hands on defense. But smart officials understand what they’re looking at, and know when something needs to be called.

Are there bad refs? Of course. Do good refs have bad nights? Absolutely. But part of the fun of being a hoops fan are those throwaway arguments, like “you’ll never get that call on the road.” Why do you think places like Cameron are so tough for opponents? It’s because officials get a little gun-shy with the whistle since they don’t want to hear it from the crowd. It’s human nature, and it’s part of what makes college basketball great.

Your move, caped crusader…

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #21 – America East

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2009

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Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and America East Conference. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Boston University  (13-3)
  2. Stony Brook  (11-5)
  3. Vermont  (10-6)
  4. Albany  (10-6)
  5. New Hampshire  (8-8)
  6. UMBC  (7-9)
  7. Hartford  (6-10)
  8. Maine  (5-11)
  9. Binghamton  (2-14)

All-Conference Team:

  • Corey Lowe (G), Sr., Boston U.
  • Joe Zeglinski (G), Jr., Hartford
  • Marqus Blakely (F), Sr., Vermont
  • John Holland (F), Jr., Boston U.
  • Will Harris (F), Sr., Albany

6th Man. Muhammad El-Amin (G), Sr., Stony Brook

Impact Newcomer. Luke Apfeld (F), Fr., Vermont

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What You Need to Know.  This offseason has been a rocky one for reigning America East champion Binghamton to say the least.  The Bearcats went through one of the biggest roster changeovers due to disciplinary reasons in history of NCAA basketball.  They are returning only four players as nine from last year are now gone. Out of those nine players, six were dismissed for disciplinary reasons including three starters and two all conference selections. Talk about a rough offseason for Binghamton fans. The latest blow (probably not a blow after how much trouble he got this program into) is that Coach Kevin Broadus has been placed on paid leave and assistant coach Mark Macon will take over in the interim. My humble opinion is that Coach Broadus will never be back.  The school will try to work out some type of settlement and they will ultimately part ways. It is crazy to think that Broadus could stay with the program after all the public relations damage already inflicted. Mark Macon is going to have a tough first season to say the least. This team should not be expected to win more than two or three conference games, which is even a stretch.  In other news, Boston University fired Coach Dennis Wolff, the all time leader in wins for the BU program, after 15 years. They hired Villanova assistant Patrick Chambers to lead the Terriers back to the top. With the roster he walked into, Chambers has it easier than most first time coaches. This season Vermont’s Marqus Blakely is going for his third consecutive America East Player of the Year award which would put him in the select company of only two others in history, Reggie Lewis of Northeastern and Taylor Coppenrath of Vermont. Blakely also has a shot at his third straight America East Defensive Player of the Year, which would be unprecedented.

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