Big 12 Morning Five: 10.12.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 12th, 2011

  1. The news of retired Valparaiso coach Homer Drew’s cancer diagnosis spread across the Internet thanks to a tweet by former Valpo player and current Michigan State guard Brandon Wood yesterday evening. And yes, you did read that right — both Drew and his wife have cancer, which CBS Sports later confirmed. The Big 12 twist here, of course, is that Homer is the father of Baylor coach Scott Drew, as well as current Valpo coach Bryce Drew, who took over for his father this spring. It’s unclear how serious the diagnosis is for either Homer Drew or his wife, but that word “cancer” is always a shocker. From the entire college basketball community to the Drews: get well soon.
  2. Now, on to realignment again: Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com says that BYU is not a candidate for the Big 12 anymore. Those rumblings had softened over the past few weeks, but it’s at least interesting to hear an insider dig up this sort of information.  The WCC is no doubt counting its lucky stars that the Cougars no longer have that option on the table.  BYU fans, however, may not be feeling quite the same way.
  3. The league also welcomed TCU yesterday, and athletic director Chris Del Conte apparently got a little emotional during the announcement. Who can blame him, though? It’s a big move for the Horned Frogs, and a few league coaches had some kind words for their new member.  In a little more than a year, TCU has gone from the Mountain West to the Big East to the Big 12.  Where will it end up if the conference dissolves in coming years?
  4. Want a laugh for the day? Look at this chart, which pretty much puts Missouri‘s potential move to the SEC in perspective. Funny how a simple graph like that can make you rethink the conference realignment situation.  Of course, $12M may not be a huge amount for the overall university budget, but it’s still more than $11M or $10M or whatever other number below it the school is currently receiving.
  5. You’ll need to use your scrolling skills to find it, but SI’s Luke Winn ranked both Missouri and Kansas in the top-15 of his backcourt rankings. He placed them back-to-back, of course, almost as if he’s intentionally fueling the bitter rivalry. No other Big 12 teams appear on the list, but at this point, we’re just happy to read about basketball in October.
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Morning Five: 10.12.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 12th, 2011

  1. Indiana self-reported a violation to the NCAA yesterday, specifically the contacting of recruit Gary Harris by head coach Tom Crean on October 6 even though the period for allowable contact ended on October 5. The university report said that one of Crean’s assistants told the head coach that the contact was permitted and they didn’t realize the error until the communication had occurred. Self-imposed penalty: loss of two recruiting days, loss of an allowable contact, and no further contact with that recruit. That’s probably all that will be necessary to appease the NCAA, but this is just odd to us. We’re confident that in time Crean can bring the Hoosiers back to prominence, and we know that head coaches delegate so much to their assistants, but at a school with a recent history of improper contact with recruits like Indiana, it’s difficult to believe that the man who’s most responsible for what goes on there doesn’t know when the contact period ends.
  2. Notre Dame will be without fifth-year senior forward Tim Abromaitis for the first four games of the upcoming season as a penalty for playing two exhibition games before his sophomore season — yes, this happened three years ago — officially began. Abromaitis had taken that year off after the exhibitions to give himself an eventual fifth year of eligibility, but NCAA rules say that only freshmen are allowed to do this, not sophomores. Head coach Mike Brey took responsibility for the faux pas, and both he and Abromaitis knew this was coming, so it’s not like the team is caught off-guard on this one. According to the NCAA, Abromaitis’ fifth year is green-lighted because of a waiver that takes the program’s misunderstanding of the rule into account. An NCAA waiver that considers misunderstandings? Somewhere, Enes Kanter and his parents offer a bemused glower…
  3. Homer Drew was the designer of one of March Madness’ greatest upset moments. Actually, it’s just as accurate to eliminate the word “upset” in the previous sentence. The tip-pass play executed by Drew’s Valparaiso squad that resulted in Homer’s son Bryce drilling that jumper to beat Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA Tournament’s first round has become a lasting reminder of hope for all small-conference teams who find themselves in the Dance. Hope…is exactly what Drew and his wife now need, more than ever.  The school revealed yesterday that both Drew AND his wife were recently diagnosed with cancer. No further details. Awful, awful, awful news. Our best wishes and prayers go out to both of them and the entire Drew family.
  4. At a couple of spots on this site yesterday we covered  Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo’s comments about the ACC’s power grab in snagging Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East a while back, as they appeared in an article in Sunday’s Boston Globe. Now DeFilippo has apologized, saying that he was wrong to have his personal feelings appear to come off as the stance of the entire department. That might work for the comment about blackballing Connecticut from the ACC, but that surprised few. As for the assertion that ESPN nudged the ACC into making the play for Syracuse and UConn, he said he spoke “inappropriately and erroneously” about that. So, now we’re to believe that ESPN didn’t have a hand in it after he brought it up without prompting? Because his denial is of the non-denial variety, this matter won’t be put to bed until Mr. DiFilippo specifically states that ESPN was not involved at all — if then. If you believe the prevailing mood among journalists, bloggers and fans on Twitter, his first takes are still considered as the truth, and there’s nothing inappropriate or erroneous about speaking the truth.
  5. Listen, we don’t like the lack of Gus Johnson on CBS any more than you do, and we’ve expressed our sorrow here and over our Twitter feed more than a lot of our readers/followers probably ever hoped we would. It might still come up from time to time (especially about five months from now), but it’s real and there’s nothing more that we can do about it. In the spirit of moving on, we give you, via Sports Media Journal, the entire CBS college basketball schedule. From December 3 (North Carolina at Kentucky) to February 26 (Big East/Big Ten doubleheader), here it is in all its glory.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part II

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Yesterday we brought you Part I of our One on One interview with the always-entertaining Tom BrennanIn addition to learning that integration helped knock him out of a starting spot at Georgia and that his athletic director at Yale all but pushed him out the door to Vermont, we re-discovered that the man simply loves to tell stories.  Whether it involves him telling his new boss that he’s already fulfilled all his career goals or thinking he had coaching all figured out at the tender age of 27, he had us riveted to each and every word.  Part II is only better.

Ed. Note: Brennan uses some colorful language during this interview, so if you’re sensitive to such things, you may want to skip past this one.

Rush the Court: Guys like us who study the sport knew you were pretty good in ’03 and ’04, but most of America, though, didn’t know about you guys until that ’05 season.  The ESPN program helped with that, but then of course the NCAA Tournament run built upon it.  You guys really caught lightning in a bottle in terms of national coverage, and with Taylor Coppenrath, TJ Sorrentine, and yourself, you all became national names almost overnight.  What was that like?

Tom Brennan: We were pretty.  We really were pretty.  I had this radio show every morning during morning drive-time.  It was like something out of a novel.  Sorrentine was the little street kid from Pawtucket [RI], you know, who was the leader and had his hat on sideways.  And Coppenrath was like Lil’ Abner; he was from a town of 200 people, and they loved him.  They loved him!  He never complained; he was really a treat.  And then I had three or four other guys that just really blended in.  I always say this — like, David Hehn — the first year we won [in 2003], we won at BU, and he made a jumper with about five seconds to go to win the game.  So now, it’s Vermont’s first championship, we win it on the road.  Everybody’s nuts, but then we had Coppenrath and Sorrentine.  You know, Sorrentine was out that year, and he’s coming back and he’d been the MVP.  And the year he was out, Coppenrath was the MVP.  So now I got these two studs, and they’re both really good, but I also have to manage all this sh– to make sure everybody is on the same page.  Like Hehn went from a superhero to A Chorus Line — he went back, “just let me guard the other team’s best player.”  But if any of those kids had ego problems, I think we could have blown up.  They were just so good about it, and everybody really was into the idea that we’re all better if we’re together, and we’re all better if we don’t care who gets the credit and that kind of stuff.  As cliched as it sounds, it really was the truth.  Coppenrath and Sorrentine were both ultimate teammates, and the other three guys were as well.  And we were tough!  We’d been around — all the same guys — for three years, then ESPN got interested.  ESPN The Magazine did a big story on us, and Sports Illustrated.  It was off the hook, and it’s such a little state and we’re the only Division I school, and people just went crazy about it.  Really, those guys were like the Beatles — they really were.

The Vermont Rock Stars Knowns as Brennan's Catamounts (Getty/J. McIsaac)

RTC:  So let me ask you about those three NCAA Tournaments.  In succession, you went up against Lute Olson, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo.  [laughter]  There’s no break there, right?  What was that like?  Olson’s now retired — he coached until he was about 150, but these other guys continue to get it done even as they advance well into their coaching careers.  What is it about these coaches that makes them so successful?

TB:  I always said, “if God had another son, he would look like Lute Olson.”  It was remarkable what Calhoun did last year — he finished ninth in their league!  And it’s not like he’s going to rally them — he’s a bad-ass.  You know, he gets in those kids’ faces; he doesn’t take no for an answer.  I mean, he’s just ruthless, and yet, man, they did it.  They did it.  I was always impressed with that, and what happened was… it was funny.  I was so in awe of Lute Olson — it was just unbelievable, because, again, the guy was like a god to me — and I didn’t know him, but I just knew of him, and what he’d done and what he’d accomplished and how he looked and he was always so gracious.  And so I’m walking down, we’re getting ready to play them, and what happened was that his wife had died a while back, and then he ended up with this woman from Pennsylvania [Christine Olson] — I don’t even know how the hell it happened, but she was like a Republican leader, some big deal from Pennsylvania — and I read this thing where he was very happy.  That he’d met this woman and she’d really made him happy, so I didn’t think much of it, but when I was walking down to say hello to him, I was so nervous.  Honest to God, I wasn’t even nervous about the game, I was nervous about him!  Because I knew, they’re a #1, we’re a #16 — I mean, they had [Andre] Iguodala, they had all kinds of players on that team.  We had been stuck in the snow, we didn’t get to Salt Lake until 1:30 in the morning, and we played at 11.  It was crazy.  It was just crazy.  Our kids were like, “f—, look where we are.”  And that’s the thing, by the time the second year came around [against UConn in 2004], we really weren’t that shook, and by the time the third year came around [against Syracuse in 2005], we knew that we could win.  We really knew we were good enough.  So, anyway, I go up to Lute Olson, and he said, “Coach, how are you?”  And I said, “Coach, I just wanna say that I’m just so happy that you’ve found peace in your personal life.”  I’m thinking to myself, “what the f— are you saying?!?!”  I’m hearing these words come out, and I’m thinking, “you a–hole!”  I didn’t even know what to say to him; I was so awestruck, honest to God.  So he said, “well, thank you.”  And I just turned and ran like a rabbit, and thought “jeezus… good first impression, there.”  But you know what, when I retired, he wrote me the nicest letter.  He wrote me a beautiful letter, and so it was nice.  But you know, we never had a chance.  [Vermont lost 80-51.]  I have a picture on my cell and we were up, like 7-6, got it blown up and put it on my wall.  But then, and this is a cute story too.  We got stuck in the snow, and I went on [Tony] Kornheiser’s show, PTI or whatever it was — I guess it was his radio show at the time — and I said, “you know, this is ridiculous.”  I said, “they make billions of dollars on this thing, and they can’t get us from Denver to Salt Lake City?  If you think this was Duke in this hotel, we’d still be here.”  I wasn’t even finished, and the AD knocked on the door: “hey, yo, that’s enough about that.”  [laughter]  So that was enough about that.  So then anyway, but what happened was, we did get tapped out, and to take us home, the NCAA felt so bad and I guess my rant had a little bit to do with it, they sent us a plane that [Bruce] Springsteen uses, the Rolling Stones use, and you couldn’t even tell it was a plane.  So now, my wife and I are standing at the back, and the captain comes down, and he says, “are you the coach?”  I said, “yes, sir.  I’m the coach.”  He said, “well, you come with me, I’m going to take you to Mick Jagger’s suite.”  So I turned to Lynn [Brennan, his wife], I said, “hey, you gotta turn into a Brazilian model by the time we get to the top of the stairs.”  [laughter]  It was wild.  But it was a great experience; it was a great experience for our kids.  And I knew that we had a chance to keep going, that we had this group that was good.  So then the next year we played UConn, played them tougher than anybody as I recall, on their march to the championship.  [Vermont lost 70-53.]  I think they beat us less than anybody else, and then the next year we got Syracuse.     

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Morning Five: 06.10.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 10th, 2011

  1. When Bryce Drew was chosen to succeed his father Homer at Valparaiso a little less than a month ago, he became the fifth head coach in the Horizon League currently in his 30s. We’re always intrigued to hear how coaches who are barely ten years older than many of their players are able to come across more as authority figures and less as contemporaries, and it brings up another question: with the current generation of players, is it better to be an old seasoned coach chock-full of wisdom that comes from time and experience who’s better at recruiting the parents as well as the players, or is it more advantageous to be perceived as a young “up-and-comer” who knows how to use Twitter, Facebook, and get up for a chest-bump? The two things aren’t mutually exclusive, and it will be interesting to see if the most successful coaches over the next 5-10 years are guys who are hybrids of those two options.
  2. With two teams leaving and four new coaches arriving, you might think the non-conference schedules of Big 12 teams might suffer a little next season. Um, think again. Texas goes to UCLA in early December. Kansas has games against no less than Kentucky and Ohio State, and will play in a Maui Invitational that’s more stacked than Sofia Vergara. Oklahoma State’s taking to the road to play an improved Alabama side as well as scheduling a prickly one at Missouri State. The list goes on. In short, the overall strength-of-schedule numbers (for what they’re worth) for the conference may elevate to Big East levels next season.
  3. Now that Patrick Chambers has gotten the shards of glass out of his neck (we’re still in disbelief) and finds himself as the honcho at Penn State, we’re betting he’s spent about 99% of his time performing the single most important task that will help him bring some pride back to the Nittany Lions — recruiting. But in addition to getting prospects to care enough about the place to attend it, until the wins start rolling in he’s also got to get fans to care enough about the program to get behind it. Chambers was a marketing major, and it’s time to put that training to good use.
  4. When we were younger and our copies of Sports Illustrated would arrive in the mail, it was always a highlight of the week. One of the first things we (and most college basketball fans) would do is flip straight to any stories on college basketball, of course. If there was one in there written by Alexander Wolff, it always meant that much more. We grew up reading his stuff, and his skill as a chronicler and storyteller of college basketball contributed massively to what we know about the game today and how much we still love it. It was announced on Thursday that the Basketball Hall of Fame has awarded Mr. Wolff (as well as Jim Durham, former voice of the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls, and current NBA broadcaster for ESPN radio) its top media honor, the Curt Gowdy Media Award. It doesn’t even seem like our place to say it, but we will anyway: congratulations, sir. And thank you.
  5. In early 2010, right after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Kentucky’s John Calipari and a group of eleven other people created a telethon called Hoops for Haiti that was broadcast on local television in Lexington. Calipari helped host the event, Wildcat players answered phones, and viewers called in to donate money or bid on auctioned items. Donations came in not just from within the borders of Kentucky (though the majority did), but indeed, from all across the nation. In a deep economic recession, the efforts of Calipari and his crew raised an incredible amount in excess of $1.3 million in aid to Haiti. Mind you, that’s more than the entire nations of Sweden ($850,000), India ($1 million), or China ($1 million) are each reported to have given. The folks who came up with this — including the Kentucky head coach — have been nominated for a regional Emmy award. A basketball coach has never been nominated for an Emmy, let alone won one – until now.
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Morning Five: 05.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 17th, 2011

  1. Late last night news broke that Arizona point guard Lamont “Momo” Jones had decided to transfer and was likely headed back to the New York City area. Although Jones has not issued a statement about his transfer, Arizona coach Sean Miller has confirmed the reports that was indeed transferring. There has been plenty of speculation about why he was transferring, but much of it has centered around either his desire to go home to be near a sick family relative (reportedly his grandmother) or the logjam in a Arizona backcourt that will be loaded even without Jones, who averaged 9.7 PPG and 2.4 APG as a sophomore. We will have more on this story throughout the day as it develops.
  2. Later today Valparaiso is expected to name Bryce Drew as the successor to his father Homer Drew as the next coach of the program that he helped make famous. This is not the first time that Homer has stepped aside to let his son take over the program. In 2002, Homer stepped aside to let Scott Drew take over as coach at VU, but he stayed there just one year before leaving to take over at Baylor following the Dave Bliss era. Homer stepped back into his previous position where he has remained despite failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the past seven seasons. Bryce has served as an assistant at the school since 2005, but is best known for his miraculous shot against Mississippi in the 1st round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament and leading them to the school to its only Sweet 16 appearance.
  3. Last summer UNLV had to deal with domestic violence charges against its top returning scorer (Tre’Von Willis) and it appears that this summer it will have to deal with DUI charges against its top returning scorer (Chace Stanback). Stanback was arrested early on Friday near the Thomas & Mack Center on suspicion of driving under the influence. He is out of custody and is expected to appear in court on August 11. It will be interesting to see how new coach Dave Rice deals with the arrest both before and after the court appearance. Rice comes from a strict program at BYU (remember Brandon Davies), but he was also on the Jerry Tarkanian teams of the early 90s that had a more laissez-faire approach to punishment.
  4. One of the bigger stories in the college basketball world yesterday was Dana O’Neill’s story about former Villanova guard Will Sheridan publicly announcing that he was a homosexual. While we understand that this will be a big story and undoubtedly generate a lot of page views for ESPN, we are looking forward to the day when this isn’t even a story. The column itself is pretty interesting and takes an in-depth look at Sheridan’s life after Villanova, but the most interesting thing to us is that his teammates knew about it and didn’t seem to care. In our mind, that seems to be the biggest obstacle for a player “coming out” while they are still active. The fear of being ostracized seems to be within the realm of possibility and we have to applaud the Villanova players who were aware of it for how they handled “the news” and never let it get out or seem to bother them as we have seen with the recent Kobe Bryant controversy that there are still many ingrained attitudes about homosexuality that may be difficult to break in the world of sports.
  5. President Obama welcomed the national champion UConn Huskies to the White House. Unlike some recent championship ceremonies this one was without controversy although Kemba Walker apparently had a tough time getting there as he missed one flight and had another flight delayed before eventually finding his way to Washington, DC. The ceremony itself was fairly mundane except for a few jokes that Obama made about how UConn reminded him of his busted bracket (he picked Kansas to win) and his difficulty with the name of Adolph Rupp.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.28-01.30

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 28th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor

This weekend brings us yet another great slate of games with plenty of ranked teams heading out on the road to face unranked opponents. How many will go down this time? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#21 Georgetown @ #6 Villanova – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

Despite their win at the Carrier Dome over Syracuse last week, Villanova has lost two of its last three games and now welcomes their rival Georgetown Hoyas to the Wells Fargo Center. The Hoyas have won three straight over the New York-area schools to climb back to 4-4 in Big East play. Georgetown has won four true road games but none of those wins were against teams the caliber of Villanova.

If Freeman and the Hoyas Plan On Finishing Strong, Tonight's a Good Night To Start

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 21st, 2010

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

A Look Back

After a couple months of beating good teams but never getting over the hump and beating a great team, the Horizon League finally got that signature Top-15 program win.  The only surprising part was that it wasn’t Cleveland State at West Virginia, with the Vikings rolling into town and playing respectably before bowing out in the final five minutes.  Instead, the victory came from the hands of the UIC Flames against Illinois, who was stunned in a “home” game at the United Center (not the UIC Pavilion, their normal home).  Big East cellar-dweller DePaul ripped the hearts out of Milwaukee and Loyola, and Butler absolutely went off on Stanford.

Our Tip of the Cap goes to freshman Ray McCallum Jr. of Detroit, who won the battle of the Michigan coaches’ kids against Trey Zeigler and Central Michigan.  The Titans point guard had 23 points and 11 rebounds, marking the first double-double of his career.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (12-1, 2-0) – Sooner or later, Gary Waters‘ crew had to lose a game.  The good news is a loss in Morgantown does nothing to hurt the Vikings’ NCAA Tournament resume, even though a victory would have practically ensured a ticket to the Big Dance.  South Florida visits on Wednesday before the Vikings take a break for the holiday.
  2. Butler (6-4, 1-0) – With losses to Xavier and Evansville and a fairly ho-hum record thus far, the Bulldogs needed a statement.  Mission accomplished.  The Dawgs blasted Stanford to get themselves set for the Diamond Head Classic this week, a huge deal for the Horizon League as it jockeys for RPI position.
  3. Valparaiso (8-4, 2-0) – The Crusaders are on a winning track heading into Tuesday night’s big matchup at Oakland.  Homer Drew‘s team dispatched IPFW and Eastern Michigan, the latter securing a Horizon League season victory over the MAC.
  4. Loyola (8-4, 0-2) – Jim Whitesell had a difficult time last week, dropping a game at intra-city rival DePaul.  After the near-win against Kansas State, the loss in town really took the wind out of the Ramblers’ sails.  The Ramblers wrap up the non-conference season against Texas Pan-American, a team they obliterated early in the season at home.
  5. Detroit (7-5, 1-0) – The Titans destroyed Central Michigan in a rare nationally-televised game.  The McCallum father-son team celebrated a victory against the Zeigler father-son team in a long-awaited battle, and play at Bradley on Wednesday, a difficult place for anyone to win.
  6. Wright State (7-5, 0-1) – Billy Donlon‘s Raiders are on their biggest roll of the year, winning four in a row heading into a semester-ending battle at Charlotte, a dangerous A-10 team that is coming off an upset of Tennessee.  Should they win in North Carolina, the Raiders will ride a five-game winning streak into the conference season.
  7. UIC (5-7, 0-1) – Maybe beating a Big Ten team will get the Flames on a roll.  Oregon State of the Pac-10 welcomes UIC out west on Wednesday, the return game of a Flames win last season.  If Howard Moore‘s team can take out the Beavers and win against Youngstown State on the 30th, they’ll present a formidable opponent for Cleveland State on New Years’ Day.
  8. Milwaukee (5-7, 1-1) – It seems that the top five of the conference have separated themselves from the bottom five, and while Wright State may be making a move up the ladder, the Panthers definitely seem to be on a downturn. A close victory over lowly Bowling Green did nothing to boost confidence among the fan base following another bad loss Tuesday at DePaul.  The Panthers have a lengthy break before playing at Wright State to open the H-League season.
  9. Green Bay (5-7, 1-1) – The Phoenix escaped with a 72-68 victory over provisional D-I North Dakota on Monday.  Freshmen Daniel Turner (5 RPG) and Alec Brown (5 RPG) are the only Green Bay players of any consequence on the boards, and while they’ve never been a big-time rebounding team, the Phoenix are shooting worse than most programs.  They’re missing Troy Cotton more than they think.
  10. Youngstown State (5-5, 0-2) – Jerry Slocum‘s team is ranking at or near the bottom in many statistical categories in the conference.  The Penguins are 0-2, with both losses in conference coming to sub-.500 teams.  Their lone win in December came in a victory over Malone.  The good feelings of the early season are long gone, replaced by the all-too-familiar poor team.  All signs point toward another awful conference season for the Penguins.

A Look Ahead

Except for a couple games in January and the Bracket Buster event (only UIC and Butler aren’t participating), the Horizon League wraps up its non-league slate this week.  Valparaiso’s game at Oakland is a very important matchup for the conference and would look good following Oakland’s victory over Tennessee.  Cleveland State can solidify its at-large resume by beating up on Big East opponent USF at home, while perhaps the biggest opportunity this week belongs to Butler.  Beat Utah, most likely Florida State and hopefully Baylor, and the Dawgs can go a long way to filling out its dance card for March.  This is important because it has now been twelve years since the Horizon League has sent three teams to the Big Dance.  With CSU all but locking up a spot and Butler on the verge of a huge opportunity in Hawaii, the Horizon League Tournament opens up the possibility of a third team stealing the automatic bid and the Horizon League sending three teams to the Big Dance.  It should make sense for the selection committee, as the conference has a very good record in the NCAA Tournament even without last year’s runner-up finish for Butler.  They’ll be playing for the NIT, however, if they flop this weekend at the Diamond Head Classic.

  • 12/21 – Valparaiso at Oakland, 7:30 p.m.
  • 12/21 – South Florida at Cleveland State, 7 p.m. (HLN)
  • 12/22 – Detroit at Bradley, 8 p.m.
  • 12/23-25 – Butler in the Diamond Head Classic. (ESPNU)

Youtube Video of the Week

Oh no…the bad side of UIC beating Illinois is we all must stomach this video:

Happy Holidays!

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League correspondent for Rush The Court

A Look Back

  • How They Fared: The Horizon League, unlike most conferences, begins its conference season the first week of December; most teams play two games, with a couple playing only one game and competing non-conference the rest of the week.  Easily the most impressive team of the week was Cleveland State, who rolled through Wisconsin and preserved their undefeated record.  Norris Cole has the inside track on Player of the Year, and coach Gary Waters has assembled a dominant team behind him.
  • Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot: Fans unfamiliar with the Horizon League would assume that Butler is the team to find at #1 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25.  They’d be wrong.  Butler has given way to Norris Cole and Cleveland State, who are all the rage as they take no prisoners.  The Vikings absolutely dominated a Milwaukee team at the U.S. Cellular Arena, where the Panthers are almost unbeatable.
  • Tip Of The Cap: This week’s TOTC goes to Matt Howard of Butler, who tied Bobby Plump (you might know him better by his fictional likeness, Jimmy Chitwood of Hoosiers) for 11th on the Butler University all-time scoring list.  Our friends at Victory Firelight were happy to see that.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (10-0, 2-0 Horizon) – For the past decade, the Vikings were 1-19 in the state of Wisconsin – 1-9 in Green Bay and 0-10 in Milwaukee.  In the week leading up to the games, coach Gary Waters called it “Revenge Week.”  Mission accomplished.  The other mission accomplished? Putting Norris Cole in the driver’s seat for Player of the Year.
  2. Valparaiso (6-2, 2-0) – Coach Homer Drew‘s Crusaders made the short trip to Chicago and calmly walked out 2-0 with a nail-biting victory at UIC and a commanding performance at Loyola.  Winning the latter pushes Valpo past Butler in our conference power rankings for the week.
  3. Butler (4-3, 1-0) – Shelvin Mack and the Bulldogs sweated out a victory on Chicago’s near north side, beating Loyola 65-63.  A strong showing against Duke should have kept them at the #2 spot, but for the uncertainty surrounding Mack’s cramps and Ronald Nored‘s concussion.  Both players should be on the court this week, but the Dawgs are much thinner than last season and need both on the court even more than before.
  4. Detroit (5-4, 1-0) – The Titans split two games last week, losing at home to Akron before dumping Horizon League foe Wright State.  Ray McCallum Sr.‘s Titans could be winning even more if they had some bodies to spell their stellar starting five; four Titans are in the top ten in the conference in total minutes and minutes per game.
  5. Loyola (7-2, 0-2) – It was a sobering week for the Ramblers, who have to be thinking about 2009-10, when they began 11-2 before flopping all the way down to 14-16 for the season.  For the second straight year, the Ramblers put a scare into Butler, but the excitement at the Joe collapsed following a double-digit home loss to Valpo.
  6. Green Bay (4-4, 1-1) – Brian Wardle‘s crew came into the week favored to win a game and lose a game.  They did just that, dropping a home loss to Cleveland State before wiping the floor with Jerry Slocum’s Youngstown State Penguins.  Rahmon Fletcher continues to be a boon for the Phoenix, placing third in the conference in scoring at 16.6 PPG.
  7. Milwaukee (4-5, 1-1) – It’s hard to put the Panthers lower since they did win convincingly over Youngstown State on Thursday.  It’s impossible to put the Panthers any higher given the absolute garbage showing against Cleveland State on Saturday night.  Last week, we talked about their Jekyll and Hyde ways.  That continued this past week, but at least they came out with a W.
  8. Wright State (3-5, 0-1) – Had the Raiders pulled out a victory against middling Big East team Cincinnati or Detroit, they’d find themselves much higher on the list.  Bobby Donlon‘s crew is much different than they were under Brad Brownell, whose defensive mindset has lost its way.  The Raiders are giving up 78 points per game this season, and they won’t be seeing a bye to the semifinals of the conference tournament unless that changes.
  9. UIC (4-5, 0-1) – Akron pulled out the close victory at UIC, the second near-victory for the Flames of the week.  If UIC had been killing teams heading into the conference season, they might find themselves higher.  However, that signature win over Rhode Island seems further in the rear-view mirror every day.
  10. Youngstown State (4-3, 0-2) – The Penguins’ 4-1 start got the fans in Youngstown paying attention, but a quick 0-2 start in conference against struggling clubs in Green Bay and Milwaukee puts YSU at the bottom of the barrel.  Along with Wright State and Loyola, the Penguins are one of the only teams to go winless; unlike Wright State or Loyola, they weren’t playing significantly better competition.

A Look Ahead

Week one of conference play is in the books, and the standings will remain the same until after Christmas.  Three games against high-major foes dot the lineup this week, with Purdue visiting Valpo’s ARC and Milwaukee taking a trip west to Madison.  Loyola hopes to pull off a stunning upset at Kansas State.  Let’s hope the timekeeper knows what they’re doing at the Cintas Center this year as Butler takes its turn as the away team in a home-and-home with Xavier.

  • 12/7 - Purdue at Valparaiso, 9 p.m. ESPNU
  • 12/8 – Milwaukee at Wisconsin, 8:30 p.m. Big Ten Network
  • 12/8 – Wright State vs. Air Force, 7 p.m. HLN
  • 12/9 – Butler at Xavier, 9 p.m. ESPN
  • 12/11 – Milwaukee at South Dakota State, 8 p.m.
  • 12/11 – Loyola vs. #3 Kansas State, 4 p.m.
  • 12/11 – Cleveland State at Sam Houston State, 4:30 p.m.

Remember When… they screwed up the clock at Hinkle last season?  Take a look back:

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Summer School in the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

Around The Horizon League:

  • NBA Draft: The Horizon League doesn’t always pop up on the NBA’s radar, but Gordon Hayward shot up the draft boards last season and ended up being drafted ninth overall by the Utah Jazz. Haywardof course led Butler to the NCAA Tournament title game before going pro.
  • Coaching Changes: It took until the middle of July, but the UIC Flames officially announced the retirement of long-time head coach and all-time wins leader Jimmy Collins. The move is effective August 31 and the coaching search is already on. The Flames are conducting a nationwide hunt for someone who can bring them out of basement of the Horizon League.
  • Keeping It In The Family: Ray McCallum, Jr. is considered one of the top players in the 2010 freshman class. The fact that he chose the Detroit Titans stunned no one. McCallum is going to play for his father, and will help make Detroit one of the favorites in the Horizon League.
  • Brownout: The other big head coaching change in the league was the departure of Brad Brownell from Wright State. Brownell had finished 12-6 in conference each of the past three seasons with the Raiders. He took over at Clemson for the departed Oliver Purnell in a classic game of coaching musical chairs. Brownell’s replacement, Billy Donlon, will be expected to maintain the high level of play the program has reached recently and maybe even make an NCAA Tournament. Donlon was the team’s associate head coach under Brownell, so there is a lot of continuity in the program.
  • Going Young: When head coach Todd Kowalczyk left Green Bay for a bigger payday at Toledo, not many people expected the Phoenix to hire one of the youngest coaches in all of Division I basketball. Green Bay made the intriguing decided to stay in house and hire Brian Wardle. Wardle had been an assistant with the Phoenix before the hire.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #4: Bryce Drew & Family

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

My Stepdad, A Sports Bar, and Bryce Drew (submitted by Dave Zeitlin)

Long before Bryce Drew made one of the most memorable shots in college basketball history, I sat in a fourth-grade class waiting impatiently for my stepfather to pick me up early from school. At the time, I did not know that something strange and wonderful was about to begin, a tradition, I must admit now to all my teachers from fourth grade through high school, that was fueled by a lie: No, I wasn’t really sick the same Thursday and Friday in March every year. The truth is, I ditched school every year so I could watch the first-round games of the NCAA tournament at a sports bar with my stepdad. Phew, I feel better now. And now that this public admission is out of the way, I must say that I learned lessons at the sports bar that I never could have learned in school – like how to watch four games at once without missing a basket (hard); how to order food while keeping an eye on the TV (not as hard); and who to root for you when you had no real rooting interest (the dark jerseys, of course).

It was also there where I learned about Bryce Drew.

bryce-drew-shot

For those who don’t know about Bryce Drew’s game-winning shot – well, you guys are just bad people. Seriously, the play doesn’t need a description because anyone who is a college basketball fan has seen it over and over again. But amazingly, it never gets old. Watch the YouTube clip of the wild finish of the 1998 first-round game between Valparaiso and Mississippi (below), and then check out the longer version, and then watch both clips one more time.

Valpo 70, Ole Miss 69. Chills.

Sure, there are buzzer-beaters every year. And 13 seeds often find a way to sneak into the second round or the Sweet 16. But for me, Drew’s shot is in a class by itself for two reasons: For starters, what few people remember is that Drew missed an open 3-pointer seconds earlier and Valpo only got the chance to pull off the win when Ole Miss star Ansu Sesay missed two free throws and the rebound was, fortuitously, tipped out-of-bounds and given to Valpo. Secondly, it wasn’t just the single shot that was amazing. It was the entire play – from the pump-fake on the inbounds pass by Jamie Sykes, to the leaping catch in traffic by Bill Jenkins, to the nifty touch pass to the streaking Drew, to The Shot, to the wild celebration on the floor, and then, finally, to an emotional hug between Drew and his head coach.

Only at that moment, it wasn’t his head coach that he was hugging. It was his father, Homer. And for me, that’s the coolest thing about the play – that it was designed for Bryce by his dad. Every time I think of the play, I always imagine the father and son having drawn it up years before while goofing around on an old, raggedy driveway hoop. Bryce’s older brother, Scott, the Baylor head coach who was then an assistant at Valpo, probably helped, too.

Many of These NCAA Memories Come Back to Family
Many of These NCAA Memories Come Back to Family

Lucky for me, on the day the Drew family booked their place in NCAA tournament lore, I was with a family member, too. Even better, I was with someone who understood that the first round of the NCAA tournament – also known as the greatest two days in sports – is far more important than a few hours in school. And if you don’t think that’s true, watch Bryce Drew’s shot one more time.

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Checking in on the… Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2009

Damon Lewis, a reporter and play-by-play announcer for the Horizon League Network, is RTC’s Horizon League correspondent.

  1. Butler (#13/13)        9-0    18-1
  2. Green Bay            8-2    16-6
  3. Milwaukee            8-3    13-8
  4. Wright State            7-3    13-8
  5. Cleveland State        5-5    14-8
  6. Loyola                4-6    12-10
  7. UIC                3-7    10-10
  8. Youngstown State        3-7    6-14
  9. Valparaiso            3-7    6-15
  10. Detroit                0-10    5-15

I’ve used up the majority of this space over the last several weeks explaining why and/or how the Horizon League would be a two-bid league in the NCAA Tournament this year.  Actually, it was more like “explaining why” early in the season because the hopes were so high, then “explaining how” as of late, as the chances became slimmer and slimmer.  That said, let me make something very clear…

The Horizon League will ONLY send 2 teams to the NCAA Tournament if Butler stumbles in the Horizon League Tournament.  Period.

I’m really, really disappointed about this.  The fact that the HL will likely be a one-bid league once again this season isn’t a knock on the overall level of basketball.  It’s simply evidence that, right now, there’s really only one elite team/program in the Horizon League.  That program, of course, is Butler.  Having seen nearly every team play in person (and all of them via TV or Internet), I have a lot of confidence in saying that there truly isn’t much difference between team #2 and team #10.  There may be a wide margin in the wins and losses, but talent-wise and coaching-wise, the gap is much tighter.  To me, the differences between teams 2-thru-5 and teams 6-thru-10 are things like experience, lack of injuries, or mental toughness.  Some teams have better results in these areas, and because of that they’ve risen slightly higher in the league standings.  It’s not because of a disparity in talent.  The only disparity in talent I see is at Butler.  Along with doing the little things right, they have the most talent, and it shows.

No need to go on, and on, about teams that are irrelevant right now, unless I feel like poking a little fun (which I will).  There have been some impressive performances since the last time we checked in, which has prompted a lot of chatter in Horizon League circles about who this season’s “HL Player of the Year” will be, “All-HL 1st Team,” etc.  We’ll dive into that, among other things, right about…now.

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Checking in on the… Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2008

Damon Lewis, a reporter and play-by-play announcer for the Horizon League Network, is RTC’s Horizon League correspondent.

I’m going to keep it simple this time around…using a symbol so recognizable, that sometimes teams use this gesture as a way to call their plays on the floor.  It’s either “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as we spotlight the latest and greatest happenings in the Horizon League.

THREE THUMBS UP (If we had that many):  UIC – (4-2, 0-0)

The Flames knocked off Vanderbilt on Wednesday at the home of the Commodores, 74-55.  “Vanderbilt,” UIC head coach Jimmy Collins told me before the season started, “is the most difficult place on the planet to play.”  Well, Collins’ club made it look easy, shooting 12-of-19 from the 3-point arc (63%), outrebounding Vandy, while also tallying more assists and less turnovers than their SEC opponent.  We all know Josh Mayo can play (30 points on 8-of-10 shooting from 3-point line), but the key to this firestorm was sophomore, Robert “Robo” Kreps (23 points on 10-of-15 shooting).  If Kreps can continue to support Mayo on the perimeter, all while 7-footer Scott VanderMeer controls the glass, UIC could make a push for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003-04.

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