ATB: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 3rd, 2011

The Lede.  Here’s hoping everyone had a very safe and happy New Year’s 2011.  Just typing those numbers makes it hard for us to believe that there are ten-year olds who never experienced the awesomeness of the 1990s.  Speaking of irrelevant references to timing, with the calendar change we’re now heading into the heart of the season.  Frankly, the first two months in some ways seemed interminable, with far too many mismatches merely acting as a prelude for the conference season where the contenders and pretenders will be inevitably ferreted out.  As a case in point, take a look at last year’s AP Top 10 from one year ago today.  Texas, a first-round NCAA loser, was #2; Kansas and Villanova, both second round losers, were #1 and #6, respectively; the #9 team, North Carolina, ended up in the NIT.  The lesson here is that there are no finished products yet — many teams have barely tested themselves, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a school with a lofty pre-conference record collapses after seeing its own blood on the road.  Who will those teams be?  We have some ideas but it’ll have to wait until later this week.

Your Watercooler MomentMemphis Fan Ejected From Game.  This is a no-brainer.  There weren’t all that many great games this weekend, but an incident that took place near the end of Memphis’ 91-86 win over Tennessee State on Sunday is what will be talked about on Monday morning.  After an on-court scrum where a prominent donor’s wife (is she really the spouse of the Lenny’s Sub Shop guy? — someone please confirm) got agitated from the front row and allegedly yelled at one of the TSU players to “choke on” his mouthpiece, the nearby referee Mark Whitehead threw her out of the game.  Yes, you read that correctly, a fan!  And not just any fan, but a middle-aged female fan who quite obviously presented a clear and present danger to the players on the floor, especially considering the way that she was pumping and waving around those blue pom-pons.  (h/t Chris Littman for the video)

Your Watercooler Moment, Vol. II. Dear Ron: Don’t Eff With Jeannine Edwards — Signed, Billy Gillispie.  This has absolutely nothing to do with college basketball per se, but it involves two media personalities who regularly cover the game and it’s hilarious nevertheless.  SportsByBrooks reported over the weekend that ESPN commentator Ron Franklin (he of the Big Twelve games, mostly) condescendingly called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweetcakes” and “a-hole” during a production meeting prior to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve.  Franklin was allowed to work that game but he was then pulled from the Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast on Saturday night.  We’re not sure if this is a much more common occurrence with female reporters or what, but people seem to enjoy talking down to Jeannine Edwards.  Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie of course was widely ridiculed for his treatment of the sideline reporter during an Ole Miss game in 2009, and many people in Wildcat country believe strongly that particular embarrassment was the straw that broke his back as the UK coach.  It’s undetermined what will happen to Franklin as a result of his latest comments, but it should be noted that he had a similar incident five years ago with Holly Rowe and he still remained with the company.  Will Jeannine go two-for-two in her latest battle of the sexes?  Let’s hope so.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Kansas: Best Team in America. So says Miami (OH) forward Antonio Ballard, whose team has had the privilege to play the top three teams in the polls so far this season.  The Red Hawks lost to Duke by 34, Ohio State by 21, and Kansas by 27, but it was the athleticism of the Morris twins who combined for 38/15 coming off the bench that seemed to make the biggest impression.
  • Illinois Starts off Big Ten 2-0.  The Illini got a key home win on Sunday with its victory over Wisconsin in Champaign.  Combined with a win at Iowa last week, and Bruce Weber’s team crystallizes just how important scheduling is in conference races.  A winnable road game followed by a home game against a team they’ll likely battle all year in the second tier of the conference race.  Contrast this with Minnesota who currently sits at 0-2 as a result of road games to Wisconsin and Michigan State.
  • Syracuse, Cincinnati & St. John’s Do Likewise.  With respect to SU and UC, again, scheduling.  Syracuse feasted on two more home meals with Seton Hall and Notre Dame visiting the Carrier Dome, while Cincy got DePaul and the Hall to visit the Queen City.  The anomaly of this group is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies.  Somehow the same team that lost to Fordham and St. Bonnie managed to get Big East road wins at WVU and Providence last week.  If his team is turning a corner, we’ll find out on Big Monday as they host Georgetown at MSG.
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Morning Five: 12.29.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 29th, 2010

  1. After a hectic off-season that included a move from the ACC, Oliver Purnell has flown under the radar for most of this season as DePaul has struggled to a 6-6 record so far. There has been a lot of talk about how Purnell could turn the program around if he can take back control of Chicago from the other programs that have raided it for numerous stars in the past few years (Derrick Rose and Evan Turner come to mind). Some NBA scouts believes that Purnell may have a more difficult time than originally stated and that this may be his toughest resurrection job yet. The basic premise is that geographically the local players that Clemson used to get who were passed over by the ACC powers might still want to stay local whereas the Chicago players who get passed over by the Big East powers will probably opt to play for a Big Ten team rather than DePaul, a team that is essentially a Big East doormat.
  2. After UConn‘s loss at Pittsburgh, Jim Calhoun had plenty to be upset about (essentially everything except for Kemba Walker‘s offensive play), but it looks like he took out the brunt of it on Alex Oriakhi, who only managed 8 points and 1 rebound in 19 minutes. We aren’t going to question Calhoun’s methods as he certainly has a few more national championship rings and has done a better job at dealing with the egos of young, talented males who probably have never been told that they did something wrong, but we have to wonder how Oriakhi will respond particularly if Calhoun keeps him in the doghouse for a little while. It is worth keeping an eye on as he may be the Huskies only reliable scoring option outside of Walker and if Oriakhi falls apart the Huskies may follow his lead.
  3. For the second consecutive season Marquette lost a freshman who wanted to transfer mid-way through the season. This time it was Chicago native Reggie Smith who decided to transfer citing a lack of playing time. The transfer itself isn’t particularly big news as Smith was only averaging 1.4 points per game and 1.5 rebounds per game although it leaves the Golden Eagles with only 4 scholarship guards, but we did find the assertion by Buzz Williams that 40% of freshman transfer as rather amusing. We haven’t run the numbers on that, but we would be surprised because that would mean that on average a program would lose 1 or 2 freshmen each year.
  4. Most of the college basketball world is fixated on the remaining undefeated teams, but there are others who are focused on the other end of the spectrum–the teams that have yet to win a game. As of this weekend there were six teams left that had yet to win a game although the likelihood of them going through the entire season without a win (based on Pomeroy’s numbers) varies greatly. I’m not sure what it says about us that we are familiar with all of those schools even if we haven’t seen those teams yet this season.
  5. A few days ago we had some fun at Joe Lunardi’s expense based on his ridiculous early assertion that both Gonzaga and Butler may have played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament by early December, but his list of 37 thoughts (ESPN Insider again, sorry) is worth a look even if most of them aren’t particularly insightful or earth-shattering. The most interesting thing in there is that he think that Kentucky will get a #1 seed. . .in the NCAA Tournament. If he is right, I will have to tip my hat even if I will ridicule some of his other assertions as I don’t think you will find even the most delusional Wildcat fan who would agree with this team of being deserving of a #1 seed based on their play this season and Lunardi does not even seem to be insinuating that he thinks that Enes Kanter might be coming back to play for the Wildcats this season.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IV

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 28th, 2010

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a monster throwdown over a brave defender. Too often these days the defensive player gets out of the way, fearful of ending up on the wrong end of an ESPN Top Ten nominee. But not Georgetown sophomore Hollis Thompson. He stood tall in the paint and boldly said “Posterize me,” to Memphis’ D.J. Stephens, who replied, “As you wish” in rim-rocking fashion. Also, you have to love that “Blake Griffin-esque” was the first adjective used by the announcers on the slo-mo replay.

I LOVED… many players rotate through the “No. 1 draft prospect in America” slot during the college season. First it was UNC’s Harrison Barnes, before he even took a shot. Then it was Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger for a bit, followed by some rumblings about Baylor’s Perry Jones. Of course we haven’t even gotten to the NCAA Tournament yet, that wonderful showcase that tends to exponentially inflate or deflate draft projections (remember Joakim Noah’s rise to the top of the board after Florida’s first title?). Stay tuned – next week’s No. 1 pick could be coming to a court near you.

I LOVED…..that Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald felt so bad about his team’s performance that he reimbursed fans for their gas mileage. How awesome is that in today’s coaching world, which has plenty of big egos and more than a hint of the “don’t blame me” philosophy. You have to wonder why some big-name coaches don’t do things like this. Obviously it’s harder with larger fan bases, but big-name coaches make big-time money, and creative PR moves like this can go a long way. My hat is off to the Hilltoppers.

I LOVED… awkward moment. And who doesn’t love awkward moments, if we’re truly honest with ourselves. This week we had a doozy. Roy Williams, he of Carolina upbringing and the understudy of legendary Dean Smith (synonymous with God in Tar Heel country), released his necessary statement of admiration for Mike Krzyzewski as the Duke coach gets set to pass Smith in all-time wins. Take a read – it’s a humorous mixture of, “Yes this is amazing that you broke this record and I’m congratulating you” and “but you’re also passing my idol which really really sucks.” Oh and PS, these two coach in the sport’s biggest rivalry and don’t really get along that well to start with. Wayda suck it up Roy.

I LOVED…..a feel-good story. This one comes from Presbyterian College, which has a unique group of players who thought they would get a shot to play in the NCAA Tournament, only for the school to be denied Division I status. The cool part? Their studs all decided to stay and finish what they started, even though they won’t get a chance to be on CBS in March. Give it a read for a nice, refreshing change from the big-time programs.

The Five Things I Hated This Week

I HATED…..Renardo Sidney’s ridiculousness in the stands in Hawaii. Maybe it brings back too many eerie memories of Ron Artest’s rampage into the crowd, but any fan of college basketball has to cringe at what this type of publicity does to the sport. Yeah, the first instinct might be to smile and shake your head, but it’s downright embarrassing for the Mississippi State program – and a poor reflection on college athletes.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2010

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

  • Count me as one who didn’t see Festus Ezeli coming.  Vanderbilt’s player with the coolest name in the Southeastern Conference was named SEC player of the week for his superior play against Western Kentucky and Belmont, averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks including a 24/10 performance against Belmont.  He now sports numbers of 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and two blocks per game.   And he’s doing it in only 21.3 minutes an outing.   He also leads the SEC in field goal percentage at 67.7%.  No bad for a guy who last year averaged 3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest.  I for one was critical of Vanderbilit in the preseason claiming they would be weak inside after losing AJ Ogilvy.  Uncle Festus has done a fantastic job thus far and will be pivotal in some of the close SEC contests that Vanderbilt is likely to face in the stacked SEC East.
  • Speaking of Vanderbilt, three different Vanderbilt players — Brad Tinsley, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli — have been named player of the week.  Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson is the only other player in the league to be given the honor.  Also, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and Tennessee’s Tobias Harris have been trading off freshman of the week honors.  If the pattern holds, it’s Jones’ week, a sight Wildcats fans would welcome after Jones’ horrendous 3-17 foul-out performance against North Carolina on Saturday.
  • In other Wildcat news, after Auburn football’s Cam Newton was declared eligible by the NCAA, the University of Kentucky opted to re-submit their case for Enes Kanter’s eligibility from a different angle rather than go through the appeals process.  The NCAA explained their decision to allow Newton to play by stating that there was no evidence that Newton had any idea that his father was shopping his skills to universities for pay.  In the NCAA’s eyes, as Newton was unaware that there was any issue with his amateurism, he should remain eligible to play.  UK hopes that the NCAA will hold form in what it sees as a similar case with a precedent and pass down a favorable ruling on Kanter, who is a Turkish national that received benefits above expenses while playing for a professional team in his homeland.  Kanter, his family and the school maintain that Kanter intended to play college basketball all along and did not intentionally violate any rules.  The NCAA allows foreign players to play on professional teams and maintain their amateurism so long as they do not receive benefits above expenses.
  • Auburn and Missisippi State have yet to play a road game.  Auburn at least will head to Pittsburgh to play Rutgers in a neutral site game as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational.  Mississippi State, however, will be relaxing at home this week as they won’t hit the road until December 18, when they face Virginia Tech.  Hey, isn’t that when Renardo Sidney finally plays?

Power Rankings

  1. Tennessee (6-0): Tennessee is the lone undefeated team in the SEC.  Plus they didn’t play this week, which means their record went untarnished.  The Volunteers are taking an 11-day break while they prepare for Pittsburgh.  I guess it’s kind of tough to recover after facing Middle Tennessee at home.
  2. Vanderbilt (7-1): Vanderbilt just keeps climbing.  Their only loss is to West Virginia.  No shame in that, and should they beat Missouri on Wednesday, they are all but guaranteed a top 25 ranking – A pleasant surprise for a team that was picked to finish fifth in East by the media, this writer included.
  3. South Carolina (6-1): Like Vanderbilt, South Carolina continues to impress.  Their sole blemish is a hard-fought loss to Michigan State in their second game of the year.  Again, no shame in that.  This week, they beat Delaware State and then beat Clemson in a 64-60 thriller that came down to the final minute, just the way you like to beat an in-state rival.
  4. Georgia (6-2) After two straight tough losses to Notre Dame and Temple, Georgia has won three in a row.  One of those is a three-point win against Manhattan, a team that is now 2-6 and hasn’t made the Tournament since 2004.  Georgia followed that up with a 66-64 win over UAB and a 73-72 close call against rival Geogia Tech.  With Trey Thompkins playing better after a couple of unsteady early games, all should be back on track in Athens.  Thompkins is averaging 19.7 points and 7.7 rebounds and shooting well after scoring 13 in each of his first two games on 37% from the field.
  5. Kentucky (5-2): What to do with Kentucky?  They lost to North Carolina in their only game this week, so perhaps they should go lower than some other teams on this list, but to drop them to sixth or below seems absurd.  Kentucky had no answer for Tyler Zeller on Saturday and the hole inside became a gaping chasm on Saturday when big men Terrence Jones, Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas combined for 15 fouls, 3 turnovers, 1 assist and only 13 points on 5-19 shooting.  I can hear the “Free Enes” chants coming from UK’s campus even with my headphones blasting Smashing Pumpkins.  (Hey, I’m a nineties kid).
  6. Arkansas (5-1): Arkansas went 2-0 this week against Oklahoma and Troy.  But then again, who in the SEC hasn’t beaten these teams?  Kentucky beat Oklahoma and the Sooners have lost four since and the SEC is beating up on Troy left and right.  The Trojans have already taken their licks from Alabama and Mississippi State and now Arkansas.  Their lone win is against Division-II Huntington (AL).  Coach Pelphrey, I’d love to rank you higher this week, but I can’t against these teams.  Come back with a couple more wins next week and we’ll talk.
  7. Florida (6-2): The Gators lost to Central Florida after eking out a close one against Florida State.  I know they went and pummeled American just after that and I know UCF is now 7-0, but I also know that a team with Florida’s talent shouldn’t be dropping games like that.  When starting forwards Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons combine to go 1-14 against much smaller competition, there are problems.  Furthermore, I didn’t think it was possible, but Kenny Boynton is even worse from three this year than last year.  He is currently shooting 26.5 percent, compared to 29.4 percent in 2009-10.  Dreadful.  I wasn’t convinced this group of Gators was much better than last year’s, when the media was picking them to win the SEC and possibly make a Final Four run and they are proving me the wiser.  Step it up, Florida.  There’s a lot of work to be done before conference play starts.
  8. Mississippi (4-2): Luckily for the Rebels, Chris Warren can make those off-balance threes when they matter.  Well, at least against Southern Mississippi he can.  He’s only shooting 28 percent on the year from three, but he shot 4-9 from deep against Southern Miss in his best game this season.  That’s a good win for Mississippi against a quality opponent.  Look for Southern Mississippi to do good things in Conference USA this year.
  9. Mississippi State (4-1): The Bulldogs didn’t play this week, but Ravern Johnson still leads the SEC in scoring at 25.4 per game, and he’s got plenty of breathing room.  Kentucky’s Terrence Jones is second at 19.0 points per game.  Additionally, Kodi Augustus continues to lead the league in rebounding at 10.8 per game.
  10. LSU (5-2): Also didn’t play anyone this week.  The Tigers have been on the road exactly once so far, against South Alabama. They return to the Maravich to square off against the Central Michigan Chippewas in the second of seven straight home games. Show me something, Trent Johnson.
  11. Auburn (3-4) Well, this is the first week Auburn hasn’t been in last place.  I’m not totally sure they deserve the honor, if you want to call it that.  It’s never impressive to see a Division-II team on the schedule.  Auburn beat Georgia Southwestern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff this week, both at home.  I guess when you’re playing the tough ones, you want to give yourself that homecourt advantage.
  12. Alabama (4-4) The Tide beat South Alabama 72-50 and then got worked over by Purdue 66-47 in a game in which they went 0-9 from three.  I really thought Alabama was going to be better than this.  The three-point shooting is terrible and they turn the ball over too much.  And it’s not like they’ve played the toughest competition.  Purdue is the first team Alabama has played that should have had a shot at beating the Tide.  On the bright side, I’m sure they’ll jump back in front of in-state rival Auburn next week.

A Look Ahead

The SEC/Big East Invitational is this week and can I just say that this event has turned out to be a major disappointment on the part of the conference’s planners.  Here is the lineup this year:

  • 12/8: Arkansas vs. Seton Hall, Kentucky vs. Notre Dame
  • 12/11: Auburn vs. Rutgers, Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh

As my father used to say about my shoddy yardwork, “This ain’t cuttin’ it.”  Can we please get some kind of a legitimate invitational here?  The matchups in this series are continually disappointing.  We’re lucky that Notre Dame has been surprisingly good this year, or the Tennessee/Pitt game would be the only one worth watching.  There are 28 teams between these two conferences and these are the eight teams they schedule?  Where are Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt?  Where are Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Georgetown, and Villanova?  Instead of providing us with some marquee publicity-generating matchups, we are given perennial cellar dwellers Auburn, Rutgers and Seton Hall.  Really?  As I said, it ain’t cuttin’ it.

Other Important Games this Week

  • 12/8 – Vanderbilt at Missouri: If Vanderbilt picks up a win here and wins the games they are supposed to through the rest of the preseason, they’ve probably all but assured themselves an NCAA Tournament bid.  All that’s left is the seeding.
  • 12/11 – Kentucky vs. Indiana: Twelve championships between them and a long-standing history of hoops tradition. What’s not to like?
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Morning Five: 12.08.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2010

  1. In the wake of last night’s Jimmy V Classic where Kansas beat Memphis, two different national writers came up with dramatically different takes as to how KU will handle the addition of Rivals’ #1 recruit Josh Selby later this month.  Jason King believes that the conventional wisdom — that adding a star player to an already talented group — will make Kansas into a great team; while Jeff Goodman takes the contrary position that Selby may upset the fragile chemistry of a team that Bill Self has playing great already — especially guard Tyshawn Taylor, the player most likely to be impacted by Selby’s court time.  Regardless, everyone will be watching in ten days when USC visits Allen Fieldhouse for the ginormous debut of the player who could make or break Kansas’ season.
  2. Speaking of ineligible players, need an update on the Enes Kanter eligibility case (and we know you do)?  Matt Jones of KSR interviews The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy in this video clip that discusses the various possibilities surrounding the big Turk’s situation, especially as it relates to the argument that Auburn successfully made to get quarterback Cam Newton eligible.  There’s still not timetable on this situation, but news could come literally any day now.
  3. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress takes a look at the six freshmen who NBA scouts have been the most impressed with in the early going this season.  It should come as utterly no surprise that Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Kentucky’s Terrence Jones have been popping the most eyeballs in the early going.  One notable name not on the list: none other than preseason AP All-American, Harrison Barnes.
  4. While on the subject of elite freshmen, Luke Winn writes about his concept of Freshmen Who Fit, basically asserting that part of the reason for frosh who succeed has as much to do with talent as it does to finding the right situation.  True in most aspects of life, it’s a poignant yet simple concept that still most people tend to overlook.  He suggests that Tennessee’s Tobias Harris is the best example of this, and adds four other names to the list.  Worth a read.
  5. Arizona is getting some early-season love from the hoopsnoscenti for its play so far this season, sitting at 7-1 with its only loss to Kansas and boasting one of the best power forwards in the nation, Derrick Williams.  In this video clip promoted through Pac-10 Digital, Sean Miller talks about what he expects from his team this season and how he’s going about  rebuilding a program in the desert.  Within a couple years, we believe that Arizona will once again be the dominant force in the Pac-10.
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Around The Blogosphere: Jimmy V Classic Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 8th, 2010

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to

Top 25 Games

  • #4 Kansas 81, #18 Memphis 68: “Efficiency is the word.  Kansas has it on the offensive end and it’s something they can be even better at.  Clean up the silly empty possessions and the sky is the limit.” (Rock Chalk Talk)

Pre-Game Analysis

  • Quick Look at Maryland-UNC Greensboro: The Return of the Cupcakes: After a challenging stretch of games the Terps appear to be getting a respite. (Testudo Times)
  • Game Preview: Oakland at Illinois: Breaking down the Grizzlies trip to Illinois. (Golden Grizzlies Gameplan)

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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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Morning Five: 12.06.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on December 6th, 2010

  1. Twelve is evidently enough for the Big Ten, for now. The conference’s higher-ups announced at their winter meeting that as a result of a lengthy study, after the addition of Nebraska next season, they do not “expect to be proactively seeking new members.” That’s fine, but we propose that if a conference’s membership changes through expansion/contraction so that its name subsequently becomes inaccurate by +/-2, they must change the name of the conference. In a few months, none of the four “numbered” conferences — Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic 10 — will actually contain the number of teams their name indicates. The Big Ten and the A-10 have gotten away with this weirdness for a while, and now they’re all doing it. Get creative!
  2. Because Purdue doesn’t have enough injury problems, news arrived late on Sunday that sophomore guard John Hart will miss a month with a stress fracture in his foot. Hart was averaging 17 minutes a game over the Boilermakers’ eight games this season, contributing 8.4 PPG. So that’s Hart with a bad foot, D.J. Byrd with a questionable shoulder, and some kid named Hummel out with a knee. Are we just lipsticking the pig by wondering if the minutes logged by Purdue’s reserves right now will translate to valuable experience later on in the season when (almost) everyone’s healthy? Matt Painter has nine players on his roster who play at least ten minutes a game right now, and you never know who could rise up and give you a boost come tournament time.
  3. We’re on the lookout today for a statement from the NCAA as to whether or not they will consider the “new information” Kentucky has asked to submit in the ongoing eligibility saga of Enes Kanter. The case currently stands in appeal, and that appeal was heard last week. But after the Cam Newton decision came down, UK requested the chance to submit previously unconsidered information to the NCAA. If the NCAA agrees to consider it, the case goes back to square one, almost as if it were a new hearing. If they refuse, the case remains in appeal, and the appeals committee could render a final decision at any time. Got it? Whether it’s today or later in the week, we’ll have something up as events warrant, so just keep checking back here, or our Twitter feed.
  4. Just seven games in, a specific problem for Bob HugginsWest Virginia squad is already evident, according to Jack Bogaczyk of the Charleston Daily Mail. Huggins has remarked on how his team “hasn’t finished games” and that he takes full responsibility for this as coach, but Bogaczyk writes that what the ‘Eers really lack in this early stage of these post-Da’Sean Butler days is a vocal floor leader.
  5. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of watching Jimmer Fredette play basketball to get a sense of how competitive this young man is. Ahead of BYU’s game against Vermont on Wednesday (which serves as a homecoming for Fredette), the Albany Times Union’s Pete Iorizzo pens an excellent article about how Fredette’s competitive drive was evident as early as age five, and how those fires were born — as they so often are — from that classic recipe of a basketball, a family member (in this case, an older brother), and a patch of asphalt in the back yard. We never played major college hoops, Jimmer, but your story is ours.
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RTC Instant Analysis: Noon Games (12.04.10)

Posted by nvr1983 on December 4th, 2010

As part of our on-going attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage on-line, we are introducing a new feature where we give your our thoughts after each set of games over the weekend. You can expect posts around the following times:

  • 3 PM for the Noon and 1 PM games
  • 5 PM for the 2 PM and 3 PM games
  • 10 PM for the 7 PM and 8 PM games

If you have any thoughts (agreeing or disagreeing) about what we say, leave a comment and we will respond.

Instant Analysis

  1. Tyler Zeller was phenomenal (27 points including 8/13 FG and 11/12 FT, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks) today admittedly against a weak Kentucky interior defense (we will get to that in a bit), but he has shown that when healthy, which has been pretty rarely while he has been in Chapel Hill, he is one of the premier interior players in the ACC. The combination of Zeller and John Henson, who has developed nicely as well as he added a few low-post moves during the off-season even if he didn’t add on any pounds, could make the Tar Heels competitive for 2nd place in the ACC (read: everybody in the ACC except Duke). If Zeller keeps playing this way and can avoid injuring himself (again), he should be a lottery pick after this season.
  2. Neither Kentucky nor UNC is ready for prime-time yet. Both teams have serious deficiencies–Kentucky on the inside and UNC at point guard–that will limit them to being Sweet 16 teams at best. Kentucky’s problem can be solved, or at least mitigated, by the possibility that Enes Kanter could regain his eligibility especially in light of the NCAA’s decision on Cam Newton. If the NCAA does not rule in favor of the Wildcat, they will need some of their athletic, but less physical interior players to pick up the slack, which I don’t think they can do on a consistent basis. On the other sideline, Roy Williams has to figure out what to do at point guard. Larry Drew II isn’t going to cut it in March and while Kendall Marshall had stretches where he looked like he could be their starting point guard today he also had stretches where he looked like a lost intramural team point guard. As for Reggie Bullock, he could be a very good point guard some day, but that day is not in the near future. The Tar Heels showed that they could be a dangerous team especially if Barnes ever gets on track, but their lack of reliable point guard play will hold them back from being a 1st- or even 2nd-tier team.
  3. Having already commented on the UNC guards I would be remiss not to comment on Brandon Knight. The Wildcats will have to address their inside issues, which may be alleviated by Kanter, but they will also need Brandon Knight to continue to mature. He puts up solid numbers (15 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists) today and looked much better than he did in Maui, but he need to work on his decision-making (6 turnover today against those 3 assists) and he was playing was against shaky opposing guards today. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the SEC is weak this year (again) so Knight will not be playing against quality guards that often so we won’t have a good barometer of how Knight has progressed until the NCAA Tournament. Advancing deep in March with a freshman point guard is incredibly difficult particularly without experienced players around him, but John Calipari and Big Blue Nation will be counting on Knight to deliver in March.
  4. Harrison Barnes is still a work-in-progress. Although he showed flashed of brilliance like the 7 points in a row capped by an emphatic put-back dunk in the first half, his play is too inconsistent (5 points the rest of the game) for Tar Heel fans to rely on. As we mentioned on Twitter earlier, there is no question that he has all the physical basketball skills you could ask for, but I still get the feeling that he is missing “it” (the ability to translate those skills into production on the court). It’s quite possible that he could develop into a dynamic player this season and will still be a top 5 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft because of his athleticism, but I don’t think he will become a 1st team All-ACC player this season much less a 1st team All-American.
  5. Despite their lack of star power on the inside don’t forget to put Georgetown on the short list of title contenders. Their inside players might not put up big numbers and they might be at a significant disadvantage when they play against a team with excellent interior players, but they do just enough to let their guards, who are fantastic, win the games. I’m not saying they are going to duplicate what Duke did last season, but John Thompson III can point to what the Blue Devils did last year with excellent play from their perimeter players and their inside players (particularly Brian Zoubek) doing what they need to do (rebound and play solid defense) as an example of what his team can aim for.
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Around The Blogosphere: The Big Ten Reigns Supreme

Posted by nvr1983 on December 2nd, 2010

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to

Top 25 Games

  • #18 Purdue 58, Virginia Tech 55 (OT): “Purdue relied on JaJuan Johnson to score 50% of their points as the otherwise icy-cold shooting Boilermakers clawed out an OT win in Blacksburg. The win clinched the Big Ten/ACC Challenge for the Big Ten for the second straight year.” (Boiled Sports)
  • #20 Texas 76, Lamar 55: “Texas’ 76-55 win over Lamar didn’t exactly go according to script, but the Longhorns were good enough in spurts to pull away for the comfortable final margin. Texas enjoyed a pair of 9-point runs in the first half to take a 9 point lead at intermission, then opened up the second half on a 14-4 run to put the game out of reach.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
  • #21 BYU 77, Creighton 65: “It is foolish to think that we just sort of zombie through the non-conference season and expect to be able to hit the reboot button once conference season comes around.  These early games are where you define your teams.  They were what defined the Bluejays last season. With the disasterous non-conference performance, that bled into conference season.  Nothing really changed.   Don’t think that adding one player will erase all of that.” (White & Blue Review)

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