2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Abdul Gaddy

Posted by jstevrtc on August 27th, 2010

Rush The Court presents the inaugural edition of One on One: an Interview Series, which we hope to publish weekly on Friday mornings throughout the year.  If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

As Abdul Gaddy heads into his second season under head coach Lorenzo Romar at the University of Washington, he has a lot to prove. Ranked as the second-best point guard prospect in the class of 2009 (behind the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, John Wall), Gaddy had a disappointing freshman season, averaging just four points and two assists per game despite starting in each of his team’s final 27 games. Romar said that as the season wore on, he noticed that Gaddy’s confidence dipped, and a big question on the minds of many college basketball fans is when will we see that calm, cool and confident Gaddy who earned such lofty appraisals in his high school and AAU days.  Andrew Murawa, a contributor here at Rush The Court as well as our Pac-10 and Mountain West correspondent, talked with Gaddy earlier this week, and we asked him about the recruiting process, his freshman season, and what to expect from the 2010-11 version of the Huskies.

Rush The Court: When you came out of high school you were regarded as the second-best point guard prospect in the country behind John Wall. Did you pay a lot of attention to those recruiting rankings when you were in high school?

Abdul Gaddy: At the beginning, no. But, as I became the second-best point guard and all that, I kind of did pay attention. I thought it was a great honor for me, so I kind of got into it and thought it was pretty fun, just to see all the rankings, so I kind of got into it a little bit.

Gaddy's confidence was low for most of last season, but he recovered late, settled into college life, and his team won 14 of their last 17.

RTC: You played at events like the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic and the Boost Mobile Elite 24 at Rucker Park, where you got to play with and against some of those same guys in those recruiting rankings. What was that like?

AG: It was fun to play against those guys, the top-ranked guys in my class. They were all stout competition. They brought out my competitive nature. Having fun, playing the game of basketball against them, just to see how I measured up against them, was great. It was a good measuring stick for myself to see where I was at and how much better I needed to get.

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Welcome, Dr. Emmert: Please Don’t Mess Up…

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2010

Yesterday on Seattle radio station KJR, NCAA president-elect Mark Emmert gave an interview with host Mitch Levy where he discussed his thoughts on some of the hot-button topics impacting collegiate sports.  Dr. Emmert, who will assume his post on November 1 of this year, is currently the president of the University of Washington and the former Fulbright winner is widely recognized as one of the savviest up-and-comers in the world of academic administration.  His rise up the ranks from an assistant professor (Northern Illinois) to Vice-Chancellor (Colorado) to Provost (Montana State) to Chancellor (UConn and LSU) to President at UW is impressive on its face, and his skill at political maneuvering and fund-raising should be obvious.  The concern we have, however, in all situations where administrators move from an academic to an athletic environment is whether such a transition will be seamless — in other words, will that person “get it?”  The danger in the application of ivory tower customs and norms to the world of athletics is that you can find yourself in troublesome spots if you haven’t gauged the environment correctly, such as when Emmert badly overreached in asking for public funding for a new Husky Stadium in the midst of a massive nationwide recession.  While that example represents a single misstep in a career full of home runs, it gives us pause when taken in concert with the following quote he made on the KJR radio broadcast.  In discussing the much-maligned one-and-done rule in college basketball, Emmert said:

I much prefer the baseball model, for example, that allows a young person if they want to go play professional baseball, they can do it right out of high school, but once they start college they’ve got to play for three years or until they’re 21.  I like that a good deal.  But what you have to also recognize is that rule isn’t an NCAA rule.  That’s a rule of the NBA. And it’s not the NBA itself, but the NBA Players Association. So to change that rule will require me and others working with the NBA, working with the players association.  We’ll be having those conversations, because I think it would be good for young people and good for basketball.

Emmert Seems a Smart Fellow, But the MLB Model is a Mistake

Before we get to our argument against this idea, let’s briefly touch on the reality of this proposition.  You hear this frequently stated among coaches, fans and pundits, but what all of these folks fail to recognize is that the NBA wants nothing to do with this on either the management or the players’ side.  Commissioner David Stern and his owners do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they are unmarketable, while players do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they take away veterans’ jobs.  The NCAA acts as a veritable minor league for the NBA, providing a competitive environment to fully vet and scout players for at least a year before some 80-year old owner throws sixteen million dollars and the viable future of a franchise at them.  Think of it this way — were Washington Wizards fans more excited about #1 pick Kwame Brown (who nobody outside of rural Georgia had ever seen play) or #1 pick John Wall (who was on national television about 4,000 times last year)?  As a point of fact, the NBA powers-that-be seem more interested in extending the one-and-done rule by another year than rolling it back in any way.  And why not? — it’s better for business.

Now, as to Emmert’s proposal itself, we’re going to explain why this is not a preferred option without regard for what the NBA wants or will agree to.  The remainder of this post represents pure advocacy for the college game and the college game only.  We see three compelling reasons that the NCAA should not bother to explore this MLB model possibility, as tempting as it sounds to an educator/administrator such as Emmert.

What Say You, UK Fans? One Year of Wall or None of McGrady?

  1. The NCAA Needs Marketable Stars Nearly as Much as the NBA Does.  This is the dirty little secret of college basketball in the 21st century.  The hardcore fans of the elite programs at Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, et al, aren’t going anywhere.  These folks would watch their teams play if they suited up four skinny 12-year olds and a rented donkey.  But the casual fan won’t.  The casual fan wants to see star power, and he wants to learn who the next big basketball talents will be through the crucible of the best postseason in all of sports, the NCAA Tournament.  When players like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, John Wall and many others are on college campuses building considerable buzz throughout the season and heading into March, this collective must-see component to the game takes on a much different meaning than when the player names are instead Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Tayshaun Prince.  All great collegians, but do you see the difference?   Who does Mr. Office Drone/Bracketeer tune in to watch more readily?  Furthermore, CBS/Turner Sports just signed a fourteen-year, $10.8B deal to broadcast the rights to the NCAA Tournament, in case you’d already forgotten, and there will be none-too-subtle pressure on the puppet-masters of the sport to ensure that the best possible product is placed on the floor.  For the maximum amount of interest to take hold, that product without question must include the top 18- and 19-year old basketball players in the world. 
  2. When High School Seniors Make Their Decisions, Coaches Bear the Brunt of It.  We talked about this back in June, and nothing has changed in the interim.  We saw what happened to recruiting from 1995-2005 when coaches had to compete not only against rival schools for the talents of a player, but also the siren call of the NBA.  Whether it was Kentucky and Tracy McGrady, Florida and Kwame Brown, Duke and Shaun Livingston, or North Carolina and JR Smith, the fans and (more directly) coaches of those programs where agonizingly forced to endure a late spring phone call to learn that, after many hours spent recruiting the player to their campuses, it was all for naught.  And those were the elite players!  Imagine the situations where the player was fully expected to go to college but still was lured away – Jackie Butler (Mississippi State), Ndubi Ebi (Arizona) and Louis Williams (Georgia) all come to mind.  How does a coach go about finding a suitable replacement for a star recruit so late into the signing period?  Short answer:  he can’t.  We certainly understand that it’s frustrating to a lot of people (coaches included) to have to lose a star player as a one-and-done, but to have spent the same amount of time recruiting him and not receive even a single season of his talents is far worse, isn’t it?  That’s what would happen if the MLB model were implemented — recruiting would once again become a two-phase process.   
  3. For Better or Worse, NCAA Basketball is the NBA’s Minor League.  It’s not the NBDL (although it has found a nice niche as a training ground for older players), and it’s not Europe (similarly).  Rather, college basketball remains the NBA’s minor league, and where the MLB example fails is that college baseball is not.  Each professional baseball franchise has several levels of minor league teams beneath it by which to develop its prospects, whether they come directly from high school or after three seasons of college.  This is a HUGE difference.  The reason is that, as Mark Stein notes in this article, the vast majority of prep-to-pros players during that ten-year period were nowhere near ready to impact the professional game on a regular basis, and there remains no true professional minor league in basketball available by which to develop them.  NCAA hoops is it.   The list of players who came right into the NBA and contributed immediately is much shorter (Dwight Howard, LeBron James) than the list of those who took a few years to develop (nearly everyone else, including superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal and Amare’ Stoudemire).  If Mark Emmert is worried about the players (and his quote above seems to imply that he is), then he needs to push for an environment that will foster player development for the next level, in much the same way as he would inspire any student with soaring dreams.  This tact dovetails nicely with what we described above that college basketball should be selling – Watch the greatest sporting spectacle on earth — the NCAA Tournament — where the stars of tomorrow are on stage today. 

We obviously recognize that there are no easy answers here.  Any model implemented will have someone complaining.  But beginning in November, it will be the obligation of Emmert to push the game of college basketball forward in popularity and interest.  After all, NCAA Tournament dollars fund nearly the entire operation there in Indianapolis.  The way to do this is not to push college hoops down a path that makes it even more like college baseball, a sport that nobody cares about in large part because there is no direct connection between those players and the pros; but instead,  Emmert should work with the NBA to pursue a model more like college football, an incredibly popular sport where everyone knows that today’s Heisman Trophy candidates are tomorrow’s NFL all-Pros. 

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Is Calipari’s Three-Year Recruiting Run the Best Ever?

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

An interesting question came up among the Twitterati over the weekend when it was learned that Rivals #8 (and rising) recruit in the Class of 2011, Anthony Davishad formally committed to Kentucky.  Davis’ commitment marks the third top ten recruit in that class to have committed to John Calipari’s Wildcats, and the seventh in the 2009-11 recruiting cycles, a ridiculous feat. 

  • John Wall (#2, 2009)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (#3 , 2009)
  • Brandon Knight (#4, 2010)
  • Enes Kanter (#7, 2010)
  • Michael Gilchrist (#1, 2011)
  • Marquis Teague (#5, 2011)
  • Anthony Davis (#8, 2011)

Throw in a few other high-level recruits such as Daniel Orton (#19, 2009), Eric Bledsoe (#52, 2009), Terrence Jones (#11, 2010), Doron Lamb (#26, 2010), and an unnamed superstar or two to be named later (Quincy MillerLeBryan Nash?), and suddenly there is a realization that we could be in the midst of the single greatest run of recruiting prowess since the Wizard of Westwood had every blue-chipper from coast to coast lining up to play for him.

Calipari Continues to Rack Up Blue-Chippers (LHL/M. Cornelison)

This is what Calipari was referring to when he infamously said on draft night in June that having five UK players selected was the greatest night in the program’s history.  It’s all marketing.  As Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue notes when referring to Anthony Davis’ quotes about the commitment, Calipari isn’t selling the Wildcat program of all hoops-all the time as much as the dream; the dream, of course, being a fast-track to the League. 

But notice what is not mentioned — Kentucky tradition, the facilities at UK, playing in front of 24,000 every game, being on TV all the time — none of these things are mentioned.  Recruiting has changed.  Calipari has taken the NBA one-and-done rule and used it like the Pied Piper, tempting players to Kentucky not with cash to families or under-the-table deals, but with a short path to all the riches they desire.

Whether you believe the last sentence or not, the truth remains that players are beelining for Lexington, which brings us to the point of this article.  We have to dig pretty deep in our memory banks to remember a recruiting run that even begins to approach this concentration of elite talent.  Granted, there’s a bit of an apples/oranges confounder here — much of the reason that Calipari can load up on talent every single year is because there’s a reasonable expectation that the previous year’s competition for minutes will be gone (see: Wall begets Knight begets Teague, for example).  Still, we’ve come up with one strong comparison in the modern era (we hope you add your own in the comments below): Duke 1997-99.  As a brief aside, UNC from 1990-93, Michigan from 1991-94 and Duke from 1999-2002 were also very strong periods of recruiting at those schools, but over four recruiting cycles rather than three. 

Duke 1997-99 (recruited by Mike Krzyzewski)

  • Elton Brand (#1, 1997)
  • Chris Burgess (#7, 1997)
  • Shane Battier (#8, 1997)
  • William Avery (#14, 1997)
  • Corey Maggette (#16, 1998)
  • Jason Williams (#3, 1999)
  • Carlos Boozer (#8, 1999)
  • Casey Sanders (#16, 1999)
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (#26, 1999)

The recruiting rankings alone are nasty, but when you consider the actual accomplishments of this group, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Six lottery picks, three NPOYs, two title game appearances and a national championship (2001).  In two of the years where they didn’t cut the nets down, (1999 and 2002), Duke was the prohibitive favorite to win the title (finishing #1 in the final AP poll every year from 1999-2002) in large part because they had more talent than anybody else.  They actually won it all in 2001, but we’re still trying to figure out how Jim Calhoun’s vastly underrated (but also undermanned) Huskies were able to slay the Duke dragon in 1999 (oh, right, Trajan Langdon).  It was an amazing run of talent acquisition, and we haven’t seen anything like it for at least a decade.

Duke Had Three NPOYs in Four Seasons (SI)

Therein lies the rub.  With boatloads of talent comes expectations, and winning the press conference is great for tone-setting, but getting to and winning Final Fours is what matters most in Lexington.  Again, the Duke era was different in that with the exception of Corey Maggette in 1999, Coach K did not lose any players as 1-and-dones; but that won’t deter the vultures from ripping Calipari if he continues to sign elite talent without bringing back the accompanying hardware to support it.  The biggest case in point of this thinking is how Michigan’s Fab Five class of 1991 is often considered a failure for merely going to two straight NCAA championship games and losing.  It remains to be seen how this era of Kentucky basketball will play out (so far, one Elite Eight appearance), but we already know that the level of recruiting enjoyed by Calipari in his first three classes there rivals anything experienced in the modern era.  Coach K’s classes from 1997-99 set the bar very high — it’s now up to the individual players — from Knight/Kanter/Jones to Gilchrist/Teague/Davis – to match or exceed their accomplishments.   

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Morning Five: 08.10.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 10th, 2010

  1. A couple of years ago we posted an article about teams taking advantage of a bylaw allowing them to start their season early by playing overseas once every four years. Coming into this season Oregon had planned to go to Europe to get ready for this season, but after the firing of Ernie Kent and a rash of other departures the Ducks are considering cancelling their trip to Europe.
  2. For the past few years the NC ProAm has been one of the feature summer events for college players in particular incoming freshman with the best example being John Wall famously dunking on Jerry Stackhouse last summer. We’ve heard plenty of chatter coming out of the tournament this year about the performance of such notable incoming freshmen as Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes, but it was a pair of Duke players (Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly) that came away with the title as they scored 18 and 16 points respectively in the championship game. It probably didn’t hurt that they had a few chumps (Raymond Felton, Josh Powell, and tournament MVP Marcus Fisher) rounding out the starting line-up.
  3. Speaking of Blue Devils, Nolan Smith appears to have been stepping up this summer, showing a new explosiveness that we haven’t seen thus far in his college career (at least not to this degree).  He poured in 41 points in a recent NC ProAm game, even drawing praise from former Tar Heel Jawad Williams. Our favorite part of the article is Jawad throwing “praise” at Mason Plumlee saying “Plumlee is very skilled for a guy with his height. He could be a Josh McRoberts-type player.” Uh, thanks. I’m sure every Duke fan just felt like throwing up.
  4. When Tom Izzo announced that Chris Allen would no longer be a part of the Michigan State basketball program, the first thought on many people’s mind was where he would end up. According to his mother “the phones have been blowin’ up” as she cites Notre Dame, UConn, Iowa State, Memphis, and South Florida as some of the many schools that have been actively courting her son. For their part, the UConn staff has denied making any such contact. So now the question is Ms. Allen trying to pull a Drew Rosenhaus on us or is UConn being less than honest about their recruiting again?
  5. Are we tired of talking about Anthony Davis and the alleged $200,000 yet?  As you know, over the weekend Davis’ father told anyone who would listen that the family was planning on suing the Chicago Sun-Times over its allegation that his son was for sale to the highest bidder on the open market.  Echoing our take on the matter (that this is much ado about nothing), Gary Parrish came correct with a witty piece describing how great the theater would be if people like John Calipari and Oliver Purnell were forced to give sworn testimony on the record.  Which is, of course, why there’s a greater chance of this computer turning into Amy Adams and flitting around the RTC offices like a winsome handmaid.
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Summer School in the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 7th, 2010

Jared Quillen from Big Blue Cats is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

News: At the spring meetings in Destin, Florida, SEC officials discussed scrapping the divisional format in conference tournament play. Under the current system, the top two teams in each division get a bye in the opening round of the SEC tournament. Going to a one-through-twelve seeding instead of two groups of one-through-six would effectively protect the top teams in the SEC, and increase the likelihood of the SEC getting five, six, or even seven teams in the NCAA tournament (the goal should be eight). Last year Mississippi State and Mississippi finished first and second, respectively, in the Western division, but only fifth and sixth overall in the conference behind Eastern division teams Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Florida, yet both teams were awarded opening round byes in the conference tournament and still missed the NCAA Tournament.

The West as a whole finished a putrid 9-27 against the East. Take away the West’s five wins against Georgia and it gets really ugly. Despite the uneven seeding the Eastern division managed to go 8-3 in the SEC tournament, so there is a strong case for going to a one-through-twelve tournament.

As you might expect, SEC West coaches wanted to keep the status quo. As Arkansas coach John Pelphrey put it, “There was a lot of discussion about it. I was for the way things are right now. Year in and year out, the fairest way to do it was to seed it by how you fare in your division,” which is pretty much what you would expect from a coach whose team finished third in the West but only seventh overall. “The problem is….you could have a team in the East that has a similar or same record as a team in the West, but it’s really a different record because of the teams you’re playing.” SEC teams play teams in their division twice and non-division opponents once. “What happens when you have two teams vying for a bye, and they have the same record?” as Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s where we came to a stalemate. We didn’t know what direction to go.”

Donovan highlights a good point as all of the coaches prefer keeping the current divisional format for league play and, as Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl explained, “There was some concern that if they re-seeded the SEC tournament one through twelve (like the Big 12), it would be the first step to doing away with the divisions.” In the end the SEC opted to do just as they did when other conferences were trading teams — nothing. It remains the opinion of Rush The Court, however, that the best and fairest system is to reward the teams with the best records and play a one through twelve tournament.

Coaching Carousel: On March 24th Tony Barbee was hired to replace Jeff Lebo at Auburn whose teams went 96-93 during Lebo’s six-year tenure. Barbee will be one of six coaches in the SEC with three years or less in the league, a list that includes up-and-comers Pelphrey (three years), Anthony Grant (two), Darrin Horn (two), Trent Johnson (two), and Mark Fox (one). With this crew in place, the SEC has a glut of rising coaches equaled by no conference in America.  The sad reality, however, is that there are only so many wins to go around, and some of these coaches are going to lose their up-and-coming status just as Kentucky’s Billy Gillispie and Georgia’s Dennis Felton did.

Recruiting: The SEC boasts 18 players in ESPN’s top 100, a number matched only by the ACC. Indeed, five of twelve SEC teams brought in at least two players in the top 100, including Kentucky with five. That’s the kind of talent the SEC’s going to need if the league is to reestablish itself as a dominant basketball conference.

Trent Johnson Has His Work Cut Out...

Power Rankings The following rankings are not necessarily a prediction of order of finish as much as an indicator of which teams have done the most to improve and to address deficiencies in the off-season.

  1. Kentucky – Kentucky’s entire team (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Pattrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton) went to the NBA. Kentucky also lost Perry Stevenson, Ramon Harris and Mark Krebs to graduation, and Darnell Dodson is gone for the season for undisclosed reasons. So what did John Calipari do? He signed the number one class in the America, again. Calipari’s haul includes five top 50 players in point guard Brandon Knight, shooting guard Doron Lamb, small forward Stacey Poole, power forwards Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter, and center Eloy Vargas who comes to Kentucky after playing one year at Florida and one year at Miami Dade College. The new Cats will be asked to contribute immediately as Kentucky will enter the 2010-11 season with only four returning scholarship players, two of which played less than five minutes per game last year. Time will tell, however, if number one in the summer power rankings translates into another SEC championship and deep NCAA run.
  2. Tennessee – Tennessee had as turbulent a season as any team in America last year, losing Tyler Smith for the season and Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams to suspension early in the year. After the Volunteers barely lost to Michigan State — just missing their first Final Four in the process — they also lost seniors Bobby Maze, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince. Coach Bruce Pearl has proven himself one of the better recruiters in the nation, however, and this year is no different. Pearl brings in top flight power forward Tobias Harris and talented shooting guards Jordan McRae and Trae Golden. Pearl also adds John Fields, a transfer from UNC Wilmington. Fields, a 6’9” forward who played one year after Wilmington after playing two years at East Carolina, will have one year of eligibility remaining and should be able to play immediately as NCAA rules allow a transfer player who has graduated to play immediately if he is enrolling in graduate school. Last year Fields averaged 10.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds in one season at Wilmington where he also set the school single game rebounding record with 21 against Towson.
  3. Florida – Florida could use a little depth up front and that’s about it. The Gators return their entire starting five and all but five of their 72 points per game. After just slipping into the NCAA Tournament last year, Florida enters the 2010-11 season as the SEC favorite and a legitimate top ten team. With no significant losses, freshmen power forwards Patric Young, Will Yeguete, and Cody Larsen will fill the final pieces in Florida’s march back to relevance after three less-than-stellar years following its two championships. Coach Donovan also brings in shooting guard Casey Prather and early high school graduate Scottie Wilbekin at point guard. Donovan is already adding talent for 2011, as well. Rutgers’ leading scorer Mike Rosario will sit out this season and be eligible for next year. Look for Donovan’s critics to hush now that the Gators are back on track. Read the rest of this entry »
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2010 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

After another summer of loud belly-aching, moaning and groaning about how the NBA’s one-and-done rule is methodically destroying college basketball as we know it, we’re left with the fact that, in reality, only eleven players from the prep class of 2009 found their way into the 2010 NBA Draft pool.  As it turns out, approximately 90% of the RSCI Top 100 players from last year’s freshman class will return to play another season of college basketball in 2010-11.  And this is not unusual.  In the four NBA Drafts where one-and-doners were forced to attend at least one year of college (2007-10), there have been a total of 35 such players, or around nine per season.  There are obvious problems with the NBA’s one-year rule that we won’t get into here, but we shouldn’t be losing our heads over what amounts to a handful of players each season.

And what about those players — how did it go for them?  We can safely presume that if you’re good enough to be one-and-done, a year in college probably worked out well enough for you (ahem, Tommy Mason-Griffin excepted).  But we’re more interested in the schools.  How did recruiting and ultimately matriculating a one-and-done player work out for those institutions?  Put in real terms, was bringing a player like Derrick Favors on campus at Georgia Tech for one year worthwhile?  What about Calipari’s den of young Cats?  You may recall that we did this school-centric analysis in each of the last three summers (2007, 2008, and 2009), and the basic conclusion that we’ve found is that one-and-done players have generally benefited their schools in the two areas that matter most: 1) wins; and 2) marketability.  Let’s take a closer look at this year’s group.

2010 One-and-Dones

Kentucky – Well Worth It. Say what you want about the meltdown of Calipari’s Cats in the Elite Eight against a tougher, more experienced West Virginia team, but the fact that Kentucky brought in the #1 recruiting class of 2009 and delivered on the implied promise that Cal’s system develops NBA draft picks is why his cadre of one-and-dones (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton) was well worth it.  And here’s the what behind the why: four five-star prospects arrive in Lexington next year (Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones) and two more are signed on for 2011 (Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) with several others lurking in the wings.  Not every one of these players will become a one-and-doner, so eventually Calipari will be able to season some experienced talent around his annual lottery pick arrivals (see: 2008 Memphis) to give himself a great chance to win that elusive national title.  As far as the difference in Q rating from the Gillispie era to now, it’s like that $22M/year Tiger Woods lost in endorsements since last November somehow ended up in Lexington as gold-plated streets.  UK has become the program du jour for the young, moneyed and hip, and when the head coach infamously stated that this year’s NBA Draft night was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he’s referring to marketability.  The pitch: come to Lexington, play a fun style of uptempo basketball, win 30-35 games, market your brand on television through our deals with CBS and ESPN, have a shot to win a title, meet celebrities such as LeBron James and Drake, and end up shaking David Stern’s hand in a year or two…  not exactly fraught with hard decisions.  If Calipari can keep his program in the headlines for the right reasons, this class will be looked at as the tipping point for a whole new era of Kentucky basketball.  Definitely well worth it.

John Wall Was Only the First of Many Cats to Meet Stern

Marshall – Well Worth It. If you recruit a player who wasn’t even ranked in the RSCI top 100 and he ends up dominating your league as a freshman center to the point of becoming the Conference USA defensive POY and leading the nation in blocked shots, it was well worth it.  Hassan Whiteside’s one year in Huntington led the Thundering Herd to its best season in over two decades, culminating in a fourth-place finish in CUSA, big late-season wins over UAB and Tulsa, and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIT.  For a program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1987, any postseason appearance is a great year, and Whiteside’s patrolling of the paint had no small part in it.  The unfortunate part of Whiteside’s meteoric rise is that the Herd had such a good season that as a result it also lost its head coach Donnie Jones, which may impact the long-term marketability aspect of Whiteside’s year there.  Nevertheless, we doubt anyone at Marshall regrets the year that both Whiteside and Jones resided in Huntington together, so we think that this was a huge boost for a mid-major program not used to having such players around.

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Morning Five: 07.22.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

  1. It’s not every day you wake up to a Twitter argument about John Wall’s grades (Eric Bledsoe’s were notably not discussed), but that’s what happened to Mike DeCourcy yesterday after writing the following tweet before bed Tuesday night:  Tsnmike: So all the people squawking about one-and-dones not going to class in spring — how does that reconcile with John Wall on SEC honor roll? DeCourcy was attacked on several fronts but the most compelling line of inquiry was whether Wall academically represents the ‘typical’ one-and-doner.  Those guys get up way too early for us to have joined the conversation in real time, but our uneducated sense is that Wall is an exception and the one-and-doners are probably no different than any other athlete who decides to leave school early.
  2. The best piece on Dean Smith’s current condition that we have seen is by Joe Posnanski over at SI.  The piece about Brian Reese potentially blowing a trip to the Final Four by not following Smith’s precise orders is phenomenal.  Read it.
  3. While we’re discussing Tobacco Road legends, we should mention this article by Dan Wiederer who discusses all the Duke fingerprints that are on the US national teams this summer.  A great point by Coach K when he notes that many of the top high school prospects chose to play for the national teams rather than AAU ball, a development that will undoubtedly mature their games in ways they could not imagine on the summer circuit.
  4. Former Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to the charge that he shoplifted a $1,395 Ralph Lauren bag from the Mall at Short Hills in Essex County, New Jersey.  We’d like to say that at least he has good taste, but, uh, well…
  5. Andy Katz reports that the NCAA’s top official, John Adams, has spent much of the last month meeting with the four Final Four head coaches and listening to feedback as to how to improve his teams of zebras.  We think Katz hits on the correct point in his piece when he points out that Adams only has limited control of officials, more specifically only during the NCAA Tournament.  If any real change is to occur, he needs to get the leagues on board with it so that a foul in the Big Ten is the same thing as one in the ACC.
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Morning Five: 07.15.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 15th, 2010

  1. The annual ESPYs were held last night in Los Angeles, and there were a few college basketball-relevant winners in the mix.  The most notable was in the Best Upset category, with Northern Iowa’s elephant-sized win over top-ranked Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  Duke’s men’s athletic program was named the best collegiate sports program, undoubtedly in no small part due to the hoops Devils’ fourth national title in Indy, while the best Male College Athlete was Kentucky’s John Wall.
  2. A brilliant idea from our friends over at College Chalktalk.  To honor John Wooden’s lifetime of humanitarianism and excellence, CCT has had the UCLA coaching staff in addition to several other notable teachers (such as Rick Barnes, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, and Tubby Smith) give their thoughts on a particular block of the Pyramid of Success.  Our favorite so far: Bobby Hurley’s piece on Alertness.
  3. Speaking of Wooden, the family of the exalted coach has decided to continue with the Wooden Classic in 2010, the seventeenth edition of the event.  Rebuilding UCLA will play Pac-10 pass-over BYU, while St. Mary’s and local Big West favorite Long Beach State will tip the other matchup.
  4. Jason Jeffries, the former assistant director of ticket operations at Kansas, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with federal authorities to identify if any other principals were involved and what, if any, crimes may have occurred.  But the most interesting part of this story is that the federal judge assigned to his case  (Wesley E. Brown) got the job when all three Topeka federal judges recused themselves for no reason.  Even odder, Brown, at 103 years young, is the oldest sitting judge in the entire federal system.  During the hearing, he even made mention of “the Twitter,” a creation that was barely a year old when Brown hit triple digits.  Amazing stuff.
  5. In Robert Tuchman’s list of his favorite ten Sporting Events You Must See Live, there are two relating to college sports.  One is fairly obvious — Michigan vs. Ohio State football in the Big House; but the other one isn’t Duke-UNC in Cameron or even the Final Four.  It’s Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness event, taking place on the first Friday after October 15 every year.  Bold choice.
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Morning Five: 07.12.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 12th, 2010

We’re back from the weekend with a great set of links from the past three days that caught our eye.

  1. Luke Winn with another great piece for SI. This time it is on Abdul Gaddy, who came out of high school last year rated just behind John Wall, but struggled in his first year at Washington. Gaddy was stuck behind Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton at Washington last season (both back this year too) and behind Kyrie Irving this summer on the U18 team, but both of his coaches Lorenzo Romar (at Washington) and Jeff Capel (on the US team) think he will develop into a solid player. We will be watching the development of Gaddy, who was just 17 years old for most of last season, with interest to see if he ever develops into the star many predicted him to be.
  2. We have to hand it to Bruce Pearl for picking up UNC-Wilmington transfer John Fields, who left the Seahawks after averaging 10.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game in his one season there. Fields has one more year of eligibility left and should add depth to a solid Volunteer team. He left the Seahawk program after a tumultuous season in which the head coach who had recruited him (Benny Moss) was fired at mid-season and replaced by Buzz Peterson. Because Fields will enroll in Tennessee’s graduate sports management program that was not available at his previous school, he will not have to sit out one season before playing for the Volunteers. We bet there’s another ACC team wouldn’t have minded picking up a little extra depth on the inside next season. We have a short clip from a local Tennessee news station interviewing Fields below.
  3. It looks like Jon Scheyer might be moving from one championship team (Duke) to the Las Vegas favorites to win another championship (Miami Heat–we aren’t ready to hand them the title yet). Scheyer possesses several qualities as a player that the Heat need (reliable shooter who doesn’t make many mistakes and above all else will be cheap), but he won’t help in one area in which the Heat desperately need a boost — defense. We’re wondering if Coach K might lobby his USA National Team players (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) on behalf of his recently departed star guard.
  4. Speaking of the Miami Heat, Frank Haith believes that the arrival of LeBron and Bosh will be a tremendous tool for the Hurricanes’ recruiting. We aren’t buying it for a second unless the three decide to pay back the NCAA all the money they have made in professional basketball and chase a NCAA title with Haith as their coach. The arrival of LeBron in Cleveland did absolutely nothing for college basketball in that area. LeBron may have helped his former high school coach Keith Dambrot, now at Akron, land a few recruits in the MAC, but just his presence in the city (and we don’t think he will do a single thing to help Miami recruit college players) will do absolutely nothing in the ACC against the likes of Coach K or Roy Williams actually coaching the players.
  5. When we first heard about the strange situation brewing out in Chicago where new DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell is refusing to release recruit Walter Pitchford from his signed national letter of intent we had flashbacks to the Randy Shannon/Robert Marve fiasco down in Miami in 2008 that got ugly very quickly. However, one-time RTC interview subject Adam Zagoria scooped everybody with the news that DePaul had released Pitchford from his signed commitment.
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Morning Five: 07.05.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2010

Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and patriotic ID4 weekend.

  1. Sometime this week — perhaps today, but our bet is on tomorrow — the NCAA will announce that it has decided what to do about the four Play-In Games for next year’s and subsequent NCAA Tournaments.  So far we haven’t caught wind of any leaks from among the Committee (where are ya, Andy Katz?), but we’ll lay odds on each of the three stated options.  1) PiGs populated by #16/#17 seeds (odds – 2:1); 2) PiGs populated by last eight at-large teams (odds – 5:1); 3) mixture of the two (odds – 7:2).  We’re truly hopeful that the Committee will somehow incorporate the last few at-large teams into the play-in mix, but we’re not expecting that to happen.
  2. On Friday, TMZ reported that the NCAA is investigating “two current and two” former Kentucky players for contacts with agents that may have jeopardized their eligibility to play college basketball (note: Sports by Brooks reports one of the players to be John Wall).  Your immediate reaction of “TMZ?” followed by a complete and utter lack of shock that John Calipari’s players would be accused of this, is forgivable?  Well, the truth is that TMZ broke the Tiny Gallon/Oklahoma violation back in March so their credibility on this issue might have more weight than considered at first blush, but it is somewhat disconcerting that the report failed to name anyone as explicitly as they did with Gallon.  UK fans are rightfully skeptical with so few details yet released, but we’re not prepared to dismiss TMZ based on rumor-mongering alone because as far as we know, they’re currently hitting 100% on breaking recruiting violation stories (we know of no other recruiting story they broke that was wrong).
  3. Georgia Athletic Director Damon Evans…  we don’t meant to call you stupid, but you’re all kinds of stupid.
  4. UCLA guards Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb had surgeries last week to continue the yearlong injury bug that has befallen the program.  Neither are expected to be out for long, but you never know with the bad luck that the Bruins have experienced lately.
  5. We’re really not sure how we feel about this, but we’re incredibly hopeful that it works out.  Former Tennessee forward Emmanuel Negedu has reportedly been cleared to play next season at New Mexico, providing an immediate lift to Steve Alford’s team as they recover from losing two of the best players in its history this offseason.  Negedu of course collapsed and his heart stopped beating for a while last fall during workouts at UT.
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SEC Media Notes: 06.29.10

Posted by nvr1983 on June 29th, 2010

As part of our attempt to continue to provide you with the best independent college basketball information on the Internet we will periodically bring you information from conference media calls. Today’s entry comes from the SEC, which amazingly was not affected what could have been a massive conference shake-up.

Ed. Note: The conference call actually took place on Monday, but I had an ophthalmologist appointment and I’m pretty sure that they used just about the entire bottle of eye drops to dilate my eyes so I’m just starting to see straight again. The below entries are my some of the key points the coaches made, but are not direct quotes. If you want to listen to the coaches speak directly, click on the link next to their name.

Anthony Grant (Alabama)Audio
- Defense: Last year their defense gave them a chance to be in every game that they played, but they had to have that solid defense because their offense was not always there.
- Returning players: Senario Hillman one of elite athletes in the SEC and can guard multiple positions. He will need to improve shot selection and decision-making, but is making strides. JaMychal Green adds size and strength to the frontcourt, which is as good as any team in the SEC. Should improve with an extra year of experience. Tony Mitchell had a very good freshman year and being named to SEC All-Freshman team was an accomplishment. Grant is looking for the players to make a jump between their first and second year in the Alabama program.

Tony Barbee (Auburn)Audio / Key Quotes
- Lack of Experience: Starting over is exciting because you get to mold a new group of players. It will be hard to judge what he has until he sees the team together in the Fall.
- Plan: Focus on defense because they could be “offensively challenged” because they don’t know what they have outside of Frankie Sullivan. Given their lack of size on the inside they might have to focus on their offense around the 3-point line.

John Pelphrey (Arkansas)Audio
- Frontcourt: They have Marshawn Powell on the inside, but will need to develop more on the inside to help support him.
- APR: We’re all working very hard. We want to see these young men improve in the classroom and on the court. He isn’t sure statistics over the short-term can adequately reflect the academic performance of a program, but is open to more long-term measures.
- Andre Clark: Aware of the transfer to TCU and does talk with players who have transferred if they contact him about an issue.

Billy Donovan (Florida)Audio
- Backcourt: Didn’t know what to expect coming into last season having lost Nick Calathes. Irving Walker played his freshman year at 2 guard spot. Kenny Boynton came in with huge reputation out of high school, but you’re never sure with them making the jump. Limited depth in the backcourt meant those two played more minutes than they probably should have, which meant they couldn’t do some of the stuff they would have otherwise done such as press. Coming into this year with the experience should be helpful for those two coming into this season. Still some issues with depth in the backcourt this year although they are adding freshmen Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather to the backcourt.
- Alex Tyus: First UF player to put his name in the NBA Draft and return to UF. It was Alex’s decision. He worked out with a couple of NBA teams and listened to what NBA had to say about where he might go. No pressure from UF to come back. Donovan feels that process is only going to help the Gators going forward.
- Patric Young: Very physical and aggressive player, but needs some work on the inside. In the near term he will bring energy and a great rebounding presence to the Gators.

Mark Fox (Georgia)Audio
- Marcus Thornton: Really big boost after picking him up following his release from his letter of intent from Clemson. Gives Georgia a lot of options because of his versatility.
- Trey Thompkins: Had discussion with family and got info from NBA. Felt it wasn’t appropriate. Only would be able to work out for 1 or 2 days due to final exams and the new NBA Draft withdrawal deadlines.
- Turnovers: Feels they will take better care of the ball and they should also be able to create more turnovers on the defensive end, which should create more easy baskets.

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