Morning Five: 05.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s now been nearly two days since the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes was won by Bill Self and Kansas. Reactions have run the gamut and we ran down a number of the better ones in yesterday’s M5. One we missed was this fantastic piece by Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star, who writes that everyone in the media and greater college basketball community needs to be very careful with the hyperbole when discussing Wiggins next season as the “Best High School Prospect Since Lebron.” Mellinger breaks down each of the best prep players in the last 10 years since Lebron, and the truth is that most of them can’t even sniff an NBA All-Star Game at this point. Some guys continue to progress, while others level off, and it’s a lesson worth remembering. Then he finishes things off with a fantastic anecdote about the humility of prep Lebron. Well worth a read.
  2. Once the ACC raided the Big East to lock up prized programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it appeared inevitable that the league would eventually move its showcase event — the ACC Tournament — to Gotham in short order. Those premonitions seem to be coming true, as ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that the league is “thoroughly investigating” a move to the World’s Most Famous Arena at some point in the next several years. The ACC Tournament is scheduled to be in Greensboro in 2014 and 2015, but the options are open afterward, while the new Big East has contractually obligated MSG to hold its postseason tournament there until 2026. The crux of the matter is that the Big East will need to meet certain benchmarks to keep its deal with The Garden alive, and given just how shaky the league has become in the interim, many ACC insiders believe that the “legal ramifications” to move its own event will get worked out as a matter of course. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also an option too, of course, but make no mistake, the ACC Tournament will eventually reside at least part-time in NYC.
  3. While on the subject of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league is holding its spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week and SI.com‘s Andy Staples caught up with commissioner John Swofford to get the inside scoop on how he pulled off “the most chaotic reorganization in the history of major college sports.” It’s somewhat wonky and process-oriented, but it gives a true insider’s perspective on the importance of the Maryland defection and how the perceived likelihood that the Big Ten would seek to continue moving south (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech) had Swofford failed to get his schools to agree to the media grant of rights deal in April. Although conference realignment has been disastrous to college basketball in some ways, we’re hoping like everyone else who loves the sport that this particular initiative holds steady and removes the incentive for continued raids for a good long while.
  4. Yesterday was a busy day on the transfer wire, as quite a few prominent names announced that they are on the move. The most surprising name was perhaps Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, who was projected to be a key cog in the Nittany Lions’ resurgence next season but has instead decided to leave school to pursue professional options. The least surprising decision was that Arizona State’s Evan Gordon announced that he is headed to Indiana, where as a graduate transfer he will be eligible to play immediately for Tom Crean. A few other notables: Minnesota’s Joe Coleman is leaving the Gophers; Tulane’s Josh Davis will land at San Diego State; and, Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze will resurface at Charlotte. Davis will be eligible to play immediately at SDSU under the graduate transfer exception.
  5. Perhaps seeing a bit too much of Rick Pitino in the media lately, Kentucky head coach John Calipari held his own press conference yesterday to discuss the state of his program. And since we’ve already addressed the subject of hyperbole above, why not let Coach Cal bring us full circle: “We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done before in the history of this game.” The perfection he refers to of course is the elusive-since-1976 undefeated season by a Division I men’s basketball team. Since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers ran the table 37 years ago, no team has won the national title with fewer than two losses (including Calipari’s 38-2 championship squad in 2011-12). Look, we’re never going to say never because as soon as you do something like that, a Florida Gulf Coast goes to the Sweet Sixteen. But there have been an awful lot of great teams pass through the years without a sniff of a perfect season, and the concept that a team led by a bunch of freshmen — even freshmen as good as UK’s group will be — can bring the noise every single night for up to 40 games next year is nothing more than fantasy. Still, the players don’t know that, so it’s another great marketing/strategic ploy from the master salesman living in Lexington. For what it’s worth, the Wildcats sit as a 4:1 (20%) or 5:1 (17%) favorite in Vegas to win next year’s title.
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SEC Freshmen Report: Volume I

Posted by CNguon on December 21st, 2012

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @anchorofgold.

The SEC has always been home to some of the NCAA’s most talented newcomers. Much of that has to do with Kentucky’s one-and-done superstars, but Lexington’s five-star recruits aren’t the only players making an impact for Southeastern Conference teams. Several under-the-radar prospects – and some of them big names – are starting to get the feel for the NCAA game and bringing value to their programs early in their careers. As a result, teams like South Carolina and Auburn can put a little extra confidence behind their rebuilding efforts.

Nerlens Noel,

Nerlens Noel (Ken), Michael Carrera (SC) and Negus Webster-Chan (Missou) are just three of many freshmen making an impact this season in the SEC East

So who should SEC basketball fans be looking out for with conference play looming? Every week, we’ll look at how the best freshmen in the SEC have performed in their inaugural seasons. We’ll break the league down football-style into East and West divisions to provide an in-depth look at the young guns that may end up dotting all-SEC teams for years to come. This week, we’ll start with the East by introducing you to the most talented first-year players that the conference has to offer. While a team led by newcomers has carried Kentucky through an up-and-down first two months, teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are also leaning on rookies to carry them to the postseason. Here’s a breakdown on those fresh faces in the (former) SEC East and how they’ve impacted their teams so far.

SEC East

uk freshmen

Kentucky: Kentucky, a team replacing all of its starters in 2012-13, has easily gotten the strongest return from its freshman play-makers this winter. Nerlens Noel has been as good as advertised, and Willie Cauley-Stein has shown a combination of size and skill that suggests that he’d be a starter for almost any other team in the SEC this winter. The two have combined for 18 points, 14 rebounds, and nearly six blocks per game as the Wildcats’ primary big men. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have carried the ‘Cats offensively. Both have shown well-rounded offensive play, while Poythress in particular has shown some defensive chops that could make him a nightmare matchup (a 7’1” wingspan and the size and strength to cover both forward positions) as the season wears on. However, both have struggled with turnovers early in the year, and their talent hasn’t been enough to cover up UK’s relative inexperience in three early losses. Kentucky may have gotten off to an unexpected start thanks to those losses, but they’re also playing on a steeper learning curve than most teams in the SEC. The development of their freshman class will be one of the conference’s biggest stories to watch once league play unfolds.

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SEC M5: 11.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 20th, 2012

  1. Former Kentucky player and current Morehead State coach Sean Woods was critical of the “vibe” he received from the Wildcats’ young players at the recent Hurricane Sandy relief telethon. “They didn’t seem like Kentucky basketball players to me, and I’ll leave it at that,” Woods said. “There is just a certain way and a certain look Kentucky basketball players should have, and not have such sense of entitlement. I think today it’s still an honor to wear that uniform.” Woods played for UK from 1988-92 and graduated as part of The Unforgettables, a senior-laden Rick Pitino coached team along with John Pelphrey, Deron Feldhaus, and Richie Farmer. All four were Kentucky-bred players who remained with the Cats for all four years of their playing career despite severe sanctions from the NCAA during that time. Woods’ Eagles will take on Kentucky on Wednesday.
  2. Freshman Braxton Ogbueze has spent most of his time on the bench, but Florida coach Billy Donovan says he still has confidence in his young point guard. “I have confidence in Braxton,” Donovan said. “I have confidence in all of those (freshmen), I think they are great kids, they still have a lot to learn but they are eager to learn and get better.” Ogbueze played just three minutes against Wisconsin and six minutes versus Middle Tennessee State. With the return of starter Scottie Wilbekin at the point, Ogbueze’s time remains up in the air. “(I’m) trying to put those freshmen in position where they have an opportunity to be successful on the court,” Donovan said. “It’s a lot for Braxton or any freshman to come in without a lot of older guys on the floor. It’s not good for our team if we have Braxton, Michael Frazier and DeVon Walker on the floor together at the same time, there’s too much inexperience.” Ogbueze was Florida’s top-ranked recruit coming into the year, but is averaging just 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in the first three games.
  3. It is never too early to begin evaluating the play on the court, and the Missouri blog, Rock M Nation, has put together some analysis from the first five games (including the two exhibition games) of the season. The most amazing stat of all is the Tiges’ balance on offense, as Mizzou possesses five players averaging double figures in scoring (And that doesn’t include Negus Webster-Chan at 9.7 PPG nor Michael Dixon who has been suspended). The least impressive stat thus far? That would be the Tigers’ three-point defense. SIU Edwardsville connected on 11 three-pointers, helping put Mizzou at 231st nationally in defensive three-point percentage. Missouri will get its first big test with Stanford on Thursday on a neutral court in the Bahamas.
  4. Flop-gate set the college basketball and Twitter worlds ablaze last week, but was there any merit to John Calipari’s halftime critique of Duke’s defensive philosophy? Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News took a look at the four first half charges drawn by Duke, prior to Calipari’s comments. DeCourcy concluded that one of the contact plays called by the referees was clearly a flop by the Duke defender, while the other three were legitimate charging calls. Of course this research was probably much ado about nothing since Calipari doesn’t even remember the conversation, but Cal certainly gained a new legion of followers for calling out the Blue Devils on national TV for a long time criticism of the Dukie’s patented defensive style.
  5. Calipari is looking for a little something extra from his team, and he is hoping they take the cue from the play of center Nerlens Noel. “The guy’s diving on the floor, playing with energy,” Calipari said. “Would the rest of you please look at him and try to do what he’s doing or do you think just let him do that and you’re not going to do it?” Statistically, Noel is already a standout. He is averaging 11.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 3.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game. But Calipari isn’t getting that same hustle out of the rest of his freshmen. ”I told Nerlens, ‘Just keep doing it, and they’ll get it,’ ” Calipari said. “Because it becomes embarrassing when he’s diving and you’re jogging or you’re standing straight up and get beat on the back door, and this kid’s diving on the floor.” And to think, Noel is just three games into his college career. He, and the rest of Cal’s Cats, have a lot of potential that hasn’t even begun to be uncovered yet.
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Night Line: Is Florida a Better Offensive Team This Season?

Posted by EJacoby on November 15th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

The #12 Florida Gators have high expectations this season, as usual, with a loaded starting lineup that features two returning SEC stars and a bevy of other talented scorers. But Billy Donovan’s team lost much of its backcourt production from last season in Erving Walker and Bradley Beal, the second- and third-leading scorers on last year’s team who also accounted for over 40% of the squad’s total assists. Those 2011-12 Gators ranked sixth in the nation in overall offensive efficiency and came just a few plays away from reaching a Final Four. Yet does this season’s version of Florida have an even higher ceiling? Conventional wisdom would say no given the loss of its two perimeter leaders, but a strong recruiting class joins a healthier team this year, most notably a much improved senior forward Erik Murphy. Wednesday night’s 74-56 victory over defensive stalwart Wisconsin, featuring a perfect shooting night from Murphy, provided a glimpse of UF’s offensive upside that few teams in the country can match.

Erik Murphy led Florida with a perfect shooting night on Wednesday (AP Photo)

The Gators attempted and made the most three-point shots in all of Division I last season (9.6 makes per game), a crucial element to the team’s conversion of 1.15 points per possession, good for fifth in the country. While Walker and Beal’s 132 three-point makes are gone, don’t be so sure that Florida will fall off in the long-range shooting department. Preseason all-SEC senior guard Kenny Boynton and the aforementioned Murphy return 169 makes of their own, sparkplug sixth man Mike Rosario hit over one trey per game last year as well, and a loaded recruiting class of shooters joins the fold. Braxton Ogbueze headlines the freshman class as a heady point guard, while fellow newcomers Michael Frazier II, Devon Walker, and Dillon Graham all specialize as three-point bombers. Graham models his game after J.J. Redick, Walker has unlimited range from outside, and UF assistant coach Mike McCall noted this preseason of Frazier, “Every time [the ball] leaves his hand, you think it’s going in.” The Gators are already scoring at a more consistent rate this year with a 1.18 points per possession ratio. While only two games is an extremely small sample size, Wednesday’s game came against Bo Ryan’s Badgers; a masterful defensive team that finished seventh in total defensive efficiency last season.

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SEC Transition Basketball: Florida Gators

Posted by Brian Joyce on September 10th, 2012

Let’s finish these off this week with the last few of what we’re calling it Transition Basketball, an offseason look at each of the 14 SEC basketball programs. Today’s update: Florida.

State of the Program

Billy Donovan has elevated the Florida program to the status of perennial contender and national powerhouse. Once again last season, his stockpile of talent and aggressive non-conference scheduling paid off. Despite early season losses to Ohio State and Syracuse, the Gators’ high-powered offense tested themselves on the road in some of the most hostile environments but demonstrated improvement throughout the experience. In the end, it was worth it. Though struggling on the defensive end of the court for most of the year, the Gators marched all the way to the Elite Eight, only a couple of made baskets away from another Final Four. But this should almost be expected by now, as Donovan took Florida to the Elite Eight just one year before and won championships in the back-to-back years of 2006 and 2007.

Patric Young will be a beast down low for opposing SEC frontlines this season (Getty)

The scary part is that Donovan has the firepower to make a similar run again this season. Improvement is evident in returning players Kenny Boynton, who is back with his 15.9 points per game at guard, and forward/center Patric Young who brings his 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game back to the low post. Boynton improved his overall field goal percentage from 38.5 percent in 2010-11 to 44.0 percent last year, and his shooting from beyond the arc by seven percent last season. Smooth shooting wing Erik Murphy averaged over 10 points per game last season on 42.1 percent shooting from outside, providing additional stability on the offensive end for the Gators. Will Yeguete returns from injury to improve on his 6.3 rebounds per game. Mike Rosario could make the leap this year from role player to a more significant part of the Florida offense. The transfer from Rutgers averaged over 16 points per game in each of his first two seasons for the Scarlet Knights, but dipped to just 6.6 points per game in his first year with the Gators. He could be called upon to do more in his senior year. It might also be a case of addition by subtraction for Florida as senior guard Erving Walker had never seen a shot he wasn’t willing to take. His 39.4 percent field goal shooting and 2.1 turnovers per game hurt the Gators just as often as he helped.

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Won and Done… Kentucky Roster Undergoes Yearly Overhaul

Posted by EMoyer on April 18th, 2012

On Tuesday evening, the worst kept secret was revealed as Kentucky’s five heralded underclassmen, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague all declared for June’s NBA Draft. The five brings the total to 15 of John Calipari recruits to leave early since 2008.

It Was All Smiles For This Group in Lexington

Eight of the previous 10 went on to become first round picks and two (John Wall and Derrick Rose) went No. 1 overall. Both the mock drafts at NBADraft.net and on ESPN.com have all five Wildcats going in the first round. DraftExpress.com lists four Wildcats going in the first round with Lamb currently an early second-round choice. According to all three sites, Davis will join Wall and Rose as top overall picks. They also agree that Kidd-Gilchrist projects as a top three pick and two (ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com) put Jones in the lottery.

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SEC Morning Five: 11.10.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 10th, 2011

  1.  Yesterday was 2012 National Signing Day, and unfortunately the SEC didn’t fare well as it did last year. The league only landed one five-star recruit, Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin, according to Scout’s Evan Daniels. In Daniels’ conference breakdown, the SEC finished last out of the six power conferences one year after bringing in the most talent. Kentucky landed an additional top 30 prospect in Willie Cauley, while Florida was the other big winner grabbing two top 100 guards — #39 Braxton Ogbueze and #87 Michael Frazier. Auburn hauled in a surprising four-man class, good enough for third place so far in the conference rankings. There are still plenty of unsigned prospects available, so most teams will continue rounding out their classes during this signing period.
  2. Mississippi State played another hard-fought game against a mid-major team, but went down 68-58 to Akron. The Dogs shot 34.5% from the field, and failed to get much production from Renardo Sidney. Sidney seemed winded throughout the game, and most troubling for Bulldog fans, he again sat on the bench during crunch time. Head coach Rick Stansbury did not play Sidney in the final four and a half minutes of last night’s game. “We were trying to fight from behind defensively,” Stansbury said. “They went small. You knew the answer to that.” Sidney’s production is a big key to the Bulldogs’ success, but it looks like he is coming undone at the seams well before even his biggest critics would have predicted.
  3. Tennessee Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin has not only been impressed with his team’s hard work on the court, but praised their behavior off the court in his latest press conference. “They’ve done a good job, especially from the first day until now of just taking care of business on and off the court,” said Martin. “Doing the right things in the classroom, being consistent in going to class — which shouldn’t be an option, but just making sure guys go to class every day, with their tutor assignments — making sure they’ve been better.” Win/loss records are ultimately what head coaches are measured on, but it is refreshing to see a head coach who seems to genuinely care about his players’ well-being and success off the court.
  4. We all love statistics. Admit it. There’s nothing better for basketball-crazed fans like ourselves than to sit down and analyze graphs and charts of tempo-free statistics. Luke Winn at Sports Illustrated (with the help of David Hess from Audacity of Hoops) noticed a gap in the statistics for defensive rankings for players and teams, and they have taken on the monumental task of measuring five championship contender’s possession by possession defensive prowess. Great stuff here, and one of the five teams analyzed happen to be the SEC’s Vanderbilt. The gist of the article is that Vandy needs to step up its’ defense with a need for “turnover creators and defensive rebounders. Vanderbilt ranked 308th nationally in turnover percentage last season (17.5), and 168th at protecting the defensive glass (67.9 defensive rebound percentage).” If the Commodores are to make a run at the SEC title or anything past the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, improvement will have to take place on the defensive end of the court for Kevin Stallings‘ club.
  5. The SEC announced its 2012 SEC Men’s Basketball Preseason Awards on Wednesday. Thirty-two different players received votes, while seventeen players were honored. Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt each had three players named to the First or Second Team. Vanderbilt led the way with three All-SEC first team selections with reigning SEC Player of the Year John Jenkins along with teammates Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli.
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Who’s Got Next? Updated Class of 2012 Rankings…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 3rd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com. 

Introduction

With another passing week, there is plenty of recruiting news including standout performances at AAU events, commitments and de-commitments, and the latest news on where high-profile prospects are likely to go to college. However, the biggest revelation by far in this past week was a recruiting scandal at a mid-major D1 school that has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game but somehow managed to land two elite prospects. Read on to see how a young man from Chicago, a head coach at a mid-major basketball program and a high-profile former felon created the biggest recruiting scandal in the past few years.

What We Learned

Kevin Ware's recruitment exposed ties between UCF head coach Donnie Jones and convicted felon Kenneth Caldwell.

Kevin Ware’s Recruitment and Central Florida’s Recruiting Scandal. After class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to the Knights two weeks ago, he backed out of the agreement Thursday when he learned of Kenneth Caldwell’s background, a Chicago man with a substantial criminal record and apparent ties to a prominent sports agency. Ware claims that Caldwell repeatedly called him to encourage him to attend Central Florida, traveled to meet with his family and even set up conversations between Ware, himself and head coach Donnie Jones and Jones’ staff – contact which is prohibited by the NCAA. Caldwell formally denied recruiting players for UCF and claimed he was simply impressed by UCF… a school that has never won an NCAA Tournament game.

When Ware and his family were asked about what coaches said their relationship with Caldwell was, they said the coaches claimed they had no direct affiliation with him but that they had known him for a year. This left the Ware family wondering exactly who Caldwell was and how he tied in with UCF.  On his LinkedIn page, Caldwell claimed to be a recruiter of potential NBA players for ASM Sports, which the company later confirmed. What was even more frightening about Caldwell’s background were his two felony convictions in 1991 and again in 1998. He also owes the IRS close to $250,000. After looking at his history and claims, Caldwell could fairly be labeled as a “runner,” someone who acts as a middle man to deliver players to universities and agents.

How current UCF commit Michael Chandler Ties In. Caldwell’s ties to the UCF program started a few years ago when a high school student whom he refers to as his “son” committed to the Knights. Then, two more players whom Caldwell likes to call his “nephews” also chose UCF for their collegiate careers, including one of the best class of 2011 centers in the country, Michael Chandler. Before becoming a Knight, Chandler had previously committed to Louisville and Xavier before he shocked many people by settling on Central Florida. Chandler’s high school coach said he’d never even heard of Central Florida before Chandler committed there. However, Chandler’s uncle said the prospect chose UCF on its merits. In Pat Forde’s column this week analyzing the odd recruitment, he said a source with knowledge of the situation claimed that Caldwell bragged about having inside information of where Chandler would be attending college well before he made his decision public.

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