Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

There are a lot of people out there that will call themselves college basketball experts, myself included (although I may be the only one to think that way). And these so-called experts keep telling you how good the Big East is this year. Once again, myself included.

If the Big East is so good, then where are all the marquee wins?

The Big East only has three really good wins – Notre Dame beating Texas in Maui, Syracuse beating Kansas in a de facto home game, and Georgetown beating Memphis at home. Even in those three, Georgetown won at home and Kansas is, well, not all that good right now.

It isn’t like they aren’t getting the chances either. West Virginia and Villanova lost to Davidson and Texas in the Jimmy V Classic. Marquette lost to Tennessee. So did Georgetown. Seton Hall lost to Memphis. Cincinnati lost to Xavier. Notre Dame lost to Ohio State and UNC.

As far as I’m concerned there are two schools of thought on this. One is that the Big East is actually even better than we expected. As a result, they are beating good teams, which in turn knocks those teams down in the rankings. Case in point, Wisconsin. The Badgers have two losses on the season (UConn and Marquette) which is part of the reason they aren’t ranked. Along those same lines, when lesser teams actually do get an upset of the Big East teams, they end up getting ranked too high.

The other is that the Big East is just a really big conference chock full of pretty good, but not great, teams. Look at the facts – UConn and Pitt are undefeated, but Pitt hasn’t played anyone and UConn has been so inconsistent; Villanova, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Marquette all have fatal flaws as a team; Syracuse has been playing well, but struggles to keep their focus at times and will most likely be losing Eric Devendorf for the season.

So what does this mean? Are the ACC and the Big XII creeping up? No, not just yet. Let me ask you this question – if a healthy West Virginia team (Alex Ruoff and Joe Mazzula sat) beat Davidson and a healthy Luke Harangody helped knock off UNC and/or OSU, who we even be having this conversation?

Probably not. Now that is done, let’s get on to the good stuff.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

The Big East lost three of their four marquee games this week as Notre Dame lost to Ohio State and West Virginia and Villanova were swept in the Jimmy V Classic (Marquette did pick up a win at home against Wisconsin). Even teams like UConn (four point win over Buffalo) and Syracuse (came back from down 16 against Cornell) barely avoided being upset. Right now, the only team that is playing well and has played well through out the season is Pitt.

If the first quarter of the season taught us anything, it isn’t that the Big East is weaker than expected as much as the rest of the country is not as far behind as it seemed. Look at those three losses listed above. Notre Dame, a team that is not quite as good as they were expected to be, lost to a better-than-expected Ohio State team in Luke Harangody’s first game back from pneumonia (yea, he had 25 and 16, but you have to factor in the adjustment other players – i.e. Kyle McAlarney, who was 3-11 for 6 points – have to make when he comes back). West Virginia, playing without Joe Mazzulla and Alex Ruoff, lost to Davidson. Villanova lost to a very good Texas team.

While the teams may be a little different than expected, the numbers still break down basically the same way. Four teams look like Final Four contenders, three teams are all but locks to make the tourney, and another four have put themselves in excellent position to earn an at-large bid.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

The Big East is proving why it is the best conference in basketball, as the 16 teams in the conference have lost a grand total of five games. I mean, Seton Hall barely sneaks into the top 10 in the conference and they are 4-1 with wins over USC and Virginia Tech early on. To be fair, most of the games that have been played at this point in the season have come against cupcakes, but a Big East team has already knocked off a marquee team in every other major conference (UConn has beaten Wisconsin and Miami (FL), Syracuse beat Florida and Kansas, Notre Dame beat Texas, and Seton Hall beat USC).

Power Rankings (AP, Coaches):

CONTENDERS

1. UConn 5-0 (#2, #2) – It is pretty tough to argue with UConn atop the BIAH Big East Power Rankings. They are 5-0 and coming off of a victory in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. More on the Huskies in a bit.

2. Notre Dame 4-0 (#8, #8) – Notre Dame gets the nod at #2 because of their win over Texas in Maui. Now that Kyle McAlarney has found his stroke (13-23 from the floor, 11-20 from deep in his last two games after starting the season 2-13), it is clear that the Irish are going be able to put up points with anyone. Their biggest question mark right now is defense and rebounding. Against Texas, Notre Dame was out-rebounded 45-33 and gave up 15 on the offensive glass.

I know that the Irish have two first-team all-conference players on their roster, but PG Tory Jackson is just as, if not more, valuable than both McAlarney and Luke Harangody. He is the guy that makes the potent Irish offense run. He is as quick as they come and can get into the lane against just about anyone, but he plays under control and rarely picks up a charge. When he gets into the paint, he is just as good at finishing as he is at drawing a defender and finding an open man (he’s led the Big East in dimes the last two years). To top it off, he has been knocking down his perimeter shot this season.

3. Louisville 2-0 (#3, #3) – It is tough to gauge the Cardinals at this point in the season. They have played just two games, both cupcakes and both blow outs, and they won’t really be tested until mid-December. What we do know thus far is that freshman Samardo Samuels looks as good as advertised – he’s averaging 21 ppg and 5 rpg through two games. The ‘Ville also got good news when Terrence Williams was healthy enough to play in their first two games (he underwent minor surgery after tearing the meniscus in his knee). He’s not there yet offensively (6-17 from the floor, 14 points in two games), but he has been filling up the stat sheet as usual (9.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 3.5 spg, 1.5 bpg).

4. Pitt 5-0 (#4, #4) – The Panthers, like the Cardinals, are undefeated but have yet to really play anyone. They have, however, been getting phenomenal play out of their big three of DeJuan Blair (17.5 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 71%, but he missed the Belmont game on Tuesday with swelling in his knee), Sam Young (19.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 60% FG), and Levance Fields (13.6 ppg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 t/o’s). While Pitt lost Blair for the Belmont game, they got some good news with the return of wing Gilbert Brown.

The key to the season for this Pitt team is going to be their wing play, which is a big reason why Sam Young, the Panthers best perimeter shooter, is playing on the wing this year. It is still early, but the early indication is that after Fields (10-19) and Young (5-16). If someone can step up and knock down shots (back up PG Ashton Gibbs is trying to, he’s 5-11 from deep), they will see a lot of the court.

5. Syracuse 5-0 – The ‘Cuse are for real this year. They are 5-0 with wins against Florida and Kansas (in what was essentially a road game) and have looked unstoppable on offense at times. But they have also looked disinterested and lackadaisical at times as well, especially defensively. The Orange start and end with the play of Jonny Flynn, who has reinforced the notion that he is one of the best PGs in the country. Flynn is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch (and I am a UConn fan saying that). While Flynn may be the best player on Syracuse, he is far from all that they have. Paul Harris is just as tough as always, but has added a 15-17 foot jumper that you must defend. Arinze Onuaku has gone from a 275 lb fat boy to 275 lb of muscle (seriously, he looks like he should be on World’s Strongest Man). Kristoff Ongenaet, Rick Jackson and freshman Kris Joseph all are going to be able to provide hustle, rebounds, and defense inside. And they’ve gotten back the two things they were missing last year – perimeter shooting from the wings (Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins) and another guy that can penetrate and score or create shots for others (Devendorf). But the biggest change I see in this year’s team is that Jim Boeheim has them playing a lot of man-to-man, which makes it all-the-more difficult for a team to prepare for the Orange. Boeheim has himself a tough team that is going to make some noise this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #1 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

Predicted Order of Finish (from the coach’s pre-season poll, released at Big East media day):

  1. Connecticut (9)
  2. Louisville (3)
  3. Pitt (3)
  4. Notre Dame (1)
  5. Villanova
  6. Marquette
  7. Georgetown
  8. Syracuse
  9. West Virginia
  10. Providence
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Rutgers
  13. Seton Hall
  14. St john’s
  15. DePaul
  16. South Florida

big-east-logo

WYN2K. You hear that? You know what that is? That’s the sound of RTC stealing my thunder.  I’m not much of a statistician myself, but just by looking at that pre-season poll I can tell you this – the Big East is loaded.  If you live outside of Big East country, then you are probably sick of hearing about how good the conference is, year in and year out. But facts are facts. Four teams are legitimate Final Four threats. Another six teams are, depending on who you ask, expected to be a part of the 65 team field. Three more teams have an outside shot at punching a ticket to the dance if they can catch a few breaks (transfers getting cleared, freshman getting eligible, etc.).  So in this day and age of college basketball, where “early entry,” “parity,” and “mid-major” have become household terms, how did one conference manage to stockpile so many good teams? Well, as you can see, the Big East is HUGE. There are sixteen teams spanning from Rhode Island to Wisconsin to Florida and everywhere in between. When you have that many teams in one conference, there are bound to be years where there are a lot of good teams, especially when so many of the schools have a rich basketball tradition.  This just happens to be one of those years where the Big East got lucky. Last season, 32 players were named to an All-Big East team (1st, 2nd, honorable mention, all-rookie), and only two of those players (WVU’s Joe Alexander and Syracuse’s Donte Greene) declared for the draft with eligibility remaining. Would Pittsburgh be as good as expected if Sam Young left? What about UConn without Hasheem Thabeet? Those two, and a number of other players, probably would be on NBA rosters right now if they left, but for whatever reason (a loaded draft class last year, smarts enough to know they weren’t ready, boosters offered them more than what they would get paid on a rookie’s salary) they decided to head back to campus.

So without further ado, here is your conference breakdown:

Cellar Dwellars.  DePaul, St. John’s, South Florida, Rutgers

  • There are some talented players on these teams. Sophomore Dar Tucker of DePaul is a poster waiting to happen. South Florida’s Dominique Jones scored 17.1 ppg as a freshman. St. John’s has senior Anthony Mason Jr. and sophomore Justin Burrell to carry the load. But with the depth of the Big East this year combined with the loss of some talented seniors, none of these three teams really look like they have a shot at doing much. Rutgers might have the best shot of the group to make some noise, as Fred Hill has landed back-to-back talented freshman classes. Don’t be surprised if you hear the names Gregory Echenique and Mike Rosario (RU’s first Mickey D’s all-american) quite often during the season.

We Should Have Bribed The NCAA.  Cincinnati (NIT), Seton Hall (NIT)

  • Both the Pirates and the Bearcats are awaiting the NCAA’s word on whether or not they will have some key players in their rotation. After struggling with the remnants of the Cincy program in the wake of Bob Huggins, Mick Cronin finally has the program heading in the right direction. He brings back Deonta Vaughn, who is one of the most explosive scorers in the country, and gets former Texas forward Mike Williams back from an Achilles injury. Adding two talented freshman in Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright only helped matters. But Wright tore up his knee in the first week of practice, meaning that Vaughn is, once again, their only real backcourt threat and that they must rely heavily on their front line, which could be bolstered by the addition of 7’2” center John Riek. The Sudanese refugee, who was considered one of the best prospects in the country two years ago but has battled knee problems, is dealing with eligibility issues but could be in uniform by December. 
  • Seton Hall’s situation is a little different. The Pirates lose leading scorer Brian Laing (18.6 ppg) but return a solid nucleus of Eugene Harvey, Jeremy Hazell and John Garcia. Bobby Gonzalez had also hoped to add transfers Herb Pope (New Mexico St.) and Keon Lawrence (Missouri) without having to wait the mandatory one year for a transfer by having each kid apply for the NCAA’s hardship waiver. Pope’s been denied, Lawrence’s application will wait until after the first semester, and freshman Melvyn Oliver is still waiting to be cleared academically, meaning the Pirates currently have only eight scholarship players.

Pretenders or Contenders?  Providence (NIT), West Virginia (NCAA #7)

  • I know what you’re thinking. Providence? Really, Rob? They haven’t been good since the days of Ryan Gomes and Donnie MacGrath (and even then, good might have been pushing it). But the Friars have the horses to sneak up on some people this year. They were as balanced as any team in the Big East last year, with six guys (five returners) that averaged at least 8.7 ppg.  PG Sharaud Curry, arguably their best player, is back from a stress fracture in his foot and they have added Keno Davis, last year’s national COY at Drake, as the head coach. Davis should have some success in his first year with the Friars if they follow the same spread floor style that was so successful at Drake. One key reason for that is big man Geoff McDermott, who is adept at playing on the perimeter and is a stat stuffer (10 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg, 1 spg, and 1.5 bpg). Remember, this Providence team, who battled the injury bug all year, swept UConn and beat Temple and Arkansas last seaso. The talent’s there, but consistency and healthy players will be the key to their season.
  • The Mountaineers are a different story. They really came on towards the end of the season, thanks in (very) large part to the emergence of Joe Alexander, who was probably the best player in the conference (maybe the country) for the last month-plus of the season and is now a forward with the Bucks. Left are a bunch of very good role players that fit into Huggy Bear’s system and play hard. Guys like Joe Mazzula, Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler. There are two major questions for the Mountaineers – who is going to play in the post and who is going to fill to void of “go-to guy” with Alexander gone. Freshman Devin Ebanks may be able to fill Alexander’s shoes with time, but the rest of the Mountaineers front line will be small (especially for the Big East) and inexperienced.

Worst of the Rest.  Syracuse (NCAA #7), Georgetown (NCAA #7), Marquette (NCAA #6), Villanova (NCAA #5)

  • I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m a UConn fan. I hate Syracuse. Despise them. I even hate the color orange. I didn’t even rank them in my top 25. Call it being biased, call it homerism, call it what you like. But I’ve had an epiphany – this team is really talented. Jonny Flynn is one of the best point guards in the country. Eric Devendorf is a very talented combo guard. Andy Rautins can flat out stroke the three. Paul Harris is a linebacker playing basketball. Arinze Onuake is a beast on the block. And this year, they actually have a deep bench filled with role players and hustle guys. They’re not quite in the top four, but Boeheim has himself his most talented team since Melo.
  • Georgetown lost a lot of very important players to graduation (Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Patrick Ewing Jr) and transfers (Jeremiah Rivers, Vernon Macklin). They are left with just four guys who were in their rotation last year – guards Chris Wright, Jessie Sapp, Austin Freeman and forward DaJuan Summers. They do add a great recruiting class, headlined by big men Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, but it will still be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Hoyas. Part of the reason is that John Thompson III may have to change up his style of play from the Princeton Offense. Hibbert, Wallace, and Ewing were perfectly suited to a slowed down game, where as Sapp and Wright are quick guards that can make plays in the open floor.
  • Marquette has a new coach, but they will be the same team. By now, you must know about their three great guards – Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews – who, when combined with Maurice Acker and David Cubillan, make up one of the deepest, most explosive backcourts in the country. But, much like Villanova and West Virginia, Marquette needs someone to step up inside. It’s great when you have a bunch of guards that can score and make plays, but will Dominic James 40” vert help him against the likes of Luke Harangody or DeJuan Blair? Dwight Burke is going to have to make some big strides as a senior, or else the Golden Eagles will have to rely on a freshman and two JuCo transfers inside.
  • Remember that Villanova team from a few years back? The one with Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Mike Nardi? Well this ‘Nova team is going to be similar to that squad. Led by scoring machine Scottie Reynolds, ‘Nova has one of the best backcourts in the conference. But the key to their success this year will be the front court. Dante Cunningham, an athletic, 6’9 PF, has proven himself as a capable frontcourt player in the Big East, but the rest of the Wildcats frontline will need to step up if Jay Wright’s club wants to crack the top four.

Crème de la Crème.  Notre Dame (NCAA #5), Pittsburgh (NCAA #3), Louisville (NCAA #2), UConn (NCAA #1)

  • Notre Dame returns basically the entire team that finished tied for second in the Big East, including reigning Big East player of the year Luke Harangody. While I can’t help but comment on his resemblance to a pot-bellied pig, you can’t argue with his production last year (23 ppg and 11 rpg in conference). While he is built like one of Charlie Weis’ lineman, he is actually incredibly nimble and has great feet and balance, which is one of the reasons he is able to scorer against bigger, more athletic defenders. Surrounding him will be shooters Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney (who was a 1st team all-conference performer), as well as Tory Jackson, who is one of the more underrated PGs in the league. Notre Dame is going to be a fun team to watch if you like games with a lot of scoring and a lot of threes.
  • Pitt is going to be a typical Pitt team, with a lot of big, strong, tough kids that are going to play rugged, in your face defense. Sam Young, who developed a deadly jumper out to around the three point line, and DeJuan Blair, a 6’7 270-lb mammoth inside, provide one of the toughest frontcourts to match up with in the country. The biggest questions for Pitt surround their backcourt. When will Levance Fields return from foot surgery, and will he be healthy? Can anyone on this team replace the three point shooting of Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin?
  • Louisville, along with Pitt, is probably going to be the toughest defensive team in the conference. It starts with their backcourt, where they have five guys (Edgar Sosa, Andre McGee, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, Reginald Delk) that will really get after you on the perimeter. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams (who is coming off a torn meniscus and should be out another month or so) are both athletic, versatile players. T-Wills is more of a perimeter player and is the Cardinals best creator offensively, averaging more than 4.5 apg last year. Clark is more of a combo forward that will get his points off of fast breaks and cutting to the basket. Louisville loses their entire front line from last year, but they bring in a solid recruiting class, the star of which is Samardo Samuels, probably the best post recruit in America this year.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is UConn. The Huskies probably won’t be at full strength until December, as AJ Price is coming off of a torn ACL and freshman Ater Majok and junior Stanley Robinson (who was last seen on a poster) are both going to be made eligible (hopefully) after the first semester ends. Regardless, UConn is loaded with talent. 7’3” junior and shot blocking machine Hasheem Thabeet returns, as does Jeff Adrien, the Huskies leading scorer and rebounder. Price will be joined in the backcourt by talented but troubled junior Jerome Dyson and Mickey D’s all-american Kemba Walker. UConn’s biggest question mark right now – can they win a big game? They were 8-8 on the road or on a neutral court last year, and are 0-3 in the Big East and NCAA tournaments the last two years.

RPI Boosters.  The Big East RPI is going to be high enough, but here are some of the must-see non-conference match-ups (ignoring the possible match-ups in pre-season tournaments):

  • Wisconsin @ Marquette  (12.06.08)
  • Villanova vs. Texas and Davidson vs. West Virginia in NYC at Jimmy V  (12.09.08)
  • Cincinnati vs. Xavier  (12.13.08)
  • Memphis @ Georgetown  (12.13.08)
  • Marquette @ Tennessee  (12.16.08)
  • Gonzaga vs. UConn in Seattle  (12.20.08)
  • Syracuse @ Memphis  (12.20.08)
  • Kentucky @ Louisville  (01.04.09)
  • Georgetown @ Duke  (01.17.09)
  • Notre Dame @ UCLA  (02.07.09)

65 Team Era.  The Big East earned its chops as a basketball conference in the 80s, and that tradition persists to this very day despite the expansion of the league to it’s current sixteen-team iteration.  Last year the league earned eight bids to the NCAAs, and it’s difficult to envision a future scenario where the conference would ever get less than six bids again.  This obviously will skew their future numbers on a whole scale, but their stats to date are nothing to sneeze at (206-126, .620, 11 F4s, 4 titles).  With the power at the top of this year’s league, we could potentially see another 1985 F4 on the horizon (3/4 of the F4 were Big East teams – Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s). 

Final Thought.  The Big East is wide open this year. Every night is going to be a dog fight. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that any team from this league that makes it to the postseason is going to be battle-tested.

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South Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

This is our final regional analysis and we’re running short on time to get them in before your brackets are due. Consequently, our analysis of the lower seeds will be very brief.

Teams
#1 Memphis:We can’t remember a #1 seed that has gotten less hype as a potential nation champ or more criticism. We know the Tigers aren’t going to remind anybody of a J.J. Redick shooting video. We know that they play in a relatively weak conference. We also know that they are 33-1 and were a short jumper away from being undefeated. We also know they may be the most talented team in the country. What does this all mean? We have no idea if the Tigers will win the title, but we do know that nobody wants to face Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They have an easy path to the Sweet 16 where they could face a very difficult challenge in Pitt. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Texas:In their first year AD (After Durant), Rick Barnes brings the Longhorns back to the tournament with a much better team even if certain LA residents who like to claim allegiance to Boston sports teams without suffering through the winter don’t care about them (or college basketball) any more. These Longhorns are led by All-American candidate D.J. Augustin (19.8 PPG and 5.7 APG) who brings a strong supporting cast with him to the NCAA tournament. Although they are the #2 seed, some might argue they are the favorites in the region thanks to the committee’s ridiculous decision to give them homecourt in the regional finals. That and the fact that they already have been UCLA and Tennessee this season. If they meet Memphis in Houston, the NBA scouts will definitely be watching for the great PG matchup (Rose vs. Augustin). Schedule/Roster

#3 Stanford: We actually have quite seen quite a few Cardinal games this year thanks to FSN. With Brook Lopez clearing that little issue of going to class, Stanford has become a very good team. Despite playing West #1 seed UCLA close two times in the past 2 weeks, we don’t think Lopez has the support to get Stanford by either the Longhorns (in Houston) or Memphis (anywhere other than Palo Alto) to make it to the Final 4. Schedule/Roster

#4 Pittsburgh:Jamie Dixon’s Panthers have done a great job overcoming injuries since their early-season win over Duke in Madison Square Garden. The Panthers tend to dominate inside with Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, but are yet another good team that struggles at the FT lines (22/44 in the Big East final). While we normally would look at their Big East title as a sign they are ready to make a deep run in the tournament, Pitt has a history of doing well in their conference tourney and failing to reach the Final 4. When we combine that with the fact that their physical style is subject to the tight NCAA tournament officiating (h/t to Jay Bilas), we are unsure about their chances to make it to San Antonio. However, we look forward to seeing Levance Fields against Derrick Rose (and possibly D.J. Augustin) in Houston. Schedule/Roster

#5 Michigan State:It seems like Drew Neitzel has been a Spartan forever. He has grown from a talented if inconsistent player into Tom Izzo’s go-to guy. While he will have difficulty creating against more physical guards, Neitzel finds a way to get it done. If MSU can get there, it should be a very interesting matchup with Pitt in the Sweet 16. If they are to get past the Sweet 16, Neitzel will need a lot of help from Raymar Morgan. Schedule/Roster

#6 Marquette:The Golden Eagles are led by Jerel McNeal, who has overtaken his more hyped teammate Dominic James as the team’s most vital player. While Marquette is not as good as advertised early in the season, but they should be good enough to get by Kentucky, which is a rematch of the 2003 Elite 8 matchup where Dwayne Wade’s triple-double knocked out the last great Wildcat team. Schedule/Roster

#7 Miami (FL): After a torrid 12-0 start (helped by a cupcake schedule), the Hurricanes cooled off in the middle of the season before getting into the Big Dance with some big late season wins most notably over Duke. Miami will be challenged right off the bat by St. Mary’s. To be honest, their potential 2nd round matchup may be easier than playing St. Mary’s despite what the seeds say. Schedule/Roster

#8 Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were able to survive the falling Georgia Dome, but they were unable to withstand their buzzsaw namesakes from Athens, Georgia. MSU is led offensively by Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes and defensively by the human eraser known as Jarvis Varnado. We think they should be able to get by Oregon before meeting a tougher challenge in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster

#9 Oregon: Perhaps no team has received more criticism for their seed than the Ducks. They made the tournament by winning their last 3 regular season conference games, but we question their ability to make a serious run as they lost every game down the stretch to the top Pac-10 teams including the ones at the vaunted McArthur Court. Schedule/Roster

#10 Saint Mary’s: The Gaels, led by Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson, are a quick, athletic team that sports wins over Oregon and Gonzaga. However, they struggle with more physical teams that slow the tempo down. This may not matter as they probably won’t play a slow-paced team before they are knocked out. Schedule/Roster

#11 Kentucky: Billy Gillispie has done an outstanding job salvaging this season, which started out so poorly with a loss at home to Gardner-Webb in the 2nd game of the Wildcat season. This is a pretty mediocre Kentucky team especially with the loss of their best player Patrick Paterson to injury. However, Gillispie has molded the team’s style (slow the game down and limit possessions) to maximize what he has. Kentucky isn’t nearly good enough to make a run in the tournament, but they might be able to pull of an upset or two. Schedule/Roster

#12 Temple: The Owls come in having won the Atlantic 10 tournament title, which sends a pretty strong signal that they are playing well late in the season. When you watch, Temple you will realize these aren’t Don Chaney’s Owls. Instead of relying on their physicality, these Owls are very explosive led by Dionte Christmas (20.2 PPG and 6.0 RPG) and Mark Tyndale (15.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 4.3 APG). They should provide the Spartans with a stiff challenge in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#13 Oral Roberts: While Oral Roberts is led by 5’9″ guard Robert Jarvis, their hallmark is their relentless defense. Unfortunately for them, they will be facing what is potentially the most physical team in the tournament in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#14 Cornell: The Ivy League champs usually can at least taunt opposing fans that they will usually be the boss of the fans of the team that is kicking their ass. Unforunately for Cornell and their fans, they play Stanford so they don’t even have that to hang their hat on this year. Schedule/Roster

#15 Austin Peay: They have absolutely no shot against a talented and tough Longhorn team. Schedule/Roster

#16 Texas-Arlington: We give them 5 minutes before their game against Memphis gets out of hand. Just way too much athleticism on Memphis’s side. Texans may get some form of revenge in the regional finals. Schedule/Roster

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ATB: Weekend Recap

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.11.07

Recap. Apologies to everyone, but we’ve had a serious family matter to attend to in recent days, so we’ve lost a little of our mojo in keeping up with the blog. The good news is that Saturday was really the only decent day’s worth of games over the last four days. So here are the highlights (some of which we saw) from last weekend.

Games We Watched. Arizona 78, Illinois 72 (OT). The big news surrounding this game was the re-emergence of Lute Olson on Friday long enough for his wife to notify everyone that she is a money-grubbing Republican operative and Olson are getting a divorce and he needs time (i.e., the rest of the season) away from the program to put his personal life back together. What we saw: for the second consecutive game, Kevin O’Neill’s Wildcats got themselves down big early (12-0 to start the game), only to gut out a second half comeback led by Jerryd Bayless (20/5 assts) to win against a tough opponent. Sure, it took a fortuitous no-call for UA guard Nic Wise, who quite obviously signalled for a timeout that his team didn’t have, to get them into OT, but a road (Chicago) win is a road win. Arizona sophomore forward Jordan Hill added 23/14 for the Cats, who we’re starting to think might have a little toughness in them this year after all. As for the Illini, they have only themselves to blame with their feeble 10-22 from the foul line for the game. #19 Pittsburgh 79, Washington 78. This was another fantastic game. Pitt picked up a hard-earned road win in a venue where UW simply doesn’t lose very often (33 straight against non-conference opponents). The game was close throughout, and it was ultimately decided with a five-minute video review of Washington’s Justin Dentmon’s runner at the buzzer that dropped through the net after bouncing around the rim several times. In the olden days before video review of buzzer beaters, UW walks off with that win and Pitt goes home 8-1, but not now. The officials concluded (rightly, although it was extremely close) that Dentmon’s shot was after the horn and therefore Pitt was the winner, much to the communal chagrin of the Washington crowd. Great non-conf win for Pitt. #14 Indiana 70, Kentucky 51. We watched this one out of a sense of history and tradition of the sport, but we wish we hadn’t, in retrospect. E-Giddy didn’t even play and still the Hoosiers rolled up the Cats and smoked them like a fat Cohiba. The story of the game was that IU guard Jordan Crawford (20 pts on 5-10 shooting) completely and totally outplayed his older UK brother, Joe Crawford (10 pts on 4-15), to the point where even Billy Packer was gushing. If any game encapsulated the frustratingly enigmatic career of former HS stud Joe, this was it. DJ White added 16/13 for the Hoosiers (his fifth straight dub-dub), while UK’s only legit player, Patrick Patterson, finished with 15/5. Oh, and we don’t have the time nor inclination to get into all the Alex Legion nonsense, but if you’re interested, he’s leaving UK (possible destination: Michigan?) and ASoB discusses it much more in-depth than we can.

Other Good Games. #15 Marquette 81, Wisconsin 76. Tremendous win for Marquette, because Wisconsin just does not lose in the Kohl Center (28 in a row prior to this game). Surprisingly, it was the undersized Marquette interior players who played with abandon on the boards and won that battle (37-29) against the taller, beefier Wisconsin front line. Marquette is awfully tough to beat when Dominic James (20/5/6 assts) plays well. #13 Michigan St. 68, #21 BYU 61. This battle of ranked teams had upset written all over it, but give credit to MSU, who was down ten at the half on the road but managed to regain its composure and stick it to the Cougars in the second half (67% shooting). If you want an upset specialist for March, keep an eye on BYU as a #5-#7 seed, especially if their draw is out west. They’ve played UNC, Louisville and Michigan St. very tough already (defeating UL), and Trent Plaisted (19/8) is an interior stud. #5 UCLA 75, Davidson 63. Davidson must be getting tired of this same old song and dance by now: play a top ten team extremely well for about 30-35 minutes, only to have the other teams’ size and strength win out in the end. They have a really good team, but they probably should have scheduled more teams ranked in the 25-50 range in order to pick up a few more Ws (we still think they’ll beat NC State later this month). In this one, Davidson roared out to an 18-pt lead in Pauley Pavilion (32-14) before the Bruins awakened from their slumber and led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (21/8) and Kevin Love (12/12), took over the game. Davidson’s Stephen Curry didn’t shoot well (6-19) in a 15/4 performance. UCLA is showing signs of boredom, and their next really tough game isn’t until the Pac-10 schedule begins in January.

Upsets. It was a good upset Saturday. Dayton 70, #10 Louisville 65. The enigma known as Derrick Caracter signed a good behavior contract on Saturday morning, put up 16/7 in a home loss to Dayton, then proceeded to break said contract (curfew) that very night after the game. After getting busted by the coaches, he then stewed in his room for an hour before sneaking out AGAIN. Wow. So with Palacios and Padgett out injured until who knows when, and Caracter seemingly unable and unwilling to stay eligible, the word is that Pitino is tinkering with the idea of a five-guard lineup. A once promising season is bordering on the edge of disaster in Louisville these days. Dayton’s Brian Roberts lit up the Cards for 28 pts, as the Flyers (now 7-1) won against UL for the second straight year.

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Rhode Island 91, Syracuse 89. Staying with the A10 over Big East theme, how did Syracuse shoot 54% at home and still lose? Well, it didn’t hurt that URI was 12-18 from three and made its FTs down the stretch. This might be one of those games that doesn’t look like much of an upset a month or two from now (URI is now 10-1. with the one loss at BC). Jonny Flynn had 21/10 for the Orange. Wright St. 43, #9 Butler 42. Butler just can’t get past these guys, especially in Dayton. Three of Butler’s last six losses were to Wright St., and the MO for each one has been the same – stop AJ Graves. Graves was held to 6 pts on 2-11 shooting in the high -scoring affair (only three players combined reached double figures). Butler may get all the hype, but Wright St. under Brad Brownell has once again announced that it will be a contender in the Horizon. Stephen F. Austin 66, Oklahoma 62. OU’s losses to Memphis and USC are understandable, but how does the same team that blitzed Tulsa by 26 and TCU by 24 in its previous two games turn around and lose to SFA at home?

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Other Ranked Teams.

  • #3 Texas 80, Rice 54. Abrams, Augustin and James each with 18 pts.
  • #4 Kansas 84, Depaul 66. Brandon Rush came off the bench for 13 pts and one bench warrant.
  • #6 Duke 95, Michigan 67. Please, please, please end this series soon.
  • #7 Georgetown 87, Jacksonville 55. steady as she goes for Georgetown (59% FG).
  • #8 Washington St. 72, Portland St. 60. even more steady for Wazzu (69% eFG)
  • #11 Texas A&M 109, Texas St. 73. We’re just amazed that A&M played 18 guys in this game.
  • #16 Oregon 75, Utah 64. Another solid home win for Oregon.
  • #17 Gonzaga 85, Cal St. Northridge 59. Micah Downs (19 pts) and Matt Bouldin (18) led the way.
  • #23 Vanderbilt 90, Lipscomb 67. 26/10 for AJ Ogilvy as Vandy remains unbeaten. Could he be the next Bogut?
  • #25 Villanova 101, Temple 93. Scottie Reynolds was huge (27/6/9) in this Big 5 matchup.

Other Notable Scores.

  • Boston College 81, Maryland 78. BC is much better than everyone thought, Maryland much worse.
  • Kansas St. 82, California 75. Cal shoots 51% and still loses their first game – three players with dub-dubs (Walker – 30/10; Beasley – 19/11; R. Anderson – 24/11).
  • Illinois St. 62, Cincinnati 52. Hard to argue Cincy is better off w/o Thuggins at this point.
  • Charlotte 71, S. Illinois 56. Make that three solid wins in a row for Charlotte.
  • East Carolina 75, NC State 69. Sam Hinnant dropped 30 on the incredibly overrated Wolfpack. Anybody still got NCSU third in the ACC?
  • St. Mary’s 69, San Diego St. 64. very nice road win for the Gaels (prior to tonight’s loss v. SIU)
  • Kent St. 73, George Mason 55. Another solid mid-major win for the Golden Flashes.
  • Georgia 72, Wake Forest 50. We still don’t think much of UGa, but Wake took it on the chin from the SEC last week.
  • Fordham 88, NJIT 44. Stony Brook 62, NJIT 53. NJIT’s quest for winlessness continues (0-12). Avg. margin of defeat = 25.0 ppg. Next game: Thurs. at Rutgers.

On Tap Today (all times EST).

  • Xavier (-19) v. Cincinnati (ESPN2) 7pm – we love the Crosstown Shootout – XU should roll this year, though.
  • Maryland (-8.5) v. Ohio 8pm. the way the Terps have been playing, this could be interesting…
  • Wisconsin (-13.5) v. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (ESPN FC) 8pm - the battle of Cheeseheads.
  • Vanderbilt (-3) v. Depaul (ESPN Classic) 8pm - winnable road game for Vandy to remain unbeaten.
  • Arkansas (NL) v. Texas-San Antonio (ESPN FC) 8pm - we still haven’t gotten a good feel for the Hawgs.
  • Colorado (-5) v. New Orleans 9pm – the Privateers with another shot at defeating a BCS team.
  • Boston College (-4) v. Massachusetts (ESPNU) 9pm – the battle of Chowderheads.
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ATB: Can Raftery Wear Hawaiian Shirts Every Game?

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2007

ATB v.4

11.21.07

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

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

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

Other Ranked Teams.

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

Other Scores of Note.

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone!

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09.11.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 11th, 2007

We’re so far behind in news that this is a must-post…

  • Huckleberry Hound Roy Williams and the entire 1966 Texas Western squad were the collegiate candidates inducted into the Basketball HOF on Friday.  No beef with the Glory Road fellas (although UK and Rupp’s ex post facto vilification is a story that still needs correcting), but has RW accomplished enough yet (five F4s, one title) to warrant inclusion?  Seems as if the committee jumped a little early on that one.
  • Come see the new inclusions in your town this fall, as the HOF is making a 30-city tour around the country over the next year.  The spokesperson of the tour is the Human Highlight Film himself. 
  • Stability in the Northeast – BC’s Al Skinner and Holy Cross’s Ralph Willard both had their contracts extended through 2013. 
  • Calipari mobilizes the entire city of Memphis to watch his players, who apparently cannot be trusted out on their own without inciting a freakin’ riot.  We knew before it even came out that The Mouth of the South, Joey Dorsey, would somehow be involved in this.  Make it rain, Joey.     
  • Not to be outdone, Mike Davis’s transfers at UAB decided to party without him, and all five were arrested on various charges.  The most disturbing in our eyes?  Walter Sharpe’s outstanding warrant for his arrest on a prior marijuana charge.  Not only did he already have a prior, but he didn’t even show up for the hearing?  And Davis didn’t know about this??  Now we know why IU fans wanted him gone.
  • Oh, and former Terp star and NCAA Champion Lonny Baxter has an unhealthy interest in firearms likes guns. 
  • From a while back, ESPN believes that nearly a third of D1 teams are eligible to become Bracket Busters.  (h/t to Awful Announcing)
  • Louisville’s new arena (due in 2010) is already bidding for future NCAA Tournament games.  Possible beneficiaries:  Kentucky, Indiana, Cincinnati, Xavier.   
  • Rivals weighs in with Alabama, Villanova, Illinois and others’ Labor Day weekend trips.  (takeaways:  Bama will struggle w/o Steele and Scottie Reynolds was on fire
  • Andy Katz also contributes with reports (here and here) of his trip to Mexico with OJ Mayo and USC.  (takeaway: OJ is the real deal)  
  • Goodman also has some summer excursion thoughts on Oklahoma, Duquesne, USC and Arkansas here; and Villanova, Marquette and James Madison here
  • Apparently Ohio St.’s Kosta Koufos was offered but did not take a Christian Drejer deal in Greece last week. 
  • Blue Ribbon’s preseason All-Americans are out – Drew Neitzel, Chris Lofton, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Dominic James.  We’re lukewarm on Neitzel as a first-teamer. 
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06.18.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 18th, 2007

With the draft withdrawal deadline looming…

  • Should I stay…  Cal’s DeVon Hardin, Marquette’s Dominic James, Nevada’s Marcelus Kemp, Illinois’ Shaun Pruitt, Texas A&M’s Joseph Jones and GW’s Maureece Rice will stick around another year to play for free.
  • Or should I go?  Georgetown’s Jeff Green, Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young, Nevada’s Ramon Sessions, Oklahoma State’s JamesOn Curry have all decided to keep their names in the draft.
  • In case you missed it, Florida guard Brandon Powell was arrested last week.
  • We thought this was kinda cool: Kareem‘s commencement speech at UCLA last weekend.
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Oden Even More of a Beast than Originally Thought

Posted by rtmsf on June 4th, 2007

Greg Oden

Somewhat lost amidst all the Billy Donovan and Lebron talk in the hoops world this weekend were reports from the NBA’s predraft camp, coincidentally also held in Orlando.  We’ll get to who helped and hurt themselves in a minute, but we have to first mention that Greg Oden is apparently a gazelle trapped in a seven-footer’s body.  Consider this report from the Portland Oregonian:   

Oden is faster than Durant in the 3/4-court sprint, quicker in the lane-agility drill, and has better numbers in the running and standing vertical leaps. And, Oden has a mind-boggling 7.8 body-fat percentage … most big men are north of the 12 percent range. For instance, other top-rated big men such as Washington’s Spencer Hawes (13.0), Duke’s Josh McRoberts (13.7) and Pitt’s Aaron Gray (10.8) don’t compare. [...]  Oden is 6-foot-11 without shoes, 7-feet with shoes. He weighs 257 pounds.   His wingspan is 7 feet, 4.25 inches (fourth best in the draft). His standing reach is 9 feet, 4 inches (the highest of anyone in the draft). His standing vertical is 32 inches, his running vertical 34 inches.

For a big man, these numbers are sick, as he outperformed the smoother and more fluid-looking Durant in every athletic category.  What this essentially means is that Oden has guard-like athleticism (not to be confused with guard-like skills - see: KG) as a traditional back to the basket seven-footer.  No wonder the scouts have been drooling over this guy since he was in ninth grade.  There shouldn’t have been much question, but if there was any at all, these athletic numbers will put to rest the notion of Portland taking Durant over Oden in about three weeks. 

Players Who Helped Themselves (draftexpress.com): 

  • Jared Dudley (Boston College)
  • Taurean Green (Florida)
  • Demetris Nichols (Syracuse)
  • Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh)
  • Zabian Dowdell (Virginia Tech)
  • Jared Jordan (Marist)
  • Ramon Sessions (Nevada)
  • Jermareo Davidson (Alabama)
  • Antanas Kavaliauskas (Texas A&M)
  • Ali Traore (France)

Players Who Didn’t Help Themselves (espn.com‘s Chad Ford – insider access required):

  • Dominic James (Marquette)
  • Joseph Jones (Texas A&M)
  • Sean Singletary (Virginia)
  • Marcellus Kemp (Nevada)
  • James Mays (Clemson)
  • Dominic McGuire (Fresno St.)
  • Ron Lewis (Ohio St.)
  • Kyle Visser (Wake Forest)
  • Aaron Brooks (Oregon)
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04.27.06 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2007

  • As we approach the early entry deadline on Sunday, Kansas forward Brandon Rush and Marquette guard Dominic James both announced they are officially going pro, but neither will sign with an agent.
  • Put it on the Titanium AMEX: John Beilein agrees to pay WVU $1.5M buyout (where’d that extra mill go?) for leaving Morgantown before his contract term expired.
  • 7’3 center Hasheem Thabeet is returning to UConn for his sophomore season.
  • Someone buy Billy Gillispie an iPhone instead… NCAA formally bans text messaging of recruits.
  • Don’t the girls all get prettier at closing time? Luke Winn discusses how Patrick Patterson seems to enjoy the attention of being the last “top” player signed in the Class of 2007.
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