Morning Five: 10.20.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2011

  1. In yesterday’s M5 we mentioned that a poll of media facilitated by the Syracuse Post-Standard found that Syracuse and Connecticut were essentially viewed as equals at the top of the Big East this year.  Wednesday’s survey of Big East coaches at Media Day came to the same ultimate conclusion.  The Huskies had more first-place votes (seven) than the Orange (five), but more coaches chose SU second or third than UConn, which accounts for the difference.  Louisville received three first-place votes (Rick Pitino took shots at the votes too), while Pittsburgh received one.  The Panthers’ Ashton Gibbs was chosen as the preseason Big East POY, with UConn’s Jeremy Lamb, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph, Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, WVU’s Kevin Jones, and Notre Dame’s Tim Abromaitis rounding out the first team.
  2. Down on Tobacco Road, the ACC was simultaneously holding its Media Day Operation Basketball, and the proceedings generally read like a Carolina love-fest.  UNC received 57 of the 59 first-place votes from the media, and the Heels’ Harrison Barnes was a unanimous selection on the preseason all-ACC first team along with teammates Tyler Zeller and John Henson (incidentally, Luke Winn breaks down Barnes’ 2010-11 progression here).  The last time that a single school had three selections on the preseason all-ACC team was a decade ago, when defending national champion Duke brought back Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer.  In no surprise whatsoever, Duke was picked to finish second, with Florida State third.  The remaining all-ACC choices were Duke’s Seth Curry, Miami’s Malcolm Grant, and Virginia’s Mike Scott, with Duke’s Austin Rivers selected as the preseason ROY.  More on Operation Basketball later this morning on our ACC microsite.
  3. We never contemplated a Wake Forest to USC pipeline developing, but if Jeff Bzdelik’s few talented players continue to get into trouble in Winston-Salem so that they ultimately transfer to Southern Cal, we’re sure that Kevin O’Neill will be happy to take them.  After Wake forward Ari Stewart transferred across the country in May to spend his final two years at USC, guard JT Terrell (whom Stewart hosted on his official visit to Troy) has also decided to re-surface as a Trojan.  Terrell is spending this season at a junior college in Washington, but the talented sophomore who averaged 11.1 PPG as a Demon Deacon frosh has announced that he will sign with O’Neill’s club during the early signing period in November.  Between Alex Stepheson (UNC to USC), Larry Drew II (UNC to UCLA), Travis and David Wear (UNC to UCLA), Stewart, and now Terrell, there’s something weird going on here.
  4. Is Billy Gillispie ready to turn around the basketball fortunes at his third Texas destination in his somewhat short collegiate coaching career?  After very successful stints at UTEP and Texas A&M, followed by a disastrous one at Kentucky, Gillispie says that he’s sober and back on track at his new school, Texas Tech.  What was lost amidst all the chaos that surrounded Gillispie in his two years in Lexington is that he had completely rebuilt moribund programs in both El Paso and College Station very quickly, his teams employing a hard-nosed, defensive style that mimicked the coach’s somewhat infamous and notorious work ethic.  Texas Tech seems like a great fit for him not only because he’s back in his home state surrounded by his people, but the expectations and pressures at a school like TTU are incredibly tame in comparison with one of the nation’s flagship basketball schools.  Even during the Bob Knight experiment, getting to the Sweet Sixteen was cause for celebration.  It says here that Gillispie will do well in Lubbock.
  5. We’ve already mentioned the heartbreaking story of Arizona’s Kevin Parrom in this space earlier this week.  Jeff Goodman caught up with him recently and the drive and fortitude that the Wildcat junior continues to show in the face of such adversity — losing his grandmother, his mother, and getting shot in the hand and leg in the span of several months — is nothing short of remarkable.  Rather than feeling sorry for himself, it’s clear in reading his quotes that he considers himself lucky to not only be alive, but also to have the opportunity to get an education on a basketball scholarship, something his mother made sure he put above all else.  And that, my friends, is what good parenting is all about.  Continued best of luck to Parrom as he works through these emotional and physical issues — we’re rooting for ya, kid.
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ACC Team Previews: Wake Forest

Posted by KCarpenter on October 18th, 2011

Wake Forest had a rough season this past year. No, wait, that’s not right. Bad? Terrible? Catastrophic?  I’m having a hard time capturing the scale and scope of how bad last season was. The ideal word would capture a sort of hopeless, inevitable despondency mixed with mind-blowing, frustrating futility. Imagine a turtle trying to climb up a hill. Then the camera zooms out, and the turtle is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon trying to scale the side of a cliff. Now imagine that the turtle accidentally falls onto it’s back. Now imagine a mob gathering at the top of the cliff to push boulders down onto the turtle. That’s how last season felt in Winston-Salem.

Jeff Bzdelik Has A Lot Of Work To Do After Last Season's Disaster

Wake Forest had a single win in the Atlantic Coast Conference against lowly Virginia. Wake Forest won a single game away from its home court: a neutral court win against Elon at Greensboro Coliseum. Wake Forest stunned the world by losing the season opener against Stetson and then proceeded to lose to Winthrop, UNC Wilmington, and Presbyterian. They also lost to a number of very good basketball teams, but that kind of goes without saying when Stetson and Presbyterian are giving you the business on your floor. Ken Pomeroy’s basketball efficiency statistics demonstrate that this wasn’t just a few unlucky games. This was a systemic and utter, season-long failure. Every 16-seed in last year’s NCAA tournament was significantly better than Wake Forest. For the record, that group included UNC-Asheville, Boston University, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Texas-San Antonio. Last season, in short, was an unmitigated disaster. I hope we’re clear on that. That said, this summer may have been worse.

While Jeff Bzdelik had certainly counted on losing senior starter Gary Clark, it’s unlikely he had prepared for the other losses. Another starter, Ari Stewart, announced that he was transferring to USC. Melvin Tabb was hardly a major contributor to the Demon Deacons, but on a shrinking roster, it didn’t help that he was suspended and then released from the team after facing charges of breaking/entering and fraud. Another starter, freshman sensation J.T. Terrell, left school after he was charged with driving under the influence. Finally, 7’0″ senior Ty Walker was ruled ineligible to compete with the team throughout the duration of the fall semester due to a violation of Wake Forest’s honor code. All of this happened from the months of April to September. Ouch.

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Morning Five: 09.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 6th, 2011

  1. Are we on the verge of the conference realignment free-for-all that we thought was going to happen last summer?  Texas A&M’s insistence on leaving the Big 12 presumably for the greener pastures of the SEC to the east, has the rest of the league running for cover.  Reports over the weekend suggested that once again Texas and Oklahoma are in backroom discussions with the Pac-12 to join the burgeoning west coast league, and like great white sharks in the Pacific, the other four major conferences are circling the remaining schools in hopes of divvying up the rest.  Conventional wisdom is that if Oklahoma bails on the Big 12, the league is effectively finished, but it is the school in Austin who holds the trump card.  One of the sticking points is what the Pac-12 would require UT to do with its Longhorn Sports Network — would it become one of the Pac-12′s new regional networks instead of a ‘national’ channel?  Or will Texas leverage its channel into another sweetheart deal, as suggested as possible on Monday when rumors of an ACC overture to the Longhorns were revealed?  ACC commissioner John Swofford denied that report Monday night, but the possibility of a 16-team basketball league containing Duke, UNC, Maryland, Texas, Syracuse and UConn seems absolutely ridiculous.  In a good way.  The one thing we know from conference realignment madness is that nothing should surprise anyone.  More news on this topic as it merits coverage, but for a comprehensive breakdown of the facts and rumors swirling right now, check out MrSEC’s wrapup from Monday.
  2. Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneurial success story (twice over) Mark Cuban has never been one to hold his tongue on an issue he cares about, and his post on Blog Maverick over the weekend is no different.  Bucking conventional wisdom to a certain extent, Cuban argues that the headfirst plunge by several schools into a group of a few superconferences will turn out to be a “huge mistake.”  He lists several intriguing reasons to support his argument, but the most compelling from our viewpoint was his discussion of how adding schools to a conference will not increase the value of the television contracts of the bigger league.  There must be some exceptions to this ‘rule,’ as in an example where Texas joins any other conference, but Cuban has forgotten more about media rights and deal-making than we’ll ever know so we’re generally inclined to figure he knows what he’s talking about here.
  3. Regardless of how the conference realignment mess ultimately settles out, the development and existence of Texas’ Longhorn Network has led to an arms race among individual schools seeking to reach their fans in the most direct way.  Over the weekend, another Big 12 school announced its response, as the University of Missouri is set to launch Internet-based The Mizzou Network on December 1.  The mostly free channel will broadcast games and competitions from non-revenue sports in addition to ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses at Tiger football and basketball, but it’s clear that the Texas/ESPN deal has put the pressure on athletic departments around the nation to progress or get left behind.  It’s yet to be determined whether a cable television model in the mold of LHN (currently having trouble getting traction with national carriers) or a fully digital network in the mold of Missouri’s (which can reach all of its fans directly) produces better outcomes for the school, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the biggest winners will be fans with team-specific content available to them 24/7.
  4. Now that schools are back in session for the fall semester almost everywhere, this is the time of year we start to see players with too much free time on their hands getting into trouble prior to returning to full-time practice in six weeks.  Over the weekend, Wake Forest sophomore guard JT Terrell was discovered asleep at the wheel of his car and charged with a DWI for a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.  Terrell, a promising freshman last season who averaged 11.1 PPG for the Demon Deacons, has since withdrawn from the school and is reported to be suffering from a “serious medical condition.”  Terrell represents the fourth WFU player to leave the school under difficult circumstances in the year-plus since head coach Jeff Bzdelik arrived. Wake also announced that senior center Ty Walker will not become eligible to join the team until after the fall semester, stemming from a suspension placed upon him in July.
  5. Moving over the Missouri Valley Conference, Drake also announced that two of its players including its leading returning scorer, Rayvonte Rice, will be suspended effective immediately for their alleged role in a petty shoplifting incident.  He and teammate Kurt Alexander, a senior guard, are accused of putting two packages of athletic socks into a bag and exiting a Finish Line store without paying for them.  Rice had one of the best freshman seasons in the history of Drake basketball last year, averaging 13.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG and also leading the team in blocks and steals.  He was a member of the MVC all-freshman and all-newcomer teams and was expected to become an all-MVC performer this year.  The two players told the police officer on the scene that they were “young and dumb” to explain their actions, and to that comment we can do nothing more than shake our heads.  Young and dumb, indeed.
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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by jstevrtc on July 21st, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded 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. The latest update comes courtesy of our ACC correspondent, Matt Patton.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • New Faces: That’s right, the ACC will be totally different conference this season. Only five of the fifteen players selected as to the all-conference teams will be running the floor this season, namely four of North Carolina’s five starters (with Miami’s Malcolm Grant keeping the group from being only Tar Heels). Somewhat surprisingly, all of the ACC all-freshman squad will be back in action. Duke’s Kyrie Irving was a prominent frosh, but he didn’t play a single conference game before leaving school and UNC’s Harrison Barnes opted to return for his sophomore campaign. Keep an eye on Wake Forest’s Travis McKie and Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin especially. Both should be the stars on their respective teams.
  • However, the strength of the conference will rely heavily on the incoming players and coaches. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State all bring in consensus top 25 classes according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout. To make a long story short, the rich get richer. Duke’s Austin Rivers (ranked 1st by Rivals, 2nd by Scout and ESPNU) will be expected to contribute immediately, while North Carolina’s James McAdoo (8th by Rivals, 4th by Scout and 5th by ESPNU) and PJ Hairston (13th by Rivals, 20th by Scout and 12th by ESPNU) should be given ample time to find roles on an already stacked team.
  • Arguably more important, at least in the long term, are the new coaches: NC State welcomes Mark Gottfried, Miami welcomes Jim Larranaga, Maryland welcomes Mark Turgeon, and Georgia Tech welcomes Brian Gregory to the conference. The only coach I think is a surefire “upgrade” is Larranaga, who comes with some disadvantages (namely, age). While Gottfried experienced some success at Alabama, the Crimson Tide isn’t known as a basketball powerhouse and he didn’t leave the school on great terms. I also don’t think it’s a great sign that Ryan Harrow left for the bluer pastures of Kentucky. Gregory, though, sticks out as the strangest hire of the four. He had a fairly nondescript tenure at Dayton with many Flyer fans happy to see him leave. I know a tight budget hamstrung by Paul Hewitt’s hefty buyout deal probably kept the Yellow Jackets from going after the sexiest candidates, but the choice still surprised me. Gregory’s biggest disadvantage is his ugly, grind-it-out style of play that will eventually make it difficult to attract top recruits and could possibly alienate the entire GT fanbase (see: Herb Sendek).
  • North Carolina Navigates Investigation Waters: Finally, it may not be basketball-related, but it’s impossible to mention this offseason without discussing North Carolina’s impending date with the NCAA Committee of Infractions. The story has dominated ACC sports news. To briefly sum things up, the Tar Heels had an assistant coach, John Blake, on the payroll of an agent. If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA investigation unveiled thousands (I’m not kidding) of dollars in unpaid parking tickets and even several cases of academic fraud. The university has come out very firmly saying these infractions only involved the football team** but the scandal has gained national notoriety. (**Author’s note: the one connection with the basketball team is that Greg Little was one of UNC’s ineligible football players. Little was also a walk-on for the basketball team during the 2007-08 season, playing in ten games. North Carolina has said that his infractions occurred after his year with the basketball team, so no win vacations are in the basketball team’s future.)
  • Somehow, despite academic fraud, ineligible benefits and an agent runner on staff, the Tar Heels failed to get the NCAA’s most serious “lack of institutional control” violation for what appeared to be nothing less thana lack of institutional control. Again, this scandal is confined to football, but it’s one of the many recent scandals that have come to light in big time college athletics in the last couple of years (Connecticut, USC, Ohio State, Oregon, etc). These scandals could force the NCAA to augment its rules somewhat, and even though they may not directly relate to basketball, they may have a very real impact of college sports as we know it over the next few years.

    Freshman phenom Austin Rivers is ready for Duke, but how quickly will 2011's top high school point guard perform on the big stage? (Orlando Sentinel)

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Conference Report Card: ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Conference Recap

The ACC had a down year though North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall-led resurgence and Florida State’s Sweet Sixteen appearance helped a little bit. Before and during the season, Duke was the runaway favorite in the conference: Kyrie Irving’s toe injury obviously was the pivotal point that brought Duke back down to earth. Equally pivotal (in the reverse direction) was Marshall’s move to starting point guard for North Carolina. With Larry Drew II at the helm, there is no way the Tar Heels could have come close to surpassing Duke for the regular season title. The down year did not really surprise most people, and despite lofty preseason expectations (read: people forgot how highly rated North Carolina was to start the season) I think the perception is that the league at least lived up to preseason expectations with a couple of notable exceptions: NC State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. NC State had NCAA Tournament talent, but did not come anywhere close to sniffing the Big Dance; Wake was arguably the worst major conference team in the country; and Virginia Tech once again found itself very highly seeded in the NIT. On the flip side, Clemson and Florida State both exceeded expectations.

Roy Williams and Kendall Marshall led a mid-season resurgence that resulted in a trip the Elite Eight. (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

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The Week That Was: November 27 – December 3

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

LeBron James’ big return to Cleveland on Thursday night got TWTW thinking if something similar could ever happen in the college hoops world. Now obviously it would be tough/impossible to create the exact same circumstances surrounding James’ seven-year tenure in Cleveland, his love affair with the city and their subsequent breakup on national TV this past summer. First we’d have to end the NCAA’s policy that forces transfer players to sit out for a year, as that would let players move freely to and from teams in a manner similar to free agency in the NBA. Then we’d have to find the right player that could possibly inspire the right amount of anger/hatred if he just so happened to “take his talents” to the wrong team.

Imagine if Hansbrough Moved to Duke...

OK, ready? Imagine if Tyler Hansbrough announced after UNC’s Final Four loss to Kansas in 2008 that he was going to transfer to Duke for his senior season. Kinda the same situation. A ringless player jumps ship in search of a possible championship. Imagine the public outcry. Imagine the reaction in Chapel Hill. Imagine Hansbrough’s first trip to the Dean Dome in a Blue Devils’ jersey.  You think Cleveland hates James? Just think about hatred felt by Tar Heel Nation if the reigning player of the year jumped ship to play for its bitter rival. Cleveland fans harbored no ill-will toward the Heat before this year, UNC fans don’t need any reason to wish bad things upon Duke and Coach K.

I don’t know if the environment in our hypothetical Dean Dome would trump the Quicken Loans Area. But it would be a memorable night… one of the most epic evenings of hoops in college basketball history.

Anyway let’s get back to reality with our third installment of TWTW.

What We Learned

  • Despite its overtime win at Virginia Tech, I don’t like what I see from Purdue. While discrediting the Boilermakers’ chops as a national player was a popular thing to do in the immediate aftermath of Robbie Hummel’s season-ending ACL tear, there was still a small group that warned people not to overlook Matt Painter’s club.  “Hey! We’ve still got E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson!” There’s no debating Moore’s and Johnson’s basketball credentials, but the problem is there’s not much firepower apart from that inside-outside duo. Against Richmond and Virginia Tech, the Boilermakers put up some pretty dreadful offensive numbers. They only made four field goals in the first half against the Spiders en route to a 16-53 shooting night (30.2%). They improved slightly against the Hokies (36.2%), but Johnson and Moore combined for 43 of Purdue’s 58 points Wednesday night. To compete in a Big Ten that’s looking more and more loaded as the season progresses, the Boilermakers are going to have to find some offensive balance.
  • Even though it boasts the best team in the country, the ACC stinks. Thank god for Duke (how many times has that sentence been written?). The Blue Devils provide some much-needed respectability to a conference that views itself as the center of the college basketball universe. This year, though, the ACC shares more in common with the Atlantic 10 than the Big East. #1 Duke is the only squad ranked in RTC’s top 25. Let’s take it a step further. If you look at the AP poll, the ACC only boasts two teams outside of Durham, N.C., that received votes. North Carolina checks in at #29 and Virginia Tech at #32. The conference lost the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by a count of 6-5. And for every positive result like Duke’s 84-79 win over Michigan State or Virginia’s upset at Minnesota, there were disasters like Georgia Tech’s 20-point thumping at Northwestern, Clemson’s home loss to Michigan and N.C. State’s 87-43 loss to Wisconsin. Could Duke possibly go 15-1 or 16-0 in conference play this season? TWTW wouldn’t bet against it.
  • Maybe all of that talk about Florida’s return to national prominence was a little bit premature. The Gators began the season expecting to battle Kentucky and Tennessee for the SEC East title because they… ummm, they… why did everyone think this team would be great, again? Billy Donovan’s bunch definitely is going through some growing pains. Since its blowout loss at home to Ohio State on November 16, Florida struggled to beat the likes of Morehead State and Florida Atlantic and then got beaten by Central Florida on Wednesday. Like Purdue, the Gators aren’t performing on the offensive end. Florida has only topped 70 points once in the past four games, and its 75.3 points per game rank 94th overall as of Wednesday night. The most troubling stat for Florida is that it ranks 93rd in the nation in assists as only three players on the Gators’ roster (Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton) average more than one dime a game.

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ATB: Georgetown Lights Up The Heartland

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2010

The Lede.  Tonight had a bit of a March feel to it, with so many big-time programs taking on other big-time programs and culminating in a thrilling back-and-forth shootout in Kansas City with Georgetown taking on Missouri.

Your Watercooler Moment.  The ACC is horrible right now.  Already down 4-2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after tonight’s thrashing (only moribund Wake Forest managed to get a W), we’re having trouble seeing anybody other than Duke getting to the second weekend of the NCAAs once again.  We’re on record in this space that the ACC, the traditional standard-bearer of basketball conferences, has for at least five years been living off two things: that gilded reputation built through several decades of across-the-board excellence; and, the ability of two teams — Duke and UNC — to make runs to the Final Four and win championships.  In the last five seasons, the ACC has only put seven teams into the Sweet Sixteen, and only one of those seven (Boston College in 2006) was located on a highway other than US 15-501.  The  2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge only crystallizes how far the rest of this league has fallen behind Duke.  Tonight Georgia Tech walked into Northwestern and got destroyed, giving up 55 first-half points; Florida State, possibly the second or third best team in the league, ‘defended’ its home court for the second time in a week with another pitiful offensive performance; Clemson allowed a weak Michigan team to enter Littlejohn and defile its building; and, old reliable UNC with its stable of McDonald’s All-Americans still couldn’t figure out how to properly run an offense or make a free throw.  It’s ugly out there in ACC-land, and tomorrow promises to only be marginally better.  The ACC has three home games (and three Vegas favorites), but do you honestly believe in anybody other than Duke at home?  Are you willing to trust Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland or NC State based on what you’ve seen out of this league so far?  Look, it could turn out that Duke wallops MSU (a likely scenario) and BC, VT and the Terps all get wins (less likely but possible) so that the ACC notches yet another victory in the Challenge, but such a result still doesn’t change the reality that this league is light years from where it once was in terms of quality and depth of talent.  The Big Ten has at least four teams that are Sweet Sixteen-worthy and the Big East and Big 12 aren’t far behind; even the lowly SEC has two or three teams at that level this year.  How many do you see out of the ACC, realistically — Duke and who else?

Game of the Season (So Far)RTC Live was in the house in KC tonight for this instant classic, and our correspondent Brian Goodman reported from the scene.

Georgetown 111, Missouri 102 (OT).  Georgetown and Missouri spun a November tale from which March memories are made: a big comeback, a missed free throw that proved vital, career nights by players on both sides, a buzzer-beating three, and ultimately for the Hoyas, a highlight win to remember. Georgetown used a scorching perimeter attack from Austin Freeman (31 points, including 19 in the first half) and Jason Clark to race out to an 18-point lead in the first half, but from then on, Mike Anderson’s Tigers systematically wore Georgetown down. Gradually chipping away at the deficit, Missouri guard Marcus Denmon sent the frenzied semi-home crowd into hysterics with a three to pull ahead in the second half. The Hoyas, noticeably fatigued by the Tigers’ trademark press, still had enough in the tank to battle back and took advantage of a window cracked by MU guard Michael Dixon (who came into the game shooting 85% from the line). After the sophomore missed a free throw in the waning seconds, the Hoyas corralled the rebound, and when a loose ball swung out to Chris Wright on the perimeter, the guard cooly sank a three just before the buzzer to send the game into an extra frame. Wright, who was 1-6 from three before that crucial moment, then passed the baton to Clark. The junior from Arlington, Virginia, made three consecutive threes in overtime to seal the 111-102 victory, and Missouri went from having a huge win in their back pocket, to sitting in the interview room talking about missed opportunities in the span of 15 short minutes. Georgetown, with a big non-conference win to add to their already-impressive Tournament resume, returns to DC flying high on their continued consistency beyond the arc and a perfect 18-18 night from the stripe. Both teams still have work to do — the Hoyas are looking for answers down low and Missouri needs rebounding help outside of Ricardo Ratliffe — but each now knows what they need to improve upon in the next several months.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • The VS Fashion Show.  If there’s one thing that can distract all of our tweeple (99% of whom are American males between the ages of 18-35) from the Game of the Season (So Far) in college basketball, it’s a Victoria’s Secret television special.  It was actually fairly hilarious — one tweet would be about Jason Clark dropping another trey on Missouri while the next one would be about Katy Perry’s husband cavorting with the models backstage.
  • Kemba Walker’s 30 for 30.  After six games, Walker is averaging exactly 30 PPG, and he’s doing it in the coveted 50/40/80 zone, hitting 51.4% of his shots, 40.5% of his treys, and 88.5% of his foul shots.  Furthermore, as he did last night when he shot 16 FTs, he’s getting to the line at a prolific pace for a guard, averaging ten trips per game.  All great scorers know that the foul line is where the points are, and Walker is getting nine of his from there each night out.  Can he average thirty for the entire year?  It’s doubtful, but at this rate, who knows?  For a little context, only two players in the last twenty years have reached the prestigious 30 PPG threshold — Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1993-94 (30.3 PPG) and LIU’s Charles Jones in 1996-97 (30.1 PPG).
  • Georgetown’s Backcourt.  There may not be a better guard trio anywhere in America than the Hoyas’ Austin Freeman, Jason Clark and Chris Wright.  Experienced, athletic and physical, the three are combining for 42 PPG, 11 RPG and 12 APG while shooting the ball exceptionally well (15-32 from deep last night and 48.4% on the season).  Somewhat reminiscent of the Villanova teams of Foye, Allen and Nardi a few years ago, if the Hoyas can keep their big men on the floor to play defense and producing where needed, they should be very good again.
  • JT Terrell, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Tobias Harris.  Tonight’s freshman corps showed what they were capable of in varying degrees — Terrell hit seven threes including the game-winner for Wake en route to 32 points; Sullinger dropped his third dub-dub of the season with 11/13 in 36 physical minutes against FSU; Jones did likewise with 18/10 while his teammate Knight added 23/6/6 assts; Harris continues to impress with another solid 21/6 outing for UT;
  • Syracuse’s CJ Fair With the Sicknasty.  His only bucket of the game was, needless to say, rousing.

… and Misses.

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Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims- are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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