Freeze Frame: Evaluating Kentucky’s Pick and Roll Offense Against Duke

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 14th, 2012

Duke led the Kentucky Wildcats by as many as 14 points on Tuesday night before the Cats chipped away within striking distance with under three minutes to go. With the lead cut to just three points, Kentucky went to its staple offensive set — a high on-ball screen from center Nerlens Noel for point guard Archie Goodwin. However, with the Wildcats mounting a comeback and precious minutes ticking off the clock, Duke defended the play well and shut down Goodwin’s options. For this play to be successful, two things need to happen: 1) Noel needs to set a solid screen on the on-ball defender and roll quickly to the basket, and 2) Goodwin needs good penetration into the lane. Neither of these happened, leaving Kentucky to take contested shots and leave the Georgia Dome with a loss.

Duke 64 – Kentucky 61, 2:47 remaining in the game: 

High on ball screen to set up the pick and roll.

Goodwin begins the offense at the top of the key, and Noel sets the screen. Because of Noel’s athleticism, he rolls straight to the basket looking for a lob. Notice Kentucky’s spacing in this set as the Cats’ two best shooters — Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays — set up on the wing. If their man leaves to play help defense on Goodwin they are lined up for an open shot to tie up this game. Poythress lines up in the corner, looking to make a cut straight towards the basket for an offensive rebound or if his man leaves to help. But make no mistake, this play is designed for Goodwin to penetrate as scoring option number one and Noel to look for the lob as scoring option number two.

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SEC M5: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on October 25th, 2012

  1. Kentucky took to the Rupp Arena floor Wednesday night for its annual Blue-White scrimmage. Over 12,000 fans were in attendance, with many more catching the action on Fox Sports Net. The new-look Wildcats put on a high-flying, high-scoring show, but coach John Calipari downplayed the performance. “Folks, let me just say this,” he told fans after the final buzzer, “thanks for being here tonight. Can you see how far we have to go?” This isn’t surprising of course, as Calipari downplaying his team’s level of quality before the season seems to be his modus operandi. Big performances from freshmen Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel will dominate headlines, but the upperclassmen showed promise as well. Kyle Wiltjer displayed improved strength and dropped a pretty baby hook over Noel, while transfer Julius Mays showed a quick and accurate trigger from long range. Even Jon Hood, coming off a knee injury, looked energetic and shot the ball efficiently. If one of these older players can step into the leadership role vacated by Darius Miller, Kentucky may not be as far away as their coach believes.
  2. Attendence figures have been woeful for South Carolina over the past few seasons, but Frank Martin has designs on quickly changing that. In a meeting with members of the student body on Monday, the new Gamecock coach discussed ideas to increase fan interest. “I’ll make myself available for anything the students want,” he said. “I need you guys in that building.” Martin isn’t the type to shy away from a challenge. In 2007, he took over a Kansas State program that hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in over a decade and promptly led the Wildcats to four bids in six seasons. Turning around a moribund South Carolina program might be even tougher. The overall lack of talent on the roster makes an immediate reversal of fortunes unlikely, but Martin’s willingness to reach out to a jaded fanbase is a step in the right direction.
  3. Want to hear what your coach thinks about your team’s chances this season? Your questions will be answered today, as the league’s coaches gather in Hoover, Alabama, for SEC Media Day. The story from last year’s event was the unwavering confidence of Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who seemed to take issue with the fact that his team wasn’t being ranked ahead of the inexperienced Kentucky Wildcats. After losing every key contributor from a 25-win team, how will the Commodores’ coach react to this year’s 10th place prediction for his squad?
  4. New LSU coach Johnny Jones got a jump on the Media Day festivities when he addressed local media in Baton Rouge yesterday. “We have really been pleased with the last few days of practice,” said Jones. “Unfortunately, we have had a few players go down with injuries which are somewhat of a little setback. Hopefully, we will get them back on the floor in the near future within the next few days. That would be beneficial for us because of our lack of numbers.” Any hint of injury on an already thin squad is troubling news for LSU fans, since even a full-strength Tiger team won’t win many conference games this season. Jones will be counting on good fortune on the injury front to stay away from the bottom of the standings. If he runs into some bad luck, however, he can ask Andrew Del Piero for help finding practice bodies. A couple of those trombone players looked like they had some size.
  5. Details surrounding Billy Gillispie’s dismissal from Texas Tech continue to emerge, and they aren’t pretty. E-mails obtained by USA Today indicate that the former Kentucky coach regularly ignored practice time restrictions, most notably on one October weekend in 2011 when the team “practiced for 7 hours, 15 minutes on Saturday, and 6 hours, 30 minutes on Sunday”. His tenure in the SEC was an unmitigated disaster, and his failed campaign at Texas Tech only highlights how unfit Gillispie was to lead the league’s most prestigious program. It seems unlikely that another school will take a chance on him in the near future (if at all), so when the controversy over his improprieties in Lubbock fades away, we hope that you won’t have to read Gillispie’s name on this site for long, long time.
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SEC Weekly Five: 07.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on July 20th, 2012

  1. While many athletic programs avoid so much as acknowledging their players are utilizing social media outlets, Tennessee is embracing it. The Volunteers have added players’ Twitter account information on their online player profiles. And associate media relations director Tom Satkowiak hasn’t turned his players loose in the social media world, but rather is educating them on its proper use by conducting seminars and workshops. “I cringe every time I see a coach or program ban the use of social media,” Satkowiak said. “I think we should be educating guys on how to use it because it’s not going to go away. It’s a part of life now. We just need to educate them on how to use it right.” And there are plenty of opportunities to showcase improper use as well, as Satkowiak has done by showing pictures and tweets that have landed other players in big trouble. A coach cannot control every action of his players, so it’s refreshing to see a university turn to education first as opposed to automatically resorting to punishment.
  2. Fifth year Kentucky senior Julius Mays doesn’t have long to adjust to his new coach John Calipari, but the guard is coming along quickly in a new system. Mays transferred to the Wildcats with one season of eligibility remaining after playing for NC State and Wright State. And even though he is a veteran player, he is learning new things already. “Coming here it’s just completely different, even the way (Calipari) wants you to come off the ball screens,” Mays said in an interview with “It’s completely different than the ways I’ve done in the past, and I’ve played ball screen offense for the four years I’ve been in college.” It is clear that Mays can score, so Calipari will figure out how to find minutes for a player who can provide three-point shooting accuracy and scoring even if he isn’t in the starting lineup.
  3. Players can’t be expected to practice and work out every second of the day. It’s the summer, after all, and that means a lot more free time. Kentucky sophomore Kyle Wiltjer and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein recently found the time to take a break from basketball to make an entertaining video complete with break-dancing in the parking lot, freestyle raps, and a special guest appearance from “random dude’ complete with swag. And this isn’t Wiltjer’s first taste of YouTube success. Wiltjer and his crew, affectionately known as the “White Boy Academy”, have made other videos including this dunk fest, this instructional video, and this celebratory rap video. It may be a slow news week for SEC basketball, but we can always count on the WBA and the addition of Cauley-Stein to entertain us. Well done, fellas. Well done.
  4. Look out, ESPN College Gameday is coming back to Rupp Arena. Kentucky has been a participant in College Gameday every year since its inception in 2005 (, excluding a Billy Gillispie season in 2009). Rupp Arena has hosted the show three times (2005 against Mississippi State, 2007 against #1 ranked Florida, and 2010 against Tennessee) and holds the record for the largest attendance at the Gameday morning show. But this time, Kentucky fans are really looking forward to the arrival of Digger Phelps after his dig at Big Blue Nation in Nashville last year. Just imagine if Bobby Knight shows up in Lexington too, after his comments or lack thereof about Kentucky and coach John Calipari over the years. The drama of the personalities involved might be the biggest draw for this event, and not the actual game itself, which has the Cats facing off with the Florida Gators.
  5. Ole Miss sent out this release , already mentioned in the RTC Morning Five on July 18, stating that the rivalry between Memphis and the Rebels would be renewed on the hardwood. While Tigers coach Josh Pastner said “not so fast my friends,” his beef isn’t just with Ole Miss. He has expressed his lack of interest in playing any regional SEC team. Regarding in-state rival Tennessee, Pastner told a Knoxville radio station, “I have no desire to play Tennessee,” and told CBS Sports his team would not play the Volunteers “unless the Governor makes me.” It sounds like Pastner isn’t making friends anywhere he turns in the Southeastern Conference.
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SEC Weekly Five: 05.17.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on May 17th, 2012

  1. Kentucky missed out on a pair of the blue-chip forwards left in the recruiting period, Anthony Bennett and Amile Jefferson so now it appears that they will attempt to land Montrezl Harrell, who will be leaving Virginia Tech before even playing a game. Harrell committed to the Hokies before they let go of Seth Greenberg. Despite attempts by the school to change Harrell’s mind and keep him with the program, they eventually granted Harrell his release allowing him to explore his options.
  2. Additionally on the Kentucky revolving-door roster situation, earlier in the week, the Wildcats landed one-year transfer Julius Mays from Wright State. May started his career at North Carolina State, where he averaged around five points per game over his two seasons. In one year at Wright State, he averaged 14.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Mays will be able to play for the Wildcats next season as he is set to graduate from Wright State after the Spring semester and will enroll in a graduate program at Kentucky.
  3. Kentucky maintained its place atop the college basketball attendance figures, leading the nation in average attendance for the seventh straight year (and 16th time in the previous 17 years). From the article on the achievement, “Kentucky also set an single-season record for overall fans-per-game, as the team’s 22,148 number for its 40 games came out to a total of 885,953 fans. The previous record? Held by Syracuse, of course. The Orangemen saw 855,053 fans flock to their games back in 1989.”
  4. Mike Anderson bolstered Arkansas’s non-conference slate as the Razorbacks will be part of the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational. The field includes Wisconsin, Arizona State, and Creighton. While Arizona State probably will still continue to struggle, the other two members of the field will be solid even if they are adjusting to the loss of some significant senior leadership in their backcourt.
  5. With most of the uncommitted recruits making their decisions in the past week, some SEC schools still hold out hope they may land the top available prospect, Devonta Pollard from DeKalb, Mississippi. According to The Sporting News, three SEC schools remain in the mix as “he is believed to be down to Texas and Alabama but hasn’t ruled out Mississippi State, Missouri or Georgetown.”
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Morning Five: 05.14.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 14th, 2012

  1. The competition for the best team in the West just got a little more interesting as Anthony Bennett, the top remaining recruit in the class of 2012, committed to UNLV. Bennett, a top ten recruit by almost any recruiting service, will join Mike Moser, Khem Birch, and several other talented, but less heralded player to form what could be the most formidable frontcourt in the country. Add in a veteran backcourt and one more scholarship opening for next year and you have the makings of a potential top ten team and one that might be more dangerous in March than their more heralded counterparts in the Pac-12–UCLA and Arizona.
  2. Just when you thought that John Calipari and Kentucky might be one piece short they pull out a surprise on Sunday afternoon in the form of Julius Mays, who will transfer from Wright State to Kentucky and will be able to play next season after graduating from Wright State this spring. We will skip over our thoughts on the transfer rule that has led to an explosion in individuals who plan “to attend graduate school in an area not offered” at their previous school (later clarified after a discussion with John Infante) and instead focus on the impact that bringing in a senior combo guard who averaged 14.1 points per game last season while leading his team in scoring, assists, and steals. It obviously is a big move that helps shore up some of the team’s deficiencies and provides them with an outside threat who shot 42.4% from three-point range this season. Given the depth the Wildcats have Mays will probably come off the bench, but if the fans are worried about Mays adjusting to the level of play in the SEC they can be comforted by the fact that like fellow transfer Ryan Harrow Mays spent time in the ACC at North Carolina State although his route to Kentucky included a detour before winding up in Lexington.
  3. Former Kentucky guard Sean Woods, best known to basketball fans as the man who hit the shot before “The Shot”, will move on from Mississippi Valley State to take over as the next head coach at Morehead State. Woods, who led Missouri Valley State to the NCAA Tournament this past season, will be introduced at a press conference scheduled for 2 PM tomorrow and immediately becomes the second most popular basketball coach in the state with the force of Big Blue Nation behind him. The hiring also means that we should expect to see more frequent matchups between Woods’ new school and his alma mater. Of course it is probably more important to note that Woods will also have to deal with an Ohio Valley Conference that will be markedly improved with Belmont joining the OVC this season giving it two very strong programs–Belmont and Murray State–in addition to the Eagles.
  4. After losing its appeal for a sixth year of eligibility for Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame won an appeal for a sixth year for another player as Scott Martin was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. While some Irish fans and NCAA critics will blast the NCAA for its decision to grant Martin a sixth year after not doing so for Abromaitis in reality the situations were quite different. Martin lost a year due to a transfer to be near his father who was battling cancer then Martin was injured before ever getting a chance to play for the Irish to account for his two years while Abromaitis took a year as his personal (or team-directed) choice due to lack of playing time then was injured after playing part of a season. While Irish fans and many college basketball fans hoped to see Abromaitis return for another year, Martin’s return is a nice consolation prize as it means that the Irish will have their entire starting lineup from last year back when it overachieved in the eyes of many observers.
  5. Derrick Nix, who was arrested the day after the National Championship Game, was ordered to pay $853 in fines and court costs and serve 24 hours of community service as part of his plea deal for a misdemeanor charge of impaired driving. In addition, the Michigan State rising senior will have attend eight to 12 sessions regarding marijuana use as well as a discussion led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The penalties appear to be appropriate for what is usually handed out in these type of cases for first-time offenders without serious criminal histories. Of course, most people in these type of cases do not have Tom Izzo waiting on the other end to dish out additional punishment.
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SEC Weekly Five: 05.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on May 11th, 2012

  1. The New York Times reports that incoming Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is being investigated by the NCAA for relationships among his inner circle. While some point fingers of allegations because of John Calipari and Kentucky’s involvement, reminds us that this issue will continue to be a problem with many of the top recruits regardless of school affiliation. “Just change the name and you’ve got a new story,” a high-major assistant coach said to Jeff Borzello this week. But coaches like Bob Knight (long-time Calipari critic) and media members like Pete Thamel (author of the NYT story) continue to point to Calipari as what is wrong in college sports. “People want to say Calipari is the problem with the system,” said an SEC assistant coach. “They want to point their finger at him. But he’s no different than any of these other guys.”
  2. Despite the buzz of allegations, Noel feels very confident that he will be eligible to play for Kentucky next season. He says that at this point the NCAA has not contacted him or his immediate family, and he feels that he is in a “great position to qualify,” even though he is aware of the investigation. “I don’t want to be too specific, but I’m in a good position to qualify,” Noel said in response to the NYT story. A Kentucky spokesman declined to comment, but Noel’s confidence has to be good news for the Cats.
  3. While many of the nation’s top recruits end up in Lexington, Wright State transfer shooting guard Julius Mays may end up rejecting Cal’s Cats. Mays shot an impressive 42.4% from beyond the arc last season, but rather than use those talents for Kentucky he is looking instead at Matt Painter’s Purdue squad. “I would have a chance to score the ball and play guard with a great group of guys,” Mays said. “I feel like I could play for coach (Matt) Painter. I watch a lot of basketball, and any time Purdue is on, I watch them. You never know if this is my last visit. If I’m ready to choose, that’s what I will do.” Kentucky needs depth for next year’s team, and of course, a deadeye shooter wouldn’t hurt either.
  4. Big guard Ralston Turner is considering a transfer and has been granted a release from LSU’s new coach Johnny Jones, who was hired to replace Trent Johnson this offseason. Turner indicated that he would like to take some time to think about his decision, but his release does not necessarily mean that he is leaving the Tigers. “I have been given my release and I will be taking a visit (to another school),” Turner said. “That’s all. I didn’t say I was 100 percent leaving (LSU). It’s something I have thought about for a while and Coach Jones is allowing me to do it. I am going to take a visit and when it’s over I will weigh my options.” Turner averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in his sophomore year with the Tigers, and would be a solid returning player for Jones in his first year on the bench for LSU.
  5. A lot of talk has centered around non-traditional schedules and Calipari’s desire to play at neutral sites, and now Indiana coach Tom Crean is defending his position regarding the recently dropped rivalry between the Hoosiers and the Wildcats. “First off, someone asked me do you not want to play neutral sites? We have neutral sites,” Crean told reporters. “When the Crossroads Classic came in, that became something that was going to be locked in every year. Even though it’s in Indianapolis, it’s a neutral site. It’s not a home site. You always want to have the ability to play in exempt tournaments. We’ve done that in the past. We have it this year, playing in New York. So there’s three right there.” It is a shame that Indiana and Kentucky cannot find a way to play considering the history and tradition that goes into that rivalry, but ultimately Calipari and Crean (and obviously the rest of the athletics staff involved) have to do what is perceived to be in the best interest of their program. Both head coaches have done enough recently (Cal with a National Championship and Crean with rebuilding IU from shambles) that trust in terms of whether or not each program is going in the right direction should not be an issue.
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Checking In On… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2011

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.

Reader’s Take


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

Power Rankings

  1. 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 »
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Set Your TiVo: 12.14.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati plays its first game since the Xavier brawl as Dead Week continues around the country. You should also keep an eye on the Iona/Richmond game at 3 PM but that one won’t be found on television.

Cincinnati at Wright State – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (**)

  • Cincinnati will only have six key contributors available when it heads to Wright State tonight. The Bearcats will be without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Ge’Lawn Guyn, and Octavius Ellis due to their suspensions stemming from the fight with Xavier on Saturday. Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon will have to step up in a big way for Cincinnati in order to win this game on the road. Wright State is not a good team, but the Bearcats have only one player taller than 6’5” available tonigt. For a team that can’t afford to speed up the game, that’s not a good combination for Cincinnati. Kilpatrick, Dixon, and point guard Cashmere Wright all can score, but the other Bearcats are all unproven. With Gates and company out, Cincinnati is missing a combined 22.2 PPG and 14.6 RPG in this game.
  • Wright State’s biggest advantages in this game are home court and height. Cincinnati’s players may be rattled playing a road game after the suspensions while the Raiders have three players 6’7” or taller, including 6’10” A.J. Pacher. He’s been plagued by foul trouble all season but if he manages to stay on the court for any extended period of time, Pacher will cause problems for Cincinnati in the paint. Billy Donlon’s top scorer is point guard Julius Mays, who is averaging 10.2 PPG. Wright State doesn’t score a lot of points due to its brutal offense but Mays does hit on 39.4% of his treys. Ordinarily, Wright State wouldn’t have much of a chance to beat Cincinnati. Given the Bearcats’ personnel issues, the Raiders have a solid chance this time.

Mick Cronin Will Need To Find A Way To Win Without His Best Players Tonight

  • Expect this game to be played at an incredibly slow pace. Both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket so this has the makings of a close game played in the 40s or 50s. For Wright State to win, it must assert itself inside from the start, limit Kilpatrick, and force some turnovers. The Raiders rank #35 in defensive turnover percentage, certainly a respectable number. Should this game come down to the wire, Cincinnati is actually a better free throw shooting team without the suspended players on the court. Kilpatrick, Wright and Dixon all shoot over 70% from the stripe. With all of the uncertainty around Cincinnati, we’re not sure how this game will play out. If forced to pick, we would give the slightest of edges to the home squad.

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RTC Conference Primers: #13 – Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2011

Jimmy Lemke of is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League. You can find his daily ramblings @PantherU or @JimmyLeMKE on Twitter.

Reader’s Take I

Last season, the Horizon League put four teams in the postseason — can it do it again?

Top Storylines

  • 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.
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RTC Summer Updates: Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 17th, 2011

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 Horizon League correspondent, Jimmy Lemke.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • End of an Era Homer Drew may have done his best work in the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), but that doesn’t bar the Horizon League community from recognizing the tremendous stature of the now-retired Valparaiso coach. He’s done it before – briefly retiring earlier in the decade to pave the way for son Scott Drew and promptly retaking the reins after Scott took the very difficult job at Baylor – but this time you could tell it was final. His ability to recruit overseas is second to none, and we will always remember the feel-good story of his1998 team. Speaking of that year, the coach to now replace him? None other than his other son, all-time Crusader great Bryce Drew.
  • Dickie V. Rules In Motor City – The Detroit Titans made a big splash this summer by deciding to name their court for former Titans coach and renowned broadcaster, Dick Vitale. While he spent only four years as head of the Titans before taking over as coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, Dickie V’s exploits on behalf of college basketball are immeasurable. Dick Vitale IS college basketball, regardless of how you feel about him. As a longtime follower of the Milwaukee program, I see the court naming as a disappointment for Perry Watson, who coached the Titans for a considerably longer stretch and was very successful in that time, but there’s no doubting the decision from the future point of view. This season, St. John’s will play at Detroit on ESPN following a ceremony celebrating the honor, and I’d be willing to bet the Titans are banking on any Dick Vitale anniversaries falling on Detroit’s home schedule with a visit from ESPN.
  • Big Names DepartBrandon Wood took a highly-publicized transfer to Michigan State and will be able to play immediately because he finished his degree at Valparaiso where his graduate program isn’t offered. Shelvin Mack declared for the draft and stayed put, going early in the second round to the Washington Wizards. But the biggest move in the conference is from the graduating senior class. Nearly every big team lost multiple big time competitors. Butler, of course, lost Mack, but they also lost Zach Hahn, Shawn Vanzant and, most importantly, Matt Howard. Milwaukee loses Anthony Hill and streaky-but-dangerous shooter Tone Boyle. Wright State, already on the downturn, lost Cooper Land, Troy Tabler, Vaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans. Cleveland State waved a heartfelt goodbye to perhaps the most talented of them all, Norris Cole, now with the Miami Heat. Put simply, eight of the ten 2010-11 all-Horizon League team members have exited the conference, with only two remaining: Ray McCallum, Jr. and Eli Holman, both of Detroit.

Brad Stevens Led The Bulldogs To Another Title Game Appearance, But He Faces Life Without Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack in the 2011-12 Season.

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