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.

Share this story

SEC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 15th, 2012

  1. Preseason tournaments aren’t always just about the basketball, as teams travel to exciting destinations like Maui, Puerto Rico, or New York City. So is Anthony Grant planning anything fun for his team’s visit to the Big Apple for the 2KSports Classic this weekend? “Yes,” claims the Alabama coach. “We are going to play basketball.” The Crimson Tide are all business on this trip. Oregon State will be joining them at Madison Square Garden, and although the Beavers don’t have a history of scaring anyone, they appear to have their best team in years. The Pac-12 foe has a post game that can exploit Alabama’s interior weakness, but their lax perimeter defense should provide the Crimson Tide with plenty of open looks from deep. These contrasting strengths will produce some open-ended basketball. Maybe the Crimson Tide will even be allowed some off-the-court fun in the big city if they can take care of the Beavers Thursday night.
  2. I wrote yesterday that Florida’s offense could struggle against Wisconsin with star guard Kenny Boynton playing out of position, creating a mini-ballhandling crisis. The Gators did have trouble in taking care of the ball by committing 20 turnovers against the Badgers, but you don’t need to make the most of your possessions when you shoot as well as Florida did in its 74-56 win. Erik Murphy in particular put in a masterful performance — the senior forward, still recovering from an illness, shot a perfect 10-for-10 from the field for 24 points, not to mention the eight boards (four offensive) he tallied. Murphy’s offensive versatility was on full display against a Badger team that ranked 7th nationally in defensive efficiency last season. The Gators’ 62% field goal percentage clearly isn’t sustainable for the long haul of the season, but when suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin regains his eligibility, the Florida offense has all the pieces to become a juggernaut.
  3. Kentucky’s vaunted 2013 recruiting class moved a few steps closer to becoming official yesterday, as Marcus Lee and Derek Willis signed national letters of intent. But the good news didn’t stop there. Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who had originally intended to wait until April to sign, will instead sign with the Wildcats before the end of signing period, according to the twins’ father, and James Young is expected to follow suit. While there was no reason to think that the Harrison twins were wavering in their decision to come to Lexington, Wildcat fans will love to see the pen hit paper. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being touted as one of the best ever, and Calipari is still in the running for almost every other top uncommitted player.
  4. In AJ Ogilvy and Festus Ezeli, Kevin Stallings has become accustomed to having a reliable center patrolling the paint at Memorial Gym. He may have to do without that this season, but he won’t wait much longer than that after Damian Jones became Vanderbilt’s first 2013 commitment. The 6’9” defensive specialist from Baton Rouge spurned nearby LSU to sign with the Commodores. “I really like the coaches and players, and they have a really good work ethic,” Jones said when asked what attracted him to Vanderbilt. “That’s what I like and what I’m used to. Coach Stallings makes sure they work hard.” According to 247Sports recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer, Jones may not have the offensive skill set of Ogilvy or Ezeli, but he is an elite athlete who will be a dominant rebounder. Stallings doesn’t have a ton of talent in Nashville at the moment, but Jones makes for a great start in his efforts to fix that with his next recruiting class.
  5. Auburn will face several quality players in the conference season, but they might just have their toughest individual test of the year against Isaiah Canaan and Murray State tonight. Coach Tony Barbee isn’t taking the challenge lightly. “Murray State is a very talented team. The guys they have returning with Isaiah Canaan being a preseason first-team All-American and how great he was last year from the point guard position. He has the ability to score and get everyone involved.” Dexter Fields and Stacy Wilson join Canaan in a backcourt that will have a distinct advantage over the Tigers, so don’t be surprised if Barbee encourages his team to feed center Rob Chubb early and often. The 6’10″ senior will enjoy a height advantage over the Racers’ frontcourt, and has shown that he can score if his guards can find him in advantageous positions. 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.
Share this story

2012-13 RTC Preseason All-American Teams

Posted by KDoyle on November 8th, 2012

With the season tipping off tomorrow, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason superlatives and All-America teams: National Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year, and First, Second, and Third All-America teams. More than anything, our preseason All-America teams are here to foster discussion. Our crack panel of 10 national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this is where we ended up.

  • Preseason National Player of the Year—Cody Zeller, Indiana
  • Preseason National Freshman of the Year—Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

First Team All-America

Cody Zeller, Indiana (unanimous)—The day Cody Zeller committed to play basketball for Tom Crean at Indiana was the day Hoosier basketball would officially begin its climb back to national relevancy and prominence. The first three years weren’t easy for Crean, who compiled a dismal 28-66 combined record during those seasons, but Zeller was his key recruit that led Indiana to a 27-9 record last year and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Named Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana as a senior at Washington High School, Zeller was destined for big things right from the get-go. His ability to run the floor like a 6’5″ athletic forward—despite standing at 7’0″ — and sound post-game with a smooth jumper — is a joy for purists of the game to watch. Now, in his sophomore year, he has the Hoosiers eyeing a National Championship.

Zeller is Everyone’s Cover Boy, and With Good Reason… IU is Back

Factoid: Sophomore Cody Zeller may be bigger than life on the basketball court, but his talents are multi-faceted. Off the court, he goes by the moniker The Big Handsome around the Indiana campus.

Twitter: @czeller40

Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous)—The ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court—whether it is from in the post of either shoulder, or beyond the three-point line—McDermott is perhaps the most talented and feared offensive player in the country. Shooting better than 60% from the field and a ridiculous 48.6% from three, McDermott is poised to put up video game offensive numbers in the Missouri Valley. There may not be a more efficient offensive player in the game—averaging nearly 23 PPG on fewer than 15 shots is impressive.

If Zeller Falters, McDermott Could Take the NPOY Crown

Factoid: Similar to fellow preseason First Team All-American C.J. McCollum who is notorious for being lightly recruited out of high school, McDermott didn’t exactly have a laundry list of schools knocking on the basketball office door at Ames High School. In fact, his own father wouldn’t even offer him a scholarship to play at Iowa State. And now, well, he just may be the best player in college basketball.

Twitter: @dougmcd3

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2012

  1. The AP on Monday released its All-America squad and there were no surprises with this year’s group. Indiana’s Cody Zeller received all but one vote (64) for the first team (queue the Gary Parrish outrage article), while mid-major stalwarts Doug McDermott (62), Isaiah Canaan (43) and CJ McCollum (16) joined fellow Big Ten stars DeShaun Thomas (26) and Trey Burke (16) on the squad. There are six players on this year’s team because McCollum and Burke tied for the last spot — not because the AP has, like many conferences, forgotten how to count. Keep this and all preseason All-America lists in the proper context, though — of the five players chosen to last year’s preseason team, only Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger ended up on both the preseason and postseason first team. Three others — Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, UNC’s Harrison Barnes, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor — finished as Honorable Mention postseason winners, while Kentucky’s Terrence Jones didn’t even earn that distinction. The two season-long NPOY candidates from last year — Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson — were among the others receiving votes in last year’s preseason list. Caveat emptor.
  2. Tis the season for preseason rankings, selections, lists, and all sorts of fun but ultimately meaningless analysis. Still, until the first games tip off just over 10 days from now, this is all we’ve got. Basketball ProspectusDan Hanner has produced his preseason analysis of all 345 Division I teams, and as he notes, some of the results of his model may well surprise you. For example, the model loves UCLA and all of its incoming talent but isn’t nearly as high on Louisville and all of its returning talent. It seems to think that the Big 12 conference race is going to be one for the ages with eight teams at .500 or better, but it’s not buying into the hype that NC State is ready to overtake one of its rivals to win the ACC. If you’re a numbers geek who gets off on efficiency analytics, it will be interesting to do a cross-tabbed comparison between Hanner’s preseason rankings and the Ken Pomeroy preseason rankings which are due to release sometime later this week.
  3. For non-stat geeks, there’s always the controversial RPI, which despite its myriad shortcomings, remains the “organizational tool” of choice for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Building off of SI.com writer Luke Winn’s previous work examining several power conference schools gaming the RPI by playing (and beating) good mid-majors in the non-conference slate, TSN’s Ryan Fagan takes the next step and reviews a number of mid-major programs that have figured out the best way to prepare a team in terms of both the RPI and its corresponding mental toughness is to play those kinds of games, often on the road in places like Lawrence, Durham or Pittsburgh. He mentions that Davidson, Lehigh, Detroit, Belmont, UNC Asheville and Long Beach State (what else is new?) have all taken this tack with their non-conference scheduling this season. We’re certainly not complaining — these are some of the best games of the November and December months of the schedule.
  4. Iowa State’s transfer project keeps right on truckin’, with the weekend news that USC point guard Maurice Jones has matriculated there and will become eligible in the 2013-14 season. While Fred Hoiberg has picked up another talented piece for his backcourt — Jones did everything but serve fajitas to the fans in the Galen Center last year — there is a degree of oddness about his departure from the Trojan program. According to a September statement released by the school, Jones was declared academically ineligible at USC and would be forced to miss the season as a result. Jones disputes this characterization, stating unequivocally that he “just got suspended from the school for a year, but it wasn’t because of my grades. [...] It was something that happened at the school. I can’t really say what it was, but it wasn’t my grades.” It would seem somewhat unusual for a school to suspend a player for a different reason while using academic issues as a cover story, so we’re not sure what exactly is going on with this one — what we do know is that Iowa State has picked up a talented waterbug of a player who should seamlessly move into a starting role to replace Korie Lucious (another transfer) next season.
  5. With Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky all populating the preseason top five lists, this is as good a time as any to make sure that you’re regularly reading the WDRB.com College Basketball Notebook from Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich. Based in Louisville, the duo is perfectly situated to report on many of the anecdotes, rumors and tidbits that come out of this basketball-crazed Fertile Crescent on a daily basis. In this week’s version, for example, Crawford and Bozich discuss the numerous suitors for Andrew Wiggins, Tom Crean’s threat to use his bench productively, Calipari’s naysaying about his latest batch of fabulous freshmen, and Pitino’s verbal merengue around his contract extension with the Cardinals. Trust us,  you’ll learn something new every time you stop by — make it part of you weekly reading.
Share this story

2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2012

David Changas is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.  You can follow him on Twitter @dchangas.

Top Storylines

  • Can Murray State Repeat Its Success?  Last year, the Racers took the college basketball world by storm by being the nation’s last remaining undefeated team after starting 23-0. They lose several key contributors, but another run to a second-round NCAA Tournament win is realistic, and coach Steve Prohm proved he can coach in his first season at the helm. Should Murray State win the league’s automatic bid, it likely will not come with a lofty five-seed as it did last year, but any team with potential All-American Isaiah Canaan leading it in March will be dangerous.

Isaiah Canaan Is The Early Favorite For OVC Player Of The Year And Has A Shot At Even Higher Accolades. (Getty Images)

  • Belmont Arrives:  In an effort to raise its overall profile, Belmont left the Atlantic Sun and certainly will add cachet to a league coming off its best year in recent memory. The Bruins have been a dominant force in the A-Sun for the past dozen years, earning the conference’s automatic bid in five of the last seven. Their addition to an already formidable league raises its profile that much more, and though Murray State is the league favorite, Belmont will draw attention to the OVC in this and years to come.
  • Who is Robert Covington? With all of the hoopla surrounding Canaan and Murray State, plus the arrival of Belmont, the player who isn’t the subject of enough discussion is Tennessee State big man Robert Covington. The 6’9″ senior finished third in the league in scoring and second in rebounding last year, and is projected by some to be a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  He scores, rebounds, and shoots the three proficiently, and has an NBA physique.  A player of the year caliber season should be expected from Covington, and the presence of NBA scouts will be commonplace at Tiger games.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 9th, 2012

  1. With the season now rapidly approaching, the CBSSports.com guys have moved away from interviewing anonymous coaches about their perceptions on cheating and whatnot to doing some bona fide analysis. On Monday, the group released its four All-America teams and two All-Freshman teams for the 2012-13 season, with UCLA and Ohio State the big winners. The Bruins and Buckeyes each placed two players among the list of 20, as UCLA’s Baby Bruins (Shabazz Muhammad – first team; Kyle Anderson – fourth team) and OSU’s Junior League (DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft – both third team) were selected. The first team other than Muhammad includes Indiana’s Cody Zeller (also their NPOY), Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, and Missouri’s Phil Pressey. A good list, yes, but we probably would have gone with Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard slot, even as much as we love the spectacular dime-master Pressey.
  2. The same guys were certainly busy Sunday night, as CBSSports.com on Monday also released its top 100 players in college basketball for the coming season. We’ve mentioned before just how much of an exercise in futility it is to distinguish between, for example, the 37th best and 38th best players in America, but the list is always a fun jumping-off point to spur discussion. Some of the stratifications of their list are interesting, with only 12 players entering as incoming freshmen while a total of 56 of the chosen players are upperclassmen (juniors and seniors). Additionally, over a quarter of their selections (28) were from non-power conferences while the Big Ten and Big 12 tied for the most players from a single conference, each with 14.  For what it’s worth, their top five players closely mirrors their AA team (with one difference), but take a look at it and see who you think is vastly over- or under-rated or who they left off the list.
  3. There was some interesting news out of the NEC yesterday, as two-time defending champion LIU announced that the four players who were involved in a campus altercation last month that resulted in third-degree assault charges were reinstated. The players, including NEC POY Julian Boyd and fellow first-teamer Jamal Olaswere, will be placed on probation by the school and forced to sit out the first two NEC games next season. The standard remedial measures of anger management counseling and community service were added to their punishments, but we’re guessing that more than a few of the other schools in the NEC are rolling their eyes at the rather convenient outcome decided by school administrators.
  4. Speaking of rolling your eyes, Bob Knight is building a cottage industry with his multitude of enemies within college basketball, which wouldn’t be a problem if he weren’t acting as an ESPN analyst/personality who is paid handsomely to give his blustery opinions on a regular basis. Everyone knows the story about his tacit refusal to acknowledge #1 Kentucky last season, and apparently he’s moving on to this year’s likely preseason #1 with an equal amount of tenacity. According to WDRB.com‘s Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford, here’s a recent answer Knight gave in an interview where Indiana was mentioned as a possible title contender: “I have no idea [about Indiana]. I can’t even begin to talk to you about teams because I haven’t seen anybody play yet. Next question.” Ever the charmer, Knight.
  5. John Calipari has spent nearly as much time improving the overall marketability and cool factor of his program as he has working on the x’s and o’s on the practice court. World famous rappers such as Jay-Z and Drake have becomes friends of the program, occasionally stopping by the locker room and attending games, with the obvious outcome that young studs around the country who idolize those artists will notice. On Monday a video by a Massacusetts-based artist named Henry Ogirri went viral within the Big Blue Nation (and by proxy, the college basketball universe) with his new release about the Wildcat basketball team called “Drive for 9.” As many others have already noted yesterday, every team can use a catchy anthem to rally the players and fans throughout the season, and this one appears to have already taken hold among the UK faithful. Have a look and listen…

Share this story

Morning Five: 07.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2012

  1. The year-plus mystery about how much longer Syracuse and Pittsburgh will play as members of the Big East was partially revealed on Monday, as the conference released terms of an agreement that will allow the Orange to join the ACC in July 2013. The school will pay an exit fee of $7.5 million in return for leaving one year early (league bylaws require over two years of notice), but according to a tweet from Andy Katz, there’s no way that Pittsburgh will remain in the Big East in 2013-14 without Syracuse. Assuming that the Panthers join Syracuse as new members of the ACC that year, they’ll likely join an ACC with a loaded Duke team sitting at the top of the league and a reloaded North Carolina squad on its way back up. In other words, welcome to always. For what it’s worth, as much as we hate losing classic Big East battles such as Syracuse-Georgetown and Pittsburgh-Villanova, to note a pair, we’re also looking forward to the new blockbusters that the expanded ACC will enable. Syracuse in Cameron Indoor… Pitt visiting the Comcast Center… Yes, please.
  2. The nation’s top prospect in the Class of 2013 is shutting it down for the summer AAU circuit to let his injured right heel recover. Jabari Parker will have an MRI soon to determine if it will require surgery, but his father in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that regardless of the outcome of that test, their intent is to let him rest so that he’ll be ready to play for his high school team again this fall. The Simeon (IL) HS forward is unanimously regarded as the top player in his class, but according to the article, there are “rumblings by those who rank individual teenagers for a living” that he could lose his top spot as a result of his absence in summer action. At least his dad has the right attitude about the importance of summer prep rankings: “That stuff doesn’t mean anything.”
  3. It’s mid-July so somewhat surprising to see this list right now, but The Big Lead‘s Jason McIntyre released his annual ranking of the top 50 returnees in college basketball for the 2012-13 season. These things are always incredibly subjective so we’ll leave it to his legion of commenters to make snap judgments as to the list’s accuracy, but we’ll allow ourselves one critical comment: Creighton’s Doug McDermott is far better than the seventh best player in college basketball. All in all, it’s a fairly thorough list and will no doubt engender a healthy amount of debate as we move into the early months of next season. As an interesting side note, one of the comments enlightened us to a website called Value Add Basketball where next season’s players are projected based on a number of assumptions and calculations. It’s worth a few minutes of your time to poke around over there.
  4. The player who McIntyre listed as the third-best player in his top 50 for next season is an RTC favorite, Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. Will Aubrey of The Examiner did a short interview with the returning All-American, and here was the result. Canaan spent time at several of the top camps this summer, including the Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Deron Williams versions, where he was told that his game only needs a few tweaks to be ready for the next level. Despite his size (listed at only about 6’1″), he is projected at #20 overall in NBADraft.net’s 2013 mock draft — you can’t measure heart and leadership, though.
  5. We’re not going to belabor this point here but in yesterday’s M5 we mentioned that there are rumblings of a significant backlash against collegiate sports from those souls — many of whom are general sports fans — who are sick and tired of the scandals, the hypocrisies, and the rah-rah attitude that can foster situations where a known child molester is free to terrorize children for 13 years under the auspices of a moral and ethical university. The Atlantic‘s James Fallows put together a mash-up of user responses to the Penn State scandal and their tone crystallizes exactly what we were talking about. Are we reaching a tipping point where college athletics as we know it will come crumbling down and rebuilt as a quasi-professional entity with transparency about what it is; or will it continue down this beer and circus path that some have derided for years, but of which many others are finally starting to notice?
Share this story

2011-12 Season Recap: Top 12 Storylines of the Year

Posted by EJacoby on April 6th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Yesterday we captured the most iconic moments of the college basketball season, and today we highlight the most fascinating storylines from the year. What’s the difference? Yesterday’s list comprised of the “WOW” memories, the single moments in time that could be captured in recognizable photos and videos. Today’s list is a more encompassing review of full season narratives, which usually don’t culminate into a single visual. These are the defining stories that will be chronicled in history books to describe the season’s summary. Here are our 12 biggest storylines from 2011-12, in no particular order:

‘One-And-Dones’ Get it Done.

Kentucky's Collection of Youngsters Combined for the National Championship (AP Photo)

We’ll always remember 2011-12 for the Kentucky Wildcats’ start-to-finish domination that began with a #2 preseason ranking and ended with a National Championship as the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Blue Nation will remember it as UK’s eighth national title, while the national story focuses more on how coach John Calipari secured the championship with a starting lineup of all freshmen and sophomores. The team’s two best players were freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, both of whom are surely headed for the NBA Draft after just one season. Plenty of detractors didn’t think that a team full of ‘one-and-dones’ could mature quickly enough into a championship team, but the Wildcats proved them all wrong. Kentucky was the best team from start to finish, thanks mainly to the play of a bunch of 18- and 19-year-old star players.

Injuries and Suspensions Cost Top Contenders. Kentucky may have been the best team throughout the season, but there were several other elite squads that could have given the Wildcats a run for their money had it not been for costly absences. In fact, all of the other #1 seeds suffered crucial injuries at the very end of the season that may have cost them a chance to win it all. Michigan State lost its best athlete in freshman forward Branden Dawson to a torn ACL injury in the regular season finale, and the Spartans missed his ability during a Sweet Sixteen loss. Syracuse suspended its seven-foot center and best defensive player, Fab Melo, right before the Big Dance and clearly missed the big man during a loss in the Elite Eight. And perhaps the most devastating, North Carolina lost its Cousy Award-winning point guard, Kendall Marshall, to a fractured wrist at the end of its round of 32 victory. The Tar Heels could not recover without their lead guard and lost in the Elite Eight. As a result, Kentucky did not have to face a single other #1 seed en route to its National Championship.

Connecticut’s Title Defense Turns Tumultuous. Selected as the preseason Big East Conference favorites, Connecticut was expected to have another strong season as defending National Champions thanks to all but one starter sticking around combined with a very strong recruiting class. But the presence and leadership of departed star Kemba Walker proved to be invaluable. No Huskies player stepped up this season to lead by example, and a super-talented team struggled through an 8-10 record in conference play and a loss in its first game of the NCAA Tournament. UConn suffered multiple suspensions, the loss of its coach Jim Calhoun for several games due to health concerns, and an overall underachieving season whose results were the complete opposite of the year before.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

2011-12 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 29th, 2012

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.

Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.

Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:

Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.

Anthony Davis edged out Thomas Robinson for player of the year

First Team All-America

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)- A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.

Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reaction: #3 Marquette 62, #6 Murray State 53

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Catch your breath. We haven’t seen any tempo stats on this game yet, but who needs ‘em? This game was played at a Formula One pace despite not producing much in the way of scoring, but what fun it was. Mid-major local club with a packed partisan arena (even bigger than its home gym) going against a Big East trendy pick — and deservedly so — of a team that also boasts their conference MVP? Excellent storyline for an Elite Eight game, let alone a Round-0f-32 affair. Players sacraficing their bodies at every opportunity. Great passing. Superb hustle. Quicksilver pace. A pleasure to attend.
  2. Marquette slammed the door, hard. Murray State led by four in the middle of the second half when Buzz Williams stacked one of his time-outs with a media break. It’s obvious the salient message during those talks was to step up the defense. From that point, Marquette went into (to borrow from Wedding Crashers) crisis-lockdown-mode, especially on Isaiah Canaan. They didn’t give him room to get his long-range jumper off, and every foray into the lane was challenged by at least one Marquette defender, often more.
  3. Crowder impresses again. The senior stepped up with 17/13 in an arena whose crowd was as biased against him and his team as much as any arena probably has been this year, and most of those points and boards required every single muscle in his powerful frame. This game had speed, but it was also incredibly physical. In the end, Crowder and his teammates seemed more conditioned for such an affair.

Star of the Game. Crowder, as noted, was tremendous, completely and further legitimizing the “MVP!” chant that broke out from the Marquette section late in the going. But let’s also give some props to Murray State’s Ed Daniel, who averaged 5.3 rebounds a game this year…and pulled down 14 tonight in an absolute battlefield. He’s a junior. Bet he wins the OVC rebounding crown next year with this kind of effort on a consistent basis.

Sights & Sounds. This is why Buzz Williams should be particularly proud of his boys. The sights and sounds were dominated by Kentucky fans rooting for the in-state school against the big-conference squad. To win, and specifically to maintain mental stability in this environment, might be normal for a Big East team on the road, but was pretty much a true road game in the NCAA Tournament, not a Monday night Big East game.

What’s Next? Marquette awaits the winner of Florida (who won’t mind even more pace, and shoot threes a little better — sometimes — than Murray State) versus the non-Lehigh darlings of the tournament, Norfolk State.

Share this story

The View From The Couch

Posted by SMoore on March 15th, 2012

By Steve Moore (@smoore1117)

We’re coming to you live from my living room, where days have been taken off from work, and the big-screen is flickering to life.

Of course, we missed the beginning of today’s action, due to my four-month-old son’s need to eat and have his diaper changed. He just doesn’t get it.

Anyway, while the RTC crew has things covered from the various arenas, I’ll take you through the best two days in sports in the same way as 99% of America: from the couch. We apologize in advance for the baby vomit smell or if the crying drowns out Verne Lundquist.

The plan is to focus less on Xs and Os, and more on the broadcast, announcers, commercials and coaches’ hairpieces. You know, the important stuff. If this works out, we’ll be back for a look at the night session later this evening.

And yes, I know I’m not Bill Simmons. I make way more money than him, anyway.

1:28 p.m.: We’re early in the second half of Murray State-Colorado State. I’ve been watching for a while, but had my hands tied with baby bottles and burp rags.

1:30: Love starting with Lundquist and Raftery. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with nearly any of the CBS announcing crews. But I mean come on, who doesn’t love Raftery. They both do a good job making it seem like they knew ANYTHING about either of these teams before yesterday.

1:31: Am I the only one who is bothered by these generic black/natural courts the NCAA insists on installing now at every site? There was something cool about immediately knowing which site you were watching. Every time they show “The Shot”, I take pride in recognizing the Spectrum floor. I could tell you instantly that Tyus Edney’s memorable dash was in Boise, because of the garish floor they had there. This just seems so sterile. It’s … it’s so … NCAA.

The NCAA Redfines Sterile

The NCAA Redfines Sterile

The Site of Edney's Magical Run

1:40: Colorado State can shoot threes, but I feel like this is going to just slowly drift away from them. Murray State should not have been a 6 seed anyway.

1:41: We now have a third game in progress, with Louisville/Davidson going on TBS. The last hour has been like watching a single game. Now is when it gets really fun.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story