Michigan State vs. Kentucky Preview: Two Completely Biased Views

Posted by Deepak Jayanti & David Changas on November 12th, 2013

Tuesday night brings us the first #1 vs. #2 match-up college basketball has seen in five-and-a-half years, as the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats take on the second-ranked Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic  at the United Center in Chicago. Two of our microsite writers – Deepak Jayanti (Big Ten) and David Changas (SEC) – examine three key questions heading into the game.

John Calipari said Kentucky could go undefeated this year. A win over Michigan State would add more credibility to that statement (ESPN Photo)

John Calipari said Kentucky could go undefeated this year. A win over Michigan State would add more credibility to that statement (ESPN Photo)

1. Can anyone from Michigan State stop Julius Randle?

David: The second most ballyhooed freshman in the country, Randle has lived up to the hype, albeit against inferior competition. His NBA-ready frame and soft touch allow him to get to the basket with ease and knock down mid-range jumpers, and will make it difficult for Adreian Payne and company to slow him down. It’s safe to assume Randle will get his points and will cause significant problems for the Spartans, but the likely key will be Michigan State’s success in limiting Randle’s talented supporting cast. Whether it can do so will determine who prevails in this battle of heavyweights.

Deepak: You might expect Tom Izzo to use Payne against Randle, but this strategy could backfire if he can’t keep up with Randle’s quickness. Randle’s size and quickness cannot be matched by anybody on the Spartans, but, Branden Dawson is Izzo’s best defensive stopper. Dawson is quick and has the meat on his bones to keep Randle in front of him and force the freshman to use his jumper. It is unclear if Randle has the post moves to use his size advantage to beat Dawson in the paint, but if he doesn’t, then the 6’6″ wing could put up a decent defensive effort against him.

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The RTC Podcast: Champions Classic Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 12th, 2013

So we hear that there are some pretty good basketball games tonight? That’s right, VCU travels to Charlottesville to take on Virginia, and Florida heads to Madison to battle with Wisconsin. Oh, and there might be some kind of made-for-TV event going on in Chicago this evening as well? All kidding aside, we’re just thankful that we have actual games to start talking about — the preseason speculation can get a little boring after seven straight months. But now that opening weekend is behind us, the RTC Podcast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), can get down to the serious business of reacting to the action on the floor. Starting with tonight.

Seth Davis Joins the RTC Podcast For This Week's Rush the Takes

Seth Davis Joins the RTC Podcast For This Week’s Rush the Takes

Today’s episode reviews some of the biggest games of last weekend and looks ahead to the Champions Classic double-header involving #1 Kentucky vs. #2 Michigan State followed by #4 Duke vs. #5 Kansas this evening. We were also lucky enough to have longtime CBS Sports analyst and Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis join us for this week’s Rush the Takes segment, where he discusses what he’s looking forward to during tonight’s game. Needless to say, everyone’s excitement was palpable. Also remember that you have a chance at winning a free RTC t-shirt if you find the hidden clue somewhere within the podcast. And remember that we’ll be back on Friday of this week with our short-and-sweet RTC Podblast to review these games and any other news that pops up during the next few days.

The rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-5:18 – Oregon vs. Georgetown
  • 5:18-8:46 – Baylor vs. Colorado
  • 8:46-12:06 – Maryland vs. UConn
  • 12:06-14:46 – Foul Discussion
  • 14:46-25:10 – Rush the Takes With Seth Davis
  • 25:10-30:24 – Duke vs. Kansas Preview
  • 30:24-35:22 – Kentucky vs. Michigan State Preview
  • 35:22-38:44 – VCU vs. Virginia
  • 38:44-43:17 – Florida vs. Wisconsin
  • 43:17-47:40 – Chane Behanan’s Return/Wrap
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Champions Classic: Keeping Some Perspective With Tonight’s Games

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2013

We hate to have to do this because we really love college basketball and we embrace the fact that so many people are excited about this season due to the influx of elite freshmen talent. But we feel like we have to tell you that the Champions Classic is not going to be what everybody wants you to believe. By now you have probably read dozens of columns hyping this event as the best early-season match-up in college basketball history — which at some level it is — and hundreds or thousands (depending on how much time you have on your hands) of message board discussions talking about the implications of these two games. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things these two games might be a whole lot of fun but they’re mostly meaningless.

Hype

The Hype Machine is in Full Throttle This Week

Now this is not to say that the games and the participants playing in them won’t be interesting. According to some reports nearly 80 NBA personnel are expected to be in attendance to watch Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker along with at least a half dozen other potential NBA lottery picks in action. And of course there are the four blue-blooded programs with their Hall of Fame coaches (don’t worry, Tom Izzo, Bill Self, and John Calipari will all be joining Mike Krzyzewski in Springfield someday). On top of that nearly every major college basketball media outlet will be represented as well as quite a few NBA media members. Obviously, they can’t all be wrong. Right?

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Let’s Laugh at Calipari For a Second Then Preview Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 12th, 2013

The Michigan State-Kentucky game tonight in the Champions Classic offers plenty of compelling storylines. Experience versus likely one-and-dones, Tom Izzo against John Calipari, and what some even argue is good and bad with college basketball. Oh, yeah, and No. 1 versus No. 2 for the first time in five years and the earliest the top two teams have ever played in the season. If you want to look at the multitude of storylines and previews, the Big Ten Network already did a good job compiling them. Before getting to the key things to watch for in this game, though, let’s examine John Calipari’s comments a little more closely.

Adreian Payne and the Spartans experience will play a key role in tonight's Champions Classic game against Kentucky (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne and the Spartans experience will play a key role in tonight’s Champions Classic game against Kentucky (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

We highlighted this in our Morning 5 yesterday, but in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, Calipari is quoted as saying, “The issue becomes playing teams [like Michigan State] this early is not fair to my team. It may be fair for everybody else. But it’s no fair to my team.” Please, take a moment and think over that quote and everything involving the Kentucky basketball team and Calipari’s recruiting style. Are you done laughing? No? OK, I’ll wait a second longer.

Allowing for the possibility that this is merely gamesmanship, let’s go ahead and break it down. First, Kentucky approves of any team or event in which they play. It’s not like Calipari has no say in the schedule (just ask Indiana fans about that one). So, if he thinks it’s unfair to play a team this early that could have experience, well then he probably shouldn’t put his team in premier events during the first month of the season. Problem solved. Next, the unfair factor of experience? This is how Calipari recruits. His proven way to national championships is that he targets top 25 recruits who are only going to be at Kentucky for one season, two at the most. Calipari signs them and the players come in knowing that this is not only possible, but likely. The feedback loop is one reason he has consistently produced the top recruiting class in the nation for the past five years.

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Morning Five: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2013

morning5

  1. For the fourth consecutive weekend (ugh), several schools around the country staged their Midnight Madness events. The headliner over the last three days was at North Carolina, where the Tar Heels’ annual Late Night With Roy event featured big cheers for troubled guard PJ Hairston. At Seton Hall, eating contest legend Takeru Kobayashi was brought in to wow the crowd as he went head-to-head in a hot dog eating contest with Pirates’ head coach Kevin Willard. Willard didn’t even try to get one down, preferring to spend the minute-long competition watching Kobayashi house a total of 10 without so much as an extra breath. Perhaps more impressively, Kobayashi then drained a gallon jug of milk in just 15 seconds. Over at Villanova, Nicki Minaj performed during its Hoops Mania event, while Kansas State created some buzz with its Fresh Prince of Manhattan skit. The most impressive item out of the weekend, though, may have come from Providence‘s Brandon Austin, who shut down the proceedings with a simply ridiculous between-the-legs, 360-degree windmill dunk. All good fun, but after literally a month of these Madnesses, can we get to some real basketball soon? Eleven days.
  2. With just over a week remaining before bona fide games tip off, the NCAA is releasing decisions on player eligibility with gusto. Last week it was Georgetown receiving the good (and astonishing) news that former UCLA center Josh Smith would be eligible to play immediately; Oregon got similar news on Friday when the NCAA cleared Houston transfer Joseph Young to play immediately for Dana Altman as well. Young is an exceptional scoring guard who averaged 18.0 PPG last season and brings to Eugene the 26th-best offensive rating in college basketball (124.1 last season). In a now-loaded backcourt featuring Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Young to go along with transfer Mike Moser in the frontcourt, the Ducks are suddenly looking like one of the top two or three teams in the Pac-12 again. Interestingly, transfers Young and Smith will face each other in their first game of the season between the Ducks and Hoyas in South Korea on November 8.
  3. Just a few days after Tim Floyd revealed that Kentucky and UTEP were exploring a 2016 game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their Brown vs. Board of Education national championship match-up, word came out that John Calipari’s program is seeking to spearhead another Champions Classic-style event involving the nation’s top basketball schools. According to ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz, Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina and Ohio State are negotiating a three-year event that would mimic the Champions Classic with each team rotating through the others in alternate years. The unnamed event would begin in 2014-15 and would move between Brooklyn, Indianapolis and Las Vegas during the first three-year window. When the Champions Classic was first developed, we wondered if some of the other all-time great basketball schools such as UNC and UCLA would ever have a chance to participate; with this new event now in the pipeline, we’ll just about have it covered. Serious question, though — with a combined 24 national titles among this group, shouldn’t the new event supersede the other for rights to the name “Champions Classic?” And what happened to Indiana (five titles compared with Ohio State’s one)?
  4. The Miami/Nevin Shapiro scandal has come and gone with Frank Haith getting off relatively easy (a five-game suspension) and the Hurricane basketball program moving forward in decent shape. But, as the Miami Herald reports, former assistant coach Jorge Fernandez’s professional life has been destroyed as a result of admitted violations relating to providing free airline tickets to players and later lying to the NCAA about it. The article correctly points out that it is often the low-level assistants in these scandals who suffer the brunt of the punishment, as Fernandez notes that a two-year ‘show cause’ penalty has shut him out of the coaching profession and caused the matter of providing basic needs for his family very difficult. Some coaches around the country have rallied around him throughout his ordeal, but many others have not, and it’s uncertain if or where he will be able to land after his penalty has ended. It’s another one of those stories that makes people shrug their shoulders at the stark inequities built into the NCAA’s byzantine system of enforcement and punishment.
  5. It got lost in the late week news cycle, but some big news relating to the Ed O’Bannon case against the NCAA was released on Friday afternoon. Federal district judge Claudia Wilken denied the NCAA’s motion for dismissal, paving the way for O’Bannon and the other plantiffs to move forward and eventually receive a trial on the merits of the case. The primary issue here was the relevance of language in a 1984 case from former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens that, while not part of the holding of that lawsuit, has been relied upon by the NCAA to retain its amateur model: “In order to preserve the character and quality of the [NCAA’s] ‘product,’ athletes must not be paid, must be required to attend class, and the like.” Wilken rejected the notion that Stevens’ language represented any particular binding precedent, and in so doing, has removed a major procedural barrier assuring that the plaintiffs will get their day in court. Wilken will next rule on class certification of the case, potentially allowing thousands more plaintiffs to sue the NCAA and correspondingly raising their potential liability well into the billions of dollars.
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Morning Five: 08.15.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. August is without question the slowest month in the college basketball calendar, but a couple of key releases of information on Wednesday allowed for some pizzazz in an otherwise dry landscape. First and foremost, ESPN’s 2013-14 Gameday schedule was announced, and the early returns on the eight-game slate are quite favorable. In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the schedule contains the best (on paper) games in the ACC, AAC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC this year. The “mid-major” game between Memphis and Gonzaga is certainly no slouch, and the second ACC game (depending on which between Syracuse-Duke and UNC-Duke is “the best”) is another great match-up. Even the Pac-12 either/or battle between Arizona-Colorado and UCLA-Stanford has promise. We don’t have the entire history of Gamedays in front of us at the moment, but there’s little doubt that we’ve enjoyed a group of games that (again, on paper) has had the star power and quality of these eight. Absolutely. Cannot. Wait.
  2. The other promising news that came out of Wednesday was also of a scheduling variety, although not related to the upcoming season. The Champions Classic, a fantastic event that pits blue-blooded powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State against each other on a round robin three-year basis, is set to extend its contract for another three seasons (2014-16, according to Tom Izzo). As one commenter notes below that revelatory tweet, it would be great if the organizers of the event continued to spread the love around the country so that places other than New York, Atlanta and Chicago would have an opportunity to host the proceedings. Roger Kuznia at TSN believes that the event should open itself up to more schools (such as UNC, UCLA, Indiana, Syracuse, Louisville and Arizona) so that one of the marquee nights of the early season doesn’t begin to lose its luster, and it’s a fair point. We’d like to see a two-night, eight-team event where schools rotate through (avoiding conference foes, of course), with perhaps an opportunity to earn their way into or out of future events based on their performances. Either way, we’re still glad to see the existing format headed to another rendition.
  3. The NCAA also released its attendance figures for the 2012-13 season on Wednesday, and as always, the aggregate numbers only get you so far to a real understanding of the topic. We hope to have more analysis on this later today, but for now, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg does a pretty good job breaking down some of the key stats. That a school like Creighton outdrew a school like USC by more than four times the number of fans per game is a testament to how whacked the BCS system is when it comes to college basketball. The Mountain West also outdrew the Pac-12 by more than a thousand fans per game, and you have to once again address the chicken/egg argument of what drives what when it comes to on-court success. Do fans who demand success at the best programs foster the overarching pressure to win from their teams; or do the teams that win boil up interest by virtue of people’s willingness and desire to associate with winners? It’s obviously a combination of both factors, but we have to believe there’s a pretty strong correlation between fans actually caring (and showing up regardless) and success on the hardwood. The NCAA should do that analysis.
  4. Asking a group of college coaches to name the best current coach in the sport would no doubt result in a plurality of names ranging from Mike Krzyzewski to Bill Self to Rick Pitino to several others. But asking a group of college coaches (or anyone, really) to name the best current recruiter in the sport leaves no room for debate — we’re honestly surprised that the numbers taken by CBSSports.com‘s crew didn’t approach 100 percent in favor of Kentucky’s John Calipari. In fact, the man who has inked 15 of the last 50 recruits ranked in the RSCI top 10 (think about that for a second…) didn’t even receive a majority of the votes (49 percent). Still, nobody else was close, as Kansas’ Bill Self (8 percent), Duke’s Coach K (6 percent), Florida’s Billy Donovan (5 percent) and Marquette’s Buzz Williams (5 percent) filled in the other blanks. It’s somewhat interesting that North Carolina’s Roy Williams didn’t receive a single vote — it wasn’t all that long ago that he was considered the best in the business in this regard.
  5. It’s called subsequent remedial measures (SRMs) in the legal realm, but what it essentially amounts to are actions made by an entity to mitigate future liability based on an alleged previous wrong (already under litigation). The idea is that SRMs cannot be used to “prove” that the responsible party is guilty of any previous wrongdoing based on those later actions, and it makes sense from an evidentiary sense (the case needs to be proven by intent used at the time of the infraction). But it sure as heck looks bad from a public relations perspective, and that’s exactly what both the NCAA and several of the major BCS conferences are doing now that the Ed O’Bannon/EA Sports case is taking on a life of its own. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 announced this week that it will follow the NCAA’s lead and no longer allow EA to use its trademarks in its college football video game. It’s not all that important with respect to the O’Bannon case, but it’s very important in terms of
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Early Look: Ranking the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon’s Top Five Matchups

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 13th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Covering college basketball year-round can, in the months not filled with actual college basketball, turn into a scavenger hunt for interesting topics to write about. We’ve just about hit the nadir of the offseason college hoops news cycle, and trust me, the next month or so could get even worse. Luckily, ESPN came through early this week with a totally awesome diversion – its release of the schedule, ordered in lockstep with the actual succession of games three months from now, for the 2013 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon, which begins at 7:00 PM on November 11. It’s become annual appointment viewing for college basketball dorks, myself humbly included, and the match-ups this year are just as enticing, if not more so, than anything the Mothership has lined up since the event’s christening. Now that I’ve explained the basics, and there’s nothing else to do during this offseason dry spell but anxiously await the start of games this fall, it’s as good a time as any to pick out the Marathon’s very best games, five of them – which will only have the effect of intensifying your craving for the beginning of the season. But hey, I pine for November just as much as you do. With our mutual longing for the upcoming season now recognized, let’s look ahead to one of the year’s best non-conference events. I’ll be waiting, caffeine and sugary comestibles in hand, buttocks planted to padded recliner, cathartically rejoicing after a long offseason spent, well, doing this.

The Marathon’s final match-up could be one of the best games of the season, full stop. (USA Today)

1. Duke vs. Kansas (November 12, 10:00 PM ET, ESPN)

This selection could have been predicted when ESPN released its highly-anticipated Champions Classic duo a long while ago. There are two match-ups to consider here. First, we get two of the most culturally impactful, nationally successful, blueblood-identifiable programs in the country squaring off in a potential Final Four, or even National Championship, preview. These teams are going to be good. The top-ranked freshmen they inherited this season are even better. Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins are the main attractions — not just of this game, but of the entire college hoops season writ large; both are expected to enjoy wildly successful one-year stints in college, lead their respective teams on deep NCAA Tournament runs and land a spot in the NBA Draft lottery shortly thereafter. That process will get its formal introduction this November, in the second half of the Champion Classic’s cant-miss double-header (which coincides with the finale of the Tip-off Marathon). If you’re limiting your Marathon sampling size to just one game – first things first: I strongly urge you to reconsider – this is the game of choice, no doubt about it. It’s been a long time since college basketball has seen so much freshmen star power this enticing enter its ranks. Watching the very best of it, two generational NBA franchise-changers, going head-to-head during the first month of the season is a treat no fixture on the 2013-14 hoops calendar can possibly hope to live up to. Maybe the Final Four. Other than that? Nah.

2. Kentucky vs. Michigan State (November 12, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN)

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Champions Classic, #FREE Shabazz & UNC Cheating

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Aside from a great night of hoops at the Champions Classic, week two of the college basketball season was fairly tame, as hungry fans await the always entertaining Feast Week. There’s been a of talk lately about how college basketball is an eroding sport, but don’t tell that to Tim Brando, who was giving his undivided attention to the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/TimBrando/status/268512307582226433

And Brando couldn’t be any more spot on, as the now annual event did not disappoint last Tuesday. Michigan State snuck past Kansas due to great late game execution on offense, while Duke’s experience was too much for Kentucky’s youth. A fantastic four hours of hoops.

Calipari, Duke & Flopping

The incident that sparked the most witty tweets this week? That would unquestionably be John Calipari‘s public indictment of Duke’s uncanny ability to flop around the basket. Cal dropped the zinger to Andy Katz while heading into the locker room at half time, when the Wildcats trailed the Blue Devils by two.

The tweets came in droves…

https://twitter.com/Mengus22/status/268557963688570880

https://twitter.com/BH_Orange44/status/268560524336324608

https://twitter.com/DanWolken/status/268562089164034049

Never one to back down, Coach K did not shy away from offering a response to Calipari during his post-game press conference.

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The RTC Podblast: Episode 1.5

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2012

Just as we did last year, each Friday during the season we’ll be bringing you The RTC Podblast, the quick-hitting version of our weekly podcast. Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts as we take a quick look back at the Champions Classic games from Tuesday night, discuss the impressive victory of Florida over Wisconsin on Wednesday, and talk about several teams that may or may not be pressing the panic button at this early juncture of the season.

Remember that our full podcasts (roughly 45 minutes to an hour long) will publish on Tuesdays during the season, while our shorter (~15-20 minutes) podblasts will drop on Fridays with a quick look at the intervening week’s worth of news and action. Feel free to jump around using the outline below.

  • Start-2:15 – Michigan State Rebounds in Atlanta.
  • 2:15-3:10 – Kansas: Any Cause For Concern?
  • 3:10-7:10 – Duke vs. Kentucky Breakdown.
  • 7:10- 10:40 – Calipari vs. Coach K on Flopping.
  • 10:40-13:05 – Florida vs. Wisconsin Takeaways.
  • 13:05-16:58 – Panic Meter: Worries About Wisconsin, Miami (FL), Drexel, VCU, Butler, Washington.
  • 16:58-19:30 – Looking Ahead to Weekend Tournaments.

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up atrushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

Also make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

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Blue Devils Went Down To Georgia, Found Their Heart And Soul…

Posted by ARowe on November 14th, 2012

Everyone’s talking about how great Duke’s seniors were against the freshmen of Kentucky. And they deserve every ounce of praise they’re getting.

Seth Curry was amazing down the stretch. He’s been fighting through a shin injury over the last few months and has only been able to participate in four practices so far this season. Even then, he was a limited participant. His first organized game of basketball in two months was Duke’s second exhibition game against Winston-Salem State, where his rust showed. Battling like the tough competitor that he is, Curry logged 34 minutes in an intense game and showed no ill effects of the nagging pain. He somehow seemed to get better as the game wore on, scoring 13 of his 23 points in the final 13:13 with Mason Plumlee on the bench for six of those minutes.

Duke’s Guys Were Ready in Atlanta Last Night (credit: Duke Blue Planet)

Mason Plumlee played like a man possessed early in the game. Kentucky’s defense was clearly geared to stop him, but Nerlens Noel could not contain Plumlee down low. He scored six of Duke’s first nine points and 14 of their first 27. Not only did he put up 18 points on 7-8 shooting, he was perfect from the line and found open shooters on the wing with smart kick-outs as Kentucky’s defense collapsed around him in the paint.

In the battle of “seniors vs. freshmen”, Kentucky had only one player who had logged meaningful minutes last season — Kyle Wiltjer. Watching Kentucky’s game against Maryland, it was clear that Wiltjer was the key to the Wildcats’ offense as he put up 19 points on 67% shooting. Not known as a defensive stopper, Ryan Kelly matched up perfectly with Wiltjer and completely took him out of the game.  Wiltjer was only able to get five shots off against the senior, connecting on two of them for five total points.

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Rushed Reaction: #9 Duke 75, #2 Kentucky 68

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 14th, 2012

Brian Joyce is an RTC correspondent and can be reached at bjoyce_hoops. He filed this report from the Champions Classic in Atlanta tonight. 

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Experience and leadership matters – A veteran and experienced team had the composure to close out a tough victory, while the young and inexperienced squad just could not get the job done. If you’re looking for a theme for the night, that would be it. Seth Curry, Duke’s fifth-year senior guard, said the difference in having older players is they have “been in a situation like that before.” He went on to say that Duke’s core of veterans had “good composure. We stayed calm, and made plays.”  Meanwhile, Kentucky coach John Calipari commented simply that “we’re a November team right now.” The presence of leaders for Duke’s team and the void of experience on Kentucky’s roster was evident on Tuesday night.
  2. A solid inside-outside game prevails for Blue Devils – Duke torched the Wildcats from beyond the arc on 8-18 shooting, but a dominant force in the low post created space for open jumpers. Big man Mason Plumlee also dominated the Cats on the inside (7-8 FG for 18 points), drawing defenders away from the Blue Devils’ hot shooters. Curry lit the Wildcats up from outside three treys for a solid contribution of 23 points. Duke had the consistency to knock down those open shots, but they were open in part because of the work Plumlee had done in the low post. Kentucky’s poor defensive rotations will likely be a point of emphasis for the Cats moving forward.
  3. The emergence of Alex Poythress – Kentucky needed a scoring option to emerge, and it did in freshman Alex Poythress. After struggling against Maryland with just eight points, Poythress finished strong on Tuesday night with 20 points and eight boards on 9-12 shooting. The Cats had an advantage by stretching the floor and using their athleticism, but more often than not, they failed to capitalize. Poythress was the exception. Coach John Calipari called the freshman forward, “a beast,” adding, “he’s not a two guard, be a beast. That’s what he did.”

Star of the Game. Seth Curry, Duke. Duke’s Mike Krzyzsewski called Curry “the difference maker in the game.” And he was. He scored 23 points, added three rebounds, and committed zero turnovers. More importantly, he was the heart and soul of Duke’s team. Curry knew the inexperience of Kentucky’s backcourt, and he looked to take advantage. “We knew they didn’t have too much experience so we wanted to jump all over them,” Curry said. He disrupted Kentucky’s backcourt, causing guards Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays to each commit four turnovers.

Quotes to Note.

  • “It’s all new to our team. We don’t play hard enough. We don’t go after every rebound yet. We haven’t figured out how we’re going to play. But we’re learning.” –Kentucky coach John Calipari 
  • “This is a big game for us. We weren’t a good defensive team last year. It’s been a point of emphasis.” — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Sights and Sounds. John Calipari came out of the locker room at halftime shaking his head in disgust. He was disturbed by the number of charges called against his Wildcats, and he even made a comment about it to a sideline reporter at halftime (see the TumblRTC on the right sidebar). When asked after the game, Calipari said, “I don’t even remember.” When reminded of his comments, he quipped, “you guys at Duke can take a joke, right?” Coach K got his dig at Calipari in as well saying, ” He has a right to say whatever he wants. I thought we took some amazing charges.” Some good old-fashioned ribbing between coaches always makes these games a little more interesting.

What’s Next: Kentucky plays Lafayette on Friday with a desperate need for a starting point guard. Calipari was still unsure of Harrow’s status as of Tuesday night, so the Cats will continue to give Goodwin playing time in that role. The Wildcats must also find a way for forward Kyle Wiltjer to get more involved. He shot 25 percent of the Wildcats’ shots when he played last week, but he struggled to find an open shot against Duke. The Blue Devils play Florida Gulf Coast this weekend with a desire to heal their wounds and get healthy before match-ups next week with Minnesota and potentially Memphis.

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Night Line: Spartans Find Their Offense, Rebound With Huge Win Over Kansas

Posted by EJacoby on November 13th, 2012

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

With the departure of first team All-American and do-it-all superstar Draymond Green from this year’s Michigan State roster, the Spartans figured to take a new offensive approach this season away from the high post, Draymond-centric attack they featured last year. What they didn’t expect was a surprising season-opening loss to depleted Connecticut last Friday in which they shot just 37.5% from the field. Tuesday night presented another massive challenge in defending national runner-up Kansas, and Tom Izzo’s team found a way to change the narrative by converting 52.1% of their field goals and defeating the Jayhawks, 67-64, in the Champions Classic in Atlanta. In the process, Michigan State found a new go-to offensive player in Gary Harris and a clutch late-game playmaker with Keith Appling. Replacing the versatile Green isn’t an easy task, but this year’s Spartans team learned a lot about its potential to do so with the impressive offensive performance on Tuesday night.

Michigan State leaned on Keith Appling, left, down the stretch in Tuesday’s win over Kansas (AP Photo/D. Martin)

The Spartans couldn’t have looked any different in their first two tilts of a five-day stretch to open this season. A trip to Germany to play in an aircraft hangar might have something to do with that. A Hall of Fame head coach with an understanding of how to make quick adjustments might, too. Izzo understood that his team struggled to score in the 66-62 loss to Connecticut to open the season, and it needed better production from the players expected to carry this team offensively. The freshman Harris played tentatively with a “deer in the headlights” look in the season opener, according to Izzo, en route to a 4-for-13 shooting night for 11 points. Harris was much more assertive from the get-go on Tuesday, looking to score early and often with smooth moves to the hoop and a soft touch from the perimeter, and he finished with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Harris was aggressive and productive in attacking Kansas’ guards, so much so that the Jayhawks switched their top defensive player, Travis Releford, to guard Harris in the second half. Nonetheless the frosh still found ways to score without forcing the issue.

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