RTC NBA Draft Profiles: C.J. McCollum

Posted by BHayes on June 25th, 2013

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take fromNBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: C.J. McCollum

School: Lehigh

Height/Weight: 6’3”/197 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Lottery

C.J. McCollum looks to be just the second Patriot League player to be drafted in the NBA's first round

C.J. McCollum looks to become just the second Patriot League player to be drafted in the NBA’s first round

Overview: College basketball just wasn’t the same in 2013, as one of America’s favorite players played just 15 minutes of college basketball after the New Year arrived. C.J. McCollum broke his foot on January 5 in a game at VCU, an injury that would wind up closing down one of the most accomplished college hoops careers of recent memory. Loyal college basketball fans have known about the kid making noise in the Patriot League for some time now, but he made his formal introduction to America in March 2012, when his 30-point performance paced #15-seeded Lehigh to an upset victory over the #2-seeded Duke Blue Devils. It was hard not to notice that McCollum was the best player on the floor that night, and in a game against a team full of NBA talent, mind you. His draft stock was off and running at that point, and even the January injury has done little to slow the momentum. McCollum is now fully healthy and teams don’t seem concerned about the foot, leaving the Lehigh graduate poised to become just the second first-round pick ever selected out of the Patriot League. Questions remain about whether McCollum is a point guard or shooting guard at the next level, but one way or another, this silky smooth scorer should be able to find ways to put the ball in the bucket in the NBA.

Will Translate to the NBA: McCollum’s game is NBA-ready in a number of ways, but it’s first worth noting that from a personal standpoint, CJ McCollum the kid is also ready. Every year we see players enter the league who are simply not prepared to be a professional in anything. McCollum’s four years at Lehigh have served him well, and the mature, thoughtful and confident former Mountain Hawk is ready to tackle his next challenge. Oh, and his game is also prepared for the jump. He’s an NBA-ready scorer who can shoot the ball from deep and put the ball on the floor. Unlike many players today, he possesses a nice mid-range game which will only prove more useful at the next level. A high IQ player that uses savvy on both ends, McCollum has a knack for jumping passing lanes and getting out in transition. He is also a tremendous rebounder for a guard (over five rebounds a game in all four seasons, including 7.8 caroms per contest as a sophomore), a fact that has to ease a little of the concern that he is too small to play shooting guard in the NBA. More so than most in this draft, C.J. McCollum is ready for all the rigors the NBA has to offer.

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Championship Previews: Patriot League Tournament

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 6th, 2013

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. Follow him on Twitter (@mitchgoldich) for live updates throughout the Patriot League Tournament.

Top Storylines

  • Bucknell Locks Up Home Court Advantage: The Bison made history this season, becoming the first Patriot League team ever to win three consecutive outright regular season titles. Their 12-2 conference record gives them the top seed in the tournament, ensuring that all of their games will be played in Sojka Pavilion. Their success in Sojka is one of the key reasons they’ve been so great over the last few years, and is a big reason they’ll be tough to take down in the tournament. The Bison went 11-1 on their home floor this season, including a 6-1 mark in conference play. The Bison are an astounding 75-15 all-time against Patriot League foes in Sojka, though that does include a loss to Lehigh in last year’s Patriot League Championship Game.
  • McCollum Unlikely To Return: The entire complexion of the Patriot League season changed on January 5, when Lehigh star CJ McCollum broke his foot in a nationally televised game against VCU. Lehigh’s preseason All-American became one of the breakout stars in college basketball when he scored 30 points in the Mountain Hawks’ upset over Duke in last year’s NCAA Tournament. He lived up to the hype surrounding his senior season, and led the nation in scoring (25.7 points per game) before the injury. The initial time frame had him out 8-to-10 weeks, which is anywhere from March 2-16. Head coach Brett Reed said on the Patriot League coaches’ conference call that McCollum continues to get healthier, but that he is preparing for the tournament with his squad that went 8-4 in league play without their star. Even if McCollum was healthy enough to take the court, there’s no way to know how many minutes he could log or how effective he’d be.
  • Leopards Running Hot: While Bucknell and Lehigh dominated the preseason and early-season headlines, it’s that other team in Pennsylvania playing the best ball in the conference right now. The Lafayette Leopards started the season 1-6 and 3-8. On December 14, I even had them dead last in my Patriot League Power Rankings. A close loss at Stanford left them 5-10 at the new year, but seemed to offer hope that the team had figured things out. Behind Tony Johnson’s stellar play at point guard, the Leopards won nine of their final 11 conference games, including an upset over Bucknell and a season sweep over the hated rival Lehigh. The Leopards enter the Patriot League Tournament on a five-game winning streak, and are a legitimate contender to win their first league championship since the 1999-2000 season.

Reader’s Take

 

Breaking Down the Tournament Field

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  1. Bucknell (25-5, 12-2) – Bucknell spent the non-conference portion of their season flirting with an automatic bid, but their run through league play was not dominant enough to keep them in that discussion. They have simply not looked as good since they nearly beat Missouri in January (more on that below), but they are still the favorite to win the tournament. In addition to Muscala, they have a strong cast with seniors Bryson Johnson and Joe Willman, also in the 1,000 point club. Johnson set the conference record for most three-pointers made in a career and Cameron Ayers joined him at better than 41 percent from beyond. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 5th, 2013

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  1. One of the many traditions of March is the avalanche of columns on a couple dozen coaches that are probably already living legends, but Kevin Armstrong’s great article on Steve Konchalski may be one of the few that you read on one of the great underappreciated coaches in college basketball having already piled up 826 wins. If you are wondering why you have not heard of Konchalski it is because he coaches in Canada and frankly very few people in the United States are even aware of Canadian college basketball. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if you were more familiar with Steve’s brother Tom, a New York City scout who has been the subject of several articles recently. Still it a worthwhile read on Canada’s Coach K, who might be a tad bit more fiery than the American version as the finger-biting story will illustrate.
  2. Over the weekend Ben Howland created a mini-firestorm when he said that Shabazz Muhammad would be leaving for the NBA after the season. The idea that Muhammad would be turning pro was not exactly groundbreaking, but the fact that his coach would say that at the beginning of March raised more than a few eyebrows. Yesterday, Howland backed off those statements and apologized for saying that without having discussed it with Muhammad, who later said he is still deciding. We are not exactly sure what made Howland come out with those statements (or play beer pong over the weekend with UCLA students), but while it was a questionable decision we are glad to hear a coach open up every once in a while even if he is only stating the obvious.
  3. We have seen plenty of straw men arguments over the years, but this column by David Woods on whether Butler could miss the NCAA Tournament is pretty high up there. We are willing to acknowledge the fact that Butler’s play as of late would be considered spotty at best and the possibility that a program of Butler’s caliber might miss the NCAA Tournament is not exactly unique (see last year), but we doubt that a team that has knocked off the #1 and #2 teams in the polls (like Butler did with Gonzaga and Indiana earlier this year) would ever miss the NCAA Tournament. Although Woods acknowledges that the possibility is far-fetched we think he is underselling just how unlikely it is.
  4. One of the best parts of March is watching an unheralded team shock a powerhouse program and make themselves known to the nation. We would be hard-pressed to include Lehigh in that category this year after their stunning upset of Duke last March, but they had the potential to play the role of Cinderella this March if they were able to get C.J. McCollum back from injury. Unfortunately it appears that McCollum may not be back in time for the Patriot League Tournament, which would most likely mean the end of his college career. Lehigh fans can hold out hope for a surprise run to the Patriot League title without McCollum (they are still tied for 2nd without him), but if this is the last we have seen of McCollum it was a pleasure watching him play in a Lehigh uniform.
  5. We don’t appreciate the competition, but we do appreciate the thought behind SI.com’s new basketball blog “One and One” spearheaded by Andy Glockner. Although it is early in the blog’s life we are interested to see what writers who have traditionally focused on writing magazine-style pieces will produce in the more modern blog format. We aren’t sure how many of Sports Illustrated‘s other writers will join in (Luke Winn has produced his own blog in the past), but if Glockner’s “68 Reasons We Love College Hoops in March” is any indication we are hopeful that they can create insightful/humorous pieces.
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The Other 26: This Is Not Mark Few’s Best Team… Yet

Posted by IRenko on February 16th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a 17-point win at St. Mary’s on Thursday night pushed Gonzaga’s record to 24-2 and cleared its biggest hurdle to a regular season record tainted with just two losses, some are wondering whether this is the best team that Mark Few has put together in his 14 years at the helm. It’s a fair question, given the way they’re playing. But the best ever? Sure, not since Adam Morrison was dragged off the court after a heartbreaking loss to UCLA ended his college career, have the Zags had a player with the combination of star power, All-American credentials, and curious hairstyle that Kelly Olynyk has brought this year. And, true, moreso than the Morrison-led team of 2006, this squad is a well-balanced offensive machine, with a multitude of frontcourt and backcourt options. They proved that on Thursday, when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, who have deferred most of the scoring load this year to Olynyk and Elias Harris, dropped a combined 38 points on St. Mary’s.

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

But Few’s best team ever? They have a ways to go before they can claim such an honor. Take, for example, the 2004 team, which also dropped just two contests heading into the NCAA Tournament.  That squad was led by All-American senior guard Blake Stepp, and like Olynyk, he had lots of help. Junior Ronny Turiaf, sophomore Morrison, and senior Cory Violette shared the scoring load, with all four players averaging in double-digits. They coasted through league play undefeated, never winning a game by less than double digits, and ended the season on a 20-game win streak en route to a 2 seed in the Tournament, Gonzaga’s best ever. Their two pre-Tournament losses were to St. Joe’s and Stanford, both of which went on to earn 1 seeds that year. By contrast, this year’s Gonzaga team lost to Illinois, a bubble team, at home by 11 points.

Of course, this year’s squad could prove itself a superior to the 2004 team — or any team that Few has coached — if it can get past the Sweet Sixteen. Since Gonzaga burst onto the college hoops scene 14 years ago with a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, they’ve yet to get reach the brink of a Final Four, much less a Final Four itself. The ballyhooed ’04 squad was upset by 10th-seeded Nevada in the second round, the ’05 team squandered a 3 seed with a second round loss to Texas Tech, and the ’06 Zags memorably collapsed against UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen (a game to which one cannot refer without remarking that it was perhaps the finest moment of Gus Johnson’s illustrious career). This Gonzaga team stacks up well with those predecessors, but unless it breaks through to the second game of the second weekend, it won’t prove to be their clear superior.

What’s undisputed, however, is that the Zags have been dominant enough to remain at the top of this year’s Top 10.  On to that, our Honor Roll, and this week’s games to watch  . . .

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The Other 26: You Will Be Entertained

Posted by IRenko on January 19th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a one-week hiatus, we are back and just in time for a veritable orgy of great college hoops matchups today.  Yes, there is Louisville v. Syracuse, Florida v. Missouri, Oregon v. UCLA, and Ohio State v. Michigan State.  But things get no less interesting as you move down to the mid-major level, where several compelling matchups featuring conference contenders will unfold.  Before we get to the Top 10, let’s take a look at what’s on tap today:

  • Gonzaga at Butler — The nation’s two Cinderella darlings will square off at the storied Hinkle Fieldhouse in a made-for-TV (yes, ESPN College Gameday will be in the house) contest.  It will be the final game of Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule and, arguably, its toughest.  The loss of Rotnei Clarke to a frightening neck injury will take some of the luster off of this matchup, as Butler will be playing without their leading scorer.  The task will be no easier on the other end of the Court, as the Bulldogs will have to contend with a potent Gonzaga frontcourt, led by 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who has emerged into a bona fide All-American candidate.  But as we all know, being the underdog suits Brad Stevens just fine.
  • Creighton at Wichita StateDoug McDermott has wowed the nation over the past week with a pair of 30-point games, and between his dominance and Creighton’s three-point shooting, the Bluejays’ offense has become quite difficult to stop.  But if there’s a team in the MVC who can do it, it’s Wichita State.  The Shockers have the best defense in the league, which will have the added boost of a raucous home crowd for this premier matchup.  The Shockers’ strong, quick guards will challenge Creighton at the other end, and Cleanthony Early might prove a tough matchup for McDermott.  Carl Hall is also back in the lineup for the Shockers, so both teams will be at full strength.
Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

  • Harvard at Memphis — With Conference USA muddling through a down year, this could be be Memphis’ toughest opponent of the 2013 calendar year.  The Crimson have turned in a quality season despite the unexpected one-year withdrawals of senior leaders Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey due to an academic cheating scandal.  Much of the credit for that goes to freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who is fifth in the country in minutes per game.  Tommy Amaker has put a great deal of faith in the young man, but he has rewarded him with a 31% assist rate, 50% three-point shooting average, and 88% FT shooting average.  Chambers will lock horns with Joe Jackson, who has steadied himself this season to become a reliable scorer and team leader.  The senior point guard has hit double-digits in points in 12 straight games, the longest mark of his college career.
  • Western Illinois at North Dakota State — North Dakota State has been one of the great underreported stories of the season, rolling up a 16-3 record and supplanting South Dakota State as the Summit League’s favorite.  But Western Illinois has also creeped to the top of the league standings, just a game behind NDSU at 6-1.  The Leathernecks are led by an inside-out combo of big man Terrell Parks (13.9 ppg, 9.4 rbg) and do-everything senior guard Ceola Clark.  Clark is an excellent defender, and he’ll need to be at his best to help stop a North Dakota State that is a well-oiled, methodical, efficient machine.  Marshall Bjorkland, the Bison’s 6-8 junior, is arguably the most efficient scorer in the country.  He leads the nation in effective FG percentage (72.4%) and is fourth in true shooting percentage (71.2%).
  • Utah State at Denver — Louisiana Tech remains at the top of the WAC standings after holding off Idaho on Thursday night, but these two squads are just one loss behind them.  So tonight’s game has a lot riding on it.  Expect a low-scoring contest between two of the lowest tempo teams in the country.  Royce O’Neale and Chris Udofia lead Denver’s Princeton offense, which wears down opponents with movement and relies heavily on the three-point shot.  Utah State will look to Preston Medlin, who leads the team with 16.3 points per game, and center Jarred Shaw who gets lots of touches in Stew Morrill’s offense. 
  • College of Charleston at Davidson — Charleston will have a chance to move into a tie atop the Southern Conference South standings with a win at Davidson.  They’ll be led by their backcourt combo of Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt, while their hosts will rely more heavily on their frontcourt tandem of De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen.  Davidson can fall in love with the three-point shot to their detriment.  They’re better when they get the ball to the versatile Brooks and Cohen.  Getting the ball in the basket won’t be easy against Charleston, which has a pretty good defense anchored in the middle by Adjehi Baru.
  • Belmont v. Tennessee State – You would think that this game between the OVC’s two undefeated teams would lose its luster with the absence of Tennessee State’s star big man, Robert Covington, except for one thing — they’ve won every one of their six OVC games without him.  Covington went down with a torn meniscus in a December 18 trip to Middle Tennessee State that the Tigers went on to lose by 38 points.  At that point, they were 5-7 on the season but they’ve reeled off seven straight since and now sit atop the OVC East standings.   But they may need more than the Ewing Effect when they travel across town to face off with Belmont.  The switch from the A-Sun to the OVC hasn’t dimmed the Bruins’ ability to dominate their conference competition.

So there it is, a day-long feast for the glutton who craves mid-major hoops.  We move on, now, to the updated Top 10 rankings, our weekly (starting this week) Honor Roll, and a few more games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

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CIO…the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2013

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • Lehigh Loses McCollum: Lehigh’s Pre-Season All-America guard, CJ McCollum, suffered a broken fifth metatarsal in his foot during Saturday’s nationally televised game at VCU. More than 30 NBA scouts came to watch him in person, but he went down midway through the first half.  This injury is a real shame, not just for Lehigh but for the whole league. The Patriot League has received unprecedented levels of press so far this season because of McCollum and the anticipated exciting battle between Lehigh and Bucknell for the league title. Now, much of the buzz may dissipate before conference play even starts. McCollum has already undergone surgery, and early diagnoses had him out 8-10 weeks. The Patriot League Tournament falls right in that stretch, so it’s unknown if he’ll make it back out on the court again this season. Even if he does rush back, it may take him longer to return to 100 percent. The Patriot League’s all-time scoring leader will now fall short of Daren Queenan’s school record, which was set before Lehigh joined the conference. While he is fiercely dedicated to his team’s success this year, nobody would expect him to do anything foolish with his body while he still projects to be a first round pick in next summer’s NBA Draft.
Being Without Its Top Star For Several Weeks Doesn't Sit Well With Lehigh Fans. (Joe Mahoney/AP)

Eight-to-Ten Weeks Without C.J. McCollum Doesn’t Sit Well With Lehigh Fans. (Joe Mahoney/AP)

  • Bucknell Keeps Building a Resume: The Bison came heartbreakingly close to beating Missouri in their most difficult non-conference game of the season, dropping a 66-64 contest in Columbia. Still, Bucknell is establishing itself as one of the top mid-major teams in the country. The Bison are ranked fourth in the latest College Insider Mid-Major Top 25. They come in at #36 at kenpom.com and #38 in the RPI. Bucknell has escaped the non-conference portion of its season with a league record 13 wins, and it’s now safe to say that an at-large bid is officially in play. McCollum’s injury makes them the favorite to win the Patriot League Tournament, whether he returns for the tournament or not, but a strong regular season and a tournament upset could land Bucknell in the Big Dance anyway.
  • Wrapping Up the Non-Conference Season: The performance of the league slipped a bit over the last two weeks, dropping the conference’s cumulative record to 62-62 with just one non-conference game remaining (Colgate plays the New Jersey Institute of Technology in February). Some of those wins came against competition below the Division I level, but the eight schools have combined to go 56-41 against D-I teams outside of the six power conferences. The teams are an impressive 48-29 against the A-10, America East, CAA, Ivy, MAAC, NEC and MEAC. Those marks are good enough to hold steady at #16 out of 33 in the conference ratings on Ken Pomeroy’s website. Last year the Patriot League finished at #22.

Power Rankings

  1. Bucknell (13-3) – Seemingly every other game, Mike Muscala puts forth an effort described as his best game of the season.  If he hadn’t had his coming out party yet, it was definitely against Missouri last Saturday.  Muscala put up 25 points and 14 rebounds against a nationally ranked team loaded with talent.  The Bison led at halftime and outrebounded the Tigers, but fell just short.  Muscala stepped on the base line with 4.1 seconds left in a one-point game, with Bucknell in position to take the lead.  Though Muscala currently leads ESPN.com’s Player Efficiency Ratings, this is not a one-man team.  Cameron Ayers, son of former Ohio State and NBA coach Randy Ayers, has scored in double figures in six straight games and Bryson Johnson is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On C.J. McCollum, Transfers, Cincinnati and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 8th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he will be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. It was such a shame to see Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum leave Saturday’s loss at VCU with a broken left foot after what appeared to be a rather innocuous drive down the lane late in the first half. McCollum, who led the nation in scoring before Saturday’s game, is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks. Given that time frame, McCollum could be back as soon as early March, hopefully in time for the Patriot League Tournament, which begins March 6, and any subsequent postseason tournament Lehigh qualifies for. The 6’3” senior guard out of Ohio had been in the midst of his best season yet for the Mountain Hawks, shooting over 50% from three point range and averaging 25.7 PPG before the injury. McCollum had already posted four 30+ point games and was ready to lead his team into a conference battle with the other Patriot League contender, Bucknell. Without him in the lineup, Brett Reed will have to look to his three other double digit scorers (Gabe Knutson, Mackey McKnight, and Holden Greiner) for even more production in an effort to get Lehigh to its third NCAA Tournament in four seasons.

    C.J. McCollum will miss 8 to 10 weeks with a broken foot.

    C.J. McCollum will miss 8 to 10 weeks with a broken foot.

  2. The new transfer proposal that could be approved by the NCAA this summer and implemented in time for the start of the 2014-15 season could turn college basketball into an absolute mess. The proposal says that any student-athlete who keeps a 2.6 GPA (essentially a B-minus grade) or higher would be eligible to transfer without the current one-year waiting period to another school. In my opinion, this would open up a can of worms nobody wants to see. Transfers have already gotten out of control and there is no need to further that trend. Not only would you have players moving from school to school like free agents in professional sports, you would also see coaches at mid-majors and even mediocre high majors losing their top players left and right because coaches at more successful programs can offer them playing time on a quality team. Imagine there is a rising junior on a team near the bottom of a power conference. A coach at a stronger program sees this player as an important piece to his puzzle, gets him to transfer and play immediately. Essentially, that player is a free agent and the rich get richer while the majority of programs struggle to move up in their conference because most of the good players they work on developing head to teams that are in a better position to begin with. It hurts the coaches, fans, and players of the lower level school while adding nothing to the game overall. It is a bad proposal that could ruin the sport as we know it. If it were up to me, I would eliminate hardship waivers and no penalty transfers for graduate players while requiring every player who transfers for any reason to sit out one year. That is the only way to ensure competitive balance. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 7th, 2013

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  1. The big news of the weekend happened on Saturday when Lehigh star CJ McCollum left their game against VCU after what appeared to be a fairly innocuous drive. However, when he returned to the court he was on crutches and told a teammate that his foot was broken, which was confirmed the following day as a fracture of his fifth metatarsal in his left foot and is expected to be out for 8-10 weeks. The injury is obviously a crushing blow for Lehigh’s season although it is possible the McCollum could return in time for the Patriot League conference tournament. However, various reports indicate that the plan is to be as conservative as possible, which seems to be the most reasonable choice given the fact that McCollum is still probably a first round choice as long as he comes back healthy.
  2. According to unnamed sources, the “Catholic 7″ are on the verge on striking a lucrative television deal worth more than $500 million over 12 years. The sources, who may have their own agendas in providing this information, are reporting that Fox is looking at putting the new conference on Fox Sports 1, which will replace Speed (already in 81 million households in the US). The deal would pay each of the seven schools about twice as much as they would have made had they elected to stay in the Big East. Interestingly, the seven schools are expecting that any incoming schools would be paid less than half of the television money that the “Catholic 7″ are making because those new schools would still be making significantly more than they are making in their current television contracts. This might sound reasonable in theory, but we would be surprised if the schools agreed to do so for more than a few years.
  3. File this under the category of “the rich get richer”. On Saturday, Dakari Johnson committed to Kentucky adding to their already ridiculous incoming recruiting class. Johnson, who is the consensus #1 center in this year’s class even though he only reclassified to the class of 2013 from the class of 2014 back in November, announced his decision on ESPN2/ESPNU after his team’s convincing victory over a Jabari Parker-led team from Simeon (IL). Johnson is the third player ranked #1 at his position to join the incoming class at Kentucky with twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison being the others with James Young (#2 shooting guard/#6 overall), Marcus Lee (#11 power forward/#30 overall), and Derek Willis (three-star power forward) rounding out the class so far. At this point Kentucky has already secured the #1 overall class for 2013 and everybody’s attention will be turned to where they rank historically. The obvious comparison is the Fab Five class that came into Michigan in the fall of 1991. We are sure that plenty of recruiting analysts will be chiming in with their thoughts in the next few months, but we will hold off on any comparisons (apparently so will John Calipari) except to say that we doubt they will have the cultural legacy, but hope they will exist in the eyes of the NCAA.
  4. After Jim Boeheim passed Bob Knight on the all-time victory list there was quite a bit of talk about where he ranked among the greatest coaches of all-time. One coach who we never hear mentioned in these discussions, but probably merits consideration to at least be mentioned is the legendary Jerry Tarkanian. While many reasons have been cited including the infamous hot tub photo where several of Tarkanian’s players are seen with Richard Perry, a famous gambler who had been convicted twice of sports bribery, it would seem that Tarkanian is unjustly left out of these discussions. As Sam Borden points out in his excellent article on Tarkanian in The New York Times Tarkanian was a pioneer who was well ahead of his time. As Borden points out, one of the sticky subjects around Tarkanian is that he still is not in the Hall of Fame despite his ridiculous coaching credentials as the lingering questions surrounding his methods and the people surrounding his programs have made many uneasy to include him in such select company. In our opinion, Tarkanian belongs in the Hall of Fame with the understanding that those who actually know the game will be aware of the allegations surrounding his career.
  5. If you are unhappy with how your team’s season is going so far, be happy that you are not a fan of Hamline, a Division III school that has suspended its head coach indefinitely, dismissed a player, forfeited its game on Saturday, and is considering additional discipline/suspensions for the 14 remaining players on the team. The origins of this fiasco appear to start after the team’s trip to Spokane, Washington when Eugene Lawrence III was charged with felony second-degree assault after allegedly punching a women in the face. The entire story, which is described in detail including the circumstances around the encounter and Lawrence’s reaction afterwards, is disturbing although we are not sure how the coach and the rest of the team fit in here. Hopefully the situation can be resolved, but we have to applaud the school (or at least someone at some level) for stepping in and apparently taking charge of this mess.
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The Other 26: Cowboy-ing Up

Posted by IRenko on January 5th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

College basketball has just four undefeated teams left. You can likely recite the identity of the first three:  Duke, Michigan, and Arizona, who occupy the top three spots in the AP rankings. But you may be surprised to learn that the fourth team is the Wyoming Cowboys. Larry Shyatt’s squad sits at 13-0 after a successful non-conference season that featured solid wins over Colorado, Illinois State, and Denver.

Leonard Washington Has Led Wyoming to a Surprising Undefeated Start (Troy Babbitt / US PRESSWIRE)

Leonard Washington Has Led Wyoming to a Surprising Undefeated Start (Troy Babbitt / US PRESSWIRE)

Last year, the Cowboys finished sixth in the MW. Then in the offseason, they graduated three of their five starters. So how have they managed to reel off 13 straight victories to start the year? Wyoming is very strong defensively, but they were just as good, if not better, last year. The biggest difference is a major improvement on offense, as their adjusted efficiency has gone from 0.99 points to 1.08 points per possession. That may not sound like a big difference, but when you realize that a single game is composed of dozens of possessions, it adds up to a substantially better offensive performance. This increased efficiency has been driven by the Cowboys’ ability to get to the free throw line and to convert on two-point opportunities. Senior forward Leonard Washington deserves the credit for leading the team in both respects. The 6’7″ tweener is shooting 63.7 percent on two-point field goals and draws 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes — one of the higher rates in the country.

The second significant factor in the Cowboys’ improvement is the offseason development of senior Derrious Gilmore and sophomore Larry Nance, Jr. (yes, the former NBA player’s son). Gilmore has rewarded Larry Shyatt’s decision to hand him the starting point guard spot by improving his per game averages from 3.1 points and 1.1 assists per contest to 11.8 points and 3.2 assists per game. He averages more than 32 minutes per game, second most to Washington. Nance, meanwhile, has gone from averaging 4.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest to 11.2 and 6.8, respectively.  He shoots over 60 percent on two-point attempts and 84.2 percent from the free throw line. Add in the contributions of returning starter and senior guard Luke Martinez (14.5 points, 42.2% 3FG) , and the Cowboys have a feature a surprising amount firepower.

Despite their undefeated mark, it remains an open question as to how good the Cowboys really are. Last year, they got off to 14-2 start during non-conference play but crumpled to a 6-8 record in the Mountain West. This year’s record is even more impressive to be sure and, as noted above, features some solid if unspectacular wins. But the strength of schedule is about to kick into a higher gear, as they enter conference play against a very deep and talented Mountain West. If they can maintain their offensive improvement through the rest of the year and continue to get contributions from a range of players, they may be Dancing for the first time since 2002 and just the second time in 25 years.

Let’s move on to this week’s Top 10, the performances that caught our eye this past week, and the games to watch in the week ahead.

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CIO… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2012

CIO header

Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • Lights-Out Lehigh: CJ McCollum continues to lead the nation in scoring, now with 24.9 points per game, but he is hardly doing it by himself. Gabe Knutson is scoring over 16 points per game, and Mackey McKnight and Holden Greiner are both averaging double figures. The Mountain Hawks are second in the country in both free throw percentage (80.5 percent) and three point shooting (44 percent).  Those efficient numbers have helped boost Lehigh to 16th in the country at 80.8 points per game.
  • Muscala Racks Up Career Numbers:Bucknell’s Mike Muscala is having an excellent senior season, and is staking his claim as one of the most dominant big men in the history of the conference. Adonal Foyle is still the only player the Patriot League has ever sent to the NBA, and Muscala recently joined him as the second player in conference history with 1,500 career points and 800 career rebounds. Foyle even tweeted that he was happy to have company in the club. Muscala is sixth in the nation with 11.4 rebounds per game. He and Duke’s Mason Plumlee are the only players averaging at least 18 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Conference Ranking Is Improving: According to Ken Pomeroy’s indispensable site kenpom.com, the Patriot League finished last season rated 22nd toughest out of the 33 D-I conferences.  This year, the Patriot League is up to 16th, leapfrogging the CAA, Ivy, Sun Belt, Big West, Atlantic Sun and Summit leagues.  While Bucknell and Lehigh are certainly responsible for a large part of that jump, the conference is definitely stronger top to bottom as well. The eight schools have a cumulative record of 43-39, despite several mismatches against teams from the power conferences. The Bison and Mountain Hawks have also received attention from several individual polls. ESPN.com’s most recent Mid-Major Report listed Bucknell sixth and Lehigh eighth.  CBS Sports’ Mid-Major Power Pyramid had Bucknell ninth and Lehigh 12th.
Mike Muscala and the Bison escaped Columbia.

Mike Muscala and the Bison escaped Columbia.

Power Rankings

1. Bucknell (8-1) – The Bison survived a scare from Columbia in one of the most exciting games any Patriot League team has played this season.  The opponents shot out to a 25-8 lead after the opening tip and maintained a double-digit lead with under 15 minutes to go in the game.  Muscala would not let Bucknell lose and submitted a dominant 29 points and 19 rebounds in the win. Read the rest of this entry »

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Award Tour: Shabazz Muhammad Is Out, So Who’s In?

Posted by DCassilo on November 16th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Take a second to play out a hypothetical situation. John Doe is a top recruit. He is probably going to play for Basketball College. A booster for that school’s biggest rival, Hoops University, knows this and gives Doe $1,000 to come visit Hoops. A year later, the NCAA finds out, and who gets punished? Not the booster and Hoops but Doe and Basketball College. This is the insanely stupid can of worms that the NCAA has opened up in the Shabazz Muhammad ruling. To make matters worse, recent reports say the NCAA had it out for him before they even learned of this. It brings to focus a larger issue that still does not get enough play – the student-athlete has no rights. Unlike professional sports, there are no unions. It’s just the NCAA and powerful universities versus tiny student-athletes. For now, Muhammad doesn’t play, and that shakes up both of our top 10 lists. Hopefully by including these players below, they haven’t become susceptible to another NCAA violation.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Pierre Jackson – Baylor (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 23.3 PPG, 8.7 APG

Welcome to the race Mr. Jackson (AP)

As you’ll see throughout this list, it might just be the year of the point guard. Jackson is a special one, as he’s already poured in 27 points and 31 points this season. The assists are there too, making him one of the toughest players to guard in the country. This week: Nov. 16 vs. Colorado, Nov. 18 vs. St. John’s/Murray State

9. Kenny Boynton – Florida (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 16 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG

A near inclusion on this original list, Boynton makes it in there after a stellar start to the season. While he took a backseat role against Wisconsin, being the engine that drives one of the top teams in the country will only help his candidacy. This week: Nov. 18 vs. Middle Tennessee St., Nov. 20 vs. Savannah State

8. Allen Crabbe – California (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 30 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3 APG

After averaging 15.2 PPG as a sophomore, Crabbe has opened the eyes of many with a 27-point and a 33-point game to open the season. It’s impossible to shoot this well (60 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from 3-point range) all season, but he seems to have the tools to contend for the nation’s scoring title. This week: Nov. 16 vs. Denver, Nov. 22 vs. Drake

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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