2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 10th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC.

Top Storylines

The Redshirts: We are not talking about individual players but a program. In the latter part of the summer, Loyola announced its intention to exit the MAAC for the Patriot League. The Greyhounds captured the postseason title this past March. Coach Jimmy Patsos has another very strong group on hand. The interesting thing is how will the last run through the MAAC affect Loyola’s play. The guess here is not too much. Caution is needed however as the MAAC contingents would love nothing to upset the Greyhounds as a ‘going away present.’

How Will Jimmy Patsos Handle the Last Go-Round the MAAC? (AP)

Master Builder: When Canisius hired Jim Baron last spring they not only got a veteran coach with a proven track record, but the Buffalo-based school hired a coach who rebuilt situations at three different schools. First was St. Francis (PA). Next, his alma mater, St. Bonaventure, and most recently, Rhode Island. Baron brought St. Francis and St. Bonaventure to the NCAA Tournament in his careers there. He also had a few NITs under his tutelage but couldn’t get on the board during Selection Sunday while at URI. Make no mistake, though, Baron knows Canisius’ status and what needs to be done to succeed there. Word here says he goes ‘four for four’ in reclamation projects.

Must-See: A few of the notable matchups in the MAAC include…. On January 27, Iona hosts Loyola and visits the Greyhounds on March 1. The latter game could decide the regular season champion and have a strong bearing on final conference seeds for the postseason tournament. A few other notable games:

  • November 11 – Manhattan at Louisville – Steve Masiello ducks no one and heads south to face a powerful Louisville team and his former boss (mentor), Rick Pitino.
  • November 22 – Marist vs. West Virginia in the MAAC sponsored Old Spice Classic in Orlando. The field also includes the likes of Clemson, Davidson, Gonzaga, Oklahoma and Vanderbilt.
  • January 6Iona hosts Manhattan, and more than rivalry bragging rights are at stake.
  • January 25 – Loyola visits Manhattan, another huge midseason contest.

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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 4th, 2011

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. Owen Kemp, the RTC correspondent for the Big 12, will return on Monday.

A Look Back

  • It’s been a season full of surprises around college basketball, and the Big 12 is no different. There are surprises on both sides of the spectrum, but the possibility of sending merely four teams to the Big Dance looms large here in early February. On the disappointing side, Frank Martin looks like he’s losing his team, which was ranked third in the country to start the season. Forward Freddy Asprilla, recently reported as leaving the team to play in the professional ranks in his native Colombia, citing a need to take care of his family, wound up at Canisius, which is even farther from Colombia than Manhattan. Making matters worse, fellow big man Wally Judge, once a can’t-miss recruit, left the team last week.
  • The Baylor Bears have also underperformed, and could join Kansas State in the bubble watch if Scott Drew can’t turn his recruiting prowess into quality wins in a hurry. Losses to KSU, Iowa State and Oklahoma have marred the Bears’ postseason prospects, but there are still chances for Perry Jones and company to regroup.
  • Missouri, hopeful to challenge the Jayhawks and Wildcats in November, already have four conference losses to their name after dropping Wednesday’s tilt in snowy Stillwater. Aside from a big rivalry game against Kansas in Lawrence on Monday, though, the toughest of the Tigers’ schedule seems to be behind them, with their remaining road games coming against Iowa State, Kansas State and Nebraska.
  • Things aren’t all bad, though. Oklahoma, a laughingstock after losing to Chaminade in the Maui Invitational, have reeled off four straight wins, and lo and behold, they sit tied for third with Texas A&M at present. Texas and Kansas remain the cream of the crop in the Big 12, with the Longhorns absolutely rolling through conference play with nary a threat, largely thanks to their defense, which has allowed a measly 53.4 points per game through seven conference bouts. The Jayhawks continue to play with heavy hearts in the wake of the death of Thomas Robinson‘s mother, Lisa. With their lone loss coming against Texas after a long night of grieving and consoling, the Jayhawk faithful are hoping for a shot at redemption against the Longhorns in the Big 12 Tournament, and are taking care of business in the meantime.

Power Rankings

1. Texas (19-3, 7-0) – A combination of focus, team defense and a brutal non-con slate has shaped the Longhorns to an unblemished 7-0 conference mark. Jordan Hamilton continues to make his claim for Big 12 Player of the Year by averaging 18.4 points per contest over his last five. Luke Winn has a convincing take this week on how Texas has made things look easy on the defensive end.

2. Kansas (21-1, 6-1) – The close losses to teams the Jayhawks should have handled more easily could be a thing of the past, based on the events of this week. Kansas completely dismantled their in-state counterparts, handling the Wildcats with ease on Saturday in front of former Jayhawk great Wayne Simien, who had his jersey retired at halftime. Tuesday, Bill Self got a small monkey off his back by winning in Lubbock after three straight losses on Texas Tech’s home court since he took the helm in 2003. The Morris twins have continued their high-efficiency styles of play, and their lone weakness of interior defense has been boosted almost to the point of becoming a strength, with Thomas Robinson pouring in two straight 17/9 performances.

3. Texas A&M (17-4, 4-3) – When a team like the Aggies, sitting in third place, fails to crack 50 points in consecutive contests, you start to wonder just how good the conference really is. In fairness, the Aggies had the unenviable experience of having to play the Longhorns twice in two weeks, so their current stretch of having lost three of four is a little deceiving. They boast the conference’s second-best defense in terms of points allowed, but Khris Middleton can’t do it all on his own when it comes to scoring. A steady supporting cast is important if Mark Turgeon‘s crew wants to make noise in the top half.

4. Missouri (17-5, 4-3) – This is where things get really murky, and the difference between a system like power rankings and the more objective (and authoritative) conference standings is apparent. Does anyone in the conference want fourth place? Colorado’s lost to Baylor and Missouri, Baylor and Oklahoma have already split with one another, the Sooners have fattened up on the bottom rung of the conference, and Missouri fell to Oklahoma State this week, remaining winless on the road in conference play. Distinguishing the 4-7 spots at this point is nearly a futile exercise, but perhaps Missouri can make a statement about that with a big rivalry game coming up on Monday against KU.

5. Oklahoma (12-9, 4-3) – Give credit where it’s due to Jeff Capel‘s charges, but hold off judgement until they come out of this stretch: Saturday’s Bedlam battle against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, playing host to Texas on Wednesday, and taking to Columbia in a fight at Mizzou Arena.  Steven Pledger had a career performance against the Cyclones last Saturday, pouring in 38 points in 44 minutes on 12-20 shooting, including 7-13 from long range.

6. Baylor (14-7, 4-4) – With their own Big Three in LaceDarius Dunn (20.7 PPG, 42.7% 3FG), Perry Jones (14.1 PPG, 57.1% FG, 7.0 RPG) and Quincy Acy (13.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG), the Bears can be entertaining to watch (especially Acy’s dunk reel), but head coach Scott Drew’s passive scheduling methods could come back to cost his team a tournament bid; If anyone knows how a mid-February break from conference play with non-D-I Wayland Baptist on the 15th will help Baylor get ready for March, let me know. It would also be helpful if Drew picked a defensive style and stuck to it.

7. Colorado (15-8, 4-4) – Colorado’s twosome of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins almost topped the Bears this week before falling four points short. They took their angst out on the helpless Cyclones, winning 95-69, so the Buffs’ up-and-down season continues. If Colorado can sweep Missouri this weekend with a road win (they already beat the Tigers at home), I’ll be impressed. I’ll be more impressed if they don’t go on to lose three in a row, because once you think you have Tad Boyle‘s crew pegged, they turn around and completely change your mind.

8. Kansas State (15-8, 3-5) – There’s only so much yelling and screaming that Frank Martin can do before his players become desensitized and the environment becomes inhibitory, and that might be the case here. Between Jacob Pullen‘s comments about refusing to play if the Wildcats find themselves in the NIT field (a growing possibility) and the various defections and NCAA rules violations, distractions have also been eminent. It’s not all on the coaching though, as Curtis Kelly has been disappointing, though his 16-point performance in Wednesday’s big win over Nebraska could be a sign of a leaf turned over.

9. Nebraska (15-6, 3-4) – The Cornhuskers’ stout defense may be coming back down to Earth, and the offense has also let the team down over the last week. Nebraska has shown flashes that it can be good (such as a win over Texas A&M and a double-digit lead at Allen Fieldhouse that was eventually surrendered), but they can’t get it all together.

10. Oklahoma State (15-7, 3-5) – Breaking a 1-5 stretch with a win over Missouri is a big breath of fresh air for the Cowboys. Sometimes, it’s good to have a diverse scoring attack, but in OSU’s case, it could be more indicative of the lack of a reliable playmaker. Marshall Moses, Keiton Page, and J.P. Olukemi have taken turns leading the ‘Pokes in scoring the last three games, but all three have also pulled vanishing acts this season.

11. Texas Tech (11-12, 3-5) – The Red Raiders had a nice three-game spurt with wins over Nebraska, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, but crashed in a Groundhog Day blowout loss to the Jayhawks. Kansas went inside with ease and had no problems whatsoever, and even Kansas reserve Brady Morningstar was in double figures in the first half. Pat Knight may want to have a copy of the Geneva Convention at the ready when his team ventures to Austin on Saturday.

12. Iowa State (14-9, 1-7) – The Cyclones have fallen off a cliff, Wile E. Coyote-style, and we’re still waiting for the little “poof” that finally signals an impact. Fred Hoiberg‘s squad has allowed at least 82 points in each of their last five games, all losses.

A Look Ahead

Before Rivalry Week, there’s an intriguing set of games around the conference on Saturday. Colorado will hit the road to Missouri, where we might see that 4-7 knot get somewhat untangled. In a battle of Big 12 train wrecks looking to regroup, Iowa State will play host to the Wildcats. At the top of the conference, Kansas and Texas get what look to be a couple softballs against Nebraska and Texas Tech, respectively, but the Jayhawks will be on watch after the ‘Huskers put a small scare into them a few weeks ago.

Other action around the league includes Baylor taking on Texas A&M, and the Gallagher-Iba half of the Bedlam Series between the Sooners and Cowboys.

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Checking in on… the MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2011

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

A Look Back

Fairfield is now the front-runner in the MAAC, with a two-game lead just past the conference midway mark. Coming off two convincing wins at home, St. Peter’s has sole possession of second place. Despite early season injuries, coach John Dunne has kept the Peacocks on track and now they look very dangerous heading into the stretch.

BracketBuster pairings were announced Monday.  They will be held February 18-20. The MAAC’s involvement includes a variety of intriguing matchups:

  • Canisius at Boston University
  • Austin Peay at Fairfield
  • Iona at Liberty
  • Loyola at Towson
  • Manhattan at Stony Brook
  • New Hampshire at Marist
  • Central Michigan at Niagara
  • Delaware at Rider
  • St. Peter’s at Loyola-Chicago
  • Maine at Siena

Power Rankings

1. Fairfield (17-4, 10-1). A perfect three-game stretch as the Stags won 57-49 at Niagara, then edged Manhattan 61-59 at home, and dropped Canisius by 15. OE was just 85 at Niagara, but they limited the Purple Eagles to a 73 efficiency. The game with Manhattan was a lot closer than anticipated. Credit the Jaspers with a 37-26 OREB percentage edge and for forcing Fairfield into a 25% TO rate. The defense prospered again at home against the Golden Griffins.

Notable: Derek Needham scored 16 points including the game-winning three pointer with 8.7 seconds left against Manhattan. The sophomore guard has paced Fairfield in scoring five of the last six games.

2. St. Peter’s (13-9, 8-3) Extended their win streak with home conquests of Marist (85-53) and Rider (80-60). On the season, St. Peter’s’ offensive efficiency is 92. In those two games, the OE was 125 and 111, respectively. The Peacocks are not neglecting the defensive end, as they limited the opposition to 78 and 83 efficiencies in those two respective games.

Notable: Ryan Bacon earned player of the Week honors in the MAAC by averaging 18.5 points and eight rebounds. Bacon also shot 67% from the floor during the two-game stretch.

3. Rider (15-8, 7-4) Split with a road win 61-59 at Iona followed by an 80-60 loss at St. Peter’s on Sunday. The Broncs held Iona to an 89 efficiency mark on the defensive end. St. Peter’s, on the other hand, rang up an 111 OE. Broncs had their second-lowest offensive efficiency of the season, 83, at St. Peter’s, largely due to a 28% TO rate.

Notable: Senior Justin Robinson had 19 points, including 18 in the second half in the win at Iona. Robinson made a crucial basket to give the Broncs a four-point lead with 15 seconds left.

4. Loyola (11-10, 7-4) – The Greyhounds split at home, losing to Siena 76-59 before edging Iona 88-85. Defense, or a shortage thereof, was an issue. Loyola surrendered efficiencies of 112 and 113 in the respective contests. They pulled the Iona game out with a 117 OE of their own and an outstanding 13% TO rate.

Notable: Freshman guard Justin Drummond earned MAAC Rookie of the Week honors with his first career double-double. Drummond scored 14 points, grabbed ten rebounds and blocked four shots in the win over Iona.

5. Iona (13-9, 7-4) – The Gaels have dropped three straight following losses to Rider (61-59) and at Loyola (88-85). Offense was tough to come by in the Rider matchup; the Gaels posted a 42% eFG percentage and managed only an  89 OE. At Loyola the offense picked up with a 53% eFG and 113 offensive efficiency. The defense struggled, allowing Loyola an 117 OE on their end.

Notable: Junior Kyle Smyth scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting) in the loss to Rider. Junior guard Scott Machado added 12 points and seven assists.

6. Siena (9-12, 6-5) – The Saints inched over .500 in the MAAC by defeating Loyola 76-59 in Baltimore before edging Niagara 61-59 at home. Siena posted an outstanding 112 OE at Loyola, limiting the Greyhounds to an 87 efficiency on defense. Against Niagara, the Saints shot a torrid 56% eFG mark but a 26% TO rate made this a nail-biter.

Notable: Ryan Rossiter became the second in school historyand just the eighth player in the MAAC to reach the 1,000 rebound mark. Rossiter did it in the win over Loyola.

7. Canisius (10-11, 4-7). Two home games and the Griffs took advantage, before an unsurprising loss at the hands of Rider. They edged Iona 75-73 before handling rival Niagara 69-54. Canisius shot a torrid 63% EFG percentage against the Gaels. They continued to show a hot hand with a 55% eFG performance and 117 offensive efficiency against Niagara. It was reported recently that Kansas State big man Freddy Asprilla will pack his bags for Buffalo to join Tom Parrotta’s troops.

Notable: Julius Coles had 20 points in the win over Niagara. Coles shot 7-12 overall and 4-6 from three in that contest. Senior Elton Frazier added 11 points and seven boards.

8. Marist (4-19, 3-8) Dropped an 85-53 decision at St. Peter’s before returning home and losing a 60-59 heart breaker to Manhattan at the McCann Center. The Red Foxes gave up an 125 efficiency on the defensive end at St. Peter’s. Offensively, they managed just 78 OE. Against Manhattan, they had an outstanding 16% TO rate but again the difference was defense as Marist allowed a 109 efficiency.

Notable: Sophomore swingman Dorvell Carter earned his first career double-double with a 14-point, ten-rebound effort against Manhattan. Carter has started the last seven games for Marist and is averaging 10.9 points and 5.6 rebounds during that time.

9. Manhattan (4-18, 2-9) Split on the road dropping a tough 61-59 decision to Fairfield before edging Marist 60-69. The Jaspers forced Fairfield into a 25% TO rate. The Marist matchup was little on the low scoring side but had offense. Jaspers had an offensive efficiency edge (109-107) and both teams were over 50% eFG percentage.

Notable: Freshman Michael Alvarado hit a 55-foot buzzer beater to defeat Marist. Alvarado had six assists and no turnovers in that game. His shot was termed ‘biggest play in college basketball this year’ by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

10. Niagara (4-19, 1-10). Dropped contests at Canisius (69-54) and Siena (61-59). Niagara averages 69 possessions, but in the Canisius game, it was a 59 possession pace. Despite a slower tempo, the Purple Eagles struggled with a 25% TO rate. Defense was commendable at Siena. Niagara allowed only a 94 efficiency on the defensive end, 11 below their season average.

Notable: Guards Anthony Nelson and Marvin Jordan combined for 42 points against Canisius. Jordan paced all scorers with a career high 23 points in that game. Jordan followed that performance up with 18 points at Siena. Kashief Edwards added the same scoring total against the Saints.

A Look Ahead

February 4

  • St. Peter’s at Niagara
  • Loyola at Rider
  • Iona at Fairfield
  • Marist at Canisius
  • Manhattan at Siena

February 6

  • St. Peter’s at Canisius
  • Marist at Niagara
  • Rider at Fairfield

February 7

  • Loyola at Siena
  • Manhattan at Iona
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Morning Five: 01.17.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 17th, 2011

  1. When we reported on Angel Garcia leaving Memphis to pursue a professional career in Spain approximately a month ago, we jokingly noted that it could be the start of a new trend. It turns out that we may be onto something as Kansas State recently announced that Freddy Asprilla, a transfer from Florida International, had opted to leave the school to pursue a professional career overseas. While it appears that Asprilla was having some difficulty to adjusting to playing under Frank Martin, his AAU coach states that the real reason he turned pro was to earn money to support his ill mother. We wish Freddy the best of luck in his professional career (particularly if the latter is true).
  2. We usually don’t pay attention to mock drafts or player ratings until the end of the season when players are deciding whether or not to go pro, but Chad Ford’s most recent Top 100 caught our eye because of how the top players are rated: (1) Perry Jones (talented, but very inconsistent — four points in a loss at FSU followed by zero points in a close win over Texas Southern); (2) Kyrie Irving (phenomenal, but injured with a toe injury that apparently cannot be described); (3) Harrison Barnes (the preseason #1, but very disappointing so far); (4) Enes Kanter (a talented inside player, but banned from playing this year); (5) Terrence Jones (phenomenal this season); (6) Jared Sullinger (your current national player of the year favorite). Outside of the dominance of freshman in the top six, we are struck by the fact that the two most productive players are rated below an inconsistent big man, a point guard with an injury that nobody can figure out, a massively disappointing freshman, and a Turkish big man who was given the NCAA’s equivalent of an individual death penalty.
  3. The New York Times takes a look at something that we mentioned earlier this season and we expect that many of you have also considered–the Kalin Lucas you see post-injury is not the same player you saw last year. We aren’t sure if it was just poor editing on the part of the The New York Times, but we were surprised by the fact that Tom Izzo was, in fact, surprised to realize that Lucas wouldn’t have the same explosiveness he had last year after a relatively short period of rehab. Our question all along has been how long will it take Lucas to return to a reasonable representation of what he was last year. The answer to that will likely hold the key to whether or not the Spartans can turn around their season in time.
  4. It technically isn’t college basketball, but we are assuming many of you tuned into ESPN2 on Friday night to catch Michael Gilchrist and Austin Rivers square off. Both players had solid games, but in the end Gilchrist and his St. Patrick team (ranked 2nd nationally) were too much for Rivers and his Winter Park squad. We are assuming that plenty of Kentucky and Duke fans tuned in to watch two players who are expected to be the next superstars for their programs. One thing that struck us was how so many of the St. Patrick players looked to at least be college players at some level while the Winter Park players looked more like high schoolers.
  5. Finally, in light of the struggles of many highly ranked teams on the road this season, we found the question — How many points is Cameron Indoor Stadium worth? — posed by Gary Williams to reporters on Friday to be particularly interesting. We know that the Vegas odds-makers probably have a number at least for general home team advantage if not team-specific home court advantages. So our question to you is how many points is the home court worth at some of the toughest places to play in country?
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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2011

It might be a football weekend if you listen to the mainstream media, but we here at RTC know better.  The slate is absolutely stuffed with good games today, quite a few of which were played during the early session.  Here’s some of our thoughts from those games…

  • Tennessee Escapes.  We’re not sure that they should have escaped in their rivalry game with Vanderbilt today, but escape they did after an ugly and odd finish in Thompson-Boling Arena to get its first win with Bruce Pearl watching from home.  One of the surest calls in basketball is when an offensive player is tripped on the drive.  Jeffery Taylor did just that with Vandy down only one late in the game, but there was shockingly no call from the zebras (how all three could miss that we have no clue).  Even more amazing than that, Taylor slid across the floor for at least 6-8 feet with the ball in his arms after he fell, and again no whistle (another near-certain call they missed).  It was a disconcerting sort of play that has everyone on the floor confused, and it resulted in Vandy stepping on the sideline to turn the ball back over to UT.  The Vols then worked clock before throwing up a couple of wild, contested shots which Vandy failed rebound; then, after a Vandy foul, UT’s Tobias Harris nailed a couple of FTs and closed out the game.  Neither team played well offensively, but Tennessee at 0-2 in the SEC (and sans Pearl) was very nearly in a must-win situation and played like it.  Many people will think that Pearl’s presence would have made a difference in Tennessee’s shaky performances so far this SEC season, but we’re not sure about that.  UT is a flawed team, and they were pretty clearly flawed with the Big Orange on the sidelines before his suspension too (Ls to Charleston, Charlotte, Oakland).
  • Marquette & Maryland Kicking Themselves.  Both of these teams let huge opportunities for road wins against ranked opponents slip away late today with what can only be described as complete meltdowns.  For Marquette, it was a 24-5 Louisville run to finish off the game, allowing the faltering Cardinals to make a miraculous comeback over the last six minutes that will be remembered in those parts for a very long time.  At Villanova, it was a 19-0 run over seven minutes that allowed the Wildcats to come from twelve down and take a commanding lead into the final two minutes.  What was striking about both of these comebacks was just how quickly things changed.  Through most of the two games, the home team Wildcats and Cardinals couldn’t get much of anything going offensively, but when the two underdogs saw their own blood today, they collapsed while the home teams feasted on their shakiness.  Marquette already has some quality wins under its belt, but eventually if they’re going to be taken seriously as a contender, they’re going to have win one of these (close Ls to Duke, BC, Temple, Pitt, Illinois and zero – NONE – quality wins).
  • Freddy Asprilla Leaves K-State.  Jeff Goodman reported earlier today that Kansas State big man Freddy Asprilla has left the program.  Despite dominating Texas Tech today, the bad news just keeps coming for this program lately.  Asprilla was averaging 5/5 in limited backup action, but he’s shown ability and theoretically could have had a bright future there.  He’ll be returning home to his native Colombia to play professionally because his mother is ill, certainly a noble pursuit.  We wish him well with both his personal and hoops journeys.
  • Duke & Kansas Struggling. At the time of this writing, both #1 Duke and #3 Kansas are struggling with much weaker opponents — Duke with Virginia, and KU with Nebraska.  Both took deficits into the half.  Duke’s problem has been ice-cold three-point shooting, and as has been discussed at length the last couple of days, the Blue Devils cannot simply revert to being a jump-shooting team and expect to get back to the Final Four.  For a good number of years in the 2000s, that’s what they were, and those teams were often out of the NCAA Tournament by the Sweet Sixteen.  As for Kansas, the Morris twins who went off on Wednesday night have been MIA this afternoon.  At the half, they hadn’t even combined for double figures yet and Markief was already in foul trouble.  Obviously if one or both of these two drop a game today, that would be an enormous upset so stay tuned for more on those.
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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Plains/Mountains Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX)

  • LaceDarius Dunn* – Sr, G – Baylor. Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: there’s no news. We know that in order for him to be an Impact Player for this region and to indeed fulfill the promise that’s implied when your name pops up on all sorts of pre-season All-America teams, LaceDarius Dunn has to actually see the floor, and as of right now he’s still suspended from competition. He’s practicing, he’s attending classes, but that suspension from games of any kind is indefinite, so what Dunn is doing most is waiting. So are we, because we want to see the guy play some more, and soon. We’ve backed LaceDarius since his first moments on the Baylor campus and we’ve enjoyed watching him grow as a basketball player during his time there. Dunn was a factor right from the start in Waco, averaging 13.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 22 MPG as a freshman, and he’s only gotten more impressive each season. You could see his confidence grow by the game through his sophomore year as he tacked a couple of points onto that scoring average (15.7 PPG) and took on more responsibility. Last season was probably the school’s best since 1950 and earned the Bears their best year-end ranking ever (#10), and Dunn was the centerpiece along with Ekpe Udoh. The unquestioned team leader, Dunn put his scoring gift on full display, contributing 19.6 PPG (33rd in the nation) in just over 32 MPG. Because of his quickness and his deep shooting range, he represents the ultimate defensive conundrum. If you play up on him, he’s by you. If you give him a cushion — and he doesn’t need much space at all — he’ll drill you from range. If you get physical, not only will he match you (Dunn is a disturbingly solid 6’4, 205), but he’ll be more than happy to repair to the free throw line (85.7% last season) and bleed you to death with paper cuts. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his game is that shooting accuracy. If Dunn can see the rim, he’s in range, and he has no qualms about letting it sail. He nailed 116 threes last season, a single-season record for the school. His next trey will be his 300th, and he’s already hit more of them than any other Baylor player. Those 299 threes put him 91 bombs away from breaking the Big 12 record of 389 held by Texas’ A.J Abrams, and seeing as how Dunn has had no problem breaking 100 the past two seasons, we think he’ll get there. Considering all that, his overall shooting percentage becomes that much more impressive. He shot 45.2% last year and has posted a 44.9% mark for his Baylor career. This brings up the question, again: how do you guard this man? It’ll be fun to watch Big 12 opponents make a go of it this season, that’s for sure — we just have to get the guy on the floor and past this current situation regarding the alleged assault. Because of the strange, conflicting stories from some of the people involved and the paucity of other details that have emerged about this matter, we’re not sure where the truth lies or what outcome would constitute justice. We just hope it’s one that results in LaceDarius Dunn playing basketball as soon and as much as possible.

If Dunn Keeps His Head, He Could Be Baylor's first AP All-American First Teamer

  • Jacob Pullen – Sr, G – Kansas State. Expectations, much?  The last time Jacob Pullen’s Kansas State Wildcats were ranked as high as they are in the Preseason Coaches Poll (#3), John F. Kennedy was a relatively unknown senator from Massachusetts.  The year was 1959, and the Wildcats were ranked #1 in the final AP poll heading into the NCAA Tournament (regrettably, the Cats lost to Oscar Robertson’s Cincinnati in the regional finals).  In large part due to the big-shot making abilities of the six-foot guard who has a great chance to re-write the K-State record books this season, Frank Martin’s KSU squad is poised to make a run at its first Final Four since the 60s and its first Big 8/12 conference title since the 70s.  Pullen, the Big 12 Preseason POY as voted on by the coaches, is expected to run more of the point now that last year’s starter at that position Denis Clemente has graduated, but his ability to successfully play either the one or the two position is well-documented by league opponents.  Let’s be honest, though; with Pullen mimicking the scorer’s mentality of other height-challenged combo guards that have come before him, it doesn’t matter what “position” head coach Frank Martin puts him in.  The Beard (which is rounding into form for the season, incidentally) will have the ball in his hands when it’s crunch time, just as he did in a 34-point explosion against Jimmer Fredette and BYU in the NCAA second round last season and in multiple overtimes in another win (and 28-point performance) against Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen.  It’s not very easy to stop a player who can routinely go for 20+ against some of the best defensive coaches in the country (16 times last year), but the one thing you do not want to do against Pullen is leave him open from behind the arc.  Make him put the ball on the floor and try to get to the rim.  He’s not a traditional dead-eye shooter by any stretch, but he can torch it from outside when he finds a groove — seven threes against UNLV and BYU; six against Alabama, Xavier, Baylor and South Dakota.  Last year he tied Askia Jones’ school-record of 110 threes in a season because he’s learned how to pick his spots appropriately, exhibited by the nearly 40% conversion rate he enjoyed (a significant improvement from his 30% and 34% he shot from deep in his first two years in Manhattan).  Perhaps reflecting the grit of his fiery head coach, Pullen is also an elite defender, having been selected as a member of the six-man Big 12 all-defensive team last year.  Put all of this together — the  scoring, the defense, the grit, the BEARD — and you’re faced with the simple fact that the K-State guard is on the short list of a dozen or so players who are in contention for 1st team All-American and national Player of the Year honors in 2010-11.  The better he plays, the more likely it is that the fortunes of Kansas State basketball is on its way to reclaiming some of its ancient glory and make comparisons with teams a half-century ago completely moot.

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Morning Five: 11.19.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2009

morning5

  1. The holidays are approaching and lucky for us, Karen Sypher truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  Ms. Sypher was charged today by a Louisville grand jury with the federal crime of retaliation against a witness for accusing Rick Pitino of raping her.  In plain english, this means that the grand jury found no reason to believe her claim that Pitino raped her (same as the police).  Yep, just tack that one onto all the others — extortion, perjury, etc. — if she keeps it up, she might just end up doing some serious time over all this nonsense.
  2. The SI guys (Seth Davis, Grant Wahl and Luke Winn) give us their preseason selections for various categories in bite-sized form, but isn’t it a week late for this, fellas?  (ed. note – ok, got it — it was for the magazine)
  3. This is a nice piece by Alexander Wolff on the precocious career of Josh Pastner at Memphis.  Gary Parrish also has something to say about this year’s scrappy Memphis team.  We’re a little late to Pastner’s bandwagon, but after what we saw last night in terms of strategy, energy and fight, this guy is going to be around for a very long time.
  4. This was an interesting study done by professors at Indiana (where else?) that looks at the incidence of fouls called on college basketball teams over the course of a season.  The findings were compelling, but commonsensical: a) aggressive teams are rewarded by physical play by officials’ (unconscious?) tendencies to “keep it even” in terms of foul calls over the course of a game; b) home court advantage is a clear predictor of foul differential (+7%); and c) the greater the foul differential, the more likely it is that the next foul will be called on the team with fewer fouls.  We haven’t vetted the data or methodology but most everything sounds reasonable at first blush.  The smart coaches have known this for years, and even the not-so-bright ones know that teams that clutch, hold and grab on every possession can’t get called for everything.  The only possibly confounding factor not accounted for would be if the teams that are behind in the game get more aggressive through the course of play, which explains why there’s a greater likelihood of the team with fewer fouls getting whistled more often in this situations.  Interesting study.
  5. Former FIU star and RTC Impact Player Freddy Asprilla has committed to Kansas State as a juco — another great get for Frank Martin, who is putting together a nice program there in the Little Apple.
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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

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If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Deep South

Posted by zhayes9 on September 29th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Atlantic South) are located here.

It’s time for the fourth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico known as the Deep South region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Deep South Region (FL, AL, MS, LA, TX)

south_impact

Ed. Note: our assumption is that Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney will not be eligible to play this season.

  • Aubrey Coleman – Sr, G – Houston. Young Mr. Coleman was a controversial pick for our panel, to say the least.  There’s no denying his talent, but the 6’4 rock of a player went national (and viral) last season for his footplant on Chase Budinger’s face during a game at Arizona.  Seriously, that thing made what Christian Laettner did to Aminu Timberlake in 1992 look like playtime in the sandbox.  Coleman served his one-game suspension for the ugly incident, and proceeded to take out any residual anger he might have on the rest of Conference USA to the tune of twelve double-doubles and becoming the only player to finish in the top five in both CUSA scoring and rebounding.  Yeah, rebounding.  At 6’4.  Playing guard.  If that doesn’t give you a clue as to Coleman’s toughness (despite his cowardly act against Budinger), we don’t know what will.  Despite his position, Coleman makes it a common practice to regularly venture into the lane for frequent trips to the foul line on offense and for rebounds on defense (ranks #294 in def reb%).  He also ranked in the top 25 nationally in steals, and we should point out that only three guards in the entire country pulled down more boards per game than Coleman.  About the only part of Coleman’s game that isn’t quite honed is his outside shot (21% on threes), but he doesn’t take many, which shows recognition of his strengths and weaknesses.  With two star players (including Kelvin Lewis) returning for their senior seasons in Houston, it’s safe to say that Tom Penders is sitting on an explosive duo who could lead UH to a successful slate in a wide-open CUSA and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly twenty years.
  • Damion James – Sr, F – Texas. Just three days prior to the declaration deadline for the 2009 NBA Draft, Damion James told Texas head coach Rick Barnes that he’d be returning for a final season in Austin, a decision that drastically alters the expectations of a Longhorns team that underachieved a campaign ago. Texas should be a top-five team in 2009-10 due to an influx of talent from all angles: from returnees like Dexter Pittman, to transfers like Jai Lucas, stud freshmen like Avery Bradley and, most importantly, a senior season from Damion James. James has just about as much pure athletic talent as any forward in the nation featuring an NBA-ready body, constant activity on the glass and an ability to run the floor like few other 6’7 forwards. The issue with James has always been complacency and wavering effort. Often James will hang around the perimeter, settle for outside shots, disappear when his team needs him the most or settle for being a secondary figure when a player with the ability of James should always be The Man. When James is motivated, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player in the Big 12 that can contain him. James finished on the All-Big 12 Second Team his junior season after finishing with 15.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg a year following a sophomore campaign in which James averaged a double-double. James ranked fourth in the Big 12 in rebounding, tenth in the conference in scoring and totaled double-figures on 31 occasions in 2008-09. A player the caliber of James should be right there with Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins at the top of potential Big 12 POY candidates for the upcoming season. He should be a first round pick and he should average another double-double. One of the reasons I have Texas pegged #2 in the nation preseason is because I trust James to provide that consistent effort for Rick Barnes in search of a very realistic Final Four.
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06.28.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 28th, 2009

Let’s get caught up after a glorious weekend…

  • Elliot Williams to Memphis.  Nothing surprising here, as we reported last week that Elliot Williams was leaving Duke to move closer to home to attend to his mother’s illness.  The only school that made reasonable sense was his hometown University of Memphis, and Gary Parrish reported yesterday that Williams will indeed become a Tiger.  If Williams can get the NCAA to approve his hardship waiver so that he can play next season, he should walk right into a starting position at the PG spot for Josh Pastner’s squad.  While we’re on the subject of Memphis getting new players, former Kentucky player (well, he never actually played) Matt Pilgrim is probably transferring to Memphis with the assistance of new UK coach John Calipari.  Pilgrim, a transfer from Hampton who sat out last season at UK, wasn’t part of the new regime’s plans.  Since he didn’t want to leave Lexington but was no longer welcome, Coach Cal is trying to facilitate a seamless transfer for him.
  • The NCAA Shell Game. Seth Davis wrote an article last week that illustrates just how one-sided the NCAA scholarship system can be.  When new coaches (e.g.,Isiah Thomas and John Calipari) get to their new schools, they often feel the need to run off players (such as Pilgrim, mentioned above) who don’t fit in their lofty plans for the program.  That’s all fine and well for replacing lesser players, but the whole house of cards gets exposed when a coach wants to keep a player who otherwise would like to transfer.  Meet Freddy Asprilla, a 6’10 Colombian center at FIU who had a great freshman year and wants to transfer to a major conference school, but whom isn’t being released by FIU simply because, well, they don’t have to.  There’s an adage about the deck getting stacked somewhere in here.
  • FIU Cheerleading.  We know it’s purely coincidental that FIU is enabling cost-cutting measures by cutting its cheerleaders during the same year that they hired Isiah Thomas to coach their men’s basketball team (Thomas isn’t taking a base salary this year).  Still, the rich irony of FIU wholly dismantling the cheerleading team within months of Thomas’ arrival on campus isn’t lost on anyone.  Sometimes the unintended consequences are more compelling than the intended ones.
  • NBA Draft DetritusGary Parrish: the NBA will find you wherever you play.  Luke Winn: behind the scenes at MSG, and raising legitimate questions as to Ty Lawson and DeJuan Blair’s draft positions.  Jeff Goodman: Brandon Jennings made the right choice to go to Europe.  More Parrish: like RTC, he also thinks Demar DeRozan is going to be a stud.
  • More Quick Hits.  Marquette’s Maurice Acker: done with basketballRenardo Sidney: stop delaying, NCAAJeremy Tyler: headed to Israel Brian Ellerbe: new assistant at GW.  BYU’s Dave Rose: now cancer-free and returning to coach this fall.   William & Mary: considering an asparagus mascotRoy Williams: Aw Shucks… the RW Story, on sale in November.  Antonio Anderson: those Ws are ours!
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