ATB: Oklahoma State’s Injury Concerns, Alabama’s Defense, and Purdue’s Blown Lead…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 16th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Mini-Tournaments Abound! Few events typify the diffuse nature of non-conference competition in college hoops more than mini early-season invitationals. You have stacked fields like the Battle 4 Atlantis, replete with national championship hopefuls and quality mid-majors battling it out in a tropical locale. Then you have events like the South Padre Invitational, where the most anticipated match-up will pit annual bubble denizen Northwestern and Illinois State. Not to take anything away from Jackie Carmichael and the Redbirds, but come on – yuck. Several of this year’s events tipped off Thursday, and while the early-round match-ups may lack for intrigue, their occurrence brings the promise of quality contests in the later rounds. Even if the first-round competition didn’t quite sate your hoops palate, there were some intriguing bouts scattered about the ledger, with conference and national contenders taking the floor in various spots around the country. These little tourneys may not tout Champions Classic-level prestige, but they’re exciting enough to spark the interest of most college hoops fans. What do you say we dig into some of these mini-tourneys’ first-round tilts?

Your Watercooler Moment. Flaws Exposed in Oklahoma State’s Overtime Win Over Akron.

So much of Oklahoma State’s Tournament potential rides on Nash and Smart (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Few teams count two top-10 recruits in their starting lineup. Even fewer combine that youth with effective complementary pieces and offensive firepower at every position. Oklahoma State, with sophomore wing Le’Bryan Nash and freshman guard Marcus Smart, fit the description. Based on Thursday’s near-loss in overtime to Akron in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, it seems the Cowboys have some fine-tuning to do before they can be considered a realistic contender in this season’s deep Big 12. The book is out on Nash: He’s an effective but inefficient scorer (last season, he took 29.3 percent of available shots and used 29.0 percent of possessions yet posted an ugly 89.2 offensive rating, per kenpom.com). The early returns on Smart are just about where you’d expect them to be: The talent is there, but the attention to detail is not. If Nash and Smart, who combined for 34 points and 16 rebounds Thursday, can bring it all together, and junior Markel Brown can provide consistent scoring from the perimeter, this is a dangerous team. Whether that if-statement translates to the affirmative – and whether the young duo can guide the Cowboys into NCAA Tournament territory, which is probably the threshold postseason benchmark to ensure the continuation of coach Travis Ford’s tenure – will largely fall on the shoulders of Nash and Smart.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Another Key Loss for Oklahoma State? There were significant concerns about Oklahoma State’s depth heading into this season. With swingman Brian Williams done for the season, and point guard Cezar Guerrero leaving the team for family issues, the Cowboys’ bench was already very thin. Those concerns may reach new levels of immediacy if senior JP Olukemi’s apparent left knee injury, suffered during the Cowboys’ game with Akron Thursday, proves serious. Olukemi spent much of the second half with his knee wrapped in ice. For Oklahoma State, losing him would be a major blow. He’s an explosive scorer and a fantastic perimeter complement to Nash and Smart. On a more personal level, you can’t help feeling for Olukemi, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL and was granted a waiver to play out his final year of eligibility after a long and presumably anxiety-filled waiting game with NCAA folk.
  • Late-Game Mismanagement Costs Purdue. Transition is the fitting byword for Purdue’s 2012-13 season. Gone are Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson, the heart and soul of Purdue’s recent outfits. In comes a new freshman class, which features three-top 100 players. The future is promising for the Boilermakers; Matt Painter will have his team challenging the top levels of Big Ten competition sooner rather than later. This year, the goals are more realistic, more focused on development and transition. Purdue’s inexperience proved costly Thursday night as the Boilermakers saw their seven-point lead evaporate in just over a minute’s time, thus sending their 2K Sports Classic semifinal contest into overtime, at which point Villanova — thanks to a pair of huge threes from James Bell — took over. Chalk this one up to youth — a veteran team with multiple years’ playing experience does not let that one slip away. For Purdue, the silver lining is plain: the young Boilers can take this performance, and use it as a reference point for future growth. The Boilermakers’ short-term outlook is far less promising than the long-term. Last night was a confirmation of the fact.
  • 2K Sports Classic Provides Marquee Drama. In what amounted to arguably Thursday’s best matchup of power conference teams, Alabama needed a late three from Rodney Cooper to advance to Friday night’s championship round. Cooper’s shot was huge – it halted Oregon State’s valiant second half run. More impressive was Alabama’s guard play, namely Trevor Lacey and Trevor Releford. We know the Tide are going to lock you down; that’s what Anthony Grant’s teams do. They defend. The picture is less rosy on offense for Alabama. The development of a potent guard combo like Releford and Lacey could be just what the doctor ordered. And about that defense – Alabama’s suffocating defense produced produced 17 turnovers to Oregon State’s nine. It’s only November, and much Alabama has plenty of work left on the nonconference ledger before they can start thinking about Kentucky and Missouri and Florida, but this has the makings of another defensive-minded Tide team. Their identity is a timeless quality under Grant.
  • The “Other” Freshman Shines for N.C. State. With all due respect to Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren wants the spotlight just as much as you do. That’s the impression you got watching Warren, the less-heralded member of Mark Gottfried’s prized 2012 recruiting class, steal the show in N.C. State’s  win over Penn State in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-off. Warren mixes a savvy low post game with a high basketball IQ and range out to the three-point line, as comfortable to mix it up on the low block as he is spot up from deep (Warren connected on three of four three-point attempts Thursday). For all of Purvis’ lottery talent, Warren’s diverse inside-out game could be the more productive asset. Throw Warren, likely lottery pick C.J. Leslie, and interior enforcer Richard Howell in the same frontcourt, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find teams capable of matching that size and talent.
  • Kansas Needs A Go-To Scorer; Hello Ben McLemore. Trap games arrive in many different shapes and sizes. For Kansas, coming off a three-point loss to Michigan State in Tuesday night’s Champions Classic, Chattanooga pounced on the Jayhawks’ sluggishness to jump out to an eight-point halftime lead. Then Kansas realized it was playing Chattanooga, shrugged off its shaky start and ripped off a 27-4 run in a 12-minute second-half stretch to silence the Mocs. An update on Ben McLemore: the hype – which amplified throughout last season and over the summer as tales of Mclemore’s athleticism and natural scoring ability surfaced in droves – is legitimate. Bill Self told CBS’s Jeff Goodman this week he had yet to find a player with a “killer instinct”, a Thomas Robinson-type lead option who he can hand the ball to in crucial moments. McLemore’s 24-point, eight-rebound effort could fashion an answer.
  • Rethinking the Big 12 Hierarchy. All early-season caveats apply here, but it’s hard to argue Baylor hasn’t looked and played like the Big 12’s best team so far this season. The latest tour de force came Thursday night against an improved Boston College team, when Pierre Jackson’s 31 points on 10-15 shooting overwhelmed the Eagles and served and provided more fuel to the notion this could be Baylor’s best team under Scott Drew. It’s not just about Jackson – freshman Isaiah Austin has all the physical tools of Perry Jones III and all the intangibles he never had. To reiterate: It’s way too early to make any bold proclamations about conference races. At this point, we can come together on the concept that Kansas may not, as many posited throughout the preseason, cruise to a ninth straight conference title. Baylor feels like a viable contender.

… and Misses.

  • Another Tough Loss for Georgia. The source of Georgia’s problems is no huge mystery. It involves sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the lack of proficient scoring talent around him. How else can you explain the McDonald’s All-American throwing up 21 shots and making just five of them in a losing effort, the Bulldogs’ second straight defeat in the Legends Classic after falling to Youngstown State Monday. It only gets harder from here for Georgia, with either UCLA or Georgetown (depending on who wins their first round matchup Monday) waiting in Tuesday’s semifinal at the Barclays Center. Pope is a very talented player whose high-end NBA projection borders on lottery-pick status. He is the driving force of all of Georgia’s offensive sets. Through three games – which, admittedly, is a small sample – Georgia’s 41.2 effective field goal percentage ranks 256th nationally. For that to improve, coach Mark Fox needs to find ways to get other players involved offensively.

The Bulldogs need a secondary scoring option to surface alongside Caldwell-Pope (Photo credit: US Presswire).

  • Cancun not Kind to DePaul. Not all bad losses are created equal. Often times the better team plays down to its competition and loses by a small margin. Less common is the underdog blowout, when the putatively weaker opponent rises up and dominates its more prominent opponent. Gardner-Webb saw an opportunity in DePaul in the first round of the Cancun Challenge, and took it to the Blue Demons. Talk of progressive changes under Oliver Purnell has been constant. This marks a setback in that progress, even if, in the grand scheme, a menial non-conference loss won’t in any drastic way alter DePaul’s season – especially because they’re unlikely to land in a favorable postseason tournament. The baseline expectations are low for DePaul, but an outcome like this stains the rest of your non-conference season. Big East play has not yet arrived, and already DePaul is turning into everyone’s punching bag.
  • Drexel’s 0-2 Start Recalls Last Season’s Tournament Miss. The main charge against Drexel’s NCAA Tournament resume last season was its lack of quality non-conference wins. Sure, the Dragons won 25 of their last 27 games (the losses coming to Georgia State and VCU), but their shortcomings out of the CAA loomed large in the selection committee’s eyes. Drexel looks poised to romp through the CAA yet again, especially now that their schedule doesn’t feature a home-and-home with VCU. But after losing their first two games out-of-conference,  the Dragons are in the early stages of piecing together a Tournament dossier similar to the one that left them on the wrong side of the bubble cut line last March. Bruiser Flint’s team needs to score some  respectable victories before CAA play, or else Drexel will be left feeling much the same way it did at the end of last season.

Dunkdafied. How about Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes with authority and-one?

Thursday’s All Americans.

  • Pierre Jackson, Baylor (NPOY) – The lightning-quick point guard knifes through the lane in a flash, drops dimes on a pivot and finishes with pop. His season-high 31 against Boston College is the type of performance that makes people stand up and take notice.
  • Isaiah Canaan, Murray State – The chances Murray State rolls out another 20+ win streak to start the season are slim. The Racers are undefeated so far, though, and Canaan’s 26 points and six assists in a 20-point win over Auburn are a strong indicator Murray State will be making headlines for a second straight year.
  • Jordan Adams, UCLA – In the illustrious history of UCLA basketball, no freshman had ever scored 20 or more points in his first three games, until tonight when Adams went for 25/3/4 assts in 22 minutes off the bench.
  • Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech – Anytime someone scores 34 points, that’s an impressive feat unto itself. Accounting for 11 of your team’s last 14 points in a two-point win brings that huge night into a game-deciding context.
  • Ryan Anderson, Boston College – In a losing effort, Anderson stood toe-to-toe with Baylor’s vaunted front line and finished with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting – this after notching 29 points in the Eagles season-opening win over Florida International. This three at the half was typical of his afternoon.

Tweet of the Night. Following D.J. Byrd’s questionable flagrant foul call in the final minutes of regulation against Villanova, which keyed the Wildcats overtime-forcing comeback, Purdue coach Matt Painter was understandably livid. ESPN Senior Basketball Recruiting Analyst Dave Telep apparently felt Painter’s pain.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2012

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @wildjays.

Top Storylines

  • MVC Untouched — The Missouri Valley Conference has so far survived the first few rounds of changes among the top 15 conferences in Division I basketball (the Ivy being the other one). While every major conference, and some others even further down have been expanding or shifting, the MVC has walked away unscathed and still completely intact. That doesn’t mean there have not been rumors about teams leaving the conference at some point. The latest such mention was late this summer whenthere was a report that Evansville was on the verge of heading to the Horizon League. While some of that was theory based on some relatively weak facts, there are still cards likely to be played on that matter at some point. The question is when it will happen and who will be the first to start the falling dominoes within the league. It may turn out to be a school like Evansville that is looking to get out of the shadow of the other bigger players in the Valley.
  • Can Doug McDermott have an even better season? — Creighton fans are salivating to see what McDermott can do to follow up last season, when he earned first-team All-America honors, averaged almost 23 points a game, and shot an amazing percentage behind the arc while frustrating opponents down low.  The encore may not be so much about increasing his scoring like he did from his freshman to sophomore year, but about how far he can lead the Bluejays come March. McDermott spent the summer at the Amare Stoudamire and LeBron James skills camps, but he also took some time off after almost playing two years without a break including a stint with the Team USA U-19 squad.  With so many expectations on his shoulders, it will be interesting to see if he continues to take everything in stride or listen to the whispers of the NBA and focuses on those areas of his game most likely to take him to the next level.  For the MVC as a whole, the fans probably hope for both. 

Doug McDermott Gives The MVC Something It Hasn’t Had In Many Years: A Bona Fide National POY Candidate.

  • Big Men Instead of Guards—For many years, the Valley has been known as a guard’s league with not as many big-bodied frontcourt players leading the way.  Things have changed at least for the teams at the top. Along with McDermott, the Bluejays boast big man Gregory Echenique, who while topping over 300 pounds when he came to Creighton over three seasons ago, is now down to 260 and very agile. Jackie Carmichael from Illinois State impressed many at the camps he attended this summer after coming up big at the end of the season for the Redbirds. Colt Ryan, though he could be considered a guard, is more of a forward, but he can score in bunches for Evansville. Drake returns center Seth Van Deest from a shoulder injury that kept him out all season. Carl Hall will likely try to hold things down with Wichita State bringing in a bunch of new players.  Then you have Seth Tuttle from Northern Iowa who was the MVC Freshman of the Year last season. When you look at the make-up of the MVC going into this season, it is easily dominated by talented frontcourt players. 
  • Deja vu Times Two—Three years ago, Greg McDermott returned to the conference that originally made him a hot commodity and has experienced success by taking Creighton back to the NCAA Tournament.  This time Southern Illinois hopes Barry Hinson has the same success coming back to the conference that he had marginal success with while at Missouri State.  It is rare that a coach returns to the same conference to coach another school, but the MVC must be a special place where two former coaches do so to coach different teams in a short period of time. Unlike McDermott who came to Creighton with a cupboard somewhat full, Hinson has a little more work to do after the struggles SIU has had for the past four seasons.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Creighton (27-4, 15-3)
  2. Northern Iowa (24-7, 14-4)
  3. Illinois State (24-7, 13-5)
  4. Wichita State (23-8, 12-6)
  5. Drake (15-15, 9-9)
  6. Missouri State (15-16, 7-11)
  7. Indiana State (15-15, 6-12)
  8. Evansville (15-16, 6-12)
  9. Bradley (13-18, 5-13)
  10. Southern Illinois (11-20, 3-15)

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Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Northwestern Wildcats

Posted by KTrahan on October 19th, 2012

The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for all of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we continue with the Northwestern Wildcats. Check out their full schedule here.

Where we left off: Last year, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody thought he had put together a solid non-conference schedule. There weren’t any marquee wins, but there were good wins against Seton Hall, Tulsa and LSU, respectable losses to Baylor and Creighton, and no bad losses. That didn’t turn out to be a winning formula, as the NCAA selection committee favored teams that had some marquee wins and forgave their bad losses. This year, there is a chance for several marquee wins — some even in Evanston — and NU must take advantage of those opportunities in order to finally make the NCAA Tournament.

Northwestern Wants to See More of These

Major tournaments: Last year, Northwestern won the Charleston Classic, which isn’t a huge tournament but a respected one nonetheless. This year, NU heads to the South Padre Island Invitational to face TCU, and then either UAB or Illinois State. That’s…um, well… a terrible schedule. Luckily for the Wildcats, they’ll have other chances pick up big wins, but that set of games certainly won’t be the most entertaining group we’ll see this season.

Toughest opponent: Last year, Northwestern was utterly embarrassed at home by Baylor, and this year, the Wildcats have to go to Waco for what will undoubtedly be their toughest non-conference game. Last year’s game was probably the biggest mismatch NU faced all year, as Baylor was dominant on the boards and has athleticism down low, while the Cats couldn’t do anything in the paint offensively or defensively. This NU team will be better inside and Baylor isn’t quite as talented as it was last season, so it shouldn’t be as much of a blowout but it will still be NU’s toughest non-league game by far, especially coming on the road.

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RTC Summer School: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Today we start with the MVC.

Patrick Marshall is MVC Correspondant for Rush the Court.  You can find his other musings on Twitter @wildjays and on White & Blue Review. 

Three Summer Storylines

1. Doug McDermott Continues All-American Status. Doug McDermott was named a first team All-American last season.  While the rest of the first team decided to leave school early for NBA riches, McDermott decide to stay in school. He did this to not only improve his game, but also has hopes to take the Creighton Bluejays further into the NCAA Tournament after leading them to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007 and advancing to the Round of 32.  His summer has been spent going to all of the skills camps including the Deron Williams/Amare’ Stoudemire Skills camp as well as the Lebron James Skills Academy, continuing to impress onlookers. With McDermott back, expectations are high in Omaha and many fans fear that if he does have the same kind of year or better that it might be hard for him to hold off on the NBA a second time.

What does All-American Doug McDermott have in mind for an encore in 2012-13?

2. Coaching Changes Welcome Back Familiar Faces. Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery was let go after a tumultuous time in Carbondale during his final four seasons as head coach that saw the program hit rock bottom. To resurrect the Saluki program, MVC coaching veteran Barry Hinson returned to the league to take over the head coaching job. Hinson spent the past four seasons at Kansas in a supporting role as the Director of Basketball Operations. He becomes the second coach in the past three seasons to leave the MVC and come back to coach another team in the league (Greg McDermott is the other). Hinson was let go from Missouri State in 2008 despite being pretty successful, but he couldn’t get his team to the NCAA Tournament.  The question will be whether he can take Southern Illinois back to the postseason.

3. Teams Lose With Transfers. The resurgence of the MVC in 2012 caused a few of the better players in the league to look for greener pastures.  Drake’s Rayvonte Rice decided to leave the Bulldogs and ended up at Illinois, a school where he had hoped for an offer coming out of high school.  There was speculation even before last season that Rice was looking to transfer, but he had tried to dismiss it.  The departure of Rice, an MVC-All Freshman selection two years ago and a second team All-MVC selection last season, puts a dent into Drake’s drive to rise in the league for next season.  On the other end of things, Illinois State’s Nic Moore decided to leave the Redbirds after his All-MVC Freshman season. After an impressive showing at the MVC Tournament and the departure of head coach Tim Jankovich, Moore decided a change was in order.  However, there were not as many teams looking for Moore to join them as he probably expected and eventually followed Jankovich to SMU.  Illinois State was looking to be a contender this season, but again could take a hit due to the transfer of Moore and a coaching change.

Reader’s Take

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Morning Five: 05.08.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 8th, 2012

  1. With his conference falling apart Big East commissioner John Marinatto stepped down yesterday after less than three years on the job. His reign was notable for the conference’s fall from being arguably the top basketball conference in the country to one that was struggling to survive. While the conference’s drop in performance could just be cyclical and the exodus from the conference has probably been a long time coming it does leave a black mark on Marinatto’s resume. To Marinatto’s credit he did stabilize the conference by bringing in other (lesser) schools to make the conference whole again. Former Miami Dolphins CEO Joseph Bailey III will serve as interim commissioner while the Big East looks for a permanent replacement. As for Marinatto you can be sure that after having such a high-profile position he will likely find another high-profile job int he near future if he decides to pursue one.
  2. Missouri continues to rack up the transfers as it added Jordan Clarkson yesterday. The Tulsa sophomore guard created some waves in media circles when his attempt to transfer after a coaching change at the school was initially blocked by the school before restrictions were eased outside of a few schools like Texas. Clarkson, an All-Conference USA first team member as a sophomore, will join four other transfers on the Tiger roster, but unlike the others he will have to sit out next season meaning that we will not have a Missouri lineup with all transfers on the floor next season and will have to settle for just four at one time. Given the number of players graduating from the school it seemed unrealistic to have the Tigers bring in that high school recruits to replace the production of the departing players, but this group of transfers may be able to do that. In addition, the year Clarkson has to sit out may actually benefit the Tigers in the long-term as it will stretch out the years of eligibility for their talented perimeter players and ease the transition between teams from year to year.
  3. After being rebuked by Chris Collins, Illinois State appeared to be ready to fill the coaching vacancy created by the departure of Tim Jankovich to Southern Methodist by naming assistant coach Rob Judson as its new head coach. However, the school would not confirm that report although several sources appeared to indicate it was true. It turns out they were wrong as the school is moving outside the program for its next coach as it will name Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller as its next head coach at a press conference tomorrow. While we are sure that Muller has some very nice credentials the choice of Judson would have helped the program build on the success of the preceding staff as it goes for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. After all of the speculation about Judson being hired it will be interesting to see what Muller does with the existing staff and Judson in particular.
  4. There are very few insightful articles about young players as most of them have been taught that they should keep a closely guarded image, but Time managed to get a pretty good look at Jabari Parker, the #1 recruit in the class of 2013. The article provides pretty basic information about him, but he does have some interesting quotes in the video including one where he is asked about the pressure he feels being watched so closely and he replies, “It [The pressure] doesn’t feel good. It makes me feel uneasy.” We are not sure what to think of that quote given the macho attitude that top stars are supposed to possess, but it is refreshing to hear a player speak so openly.
  5. As you may have noticed the coaching  carousel has been quite active even though the season ended just a little over a month ago. If you have had a tough time keeping up with all the movement, Andy Glockner has you covered with a recap of the most interesting moves so far. While most of the major openings seem to have been filled, we would not be shocked if there was another move or two, but nothing to match the scale of the moves mentioned in the column. Some of the moves may have seemed surprising, but compared to last year it has seemed like a relatively quiet offseason and there has not been a move as shocking as Missouri hiring Frank Haith outside of potentially the Larry Brown hiring, which was telegraphed and made by a much weaker basketball program and featured a much more accomplished coach.
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Morning Five: 05.01.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 1st, 2012

  1. The firing of Seth Greenberg led to a short circuitous route for James Johnson, who served as Greenberg’s assistant for five years before deciding to take a similar job at Clemson on April 19 just a few days before Greenberg was fired. Now it appears that Johnson will be headed back to Blacksburg less than two weeks later, but this time as the Hokies’ new head coach. The amusing part of the hire is that it technically keeps up the athletic department’s directive to move in a different direction since Johnson was no longer part of Greenberg’s staff when Greenberg was fired, but in reality it is not. While that is just semantics the real issue is whether Johnson can bring some consistency to a program that has been a veritable roller coaster the past few seasons leaving them on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
  2. One assistant who will not be taking a job as a head coach is Chris Collins, the longtime Duke assistant. Ok, that may be a stretch, but at least we know that he will not be heading to Illinois State according to his father. Collins, whose name has been brought up with increasing frequency during the past few years when coaching positions opened up, seemed like he would be a good fit at Illinois State. Not only was it one of the better programs in a very solid mid-major conference (the Missouri Valley), but it was also his home state (where he was a high school legend), and his father (Doug) was the school’s most famous player. Unfortunately, it was too good of a fit and Chris removed his name from consideration. While this might seem like a blow for Illinois State, who reportedly had Collins at the top of their list, they should have plenty of interested coaches waiting for the opportunity. As for Collins, we expect that he will spend at least another season on Duke’s bench waiting for Mike Krzyzewski to pass the torch to him or, more likely, for a better position to open up.
  3. In one of the more unusual NBA Draft declarations we have seen, Maryland‘s Terrell Stoglin announced that he was entering the NBA Draft after being suspended by the school for the next year. While the school is not announcing what the suspension was for it appears that it may have been to a third violation of the school’s drug policy, which is referenced in the linked article. The loss of the ACC’s leading scorer (21.6 points per game) is a big blow for a Terrapin team that was expected to be one of the better teams in a weakened ACC. Now they will probably be a middle-of-the-pack ACC team next season, which is less impressive than it sounds. As for Stoglin, we hope that he was taking some foreign language classes at Maryland because he is going to need that part of his education in the not too distant future.
  4. After a 2-29 season, you should expect a few changes and at Binghamton the head coach was one of those changes as the Bearcats fired Mark Macon yesterday. In three seasons at Binghamton, his first head coaching position, Macon went 23-70, which is a horrible record by itself, but is magnified by the team’s win trajectory (13 then 8 then 2). We have not heard who is on the school’s list of potential targets to replace Macon, but that individual has a monumental task ahead of him or herself. On the plus side, at least they will have Mr. Tony rooting for the success of their team.
  5. Kentucky fans may have taken quite a bit of joy in the legal issues of Christian Laettner, but now one member of their “Unforgettables”–Richie Farmer–appears to be facing some legal issues of his own. The former Wildcat star has been accused of abusing his public position as state agriculture commissioner. The report released yesterday by the state of Kentucky details “a toxic culture of entitlement and self-dealing at Kentucky taxpayers’ expense”. While the individual acts barely register on the level of corruption we have seen other politicians accused of the number of violations noted is remarkable. From what the lawyers are saying it seems like there are still ongoing discussions if there will be any criminal charges brought against Farmer, but at the very least he will probably go in from of the state ethics board.
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Morning Five: 04.18.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2012

  1. Over the past few months Saint Joseph’s and Phil Martelli took a lot of heat for their decision to block the transfer of Todd O’Brien. They are about to have some company with the decision by Wisconsin and Bo Ryan after they decided to place significant restrictions on Jarrod Uthoff in his attempt to transfer from the school. It is standard procedure for schools to restrict players from transferring within the conference or to rival schools and occasionally schools they feel may have tampered with their (former) player. But a list of 25 schools? Including the entire ACC? Ryan apologists might point to the ACC-Big Ten challenge as a potential obstacle, but unless Wisconsin is planning on moving to the ACC it seems like a rather odd set of restrictions. What is more odd is that Uthoff has not even played for the Badgers yet as they opted to redshirt him and even though he figured to be in their plans for the future the entire situation feels dirty. For now the only legitimate school that Uthoff appears to be interested in going to (and Ryan has not already blocked) is Creighton. Of course, there is still time for Ryan to put Creighton on his restricted list.
  2. Yesterday, Tulsa star Jordan Clarkson was granted a release by the school. The sophomore, who was First Team All-Conference USA last season, appears to have been significantly influenced by the firing of Doug Wojcik and it appears that the hiring of Danny Manning was not enough to make him stay in Tulsa. While initial reports sparked a minor frenzy on Twitter when it was revealed that Clarkson wanted to look at 8-9 schools, but Tulsa was only willing to release him to three schools (Colorado, TCU, and Vanderbilt). Since we are not sure which 5-6 schools were rejected by Tulsa we will hold back our criticism because for all we know those schools could all be in Conference USA in which case it would be considered nothing more than normal operating procedure. If those schools are not and we are talking about a Bo Ryan/Phil Martelli situation, we could be adding Danny Manning to an ignominious list.
  3. Normally we would have led with the news that it looks like Larry Brown will most probably be the next head coach at Southern Methodist, but those two transfers and the noise surrounding them stole some of the spotlight. While many journalists online are trying to make it seem like this is a done deal, there appear to be a few details that need to be worked out. According to reports the main hold-up is getting his assistant coaches in place. Brown’s staff appears to be made of Tim Jankovich, Jerrence Howard, and Rod Strickland. The latter two appear to have their bags packed, but Jankovich is waiting for an assurance that he will be a guaranteed coach-in-waiting since he is leaving a decent job as a head coach at Illinois State for a team that was at the bottom of Conference USA and is heading toward the Big East, which will be a shell of its former self and SMU will still be near the bottom of that depleted conference.
  4. For those of you who may be aspiring college athletes or in the business of recruiting them (or maybe just love to know the minutiae of the sport), the NCAA released new eligibility requirements that go into effect for the 2015-16 academic year. They are available as an executive summary or a short slideshow. Essentially what it is trying to do is be more explicit for the eligibility requirements for incoming athletes. It focuses on core course requirements, GPA, and standardized test scores. One major issue that it does not address is the omnipresent shadow of basketball factories, which seem to be an all too frequent problem when issues with eligibility are raised. Of course there are more than three years before these rules go into effect so there could be substantial changes before they are put into practice.
  5. As we mentioned yesterday, the five starters for Kentucky announced that they were entering the NBA Draft. It is amazing that we have come to the point where we can merely shrug our shoulders at the defending national champions losing their entire starting lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores without a second thought. Of course, this is not an indictment of Kentucky, but rather a reflection of the current state of college basketball. Or perhaps the real reflection on the current state of college basketball is that the Wildcats probably will not miss a beat next year as they will just reload with another set of five-star recruits.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 20th, 2012

  1. Rick Majerus was once again a national story this weekend as his current team, the Saint Louis Billikens, gave Michigan State, the #1 seed in the West Region, all it could handle. But, as the former head coach of Utah, he took the Utes to their most recent Final Four (in 1998) and Block U thinks that it is time the university officially acknowledge the impact Majerus had on the Utah basketball program. In part due to an unhappy ending to the Majerus era (he resigned after a feud with athletic director Chris Hill), he has never been officially recognized by Utah with a plaque, naming the court in his honor, or seeing his name in a ring of honor. Given that he is one of the most important figures in the history of basketball in the state (guys like John Stockton, Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan are certainly somewhere ahead of him), it seems like a worthwhile idea to me.
  2. Yesterday in the Morning Five, I mentioned that only Oregon, Washington and Oregon State were still alive in postseason basketball from the Pac-12. I was, of course, completely wrong about that, as Stanford played last night in the NIT and Washington State hosted Wyoming in the CBI. Apologies to both schools for the oversight, but we’ll rectify that situation this morning. The Cougs handled the Cowboys with ease, scoring a 20-point win over a solid Wyoming defensive team as All-Pac-12 first team member Brock Motum scored 25 points and grabbed seven boards.
  3. Oregon State, who we did remember to mention yesterday, played their quarterfinal game in the CBI on Monday night and ran TCU out of the Gill Coliseum, by a 101-81 margin on a 70.8% eFG. The Beavers were led by Jared Cunningham who went for 27 points. Unfortunately for the Pac-12, the conference will be forced to cannibalize itself early in these tournaments, as the Beavers will advance to face Washington State while Washington and Oregon will meet in the NIT quarterfinals.
  4. Stanford advanced in its NIT game in a battle of the long ball. The Cardinal and its opponent, Illinois State, combined to hit 27 of their 47 three-point attempts on the way to a 92-88 overtime final. While three different Redbirds scored more than 20 points, it was Aaron Bright who led the way for Stanford with 29 points (on 11-of-13 shooting, including six threes) as the Cardinal came back from 11 down midway through the second half to advance to host a quarterfinal matchup against Nevada on Wednesday.
  5. A week ago, we got word that Arizona State forward Chanse Creekmur would be transferring out of the program to play football at a school closer to his home in Iowa. On Monday, we got news that Kyle Cain would also be transferring out of the program. Cain started 17 games last season and averaged 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and was one of three players who were suspended abruptly for the Sun Devils trip to the southern California schools. The loss leaves ASU short-handed up front for next season but, perhaps more importantly, highlights what is seen as a major problem in the program: kids leaving the program early. Cain’s departure marks the eleventh scholarship player to leave Herb Sendek’s program in the last four seasons. That issue, coupled with a 22-40 record over the last two seasons, means that Sendek may need to have his team show some serious improvement in 2012-13.
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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by KDoyle on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Kevin Doyle breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Kevin breaking down the South Region here.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC). Shouldn’t really need much of an explanation here. The most talented team in the nation — unquestionably — the Wildcats will be the odds-on favorite to not just emerge from the South Region, but also to cut down the nets in New Orleans. Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones spearhead a terrifyingly good starting five.

The Length And Athleticism Of Terrence Jones and Kentucky Are Just One Of Many Issues That Teams Face

Should They Falter: #2 Duke (27-6, 13-3 ACC). Austin Rivers does not play like a typical freshman and while Duke has its flaws on defense (perimeter defense, especially), the Blue Devils are more apt to make a run to the Final Four due to their balance on offense. Rivers and Seth Curry are prolific shooters/scorers in the backcourt, while the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. Much of Duke’s success hinges on junior Ryan Kelly’s health (sprained ankle). Kelly, while not a lockdown defender by any means, is 6’11″ and really helps in defending the three-point line for Duke. Even without a healthy Kelly, Duke still has an easier road to the Sweet Sixteen than other contenders in the South Region.

Grossly Overseeded: #11 Colorado (23-11, 11-7 Pac-12). Clearly, the committee thought higher of the Pac-12 than many others did. First, there was much debate whether this power six conference — far from “powerful” this season — would even receive an at-large bid, but they did in California. Secondly, Colorado was not on anybody’s radar prior to the Pac-12 Tournament as it stood at 19-11 with seven losses in conference play. Yet, winning the conference tournament propelled Colorado to a very respectable seed at #11. Many prognosticators had the Buffaloes at a #13 seed going into Selection Sunday.

Grossly Underseeded: #14 South Dakota State (27-7, 15-3 Summit). It is too big of a stretch to say that South Dakota State is “grossly” underseeded, but I do believe they were worthy of a #13 seed. When comparing the Jackrabbits to the #13 seed in this region, their resume is every bit as good, if not better, than New Mexico State: SDSU has a better overall record, higher RPI, more wins against the Top 100 RPI, and a more challenging non-conference schedule. Not to mention South Dakota State’s thrashing of Washington 92-73, even though the Huskies are not a Tournament team, is very impressive.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Missouri Valley Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2012

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.

Arch Madness Preview

League Play Summary

The Missouri Valley Conference broke out of its shell this season, bringing it back to a multiple-bid-conference even before the MVC Tournament this weekend in St. Louis. For the past four seasons, The Valley has only had the automatic bid advance to the NCAA Tournament and was viewed as a falling league after getting four teams into the tournament in 2006. This year, everything changed. With the breakout play of Creighton’s Doug McDermott and the dominance of Wichita State, the MVC has two teams ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1983 and the first time ever heading into Arch Madness.

Creighton started off strong this season and looked like the team to beat behind McDermott with early non-conference wins against San Diego State, Northwestern and a blowout of Iowa. A stumble against St. Joseph’s derailed the Jays for a bit, but they rebounded and remained a mainstay in the Top 25 until a three-game losing streak, which included a big loss at home against Wichita State. After heart-stopping victories in three of their last four games of the regular season, they are now back into the Top 25 heading into Arch Madness.

Wichita State played even stronger as the season wore on. After struggling a bit in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Shockers have rolled to win 24 of their final 26 games and have only lost once in 2012 — to Drake in triple-overtime. For the Shockers, it has been a total team effort on the offensive and defensive side of things. Since they did not have a “star” player to add to the hype, it took a while for WSU to break into the rankings.

Teams like Evansville, Missouri State, and Northern Iowa had opportunities this season to make an impact, but came up a little short.

Reader’s Take

 

Regular Season Awards

  • MVC Player of the Year: Doug McDermott, Creighton (23.1 PPG, 47.9% 3FG, 8.1 RPG)McDermott had some early accolades coming into the season as a third-team preseason All-America by The Sporting News, but blossomed into a National Player of the Year candidate. Although his scoring numbers dropped between non-conference and MVC play, he has still been one of the more dynamic players this season and made Creighton a totally different team. McDermott is still third in the nation in scoring, and once the Bluejays get into the postseason, teams playing against him for the first time could be in for a big surprise. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2012

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.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • Bracketbusters a Bust: Last weekend was the annual Bracketbusters event that the MVC has been involved in since its inception. In recent years, fans and even coaches haven’t been too fond of the Bracketbusters with the argument that being involved in this doesn’t help them. The fact remains that the Valley hasn’t really proved that they are past the Bracketbusters. In the five television games last weekend, the conference went 2-3 with league leaders Wichita State and Creighton the only ones to walk away with wins. As a whole, the league went 4-6. Missouri State and Northern Iowa were the big losers in this one in their losses to Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth. The CAA has dominated the MVC in this series.
  • Shockers and Bluejays NCAA-Bound: Wichita State and Creighton have solidified their status as at-large teams for the NCAA Tournament with their wins this past weekend. The Shockers are ranked now in both polls while Creighton is hanging around just outside of the top 25. The latest projections have the Shockers as high as a #4 seed and Creighton around a #6 seed. Unless there is a total collapse, both of these teams should be in even if they do not win the MVC Tournament. They both could make a run once they do get to the NCAA’s.
  • MVC Seeding Still in the Air: It’s the final week of the conference season and seeding for the middle six teams in the league is still to be decided with this week’s games. Illinois State, Missouri State, Evansville, Northern Iowa, Drake and Indiana State will all be fighting to stay out of the Thursday night play-in games in the MVC Tournament.

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

Wichita State and Creighton are the clear top players in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Any team in the middle of the league could emerge as a threat to get the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the MVC Tournament.

  1. Wichita State (24-4, 14-2) (1): Wichita State is on a roll and appear to be the best non-power six conference team in the nation. They are 12-1 since losing to Creighton on New Year’s Eve and do not look like they are letting up at all. Everything seems to be falling from the field, their defense has been solid and they have a big guy that can shoot the three.  All great tools for a postseason run. Head coach Gregg Marshall hopes that Wichita State can now get the media coveragethey deserve.

    Gregg Marshall hopes that Wichita State can now get the media coverage they deserve (AP)

  2. Creighton (24-5, 13-4) (2): Creighton spent its week trying to survive — first with a come-from-behind win against Long Beach State with an Antoine Young buzzer-beater and then another comeback job, this one in overtime over Evansville Tuesday. Both games were at home.   One thing about Creighton that has helped them this season has been the walk-ons.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2012

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.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Wichita State on Top: The showdown in Omaha was not really a showdown as much as it was a statement by the Shockers that they are the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Wichita State beat Creighton 89-68 to give itself a two-game lead in the conference race and all but seal the regular season championship. Creighton was able to get Garrett Stutz into foul trouble, but the Shockers showed they have a lot of different weapons with Joe Ragland and Ben Smith slicing and dicing the Creighton defense.
  • Creighton Falls From Rankings: The Bluejays have been a mainstay most of the season in the top 25 rankings, but after their three-game slide culminating with the loss to Wichita State, the Bluejays are now on the outside looking in. They more or less traded spots with Wichita State, but the Shockers were still only ranked in the AP poll and not the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. For the Shockers, it is their first top 25 ranking since 2006. It is still surprising that although they have a similar record as Creighton and maybe has a better win against UNLV than Creighton’s win over San Diego State, Wichita State is not getting the same amount of respect as the Bluejays have had this season.
  • BracketBuster Week—This week is the annual Bracketbusters weekend that includes all ten MVC teams. Five of the schools (Creighton, Drake, Northern Iowa, Missouri State, and Wichita State) will be featured on the ESPN family of networks over the weekend. A win over Long Beach State could help Creighton recover some of the lost accolades, but Missouri State and Northern Iowa have the biggest opportunity to make some noise with wins over the always-tough CAA.

 

Gregg Marshall's Shockers Surged Soundly Ahead Of Creighton Heading Into BracketBusters Weekend.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

Only a couple of weeks to go in the regular season and teams are finally starting to separate out.

  1. Wichita State (22-4, 13-2) (1): Wichita State has been playing some great basketball for the past several weeks.  Other than the triple-overtime loss to Drake a couple of weeks ago, the Shockers have won the other 12 of their last 13 games. The balance on this team is what has made it so tough to go along with tough defense. Joe Ragland has been a big part of that balance. Many are surprised that Wichita is not ranked in one of the polls.
  2. Creighton (22-5, 12-4) (2)— The Bluejays broke out of a three-game slump with a needed win at Southern Illinois before heading into the Bracketbusters game this weekend against Long beach State. Creighton is still in a good position for the NCAA Tournament as an at-large squad, but cannot lose to teams they shouldn’t in this final stretch run. Despite the public showing of head coach Greg McDermott and Doug McDermott during a timeout on Saturday, everything is fine between father and son. Read the rest of this entry »
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