End of an Era: Maryland’s Last Trip Down Tobacco Road Brings Back Old Memories

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 18th, 2014

Saturday night’s Maryland loss at Duke closes a historic chapter in ACC basketball history. It marks the Terrapins’ last visit as an ACC member to the Triangle area, long considered the heart of the conference (just ask Gary Williams). That game, a two-point loss in Cameron Indoor Stadium, seems like an appropriate last act in a long-running drama that has been playing since the formation of the ACC in 1953. Duke’s victory had many of the same elements that these games have had for years — specifically, a hard-fought, passionate contest with questionable officiating that ultimately resulted in another frustrating loss for the Terps.

The 1974 Maryland-N.C. State ACC Championship Game Sparked Changes to NCAA Tourney. (photo courtesy of CNN Sports Illustrated and Sports Then and Now)

The 1974 Maryland-N.C. State ACC Championship Game Sparked Changes To The NCAA Tourney.
(CNN/Sports Illustrated)

Maryland fans have long expressed the feeling that their team just couldn’t get a fair shake on Tobacco Road. Check out this game recap from a 1974 Maryland-N.C. State game in Raleigh. Near the end of the article, Terrapins’ head coach Lefty Driesell is quoted as follows: “My complaint is the charging calls against us,” Driesell said. “I’m not saying the calls were wrong but it’s only called that way in this part of the country.” He is certainly not alone in thinking that Maryland was at a distinct disadvantage when playing conference games in the Tar Heel State, whether they were on a rivals’ home courts or in the frequent ACC Tournaments held in Greensboro or Charlotte. As Maryland prepares to join the Big Ten next season, let’s take a look at some of the other memories that Maryland will be leaving behind.

Maryland was a charter member when the ACC formed prior to the 1953-54 basketball season. Although the Terrapins captured an ACC title in 1958, it wasn’t until the fiery Driesell arrived prior to the 1969-70 campaign that Maryland basketball became nationally relevant. At the time, North Carolina and N.C. State were the top programs in the league, but Maryland quickly joined them and produced some classic games that had a major influence on the rising popularity of the sport. In 1973, the ACC and its TV broadcast partner, C.D. Chesley, decided to go big with the N.C. State – Maryland game in College Park as a prelude for sports fans to the NFL’s Super Bowl Sunday showcase event. The 87-85 win for David Thompson‘s Wolfpack in front of a nationally-televised audience was a highly entertaining game that helped push the reputation of the ACC as the best and most exciting hoops conference in the country.

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Morning Five: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2013

morning5

  1. The big news of the weekend was the reinstatement of James Southerland. The Syracuse senior had been declared ineligible for what was presumed to be an issue with a term paper from the fall semester. The Orange had managed to keep their head above water without their leading scorer for nearly a month, but Southerland’s probably moves them from a likely Sweet 16 team to a Final Four contender. In his return yesterday against St. John’s, Southerland scored 13 points including three three-pointers, which should come as a welcome relief to Syracuse fans who have missed outside marksmanship (he was still the team’s most prolific three-point shooter even after missing the previous six games).
  2. On Friday we heard about a feature that The New York Times was doing on Jason Williams (we’re a college basketball site so he is still Jason to us just like Kareem is Lew Alcindor around these parts) and expected it to be an interesting read, but never expected it to be quite as in-depth and revealing as what was published. For those of you who forgot or might have been too young to remember (writing that that makes us feel so old), Williams was one of the best college basketball players of the past decade and that is even counting the one-and-dones. When he was at his best he was as dominant a force at guard as you will see (just ask USC, Maryland, or Kentucky fans about that). After Williams essentially ended his career with a motorcycle accident he disappeared from the public eye before reemerging as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. The article does a great job detailing what happened during that period including a suicide attempt by Williams.
  3. In a drop in valuation that would make MySpace investors blush the latest reports indicate that the Big East is set to agree upon a six-year deal with NBC Sports worth $20-23 million per year, which doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that they had been seeking a $300 million per year deal from ESPN, which the network not surprisingly declined. That offer may have been ridiculous, but it is amusing to note that the conference turned down a $1.17 billion offer for nine years from ESPN, which would have worked out to $13.8 million for football schools and $2.43 million for non-football schools compared to the $3.12 million and $1.5 million for the two groups respectively now. To pour a little salt in the wound, the so-called Catholic 7 are reportedly looking at a deal worth $30-40 million per year from Fox Sports depending on how many teams they add to the conference.
  4. Speaking of the Catholic 7 and the Big East we didn’t think it was possible, but it looks like they may have a somewhat amicable split as both sides are agreeing to separate following the 2013-14 season. We expected that to be the date that they split, but it sounds much cleaner than we expected to be. We guess this means that people will still pretend that the Big East is a relevant conference for another year although the big moves from the conference (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville, and Notre Dame) are already set in motion so this move is really delaying the inevitable.
  5. After winning their first two games in the SEC it is possible that Mississippi State fans got their hopes up. Unfortunately those two wins may have been the highlight of their season as they lost their next seven SEC games before suspending junior guard Jalen Steele indefinitely for violating undisclosed team rules. [Ed. Note: They lost their eighth straight on Saturday against Florida.] Steele, who missed eight of the team’s games earlier this season with a broken wrist, was among the team’s leading scorers (one of the few positives for the Bulldogs is they have a balanced scoring attack with seven players averaging between 7.8 and 10.5 points per game). Normally we would say the loss of a player of Steele’s caliber would be a big loss, but in the case of Mississippi State they don’t have much further to fall.
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Maryland Secedes From the ACC, Will Join Big Ten in 2014

Posted by mpatton on November 19th, 2012

Maryland is leaving the ACC to join the Big Ten along with Rutgers. Unsurprisingly the move sparked mixed opinions from all sides. Maryland’s move is the first time since South Carolina left in 1971 that a charter member of the ACC has joined another conference, which says a lot about the current state of college athletics. Objectively–at least in the long run — Maryland’s administration made the obvious decision. The Terrapin athletic department has financially struggled mightily the last few years, and the Big Ten offers significantly more television revenue than the ACC. The caveat is the ACC’s recently negotiated $50 million exit fee (which Maryland and Florida State opposed at the time), a fee so steep will decimate the athletic department’s short-term finances.

Thinking of Maryland In the Big Ten Doesn’t Feel Right, But It’s the New Reality (credit: SI.com)

Look for the ACC to really stick to its guns regarding the exit fee, but Maryland probably won’t pay the full penalty. Contracts require diligence in order to be enforced, and Maryland will probably argue that the massive exit fee is punitive — especially considering the fact that the school didn’t support the massive exit fee hike. That said, if other schools smell instability and see a way around the exit fee, the ACC could be in trouble. If Maryland is forced to pay the full exit fee, the only two feasible options are a massive capital campaign or some sort of assistance from a third party (including the Big Ten).

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Is the Criticism of Austin Rivers Founded?

Posted by mpatton on November 22nd, 2011

Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook broke down Austin Rivers‘ decision-making yesterday in an article for ESPN’s Grantland. He shows the discrepancy between Rivers’ college game and his high school game, as well as meticulously breaking down a couple of fairly frequent mistakes Rivers has made early on in the season. Pruiti is actually quite complimentary of Rivers, especially his ability to get to the foul line. And Pruiti asserts that Rivers can live up to the hype if the Duke freshman continues to adjust to the college game. Others have not been so optimistic. CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander thinks that mentally “he’s not buying in to K’s system yet,” which “could push/pull all [year].” Norlander isn’t alone. During Duke‘s game against Tennessee my Twitter timeline was filled with people ripping Rivers for being overrated, immature and even an outright bust. Some were Duke fans. Some were journalists. Some were neither.

Duke Guard Comparison

Per Game Stats of Two Duke Freshman Guards (from Statsheet)

For comparison, take a look at these offensive stats from two Duke combo guards who came in as consensus top-three recruits in the table above. The right column is Austin Rivers through his first five games (the Tennessee game). The stats are eerily similar in scoring in everything down to field goal percentages. Looking closer Rivers even has a slight advantage in most of the shooting statistics, and a very large advantage in free throw rate. Rivers biggest deficiency is in assists, where the compared guard doubles his output. Everything else is very close.

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FSU Knocks Off #1 Duke Again

Posted by nvr1983 on January 12th, 2011

For the third time in nine years, FSU has knocked off a top-ranked Duke team that came to Tallahassee as the heavy favorites. Unlike 2002 when an undefeated Duke team led by Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Carlos Boozer lost to a Seminole team that had lost to American just a few weeks earlier, or 2006 when a 27-1 Duke team led by J.J. Redick and  Shelden Williams lost to a mediocre Seminole squad, this FSU team has the potential to be a solid team despite what their loss to Auburn last week might indicate.

There Was Nothing Inside for the Devils Tonight (AP/S. Cannon)

While most of the media will point to poor shooting nights by Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith and bemoan the continued absence of Kyrie Irving, when Coach K addresses his team his primary focus should be on the Blue Devils’ complete lack of production on the inside. As Luke Winn astutely pointed out a month ago when Irving first went down, the distribution of the ball would change significantly, but even he failed to predict the precipitous decline in production that we are seeing from Mason Plumlee, who has only scored more than four points once in eight games since Irving was injured. The Blue Devils had so little on the inside tonight that they ended up taking 35 out of their 61 shots (57%) from beyond the arc, which would appear to indicate either a lack of a presence or confidence on the inside. To be fair to Plumlee, he was productive on the glass, grabbing 14 rebounds, and FSU is very tough to play against down low (ask Jared Sullinger who “only” had 11 points and 13 rebounds earlier this year). Still, Duke needs him to step up and become a presence on the inside like he was earlier in the season (25 points and 12 rebounds against Marquette) if they expect to compete with Ohio State with Jared Sullinger or Kansas with Marcus and Markieff Morris while they wait/pray for Irving to come back.

Having said that, we need to congratulate Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles. Derwin Kitchen was a load on the inside today, putting up 22 points and pulling 10 rebounds while Chris Singleton added 18 points to go along with his usual outstanding defense. We also want to tip our hats to their fans for a solid RTC at the end that was performed safely but effectively and in an appropriate setting. While we wait on video of tonight’s RTC to appear on the Internet we recommend you check out the last 20.5 seconds of FSU’s upset of Duke in 2002.

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Breaking Down the 2011 Preseason Wooden Award List

Posted by nvr1983 on October 5th, 2010

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced its preseason list of the 50 candidates for the Wooden Award. Among those listed are names of players with whom we are all familiar, like Kyle Singler, Kalin Lucas, and Robbie Hummel, but there are also many lesser-known but still talented players like Nikola Vucevic and Kawhi Leonard (feel free to yell “East Coast bias!” in the comments). Even though this is one of about a thousand Player of the Year awards it holds a special place for most college basketball aficionados because of its namesake, the late John Wooden, and especially the year after his death. Established in 1976, The Wooden Award has been awarded to an individual after a 26-member panel — I’m sure our invite is lost in the snail mail or got caught in a spam filter — narrows down the list of candidates down to 20 players and then lets 1,000 voters (seriously, where’s our invite?) pick the ten All-Americans and the Player of the Year (last year Evan Turner took home the hardware). Looking back through past winners provides you with a veritable “Who’s Who” of college basketball in the past quarter century and includes luminaries like Phil Ford, Larry Bird, Ralph Sampson (twice), Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Danny Manning, Larry Johnson, Christian Laettner, Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Jason Williams, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Durant, and Tyler Hansbrough.

2010 Wooden Award Winner

One of the big caveats for the early season list is that it does not include freshman or transfers. Now, the latter usually do not factor into these awards with the exception of Larry Johnson and Wesley Johnson, who picked up a few votes last year, but the former (like Durant and Michael Beasley) are beginning to play a growing role in this and other awards. We do have a few issues with the list, which you will see more of over the next few weeks as we unveil our “Impact Players” by region. For today we will just focus on our favorites and some notable freshman who were left off the list, but we expect to be in the running for the actual award later this season. We will leave off the non-freshman omissions because frankly we do not expect any of them to factor into the final ballots.

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Doc’s Kid to Duke: Austin Rivers Commits

Posted by rtmsf on September 30th, 2010

Big news on the recruiting front today, as the nation’s top player in the Class of 2011 according to Rivals.com has committed to Duke.  Austin Rivers, a 6’4 whirlwhind of a point guard and the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc, made his decision on Wednesday night and informed coaches Bill Self and Roy Williams at his other two finalists, Kansas and UNC, this morning.  Rivers cancelled on-campus official visits with both schools, as UNC was set to welcome him with open arms this coming weekend and Kansas was scheduled for later in October.  If Rivers’ ranking holds through his senior season, he will be the first top overall recruit that Duke has inked since 2005 (Josh McRoberts) — let’s hope for Rivers’ sake that he turns out a little better in a Blue Devil uniform than McBob did. 

Nobody Should be Surprised at This Decision

It was an open secret that Coach K was considered the favorite to land Rivers, as he regularly was spotted sporting Duke gear in the last year or so (the above photo may or may not be real).  Krzyzewski certainly has plenty of success to hang his hat on, but we wonder if his “coolness” factor has translated better with the younger generation of recruits since he took on the reins as the head coach for the US National Team.  For better or worse, 16- and 17-year old basketball players are going to be more impressed by stories about coaching LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the Olympics than they are about seemingly-ancient tales regarding Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.  Rivers originally committed to home school Florida as a high school freshman when the Gators were still awash in the glow of back-to-back titles, but he re-opened his recruitment a year later and says that he fell in love with Duke during a visit there last fall.

Coach K’s greatest teams always have elite point guards, from Tommy Amaker in the 80s to Bobby Hurley in the early 90s to Jason Williams a decade ago.  While last year’s national champion Blue Devils assuredly had stellar point guard play from senior Jon Scheyer, he wasn’t the caliber of player of the others on this list.  This year’s incoming lead guard, Kyrie Irving, and presumably next year’s (Rivers), most certainly are.  In 1991, Duke won the national title somewhat accidentally; UNLV was far and away the best team (34-0 and defending champs), but the Devils caught the Runnin’ Rebs on the right night and ultimately cut down the nets “a year early.”  Their 1992 team was the dominant one, and it’s entirely possible that we could be looking at a similar situation for Coach K in 2011 and 2012.  So long as the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly can maintain the paint on defense and the boards, the next two years of Duke backcourts with Irving/Rivers, Nolan Smith (2011), Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins looks phenomenal.  Just imagine if Coach K can convince Irving that two seasons in Durham is a good thing — the 2011-12 backcourt of he and Rivers could be one of the most talented the game has ever seen.

Uber-recruiters Thad Matta, John Calipari, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Bill Self and others should be on notice — Coach K never really left the recruiting circuit, but with Irving and now Rivers coming to Durham, the 63-year old coach has once again served notice that he will continue to be reckoned with.

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September 15th Will Be “Mike Krzyzewski Day”

Posted by nvr1983 on August 24th, 2010

The past two years have been very good for Mike Krzyzewski. In addition to taking Duke back to the top of the college basketball world last April, he also led Team USA back to the top of the international basketball world (not that there was any doubt as long as we brought the “A team”) in Beijing. An inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, he has won almost every title (four NCAA championships, 12 ACC championships in both the regular season and conference tournament, and an Olympic gold medal) and received almost every award (three Naismith College Cach of the Year Awards, two Basketball Times National Coach of the Year Awards, a NABC National Coach of the Year Award, and five ACC Coach of the Year Awards) that he could be expected to win.

K: Best in the Business

To add to that, earlier today the city of Chicago announced that it would make this September 15th into “Mike Krzyzewski Day” (over/under on misspelled signs and posters: 130) on the same day that he will be inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and receive the Ray Meyer College Coach of the Year Award. [Ed. Note: We aren't expecting Chicago great and Duke-hater Michael Jordan to be in attendance.] Coach K, a native of Chicago, graduated from Archbishop Weber High School before matriculating to the Army where he played under a fairly decent coach named Bob Knight. A solid but unspectacular guard at Army, he served in the Army for three years and coached at a prep school for two years before joining Knight as an assistant at Indiana where he left just before the 1975-76 season (the last undefeated Division I team) to take over as the head coach at Army. Although he compiled a 73-59 record at Army, he went 9-17 in his last season before getting an offer from Duke to become their head coach (a classic case of failing upwards). His first three years at Duke were not much more successful as after a merely mediocre rookie campaign he went a combined 21-34 over his second and third seasons. At that point many critics suspected Krzyzewski’s days in Durham were numbered, but little did they know that the freshman class that season (Johnny DawkinsMark AlarieDavid Henderson, and Jay Bilas) would wind up being one of the greatest classes in the school’s history. After that group made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament in their sophomore and junior campaigns they took off as seniors in what is widely considered one of the finest seasons in college basketball history. That group entered the championship game with a 37-2 record against a Denny Crum-led Louisville team before falling by three points to freshman sensation “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison and the Cardinals.

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Is Calipari’s Three-Year Recruiting Run the Best Ever?

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

An interesting question came up among the Twitterati over the weekend when it was learned that Rivals #8 (and rising) recruit in the Class of 2011, Anthony Davishad formally committed to Kentucky.  Davis’ commitment marks the third top ten recruit in that class to have committed to John Calipari’s Wildcats, and the seventh in the 2009-11 recruiting cycles, a ridiculous feat. 

  • John Wall (#2, 2009)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (#3 , 2009)
  • Brandon Knight (#4, 2010)
  • Enes Kanter (#7, 2010)
  • Michael Gilchrist (#1, 2011)
  • Marquis Teague (#5, 2011)
  • Anthony Davis (#8, 2011)

Throw in a few other high-level recruits such as Daniel Orton (#19, 2009), Eric Bledsoe (#52, 2009), Terrence Jones (#11, 2010), Doron Lamb (#26, 2010), and an unnamed superstar or two to be named later (Quincy MillerLeBryan Nash?), and suddenly there is a realization that we could be in the midst of the single greatest run of recruiting prowess since the Wizard of Westwood had every blue-chipper from coast to coast lining up to play for him.

Calipari Continues to Rack Up Blue-Chippers (LHL/M. Cornelison)

This is what Calipari was referring to when he infamously said on draft night in June that having five UK players selected was the greatest night in the program’s history.  It’s all marketing.  As Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue notes when referring to Anthony Davis’ quotes about the commitment, Calipari isn’t selling the Wildcat program of all hoops-all the time as much as the dream; the dream, of course, being a fast-track to the League. 

But notice what is not mentioned — Kentucky tradition, the facilities at UK, playing in front of 24,000 every game, being on TV all the time — none of these things are mentioned.  Recruiting has changed.  Calipari has taken the NBA one-and-done rule and used it like the Pied Piper, tempting players to Kentucky not with cash to families or under-the-table deals, but with a short path to all the riches they desire.

Whether you believe the last sentence or not, the truth remains that players are beelining for Lexington, which brings us to the point of this article.  We have to dig pretty deep in our memory banks to remember a recruiting run that even begins to approach this concentration of elite talent.  Granted, there’s a bit of an apples/oranges confounder here — much of the reason that Calipari can load up on talent every single year is because there’s a reasonable expectation that the previous year’s competition for minutes will be gone (see: Wall begets Knight begets Teague, for example).  Still, we’ve come up with one strong comparison in the modern era (we hope you add your own in the comments below): Duke 1997-99.  As a brief aside, UNC from 1990-93, Michigan from 1991-94 and Duke from 1999-2002 were also very strong periods of recruiting at those schools, but over four recruiting cycles rather than three. 

Duke 1997-99 (recruited by Mike Krzyzewski)

  • Elton Brand (#1, 1997)
  • Chris Burgess (#7, 1997)
  • Shane Battier (#8, 1997)
  • William Avery (#14, 1997)
  • Corey Maggette (#16, 1998)
  • Jason Williams (#3, 1999)
  • Carlos Boozer (#8, 1999)
  • Casey Sanders (#16, 1999)
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (#26, 1999)

The recruiting rankings alone are nasty, but when you consider the actual accomplishments of this group, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Six lottery picks, three NPOYs, two title game appearances and a national championship (2001).  In two of the years where they didn’t cut the nets down, (1999 and 2002), Duke was the prohibitive favorite to win the title (finishing #1 in the final AP poll every year from 1999-2002) in large part because they had more talent than anybody else.  They actually won it all in 2001, but we’re still trying to figure out how Jim Calhoun’s vastly underrated (but also undermanned) Huskies were able to slay the Duke dragon in 1999 (oh, right, Trajan Langdon).  It was an amazing run of talent acquisition, and we haven’t seen anything like it for at least a decade.

Duke Had Three NPOYs in Four Seasons (SI)

Therein lies the rub.  With boatloads of talent comes expectations, and winning the press conference is great for tone-setting, but getting to and winning Final Fours is what matters most in Lexington.  Again, the Duke era was different in that with the exception of Corey Maggette in 1999, Coach K did not lose any players as 1-and-dones; but that won’t deter the vultures from ripping Calipari if he continues to sign elite talent without bringing back the accompanying hardware to support it.  The biggest case in point of this thinking is how Michigan’s Fab Five class of 1991 is often considered a failure for merely going to two straight NCAA championship games and losing.  It remains to be seen how this era of Kentucky basketball will play out (so far, one Elite Eight appearance), but we already know that the level of recruiting enjoyed by Calipari in his first three classes there rivals anything experienced in the modern era.  Coach K’s classes from 1997-99 set the bar very high — it’s now up to the individual players — from Knight/Kanter/Jones to Gilchrist/Teague/Davis — to match or exceed their accomplishments.   

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Morning Five: 08.13.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 13th, 2010

  1. Minnesota received good news yesterday when much-maligned forward Trevor Mbakwe finally reached a conclusion in his assault case that will allow him to suit up for the Gophers after over a year in limbo.  He will enter a pre-trial intervention program that will wipe the slate clean so long as he performs 100 hours of community service and pays a $100 fine.  With several solid contributors returning to Minny along with the addition of Mbakwe, Tubby Smith’s team suddenly looks a little better than they did a few days ago in the stacked Big Ten.
  2. Florida, Mississippi State, Dayton, Illinois and Penn State.  What do theses five schools have in common?  Andy Glockner believes that each is ready to make a substantial leap in their luck next season.  He’s not being facetious either.  In using the Pomeroy definition of “luck,” a calculation that measures whether a team is playing above or below its statistical expectations, he finds that the above five teams should show a bump this season if for no other reason than they were fairly unlucky last year.
  3. Mike DeCourcy gives us his five prospects coming out of the July recruiting period who most helped themselves.  Two New Englanders, Maurice Harkless and Naadir Tharpe, were among his list.
  4. An NCAA proposal would require incoming NCAA freshmen to essentially prove their academic worthiness through summer school prior to their first season if their academic credentials were found lacking.  Upperclassmen would also have their academic records reviewed at the end of each school year and determine whether summer classes were needed; if they were, coaches could use part of the players’ summer terms for strength/conditioning and some skill development.  How long until every coach figures out that all of his players (including the 3.0 students) miraculously require the additional summer classwork?
  5. ESPN analyst and former Duke superstar Jay (don’t call me Jason) Williams recently showed that he still has some game, especially the kind suited for summertime street ball.  He played so well at  Dyckman in NYC recently that he earned a new nickname: the Bourne Supremacy.  We’re very anxious to see what the other ESPN analysts and commentators will do with that next season.
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Final Four Game Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2010

RTC will break down the Final Four games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Saturday evening’s national semifinals…aka…THE FINAL FOUR!

6:07 pm – #5 Michigan State vs. #5 Butler The winner of this game will have a built-in motivational mechanism, since this game is popularly considered the “Who will lose to West Virginia or Duke on Monday?” game.  Best be careful, because as we know, there’s almost no better way to get your guys ready to play than to tell them that it’s them against the world.  That nobody respects them.  That everyone expects them to lose and lose big.  In the case of Butler, I know I wouldn’t want to face a team playing in their home city and with that motivational tool.  A lot is being made of the home crowd advantage that Butler supposed to enjoy this weekend, but I ask you: because people love the storyline of a mid-major getting to the Final Four, in what city could you play this thing where Butler wouldn’t have most of the fans in the arena rooting for them?  I’ll tell you — East Lansing, Durham, and Morgantown (or anywhere else in West Virginia).  Well, we’re not in any of those towns.  Let me just add this…walking around this downtown area, I see mostly Butler fans, which is understandable.  But it’s not like the Duke, Michigan State, and West Virginia fans stayed home.  It’s Lucas Oil Stadium, people.  It seats over 70,000 (it must, to qualify to host this thing).  The freakin’ Colts play here.  The Butler cheers might be loud, but the other squads will have their supporters, too.  As to what’s going to happen on the floor, watch the boards.  This will be a rebounding battle for the ages, because it’s the biggest disparity between the two teams.  It’s not something Butler does particularly well, and it’s Michigan State’s greatest strength.  Brad Stevens knows his boys have to swarm the glass to have a chance.  They’ve done everything else he’s asked of them in each tournament game, not to mention the rest of the season, and I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll see them turn in their biggest effort on the boards this whole year on Saturday evening. Can Butler do it but still stay out of foul trouble?

We only picked against you three times, Coach Izzo. And we're sorry. (AP/Al Goldis)

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30 Days of Madness: J-Will’s Nineteen Straight Points

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months.  You have too.  In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while.   Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage.  Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face.  Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep.  Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style.  The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go.  Are you?  To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month.  We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er.  Or whatever.  Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with.  That’s the hope, at least.  We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so all of this week we re-visited some of the timeless moments from the regionals of the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoy.

NCAA Regionals

Dateline: 2001 NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinals – Duke vs. UCLA

Context: It was 2001, and Duke was well on its way to Mike Krzyzewski’s third national championship of his career.  In the regional semifinals, the Devils were matched up against a talented UCLA Bruin team led by Earl Watson, Jason Kapono, Matt Barnes and Dan Gadzuric.  With the #1 seed hanging onto a narrow three-point lead in the second half with about fourteen minutes to go, Jason Williams decided to put his team on his back and take care of things himself.  Nineteen straight points later, Duke had a comfortable eight-point lead and UCLA would get no closer the rest of the way.  J-Will, as he was known at the time, ended up with 26 points in the second half on his way to 34 points (including six treys) and four assists in a 76-63 victory for Duke.  It was one of the more magnificent stretches of individual basketball we’ve seen in the NCAA Tournament, and helped propel the Devils to their date with destiny the following weekend.

(note: the video says it was 17 straight points, but this is incorrect.  see here.)

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