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 Orangebloods.com 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

checkinginon

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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It’s Christmas in March

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Dave Zeitlin is an RTC contributor.

I’ve often said that the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is like Christmas for me. So what better time to make a Christmas, err, a March Madness wish list? Here, in no particular order, is what I want as the best three weeks in sports begin:

xmas-tree-ornament-bball

  • To hug a stranger at a bar while cheering for a player I’ve never heard of at a school I don’t know anything about.
  • Anyone who roots against a big underdog for the sake of his bracket to be forced to watch exclusively LPGA tournaments through the rest of March.
  • Another George Mason to make the Final Four. I’m looking at you, Siena.
  • A 16 seed to finally win a game, and not just for the free Arby’s burger. (This promotion, though, is sort of funny, especially this quote: “Each year at this time, people crave that Cinderella story – the team that takes everyone by surprise. Our new Roastburgers offer an unexpected change from standard greasy burgers.”)
  • A brawl between Gary Williams’ sweat and John Calipari’s gel in Round 2 (speaking of greasy things)
  • A cat-fight between Fran McCaffery’s wife and Rick Pitino in Round 2 (sorry, I must have that mascot brawl on my mind).
  • A game that goes seven overtimes. Six is nothing.
  • A buzzer-beater that will make Bryce Drew say, “Now that was impressive.”
  • A moment so memorable, I’ll always remember where I was when I saw it. (Unless I’m with Jim Calhoun. Wait, why would that happen?)
  • Someone just as fun as Stephen Curry to become the new Mr. March.
  • Greg Paulus to become the new Miss March.
  • Fran Dunphy to win a game. He deserves it.
  • Bob Huggins to lose a game. He deserves it.
  • Jonny Flynn to keep doing his Energizer impression
  • To win my pool, though I’ll settle for keeping my bracket alive past the first day.
  • To watch my alma mater, Penn, try to win a game. What’s that? The Quakers aren’t in the tournament for the second straight year? And they had one of the worst seasons in recent history? Excuse me while I jump from the Palestra rafters.
  • Jay Bilas to stop hating on the little guy. How many mediocre schools from BCS conferences to do we need to see before we realize it’s the upsets that make this tourney tick?
  • Binghamton’s D.J. Rivera to get his revenge for the ultimate snub by torching the team everyone loves to hate. Speaking of which …
  • To find a new villain other than Duke. How about … let’s see … um …. Oh, hell, I’m sticking with Duke.
  • The announcers doing the Cornell game to abstain from saying things like “I thought Ivy League kids were smart” after a bad turnover. SAT jokes are a no-no, too.
  • Players to stop thanking God after wins. I’m OK if Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado repeats this gem though: “I’ve got to use my quickness to outquick the opposing opponent.”
  • Bob Knight to offer a formal apology for once saying, “All of us learn how to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.” Hey Coach, those words you’re stringing together for your new website with fellow jerk knowledgeable hoops personality Billy Packer. I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s called writing.
  • Gus Johnson to yell even louder.
  • Any commentator who says the expression “body of work” more than twice in one sentence to stop getting lessons in awful announcing from Suzyn Waldman.
  • Gonzaga not to ruin my bracket for the millionth straight year. Please? If I win my pool, I’ll split the money with you, Heytvelt. You can use that cash for your supply of – and moving on!
  • The dude who said, “I’m the weather man” to come back into my life.
  • To hear my stepdad explain the same last-second play he created years ago while lamenting, “No one ever does this.” (It’s March. Everyone’s a coach.)
  • A team with a great story to rally behind. Cleveland State and North Dakota State seem like good choices, but I’m open to suggestions.
  • To tune out anything that has to do with the economy, the wars, the demise of newspapers, octomoms and Dane Cook … and get sucked into a world of college hoops for three straight weeks, remembering so many great shots, players and moments that I have enough material to write another column gushing about March Madness 20 years from now.
  • And, of course, to cry during One Shining Moment. I mean, what?

So that’s my wish list. May Santa, I mean Greg Gumbel, come down the chimney and bring it to me.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #4: Bryce Drew & Family

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

My Stepdad, A Sports Bar, and Bryce Drew (submitted by Dave Zeitlin)

Long before Bryce Drew made one of the most memorable shots in college basketball history, I sat in a fourth-grade class waiting impatiently for my stepfather to pick me up early from school. At the time, I did not know that something strange and wonderful was about to begin, a tradition, I must admit now to all my teachers from fourth grade through high school, that was fueled by a lie: No, I wasn’t really sick the same Thursday and Friday in March every year. The truth is, I ditched school every year so I could watch the first-round games of the NCAA tournament at a sports bar with my stepdad. Phew, I feel better now. And now that this public admission is out of the way, I must say that I learned lessons at the sports bar that I never could have learned in school – like how to watch four games at once without missing a basket (hard); how to order food while keeping an eye on the TV (not as hard); and who to root for you when you had no real rooting interest (the dark jerseys, of course).

It was also there where I learned about Bryce Drew.

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For those who don’t know about Bryce Drew’s game-winning shot – well, you guys are just bad people. Seriously, the play doesn’t need a description because anyone who is a college basketball fan has seen it over and over again. But amazingly, it never gets old. Watch the YouTube clip of the wild finish of the 1998 first-round game between Valparaiso and Mississippi (below), and then check out the longer version, and then watch both clips one more time.

Valpo 70, Ole Miss 69. Chills.

Sure, there are buzzer-beaters every year. And 13 seeds often find a way to sneak into the second round or the Sweet 16. But for me, Drew’s shot is in a class by itself for two reasons: For starters, what few people remember is that Drew missed an open 3-pointer seconds earlier and Valpo only got the chance to pull off the win when Ole Miss star Ansu Sesay missed two free throws and the rebound was, fortuitously, tipped out-of-bounds and given to Valpo. Secondly, it wasn’t just the single shot that was amazing. It was the entire play – from the pump-fake on the inbounds pass by Jamie Sykes, to the leaping catch in traffic by Bill Jenkins, to the nifty touch pass to the streaking Drew, to The Shot, to the wild celebration on the floor, and then, finally, to an emotional hug between Drew and his head coach.

Only at that moment, it wasn’t his head coach that he was hugging. It was his father, Homer. And for me, that’s the coolest thing about the play – that it was designed for Bryce by his dad. Every time I think of the play, I always imagine the father and son having drawn it up years before while goofing around on an old, raggedy driveway hoop. Bryce’s older brother, Scott, the Baylor head coach who was then an assistant at Valpo, probably helped, too.

Many of These NCAA Memories Come Back to Family
Many of These NCAA Memories Come Back to Family

Lucky for me, on the day the Drew family booked their place in NCAA tournament lore, I was with a family member, too. Even better, I was with someone who understood that the first round of the NCAA tournament – also known as the greatest two days in sports – is far more important than a few hours in school. And if you don’t think that’s true, watch Bryce Drew’s shot one more time.

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Finally, It’s Here.

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008

rtc-08-09-preview

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

We can stop now.

No need to continue going to YouTube to relive highlights of last season.

We can stop reading (and re-reading) those strange single-issue pre-season magazines.

We don’t have to keep checking the listings at ESPN Classic or the Big Ten Network for a stray college basketball replay.

Somewhere in Florida, Dick Vitale has been taken out of a moth-ball-filled crate (or out of his tasty Tampa Bay Rays box seats) and has had his big bald pumpkin dusted off.  He is drinking hot tea to prepare his voice.  He knows that the weekly Mike-and-Mike appearances are not enough, now.  He knows it’s time to go to work.

Somewhere in New England, the always delightful and informative Tom Brennan is shopping for blazers.  Hopefully with his wife’s help.

At this moment, Digger Phelps is in a Staples, eyeballing the highliter section with genuine concern, holding up ties next to them to insure proper color-coordination.  Jay Bilas and the Davises (Rece and Hubert) are watching replays of the Tim Tebow pep talk and laughing like Charley Steiner

They’re polishing the floors at Pauley and Cameron Indoor.  Oh yes, they’re setting up chairs at Rupp and O’Connell.  If you listen hard enough, you can hear that blessed sound, that sweet, echoing collision between basketball leather and hardwood, coming from Louisville and Lawrence, Spokane and Storrs.

And we know why.  It’s back.

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God, it’s always been this way for me.  Ever since I can remember, the middle of October has meant – political rhetoric aside — well, a feeling of new hope.  Not just for the prospect of a great season for my favorite team(s), but for the fact that there WAS a season; that for the next five months, my favorite sport was going to take over everything – the TV, the radio, the conversations between me and my friends – and man, how sweet it was going to be. 

“Take over” is the correct term, there.  Seriously, some of my earliest memories of childhood were sitting with my basketball-coach father in front of a TV as he taught me why you have to “overload” a zone, or the best way to break a 2-2-1 full court press, or how, by looking at your defender’s feet, to tell the exact moment to go on a dribble-drive.  On random weekdays in grade school and junior high, my friends and I would be bleary-eyed having stayed up to catch the end of, say, Seton Hall at UC-Santa Barbara, or Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga, because if you were in our crowd you had better be able to discuss it.  Especially during the season, we’d be fired up to play HORSE, 21, or 5-on-5 on any playground we could find.  Rain or snow?  Didn’t matter, makes it more interesting.  3am and the cops showed up?  Who cares, we’ll find another court.  Yeah, we were geeks, at least about college basketball.  We didn’t care.  We still are.

I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading a college basketball blog, you probably share my excitement, and you probably have similar memories to the ones I’ve recounted above.  Maybe you have a specific moment in college hoops’ glorious history that made you an immediate lifelong fan.  Perhaps you can recall the exact details of where you were for the Bryce Drew Miracle.  Or Tyus Edney coast-to-coast.  Or Gabe Lewullis in 1996.  Well take heart, friends.  November has arrived.  It ain’t March, but it’s still pretty damn good.

And the upcoming season is already intriguing in so many ways.  So many questions are waiting to be answered.  For the first time in a while, we have a true Goliath to start a season, this time in the form of the 2008-09 edition of the North Carolina Tarheels.  Can they live up to the already-churning hype machine and take their place as one of the greatest squads ever assembled?  Can Ol’ Roy live up to the challenge and complete this task?  What absolute sickness does Stephen Curry have in store for us this year?  Will this new three-point line redefine the position of the 2-guard?  Will the traditional center re-emerge as the premier position on the floor because of it?  Will it bring back the lost of art of the mid-range jumper?  Is Duke over- or undervalued this year?  Is Davidson the new Gonzaga?  Speaking of the Zags, is Austin Daye as special a player as he seems?  Will Billy Gillispie’s second season in Lexington be as impressive as his second seasons at UTEP and Texas A&M (therefore catapulting him to deity status)?  And what is it going to be like to look over at the Arizona sideline and NOT see Lute Olson?  Jeez, you might as well make the baskets 26 feet high and make the court triangular, because it will seem like a different game.

I can’t wait to have them all answered.  So serve it up, let’s light this candle.  With everything that’s gone on in this country (sports and otherwise) in the last seven months, it seems like a million years ago that we crowned Bill Self and his Jayhawks as champions.  So give me Big Monday.  Love him or loathe him, give me Dickie V having one of his on-air seizures of hoops happiness.  Give me Gus Johnson on the mic with a last-second shot in the air.  Bring on Bracketology and let’s have some mid-majors.  It’s time for Rick Pitino’s white suit and the Fox Sunday night game. 

Because finally…it’s here.  Rejoice, college hoops fans.  Our game is back.

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