On Waiting For College Basketball…

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 14th, 2014

Just 221 days ago we looked on as Connecticut outlasted Kentucky in the National Championship game. What you’ve done with those 221 days, I have no idea. But I know what college basketball has been doing; waiting. Just sitting there, letting the rest of the world pass it by. Sure, there were a few interesting stories that came out during the dog days of summer, but in the end, this was one of the most boring offseasons in recent history. And you know what, that’s okay. Because the time for waiting is over. Starting this very morning, games will be played again. Real games that count. Games with outcomes that might be listed on tournament résumés come March.

What I advise of you is to take it all in. Follow your team from the start. Do not give up after a bad loss. Celebrate a big win. Because this sport is way too fun to not watch it all from the beginning.

Rush the Court. (credit: TBL)

Rush the Court. (credit: TBL)

It’s funny what memories stick out in our minds. Some of the most vivid ones of mine are related to sports, and the majority of those have to do with basketball. I remember having back surgery when I was nine years old and my first request after waking up was for one of the nurses to turn the channel in my room to an Oregon State-Portland game. I remember March afternoons in grade school asking to go to the bathroom, then going to the library instead to use a computer and check the scores of Tournament games. Now I just take an extra long lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. Some things never change.

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Morning Five: Opening Night Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 14th, 2014

morning5

  1. It’s finally here. After having to write about academic scandals and other peripheral stories as we  tried to fill up this space with whatever news we could find for the past 7+ months we finally have real college basketball games to talk about again. While today’s slate may lack the blockbusters we will have in Indianapolis we have next Tuesday, but we might enjoy today even more. If that isn’t the case, you should find more than enough to keep you entertained until we get into the big-time match-ups.
  2. You won’t be seeing two of the bigger names in college basketball due to recently announced suspensions. Southern Methodist senior forward Markus Kennedy, 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season, has been ruled academically ineligible and will have to sit out the first semester meaning that he will not be available until after classes finish on December 17. While the school could try to work around the decision and play him that night against Illinois-Chicago we suspect that he would be out until December 20 when they play Michigan. Connecticut will have to wait one more game before transfer guard Rodney Purvis will be able to play for them as the NCAA ruled that he will have to miss one game because he participated in more than one summer league game. Purvis is the third significant player who will have to miss at least one regular season game to start the season because of this rule (Duje Dukan and Michael Cobbins being the others).
  3. You can file this under “New season, same story.” As we mentioned earlier this week we have just entered the early signing period. Most of the major prospects haven’t committed yet, but two of the bigger ones did yesterday and much like in previous years the hot names–Isaiah Briscoe and Skal Labisseriecommitted to Kentucky. The two five-star prospects are both borderline top 10 recruits overall in their class and give the Wildcats stars at two of the hardest positions to fill in any recruiting class (Briscoe at point guard and Labisserie at center). This doesn’t necessarily mean that John Calipari is going to clean up on the recruiting trail again, but it looks like things are going to stay the same.
  4. Speaking of Labisserie, on Wednesday his AAU coach told CBS Sports that Labisserie’s handler guardian had approached him looking for ways to profit off of Labisserie. Now we take anything an AAU coach says with a grain of salt because as a group they don’t have the most sterling reputations. This isn’t to say that he is lying and even if he isn’t lying simply asking about how to profit (from an intellectual perspective) wouldn’t break any rules that we are aware of. Still you can be sure that the Kentucky haters will be latching onto this storyline (and Labisserie’s interesting senior year situation) up until the day that the NCAA makes a decision about his eligibility.
  5. Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall is expected to meet with the NCAA on Tuesday to discuss its investigation into his time at Southern Mississippi. As we have previously mentioned in this space the NCAA is looking into possible financial aid packages that were offered to players before they actually were allowed to receive scholarships. According to Jeff Goodman, the players in question are Matt Bingaya and Shadell Millinghaus. For its part, Tennessee claims that it very thoroughly vetted Tyndall before hiring him and for their sake we can only hope it was thorough enough. Its unclear what kind of timeline the NCAA is planning on working with, but we imagine that all parties involved would want a resolution as soon as possible.
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One on One: An AAC Preview With Jason Smith

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

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

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

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

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

Who Will Step Up For the Huskies This Season?

Who Will Step Up For the Huskies This Season?

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

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Five Burning Questions in the AAC

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 6th, 2014

The best part about preview season and the lull before the college basketball storm is all of the questions. The meat of nearly every preview of any team or player or coach is the questions surrounding them. Can UConn repeat? How will the Huskies replace Shabazz Napier? Is this the year SMU gets back to the NCAA Tournament? Will Markus Kennedy be eligible? Although it would likely rank among the most boring reads of all-time, it wouldn’t be all that difficult to come up with questions about each player and coach on every team in the conference. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, we pared the list down to five burning questions. We did make an effort to ask some of the less obvious questions in an effort to avoid repeating ourselves too often.

What does the AAC have in store for an encore performance?

In the grand landscape of college basketball, the AAC sits in a rather precarious position. Yes, the conference can call itself the home of the defending national champions, but the conference is also very fortunate that the Huskies made that remarkable run last season. The glow from that championship hasn’t quite subsided and it’s helping distract from the fact that the conference could be in for a rough follow-up season. Arguably the most prestigious program from last season, Louisville, is gone.

Kevin Ollie  (Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY)

Is the AAC Home To Another Championship Contender This Season? (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY)

The schools replacing the Cardinals – with the exception of Tulsa — are basketball also-rans that have almost never mattered on the national scene. UConn and SMU seem like NCAA Tournament locks at this point, but all of the other teams have major issues, and it’s conceivable that the conference could place only those two teams in the Big Dance. It’s also possible that five or six teams could make the NCAA Tournament. This season may very well be the best indication of what type of basketball conference the AAC will be going forward.

How exactly is Cincinnati going to score points and, more importantly, win games?

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Preseason Questions: How Strong Will UConn’s Title Defense Be?

Posted by Henry Bushnell on November 4th, 2014

Streamers descended. Confetti flew. An overjoyed Ryan Boatright spiked the ball in elation. Shabazz Napier keeled over in emotion. “I told you,” Napier exclaimed. “I told you.” April 7, 2014, was a magical day for the UConn basketball program. It was the culmination of an exhilarating NCAA Tournament run, one that nearly ended after one game but ultimately concluded in style, and it was a memory that will not soon be forgotten by those involved.

Kevin Ollie  (Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY)

Kevin Ollie and the Huskies Reached the Pinnable Last April (Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY)

But seven months later, head coach Kevin Ollie and his players are set to get back down to business. A new season looms and new challenges await. And as is the case for any defending national champion, so do expectations. When the new season tips off in 10 days, inevitably, a target will be on the Huskies’ backs. But UConn isn’t your typical defending national champion. Let’s not let recency bias significantly affect our perceptions. For much of last season, the Huskies were a pretty good team, but they weren’t a great one. They spent the duration of conference play outside of Ken Pomeroy’s top 20, and they were a #7 seed for a reason, with their best road win of the regular season coming against a perplexing Memphis squad.

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Morning Five: 10.31.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 31st, 2014

morning5

  1. Zach Lofton‘s time at Minnesota was very short-lived. The Illinois State transfer, who would have had to sit out this season as a transfer after averaging 11.3 points and 3 rebounds per game last season, was kicked off the team yesterday. The reasons for Lofton’s dismissal are unclear, but he is still on scholarship at the school and can remain at the school to pursue his undergraduate degree so we are assuming it was something that wasn’t too serious as in it was not due to an arrest. We are not sure what Lofton’s plans are, but we are assuming that he won’t be staying at Minnesota.
  2. Yesterday, Florida announced that John Egbunu, a transfer from South Florida, will have to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules. Egbunu, who averaged 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman last season, was a top-60 prospect coming out of high school. We are not sure what basis the Florida staff was hoping to use in order to get Egbunu a waiver, but they should be able to survive without him this season as they already have a deep frontcourt.
  3. Connecticut junior guard Omar Calhoun is expected to miss at least a week after spraining the MCL in his right knee. Calhoun injured the knee during a Sunday practice, but a subsequent MRI revealed that there was no significant structural damage. Calhoun has reportedly recovered completely from the bilateral hip impingement surgery that limited his production as a sophomore. The Huskies appear to be set for their starting backcourt with Ryan Boatright and Rodney Purvis, but Calhoun could be a key reserve for the team.
  4. St. John’s announced yesterday that junior college transfer Keith Thomas would not be academically eligible for this season. Thomas, who was an honorable mention NJCAA All-American while averaging 15.3 points and 15.7 rebounds per game last season, is the third player from Westchester Community College to either be ruled academically ineligible as the school’s academic credentials are being questioned (where have we heard this before?). The loss of Thomas is a big hit for the Red Storm as they lack many legitimate big men outside of Chris Obekpa.
  5. We aren’t exactly sure how much to read into Jeff Goodman’s report that several college basketball referees had accessed unauthorized information on a refereeing site. While some of that information like game schedules and how much certain referees were paid probably did not affect the way games were called, other information like comments that coaches made about certain officials certainly could have impacted the outcome of games. If this might seem a little far-fetched, it was just a year and a half ago that where the Pac-12 had a controversy because there were reports that the head of officiating attempted to get other officials to target Arizona coach Sean Miller. We doubt that this will lead to a similar revelation, but it should be the primary concern in a situation like this.
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Morning Five: 10.27.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 27th, 2014

morning5

  1. Once North Carolina released the findings of the independent investigation into the widespread academic fraud at its institution the next obvious step was to hear from Roy Williams, who spoke about the issue at a press conference on Friday. Williams stated he “thought we were doing the right thing” at the time and noted his reported initial concerns about the high number of players from his 2005 title team that were so many African and Afro-American Studies majors. We aren’t sure whether we believe that Roy (or any other coach involved in this type of scandal) actually cared to know about what was going on or just preferred not to worry about the details of how the sausage was made in his program. The next step in this process is what the NCAA will do with the school. Dennis Dodd has already come out in favor of  the death penalty, but acknowledges that it won’t happen.  Given the widespread nature of the scandal we understand the sentiment, but find it unlikely that the NCAA would touch one of its sacred (cash) cows. Not to be outdone by their new ACC rivals, Syracuse already has its day(s) in (NCAA) court set for October 30 and 31. These allegations go back 10 years and involve both the men’s basketball and football programs with the biggest charges revolving around extra benefits and academic issues with the basketball team. We can’t wait for the weekly ACC conference calls.
  2. We knew that we would have to deal with teams losing players to the professional ranks at some point this season we just figured that it would be after the season actually started. Charlotte junior shooting guard Shawn Lester is leaving the program to pursue a professional basketball career. Carter, who was second on the team in scoring last year at 11.9 points per game, is reportedly looking for an agent with a plan on signing overseas. Even with the loss, the 49ers will still have four returning starters and ad Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze as well as freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn Jr. Although Lester’s reasons for leaving are unclear (reportedly under the pretense of supporting his family financially), he is the fifth player to leave the program early since the end of the 2012-13 season.
  3. We are just a few weeks away from the start of college basketball season so we can only imagine the panic in Madison when it was reported that Sam Dekker sprained his left ankle at a Friday practice. Dekker, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season and is a potential All-American, sprained his ankle during a 4-on-4 drill and is only expected to miss one to two weeks as he recovers. Fortunately Wisconsin has a relatively easy start to the season before they play Green Bay on November 19 at which point we would expect Dekker would be back at full strength based on the information that Wisconsin is providing.
  4. It won’t make up for the loss of Emmanuel Mudiay or (possibly) Markus Kennedy, but Southern Methodist got a boost when the NCAA ruled that Virginia Tech transfer Ben Emelogu had been granted a transfer waiver and would be eligible to play this season. Emelogu, who is from Dallas, averaged 10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a freshman last season. Emelogu could also provide some stability to the team, which has been in flux the past few month as he actually was a team captain last season despite being only a freshman. If they can get Kennedy back, the Mustangs have the potential to be a dangerous team even if the person who was going to save them is on the other side of the planet.
  5. With all the crying about the rivalries lost with conference realignment a number of schools have figured out ways to keep those rivalries intact at least temporarily. The latest two school to do so are Connecticut and Georgetown, which will renew their rivalry for at least two years beginning with the 2015-16 season. The first game will be played on January 23, 2016 at the XL Center with the return date at the Verizon Center on January 21, 2017. While the rivalry might lack the history of others (remember Connecticut was nothing before Jim Calhoun got there), the Hoyas only lead the series 35-29 with the two schools each having a record seven Big East Tournament titles (something the Hoyas should be able to reclaim now that Connecticut is in the AAC). We are sure that we will be seeing plenty of clips of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen going at it in the lead up to these games.
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Back and Forth: Midnight Madness Edition

Posted by David Harten on October 17th, 2014

Each week, we’ll profile some of the week’s biggest upcoming games by taking a look back at some relevant history that relates to the match-ups. This is Back And Forth.

For our first entry, we will take a look at what’s right in front of us. The week of various Midnight Madness events are popping up in arenas across the country, with some naturally creating more of a buzz than others. Places like Lexington, Lawrence, East Lansing and Gainesville will pack fans and students into their respective arenas, domes and fieldhouses, lighting fireworks, putting on costumes and introducing this year’s roster with aplomb – at some point, they’ll also do some basketball stuff.

So what are some of the more memorable Midnight Madness moments for great teams in recent history? Glad you asked. Let’s review three recent champions to determine if there were any clues as to what was to come six months later:

Kentucky, Big Blue Madness – 2011-12

A few months removed from a run to John Calipari’s first Final Four as head coach of the Wildcats, a lot was expected from a semi-veteran team of Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb pairing with the next loaded recruiting class coming to town, featuring future lottery picks Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Amid all the introductions, lights and pageantry, the Wildcats staged their customary Blue vs. White scrimmage.

National Title Moment: During the scrimmage, Big Blue Nation got to see the full talents of Davis on display. The 6’11” forward was a physical freak, swatting shots and throwing down dunks, taking off from outside the paint on the baseline. The future NPOY put it all on display from day one as a Wildcat.

UConn, First Night – 2010-11

No one was expecting what they saw out of UConn in 2010-11. It all started at “First Night,” UConn’s annual nightly open practice. Around 7,000 fans showed up for the player introductions and skills challenge. That was the night Kemba Walker started it all in motion. The rest is history.

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Where 2014-15 Happens: Reason #29 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2014

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2014-15 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on November 14. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. For all of this year’s released posts, click here

#29 – Where Foreshadowing Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-13 and 2013-14 preseasons.

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The RTC Podcast: Offseason Review Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2014

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back… We are only 30 days from the start of college basketball games, 24 hours from ESPN’s mega-Midnight Madness coverage, and a handful of minutes from Shane’s next dose of Xanax. The RTC Podcast has returned for Season Three: The Immutables, and we’re kicking things off this glorious mid-October week with a warm-up edition — a little bite-sized something that reviews some of the top storylines and themes coming out of a really quiet offseason. Note that this isn’t really a preview episode — that, among many others, will release in the coming weeks — but this podcast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), is meant to ease us into the season with plenty more to come. The full rundown is below, and remember, you can subscribe to every episode on iTunes with a simple click of a button.

  • 0:00 – 2:20 – An In Person Podcast/Summer Blur
  • 2:21 – 7:20 – A Few Headlines From a Quiet Offseason
  • 7:21 – 10:41 – SMU/Emmanuel Mudiay
  • 10:42 – 15:14 – Kentucky Returnees
  • 15:15 – 24:02 – Coming & Goings: Wisconsin/Michigan/UCLA
  • 24:03 – 32:30 – Coaching Carousel: Who Didn’t Move (Calipari/Ollie/Hoiberg)
  • 32:31 – close – What’s Coming at RTC/Wrap
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RTC 2014-15 Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25

Posted by Walker Carey on April 29th, 2014

Although we are less than a month removed from Connecticut’s win over Kentucky for the 2014 National Championship, it certainly is not too soon to gander ahead to the 2014-15 season. With Sunday’s deadline for underclassmen to declare for the June NBA Draft now past, we now have a much better idea of who the top teams should be once the ball is tipped again in November. Three weeks ago we released our Way Too Early Top 25; today we’re back with a much better version that accounts for (most of) next season’s returning rosters.

There is some consensus at the top, with three teams garnering 15 of the 18 top three votes from our pollsters. #1 Kentucky owns the top spot after John Calipari’s squad experienced far fewer NBA defections than was previously thought. While stars Julius Randle and James Young both decided to take their games to the next level, underclassmen Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress all decided to return to Lexington. Coupling these returnees with another star-studded recruiting class (ranked second by most analysts), it is easy to see why expectations will once again be off the charts for next season’s Wildcats. As expected, #2 Arizona lost talented guard Nick Johnson and forward Aaron Gordon to the NBA Draft, but certainly not all is lost in Tucson. Guards T.J. McConnell and Gabe York along with interior behemoths Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski return to form an incredibly strong nucleus for the Wildcats. #3 Wisconsin looks like it will once again be a Final Four contender, as Bo Ryan’s squad returns seven of its eight rotation players from the 2013-14 campaign. The Badgers figure to be paced by what should be one of the strongest duos in the country in versatile wing Sam Dekker and skilled big man Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin will also have a great deal of winning experience in the backcourt, as Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser both return to Madison. The usual Quick n’ Dirty analysis, with some other thoughts on this poll, follows after the jump….

rtc25 04.29.14

Quick n’ Dirty.

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Morning Five: 04.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. Yesterday was a big day for Kentucky as both Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson announced that they will be returning to Lexington for at least one more season. Poythress has seen his stock drop during his two years at Kentucky to the point that he would have been a second round pick had he declared, but Johnson had the potential to be a late first round pick so it is somewhat surprising to see him stay. Kentucky still may have issues in the backcourt if the Harrison twins decide to turn pro, but they will have the nation’s deepest, tallest, and most talented frontcourt next season with Poythress, Johnson, Marucs Lee, Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Karl-Anthony Towns.
  2. The news around Louisville transfer Chane Behanan is a little less clear. Behanan, who left Louisville after repeated issues with marijuana use, had announced his intent to transfer to Colorado State several months ago, but now reports are surfacing that he may have signed with an agent with plans to enter the NBA Draft. If he were to enter the NBA Draft, Behanan would be a late second round pick at best and most likely would go undrafted particularly with his off-court issues. Colorado State has not really commented on it other than to say that they “will support him in whatever decision he makes” while Behanan offered a vague denial.
  3. Two other big names–Jerian Grant and Jordan Mickey–announced that they will be returning to school next year. Neither player would have been a first round pick (at least not a guaranteed one) coming out this year so it makes sense for them to come back to school. Grant’s season was derailed when he was ruled academically ineligible. Grant had been averaging 19 points and 6.2 assists per game before his suspension so it is possible he would have left South Bend if he had a full season to showcase his game. Mickey posted solid numbers as a freshman averaging 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. While Mickey certainly has potential he was projected as a late second round pick at best so his decision to come back also makes a lot of sense and could help make LSU a second-tier team in the SEC next season.
  4. People can complain all they want about Duke being on national television all the time and there is a degree of truth to those complaints, but Duke is certainly getting its share of prominent non-conference showdowns. In addition to their annual Champions Classic game (against Michigan State this year), a ACC/Big Ten Challenge road game, and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic , Duke is close to scheduling a game against defending national champion Connecticut. The Huskies will be without Shabazz Napier, but could have Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels back and will be adding Rodney Purvis. Duke will look completely different with the departure of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood combined with the appearance of their top-rated incoming freshman class.
  5. At this point we are not sure how Craig Robinson still has his job (oh right, the brother-in-law) as Oregon State continues to disappoint. As if losing all five starters from a team that went 16-16 last season was not bad enough, he also will be losing Hallice Cooke, who was supposed to be the team’s top returning player at  8.2 points and 2.6 assists per game last season, after Cooke announced that he was transferring saying “Smh I gotta know what that NCAA tourney feels like ASAP”. We never really bought into the idea that players would want to play for Robinson just because his brother-in-law is the President, but his performance has been fallen short of even our tempered expectations. Now Robinson heads into next season with his top returning player being Langston Morris-Walker, who averaged 4 points per game last season. We are usually hesitant to put anybody on the hot seat, but time seems to be running short for Robinson.
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