Morning Five: 07.31.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2012

  1. With most of America tuning into the London Olympics — brought to you in living color on tape delay — college basketball is considerably off the radar of most sports and Olympics fans alike. But there are still a few connections to the sport we love during the Olympics fortnight, and one of those is St. Mary’s star guard Matthew Dellavedova‘s representation as the lone one of only two collegians participating in this year’s basketball competition [ed. note: as noted in the comments, Andrew Lawrence of College of Charleston is the other]. A member of the Australian squad that dropped its first game on Sunday, 75-71, to Brazil, Dellavedova provided six points and three assists in 27 valuable minutes of action. The rising senior will no doubt use his experience in London this summer to prepare for what could be an All-American campaign in 2012-13. Another player with recent collegiate ties is quite obviously the 2011-12 NPOY Anthony Davis, who only saw spot action in Team USA’s convincing win over France Sunday, with three point and three rebounds in eight minutes on the floor. His head coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyezewski, was recently “got” by Deron Williams while stretching out his back in a yoga pose at a team practice. Funny, at first glance, we thought he was just instructing his stars on the finer details of how to slap the floor on defense.
  2. While on the topic of Davis, Coach K, and the game that just won’t quit even 20 years later, it appears that the Kentucky superstar (born in March 1993) found some recent time in London for shenanigans with Public Enemy #1 in Lexington, Christian Laettner. The duo decided to re-enact the infamous “Laettner Stomp” on Wildcats forward Aminu Timberlake, only this time the roles were reversed. Of course, this does nothing to exorcise any lingering demons that UK fans may have toward the Duke superstar, but in the last calendar year Laettner has shown up in Rupp Arena to act as a “villain” — even going so far as mopping up the floor — and now this? Maybe in his middle aged years, he just really, really wants to be liked.
  3. One current UK villain is Louisville head coach Rick Pitino — perhaps you’ve heard of him. Like him or hate him, he could always coach young players, though. Some of his motivational techniques are legendary, but he’s always been skilled in relating to his athletes by making comparisons to current NBA stars. In one such example as reported by the Courier Journal, Cardinal sophomore Kevin Ware has reconstructed his admittedly broken jump shot by reviewing frame-by-frame comps with Celtics star Ray Allen’s perfect form. It goes without saying that knocking down Js in practice during July is incredibly different than doing so in Madison Square Garden in March, but if Ware can provide scoring punch from the wing next season, the Cards’ might actually be the team to beat.
  4. Although we don’t believe any sea changes are coming where elite recruits start to eschew high major programs in favor of mid-majors where they can become stars right away, the idea that the next group of Damian Lillards could go middie is interesting in the context of the transfer epidemic and the reality that high draft picks can come from anywhere. In just the past four NBA Drafts, lottery picks have come from Davidson (Stephen Curry), Butler (Gordon Hayward), Fresno State (Paul George), BYU (Jimmer Fredette), and Weber State (Lillard) — the average is a little more than one per year these days, so it’s definitely an attainable goal for players who find themselves somewhat off the beaten basketball path.
  5. Could former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni be signaling his interest in exploring college coaching through some of his latest comments made while at the London Games? The long-time professional coach whose unique offensively-oriented style of play would certainly find a willing suitor if he were indeed available, but he said that there’s a sense of “fun” and “energy” surrounding the college game and experience, which is more or less the exact difference between going to an NBA game versus an elite college basketball game. The two things simply are not comparable in most cases.
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Morning Five: 07.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 3rd, 2012

  1. Georgia Tech incoming freshman Corey Heyward will likely miss the entire 2012-13 season because of a torn ACL injury that he suffered in a pickup game late last week. The six-foot guard who spent a postgraduate year at Hargraves Military Academy was expected to contribute immediately as a backup for starting point guard Mfon Udofia, but short of a miraculously quick recovery between now and the new year, Brian Gregory will have to wait on Heyward’s first minutes in a Yellow Jacket uniform. Gregory has an experienced group of starters returning next season from a 4-12 last-place ACC finisher, but it remains to be seen whether all that returning talent will equate to wins.
  2. A total of 10 schools lost lottery picks in last week’s NBA Draft, with Connecticut, Kentucky and North Carolina combining for seven, equivalent to half of the lottery selections. Jason King takes a look at how each team plans on replacing the lost talent, ultimately concluding that most of the programs that put players in this year’s lottery will just move on to its next generation of stars. A couple of programs are notable exceptions, though — Weber State’s Damian Lillard was a once-in-a-lifetime type of player for the Wildcats, while Illinois’ Meyers Leonard‘s ascent up the draft boards this year was a bit flukish and, as such, it will take John Groce some time to get his program turned around in Champaign.
  3. We noted in a piece yesterday that a number of prominent seniors were left at the draft altar last week, thanking them for four years of memories and wishing them the best of luck in pursuing their professional dreams wherever they end up. Matt Norlander took us two steps further with his article Monday dissecting the commonly held perception that recognizable and talented seniors no longer exist in college basketball. His back-of-the-envelope analysis of the number of seniors drafted in the one-and-done era shows that roughly a third of the draft is populated by the likes of Festus Ezeli, Tyler Zeller, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, and others each year, and it is many of these folks who drive the sport forward just as much or perhaps even more so than the much considerably smaller one-and-done percentage that gets so much of the annual hype. Interesting piece — read it and see what you think.
  4. It’s a light news week, so what the hell… ESPN’s college basketball and football princess, Erin Andrews, has left the network and will move on to Fox Sports as a college football, MLB and NFL reporter. For a period in the middle part of the last decade, Andrews’ basketball broadcasts were very nearly must-see TV for males under the age of ever 50. As her personal brand grew, her hoops appearances became increasingly fewer but it appears that in her new gig at Fox she’ll no longer have access to the hardwood where she earned so much of her cred. We certainly want to wish her nothing but the best as she moves on to the network featuring none other than Joe Buck and Terry Bradshaw.
  5. If you’re not cheatin’, you’re not tryin’ — so goes the old adage about life in the SEC. Charles Barkley minces no words about his stance on the issue of paying amateurs to attend certain schools (ahem, Auburn) with this hilarious clip from a celebrity softball game where he describes a teenage Dirk Nowitzki destroying Team USA in a 1997 exhibition game. The choicest series of quotes went like this: “So I call Nike and I said, ‘find out about this kid and tell him I’ll give him anything he wants to go to Auburn. Just tell him, anything he wants, we’ll get it done.’ [...] “In the SEC, dude, we make sure you’re well taken care of.” Barkley went on to say that an alleged payment of $200,000 for Cam Newton seemed like a pretty good deal, considering that he led the Tigers to a national championship in his only season on the Plains. When is the Chuckster running for governor again?

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Handicapping Lillard’s NBA Chances: How Have Prospects From Mid-Majors Fared in the Pros?

Posted by EJacoby on June 28th, 2012

Looking at the upcoming NBA Draft’s projected lottery picks, most of the players represent the big boys around the nation – Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, Connecticut. But smack in the middle between guys that played in a Final Four is a kid from Weber State. Anybody who follows college hoops or draft scouting surely knows about Damian Lillard, but it’s still surprising to see a player ranked so highly who most fans have never seen play a minute of college basketball. Will Lillard, who is projected to go in the top 10 as the draft’s top point guard, struggle to adapt to the massive increase in competition from the Big Sky Conference to the NBA? We researched lottery picks over the past 15 years from mid-major conferences to judge how successful they were in their transition to the league, grading success based on extended NBA productivity in the form of minutes played and value added. We considered all conferences outside of the top six power leagues as ‘mid-majors,’ so even the Atlantic 10, Conference USA and Mountain West qualify for our criteria.

Will Damian Lillard struggle in his transition from the Big Sky to the NBA? (US Presswire/K. Terada)

Taking a look at recent history, names like Jimmer Fredette and Stephen Curry came from smaller schools yet were still some of the most popular collegiate players in the nation. Just because a player hails from a mid-major school doesn’t necessarily mean he was an unheralded prospect. Nonetheless, the point of our analysis is to determine what, if any, crutch comes along with stepping up from such a wide gap in competition for lottery picks. Even though Fredette was a National Player of the Year winner, he still faced relatively weaker competition on a nightly basis at BYU. Is it more difficult to scout and project success for a mid-major prospect? Let’s take a look at how these players have fared historically. You’ll notice a trend that suggests Lillard should have a great chance at NBA success.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Damian Lillard

Posted by AMurawa on June 11th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Damian Lillard

School: Weber State

Height/Weight: 6’2”, 189 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Mid/Late Lottery

Damian Lillard Has Shot Up the Draft Boards

Overview: Despite averaging 28 points per game as a senior at Oakland High in California, Damian Lillard was unable to grab the attention of any major colleges while in high school. No offers from the then-Pac-10, nary a nibble from Mountain West schools, nothing. Well, their oversight turned out to be Weber State’s gain as Lillard showed up on campus in 2008-09 and was immediately one of the best players in the Big Sky, averaging 11.5 points per game along with nearly four boards and three assists as a freshman. Over the years, those numbers only climbed, even as the Wildcats’ reliance on him did too. By his junior season last year (following a medical redshirt in 2010-11), Lillard was second in the nation in scoring average (24.5 PPG), as well as the most efficient high-usage player in the nation. Still, despite a three-point percentage north of 40%, a spectacular 88.7% from the free throw line and turnovers on just 12.3% of all possessions, Lillard still has some skeptics, due to the fact that the level of competition he faced on a nightly basis was substandard compared to many major conference point guards. For every night where he scored 36 points on 11-of-18 shooting against a borderline Top 25 team like Saint Mary’s, he turned in a stinker like his 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting against California. However, in the NBA Draft Combine last week, Lillard looked impressive and drew rave reviews from NBA talent evaluators. Already considered a likely lottery pick and perhaps the best point guard in the draft, Lillard may see his stock continue to climb if he can hold his own in pre-draft workouts.

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Examining The Most Intriguing NBA Draft Storylines

Posted by EJacoby on June 1st, 2012

The conclusion of Wednesday’s NBA Draft Lottery means that the 2012 order has been decided (outside of potential trades), and we can officially start breaking down the potential scenarios come Draft Day on June 28. There are plenty of mock drafts available at this time, and we are compiling our own scouting reports of the top prospects as well. But besides the tough decisions that general managers have to make in comparing and contrasting players, what are the major storylines of this particular draft? What moves will make off-court headlines in addition to adding talent on the court? Today we take a look at some of the most interesting stories that could potentially play out on June 28.

Could Harrison Barnes End Up Back in Carolina, With the Charlotte Bobcats? (AP Photo)

  • The Hornets won Wednesday’s lottery, which means consensus top prospect Anthony Davis is surely headed to New Orleans, the city where he just finished winning a National Championship with Kentucky. Davis recently led the Wildcats to two wins in New Orleans in early April while being named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and he appears excited to be heading back for good. “I won a national championship in New Orleans, so why not win another one in New Orleans,” he said on Wednesday. “This can kind of bring joy back to New Orleans, I guess I get lucky when I go there.” The honor, opportunity, and paycheck of a number one overall pick is plenty enough to get a player excited, but not all teams are an ideal fit for each year’s top prospect. Davis, though, is quite comfortable with the idea of being the Hornets’ franchise player, where he will man the middle for a team with a nice young roster and brand new ownership.

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Morning Five: 04.04.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2012

  1. Syracuse will play San Diego State on the USS Midway Museum on November 9. This event is similar to the Carrier Classic from last November except that it is being run by a different corporation and will not be on an active duty carrier. We have not heard how tickets will be allocated as the security presence at the event should be significantly less than what was seen last year as this is not an active duty ship and is in fact a museum that you can visit on a regular basis. We are also not sure if President Obama, who may or may not be returning to Washington for another term depending on the outcome of a small straw poll a few days earlier, will be coming to the game.
  2. There are conflicting stories on the report that the Sun Belt Conference would be adding Georgia State to its conference. A report filed early yesterday suggested that the move was imminent, but a subsequent report including a quote from the Sun Belt Conference’s commissioner appears to indicate that the decision is still very much up in the air. Given our history of hearing conflicting reports we are going to side with the initial report as it is more likely that Sun Belt is trying to conceal its hand until everything is certain and also to potential build up some buzz about the new announcement well at least as much buzz as a Sun Belt Conference move can have.
  3. The 2012 NBA Draft will not be short on point guards as two more probable first round picks–Tony Wroten Jr. and Damian Lillard–put their names into the Draft. For Washington the loss of Wroten is compounded by the loss of Terrence Ross will leave them significantly weakened as they try to rebound from a disappointing season. For Weber State the loss of Lillard will likely take them off the national radar for the time being. To us the interesting thing with these announcements is just how much talent there will be available to the NBA with Wroten and Lillard joining Kendall Marshall and Austin Rivers (ok, maybe he is a stretch as a point guard) as almost certain first round picks who have left school early. Will the presence of four such highly coveted point guards lead other point guards, who might have otherwise considered leaving (like Marquis Teague) to stay in for at least another year?
  4. Derrick Nix‘s offseason got off to a bad start as the Michigan State rising senior was suspended indefinitely following an arrest for marijuana possession and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. Nix probably will not miss any significant time for the Spartans, but the arrest may indicate a lack of maturity and leadership for the Spartans as Nix was their lone rising senior. Tom Izzo says that he wait until the legal process works out before making a decision on Nix’s punishment. We would be surprised if the punishment is anything more than missing a game or two.
  5. There were a lot of “way too early” 2012-13 preseason polls released yesterday, but there was one poll that was different from the others–the final ESPN/USA Today Poll. The rankings are not particularly surprising, but they do place a heavy emphasis on the NCAA Tournament. With few exceptions teams are ranked based on how they finished in the NCAA Tournament. The big moves (up and down) were the “Cinderellas” that made deep runs and the highly ranked teams that were upset on the opening weekend.
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Morning Five: 03.26.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2012

  1. Duke could be in some trouble next year as Austin Rivers is deciding on whether or not to declare for the NBA Draft. On some level (a very selfish one), we would like to see Rivers stay in college to round out his game, which for all his talent and pedigree still has some holes in it. In the end, he is a definite lottery pick with good source of NBA intelligence on where he would get drafted (his father) so we can’t criticize his decision if he decides to leave. We will note that this could be the second year in a row that Mike Krzyzewski has had a star point guard go one-and-done, which is something a certain coach in the Final Four gets criticized for all the time.
  2. Rivers grabbed most of the early entry headlines over the weekend, but Damian Lillard is certainly worth some attention as the Weber State point guard will attract a lot of attention from NBA teams in the  mid- to late first round as the junior appears to be on the verge of entering the NBA Draft. While he lacks the amazing scoring ability of Rivers, he does have a point guard skill that Rivers lacks–passing. If Lillard enters the Draft, there will surely be some team interested in picking up a quality guard even with the relatively high number of quality point guards already in the NBA.
  3. After a relatively brief search, Nebraska named Tim Miles as its new head coach. Miles, who was most well-known among casual college basketball fans for tweeting at halftime of games while at Colorado State, signed a five-year deal with an option for a sixth year that starts at $1.4 million and goes up by $75,000 per year. Interestingly, one of the things that helped convinced Nebraska to hire Miles was that he choose to take less money for himself so he could have more to spend on assistants. Miles will need all the help he can get competing in the Big Ten with a team that will probably be worse next season than the one he left behind at Colorado State.
  4. The writing was on the wall when three players announced that they were transferring and on Friday Duquesne fired Ron Everhart after six seasons. During his tenure, Everhart went 99-89 after inheriting a program that went 3-24 the year before, but in a letter to the school’s board members that was leaked the school cited concerns about hitting a plateau and how the transfers indicated the program was not moving in the right direction. Although Everhart has never made the NCAA Tournament in 18 seasons he does have a 273-261 career record so we would be surprised if he did not at least end up with a solid assistant coaching spot if not a head coaching position in the near future.
  5. Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top two recruits in this year’s class, has set his decision date for his college choice on April 10. The date is significant for a couple of reasons. The main one is that Signing Day is the next day and it is also the day the using the new conventional method that early entry applicants for the NBA Draft will have to announce their status. While Muhammad would appear to be a prize recruit, there are still questions about his eligibility with regards to his interaction with two independent financial advisers, who assisted him with unofficial visits and supported his AAU team.
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ATB: Bids Earned From Montana to Brooklyn While Power Conferences Do Battle…

Posted by EJacoby on March 8th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. The Big East Tournament continued in the early afternoon, but nothing crazy has happened in New York City, yet, with all favorites moving on to Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Big 12 and Pac-12 tournaments also got underway on Wednesday, but all of the top seeds had byes until later rounds. The most exciting action once again took place in the smaller conference tourneys, providing more do-or-die action with Big Dance tickets on the line. We start with the best game of the night, which took place in the Patriot League:

Your Watercooler Moment. C.J. McCollum Outduels Mike Muscala for Lehigh Victory

C.J. McCollum Put the Team on his Back to Send Lehigh Dancing (Getty Images/R. Martinez)

The Patriot League final took place on #1 seed Bucknell’s court, and the home team’s star player went off for 30 points and 14 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough, as the conference’s leading scorer made a few more plays for the road team. C.J. McCollum, the league Player of the Year who put up ridiculous numbers this season, again ran wild for the Mountain Hawks on Wednesday night. The junior guard scored 29 points with five assists, three rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, doing it all for Lehigh including hitting 10-13 free throws with several of them in the final four minutes. Mike Muscala had a monster double-double for Bucknell, but he could not convert on the team’s final couple of possessions and didn’t get enough help from his teammates. Lehigh held on to win, 82-77, and is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Brooklyn Represents the Northeast Conference Once Again. LIU-Brooklyn is one of the highest scoring teams in Division I, and not even the NEC’s best defensive team could slow down the Blackbirds on Wednesday night. LIU defeated Robert Morris, 90-73, on Wednesday night to capture its second consecutive NEC title. The Blackbirds head back to the NCAA Tournament where they last were disposed of by North Carolina in a high-scoring round one game. Expect much of the same for an LIU team that has high-flying forwards (Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere each average about 17 points per game), but doesn’t play a whole lot of defense. The attacking style worked in the NEC, but could it work as a #15 seed in the NCAAs? Regardless, Brooklyn will be in the house for the Big Dance. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Big East Tourney Begins and Four More Teams Punch NCAA Tickets…

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2012

[Ed. note: Technical difficulties last night led to late publication of this post. For that, we apologize.]

Last Night’s Lede. For some in the Northeast, the Big East Tournament is the most spectacular event in the college basketball season. The classic six overtime Connecticut-Syracuse game from the 2009 tourney was replayed last night on ESPNU and brought us all on a trip down (recent) memory lane to one of the best games of the past decade. The conference’s powerhouses will hopefully bring us some more classic moments in Madison Square Garden this week, though Tuesday night’s first round didn’t include a single close game. Elsewhere, three more NCAA Tournament bids were earned in small conference tournaments, and the Ivy League’s champion was also determined a bit earlier than expected. Let’s get into the rundown of another fun Championship Week night…

Your Watercooler Moment.  South Dakota State Finally Dances.

SDSU Celebrates Its First Ever Trip to the Dance (Summit League)

It was a shocker when top-seeded Oral Roberts fell in the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament last night to Western Illinois, and last night’s heavily favored Jackrabbits nearly suffered the same fate. WIU led for much of the night on Tuesday and had a chance to win this game in regulation but could not convert. The Leathernecks (great team name, by the way) had another chance to tie or win it in overtime down by two but again fell short, giving South Dakota State its first ever Summit League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. The Jackrabbits have a mid-major star in Nate Wolters, who averages 21.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game, and will look to lead SDSU to an upset victory in next week’s Big Dance. South Dakota State has a fine RPI of #55 and could actually end up as a #14 or even #13 seed, giving it a realistic chance to bust open a bracket with an upset or two. Wolters scored just 14 points on 5-22 shooting in Tuesday’s low-scoring, 52-50 affair, but the guard is capable of going for 30 in any game.

Last night’s Quick Hits…

  • Western Kentucky the Most Unlikely Bid Winner Thus Far. In early January, Western Kentucky was a 5-14 team that had just fired its head coach after one of the strangest finishes you’ll ever see to a game, in which WKU’s opponent used six players on the final possession to win the game. Interim coach/permanent coach Ray Harper is now two months later leading the Hilltoppers to the NCAA Tournament after their 74-70 win over North Texas on Tuesday night. This Sun Belt champion was the #7-seed in the tournament and will enter the NCAA’s as the sixth team in the past decade to have a record below .500, at 15-18. This resilient Western Kentucky team has gone through a wild ride and now will surely be playing early next week as part of the tournament’s ‘First Four’ games, looking to advance to take on a #1 seed. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Sky Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky conference. You can find him on Twitter at @bigskybball.

Tournament Preview

Tournament Glance

Everybody is assuming that Weber State and Montana will have a rematch in the conference championship game, but don’t be so sure about that. Portland State has the offensive talent to hang with the Wildcats on a neutral court, and Eastern Washington has given Montana some competitive games (those two teams are the favorites to advance past the quarterfinals).

That said, it would be a surprise if it is not Weber State and Montana in a rematch on Wednesday night. They have been the two best teams in the Big Sky all season, have the two best players in the conference, and have the best talent. It would be a great rematch, as each has won convincingly on their home court.

However, I think Weber State will reverse what happened last week, when Montana beat them to clinch the regular season championship. Nobody talked about this, but Weber State played their worst game of the season, and they were within five points late in the second half. They can’t shoot that poorly again, and I have to think that Damian Lillard will show why he has been the best player in the conference all year long. Look for a classic title game, with Weber State coming in and shocking the faithful at Dahlberg Arena to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Reader’s Take

 

Big Sky Awards

  • Player of the Year: Damian Lillard (Weber State) – There is some talk that Cherry should get the award, or that they should split it, but I still like Lillard as the best player in the conference all season. He carried them early on in the year and has been outstanding all year. He is the best PG in America, and has had the best all-around season.

Simply Put, Weber State's Damian Lillard Has Been One Of The Country's Best This Season (AP)

  • Defensive Player of the Year: Will Cherry (Montana) – This is an easy choice, as Cherry is sixth in the nation in steals and already fifth in Big Sky history in that category (he has one season of eligibility left). He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country, and the one guy in the conference as likely to change the game on the defensive end as he is on the offensive end.
  • Newcomer of the Year: Dylan Garrity (Sacramento State) – He has some work to do on his game (namely that he needs to shoot the ball better), but he has been everything Brian Katz could have hoped for and then some.
  • Freshman of the Year: Dylan Garrity (Sacramento State) – There are arguments to be made for James Douglas of Northern Arizona or Tevin Svihovec of UNC, but I think Garrity is the guy here. He has stepped in and been the primary ballhandler and facilitator from day one for the Hornets. He could lead the Big Sky in assists every year of his career.
  • Coach of the Year: Wayne Tinkle (Montana) – There could certainly be an argument made for Deane Martin, who changed the culture around at ISU this year, but I would give the award to Tinkle. This is a team that lost the best defensive player in the conference, and came back to be even better defensively. He had a relatively young team, and surpassed already high expectations.

Power Rankings

  1. Montana (23-6, 15-1) – They earned this spot, having won 12 straight games and 18 of 19. After playing second fiddle in people’s minds all season long, they enter the conference tournament as the favorite, by virtue of their win over Weber State on Tuesday night. They are one of Wayne Tinkle’s best offensive teams, and they have a multitude of guys that can step up and hurt you offensively. Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar looked like the best guard duo in the Big Sky to close the regular season.

    Montana Point Guard Will Cherry and Coach Wayne Tinkle Has Been A Winning Combo This Season

  2. Weber State (23-5, 14-2) – They spent almost the entire season at the top of everyone’s radar, but they came up short in the biggest game of the year. Damian Lillard is an excellent player, but he has struggled in some of their biggest games this season. Look for them to come out strong in the conference tournament, because they know they have some unfinished business. In most years, 14-2 would win you the Big Sky, but this was not most years.
  3. Portland State (16-13, 10-6) – Quietly they are playing very good basketball, having won six straight conference games. Charles Odum is playing at a very high level, and is matched only by Lillard in his scoring prowess. He gets to the line often, and shoots a very high percentage. He forms a nice duo with Chehales Tapscott, the best rebounder in the conference and perhaps the most versatile player. They are going to be a tough out.
  4. Eastern Washington (14-16, 8-8) – They have had an up and down season, but end the year about where everyone predicted, in fourth place in the conference. On paper, they have the talent to give someone an interesting game in the tournament, but it is just a matter of not making mental mistakes. Cliff Colimon has ended the year strong, and has shown himself to be one of the best PGs in the conference.
  5. Idaho State (9-20, 7-9) – They are the surprise of the conference, as they are a team that everyone predicted to finish in the Big Sky cellar, yet they are in fifth place and almost hosted a conference tournament game. Deane Martin should get consideration for Coach of the Year, and should have already had his interim tag removed. It will be an upset if they win a conference tournament game, but they have already surpassed expectations.
  6. Northern Colorado (9-19, 5-11) –They didn’t get as many wins as they would have liked, but they showed flashes of the potential that should make them a top 4 team next season. They lost one senior this year, and they will have no seniors next season. They are balanced and have a lot of different players that should make the leap. They will be fine.

    If There Is One Team To Crash The Anticipated Rematch, Charles Odum and Portland State Might Be It (AP)

  7. Sacramento State (10-18, 5-11) – They didn’t get to their goal of .500, but they made baby steps toward becoming a solid Big Sky team. They return almost everyone next year, and should have one of the best PGs in the league in Dylan Garrity. At the very least, next year should be Sac State’s best year in a while.
  8. Montana State (12-16, 7-9) – It is hard to classify this year as anything but disappointing. They started the conference season at 6-2, and had the look of a top 3 tournament team. Next thing you know, they lose eight straight games and sneak into the tournament as the six seed. They dealt with a lot of off-the-court issues, including the off-court injury to Xavier Blount, which did a lot to derail their season.
  9. Northern Arizona (5-24, 1-15) – Yikes.
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Be My Valentine – 14 Iconic Moments We’ve Loved This Season

Posted by EJacoby on February 14th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Are you riding solo this Valentine’s Day? If you can’t have a significant other, you can always love sports. What is more beautiful to watch than a buzzer-beating shot, an unlikely upset win, or a swarm of students rushing the court? Here to cheer you up, we present a reminder of 14 lovely moments in college basketball this season, in honor of the 14th:

Be Our Hoops Valentine...

1. Racers’ Pursuit of Perfection (December 11) – Murray State beat then-ranked Memphis on the road to improve their record to 10-0, and fans and analysts immediately began to take notice of this OVC school. This win set off the idea that the Racers could perhaps run the table this season, and while it did not happen, it would be two full months before they lost a game.

2. Teach Us How to Dougie (January 7) – Creighton has now lost three straight games to drop out of the Top 25 rankings for the first time in weeks, but they’d been providing a great story all season in the form of Doug McDermott. The sophomore forward, son of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, and former teammate of Harrison Barnes in high school, went for 44 points and eight rebounds in a road win over Bradley that kickstarted his campaign for National Player of the Year. His candidacy for the award has since died down, but he’s still third in the nation in points per game (22.9).

3. Watford’s Buzzer-Beater (December 10) – Indiana got off to a fast start this season, but the Hoosiers took it to another level when they knocked off #1 Kentucky at home to improve to 9-0 back in December. Down by two, it took this shot by Christian Watford to beat the buzzer and provide us with one of the most memorable highlights of the year. The shot signified that IU basketball is officially back. See it below.

4. Rivers’ Buzzer-Beater (February 8) – Perhaps the only more recognizable moment of this season than Watford’s shot was a similar one from Duke’s Austin Rivers. Down by two at Chapel Hill on the final possession, the freshman provided this season’s iconic moment thus far by nailing a game-winner at the buzzer to beat North Carolina. The main difference between the two shots? Rivers’ came on the road, silencing the UNC crowd and sending them into shock.

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Checking In On… the Big Sky Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky conference. You can find him on Twitter at @bigskybball.

Reader’s Take

 

The Past Couple Weeks:

  • Weber State and Montana tied again – These are the two teams that have been at the top of the conference from the beginning, so it is not surprise that they are both at the top of the conference now. As of this writing, they both stand at 8-1, and don’t appear to have any serious contenders. This will be one of the best conference races in the country.

Damian Lillard (1) and Weber State Are Still The Favorites, But Will Cherry (5) and Montana Are Closing In Fast (AP)

  • Idaho State becomes a conference tournament contender – All along this season, Idaho State was seen as a team that would probably finish last in the Big Sky, and nothing through the first two months of the year changed that perception. However, they have all of sudden won three straight games, including handing Weber State their only loss. They are brimming with confidence, and a team that nobody else wants to face, which would have been shocking to say one month ago.
  • Former NAU coach Mike Adras under fire – In December, long-time Northern Arizona head coach Mike Adras abruptly resigned, and there was not a lot said about it officially. There were rumors that he may not have treated his players the best, but I never expected what was put out in the AZ Daily Sun last week. He is accused of breaking multiple NCAA rules, including making his practices too long, and making his players lie about it. Suffice to say, the NAU program is reeling a bit right now.

Power Rankings:

  1. Weber State (16-4, 8-1) – I gave a lot of thought to putting Montana first, but it was not long ago that Weber State soundly beat them. Damian Lillard is still leading the country in scoring, but his lead is growing more tenuous. They are still battling injury problems, as starting forward Frank Otis is out for the year. It is a bit easy to nitpick, but they are still 8-1 and the favorite. Read the rest of this entry »
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