Oregon Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 7th, 2012

In what could be considered one of the top few-year spans in recent Pac-10/12 history, Oregon was right in the thick of it from 2006-08. Ernie Kent led the Ducks to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in those two seasons, the first of which included a run to the Elite Eight. That season was one that many would consider the most successful in Oregon history. Led by star players Aaron Brooks, Malik Hairston, Tajuan Porter, and Maarty Leunen, the Ducks won 18 of their first 19 games, then finished the year by winning nine in a row before falling in a tight game against top-seed Florida. Along the way they won at Georgetown, #8 Arizona, and Washington State, and knocked off Nebraska, #1 UCLA, and Washington State in Eugene. The Pit Crew made McArthur Court into one of the toughest gyms in the nation and excitement was at an all-time high surrounding the program. Building off of that excitement, the Ducks added one of the top freshman centers in the nation in Michael Dunigan and notched road wins against Kansas State and Arizona en route to a second straight NCAA bid, just the third time ever that had happened in program history. Then, the wheels fell off.

McArthur Court Would Get So Loud That At Some Points The Baskets And Overhead Scoreboard Would Begin Shaking. Here, The Pit Crew Taunts Washington Guard Nate Robinson With Chants And Posters Of Gary Coleman. (credit: Chris Pietsch)

With Brooks, Hairston, or Leunen nowhere to be found, the Ducks limped all the way to an 8-23 finish in 2008-09. They won just six nonconference games that season and finished dead last in the conference by four games. At one low point, Oregon was only four games away from finishing the year without a Pac-10 victory before they beat Stanford. Despite some grumblings throughout Eugene, Kent held on to his job for another year. 2009-10 wasn’t much better, though, and despite finishing with a .500 record, the Ducks only beat one nationally ranked opponent all year long. Kent was soon fired, and after a lengthy coaching search that resulted in many candidates turning down the job, Creighton’s Dana Altman signed on.

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Morning Five: 04.12.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 12th, 2012

  1. Last night the college basketball world was hijacked by announcements from Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel about where they would he headed next season. The news from Muhammad’s camp leaked before he could announce that he was headed to UCLA while the news out of the Noel camp was a little bit of misdirection as initial reports suggested he was headed to Georgetown when in fact he was headed to Kentucky. While the decision by Noel may help decide next year’s national championship, Muhammad’s arrival in Westwood could help save Ben Howland’s job as he should make the Bruins one of the best teams out west the moment he steps foot on campus. Of course, if they are not…
  2. Let’s give it up for Gary Parrish, a voice of supreme reason. When Muhammad announced for UCLA last night, many college basketball fans around the country had trouble understanding why a top prospect would choose a program coming off a rough season where fan support is lukewarm at best rather than one of the more rabidly supported programs located in Lexington or Durham. But, as Parrish notes (and notwithstanding that two of the top 10 or so players in the NBA are Howland guys), the answer at least partially lies in the powerful influence that the major shoe companies have on elite prospects behind the scenes. Muhammad is an adidas guy and UCLA is an adidas program. But before anyone starts singing sour notes about this obvious example of subtle coercion, Parrish notes that it happens every single year with a number of top prospects. There’s perhaps no greater an example than NPOY and Final Four MOP Anthony Davis — a Nike kid who ended up at a Nike school just one recruiting season ago. If Parrish is reading this, we’d love to see a list of these ‘coincidences,’ from say, the last decade or so.
  3. We wrote Tuesday that Baylor had successfully played a compelling game of risk/reward in building its men’s basketball program to an elite level. The assumption underlying that thesis was that the NCAA would accept Baylor’s self-imposed penalties for exceeding mandated limits on phone calls and text messages to recruits from 2007-10 — the standard “probation” of recruiting restrictions as to time/place, loss of scholarships, etc. Sure enough, the NCAA did just that on Wednesday, accepting Baylor’s penalties and tacitly agreeing with our contention that the ends (recruiting enough studs to achieve two Elite Eights in three seasons) more than justify the means.
  4. So let’s get this straight… Colorado State reportedly offered its open head coaching job to former Oregon head man Ernie Kent earlier this week, but it was nixed by an unknown high-ranking school administrator. So the back-up plan became to hire the guy who was once photographed partying with students while at Iowa State? We don’t know what the real story is here, and no disrespect at all is intended to Larry Eustachy (who has clearly turned his life around by doing well at Southern Miss), but goodness, something doesn’t smell right in Fort Collins. For what it’s worth, Kent says he was never offered the job by CSU and therefore it could not have been rescinded, but he also clearly wants to get back into coaching and it wouldn’t help his prospects to cause a ruckus over this situation.
  5. Not every Pac-12 schools got good news on Wednesday. Well, Arizona got both good and bad news, with Sean Miller’s program announcing that two players were transferring in and two others were leaving after the semester. The headliner is that Josiah Turner, a former top 10 recruit from the class of 2011, is leaving Tucson for a destination unknown — his freshman season was marred by suspensions and inconsistent play at the point guard slot. Junior center Kyryl Natyazhko is also leaving Arizona, choosing to head back to Europe to pursue professional opportunities there. The good news it that the Wildcats will welcome Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell, a rising junior who averaged 11 points, six assists and four rebounds per game last season, and Matt Corcheck, a junior college transfer who will have three years of eligibility remaining. With Turner, Alex Oriakhi, Trey Ziegler and several others transferring this offseason, it’s a good year to have an extra scholarship lying around unused.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 3.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 13th, 2012

  1. After at least a week, and more likely months of conjecture, it’s official: the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament is head to Las Vegas. In a news conference schedules for this afternoon, the conference will officially announce the move of their season-ending even to the MGM Grand Garden for at least the next two years. For the past 11 years, the tournament had been held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but attendance and fan interest in that event has waned over the years, in part due to the decline in talent in the conference, but also, perhaps, due to the venue. The move to Las Vegas means that Sin City will now host four different conference tournaments, with the Pac-12, Mountain West and WAC all going on at the same time, with the West Coast Conference tournament taking place the week prior. Great. Just what I needed. Another reason to go to Vegas in March. Although the prospect of a Vegas summit for hoops fans is pretty enticing.
  2. It began yesterday, but in case you missed it, we are now officially in that time of year where you have to check the news daily for stories about coaches and players perhaps on the move. With the relatively new opening for head coach at Nebraska, and with current Oregon coach Dana Altman’s ties to the state (he was born in Crete, NE and was the head coach at Creighton, in Omaha, for 15 years), rumors are already swirling that a change may be afoot in Eugene. Altman, however, has been quick to shoot those stories down, saying he is “the coach at Oregon.” While that may not be the strongest possible affirmation of Altman’s intent to stay with the Ducks, it will have to do for now. But the fact that Nebraska has recently sunk a ton of money into its basketball program and that Altman is a Nebraska native should leave Duck fans on edge until that Husker job is filled.
  3. Sticking with the Oregon program for a bit longer, they received bad news today when it was learned that former coach Dick Harter died at the age of 81 on Monday. Though he only coached the Ducks for seven years (1971-1978), he left an indelible mark on the program. Perhaps the high point of his career was ending UCLA’s 98-game winning streak at Pauley Pavilion in 1976, but he built a reputation for his team’s defensive excellence. His “Kamikaze Kids” never won a Pac-8 title (Harter coached before the Arizona schools were added to the conference), but they helped continue the tradition of McArthur Court being an intimidating place for opposing teams to play. Future Oregon head coach Ernie Kent was among Harter’s key players, as was future New York Knicks head coach (and NBA executive) Stu Jackson.
  4. In an announcement that surprised exactly no one, Sean Miller confirmed on Monday that freshman point guard Josiah Turner will not play again this season for Arizona, after being suspended indefinitely prior to the Pac-12 Tournament last week. The only real question remaining surrounding Turner is whether he will ever wear a Wildcat uniform again. Last week’s suspension was Turner’s third disciplinary action in his brief career in Tucson. Miller left the door open for a possible return for Turner next year, saying “I’m not telling any player on our team that he doesn’t have the option to come back, but it’s more about the path Josiah wants to go from this point forward that will determine whether he’s at Arizona or whether he would choose to have a new beginning.”
  5. Let’s wrap up the Morning Five on a positive note: Colorado’s season continues. After taking home the Pac-12’s automatic bid in their first year in the conference, the Buffaloes move on to Albuquerque on Thursday to face UNLV. Though they’ll be an underdog, this is very much a game that the Buffs can win. And head coach Tad Boyle is not content to stop there: “We’re not going to be just happy to be here,” he said. “We’re playing for a national championship.” I appreciate the sentiment, but a win over UNLV on Thursday makes for an excellent season for the Buffs. A further surprise over (potentially) Baylor on Saturday is gravy, while any further advancement is pie-in-the-sky madness. But, stranger things have happened.
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Eulogy For an Old Barn: Oregon’s McArthur Court

Posted by rtmsf on January 1st, 2011

Kenny Ocker is an RTC contributor.

Oregon’s basketball game Saturday against Arizona State on the surface seems to just be an early-season Pac-10 Conference game between two teams that started off their seasons earlier this week with disappointing blowout losses. However, the game is also the last men’s basketball game at McArthur Court, Oregon’s 84-year-old on-campus arena, before the Ducks move into the $200-million, Phil Knight-funded Matthew Knight Arena on the other side of campus.  McArthur Court was constructed in 1926 and was paid for by an increase in student fees. The arena has played host to many events and teams over the years, from Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, to the Japanese men’s national gymnastics team’s first loss in international competition, to Oregon gymnastics and wrestling, but the building nicknamed The Pit is best known as the home of Oregon basketball.

Mac Court Will Be Retired Saturday

The Ducks have an occasionally storied tradition as a basketball school, and McArthur Court has been there for nearly all of it. The team dubbed the Tall Firs won the NCAA’s first national championship in 1939, led by the wonderfully named center Slim Wintermute and the wind-erfully named forward Lauren Gale. Those two, along with point guard Bobby Aney, were named All-Americans, as the Ducks went 29-5 in the season en route to the NCAA title. (I don’t believe “One Shining Moment” was played then.)  Oregon’s form suffered after this, with only three NCAA Tournament berths between the 1939 title and 1995. The Ducks went to the NCAAs in 1945, 1960 and 1961, with an Elite Eight trip in 1960.

However, the program undertook a rebirth in the 1970s, led by former Penn head coach Dick Harter, who dubbed McArthur Court “The Pit,” a nickname that lives on to this day and is reflected in the name of the student section, the Pit Crew. Harter’s “Kamikaze Kids” had three straight berths to the NIT from 1975 through 1977. Those teams were led by All-American Ron Lee, but also featured future Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent, the man who put Ducks basketball back on the map after a lackluster decade in the 1980s.

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Recruiting Rumor Mill: 09.27.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 27th, 2010

After a prolonged absence from the summer circuit it appears like Sonny Vaccaro, who was once quiet possibly the most powerful man in AAU basketball, is making his triumphant return. As Gary Parrish notes, Vaccaro should make things more interesting.

  • It’s already almost a week old, but ESPN released its team recruiting rankings and you will be shocked to see who is #1.
  • Arizona was able to land some big names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson over the past few weeks, but as we pointed out last week their haul would be coming to an end soon due to the Lute Olson-era sanctions against the program. Now we see the results as Sean Miller has told super recruit LeBryan Nash that there isn’t any room for him in Tucson.
LeBryan isn’t welcome in Arizona
  • Speaking of the Wildcats, last week we mentioned the refreshing case of Norvel Pelle who was just starting to do in-house visits, but now Pelle has moved ahead to planning official visits as he recently expressed interest in St John’s, UTEP, UConn, and “the whole PAC 10 except Arizona according to a phone interview with Adam Zagoria, although Pelle has not committed to any official visits yet.
  • In yet another reaction to Arizona’s filling its scholarships already . . . Quinn Cook, who had been high on Arizona before Turner’s surprise commitment, is now considering Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Villanova, and UNC. In a rather unsurprising surprising comment, Steve Smith, his new coach at Oak Hill, says Cook is “comparable” to Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Marcus Williams (hopefully leaving the laptops out of it), and Brandon Jennings who all played at Oak Hill. Cook is a talented prospect, but outside of Williams I think Smith might be stretching the truth a bit. To be fair, I can say my paycheck is comparable to John Paulson’s paycheck, but Paulson made way more than I did (at least before the RTC royalty checks get processed).
  • Last week we noted that Austin Rivers had taken Florida off his list of potential schools and now it seems like he has set dates for his official visits: UNC (October 1st), Duke (October 15th), and Kansas (October 22nd). You can guess that the basketball coaches will be especially interested in the football team’s performances those weekends against East Carolina (could be challenging for the depleted Tar Heels), Miami (this one could be ugly), and Texas A&M (depends on the week for the inconsistent Jayhawks).
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Summer School in the Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 24th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

Around the Pac-10:

  • Down Times: Last season was clearly one of the low points in Pac-10 basketball history. It took a late-season run out of Washington to ensure two NCAA Tournament bids from the conference, with California earning the other after a strong but somewhat disappointing season. The conference had just one player (the Huskies’ Quincy Pondexter) picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, and just two players picked overall (with Stanford’s Landry Fields somewhat surprisingly being drafted by the Knicks, much to the chagrin of New York fans in attendance, with the 39th pick). The two total players drafted were the lowest total for the league since 1986.
  • Returning Fire: Despite the lack of players picked in the NBA Draft, just nine of the league’s top 20 scorers from last year return, although Rihard Kuksiks is still uncertain whether he will return for his senior season at Arizona State. Likewise, just 11 of the league’s top 20 rebounders return.
  • Fresh Blood: But not to worry, plenty of excellent new talent is headed the Pac-10’s way. Or not. Actually, out of Scout’s Top 100 list, just ten players (and just four out of the top 50) committed to Pac-10 institutions, with the highest ranked player, Washington’s Terrence Ross, checking in at #26. According to ESPNU’s projections, the outlook is slightly rosier, with the Pac-10 accounting for 12 of the top 100 players, five of the top 50, and UCLA’s Josh Smith checking in at #20. Either way, while there is some new talent, it is not of the caliber of the other BCS conferences. There was some intrigue here, however, as Enes Kanter (Scout #3 overall recruit, ESPNU #25) originally verbally committed to Washington before backing out and heading to Kentucky. Additional salt in the wound came when Washington’s top recruit, Terrence Jones (ESPU #9 overall, Scout #8) announced at a press conference that he would be committing to Washington, but then failed to sign a letter of intent and wound up changing his mind and committing to Kentucky as well, giving Husky fans an entirely new Cal to dislike.
  • Head Honchos: While a lot of familiar players have moved on, there is consistency in the hot seat for all but one team: Oregon ended the Ernie Kent era and will welcome new head coach Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton. While Altman wasn’t the sexy hire that Pat Kilkenny and Phil Knight wanted to start the new era in Oregon basketball, he is an excellent coach who will likely have the sleeping giant in Eugene back in the thick of things in the Pac-10 very quickly.
  • Home Cooking: The coaching change isn’t the only big news in Eugene, as the Ducks will break in a new arena this season, when the brand-new gleaming Matthew Knight Arena (named after Knight’s son who died prematurely in a scuba-diving accident) replaces the venerable old McArthur Court in January. The Ducks had planned to kick off the Pac-10 season in the new venue, but the move-in date has been pushed back for a variety of reasons.

Newcomer Terrence Ross will look to keep Washington atop the Pac-10.

Power Rankings:

  1. Washington: The Huskies lose last year’s lone Pac-10 NBA first rounder in Quincy Pondexter, but just about everyone else of consequence returns. Pint-sized point Isaiah Thomas (no, not the suspiciously crazy one who ran the Knicks into the ground) leads the way in a talented backcourt, with energetic pace-setter Venoy Overton back for another season of annoying opposing guards. Also keep your eye on sophomore Abdul Gaddy, who was at one time considered the second-best point guard in the ’09 high school class. He struggled as a 17-year-old freshman, but Lorenzo Romar will certainly give him plenty of chances to earn more playing time this season. Up front, senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning will need to take a big step forward as the frontcourt scoring threat for this squad, with Tyreese Breshers and Darnell Gant doing the dirty work in the paint. Additionally, Romar welcomes three freshmen, including Terrence Ross to add some more talent to the backcourt and 7’0 juco transfer Aziz Ndiaye to add size, if not a polished offensive game, to a relatively small frontcourt. Senior Justin Holliday and junior Scott Suggs will add depth at the wings. The Huskies suffered from lapses in concentration last season, but an additional year of experience for a veteran roster should fix that problem.
  2. Arizona: The Wildcats are on their way back from their struggles at the end of legend Lute Olson’s regime. But while I’ll nab them as my number two team here, this is not a Wildcat team that is going to make any McKale denizens forget the 1988 or 1997 teams – this ranking is more of an indication of the conference’s weakness. However, sophomore forward Derrick Williams is the conference’s fourth leading returning scorer and second-leading returning rebounder and an absolute beast in the paint. Senior Jamelle Horne will start alongside Williams, and he’ll be called on to improve on the nine points and six rebounds he provided nightly last season. Shooting guard Kyle Fogg displayed some nice offensive punch last season, and he’ll be asked for even more, but the most pressure will be felt by sophomore point Lamont “MoMo” Jones, who will be tasked with taking over for departed fixture Nic Wise. The development of frontcourt sophomores Solomon Hill and Kyryl Natyazhko and incoming freshman guards Daniel Bejarano and Jordin Mayes will be important for team depth. This is still an undersized team, which hurts them a bit on the boards and on defense, two areas where they will need to improve from last season.
  3. UCLA: While the 2009-10 season was a nightmare for the Bruins, the cupboard is not completely empty in Westwood. There are a lot of unanswered questions here, however, and the biggest one is at the point. Malcolm Lee got plenty of time there last season, but he is more ideally suited to play on the wing, and if all goes well for the Bruins, that’s where he’ll be this season. With the Jerime Anderson era justifiably considered a failure to this point, Ben Howland has brought in juco transfer Lazeric Jones to man the point, with any positive contributions that Anderson might provide just being bonus. Sophomore Tyler Honeycutt is a skilled ball handler and passer at the three, so he’ll be around to add an additional guard when necessary. Up front, Reeves Nelson was perhaps the biggest bright spot for UCLA in his freshman season, when he averaged 11 points and six rebounds a night in just over 20 minutes per game. He’ll need to keep out of foul trouble to gain additional minutes, and he’ll need to improve his horrid free throw shooting as well, but he looks ready for a big leap forward, especially considering he’ll be joined by UCLA’s big (and I do mean big, once listed at 320, now working towards approaching 270) freshman Josh Smith, a skilled and soft-handed center. Freshman wing Tyler Lamb will also get some early run. But the fact is, there is plenty of talent here, and if the Bruins get nothing more than a caretaker at the point, Howland will win games in a weak Pac-10 with this team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 08.10.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 10th, 2010

  1. A couple of years ago we posted an article about teams taking advantage of a bylaw allowing them to start their season early by playing overseas once every four years. Coming into this season Oregon had planned to go to Europe to get ready for this season, but after the firing of Ernie Kent and a rash of other departures the Ducks are considering cancelling their trip to Europe.
  2. For the past few years the NC ProAm has been one of the feature summer events for college players in particular incoming freshman with the best example being John Wall famously dunking on Jerry Stackhouse last summer. We’ve heard plenty of chatter coming out of the tournament this year about the performance of such notable incoming freshmen as Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes, but it was a pair of Duke players (Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly) that came away with the title as they scored 18 and 16 points respectively in the championship game. It probably didn’t hurt that they had a few chumps (Raymond Felton, Josh Powell, and tournament MVP Marcus Fisher) rounding out the starting line-up.
  3. Speaking of Blue Devils, Nolan Smith appears to have been stepping up this summer, showing a new explosiveness that we haven’t seen thus far in his college career (at least not to this degree).  He poured in 41 points in a recent NC ProAm game, even drawing praise from former Tar Heel Jawad Williams. Our favorite part of the article is Jawad throwing “praise” at Mason Plumlee saying “Plumlee is very skilled for a guy with his height. He could be a Josh McRoberts-type player.” Uh, thanks. I’m sure every Duke fan just felt like throwing up.
  4. When Tom Izzo announced that Chris Allen would no longer be a part of the Michigan State basketball program, the first thought on many people’s mind was where he would end up. According to his mother “the phones have been blowin’ up” as she cites Notre Dame, UConn, Iowa State, Memphis, and South Florida as some of the many schools that have been actively courting her son. For their part, the UConn staff has denied making any such contact. So now the question is Ms. Allen trying to pull a Drew Rosenhaus on us or is UConn being less than honest about their recruiting again?
  5. Are we tired of talking about Anthony Davis and the alleged $200,000 yet?  As you know, over the weekend Davis’ father told anyone who would listen that the family was planning on suing the Chicago Sun-Times over its allegation that his son was for sale to the highest bidder on the open market.  Echoing our take on the matter (that this is much ado about nothing), Gary Parrish came correct with a witty piece describing how great the theater would be if people like John Calipari and Oliver Purnell were forced to give sworn testimony on the record.  Which is, of course, why there’s a greater chance of this computer turning into Amy Adams and flitting around the RTC offices like a winsome handmaid.
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The Argument for the 96 Team Tournament? 31 Fewer Hot Seats

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2010

Since the whispers started about the NCAA expanding March Madness to 96 teams opinion on the issue has been divided into camps: the traditionalists (bloggers) and the radicals (coaches). Wait a minute. What?!? Yes. That’s right. Bloggers want to stay old school and coaches want to throw a wrench into the established system. . .

While coaches like to pontificate about expanding tournament to let more “deserving” teams in and give more players a chance to play in March Madness it is pretty clear to most neutral observers that the real motive is quite clear–keeping their jobs. With the recent spate of firings the coaches will continue to lobby hard for expansion. Since the season ended just a few days ago the list of coaching unemployed has grown to 6 coaches (and growing. . .):

  • Ernie Kent, Oregon (235-173 overall, 16-16 this season)
  • Jeff Lebo, Auburn (96-93, 15-17)
  • Todd Lickliter, Iowa (38-58, 10-22)
  • Bobby Lutz, Charlotte (218-158, 19-12)
  • Bob Nash, Hawaii (34-56, 10-20)
  • Kirk Speraw, UCF (279-233, 15-17)

Although a NCAA Tournament bid would not have guaranteed that these coaches kept their jobs, it would have most likely kept the boosters off their backs for some more time. And that’s all that a coach wants, right? Another year or two to collect a paycheck doing a substandard job and hoping to reach the longevity bonuses before they decide to get the booster funded golden parachute. Basically think of a college basketball version of investment bankers wanting to tweak the scoring metrics (adjust earnings in that case) to make themselves look better. Everyone knows how that turned out for the financial markets and the entire country.

Credit: Joel Pett (Lexington Herald-Leader)

You may see some familiar faces in the unemployment line

Now you’re probably asking yourself why the big-name coaches would care and that is a perfectly reasonable question with a perfectly reasonable answer. While the Mike Krzyzewskis and Jim Boeheims of the college basketball world will never have to worry about getting fired they have are plenty of their friends who are not quite as successful and that is not even talking about the dying branches on their coaching tree. Let’s take a look at some of their most famous branches:

  • Krzyzewski: Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Quin Snyder, Tim O’Toole, Bob Bender, Chuck Swenson, Mike Dement, and David Henderson
  • Boeheim: Rick Pitino, Tim Welsh, Louis Orr, Wayne Morgan, and Ralph Willard

Outside of Brey and Pitino that is a pretty mediocre group of coaches. Some of the others have had a modicum of success too, but overall that group has used more than its fair share of U-Haul trucks. And if the coaches don’t get their way they might be following in the footsteps of the late ODB.

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RTC Live: Pac-10 Qtrs – California vs. Oregon

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

We’re here at the conference tournament quarterfinal round at what we like to call the best mid-major league in America, the Pac-10 Conference.  Cal might be a ‘favorite,’ but that term is relative in this year’s league as even the Bears won the regular season with five losses.  The Bears are only at about a 40% shot to win this thing, and the odds of a team that’s nowhere near the bubble getting into the NCAAs using a weekend run is pretty high at 16% (normally, it’s south of 2%).  As for this particular matchup, Cal won both previous games handily, but the Ducks have been playing much better in recent weeks than they were when they faced Mike Montgomery’s team, having won four of five.  Then there’s the additional incentive that the Duck players have in trying to send their coach out on a positive note after reports have surfaced that Ernie Kent will be gone from the UO job at the end of the season.  Will it be a good game?  We think so, but in this wild and wacky league, you really never know.  Join us at 2:30 pm PT for a little afternoon hoops from the Staples Center with Cal and Oregon on RTC Live.

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Morning Five: 03.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

  1. Folks, if there was ever a day in our history where we actually fit the word ubiquitous in our little slogan at the top of the screen there, today is that day (ok, maybe tomorrow and Saturday too).  Nevertheless, we will be providing coast to coast coverage at no fewer than six of the major conference tournaments today and throughout the weekend — ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10, Conference USA and the WAC (tomorrow we’ll add the Mountain West to our slate) .  We’ll be reporting from each venue with RTC Live (see RTC Live box above left), but we’ll also provide nightly diaries from our correspondents on site as well.  Whether in the comments, the live-blogs or lurking, we hope to have you stop by throughout the weekend.
  2. From the that-didn’t-take-very-long department, Jeff Goodman reported last night that Iowa State’s Craig Brackins is expected to announce his intention to go pro within the next few days.  Iowa State’s season probably ended in an 82-75 loss to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament first round yesterday evening.  Brackins’ teammate, Marquis Gilstrap, had applied for a sixth year of eligibility, but the NCAA denied his request and he too has finished his career as a Cyclone.
  3. The SEC Tournament begins today, and the league may re-visit how it seeds its teams as soon as next year given that schools such as East #3 Tennessee and #4 Florida went 12-0 against the SEC West this season but still did not earn a bye into the quarterfinals.  If you include the two SEC East teams who received byes — Kentucky and Vanderbilt — these four teams went an incredible 24-0 against the western half of the conference.  Re-seeding teams #1-#12 would reward the four best teams in the league rather than the two best in each division.
  4. You undoubtedly know that Oregon’s Ernie Kent has told his players that he’s out as the coach of the Ducks and that he predicted his team would win the Pac-10 Tournament this week, but did you know that former Seton Hall coach PJ Carlesimo is angling for the job?  Will Latrell Sprewell also be joining the staff as an assistant?
  5. In case you missed it elsewhere, we have the potential for one of the greatest feel-good stories in NCAA Tournament history this coming weekend at Montana if Anthony Johnson’s wife, Shaunte Nance-Johnson, can help her team (the Lady Grizzlies) make it to the NCAAs in much the same way her husband did last night (a ridiculous 42-point shooting exhibition).  Even if she doesn’t put the team on her back — she is a reserve, after all — the fact that she  was the one who resurrected AJ’s career a few years ago when he was out of basketball completely is cause for celebration.  We don’t know for a fact that a husband/wife pair have never played in the NCAA Tournament at the same time, but the odds of it are minuscule and we’d absolutely love to see it happen for both of them.  Sorry, Sacramento State/Montana State, no offense intended, but we here at RTC (America?) will be rooting for Montana on Friday to move into the Big Sky Championship game and beyond.
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Ernie Kent Out At Oregon

Posted by jstevrtc on March 7th, 2010

Oregon head coach Ernie Kent has been fired, according to a report from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  The first report about this actually surfaced during the second half of the Ducks’ Senior Day game against Washington State — which they won, by the way, 74-66 — from Eugene’s KVAL-TV, who reported that Oregon A.D. Mike Bellotti had already told the coach that he wouldn’t be leading the Ducks next year.

During his time at UO, Kent has posted a 234-172 record.  This is his 13th season at the helm.  Kent has taken Oregon to the NCAA Tournament five times, reaching the Elite 8 in 2002 and 2007.

It’s assumed that Kent will indeed coach the team through the Pac-10 Tournament, so now thoughts turn to whom his replacement could be.  Back in January, FoxSports.com’s Jeff Goodman had named Kent as a coach who was sitting on a 300-degree hot seat this season, and today raised the possibilities of Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith as candidates for the Oregon job.  Few’s name is brought up for just about every major coaching vacancy within 15 minutes of the opening being announced, but there’s a small new wrinkle, here — Few was born in Oregon and graduated from UO in 1987.  In case you’re wondering whether or not Oregon could attract such heavy-hitters in the college basketball coaching ranks, consider these two items:  1) Oregon has a brand new arena opening up next year, and 2) it’s only natural that Nike chairman Phil Knight — a UO grad and a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for “Special Contribution to Sports” in Oregon — would be involved, whether overtly or secretly, in the selection process.  And when you talk about Nike and Phil Knight getting involved…suddenly, anything is possible.

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Morning Five: 03.04.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010

  1. George Schroeder argues that the writing is on the wall of the brand-spanking-new Matthew Knight Arena at Oregon — head coach Ernie Kent is dead man walking at the school.  Regardless of the past successes of Kent (two Elite Eights), we think Shroeder is correct.  The sense around UO is that Kent got a little too comfortable in his spot there, and this isn’t the business where comfort wears well when you’re losing Pac-10 games hand over fist.  Especially with a new $200M arena across campus to fill.
  2. Alabama suspended its best player JaMychal Green indefinitely for a violation of undisclosed team rules.  It’s been a very tough year for head coach Anthony Grant in his first campaign in Tuscaloosa, but an NIT is salvageable if the Tide can capture its last game to ensure a .500 season.  They currently stand at 15-14 (5-10 SEC) after beating South Carolina in Columbia last night.
  3. Some early bracket science (note: not bracketology)…  every seed matchup from #1 vs. #16 broken down statistically.  Everybody already knows that the #9 seed wins more often over the #8 than vice versa (54-46), but we bet you didn’t know that #8 seeds are three times more likely than #9 seeds to knock off the top seed in the second round.
  4. A couple of good pieces on NCAA Expansion 96 this week.  George Dorhmann gives us four good reasons that expansion is (say it altogether now…) a bad idea, while Stewart Mandel offers a very informative and insightful article on the multiple layers of decisionmaking and issues involved in this decision.  His key statement that every college basketball fan should take to heart: “This much is certain. Nearly all the various parties with a vested interest in the tourney seem far more open to expansion possibilities than the general public.” Folks, if you do nothing else for the rest of your lives, let interim NCAA president James Isch know how you feel about this possibility coming directly from the fans themselves.  If they’re going ostrich on us, then let’s make sure they hear us through the sand.  Contact him directly at jisch@ncaa.org.
  5. ESPN’s Rick Reilly joined the ‘when to RTC’ conversation yesterday just in time for Maryland’s RTC against Duke last night.  Using his Ironclad and Unbreakable RTCing Rules, Terp fans will not be eligible for an RTC until the 2022-23 season.  Hyperbole, yes, but we do agree with his primary sentiment in that it’s happening far too often.  We have no  hard data on this, but it’s getting to the point where every school seems to be RTCing at least once a season.  If everyone is doing it for any reason under the sun, then nobody is doing anything unique or special.  The best idea we’ve heard from the twitterati in recent weeks was the idea that a student body would ‘fake RTC,’ as in threatening to rush without actually doing so.  The first student body that actually pulls that one off would forever be in our debt and gratitude.
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