Previewing Ohio State vs. Purdue: Focus on the Supporting Casts

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 4th, 2015

If you were asked to pick the players who will be key performers in tonight’s battle between 6-3 teams Purdue and Ohio State, names like D’Angelo Russell, AJ Hammons, and Shannon Scott would probably be your first answers. Certainly those players will have an impact on the outcome of this important mid-conference season game, but there are also a few other names who will be important as well. Three players in tonight’s battle who log heavy minutes have been trending up over the last two weeks, and here’s who each is poised to make a meaningful impact.

Raphael Davis has carried his share of the weight this season for Purdue. (Mike Fenner, Indianapolis Star)

Raphael Davis has carried his share of the weight this season for Purdue. (Mike Fenner, Indianapolis Star)

  • Raphael Davis, Purdue: Davis has been Purdue’s defensive go-to-guy, as he’s able to guard the gamut from point guards to power forwards. He may face his biggest challenge of the season tonight, though, as he’ll likely have the primary responsibility in trying to shut down the Buckeyes’ Russell. He has proven capable of harassing Michigan’s Caris LeVert, among others, this season, but his focus shouldn’t necessarily be to completely shut the star freshman down. Russell is seemingly getting any shot he wants within the Ohio State offense, so if Davis can force him right and be physical with him without fouling, the Buckeyes will struggle to put points on the board.
  • Jae’Sean Tate, Ohio State: Tate should be mentioned on any list of the B1G’s top freshmen after his play since entering Ohio State’s starting lineup. He’s accounted for 12.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 51.4 percent shooting from the field since becoming a starter. Much like Davis, Tate brings great energy and tenaciousness that will be vastly important tonight. He’ll likely have to bang with both Hammons and Isaac Haas at some point, and despite giving up considerable height, may be able to use his quickness to get to the rim and to create some second-chance opportunities.

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Separating Fact From Fiction in UCLA’s Five-Game Slide

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 8th, 2015

I touched on the disaster that is UCLA basketball this season in Tuesday’s quick spin around the conference. And, the thing is, so did just about every writer either interested in UCLA, the Pac-12 or — given that UCLA is one of our sports’ blue-blood programs — college basketball on a national level. Having listened to everyone else’s takes, there’s plenty to agree with and plenty to disagree with. Below we’ll take a look at some of these takes and try to determine their relative truthiness, ranking each statement on a scale of 1 – completely false – to 10 – right on the money.

With UCLA On A Five-Game Slide, The Alford Family Is Firmly In The Sights of UCLA Loyalists (AP Photo)

With UCLA On A Five-Game Slide, The Alford Family Is Firmly In The Sights of UCLA Loyalists (AP Photo)

Bryce Alford is the Problem

Last week’s Bryce Alford numbers we’re off-the-charts bad: 2-of-26 from the field and 0-of-13 from three, if you need a reminder. Some see the more damning part of this the fact that he continued to shoot the ball as the misses piled up. Shots continue to go up; other players stand around and watch; Alford doesn’t do a whole lot to make his teammates better. And, frankly, as the point guard, he’s got to take the bulk of the blame when the offense he is running is sputtering so badly. Since the Kentucky game, UCLA is scoring 0.7 points per possession, and on the year, the Bruins rank 134th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating.

Truthiness score: 5. Right in the middle. The younger Alford deserves some of the criticism, but, as we’ll get to in the next point, probably not the bulk of it.

Bryce Alford is UCLA’s Best Player, and That’s the Problem

This was Gary Parrish’s take in Monday’s CBS College Basketball podcast, and to paraphrase: “Alford didn’t play well this week, but you know what? He’s still the team’s best player and that’s a scary proposition for a program the quality of UCLA.” Let’s start with the first part of that point. Is Alford UCLA’s best player? Not just yes, but hell yes, of course, clearly to anyone with eyes, and probably to most people without. He is the only player on this team that can reliably go and get his own shot on a regular basis. He’s the team’s best shooter from range. He’s the best player on the team at creating shots for his teammates. Look at the KenPom numbers for starters. His 111.3 offensive rating is by far the best on the team; he’s been over 100.0 in that metric in 11 of UCLA’s 15 games (although clearly under it in the last three); he’s assisting on better than a third of all of his teammates’ hoops when he’s on the floor (good for 45th in the nation); and he’s drilling 32 percent of his shots from deep (even with that oh-fer last week) and 91 percent from the line. Make no mistake, Bryce Alford is a very good basketball player. But should he – a guy with no realistic NBA prospects – be the best player at UCLA? Probably not.

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Introducing the Big Ten Point Guard Title Belt

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 8th, 2015

Point guard play has been the difference in many games involving Big Ten teams this season, but if fans who follow the league were asked to name its best floor general, several different answers would be given. Do you value a scoring guard like Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell or do you fancy a pass-first type like Ohio State’s Shannon Scott. Each team around the conference has a point guard who impacts the team’s bottom line by how or well or poorly they play on a given night, so how do you determine which player is the best? It’s a tricky question, but one that I’ve decided to tackle here. Per KenPom’s metrics, considering all point guards who have played at least 50.0 percent of their teams’ available minutes, there are 18 eligible Big Ten players. That group was then rank-ordered into five categories: free throw percentage; assist-to-turnover ratio; assist rate; effective field goal percentage; and steal rate.

Shannon Scott is one of the best point guards in the B1G, but is he the best?(AP)

Shannon Scott is one of the best point guards in the B1G, but is he the best?(AP)

These five metrics could arguably be tweaked or weighted by importance, but each represents a valuable commodity for someone who has the ball in his hands for a good portion of the game. Good point guards need to make free throws; they are expected to get their teammates involved; and they have to either be a capable shooter from behind the arc or get into the lane for high percentage shots. Defensively, a point guard needs to be able to pressure and irritate their assignments, and while steal rate isn’t a perfect indicator, individual defensive metrics are notoriously difficult to compare. Keeping in mind that statistics are only one part of the equation in evaluating players, after compiling the rankings, the top five came out as follows (in no particular order):

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #14 to #10

Posted by Eric Clark on November 11th, 2014

With college basketball’s regular season finally tipping off on Friday, the time has come for the Big Ten microsite writers to make their predictions public. We’ll begin by showcasing the five projected bottom-feeders of the Big Ten, the teams we forecast to finish from 14th to 10th.

14. Rutgers

  • What they do well: There won’t be many positives for Rutgers in its inaugural Big Ten season — especially after three would-be seniors transferred during the offseason – but it looks like head coach Eddie Jordan brought in a solid recruiting class. His prized recruit is junior Bishop Daniels, a transfer from ASA College in New York City. Daniels, a former Miami player, will help solidify Rutgers’ backcourt with last year’s leading scorer, Myles Mack.
  • What they don’t do well: Rebound. The Scarlet Knights only had two players average more than six rebounds per game last season (Kadeem Jack and Wally Judge), and Judge is no longer with the team. Rutgers was eighth in the AAC last season in rebounding margin, averaging 1.8 fewer rebounds per game than their opponents. Ten of the 12 Big Ten teams, on the other hand, had positive margins.
Myles Mack will be one of the lone bright spots in Rutgers' inaugural Big Ten season.

Myles Mack will be one of the lone bright spots in Rutgers’ inaugural Big Ten season.

  • Get to know: Kadeem Jack. Jack is Rutgers’ lone established presence in the post on an otherwise young and inexperienced roster. The 6’9″ senior grabbed almost seven rebounds per game last year and shot 50 percent from the field. He’s likely the only Big Ten-caliber forward on the team.
  • Why they’ll finish 14th: Rutgers lost three senior players via transfer and has only two players, Mack and Jack, who have proven that they’re ready for Big Ten basketball. Defenses will key on those two, leaving an inexperienced cast to do – or rather, try to do – most of the heavy lifting. Eddie Jordan will overuse the phrase “growing pains” this season.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: Bishop Daniels has no problem adjusting back to Division I basketball, and freshman Mike Williams establishes himself as one of the best long-range shooters in the conference. Kadeem Jack thrives down low with the outside presence of Jack, Daniels and Williams.

13. Northwestern

  • What they do well: Defend – at least, better than the Wildcats used to. Head coach Chris Collins made a concerted effort to move away from the “open door policy” defense that plagued Northwestern in Bill Carmody’s final years at the helm. Collins’ team held opponents to a 41.1 percent field goal shooting last year, good enough for third in the conference.
  • What they don’t do well: Score. The Wildcats ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring last season, averaging 59.5 points per game. Illinois, which ranked second-to-last, averaged almost five more points per game. The Wildcats also were last in the Big Ten in field goal percentage.

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Ten Offseason Storylines From the Big Ten

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 15th, 2014

We’re about a month away from Big Ten basketball once again being a part of our lives. Things at the B1G microsite have been quiet since then, but that doesn’t mean nothing has happened since last April. So here’s a quick refresher to get everybody back up to speed since we last saw Wisconsin lose a heart-breaker to Kentucky in the Final Four. These 10 offseason storylines are in no particular order, but they will impact what will happen this season.

Frank Kaminsky came back to school for his senior season to lead a veteran Wisconsin team with a chance to go back to the  Final Four. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Frank Kaminsky came back to school for his senior season to lead a veteran Wisconsin team with a chance to go back to the
Final Four. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker Returned to School: Postseason souting reports had Kaminsky going everywhere from #15 to #45 in the NBA Draft, even after a regular season where he led the Badgers in scoring and contributed NCAA Tournament averages of 16.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG on 55 percent shooting from the field. Dekker probably could have pursued NBA riches as well, but they both came back to Madison, making the Badgers — with two other returning starters in Josh Gasser and Traveon Jackson — an almost unanimous conference favorite.
  • Gary Harris and a Quartet of Michigan Players Didn’t: Things aren’t quite as rosy in East Lansing or Ann Arbor as far as preseason outlooks go. That’s because to the surprise of almost no one Gary Harris departed for the NBA after his sophomore year. This means that the Spartans will be without three of their four double-figure scorers from last season’s Elite Eight team. Meanwhile, Michigan is rebuilding things from scratch after the early NBA departures of sophomores Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary. None of the trio was ever a sure thing to jump to the pros, but things got especially wonky when it was learned that McGary would be suspended for the entire 2014-15 season due to a positive drug test during the NCAA tournament. Another Michigan gut punch was the transfer of Jon Horford to Florida, leaving the Wolverines with almost no experience on the front line heading into this season.

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Morning Five: 10.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. He has not coached a game yet, but the Steve Wojciechowski era is already off to a great start. Prior to yesterday, he already had three four-star recruits for his 2015 recruiting class and then he topped it off with the commitment of Henry Ellenson to Marquette. We will point out that Wojciechowski had a huge edge in this recruitment–Henry’s brother Wally transferred to Marquette earlier this summer and that they are from Wisconsin–but he still managed to beat out Michigan State and Kentucky for Henry, a top 10 recruit in the class of 2015. There are already some who are criticizing the commitment saying that this is a package deal since Wally, who averaged just 2 points per game at Minnesota, received a scholarship, but package deals are hardly unique in college sports although they typically involve someone getting an assistant coaching job or something along those lines and while Wally is certainly not a star he did play for a legitimate high major program last year.
  2. After having to back out of his transfer to UCLA when he was not accepted into the school, Jon Octeus has found a new home with his decision to transfer to Purdue. Octeus, who averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game at Colorado State, had originally attempted to transfer to UCLA as a graduate student, but was denied admission to the school, which was a huge blow to the Bruins and might have been the first time we had heard of a graduate student basketball transfer being denied admission. Although the school’s press release does not officially say that he has been admitted (just says that he is pursuing a “Master’s degree in the school of technology”) we are assuming he would not make the same mistake twice. Operating under the assumption that he got admitted this time, Octeus, who would be eligible to play immediately with a graduate transfer waiver, should provide the Boilermakers with a steady influence to balance out what should be their strength inside with A.J. Hammons, 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last year, returning.
  3. With the way that things appeared to be going for suspended Texas guard Martez Walker the announcement that he had withdrawn from the school should not be that surprising. Walker, who was arrested a month ago for what was described as a domestic violence incident and was arrested again a week later for violating an order not to be in an on-campus residence hall, had been suspended indefinitely and at the time of his first arrest we noted that he probably would not be back any time soon given all of the media attention around athletes and domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice video. In the end, Walker, a reserve who averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game and was not expected to see a significantly increased role, opted to leave the school. We have no idea where he will end up next, but we hope he can get his life together.
  4. The commitment of Doral Moore to Wake Forest might not make headlines like Ellenson’s commitment to Marquette, but it was still big for Danny Manning. Moore, a four-star center, committed to Wake Forest after a visit to Winston-Salem this past weekend. He had also been considering Illinois and Kentucky before deciding on Wake Forest. As Jeff Borzello notes Moore has the potential to develop into a much better prospect than he is currently rated and unlike Ellenson and more highly touted prospect he is much more likely to stick around for a few years.
  5. We mentioned the transfer of Jon Octeus earlier and although he is not on Jeff Eisenberg’s list of impact transfers (presumably due to the timing of his announcement) he is just one example of how important these transfers can be. Eisenberg’s list covers many names that you should be familiar with including a few you may have forgotten about (especially if they had to sit out that dreaded one year instead of getting the now ubiquitous exemption). If you  haven’t kept up with transfer movements or just need a little refresher this might be a good place to start before you get caught off guard at the start of the season.
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Morning Five: 09.16.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 16th, 2014

morning5

  1. Louisville‘s banner 2015 recruiting class just took a big hit as Antonio Blakeney announced (sort of) that he would be reopening his recruitment after committing to play at Louisville less than two weeks ago. The reasons for his decision were not disclosed, but at least one analyst went on record saying that the decision was related to shoe company affiliation. Although it is uncommon for a recruit to go back to a school after reopening his commitment there have been a handful of high-profile cases in recent years. If Blakeney decides to move on, the smart money would be on one of his other five finalists: Florida State, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Oregon, and USC. We will let you take a look at that list and do the math on which one is not like the others.
  2. With the United States winning the World Cup of Basketball we expected much of the talk following the event to focus on the dominant performance by this team and possibly calls for the United States to return to playing with either college players or at least to field a younger team. That thought was turned on its head with Adrian Wojnarowski’s column essentially saying that the only person benefiting from the current situation was Mike Krzyzewski. While we do agree with some of the points in the article–particularly the nice recruiting benefit that Krzyzewski gets as the coach of a variety of NBA superstars–the idea is not much different than many of the other college coaches who coach international teams including some who coach foreign countries even when they have no known prior association with that country. Overall, the column feels a little bit too much like a hit piece and as many have pointed out the situation certainly benefits Krzyzewski, but it has helped some NBA players further their games and Krzyzewski would hardly be alone in using someone else’s platform to lift him and his program up another level.
  3. It has been a rough few days in Pauley Pavilion. Just a few days after incoming Australian freshman Jonah Bolden a partial qualifier unable to play this year, according to reports UCLA denied admission to transfer point guard Jon Octeus. A graduate transfer from Colorado State, where he averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, Octeus was expected to help replace the output the Bruins lost with Kyle Anderson’s departure. Unfortunately for Octeus, who left Colorado State to go to UCLA to help his prospects of playing in the NBA in what he described as “a business decision” (so much for the academic transfer), the Rams already filled their roster. Octeus had been looking at Tennessee, Missouri, and Cincinnati prior to committing to UCLA so there is a chance he could end up there although we are not sure the mechanics of how quickly a graduate transfer would work especially since many schools would have already started. As for the Bruins, they are left to try to piece together what should be a disjointed backcourt that would have been held together by Octeus’ presence.
  4. After taking a four-month medical leave of absence, Alan Major has returned to his position as head coach. Major, who underwent a pair of surgeries for glaucoma as well as a procedure for an arrhythmia, had taken a leave of absence in May so he did not miss any games. In the interim, three assistants managed the day-to-day operations and will probably handle some of that responsibility as Major eases back into his job. In his four seasons at Charlotte, Major has compiled a 61-63 record, but has shown steady improvement going from a 10-20 his first year to over .500 the past two years.
  5. In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal there has been increased interest around the issue of domestic violence (something that should have been a bigger issue long ago). In general we don’t see too many issues in college basketball, but it does happen occasionally as it occurs to have happened with Texas guard Martez Walker, who was suspended indefinitely after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Walker, who averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last season, will have to deal with the legal system in much the same way that others before him have, but based on public sentiment after the Ray Rice elevator assault video was released as well as the victim’s report that this was not the first episode we doubt that we will see Walker in a Longhorn jersey anytime soon.
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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 19th, 2013

Last year about this time, the Mountain West’s record as a collective was 27-3. Sure, there wasn’t a large number of top shelf wins among those 27, but they were wins. This year the teams are a combined 19-12. UNLV lost by 21 at home to UC Santa Barbara. Colorado State got drilled by 32 at Gonzaga. Nevada lost at home to Pacific. Fresno State lost by 21 at Pitt. Air Force has lost to Jackson State and VMI. And newcomer San Jose State has lost to everybody it has faced, and that certainly hasn’t been a murderer’s row. Last year, the conference as a whole rode its strong RPI numbers, built up by a collection of a mostly good teams, to a best-ever five NCAA Tournament bids. This year, it remains to be seen just how good teams the teams at the top are, while the middle of the conference seems significantly weaker than it was last year, and the bottom of the conference even worse. Too long, didn’t read? The takeaway is there isn’t a chance in a million that the Mountain West sends five teams dancing this year.

Team of the Week

Utah State – The Aggies are one of the newcomers in the conference, but they’re off to a fine start, having won all three of their games including one over USC and another over that UCSB team that beat up on MW heavyweight UNLV. Behind veteran trio Spencer Butterfield, Preston Medlin and Jarred Shaw, Utah State looks like it will have an easy transition to its new conference.

Cameron Bairstow Has Been On Fire Out Of The Gate For the Lobos (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

Bairstow Has Been On Fire Out Of The Gate For the Lobos (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

Player of the Week

Cameron Bairstow, Sr, New Mexico – There may not be a player in the country who has improved as much as Bairstow in his four years in Albuquerque. As a freshman, he was notable only for his below-the-rim, scrappy style, as he averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game and fewer than three points per outing. But thus far this season, the 6’9” Aussie has been almost unstoppable, averaging 25.5 points, eight rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, all while shooting 78.3 percent from the field. Oh, and not to be outdone, his frontcourt mate Alex Kirk has double-doubled in both his games on the way to 20 points and 12 rebounds per game averages.

Newcomer of the Week

Paul Watson, Fr, Fresno State – The 6’6” freshman out of Phoenix doesn’t have the type of body yet to lead you to believe he would succeed playing up front in major college basketball. But out of necessity, Watson has been forced to play the role of a big man for the Bulldogs. And, so far so good, as he’s averaged five rebounds a night, has scored both around the basket and from deep, and has eaten up minutes. There’s a big future for this Dog.

Power Rankings

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on March 5th, 2013

CIO header

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Conference Round-up

It started out way back when with three teams – UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico – the teams expected to compete for the conference title. It quickly became apparent that Colorado State deserved to be among that group as well, while a few other teams – Wyoming, Boise State and even Air Force – had their moments in the sun. At one point or another in the season, seven different Mountain West teams could have reasonably dreamed of NCAA Tournament bids to come. And now, with a week remaining in conference play, many of our questions have been answered. New Mexico’s the conference champ, there will be at least four teams dancing (and probably a fifth), and it will be a disappointment if the conference doesn’t advance at least one team to the Sweet Sixteen. All told, it is without a doubt the deepest this conference has ever been. It may not have the elite teams that the conference had in 2011 when both San Diego State and BYU advanced to the Sweet Sixteen (and each were just a shot away from the Elite Eight), but there is still a strong opportunity for one of these teams to make a big run over the next month.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

Boise State – While it was New Mexico that clinched the conference title outright this week, we’re going to give the nod to the Broncos, a team that went a long way towards securing an invitation to the Big Dance with wins over Nevada and Colorado State. Boise clamped down defensively this week and got big scoring outputs from Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks to ensure themselves a .500 conference record. They’d still be wise not to let up quite yet, but Leon Rice’s club has put itself in good position to earn just its sixth NCAA Tournament invitation in its history.

Derrick Marks Exploded Against Colorado State For One Of The Year's Best Offensive Displays

Derrick Marks Exploded Against Colorado State For One Of The Year’s Best Offensive Displays

Player of the Week

Derrick Marks, Sophomore, Boise State – Way back in late November, Marks scored 18 straight points for his team in the second half of an upset at Creighton. This past week, with his team in need of another big win, Marks again went nuts in the second half, scoring 24 in a row for the Broncos and making all 11 of his shots from the field on his way to a career high 38 points in a big win over Colorado State. For the week, Marks averaged 22 points, six rebounds, 5.5 assists per game and shot a 68%  eFG.

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