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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March Moment: Lest We Forget, Sometimes It’s Good Just To Be Invited

Posted by jstevrtc on March 31st, 2010

Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment?

Our final installment for this year has a pair of remembrances that remind us how just being part of the magic of the NCAA Tournament is something for which to be thankful. RTC correspondents Kraig Williams and Russell Burnett recount being in the crowd (and eventually on the floor) to see their teams earn automatic invites to the NCAA Tournament.  Butler may be a 5-seed but they’re still a so-called “mid-major,” and this is obviously the biggest storyline of this year’s Final Four.  These stories from Messrs. Williams and Burnett amplify how great Butler’s achievement is, and goes to show that if you think every single mid-major program in the nation doesn’t take pride in and hope from the Bulldogs’ presence in Indy this weekend, you’d better think again:

KW: I’ve always been a big college basketball fan, and fondly remember the days of filling out a bracket before I even knew how to pronounce some of the schools’ names. Growing up in Utah, I remember watching Keith Van Horn carry Utah to a championship game; I jumped on the band wagons of Duke in ’01 and Syracuse in ’03 to win bracket pools among my friends and slowly college basketball seeped into my blood. It wasn’t until last season that I had my ultimate March Moment.

As a student at Utah State University, we survived the adjustment from the Big West to the WAC only to surfer heartbreaks in the conference tournament year after year. Last season though, things were different. It was clear the Aggies were head-and-shoulders above the rest of the conference. Utah State steamrolled through Fresno State, somehow survived New Mexico State in the semi finals, and then came the dream matchup with Nevada on their home floor. Sitting outside the arena a couple hours before they would even let us in, it became apparent that this would be our night. Utah State students had the Nevada crowd nearly outnumbered, and when we got into the stadium it became clear that we would have the better team. Utah State jumped out to a 21-4 lead and the party began in the student section. After years of following the Aggies, and watching them come oh-so-close so many times, we were finally going to have a conference tournament banner to hang in The Spectrum. The clock ticked down, we shouted the “winning team, losing team” chant, and then we rushed the court in Reno like our lives depended on it. We spent the next hour or so just standing on the court, talking to the players, taking photos with the trophy, and watching our guys cut down the nets. That’s a feeling I’ll never forget, knowing that we weren’t going to be sweating bullets at home waiting to see if the selection committee would be nice enough to send us to the dance.

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ATB: Don’t You EVER Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009


Jimmy V Classic.  As someone whose family and loved ones have been seriously impacted by cancer, this is always one of our favorite events of the season.  We vividly remember the night at the ESPYs in March 1993 when Jim Valvano gave his inspirational speech, and even sixteen years later, it continues to stand the test of time.  “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” became a mantra for people of our generation, and the positive effects that the Jimmy V Foundation has produced over the years gives Valvano a lasting legacy that many of his fellow coaches, many of whom were more successful at coaching basketball, will never know.  As long as this site exists, we’ll do this every year, and we’ll do it for the Green Bay Packers, Coach!

And now, on to the games…  RTC Live was in the building.

  • #13 Georgetown 72, #20 Butler 65.  Georgetown got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Greg Monroe as the Hoyas dominated Butler on the inside, outrebounding the Bulldogs 43-30. Perhaps Monroe’s biggest impact came on the defensive end, as he helped force Matt Howard into one of the worst games  of his career as he finished 1-9 from the floor while looking intimidated in the post before fouling out. Georgetown jumped out to a 52-35 second-half lead, which Butler couldn’t bounce back from. Austin Freeman was 4-5 from deep in adding 18 points for the Hoyas, who picked up a must-needed statement win. Butler, who got 24 and 8 boards from Gordon Hayward, is not the top 10 team that many predicted they would be during the preseason right now, but this is still an impressive win nonetheless. For Butler to be in position to earn an at-large bid should it come to that, they are now probably going to have to beat both Ohio State and Xavier in coming weeks.
  • Indiana 74, Pittsburgh 64.  Indiana picked up their first relevant win over a BCS team (beating Iowa last year doesn’t count) in the Tom Crean era as they thoroughly outplayed Pitt in MSG tonight. Indiana go 20 from Verdell Jones and 18 from Christian Watford as they finally broke through for a good win after losing three heartbreakers this season. The Hoosiers are going to be a dangerous team, as they do have some talented youngsters (we didn’t even get a good feel for Maurice Creek tonight), but IU may still be a year away from really being able to compete and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Pitt, on the other hand, didn’t look like Pitt. They struggled defensively, they were beat up inside, and they settled for tough, deep jumpers. If Ashton Gibbs hadn’t been hitting from three (he had 25 on 8-25 shooting, 5-15 from three), this one could have been ugly (although, uglier than being down 17 to Indiana in this stage of their rebuild is tough to do).

Not an Upset of the Night Illinois 79, #24 Vanderbilt 68. Yes, Vandy was the ranked team, but Illinois was ranked as recently as last week and these teams are roughly even in our eyes.  A very nice intersectional matchup nonetheless.  The Illini shot a lights-out 59% from the field and ran out to a 9-0 early lead that put Vandy behind the eight-ball from the beginning.  Illinois guard Demetri McCamey lit up the Commodore defense for 8-10 from the field and 23/5 assts, while DJ Richardson added 16/3/3 assts in the win.  The Illinois defense has been somewhat maligned thus far this season, but they did a good job tonight of limiting AJ Ogilvy’s (8/3) touches and forced Jermaine Beal into a 4-14 shooting night.

Some Mid-Major Revenge (Some Not).  There were a few good opportunities for mid-majors to take down BCS teams tonight, and the little guys got a split this evening among the four games up for grabs.

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