ACC Game On: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 17th, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward at key upcoming matchups.

The Atlantic Coast Conference remains unbeaten, although it took a timely jumper by North Carolina State’s Deshawn Painter to maintain the currently perfect winning record of all conference teams. The Wolfpack’s game against Princeton was the highlight of a mostly lackluster slate of games last night. Mark Gottfried‘s team, already playing without C.J. Leslie, lost Scott Wood to an ankle injury two minutes into it. That, combined with insanely hot shooting by Princeton in the first half made a manageable game suddenly very challenging. Despite being down by three at the half, N.C. State rallied behind the sterling play of Lorenzo Brown to pull out the win in the final seconds. Brown led the team in points, assists and steals, contributing sixteen, eight, and five respectively, as well as snagging five rebounds.

Lorenzo Brown Came Up Big For N.C. State

Clemson and Florida State easily took down their opponents, using highly effective offenses to complement already lethally effective defenses. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, with Florida State managing an impressive 57.1%. For Clemson, the all-round play of Tanner Smith has continued to help the Tigers in myriad ways. Smith led his team in assists and rebounding while also scoring eleven points.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.17.11

Posted by bmulvihill on November 17th, 2011

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

Now that you have fully recovered from ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon, it’s time to jump into the first of the exotic preseason tournaments.  The Puerto Rico Tip-Off gets going today, along with the big boys’ rounds of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.  Let’s take a look at the action.

Maryland vs. #16 Alabama – 5:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (**)

JaMychal Green and Anthony Grant Lead Alabama into the Puerto Rico Tip-Off

  • Rarely do you see a team hit zero three-point shots and still win a game.  However, that is exactly what Maryland did in its first game of the season against UNC-Wilmington.  The Terps finished 0-9 from downtown, but managed to drain 58% of its twos.  Mark Turgeon’s squad is going to have a tough time hitting such a high percentage of shots inside the arc against Alabama’s vaunted defense.  While Terp forwards James Padgett and Ashton Pankey both scored in double figures in the opener, neither consistently demands enough attention to take scoring pressure off the guards.  Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin needs to have another big game in order for the Terrapins to have a chance.  If the Alabama defense can lock him up, there is not enough fire power elsewhere on Turgeon’s team to beat the Crimson Tide.
  • Alabama is all about defense.  They picked up right where they left off last year giving up only 0.8 points per possession through their first two games of the season.  However, senior forward JaMychal Green should not be overlooked as a big time offensive threat.  Green is averaging 18 points per game in only 25 minutes of action per night.  Coach Anthony Grant’s team needs to improve its shooting, though.  Alabama shot under 50% eFG in 20 of it’s 37 games last season and that trend is continuing again this season.  While they finished a remarkable 10-10 in those games because of a stellar defense, it’s very difficult for a team to have major success shooting under 50% eFG.  If the Tide is hitting more than half of its shots against Maryland, the game will not be close.
  • This game hinges on Maryland’s ability to create baskets in transition.  Maryland plays at a much faster pace than Alabama.  If they get locked down in a halfcourt match-up with the Crimson Tide defense, the Terps’ offense will bog down because they do not have enough weapons in the low post.  The team that dictates the pace and style of this game will ultimately win.

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ACC Team Previews: Maryland

Posted by mpatton on October 27th, 2011

Maryland was very unlucky last season. It ranked 330th out of 345 schools according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical “Luck” element, falling just in between ACC compatriots Clemson and Georgia Tech. However, the team’s flaws contributed as much to its close losses as anything else. First and foremost, Sean Mosley took a step back from a very promising sophomore season and became a virtual non-factor on offense. Terrell Stoglin‘s brilliant play masked Mosley’s absence for much of the season, but the lack of a consistent third option killed the Terrapins down the stretch. Additionally, Jordan Williams had an Achilles’ heel: poor free throw shooting. Williams was the rock of last year’s Maryland squad, but his inability to shoot foul shots well forced him to take on a reduced role at the end of games.

Terrell Stoglin and Jordan Williams Would've Made a Dynamic Duo at Maryland

Looking back at Maryland’s year is like reading The Little Engine That Could(n’t). Gary Williams‘ squad was competitive, only being blown out twice by a middling opponent (once by Miami and once by Virginia Tech). Those two bad losses, though, were balanced byonly two decent wins (vs. Clemson and Florida State). For whatever reason Maryland couldn’t break into that next tier last year.  The year was so frustrating that after hearing Jordan Williams was departing for the NBA Draft, Hall of Famer Gary Williams departed for the cool breezes of retirement. While inconsistency — especially on the recruiting trail — marked the last few years of his tenure, Williams-coached teams regularly flourished during ACC play in the early 2000s especially the 2002 National Championship team headlined by Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon. But the stresses of constantly having to reload from lost players and assistant coaches finally caught up to the head coach after Jordan Williams left his team with very few players and nothing to speak of in the front court. The good news is that the very capable Mark Turgeon was hired away from Texas A&M to take the helm in College Park. Read the rest of this entry »

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SEC Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 25th, 2011

  1. The Southeastern Conference’s official preseason media poll was released yesterday. You know what that means: Time for Nerdfightin‘! It is hard to argue against Kentucky being picked as the overwhelming favorite to win the conference championship. Receiving 18 (of 23 total) first-place votes, the Wildcats topped Vanderbilt (four first-place votes), Florida (one first-place vote) and Alabama (no first-place votes). South Carolina was voted the last place team.
  2. Also ripe for your nitpickin’ and message board forum fighting: the media’s All-SEC Teams. Kentucky sophomore Terrence Jones was voted SEC Player of the Year and joins Vandy’s John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor, Alabama’s JaMychal Green and Mississippi State’s Dee Bost on the First Team All-SEC list. Three more Kentucky players — senior Darius Miller, sophomore Doron Lamb and freshman Anthony Davis — join Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli and Florida’s Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker as members of the six-player Second Team All-SEC. CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish threw the first nerdfight punch when he complained that Anthony Davis (like former Kentucky player John Wall before him) should be on the preseason First Team since Davis is arguably the most-talented player in the conference. We tend to agree and wonder why if there can be a six-member Second Team why there couldn’t be a six-member First Team?
  3. Hope you didn’t miss our piece on Christian Laettner‘s appearance in Rupp Arena last night. Another player with more recent Kentucky history made an appearance during the Big Blue All-Stars exhibition game: Former Wildcat Enes Kanter. The Turkish-born Kanter was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for accepting benefits above an allowable amount while part of Turkish club team Fenerbahce. At last, Enes was freed, but his first game at Rupp was slightly underwhelming. Kanter looked out-of-sorts with the pace of the game and his NBA peers. Eager to involve the big man, All-Star teammate Rajon Rondo tried working with Kanter on several pick-and-roll plays; Kanter was surprised at the speed of Rondo’s bounce passes and lobs. Eventually Kanter settled into cleaning up offensive rebounds, made some mid-range jumpers and finished with 14 points and 10 boards. But his performance was not the kind of dominating debut Kentucky fans were hoping to see of the highly-sought big man.
  4. Free Missouri! The school seemingly wants to join SEC Expansion 2011: ALL YOUR TEAMS ARE BELONG TO US. Though in a meeting of Big 12 presidents and athletic directors Monday evening, Mizzou did not formally withdraw from the conference. Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told the Kansas City Star that, “a strong desire for the University of Missouri to maintain its Big 12 affiliation was expressed” at the meeting. Yet when asked after the meeting about the Big 12, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said, “I wish them the best and all that. So we’ll see where that goes.” Sounds like where that is going is the SEC offices in Birmingham.
  5. One of Missouri’s concerns about a move to the SEC is how it would affect Kansas City. The Big 12 will likely no longer hold its annual basketball tournament in KC. When Mizzou’s Board of Curators directed Brady Deaton to explore other conference options, they gave him explicit instructions to set up a holiday tournament for Kansas City. There is some pessimism regarding the success of a team-oriented tournament; ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote, “few power-six schools play in these non-exempt two-game tournaments anymore. … Most non-elite tournaments have shut down because of the difficulty of scheduling these games.” We think the next best option is to make a semi-home conference game in Kansas City with a familiar foe: Texas A&M. The two schools could promote the game as “The Battle for the Greener Pastures“.
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SEC Morning Five: 10.19.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 19th, 2011

  1. Jason King wrote his first article since joining the ESPN crew on what he knows about college basketball. He wrote, “The Big East will (again) be the country’s top conference this season, but I’m more excited about the SEC. Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt are Final Four contenders, and no team intrigues me more than Mississippi State.” I couldn’t agree more. It will be a great season to be an SEC basketball fan.
  2. Gary Parrish of CBS turned in his 50 player ballot for the Naismith Award. Lots of SEC love as ten conference players made the list, including five Kentucky players. The SEC list consists of Brad Beal (Florida), Dee Bost (Mississippi State), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), JaMychal Green (Alabama), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt) and Marquis Teague (Kentucky). If you love lists, and since you’re reading one now I bet you do, you will love the excellent coverage at CBSSports.com as they have also unveiled a list of the Top 100 players in college basketball and a Preseason All-America list. Of course, the SEC is well represented on both with Vandy’s Jenkins placing as a first team All-American. However, it was Jeff Goodman’s placement of Terrence Jones on his fourth team All-America list that sent mobs of angry Kentucky fans Goodman’s way. Goodman placed Thomas Robinson of Kansas on his first team over Wildcats Anthony Davis and Jones. I ask you, loyal SEC fans, is the best power forward in the country from the SEC?
  3. Not sure whether to add ESPNU to your cable package? Well, ESPN released its television schedule with more than 1,450 regular season and Championship Week games across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN4… sorry, I got carried away. The release is a 23-page document with 11,122 words in it, so make sure you have a couple of hours to go through it all. Just want the highlights? College Gameday will visit the SEC once in Nashville for the Kentucky/Vanderbilt matchup on February 11. Super Tuesday returns with a Big Ten/SEC doubleheader on ESPN, and an ACC/SEC doubleheader on ESPNU. That should make your decision on ponying up a few extra bucks for the U a little easier. Finally, the SEC Tournament semifinals and championship games will be televised nationally on ABC.
  4. It was initially believed that Florida may violate NCAA rules by using two basketballs during game action to ensure they have enough shots to go around for their ball-hoggin’ backcourt, but a Gainesville Sun article says Billy Donovan is impressed with the unselfish behavior of his guards. He pointed out that point guard Erving Walker has taken the third fewest shots on the team in the early going of practice. Donovan said, “he has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist to turnover ratio has been really good. I think he has an idea of the challenges in front of him.” Donovan has challenged his point guard to lead the SEC in assists this season. We’ll have to wait and see if Walker accepts that challenge, but he seems to be distributing the ball well in the early going.
  5. Kentucky fans who have been clamoring for more Dribble Drive Motion Offense will finally get their wish. On his website, John Calipari wrote his six observations from the first six days of UK’s practice. In number six, Cal wrote, “this may be a Dribble Drive team. Instead of using it 30 percent of the time, we may use it 70 percent of the time. They’re reacting quickly and they’ve got a feel for what’s going on. They’re doing pretty good with it.” The outspoken head Wildcat has never been one to hand out too much praise for his Wildcat teams, especially early on, but he’s been nothing but positive to start out this year. He even agreed with former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall when Hall said that this year’s team is “way ahead of where we were a year ago.” That’s great news for Cat fans who will be quick to remind us that last year’s Final Four team wasn’t too shabby.
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SEC Morning Five: 10.18.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 18th, 2011

  1. A dramatic turn in SEC Expansion 2011: ALL YOUR TEAMS ARE BELONG TO US! The New York Times’ Pete Thamel reported yesterday evening that Missouri‘s application to the SEC was “inevitable and imminent” according to an unnamed source close to the process. Thamel also reports that the SEC Presidents will accept Missouri’s application barring any legal problems that would complicate the school’s exit from the Big 12. (For the sanity of the nation, somebody please keep Baylor President Ken Starr from registering the domain name dontmesswithmissourifootball.com.) Missouri’s Board of Curators will be meeting later this week and may actually finalize an application to the SEC.
  2. What has been the hold-up for Mizzou? An excellent article published last weekend by the Kansas City Star relates the differing opinions of Missouri’s conference alignment with the diverse population. The article does an excellent job of showing that Missourians’ identity is a mixture of sub-identities: the cowboys of the west plains, the farmers of the northern midwest, the traditionalists of the south and the big-city indifference from St. Louis. If each of these factions are represented on the Mizzou Board of Curators, then perhaps we finally understand why the school has been very deliberate in making its decision.
  3. Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli should try being more deliberate when making travel decisions. Over the summer the senior center accepted a furnished meal and hotel room from a Vandy alumnus; a violation specified somewhere in the NCAA Huge Book O’ ByLaws. Vanderbilt Athletics self-reported the violation and he will sit out the Commodores’ first six regular season games. He will return for Vandy’s November 28 game versus Xavier. Vanderbilt’s Vice Chancellor David Williams said in a released statement that, “we have a very good compliance education process in place and this incident shows how easily someone can fall astray, even with the best intentions.” Remember, Vandy student-athletes: Don’t accept any illicit gifts, even if the gift is a near-mint copy of Detective Comics #27.
  4. It’s pretty easy to deduce that the quote war between Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is nothing but a little hype from two coaches that don’t necessarily get along with each other. A Lexington-area sportscaster often jokes that Pitino and Calipari are acting like “a bunch of catty schoolgirls”. Yesterday, CBS Sportsline’s Gary Parrish believes he discovered a new layer of cattiness with the Wildcats head coach: The recent emphasis of the phrase “Players First Program” to describe Kentucky is to trump the Cardinal’s newest team phrase of “Louisville First.” We tend to disagree. Most of Coach Cal’s “Players First” talk was in direct build-up of his “State of the Wildcat Nation” speech. The emphasis about “Players First” was primarily given in sections of the speech written directly for the 2012 recruits attending and those who didn’t attend but would watch the highlights later. Additionally Calipari had no problem directly dissing Coach Pitino during his speech: He left out Pitino when referencing a list of former coaches and explicitly omitted the 1995-96 National Championship team (led then by Pitino) when listing some of the great Wildcat teams of the past. The coaches will probably not stop being snippy until the Cards and the Cats play on New Year’s Eve in Rupp Arena. Maybe we should take away their cell phones and ground them from going to the mall until the game.
  5. Full team practices launched over the weekend. Check out my homeboy Brian Joyce’s SEC Practice Report from yesterday for a detailed look. Bryan ran out of time before he could preview Alabama. ‘Bama is returning one of the most powerful and experienced frontcourts in the nation which includes senior forward JaMychal Green and junior forward Tony Mitchell. Last season the Crimson Tide struggled to find consistent shooting from deep. (Last season only then-senior guard Charvez Davis made more than 40 three-pointers in the season [71].) The additions of freshmen Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper will more than make up for Davis’ departure due to graduation. In an interview after ‘Bama’s first practice Green said, “I think we’re a better scoring team. We’ve got better 3-point shooters this year. We have more than one.” If head coach Anthony Grant can find multiple consistent deep threats from his freshmen, they will spread out defenses and let Green and Mitchell feast in the middle. Mmmmmmm… post-up play.
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2011-12 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on September 14th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Recruiting rankings are a tricky science. For every Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and Tyreke Evans that rightfully hold fort among the upper echelons of nearly every recruiting publication, there’s a Gerald Green, B.J. Mullens or Lance Stephenson that fades into the abyss rather than catapults into the spotlight. Scouts spend countless hours on the recruiting trail and still whiff just as often as they discover the next diamond in the rough. When rankings, lists, stars or other overly effusive praise is heaped upon immature 16 or 17-year olds, throwing caution to the wind is usually a good strategy.

If the recruiting gurus have it right this time around, then the incoming class debuting at Kentucky this fall may be the best of John Calipari’s coaching career.

No, Marquis Teague has not directed his first half-court set. Anthony Davis hasn’t dunked over SEC-caliber big men. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn’t defended an explosive scorer on the wing, nor has Kyle Wiltjer had to fight for a rebound against 270-pound centers. But there’s a reason why the most respected in the recruiting world have these four incoming freshmen all placed in the top three at their respective positions, and surely we’re going to see those reasons sooner than later on Rupp Arena’s hallowed hardwood.

Throw in another future lottery pick in Terrence Jones, the purest of pure shooters in Doron Lamb, a do-everything senior starter on the wing in Darius Miller and a coach that patches together top-10 defensive teams year in and year out despite absurd turnover, and there’s plenty of reasons why most have Kentucky one line under North Carolina as the 2011-12 season approaches.

Of course, it’s only a ranking, a number, a list. What really counts begins in November.

Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas represent the lone seniors for Kentucky

Team Outlook: Kentucky is loaded with talent and, unlike last season, blessed with depth. Whereas Josh Harrellson, not exactly a model for prime conditioning, had to play upwards of 35 minutes per game deep into Kentucky’s run to the Final Four a season ago, Calipari has the luxury of shuffling Davis, backup center Eloy Vargas and even the 6’9 Wiltjer at the center position. Davis’ upside is nearly unlimited, drawing Kevin Garnett comparisons because of his versatility, mid-range capabilities and rebounding instincts. Calipari also has a plethora of capable wings at his disposal. Kidd-Gilchrist is the most complete incoming freshman in the country and the sophomore Jones is a future top-ten pick who showed glimpses of stardom before fading in the second half of his debut season. Doron Lamb shot a remarkable 49% from three despite the consensus that freshmen struggle to make shots and he’s almost an afterthought given the incoming freshmen and Jones’ return. The real test will be whether rookie Marquis Teague can continue Calipari’s point guard assembly line. There may be headaches and learning moments early, but given Calipari’s track record, Teague should prove himself more than capable.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8. Possibly engrained in his line of thinking from days at UMass and Memphis where non-conference duels often provided stiffer tests than in January and February, Calipari has always scheduled aggressively and this season is no different. It’s a perfect storm for a predominantly young Kentucky squad with both North Carolina and Louisville, two teams most consider top-10 outfits, traveling to Rupp. Their SEC/Big East Challenge opponent is also at home against a likely-overwhelmed St. John’s team. The possible road/neutral tests: Kansas in NYC, Old Dominion in Connecticut and a true road game at Indiana. Although the Hoosiers appear to be making slow strides back to relevance on the floor and major leaps on the recruiting trail, I suspect Kentucky will dispatch the upstart Hoosiers in similar fashion to their contest two seasons ago.

Cupcake City: Major props should be extended to Calipari for testing his team regardless of their youth, but, like any other coach from a blue-blood program, buy games are part of the equation. Out of the schedules I’ve seen thus far, the order of Kentucky’s slate is the most appealing from a strategic standpoint (unlike, say, Michigan State, who opens with some teams named North Carolina and Duke). Kentucky welcomes Marist as a warmup for Kansas. They mix in Radford and Portland before St. John’s, UNC and Indiana. They take their foot off the gas to avoid burnout before the intensity that Louisville provides. It’s precisely how I’d structure my schedule as a coach of an elite program with sky-high expectations.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s the game of the century. Okay, maybe that’s ridiculous hyperbole, but barring an unforeseen upset, Kentucky will welcome North Carolina to Lexington for a possible national title preview that will feature as many as nine first-round draft picks, two coaching celebrities that manage the most recognizable programs in the nation and a national TV audience on CBS. Keep an eye on how the wily veteran Miller handles the daunting task of defending Harrison Barnes and if Davis can hold his own down low against Carolina’s length.

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Team USA Finishes Fifth at World University Games: Notes On Player Performances

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2011

Team USA came out of the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, with its pride intact after sporting a 7-1 overall record, but because of an untimely loss over the weekend in the quarterfinal round versus Lithuania, they will leave Asia without a medal.  The twelve-man roster comprised of some of the best returning players in the college game finished fifth in the tournament despite sporting a 28.2 PPG scoring margin over its eight opponents.  The Americans did not earn a chance to play the top two finishers — Serbia (gold) and Canada (silver) — although the team that knocked them out of contention, Lithuania, ultimately took home the bronze.  We’ve already established the weak predictive power of the WUG experience (e.g., 2009-10 NPOY Evan Turner hardly played in the 2009 WUG), but we still thought it would be worth a quick look to see which players rose to the top and which did not during the last two weeks of action.

Trevor Mbakwe Was USA's Best Interior Player

Some of our thoughts on player performances:

The All-American Backcourt Was Solid, If Not Spectacular.  Simply glancing at the roster going into the World University Games, the two names that immediately jumped out as the best players were in the backcourt — Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs and Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins.  Both players will be on the short list next season as NPOY types who should also land on several of the major All-American teams.  In China, they both played the most minutes and shot the ball considerably more than the rest of their teammates.  Jenkins alone attempted 57 threes, more shots than anyone but Gibbs (73) on the entire team.  They both made enough shots to keep defenses honest (Gibbs: 46.6%; Jenkins: 42.4%), and were automatic (90%+) from the line, but on a team sorely lacking in the point guard department, neither player truly stepped up and separated himself in that manner (only 28 assists between them, one for every combined 12 minutes they were on the floor).  In the loss against Lithuania, the two guards combined to shoot 4-13 from behind the arc and dished out only one assist (versus 5 TOs).  Clearly this team could have used a better floor leader.

Trevor Mbakwe Was a Monster.  If we had to pick one player who came out of the WUG experience with the most hype for the upcoming season, it has to be Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe.  In just under 20 minutes per contest, Mbakwe averaged a near-dub-dub of 11.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG (or, 23/19 per 40 minutes!).  What’s more impressive is that international players simply could not handle his quick feet balanced by a bulky frame, bullying his way to the foul line 61 times, or 7.6 times per game.  He only was able to convert 57.4% of those attempts, but his 60.9% field goal percentage on the interior more than made up for it.  Mbakwe averaged a double-double in the Big Ten last year, but his maturity and continued improvement may have him on target for a DeJuan Blair type of senior season in 2011-12.

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World University Games Featuring Many Returning Stars Tips Off Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2011

The second major international basketball event of the summer involving collegians is set to tip off on Saturday, and Team USA appears that it will take a heavily perimeter-oriented team into the World University Games in Shenzhen, China.  Of the twelve-man roster of mostly rising juniors and seniors, the Yanks appear to be at a serious size disadvantage with only Greg Mangano (Yale) standing at 6’10” and the beefy but 6’8″-ish forwards Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame), Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota), JaMychal Green (Alabama) and Draymond Green (Michigan State) likely to be giving up several inches against many of their opponents.

As discussed when the tryout roster was released in June, the WUG hasn’t been kind to Team USA over the last decade of competition.  Only the 2005 team featuring Duke’s Shelden Williams brought home the gold medal, and even a 2009 team that had the pending NPOY Evan Turner on its squad could only merit a bronze.  Apologies to Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh) and Abromaitis, but it’s unlikely there’s a 2011-12 NPOY hiding on this roster, which means that Matt Painter‘s team will need to take advantage of his cadre of three-point bombers that he has at his disposal.  Gibbs, Abromaitis, Marcus Denmon (Missouri), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Darius Miller (Kentucky), and Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara) all made better than 40% from distance last season.

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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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2011 World University Finalists – Will the Next NPOY Be Buried on the Bench Again?

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2011

As summer heats up, the various Team USA basketball rosters also start rounding into shape.  One of the better such international events that includes collegians, the World University Games, is scheduled to occur from August 13-23 in Shenzhen, China.  As such, the training camp roster of 22 current college players was released on Wednesday with a goal of cutting the group to a final 12 in late July.  The remaining dozen will spend early August practicing as a team before traveling overseas to represent the United States in an event that hasn’t been kind to the Yanks in the last decade.  Perhaps as a result of increasingly fewer talented players still in college or representative of the world catching up to the USA in basketball, this team has only finished first or second once in its last four outings — the 2005 team led by Shelden Williams (Duke) went 8-0 on its way to collecting gold in Turkey.  Two years ago, the 2009 team went 7-1 with its sole blemish a one-point semifinal defeat to Russia to bring home the bronze.  This year’s team will have its work cut out for it in an increasingly competitive international landscape.  Here’s the training camp roster:   

It’s a guard-heavy group, as Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, Xavier’s Tu Holloway, Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor all have All-America potential in 2011-12.  This isn’t surprising, as many of the better big men in the game have either opted out of international basketball this summer (Kentucky’s Terrence Jones; Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger), or they’re moving on to NBA riches (Arizona’s Derrick Williams; Georgia’s Trey Thompkins; Kansas’ Morris Twins; Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson).  It’s notable that Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine (2010), Northwestern’s John Shurna (2010, 2009), Kentucky’s Darius Miller (2009), Gibbs (2009), and Alabama’s JaMychal Green (2008) have all had previous international experience, which would presumably give each a leg up to make Jim Boeheim’s team this summer. 

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

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