When it was announced that Old Dominion had fired Blaine Taylor yesterday many people immediately wondered whether the team’s 2-20 record this season was bad enough to lead to an in-season firing especially given Taylor’s overall exceptional record at the school. However as David Teel points out the suspicion that Taylor’s history of alcohol abuse and his recent strange behavior makes the firing “equal parts sad, awkward and unusual”. Given his history and the suspicions around it we doubt that you will see many angry columnists firing off their usual columns questioning the goals of college athletics when they fire a coach mid-season. Normally we are indifferent if a fired coach winds up getting another head coaching job and that is true in Taylor’s case too, but if the speculation is true we hope that he is able to get his life back together.
If you have been waiting to hear Dick Vitale to call a Final Four game, it will finally happen this April. For international viewers. Vitale may be a polarizing figures to some, but it has always seemed strange that the face of college basketball to many casual fans has never worked courtside because NBC and CBS have owned the rights to the NCAA Tournament and presumably Vitale has a pretty strong non-compete clause in his contract that other ESPN talents such as Jay Bilas were able to get around. While people have mentioned the possibility of Vitale calling games during the NCAA Tournament for years, this situation probably works out best for all parties: US viewers are given more nuanced commentary while international viewers will be given the most recognizable voice in American sports.
This is probably a case of reading too much into a statement, but Mason Plumlee has (sort of) come out and said that he expects Ryan Kelly to return this season. Actually if you read the statement it sounds more hopeful than anybody, but the fact that this is even news is reflective of how little information Duke has released about Kelly’s injury or how well his rehab is going. While we can understand the lack of desire Duke must have to share any information about Kelly’s condition with fans and the media we have to wonder what effect it is having on Kelly’s potential Draft status. We never consider Kelly to be a potential first round pick even on his best day, but you would think that a fairly athletic 6’11” forward who can hit shots from the perimeter would be someone that NBA teams would be interested in looking at. With the way that Duke is handling Kelly’s medical information we wonder how concerned NBA teams are of the long-term health of his feet. Obviously NBA teams will have their physicians examine Kelly before and after the NBA Draft, but we are guessing that the lack of information is not helping Kelly’s cause.
Two things from Andy Glockner’s Bracket Watch caught our eyes this week: the number of teams that have had bad losses with injuries and the lack of locks. While we tend to think that Glockner might be the East German judge of the bracketologists he certainly has a point about the effect of serious injuries on team’s that have some ugly losses. Although there is no team that fits the 2000 Cincinnati profile there are several prominent teams like Duke and Miami that have had some pretty ugly losses that occurred when they were not at full strength. Assuming the teams are at full strength the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will have quite a bit of work to sort out all of the “bad” losses that occurred while teams were missing significant pieces.
Arkansas’ blowout victory over Florida last night may have been a shock to the tempo-free fans, but while some unsavory characters were busy blaming others for their own ridiculous statements it is worth noting that Ken Pomeroy even suggested the possibility that some like last night could happen even if he didn’t necessarily see it happening for last night’s game. What the game really underscores is the lack of a dominant team this year. This isn’t necessarily a phenomenon limited to this season, but it seems like people forgot about that after how good Kentucky was a last year. When you combine that with some of the other excellent basketball around the country (particularly in the Big Ten) the last two months of the college basketball season promises to be an exciting one.
It’s a simple problem for paranoid sports fans everywhere: It’s hard to listen to commentators who clearly have it out for your team. In college basketball, among the most tribal of sports, few broadcast commentators are exempt from charges of bias or partisanship. Ignoring the issue of whether or not this is true, it is perceived to be true and therefore it is a problem for many fans. The solution to the problem of objectionable commentators has a fairly simple well-known fix: Mute the TV and put on the radio (or Internet-streaming equivalent), where you can listen to partisans who like your team as much as you do. Of course, this simple solution has it’s own simple problem: syncing the audio and video.
With the election now in the rear-view mirror, Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.comwondered if the presidential race was decided by states with the best basketball programs. Norlander’s sample size is comprised of his site’s preseason top 26 because he felt it wouldn’t be as compelling if states like Alaska, Hawaii or Wyoming were put on a level playing field with say, Indiana and Kentucky. It was a close “race” between the number of red states and blue states but the electoral vote count will remind you of the results from Tuesday. It is also worth noting that each of the Big 12 teams in their top 26 are in red states. I’m just saying.
USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach give us a list of coaches with the most to prove this season and two of them are Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. While these coaches do have some work to do this year to justify their positions, they’re at different levels on the totem pole. Weber is in his first year of a new job while Ford is a bad season away from losing his job. The article also lists UConn’s Kevin Ollie as another coach with a lot of pressure this year, so if you’re going to list guys who have limited head coaching experience with limited time with which to work, Chris Walker of Texas Tech would be as good a candidate as any.
We now know how long Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins will be sidelined. Travis Ford announced he’ll be out “about a month” after suffering an injury in Monday’s exhibition victory versus Ottawa University. Le’Bryan Nash threw an alley-oop pass to Cobbins but the pass went over his head and he fell on an Ottawa player. This, of course, is bad news for a coach already without two key pieces in his rotation — Phillip Jurick who is still recovering from an Achilles injury and J.P. Olukemi who is dealing with a knee injury. Guard Brian Williams, of course,is also out for the season. Get well, Cowboys.
Tuesday night West Virginia dominated its exhibition game like any good program, beating Glenville State, 95-53, and head coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy. As a team the Mountaineers shot 50% from the floor, Deniz Kilicli dropped 19 in an efficient 8-for-10 shooting night, Aaric Murray had 13 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots, while Juwan Staten had 16 points, six dimes and zero turnovers. So what does Huggins think? “We’re going to look at how we didn’t run any offense.” Riiiight, coach. I see what you did there.
Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale are two of ESPN’s most visible college basketball personalities and while they have had moments of disagreement over the years, they have finally agreed on one thing: Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are on the rise this season. I don’t like the fact that Kruger doesn’t stay at places very long but what Vitale says is true: He can flat-out coach. Take a good coach like Kruger, the returns of Steven Pledger and Romero Osby, the arrival of Amath M’Baye, an emerging point guard in Sam Grooms,andI believe they will hear Greg Gumbel call their name out on Selection Sunday.
And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!
We skipped last week because of a dearth of news as we head into the dead days of summer, so now we’ve got a couple week’s worth of catching up to do. The biggest news in the past two weeks was the NBA Draft, where more Pac-12 players heard their names called than conference teams did on Selection Sunday. Washington, who won the regular season title but was banished to the NIT, had two players – Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Jr. – get drafted, while Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham became just the 13th Beaver picked in the first round – the first since Corey Benjamin went with the second-to-last pick of the first round in 1998. The Huskies, meanwhile, have had much more recent success on draft night, with nine players drafted in the past eight years, six of those in the first round, a record that head coach Lorenzo Romar is making sure gets heard. With many elite recruits using college as a mere launching point toward NBA careers, Romar’s success at sending players to the NBA can only help his recruiting efforts.
The Huskies also landed a new player this week when it was announced that seven-foot center Gilles Dierickxwould be transferring into the program from Florida International. Dierickx (gee, thanks basketball gods – I only just got used to confidently spelling Krystkowiak) was a freshman last season with FIU, where he played just under 15 minutes a game and averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. He’s a face-up stretch four who will be eligible to play for UW beginning in 2013-14. But, as Ben Knibbe at the UW Dawg Pound points out, this leaves Romar with just three open scholarships for the 2013 class, a highly regarded recruiting class in which the Huskies are pursuing several five-star talents. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the fact that a program has a player under scholarship doesn’t preclude the possibility of a coach running off one or more players who are no longer necessary in order to make room for a more desirable prospect, but with the Huskies putting so much emphasis on the 2013 class, this is something of a head-scratcher.
At this point in the summer, no news is generally good news for most collegiate programs. It means that nobody is getting into trouble with the law, nobody’s getting injured while working on their game, and nobody’s making a late decision to transfer. About the only really exciting news for a program at this time of the year is the announcement of the upcoming schedule, something Utah did last week. And, wow, is it ever underwhelming. The first three home games are an exhibition against something called Simon Fraser, then the season opener against Division III Willamette, followed by a match-up with Sacramento State. Now, to be fair, SSU was actually ranked higher than the Utes in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings last season (#292, compared to UU’s #303). The next three home games are part of a four-team round robin event on the Utah campus over Thanksgiving weekend, when the Utes will play Central Michigan, Idaho State and Wright State. Elsewhere in the non-conference schedule are games against Evergreen State of the NAIA and Cal State Northridge. There’s also a home-and-home series with SMU, a visit from Boise State, a trip to Texas State, and their renewal of their annual rivalry with BYU at the Cougars’ Provo campus. In other words, the Utes should be ready to dial up significantly more wins than the three non-conference wins they posted last year, while the ever-important RPI number should still remain in the gutter. Also of note, the Utes also finalized their plans for their trip to Brazil this summer, where they will play five games against Brazilian teams over the course of their 12-day trip.
Another thing to keep an eye on as the summer progresses is landing spots for Pac-12 players who weren’t drafted by the NBA. For instance, former Colorado point guard Nate Tomlinsonis heading back home to Australia to play professionally for the Melbourne Tigers. And he’s even trying to do a little recruiting of his own, trying to get former teammate Austin Dufault to follow him along, although he is also considering Europe and China. Meanwhile, Carlon Brown hasn’t yet given up on his NBA dreams despite going undrafted. The 6’5” wing is hoping to catch on with a summer league team and may need to go the D-League route. Elsewhere, Washington State forward Abe Lodwickwill be playing professionally in Germany, while Arizona’s Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavenderboth still harbor dreams of NBA careers, with Fogg set to play for Houston’s summer league team and Lavender putting on an Atlanta Hawk jersey for the summer.
The news of the day on Monday was without question the surprising firing of Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg. Our ACC Microsite covered the news yesterday, ultimately coming down on the side of this being a very dangerous move for the Hokie program, and we can’t say that we disagree. If this move were made a month ago, Virginia Tech may have been in a stronger position to make a run at a John Groce, Frank Martin, Trent Johnson, or even (gulp) Larry Brown. By pulling the trigger on Greenberg now, Athletic Director Jim Weaver has put himself in a position where a home run hire is just short of impossible — the objective now must be to not completely soil the bed with the next choice. Dana O’Neil writes that Weaver’s resolve broke when yet another Greenberg assistant, James Johnson, became the sixth to leave the staff in the last four years.
One of the top unsigned players remaining in the Class of 2012, Tony Parker, a 6’9″ forward from Lithonia, Georgia, announced that he will join UCLA’s star-studded class in Westwood next season. Parker joins top five prospects Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson along with top 75 player Jordan Adams to form the nucleus of a group that will ultimately decide head coach Ben Howland’s fate as a Bruin. Recall that it was Howland’s top-rated Class of 2008 — full of transfers, headaches, and bad decision theater — that laid the groundwork for the disappointing string of seasons from 2009-12 after a run of three straight Final Four appearances. With a massive front line returning along with transfer Larry Drew and this incoming crew of elite prospects, expectations will be sky high in the a renovated Pauley Pavilion next season.
It’s not every day you’ll read a college basketball column referencing the Stephen Sondheim Theater in New York City in addition to student-athletes and the 1-and-done rule, but Mike DeCourcy shows his range by doing just that in this piece examining NCAA president Mark Emmert‘s lack of clarity on the issue. Of course, we’ve grown long in the tooth arguing that Emmert and others who think eliminating 1-and-done is better for college basketball in the long run simply don’t see the big picture. It’s a bit disconcerting that, as DeCourcy points out, Emmert’s message has proven not only incapable of staying on point — what does he really believe? — but the hype and hysteria surrounding what amounts to a small handful of players leaving after one year each season shows that facts aren’t all that important to those decrying the rule. Everybody knows that 1-and-done is not an ideal situation for anyone involved — the players, coaches, programs, and the NBA — but if it’s the necessary rest stop on the way to a two-year rule that will satisfy both Emmert and the NBA Player’s Association (who is currently holding up the deal), we’ll take it.
To close things out today, we’re a little less than a week from the official NBA Draft early entry deadline (April 29), so we won’t know the final list until then, but that didn’t stop Dick Vitalefrom dropping his latest Top 40 for the 2012-13 season. RTC will release its post-deadline Top 25 next Monday, but it says here that Louisville, Kentucky and NC State are overrated, while Michigan, Baylor and UCLA are underrated.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
A season in sports often gets remembered by a handful of different memories that fans can recall when thinking back on that year. Sometimes it’s a scene from the regular season, such as the 2004-05 NBA year that included the ‘Malice at the Palace’ brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Other times it’s the final play in the championship, such as the 2001 baseball World Series walk-off base hit by the Arizona Diamondbacks. So what will it be for the 2011-12 year of college basketball? Here’s a reminder of the top moments from the season, which certainly did not lack drama. Which ones will you remember when thinking back on this season? We give you the 12 most iconic moments from 2011-12, in no particular order:
Anthony Davis Blocks Henson at the Buzzer (December 3) – Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis was perhaps the biggest story of this entire season. Taking home nearly every Player of the Year award, Davis’ domination at this level as a freshman was must-see television every time he stepped on the floor. But his rise to true stardom perhaps began when the Wildcats defeated then-#5 North Carolina early in the season at Rupp Arena on a last-second block by the lengthy forward. Davis rejected UNC star John Henson’s final shot attempt to seal the one-point win for Kentucky.
Austin Rivers Silences Carolina Crowd (February 8) – One of the two best buzzer-beaters of the season was Duke freshman Austin Rivers’ silencing of the Dean Smith Center in early February. Down by two at Chapel Hill on the final possession, the freshman knocked down a long three over Tyler Zeller to beat North Carolina and send the Tar Heel crowd into a state of utter shock.
Robinson Rejects Mizzou in Border War (February 25) – In what was the final matchup between Kansas and Missouri as rivals in the Big 12 Conference (Mizzou is off to the SEC next year), the two teams put on a classic showdown in Allen Fieldhouse. Missouri dominated the game until a late KU charge, and it was the All-America forward Thomas Robinson’s rejection of Phil Pressey with seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime. Kansas won the game in the extra session to cap off a tremendous game between two top-5 teams.
Watford For the Win! (December 10) – One of the great stories of the season was Indiana’s resurgence as a top team. The Hoosiers had a tremendous year that was highlighted by their victory over #1 Kentucky at home to improve to 9-0 in December. Trailing by two on the final possession, it was this shot by Christian Watford that beat the buzzer and provided us with one of the most memorable shots, and calls, of the season.
The biggest on the court story this week was Colorado knocking off California on Sunday afternoon, leaving the Bears a game back in the loss column of conference leader Washington. The Huskies took care of their business last week, coming back from a 13-point deficit midway through the second half to knock off Washington State. As a result, a UW win tonight at USC (which seems almost a given – the Huskies will be a significant favorite) will earn them at least a share of the conference title. And if they back that up with a win at UCLA on Saturday, they’ll earn their second regular season conference title in four years. If they slip up in one of those games, the Golden Bears can force a tie by knocking off Stanford at Maples Pavilion Sunday in the final conference game of the regular season, and in that case, Cal would also earn the #1 seed in the conference tournament by virtue of their win at Washington in January.
Behind the leaders, there are three teams fighting for the two remaining first-round byes in the conference tournament; Arizona, Colorado and Oregon all sit with five conference losses. Arizona has an advantage over the others, however, in that they have only one remaining game – against lowly Arizona State on Sunday afternoon. Oregon and Colorado, meanwhile, will go a long way towards breaking their tie tonight, as the Ducks host the Buffaloes in Eugene.
While whichever of these three teams winds up as the #5 seed will have the opportunity to breeze through USC in the opening round game, the addition of an extra obstacle in the way prior to the Pac-12 quarterfinals will harm that team’s chances at running the table and coming away with the Pac-12’s automatic bid.
Arizona Took Care Of Business Against The Los Angeles Schools And Can Now Earn A First-Round Bye (Chris Morrison/US Presswire)
And that automatic bid will certainly be a very important thing for most teams in this conference. At this point, Cal looks like a pretty safe bet to earn an at-large bid, although they don’t want to press their luck with a loss at Stanford and a loss in the quarters of the conference tourney. They’ve got the best RPI in the conference (see all the numbers below) and they’ve got a couple of top 50 wins (both over Oregon, so take those with a grain of salt). While it looks like they’re safe, if they finish the season poorly, they’ll have no right to complain if they are left out of the eventual bracket.
Washington, meanwhile, seems to be in pretty good shape as well – right now at least. However, they’re towards the back of the bus right now and if a handful of teams come out of the woodwork to steal bids over the next couple of weeks, Washington’s margin for error could get mighty slim.
As for the rest of the bunch, there are some who continue to say that teams like Arizona and Colorado are right on the bubble, but looking at the numbers, they’d do well to just go ahead and win the Pac-12 Tournament if they have any real designs on an NCAA bid. Oregon’s got the best RPI numbers, but they’re 0-5 against top 50 teams. Colorado’s got a couple top 50 wins (over Oregon and Cal – unfortunately, if they beat Oregon this weekend, it will probably drop the Ducks out of the top 50 and take CU back to just 1-3 against the top 50), but they’ve also got four bad losses and an RPI that’s of no use either.
vs. RPI 1-25
vs. RPI 1-50
vs. RPI +100
So, really, the only chance I see for the Pac-12 to shoehorn three different teams into the bracket is this: (1) California and Washington win their final games of the regular season this weekend, (2) then they both take care of business in the quarterfinals, with one of them advancing to the Pac-12 final while the other loses in the semis, (3) whoever the opponent is in the Pac-12 final wins the championship, earning the automatic bid and (4) bid stealers are kept to a minimum and both Cal and Washington squeak into the field on Selection Sunday, along with the conference champion.
Lastly, one of the best college basketball reads every week is John Gasaway’s Tuesday Truths at Basketball Prospectus. Aside from giving some insights on the 14 best conferences in the nation, he lays out the margin between average points scored and average points allowed per possession, a good measure of a team’s overall strength, throwing out the luck factor.
While the eye test may tell you that Washington has been the best team in the conference, a look at the stats shows that they are only outscoring their opposition by 0.07 points per possession, while Cal is outscoring its opponents by double that, 0.14 points per possession (for comparison’s sake, Kentucky is outscoring its opponents by 0.25 points per possession – an absurdly good number). In fact, the Huskies are fifth in the conference using this metric, behind even UCLA. In fact, of Washington’s 13 conference wins, five came by four points or less, with another five where the margin was less than ten.
According to Ken Pomeroy, Washington has been the 29th luckiest team in the country (what a great time we live in, where luck can be accounted for by statistics). Long story short, the Huskies may go into the conference tournament as the regular season champion, but they need not necessarily be the favorite to win the automatic bid.
Tony Wroten Is Well On His Way To Earning Freshman Of The Year Honors, But Will He Take Down the POY As Well? (Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest)
Three picked Jared Cunningham, and then one each selected Terrence Ross, Devoe Joseph and Jorge Gutierrez. We’ve been down this road before, so I won’t beat a dead horse too much, but while Wroten’s traditional numbers look just fine (16.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.5 APG), just digging even a little bit deeper reveals some significant problems with his all around game: turnovers on 22% of his possessions, using far too many possessions in an inefficient manner, his insistence on continuing to shoot threes (poorly at that) and his poor field goal percentages.
Still, after last weekend, you can understand why some are still searching for somebody to throw their support behind. Going into last week, it looked like Gutierrez and Ross might be the favorites. So what did each player do in the second-to-last week of the year? Gutierrez went 0-for-7 from the field and failed to score in a loss at Colorado, while Ross fouled out in 21 minutes against Washington State and had as many turnovers (two) as points. Certainly the wrong time for both players to turn in their worst performances of the year, but their overall body of work still leave them as the top two choices for POY.
Coach of the Year Watch
I’ve long since conceded the fact that Tony Wroten will win Freshman of the Year, so we’ll skip that for the week and take a look at the COY race.
Looking at the same poll from ESPN, we see that five different coaches received at least one vote, with Tad Boyle leading the way with six votes, Mike Montgomery earning three, Sean Miller getting a couple and Lorenzo Romar and Dana Altman each earning a single vote.
First, before we get into the credentials for each coach, can we just recognize for a minute just how good a set of coaches the Pac-12 has? Any one of those coaches would be a seriously desirable candidate for just about any job in the country, which makes the struggles in this conference all the more puzzling. As for the award this year, it is hard to argue with Boyle. His team lost its four leading scorers from last season and was picked to finish around tenth in the league by most people. Instead, with two games remaining, they’re among the best teams in the conference.
It is somewhat surprising that Romar hasn’t received more consideration for this award, seeing as he had to replace four major senior contributors last season, lost senior leader Scott Suggs to an injury before the season, dealt with chemistry issues in the non-conference slate, and now has his team on the verge of a conference title. Any of the five deserve consideration for the award, but for my money, Boyle and Romar (at present in that order) are the leaders.
Lorenzo Romar Has His Huskies In First Place, But Is Getting No Love For Coach Of The Year (Getty Images)
There was only one change in our weekly power rankings this week, as USC finally (and rightfully) reclaimed the last spot in the conference from Utah after spending an inexplicable three weeks ranked 11th. The top of the conference is still California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Colorado.
While we gave Washington our Team of the Week honors for the second straight week (and fourth time on the season), we continued our improbable streak of seemingly awarding a new Player of the Week every week. To this point, in 16 weeks, only one player (Jared Cunningham) has taken home our POTW honor more than once. This week, it was Kyle Fogg’s first chance earn our award. Similarly, in 16 weeks of handing out a Newcomer of the Week award, we’ve named 12 different players, with Tony Wroten earning it five times and Carlon Brown twice. This week, it was USC’s Byron Wesley.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
As we celebrate President’s Day on this Monday, it’s a good time to reflect back on the significant accomplishments of George Washington and the other great leaders of our country’s 236-year history. That got us to thinking: Who are the most significant people in the history of college basketball? The game is not quite as old as the United States of America, but there are many options to choose from in a sport that’s over 100 years old, from prodigious coaches to superstar players. In the end, we determined that no single player, in a maximum of four years of eligibility, has had as much impact on the sport as any of the four coaching legends that we selected. Head coaches are responsible for shaping the lives of hundreds of players during their tenure and thus have a greater opportunity to impact the game than anyone else. Here’s a look at the accomplishments of four of the all-time great coaches in college basketball history that compose our RTC Mount Rushmore (these are in no particular order):
Mike Krzyzewski – You may not be able to spell or pronounce his full last name, but ‘Coach K’ is one of the first names that comes to mind when discussing the greatest coaches in basketball history. Krzyzewski became the all-time winningest Division I men’s basketball coach when he recorded his 903rd victory to surpass his former coach at Army, Bobby Knight, earlier this season. Coach K has been at Duke since 1980 and has led the Blue Devils to four National Championships, 11 Final Fours, and 12 ACC regular season titles. He also coached the USA Olympic ‘Redeem Team’ in 2008 to a gold medal. Mike Krzyzewski was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, still remains the head coach of one of the top contenders in the country every year, and doesn’t appear to be calling it quits anytime soon.
Adolph Rupp– A man known for his obsession with winning, Adolph Rupp is perhaps the single most successful head coach in NCAA history, statistically speaking. Rupp is fifth on the all-time men’s coaching wins list (876 victories), and he did it with the second-best winning percentage of all time, at 82.2%. Rupp spent his entire 41-year coaching career at Kentucky, where he guided the Wildcats to six Final Fours and four National Championships. His tournament records could have been even more impressive if it wasn’t for his team’s two-year hiatus from the postseason in the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons. Rupp also led UK to 27 SEC regular season titles in 41 years and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame while still coaching in 1969. Shortly after he retired, Big Blue Nation named their home court after him, and Rupp Arena remains one of the historic landmarks in college basketball today.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.
It was only a matter of time. Murray State had been narrowly escaping against OVC competition in the past few games, so it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that the Racers lost their first game of the year on Thursday against a Tennessee State team ranked second in the conference standings. The loss certainly hurts the team’s postseason seeding and kills off the major story that was the undefeated season, but the team may actually benefit from shedding that spotlight off their back. They have a quick turnaround with their most challenging week of the season upcoming. Elsewhere, Syracuse just completed a monster week of wins, and UNLV and Indiana handled business with big home victories. Let’s get to this week’s outlook:
C.J. Fair Was Huge for Syracuse Against Louisville, One of Three Big Wins This Week For the Orange (Getty Images/A. Lyons)
Trending UP Because… – They had an awesome week, solidifying themselves as a top team in the land alongside Kentucky. Cuse played tight games against Georgetown and at Louisville, but great late-game execution lead to victories. Throw in Saturday’s win over Connecticut and the Orange are now 26-1 and 13-1 in the Big East, looking like a near-lock for a #1 seed come March Madness.
This Week’s Key Cog – Kris Joseph. Who said this team doesn’t have a go-to guy? Joseph scored 29 points, including the game-winning three in overtime, in Wednesday’s win over Georgetown. He averaged a team-high 17.0 points per game in the three victories.
Talking Point – Coach Jim Boeheim talked about Monday’s ugly win at Louisville, which ended with a score of 52-51: “You can either give the defenses credit or say it was a bad offensive game. We’re going to look on the bright side and say it was a real defensive struggle tonight.”
Erasing History – The Orange had lost seven straight games to Louisville heading into Monday’s matchup, and it looked like the streak was going to reach eight when the team trailed by five points with under 4:00 to play. But Jardine and Joseph, two seniors who have never beaten the Cards, were able to erase that history and taste their first ever victory against Rick Pitino’s squad when they closed out the game with strong defense.
Stats Central – Monday’s victory was nothing to write home about. Syracuse averages a conference-leading 111.9 offensive efficiency in Big East games, but they only recorded an 89.7 rating in the game against Louisville. Nonetheless, they held the Cardinals to an 87.9 efficiency themselves and walked way with a one-point road victory.
What’s Next? – The Orange play just once this week, at Rutgers on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, ESPN) against a struggling Scarlet Knights team. However, Rutgets has already defeated Florida, Connecticut, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame at home this season, and the RAC has become a tough place to play.