Day In Review: March 22, 2008

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2008

The story of the day was UCLA surviving an upset bid by Texas A&M. We (like a lot of other analysts) thought that UCLA had a clear path to San Antonio. With the 2 (Duke) & 4 (UConn) seeds in the West going down in the past 24 hours, things looked pretty easy for the Bruins. Instead, Texas A&M opened up a 10 pt lead in the 2nd half. After falling behind 36-26, Ben Howland rode Kevin Love and Darren Collison back to a tie at 45 with 2:53 left. The final 2 minutes were filled with both teams hitting big baskets. The game appeared to be sealed with 9.5 seconds left when Darren Collison hit a shot that was eerily reminiscent of Tyus Edney’s shot against Missouri in 1995. However, the Aggies had one last shot, but their attempt was “blocked” and Russell Westbrook finished the scoring with an emphatic slam that appeared to be after the buzzer. They often say that championship teams usually end up winning tight games like this that they probably shouldn’t win. UCLA’s offense didn’t show up today with the exception of Collison and Love, but Howland’s defense came through (especially Love’s 7 blocks). If the Bruins end up winning a championship, they (along with their fans) will point to this game as that game.

Pittsburgh, another trendy pick to make it deep into the tournament (Knight picked them to win the championship), was unable to make it past a big performance by Drew Neitzel’s 21 and freshman Kalin Lucas’s 19 that led the Michigan State Spartans to a 65-54 victory that was closer than the final score makes it appear. In the end, Pittsburgh’s awful 3 pt shooting (2/18) cost them a shot at the victory. Perhaps their legs finally gave out after a run through the Big East tournament.

In the other big upset, everybody’s most hated team (unless they’re your favorite team) Duke fell to West Virginia, 73-67. Going into the tournament, everybody knew Duke’s weakness–they rely on their outside shooting. When the outside shot isn’t falling, they’re screwed. Today it wasn’t falling, and today they’re heading back to Durham. The Blue Devils went 5/22 from 3 pt range including 15 straight misses. Somehow Duke stayed in this game. And before people claim conspiracy theory, the difference in fouls was only 25-23 in favor of Duke. In the end, the Mountaineers used big games from Joe Alexander and Joe Mazzulla to send the Blue Devils home for the season.

In what might have been the best game of the day, Stanford beat Marquette, 82-81 on a Brook Lopez crazy leaning/falling down shot with 1.5 seconds left in OT. Seriously, Lopez has the strangest form of any shooter we have ever seen. We have no idea how he gets his shot off and we are even less sure that he will be able to put that up at the NBA level, but it goes in. Lopez (Stanford) and Jerel McNeal (Marquette) each put in 30 pts for their respective sides. The Cardinal made it to the Sweet 16 without the help of head coach Trent Johnson who was ejected in the first half. With the Cardinal advancing, it appears that Brook Lopez is the most difficult player in the tournament to match up against. We just don’t see anybody in college who can stop him.

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South Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

This is our final regional analysis and we’re running short on time to get them in before your brackets are due. Consequently, our analysis of the lower seeds will be very brief.

Teams
#1 Memphis:We can’t remember a #1 seed that has gotten less hype as a potential nation champ or more criticism. We know the Tigers aren’t going to remind anybody of a J.J. Redick shooting video. We know that they play in a relatively weak conference. We also know that they are 33-1 and were a short jumper away from being undefeated. We also know they may be the most talented team in the country. What does this all mean? We have no idea if the Tigers will win the title, but we do know that nobody wants to face Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They have an easy path to the Sweet 16 where they could face a very difficult challenge in Pitt. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Texas:In their first year AD (After Durant), Rick Barnes brings the Longhorns back to the tournament with a much better team even if certain LA residents who like to claim allegiance to Boston sports teams without suffering through the winter don’t care about them (or college basketball) any more. These Longhorns are led by All-American candidate D.J. Augustin (19.8 PPG and 5.7 APG) who brings a strong supporting cast with him to the NCAA tournament. Although they are the #2 seed, some might argue they are the favorites in the region thanks to the committee’s ridiculous decision to give them homecourt in the regional finals. That and the fact that they already have been UCLA and Tennessee this season. If they meet Memphis in Houston, the NBA scouts will definitely be watching for the great PG matchup (Rose vs. Augustin). Schedule/Roster

#3 Stanford: We actually have quite seen quite a few Cardinal games this year thanks to FSN. With Brook Lopez clearing that little issue of going to class, Stanford has become a very good team. Despite playing West #1 seed UCLA close two times in the past 2 weeks, we don’t think Lopez has the support to get Stanford by either the Longhorns (in Houston) or Memphis (anywhere other than Palo Alto) to make it to the Final 4. Schedule/Roster

#4 Pittsburgh:Jamie Dixon’s Panthers have done a great job overcoming injuries since their early-season win over Duke in Madison Square Garden. The Panthers tend to dominate inside with Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, but are yet another good team that struggles at the FT lines (22/44 in the Big East final). While we normally would look at their Big East title as a sign they are ready to make a deep run in the tournament, Pitt has a history of doing well in their conference tourney and failing to reach the Final 4. When we combine that with the fact that their physical style is subject to the tight NCAA tournament officiating (h/t to Jay Bilas), we are unsure about their chances to make it to San Antonio. However, we look forward to seeing Levance Fields against Derrick Rose (and possibly D.J. Augustin) in Houston. Schedule/Roster

#5 Michigan State:It seems like Drew Neitzel has been a Spartan forever. He has grown from a talented if inconsistent player into Tom Izzo’s go-to guy. While he will have difficulty creating against more physical guards, Neitzel finds a way to get it done. If MSU can get there, it should be a very interesting matchup with Pitt in the Sweet 16. If they are to get past the Sweet 16, Neitzel will need a lot of help from Raymar Morgan. Schedule/Roster

#6 Marquette:The Golden Eagles are led by Jerel McNeal, who has overtaken his more hyped teammate Dominic James as the team’s most vital player. While Marquette is not as good as advertised early in the season, but they should be good enough to get by Kentucky, which is a rematch of the 2003 Elite 8 matchup where Dwayne Wade’s triple-double knocked out the last great Wildcat team. Schedule/Roster

#7 Miami (FL): After a torrid 12-0 start (helped by a cupcake schedule), the Hurricanes cooled off in the middle of the season before getting into the Big Dance with some big late season wins most notably over Duke. Miami will be challenged right off the bat by St. Mary’s. To be honest, their potential 2nd round matchup may be easier than playing St. Mary’s despite what the seeds say. Schedule/Roster

#8 Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were able to survive the falling Georgia Dome, but they were unable to withstand their buzzsaw namesakes from Athens, Georgia. MSU is led offensively by Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes and defensively by the human eraser known as Jarvis Varnado. We think they should be able to get by Oregon before meeting a tougher challenge in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster

#9 Oregon: Perhaps no team has received more criticism for their seed than the Ducks. They made the tournament by winning their last 3 regular season conference games, but we question their ability to make a serious run as they lost every game down the stretch to the top Pac-10 teams including the ones at the vaunted McArthur Court. Schedule/Roster

#10 Saint Mary’s: The Gaels, led by Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson, are a quick, athletic team that sports wins over Oregon and Gonzaga. However, they struggle with more physical teams that slow the tempo down. This may not matter as they probably won’t play a slow-paced team before they are knocked out. Schedule/Roster

#11 Kentucky: Billy Gillispie has done an outstanding job salvaging this season, which started out so poorly with a loss at home to Gardner-Webb in the 2nd game of the Wildcat season. This is a pretty mediocre Kentucky team especially with the loss of their best player Patrick Paterson to injury. However, Gillispie has molded the team’s style (slow the game down and limit possessions) to maximize what he has. Kentucky isn’t nearly good enough to make a run in the tournament, but they might be able to pull of an upset or two. Schedule/Roster

#12 Temple: The Owls come in having won the Atlantic 10 tournament title, which sends a pretty strong signal that they are playing well late in the season. When you watch, Temple you will realize these aren’t Don Chaney’s Owls. Instead of relying on their physicality, these Owls are very explosive led by Dionte Christmas (20.2 PPG and 6.0 RPG) and Mark Tyndale (15.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 4.3 APG). They should provide the Spartans with a stiff challenge in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#13 Oral Roberts: While Oral Roberts is led by 5’9″ guard Robert Jarvis, their hallmark is their relentless defense. Unfortunately for them, they will be facing what is potentially the most physical team in the tournament in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#14 Cornell: The Ivy League champs usually can at least taunt opposing fans that they will usually be the boss of the fans of the team that is kicking their ass. Unforunately for Cornell and their fans, they play Stanford so they don’t even have that to hang their hat on this year. Schedule/Roster

#15 Austin Peay: They have absolutely no shot against a talented and tough Longhorn team. Schedule/Roster

#16 Texas-Arlington: We give them 5 minutes before their game against Memphis gets out of hand. Just way too much athleticism on Memphis’s side. Texans may get some form of revenge in the regional finals. Schedule/Roster

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Midwest Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

The rest of the previews are going to be much shorter than the East Regional Analysis because the other regions aren’t as loaded. Ok, you got me. That preview took way too much time given my schedule. Plus, the other regions suck. . .

Teams
#1 Kansas: Bill Self leads a loaded Jayhawk team into the tournament. They have all the tools–experience and talent in both the backcourt and frontcourt–that they need to win (although they are one of the few teams in college basketball that doesn’t take advantage of the short 3 point shot). The question is that will Kansas end its reputation for choking in the tournament. With a few exceptions (1991, 1993, 2002, and 2003 come to mind), the Jayhawks have found a way to lose to vastly inferior teams. The most notable example are 2005 and 2006 against Bucknell and Bradley respectively. We think the Jayhawks are too talented for that to happen, but the Jayhawks have proven us wrong before. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Georgetown: As we stated in our Big East finals review, we noted that the Hoyas have all the tools to win the tournament. They have experience, a very good backcourt, the nation’s best 7-footer, and a solid coach. Before the bracket came out, we were worried about Hibbert’s tendency to disappear for stretches when he should be able to dominate. However, their road to the Final 4 seems particularly favorable, which means they are a trendy pick to make it to San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Wisconsin: While we don’t think the Badgers have much of a chance of winning the NCAA title, they definitely deserved a 2 seed over Duke. Like your typical Bo Ryan team, they play excellent defense. Led by Brian Butch and Michael Flowers, the Badgers are team capable of making the Elite 8, but will have a difficult road getting there (probably USC and Georgetown). Schedule/Roster.

#4 Vanderbilt: Vandy is an exciting team to watch and capable of beating anybody (ask Bruce Pearl). They have a solid all-around lineup with 3 seniors. However, their mediocre defense all but guarantees they will trip up somewhere along the line. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Clemson: With a win over Duke and three close games against UNC, Clemson can play with anybody in the country when they are on. The Tigers are athletic and had a nice run in the ACC tournament, but their awful FT shooting will catch up with them making them unlikely to advance past a round or two. Schedule/Roster.

#6 USC: We think that everybody knows about and has seen USC at this point. OJ Mayo has turned the Trojans into one the tournament’s most talked about “sleepers”. After reaching the Sweet 16 last year before bowing out to UNC, Tim Floyd added 2 “diaper dandies”. Ok, so maybe that isn’t 100% accurate since Mayo and Jefferson are closer to Depends than Huggies and Mayo’s recruitment was more like OJ adding the Trojans to his schedule. One of the interesting and challenging things for the Trojans has been how the freshman were integrated into a team that was already good. After struggling early, USC has come together at the right time. Mayo has reined in his tendency to dominate the ball although he still lapses into his old habits occasionally. The Trojans NCAA fortunes will like ride on which Taj Gibson shows up. Gibson, who has been college basketball’s version of Steve Slaton, will need to come up big if the Trojans want to make a deep run. Either way, we enjoy having another guy named OJ at USC. We hope that he has better “luck” with relationships. Schedule/Roster.

#7 Gonzaga: At this point, Gonzaga is way past the point of being a Cinderella. This team has a lot of talent including several guys with pro potential. They have a solid squad with 4 guys averaging double figures. Their first round matchup with Davidson will be a must-watch. Schedule/Roster.

#8 UNLV: These aren’t your old school Running Rebels. Lon Kruger returns a very different team from last year’s Sweet 16 team as most of the roster changed (including his son). Their own hometown doesn’t seem to believe in them, as Vegas has put UNLV (the higher seed) as 2 point underdogs against Kent State. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Kent State: As we noted above, Vegas has Kent State as 2 point favorites. Apparently they don’t agree with the selection committee. The Golden Flash should be a tough matchup as they feature a balanced attack with 4 scorers in double figures. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Davidson: Led by Stephen Curry and coming in with a NCAA-leading 22 game winning streak, Davidson is a very dangerous team. The committee made an interesting decision to pit them against Gonzaga. This can be interpreted in one of two ways: knock out a dangerous mid-major in the first round or ensure a dangerous mid-major in the second round Schedule/Roster.

#11 Kansas State: We would love to see Michael Beasley make a run deep in the tournament, but with his sidekick Bill Walker most well-known for peeing in a towel and going 0-for-14 against Texas it will be a short run for the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Villanova: Jay Wright’s team was likely the last at-large team invited to the tournament. They are a young team with some talented players (most notably Scotty Reynolds), but they appear to be a few years away from being a threat to make a run (assuming nobody does anything stupid by leaving school early). However, Clemson’s awful FT shooting may let them stay in the game and allow Villanova’s talented players to steal a game. Schedule/Roster.

#13 Siena: Before you get too excited about their win over Stanford, you should remember that Brook Lopez was suspended earlier this season making Stanford a very different team in November. With a young team and the talent to beat Stanford (even if it wasn’t at his peak), Siena will be a very dangerous mid-major in a few years. However, their matchup with Vanderbilt will be a stiff challenge even if Vandy is soft defensively. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Cal State Fullerton: A team full of transfers (literally everybody transferred from somewhere else), CSF is a team that likes a fast pace, but will find out in the first 10 minutes that Wisconsin prefers a slow pace. They will quickly learn that it is easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up. Schedule/Roster.

#15 UMBC: The winners of America East, a horrible conference except when Germain Mopa Njila becomes a household name for 15 minutes, UMBC should enjoy their hotel and the scenery because Georgetown is too talented and has too much experience to let UMBC hang around. We think. . . Schedule/Roster.

#16 Portland State: We’ll save both you some time (and us some research time). No #16 has ever won a first round game. Schedule/Roster.

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Night in Review: March 14, 2008 (Part 2)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2008

Back for the second part of the review after a short 2+ hour nap.

Pac 10
– We’ll get the late game over with first since it was past our East Coast bedtime (had to get up to watch a bunch of 9 year-olds “run” a 5k at 8 am). #11 Stanford beat #22 Washington State 75-68 behind Brook Lopez’s 30/12/3 for the third time this year. Basically the Cougars don’t have anybody who can match Lopez inside and not even a 12/20 showing from 3 could save them. Not much to say here except it sets up a rematch of the most controversial game we have seen this year.
– In the most exciting game we saw all day, UCLA hung on to beat USC 57-54 when OJ Mayo’s last second hesitation 3 was a little long. This was a pretty exciting game to watch and UCLA didn’t even need the refs giving them a 6th man to win this game. It was a back-and-forth affair all night. In the early going, USC controlled the game behind their freshmen (Mayo and Jefferson) who are almost as old as Dwight Howard is. Ben Howland’s vaunted defense looked terrible early as UCLA decided they didn’t want to defend off the screen. Down 6 at half, UCLA woke up and Kevin Love scored 11 of his team-high 19 during a Bruin 15-2 run coming out of half. UCLA built up a pretty good lead going into the closing minutes, but OJ Mayo took over and started to show flashes of what made him the most-hyped recruit in his class for most of high school as he beat up on UCLA and Pac 10 Defensive POY Russell Westbrook hitting a 3 and a tough left-handed layup. Then on the last 2 possessions, he showed us why he dropped off his perch as the next Lebron (not sure how anybody ever saw that) and fell to probably the #3 guard in his class behind Rose and Gordon. On the first possession, he dribbled into traffic and was stripped from behind by Westbrook. Then on the final possession, he had a good look at a 3 from the top of the key to tie it, but added an unnecessary hesitation which may or may not have thrown off his timing to cause a miss. Daniel Hackett grabbed the offensive rebound, but did not have enough time to get off another 3 as Mayo did not leave his team with enough time for another shot. Perhaps the bigger news for UCLA was the loss of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who sustained a sprained ankle. I haven’t heard anything definitive about how long he’ll be out but I wouldn’t expect to see him for a while as he had a similar injury recently.
– Prediction for tonight: Stanford gets revenge for getting screwed on the call at the end last week at Pauley. The match-up down low should be one to watch as the Lopez twins battle Love who will be without Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (see above).

Big 10
– This seems like it was a pretty interesting set of games unfortunately I somehow missed all of them, but I’m making up for it today by watching MSU-Wisconsin as I am typing this. First, the routine stuff with Wisconsin crushing Michigan 51-34. We’re reserving judgement on the Beilein experiment for another year or two given how unique his offense is and the players it requires. Also Michigan hasn’t been Michigan the past few year, but this year wasn’t that encouraging. Now onto the important games. We’ll start with MSU beating OSU 67-60. It seems like MSU controlled this game as OSU only had the lead once at 32-30, but MSU could never really pull away with their biggest lead being 9 points. OSU will probably make the tournament (one of Lunardi’s last 4 in) unless some “locks” in small one-bid conferences lose and cost the majors a few middle-of-the-pack teams. The two other games were arguably the most exciting of the night not involving falling roofs (we can joke since nobody was hurt, right?). In one game, Illinois continued its push for an improbable auto bid with a 74-67 OT win over #17 Purdue. The Illini were led by Demitri McCamey’s 26 points and now stand 2 more win away from returning Bruce Weber to the NCAA tournament. This road was made slightly easier by the shot of the night by Blake Hoffarber pulling a Christian Laettner with a turnaround off a full-court pass at the buzzer to beat the up-and-down Hooisers 59-58. DJ White did his part for the Hooisers with 23 points, 13 boards, and 4 blocks, but super-frosh Eric Gordon was off as he finished with 16 on 4/13 FG and 5 turnovers. All-in-all, a very satisfying day for Illini fans who made the trip to Indianapolis. With the loss, Indiana might be positioning itself as the scariest #7 seed in a long time (probably a #6 now, but depending on how the other games work out they make drop a seed given their Jekyll/Hyde act the past few weeks). On a sidenote that I’m sure all of you have heard a hundred times already today, Blake Hoffarber is no stranger to miraculous last second shots as his most famous one makes the turnaround last night rather routine.

First, the ESPN highlights from last night:

Which gives me a reason to post the Laettner shot (and to piss off rtmsf):

And it was shown as a flashback in the first clip, but it won and ESPY and won a state title so here is Blake Hoffarber’s most famous shot:

– Since there is still 3 minutes left in the 60-57 MSU-Wisconsin game, I guess I can still make my predictions for the Big 10: MSU and Minnesota.

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ATB: Shipping Out

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2008

ATB v.4

01.03.08

Game We Didn’t Watch (but wish we could have).  #5 UCLA 76, Stanford 67.  Actually, we very much would have liked watching this game, but NHL hockey got in the way on our local FSN channel.  Worthless.  Anyway, tonight UCLA very quickly got a significant leg up on the Pac-10 race by winning in Palo Alto – we suspect not many other teams will leave the Bay area with a win there this year, now that the Lopez twins (21/20 – wondertwin power… shape of… Dwight Howard?) are fully activated.  Tonight Stanford matched UCLA’s size inside, outrebounding the Bruins 32-28, but Howland’s team responded with superb shooting from beyond the arc (9-16), led by Josh Shipp’s  21 pts (5-8 3FGs).    

More Conference Play.  

  •  #10 Marquette 96, Providence 67.  Wow, the Friars clearly didn’t make the trip to Milwaukee.
  • Depaul 84, #18 Villanova 76.   How do you figure the team with the worst nonconf record would beat 11-1 Nova?
  • #24 Arizona 76, Oregon St. 63.   Nic Wise played well again (17/6 assts) in place of injured Jerryd Bayless.
  • Notre Dame 69, West Virginia 56.  Jeez, the Big East is going to be wild this year, isn’t it?
  • Connecticut 98, Seton Hall 86.  Solid road win for the Huskies, but are they legit (10-2 v. the #291 ranked schedule so far)?
  • Ohio St. 74, Illinois 58.   The Assembly Hall mystique is over (3 home losses already this year).
  • Arizona St. 62, Oregon 54.   Why is Oregon so bad away from Eugene (2-4 this year).  
  • California 92, USC 82.   Mayo blew up for 34, but Cal’s balanced attack prevailed.

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #1 Memphis 102, Siena 58.  Memphis had three players with dub-dubs tonight (Dorsey, Dozier, Robinson).
  • #16 Vanderbilt 76, Rice 58.  Why isn’t Vandy getting more respect from the blogpollers?

Oh, Virginia!

  • Xavier 108, Virginia 70.  The Muskies appear to be rounding out nicely.  
  • Richmond 52, Virginia Tech 49.  A10 > ACC (on this night).  
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ATB: Pac-10 It In Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.17.07

Story of the Day. Siena 79, Stanford 67. We should have known better. Really, we should have. As soon as we started thinking that Stanford was a legit power again, given the way they mowed through their first four opponents with ease (without Brook Lopez, remember), they go and drop a game at Siena. For chrissakes, we even put the Cardinal #12 in our latest blogpoll ballot. This continues a disturbing trend of Trent Johnson teams to inexplicably drop ugly pre-conference games to a mid-major or worse (last year: Air force by 34; Santa Clara by 16; two years ago: Montana by 19, UC Davis by 6). Ugh. So what happened today? The 1pm EST start time probably didn’t help the Cardinal, but the time-change excuse only goes so far (they played and won in Chicago on Thurs. night). It appears from the stats that poor shooting (37%), especially from lead guard Anthony Goods (2-12) contributed, but an insane 32 to 3 FT attempt disparity suggests a little home cookin’ and/or aggressiveness in favor of the home team. In any case, it’s yet another reason to wonder whether the Cardinal under TJ will ever have the toughness to gut out games like this outside of Pac-10 arenas (in Johnson’s tenure, Stanford typically does fine in the Pac-10 schedule then flames out badly in March). The positive takeaway from this game is that we believe this is the first RTC of the new season. Enjoy.

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Other Games Today. Louisville 104, Hartford 69. Terrence Williams was astonishing tonight in Louisville’s opening game. He put up a trip-dub (14/12/13 assts, barely missing the quad-dub with 8 turnovers) as the Cardinals tallied seven players in double figures and made a school-record 22 threes (with just 13 misses). It’s just the first game, we realize, but Louisville appears to have all the pieces in place to make a phenomenal run this year, so long as they can avoid their annual bugaboo of injuries. We can’t wait for that matchup with Carolina later this month in the LV Invitational (assuming the Heels can handle ODU). Virginia 75, Arizona 72. In another tough loss today for the Pac-10, Virginia went into Tucson and delivered another blow to the aura of invincibility of the McKale Center, handing Arizona its fifth loss in the last seven games there. Sean Singletary led the way for the Wahoos (24/8 assts) while battling flu-like symptoms, and it was his jumper with 39 seconds left that was the clincher. This and the Stanford upset really hurt the Pac-10’s early-season cred as the best conference. George Mason 67, Dayton 56. This is the kind of win the committee will want to see on GMU’s resume next March. Will Thomas had a nasty game (18/17) and the team as a whole went 21-21 from the line. Florida 88, Rutgers 63. The Gators continue to look impressive at home, but then again, so did Stanford until today. Mareese Speights had 18/12 in the blowout win over a bottom-feeder Big East team. USC 85, South Carolina 75. Speaking of bottom-feeders, South Carolina got Hackett-ed by USC, as the non-OJ Mayo guard for the Trojans had a trip-dub as well (22/10/10 assts). No word on whether OJ wanted to deck him again (he had 29/4/4 assts, btw). The Dave Odom death knell watch continues…

Other Upsets. Cleveland St. 69, Florida St. 66. Well, it wasn’t all peachy for the ACC today. FSU resurrected its bad habit of losing to bad teams. Amazingly, that’s only the second nonconference loss for the ACC so far this year (23-2). Monmouth 59, Wichita St. 50. Gregg Marshall’s start at Wichita hasn’t been very promising thus far (1-2 with the other loss to Baylor). Alaska-Fairbanks 62, Oregon St. 60. And we save the best upset of the day for last – another Pac-10 team losing, but this is worse because the Beavers were beaten by a D2 team – the host of the Top of the World Classic. How utterly embarrassing.

Ranked Teams.
#9 Oregon 86, Portland 61. Hairston (24), Leunen (17) & Porter (15) roll.
#15 Gonzaga 84, UC Riverside 48. Zags continue to dominate w/o Heytvelt.
#24 S. Illinois 88, N. Illinois 68. Only 7 for Falker and still no problem.

Line of the Night. Michael Beasley (Kansas St.). Let’s just start penciling him in here every time he plays. 28/22 in a 13-pt win over W. Illinois.

On Tap Today (all times EST). A light Sunday schedule, but we really have our eyes on that 5pm game.

  • Louisville (NL) v. Jackson St. (ESPN FC) 1:30pm – can UL be as impressive as today?
  • Charleston (NL) v. Houston (ESPNU) 1:30pm - interesting early afternoon game.
  • Clemson (-12.5) v. Old Dominion 2pm – upset alert! Clemson could be looking past ODU here after its win v. Miss St.
  • Villanova (NL) v. Bucknell 5pm – Jay Wright goes up against his old team.
  • Arkansas (-7.5) v. VCU (ESPNU) 5pm – best game of the day – Maynor v. Beverly.
  • Georgia Tech (-3) v. Winthrop 6pm – upset alert! Ga Tech is so hit-and-miss these days.
  • UNC (-34) v. Iona (ESPNU) 6pm – this game could get extremely ugly.
  • Miami (FL) (-1) v. Providence (ESPN2) 7:30pm - championship of PR Shootout.
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ATB: It’s Baaaaaackk….

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.09.07

Story of the Night. 93 Games. 186 teams. Thank God college hoops is back, baby. We’re a little late, but this is why we care. We got to watch pieces of six games tonight, and while the games looked like Nov. 9, meaning sloppy, it was soooo refreshing to see and hear the sneakers squeaking on the hardwood again.

Things We Saw. Kansas is so loaded we can’t understand how they lose to anyone. Darnell Jackson (21/4/4 stls) off the bench, Sherron Collins (22/6 asts/4 stls), and so much more. UL-Monroe isn’t that bad either, but they were really never in the game (Kansas 107, UL-Monroe 78). In Florida, the Gators are (as expected) extremely young but talented – their freshmen scored 46 of their 75 pts and Nick Calathes looked great, leading the team with 21 pts. They were never threatened with an L by North Dakota St., but they could never really put them away either. That will likely come with experience (Florida 75, North Dakota St. 65). Staying in the SEC, Tennessee took a while to get going against Temple, and they didn’t shoot well from 3 (27%), but they still won comfortably. We still have trouble distinguishing between the 47 Smiths they have on the team (all of them are about 6’5 and wear headbands), but they combined for 38/9/6, while Lofton was otherwise limited (10 pts) (Tennessee 80, Temple 63). One question – will Temple ever be relevant again? The best game of the night that was televised was actually the Ohio-NMSU game. New Mexico St. played without stud freshman Herb Pope, but it was evened out because Ohio’s star forward Leon Williams spent most of the night on the bench in foul trouble anyway. The rest of the Ohio starters picked up for Williams, though (64/25/11), despite NMSU clearly having the more athletic team. Martin Iti (7’0, 240) has an NBA body, but why isn’t he more productive (8/9) (Ohio 80, New Mexico St. 72)?

Score of the Night. Stanford 111, the Tommy Amakers 56. None of the Stanford starters played more than 17 mins, and keep in mind they were w/o Brook Lopez in this game as well. The halftime score was 63-28. Good grief, man! Way to inspire confidence in your first game at Harvard, TA.

Upset Alert. UNC-Greensboro 83, Georgia Tech 74. Who said this yesterday – “upset alert if Ga Tech doesn’t come ready to play…” :-) It appears that mid-major all-american Kyle Hines absolutely shredded the Jackets’ front line (25/9/2 blks on 10-12 shooting). You never know what you’re going to get with Ga Tech, but UNCG is a team to watch as a potential at-large out of the SoCon next spring if they get a couple more of these. Belmont 86, Cincinnati 75. This really isn’t an upset, but Cincy was a 9-pt favorite at home. Wait… who said this yesterday also – “upset alert again – UC was horrid last year. Have they improved?” Now that we’re 2-0 this season on upset alerts, we’re quitting. Great BCS win for Belmont, who we perhaps foolishly did not pick to win the A-Sun again this year (gulp… we didn’t pick Gardner-Webb either). Belmont had 19 layups, 12 threes and 10 FTs, which amounted to 84 of their 86 points – now that’s efficiency. Wow. Other upsets: Tulane 77, Auburn 62 – maybe not the result, but the margin.

Line of the Night. There is no question about this one. Michael Beasley (Kansas St.) (34/24/4 assts/4 blks). 24 rebounds sets a new Big 12 conference record. Just sick numbers for a first game. Kansas St. 94, Sacramento St. 63.

Freshmen. Aside from Beasley at K-State, Kevin Love at UCLA also had an impressive debut (22/13) in a Bruin whomping (UCLA 69, Portland St. 48). The Duke trio of freshmen Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Taylor King combined for 51/14 in a complete and utter destruction of NC Central (Duke 121, NC Central 56). The Devils even pulled out some zone defense, they say.

In Memoriam. Wake Forest honored Skip Prosser by hanging a banner in their arena recognizing his contributions to the school and athletic program. The Deacons played hard and honored his legacy by winning easily (Wake Forest 85, Fairfield 60).

Nov. Bracketbuster. George Mason already helped their at-large profile with tonight’s win over Vermont, one of the better teams in the America East this year. GMU’s Will Thomas (yes, he’s still around) blew up for 16/17, overcoming the Patriots’ abysmal 1-17 from the three point line (George Mason 60, Vermont 53).

Joey Dorsey Award. We like him, but tonight’s award goes to Chris Lofton (Tennessee), for shooting 1-8 (0-5 from three) from the field and only scoring 10 pts. With a stroke like that, we expect nearly all of them to go in.

On Tap Today (all times EST). Another pretty big day with 63 games, although not much on tv because of college football. Here are some of the games to keep an eye for along the bottom line while you watch pigskin.

  • Yale (NL) v. Sacred Heart 1pm – presumptive favorites from the Ivy and NEC play.
  • Texas Tech (-19.5) v. UC Riverside (ESPN FC) 2pm - we have no idea why this is FC worthy.
  • Minnesota (NL) v. Army 3pm – Tubby’s debut will probably go a little better than Billy G’s last game.
  • USC (NL) v. Mercer 4pm – we cannot wait to see the OJ highlights from this one.
  • Bucknell (NL) v. Albany 7pm – a game that could affect seedings (#14 or #15) next March.
  • Oregon (-26) v. Pepperdine (ESPN FC) 7:30pm – how will the Ducks look w/o Aaron Brooks?
  • Vanderbilt (-12) v. Austin Peay 8pm – beating the dead horse here, but this is the kind of game we wish FC would have instead.
  • Marquette (NL) v. IUPUI (ESPN FC) 8:30pm – we’re not completely sold on MU – this could be an interesting game.
  • Pacific v. W. Michigan (-4.5) 9:30pm – if Pacific is back this year, they need to win this game.
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Breaking Down the Preseason Mags… pt. 3

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2007

A month ago we gave you our reviews of the Athlon and Lindy’s preseason mags.

We’ve been busy plugging away at the conference previews, but in the interim, a few more mags have hit the shelves. So here’s the third installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.

Next Up: Sporting News/Street & Smith’s.

Note: Yes, TSN and S&S, two of the oldest and most respected preview issues, have joined forces this year on their college basketball preview. It remains to be seen whether this is a good idea.

TSN / S&S Cover 08

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

  • 12 regional covers hitting only the BCS conferences. Definitely a major conference bias here.
  • Coolest Cover – see above – one thing we really like is that most of the covers are full-color action shots. The Roy Hibbert (getting serviced by Vandy’s Ross Neltner?) and Mario Chalmers shots are our favs after Richard Hendrix above. Great cover.
  • Oops. The Athlon, Lindy’s and TSN issues all use the exact same action shot for Brook Lopez of Stanford on their Pac-10 cover. Unfortunately for Cardinal fans, Lopez is not reaching for a textbook.
  • Total Points = 4

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

  • Not a fan of their setup here. They divide the conferences into high, mid, and low-major categories, then list them alphabetically within each section. Quick – is the Big West a mid-major or low-major league? The MAC? How about the Southern Conference? TSN considers the MAC a high major (???) and the others as mid-majors, which means we were flipping all over the place to find these leagues. Difficult navigation.
  • Within the league, they then list each team by predicted order of finish. Typical fare here.
  • Standard format otherwise – roundup, features, analysis of teams, recruiting, stats and schedules in that order.
  • Total Points = 2.5

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

  • The Late, Late Show is a short article explaining the basis behind TSN’s pick of UCLA as the #1 team in America.
  • Decourcy’s Directives are short narratives on the following topics: Coach Calipari’s calculations; Don’t Cry for Duke; One-and-Outs to Watch; and, Recipe for a Championship. The only interesting information here is in the Recipe section, which explains that most national champions for the last 20 yrs have had at least one NBA-caliber big man and guard on their roster (exceptions: MSU-2000; Arkansas-1994; Syracuse-2003).
  • TSN also provides three teams of All-Americans, led by seven sophomores and two freshmen among the fifteen. We like that they took some chances, going with Eric Gordon (Indiana) and Chase Budinger (Arizona) on the first team over some of the better-known names.
  • There is also a Top 25 with a couple of sentences describing each team’s strengths, but it is notable that TSN doesn’t bother with predicting the NCAA field anywhere within the magazine.
  • There is one page devoted to listing the Top 100 freshmen, but rather than listing them #1-#100, they made a confounding decision to order them geographically (all-east, all-south, etc.) and then alphabetically. There’s no way to intelligently distinguish OJ Mayo (all-east) from Edwin Rios (all-south).
  • Another page lists transfers eligible this season and next, but again they’re not ranked in any discernible manner. This page also lists all the coaching changes from the offseason.
  • Overall, this section is incredibly weak compared to the other previewed magazines, and especially considering that TSN and S&S were once considered the bibles of this genre. We literally learned nothing new in this section.
  • Total Points = 3

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

  • Features – what features? There is only one feature article, which if we said was shocking would be severely understating our sentiment. So surely that one article has something to do with this season, right? Nah. Try Whatever Happened To… Teddy Dupay, JR Van Hoose and Dane Fife, three (white) players who were HS stars ten years ago but didn’t ultimately make it to the League. Don’t get us wrong, we actually appreciate the concept of an article like this. The problem is that it’s the only feature article TSN felt necessary to give us in the entire magazine. That’s beyond unacceptable, especially when you consider the cache of writers that TSN has at its disposal.
  • Cheerleaders. Ok, we enjoy a photo collage of college cheerleaders as much as the next guy, but the only other “feature” that TSN insults us with offers us is a five-page spread of various gals in tricky positions. Again, this just seem so beneath TSN and S&S to pull out the cheerleader photo section to try to increase sales. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they just don’t care anymore. Good grief – they even put the Duke cheerleaders in the spread (Doherty was right)!!
  • FWIW, the Texas gal on p. 21 is absolutely scorching hot, with nods to Miss UCLA and Miss Florida on p.19. Surprisingly, we found Miss Kentucky (p.20) to be one of the fugliest of the group, along with Miss Hawaii (p.19). And Miss Wichita St. (p.18) can bend in ways that aren’t quite believable.
  • Total Points = 3

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

  • TSN’s Top 25 is pretty standard issue big conference fodder. They do put Memphis at #2, Gonzaga at #12 and Xavier at #25, but every other team is a BCS school. Since there are no NCAA predictions, we can only assume their top 4 is their predicted F4, which would mean UCLA, Memphis, UNC and Kansas are their choices.
  • Big Conference Bias. Assuming top 16 = Sweet 16, then Gonzaga and Memphis are the only exceptions. As for the Top 25, here’s the conference breakdown – Pac-10 (5), Big 12 (4), Big East (4), ACC (3), SEC (3), Big 10 (3), CUSA (1), WCC (1), A10 (1).
  • Surprises. Some teams that are getting some preseason pub that TSN doesn’t think much of include: Syracuse (10th in the Big East, which presumably would mean not an NCAA team); UConn (7th); USC (7th in Pac-10) & Vanderbilt (5th in SEC East). On the flip side, teams that TSN values more than others include: Georgia (3d in SEC East); Penn St. (4th in Big 10) & NC State (3d in ACC).
  • Boldest Prediction. Not much in the way of excessively bold predictions, but we believe that a lot of these prognosticators are going to regret giving a 5-11 ACC team (NC State) so much preseason hype this year.
  • We’re really annoyed that TSN doesn’t give us a field of 65, at minimum.
  • Total Points = 12

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

  • High Majors. The twelve conferences TSN designates as high majors each gets a full page primer, and there’s a lot to like here. The predicted order of finish uses a cool feature with arrows that shows how the team is trending this year – up, down, or steady. There’s a five man all-conference team, a short narrative breakdown of the league, and the most inclusive list of superlatives we’ve yet seen (15-20 different superlatives). There is also a third of the page devoted to ranking the recruiting classes within the conference and short analyses of each incoming player.
  • Mid Majors. TSN anoints only six leagues as mid-major leagues, and each of these leagues gets a half-page of analysis, including the predicted order of finish, a short narrative, an all-conference team, recruiting rankings and three superlatives.
  • Low Majors. The remaining conferences receive one page each, nearly the same as the mid-majors with the exception that the narrative is really just a paragraph wrapup.
  • Total Points = 5

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

  • Roughly the top 2/3 of the high major teams get a full page of analysis from TSN; the remainder get a half page. Again, there’s a lot to like here – the writing is solid, giving decent insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each team without merely another rundown of each player and his stats. There is also a section on power ratings by five categories, a five-year wins trend, an impact rookie blurb and a brief but useful team statistics table.
  • The mid-major conference projected champions get the same treatment as the lower third teams of the high majors – a half-page with much of the same information above. The remainder of mid-major teams simply get the one-paragraph rundown treatment.
  • The low-majors all get a single paragraph, whether they’re the projected champion or not.
  • For the top twelve conferences, the analysis is the best we’ve seen this year thus far. The writers clearly know these teams and do a good job at breaking down what to watch for this season. The remaining leagues get short shrift, but those fans are not the target audience.
  • Total Points = 16

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

  • As mentioned above, each major conference page has a substantial section on recruits for each school and rankings within each league.
  • See above for our issue with their list of the top 100 incoming players.
  • There is no listing of the best incoming recruiting classes nationally anywhere in the magazine, which is incomprehensible to us.
  • Once upon a time, S&S was the best place to get recruiting information, but that time again seems to have passed. They have four pages of names of players without ranking any of them outside of their Boys All-America Team (top 20). It’s nice they give a paragraph describing the skill set of each of those twenty players, but there’s just no way to compare players outside of that grouping.
  • With that said, we continue to enjoy the All-Metro Teams of twenty or so HS basketball hotbeds around the country. It gives us something to look for in our local area.
  • We also enjoy that TSN lists the top 25 HS teams for 2007-08.
  • This magazine has more information on high school prospects than any other we’ve seen, and yet they muff it by not presenting the information in a way most people would want to see it. Lists are fine, but they have to be useful for comparison.
  • Total Points = 4

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

  • The women’s preview is a Top 25 with four pages of analysis, but thankfully they stuck it in the back of the magazine.
  • Where they really go wrong is by wasting five more pages in the back on girls’ HS All-Americans and a HS top 20. We cannot believe that anyone would buy this magazine to get this information.
  • Total Points = 2

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

  • This magazine is trying to be everything to everyone. You can easily tell which parts were the expertise of TSN and which were the responsibility of S&S, and as such, the magazine seems random and incomplete in parts. For example, in addition to the prep information in the back, the magazine also gives us a full page on D2, D3 and NAIA basketball (with top 10s and All-Americans). And if that’s not enough, it also has a juco section, complete with a Top 10 and an article explaining why juco talent is getting deeper.
  • There is also a full page of individual and team stats for D1, D2, D3 and NAIA, plus two pages of women’s stats. Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to give us six pages of D1 stats instead? Are a substantial number of NAIA fans really buying this magazine?
  • Schedules. By virtue of its release date, TSN has most every team’s schedules in complete form at the very back of the magazine. The back page also has a nice roundup of all the in-season tourneys and conference tournament information.
  • The writing of this magazine is better than Lindy’s and Athlon, but the only writing actually performed is in the conference and team previews. It was very disappointing there weren’t more features at the front.
  • Total Points = 10

RTC Grade for Sporting News/Street & Smith’s = 61.5 pts

Basis: We have to say that we were really disappointed with this magazine, largely because when we were growing up, the TSN and S&S previews were must-reads in our house. Wow, how the mighty have fallen. How can you not have feature articles or build an NCAA field? How can you not rank-order recruits? How can you add a cheerleader section and spend page after page giving us NAIA stats? At this point, and we never thought we’d say this, the TSN magazine is definitely worse than Lindy’s and no better than Athlon. This would have been unheard of a few short years ago. The only value of this magazine is in the quality of the writing of the analyses for the high major conferences and teams – that is the one (and only) area where TSN trumps the other two. What a disappointment.


Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
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10.19.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2007

More news and notes from a busy first week of practice.

  • Everyone is piling on Kelvin Sampson for his phone indiscretions.  AOL Fanhouse looks into the poor cell phone service excuse, while DeCourcy takes shots at IU’s compliance office.  One blogger wrote an open letter to Kelvin Sampson asking him to just go away.  Yesterday Sampson resisted talking about the issue at his press conference.
  • Speaking of Indiana coaches causing trouble, the NCAA instituted a point of emphasis this year on abusive behavior by coaches on the sideline.   M2M has the definitive take on this.
  • More IU-related content:  Bob Knight felt the need to talk about the MLB playoffs during his presser this week.
  • Basketball Prospectus is up and running (woohoo!) – the first post that captured our attention was this one on what makes an assist an assist?
  • MJ expects to watch his son sit the bench play at least once this year in Champaign.
  • On Monday it was official that Mike Hopkins would succeed Jim Boeheim at Syracuse upon his retirement; by Tuesday, it wasn’t official anymore.
  • So what really went down in practice between OJ Mayo and Daniel Hackett?  Was it an errant ‘bow or a flat-out haymaker to the schnozz?
  • One of the underrated coaches at an underrated program, Randy Bennett at St. Mary’s got a two-year extension (through 2013). 
  • Katz dissects the budding UCLA-USC rivalry, comparing it to UNC-Duke.  What he fails to mention is that SoCallers don’t care about college hoops nearly as much as the NCers.  That’s a Laker area, through and through.
  • Injuries, Suspensions, etc.
    • Is Brook Lopez planning on playing this year?  He’s already out for the first nine games – now he’s indefinitely suspended for breaking team rules, which means he can’t even practice. 
    • Wisconsin starter Michael Flowers is going on a leave of absence for the cryptic reason of “medical problems.” 
    • Notre Dame super-soph Luke Harongody will miss 3-6 weeks with damage to his thumb ligaments. 
    • Mizzou senior forward Darryl Butterfield was arrested for domestic assault and suspended indefinitely by the team.
    • Remember our pal Frank Tolbert?  The good state of Alabama did not agree with local prosecutors that Tolbert was drunk while stealing driving his SUV away from the towing lot.  He is not expected to miss any games.
    • A bunch of UK players are injured in various ways.  Oh, and Alex Legion isn’t hurt, but his mom is some kind of prophet.     
  • And more preseason chatter from various sources.
    • MSNBC has its preseason top 25 out (UNC #1).
    • Luke Winn spent the week slurping up whatever they’re selling in the RTP these days. 
    • Meanwhile, Jeff Goodman did a Tennessee three-step – Memphis, Vandy & UT
    • SEC:TGTBTD has it’s all-SEC teams ready – 3d Team, 2d Team, 1st Team (Chris Lofton, Jamont Gordon, Patrick Beverly, Richard Hendrix, Shan Foster).
    • Gary Parrish has his all-american teams + 10 ready (we like his balls to put Derrick Rose on the first team).   
    • Big 12 talk – apparently K-State is loading up on players, while KU is striking out on recruiting.  Yahoo asks if the Big 12 will ever win a title again, and oh yeah, Tom Osborne is the new AD at Nebraska.
    • Will Florida even make the NCAA Tourney this year?  Billy D. isn’t sure. 
    • Can UConn’s AJ Price stay away from the computer lab this year?  Jim Calhoun thinks he can. 
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10.10.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2007

Lots of MSM content coming out this week…

  • But first, have you heard that Stanford’s Brook Lopez can’t pass calculus?  He’ll be out until he figures out derivatives (presumably Dec. 19, after nine games).
  • Along the same lines, the NCAA cleared Marquette big man frosh Trevor Mbakwe to play this season.
  • New Mexico swingman and all-Mtn West selection Tony Danridge had surgery on his broken left leg, and is expected to be back by January 2008.   Arkansas forward Sonny Weems is due back from his hand injury within the next couple of weeks.    
  • A hoops pollster explains why college football polling is misguided
  • Shawn Siegel lists the top 25 players in the ACC. 
  • CSTV claims Louisville and UConn have the top 2008 Big East recruiting classes so far. 
  • We already know why George Mason will get an at-large bid next spring – one name: Tom O’Connor
  • DeCourcy goes with Chris Lofton as his preseason POY, but there’s no way we think he’ll win it. 
  • Catching up with coaches…  Parrish looks at how Dan Monson is adjusting to life at Long Beach St.  Katz examines how Jim Calhoun is recovering from his worst season ever.  And the AP reports on John Beilein not knowing what to expect at Michigan.
  • Luke Winn also has an interesting Q&A with Jerel McNeal, defensive dynamo at Marquette. 
  • Finally, the offense that’s taking over the nation – Memphis’s AASAA
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The West Side is the Best Side…

Posted by rtmsf on June 9th, 2007

2Pac

2Pac was right after all

Quite a bit was made last season of a renaissance in the quality of basketball in the Pac-10 conference, as it ended the season as a top three conference in both the RPI and Sagarin ratings in addition to earning a record six NCAA bids for the conference and enjoying the prestige as the only conference with multiple teams in the Elite Eight (Oregon and UCLA). There has always been a surplus of talent on the west coast, especially in the Seattle and SoCal areas, but it was largely characterized by players opting to play for an eastern school just as often as staying home to play for State U. This has been changing over the last five years, however, as new coaches such as Lorenzo Romar at Washington, Tim Floyd at USC, Tony Bennett at Wazzu and Ben Howland at UCLA have endeavored and succeeded in keeping as many of those talents as possible close to home. This is no more evident than in some of the recruiting wars over the last couple of years that resulted in top ten players such as Spencer Hawes (Washington), twins Brook & Robin Lopez (Stanford), Kevin Love (UCLA) and Brandon Jennings (Arizona) signing to play in the Pac-10 (notable exception: Lake Oswego’s (OR) Kyle Singler to Duke).

Steve Lavin

Lavin’s former conference is on the rise

Still, we were a little surprised when Rivals released its top ten players at each position for the 2007-08 season, and the Pac-10 claimed by far the most players, with thirteen of the top fifty. This is especially remarkable given that the league is losing all-conference performers Arron Afflalo (UCLA), Aaron Brooks (Oregon), Marcus Williams (Arizona) and Nick Young (USC) to the NBA next season, while it welcomes likely top fifty players Kevin Love and OJ Mayo (USC) to the league. With talent like this staying on the west coast, we should expect another great season from the Pac-10 conference next year. Somewhere Steve Lavin’s hair gel is celebrating.

The ACC and Big East have seven players each on the list; the SEC has six, and the the Big 12 has five of the top fifty players. The Mountain West and Conference USA both have three of the top fifty, outperforming the Big 10 (again), who only has two. The Colonial (Eric Maynor – VCU), Horizon (AJ Graves – Butler), Missouri Valley (Randal Falker – S. Illinois) and Southern (Stephen Curry – Davidson) conferences each have one top fifty player returning. Below is the list including multiple-player conferences:

Rivals 2007-08 Top 50 Players

You probably noticed that we shaded the teams with three top fifty players returning next season – Stanford, UCLA, UNC, Kansas. It’s certainly no coincidence that three of those will begin next year in the top five of the polls, and the fourth, Stanford, will probably be knocking on the door of the top ten.

Thoughts -

  • Where is all the Big Ten talent? Having less players on this list than CUSA and the Mountain West is cause for alarm, and helps to explain why only one Big Ten team played into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament last season. Where are the usual stables of talent at Michigan State and Illinois? Aside from the yeoman’s work that Matta is putting into recruting at OSU, the rest of the Big Ten has signed only two top thirty prospects during the last three recruiting cycles – Joe Krabbenhoft of Wisconsin in 2005, and Eric Gordon of Indiana in 2007. An influx of coaching talent has entered the league (Tubby Smith at Minnesota and Kelvin Sampson at Indiana), but without the players to accompany those moves, the Big Ten is going nowhere fast.
  • Nitpicks. We probably would have found a place for the following players: Derrick Low (Washington St.), Edgar Sosa (Louisville), Jerel McNeal (Marquette), and Patrick Beverley (Arkansas). Expect each of these players to be all-conference performers in their respective leagues next season. We also have a sneaky feeling that guys like DaJuan Summers (Georgetown), Deon Thompson (UNC), Derrick Caracter (Louisville) and JaJuan Smith (Tennessee) will make a solid case to be on this list next season.
  • Surprises. NC State’s future looks bright with two young big men, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley, returning for Sidney Lowe’s team. Alabama should be much improved next year as well, assuming Ronald Steele gets healthy (he was on many preseason all-american teams last year but struggled with tendinitis and ankle injuries that largely derailed Bama’s season). Apologies to the Mountain West, but who are Stuart Creason and Luke Nevill? Their inclusion on this list shows that the depth of talent at the center position in the college game is ridiculously thin.
  • Instant Impact Players in 2007-08. This list next season will be populated by the likes of OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley (Kansas St.), Derrick Rose (Memphis) and Anthony Randolph (LSU).
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One and Done (2007) – was it worth it?

Posted by rtmsf on May 14th, 2007

In the hypercompetitive world of college basketball recruiting, last year’s new NBA rule requiring a player to be one year removed from his high school class prior to declaring for the draft sent repercussions throughout the game. Coaches at the elite programs generally fell into two camps – you either recruit players who you expect will stick around for more than one season, hoping to keep stability (and consistency) within your program; or, you recruit the very best talent available year over year, hoping to catch lightning-in-a-bottle Carmelo-style without experiencing the program volatility that such a strategy may entail. Now that we have one season of one-and-dones behind us, let’s take a look at how the programs employing that strategy fared. We considered the top twenty players in the Class of 2006 (login required) as the most likely one-and-dones.

Greg Oden

Looks like one and done worked out for Greg Oden.

Ohio StateWell Worth It

This program, along with UNC, had the most players listed (3) in the 2006 top twenty – Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, Mike Conley, Jr. As of today, they’re definitely losing Oden; Conley is likely to leave, and Cook is a tossup. However, even if they lose all three, it would be fair to say that OSU got its money’s worth. A 35-4 (15-1) record, NCAA runner-up, Big Ten championship, and the best season in Ohio State’s post-UCLA history will do that. Essentially, this group of players made Ohio State relevant as a national powerhouse again. For many programs, losing a group like this would equal the NIT or worse next season; but with Matta bringing in another group of blue chippers next season (and the season after), OSU won’t take a terrible hit. This gamble definitely paid off, and will continue to do so, long after these players have moved on.

North Carolina - Well Worth It
Brandan Wright, Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington were all potential one-and-dones when they were recruited by Roy Williams to Chapel Hill. UNC dodged a substantial bullet by losing only Wright to the draft. Led by these three rooks (+ Tyler Hansbrough), Carolina played itself into a 31-7 (11-5) record, an ACC championship and a run to the elite eight where they were simply out-executed by a game Georgetown squad. Still, with Lawson and Ellington returning, Carolina’s gamble came in like Ari Gold at the blackjack table – they’re set to be preseason #1 next year.

Georgia Tech - Not Worth It
Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton were the two jewels of Paul Hewitt’s class last year, and both have declared for the draft this year, but neither has yet signed with an agent. It remains to be seen whether one or both of these players will return, but with Young projected in the low lottery and Crittenton in the mid-low first round, it is likely both will stay in the draft. So how did Georgia Tech fare with these guys? Not as well. A maddeningly inconsistent 20-12 (8-8) record with a first-round NCAA loss versus UNLV isn’t the type of season that the teams above enjoyed. Hewitt has a couple of decent players coming into Atlanta next season, but the 2007-08 campaign will be made or broken on the decisions of these two players. This was clearly a tenuous gamble that may actually set the program back if both fail to return.

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