Florida Clearly Ready for this SEC Tournament

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Friday afternoon’s game between Florida and LSU at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

In the past, the Florida Gators have been accused of not emphasizing the importance of the SEC Tournament.  The Gators have largely sleep-walked through it since a run of three straight championships from 2005 to 2007 – the last two of those teams, of course, went on two win the national championship as well.  Since that time, they have advanced past the quarterfinals only twice, even when they’ve been a superior team versus their early-round opponents.  If Friday’s dismantling of LSU is any indication, this year will be different.  Coach Billy Donovan’s team, which appeared to be a contender for a #1- or #2-seed just a few weeks ago, limped down the stretch in losing four of its last five on the road, including a meltdown in the final eight minutes in the regular season finale at Kentucky.  It is clear Donovan wants this team to right the ship heading into the NCAA Tournament, and the team’s focus in the win over LSU was evident.  The Gators were on from the perimeter – usually a sign that things are going well for them – hitting 11-of-20 from three-point range.  Senior forward Erik Murphy was particularly hot, making 5-of-7 from three point range on his way to a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds.

The Gators Had Their Explosive Game Going Friday Afternoon (AP)

The Gators Had Their Explosive Game Going Friday Afternoon (AP)

Part of the reason Florida struggled down the stretch of the regular season was the absence of junior forward Will Yeguete, who missed six games because of a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.  He returned in a limited role in the Gators’ third-to-last game against Alabama, but continues to work himself into game shape.  Friday’s 21 minutes were the most he has played since January, and the energy he brings to his team is evident.  At 6’7″, he is the Gators’ most efficient rebounder and best defender. Yeguete is able to guard in the post and the perimeter, and there is no question that he is a key to Florida’s success from here.

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SEC M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 16th, 2012

  1. A loss to a long-term but estranged rival is tough to bear for any team, and when you consider how fickle Kentucky fans tend to be, Tuesday night’s loss to Duke presumably indicates the end of Wildcats’ run among the nation’s premier programs. Their coach has to be worried about his job security, right? Afraid not. “We didn’t play that bad, ya know, shoot 49 percent, only have 13 turnovers,” John Calipari told reporters this week. But the coach’s biggest takeaway was the performance of Alex Poythress. “He’s a beast, that’s what he needed to look like. He’s a beast, so be a beast.” The Wildcats are a young team (how about that for analysis?) and will improve as the season goes on. Duke is a veteran team, and should be able to put more cohesive units on the floor in November. His biggest supporters may not realize this, but Calipari certainly does.
  2. “With an off shooting night from Canaan and Barbee finding the right matchups to exploit, the Tigers could give themselves some momentum early in the season,” said an imposter who pretended to be me in Thursday’s SEC Morning Five. OK, maybe it was actually me. Isaiah Canaan did not comply with my prediction, hitting an incredibly efficient 9-12 from the floor, and leading the Racers past their SEC opponent, Auburn, Thursday night. The Tigers started out slow and couldn’t recover, with Murray State pushing the lead to 17 with a little over 10 minutes gone. Rob Chubb was the sole positional advantage Auburn had, but as he was in foul trouble the entire game, the senior center was only on the court for 15 minutes. “It’s a terrific win anytime you can beat an SEC team,” added Racers’ coach Steve Prohm in the postgame press conference.
  3. Erik Murphy’s career at Florida hasn’t been smooth-sailing. For the son of a former college star and NBA player, there are certain expectations, and Murphy hadn’t been able to reach them in his first two years in Gainesville. At the climax of the disappointing period of his Florida career, in an incident extending well beyond the court, Murphy was arrested in St. Augustine. However, the consequent wake-up call would be a blessing for the Rhode Island native. Murphy was close to transferring away from the location that contained so many of his troubles, but I’m willing to bet that he’s happy with the decision to stick around. He has finally gained traction in Florida, and the nation took notice on Wednesday night with his perfect shooting performance against Wisconsin. “I’m so proud of him,” Jay Murphy said. “Not just as a player, but really of who he is. Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone deserves a second chance.”
  4. LSU hasn’t earned an invite to college basketball’s premier tournament since 2009, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers completely lack NCAA tournament experience. Enter Charles Carmouche. “I’ve actually had the opportunity to win and play in the NCAA Tournament,” Carmouche told the Daily Reveille. “I’m trying to help everybody not do the wrong things I did as a younger player and to better the team as a whole.” Carmouche has done more than be a mentor for more inexperienced players so far. In the Tigers’ season opener, the transfer tallied 16 points on 6-10 shooting to lead his team to a win over the UCSB Gauchos, despite the loss of star forward Johnny O’Bryant III. He isn’t LSU’s most talented player, but by stepping up in a game in which his young teammates needed a boost, Carmouche’s decision to transfer to Baton Rouge could be the difference between middle of the pack contention and a finish in the SEC cellar.
  5. Since two or three games is a sufficient representative sample for an entire season, I’m going to go ahead and declare that Alabama’s sophomore guard Trevor Lacey will be crowned SEC Player of the Year. Not adequate? OK. At the very least, Lacey has put on a show for the Crimson Tide so far. The top prospect in Alabama’s 2011 recruiting class has displayed his promise in 2012, averaging over 19 points per game and shooting over 65% from 3-point range. His team hasn’t had any frontcourt production, but with coach Anthony Grant’s deep backcourt swarm of scorers, Alabama has some time to get top recruit Devonta Pollard up to speed.
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Morning Five: 08.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 27th, 2012

  1. Worrisome news was released on Friday from Saint Louis University when the school announced that its head coach, Rick Majerus, will be taking a medically-related leave of absence next season, leaving top assistant coach Jim Crews in charge. According to SLU, Majerus is currently hospitalized in California “undergoing evaluation and treatment for an ongoing heart condition.” As we wrote after the news was released, this is the sort of thing that could mark  a turning point in the longtime head coach’s professional career. Majerus is well-known as a guy whom you can only keep out of the gym by padlocking its doors, so it’s no joke that he’s choosing to give up the thing he loves most in order to take care of his health. We wish him nothing but the best on this latest twist in his journey, and certainly hope that even if he never coaches another minute of college basketball, he has a number of productive and fulfilling years still ahead of him. As for his Billiken program, with the core of a Round of 32 team returning to St. Louis, Andy Glockner writes that Crews will inherit a squad with both significant expectations and the added specter of Majerus’ health hanging over the team. Crews had some success at Evansville a decade or more ago, but there is reason to question whether he’s up to the task of running what is undoubtedly a team with Top 25 talent.
  2. The other big news on Friday was the announcement from Marquette that assistant coach Scott Monarch had been dismissed and that head coach Buzz Williams will suffer a self-imposed one-game suspension for what are admittedly rather mild recruiting transgressions — Monarch gave team gear and transportation to an unnamed recruit. To be clear, there is no evidence that Williams himself knew about the illegal recruiting benefits — his suspension derives from the coach’s duty to monitor staff compliance. According to the Marquette athletic director, Larry Williams, Monarch’s mistakes became compounded when he allegedly lied about them during the school’s internal investigation — had he been truthful from the beginning, he’d probably still be employed at MU today. This shows once again that the old adage is almost always true — the cover-up is more damaging than the underlying crime. Maybe someday someone will actually find themselves in such a situation and take this sage advice — it might end up saving his job.
  3. In recent days, the conviction of Oklahoma State forward Darrell Williams for allegedly sexually assaulting two female students at a party in December two years ago has come under fire by some in the non-sports national media. In the especially tense arena of national racial politics, a case like Williams’ where a black man was accused of heinous felonies by two white women and convicted by a nearly all-white jury is bound to raise some eyebrows. On Friday, an Oklahoma judge delayed Williams’ sentencing hearing on those convictions, citing a defense motion that new and possibly exculpatory evidence has been found that could force the judge to throw out the convictions and order a new trial. There’s no way of knowing whether the claim of new evidence has any merit, but with Jesse Jackson, Jr., in town and many commentators outside the sporting realm taking a curious interest in this case, it will be very interesting to watch how this unfolds.
  4. The NCAA made its ruling on former Connecticut and current UNLV forward Roscoe Smith‘s transfer waiver request on Friday, and the decision to deny the waiver — meaning Smith will become eligible in 2013-14 — could be a blessing in disguise for both the Runnin’ Rebels and Smith himself. UNLV already boasts a loaded lineup next season and the 6’8″ big man, who has two years of eligibility remaining, would be well  situated to slide into a starting spot in the frontcourt most likely vacated after Mike Moser’s presumptive last season as a collegian. Smith, as you recall, was a frequent starter on the 2011 UConn championship team (averaging 6/5 in 25 MPG), but like many of his Husky teammates, backslid a bit in his sophomore season (5/3 in 18 MPG). Still, there’s no questioning his talent when bought in and completely focused, so Dave Rice’s team will look forward to Smith’s leadership and skill in what they hope are the immediate years following UNLV’s first Final Four run in two decades.
  5. UNLV’s Smith may not see the court for another year, but another offseason transfer, Memphis’ Charles Carmouche, has enrolled at LSU and will join the Tigers for his senior year next season. This is actually Carmouche’s third transfer — the wiry guard from New Orleans began his career at hometown University of New Orleans, but decided to transfer upriver to Memphis when it appeared that UNO would downgrade from Division I athletics. After a solid junior season at UM in 2010-11, though, Carmouche’s senior season was derailed because of problems with his knees. Still, despite receiving medical clearance in January, he chose to not suit up again, and after graduating he was then free to use the grad-transfer loophole to go anywhere who would take him. Enter LSU, where new head coach Johnny Jones will welcome the scoring punch that Carmouche brings to Baton Rouge. It’s been a wild and woolly ride for Carmouche over the past four years, but we’re guessing that he’ll need to make the most of this final season, as his eligibility is unlikely to extend to yet another transfer destination.
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Morning Five: 06.11.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 11th, 2012

  1. After going through the nation’s freshmen earlier in the week, Drew Cannon closed the week by ranking the top 100 players regardless of class. The rankings itself (#1-25, 26-60, and 61-100) should not surprise you, but just how far off the “experts” were in the preseason might. We cannot really fault them because many of us bought into the same preseason hype or overlooked players who turned out to be stars. However, it can be instructive when the same writers do the same thing in back-to-back years on the same player.
  2. Every summer there are a few high school players who make a name for themselves. Sometimes those players turn out to stars, but other times they turn out to be a flash-in-the-pan and do not continue to match that level of performance when they return to their regular environment. Jeff Borzello thinks he may have seen one of those players in Australian prospect Ben Simmons, who he claims could be the #1 prospect in the class of 2015 if he decides to move to the US. We have not seen many foreign-based recruits at the top of the recruiting ratings, but as Steven Adams showed us this year (and will hopefully show us next year at Pittsburgh) we should be on the watch for more elite recruits from overseas. Of course, that should only make things even more difficult for all the writers on the recruiting beat.
  3. Do you remember that minor academic scandal involving several football and basketball players at North Carolina? If you do not, you are about to get a big refresher as new information about the ongoing scandal has come out regarding a class last summer that lacked any instruction and only enrolled football players (18 current and one former player). While this particular class did not involve any basketball players, several other classes that have raised suspicion did. It seems like there needs to be a lot more investigation into this matter before anything can be done (or it can be swept under the rug), but it is worth keeping an eye on throughout the summer months.
  4. All things being equal, we normally support giving a player additional eligibility, but there are the rare occasions where we will question that decision. The decision in favor of Memphis guard Charles Carmouche is one of them. He was suspended for committing an NCAA violation after refusing to pay for a hotel room massage that he received while he was with the team in Maui, then sat out the rest of last season after being taken out of the rotation. He was cleared to play last season with knee tendinitis, but he stayed out anyway — so naturally, the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility late last week. To top it off, Carmouche, who graduated from Memphis in May, has decided to transfer from the school and will not have to sit out a year because of the graduate transfer waiver. So if you are scoring at home:  He was suspended for committing a NCAA violation; apparently lost his spot in the rotation during the time he was suspended for knowingly committing a NCAA violation; sat out with an injury despite being medically cleared; and he gets to transfer without any penalty. We will let you connect the dots.
  5. Two players who were widely lauded for their decisions to return to school for their sophomore seasons last year learned the hard way that more time in college generally gives scouts and media more opportunities to pick apart their games. Both Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes were preseason All-Americans who were expected to dominate college basketball from the opening tip in November, but despite excellent years from both (after all, Sullinger was a consensus 1st team AA and Barnes made some 2d and 3d teams), their NBA Draft stock indubitably dropped. Despite the criticism, both players are looking forward to proving the naysayers wrong in the NBA next year — Sullinger says that he is used to all the criticism, while Barnes says that his two years weathering criticism of his game at UNC taught him how to be a professional.
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Welcoming The Big East Newcomers: Memphis Tigers

Posted by mlemaire on February 24th, 2012

After adding a flurry of new members in December, The Big East apparently wasn’t done. Recently Memphis announced they had accepted an invitation to become the Big East’s 12th member and join the conference in all sports in 2013. We rolled out the red carpet of analysis for the other three new members, so we will do the same for Memphis. As always, keep in mind, it is far too early to tell what sort of impact these teams will have in their new conference, but that won’t stop us from pontificating.

The Past

In a contest of basketball history with the other new members, no one can touch the Tigers. They also have a troubled history. Eugene Lambert led the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1955 and since then Memphis has played in 22 NCAA Tournaments, has gone to 11 Sweet Sixteens, six Elite Eights, two Final Fours, and two National Championship games. They have been the stomping grounds for great players like Larry Finch, Keith Lee, Elliot Perry, Anfernee Hardaway, Lorenzen Wright, and most recently, Derrick Rose.

Hey, Remember These Guys?

Of course it also true that a whole host of those appearances and wins have been vacated by the NCAA thanks to widespread rules violations. Everybody remembers the most recent snafu where John Calipari and the program dealt with infractions like providing travel money to Rose’s brother as well as playing Derrick Rose under suspicion of a fraudulent SAT score that caused the NCAA to remove its Final Four appearance and record 38-win season. But only older Tiger fans will also remember former coach Dana Kirk and the parade of allegations against him that led to his ouster and the vacation of all the team’s wins from 1982-86.

Regardless of the less-than-shiny past, the school’s football program is in tatters, so it is safe to assume that the Big East had an eye towards retaining some of their luster and reputation on the basketball court, and Memphis is an excellent fit in that regard.

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Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 24th, 2012

  1. It seems like we’ve been doing a lot of this lately, but we all should get used to it because three of the top six leaders in Division I men’s basketball all-time wins are actively coaching and within 50 wins of each other. With Syracuse’s win at Cincinnati last night, Jim Boeheim earned his 877th career victory to pass Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for fourth place on the career wins list. With three more wins he’ll pass North Carolina’s Dean Smith (879) and with 26 more he’ll move past Bob Knight (902) for second place behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (916 and counting). Just behind Boeheim is Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, sitting at 867 with a reasonable shot to pass Rupp himself before the end of this season. After Calhoun, it’s a substantial drop to the next active coaching leader, UNC’s Roy Williams with 659 wins to his name.
  2. Not only did Murray State receive positive national news on Monday when the school achieved its highest-ever national rankings (#11 AP; #9 USAT) as the last unbeaten team in America, it also received good news in the form of the return of a key player from injury. The Racers’ starting all-OVC forward, Ivan Aska, has been cleared to return to practice after missing several weeks with a broken hand, and is expected to be back in action for Saturday’s game against Eastern Illinois. Despite season averages of 13/6, Steve Prohm’s team was able to make do without him in the lineup, although the Racers were outrebounded in four of the six games he missed. With the burly senior back in action going forward, Murray State’s already-deep team will become even more dangerous.
  3. Speaking of Murray State, Seth Davis‘ Hoop Thoughts this week focuses on a program that is a lot better than most people are aware of. For example, only three other programs can claim longer streaks of winning seasons than the Racers (now at 25) — a not-shabby trio of Syracuse, Arizona and Kansas. The current squad, certain to win the OVC regular season title this season, is the two-time defending champion, and the junior class — led by Isaiah Canaan (18.7 PPG, 4.0 APG) and glue-guy Ed Daniel (7.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG) — has gone an astounding 74-14 in its two-plus seasons together. Those two players were instrumental in the Racers’ 66-65 upset of Vanderbilt in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, and everyone forgets that it was upstart Murray State who gave Butler its toughest test en route to the Final Four that season, barely escaping the Racers, 54-52. This is no flash-in-the-pan program, and Davis eloquently makes that case.
  4. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and will become a Razorback at the semester break next season. The Fayetteville native averaged 4/3/2 APG in eight games for the Cowboys this season, but he apparently believes that getting back home and into Mike Anderson’s up-and-down style of play will help further his collegiate career. Next door to Arkansas, Memphis guard Charles Carmouche is considering sitting out the remainder of this season because of recurring pain in his knees (tendinitis). The danger with this strategy is that there’s no guarantee that the NCAA would approve a redshirt season for the senior, so he runs a significant risk of his career being finished if he is ultimately denied. He’s only seen action in seven games this season, but that number represents more than the maximum 20% of a team’s scheduled games to qualify for the hardship waiver. Given that fact, he’d need to make a compelling case to the NCAA to earn the extra year, certainly no easy task.
  5. Finally, after a compelling weekend of college basketball where three of the top five ranked teams lost and a number of other intriguing storylines emerged, The Onion reminds us that it’s all just fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Love this line: “College basketball went on to remind fans it puts a great deal of work into making each season dramatically satisfying, unlike college football, which just hands its championship to whichever school’s boosters give it the most money that year.”
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Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl

Reader’s Take

 

Caught on Film

Conference USA Player of the Week Alandise Harris had the throwdown of the week with this dunk in a win over Arkansas that earned the top spot on ESPN’s Top Plays.

The Week That Was

  • Memphis Falls In Maui, Picks Itself Up: The 13th ranked Memphis Tigers have had an up-and-down beginning of their season, finishing with a total of 196 points in their two victories, while shooting a miserable 33 percent from the field in their lone loss to No. 15-ranked Michigan. The Tigers failed to find an offensive spark against the Wolverines, losing 73-61 in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday. Senior Charles Carmouche was the only Memphis player to shoot 50% in the game making six of his 12 attempted shots and finishing with a team-high 14 points. On Tuesday night, the Tigers redeemed themselves, holding on to narrowly defeat in-state foe Tennessee 99-97 in double overtime. Memphis was in control most of the way, but blew its ten-point halftime lead as the Volunteers surged late behind a stellar performance from junior Jeronne Maymon, who hit a game-tying shot in the closing second of regulation. He finished with 32 points and 20 rebounds while guard Will Barton had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomores Antonio Barton and freshman Adonis Thomas helped the Tigers, providing a spark off the bench and finishing with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Antonio, the little brother of Will, hit a crucial jump shot in the second overtime with a little over a minute remaining.
  • Rice, Marshall, Tulane Off To Hot Starts: While the conference’s current leaders—Rice, Marhsall, Tulane (all 4-0)—will see tougher competition in weeks to come, the three teams have gotten to the top of the conference standings by throttling weaker competition. Junior swingman Arsalan Kazemi has the Owls started in the right direction, averaging a double-double through the first four contests. Similarly, junior swingman Kendall Timmons has been an integral part of the Green Wave’s early season surge out of the conference cellar. Timmons is shooting a pristine 66.7% from the field while averaging 18.7 points a game for Tulane. The Thundering Herd are the least shocking of the unbeatens remaining in conference; however, they’ve taken advantage of a weak early schedule. Marshall can prove themselves in weeks to come when they play a pair of Big East giants—Cincinnati and Syracuse—on the road. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2011

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Reader’s Take

Despite having two teams earn bids into the NCAA Tournament last season, Conference USA walked away without a win.

 

Top Storylines

  • Can Memphis Pull Away?: While the Tigers have fielded strong teams since John Calipari left after the 2008-09 season, they’ve never had quite as much talent in that time as they figure to show this season. With essentially every notable contributor returning, a huge gap could form quickly. On the other hand, chemistry rarely comes instantly, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Memphis have a double-digit loss season, either.
  • Central Florida Continues To Build: Thanks partially to a soft non-conference schedule of six opponents with KenPom ratings 200 or lower and a non-D-I matchup, UCF cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history. While the Knights came down to Earth once conference play began, momentum is important no matter how it’s established. After winning two postseason games, we’re excited to see how the UCF follows up on a surprising season.
  • Realignment Hovers Over C-USA: Perhaps no single conference houses as many schools that were rumored to be on their way out than Conference USA, even if its membership ultimately stayed intact. East Carolina and UCF are frequently connected to the Big East; Memphis’ basketball program is as valuable a commodity as there is outside of the Power Six, and in its shakier days, the Big 12 could have found itself eyeing the Texas schools as a contingency plan in case the Longhorns and Sooners packed up for the Pac-12. It didn’t come to pass, but you have to wonder just what C-USA will look like in the long term.

This Year's Tigers, Led By Will Barton, Could Be Pastner's Most Talented Memphis Team Ever

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: JaJuan Leaves Penn State Wanting…

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2011

The Lede.  It was a big night of college basketball around the landscape, but there wasn’t much too surprising among the top teams; no, tonight’s focus is mostly on the unranked folks — teams like Colorado State, Marshall, Indiana State and Memphis.  Oh, and a 6’9 senior who some are touting as a NPOY candidate — him too.

JaJuan Johnson Gets It Done (AP/M. Conroy)

Your Watercooler MomentJaJuan Johnson Saves Purdue, Enters NPOY Debate.  The hope for players who make it all the way to their senior season is that they improve their game every year.  Purdue’s Johnson has shown exactly that kind of progression, going from a spot-minute backup to a dominant force in the paint in three-plus seasons.  Oh, and also outside the paint — you see, JJJ has added a jumper to the point where he’s taken 22 threes and made seven (31.8%) this year, which may not seem all that impressive until you realize that he had put up an oh-fer in his previous three seasons (0-10).  In tonight’s game against Penn State, with his team desperately needing to avoid a three-game losing streak, Johnson received a pass on the right elbow just a shade inside the arc.  In years past, he may have hesitated or looked to pass; this year he confidently shot the ball at the rim where it found nothing but net, giving Purdue a one-point lead and essentially the win with three seconds left.  With his season averages of 21/8/2 BPG on 51% shooting, Johnson has re-opened his consideration as a serious NPOY candidate.  We’re certainly not against the idea — other than perhaps Jared Sullinger, there’s probably no better big man in the country.  With six weeks left in the season, if the impressive young center can put the Boilermakers on his back and lead them to a Big Ten title, he’ll certainly be right there with the others in a wide-open field.  Check out his superb evening in the clip below.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Ohio State at #1.  The Buckeyes wore it well.  After several closer-than-expected games in the last two weeks, Ohio State dominated Iowa tonight by turning up the defense and holding the Hawkeyes to only 48 points tonight in an easy win.  Things will change quickly, however, as seven of OSU’s next nine opponents are currently ranked beginning with a trip to Champaign this weekend where we predicted earlier today that Thad Matta’s team will take its first loss of the year.
  • Texas.  Wow.  We knew there was a reason somewhere inside our head why we threw $10 on the Horns to win it all last weekend.  When Texas is hitting shots like they were tonight against Texas A&M — and especially Jordan Hamilton, who was 10-14 — they’re an excellent basketball team.  Among the teams hovering around the top ten, we’d argue that Rick Barnes’ team might have the most upside of any team in the second half of the season.  They already defend like crazy, holding TAMU to 42% tonight but ultimately winning the game in the first five minutes by running out to a dominant early 20-5 lead; the only issue is the occasionally spotty offense, but with Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Gary Johnson all capable of putting up numbers, we’re slowly starting to really warm up to this team.  Big time home win tonight against the streaking Aggies.p
  • Louisville’s Resilience.  We’re not sure how they’re continuing to do it, but they’re continuing to do it.  Louisville has been banged up and rotating new players into the lineup all season, and yet they continue to win games in remarkable ways.  Just a few days after the amazing comeback win over Marquette, the Cardinals ripped apart St. John’s, using Pitino’s trademark pressure defense and (what else?) three-point shooting (13-26) to terrorize Steve Lavin’s guards.  We’ve said it before, but this Louisville team reminds us more and more of some of Pitino’s early Kentucky teams — you wondered where the talent on the floor was, and before you knew it, you were down fifteen points after a barrage of turnovers and threes.  At 4-1 already in the Big East, you have to give him credit for another tremendous start under duress.
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2011

Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • So. Miss Clobbers No. 22 UCF: After a 14-0 start, Central Florida has now lost back-to-back games and fell out of the national rankings after a 86-69 loss to Southern Mississippi. For the Golden Eagles, it was the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2004 and the first time at home since 1986. In the second half, USM outscored UCF 50-34 behind a strong performance from R.L. Horton, who scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds.
  • Houston Nips SMU 70-68: Only days after tripping up preseason favorite Memphis, SMU fell short of Houston on the road. Adam Brown led the Cougars with 22 points. After the win, Houston has now taken four of its last five. Alandise Harris finished with a double-double, dropping 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Darian Thibodeaux scored 17 points. There were nine lead changes the final 12 minutes.
  • Memphis, UTEP and Tulsa Cruise: Saturday brought in a slew of blowout victories for Memphis, UTEP and Tulsa. The Tigers followed up an upsetting road defeat to SMU with a big win at home over surging Marshall. The Herd went into the game winning nine of their last eleven and walked away with a 77-61 spanking. Meanwhile, UTEP handled Rice 66-43 at home, notching their 12th straight home victory. Tulsa knocked off UAB 78-62, beating the Blazers 43-34 in the second half.
  • Stone Breaks Conference Assist Record: UTEP senior PG Julyan Stone broke the Conference USA assist record last Saturday after he recorded five assists in UTEP’s win over Rice. Stone has 633 assists for his career, passing USF’s Reggie Kohn as the career assist leader in the conference. Stone finished with ten rebounds and four points in the game.
  • Shawn Williams Transferring To SMU: Dallas-native and one-time Texas Longhorn Shawn Williams announced last week that he was transferring to SMU. On January 11, Williams enrolled in classes, but will have to sit out until next fall. He will have three years of eligibility remaining when he returns. Williams left the Longhorns in November, playing in eight games before suffering an ankle injury. He didn’t play in any games this season.
  • Memphis Fills in Holes With New Faces: Don’t look now, but Memphis seems to have found some stability after weeks of upheaval that included injuries, transfers and inconsistent play on the court. Senior forward Will Coleman finished with a double-double in Saturday’s win over Marshall. Coleman scored 19 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. In addition to Coleman’s emergence, the Tigers bench torched Marshall, scoring 30 of the team’s 77 points. Tarik Black notched 12 points and nine rebounds, while junior transfer Charles Carmouche added 15 points.
  • East Carolina Cruising At Home. The Pirates are 7-1 at home this season following their 76-67 win over Tulane last Saturday. Jontae Sherrod had a huge day for ECU, scoring 24 points. For the Green Wave, Kendall Timmons barely reached 10 points, however he did finish in double digits for the 15th consecutive game.

Power Rankings

  1. UTEP (15-4, 3-1) – It’s hard to pick a top dog in the conference with team’s losing all around the conference. However, UTEP is the conference’s first 15-win club and have won 12 of their last 14. In addition, their only loss is a triple overtime defeat at UAB. Also, senior guard Randy Culpepper, who was just named conference player of the week once again, is averaging more than 19 points a game.
  2. Southern Miss (14-3, 3-1) – The Golden Eagles get another opportunity to prove itself this week when they host Memphis at the Reed Green Coliseum. USM prides itself on crashing the glass, averaging 40.5 team rebounds a game, which is 24th in the nation. A blowout loss to Marshall and an overtime win over Rice keeps them out of the No. 1 spot for now.
  3. Memphis (13-4, 2-1) – After a bad road loss to SMU, the Tigers rebounded with a big win over Marshall. Their next three conference games are at USM, at UAB and at home against Central Florida. Combined record of those opponents: 43-9.
  4. Central Florida (14-2, 1-2) – Two bad losses drop UCF from the top spot. Right now, it needs to regain control of the season with a pair of easy home games this week against ECU and Rice. Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton give this team stability on both sides of the court.
  5. UAB (11-4, 1-1) – Three games this week present quite the challenge for the Blazers, who are coming off a bad loss at Tulsa. UAB needs to shore up its defense if it wants to be successful; the Blazers have given up 75 or more points in the last three games.
  6. Tulane (12-5, 2-2). After winning six in a row, Tulane struggled last week losing a pair of games. They have a mid-week bye and then play Tulsa at home on Saturday. Maybe the time off will help.
  7. Marshall (12-5, 1-2). Freshman DeAndre Kane is making a blantant case for Freshman of the Year after a dynamic week for the Herd last week. Kane is currently second in the team in scoring and first in assists. Everybody else needs to step up in order for Marshall to hit the 20-win mark.
  8. Houston (10-6, 2-1). A pair of close wins has kept Houston in good position early in conference play. The team is still, but freshman Alandise Harris is developing into a strong player for the Cougars. Harris had 33 points in the two wins last week.
  9. Tulsa (9-8, 2-1) – Although they fell in out of conference play to Arizona State, the Golden Hurricane made a statement last Saturday beating UAB handily at home. Senior Justin Hurtt will be a conference first teamer without a doubt.
  10. Southern Methodist (10-7, 1-2) – The program scored an epic-sized win when they topped Memphis, however, the Mustangs came up short at home against Houston and now must take on UAB and UM this week. Papa Dia is averaging 17.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.
  11. East Carolina (9-7, 1-1) – Senior Jontae Sherrod has been a consistent scorer for the Pirates this season, hitting a season-high mark in last week’s win over Tulane when he finished with 24 points.
  12. Rice (8-10, 0-4) – The Owls offense did not show up against UTEP and the team paid the price. Ironically enough, the worst loss of the season followed the best loss of the season—an overtime defeat at the hands of a hot Southern Miss team. Sophomore Arsalan Kazemi has been carrying this team on his back the last month.

A Look Ahead

  • Marshall duels with WVU in Chesapeake Energy Classic. The Thundering Herd will be heading up to Charleston, W.V., on Wednesday night to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Chesapeake Energy Classic. The in-state rivals both need a win to regain momentum at this crucial part of the season.
  • Memphis travels to USM for Matchup of Conference Heavyweights. The current No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the power rankings take the same court this week when Memphis travels to Southern Miss on Wednesday night. Both teams have one loss in C-USA play, however the Golden Eagles have the better conference record at 3-1. Gary Flowers versus Will Coleman makes for an intriguing storyline.
  • Struggling UCF Takes On Bottom-Dwellers. The Knights of Central Florida are 1-2 in conference and 13-0 in out of conference play. They will have an attempt to boost that conference record when they take on East Carolina and Rice this week.  The Pirates and the Owls have struggled this season, especially on the road, and are two of just three teams in the conference that have failed to reach the ten win mark.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.05.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 5th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An important in-state rivalry game and a heavyweight clash in the Mountain West headline tonight’s college basketball schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Memphis @ Tennessee – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Each team has faced some turmoil this season but in vastly different ways. Memphis has barely skated by a host of inferior opponents on their way to an 11-2 record while Tennessee has lost four of six after starting 7-0. This is Bruce Pearl’s final game before his eight game suspension begins this Saturday at Arkansas. The Volunteers have struggled defensively during this lackluster stretch of games and allowed Charleston to shoot 58% in the Cougars’ win last week. Tennessee’s defense simply must get better, and that starts with Melvin Goins. Pearl’s senior point guard has a reputation as a great on-ball defender and he’ll need to bring it against a guard-heavy Memphis squad.

After This Rivalry Game, Pearl Will Sit For a While

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