Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 13th, 2012

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:

 

The Week That Was

  • UCF Hits Speed Bump With Transfers: Usually at this point in the season it’s all about lacing up the sneakers and getting to business. However, the challenges striking the Central Florida men’s basketball program persist. Transfer guard Jeffrey Jordan, Michael’s oldest son, left the Knights over the weekend citing “personal reasons” and Central Florida Future announced Thursday that senior forward Dwight McCombs will be following suit after he was handed a season-ending suspension on Wednesday. The losses may not seem like that big of a deal with Jordan sitting on the bench and McCombs only averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds a night; however, the decisions of both players to leave the school only adds additional trouble to a program that has been marred with the departure of its athletic director this season.
  • Memphis Continues Success Against Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles took the nation’s seventh-longest winning streak into FedEx Forum on Wednesday night (11 games), but exited with their third loss of the season and their 18th consecutive loss to the Memphis Tigers. On the other sideline, the Tigers enjoyed their 135th home victory since the 2004-2005 season. Memphis is the winningest home team in the nation at 135-16 since that year. The Tigers were able to hold to a close victory behind a pair of Chris Crawford free throws with 31.7 seconds remaining.
  • Dennis Tinnon Has A Career Night: Marshall barely escaped with a victory last night, defeating UAB 60-58 and setting up a marquee conference matchup with UCF on Saturday night.  Junior forward Dennis Tinnon led the Thundering Herd, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds. Another unheralded junior, forward Robert Goff, sealed the victory for Marshall with a gigantic three-point play with under a minute to play. DeAndre Kane also enjoyed a successful evening, scoring 21 points and recording 10 rebounds. UAB senior Cameron Moore put the Blazers up late, but failed to convert on what would have been a game-tying basket in the final seconds.
  • Kazemi Keeps Rolling: Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi continued his case for conference player of the year last night in a 68-52 rout against Southern Methodist. The junior forward recorded his 40th career double-double, the 13th of the season, which ranks him as the nation’s best. The Iran native finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman Ahmad Ibrahim made a solid first career start for the Owls, recording 14 points.

Head Coach Donnie Jones (left) Hit A Bump In The Road When Dwight McCombs And Jeffrey Jordan Decided To Leave The Knights.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (11-5, 2-0): They may not have the conference’s best overall record, but the Tigers are the deepest team in conference and they have the most offensive firepower. Wednesday’s win over Southern Miss proved that the Tigers can win defensive bouts too. Memphis has won six of its last seven after falling from the national rankings. Will Barton continues to put forth a First-Team All-Conference effort, averaging 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per night.
  2. Southern Miss (15-3, 2-1): The Golden Eagles were unquestionably the best team in conference until last night, which should be a great learning lesson for a relatively young team. Southern Miss can rebound the ball almost better than anyone in conference, averaging 38.1 boards a night as a team, which is third only to UCF and Marshall in C-USA. Senior guard Darnell Dodson has elevated his play.
  3. UCF (13-3, 3-0): With guard A.J. Rompza back in the lineup, the Knights have been unbeatable, winning both at home (carrying a 16-game home win streak) and on the road. Forward Keith Clanton and guard Marcus Jordan continue to be the conference’s best duo for coach Donnie Jones in what has been an up-and-down season for the Knights.
  4. Marshall (12-4, 3-0): If Marshall—the same team that has wins over Cincinnati and Iona—is the fourth best team in conference, then C-USA could be presenting a reasonable case for four teams come March. The Thundering Herd have revived from a two-game losing streak by winning their first three conference games. DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts have found a force in the low post in junior forward Dennis Tinnon. Marshall is fourth in the country in rebounds with over 42 a night.
  5. Rice (10-7, 1-1): Arsalan Kazemi continues to be the story here. The junior forward is averaging 14.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, leading the nation in double-doubles with 13 this season. Fellow junior Tamir Jackson has been a pivotal player, running the team’s offense and averaging 12.9 points per game. The Owls don’t seem to be in the upper echelon of the conference, but with Kazemi they will contend throughout the season.
  6. Tulane (12-4, 0-2): After a 9-0 start, the Green Wave has stumbled; however, there isn’t a team in the conference that has played a tougher schedule in recent weeks. Since their December 22 loss to top-ranked Syracuse, the Green Wave has played two of the conference’s best teams in UCF and Southern Miss.
  7. Houston (9-7, 1-2): The Cougars have followed a five-game win streak with back-to-back conference loses at UTEP and UCF. With the losses, Houston has fallen to the middle of the conference rankings, but have a huge opportunity this weekend when they play host to the Memphis Tigers. If the Cougars can continue shooting the way they have this past month, then they can contend with anybody. Currently, Houston ranks 25th in the country in shooting percentage, knocking down 48.3% of their shots from the field.
  8. SMU (9-7, 1-1): Senior forward Robert Nyakundi continues to lead the Mustangs, averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The Arlington native hasn’t had to do it alone, though, with the addition of Texas transfer Shawn Williams. The sophomore swingman has been an immediate contributor in Dallas since joining the team on the court eight games ago. Williams isn’t the only transfer making a difference. Junior guard London Giles, a Nevada transfer, has been a crucial performer at SMU all season, averaging 11.5 points per game.
  9. Tulsa (8-9, 1-2): Another team on the outside looking in, the Golden Hurricane have struggled consistently this season in close games, losing three times in overtime and four times by three points or less. Jordan Clarkson will end up on an All-Conference team, but he hasn’t much help thus far.
  10. UTEP (8-9, 1-2): Tim Floyd’s squad enjoyed a bit of a revival before the holidays, but has floundered since, failing to win consecutive games since December 22. The Miners enjoyed a nice home victory over Houston, but haven’t been able to win a true road game all season. Although they haven’t found a replacement for Randy Culpepper, the Miners are extremely deep with a bench of 11 players.
  11. East Carolina (9-6, 0-2): The backcourt has been stout this season for the Pirates. Junior Miguel Paul has emerged as one of the best point guards in the conference, scoring 16.2 points and dishing out 5.7 assists per night. Senior forward Darius Morrow has also been a force for ECU, averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. In addition, the big man is shooting 54 percent from the field for a streaky Pirate club that won five straight heading into conference play, but have gone 0-2 early on.
  12. UAB (5-10, 0-2): The Blazers have continued a porous non-conference run with a rough conference start, dropping contests at home to Memphis and Marshall. UAB’s offense is still the worst in conference, averaging less than 60 points per game. Even worse, preseason conference player of the year Cameron Moore has been spectacular, but hasn’t been able to abate the Blazers’ woes. With their next four games scheduled against Southern Miss, Rice, UCF and Marshall, the losing skid could very well continue.

Looking Ahead

  • UCF at Marshall, January 14 at 7 p.m. ET: While the Southern Miss-Memphis showdown lived up to the hype, C-USA fans will be watching this one with a close eye as first place in the conference is on the line. It will be extremely interesting to watch the backcourt duo of A.J. Rompza and Marcus Jordan duel against DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts. Marshall boasts a three-game winning streak; however, it is UCF that is undoubtedly the hottest team in the conference. The Knights have won nine of their last 10.
  • Rice at Tulane, January 14 at 8 p.m. ET: Two of the conference’s best individual talents will square off on Saturday when Arsalan Kazemi leads the Owls into New Orleans against Kendall Timmons and the Green Wave. Tulane is coming off a full week’s rest and is arguably the most rested team in conference, which should play into their favor against a Rice team that has played five games since the holiday break.
  • Memphis at Houston, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: The Tigers are riding an emotional high into Saturday’s contest at the Hofheinz Pavillion, which gives the Cougars the perfect opportunity to pull the upset. Houston is probably the best team in conference to matchup against Memphis’ high-powered offense. Currently, the Cougars are 39th in the nation in points per game with 76.6 a night. Houston has developed a quartet of double-digit scorers in addition to three other players that average more than six points a night. The Cougars are surprisingly deep and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • SMU at UTEP, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: Neither of these clubs is able to rebound well, lacking frontcourt talent and depth. The Mustangs rank 326th in the nation in rebounding with an average of 30.4 boards a game, while the Miners are even worse at 335th with 29.6 rebounds a night. However, UTEP has been able to improve its field goal percentage in recent weeks, shooting 47.4% from the field. Last time they played in the Don Haskins Center, the Miners shot 61.2% in a 70-50 thumping over Houston on January 7.
  • Marshall at West Virginia, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3): This game serves as the conclusion for Marshall’s non-conference schedule and provides head coach Tom Herrion’s club with another opportunity to showcase their talent on national TV. Of course, this is an in-state rivalry so the emotions will be as high as any game this season. So far, Marshall is 1-1 against Big East competition. Another win against the nation’s deepest conference, in addition to their victory over Iona, could serve them come March if they fall short in the conference tournament.
  • Memphis at UCF, January 18 at 8 p.m.: It’s not too early to look towards next week’s conference schedule with Memphis traveling to take on Central Florida in a matchup that could be for first place in the conference. Another marquee game to look ahead at is Marshall at Southern Miss, which won’t be played until January 21 and will be aired on national television. These are the four top teams in conference and for the second straight week in a row, there will be a pair of pivotal conference matchups that feature all four.

Spotlight On…Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan

UCF has greatly benefited from the addition of A.J. Rompza and from the development of sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes. However, it has been the tandem of Clanton and Jordan that has fueled the Knights this season with consistent performance. Clanton is arguably the best post player in the conference, averaging 15.4 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. His latest performance against Houston, a 18 point and 13 rebound outing that included 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals, showed that he will be able to dominate teams with inferior big men, which the conference is chock full of. To further understand Clanton’s importance, one only needs to evaluate the Knights as a team. They are ranked 200th or lower in every major statistical category other than rebounding, where they rank 38th in the country with an average of 38.9 boards a night. In addition to Clanton, Marcus Jordan has been playing top-notch ball for head coach Donnie Jones. In addition to be the team’s leading scorer, Jordan has been the epitome of consistency, scoring in double-digits in all fourteen games he has played in so far this season. In a season filled with tons of upheaval for the UCF athletic department, the Knights basketball program has weathered the storm, winning nine of its last ten. They couldn’t have done it without the stellar play of both Clanton and Jordan.

Share this story

Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 26th, 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:

 

The Week That Was

  • Rice Upsets Texas A&M; Kazemi Records 36th Career Double-Double: The conference had arguably its best night of the season on Thursday, posting a 6-2 overall record, which was highlighted by Rice’s 65-58 upset victory over Texas A&M at College Station. Junior forward Arsalan Kazemi led Rice with 10 points and 13 rebounds, recording his ninth double-double of the season and 36th of his career, as the Owls snapped the Aggies’ 80-game regular season, non-conference home win streak. Kazemi is now six double-doubles shy of the conference record. The junior carried the scoring load in his sophomore season, but has found help this season from fellow junior Tamir Jackson and senior Lucas Kuipers.
  • Tulane Drops Second Game, Falling to Syracuse: The conference’s only losses Thursday night came against ranked competition. Tulane took on #1 Syracuse, losing 80-61 in a lopsided contest. However, the team’s trio of top scorers Kendall Timmons, Jordan Callahan and Ricky Tarrant were not shut out, combining for 41 points. Timmons was the top performer, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
  • Memphis’ Continues To Tumble: The high-powered Memphis Tiger offense was contained and exposed on Thursday night when it faced the #16 Georgetown Hoyas, falling 70-59. Despite averaging 80 points a contest, Memphis was held in check throughout the game, which has become a trend when the Tigers take on tougher competition. Sophomore guard Will Barton continued his fantastic play, contributing a double-double in the losing effort. Barton finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but fellow sophomore Chris Crawford led the team with 17 points. Barton currently leads the conference in scoring with an average of 19.9 points per game, which is more than two points higher than UCF’s Marcus Jordan, who is second in scoring.
  • UTEP Builds Mo’ In Hawaii: In the first game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, UTEP had a chance to make a statement and did, dominating Clemson. The Miners walked away with a 61-48 victory, following a 23-8 run during the game’s final 13 minutes. The Tigers recorded a lone field goal during that span. With the win, UTEP improves to .500 for the first time this season. Though they fell to the streaking Wildcats in the semifinal game, UTEP bounced back in the consolation round, holding off Auburn 83-76. The Miners are streaking at the right time, winners of four of their last five. Sophomore guard Michael Perez is finally filling the void left by Randy Culpepper, as he averaged over 17 points per game in the Diamond Head Classic.

Marcus Jordan Is Second In Conference USA In Scoring And The Knights Boast Two Of The League's Top Five Point-Scorers (Credit: Chris Schubert).

Power Rankings

  1. Tulane (11-2): The Green Wave suffered its second loss of the season on Thursday night, but they take a lot of experience away from facing the top-ranked team in the country. Tulane is the best defensive team in conference, allowing only 55.1 points a night. In comparison, the league’s worst defensive team, Memphis, allows 74.3 points per night. Kendall Timmons has found a long-term running partner in freshman Ricky Tarrant, who has blossomed into a star in the early part of this season.
  2. Southern Miss (10-2): It’s hard to pick nits on a team that has won six in a row. Southern Miss has emerged as one of the best teams in conference because they play complete team basketball. Lacking a consistent top performer, the Golden Eagles have relied on several players to make plays.  A lot of credit goes to the Golden Eagles seniors such as Darnell Dodson and Maurice Bolden, who each recorded a double-double in Thursday night’s win over South Florida. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Morning Five: K-903 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2011

  1. The Tip-Off Marathon has come and gone, but it wasn’t without an envious spectacle at the Champions Classic last night at Madison Square Garden. We’ve known for months that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s pursuit of his mentor Bob Knight’s career wins D-I wins record of 902 would be matched and surpassed in the first few weeks of this college basketball season. But that didn’t make it any less touching when the man known around the sports universe simply as “Coach K” went over to his former coach after the game and embraced him with a resounding thank you. We’ll have more on #903 later this morning, but if you missed the poignant moment between arguably two of the five greatest college coaches of all-time, you can view it here. If you would like to read how and why the two men became so successful teaching young men how to play this sport, Seth Davis’ masterful piece artfully gets to the core of their relationship. And if you simply want to see a worn-out but certifiably giddy Krzyzewski addressing the Duke student body after getting off the bus last night in Durham, that’s here too. No matter what you think of the man, no objective observer of this sport can make a reasonable argument that there’s anyone more deserving of this record. Nobody. Congratulations, Coach K — your contributions to this game are immeasurable — best of luck on your way to K1K.
  2. We made reference in Tuesday’s M5 to UCLA’s Reeves Nelson facing an indefinite team suspension as a result of what was termed “attitude” problems. Yesterday we learned that one of the best players in the mid-major ranks, Kennesaw State’s Markeith Cummings, has also been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to his team. The preseason Atlantic Sun POY did not play at all in Monday night’s loss at Auburn, and there appears to be no timetable as to when the 6’7″ guard who consistently produces 18/6 nights may return.
  3. Perhaps it wasn’t the best day for UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero to announce such a thing, but on his weekly blog Tuesday he announced that the new Pauley Pavilion (currently under renovation) will have a statue of John Wooden constructed outside of it. The irony of UCLA announcing such a thing to honor the greatest of greats certainly isn’t lost on us at the same time Ben Howland’s current Bruin program appears to be coming apart at the seams. Not only has there been turmoil among players resulting in suspensions (Nelson) and public apologies (Josh Smith), but the primary issue is that UCLA is losing, and not only losing, but doing so badly. On the same day that Guerrero announced a terrific honor for a coach that once won 88 games in a row, his current coach’s team gave up 71% shooting (and 10-11 threes) at ‘home’ to Middle Tennessee State.  Wow.
  4. We complained about this in yesterday’s M5, and we’re happy that someone has finally taken the advertising overlords head on and decided that the safety of players on the basketball court supersedes the right of companies to peddle their products. During the Memphis-Belmont game yesterday, UM guard Chris Crawford slipped and fell awkwardly on one of the various EA Sports Maui Invitational stickers littering the FedEx Forum’s playing surface. The official’s crew of Rick Randall, Rick Hartzell and Bert Smith then made a unilateral decision that the plastic advertisements were a dangerous obstacle and ordered them removed for the rest of the game. It will be very interesting to see if the burgeoning groundswell of anti-sticker sentiment results in the NCAA making an injunctive decision to ban the ads in the name of player safety; or, if schools themselves begin threatening to sit their teams unless the stickers are removed. Regardless, this is a situation that has a feeling like change is imminent — we’d be surprised if these annoying ads make it through the rest of the pre-conference tournament season.
  5. The Kansas vs. Kentucky game last night wasn’t the prettiest sight to behold, but it did have the two programs with the most wins in college basketball history between them — Kentucky with (now) 2,054, Kansas with 2,039. This article by Brady McCullough at the KC Star (written before the game, incidentally) takes a look at the differing ways in which the two programs continue to rack up 30-win seasons year after year. The key takeaway from this piece is that recruiting, at the end of the day, is a zero-sum game. If there are only 20 five-star recruits in a given class, and one coach is harnessing three to five of them every year, that leaves a finite number for the rest. John Calipari’s move from Memphis to Lexington changed the recruiting game somewhat, and it appears that Bill Self and his Kansas program could be one of the resultant casualties of that shift.
Share this story

20 Questions: Who is the Most Overrated Team in America?

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Question: Who is the Most Overrated Team in America?

Last week I made one fan base happy when I chose Wichita State as the most underrated team in the country heading into the 2011-12 season. This time around, another fan base is bound to have an equal but opposite reaction. At the end of every year, we college basketball fans look back on the season and ponder how we ever ranked a handful of teams so high back in November while we wonder how on earth we overlooked the team that “came out of nowhere” and made the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight. This piece will attempt to identify the team that is the most overrated as we begin the year. Of course this could completely blow up in my face but what fun is it without that possibility? I have a few teams in mind for this dubious distinction but one highly-rated club in particular has many blinking red lights at this point in time. No, it’s not Duke or Baylor with their questions at the point guard position. Nor is it Arizona, who lost Derrick Williams, or Marquette without the presence of Jimmy Butler. Those teams all have question marks but the team I’m most concerned about is the Memphis Tigers.

Josh Pastner's Team Looked Good Against Arizona, But What About the Rest of the Year?

Josh Pastner’s team won 25 games last year but could only manage a fourth place finish in a mediocre Conference USA. To their credit, the Tigers rebounded from six regular season conference losses to win the conference tournament and give Arizona one heck of a run in the NCAA Tournament. Memphis returns everyone from last year’s team sans Will Coleman but this is still an extremely young group short on experience and cohesion. The Tigers turned the ball over an average of 15 times per game last year, with primary ball handlers Joe Jackson, Will Barton and Chris Crawford combining for over half of that total. Changing a sloppy style of play in one offseason would be quite an achievement for Pastner and his staff but expecting that type of improvement is a bit too much in my estimation. Memphis probably won’t average 15 giveaways again but a number approaching that will effectively ruin any chance they have of making a big postseason run.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 12.23.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 23rd, 2010

***** – 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.

Not a bad set of games tonight but nothing that jumps out at you as a must watch. The best games of the night may very well be in paradise as opposed to Memphis. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#11 Baylor vs. Washington State (in Honolulu, HI) – 6:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

A Rare Klay Thompson Sighting on National TV Tonight

The theory that good guard play wins in college basketball will be put to the test in this game from the Diamond Head Classic. Washington State’s guard-heavy lineup goes up against Baylor’s powerful front court, though the Bears have a star guard in LaceDarius Dunn. The Cougars have surprised this year and sit at 9-1 with wins over Gonzaga and Mississippi State in addition to a close home loss against Kansas State. Washington State shares one common opponent with Baylor, that’s Gonzaga. Baylor lost to the Bulldogs this past Saturday in Dallas while Washington State rolled the Zags 81-59 at home ten days earlier. Baylor’s offense has struggled a bit against the two decent teams they’ve played, Gonzaga and Arizona State. Combine that with the fact that Washington State defends the three exceptionally well, the Bears should look to use their strength and athleticism inside and pound the ball into the paint. Rebounding is a concern for the Cougars, especially against a Baylor team that averages 41 RPG. Even if the Bears miss some shots inside, they’re sure to get a bunch of put-back chances against the WSU front line. For Washington State, DeAngelo Casto must have a good night on the glass in order to contain Baylor’s front court, led by Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. The Cougars must look to their back court for scoring and they’ll feel comfortable knowing they have Klay Thompson on their team. Thompson had 28 points against Mississippi State on Wednesday and will be in the running for Pac 10 POY honors. In addition to Thompson, Faisal Aden has enjoyed a terrific season so far. Aden and Thompson form a strong guard duo capable of draining three’s with regularity. Washington State is very good inside the arc as well but Baylor’s interior defense poses the toughest challenge the Cougars have faced so far. They need to be clicking from deep or else it could be a long night. Baylor’s back court isn’t too shabby either with Dunn and A.J. Walton, but each player struggles with turnovers. Washington State enjoys a great turnover margin and that’s how they’re going to get extra possessions against the turnover-prone Bears. With the expected rebounding problem, Washington State has to create turnovers to win this game. Expect Baylor to have an edge at the free throw line as well, enjoying a nice free throw rate on both ends of the floor. The Bears also shoot five percent better from the line than Washington State. The Cougars are a good team but Baylor has something to prove after falling to Gonzaga. We’ll take the Bears behind a big game from Acy inside.

#9 Georgetown @ Memphis – 8 pm on ESPN2 (***)

With the departure of Angel Garcia, the injury to Wesley Witherspoon and their struggles on the court, Memphis is going through some adversity. How Josh Pastner gets his young team to overcome that will determine how far he can take his talented group of players. The Tigers have had three close calls against bad teams and are struggling a bit offensively. Memphis averaged 85 PPG in its first seven games but that number has dropped to 69 PPG over the last three contests. Memphis is not a particularly great shooting team but they get to the charity stripe often and do make up some points there. The pregame story is whether or not Witherspoon will play, as Pastner did not rule him out and said he was day-to-day. If he doesn’t play, the guard-laden Tigers will be severely undersized and thin overall. If he does play, they’ll still be undersized but at least will have a scorer capable of pulling the Georgetown big men away from the basket. For the purposes of this preview, we’ll go on the assumption that he doesn’t play and wouldn’t be near 100% even if he does. Memphis already struggles rebounding the basketball and that’ll be a huge problem against a Hoya team with good rebounding guards and two strong post men. Look for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson to own the paint with Witherspoon out. For Memphis, Will Coleman and Tarik Black have to make their presence known, otherwise Georgetown will focus its defense on the Tiger guards all night. A freshman, Black has had a tough time adjusting to a bigger role on this Memphis team. Tonight is a huge opportunity to assert himself and make himself a strong option for his head coach. The story for Georgetown is obviously their terrific trio of guards. They account for 57% of their points and all are great three point shooters. Point guard Chris Wright is also averaging seven assists per game during his senior season in the nation’s capital. Jason Clark is one of the most underrated players in the game today and has the potential to break out at any time. Austin Freeman is their rock. The preseason Big East POY leads the team in scoring and is a lights out three point shooter. When Freeman is hot, Georgetown is incredibly difficult to beat. The Hoyas are third nationally in offensive efficiency, first in effective field goal percentage and fourth in two point percentage, showing they can get it done both inside and out. It’s no surprise Georgetown hoists a lot of three’s, getting a third of their points from the arc. Memphis has to do a good job defensively on the perimeter otherwise Georgetown will shoot them out of the building. The Tigers also have to worry about turnovers, currently averaging 16 per game with Joe Jackson accounting for almost a quarter of those. Jackson is another freshman who’s incredibly talented but a bit undisciplined at this point in his career. He needs to play well and also get Chris Crawford and Charles Carmouche involved from the arc. With almost all of their players being guards, Memphis is going to have to try to match Georgetown’s outside shooting and get to the foul line. The Tigers will be in this game if they can disrupt the flow and score by getting to the stripe but Georgetown is just too experienced and talented for the young Tigers to overcome. Expect the Hoyas to pick up a nice road win at the FedEx Forum tonight after missing an opportunity at Temple a couple weeks ago.

A few other games to monitor:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

[ed note: this post was written before Tuesday's games]

A Look Back

  • Knights stay perfect, top Miami after power outage.  The No. 3 shooting team in the nation resides in Orlando. That’s right, the Knights of Central Florida are shooting the ball as well as any team in the nation, a huge reason for the team’s 10-0 record so far. On Saturday, the team stayed undefeated when they ousted Miami 84-78 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida, after trailing as much as 43-31 in the first half. The 12-point deficit was the largest the team faced this season, however the Knights rebounded by scoring 51 points and shooting 75 percent in the second half after a 25-minute delay due to a power outage. The loss snapped a five-game win streak for the Hurricanes, while UCF’s Marcus Jordan led all scorers with 23 points.
  • Central Florida cracks top 25 for the first time this season.  Following the 10-0 start to begin their season, Central Florida was rewarded Monday afternoon when the new AP Top 25 poll was released. UCF is ranked No. 24 in the poll, marking the first time the team has been ranked this year. For now, the Knights remain unranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, however they were the top vote getter among unranked teams, garnering 47 votes.
  • UTEP extends win streak to six, tops Texas Tech and SFA.  UTEP is carrying a six-game winning streak into their road contest with BYU on Thursday after the Miners were able to top Texas Tech 82-71 last week. On Monday, the Miners beat Stephen F. Austin 61-52. In both games, Randy Culpepper was the leading scorer, finishing with 28 and 18 points, respectively. With the win, the Miners extended their winning streak to six. They haven’t lost since Nov. 26 when they were beaten by Georgia Tech.
  • Thin Memphis lineup survives scares over weaker opponents; wins 300th in past decade.  After a nationally televised loss to Kansas, the Memphis Tigers struggled against two lesser opponents. On Dec. 16, the Tigers failed to beat Austin Peay in regulation, surviving the Governors 70-68 in overtime. The win marked the second Memphis overtime win in four games. With a thin lineup suffering from injuries and transfers, coach Josh Pastner only played nine players against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The result wasn’t pretty, as the Tigers slipped past the Islanders after going into halftime down a point. Joe Jackson finished with a team-high and career-high 23 points. With the win, the Tigers became only the third NCAA Division I program to register 300 wins over the last decade.
  • DeAndre Kane’s double-double performance lifts Herd, keeps win streak alive.  Marshall limited VMI’s high-octane offense on Sunday night, edging the Keydets 98-70. Sophomore DeAndre Kane led the Herd, scoring 18 points and dishing out 13 assists. Shaquille Johnson led the team in scoring, recording 19 points. With the win, Marshall extended its winning streak to five games.

Power Rankings

  1. Central Florida (10-0).  For the first time this season, the Knights are ranked in the top 25. As a reward, they top the CUSA standings this week after Memphis’ recent struggles. The balanced scoring of Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan, who both average more than 16 points a game, is making this one of the better offensive teams in the nation.
  2. Memphis (9-1).  With a big non-conference game coming up against Georgetown, the Tigers have to be concerned about where they are right now. The team is limited in terms of depth and is struggling on the rebounds as well as in the first half of games. Freshmen Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford need to continue to step up for the injured Wesley Witherspoon.
  3. UTEP (9-2).  After some early season struggles, senior Randy Culpepper has regained his grip on the conference’s POY discussion, leading the Miners with 19.8 points per game. The Miners take a six-game winning streak with them this week when they take on No. 23 BYU on Thursday night.
  4. Southern Mississippi (7-1).  Although they didn’t play, the Golden Eagles dropped one spot in the conference rankings. Senior Gary Flowers remains one of the best players in the conference.
  5. Marshall (8-2).  With Damier Pitts returning from injury, Marshall just got that much better as they look to add to their five-game winning streak when they take on 8-3 James Madison this week. Senior Tirrell Baines is playing huge in the low post for the Herd, who need as many big bodies as they can find.
  6. UAB (8-2).  The Blazers have a huge non-conference game against VCU tonight. If they want to win they will need to rely heavily on junior Cameron Moore, who is averaging 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
  7. Tulane (6-3).  Nothing wrong with how the Green Wave played VCU on Saturday, however the team can’t expect to win games after falling behind by 13 in the first half.
  8. Southern Methodist (6-4).  SMU used a pair of wins over bottom competition to rise in the CUSA power rankings. Junior Robert Nyakundi has been a scoring machine of late, finishing in double figures in six consecutive games.
  9. East Carolina (7-4).  After a five-game winning streak, the Pirates have dropped back-to-back games, losing narrowly to Coastal Carolina last Saturday on a buzzer-beating jump shot.
  10. Houston (6-5).  The Cougars have struggled on the road this year, but luckily they have a pair of home games before they start conference play on Jan. 5. The team lost in overtime to Texas A&M-CC last Saturday.
  11. Rice (5-4).  Tough games against Miami and LSU loom for the Owls. The team has won its last two games though.
  12. Tulsa (5-5).  The Golden Hurricane have played back-to-back overtime games, barely edging out Weber State last week 81-79. Senior guard Justin Hurtt dropped a season-high 36 points in the game. Hurtt has scored above 20 points in half of the team’s games this season.

A Look Ahead

  • Wednesday is loaded. On Wednesday, Southern Miss takes on East Tennessee State in the Cancun Governor’s Cup, while Rice continues their play in Vegas when they take on Miami. In addition, East Carolina travels to George Washington looking to snap a two game losing streak. The games of the night have to be 8-2 Marshall at 8-3 James Madison and UCF taking their unbeaten record on the road against UMass.
  • Thursday trumps all; two top 25 teams duke it out in Memphis.  While the early days of the week have some intriguing matchups, Thursday tops the week off with a plethora of good basketball. The top game, of course, is No. 17 Memphis hosting No. 9 Georgetown. UTEP at No. 23 BYU is also one to watch as well.
Share this story

Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Kendrick out at Memphis: There may not be a bigger headline from Conference USA this season than the news of Memphis cutting ties with their McDonald’s All-American Jelan Kendrick before the Tigers’ first regular season game.  It’s a surprising move for second-year coach Josh Pastner, who cut the start recruit for an overall indifference towards the team. According to reports, Kendrick missed at least two weeks of practice in the preseason for “personal reasons.” In addition, Kendrick had several opportunities to make good with the head coach and his staff, but failed due to an utter indifference toward the program’s rules. From a personnel standpoint, his departure is a disappointment to most fans, considering the hype around Pastner’s club has sky-rocketed from last season to this season, where the Tigers are slotted as a preseason top 20 team.  The absence of the 6’6 freshman, who seemed poised to start and possibly lead the team in scoring, leaves a hole in the Memphis lineup. However, the move speaks highly to Pastner’s belief in the team and their ability to win without Kendrick. Pastner’s confidence has paid off thus far, as the Tigers have jumped out to a 4-0 start, beating Miami 72-68 on national television the day after cutting Kendrick loose. Pastner continues to make character a high priority. During the season opener against Centenary, the 33-year-old coach didn’t play freshman Chris Crawford, citing academic reasons. Also, he kept star Wesley Witherspoon on the bench after he showed up late to practice. Three weeks into the college basketball season, one thing is clear in Memphis — if you want to get on the court, you have to play by Pastner’s rules.
  • Clarkson rising for Tulsa: Freshman Jordan Clarkson, of San Antonio, has emerged as a possible favorite for freshman of the year. The guard finished with two double-figure scoring games, while leading the Golden Hurricanes to a pair of wins. At week’s end, Clarkson was shooting 66% from the floor and above 50 percent from the field.  Tulsa was able earn wins over Oral Roberts and Missouri State due to Clarkson’s 17-point and 13-point efforts, respectively.
  • Culpepper continues to score: The Preseason Player of the Year is well on his way, as UTEP’s Randy Culpepper has already emerged as the conference’s top scorer. After only three games, the guard is averaging 20.3 points a game, shooting over 45 percent from both the field and the three-point range.
  • Dia lifts Mustangs to SMU Invitational victory: Papa Dia’s performance in the SMU Invitational was enough to cement the senior center as the tournament’s MVP, while the Mustangs (2-3) ran away with wins over Lamar and Portland State. Dia was also named C-USA Player of the Week, after averaging 18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists in four games last week. The big man is shooting a crazy 71.8 percent from the field.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (4-0): Undoubtedly the best team in conference. Wins over Miami and LSU help create momentum as this team continues a rough out of conference schedule. So far, all the players have responded positively to the last minute departure of Jelan Kendrick. If they continue to win games, Josh Pastner will look like a coaching genius for cutting his prize recruit on the eve of the Miami game.
  2. Southern Miss (3-0): R.L. Horton shoulders too much of the scoring load, averaging 19.5 a game. However, the Golden Eagles are undefeated thus far and after trouncing South Alabama last week, everything is looking good. Angelo Johnson in the backcourt could pose a problem to many clubs come conference play.
  3. UAB (2-1): It is impossible not to mention Aaron Johnson when talking about UAB. The guard’s 9.3 assists per game are unmatched right now; the next best is Zamal Nixon of Houston with 6.8 a game. It doesn’t hurt that Cameron Moore is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds thus far. A close loss to Arizona State is a good measuring stick to where this team is. This week they will travel to Little Rock, Ark., to take on Arkansas.
  4. Central Florida (3-0): Although South Florida is a bottom tier Big East team, UCF still has to feel good about their out-of-conference upset. However, Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton carry too much of the scoring burden at the moment. They are the only teammates, besides Tulsa’s Jordan Hurtt and Steven Idlet, which rank in the top ten scorers in conference. Clanton’s above 73 percent shooting percentage is impressive.
  5. UTEP (2-1): Randy Culpepper may be leading the conference in scoring, but the Miners will need to amp up their scoring all around if they want to topple New Mexico State and Georgia Tech this upcoming week.
  6. Houston (3-1): The Cougars remain in the top part of the conference, still relying on the magic from last season’s improbable run in the conference tournament. It helps that Maurice McNeil is averaging 11 rebounds a game, while registering 1.8 blocks a contest. A perfect 3-0 record will be tested in upcoming weeks, as the schedule gets tougher.
  7. Marshall (3-1): Marshall doesn’t boast any big wins, defeating Maryville and Glenville State by large margins. Tom Herrion’s club has a good record, but right now the out of conference schedule remains soft, which forces the question. How good can the Thundering Herd be if they aren’t competing against high quality opponents?
  8. Tulsa (2-1): The duo of Jordan Clarkson and Justin Hurtt give this team a lot of talent in the backcourt. Add in newcomer Scottie Haralson, who is currently averaging 15 points, a game, and the Golden Hurricanes could a trio of guards that make them a threat come March. Battles with UNLV and potentially Stanford (if not Murray State) loom.
  9. Tulane (3-1): Kendall Timmons is having an outstanding start to the year, averaging 13.7 points in the conference. In addition, he is second in the conference in rebounds (11.3 rpg) and first in steals (3 spg). However, the Green Wave have beaten up on lowly Maryville and Centenary, so it is hard to tell what kind of a team they are at this moment.
  10. SMU (2-3): The Mustangs are the only team with a losing record in conference. However, that will most likely change with Wayland Baptist coming in on Wednesday. Not an ideal early start for SMU, but stout performances by senior center Papa Dia has people excited.
  11. Rice (3-1): Projected to be one of the worst teams in the conference by most analysts, the Owls have jumped off to a quick start, but don’t be fooled by the record. Last week’s 75-58 win over St. Gregory’s is nothing to get excited about. North Texas comes into tonight and should prove to be a good measuring stick. Arsalan Kazemi is currently leading the conference with 12 rebounds per game.
  12. East Carolina (3-2): Two losses to North Carolina State and Charlotte should have them ranked higher, but considering whom they have beaten, East Carolina is still a low tier team in this conference.

A Look Ahead

  • Memphis’ schedule only gets tougher: Surviving Miami and LSU wasn’t easy, however Memphis can’t be looking for a breather just yet. The team’s out of conference schedule only gets tougher from here.  The December schedule features a game against a tough Western Kentucky team, which is followed by games against Kansas and Georgetown. In addition, the Tigers will hit the road later this season to take on Tennessee and Gonzaga. Overcoming Miami’s backcourt tandem of Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant as Memphis did in the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon is a good sign for what is a very young and inexperienced backcourt. Freshmen Joe Jackson and Will Barton will be relied upon as the season progresses, an will certainly be tested during a tough opening stretch. Also, the duo has had to deal with the departure of the aforementioned Kendrick, which only increases the pressure.
  • UTEP enters pivotal nonconference stretch: At 2-1, the UTEP Miners could be looking at a sub-.500 record if they can’t pull out a key victory over either New Mexico State or Georgia Tech. Tonight UTEP hosts NMSU at 7:05 CST, while they travel to Atlantic City on Friday to play in the Legends Classic Championship where they will take on Georgia Tech. UTEP advanced to the championship in Atlantic City after a home victory against Western Carolina last week in the Legends Classic Regional’s.
Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 11.15.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 15th, 2010

***** – 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.

Monday begins an exciting week of hoops featuring a marathon of games and many big matchups later in the week. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Wofford @ Clemson – 7 pm (no TV, live stream on www.clemsontigers.com) (***)

After a loss to Minnesota on Friday, Wofford gets another crack at a road win against a major conference team. The Gophers were able to hold Terrier star Noah Dahlman in check, limiting him to 15 points. Clemson must do the same as they’re not as talented as Minnesota. The Tigers, under the direction of first year coach Brad Brownell, are coming off an 87-64 victory over Western Carolina in their season opener also on Friday. Clemson is going to pose a significant problem for Wofford in the frontcourt. Wofford has only three players 6’8 or taller on its roster and none of them played against Minnesota. By contrast, Clemson has four guys at least that height. All contributed on Friday, led by Devin Booker’s 16/7. Brownell’s big men scored 52% of their points, while Minnesota’s front line scored 70% (48 of 69) of their points against Wofford including 43 out of 48 in the paint or from the foul line. The Terriers did a nice job limiting Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen to a combined ten points but they got absolutely destroyed up front, including on the boards (41-29 in favor of Minnesota). Coach Mike Young needs a big performance out of his junkyard dog player Tim Johnson (10/13 vs. Minnesota) if the Terriers hope to get this win. The problem for Wofford is Johnson shot 37% from the line last year so if he’s fouled it’s essentially a turnover most of the time. A solid performance out of the Clemson backcourt, led by Demontez Stitt, will only make it much more difficult for Wofford to win. The Tigers lead the all-time series (50-16) between these upstate South Carolina rivals. For Young’s team to win, he’ll need to come up with some clever defensive strategies to counter the serious height disadvantage his team faces. While it’s possible he can do that, it is unlikely Wofford can win the game given the matchups. Ken Pomeroy gives Clemson an 88% chance to win and that’s about how we see it as well.

Miami (FL) @ #20 Memphis – 12 am on ESPN (***)

Josh Pastner is a Man Down But Will Be Ready Regardless

Josh Pastner’s heralded recruiting class lost a piece on Saturday as Jelan Kendrick was kicked off the team by Pastner and his staff. While it’s certainly unfortunate for the Tigers, Memphis fans know they still have a terrific class coming in led by Will Barton and company. Barton has received all the headlines it seems but it was his brother, Antonio Barton, who stepped up in his collegiate debut and led Memphis in a romp over Centenary on Friday. Antonio had 17 points, four assists and five steals in only 23 minutes of action. Chris Crawford also had a big game, hitting every shot he took from the floor for 16 points. Memphis shot 55% overall, including 52% from behind the arc in totaling 104 points. Even more encouraging were 25 assists on 33 made field goals. The bad news? The competition gets much tougher tonight as Frank Haith’s Miami Hurricanes visit FedEx Forum in the first game of ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops marathon. Miami finished last in the ACC last year but made a nice run in the conference tournament. They have one of the better backcourt tandems in the conference in Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, who combined for 43 points and ten assists in an opening win over Jacksonville on Friday. Grant has been around, giving a verbal to Seton Hall back in 2005 then reneging and signing with Villanova. Eventually he transferred to Miami where he seems to have found a home. It’ll be interesting to see these two go up against the deep and talented (but young) Memphis backcourt. Miami has some talent up front, too. Adrian Thomas, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble return for Haith. Johnson is an absolute brute in the paint. Standing 6’10 and checking in at 300 pounds, he somehow has the endurance to play a number of minutes (24 against Jacksonville) and still put up good numbers. These three combined for 35 points the other night and will be tough for Memphis to handle. That job falls to Will Coleman, Angel Garcia and freshman Tarik Black. We expect this to be a fairly high scoring game as both teams shot over 50% in their openers. Vegas pegs the Tigers as five and a half point favorites at home which seems a tad low given Memphis’ ranking and expectations. We do expect Miami to be in this game but Memphis is at home and should be able to take care of business.

St. John’s @ St. Mary’s – 2 am on ESPN (****)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC’s Top Ten Recruiting Classes of 2010

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist and a frequent contributor.

For the college basketball fanatic, incoming freshman are like shiny, new toys. It’s one of the true pleasures of following the sport religiously and a benefit of the current one-and-done era: every talented prospect from all reaches of the nation must compete on the college hardwood for at least one season. It gives us a chance to enjoy John Wall’s end-to-end speed, Kevin Durant’s heroics and Michael Beasley’s scoring prowess, even for just five months. A handful of  coaches have assembled an accomplished group of these freshmen, whether as a complete annual overhaul (Kentucky) or an influx into an already stable core (Duke). Here are the top ten freshmen classes around college basketball this season and a preview of what fans that may not follow the ins and outs of recruiting can expect from these all-world talents:

1. Kentucky - G Brandon Knight, C Enes Kanter, F Terrence Jones, G Doron Lamb, F Stacey Poole, F Eloy Vargas

Calipari's Newest Band of Merry Freshmen

Let this sink in: John Calipari’s 2010 class is good for tops in the nation, yet his 2011 group is even better with arguably three of the top five prospects next year. This year’s collection is highlighted by Knight, Gatorade’s National High School Player of the Year as a junior and easily one of the nation’s top prospects. In fact, he’s even further along as a pure scorer than his predecessor at the point for Kentucky, with a more reliable jumper and the ability to carry his team offensively. Maybe more importantly, Knight has the mentality, toughness and competitive nature to take on the burden of leading a program of Kentucky’s stature with such lofty expectations. The class would take a considerable blow if Kanter, a Turkish import dealing with eligibility concerns, can’t take the Rupp Arena floor at any point this season. Kanter plays in the post with high efficiency and an array of advanced moves, making him the ideal replacement for the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Kanter is talented enough to be a First Team All-America candidate if he plays an ample amount of games. Like Kanter, Jones is a former Washington commit that features a tremendous outside jumper and a hard-working mentality on defense, a trait that will endear him to Calipari immediately, a coach that has always demanded equal effort on both ends of the floor. Lamb is another gifted scoring two-guard that would be the highlight of nearly every other recruiting class in the nation, while Poole is more of a slashing wing with supreme athleticism. Look for Florida transfer Eloy Vargas to earn playing time immediately for what could be a relatively thin Kentucky frontcourt.

2. North Carolina - F Harrison Barnes, G Reggie Bullock, G Kendall Marshall

This three-man class continues the steady stream of Roy Williams recruiting coups, although the Hall of Fame coach hopes that this trio has more of an immediate impact than his 2009 unit of John Henson, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins. Barnes is the near-unanimous choice for the best all-around player in the 2010 class and the prohibitive favorite to take home Freshman of the Year honors this season. Good luck finding easily noticeable flaws in Barnes’ game. He excels in the mid-range, can score in a multitude of ways, has an excellent perimeter shot, shows unwavering effort on the glass and plays with an IQ off the charts for an 18-year old. Williams hit the jackpot when he convinced Barnes to spurn Duke (can you imagine Barnes with Irving and that returning team?) and spend his one year in college at Chapel Hill. He’s a phenomenal student and a coaches’ dream, always willing to listen to advice to improve this game. The Heels backcourt is somewhat crowded with Larry Drew, II, also expected to see heavy minutes, but both Bullock and Marshall are way too gifted to keep on the bench. Bullock features a pinpoint outside jumper — possibly the best in the entire class — and has a true offensive mentality as a two-guard in Williams’ offense. Marshall is more of the pure point guard, a phenomenal distributor blessed with uncanny court vision. He could be an upgrade over Drew in a short period of time. Marshall will need to improve his shooting range to avoid defenses sagging off of him late in games.

3. Ohio State - C Jared Sullinger, F DeShaun Thomas, G Aaron Craft, G Jordan Sibert

Sullinger is Reminiscent of Zach Randolph in the Paint

Nobody would be shocked to see Sullinger challenge Barnes for top freshman in the country this season. What makes him so effective in the post is a rare combination of brute strength and touch around the rim. Always playing with confidence and a high motor, Sullinger can score in a multitude of ways down low that make him nearly impossible to guard. Expect the Columbus native to step in immediately at the center position as an upgrade from the incumbent Dallas Lauderdale. Thomas is one of Indiana high school’s top all-time scorers, a versatile southpaw forward that can finish anywhere on the floor and has the strength/athleticism to guard power forwards. Due to the return of David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford, along with Sullinger entering the fray and the question mark at point guard, Ohio State has enough depth that Thomas may prove Matta’s ace in the hole off the bench this season.  Craft could end up winning that open point guard competition. While his offensive game needs improvement, all Matta will need from his freshman is the ability to find his plethora of talented teammates and play capable defense against opposing point guards, two areas where Craft is very capable. Sibert could also see chunks of minutes as a freshman. The Cincinnati product is still inching back to 100% following a leg injury, but when healthy will provide the Buckeyes with another slashing wing with a scorers’ mentality.

4. Memphis - G Will Barton, F Jelan Kendrick, G Joe Jackson, F Tarik Black, G Chris Crawford

Hopefully UTEP, UAB and other Conference USA foes enjoyed one year of lackluster Memphis basketball. That brief spell is about to come to a quick and decisive end when this prized recruiting class takes the floor at FedEx Forum. Barton has the highest ceiling — a 6’6 shooting guard that can score at virtually any spot inside of halfcourt, uses his size to lock down defensively and finishes smoothly at the rim. He should start immediately alongside Wesley Witherspoon, giving head coach Josh Pastner plenty of height and versatility around his perimeter. Kendrick is another 6’6 prospect with point guard skills. He has the vision and distributing skills to direct traffic late in games for Pastner, but can also step in at the shooting guard or small forward. Local product Joe Jackson could win the point guard job immediately as another phenomenal scorer with an offensive repertoire that reaches far beyond his years. He’s been seemingly unstoppable late in games scoring the basketball, although his progress running the Tigers attack as a pure point is something to keep an eye on. Black is the top post player in this class, another Memphis kid that’s virtually unguardable with the rock deep in the paint. He should see immediate minutes alongside Will Coleman and Angel Garcia on the Tigers frontline.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Will Barton Declared Eligible

Posted by nvr1983 on August 20th, 2010

In a move that would make the SEC (the financial one) proud, the NCAA announced late this afternoon that Memphis recruit Will Barton had been cleared to play for the Tigers. This comes just two weeks after the same body declared Barton academically ineligible for the upcoming season after questioning his high school grades, a decision which Barton appealed. While we are happy for Barton, we can’t help but think that the person who had the second most at stake in this decision was second year Memphis coach Josh Pastner who had taken over for John Calipari following the latter’s decision to bolt for greener pastures at Kentucky. The latter left behind a mess of allegations involving Derrick Rose, resulting in the erasure of one of the greatest seasons ever (statistically); Pastner then had to deal with allegations against himself, as well, before being hit with the possibility that he might not have three of his players (Barton, Hippolyte Tsafack and Chris Crawford) eligible for this season.

The addition of Barton, a top 10 recruit in by almost any service (including our own Zach Hayes), will add a measure of scoring explosiveness that the Tigers have missed in the past two seasons following the departure of Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Whether or not that scoring translates into more post-season success remains to be seen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 08.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

  1. Former Oklahoma State head coach Sean Sutton pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as a result of his February arrest for possession of painkillers without a prescription.  Sutton recently spent 115 days in a rehab program in Sundance, Utah, and will face no jail time for his three-year probation period so long as he stays clean, pays a $2,850 fine and performs 100 hours of community service.  In an interview prior to the hearing last week, Sutton stated that the down time in the two years since he was forced out at OSU contributed to his addiction: “Idle time is no good for anybody.”   Texas head coach Rick Barnes, for one, doesn’t think Sutton’s coaching days are over.  Of course, his father, 800-game winner Eddie Sutton, has had his own demons with alcohol addiction over the years.  Let’s hope both Suttons have put those days behind them.
  2. Kentucky fans filled a tiny gymnasium in Windsor, Ontario, on Sunday night, as John Calipari’s 2010-11 team played the first of a three-game set in Canada to break in the many new faces wearing Wildcat blue next season.  We mentioned UNC freshman Harrison Barnes blowing up in the Bahamas last week; well, Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight made sure that we remembered his prodigious talents as well.  Knight’s line:  31 pts, 9 rebs, 4 assts with ZERO turnovers in 29 minutes of action.  Let the hero-worship begin.
  3. Connecticut requested and received an additional two weeks to respond to the eight NCAA alleged rules violations meted out by the governing body in May.  The new deadline will be September 3, which means that the compliance folks in Storrs may actually get to enjoy Labor Day weekend.  The Hartford Courant interviewed several experts to give readers a sense as to how the school may respond.   The general consensus is that UConn should show that it takes the charges seriously and can police itself; anything short of that may give the NCAA cause to bring the hammer down.
  4. Ohio State center Zisis Sarikopoulos is reportedly on the verge of signing a professional contract with a team in his native Greece, which could impact Thad Matta’s inside depth next season.  Sarikopoulos was expected to provide spot minutes for returnee Dallas Lauderdale and incoming stud Jared Sullinger, but OSU may be without that option in a matter of days if this is true.
  5. Memphis is heading to the Bahamas this week, but three of their newcomers won’t be making the trip as a result of eligiblity issues with the NCAA.  According to Dan Wolken at the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, the trio of Will Barton, Hippolyte Tsafack and Chris Crawford still have to be cleared by the NCAA before they will be allowed to play.  Barton is appealing the NCAA’s denial of his eligibility, while Tsafack and Crawford are still waiting to hear on their initial review.   In an unrelated personal issue, Jelan Kendrick is also not making the trip because he needed to head home to Atlanta.  Not a good way to start the season for Josh Pastner’s crew.
Share this story

Memphis’ Barton Will Not Be Eligible Next Season

Posted by rtmsf on August 5th, 2010

Josh Pastner’s hopes in bringing Memphis back to national prominence in the 2010-11 season took a major hit with the reported news on Wednesday evening that  one of his first five-star recruits, 6’6 wing Will Barton from Baltimore, Maryland, is unlikely to be academically eligible this year.  According to several sources, the issue befalling Barton relates to the fact that he attended four high schools in four years (an automatic red-flag for the NCAA eligibility center) and may not have completed the NCAA-mandated eight semesters of coursework.  He plans to appeal the decision, but he’s going to have trouble meeting the criteria required by the NCAA as his transcript has been referred to as a “total mess” by Gary Parrish (based in Memphis).  Barton must see the writing on the wall, as he has already tweeted out his feelings on the matter:

The obvious answers to his question about where to go from here are threefold: the NBDL, Europe, or stick around Memphis in the Renardo Sidney mold and try to play in 2011-12.  Although few draft sites have Barton as a potential first or second-rounder in next year’s NBA Draft, there has been talk of him becoming a one-and-done player; but as Sidney well knows, scouts don’t like it much when they can’t see players in live-game conditions for a year.  The NBDL and Europe are fraught with their own specific risks.  We certainly wish him well, but it doesn’t appear that he will be playing college basketball at Memphis next year, or possibly ever.

As for the Tigers, the loss of Barton, expected to fill in at the shooting guard position for the departed Elliot Williams, is a significant blow to a team that returns only a handful of regulars from last year’s 24-10 NIT team.  Among last year’s starters, only forwards Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman return, so much was expected from a star-studded recruiting class (#2 behind Kentucky) that included Barton and other guards Jelan Kendrick, Chris Crawford and Joe Jackson.  Obviously the remaining freshmen will need to step up, but Pastner has a difficult job ahead of him putting the pieces together if he hopes to have his team dancing next March.  There is plenty of talent available to him, but will there be enough lace-em-up talent with the loss of Barton to get the Tigers past UTEP and Southern Miss in Conference USA?

Share this story