ACC M5: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. USA Today: This is a phenomenal article from Mike Lopresti on the 30-year anniversary of the shocking NC State national championship over Houston (which, in awesome time consuming news, you can watch in its entirety on Youtube). Two of the three most important pieces to that game are dead–Jim Valvano and Lorenzo Charles (the dunker)–but the legacy lives on through countless ESPN replays. There are very few moments in sports where the ecstasy of winning was so raw and powerful as it was watching Valvano run one direction before sprinting towards the mob by the NC State basket. 
  2. Indy Weekly: Jeff Bzdelik press conferences are worth the price of admission. He often comes across as an odd combination of aloof and irascible. After the Demon Deacons took a beating from CJ Leslie and NC State, Bzdelik offered this sage take on Leslie’s game:

    “When he wants to be, if he really wants to be, he can be”

    That’s actually a pretty fair summation of Leslie’s career. Bzdelik should’ve known he was two syllables away from a haiku, but such is life.

  3. The ACC: The conference released its All-ACC Academic teams Thursday. Four of the 14 players call Duke home, and over half of them are freshmen. Mason Plumlee is the fourth Duke player to ever make the team two years in a row; Jarell Eddie also made the team for a second straight year. All in all nine schools made the cut, but Virginia, NC State and Florida State did not. To qualify you had to have a 3.00 GPA both this year and over the course of your entire career (which explains the high number of freshmen on the team).
  4. Washington Post: It’s not a secret that Mark Turgeon and Roy Williams are close. The interesting part of this article is twofold: (1) with Maryland’s coming departure to the Big Ten, Mark Turgeon won’t have to worry about taking advice from a direct competitor, and (2) the author’s language when talking about Turgeon and Maryland’s departure. “Changing conferences wasn’t part of the deal. Turgeon came to Maryland to be a part of the tradition-rich ACC. [...] But there’s only one Tobacco Road.” North Carolina bias aside (Maryland’s not on Tobacco Road and if anything, the reverence surrounding Tobacco Road irritated Gary Williams as much as anything), but Turgeon always speaks in favor of the move publicly.
  5. This doesn’t need any analysis. (But really Tony Bennett, you didn’t want to double team the guy with three game winners this year before he got the ball?) Michael Snaer put the shakes on Joe Harris before getting the old-fashioned three point play to beat Virginia.

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ACC M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 7th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: The big question coming into the season for Virginia was how the Cavaliers could replace Mike Scott, especially on offense. When Tony Bennett said “by committee” during the preseason, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Replace arguably the best offensive player in the conference by a committee of whom exactly? But Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have really stepped up and proven me wrong. Mitchell is playing very well offensively, averaging nearly 13 points and 10 rebounds a game. Together they’re making the transition as smooth as possible, though the team’s reliance on freshmen will still hurt at spots during the season.
  2. Fox Sports Carolinas: Expect to see a lot more articles in this vein if Mason Plumlee‘s production keeps up. He’s absolutely having a first-team All-America season — maybe even a national player of the year season. He took plenty of criticism over his first three years, so it’s only fair he gets credit now. The thing that remains to be seen is how his brother joining Duke’s rotation (which will likely happen soon) will affect the team. It should quash some of the “Duke doesn’t have depth inside” talk and may also help with Duke’s rebounding struggles.
  3. Virginia Tech Collegiate Times: Virginia Tech is renewing its long-standing rivalry with West Virginia this season, but James Johnson isn’t making a big deal about it. Part of his reasoning is because the rivalry has been dormant since his players were in middle school. Another part is likely West Virginia’s recent success since hiring Bob Huggins having eclipsed the Hokies on the national scene. Regardless, this is the kind of series that can’t hurt if the Hokies want to be in contention for an at-large bid come Selection Sunday.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: Well Florida State certainly didn’t impress the country’s top recruit Andrew Wiggins on the basketball floor Wednesday. But the school and its fans certainly let Wiggins know he’d be welcome. The Seminoles honored both of Wiggins’ parents at halftime with highlights from their Florida State careers. The fans stood for much of a blowout trying to emphasize their commitment to a sport that normally takes the backseat in Tallahassee. A coed’s tweet to Wiggins went viral. However, the game just emphasized the tough choice Wiggins has to make: Be a part of a Kentucky team that should be among the favorites to win it all, or help take his parents alma mater to a place it’s never been before. Wiggins gets compared — fairly or unfairly– to LeBron James and his decision is analogous to the decision LeBron faced in free agency. If he does choose Florida State, Leonard Hamilton’s team will instantly become a conference contender.
  5. WRAL: Longtime producer and photographer Rick Armstrong remembered back to his early days in journalism three decades ago when NC State won its most recent national championship under Jim Valvano. Some stories read like they’ve been told over and over, at parties, over dinner and in the office. These are some of them. Armstrong still pines for the days when Jimmy V and the Cardiac Pack fought their way to an unlikely national title. Nostalgia makes for a great muse.
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Morning Five: 05.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 3rd, 2012

  1. Round and round and round we go… coming on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement that Butler will join the Atlantic 10 beginning in the 2013-14 season, the Mountain West leaked on Wednesday that Utah State and San Jose State are set to join its ranks on Friday of this week. While bolstering the MW in light of its pending losses of TCU, San Diego State and Boise State, this move may effectively finish off the WAC, a high-mid major conference with just shy of 50 years of history behind it. The league may be left with only two football-playing members (New Mexico State and Idaho) and it appears that the remaining schools are likewise off to greener pastures. Such is the natural consequence of every school acting in its own self-interest.
  2. While on the subject of conference realignment, everyone has had a little time to digest the Butler move to the Atlantic 10 by now, and Luke Winn writes that much of the media got it wrong in suggesting that the “Butler Way” will need to change in order for the Bulldogs to find success in their new conference. His argument makes total sense — while the Atlantic 10 as a whole is a clearly better league than the Horizon, it’s really only better at the top. Now, instead of having to rely on non-conference play to build its overall NCAA resume, the Bulldogs will have enough games against the likes of Xavier, Dayton, Richmond, St. Louis, et al, by which to impress the selection committee. As Winn notes, efficiency metrics suggest that Butler would have finished in one of the top two positions of the A-10 standings in five of the last six years, and while those metrics don’t actually play the games, there’s not a compelling piece of evidence we’ve yet seen that would suggest Brad Stevens or Butler will have trouble in their new league.
  3. The 2012 Jimmy V Classic matchups were announced on Wednesday and the event will have a decidedly nostalgic feel next season in Madison Square Garden. The school where Jim Valvano became famous, NC State, will headline with its strong squad heading to New York to face Connecticut, while Texas and Georgetown will play in the other game. It’s only been 31 days since we last saw a college basketball game tip off, but simply reading about these matchups has already caused a marked increase in our heart rate and blood pressure.
  4. The 2012-13 version of ESPN Gameday will have a decidedly lower pitch next season, as the hyena-like laughter of Hubert Davis will no longer be a regular part of the show. Davis has agreed to take Jerod Haase’s open assistant coaching spot at his alma mater, North Carolina, after Haase decided to accept the head job at UAB last month. Roy Williams noted in previous comments about the position that a number of his former players were interested in the spot on his bench, and although Davis never played for the Kansas/UNC coach, his claim that the new assistant would have Carolina ties was clearly a factual statement. At the ripe age of 41, Davis is getting into the collegiate coaching game a bit late, but he’s certainly well connected and could use his seven years as an ESPN personality to help with recruiting and name recognition.
  5. Stanford’s basketball program may not be among the elite, but we’re becoming increasingly convinced that the university through its deep connections with tech giants such as Google and Facebook is well on its way to taking over the world, one terabyte at a time. In the Moneyball world of sports analytics, a Stanford senior named Muthu Alagappan recently developed an entirely new (and award-winning) way of looking at positions in basketball, based on the actual production of NBA players regardless of size or favored spots on the floor. Using data visualization techniques, he came up with 13 basketball positions with such descriptive names like the “Defensive Ball-Handler,” the “Paint Protector,” and the “One-of-a-Kind.” By grouping players into similar buckets and showing how they interact in a visual way, the concept is that value between similarly situated players will be easier to discern and effective balance between players on a team will be more easily achieved. It’s really interesting stuff — if you want to see the entire presentation, click over here.
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Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 20th, 2012

  1. Western Kentucky announced yesterday that its new head coach was its current head coach. Despite starting his career at 4-7 since taking over for Ken McDonald, the school has opted to retain the services of Ray Harper. Citing the difficult circumstances that Harper inherited with taking over the team in early January, the school claimed it had “total confidence his ability to return our program to prominence”. Based on his record at the Division II level where he was named national coach of the year four times in nine season while winning two national titles and claiming four runner-up finishes (one was later vacated) the Hilltoppers might be moving in the right direction very soon.
  2. Critics of the NCAA will have one less thing to rail against at schools opposing the previously accepted proposal allowing schools to award mulityear scholarships failed to reach the veto threshold. When the rule was passed in August 2011 it was hailed as a small, but important concession for athletes, whose scholarships and academic/career goals can swing with a coaching change or an injury. However, a few months later, a large number of schools petitioned the NCAA asking for a repeal of the rule leading to Friday’s vote. Needing 62.5% (more than 206) of the 330 institutions to vote against it for a repeal, the schools were only able to get 62.12% (205 votes) so when the NCAA parades around its new multiyear scholarships remember that it was two votes away from having it repealed and not everybody voted (the NCAA would only say more than 90% voted).
  3. There are a lot of way to have your bubble burst and Purdue appears to have taken the most publicly embarrassing one. On Friday, the team suspended starting point guard D.J. Byrd and dismissed starting guard Kelsey Barlow following an incident that morning where Byrd was arrested for public intoxication while Barlow, who had been thrown out of the bar earlier that night apparently came back with several teammates including Robbie Hummel where Barlow reported hit a bouncer and was arrested. Even though they are still technically in contention for a NCAA Tournament bid with every other team bubble team falling apart this seriously damages their chances of making any kind of run.
  4. It will be an eventful few days for several members of the 1988-89 North Carolina State team. On Saturday, in one of the more bizarre interactions between an official and the crowd that we have seen, veteran official had Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta removed from the stands in a game between NC State and Florida State even though they did not appear to do anything that you typically see fans get ejected for and afterwards did not offer any explanation for his actions. Yesterday, the school announced that tomorrow it would honor that Wolfpack team that Corchiani and Gugliotta were on in a tribute to the team before Tuesday’s game against North Carolina as part of its inaugural “Wolfpack Unlimited” award that honors the spirit of Jim Valvano. According to Debbie Yow, the school’s Athletic Director, the 1988-89 team was up for consideration before Saturday’s events although she did not specify how those events impacted her choice.
  5. “A season with few bright lights grew even dimmer Friday.” That opening sentence from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sums up our thoughts on Georgia Tech dismissing Glen Rice Jr. from its team. Normally, the loss of a player who leads your team in scoring, rebounds, and steals is crippling, but when you had already lost 12 of your last 14 you cannot get much worse. This suspension is Rice’s second of the season as he was also suspended for three games earlier this year for violating unspecified team rules and while the school would not go into detail about what led to the dismissal they did say that it was not basketball-related. Fortunately for the Yellow Jackets their last four games are against four of the teams they are competing against to stay out of the ACC’s cellar. With three of those games at home perhaps they can avoid finishing dead last in the conference.
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Past Imperfect: The Wild Ride of Jimmy V

Posted by JWeill on December 8th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Every two weeks, RTC contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Email) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the ups and downs of famed coach Jim Valvano.

Jimmy V, Looking For a Hug Back in 1983...

Few coaches in college basketball history have attained the sport’s highest levels of achievement and personal recognition. To do that, a coach must not only be dominant on the court, likely a national champion, but must also show both a sustaining level of that dominance and a personal magnetism that transcends on-court excellence. For those coaches who reach such lofty heights, there’s not much that a man can’t see within his grasp. Fortune and fame, even celebrity if so desired. A career choice originally based on a simple and single-minded goal – to be a major college head coach – can one day lead to possibilities never previously imagined: corporate pitchman, TV star, a brand unto oneself.

For James Thomas Anthony Valvano, the fame and attention he garnered for his team’s improbable victory in the 1983 NCAA title game was an elixir too potent to be sipped and appreciated. To the contrary, Valvano drank fully and became addicted: to the lifestyle, to the accolades, to the fame, to the next opportunity. For ‘Jimmy V,’ as he was known to most, there was, after years of toil in a cut-throat business, all of a sudden everything and anything possible. And Valvano, a boundless personality, a real talker, chomped at the bit to have it all.

The phrase “larger than life” gets used a lot, far too often on folks who simply aren’t. It’s as cliché as cliché comes, an almost meaningless term due to its over- and wrong-use. And yet, when applied correctly, it can be apt. Valvano certainly was someone it applied to. Despite losing his battle with cancer in 1993, Valvano is still very much alive. He lives on through the charitable foundation that bears his nickname, as well as the college basketball events that raise money for them. He lives on too in his much-revered and much-replayed speech at the 1993 ESPYs. You probably saw it recently, and you’ll see it again.

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ATB: Jimmy V, Jae Crowder, Mizzou & Washington’s Late Game Management Issues…

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. We Will Not Give Up. On this same night every year, we feel compelled to join Dick Vitale and the rest in our support of the V Foundation in its fight against cancer. And every year, we find that we as a society have come a little bit closer to defeating the scourge that takes so many of our friends’ and families’ loved ones away from them too soon. As a bitter contemporary reminder, one of our colleagues lost her father to the disease yesterday. Another friend’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia last year. Yet another friend recently underwent surgery to remove a precancerous polyp. Medical research is painstakingly slow and expensive and there’s unlikely to be a one-hit wonder out there that can ‘cure’ cancer, but treatments are improving. The V Foundation has given over $100 million dollars to fund 92 cancer research grants nationwide in its nearly 20-year history, and the benefits that have resulted from those dollars are certainly immeasurable. No matter who you might feel about Vitale, or Jim Valvano, or even ESPN, this is a noble and just cause. The page to donate is located here — and remember, the V Foundation passes along 100% of its donations directly to research initiatives.

Your Watercooler Moment. Crowder Not Crowded On the Right Wing. The second half of the Jimmy V Classic was more entertaining than the first tonight, even though it appeared that only a few hundred fans were in attendance for Marquette vs. Washington. A back-and-forth game that rarely saw either team take a lead of more than three points came down to execution in the clutch. After Washington’s Terrence Ross (a future star who had 19/9/3 assts) knocked in a tough heave off glass from the lane to give his team a one-point advantage with 19 seconds left, Marquette immediately went into its offensive set, confused two UW defenders who ended up falling on each other, and found Jae Crowder standing all alone in the corner for three. His bucket from the right wing gave Marquette the win, and showed just how important coaching is in late-game situations. Marquette is now 8-0 and playing like one of the better offensive teams in America. We just love watching Buzz Williams’ guys perform in close games.

Jae Crowder Silences the Small But Boisterous Washington Contingent in MSG (AP/F. Franklin)

Dunkdafied. Washington’s Terrence Ross and Marquette’s Vander Blue one-upped each other with huge dunks in the second half of tonight’s Jimmy V Classic nightcap.

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Welcome to the ACC Microsite!

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2011

The ACC.

To most American sports fans, the mere mention of those two words conjures up immediate images of Michael Jordan from the baseline, Christian Laettner from the top of the key, Jim Valvano searching for a hug, Dean Smith calling for the four corners, and Mike Krzyzewski collecting rings like a Kardashian at Tiffany’s.  The ACC, perhaps more than any other conference in our lifetime, defines college basketball.  The cultural affinity for the sport down on Tobacco Road and beyond is only rivaled by the SEC’s obsession with the pigskin, and with the recent additions of hoops powerhouses Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the mix, the league stands to become even stronger.  It only makes sense that we would begin our power conference microsite roll-out focused on the league with the most history, tradition and passion for the game.

The ACC microsite is intended to focus exclusively on the stories coming out of the league on a daily basis.  Our two staffers, Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) and Kellen Carpenter (@kellenlc), are talented and knowledgeable ACC insiders who plan on bringing you thoughtful commentary, analysis and criticism on a regular basis.  Get to know them at Twitter or you can contact them directly by clicking on their names.

Welcome to the next phase in the living history of RTC, the ACC microsite.

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R.I.P. Lorenzo Charles (1963-2011)

Posted by nvr1983 on June 27th, 2011

We are sad to report news out of Raleigh, North Carolina, where former North Carolina State star and 1983 NCAA Tournament hero Lorenzo Charles apparently died in a bus accident at 5 PM today. Charles is best known for his last-second dunk off an errant shot by Dereck Whittenburg to beat Houston‘s famed Phi Slama Jamma team that featured eventual NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. That North Carolina State team, a #6 seed–the second lowest seeded team to ever win the title–was known as the “Cardiac Pack” for its tendency to win close games late in the year (winning seven of its last nine games after trailing in the last minute), but none of those wins approached the theatrics of the championship night. Set in “The Pit” at New Mexico, the last university venue to host a championship game, the follow-up dunk by Charles ignited a raucous celebration that was highlighted by a stunned Houston team wandering around the floor and an ecstatic Jim Valvano running around the court looking for someone to hug. [Ed. Note: Please click through video to see the highlights on YouTube due to the NCAA disabling embedding.]

Both the dunk and the surreal celebration with Valvano running around like a madman rank up there with the greatest moments in sports history and have become a staple of every NCAA Tournament highlight package. Charles was selected by the Atlanta Hawks as the 41st pick in the 1985 NBA Draft and although he never achieved anywhere near the same notoriety at any other point in his career, he will forever be a part of college basketball lore as the only player to win an NCAA Championship with a shot at the buzzer. Details remain limited at this time, but we will update you as more become available.

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N.C. State Goes With Gottfried

Posted by jstevrtc on April 5th, 2011

The coaching carousel is really gaining momentum now that the season has ended, and Mark Gottfried has decided to turn in his ESPN mic-plates for North Carolina State colors.

Gottfried Takes On the NCSU Coaching Job -- And a Whooooole Lot Of Headaches

Ending a long and frustrating coaching search, the Wolfpack announced the hiring of Gottfried within the last hour. Gottfried’s last gig was at Alabama, where he coached for ten seasons and part of an eleventh (1998-2009). He posted a 210-132 (0.614) overall record and an 84-83 record in SEC play as leader of the Crimson Tide, taking his team to the NCAA Tournament for five straight seasons from 2001-02 to 2005-06. His 2003-04 team made the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual champion Connecticut Huskies. Gottfried left in January of the 2009 season after star guard Ronald Steele decided to jump ship, and hasn’t coached since.

Before his time at Alabama, he coached three seasons at Murray State from 1995 to 1998, taking the OVC crown all three years, and making NCAA Tournaments in his last two seasons there. He was 68-24 (40-12) at MSU. Gottfried also won a  national championship in 1995 in his last of seven seasons at UCLA as an assistant under Jim Harrick.

The initial reaction to this hire appears to be to compare it to St. John’s’ taking on Steve Lavin last year, since, like Lavin before him, Gottfried most recently worked as a color commentator and studio analyst as part of ESPN’s college basketball coverage. To us, though, the hiring of Gottfried in Raleigh is more a product of how many coaches at smaller programs — for example, guys like VCU’s Shaka Smart and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, two targets of the NC State search — are choosing to live by the Valvano Doctrine of “don’t mess with happiness” and stay at programs at which they’re already successful, as well as hoping that they can mimic Brad Stevens‘ recent successes at Butler. With what Stevens and his Bulldogs have achieved in the last two years, if you’re a coach at a mid-major program, it makes staying at your smaller school a lot more attractive of an option than, say, the prospect of going up against Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski at least four times a year on the court and fighting them for local stud recruits off of it. What also can’t be ignored is the reluctance that some coaches may have had to work with NC State athletic director Debbie Yow, whose stormy relationship at Maryland with coach Gary Williams was well-publicized.

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Past Imperfect: The Tournament We Forgot

Posted by JWeill on March 18th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the lost, great 1998 NCAA tournament.

The 1998 NCAA tournament is the most exciting, bracket busting, nerve-wracking, well-played tournament in the modern era. And yet, no one seems to remember it. It’s sandwiched right there between “Simon says, ‘Championship,’” and Khalid El-Amin atop the scorer’s table. Can you see it? Look closely, it’s there. It’s the one with the two weird teams in the Final Four, the North Carolina squad coached by the old guy (no, not Dean Smith, the other old guy) and the first-year black coach at Kentucky. Oh, I know what will help…it’s the one where the coach’s kid hits that shot. Oh, now you remember.

It’s a shame, too, that no one remembers the 1998 tourney in toto. From beginning to end, the tournament was riveting, nip-and-tuck, gut-twisting basketball. And it didn’t take long at all to shake things up. On the first day, before many people were probably even aware that games were afoot, an out-of-the-way locale provided fans with some of the tournament’s most in-your-face moments, courtesy of a few names fans would become very familiar with over the next decade but who at the time were little known outside of the basketball community. But strange things can happen in Boise.

Ben Howland, then coach of the 15th-seeded Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, had his team on the cusp of history, all even at 62 apiece with Bob Huggins’ two-seed Cincinnati with just seconds remaining. Northern Arizona was the nation’s best three-point shooting team that year, so it was doubly cruel when Cincinnati’s D’Juan Baker buried an open three to win the game with just 3.6 seconds left to save the Bearcats’ skin. But Cincinnati’s flirtation with late-game disaster would come back to bite them the next round when, this time against West Virginia, Baker again hit a deep three-pointer to give his team the lead and then strutted down the court, only to watch helplessly as Mountaineers guard Jarrod West – yes, Jarrie West — threw up a prayer that was answered with eight tenths of a second left. West’s tipped three-pointer hit the backboard and went through the net, turning Baker’s sideline strut into a slumped-over disbelief. Live by the buzzer beater, die by the buzzer beater.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Tennessee fans got their first glimpse of a coach they’d become all too familiar with in a few years, when Kevin Stallings-coached Illinois State ruined the Volunteers’ sunny trip West on a running layup with 1.8 seconds left in overtime. While the Redbirds would get blasted in the second round, that was small consolation for Tennessee fans. Because just a season later, Stallings would take the job at intra-state rival Vanderbilt.

Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew hit a classic buzzer beater in Round 1.

But the action wasn’t all left to the Left Coast. Back in D.C., President Bill Clinton wasn’t the only one issuing denials. Washington denied Xavier a spot in the second round on a Deon Luton game-winner, while three-seed South Carolina saw B.J. McKie’s last-gasp attempt fall short, keeping the Gamecocks on the outside looking in at upset king Richmond moving on. Oh, and for good measure, Indiana needed extra time to top Oklahoma as well. Had enough? Too bad. Because if Thursday seemed like enough excitement for any single round, things were just getting started.

All across the country, the tense moments and close games continued on Friday. In Lexington, a gruff Syracuse senior from Lithuania named Marius Janulis buried not one but two three-pointers to help the Orange squeak by Iona. Then Chicago turned into Boise, with Detroit Mercy upsetting St. John’s by two and Western Michigan sending Clemson packing by three. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, UCLA outlasted Miami (Fl.) on four straight free throws in the final seconds. And then, it happened.

It would be a shot for all time. It would be replayed so often it has become an indelible part of the very tournament itself. Like Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper, like Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug, the miracle shot by Valparaiso guard, and son of his coach, Bryce Drew was the artistic flourish on a first round of gripping drama. Drew’s deep three, coming on a designed play whereby a half-court pass is touch passed to a streaking Drew, was the most memorable moment on a whole tournament’s worth of memorable moments.

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ATB: Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2010

The Lede.  Monday night was one of the lightest weekday nights you’ll see this season, with only a handful of games on the docket and only a couple that seemed to have any potential (they didn’t, as it turned out).  So we’ll use this opportunity to prep for Tuesday night’s Jimmy V Classic, featuring four ranked teams: #4 Kansas, #6 Michigan State, #14 Syracuse and #18 Memphis.  It’s an exceptional group of teams that should make for a double-header that will have the Garden rocking.  But if you want breakdowns on the games, we encourage you to read tomorrow’s Set Your Tivo feature, where both contests will get their proper analytical treatment.  No, in this space, we’d like to take a moment to remember the reason for the Classic in the first place: the V Foundation’s ongoing battle against the most insidious of diseases, cancer.  In the eighteen years since its founding, the organization has raised over $100M for cancer research and funded grants throughout the nation.  When we watched the original ESPY speech by Jim Valvano in 1993, we were moved by his courage, poise and humor in the face of a horrific personal situation.  But given our youth, we were also somewhat inured to the harsh realities of life and the cruel punishments of the disease of which he was afflicted.  Now that we’ve gotten older and had the painful experience of living through close family members and friends suffering at the hands of this disease, we understand even more the need for continued dollars for research and exploratory treatments.  ESPN and Dick Vitale will hammer you over the head with commercials asking for donations throughout tomorrow night’s broadcast, but if you can take a moment to reflect on someone you know with the disease, or someone you hope won’t get cancer, then it becomes much easier to make the call (1-800-4JimmyV) or click the button.  Every dollar counts.

“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.” — Jim Valvano, 1993

Your Watercooler Moment.  Your watercooler moment from Monday was that after seemingly thirty consecutive days of basketball worth watching, Monday night was a brief respite in the schedule.  Things will pick back up on Tuesday with the Jimmy V Classic, but the truth is that as teams gear up for exams and the bowl season kicks off, the next few weeks will generally be filled with cupcakes and time off.

Tonight Quick Hits...

  • Luke Sikma.  The Portland Pilot and son of former NBA great Jack, is putting together a nice senior season.  After a 14-point, 16-rebound effort at Washington tonight in a loss, he’s now averaging a double-double with 12.3 PPG and 12.1 RPG and is among the very best rebounders on both ends of the floor according to KenPom.  The Pilots have lost badly to each of the power conference teams they’ve faced — Kentucky, Washington State and Washington — but they’ve won all the others (7-3) and could ultimately play a nagging role in the WCC as both Gonzaga and St. Mary’s appear to be somewhat rebuilding this year.
  • Marshon Brooks.  There are so many good players in the Big East in any given year that it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of them all, especially on the worse teams.  As PC has roared to a 9-1 start, though, Brooks has exploded onto the scene as the primary reason.  Last night against Brown he dropped 33 points, pulled eight rebounds and ripped four steals, and his progression from run-of-the-mill guard to Big East star appears complete.  He’s shooting the ball at a ridiculous 61% from inside the arc and contributing 21/9/2 SPG this year, considerable increases over his 14/4 averages from last season.  An interesting game at BC on Wednesday may tell us whether Providence is for real this year.

… and Misses.

  • K-State From the Line.  Kansas State went 23-40 from the line it it easy win over Alcorn State tonight, but this is a season-long problem (54%).  Only one other team in America throws up fewer bricks from the line, and they play in the SWAC (Alabama State).  Depending on whom you ask, K-State is either extremely overrated or just working through some things before putting it together.  We know one thing, though — Jacob Pullen dropping 24/5 against Alcorn is one thing, but he needs to find his game against real competition soon (19-61 FG against five other D1 opponents).

Tweet of the Night.  Hoop Nerd Christmas Festivus came three weeks early for most of us, as Ken Pomeroy announced his player statistics are now active on his site.

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Five Coaches in Need of a Good Season

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

On Monday we gave you the list our five biggest coaching moves from the last offseason, now it’s team to look into our crystal ball and see who’s in danger of getting a pink slip. The guys from Monday would be advised to check out this post. All of the coaches below at one point carried the same promise and excitement of better things to come at their respective schools. But as at least one of them will most likely see, sometimes things just don’t work out.  Here are the top five coaches who need to have good seasons in order to feel secure about their jobs.

Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech

Paul Hewitt Almost Left Georgia Tech On His Own Last Year

  • Record at School: 176-142 (67-93 ACC) in 10 seasons.
  • Postseason Results: Five trips to the NCAA Tournament (NCAA runner-up in 2004); one trip to the NIT.
  • High point/low point: Hewitt’s high point is an easy pick and it’s one of the reasons why it’s confusing that he finds himself with so much to prove this season. The man coached the Yellow Jackets to the National Championship game in 2004, his fourth season at Georgia Tech. At that time there was so much promise in Atlanta, what with Hewitt’s knack to bring in big time talent (Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack, for example) and what at the time seemed like an ability to coach ’em up and mount a run at a title. At least that’s what appeared to be the case. It didn’t take long for fans of the Ramblin’ Wreck to grow wary of Hewitt’s up and down nature. You could point out a number of things for the low point of the Hewitt era. There’s the fact that GT has never has won more than nine games in the ACC. There’s his four losing seasons. But I’d have to go with his disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2008-09, when the Yellow Jackets finished dead last in the ACC.
  • Reasons to stay: Hewitt knows how to recruit. He’s signed three guys that went on to win ACC Rookie of the Year honors in Bosh (2003), Ed Nelson (2002) and Derrick Favors (2010). Hewitt definitely knows how to sell the program to recruits, and it would be tough to find another guy that can bring in the same kind of hauls Hewitt has on his resume.
  • Reasons to leave: Hewitt is consistently inconsistent. Considering the talent on some of these Georgia Tech rosters, it’s dumbfounding that Hewitt has just one 9-7 ACC regular season to his name. Hewitt has made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments only once (2003-04) and hasn’t made it past the Tournament’s opening weekend since the Yellow Jackets’ run to the National Championship game in 2004.
  • Bare minimum he needs to stay: Hewitt needs to finish with at least a .500 record in conference, and the Yellow Jackets need to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. The preseason talk in Atlanta is how the Jackets are better than they were last year, despite Favors’ departure to the NBA. That means there’s no excuse if Hewitt can’t turn this team into a winner.
  • Possible job-savers: A strong finish at the end of the regular season. The schedule works out nicely for the Yellow Jackets to build momentum for the ACC Tournament and beyond. After traveling to Duke on Feb. 20, Tech finishes up home against Virginia, at N.C. State, at Wake Forest and home for Miami. Hewitt needs to sweep through those final four games to make sure there’s a chance for another season in Atlanta.
  • Odds of keeping his job: I’d say it’s 50-50. On the one hand, if A.D. Dan Radakovich was going to fire Hewitt, why didn’t he pull the plug after that dismal 2009 season? Then again, it should take a winning season in Atlanta for Hewitt to stick around for another year. Not many people are high on the Yellow Jackets this season because of the loss of Favors and Gani Lawal. Either Hewitt pulls a rabbit out of his hat or he reaches in and grabs a pink slip.

Jeff Capel, Oklahoma

  • Record at School: 82-51 (32-32 Big 12) in four seasons.
  • Postseason Results: Two trips to the NCAA Tournament (Elite Eight in 2009).
  • High point/low point: It’s hard to imagine Capel on this list considering that his high point at Oklahoma came just two seasons ago. In 2009 the Sooners were a No. 2 seed in the South Region and made it all the way to the Elite Eight before getting run out of the gym by eventual the national champion, North Carolina. The year before that Capel led the Sooners to a 23-12 record and NCAA second round finish; he was a coach on the rise and his program was headed in the right direction. Then everything fell apart. As expected, Blake Griffin decided to go to the NBA, but OU still had talent in guards Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin. It didn’t matter. Capel suffered his worst season in Norman, Oklahoma, on and off the court. The Sooners lost their final nine games of the season to finish under .500 for the first time since 1981. Worse, there’s an ongoing investigation into NCAA violations committed by ex-assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro. Five underclassmen (including Warren and Mason-Griffin) and two assistant coaches have left the program since the end of the season. Considering all the off-court drama, the court should be a safe haven for Capel. But then again, that’s where all his problems started last year.
  • Reasons to stay: If the Sooners ever need a last second half court shot they have the perfect guy to draw up a play. Seriously, though, Capel seems to be committed to Oklahoma and there’s no direct evidence that he had anything to do with the NCAA allegations. Capel easily could have fled the scene this offseason, but he chose to stick around.
  • Reasons to leave: Was Oklahoma’s two-year run a product of Capel’s coaching or was it because of Blake Griffin? Capel’s first year B.G. (before Griffin) ended with a 16-15 overall record and a seventh place tie in the Big 12. In the first year A.G. the Sooners went a paltry 13-18 and tied for eleventh in the conference. It could easily be that Oklahoma won 30 games in 2008-09 because of Griffin’s on-court brilliance rather than anything Capel was responsible for.
  • Bare minimum he needs to stay: Well first of all, Capel needs this NCAA investigation to end positively. You know what the Sooners did to Kelvin Sampson. And you have to think that the powers that be in Norman won’t accept any kind of improprieties. On the court, Capel has to finish at least over .500. People shouldn’t have any preconceived notions that it will be an easy return to prominence for Capel & Co. Not with nine new players on the roster. A winning record and a trip to the NIT should be enough to keep Capel from getting canned.
  • Odds of keeping his job: I think that Capel doesn’t have to worry about finding a new team come next spring. Capel should be able to meet the Sooners’ lowered expectations, and it will be fun to see this team fly under the radar in the Big 12.

Sidney Lowe, N.C. State

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