Set Your Tivo: Weekend Review

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

This is the last major weekend before conference play begins in earnest and it features a bunch of solid games but none that really jump out at you as must-watch. All in all it’s a pretty good set of games. Don’t forget about the two games in the Bahamas on Saturday (Richmond vs. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State). They’re not on television but are meaningful, especially the latter. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Texas vs. North Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC) – 4 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

A Smaller Venue in Greenboro, But Still a Great Game

You may never see a game between two unranked teams have this much talent on the court as this one. Yes the Longhorns are ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls but they aren’t in our own top 25. Texas has played better this year on the strength of defense and better chemistry though a loss at USC was cause for concern. Still, Texas has a ton of talent and has the ability to turn this season into a successful one. Leading scorer Jordan Hamilton still has a so-so shot selection but he’s connecting on 41% of his treys, a positive sign for Rick Barnes. Freshman Tristan Thompson has also been a plus for the Longhorns, giving them an athletic post presence who can score and defend very well. When you look at this matchup with North Carolina however, Tyler Zeller (16/8) is going to have a significant height advantage inside. You may see Barnes turn to Matt Hill for a bigger defensive presence in the paint in an attempt to control UNC’s big man. Each team has had some issues at the point guard, especially North Carolina. The Tar Heels have seen better play from Larry Drew II (2:1 A/T ratio) but questions remain with the team averaging 15 turnovers per contest. With a talented freshman in waiting, Roy Williams has to make a decision on who should see the majority of time at the point as they head into ACC play. For Texas, Dogus Balbay has seen his minutes drop in favor of freshman Cory Joseph, a move that’s understandable from an offensive standpoint but questionable in the eyes of some who see the experienced Balbay as a team leader and an effective distributor, not to mention an outstanding defender. Texas is not a particularly great shooting team as a whole so the transition to Joseph could be more about transition opportunities and easy buckets plus Joseph is a much better shooter. As for North Carolina, getting Harrison Barnes going could be the key between middling outside the top 25 and being a consistently ranked team and #2 in the ACC. Barnes is still in a slump, shooting just 33% overall over his last five games including a dismal 5-24 (21%) from three. He’s still averaging double figures and has done a nice job rebounding but the Tar Heels need more out of their star freshman. To become a really good team, UNC needs John Henson to become a consistent third option. He rebounds very well but he’s in double figures one night and single digits the next. He may have a hard time with Thompson inside but Henson is able to stretch his game out a bit and that may open things up inside for the Tar Heels. This figures to be another close game, far different from last year’s Texas blowout. This time North Carolina has the crowd to their advantage and may come out on top by a few points. It’s a huge game for UNC, their last non-conference opportunity for a quality win. Texas still has games with Michigan State and Connecticut but this is a big game for them too in a quasi-road environment. We wouldn’t be surprised either way but a slight edge has to go to UNC in this game.

#5 Kansas State vs. Florida (BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL) – 3:30 pm Saturday on FSN (****)

This is the first of two key games for Kansas State, the second coming on Tuesday against UNLV. Winning one or both will certainly help the Wildcats grab a better seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. Against Florida, K-State will have to contend with the Gators’ trapping pressure defense, something that could be a problem given their propensity for turnovers and some point guard issues. Jacob Pullen has been the main distributor at four assists per game but he turns it over more than three times per game, the most on a team that averages 16 turnovers as a unit. Florida’s back court pressure could cause a lot of problems for Kansas State and plenty of extra possessions for the Gators. Pullen doing a lot of ball handling could also be a factor in his overall struggle relative to last season. He’s never been a great shooter, 40% overall from the floor for his career, but his three point shooting is down over six percent to 33% this season. It is true that other teams are trying to lock him up like Duke did, but Pullen has to work through this and become a better player in order to lift Kansas State to the next level where they can compete for a national championship. Frank Martin may go with Will Spradling at the point in order to take some pressure off Pullen. As for Florida, expect them to fire up three’s as usual (17 per game) even though the Gators shoot just 32% as a team. Billy Donovan loves the trey, yet another Rick Pitino protégé who sticks to the system no matter the personnel he has. Erving Walker has improved dramatically but Kenny Boynton still can’t find the range for Florida. Walker shoots 20% better than Boynton from deep yet Boynton has 15 more attempts this season. Kansas State should look to isolate Walker and aggressively defend him, keeping the ball out of his hands. Pullen and Rodney McGruder may have to match Walker’s deep shooting but Martin will be content with Boynton chucking shots up and hitting once in a while, requiring Kansas State to clear the boards well. Both teams rank high in offensive rebounding percentage so the Wildcats must put an emphasis on keeping Florida off the glass as that will lead to easy Gator put backs. Florida is #15 in two point percentage, largely a result of offensive rebounds and the play of Vernon Macklin inside. Macklin against Curtis Kelly will be a key matchup to watch in the low post as each player finishes well and can rebound the basketball effectively. Kansas State should not bank on outscoring Florida from the line considering their awful free throw shooting (55%) and Florida’s ability to keep opponents off the line, second in the nation in defensive free throw rate. Only three players on K-State’s roster shoot over 70% from the line and Pullen is the only one of those three who gets there often. Martin’s depth will take a hit if Wally Judge is out, dealing with personal issues, but we don’t think that will have a major impact on the game. Kansas State is still a very deep team, able to go eight or nine deep if necessary. This should be a terrific game that may come down to the very end. Ken Pomeroy predicts a two-point Florida win so this game is essentially a toss-up. We see it that way as well.

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The Week That Was: November 19-26

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Introduction

TWTW hopes everyone out there had a great Thanksgiving, gorging on turkey, stuffing and football. I truly hope you got enough football because this is a football free zone. No news about Tom Brady’s hair, Brett Favre’s retirement plans or Vince Young’s texting habits. There’s way too much hoops to discuss.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving is without a doubt one of my favorite weeks of the college basketball season. The Maui Invitational, Preseason NIT, the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic…need I say more? All of the preseason tournaments serve up must-see non-conference matchups, the likes of which you won’t see again until March. #10 Kentucky and #15 Washington staged a fine duel on Tuesday night in Maui. #1 Duke vs. #5 Kansas State might have disappointed for just over a half, but you still learned plenty about each squad.

Walker's Performance In Maui Still Has Hoopheads Buzzing

More than prime-time matchups, though, I love these tournaments because every year someone makes the leap from relative hoops obscurity to household name status. This year that player is Connecticut’s Kemba Walker. Now, Walker wasn’t exactly an unknown commodity prior to this week, but no one ever viewed him as the most formidable offensive player in the nation. 90 points in three nationally televised games and back-to-back wins over top-10 squads tends to raise your profile, though.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Pitt has a team capable of reaching that elusive Final Four

1. I had an opportunity to attend the consolation and championship games of the 2K Sports Classic last Friday and learned a great deal about the four teams participating- Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois and Maryland. The Panthers were one of my preseason Final Four teams and did nothing to give me second thoughts on that prediction. Ashton Gibbs is a true playmaker at the end of the shot clock, Jamie Dixon has an incredibly deep frontcourt and the Panthers play heady, smart, hard-nosed basketball for 40 minutes. It’s possible we overrated Illinois a bit coming into the year. They lack a bruiser down low that can post up on the block and demand the basketball. Mike Tisdale’s the same player he’s been his entire career at Illinois, a capable mid-range jump shooter that lacks any sort of physicality and is often mired in foul trouble because opposing power forwards constantly out-muscle him. Maryland looks like a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that should sneak into the NCAA Tournament because Gary Williams always receives max effort from his teams and Jordan Williams is a force in the post, although he needs to avoid silly fouls and demand the basketball more often. The team that needed to convince me they were a contender after last season’s disaster is Texas. The Longhorns are a top-20 team with a duo of physical, lockdown defenders on the perimeter in Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, an athletic low-post presence in Tristan Thompson and an explosive scorer in Jordan Hamilton. A shortened rotation and accepted roles has helped Rick Barnes develop improved chemistry, as well.

2. The story of the first two weeks of college basketball might just be Minnesota. The Big Ten was the best conference coming into the season with Michigan State and Ohio State shaping up to be Final Four frontrunners, Purdue and Illinois mainstays in the polls and Wisconsin as solid as ever. Minnesota was a team that nobody could quite get a handle on, especially considering it was impossible to predict just how much the additions of Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen would help Tubby Smith.  After three statements wins in Puerto Rico over Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia, the Gophers appear to be yet another contender primed for a deep March run out of the absolutely loaded Big Ten. Al Nolen was superb in the championship game against West Virginia locking down the Mountaineer’s point guard duo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant on defense and splitting the West Virginia defense with dribble penetration that either resulted in free throws (11-12 on the night) or open looks for sharpshooting teammate Blake Hoffarber. Where the Gophers have forged their identity, though, is inside with a plethora of size and length. Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, Mbakwe and big bodied Mo Walker provide Smith a frontline that can go toe-to-toe with any in the nation. Just wait till they get Devoe Joseph back.

3. The most crippling defeat for any team with NCAA Tournament aspirations could have come Monday afternoon at the Maui Invitational for Wichita State. The Shockers inability to contain Kemba Walker (29 second half points) cost them a chance to pick up a quality win over a Big East opponent and a shot at potential #1-seed Michigan State in the semifinals. Why is this so devastating? One, Wichita just blew their best chance for an RPI/SOS booster. The only other challenging non-conference game on the slate is a road trip to San Diego State, where it’s extremely unlikely the Shockers leave with a victory. Merely the addition of the Spartans on their schedule would improve Wichita’s power rating dramatically. Instead, it’s increasingly likely Gregg Marshall’s team will have to win the MVC Tournament. This task is very possible; after all, the Shockers are the prohibitive favorite, a senior-laden squad with talents like Toure Murry, David Kyles and J.T. Durley. Marshall’s goal in Maui was to pick up two quality wins for the resume in March. That chance has gone by the wayside.

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Ball Control And Offensive Boards Key Panthers’ Run In New York

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2010

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAC and NEC, and makes additional contributions based on his analysis from action around the country.

Each of the four teams in the Coaches vs. Cancer ‘final four’ in New York left with something significant. Pittsburgh exited with the championship and an even better feeling of what they are all about. Texas left disappointed as runner-up but still encouraged they could take the #4-ranked team to the final possession with a limited rotation. Illinois showed resiliency coming back from a tough OT loss in the semis to post a nice consolation victory. Maryland, with a number of new faces, competed well both nights and received an encouraging two-day performance by sophomore center Jordan Williams.

First Semifinal

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
Pitt 49 48 41 22
Maryland 50 25 18 12

Possessions : 73

Off. Efficiency: Pitt 108, Maryland 96

The number that jumps off the page is offensive rebounding percentage. In raw numbers, Pitt owned the offensive glass 15-6 and the Panthers were beasts on the boards. Freshman forward/center Talib Zanna led the way with 12 rebounds but even junior guard Ashton Gibbs pulled down seven, which would have put him second on Maryland behind Williams’ eight caroms.

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RTC Live: Coaches vs. Cancer Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2010

Games #16-#17.  We’re back at Madison Square Garden for the second year of the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals.  You might recall that this is the spot in the season last year where Wes Johnson and Syracuse announced themselves as contenders for the crown with two convincing wins here.

#5 Pittsburgh vs. Maryland – 7 pm

Maryland may be 3-0 on the season, but there are some serious red flags waving for this team. The issue at hand? Point guard play, or lack thereof early in the season. For the first three games, Gary Williams has been starting senior Adrian Bowie at the point, but Bowie is not a prototypical point guard. He’s more of an off-guard that happens to be 6’1. He looked horrible in the opener against Seattle (seven turnovers, 12 minutes), and while he’s been better the last two games (eight assists, two turnovers), he’s not exactly the facilitator the Terps need. Two freshmen, Pe’Shon Howard (who hit the game-winner against the College of Charleston) and Terrell Stoglin, have been impressive at times, but their youth and inexperience has shone through as well. The Terps’ best offense early in the season has been pounding the ball into Jordan Williams or beating their opponent’s defense down the floor. Pitt has a much bigger and better front line (headlined by Gary McGhee, which makes for one of the most intriguing one-on-one matchups thus far this season) and a much better defense, so the question heading into this game is “can Maryland actually score?” For Pitt, watch Brad Wanamaker. I know Ashton Gibbs gets the accolades, but Wanamaker is ready to turn into one of the Big East’s best.

#16 Illinois vs. Texas – 9:30 pm

Illinois is underrated right now, in my opinion. I think the Illini have a shot of competing for the Big Ten title with Ohio State and Michigan State, that’s how good I expect them to be. Demetri McCamey is one of the least talked about superstars at the college level. He’s coming off of a season where he led the country in assists. My concern with McCamey? The theory that a knucklehead is always going to be a knucklehead, because heading into last season, McCamey had a reputation as, well, a knucklehead. The rest of Illinois’ lineup is talented. They are deep. They have some size as well, and while that size can be considered “soft”, their bigs (the Mikes, Tisdale and Davis) both shoot the ball well enough that it keeps the floor spread for McCamey’s penetration. Texas, on the other hand, is going to be an interesting team to follow this year. They have a supremely talented 1-2-3 punch in Cory Joseph, Jordan Hamilton, and Tristan Thompson, but those are two freshmen and a sophomore that wasn’t exactly known for his maturity or decision-making as a freshman. Do the Horns have a leader? Will Hamilton be the next Brandon Rush or the next Jeremy Hazell? Can Joseph run this team? Does Thompson have enough “want-to” to be a force on the block?  These and other questions will be answered tonight.

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Around The Blogosphere: Pe’Shon Nails A Dagger

Posted by nvr1983 on November 11th, 2010

We are still early in the season, but things are starting to kick into gear with our first huge shot of the (regular) season. Like we stated after opening night, if you are interested in participating in this feature and getting your site linked to contact us at rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Game of the Night

  • Maryland 75, College of Charleston 74: “For 39 and a half minutes, there was no shortage of things I could’ve said about Maryland’s game against College of Charleston: the missed free throws, the turnovers, the sensational Andrew Goudelock, the fact that Maryland lost to College of Charleston in their second game, and so on. And then Pe’Shon Howard happened. And then I was left speechless.” (Testudo Times: Part 1 and Part 2)

Top 25

  • #4 Pittsburgh 97, Illinois-Chicago 54: “Pitt played nearly perfectly in every facet of the game. The team shot about 60% from the field, rebounded extremely well, and only turned the ball over six times. When the Panthers play that well, they will be nearly impossible to beat.” (SB Nation: Pittsburgh)
  • #16 Illinois 84, Toledo 45: “This was more like it. Illinois played its first complete game of the season on Wednesday with a 84-45 blowout of Toledo at Assembly Hall. All 11 Illini players that saw playing time scored, including walk-on Kevin Berardini.” (Chicago Breaking Sports)
  • #25 Texas 89, Louisiana Tech 58: “Through two games, this Texas team has looked as solid as anyone could have imagined. They are playing as a team, moving the ball, crisply on offense, and not settling for jump shot. On the other end, they’ve been able to win the rebounding battle in both games and held both opponents to under 40% from the floor. J’Covan [Brown] and [Jordan] Hamilton look like different players; [TristanThompson and [CoryJoseph have already been impactful; and [GaryJohnson and Dogus [Balbay] are leading by example. Heck, even Jai Lucas and [MattHill have provided some quality minutes. The competition takes a giant step up next week, but, again, through two games, I’m impressed.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
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After the Buzzer: Opening Night Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2010

Year the Fourth.  Welcome to the fourth season of Rush the Court’s continuing coverage of college basketball.  If you’ve lurked around these parts before, you already know that our After the Buzzer (ATB) feature is something we try to do most every weeknight of the season and quite a few of the weekends — pretty much any night there are nationally-interesting games going on somewhere.  If you’re new to this joint, the concept behind this feature is that we want to prepare you, Mr. College Basketball Citizen of the World, to face a new day armed with the knowledge you need in order cast forth into a hostile environment of hoops poseurs, charlatans and frauds.  We’re going to be experimenting with this piece over the next couple of weeks as the fresh, shiny new season gets underway, so let us know in the comments if there’s something you find particularly interesting or sucky.

Scotty Hopson Must Lead His Team This Year (UTsports.com)

Your Watercooler Moment: D2 Shows It Can Ball With the Big Boys (or, at least the SEC). There were three games that counted tonight in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but for realz games that counted in the standings were actually not the most newsworthy part of tonight.  Rather, it was Exhibition Madness tonight, as no fewer than two SEC teams dropped games against D2 opponents and a couple of other BCS teams required a total of three overtimes to sneak past two more.  The biggest “upset” took place in Knoxville, as the University of Indianapolis (Butler, is that you?) whomped Tennessee 79-64 behind a 60% shooting second half where the visiting team nearly doubled up the Vols.  The Indy backcourt of  Adrian Moss and Darius Adams torched UT, going for 47 combined points and getting to the line an astounding thirty times.  Meanwhile, over at Auburn, Tony Barbee’s new team shot 7-20 from the line as the Tigers dropped a close one against Columbus (AL) State, 54-52, a team picked to finish twelfth in its thirteen-team D2 division.  Not to be outdone, state rival Alabama was taken to double-overtime prior to pulling out a 73-68 win against Alabama-Huntsville.  It’s been a number of years since we have actually been able to state without equivocation that the SEC was a legitimate basketball league, but despite what columnist John Clay says, if tonight is any indication we may still be a ways off.

Moving away from tonight’s SEC disaster for a moment, Indiana stormed back from a 13-point deficit with seven minutes remaining against Ferris (MI) State, converting a gigantic four-point play by freshman Victor Olapido and surviving a buzzer-beater by FSU that was waived off to win 78-65 in overtime.  It’s not as if anyone in Indiana is expecting IU to compete for a Big Ten championship this season, but Hoosier faithful are expecting improvement.  Sneaking by D2 teams — even good ones — by the hair of your chin isn’t exactly inspiring the faith.

Does It Matter? Enhhhh… probably not much.  The past few years have been lightly littered with examples of good teams dropping games in the exhibition season.  In 2009, Syracuse lost to Le Moyne — the Orange went on to become a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; in 2007, #8 Michigan State was shocked by Grand Valley State while Ohio State lost to Findlay — that season the Spartans went to the Sweet Sixteen while the Bucks won the NIT.  There are undoubtedly other examples over the years, but we’re inclined to believe that the only real lesson learned here is that the truly elite (national-title caliber) teams do not lose these games while very good ones sometimes do.  But we’re not sure that anybody actually believes this year’s Tennessee team (and most definitely, Auburn) is a legitimate threat to go deep in March anyway.

Oh Right, Real Games.  The 2kSports CvC began today with four games at home sites around the country, keeping in mind that the four host schools this week are already slotted into the semifinals round next week in NYC.  We’re biting our tongue once again about the absurdity of these games starting four days prior to everyone else, but hey, it’s college basketball on the television and we’ll take it.  The best game of the evening was Rhode Island visiting #5 Pittsburgh and giving the Panthers pretty much all they wanted before succumbing down the stretch on FTs and a key block by Gilbert Brown.  The Pitt backcourt of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker was outstanding, going 15-28 from the field to combine for 46/7/11 assts, but URI’s ability to bomb the threes (14-32) very nearly allowed the Rams to pull off the road upset.  We have faith that Pitt will be very good this year, but URI with its four seniors is an intriguing team to watch in the Atlantic 10.  In the other games, #16 Illinois rode reserve guard Brandon Paul’s scorching shooting from deep (6-8) to a huge first half lead and never looked back, winning 79-65, while Texas woke up in front of about 150 people in Austin to obliterate Navy 83-52 behind Jordan Hamilton’s extremely effective night (26/10).  Tell us if you’ve heard this one before — the Horns dominated the boards (+20) while throwing up a house of bricks at the foul line (19-34).  In the last game, Maryland and Seattle ran up and down and all over the court at the Comcast Center with the Terps easily prevailing 105-76 despite an alarming 29 turnovers.  Normally, we’d talk about what the next matchups in the bracket will be on Wednesday night, but that’s not useful here as they’ve already been established for months.

Tonight’s Quick Hits.

  • ESPN’s New Home Court of College Hoops Ad.  Kinda diggin’ it.  Especially the last few seconds.  (anybody got a clip?)
  • Jordan Hamilton. Looked like the player we were promised last year, smoothly dunking and shooting his way to a 26/10 night.  If he plays like that all season, he’s an AA.
  • Jordan Williams.  While we’re talking about Jordans blowing up, Maryland’s star dropped 17/15 on Seattle and will need a lot more of those this year.
  • Scotty Hopson.  The anti-Jordan with three points, three turnovers and one assist in a five-foul fiasco that didn’t actually count, yet gives us pause about believing that the talented player will ever make the leap to stardom at UT.
  • Cory Joseph & Tristan Thompson.  The talented Texas freshmen showed flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of looking completely lost, but if Rick Barnes can bring them along slowly, this will be a very good duo in Austin.
  • Victor Olapido.  Underhyped IU freshman saved the Hoosiers from an embarrassing exhibition loss by scoring the last eight points in regulation and providing a key block with two seconds left.  Rare to see such clutchness out of a rook.
  • Talib Zanna.  Starting for injured Pitt forward Nasir Robinson, the 6’9 Zanna may have Wally Pipp’d him with 9/11 in his collegiate debut.
  • Texas Fans.  Look, we know you’re a football school, but come on… the sparse attendance for tonight’s game vs. Navy was ridiculous.

Tweet of the Night.  Was it real or was it fake?  The Twitterverse went a little nutty when a tweet went across the wires earlier tonight where Duke super-recruit Austin Rivers supposedly wrote the following during the Indiana-Ferris State game:

He immediately retracted the statement, saying that his Twitter feed had been hacked by someone.  Cynics such as this one have noted that all of Rivers’ preceding and subsequent tweets came from an iPhone, suggesting that either Rivers himself actually made the offending tweet or someone picked up his phone and started playing while he was away from it.  Either way, we’re really, really, really hoping that Duke and Rivers somehow gets to play IU and “Creme” next year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge or elsewhere (we know, extremely unlikely).

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Frosh Watch: Preseason Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Welcome to Frosh Watch! With college basketball becoming more and more an underclassman’s game it’s imperative that we keep tabs on just who is living up to his potential and who is struggling to adjust to the college game. Is Harrison Barnes really the answer to all of UNC’s problems? Does Kyrie Irving make Duke even better? Will Kentucky’s Enes Kanter ever get to play? What about Tony Mitchell over at Missouri? Those questions — and many more — will all be answered eventually. But that’s a job for another week. First we need to introduce you to some of the rookies we’re most excited about this year. What we’re going to do is look at some of the impact rookies in each of the six BCS conferences, and then give you four freshmen from the non-BCS conferences.  During the seasson we’ll re-visit some of the players on this list (and some not) as part of our weekly wrap.

DISCLAIMER: This is just a taste of the 2010-11 freshmen class — not a finite list. Don’t worry if one of your team’s top signees didn’t make the cut (i.e., Kanter and Mitchell), as he’ll have every opportunity to earn recognition down the road. Consider this first group a hoops aperitif. Just something that teases your college basketball appetite before games start and preseason hype takes a backseat to on-court reality.

ACC

  • Harrison Barnes, forward, North Carolina — Barnes became the first freshman to ever earn AP first team preseason All-America honors when he received 17 votes on Nov. 1. Expect the future lottery pick to lead UNC in points, ‘wow’ plays, and fan hearts won as the Tar Heels storm back into the national picture after a one-year hiatus.
  • Kyrie Irving, guard, Duke — Irving is the most heralded backcourt recruit to come to Durham since Jason Williams, and we all know how that turned out for Coach K. With Irving running the attack, the Blue Devils won’t miss Jon Scheyer.
  • C.J. Leslie, forward, NC State — If Sidney Lowe saves his job this year, it will be because Leslie lived up to the hype. Leslie’s ability to slash into the lane should make the Wolfpack a more well-rounded offensive team, in addition to freeing up space down low for big man Tracy Smith.

Big East

SU Fans Hope Melo Smiles Like This All Season Long (Post-Standard/D. Nett)

  • Fab Melo, center, Syracuse — Melo’s name should be enough to get him on this list (it really is fantastic), but the 7’0, 244-pound monster also is the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year. Paired with Rick Jackson, Melo gives the Orange one of the most tantalizing frontcourts in the nation.
  • Vander Blue, guard, Marquette — Blue somewhat flew under the radar during his high school career, but all that changed after his stint on Team USA this summer in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships. Blue scored 13 points to help USA win the gold medal, and now he’ll be expected to be an instant impact scorer for the Golden Eagles.
  • Roscoe Smith, forward, Connecticut — There are few things to be excited about if you’re a UConn fan. Smith is one of the bright spots in what was a miserable offseason for the Huskies. Smith hasn’t played a game yet, but coach Jim Calhoun already has declared him to be the second best power forward on the team.

Big Ten

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RTC Conference Primers: #3 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 4th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for The Big 12.

Predicted Order of Finish

  • T1. Kansas (12-4)
  • T1. Kansas State (12-4)
  • 2. Baylor (11-5)
  • 3. Missouri (11-5)
  • 4. Texas (10-6)
  • 5. Colorado (9-7)
  • 6. Texas Tech (8-8)
  • 7. Texas A&M (7-9)
  • 8. Oklahoma State (6-10)
  • 9. Nebraska (5-11)
  • 10. Oklahoma (3-13)
  • 11. Iowa State (2-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Jacob Pullen – Kansas State (19.3 ppg)
  • G: Alec Burks – Colorado (17.1 ppg, 5 rpg)
  • G: LaceDarius Dunn – Baylor (19.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
  • F: Marcus Morris – Kansas (12.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
  • F: Curtis Kelly – Kansas State (11.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

6th Man

Cory Higgins - Colorado (18.9 ppg)

Impact Newcomers:

Perry Jones – Baylor – It’ll be tough to replace Ekpe Udoh’s defensive tenacity, but the dropoff won’t be that steep with Jones manning the paint at 6’11 and 235 pounds. As a big man with shooting range, Jones will throw off weaker defenses and also possesses advanced ball-handling skills for someone as raw as he is. Scott Drew is making waves on recruiting trails, but now is the time for his sales acumen to translate on the court.

Josh Selby – Kansas* (if eligible) – The Jayhawks went longer than most schools of its ilk without having a player leave after just one year, but they may go two straight seasons with a post-freshman departure after Xavier Henry and Josh Selby. The #5 recruit by ESPNU in the class of 2010, Selby is a big guard who can score on his own or penetrate and dish to bigger guys like Marcus Morris down low. The coaching staff, players and fans alike have to be getting restless waiting for the NCAA to make a ruling regarding Selby’s eligibility.

The effusive Frank Martin has built the Wildcats into a top-five program with the help of AP Preseason All-American Jacob Pullen. (Bruce Thorson/US Presswire)

What You Need to Know:

  • Kansas State returns several very key pieces from an Elite Eight team a year ago. The biggest question mark is going to be how they handle replacing Denis Clemente, who forced the tempo and managed the offense from the point. A potential boost could come in the emergence of Wally Judge and several other young Wildcats who began to assert themselves late in the 2009-10 season.
  • The Missouri Tigers added one of the top recruiting classes in the country to a team that is now one of the deepest and more experienced groups in the conference.  While Tony Mitchell didn’t make it to campus due to an eligibility ruling, Ricardo Ratliffe does solidify the inside and put the Tigers and Mike Anderson in the perfect position to run the “40 Minutes of Hell” style.
  • Kansas loses three players to the NBA, but looks poised to make a run at the conference championship once again. Marcus and Markieff Morris will step into key leadership roles while the development of Tyshawn Taylor and eligibility of Josh Selby will be huge in whether Kansas can go from conference contender to being in the National Title hunt.
  • Colorado is the fourth team in the North making waves, as the balance of power has shifted in the Big 12.  Alec Burks and Cory Higgins make up one of the most dangerous duos and the Buffs could be in a position to make a run at an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2003.
  • Baylor and Texas will battle it out in the South.  The Bears return LaceDarius Dunn and several other developing players while the Longhorns will rebuild after a disappointing season a year ago.  Both schools have the pieces to challenge for the conference and a year after Baylor swept the series, the games between these two teams in Waco and then in Austin should have some added intensity.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Plains/Mountains Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX)

  • LaceDarius Dunn* – Sr, G – Baylor. Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: there’s no news. We know that in order for him to be an Impact Player for this region and to indeed fulfill the promise that’s implied when your name pops up on all sorts of pre-season All-America teams, LaceDarius Dunn has to actually see the floor, and as of right now he’s still suspended from competition. He’s practicing, he’s attending classes, but that suspension from games of any kind is indefinite, so what Dunn is doing most is waiting. So are we, because we want to see the guy play some more, and soon. We’ve backed LaceDarius since his first moments on the Baylor campus and we’ve enjoyed watching him grow as a basketball player during his time there. Dunn was a factor right from the start in Waco, averaging 13.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 22 MPG as a freshman, and he’s only gotten more impressive each season. You could see his confidence grow by the game through his sophomore year as he tacked a couple of points onto that scoring average (15.7 PPG) and took on more responsibility. Last season was probably the school’s best since 1950 and earned the Bears their best year-end ranking ever (#10), and Dunn was the centerpiece along with Ekpe Udoh. The unquestioned team leader, Dunn put his scoring gift on full display, contributing 19.6 PPG (33rd in the nation) in just over 32 MPG. Because of his quickness and his deep shooting range, he represents the ultimate defensive conundrum. If you play up on him, he’s by you. If you give him a cushion — and he doesn’t need much space at all — he’ll drill you from range. If you get physical, not only will he match you (Dunn is a disturbingly solid 6’4, 205), but he’ll be more than happy to repair to the free throw line (85.7% last season) and bleed you to death with paper cuts. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his game is that shooting accuracy. If Dunn can see the rim, he’s in range, and he has no qualms about letting it sail. He nailed 116 threes last season, a single-season record for the school. His next trey will be his 300th, and he’s already hit more of them than any other Baylor player. Those 299 threes put him 91 bombs away from breaking the Big 12 record of 389 held by Texas’ A.J Abrams, and seeing as how Dunn has had no problem breaking 100 the past two seasons, we think he’ll get there. Considering all that, his overall shooting percentage becomes that much more impressive. He shot 45.2% last year and has posted a 44.9% mark for his Baylor career. This brings up the question, again: how do you guard this man? It’ll be fun to watch Big 12 opponents make a go of it this season, that’s for sure — we just have to get the guy on the floor and past this current situation regarding the alleged assault. Because of the strange, conflicting stories from some of the people involved and the paucity of other details that have emerged about this matter, we’re not sure where the truth lies or what outcome would constitute justice. We just hope it’s one that results in LaceDarius Dunn playing basketball as soon and as much as possible.

If Dunn Keeps His Head, He Could Be Baylor's first AP All-American First Teamer

  • Jacob Pullen – Sr, G – Kansas State. Expectations, much?  The last time Jacob Pullen’s Kansas State Wildcats were ranked as high as they are in the Preseason Coaches Poll (#3), John F. Kennedy was a relatively unknown senator from Massachusetts.  The year was 1959, and the Wildcats were ranked #1 in the final AP poll heading into the NCAA Tournament (regrettably, the Cats lost to Oscar Robertson’s Cincinnati in the regional finals).  In large part due to the big-shot making abilities of the six-foot guard who has a great chance to re-write the K-State record books this season, Frank Martin’s KSU squad is poised to make a run at its first Final Four since the 60s and its first Big 8/12 conference title since the 70s.  Pullen, the Big 12 Preseason POY as voted on by the coaches, is expected to run more of the point now that last year’s starter at that position Denis Clemente has graduated, but his ability to successfully play either the one or the two position is well-documented by league opponents.  Let’s be honest, though; with Pullen mimicking the scorer’s mentality of other height-challenged combo guards that have come before him, it doesn’t matter what “position” head coach Frank Martin puts him in.  The Beard (which is rounding into form for the season, incidentally) will have the ball in his hands when it’s crunch time, just as he did in a 34-point explosion against Jimmer Fredette and BYU in the NCAA second round last season and in multiple overtimes in another win (and 28-point performance) against Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen.  It’s not very easy to stop a player who can routinely go for 20+ against some of the best defensive coaches in the country (16 times last year), but the one thing you do not want to do against Pullen is leave him open from behind the arc.  Make him put the ball on the floor and try to get to the rim.  He’s not a traditional dead-eye shooter by any stretch, but he can torch it from outside when he finds a groove — seven threes against UNLV and BYU; six against Alabama, Xavier, Baylor and South Dakota.  Last year he tied Askia Jones’ school-record of 110 threes in a season because he’s learned how to pick his spots appropriately, exhibited by the nearly 40% conversion rate he enjoyed (a significant improvement from his 30% and 34% he shot from deep in his first two years in Manhattan).  Perhaps reflecting the grit of his fiery head coach, Pullen is also an elite defender, having been selected as a member of the six-man Big 12 all-defensive team last year.  Put all of this together — the  scoring, the defense, the grit, the BEARD — and you’re faced with the simple fact that the K-State guard is on the short list of a dozen or so players who are in contention for 1st team All-American and national Player of the Year honors in 2010-11.  The better he plays, the more likely it is that the fortunes of Kansas State basketball is on its way to reclaiming some of its ancient glory and make comparisons with teams a half-century ago completely moot.

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Summer School in the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 27th, 2010

Around The Big 12:

  • One Foot Out The Door: The big news in the Big 12 is that it’s no longer the Big 12.  This season will be the final season with the Big 12 as we know it.  Nebraska departs for the Big Ten and Colorado will eventually make the jump to the Pac-10, either in 2011 or 2012.  Either way, the transformation in the conference has major implications as far as basketball is concerned, as the unbalanced schedule that has existed since the league’s inception goes away, and a new 18-game conference slate could become the norm.  In an ideal world, no more excuses – everybody plays everybody at home and on the road from here on out.
  • New Coaches: Two teams in the conference will have new head coaches in 2010. Colorado lost Jeff Bzdelik to Wake Forest and his self-described dream job.  The timing couldn’t have been worse for Colorado, as the program seemed to be gaining some traction, and any time there is a lack of stability, it can hurt a program.  In terms of the hire itself, Tad Boyle from Northern Colorado doesn’t necessarily have the name recognition, but he was able to keep all the current pieces in place for Colorado and in the short term, that’s very important.  Things at Iowa State didn’t necessarily shake out quite as well.  The Cyclones are bringing back “The Mayor,” Fred Hoiberg, who has an extremely limited coaching resume, but tremendous amount of clout with the Iowa State faithful.  The program lost the top two players from a year ago and then some.  With the new start and a fresh face on the bench, it’s a full-blown rebuilding job awaiting an Ames legend.
  • Diaper Dandies: The Big 12 has made a name for itself as a league that can reload. This year is no exception; around the league, a host of high-profile recruits join various programs, ensuring the viability of the league as a basketball power for the future.  Perry Jones at Baylor, Josh Selby at Kansas, Tony Mitchell at Missouri and both Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph at Texas join each respective program as big-time national recruits. The only problem right now is that both Tiger and Jayhawk fans are awaiting eligibility news related to their blue chip talents.
  • An I-70 Battle: Three teams situated on or very close to Interstate 70 look poised to battle for the conference title.  In years past, the gripe from the Big 12 South has always been the competitively unbalanced schedule and the built-in advantage that it provided Kansas in winning the conference.  In 2010, three North teams in Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri all appear to be legitimate contenders for the conference crown.  Mike Anderson and Frank Martin have done a tremendous job in recruiting players to their respective programs, developing talent and getting the buy-in that it takes to step onto the national stage.  Both appear to be inching ever closer to Bill Self and the Jayhawks and the three-way “rivalry” will no doubt play a major role in who wins the Big 12.

With or without Josh Selby, Kansas is ready to defend its string of six consecutive regular season conference titles.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas: When you lose three starters, the common belief is that you will take a step back.  With Kansas however, the cupboard is far from bare.  The Jayhawks were easily one of the deepest teams in the country a year ago and while losing Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich certainly isn’t an easy pill to swallow, Kansas returns a Big 12 POY candidate in Marcus Morris, depth and talent at every position, and they add one of the top recruits in the country in McDonald’s All-American Josh Selby, who as of this writing, has yet to be cleared to play. Two players who could prove critical to success in 2010 are Markieff Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Both have enjoyed success off and on in their careers thus far, but neither has found the consistency or leadership on the court that’s necessary to be viewed as a leader.  With the turnover in the program, the opportunity is there for one or both to make that leap.
  2. Kansas State: The Wildcats return a good amount of talent from their Elite Eight team of a year ago.  Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly could easily represent the best inside-outside combination in the league. But the biggest reason to not doubt Kansas State is their coach, Frank Martin. A hire that was highly criticized when it was made, Martin’s move to the head job in Manhattan has proven to be a great one. His teams play an extremely hard, tough, physical brand of basketball, and as a coach, he’s found a way to put together a team that buys into that style.  The biggest question mark will be finding a way to replace Denis Clemente, arguably the most athletic player in the Big 12 a year ago.  Martin will look to sophomores Rodney McGruder and Wally Judge to step up and provide support for the Wildcats as they battle for the conference title
  3. Missouri: Mike Anderson has stocked up on quality depth and added the top recruiting class in the conference to boot.  While the eligibility of blue-chip talent Tony Mitchell remains a question mark, the Tigers have made another major addition on the interior in the top ranked junior college forward, Ricardo Ratliffe. The biggest thing the Tigers will have to replace is leadership.  The departures of seniors J.T. Tiller, Keith Ramsey and Zaire Taylor aren’t major blows in terms of production, but they are in terms of leadership.  All three were part of the initial transition from the Quin Snyder era to Anderson and all three were in the top four in minutes played a year ago.  The talent in Columbia is there for a Big 12 run, the question is who will lead them? Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Class Schedule 2010-11: Texas Longhorns

Posted by zhayes9 on August 15th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After looking at Kansas last week, here’s a breakdown of Big 12 foe Texas and their quest to avenge last season’s disappointing collapse:

Gary Johnson: no longer a role player

Team Outlook: Rick Barnes lost three of his most productive players from last year’s up-and-down campaign. The fact that all three of those cogs were selected in the top-32 of the NBA Draft renders their descent from #1 ranked team to first round flameout all that more disturbing. Barnes and his burnt orange faithful are ready to look forward to a new season where, due to the incredible depth assembled last season, the drop-off talent wise isn’t monumental. While Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas are primed to finish in some order atop the Big 12, Texas isn’t too far behind. It’s also not blasphemy to suggest that the loss of a handful of bodies could be addition by subtraction for a coach that often struggled to maintain a consistent rotation. From scoring wing Jordan Hamilton to the rugged play of Gary Johnson to the lockdown defense of Dogus Balbay and a star studded recruiting class, the Longhorns could very well see their season last longer than it did last March.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8.5. Coach Barnes has never been shy about loading up his non-conference schedule. That strategy certainly didn’t change in 2010 with a number of powerhouse programs both on the road and in Austin featured on the slate. After two warm-ups at home, Texas will travel to NYC for the 2K Sports Classic and face Illinois, a projected top-25 team that returns nearly all of their production from a year ago. Emerge victorious and it’s likely the Longhorns will face a Pitt team that brings back everyone but Jermaine Dixon from a squad that collected a #3 seed out of the always-challenging Big East. Texas was paired with USC in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood series game to be played out in LA. Finally, four rematch games will provide Texas with a challenge- December 18 vs. North Carolina in Greensboro, four days later in a true road game at Michigan State and two early January home dates with Arkansas and Connecticut.

Cupcake City: To avoid burning out his team, Barnes did schedule a few walkover games. Louisiana Tech is one of the two warm-ups for New York, but the Bulldogs lost both Kyle Gibson and Magnum Rolle. Sam Houston State is on the slate, a program that gave Baylor a brief scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March, yet once again they were hit hard by graduation. Texas State could contend in the Southland with a fair share of talent returning. Other squads on the slate include North Florida, Lamar, Coppin State and Rice with none of these contests on the road or on neutral floors. The Longhorns should cruise through these games.

Toughest Early Season Test: A matchup with Pitt at NYC would provide a stiff test, but this one isn’t even close: a true road game at Michigan State, a team that could easily be #1 in the nation when the Longhorns invade the Breslin Center. State only lost Raymar Morgan to graduation off of  last year’s Final Four club that completed the run without the services of star point guard and potential First Team All-America Kalin Lucas. Other than possibly Jacob Pullen, containing Lucas sets up to be Balbay and stud freshman Cory Joseph’s toughest task. Forwards Gary Johnson and the other star frosh Tristan Thompson will have their hands full with a healthy Delvon Roe and Draymond Green. The Spartans are also incredibly deep and always well-coached. Still, they have been vulnerable in the last couple seasons to losses on their home floor. Texas will need an A+ effort to accomplish that feat.

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