Tough Weekend in LA: UCLA and USC Face NCAA Problems Again

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 4th, 2012

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

Situated only 12 miles apart, an angst-inducing, traffic-clogged car ride away from one another, USC and UCLA have for many years sustained an adversarial existence on the athletic playing fields. The Trojans have dominated their cross-town rivals on the gridiron of late, while the Bruins have lorded over their cardinal-and-gold clad foes on the basketball court. The rivalry is alive and well, and both teams continue to make strides hoping to find ways to outperform one another in the revenue-producing sports. It starts with recruiting, the elemental building block to any successful program. Coaches at top programs like UCLA and USC must be able to seek out and sway the nation’s best high school players to their respective institutions. The meteoric rise of recruiting, propelled by expansive coverage from general scouting sites like Rivals, Scout, 247sports and ESPN Recruiting Nation, has pushed the art of courtship into the national spotlight, and coaches/programs are now judged on their ability not only to win games and draw fans but to also attract the best prospects in the country. The two LA schools have long stood as premium destinations for top-tier high school talents, but in today’s financially-intertwined recruiting market, these programs’ reputations, coaches, facilities and prime location – who doesn’t enjoy the comfort of a sunbath on the way to practice nearly every day of the year? – don’t hold the alluring force they once did. Often times persuading the cream of the high school crop requires more than what NCAA legislation allows.

The subject of an NCAA investigation, Anderson and Muhammad might not see the court in 2012-13 (Photo credit: Albert Dickson/SportingNews)

So even when an historic program like UCLA reels in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class – as it did in 2012, built on the backs of four commitments and featuring the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, Shabazz Muhammad – at least some measure of suspicion is warranted. Athletic director Dan Guerrero revealed on Monday that the NCAA has shifted its analytical eye toward that prized recruiting haul. In a statement released by the school, Guerrero confirmed that two members of the Bruins’ incoming class have yet to receive eligibility clearance for the upcoming season. A recent report by Scout’s BruinReportOnline.com  indicated three players (Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker) are in danger of losing their eligibility, but ESPN Los Angeles, citing an unnamed source, reported the ongoing probe concerns potential recruiting violations on behalf of Anderson and Muhammad. Parker, according to the same source, has been cleared to play this season. Muhammad’s recruitment has been subjected to NCAA scrutiny over the past several months, with particular concern over his relationship with financial advisers Ken Kavanagh and Benjamin Lincoln and his method of payment for several unofficial visits. Muhammad was held out of UCLA’s recent foreign exhibition tour to China, but Anderson and Parker both attended with the team (though Parker did not play due to injury).

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Morning Five: Labor Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 3rd, 2012

  1. What appeared to be a rebirth of basketball at UCLA is quickly turning into a potential nightmare as reports of a potential NCAA investigation into the recruitment of the Bruins top three incoming recruits has surfaced. We have known for a while that the NCAA was investigating the recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad, the star of the incoming class, but what is new is that the NCAA is also investigating the recruitment of Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker, both top 20 recruits. Details on the investigation are sketchy at best–it is not even known if this is tied to the Muhammad investigation or if this is a separate case. Whatever it is it is not good news for the Bruins who were hoping to become relevant nationally for the first time since 2008.
  2. UCLA’s crosstown rival USC had its own issues this weekend as the investigation into the Trojans own scandal revealed evidence that implicates former basketball player Davon Jefferson as well as football star Joe McKnight. One of the individuals being investigated reportedly admitted that he gave Jefferson $3,700 in cash. With the other issues the school has had they could be facing a fairly harsh penalty from the NCAA if there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims. If that wasn’t enough bad news, the school also announced yesterday that Maurice Jones, who led the team in scoring, assists, and steals last season, would miss the upcoming season after being declared academically ineligible. While the Trojans should be much improved from last season (read: not absolutely atrocious) this will clearly be a big blow to any NCAA aspirations they may have had.
  3. The Trojans weekend was probably only topped by the one that Billy Gillispie just experienced.  Not only did the Texas Tech coach have to deal with reports of what some have called a “player mutiny” he was also hospitalized for an undisclosed medical condition. The news of the so-called mutiny should not be a shock given Gillispie’s reputation as the alleged injustices involved the hours they were practicing and “mental games” that Gillispie was playing. As for the hospitalization it appears to have been a hypertensive emergency where Gillispie’s blood pressure rose to dangerous levels, but from reports he seems to be doing well at this time. Even with that good news Gillispie has a lot on his plate when he gets out of the hospital.
  4. Wagner got a boost on Friday when the NCAA granted Dwaun Anderson a waiver allowing him to play for the Seahawks at the start of this season instead of January as some expected. Anderson, who was Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, had enrolled at Michigan State last summer before transferring to Wagner, which raised some question as to when he would be eligible. Anderson provides an already solid Wagner team with a level of athleticism that could bring the team, which is led by first-year head coach Bashir Mason, to another level assuming they can integrate him into their current group of players.
  5. If you are not familiar with Kansas forward Justin Wesley you may be hearing a lot about his exploits in the near-future even if it is not on a basketball court (well at least a real one). The Jayhawk junior, who averaged 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game last year, has been selected to portray the legendary Wilt Chamberlain in an upcoming independent film titled “Jayhawkers”, which looks at Chamberlain’s impact on race relations in and around the Kansas campus. There is a chance that this film will not get made due to a legal dispute with the Chamberlain family not to mention some questionable funding issues. Given the nature of the film, which is being made by a Kansas professor, we suspect that the film would not spend too much time on the court where the only part of Wesley’s game that resembles Chamberlain’s is his free throw shooting (49.9% for Wesley and 51.1% for Chamberlain) or the Big Dipper’s prodigious appetite for, uh, extracurricular activities.
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2008 One-and-Dones – Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 1st, 2008

Happy Fiscal New Year, everyone! 

Along with the turn of the fiscal calendar, July 1 also represents the turn of the academic calendar.  This is particularly appropriate for hoopheads, as the NBA’s season has ended and the draft madness that dominated bandwidth for the last two months after the Mario Miracle has died down to a whimper (well, there’s always 2009, right?).  All there really is to look forward to until October is the Ego Known as Kobe Bryant’s attempt to restore American hegemony in the international (read: Olympics) hoops realm.  That comes in August. 

So now is as good a time as any to take a look back at the 2007-08 season and once again review how the NBA’s one-and-done rule worked out for the schools that enabled it.  You might recall that we took a look at this last year and concluded: Ohio St., UNC, Texas… good.  Georgia Tech, Washington… not so good.  We also mentioned that several schools – Stanford, Tennessee, Arizona and Kansas included – were hanging onto players who could have been one-and-dones, but weren’t.  With the exception of the often comatose Arizona team, the other three as a result had fantastic squads last year. 

To start it off, let’s refresh ourselves with who the Rivals Top 20 recruits were coming into 2007-08.  As you can see below, we added a few columns that outline the player’s freshman numbers (pts/rebs/assts or blocks) and his team’s record as well as whether he went into the draft or is returning next season. 

So was it worth it?  Our takes:

Kansas St.  - Well Worth It.    K-State rode the best.freshman.ever Michael Beasley and sorta-but-not-really one-and-done Bill Walker (he was a medical redshirt in 06-07) as far as it could, which included a third-place finish in the competitive Big 12, a second-round NCAA tournament appearance and the first home win in twenty-four years over its rival and eventual national champion Kansas Jayhawks.  In other words, K-State’s best season in a generation.  The important aspect of Beasley and Walker’s one-and-dones for KSU head coach Frank Martin is to capitalize on future recruiting from the good will and national notoriety mustered by these players while on campus.  If he does not do so, and it’s soon back to the bottom of the Big 12 barrel for K-State, then the potential positive impacts of these stars passing through Manhattan, KS, were missed. 

Memphis – Well Worth It.  This too is a no-brainer.  #1 overall pick Derrick Rose converted a competitive yet incomplete team that would consistently flame out prior to the Final Four against other elite teams into a team that probably should have won the national title.  Rose led Memphis to a 38-2 record and had the Tigers in the argument for the most dominant season in the post-Wooden era before its epic free-throw meltdown in the championship game.  Even only as a runner-up, a Memphis fan would be hard pressed to find much else wrong with the 07-08 season, and as such, the one-year stopover by Derrick Rose was well worth it. 

Memphis Would Take A Rose Every Year (AP photo/Seth Wenig)

UCLA – Worth It.  This was a tough one, because UCLA came into the 07-08 season already having been to the last two Final Fours.  Anything short of that measure was going to be a disappointment (although Bruin fans might argue anything less than a national title is a disappointment).  We’ll argue, however, that Kevin Love brought a toughness and star-quality to Westwood that had been lacking on Ben Howland’s previous teams.  Not to mention that UCLA last season at 35-4 was simply a better team than the ones led by backcourt players (Afflalo and Farmar).  More than anything, Love’s presence solidifed UCLA again as a marquee destination for top-notch recruits, as Howland has penned five of the Rivals Top 50 in the Class of 2008. 

Arizona – Worth It.  It’s quite possible that Jerryd Bayless last season saved Arizona from breaking its NCAA Tournament streak of 24 consecutive appearances.  Arizona certainly didn’t have a great year amidst all the Lute Olson divorce and feud with Kevin O’Neill turmoils, but with a final record of 19-15, you have to figure that Bayless’ fantastic freshman year was worth a few wins that put the Cats back into the field of 65.  But that’s about all it was worth.  It certainly didn’t make Arizona into a contender of any kind, and it’s doubtful whether there will be any residual effects from Bayless’ time in Tucson.   

Indiana – Worth It.  Eric Gordon‘s arrival in Bloomington was worth it if for no other reason than it gave Hoosier fans something to be excited about for approximately three months (Nov-Jan).  Now that the wheels have come completely tumbling off of the Indiana program, we have to wonder just how long their fans will covet and remember the halcyon days when IU was 16-1 and ranked #7 in the AP Poll.  Of course, E-Giddy was partially responsible for Indiana’s subsequent collapse (18.2 ppg on 37.2% FG/25.3% 3FG shooting in the last 13 games (8-5)), but we put most of that on the ultimate dismissal of Kelvin Sanctions whereupon the entire team simply quit playing.  So in our view, this one-and-done represents the last great season that Indiana will have for a while.  Too bad it couldn’t have worked out better for everyone involved. 

Gordon Left More than a Bloody Tooth in His Wake (photo credit:  Bloomington Herald-Times)

USC – Not Worth It.    For a while during the season, it appeared as if the OJ Mayo one-and-done situation might just work out for Tim Floyd and the Trojan Nation.  Similar to K-State, USC hadn’t seen this much hoops attention in years – with Mayo as the headliner, USC played numerous national television games, beat UCLA at Pauley, and ended up tied for third in the rugged Pac-10.  Of course, the wheels came off when USC failed to show up to its hyped battle against K-State in the first round of the NCAAs and the propriety of Mayo’s eligibility was called into question by ESPN soon thereafter.  Throw in Davon Jefferson (a one-and-done from the Class of 2006 who went to prep school for a year before enrolling at USC) and his foolish decision to enter this year’s draft (undrafted) and we’re not sure just how successful USC can claim 2007-08 was.  After all, the 2006-07 edition of the Trojans, led by Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt, also finished third in the Pac-10 but had a better overall record (23-11) and played into the second weekend of March Madness (giving Carolina all it wanted in the process).  Finally, with another uber-recruit, Demar DeRozan, coming to USC next year, Floyd needs to be hyper-vigilant about those nefarious agents and runners in light of the Mayo debacle because more eyes will be watching.   

NC State – Not Worth It.  Hey, remember all the preseason talk about how NC State was the third best team in the ACC, and a definite NCAA Tournament team?  Yeah, we don’t either.  Actually, we do, and few of the pundits will own up to the fact that it was a terrible prediction.  For the record, NC State ended up 15-16, but the Wolfpack were 4-12 in the ACC (worse than the previous year’s 5-11 campaign that inspired such foolishness) and lost their last nine games.  So what did JJ Hickson’s presence in Raleigh bring to the team?  Other than team chemistry problems, of course?  It doesn’t appear that he brought much else than an ability to get himself drafted.  NC State will likely be significantly better without him next season. 

What Chemistry Problems? 

LSU – Not Worth It.  While we’re in the business of ripping bad teams with one-and-done players, we shouldn’t overlook the LSU Tigers.  LSU seems to have one of these guys about every other year anyway, so it probably doesn’t matter much in terms of long-term effects, but a 13-18 record with a loss at Tulane calls into question the value of Anthony Randolph’s tenure on campus in Baton Rouge.  Certainly the mail-it-in coaching style of Mr. Misty Champagne didn’t help things out much, but even with John Wooden coaching that team, we’re not sure how much Randolph could have lifted the Bayou Bengals.

Others.  These teams all had one-and-dones of questionable efficacy.  Put another way, these teams probably wouldn’t have been much better nor worse had these players gone elsewhere.  Exhibit A is Texas A&M‘s DeAndre Jordan.  TAMU was a tourney team anyway, led by Joseph Jones and Josh Carter, and it’s doubtful that Jordan’s four double-figure points games and two double-figure rebounds games in the Big 12 had much of an effect on A&M’s successful season.  Not Worth It.  Syracuse fans may disagree with us here, but despite Donte Greene‘s exceptional first-year numbers, we find it hard to believe that the Orange would have been any less average than they already were last year (21-14, 9-10 Big East).  After all, Jim Boeheim could take five schoolgirls and make them competitive - he just wouldn’t win the title with them (unless Carmela Anthony was on the team).  The question is whether Syracuse fans are pleased with a third-round NIT appearance, and we all know the answer to that – a resounding no.  For a school with multiple F4s and a recent championship banner, missing the NCAAs completely is a failing season, no matter the reasonable expectation.  Not Worth It.  Finally, we look at Ohio St., who took Kosta Koufos to replace last year’s one-and-donest, Greg Oden.  The answer here once again comes down to the question of expectation vs. reality of the situation.  Without Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook, it wasn’t realistic for Thad Matta to make another run at the F4; but the bar has been raised so high at Ohio St. under Matta that a 24-13 season leading to an NIT championship must necessarily be viewed as less-than-stellar.  Winning the Capital One Bowl doesn’t match the Rose Bowl, does it, Buckeye fans?  We’ll call this one a Push.   

Final Thoughts.  With so many freshmen leaving this year from the top 20 Rivals list, we’d guess only Florida with Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons returning may be a team to really watch closely next year.  Otherwise, keep an eye on UCLA, Wake Forest and UConn, each of which has multiple top twenty players coming onto campus next year. 

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2008 NBA Draft Musings

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2008

Thanks to N-Bug’s liveblog of the NBA Draft last night, we felt like we were almost in the building sniffing David Stern’s manscent and Darrell Arthur’s ire.  What’s the record for lowest pick of someone in the Green Room?  The best we can muster is Rashard Lewis at #32 ten years ago.  Anyone got a lower pick left stewing in the Green Room all night?

Unfounded Rumors of a Kidney Problem Sunk Arthur’s Stock (photo credit: AP)

Darrell Arthur’s Kidney.  The story of last night’s draft, of course, was the unsubstantiated rumor of a serious undisclosed kidney problem that arose during Darrell Arthur’s medical tests.  Luke Winn details the report much better than we can here, but suffice it to say that it now appears that this kidney issue was a complete red herring, and the Memphis Grizzlies (through two subsequent trades) got an absolute steal at the #27 slot.  Winn suggests that the whispers about Arthur’s health could have cost him in the neighborhood of $1.3M over the course of his rookie contract.  Shouldn’t we just go ahead and put Slim Shady at the top of next year’s ROY contenders (Paul Pierce-style) based upon this slight alone?  He’ll have gobs of additional motivation, that’s for sure. 

One-and-Done Redux.  We’ve written about 1-and-dones until we’re blue in the face, but let’s face it, the Class of 2007 is arguably one of the greatest HS classes of all-time.  Four of the top five picks, seven of the top fourteen, and a record ten of the thirty first-rounders were freshmen.  Throw in the eight sophomores chosen in the first round, and that means 72% of the guaranteed contracts that went to American players were to players with 2 years or less of college experience.  Only five seniors were chosen in the first round, and the first at #12 overall, Jason Thompson from Rider, resulted in a perplexed “who?” from much of the crowd and viewing audience.  Again, there is no question that the NBA rule helped in terms of marketing these players.  Thanks to the Season of the Freshman, every basketball fan in America is now intimately familiar with the games of Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Kevin Love, and so on.  If they’d all gone pro after high school, we’d have little to no clue what those teams were getting.

Mayo Posing as Stringer Bell (photo credit: SI.com) 

Beautiful Disasters.  Two of the one-and-dones who were bound and determined to stay in the draft no matter what anyone told them were DeAndre Jordan and Bill Walker.  (note: we were happy to see that our feelings of overratedness (see: HoopsAddict podcast at 34:30) with Jordan and Anthony Randolph were corroborated on draft night, although not so much with Russell Westbrook, chosen fourth!)  Both got drafted in the second round (#35 and #47 respectively) but last night had to be severely disappointing to both players, as Jordan was being talked about as a lottery pick earlier this draft season, and Walker last year (before blowing out his knee again).  Does Walker with his former #1 player in his class pedigree and seemingly constant knee injuries remind anyone else of Randy Livingston?  But the prize for biggest clowns of the draft go to USC’s Davon Jefferson and Mississippi State’s Jamont Gordon, both of whom were undrafted last night.  As for Jefferson, this one-and-done prospect declared early, signed with an agent (assuring he couldn’t return to USC), and then proceeded to float his way through the pre-draft camp.  He was a possible second-rounder at that point, but his uninspired effort in Orlando ensured that he would be left on the outside looking in.  Gordon’s situation was even worse, as he completely skipped the pre-draft camp (incredulously assuming he was a first-rounder), also signed with an agent, and otherwise did nothing to show that he was a serious candidate for the draft.  Ok, we get it, you reallyreallyreallyreally want to play in the NBA, and you reallyreallyreallyreally think you’re good enough… but you guys really need to start doing some listening when people who make these decisions (scouts, GMs, draftniks) are telling you otherwise.  Good luck in the D-League, guys.   

Katz discusses some of the other early entry disappointments in last night’s draft. 

Sideshow Bob Was Drafted by the Suns Last Night (photo credit: SI.com)

Conference Call.  A year ago Pac-10 coaches were telling us that they had far and away the most talent in the nation, suggesting that there are as many as a dozen first-round picks on their squads in 2007-08.  Well, it turns out they weren’t that far off, as there were seven first rounders last night, including three of the top five (#3 Mayo, #4 Westbrook, #5 Love, #10 Brook Lopez, #11 Jerryd Bayless, #15 Robin Lopez, #21 Ryan Anderson), and twelve players chosen overall.  Also keep in mind that several other probable first rounders from the Pac-10, such as Darren Collison (UCLA), Chase Budinger (Arizona) and Jeff Pendergraph (Arizona St.) elected to stay in college another year.  The Big 12 was next with nine players chosen, including four first rounders and five (!!) players – tying the 2006 UConn Huskies and 2007 Florida Gators - from the National Champs (#13 Brandon Rush, #27 Darrell Arthur, #34 Mario Chalmers, #52 Darnell Jackson, #56 Sasha Kaun).  Throw in former Jayhawk JR Giddens (#30) and an astonishing six players passed through the KU program en route to this draft.  The SEC had six draft picks, and the Big East and ACC had four each.  The usually-pathetic Big 10 once again finished last among the BCS conferences with only three picks.  See table below.

 

Not NBA Material.  We reserve this spot to formally bid adieu to some of the notable collegians who have entertained us for the last four years, but whom the NBA has decided are not worthy to play in their league.  Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.), Demarcus Nelson (Duke), David Padgett (Louisville), Josh Duncan (Xavier), and Pat Calathes (St. Joseph’s) are but a few of the names we’ll probably never see again unless they become coaches someday.  The honor of the biggest undrafted name, though, goes to Tennessee star and cancer survivor Chris Lofton, who holds the all-time mark in the SEC for three-pointers, and ranks third in NCAA history on that measure.  If there’s one guy we’d bank on finding his way to an NBA court near you in the next couple of years (even for a cup of coffee), it would probably be this kid.  He stares toughness and grit directly in the eyes before they walk away in shame. 

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Orlando Predraft Camp Days 3 & 4

Posted by rtmsf on May 31st, 2008

We’re running a little late today on updating the news from the Orlando Predraft Camp (Day 1 and Day 2 reviews archived), so we’ll make amends by combining a report from both Thursday and Friday’s games and workouts. In short, Carolina fans had best hope Bobby Frasor’s injury is 100% healed next year because Ty Lawson now appears a lock for the first round, and NBDL star Mike Taylor (who?) may have played his way into the draft during the course of this week.

We’ll start first with some of the impressions given by DraftExpress on the fifteen ‘elite’ prospects who held workouts today but did not participate in games.

  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
    • Clearly the most impressive workout of any of the 15 players belonged to Derrick Rose. Not so much for what he showed, but mostly just for what he is. He got up and down the floor fluidly and smoothly, covering tons of ground with each and every stride, and looked excellent changing speeds and operating skillfully with both hands in the ball-handling drills. His athleticism is nothing short of stunning, starting with his phenomenal first step, his ability to change gears, and his incredible explosiveness finishing around the basket. He came out with a business-like approach, and left no doubt about just how unique his talent-level and physical tools are. A nice bonus was the way he shot the ball, hitting more than one NBA 3-pointer and looking solid from mid-range as well.
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

    • Also catching our eye was Russell Westbrook, who came out very seriously and didn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. He was fantastic in the transition drills, flying up and down the court with his terrific athleticism, and also shot the ball fairly well after starting off slowly. His ball-handling skills are just OK at this point.
  • OJ Mayo, USC
    • O.J. Mayo was very smooth and very confident in everything he did, barely missing in the perimeter shooting drills. He’s clearly not on the same level athletically as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook for example, but already has the looks of an NBA player with the way his body looks and how he conducts himself out on the floor.
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas St.

    • Michael Beasley looked super fluid and athletic getting up and down the court, finishing with either hand and looking to be in pretty good shape. He attacked the drills with a lot of competitive fire, but most definitely was clowning around way too much throughout the day right underneath the noses of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. There were a few people that expressed concern with some of his antics over the past few days.
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas

    • Darrell Arthur looks like someone who is going to impress mightily in workouts based off what we saw here. He passes the eye test and then some on first glance, and then showed really nice athleticism to go along with a fairly high skill level in the drills, although oddly attempting to bank every 3-pointer he took. He struggled a little bit remembering what to do in some of the drills, though.
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford

    • Speaking of lukewarm impressions, Brook Lopez didn’t do a whole lot to ease the concerns NBA people have about him, not moving all that well up and down the floor and showing a very average skill-level in most of the drills.

Among the rest of the players who were actually playing games, here are a few of the high (and low) lights (h/t to the usual suspects, DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Goodman & Katz):

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
    • Goodman – The speedy North Carolina point guard made the most intelligent move of the camp, coming up with a mysterious hip injury and bowing out of the rest of the camp after a terrific performance in his only game. Lawson displayed his athleticism and, according to NBA executives, should have solidified a place in the first round.
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
    • DraftExpress – Wayne Ellington bounced back in a big way after his disastrous performance yesterday, starting off extremely hot on his way to a 7-13, 17 point outing in 20 minutes. His shot simply fell for him at a much better clip, as he did a great job moving off screens and being aggressive using fakes and utilizing his strong one-dribble pull-up. On the negative side, he again did not look very good putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the rim, not standing out that much in terms of his size, quickness, toughness at the rim or ball-handling skills. He still needs to have a strong showing in the last day of the camp if he’s truly serious about making a run at the late first round.
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky

    • DraftExpress – Last, but certainly not least, Joe Crawford again had another very strong game (15 points, 6-11 FG) as the go-to scoring option for his team. He got to the rim very effectively, shot the ball well from mid-range and long-range, was excellent coming off screens and played fairly well in transition. His defensive effort was good, particularly in terms of pressuring the ball, and he showed absolutely no hesitation in anything he does, which people here have to like. He needs to become a little bit more efficient with his ball-handling (he pounds the ball a little too much), but it’s hard not to like what he brought to the floor today.
  • Mike Taylor, Iowa St./NBDL
    • Goodman - The athletic ex-Iowa State guard, who spent this past season in the NBDL, appeared to have the easiest adjustment of anyone in the camp and rightfully so. He’s been playing against older players and is also accustomed to the NBA game. Taylor was aggressive in getting to the basket and also proved he can make shots. He had 24 points on Thursday night.
  • Gary Forbes, UMass
    • NBADraft.net - If there was to be a player of the day award, then without a doubt it would have to be given to Gary Forbes (30pts, 15-16ft, 2stl). Even though his team lost, it was no fault of Forbes, who almost singlehandedly brought his team back from a large deficit. Although he was very impressive scoring, he may have been just as good on the defensive end, where he chased Richard Roby (3-9fg) off screens and forced him to put the ball on the floor and settle for difficult shots.
  • Josh Duncan, Xavier (OH)

    • DraftExpress – Josh Duncan continued the trend of Portsmouth Invitational Tournament standouts who were able to translate their excellent performance from the all-senior pre-draft camp in April to this setting as well—scoring 20 points (5-8 FG, 9-10 FT) and pulling down 6 rebounds. Duncan knocked down a number of open shots from the perimeter, scored a bit in the post off good feeds from his guards.
  • Davon Jefferson, USC
    • DraftExpress – Davon Jefferson continued not to show the type of effort or fire you would expect to see from a player who is currently fighting for his professional future, after having prematurely hired an agent following an average freshman season. His conditioning looks poor, he’s dribbling the ball excessively, and he’s yet to make use of the terrific athletic ability that made him a prospect to start with. This is turning into a very disappointing pre-draft camp for him.
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA

    • Katz – UCLA junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hasn’t stood out enough to warrant staying in the draft. He still may, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of buzz around him.
  • Ronald Steele, Alabama
    • Goodman – He still doesn’t look like himself — and for good reason. The Alabama junior point guard hasn’t played competitively in more than a year and needs to return to school.
  • Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
    • DraftExpress – Jeremy Pargo had a game-high 20 points (7-16 FG, 5-7 FT) to go along with 4 assists. Unfortunately, he also had 6 turnovers and missed three of his four 3-pointers. He pushed the ball up the floor extremely well, showed terrific explosiveness getting by his man and giving himself options in the half-court, and also flashed some glimpses of solid court-vision, but his poor decision making led to way too many turnovers, which has typically been his problem. Going back to school and improving his decision making skills looks like a very good option at this point.

Final thought – we’re very excited to see how the height/weight and strength tests look when they come out.

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Orlando Pre-Draft Camp Day 2

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2008

So Wednesday was Day 2 of the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp (Day 1′s notes are here), and once again we’ll try to synthesize some of the reports coming from various sources who are actually attending the camp. Hopefully we’ll start to get a sense as to who is improving or shatting all over decreasing their stock. Our sources today are DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Jeff Goodman and Doug Gottlieb.

Players Doing Well So Far:

Lawson Really Must Not Want to Return to UNC (photo credit: USA Today)

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
    • DraftExpressTy Lawson was a cut above everyone else on the floor here, showing incredible quickness taking an outlet pass and getting his team out in transition, and fantastic court vision finding open teammates on the move. He made the game very simple for all of his teammates, as all they had to do was run with him and make sure their hands were ready for the pass.
    • GottliebBest point guard here so far – UNC’s Ty Lawson, trailed closely by Sean Singletary. While Singletary is more refined than Lawson and seems to be using his experience from being here last year to his benefit, Lawson has an extra step that you just cannot teach.
    • NBADraft.net - (10pts, 5ast, 3stl) From the moment he came on the floor he changed the tempo of the game. Pushing the ball in transition, he made some nice decisions finding open teammates or getting to the hoop and finishing. The highlight for him may have been the fact that he completely outplayed Lester Hudson, the man he was matched up with. Not only did he get by Hudson at will of the dribble, but he held him scoreless for the longer part of the game.
    • Gary Parrish also wrote an article yesterday explaining how shocked Ty Lawson has been by UNC fans’ reactions to his attempts to enter the NBA Draft. Many of the same people who congratulated him as a Tar Heel are now trashing him through this process. Maybe that’s why he’s playing so well?
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky
    • DraftExpressJoe Crawford had a very strong game with 19 points on 6-11 shooting, thanks to an extremely hot and aggressive start that kept his team in the game. He took the ball to the rack extremely well, showing smoothing body control, solid ball-handling skills and impressive overall scoring instincts, and also knocked down a number of shots from outside.
    • GottliebKentucky’s Joe Crawford and UAB’s Robert Vaden both looked very much at ease with the added 3-point range needed for this level of basketball. Crawford looks smaller that the 6-5 he has always been listed at, but he was explosive in terms of scoring in the first half of his first game.
    • NBADraft.netJoe Crawford was one of the big surprises of Day One. His 19 points were the high point total on the day. Crawford was able to use his quick first step to get by his man and to the rim. He also knocked down 2-3 from 3 showing the ability to pull up off the dribble from distance. Crawford appears on his way to claiming a spot in the second round if he can keep up his quality play.
  • Pat Calathes, St. Joseph’s
    • DraftExpress – Pat Calathes only got to play 15 minutes (sitting an extensive amount of time between stints), but really made the most of his time out on the floor, scoring 10 points and dishing off 5 assists (compared to just one turnover), many of the spectacular variety. His ball-handling skills, vision and all-around creativity were on full display throughout, looking aggressive and intelligent while not forcing the issue in the least bit. He would have had even more assists playing with some more skilled big man. He seems like a lock to get drafted at this point, and may be able to work himself considerably up the board if he continues to play like this in the next two days.
    • NBADraft.net - (10pts, 5ast) Showed some nice moves off the dribble and in transition, he was able to use his quickness to get by the defense. He seems to have put on some weight since Portsmouth, but still looks extremely skinny. He can knock down the mid-range shot, but with his unorthodox release he seems to lack range out to the NBA 3.
  • JR Giddens, New Mexico
    • Gottlieb – Giddens looked like, well, J.R. Giddens of old. He can still shoot the deep 3, runs like a deer, had a nice two dribble pull-up jumpers and generally looked good in trying to score. He did pout and not run back on defense a couple of times, he struggles to handle the ball on pick-and-roll situations, and he is not a pure guard by any stretch of the imagination. The consensus is Round 2.
    • DraftExpress(not the most skilled with the ball, but capable as a spot-up shooter and constantly making plays offensively and especially defensively thanks to his trademark length and explosiveness)

Players Hurting Themselves:

Can Shan Foster Do Anything Other Than Shoot? (photo credit: vanderbilt.edu)

  • Davon Jefferson, USC
    • GottliebDavon Jefferson will be taken in this draft. He moves well offensively off screens and looks like he will become a solid pro shooter. But he has no left hand and seems lost defensively. Jefferson will knock heads will Walker both in workouts and maybe the D-League.
    • NBADraft.net(7pts, 6rebs, 3ast) In the early going it seemed as if Jefferson may have made a mistake showing up this week, as he was almost non-existent. Although his performance was still not spectacular, he was able to salvage the day as he put up a decent 10 minutes together to finish the game off. His offensive skill is still in need of much work, but one cannot deny his terrific frame, and explosiveness.
    • DraftExpressWho hurt himself the worst? Most likely Davon Jefferson. He came here out of shape, and has barely been hustling at all for the past two days. Although he was able to use his freakish athleticism to make some plays on the glass and in transition, NBA types can’t be crazy about what they are seeing here. He needs to realize the urgency of the situation quickly if he wants to avoid destroying what otherwise might be a very promising future. At this point it looks very obvious that the 21-year old freshman is not ready to be in this draft, and definitely made a hasty decision hiring an agent
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
    • DraftExpressThe most intriguing story might have been the incredibly poor play of North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington—projected by some as a first round pick, but looking like anything but one from what we’ve seen in the first two days so far. Ellington was 1 of 8 from the field until the game was pretty much over with two minutes left and he managed to make his boxscore look somewhat respectable with two garbage-time baskets. He forced a number of shots badly, dribbled the ball off his foot on his way to 6 painful turnovers, played poor defense and did not grab even a single rebound in 27 minutes. He finished the game with 8 points, and is looking like he’ll be on the first plane back to Chapel Hill to kick off his junior season once this camp is over unless he can turn things around in a major way.
    • NBADraft.netWayne Ellington was one of the day’s big disappointments. He scored a couple buckets late to salvage his stats to a degree but in reality he was thoroughly outplayed by Gary Forbes who appears to have strength, size and experience over Ellington.
    • GottliebIf UNC gets Wayne Ellington back, which they should, Roy Williams should thank Deron Washington. Washington played picture-perfect defense on the UNC sophomore the entire first half of their matchup. Ellington got just two contested looks and struggled to separate himself from Washington’s long arms and great lateral quickness.
  • Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
    • DraftExpressShan Foster was a big disappointment once again, continuing the same trend we saw in the morning and the day before. He looks completely out of his element mentally, forcing bad shots and even air-balling one 3-pointer by about five feet, which is completely uncharacteristic of the player widely considered the top shooter in this draft class. He got chased off the 3-point line way too easily, getting caught into the trap of being forced to use his ball-handling skills, which he is much less effective at than just spotting up from behind the arc. He looks like he’s putting way too much pressure on himself, and will need to settle down a bit and remember what got him here.
    • NBADraft.netShan Foster struggled to get on track with just 7 points on 2-7 shooting. His lack of a great handle and ability to get by opponents appears to be getting exposed some. He’s a great shooter, but still must show a more diverse offensive game.
  • Danny Green, UNC
    • DraftExpressAlso on the negative side of the spectrum we found Danny Green (forcing the issue way too much, especially from behind the arc [0-4], and looking clearly hobbled by his sprained left ankle).
    • GottliebGreen is dribbling too much and seems stuck between wanting to be a 2 guard and playing more like his natural 3 position. He has plenty of upside since he is only 20, but family concerns may keep him in this draft.
    • GoodmanHe said he felt somewhere between 75 and 90 percent. Green also sounded upset that Roy Williams didn’t initially include him among the Big Three (Tyler Hanbsrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington), when he was getting early reports from NBA executives on where his players were projected

More takes on some of the other players at the Pre-Draft Camp:

  • GottliebRichard Hendrix looks leaner (he said he has lost 15 pounds and wants to lose more), and he was much more agile because of it. Hendrix, Maryland’s James Gist and Memphis’ Joey Dorsey are three very different, yet very draftable big men who give teams in the late first round and the early second round interesting options. Hendrix, who looks like the only one who could go in Round 1, is a skilled wide body who can face up and beat you with a catch and shoot off the pick-and-pop, and he is a good rebounder/outlet passer. Gist is the lean athlete who can block shots, has streamlined his jumper to 18 feet and runs the floor very well. Dorsey is a beast. He caught two alley-oops that counted, he is a pretty solid passer both on the outlets and in the offense, and his long arms make up for his lack of great height.
  • NBADraft.net - LR Mbah Moute (9pts, 5rebs) He seemed to have tweaked his ankle in the early going, but showed some character fighting through and still put up a decent performance. With his length and athleticism, he is always able to alter plays defensively, and convert on hustle baskets offensively. Devon Hardin had three thunderous dunks but struggled to display any touch or post skills. As impressive a physical specimen as he is, he appears to be a big tease, a player who gives the impression that he can become a force, but lacking the focus and direction to get there. Patrick Ewing (14pts, 5-7fg) With Ewing Sr. in attendance, the younger Ewing put in a decent game. He was able to convert on a number of open jumpers and showed some nice athleticism, but his overall skill set has glaring holes and he does not have a natural position on the floor. James Gist displayed his tremendous athleticism with a reverse jam in which he was fouled and missed, followed by a nearly identical reverse dunk in which he was able to covert. He also showed a mid range game knocking down a number of 12-15 foot jumpers. And while he still needs to add consistency to his shot, there’s some reason for optimism about his offensive game.
  • DraftExpress - Richard Hendrix had a solid outing with 12 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes. He was extremely unselfish and did a great job crashing the glass, showing a good feel for the game but also struggling a bit defensively on the perimeter and not being very effective finishing around the rim in traffic. Malik Hairston’s stat-line might not have been that impressive on paper (8 points, 4 assists, 3-4 FG), but he did a very nice job finding teammates within the flow of the offense and playing with and off of Pat Calathes, who he seems to have nice chemistry with. His athleticism looked better than advertised getting off the floor and elevating for dunks. DeMarcus Nelson was intense and aggressive, but looked a bit out of control at times too with some of his drives. Trent Plaisted had some flashes with his ridiculous athleticism, but was a bit too quiet in stretches, not making his presence felt enough.

Update: See our summary of Days 3 & 4 of the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp here.

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Midwest Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

The rest of the previews are going to be much shorter than the East Regional Analysis because the other regions aren’t as loaded. Ok, you got me. That preview took way too much time given my schedule. Plus, the other regions suck. . .

Teams
#1 Kansas: Bill Self leads a loaded Jayhawk team into the tournament. They have all the tools–experience and talent in both the backcourt and frontcourt–that they need to win (although they are one of the few teams in college basketball that doesn’t take advantage of the short 3 point shot). The question is that will Kansas end its reputation for choking in the tournament. With a few exceptions (1991, 1993, 2002, and 2003 come to mind), the Jayhawks have found a way to lose to vastly inferior teams. The most notable example are 2005 and 2006 against Bucknell and Bradley respectively. We think the Jayhawks are too talented for that to happen, but the Jayhawks have proven us wrong before. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Georgetown: As we stated in our Big East finals review, we noted that the Hoyas have all the tools to win the tournament. They have experience, a very good backcourt, the nation’s best 7-footer, and a solid coach. Before the bracket came out, we were worried about Hibbert’s tendency to disappear for stretches when he should be able to dominate. However, their road to the Final 4 seems particularly favorable, which means they are a trendy pick to make it to San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Wisconsin: While we don’t think the Badgers have much of a chance of winning the NCAA title, they definitely deserved a 2 seed over Duke. Like your typical Bo Ryan team, they play excellent defense. Led by Brian Butch and Michael Flowers, the Badgers are team capable of making the Elite 8, but will have a difficult road getting there (probably USC and Georgetown). Schedule/Roster.

#4 Vanderbilt: Vandy is an exciting team to watch and capable of beating anybody (ask Bruce Pearl). They have a solid all-around lineup with 3 seniors. However, their mediocre defense all but guarantees they will trip up somewhere along the line. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Clemson: With a win over Duke and three close games against UNC, Clemson can play with anybody in the country when they are on. The Tigers are athletic and had a nice run in the ACC tournament, but their awful FT shooting will catch up with them making them unlikely to advance past a round or two. Schedule/Roster.

#6 USC: We think that everybody knows about and has seen USC at this point. OJ Mayo has turned the Trojans into one the tournament’s most talked about “sleepers”. After reaching the Sweet 16 last year before bowing out to UNC, Tim Floyd added 2 “diaper dandies”. Ok, so maybe that isn’t 100% accurate since Mayo and Jefferson are closer to Depends than Huggies and Mayo’s recruitment was more like OJ adding the Trojans to his schedule. One of the interesting and challenging things for the Trojans has been how the freshman were integrated into a team that was already good. After struggling early, USC has come together at the right time. Mayo has reined in his tendency to dominate the ball although he still lapses into his old habits occasionally. The Trojans NCAA fortunes will like ride on which Taj Gibson shows up. Gibson, who has been college basketball’s version of Steve Slaton, will need to come up big if the Trojans want to make a deep run. Either way, we enjoy having another guy named OJ at USC. We hope that he has better “luck” with relationships. Schedule/Roster.

#7 Gonzaga: At this point, Gonzaga is way past the point of being a Cinderella. This team has a lot of talent including several guys with pro potential. They have a solid squad with 4 guys averaging double figures. Their first round matchup with Davidson will be a must-watch. Schedule/Roster.

#8 UNLV: These aren’t your old school Running Rebels. Lon Kruger returns a very different team from last year’s Sweet 16 team as most of the roster changed (including his son). Their own hometown doesn’t seem to believe in them, as Vegas has put UNLV (the higher seed) as 2 point underdogs against Kent State. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Kent State: As we noted above, Vegas has Kent State as 2 point favorites. Apparently they don’t agree with the selection committee. The Golden Flash should be a tough matchup as they feature a balanced attack with 4 scorers in double figures. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Davidson: Led by Stephen Curry and coming in with a NCAA-leading 22 game winning streak, Davidson is a very dangerous team. The committee made an interesting decision to pit them against Gonzaga. This can be interpreted in one of two ways: knock out a dangerous mid-major in the first round or ensure a dangerous mid-major in the second round Schedule/Roster.

#11 Kansas State: We would love to see Michael Beasley make a run deep in the tournament, but with his sidekick Bill Walker most well-known for peeing in a towel and going 0-for-14 against Texas it will be a short run for the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Villanova: Jay Wright’s team was likely the last at-large team invited to the tournament. They are a young team with some talented players (most notably Scotty Reynolds), but they appear to be a few years away from being a threat to make a run (assuming nobody does anything stupid by leaving school early). However, Clemson’s awful FT shooting may let them stay in the game and allow Villanova’s talented players to steal a game. Schedule/Roster.

#13 Siena: Before you get too excited about their win over Stanford, you should remember that Brook Lopez was suspended earlier this season making Stanford a very different team in November. With a young team and the talent to beat Stanford (even if it wasn’t at his peak), Siena will be a very dangerous mid-major in a few years. However, their matchup with Vanderbilt will be a stiff challenge even if Vandy is soft defensively. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Cal State Fullerton: A team full of transfers (literally everybody transferred from somewhere else), CSF is a team that likes a fast pace, but will find out in the first 10 minutes that Wisconsin prefers a slow pace. They will quickly learn that it is easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up. Schedule/Roster.

#15 UMBC: The winners of America East, a horrible conference except when Germain Mopa Njila becomes a household name for 15 minutes, UMBC should enjoy their hotel and the scenery because Georgetown is too talented and has too much experience to let UMBC hang around. We think. . . Schedule/Roster.

#16 Portland State: We’ll save both you some time (and us some research time). No #16 has ever won a first round game. Schedule/Roster.

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ATB: Hey Mr. DJ, Keep Playin That Song…

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2007

ATB v.4

12.02.07

Game of the Day. #8 Texas 63, #2 UCLA 61. One thing lost amidst last year’s undoubtedly deserving Kevin Durant hype at Texas was that Rick Barnes brought in five other talented freshmen in the class of 2006 who accounted for nearly half of UT’s points and rebounds in their 25-10 campaign. Everyone already knows about the head point guard capabilities of DJ Augustin, but players such as Damion James and Justin Mason have been largely overlooked. No longer. Tonight the Horns, led by those three sophs + juniors Connor Atchley and AJ Abrams, went into Pauley Pavilion and earned a far more impressive win than the Durant-led Horns had all of last season. Midway through the first half, UCLA went through yet another of those confounding Howland-era droughts, going almost nine minutes without a field goal, and in the process allowed Texas to take a commanding lead during a 17-0 run. Augustin (19/4) in particular shredded the vaunted UCLA defense, repeatedly showing his Steve Nash-tutelage in the form of stepback jumpers and blow-by abilities. The expected UCLA run came in the second half, as Mbah a Moute (14/7) and Shipp (11/7/4 assts) led the charge. UCLA took back the lead at the 12-minute mark, and had a three-point lead as late as 1:15 remaining. Then the unexpected occurred, as Connor Atchley made a clutch three to tie the game with 1:00 left, and UCLA missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on its next possession. After forcing DJ Augustin into a horrible leaning airball from the right side, Kevin Love & Co. didn’t block out, allowing Damion James (19/10) to rise over the top for a strong throwdown and a 2-pt Texas lead with 0:09 on the clock. UCLA ran it upcourt and got a great look for Mbah a Moute from three, but it was off the mark and Texas secured a tremendous early-season win against the #1 team in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, breaking UCLA’s 25-game homecourt winning streak. We don’t have the database to check this, but we gotta figure this is one of the only times in Texas basketball history the Horns have beaten a #1 team on the road. More importantly, this win announced to the college basketball world that a Texas without Kevin Durant will be dealt with this season. Right now, no other team has two quality wins as impressive as their neutral court dismantling of Tennessee and this road win at UCLA. As for the Bruins, the key stat Howland should be worried about is rebounding (+2 Texas) – considering the size and prowess of Love, Mata-Real, Mbah a Moute in the paint, they simply got outworked tonight on the boards, and it came back to bite them hard on the putback by James that won the game.

More Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Arizona 78, #9 Texas A&M 67. With seven minutes to go in the first half, TAMU was already up twenty on Arizona and we were making plans to go get our Xmas tree. Arizona was once again showing absolutely no signs of life, letting yet another team brazenly come onto their court and push them around. That’s when UA freshman Jerryd Bayless (26/3/6 assts) decided to step up and make his presence known, sparking a late first-half run and leading the way in the second half for Arizona to get back and ultimately win the game. Will this game act as a turning point for Arizona? #4 Kansas 59, #25 USC 55. We admit that our expectations for this game were pretty low. Even though the game was at the Galen Center, we thought KU was way too disciplined, experienced and talanted to let USC’s young freshmen take this game. We were wrong in the sense that USC was able to hang with the Jayhawks the entire way. But we were right in that Kansas Mario Chalmers made the plays it needed to win the game. Chalmers’ 26-footer with 24 seconds left to essentially salt the game away was one of those shots where you initially think “he must have panicked” until it falls through the bottom of the net (which it did, dead center). Still, USC didn’t even play very well and was right there at the end – OJ Mayo was 6-21 from the field, Taj Gibson pulled another disappearing act (2 pts and fouled out again), but only Davon Jefferson (17/3) had a good game. We’re still not sure whether that tells us more about Kansas or USC long-term, though. Stanford 67, Colorado 43. Um, so much for Stanford having trouble with another road game, as someone in this space implied yesterday. Nebraska 62, Arizona St. 47. We obviously didn’t watch this game, but an eight-minute scoring drought by ASU that finished them off sounds an awful lot like Herb Sendek to us.

Big 12/Pac-10 Final Thoughts. The final tally was 6-5 in this matchup, with road teams winning five of the games. What did we learn? Probably not much, but looking at this slate beforehand we probably would have predicted the Pac-10 to win a couple more of these games, which may suggest that the league is a tad overrated from where pundits were projecting. Obviously, the bottom-dwellers of Oregon St. and Arizona St. are terrible teams. Washington and Cal are probably NIT-worthy. That leaves USC, Arizona, Stanford as NCAA first-weekend teams, with Oregon, Wazzu and UCLA as the likely second-weekend teams. In the Big 12, we see more talent at the top level with Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas. K-State, Baylor, Missouri and the Oklahomas will sort themselves out as NCAA/NIT-worthy, while Colorado, Texas Tech, Iowa St. and Nebraska look to be pretty bad teams this year.

Notable Scores.

  • Miami (FL) 66, St. John’s 47. Is Miami for real this year?
  • East Carolina 68, George Mason 65. Tough home loss for GMU today – let’s hope this doesn’t bite them come March.
  • VCU 85, Maryland 76. Eric Maynor blew up for 25/8 in the upset of the Terps. What’s going on, Gary?

On Tap Today (all times EST). Probably a night better spent doing something else, like, we dunno, talking to your wife/girlfriend.

  • Florida (NL) v. Jacksonville (ESPN FC) 7pm – Florida continues its quest to dominate the Sunshine State.
  • Arkansas (-10) v. Missouri St. (ESPN FC) 8pm. this border war game should be intriguing.
  • Wisconsin (-23) v. Wofford (ESPN2) 9pm - ESPN was obviously hurting for programming opposite MNF tonight.
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ATB: Wed/Thurs Wrapup

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.28-29.07

ACC 8 – Big Ten 3. Wed. night was the second marquee night of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, and the ACC carried a commanding 5-1 lead into the night’s games. After UNC (v. Ohio St.) and BC (v. Michigan) picked up road wins to go with Maryland’s home victory v. Illinois, the ACC had once again dominated this event (Penn St. and Michigan St. home wins made the final tally 8-3). What accounts for this annual decimation? One reason is that the ACC protects home court much better than the Big 10, going 28-1 in friendly venues during the last six years of this event (B10: 18-13 over the same period). Another reason is that the strength of the bottom of the ACC is consistently better than its Big 10 equivalent – ACC bottom-feeders throughout the series such as Clemson, Florida St. and Virginia have comprised an 18-8 record, while Big 10 equivalents Minnesota, Penn St. and Northwestern were 7-18 over the same timeframe. How thorough is the annual beatdown? Michigan St. is the only B10 school with a winning record in this event (5-3), while only four ACC schools have more losses than wins.

ACC/Big 10 Challenge. #13 Michigan St. 81, NC State 58. This was just a good old-fashioned whipping. Goran Suton scored all sixteen of his points in the first half en route to a dub-dub (16/12), as the Spartans rolled out to an early twenty-point margin and coasted home the rest of the way. MSU”s patented bruising defense held the Wolfpack to 35% shooting, which is showing signs of rising to the level of some of Izzo’s better defensive teams from the early 2000s. Through six games, the Spartans are holding teams to 38% from the field and 31% from three. #3 UNC 66, Ohio St. 55. In a brickfest game (UNC: 38%; OSU: 27%), Ohio St. ran into a looooong drought (missing 17 straight shots) in the second half that gave Carolina the boost they needed (w/o Ty Lawson) to avoid the upset bid. We watched this game in its entirety, and while we’d love to say great defense carried the day here, it just looked like sloppy basketball to us. Wayne Ellington looked great (23/8) for the Heels, but Psycho T struggled against the more athletic Othello Hunter inside (memo to NBA scouts: hustling 6’8 post men with limited range only gets you so far). There was one jawdropping sequence where Hansbrough simply could not get his shot up over Hunter (6 blks), who repeatedly threw it back into his face. By the same token, Kosta Koufos was a veritable no-show (4/3) for the Buckeyes. The other surprise of the night was the inspired play of OSU freshman Jon Diebler, whose four first half threes kept OSU in the game. Boston College 77, Michigan 64. This is a game that the Big 10 really needed to win, and UM couldn’t get it done at home against BC. A tight game opened up with about 8 mins remaining when BC went on a 12-2 run to essentially salt the game away. RTC whipping boy Tyrese Rice blew up for 28/8/5 assts (eff: 30), as Michigan simply had no answer for him. Maryland 69, Illinois 61. In a battle of two teams that will likely be up-and-down and hard-to-figure all year, the Terps were led by Eric Hayes’ career-high 18 pts in the win over the Illini. Penn St. 66, Virginia Tech 61. In a battle of conference bottom-feeders, Penn St. was led by Mike Walker’s 17 off the bench.

Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. #16 Oregon 80, Kansas St. 77. Notwithstanding the Bill Walker watersports moment, this was a really entertaining game. Both teams went back-and-forth throughout the second half, but K-State’s fate ultimately rode on their inability to make a foul shot in the OT. The Wildcats missed three straight front ends as Oregon pulled away in the overtime. The end-of-game sequence was a wild finish, as Oregon’s Maarty Leunen shot three times (and was fouled but not called on at least two of them) from point-blank range, rebounded his own misses, and finally received the foul call on the fourth attempt (6 seconds remaining). After hitting one of two FTs, KSU’s Jacob Pullen dribbled length of the court in four seconds, only to charge into an Oregon player as his made layin was waved off. Oregon then threw it length of the court, but the ball was intercepted by K-State at the opposite foul line. An immediate timeout led to the Bill Walker fiasco and a pretty good look that missed from Michael Beastley (24/12). Oregon’s big four combined for 53 pts, but we were most impressed last night by Joevan Catron (15/8), who took the key charge with two seconds left and showed a lot of heart and hustle for the Ducks last night. #25 USC 66, Oklahoma 55. The other B12/Pac-10 game of the night was at USC, and the Trojans are continuing to show improvement with their young freshmen leading the way. Davon Jefferson had 23/9 and OJ Mayo had 18/5 (but zero assts), but Mayo was the key player (scoring 11 in a row) during a second-half stretch that increased the USC lead from 2 to 12 and effectively put the game away. Where has Taj Gibson (2/3 in only 9 foul-plagued mins) gone?

More Overtime Goodness. #18 Gonzaga 70, St. Joseph’s 65. We wish we could have seen this one, but again, this one was on the U and Comcast hates us. Supposedly St. Joe’s came storming back from a 17-pt first half deficit and led for most of the second half until a late Matt Bouldin three gave Gonzaga the lead again. In the overtime, both teams mostly traded FTs until Gonzaga secured the win late. This was a very good road win in a hostile environment for the Zags. St. Joe’s was led by Pat Calathes with 24/7 in the losing effort. Vanderbilt 91, South Alabama 88. This double-OT jewel of a game wasn’t on tv anywhere we could find, but it appears that Memorial was rocking last night when the Commodores stayed unbeaten at home. Vandy came back from an 8-pt deficit in the mid-second half to take the lead, but a Ronald Douglas tip-in with 0.8 left sent the game to OT. Vandy had a shot to win in the first OT, but good foul shooting in the second OT ultimately put the game away for the Dores. Andrew Ogilvy led VU with 19/8 while Shan Foster contributed 26/4.

Upset Special. Massachusetts 107, Syracuse 100. In a tremendous boost to the credibility of Travis Ford’s rising UMass program, the Minutemen went into the Carrier Dome on Wed. night and beat the Orange in a high-scoring affair that saw the opponent score more points than any other team in the Dome’s history. Gary Forber (23/6/7 assts) hit a key three with just over a minute remaining to give UMass a six-point lead and the Orange were finished. Big numbers from many players on both sides – for UMass, Ricky Harris had 25; for Syracuse, all five starters had double figures, led by Eric Devendorf with 23 and three other players with 20 each (Greene, Flynn, Onuaku).

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #2 UCLA 83, George Washington 60. Collison comes off the bench to give the Bruins 14/5. Love with another dub-dub (12/12).
  • #4 Kansas 87, Florida Atlantic 49. Another KU rout as B-Rush goes for 17 pts off the bench in 19 mins of action.
  • #5 Georgetown 66, Old Dominion 48. Georgetown returns favor from last year, holding ODU to 31% shooting. Gerald Lee (24/12) was the only bright spot for Old Dominion.
  • #8 Texas 98, Texas Southern 61. Texas continues to impress – DJ Augustin led with 20 pts.
  • #9 Texas A&M 76, Alabama 63. Another balanced, efficient performance from the Aggies. Bama is just so limited beyond Hendrix (19/12) and Gee (19/3).
  • #21 Xavier 93, Oakland 68. All five starters hit double figures for the Muskies.

Other Notable Scores.

  • California 74, Nevada 68. Great road win for Cal, as Ryan Anderson went for a career-high 36/13 to counteract Marcellus Kemp’s 26/5/4.
  • Seton Hall 65, Princeton 55. The Hall is off to its best start since The Beard was roaming the sidelines (19 yrs).
  • Kent St. 81, St. Louis 40. Wow – has Majerus ever lost by this much before? Statistical oddity – KSU was 100% from three (3-3), while SLU was 0% (0-11).
  • Wichita St. 62, Appalachian St. 53. App St. continues to struggle with another home loss.
  • Hampton 64, VCU 55. VCU has been extremely disappointing so far as well (Maynor – 22 pts).
  • Charlotte 63, Wake Forest 59. Solid CUSA win over an ACC team.
  • Colorado 60, Air Force 50. Jeff Bzedlik’s return to AFA as an opponent went much better than the game at CU (lost 84-46).
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ATB: Brandon Rush’s Triumphant Return

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.25.07

Game of the Day. #4 Kansas 76, Arizona 72. The four-days-early game between Kansas and Arizona in the inaugural Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series was everything a college hoops fan could have hoped for in such a meeting between two powerhouse programs. It had stars making plays (Budinger and Rush), tightness throughout (no team had a greater than 4-pt lead in the second half), a tantalizingly close halfcourt buzzer-beater, and an overtime just to fuel the early season intensity. Our thoughts: 1) Brandon Rush (17/8) looks great for a guy who blew out his ACL a mere six months ago. He hit his first shot off the bench, took care of the ball, made both of his threes, and even threw down a couple of dunks in the OT to seal things. 2) Arizona showed a toughness we haven’t seen in a while. After getting down ten early (22-12), we expected the Wildcats to pack it in and take their 20+ pt beating while the Phog was rocking – but that didn’t happen. Instead, Arizona clawed back to tie the game at halftime, and led the game deep into the second half. We’re not sure that happens last year. 3) Chase Budinger’s (27/6) potential is mesmerizing – he always seems to be playing better than he actually is playing. For example, he hit six threes tonight, but only shot 10-23 from the field. 4) Arizona may be playing tougher, but they’re still playing dumb with the ball. 25 turnovers (14 by their starting guards) at Allen FH won’t cut it – given that stat, it’s amazing they had a chance to win the game in regulation. 5) Kansas is just scary when it comes to the talent they can put on the court. No surprise there, but this is a 30+ win team that could win the national title if things break right for them.

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Other Games We Saw. NC State 69, #25 Villanova 68. The finals of the Old Spice Classic championship was another close game with a particularly insane ending. After battling toe-to-toe for most of the game (the biggest lead by either team was 7 pts), it appeared that Villanova was going to take the prize when Dante Cunningham tipped in a missed shot with 2.2 seconds remaining to give Nova a 1-pt lead. NC State then passed the ball length-of-the-court to Gavin Grant, who stepped behind the three-point line and was fouled in a ticky-tack call on the shot attempt by Cunningham with 0.4 seconds on the clock. Grant made two of three to put NCSU up by one, so it was then Villanova’s turn to throw the ball to the other end in hopes of a miracle. And they damn near got it – knowing they only had time for a tip, Villanova made two tips at the basket (the second attempt was very close and got off before the red light illuminated, according to our Tivo slo-mo) and neither dropped. Still, it was an exciting ending to a competitive game. Courtney Fells led the way for NCSU with 21, but it was a balanced attack from the Wolfpack (Grant & Hickson – 15 each; McCauley – 10) that led to the win. Villanova was paced by freshman Corey Fisher’s 21 pts, but special notoriety should go to Casiem Drummond, who with 17 rebounds singlehandedly kept numerous possessions alive for the Wildcats.

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USC 70, #18 S. Illinois 45. This game completely shocked us – not just the result but the margin of victory (SIU’s worst loss in seven years). The usually disciplined Salukis couldn’t get anything to drop (eFG% = 38%), while the Men of Troy, led by Davon Jefferson (20/5), simply could not miss (eFG% = 65%). We’d watched two or three USC games already this year, and each time they looked uninterested, umotivated and overall underwhelming. Not tonight. Perhaps it had something to do with OJ Mayo’s benching (for what reason, Tim Floyd?), but the takeaway is that USC outclassed a reliably good team in every possible way tonight. Randal Falker is the only player who showed up for SIU, producing 17/12 for his efforts.

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Other Ranked Teams.

  • #8 Washington St. 71, Air Force 62. Wazzu guards combine for 46/15/13 assts.
  • #10 Duke 78, Eastern Kentucky 43. Where did Taylor King (27 pts) come from?
  • #19 Kansas St. 82, Rider 69. Jason Thompson of Rider (24/7/3 assts/4 blks) outplayed Michael Beastley (13/10) in this one.

Other Scores of Note.

  • UCF 70, Penn St. 59. Another horrid loss for the Big 10, thanks to our friends in State College.
  • Missouri St. 73, Winthrop 69. Hard to believe that Winthrop would blow a 16-pt halftime lead at home (24 game winning streak), but they did.
  • George Mason 69, South Carolina 68. Mason picks up more major conference pelts as Will Thomas dominated SC inside (22/11).
  • Miami (OH) 67, Mississippi St. 60. Does MSU have any other players besides Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes?

On Tap Tonight (all times EST). Big 10/ACC gets started in Iowa City, but not much else on the slate for Monday.

  • Wake Forest (-2) v. Iowa (ESPN2) 7pm – hard to believe Wake could be favored on the road just about anywhere.
  • Davidson (-3.5) v. Appalachian St. 7pm. this is a key SoCon game – why so early?
  • Connecticut (NL) v. Florida A&M (ESPN FC) 7pm - already tired of UConn.
  • Washington (-22.5) v. Long Beach State 10:30pm – which UW will show up?
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Coaches Poll!

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2007

Per ESPN today…

ESPN Coaches Poll - Preseason 08

Initial reactions:

  • UNC is #1, yet UCLA garnered more first-place votes (12-10).
  • 9 of the top 10 match the online Blogpoll – the one difference is that coaches like Indiana more than Marquette. Fwiw, so do we. (come on blogpollers! We should represent the non-MSM contrarian voice!)
  • Did the coaches go with the “name” programs over Calipari’s squad at #1? Interesting that the bloggers voted Memphis a solid #1 while UNC/UCLA were left behind.
  • Only one coach agreed with us that Kansas is preseason #1 (Bill Self?), although we aren’t predicting KU to win it all.
  • Buy: Oregon (mighty mite Tajuan Porter!), Gonzaga (magic mushroomania), Texas (hey mr. DJ put that record on…), S. Illinois (you sexy mother Falker!), Davidson (spicy Curry), VCU (Eric Maynor alone is worth more than five votes).
  • Sell: Duke (anxiously awaiting the Brian Zoubek experiment), USC (Young+Pruitt > Mayo+Jefferson), NC State (folks, they were 5-11 in the ACC last year!!), Alabama (no Steele = no chance).
  • Conference breakdown (top 25, all 54 teams receiving votes): Pac-10 (6, 8), Big East (5, 8), ACC (3, 6), Big 12 (3, 5), SEC (3, 6), Big 10 (2, 5), MVC (1, 2), CUSA (1, 1), WCC (1, 1), Colonial (0, 3), WAC (0, 3), A10 (0, 2), Mountain West (0, 2), Horizon (0, 1), Southern (0, 1).
  • Word to the Colonial and WAC with three teams each receiving votes even though none are in the Top 25.
  • Is there any value in this meaningless poll whatsoever? Some. Last year the top 6 (and 8 of the top 10) in the preseason coaches poll finished in the top 11 of the final poll (before the NCAA Tournament), and every team in the final top 11 had been ranked somewhere in the top 25 before the season started. Additionally, all four F4 teams were ranked in last year’s preseason top 8 (#1 Florida, #4 Ohio St., #5 UCLA, #8 Georgetown).
  • Only six of the preseason top 25 last year didn’t make the NCAA Tournament (#7 LSU, #12 Alabama, #16 Washington, #18 Connecticut, #20 Syracuse, #23 Creighton), so that’s fair evidence that the coaches (at least last year) have a bit of a clue. Note we said only a bit.
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