Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.01.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 1st, 2011

  1. Just when you thought things were about to turn around a little bit for the Pac-12, and just when you thought Colorado was on the verge of being able to string together a few wins in a row following a solid win over Georgia on Monday night and a manageable schedule in front of them, the Buffaloes go and shoot 44.8% from the free throw line and lose a tough one against in-state rival Colorado State. CU fought back from a ten-point deficit early in the second half to tighten things up, only to have the Rams jump back out to an eight-point lead with under 90 seconds remaining. However, a 10-1 run over the next 75 seconds capped by a Nate Tomlinson steal of a CSU inbounds pass and an ensuing layup gave the Buffs a brief lead. But CSU’s Dorian Green took the ball out from coast to coast and hit a jumper in the lane to give CSU the lead right back. Tomlinson was almost the hero again, but his three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
  2. The other two games Wednesday night featured Pac-12 wins against uninspiring competition, with USC holding UC Riverside to 35 points in a 21-point Trojan victory at UCR. While Washington State, you know, the same team that lost to the UC Riverside team on Sunday, took out their frustrations on a now 0-6 Grambling team with a 69-37 thrashing. Brock Motum had 11/10 for the Cougs, while point guard Reggie Moore handed out seven assists, but WSU will need to tackle some tougher competition before anybody believes anything they’re selling.
  3. This season hasn’t exactly been the stuff of dreams for Utah in their first season in the Pac-12, and plenty of that can be attributed to a series of defections from the basketball team over the past two seasons. But at least some of their struggles can be attributed to the absence of their 7’3” senior center David Foster in the middle. Foster played six minutes in the Utes’ exhibition game against Adams State on November 4, but left the game with a broken right foot. At present, it is still undecided whether Foster will take a medical redshirt and return for next season or if he will come back when able this season. Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak would prefer to have Foster return this season and play the last four-to-six weeks of the regular season with the Utes, while Foster and his dad are holding out for the possibility that a redshirt season may be the best bet. While his immediate future is unclear, what is clear is that the Utes are significantly worse off without the 3.2 blocks he provided in 20 minutes per game last season. Last year the Utes defense wasn’t great (112th in the nation according to kenpom.com), but this season it is abysmal – 288th in the nation.
  4. You may have heard that the UCLA basketball program is struggling a bit this year. It’s true. With surprising losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee to pair with more predictable losses to Kansas and Michigan, the Bruins are off to a 2-4 start. So, what’s their problem – aside from chemistry issues and a general lack of athleticism or outside shooting, that is? Jeff Eisenberg asked the coach of a team who has already beaten the Bruins this year to give an assessment of Ben Howland’s club. Long story short: Their guards can’t make shots, Joshua Smith’s conditioning is terrible, the Wear Twins are incapable of guarding athletic small forwards and they need to get freshman guard Norman Powell more involved in the offense. Any good news? The coach expects the Bruins to get better as the season goes on, if only because he believes they’re a well-coached team.
  5. Oregon State junior guard Jared Cunningham earned a lot of attention after scoring 37 points in the Legends Classic semifinal, after having scored 35 points in his previous game against Hofstra – both career highs at the times. Since then, Beaver opponents have put their defensive effort into slowing Cunningham’s offensive attack. Vanderbilt sent senior forward and defensive savant Jeffery Taylor at Cunningham with additional eyeballs on him at all times, while Towson put its defensive energy into slowing him as well. Cunningham had better get used to other teams keying on him, because as sophomore guard Roberto Nelson put it, “they’d be stupid if they didn’t.” Still, even if other teams are able to limit his ability to score, Cunningham is still able to influence the game in other ways. He is an excellent defender capable of not only taking the opposition’s best guard out of his rhythm, but also forcing turnovers and creating easy transition opportunities for the Beavers. He is also very capable of drawing defenders to him and finding open looks for his teammates. And, if he can keep improving his jump shot (clearly the main weakness in his game), Cunningham can still get his points.
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The Other 26: Week 12

Posted by KDoyle on February 4th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor

Introduction

Parity is a great thing in sports. Not many enjoy watching a league where one team consistently dominates the competition and all the others are simply happy to compete with the top team. In the West Coast Conference this was the case for years. Gonzaga would roll right on through league play, win the conference championship, and then head onto the NCAA Tournament. Sure the ‘Zags would be upset on occasions, but those occasions were few and far between. This year, that is hardly the case in the WCC. St. Mary’s is the current leader, but there are a few other teams that are capable of knocking off the Gaels—Portland already has. The WCC is not the only conference where there is parity. How about the wacky Conference USA? It seems that every team in that conference has a shot to win it. The Atlantic 10 and CAA both have a couple teams at the top, but there are several others right below them that are just waiting for the right time to pounce on the top dogs. The MAC is the perfect instance of parity this year. You may call it mediocrity, but you cannot say that 11 teams with records ranging from 3-5 to 6-2 is not parity.

One can argue that parity is essentially synonymous with hope. Fans of every team that is right in the thick of things within their conference have legitimate hope that their guys will pull through and be the last one standing come the conclusion of their conference tournament.

Parity…Hope…Sports

The Other 26 Rankings

Read the rest of this entry »

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Grumbling at Grambling

Posted by rtmsf on September 28th, 2009

This story got lost in the Friday afternoon rush of people heading to happy hour, but Grambling St. University basketball made national news for the third time in a year that day, and unfortunately, not for anything good.  Rick Duckett, the head coach who (likely) orchestrated this particular crime against hoop-anity back in January, reportedly resigned after one of his transfer players, Henry White, fell ill during workouts and later died.   

rick duckett

Connecting the dots, it might make sense to presume that Duckett somehow felt responsible for White’s death, as the White family attorney asserts that it was common practice for Grambling coaches to run their players outside during intense summer heat and humidity, and had in fact done so that day (where two other players also fell ill).  The problem with that theory is twofold: first, Andy Katz reported on Saturday that Duckett claims he didn’t resign at all; rather, he was fired (technically he’s on leave until Oct. 31, then he’ll be released).  And not just him, but his entire staff of assistants save one (new interim coach Robert Washington, Jr.).  Second, on the day that White collapsed during workouts, Duckett wasn’t even at practice.  In fact, he wasn’t even on campus.  Instead, he was instead having an undisclosed medical procedure of his own at the time. 

So what in the name of Eddie Robinson is going on here? 

We understand the legal concept of vicarious liability, and if Duckett directed his assistants to run players through the sweatbox known as Louisiana humidity against all better judgment, we could believe that university officials are looking to CYA here.  But one question.  Don’t Grambling football players also run drills in the sweatbox throughout August?  In pads?  If true, it would appear difficult for us to believe an argument that it’s ok for the football team to run outdoors, but not the basketball team.   

It’s also clearly not performance-related.  Grambling takes its football team very seriously; basketball is pretty much an afterthought.  Duckett’s 6-23 record in his first and only year didn’t turn any heads, but the school’s had only two .500+ seasons since 1994, so there’s really nothing unusual about that.  The last head coach, Larry Wright, wasn’t much better: over nine seasons, he turned in a record of 88-160 (.355).  Furthermore, Duckett was successful at the D2 level, so there was reason to believe he could turn around the Grambling program. 

The bottom line about this is that something is missing from the story – Grambling officials are leaving something out.  Considering their recent history of making up stories about SWAC refs when it suits them, we’re not exactly surprised. 

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Unbeaten/Winless Watch (12.25.07)

Posted by rtmsf on December 26th, 2007

We really wanted to do this two weeks ago, but as you know, life got in the way.  So we’ll make do with what’s left.

As of Xmas Day, out of a total 341 D1 teams, there were a total of nine unbeaten teams and only four winless teams remaining (see table below).   Four of the nine unbeatens are unsurprising – #1 UNC, #2 Memphis, #4 Kansas, and #6 Wazzu were all preseason top ten teams.  Pittsburgh wasn’t ranked in the preseason, but they’re always pretty  good, so we’re not shocked by their inclusion (esp. once Levance Fields got himself unTazed).  That leaves us with three shockers from the SEC/ACC and one ridiculous Southland Conference inclusion (although… we had ‘em).

Unbeatens & Winless 12.25.07 v.5

From the SEC there are two unbeatens.  Florida?  Nope.  Kentucky?  Nope.  Tennessee?  Nope.  Mississippi State?  Nope.  Those four teams have about a baker’s dozen number of losses between them.  But if you had Ole Miss and Vandy at 22-0 heading into the last week of 2007, proceed directly to the Bellagio sports book.  Do not pass go.   Do not collect $200.  Ok, so Ole Miss’s 11-0 start smells an awful lot like the annual Clemson torridness (in a somewhat ironic twist, Ole Miss’s best win was at Clemson last week – 85-82), but we have to tip the hat to Andy Kennedy’s squad for beating all comers so far, and setting themselves up for a possible run at the SEC West title and an NCAA bid.  (memo to University of Cincinnati:  how’s bailing on Kennedy working out for ya?  Oh right, losses to Illinois St., Bowling Green and Belmont.  Good luck with that.)  As for Vandy, they’ve probably got a little more upside than Ole Miss due to the addition of a freshman stud who incomprehensibly gets almost no hype, AJ Ogilvy (19/7).  With senior guard Shan Foster, this inside-outside tandem plus Vandy’s home court nearly assures the ‘Dores of an NCAA berth, and given the relative state of the rest of the SEC this year, possible SEC title.

The last two unbeatens are probably the most surprising of all.  Miami (FL) was 12-20 last season, and the Hurricanes have already matched that win total this year.  A very soft schedule has made this record possible, but two solid road wins (@ Providence and @ Miss. St.) show that this team will be worth watching in the ACC race this year.   The final unbeaten, Sam Houston St., has an early win over Bob Knight and Texas Tech on their resume, but little else.  Still, it’s a great early-season story, and we’ll be rooting for them to keep it up through their west coast trip to SDSU and Loyola Marymount this coming weekend.

As for the four winless teams, we can’t say there are any real surprises.  Furman and Grambling will win soon enough, but we’re not sure about the disasters otherwise known as Ball St. and NJIT.   NJIT, probably the worst offensive team in the nation, has only broken sixty points once this year; and has been under fifty points four other times.  Ball St. is still feeling the aftershocks of the Ronny Thompson fiasco, and there’s no telling when they’ll come out of that tailspin.  Last year’s winless streak leader, Iona, didn’t get their first victory until Feb. 3 (0-22), and we think NJIT has a chance to match or exceed that this year.

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Conference Primers: #31 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish.

  1. Alabama A&M (18-9) (13-5)
  2. Mississippi Valley St. (13-13) (12-6)
  3. Grambling St. (14-9) (12-6)
  4. Alabama St. (15-14) (10-8)
  5. Southern (13-15) (9-9)
  6. Jackson St. (12-17) (8-10)
  7. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-19) (8-10)
  8. Prairie View A&M (9-20) (8-10)
  9. Alcorn St. (5-20) (7-11)
  10. Texas Southern (5-23) (3-15)

SWAC Logo

What You Need to Know (WYN2K). Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the worst basketball conference in America! For three years running, the Southwestern Athletic Conference has found itself at the absolute bottom of every major computer ranking system (RPI, Sagarin & Pomeroy) as its ten schools have gone a collective 32-229 (.123) in OOC games during the last three seasons (easily the worst). Its sacrificial lamb league champion has received eight straight #16 seeds in the NCAAs and four of those teams were relegated to the dreaded play-in game. Just how bad is it? Consider that tournament champion Jackson St. and regular-season champion Mississippi Valley St. were the only two schools with overall winning records last year – no other conference member won more than eleven games. There are no encouraging signs of change for this season.

Predicted Champion. Alabama A&M (#16 Seed NCAA). Yes, we’re predicting a worst-to-first here, but the Bulldogs are the only SWAC school returning all five starters from last season, including dynamic sophomore guards Trant Sampson and Cornelius Hester as well as 6’11 defensive freak Mickell Gladness (6.3 bpg), who blocked an astonishing 20.5% of shots while he was on the court last season.

Others Considered. Grambling is an interesting team because they return four starters including the SWAC’s best all-around player Andre Ratliff, but they also open a brand-new 7500-seat arena and we shouldn’t discount the “new barn” effect. Mississippi Valley St. is another team to watch because they won the regular-season crown last season and return former Southern Miss coach James Green, who has inspired his teams to play maddening D, which will keep them in the hunt.

Games to Watch. There’s only one game you’ll find on tv from the SWAC, and it’s the only game that matters for this conference all season.

  • SWAC Championship Game (03.15.08).

RPI Booster Games. The SWAC plays 28 games against BCS conference opponents, and 26 of those are on the road. In a weird scheduling coincidence, only Auburn deigns to venture into a SWAC gym, and it does so twice – it could lose either of these if Lebo’s team isn’t careful.

  • Auburn @ Alabama St. (11.17.07)
  • Auburn @ Southern (12.16.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Nil. It’s never happened before, and the reality of the non-conference “guarantee games” in the SWAC will ensure it doesn’t happen again this year.

All-Name Team. Alabama St.’s Grlenntys “Chief” Kickingstallionsims is a cinch for national honors, but Texas Southern’s St. Paul Latham is another worthy candidate.

Neat-o Stat. The SWAC likes to run, as half of its teams were among the top 62 fastest tempos in the nation in 06-07. By the same token, though, none can shoot the ball, as 9 of its 10 teams were among the bottom 35 teams last year in effective FG%.

65-Team Era. The SWAC is 1-21 in the era. Southern University (#13) defeated Georgia Tech (#4) 93-78 in the first round of the 1993 NCAA Tourney.

Final Thought. The SWAC isn’t worth much in basketball, so we’ll give it some love for something it’s actually good at.

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NBA Draft Picks by School Part III

Posted by rtmsf on June 28th, 2007

Today is the final installment of the three-part series where we wanted to take a look at the NBA Draft broken down by school over the history of the modern NBA Draft (1949-2006). In Part I, we examined the raw numbers and made a rudimentary attempt at tying NBA talent to NCAA Tournament success. In Part II, we broke out the raw numbers by round selected, and then further sliced that data into an examination of “Top 10″ and “Top 5″ selections. Today we finish off the series by looking at draft selections by decade, hoping to see how things have trended over the entire era of the NBA Draft. See Table C below.

Table C. NBA Draft Picks by School & Decade (1949-2006)

Notes: this table is sorted by the Total Draftees column, and is limited to schools with a minimum of ten or more draft picks since 1949. The yellow shading refers to the highest number in that column.

NBA Draft Picks by Decade v.1

Observations:

Consistency. The first thing that struck us as interesting were the schools that were fairly consistent in providing draft picks throughout the NBA Draft era. UNC, Louisville, Kentucky and St. John’s do not lead any particular decade, but each school has provided at least two picks per decade throughout. UCLA and Indiana have been similarly consistent over the entire period, but each also led a decade in picks (UCLA during the 70s; Indiana during the 80s).

Less Volume, but Still Consistent. Look at Big 10 stalwarts Illinois and Minnesota, along with Villanova and Utah. We’ve been clowning the Gophers all week, but surprisingly, they’ve consistently produced between 2 to 7 picks per decade – guess it’s easy to forget about Willie Burton and Joel Przybilla. The same is true for the Illini (between 2 to 7 per decade), Villanova (2 to 5) and Utah (2 to 5). Maryland, Syracuse, Ohio St., Marquette, Wake Forest, Temple, USC, Stanford, Memphis, Tennessee, Oregon, BYU, Mississippi St., LaSalle and Bradley are some of the other schools with at least one draft pick per decade.

USF Dons

The USF Dons Represent a Bygone Era

Whatever happened to…? The University of San Francisco, led by KC Jones and Bill Russell, produced fourteen draft picks from 1949-79, and only two since. Eight of Kansas St.‘s fourteen total draft picks were produced from 1949-69, but there’s only been one since 1989 (Steve Henson in 1990) – it even led the 1940s/50s with seven picks. And despite its recent renaissance under John Beilein and the proliferation of draft picks to come under Bob Huggins, West Virginia has only had one draft pick since 1968 (seven overall)! Another early producer Holy Cross (six overall) hasn’t had any picks since 1969; and Grambling (nine overall) hasn’t had any since 1978.

Arizona & UConn

These Two Schools Have Come On Strong

Late Bloomers. The biggest examples of late bloomers have to be Arizona and Connecticut. Arizona’s first draft pick was in 1974, and it has produced thirty-three more since, good enough for sixth (tied with UK) all-time. Connecticut is even more shocking – the Huskies’ first pick was Cliff Robinson in 1989 (!!!), but it has produced twenty picks since (1.11 picks per year). Duke also has to be mentioned here. The Devils had good success in the early years (seven picks through the 70s), but have had thirty-two draft picks since 1980, twenty-six of those since 1990 (1.44 picks per year). They were second in the 90s with fifteen picks, and are currently tied with UConn leading the 2000s with eleven picks. No wonder they’ve been so good. Other late bloomers include Georgia Tech (22 of its 24 picks since 1982), Michigan St. (24 of its 26 picks since 1979), Georgetown (17 of 18 since 1980), Alabama (19 of 23 since 1982), Texas (15 of 17 since 1982), and Georgia (13 of 14 since 1982). After tonight’s draft, Florida could have as many as 14 of its 15 picks since 1984, but we already knew the Gators were a late bloomer. As a bit of an anomaly among the traditional powers, Kansas didn’t really begin consistent production of draft picks until the 70s (24 of 27 picks since 1972).

Coaches. The one trend we see with many of these late bloomers is how important coaches are to the talent level of a program. UNC, Louisville, UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana have had great coaches throughout most of their histories. It makes sense that these schools have also been the most consistent at putting talent into the NBA Draft. But look at some of the other schools, particularly the late bloomers. Jim Calhoun has been responsible for every single one of UConn’s draft picks; Lute Olson has been responsible for all but five of Arizona’s draft picks (85%), and Coach K for 74% of Duke’s all-time picks. Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech (79%), John Thompson at Georgetown (83%), and the Jud Heathcote/Tom Izzo reign at Michigan St. (92%) show just how important a single coach can be to a program.

Final Thoughts. This has been a fun experiment, and in only a few hours, we get to update all of our data with draft data from 2007. Something tells us that Florida and Ohio State’s numbers are going to be rising. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and commentary. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…

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