2012-13 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by KDoyle on April 3rd, 2013

If this was baseball, a batting average of .333 would represent Hall of Fame type numbers. Back in November when our group of RTC pollsters and hoop experts selected their preseason All-America teams, just five names lived up to expectations that we originally had placed on them: Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas, Michigan’s Trey Burke, and Kansas’ Jeff Withey. In fact, the only player who was named to the preseason All-America First Team and finished there was McDermott. If there is one thing to take away from this exercise, it’s that projecting player performance is far from an exact science.

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

The 10 players we selected as preseason All-Americans who failed to live up to our hype were: Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum — let’s remember McCollum missed more than half the season due to injury — UNLV’s Mike Moser, Missouri’s Phil Pressey, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin, North Carolina’s James Michael McAadoo, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer. It would be foolish to think that most of these players did not have exceptional seasons — look no further than Canaan, who averaged 21.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 4.3 APG for the Racers this year. He had a very good senior season, but it’s not his fault that a guy like Victor Oladipo came out of nowhere to prove he was one of the best players in the country. Of course, there were a few disappointments, and we can look right at Mitchell as the most obvious example. Whether fair or not, expectations were probably too high for Mitchell, who many project to be a future NBA player. Mitchell averaged 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG, but his team slogged to a rough 12-20 season.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the players who met or exceeded our expectations this season. After tallying up the votes from our nine experts, here are the 2012-13 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. Burke, Porter, and Oladipo were consensus First Team All-America selections.

First Team All-America

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

  • Trey Burke, SO, Michigan (consensus) (18.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.1 A/TO). After spearheading arguably the nation’s most potent offense during the regular season, Burke was named a First Team All-American by the AP. His virtuoso performance in the South Region semifinal against Kansas where he singlehandedly brought Michigan back in the final minutes of regulation supplanted himself as not just a surefire First Teamer here at RTC, but perhaps the National Player of the Year as well. More than just his knack for hitting the big shot, Burke’s most impressive attribute may be as a distributor; boasting a 3.1 A/TO ratio is downright impressive given the responsibility John Beilein has bestowed upon him in running the offense.
  • Otto Porter Jr., SO, Georgetown (consensus) (16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 48.0% FG, 42.2% 3FG). Many often lamented Georgetown’s stagnant Princeton-style offense as the reason for its lack of production, but imagine where the Hoyas may have been this season without Porter. The sophomore emerged as one of the nation’s best players after consecutive games in Brooklyn where he led Georgetown past then #11 UCLA and nearly upset top-ranked Indiana the following night. Porter was expected to be a key cog for Georgetown this season after averaging just south of 10.0 PPG as a freshman, but his outburst was a surprise to many this year. His stark improvement with his three-point shot — a 22.6% to 42.2% increase — has made Porter a much more complete player, and bodes well for his future at the next level.
  • Victor Oladipo, JR, Indiana (consensus) (13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 59.9% FG, 44.1% 3FG). A role player in his first two seasons at Indiana, Oladipo emerged as Indiana’s best and most valuable player as a junior, surpassing more celebrated teammate Cody Zeller in that regard. While his offensive game improved in nearly every department — how often is it that a guard shoots 60% from the field? — it was Oladipo’s defense which made him an invaluable part of Tom Crean’s team. There may not be a better on-ball wing defender in the country as Oladipo created havoc — to borrow a term from Shaka Smart — on the perimeter. In looking at just his statistics, one would think Oladipo is a 6’10 power forward given his high shooting percentage and rebounding totals; that’s what makes him such a unique and dominant player.
  • Doug McDermott, JR, Creighton (26) (23.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 54.8% FG, 49.0% 3FG, 87.5% FT). Perhaps the most prolific and talented offensive player in college basketball, it came as no surprise to find McDermott’s name on the First Team All-America list. His shooting percentages in all three departments are off the charts, and were a big reason Creighton was tops in the nation in team 3FG% and third in 2FG%; McDermott went off for 20+ points in 26 of his 36 games this season. While his defensive and athletic abilities are both question marks, there’s no denying that McDermott is a natural scorer who is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Assuming he returns for his senior season, McDermott will most likely eclipse the 3,000-point mark as a collegian which has only been done seven times in history.
  • Kelly Olynyk, JR, Gonzaga (24) (17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 62.9% FG). Playing behind Robert Sacre and Steven Gray for his first two seasons at Gonzaga, Olynyk averaged just 12.3 MPG as a freshman and 13.5 MPG as a sophomore. For his redshirt junior season, however, he owned the frontcourt. A legit seven-footer, Olynyk runs the floor like an athletic forward and scores in a variety of ways. His 62.9% FG was especially impressive considering he spent a fair amount of time outside of the paint in Gonzaga’s offense. He was the biggest reason that Gonzaga ascended to its first-ever #1 ranking in the polls and commensurate #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Second Team All-America

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Belmont Escapes At-Large Worries: Can the Bruins Break Through?

Posted by David Changas on March 11th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s OVC Championship in Nashville.

Late in Saturday’s Ohio Valley Conference Championship Game, it looked like the college basketball world would face a week-long debate about whether Belmont, a top-25 RPI team that won the league’s regular season championship, would merit an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after falling to defending champion Murray State. The Racers appeared to be in control when they led 62-58 with fewer than 40 seconds to play in regulation. But an Ian Clark jumper and a two missed free throws from Ed Daniel set up a Kerron Johnson drive that tied the game with nine seconds remaining. Following some controversy surrounding a clock stoppage issue and Murray State calling timeout before crossing half-court, the Racers could not get a good look for the win. In overtime, after Murray State star Isaiah Canaan dribbled the ball off of his foot in a tie game with 25 seconds remaining — one of 26 Racer turnovers on the night — it was Johnson again playing the hero as he pulled up in the lane and made a high-arcing jumper over Daniel, giving the Bruins a 70-68 victory and the league’s auto-bid in their first year, as well as the 1,000th victory in program history.

It Was Storybook For Belmont Saturday

It Was Storybook For Belmont Saturday

Belmont is now able to avoid all talk of whether its resume was good enough to earn a coveted at-large spot in the field, and while we may never know whether it was, coach Rick Byrd is more than happy to not have to wonder. “I had thought about that question because I knew we could lose either of these games,” he said. Now, he can focus on getting his team ready for its next opponent, whoever it may be. The Bruins must sit and wait a week before finding out whether their resume was good enough to earn a seed that will give them a reasonable shot at a first-round victory, something that has eluded the program in its first five appearances in the Big Dance. There was the near-miss in 2008 against Duke that put the program on the national map, and the disappointing double-figure losses to Wisconsin and Georgetown the last two years, when the Bruins represented the Atlantic Sun. While they clearly stepped up in competition in the OVC this year, most projections, including our latest, have them in the #12-line, only a spot better than the past two seasons.  So while the RPI may be higher than it has ever been for Byrd’s team, the draw his team gets may look familiar. What likely faces the Bruins is a game against a bigger, more athletic high-major squad that will present match-up issues.

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The Other 26: Saturday’s Top Five Bracketbuster Games and More…

Posted by IRenko on February 22nd, 2013

other26

This weekend marks the end of the decade-long Bracketbuster era — or experiment, depending on your perspective. Sadly, if appropriately, it looks like the event will go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Not a single game features a top 25 team, resulting in little hype for this year’s slate. But for true mid-major basketball fans, no top 25 ranking, or lack thereof, is going to dissuade them from devouring the late season, inter-conference action among the country’s best, under-the-radar-until-March teams. Here’s a preview of the five Bracketbuster games we’re most looking forward to, followed by an updated Top 10, our weekly honor roll, and the most compelling non-Bracketbuster games of the coming week.

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

  1. Creighton at St. Mary’s (6 pm, ESPN) — Both teams enter what is perhaps the premier Bracketbuster matchup with a great deal to prove. Creighton’s hot 17-1 start has given way to a rough 5-5 stretch, as the depth of the MVC has taken its toll. In four of those five losses, Creighton’s once unstoppable offense slowed to a pace of less than a point per possession. An at-large Tournament bid remains a safe bet, even with a loss to St. Mary’s, but the Bluejays are no doubt looking to this game to reignite their offense and their season. St. Mary’s, on the other hand, is in desperate need of a quality win for its Tournament resume. Having been swept by Gonzaga, Saturday’s matchup is a virtual must-win for the Gaels. Both teams have highly efficient offenses that rely heavily on the three-point shot. Whichever defense can step up its game may emerge with the win.
  2. Ohio at Belmont (10 pm, ESPN) – This should be a really entertaining game between two teams who love to run and gun. But for the colors of their jerseys, it may be hard to tell the two apart, as the Bobcats and Bruins have remarkably similar statistical profiles. Both are high-possession squads that shoot more than 40 percent of their field goals from three-point range and rank in the top 20 nationally in forcing turnovers. Both have high effective field goal percentages, but rebound poorly and allow their opponents to shoot far more free throws than they do. Toss in a great point guard matchup between seniors D.J. Cooper and Kerron Johnson, and you have the ingredients for a great nightcap to the day’s action. 
  3. South Dakota State at Murray State (8 pm, ESPN2) – Neither team is as good as it was last season, but both returned their star player. And it’s their matchup at the point guard spot, with Nate Wolters squaring off against Isaiah Canaan, that makes this a must-see game. The two players are the heartbeats of their respective team’s offenses. Each uses roughly 30 percent of all possessions, ranking them in the top 50 in the country. Wolters has been on a particularly nasty tear of late, averaging more than 33 points over his last five games, though two of his 30-plus efforts in that stretch were in defeat. Canaan, meanwhile, is coming off his own 35-point outburst in a win over Morehead State.
  4. Detroit at Wichita State (4 pm, ESPN2) — Wichita State has bounced back from a recent three-game swoon with a four-game win streak that includes two close victories over Illinois State and Indiana State this past week. They’ll be the favorites against Detroit, but his game has definite upset potential. Detroit is on the upswing, winning six of their last seven, and developing a potent offensive attack with a multitude of options, from Ray McCallum’s attacking ability to Jason Calliste’s three-point shot to Nick Minnerath’s versatile inside-out game to Doug Anderson’s physical interior play. The Titans will try to push the tempo, while the Shockers will try to slow things down and pound the ball inside to their big men Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who may find success against Detroit’s mediocre interior defense.
  5. Denver at Northern Iowa (8 pm, ESPN3) — After a rough 4-6 start to MVC play, Northern Iowa has righted the ship and fought its way back to where we thought it would always be — at the top of the league standings, just a step behind Wichita State and Creighton. They face a Denver team that has flown a bit under the radar, recovering from a slow start to the season to win 13 of their last 14 games. A trip to Cedar Falls will be a test of just how far the Pioneers have come. Expect a low-possession, halfcourt-oriented game, with a steady barrage of three-point shots. The Panthers have a balanced attack, with five players averaging between 9 and 13 points. Denver will turn primarily to Chris Udofia, the versatile forward who is the hub of their Princeton offense.

And now on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and the (other) games we’re keeping an eye on …

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OVC Titans Produced a Mid-Major Classic Thursday Night

Posted by CNguon on February 8th, 2013

David Changas is a RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s OVC battle between Belmont and Murray State in Murray, Kentucky.

It was billed as the game of the year in the Ohio Valley Conference. The league’s perennial power and defending champion taking on the new kid on the block and winner of its first 10 games as a member of the conference. It featured two of the nation’s best guards much of the country has never heard of. While it appeared that Thursday’s matchup between OVC West Division leader Murray State and East Division Leader Belmont would not live up to the hype, a late charge by the Bruins to overcome a 14-point deficit with under 5 minutes to play to tie the game with under a minute remaining allowed it to do just that. Ian Clark, the Bruins’ three-point sharpshooter who came into Thursday’s game making an absurd 51.4% of his three-point attempts, despite attempting nearly 6.5 per game, made three in the final 2:30 to bring the Bruins all the way back from a deficit that grew to 15 points in the second half. But it was Murray State preseason All-American guard Isaiah Canaan who had the final say, as he broke the 74-all tie with a deep three with 35 seconds remaining to put the Racers back on top to stay on their way to a 79-74 victory.

“[Clark] stepped up for his team and I knew we needed it and I stepped up for ours,” Canaan said.

Isaiah Canaan scored 26 points in an impressive outing to help his Murray State squad hand Belmont its first conference defeat (AP)

Isaiah Canaan scored 26 points in an impressive outing to help his Murray State squad hand Belmont its first conference defeat (AP)

While Thursday’s game may have no impact on which team makes the NCAA Tournament – Belmont may be able to make a case for an at-large bid, while Murray State’s resume is not impressive enough to merit such consideration – the game clearly meant a lot to both teams. Before a charged up, partisan CFSB Center crowd of 7,141, the Racers were effective until the final minutes in controlling Clark and his backcourt mate, Kerron Johnson, who sat for the final few minutes because of his ineffectiveness, and exploiting their athletic advantage in the front court on the way to the victory. The Racers have not been nearly as dominant this season as they were last year on their way to a 5-seed in the Big Dance, but they have positioned themselves to make a run in the OVC Tournament championship and their third NCAA Tournament bid in the past four seasons with Thursday’s victory. The game clearly meant a lot to Murray State coach Steve Prohm, who expressed relief and satisfaction with his team’s effort after the game. “We needed this game,” Prohm said. “We needed it to test us and see where we are as a team. There was a different vibe out there tonight, with the crowd, the energy, the emotion, and the big plays.”

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 5th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With only a month to go in the regular season, the conference pictures are still not 100% clear. Let’s take a look at six match-ups this week that will continue to clear things up as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#12 Ohio State at #3 Michigan – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • If you break games up into ten minute segments as KenPom does in his box scores, Michigan has only played two poor ten minute segments this season. The first ten minutes against Ohio State and the first ten minutes against Indiana. Both games were on the road in very hostile environments. In their last game in Columbus, Ohio State punched the Wolverines in the mouth in those first ten minutes with tenacious defense. Michigan recovered by limiting mistakes and forcing the Buckeyes to execute their half-court offense, which is virtually nonexistent  Don’t expect Michigan to be rattled like they were in Columbus but they still need to be careful with the basketball. If Ohio State wants to win in Ann Arbor, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are going to need to be even more disruptive on defense. Also, keep a close eye on Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III for the Wolverines. Stauskas had zero points against the Buckeyes and GRIII was virtually nonexistent in both of Michigan’s losses. If Michigan is going to win the Big Ten and make a deep run in the tournament, these two need to be at their best every night. The addition of those two as scoring threats is what makes Michigan so tough to beat. If the scoring sits squarely on the shoulders of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan becomes much easier to beat.
Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

#21 Minnesota at #6 Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on BTN (****)

  • After four straight losses, the Gophers have steadied a bit with wins against Nebraska and Iowa. They have avoided an Illinois-like tailspin, which is keeping them in the hunt in the Big Ten. Michigan State is sitting one game back of Indiana and is looking to avenge their New Year’s Eve loss to Minnesota. The difference in that game was offensive rebounding, free throws, and 60% two-point shooting from the Gophers. The Spartans are still having a tough time defending the two, so keep a close eye on the interior defense they get from Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Denzel Valentine. These three players need to lead the way for Michigan State, if they want to win this game. In the last meeting, Nix went 5-15, Payne had 4 points, and Valentine had 5 points. All three players need to be more productive for Michigan State to keep pace not only in this game but the rest of the Big Ten season. For Minnesota, they need to stop turning the ball over and play better defense without fouling. Keep a close eye on turnovers and free throws for the Gophers throughout the game. If they can limit both, they can beat Sparty again.

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The Other 26: Niagara Rushes Forth

Posted by IRenko on February 2nd, 2013

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.

When you hear the word “Niagara” you’re not likely to think of basketball. But in the shadow of one of the world’s natural wonders, something is percolating on the hardwood. After a thrilling 93-90 overtime win over Iona that included a rally from a late 15-point deficit and a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win the game, Niagara sits atop the MAAC standings at 10-1. A win over Loyola today would cap a tremendous week for the Purple Eagles, giving them a perfect 3-0 record against the next three teams in the standings — Iona, Loyola, and Canisius — over the past seven days.

Juan'ya Green Capped Niagara's Thrilling Win Over Iona With a Last-Second Three-Pointer  in Overtime (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

Juan’ya Green Capped Niagara’s Thrilling Win Over Iona With a Last-Second Three-Pointer in Overtime (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

Last year, Niagara finished 14-19, the first time in head coach Joe Mihalich’s 10-year tenure that he suffered consecutive losing seasons. Mihalich had taken the Purple Eagles to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and 2007 and to the NIT in 2004 and 2009, but the team had fallen behind the pack in the MAAC in the three years since. The seeds of a resurgence were planted during last year’s losing campaign, as a host of young players started to find their footing in Division 1 college hoops. Having lost no one to graduation, Niagara was predicted to finish fifth in the MAAC in the preseason coaches’ poll. That seemed a fair, perhaps optimistic, assessment, but the clear light of hindsight makes a mockery of it.

What accounts for the turnaround? Mostly the maturation of Niagara’s all-sophomore backcourt: Juan’ya Green, Antoine Mason, and Ameen Tanksley. Last year, the trio showed that they had talent. This year, they’re showing that they can channel it into efficient offense.  Green is actually averaging fewer points (16.5) than he did as a freshman (17.6), but that’s in part because he’s managed to corral his considerable talents and become a more effective facilitator. Coming out of high school, Green was known for his prodigious scoring ability, but questions lingered about his ability to create for his teammates. He’s answering those questions this year, increasing his assists (5.2 per game) and decreasing his turnovers (2.8 per game). With Green deferring more to his teammates, Mason, the son of former NBA player Anthony Mason, has stepped into the role of lead scorer. He’s upped his per-game average from 15.1 to a team-leading 18.7, but more importantly, he’s become a much more efficient scorer.  He’s increased his field goal percentage from 38.2 to 44.6. He now shoots almost 80 percent from the free throw line, after shooting less than 65 percent last year, a significant development because of his knack for getting to the charity stripe. Tanksley, for his part, has also boosted his field goal percentage, from 38.6 to 45.7 and upped his scoring average into double-digits.

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The National Spotlight Is Gone, But Murray State Is Playing On

Posted by BHayes on January 27th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC correspondent. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. He filed this report from Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, Alabama between Murray State and Jacksonville State.

A year ago, I was one of the many that made the journey to tiny Murray, Kentucky, to catch a glimpse of the team that was capturing the imagination of the college basketball world. By the time I arrived in Murray, the Racers had suffered their first loss (after 23 consecutive victories to open the season), but the hype machine was still steadily churning. College basketball’s most notorious hype generator was even in town that weekend; Dick Vitale screamed his way through a fantastic promotion of the Murray State basketball program, but the Racers really needed no help.  Isaiah Canaan boosted his All-American campaign by turning in an utterly brilliant display of marksmanship, the Racers improved to 26-1 by soundly defeating a battle-tested St. Mary’s team, and the 8,500 in attendance felt like it was closer to 20,000 strong that day. Murray had long been a town that loved college basketball and its Racers, but never had it been so articulately announced to the nation as that February afternoon.

Isaiah Canaan’s Presidential Campaign Had More Legs A Season Ago

Fast forward to today. The Racers were once again on my agenda, but this time a long ways from Murray. Jacksonville, Alabama – a small, sleepy town nestled in the Appalachian foothills – was where I had to drive to find Murray State. Steve Prohm’s team arrived with a 15-4 record but left 15-5 as Jacksonville State decided it was finally time to score its first victory over the school since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003. The Gamecocks are no pushover (now 6-4 in a sneaky-good OVC), but Murray State losing conferences games is still a relative novelty. On this day, a Saturday loaded with scores all across the country, the 65-64 final that flashed across tickers went largely unnoticed. When you consider the shock waves a January 26 Murray State loss would have delivered a year ago, it begs the question – where did everyone go?

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The Other 26: The New A-10 Asserts Itself

Posted by IRenko on December 21st, 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.

When the A-10 added Butler and VCU to its ranks this past offseason, we knew that the two teams would strengthen the now 16-team conference. The two schools, each of which has had recent improbable Final Four runs, were expected to join the ranks of Xavier, Temple, St. Louis, and Dayton, and, along with a resurgent St. Joseph’s, UMass, and LaSalle, make the A-10 the deepest and, arguably, most exciting non-BCS conference in the country. But after the past week, it’s become clear that not only are these two programs going to add depth to the A-10, they may very well conquer it in their first year.

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

By now you know that Butler took down top-ranked Indiana 88-86 in a thrilling overtime win last Saturday. What was most surprising about the win, though, was how Butler did it. It wasn’t their vaunted defense, which gave up 1.13 points per possession to Indiana’s full-throttled attack — the second most this year for the Bulldogs and well above their averages during the Brad Stevens era. Rather, it was Butler’s efficient offense, which registered 1.16 points per possession. Part of that was their three-point shooting (11-24, 48.1%) with Rotnei Clarke leading the way (5-11). We have come to expect that from Butler, which often relies on the three-point shot as a great equalizer. But the more surprising, and perhaps more significant, elements of Butler’s offense were its willingness to attack the basket and its prodigious output on the offensive glass.  Sophomore wing Roosevelt Jones led the attack, often exploiting a favorable matchup against Jordan Hulls, en route to 16 points on 6-10 shooting (no threes). And the Bulldogs rebounded nearly half of their own misses — 48.7%. To some extent, the Bulldogs took advantage of sloppy block-outs by Indiana, but this reflects a season-long strength and a marked shift from the early years of Brad Stevens’ tenure. In Stevens’ first four seasons, Butler never averaged an offensive rebounding percentage of more than 32.8 percent. But last year, the Bulldogs hauled in 35 percent of their misses, and this year, it’s up to 39.4 percent.

As impressive as Butler’s win was, VCU quietly made waves of its own this past week as they pummeled Alabama and Western Kentucky by a combined 51 points. In both games, VCU went for the kill early, jumping out to big leads on the strength of their Havoc defense. The Rams did not allow Alabama to score a field goal until 10:44 had elapsed, en route to a 33-18 halftime lead that they would convert into a 73-54 final score. Alabama finished the game with 18 turnovers — a season high, as it often is for teams facing VCU’s defensive pressure. Four days later, VCU suffered no letdown from its BCS beatdown, whipping on Western Kentucky, one of the Sun Belt’s top teams and last year’s Tournament participant. After jumping out to 15-3 lead, the Rams would head into halftime up 42-16, cruising the rest of the way to a 76-44 win.  VCU forced a whopping 32 turnovers, including one on each of Western Kentucky’s first three possessions.

The old Bulldogs may be learning new tricks while the Rams thrive on the tried-and-true, but regardless of how they’re doing it, both teams have vaulted themselves to the top of A-10 heap.  Don’t take my word for it, ask the computers. Any of them — Butler and VCU are the A-10’s two highest ranking teams in the RPI, Sagarin ratings, and Pomeroy ratings.  The A-10’s mainstays have not distinguished themselves. Temple was routed badly by Duke in its first real competitive game of the year and just lost to Canisius at home by 10 points; Xavier is trying to replace five starters; St. Louis is trying to get their feet under them after losing their coach and then their star point guard to injury; and St. Joe’s, UMass, and Dayton have struggled to find consistency. As a result, there is a good chance that the A-10 will crown a champion it has never crowned before.

On to this week’s Top 10 and more …

Top Ten Rankings

RTC -- TO26 (12.21.12)

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Who’s Got Next? Karl Towns Chooses Kentucky Over Duke, Stevie Clark Signs With Oklahoma State…

Posted by CLykins on December 4th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Kentucky Lands Top Sophomore Karl Towns, Jr.

Right on cue. Tuesday was considered decision day for Karl Towns, Jr. and as expected by virtually everybody that follows high school basketball recruiting, Kentucky was the choice. Previously the nation’s No. 1 sophomore, Towns also revealed that he would be reclassifying into the class of 2014, a move that had been speculated upon for the past couple of weeks. The 6’11” center out of St. Joseph High School (New Jersey) unofficially visited Kentucky for its game against LIU-Brooklyn on November 23, just days after revealing his announcement, further enforcing the belief that Kentucky was the front-runner in this recruitment. Towns had limited his list down to eight in the coming weeks before narrowing it down to two just prior to the announcement. He chose the Wildcats over Duke, with the likes of Florida, Indiana, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Seton Hall also in the mix. “The first thing I have to say is that I’m going to reclassify to the year 2014,” the 17-year old Towns said. “The second decision I have to make is my university. The university I’ve decided to play for in the year 2014 is the University of Kentucky.”

Standout sophomore Karl Towns, Jr. becomes the fifth Kentucky commitment in the last two months

Towns has already gained valuable tutelage under his future collegiate head coach John Calipari while he was a member of the Dominican Republic national team over the summer. His participation allowed him the opportunity to hone his skills and to strengthen an ever-growing post game against players at the professional level, including Dominican Republic teammate and Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford. Along with a refined post game, what really grabs the attention of analysts is Towns’ ability to play on the wing. With arguably the best outside skill set of any high school prospect at his position in the country, he is a constant threat from deep. He is consistent from three and is capable of taking opposing defenders off the dribble with either hand and scoring from the mid-range. His all-around game has drawn many comparisons to that of NBA superstar Kevin Durant.He is currently in tremendous academic standing at St. Joseph High with a 4.0-plus GPA and his move to the junior class was discussed at length in the last two weeks.  Towns decision to reclassify will immediately impact the class of 2014 rankings as he will now be slotted behind the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, Tyus Jones and fellow center Jahlil Okafor.

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ATB: On Dieng’s Injury, Tennessee’s Redemption, and Notre Dame’s Long Range Shooting…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 27th, 2012

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

Tonight’s Lede. The Inevitable Letdowns of the Non-conference Season.  The college hoops non-conference calendar is a frenetic joyride of excitement and disappointment. You get action-packed stretches filled with tasty match-ups between powerhouse teams, like last week, where the Maui Invitational and B4A and PNIT brought served up a nonstop dose of high-stakes fun. Powerhouses battled – some took their licks, while others triumphed. Whatever your rooting interest, those early season tournaments – most of which have now passed us by – were as good as early season tournament basketball gets. Then you get days like last night, a lull of a slate featuring few (if any) intriguing games, and the end result is a drastic letdown on the hoops viewing interest meter. Disappointment is unavoidable. Boredom is inevitable. Never to disappoint us in an extended context, the schedule ramps up tonight with the ACC-Big Ten challenge, and if you haven’t poured over those matchups yet, believe me when I say that you won’t be disappointed. So rejoice in surviving night’s lifeless slate is past us, and prepare for a the thrill of top-25 outfits engaging in inter-conference warfare. In case you’re interested in the little that did go down Monday, here’s a breakdown of the night’s most important action.

Your Watercooler Moment. Dieng’s Broken Wrist Spoils UK Matchup, And That’s About it.

Not Having Dieng could give Kentucky the frontcourt edge over Louisville when they meet in four weeks (Photo credit: Getty Images).

If Gorgui Dieng follows his projected healing trajectory, the broken wrist he suffered in Friday’s B4A semifinal win against Missouri is merely a minor hindrance – but nothing a team as talented and deep as the Cardinals can’t overcome – for every game over the next six weeks. Don’t get me wrong: Lousville faces no cupcake slate over the next six weeks. But with the emergence of hyper-athletic forward Montrezl Harrell, and reliable backup pieces like Stephen Van Treese and Zach Price, the Cardinals are more than capable of getting by the likes of Illinois State, College of Charleston and Memphis. There’s one huge exception: Lousville’s Dec. 29 date with Kentucky. Barring a medical miracle, college basketball’s most heated rivalry (ok, ok. Duke, UNC fans. Here’s your obligatory mention) will not be played with both sides full strength. That’s a massive disappointment; the UK-UL test is one of the best nonconference dates in any given year, and to know that one of the nation’s best defensive players won’t partake in the festivities is downright discouraging. And after last year’s Final Four defeat, where Lousville gave the one-and-done thoroughbreads from Lexington as strong a defensive test as they faced all season, the Cardinals are in a rare position of advantage heading into this year’s rendition. Louisville would do well to seize the moment – considering the generational crop of freshman talent coming to Lexington next season – but the loss of Dieng may level the playing field. Besides that one-game handicap, though, Louisville shouldn’t worry all that much about their ailing center. He’ll be back in time for the majority of league play. The Cardinals may lose the state crown for a year – or at least be severely hampered going in – but other than that, the long-term impact isn’t exactly season-altering.

Also Worth Chatting About. Withey Records Second Triple-Double in Kansas History.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Award Tour: Shabazz Muhammad Is Out, So Who’s In?

Posted by DCassilo on November 16th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Take a second to play out a hypothetical situation. John Doe is a top recruit. He is probably going to play for Basketball College. A booster for that school’s biggest rival, Hoops University, knows this and gives Doe $1,000 to come visit Hoops. A year later, the NCAA finds out, and who gets punished? Not the booster and Hoops but Doe and Basketball College. This is the insanely stupid can of worms that the NCAA has opened up in the Shabazz Muhammad ruling. To make matters worse, recent reports say the NCAA had it out for him before they even learned of this. It brings to focus a larger issue that still does not get enough play – the student-athlete has no rights. Unlike professional sports, there are no unions. It’s just the NCAA and powerful universities versus tiny student-athletes. For now, Muhammad doesn’t play, and that shakes up both of our top 10 lists. Hopefully by including these players below, they haven’t become susceptible to another NCAA violation.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Pierre Jackson – Baylor (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 23.3 PPG, 8.7 APG

Welcome to the race Mr. Jackson (AP)

As you’ll see throughout this list, it might just be the year of the point guard. Jackson is a special one, as he’s already poured in 27 points and 31 points this season. The assists are there too, making him one of the toughest players to guard in the country. This week: Nov. 16 vs. Colorado, Nov. 18 vs. St. John’s/Murray State

9. Kenny Boynton – Florida (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 16 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG

A near inclusion on this original list, Boynton makes it in there after a stellar start to the season. While he took a backseat role against Wisconsin, being the engine that drives one of the top teams in the country will only help his candidacy. This week: Nov. 18 vs. Middle Tennessee St., Nov. 20 vs. Savannah State

8. Allen Crabbe – California (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 30 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3 APG

After averaging 15.2 PPG as a sophomore, Crabbe has opened the eyes of many with a 27-point and a 33-point game to open the season. It’s impossible to shoot this well (60 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from 3-point range) all season, but he seems to have the tools to contend for the nation’s scoring title. This week: Nov. 16 vs. Denver, Nov. 22 vs. Drake

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SEC M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 16th, 2012

  1. A loss to a long-term but estranged rival is tough to bear for any team, and when you consider how fickle Kentucky fans tend to be, Tuesday night’s loss to Duke presumably indicates the end of Wildcats’ run among the nation’s premier programs. Their coach has to be worried about his job security, right? Afraid not. “We didn’t play that bad, ya know, shoot 49 percent, only have 13 turnovers,” John Calipari told reporters this week. But the coach’s biggest takeaway was the performance of Alex Poythress. “He’s a beast, that’s what he needed to look like. He’s a beast, so be a beast.” The Wildcats are a young team (how about that for analysis?) and will improve as the season goes on. Duke is a veteran team, and should be able to put more cohesive units on the floor in November. His biggest supporters may not realize this, but Calipari certainly does.
  2. “With an off shooting night from Canaan and Barbee finding the right matchups to exploit, the Tigers could give themselves some momentum early in the season,” said an imposter who pretended to be me in Thursday’s SEC Morning Five. OK, maybe it was actually me. Isaiah Canaan did not comply with my prediction, hitting an incredibly efficient 9-12 from the floor, and leading the Racers past their SEC opponent, Auburn, Thursday night. The Tigers started out slow and couldn’t recover, with Murray State pushing the lead to 17 with a little over 10 minutes gone. Rob Chubb was the sole positional advantage Auburn had, but as he was in foul trouble the entire game, the senior center was only on the court for 15 minutes. “It’s a terrific win anytime you can beat an SEC team,” added Racers’ coach Steve Prohm in the postgame press conference.
  3. Erik Murphy’s career at Florida hasn’t been smooth-sailing. For the son of a former college star and NBA player, there are certain expectations, and Murphy hadn’t been able to reach them in his first two years in Gainesville. At the climax of the disappointing period of his Florida career, in an incident extending well beyond the court, Murphy was arrested in St. Augustine. However, the consequent wake-up call would be a blessing for the Rhode Island native. Murphy was close to transferring away from the location that contained so many of his troubles, but I’m willing to bet that he’s happy with the decision to stick around. He has finally gained traction in Florida, and the nation took notice on Wednesday night with his perfect shooting performance against Wisconsin. “I’m so proud of him,” Jay Murphy said. “Not just as a player, but really of who he is. Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone deserves a second chance.”
  4. LSU hasn’t earned an invite to college basketball’s premier tournament since 2009, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers completely lack NCAA tournament experience. Enter Charles Carmouche. “I’ve actually had the opportunity to win and play in the NCAA Tournament,” Carmouche told the Daily Reveille. “I’m trying to help everybody not do the wrong things I did as a younger player and to better the team as a whole.” Carmouche has done more than be a mentor for more inexperienced players so far. In the Tigers’ season opener, the transfer tallied 16 points on 6-10 shooting to lead his team to a win over the UCSB Gauchos, despite the loss of star forward Johnny O’Bryant III. He isn’t LSU’s most talented player, but by stepping up in a game in which his young teammates needed a boost, Carmouche’s decision to transfer to Baton Rouge could be the difference between middle of the pack contention and a finish in the SEC cellar.
  5. Since two or three games is a sufficient representative sample for an entire season, I’m going to go ahead and declare that Alabama’s sophomore guard Trevor Lacey will be crowned SEC Player of the Year. Not adequate? OK. At the very least, Lacey has put on a show for the Crimson Tide so far. The top prospect in Alabama’s 2011 recruiting class has displayed his promise in 2012, averaging over 19 points per game and shooting over 65% from 3-point range. His team hasn’t had any frontcourt production, but with coach Anthony Grant’s deep backcourt swarm of scorers, Alabama has some time to get top recruit Devonta Pollard up to speed.
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