Morning Five: 05.23.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft lottery for the second time in three years on Tuesday night, which means that the team that selected rising superstar Kyrie Irving #1 overall in 2011 will get a chance to pair another potential star next to him. Will it be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, or some other prospect who hasn’t yet risen up the draft boards? Whoever it is, and this is a solid mock with explanations from NBADraft.net, keep one thing very much in mind. If you redrafted the 2010 NBA Draft right now — just three years later — the top overall pick would probably be an overlooked athlete from Fresno State who never so much as sniffed a winning season in two years in the Central Valley, Paul George. So no matter what anyone says between now and June 27 (including ourselves), take it with a healthy dose of NaCl. 
  2. While on the subject of George and his Indiana Pacers, his head coach Paul Vogel took quite a bit of heat last night for removing center Roy Hibbert from the game in the closing seconds, allowing the freight train known as LeBron James to power his way into the lane for an easy layup to win the game (beating George badly to his left, incidentally). Still, Vogel appears to be a rising star himself with the way he has developed this Pacers group, but we’re betting that you didn’t know that his dream job was actually to become a college basketball coach. He got his first start by basically begging then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for a spot on his staff as a student manager in the mid-1990s, eventually becoming UK’s video coordinator and alighting to the NBA ranks when Pitino left Lexington for the Boston Celtics. It’s a rags-to-riches underdog sort of story, and one well worth familiarizing yourself with. If Vogel continues to play his cards right in the NBA, he may find that elusive major college head coaching job available to a guy like him after all.
  3. It was open secret for most of the week, but SI.com confirmed on Wednesday that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will in fact return as the captain of the Team USA men’s basketball ship for the next three years (which includes the 2014 World Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics). We’ll have more on this decision later today in a separate post, but while on the topic of international basketball, USA Basketball invited 24 rising freshmen and sophomores to try out for its U-19 team that will compete later this summer in the World Championships in Prague. The most recognizable candidates who will battle for one of 12 roster spots next month are Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes, and Oregon’s Damyean Dotson. Notably missing from the two dozen players are any of Kentucky’s impressive haul from the Class of 2013, several of whom already have had international basketball experience. But John Calipari says that the group as a whole is itching to get to Lexington and would rather spend their summer months working out to prepare for what everyone believes could be a phenomenal year.
  4. Last week we mentioned that a Brown University player named Joseph Sharkey had been assaulted on the street and put in the hospital with critical head injuries as a result. As of yesterday he remained in a Providence hospital, but the better news is that local authorities have arrested a suspect for the brutal crime, a reserve Marine who served in Afghanistan named Tory Lussier. We’re in no way going to loft unfounded accusations at this “hero” without a full accounting of the details of the night in question, but it’s worth noting that Lussier was already under suspicion for assault of an elderly person from an incident in a Connecticut parking lot last fall. Whether this is the guy who committed such a senseless crime or it was someone else, we really hope that justice is served in one way or another.
  5. There were a couple of notable comings and goings yesterday. In some bad news, Florida’s Will Yuguete had his right knee scoped on Wednesday and is expected to miss the next four months of action. The French wing had suffered numerous injuries during his career in Gainesville, so the hope here is that this particular course of treatment and rehabilitation will allow him to have a strong, injury-free senior season in 2013-14. Up the coast a bit in Storrs, Connecticut announced on Wednesday that center Enosch Wolf‘s suspension for an on-campus domestic dispute has ended. He is cleared to return to the team if he likes, but here’s the catch — he no longer has a scholarship. With the school’s announcement this week of the transfer of GW’s Lasan Kromah, there simply isn’t an available spot left. Funny how things like this work themselves out. Wolf expects to make his decision in the coming weeks.
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Morning Five: 05.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. Perhaps feeling green with envy that Louisville’s Rick Pitino (championship, tattoo, Derby) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (recruiting, NCAA) were receiving all the offseason college basketball attention, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got himself back into the conversation this week with his comment to SI.com‘s Pete Thamel that he is considering a return to coach USA Basketball’s men’s national team again in 2014 (Worlds) and 2016 (Olympics). We’re kidding about the jealousy bit — sorta — but coaches gotta coach, and everyone has trouble stepping away from doing the thing they love most. Mike DeCourcy writes that the numerous Duke haters who simply cannot endure anything associated with the four-time national championship head coach miss the point — Coach K (and certainly Jerry Colangelo) made the concept of preparing and competing for Team USA cool again. Prior to their involvement, players showed up and expected to win simply because, well, because they thought they could. Miserable performances in the 2002 Worlds (sixth) and 2004 Olympics (third) led to the system we now have in place, and for that Krzyzewski should absolutely be lauded and celebrated by every American who cares about USA basketball.
  2. It certainly doesn’t have the ring or cachet of its predecessor at the Garden, but the inaugural AAC Tournament is beginning to look a lot like the old Conference USA Tournament (and the old Great Midwest Tournament; and the old Metro Tournament) in that it may be headed to Memphis. Don’t get us wrong, the city of Memphis has a tremendous local fan base that loves college basketball and will fill the FedEx Forum with their beloved Tigers now in the new league. But can we liven this thing up a little bit in its first go-round — how about slotting in the top four seeds into the conference semifinals and leaving it at that? A semifinal round of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut next March wouldn’t be awful, and we’ll even allow you to throw in Temple in place of Cincy if the Bearcats falter. Deal?
  3. We’re a big believer in second chances, especially when someone who has done wrong can show that they’ve learned from their previous mistakes. Still, we believe there should be limitations to those reprisals, and we’re having a little trouble swallowing the Zay Jackson story at Murray State. You remember Jackson — he was the Racer guard who rather infamously ran over a man with his car in a Walmart parking lot last September — according to Andy Katz’s report earlier this week, after serving 49 days in jail for hit-and-run, MSU’s athletic department has decided to allow him back on the team. The school apparently (?) did not have a protocol to deal with situations like these, but how about a protocol of redemption and common sense? Again, we support the concept of a second chance. The young man served his time and by all indications hasn’t caused any problems since his release. But wouldn’t this be a situation where both parties would be better served by shaking hands with each other and walking away? Wouldn’t Jackson want to have a fresh start at another school? Does Steve Prohm really want to endure the endless mocking and jeering his team will suffer as a result of this decision? At a minimum, how about ensuring that Jackson can keep his nose clean for an entire year (just school and practice) before allowing him the privilege of playing college basketball again? Poor form here, we’re afraid.
  4. Depending on whom you ask, the voluminous and growing number of transfers is destroying the integrity of the collegiate game or finally shifting the balance of power back to the producers of all that money flowing to the schools — the players. But the coaches still have several dirty tricks up their sleeve when needed, and the power to “block” transfers from alighting to certain schools is one of the more nefarious ones. Sometimes the notion derives from a misguided but legitimate attempt to protect “trade secrets,” but more often it just seems that the coaches are vindictively limiting the players simply because they can. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings’ blockage of freshman Sheldon Jeter from transferring closer to his hometown school of Pittsburgh has the look and feel of exactly that. Pitt and Vandy are not in the same league, nor are they scheduled to play next season; in fact, they haven’t played in over two decades. So what’s the deal here? Why on earth would Vanderbilt care if a mediocre freshman wanted to play closer to home for the rest of his career — what possible reason could Stallings have other than “because he can.” Remember, college athletics is about the student-athletes.
  5. Remember the San Diego/Brandon Johnson bribery incident a couple of years ago? That’s OK, nobody else does either. For something that supposedly destroys the very integrity of a sport by its very existence, it sure seems as if incidents like these are quickly reported and summarily swept right on under the rug so as to not get in the way of moving right along. As this FBI narrative reports, Johnson was convicted of point shaving during four games in the 2009-10 season, and he was ultimately outed when the criminal enterprise that had recruited him was investigated for drug trafficking. The FBI report states that “tampering with sports events strikes at the integrity of the games; this kind of betrayal is not merely disappointing—it is criminal and worthy of prosecution,” but the greater public has largely not seemed to care all that much. They still attend and watch games, fill out brackets, and enjoy all the other accessories of being a college sports fan. Maybe we’re all so ambivalent to scandal that we’ve become accustomed to it — as a sort of new normalcy. Oh hey, IRS. How’s it going?
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Big East M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 19th, 2012

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Louisville fans hoping that shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng would return from a wrist injury in time for the team’s December 29 showdown with Kentucky were let down today when Cardinals’ coach Rick Pitino conveyed the unlikelihood of Dieng’s return during his weekly press conference. Apparently a bone in the wrist isn’t healing quite as quickly as the team had hoped and his expected return date has been pushed back to January 2 against Providence, but don’t hold your breath for anything concrete. It would have been fun to see Dieng square off with the Wildcats’ big men Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein but Cardinals’ fans will live with it as long as they get their center back near or at the start of conference play. Keep in mind that the Cardinals’ defense is already playing without one of the premier rim-protectors in the sport and they are still the most efficient defense in the country. That defense could become scary if Dieng can return to form quickly.
  2. Let’s overlook the rather biased “star” distinction laid upon Marquette freshman forward Steve Taylor Jr, by his coach Buzz Williams and just recognize that Taylor has the look of a pretty good player once he gets it all figured out. The Chicago native has plenty of potential, but 10 points and six rebounds against Savannah State doesn’t make you a star, especially considering he played a grand total of 12 minutes combined in the team’s previous two games against legitimate competition (Florida and Wisconsin). Taylor is the just the latest in a long line of undersized power forwards that Marquette gets a lot of production out of and they need him to play well because the team’s bench has been less than stellar this year. If Taylor continues to progress and develop, Marquette will be a much better team down the stretch.
  3. Sometimes in the middle of the week it can be a real struggle to find decent stories to share with you all. And sometimes, when I go hunting for stories, I come up with a treasure, as is the case with this almost month-old story about South Florida freshman Jordan Omogbehin. I remember watching highlights of one of the Bulls’ game and picking him out almost immediately thanks to his size ( he is 7’3”, 329 pounds) and his stature is the reason why the fans love him. Of course Omogbehin is still developing his game and has not played even eight minutes per game this season after redshirting last season, but none of this has stopped the fan base in Tampa Bay from embracing the behemoth every time he checks in at the scorer’s table. Maybe it isn’t the most noteworthy story, but hey, it’s less depressing than more Big East collapse news.
  4. In the absence of really notable news stories, we bring you this interesting note about how Syracuse forward Michael Gbinije, a Duke transfer, is now the only player in the history of the sport who has played for two coaches who have won 900 games. Of course this would be a more interesting tidbit if Gbinije had actually done much playing for either coach, but the sophomore averaged less than six minutes per game in 19 games last season for Coach K before transferring to Syracuse to play for Boeheim, where he now must sit out a year. Nevertheless, the Syracuse Post-Standard did their diligence and interviewed the young Virginia native on his experience with the two coaches so we’ll do them the solid and give it a shout in this space.
  5. Our final piece of news is yet another small tidbit of information in anticipation of tonight’s Crosstown Classic, but at least it isn’t about the brawl! This will be the first year the classic is held at a neutral site and Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin likes it because the U.S. Bank Arena will have a postseason feel, providing an advantage for both teams when March rolls around. I guess I will buy that, although in a rivalry of this magnitude it seems like there will be a postseason feel to the game no matter where it is played.
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Duke Guards Feast on the Attention Placed on Mason Plumlee Inside

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Temple-Duke game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“How good can this team become coach?” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski did not want to answer that question. Superstitious perhaps, or having coached nearly 38 seasons in Division I, he knows how quickly a team’s prospects can change. “I have had some pretty good teams… [“one or two” someone whispered)] …we’ve done ok.” Anyone who had watched Duke dismantle Temple to the tune of 90-67 on Saturday afternoon had to know the #2 Blue Devils were better than “ok.” Previews of this match-up dwelled on the role Temple’s guards played in the Owls’ 78-73 win last season, and the Owls’ prospects would rise or fall on guard play again. Both teams play three guards, but the similarity ends there. Duke’s guards look like… guards. Quinn Cook is 6’ 1” and 175 pounds. Seth Curry, who still wears a boot while not on the court to protect his ankle injured in Duke’s win over Ohio State, stands at 6’ 2” and 185 pounds. Rasheed Sulaimon (dubbed “Sulaimon the Great” by a member of the press after the freshman hit his first three of the game standing about four feet behind the three point line) is a 6’ 4”, 185-pound beanstalk. Tyler Thornton is a 6’ 1”, 190-pound “sixth man,” and the only other guard on the roster.

Despite a lingering ankle injury, Duke’s Seth Curry launches a three from well behind the three-point line. He made this second half attempt.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy favors taller, thicker wings who move seamlessly between point guard and small forward. Will Cummings, a 6’ 2” sophomore who plays the point for Temple this season, is the only one of the seven players listed on the Temple roster as a “guard” or more appropriately “guard/forward” who could pass for a Duke mold guard. Khalif Wyatt, at 6’ 4” and 210 pounds, and Scootie Randall, 6’ 6” and 225 pounds, are “Philly guards,” whose build and style of play reminds fans of the Big 5 of Diante Christmas and Ramone Moore, two of the wings developed by Dunphy since he moved over from Penn four seasons ago. They are all built like safeties and each is as likely to roll off a screen, catch and shoot a three, as he is to put the ball on the deck and drive the lane for a layup. Christmas, Moore, Wyatt and Randall, along with 6’ 5”, 220-pound transfer Dalton Pepper, grew up in Philadelphia or in one of the surrounding Delaware Valley suburbs.

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ACC M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 6th, 2012

  1. ESPN: North Carolina guard/forward PJ Hairston has been playing a new position this year, the power forward spot. Robbi Pickeral discusses how in North Carolina’s small lineup (three guards plus Hairston with James Michael McAdoo), Hairston enjoys his new role because it creates mismatches and allows him to stretch the floor with his outside shooting ability, something atypical from a player at his position. Roy Williams expects to use this lineup often in the future, as it was successful against UAB last weekend. Hairston also plans to take the ball to the basket more to take advantage of his handling skills instead of settling for threes, and he has also gained some additional confidence because of this move. His numbers are so far much improved from last year, and if UNC continues to use this smaller lineup, they can stretch the floor with several three-point shooting options, something a bit out of the norm for a Roy Williams lineup.
  2. Washington Post: Maryland has a renewed focus on defense this season, as typical scouting sessions are focused on closely observing opponents’ offensive tendencies on film. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that the Terps’ victory over George Mason last weekend was the first time he has been happy with his team’s defense all season. One of the most important tasks Turgeon has undertaken is getting his freshmen on board with the team’s defensive focus. Alex Len and Dez Wells have especially bought into the defensive schemes that Turgeon hopes will become contagious amongst his younger players. At the moment, Maryland is ranked 78th in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings largely due to their opponents very rarely turning over the ball, so that is one area where the Terrapins will need to improve.
  3. While maybe not as important to the average Seminole fan as the triumph over the Seminoles on the gridiron two weeks ago, Florida’s evisceration of Florida State in Tallahassee last night was a sure sign that the Seminoles have a long way to go this season. Yes, Florida is one of the very best teams in the country but FSU was nowhere even near competitive with the Gators, something that they were even in 2006 and 2007 when Florida won their consecutive national championships. In the 25-point defeat (and it didn’t even seem that close), Florida State shot only 35% from the field and committed 22 turnovers, while Florida shot 49% and ran out on the Seminoles from the opening tip. Michael Snaer was the only Seminole in double figures, so if this game does not serve as a wakeup call for Leonard Hamilton’s team after the home embarrassments to South Alabama and Mercer, nothing will.
  4. Local radio voice Mark Thomas was inspired by NC State’s effort in its victory over Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic two nights ago. The most important takeaway, according to Thomas, is that Mark Gottfried and his team appear to have realized that while they are a very talented, they are not good enough to just roll the basketball out there and out-talent the other team. The game against UConn showed the importance of topping that talent with strong effort, and NC State’s performance in the second half was certainly indicative of that. While it may be tough for NCSU to match Duke in the ACC this season, performances like this one will definitely remind observers as to why they predicted NC State to win the conference in the preseason after all.
  5. Duke extended the contract of athletic director Dr. Kevin White through the end of June 2019. White, since coming from Notre Dame in 2008, has overseen three national titles (including the 2010 men’s basketball title) and 12 ACC titles. Duke’s athletic teams have also been exceptional in the classroom, with only one team earning a GPA below 3.0 last semester. Duke’s athletics have also placed in the top 2o in the Director’s Cup (which measures performances in all sports) in each year during White’s tenure. While no one knows when head coach Mike Krzyzewski will step down, with White seemingly in place for much of the next decade, he may be the one officially making the extremely difficult call on who will replace the sport’s all-time leader in victories, a very difficult call indeed for even an AD with White’s pedigree.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IV

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 3rd, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

  • I LOVED… the challenge that John Calipari has on his hands. He proved that he could win a title last year, but the question in coming years is whether his one-year-and-out philosophy can continue to bring home the hardware that UK fans believe should be the norm. Several bad losses in a row, however, are showing that this group is not at the talent level of last year’s champs. In many ways, this should be a great test – if UK is not the most talented team in the country, does Calipari have the coaching chops to keep them in the conversation? Stay tuned.
  • I LOVED… thinking about upcoming Louisville battles with Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse after the Cardinals were selected to replace Maryland in the ACC. While I’ve had about enough of this whole conference realignment fad in the last couple years, the addition of these two Big East powerhouses to such a basketball-crazy conference is definitely reason to smile (and the folks over at ESPN just might feel the same way).
  • I LOVED Larry Brown. There are only a few coaches out there who can walk into an under-the-radar (nice-speak for “not relevant”) program like SMU and declare that they’re going to be “pretty good pretty quickly.” Fortunately LB has the resume and personality to do just that. Do I think they will be? No way. But just hearing his enthusiasm made me smile and think – now wouldn’t that be something….

Larry Brown Is Off to a Good Start at SMU

  • I LOVEDRasheed Sulaimon’s assertiveness as a freshman. This kid is going to be good, but more importantly he’s exactly the type of wing playmaker that the Blue Devils have been missing all the way back to Kyrie Irving’s injury, if we’re being honest. Sure, he probably takes a few more heat checks than Coach K might like, but he puts constant pressure on the D with his quickness and aggressiveness, has a promising stroke from deep, and should allow Duke’s other guards (read: Seth Curry) to spot up and reap the benefits of inevitable double teams from penetration. Duke is very good this early in the season, and if they’re still around in April, Sulaimon will be a big reason. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Mason Plumlee’s Post Dominance Keying Duke’s Phenomenal Start

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Plenty of elite teams have impressed in the opening month of this season, but Duke is in a tier by itself when it comes to a complete resume. After exacting revenge on Ohio State from last season’s drubbing with a 73-68 victory over the Buckeyes on Wednesday night, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has now defeated three top-five teams in November. That doesn’t even include victories over Minnesota and VCU, as well, two other likely NCAA Tournament squads. In Wednesday’s win, Duke trailed by eight points at halftime to a tougher-looking Buckeyes squad while itself looking fatigued, and it needed a significant second half spark to change the tone of the game. That’s where it turned to Mason Plumlee, who turned momentum back on Duke’s side with two monster alley-oops from point guard Quinn Cook. Blue Devil fans have waited three long years for Plumlee to become a dominant post force who successfully harnessed all of his athletic potential, and tonight’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort in a comeback win over an elite opponent shows just how far the big man has come.

Mason Plumlee has Duke soaring up the rankings through victories over elite opponents (AP Photo)

We knew Duke had the depth, shooting, and coaching to remain an ACC contender this season, but Plumlee’s transformation into a dominant, All America-caliber forward gives the team a chance to reach greater heights than almost anyone imagined. Through seven games, the 6’10” senior is now averaging 19.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 65% shooting from the field; all good for top-five rankings in the ACC. But what’s most astonishing about Plumlee’s stats is his free throw percentage, which at 79% is an exponential improvement over his career 50% shooting coming into this season. Never mind the massive 8.8 PPG  jump; an increase of 30 points on a go-to player’s free throw percentage is enough to change the entire dynamic of an offense. As Jay Bilas consistently pointed out during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, Plumlee plays with improved aggressiveness near the basket this season now that he’s not afraid to get fouled. The senior converted 9-12 freebies tonight while also producing a game-high in scoring and rebounding.

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ATB: Duke Makes Statement, Gonzaga Rolls Through Old Spice, and Rethinking Officiating Fundamentals…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 26th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The Weekend Lede. Battle 4 Atlantis Caps Terrific Set of Early-Season Tourneys. It is always a treat when two top five teams meet this early in the season. The high drama is typically saved for March, but the increasingly tasty match-ups served up by various exempt tournaments during Feast Week whet our appetites for the thrillers five months down the road. Saturday night brought us our first true marquee clash, with No. 2 Louisville meeting No. 5 Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis final. The showdown in the Bahamas emanated a Tourney feel, and the backdrop – the sleek blue tridents, enveloped in darkness, overlooking the dim courts – only tacked on more intrigue to the proceedings. As these early-season tournaments wrap up, let us celebrate this season’s wonderful slate, and hope for a similarly tantalizing selection next season. And in case you somehow got the impression the B4A was the only big event around, think again: the nation is peppered with sneaky-good match-ups and draws. Shall we dive into the weekend’s tourney festivities?

Your Watercooler Moment. Did We Overestimate Louisville?

It’s far too early to make definitive statements about Lousville’s bottom-line. The Cardinals will be fine (Photo credit: Getty Images).

In the wake of Saturday night’s events, it’s certainly a legitimate question. Just as he did in that mostly forgettable 1992 meeting between Kentucky and Duke, when some Laettner dude hit some “shot,” Coach K got the best of Rick Pitino in the Blue Devils methodical deconstruction of the Cardinals hounding defense. Duke was no doubt the better team on the floor – Mason Plumlee has officially entered the National POY discussion; Quinn Cook proved he can be the perimeter sparkplug Duke needs him to be; Rasheed Sulaimon is a better fit system-wise than Austin Rivers was last season. There are plenty of things to like about this Duke team, and all systems were a go throughout their run in the Bahamas. Which is why I’m loathe to downgrade the Cardinals after the championship loss. The Cardinals clearly have some tinkering to do on the offensive end (it also doesn’t help when your defensive anchor and swatting connossieur, Gorgui Dieng, is sidelined with a wrist injury). Backcourt mates Peyton Siva and Russ Smith were out of sync. Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear were non-factors. Transfer Luke Hancock still needs to find his role. All of these are problems that need to be addressed – and they will be. Pitino’s Final Four team of last season wasn’t nearly the same team in November, and I expect a similar gradual development from this year’s bunch. It won’t be long before Pitino will iron out the kinks, find an optimal rotation and have his team firing on all cylinders. The Cardinals are taking their lumps early, and growing through tough losses against good teams. Saturday night’s result was more about Duke’s potential, and less about Louisville’s shortcomings.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits…

  • Mark Few’s Best Team Yet? Reclaiming sole possession of the WCC crown was an expected achievement for Gonzaga this season. But after six wins to begin the season, including two over Big 12 foes Oklahoma and West Virginia and one over reigning SoCon champion Davidson in the Old Spice Final Sunday, it’s time to set a new bar. Gonzaga has talent at every position, from floor operator Kevin Pangos to versatile forward Sam Dower to the recently eligible Kelly Olynyk. And if they can sustain this intensity into the league season, they’ll peak just in time for Tournament play. Let’s not rush to judge: The Bulldogs have Illinois, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State on tap before they enter WCC play. Beginning with a home date with the Illini on December 8, the turn of the calendar will reveal the depths of Gonzaga’s potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Champions Classic, #FREE Shabazz & UNC Cheating

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Aside from a great night of hoops at the Champions Classic, week two of the college basketball season was fairly tame, as hungry fans await the always entertaining Feast Week. There’s been a of talk lately about how college basketball is an eroding sport, but don’t tell that to Tim Brando, who was giving his undivided attention to the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/TimBrando/status/268512307582226433

And Brando couldn’t be any more spot on, as the now annual event did not disappoint last Tuesday. Michigan State snuck past Kansas due to great late game execution on offense, while Duke’s experience was too much for Kentucky’s youth. A fantastic four hours of hoops.

Calipari, Duke & Flopping

The incident that sparked the most witty tweets this week? That would unquestionably be John Calipari‘s public indictment of Duke’s uncanny ability to flop around the basket. Cal dropped the zinger to Andy Katz while heading into the locker room at half time, when the Wildcats trailed the Blue Devils by two.

The tweets came in droves…

https://twitter.com/Mengus22/status/268557963688570880

https://twitter.com/BH_Orange44/status/268560524336324608

https://twitter.com/DanWolken/status/268562089164034049

Never one to back down, Coach K did not shy away from offering a response to Calipari during his post-game press conference.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 14th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… a lottery pick play. They’re some of my favorite moments every year – the two seconds that make you go, “Ohh, OhhhhhhWOWWW!” as a talented underclassman goes to a level you weren’t sure he had – and one that definitely translates to the next level. I ventured down to Chapel Hill for Sunday’s UNC-Florida Atlantic game, and soph sensation James Michael McAdoo provided that moment in the second half when he drove baseline, took off from under the hoop and floated all the way to the other side before stretching back and stuffing it home. The season is young, but he definitely looks like a player ready for the next level after blooming during the final weeks of last season. And I can barely wait to see him go head-to-head with Indiana’s Cody Zeller on November 27.

I LOVED… Duke doing what they do in the early season – using superior coaching and discipline to beat a much more talented Kentucky squad. It seems like Coach K specializes in this – he uses the early-season schedule to prey on the highly-skilled but less highly-disciplined youth that comes into college basketball every November. They might not beat those Wildcats in March, but they certainly outplayed them on Tuesday night.

I LOVED… John Calipari saying what we all were thinking on a nationally-televised halftime interview: “They’re (Duke) floppin’ all over the place.” Preach the truth, Cal.

I LOVED… feeling like college basketball was back on November 13. Sometimes it seems like it takes a few weeks to get going, but as soon as Duke-UK heated up in the second half, the energy was there. We had a high level of play early in the year, Dickie V simultaneously trying (successfully) to jump on both bandwagons in the span of one telecast, Blue Devils flying through the air horizontally despite no contact…. ah yes. It’s back.

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #2 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. The entire series from #30 to this point can be viewed hereEnjoy!

#2 – Where Greatness Personified Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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ACC Team Previews: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by EMann on November 1st, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams.  Today’s victim:  the Duke Blue Devils.

The 2011-12 Duke Blue Devils will be remembered primarily for two things:  (1) Austin Rivers’ dramatic three-pointer at the buzzer to cap a miraculous comeback and beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 85-84, which will live permanently in the rivalry’s lore; (2) their stunning 75-70 loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That Duke team, however, had a very strange portfolio for most of the season — mostly manifested through its porous defense (by Duke standards), which ranked 70th in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. It was also strange in that it featured a player in Austin Rivers who never quite fit into the Duke mold in many people’s eyes; while Rivers was certainly an extremely competitive player, the combination of his reliance on the ball for much of the team’s offense and individual success (and scoring incredibly inefficiently:  his offensive rating was the second worst on the team), along with the ensuing chemistry issues that his style of play seemed to cause, ultimately derailed the Blue Devils (along with Ryan Kelly’s injury). Duke also finished 8-0 in road play in the ACC, but lost three conference games (and nearly five – a 20-point comeback against NC State in the second half and an overtime victory against lowly Virginia Tech) at home, a shocking result for a generally good Duke team in Cameron Indoor Stadium. While it did defeat eventual runner-up Kansas and Michigan State at neutral sites, among others, in non-conference play, it was also destroyed by Ohio State. This year may very well feature addition by subtraction, and Coach K has clearly focused on teamwork and communication as the season gets underway as he sensed that as contributing at least partially to the team’s defensive woes last year.

Rasheed Sulaimon has a great chance to win ACC Rookie of the Year.

Newcomers

Duke has four new players eligible for this season, as the fifth newcomer, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, quite possibly Duke’s best player on the floor during Countdown to Craziness, must sit out this season. Two of these players are true freshmen, headlined by guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Although Rodney Purvis at NC State has gotten most of the headlines as the favorite for ACC Rookie of the Year, look for Sulaimon to heavily challenge for that honor. Sulaimon is a versatile player in the mold of many of Mike Krzyzewski’s favored guards over the years:  a solid outside shooter who can also attack the rim, as well as a strong perimeter defender. With Seth Curry’s undisclosed injury keeping him out for possibly another couple weeks, Sulaimon has been temporarily slotted into the starting lineup.  While Sulaimon may not start once Curry returns, he will definitely play a ton of minutes and should see the court at crunch time to take advantage of his opportunity. Forward Amile Jefferson, who chose Duke over NC State at the 11th hour, will provide high motor play and solid interior defense, though his offensive game is still a bit unrefined.  Look for him to contribute 10-12 minutes a game.

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