Set Your TiVo: Opening Night

Posted by bmulvihill on November 7th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The 2011-12 college basketball season tips off with the regional rounds of the 2KSports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.  We will not see a full slate of games until Friday but if you are starved for college hoops like we are, there are two games tonight that should whet your appetite.

William & Mary @ St. John’s – 7 pm EST on ESPNU (**) (RTC Live coverage begins at 6:45 pm)

Lavin's Ridiculously Young Team Tips Off the Season Tonight

  • With the exception of a few holdovers, St. John’s brings an entirely new squad into the 2011-12 season.  The Red Storm will rely heavily on freshman like Maurice Harkless, Dom Pointer, and D’Angelo Harrison.  Although young, SJU should be able to shoot on a William & Mary squad that allowed opponents to shoot an eFG of 50.1% last season.  It will take Steve Lavin’s team some time to jell over the coarse of the season, especially with three highly touted recruits being ruled ineligible for the fall semester.  However, this game may be a case where overall talent outduels experience.
  • William & Mary essentially brings back its entire 2010-11 team that went 10-22 overall.  Tony Shaver’s squad returns its two leading scorers, Quinn McDowell (15.5 PPG) and Brandon Britt (10.9 PPG).  Although a relatively solid shooting team last year (52.1% eFG), the Tribe struggles with scoring beyond those two players.  If W&M can get scoring from another player and continue to shoot the ball well, they may be able to keep it close on the road against an incredibly inexperienced St. John’s team.  However, if either of those two players gets into foul trouble or is cold from the floor, it will make for a challenging night for the Tribe.
  • This game probably will not be a defensive clinic.  William & Mary ranked 254th in the nation last year in adjusted defensive efficiency and a young team like St. John’s will probably take time to develop on that end.  If either team can create any turnovers at all, they will have a clear advantage. Unfortunately, only three teams in the country were worse than the Tribe last year at causing turnovers.  However, with many of the St. John’s players seeing their first action at the Division I level, turnovers should be expected.  Look for William & Mary to take advantage of SJU’s freshmen mistakes to keep this one close.  It will then come down to McDowell and Britt’s ability to convert points off turnovers.

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RTC Conference Primers: #13 – Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2011

Jimmy Lemke of is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League. You can find his daily ramblings @PantherU or @JimmyLeMKE on Twitter.

Reader’s Take I

Last season, the Horizon League put four teams in the postseason — can it do it again?

Top Storylines

  • Eli Holman’s Leave of Absence: The Detroit big man is easily the best returning post player in the H-League, but whether or not he will return is a big question. Holman was placed on “indefinite leave” from the team at the end of September to handle some legal issues drawn from an incident at a fraternity house earlier in the month. Big Ten fans will remember Holman as the player who left Indiana after getting into a confrontation with then new coach Tom Crean.  Without Holman, the Titans have a big hole in the post and would have to rely more heavily on Nick Minnerath and LeMarcus Lowe to pick up the pieces of a broken inside game.  They still have some of the best talent in the league, but without that dominant force, who knows what they’ll get.
  • Kaylon Williams In Trouble:  Milwaukee got some bad news as well, with starting point guard Kaylon Williams getting pulled over in Iowa and blowing a .228 BAC.  What makes matters worse for Williams is that he fled the scene on foot, although he was picked up shortly afterward.  No official word has come down from the university on punishment besides a short statement from head coach Rob Jeter. “We are aware of the situation involving Kaylon Williams.  We are disappointed and will take appropriate action as we gather more information and the legal process runs its course.”  This is Williams’ first offense and it is unclear how much, if any, time he will miss.  Last season, Milwaukee had difficulty with Williams off the floor, but prepared for further uncertainty by recruiting junior college player Paris Gulley and high school point guard Shaquille Boga.

It Says Here That Matt Howard Was the Difference Maker at Butler

  • Butler’s Back Again: Obviously, the college basketball world is familiar with the recent NCAA Tournament dominance of Butler.  “Familiar” might not be the word; “obsessed” may be closer.  In any case, Butler came a 50-footer from the title in 2010 when no one thought they would make it. They suffered a poor shooting night in 2011 to keep the Bulldogs from that elusive title when no one thought they’d be back.  Is it so crazy to say that they could make another run to the Final Four?  The answer is yes.  While losing Gordon Hayward and some key players from the previous year’s team didn’t spell the end for them in 2010-11, 2011-12 will be a different story.  Forget Shelvin Mack, Hayward, and even Brad Stevens.  To me, the one person that deserves the most credit for both of these runs is Matt Howard.  We all knew from day one that he was a special player, and what lack of NBA athleticism (he’s still athletic) he had was made up big time in his skill, determination, and intelligence. To me, he’s the best leader-by-example in basketball that I have ever seen, and his graduation means someone else at Butler will have to try and pick up that torch.  You can replace Shelvin Mack’s scoring and Zach Hahn’s knack for the timely three-pointer, but you can’t replace Matt Howard’s… Matt Howard.
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RTC Conference Primers: #22 – Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 14th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League. You can find him on Twitter at @CharlieParksRTC

Ed. Note — yesterday’s Summit League primer was actually a re-publish of the summer update.  We apologize for the error.

Reader’s Take I

For the Summit League, having someone win Player of the Year may be the ticket to a title. Five of the last seven conference champions have also been the home of the Summit League Player of the Year.


Top Storylines

  • Realignment Hits the Summit: Word got out recently that Oral Roberts was flirting with the Southland Conference. ORU bolting could be a devastating move for the Summit League, which would lose one of its few premier teams. The Summit would take a definite step back. As for ORU, the Southland Conference isn’t exactly an upgrade — in fact, it is probably a downgrade in RPI and level of competition — but the move just makes sense. The Southland offers more natural conference matchups with teams from Arkansas and Texas, and better local recruiting opportunities. Let’s face it; no one from Oklahoma wants to travel to North Dakota in January to play a conference game. Also, Pat Knight just took the head job at Lamar. The Suttons and Knights have always been pretty close, and they have a long history together in college basketball. Scott Sutton versus Pat Knight would be a nice “new” rivalry. But unless the Southland pays the Summit League’s $250,000 buyout for Oral Roberts, this move couldn’t happen until 2014.
  • Bears With Bugs: Has the injury bug found its way to the Golden Grizzlies? Reggie Hamilton and Drew Valentine underwent some recent surgeries; Hamilton shouldn’t miss any time, but what about Valentine? It was a minor knee operation, but knives, knees and basketball don’t go well together at all. Oakland fans should keep a close eye on the situation, but I see no reason for panic… yet.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.12.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 12th, 2011

  1. The news of retired Valparaiso coach Homer Drew’s cancer diagnosis spread across the Internet thanks to a tweet by former Valpo player and current Michigan State guard Brandon Wood yesterday evening. And yes, you did read that right — both Drew and his wife have cancer, which CBS Sports later confirmed. The Big 12 twist here, of course, is that Homer is the father of Baylor coach Scott Drew, as well as current Valpo coach Bryce Drew, who took over for his father this spring. It’s unclear how serious the diagnosis is for either Homer Drew or his wife, but that word “cancer” is always a shocker. From the entire college basketball community to the Drews: get well soon.
  2. Now, on to realignment again: Chip Brown of says that BYU is not a candidate for the Big 12 anymore. Those rumblings had softened over the past few weeks, but it’s at least interesting to hear an insider dig up this sort of information.  The WCC is no doubt counting its lucky stars that the Cougars no longer have that option on the table.  BYU fans, however, may not be feeling quite the same way.
  3. The league also welcomed TCU yesterday, and athletic director Chris Del Conte apparently got a little emotional during the announcement. Who can blame him, though? It’s a big move for the Horned Frogs, and a few league coaches had some kind words for their new member.  In a little more than a year, TCU has gone from the Mountain West to the Big East to the Big 12.  Where will it end up if the conference dissolves in coming years?
  4. Want a laugh for the day? Look at this chart, which pretty much puts Missouri‘s potential move to the SEC in perspective. Funny how a simple graph like that can make you rethink the conference realignment situation.  Of course, $12M may not be a huge amount for the overall university budget, but it’s still more than $11M or $10M or whatever other number below it the school is currently receiving.
  5. You’ll need to use your scrolling skills to find it, but SI’s Luke Winn ranked both Missouri and Kansas in the top-15 of his backcourt rankings. He placed them back-to-back, of course, almost as if he’s intentionally fueling the bitter rivalry. No other Big 12 teams appear on the list, but at this point, we’re just happy to read about basketball in October.
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Morning Five: 10.12.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 12th, 2011

  1. Indiana self-reported a violation to the NCAA yesterday, specifically the contacting of recruit Gary Harris by head coach Tom Crean on October 6 even though the period for allowable contact ended on October 5. The university report said that one of Crean’s assistants told the head coach that the contact was permitted and they didn’t realize the error until the communication had occurred. Self-imposed penalty: loss of two recruiting days, loss of an allowable contact, and no further contact with that recruit. That’s probably all that will be necessary to appease the NCAA, but this is just odd to us. We’re confident that in time Crean can bring the Hoosiers back to prominence, and we know that head coaches delegate so much to their assistants, but at a school with a recent history of improper contact with recruits like Indiana, it’s difficult to believe that the man who’s most responsible for what goes on there doesn’t know when the contact period ends.
  2. Notre Dame will be without fifth-year senior forward Tim Abromaitis for the first four games of the upcoming season as a penalty for playing two exhibition games before his sophomore season — yes, this happened three years ago — officially began. Abromaitis had taken that year off after the exhibitions to give himself an eventual fifth year of eligibility, but NCAA rules say that only freshmen are allowed to do this, not sophomores. Head coach Mike Brey took responsibility for the faux pas, and both he and Abromaitis knew this was coming, so it’s not like the team is caught off-guard on this one. According to the NCAA, Abromaitis’ fifth year is green-lighted because of a waiver that takes the program’s misunderstanding of the rule into account. An NCAA waiver that considers misunderstandings? Somewhere, Enes Kanter and his parents offer a bemused glower…
  3. Homer Drew was the designer of one of March Madness’ greatest upset moments. Actually, it’s just as accurate to eliminate the word “upset” in the previous sentence. The tip-pass play executed by Drew’s Valparaiso squad that resulted in Homer’s son Bryce drilling that jumper to beat Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA Tournament’s first round has become a lasting reminder of hope for all small-conference teams who find themselves in the Dance. Hope…is exactly what Drew and his wife now need, more than ever.  The school revealed yesterday that both Drew AND his wife were recently diagnosed with cancer. No further details. Awful, awful, awful news. Our best wishes and prayers go out to both of them and the entire Drew family.
  4. At a couple of spots on this site yesterday we covered  Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo’s comments about the ACC’s power grab in snagging Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East a while back, as they appeared in an article in Sunday’s Boston Globe. Now DeFilippo has apologized, saying that he was wrong to have his personal feelings appear to come off as the stance of the entire department. That might work for the comment about blackballing Connecticut from the ACC, but that surprised few. As for the assertion that ESPN nudged the ACC into making the play for Syracuse and UConn, he said he spoke “inappropriately and erroneously” about that. So, now we’re to believe that ESPN didn’t have a hand in it after he brought it up without prompting? Because his denial is of the non-denial variety, this matter won’t be put to bed until Mr. DiFilippo specifically states that ESPN was not involved at all — if then. If you believe the prevailing mood among journalists, bloggers and fans on Twitter, his first takes are still considered as the truth, and there’s nothing inappropriate or erroneous about speaking the truth.
  5. Listen, we don’t like the lack of Gus Johnson on CBS any more than you do, and we’ve expressed our sorrow here and over our Twitter feed more than a lot of our readers/followers probably ever hoped we would. It might still come up from time to time (especially about five months from now), but it’s real and there’s nothing more that we can do about it. In the spirit of moving on, we give you, via Sports Media Journal, the entire CBS college basketball schedule. From December 3 (North Carolina at Kentucky) to February 26 (Big East/Big Ten doubleheader), here it is in all its glory.
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RTC Summer Updates: Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 17th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Horizon League correspondent, Jimmy Lemke.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • End of an Era Homer Drew may have done his best work in the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), but that doesn’t bar the Horizon League community from recognizing the tremendous stature of the now-retired Valparaiso coach. He’s done it before – briefly retiring earlier in the decade to pave the way for son Scott Drew and promptly retaking the reins after Scott took the very difficult job at Baylor – but this time you could tell it was final. His ability to recruit overseas is second to none, and we will always remember the feel-good story of his1998 team. Speaking of that year, the coach to now replace him? None other than his other son, all-time Crusader great Bryce Drew.
  • Dickie V. Rules In Motor City – The Detroit Titans made a big splash this summer by deciding to name their court for former Titans coach and renowned broadcaster, Dick Vitale. While he spent only four years as head of the Titans before taking over as coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, Dickie V’s exploits on behalf of college basketball are immeasurable. Dick Vitale IS college basketball, regardless of how you feel about him. As a longtime follower of the Milwaukee program, I see the court naming as a disappointment for Perry Watson, who coached the Titans for a considerably longer stretch and was very successful in that time, but there’s no doubting the decision from the future point of view. This season, St. John’s will play at Detroit on ESPN following a ceremony celebrating the honor, and I’d be willing to bet the Titans are banking on any Dick Vitale anniversaries falling on Detroit’s home schedule with a visit from ESPN.
  • Big Names DepartBrandon Wood took a highly-publicized transfer to Michigan State and will be able to play immediately because he finished his degree at Valparaiso where his graduate program isn’t offered. Shelvin Mack declared for the draft and stayed put, going early in the second round to the Washington Wizards. But the biggest move in the conference is from the graduating senior class. Nearly every big team lost multiple big time competitors. Butler, of course, lost Mack, but they also lost Zach Hahn, Shawn Vanzant and, most importantly, Matt Howard. Milwaukee loses Anthony Hill and streaky-but-dangerous shooter Tone Boyle. Wright State, already on the downturn, lost Cooper Land, Troy Tabler, Vaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans. Cleveland State waved a heartfelt goodbye to perhaps the most talented of them all, Norris Cole, now with the Miami Heat. Put simply, eight of the ten 2010-11 all-Horizon League team members have exited the conference, with only two remaining: Ray McCallum, Jr. and Eli Holman, both of Detroit.

Brad Stevens Led The Bulldogs To Another Title Game Appearance, But He Faces Life Without Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack in the 2011-12 Season.

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Morning Five: 07.06.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 6th, 2011

  1. Duke will be undergoing a significant transformation after losing Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler and to help get the team ready they are heading to China and Duabi in August. Although we wouldn’t read too much into results for the Blue Devils playing on the other side of the planet it will be interesting to see how they integrate all the new pieces (particularly Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook with returning guards Tyler Thornton, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins). The Blue Devils are definitely a step below Kentucky and UNC at this point in the season, but they have enough talent to be a legitimate top 5 team later in the year. Of course, we are also looking forward to fans complaining when ESPN decides to run a month-long special feature on Duke abroad and broadcasts all of their games live.
  2. Team USA had its biggest victory of the FIBA U-19 yesterday when it knocked off Lithuania, 107-105 in overtime, to avenge a pre-tournament loss to the Lithuanians. Jonas Valanciunas, the 5th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, had a huge game with 30 points and 15 rebounds, but was upstaged by Jeremy Lamb‘s 35 points including the game-winner with 2 seconds left in overtime and overcome a series of late-game miscues by several other college players on the US team. The US has one more game in the second round today against Croatia before single-elimination play starts on Friday.
  3. Matt Doherty picked up a potential starter yesterday when Kansas State transfer Nick Russell announced that he would be heading to Southern Methodist. Russell, who was the #4 prospect in the state of Texas coming out of high school, struggled to find his niche in the Wildcats’ offense and averaged just 4.2 PPG and 1.9 RPG despite starting at times for Kansas State. The change in scenery (and the big step down in level of competition) might be enough to help Russell regain his old form and help Doherty get the Mustangs out of the middle of the Conference USA standings.
  4. Indiana transfer Bobby Capobiano announced that he was transferring to Valparaiso yesterday. Capobiano, who averaged 2.3 PPG and 2.6 RPG as a freshman before seeing his playing time drop last season, cited the success of recent transfers Brandon Wood and Cory Johnson as a major factor in his decision. If new coach Bryce Drew can find a way to integrate Capobianco into the Valparaiso offense after Capobianco’s mandatory one-year hiatus, he could be a major factor inside for them to help develop a low-post game that they have lacked for years.
  5. TCU will be heading to the Big East for the 2012-13 season, but it is already bringing in assistants with some pretty substantial credentials as it added Rob Evans to its staff yesterday as an assistant coach. Evans, who has been coaching in college for 42 years including time as a head coach at Mississippi and Arizona State making the NCAA Tournament at both places. Most recently Evans served as an assistant coach at Arkansas for the past four years. We highly encourage you to visit the link to take a look at his career as both a player and a coach because it is fascinating stuff (being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years to guys named Elvin Hayes and Lew Alcindor is just some of it).
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Morning Five: 06.10.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 10th, 2011

  1. When Bryce Drew was chosen to succeed his father Homer at Valparaiso a little less than a month ago, he became the fifth head coach in the Horizon League currently in his 30s. We’re always intrigued to hear how coaches who are barely ten years older than many of their players are able to come across more as authority figures and less as contemporaries, and it brings up another question: with the current generation of players, is it better to be an old seasoned coach chock-full of wisdom that comes from time and experience who’s better at recruiting the parents as well as the players, or is it more advantageous to be perceived as a young “up-and-comer” who knows how to use Twitter, Facebook, and get up for a chest-bump? The two things aren’t mutually exclusive, and it will be interesting to see if the most successful coaches over the next 5-10 years are guys who are hybrids of those two options.
  2. With two teams leaving and four new coaches arriving, you might think the non-conference schedules of Big 12 teams might suffer a little next season. Um, think again. Texas goes to UCLA in early December. Kansas has games against no less than Kentucky and Ohio State, and will play in a Maui Invitational that’s more stacked than Sofia Vergara. Oklahoma State’s taking to the road to play an improved Alabama side as well as scheduling a prickly one at Missouri State. The list goes on. In short, the overall strength-of-schedule numbers (for what they’re worth) for the conference may elevate to Big East levels next season.
  3. Now that Patrick Chambers has gotten the shards of glass out of his neck (we’re still in disbelief) and finds himself as the honcho at Penn State, we’re betting he’s spent about 99% of his time performing the single most important task that will help him bring some pride back to the Nittany Lions — recruiting. But in addition to getting prospects to care enough about the place to attend it, until the wins start rolling in he’s also got to get fans to care enough about the program to get behind it. Chambers was a marketing major, and it’s time to put that training to good use.
  4. When we were younger and our copies of Sports Illustrated would arrive in the mail, it was always a highlight of the week. One of the first things we (and most college basketball fans) would do is flip straight to any stories on college basketball, of course. If there was one in there written by Alexander Wolff, it always meant that much more. We grew up reading his stuff, and his skill as a chronicler and storyteller of college basketball contributed massively to what we know about the game today and how much we still love it. It was announced on Thursday that the Basketball Hall of Fame has awarded Mr. Wolff (as well as Jim Durham, former voice of the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls, and current NBA broadcaster for ESPN radio) its top media honor, the Curt Gowdy Media Award. It doesn’t even seem like our place to say it, but we will anyway: congratulations, sir. And thank you.
  5. In early 2010, right after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Kentucky’s John Calipari and a group of eleven other people created a telethon called Hoops for Haiti that was broadcast on local television in Lexington. Calipari helped host the event, Wildcat players answered phones, and viewers called in to donate money or bid on auctioned items. Donations came in not just from within the borders of Kentucky (though the majority did), but indeed, from all across the nation. In a deep economic recession, the efforts of Calipari and his crew raised an incredible amount in excess of $1.3 million in aid to Haiti. Mind you, that’s more than the entire nations of Sweden ($850,000), India ($1 million), or China ($1 million) are each reported to have given. The folks who came up with this — including the Kentucky head coach — have been nominated for a regional Emmy award. A basketball coach has never been nominated for an Emmy, let alone won one — until now.
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Morning Five: 05.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 17th, 2011

  1. Late last night news broke that Arizona point guard Lamont “Momo” Jones had decided to transfer and was likely headed back to the New York City area. Although Jones has not issued a statement about his transfer, Arizona coach Sean Miller has confirmed the reports that was indeed transferring. There has been plenty of speculation about why he was transferring, but much of it has centered around either his desire to go home to be near a sick family relative (reportedly his grandmother) or the logjam in a Arizona backcourt that will be loaded even without Jones, who averaged 9.7 PPG and 2.4 APG as a sophomore. We will have more on this story throughout the day as it develops.
  2. Later today Valparaiso is expected to name Bryce Drew as the successor to his father Homer Drew as the next coach of the program that he helped make famous. This is not the first time that Homer has stepped aside to let his son take over the program. In 2002, Homer stepped aside to let Scott Drew take over as coach at VU, but he stayed there just one year before leaving to take over at Baylor following the Dave Bliss era. Homer stepped back into his previous position where he has remained despite failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the past seven seasons. Bryce has served as an assistant at the school since 2005, but is best known for his miraculous shot against Mississippi in the 1st round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament and leading them to the school to its only Sweet 16 appearance.
  3. Last summer UNLV had to deal with domestic violence charges against its top returning scorer (Tre’Von Willis) and it appears that this summer it will have to deal with DUI charges against its top returning scorer (Chace Stanback). Stanback was arrested early on Friday near the Thomas & Mack Center on suspicion of driving under the influence. He is out of custody and is expected to appear in court on August 11. It will be interesting to see how new coach Dave Rice deals with the arrest both before and after the court appearance. Rice comes from a strict program at BYU (remember Brandon Davies), but he was also on the Jerry Tarkanian teams of the early 90s that had a more laissez-faire approach to punishment.
  4. One of the bigger stories in the college basketball world yesterday was Dana O’Neill’s story about former Villanova guard Will Sheridan publicly announcing that he was a homosexual. While we understand that this will be a big story and undoubtedly generate a lot of page views for ESPN, we are looking forward to the day when this isn’t even a story. The column itself is pretty interesting and takes an in-depth look at Sheridan’s life after Villanova, but the most interesting thing to us is that his teammates knew about it and didn’t seem to care. In our mind, that seems to be the biggest obstacle for a player “coming out” while they are still active. The fear of being ostracized seems to be within the realm of possibility and we have to applaud the Villanova players who were aware of it for how they handled “the news” and never let it get out or seem to bother them as we have seen with the recent Kobe Bryant controversy that there are still many ingrained attitudes about homosexuality that may be difficult to break in the world of sports.
  5. President Obama welcomed the national champion UConn Huskies to the White House. Unlike some recent championship ceremonies this one was without controversy although Kemba Walker apparently had a tough time getting there as he missed one flight and had another flight delayed before eventually finding his way to Washington, DC. The ceremony itself was fairly mundane except for a few jokes that Obama made about how UConn reminded him of his busted bracket (he picked Kansas to win) and his difficulty with the name of Adolph Rupp.
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Past Imperfect: The Tournament We Forgot

Posted by JWeill on March 18th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the lost, great 1998 NCAA tournament.

The 1998 NCAA tournament is the most exciting, bracket busting, nerve-wracking, well-played tournament in the modern era. And yet, no one seems to remember it. It’s sandwiched right there between “Simon says, ‘Championship,’” and Khalid El-Amin atop the scorer’s table. Can you see it? Look closely, it’s there. It’s the one with the two weird teams in the Final Four, the North Carolina squad coached by the old guy (no, not Dean Smith, the other old guy) and the first-year black coach at Kentucky. Oh, I know what will help…it’s the one where the coach’s kid hits that shot. Oh, now you remember.

It’s a shame, too, that no one remembers the 1998 tourney in toto. From beginning to end, the tournament was riveting, nip-and-tuck, gut-twisting basketball. And it didn’t take long at all to shake things up. On the first day, before many people were probably even aware that games were afoot, an out-of-the-way locale provided fans with some of the tournament’s most in-your-face moments, courtesy of a few names fans would become very familiar with over the next decade but who at the time were little known outside of the basketball community. But strange things can happen in Boise.

Ben Howland, then coach of the 15th-seeded Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, had his team on the cusp of history, all even at 62 apiece with Bob Huggins’ two-seed Cincinnati with just seconds remaining. Northern Arizona was the nation’s best three-point shooting team that year, so it was doubly cruel when Cincinnati’s D’Juan Baker buried an open three to win the game with just 3.6 seconds left to save the Bearcats’ skin. But Cincinnati’s flirtation with late-game disaster would come back to bite them the next round when, this time against West Virginia, Baker again hit a deep three-pointer to give his team the lead and then strutted down the court, only to watch helplessly as Mountaineers guard Jarrod West – yes, Jarrie West — threw up a prayer that was answered with eight tenths of a second left. West’s tipped three-pointer hit the backboard and went through the net, turning Baker’s sideline strut into a slumped-over disbelief. Live by the buzzer beater, die by the buzzer beater.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Tennessee fans got their first glimpse of a coach they’d become all too familiar with in a few years, when Kevin Stallings-coached Illinois State ruined the Volunteers’ sunny trip West on a running layup with 1.8 seconds left in overtime. While the Redbirds would get blasted in the second round, that was small consolation for Tennessee fans. Because just a season later, Stallings would take the job at intra-state rival Vanderbilt.

Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew hit a classic buzzer beater in Round 1.

But the action wasn’t all left to the Left Coast. Back in D.C., President Bill Clinton wasn’t the only one issuing denials. Washington denied Xavier a spot in the second round on a Deon Luton game-winner, while three-seed South Carolina saw B.J. McKie’s last-gasp attempt fall short, keeping the Gamecocks on the outside looking in at upset king Richmond moving on. Oh, and for good measure, Indiana needed extra time to top Oklahoma as well. Had enough? Too bad. Because if Thursday seemed like enough excitement for any single round, things were just getting started.

All across the country, the tense moments and close games continued on Friday. In Lexington, a gruff Syracuse senior from Lithuania named Marius Janulis buried not one but two three-pointers to help the Orange squeak by Iona. Then Chicago turned into Boise, with Detroit Mercy upsetting St. John’s by two and Western Michigan sending Clemson packing by three. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, UCLA outlasted Miami (Fl.) on four straight free throws in the final seconds. And then, it happened.

It would be a shot for all time. It would be replayed so often it has become an indelible part of the very tournament itself. Like Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper, like Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug, the miracle shot by Valparaiso guard, and son of his coach, Bryce Drew was the artistic flourish on a first round of gripping drama. Drew’s deep three, coming on a designed play whereby a half-court pass is touch passed to a streaking Drew, was the most memorable moment on a whole tournament’s worth of memorable moments.

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Tale of the Tape: NCAA Tournament vs. BCS

Posted by nvr1983 on January 12th, 2011

Now that we are done with a strange but exciting/anticlimactic BCS Championship Game, the sporting world can turn its attention to college basketball, a sport that lacks the constant number-crunching to see if being undefeated is good enough to get you a shot at the title, but often gets the short end of the stick from much of the media. To celebrate this, we are going to borrow an idea from Nick Bakay and break down how the two sports decide their champion with a “Tale of the Tape” comparison. We are counting the entire college bowl season as the BCS to try to give college football a fighting chance instead of making it five games against 67.

The warm-up
NCAA Tournament: First Four
BCS: New Mexico/Humanitarian/New Orleans Bowl (on December 18th)
Advantage: Push. Both sides have potential but are ultimately letdowns. We would support the “First Four” if it featured the last eight at-large teams to make the NCAA Tournament instead of splitting it up between the four lowest-seeded teams and the last four at-large teams to qualify, which makes us feel for the littlest guys in the field. As for the December 18th bowl games, we have to admit a strange fascination with the Humanitarian Bowl, which is played in Boise meaning one last chance to see that atrocious blue field that rivals anything that we featured in our old ugliest courts post although even it can’t hold a candle to Phil Knight’s monstrosity at Oregon.

Memorable Moments Early On
NCAA Tournament: Ali Farokhmanesh, Bryce Drew, Tyus Edney. . .

It's Still Awesome.

BCS: Carson Coffman gets called for excessive celebration leading to Kansas State trying a 17-yard two-point conversion?
Advantage: NCAA Tournament. BIG. This category may reflect the popularity of March Madness with the general public that goes crazy over their brackets, but it is nice to have something that keeps you on edge for three weeks instead of having significant moments being relegated to random SportsCenter clips and dumbfounding decisions and calls.

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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by jstevrtc on December 4th, 2009


Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Current Standings (Overall Record/League Record):

  1. IUPUI  (6-2/1-0)
  2. Centenary  (4-2/1-0)
  3. Oral Roberts  (4-4/1-0)
  4. North Dakota State  (3-3/1-0)
  5. Oakland  (3-4/0-0)
  6. IPFW  (2-3/0-0)
  7. UMKC  (3-3/0-1)
  8. Western Illinois  (3-4/0-1)
  9. Southern Utah  (3-5/0-1)
  10. South Dakota State  (2-5/0-1)

Top Storylines:

  • Whatever could go wrong has gone wrong for Oral Roberts University to start this season.  After getting an emotional win against Stanford, everything came crashing down to earth when they discovered that their junior point guard Rod Pearson became the third player THIS YEAR to suffer a season-ending ACL tear.  To make matters worse, the third string point guard, sophomore Beloved Rodgers, quit the team last week as well.  Apparently he was not happy with the minutes he was seeing.  So Scott Sutton was forced to activate his fourth-string emergency guard, redshirt freshman Mikey Mangum.  Who knew the most valuable player of the Golden Eagles season would not be a player at all, but the personal trainer?  Here is a suggestion:  stretch before games.
  • Oakland continues to roll, with Keith Benson earning player of the week honors, averaging 20/11/5 blocks in three games last week.  Also, Oakland guard Jonathan Jones became the conference’s all-time assist leader when he dished out 11 in a win over Central Arkansas on November 28; he now has 639 for his career.  The previous record holder was Valparaiso legend Bryce Drew (626).
  • The non-conference schedule is wrapping up for most of the Summit League, with only IUPUI, Centenary, and UMKC coming out on top with winning records.  Oral Roberts and Oakland remain neck and neck according to their records, but in reality, Oral Roberts has fallen back even further with the loss of four key players.  It’s never good when your second-string shooting guard, Kyron Stokes, now becomes your first-string point guard.  The Summit is still the 20th or 21st best conference in the country, so the one coveted bid will hinge on the conference play.  Anything can happen at this point, and this week will be a good indicator as to who are the true contenders.

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