Big Ten Weekly Five: 07.12.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 12th, 2012

  1. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery recently signed a seven-year contract extension. McCaffery will make approximately $1.7M after next season and will be rewarded with a raise up to $2M if the Hawkeyes make the NCAA Tournament over the next few years. Iowa has not received an NCAA Tournament bid since 2006, and the university certainly believes that McCaffery is the guy to get them there with this move. Even though the Hawkeyes only finished 18-17 last season, the program certainly has a different competitive feel since McCaffery took over. During the B1G season, Iowa had the highest tempo in the league at 65.1 possessions per game and appeared to maximize the talent available. The addition of two top 100 ranked freshmen — Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell — certainly indicates the program’s upswing.
  2. Iowa is the not the only program that has increased the overall tempo of play in the Big Ten. New Illinois head coach John Groce plans to have Brandon Paul and Tracy Abrams run all over the place next season. Groce holds practice using a 24-second shot clock to increase his team’s endurance and hopes to make a difference in Champaign immediately. Illinois ranked in the middle of the B1G last season with 63.5 posessions per game but definitely has the athletes on the wings to push the pace. They featured a three-guard lineup with Abrams, Paul and D.J. Richardson but were primarily a jump-shooting offense under Weber, especially in the second half of the season. Groce is trying to change that and hopes to instill confidence into a team that stumbled down the stretch last season.
  3. High school sensation and arguably the best prep player in the country Jabari Parker apparently isn’t interested in joining the Illini per the latest reports. Parker, a 6’8″ wing, listed his top 10 schools in no particular order this week and Illinois was not one of them. Michigan State is the only Big Ten school that he is considering as he enters his senior year in high school. It is very likely that he only stays in college for one year so Kentucky might be a frontrunner if he plans to follow the footsteps of Brandon Knight, John Wall, Anthony Davis and the multiple “one-and-done” players who roll through Lexington, Kentucky, on their way to the NBA lottery.
  4. The 2012-13 season schedule is beginning to shape up. ESPN airs a 24-hour hoops marathon to unofficially tip-off the new season and Michigan State is one of the headliners that will participate in the event. Tom Izzo’s Spartans will face Kansas at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on November 13. Izzo is notorious in challenging his teams with tough non-conference scheduling to prepare them for March. MSU is already scheduled to play Connecticut overseas and the matchup with Kansas will continue to shape a challenging schedule for the Spartans who are a pre-season top 10 team next season. Junior guard Keith Appling looks to step up into a leadership role after Draymond Green’s exit and a healthy return of Branden Dawson should give Sparty a defensive stopper against the premier wings in the country.
  5. The Olympics are upon us and the USA Basketball team has been announced. The Big Ten will be well represented by current Brooklyn Net and former Illini great Deron Williams in London. Williams is one of the three point guards on the team in addition to Chris Paul (former Wake Forest guard) and Russell Westbrook (former UCLA guard). Williams earned a gold medal in 2008 and was joined by Michael Redd who made a career at Ohio State before taking his sweet shooting stroke to the NBA. Another former Illini, Robert Archibald, will be playing for England over the summer. Archibald was a key part of the Illinois team that lost to Arizona in the Elite Eight during the 2000-01 season.
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Jimmer Tries Life as a Duffer, Finds Basketball Easier

Posted by rtmsf on July 18th, 2011

We now know one thing that 2010-11 National Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette won’t be doing to supplement his income while locked out by his Sacramento employers this coming year: Hitting the links.  The phrase Jimmer for three took on a whole new meaning over the weekend in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, as the tenth pick in the NBA Draft spent more time hacking around in the rough and serpentining around the greens of the American Century Championship than finding the sweet spot at the bottom of the cup.  How bad was the nation’s best college basketball player?  Gulp… even worse than Barkley.  From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Make Sure to Duck if You See These Two Behind You

Fredette finished dead last (83rd place) at the American Century Championship golf tournament on Sunday afternoon, ending up with minus-88 points. Fredette had minus-30 on Friday, minus-28 on Saturday and minus-30 on Sunday. The worst he could have gotten each day was minus-36. Jay DeMarcus of the country music group Rascal Flatts finished second-to-last at minus-83, and Charles Barkley was third-to-last at minus-68.

Basketball players with their lanky frames and inability to stand still as a general rule didn’t perform well in this tournament, with Shane Battier (#77), Digger Phelps (#72), Jason Kidd (#56), Deron Williams (#46) and Penny Hardaway (#41) joining Chuck and Jimmer in lighting up the Edgewood Golf Club with high degree of difficulty shots from every nook and cranny in the Tahoe basin.  The highest placing hoopster was former NC State star and current LA Clippers head coach, Vinny del Negro (#11), with His Airness and Jesus Shuttlesworth also placing modestly (tied at #23).

In typical good-natured Jimmer fashion, he tweeted out after his final round that he’ll be “much improved” next year.  Given the look and feel of an NBA work stoppage that will likely leak well into next calendar year, The Jimmer will certainly have plenty of time to work on his golf game.  Whether anyone will remember who he is depends on a bunch of other factors, but for at least this one year, he gave Sir Charles a reason to feel good about himself.   

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Cole Aldrich

Posted by nvr1983 on June 21st, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Cole Aldrich

School: Kansas

Height/Weight: 6’10″,  236 lbs

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Position: Mid- to Late Lottery

Overview: We have discussed our reservations about Aldrich before namely that although he was productive he never dominated games the way we would have liked him to do during his time at Kansas. We usually say that you should look beyond the numbers, but in Aldrich’s case we think the numbers tell you a lot about his game. As a sophomore Aldrich averaged 14.9 PPG (on 59.8% FG), 11.1 RPG, and 2.7 BPG, but as a junior averaged 11.3 PPG (on 56.2% FG), 9.8 RPG, and 3.5 BPG. Some might argue that is due to more limited touches, but his 40-minute numbers are down across the board except for his BPG. What is even more concerning is the drop in his free throw shooting–down from an extremely solid 79% as a sophomore to a more mediocre 68% last year. Having said that as his BPG and efficiency numbers indicate Aldrich is a player who can contribute even if he will never dominate a game (didn’t have a single game where he scored 20 points or more last year).

How will Aldrich's game translate to the NBA?

Will Translate to the NBA: A solid role player. I haven’t really seen any site/pundit claim that Aldrich will morph into a superstar even at the start of last season when some considered him a top 5 pick. Now with one more year of playing time allowing scouts and opposing coaches to dissect his game more thoroughly he is no longer a potential top 5 pick, but more where you would expect someone who with his limited upside. Before the Kansas fans pile on to the comment section let’s be clear on one thing: Aldrich could become a good NBA player. We just don’t think he has a legitimate chance of becoming someone you can build your franchise around (or even a national title contender as Jayhawk fans are all too aware after the Northern Iowa game). Aldrich is the type of guy who could average 10 PPG, 8 RPG, and 2 BPG in the right situation, but we can’t see him doing much more than that.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Greg Monroe

Posted by nvr1983 on June 15th, 2010

Player Name: Greg Monroe

School: Georgetown

Height/Weight: 6’11″, 247 lbs

NBA Position: Power Forward/Center

Projected Draft Position: Mid-lottery

Overview: After turning down Duke to go to Georgetown, Monroe has mostly lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon him as a top 10 recruit coming out of high school. He has proven to be every bit as talented as the high school recruiting experts, but questions remain about whether he has the tenacity or type of game to dominate the way you expect a superstar to. Monroe has shown the capacity to improve his game as demonstrated by his growth as a player between his freshman and sophomore year as the Hoyas often ran sets through Monroe. Although Monroe has the best skill set of any big man in the draft by a wide margin he has a lot to work on if he wants to fulfill his potential as a basketball player.

Monroe Has Shown Flashes of Brilliance

Will Translate to the NBA: Monroe will be a player that his teammates will love playing with. As soon as Monroe signs his first contract he will be one of the top 5 passing big men in the NBA. His game won’t overwhelm opposing teams, but if he is put in the right system he could flourish. In a few years he could very easily be the second or third option on a championship level contender. He isn’t the kind of player that you give the ball to with the clock running down, but he is a player who in the right situation can put you in position to win games (a lot of them). On the other hand, Monroe will frustrate fans because his passive game may be interpreted by many on the periphery as lacking the urgency his team sometimes needs. On defense Monroe will put up decent numbers because of his size and decent mobility even if he lacks the ideal NBA athleticism. He should be a decent defender, but will never make an all-defensive team. The big question will be how his game translates from the Georgetown “Princeton offense” to a more traditional NBA offense depending on where he ends up going.

Needs Work: As we have mentioned (and countless others before us) Monroe could become a little more aggressive on the offense end. While we all know the NBA could use a few more unselfish players Monroe needs to develop that “killer instinct” (a banal term for a not so banal attribute). Monroe could also use a little work in the low post. Even though he is effective with his variety of unorthodox moves inside Monroe would benefit immensely from a summer (or two or more) working with a skilled big man refining his inside game so he can play a little center too.

Comparison Players: The name you will hear thrown around the most when describing Monroe is Lamar Odom. While I can see that particularly with their build and passing ability there are some key differences namely that Monroe lacks the handle or outside shooting range that Odom has and Monroe can actually be an inside force (read: play defense) so the comparison is not a particularly useful one. Another comparison that I actually prefer is Brad Miller, another inside player with a solid passing game but not a dazzling array of other offensive skills. Miller has a nasty streak that Monroe has yet to display and Monroe has a little better handle, but otherwise their skill sets are pretty comparable.

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30 Days of Madness: Illinois Comes Back From the Dead

Posted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2010

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months.  You have too.  In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while.   Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage.  Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face.  Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep.  Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style.  The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go.  Are you?  To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month.  We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er.  Or whatever.  Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with.  That’s the hope, at least.  We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so all of this week we re-visited some of the timeless moments from the regionals of the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoy.

NCAA Regionals

Dateline: 2005 NCAA Regional Finals – Illinois vs. Arizona

Context: There are so many tremendous regional final games to choose from, it’s incredibly difficult to pick just a few.  But in trying to remind ourselves of some of the less well-known but still great moments of this round, we finally settled on this game from 2005 that was without question a comeback for the ages.  There was no one particular shot or moment that everyone remembers like Christian Laettner or Scottie Reynolds, but as a collection of steals, big shots and sustained excitement, it ranks right at the top of the list in our view.  Illinois had gone pretty much wire to wire as the #1 team in America that season, but with four minutes to go, Bruce Weber’s Illini were down 75-60 to Arizona and seemingly on their way home a little short of their Final Four dream.  And that’s when the threes started falling… (start at about 1:45 in the below vid)

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All-Time Sagarin Ratings: Duke Isn’t Going to Be Happy About This

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2009

Quick.  Name the top six programs of all-time. 

(waiting…)

If the names Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA didn’t come immediately to mind, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this site.  The gummy bear picture that you’re looking for is somewhere else.  These six schools represent, oh, only about half of the NCAA championships, a boatload of great players and tradition, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,000 wins.  Not too shabby. 

Now, who would you have on the next tier of great programs?  Certainly Louisville, Ohio St., Cincinnati, Syracuse, Michigan St., NC State and some others would have a good argument, right?  You might even throw an Oklahoma St. (two titles as A&M) or a Georgetown in there, right?   Riddle us this, though.  Where would you place a program that has been admittedly solid over the years, but even with five Final Fours on its resume, has never quite grasped the brass ring itself?

illinois logo

If you’re a computer program such as Jeff Sagarin’s all-time college basketball ratings (released today as part of the ESPN CBB Encyclopedia out tomorrow), you might rank that program sixth.  As in, the sixth best program in college basketball history.  Ahead of Duke, Louisville, and all but the elites mentioned above.  And therein lies the problem with purely quantitative analysis such as this – whether it’s the BCS or the Helms Titles – there absolutely must be a qualitative component where you can consider the look and feel of what you’re evaluating, or you end up with an embarrassing result that suggests Illinois is the sixth best college basketball program of all-time

top 50 all time sagarin

Look, we have nothing against the Illini.  There’s no question that the Big Ten stalwart is one of the top twenty programs ever, as five F4s, plenty of great players from Red Kerr to Deron Williams, and a long history of achievement will attest.  But if the boys from Urbana-Champaign are one of the top six programs in history, having never won a national title (and only sniffing it once, in 2005), well, we simply cannot accept that result.  By contrast, the #7 team in Sagarin’s all-time ratings, Duke, has by itself won three titles, been a runner-up six other times, and enjoyed the final weekend another five times.  How is this possible? 

Aggregation of data is how.  At some point during Duke’s long basketball history, their ‘down’ periods were worse than Illinois’ even though Duke’s ‘up’ periods are much better, and despite all the phenomenal success of the Blue Devil program over the course of 72 years of basketball, Illinois’ profile looked slightly stronger in Jeff Sagarin’s insane mind on paper (although after reviewing all-time records here and here, we’re still having trouble figuring that out).  

Ed. Note: we just learned that the methodology JS used was to double the value of NCAA Tournament wins vs. regular wins, with no regard for when they occurred.  We’d have thought that Sagarin might have put a little more thought into that, eh?  Perhaps giving bonuses for winning games deeper into March, perhaps?

Here are some other head scratchers:

  • #10 Iowa – with 3 F4s and no titles, this could be even more egregious than the Illinois selection at #6. 
  • #25 USC - there is literally nobody in the Pac-10 who would agree with this. 
  • #34 California – Stanford will be pleased to know that their rival school with a title and runner-up is below the Cardinal.
  • #38 Maryland – one spot behind Wake Forest and its sole F4 appearance.  Hilarious. 
  • #49 Arizona – we understand why Arizona is so low (same with UConn), but good grief…
  • #54 Connecticut – Calhoun and Olson are those programs, historically speaking, but we have trouble seeing a two-title team this low.
  • #64 Florida – speaking of two titles…
  • #77 Northwestern – yes the same NW who has never been to the NCAA Tournament.  Not once. 
  • #149 Rutgers – not a head scratcher, but this is the lowest BCS program on the list. 

Turns out we’re not the only ones sitting around and wondering just what happened here. 

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Team of the 2000s: Wrap-Up and Honorable Mention

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Direct Links to the Top Ten.

1.  UNC
2.  Kansas
3.  Florida
4.  Duke
5.  Michigan St.
6.  UConn
7.  UCLA
8.  Memphis
9.  Syracuse
10.  Maryland

Intro.  Welcome back.  We wanted to use this post to wrap up the loose ends with an endeavor such as this one.  Let’s talk about our methodology, the teams who were easiest/most difficult to place, the Memphis quandary, and the teams who were on the outside of the top ten looking in.   As always, feel free to disagree in the comments.

Defending Our Methodology.  One of the more interesting things about releasing these rankings has been the reaction from various fan bases. Some have been very measured in their response and criticism (such as the people in Lawrence, Kansas) while others have been a little more vitriolic (fans of another program in the center of the country). Most of the criticism has been directed at our methodology. There seemed to be quite a bit of confusion on this, so let’s clear it up immediately.  Some people have misinterpreted our table (below) as if the listed criteria were all considered totally and equally in how we ranked teams. Nothing could be further from the truth – rather, the table  was intended to be used as a tool showing the universe of relevant statistics that our panel might find useful when making their decisions.  There was no formula that a panelist was obliged to follow – instead, each panelist had complete discretion to consider or ignore any statistic he deemed important (or irrelevant).  Once each panelist submitted his list, we then took a holistic view of the world when determining where to rank certain teams.  Obviously we all considered winning percentage, NCAA Tournament success, conference achievements, etc., but in varying degrees.  That’s what makes these debates work – while one panelist may think that the NCAA Tournament is all that really matters and wants to weight teams almost exclusively on that metric, another panelist may want to give more substantial weight to the regular season.  Here’s the thing, though – reasonable minds always differ, and both conclusions are completely ok.  We believe that this sort of subjective analysis – review the available stats, pre-rank a list, reconvene to discuss, finalize the rankings – gives such a ranking system more credibility than simply weighting and re-weighting a formula until everything “feels” right.  For those of you who wanted a completely “objective” ranking system… well, here’s an example we did last spring that shows how the BCS formula would have applied to the NCAA Tournament.   Hint: F4 participants Villanova and UConn wouldn’t have even been invited to the Ball. In sum, we think that our methodology resulted in a solid, defensible list of the top ten programs of the 2000s.  Not everyone can be happy, but we’re comfortable with the results.

team2000s final list

Hardest Teams to Peg.  There were three teams that the panel had the hardest time nailing down – #4 Duke, #5 Michigan St., and #8 Memphis.  Both Duke and MSU received a #1 vote in our initial analyses, although to be fair, those were outliers among the panel.  Memphis was equally contentious, with half of the panel initially placing the Tigers in the top seven, while the other half didn’t even have them ranked at all.  It probably makes sense that we’ve received the most criticism based on these difficult-to-peg teams.

Easiest Teams to Peg.  On the other hand, the top three teams – #1 UNC, #2 Kansas, #3 Florida – were unanimous in order (although not in ranking).  Every panelist rated those three in the same order relative to one another, and the lowest any of the four teams were rated was fourth.  Interestingly, criticism died down on the placement of these teams.  Perhaps our panel was representative of what Average College Basketball Fan would choose as well?

What About Memphis? After the news that the NCAA vacated Memphis’ 38 wins and title appearance from the 2008 season, there was some buzz about what we should do with our list.  By our estimation, Memphis was rated as the #8 program of the 2000s, but if we removed that year, they most undoubtedly would have dropped out of the top ten.    After some internal discussion, we’re unwilling to go there.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First and foremost, we don’t want to.  We watched Memphis play its way into the national finals, we saw Derrick Rose clang his first FT with nine seconds left, and we remember the shocked look on Calipari’s face in the interview room afterwards.  We also remember Michael Redd’s shooting in 99, Marcus Camby blocking everything in sight in 96, C-Webb calling timeout in 93, and several other vacated performances over the years.  Those games and moments happened.  They’re seared into our memory.  The NCAA can vacate whatever it wants, but we’re not going to join forces with them in their legal fiction.  Which brings us to our second point on this topic.  The NCAA’s application of these penalties is so wantonly inconsistent that if we gave credence to this one while ignoring such wholesale violations known to the general public – Sam Gilbert at UCLA and Reggie Bush at USC should immediately come to mind – that we’d be doing our readers a disservice.  We recognize that cheating at some level happens nearly everywhere, but our stance is that if the NCAA doesn’t catch it and punish the school prior to the games affected, then we’re not going to join them in their after-the-fact erasures.  Sorry.  Memphis stays at #8.

The Celebrated RTC Panel
The Celebrated RTC Panel

Honorable Mention (in no particular order).

  • Pittsburgh.  Pitt was an oddity when it came to evaluating them for our countdown.  There was considerable variance among the voters as to where the Pitt program landed, and because of that they were one of the first teams to whom we awarded this “honorable mention” status.  Still, after the votes had been submitted, in the ensuing discussion it wasn’t that hard to move Pittsburgh out of the Top 10.  Make no mistake, it’s been an excellent ten years for the Pitt program, but in order to make a decade’s-end Top 10 list there are certain things you simply HAVE to get done.  Of their eight trips to the NCAA tournament, six of those saw Pittsburgh with at least a 4-seed (five of them were #3 or better).  The result?  Zero trips to the Final Four and only one Elite Eight.  It’s not like the Panthers didn’t have their chances.  True, it’s not easy to lose a coach like Ben Howland (who took Pitt to the Dance in 2002 and 2003) and the program deserves credit for a hire like Jamie Dixon, who didn’t miss a beat. And it’s not easy to lose to a Howland-coached UCLA team in 2007 in a #2-vs-#3 seed Sweet 16 game when you’re playing them in San Jose.  But if you want to be considered among the elite, you HAVE to beat 10th-seeded Kent State in the Sweet 16 when you’re a #3 (2002).  You HAVE to beat Pacific in the first round of 2005, even if you are on the low side of an #8-vs-#9 game.  You CANNOT LOSE to 13th-seeded Bradley in the second round when you’re a 5-seed (2006).  And perhaps the most painful — when you’ve earned a 1-seed after an incredible 28-4 season playing in the Big East, when you’re playing in your first Elite Eight in 35 years, you MUST beat the 3-seed, even if it is an in-state rival in the form of a very tough-nosed Villanova squad.  Dixon faces a bit of a rebuilding task in the upcoming season, but they ended the 2000s strong.  It’s because of that strong finish, that trend of improvement, that people – especially Pittsburgh fans – may be surprised to not see the Panthers in the Top 10 for the last decade.  As we start the new decade with the upcoming season, Dixon has the Pittsburgh program poised to move into that elite category.  As far as the last decade, though, they came up just short.
  • Illinois. On three of our personal Team of the 2000s rankings, Illinois barely missed the cut, meaning if the Bruce Weber-led 2005 squad managed to topple North Carolina for a national championship, they’d likely be included in the top ten. Illinois has also flamed out a bit at the tail end of the decade, finishing with a losing record in 2007-08 (16-19) before rebounding to a 24-10 mark in 2008-09 and eventually falling victim to a 12-5 upset by Western Kentucky. Bill Self and Bruce Weber have built a phenomenal program throughout the decade, though. The 2004-05 team featuring Deron Williams, Luther Head, Dee Brown and James Augustine was one of the top teams of the 2000s, flirting with an undefeated mark until Ohio State knocked them off in Columbus, then pulling off one of the most sensational comebacks in NCAA Tournament history in the Elite 8 against Arizona. Illinois has tied or won the Big Ten three times in the 2000s and finished as high as second three more times. What holds Illinois back from garnering a spot on the list? They haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament or won a conference title since that special 2004-05 campaign. Borderline teams have experienced more success in March, both in the Big Dance and in conference tournament play, than Illinois. For example, Maryland has two Final Fours, a national title and never finished with a losing record in the decade. Illinois hasn’t won the Big Ten Tournament since 2004-05. With packed recruiting classes ahead and a top-notch leader in Weber, Illinois will look to turn around a program that hasn’t been nearly as feared since watching Carolina cut down the nets on that fateful April night four years ago.
  • Gonzaga. The Zags undoubtedly were the most successful mid-major of the decade (moreso than Xavier and Butler), but their overall profile simply didn’t have enough juice to vault Gonzaga into the top ten. They dominated the WCC, winning the league eight times en route to an average of 26+ wins per year, an outstanding 80% winning percentage, and ten straight NCAA appearances.  But when it came to the NCAAs, Mark Few’s squads were only able to make it to the Sweet Sixteen four times.  And how many times in the decade were they able to advance past the third round?  Um, try zero.    Nevertheless, we believe that Gonzaga rates a tick higher than other such notable programs as Louisville, Wisconsin, Arizona and Oklahoma (all of whom made one F4) because they were so consistently good despite their scheduling limitations.  The worst Zag team (2006-07) still had 23 wins, and as a result of the weaker schedule of the WCC, their average NCAA seed was easily one of the lowest on our list.  Yet, as we all know, Gonzaga has tried to load up on high-impact RPI games during the nonconference slate, and we give them credit for that.  Fans of the other programs may quibble with this selection, but we can live with including at least one mid-major for consideration as the Team of the 2000s, and Gonzaga is our choice.
  • Arizona.  The obvious question here for Wildcat fans is how can a team that made the NCAA tournament every year for the past decade (and 25 straight if you don’t take away their vacated 1999 appearance) not be considered one of the top ten programs of the 2000s behind four teams that failed to make the tournament twice, two teams that failed to make the tournament three times, and another team that failed to make the tournament four times?  While the answer probably won’t satisfy Wildcat fans, it comes down to a few key things for us:
  1. Barely having a winning percentage at 70% despite playing in the Pac-10. Save the whining, West Coast people. The Pac-10 has only been one of the best conferences in the nation once in the past decade (2008 comes immediately to mind).
  2. Averaging 1.7 wins per NCAA Tournament appearance, which is lower than any other team in the top 10. The only team that they are close to is Syracuse and the Orange have a national title (wouldn’t be in the top 10 without it).
  3. Mediocre performance in the Pac-10. The Wildcats had 2.5 regular season conference titles (one being a split title) and 1 postseason conference title (since it was started in 2002). Like we said before, the Pac-10 might have the most attractive co-eds in the nation (although the SEC has a strong case), but the Pac-10 pales in comparison to the ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, and the Big 10 over the past decade in terms of the quality of their basketball teams.
  4. You could argue that the Wildcats got lucky with many of those NCAA tournament bids, most notably two years ago when they got in ahead of an Arizona State team that had a very strong case for being in above their rival.
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Coach K to Coach Team USA in the 2012 Olympics

Posted by nvr1983 on July 21st, 2009

We have already laid out our thoughts on the possibility of this occurring earlier, but it’s worth bringing up again because USA Basketball made it official today that Mike Krzyzewski was returning to lead Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London. For as much hate as he gets as the coach of Duke, we have to say that he has done a great job of rebuilding USA Basketball with Jerry Colangelo although that it can be argued that his best attribute was that he didn’t bench his best player (see George Karl in 2002) or select a squad that was horribly put together/too young and act like an insufferable jerk while coach that team (see Larry Brown in 2004). Perhaps the biggest impact Coach K’s return will have is convincing the team’s stars (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade) to return for another run at the gold medal. Team USA version 2012 could potentially field a team that is legitimately as dominant as The Dream Team (none of this ridiculous “Redeem Team” junk from this year) as the  2008 team’s core players will be entering their primes with the exception of Kobe. Here’s a quick look at a potential roster for London:

PG = Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Derrick Rose

SG =  Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and Brandon Roy

SF = LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant

PF/C = Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, and Chris Bosh

Obviously that’s more people than could suit up, but they would probably lose at least one guy to age/injuries (candidates: Kobe, Wade, and Jefferson) or might drop one of the potential PGs (likely Rondo or Williams). Griffin is also the other wild-card here since we’re forecasting his success in the NBA, but Team USA’s weakness is inside and it seems like he would be perfect in the international setting with the up-tempo pace that Team USA would likely employ even if Malcolm Gladwell thinks that style of play is a recipe for an upset. In any case, this team would be enormous favorites in London and would highlight a talent–recruiting–that was once considered Coach K’s greatest asset back when he used to simply coach Duke.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #8: Illinois’ Scintillating Comeback

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Deron Williams Will Not Go Quietly  (submitted by Josh of Big Ten Geeks)

Who can forget Illinois’ 2005 comeback against Arizona?  This game certainly made Deron Williams a lot of money, but what strikes me about this contest is how everything had to go right for the Illini, and everything had to go wrong for Arizona in the final four minutes of regulation.  Illinois hit just about every shot they put up, even if it was from 30 feet, and every gamble they made on defense paid off.  There are more “what ifs” in this game than any other I’ve seen.  What if McClellan made both of his free throws, what if Hassan Adams was just a step quicker to block Dee Brown’s layup, and Arizona fans probably wonder what if the refs didn’t swallow their whistles in the last 4 minutes?  While I’ve never seen a better comeback, I have seen the same kind of furious rally at the end many times.  It happens when the better team suddenly realizes that there’s only a couple minutes to play, wakes up, and tries to mount a furious comeback.  The fans will later reflect on why the team didn’t play like this all game, but in the midst of the comeback, they’re just excited that the team might just pull this one off.  Inevitably, the gap shrinks, and it’s really just a matter of whether the underdog can avoid making a couple of mistakes that open the door.  Arizona left that door open, and the Illini marched right through it.

illinois-guards-05

Illinois of course had a historic season from a results standpoint, but they were also very entertaining to watch because of how they diced teams up on offense.  They didn’t have the most NBA players on the team, but they were unselfish and everyone played to their strengths.  A part of me thinks that while the Illini certainly wanted to win and go on to the Final Four, they also weren’t ready to stop playing together on that fateful evening in Chicago.

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2008 NBA Draft Profiles: Derrick Rose

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2008

Over the past few weeks, we have rolled out profiles of several of the top prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. In general, we tried to get the best school-specific bloggers to provide a more in-depth look at the players they’ve spent all year watching. Most schools had bloggers who were up to the challenge. However, a few schools weren’t so you’re going to end up with a few RTC profiles too.

Rtmsf and I split up the duties on the last 2 players to be profiled (Derrick Rose and Jerryd Bayless). I picked Rose because I have seen him more than I have seen Bayless (stupid West Coast late starts). While I haven’t seen Rose as much as the Memphis fans (apparently there are no Tiger bloggers), I have probably seen Rose play almost a dozen times this past season so I feel pretty comfortable critiquing his game. Well that and the fact that pretty much everybody has seen him and knows about him at this point.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Derrick Rose is his freakish athleticism. At the Pre-Draft combine, he was one of the top performers and I think some of those tests underestimated how athletic Rose is. For example, Rose had a good 3/4 court sprint time, but 1/10th of a second off the best. Having watched Rose play against the best PGs in the country, I can guarantee you that there is nobody faster with the ball in the draft (ask Tom Izzo, Rick Barnes, Ben Howland, or Bill Self what they think about Rose’s speed).

The question with Rose isn’t whether he has the athletic tools to become great. Instead the question is whether or not he  will develop the necessary feel for the game to dominate at the next level. The player that I hear Rose compared to the most is Jason Kidd, but I think that is just based on the fact that they are both quick PGs with great strength. However, I think their games are very different.

Along with speed and strength, Jason Kidd brought an extremely high basketball IQ and great feel for the game to the court early in his career (those of you old enough will remember Kidd torching Bobby Hurley and 2-time defending champion Duke in 1993 despite Dale Brown’s bold proclamation that Hurley would dominate Kidd). However, Kidd lacked the ability to score early in his career and never did really develop as a scorer. His inability to hit an outside shot became such a liability that hecklers began referring to him as “Ason” (got no J). On the defensive side of the ball, Kidd was an excellent defender despite the way that Chris Paul undressed him in the playoffs this year.

As for Rose, while he is probably more athletic than Kidd especially when you factor in his 40″ vertical, whenever I watch him I get the sense that I’m watching a great player rather than a great floor general. He just doesn’t seem to possess a great feel for the court and where everyone is. This may be a result of Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense that Rose only played in for a single season, but his 1.77 assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty mediocre for a PG who will likely be the #1 overall pick. He has the ability to score at will at the college level, but I think some of those lanes are going to close against pro level talent. However, as he develops and matures he should be able to find these holes to get to the rim. The bigger question is whether Rose will be able to run a NBA offense early in his career. I think that eventually he will get it, but it may take a 2-3 years before we see what he can become as a point guard. As for the rest of his game, his jump shot needs a little work but I think it’s good enough that teams can’t leave him open or really drop off him (like they do with Kidd or Rajon Rondo). Defensively, Rose has all the tools he needs to be an elite defender. I never really saw him as a lockdown defender in college but perhaps that is because he’s still young and Memphis was winning most games by such large margins that he really never had to dig in for a stop. With his speed and strength he should be able to cause havoc for most opposing point guards.

Rose showing us the hops

Conclusion:While I don’t think the comparisons to Kidd are appropriate, I think the Bulls would be wise to select Rose with the 1st overall pick. Guys with the potential to be game changers don’t come along that often and you shouldn’t pass on them when they come your way (looking at you Billy King). Rose needs to work on his game some more (shooting and decision-making) before he will be able to compete with the best in the game (Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams), but he will be a major upgrade for Chicago or Miami (if Chicago decides to take Michael Beasley) and should be a quality NBA PG right away.

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More Mayo 1-and-Done Nonsense…

Posted by rtmsf on May 14th, 2008

We keep reading all of these arguments in light of the OJ Mayo controversy about how the 1-and-done rule is a joke, about how it punishes the athletes, about how it makes unwitting (or is it witting?) accomplices of the schools in the whole charade, about how peace and prosperity and all things good and holy are tied into the elimination of this silly rule… and we stop and wonder.  Why the uproar?  Actually, what we meant to say is, why the uproar now?

If all of these pundits maligning the 1-and-done rule haven’t noticed, OJ Mayo isn’t the first kid who was being handled by an agent throughout his college career, and guess what, he won’t be the last.  We already know that Rodney Guillory was handling Jeff Trepagnier and Tito Maddox in the early 2000s, well before the 1-and-done rule was implemented.  We know that Reggie Bush played at USC for three collegiate years and the agents still got their hooks into him.  If writers such as this guy, or this guy, or this guy, really believe that by letting the Lebrons and KGs and Odens go pro straight out of HS eliminates the problem with agents and runners contacting and influencing college players, then LOLOLOLOL on them. 

Their complaints aren’t flat wrong, but they’re misattributed.  Why?  Because there are players right now on nearly every major D1 school across the country who have been contacted by and have talked to agents.  Guaranteed.  Some of them have probably taken a few gifts here and there.  Does eliminating the handful of 1-and-dones from college campuses each year solve that problem?  Not at all.  The agents will then just focus on the next tier of college players – the Chris Douglas-Robertses, the Deron Wiliamses, the Jordan Farmars.  The problem isn’t solved, it’s merely shifted.   

 

The Commish Loves the Free Marketing the NCAA Provides

Look, here’s our point.  The 1-and-done rule is stupid for certain, but it’s not stupid because of the OJ Mayo problem.  It’s stupid because it places all of the risk on the players and colleges for the benefit of the NBA evaluation process.  Nevertheless, it’s not going anywhere until 2011, and early indications are that Comandante Stern wants to tack another year onto the age minimum and the NBAPA is unlikely to battle that point.  So then we’ll have 2-and-dones, which isn’t all that dissimilar from the NFL rule currently in existence (3 yrs).  But whether there’s a 1-year rule, 2-year rule, 3-year rule or 4-year rule, the problem begins with the corrupt and criminal AAU basketball system in this country and the agents that feed off of it.  These folks will not remove their grimy hands from the pockets of college basketball until there are no longer players on which they think they can ride to fortune.  In other words, never.  While there have been dozens of players drafted in the first round in the preps-to-pros era (the current 1-and-dones), there were far more early-entry sophomores and juniors over that same period.  It won’t go away, no matter what these people are saying (well, at least one commentator gets it). 

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The Day After. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2008

In the interest of full disclosure, I had a draft for this ready with a little over a minute left in the game congratulating Memphis for winning the game and making their FTs when it mattered since they had made their last 4 when Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped to the line. . .

After 2 blowouts in the semifinals, we finally got a close game. After a first half that lacked any real flow to it with both teams playing well offensively in spurts but never at the same time, the game took on the character we all expected with up-and-down end-to-end action. As we expected, Kansas dominated inside while Memphis won the perimeter battle. The shot charts for Kansas was particularly astounding as for most of the game Kansas scored nearly 70% of its points in the paint with most being lay-ups.

A couple of observations:
1) Billy Packer was right. As much as we hate to say it, he was dead-on when he said John Calipari should stop setting up picks for Derrick Rose since the Jayhawk big men showed absolutely no interest in staying on the guy setting the pick. This essentially put Rose up against a double-team every time without the pick man rolling to the basket hard. Bill Self almost cost Kansas the title when he switched to the box-and-one to help slow down CDR, who was destroying Brandon Rush at that point. The box created enough separation that the Tigers’ screens were useless so they stopped setting them, which freed up Rose to go by his man. I don’t understand why Calipari would even set the picks for Rose, who can blow by anybody at this level by himself. Picks can make it easier, but not when the opposition doubles the ball and the pick man doesn’t create a good passing angle. Fortunately for Memphis, Self made it easy for Calipari by switching to the box-and-one. Rose took over the game almost from the moment that Kansas switched to the box-and-one.

2) Rose should be the #1 pick in the draft. I love Michael Beasley’s game (and his “We’ll beat them [Kansas] in Africa” quote), but I just think Rose will be a much more valuable commodity at the next level as there are a lot more good PFs than PGs in the NBA. When Rose gets a full head of steam, he’s unguardable. He may struggle his rookie year adjusting to life in the NBA (the $106 per diem will buy a lot of Gummy Bears) due to his tendency to be a little bit out of control at times and the fact that he will finally play against guys who are on the same level as him. However, I can only think of two guards (Deron Williams and Chris Paul) that I would take over Rose for the next 5-10 years and that’s only because they are proven commodities while Rose still has to prove that he can handle himself at the next level. That said, as ridiculous as Chris Paul has been this year, Rose has a higher ceiling than either of them. While Rose was unable to close the deal, I don’t hold it against him (look to CDR for that) as he showed me more than enough during the tournament to make me a believer.

3) The Kansas inside game disappeared late in the 2nd half. For the first 30 minutes of the game, it seemed like I was going to be writing the Tigers 2007-2008 obituary by talking about how they got destroyed in the paint. It was probably a combination of Kansas not working hard enough to get the ball inside and Memphis packing it in late in the 2nd half. Either way, this (along with Self’s bizarre decision to go box-and-one) almost cost the Jayhawks the title. After Mario Chalmers hit his miracle 3 to force OT, Kansas reestablished itself inside and cruised to victory.

4) Heart attacks sky rocket in Lawrence and Memphis tonight. Ok. I was trying to write this paragraph during the last 2 minutes of the game to post before going to bed. Originally it was “Memphis hits the FTs when it mattered” (4/4 at that point) then it was “Rose = $$$” when he stepped to the line. This observation obviously didn’t want to be written so I’ll move onto #5.

5) FTs killed Memphis. This should have been the #1 point and it will be the headline of this game as long as people talk about it. It’s sort of humorous that the media finally stopped hounding Calipari about the Tigers’ FT shooting coming into this game and they laid an egg in the biggest moment. The last minute-plus was basically the anti-Rumeal Robinson as CDR was the guy that Memphis fans wanted to be in that position. After going 11/14 before the last minute-plus, Memphis finished 1/5 giving Chalmers the chance to hit a 3 that will only grow in legend in Lawrence, Kansas.

6) Holy $&!% I can’t even begin to come up with a word to describe how big that 3 by Chalmers was. The only other thing I can compare it to is Keith Smart’s shot in 1987 to help Indiana beat Syracuse. While this didn’t officially win the game, for all intents and purposes Chalmers shot won the game. There was no way Memphis was going to come back after they choked away the game at the line and Chalmers hit that shot. I would criticize Calipari for not taking the foul at that point, but it appears they Rose tried to commit a foul but it wasn’t called. After the shot, the game like this post-mortem was over.

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