Stanford’s NIT Title: So What?

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2012

On Thursday night, Stanford earned the right to be one of the handful of teams in Division I basketball to end its season with a win, storming to a 24-point win over Minnesota in the NIT Final. While plenty of people will write that off (with some reason) as just showing that the Cardinal are the 69th best team in college hoops, what exactly does the win mean for Johnny Dawkins and his budding program?

Stanford, NIT Champion

Stanford Took Home The NIT Title, But What Does It Mean For Next Year? (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

Conventional wisdom says that an NIT win bodes well for the future, providing a springboard to success in the following season. Even a cursory glance at the history in the last decade shows that this is not really the case. Of the last 10 winners of the NIT, just four teams made the NCAA Tournament the following year, with only one team, West Virginia’s 2006-07 squad, actually earning a victory in the ensuing NCAA Tourney. In fact, over those 10 years, the NIT winners actually turned in a record the following year that was, on average, 4.3 games worse than the record in the year of the NIT win.

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20 Questions: Which Returning Player Will Make the Leap?

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the Pac-12 and Mountain West correspondent and a regular contributor.

Question: Which Returning Player Will Make the Leap?

Two seasons ago, Derrick Williams was quite a find as a freshman for Arizona. He averaged 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a member of various freshman All-American teams. Despite those accomplishments, it was surprising the big leap forward he took last season, when he upped his averages to 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and did so in insanely efficient fashion, posting the second highest offensive efficiency rating  according to Ken Pomeroy (among players using at least 28% of his team’s possessions). After hitting just four three-pointers as a freshman, he hit 42 as a sophomore and did so at an superb 57% clip.  The year Williams was a freshman, Evan Turner was busy turning in a monster season in Columbus, averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game on his way to winning multiple National Player of the Year awards. While Turner wasn’t nearly the surprise bust-out that Williams was (he did, after all, average 17.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 4.0 APG the previous season), both players made huge leaps in their final collegiate seasons on their way to earning NPOY consideration.

Evan Turner & Derrick Williams Both Broke Out In Big Ways

This season, it looks like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes are the two preseason co-favorites for National Player of the Year honors. But, will we see someone else come up from out of the pack to challenge the frontrunners? For the purposes of answering this question, I’m going to look for a dark horse candidate, and in doing so, eliminate guys like Jordan Taylor and Ashton Gibbs, two veterans who have proven themselves already and who will likely be All-American candidates. Likewise, I’ll eliminate Perry Jones and Terrence Jones from consideration as well — two youngsters who had good if not spectacular freshman seasons but whose amazing athletic ability any old dummy could see.

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Team USA Finishes Fifth at World University Games: Notes On Player Performances

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2011

Team USA came out of the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, with its pride intact after sporting a 7-1 overall record, but because of an untimely loss over the weekend in the quarterfinal round versus Lithuania, they will leave Asia without a medal.  The twelve-man roster comprised of some of the best returning players in the college game finished fifth in the tournament despite sporting a 28.2 PPG scoring margin over its eight opponents.  The Americans did not earn a chance to play the top two finishers — Serbia (gold) and Canada (silver) — although the team that knocked them out of contention, Lithuania, ultimately took home the bronze.  We’ve already established the weak predictive power of the WUG experience (e.g., 2009-10 NPOY Evan Turner hardly played in the 2009 WUG), but we still thought it would be worth a quick look to see which players rose to the top and which did not during the last two weeks of action.

Trevor Mbakwe Was USA's Best Interior Player

Some of our thoughts on player performances:

The All-American Backcourt Was Solid, If Not Spectacular.  Simply glancing at the roster going into the World University Games, the two names that immediately jumped out as the best players were in the backcourt — Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs and Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins.  Both players will be on the short list next season as NPOY types who should also land on several of the major All-American teams.  In China, they both played the most minutes and shot the ball considerably more than the rest of their teammates.  Jenkins alone attempted 57 threes, more shots than anyone but Gibbs (73) on the entire team.  They both made enough shots to keep defenses honest (Gibbs: 46.6%; Jenkins: 42.4%), and were automatic (90%+) from the line, but on a team sorely lacking in the point guard department, neither player truly stepped up and separated himself in that manner (only 28 assists between them, one for every combined 12 minutes they were on the floor).  In the loss against Lithuania, the two guards combined to shoot 4-13 from behind the arc and dished out only one assist (versus 5 TOs).  Clearly this team could have used a better floor leader.

Trevor Mbakwe Was a Monster.  If we had to pick one player who came out of the WUG experience with the most hype for the upcoming season, it has to be Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe.  In just under 20 minutes per contest, Mbakwe averaged a near-dub-dub of 11.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG (or, 23/19 per 40 minutes!).  What’s more impressive is that international players simply could not handle his quick feet balanced by a bulky frame, bullying his way to the foul line 61 times, or 7.6 times per game.  He only was able to convert 57.4% of those attempts, but his 60.9% field goal percentage on the interior more than made up for it.  Mbakwe averaged a double-double in the Big Ten last year, but his maturity and continued improvement may have him on target for a DeJuan Blair type of senior season in 2011-12.

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2011 World University Finalists – Will the Next NPOY Be Buried on the Bench Again?

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2011

As summer heats up, the various Team USA basketball rosters also start rounding into shape.  One of the better such international events that includes collegians, the World University Games, is scheduled to occur from August 13-23 in Shenzhen, China.  As such, the training camp roster of 22 current college players was released on Wednesday with a goal of cutting the group to a final 12 in late July.  The remaining dozen will spend early August practicing as a team before traveling overseas to represent the United States in an event that hasn’t been kind to the Yanks in the last decade.  Perhaps as a result of increasingly fewer talented players still in college or representative of the world catching up to the USA in basketball, this team has only finished first or second once in its last four outings — the 2005 team led by Shelden Williams (Duke) went 8-0 on its way to collecting gold in Turkey.  Two years ago, the 2009 team went 7-1 with its sole blemish a one-point semifinal defeat to Russia to bring home the bronze.  This year’s team will have its work cut out for it in an increasingly competitive international landscape.  Here’s the training camp roster:   

It’s a guard-heavy group, as Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, Xavier’s Tu Holloway, Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor all have All-America potential in 2011-12.  This isn’t surprising, as many of the better big men in the game have either opted out of international basketball this summer (Kentucky’s Terrence Jones; Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger), or they’re moving on to NBA riches (Arizona’s Derrick Williams; Georgia’s Trey Thompkins; Kansas’ Morris Twins; Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson).  It’s notable that Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine (2010), Northwestern’s John Shurna (2010, 2009), Kentucky’s Darius Miller (2009), Gibbs (2009), and Alabama’s JaMychal Green (2008) have all had previous international experience, which would presumably give each a leg up to make Jim Boeheim’s team this summer. 

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The Cousy Award Committee Changes Its Mind On Jordan Taylor

Posted by nvr1983 on February 17th, 2011

Earlier this month the Basketball Hall of Fame announced its list of ten finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guard, and created a minor controversy when it left off Wisconsin star Jordan Taylor. At the time, the ten finalists appeared to be deserving although some might question Jimmer Fredette‘s passing ability/frequency and Demetri McCamey‘s play recently:

  • Norris Cole, Cleveland State
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jimmer Fredette, BYU
  • DJ Gay, San Diego State
  • Brandon Knight, Kentucky
  • Demetri McCamey, Illinois
  • Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s
  • Nolan Smith, Duke
  • Isaiah Thomas, Washington
  • Kemba Walker, UConn

The Cousy Award committee eventually came to its senses on Taylor

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Behind the Numbers: The Other Guys of the Year

Posted by KCarpenter on February 16th, 2011

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor.

The Player of the Year race in college basketball is an interesting and bizarre thing. The most talented player is rarely selected, and the winner is seldom a National Champion. I don’t want to go so far as to say the race is a popularity contest, but it’s something akin to one. Instead of picking the best player, the voters like to pick the most emblematic player, or failing that, the most interesting. Oh, and that player has to almost inevitably be a bit of a ball hog. Evan Turner was not the best basketball player in the country last year, as fans of the Philadelphia 76ers know all too well, but he was a skilled-enough, multi-talented player on a pedigreed team that won a lot of games. With that logic in mind, it’s pretty safe to pencil in Jimmer Freddete, Jared Sullinger, Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker or Nolan Smith as the front-runners of that race. This was true in December, as well. I don’t want to say that the national Player of the Year race is dead, just that it’s perpetually unsurprising, even if the final result does have that extra spice of arbitrariness thrown in for good measure.

Walker Headlines a Strong NPOY Group of Candidates

So instead of breaking down the Player of the Year race and debating just how good, on the scale of really good to incredibly good all those familiar faces are, I thought we could take some time to show some love to some mostly unfamiliar faces who are having extraordinary and superlative seasons of their own. Maybe they don’t play a great all-around game, maybe their teams don’t win, and maybe some of them aren’t good so much as weird, but let’s celebrate them all anyway. We need a name for this party, though, so let’s call it the Other Guys of the Year Awards, dig into the depths of Ken Pomeroy’s stats tables, and hand out some imaginary statuettes.

The first awards go to a pair of players who play for the same team in the Big South. The Iron Man Award goes to Khalid Mutakabbir of Presbyterian who has played 96.1% of all available minutes, a greater percentage than any other player in Division I. Mutakabbir has used those minutes well, shooting a high percentage from the field, and a very impressive 51.7% from beyond the three-point line. The Ultimate Ball-Hog Award goes to Mutakabbir’s teammate, Al’Lonzo Coleman, who somehow comes off the bench, yet uses 36.3% of all possessions, more than The Jimmer himself. While Coleman is undoubtedly president of the Ball-Hog Club, let’s give some special recognition to the other players who, despite living outside the national limelight, have managed to dominate the ball more than Mr. Fredette: Special thanks to Keion Bell of Pepperdine, Anatoly Bose of Nicholls State, Brandon Bowdry of Eastern Michigan, Adrian Oliver of San Jose State, and Will Pratt from Northwestern State. You have all out-Jimmered the Jimmer, except for, you know, the winning games thing.

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RTC’s Top 10 Moments of 2010

Posted by nvr1983 on January 6th, 2011

Ok. Maybe this is a little bit later than most of the 2010 retrospectives that you have seen over the past month or so, but just consider our countdown very thoroughly reviewed. We decided to focus on the defining moments of the past year. These weren’t necessarily the most exciting moments, but the ones that made us hold our breath, run around our respective RTC-funded mansions, bury our head in our hands, or reflect on the sport. Even though we think we did a good job of reviewing the biggest moments of the year and ranking them appropriately it is possible that you may disagree with us on either the ranking or inclusion/exclusion of certain moments. If you feel that way, leave a comment and we will respond to you. If you have a strong enough argument we may even update the post.

#10. Izzo Sticks at Michigan State: In the universe of potential train-wreck decisions, Tom Izzo’s summer dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers ranks alongside Justin Bieber’s hair and Sarah Palin’s Alaska as near-misses of epic proportions.  (Wha?  you mean they actually exist? ughhhhh…)  With his six Final Four appearances and a national title in the last twelve seasons, Izzo is already one of the best coaches in the game; by turning down the additional millions to coach Boobie Gibson and Mo Williams to twenty-five wins for the next several seasons, he has a great chance to cement himself as one of the greatest of all-time. Frankly, it was surprising to most that the fiery Michigander so strongly considered leaving East Lansing without a promise from LeBron James that he would stick around, but in the end, we believe Izzo’s choice to remain in the college game was the right one. After all, few coaches make the transition from college to pro successfully, and even among those who do (Larry Brown) there is a lingering sense that true greatness was never achieved in either domain.  As for us, we’re happy to see Izzo stalking the sidelines in the college game again, and we’re quite certain that Michigan State fans are too.

#9. Hummel tears ACL and breaks Boilermaker Hearts…Again: Wasn’t it bad enough the first time? It’s not like Purdue fans had totally climbed out from under the fate-dropped anvil that landed on them on February 24th last season, 27 games into the schedule, ranked third and the holy month of March merely DAYS away, when Robbie Hummel‘s right ACL tendered its resignation and removed the Boilermakers from any discussion of likely title contenders. I mean, that’s just cruel, right? Sure, bad luck sometimes befalls even the best kids and eventually finds all teams. But there was always the NEXT year, because there’s no way that something else could happen that would ruin the 2010-11 squad, right? Um…sure. Even to basketball fans neutral toward the Purdue program, the news was hard to fathom on the Saturday morning after this year’s Midnight Madness night (or whatever) when it was announced that Hummel had torn the same damn ligament AGAIN. The very serious and justified championship talk had returned to West Lafayette as fall settled in. At least it was there was up until the morning of October 16th. By noon, it was all gone. That’s one season-changing moment.

#8. Pearls of Untruth: A lie, by definition, is not accidental. At some point, whether it’s a week or a millisecond before it happens, there is a decision point. There is that moment where you make the call to tell the truth or — usually because of something you stand to gain or lose — to deceive. Bruce Pearl was already under suspicion for his telephoning and party-hosting skills, which is what put him in the position to lie to NCAA investigators back in June while they were investigating his program. We don’t know when his decision point was, and it really doesn’t matter. When he deceived the NCAA, at that very moment he violated the trust of a huge sports-loving fan base, not to mention that of every player who hoped he could teach them something about being a being a better basketball player and a better man. Some people want to give Pearl a pass because he went back later and told the truth. But that’s like the moment in the outstanding film Quiz Show when, after Charles Van Doren confesses to the Senate that he lied to America and he receives kudos from various Senators for his courageous statement, the Senator from New York tells him that a grown man does not deserve praise for finally telling the truth. We are not saying Pearl is a bad person — just that he made some bad decisions here. We all do that, just as we all lie. And we all know that after the lie, there is usually punishment and a chance to learn from it. The hole Bruce Pearl has dug for himself only tells us a small something about him. It is whether or not he climbs out of it in the years to come that will tell us what we really need to know about this man.

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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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The AP Makes Harrison Barnes Its First Freshman Preseason All-American

Posted by nvr1983 on November 1st, 2010

Typically, the announcement of preseason All-Americans is something that we pass over, but when today’s list was announced it caught our eye. It appears that the Associated Press has decided to get with the 21st century and named Harrison Barnes as a 1st team preseason All-American making him the first freshman to receive the honor since the AP began bestowing the honor before the 1986-87 season. Although Barnes was technically the last man on the team with 17 out of 67 possible votes, by far the fewest of any member of the 1st team, it is remarkable that he achieved recognition that players such as Carmelo Anthony, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, and John Wall never did. Still, Barnes, who like every other freshman, was left off the preseason Wooden Award list will have his work cut out for him trying to match the production of some of the most prolific freshman (many of whom made the final All-American team), but based on what we have heard out of Chapel Hill he might have a chance.

Barnes: The 1st AP Preseason All-American Ever

Here is the rest of the first team with the number of votes out of 67 possible votes that they received from the AP voters:

  • Kyle Singler, Duke (65)
  • Jacob Pullen, Kansas State (53)
  • Jimmer Fredette, BYU (49)
  • JaJuan Johnson, Purdue (46)
  • Harrison Barnes, UNC (17)

Singler, the top vote-getter, is the lone returning AP preseason 1st team All-American although he was only honorable mention when the end-of-season picks were made last year. It is worth noting that none of the members (John Wall, Evan TurnerDeMarcus Cousins, Wesley Johnson, and Scottie Reynolds) from of last year’s All-American team returned to school and none of them were on the preseason All-American team from a year ago so keep that in mind although we have a feeling we will be seeing a few of this year’s preseason All-Americans on multiple All-American lists at the end of the season.

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Breaking Down the 2011 Preseason Wooden Award List

Posted by nvr1983 on October 5th, 2010

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced its preseason list of the 50 candidates for the Wooden Award. Among those listed are names of players with whom we are all familiar, like Kyle Singler, Kalin Lucas, and Robbie Hummel, but there are also many lesser-known but still talented players like Nikola Vucevic and Kawhi Leonard (feel free to yell “East Coast bias!” in the comments). Even though this is one of about a thousand Player of the Year awards it holds a special place for most college basketball aficionados because of its namesake, the late John Wooden, and especially the year after his death. Established in 1976, The Wooden Award has been awarded to an individual after a 26-member panel — I’m sure our invite is lost in the snail mail or got caught in a spam filter — narrows down the list of candidates down to 20 players and then lets 1,000 voters (seriously, where’s our invite?) pick the ten All-Americans and the Player of the Year (last year Evan Turner took home the hardware). Looking back through past winners provides you with a veritable “Who’s Who” of college basketball in the past quarter century and includes luminaries like Phil Ford, Larry Bird, Ralph Sampson (twice), Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Danny Manning, Larry Johnson, Christian Laettner, Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Jason Williams, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Durant, and Tyler Hansbrough.

2010 Wooden Award Winner

One of the big caveats for the early season list is that it does not include freshman or transfers. Now, the latter usually do not factor into these awards with the exception of Larry Johnson and Wesley Johnson, who picked up a few votes last year, but the former (like Durant and Michael Beasley) are beginning to play a growing role in this and other awards. We do have a few issues with the list, which you will see more of over the next few weeks as we unveil our “Impact Players” by region. For today we will just focus on our favorites and some notable freshman who were left off the list, but we expect to be in the running for the actual award later this season. We will leave off the non-freshman omissions because frankly we do not expect any of them to factor into the final ballots.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #29 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#29- Where NPOY Happens

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Recruiting Rumor Mill: 09.20.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 20th, 2010

Dear NCAA,
We promise that we have not had any contact with recruits outside the parameters set forth by your upstanding institution.

Sincerely,
Rush the Court

  • Obviously the big news this past week has been the punishment of Bruce Pearl and the effect it would have on Tennessee‘s ability to recruit. It looks like some players including RTC favorite Adonis Thomas are beginning to express some reservations about going to a school that is sure to be closely followed by the NCAA.
  • The big actual recruiting news is that Arizona landed Josiah Turner, the #3 ranked point guard in this year’s class. Now Sean Miller faces an interesting dilemma — how to fit all his scholarship players onto a roster in light of the NCAA sanctions against them stemming from the Lute Olson era. One of the recruits that many expect the Wildcats to be in contention for is LeBryan Nash, but it appears like the talented small forward is leaning towards Oklahoma State over Arizona, Kansas, and Baylor.

    Sean Miller will be counting on Turner to turn the Wildcats around

  • Speaking of point guards. . . Austin Rivers, the de facto #1 point guard in the country and possibly the top player in the country, has narrowed his list down to three schools — Duke, UNC, and Kansas – after eliminating Florida from consideration. Some are speculating that Duke, which many consider to be the leader in the Rivers sweepstakes, could land both Rivers and Quinn Cook. [Ed. Note: Is Coach K cool with his star player and a potential recruit hanging out with Michael Beasley, a player of questionable character?]
  • Ohio State received a commitment from Sam Thompson, one of the top small forwards in this year’s class, with a little help from Evan Turner, who apparently has been texting Thompson to convince him to go to Columbus [Ed. Note: Is this allowed by the NCAA?].
  • With all of these top recruits committing it is interesting and somewhat refreshing to see Norvel Pelle, the #2 center in this year’s senior class, just beginning to take home visits.
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