O26 Game of the Week: Hawkeye State Showdown, Harvard-Virginia & SDSU-Cincy…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 17th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Northern Iowa (9-1) vs. Iowa (8-3) – 7:30 PM ET, Big Ten Network, Saturday.

Northern Iowa has a knack for playing in really good basketball games this season. The Panthers upended Stephen F. Austin by two in overtime during last month’s Tip-Off Marathon, ending the Lumberjacks’ 33-game home winning streak; they squandered a big second-half lead against George Mason earlier this month before escaping in overtime; and on Saturday, Ben Jacobson’s group lost its first game in one of the best games of the season, a double-overtime thriller at VCU. So what does UNI have in store this week, bumping up against intrastate foe Iowa in Des Moines? Probably another barnburner.

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

KenPom currently ranks the Hawkeyes and Panthers 29th and 31st overall, respectively, which – on a neutral floor – results in a virtual coin-flip projection. Iowa is one of the nation’s top-30 fastest teams offensively (15.9 seconds per possession), while Northern Iowa is among the 30 slowest (20.4 seconds), yet the Hawkeyes’ strong suit has been its defense thus far this season, while the latter unit has been more offensively proficient. The Panthers, despite their preferred snail’s pace of play, demonstrated an ability to get out and run against VCU, so they should have no problem adjusting if Iowa’s uptempo pace wins out. The Hawkeyes’ most notable strength is its frontcourt, which provides much of the team’s scoring and prevents easy looks on the interior – which might actually suit Northern Iowa just fine, considering the majority of its points come from behind the arc and at the free throw line. This match-up may come down to Jacobson’s guys hitting perimeter shots – they went just 3-of-16 from distance in the game two years ago – and whether Fran McCaffery can get quality production from his backcourt. This should be a really good, really close contest either way.

More to Watch

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Morning Five: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. After nearly two years of investigations and countless missteps the NCAA finally sent Miami and people who left the school their notice of allegations. All of the reports that we have at this point are from sources as nobody outside of the school’s administration has access to the official notice, but the primary allegations are for “lack of institutional control”, which is amusing given the lack of institutional control that the NCAA has shown in controlling their own investigators. While most of these allegations are around the football team, at least a few of them involve the basketball staff under former coach Frank Haith, who has moved on to Missouri. According to reports Haith is facing a failure to monitor charge rather than the more serious unethical conduct charge that could have carried a show-cause penalty.
  2. When NCAA Selection Committee Chairman Mike Bobinski claim that the RPI was the best computer predictor of NCAA Tournament success we were stunned, but unlike many of us who just laughed at the suggestion John Ezekowitz decided to take a look at the data and found that Bobinski was wrong. As you would expect Ken Pomeroy’s rankings outperform the RPI (of course every college basketball fan knows that Pomeroy is the most amazing thing ever), but what is more interesting is how much Ezekowitz’s Survival Advantage model (explained here) outperforms both the RPI and Pomeroy in predicting the NCAA Tournament. This is something that you should remember in a month when you are filling out your bracket.
  3. As usual Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings have their usual wealth of great information packed into the most concise format this side of Twitter. While Luke always makes great use of graphics and charts his weekly column typically focuses on one or two major themes. This week’s themes (outside of enraging every single college basketball fan in the state of Michigan) are Winn’s analysis of three players (Trey Burke, Tyler Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk) having exceptionally efficient high-usage seasons and two players (Kenny Kadji and Erik Murphy) who have become much more perimeter-oriented later in their college careers.
  4. The success of a few individuals (most notably Mike Leach in football before his closet fiasco) has led some to speculate that there could be a change in the way that sports are played. One of the latest examples to make the media rounds is the style of play from West Liberty, a Division II school, that has been highly successful in playing an up-tempo style of basketball. While we have had our issues with gimmicks in basketball (see our takedown of Malcolm Gladwell from 2009), but this attack and others like it are obviously more nuanced than what Gladwell espoused. We doubt that any power conference schools (read: athletic directors) would be willing to try it, but we would love to see a mid- or low-major try it out.
  5. Since the Fab Five, which technically didn’t exist (we’re still going with that, right), Michigan has experienced relatively little success in the NCAA Tournament. However, this season the Wolverines have realistic Final Four aspirations and with the NCAA’s dissociation of Chris Webber and the school ending in May, the school has been reaching out to the former members and with Juwan Howard now on board it seems like only a matter of time before the school has some big event to celebrate the group. Frankly we cannot see the downside of it other than irritating the NCAA, which will still leave a black mark next to the team’s accomplishments. However the administration has expressed some reservation in celebrating the group so it will be interesting to see what they decide.
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NBA Finals Features Plenty of College Stars

Posted by EJacoby on June 12th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat begins tonight in a dream matchup of star-studded teams that is sure to draw huge viewer ratings. The major media narrative of the series centers around the two superstars — LeBron James and Kevin Durant – and all basketball fans should enjoy watching them battle at the highest level. But digging deeper, diehard college hoops supporters are in for a real treat as each team features veteran players that were once stars at the collegiate level for Final Four-bound squads. Thought the Fab Five was a distant memory? Juwan Howard, former Michigan star from 1992-94 and current Miami reserve forward, thinks otherwise. Before the current John Calipari era, Kentucky’s last run of glory came in the late 90s, during which Nazr Mohammed was on the star-studded 1996 championship team before playing a much bigger role on the 1998 championship team. Fans surely remember Mario Chalmers‘ performance during the 2008 National Title game as well, featuring arguably the biggest shot in recent NCAA history. Chalmers is Miami’s starting point guard who will have to knock down some more big shots in order for the Heat to win. There are plenty of other players in this championship series that will bring college fanatics down memory lane.

Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich were stars for Kansas before being drafted by Oklahoma City (C. Landsberger, The Oklahoman)

The rosters of the Heat and Thunder combine to feature 12 (!) different players that once played in a Final Four during their college careers. Oklahoma City’s Final Four attendees include Cole Aldrich, Nick Collison (twice), Daequan Cook, Royal Ivey, Russell Westbrook (twice), and Mohammed (three times). Miami, meanwhile, features Shane Battier (twice), Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Howard (twice), and Chalmers. These 12 players combined for five National Titles. Miller and Haslem were teammates at Florida for the 2000 Gators team that lost in the Championship Game to Michigan State. And this list doesn’t even include Durant, who won the National Player of the Year award in his only season at Texas (2007). Battier was also a NPOY winner at Duke during his accomplished college career. March Madness fans probably remember Derek Fisher, Eric Maynor, and Norris Cole, too, each of whom led small schools to the NCAA Tournament through leading point guard roles. Now they are all valuable reserves for potential NBA champions, though Maynor has missed this season with an ACL tear in his knee.

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RTC Conference Primers: #13 – Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2011

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com 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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Morning Five: 08.12.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on August 12th, 2011

  1. On July 23, Preston Anderson, a former BYU student and current basketball player for Hartnell College in Salinas, California, jumped on his motorcycle at five o’clock in the morning and drove away from his apartment, his roommates assuming he was headed off to a morning workout. Until three days ago, Anderson’s whereabouts have remained a total mystery. He left his cell phone behind and has contacted none of his family or friends. A credit card transaction at a hotel in Corozal, Belize from August 4 — about which his family learned on Tuesday — is the only way any of them know he’s still alive. Hotel staff confirmed that the guest/cardholder was a 6’9” American, same as Anderson. Preston’s father Corey assumes his son is en route to South America, given the current travel vector. We don’t cover a lot of community college basketball around here, but this has sort of a Chris McCandless vibe about it, only more tropical. We hope it ends better, with more of a Ewan McGregor/Charley Boorman-esque resolution.
  2. In the title to his article yesterday, Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy describes the changes the NCAA wants to make to college athletics as “a mixed bag of genius and idiocy.” Contained within is a fine summary of the new provisions the NCAA wants to implement, not to mention a tasty little UCLA dig. Have to say, here…we’ve been fans of the idea of tougher punishments for a long time; currently, the risks of cheating just don’t sufficiently outweigh the possible benefits, and while no set of rules can eradicate all the rascals, cranking up punishments could at long last have presumptive rule-breakers wondering if it’s really worth it. [Ed. Note: 3 of 5 days of M5 goodness for MD this week! Don’t think any writer has ever had that many in a M-F cycle. And MD and Luke Winn continue to battle for the all-time lead.]
  3. Can you believe that Facebook and Twitter now comprise 50% of recruiting interactions between recruiters and prospects? It is without question the best way for coaches to make contact with players nowadays, especially since the latter group seems reluctant to even pick up or open a ringing cell phone. Before you write that off to an alleged aloofness among high school recruits, first consider (as Pete Thamel of the New York Times did in his article from Tuesday) the case of Nerlens Noel, a top prospect who attends a prep school in New Hampshire. He has one hour of free time a day. You think he’s going to spend it all on his phone talking to coaches giving him their sales pitches? He says of Facebook: “It’s a great way to contact me.” He’s not alone.
  4. We hope that Chris Webber, Ray Jackson, and Juwan Howard are somewhere laying low and playing it cool right now, since the fates are evidently cracking down on the once-Fab Five. And by the fates, we mean the cops. Jalen Rose is halfway through a 20-day stretch in the pokey after pleading guilty to DUI, and now Jimmy King has been arrested and housed in the same facility (actually, we assume he’s out on bail by now) for failure to pay over $17,000 in child support. As if that wasn’t bad enough, King was arrested on his 38th birthday at a church after authorities saw his name on a basketball camp the church was holding. Whew.
  5. SI.com’s Luke Winn is back with another crop of sophomores likely up for big seasons as predicted by his Breakout Sophomore Formula. In addition to his usual clever and well-evidenced insights, two things in particular that we like about this offering from Winn are 1) the formula is designed to avoid insulting your intelligence by making obvious picks like, say, Jared Sullinger or Jeremy Lamb, and 2) Winn takes the time to examine how last year’s prognostications did. In doing so here, he also got in one of the great phrases we’ve seen in any sports article in some time: “libidinous malcontents.” You should already want to do so, but if that doesn’t make you want to click on the above link and check the article out for yourself, nothing will.
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Past Imperfect: When the Fab Five Changed the World

Posted by JWeill on March 11th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: Michigan’s revolutionary Fab Five.

We fear change. Change can be unannounced, even unwelcome. Or, sure, sometimes we may ask for it, beg for it, look to the heavens for it. But however it comes, when it actually does come, change straight freaks us out. Whether it’s something as small as a job change, as defining as a new child or as big as the first black president, change is maybe the most aggravating salvation there is. Because we curse and are disappointed by that which we once sought and rue the day we begged for what we now fear. So we then ask for change from our change.

In 1991, college basketball was ascendant. Fans were tuning into the annual tournament in record numbers, new modes of media were creating a whole new spectacle out of the Final Four and it was a age before the annual exodus of underclassmen to the pros. This meant that teams were both NBA talented and upperclassmen experienced, and the play on the floor showed that. The tournaments in the last half-decade of the 1980s seemed ever-increasingly better. It was a Golden Age for college hoops. No one was particularly asking for things to get shuffled around.

But you can’t always predict when things will change. And in the fall of 1991, change came to college basketball in the form of five supremely talented freshmen. In particular, five supremely talented freshmen came to the same place at the same time. And with them came change without ever being asked for. Or, rather, it snuck up on everyone. All Michigan coach Steve Fisher was looking for was a change in the fortunes of his basketball team. Two years removed from redefining “interim coach” by winning six straight games and the 1989 national title, Fisher’s team had struggled its way to a losing mark, lacking star power. Michigan needed players, so Fisher went out and got the five best he could get. They just so happened to also be five of the best in the whole country.

Chris Webber was the jewel of the golden ’91 Fab Five class.

Two of them were no brainers, local wunderkinds Fisher  — or whomever would have been the Michigan coach — had to lock in. Chris Webber was the nation’s best high school senior: the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and a three-time Michigan state champion at Detroit Country Day. Webber was the biggest of the big-time. Michigan had to make sure he was heading to Michigan. There was nothing wrong with Webber; he was the kid everyone wanted. You don’t touch that kid’s game, you just turn him loose and watch.

Jalen Rose was also playing in Fisher’s backyard. Himself a Burger Boy All-American at Southwestern High in Detroit, Rose was as loquacious as Webber was brooding. Rose would be Fisher’s floor general, a tall Magic-like playmaker with moxie coming out his ears. Rose had bloodlines, too, being the kid of Jimmy Walker, a former #1 pick. But Rose didn’t know his father, and besides, Rose wasn’t going to be just someone’s kid. He wouldn’t play in anyone’s shadow, and he wasn’t going to change for anyone. No, you’ll be the one to adapt to him. He was the kind of kid who’d tell you that straight up. Proof? When he was being recruited by Temple he asked John Chaney to change the time of Chaney’s notorious 5 a.m. practices. Chaney, unsurprisingly, said no. Rose ended up at Michigan.

But recruiting kids in your neighborhood, even the ones everyone else is recruiting, is one thing. Going into other people’s territory and landing big fish is a real task. And diving into Chicago to nab the best player there, too? Well, that was quite a feat indeed. But that’s what Fisher and his staff did when they got Juwan Howard, a 6’9” beast with quick feet, soft hands and a sharp mind. Howard was everyone’s top target, particularly Illinois, who had grabbed four of the last five Chicago Players of the Year. But Howard had other plans. His main rival, the one he measured himself against, was now Illinois’ star freshman Deon Thomas, a year older than Howard. Going head-to-head with Thomas twice a year was how Howard would show everyone that he was the best player to come out of Chicago in years, not Thomas. Howard was going to change the way people thought about him. And he was going to do that at Michigan.

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Past Imperfect: The Long Road To Humility

Posted by JWeill on January 27th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape.  This week: in a week BYU and San Diego State meet for a top 10 matchup, a look at two key figures in each school’s basketball history.

It’s June 1991, and Steve Fisher is in a good mood, a really good mood. It may seem odd, given he’s just emerged from coaching Michigan to a 14-15 record, his first losing season in his brief stint as a head coach. To add to it, he’s just graduated his leading scorer and captain. And yet, here is Fisher, serene and smiling in his bespectacled, professorial way. If it looks as if he knows something the rest of us don’t, that’s because he does.

What Fisher knows is that he’s just signed the best freshman class in school history – maybe in NCAA history. Combined, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King will go on to win 97 games for the Wolverines, coming within reach of back-to-back national titles. It’s also a crew that will have most of its wins expunged. But Fisher doesn’t know any of that yet. All he knows right now is that after a trying season, the cavalry is coming in baggy shorts and tall black socks, a group of young men who will change college basketball and the coach who brought them together. Forever.

* * *

It’s July 1991, and a 7-foot-6 Mormon basketball player – one of the tallest men on the planet, probably the world’s tallest Mormon — is giving up the game that is going to make him a millionaire someday. Well, maybe not exactly giving up, because what Shawn Bradley is really doing is taking a break to spread the word of God. For two years.

That he’s just finished an All-American freshman season in which he set an all-time record for blocks in a game is immaterial right now. The game-changing giant is heading to Australia to take a break, not knowing if he’ll ever play the game he’s loved his whole life again. It will be a confusing, often frustrating time, but one that will change him. Forever.

* * *

In many ways, Fisher is an unlikely spark for the basketball revolution that’s coming. A former high school coach in Park Forest, Ill., Fisher was on the slow track. For 10 years an assistant coach, Fisher was never the lead guy. Like all college assistants, he was the brains and hard work behind the scenes. He went on recruiting trips, sure, but the glory, and of course the headaches, ultimately went to the man in the seat beside him.

Interim coach Steve Fisher led Michigan to the 1989 championship.

Then came March 1989, and the man in the seat beside him, Bill Frieder, was fired for taking another job before Michigan’s season has come to an end. The NCAA tournament is one day away and now Fisher is the one responsible for wins or losses. Of course he is nervous. So what does the accidental head coach go out and do? He wins the whole damn thing. In a matter of three weeks, there’s more glory than Steve Fisher ever imagined, and all after just six games. It’s a story too remarkable to be believable, but believable because it is true. Six games and Fisher had just reached the pinnacle of the job he’d only just joined by accident. Six games and a mountain of glory you can only tumble down from.

Because what can Steve Fisher do to follow up six-and-oh my God?

* * *

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Morning Five: 11.22.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2010

  1. It looks like this whole Bruce Pearl ordeal just got a whole lot more interesting as the SEC suspended the Tennessee coach for the first eight games of SEC play. The suspension means that Pearl will not be able to coach the Volunteers in their SEC games between January 8th and February 5th nor will he be able to coach them during practices in the hours preceding/following those games BUT (emphasis intended) he will be able to coach against UConn and Jim Calhoun, someone in a bit of hot water with the NCAA, on January 22nd, and against Kentucky and John Calipari, someone who always appears to be at the edge of the hot water with the NCAA, on February 8th. Pearl still has to go in front of the NCAA infractions committee in early February. Some pundits are calling for Pearl’s head (figuratively, we think), but Pearl himself does not think it will be such a big deal.
  2. The other piece of big news over the weekend was the NCAA clearing Josh Selby to play for Kansas this season. They suspended Selby nine games, of which he has already missed three, for receiving $5,757.58 (or $4,607.58 if you believe Kansas) in impermissible benefits. Of course, some Kentucky fans are up in arms about Enes Kanter being ruled permanently ineligible for taking $33,033 (technically a little over 51 games worth if it was matched to Selby’s suspension) from his Turkish club, but it appears that the NCAA is differentiating between taking money on the side and being a professional.
  3. There’s some important injury news to get to, as two teams were hit hard this weekend. NC State will be without the services of Tracy Smith, who led the team in scoring (16.5 PPG) and rebounding (7.5 RPG) last season, for three weeks after he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday. Smith’s absence will only put more pressure on beleaguered head coach Sidney Lowe (can that be his new title: “beleaguered head coach?”). Meanwhile, a few hundred miles up the Atlantic coast, new coach Kevin Willard will have to search for more scoring from his Seton Hall team as gunner extraordinaire Jeremy Hazell will be out for 4-6 weeks with broken bone in his left wrist.
  4. Over the weekend, Michigan brought back three-fifths of the Fab 5, which according to the NCAA never existed, to Crisler Arena. Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson were all on hand for the Wolverines’ rout of Gardner-Webb. Juwan Howard was not available as he is currently “playing” for the Miami Heat (8.3 minutes per game in four appearances this year). Chris Webber…well, according to the NCAA, Chris Webber never attended the University of Michigan. At least not for a few more years.
  5. Coming into the season we knew that UNC freshman Harrison Barnes would face unrealistic expectations. Now, we didn’t expect him to go 0-for-12 as he did against Minnesota on Friday, but our expectations were significantly lower that his hometown paper (see the headline).
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The Fraud 5 or Fab 5?

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2007

The Detroit Free-Press reported today that Jalen Rose is responsible for the following monstrosity memorial to the Fraud 5 Fab 5, Michigan’s controversial, engaging, frustrating, overachieving and underachieving teams of the early 90s. 

Fab Five billboard

We’re no Mitch Albom, so you won’t see a treatise on five people you meet in Michigan or basketball played in heaven here today, but we do recognize that the team represented on the billboard above was probably the most widely discussed yet schizophrenic college hoops team of the past two decades.  When focused, the team was without question one of the best conglomerations of talent in one class ever assembled; when not, they were as maddeningly frustrating as they were enticing.   

Were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson the Fab 5 or the Fraud 5?  Ultimately, it depends on your perspective.  We took a shot at comparing the two below. 

Fab 5 or Fraud 5

For a recap of the group and their effects on the game at large, check the below ESPN clip: 

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