Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent and Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report from Omaha after Creighton’s 71-51 victory over North Texas tonight. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.
The Tony Mitchell Show began with a fast-break dunk in the opening minutes and continued with a block, a three-pointer from the wing, another swat, a monstrous slam off an offensive rebound and, finally, a loud, piercing scream of raw emotion directed toward the sold-out CenturyLink Center crowd. The public address announcer continued to call that name in monotone – Tony Mitchell – as he racked up nine points, two dunks and two blocks in the first eight minutes of the game to put himself on pace for numbers that would make ESPN look foolish for failing to televise this matchup against All-American Doug McDermott and Creighton.
Doug McDermott Isn’t the Only Bluejay on His Team (ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD)
A funny thing happened, though, as the game progressed. North Texas, the consensus Sun Belt favorite but a team heavily reliant on underclassmen, began to crumble when Mitchell struggled offensively. A Mean Green offensive drought turned into a double-digit deficit, and by the end of the half, Mitchell sat on the bench with two fouls as his team fell out of contention. Suddenly, it became apparent that this wasn’t the Tony Mitchell Show or the Doug McDermott Show, nor was this game simply an individual battle between Tony Mitchell and Doug McDermott. Instead, the 71-51 throttling was a testament to the potential and limitless ceiling of this Creighton team. More importantly, it was a testament to the fact that the Mean Green have a long, long way to go. Still, this was no Division II school to open 2012-13 season—instead, the Bluejays welcomed one of the nation’s top players in Mitchell and a team with serious NCAA Tournament hopes. “I don’t know if I’ve been as nervous for an opening game for this one than I have been in 24 years of doing this,” coach Greg McDermott said. “I thought it was a great idea when we scheduled it, and then all this week I thought it was a terrible idea.”
Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.
The Week That Was
Now off to the best start in program history, Middle Tennessee has its sights set on more than just a Sun Belt East Division title. Instead, the Blue Raiders have positioned themselves for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, especially if they can win at Vanderbilt in an out-of-conference tilt this weekend. At 20-2, MTSU has not lost in league play yet, and it leads preseason favorite Florida Atlantic by four games in the win column. Joe Lunardi from the vaunted four-letter network has the Blue Raiders in the NCAAs as a #12 seed, so they may actually have a little breathing room if they fail to win the SBC tourney. Of course, this is all moot if they stumble down the stretch in conference play.
A lot of teams have beaten Lousiana-Monroe this season — 19, to be exact. But during the Warhawks woeful 2-19 season, no team has come close to what Troy did to them last weekend. The Trojans, never shy to jack up three-pointers under coach Don Maestri, tied an NCAA record by making 11 straight three-pointers in a 91-63 victory. Overall, Troy made 15 threes, and that streak of 11 threes ties marks set by Niagara and Eastern Kentucky in 1997. The statistics get better and better, too. Troy made almost as many threes (15) as twos (15), and Justin Wright tied his career-high with four made treys. And as for the Warhawks? They made a measly six three-pointers.
Middle Tennessee (20-2, 9-0): Nothing has changed since our last update two weeks ago. The Blue Raiders, who entered the season as a questionable pick in the East because of offensive concerns, are far and away the best team in the Sun Belt Conference. It’s to the point where Middle Tennessee can no longer judge itself purely by the wins it amasses. Rather, it looks as though this team could beat just about anybody when March rolls around. That’s because the Blue Raiders hound opponents on the defensive end and have the size of a major-conference squad. Bruce Massey has also played terrific basketball on both ends of the floor, as he’s been a catalyst for this team’s 20-2 start.
Bruce Massey (13) Has Been A Catalyst For Middle Tennessee
Florida Atlantic (9-12, 5-3): With a few close victories over rival FIU and Western Kentucky, the Owls are back on track. Unlike North Texas last season, which fell from preseason consensus favorite to middle-0f-the-pack, FAU actually has a chance to turn this thing around in 2011-12. It’s not dead yet, but it may need to run the table from here on out to have any chance of catching Middle Tennessee. Point guard Ray Taylor still doesn’t look like the Player of the Year candidate he should be, but he’s starting to play better after a tough start to the season. If he gets his game going, this team could make a late push. Read the rest of this entry »
Fayetteville Observer: It’s December, which means it’s time for the dreaded “guarantee” games. But the games serve a purpose. They make money for both teams; they give players more time to study for finals, which are currently going on at several ACC schools; and they teach young players how to win (or at least give them some valuable confidence). But don’t despair! Tickets to these games are much easier to buy and the conference season is just around the corner.
Charleston Post and Courier: Clemson needs someone to be “the man” this season. Andre Young has been great, but he generally sticks to jump shots and facilitating the offense. Brad Brownell is looking for a guy who can create his own shot when things aren’t going the right way. Personally, I’m not sure there’s a player with that kind of attitude on the Tiger team this season. The closest player to a go-to guy–based on skill set–is Milton Jennings, but Brownell thinks Jennings lacks the “confidence” to take over right now.
Winston-Salem Journal and Wilmington Star News: Wake Forest just got a little bit deeper. The Demon Deacons got Ty Walker back after a 10-game suspension for violating the team’s conduct policy this summer landed the seven-footer on the bench to start this season. Just be careful not to overestimate Walker’s impact. Mostly, he provides another tall body who can help pick up some of the minutes when Carson Derosiers is on the bench.
BC Interruption: A quick look at the ACC and just how “down” the conference is this year. Basically, the conference only has four teams in the top 50 of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings (luckily all four are in the top 30) compared to six the last four years (and nine in 2006-07!). The other issue is that three teams are outside of the top-100 with Boston College bringing up the rear. That means that barring a major shake-up in conference play, the ACC looks like a four-bid league (thank goodness for the Pac-12).
Republican-American: Maryland fans rejoice (or pine about how much better the team would be with him)! Jordan Williams has signed a two-year deal with the New Jersey Nets for a little under $500,000. The NBA lockout ended just in time for Williams, who was headed to Poland to play professionally.
EXTRA: I’m late on this, but you have to watch this video starring former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty.
Washington Post: Apparently there’s a new book out about the beginnings of ACC basketball. Unfortunately, said book is called ACC Basketball in a stroke of hackneyed inspiration that I imagine is prevalent amongst retired history professors. Despite its title, the book sounds fascinating. Professor J. Samuel Walker wanted “to capture the impressive progress made on both academic and athletic fronts without blinking when discussing more unsavory aspects of ACC basketball,” and was successful, according to this review. So if you’re still shopping for an ACC hoops fan, you might want to check your nearest bookstore (or Amazon).
Soaring To Glory: Where does Boston College go wrong? Working with a small sample size, Soaring To Glory tries to answer when the Eagles start to collapse. The general consensus is that it starts in the second half, though based on the first chart from this story, it’s even earlier than that. The Eagles are currently on pace to join Utah as the worst power conference teams in the history of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings (to be fair, Utah just joined a major conference). They’ve got to beat Wake Forest’s dreadful #251 finish from last season.
Testudo Times: Maryland has had an eventful start to the season, even if it hasn’t been littered with success. The next six games should be, with all but two of them being true “guarantee” games (Maryland should still be a heavy home favorite in the other two). In the meantime, keep an eye out for Alex Len, the highly touted international seven-footer, who will finish his ten-game suspension during the upcoming stretch. If nothing else, he’s worth five fouls and a lot of length. Additionally, it sounds like Pe’Shon Howard‘s injury is healing quicker than expected, so his tentative return date may come against Cornell on January 3.
Searching For Billy Edelin: Speaking of the Terrapins, SBNation‘s resident national basketball blog took a look at Terrell Stoglin‘s transformation from last year. I want to address a few of the concerns brought up in the article. First, I think Stoglin’s assist rate going down is as much of a product of Jordan Williams leaving as it is Stoglin changing. Becoming the first (and often only) option has also forced Stoglin to be a much more aggressive offensive player. It will be very interesting to see how Maryland’s identity changes with the pending additions of Len and Howard.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech‘s new coach Brian Gregory takes on in-state rival Georgia today. Neither team is off to a particularly strong start, as both lost much of their talent from last season. Georgia Tech hasn’t won at Georgia since 1976 (though for 14 years the game was played at a neutral site). I like Georgia to win this one, but it’ll come down to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Glen Rice, Jr., the best scorers for their respective teams. Even though neither of these teams is at its peak, rivalry games like these in December are always fun.
Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can also find his musings online at Sun Belt Basketball or on Twitter @dspewak.
The Week That Was:
Pioneers Rolling:Denver looks like the best team in the Sun Belt Conference having knocked off both St. Mary’s and Utah State in the span of a week. And did we mention Denver is the first team since 2009 to beat the Aggies on their home floor? Nobody wins road games at Utah State—except for Denver, apparently. JoeScott’s team played flawlessly leading from start to finish. At one point, Denver led by 20 points eventually routing USU 67-54. And the game wasn’t even as close as that score would suggest.
Jags Pick Up Pace: South Alabama has quietly pieced together a couple of quality wins. Widely considered a bottom-feeder in the East Division, the Jaguars are now riding a two-game winning streak with wins against LSU and UAB. Not bad, huh?
Arkansas State In Neutral: The Red Wolves got a bit of national attention for their bizarre 54-27 loss at Louisville, simply because of the horrid offensive output. ASU rebounded with a blowout over Southeast Missouri State, however, but a 2-4 start isn’t what John Brady probably had in mind.
Denver's Chris Udofia Has The Denver Pioneers On The Rise After Quieting One Of College Basketball's Loudest Road Environments In Utah State. (AP/Tony Avelar)
1.Florida Atlantic (3-5, 0-0): Kansas was too much for FAU as the Owls fell by 23 points in Lawrence on Wednesday. Mike Jarvis probably hoped his team could compete a little better, but it simply did not have the size to slow down either Thomas Robinson or Jeff Withey. Florida Atlantic lost the rebounding battle by 20, and it missed an opportunity to gain a signature upset. It will have plenty of chances for that, though, later in the month: Jarvis brings his team to Mississippi State, Miami, and Harvard.
2. Middle Tennessee (6-1, 0-0): The only thing keeping MTSU from an undefeated record right now is a double-overtime slip-up against a good Belmont team a few weeks ago. That’s how well Kermit Davis has his team playing right now. LaRon Dendy has been a major factor in his first season in Murfreesboro after transferring from Iowa State, and the Blue Raiders have been stellar both defensively and on the boards. If this team can keep flexing its strength in those areas, the offense will come, especially now that Jason Jones is healthy.
3. South Alabama (3-2, 0-0): Something has clicked with this USA team, and a lot of that can be attributed to freshman guard Xavier Roberson’s play. Ronnie Arrow has zero returning guards from last year’s team so he needed somebody to step up quickly. Roberson has seized that role, and he scored 19 points in that overtime win at LSU. With Augustine Rubit doing his thing, Roberson’s emergence is great news for the Jaguars.
4. Florida International (2-3, 0-0): After a three-game losing streak, FIU salvaged the month of November with a victory over a solid Coastal Carolina team this weekend. The Golden Panthers have struggled to defend the three-point line at times this season, and they fell into old habits by dropping another nailbiter to Arkansas Pine Bluff. Last season, close losses killed Isiah Thomas’s squad. He’ll need to fix that as the year goes on.
5. Troy (3-3, 0-0): These sneaky Trojans may not be so bad after all. In coach Don Maestri’s 30th season at the helm, Troy is now at .500 after a victory over East Tennessee State. Mo Weathers continued his spectacular point guard play with seven assists and 14 points, and he’s picked up right where he left off last season. Weathers is a special player—the kind of guy who should make an All-Conference team at the end of the season—and he’s getting a lot of help from his teammates these days.
6. Western Kentucky (2-5, 0-0): They are young, inexperienced, playing under pressure, may have lost veteran guard Caden Dickerson for the rest of the year due to injury. We understand why WKU isn’t playing well right now, but those excuses won’t sit well with the demanding fan base. The Hilltoppers fell apart at home against VCU last week, just days after playing the Final Four participants to the wire in the Charleston Classic. WKU did finally get a victory over Southeast Lousiana, but this team has a long way to go.
1.Denver (5-1, 0-0): Hello, Pioneers. In typical Joe Scott fashion, Denver made Utah Statelook silly on Wednesday night by boring it with a well-oiled offensive machine. Denver coasted against the Aggies, snapping a 33-game home winning streak and stunning the nation. It’s not often you hear a buzz like this about a Sun Belt team, but you better believe Denver will get some national press for this victory. Chris Udofia is offering a new look at forward for this team, and the guards are shooting the ball well from beyond the arc. The most important thing, however, is that Denver isn’t relying on the three-point shot. It has offensive options in the frontcourt now—like Udofia—and it’s much less one-dimensional than a year ago.
2.Louisiana (3-5, 0-0): They haven’t played murderer’s row, but a decently competitive non-conference slate is wearing the Ragin’ Cajuns down. They battled MAC favorite Kent Statefor 40 minutes but ultimately lost this week without J.J. Thomas, and they also dropped a road contest at Duquense. Thomas, the star of the UL and a Sun Belt Player of the Year candidate, dealt with a knee injury during that Kent State game.
3.Arkansas State (2-4, 0-0): Although the West appeared to be the more competitive division in the pre-season, only Denver has overachieved to this point. ASU’s play has been disappointing after losing Martavius Adams, and it hit rock bottom when it scored 27 points in a loss to Louisville. The Cardinals are a terrific team. But 27 points? It’s tough to swallow at the Division I level. Rick Pitino’s pressure turned ASU over 23 times, and it made just 10 field goals on the night.
4.North Texas (1-4, 0-0): After a dominating victory over a Division II opponent, UNT has fallen flat lately. In four road losses—three to BCS-conference teams—the Mean Green have struggled to acclimate the large cast of newcomers. Freshman Jordan Williams, a heralded recruit, can’t find his shot right now, but it’ll come around. When Tony Mitchell joins this team in the second semester, things may turn around.
5.Arkansas Little Rock (2-5, 0-0): The defending Sun Belt tourney champs aren’t defending their title well so far, and like ASU, they also may have hit “rock bottom” in a blowout to Northwestern State. When UALR develops its primary scorers, it will be fine. Right now, though, the loss of reigning SBC Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman is evident.
6.ULM (1-6, 0-0): Keith Richard is in the W column. He’s battling through a difficult year with this team, considering it is not eligible for post-season play and a few key players have redshirted. Surprisingly, despite the 0-6 start, the Warhawks earned an easy road victory at Nicholls State this week by dominating the second half of play. Loyola transfer Charles Windborne came to play this year, as he’s scored in double figures four times already. That will help take the pressure off leading scorer Fred Brown, who took an absurd amount of shots for this team last year.
Denver vs. Iona, Dec. 7: The Pioneers have already defeated two mid-major powers in St. Mary’s and Utah State. Can they beat a third in Iona? Tim Cluess has a heck of a team here, complete with Arizona transfer Momo Jones, stud point guard Scott Machado, and Mike Glover, the man so ferocious they call him Optimus Prime. Iona loves to run, and it has athletes all over the floor. If Denver can slow the pace, it can control this game.
Florida Atlantic at Mississippi State, Dec. 13: It’d be nice for Jarvis’s program to at least notch one of these upset road wins. The Owls’ problem isn’t quickness or athleticism—it’s sheer size. They don’t have the bigs to play with teams like Mississippi State, who throw out the towering Arnette Moultrie and Renardo Sidney.
Middle Tennessee vs. Belmont, Dec. 13: It’s revenge time for MTSU, which lost the first meeting in double-overtime. That’s the only thing standing in the way of a 7-0 start for the Blue Raiders, and that’s got to weigh heavily on Kermit Davis’s mind. With a second chance at a victory, Middle Tennessee has a chance to pick up a quality non-conference win to add to its post-season resume.
Caught On Film
John Brady has had a difficult start to this season. After kicking off his best player, his Arkansas State squad has struggled to find a new scorer. You can see that frustration and hear it in his voice in the press conference below, which followed a blowout loss to Missouri State.
Maryland was very unlucky last season. It ranked 330th out of 345 schools according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical “Luck” element, falling just in between ACC compatriots Clemson and Georgia Tech. However, the team’s flaws contributed as much to its close losses as anything else. First and foremost, Sean Mosley took a step back from a very promising sophomore season and became a virtual non-factor on offense. Terrell Stoglin‘s brilliant play masked Mosley’s absence for much of the season, but the lack of a consistent third option killed the Terrapins down the stretch. Additionally, Jordan Williams had an Achilles’ heel: poor free throw shooting. Williams was the rock of last year’s Maryland squad, but his inability to shoot foul shots well forced him to take on a reduced role at the end of games.
Terrell Stoglin and Jordan Williams Would've Made a Dynamic Duo at Maryland
Looking back at Maryland’s year is like reading The Little Engine That Could(n’t). Gary Williams‘ squad was competitive, only being blown out twice by a middling opponent (once by Miami and once by Virginia Tech). Those two bad losses, though, were balanced byonly two decent wins (vs. Clemson and Florida State). For whatever reason Maryland couldn’t break into that next tier last year. The year was so frustrating that after hearing Jordan Williams was departing for the NBA Draft, Hall of Famer Gary Williams departed for the cool breezes of retirement. While inconsistency — especially on the recruiting trail — marked the last few years of his tenure, Williams-coached teams regularly flourished during ACC play in the early 2000s especially the 2002 National Championship team headlined by Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon. But the stresses of constantly having to reload from lost players and assistant coaches finally caught up to the head coach after Jordan Williams left his team with very few players and nothing to speak of in the front court. The good news is that the very capable Mark Turgeon was hired away from Texas A&M to take the helm in College Park. Read the rest of this entry »
Danny Spewak of SunBeltBasketball.com is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference and a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @dspewak.
Reader’s Take I
Restoring the Glory: In a mere three-year span, the Sun Belt has taken a discouraging tumble. During the 2007-08 season, the league’s RPI ranked 14th among the 31 Division I conferences. It placed two teams in the NCAA Tournament, including a Sweet 16 squad in Western Kentucky (thanks in part to this shot). Now, fast forward to present day: the SBC finished 23rd in the conference RPI in 2010-11, and the auto-bid winner (Arkansas-Little Rock) lost the play-in game as a 16-seed. Hoping to curb the trend, the commissioner’s office decided to take action, forcing every team to schedule a stronger non-conference slate starting this year. That tactic should help improve the league’s overall rating, but more importantly, it actually appears the league has upgraded its talent significantly. With every head coach returning and a wave of star recruits incoming (see below), the Sun Belt looks ready for a rebound.
The New Guys: Tony Mitchell, the five-star North Texas forward who originally signed with Missouri, headlines a brilliant crop of newcomers across the conference. In addition to Mitchell, UNT coach Johnny Jones inked all sorts of talent out of the state of Texas, including coveted shooting guard Jordan Williams. Western Kentucky will also rely on a highly-touted recruiting class to help rebound from a disappointing season, and Middle Tennessee welcomes Iowa State transfer LaRon Dendy. Florida International might have the most intriguing prospect in big man Joey De La Rosa, but his eligibility isn’t a given right now.
After Enrolling at North Texas, Tony Mitchell Is Finally Set To Take The Court. (USA Basketball)
Goodbye, Denver: The Pioneers will leave for the Western Athletic Conference after the season, but coach Joe Scott has a competitive roster in place to compete for the West division in DU’s final year in the Sun Belt. That’s the only realignment update to note with this league, although more moves at the top of college sports could eventually trickle down to the SBC.
Tough Luck, ULM: After failing to meet academic standards, the NCAA ruled the Warhawks ineligible for postseason play in 2012. Keith Richard is still in the process of rebuilding the program, so an appearance in even the CIT or CBI looked like a pipe dream. Still, the ruling also means the Warhawks cannot participate in the Sun Belt Tournament, and that’s a harsh way to end the careers of the five seniors on this squad.
Predicted Order of Finish (conference records in parentheses)
Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead Story: Purvis Picks In-State Wolfpack
North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried has to be happy about Purvis' commitment.
Things Looking Good For N.C. State Head Coach Mark Gottfried. Class of 2012 shooting guard Rodney Purvis committed to North Carolina State Friday giving the Wolfpack one of the best guard combinations in any recruiting class thus far between him and point guard Tyler Lewis (to see why Purvis committed check out the “What They’re Saying” section). Purvis ended one of the more interesting recruitments in the class after he committed to Louisville last December, de-committed from the Cardinals in May, made it look like it was a three-horse race between Duke, N.C. State and Missouri, and expanded his list to eight schools that included North Carolina Central and Virginia Commonwealth. His commitment comes just a month after Class of 2012 shooting guard Torian Graham de-committed from the Wolfpack and after Lewis predicted Purvis would be N.C. State’s next commit. This year’s senior class is looking like it could shape into a top ten recruiting class for N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. Although Graham de-committed, the Wolfpack made small forward T.J. Warren‘s final four list of schools along with Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Gottfried also still has a shot at small forward Devonta Pollard and power forward Amile Jefferson among many others in the Class of 2012.
What They’re Saying
Senior Rodney Purvis on committing to North Carolina State: “After many conversations and prayers with the Lord, and visits, I came to a conclusion. There is no place like home.”
Welcome to the first ACC Edition of the Morning Five. Every weekday morning we’ll highlight links from local and student papers concerning ACC hoops.
Raleigh News and Observer: new NC State head coach Mark Gottfried spent time last week selling his program to the Raleigh Sports Club. Gottfried discussed NC State’s illustrious basketball past as well as his plan for revitalizing the program’s future. Gottfried was pretty succinct and bluntly honest about the present. As for concrete evidence for his vision of the future, Gottfried mentioned scheduling a home-and-home series with Kansas. He even managed to send a jab back at one of the future members of the ACC: “Jim Boeheim popping off up there that he thinks it needs to be in New York. He needs to get in the league first, before he starts making demands on the league.”
Baltimore Sun – Recruiting Report: with Maryland‘s depleted roster the Terrapins will rely heavily on returning players like Sean Mosely to minimize Jordan Williams’ departure. While he’s only 6’4″, new coach Mark Turgeon expects Mosely to see time at power forward this year. Mosely is Maryland born and Maryland bred, a truly historic player at the state high school level. He was expected to be Williams’ sidekick last season on a Maryland team that never lived up to preseason expectations, but his numbers declined significantly from a strong sophomore campaign. This year Turgeon will need Mosely more than ever to help sophomore stud Terrell Stoglin carry the scoring load for the team.
Durham Herald Sun: North Carolina is looking to replace athletic director Dick Baddour (who is set to step down following the NCAA Committee of Infractions meeting later this month), and the selection committee is looking for experience in hiring coaches and demonstrated NCAA compliance. Both qualifications make sense, as the Tar Heels are currently searching for a new football coach, and the university wants to both have a strong arm to deal with compliance–not to mention sending a message to the NCAA that the university is serious about it.
The Chronicle (Duke‘s student newspaper): “The NCAA is broken.” Duke student Andy Moore checks in on a topic of much recent debate largely spawned Taylor Branch’s Atlantic piece. The most interesting quote from the piece comes from Duke’s Charles T. Clotfelter, Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Public Policy: “What is happening now gives everyone the benefit from the market except the athletes [...] They’re kept out because the universities have made a deal not to pay them. In economics, we call that a cartel.” Moore also attacks the pettier NCAA rules, using two examples of recent NCAA violations which hurt Duke basketball over the past couple of years including Mike Krzyzewski‘s overblown summer recruiting violation and Nolan Smith‘s suspension for playing in a game not approved by the NCAA.
The Old Gold and Black (Wake Forest‘s student newspaper) and The Collegiate Times (Virginia Tech‘s student newspaper): ACC expansion has been a hot topic lately with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East. Many college football reporters scoffed at the move, saying it dilutes an already weak product. However, ACC basketball fans salivate at the prospect of seeing Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone and Pitt’s offensive rebounding prowess grace the courts of the ACC (ignoring for the moment any instability it causes the Big East). Wake Forest’s Evan Quinn notes that the move will only make it harder for a struggling Demon Deacon team to compete in the conference. Virginia Tech’s Alex Koma wants the conference to look at West Virginia and Connecticutto fill out the ACC at 16 members.Author’s Note: for the record, I disagree. I think the ACC should hold tight on expansion unless a jackpot team (i.e. Notre Dame) comes to its doorstep looking for a home.
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Sun Belt correspondent, Danny Spewak.
Staying Put: Not a single head coach in the Sun Belt changed jobs this summer. That fact is especially noteworthy in Bowling Green, a city that nearly chased Western Kentuckycoach Ken McDonald away during a mid-season losing streak. Athletic director Ross Bjork chose to retain McDonald, and he gave a fascinating interview to Nick Baumgardner about his decision. Down south in the state of Texas, Johnny Jones will return to North Texas after rumors linked his name to a few power-conference job openings. The folks over at ESPN Dallas saw asilver lining to UNT’s underachieving regular season and loss in the finals of the SBC Tourney. Jones interviewed at Auburn prior to last season, so although he’s in Denton for now, his name may keep popping up on the national radar.
They Don’t Count: Kentucky coach John Calipari made headlines this summer when NCAA officials asked him to apologize for holding a ceremony in February celebrating his 500th career victory. After all, due to vacated wins at Massachusetts and Memphis, some of Calipari’s wins don’t count in the formal record books. Turns out, Florida Atlantic’s Mike Jarvis is getting the same message from the NCAA—just without the media coverage. Reporters at FAUOwlAccess.com did some serious investigative reporting by obtaining a letter sent to FAU, telling the school not to count Jarvis’ vacated victories at St. John’s. School officials say they have no objections to the NCAA’s request.
Big-Time Transfer: Games between Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe just got a little more interesting. Vanderbilttransfer Darshawn McClellan announced in May he will transfer to ULL, and that means coach Bob Marlin picks up a 6’7″ forward who averaged more than 14 minutes per game during his first two years in the SEC. But more importantly, it means he’ll play against his brother, Steven McClellan, a sophomore forward who averaged 5.1 points per game last season. Who will the family root for?
Solomon Bozeman shot the UALR Trojans into the NCAA Tournament before falling to Akron in the first round (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images).
The NBA Draft has come and gone with one of the most boring evenings in its televised history. Maybe it was the arena setting, maybe it was the lack of marquee names, maybe it was the fact that none of the draftees wore anything particularly ridiculous, but the league’s capstone summer event was so uninspiring that even Bill Simmons’ usually-hilarious draft diary felt trite and mailed in. Still, the draft represents to every major college basketball player the culmination of a lifelong dream to hear one’s name called by David Stern, and it’s worth a quick reflection on how things went last Thursday for many of the players we’ve been watching and tracking for years.
The 1-and-Dones Did Well in This Year's Draft (AP)
The 1-and-Dones. Generally speaking, the NBA Draft went well for the seven 1-and-done players who declared after their freshman season. Excluding Enes Kanter, who never played a minute at Kentucky, from the discussion, six of the seven players who left school after one season were drafted, and five of those went in the first round. Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Texas’ Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, and Tennessee’s Tobias Harris were chosen in the first thirty selections, while Kansas’ Josh Selby was taken in the next thirty picks. The lone holdout was Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, a player who clearly had a much higher opinion of himself than did NBA general managers (although if you listen to his uncle, delusions of grandeur may extend beyond Richmond to his extended family). Whether any of the others are “ready” for the NBA is an irrelevant notion in this day and age, but seeing Thompson jumping up to the #4 selection despite not being able to shoot the ball, and Joseph going at #29 despite averaging only 10.4 PPG as a “scorer” has us raising our eyebrows.
Sneaking Into the First Round... Not Exactly. We heard time and time again in April that the impetus behind numerous marginal players deciding to enter the NBA Draft this year was because players like Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones were not coming out. The logic was that their staying in school opened up more first round spots for lesser talents, a statement certainly true in theory but in no way a sane justification for a dozen additional players to declare for the draft. Four doesn’t equal twelve the last time we checked. Interestingly, three of the four beneficiaries to earn guaranteed first round money were college seniors: Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, and Marquette’s Jimmy Butler (Texas freshman Cory Joseph was the fourth player to benefit). As for the players who came out early in an attempt to sneak into the first round of this year’s weaker draft, it didn’t really work out for them. We’re looking at second rounders like Shelvin Mack (Butler), Jordan Williams (Maryland), Trey Thompkins (Georgia), Darius Morris (Michigan), Malcolm Lee (UCLA), Travis Leslie (Georgia), DeAndre Liggins (Kentucky), and Isaiah Thomas (Washington), as well as undrafted guys like Scotty Hopson (Tennessee), Jeremy Green (Stanford), Terrence Jennings (Louisville), Greg Smith (Fresno State) and Carleton Scott (Notre Dame). What’s going to be awesome is in future years when underclassmen have roughly two weeks to gauge their draft prospects before having to commit to the draft or heading back to school — we’re sure this will result in nothing but great decisions.
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DeAndre Daniels commits to UConn: “DeAndre Daniels, a four-star power forward from Woodland Hills, California has committed to play at UConn this fall.” (The UConn Blog)
Daniels: Calhoun told me he’ll be back: The star recruit reportedly signed with the Huskies after Jim Calhoun told him that he would be there to coach him. (The UConn Blog)
Rick Pitino press conference highlights: A handful of interesting points from the recent press conference. (Card Chronicle)
St. John’s recruit Amir Garrett drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 22nd round: Garrett faces a difficult decision on which path to pursue. (Rumble in the Garden)
Jordan Williams Speaks on Decision to Enter NBA Draft: Some interesting quotes from the former Terrapin. (Testudo Times)
UCLA Basketball Hires New Assistant Coach: “UCLA Basketball Coach Ben Howland rounded out his coaching staff today with the hire of Korey McCray.” (Bruins Nation)
Scoop Jardine Headed To 2011 USA Basketball Men’s World University Games Tryouts: The rising senior guard will be attempting to make the team after being cut last season. (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)