SEC M5: 03.14.14 Edition

Posted by David Changas on March 14th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. Given the way Auburn AD Jay Jacobs fired Tony Barbee an hour after the team’s loss to South Carolina, the job got a lot of attention today among those covering the SEC Tournament. On the broadcast, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, who is handling sideline TV duties at the tournament, listed four candidates he has heard are on Jacobs’s list. They are former Tennessee coach and ESPN analyst Bruce Pearl, Duke assistant and former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall, and Louisiana Tech coach Michael White. Goodman joked that Pearl, who is his colleague at ESPN, would not give him any hints about whether he is interested in the job. While it’s certainly possible that Pearl will show interest, it doesn’t make sense to us. Auburn is a very difficult job, and it stands to reason that Pearl will have other options, either this year or next (his show cause expires in August). Of the four candidates Goodman named, we think Tyndall and White would make the most sense.
  2. There has been much discussion about how mediocre the SEC has been this year, and the tournament does not present many opportunities for quality wins. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi thinks that Kentucky has very little to gain from the event. He points out that the Wildcats, who come into the tournament with only one win against a top 50 opponent – a December victory over Louisville – and the only opportunity for one that will help their seed this weekend will come against Florida on Sunday, should both teams get there. Otherwise, Lunardi thinks Kentucky is stuck in the 6-7 seed range, and could drop if it were to drop a game against a lesser opponent. The Wildcats take on LSU, which defeated Alabama Thursday night, in Friday’s quarterfinal round. The Tigers beat Kentucky in Baton Rouge and should have duplicated that feat in Lexington a few weeks ago, as they dropped an overtime decision to the Wildcats. If Kentucky can make it to Sunday’s championship game, it likely will not hurt its seeding, but it’s hard to see the Wildcats beating Florida to jump up a line or two, given how they’ve performed against the Gators so far this year.
  3. Much has been made of Casey Prather‘s improvement for No. 1 Florida, and this piece from Franz Beard at GatorCountry.com chronicles the senior’s rise. Prather was recently named to the first team of the all-SEC squad, and he talked about how he persevered through difficult times early in his career. He even thought about transferring after his freshman season, but after talking every day with teammate and newly-minted SEC player of the year Scottie Wilbekin, Prather stuck it out in Gainesville. Now, as his career draws to a close, he has a chance to compete for the national championship on arguably the nation’s best team. It’s quite a turnaround for Prather, and his and the team’s testament to the bond the Gators’ senior class has formed.
  4. Missouri got by Texas A&M in overtime on Thursday to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round, where the Tigers will take on Florida. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Bernie Miklasz talked about the future of the Missouri program, and didn’t pull any punches. Miklasz was less than complimentary of head coach Frank Haith and the way he has run the program, and he has serious questions about whether Haith is capable of turning things around. He suggests that Haith has one more year to do so, and if he can’t, it’s time to move on. Miklasz cited KenPom.com‘s offensive and defensive efficiency ratings in the column to support his point that Missouri hasn’t been particularly stellar on either end of the floor since Haith arrived. It’s a worthwhile read, and it’s likely plenty of Missouri fans agree with Miklasz’s points.
  5. Most people expected Tennessee to play Arkansas in a Friday quarterfinal, in what many anticipated would be a de facto play-in game for the NCAA Tournament. However, after the Razorbacks almost certainly blew their chance for an NCAA bid with a loss to South Carolina, the Volunteers will now take on the lowly Gamecocks for a chance to most likely get another shot at Florida. Tennessee comes into the game as a double-digit favorite, but anyone who has followed the Volunteer program knows the SEC Tournament has been less than kind to them. Despite their recent failures in the event, this year’s team comes into the tournament playing well, and they are aiming to reverse the program’s trend. Tennessee is clearly a bubble team, and a win over RPI No. 150 South Carolina certainly won’t help its resume, but it would give it an opportunity for a third shot at Florida (assuming the Gators beat Missouri). Even with a loss there, the Volunteers would be in good shape to sneak into the Big Dance.
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Boeheim, K, Pitino & Roy: Considering Their Careers and Replacements

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 19th, 2013

Often when you think about a team like Duke or Syracuse, what comes to mind tends to be certain trademark characteristics that those schools exhibit and in turn becomes associated with them. For Syracuse, it’s the orange jerseys, the 2-3 zone, and head coach Jim Boeheim. For Duke, people envision Cameron Indoor Stadium with the Cameron Crazies, floor-slapping for a defensive stop, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The fact that these two coaches immediately come to mind is a testament to their staying power and the impact they’ve had on their respective universities and college basketball as a whole. Neither Krzyzewski (66) nor Boeheim (69) is a spring chicken, however, and that poses a serious dilemma for their schools as both are nearing retirement age.

Boeheim and Pitino confer in a meeting of Hall of Famers

Boeheim and Pitino confer in a meeting of Hall of Famers

Perhaps not in the exact same boat but not too far behind are Louisville’s Rick Pitino (61) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (63). Neither head coach has been a ‘lifer’ at one program like Boeheim and Krzyzewski, but they remain living legends in their own right. While Syracuse and Duke owe a resounding amount of their present success to their two current coaches, Pitino and Williams have added substantially to illustrious program legacies with Final Fours and championships. Regardless, all four coaches are bona fide Hall of Famers with 100s of wins and at least one national title each. More specifically, the four coaches are responsible for 29 Final Fours, nine national championships, and an unfathomable .760% winning percentage over more than 3,700 college basketball games. If it’s even possible, these staggering numbers do not even do justice on their impact on the sport of college basketball.

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What to Make of Duke’s Monstrous 2014 Recruiting Class

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on November 22nd, 2013

Mike Krzyzewski is on top of the world. At 66 years old, most people would be retired or nearing the golden age of relaxation and 4:00 PM dinners. But not Krzyzewski; he is gaining a second wind and dominating the recruiting landscape like few senior citizens before him. On Thursday afternoon, Duke landed five-star wing prospect Justise Winslow from the Lone Star State, which by itself would be enough to build around for most programs, but Winslow instead is the third five-star recruit and fourth top-30 recruit Duke has landed in the 2014 class.

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Just last Friday Duke landed the second-best point guard and fifth best prospect in the entire class in Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones. Jones is a pass-first point guard who makes everyone around him better. And it doesn’t hurt that he is best friends with and the first half of a package deal featuring center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, who many have dubbed the best back-to-the-basket big man prospect since the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, is the top-ranked prospect in the 2014 class. Krzyzewski put it best when he said it was ‘three years of hard work’ paying off in the end with the signings of both players. The addition of 6’6” wing Winslow this week rounds out an already extremely potent recruiting class for the gold medal-winning coach. Winslow brings a physicality and athleticism that will have him poised to challenge for a starting position on the wing from day one. He has a college-ready body and is an extremely tenacious perimeter defender who will relish the easy looks provided by Jones’s penetration and double teams on Okafor.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by KDoyle on March 22nd, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Florida Gulf Coast is one of the better stories in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Only in their sixth year as a Division 1 program, the Eagles are riding their first winning season in history thanks to the hiring of former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. In Enfield’s first year, they finished 15-17, but were a game away from the NCAA Tournament as they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. This year, Florida Gulf Coast has been the team to beat, and it began with an early season win over Miami (FL). FGCU’s style of play greatly differs from today’s opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas are predicated on a stingy zone defense that rarely allows for clean looks at the basket, and they play at a snail’s pace. Led by Otto Porter, Georgetown has a legitimate star that can carry them deep into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU very much likes to get up and down the floor with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson leading the attack. If FGCU is able to get out in the open floor and score in transition, they’ll keep it close for much of the game. Problem is that not many teams control the pace of a game quite like Georgetown—that’s what makes them such a difficult opponent as they force the opposition to play their style of game. Historically, Georgetown has struggled in the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III as they’ve failed to reach the second weekend in four of six appearances under him, but many believe this is a different Hoya team. FGCU is playing with house money and expect them to make a game of this, but in front of a heavy Georgetown crowd in Philadelphia the Hoyas are simply too much in the end.

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the nation’s most balanced teams, the knock on the Buckeyes for the longest time this season was that they didn’t have a secondary scorer to help out junior DeShaun Thomas. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s just say that Iona never had such a problem. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones has always been the main offensive weapon on this team, never afraid to look for his own shot, but the Gaels have always trusted guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury to chip in heavily in the scoring column. And as a result, the Gaels have one of the most efficient offenses in the mid-major ranks. The problem for Tim Cluess’ team is the complete inability to stop teams on defense; only nine times all season have they held an opponent below one point per possession in a game. Given that Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation (sixth in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), you can expect the Buckeyes to at least slow Iona’s prolific offense. And given that Thad Matta has been getting significantly improved offensive play out of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, you can expect the Bucks to take advantage of that buttery soft Gael defense. While Momo Jones, et al. have the ability to make some exciting plays when they’ve got the ball, their inattention to details defensively will allow the Buckeyes to have more than their share of exciting offensive plays as well.

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For the First Time Since Blake Griffin Lived in Norman, Bedlam Means Something

Posted by dnspewak on January 11th, 2013

As hoops junkies, it’s unfathomable to non-sports fans how many college basketball games we watch on a yearly basis. Thanks to the four-letter network, we’re plugged into our televisions and computers during every waking minute from November through March. As the days and years pass you by, though, you start to forget all the meaningless regular season games you watched on ESPN3. It’s impossible to remember everything, so to vividly remember a specific game, something wild must have happened. Austin Rivers would have needed to make a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. DeJuan Blair would have had to have flipped Hasheem Thabeet on national television. Kansas would have had to rally against a red-hot Kevin Durant. Point is, with so many games and so many seasons, we really only remember the special games.

Le'Bryan Nash Has Something to Prove This Weekend

Le’Bryan Nash Has Something to Prove This Weekend

For some reason, I have a vivid memory of January 26, 2009. Fifth-ranked Oklahoma was on the road in Stillwater, and the place was wild. If I remember correctly, a massive ice storm had crippled a portion of Oklahoma, which made the circumstances of the game even more epic. As has often been the case with Oklahoma State under Travis Ford, the Cowboys had absolutely no size and played a four-guard lineup. They were fast, athletic and, to put it bluntly, were playing their hearts out in a rivalry game against a much better opponent. Blake Griffin was on that OU team, for god’s sake. The Sooners escaped with an eight-point win at Gallagher-Iba Arena, but it wasn’t easy. I remember that was also the first game I noticed a little freshman named Keiton Page. That kid looked so out of place on the court, but according to the announcers, he used to average 50 points a game in high school. I would hear that story a million more time before he graduated, and it never got old. I remember watching the way Oklahoma State overcame its complete lack of size against an All-American, and I remember thinking, ‘this is college basketball, man.’ Bedlam! How can you not love it? In the regular season finale a few months later, Oklahoma won by four points at home behind 33 points from Blake Griffin. And less than a week later, the Cowboys shocked Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, thanks to a couple of free throws by the venerable Byron Eaton in the final seconds. The Bedlam Series was in full swing. It meant something. Both teams made the NCAA Tournament that year, and the Sooners advanced to the Elite Eight.

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Former Houston Coach Makes Strong Accusations Against Another Big 12 School

Posted by dnspewak on August 2nd, 2012

We’ve got a bit of a whodunnit on our hands this week in the Big 12. In light of the recent Central Florida sanctions, a USA Today article about third-party influences in college basketball quoted former Houston coach Tom Penders of accusing a Big 12 school of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to an AAU coach in exchange for a recruit. Normally, we might skim over this kind of news because it is so commonplace in this day and age of Reggie Bush, O.J. Mayo, Worldwide Wes, point-shaving scandals and god knows what other sorts of shenanigans programs engage in these days. We’ve all seen Blue Chips. We know the world is a dark, dark place.

Tom Penders Made Some Waves on Wednesday

But this accusation by Penders is different, simply because it is so incredibly easy to pinpoint who the culprits may be in this situation. Penders “declined” to name the recruit in question, but read the following quote from USA Today. He basically does our job for us.

Others move in the shadows of the sport. In six seasons as head coach at Houston, Penders estimated, an AAU coach or his agent asked Penders for money in return for the commitment of a prospect at least 25 times. On one occasion, an AAU coach and his agent visited Penders’ office with two offers: Pay tens of thousands of dollars in return for a player’s commitment, or place an AAU coach on his staff to establish a pipeline. “I threw him out of my office,” Penders said. Penders said the player, whom the coach declined to identify, spent one season at a Big 12 school before being drafted in the second round of the NBA draft. Penders said the AAU coach collected “six figures” from the Big 12 school that chose to engage in the scheme.

So we’re looking for a one-and-done Big 12 player drafted in the second round between 2005 and 2010. As fellow college hoops scribe Rob Dauster points out, that leaves us with three possibilities:

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Update On The Illinois Coaching Search

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 27th, 2012

It has been over two weeks since Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas let go of Bruce Weber. Thomas continued to make the right moves after the firing by pursuing VCU’s Shaka Smart with a huge offer last week.  Reports indicated that the offer on the table was $2.5 million per year, which certainly sent the message that Illinois is committed to winning, at least from a monetary perspective. ESPN analysts such as Jay Bilas have been raving about the Illinois gig being one of the top coaching jobs in the country. Everything was in place, but Smart declined the offer. After Shaka Smart, reports were floating around that Brad Stevens was another potential target for the job but he quickly squashed any such rumors. Other coaches that have denied interest in the job include Alabama’s Anthony Grant and Wichita State’s Greg Marshall so any move to Illinois may be out of question right now. Kansas State’s Frank Martin has expressed interest to leave Manhattan, wound up in South Carolina instead.  So where does Illinois go now? The Illini faithful are a little confused because money is not the issue anymore. The athletic department wants to hire the best coach available and will spend a decent amount of change, but will the other good candidates make the move?

Ohio's John Groce may be the next Head Coach of Illinois. (TimesUnion)

Before we move onto the next list of candidates, it is worth examining if Illinois is still a top job after missing the tournament three out of the past five seasons. Historically, since the Lou Henson era started in Champaign, Illinois has been a competitive program in the college basketball landscape. Regularly competing for Big Ten championships, a couple of Final Four appearances and overall an exciting brand of basketball has transformed Illinois into a legit Big Ten program. The potential recruiting pipeline through Chicago is also an impressive factor for coaches to consider due to the heavy pool of talent flowing through. But in a “what have you done for me lately?” world, Illinois is probably the sixth, maybe even the seventh best job in the B1G, right now – after Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Michigan. Sure, Indiana has been horrible during Crean’s first three seasons, but to quote him again, “it is Indiana.” Michigan is on the upswing with a top recruiting class coming to Ann Arbor and a B1G regular season championship. Purdue is only gearing up for better seasons under Matt Painter. Illinois’ potential over the next 3-4 seasons is not as good as the top five or six teams. Prospective coaches also realize that you can’t just recruit Chicago and expect to cruise in this conference because you need to bring your A-game to the white board. B1G hosts the best basketball minds in the country, specifically from the ones mentioned as the top six teams right now.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.26.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 26th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament may be a distant memory, but conference teams continue to play on in lesser postseason tournaments. Washington State kicks off a three-game series for the championship of the CBI tournament tonight against Pittsburgh, but will likely have to do so without its most valuable player, Brock Motum. Motum sprained an ankle early in the Cougars’ semifinal game against Oregon State last week, but his teammates were able to step up and cover for him. While he is questionable for tonight’s game, head coach Ken Bone claims that there is a stronger chance that he’ll be able to return for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh.
  2. Meanwhile, Washington heads back to Madison Square Garden for the third time this season as the Huskies face Minnesota in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday night. The first time UW played at MSG this season, freshman guard Tony Wroten put on a show for a national audience, scoring 24 points, including 14 in the final 10 minutes as he tried to will his team back into the game. Now, after a disappointing end to the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament chances when Wroten missed multiple free throws down the stretch of a Pac-12 tournament game, he is back to reprise his starring role in one of the nation’s best basketball arenas. And it is possible, given Wroten’s chances of becoming a high draft pick in June’s NBA Draft, that his time in the spotlight as a collegiate player will be book-ended by appearances in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
  3. Stanford is the other Pac-12 team still alive, also in the NIT semifinals, facing Massachusetts on Tuesday night. This will also be the Cardinal’s third appearance this season at Madison Square Garden too, after they beat Oklahoma State and dropped a tight game to Syracuse at the Garden in the Preseason NIT during Thanksgiving weekend. But Stanford is also in the news lately because head coach Johnny Dawkins is reportedly a possible candidate for the head coaching job at Illinois. Dawkins denies the reports, but with Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens having already turned down the Illini, Dawkins is supposed to be considered along with Leonard Hamilton, Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant for the position.
  4. Elsewhere around the Cardinal program, with associate head coach Dick Davey retiring at the end of the season, should Dawkins return (which, really, is to be expected, not only because Illinois can probably find someone better than him for their position, but also because he would probably rather be at Stanford that in Champaign), he’ll need to fill a spot on his staff. And, among the candidates for that seat is former Cardinal star Mark Madsen. Madsen has limited coaching experience, and Dawkins can certainly find somebody with a more solid resume, but the case can be made that snapping up Madsen now would be good for the Cardinal program in the future.
  5. Lastly, we missed this back at the start of March, but California will be among the eight teams playing in the 2013 Maui Invitational. The Golden Bears will join Syracuse, Baylor, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Dayton, Minnesota and, host Chaminade in Maui in November 2013. It’s too early to prognosticate the strength of any of those teams, but Syracuse, Baylor and Gonzaga have been consistently solid in recent years, while the Bears could feature Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon as seniors, with David Kravish as a junior.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.14.12

Posted by EMoyer on March 14th, 2012

  1. South Carolina’s Darrin Horn became the third head coach from a BCS school (joining Bruce Weber of Illinois and Doc Sadler of Nebraska) to lose his job this month. South Carolina fired Horn after four seasons in Columbia. He could not build on his 21-10 first season and interest in the team sagged. Quoting the AP account of the story “average paid attendance this season was 8,900 people in the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena – down about 1,500 fans – with most games seeing less than half of the announced number actually in the stands.”
  2. David Cloninger from GamecockCentral.com speculated on possible replacements, writing, “The hot name on several lips to replace Horn is Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, a South Carolina native who assisted at College of Charleston and then led tiny Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments in nine years. Marshall is leading the Shockers into the NCAA tournament as a five-seed, and has publicly said, although it was years ago, that he would love to take the USC job someday. Another candidate that could emerge is Jeff Capel, the former Oklahoma coach who was contacted when Horn was hired, but turned down the offer, was later fired and currently serves as an assistant coach at Duke. Shaka Smart, the Virginia Commonwealth coach who shocked the world last season by taking a team from a play-in game to the Final Four, would be a hot name, but he has been publicly mentioned as the top choice to replace Bruce Weber, who was recently fired at Illinois.”
  3. John Clay wrote of the comparisons between Kentucky’s 1996 team than went undefeated in SEC play only to lose in the Tournament final in New Orleans before winning the national title to the 2012 version of the Wildcats that followed the same first two chapters of the script by speaking with a key member of the ’96 team, Tony Delk. Delk, now an assistant for New Mexico State said “It was a game where I thought that was the best loss we could have had. Because going into the tournament, you didn’t want to be too high. If we had won that game, it could have been, ‘OK, we’re going to cruise through this and we’re going to win easily.’ We could have gotten knocked off early. We re-focused ourselves.”
  4. In advance to Ole Miss opening play in the NIT, the Rebels secured a commitment from Marshall Henderson, a 6-2 guard from South Plains Junior College. Hen started his career at Utah but transferred to Texas Tech. After sitting out the NCAA-mandated transfer year, he moved again following the dismissal of coach Pat Knight. Henderson is averaging 19.4 points a game and is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 43 percent from the 3-point line, and 88 percent at the free-throw line.
  5. Florida’s all-SEC freshman guard Bradley Beal offered some insight as to his plans for next season. Some NBA Draft projections have placed Beal inside the top 10. “Either way it goes, if I leave, I still played a great year of college, I enjoyed it,” Beal said. “If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it. I have no clue. I haven’t even really thought about it at all,” said Beal. “Right now, I don’t know. I haven’t put too much thought into it. When that time comes I’m going to talk to coach (Billy) Donovan and my family and we’re going to have to sit down and talk about it. When that time comes, it comes.”
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ACC Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 9th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: John Feinstein takes a look at the ACC’s mediocrity since the additions of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College — despite a 9-0 vote against it from the basketball coaches — in 2004. Since then, the league has slowly become a two-team battle between Duke and North Carolina. Mike Krzyzewski faults the way the expansion was handled because it killed the round-robin for a system that benefits the same teams every year by having fixed playing partners (i.e., it’s fine for Duke and North Carolina because they get tons of exposure already and play each other twice, but Boston College plays Virginia Tech and Miami each year, which isn’t nearly as valuable).
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow takes a look at the Duke coaching staff, anchored by three guards who all played together in Durham nearly two decades ago. Jeff Capel has already been a head coach, but there’s little doubt that Steve Wojciechowski or Chris Collins would struggle to find a head job if they looked. The three also have a record of dealing with adversity at Duke, having played in the infamous 1994-95 season when Coach K took most of the year off to recover from back surgery and the Blue Devils finished under .500. Now they’re trying to help a team that’s facing some recent adversity, albeit a whole lot less, achieve its potential this season.
  3. Orlando Sentinel: Apparently Florida State felt “optimistic” going into its ACC opener against Clemson. Well, as you probably know, it’s going to be tough to be optimistic coming out of the game now. The Seminoles allowed nearly 80 points and lost by a final deficit of 20 to the Tigers, not exactly the start they were looking for. Now, with no real marquee wins and six losses already, Florida State is almost certainly on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Seminoles need to turn things around very quickly.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Strelow mentioned it briefly in his article above, but Al Featherston also talks about the new positioning of Jeff Capel on Duke‘s bench. Capel now sits in the middle of the bench where he can talk to players as they come out or to try to get a feel for the team’s sideline energy. Two players I expect he’ll talk to frequently are Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook, who Coach K has running the point together currently to help Seth Curry move off the ball where he excels. As the year goes on, expect Cook to see more and more time and Thornton to be used primarily as a spark plug at crucial junctures.
  5. Charlotte Observer: The ACC is transitioning both on the bench and on the court. The conference has multiple new coaches for the second time in as many years, while freshman play an important role on most teams trying to replace the departed stars. That transition has shown so far in the loss column, where ACC teams combined to lose an astonishing 50 non-conference games coming out of the weekend.
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New Look Oklahoma Sooners Thriving Under Lon Kruger

Posted by dnspewak on December 15th, 2011

Nobody’s going to hang a banner at the Lloyd Noble Center for Oklahoma‘s modest 7-1 start, especially considering the Sooners’ non-conference strength of schedule ranks 100th in the nation. Keep in mind that OU has not yet played a true road game. It lost to the best team on its schedule (Saint Louis) by 20 points. It arguably has not faced an NCAA Tournament team yet and its second-leading scorer transferred earlier this month.

But so what? Compared to last season’s 14-18 campaign, these Sooners are playing with an entirely different attitude on both ends of the floor under first-year head coach Lon Kruger. Despite the slip-up against SLU in the 76 Classic finals, Oklahoma appears to have improved in almost every facet of basketball, thanks in part to a higher overall level of maturity and the addition of two impact transfers. Kruger’s team manhandled Arkansas and Washington State, and it overpowered a good Santa Clara team by dominating the rebounding margin.

Oklahoma Already Has Half As Many Wins As 2010-11

From both a basketball and statistical standpoint, Oklahoma is a new team with point guard Sam Grooms (junior college) and forward Romero Osby (Mississippi State). It’s not hyperbole to suggest they are both lifesavers at their respective positions, and they’ve filled missing links by contributing in other areas besides scoring. Grooms, for example, doesn’t look to score much, but that’s not his role on this team after unseating Carl Blair as the starting point guard. Instead, he’s found his groove as the lead guard by deferring to Steven Pledger, who is enjoying a breakout junior season. Pledger has averaged nearly 18 points per game without forcing anything, and a lot of that has to do with Grooms’ efficiency at the point guard spot. Pledger also has less pressure thanks to the productivity of a several other scorers like Osby, Andrew Fitzgerald, Cameron Clark and, most recently, Tyler Neal, whose minutes have skyrocketed after Calvin Newell‘s transfer. The individual scoring totals for these players don’t matter much, though. Most importantly, with Grooms leading the way, Kruger’s team shares the ball, takes good shots, and has limited its turnovers. That’s a complete turnaround from the 2010-11 season, when the Sooners ranked dead last in the Big 12 in several offensive categories.

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Morning Five: 11.14.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 14th, 2011

  1. The big game from a media perspective on what was essentially college basketball’s opening night was the Carrier Classic. From what we have seen and heard about the scene, it certainly lived up to the hype even if the game itself was a little disappointing. Of course, this game was more about honoring veterans on Veterans Day (something that honestly should be done more than once a year) as well as showcasing college basketball (also something that should be done more than once a year). We think the event did an excellent job of that and we have heard from quite a few non-college basketball fans (yes, we are forced to interact with them on occasion) who saw some of the game on television and thought that it was a really cool setting. We haven’t heard what the TV ratings were for the game, but we assume they will be outstanding for an early season college basketball game as long as they don’t include the nose-dive that certainly happened as soon as the Five for Fighting concert started.
  2. As you may have heard, Mike Krzyzewski tied Bob Knight‘s Division I record of 902 wins on Saturday with Duke’s win over Presbyterian. If you weren’t aware, you must not have been watching ESPN, which ran this news on its scrolls for much of the past 36 hours. And the hype is just getting started as Krzyzewski will be going for the record outright tomorrow night when Duke plays Michigan State in the opening game of the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. While the media is ready to crown Krzyzewski with the title as #1 among the rest, we think that might be jumping the gun a little for two reasons: (1) he is coaching against Tom Izzo, who is pretty good in his own right, and (2) we will be covering the game and Krzyzewski is 0-2 in games at which this editor has been (a ridiculous loss in 2002 to FSU and last season’s blowout loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden).
  3. There was some good news and some bad news on the injury front over the weekend. First, we will start with a little good medical news although it doesn’t qualify as an “injury”: Billy Kennedy, who took some time off to adjust to his new diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, returned to the sidelines yesterday and guided Texas A&M to a 25-point victory over Southern. Arizona also got some good news as Kevin Parrom, who was shot while he was home in New York City in September and also had to deal with his mother passing away less than a month ago, played for the Wildcats for the first time since the incident. While Parrom made an impact on the stat sheet with six points, four rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes, his presence was probably felt on more of an emotional level during Arizona’s ten-point win over Ball State. On the other hand, Louisville got even more bad news on the injury front as junior guard Mike Marra injured his left knee midway through the second half and had to be carried off the court by two people during its win over Lamar. Marra appeared to be relatively upbeat after the game, but an MRI last night revealed a torn ACL and therefore he will miss the rest of the season.
  4. There were a pair of interesting suspensions late last week. The first comes from North Carolina State where C.J. Leslie is being forced to sit out the first three games of the team’s season due to impermissible benefits he received (using a friend’s car and receiving money from that same friend to help pay for the apartment application fees for Leslie’s half-brother). The other is at Marquette where freshman Juan Anderson was also suspended for three games for accepting a free ticket to a luxury suite at a Milwaukee Brewers playoff game. We have heard quite a few people come to Leslie’s defense saying that it is common for college students to borrow cars, but with college athletes the concept of a “friend” can get blurred very easily and we understand the NCAA’s rationale in cases like this (particularly when you consider the payment for an apartment application fee). We haven’t heard many people jump to Anderson’s defense yet because that is a pretty clear violation to most people, although Anderson could have just as easily said a “friend” had an extra ticket and invited him to the game.
  5. On Thursday, we mentioned Jeff Capel‘s $1.75 million golden parachute from Oklahoma. Well, it turns out that Oklahoma also received a parting gift from the Capel era: three years of probation and $15,000 fine. The punishment is the result of an investigation into the actions of former assistant coach Orlando Taliaferro, who failed to report impermissible benefits given to Tiny Gallon and then lied to NCAA officials during their investigation. Taliaferro was hit with a two-year show cause penalty while the school was primarily hit by reductions in its ability to recruit, but is not prevented from playing in the postseason (unless you factor in the resultant quality of their team).
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