Morning Five: 12.17.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 17th, 2014

morning5

  1. We know that predicting the recovery time from a sprained ankle can be difficult, but the information from BYU about Tyler Haws‘ sprained left ankle is more nebulous than we are used to hearing. According to the school, Haws, the third-leading scorer in the country at 23.8 points per game, will be out for an undetermined period of time. Dave Rose seems to be targeting the team’s December 27 game against Gonzaga, which would mean that Haws would miss two weeks, but the school does not want to put a timetable on his return. We have even seen one local writer say that Haws could play as early as this Saturday, but that seems wildly optimistic.
  2. Illinois State suffered a big loss as DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell is expected to be out indefinitely with a broken right hand. Akoon-Purcell was the Redbirds leading scorer this season at 14.1 points per game and was second in rebounding at 5.5 per game. To make matters worse for the Redbirds, senior guard Bobby Hunter (fourth on the team at 8.9 points per game) is recovering from concussion-like symptoms. Akoon-Purcell is expected to miss four-to-six weeks, but it has not been decided yet if he will need surgery, which would obviously have a big impact on his expected recovery time.
  3. We have heard many people ask questions about the potential impact of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, but one possibility we had not consider was a state requiring that college athletes be paid. We might get our first example in South Carolina where a state senator is attempting to introduce a bill that would require state schools with at least $50 million in revenue (Clemson and South Carolina) to pay student-athletes in revenue sports in good academic standing a weekly stipend and set up a trust fund to pay those who graduate while providing a financial literacy course. The weekly stipend is expected to be around $150, which according to the bill should not be an issue for Clemson or South Carolina, which had budgets of approximately $90 million and $70 million respectively. While the NCAA might be willing to look the other way to a degree on the legalization of marijuana we doubt that they would be able to ignore this type of law.
  4. Yesterday, Creighton suspended junior guard James Miliken indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules. While Miliken’s season averages–5.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game–are pedestrian, he did score 23 points in 34 minutes in a double-overtime win against South Dakota last week. While these suspensions for undisclosed violations of team rules tend to typically be merely a slap on the wrist, the school’s statement that “a decision on [Miliken’s] standing within the program is not expected until after the Christmas break” does seem somewhat ominous. If Miliken does not return, the Bluejays should be fine thanks to their depth.
  5. hile the Chris Herren story gets plenty of attention thanks to the 30 for 30 on him as well as his speaking engagements, there are countless other tales of similarly talented players who saw their careers and lives wrecked by drugs. One such player is Tommy Gaines, who was featured in an excellent piece on Grantland by Jordan Ritter Conn. To be honest, we don’t remember much about Gaines and the article doesn’t give a great account of his background mostly because it is so difficult to piece together information about a person like him back then (something we won’t have a problem with if it were to happen today). Still the story about his past and his attempt at redemption is certainly worth your time.
Share this story

Is Emmanuel Mudiay a Sign of Things to Come for SMU?

Posted by CD Bradley on November 15th, 2013

In the eight years before Larry Brown arrived at SMU in 2012, the Mustangs had signed one top 100 recruit, and barely. Rivals ranked Cannen Cunningham, a 6’10” junior averaging 11 minutes and six points through two games this year, a lofty #98 in the Class of 2011. Things have, shall we say, turned around since the Hall of Fame coach sauntered into town. Brown signed the school’s first McDonald’s All American, 6’5” shooting guard Keith Frazier, which Rivals ranked #18 in the Class of 2013. On Thursday, he officially signed the highest-rated recruit in school history for the second time in two classes when 6’5” point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Rivals’ #2 player in the Class of 2014, officially agreed to #PonyUp.

Larry Brown has SMU hitting on all cylinders, but can the Mustangs keep rolling or is a breakdown on the horizon?(AP Photo/N. Raymond)

Larry Brown has SMU hitting on all cylinders, but can the Mustangs keep rolling or is a breakdown on the horizon?(AP Photo/N. Raymond)

Admittedly, Brown had a couple of advantages in the pursuit of Mudiay: The prep star plays high school basketball less than 20 minutes from campus, and his older brother, Jean-Michael Mudiay, is a junior backcourt reserve for the Mustangs. Still, when a team that hasn’t won, or for that matter played in, an NCAA Tournament game in more than two decades outrecruits heavyweights like Kentucky and Kansas, attention must be paid. Furthermore, Brown is already showing results on the court, too. The Mustangs, who have posted one .500 or better record in the past decade, are off to a 2-0 start with wins over teams from the Big 12 and Atlantic 10. And Tuesday’s 89-58 win over Rhode Island was the team’s first 30-point win over a Division I foe in nearly three years. Given the step up to the AAC, this is almost certainly as good as it has been for SMU hoops in the past half-century, but the question must be asked: How long can it realistically last?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 10.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 4th, 2013

morning5

  1. UNLV may have lost Anthony Bennett to the NBA Draft and Mike Moser to Oregon, but that has not stopped Dave Rice, who got a commitment from Goodluck Okonoboh yesterday. Okonoboh, who is the #21 overall prospect in ESPN’s rankings, is a 6’9″ center with good defensive skills, but with a raw offensive game. We are not privy to the details of his recruitment, but are a little surprised that he chose UNLV over more established programs like Duke, Florida, Indiana, and Ohio State, which were his other finalists. If Okonoboh follows through on his commitment (see below), he would join Dwayne Morgan, a top-10 power forward, to give the Rebels an imposing frontline.
  2. One of the many reasons that we do not get too worked up about recruitment is the inevitable early commitment/decommitment. The latest example of this is Trevon Bluiett, who backed out of his one-month-old commitment to UCLA yesterday. Blueitt’s official reason for backing out of his commitment was the distance from his home state of Indiana to UCLA, but we would not be surprised if UCLA’s surplus of wings may have played a more significant role. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Bluiett’s decision is that the Bruins has already hired Ed Schilling, Bluiett’s former high school coach, as an assistant coach. Package deals like this are not unusual in college basketball, but it is unusual to see one part of the package fall apart like this.
  3. As we mentioned last month when he had his DUI charge reduced to a driving without a license charge, it did not take long for Connecticut to let Tyler Olander back on the team as Kevin Ollie announced yesterday that Olander, a 6’10” senior who has been arrested twice since March, was back on the team following his September arrest. We won’t pretend to know how to run a basketball team/program, but we are a bit surprised with how quickly Kevin Ollie let Olander back as he cited Olander’s “responsibility and maturity” as well as time management skills and academic work. We understand that Connecticut is in need of an inside presence, but we have a hard time believing that doing so for less than a month after his (second) arrest really demonstrates that.
  4. When the NCAA made its controversial decision to not allow coaches to attend practices for schools that do not participate in scholastic associations we assumed it was a backhanded attempt at questioning the legitimacy of the academic credibility of those institutions. If the case of Illinois State freshman MiKyle McIntosh is any indication, they may have targeted the wrong school. McIntosh, a 6’7″ forward from Canada, was ruled academically ineligible after the NCAA determined that some of his high school coursework could not be used. Of course, this is not an infrequent occurrence, but it is notable that McIntosh spent part of his time at Christian Faith Center Academy in North Carolina, the same school that Florida State non-qualifier Xavier Rathan-Mayes attended for part of his career. We do not have access to the details of what courses these two took that the NCAA deemed unworthy of meeting its requirements as both players appear to have bounced around high schools, but much like Prime Prep in Texas when multiple players who graduated from the same high school are ruled academically ineligible you start to wonder what is going on there.
  5. Ken Pomeroy writes some of the best publicly available analytic work available, but sometimes it takes someone else to put it into a format that makes others recognize its value. One example of this is the work of Dan Hanner who looked at two Pomeroy metrics–possessions per game and average possession length–to determine which teams had the biggest differences between perception and reality in terms of their tempo. The basis behind this is that a team that plays suffocating defense that leads to their opponent using up a large percentage of the shot clock will tend to have fewer possessions per game as their opponent will be consuming significant portions of the overall game time with their offensive possessions. We won’t get into the specifics of the analysis (you can check out the link for that), but it is interesting that teams that play faster on offense than standard metric suggest tend to be much better than teams that play slower on offense than standard metrics suggest.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. With the college basketball season getting closer by the day now is good time to start getting familiar with the new faces coming in. RTC’s own Chris Johnson with the help of Evan Daniels of Scout.com has a solid take on the ten biggest impact freshman this season. Most of these rankings have a tendency to regurgitate the recruiting rankings and while there is usually some truth to that the better ones (like what Chris produced) feature some players who did not necessarily at the very top of the recruiting rankings, but could play key roles on their teams and influence the college basketball season because of the situations that they are placed in.
  2. Few things inspire as much outrage as ranking programs and most of those rankings tend to be poorly thought out, but given Andy Glockner’s track record we are going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Over this week, he will unveil his top 20 programs (presumably in order since he isn’t Jeff Goodman), but yesterday he began with the honorable mentions. Most of the teams in the honorable mention seem like they would be worthy candidates of inclusion in the top 20 (particularly Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Xavier) although if you look at all of his criteria, which are not necessarily 100% based on on-court success, you can understand why those programs might fall out of his top 20. We will be interested to see how Glockner’s top 20 compares to one that we would be put together (as long as he doesn’t ruin this by doing a dumb slideshow).
  3. It appears that Connecticut and Tyler Olander have dodged a bullet  as prosecutors in Connecticut dropped a DUI charge against him after he pleaded guilty to driving without a license. Olander, who was charged with a DUI on September 7, failed field sobriety tests, but passed two breath tests after he was taken into custody. As The Courant notes, Olander claims that he was merely serving as a designated driver (presumably for someone more drunk than he was), but this was his second arrest in six month (the other was trespassing during Spring Break in Panama City, Florida). This second arrest led Kevin Ollie to suspending him indefinitely. It remains to be seen whether Ollie will let him back on the team, but given the lack of interior talent the Huskies have on the inside and the reduced charges we suspect that Olander will be back before the season starts.
  4. Mark Emmert’s statements yesterday that he expects “a lot of change” in NCAA governance structure during the upcoming year led to quite a bit of debate about what those changes will be. Having read plenty of articles like this over the years you will have to excuse us if we are waiting for something more substantial before we start singing the praises of the NCAA. And if you expect this “change” to be about the overall structure of college sports and how revenue is generated Emmert’s comments from last week (see our Morning Five reaction the following morning) should make clear that is not on the NCAA’s agenda at this time. Still we would support any more towards transparency by the NCAA. We are just waiting to finally see it.
  5. We are guessing that Mike Krzyzewski will not be a fan of the Missouri Valley Conference’s unique solution for Deontae Hawkins and his transfer dilemma. Hawkins initally signed with Wichita State, but failed to qualify academically so he went to prep school for a year before signing with Illinois State. This would be fine except the MVC has a rule prohibiting intra-conference transfers within two years of attending college classes. In the end, the MVC agreed to let Hawkins, who never actually went to classes at Wichita State, play for Illinois State in the 2014-15 season except when they play Wichita State. While we can appreciate the attempt to make Hawkins eligible to play earlier, the uneven application of the rules is part of what drives administrators, coaches, and fans crazy.
Share this story

Night Line: Clarity Proves Ever Elusive in Wacky Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by BHayes on February 13th, 2013

nightline2

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Back in January, there was a time where we thought we actually knew what was going on in the Missouri Valley Conference. We were confident that Creighton was a top-10 team and that Wichita State was nearly as good as the Shockers of a year ago. Surely Illinois State had been exposed as a fraud, a once trendy sleeper pick to win the league before losing their first six conference games. And our early January convictions on Missouri State? Entering conference play without a D-I win, the Bears looked like one of the worst teams in the country, much less the Valley.

Jake Odum And Company Took A Loss Tuesday Night They Really Could Not Afford

Jake Odum And Company Took A Loss Tuesday Night That They Really Could Not Afford

Well, at least Evansville and Northern Iowa have avoided confusing us too much over the past month. The constantly evolving complexion of the conference took on yet another look Tuesday night, as Indiana State suffered a costly 67-65 loss at the hands of Missouri State. The Sycamores had been one of the league’s positive stories of late, as a recent surge had them entering Springfield as MVC co-leaders. If you are looking for narratives from the other side of the ledger, look no further than those of ISU’s fellow top-of-the-Valley dwellers, Creighton and Wichita State. The Bluejays have toiled through multiple losing streaks in the past month, and in what should be a daunting task, will take the floor at the McLeod Center tomorrow night seeking to avoid stretching their current losing streak to three. Wichita State can tell the Jays all about three-game losing streaks, as a mind-numbing loss to Southern Illinois highlighted the Shockers’ recent skid. Wichita and Creighton are still far closer to being in the field of 68 than out, but if current trajectories hold, it won’t be long before these losses become as crippling as Indiana State’s was tonight.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: UK Rises Up in Oxford, Ohio State Fights Off Wisconsin, and Another Road Miss from NC State…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 30th, 2013

ATB

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

Tonight’s Lede. Bubble Unpredictability. The NCAA Tournament bubble is a nebulous thing to gauge. Predictions are laid out with RPI figures and relevant strength of schedule numbers over these early months, and all of that gets compiled into individual “resumes” – the digestible team units used by the NCAA selection committee to construct its preferred field of 68. The best way to improve your “resume” goes without saying. Win good games against good teams, and you’re helping your chances of inclusion. Sometimes, all it takes is one or two big wins to launch a team into the bubble conversation, or to provide that definitive RPI boost to send it over the cut line. In the end, all final decisions are reached in a secretive board room, and for as accurate as bracket models have become in recent years – and as ostensibly similar as the esteemed media mock selection event has become — we’re all fooling ourselves if we think we know exactly how the committee evaluates teams. One team won a monstrously important game tonight – the kind of thing that really shakes up that selection process. Care to find out who it was?

Your Watercooler Moment. You Needed That One, UK. 

If Tuesday night is a sign of things to come, Kentucky could be a scary good team come March (Photo credit: AP Photo).

If Tuesday night is a sign of things to come, Kentucky could be a scary good team come March (Photo credit: AP Photo).

There are Kentucky fans, illogical or not, who will come down hard on 2012 national championship-winning coach John Calipari if he’s unable to lead Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament this season. Wildcats fans are some of the most relentless partisans in college sports. They expect the best, roster turnover and relative recruiting down year be damned. Whether or not UK ultimately gets there, I can’t say for sure. There’s a lot of season left to be played, and UK has plenty of work to do before locking up a bid. Here’s what I know: Kentucky is in much better shape, Tourney-wise, after Tuesday night’s win at Ole Miss. In almost any other year, that sounds more like some deranged Rebels fan’s perverse joke. This season, it’s not even a small stretch. Andy Kennedy’s team has evolved into a real SEC title contender, thanks mostly to the huge impact (physical and emotional) of Marshall Henderson, the SEC’s leading scorer, and a set of quality complementary frontcourt players. But for a few spots – a road loss at Middle Tennessee, a near-loss at Auburn – the Rebels have looked appreciably better than John Calipari’s team all season. With all that considered, there remained some suspicion about whether Ole Miss, long a doormat for the likes of UK and Florida in the SEC, could seize the opportunity against the worst team of Calipari’s UK tenure to cement its mantle as the league’s surefire No. 2 (Florida is absolutely napalming anyone it comes into contact with; the Gators are No. 1, and it’s not close). Henderson gives the Rebels an offensive spark unlike anything Kennedy has ever worked with in Oxford, and Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner are as solid as any non-Patric Young SEC bigs. This is Ole Miss basketball’s year to shine, and Tuesday night was its night to drill the young Wildcats. It had all the momentum and clear advantages it needed, but the Rebels couldn’t quite size up Calipari’s team. But let’s not let this be about some newly-discovered flaws in the Ole Miss formula. Kentucky deserves the credit for this win, because this Kentucky team was nothing like the incoherent mess we’ve seen for large stretches this season.

The “switch” everyone’s been waiting Kentucky to “flip” may or may not have, you know, flipped Tuesday night, but when you look at Kentucky’s 87-74 win, there are few times this season when the Wildcats have looked as good, or even half as good, as it did in Oxford. Not only did UK outwork and thoroughly outplay a vastly improved SEC contender, they went into a blaring environment, stuffed with a legion of vitriolic Rebels fans ready to coronate their home team’s triumph over a historic program, and exited with a resounding W. They did it with Kyle Wiltjer scoring and defending like he never has before, with Archie Goodwin snapping his conference play swoon, and a whole bunch of really encouraging developments that, if sustained, will erase any doubts UK fans ever had about the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament chances.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2013

CIO header

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • A Two-Team Race, Or Is It? Heading into last weekend, it looked to be a two team race between Creighton and Wichita State in the MVC. But don’t count Indiana State out of the mix. The Sycamores’ RPI is high right now and they have won three of their last four games. Also keep an eye out for Evansville, Bradley, and Northern Iowa to be a thorn in the contenders’ sides, hoping to score some upsets to keep things interesting. So far, the Bluejays and the Shockers have been able to mostly avoid those four teams, but Wichita State will play three of its next four games against Bradley, Indiana State and UNI. If you know anything about the Valley, anything can happen when two teams lace them up so this race is far from over yet.
Will Carl Hall's Return Keep Wichita State Atop The MVC?

Will Carl Hall’s Return Put Wichita State Over The Top? (Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle)

  • McDermott Continues To Light It Up: Doug McDermott continues to impress the nation with some extraordinary numbers. Since the start of 1996-97 season, no player has averaged more than 20 points per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the three-point line for an entire season. The Creighton junior is currently averaging 24.1 points per game and shooting 52.5% from beyond the arc. In addition, he is averaging 28 points per game and shooting 59.5 percent from deep in five road games this season. His offensive efficiency has continued in the last three games by shooting 62% from the field, 72% from three and averaging a ridiculous 31.6 points per game. He has already scored 29 points or more in seven games this season. He is without question a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate.
  • Hall Returns With Fire: Wichita State’s Carl Hall had been out the last several weeks with a thumb injury. Of the injuries that the Shockers have suffered this season, losing Hall hurt the most. After missing the first six games of conference play, he returned this past week and he was ready to play. The senior only scored two points but grabbed 10 rebounds in a victory over Illinois State, but against Creighton, Hall added the scoring back to his game by going for 17 points and 13 rebounds (including six offensive) to lead the Shockers to a narrow victory. The only thing he needs to shake the rust from is his free throw shooting. Hall went 3-of-8 in the two games, including a 1-of-6 disaster against Creighton after starting the season 20-of-23. He may be the difference-maker that Wichita needs if the Shockers are to win an MVC championship.

Power Rankings (Overall, Conference, Last Week)

  1. Wichita State (17-2) (6-1) (2)–The Shockers sit in first right now based on their win over Creighton this past weekend. Do I think they are the better team? I guess I do for now. I will be watching to see how both Creighton and Wichita fare in their next games and how they react to last weekend’s result. Wichita State got a boost from the return of Hall to help offset his 8-of-20 shooting from the three-point line against the Bluejays. Their rebounding has been outstanding, out-boarding their opponent in each conference game this season. They are grabbing almost nine more boards each game than their opponent. Wichita State is now #14 in the RPI and is 6-1 against the top 100 and 3-0 versus the top 50.  Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ATB: Injuries Strike Duke and Missouri, Georgetown Falls Flat and Ohio State Quells Doubts…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 9th, 2013

ATB

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

Tonight’s Lede. Pyrrhic Victories For Missouri and Duke. There is nothing surprising about the outcomes of Duke and Missouri’s Tuesday night conference match-ups. The Blue Devils predictably smothered a marginally-skilled Clemson team at Cameron Indoor while the Tigers dropped 84 points on Alabama’s unusually forgiving defense. Both teams will finish the year near the top of their respective leagues, and both should secure top-three seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Duke and Missouri are rolling right now. They share another commonality: a dearth of quality frontcourt depth. And by virtue of sharing that personnel characteristic, Duke and Missouri must now weather a very real problem: injuries. With Ryan Kelly and  Laurence Bowers both exiting their games with specific ailments, Duke and Missouri could be without two hugely important interior pieces for the foreseeable future (each player will undergo further testing Wednesday to determine the severity of the injuries). It’s not a crushing blow for either team – remember, we’re talking about NCAA Tournament locks. Life could be worse. But with both teams coming upon tricky Saturday road games – Duke at NC State, and Missouri at Ole Miss – playing without Kelly and Bowers, respectively, is going to require substantial adjustments. These teams are versatile and adaptable enough to make it work, but the difficulty level of an already hazardous road test could now be that much higher. Not having Kelly and Bowers is going to affect those games — whether their absences are enough to flip the outcome in the home teams’ favor is an open question.

Your Watercooler Moment. Georgetown Has Problems.

Offense remains a huge problem for Georgetown (Photo credit: AP).

Offense remains a huge problem for Georgetown (Photo credit: AP).

You don’t need to have the world’s most efficient offense to chase conference championships and NCAA Tournament berths. You do need to be at the very least competent on that end of the floor. Georgetown qualifies, but only barely. They masked their offensive deficiencies throughout the non-conference season with a handful of ugly wins – including a 37-36 line against Tennessee and a 46-point output against Towson at home. Big East teams know better; they know the limitations of John Thompson III’s Princeton offense, and so far, Marquette and Pittsburgh have exploited those weaknesses by handing the Hoyas two straight losses to open Big East play. Georgetown scored a combined 93 points in those two games. The first loss is not a huge injustice by any stretch; Marquette is a tough out at the Bradley Center. The latter is worrisome, if only because the Hoyas compounded their poor offense by allowing Pittsburgh to shoot 55 percent from the floor and 62 percent from three. Georgetown doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up, much less contend, when opponents shoot that well from the floor. The Hoyas grounded their early success on stingy defense, and that formula worked for the first two months of the season. The Big East is a quite simply a different beast. Georgetown needs its typically stifling defense as a baseline for success. It can’t expect to get caught up in high-scoring fixtures. The Hoyas don’t play that game. They force turnovers, block shots, protect the rim and do just enough offensively. That formula only works with seamless defensive execution intact. Against Pittsburgh, the defense wasn’t there. Georgetown has fought this trend in recent years – winning in November and December, only to fall flat in Big East play. Avoiding another conference slide will necessitate some measure of offensive capability. Failing that, the Hoyas can’t afford any defensive lapses from here on out.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

Share this story

CIO…the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 8th, 2013

CIO header

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • MVC Race Already Heating Up–What a wild first week in Missouri Valley Conference play. Creighton, as expected is sitting at 3-0. Gregg Marshall doesn’t get enough credit for reloading Wichita State and the Shockers are at 3-0 as well. After that, things get really interesting. Indiana State, Evansville, Bradley and Missouri State are all sitting at 2-1. None of those four teams were mentioned in the top echelon at the start of the season, but each of them have wins over others that weren’t expected. The biggest surprises are Northern Iowa sitting at 1-2 and Illinois State sitting at 0-3. The Panthers were expected to be a sleeper in the league this year, but after a tough non-conference slate where they did not win as much as they had hoped, they started off MVC play at 0-2 before defeating Illinois State on Saturday. The Redbirds were expected to be league contenders along with Creighton, but they have had a lot of things go wrong for them this season. While it is still early, some of these situations may build upon themselves making for another crazy season. What it may hurt in the long run, though, are the number of NCAA bids come March.
Illinois State Has Pulled a Disappearing Act This Season

Illinois State Has Pulled a Disappearing Act This Season

  • McDermott Still Reaping Rewards–Doug McDermott has been playing very well since Thanksgiving. As a result, he has continued to be recognized for his talent. He received the Lute Olson Midseason Player of the Year award, and ESPN recognized him as its Player of the Month in December. He’s third in the country in scoring at 23.1 points per game, is averaging 7.3 boards per contest, and is shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc. Those are numbers that are hard to ignore. Through his first three conference games, McDermott has also averaged 23 points a game while fighting off sickness over the past two games. He is on the verge of carrying Creighton on his shoulders, but luckily he has not had to since the Bluejays have been pretty balanced and different players have stepped up when needed. He should remain in the National Player of the Year conversation throughout, but it may become tougher to put up the same outstanding numbers in conference play that he did in the non-conference season.
  • Drugs Become Problem–A few weeks ago, Illinois State’s Geoffrey Allen was indefinitely suspended from the team and was soon after arrested for trying to sell marijuana. The newest incident involving drugs now surrounds Bradley’s Will Egolf. The sixth-year center was arrested as the year rolled over to 2013, accused of possession of a controlled substance. It turns out that he was purchasing Vicodin to help him manage the pain resulting from knee injuries he has suffered over the past few years. Those knee injuries ultimately allowed him to gain a sixth year of eligibility. He did not make the trip to Wichita this past weekend and it now appears that he will be suspended for a minimum of three games, but this transgression could ultimately end his career. These two incidents should raise a red flag to other MVC schools to remain vigilant and aware of what their players are doing and what may be affecting their play. I hope this doesn’t become a trend because it sort of gives the league a black eye.

Reader’s Take 

 

Power Rankings (conference record and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (14-1) (3-0) (1)–If you don’t know by now, Creighton is not just a one-man show with Doug McDermott. McDermott sat on the bench during a key stretch in the second half against Indiana State and the Bluejays were able to come back from a deficit and take a lead with the play of Gregory Echenique and Ethan Wragge. Avery Dingman has stepped up with the loss of Josh Jones and everyone is doing their part to contribute to the Bluejays success. Probably the biggest development has been the play of Austin Chatman who took over the point guard duties this season. In the first three conference games, Chatman has 21 assists to only 6 turnovers. A 3.5/1 assist-turnover ratio is pretty good. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ATB: CJ McCollum’s Injury, Illinois Thrashes Ohio State, and Cincinnati’s Big Letdown…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 7th, 2013

ATB

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

The Weekend’s Lede. This weekend brought a comforting turn in the hoops calendar. It was the first weekend spent in the throes of conference play. On Saturday, starting at 11am ET with Pittsburgh at Rutgers and on through Sunday night, high-quality games could be found on various networks. There were upsets, blowouts, and predictable results – all of which we’ve seen at different stages this season. But there’s a different vibe when it comes to conference play, to me at least, and it was refreshing to take it all in. Gone are the days of high majors beating down cupcakes. Most conference games are real, competitive, no-sleep-walking-allowed basketball games. And they’re here to stay, at least until April. This put me in an especially rosy mood, which is a good sign for what lies ahead in 2013, and an even better sign for college basketball in general. League competition is already shaking perceptions and standings in noticeable ways, and we haven’t even yet broken free of the college football fever. Just wait until February; I can hardly hide my excitement. So let’s recap the first conference weekend. It was a good one.

Your Watercooler Moment. CJ McCollum Breaks His Foot.

After bursting on the scene during last season's upset over No. 2 Duke, McCollum could very well have seen his last sample of NCAA Tournament basketball (Photo credit: AP).

After bursting on the scene during last season’s upset over No. 2 Duke, McCollum could very well have seen his last sample of NCAA Tournament basketball (Photo credit: AP).

Twice this season C.J. McCollum has left NBA Scouts looking for refunds on game tickets. The first time was a minor medical ailment. McCollum sprained his ankle and couldn’t suit up for a Dec. 20 game against North Texas. Saturday’s injury was far more severe. What’s truly saddening about McCollum’s broken foot isn’t the lengthy eight-to-ten-week recovery or the implications for his NBA draft status. It’s the fact that McCollum made the move most college basketball fans wish future first-round picks would make more often. McCollum eschewed guaranteed millions to play out his eligibility. In April, he penned a reflective piece explaining his decision. The SportingNews’ Mike DeCourcy dug up one of McCollum’s pivotal justifications: “By returning for my senior year, I give myself a chance to complete my degree at a prestigious university, while putting myself in a position to be successful no matter what happens in my future.” McCollum will still accomplish those goals, but the basketball component of his senior year won’t go as planned. Passing up the professional game for another year in college is always risky business. Many players wind up hurting their “draft stock” and regretting their decisions. McCollum should be back before the end of the season, and I have little doubt he can redeem whatever shine he may lose during his recovery, whether that be in the midst of a late-season Tournament surge or in draft workouts. McCollum is a preternaturally gifted scorer. He belongs in the NBA. This will do little, if anything, to hurt his draft prospects – provided he returns to his pre-injury form. It’s a tough setback, but nothing McCollum, a determined, clear-headed and driven individual, cannot overcome.

Also Worth Chatting About. Nothing Will Come Easy In The Big Ten.

The Illini didn't need hot three-point shooting to dominate Ohio State in Champaign (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

The Illini didn’t need hot three-point shooting to dominate Ohio State in Champaign (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

The formula to Illinois’ early success was flawed. It depended heavily on the three-point shot, which is an inherently risky way to win basketball games, but even more perilous when you don’t have a reliable source of interior scoring. Which Illinois didn’t…..until Saturday. The Illini’s win over Ohio State wasn’t surprising. It was the way Illinois bombarded the Buckeyes not with long-range shots, but with effective low post play. Sophomore forward Nnanna Egwu was slowly, surely coming around of late, but he came up small in this week’s loss at Purdue, and one was starting to get the sense he was still a year or two away from contributing in meaningful ways. On Saturday, he showed up, and boy, does Ohio State wish he hadn’t. Egwu finished with 16 points and eight rebounds to bail out Illinois’ again poor three-point shooting (8-for-27). Illinois showed it doesn’t need the long-ball to knock off good teams – at least not when Egwu’s holding fort in the paint. The same problems remain with Ohio State: Can anyone help DeShaun Thomas shoulder the scoring load? Is Aaron Craft that guy? Will Shannon Scott, Laquinton Ross and Sam Thompson pick up steam as the season rolls along? This will give John Groce’s team boatloads of confidence for an upcoming home date with Minnesota, but the way the Gophers have looked thus far, it may need to recapture its hot three-point shooting stroke to spring the upset.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Other 26: The Mountain West Enters the Spotlight

Posted by IRenko on December 29th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

The action was light during this past holiday week, but the Mountain West’s finest took advantage of the lull to thrust themselves into the spotlight with two exciting contests, a pair of one-point games against top 10 teams decided by last-second blocks. In the final of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, San Diego State fell just short against third-ranked Arizona, losing 68-67 when Xavier Thames’ potential winning shot was blocked by Arizona’s Nick Johnson as time expired. Two days later, New Mexico visited eighth-ranked Cincinnati and emerged with a hard-fought 55-54 victory that was sealed by a last-second block from sophomore Alex Kirk. What was most impressive about these hard-fought contests is how both teams showed that even if you take away some of their key weapons, they are deep and versatile enough to compete.

(Getty Images)

Alex Kirk Led a Tough New Mexico Performance Against Cincinnati (Getty Images)

The Lobos distinguished themselves not just with a victory, but the way they earned it. They are accustomed to racking up points at the free throw line, but reached the charity stripe at only a 20 percent rate, far below their season average and good enough for just six points. But they gritted out the win by patiently moving the ball against Cincy’s high-pressure halfcourt defense to find open shooters and cutters. Junior point guard Kendall Williams turned in a performance befitting of a team leader, stepping up to hit several big three-pointers and finishing the game with a team-high 16 points. But it was Kirk who set the tone with his lunch bucket performance, fearlessly hurling himself into battle against Cincinnati’s imposing frontline and surviving with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, and three blocks, including a game-clinching rejection of a Sean Kilpatrick three-point shot.

The Aztecs, too, can be proud of the fight they showed in Honolulu despite coming up short. Leading scorer Jamaal Franklin was held to just nine points, his lowest output of the season.  But Franklin found other ways to contribute, pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out six assists. And San Diego State found other players to carry the scoring load. Chase Tapley, who had already poured in 46 points in the first two games of the tournament, dropped 19 against Arizona to push his season scoring average to 15.8 PPG. And the Aztecs showed how strong their defense is, holding the Wildcats to 37.3 percent shooting.

This Saturday, UNLV will have a chance to intensify this week’s spotlight on the Mountain West when they travel to North Carolina. In a year when the conference seems as deep as any in the country, the only lingering doubt heading into this past week was whether they had the heavyweights to compete with the nation’s best teams. But as the final week of non-conference play comes to a close, the conference’s top teams are leaving little doubt that they can.

Top Ten Rankings

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2012

CIO header

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • Indiana State Raises Profile: There have been a lot of question marks surrounding Indiana State and how good the Sycamores might be this season. It is possible those questions have been answered after a couple of important overtime wins over power conference teams in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. First, they knocked off Mississippi and then after losing to San Diego State, knocked off Miami (FL) in the third-place game. Jake Odum came up big in both of those wins. After battling foot injuries all of last season that kept him from performing at the same level as his freshman year, the junior hit several free throws down the stretch in overtime against Ole Miss and then hit the game-winner against the Hurricanes. The Sycamores might have gained enough momentum out in Hawaii to throw them into the MVC conversation heading into conference play.
  • Josh Jones Hangs It Up: A few weeks ago, Creighton’s Josh Jones blacked out before a game against Nebraska. It was later determined he had an atrial flutter and needed an invasive procedure to correct it. There were questions at the time as to whether he could come back from the ailment. Unfortunately, as a result of that successful procedure, it was found that he will have to another medical procedure which will force him to finish his basketball career earlier than expected. Jones has been a fighter throughout his basketball career. It was going to be a tough road ahead for Jones anyway, but he’ll be remembered most for his smile and positive attitude. The only good thing out of this is that Creighton will be able to focus on replacing Jones on the court with the remaining players on the roster. Although Jones will be hard to replace, he will still be with the team cheering them on.
  • The Weak Link In The Conference: I would need to dig back into the record books a little bit, but it has to be a long time since a Missouri Valley Conference school headed into conference play looking for its first win against a Division I team. Missouri State enters MVC play with a 2-10 overall record, but the two wins are against two non-D-I teams: Malone and Philander Smith. The Bears even played on the road at SWAC member Alabama State and lost that game by 12 points. Paul Lusk had the luxury of inheriting a talented team over a season ago, but what has happened since? Injuries have plagued the team, with Jarmar Gulley out before the season began, but also other veteran players like Keith Pickens dealing with injuries. The other problem is that they were already down one scholarship this season because of APR scores. While many may look at Bradley’s downward spiral as a comparison the previous two seasons, this one might be even worse. Eventually, Missouri State has to win a game and I’m sure the other nine teams in the league will not want to be the school that falls to them, as it would be a massive hit to their potential at-large chances.
The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (11-1) (1)–The Bluejays took care of business in their non-conference slate with their only blemish coming against Boise State. At this point, that doesn’t look like a bad loss, but yet the questions still hang out there on what might be their best win. Wins over California and Arizona State might look pretty good right now, but it could be the win against Wisconsin that might end up being the key victory for the Bluejays come march. Last season, Gregory Echenique exploded in conference play. After showing signs of dominance down low in the non-conference season, Echenique could be the key to leading Creighton to an MVC regular season championship that has eluded them for the past several years. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story