SEC Fresh Start: Jelan Kendrick

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 1st, 2011

The Fresh Start series will profile a new coach or eligible transfer who will make an impact in the Southeastern Conference this season. The next player in the series is Memphis Tiger transfer and new Ole Miss guard/forward, Jelan Kendrick.

Talk about needing a fresh start. Jelan Kendrick has no shortage of talent. He is the first McDonald’s All American to ever sign with Ole Miss. But along with those honors, he brings a lot of baggage with him to Oxford. Kendrick was kicked off the Memphis team last year before ever playing a game after he threatened a teammate. While he has the talent to make an immediate impact for the Rebels, can Kendrick get everything else in order to be productive?

Jelan Kendrick is Mississippi's first McDonald's All American

Ole Miss is looking for a scorer to replace all-SEC star Chris Warren, and Kendrick could be the player to step up and help fill some of that void. Rebels coach Andy Kennedy is excited to see what Kendrick can do: “I’m anxious to see if he can come in and evolve into the player I think he’s potentially capable of. His greatest calling card is his versatility and ability to facilitate — not for himself but for others. He can play the one, and either one of our wings. His length and size give him the ability to defend multiple positions. I don’t want to get overly excited because the kid’s never played a second of college basketball, but we’ve seen him in practice and know what he’s capable of doing physically.”

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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

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

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

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

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

Conference Recap

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

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Morning Five: 01.12.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2011

  1. Rick Pitino confirmed in yesterday’s news conference that Louisville forward Jared Swopshire will miss the rest of this season with a groin injury.  The senior has missed the entire season already and would probably be eligible for a redshirt should he choose to pursue one.  Pitino said the problem is that he’s simply not getting any better and it appears that he will require surgery to repair this injury.  In some other injury news, Virginia confirmed that Mike Scott will miss the remainder of its season because he also needs surgery to repair his left ankle.  Scott played in ten games in November/December and was UVa’s top scorer and rebounder in those games.  The senior is right on the eligibility cutoff for a medical redshirt next season, so let’s cross our fingers that he doesn’t have to finish his collegiate career with a broken season.
  2. This report from Percy Allen, the Washington beat writer for the Seattle Times, has a few additional details about the allegation of sexual assault involving a Husky player over the weekend, but it does not name the player nor will the team hold anyone out of practice or games at this point in time.  The article notes that the players are off limits to the press at this time and gives additional details as to the alleged incident.  There are no winners in a situation like this, but if it turns out that the story is true, we certainly hope that justice is served.
  3. You’ve waited for it all year, and it’s back.  Luke Winn’s 2010-11 Style Guide.  From the Reeves Sleeve to Scotty Hopson’s “Fresh Prince” high fade to Marcus Jordan’s accessories, it’s all there.  One of our favorite columns of the year, by far.
  4. Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts from Monday has quite a bit more meat from his interview with NCAA president Mark Emmert over the weekend.  Davis hinted at the primary weakness that the NCAA’s enforcement folks have in the public view right now, and Emmert seems to fail to understand the depth of the problem.  When asked about a seeming inconsistency in the organization’s recent decisions and punishments, Emmert’s response was that these cases (Cam Newton, Ohio State, Renardo Sidney, Josh Selby) were “very different cases with very different facts.”  Undoubtedly true.  We know that the NCAA isn’t a court of law and we don’t have an NCAA version of Lexis/WestLaw to research all the case law pertaining to each situation; but the NCAA needs to establish a core set of transparent jurisprudential guidelines beyond the enigmatic rulebook so that schools and players will have a reasonable basis to know what to expect.  As it stands now, every enforcement proceeding appears to be decided on a “case-by-case” basis, which ultimately means that the guidelines shift so much in the aggregate that nobody can figure out just where the bright lines are.  When Emmert refers to people being “shocked” by a decision on Enes Kanter’s ineligibility, he’s making the same mistake in that he’s looking at the individual facts of that case in a vacuum.  He’s not considering that other, similar cases were decided differently, and the justification needed to distinguish between all of these cases has become downright impossible to discern.  That is what is bothering most people… not the Kanter decision itself (only Kentucky fans care about that).
  5. Jeff Goodman hooks us up with his constantly-evolving midseason transfer list.  Ole Miss appears to be the big winner thus far with the addition of Jelan Kendrick next season; that is, assuming that he doesn’t try to fight everyone on the roster prior to becoming eligible next December.
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Morning Five: 12.31.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on December 31st, 2010

Before we embark on this final edition of the M5 for 2010, we’d like to wish all of you a happy, healthy and safe New Year’s and a fantastic 2011. Thanks for making us a part, no matter how large or small, of your regimen of college basketball enjoyment. And by all means, be careful out there tonight. Now, to the Five…

  1. Seth Davis is trying to follow up on a tasty 7-3 week with his latest batch of weekend game predictions, and if his score projections are any indication, we’re all going to be diving into the new year with some exciting basketball games. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due, here — 19-11 so far is a respectable tally. We have one question, though: when is Courtside going to show up on our televisions again? Soon, we hope. You know, because Seth probably isn’t busy enough.
  2. Another Davis — this time, Ken, from NBC Sports — minces no words when it comes to his opinion on who he’d hire if he were running a program and had to choose between Rick Pitino and John Calipari. That query is the first of his latest mailbag, and we really wish there were a comments section so we could read the volleys that would surely have occured between Kentucky and Louisville fans. When you click the link, though, check out the subtitle (right below the title, obviously) that they tried to slip by us. You really think so, Ken?
  3. Something about Jelan Kendrick to Ole Miss just feels right to us. Kendrick was dismissed from Memphis quicker than Ricky Ponting in the Ashes (our demos show that we have a few readers from England, for some reason), but eventual opponents of the Rebels would do well to remember that this kid was also the third-ranked shooting guard prospect (or second-ranked small forward, depending on who you asked) in last year’s high school senior class. He’s also Mississippi’s first-ever McDonalds All-American. Adam Zagoria brings you up to speed.
  4. This was a nice display of friendship and sportsmanship, and yet…why does this make us uncomfortable? After that hard-fought Vanderbilt vs Marquette game from Wednesday night in which Vandy dealt the Warriors with quite a(nother) heartbreaking loss, the head coaches from each team — Kevin Stallings and Buzz Williams, respectively — sat up on the post-game dais together, exchanged compliments, patted each other on the back, so on. We’re aware that the two are good friends. It’s just all this friendliness between opponents on game day…fine, maybe we’re just Philistines.
  5. We’re big San Diego State fans around these parts, but we’d like to issue a challenge. See, according to this piece at KPBS.org, the Aztecs’ final non-conference game of the year (which takes place today at 1 pm PT) isn’t sold out yet, with over 2,000 seats left open in a 12,000-seat arena. Yeah, we know, it’s agaisnt Occidental College. We know they’re Division III. But come on, SDSU. You’re undefeated, but don’t get too cocky. Respect every opponent. Your team wants you there. If you’re reading this as it posts, you’ve still got a few hours to make this right.
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Renardo Sidney Suspended Indefinitely

Posted by nvr1983 on December 24th, 2010

Late yesterday, news broke that Renardo Sidney, the troubled Mississippi State forward, was involved in a fight in the stands with a teammate at the Diamond Head Classic. Coming soon after he had served a one-game suspension for an outburst during practice, we wondered how Rick Stansbury and the Mississippi State administration would respond. We may have our first indication as Mississippi State announced just a few hours ago that it had suspended Sidney and Elgin Bailey indefinitely. In a little over a year in Starkville, Sidney has only played in two official games due to suspensions — first by the NCAA for one year and nine games and then by the school for the aforementioned “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Sidney has not lived up to his potential yet

In between the three suspensions (counting the upcoming one), Sidney has shown flashes of brilliance in his two games as he scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 24 minutes against Virginia Tech, and scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes against San Diego. Still, there continues to be an aura of trouble around Sidney and many are questioning his commitment to the game as Mike DeCourcy astutely noted that, despite having nearly 20 months to get ready for his first game, Sidney still was not in shape. Now the question is whether Mississippi State, which waited nearly a year and a half to get Sidney into a Bulldog uniform, is willing to take Sidney back. His talent is unquestioned and many have stated that he may be the most talented player in college basketball, but you have to wonder how much more Stansbury and the rest of the team are willing to put up with before they cut the cord like Memphis did with Jelan Kendrick earlier this season. Now there are also reports that many of his teammates want him off the team as his talent is no longer worth the trouble. If he is kicked off the team, we suspect that he would seriously consider entering the NBA Draft as he would have a difficult time finding another high-level college program that would be willing to take a chance on him.

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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

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

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

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 Randy Culpepper 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 Jamarr Sanders 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 FloridaMarcus 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.

Power Rankings

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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, Aaron Johnson continues to shine, averaging 9.6 assists per contest.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Tulsa (4-2): With a trio of scorers in Justin Hurtt, Steven Idlet and Jordan Clarkson, the Golden Hurricane looks to be a spoiler team come conference play. Wins over Oral Roberts and Stanford have helped.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Kendrick out at Memphis: There may not be a bigger headline from Conference USA this season than the news of Memphis cutting ties with their McDonald’s All-American Jelan Kendrick before the Tigers’ first regular season game.  It’s a surprising move for second-year coach Josh Pastner, who cut the start recruit for an overall indifference towards the team. According to reports, Kendrick missed at least two weeks of practice in the preseason for “personal reasons.” In addition, Kendrick had several opportunities to make good with the head coach and his staff, but failed due to an utter indifference toward the program’s rules. From a personnel standpoint, his departure is a disappointment to most fans, considering the hype around Pastner’s club has sky-rocketed from last season to this season, where the Tigers are slotted as a preseason top 20 team.  The absence of the 6’6 freshman, who seemed poised to start and possibly lead the team in scoring, leaves a hole in the Memphis lineup. However, the move speaks highly to Pastner’s belief in the team and their ability to win without Kendrick. Pastner’s confidence has paid off thus far, as the Tigers have jumped out to a 4-0 start, beating Miami 72-68 on national television the day after cutting Kendrick loose. Pastner continues to make character a high priority. During the season opener against Centenary, the 33-year-old coach didn’t play freshman Chris Crawford, citing academic reasons. Also, he kept star Wesley Witherspoon on the bench after he showed up late to practice. Three weeks into the college basketball season, one thing is clear in Memphis — if you want to get on the court, you have to play by Pastner’s rules.
  • Clarkson rising for Tulsa: Freshman Jordan Clarkson, of San Antonio, has emerged as a possible favorite for freshman of the year. The guard finished with two double-figure scoring games, while leading the Golden Hurricanes to a pair of wins. At week’s end, Clarkson was shooting 66% from the floor and above 50 percent from the field.  Tulsa was able earn wins over Oral Roberts and Missouri State due to Clarkson’s 17-point and 13-point efforts, respectively.
  • Culpepper continues to score: The Preseason Player of the Year is well on his way, as UTEP’s Randy Culpepper has already emerged as the conference’s top scorer. After only three games, the guard is averaging 20.3 points a game, shooting over 45 percent from both the field and the three-point range.
  • Dia lifts Mustangs to SMU Invitational victory: Papa Dia’s performance in the SMU Invitational was enough to cement the senior center as the tournament’s MVP, while the Mustangs (2-3) ran away with wins over Lamar and Portland State. Dia was also named C-USA Player of the Week, after averaging 18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists in four games last week. The big man is shooting a crazy 71.8 percent from the field.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (4-0): Undoubtedly the best team in conference. Wins over Miami and LSU help create momentum as this team continues a rough out of conference schedule. So far, all the players have responded positively to the last minute departure of Jelan Kendrick. If they continue to win games, Josh Pastner will look like a coaching genius for cutting his prize recruit on the eve of the Miami game.
  2. Southern Miss (3-0): R.L. Horton shoulders too much of the scoring load, averaging 19.5 a game. However, the Golden Eagles are undefeated thus far and after trouncing South Alabama last week, everything is looking good. Angelo Johnson in the backcourt could pose a problem to many clubs come conference play.
  3. UAB (2-1): It is impossible not to mention Aaron Johnson when talking about UAB. The guard’s 9.3 assists per game are unmatched right now; the next best is Zamal Nixon of Houston with 6.8 a game. It doesn’t hurt that Cameron Moore is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds thus far. A close loss to Arizona State is a good measuring stick to where this team is. This week they will travel to Little Rock, Ark., to take on Arkansas.
  4. Central Florida (3-0): Although South Florida is a bottom tier Big East team, UCF still has to feel good about their out-of-conference upset. However, Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton carry too much of the scoring burden at the moment. They are the only teammates, besides Tulsa’s Jordan Hurtt and Steven Idlet, which rank in the top ten scorers in conference. Clanton’s above 73 percent shooting percentage is impressive.
  5. UTEP (2-1): Randy Culpepper may be leading the conference in scoring, but the Miners will need to amp up their scoring all around if they want to topple New Mexico State and Georgia Tech this upcoming week.
  6. Houston (3-1): The Cougars remain in the top part of the conference, still relying on the magic from last season’s improbable run in the conference tournament. It helps that Maurice McNeil is averaging 11 rebounds a game, while registering 1.8 blocks a contest. A perfect 3-0 record will be tested in upcoming weeks, as the schedule gets tougher.
  7. Marshall (3-1): Marshall doesn’t boast any big wins, defeating Maryville and Glenville State by large margins. Tom Herrion’s club has a good record, but right now the out of conference schedule remains soft, which forces the question. How good can the Thundering Herd be if they aren’t competing against high quality opponents?
  8. Tulsa (2-1): The duo of Jordan Clarkson and Justin Hurtt give this team a lot of talent in the backcourt. Add in newcomer Scottie Haralson, who is currently averaging 15 points, a game, and the Golden Hurricanes could a trio of guards that make them a threat come March. Battles with UNLV and potentially Stanford (if not Murray State) loom.
  9. Tulane (3-1): Kendall Timmons is having an outstanding start to the year, averaging 13.7 points in the conference. In addition, he is second in the conference in rebounds (11.3 rpg) and first in steals (3 spg). However, the Green Wave have beaten up on lowly Maryville and Centenary, so it is hard to tell what kind of a team they are at this moment.
  10. SMU (2-3): The Mustangs are the only team with a losing record in conference. However, that will most likely change with Wayland Baptist coming in on Wednesday. Not an ideal early start for SMU, but stout performances by senior center Papa Dia has people excited.
  11. Rice (3-1): Projected to be one of the worst teams in the conference by most analysts, the Owls have jumped off to a quick start, but don’t be fooled by the record. Last week’s 75-58 win over St. Gregory’s is nothing to get excited about. North Texas comes into tonight and should prove to be a good measuring stick. Arsalan Kazemi is currently leading the conference with 12 rebounds per game.
  12. East Carolina (3-2): Two losses to North Carolina State and Charlotte should have them ranked higher, but considering whom they have beaten, East Carolina is still a low tier team in this conference.

A Look Ahead

  • Memphis’ schedule only gets tougher: Surviving Miami and LSU wasn’t easy, however Memphis can’t be looking for a breather just yet. The team’s out of conference schedule only gets tougher from here.  The December schedule features a game against a tough Western Kentucky team, which is followed by games against Kansas and Georgetown. In addition, the Tigers will hit the road later this season to take on Tennessee and Gonzaga. Overcoming Miami’s backcourt tandem of Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant as Memphis did in the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon is a good sign for what is a very young and inexperienced backcourt. Freshmen Joe Jackson and Will Barton will be relied upon as the season progresses, an will certainly be tested during a tough opening stretch. Also, the duo has had to deal with the departure of the aforementioned Kendrick, which only increases the pressure.
  • UTEP enters pivotal nonconference stretch: At 2-1, the UTEP Miners could be looking at a sub-.500 record if they can’t pull out a key victory over either New Mexico State or Georgia Tech. Tonight UTEP hosts NMSU at 7:05 CST, while they travel to Atlantic City on Friday to play in the Legends Classic Championship where they will take on Georgia Tech. UTEP advanced to the championship in Atlantic City after a home victory against Western Carolina last week in the Legends Classic Regional’s.
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Set Your Tivo: 11.15.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 15th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Monday begins an exciting week of hoops featuring a marathon of games and many big matchups later in the week. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Wofford @ Clemson – 7 pm (no TV, live stream on www.clemsontigers.com) (***)

After a loss to Minnesota on Friday, Wofford gets another crack at a road win against a major conference team. The Gophers were able to hold Terrier star Noah Dahlman in check, limiting him to 15 points. Clemson must do the same as they’re not as talented as Minnesota. The Tigers, under the direction of first year coach Brad Brownell, are coming off an 87-64 victory over Western Carolina in their season opener also on Friday. Clemson is going to pose a significant problem for Wofford in the frontcourt. Wofford has only three players 6’8 or taller on its roster and none of them played against Minnesota. By contrast, Clemson has four guys at least that height. All contributed on Friday, led by Devin Booker’s 16/7. Brownell’s big men scored 52% of their points, while Minnesota’s front line scored 70% (48 of 69) of their points against Wofford including 43 out of 48 in the paint or from the foul line. The Terriers did a nice job limiting Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen to a combined ten points but they got absolutely destroyed up front, including on the boards (41-29 in favor of Minnesota). Coach Mike Young needs a big performance out of his junkyard dog player Tim Johnson (10/13 vs. Minnesota) if the Terriers hope to get this win. The problem for Wofford is Johnson shot 37% from the line last year so if he’s fouled it’s essentially a turnover most of the time. A solid performance out of the Clemson backcourt, led by Demontez Stitt, will only make it much more difficult for Wofford to win. The Tigers lead the all-time series (50-16) between these upstate South Carolina rivals. For Young’s team to win, he’ll need to come up with some clever defensive strategies to counter the serious height disadvantage his team faces. While it’s possible he can do that, it is unlikely Wofford can win the game given the matchups. Ken Pomeroy gives Clemson an 88% chance to win and that’s about how we see it as well.

Miami (FL) @ #20 Memphis – 12 am on ESPN (***)

Josh Pastner is a Man Down But Will Be Ready Regardless

Josh Pastner’s heralded recruiting class lost a piece on Saturday as Jelan Kendrick was kicked off the team by Pastner and his staff. While it’s certainly unfortunate for the Tigers, Memphis fans know they still have a terrific class coming in led by Will Barton and company. Barton has received all the headlines it seems but it was his brother, Antonio Barton, who stepped up in his collegiate debut and led Memphis in a romp over Centenary on Friday. Antonio had 17 points, four assists and five steals in only 23 minutes of action. Chris Crawford also had a big game, hitting every shot he took from the floor for 16 points. Memphis shot 55% overall, including 52% from behind the arc in totaling 104 points. Even more encouraging were 25 assists on 33 made field goals. The bad news? The competition gets much tougher tonight as Frank Haith’s Miami Hurricanes visit FedEx Forum in the first game of ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops marathon. Miami finished last in the ACC last year but made a nice run in the conference tournament. They have one of the better backcourt tandems in the conference in Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, who combined for 43 points and ten assists in an opening win over Jacksonville on Friday. Grant has been around, giving a verbal to Seton Hall back in 2005 then reneging and signing with Villanova. Eventually he transferred to Miami where he seems to have found a home. It’ll be interesting to see these two go up against the deep and talented (but young) Memphis backcourt. Miami has some talent up front, too. Adrian Thomas, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble return for Haith. Johnson is an absolute brute in the paint. Standing 6’10 and checking in at 300 pounds, he somehow has the endurance to play a number of minutes (24 against Jacksonville) and still put up good numbers. These three combined for 35 points the other night and will be tough for Memphis to handle. That job falls to Will Coleman, Angel Garcia and freshman Tarik Black. We expect this to be a fairly high scoring game as both teams shot over 50% in their openers. Vegas pegs the Tigers as five and a half point favorites at home which seems a tad low given Memphis’ ranking and expectations. We do expect Miami to be in this game but Memphis is at home and should be able to take care of business.

St. John’s @ St. Mary’s – 2 am on ESPN (****)

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Morning Five: 11.15.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2010

  1. Have you heard a little something about a 24-hour hoops extravaganza that might be starting at Midnight ET tonight over on ESPN?  Yeah, us too.  Well, for the third year in a row (as in, 1… 2… 3…), our very own John Stevens will be Boom Goes the Dynamiting (that’s a form of live-blogging for the newbies) the proceedings from reasonable start to ridiculous finish.  Just as he did in 2009.  Just as he did in 2008.  Now we’ve caught wind that there are some other bloggers out there who have a half a mind to try to replicate what John has already perfected in years past.  Good for them.  The standard has been set exceptionally high, so we’re interested to see how they stack up.
  2. The biggest non-game related news of the weekend came out of the Memphis camp, as the Tigers’ Jelan Kendrick was dismissed from the program.  Dan Wolken has been all over this story with reports of Kendrick’s antics releasing at seemingly an hourly basis.  As he put it, there was no single incident that led to  dissolution of the hoops marriage, but there were a series of insubordinate acts, clashes with teammates, outright lies and other distractions that finally reached a breaking point for the coaching staff.  6’7 burger boys don’t grow on trees, though, and we fully expect that Kendrick has already received a dozen offers from other schools around the nation, attitude be damned.  One note pointed out by Wolken in last night’s tweets — Memphis is unlikely to release Kendrick to another CUSA school (read: Tim Floyd’s UTEP), but we’re guessing there are several SEC and Big 12 schools willing to at least take a look.
  3. You just never know when you  might be in danger of an injury, as new UConn assistant coach Kevin Ollie learned last week when an elastic band he was using for stretching purposes snapped back and hit him in the eye.  The eye started filling with blood and he subsequently was ordered by his doctor to bed rest, causing him to miss the Huskies’ season opener against Stony Brook on Friday night.  UConn travels to Maui next weekend, but Ollie may have to miss that trip as well due to the possibility of stressing the injury through changes in air pressure.  Ollie, one of our favorite Huskies of all-time, has certainly had a crazy start to his coaching career, so we wish him a speedy and successful recovery.
  4. You may have noticed that preseason Big-12 first teamer Curtis Kelly was held out of K-State’s first game on Friday night against James Madison and the Wildcats’ front line struggled as a result (2/5 from Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla).  Jeff Goodman reported that KSU head coach Frank Martin is unhappy with the leadership (or lack thereof) that Kelly has shown over the last two weeks in practice, so he probably won’t play in Tuesday night’s game against a much more talented Virginia Tech team either.
  5. Section 103B, Row 2, Seat 1.  That was the location of a certain Wizard of Westwood for the last three-and-a-half decades at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion when he called upon his old school to watch a game, a frequent occurrence up until the last year of his life.  That seat was kept empty in honor of  John Wooden for Friday night’s game when the Bruins easily defeated Cal State Northridge, 83-50.  Frankly, UCLA brass should bronze over that chair and  keep it vacant for as long as the building is standing.
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Jelan Kendrick Out Of Memphis And On To. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2010

We first heard about trouble in Memphis for star small forward Jelan Kendrick when he was temporarily suspended from the team less than a month ago. At the time Josh Pastner and the Tigers staff tried to say that it was not a unilateral decision at the time, but today Pastner and his staff have decided to kick Kendrick off the team for good. According to sources the decision was not the result of a single specific incident, but instead the culmination of months of poor decisions by Kendrick. Clearly for the Tigers this is a big loss as a combination of Kendrick and Will Barton could have been lethal in Conference USA particularly if they had both stuck around for a few years, but on the plus side the Tigers know who they will have relatively early in the season and can adapt instead of having this happen in February or March.

Is the potential reward worth the likely headache?

The more interesting this is what will happen to Kendrick. As we have seen with Tony Woods there will undoubtedly be no shortage of suitors for Kendrick especially since Kendrick is more talented than Woods and has a much less serious charge against him. The question is where he will end up. While any program would love to add a player of Kendrick’s caliber there are probably a select few programs that we would expect to stay above the fray such as Duke, UNC, Syracuse, and several other well-known programs that could probably land a player of Kendrick’s caliber in the next year or two. That leaves the rest of the nation potentially open to Kendrick. While other coaches come to mind such as Bob Huggins particularly during his Cincinnati days as suckers for a reclamation project we suspect that Kendrick will probably be taking a step down in terms of notoriety of the program that he goes to. Our pick? UTEP with Tony Barbee (now Tim Floyd as the former Iowa State/Chicago Bulls/New Orleans Hornets/USC coach) had a modicum of success with Derrick Caracter, a perpetual malcontent, last season and got him to the NBA where is currently on the LA Lakers roster. Caracter may not have had as many altercations with his teammates as Kendrick reportedly has, but he had a well-known reputation for driving his coaches crazy. Having said that there are plenty of other options for Kendrick (and we suspect that he will have no less than 20 offers by the time Monday morning rolls around) and we will be eager to see which coaches would be willing to take a chance on a player with Kendrick’s reputation for a change to work with a player of Kendrick’s ability.

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