ATB: Big Monday Returns, Louisville Brandishes No. 1 Ranking, and Ben McLemore Injured…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 15th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Tonight’s Lede. A staple of my childhood hoops watching fandom has and will forever be “Big Monday.” It never gets old. Finish up a quick dinner, find that comfortable spot on the couch, flick on your television (or, to be technologically correct, your ESPN3 Ipad app) and take in two quality matchups. ESPN’s Monday night special has always aired games from various leagues, but to me at least, there’s a strong connection to the Big East. That 7 PM ET window will always be associated with Big East hoops, and all the great memories it’s brought us over the years. As you already well know, the once-proud northeastern league is edging closer and closer towards extinction. Next year’s Big Monday (if it continues) will not be the same. Tonight’s Big East matchup, Louisville at UConn, won’t rank among the all-time greats. It probably won’t even classify as one of the better Big East games of 2012-13. But it was Big East basketball on a Monday night in January at 7 PM, riding out what’s looking evermore like the last year of its existence. That is good enough, as far as I’m concerned.

Your Watercooler Moment. The Cardinals Are Number One For A Reason.

The Cardinals may won't keep the top ranking for the rest of the season, but for now, they're playing like the best team in the country (Photo credit: AP Photo).

The Cardinals may won’t keep the top ranking for the rest of the season, but for now, they’re playing like the best team in the country (Photo credit: AP Photo).

After a wild weekend of conference play, the coveted summit of the AP Poll got its first major shakeup of the season. Three unbeaten power clubs (Duke, Michigan, and Arizona) had fallen in the past seven days, so there was no obvious choice at number one. Louisville had a legitimate claim. The Cardinals’ only loss of the season came against the last month’s top dog, Duke, with defensive anchor Gorgui Dieng still nursing a wrist injury. All Rick Pitino’s team has done since that defeat was win, and do so in convincing fashion, excepting a tense second-half in a late-December win over rival Kentucky. Some clamored for Duke to retain its top ranking. Others vied for Michigan. For whatever reason – proximity of loss, per possession analysis, last year’s Final Four run – the Cardinals ended up with the majority of AP first-place votes. Maintaining that perch required Louisville to fend off a feisty UConn team in Storrs Monday night. All Louisville did was go out and show why some of the nation’s brightest hoops writers marked them atop their Monday ballots. The Huskies got out to a hot start, powered by tremendous guard play from freshman Omar Calhoun, and carried a 34-28 lead into the break. Then Louisville ratcheted up the defensive intensity and UConn withered under the Cardinals’ smothering pressure. Russ Smith added 23 points to outgun Calhoun, and the Huskies – energetic and confident as ever in the opening half – ran out of steam. That’s what number one teams do – they string you along for a while, keeping your team and fans invested in the flow of the game, waiting for the moment to seize on any misstep or sign of fatigue. Then they take control of the game, which is what Louisville did somewhere around the 10-minute mark in the second half. Louisville is as deserving of number one as any team in America. Everything about tonight’s performance (specifically, a four-minute run midway through the second half where the Cardinals opened up a 13-point lead) was foolproof evidence.

Tonight’s Quick Hit.

  • The Kansas We Know. Had Ben McLemore not pulled off one of the finest banked-in three-pointers in recent memory to send Iowa State into overtime and preserve a home victory, this game would have felt something like a must win for the Jayhawks. Baylor, for all its flaws and inconsistency, was a bigger challenge for the Jayhawks. You almost had the sense that if the Bears caught Kansas sleeping again, and Isaiah Austin could put together an all-career game, and Pierre Jackson found holes on the perimeter, and a bunch of other favorable contingencies fell into place, the Bears had a real chance to hand Bill Self’s team its first home loss of the season. Well, no, you didn’t. Instead, you looked at the Bears, saw an incoherent and disparate group, and realized that Kansas is far and away the better team, and far and away the class of the Big 12. If the Jayhawks lose in conference play this season, it won’t happen in Lawrence.

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Several Thoughts on Duke vs. Davidson

Posted by EMann on January 3rd, 2013

Duke outlasted Davidson 67-50 in a gritty, physical contest at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte last night. It was a game that was certainly a tale of two halves as the teams were tied 29-all at halftime before Duke went on a decisive 12-0 run early in the second half to virtually put away the game. I was in attendance and here were some of my thoughts about the game:

Mason Plumlee was hassled all night by Davidson's defense.

Mason Plumlee was hassled all night by Davidson’s defense. (AP)

  • Davidson’s Defending of Plumlee-National Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee had his worst game of the season, tallying only 10 points and seven rebounds. He attempted only seven shots and turned the ball over six times. Plumlee was held to only two points in the first half, and Duke’s big man never looked comfortable with Davidson’s immediate double-team every time he got the ball near the post, which led to several poor shots and turnovers. Or, they forced him to catch the ball on the perimeter where he could do much less damage. Plumlee showed flashes of improvement in the second half by making a very difficult hook shot midway through that stopped a brief Davidson spurt, but regardless, Davidson’s defense on Plumlee was largely responsible for how close the game was early, and other teams will likely watch this game tape closely to emulate Davidson’s defense on the big man.

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Drexel Begins to Right Ship With 69-58 Win Over Davidson

Posted by IRenko on December 23rd, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Satuday night’s game between Davidson and Drexel.

After Drexel’s 69-58 win over Davidson on Saturday night, head coach Bruiser Flint minced no words when talking about his team’s disappointing play to that point. “I’ve been telling the team, honestly, that I’m actually surprised that [our losses] have been as close as they are. That’s how bad we’ve been. We’ve had our opportunities to actually win some of these games, and we’ve been horrible.” But with conference play on the near horizon, the CAA’s preseason favorite took a strong step in the right direction on Saturday night, improving its record to 4-7 before 1,879 fans at the Daskalaikis Athletic Center in Philadelphia.

Drexel Fans Are Hoping Frants Massenat and Damion Lee Can Lead a Turnaround (Josh Verlin / Philahoops)

Sophomore guard Damion Lee, the Dragons’ leading scorer, hadn’t practiced all week because of a foot injury, but came off the bench to pace the team with 26 points on 8-of-17 of shooting. Senior point Frantz Massenat added 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. But it was Drexel’s renewed commitment to defensive toughness that earned their coach’s praise after the game. “We finally got back to guarding people,” Flint said. “That was the key right there.” Flint’s Drexel teams have been known for their tight, physical defense, but they’ve allowed more than a point per possession this year. The last time the Dragons gave up more than a point per possession over the course of a season was 2005. When asked if he saw some of the passion and toughness that had been missing from previous games, a relieved Flint declared: “Yeah, it’s about time. We haven’t been seeing that in some of the other games, we’ve been back on the heels. We didn’t play on our heels. We came up with some tough stops, dug some balls out, stuff like that.  We made some tough plays.”

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The Other 26: The New A-10 Asserts Itself

Posted by IRenko on December 21st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

When the A-10 added Butler and VCU to its ranks this past offseason, we knew that the two teams would strengthen the now 16-team conference. The two schools, each of which has had recent improbable Final Four runs, were expected to join the ranks of Xavier, Temple, St. Louis, and Dayton, and, along with a resurgent St. Joseph’s, UMass, and LaSalle, make the A-10 the deepest and, arguably, most exciting non-BCS conference in the country. But after the past week, it’s become clear that not only are these two programs going to add depth to the A-10, they may very well conquer it in their first year.

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

By now you know that Butler took down top-ranked Indiana 88-86 in a thrilling overtime win last Saturday. What was most surprising about the win, though, was how Butler did it. It wasn’t their vaunted defense, which gave up 1.13 points per possession to Indiana’s full-throttled attack — the second most this year for the Bulldogs and well above their averages during the Brad Stevens era. Rather, it was Butler’s efficient offense, which registered 1.16 points per possession. Part of that was their three-point shooting (11-24, 48.1%) with Rotnei Clarke leading the way (5-11). We have come to expect that from Butler, which often relies on the three-point shot as a great equalizer. But the more surprising, and perhaps more significant, elements of Butler’s offense were its willingness to attack the basket and its prodigious output on the offensive glass.  Sophomore wing Roosevelt Jones led the attack, often exploiting a favorable matchup against Jordan Hulls, en route to 16 points on 6-10 shooting (no threes). And the Bulldogs rebounded nearly half of their own misses — 48.7%. To some extent, the Bulldogs took advantage of sloppy block-outs by Indiana, but this reflects a season-long strength and a marked shift from the early years of Brad Stevens’ tenure. In Stevens’ first four seasons, Butler never averaged an offensive rebounding percentage of more than 32.8 percent. But last year, the Bulldogs hauled in 35 percent of their misses, and this year, it’s up to 39.4 percent.

As impressive as Butler’s win was, VCU quietly made waves of its own this past week as they pummeled Alabama and Western Kentucky by a combined 51 points. In both games, VCU went for the kill early, jumping out to big leads on the strength of their Havoc defense. The Rams did not allow Alabama to score a field goal until 10:44 had elapsed, en route to a 33-18 halftime lead that they would convert into a 73-54 final score. Alabama finished the game with 18 turnovers — a season high, as it often is for teams facing VCU’s defensive pressure. Four days later, VCU suffered no letdown from its BCS beatdown, whipping on Western Kentucky, one of the Sun Belt’s top teams and last year’s Tournament participant. After jumping out to 15-3 lead, the Rams would head into halftime up 42-16, cruising the rest of the way to a 76-44 win.  VCU forced a whopping 32 turnovers, including one on each of Western Kentucky’s first three possessions.

The old Bulldogs may be learning new tricks while the Rams thrive on the tried-and-true, but regardless of how they’re doing it, both teams have vaulted themselves to the top of A-10 heap.  Don’t take my word for it, ask the computers. Any of them — Butler and VCU are the A-10’s two highest ranking teams in the RPI, Sagarin ratings, and Pomeroy ratings.  The A-10’s mainstays have not distinguished themselves. Temple was routed badly by Duke in its first real competitive game of the year and just lost to Canisius at home by 10 points; Xavier is trying to replace five starters; St. Louis is trying to get their feet under them after losing their coach and then their star point guard to injury; and St. Joe’s, UMass, and Dayton have struggled to find consistency. As a result, there is a good chance that the A-10 will crown a champion it has never crowned before.

On to this week’s Top 10 and more …

Top Ten Rankings

RTC -- TO26 (12.21.12)

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SEC Pick ‘Em: Week Of November 20-27

Posted by DPerry on November 20th, 2012

Every Tuesday, the SEC microsite writers will post their picks for the week’s top games involving SEC teams. Keep up with them to determine if we actually know what we’re talking about when it comes to basketball.

Current Standings

  • Brian: 4-1
  • Doug: 3-2
  • Kyle: 4-1

Thursday- Missouri vs. Stanford (in Nassau, Bahamas) – Verdict: Missouri (3-0)

  • Brian- Missouri 72-64: The Cardinal just doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Tigers. Missouri gives up a ton of three-pointers on defense, but Stanford just won’t be able to convert.
  • Doug- Missouri 77-72: Both defenses have performed so far, but Missouri’s balanced attack should prove too much for Stanford.
  • Kyle- Missouri 83-67: Missouri should have no trouble, much like their previous opponents, with the Cardinal as they advance in the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket. Let’s see how they respond with a difficult opponent in the upcoming week.

Phil Pressey leads Missouri into the Battle 4 Atlantis, this year’s most competitive early-season tournament.

Thursday- Vanderbilt vs. Davidson (in Orlando) – Verdict: Davidson (3-0)

  • Brian- Davidson 68-62: This isn’t last year’s Vanderbilt team, but it’s just about last year’s Davidson team. Except the Wildcats are a year older and more experienced. Davidson takes very good care of the ball, and should take care of Vandy.
  • Doug- Davidson 75-71: Kevin Stallings certainly didn’t have his team prepared for the trip to Oregon, and the Wildcats represent an even tougher challenge. The Commodores will have to make more plays on defense to overcome Davidson.
  • Kyle- Davidson 68-61: After getting blown out in Eugene, the Commodores will need to gel quickly before games versus Villanova, Xavier, and Butler come up. The lack of experience in tough non-conference games will show itself.

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Clark Kellogg

Posted by KDoyle on November 20th, 2012

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This time our interview subject is Clark Kellogg. Most of you probably just know Clark from his work at CBS first as a studio analyst, but eventually as their lead college basketball analyst during March Madness. While that is impressive by itself, just saying that would be selling Clark’s on-court accomplishments short. Clark was a McDonald’s All-American, All-Big Ten, and was the #8 overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft. In his rookie year, he averaged a ridiculous 20.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while being named All-Rookie First Team, but his career was cut short due to knee injuries. Clark joined us to talk about the new season of college basketball and his association with the Capital One Cup.

Once known for his skills on the court, Kellogg has now become one of the more recognizable faces in the sports broadcast industry (OhioDominican)

Kevin Doyle: How long have you been with the Capital One Cup and, in your opinion, what does the Cup stand for?

Clark Kellogg: This is year three for the Capital One Cup and my involvement as an advisory board member. To me, when you look at what the Capital One Cup represents—recognizing the top Division I athletic program on the men’s and women’s side over 39 total sports for cumulative on-field performance—the recognition not only comes in the reward of a Capital One Cup trophy, but also in $400,000 in total scholarship money for student-athletes. This combines the best of both worlds. Recognition for on-field and on-court performance, as well as supporting academic pursuits and achievement; I don’t know if you can get any better than that. The way the sports are recognized and the point system is tallied, there is a premium for winning national championships, but a school gains points for finishing in the top 10 in the end of season polls for the respective sports. So, there is yearlong involvement and opportunity to earn those points from the fall sports season through the spring sports season. When you are able to combine recognizing excellence for on-field and on-court performance with supporting and fueling academic pursuits and scholarship, that speaks volumes.

KD: The Capital One Cup is so unique because it doesn’t place a premium on one sport versus another. We see in the national media football and basketball primarily takes precedence, but the Cup doesn’t favor any sports. How much does a school’s success in the Capital One Cup standings speak to the strength of their programs across the board?

CK: The points you just made are good ones because all sports are involved, and men’s and women’s sports are of complete equal value to each other.  The fact that you separate and have recognition for a winner on the men’s side in Division I athletics over multiple sports, and one on the women’s side is fantastic because all of those student-athletes get a chance to contribute to their program and school. This is what makes it so unique and comprehensive in its approach. I love the fact that student-athletes who sometimes don’t get the same recognition that high-profile and revenue-generating sports do have a chance to feel like they’re contributing to something that’s bigger than themselves.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first full week of the college hoops season provides us several excellent non-conference match-ups between the true blue bloods of the sport, as well as a first glimpse at some of the mid-majors we may be hearing from in March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#2 Kentucky vs. #9 Duke – 9:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

Nerlens Noel needs to step-up his offensive game against the Duke Blue Devils

  • Duke took care of business in last Friday’s opening game against Georgia State. Because of the the level of competition, the first game does not give us too much insight into the 2012-13 version of the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad shot and rebounded well, but they were expected to against the Panthers. Mason Plumlee leads the way for Duke and his match-up against the Kentucky front line should be a key factor on Tuesday. The Wildcats can throw Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel at the Duke big man. While Maryland forward Alex Len was able to have a big game against these four, look for Kentucky coach John Calipari to make major adjustments to stop Plumlee. Duke senior Ryan Kelly needs to step-up to help Plumlee, particularly on the offensive glass where Duke struggled a bit in their first game. Also, keep an eye on Duke’s turnover numbers. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions against Georgia State. Neither Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton, or Quinn Cook had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in the first game. Continued turnovers will come back to bite the Blue Devils against better competition.
  • Kentucky gets its second ACC team of the season, but now it’s the cream of the crop in the Blue Devils. UK’s freshmen performed reasonably well in their first game but need to put together a full 40 minutes of effective basketball. Maryland was down by double figures in the first half of their first game last week but was able to make the game very tight by the end. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin put together a solid game against the Terps with 16 points, but highly touted freshman center Noel looked lost on offense. Pay close attention to how the freshmen play in the second half in this one. Interestingly enough, Kentucky played very good team defense even with so many freshmen. Typically, defensive skills take longer to develop but the Wildcats held Maryland to a 35% eFG, including 3-19 from three-point land. Duke is a three-heavy team, so watch to see how the Blue Devils fare against a tough perimeter defense.
  • Kentucky is going to need more of their freshmen to step up on offense, if they want to beat the Blue Devils. Wiltjer carried them in the first game and is as smooth as they come on the offensive end, but they need additional offensive support. Watch to see who among all the rookies is able to provide more offense. If Goodwin can continue to provide punch and they can get double figure points from one other freshman, Kentucky can win this game. Duke needs to limit turnovers and get scoring and rebounding from Ryan Kelly. He is very capable on the offensive end but needs to be more aggressive.

More Great Hoops

#8 Michigan St. vs. #4 Kansas – 7:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

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Five Mid-Majors You’re Likely to Hear From Next March

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 6th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

There exists in college basketball a certain romanticism that distinguishes it from every other sport. It shines through in March, when the sport’s preeminent end-of-season tournament provides a glimmer of hope for Division one teams, no matter how small, unknown or minimally-funded, to break through on a national stage. For the mid-majors, this is prime time. Unlike their high-major counterparts, the little guys’ path to the field of 68 is restricted. Most smaller leagues only receive one Tournament bid, which is normally decided through conference tournaments. It’s what makes championship weekend – when one-bid leagues fight tooth and nail for that coveted Tournament bid – such a compelling series of high-stakes contests. It’s also why predicting each smaller league’s participant(s) is inherently difficult. In a do-or-die knockout setting, anything can happen. So when I look back on my five mid-major Tournament breakout picks (the subject of the following list) five months from now, I’ll probably be kicking myself over a lack of informed judgment and insight. The hope is that at least one of my designated team breaks the field and makes some noise once there. If not, well, that’s why the NCAA Tournament is such a spectacle – because you just never know.

A word of caution: you’ll notice the list fails to include teams from the A-10, Missouri Valley, C-USA, West Coast Conference or Mountain West. I chose to exclude those leagues not because I don’t think any of their teams are capable of making NCAA Tournament runs; it’s quite the opposite actually. All three will likely send multiple teams to the Big Dance, so I’ve decided to leave them out for the sake of novelty. With that out of the way, we March on (pun totally intended).

North Texas 

A future lottery pick, Mitchell leads a strong North Texas squad (Photo credit: US Presswire).

If this is the first time you’re hearing the name Tony Mitchell, it will not be the last. Mitchell (6’ 8’’, 235 pounds) almost certainly would have been a first round pick in last summer’s NBA Draft. Instead, he’s back for his sophomore season after missing out on an NCAA bid last season when North Texas fell to Sun Belt upstart Western Kentucky in the conference tournament final. It’s a shame, too – no offense to Western Kentucky, but there is not a single person who wouldn’t have enjoyed watching Mitchell in a potential #1-#16 matchup with Anthony Davis and Kentucky. We aren’t always that lucky. Anyway, with Mitchell back in the fold, the Mean Green are more than capable of broaching the field this season, and the talented forward isn’t the only reason why. Point guard Chris Jones and swingman Jordan Williams, both double-digit scorers who were declared ineligible in January due to academic issues, are cleared to take the court again this fall. Oklahoma State transfer Roger Franklin returns for another season. Off-guard Alzee Williams, who averaged 15.8 points per game over his final 10 games, will stabilize the backcourt. The deep guard rotation will prevent teams from keying in on Mitchell, who should only improve in his second collegiate season. We will get an early taste of North Texas’s Tournament bona fides on November 9, when the Mean Green take on Creighton in Omaha. Mitchell vs Doug McDermott to kick off the 2012-13 college basketball calendar? Yes, please.

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Morning Five: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2012

  1. The AP on Monday released its All-America squad and there were no surprises with this year’s group. Indiana’s Cody Zeller received all but one vote (64) for the first team (queue the Gary Parrish outrage article), while mid-major stalwarts Doug McDermott (62), Isaiah Canaan (43) and CJ McCollum (16) joined fellow Big Ten stars DeShaun Thomas (26) and Trey Burke (16) on the squad. There are six players on this year’s team because McCollum and Burke tied for the last spot — not because the AP has, like many conferences, forgotten how to count. Keep this and all preseason All-America lists in the proper context, though — of the five players chosen to last year’s preseason team, only Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger ended up on both the preseason and postseason first team. Three others — Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, UNC’s Harrison Barnes, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor — finished as Honorable Mention postseason winners, while Kentucky’s Terrence Jones didn’t even earn that distinction. The two season-long NPOY candidates from last year — Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson — were among the others receiving votes in last year’s preseason list. Caveat emptor.
  2. Tis the season for preseason rankings, selections, lists, and all sorts of fun but ultimately meaningless analysis. Still, until the first games tip off just over 10 days from now, this is all we’ve got. Basketball ProspectusDan Hanner has produced his preseason analysis of all 345 Division I teams, and as he notes, some of the results of his model may well surprise you. For example, the model loves UCLA and all of its incoming talent but isn’t nearly as high on Louisville and all of its returning talent. It seems to think that the Big 12 conference race is going to be one for the ages with eight teams at .500 or better, but it’s not buying into the hype that NC State is ready to overtake one of its rivals to win the ACC. If you’re a numbers geek who gets off on efficiency analytics, it will be interesting to do a cross-tabbed comparison between Hanner’s preseason rankings and the Ken Pomeroy preseason rankings which are due to release sometime later this week.
  3. For non-stat geeks, there’s always the controversial RPI, which despite its myriad shortcomings, remains the “organizational tool” of choice for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Building off of SI.com writer Luke Winn’s previous work examining several power conference schools gaming the RPI by playing (and beating) good mid-majors in the non-conference slate, TSN’s Ryan Fagan takes the next step and reviews a number of mid-major programs that have figured out the best way to prepare a team in terms of both the RPI and its corresponding mental toughness is to play those kinds of games, often on the road in places like Lawrence, Durham or Pittsburgh. He mentions that Davidson, Lehigh, Detroit, Belmont, UNC Asheville and Long Beach State (what else is new?) have all taken this tack with their non-conference scheduling this season. We’re certainly not complaining — these are some of the best games of the November and December months of the schedule.
  4. Iowa State’s transfer project keeps right on truckin’, with the weekend news that USC point guard Maurice Jones has matriculated there and will become eligible in the 2013-14 season. While Fred Hoiberg has picked up another talented piece for his backcourt — Jones did everything but serve fajitas to the fans in the Galen Center last year — there is a degree of oddness about his departure from the Trojan program. According to a September statement released by the school, Jones was declared academically ineligible at USC and would be forced to miss the season as a result. Jones disputes this characterization, stating unequivocally that he “just got suspended from the school for a year, but it wasn’t because of my grades. […] It was something that happened at the school. I can’t really say what it was, but it wasn’t my grades.” It would seem somewhat unusual for a school to suspend a player for a different reason while using academic issues as a cover story, so we’re not sure what exactly is going on with this one — what we do know is that Iowa State has picked up a talented waterbug of a player who should seamlessly move into a starting role to replace Korie Lucious (another transfer) next season.
  5. With Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky all populating the preseason top five lists, this is as good a time as any to make sure that you’re regularly reading the WDRB.com College Basketball Notebook from Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich. Based in Louisville, the duo is perfectly situated to report on many of the anecdotes, rumors and tidbits that come out of this basketball-crazed Fertile Crescent on a daily basis. In this week’s version, for example, Crawford and Bozich discuss the numerous suitors for Andrew Wiggins, Tom Crean’s threat to use his bench productively, Calipari’s naysaying about his latest batch of fabulous freshmen, and Pitino’s verbal merengue around his contract extension with the Cardinals. Trust us,  you’ll learn something new every time you stop by — make it part of you weekly reading.
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Analyzing the Big 12 Early Season Tournaments: Oklahoma & West Virginia Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 12th, 2012

Today is the official opening to the 2012-13 college basketball season as schools will be able to start officially practicing Friday night. Before then, though, we’re going to take a look at the various pre-conference tournaments that have become synonymous with the first month of college basketball. Nearly every Big 12 school is competing in one of those tournaments this season and we’ll take time each day this week to preview each bracket, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico to New York City. Monday, we took a look at Texas and Kansas. On Tuesday, Kansas State and the NIT Preseason Tip-Off were previewed.  On Wednesday, we analyzed how Iowa State and Oklahoma State will stack up in their preseason tournaments.  Today, Oklahoma and West Virginia take the stage as we break down the Old Spice Classic. 

Old Spice Classic 

Date: November 22, 23 and 25

Location: The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida

Teams: Clemson, Davidson, Gonzaga, Marist, Oklahoma, UTEP, Vanderbilt and West Virginia

There’s a good field this year.

This may be my favorite preseason tournament this year. Sure, this isn’t the Champions Classic or the Battle 4 Atlantis but I love it because of all the symmetry among some of these schools. Thanks to conference realignment, Oklahoma and West Virginia find themselves in the same field but ESPN cleverly placed them on opposite sides of the bracket, so there’d be a small chance for a Big 12 game in November (I’d love to see that come to life). Also, the Mountaineers have a unrelated non-conference game with Gonzaga to kick off the college hoops marathon in November, which then will be a rematch of a second-round game in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, which then could also be a possible Old Spice championship game matchup. SYMMETRY!

Last year was an awful one for Clemson, considering they went from a Tournament team in 2010-11 to 16-15 overall. And they have to play Gonzaga? It’s not happening, Tigers. As for Gonzaga, they’re getting more pub this season than any other. They’ve had the pieces to make deep runs in the Tournament some years but haven’t been to the Elite Eight since the 1999 team that gave eventual champion UConn a scare.

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Morning Five: 05.31.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 31st, 2012

  1. The NBA Draft Lottery was held on Wednesday evening immediately prior to the Eastern Conference Finals between Miami and Boston, and it appears that the winner of the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes will be the New Orleans Hornets. Interestingly, for the eighth straight season, the team with the worst record in the NBA — the Charlotte Bobcats this time around — did not receive the top overall pick. Michael Jordan’s team is relegated to the second slot, where a number of collegiate stars including Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Florida’s Bradley Beal, Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Connecticut’s Andre Drummond will be in the mix. Keep an eye on NBADraft.net and DraftExpress over the next few weeks to track player movement up and down the board. Also keep in mind that we here at RTC are in the midst of breaking down the top 35 collegians as we head through June into draft season (with an assist from NBADraft.net). We’ve evaluated quite a few of the guys so far who are hovering at the bottom of the first round in most projections, with plenty more to come in the next few weeks.
  2. Conference realignment theater is the longest running show in college basketball, and Luke Winn takes the opportunity to examine a question that far too many schools — especially at the mid-major level — fail to ask themselves: Is an upgrade in conference affiliation actually better for our programs, especially our marquee ones? For a strong basketball mid-major from a one-bid conference like Davidson, would Bob McKillop’s program be better to position itself as the dominant program in a weakened SoCon (possibly losing College of Charleston and Appalachian State); or would the stronger play be to move up to the CAA and hope that the conference remains a multiple-bid league even after removing VCU, Old Dominion and Georgia State from its ranks? It’s a very tough exercise in risk assessment, and one that we don’t envy Davidson administrators having to make.
  3. From the department of they-take-themselves-way-too-seriously, it appears that Kentucky and Indiana still can’t play nice and learn to compromise with each other in a way that will give college basketball fans (which, at last check, was comprised of legions of UK and IU fans) what they want — a regular series between two regional rivals that rank among the top six programs in the history of the sport. After initial talks stalled, records show that Indiana suggested a four-year deal that included the next two games at neutral site Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, followed by a home-and-home the next two years. Kentucky rejected the offer, citing problems with the initial dates proposed and other red herrings as reasons to not play the game. All hand-wringingn aside, the bottom line is this — so long as Calipari remains in Lexington, the Wildcats will not return to Assembly Hall in Bloomington. It’s up to you to figure out why.
  4. We continue on with our SEC version of the M5 today with news that the league’s head coaches have agreed upon a scheduling format for the new 14-team conference beginning next year. We already knew that the league was moving to an 18-game schedule, but it remained unclear how they planned on instituting the rotation. The answer to that question is that each school will be paired with a ‘permanent’ rival that it will play twice each season, four other schools that it will play twice, and eight schools that it will play once to get to 18 games. The rivalry pairings — Kentucky-Florida, Tennessee-Vanderbilt, South Carolina-Georgia, Auburn-Alabama, Mississippi State-Ole Miss, LSU-Texas A&M, Arkansas-Missouri — make sense with the exception of the addition of the two former Big 12 schools. Forgiving geographic considerations of proximity, it probably would have been better to keep LSU-Arkansas as rivals and pair the two new schools together from our viewpoint. This format will result in an unbalanced schedule, but at least each team will see everyone else in the league once.
  5. Finally, one of those SEC schools goes by the name of Auburn, and at least on the hardwood, the Tigers have been an unmitigated disaster for the better part of a decade. If you’re interested in learning how a school with the financial resources of Auburn ($104M in revenue in 2010-11) cannot figure out how to back its way into an NCAA Tournament bid every now and again (last appearance: 2003), this article by AL.com traces its roots of futility back to an athletic department in chaos eight years ago. While we’re sure that there are downstream issues still present as a result of those mistakes many years ago, what is left out of the article is that basketball simply isn’t taken seriously at a place like Auburn. The fans and boosters don’t demand even so much as mediocrity; so a moribund program is what they’ve gotten.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 16th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander believes Long Beach State‘s early exit at the hands of New Mexico shouldn’t cloud the legacy of the outgoing 49er senior class. Casper Ware, T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson and Eugene Phelps came to LBSU one season after the 49ers won six games and beat Xavier and Pittsburgh in this season.
  • Also in Portland, behind a strong game from Peyton Siva, Louisville handled Davidson and now must prepare for the Lobos. Any chances of a deep run by Louisville hinge on Siva stringing together strong performances instead of his on-again off-again style that’s drawn criticism this season.
  • A matchup of contrasting styles pits Florida against Virginia this afternoon. Expect the Gators to push the tempo on both ends with run-outs, quick threes and defensive pressure to try to throw the Cavaliers out of sorts.
  • The Missouri Tigers have won over 1,500 games in their history, but none of them have come in the Elite Eight. Mizzou’s quest to end that streak begins today when it takes on Norfolk State.
  • They may be seeded three spots better, but Marquette will be in a de facto road environment for Saturday’s tilt with Murray State, as the KFC Yum! Center hosts the third round game 3.5 hours away from the Racers’ campus.

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