Big Ten M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 17th, 2013

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Author’s update: In an earlier version of this M5, I stated that Andre and Austin Hollins were brothers. This was incorrect and they are not related. This post has been revised to correct this error.

  1. Ohio State’s senior point guard Aaron Craft has had a heralded career in Columbus. On Saturday, he put his name in the record books by becoming the school’s all-time assist leader with number 581 against North Dakota State. While Craft’s defensive prowess and leadership have been an integral part of the Buckeyes’ success the last four years, his offensive shortcomings have been a consistent knock. And though he is still averaging less than 10.0 PPG, his win-share per 40 minutes is higher this season than it’s ever been (.226). The senior point guard may never be the offensive star some hoped that he’d grow into, but his contribution and place in history regarding the Buckeyes’ program are already cemented.
  2. When we’re talking about a Hollins going off for Minnesota, we’re almost always talking about Andre. But Austin Hollins likes to remind us every now and then that not only is he the second best player for the Gophers, but he can also go off and drop 20 points in a game. Last week, Austin Hollins scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to record his third double-double and surpass 1,000 career points for his career. To top it off, he was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time, an award that Andre hasn’t yet won this season. While it’s clear Andre is the more talented Hollins, it is nice to see Austin get his due too.
  3. The season has been a disappointing one thus far for Purdue, as the Boilermakers were expecting/hoping that the Johnson brothers and A.J. Hammons would be able to show enough leadership to take them back to the NCAA Tournament. While Hammons has not made the “sophomore leap” coach Matt Painter was hoping for, one bright spot may be the emergence of freshman guard Bryson Scott. The young player is one of only three on the team currently averaging double-figure points per game (Terone and Ronnie Johnson are the other two). On Monday, he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time this season, coming off an impressive performance (15 points, 6-of-9 FG) against Butler. While Purdue seems likely to miss the NCAA Tournament this season unless things change in a hurry, there still may be some excitement in West Lafayette as Scott challenges in-state rival Noah Vonleh for Big Ten FrOY.
  4. When the AP poll came out on Monday, Wisconsin found itself again at the #4 spot. It has been a spectacular start for the Badgers as they are 12-0 with signature wins against St. John’s, Florida, Virginia and Marquette. They are already an astonishing 9-0 against the RPI Top 100 and are projected to be a #2 seed according to Lunardi’s most recent bracketology. According to ESPN’s replication RPI index, it is the best start for the Badgers in the modern era. If Bo Ryan can keep it going, and there’s every reason to believe he could, he may have his first 30-win and Big Ten championship team since 2008.
  5. Greg Whittington was dismissed from Georgetown earlier this season while still healing from a knee injury, after the talented sophomore had missed all of last season due to academic issues. On Sunday, he announced that he would be transferring to Rutgers, which will be part of the Big Ten by the time he suits up next season. The 6’8″ forward is described as a “difference-maker” who averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game before he was suspended in 2012-13. Not many people are excited about having Rutgers basketball join the Big Ten fray, but Whittington now gives the Scarlet Knights a talented player who will at least keep them intrigued.
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AAC M5: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 16th, 2013

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  1. While Xavier is talking about how its victory over Cincinnati in the Crosstown Classic is going to propel the Musketeers to success, the Bearcats are left picking up the pieces from what was an ugly blowout loss on Saturday. Mick Cronin’s bunch has now lost two games in row in their first two real tests of the season and they haven’t looked like much of a Tournament team in either game. The Musketeers controlled the game from the opening tip and they didn’t even need the services of their best player, Semaj Christon, who was hampered throughout the contest with foul trouble. Xavier is a legitimately excellent defensive team, but the Bearcats were woefully inept on offense and the sense is that this will be a theme throughout the season. The team shot 32 percent from the field and Sean Kilpatrick is the only player Cronin can put on the court with above-average offensive ability. Justin Jackson is an elite athlete but can hardly be considered a polished offensive product; Titus Rubles is a good player but may have even less offensive ability than Jackson; and Shaquille Thomas, Troy Caupain and Jermaine Lawrence have potential but remain too inconsistent to be counted on regularly. Their ordinarily staunch defense never fully showed up either as they forced 20 turnovers but let the Musketeers shoot the lights out on them from everywhere on the court. There is enough talent on the roster and a distinct lack thereof on many of the other teams in the conference so the Bearcats will win some games, but no one is going to take them seriously until they can consistently put the ball in the basket.
  2. I guess we can table some of that “Is Josh Pastner on the hot seat at Memphis?” talk for awhile, and not just because the Tigers have finally won a Top 25 game and have seemingly improved on the court. Rather, Pastner recently made a sizable financial contribution to the school’s athletic department to the tune of $250,000. Donations of that size aren’t unheard of in big-time collegiate athletics, but it’s usually rare to see a coach employed by a school plunking down a chunk of change that large. It is apparently the largest gift ever by a Memphis coach and although it is also a tax write-off, it’s still a generous move by Pastner. On the court Memphis started slowly but eventually put down a feisty Arkansas-Little Rock team and are headed into Tuesday’s big match-up with Florida in New York City with an opportunity to make another statement. At least Pastner made his donation before the game, a nice insurance policy in case his Tigers get blown out.
  3. While Rick Pitino was “Bringing Sexy Back” in a terrific photobomb at the recent Justin Timberlake concert in Louisville, his team took care of business in not-so-convincing fashion on the court this weekend by beating Western Kentucky. The Cardinals struggled to pull away in the first half and needed Tim Henderson’s three-point shooting to help jump start the offense in the second half. Louisville’s less competitive schedule means it is quite difficult to judge the Cardinals fairly or accurately on their body of work, but these knock-down drag-out battles with mediocre teams don’t give Louisville the look of a repeat national title contender. The backcourt is as deep and talented as any in the country, but it is the inconsistency from the team’s star forwards that are hurting them. Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell were supposed to be dominant forces up front this season, but Harrell needs a lot of refinement on the offensive end of the floor and Behanan has had plenty of ups and downs already. You imagine that Pitino will get most of that sorted out as the season continues, but some of these performances should be at least slightly worrisome.
  4. The Cardinals also found out on Saturday what life is like without floor general Chris Jones, who is dealing with a sprained wrist. His absence mattered little against a team in Western Kentucky without a lot of defensive ability, but it will matter more if Jones misses multiple games and it’s hard to believe his wrist will be 100 percent when Louisville squares off with Kentucky on December 28. That isn’t to say that he won’t play, because he almost certainly will. I’m just pointing out that sprained wrists don’t heal completely in two weeks and the Cards will need Jones’ production on both ends of the floor if they are going to beat the Wildcats.
  5. It has been an up-and-down season for Rutgers, but the biggest news surrounding the program came off the court when former Georgetown forward Greg Whittington committed to play for the Scarlet Knights. It’s been awhile since any of us has seen Whittington play in a meaningful basketball game because he was academically ineligible for a long stretch of last season and dealt with an ACL injury this summer, but when he did play, the forward averaged nearly a double-double and will be an excellent addition to Eddie Jordan’s frontcourt. Of course, it’s unclear when Whittington will be eligible and how much time he will have left in college basketball, but perhaps the most encouraging part of this story is that Whittington was reportedly getting interest from Memphis, proof positive that Jordan can recruit against the big boys.
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Morning Five: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 16th, 2013

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  1. After a rough first month of the season things are finally starting to turn around for Billy Donovan. Last Tuesday they knocked off a Kansas team that is still struggling to finds its identity, but that may pale in comparison to the impact of the announcement that McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker has enrolled at the school and is waiting on the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can play for the team. The addition of Walker should make the Gators a legitimate Final Four contender as their two losses have come in close road games and adding a 6’10” power forward will only make them tougher by adding to an inside game that is severely lacking in depth. Walker will almost certainly miss tomorrow night’s game against Memphis and while we have no idea how long it will take the NCAA Clearinghouse it looks like Walker won’t be needed for quite a while as the Gators do not play another ranked opponent after tomorrow night until February.
  2. It didn’t take long for Greg Whittington to find a new home. Whittington, who was dismissed from the Georgetown basketball team late last month, made his first official visit this weekend when he went to Rutgers and apparently Piscataway was impressive enough to convince him commit to Rutgers without visiting any other schools. As we have stated before, Whittington has the potential to a building block for a very good team as he averaged 12.1 points and 7 rebounds per game in the first 13 games as a sophomore before being declared academically ineligible. Whittington is currently rehabbing after tearing his ACL, but if he recovers and is able to become academically eligible look for him to best big men in the Big Ten.
  3. As if losing to St. Peter’s was not bad enough, Seton Hall will be without Sterling Gibbs, its leading scorer, after he injured his right knee towards the end of regulation on Saturday. Gibbs reportedly had imaging tests on his knee on Sunday, but the school had not released the results as of last night. With Gibbs out, the Pirates are without their top three scorers as Fuquan Edwin (ankle) and Patrik Auda (foot) are still recovering from injuries. When you combine this with Tom Mayaan departing last week to rejoin the Israeli army for his mandatory service, Kevin Willard is left with an increasingly shaky roster. Fortunately for Willard, the Pirates face a light slate before they begin Big East play on New Year’s Eve.
  4. North Carolina might be turning the corner on the court, but it seems like the program cannot get out of its own way off the court. On December 6, former UNC forward Will Graves was arrested on one count of possession of marijuana and one count of drug paraphernalia at a home owned by Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. According to the school, Williams was renting out the house to Graves who was finishing his degree at UNC and working as a part-time video coordinator for the basketball team. Williams renting out the house to Graves might not be surprising at some level, but it is interesting that he is doing it and has Graves on staff even though he dismissed Graves from the team three years ago. One of the more unique points in the case is that Graves was only charged after an electric worker noted that the supposedly vacant house was using more energy than expected and called the police to investigate. When the police arrived, Graves invited the police to enter the house where they found the marijuana/drug paraphernalia. As Sean Newell points out, Graves probably did not even have to let the police enter the house, but may have felt compelled to do so.
  5. Things have not worked out quite as well for this young Kentucky team as Big Blue Nation may have hoped and it appears that fans are not showing up at Rupp Arena in quite the numbers that they have in the past. As John Clay points out, attendance at Rupp Arena has dropped since 2009. This is certainly not a phenomenon unique to Kentucky as nearly every school has seen it, but it still an interesting trend given that the Wildcats boast the most rabid fan base in the sport. There are plenty of reasons for this (our personal favorite comes courtesy of Chester), but the most likely ones are a weak home schedule and the fact that nearly every game is available on TV. At this point, we have no idea how to reverse this trend (at least the TV part) and it seems like this will only continue, but it is something worth watching and might be a consideration for schools looking to build new arenas.
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Morning Five: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2013

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  1. It should not come as a surprise, but yesterday Greg Whittington announced that he intended to transfer to another school. Whittington, who was dismissed from the Georgetown team last month, might be the most sought-after transfer on the market as he averaged 12.1 points and seven rebounds in his first 13 games last season before  before being ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season due to academics. Over the summer, Whittington tore his ACL and was still recovering before being kicked off the team. Whittington has reportedly set a visit at Rutgers this weekend and has been in contact with  Memphis, Nebraska, and South Carolina. As Jeff Goodman notes, there is some question regarding how much eligibility Whittington has remaining since he missed half of last season due to injury and was sitting out this season recovering before being dismissed from the team.
  2. Perhaps he was waiting for an adequate sample size, but in this week’s edition of his Power Rankings Luke Winn brought back the famed Aaron Craft Turnometer and appears to have replaced Russ Smith with Craft’s Ohio State teammate Shannon Scott as the other Turnometer. Surprisingly, Scott is actually outperforming Craft in this metric. Of course, the more impressive thing regardless of whether Scott is actually outdoing Craft on the defensive end is that Ohio State now appears to have two guards playing that level of defense. The other stat that could our eye was the ridiculous three-point shooting from Connectictut. Based on their regular shooting we would expect them to come crashing back to earth pretty soon.
  3. We have heard of many coaches and sports figures donating money to various causes, but we have never heard of one donating money to their employer. Apparently that is what Josh Pastner as he donated $250,000 to the Memphis athletic department. Pastner’s donation will go towards the school’s $40 million fundraising goal, which is aimed at upgrading the school’s athletic facilities. As the school’s athletic director notes it is largest donation ever made by a Memphis coach and frankly we do not understand why he would do it. We could understand a former coach doing it, but for a fifth-year coach who at times has been mentioned as being on the hot seat it seems kind of ridiculous.
  4. With the much-discussed rule changes one of the biggest points of debate is how they are affecting games. The best way to do this is by looking at the numbers and the NCAA has done just that releasing its data as of December 8, 2013. According to the NCAA’s analysis the effects are encouraging with scoring up, shooting percentage up, and turnovers down. As the NCAA admits it might be too early in the season to read too much into these numbers. Perhaps the most surprising number is that team fouls are only up by less than two fouls per game. So while the popular narrative is that foul calls are out of control the data does not appear to back that up.
  5. The NCAA might take a cursory overview of the statistics, but if you want an in-depth analysis you have to go to Ken Pomeroy who broke down the turnover issue into steal turnovers and non-steal turnovers. For some reason, Pomeroy decided to use this post to try to figure out if charges are coming back into the game as the year goes on even though he does not even try to measure them directly. We won’t bother with that because it seems like a flawed assumption. What the post is good for is actually looking at the numbers that he measured. As you would expect steals have dropped with fouls being called more tightly (or at least that is the way it is perceived). On the other hand although non-steal turnovers have also decreased they are approaching prior years.
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Morning Five: 12.02.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 2nd, 2013

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  1. We hope all of you had a relaxing Thanksgiving break. We also hope you managed to catch some basketball as well as there were quite a few interesting results. For those of you who missed some or all of be action, here is a quick recap of the more significant results: Arizona proved it belongs in the discussion as a national title contender against a Duke team that is having more flaws exposed early in the season; Villanova moved into the top 25 by winning the Battle 4 Atlantis knocking off Kansas and Iowa in succession; Memphis exacted a measure of revenge by knocking off Oklahoma State after getting blown out in Stillwater a two weeks ago; Wichita State picked up a big non-conference road win at St. Louis that could be worth a line or two on Selection Sunday; and Roy Williams did a favor for former assistant Jerod Haase by bringing UNC to UAB and Hasse repaid him by upsetting the Tar Heels.
  2. We are still waiting on an explanation as to why Georgetown dismissed injured junior Greg Whittington from the team. Whittington, who averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in 13 games last season before being ruled academically ineligible. He was expected to return to the Hoyas this season, but those plans were halted by a torn ACL in his left knee. Given Whittington’s prior academic issues it would not be shocking if that was the reason for his dismissal. Assuming this is not some significant legal issue we would expect Whittington to be among the most highly sought-after transfers this year.
  3. Last week we mentioned Cody Doolin‘s strange departure from San Francisco. It turns out the reason that he left was an altercation with a teammate. We have not heard many details on what happened, but since Doolin started all 103 of his career at San Francisco we assume it was either a longstanding issue or he felt that the team had turned against him. Either way it is a significant loss for the Dons, who are using Penn State transfer Matt Glover as a replacement for Doolin.
  4. It appears that Louisville is comfortable with Chane Behanan‘s explanation as to how his 2012 Final Four ring ended up on an online auction site. After an investigation the school announced that it had cleared Behanan of any wrongdoing in the case. According to Behanan and his family the ring had been left with Behanan’s grandmother who believed the ring was safe in a box in her bedroom. When the ring ended up on the auction site she went back to check on it and said it must have been stolen. While it is possible that Louisville has had very bad luck with suspicious incidents recently when they start adding up you begin to wonder.
  5. Last week, when Tom Izzo voiced his displeasure with the new rules and the way they were being enforced we stated our desire to wait to see the data before making any comment. We still think it is too early to make any definitive decision on it, but Ken Pomeroy has put some preliminary data together on scoring, free throws, turnovers, and pace. Some might argue that the differences back up what Izzo and others have said, but we would like to see if they are statistically significant and even if they are as long as the rules are being enforced consistently to create a better product we have no problem with the changes. Also as Pomeroy notes, the more interesting changes might be the ones that Izzo and others have not been harping on.
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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey – It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc – It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH – They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK – Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Big East M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 6th, 2013

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  1. Georgetown is projected to finish around the top of the Big East this season, even after losing its top player from 2012-13 in forward Otto Porter, drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards. Porter is the most recent in a long line of talented forwards who have been the key player in John Thompson’s Princeton offense, following stars like Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe. This year, it is unclear if Georgetown has that type of player at the forward spot. Greg Whittington, the most obvious candidate, tore his ACL over the summer. Nate Lubick will probably get playing time but lacks some of the raw talent and skills that the others have had. Transfer Josh Smith has all the talent a coach could want, but has major question marks after a less-than-stellar two years at UCLA. Instead, this year’s Hoyas may be more focused on guard play with Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a departure from what we usually expect from Thompson’s best teams.
  2. St. John’s has announced that sophomores Felix Balamou and David Lipscomb will take redshirts this season. Balamou was a contributor last year, averaging two points in nine minutes of action per game,and appearing in all but five of the Red Storm’s contests. Lipscomb, a walk-on, appeared in seven games last season but has yet to score in college. The move should allow both guards to develop without burning a year of eligibility during a time when St. John’s already has a crowded backcourt. Players like D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Rysheed Jordan and Jamal Branch will probably see most of the meaningful minutes in this year’s backcourt, so this is a wise move for these two players’ futures.
  3. It’s hard if not virtually impossible to lose during Midnight Madness, but this year’s event has already proven problematic for Xavier. Guard Dee Davis suffered a concussion during the event and has sat out for more than a week of activities as a result; reports are now that he may not be available for the season opener against Gardner-Webb. Davis is second of all the returning Xavier players in both minutes and points per game, so the Musketeers probably want their guard back as soon as possible. Head coach Chris Mack is taking all necessary precautions: “Until he’s symptom-free we’ll do what’s wise for Dee, and that’s to sit him.”
  4. The injury bug has reared its ugly head in Providence as well. Friars’ guard Kris Dunn suffered a shoulder injury in an exhibition with Rhode Island College and may miss the season opener against Boston College. Dunn’s injury is especially worrisome because it is the same shoulder on which he had labrum surgery before last season, costing him the first nine games of 2012-13. Dunn’s perimeter mate Bryce Cotton is also entering the season hampered by a sore knee, but he is not expected to miss any time. The tandem should be one of the better backcourts in the Big East, and keeping them on the court is key if the Friars want to make a run at the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. Josh Smith could be the player that swings this season in favor of Georgetown. The UCLA transfer has been with the program roughly a year, and it has allowed him time to grasp the role of playing power forward in John Thompson’s offense. One of the players who he is battling for playing time, Nate Lubick, doesn’t seem too thrilled with going up against the powerful Smith every day in practice: “Ugh. It’s miserable. He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.” In Rob Dauster’s article on CollegeBasketballTalk, other teammates commended Smith’s underrated passing ability, which is key for big men in the Georgetown offense. If Smith’s ability in practice translates to the faster pace of real games and his conditioning continues to improve, Smith may be the missing piece for a talented Hoyas team looking to get over the NCAA Tournament hump.
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Big East M5: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 23rd, 2013

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  1. Just weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season, Marquette forward Jameel McKay has decided to leave the Golden Eagles to pursue his college basketball career elsewhere. Marquette Tribune writer Patrick Leary was especially taken aback by the announcement, based on a conversation he had with McKay just days earlier, when he “raved about how excited he was to play for Buzz and the Golden Eagles.” McKay, a junior college transfer who did not log any time for Marquette last season, was expected to be behind forwards Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, and Jamil Wilson at the forward spots. Leary speculates that playing time may have been a concern for the junior, although time would have opened up next season when all three of those players will have graduated. There do not seem to be any hard feelings between McKay and the program, at least based on his Twitter feed where he stated: ““I appreciate the coaching staff and fans no hard feeling at all GoodLuck to them this year!” shortly after announcing the transfer.
  2. Another day,another transfer player is being held up in the vortex that is the office where the NCAA clears up these matters. Today, Georgetown awaits the fate of UCLA transfer Josh Smith. Coach John Thompson III acknowledges that waiting is, in fact, the hardest part: “It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of the system. Would I prefer it not be this way? Probably. But at the same time, I understand it takes time.” Smith would be a big addition to a Hoyas frontcourt that is already without forward Greg Whittington, who tore his ACL this spring after missing most of last season with academic concerns. Like Smith, Thompson doesn’t have a substantive update on Whittington’s status: “Only God knows when Greg’s going to be able to play. I have no idea when he will be able to get back on the court.”
  3.  Even within a largely new conference, DePaul‘s status remains the same. The Blue Demons have once again been voted to finish last in the league, but the players are excited for what the future holds in the Windy City. The team returns two stalwart seniors who have averaged double figure points in each of their first three years in forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young, and adds an exciting freshman class highlighted by guard Billy Garrett Jr. To his credit, Garrett looks forward to playing on the big stage: “Playing with expectations is something I’ve gotten used to. It’s something I don’t pay that much attention to because you have to go out there and perform.” While many bemoan the loss of former conference rivals to the AAC and ACC, DePaul and other members of the Big East who struggled against the UConns and Syracuses of the world may welcome the change simply because it makes things a bit more manageable. The new league, combined with a roster that features both stars of years past and new players who are not used to all the losing years that DePaul has experienced, could make for a fresh start for a once proud program.
  4. A new league means a new court for Providence, who is set to unveil Dave Gavitt Court this season. The Friars’ new hardwood moves away from the old design, which heavily featured black, with a cleaner silver and gray look around the perimeter, and is adorned by former Providence coach, athletic director, and first Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt’s name at center court.  With so many other programs installing crazy court designs in recent years, this sleek, streamlined design is much appreciated. Now if they can just do something about the total nightmare-fuel giant inflated Friar near the tunnel at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center…
  5. As a Syracuse fan, it was hard to get excited about Hilby the German Juggle Boy as the main source of extracurricular entertainment at this year’s Midnight Madness in the Carrier Dome. Take note, Syracuse, as Seton Hall has this Midnight Madness entertainment thing figured out. During this Friday night’s event in South Orange, head men’s coach Kevin Willard and women’s coach Tony Bozzella will participate in a hot dog eating contest against the infamous Kobayashi.  If you’re a Seton Hall fan, you too can compete by entering an Instagram contest describing why you should be given a shot against Willard, Bozzella, and Kobayashi. So good luck to you, intrepid Pirates fans. I am incredibly jealous that Jim Boeheim is not participating in this one.
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In The Spirit Of The Season, Holiday Tournaments Offer Opportunities For Future Bubble Teams

Posted by BHayes on July 19th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

It may have been slightly less dramatic than Selection Sunday (okay, maybe a lot less), but yesterday’s unveiling of college basketball’s holiday tournament brackets still provided a bit of fun during these dry days of summer. Fans across the country were offered the opportunity to lick their lips at the thought of some tantalizing November and December possibilities, with matchups like VCU-Michigan, Baylor-Gonzaga, and Duke-Arizona all not so far-fetched. But if we look beyond those potentially epic matchups, there’s still a lot of substance to be found. Preseason tournaments are an opportunity to build momentum for the season ahead, and for many teams, a rare shot for resume-boosting wins that can mean the difference between NCAA Tournament and NIT come March. A good showing in the holiday tournament season goes a long way for any team, but the five teams listed below need it more than most.

Can Chaz Williams and UMass parlay a strong showing in Charleston into a Tournament bid for their long suffering fans?

Can Chaz Williams and UMass parlay a strong showing in Charleston into a Tournament bid for their long suffering fans?

UMass (Charleston Classic)

First Round Opponent: Nebraska, Possible Marquee Opponent: New Mexico (semifinal)

Before Derek Kellogg and UMass flirted with the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons, it had been awhile since Minuteman fans had even received a March sweat. Whiffs in all three big non-conference games a season ago (NC State, Miami and Tennessee) created too much work in the A-10 season for the Minutemen to make up. Getting past Nebraska would be nice, but a semifinal win over New Mexico would give Chaz Williams and co. not just a sweet November scalp, but a real sense that this is the year they finally get over the hump.

Texas (CBE Hall Of Fame Classic)

First Round Opponent: BYU, Possible Marquee Opponent: Wichita State (final)

Well, I guess this tournament can’t possibly go as poorly as Maui did last year for Texas (thank you Chaminade!), but nevertheless this is a massive spot for Rick Barnes’ club.  And Rick Barnes. The seat is pretty toasty down in Austin, and the best way to avoid suffering through a year like the last one might be to leave Kansas City as champions. Provided Wichita State skirts by Depaul, a CBE HOF Classic title for the Horns would mean beating two solid teams (BYU in the opener), and would offer an important reminder that this roster still has enough talent to make some noise in the Big 12 – and keep Barnes employed.

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Morning Five: 06.19.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2013

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  1. You may just be wiping the epic Game 6 of the Spurs-Heat out of your blurry eyes this morning, but it turns out that all the stars and incredible plays by the professionals making plays in The Finals doesn’t represent the only wow-factor surrounding the basketball world this week. As CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish reported yesterday, Canadian wunderkind Andrew Wiggins showed up in Lawrence, Kansas, for the his year-in-residence earlier this week, and already the reviews of the superstar recruit’s work ethic and talent are off the charts. Good news for Jayhawks fans: According to this KUSports.com report, the school also announced on Tuesday that its new contract with Time Warner to broadcast its third-tier television rights will ensure that Kansas fans around the country (and general college basketball fans wanting to see Wiggins) have more access than ever before (you have to read through the comments to understand it, but it’s there).
  2. Georgetown basketball hasn’t had the best 2013 thus far, given the embarrassing defeat to Florida Gulf Coast in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, the subsequent loss of superstar Otto Porter to the NBA, and Tuesday’s devastating news that rising star Greg Whittington — who was academically ineligible for the spring semester, missing the FCGU debacle — has torn the ACL in his left knee and could be out for all of next season. In 13 games last season, the lithe Whittington averaged 12/7 along the front line as he and Porter shored up John Thompson III’s lockdown defense. Even without the return of Porter, good things were predicted for next year’s Hoyas with Whittington joining returnees Markel Starks, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Nate Lubick as a talented and experienced core to compete in the new Big East. Without Whittington available, Georgetown appears to be a bit light on offensive ability unless someone unforeseen steps up.
  3. A couple of years ago, we wrote this piece about an “all-world junior” at UNC-Asheville who happened to be the high-rising son of Grammy-winning rock legend Bruce Hornsby. Keith Hornsby enjoyed a pedestrian but solid freshman campaign before exploding to become a second team all-Big South selection as a sophomore, where he averaged 15/4/3 APG while shooting 38 percent from deep and a ridiculous 92.5 percent (second nationally) from the foul line. With the resignation of his head coach Eddie Biedenbach after the season, Hornsby decided it was time to move on. He announced on Tuesday that he will transfer to LSU, choosing the Tigers over NC State and St. Mary’s. Although he must sit out the required transfer year, this is potentially a very nice transfer pickup for Tigers’ head coach Johnny Jones, who is accumulating a good amount of talent down in Baton Rouge.
  4. Stories like these are part of the reason we love college basketball. Meet Elfrid Payton, one of the 12 players to make the U-19 USA Basketball team. The rising junior at Louisiana-Lafayette had absurd all-around numbers last season — 16/6/6 APG/2 SPG as an all-Sun Belt second team selection — but it was his play in the Team USA tryouts that has been turning people’s heads. As Mike DeCourcy reports, Payton’s exceptional athletic ability on the defensive end allows him to guard three positions along the perimeter, and his offensive talents have ensured that he will find playing time on a group that includes Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss in the backcourt. We’re definitely excited to see this kid’s progression after this summer’s experience.
  5. Not everybody in this business was busy watching the the NBA last night, as Michigan head coach John Beilein made some time to visit Detroit’s Comerica Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of the Tigers-Orioles game. Wearing his college number (#35), he said that former Detroit great Al Kaline gave him a sage piece of advice to avoid embarrassing himself: “Throw it high.” His toss found the catcher’s mitt without issue, and he used the opportunity to share some of the thoughts he had on the Wolverines’ scintillating run to the national title game in April. His key takeaway: Enjoy it more. Wisdom, Beilein-style.
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Big East M5: 02.26.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 26th, 2013

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  1. Criticizing Marquette for its inconsistent play — especially as they sit just a game out of the top spot in the conference following last night’s big comeback win over Syracuse in Milwaukee — seems like nitpicking but that doesn’t mean the team’s schizophrenic play shouldn’t be a concern for Golden Eagles’ fans either. Buzz Williams’ team was supposed to take a step back this season after losing players like Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, but Williams has once again proven he is one of the best coaches in the country as his team has easily exceeded expectations and is competing for a league title without a true star. For all of the success that Marquette has had, including its impressive bounceback win over the Orange last night, they still seem to have the occasional lapse and have been shaky on the road. Williams and his club don’t have the luxury of winning games when they don’t play well because a lot of their success this season has been a result of hard work and grit. I don’t think anyone wants to play them in the NCAA Tournament, but if they can’t find better consistency and play with continued effort, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see Marquette bounced early from the Dance either.
  2. On one hand, it doesn’t seem fair to go after Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard for his team’s abysmal performance this season considering he lost two of his best forwards to injury, but at the same time, there is definitely something to be said for the fact that the Pirates’ roster is nearly devoid of true Big East-caliber players. Convincing the best players in the greater NYC area to eschew national powerhouses for a chance to return the Pirates to glory is hardly easy, but the Hall hasn’t even had a four-star player commit to Willard until Aquille Carr did this year and almost no one expects Carr to qualify. Also, where are all the kids from New Jersey? Three of the five New Jersey natives on the roster are transfers, and one other, Fuquan Edwin, wasn’t even Willard’s recruit. Maybe the best talent in the Garden State won’t want to play in South Orange, but certainly there are more gettable players from New Jersey who could make a greater impact than the four graduates of the Canarias Basketball Academy are making for the team currently.
  3. Of course that whole paragraph was written before Villanova made me look stupid by basically standing around while Seton Hall jacked up and made a bunch of three-pointers on their way to pulling off the upset last night at home. It doesn’t change the fact that the Pirates are terrible, but I don’t know what it means that VU head coach Jay Wright basically acknowledged he expects his team to struggle defending the three-ball followed by his team proving him prophetic. Seton Hall made 13 triples, including the game-winner from Edwin after Wildcats’ forward James Bell foolishly tried to split a double-team, and the Wildcats handed back all of the good will they earned by beating Marquette over the weekend. It’s hard to know what to make of the Wildcats’ resume at that — they have a trio of excellent conference wins, but they also have a number of truly terrible losses. If they can win one of their two remaining games against Pittsburgh and Georgetown and then perform admirably in the Big East Tournament, they can probably sneak in, but games like Monday night certainly don’t help.
  4. Speaking of teams who are making it difficult for themselves, the Cincinnati Bearcats have been turning in a series of stinkers that culminated in whatever that was called Sunday against Notre Dame. As The Dagger astutely points out, plenty of UC’s struggles can be blamed on the injury to point guard Cashmere Wright, who was basically acting as half of their offense while they were winning and has been far less explosive and dangerous since coming back. Now they are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament despite a resume full of solid wins both within and outside of the conference. They have just three conference games left, and considering winning in Louisville next Monday seems nearly impossible at this point, they need to beat Connecticut and South Florida to feel truly comfortable. But frankly, the team isn’t going to win if they can’t find some offense, and that firepower isn’t coming if Wright doesn’t magically get healthy soon.
  5. After its big Saturday road win over Syracuse, there are some willing to argue that Georgetown is good enough to be a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and that the Hoyas have the resume to back it up. But if I am John Thompson III, I am doing everything in my power to make sure my team comes to play Wednesday against UConn. The Huskies have nothing to lose in this game and they will be in front of a raucous Gampel Pavilion crowd ready to greet Georgetown for maybe the last time. The Hoyas should feel really good about where they sit, though. No one thought they were going to be this good this season, especially after they lost Greg Whittington, but now they are clearly one of the best eight teams in the country.  Still, if they start feeling too good about themselves, the Huskies are going to punch them in the mouth on Wednesday night.
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Rushed Reactions: Starks and Bowen Deal Louisville Its Third Straight Loss

Posted by IRenko on January 26th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Louisville and Georgetown. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

“Some people panic, but we don’t panic at Louisville,” said Rick Pitino after his Louisville team lost its third straight game on Saturday, falling at Georgetown, 53-51. “We’re judged in March,” he said, adding that he was happy that the Cardinals “played their tails off tonight” and that what ails the team are “little things that are correctable ” For his part, Georgetown head coach John Thompson III wasn’t about to downgrade his opponent either after his team’s big win: “Let’s get this straight. [Louisville is] a helluva team. That’s one of the best teams in the country.”

No single factor explains the Cardinals’ slide since being ranked as the very best team in the country two weeks ago. After the loss to Syracuse, a terse and somewhat ill-tempered Pitino had no particular diagnosis, suggesting only that it was a good basketball game and Syracuse made the plays they needed to make. Against Villanova, Pitino pointed to poor free throw shooting (12-of-24), especially down the stretch, as the culprit. What were the difference-makers in the Georgetown game? Here are the three key factors that produced a Georgetown win:

  • The Failure to Block Out and Aaron Bowen’s Acrobatic Tip-In – Pitino identified his team’s failure to block out as “the difference-maker.” Indeed, watching the game, you would not have guessed that Louisville was a strong defensive rebounding team and Georgetown a weak offensive rebounding team. But the Hoyas managed to score 13 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds. No offensive rebound was bigger than redshirt sophomore guard Aaron Bowen’s athletic putback to give the Hoyas a 52-50 lead with 3:36 remaining, a score that would prove to be the game-winning basket. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Bowen’s teammate Markel Starks. “When the shot went up, he just came out of nowhere… it was unbelievable.” It wasn’t the first time that Bowen’s aggressiveness on the glass paid off for the Hoyas. Late in the first half, after an 8-2 run by Louisville cut Georgetown’s lead to two, Bowen attacked the glass after a missed Starks jumper, and managed to knock the ball towards Nate Lubick, who converted a layup. Since the suspension of Greg Whittington, Bowen has found himself thrust into far more playing time than he’s ever had and on Saturday he made it pay off. Read the rest of this entry »
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