The Week That Was: November 12-18

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

Wow it sure does feel great to have college basketball in our lives. After a summer of baseball (boring) and a fall of the NFL (violent) and college football (unsatisfying) it’s nice to have the sport that brings everything to the table on a nightly basis.  You want drama? Utah State-BYU offered plenty Wednesday night for your viewing pleasure (assuming you had the Mountain Sports Network, of course). Nine lead changes, seven ties … is it March yet?  You want big time matchups? There was #4 Ohio State at #9 Florida, and #22 Virginia Tech at #3 Kansas State. While both games turned out to be laughers, you still had to plan your day around those two showdowns.

Hard to Not Get Excited About This One

It was a fantastic time to be a college basketball fan, and a top-notch way to kick off the first full-throttle week of competition in style. ESPN deserves major props for its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon. College basketball used to begin with a whimper — not really emerging into the mainstream consciousness until February. ESPN’s over-the-top (but in a good way) hoops celebration is a great way to let the nation know tis the season of buzzer beaters and court rushings.  And now it’s my job to help you make sense of it all. Every week I’m going to do my best to sift through all the box scores, highlights and reports to let you know what’s important and what’s not. The season might just be a little more than week old but there still are things you can glean from the past seven days, and judgments most definitely can be made.

What We Learned Last Week

  • The fine folks in Knoxville, Tennessee, just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was the Lane Kiffin fiasco, leading to a forgettable first year under new coach Derek Dooley. Fans might have thought they were going to get a break once basketball season tipped off, rightfully so considering last year’s trip to the Elite Eight, but then Bruce Pearl had to go and ruin everything with the news of recruiting violations. The drama in Tennessee now has shifted to the court where the Vols are a team in disarray. They lost a home exhibition game to Indianapolis by 15 points and had unimpressive wins over Belmont (85-76) and Missouri State (60-56). Who should be the favorite when the Vols play VCU at the Preseason NIT on Nov. 24? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Move over Butler, there’s a new mid-major darling that’s poised to captivate the nation. I’m talking about San Diego State, which won at #11 Gonzaga 79-76 on Tuesday night. The Aztecs had never been ranked in the AP poll before this season, but they have all the ingredients to be a poll mainstay in 2011. San Diego State has experience with five seniors on its roster and has size with four players 6’8 or taller. The schedule shapes up nicely for the Aztecs (they don’t play another ranked team until Mountain West Conference play), and it’s not out of the question to think that SDSU could be one of the last undefeated teams standing.
  • Ohio State looks really good, but it comes with an asterisk. The Buckeyes went down to Florida and put a thumping on a Gators squad many believe to be an SEC title candidate. Ohio State shot an unworldly 63% (39-62) for the game and had a team assist to turnover ration of 22:8. They Buckeyes also had four players with at least 14 points (David Lighty and Jared Sullinger both had a game-high of 26). Those aren’t the kind of offensive numbers you expect to see this early in the season. But was this more about Ohio State’s offense or Florida’s suspect defense? Florida was known as a soft team last year, and the Gators did nothing to disprove that notion against the Buckeyes.
  • Is trouble on the horizon for Memphis? Few would be surprised if that turns out to be the case as there are already signs of a potential meltdown for Josh Pastner & Co. RTC’s Andrew Murawa pointed out the Tigers’ oftentimes poor body language during the second half against Miami — a game the Tigers won. It makes me uneasy to see a team, albeit a young team, show that kind of immaturity this early in the season in the middle of a tightly contested game, at home no less. Maybe this was just the players’ way of voice their displeasure with the removal of Jelan Kendrick. But ether way, I would not want to be Pastner right now.
  • Louisville’s new arena might be the new crown jewel of the hoops world, but the name ruins everything. The KFC Yum! Center is just a ridiculous combination of the corporate world encroaching upon college athletics and food that makes me want to throw up. Now when ever I watch the Cardinals at home, I won’t be focused on Rick Pitino’s vaunted full-court press, I’ll be thinking about the KFC Double Down. I can see it now … whenever Louisville scores 100 points, free Double Downs for everyone!

Pour This Man A Scotch

Better make it a to-go cup as who knows how much longer Paul Hewitt will be at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets lost 80-63 at Kennesaw State on Nov. 15, and it now looks like it isn’t a matter of if Hewitt will get fired, it’s a matter of when. Just look at this opening nugget from Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Mark Bradley from a blog post following the loss “If Paul Hewitt isn’t the worst basketball coach in the country, it’s only because ours is a mighty big country.”  Yikes. Not that anyone would argue differently. Georgia Tech is expected by most of the hoops world to finish near the bottom of the ACC for the second time in three seasons. The loss at Kennesaw State confirms everyone’s worst fears about the Yellow Jackets.  Right now the only saving grace for Hewitt is the nice $7 million buyout check he’ll get whenever he gets the axe. But until then, drink up Paul. You’re going to have to in order make it through this season.

KenPom vs. the AP

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Morning Five: 11.17.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 17th, 2010

  1. Wow.  We know of quite a few writers, bloggers, television personalities, gadflies and ne’er-do-wells who are hurting in a big way this morning.  After a 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon that once again did not fail to disappoint, the hangover is here.  We’re guessing that #cbb on Twitter won’t be this quiet again until sometime in May, as everyone around the country comes off their hoops-gasm and starts calculating the actuarial ratios of all-nighters to lost months of life.  Still, seeing all the different schools and fans and courts and cheerleaders and announcers and studio hosts and analysts around the country all day yesterday was pretty awesome, wouldn’t you agree?  As much as we’ve ripped apart the opening week’s haphazard trickle-out of games, this made-for-television event is brilliant and is quickly becoming one of the best regular season must-sees that the sport has to offer.  God help us all during the random future year when the 24HoH mimics a day of the NCAA Tournament and 75% of the games come down to the last possession — the WWL suits had better already have ESPN Legal working on its tort defenses.  Oh, and our guy John Stevens?  Over 11,000 words and untold hallucinations in 25+ hours of BGTDing, without a single drop of caffeine in his system (perhaps crystal meth, but certainly no coffee/soda).
  2. The biggest non-ESPN 24HoH news from the day came from Turner Sports, as the cable network announced that it will provide some of its wildly popular NBA on-air talent such as play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and the brash-but-hilarious Charles Barkley as part of its joint coverage of the NCAA Tournament with CBS.  The general consensus is that this is going to be a very good thing, and given that we are intimately familiar with the chemistry of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Barkley on Inside the NBA (the best sports show on television by far), we think that they’ll pull it off.  Our only reservation — and admittedly, it’s a small one — is that we’ve watched (and listened) in horror to Fox when NFL announcers with their play-on-Sunday focus call college football games during the BCS bowls and it’s obvious they don’t even know or understand the key rule differences between the two sports.  We found this experience exceptionally painful.  Since none of the Turner channels (TBS, TNT, TruTV) are covering college hoops during the regular season, we’re a little concerned that even knowledgeable folks such as those listed above might have trouble making the transition.
  3. And this article is why NBA fans are different in many ways from college basketball fans.  Mr. Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register: in our sport, it actually IS about the names on the front of the jerseys.  Carolina fans will go crazy for their team whether they have a future lottery pick like Harrison Barnes or a four-year guy like Tyler Hansbrough leading the way; Kentucky fans showed as much passion for one-year man John Wall in the blue and white as they did for Tayshaun Prince; Michigan State fans loved consistently-tough guy Charlie Bell as much or more than Zach Randolph.  Here’s our suggestion.  Get out of the suburban and basketball wasteland known as the OC and high-tail it to a Missouri or K-State game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.  While you’re in the Midwest, catch a game at Hinkle before heading over to Rupp for a Louisville or Florida game.  Detour down through Tobacco Road and venture into Cameron Indoor Stadium before your soul goes completely cold; then, since you’re on the east coast, head up to the Palestra for an epic Big Five battle.  Report back to us afterward if you gave a damn whether you actually knew the names of the players who you were watching — that is, assuming you actually enjoy the sport of basketball and not some bastardized version of star-watching.
  4. Gary Parrish takes a look at the oft-bizarre world of AP/Coaches poll ballots in his weekly column, The Poll Attacks.  Every time we read a column like this one, we thank our lucky stars that these flawed polls that reflect current perception are for entertainment purposes only.  Teams will get a chance to settle their real rankings on the court.  What some sportswriter in Eugene thinks about Villanova is about as important as what a Floridian believes concerning a local dogcatcher race in Wyoming — it’s irrelevant.  And we love it that way.
  5. Gregg Doyel examines the case of Enes Kanter and his eligibility through the prism of the NCAA rulebook and asks the question of when a pro is (or isn’t) a pro?  As he correctly points out, the NCAA has drawn a bright line with the apples/oranges comparison between sports, as in the cases of Josh Booty, Chris Weinke and current Clemson QB Kyle Parker, all of whom played professional baseball prior to becoming amateur NCAA football players.  But why have they drawn a distinction — what is the fundamental difference here?  It would be interesting to review the NCAA legislative history on this issue to see what the thinking was.
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Philadelphia University’s Magee Tries For #903 Tonight

Posted by jstevrtc on February 23rd, 2010

Herb Magee goes for his 903rd win as a college basketball coach tonight as he and his Philadelphia University Rams host Goldey-Beacom College.  A win this evening, if it happens, will put Magee at the top of the all-time NCAA wins list for a men’s basketball coach.  Magee tied Bobby Knight on that list this past Saturday by achieving his 902nd win in a buzzer-beater against Post University.

It’s easy to tilt our heads, offer a short patronizing applause, and then forget about men like Magee, or like Don Meyer, the all-time wins leader for a men’s college coach (many of his wins came at Lipscomb when they were a member of the NAIA) who announced that he’d be retiring at the end of this season, because they don’t coach at the so-called “elite” level.  But these men don’t need our patronization.  They don’t coach basketball because it’s cute, because it’s easy — yeah, you try it — or because they want attention.  Magee (and certainly Meyer) could have had all the attention he wanted, given the number of offers he’s had for higher profile jobs.  These are men who coach basketball and stay at the Division II level or lower because this is where they feel they can best be both coaches and educators.  It’s where they feel they can do the most good for their student/athletes when teaching them about existence both on and off the basketball floor, and/or because they know that the brighter spotlight inherent in the higher-profile jobs also comes with innumerable extra headaches that might compromise what they’re really out to achieve.

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Sir Charles Not High on the SEC West

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

This is not really college basketball-related, but the Round Mound once played at Auburn (fringe benefits included), so we’ll give ourselves a pass here.  This is from Sir Charles’ recent conversation with CNN’s Campbell Brown about the political climate in this country.  In this clip, Brown asks Barkley about his future political aspirations relating to a run for governor in the state of Alabama.  His response is simply phenomenal. 

Brown: So, you gonna run for governor?

Barkley:  I’m planning on it in 2014.

Brown:  You are?

Barkley:  I am.  I can’t screw up Alabama. 

Brown:  There’s no place to go but up…

Barkley:  We’re number 48 in everything, and Arkansas and Mississippi aren’t going anywhere. 

The Chuck Wagon, always cringe-worthy, and always making friends

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