Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

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SEC M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 12th, 2012

  1. Point guard is widely considered the biggest question mark in Kentucky’s title defense, and Wildcat fans were hoping to see new floor general Ryan Harrow satisfy the skeptics with a strong debut against Maryland. However, with the NC State transfer battling flu-like symptoms, it wasn’t to be. Instead, Jarrod Polson provided fans with a performance that won’t soon be forgotten. The former walk-on played 22 minutes (by far a career-high), scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting, and coolly sank two clinching free throws in the dying seconds. Why was a complete unknown able to have such an impact? Practice. “One of the overlooked benefits to all those No. 1 recruiting classes Calipari reels in year after year is the daily competition,” writes John Clay, “where terrific players and accomplished athletes go head to head as a matter of routine.” In Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and Harrow, Polson has faced a murderer’s row of opposing ball handlers in his three years of practice in Lexington. With competition like that, Maryland’s Pe’shon Howard couldn’t possibly be a problem.
  2. When Rick Ray was hired to replace coach Rick Stansbury at Mississippi State, he wasn’t only responsible for retooling a basketball team. He was charged with rebuilding a program’s reputation. They’ve had plenty of talent over the last few seasons, but the Bulldogs couldn’t shake the dreaded “underachiever” label. Off the court issues plagued the team as well, with Renardo Sidney’s countless shenanigans the most notable. Fortunately, Ray isn’t seeing any lingering signs of questionable character in his players. “The biggest thing I’m happy about with the team so far is they are giving the effort,” Ray told Starkville Daily News, “That is one thing I have not had to coach here so far.” That effort may be all Ray can count on from a team that returns very little talent and boasts very little depth. These deficiencies were exposed in a 56-53 defeat to Sun Belt also-ran Troy (the SEC’s only opening weekend loss). Ray is optimistic about what he sees from his squad, but consider it a surprise if the Bulldogs aren’t sitting in the SEC cellar by the end of the season.
  3. Tennessee wins the award for most misleading score of the weekend. The nine-point margin doesn’t inspire much confidence when the opponent is Kennesaw State (3-28 last season), but the Volunteers were predictably dominant in their season opener. “You have to take pride in dominating teams when you have the opportunity,” coach Cuonzo Martin said after the game. Tennessee held a 25-point lead midway through the second half, before mental slippage (Martin’s term, not mine) allowed the Owls to chip away at the lead. The Volunteers put on a clinic for their Atlantic Sun opponent, shooting over 60% from the field and hitting 58% from long range. Usual high scoring and rebounding forward Jarnell Stokes displayed his versatility by tallying five assists and five steals, both career highs. Tennessee heads to Puerto Rico next, and with possible matchups against Oklahoma State and NC State in the Caribbean, mental slippage will have to be avoided.
  4. Which SEC team utilized the most guard-heavy lineup on opening night? Has to be Missouri right? Wrong. In Alabama’s buzzer-beating win over South Dakota State, coach Anthony Grant relied greatly on his backcourt options, with guards accounting for 66 of the Crimson Tide’s 70 points. Trevor Releford led the way with 18, while Trevor Lacey’s buzzer-beating three gave Alabama the win over a quality Jackrabbits team. The Trevors lead a deep unit, but Grant will need Devonta Pollard to provide some balance in the form of low-post production. The highly touted recruit hasn’t delivered thus far, but his coach isn’t worried. “He’s going to be terrific,” said Grant, “This is a heck of a game for a freshman to come into.”
  5. Missouri will need Michael Dixon to compete with the elite in the SEC, but his indefinite suspension for the Tigers’ 83-69 win over SIU-Edwardsville gave coach Frank Haith quite a bit of freedom to see his backcourt newcomers in action. Dixon and point guard Phil Pressey have unquestioned starting positions, but with no other returnees, developing chemistry and finding the right rotation is paramount for Missouri. Transfers Earnest Ross and Keion Bell joined the starting five, but in going 2-for-10 and 3-for-8 from the field, respectively, neither impressed. Canadian freshman Negus Webster-Chan made a case for more playing time, however, displaying a nice shooting stroke and active hands on the defensive end.
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SEC M5: Halloween Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 31st, 2012

  1. That, my friends, is the sound of basketball. The squeak of tennis shoes, the bounce of the ball, and the whistle of the referee suggests that exhibition games have officially begun, with the newest member of the SEC — the Missouri Tigers — up first. Former Auburn Tiger Earnest Ross made quite the impression on his new team and new coach in their blowout win over Northwest Missouri State on Monday.“He can shoot for a guy his size, and, with his physique, you wouldn’t know that he could have that kind of touch,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “He can shoot the ball. He’s worked really hard at it too.” Ross averaged 13.1 points and an impressive 6.6 rebounds per game for Auburn in 2010-11. He finished Mizzou’s exhibition with 22 points on six three-pointers. With guard Mike Dixon currently suspended by Haith, Ross will have a nice opportunity to showcase his skills.
  2. South Carolina is hobbling through the preseason with only a fraction of its full roster. Four members of the team miss its exhibition action against Kentucky Wesleyan last night because of injury. Sophomore forward Carlton Geathers (knee), sophomore guard Damien Leonard (broken nose), senior guard LaShay Page (hamstring), and freshman forward Mindaugas Kacinas (ankle) were on the sidelines last night, and it showed as the Gamecocks barely snuck past the D-II team, 68-67. Frank Martin will need a healthy team to run the gauntlet of SEC play, but a light non-conference schedule allows for USC to ease into this season with a new coach and new system. Page, a transfer from Southern Miss, scored 11.6 points per game last year for the Golden Eagles, and could be an impact player for Martin.
  3. Speaking of LaShay Page, Martin sees a lot of potential and leadership for the 6’2″ guard in his first year in a South Carolina uniform. “I can’t place the responsibility of leadership on someone who doesn’t want that job,” Martin said. “He’s kind of evolved into that himself.” Page is confident he can make the transition to the SEC and become a leader for Martin’s club. “It’s different players, a different staff, but the same me,” he said. “My leadership, leading the younger guys. I really look forward to that.” In addition to leadership, Martin and the Gamecocks need scoring. Leading scorer Malik Cooke departed from Columbia, taking over 12 points per game with him. Page will need to step into that role for South Carolina to be competitive.
  4. The love-fest for Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein continues. And what is Halloween without a little scare, so want to know a frightening thought? Cauley-Stein is the least hyped freshmen of all Cal’s newcomers. The part of his game that has coaches and critics raving is his hustle. After a 14-point, 12-rebound, and five-block performance in the Blue-White scrimmage, Cauley-Stein talked about his game and coach John Calipari’s philosophy on effort. “He preaches every day once he sees you take one play off you are coming out, because obviously you are tired and are not going hard enough,” he said. “He keeps saying at the game you will only be able to play three minutes and you are coming out. He says that to everybody because everybody will be tired. So once we get out of the grind of things and you get in your mind that you can go harder than a few minutes, that is when your game will escalate.” It is clear that Cauley-Stein has worked his way into the rotation for the early part of this season, and it is equally certain that effort and hustle on both ends of the floor will be the attribute that keeps him there.
  5. A lot of debate has gone into who will start in the backcourt for Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators. And for that matter, there was a question of how many guards would start out on the floor. For now, Donovan has an answer, settling into a three-guard lineup with senior Mike Rosario joining  point guard Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton. “Mike has done a good job,” Donovan said. “I think, as far as my trust level for him on the court, it’s growing and growing because he’s taking care of his responsibilities.” Rosario did not always make great decisions with a turnover rate of 16.7 percent in 2011-12, creating some of the trust issues that Donovan spoke about. The 6’3″ guard should also be charged with accounting for lost rebounding produced by NBA draft pick, Bradley Beal. Beal grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game last season from the wing spot.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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SEC Preview: Missouri Tigers

Posted by DPerry on October 22nd, 2012

Go back to March 2011: Missouri, after just sneaking into the field of 68, had just been trounced by Cincinnati, capping off an unremarkable season in unremarkable fashion. The Tiger faithful may have had more ambitious goals entering the year, but they could hardly complain. Their team had recovered admirably from the calamitous Quin Snyder reign and were establishing themselves as a secondary Big 12 power. Head coach Mike Anderson demanded relentless defensive intensity and valued athleticism, ensuring a brand of exciting basketball that didn’t always accompany wins. If that wasn’t enough, after Arkansas came calling, Anderson soundly denied rumors that he would jump ship, claiming instead that he intended to retire in Columbia. Armed with a committed coach and a roster bursting at the seams with returning talent, Missouri was in position to challenge longtime rival Kansas and rising Baylor for conference supremacy.

Frank Haith had great success in his first season, but he can’t afford a letdown in Year Two

What followed made for one of the most compelling storylines of last college basketball season. Anderson took the job in Fayetteville and Missouri was left scrambling for a replacement. After being rejected by their first few choices, the administration hired Miami’s Frank Haith, a decision which was met with a resounding “Huh?” Haith’s record with the Hurricanes (a .384 ACC winning percentage and one NCAA tournament appearance in seven seasons) would have made you think he was more likely to get the can than an offer to move to a superior program. Shortly thereafter, the college basketball gods rubbed a little salt in Missouri’s wound, as Haith was implicated in the Nevin Shapiro scandal, leading some fans and members of the media to call for a suspension. Add in a season-ending injury to forward Laurence Bowers, and the relatively high expectations for Tiger basketball plummeted. Unless you’re a newcomer to college basketball (in which case, welcome), you know how the story ends. Missouri rode a 14-0 start to a Big 12 Tournament title and a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The guard-heavy offense flourished in Haith’s system, finishing as the most efficient in the nation. Its first-round shocker against Norfolk State notwithstanding, Missouri can reflect fondly on the 2011-12 season.

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SEC Transition Basketball: Missouri Tigers

Posted by EMoyer on July 16th, 2012

It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Missouri.

State of the Program

The Tigers come to the SEC off a 30-5 season and a Big 12 Tournament title. Only two players who saw the court during any of the 2011-12 season return, but this team features a veteran roster  loaded with transfers from high-level Division I programs. Guards Michael Dixon, Jr., and Phil Pressey headline one of the top returning backcourts in all the land. Dixon excelled in a reserve role last season, averaging 13.5 points per game despite never starting. No player in the country, including No.4 NBA Draft selection Dion Waiters, averaged as many points per game off the bench. Pressey experienced no “sophomore slump” as he set the school’s single-season assist record and became a Bob Cousy Award finalist.

Bowers is Back Along With a Host of New Players for Missouri

Senior Laurence Bowers returns to the active roster after sitting out last season because of a torn ACL. In his prior season on the court, he averaged more than 11 points and six rebounds and close to two blocks per game. He ranks fourth on the school’s all-time blocks list and needs just 27 to move in the second spot.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 13th, 2012

  1. If you ever attend a Missouri basketball game, take a glance at the gentlemen lined up at center court during pre-game warm-ups. There are four players in warm-up clothes: Jabari Brown, Keion Bell, Earnest Ross, and Danny Feldman, four transfers who cannot play this season but make a considerable impact in practice. Next year, they will take the reins from this graduating senior class for the Tigers. For now, though, they may actually be the hidden key to Missouri’s success this season. According to Bryan Burwell, watching the “real” team face the “scout” team in practice is quite a scene with physical play and elbows flying. Marcus Denmon even said he thought the practice team could win a lot of games in the Big 12–an ambitious comment, sure, but not totally off-base.
  2. Rarely is a 15-point loss a moral victory for anyone, but Oklahoma State has to at least be a bit happier with its resilience  in Lawrence this weekend. Last month, Baylor handed the Cowboys an embarrassing 41-point loss in Waco. On Saturday, Oklahoma State showed some fortitude after halftime “rallying” from a 29-point hole to nearly crack a single-digit deficit late in the second-half. “It show’s we’re willing to fight with any team in this league. We got off to a bad start. We had to turn it around the second half,” Markel Brown said. You never want to get into the habit of applauding 15-point losses, but any progress is worth noting at this point for Travis Ford‘s program.
  3. We are not old enough to remember Lon Kruger‘s playing days, but folklore has it that he’s one of the better players to ever play in the Big Eight Conference. This article recalls his glory days at Kansas State and how he is trying to fuel his mentality into his Oklahoma team. The Sooners’ season hit rock bottom this weekend with a blowout loss to Texas Tech, dropping them to 3-9 in the Big 12 and probably ending any real chance at an NIT berth. Changing the culture in a program takes awhile, though, so it is not time for Oklahoma fans to panic. Kruger’s the right man for the job, as long as his intensity carries over into his players one of these years.
  4. We haven’t talked about realignment in a few weeks, so let’s get an update. According to this article, the “trade” between West Virginia/TCU and Missouri/Texas A&M isn’t a fair deal for the Big 12. Looking strictly at the immediate future, the league may lose a little luster. But there’s a problem with his article’s argument. Missouri isn’t traditionally a top-five program, and West Virginia is having a relative down season by its standards. Over the next 10-15 years, this “trade” could be a wash, especially if TCU ever figures out how to revitalize its program. Bottom line, it is silly to discuss this. The Big 12 has taken a hit basketball-wise, but it’s not about to collapse.
  5. Texas may have saved its NCAA Tournament hopes this weekend by rallying in Manhattan to beat Kansas State, a sign of resilience for an oft-criticized program in recent years. So many accuse Rick Barnes of wasting talent, but he’s actually brought a workmanlike attitude to this young team in 2011-12. The Longhorns are even starting to embrace their underdog status, and their dreams of reaching the Big Dance aren’t dead yet. If Barnes can figure out a way to sneak into the NCAAs with this many freshmen in the rotation, he’ll deserve a lot of credit for, dare we say, “overachieving.”
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The Transfer Effect: What the Statistics Say about Missouri and Iowa State’s Recruiting Methods

Posted by dnspewak on December 27th, 2011

No matter how established the program, every college basketball coach eventually takes a chance on a transfer. Jim Boeheim, for example, plucked Wesley Johnson from Iowa State and turned him into the Big East Player of the Year in 2009-10. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski’s current rosters both include transfers with Brandon Wood (Valparaiso) and Seth Curry (Liberty), and in 1979, a former Indiana Hoosier named Larry Bird nearly won a title with Indiana State just a few years after quitting basketball (and Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers) altogether.

Hoiberg and Haith Are Recruiting Transfers Heavily to Their Programs

Normally, coaches take one or two transfers at a time to fill immediate holes, but that’s not everybody’s philosophy. Meet Missouri’s Frank Haith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a pair of coaches who have abandoned traditional recruiting methods at their new schools in favor of Division I transfers. Haith, hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, is using three open scholarships in 2011-12 on players who will not appear in a single basketball game this season by signing Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Hoiberg, on the other hand, has four transfers on his roster in his second year with the Cyclones: Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). The two coaches have energized their fan bases by signing big names from major schools, but Haith and Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics cannot be accurately judged at this point. Iowa State’s Fab Four will begin Big 12 play next month, and Missouri’s three transfers will not all be eligible until December 2012.

Instead of speculating as to whether the two teams will suffer from dreaded chemistry problems with so many transfers, why not crunch the numbers to see if The Transfer Effect really exists? Although finding aggregate data for Division I transfers is virtually impossible, recent anecdotal evidence shows that the recruiting strategy is an enormous risk for both coaches. Seven teams from both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons welcomed three or more transfers to their programs at the same time, and only two teams (San Diego State and UNLV) finished above .500 in league play. Seton Hall, the only power conference team in the group, missed the NCAA Tournament.

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The Big 12’s New Faces: Missouri’s Frank Haith

Posted by dnspewak on October 21st, 2011

Frank Haith: The Essentials

  • Previous coaching stop: Miami (FL)
  • Career overview: Assistant coach (1985-2004); head coach at Miami (2004-11)
  • Playing experience: N/A
  • Accolades: ACC Coach of the Year finalist (2007-08)

The Breakdown

Frank Haith isn’t exactly the most popular person in Columbia, Missouri, right now — and he knows it. In his introductory press conference, the new Missouri coach admitted he wasn’t the school’s first choice after finishing 43-69 in ACC play during his six years at Miami.  To make matters worse, he’s now embroiled in the NCAA’s investigation of the Hurricanes. Booster Nevin Shapiro accused him of having knowledge of a $10,000 payment to DeQuan Jones, and he’s pictured at social events with Shapiro.  So that’s been the theme of the 2011 off-season: damage control. Plus, in addition to suffering through a PR nightmare this summer, Haith also just found out this month that his senior forward Laurence Bowers will miss the entire season with an ACL injury.

Frank Haith Walked into a Great Situation at Missouri (Christie Megura)

Welcome to Columbia, coach. Luckily, even without Bowers, Haith has an experienced squad with a real shot at a Big 12 title. Before he cuts down the nets, though, Haith has some work to do. His biggest challenge will be finding a way to adjust Mike Anderson’s players to play a more traditional style. Haith has said he will continue to push the tempo offensively, but he also said he will back off on the all-out pressure defense and will introduce more of a pick-and-roll, inside-oriented offense.  Haith’s personnel could thrive under his system. Point guards Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon might benefit in this offense, and senior Ricardo Ratliffe might be primed for a big year if his guards get him more involved. And with Marcus Denmon and Kim English back in the fold, this is a team that could take off in Haith’s first season.

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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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Set Your Tivo: 12.15.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 15th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We told you last night’s games would be very interesting and boy were they ever. Louisville and Tennessee were upset victims at home but neither upset was shocking given the matchups we discussed in this space yesterday, plus both teams were due for a letdown. Tonight’s slate is not good at all so don’t expect much action this evening.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Akron @ #19 Minnesota – 8:30 pm on Big Ten Network (*)

Akron was blasted by Temple in their last game and really struggles offensively. The Zips don’t stand much of a chance in this game so one strategy may be to live or die by the three as Minnesota’s opponents get a lot of points courtesy of the trifecta. However, Akron is not a good three point shooting team to begin with, #221 in the country, but taking a page out of Virginia’s playbook could make this game somewhat competitive, at least for a while. The Cavaliers bombed away from the arc in a stunning second half turnaround against the Golden Gophers en route to a surprising win at the Barn. Akron’s Brett McClanahan and Darryl Roberts are the biggest threats but McClanahan is just seven for his last 23 (30%) from deep. The senior Roberts shoots it well at 42% and also connects 92% of the time at the foul line. Minnesota will look to take advantage with their superior size and skill inside led by Trevor Mbakwe (14/10). Mbakwe is shooting 61% overall, scoring in double figures each game so far and is clearly the most athletic of the Minnesota big men. Akron opponents get 58% of their scoring from two point range so expect Tubby Smith to exploit this early and often to build up a lead. Minnesota also has an outside threat with Blake Hoffarber at 41% from three, now hot after a little slump to start the season. Akron is also a poor rebounding team with only one major contributor taller than 6’8, center Zeke Marshall. Even without point guard Al Nolen (probably won’t play), Minnesota is too deep and too talented for Akron to compete with. The Gophers should win this game easily.

Auburn @ South Florida– 9 pm on ESPNU (*)

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