Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.
The Week That Was
Cream of the Crop Rises: It’s only mid-December, but don’t let the overall records fool you: The conference cream of the crop has already risen to the top. There is a clear division between the upper and lower halves of the Horizon League in 2011-12. Some teams (Milwaukee, Detroit, Butler, and Valparaiso) chose to test themselves before conference play begins. With Butler having a down season, a conference crown is there for the taking and each of these schools is hoping that their tough-minded scheduling philosophy pays off late in the season.
UW-Milwaukee Pushes Wisconsin: Playing in front of the largest regular season home crowd in school history at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee, the Panthers went on a 16-1 run in the second half to cut 17-point deficit to two. But Wisconsin hit a few big shots down the stretch to hold on for a 60-54 win. UWM – who were without injured starters Kyle Kelm and Ja’Rob McCallum – dug themselves a hole in the first half after they shot just 30% from the field and made seven of 17 free throws for the game. Tony Meijer scored all of his team-high 15 points in a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the second half.
Return of the Titan: 6’10’’ center Eli Holman returned from an indefinite suspension and played in his first two games this past week. Though he didn’t start either game, Holman dunked his way to 21 points and snagged seven rebounds in his season-opener against Western Michigan and then went for nine and nine (points and boards) in the Titans’ loss to Alabama. Coach Ray McCallum Sr. seems to be making Holman earn his way back into the starting lineup, which is probably smart for the sake of team chemistry. Detroit survived a tough non-conference schedule without him including a nice win over St. John’s, but a low-post force like Holman is a rarity in the Horizon League. With him, the Titans should challenge Milwaukee and Cleveland State for conference supremacy.
Brad Stevens May Have Scheduled A Bit Too Aggressively With Significant Graduation Losses Giving Way To A Young Team
Cleveland State(10-1, 2-0) –The two best non-conference wins of the season thus far belong to the Vikings (road wins over Vanderbilt and Mid-American Conference favorite Kent State). Senior D’Aundray Brown has bounced back nicely from an injured hand to lead the team in scoring (12.7 PPG) and is second in rebounding (4.5 RPG). Guard Trevon Harmon was named conference Player of the Week after averaging 20 points in victories over Robert Morris and at Akron. The key to CSU’s early-season success, however, has been tough defense. With former star Norris Cole now in the NBA, the Vikings have used a quick, smaller lineup and their trademark pressure defense to hold opponents to just 57.5 points per game while swiping ten steals per game, both conference-bests. Read the rest of this entry »
Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.
The Week That Was
Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.
To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)
West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March. Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
Big East Continues to Disappoint: It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 2nd, 2011
Big East Recruiting Round-up is a recurring feature that will focus on, well, recruiting. Rumors, buzz, rankings…..everything potentially shiny and new.
Nerlens Noel Poll Results!
Nerlens Noel, Heavily Desired by Providence Fans...
When last we met on the recruiting trail, super class of 2013 center Nerlens Noel was a hot topic of discussion. He had semi-revealed a short list of five schools, four of which reside in the Big East. So we did what any red-blooded American college basketball site would do and took it to the voters. The turnout was great and all of the hanging chads have been counted. They apparently voted early and often in the Ocean State because, as you can see below, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of Providence. Perhaps we should rename ‘Friartown’ to ‘Nerlenstown.’ If you’d like to get a late vote in, the polls will remain open so go for it!
Will the Bernie Fine Controversy Hurt Syracuse’s Recruiting Efforts?
Syracuse recruits comment on whether or not Bernie Fine allegations impact their decision. It is important to note that this check-in occurred on November 23 which was before the Laurie Fine telephone call recording broke. Further, with head coach Jim Boeheim now being called into question it is reasonable to believe some recruits will take a wait-and-see approach. As noted in our previous round-up, Syracuse has signed two highly-rated recruits out of the class of 2012 in DaJuan Coleman (6’10″ center – Jamesville DeWitt – NY – Ranks: Rivals: 27, ESPN: 14) and Jerami Grant 6’7″ – forward – DeMatha – MD – Ranks: Rivals: 60 , ESPN: 43)
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences and a microsite staffer for the Pac-12.
A Look Back
While a couple Mountain West teams took their lumps early in the week, the weekend was an unabashed success for the teams at the top of the conference, clearly highlighted by UNLV knocking off the nation’s #1 team, North Carolina, at the Las Vegas Invitational Saturday night. In the process, and with preseason co-favorite New Mexico struggling to find its stride early, the Runnin’ Rebels have grasped the mantle of sole favorite in the conference. The Lobos lost their second game of the season on Thanksgiving night, dropping an overtime game to Santa Clara at the 76 Classic, but they rebounded to sweep through an unimpressive consolation bracket in that tournament. And San Diego State confirmed the fact that they are, in fact, a contender not only for an NCAA Tournament bid, but a league title, despite losing the bulk of last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. While there are some other solid teams among the rest of the conference, these three have risen to the top as the cream of the conference, but the strength and depth of the conference can be seen in the MW’s collective 39-10 record (second in the nation behind only the Big Ten’s 63-10 record) including a 3-0 record against the ACC and a 6-2 record against the Pac-12.
Team of the Week
UNLV – Last week the Rebels probably should have been the pick here, but in the interest of mixing things up, I went with Boise State. This week Dave Rice’s team leaves no other option. Not only did the Rebels beat the #1 team in the country, they handled them pretty well, winning 90-80, outrebounding the vaunted Tar Heel front line (31.7 OR%, 78.6 DR%) and knocking down 13 threes (spread out over five players) to seal the deal. Last year at this time, the Rebels were coming off of an impressive championship performance at the 76 Classic, but were never really able to capture the energy they showed that weekend the rest of the season. It remains to be seen if this vintage of the Rebels has a staying power that last year’s team did not.
Player of the Week
Mike Moser, Sophomore, UNLV – Much like the TOTW award, Moser could have and probably should have taken down this award last week. This week, no such slight as he averaged 13.3 points and 13 rebounds per game, and stepped up his game even another notch in the UNC upset when he had 16 points, 18 boards, added six assists and even dropped in his first two three-pointers of the season (although, his shot selection may be one area he could still stand to work on). With his long arms, freaky athletic ability and feel for the game, you can expect to see his name here again this year.
Game of the Past Week
San Diego State 76 UC Santa Barbara 75 (OT) – The Aztecs traveled north to Santa Barbara to face a formidable foe Saturday night and needed a late 11-0 run in regulation to eventually force overtime, then an improbable ending to seal the victory in overtime. SDSU head coach Steve Fisher was the Michigan coach when Chris Webber infamously called a timeout that his team didn’t have in the waning moments of a national championship game. On Saturday night, Fisher’s Aztecs were on the receiving end of a similar play. With SDSU up three and the clock under ten seconds, UCSB’s Orlando Johnson lost control of the ball near midcourt. After Johnson recovered the ball in a scramble, an unidentified Gaucho called for timeout; unfortunately for them, they had just used their final timeout minutes before. Jamaal Franklin sank one of two technical free throws, effectively sealing what had been a great back and forth game. Point guard Xavier Thames had his best game as an Aztec, going for 20 points, ten rebounds and six assuists, while UCSB’s Johnson had 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Games of the Upcoming Week
Creighton @ San Diego State, 11/30, California @ San Diego State, 12/4 – The Aztecs stretch of incredibly tough non-conference opponents wraps up this week with visits from the favorites of the Missouri Valley and the Pac-12 conferences. By the end of the week, SDSU will have played six top-75 teams (according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings), and if they can continue the success they’ve had in the opening weeks of the season, they could earn serious consideration for a national ranking. Creighton’s sophomore wing Doug McDermott leads a Blue Jay team that is #1 in the country in effective field goal percentage, and the Aztecs defense will have to take a big step forward to slow down that offensive attack on Wednesday. Then on Saturday, the Golden Bears backcourt duo of Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez will be pitted against SDSU’s backcourt in a battle of the two team’s strengths.
Fun Stat of the Week
In honor not only of UNLV’s 13 three-pointers in their win over UNC on Saturday, but also of the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the three-point shot to the college game, it is worth noting that the Rebels hold the NCAA record for consecutive games with at least one made three-pointer, with 812 games. The Rebels are joined by Vanderbilt and Princeton as the only three teams in the country who have made at least one three-point field goal in every game since the rule was implemented, but since the Rebels have played more games than the other two schools, they currently hold the record.
Runnin' Rebels Fans Participated In An RTC-Approved Court Storm Saturday Night After UNLV Toppled #1 North Carolina.
1. UNLV (7-0): Okay, I’ve made it this far without bragging about the fact that I had UNLV hanging tough with UNC in the LVI final, several days before the matchup was even official and then again after the win over USC was final. Well, enough fake humility. Now that’s out of the way; more details from the upset over UNC. First, senior forward Chace Stanback set a career-high with 28 points and added ten revounds, a breakout performance for the team’s leading returning scorer who had been almost invisible the previous night (four points, two rebounds in 17 minutes against USC). Second, Oscar Bellfield was brilliant, scoring 16 points, knocking down four threes and handing out nine assists in what may have been the best game of his UNLV career; if he can continue that type of play, this Rebel team has got a bright future. Third, the three-headed center of Brice Massamba, Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez was solid if unspectacular against the future pros along the Tar Heel front line – the three combined for 14 points, nine rebounds and a couple blocks, while deftly using 11 of their 15 fouls in 44 minutes of action. And finally:
A Look Ahead: Tough week for the Rebels, especially in the penumbra of the North Carolina victory; the team travels to UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday night (and RTC Live will be courtside there) and heads to Wichita State on Sunday.
2.San Diego State (7-1): It’s important to remember what the Aztecs are missing from last year’s Sweet 16 team. First, NBA lottery pick and freak-of-nature Kawhi Leonard’s double-double and lock down defense are gone. Senior forwards Billy White and Malcolm Thomas (21.7 highly efficient points and 12.5 rebounds between them) are also gone. And floor general-supreme and master of the clutch hoop, D.J. Gay, also gone. The only two returnees who played significant roles for last year’s club – Chase Tapley and James Rahon – were merely low-usage role players. This year, however, Tapley has stepped up and taken over not only a leadership position on this team, but also the role as go-to scorer. He has attempted double-digit field goals in six of the Aztecs first eight games, scored in double figures in the same number of games and done so while knocking down exactly half of his 46 three-point attempts to this point. Rahon hasn’t been quite so lucky yet, as an ankle injury kept him out of SDSU’s first three games and he has yet to really hit his stride yet. The three-point specialist did post a career-high 20 in the win over Long Beach State, but he’s struggled with his stroke from deep, hitting just three of his 20 attempts thus far.
A look ahead: We detailed the Aztecs’ tough stretch at home above in our Game of the Week section, but after this week, SDSU takes a significant step down in the remainder of its non-conference schedule, with games against Division III and NAIA teams mixed in with ho-hummers against Big West and WCC also-rans.
3. New Mexico (4-2): It hasn’t really been the start that New Mexico fans expected. The loss to in-state rival New Mexico State? Okay, it’s a hard-fought rivalry game; anything can happen. You can write off a loss there with any number of excuses or explanations. But the 76 Classic opening round loss to Santa Clara? That one was inexcusable. Defensive problems were exposed in that game (notably the fact that as athletic as Kendall Williams is, he had no chance chasing SCU’s Kevin Foster off multiple screens every possession), but give the Lobos credit – their defense looked better in the final two games of that competition, albeit against lesser competition. Further, the New Mexico offense showed signs of coming into its own, with freshman Hugh Greenwood clamping down the point guard position that he’ll likely hold for the next four years with a three-game, zero-turnover performance over the weekend. Moreover sophomore wing Tony Snell continued his vastly improved play, hitting 18 of 32 field goals (and 12/24 threes) on his way to a stellar weekend. Williams and Drew Gordon, the established stars on this club, still have yet to really get comfortable out there, but with Greenwood running the offense smoothly and Snell giving opposing defenses a third scoring option to worry about, expect the Lobo big guns to have a bit more room to operate.
A look ahead: A visit from Idaho State on Wednesday precedes a tough matchup in the MW/MVC challenge on Saturday when Missouri State visits Albuquerque.
4. Boise State (4-1): The Broncos got brought back down to earth a bit on Tuesday with a ten-point road loss at Long Beach State, but given that the 49ers are a high-caliber opponent, there is no shame in that loss for BSU. The Broncos bounced back Saturday with a 14-point win over Northern Illinois, and the trend of new players stepping up every night for head coach Leon Rice continued as sophomore guard Jeff Elorriaga went for 14 points on the night. Offensively, Elorriaga is nothing but a bomber. On the year he has attempted 20 field goals; 18 of those (and all six of his makes on the year) were from behind the arc. Kenny Buckner, a bruising jucotransfer, also picked things up this week, posting a season-high 14 points in the loss to LBSU. Buckner provides a good presence in the middle for the perimeter-oriented Broncos, averaging 5.4 rebounds in 18.8 minutes on the season.
A look ahead: The Broncos host a couple of MVC opponents this week, with Drake coming in on Wednesday night before Indiana State visits on Saturday. The latter game is the only official part of the MW/MVC Challenge.
5. Air Force (3-1): The Falcons only played one game this past week – a 76-73 overtime loss to Colorado – but they’ll hold on to the #5 spot this week, if only because, you know the Pac-12 is so strong that a loss to one of its member institutions is no big deal, right? Anyway, Michael Lyons continued his sparkling start to the season by going for 31 points, seven rebounds and three steals in the losing effort. Junior Todd Fletcher continued his solid play at the point by handing out six assists in the game; he’s had at least six assists in every game this season against Division I competition. And junior center Taylor Broekhuis has shown that as long as he can stay out of foul trouble (which he did not do in the Falcons’ season opener against Army) he can provide a strong interior presence for the Academy.
A look ahead: It’s another slow week for the Falcons, with only a trip to Des Moines on Saturday for a matchup with Drake ahead.
6. Wyoming (6-1): The Cowboys have lost the toughest game they’ve played this year – a road trip to face Green Bay, a team that is just 2-4 on the year – and have beaten no one of consequence (they’re best win is over Northern Colorado, another 2-4 team). But the mere fact that the Cowboys are beating these teams is an accomplishment. Last year, Wyoming lost to Northern Colorado by 14, to North Florida by 16 and to South Dakota by ten. While this team may not have the talent to measure up with the big boys at the top of the league, at the very least they are competing under new head coach Larry Shyatt. This week it was redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez, who misses all of last season with a broken elbow, who led the way, averaging 17 points per night and knocking down 16 out of 26 three-pointers in the Jim Thorpe Classic round-robin tournament in Laramie. Fellow guard Francisco Cruz pitched in with three consecutive double-figure games, while freshman forward Larry Nance, Jr. (does that name ring a bell?) had his best game of his young career on Saturday with nine rebounds and four steals, although his offensive game is still not quite ready for primetime. Also worth noting is that JayDee Luster, who struggled to take care of the ball under previous head coach Heath Schroyer, has handed out 26 assists this season while only turning it over three times.
A look ahead: Utah Valley on Wednesday won’t raise the bar much, and a visit from a poor Bradley team in the MW/MVC Challenge on Saturday means the Cowboys have a good chance to get to 8-1 before they face Colorado on 12/9.
7. Colorado State (4-2): The Rams won both of their games this week, but the fact remains that the team’s best win was in the opener over an average Montana team. With no real producers on this team over 6’6”, this team is going to go as far as its backcourt triumvirate of Wes Eikmeier, Jesse Carr and Dorian Green will take it. This week, in close wins over Texas-San Antonio and Manhattan in the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation bracket, Eikmeier and Green were strong, each scoring in double figures in both games (Eikmeier 20.5 PPG this week, Green 16 PPG). None of the three guards are true lead guards, but all share the duties at point; the problem is that none of the three are great at creating opportunities for teammates. Up front, Greg Smith and Will Bell are hard workers (the two combined to average 18.8 PPG and 10.5 RPG), but they could get overpowered even by a relatively small frontcourt like SDSU’s.
A look ahead: The Rams will get a couple of good tests this week, with Colorado visiting on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Northern Iowa on Saturday.
8. TCU (4-2): After a strong opening win in the Paradise Jam, the Horned Frogs dropped their final two games, with Ole Miss sending the team back home with an 11-point loss. But they bounced back on Saturday with an exciting one-point win at Houston. After Houston took a one-point lead with six seconds left, senior wing J.R. Cadot rebounded his own miss and scored with under a second left to give TCU their fourth win on the year. The 6’5” Cadot has taken it upon himself to hit the glass with abandon this season, leading the team in rebounds and generating offense for an team without a lot of offensive options by crashing the offensive boards. Juco transfer Adrick McKinney has also been helping out on the glass and while this is still a relatively undertalented team, head coach Jim Christian is getting the most out of the players he does have.
A look ahead: Lamar visits Fort Worth on Wednesday, with a trip to Evansville lined up on Saturday.
Before we get too deep into the first few weeks of the season, let’s take a quick look back at our preseason coverage here on the Pac-12 microsite.
All-Newcomers - Washington freshman Tony Wroten, Jr., and USC junior Aaron Fuller highlight the list Drew and I compiled. Highly touted guards Josiah Turner (Arizona) and Jabari Brown (Oregon) round out the cream of the crop in this feature.
All Pac-12 - Four out of the five players (Gutierrez, Cunningham, Kamp, and Crabbe) on our All Pac-12 team were the easy, traditional picks, but Arizona State forward/guard Trent Lockett got the surprise final place instead of UCLA’s Nelson.
Washington - The Huskies come into the season with one of the best four-guard rotations in the nation. Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross lead the group with Abdul Gaddy and C.J. Wilcox close behind. Aziz N’Diaye and Darnell Gant balance the offense out in the post.
Washington State – The Cougars have been picked to finish in the bottom half of the conference by almost all preseason publications because of the loss of guard Klay Thompson. However, Washington State still returns combo-guard Marcus Capers and point guard Reggie Moore, two of the best defenders in the league last season. With the additions of Mike Ladd and DaVonte Lacy at shooting guard, something tells us that they won’t miss Thompson as much as everyone is predicting.
Oregon – While Oregon returns key players like E.J. Singler and Tyrone Nared, it will be all about the newcomers in Eugene. Highly touted freshman Jabari Brown will make an immediate impact at guard, while Louisiana Tech transfer Olu Ashaolu should score major minutes with the departure of Joevan Catron.
Oregon State – For the first time in his tenure in Corvallis, coach Craig Robinson says that he finally has the talent needed to compete in every game the Beavers play in. Combo-guard Jared Cunningham and small forward Devon Collier provide the most hope for Robinson, but he will need to do a better job of coaching in non-conference games if the Beavers want to improve their win-loss totals.
California – The Golden Bears will be led by seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, two of the most respected players in the Pac-12. With the addition of Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs at the point, opposing defenses will have a tough time covering all of the options.
Mid-Majors Newcomers Will Make Major Impact – Two graduate student transfers from mid-major schools are going to make an instant impact in the Big Ten. Brandon Wood could start in Michigan State’s backcourt after scoring 16.7 points per game last season for Valparaiso. Sam Maniscalco averaged 9.7 points per game for Bradley last season and might end up scoring even more for Illinois. Both players give their teams veteran pieces at positions that would’ve otherwise been dominated by youth.
Healthy Living – Robbie Hummel returns for Purdue and has the opportunity to make a big impact for the Boilermakers now that his former classmates have graduated. While Matt Painter couldn’t get Hummel on the court with JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, he does get the added bonus of having an All-America caliber forward to help shepherd this team into the postseason. Injuries also delivered a blow to Indiana, as Maurice Creek is going to miss the entire 2011-12 season. That’s after missing all but 18 games last season, and it’s a big blow to the Hoosiers’ NCAA hopes.
A New Head Coach In University Park – After leading Penn State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, and falling to in-state rival Temple, Ed DeChellis saw the writing on the wall and left PSU for a more stable job at Navy. His replacement is former Boston University head coach Pat Chambers, who has a big rebuilding job on his hands after graduation of star guard Talor Battle.
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences; he is also a staffer on the Pac-12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.
Reader’s Take I
Tectonic Shifts in the MW: As the landscape of college sports continues to shift, the Mountain West continues to change. This year, the conference is without BYU and Utah for the first time in its history. Aside from the fact that the state of Utah was sort of the center of the conference for many years, the impact on the basketball side of things cannot be overstated. In the 12 years that the two schools were a part of the conference, they won five outright regular season titles between them and twice shared the regular season title. TCU will join the two Utah schools as ex-MW members after this year when it joins the Big 12.
Temporary Fixes? As old schools depart, new schools come in. Boise State joins the conference this season, although there are already rumors that its stay may be short-lived, as other conferences including the Big 12 and the Big East, woo the Broncos. Fresno State and Nevada are due to join the conference in 2012-13, but as the ground continues to move under the feet of college athletics, one never knows what changes will come next.
Scheduling: With just eight conference teams this year, each team will play just 14 conference games. So while the Pac-12 and Big Ten and other major conferences are kicking off games against their conference rivals on or before New Year’s, MW schools will wait until the middle of January to get into conference play, filling the interim with games against schools like Johnson & Wales, Texas-Pan American, Nebraska-Omaha, Houston Baptist, San Diego Christian and Utah Valley. This is not a good thing for a conference, not a good thing for the fans, and not a good thing for college basketball.
Changes On The Sidelines: Aside from having a new team in the conference, we’ve got a couple returning teams with new coaches. The most high profile coaching change comes at UNLV with Lon Kruger gone for Oklahoma, and Dave Rice, the former associate head coach under Dave Rose at BYU, returning to Vegas where he played and served as an assistant under Jerry Tarkanian. The other coaching change is at Wyoming, where Larry Shyatt returns to town after spending the last several years as the associate head coach at Florida.
Drew Gordon Looks to Lead New Mexico to a Mountain West Title
New Favorites. Last year, it was more or less a two-horse race for the conference title between BYU and San Diego State. This year, there is no BYU and SDSU has graduated its four most important players. As a result, it looks to be two new horses who head the pack in search of a conference title with UNLV and New Mexico far and away the favorites. In the MW preseason basketball poll, the Lobos got 22 of the 26 first place votes from the media, with the Rebels snagging the other four. Those two schools also dominated the all-conference team selections, each putting two players on the list.
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: Proposed Rule Changes Will Open Up Contact Between Recruits and Coaches
College Coaches Would Be Able To Contact And Evaluate Prospects More Under the Proposed Rules Change.
NCAA To Vote On Potential Changes Today. The NCAA Leadership Council will vote on a number of proposals today that could change the recruiting model and deregulate much of the communication between prospects and coaches. One of the biggest proposals is a change in policy that will make texts, calls, e-mails and the like unlimited beginning on June 15 of a recruit’s sophomore year. Currently, texts aren’t allowed, phone calls are limited, and e-mails unlimited. Two other proposed changes that involve communication between players and coaches include allowing contact with juniors at the prospect’s school in months other than April. During April, college programs could do in-home visits with prospects. Another potential change worth noting is the rule that would let prospects take official visits beginning January 1 of their junior year, including paid travel expenses for the recruit and his two parents or legal guardians. Although the most significant changes would be with respect to the contact period, the evaluation period would be significantly affected as well. Coaches would be allowed to go to sanctioned events in April, although the dates have not been determined. The thought is that the April evaluation periods will constitute two weekends beginning on a Friday evening and running through Sunday afternoon. Also, the July evaluation period will be narrowed into three four-day periods. The periods will run from Wednesday at 5 PM to Sunday at 5 PM. However, the dates have not yet been specified.
What They’re Saying
Senior stud Alex Poythress on his Memphis visit: “It was really good; I enjoyed it. We got here and watched practice. I hung out with the players. I got to watch [strength and conditioning coach] Frank [Matrisciano] work out Z-Bo (Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph) and another NBA player. I went to [head] coach [Josh] Pastner‘s house. I enjoyed it overall.” Read the rest of this entry »
Last season, the Horizon League put four teams in the postseason — can it do it again?
Eli Holman’s Leave of Absence: The Detroit big man is easily the best returning post player in the H-League, but whether or not he will return is a big question. Holman was placed on “indefinite leave” from the team at the end of September to handle some legal issues drawn from an incident at a fraternity house earlier in the month. Big Ten fans will remember Holman as the player who left Indiana after getting into a confrontation with then new coach Tom Crean. Without Holman, the Titans have a big hole in the post and would have to rely more heavily on Nick Minnerath and LeMarcus Lowe to pick up the pieces of a broken inside game. They still have some of the best talent in the league, but without that dominant force, who knows what they’ll get.
Kaylon Williams In Trouble: Milwaukee got some bad news as well, with starting point guard Kaylon Williams getting pulled over in Iowa and blowing a .228 BAC. What makes matters worse for Williams is that he fled the scene on foot, although he was picked up shortly afterward. No official word has come down from the university on punishment besides a short statement from head coach Rob Jeter. “We are aware of the situation involving Kaylon Williams. We are disappointed and will take appropriate action as we gather more information and the legal process runs its course.” This is Williams’ first offense and it is unclear how much, if any, time he will miss. Last season, Milwaukee had difficulty with Williams off the floor, but prepared for further uncertainty by recruiting junior college player Paris Gulley and high school point guard Shaquille Boga.
It Says Here That Matt Howard Was the Difference Maker at Butler
Butler’s Back Again: Obviously, the college basketball world is familiar with the recent NCAA Tournament dominance of Butler. “Familiar” might not be the word; “obsessed” may be closer. In any case, Butler came a 50-footer from the title in 2010 when no one thought they would make it. They suffered a poor shooting night in 2011 to keep the Bulldogs from that elusive title when no one thought they’d be back. Is it so crazy to say that they could make another run to the Final Four? The answer is yes. While losing Gordon Hayward and some key players from the previous year’s team didn’t spell the end for them in 2010-11, 2011-12 will be a different story. Forget Shelvin Mack, Hayward, and even Brad Stevens. To me, the one person that deserves the most credit for both of these runs is Matt Howard. We all knew from day one that he was a special player, and what lack of NBA athleticism (he’s still athletic) he had was made up big time in his skill, determination, and intelligence. To me, he’s the best leader-by-example in basketball that I have ever seen, and his graduation means someone else at Butler will have to try and pick up that torch. You can replace Shelvin Mack’s scoring and Zach Hahn’s knack for the timely three-pointer, but you can’t replace Matt Howard’s… Matt Howard.
Who’s Got Next? is a bi-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. Twice 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 in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at email@example.com.
Freshmen and sophomores dominated in Colorado Springs last week during the USA U-16 developmental team training camp while the best point guard in the Class of 2011 hit a buzzer beater to win a fiercely competitive interstate all-star game. A few top ten stars in the Class of 2012 also announced new lists, new visits and new favorites as Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies continued their dominance on the recruiting trail. An article on the fastest rising junior in the country was another must-read as we take you into this edition of Who’s Got Next?
What They’re Saying
Kaleb Tarczewski (#6) spoke about his Kansas visit. (NY2LA Sports)
Junior Kaleb Tarczewski (#6) on his Kansas visit: “It was really good, I really like it there. This trip was really for my mom. She hadn’t been there yet and I wanted her to see it.”
Sophomore standout Allerik Freeman on some schools on his list: “Florida is a great program with a great staff. NC State is on the right tracking trying to get back to the national spotlight. Georgetown has a rich tradition, and great staff with a nice offense. Tennessee is a place where my game fits in great.”
Omar Calhoun, Sr., on his son, junior Omar Calhoun, Jr., committing to Connecticut: “After spending time with [head] coach [Jim] Calhoun and the rest of the coaching staff, we felt it was a place we needed to be. He believes he fits well… coach Calhoun has had a tremendous amount of success with NYC guards.”
Junior Ricardo Ledo (#9) on what’s factoring in on his decision: “I want to go somewhere I can win. Playing time is also important.”
Junior Rodney Purvis (#7) on his Missouri visit: “It was great and fun. The visit was not what I expected!”
Junior Archie Goodwin (#19) on Kentucky head coach John Calipari: “He’s just a great person. He helps people excel and fulfill their dreams.”
Junior Jordan Price on his commitment to Auburn: “I just felt like it was the best fit for me and my family. It’s not too far away from my home so family and friends can come watch.”
Class of 2012 center Landen Lucas on his Kansas visit: “Loved it! [Assistant] coach [Danny] Manning stood out because of how well he develops bigs and gets them to the next level.”
Don Showalter on players who stood out at the USA U-16 Developmental Team tryouts: “[Class of 2013 Watch List power forwards Jabari] Parker and [Aaron] Gordon really stood out, they are really, really good players. They are going to be the best players in the tournament, no question. We started there and built around them.”
Senior Norvel Pelle on why he committed to St. John’s: “I wanted to get the best of both worlds. It’s a perfect opportunity with their new class of freshman and being in New York. I have a good relationship with the whole coaching staff and we try to connect on a daily basis. They’re all down to earth and chill.”
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. Each 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 in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With another passing week, there is plenty of recruiting news including standout performances at AAU events, commitments and de-commitments, and the latest news on where high-profile prospects are likely to go to college. However, the biggest revelation by far in this past week was a recruiting scandal at a mid-major D1 school that has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game but somehow managed to land two elite prospects. Read on to see how a young man from Chicago, a head coach at a mid-major basketball program and a high-profile former felon created the biggest recruiting scandal in the past few years.
What We Learned
Kevin Ware's recruitment exposed ties between UCF head coach Donnie Jones and convicted felon Kenneth Caldwell.
Kevin Ware’s Recruitment and Central Florida’s Recruiting Scandal. After class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to the Knights two weeks ago, he backed out of the agreement Thursday when he learned of Kenneth Caldwell’s background, a Chicago man with a substantial criminal record and apparent ties to a prominent sports agency. Ware claims that Caldwell repeatedly called him to encourage him to attend Central Florida, traveled to meet with his family and even set up conversations between Ware, himself and head coach Donnie Jones and Jones’ staff – contact which is prohibited by the NCAA. Caldwell formally denied recruiting players for UCF and claimed he was simply impressed by UCF… a school that has never won an NCAA Tournament game.
When Ware and his family were asked about what coaches said their relationship with Caldwell was, they said the coaches claimed they had no direct affiliation with him but that they had known him for a year. This left the Ware family wondering exactly who Caldwell was and how he tied in with UCF. On his LinkedIn page, Caldwell claimed to be a recruiter of potential NBA players for ASM Sports, which the company later confirmed. What was even more frightening about Caldwell’s background were his two felony convictions in 1991 and again in 1998. He also owes the IRS close to $250,000. After looking at his history and claims, Caldwell could fairly be labeled as a “runner,” someone who acts as a middle man to deliver players to universities and agents.
How current UCF commit Michael Chandler Ties In. Caldwell’s ties to the UCF program started a few years ago when a high school student whom he refers to as his “son” committed to the Knights. Then, two more players whom Caldwell likes to call his “nephews” also chose UCF for their collegiate careers, including one of the best class of 2011 centers in the country, Michael Chandler. Before becoming a Knight, Chandler had previously committed to Louisville and Xavier before he shocked many people by settling on Central Florida. Chandler’s high school coach said he’d never even heard of Central Florida before Chandler committed there. However, Chandler’s uncle said the prospect chose UCF on its merits. In Pat Forde’s column this week analyzing the odd recruitment, he said a source with knowledge of the situation claimed that Caldwell bragged about having inside information of where Chandler would be attending college well before he made his decision public.
The Big Ten went out and got the necessary victories to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge 6-5 for the second season in a row. While Minnesota almost screwed things up by losing to Virginia, Purdue winning in overtime over Virginia Tech and Michigan upsetting Clemson on the road bailed out the Gophers. Also, Michigan State acquitted itself well against Duke, making the power rankings even more of a jumble.
Team of the Week
Illinois – The Fighting Illini got two good victories this week over North Carolina and Gonzaga. Both teams are talented, but Bruce Weber got his team prepared for the young Tar Heels team and then got them back up for a game in Spokane with the Bulldogs. Illinois started bombing threes in the game against Gonzaga (12-23 from three-point range), which probably has future opponents a bit worried.
Player of the Week
John Leuer, F, Wisconsin – Sometimes, Leuer’s stats don’t look so great because he plays for Bo Ryan, but this week, they were off the charts no matter how you measure them. The 6’10 senior forward had 22 points and 11 boards in a blowout of North Carolina State and then added 29 points, including 6-11 from three-point range, and nine boards against South Dakota.
Newcomer of the Week
Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, Michigan – Hardaway scored 15 points, including 7-9 from the free throw line, in Michigan’s road upset over Clemson. He then followed it up with a 1-7 shooting, three-point performance against Harvard, So he’s still got quite a bit to learn. For the season, he’s averaging 10.7 points per game.
Ohio State (6-0) – Another week, another victory. This time, it was a 58-44 win at Florida State. There’s not much left to challenge the Buckeyes on the non-conference slate; A home game against South Carolina on December 18 is the toughest one left before Big Ten play begins.
Illinois (8-1) – See the Team of the Week section. Mike Davis had two good games in the victories with 20 points and 10 boards against North Carolina and 10 points and six boards against Gonzaga.
Michigan State (6-2) – Give credit to the Spartans for hanging with Duke in an 84-79 loss. It was a “good” loss if there ever was one. Tom Izzo’s team then went out and shellacked Bowling Green, for whatever that’s worth. Draymond Green had two solid games with 16 points, six boards, three steals and three blocks against the Blue Devils and then 10 points and 12 boards against the Falcons.
Wisconsin (6-2) – Bo Ryan’s team delivered an absolute shellacking to North Carolina State in the challenge, 87-48. Now a more experienced Marquette team is waiting at the Bradley Center as the Badgers begin the Wisconsin part of their schedule.
Purdue (7-1) – The Boilermakers got some rough news when they found out that John Hart is going to be out for a month with an injured foot. The sophomore guard was averaging 8.4 points per game this season, third best on the team. The team has played stifling defense thus far this season, including locking down the perimeter. Opponents are shooting just 25 percent from beyond the arc, which will be very helpful in conference play.
Minnesota (7-1) – Al Nolen was missing for the week as the Golden Gophers went 1-1 overall, including a surprising loss to Virginia in the challenge and an escape against Cornell. He’ll probably miss another week at least, so Tubby Smith needs to find a way around the problem. Trevor Mbakwe had one the oddest double-doubles you’ll ever see against Cornell, with 12 points and 16 boards. Why is that so weird? All 12 points came from the free throw line as he shot 12-20 from the charity stripe and 0-3 from the field.
Northwestern (5-0) – The Wildcats shot the lights out in the first half against Georgia Tech and had everyone raving about the NCAA Tournament. Since then, Northwestern hasn’t played a game. Bill Carmody’s squad doesn’t play again until Monday, December 13, against Long Island.
Indiana (7-1) – The Hoosiers are ranked 60th overall in Ken Pomeroy, but after losing to Boston College on the road by 12, they sort of look like paper tigers. Tom Crean’s team has built up a nice record against really soft competition. Indiana gets another test on Saturday when it takes on Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
Michigan (5-2) – The Wolverines pulled off the surprise of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by winning at Clemson, 69-61. Michigan then came back to Ann Arbor and survived an upset bid by former head coach Tommy Amaker’s Harvard squad 65-62. It’s possible that John Beilein’s team might be better than people thought coming into the season. Sophomore Darius Morris is one of the top five point guards in the league. He’s averaging 13.7 points and 6.9 assists per game this season.
Penn State (6-2) – Once thought to be an NCAA Tournament bubble team, the Nittany Lions are looking more like an also-ran. Maryland went to University Park and rocked Penn State, holding them to just 39 points. Talor Battle scored 31 points to make sure the Nittany Lions didn’t lose to Duquesne. They get another chance to prove they’re legit with a game at Virginia Tech on Sunday.
Iowa (4-4) – Iowa actually plays two of the more interesting games this week. Tuesday, the Hawkeyes take on last season’s NCAA Tournament darlings, Northern Iowa, and then on Friday, Iowa State comes to visit.
A Look Ahead (all times EST)
12/7 – Michigan State vs. Syracuse, Jimmy V. Classic from Madison Square Garden, 9 p.m., ESPN
12/7 – Purdue at Valparaiso, 9 p.m., ESPNU
12/7 – Iowa vs. Northern Iowa, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
12/8 – Illinois vs. Oakland, 8 p.m.
12/8 – Minnesota at St. Joseph’s (PA), 7 p.m.
12/10 – Michigan vs. Utah, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
12/10 – Iowa vs. Iowa State, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
12/11 – Wisconsin at Marquette, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2
12/11 – Indiana at Kentucky, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
12/12 – Penn State at Virginia Tech, 1 p.m.
Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Conference play is just a few weeks away, but Ken Pomeroy’s numbers are already singing the praises of the Big Ten. The conference has five of the Top 20 teams overall, five of the Top 20 offenses and five of the Top 20 defenses. Most of those are the Top 5 teams in the Power Rankings, but Northwestern has the #11 offense in the country.