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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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

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

Standings

  1. California    10-5       18-9
  2. Arizona State     9-5          19-8
  3. USC     8-6          16-10
  4. Washington     8-7          18-9
  5. Arizona      7-7          13-13
  6. UCLA      7-7          12-14
  7. Stanford      7-8          13-14
  8. Oregon State      6-8          12-14
  9. Washington State     6-9          16-11
  10. Oregon       4-10       12-14

We haven’t had a Pac-10 update ‘round these parts since the conference season began, but it is no secret that the one-word summation of the Pac-10 season to this point is “ugly.”  The only team with anything at all to say about potentially receiving an at-large bid is California, and it is increasingly likely that if Cal fails to win the Pac-10 tournament, they’ll be looking at an NIT bid. For the first time in as far back as I care to research, the only Pac-10 team that will be heading to the NCAA tournament is the team that wins the automatic bid as the Pac-10 tournament champion.

A quick rundown of the teams:

California – The Bears currently top the conference, and of all Pac-10 teams have the best chance at an at-large bid given their RPI in the low 20s and the fourth toughest schedule in the country, but every time it looks like this team is going to  reel off a string of victories, they drop a game like they did Thursday when eighth place Oregon State handled them easily in Corvalis, 80-64. The numbers look good for the senior quartet of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin (60.2 ppg between the four, with all averaging double-figures on the season), but each has been inconsistent this season, such as when Randle went just 2-9 from the field, 0-5 from behind the arc and had four turnovers in the OSU game.

Arizona StateHerb Sendek’s squad sits just a half-game back of the Bears in the conference standings, a bit of business that will get sorted out on Saturday when they head to Haas Pavilion, but although they have a top-50 win (something Cal cannot boast) over San Diego State, there just isn’t enough there on the ASU resume to really warrant serious at-large consideration. The Sun Devils have gotten as far as they have on the strength of their guard play; senior point Derek Glasser leads the conference in assists, and he and junior point Jamelle McMillan are one-two in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.

USC – The Trojans are a team that would be a very tough out in the Pac-10 tournament – that is if the Trojans were going to play in the Pac-10 tournament. In an attempt to throw the NCAA hounds off the trail a bit and to make some sort of restitution for the O.J. Mayo, Reggie Bush and how many other incidents, the USC athletic department decided to self-punish the basketball program, stripping them of their chance to play in the postseason this year. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has done a pretty strong job of keeping his kids together and when the Trojans have come out focused they have been very strong this year (they’ve split with Cal, taken their one matchup with ASU, and swept Washington and UCLA), but playing out the string has got to be hard for these kids and as a result, they’ve lost games to Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, that they might not have lost had a possible NCAA tourney bid been waiting at the end.

Washington – In a season of conference-wide disappointment, the Huskies have got to take home the title of most disappointing Pac-10 team. At the start of the year, Washington was considered something of a co-favorite to win the conference, and seemed to be a team that could make some noise in March. But between then and now, the Huskies have struggled to gain any consistency. They did pull together a four-game win streak in late January/early February, then laid an egg in their big matchup at Cal. Senior forward Quincy Pondexter has likely been the player-of-the-year in the conference (20.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg), but highly-anticipated freshman guard Abdul Gaddy has yet to catch on, and the team has struggled mightily on the road, notching just a 1-6 record so far.

Arizona – At some point in April, right after Sean Miller had accepted the Arizona job, his roster consisted of little more than senior point Nic Wise, junior wing Jamelle Horne, a couple other returning pieces and a boatload of question marks. Miller took advantage of the meltdown at USC and grabbed some of their fleeing castoffs and wound up patching together a pretty strong recruiting class, and actually had this Wildcat team tied for the conference lead not too long ago. Freshman forward Derrick Williams has been the best of the new Cats (15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and while there are growing pains in the future, especially with Wise getting fitted for cap and gown, folks around Tucson are pretty confident that Miller will be able to get this program back to the heights they are used to.

UCLA – The incongruous facts that the Bruins are 7-7 in conference and two games under .500 on the season and that Ben Howland has done a pretty strong job getting his team that far is a good indication of how bad this Bruin team is. As sophomore Jerime Anderson’s inability to handle the point guard position became apparent, Howland slid another sophomore, Malcolm Lee, over from the two to play out of position. While Lee is still not particularly well suited to the one, he is a definite improvement there. Likewise, as this group as a whole showed that they were incapable of playing the type of man defense that Howland demands, he switched over to run some zone. Still not a great defensive team, but an improvement. Those types of things sum up this season for UCLA. While you still can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, Howland has at least managed to scrape this Bruin squad together to the point where they aren’t consistently getting embarrassed.

Stanford – Senior swingman Landry Fields and sophomore guard Jeremy Green have turned into quite a duo up on the farm. They are the highest scoring duo in the Pac-10 (nearly 40 points a game), and Fields is a serious conference Player of the Year candidate. Sophomore Jarrett Mann has also turned into a nice point guard, and between he and Green, head coach Johnny Dawkins doesn’t have a whole lot of question marks in the backcourt for next season. The problem for the Cardinal has been the interior game. They are one of the worst rebounding teams (and that despite Fields’ second-best in the Pac-10 8.7 rpg) and are the worst shotblocking team in the Pac-10, with only 45 blocks on the season. Dawkins does have some help coming, however, with four forwards already signed in next year’s recruiting class.

Oregon State – In Craig Robinson’s first season, the Beavers took a major step forward. Certainly another seven-win improvement this season would have been more than anyone could have hoped for, but given the return of much of their roster and the decrease in the overall talent level in the Pac-10, expectations had to be higher than a mere repeat of last season for the Beavers. And yet, that’s where they’re at now. At this point in 2008-09, the Beavers were 12-13 and 6-8 in the conference. The only difference this year is one additional non-conference loss. Junior guard Calvin Haynes is the OSU leading scorer with 13.2 ppg this year; last year he averaged 13.0. Senior center Roeland Schaftenaar’s point totals have dropped slightly, while senior swingman Seth Tarver’s are up slightly. In all, it is looking like a huge uptick from Robinson season one to season two followed by a season worth of reruns.

Washington State – Not a lot of fun being a Washington-state sports fan these days. The Sonics are something called a Thunder these days and they play in tornado country somewhere, the Seahawks are at the bottom of the barrel, college football is just about non-existent and their college basketball programs, which were at one point a combined 20-3 this season, have now combined to go 14-17 since then. For the Cougs, sophomore wing Klay Thompson’s production has taken a bit of a dive in conference play (he just scored 10 combined points in a homestand against the Southern California schools), although he is still averaging almost 21 ppg this season. But with freshman point Reggie Moore and sophomore bruiser DeAngelo Casto to pair up with Thompson, head coach Ken Bone has a young nucleus around which to build.

Oregon – There are two more Pac-10 conference games that will be played at McArthur Court. While some of Oregon’s early-season non-conference games will be played there next season, the Ducks homestand against the Washington schools the final week of the Pac-10 season will close the books on the meaningful games played in that phenomenal building. Some sparkling, brand new beauty of an abomination will “replace” it, but the best atmosphere in the Pac-10 is going away. That’s what I’ll remember from this Duck season. Beyond that, head coach Ernie Kent totters toward a termination, the roster is full of guys with talent who aren’t able to string it together for more than a weekend or two, and Tajuan Porter just missed another wild three. But none of it matters. They’re closing Mac Court.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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