RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

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Texas A&M Goes With Billy Kennedy

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2011

The coaching carousel continued to spin this weekend in the domino-falling aftermath of Gary Williams’ retirement from Maryland ten days ago.  After swinging and whiffing on several names including Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Memphis’ Josh Paster, and former Knicks head coach and current broadcaster Jeff van Gundy (really?), Texas A&M has reportedly gotten its man — Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy.

Kennedy Moves on to Texas A&M

Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson was also in the running for the position, as both up-and-coming coaches interviewed with the school on Saturday.  Much like AD Bill Byrne’s last two hires for the Aggies, Kennedy is a coach who has put in his time in the lower reaches of Division-I basketball and demonstrated success at every stop along the way.  The 47-year old originally from Metairie, Louisiana, has spent the last five seasons at Murray State, keeping the Racer program among the elite of the OVC.  His MSU teams finished first or second in the conference regular season race all five seasons, and his last two teams — including 2010’s NCAA round of 32 entrant — played in the postseason.

The Texas A&M head coaching position has become a stepping-stone job under the steady hand and guidance of Byrne, as the last two coaches — Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie — parlayed their success in College Station to big-time basketball jobs at Maryland and Kentucky, respectively.  This is not to suggest, however, that Kennedy can’t have massive success at TAMU; the school’s athletic department budget ranks in the top thirty nationally, and its relative proximity to talent-rich Houston (two hours) and Dallas (three hours) make the program fully capable of moving beyond borderline top 25 status.  Kennedy may not have brought the enthusiasm that a brand-name hire would have, but so long as he keeps the program moving forward and breaks through to that elusive second weekend of the NCAA Tournament (Gillispie took the Aggies there once, in 2007), TAMU fans will be satisfied.

A big opportunity will await Kennedy in his first season in College Station next year.  The Aggies return five of its top seven players from a 24-9 (10-6 Big 12) team, and with conference powerhouses Kansas and Texas gutted by early defections this offseason, there’s a sense that A&M could be poised to move to the top of the Big 12 standings with its existing roster and a little good fortune.  Of the five returning players from the 2010-11 all-Big 12 team, Texas A&M is the only school with two — star forwards Khris Middleton (14/6) and David Loubeau (12/5).  If the perimeter players led by senior Dash Harris and incoming four-star recruit Jamal Branch come through in 2011-12, Kennedy may be in position to do something never before done in these parts: win a Big 12 basketball championship.

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Set Your Tivo: Turkey Day Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 25th, 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.

Be sure to check out some games from the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic during your Thanksgiving festivities today. Rankings as per latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Old Spice Classic: Boston College vs. Texas A&M — 12 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Each team has loaded up on cupcakes to start the season but that couldn’t help Boston College. The Eagles suffered an embarrassing home loss last Thursday to Yale, rated #232 by Ken Pomeroy. A 30-point effort from Reggie Jackson was not enough as BC allowed Yale to shoot 50% from the floor en route to an eight point triumph. Defense will be important for Boston College against a Texas A&M team that is connecting on 47.5% of their FG attempts so far. The Aggies are led by forwards Nathan Walkup, Khris Middleton and David Loubeau. With their best players in the front court, expect A&M to own a rebounding advantage over the undersized Eagles. Boston College sports just three players 6’8 or taller, while Texas A&M has six on the roster and five who’ve played minutes this year. The key matchup will be Loubeau against Joe Trapani of the Eagles. Trapani has averaged double figures for his entire college career, including his freshman season at Vermont. He is also a threat from deep, although he’s had a tough time shooting the trey this year going 2-10 thus far. The guards from The Heights must rebound the ball effectively in order to minimize their shortcomings on the boards up front. Jackson has been terrific for first year head coach Steve Donahue, averaging 19/5/5 in three games. He’ll team with Biko Paris in the back court against B.J. Holmes and Dash Harris for A&M. Mark Turgeon’s guards don’t score much but they do a wonderful job of getting others involved (nine APG combined), especially key on a team where the strength lies in the forwards. Texas A&M has recognized this and the guards haven’t tried to do too much. Both teams struggle mightily shooting the three but Texas A&M should have an advantage there as they shoot five percentage points better and defend the perimeter much more effectively than the Eagles, ranking #24 in three point defense. Boston College is #286 in the same category. One thing BC does do very well is keep control of the ball, averaging only eight per game. That’s good enough for the #1 ranking in turnover percentage this year. Texas A&M should be the favorite here as the matchups really benefit the Aggies. The Eagles need a strong defensive effort and great rebounding from their guards in order to win this game.

Old Spice Classic: Georgia vs. Notre Dame — 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

With the status of star Trey Thompkins still doubtful, Georgia enters a crucial set of games looking to pick up some key non-conference wins in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for only the second time since 2002. It begins tonight against a Notre Dame team that lost Luke Harangody but still has the pieces to make an NCAA run. The Fighting Irish return four core players and add Purdue transfer Scott Martin, finally healthy after sitting out two years (one for transferring, one after a torn ACL). Ben Hansbrough has been on fire, hitting 53.5% overall and an eye-popping 16-27 (59.3%) from three. Against a highly suspect Georgia defense which ranks #122 in efficiency and almost dead last (#335) against the three, expect Hansbrough to light it up yet again. The problem for Georgia is that it doesn’t end there. Mike Brey also welcomes back Tim Abromaitis, a guy who burst onto the scene last year and made his three’s at a 43% clip. For Georgia, Travis Leslie, Jeremy Price and Gerald Robinson have stepped up nicely in Thompkins’ absence. The 6’4 Leslie has picked up the slack on the glass, leading the team with eight rebounds a game. Without their star, Georgia is a bit undersized and their rebounding has shown it, grabbing only 34 per game this season. That will be a problem against an Irish team stacked with wings and forwards in the 6’5-6’9 height range. Notre Dame has pulled down 46 RPG and should hold an edge again in this game behind Tyrone Nash. The 6’8 Nash is averaging 12/8 while shooting over 50% from the floor and 80% from the line, impressive for a big man. If Thompkins is out as expected, he’ll battle against Price in the post. Price has had a great start to the year for Mark Fox, shooting 64.5% overall. Notre Dame’s strength is obviously offense, ranking #7 in efficiency and in the top 100 in almost every offensive category. The Irish also struggle on defense so expect a lot of points and a lot of threes in this game. An underrated matchup is at the point guard position between Georgia’s tandem of Robinson and sophomore Dustin Ware and Notre Dame’s freshman Eric Atkins. Ware played the point exclusively last year and now has some help in Robinson, a transfer from Tennessee State. Atkins has been steady for ND through three games and shows a lot of promise. Replacing Tory Jackson is not easy but Atkins has done an admirable job so far. He’ll be a formidable four year player for Mike Brey. These teams are similar in terms of their numbers and style, but with Georgia probably missing Thompkins we like Notre Dame in this one. The Irish are deeper and more experienced, plus they should have a field day from behind the arc. That’ll be too much for a Georgia team, who struggled with Mississippi Valley State and St. Louis, to overcome.

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Morning Five: 10.14.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2010

  1. One of the best UConn traditions is called the Husky Run, a 5k amble through the streets of Storrs where the coaches and players “kick off” the basketball season with a spirited jog.  Jim Calhoun has been doing these since he was back in Boston at Northeastern in the 70s, but he was compelled to miss this year’s event for the first time as a result of preparations for Friday’s hearing in Indianapolis in front of the NCAA Infractions Committee.  Friday’s “First Night” event — the UConn version of Midnight Madness — will certainly be muted without Calhoun in attendance, not to mention the ugly specter of possible further NCAA sanctions  hanging over everyone’s head in attendance.
  2. Earlier this week Luke Winn gave us his top sixteen backcourts, led of course by the ridiculously deep and talented Blue Devils.  So who has the best frontcourt for the 2010-11 season?  Would you believe the scintillating group at Purdue led by JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel and Patrick Bade?  You should.  Duke comes in at #2, UNC at #3, and Kansas State at #4.  Five schools other than Duke ended up on both of his lists, which should give you a pretty good sense as to who the top contenders for the title will be this season:  Purdue (#1 frontcourt, #12 backcourt); Kansas (#5, #6); Syracuse (#7, #10); Ohio State (#9, #9); Michigan State (#15, #2).
  3. TSN’s Chris Littmann put together an interesting list of the top five Twitter All-Americans for the 2010-11 season.  If you don’t have the following players on your feed, get them on there now… Mizzou’s Kim English (@englishscope24), Washington’s Isaiah Thomas (@isaiah_thomas2), Duke’s Nolan Smith (@ndotsmitty), Illinois’ Mike Davis (@illiniballa24), and Texas A&M’s Dash Harris (@dash5harris).  Personally, we can’t wait to see what Thomas has to say leading up to Maui and a potential game against Kentucky next month.
  4. Hubris, arrogance, mere stupidity — or all three?  Gary Parrish has long harped on the tendency for coaches to repeatedly and egregiously get busted for texting recruits when they’re not supposed to be doing so, but it doesn’t seem to stop their madness.  We can only suppose that these are some of the same guys who, after looking up a bunch of porn on the work computer, think that by simply deleting the search history means they won’t get caught.  You mean pressing “clear history” doesn’t get rid of it?  Huh?
  5. We mentioned this situation in a Morning Five last week, but the schizz hit the fan publicly today when St. Louis’ two stars, Willie Reed and Kwamain Mitchell, were noticeably absent from Photo Day on Wednesday.  The reason is that neither is currently enrolled in the school as a result of a year-long suspension meted by the university’s student court for an as-yet undetermined violation of student conduct (later changed to two months on appeal).  Bryan Burwell spoke to Reed’s father about the suspensions, and although details on the specific allegations are sketchy, the father alleges fairly serious concerns about rights to due process and railroading if what he suggests is true.  Michigan State fans would do well to look at this situation with a certain degree of interest, as there are two unnamed players on their campus possibly facing similar inquiries.
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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday afternoon games.

12:15 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State  (Buffalo pod)

West Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They squeaked out an enormous road win at Villanova to end the regular season then swept through Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown en route to a Big East championship riding the heroics of Da’Sean Butler. The Mountaineers are an extremely gifted rebounding team; in fact, sometimes their best offense comes after a missed shot. They feature multiple weapons that can step out and shoot a mid-range jumper or three from Wellington Smith to Kevin Jones to the all-around dynamo Butler. Also, few teams can match West Virginia’s intensity in the halfcourt defensively. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman will need a gigantic scoring output from their own star, Baltimore native Reggie Holmes. Holmes scored 25 or more points fifteen times this season, averaging 21.3 PPG and ranking in the top-50 in percentage of shots taken. The Bears also feature a rugged forward named Kevin Thompson who comes in at fifth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, Morgan State ranks 11th in the country as a team in that very category. Unfortunately for the underdogs, West Virginia is never outworked on the glass, not with Jones, Devin Ebanks and Bob Huggins prominently involved.

The Skinny: This one shouldn’t be close from the tip. Morgan State dominated the MEAC all season, but West Virginia is flying high at this point. Expect the Mountaineers to dominate by 25-30 points.

12:25 pm – #6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota  (Milwaukee pod)

The answer to which team will win this game depends entirely on which Gopher team shows up to play in Milwaukee.  Will it be the defensive juggernaut that held Purdue to 11 first  half points last Saturday, or will it be the team that got obliterated by Ohio State 52-29 in the second half on Sunday?  Tubby Smith’s team has been schizophrenic like that all year, following up strong wins with disastrous performances (two losses to Michigan?  really?), which probably explains why they were a bubble team up until Sunday evening.  Xavier comes into this one with the stronger resume, but it’s difficult to say if the Musketeers are the better team.  When he plays under control, XU’s Jordan Crawford is a talent, and his supporting case of Jason Love on the interior and Terrell Holloway running the show makes for nice balance throughout the Xavier lineup.  The question we have is who will win the defensive battle, though.  Xavier defends the three really well, while Minnesota behind Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook both shoot it equally as well.  This game is essentially a tossup (Vegas agrees, setting Minny as a one-point favorite), and we really liked the first seven halves of basketball that the Gophers put up in Indianapolis on a neutral floor last week, so we’re going with the extremely mild 6/11 upset here, in a close game that comes down to the last possession. 

The Skinny: Despite the seedings, this is a tossup game and we like the Gophers to win it on the last possession. 

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.16.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Each day this week during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

South Region Notes (Patrick Sellars)

  • The first “upset” of the tournament occurred in the South Region when SWAC champion Arkansas Pine-Bluff took down the Big South tournament champion Winthrop, 61-44. The Golden Lions earned the right to play top seeded Duke on Friday night.
  • When #9 Louisville takes on #8 California on Friday night, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says he’ll be ready for the Bears’ “organized chaos.”  There is also an interesting quote in the article from Cardinals’ guard Edgar Sosa that says he has heard Cal referred to as “poor man’s Marquette”.
  • Utah State’s leading scorer, junior guard Tai Wesley, broke his nose in the WAC tournament final on Saturday when the Aggies got pounded by New Mexico State.  He will play in the Aggies’ upcoming game versus Texas A&M, but you have to wonder what kind of effect it will have on USU’s star. On TAMU’s side, they will have Dash Harris back in the lineup after he missed the Big 12 Tournament with a bone bruise in his right wrist. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that if his team wants any chance to win this weekend, they will need Harris healthy.
  • Fran McCaffery is not letting his Siena team think they can beat Purdue by just showing up in Spokane on Friday. He says Purdue is by far the best team Siena will face all season even without Robbie Hummel. You’d have to think a Butler Bulldogs fan would think otherwise.
  • Here is an interesting article from The Times-Picayune which highlights the #3 Baylor vs. #14 Sam Houston State game. Not only are the two teams from Texas, but they have two New Orleans natives returning to their home town for the first round. Star senior guards Tweety Carter (Baylor) and Ashton Mitchell (Sam Houston State) both played their high school ball in The Big Easy.
  • Villanova head coach Jay Wright told the Philadelphia Inquirer about his team’s lackluster play in first round games the past two seasons. Wright said “we’ve survived first-round games, but we really haven’t played well in first-round games.”

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

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