AAC Exhibition Impressions: Part II

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 14th, 2014

Yesterday we offered our initial impressions of UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF in recent exhibition games. Today we are back with more quick-trigger analysis of games that hardly matter.

Depth May be an Issue for Tulsa Head Coach Frank Haith. Haith has never been afraid to roll with a very short rotation if his team lacks depth, and the Golden Hurricane may actually be better off playing that way this season because of the quality of their starters. In a recent exhibition game against Southwest Oklahoma State, the Tulsa starters played a lot of minutes and his bench looked painfully thin. Haith used an eight-man rotation that night but Keondre Dew and Brandon Swannegan looked more like bit players than role players. The pair are expected to help in the frontcourt this season, but if Haith can’t trust them against a Division II opponent, how will he do so against teams like UConn and SMU?

Anthony Collins remains the key to making a young team click (Kim Klement/USA Today)

Anthony Collins Is Healthy And Ready To Lead A Young South Florida Team (Kim Klement/USA Today)

South Florida’s Anthony Collins Finally Looks Healthy. It seems like it was a decade ago when Collins was a mercurial freshman point guard leading the Bulls to an NCAA Tournament appearance. One of the best distributors and shot-creators in the country that season, Collins failed to break out as a sophomore and logged only eight games last season because of complications from offseason knee surgery. He finally got some good news in September when the NCAA approved his hardship waiver, giving him two more years of eligibility, but those two years won’t matter much if Collins can’t stay healthy. Playing without preseason All-Conference forward Chris Perry, the Bulls eked out a five-point win over Indiana University (PA) this week and Collins was the star of the show. The diminutive floor general contributed 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes. The caliber of his opponent makes that stat line significantly less impressive, but it was good to see Collins flying around the floor again and making plays. If anyone deserves a chance at a healthy season, it’s him.

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One on One: An AAC Preview With Jason Smith

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the AAC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an AAC expert in Jason Smith (@TheCAJasonSmith), the Memphis Tigers beat reporter for The Commercial Appeal.

Rush the Court: Defending national champion Connecticut obviously lost a lot from last season’s team with dynamic guard Shabazz Napier now a member of the Miami Heat. Nevertheless, the Huskies are still expected to contend for the league title. What is it about Kevin Ollie’s squad that has the unit in position to contend in the first year of the post-Shabazz era?

Jason Smith: It starts with Ryan Boatright, who was a great complementary player to Shabazz Napier last season. They are expecting him to be a Shabazz-type as their go-to-guy this season. I am not sure if Boatright is a guy who can shoulder the entire load like Shabazz or like Kemba Walker did in 2011, but Connecticut does bring back some other pieces that should help with things. They have one of the best rim protectors in the country in Amida Brimah, the sophomore seven-footer. A lot of people are excited about Daniel Hamilton, the five-star freshman who was named conference Newcomer of the Year. People are expecting a lot from him. At this point last year, I do not think a lot of people thought Connecticut was a team that could win a national title and they obviously proved us all wrong. A lot of the credit has to go to Kevin Ollie, and with him back in the fold, Connecticut has to be a team that you should expect to compete for the league title.

Who Will Step Up For the Huskies This Season?

Who Will Step Up For the Huskies This Season?

RTC: SMU clearly took a hit when it lost blue-chip recruit Emmanuel Mudiay to eligibility issues. Despite this loss, the Mustangs figure to be a contender in the conference. With Keith Frazier, Nic Moore, and Markus Kennedy returning to the fold, what is the ceiling for SMU in year three of the Larry Brown era?

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Five Coaches to Watch in the AAC: Pastner, Brown, Sampson, Haith & Cronin

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 31st, 2014

In the coming week or two, we will be posting as much preview content as possible. We are continuing today with coaches to watch. There is still plenty more to come.

There are only 11 teams in this league so, in theory, you should be able to watch all of them closely without too much difficulty. But what makes coaching such a difficult and unique experience is that no two seasons are alike. Sure, old hats like Jim Boeheim and John Calipari probably know what to expect because they have seen so much in their careers. But even for those guys, every new year presents new challenges, and the same can be said for the coaches of the AAC. Some of this group are dealing with disgruntled fan bases; some are dealing with large rebuilds; and some are trying to replace key players with inexperienced ones. We tried here to choose the five coaches who are dealing with the most interesting problems this year. Bonus points were awarded for coaches who are dealing with more than one problem.

Josh Pastner, Memphis

 Josh Pastner has Memphis in the Third round for the Second Straight Year. (Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

This Could Be A Make Or Break Year for Memphis Coach Josh Pastner
(Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s safe to say that the no other coach in the conference has as much going on a national stage than Pastner. The sixth-year coach is not only trying to satisfy a restless fan base by finding some success in the NCAA Tournament, but he is also trying to replace his entire backcourt this season and is of course still trying to reel in what is currently a top-ranked recruiting class for next. It’s tough to say whether Pastner deserves to be on the hot seat after winning at least 24 games in each of his five seasons, but when you flame out early in the NCAA Tournament as often as the Tigers have, the fans are going to grumble. That’s especially true when those fans had gotten used to watching yearly national title contenders under previous head coach John Calipari.

The talk of his job status remains just whispers at this point. But if Pastner can’t deliver another successful season, it will be tough to prevent those hushed conversations from growing louder. The good news is that the cupboard is hardly bare here. The frontcourt is stacked with experience and depth, led by returning starters Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols; throw in some incoming junior college talent as well as rising sophomores Nick King and Kuran Iverson, and Pastner has plenty of options up front. Pastner also got the veteran backcourt presence he so desperately needed when Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson became eligible to play this season.

The last thing that may save his job is that – thanks in no small part to Pastner’s “nothing to see here” assistant coaching hire – the Tigers have some game-changing talent committed to the program. Whoever coaches at Memphis probably won’t struggle to recruit talent, but it’s always nice for job security to basically ensure that the top local kids stay home.

Larry Brown, SMU

Larry Brown has received a bunch of kudos from Internet denizens since taking over as the head coach at SMU, and now he needs to start making good on all of that hype. In fairness to Brown, he deserves much of the praise he has received for rebuilding the Mustangs. The program had finished above .500 just three times from 2002-12, but he led the Mustangs to a 27-10 record in just his second year at the helm. Before his arrival, the program was an afterthought on the college basketball landscape, but now it has become an appealing program to much of the area’s top talent.

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AAC M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 17th, 2014

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Temple and La Salle meet tomorrow in a highly publicized Big Five matchup, and Joe Juliano of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the two teams arrive in vastly different positions. The noon game, which is to be showcased in Penn’s historic Palestra on ESPN College GameDay, pits the hopelessly unfortunate Owls against a resurgent La Salle team that has won seven of its last nine games and is tied for first in the Atlantic 10. Explorers coach John Giananni said the Owls represent “the last hurdle” among city rivals, as Temple has claimed eight straight victories in the series and is the only Big Five team that his current roster has never beaten. Momentum would indicate that that’s likely to change tomorrow. La Salle has a lot more to gain from a win than Fran Dunphy’s squad, and how the Owls respond – especially should star point guard Will Cummings continue to sit out with concussion symptoms – will be a matter of pride more than postseason aspirations.
  2. UConn atoned for an ugly start in league play last night by knocking off Memphis 83-73 in the FedEx Forum. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg contends that it’s the most impressive win on the Huskies’ resume, because unlike narrow non-conference victories over Florida, Harvard and Indiana, it came on the road against a team at full strength. Returning home to host Louisville tomorrow, coach Kevin Ollie is no doubt encouraged by the much-improved play of forward DeAndre Daniels, who recorded game highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds. Daniels has connected on 9-of-14 three-point attempts (64%) over the past three games, and presents match-up problems on the perimeter against players like Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock, alike.
  3. Last night’s big win was bittersweet for UConn junior Ryan Boatright, who received word on Monday that his close cousin Arin Williams had been killed in their hometown of Aurora, Illinois. Boatright honored Williams, whom he described as his brother, by writing the initials “AW” in marker on his left cheek before the Memphis game. He said the gesture served as both a tribute and “a reminder [of] why I go hard at this work.” The UConn guard said he and his cousin had remained extremely close after growing up together living in Boatright’s family home, and he described his cousin as “a real goofy dude.” “He always had a smile on his face,” said Boatright. “He brought joy to everybody. He was a joy to be around. He made a lot people happy. He was loved by everybody.”
  4. Louisville senior Russ Smith is the only player from the American Athletic Conference represented in the watch list for Ken Pomeroy’s Player of the Year award (kPOY). The defending 2013 kPOY checked in at number seven (but has subsequently slid to eighth), and Pomeroy writes that while Smith is putting up similar numbers this year, his ceiling is limited by his team’s performance: “If Louisville was #1 in the country, he’d be in position to repeat.” The ACC led the way with three players represented on the watch list, while the Big 12 and Big East each had two apiece.
  5. Houston’s visit to Louisville last night was a pleasant viewing experience for Cardinals fans everywhere, as Russ Smith and company rolled to a 91-52 dismantling of the Cougars. But the game was particularly gratifying for the Card Chronicle community as it marked the realization of a two-plus year effort to “Bring Chicken to the Bucket.” The timeline of events is worth a read for any college basketball fan with a sense of humor, and humanizes the cynical world of high-major recruiting in the Internet era. It also illuminates Houston sophomore Danrad “Chicken” Knowles as one of the most endearing characters in AAC hoops. The surrealism quotient of Knowles’ much-anticipated arrival to the Yum! Center reached critical mass before the game when KFC’s corporate Twitter account lent its support. 
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Three Questions Heading into Houston vs. Cincinnati

Posted by Ross Schulz on January 7th, 2014

After tonight’s game, Houston and Cincinnati will already be a sixth of the way through their AAC conference schedules. The winner will join Louisville as the only undefeated team left in the conference race, a surprising fact for only January 7, and for the time being, that team will take sole possession of first place. After losses to New Mexico and Xavier, it appeared Cincinnati was destined for a mediocre season, but since then, the Bearcats won against Pittsburgh in an ugly affair and notched an impressive 16-point road win Saturday at Memphis. Houston came into the season with moderate-to-high expectations given the return of its core nucleus, but after five non-conference losses the Cougars appeared to be just another disappointing team. It now looks like Houston has put its non-conference woes behind them and is starting fresh with the AAC season. The Cougars began conference play with a win against Connecticut and then went on the road to defeat South Florida by nine. It all sets up for a better-than-expected conference season showdown at 9:00 PM in Hofheinz Pavilion, where a few of the following questions will hopefully be answered.

Thomas May Not be a Household Name, But AAC Coaches Know Him

TaShawn Thomas May Not be a Household Name, But AAC Coaches Know Him

  1. Has Houston really turned a corner? A lot was said about the Cougars’ toughness from both the media and head coach James Dickey following Houston’s big win over Connecticut, but we’ll see how tough they really are after playing against the best defensive team in the AAC. Cincinnati ranks sixth in the country in scoring defense and third in defensive efficiency. If Houston is serious about competing for a top three spot in the conference standings, they’ll need to protect the home court tonight and pull off the win. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. Before the Champions Classic we cautioned you not to read too much into the results no matter how they ended up. We stand by that statement, but we hope that you still tuned in because if you did not, you missed some fantastic November basketball. In the main event/nightcap, Duke superstar Jabari Parker played a sensational first half that led some real-time draft experts to strongly consider changing the order of their daily NBA Mock Drafts right there on the spot. Eventually Parker cooled off (partially aided by Kansas counterpart Andrew Wiggins taking the initiative to guard him), and in the end, it was Kansas that made the statement with a 94-83 win fueled by a 15-4 run to end the game. For a full analysis of the Parker vs. Wiggins duel, check out our postgame write-up here.
  2. In the undercard game that also happened to involve the top two teams in this week’s national polls, Michigan State knocked off Kentucky 78-74 in a game that more than lived up to the hype. While Big Blue Nation will have a tough time dealing with the loss (what fan base ever appropriately deals with a loss?) they should be able to take the loss in stride. The Spartans played like the veteran team that they are while the Wildcats showed flashes of youthful head-scratching combined with signs of brilliance that will put them on the short list of favorites when March rolls around. If we have one issue for the Wildcats going forward it will be the play (and more specifically, the attitude) of the Harrison twins, who at times appeared to lose focus when things were not going their way. The back-breaking play for Kentucky was a late turnover by Andrew Harrison that gave Michigan State just enough cushion with a few minutes left to hang on the rest of the way. For a full analysis of the battle between #1 vs. #2, check out our postgrame write-up here.
  3. The biggest regular season night in college basketball in some time had nearly every major media outlet’s attention on Tuesday, so we’ve parsed through some of the best columns about the two games to help you catch up on everything. TSN‘s Mike DeCourcy writes that Kentucky’s slew of talented but very young players needed this education at the hands of their more experienced Michigan State elders in order to become the team that everyone thinks that it can be. CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish argues that, after having watched the oustanding freshman talents of Parker, Wiggins and Randle on display Tuesday night, it’s OK to fall in love with all three of them. At ESPN.com, Andy Katz punctuated in writing what our eyes were already telling us — that this year’s freshman class (which honestly should also include Arizona’s Aaron Gordon) is special. Finally, SI.com‘s Luke Winn came away from the proceedings convinced that, despite all the truth and hype about the precocious freshman on display, Michigan State, with all its experience, talent and coaching, is the team to beat this season.
  4. There actually was some news outside of Chicago’s double-header last night, and for Houston it was of the very good variety. Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, already in the running for the best nickname is college basketball, was cleared on Tuesday to play immediately for the Cougars. Knowles had missed the first two games of the season waiting for a decision from the NCAA clearinghouse, but the former top 75 recruit will be able to suit up for James Dickey’s team as soon as Thursday’s game against Texas-San Antonio. Knowles at 6’10” will provide a much-needed inside presence for the team in a league that is extremely light in the frontcourt. If Houston is to make a push this season into the top half of the AAC, much of that rise may depend on the incoming Knowles.
  5. On the flip side, Delaware star Devon Saddler has been suspended by his team for a month for an unspecified violation of team rules. The all-CAA guard was averaging 23.0 PPG in the Blue Hens’ first two contests this season, and is only 314 points from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer. If he can make it back to the team by a target of Delaware’s December 16 game against North Dakota State, that would leave him a minimum of 23 games to capture the record. Given that his career scoring average of 16.3 PPG is well above the 13.7 PPG he would need take over the top spot, he should be on track to still get there. What’s less certain is how the 0-2 Blue Hens will do without their best player in the lineup. Six of the team’s next seven games — while Saddler is expected to be out — are on the road, and a couple of those, at Villanova and at Notre Dame, will be no walks in the park.
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The RTC Interview Series: AAC Preview with Dom Amore and Jason Smith

Posted by Walker Carey on November 8th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the AAC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two AAC experts in Hartford Courant reporter Dom Amore and Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jason Smith. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

amoresmith

A Couple of AAC Reporters Share Their Preseason Insights With Us

Rush the Court: Even with the departures of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng from last season’s national championship team, Louisville is still highly ranked and viewed as a contender for another national title. In the past few weeks, news broke that starting forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely. How will Behanan’s banishment affect Louisville in the conference race and what impact will it have on the team when looking at the national landscape?

Dom Amore: Chane Behanan is obviously one of the best players on the team. Along with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, he is one of the reasons that Louisville is ranked as high as it is. With the way that Rick Pitino has recruited, though, there are a lot of great players on that team, so it is going to have some depth. Due to that depth, Louisville is going to be able to handle Behanan’s suspension better than most teams would. Still, experience is going to be a huge factor in this league, and Behanan has a lot of that. Losing a guy as good as Chane Behanan and with the experience of Chane Behanan is going to be a problem, but with Louisville’s depth and amount of talent, it should be able to weather the storm until Behanan is able to return.

Jason Smith: I think it all comes down to how long Rick Pitino decides to hold Chane Behanan out for. It sounds to me that Behanan is going to be back. Everything you read says he is doing the right things to get back on the team. I expect him to be back at least by the time conference play begins. You add Behanan to the group Louisville already has with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell, and you see why Louisville is so highly ranked. Louisville is also adding Chris Jones, who is the reigning national junior college player of the year. Jones and Russ Smith are going to make quite the formidable backcourt. This team is clearly the favorite in the conference and is definitely among the contenders for the national title. There will still be some challenges. It is going to have to figure out who is going to be the big rebounder. Losing Gorgui Dieng created a hole in the frontcourt, so some things still have to be figured out. Still, top-to-bottom, you can see why Louisville is considered one of the best teams in the country.

RTC: Josh Pastner probably has his most talented team since has been the head coach at Memphis. What do you expect from the Tigers in their first season away from Conference USA?

Amore: It is really a great thing for Memphis to be in this conference. There are other teams in this conference – namely, Connecticut and Cincinnati – that might not be too thrilled to be in it. For Memphis, this is a huge and a great step up in class. Memphis won 27 games in a row to finish its tenure in Conference USA. While it really dominated that conference, Memphis has not really been rewarded with high seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Being in this conference where it will play Louisville, Connecticut, and Cincinnati twice will really help with its RPI and those other things that are looked at when determining NCAA Tournament seeding. It is going to be a bigger challenge for Memphis, but it does have a lot of talent and it should be able to do more with that talent in the new league.

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AAC M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on November 6th, 2013

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Despite a few late rumors to the contrary, Trey Lyles ended speculation and picked Kentucky over Louisville yesterday afternoon at his Indianapolis Arsenal Tech High School. All signs pointed Lyles to UK after he experienced Big Blue Madness, but leading up to the decision, a few people including Scout.com analyst Brian Snow hinted the five-star recruit may have made a different choice. Lyles cited his desire to get the the NBA and UK’s 22 players in the league as an enticing reason to wear blue over red next season. A power forward, Lyles is a top 10 prospect by all accounts. Kentucky racking up another major recruit doesn’t mean a whole lot, just more of the same; but for Louisville, however, a program that collected a national title of its own without a plethora of five-star players, it would have ignited the fan base in excitement.
  2. In other recruiting news around the AAC, 6’8″ junior power forward Alex Owens recently backed out of his September commitment to Central Florida. The news may have come as a surprise to Knights fans, since Owens transferred to Orlando’s Oak Ridge High School last spring. Owens is ranked No. 44 in the class of 2015 by ESPN. Oak Ridge head coach Alex Jackson said Owens still likes UCF as one of his finalists, but he wants to enjoy the recruiting process. Central Florida should not be too bummed, because it’s not unprecedented for a recruit to back out of a commitment and then eventually return to that school. It happened just last week with James Blackmon Jr. and Indiana, in fact.
  3. Louisville senior walk on guard Tim Henderson, who saved the day with two monumental three-pointers in the Carinals’ Final Fur game against Wichita State, said he’s already impressed with the progress of Kevin Ware. Ware just began full practice on Sunday after suffering a horrific compound fracture in his left leg in the regional finals versus Duke last March. Henderson said he’s coming hard off screens, still has his explosiveness and quickness, and is taking it to the big men. Ware may even see the court in the squad’s season opener Saturday against College of Charleston. At full strength, the junior guard gives coach Rick Pitino all sorts of options in the backcourt. He was a key component in the team’s Sweet Sixteen victory over Oregon after Peyton Siva went to the bench with foul trouble. Ware and Terry Rozier give Louisville great length in the backcourt as well, making Pitino’s full court press that much more difficult to manage.
  4. Houston is still awaiting word on whether its highly-touted four-star recruit, Danrad “Chicken” Knowles will be eligible this season. Knowles sat out all of last season because he was ruled academically ineligible, but the 6’9″ forward could be the missing piece the Cougars need to make a run into the middle of the pack of the AAC this season
  5. Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said former walk-on Logan Kelley is no longer with the basketball team. Kelley saw action in three games a year ago and Jordan placed him on scholarship after replacing the fired Mike Rice. It doesn’t sound like Kelley found himself in any trouble, as Jordan only revealed that the best course of action was for Kelley to pursue other opportunities elsewhere. Rutgers opens the regular season Saturday against Florida A&M.
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American Athletic Conference Offseason Capsules

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 15th, 2013

We are a little less than a month away from the start of another college basketball season and as teams start to get in to the swing of things, we here at the AAC microsite will be doing the same things. The offseason in college basketball can be a tedious stream of coaching changes, arrests, transfers, recruiting, and injury news. But it is still an important part of the game and since we know you have had better things to do than sit at home and track the minutiae of each AAC team’s offseason, we figured we would do it for you as the perfect way to launch our coverage for this season. Look for a full conference preview in the next week as well as the standard Morning Fives, some other fun coverage, and maybe even a new writer or two, who knows. 

Louisville

When your team is fresh off a National Championship and looking like a legitimate candidate to repeat, the last thing you want as a coach is an offseason full of distractions. Luckily for coach Rick Pitino, the distractions and bad news have been very limited this summer. Tragedy struck as Luke Hancock learned he lost his father to cancer while trying out for USA Basketball in Colorado and there was a late-summer scare over a knee injury suffered by Montrezl Harrell which turned out to be much ado about nothing. But the team also got to visit the White House in July, learned that guard Kevin Ware hadn’t been secretly suspended over the summer and has now been cleared for practice.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

In fact, the most controversy surrounding Louisville from the offseason came when a pair of Boston radio hosts hung up on Pitino during a promotional interview after telling him that, “he ruined the Celtics.” Hilarious stuff, really. Pitino also gave a struggling assistant coach a job in the coolest way possible. Put it this way, if you are Pitino and the worst press of the offseason is that you were hung up on early during a promotional interview, you can live with that. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are loaded with talent and could be insanely deep if Ware makes it back to the court quicker than expected.

Connecticut

If it wasn’t for forward Tyler Olander’s DUI idiocy and suspension, it would have been a nice, quiet offseason for coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies – especially when compared with previous offseasons. But the DUI charges against Olander have since been dropped and the forward has been reinstated, which is a huge boon to team with major frontcourt issues. Also, freshman guard Terrence Samuel cleared up eligibility concerns over the summer, adding more depth to an already loaded backcourt. The only remaining question is whether another key freshman, Kentan Facey, will be cleared to play with the team as he deals with eligibility concerns stemming from his time at a high school in Jamaica. The 6’9″ Facey is a prized recruit and will be an important frontcourt contributor if he is cleared to play. The Huskies look poised to quickly return to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Cincinnati

As far as interesting news goes, there is no team in the conference that has had a quieter offseason than the Bearcats. The offseason started with a bang when senior guard Sean Kilpatrick announced he would return for his senior season, but since then, it’s been all crickets. I guess you could count gangly forward Justin Jackson putting on 20 pounds or highly-touted 2014 recruit Qadri Moore’s commitment to the Bearcats big news, but that would be stretching the definition. In some cases the lack of news might not be such a good thing, but coach Mick Cronin still needs to break in a new starting point guard and find anyone who can be a legitimate anchor in the post, so Cronin has probably welcomed an offseason without distractions of either kind. Kilpatrick’s return makes life a bit easier for Cronin and the team has plenty of athleticism, but points will be hard to come by and rebounds may be harder to come by still.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2012

Ryan Peters is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can find him on Twitter @pioneer_pride and read his musings online at Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.

Top Storylines

  • A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before MemphisHoustonUCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see MarshallUTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
  • A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.

Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.

  • Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
  • New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (14-2)
  2. Marshall (12-4)
  3. UTEP (11-5)
  4. UCF (10-6)
  5. UAB (9-7)
  6. Southern Mississippi (8-8)
  7. Tulane (7-9)
  8. East Carolina (7-9)
  9. Houston (6-10)
  10. Tulsa (5-11)
  11. SMU (5-11)
  12. Rice (2-14)
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Welcoming the Big East Newcomers: Houston

Posted by mlemaire on December 8th, 2011

The Big East announced in a teleconference this week that they would be adding five new schools to the fold. Three of those schools, Houston, Central Florida, and Southern Methodist, will play all of their sports in the conference starting in 2013. Of course it is far too early to tell what sort of basketball impact these schools will have in their new conference, but that won’t stop us from pontificating. First up is Houston.

The Past

Of the three schools, there is no question that Houston has the best track record. There first season was in 1946, but it wasn’t until then-assistant and former player Guy Lewis took over for the 1956-57 season until the program really took off. In his 30 years at the helm, Lewis led the Cougars to 27 consecutive winning seasons, 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament, and five trips to the Final Four, including two appearances in the NCAA championship game, both of which they lost. Lewis is also responsible for recruiting some of the school’s most famous alumni, including Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Otis Birdsong and Clyde Drexler.

Hakeem Olajuwon And Clyde Drexler Are The Most Prominent Members Of Houston's Storied Basketball Past

Despite all that history and tradition, Houston has barely been a blip on the college basketball radar since. Since joining Conference USA in 1996, the Cougars have made the NCAA Tournament exactly once (2010), and perhaps the most exciting time for the program was the failed Clyde Drexler coaching experiment that started in 1998 and lasted just two seasons. Former coach Tom Penders led the team to three twenty-win seasons in his six years as head coach from 2004-10, but they never got over the hump. The team still occasionally roped in top-flight talent like Bo Outlaw, Alton Ford, and Aubrey Coleman, but the Cougars never seemed to meet expectations.

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Winners and Losers from the July Recruiting Period

Posted by nvr1983 on August 19th, 2011

Every July, college basketball fans obsess over the July recruiting period where summer AAU legends are made and scholarships are won or lost. While most of the buzz this summer was over the superstars (particularly Shabazz Muhammad and class of 2013 recruit Nerlens Noel), the more interesting action was happening further down the ranking list. While ESPN’s decision to move Muhammad above Andre Drummond in their new rankings is interesting at some level, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t mean much. For the purposes of recruiting and scholarship offers, it is the guys that won’t be getting headlines on the front of ESPN.com or trending on Twitter who are more useful to look at. To that end, we took a look at the pre- and post-July recruiting rankings for the class of 2012 from ESPN.com and Scout.com to see which players were climbing up the ranking list and which ones were plummeting.

Shabazz and Drummond May Have Dominated the Headlines, But We Aren't as Interested in Them

To do this, we looked at where certain players were ranked before the July recruiting period and where they were ranked afterwards. The obvious caveat here is that rankings are subjective and some fans have accused scouts of a form of confirmation bias where they tend to rank players higher if they are recruited by certain schools (particularly Duke in basketball and Notre Dame in football) than if they were  being recruited by similarly powerful programs, but not the de facto face of the sport. Still, it seems reasonable to think that two independent scouts ranking players would be fairly reliable (assuming Dave Telep and Evan Daniels aren’t cheating off each other).

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