Team of the 2000s: #4 – Duke

Posted by nvr1983 on August 17th, 2009

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Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we mentioned in our earlier “Team of the 2000s” posts, we felt that the top-tier programs fell into a few clear clusters. There was some debate amongst the RTC braintrust about where certain teams fell within those clusters so we can understand if you disagree with where a team is ranked (that’s what the comment section is for). Teams in the top five either have made it to every NCAA tournament this decade (a sign of at least being respectable every season) or have a 2nd championship to bolster their case.

#4 – Duke

team2000sduke

Overview. This will be the most controversial selection on the list because it is Duke. Love them or hate them (and I’m pretty sure that most college basketball fans hate them), the Blue Devils remain the standard that other programs are judged against. That is not to say that they are the best program of the decade (there are still three teams ahead of them), but much like the New York Yankees, who are experiencing a similar title “drought,” every fanbase judges their success against what the guys in Durham are doing. To be completely honest, I ranked Duke lower than any of the other voters, but in the end their consistency (particularly during the regular season) won out and put them ahead of some of the other elite programs. The case for Duke being ranked above the teams below it in our countdown: 82.6% (regular season winning percentage–Gonzaga is the only other team to crack 80% and they don’t play in the ACC); 7 post-season and 4 regular season ACC titles (just an absurd number when you are competing against UNC although UNC’s inconsistency helped inflate this); 10 NCAA tournament trips (look at the above summary to see how often many excellent programs have missed the NCAA tournament this decade); 8 Sweet 16 appearances (maybe Duke hasn’t been that successful during the 2nd weekend, but they have gotten there more than anybody else); and 1 national title (more on this in a bit). The case against the Blue Devils? I alluded to it earlier, as Coach K’s teams have struggled mightily in the NCAA second weekend making it to the Final 4 “just” two out of the eight times they made it to the Sweet 16. In addition, Duke’s absence of a 2nd title prevents it from claiming a spot in the top 3. Out of the team’s below it, Tom Izzo‘s Michigan State Spartans have the best argument, but Duke’s vastly superior winning percentage (82.6% vs. 72.1%) and huge edge in conference titles combined with playing in a better conference (the ACC may be down, but you never see an abomination like this come out of the ACC) and NCAA-best 8 trips to the Sweet 16 (versus 6 for the Spartans) are just enough to make up for Michigan State’s edge in Final 4 appearances (4-2 although both teams were only able to seal the deal once).

battier j-will duhon

Pinnacle. As it is with any team that won a single title this decade, the choice here is simple: the 2001 title. After coming up just short with one of the most talented teams in recent history in 1999, Coach K reloaded with a class featuring Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Carlos Boozer. Although not quite as dominant as the group that left just before they came in (Elton Brand, William Avery, and Corey Maggette – I know he was a year after the other two, but I wasn’t going to include Chris Burgess in there), the former was able to do something the latter failed to do – win a title.  Together with Shane Battier, who led the Blue Devils emotionally and in taking flops, this group made it to the Sweet 16 in 2000 before being upset by Florida. The following year the Blue Devils were able to give Coach K his 3rd title, but not before surviving three marginally tough games (vs. USC in the Elite 8, vs. Maryland in the national semifinals, and vs. Arizona in the championship game) to claim the title. The defining moment of that title game was Dunleavy Jr.’s 3-point barrage (three 3-pointers during an 11-2 run) that re-established Duke’s control of the game. One thing that will stick with Blue Devil fans forever though is their four games against Maryland, which were some of the best college basketball games you will ever see, the most memorable being the 10-point comeback in the last minute at College Park (although we are willing to debate with someone who argues that the 22-point comeback in the national semifinals might be better).

[Warning: Maryland fans may want to avoid this video.]

Tailspin. Other than the two UNC titles? The 2006-07 season. A rather mediocre Duke team went 22-11 in a season that included two separate four-game losing streaks. The latter of those losing streaks came to finish the season with the final insult coming courtesy of Eric Maynor and VCU. Much has been made on this site and others about the lack of elite talent in Durham lately, but fielding a team whose four best players were DeMarcus Nelson (junior),  Josh McRoberts (sophomore), Greg Paulus (sophomore), and Jon Scheyer (freshman)… you are in big trouble. The primary explanation for this was that outside of Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick, the Blue Devils had a long string of McDonald’s All-American busts from 2002 on, with Shavlik Randolph, who left prior to that, being the most famous example.

Outlook for the 2010s: Grade: B+. Duke is still Duke and can land 5-star recruits, but it’s not like it was at the end of the last decade when Duke had its choice of McDonald’s All-Americans. Back then, one of the big controversies was if Coach K made the right choice taking Mike Dunleavy Jr. instead of Casey Jacobsen (for the younger generation of readers trust us when we say they were both actually very good college basketball players). Now it is a big deal when Duke lands the #3 shooting guard in next year’s class instead of John Wall. Duke will still be able to get a couple of top-notch recruits every year because of their tradition (it goes back to before Coach K, youngsters), Notre Dame-like TV deal with ESPN, Coach K’s stature, and the fact that it’s one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country (mothers like to brag about the Duke degree even if it is for the infamous Sociology major). However, the Blue Devils have fallen a notch below UNC in the hearts and minds of elite recruits and that will only get worse when Coach K retires (gasp!) as their is no clear successor in line for his throne.

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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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DJ Augustin Has Little Wee Arms

Posted by rtmsf on June 3rd, 2008

Apologies in advance for the small text on the table below.  You can see the entire cache of numbers here on a document we saved at Google Docs (fully sortable).  Alternatively, check the list (also sortable) over at DraftExpress, who we owe our eternal thanks to for providing these initial numbers.   

So what we’ve done here is color code highlight the best five (light green) and worst five (beige) performances in each category.  For basketball purposes, we’re assuming that height, weight and length are good things, body fat is a bad thing, and athletic ability in terms of vertical jump, agility and sprint times are valued.  For example, Brook Lopez was one of the tallest, heaviest and longest players at the camp (as expected), but his lane agility time of 12.77 seconds makes Shaq look like a gazelle (ok, maybe not that bad…). 

Anyway, for now we wanted to throw the numbers up and start digesting them.  We’ll have our thoughts on some of the surprises at the bottom later this afternoon.  Enjoy. 

Draft Combine Numbers

Thoughts:

The Lonny Baxter Award.  The biggest surprise that we saw this year was that Michael Beasley stands only 6’7 in socks (6’8 with shoes).  How is this possible?  How can the most dominant big man in the history of freshmen all-time only stand at 6’8 in his Nikes????  Can Beasley play 3 at the next level?  Chicago must be asking itself the same question.

 

Yes, Baxter Really Is Two Feet Tall

Well, it’s a good thing they’ve got the option of the next Jason Kidd in Derrick Rose then, right?  Oh wait, Rose is only 6’1.5 in socks ( 6’2.5 with shoes), a solid couple of inches shorter than Kidd, and more on par with Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul as comparisons.  The good news is that Rose can fly outta the gym with his 40″ vertical leap and his 3.05 3/4 court time, both third best in the camp this year.

One more player suffering from shrinkage this year is Joey Dorsey (6’6).  The Mouth of the South is lucky that he has such an unbelievable plastic-man wingspan (7’11) for his size, or he wouldn’t even be getting a sniff from the professional ranks. 

Legit BigsBrook Lopez and Javale McGee are legitimately 6’11 in socks, David Padgett isn’t far off (6’10.25), while DeAndre Jordan is just shy of 6’10.  McGee, Lopez and Jordan all have wingspans of 7’6 (Lopez is a half-inch shy) and utterly ridiculous reaches of over 9’5.  The most intriguing big man is John Riek, the postgraduate high school student who certifiably stunk up the camp, but comes in at 6’10.5 with a nearly 7’9 wingspan and a reach reported (but unverified) at 9’10.  Ummm… ok. 

Feeling a Little DoughyKevin Love said that he’s dropped fifteen pounds since the F4, but his body fat percentage (12.9%) belies a ways to go.  His size was a little shorter than expected (nearly 6’8), but his vertical leap was better than expected (35″), so he may end up being ok at the next level, given his already skilled face-up game.  The Tubbiest Player Award goes to Kentrell Gransberry, who clocked in at 17.4% body fat.  It showed in his ups as well, as his at 27.5″ was one of the lowest five of the camp. 

Best All-Around Athlete.  This is a tough call, but we’re going with Eric Gordon.  He has a top five vertical leap of 40″, which is simply eyepopping, he was also in the top five in the 3/4 court sprint (3.1 seconds), and he managed to bench the 185-lb bar fifteen times, which is significantly more than some other young guards (OJ Mayo – 7; DJ Augustin – 2).  Derrick Rose is also a consideration, as he can also get way up and is speedy all over the court.  But We’ll give second place to DeMarcus Nelson, who finished in the top five in both the lane agility drill (10.54 seconds) and the 3/4 court sprint (3.13 seconds), in addition to having a 38.5″ vertical leap and benching the bar nineteen times.  We give the nod, though, to Gordon based on his relative youth and the possibility of those numbers getting significantly better.

     

E-Giddy Is All Kinds of Athleticized

Other Minutiae.   Jerryd Bayless is a great athlete, but his wingspan is astonishingly short (6’3.5) for a 6’2 guy.  Don’t expect Bayless to ever become a tremendous on-the-ball defender with those arms.  Sonny Weems and Joe Alexander are two more players who tested well athletically, as Weems finished in the top five in the agility and sprint drills, while Alexander finished in the top five in the bench press and sprint drills.   This combine was not good to DJ Augustin – he appeared small and weak based on the numbers.  Shouldn’t a 5’10 sophomore be able to do more than two bench presses at that weight by now?

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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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Duke: Success or Failure?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2008

With several big-name programs going down on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, we thought it was worthwhile to take a look back at their season and try to evaluate whether it was a success or failure (hence, the name of the post). We’re only going to take a look at the programs that are typically expected to compete for titles. So if you’re looking for a post about Coppin State, you’re out of luck.

To start things off we’ll take a look at Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils.

Where they left off: Coming off an embarrassing 1st round loss to Eric Maynor and Virginia Commonwealth and the early departure of Josh McRoberts, the Blue Devils were not expected to be their typical dominant self this year (preseason AP #13). As noted by resident Duke hater rtmsf, Duke has not had its typical monopolyover top recruits the past few years. Coming into the season, I expected the Blue Devils to go no further than the Sweet 16 as they did not have any low-post presence at all and lacked a true star (DeMarcus Nelson was as close as they came).

Story of the Season: As the season started, Krzyzewski unleashed a startling offensive set essentially playing 5 perimeter players the entire game. Given his numerous talented perimeter players and total absence of talented inside players, it seemed like a reasonable if unusual strategy. Using this offense that Krzyzewski took from Team USA assistant coach (and Phoenix Suns head coach) Mike D’Antoni, the Blue Devils climbed as high as #2 in the AP rankings. However, even as they piled up the wins their lack of an interior game on offense and defense was evident. The Blue Devils showed that they could compete with any team in the country on a given night with wins at then #1 UNC (without Ty Lawson), #5 Wisconsin (82-58), at #23 Davidson, and #24 Marquette. However, they also showed their vulnerability during back-to-back losses at Wake Forest and Miami (FL). In the end, the Blue Devils fell apart again at the end of the seasonlosing 3 of their last 5 with a narrow escape over 15th-seeded Belmont in the 1st round before falling to 7th-seeded West Virginia in the 2nd round.

The Verdict: We are hesitant to consider any season in which a team ranked #2 late in the season then loses 3 of its last 5, barely survives in the first-round against a 15 seed and loses in the 2nd round a success, but given the extremely low expectations for Duke coming into the season and the fact that they had nobody who could play inside (Zoubek? Seriously?) we have to give Coach K and his boys a “success” vote by the narrowest of margins. While they failed to play their best ball at the biggest moment (March), they played well throughout the season and did much better than we expected (not counting the NCAA tournament). Obviously, this is a big exception, but we prefer to look at the season as a whole especially when dealing with a team we never expected to make a serious title run.

Outlook: The Blue Devils certainly had some bright spots this season with the emergence of Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson as solid players who should contribute for the next few years (as long as they don’t do anything stupid and jump early). However, with the loss of Greg Monroe to Georgetown and no highly touted big men on the way, it looks like Duke will be stuck with their current system for the foreseeable future. The question is whether Coach K can turn it around and start landing some of the studs that he used to now that the NBA is forcing kids to go to college for at least a year. Unless Coach K can do this or land one solid inside player, Duke haters will likely be able to rejoice around this time each March for the next few years.

rtmsf Update:  It should surprise no one that we have a slightly different take than our counterpart with respect to the Devils’ season.  His viewpoint is that this was a successful year for Duke, given low preseason expectations.  But how low were those expectations?  He points out that Duke was preseason #13 in the AP poll, and nearly every preseason mag had the Devils in the Sweet 16.  As usual, Duke came out of the gate with a bang, blowing out Wisconsin and positioning itself securely in the top 10 for the rest of the season (all but two weeks).  There was even the usual mid-February talk of another #1 seed for Coach K’s crew.  So while the preseason expectations were slightly lower than usual, the in-season expectations for Duke were considerably higher.  To that degree, looking at Duke’s March success, we consider a #2 seed barely sneaking by a #15 seed and then getting outmuscled by a Bob Huggins team in Round 2 to be a huge disappointment.  It’s Duke, for Chrissakes, not Villanova!  Anything less than a F4 is a disappointing season, and the last two Marches in Durham have been nothing short of disgraceful.

nvr1983 update to the update: I guess I should probably stop using the royal we when I write articles since there appears to be some dissension within the RTC ranks. As I noted in my original post, I wouldn’t consider this season a huge success, which is why I stated it was a success by “the narrowest of margins”. Perhaps, I should have went with an A-F system where I would have given the Blue Devils a C. As for rtmsf’s argument that the in-season expectations being higher than usual for Duke this year, I would argue that he’s out of his f-ing mind. Everybody who watched them play this year knew it was a vastly flawed team and I don’t know of a single person who picked them to go to the Final 4. He also notes that the expectation was a trip to the Sweet 16. I think coming up 1 round short of the preseason expectation isn’t that big of a failure particularly when the Sweet 16 is close enough to the peak of the NCAA tournament performance Bell curve that losing a round earlier isn’t a huge deviation from the expectation. Stealing a point from Billy Beane, I would also argue that post-season performance isn’t necessarily representative of their overall performance especially with relatively low expectations (that they performed close to) and the one-and-done nature of the NCAA tournament.

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Thursday, March 20th: Update #3

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2008

This is going to be a brief update because we realize listing the scores is kind of useless since you’re already on the Internet. We’ll just give you a little commentary and offer some more thoughts in the morning.

- The big story of the night was Belmont’s nearly historic near-upset of Duke. The amazing thing is that Belmont didn’t even have a player going off or a great night from beyond the arc. That just shows you how vulnerable this Duke team is when it doesn’t hit the 3. They needed a great 2nd half and end-to-end layup by Gerald Henderson to escape with the win. We also have to question the decision-making by Belmont in the final 10 seconds. Given their distinct disadvantage athletically we thought the decision to come back after Henderson’s layup without taking a timeout a questionable one. Then when DeMarcus Nelson short-armed a FT, they ran a horrible in-bounds play. How does Belmont expect to get a jump-ball against Duke? We also wonder why Coach K didn’t put Brian Zoubek by the basket to prevent that type of play anyways.

- In the only legitimate upset of the day, #11 Kansas State knocked off #6 USC. Surprisingly, they did it without a huge game from Michael Beasley (by his standards). Instead, Beasley used a solid game from Bill Walker and an off-night from OJ Mayo to lead the Wildcats to the win and ruin my bracket. Yes, you’re looking at the sucker who thought USC would make a run to the Elite 8.

- In the only other interesting game of the evening/early night, Texas A&M beat BYU 67-62 behind 26 pts from Josh Carter. This marks the sixth straight opening-round loss for the Cougars. Let that be a lesson before you pick BYU again. Well unless they have Danny Ainge on the team again. . .

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West Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

For our second-to-last regional analysis we look to the West, which has 2 of the most storied programs in the history of the sport as its top two seeds.

Teams
#1 UCLA: The Bruins seem to be the popular pick among analysts. We can clearly see why. They have experience (and no UF to go through this year), an inside game, an outside game, and a solid coach. Ben Howland has done an excellent job getting the Bruins to play defense, which has long been a trademark of Howland’s teams. When you combine that commitment to defense with talented offensive players and the easiest region in the tournament, you have all the makings of a championship team. The big question with UCLA is their health. Pac-10 POY and uber-freshman Kevin Love (lower back spasms) and his sidekick inside Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (sprained ankle) will have to be near 100% for them to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Duke: Coach K (everyone’s favorite leader who happens to coach basketball) has done an outstanding job utilizing this flawed team’s strengths while managing go cover up its huge hole in the inside most of the season. The Blue Devils have several outstanding perimeter players in Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson, and Jon Scheyer, but they have absolutely nothing inside unless they drive by their guy on the perimeter. While ESPN (and the rest of the media) would love to have the Blue Devils advance to the Final 4, we think they rely on the outside shot too much. One of the nights they will have an off night and unless it’s in the first round, their opponents are too talented and the Blue Devils are too weak on the inside for Coach K’s squad to overcome it. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Xavier: When the casual basketball fan first looks at the bracket, this seed might confuse them. However, the Musketeers have been solid all year-long and they are ranked #12 in both polls. The Musketeers play solid defense and have an extremely balanced attack with 6 players averaging between 10 and 11.7 PPG. They should be a formidable team in the West and could give the Blue Devils all they can handle if both teams get that far. Schedule/Roster.

#4 Connecticut: Before you get too excited about Jim Calhoun’s Huskies, you should realize that this isn’t a typical Connecticut team well other than their star point guard having a history of trouble with the law (A.J. Price joins the proud legacy of Khalid El-Amin and Marcus Williams). Price has turned into the leader of the Huskies. If Calhoun’s team is going to uphold his tradition of doing well in the tournament, Price will need help from shot-blocking savant Hasheem Thabeet and the teams 4 other players who average double figures (most notably Jeff Adrien). The Huskies will be hard-pressed to get by the Bruins in the Sweet 16 where their season will likely end, which is assuming they even get by a game San Diego team in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Drake: After graduating 4 starters from last year’s team, Drake vastly exceeded expectations this year going 28-4. To be honest, before this year we never would have imagine Drake with a seed this high. One interesting note is that Drake starts Klayton Korver (younger brother of former Creighton star Kyle Korver). We thing the Korvers have a Roger Clemens-like obsession with naming their kids. Schedule/Roster.

#6 Purdue: You have to admit that it’s sort of weird watching the Boilermakers without seeing the comb-over. We like Purdue’s talent and hustle, but we think they are a year away from making a run in the tournament. Schedule/Roster.

#7 West Virginia: Bob Huggins has done a good job keeping the program at a respectable level and avoiding the Morgantown cops. They face a tough matchup in the first round against a very athletic Arizona team. Win or lose we are predicting there will be couches on fire in West Virginia after the game. Schedule/Roster.

#8 BYU: The Cougars are led by Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted along with strong team defense. The Cougars are a legit team that gave UNC a tough game earlier in the year after knocking off Louisville. If they survive their first round game against the Aggies, they will have to play UCLA in a virtual home game for the Bruins. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Texas A&M: After starting the season 15-1, the Aggies have been up and down. The question is which team will show up in Anaheim. Regardless of which teams show up, we can’t see them getting by UCLA in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Arizona: Kevin O’Neill managed to get the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament despite the unexpected and temporary absence by Arizona legend Lute Olson. While the media has widely killed the Wildcats inclusion in the tournament, we think they are very dangerous primarily because of their strong schedule and NBA-quality talent (Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger). Schedule/Roster.

#11 Baylor: One of the feel good stories of the tournament, Scott Drew has turned this program around. Baylor relies on 5 guards and 1 forward for their offense. If you couldn’t tell, they (like Duke) doesn’t have much on the inside. Unfortunately for Baylor, their players aren’t as good as Duke’s. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Western Kentucky: Led by Courtney Lee (20.4 PPG), the Hilltoppers snuck in under the radar most of this year playing in the same conference as South Alabama. Lee will have to have a big game if Western Kentucky is going to knock off Drake in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#13 San Diego: This is one of the most interesting teams in the tournament. They have shown people that they can beat big name schools this year (wins versus Kentucky and Gonzaga). Despite being the third best team in the West Coast Conference this year, the Toreros will be a stiff challenge for a UConn team that isn’t your typical Jim Calhoun powerhouse. One thing is certain is that the Toreros will not be in awe of the Huskies having played a strong non-conference schedule this year. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Georgia: The media’s darling last week will be put in an interesting situation in the first round. Can you have a SEC team be a legitimate underdog against an Atlantic 10 team in the NCAA tournament? The answer is yes, but can anybody outside of Athens, GA root for them? We say no. We hope Dennis Felton and the Bulldogs enjoyed their ride. Schedule/Roster.

#15 Belmont: Belmont will get a few minutes of fame playing against TV favorite Duke. Unfortunately, they won’t be on TV long as they will likely fall way behind Duke early in the game and their game is paired against the USC-Kansas State game. Schedule/Roster.

#16 Mississippi Valley State: Jerry Rice’s alma mater will last all of about 5-10 minutes against a UCLA team playing in Anaheim, CA. That’s about all you need to know about them. Schedule/Roster.

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ATB: Can Raftery Wear Hawaiian Shirts Every Game?

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2007

ATB v.4

11.21.07

Game of the Day. #10 Duke 77 #12 Marquette 73. There were several games we were looking forward to watching today, but truthfully this was the only game that stepped up to the plate and delivered an interesting result as Duke won its fourth Maui Invitational. We continue to be impressed by what Duke is accomplishing without any semblance of an inside presence. Literally, none. Everything they get is off the drive or off the jumper. Luckily for them, the Devils have the right mix of slashers and shooters to make that work. The long-term problem that Duke will ultimately face is what happens when they have to stare down a team with talented bigs as well as guards. In the Maui, Illinois had nice bigs but weak guard play. Marquette was the polar opposite – fantastic guards, but nothing inside. Duke can ride this strategy to a really nice season (as usual), but we don’t really see them making noise deep into March because of that fundamental weakness. Are we wrong about this? As for tonight’s game, it was fun to watch a close one but we never really believed Marquette would/could clutch this game away from Duke. Too many poor decisions with the ball, missed layups and fouls (some of which, of course, were dubious). Kyle Singler (25/7) led Duke with another great game, and Demarcus Nelson (16/7) had a nice game as well, but our takeaway tonight comes from the Marquette side. Why is it every time we watch MU we end up feeling like Jerel McNeal (11/2 on 4-7 shooting) and Wes Matthews (12/4 on 4-7 shooting) are better than the much-publicized Dominic James (12/6 on 4-16 shooting)? Just a thought. Final take – Duke and Marquette are good teams, but both have such a major fundamental flaw in the lack of any respectable inside game that their long-term prospects seem no better than the Sweet 16 this year.

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Other Games We Saw. Ohio St. 79, #22 Syracuse 65. This game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. We have to hand it again to Thad Matta – he gets his personnel to play hard and under control. Which is more than we can say for Jim Boeheim’s team tonight. While both teams are using several freshmen, it was OSU that looked far more poised. OSU’s Kosta Koufos (24/9) seemed unstoppable at times, showing three-point range on his jumper and a variety of bank shots and short Js in the paint. We may have severely underestimated this guy – if Duke had him, they would probably be F4-bound this year. Jamar Butler also hit several threes at opportune moments to keep Syracuse from ever getting a serious run mounted in the second half. The sole bright spot for the Cuse was from jumping jack rookie Donte Greene (21/10), but his classmate Jonny Flynn was simply horrid, putting up an 0-6 zero-pt night. What has happened to Flynn since his initial 28-pt explosion against Siena? After starting the year 10-13, he’s gone 4-19 since. #6 Louisville 68, UNLV 48. We had high hopes for this game as well, but it turned out to be a very ugly contest. Still, breaking a team’s 19-game winning streak at home is no joke, and the Cards (using only 8 scholarship players) should be commended for the convincing win. UNLV (eFG% = 30%) couldn’t find the basket with both hands tonight, and Louisville spent much of the game in the same Vegas Strip-induced fog. Earl Clark stepped up for the Cards with a dub-dub (16/13) and Terrence Williams did his usual thing (9/5/6 assts), and that was pretty much all they needed. We’re hopeful that the UL games coming up this weekend in Vegas will be a little more exciting. #16 Texas A&M 77, Washington 63. This was another game we had circled that didn’t really come through. UW looked lethargic and uninterested while Texas A&M methodically went about its business in winning the game. What is it about Pac-10 teams playing away from home so far this year – with the exception of UCLA, they all look terrible. Jon Brockman (21/15) was solid for Washington in the loss, but the props should go to the Texas A&M guards Dominique Kirk and Donald Sloan who combined for 33/6/6 assts while harassing the UW guards into a poor shooting night. Mark Turgeon is a great coach, so it should be no surprise that TAMU’s program remains strong after Billy Gillispie’s departure. Ohio St. and Texas A&M will meet in the PNIT finals.

Upset of the Night. Western Michigan 83, #21 Davidson 76. When is an upset not really an upset – how about this game? Davidson is ranked, but was favored by a mere 4 pts with good reason. W. Michigan is one of the leading contenders for the MAC title this year. In this game, WMU basically just shot the lights out, with an eFG% of 73% (v. 52% for Davidson). They hit 63% from two-point range and 55% (12-22) from three, as all five starters had double figures. For Davidson, Stephen Curry did his best to keep the Wildcats in the game as he had 25 pts (incl. 5 threes), but his only help came from backcourt mate Jason Richards (23/3/8 assts). While this loss may cause pollster consternation because WMU is a no-name opponent, we’re not ready to buy into that just yet. WMU is a good team and they were playing at home, but we still believe that Davidson can compete with (and beat) one or two of the remaining three biggies on its schedule (NC State or Duke, but not UCLA).

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #4 Kansas 87, N. Arizona 46. Darrell Arthur led the way with 17/6 in the blowout.
  • #5 Georgetown 57, Ball St. 48. Very surprised JT3 didn’t pour it on in this game.
  • #17 Butler 79, Michigan 65. Started to watch, but got sleepy…
  • #24 Clemson 74, Presbyterian 57. Clemson off to its usual unbeaten Nov/Dec.

Other Scores of Note.

  • Arizona St. 87, LSU 84. It’s so hard to sit back and watch good talent wasted (ahem, LSU).
  • Illinois 65, Oklahoma St. 49. The Illini are going to be their typical difficult selves this year.
  • Chaminade 74, Princeton 70. You go, Silverswords!
  • #24 Clemson 74, Presbyterian 57. Clemson off to its usual unbeaten Nov/Dec.

On Tap Today (all times EST). The Thanksgiving holiday isn’t a hoops day, so there are only ten games on tap, but wow, we get Beastley and Mayo late-night as we’re coming out of our food coma…

  • South Carolina (-2.5) v. Penn St. (ESPN2) 12pm – two hapless teams searching for a respectable win in the Old Spice Classic.
  • Mississippi St. (-10.5) v. UC Irvine (ESPNU) 2pm - MSU cannot afford to lose this game in UCI’s back yard (Anaheim).
  • NC State (-13.5) v. Rider (ESPN2) 2pm – NC State gets a chance to recover from the UNO loss.
  • S. Illinois (-16) v. Chattanooga (ESPNU) 4pm – our first television look at SIU this year.
  • Villanova (-6.5) v. Central Florida (ESPN2) 7pm – the game is in Orlando; will anyone be there?
  • Kansas St. (-2) v. George Mason (ESPN2) 9pm – not only is it our first look at Beastley, it’s also a great matchup!
  • Miami (OH) (-3) v. South Alabama (ESPNU) 9:30pm – won’t be watching this one much.
  • Gonzaga (-6) v. W. Kentucky (ESPNU) 11:30pm - a tremendous matchup in the Great Alaska.
  • USC (-13) v. San Diego (ESPN2) 11:30pm – conveniently timed post-Beastley and with our second turkey sandwich.

Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone!

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09.28.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 28th, 2007

Fourteen Days to go…

  • JT3 gets himself a well-deserved raise (reportedly doubling his salary to $900k) and extension through 2013 at Georgetown, although he’s still grossly underpaid. He’ll have to start the 2007-08 season without backup PG Chris Wright, however, due to a broken foot. Wright is expected back later this season.
  • Considerable speculation over Duke Crews’ suspension ended when the Tennesseean reported that a bag of maryjane was found in his dorm room.
  • JJ Redick don’t play like dat, and his brother will let you know it…
  • According to Six Pack Sports Report, Jim Calhoun hates kids with cancer b/c he won’t play Holy Cross. Speaking of which, the Coaches v. Cancer 2007 regional schedules are out – the ripest upset possibility now that HC isn’t allowed in? Oklahoma.
  • Staying in the Big East, we talked about Melo’s $3M gift the other day, but Storming the Floor reports that his charitable contributions for the year 2006 ranks #8 NATIONALLY among celebrities. Go, Melo.
  • STF also gets their preseason primer started with the eight must-watch nonconference games this year. Marco, no UNC-UK (Dec. 1) or Pitt-Duke (Dec. 20) for a crisp ten?
  • What’s left unsaid in Demarcus Nelson being named captain at Duke? How about Greg Paulus’ demotion – he was a tri-captain along with Nelson and McBob last year.
  • Making the Dance takes a look at the last 25 and 10 years worth of NCAA F4 appearances by conference. Solid first post, if we’re interpreting that correctly.
  • NCAA Hoops Today evaluates the Nike Hoop Summit to prep us on the freshmen to watch this season.
  • Mike DeCourcey asks ten questions that we should know the answers to this season.
  • In MSM-world, Hoops Weiss informs us that John Beilein has a tough road ahead at Michigan; Jeff Goodman at foxsports.com lets us know that Gonzaga isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; Seth Davis portrays Coach K as the energizer bunny that could; and Gary Parrish contends that the one-and-done “argument” has been settled for good. Oh, and Andy Katz tries to explain why NYC-area schools suck so badly.
  • Finally, if you want to learn how to run some full-court pressure D Bruce Pearl-style (Pat Summit cheer outfit not included) or how to get a 3 off the break, look no further.
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Fast Breaks 07.16.07

Posted by rtmsf on July 16th, 2007

For some reason, we don’t recall summers growing up as this boring…

  • Mizzou players Kalen Grimes (accused of assault with a shotgun in, of all places, a Jack in the Box) and DeMarre Carroll (shot in the ankle outside a nightclub) were involved in separate incidents within five days of each other. Mike Anderson’s honeymoon is apparently over in Columbia.
  • Bad Luck in Durham: Duke’s Brian Zoubek broke his foot in a pickup game; and Demarcus Nelson broke his wrist at the Pan Am trials within the last week. No word on whether Greg Paulus’s mishap with autoerotic asphyxiation will affect his play next year.
  • The Big East moves to an 18-game conference schedule for 2007-08, so each team will play at least once next year. We like this trend.
  • SEC Commish Mike Slive will head the NCAA Selection Committee in 2009 – Ole Miss and Vandy are already making hotel reservations to reward their 18-10 records.
  • New Ohio St. President Gordon Gee says that he will not tolerate bad behavior on his watch within the Buckeye program… we’re still waiting on the punchline here.
  • The 2007 HOF Challenge on December 1 is set with two solid matchups: UConn vs. Gonzaga and BC vs. Providence.
  • Cal assistant Joe Pasternack takes the head coaching job at the University of New Orleans. Bears fans lament that Ben Braun didn’t take the job.
  • The Fanhouse put together its admittedly premature top 20 for the summer. Georgetown is too low on their list and Indiana is too high.
  • UCLA’s incoming frosh Kevin Love is the Gatorade POY. Still not sure how we feel about him – is he another Psycho T or Aaron Gray?
  • Wake got 2008 verbals from the #3 and #18 players last week (to go along with already committed #10), but is the Class of 2008 any good? Speaking of Wake, TrueHoop unearthed a fantastic introspective piece into the mind of the greatest Deac of all, Tim Duncan.
  • Seth Davis gives his takes from the road on the summer circuit.
  • Apparently Steve Lavin knows how to throw a party.
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