Yesterday night, Ashton Kutcher made news with his tweet questioning the decision by Penn State to fire Joe Paterno. Kutcher quickly back-tracked when he was met with a deluge of criticism and has essentially surrendered his account to his publicists at this time. Since that time, very few other well-known individuals (or really any people outside of some rioting Penn State students) have come to Paterno’s defense.
We have already gone down the road of athletes and their freedom of speech/expression, but this is an interesting sentiment for Jordan to have especially since his father was famously quoted as saying, “Republicans buy shoes too,” when asked why he did not publicly support an African-American Democratic candidate Harvey Gantt against Republican Jesse Helms, whom many consider one of the most racist politicians in recent memory. Given that it is a rather interesting political/cultural standing, we find it amusing that the first person to retweet it was former Kansas star Sherron Collins, who would appear to be agreeing with Jeff based on his retweet.
Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.
Despite having two teams earn bids into the NCAA Tournament last season, Conference USA walked away without a win.
Can Memphis Pull Away?: While the Tigers have fielded strong teams since John Calipari left after the 2008-09 season, they’ve never had quite as much talent in that time as they figure to show this season. With essentially every notable contributor returning, a huge gap could form quickly. On the other hand, chemistry rarely comes instantly, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Memphis have a double-digit loss season, either.
Central Florida Continues To Build: Thanks partially to a soft non-conference schedule of six opponents with KenPom ratings 200 or lower and a non-D-I matchup, UCF cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history. While the Knights came down to Earth once conference play began, momentum is important no matter how it’s established. After winning two postseason games, we’re excited to see how the UCF follows up on a surprising season.
Realignment Hovers Over C-USA: Perhaps no single conference houses as many schools that were rumored to be on their way out than Conference USA, even if its membership ultimately stayed intact. East Carolina and UCF are frequently connected to the Big East; Memphis’ basketball program is as valuable a commodity as there is outside of the Power Six, and in its shakier days, the Big 12 could have found itself eyeing the Texas schools as a contingency plan in case the Longhorns and Sooners packed up for the Pac-12. It didn’t come to pass, but you have to wonder just what C-USA will look like in the long term.
This Year's Tigers, Led By Will Barton, Could Be Pastner's Most Talented Memphis Team Ever
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our newest update comes courtesy of our Conference USA correspondent, Steve Coulter.
Reader’s Take I
Joe Jackson Goes Patriotic: The Memphis guard and MVP of the CUSA Championship was selected as a member of USA Basketball’s U-19 Would Championship squad on June 23. After a week of training camp, Jackson was among the final twelve players selected by the USA Basketball committee. The squad left for Europe on June 30 and returned July 10. While Team USA disappointed in finishing fifth, Jackson more than held his own against some of the top international talent in the world, averaging over 11 points and 4 assists in 9 games. Jackson was accompanied to Latvia for the competition with eleven other collegiate sophomores including Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Villanova’s James Bell, Stanford’s Anthony Brown, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, Michigan’s Tim Hardaway, Jr., Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, Illinois’ Meyers Leonard, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, Butler’s Khyle Marshall and Florida’s Patric Young.
Memphis guard Joe Jackson was a bright spot for Team USA in Latvia, despite a fifth-place finish in the FIBA U-19 World Championships. (Vytautas Mikaitis)
Thundering Herd Runs Deep: Marshall already had one of the more loaded backcourts heading into the 2011-12 season with stars Damier Pitts and DeAndre Kane, but with the addition of JustinColeman, a one-time Louisville commit, the Thundering Herd will certainly have the deepest backcourt the conference has to offer. Coleman sat out last year, but he will be coming off the bench as a shooting guard this season. Along with Coleman, junior college transfers RobertGoff and DennisTinnon will be new faces for the Herd. Goff and Tinnon are strong power forwards, looking to aid a weak Marshall frontcourt.
Memphis Coaching Legend Larry Finch Passes Away: Former Memphis coach Larry Finch passed away from natural causes at Saint Francis Hospital in Memphis on April 2 at the age of 60. Finch finished his career with the most wins in Tiger basketball history, a record he still holds today. Before leading the Tigers from 1986-97, Finch was a player at Memphis from 1970-73 and worked as an assistant at his alma mater from 1979-86. He passed away as not only a celebrated coach of the game, but a rare influence at the collegiate level. During his 11-year stint as head coach, Finch had seven 20-win seasons, made six NCAA appearances, amassed 220 wins and propelled 7 former players into NBA Draft selections. He finished his career with a loaded resume, having taken his alma mater to the Final Four, getting his jersey retired by the program and becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach.
Memphis: Freshman swingman Adonis Thomas, the No. 16 ranked prospect on Scout Inc.’s Top 100, is the conference’s best newcomer and he joins the already lethal Wesley Witherspoon as a scorer on a loaded Tigers roster that includes two of the nation’s best young guards in Joe Jackson and Will Barton. Head coach JoshPastner can continue his Conference USA dominance this season, but the Tigers need to play solid defense and claim more out of conference wins then they did last season. Otherwise, they will be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives again come March. As of now, Witherspoon and Barton are two of only four Conference USA prospects in the Top 100, ranking in at No. 79 and No. 80, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »
We are normally fans of Seth Davis, but we have to strongly disagree with him on his response to Jake from Seattle (scroll down), though we would have accepted an answer that Jake was using the improper jargon and the appropriate phrase is “rush the court.” Ok, all kidding aside, Seth has a solid column (again) with some good stuff about all the questions surrounding Ohio State (have to go back a page from the original link). Still, we think it is worthwhile pointing out that, despite our name, we don’t think the actual act is necessary all the time, and that it should only be done at rare and appropriate times. We feel so strongly about this that we even wrote a post about it. That said, we do agree with Seth’s point that crowds need to be aware of their surroundings and watch for others around them as I witnessed at the only true RTC of which this author has ever been a part. The Providence fans were very courteous in letting me move to the side to avoid being trampled by the onslaught so I could get a better angle to report on it when I joined the students on the floor (see pics in the link above — apologies for the poor formating which is the result of some old audio files that seem to be missing).
Even though most people know Ken Pomeroy for his site and its rankings he also writes an interesting blog. A lot of the time his posts are about analyzing some new statistic, but he recently had an engaging post questioning how the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee should determine how it picks the at-large teams. It is worth a read and raises the question as to whether those involved with selecting the field should allow their personal viewing experience to influence who gets into the field. In an ideal world they would not, but then they’d be left without a way to understand basketball, which I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t want to have as a characteristic of the people who determine which teams make the field.
Someone mentioned a few days ago that people would start jumping on the UNC bandwagon pretty soon, and after the Tar Heels blew out the Eagles in Chestnut Hill it looks as though that was quite prescient as some people in the North Carolina media are starting to buy into the Heels even if many of their readers aren’t (see the comments in that link). It will be interesting to see if the media can convince themselves that UNC could actually play with their rivals a few miles down the road. We know that CBS will certainly be hyping it up like that, especially for a certain primetime game, but we still aren’t sure how many will actually try to get on the bandwagon as well.
We are a college basketball site, but we would be remiss not to offer a tip of the hat to Bob Hurley Sr. for winning his 1,000th game as a high school basketball coach. While some may argue that his son Bobby — the point guard on the back-to-back NCAA championship teams at Duke and still the NCAA record holder for assists in a career — is more well-known, it is his father who has impacted more lives, having sent countless players to college on scholarship or improved their lives through basketball. Hurley Sr. is the 10th high school coach to reach the 1,000 win milestone and is already pointing toward 100 more. Personally, we would like to see him out there for 1,000 more.
Speaking of well-known father-son combinations, Gonzaga has one in John Stockton and his son David Stockton. All right, maybe the father is a little more well-known than the son in this case. You all know about John’s accomplishments, but you are probably less familiar with David, who joined the Gonzaga team earlier this season as a freshman walk-on. Much like Jeff Jordan, the son of Michael Jordan (the man who prevented David’s father from winning a NBA championship ring) who was given a scholarship after walking on, David also received news that he too had been given a scholarship. For Mark Few‘s sake, we hope that David stays at Gonzaga longer than Jeff did at Illinois.
Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.
A Look Back
Culpepper Ends Starting Streak: Once named the Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year, senior UTEP guard RandyCulpepper returned to the bench last weekend, snapping a streak of 40 games started in a row. The Preseason Player of the Year dropped 24 points coming off the bench and ultimately lead the Miners to a 65-56 win over Michigan.
ECU’s Young Reaches 500-assist Plateau: Senior guard Brock Young became the seventh player in conference history to reach 500 career assists during the Pirates’ 81-53 win over UNC Greensboro. Despite a slow start and limited playing time, Young was able to reach the milestone only seven games into the Pirates schedule.
UAB Tops Arkansas in OT: Senior guard JamarrSanders led the way with 19 points, while all five starters scored in double digits for UAB as they ousted Arkansas 70-65 in overtime. Sophomore Ovie Soko finished with 17 points, but the most impressive performance came from sophomore Cameron Moore, who ended up with his third double-double. Moore scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Rice keeps it close with #20 Texas: Texas guard Cory Joseph’s layup with 37 seconds left lifted the Longhorns over the Owls. Despite beginning the second half trailing 23-20, Texas walked away with a 62-59 win after making nine three-pointers in the second half. The Owls (3-3) were led by Arsalan Kazemi, who finished with 13 points and has scored in double digits every game this season.
UTEP Splits in Atlantic City: After a win over New Mexico State on Tuesday, UTEP split a pair of games in the Legends Classic this past weekend. On Friday, the Miners were beaten by Georgia Tech 71-61, but rebounded with a 65-56 win over Michigan. The Miners finished third in the tournament.
Clarkson Remains hot, Tulsa Rolls Past Stanford: After being named C-USA Freshman of the Week, Tulsa guard Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 20 points to lead Tulsa to a 66-53 win over Stanford. The day before, the Golden Hurricanes were dropped by UNLV, 80-71. Against the Rebels, Clarkson was limited to just nine points.
Houston Loses In-State Battle With TCU: Houston couldn’t win its first road game against in-state foe TCU. Ronnie Moss and Garlon Green led the Horned Frogs (4-2) with 17 and 16 points, respectively. After winning their previous two games at home, the Cougars couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers and ended up losing 79-63.
Caught On Film
Marcus Jordan Dunking like Dad: Despite being in only his second season at Central Florida, Marcus Jordan has begun to compile a highlight reel. On Tuesday night, the guard intercepted an inbound pass from Stetson sophomore Ridge Graham and dunked over the dazed Graham. The result was Jordan ending up at #7 on SportsCenter next day as seen in the highlight below.
The Knights went on to win the contest 85-48, then obliterated Alabama State 84-48 on Saturday. Jordan scored 18 points in that contest and has scored in double figures in all five games this season. He leads the 5-0 Knights, averaging 16.8 points per game. Older brother Jeff sits on the bench this season after transferring from Illinois last year.
Memphis (5-0): The conference’s only ranked team also is in the top ten among scoring offenses in the nation. Everything seems to be running smoothly for the Tigers following the departure of Jelan Kendrick. Freshmen Will Barton and Joe Jackson are combining for 23 points a game, while junior Will Witherspoon is having a big season, scoring 15.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a contest. The team is a week away from taking on #4 Kansas in Madison Square Garden.
Central Florida (5-0): The Knights have been absolutely dominant thus far, earning small wins over Stetson and Alabama State this past week. Currently, UCF is #12 in the nation in points per game and is shooting over 55% from the field. Limiting their last four opponents to fewer than 60 points has helped the quick start.
Southern Mississippi (4-0): Winless Alcorn State looms for the Golden Eagles as the number three rebounding team in the nation looks to get to 5-0 before next weekend’s matchup vs. Ole Miss. Freshman guard D.J. Newbill has come on strong, recording two double-doubles so far this season. Meanwhile, seniors Josimar Ayarza and Gary Flowers have provided stability.
UAB (4-1): The Blazers make a strong case to be inside the conference’s top four teams. Apart from a three-point loss to Arizona State, the Blazers are perfect and utilizing all team members. In their win over Arkansas, all five starters scored in double digits. Also, AaronJohnson continues to shine, averaging 9.6 assists per contest.
UTEP (4-2): The move of benching Culpepper paid dividends last weekend, but it is unseen whether or not head coach Tim Floyd is going to keep his superstar from the starting lineup. Senior Jeremy Williams grabbed ten rebounds against the Wolverines. He is currently second on the team, averaging 6.3 boards a game.
Houston (4-2): Big performances off the bench helped the Cougars stay in their last game against TCU, but the starting lineup will need to play better if Houston plans on having the same success as they did last year. Tuesday night they will travel to LSU to continue their tough out of conference schedule. Senior guard Adam Brown is shooting over 50 percent from the three-point line and is averaging 15.5 points per game.
Marshall (3-2): Tough loss to Louisville (4-0), but it is important to note that the Thundering Herd led 34-33 at halftime only to be outscored by 15 in the second half. DeAndre Kane finished with a career-high 25 points, averaging a little less than 14 per game. The biggest problem for Marshall right now: turnovers. Six giveaways in the first couple of minutes in the second half allowed Louisville to take over and never look back.
Tulsa (4-2): With a trio of scorers in Justin Hurtt, Steven Idlet and JordanClarkson, the Golden Hurricane looks to be a spoiler team come conference play. Wins over Oral Roberts and Stanford have helped.
East Carolina (5-2): Five weak wins for the Pirates, which means they still remain in the bottom tier of the conference. Senior guard Jontae Sherrod scored 17 off the bench. He currently leads the team in scoring and has scored in double-digits in three consecutive games.
SMU (4-3): The Mustangs are one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation, despite the inside presence of Papa Dia who is averaging 15.3 points a game and 8.3 rebounds per contest. Dia’s double-double against Central Arkansas helped the Mustangs hold on for their fourth victory. With a three-game winning streak, SMU travels to Louisiana Tech, then return home to host Grambling.
Rice (3-3): Despite never trailing by more than five points in the second half against Texas, this is a team that can comfortably set up shop in the bottom tier of the standings. It only gets tougher for the Owls as they travel to take on Arizona on Wednesday.
Tulane (3-2): Getting dropped by Nicholls State (2-2) for the first time in 19 meetings didn’t help the Green Wave get out of the conference’s cellar. On the bright side, the scoring duo of Kris Richard and Kendall Timmons is averaging over 30 points per game and gives Tulane reason to be confident as the season progresses.
A Look Ahead
Central Florida Gets a Shot Against The Gators: The Knights have an early season test this week when they host on in-state foe Florida. So far, UCF is 5-0 with small victories. The Gators (5-1) are a ranked #18 currently and are coming off a big road win against Florida State. Besides an early win over South Florida, this is the first quality game UCF will play this season.
UAB Hits the Road: On Friday, UAB will travel to Athens., to take on Georgia, which will be the second SEC team the Blazers have faced in as many weeks. Last Saturday, the Blazers took on Arkansas in a neutral location and walked away with the upset victory. After the game against the Bulldogs, UAB’s schedule gets a little easier until they have to travel to take on top-ranked Duke on January 5.
We mentioned this on Twitter over the weekend, but this is scheduled to be a huge week for the future of the NCAA Tourney. How to deal with the four play-in games is on the agenda at this week’s meeting of the NCAA men’s basketball committee, and any hope that this would be a relatively simple decision has been thrown out the window with the realization that despite additional dollars available, nobody wants to play in these games. The small conference teams from weaker leagues do not want to be pigeonholed in those games on an annual basis, and the BCS league teams don’t feel like they should have to play the extra games. Well, if anyone over at the NCAA is reading this, we certainly have our opinion.
This had been rumored for some time, but MJ’s progeny will be playing together beginning in 2011-12 as Illinois transfer Jeff Jordanwill join little bro Marcus Jordan at Central Florida. Marcus was a standout freshman at UCF last year, averaging 8/3/3 assts and making the all-CUSA freshman team, while Jeffrey has made a name for himself during spot minutes as a hustling, defensive-oriented type of player. The two last played together four years ago in high school.
And you thought that conference realignment was finished this summer? Pfshaw! The Summit League is considering adding North Dakota to its nine-team conference, which would help bring the two Peace Garden State schools into the same fold (North Dakota State is already a member). There’s no timetable on this possibility, but a reasonable expectation would be two or three years. UND is currently a member of the Great West Conference, which does not have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Mike DeCourcy asks if Oregon is ready to take control of the Pac-10 with Dana Altman on board and a strong commitment from the UO administration. It’s really not far-fetched. It’s no secret that the league has been way, way down the last two seasons, and UCLA and Arizona are struggling to get back to where they were. The additions of Colorado and Utah are not threatening in the short term on the hardwood, and as DeCourcy states, there is a good amount of talent coming out of that area seemingly every year.
Gary Parrish takes a look at his top thirty prospects for the 2011 NBA Draft here. His top six players are projected 1-and-doners next year. We really can’t wait until the NBA institutes a two-year minimum on its draft eligible players.
Some transfer news from the weekend… Two of the bigger names in college basketball from a celebrity perspective are leaving their respective schools. Guard Jeff Jordan (MJ’s son, in case you hadn’t heard) is leaving Illinois for his senior season a mere year after he quit the team and returned the first time. We’re not sure what exactly the deal is with the somewhat indecisive Jordan, but the word is that he’s looking for more PT than the fourteen minutes per game he received last year for the Illini. The other big transfer name belongs to Percy Miller, aka Lil Romeo, the hip-hop star who presumably sold a lot more albums than he scored points (5) in his two-year USC Trojan career. The subject of one of RTC’s first-ever posts (#3 actually), it’s not clear whether he will try to continue playing college basketball elsewhere or give it up completely.
Moving to players that actually matter at this level, former Washington guard Elston Turnerwill re-surface at Texas A&M beginning in 2011-12 and LSU star guard Bo Spencerwill be ineligible for the fall semester next season as a result of academic problems. Turner will have two years of eligibility in College Station, while Spencer will have an opportunity to return to his team next winter if he can get his books in order.
Is the one-year renewable scholarship a bigger problem than we, or anyone, knows? If you buy USA Today’s report that over 20% of athletes on the 65 NCAA teams leave the program in a given year, it just might be. We’d never really given it much thought other than when a new coach comes into town and runs everyone off (see: Calipari, John), but maybe we should start paying attention to this a little more.
We always thought something didn’t smell quite right with the universally-liked and respected Tyler Smith being caught with a firearm in a rental car on New Year’s Day. Smith finally came out and said that he purchased the gun based on death threats that he was receiving about his three-year old son. He didn’t go into details as to whom was making the threats or why they would be making them, but he’s now back in Tennessee after playing professionally in Turkey for a few months and waiting to see if his name is called next month in the NBA Draft.
Wednesday is the start of the week-long Early National Signing Period for the Class of 2010. UCLA just got a commitment yesterday from five-star 6’9 F/C Josh Smith from Covington, Washington, and the best big man in Westwood since Kevin Love was throwing in 94-footers at the Final Four. Six of the top ten are already committed, but two of the jewels — Harrison Barnes and Brandon Knight — are still on the board.
Villanova freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou was declared eligible by head coach Jay Wright yesterday after information from an international basketball site came to light purporting that he may have been much older (25) than his reported 19 years of age. Jeff Goodman reported later yesterday that the NCAA had previously cleared him and that the school has his immigration papers and passport showing that he is indeed still a teenager. Maybe Villanova compliance should enlist the assistance of Orly Taitz to track down Yarou’s birth certificate?
Revisiting Jim Boeheim’s 800th victory with some of his former players (a Matt Roe sighting!). Also, a funny anecdote from Albany head coach Will Brown talking to his point guard during the game with SU: “I said to Mike Black, `Mike, you’ve got to get the ball to the high post,’ ” Brown recalled. “He said, ‘Coach, I can’t see the high post.’ ” Yes, that Syracuse zone is long this year.
When Jeff Jordan, the son of Michael Jordan, announced his intention of trying to rejoin the Illinois basketball team we figured it would only be a matter of time before coach Bruce Weber welcomed him back to the team. Last night Weber made it official with the announcement that Jeff was officially back on the team. In a statement released to media, Weber stated “After meeting with him and discussing the situation, we are pleased to give him this opportunity. He has obviously missed a great deal of time away from the program the last six months, and he has a lot of work ahead of him.” Like we said earlier, this won’t be a major shift in the balance of power in college basketball, but it should bolster the Illini’s backcourt. We only have 2 questions about Jeff’s return:
Not Quite the Same, But We'll Take It (photo credit: cnnsi.com)
Is there any way that Illinois could schedule FIU next year (assuming Isiah Thomas hasn’t run the program and the university into the ground)? This would be a ratings hit (as much as a game involving Illinois and FIU could be) because of the possibility of two things occurring–MJ showing up for a game (and possibly trying to get in uniform to stick it to Isiah one more time) and the return of the “Jordan Rules” (if Isiah is looking for a little payback for the Hall of Fame speech).
Less than a month ago Michael Jordan warned sportswriters at the Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that they shouldn’t be surprised if he decides to return to the court when he turns 50. Most people laughed it off (ok, maybe it was more nervous laughter after MJ had just eviscerated the entire room).
It turns out that there may be something behind that comment as the news coming out of Illinois today suggests that Jordan may lace them up again. Before you start going on a rant about how he is going to ruin his legacy by the returning to the court (an argument that I never bought into), there’s one important thing to consider–the Jordan who is returning is not Michael Jeffrey Jordan (career average 30.1 PPG), but instead it is his son Jeff Jordan (career average 1 PPG) who has expressed interest in returning.