Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Bennet breaking down the South Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Florida (32-2, 21-0 SEC). The Gators are the clear front-runner to win the South region, and after winning their last 26 games, should also be the presumptive favorite to cut down the nets in Dallas. Winning four games in a row to reach the Final Four is never an easy chore, but the field’s #1 overall seed has all the necessary ingredients to make a fourth final four run under Billy Donovan.

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (24-9, 15-5 Big 12). The Jayhawks’ case is a tricky one. With Joel Embiid, Kansas is easily the scariest #2 seed in the field and a serious threat to win it all; but the Jayhawks are far more difficult to quantify without their gifted freshman big man. Nothing is definite with Embiid’s prognosis, but if healthy and able to play, Kansas would only be the slightest of underdogs in an Elite Eight rematch with Florida. The outlook gets a little gloomier if the future trumps the present for the potential #1 overall pick in April’s NBA Draft (the one named Joel), but Andrew Wiggins’ recent offensive explosions still make Kansas a threat to run deep in this Tournament. Don’t forget that they will have a nice home court advantage in St. Louis for rounds two and three, and that crutch could help the Jayhawks advance to the second weekend without too much fuss – with or without Embiid. It’s still Bill Self and KU; don’t make the mistake of believing Joel Embiid’s health will be the sole determinant of the Jayhawk’s fate.

Grossly Overseeded: #8 Colorado (23-11, 12-9 Pac-12). There are no egregious examples of overseeding in this region, but Colorado stands out as the South’s most overvalued team. #3 Syracuse and #5 VCU may also have been generously awarded an extra seed line, but as currently constructed, the Buffs deserved to be closer to the cut-line than their #8 seed would suggest they actually were. Since Spencer Dinwiddie went down on January 12, Colorado managed only a .500 record in the Pac-12 and rarely looked competitive in outings against the upper echelon of the league. They are just 64th in KenPom’s rankings (only NC State is worse among at-large selections), and each of their three wins since February 19 was earned by the narrowest of margins (quirky note: all had final scores of 59-56). Askia Booker has remade himself in Dinwiddie’s absence and Tad Boyle deserves a ton of credit for navigating CU through the storm and into this field, but Colorado is just not one of the 32 best teams in college basketball.

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Bracket Prep: Albany, Tulsa, Texas Southern

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 16th, 2014

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As we move through the final stages of Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners. 

Albany

For the second straight season, Albany surprised the America East and is going dancing. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

For the second straight season, Albany surprised the America East and is going dancing. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • America East Champion (18-14, 12-7)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #210/#195/#199
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +0.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. For the second straight year, Albany capitalized on its home court advantage in the America East non-championship rounds before pulling off a road upset in the title game. That means the Great Danes – instead of league champion Vermont or preseason favorite Stony Brook – will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament. The Catamounts or Seawolves would probably have been more serious upset threats (especially Vermont, once projected in the 13-seed range), but Albany is among the more experienced teams in the country and did go dancing last season, which never hurts.
  2. The Danes’ identity lies on the defensive end, where they held opponents to under one point per possession in conference play. Will Brown’s club switches between man defense and a stout 2-3 zone that gave Stony Brook all kinds of issues on Saturday, including a six minute stretch where the Seawolves failed to make a single field goal early in the second half. Albany is anchored inside by 6’10’’ center John Puk, whose defense against America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney showed he’s capable of holding his own against skilled big men – the kind he’ll surely face in the NCAA Tournament. Offensively, the team is led by Australian shooting guard Peter Hooley, who averages nearly 16 points per game and shoots 40 percent from behind the arc. Fellow Aussie Sam Rowley is the team’s leading rebounder and was the go-to scorer on Saturday – he averages 11 per night – while speedy point guard DJ Evans and small forward Gary Johnson also score in double figures.
  3. With an adjusted tempo of 63.3 possessions per game and an average offensive possession length of 19.3 seconds, the Danes look to methodically execute in the half-court and control the pace. The vast majority of their shots are taken from inside the arc – besides Hooley and Evans, no player has attempted more than 50 threes on the season – and they are proficient both at drawing fouls and making their free throws; Hooley ranked second in the conference at 86 percent from the stripe. Ultimately, though, Albany wins with its defense, preventing opponents from getting easy looks and cleaning up misses at a high rate. In their upset of Vermont, the Danes allowed the Catamounts to corral just 20 percent of their misses.

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Tulsa Transfers Jordan Clarkson and Eric McClellan Thriving in the SEC

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on December 16th, 2013

In an alternate universe, Tulsa got a big win over Oklahoma last Saturday, with Danny Manning making an intrastate statement on the strength of his starting backcourt. The Sooners couldn’t match up with Jordan Clarkson and Eric McClellan, both of whom got to the rim with ease. But Tulsa didn’t beat Oklahoma on Saturday night, and Clarkson and McClellan haven’t suited up for the Golden Hurricane in nearly two years. Instead, Tulsa’s 2011-12 starting backcourt bolted after a coaching change and have emerged as two of the better scorers in the SEC this season.

Tulsa transfers at a glance

  • Jordan Clarkson (Missouri): 6’5″, 193 pounds, 32.4 MPG, 20.2 PPG, 3.8 APG, 60.1% TS.
  • Eric McClellan (Vanderbilt): 6’4″,’ 188 pounds, 33.0 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 3.6 APG, 50.1% TS.
Jordan Clarkson is leading Missouri, and the SEC, in scoring (photo courtesy kmov.com).

Jordan Clarkson is leading Missouri, and the SEC, in scoring (photo courtesy kmov.com).

The link between Clarkson and McClellan is closer than playing at the same school and transferring to the same conference. McClellan was lightly-recruited out of high school, receiving only four scholarship offers and none from a major conference. But it was Clarkson who was the reason Tulsa won the four-team derby for McClellan that also included Northeastern, Fresno State, and Wichita State:

McClellan arrived at Tulsa after following the path of a high school hoops hero: Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson was a household name in Texas; he was named San Antonio High School Player of the Year his senior year and led Wagner High School to a 105-14 record in three seasons as a starter. McClellan said, “I’m like, if this program can get a caliber player like Jordan, I want to go there and learn from him, too. That’s the main reason why I went there.”

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Dereck Whittenburg Back At NC State: Does Player Returning as Coach Work Out?

Posted by BHayes on August 2nd, 2013

North Carolina State announced earlier this week that Dereck Whittenburg, one of the heroes of the 1983 Wolfpack NCAA Championship squad, would be returning to the basketball program as an assistant coach. On paper, as it almost always does in these circumstances, the move looks great. Whittenburg’s arrival helps maintain a connection to NCSU’s past glory years, with his mere presence on the staff providing a constant reminder to players, fans, and most importantly, recruits, that the NC State program has summitted the mountain before. Pack fans must admit that this all sounds pretty good, but wait — haven’t they heard this one before? And didn’t it actually not go so well? Mark Gottfriend has done his best to erase the memories of the five-year Sidney Lowe era that preceded his hiring, but the half-decade with the former Pack star (and teammate of Whittenburg on that 1983 title team) at the helm was far too ignominious to have already slipped the consciousness of the Raleigh faithful. Now, of course, we needn’t note that Whittenburg is not running the program as Lowe did, which should figure to make this a far lower-risk hire. But with another Pack star returning to the PNC Arena sideline next season, it begs the question: Is the college star-returning-as-coach really the slam dunk hire fans believe it to be?

Can Dereck Whittenburg Lift NC State To Similar Glory As An Assistant Coach?

Can Dereck Whittenburg Lift NC State To Similar Glory As An Assistant Coach?

Lowe’s failures aside, you don’t have to scan the country long to find examples of alums returning to their old program and succeeding – both as assistants and head coaches. Most notable among current head men is Fred Hoiberg, who in 2010 took over the helm of the Iowa State program he starred at in the early 1990s. Early returns have been good for “The Mayor” in Ames, as Iowa State has won an NCAA Tournament game in each of the last two seasons. Other recent successful examples at the head coach level include Bob Huggins (West Virginia) and Sydney Johnson (Princeton).

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Big East M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 2nd, 2013

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  1. Georgetown fans received some measure of consolation after a disappointing Second Round upset when the AP named Otto Porter a first-team All-American yesterday. Tying Trey Burke for the most first-team votes received, Porter became the first Hoya to claim the honor since Allen Iverson did so in 1996, and was the sixth first-team All-American in program history. (Patrick Ewing earned the distinction in three difference seasons, so Porter’s appearance is actually the eighthin Georgetown history.) Joining the Big East’s Player of the Year with AP team honors was Louisville’s Russ Smith (third team), while teammates Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley captured honorable mentions.
  2. Shortly before going into surgery to repair the compound leg fracture he’d suffered against Duke on Sunday, Louisville guard Kevin Ware borrowed a nurse’s cell phone to contact his mother, knowing “she’d be freaking out.” Six hundred miles away in suburban Atlanta, Lisa Junior was just as much in the dark regarding her son’s status as anyone watching the CBS broadcast: “He didn’t even say hello. He just said, ‘Mom, I need you to calm down.’ He knew I’d be a mess. Once I heard his voice, I was better.” Ware was walking with the aid of crutches yesterday after surgeons successfully stabilized his broken tibia with a metal rod and closed the ghastly wound where it had broken skin. He will reportedly travel to Atlanta with the Cardinals this week and sit on the bench for the Final Four match-up with Wichita State.
  3. USF has inked a home-and-home deal with Detroit, to begin in Tampa in 2013-14. Detroit’s visit to the Sun Dome will feature three returning rising senior starters, including star Ray McCallum Jr. (18.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG this season). But the return trip to Detroit in 2014-15 will be a homecoming for native sons head coach Stan Heath and incoming guard Byron Ziegler, while freshman JaVontae Hawkins will be playing an hour down the road from his hometown of Flint. It will also probably be a rebuilding year for the Titans, giving Heath a golden opportunity to recruit the area and sell the idea of a non-conference series close to home to Detroit prospects.
  4. Tulsa is slated to announce in a late-morning press conference that it will join the New Old Zombie Big East in all sports. The impending additions of Tulsa and ECU reflect an emphasis on football stature in Mike Aresco’s new lineup, but Rob Dauster points out that Golden Hurricane basketball isn’t a complete disaster, and says “[coach Danny] Manning has the team going in the right direction, despite a depleted roster from transfers.” After winning 17 games in 2011-12, Manning held serve at around .500 in his first year as head coach, going 17-16 before losing to Wright State in the CBI.
  5. Just to salt the wounds from last weekend’s loss, Carmelo Anthony subjected Marquette fans to further indignity yesterday when he shamed Golden Eagles alum and fellow Knick Steve Novak on Instagram yesterday. Novak was apparently on the losing end of a bet on the Elite Eight game between their alma maters, and well, he made good on his wager in this shot:
steve novak carmelo

Carmelo’s Orange got the best of Steve’s Golden Eagles

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NCAA March Madness 75-Year Celebration: Best Players, Teams, Moments From the Big 12

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 12th, 2012

The NCAA may be butchering another investigation, but they did something right on Tuesday. They are celebrating 75 years of March Madness with a list of all-time greats: the best players, teams, and moments in NCAA Tournament history. They aren’t ranked (wouldn’t that be a fun argument?) but there are plenty of arguments to be had by fans, and plenty of memories — good and bad — brought back to life in the lists. This note isn’t Big 12 related but I thought the same thing as our own editors said when I read the list for the first time:

“Shelvin Mack, really?”

Um, no.

Um, no.

With that out of the way, here’s how the Big 12 was represented:

Players

  • C Bob Kurland, Oklahoma A&M 1943-46 (now Oklahoma State): Kurland played in the 1945 and 1946 NCAA Tournaments, winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award in 1946. He was a three-time All-American (1944-46) and led Oklahoma A&M to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946, also winning two gold medals as a player.
  • F Clyde Lovellette, Kansas 1949-52: Lovellette tells a story about his recruitment in high school. Kansas coach Phog Allen told the Indiana native that if he came to Kansas, the Jayhawks would win the 1952 national title and a gold medal in the Olympics. In 1952, Kansas beat St. John’s for the NCAA title then won a gold medal a few months later. Lovellette was an All-American and led the Big 7 in scoring each of his three seasons.
  • C Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas 1956-58: He averaged 29.9 PPG in two seasons in Lawrence and is considered one of the greatest players of all time, making this one of the easier choices for the committee. Chamberlain was named the 1957 tournament’s Most Outstanding Player even though Kansas lost a three-overtime championship game to North Carolina, 54-53.
  • F Danny Manning, Kansas 1984-88: Manning’s injury-ridden NBA career sometimes overshadows how great he was in college. He was the 1987-88 Player of the Year as well as the 1988 tournament MOP. He left Kansas as the Big 8’s all-time leading scorer with 2,951 points.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2012

Ryan Peters is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can find him on Twitter @pioneer_pride and read his musings online at Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.

Top Storylines

  • A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before MemphisHoustonUCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see MarshallUTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
  • A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.

Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.

  • Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
  • New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (14-2)
  2. Marshall (12-4)
  3. UTEP (11-5)
  4. UCF (10-6)
  5. UAB (9-7)
  6. Southern Mississippi (8-8)
  7. Tulane (7-9)
  8. East Carolina (7-9)
  9. Houston (6-10)
  10. Tulsa (5-11)
  11. SMU (5-11)
  12. Rice (2-14)
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Morning Five: 04.18.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2012

  1. Over the past few months Saint Joseph’s and Phil Martelli took a lot of heat for their decision to block the transfer of Todd O’Brien. They are about to have some company with the decision by Wisconsin and Bo Ryan after they decided to place significant restrictions on Jarrod Uthoff in his attempt to transfer from the school. It is standard procedure for schools to restrict players from transferring within the conference or to rival schools and occasionally schools they feel may have tampered with their (former) player. But a list of 25 schools? Including the entire ACC? Ryan apologists might point to the ACC-Big Ten challenge as a potential obstacle, but unless Wisconsin is planning on moving to the ACC it seems like a rather odd set of restrictions. What is more odd is that Uthoff has not even played for the Badgers yet as they opted to redshirt him and even though he figured to be in their plans for the future the entire situation feels dirty. For now the only legitimate school that Uthoff appears to be interested in going to (and Ryan has not already blocked) is Creighton. Of course, there is still time for Ryan to put Creighton on his restricted list.
  2. Yesterday, Tulsa star Jordan Clarkson was granted a release by the school. The sophomore, who was First Team All-Conference USA last season, appears to have been significantly influenced by the firing of Doug Wojcik and it appears that the hiring of Danny Manning was not enough to make him stay in Tulsa. While initial reports sparked a minor frenzy on Twitter when it was revealed that Clarkson wanted to look at 8-9 schools, but Tulsa was only willing to release him to three schools (Colorado, TCU, and Vanderbilt). Since we are not sure which 5-6 schools were rejected by Tulsa we will hold back our criticism because for all we know those schools could all be in Conference USA in which case it would be considered nothing more than normal operating procedure. If those schools are not and we are talking about a Bo Ryan/Phil Martelli situation, we could be adding Danny Manning to an ignominious list.
  3. Normally we would have led with the news that it looks like Larry Brown will most probably be the next head coach at Southern Methodist, but those two transfers and the noise surrounding them stole some of the spotlight. While many journalists online are trying to make it seem like this is a done deal, there appear to be a few details that need to be worked out. According to reports the main hold-up is getting his assistant coaches in place. Brown’s staff appears to be made of Tim Jankovich, Jerrence Howard, and Rod Strickland. The latter two appear to have their bags packed, but Jankovich is waiting for an assurance that he will be a guaranteed coach-in-waiting since he is leaving a decent job as a head coach at Illinois State for a team that was at the bottom of Conference USA and is heading toward the Big East, which will be a shell of its former self and SMU will still be near the bottom of that depleted conference.
  4. For those of you who may be aspiring college athletes or in the business of recruiting them (or maybe just love to know the minutiae of the sport), the NCAA released new eligibility requirements that go into effect for the 2015-16 academic year. They are available as an executive summary or a short slideshow. Essentially what it is trying to do is be more explicit for the eligibility requirements for incoming athletes. It focuses on core course requirements, GPA, and standardized test scores. One major issue that it does not address is the omnipresent shadow of basketball factories, which seem to be an all too frequent problem when issues with eligibility are raised. Of course there are more than three years before these rules go into effect so there could be substantial changes before they are put into practice.
  5. As we mentioned yesterday, the five starters for Kentucky announced that they were entering the NBA Draft. It is amazing that we have come to the point where we can merely shrug our shoulders at the defending national champions losing their entire starting lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores without a second thought. Of course, this is not an indictment of Kentucky, but rather a reflection of the current state of college basketball. Or perhaps the real reflection on the current state of college basketball is that the Wildcats probably will not miss a beat next year as they will just reload with another set of five-star recruits.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2012

Kansas

  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.

Louisville

  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 30th, 2012

  1. Looks like Doug Gottlieb might have finally gone off the deep end. The personable but controversial ESPN analyst, known for stirring things up on the air and on Twitter, said he would be interested in replacing Frank Martin as the head coach at Kansas State. The former Oklahoma State point guard admits he would be an odd choice, but he points to Mark Gottfried and Steve Lavin as examples of former analysts who found immediate coaching success. The difference is, those two guys had major success at their former schools before returning to coaching after their ESPN stints–a point Gottlieb briefly acknowledges but doesn’t seem to fully grasp. But hey, this whole no coaching experience thing worked for Fred Hoiberg, so why not Gottlieb?
  2. Bill Self‘s bench is vanishing by the day this spring, as assistant Danny Manning announced yesterday he will become the new head coach at Tulsa. Manning follows Director of Basketball Operations Barry Hinson, who took a job with Southern Illinois earlier in the week. Best known for his magical 1988 NCAA Tournament performance, Manning is making a name for himself in the coaching ranks. In addition to his experience studying under Self, Manning also brings instant recognition to the Tulsa program and should have no trouble recruiting.
  3. We have to laugh at this bit of news: Kansas officials say they will not cancel class on Tuesday in the event of a national championship. “A national title would be worthy of celebration, but we are confident those celebrations can take place without disrupting KU’s academic mission,” chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told the Lawrence Journal-World. A noble move by the university, sure, but hardly practical. It’s hard enough to get kids to attend a lecture on a regular Tuesday morning. But the Tuesday after winning it all? Good luck, guys.
  4. Every few months, just to stay sane, we’ve got to check in on the Realignment Apocalypse. And hey, guess what? The worst of it is over, and Kansas is happy to be in a “viable” Big 12. Besides that, nothing else to report on this front. If you ask us, that’s a good thing.
  5. Finally, here’s one view as to why Kansas can win a title this weekend. Not exactly a radical statement, actually. Kentucky may be the heavy favorite, and yes, it handled the Jayhawks on a neutral floor back in November. But if Self finds a way to win a championship, don’t think the nation will be shocked. He has done it before, you know.
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Morning Five: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2012

  1. After getting passed over by some other coaches they were pursuing Illinois introduced John Groce as their head coach yesterday. Groce, who compiled a record of 85-56 in four season at Ohio, led his team to the Sweet Sixteen this year. While he may not be the marquee name that some Illinois fans hoped for he does have some credentials that should make them more comfortable. In addition to having knocked off three power conference teams in his two tournaments (Georgetown, Michigan, and South Florida; ok, South Florida is a stretch), Groce also worked under Thad Matta (someone he will see a lot in his new job) at Butler and Xavier. So at least Groce should not be intimidated by the coaches on the opposing sideline.
  2. Illinois fans were probably concerned that losing Bruce Weber would affect their recruiting, but Jabari Parker, the school’s biggest target, says he is still interested in Illinois. The more interesting thing to us is how his high school coach is inserting himself into the picture. Although he appears to be a successful coach in his own right doing this at the same time you have the #1 recruit in the country will raise some eyebrows particularly with some of the unique package deals we have seen in the past few years.
  3. Yesterday, Danny Manning was announced as the the next head coach at Tulsa although the press conference will not be held until next week for reasons that we will get into. As we mentioned yesterday, this seems like it has the potential to be an excellent hire particularly with Manning’s reputation in that part of the country and the years he has spent as an assistant at the dominant program in the area. Of course, that’s the long-term effect. The near-term effect might not be so good. As you may remember, Manning’s current team, Kansas, is sort of occupied this weekend. With Manning (an assistant coach) and Barry Hinson (director of basketball operations) taking new jobs as head coaches in the past few days, you would think that they might be a little distracted from the task at hand. Bill Self says that should not be an issue, but if the Jayhawks come out flat there may be rumblings in Lawrence.
  4. Yesterday was an interesting day in Chapel Hill as Kendall Marshall won the Cousy Award as the top point guard in the nation. Oh, and there was that little thing about three players–Marshall, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes–declaring for the NBA Draft. As we mentioned yesterday, this group will have an interesting legacy. As individuals they could all be spectacular at times, but didn’t seem to put it together at key moments although Marshall cannot be faulted for his scaphoid fracture. All three are first round picks and potentially lottery picks (Marshall is the only one we question out of the three) so nobody will fault them for leaving early, but North Carolina fans could be in for some growing pains next season while the new group gets settled in.
  5. It is pretty rare for a high level school official to get into a controversy on Twitter, but Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis managed to do so when he sent a response on Twitter to Trey Burke. The Michigan freshman, who is considering putting his name in the NBA Draft, made a comment about all the people trying to give him advice on his life so Hollis responded by telling him to follow his heart and mind and seek out people that he trusts rather than having others come to him, which is sort of amusing because Hollis was coming to him with that advice. Anyways, it created a mini-controversy about questions of attempted recruitment, which was quickly refuted. Hopefully Hollis learned his lesson and also will learn to lenient to athletes for minor transgressions, which could come up as he is the chairman of the NCAA Division I Amateurism Cabinet and will join the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee later this year.
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Analyzing the Illinois and Tulsa Coaching Hires – Exciting New Fits

Posted by EJacoby on March 29th, 2012

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

More coaching vacancies continue to get filled across the country, as it became official on Thursday that Ohio head coach John Groce was hired for Illinois’ coaching vacancy and Kansas assistant Danny Manning agreed to become the new head coach at Tulsa. The Illini coaching search had been a major news story of the past few weeks, but Tulsa’s job had also been open for quite some time since earlier this month. Both hires come as somewhat of a surprise and make for exciting new eras for the Fighting Illini and Golden Hurricane programs. Here’s a look at how each coach might fit in.

Illinois

Groce Parlayed a Sweet Sixteen Trip Into a Big Ten Job (credit: Chicago Tribune)

Bruce Weber experienced a tragic downfall at Illinois during this past season that included ugly performances by the team during Big Ten play and painful press conferences filled with admissions of poor coaching tactics. What started off as a perfect fit for Weber, a man who brought the Illini to the National Championship game in his second season, never developed into a comfortable pairing. Weber was unable to bring in the top recruits that the previous Bill Self regime had (whose players were the ones that Weber coached to the Final Four), and even when some big names eventually came to the program, Weber never developed their talents as expected. As a result, a program that has brought in a total of nine RSCI top-80 recruits since 2009 just completed a terribly disappointing 17-15 campaign, and Weber is long gone.

Bringing in Groce certainly is not the big name that some people were expecting when this job became free. CBS and Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis both stated that Illinois is a top 10 coaching job, and some other media members echoed that belief. But perhaps the job has lost a bit of its luster in recent years, as several top candidates decided to pass up on the opportunity to stay at their current mid-major programs, including Shaka Smart of VCU and Brad Stevens at Butler. It took Ohio’s magical run to the Sweet Sixteen before Groce came into the picture, and while he may not have been the school’s first target, he should be a great fit in Champaign.

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