Feast Week is almost here. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments over the next couple weeks, our Feast Week Mission Briefings begin today with Oklahoma in the Tire Pros Invitational.
Catching Up:Oklahoma upperclassmen Jordan Woodard and Khadeem Lattin were projected to have much bigger roles this season, and it’s already clear after just one game (a season-opening 97-61 win over Northwestern State) that they will. Lattin on Sunday notched his third career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Woodard poured in 16 points and collected five rebounds. Oklahoma’s big lead also allowed young players such as freshman Matt Freeman, who came off the bench to score 15 points, to get involved. The fact that Lon Kruger’s team easily managed a 97-61 victory is a good sign, but a win over an 0-2 team that ranks among the bottom 60 teams nationally in the KenPom rankings won’t be found on the front page of Oklahoma’s final NCAA Tournament resume.
Lon Kruger, one of the Big 12’s best on the sidelines, will once again have Oklahoma right in the thick of things. (CBS Sports)
Opening Round Preview: Tulane hosted North Carolina last Friday night to open the season and was quickly dispatched, 95-75. The Green Wave then returned Monday to beat Southeastern Louisiana, 93-76. Longtime NBA head coach Mike Dunleavy is now the man in charge in New Orleans, but it will take him some time to instill his values and system into a program that has long been considered a basketball backwater. If Oklahoma beats Tulane, the Sooners will then face the winner of Arizona State and Northern Iowa on Friday — both of which are beatable. Read the rest of this entry »
Feast Week brought chaos. A lot of chaos. Six RTC25 teams lost twice and several more experienced one setback. Amid the chaos, previously unranked Syracuse and previously-#22 Xavier were able to grab several impressive victories and show they will be forces to reckon with for the balance of the season. The Orange were the surprise champions of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament after earning wins over Charlotte, #24 Connecticut and #18 Texas A&M. Jim Boeheim’s unit was led to the title by the stellar play of seniors Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije along with the emergence of freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon. Xavier was equally as impressive in taking home the AdvoCare Invitational crown. The Musketeers notched victories over Alabama and USC before blowing out Dayton in the tournament’s title game, and the relative balance of Chris Mack’s lineup was on display all weekend. After very impressive Feast Week performances, it will be intriguing to watch whether the Orange and Musketeers can keep the good vibes rolling through the non-conference portion of the season. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty is after the jump.
In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, beginning with Kansas State in Maui.
Catching Up: Kansas State travels to the Maui Invitational with plenty of questions still unanswered. The Wildcats beat up on Southern Utah, played UMKC closer than fans probably expected (winning by 10), and lost on the road at Long Beach State, 69-60, on Friday. The Wildcats have a solid core of Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams, Stephen Hurt and Nigel Johnson, and are good (but not great) in most offensive categories. Thomas Gipson leads the team with 17.0 PPG and 6.7 RPG.
Marcus Foster will need a few big games to give Kansas State a Maui Invitational championship.
Opening Game Preview: The Wildcats will face Purdue today and if they win they will face the winner of the Missouri/Arizona game tomorrow. Purdue is 3-0 but hasn’t been tested, with wins over Samford, IUPUI, and Grambling State. The Boilermakers are led by a trio of players averaging double-figures, center Isaac Haas (11.3 PPG), forward Kendall Stephens (13.3 PPG), and guard Vince Edwards (13.7 PPG). KenPom, however, shows us that sophomore guard Bryson Scott is the focal point of Purdue’s offense. He leads the team with a usage rate of 29.8 percent, meaning that nearly a third of Purdue’s possessions have ended because of Scott’s activity. Expect to see the ball in Scott’s hands more than anyone else today — through three games, he is averaging 6.7 PPG with a 35.7 shooting percentage.
Here’s hoping everyone out there in College Basketball Nation had a tryptophantastic Feast Week of hoops, hops and holiday cheer (please, take the keyboard away from us now). With so much great action around the western hemisphere last week, the RTC Podcast crew (hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114)) had a lot to catch up on this week. We think we did our best, as you can see below with the long laundry list of topics that we tried to cover.
ESPN Analyst Dan Dakich Joins Us on This Week’s RTC Podcast
We also welcomed ESPN analyst Dan Dakich to the Rush the Takes segment of the show this week, as he gave us some takes on Feast Week as well as some of the upcoming Big Ten/ACC Challenge match-ups set to tip off later tonight (he’ll be in Syracuse for the Orange and Hoosiers). The rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.
Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2013
Today we will review the final six early season tournaments involving ACC teams. To see the recap we did covering the first seven such events, click here. The ACC completed a successful Feast Week with two more championships giving the conference a total of five titles in 13 tournaments. This performance should give the ACC some momentum going into this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With another good week, perhaps the conference will overcome the negative impact from some of those bad early non-conference losses.
Syracuse Wins the EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time. (Photo: mauiinvitational.com)
Syracuse became the second ACC newcomer to win an early-season tournament by beating #18 Baylor 74-67 in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Wednesday night. That followed wins over Minnesota, 75-67, and California, 92-81. Senior C.J. Fair was named the tournament MVP while averaging 18 points for the three games and tallying 24 in the finals. Also impressive was freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who scored 28 in the semifinals over Cal, and had an outstanding 18 to two assist-to-turnover ratio for the tournament. With the Orange’s third Maui championship along with Pittsburgh’s title in the Progressive Legends Classic, the new ACC schools are serving notice that they are ready to compete at the top of their new conference.
Duke did not fare as well in the other marquee Feast Week event, the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York’s Madison Square Garden. After beating Alabama 74-64 in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Blue Devils fell to #4 Arizona, 72-66, in Friday’s championship game. Coming into the week Duke’s defense had been struggling mightily and was the focus for improvement by Mike Kzyzewski. The Devils did look much better on that end of the court against good competition, but another glaring issue has not been resolved. Duke is still searching for production from its primary big man position – Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson combined for only two points in a total of 69 minutes over the two games.
We’re so close. Tomorrow around this time, we’ll all be looking at getting ready for opening night. Sure, there may not be a whole lot to look forward to this weekend involving Pac-12 teams, but it will be good just to see what some of these teams look like in the early going. And, of course, we’ve got plenty of things to look forward to this year around the conference. We kept it simple this week and gave our correspondents a chance to peer into the future.
“What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming Pac-12 season?”
Kevin Danna:November and December. Forget conference play, forget conference tournaments, forget the Big Dance. November and December are where conferences earn their keep — in the non-conference slate. These have been two months that have absolutely haunted the Pac-12 ever since the likes of James Harden, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison skipped town. If the Pac is going to get “bac” to 2007-08 form, its constituents MUST take care of business in these two months. Since the theme of 2012-13 seems to be restoring respectability to the conference, November and December is by far the most intriguing time of the year. Everyone needs to do its part — can UCLA take down Georgetown and put up a worthy fight against Indiana? How will Stanford fare in the Bahamas and on the road at NC State and Northwestern? What about Cal — can the Golden Bears finally get a meaningful road non-conference win when they travel to Madison to take on the Badgers? Top to bottom, it will be very interesting to see how the Pac-12 fares against other leagues. A .500 record against ranked opponents and things are looking up; another 9-38 job against the RPI Top 50, and we’re looking at another two-bid league.
Adam Butler:The Seniors. It’s the same reason we all tuned in to Chipper Jones this year and why we urge our champions to go out on top. The college senior gets no such urging. He is not afforded the luxury of choice because time hath run its course. He must come to grips with his own mortality. This is when legacies are cemented and special things happen. Or hearts are broken. I’ll never forget Kyle Fogg’s tear through the second half of the Pac-12 season last year. He garnered two Player of the Week awards en route to willing the Wildcats to the Pac-12 championship game. They’d lose that game and Kyle Fogg would barely play another game; taking a meager five shots in a first round NIT loss. As for this season’s crop of seniors, I’m excited about what Jio Fontan can do for the Trojans. He’s a terrific story and a ball of heart who finds himself – a year removed from ACL reconstruction – with a newly talented roster and a chance at turning heads. Does that story sound familiar? It should because Abdul Gaddy is dealing with the same situation in Seattle. He’ll be doing it alongside another knee reconstruct and his co-captain, Scott Suggs. These are classic comeback tales I’ll follow from the edge of my seat. And while we’re talking about comebacks, how about Kevin Parrom? He lost grandma and mom and then was shot. Then his foot broke. I don’t care who your team is, you have to root for this kid. Also on his team is Solomon Hill who has developed into a leader and player to be feared. Hill will have the opportunity to cement himself as a Wildcat great, the beginning of the Miller era not unlike a Kerr or Elliott began the Olson era (way hyperbolic there and, frankly, no way Hill is in their league; although rings can do weird things, ask Frodo – wow full tangent). We of course can’t leave Mark Lyons, EJ Singler, Brock Motum (yes!), Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, Jason Washburn, Larry Drew II, and Carrick Felix off the list of must watch swan songs. These are the guys, the stories, that make the college game our favorite.
John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC. His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.
Ah, Thanksgiving week. As if ESPN’s 24-hour binge of college basketball last week wasn’t enough, here comes the oh-so-appropriately-named Feast Week, another avalanche of hoops awesomeness spread out over seven days that not only launches college basketball right back into the middle of the sports radar where it belongs, but also goes great with Thanksgiving leftovers, paid days off of work, as well as pizza and garlic bread (in case you’re sick of all that turkey by Saturday’s games). Aside from the month of March, it doesn’t get much better than this for college hoops fans. The daytime games, the intriguing match-ups…good God, who would want to brave the lines on Black Friday? THIS is the way to kick off the holiday season.
The holiday tournaments are a great time to familiarize oneself with the big boys of the game – see UNC in Maui, Georgetown in the Old Spice Classic (why are these tournaments called ‘classics’ when they’re 2-3 years old?), and so forth – since some of them might be making their first appearances on national television. I’ve always thought one of the best things about the holiday onslaught of games was the opportunity to find a team that wasn’t getting much hype and, if they give one of the highly-ranked teams a game or even pull off an upset, follow them throughout the season and maybe use them in March when I’m doing way too much bracket-filling analysis, if there is such a thing. I mean, we all know about Carolina and Oklahoma and Michigan State. Who will we see that bears watching in these Thanksgiving tournaments that we haven’t been hearing a lot about? Here, in my opinion, are a couple of squads to keep an eye on not just over this holiday weekend but also to see how they mature over the course of the season: Read the rest of this entry »