A Realignment-Related Decision You Won’t Hate: Bravo, ACC

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 23rd, 2013

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

There are scores of issues in the present configuration of college sports. The NCAA is probably the largest, and the most heavily-critiqued; the entire enterprise is littered with various points of contention. It almost feels like a breaking point – the moment when schools decide they just can’t proscribe themselves to the current rules and regulations, that an entirely new system must be constructed to preserve their continued participation – is being reached. The ongoing Ed O’Bannon lawsuit could bring the very severance and utter dissolution many schools have feared and/or resigned themselves to for years. Others will welcome the potential revolutionary financial shift the O’Bannon suit purports to engender. Successful or not, something is going to happen. It’s ominous and inevitable and suspenseful, akin to the slow and sleep-inducing introductory clutter of a Russian novel, or the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs. An apex is coming, you’re just not sure exactly sure when.

In a rare move of conference unity, the ACC motioned to solidify its league membership by fixing its schools' media rights revenues to the league itself.

In a rare move of conference unity, the ACC motioned to solidify its league membership by fixing its schools’ media rights revenues to the league itself.

A similar logic is just as easily transferred to another flashpoint in college athletics: conference realignment. I know, I know: You cringe at the very mention of the two-word phrase. It has, over the past however so many years, terminated traditional rivalries and ripped proud leagues to shreds and completely redefined the substantive meaning of league membership. Cultural and academic harmony, let alone geographic proximity, are so very blasé. If you’re not chasing football money or a bigger “footprint” or a more lucrative broadcast rights deal, you’re a real-live college athletics conference anachronism. Get with the times, man. None of this stuff is fun to talk about, and at this point you’re probably considering clicking away in fear of whatever new conference switch may have taken place.

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Big East M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 27th, 2013

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  1. If nothing else, fans of the current Big East are going to have plenty of channels to catch their favorite schools on when the schools all go their separate ways. The ACC is taking over Big Monday and should have an increased presence on ESPN, the Big East (Catholic edition) will be on FOX, and the soon-to-be-the-conference-formerly-known-as-the-Big-East just inked a deal with CBS, which will get first dibs on the conference’s games through 2019-20. Oh, and West Virginia seemed to be on ESPN like every week this year… so good for the ‘Eers.
  2. Louisville was the number one overall seed in 2009, much like it is this year. That team hoisted both the Big East regular season and tournament trophies, and made a run to the Elite Eight before falling to Michigan State. That team featured excellent former Cardinals like Terrence Williams, Andre McGee, and Earl Clark, and apparently those guys won’t stop talking about that season. Peyton Siva would like to reclaim bragging rights over the 2009 squad with the one trophy they weren’t able to claim — a national title. “I don’t know a lot (about 2009), I just know T-Will and Dre were on it and they always brag about being the No. 1 overall seed… Our whole goal for the year — they had Andre’s picture on the wall from that ’09 team — is to take him off the wall.”
  3. Otto Porter is a finalist for the Naismith Award this season, and for good reason. A very good argument can be made that there was no player more important to his team this season, and it showed in Georgetown‘s best games — Porter scored 33 points in front of over 35,000 raucous Syracuse fans to stun the Orange at the Carrier Dome — as well as their worst — Porter could only muster 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Georgetown’s shocking loss to Florida Gulf Coast last weekend. While Porter is up against stiff competition for the Naismith Award, he already has accolade in his back pocket as Basketball Times has named the forward its National Player of the year.
  4. Expansion fever — catch the excitement! Today in schools moving conferences, the old Big East continues it’s mission to restore the halcyon days of mid-2000s Conference USA. Brett McMurphy reports that Tulsa will become the 12th member of the conference, calling the addition “imminent.” According to McMurphy, the Golden Hurricanes will join up in 2014 with Tulane and East Carolina, who will be elevated to full-member status to balance the conference numbers and fill the critical role of having basketball-playing Pirates in the league.
  5. The Journal-Sentinel sat down with former Marquette great Brian Wardle, currently the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, to discuss the state of Warriors basketball. Wardle was obviously thrilled with the success that the program has had under Buzz Williams, and before him, Tom Crean, stating that MU has entered the ranks of the elite in college ball. “The level that Marquette basketball is at now is an elite level that it has not been in for a long time… they’ve gone to three Sweet Sixteens in a row, a Final Four, everything takes time to build. Nothing happens overnight. You’ve got to go through some failures to succeed. You’re seeing Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen every year with the Michigan States, the Dukes, with Kansas.”  There is no denying the success that Marquette has had recently, though dropping the ‘e’ word seems a bit strong.  Until Marquette makes a few more Final Fours or captures a national title, they’re a rung or two below the nation’s elite schools, at least to me. However, they’re not far behind, and with the consistent success that Buzz Williams has had with the program, it may only be a matter of time until they break through.
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Big East M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 7th, 2013

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  1. An ugly fight broke out at Tuesday night’s Notre Dame-St. John’s game between the Red Storm’s Sir’Dominic Pointer and Irish freshman Cam Biedscheid. After battling over a rebound, Pointer appears to take a swing at Biedscheid, who then retaliated. Despite the fact that Pointer seemed to be the aggressor in this situation, Pointer and Biedscheid will both miss their teams’ next games because both engaged in the fight.  Mike Brey tried to appeal Biedscheid’s suspension to the conference to no avail: “There’s no appeals process, which is disappointing… Once it’s deemed a fight, which it was, and he was throwing punches, it is what it is.”
  2. Mike Brey seems about ready to hop off the conference realignment carousel. With the news that the Catholic 7 will be breaking away from the Big East to become… the Big East… it is unclear whether Notre Dame next year will stick around with UConn, Cincinnati, and friends, or join the Catholic 7 for a season, or head to the ACC a season early. If the ACC will have the Irish, that solution seems to make the most sense, but then again, this is conference realignment. Sense was checked at the door years ago.
  3. James Robinson has flown a bit under the radar this season for Pitt nationally, but those in the program hold the freshman in very high esteem. Former Panthers great Brandin Knight sees great potential in the young point guard: “He’s just one of those guys that you get the feeling that there’s something special about him… He has the poise and he really understands the game. He’s very mature beyond his years.”  Robinson averages 6.1 points and 3.5 assists per game in 26.7 minutes of action for Pitt, and in the team’s last game against Villanova he scored 14 points in the overtime win.
  4. Villanova has had a number of statement wins this season, but coming into Wednesday night the Wildcats were still not a sure thing for the NCAA Tournament. Knocking off Georgetown last night should help secure Nova’s spot in the Big Dance. The game with the Hoyas was an ugly affair, with three Georgetown players fouling out and the Wildcats hitting 30 free throws while the Hoyas could only muster four there. The win keeps Villanova from entering postseason play on a multiple game slide, and sets them up well for next week’s Madison Square Garden processions.
  5. Another day, another weird story coming out of Syracuse. Moments after the Orange defeated DePaul Wednesday evening, the school’s official Twitter account published a message speculating that it could be Jim Boeheim’s last game as Orange head coach with a link to a blog post, which stated that according to “sources,” Syracuse was under investigation by the NCAA and Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross had asked Boeheim to step down. After the game, Syracuse released the statement that the story was completely false, as most who read it had assumed, but the larger story here is that there has been a long line of social media incidents stemming from the official Syracuse University accounts. Last year, one of the student interns who runs @SyracuseU tweeted about the upcoming DaJuan Coleman decision before the center had formally made his college choice between Syracuse, Kentucky, and Ohio State — a clear violation of NCAA rules. There have been numerous other instances of similar mistaken tweets. On an individual level, these tweets seem like minor mistakes, but when taken as a group, it shows that the school needs to take their social media presence more seriously.
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Morning Five: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2013

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  1. The college basketball community was abuzz last night discussing the gruesome-looking knees injury suffered by Kentucky center Nerlens Noel during the second half of the Wildcats’ loss to Florida in Gainesville. At the time of this writing, no official news has been released as to the severity of the injury, but as you can see from this video and this photo, the star freshman’s knee buckled in a way that caused him quite a bit of pain. Afterward, head coach John Calipari said that he feared the worst but hoped for the best, but the collective mood around Big Blue Nation suggests that Noel may not be coming back this season. You hate to see a player of any kind suffer a serious injury, and this is especially so when it involves a player with the talent, skill and future of Noel. Let’s all hope that by the time you’re reading this on Wednesday morning that Calipari’s hopes for only a sprain have rendered true.
  2. From a potential season-ending injury to a definite one, Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire‘s career is officially over after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday. The Louisville transfer graduate student had hoped to spend his only year in Evanston contributing toward the Wildcats’ first-ever run to the NCAA Tournament, but the snake-bitten team that has suffered multiple key injuries this year now sits at 13-11 and 4-7 in the Big Ten with a Thursday trip to Ohio State looming. Without the team’s best rebounder available, Bill Carmody’s squad expects to now have only seven scholarship players available for that game. Ouch.
  3. While on the subject of bad news, a bizarre and sad story is developing in the Philadelphia area this week as Maria Reyes Garcia-Pellon, the wife of former Penn starting center and 1979 Final Four participant Matthew White, was arrested on charges of murdering her husband with a pair of kitchen knives. She claimed to police that she found White “looking at pornography, young girls,” which caused her to attack him as he slept, but it’s unclear whether White was actually doing so. According to a written statement from a spokesperson for the county attorney’s office, “there is no indication that [what White was looking at] was child pornography,” but we’re sure that the specific details will come out if such an accusation is true. The last Ivy League team to make the Final Four was White’s Quakers, who lost to eventual national champion Michigan State in the Final Four.
  4. You’re up three points with eight seconds left and the opponent heading your way — do you foul or choose to defend? This strategic discussion has been bandied about for the last several years among the punditocracy, with a data-driven cabal arguing that fouling is the proper decision — that the likelihood of the sequence of events that will cause your team to lose is even smaller than forcing a tough contested three. Ken Pomeroy begs to differ. Looking at three years worth of data, he found that defending the three results in a win 94.0% of the time, while putting your opponent on the line produces a victory 92.7% of the time — a minor difference, to be sure, but a difference over a data set of 804 instances nevertheless. Considering the margin of error, perhaps there’s no meaningful difference between the two strategies, but Pomeroy argues that the preponderance of game-tying threes (witness: Wisconsin’s buzzer-beater versus Michigan over the weekend) compared with instances of  successful fouling strategies gives a false impression of one solution preferred over the other. It’s a fair point — perception drives reality for most — but we also wonder if the answer here might be mostly driven by the personnel on the floor analyzed through a matrix of three-point shooting, foul shooting, and rebounding prowess.
  5. It’s the end of the Big East as we know it, and Grantland‘s Charles Pierce does not feel fine. In a wide-ranging piece that focuses on ancient Eastern basketball rivalries, anti-Catholic nativism in the South (read: Tobacco Road), and somehow, a sluggishly-paced game between Georgetown and Marquette, Pierce laments the loss of one of the great college basketball leagues there ever was. While we’re just as torn up as anybody with the implosion of the venerable conference, we also recognize that the league really did this to itself. And when given the opportunity to shore up its ranks by getting back to what made the Big East relevant in the first place — basketball — the conference instead made a mockery of itself by reaching near and wide to schools like TCU, Boise State and (egads) Tulane and expected everyone to keep a straight face. Well, there is that new NBC Sports television contract, we suppose.
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Big East M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 12th, 2013

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  1. Syracuse and UConn seem to be moving in very different directions as basketball programs on a number of levels. Syracuse is looking for another top-10 finish to the season and a high seed in the Big Dance. UConn, on the other hand, is ineligible for all postseason play. Syracuse is moving on to the ACC, leaving behind the shell of the once-great Big East. UConn was left at the altar, wondering what its next move will be. And this week, like ships passing in the night, Syracuse gained back dynamic sixth-man James Southerland, while UConn will likely be without big man Enosch Wolf after an arrest this week. Wolf was charged with third-degree burglary, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct after refusing to leave a campus apartment and getting in a physical altercation with a female resident at 6:00 AM. According to Kevin Ollie, Wolf has been suspended indefinitely.
  2. When he suffered a sprained ankle in the first half of what would become an epic five-overtime game against Louisville, Pat Connaughton probably didn’t realize how crucial his presence would be. The sophomore returned to the game later and ended up playing 56 minutes and contributing 16 points and 14 rebounds in the hard-fought Irish win. Connaughton probably didn’t feel great about it on Sunday, but luckily for him Notre Dame is off until Wednesday night when the Irish will take on DePaul. Ice up, Pat.
  3. Jim Boeheim is old, you guys, and I guess it works for him. The Hall of Famer has noted on many occasions that he doesn’t own a computer, and apparently he just recently got into this whole “cell phone” business, mostly because of his young kids. However, in a shocking revelation brought on by the constant Syracuse rumor-mongering surrounding the James Southerland situation, we have now learned that Boeheim knows what a blog is! And surprise, surprise — he resents them as much as we all imagined he would!
  4. Pittsburgh had a slow start to the Big East slate this year, and a lot of that derived from a lack of production from vaunted freshman center Steven Adams.  However, in recent weeks Adams has really come along with his offensive production, allowing Pitt to go back to a more traditional inside-out Panthers attack. The post presence of Adams and power forward Talib Zanna allows Jamie Dixon’s offense to harken back to the days where Levance Fields was able to feed DeJuan Blair under the hoop. The recent emergence of Adams and Zanna’s solid production opens things up for guards like Tray Woodall, who had to shoulder much of the scoring load earlier in the year.
  5. Rutgers has probably played better than many expected this season, but its 3-8 conference record doesn’t really reflect it. The Scarlet Knights have been in many close games but have so far failed to contain the opposition’s best player down the stretch. This problem came to pass once again in Saturday’s 69-63 loss to Georgetown. Scoring has been an adventure for the Hoyas all season, but they have been able to get by on the shoulders of star forward Otto Porter, who led the way by scoring 19 points (including 10 of Georgetown’s final 12) and grabbing 14 boards. Good defensive teams can remove a singular threat like Porter, or at least slow him down in crunch time, but Rutgers isn’t quite there yet.
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Crazy Thought: Should the Big 12 Pursue Basketball-Only Schools to Get Back to 12?

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 4th, 2013

On New Year’s Eve Monday the Gonzaga Bulldogs played (and won) their fifth non-conference game against a Big 12 opponent when they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater. They won their first four games against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor… which got me thinking: Why shouldn’t the Big 12 consider bringing along basketball-only institutions to help shore itself up in conference realignment? The Big East’s attempt at having football and basketball schools coexist was unsuccessful for two primary reasons: The league was created for basketball, not football, in the late 1970s; and the conference’s mainstays in football, Miami and Virginia Tech, were ultimately poached away by the ACC.

Don't know about you but I'd love to see Gonzaga-Baylor on the regular (James Snook/USA Today Sports)

Don’t know about you but I’d love to see Gonzaga and Baylor play on the regular (James Snook/USA Today Sports)

The Big 12 is arguably the second best power conference in college football. The league will enter a new alliance with the Champions Bowl in New Orleans, which will place the Big 12 football champion against the SEC champion each season. A new television deal with ESPN/ABC and FOX will keep their football anchors in place (Oklahoma and Texas) through the year 2025. With Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby saying recently that larger isn’t necessarily better, he would however listen if adding a school geographically or financially “moved the needle.” Whether that would happen in this scenario is up for debate, but that’s what makes it fun. Now if the Big 12 were to look at adding hoops-only schools, two would be the best number to add in order to get back to the original 12-team format. The league would have to move quickly as the seven basketball-only schools leaving the Big East are expected to meet Friday to discuss their options. With a “lot on the agenda,” you can bet expansion will be a big part of the conversation. So who should the Big 12 pursue?

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Big East M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 3rd, 2013

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  1. With Syracuse’s 78-53 takedown of Rutgers at the Carrier Dome last night, Jim Boeheim took sole ownership of second place on the Division I all-time wins list with 903 victories, passing Bob Knight. These first few months of the season have been eventful for Boeheim, whose ascent up this list has been the focus of tremendous media attention and occasional scrutiny this season. In weighing in on Boeheim’s ranking among the greatest coaches of all-time, Rob Dauster notes the affect that a single Keith Smart jumper has had on Boeheim’s perception. If that shot doesn’t fall, Boeheim is two wins ahead of Knight, has the same number of national titles (two) as the man who many consider the greatest game coach of all-time, and many writers have a lot less material come March.
  2. USF and UCF have played twice this season, splitting two contests that foreshadow what may develop into a nice rivalry for whatever the future of the Big East holds. Tampa Bay Online‘s Joey Johnston argues that the rivalry between the two schools could become a staple for the new look Big East, or whichever conference the two schools find themselves attached to in the future. Johnston believes that the natural rivalry and the high number of television sets in the I-4 corridor makes the two schools very attractive. Let the lobbying begin.
  3. Buzz Williams48-hour suspension from the Marquette basketball team has now ended, and the fiery coach will rejoin the team in preparation for Georgetown. Williams’ suspension stemmed from assistant coach Scott Monarch giving apparel and rides to a Golden Eagles recruit. Monarch, a close friend of Williams, was summarily fired. Williams was not found to have had any knowledge of the violations, but he took the school-sanctioned leave as the program is ultimately his responsibility. Marquette defeated UConn in overtime during Williams’ absence from the team.
  4. Pittsburgh‘s two losses to Michigan and Cincinnati had a very similar feel to them, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ray Fittipaldo outlines three major factors that hurt the Panthers in both games: a lack of rebounding in the second half, especially from the center position; struggles against talented, aggressive guards on the perimeter; and, opposing teams limiting the Panthers’ transition game.  If Pitt can’t solve these issues soon, the team will have major struggles in league play. Syracuse has a strong interior presence, Louisville has excellent high-energy guard play, and Georgetown will absolutely look to control the game’s tempo, just to name three teams who will look to take advantage of these weaknesses.
  5. Syracuse.com‘s Mike Waters was asked about his all-time Big East team in his weekly mailbag. This is a fun exercise that I’m sure will come up on many sites and blogs this year, especially around Big East Tournament time. Waters weighs in on a number of Big East greats before settling on a strong starting five consisting of Sherman Douglas, Ray Allen, Chris Mullin, Derrick Coleman, and Patrick Ewing.  When a conference could have a second team of Allen Iverson, Kerry Kittles, Carmelo Anthony, Donyell Marshall, and Alonzo Mourning, you know that they’ve been doing something right for a very long time.
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Big East M5: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2013

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  1. One could say that Kevin Ollie’s first Big East season got going in the wrong directionAfter late game heroics for both UConn and Marquette by Ryan Boatright and Junior Cadougan, respectively, the two teams lined up on the wrong sides of the center circle to begin overtime. Enosch Wolf won the tip, and Shabazz Napier had an open look on what should have been his own basket swatted away by Jamil Wilson on what normally would have been a goaltend.  After reviewing the play, the referees did not count the goaltend for UConn as the Huskies shot at the wrong basket.  However, referee Karl Hess later admitted that after letting the players play in the wrong direction, they should have given UConn the two points. UConn would go on to lose to the Golden Eagles by six, 82-76.
  2. Louisville hasn’t had trouble putting points on the board, as the Cardinals are averaging 78.2 points per game so far this season. However, Rick Pitino is still not happy with his team’s defense. Louisville’s 17-point lead over Kentucky was nearly erased as the Cardinals played tentatively on defense due to foul trouble. That doesn’t gel with the high-pressure full court scheme that Pitino likes to use. Another concern is the team’s interior defense — despite the imposing presence of Gorgui Dieng (out for most of December with an injury), the Cardinals are still only 14th among Big East teams in blocked shots, a number that Pitino would surely like to move up.
  3. Jim Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse since the nascent days of the Big East conference, so naturally he has many strong feelings and opinions about the league that he credits for his national championship and Hall of Fame induction. In a two-hour interview with USA Today, Boeheim discusses the past and future of the conference, including the near-”warfare” like atmosphere of the coaches meetings in the 1980s, the Big East media contract negotiations which broke down before Syracuse and Pittsburgh made the announcement that they would be moving to the ACC, and, of course, his future plans to coach the Orange. Boeheim keeps his plans close to the vest and marches to the beat of his own drum, but when he does decide to hang the whistle up, he is confident that the program will survive and thrive under Mike Hopkins - “I don’t have any plans on retiring, right now. Could that change? Yeah, I think that could change. But I don’t have any plans on retiring. I know Mike will be the coach and Syracuse will be in great hands… I told every recruit the last five years that I think I am going to coach but don’t know it. Mike will be the coach. And the (recruits) all came. Most recruits don’t care anymore because they only think they will be here one year.”
  4. Seton Hall was sitting solidly on the bubble last March before a shocking 86-58 loss at league dregs DePaul derailed the Pirates’ dancing aspirations. Seton Hall opens its Big East season with the same road trip tonight, looking to improve on an 11-2 record with a win over an improved Blue Demons squad. While some Big East teams may lack some motivation when playing DePaul, Brandon Mobley and Seton Hall have all that they need: “If playing at DePaul is not motivation, then I don’t know what is… Not only did we lose, we got embarrassed and that cost us the NCAA Tournament. We’re going up there with a grudge on our shoulder.”
  5. In news that is not directly related to basketball but may effect the futures of UConn, Cincinnati, and USF, the three schools who appear to be getting left behind by conference expansion and realignment, Boise State will no longer be joining the Big East in football. There is a good chance that San Diego State, which was also set to join for football only, may follow suit, leaving the remaining three Big East members and their future rivals in an increasingly vulnerable conference. In addition, the Mountain West has reworked its television contract which will give increased revenue to teams who make national television appearances. There have even been rumors that the MW could end up raiding the Big East for a school like Cincinnati. The conference carousel goes round and round…
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Catholic Seven Exodus: What It Means for the ACC

Posted by mpatton on December 19th, 2012

With last weekend’s announcement that the seven Catholic schools (DePaul, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence) voted unanimously to leave the Big East, conference realignment is still going strong. The good news for ACC fans is it doesn’t look like the change will directly impact the conference. Cincinnati and Connecticut would still love to join the ACC, but time isn’t of the essence for that unless the Big Ten gets antsy again.

Mike Aresco

Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco couldn’t negotiate a TV contract big enough to keep the Catholic schools satisfied. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

However, the news will still have major ramifications going forward. First, the old Big East is dead. It was probably dead when Syracuse and Pittsburgh jumped ship, but now it’s truly an empty name describing a group of financially-connected schools. The paradigmatic schools are gone — save Connecticut — and they’re taking their basketball history with them. But the news isn’t all bad for college hoops fans. According to the New Jersey Star Ledger‘s Brendan Prunty, the schools are looking to start a new conference focused on basketball (related, this is the best recap of how and why the Catholic schools left, so read it). Right now they’re aiming for 12 schools, potentially including Gonzaga, Xavier and/or Butler. The conference would be financed largely by NCAA Tournament bid money instead of football money. If the concept works (i.e., the schools are consistently successful enough to financially sustain high level athletics), it would be revolutionary. But before looking too deeply into the concept, it’s important to understand the current landscape of realignment.

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Morning Five: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2012

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  1. The fields and arenas of play were more reserved than usual this weekend as Americans’ hearts remained heavy in the aftermath of the inexplicable and incomprehensible massacre that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday morning. Moments of silence were observed at games from coast to coast for the fallen children, teachers and administrators whose lives where brutally taken from them much too early. Here at RTC, we generally try to stay above the partisan bickering that passes for national political discourse these days, but enough is enough — whatever we’re doing with respect to national firearm policy isn’t working. We don’t claim to have a reasoned and fair solution to this problem, but our leaders who presumably work for we, the people, need to figure out something better, and now.
  2. The good people of the state of Connecticut of course are feeling more pain and heartache than anywhere else during this tragedy, and Kevin Ollie‘s Huskies will return to the court tonight with that burden in tow (with videos). It’s a bit more than an hour’s drive southwest from Storrs to Newtown, and many of the UConn players expressed their grief in terms of the connection to their own family members and loved ones: Tyler Olander’s mother is a sixth-grade teacher; Kevin Ollie has a school-age daughter; Shabazz Napier has a two-year old niece whom he adores. The school plans on wearing some sort of commemorative patch on its uniforms honoring the victims — perhaps as soon as in tonight’s game against Maryland-Eastern Shore — and the team will travel to Newtown soon to lend some additional support for the townspeople. As the most high-profile team in the Nutmeg State, these are necessary moves by the Husky program.
  3. Sigh… on to the rest of the weekend’s news. In a completely expected announcement Saturday, the so-called Catholic 7 Big East schools voted unanimously to leave the conference and set out on its own course as a basketball-centric league. Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence and DePaul have decided that the race to the bottom that its football-playing peers have forced them into during all this conference realignment madness is no longer palatable. Apparently, the RPI anchor that schools like Tulane and East Carolina represented was the final straw. Now, the details on the when and how the exit of these seven universities will happen needs to be settled, but the other major elephant in the room is which schools the New Big East will target to fill out its roster — early reports suggest that Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, Butler and Gonzaga — all or some of them — are on the wish list. Regardless of who this new conference grabs, it’s nice to finally see proud basketball schools pushing back against the football behemoth.
  4. While on the subject of Butler, Brad Stevens’ plucky squad knocked off the nation’s top-ranked team (per the AP/Coaches, not RTC) on Saturday afternoon at the Crossroads Classic, engendering another round of breathlessness (ourselves included) at just how excellent a head coach the 36-year old wunderkind already is. In a game that was must-watch television throughout, the final outcome hinged on a floater from a sophomore walk-on named Alex Barlow who had made a grand total of six buckets all season. The player who became a Bulldog so that he could apprentice under Stevens with a goal of becoming a head coach, added himself to the lore of a giant-killing school that has already scalped hoops titans North Carolina and Indiana this year. The overtime victory was Butler’s first ever win over a #1 team, and as the Indy Star‘s David Woods writes, it represents just another chapter in a program’s history where reality is better than fiction. Seriously.
  5. The Syracuse Post-Standard is reporting additional details regarding star guard Michael Carter-Williams’ odd situation last Sunday where people tweeted pictures of him appearing to be under arrest at a local mall. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, MCW was detained and fined after a shoplifting incident at a Lord & Taylor store where he allegedly placed a Polo Ralph Lauren bathrobe and pair of gloves valued at around $120 into his backpack and walked out of the store. He was stopped by loss prevention staff and offered a deal where he could avoid arrest by paying a “civil demand,” wherein he could pay five times the value of the merchandise up to $500 and walk away. One source stated that Carter-Williams paid the fine with his credit card and left the scene freely. After Saturday night’s game versus Canisius (where MCW went for 12/14 assts), Jim Boeheim had little else to say about the matter other than to say that everyone “is satisfied with the result.”
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The RTC Podblast: Episode 5.5

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2012

We’re back this Friday with a slightly longer-form RTC Podblast, as Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts a discussion regarding the Catholic Seven’s breaking away from the Big East and many of the corresponding feelings we have about it. We also look forward to a jam-packed and presumably very entertaining Saturday worth of games.

Remember that our full podcasts (roughly 45 minutes to an hour long) will publish on Tuesdays during the season, while our shorter (~15-20 minutes) podblasts will drop on Fridays with a quick look at the intervening week’s worth of news and action. Feel free to jump around using the outline below.

  • 0-12:50 – Big East crumbling
  • 12:50-15:10 – Crossroads Classic preview
  • 15:10-18:06 – West coast teams looking to bounce back from tough losses at home (Creighton @ Cal, K-State @ Gonzaga)
  • 18:06-19:14 – Coaches vs former teams (Alabama @ VCU, Michigan vs West Virginia - WARNING: Nothing is wrong with the audio, Randy actually passed on a chance to hype the Wolverines)
  • 19:14-20:37 – Louisville @ Memphis
  • 20:37-24:07 – Florida @ Arizona

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

Also make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2012

CIO header

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

  • And Then There Was One – Charlotte and Temple entered their Saturday games undefeated, and the 49ers beat Central Michigan by 12 to run their string to nine while Temple, facing consensus #2 Duke on a neutral court, could not keep up, losing by 23 to drop to 6-1. Charlotte is one of 14 unbeaten Division I teams remaining, and the 49ers have thrived through senior Chris Braswell’s dominant play. Coming off of a season-beginning suspension, the 6’9” senior forward/center has been on a tear, leading the team by averaging 14.3 points with 7.0 rebounds per game. Two freshmen wings, Willie Clayton and Darion Clark, have stepped up with strong board play while providing solid scoring support. Their biggest test is coming on Saturday, as they travel to Miami to face the Hurricanes of the ACC. Stay tuned.
Temple's One-Two Punch of Khalif Wyatt (above) and Scootie Randall Went Cold Against Duke. (AP)

Temple’s One-Two Punch of Khalif Wyatt (above) and Scootie Randall Went Cold Against Duke. (AP)

  • Fall Semester Finals – The fall semester is winding down as most Division I schools head into final examinations last week and this week. And so it is with the Atlantic-10’s non-conference schedule. With a body of work already in place, a number of teams around the conference are facing their biggest challenges of their non-conference schedules. Temple fell to Duke last Saturday, and while the loss surprised only the delusional, the margin – 23 points on a neutral court – was shocking. Butler traveled to Evanston, Illinois, and beat Northwestern of the Big Ten, but an even bigger test looms ahead as #1 Indiana has a play date with the Bulldogs next Saturday. The Musketeers stubbed their toes in Cintas Center, dropping a two-point decision to the Commodores of the SEC, but they have no time to dwell on the lost opportunity as the Crosstown Classic (the name changed from the historic “Crosstown Shootout” no doubt due to unpleasant memories of last season’s game-ending brawl) is set for Wednesday, December 19. Undefeated Charlotte travels to Miami to face the Hurricanes. Virginia Commonwealth has already seen a ranked team or two, but Alabama comes to town Saturday to give the Rams yet another opportunity to spruce up their resume.
  • The (Really) Big A-10? – ESPN’s Andy Katz and Dana O’Neil reported that the seven Catholic (basketball-only) members of the Big East met with Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco Sunday to express their growing concerns about the current state of the conference and the diminishing status and quality of the conference’s basketball product.As the Big East continues to show signs of stress with conference realignment, sources within the Atlantic 10 have shared with Katz and O’Neil that A-10 conference members are open to the opportunities and challenges a 20- or 21-member conference would create. These sources are looking at the possibility that as many as seven of the Big East’s basketball members may opt to leave the Big East or persuade another two-to-four members to join their bloc and vote to dissolve the conference and split the proceeds; or, in the extreme, decide to leave the conference and investigate membership opportunities elsewhere (like the A-10). The sources believe that the A-10, bolstered by the additions of VCU and Butler, would be an attractive destination for those Catholic schools. A major stumbling block, however, is the revenue gap. Big East basketball schools currently realize between $1 and $1.5 million in basketball-derived TV revenues. The A-10 members anticipate a $350,000 annual payout from the league’s recently concluded TV contract.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

Butler and Temple swap places, as do Saint Joseph’s and Virginia Commonwealth. Fordham, Rhode Island and George Washington continue to struggle while Charlotte and Dayton continue to win and place some good wins on their resumes. The conference always has a few teams that take a long time to find their spot in the pecking order. Who really belongs at this point? A number of squads are putting in their bids.

  1. Butler (6-2) – The resume shows two double-digit losses and a big win over a Division II opponent, but with a win over North Carolina and a road win over Northwestern, boosted the Bulldog over the Owls this week. Two games last week (IUPUI and Northwestern) saw freshman guard Kellen Dunham show again he has the potential to develop into that second reliable outside shooter behind Rotnei Clarke. A consistent outside threat should loosen up the inside for Roosevelt Jones and Khyle Marshall. Freshman center Andrew Smith’s efforts against IUPUI and a double-double versus Northwestern drew a nod from the conference, but he will probably not get those opportunities in every game. Here and there, however, his should be effective.

    Rotnei Clarke and Butler have a huge contest against Indiana on the horizon (AP)

    Rotnei Clarke and Butler have a huge contest against Indiana on the horizon (AP)

  2. Temple (6-1) –The margin of Temple’s loss to Duke Saturday, 23 points, was a surprise. Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly exploited a younger and less polished front court rotation (mainly forward/center Anthony Lee and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson) on defense, causing Lee to sit with two fouls early in the first half, which forced Fran Dunphy to commit more bodies to post defense. And then Duke’s guards exploded. Dunphy needed a well-managed game from his senior guards Scootie Randall and (especially) Khalif Wyatt, but they did not deliver. Wyatt launched 10 field goal attempts in the first half, many shots were hurried and out of the offensive flow. Dunphy brought out the starting five to start the second half, but sat Wyatt just under the 14 minute mark (about six minutes into the half) and did not bring him back as he worked the deeper parts of his bench. The front court will be a problem going forward, but the back court must learn how to mask that weakness or Temple will continue to slide. Read the rest of this entry »
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