RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

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If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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RTC Conference Primers: #2 – ACC

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2009

seasonpreview

Steven Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. North Carolina (13-3)
  2. Duke (12-4)
  3. Clemson (10-6)
  4. Maryland (10-6)
  5. Georgia Tech (9-7)
  6. Wake Forest (8-8)
  7. Boston College (8-8)
  8. Virginia Tech (7-9)
  9. Florida State (6-10)
  10. Miami (5-11)
  11. Virginia (5-11)
  12. North Carolina State (3-13)

All-Conference Team (with 2008-09 per-game averages):

  • Greivis Vasquez (G), Sr., Maryland – 17.5 points, 5 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 33% 3-pt
  • Malcolm Delaney (G), Jr. Virginia Tech – 18.1 points, 4.5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 35% 3-pt
  • Kyle Singler (F), Jr., Duke – 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 39% 3-pt
  • Trevor Booker (F), Sr., Clemson – 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Ed Davis (F), Soph., North Carolina – 6.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks

6th Man. Gani Lawal, F, Georgia Tech – 15.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Impact Newcomer. Derrick Favors, F, Georgia Tech

acc logo

What You Need to Know.

With Tyler Hansbrough off saving puppies in cell phone commercials, and Greg Paulus quarterbacking a sub-par college football team, who is left to watch in the ACC this year?  Well, as you might have expected, the prime candidates will both wear a shade of blue and still play on Tobacco Road.

But don’t sleep on those in purple, red, or even Yellow Jacket gold.

North Carolina and Duke set a new record for ACC equality this season when they equally shared the top spot in the coaches’ preseason poll. Their Feb. 10 showdown in Chapel Hill is already circled on every hoop fan’s calendar, while their season-ending tilt in Durham (March 6) already has Dick Vitale in a tizzy. The reigning National Champs lost not only Hansbrough, but also Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. And still, they are expected to win the ACC, thanks to a new shift of power to the frontcourt (more on that later). Duke also may rely heavily on its big men, which is a change of pace, since jump-shooting, floor-slapping guards usually reign supreme at Cameron Indoor.

Without those big names, you might think the ACC is lacking in star power this season. But if you want to be the smartest guy (or girl) in the room, tell your friends to watch Greivis Vasquez play. Make them sit down and watch a Maryland game. Just do it. The guy is pure energy, and always looks like he’s having the time of his life. Kyle Singler and even Trevor Booker might be the names you hear in 2010 NBA Draft projections, but Vasquez will have more to do with his team’s success than any other player in the conference.

While the Heels and Devils battle it out, the most interesting ACC subplot may lie in the race for NCAA Tournament berths. Don’t be surprised to hear Digger and Bilas discussing as many as eight or even nine possible candidates come February. While Clemson, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest seem like prime candidates for dance tickets (and even top-6 seeds) come March, Virginia Tech, Florida State and even Boston College and/or Miami could be in the conversation with a few key wins.

That’s the one great equalizer for the lower-tier teams in a conference like the ACC. Steal one or two big wins against the Dukes, North Carolinas and Clemsons (especially on the road), and you’ll be hard to ignore in that selection room.

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2009-10 RTC Preseason All-Americans

Posted by zhayes9 on November 5th, 2009

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After vouching for the input of all four of our RTC scribes, here’s our official preseason All-American top four teams:

First Team

  • G- Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
  • G- Sherron Collins (Kansas)
  • F- Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)
  • F- Patrick Patterson (Kentucky)
  • C- Cole Aldrich (Kansas)

No real surprises for our first team. Kalin Lucas is the anchor of a Michigan State team with Final Four aspirations yet again (would be Tom Izzo’s sixth), while Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich form a tandem that’s reason #1 why Kansas sits atop all preseason rankings. The final two forwards — Luke Harangody and Patrick Patterson — are double-double machines inside that are both looking to send their teams back to the Dance after a year in NIT purgatory. Patterson’s team happens to be a Final Four possibility.

Second Team

  • G- John Wall (Kentucky)
  • G- Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
  • F- Evan Turner (Ohio State)
  • F- Craig Brackins (Iowa State)
  • C- Greg Monroe (Georgetown)

It takes a special player to make any preseason all-second team list before ever playing a minute at the collegiate level. All we’ve heard this offseason from Kentucky practice viewers and his coach John Calipari suggests we could find Wall replacing Collins or Lucas on the first team by season’s end. Willie Warren has a chance to lead all BCS conference players in scoring as the Oklahoma sophomore can flat out shoot the basketball. Evan Turner will play everything from the 1 to the 4 position for an Ohio State team returning nearly every key cog. The most unknown superstar in the land might be Craig Brackins, while Greg Monroe looks to turn around a sinking Georgetown ship.

Third Team

  • G- Jerome Randle (California)
  • G- Manny Harris (Michigan)
  • F- Kyle Singler (Duke)
  • F- Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest)
  • C- Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State)

Can Cal finally win a Pac-10 title? With Jerome Randle and his 46% 3pt at the helm, it’s entirely possible. Manny Harris returns as the #1 scoring option for a Michigan team looking to contend in the all-of-a-sudden feared Big Ten. The biggest surprise may be Kyle Singler, the Duke swingman voted Preseason All-American and yet finds himself on the third team here at RTC (let the accusations of anti-Duke bias begin). Al-Farouq Aminu is the man in Winston-Salem and could take off as a potential lottery pick, while Jarvis Varnado is this year’s Hasheem Thabeet down low making a super impact defensively.

Fourth Team

  • G- Greivis Vasquez (Maryland)
  • G- Devan Downey (South Carolina)
  • F- Robbie Hummel (Purdue)
  • F- Trevor Booker (Clemson)
  • C- Ed Davis (North Carolina)

The biggest decision in April may have been Greivis Vasquez electing to return to College Park and lead the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament. He’s a tremendous scorer and improving floor leader. Speaking of scoring, South Carolina’s Devan Downey can make any shot on the floor and could total 20 PPG this season. We all know what a healthy Robbie Hummel and Trevor Booker provide Purdue and Clemson, respectively, with scoring, rebounding and defense. Ed Davis look to make The Leap we all expect out of the UNC big man.

Also receiving votes: Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Kemba Walker (Connecticut), Nic Wise (Arizona), Damion James (Texas), Lazar Hayward (Marquette), Devin Ebanks (West Virginia), Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), A.J. Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), Jerome Jordan (Tulsa), Larry Sanders (VCU).

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part One)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 25th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December and January in case you missed it):

Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

February 1- Texas @ Oklahoma State (#33 overall)- Hard to imagine you won’t see plenty of scoring in this Big 12 clash. The point guard situation is a bit dicey in Stillwater with Byron Eaton’s departure, but Travis Ford loves to run and James Anderson can score with the best. Expect this to be one of the toughest tests for Texas in their pursuit of a regular season Big 12 title.

February 6- Texas @ Oklahoma (#25 overall)- This could very well be another test. Two freshmen will have to fill major roles for Jeff Capel’s squad with Tommy Mason-Griffin helping out Willie Warren in the backcourt and Tiny Gallon bulldozing opponents in the paint with Blake Griffin in LA. It’s entirely possible defensive stud Avery Bradley could earn the job of trying to lock down the quick Warren.

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February 6- Villanova @ Georgetown (#31 overall)- A Big East clash in February between two teams that have top-three aspirations in the conference. The point guard duel is a dandy with Chris Wright of the Hoyas matched up with Scottie Reynolds of the Wildcats. This should prove a worthy test for Villanova’s thin frontline trying to contain Greg Monroe, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

February 6- Michigan State @ Illinois (#37 overall)- The orange-clad students right on top of the floor will be out in full force to support their Illini in hopes of knocking off the loaded Spartans. With Chester Frazier departed, it could be the freshman guard D.J. Richardson trying to contain potential All-American Kalin Lucas. There’s some tremendous outside shooting in this one from State’s Durrell Summers to the Illini’s Demetri McCamey.

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: November/December

Posted by zhayes9 on October 18th, 2009

seasonpreview

To get our readers excited for the endless possibilities of 2009-10, I’ve compiled an extensive list of the top 65 college basketball games of the upcoming season. Any true college hoops fan knows why we selected the number 65. Splitting up this season preview feature into three posts the next three Mondays (November/December, January and February/March), hopefully this list will provide you with the most vital of dates to circle on your calendar. Coaches are realizing more and more the importance of compiling a respectable non-conference slate to boost RPI/SOS numbers and provide their team adequate experience and preparation for the grind of conference play. Let’s lead off with the first batch of potentially memorable meetings during the first two months of the season:

Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

November 17- Gonzaga at Michigan State (#59 overall)- The featured game in ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon pits a backcourt-laden Gonzaga squad in the first of many difficult road tests against a top-five Michigan State team. The State backcourt of Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious will be given a true test from the Bulldogs trio of scoring senior Matt Bouldin, deep marksman junior Stephen Gray and emerging sophomore Demetri Goodson.

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November 17- Memphis vs. Kansas in St. Louis (#64 overall)- A young and largely inexperienced Memphis team will receive a stiff test right away with the likely #1 team in the nation- Kansas. Guards Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie must shoot well from deep for the Tigers to stay competitive. Former JUCO standout Will Coleman and burly senior Pierre Henderson-Niles will have their hands full down low with likely All-American Cole Aldrich.

November 19- North Carolina vs. Ohio State in NYC (#39 overall)- November and December means one thing: plenty of electrifying non-conference action at Madison Square Garden. This semifinal matchup could prove the best. Ohio State has their entire team returning besides the underwhelming B.J. Mullens and return defensive stalwart David Lighty from injury. They could definitely surprise the inexperienced Heels, who should have a distinct frontcourt advantage with Dallas Lauderdale sidelined.

December 1- Michigan State at North Carolina (#10 overall)- The Spartans and Heels meet in a rematch of the national title game that once again headlines this year’s ACC/Big Ten challenge. State may be able to avenge those two harsh defeats a year ago by taking advantage of the point guard mismatch. With Ty Lawson no longer around, Kalin Lucas could dominate against Larry Drew or Dexter Strickland. On the flip side, Draymond Green should have his hands full with a loaded UNC frontline.

December 5- North Carolina at Kentucky (#8 overall)- Notice a trend with this list so far? Roy Williams has challenged his team with an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, and this early season matchup in Lexington should be one of the best on the early season. There will be loads of projected lottery picks on the floor in this one, from North Carolina’s Ed Davis to Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

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Breaking Down the 2009 Preseason Mags… Athlon Sports.

Posted by nvr1983 on September 30th, 2009

The preseason magazines hit bookshelves across the country a few weeks ago. Each year some get progressively better, others get progressively worse and some continue to be excellent (I’m talking to you Blue Ribbon). First up is Athlon Sports, which didn’t score all that well two years ago, but I promise the magazine has taken a few strides forward.

Canadian Cover

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

The 32 covers this year are down from 34 last year, but they include a cover for Canada (as seen above) so at least they are thinking of the Canucks up north.

Coolest Cover: Duke/North Carolina. Yes, this rivalry gets enough attention as is, but it is one of few covers that is posed. Ed Davis and Kyle Singler look like they are about to kill each plus Singler looks like he is using the men’s room.

Say what? The Memphis/Arkansas cover doesn’t feature the FedEx Forum imploding. I guess without the recruits coming in next year, the Tigers aren’t that bad off.

Total points = 4

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

Table of contents in the beginning is very easy to use. Plus, you can pretty much just open up the magazine and figure out where you need to go quickly as the magazine is done alphabetically first by conference then by team.

Total points = 4.5

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

10 Things to Watch is a little better than last year’s version. This one is a little more original and contained a few nuggets that surprised me: #8 about LaceDarius Dunn and his incredible lack of assists stands out.

Hoops Madness is the same old. Nothing really jumps out at me this year. The Hoops Superlatives  is full of debate — Scottie Reynolds is listed as the top scorer!?!

Total points = 4.5

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

There are three main features this year–one is above-average, the next is average, and the final one is a little below average. There’s an outstanding feature on whether mid-major coaches should make the jump to a larger conference. There’s also the standard “look at what John Calipari is doing” feature and finally one that seems like it is a year late. Athlon takes a look at the trend of players going overseas.

Athlon also has The Scoop which is a collection of interviews with some of the game’s top players. Nothing too noteworthy except Washington‘s Isaiah Thomas plans to stick around Seattle for awhile.

Overall, the section is better than last year, but there is still lots of room for improvement.

Total points = 8

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

Athlon projects the full field of 65 as well as a preseason top 25. A rematch of one of last year’s Elite Eight games is their projected national title game (doesn’t take long to figure out which two teams they are picking in the finals).

Big Conference Bias: Only one mid-major makes their Sweet 16, but then again, they make their bracket based on their rankings with the higher seed always advancing. Butler is the only mid-major Athlon has in its top 16.

Mid-Major Watch: Athlon seems pretty high on the three teams they’ve got in the top 25: BYU, Butler, and Dayton. Major diss on Siena though. The Saints are projected as a seven seed, but get barely a blurb in the magazine. That’s a big-time negative.

All-Americans: Putting Devan Downey, Patrick Patterson, and Kyle Singler on the first team is debatable. Downey is great, but first team? Patterson may not put the numbers up needed to be a first-teamer and Kyle Singler should have an outstanding year, but put him ahead of Sherron Collins, Evan Turner, or Willie Warren? Athlon also doesn’t include any freshmen on its top three teams which is unrealistic.

Boldest Prediction: The Pac-10 receiving only three bids to the dance. Athlon has California, Washington, and UCLA going dancing. It’s going to be a really down year for Pac-10 ball, but it’s tough fathom only three teams getting in. Someone else (Arizona? Oregon State?) has to step up.

What they got right: It’s hard to argue with most of Athlon’s conference standings predictions. The SEC, Big East, and ACC stand out the most as being the most realistic.

Total points = 14

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by zhayes9 on September 22nd, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams has been down this road before.

After hoisting his first national title on that early April night in St. Louis, Williams had to endure an eerily similar task as to what faces him this upcoming season, his seventh in Chapel Hill. The 2004-05 champions lost center Sean May, swingman Marvin Williams, point guard Raymond Felton and shooting guard Rashad McCants to the riches of the NBA, yet Williams managed, in large part to a recruiting class led by Tyler Hansbrough with returnees David Noel and Reyshawn Terry, to finish 21-6 (12-4) and in the top 15 in both polls. The situation this season parallels the tremendous overload facing Williams after his first banner. Losing Hansbrough, ACC POY Ty Lawson and sharpshooters Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, a group that made up the large portion of the Heels scoring rampage a season ago, will be difficult to overcome. Luckily for Williams, he returns some decent pieces to complement a loaded recruiting class. Not to mention he’s the best coach in the nation.

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North Carolina returns some high upside players that could truly emerge after playing behind the mentioned superstars of the previous few campaigns. There’s senior and experienced leadership still in the fray- notably forward Deon Thompson and defensive stopper Marcus Ginyard- that should help out all of the incoming young talent on the Heels roster. Knowing he’d lose such integral pieces, Williams loaded his 2009 class with top-50 talent such as skilled forward John Henson, guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald and big men David Wear and Travis Wear. Many believe sophomore Ed Davis is a surefire lottery pick and Tyler Zeller may emerge with a healthy full season. Last year’s backup to Lawson, Larry Drew II, is also back and will be the engine that controls the Heels attack.

Just because Williams has a predominantly young squad, he didn’t shy away from challenging his team early and often on this year’s schedule to go along with the rigors of the ACC. Let’s examine:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 10. One way to sum up the Heels schedule this season: I’ll be stunned if North Carolina isn’t at the top of the strength of schedule list when we’re starting to look at those types of numbers in February and March. Forget playing NCAA tournament teams Duke and Georgia Tech twice in conference play (along with contenders Wake Forest, Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest on the road), the Heels scheduled three preseason top-ten teams on the slate for this non-conference season. It wasn’t exactly planned like this; who could have planned Damion James would stick around for another year or John Calipari would completely overhaul Kentucky in such a short period of time? Still, give Williams credit for setting up these huge games against prestigious programs. North Carolina will take on possible Big Ten contender Ohio State in the semifinal of the 2K Sports Classic and likely top-15 California should they emerge victorious. Also planned is a visit to Rupp Arena to battle Kentucky in one of the top non-conference games on the season and a trip to Arlington to face Texas in Jerry Jones’ new monstrosity. Both Kentucky and Texas are projected top ten teams. Not enough for you, Roy? Michigan State will visit Chapel Hill in a national title game rematch as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, another squad that could finish their season in Indianapolis.

Cupcake City: The Heels do receive a few easy warm-ups before traveling to New York in Florida International (Isiah Thomas’ college coaching debut, marred by minor controversy) and North Carolina Central. Carolina also faces Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, Marshall, Valparaiso and Albany at home while taking a trip to Charleston to face Bobby Cremins’ Cougars in a rare instance of a ACC school visiting a SoCon opponent. Not exactly cupcakes, but Nevada and Rutgers also make appearances at the Dean Dome this season.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – South Atlantic Region

Posted by rtmsf on September 21st, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic) are located here.

Here we are with the third installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the ridiculously loaded South Atlantic region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

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South Atlantic Region  (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

  • Al-Farouq Aminu, Soph, F – Wake Forest.  After a recruiting class compiled by the late Skip Prosser that included first-round selections Jeff Teague and James Johnson, third year coach Dino Gaudio managed to lure five-star talent Al-Farouq Aminu to campus the next season. By all accounts, Aminu had a tremendous freshman season when looking at the big picture. He averaged nearly 13 points per contest, grabbed over eight rebounds a game and shot over 50% from the floor. He starred in Wake wins against BC (26/7), Clemson (21/10) and Duke (15/10). Aminu led all ACC rookies in rebounding, including 11 games as the Deacons team leader while scoring in double-figures 22 times. Due to his superior talent, Wake fans will still maintain they expect Aminu to take it to another level in 2009-10. Too often the 6’9 forward disappeared, though, scoring four points in 28 minutes in a 27-point loss to Miami or nine points in a close loss to bottom-feeder NC State or an 8 point, 2/12 FG performance in the ACC Tournament defeat at the hands of rival Maryland. These peaks and valleys are typical of even the most talented freshmen (besides maybe Kevin Durant), so Aminu shouldn’t be held accountable for Wake’s slide from the #1 team in the land to March goat. But with Teague and Johnson departed, it’s now Aminu’s team in Winston-Salem. With first-round talent and ability, the sky’s the limit for AFA in his second season leading a young Wake Forest squad back to the Dance to avenge last season.
  • Trevor Booker – Sr, F – Clemson. Trevor Booker is the best player that most people still have never heard of.  Consider this: there are three returning players in America who were more efficient than Booker last season and you would have no problem picking all three out of a photographic lineup: Luke Harangody, Patrick Patterson and Cole Aldrich.  But do you even know what Booker looks like?  You will this year, as the beefy, athletic 6’7 forward can do it all and should vault into ACC POY territory with another year under his belt.  Let’s take a closer look.  As a second-team all-ACC selection and the top vote-getter on the all-defensive team last season, he trailed only Ty Lawson among high-usage (>20mpg) league players in eFG% (58%), led the conference in FG% and rebounding (first ACC player to do so since Tim Duncan) and averaged a double-double (15/10) in last year’s tough ACC.  But most importantly to Clemson fans, Booker is only 20 wins away from becoming the winningest player in the history of the Tiger program.  In his three seasons at Clemson, his teams have averaged 24  wins against 10 losses, and the 26 ACC Ws and two NCAA Tournament appearances the Tigers have achieved in large part through his ferocious dunks and tenacious defense represent the best three-year period in the program’s history.  Booker had a slight scare last month with a low-grade stress fracture in his foot, but he’s expected to be completely healthy for the beginning of practice in October.  It’s a good thing, because when Booker hangs up his kicks for the last time as a Clemson Tiger next March, he may very well be in the argument as the most accomplished player in the history of Clemson basketball.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 22nd, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

Just a mere five months ago, the once proud and feared Kentucky basketball program was mired in a state of chaos. The Billy Gillispie era at the university turned out about as well as the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination. Mystifying losses at storied Rupp Arena to such powers as Gardner-Webb and VMI, puzzling interviews with ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards making the blog rounds and exposing Gillispie as a clown, point guards refusing to enter games, rumors of bar scenes of an inebriated Gillispie making a mockery of his reputation and, worse of all, the Wildcats missing the NCAA Tournament in 2009 only to falter in the NIT. After Gillispie was fired, both parties sued each other and now Gillispie is releasing a book that nobody will read. It’s been a whacky offseason in Big Blue Country, and even though their new savior has some issues of his own, the Kentucky basketball program has experienced an unfathomable turnaround over the summer from the laughing stock of college basketball to a legitimate contender to win a national title.

The hiring of John Calipari and the return of forward Patrick Patterson has rejuvenated Kentucky to the point of being widely considered the favorites in an improving SEC this season. The addition of two top-five recruits- point guard John Wall and power forward DeMarcus Cousins- along with Gillispie’s recruits staying on board and a decent core returning from last season’s squad means expectations are once again sky-high in Lexington. Nobody is thinking about Billy Gillispie but rather the school’s first Final Four berth since the Jeff Sheppard era of 1998.

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Here’s the official schedule for a Kentucky team that may be the most exciting to watch this season in all of college basketball:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 7. The non-conference schedule in John Calipari’s first season features some big names and decent tests, but no overwhelmingly challenging road games are included on the slate. The only true road game is a trip to Bloomington in early December to take on a rebuilding Indiana squad that Kentucky should run out of the building. Emotions will be high for both the North Carolina and Louisville visits during the non-conference season. North Carolina has embarrassed Kentucky handily in two previous meetings and the Wildcats will be eager to exact revenge on their rival Cardinals following last season’s Edgar Sosa miracle (not to mention the coaches aren’t exactly best friends). The schedule also includes a trip to Cancun to take on Cinderella Cleveland State and the Stanford/Virginia winner, none of those teams posing close to a threat. One team that could surprise Kentucky is their opponent in the SEC/Big East Invitational in New York: the Connecticut Huskies. UConn did lose a boatload of scoring and rebounding, but Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker and Stanley Robinson could be enough to hang with Kentucky’s immense talent. At least for a while.

Cupcake City: While Gillispie was prone to the shocking early-season upset, we suspect Calipari will have his team 100% prepared offensively and defensively every single night throughout the campaign. Kentucky has eight games at home against mid-major or low-major competition this season and one visit to Louisville to take on UNC-Asheville. They should sprint through this slate and remain a decent bet to run the table in non-conference play.

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Summer Bracketology: 07.23.09

Posted by zhayes9 on July 22nd, 2009

Did you all miss Bracketology as much as I did? While the intense days of February and March seem like eons away, here’s a dose of bracket madness to keep you college basketball diehards happy in the heart of Summer 2009. Some brief notes regarding the bracket:

- The preseason #1 seeds are (in order) Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and Michigan State. As the number one overall seed, Kansas plays the closest to home in St. Louis, Kentucky is placed in Houston as higher priority over Texas, and so on. The only #2 seed that was considered for a top seed was Purdue, but I gave the slight Big Ten edge to last year’s national runner-up from East Lansing.

- They lost Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Danny Green…and North Carolina is still a #2 seed? It’s true. Due to an outstanding recruiting class, an overall decrease in talent across the board in college basketball (especially from upperclassmen) and returnees like Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Deon Thompson expected to make a significant leap in production, North Carolina will most likely be at the top with Duke as preseason ACC favorites.

- The other difficult call was in the Pac-10 between Washington and California. While the Golden Bears return all of their talent from an overachieving season, I’m in love with the Huskies backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy. As the returning champions, I gave them the slight nod as the #3 seed in the Salt Lake region, with Cal sliding to a #4 seed.

- This might be painful to swallow for all the Big Ten haters out there (I’m definitely not one of them), but it’s going to be the best conference in the land this season. Michigan State and Purdue are both potential number ones, Ohio State returns nearly everyone besides the disappointing B.J. Mullens, Illinois returns a talented group (losing Frazier and Meachem could hurt initially), and both Minnesota and Michigan have plenty returning. You can never discount Wisconsin either.

- The last team in? Vanderbilt from the SEC. The last team out? Pittsburgh from the Big East. Really, I wanted to put the Panthers in, but they lost DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon and Tyrell Biggs. That’s just too much to overcome, even if Jamie Dixon is their head coach and the Petersen Events Center is one of the most difficult places to play.

- The Pac-10 has only three teams in at this point. I expect them to receive more bids when it’s all said and done, but right now I just can’t put anyone else in the field besides Washington, Cal and UCLA. Both Arizona and USC are total messes. Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State appear to be NIT clubs at this point.

07.22.09 bracketology

Last Four In: Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, LSU

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Mississippi, Miami (FL)

Next Four Out: Marquette, Creighton, Florida State, Arizona

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (7), SEC (7), Pac-10 (3), Atlantic 10 (2).

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Dayton, North Carolina, Jacksonville, Kansas, Villanova, Montana, Radford, Michigan State, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Tulsa, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Akron, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, BYU, Mount St. Mary’s, Murray State, Washington, Holy Cross, Kentucky, College of Charleston, Sam Houston State, Prairie View A&M, Oakland, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

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Davidson and UNC Lose 3 Star Juniors: Coach K Pumps Fist

Posted by nvr1983 on April 23rd, 2009

After arguably being the third best team in the state of North Carolina the past 3 years (behind UNC and Davidson in 2008 and behind UNC and Wake Forest in 2009), Duke may have just ended up with the best team on Tobacco Road and the ACC by simply holding onto its stars this off-season with the possible exception of Gerald Henderson. Let’s run through the challengers for Duke in the state of North Carolina (NC State left out for Sidney Lowe obvious reasons).

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Wake Forest? Having lost James Johnson and Jeff Teague to the NBA Draft, Dino Gaudio will be hard-pressed to replicate this year’s success (outside of their embarrassing first round loss to Cleveland State) with just Al-Farouq Aminu returning to lead the Demon Deacons. I’d say they’re going to be worrying more about playing for a NCAA bid than about challenging Duke for the ACC title (although Teague may ultimately return).

Davidson? Although Davidson’s drop-off this year (from a missed Jason Richards‘ 3-pointer at the buzzer away from the Final 4 to a NIT also-ran) made the Wildcats seem like an unlikely threat this coming season, having Stephen Curry in the mix meant that the Wildcats had the potential to threaten any team in the country (even if some people think he isn’t quite all that he’s hyped up to be). However, today in a move that wasn’t surprising to all but the most deluded fans, Curry announced that he will turn pro and hire an agent ending any chance of stealing Pete Maravich‘s career scoring record (done in 3 years without a 3-point line). Good luck playing for a Southern Conference title and a 15-seed for the next few seasons Wildcats.

UNC? Going into the off-season, the Tar Heels posed the greatest threat to Duke next season even with the loss of all-time ACC leading scorer Tyler Hansbrough (I know it sounds weird to me too), Danny Green, and Bobby Frasor (the Deadspin commenters will miss him more than Tar Heel fans will). As all Tar Heels knew the fate of their 2009-10 season hung on the decision of juniors Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. If either of them returned (both returning was just a pipe dream), Roy Williams would have another national title contender with Marcus Ginyard, Tyler Zeller, and Ed Davis returning and John Henson, David Wear, and Travis Wear (and potentially John Wall) coming to Chapel Hill next year. Instead, both Lawson and Ellington declared for the draft today. Assuming that Ty can hire a designated driver from now until the NBA Draft, I don’t expect to see either of them suiting up in Carolina blue again as they are both at their peak value. The Tar Heels are a shoe-in for the NCAA tournament next year and will probably will be in contention for a top 4 seed particularly if Wall decides to not listen to his handler Brian Clifton and play for Roy.

What does all this mean for Duke, which has struggled to live up to its reputation and ESPN’s infatuation since Chris Duhon left?  Although Coach K will have to wait a year to add Seth Curry, and there has been no official communication from Durham, I’d have to guess that it would look something like this. . .

So for all of you Duke haters, get ready for an unbearable next 11 months (especially if the Devils, and not UNC, garner the services of John Wall). For all the Duke fans, the pressure is now back on. Just making it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament won’t cut it this time.

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04.13.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2009

Wow, this place clears out as soon as the season ends, doesn’t it?  Let’s talk more early entries…

  • Tweeting Away.  Hasheem Thabeet still hasn’t made up his mind about returning for his senior year, but is there really any question?  The certain lottery pick is just trying to play people with his coy references to coming back to UConn on his Twitter account.
  • Well, that’s one way to do it. Ole Miss’ second-leading returning scorer, David Huertas, packed up his stuff and is headed back to PR to play professionally there.
  • Memphis’ Shawn Taggart – also taking a dip.
  • Someone’s staying! UNC’s Ed Davis will return to try to lead the Heels to B2B titles.  Gary Parrish believes they have a legitimate shot at it (as do we, gulp…).   Also, WVU’s Devin Ebanks is officially sticking around.
  • This is the future, gents.  NCAA Tournament online viewership was way, way up.
  • Portland St. will promote Tyler Geving to head coach to replace Ken Bone.
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