Morning Five: 05.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. In yesterday’s M5, we linked to an LA Times article exploring how new USC head coach Andy Enfield is taking to his new environs in Hollywood. What’s been forgotten amid all the buzz surrounding Enfield is the school that allowed him to become a household name in the first place — Florida Gulf Coast. According to the Fort Myers (FL) News-Press, new head coach Joe Dooley has been adjusting to the job through a whirlwind of recruiting trips, a national search for an assistant coach, and getting to know his returning players. One interesting idea put forth in the article is that Dooley appears to be looking at graduating seniors with another year of eligibility as a quick solution to gather some quick elite-level talent. It’s not a bad thought, especially considering that the brand recognition of FGCU is likely to give the program a number of marquee non-conference games next season, a nice selling point for players at bigger schools who might be looking to trade down for one year.
  2. Mike DeCourcy is back with his Starting Five column this week, and he took some time out from his trip to the British Isles to tackle several interesting subjects: notably, Andrew Wiggins, Andy Enfield, and our favorite, RTCing. On the subject of Wiggins and where he thinks he’s headed (or should head) next season, he couldn’t have been more politically savvy, writing 200 words on the “prediction” without actually answering his own question! With respect to Enfield, he gives the new USC head coach a puncher’s chance at making Trojans basketball a hot ticket, but we’re in agreement with him that the focus of the school on football makes it a very tough place to become truly relevant. Finally, he also attacks the practice of RTCing as a “massive potential liability,” and of course he’s right on that point — but it’s also incredibly fun for the students involved, and love it or hate it — ahem, we fall in the love category — it’s one of the few unique traditions that college basketball can claim as its very own, and we hope that it remains part of that fabric of the sport for as long as we’re around.
  3. Yesterday’s transfer news includes a couple of good players looking to take advantage of the graduate exception to play their final season immediately at their new location. Florida State forward Terrence Shannon announced that he will enroll at VCU for his last campaign, giving Shaka Smart’s already-talented Rams a big and athletic post player who can team up with Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham in an outstanding frontcourt next season. Out west, Arizona State’s Evan Gordon has been granted his release and is rumored to be considering a transfer closer to his home in Indiana for his last season. The obvious choice for Gordon would be Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, given that older brother Eric played in Bloomington a few years ago, and the personnel losses that IU faces this offseason. As players around the country move toward graduation and recognize the immediate value of this exception, we expect to see quite a few more of these free agency situations before the month is out. Somewhere up in Wisconsin, Bo Ryan just kicked his dog.
  4. One of the best movies of all-time is the documentary Hoop Dreams, a Chicago prep basketball saga that follows the high school careers of William Gates and Arthur Agee through their many ups and downs. Both Gates and Agee have reached middle age by now, but they remain quasi-celebrities by virtue of their affiliation with the movie and the raw reality of the stories they told. The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg tells the story of William Gates, Jr., Gates’ son, who as a high school senior at Samuel Clemens High School in San Antonio, just recently accepted a scholarship offer to play Division I basketball at Furman. Anyone who struggled with the disappointments that the elder Gates suffered after blowing out his knee in Chicago two decades ago has to love this story of a family’s redemption. Great piece of work here.
  5. Finally, in a sad testimony of just how far the industry of journalism has fallen (and the end seemingly nowhere in sight), the New York Daily News laid off longtime college basketball scribe Dick “Hoops” Weiss. A mentor to many in the business and a true gentleman admired by everyone privileged to have met him at MSG or one of his 40+ trips to the NCAA Tournament, we surely hope that he will find a comfortable landing spot somewhere else. It’s a shame that someone so influential to the game of college basketball for nearly a half-century can be thrown out like yesterday’s news, but as we’ve said many times before, the modern era of reporting and sports writing seemingly will not stop itself in its vulgar race to the very bottom.
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Morning Five: 04.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2013

morning5

  1. As we mentioned yesterday Marcus Smart announced that he would return to Oklahoma State and now he will have some company as Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown also announced that they will be returning to Stillwater. We has won’t get into the debate about whether or not Smart should have left because every writer has either chimed in for it, against it, or (our personal favorite) railed against those who were for it or against it. Although they did not rise from a stage in a ridiculous ceremony held in Miami three summers ago it should be cause for celebration as the Cowboys are now legitimate Big 12 contenders. We still would not bet against Bill Self, but the Big 12 race just got a lot more interesting.
  2. The mood in Ann Arbor was not quite as festive, but the decision by Tim Hardaway Jr. to leave Michigan a year early was expected by many. We are not completely sold on Hardaway Jr. ever becoming a NBA starter, but he certainly has the requisite physical skills and a good enough outside shot that he will get some looks from NBA teams. One of the more interesting things about his game is how little it has progressed (at least in terms of his statistics) over his three years at Michigan. We don’t normally advocate players leaving school early unless they think they are guaranteed a NBA roster spot (read: are assured of being a first round pick), but Hardaway Jr. has not shown as much progression from one season to the next as you would hope and this year’s class is weak (and his family should be financially secure) so we think it is a reasonable decision.
  3. If Hardaway Jr or any other Michigan players need any advice they can always turn to team captain Josh Bartelstein, the son of NBA agent Mark Bartelstein who has a fairly impressive list of clients, Based on the advice that Josh offered for the article it sounds like he would be a pretty good place for these players to start. We are sure that plenty of other schools have alumni that offer advice to players about whether or not they should or should not go, but probably very few are able to do so through current players. It will be interesting to see if the Michigan players decide to sign with Josh’s father.
  4. Florida Gulf Coast has had one of the more unique coaching searches for a mid-major given the sudden popularity of “Dunk City”, which the city is still calling itself in press releases. Yesterday the school announced that Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley would be the school’s head coach. Dooley may not be the huge name that some people thought the school could get, but realistically an assistant at one of the top programs in the country who also has head coaching experience (with a winning record) is a solid get for a school that most people did not know existed two months ago. Dooley has a reputation as a great recruiter although you can argue that being at Kansas helps a lot in doing that, but he should have some advantages (location and a style of play that appeals to recruits if he chooses to keep it) that could help him be successful in his new job.
  5. Yesterday Cincinnati announced that it would be extending Mick Cronin‘s contract, which should not be a surprise, but we have to say we are somewhat surprised by the length of the extension: one year with the possibility of three more years. Cronin, who already has four years left on his contact, can have the extension go from one year to three years if the Bearcats in either of the next two years. Cronin certainly is deserving of an extension given his team’s performance, but we have to wonder why the school would give him such a short extension with the understanding it is planning on keeping him for at least five more years. We just don’t see the point in adding on one year at this point.
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Forget Dunk City, Andy Enfield Is Off to a Great Start at USC

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 17th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

For all the high-flying showmanship and unexpected brilliance of Florida Gulf Coast’s NCAA Tournament run, and the commensurately growing coaching legend of Eagles head man Andy Enfield, there were skeptics, and most of those skeptics brought forth the same boring but altogether legitimate grievance. Are we really supposed to believe a one-week wonder from Fort Myers, Florida has all of a sudden, by virtue of a fluky Cinderella run, morphed into a prime candidate for a high-profile power conference job? Who made Enfield the next great on-court tactician, something more than a laissez faire personality who unleashed a group of young and brash and under-recruited athletes on an unsuspecting NCAA Tournament? Wasn’t Dunk City more about Brett Comer and company than Enfield himself?

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he's on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he’s on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

It is easy to see how Enfield could get tabbed with the “one-week wonder” label. The NCAA Tournament can accomplish many things. One of the most timelessly pervasive is the elevation of otherwise lesser-known coaches into consideration for more prominent jobs. Steve Alford’s No. 3 seed New Mexico lost to Harvard in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament; UCLA paved the way (forcing Alford to renege on his 10-year contract extension almost immediately) for his arrival. Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown and San Diego State; Enfield got a pay raise, a basketball program with promise (if not actual historical success) and a new California lifestyle to boot. March is a magical time.

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Wrapping Up the 2012-13 Season: The 10 Biggest Stories

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 12th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The awesomeness of the national title game almost makes you wish the season had another five months of games to offer us. It doesn’t, of course, which means it’s about time we start glaring into the blank expanse of another long offseason. But before we move ahead, before we start counting down the months, weeks and days until tip-off 2013 (Midnight Madness!), let us go back and review the stories that defined the 2012-13 season. I’m talking about the headlines with the most resounding impact – not always the rosiest or most enjoyable developments. That means good and bad, but hopefully more good. If you kept a pulse on the game this year, the following tropes will strike a familiar note, positive or otherwise; if not, then where exactly have you been since November? In the interest of not dragging out this preamble, let’s turn to the matter at hand and count off 10 of the 2012-13 season’s biggest storylines.

(* in no particular order)

Kentucky. The domination and instant stardom of Kentucky circa 2012 had the poll voters convinced: the Wildcats had perpetually solved the one-and-done riddle, and everything that happened during that Anthony Davis-led title season would become something like a yearly occurrence for John Calipari’s team. Calipari would recruit the best players, mold them into a national champion-caliber outfit, and repeat the whole process again the next year. Clockwork. So Kentucky entered the reason ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll. This seemed like a reasonably fair assessment at the time; another loaded recruiting class, the residual winning momentum of the previous season, a once-recruiter turned excellent head coach who seemed to have this recruit, develop and draft thing figured out was evidence enough that the Wildcats would turn in another deep-Tournament run with the same freshmen-lead constitution that had brought the BBN so many good memories during the first few years of Calipari’s tenure. Kentucky needed to get to the Tournament first, and as the season wore on and the flaws of UK’s roster construction – almost zero experience to speak of, the absence of a true leader, the realization that not all highly-recruited freshmen are Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – became evidently obvious, reality sunk in: Kentucky wasn’t going to make it.

One year after winning a national title, Kentucky missed out on the NCAA Tournament (Getty Images).

One year after winning a national title, Kentucky missed out on the NCAA Tournament (Getty Images).

A season-ending ACL injury to star center Nerlens Noel in February doomed the Wildcats’ chances, but the speculation hung right up until Selection Sunday, and when the Wildcats were passed over by the likes of Middle Tennessee, La Salle and Saint Mary’s, the only question remaining (a minor one, to be sure) was how motivated John Calipari’s team would be in a prospective NIT matchup at eight-seed Robert Morris. Yes, Kentucky, college hoops royalty at its purest, was being asked to finish its season on the road in Moon Township, PA., Calipari’s home town. And yes, Kentucky fell to the Colonials, prompting a rare NIT court storm from a packed Charles L. Sewall Center, a fitting end to a season that never lived up to the one preceding it. The backdrop to UK’s sudden plunge was that Calipari, seemingly undeterred by the chaos of the regular season, was assembling a recruiting class for the ages, built on six five-star commitments and still waiting word on the player many consider to be the best high school product since LeBron James, Andrew Wiggins. The BBN will be back in 2013, rest assured, but their dramatic fall from grace this year is not lost.

The Big Ten Was Awesome. We began the season with the highest of expectations about the Big Ten. Five of its teams (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin) began the season in the top 25, Indiana was a unanimous pick for preseason No. 1 and the top-to-bottom depth, just as much as the upper-tier quality, were huge selling points for a league many billed to not only outclass every other major conference this season, but also go down as one of the most dominant versions of any league in recent memory. The Big Ten didn’t disappoint us. Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin waged intense wars in blaring campus gyms on a weekly basis, shocking upsets were sprung (Penn State over Michigan, Northwestern over Minnesota, Wisconsin at Indiana, etc.) and the league grew to corner the market on the most exciting brand of high-powered, tense, must-watch hoops in the country. It was good from start to finish, all the way up to the NCAA Tournament, where four teams survived the first weekend to land a spot in each of the four regional sites.

In the end, only one made it to the Final Four – ironically, of the four Big Ten teams left standing, Michigan was probably the biggest surprise of them all; they were widely pegged to lost their round-of-32 bout with VCU – and after fending off a nightmarish Syracuse 2-3 zone no one else had managed to decode during Tournament play, the Wolverines lost a close but thrilling national championship game. The lasting memory from the 2012 Big Ten, beyond all the consistent regular season drama and Victor Oladipo’s star turn and Trey Burke’s brilliance and Wisconsin’s remarkable year-to-year consistency, will be Spike Albrecht – for the sheer fact that Albrecht, on the last and most important date of the season, not only scored an unfathomable 17 points in 16 minutes while NPOY-sweeping Burke, hit with two early fouls, was fixed to the bench. It was awesome because Albrecht followed up his once-in-a-lifetime night by milking every last drip of his newfound celebrity: Spike tweeted at international modeling icon Kate Upton after learning of Upton’s attendance at the national championship game. Like I said, Big Ten: Awesome. There’s no confusion here.

Officiating Controversies. There is no escaping one lamentable truism about the 2012-13 season: the referees were not very good. Overall, on a composite game-by-game measure, the quality and consistency of officiating was rather low. Even if that’s just an arbitrary and fuzzy subjective measure, I can take it one step further. Just off the top of my head, I can point out three calls that directly affected the outcomes of important game. The first happened in Colorado’s January 3 road game at Arizona. The Buffaloes took the No. 3 Wildcats to the wire, and on the final possession, with the game knotted at 83, Colorado reserve guard Sabatino Chen banked in a wild three at the buzzer. GIFS and close-ups slowly made the rounds on Twitter, and most every angle confirmed what the real-time game tape appeared to say: Chen’s shot was good. The zebras thought otherwise – the shot was discounted. We later learned that standard definition replay monitors (the Pac 12 doesn’t use HD screens as a cost-saving measure) may have impaired the referees’ ability to clearly determine whether Chen’s shot went off before the buzzer. Like, Really? Incident No. 2: Kansas’ road win at Iowa State, wherein guard Elijah Johnson’s drive into Cyclones forward Georges Niang, resulting in an objectively false block call, actually merited an independent review from the Big 12 conference. Or, even better, we can talk about the national championship game, where Trey Burke’s perfectly clean block on Peyton Siva with just over five minutes remaining put the game seemingly out of reach for the Wolverines.

block

I’ve never felt comfortable pinning the outcomes of games entirely on the backs of officials; teams decide the games, referees impartially monitor the proceedings and anything that gets in the way is but another challenge in a game full of them. Everything evens out in the end, on balance. But then you get calls like Burke’s block and Niang’s blocking foul and the countless gaffes I failed to mention above, and it gets to a point where the competence and on-sight decision making of the most important third-party in sports is called into serious question. The Ed Rush Pac-12 officiating scandal only added more stink to the skeptical aura surrounding the entire profession. Officials are going to make mistakes. Judgments will be misguided. The human element of the game is not infallible. True. True. True. When the neutrality of those officials becomes a topic of debate, and we can’t wholeheartedly confide in those officials to respect the integrity of the game, the problem transcends mere block-charge minutiae or ticky-tack holding calls. The whole premise of a level playing field in college athletics is thrown into sharp scrutiny.

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Morning Five: Morning After Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. Normally the day after the NCs AA Championship Game leaves feeling a little empty inside with the long off-season ahead, but last night’s game (and the first half in particular) was so ridiculously good that we are still buzzing from it. College basketball may not be at the same level it was in the 1980s, but as last night demonstrated it can still be amazing. So while we will miss college basketball for the next six month (we count practice) last night was a nice parting gift.
  2. Last night may have been huge for Louisville‘s fans in terms of cementing themselves among the nation’s elite programs particularly with the Goliath next door, but according to research by Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, Cardinal fans have nothing to worry about as their program was  already the most valuable in college basketball. We have not had a chance to analyze the methodology for the valuations and we have seen some pretty ridiculous valuation models over the years (see hundreds of Internet IPOs), but the top 10 looks fairly reasonable even if we don’t agree with the order. If we get a chance to analyze the valuation models in more detail we will post more on it at a later date.
  3. The night may have belonged to Louisville, but it was still a special night for 11 other individuals (and Rick Pitino) who were announced as the newest inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The headliners for us were the men’s coaches–Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian, and Guy Lewis–all of whom should have been inducted long ago particularly the latter two. This year’s class may not have the standout name that grabs the headlines like Michael Jordan or the Dream Team have done in recent years, but as usual it should be another memorable class and we cannot say there is anybody in the group with whom we can see anybody making a reasonable argument against induction.
  4. There will be plenty of news about players deciding to enter the NBA Draft over the next few days, but players are already transferring and we have noted several over the past few days. The most recent entries into the transfer pool are Pe’Shon Howard who is leaving Maryland and Anrio Adams who initially left Kansas then tried coming back before apparently being told that he was not needed any more. Howard appears to be leaving for family reasons as his grandmother is apparently quite sick. We don’t know all the details of his family situation, but it appears that his grandparents had a big role in raising him and he wants to be near her for his final season of eligibility. The Adams saga is a little more complex and as the above link alludes to Adams brought a lot of this on himself with his use of social media to announce publicly that he was transferring rather than discussing it with the coaching staff.
  5. The coaching carousel may already started filling many of its open seats, but the position at Florida Gulf Coast is still open after the surprising departure of Andy Enfield to USC, but it looks like they are narrowing down the list of potential candidates. As you would expect the opening has generated more interest than you would expect for a program of FGCU’s caliber. Perhaps the thought of living in Naples (overrated in our opinion) is attractive to many coaches, but the opening has drawn some big names most notably former NBA coach Eric Musselman, who also submitted his name for consideration for the job in 2011 before being beaten out by Enfield. Personally we think the opening is overrated, but perhaps the appeal of the team’s style might lure some recruits that otherwise would never consider the school.
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Pac-12 M5: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 1st, 2013

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  1. Dan Wetzel broke the news over the weekend that USC is targeting Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield to be hired at the same position. Enfield, of course, led his Eagles to victories in seven of their final eight games on a magical run to the Sweet Sixteen. While there may be some reservations about hiring a coach whose team was inconsistent for the majority of the season, there is no question that Enfield’s high-octane, “Dunk City” offense could appeal to a Los Angeles crowd. And for a team that has struggled mightily to draw the average fan to the Galen Center, Enfield would be a perfect fit. Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins also remains a candidate for the job.
  2. With some preseason projections hailing UCLA as a top 10 team, it would have been nearly impossible for Shabazz Muhammad and company to live up to the expectations bestowed upon them by its ever-demanding fan-base and local media. And while a 20-point upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament isn’t the way any of the Bruins wanted to go out, it shouldn’t stain the superb freshmen season of Muhammad. The guard/forward led the team with 17.8 PPG, and also sprinkled in 5.3 RPG. Sure, he invited criticism and controversy (whether deserved or not) while not going to celebrate with his teammates after Larry Drew II’s game-winner, or wearing a black Gucci backpack after a road victory in Tucson, but all in all, the season was a personal success for the freshman.
  3. Five star small forward Aaron Gordon will announce his long-awaited college decision on Wednesday night during the McDonald’s All-American Game. Gordon appears to now be considering Pac-12 schools exclusively, with the group being Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. Kentucky was in the mix as well, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. There were whispers of the Bruins making a late push to grab the blue-chip prospect out of San Jose (the connection being new coach Steve Alford having coached UCLA transfer and former New Mexico star Drew Gordon, who happens to be Aaron’s brother), but that too is an extreme long shot.
  4. There are 12 teams still playing college basketball in the 2012-13 season, and none of those happen to play in the Pac-12. That means the worst part of the year, the long and torturous off-season, is upon us. But there are also things to look forward to at Arizona, as Bruce Pascoe points out. From the maturing of last season’s freshmen, to point guard T.J. McConnell taking over the offense and providing a true one for the Wildcat offense, to a long shot waiver request, we’ll certainly have our eyes on the desert in the coming months. 
  5. The coaching carousel continued to spin out west this weekend when Cal State Fullerton hired Dedrique Taylor away from his post as the associate head coach at Arizona State. The Titans opted to go with an interim head coach for the entirety of the 2012-13 season, but needed to change that after Andy Newman posted just a 14-18 record. Taylor will be a good fit at CSUF, being a California native and working previous stints at UC Davis and Loyola Marymount. He was named one of Basketball Scoop’s National Coaches of the Year in 2009.
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ATB: A Huge Michigan Comeback, Dunk City’s Swan Song and Duke Holds Off Sparty…

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 30th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Sweet 16 Part Deux. At the risk of sounding blunt or insensitive, there is no shame in calling Thursday night’s Sweet 16 match-ups exactly what they were: dry, boring, dull, a monotonous combination of the three. The most surprising outcomes of the night – Syracuse’s win over Indiana; Marquette’s blowout of Miami – disrupted the Miami-Indiana Elite 8 match-up forecasted on most bracket sheets, but the nature of said disruption was never in doubt. The Golden Eagles and Orange were in control from the start; folks spent much of both games lamenting the reasons behind the top seed carnage and ruing their teams’ demises on Twitter and saying the sorts of irrational things irritant fans are wont to say at times of sudden grief. Wichita State and La Salle was just as one-sided – the Shockers’ battered John Giannini’s team on the glass and corralled its guard-oriented attack into an aimless game of roadrunning hot-potato. The only game of any real entertainment value was Ohio State-Arizona, with LaQuinton Ross providing the buzzer-beating highlight of the night. We entered Friday night’s prospectively titillating slate with hopes of widespread competitiveness and high-strung tension, and with Florida Gulf Coast pitted against Florida in the most unlikely of in-state bragging rights games, Michigan State and Duke meeting in a Hall of Fame coaching legacy grudge match, the forecast showed promise. So, did Friday night redeem the Sweet 16 after Thursday night’s plainly mediocre lineup?

Your watercooler moment. The Best Game Of The Season? 

Storming back in the final moments to tie Kansas, then win in overtime, Michigan's resolve and determination down the stretch was something to behold (Getty Images).

Storming back in the final moments to tie Kansas, then win in overtime, Michigan’s resolve and determination down the stretch was something to behold (Getty Images).

Late in the second half, as Kansas spread its scoring output among all five starters in almost equal measure, it began to look as if  the Jayhawks’ veteran lineup was going to hold off Michigan’s young charges for a trip to the Elite 8. That prediction looked safer than ever with just under four minutes remaining and Kansas leading by 11. The rest seemed academic – all Kansas needed to do was play sound and turnover-free basketball over the final minutes, shepherd home a comfortable victory, carry out a quick locker room celebration and rest up for a Final Four entry game Sunday. Nice season Michigan, you had your fun, now go home and enjoy the rest of this Tournament from a nice, comfortable, TV-appointed couch. Hand shakes and bro hugs. All that good stuff. Or so Kansas thought: Trey Burke did not subscribe to that logic, nor did the rest of his teammates, as the Wolverines erased KU’s lead on a 22-8 run powered and concluded by Burke’s overtime-inducing, ice-cold, 30-foot jumper with five seconds remaining. The blown lead was just as much a product of Kansas’ own mistakes as it was Burke’s sheer brilliance, but the unquantifiably crucial momentum advantage had fallen towards the Wolverines, and the overtime period played out much the way you’d expect. A questionable last-possession drive-and-dish from Elijah Johnson sealed Michigan’s win, along with its first appearance in a regional final since the Fab Five heyday. If One Shining Moments can be had in advance of the National Championship game, Burke’s came in the second half and overtime Friday night (he went scoreless in the first half). His game-tying three was the most visible highlight of a 23-point, 10-assist performance that will forever be remembered in Wolverines lore as the most willful single-half effort of  Michigan’s 21st century hoops resurgence. Burke is the best player left in this field, and he couldn’t have made a stronger statement to validate that title than what he did Friday night.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 62, #15 Florida Gulf Coast 50

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2013

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Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It is about fundamentals. Dunk City was fun while it lasted, but in the end your idea of execution has to go beyond just throwing up lobs. America fell in love with Florida Gulf Coast’s style of play, which consisted of aggression consistently being taken out against the rim. When it is working it is a beautiful thing to watch, but when it doesn’t it can get ugly very quickly. After jumping out to a 24-14 lead with 5:23 left in the first half the wheels came off the Dunk City bandwagon very quickly as Florida went on a 16-0 run to go up 30-24 and they never looked back. Although the Gators never pulled away (their largest was 12 with 7:25 left) the game never seemed in doubt as the swagger that Florida Gulf Coast exhibited for nearly 2.5 games of the NCAA Tournament disappeared and appeared tentative despite the occasional flashy dunk.
  2. Florida will have to play better if they expect to beat Michigan on Sunday. Beating a team that has been as hot as Florida Gulf Coast has been is never an easy task, but Florida did not look like a national title contender against an overmatched team with the exception of their 16-0 run late in the first half. They had multiple chances to put the game away, but let Florida Gulf Coast hang around. Mike Rosario played well, but none of the Gators played that well. It was a sloppy effort overall and should raise concerns for a team without a true leader and one that has still not won a close game.
  3. What’s next for Andy Enfield? The Florida Gulf Coast coach has become something like an Internet sensation for a variety of reasons–his wife, career at Johns Hopkins, and business career–and this has led to some speculation that he might be moving onto another job. We won’t dismiss that possibility, but we would probably point to a mid-major opening created by someone leaving for Minnesota or UCLA. No reasonable athletic director (ok, maybe we are assuming too much) would consider someone who coached a good, but not exceptional team that just happened to get hot and matched up against vulnerable teams. Despite their run in the NCAA Tournament they are not even considered heavy favorites to win the Atlantic Sun again next year. If Enfield can build on this and make a successful, sustainable program, then perhaps he can dream about a big-time job.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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Sweet Sixteen Preview: Highlighting One Thing to Watch For Each Team

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 27th, 2013

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Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Two rounds of NCAA Tournament play have come and gone. Favorites have flopped, upsets have left bracket-wielding fans frustrated everywhere and Florida Gulf Coast is in the Sweet Sixteen. That last one still doesn’t register; how does a team that gained full Division I postseason eligibility just this season, with an entrepreneurial and supermodel-boasting wife in tow pushing them along the whole way, knock off, in sequence, National Player of the Year and projected lottery pick Otto Porter, then follow it up by utterly demoralizing Jamaal Franklin and San Diego State?

Of all the interesting storylines heading into the Sweet 16, none is more captivating than Florida Gulf Coast (Getty Images).

Of all the interesting storylines heading into the Sweet Sixteen, none is more captivating than Florida Gulf Coast (Getty Images).

Everyone will have their eyes on FGCU to see what happens next, naturally, but the next round of bracket proceedings, the Sweet Sixteen, offers more than one team, one storyline, one Brett Comer lob, to watch. Here are 16 items, one specific to each team, to keep an eye on — with the common denominator of shining a new analytical light on each match-up. If Florida Gulf Coast has already revolutionized everything we’ve come to know about today’s scoring-averse, slowdown, micro-managed game, where does that leave us – the humble writers who serve to clarify, in long form, what you see on the court – in attempting to understand the remaining rounds of this Tournament? Onward:

1. Is Louisville The Best Thing On The Block? It sure looks that way, and that’s without even seeing Louisville come up against a team capable of challenging Russ Smith and Peyton Siva on the perimeter, of pulling Gorgui Dieng away from the basket, and decoding Louisville’s No. 1 efficiency defense. Colorado State was the closest thing, and the Rams were hopelessly overmatched on both ends of the floor. The Cardinals got the good side of Russ Smith in that match-up, scoring 27 points and committing just one turnover, and when that happens and Louisville maintains its trademark stingy point-prevention, Rick Pitino’s team is tough to beat. The question is whether Oregon, criminally underseeded as a #12, can use its bruising defensive style to counter the Cardinals’ championship formula. Louisville has done nothing thus far to refute its national frontrunner status, and unless Ducks coach Dana Altman can poke holes in U of L’s defensive fortress with Damyeon Dotson and E.J. Singler on the perimeter, and Arsalan Kazemi keeps up his insane rebounding pace (he’s averaging 16.5 boards per game in Tournament play), the Cardinals will maintain that status and waltz into the Elite Eight undeterred.

2. The End Of Ohio State’s One-Dimensional Scoring Problem.

For most of the season, behind Ohio State’s plainly suffocating perimeter defense, headed by one rosy-cheeked point guard roundly regarded as the nation’s best on-ball defender, lay an offense with one glaring problem: DeShaun Thomas was doing everything. For as devastating as Thomas can be, and as versatile as his scoring arsenal has become – Thomas is just as quick to camp out on the perimeter as he is to back down an opponent in the post – the Buckeyes needed a reliable ancillary scoring option. And during Tournament play (and increasingly at the end of the regular season), they’ve gotten exactly that. In a second-round bout against Iona, Sam Thompson (20 points) and Lenzelle Smith (12) were in double figures; Craft (18) stole the show in the next match-up with Iowa State, and there was no greater symbolic statement to his newfound offensive chutzpah than when he looked off Thomas on a critical final possession, lulled Cyclones’ forward Georges Niang to sleep with a deft walk-up dribble, and iced a game-winning three while holding up his wrist on the follow through as his teammates celebrated a squeaky escape. LeBron James took notice. You should, too.

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Big East M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 27th, 2013

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  1. If nothing else, fans of the current Big East are going to have plenty of channels to catch their favorite schools on when the schools all go their separate ways. The ACC is taking over Big Monday and should have an increased presence on ESPN, the Big East (Catholic edition) will be on FOX, and the soon-to-be-the-conference-formerly-known-as-the-Big-East just inked a deal with CBS, which will get first dibs on the conference’s games through 2019-20. Oh, and West Virginia seemed to be on ESPN like every week this year… so good for the ‘Eers.
  2. Louisville was the number one overall seed in 2009, much like it is this year. That team hoisted both the Big East regular season and tournament trophies, and made a run to the Elite Eight before falling to Michigan State. That team featured excellent former Cardinals like Terrence Williams, Andre McGee, and Earl Clark, and apparently those guys won’t stop talking about that season. Peyton Siva would like to reclaim bragging rights over the 2009 squad with the one trophy they weren’t able to claim — a national title. “I don’t know a lot (about 2009), I just know T-Will and Dre were on it and they always brag about being the No. 1 overall seed… Our whole goal for the year — they had Andre’s picture on the wall from that ’09 team — is to take him off the wall.”
  3. Otto Porter is a finalist for the Naismith Award this season, and for good reason. A very good argument can be made that there was no player more important to his team this season, and it showed in Georgetown‘s best games — Porter scored 33 points in front of over 35,000 raucous Syracuse fans to stun the Orange at the Carrier Dome — as well as their worst — Porter could only muster 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Georgetown’s shocking loss to Florida Gulf Coast last weekend. While Porter is up against stiff competition for the Naismith Award, he already has accolade in his back pocket as Basketball Times has named the forward its National Player of the year.
  4. Expansion fever — catch the excitement! Today in schools moving conferences, the old Big East continues it’s mission to restore the halcyon days of mid-2000s Conference USA. Brett McMurphy reports that Tulsa will become the 12th member of the conference, calling the addition “imminent.” According to McMurphy, the Golden Hurricanes will join up in 2014 with Tulane and East Carolina, who will be elevated to full-member status to balance the conference numbers and fill the critical role of having basketball-playing Pirates in the league.
  5. The Journal-Sentinel sat down with former Marquette great Brian Wardle, currently the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, to discuss the state of Warriors basketball. Wardle was obviously thrilled with the success that the program has had under Buzz Williams, and before him, Tom Crean, stating that MU has entered the ranks of the elite in college ball. “The level that Marquette basketball is at now is an elite level that it has not been in for a long time… they’ve gone to three Sweet Sixteens in a row, a Final Four, everything takes time to build. Nothing happens overnight. You’ve got to go through some failures to succeed. You’re seeing Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen every year with the Michigan States, the Dukes, with Kansas.”  There is no denying the success that Marquette has had recently, though dropping the ‘e’ word seems a bit strong.  Until Marquette makes a few more Final Fours or captures a national title, they’re a rung or two below the nation’s elite schools, at least to me. However, they’re not far behind, and with the consistent success that Buzz Williams has had with the program, it may only be a matter of time until they break through.
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It’s Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 26th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. the swag of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Absurd (and questionably timed) alley-oops, the wing walk, tongues wagging, unknown jigs while running downcourt – it’s hard not to like the amount of fun that these kids have on the court, and they have the talent to back it up.

Florida Gulf Coast: the Story of the NCAA Tournament This Year

I LOVED…. Duke’s defense on Creighton. The Blue Devils didn’t play well in this one, but man did they defend. I thought Creighton got the exact pace they wanted and the ideal defensive effort to slow down Duke’s perimeter play, and it still didn’t matter. Duke just continued to bang with a relentless Doug McDermott and got the stops that allowed them to finally pull away when a few threes began to drop. That’s the kind of game you have to grind out in March, and they did it comfortably.

I LOVED…. that I don’t have to watch Marshall Henderson for another weekend (and believe me, I was worried there for a while). In case you were wondering, Henderson’s stats in the tourney were about as prolific as the regular season – 14-of-42 from the field (33%), and 7-of-27 on three-pointers (26%). I’d love to see the Ole Miss coach explain to his players why they would build their team next year around a guard that shoots too much, and not particularly well.

I LOVED…. the statement game. For me this was an easy one to pick – Michigan seemed to be fading a bit, but they put on an absolute clinic against a very talented VCU team and showed just how versatile they can be when freshman Mitch McGary can stay on the floor for an extended period of time. It opens up everything else for the Wolverines, and with Trey Burke dancing around the lane and Tim Hardaway, Jr., able to spot up, this looked like a squad ready to make a legit run.

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