Rest In Peace: Temple Owls Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on February 1st, 2014

Although we aren’t even halfway through the conference schedule, the herd of NCAA Tournament contenders has thinned considerably and there are some teams whose prospects of playing in any meaningful postseason tournament are already dead in the water. We are gathered here today to celebrate their brief turn in the conference conversation.

Why are we mourning Temple?

It Has Been A Trying Season For Coach Fran Dunphy

It Has Been A Trying Season For Coach Fran Dunphy

The Owls beat Rutgers at home on Wednesday, but unfortunately it was also their first conference win in eight tries and the Scarlet Knights have more than one foot in the proverbial grave too. The team that was picked by the conference coaches to finish fifth currently sits in last place and has limped to a 6-13 start to the season. There is talent here and the team has been competitive against good opponents like Texas and Cincinnati, but their best win came in early December when they beat a mediocre Saint Joseph’s team at home, and they still have to play Villanova, SMU twice, and Louisville twice. Short of a miraculous AAC Tournament run, there is quite literally no hope for the Owls to make the NCAA Tournament or even the NIT, and it would take a strong finish for them to play their way into the CBI, something no team should enjoy being said about them.

How did they end up here?

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American Athletic Conference Offseason Capsules

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 15th, 2013

We are a little less than a month away from the start of another college basketball season and as teams start to get in to the swing of things, we here at the AAC microsite will be doing the same things. The offseason in college basketball can be a tedious stream of coaching changes, arrests, transfers, recruiting, and injury news. But it is still an important part of the game and since we know you have had better things to do than sit at home and track the minutiae of each AAC team’s offseason, we figured we would do it for you as the perfect way to launch our coverage for this season. Look for a full conference preview in the next week as well as the standard Morning Fives, some other fun coverage, and maybe even a new writer or two, who knows. 

Louisville

When your team is fresh off a National Championship and looking like a legitimate candidate to repeat, the last thing you want as a coach is an offseason full of distractions. Luckily for coach Rick Pitino, the distractions and bad news have been very limited this summer. Tragedy struck as Luke Hancock learned he lost his father to cancer while trying out for USA Basketball in Colorado and there was a late-summer scare over a knee injury suffered by Montrezl Harrell which turned out to be much ado about nothing. But the team also got to visit the White House in July, learned that guard Kevin Ware hadn’t been secretly suspended over the summer and has now been cleared for practice.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

In fact, the most controversy surrounding Louisville from the offseason came when a pair of Boston radio hosts hung up on Pitino during a promotional interview after telling him that, “he ruined the Celtics.” Hilarious stuff, really. Pitino also gave a struggling assistant coach a job in the coolest way possible. Put it this way, if you are Pitino and the worst press of the offseason is that you were hung up on early during a promotional interview, you can live with that. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are loaded with talent and could be insanely deep if Ware makes it back to the court quicker than expected.

Connecticut

If it wasn’t for forward Tyler Olander’s DUI idiocy and suspension, it would have been a nice, quiet offseason for coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies – especially when compared with previous offseasons. But the DUI charges against Olander have since been dropped and the forward has been reinstated, which is a huge boon to team with major frontcourt issues. Also, freshman guard Terrence Samuel cleared up eligibility concerns over the summer, adding more depth to an already loaded backcourt. The only remaining question is whether another key freshman, Kentan Facey, will be cleared to play with the team as he deals with eligibility concerns stemming from his time at a high school in Jamaica. The 6’9″ Facey is a prized recruit and will be an important frontcourt contributor if he is cleared to play. The Huskies look poised to quickly return to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Cincinnati

As far as interesting news goes, there is no team in the conference that has had a quieter offseason than the Bearcats. The offseason started with a bang when senior guard Sean Kilpatrick announced he would return for his senior season, but since then, it’s been all crickets. I guess you could count gangly forward Justin Jackson putting on 20 pounds or highly-touted 2014 recruit Qadri Moore’s commitment to the Bearcats big news, but that would be stretching the definition. In some cases the lack of news might not be such a good thing, but coach Mick Cronin still needs to break in a new starting point guard and find anyone who can be a legitimate anchor in the post, so Cronin has probably welcomed an offseason without distractions of either kind. Kilpatrick’s return makes life a bit easier for Cronin and the team has plenty of athleticism, but points will be hard to come by and rebounds may be harder to come by still.

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Big 12 Team Previews #3: Texas Longhorns

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Texas at the #3 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 20-14, 9-9
  • Key contributors lost: J’Covan Brown
  • Head coach: Rick Barnes
  • Projected finish: 3rd

And now we play the waiting game. Coach Rick Barnes still has no idea whether star point guard Myck Kabongo will play this season after the NCAA began investigating his eligibility. The situation, which pertains to Kabongo’s relationship with an agent, could not have possibly come at a more crippling time for Texas. Already recovering from the early departure of do-it-all guard J’Covan Brown, the Longhorns cannot afford to lose Kabongo for any amount of time. They’ll need to remake themselves after relying so heavily on Brown a year ago, and their new style of offense — as well as any potential for a Big 12 title run — hinges on Kabongo’s presence. To make matters worse, this is a roster consisting almost exclusively of freshmen and sophomores, so there’s not a lot of room for error.

It’d Be a Problem if Kabongo Can’t Play

The Personnel

Along with Pierre Jackson, Kabongo is one of this league’s most dynamic playmakers at the point guard position. His world-class speed and explosion, coupled with his innate ability to dish out the basketball and makes his teammates better, is the reason his eligibility concerns are so widely publicized right now. If he plays, he’ll change the entire course of Texas’ season. As a freshman, Kabongo arrived on campus with out-of-this-world expectations, and he struggled to acclimate himself at first. His rookie season wasn’t necessarily “rocky,” but it took him all the way until March for his coach to notice a change in maturity and poise at point guard. After the Longhorns’ critical Big 12 quarterfinal victory over Iowa State all but secured an NCAA Tournament berth, Barnes singled out Kabongo as a major factor in the victory from a leadership standpoint. Apparently, it was Kabongo’s idea to put Jaylen Bond in the final minutes of the game, just so UT could switch on ball screens. “Of all the things he’s done this year,” Barnes said after the game, “I’m telling you. He’s heading in the right direction.”

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Big 12 M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 9th, 2012

  1. On the eve of the college basketball season, the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list was released. As you know, Kentucky and UCLA pulled off sparkling recruiting classes and yet none of them are on this list. Want to hear something even more shocking? The Big 12 has only five players on the Top 50 list. That’s only one more than the Pac-12 (four total) and the league finds themselves ranked below the Big Ten, Big East, ACC, and SEC in that department. I guess we can take solace in the fact that this list is comprised by the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
  2. Some new developments in the Myck Kabongo saga: The Texas guard will not play in today’s season opener against Fresno State. The NCAA investigation into Kabongo’s relationship with Rich Paul, the agent for former Texas players Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, continues, so the university isn’t taking any chances with a player who could be deemed ineligible by the NCAA. There is also some injury news for the Horns as big man Jaylen Bond will be out Friday with an ankle injury he suffered during practice Tuesday. The Longhorns will be short-handed but still should be able to win their home opener with relative ease.
  3. Oklahoma returned to their old stomping grounds for an exhibition game this week. Oklahoma basketball used to hoop it up at McCasland Field House from 1928 to 1975 and on Wednesday night, the 84-year-old structure witnessed the Sooners hammer Central Oklahoma, 94-66. This won’t be the last time Oklahoma will play at McCasland this season as they plan to play a non-conference game there against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on New Year’s Eve. Lon Kruger has even expressed interest in hosting other games in the future there. College basketball games in more obscure settings? Sign me up.
  4. Bill Self is making his last-second decisions on whom to redshirt this season. While it’s not set in stone. Self told The Kansas City Star that Zach Peters and Landen Lucas were strong candidates to be redshirted. Peters has been plagued with a rotator cuff injury over the past month and while his status is better, Self has no idea when the Dallas-area forward will play this season. According to Self, Lucas seems more likely to be redshirted after talking with his family about it, but still leaves the door open about him playing “two weeks from now.” It’s a classic coaching strategy: closing the door on something by not really closing it all the way. It keeps opposing coaches off-balance.
  5. The 2014 Final Four will be played under the big top that is JerryWorld. On Thursday, the Big 12 Conference, the Dallas Cowboys, the NCAA and the North Texas Local Organizing Committee unveiled the Tournament’s logo. Final Four Saturday will take place on April 5, 2014 with the National Championship game happening on Monday, April 7. The Metroplex hasn’t hosted a Final Four since 1986 when “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison led the Louisville Cardinals to their second national title of the 1980s with a win over the Duke Blue Devils. So from 2004 to 2016, the state of Texas will have hosted five Final Fours with events in San Antonio (2), Houston (2), and now North Texas (1).
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Big 12 Team Previews: Texas Longhorns

Posted by cwilliams on November 9th, 2011

Projected finish: 4th

2010-11 record: 28-8 (13-3)

Head coach: Rick Barnes, 14th season

Key losses: Jordan Hamilton (18.6 PPG), Tristan Thompson (13.1 PPG), Gary Johnson (11.5 PPG), Cory Joseph (10.4 PPG)

The 2009-10 season started out with high hopes and even higher poll rankings for the Longhorns. As we all know, after peaking at #1 in the nation for two consecutive weeks, the Longhorns collapsed in spectacular fashion finishing the season as a one-and-done NCAA tournament team. The 2010-11 campaign was quite the opposite. Expectations were not nearly as high yet the Longhorns thrived without the pressure, reaching a #3 AP poll ranking in February, defeating Kansas in Lawrence, and finishing 2nd in the Big 12. Did I mention that the Longhorns were not even ranked in the preseason AP poll? However, Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson both opted to leave school early to enter the NBA draft so now Rick Barnes has a revamped roster and will have to show that the Longhorns are reloading this season and not rebuilding.

J'Covan Brown Is Expected To Lead This Young Longhorn Team.

The Stars: With Thompson and Hamilton gone, all eyes will be on J’Covan Brown. Brown will be the leader of this young, but talented Longhorn team. Last season, Brown averaged 10.4 PPG. I expect this number to nearly double, as he will be the focal point of this Texas squad. Brown is considered one of the better all-around basketball players in the nation as he can play aggressive defense, has great court vision, and can score in bunches.

The Veterans: Often times, when you see a team with six freshman, you don’t expect there to be much upperclassmen leadership. The Longhorns, however, have a nice balance of both. There are no sophomores on the team, and there are five upperclassmen. The pair of seniors, Clint Chapman and Alex Wangmene, have not exactly put up stellar numbers in their team in burnt orange as neither averaged more than 2.3 PPG. While the juniors and freshman will do the majority of the scoring (a heavy, heavy majority), expect both of these players to be vocal leaders for the youngsters, a task that often goes unappreciated.

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Around The Blogosphere: August 26, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on August 26th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • Texas Commit Jaylen Bond Released From Pittsburgh LOI: “Following the Wednesday morning news that Kevin Thomas failed to qualify academically and an all-around rough offseason that saw what could have been high hopes for the coming season come crashing down, Texas basketball fans needed some good news. It came hours later on Wednesday afternoon when the school announced that recent 2012 commit Jaylen Bond was released from his letter or intent to play at Pittsburgh, becoming the ninth (and final) scholarship basketball player for the Longhorns this season and bolstering a thin frontcourt.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
  • ESPN Releases Schedule For Its Annual Tip-Off Marathon: ESPN will be running college basketball games for a full day for the fourth consecutive year. (Gonzaga: The Slipper Still Fits; Washington State: CougCenter)
  • Greg Sequele Will Not Enroll At WSU After Falling Short Of Eligibility Requirements: “Washington State freshman-to-be Greg Sequele won’t actually arrive on campus in Pullman after falling short of eligibility requirements. While Sequele was seen as a raw prospect, and a bit of a project, head coach Ken Bone desperately needed his presence in the post after losing DeAngelo Casto this past offseason. Sequele had yet to show up on campus, and now we know why. According to Vince Grippi on Twitter, Sequele’s inability to meet the eligibility requirements was confirmed by Washington State on Thursday afternoon.” (CougCenter)
  • Kenneth Caldwell is at it again, this time pointing fingers at UL: “The Big Lead picked up on Caldwell’s twitter account, in which he had some thoughts on the connection of Louisville assistant Clint Hurtt to the Miami scandal, and why Louisville should be worried.” (Kentucky Sports Radio)
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Morning Five: 08.25.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 25th, 2011

  1. Bruce Pearl received his punishment yesterday from the NCAA and although he did receive a show cause penalty under the language of the document (PDF here) he would be allowed to be hired by a university, but could not participate in any recruiting activities until August 23, 2014. While some consider this to be a harsh penalty there are ways to work around this (having a strong recruiting staff that can talk up Pearl). In the end it seems to be a much lighter penalty than we would have expected for a head coach who willfully violated NCAA rules and then lied to the NCAA about having done so (don’t forget that Dez Bryant lost all of his eligibility for lying about something that wasn’t even a violation). Put another way, the violation is light enough that Mike DeCourcy at The Sporting News is advocating for Pearl to be hired. If the NCAA wants to coaches and administrators to follow their rules they need to put in place that would make violators radioactive.
  2. Recently-retired Maryland head coach Gary Williams will receive $400,000 per year for the next five years for his job to help with fundraising and speaking engagement “from time to time as reasonably requested”. While the figure is a far cry from the $2.3 million that Williams received in 2010 it is a substantial paycheck for someone who no longer has to deal with the rigors of coaching in the ACC. We aren’t sure what Williams deems reasonable, but that actually doesn’t sound like a horrible deal when you consider that the new coach Mark Turgeon will be making $1.9 million and Williams will probably raise a lot more money on the road than a coach that is unproven at the school.
  3. After initially committing to Xavier as a member of the class of 2012, 7’5″ recruit Sim Bhullar has decided to enroll at New Mexico State this fall due to what Bhullar and his family call “unique clearinghouse issues that have forced us to really examine the best course of action”. Neither Bhullar nor the involved programs have expounded on what those issues were, but apparently they were big enough that Bhullar opted not to spend a year in prep school in West Virginia before trying to become eligible and instead will pay his way at New Mexico State for the first year. Bhullar, who has a stated intention of playing in the NBA in two years, will join a roster that features five other Canadians.
  4. Texas was dealt a setback today when Kevin Thomas, an incoming freshman from Canada, was declared academically ineligible. Normally losing a three-star recruit wouldn’t be a big blow to a team with a roster as talented as what the Longhorns, but this isn’t a typical Rick Barnes team. Instead of a roster that goes ten deep, the Longhorns are currently left with a team of eight scholarship players with five of those being freshman and only three of the eight being frontcourt players. The announcement means that the Longhorns will be pushing even harder for Pittsburgh to release Jaylen Bond from his signed letter of intent and allow him to play for Texas now instead of having to sit out a year.
  5. We have been hearing fans claiming for years that Tom Crean has Indiana on the road back to glory. Today, they have ESPN’s new recruiting rankings for the class of 2012 to point to as proof after ESPN ranked the Hoosiers current recruiting class of 2012 as the best in the country (may or may not require Insider access). Realistically though it is way too early to even bother with class rankings. Just scanning the order of these rankings, which has several programs that aren’t considered traditional recruiting powers at the top, should tell you something is a bit fishy with these rankings. Basically none of the top players have committed, which makes these rankings meaningless. Pittsburgh, for example, is ranked 4th in the country with one recruit. Kentucky, which has dominated the recruiting circuit since John Calipari‘s arrival, isn’t even in the top 25 because nobody has committed to them yet since they are recruiting all the top guys in the class. We are pretty sure the Wildcats will find a way to sneak into the top 25 when all is said and done.
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Around The Blogosphere: August 3, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on August 3rd, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • Austin Hatch Makes Slow Progress: An update on Hatch and his family. (UM Hoops)
  • Immediate help on the way? 2011 PF Jaylen Bond commits to UT: “Much has been made of the lack of depth in Texas Basketball’s 2011 – 2012 frontcourt. The Horns return seniors Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman as their only experienced post players. Obviously, Texas needed some help in the frontcourt, and they might have gotten it this evening with the commitment of 2011 Plymouth Meeting, PA PF Jaylen Bond.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
  • Rotnei Clarke will not be a Sooner after all: “Clarke has instead chosen Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs as the destination for his final year of eligibility. Clarke will have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules. It was believed that Clarke was on the verge of choosing OU, however when news broke last week regarding the NCAA/Tiny Gallon issue that caused enough uncertainty on Clarke’s part to go another way.” (Crimson adn Cream Machine)
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Who’s Got Next? Updated Class of 2012 Rankings…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 3rd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com. 

Introduction

With another passing week, there is plenty of recruiting news including standout performances at AAU events, commitments and de-commitments, and the latest news on where high-profile prospects are likely to go to college. However, the biggest revelation by far in this past week was a recruiting scandal at a mid-major D1 school that has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game but somehow managed to land two elite prospects. Read on to see how a young man from Chicago, a head coach at a mid-major basketball program and a high-profile former felon created the biggest recruiting scandal in the past few years.

What We Learned

Kevin Ware's recruitment exposed ties between UCF head coach Donnie Jones and convicted felon Kenneth Caldwell.

Kevin Ware’s Recruitment and Central Florida’s Recruiting Scandal. After class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to the Knights two weeks ago, he backed out of the agreement Thursday when he learned of Kenneth Caldwell’s background, a Chicago man with a substantial criminal record and apparent ties to a prominent sports agency. Ware claims that Caldwell repeatedly called him to encourage him to attend Central Florida, traveled to meet with his family and even set up conversations between Ware, himself and head coach Donnie Jones and Jones’ staff – contact which is prohibited by the NCAA. Caldwell formally denied recruiting players for UCF and claimed he was simply impressed by UCF… a school that has never won an NCAA Tournament game.

When Ware and his family were asked about what coaches said their relationship with Caldwell was, they said the coaches claimed they had no direct affiliation with him but that they had known him for a year. This left the Ware family wondering exactly who Caldwell was and how he tied in with UCF.  On his LinkedIn page, Caldwell claimed to be a recruiter of potential NBA players for ASM Sports, which the company later confirmed. What was even more frightening about Caldwell’s background were his two felony convictions in 1991 and again in 1998. He also owes the IRS close to $250,000. After looking at his history and claims, Caldwell could fairly be labeled as a “runner,” someone who acts as a middle man to deliver players to universities and agents.

How current UCF commit Michael Chandler Ties In. Caldwell’s ties to the UCF program started a few years ago when a high school student whom he refers to as his “son” committed to the Knights. Then, two more players whom Caldwell likes to call his “nephews” also chose UCF for their collegiate careers, including one of the best class of 2011 centers in the country, Michael Chandler. Before becoming a Knight, Chandler had previously committed to Louisville and Xavier before he shocked many people by settling on Central Florida. Chandler’s high school coach said he’d never even heard of Central Florida before Chandler committed there. However, Chandler’s uncle said the prospect chose UCF on its merits. In Pat Forde’s column this week analyzing the odd recruitment, he said a source with knowledge of the situation claimed that Caldwell bragged about having inside information of where Chandler would be attending college well before he made his decision public.

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