As the Central Florida finds itself caught up in an NCAA probe and more embarrassing tweets, the two Florida schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference will find themselves shorthanded as they begin play this weekend. At Miami, it was formally announced Thursday that DeQuan Jones will sit out the entire Hurricanes basketball season as the NCAA investigates his involvement with the improper benefits scandal that has enveloped the U’s football program. Jones is the only non-football player to be implicated in the Nevin Shapiro story, and it has been long speculated that Jones probably wouldn’t be playing this season anyway.
Unsurprisingly, DeQuan Jones Won't Be Playing Because Of Miami's NCAA Investigation
In slightly more surprising news, Ian Miller won’t be playing for Florida State during the fall semester either. It appears that the sophomore guard cannot play for the remainder of the fall semester due to academic issues. Miller was one of the backups to Derwin Kitchen for the Seminoles and was expected to compete for the starting point guard role. Though he played limited, mostly unimpressive minutes in his freshman campaign, he has a good shot from the three-point line (35.8% last season) and could have brought some offensive balance to the post-centered Seminole attack. Miller came to Tallahassee as a big time prospect with a lot of potential, so if he can get his academic house in order by the end of the semester, his return to the lineup could really help Florida State heading into ACC play.
Career overview: Assistant coach (1985-2004); head coach at Miami (2004-11)
Playing experience: N/A
Accolades: ACC Coach of the Year finalist (2007-08)
Frank Haith isn’t exactly the most popular person in Columbia, Missouri, right now — and he knows it. In his introductory press conference, the new Missouri coach admitted he wasn’t the school’s first choice after finishing 43-69 in ACC play during his six years at Miami. To make matters worse, he’s now embroiled in the NCAA’s investigation of the Hurricanes. Booster Nevin Shapiro accused him of having knowledge of a $10,000 payment to DeQuan Jones, and he’s pictured at social events with Shapiro. So that’s been the theme of the 2011 off-season: damage control. Plus, in addition to suffering through a PR nightmare this summer, Haith also just found out this month that his senior forward Laurence Bowers will miss the entire season with an ACL injury.
Frank Haith Walked into a Great Situation at Missouri (Christie Megura)
Welcome to Columbia, coach. Luckily, even without Bowers, Haith has an experienced squad with a real shot at a Big 12 title. Before he cuts down the nets, though, Haith has some work to do. His biggest challenge will be finding a way to adjust Mike Anderson’s players to play a more traditional style. Haith has said he will continue to push the tempo offensively, but he also said he will back off on the all-out pressure defense and will introduce more of a pick-and-roll, inside-oriented offense. Haith’s personnel could thrive under his system. Point guards Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon might benefit in this offense, and senior Ricardo Ratliffe might be primed for a big year if his guards get him more involved. And with Marcus Denmon and Kim English back in the fold, this is a team that could take off in Haith’s first season.
I’m not sure “impermissible” is a strong enough word to cover cash payments, hookers, and everything in-between. Now factor in the disappointment of an underachieving (and extremely unlucky) basketball team, the departure of the basketball coach, and a star player going down for the first half of this season with an injury, and you’re on a level to empathize with Hurricane fans.
Reggie Johnson is Out with a Knee Injury: Can Miami still Reach Its Potential?
Moving the focus back to basketball, last year was a disaster for the Hurricanes. No, they weren’t totally non-competitive, but in some ways that just makes things worse. The team was primed for success with a down conference and returning star power, but a hideous 1-6 start to conference play saw preseason expectations evaporate quickly. Looking back at the roster and season they had, I have to wonder if Frank Haith wasn’t on the hot seat anyway: he had only made the NCAA Tournament once in the last seven years despite several talented teams. His last four seasons were better, with Miami averaging over 20 wins and I’d be remiss not to mention the relative apathy for basketball south Florida has, but still.
SI.com’s Andy Glockner (one of RTC’s favorites) has summarized the prospects of no less than 46 teams for the upcoming season…Twitter-style. Or, as he says in his intro, heh heh, “We’re going to do it quickly, @AndyGlockner-style.” A fun read, this, and a darn good follow if you’re not already among his legion of almost 6,000. This kind of thing isn’t easy, since the 140-character limit forces you to take what you’re trying to say and distill it down to the smallest thimbleful of demi-glace of your original point, and so many teams (Georgetown, this means you) have had extremely interesting summers. Shameless self-promotion: for the past couple of seasons we’ve tweeted a preview (a series we cleverly call “Tweeting the Preview”) every hour on the hour for every Division I team in the 344 hours leading up to the tipoff of the season’s first game, and we’ll be doing it again this October.
Florida State AD Randy Spetman remarked yesterday that while his school was keeping a sharp eye on all the conference realignment happenings and an ear tuned into the latest gossip, FSU is “comfortable in the ACC.” There’s certainly no reason to doubt that, but…it’s that word. “Comfortable.” We’ve known a lot of relationships in our day in which each partner felt comfortable but one of them bolted as quickly as they could when a more exciting option came along. And in the conference realignment game, excitement comes in the form of TV network dollars. With the kind of cash that’s being thrown around these days in the SEC (and Pac-12), which now needs a 14th member, we wouldn’t be surprised if FSU’s seat at the ACC table started to feel a little less comfortable and more on the lumpy side in the near future.
Dan Wiederer has covered the ACC for the past seven seasons for the Fayetteville Observer and, because of both his insight and his humor, has been a required read for any college basketball lover — especially those territorial Tobacco Road types — over that time span. He’s soon leaving his post there to cover something called the Minnesota Vikings (anyone?) for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and he hasn’t much time left. In one of his last articles for the FO, he recalls his five greatest moments during his seven-year run of chronicling ACC basketball. RTC is sorry to see this defection, another example of college basketball suffering at the hands of a football-related decision. Good luck at the new gig, Mr. W, and tell Tubby we said “‘Sup.” He’ll probably play that game, you know, where he acts like he doesn’t know us…
Right now we’re in one of those stretches on the calendar in which one usually sees an increase in the rate of stories about ballers getting into some mischief and ending up suspended for, say, an exhibition game and the season opener. Hey, it happens — these guys are back at school, they’re going to parties, the season is still weeks away, coaches are off recruiting, and all that. Hope we’re not jinxing it, but there hasn’t been much of that so far this year. Not that they’re particularly trouble-prone, but Lorenzo Romar has his charges at Washington occupying their time by helping out at various charities in the community. That alone would merit a link here, but the article also has a small photo of Desmond Simmons, Scott Suggs, and Darnell Gant wearing high heels. It was for a good cause, but we’re sorry, fellas. We couldn’t resist. You can probably expect to see enlarged versions of it at some road games this year, but because it was part of a charity appearance, you gents should be proud.
Even though the NCAA has asked him not to discuss the matter, Missouri head coach Frank Haith told StLToday.com that he “did nothing wrong at the University of Miami.” This is noteworthy because it’s the first public denial that we’ve heard from Haith regarding the allegation that he helped grease the rails for a $10,000 payment from the infamous Nevin Shapiro to then-recruit DeQuan Jones (now a senior) to secure the latter’s commitment to the basketball team. That is, it’s the first public direct denial; his few previous denials have been of the “non-denying” type. In the short linked article, Haith also mentions the effect it’s having on his recruiting efforts. Even though it’s not hard to predict what he said, there’s a pretty somber tone to his comments, as they’re written. If you’re a Mizzou fan, you should probably just skip this one.
Yesterday we mentioned the piece by SI.com’s Andy Glockner listing five teams that finished near the bottom of Ken Pomeroy’s luck statistic and why they should be in for some better fortune in the upcoming. Who, you may ask, finished dead last in that stat? Who was the unluckiest team in college hoops in 2010-11? The answer: the same team that finished last in luck in 2009-10! In fact, they did it under two different coaches. On Tuesday (not sure how it got by us), Mr. Glockner examined what exactly the luck statistic is and how this squad can avoid a three-peat of ill fate.
Whatever happens, DeQuan Jones at least knows that his family and friends have his back. The mother, high school coach and AAU coach of the Miami (FL) senior swingman released an understandably spiky response to “friend of the program” Nevin Shapiro’s allegation that a family member of Jones’ asked for $10,000 to insure Jones’ commital to the Hurricanes from high school. The most compelling part of their story is the timeline; Jones had already verballed and signed his letter of intent to attend Miami a full seven months prior to the time Shapiro says the payola request was made. Certainly not the end of the matter, but the linked article by the Miami Herald‘s Michelle Kaufman will bring you up to speed.
If you’re reading a college basketball blog, you’re likely aware that there are many players who are not just student-athletes but also innocents abroad from their foreign homes. There’s a pretty big international competition called the Summer Olympics in about a year, and a couple of fellows recently learned that they may find themselves in London playing for their respective national teams. Saint Louis’ Rob Loe was called up to New Zealand’s national side for a best-of-three series against Australia next week for the right to go to the Olympics, and College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence — a native Londoner — made the final cut for the national team from Great Britain, meaning he’ll get to play in the Olympics in his hometown. This seems like as good a time as any to remind you that, because of their uniforms, the formidable NZ national rugby team is called the All Blacks. Playing off that, New Zealanders call their basketball team…the Tall Blacks.
College basketball fans have seen the occasional boon resulting from this whole NBA lockout nonsense, and another one just came to fruition. We didn’t get to see a Jimmer Fredette vs. Kemba Walker matchup last season, but the two have agreed to participate in a pair of games in Utah featuring two teams comprised of NBA rookies, presumably a bunch of guys trying to understandably stay in playing shape. BYU head coach Dave Rose will lead Fredette’s team, while San Diego State boss Steve Fisher will coach the Walker side. We don’t know who else will be involved, but we wouldn’t mind if Kemba and The Jimmer just ended up playing what would amount to a full-court 1-on-1 game while the others rebounded for them.
The people who run Kelley Farms in Lexington, Kentucky undoubtedly love two things: John Calipari, and — evidently less so — corn. As basketball fans, it would be difficult for them to go all Ray Kinsella and clear out crop space for a court, since that wouldn’t make quite the economic impact as Kevin Costner’s character’s baseball field, and basketballs don’t bounce well on uneven dirt. Instead, they decided on a John Calipari corn maze, open for the public to get lost in on September 23. We’ll be waiting to hear if any ghosts from Kentucky’s glorious past emerge from the stalks. Perhaps farm owner John Kelley heard a voice telling him, “If he comes, you will build it.” Yeah, we know — enough with the Field Of Dreams references.
USC point guard and best returning player, Jio Fontan, flew back to Los Angeles on Wednesday due to an injury he suffered on Tuesday night during an exhibition game in Sao Paolo against a professional team, Mogi Das Cruzes. According to reports, he landed awkwardly on his knee on a drive to the hoop and was removed from the game immediately thereafter. X-rays taken in Brazil were negative, but the injury was deemed serious enough that Fontan was sent back to the US rather than try to get an MRI in Rio de Janeiro, the Trojans’ next stop on their international tour. Needless to say, this seems very bad, and if Fontan did in fact do something tragic like tear his ACL, Kevin O’Neill’s program will once again be facing an uphill battle toward respectability in both the Pac-12 and nationally next season.
The Miami (FL)/Nevin Shapiro aftermath began in earnest yesterday, with opinions flying from all over the blogosphere as to what will happen next, what should happen next, and what can be done to fix it (if anything). If you read nothing else on this topic and couldn’t care less whether the U ever suits up in the green and orange again, read this Dan Wetzel piece from Yahoo Sports Wednesday. He poignantly and eloquently calls out this situation for what it is — nothing more than another slap-in-the-face example of student-athletes following the apparent lead (read: greed and avarice) of the administrators at their schools and at the NCAA. He asks why should we expect anyone to act differently when the “people running college athletics are desperate for money – for themselves and their salaries and their facilities, for their private planes and their comped cars and their golf-course memberships. They want to avoid paying players and taxes as if they run a little league, then get paid and pampered like they run the NFL. Everyone is chasing the cash.” Answer: they shouldn’t, we shouldn’t, and the whole damn system is rotten to the core. Compelling stuff.
As we noted yesterday, basketball is a relatively minor part of this scandal, but it probably doesn’t feel that way to Missouri administrators, fans and new head coach Frank Haith right now. As Luke Winn writes, ‘character and integrity’ were the two attributes that Mizzou AD Mike Alden relied upon when he made the decision last spring to hire Haith, but if the allegations against him have any legs whatsoever, it will be difficult to to justify keeping him on board in Columbia. Mike DeCourcy writes that Haith is harmed by the NCAA’s gag order policy on pending investigations, and it’s a good point. The narrative involving Shapiro buying off DeQuan Jones on Haith’s behalf is already being told, written, and memorialized, and Haith has veritably no recourse to defend his position in the interim. Whether Haith will survive the next month or longer at Missouri is anyone’s guess, but our best speculation suggests that if UM brass catches any whiff of impropriety related to this situation, he’ll be gone immediately. (By the way, DeQuan Jones’ career total points at Miami: 372, or $26.88 per point, allegedly.)
Things continue to improve down in the great state of Florida. Didn’t we already refer to the Miami Hurricanes fiasco in the two spaces above? Right, we did. But it was a different Orange State school a few hours north that on Wednesday received an official notice of inquiry from the NCAA related to potential violations in both the basketball and football programs. Central Florida is now feeling the heat over its association with booster Ken Caldwell, a Chicago native who has allegedly been involved in steering several basketball recruits and one football recruit to the school. With all the shenanigans going on down there, maybe the NCAA should consider setting up a special Florida Task Force just to deal with its rampant NCAA lawlessness (and remember, Isiah is still at FIU).
Some international hoops updates. First, Team USA has rolled through its four games so far in the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, this week. So far, the Yanks have defeated Mexico by 41 points, Hungary by 49 points, South Korea by 44 points, and most recently, Finland by 60. The team has clinched the top seed in its group, and will play one more game against Israel before moving into the quarterfinal round on Saturday. Five players are averaging double figures, led by Ashton Gibbs’ (Pittsburgh) 13.5 PPG, John Jenkins’ (Vanderbilt) 13.0 PPG, and JaMychal Green’s (Alabama) 12.3 PPG. The team is shooting a very nice 51% from the field and 42% from three while holding its opponents to an icy 36% overall and 22% from outside the arc. Impressive. One other quick international note is that Rice junior Arsalam Kazemiwill not be able to play for his native Iran in the upcoming FIBA Asia Championships in September because he’d have to miss two much coursework.
Boom. That explosion you just heard coming from South Beach and nearby environs had nothing to do with Texas A&M, Mike Slive or Mark Emmert. No, it was Yahoo Sports’ Tuesday release of a penetrating and ultimately damning piece exposing a long-term, sustained pattern of NCAA lawlessness, “some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs.” While the majority of the allegations and claims made by currently imprisoned Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro involves the football program, former Hurricane head coach Frank Haith, former assistants Jorge Fernandez and Jake Martin, and current senior basketball player, DeQuan Jones, were all named as having benefited or been involved in some capacity (click the links on their names to see the specific allegations and evidence against them). Notwithstanding the mess that new Miami coach Jim Larranaga has now stepped into down in Coral Gables, all three of Missouri (Haith), Western Kentucky (Morton), and Marshall (Fernandez) must all be wondering what kind of damage control they’re going to need to employ in order to keep the NCAA from roosting on their doorsteps. Haith has already denied any allegations relating to Shapiro, for whatever that’s worth. Certainly the NCAA is already on its way to south Florida, and depending on what else they uncover, Hurricane basketball could be in serious trouble (although not nearly to the extent of the football team).
From the last-thing-on-anyone’s-mind department at the U, there was also a Tuesday announcement that DePaul freshman guard Shane Larkin, the son of former Cincinnati Reds baseball star Barry Larkin, is transferring to Miami to be closer to home (Orlando) because of an unnamed medical condition. Since he already took part in summer coursework and preseason practices at DePaul before the Blue Demon team went to France this month, he’ll either have to sit out the 2011-12 season in Coral Gables or apply for and receive a medical waiver from the NCAA to play this year. Larkin is already taking some heat from those who believe his “condition” is a mere smokescreen so he can get out of Chicago without penalty, but given what’s going on at Miami right now, he may want to reconsider. Undoubtedly new head coach Jim Larranaga, whose program cannot help but feel some of the heat and fallout from this scandal, would be happy to have him on the court this coming season.
We alluded yesterday to the fact that the vast majority of the top players in the Class of 2012 remain uncommitted. Jeff Goodman points out that this is an anomaly in an environment where kids have usually been locked and loaded to a specific school for quite a bit of time at this point. Whatever the reason for this year’s weirdness (15 of last year’s top 25 were committed at the same point), Goodman is correct in noting that the coming months of September and October will be an all-out war among schools trying to impress the top prospects with on-campus visits in the hopes of getting a verbal and, subsequently, a John Hancock during the November 11-17 signing period.
Horrible story from down south this week involving a Sun Belt and Southland Conference referee who apparently committed suicide after learning that his wife had been murdered at their home in Houston. Troy Raymond, a long-time NBA and college basketball official with a good reputation for his on-court skill set, was found in a hotel room in New Orleans on Friday only a few hours after his wife’s strangled body was discovered a few hours west. There appears to be much more to this story, though, as CBSSports.com reported that his wife had recently asked him for a divorce and that at least one conference had recently informed him that he would not be brought back to officiate next season. You hate to speculate as to what might have happened because two lives are already gone and assuredly countless others impacted, but let’s cross our fingers and hope against hope that it wasn’t the unthinkable.
Last week we thought that Swiperboy, a/k/a Tennessee forward Renaldo Woolridge, had decided to hang up his microphone for good, but according to his blog in a post called “You really thought I was done?”, he now claims he was misinterpreted. The new story is that his upcoming mixtape, Zazzzle, will in fact be his last; but, he has no plans to give up rapping and he expects his first studio album “Crossover” to drop in stores next spring. Say what you like about Swiperboy, but he’s already got down the dramatic essence of becoming a hip-hop superstar — always leave them wanting more. He also seems to enjoy rapping about his environment, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, although what America (and RTC) really wants to hear is a “Hit ‘em Up” missive on his former coach, Bruce Pearl. For now, we’ll have to settle on his new single, “Teach Me How to Dooley,” a song dedicated to Derek Dooley, UT’s head football coach [ed note: is that pool located at Pearl's house currently for sale?].
We’re back with another thrilling edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite where we try to cover every single game on TV. Since we have only two people working on BGTD, we appreciate any reader tips on what games everyone should be watching since there are so many on TV and the Internet. For a rundown of the games today, check out today’s Set Your Tivos.
11:40 AM: ESPN GameDay is live from Spokane site of the Memphis-Gonzaga game tongiht at 9 PM. The crowd is fairly small, but I’ll give the Bulldog fans a break since it started at 8 AM local time on a Saturday morning at a school with just 4,515 undergraduates. I’m still waiting for a basketball GameDay to match a college football GameDay in terms of attendance and crazy fans. Looking at the schedule, I’m going to have go with February 21st when Oklahoma plays Texas in Austin, TX as the ESPN GameDay where the fans actually show up.
Noon: Some great work by the ESPN camera crew making Philadelphia look like something other a dump. The Syracuse-Villanova game should be one of the better ones today with both teams being in the 2nd tier in the Big East after UConn, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. The jury is still out on Marquette after last night’s debacle. Like we said watch the Jonny Flynn versus Scottie Reynolds match-up. The Arinze Onuaku injury could be big particularly with Dante Cunningham on the inside.
12:40 PM: Sorry for the delay in posting, but we’re having some problems with WordPress. Anyways, Villanova is absolutely destroying Syracuse right now. A basket by Cunningham stretches the lead to 21 at 36-15. It might be a while before we have another update on this game unless the Orange make a run. If the game continues like this, Jim Boeheim‘s squad will fall out of the top 25 leaving just 5 Big East teams in the rankings.
1:00 PM: The ESPN announcers just said that Donovan McNabb played some basketball when he was at Syracuse. Either he had some ridiculous intramural basketball career that I’m not aware of or they just assume that every mobile black QB was a two-sports star. I’m guessing it is the latter.
After last night’s relatively weak slate of games, we’re back to normal tonight with a great set of games.
Game of the Day #3 Duke at #10 Clemson at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Our second top 10 match-up of the week. Once again the road team is the higher ranked team, but I feel like this time they are also the favorites coming in to the game. All of you know about Duke by now thanks to their frequent appearances on national TV so I will keep it brief. Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson have emerged as their two most consistent players. Usually that is enough to get them by most teams even if they only get minimal support from the rest of the team. However, when that happens against quality teams the result isn’t always that good (even if they come really really close). The key for the Blue Devils in this game and for the rest of the season will be the play of Brian Zoubek (go ahead and snicker Duke haters) and Nolan Smith. Zoubek merely needs to be a mediocre 7-footer and Coach K and the rest of the Blue Devils staff will be happy. Smith, who replaced Greg Paulus in the starting lineup, has to improve his decision-making. He must have one of the worst assist-to-turnover ratios (1.03 to 1) of any starting PG on a top team in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Clemson may be the most under-appreciated team in the country. I’m not sure if it is the Tigers’ recent history of falling apart down the stretch, but I never hear anybody mentioning them as a team that could make a run in March despite the fact that they probably have the most reasonable losses of any team in the country (Wake Forest and at UNC). The key for Oliver Purnell‘s team will be to have Trevor Booker dominate on the inside. I doubt that Duke will let him play against Zoubek so he will probably have to do it against Singler, which could make for an interesting match-up. If Booker can win that match-up, Clemson will have a shot. After that they will need a strong game out of K.C. Rivers and hope to contain Duke’s outside shooters (particularly Jon Scheyer). I think Clemson will keep it close until midway through the 2nd half when Duke will go on a run and pull away to win by about a dozen.
Worth Watching West Virginia at #20 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Mountaineers are a a perfect example of why it is so hard to read Big East teams. They are only 4-4 in the conference, but all 4 of those losses were to top 10 teams (UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Marquette). Likewise, Syracuse comes in having lost 3 straight and 4 of 5, but 3 of those losses have been on the road (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Providence) and the other to one of the hottest teams (Louisville) in the country. The Orangemen should be able to break their recent skid if they can contain Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but a lot of that will have to do with whether or not they will have their full compliment of players available. Mookie Jones is done for the year with a hip injury, but someone will have to step up as Jim Boeheim can’t expect to get 62 points from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf every game (and even that didn’t work in their last game).
#19 Minnesota at #14 Michigan State at 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: What is going on with the Spartans? Tom Izzo‘s team has lost back-to-back games at the Breslin Center to pretty weak competition (Northwestern and Penn State). Just two weeks ago everyone was talking about this team as a potential Final 4 contender with the return of Goran Suton. Unfortunately for Izzo, the Spartans will be without Raymar Morgan, who is out with “walking pneumonia”. To turn things around, the Spartans will need improved play out of Kalin Lucas, who still boasts an impressive 3.09 to 1 assist to TO ratio, but most of that is from his early season play. They will have to do it against a Gopher team that held Illinois to a ridiculous 36 points in their last game. Keep an eye on Al Nolen and Ralph Sampson III in this one for the Gophers as they will be matched up against Lucas and Suton respectively.
#6 Wake Forest at Miami (FL) at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Wake needs to develop some consistency if they want to be a national championship contender. We know that they can beat the big boys as they knocked off UNC, Clemson, and Duke in a three week stretch. The question is why they can’t maintain that level of play when they go up against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (both losses). Dino Gaudio will need to figure this out if he wants to get this team up to the level of Duke and UNC at the end of the season. Maybe it’s just a focus thing, which hopefully shouldn’t be an issue in March. Either way, this trip to Miami should be a nice challenge for the Demon Deacons. Jeff Teague will be matched up against Jack McClinton and Al-Farouq Aminu will be up against Dwayne Collins. I think Miami may be able to hold its own in those match-ups. Unfortunately for Frank Haith, the Hurricanes run into depth problems after their top 2 while the Demon Deacons run much deeper. Perhaps Haith should look into giving more PT to his ridiculously athletic freshman DeQuan Jones.
#16 Villanova at Providence at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Villanova finally got the signature win we were asking for by beating Pittsburgh last week in the last college basketball game at the Spectrum. This time they will have to do it on the road against a Friar team that was playing well before they ran into the UConn buzzsaw. Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds will need to have solid games if Jay Wright‘s crew is going to pull out a rare Big East road win against a Providence team that is actually above them in the Big East standings. Providence will need a solid effort out of its 8-deep rotation including Weyinmi Efejuku and Jonathan Kale to defend its home court tonight.
Keep an Eye On Notre Dame at Cincinnati at 7:30 PM on ESPN360.com: Mike Brey needs Kyle McAlarney to snap out of his funk and start helping Luke Harangody out or the Fighting Irish might be looking at trip to the NIT this year. This is a game Notre Dame needs to win if they expect to make the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee at Arkansas at 8 PM on Raycom, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Can freshman Scotty Hopson be the one to reenergize the Vols who have struggled to play up their pre-season #8 ranking? Bruce Pearl might want to give him some more PT against the confusing Arkansas team that beat Texas and Oklahoma (the Sooners only loss), but is just 1-5 in the SEC.
Texas A&M at #2 Oklahoma at 9 PM on The Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Watch this one for Blake Griffin, who will be your national Player of the Year barring some freak injury or sketchy voting. I guess the Aggies played Oklahoma close at College Station so this could be a decent game, but since it is in Norman I doubt it will be that close after the half unless the Sooners are already looking ahead to Texas and Kansas two weeks from now.
USC at #12 UCLA at 10:30 PM on Fox Sports:Ben Howland‘s will be going for a sweep of the California Pac-10 teams at Pauley Pavilion against their cross-town rivals. The Trojans are my pick for secretly good team that nobody is talking about, but could make a run in March. Watch this one for the battle of the freshmen: DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday. They won’t be matched up against each other, but it should be fun to see Josh Shipp guard DeRozan. As an added bonus, you might get to see Lil’ Romeo (ok, maybe not).
This is a huge day here at RTC. Not only will we be blogging with you all day with this BGTD nonsense, but we’ll also have a presence at ESPN GameDay live from Chapel Hill where our man on the ground will be taking questions and comments from you, the readers, so that you can finally ask Erin Andrews what shampoo she uses and where, exactly, does she find such perfectly fitted tops. Or anything else you guys may want to know (within reason, of course).
RTC Live: Miami at UNC will be a sticky at the top of the page all day, so be sure to stop by and check it out as you put off going outside into the semi-Arctic environment known as the East CoastMidwestSouthMountains USA this lovely Saturday.
As for this post, we’ve got the three-tv setup ready to roll, and with Notre Dame-Syracuse starting off the day in a few hours, we should probably try to get some sleep. We’ll be back for that one (and all the others), but in the meantime, feel free to peruse our SYT preview of today’s big games.
11:52am – And we’re back. Let’s get going. Quick note – lamest sign just spotted at GameDay in CH – Everyone Still Predicts National championship? Wow, props for creativity there, er, not.
Noon – What’s on your tv right now? There’s an interesting mid-major on ESPN2 (N. Iowa at Drake). The Noon FC games aren’t too exciting (Maryland at FSU; Ga Tech at NC State; USF at WVU) – we’ll keep an eye on each, but it’s looking mostly like Cuse-ND and UNI-Drake here.