Morning Five: 05.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 17th, 2011

  1. Late last night news broke that Arizona point guard Lamont “Momo” Jones had decided to transfer and was likely headed back to the New York City area. Although Jones has not issued a statement about his transfer, Arizona coach Sean Miller has confirmed the reports that was indeed transferring. There has been plenty of speculation about why he was transferring, but much of it has centered around either his desire to go home to be near a sick family relative (reportedly his grandmother) or the logjam in a Arizona backcourt that will be loaded even without Jones, who averaged 9.7 PPG and 2.4 APG as a sophomore. We will have more on this story throughout the day as it develops.
  2. Later today Valparaiso is expected to name Bryce Drew as the successor to his father Homer Drew as the next coach of the program that he helped make famous. This is not the first time that Homer has stepped aside to let his son take over the program. In 2002, Homer stepped aside to let Scott Drew take over as coach at VU, but he stayed there just one year before leaving to take over at Baylor following the Dave Bliss era. Homer stepped back into his previous position where he has remained despite failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the past seven seasons. Bryce has served as an assistant at the school since 2005, but is best known for his miraculous shot against Mississippi in the 1st round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament and leading them to the school to its only Sweet 16 appearance.
  3. Last summer UNLV had to deal with domestic violence charges against its top returning scorer (Tre’Von Willis) and it appears that this summer it will have to deal with DUI charges against its top returning scorer (Chace Stanback). Stanback was arrested early on Friday near the Thomas & Mack Center on suspicion of driving under the influence. He is out of custody and is expected to appear in court on August 11. It will be interesting to see how new coach Dave Rice deals with the arrest both before and after the court appearance. Rice comes from a strict program at BYU (remember Brandon Davies), but he was also on the Jerry Tarkanian teams of the early 90s that had a more laissez-faire approach to punishment.
  4. One of the bigger stories in the college basketball world yesterday was Dana O’Neill’s story about former Villanova guard Will Sheridan publicly announcing that he was a homosexual. While we understand that this will be a big story and undoubtedly generate a lot of page views for ESPN, we are looking forward to the day when this isn’t even a story. The column itself is pretty interesting and takes an in-depth look at Sheridan’s life after Villanova, but the most interesting thing to us is that his teammates knew about it and didn’t seem to care. In our mind, that seems to be the biggest obstacle for a player “coming out” while they are still active. The fear of being ostracized seems to be within the realm of possibility and we have to applaud the Villanova players who were aware of it for how they handled “the news” and never let it get out or seem to bother them as we have seen with the recent Kobe Bryant controversy that there are still many ingrained attitudes about homosexuality that may be difficult to break in the world of sports.
  5. President Obama welcomed the national champion UConn Huskies to the White House. Unlike some recent championship ceremonies this one was without controversy although Kemba Walker apparently had a tough time getting there as he missed one flight and had another flight delayed before eventually finding his way to Washington, DC. The ceremony itself was fairly mundane except for a few jokes that Obama made about how UConn reminded him of his busted bracket (he picked Kansas to win) and his difficulty with the name of Adolph Rupp.
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UConn Visits the White House: Obama Reflects on “Adolph Ruff”

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2011

It’s a traditional rite of springtime, one just as certain as the March rains, the April cherry blossoms and the May political posturing that takes over Capitol Hill as we head into yet another election cycle in Washington, DC.  Jim Calhoun’s Connecticut Huskies spent Monday on the Hill, visiting President Obama in the time-honored American sporting tradition of meeting the president and having him butcher players’ names and stumble over specific facts from his speech.  These events are always somewhat awkward, as the leader of the free world tries to speak knowledgeably about a team he usually knows little about while the team honored does its best to genuflect and not trip all over themselves in front of such a dignitary.  You can watch the entire nine-minute proceeding below, but we wrote up a few of the highlights just in case you don’t want to waste the time.

In keeping with the measured yet light-hearted tone of these things, Obama tried to inject levity into the proceedings throughout.  He began with a comment about how UConn winning the title was bittersweet for him, as he was “reminded once again that [his] bracket was a bust.”  Luckily, he had a ready-made excuse in the form of ESPN’s Andy Katz, who he claimed told him “there’s no way UConn’s winning” the title.  Not to go all factcheck.org on the Prez, but he’s guilty of a little naysaying here — his bracket on ESPN.com finished in the 87th percentile, which is about forty percentage points better than his current approval rating.   

One unintentional piece of humor from the speech was when Obama listed off the names of coaches with three or more national titles to honor Calhoun, now also with three.  After mentioning John Wooden, he listed someone named “Adolph Ruff” as a coach who, along with Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski, represent the group of elite coaching giants that the UConn head man has now joined.  We won’t get into the dripping irony inherent in the first black president of the United States mis-pronouncing the name of a basketball coach [Adolph Rupp, incidentally] who, rightly or wrongly, has come to represent a bygone era of southern white racism, but needless to say that it’ll probably become some enterprising UK student’s senior thesis soon enough [start at the 2:05 mark of the video].    

Jim Calhoun spoke for a few minutes and was surprisingly a little tongue-tied even though he’s been to the White House two other times as a national championship head coach, but he found his bearings the more he spoke.  It was abundantly evident during UConn’s March/April run that Calhoun was in love with his team last year, and he punctuated that sentiment with a remark tying back to Obama’s presidential campaign of 2008: “You know what?  Yes, we can.  [applause]  And like you, Mr. President, yes, we did.”  Obama responded with encouragement to the Huskies to make another run at the title next season, and after some friendly banter with Kemba Walker about playing one-on-one [“as long as he’s wearing street shoes and a suit”] and the receipt of a special B. Obama #1 UConn jersey followed by a few pictures, the event was over.

These things are always fun in the same way that watching Christopher Guest movies are fun — you spend the entire time waiting for something incredibly awkward yet insanely hilarious to happen.  Maybe we didn’t reach that goal in this year’s honoring of the national champion, but presidents tend to get goofier the deeper into their terms they go.  Give it some time.

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Dissecting the Law of Unintended Consequences, Early Entry Style

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2011

Welcome to the law of unintended consequences, folks.

Starting with Jared Sullinger’s surprising decision to return to school in the aftermath of #1 Ohio State’s upset loss at the hands of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament last month, a number of projected top draft picks have similarly shocked the world by deciding to stick around their college campuses for another season.  Subsequent to Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones — another top five pick — followed that up with his own shocker.  Next, UNC’s Harrison Barnes and John Henson — both projected lottery picks this June — each decided that another year in Chapel Hill was to their liking.  On Saturday, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones was the latest projected lottery pick to spurn guaranteed millions in favor of playing as an amateur for another season (ok, stop your snickering about the word “amateur”).

Counting up the number of lottery pick slots that opened up in the June draft, we come up with a total of five (of 14) and certainly the following early entrants will be this summer’s beneficiaries: Arizona’s Derrick Williams, Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, UConn’s Kemba Walker, and Kansas’ Marcus Morris.  Five additional slots in the first round, though, isn’t the same as a floodgate opening, and we fear that the oft-repeated mantra of “weak draft” combined with a lack of an opportunity for players to get good evaluation feedback (thanks, ACC coaches!) has led to a bunch of poor decisions at the back end this year.  Like we said, the law of unintended consequences.

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Morning Five: 04.28.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 28th, 2011

  1. We didn’t get to this on Wednesday, but Seth Davis checked in this week with a piece analyzing the offseason coaching carousel thus far.  There’s not much there to quibble with, as it’s been a relatively quiet year in this regard.  We completely agree with his take that Tennessee hiring Cuonzo Martin was a very smart play, while Missouri going after (and getting) Frank Haith was perhaps the most questionable.  At the mid-major level, Richmond’s Chris Mooney and VCU’s Shaka Smart choosing to stick on the banks of the James River was the most surprising (how often will runs like theirs at those schools happen?).  Jim Larranaga to Miami (FL) (with Kenny Anderson?) and Sydney Johnson to Fairfield?  Those two situations were just weird.  As of this writing, there are only five jobs left open — Mason, George Washington, UC Davis, Alabama A&M, and Florida A&M.  The Patriots have an excellent team returning next season; that opening left by Larranaga is clearly the true remaining plum of the group.
  2. Perhaps mad about John Calipari’s possible gig with the Dominican Republic (joking), Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has canceled his dalliance with Puerto Rico to coach their national team.  Citing conflicts with trying to manage both head coaching duties as the primary reason for his withdrawal, what was left unsaid in his statement on Wednesday was that he was trying to use the summer period to get some great practice time and competition for his Louisville squad against legitimate international competition.  The NCAA allows international summer trips for college teams once every four years, but they’re often against vastly inferior competition and, in this case, the governing body told UL that Puerto Rico, as a US territory, wasn’t “foreign” enough.
  3. Just prepare yourself for roughly one or two of these stories per month until we hit October — it never fails.  Two Winthrop players, including its leading scorer and a key reserve, have been accused of criminal sexual misconduct involving a 19-year old former student.  Sophomore guard Robbie Dreher and freshman center Julius Francis, according to the police report on the matter, allegedly assaulted the woman by restraining her in Francis’ room as the two performed sexual acts on her despite her claim of repeatedly saying, “no.”  Dreher is the team’s top returning scorer at 12.7 PPG in over 31 minutes per contest last season, while Francis played much more sparingly but has great size and considerable promise.  Needless to say, the two have been suspended from the team indefinitely.
  4. It was Huskies Day in Hartford, as the UConn men’s basketball national champs, the women’s Final Four team, and the Orange Bowl football team all visited the Connecticut State Capitol on Wednesday in a combined celebration of their successes.  Kemba Walker took the opportunity to address his comment made last week about only reading one book “cover to cover,” clarifying his academic prowess at the school (graduating in three years) fby stating that he was referring specifically to loving a book so much that he sat down to read it in one sitting.  Jim Calhoun said that he’s still considering retirement, but there’s no timetable on a final decision — we have a feeling he’ll be back on the sideline next year.
  5. All Jimmer, all the time.  That’s what we might have coming soon with the report that a television show production company named Tupelo-Honey Productions will be creating a reality show involving The Jimmer and his family in the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft on June 25.  They plan on shooting over 100 hours of film over 30 days, and the question on everyone’s mind is whether anything Jimmer does or says when he’s not making 28-footers will be, you know, interesting.  Not to go too far down this path, but he’s Mormon — we shouldn’t expect anything resembling baby-mama drama or wild forays to the clubs with his agent.  Drinking a caffeinated soda might be the biggest taboo we’ll see from the guy.  It’ll be interesting to see how this company finds a storyline within its footage to make this something that the general public will want to see.
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Conference Report Card: Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 19th, 2011

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • College basketball has never witnessed a season like this year’s Big East. The conference destroyed its own record of eight NCAA bids by placing 11 clubs in the Big Dance this year and also claimed the national champion with Connecticut, which spent most of the season in the middle of the pack in the Big East. The Huskies also gave the conference its first title since the Huskies last did the trick in 2004. While there was not a truly great team in the Big East (including Connecticut), the league was better than any other from top to bottom. Of the five teams that failed to make the NCAA Tournament, only South Florida and DePaul were truly uncompetitive. Rutgers showed signs of improvement while Seton Hall managed to win seven league games and gave some good teams a major scare in the process. Even Providence, which finished 4-14, knocked off Louisville and Villanova in consecutive games back in January. Despite the lackluster NCAA showing by most Big East members, it says here the conference boasted the best player in the nation (sorry, Jimmer) and a deserving national champion. Additionally, ten Big East teams were ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point this season. Say what you want about its postseason performance (it’s certainly fair to bash the league in that regard), but this was by far the best conference in the nation this year.

Jim Calhoun (left) and Kemba Walker will be inextricably linked to UConn's memorable NCAA Tournament run. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Team-by-Team (teams are in order of finish, but grades are based on performance vs. expectations):

  1. Pittsburgh (28-6, 15-3): The regular season was terrific once again for Jamie Dixon and the Panthers but, as has become common over the years, they fell short of their goal–getting to the Final Four. Pittsburgh lost four of their final eight games after starting the season 24-2. A mid-season injury to Ashton Gibbs was thought to bring them down a peg, but Pitt responded with wins at West Virginia and Villanova without him to quiet any doubters. That turned out to be their peak. Dixon did not really test his team out of conference except for two games at Madison Square Garden against Maryland and Texas back in November as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer event and a “home” game (in Pittsburgh) against Tennessee, which they lost. Looking back, one theory could be that an average non-conference schedule did not adequately prepare this team for the NCAA Tournament which is all about match-ups and teams you haven’t seen before from other leagues. While Big East coaches love to use the strength of the league as a crutch when questioned about a lack of non-conference heft to their schedule, I think this is a theory that has to be taken into consideration. Big East play is obviously rough and tumble every night but that can actually be a detriment come tournament time when games are officiated tighter and you don’t have as much time to prepare for an opponent who you likely don’t know very well, if at all. Pitt will lose Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee to graduation while Gibbs tests the NBA waters. I expect Gibbs to come back to join a very good recruiting class led by five-star forward Khem Birch. Despite the loss of three senior leaders, look for Pitt to be in the thick of the Big East race yet again next season. Dixon has established a culture of winning and I have learned never to doubt him after witnessing the 2009-10 campaign, a season that certified Dixon as one of the best basketball minds in the country. While this year was a great success during the regular season, Pitt’s inability to get to the Sweet Sixteen and eventually the Final Four renders this year a disappointment. GRADE: B- Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 04.18.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 18th, 2011

  1. Mike DeCourcy wrote an article late last week attempting to explode the myths surrounding the one-and-done phenomenon, and although he takes a different tact than we would with it, we both pretty much arrive in the same place.  As our analyses of one-and-doners from 2007-10 have shown, having a single-year player pass through your program can help in ways beyond merely Ws and Ls — it can also help with marketing, recruiting and elevating the general cachet of the school.  Through last summer, we estimated that 20 of the 35 one-and-doners (57%) had either been worth it or well worth it, and we don’t expect that  percentage to change much after this year’s crop is settled. (see our yearly analyses here: 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010)  Does this mean that that programs with large amounts of annual one-and-done turnover will lack the experience needed to win the national title — possibly, but no coach is going to turn down elite talent on the happenstance that he may only play college ball for one year (or two, if the NBA’s CBA changes soon).
  2. Speaking of the next great crop of elite players, the Jordan Brand Classic occurred Saturday night in Charlotte, with a large number of the top prospects in the Class of 2011 showing their stuff.  UNC recruit James McAdoo and Kentucky recruit Anthony Davis shared the MVP honors, with McAdoo hitting the clinching FTs with 1.6 seconds remaining to lead his East squad to the victory over Davis’ West team.  We’ll have much more on this later today in our Who’s Got Next? post, but let’s just say that Kentucky fans are drooling over the duo of Davis (29/11) and Marquis Teague playing off each other next season.
  3. Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto announced on Friday that he will be leaving Pullman to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA.  The junior averaged 12/7 last season for the Cougs and was selected to the all-Pac-10 second team.  Although he is questionable in terms of draftability, he became a father in 2010 and that no doubt influenced his decision to leave school.  He mentioned in his statement that he would be fine with playing overseas for a little while first.  Let’s hope it works out for him.
  4. Some weekend transfer news…  LaSalle’s Aaric Murray has apparently narrowed his choices down to either Kansas or West Virginia.  The 6’10 sophomore averaged 15/8 last season in his second consecutive all-Big Five season for the Explorers.  He will have to sit out the 2011-12 season, but would be well poised to step into a starting role at either school after Thomas Robinson and Kevin Jones move through their respective programs.  Over in Syracuse, Jim Boeheim intimated that troubled freshman Dion Waiters may be on the outs sooner rather than later, noting during the weekend that “sometimes change is better for everyone.”  Waiters is considered a possible star in the making, but his attitude has gotten him into hot water at SU and he may have to blossom elsewhere next year.
  5. An estimated 40,000 fans turned out in Hartford to celebrate the UConn Huskies’ national championship season on Saturday afternoon.  Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker and the rest were all smiles as they paraded through the streets on a double-decker bus carrying the hardware they earned in Houston two Mondays ago.  The Hartford Courant had a bunch of great pictures on their site which we suggest you check out, but the below photo was our favorite one.  Given the cash-strapped state of the Connecticut government, it took a considerable amount of private proceeds from local businesses to make the parade actually happen (instead of a much smaller rally), which shows just how much the area supports their team — when it came to put up or shut up, they put up their own funds to make it happen.

    Kemba & Co. Celebrated in Style Sunday (H-C/B.Hansen)

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Cupcakes Wanted: Inquire Within

Posted by nvr1983 on April 15th, 2011

Every March the topic of scheduling rears its ugly head as fans and analysts rip teams for their soft non-conference schedules. Did you ever wonder how teams come up with those schedules? Surely it involves putting together the team statistician, the chairman of mathematics, and the chairman of computer sciences at the university to crunch the numbers to come up with the optimal schedule to allow their school to appease that all-important Selection Committee on Selection Sunday, right? It turns out that it really isn’t that advanced. In some ways, it comes down to a representative of the basketball program putting up a request and basically announcing “call me if you are interested”.

 

It's cupcake city, baby!

As John Ezekowitz noted it is basically “NCAA Basketball’s Craigslist” where teams try to figure out how to fill their schedules and potentially offer monetary incentives in what are commonly known as “guarantee games”. Essentially a guarantee game is one in which a lesser team is paid (often rather handsomely) to travel to a better team’s arena for a game (read Kyle Whelliston’s account of one such game for more details). These games have often been derided as being against the spirit of the game. Obviously the financial incentive for the proverbial “sacrificial lamb” is a little unseemly and viewed by some as unsportsmanlike. Then there is the competitiveness issue as these games often are blowouts. Some coaches, including Lefty Driesell in our interview with him before this season, have expressed unhappiness at the fact that it does not allow for the traditional home-and-home match-ups that could generate a lot of buzz and ticket revenue for the smaller program, but the bigger program does not want to do so because frankly there is nothing in it for them. If they go on the road and win, who cares? They beat a team that means nothing on the national level and they lost the ability to sell themselves in front of a major recruit. And if they lose on the road? The world ends for a few days as boosters and fans call for the coach’s head and the players have their Facebook walls and Twitter accounts bombarded by all sorts of profane messages.

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Morning Five: 04.13.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2011

  1. A number of players made NBA stay/go decisions on Tuesday, beginning with RTC NPOY Kemba Walker, who formally announced that he will be heading to the League after his junior season, the most celebrated in UConn men’s basketball history.  The point guard projected as a lottery pick will sign with an agent soon, leaving no possibility of an encore performance in Storrs.  On the other side of the country involving a player in the same high school class as Walker, UCLA point guard Malcolm Lee announced that he too is leaving for the NBA and will sign with an agent.  Despite being a top recruit three seasons ago, Lee never quite became the superstar he was supposed to be, and is currently only projected as a second round pick in this summer’s draft.  UCLA head coach Ben Howland had counseled Lee to return for his senior season, but he decided that it was time to move on from Westwood (maybe he didn’t want to play in the LA Sports Arena — we wouldn’t blame him).
  2. Two other athletic phenoms will also be entering this year’s NBA Draft, as Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Florida State’s Chris Singleton announced on Tuesday their intentions to leave college a year early.  Leslie formally made his announcement yesterday, joining all-SEC forward Trey Thompkins in leaving Mark Fox’s program, while Singleton hasn’t officially announced yet but was apparently outed by his school’s media relations department in this report about his upcoming Wednesday press conference.  Both players are likely first round selections.
  3. In a phenomenal indication as to just how difficult it is perceived to win at The U, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker decided on Tuesday he’d rather stay in Cambridge as the head coach of the Crimson rather than moving south to Coral Gables as the Hurricanes seek to replace Frank Haith.  Amaker must figure that if he can get Harvard to the NCAA Tournament next season (a distinct possibility), he’ll have a much better choice of winning jobs at his disposal — probably a smart move.  Now, Miami is said to be looking at Mike Davis (Alabama-Birmingham), Tony Barbee (Auburn), Donnie Jones (UCF), Billy Kennedy (Murray State) and Rob Jeter (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) as possible new candidates.
  4. There was a big piece of transfer news on Tuesday, as former Utah star Will Clyburn announced that he will be matriculating at Iowa State next year and become eligible to play in Ames for the 2012-13 season.  Expressing a desire to move closer to his home town of Chicago (and having played JuCo ball at nearby Marshalltown CC), the all-MWC forward who averaged 17/8 last season is excited to join a program under Fred Hoiberg that he feels is moving in the right direction.
  5. Billy Donovan’s Florida staff suddenly looks like a dream team of sorts as the school announced the hiring of former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey and former St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts on Tuesday.  Pelphrey and Donovan, of course, are very close, with the duo coming up together at Marshall and earning their stripes later at Florida in the 1990s, building UF into a national power before Pelphrey moved on to South Alabama and Arkansas.  Both Pelphrey and Roberts found themselves in tough situations, but it’s safe to say that these will be short-lived stopovers for them until other big-name schools offer them another chance.  It’s certainly better than sitting on your couch.
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Morning Five: 04.12.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 12th, 2011

  1. In absolutely no surprise whatsoever, UConn All-American and Final Four MOP Kemba Walker is expected to announce that he will forgo his final season of eligibility in Storrs and enter the NBA Draft.  His decision to go pro has been an open secret for some time, as he will graduate in May and his jersey has already been retired into the rafters at Gampel Pavilion.  The RTC NPOY will without question go down as the most popular player in UConn history, and when you consider some of the tremendous names who have come through that program — Chris Smith, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, etc. — this is high praise, indeed.
  2. Conversely, it was a rather large surprise that a presumptive top five pick, Baylor’s Perry Jones, announced on Monday that he will be returning to Waco for his sophomore season.  The 6’11 forward had a solid 2010-11 campaign, averaging 14/7 and earning a spot on the all-Big 12 freshman team, although his offensive production tailed off in the later part of the season.  Jones’ return, along with UNC’s Harrison Barnes and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger (supposedly), means that three of the very best members of the Class of 2010 will be back playing college basketball again next season.  Thanks, NBA lockout.
  3. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported on Monday that the NCAA secondary violation that contributed to Bruce Pearl’s dismissal last month involved the director of basketball operations providing two free tickets to a player’s mother.  According to a report sent from UT to the SEC discussing the violation, neither the coaching staff nor the player knew of the violation at the time, which begs the question as to why such a relatively minor problem was deemed a final straw in leading to Pearl’s firing.  Of course, there was the 30-point Second Round NCAA loss to Michigan where his players quit on him… there’s that, too.
  4. While on the subject of tickets, one of the Kansas “consultants” to the KU Athletic Department who was involved in the selling of ducats for private profit was sentenced yesterday to 46 months in federal prison.  Kenneth Blubagh and his wife Charlette, the former Director of the KU Ticket Office, had pleaded guilty to bilking Kansas out of nearly a million dollars in ticket sales over the past half-decade that they used to buy extravagant vacations and other lavish toys.  The best line from this article referred to Kenneth’s role as consultant: “Blubaugh…was on the Kansas Athletics payroll as a consultant from August 2007 until January 2010. Prosecutors say they still aren’t sure what consulting duties he had handled, other than furthering the conspiracy.”
  5. Some transfer news…  St. Louis center Willie Reed, one of two star players (along with Kwamain Mitchell) involved in an on-campus sexual assault last summer and subsequently booted from school for the fall semester, has dropped out of SLU after having become reinstated in January.  There’s no report as to whether he plans on transferring anywhere else, but he’ll obviously need to get his academic house back in order after missing two consecutive semesters if he plans on playing college basketball again.  Also, South Carolina guard Ramon Galloway is leaving the Gamecock program for LaSalle, despite playing nearly 25 MPG and averaging 11/3 for Darrin Horn’s squad last season.  He represents the seventh player to transfer out of the program in Horn’s three-year tenure at the school.  Considering that SC has finished at or near the bottom of the SEC East the last two seasons, this isn’t the kind of confidence-inspiring news that Horn needs as he tries to rebuild that program.
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Season in Review: Top 15 Storylines From 2010-11

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2011

From Jimmer to Kemba to a Blue Devil toe that wouldn’t heal and a Rocky Top saga that wouldn’t end, it’s been another wild season for college basketball fans from coast to coast.  As we bask in the afterglow of 68 teams down to UConn’s championship, let’s take a look back at the top 15 storylines (in no particular order) of the 2010-11 season.

In an Epic Season-Long Battle, Kemba Smiled Last

  1. Kemba vs. Jimmer.  The national Player of the Year race hasn’t been this exciting since Adam Morrison of Gonzaga and JJ Redick of Duke took turns outdoing each other from opposite ends of the country back in 2006.  Yet these two one-name guards, Kemba from the Boogie Down Bronx and Jimmer from a tiny town in upstate New York, electrified fans nationwide with their unique ability to take over games at Connecticut and BYU, respectively.  Kemba Walker, the cocksure Husky guard with the ball on a string and a crossover dribble to make defenders cry, carried UConn to 32 wins, a sterling 14-0 record in knockout games and the school’s third national championship in what was supposed to be a “down” year.  Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer at 28.9 PPG and owner of a deadeye jumper pure out to 30 feet,  inspired fans to call their cable companies to add The Mountain to their channel lineup.  While it was The Jimmer who swept the NPOY awards (which are based on regular season performance only), we here at RTC factored Kemba’s Big East Tournament MVP and NCAA Tournament MOP performances into our selection of the UConn superstar as our 2010-11 Player of the Year.
  2. A Tourney to Remember, a Championship to Forget.  On the opening Thursday of the NCAA Tournament, still the first “real” day of the Dance to most people, five of the first eight games of the day ended on the final possession.  In addition to close games, there were upsets aplenty in the first weekend, as Butler (knocking out #1 seed Pittsburgh), VCU, Marquette, Florida State and Richmond all broke through as double-digit seeds into the Sweet Sixteen.  The fun didn’t stop there, wither Arizona and Kentucky beating #1s Duke and Ohio State, respectively, in the Sweet Sixteen, followed by VCU shocking the world with its destruction of #1 Kansas in the Elite Eight.  The combined seed total of #3 Connecticut, #4 Kentucky, #8 Butler and #11 VCU was the highest ever in a Final Four, and although the two semifinal games were hard-fought and exciting, the 53-41 championship tilt between UConn and Butler was widely regarded as an ugly finish to what had been a tremendous tournament.  Butler’s 18% shooting for the game was the worst-ever in a championship, and the meme that the national sports media was that such a dud represented some kind of fault in the sport itself.  Last year’s Duke-Butler championship and 2008’s Memphis-Kansas games were awesome — where were those people then?
  3. Kyrie Irving’s Toe.  In early December, there was some talk that preseason #1 Duke, with All-Americans Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler returning to join wunderkind point guard Kyrie Irving, could go unbeaten this year.  All of that discussion ended on December 4 when Irving sprained his toe during what appeared to be a routine play in a win over Butler.  The young player with an explosive extra gear in the open court suffered damage to a ligament and bone that made cutting, running and jumping without pain very difficult.  Subsequently, after sitting out over three months resting and rehabilitating the unusual injury, Irving returned to the court during the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.  While at first it appeared that Irving could be the x-factor needed to put Duke into the driver’s seat in a crowded field of national title contenders, there was some question as to whether his return to the lineup threw off the delicate chemistry that Coach K and his players had engendered throughout the season.  The Devils were thoroughly dominated by Arizona and Derrick Williams in the Sweet Sixteen — Irving played well with 28 points against the Wildcats, but his backcourt mate Nolan Smith only managed eight points while committing six turnovers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Season in Review: By the (Jersey) Numbers

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is an RTC contributor.  When he’s not traveling all night to get to Vegas, Los Angeles, Tucson or Anaheim to cover games in the southwestern quadrant of the country, he’s acting as the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and writing about whatever strikes his basketball fancy.

When it comes to wrapping up a college basketball season, I have a hard time doing an All-American team, because, for one, it just seems hard to narrow down four and a half months of basketball to just five names (or even ten or 15 if I add a second or third team – although, I’ll probably do that too). Instead, in the interests of recognizing more of the players that filled up my brain this season, what I’ll do here today is take all 37 possible uniform numbers (only digits zero through five are possible uniform numbers in NCAA basketball, to aid referees in calling fouls and the foulers) and pick one player for each jersey number.  Note that I am not always going to pick just the best player here. My own prejudices and likes/dislikes will factor in, plus I want to be able to pick a guy that I will most remember from this season. And, in the case of a tie, a senior will get the nod. So without further ado, here is my list of Players of the Year by uniform number.

A Famous Man Once Said We're All Rooting For Laundry, Ultimately

0 – Jacob Pullen, Sr, Kansas State – As I said before, tie goes to the senior, and in this case, the freshman Jared Sullinger gets beat out by a guy who left his heart on the court in his final game as a Wildcat, scoring 38 amazing points in a loss to Wisconsin in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. Pullen goes down in history as the all-time leading scorer in Kansas State history, and his exploits in March will be talked about there for years to come.

00 – Rick Jackson, Sr, Syracuse – As far as the scorekeeper is concerned, there is no difference between 0 and 00, but I see two big zeroes on Jackson’s back, and opponents saw a double-double machine for the majority of the season. He posted 17 double-dips on the season and, despite fading a bit down the stretch, was one of the most improved seniors in the country this year.

1 – Kyrie Irving, Fr, Duke – Irving’s college career is complete as he declared for the NBA Draft on Wednesday.  You won’t find his name on any all-timer lists in Durham, as he played just 11 games in his time as a Blue Devil due to a toe injury. When he was on the court, however, he was among the handful of the best players in the nation, with quickness, awareness and maturity rarely seen among freshmen.

2 – Nolan Smith, Sr, Duke – His college career ended with one of the worst games of his career, but for huge swaths of this season, Smith was in the conversation for National Player of the Year. He took over the point guard role when Irving went down with his injury and did a fantastic job of balancing his team’s need for a creator with its need for Smith to score.

3 – Jeremy Lamb, Fr, Connecticut – Jim Calhoun’s precocious freshman earned this honor almost entirely in March. Sure, he had a streak of eight-straight double-digit scoring games in January and early February, but in March, Lamb took his game to a new level and became a consistent second option to Kemba Walker. From the start of the Big East Tournament straight through to the National Championship game, Lamb never failed to score in double figures and averaged 15.3 points per game over that stretch.

4 – Jackson Emery, Sr, BYU – Aaron Craft almost got the nod here, but once again we’ll give the upperclassman the benefit of the doubt. And make no mistake, Emery is very deserving on his own merits, regardless of class, averaging 12.5 points and 2.7 steals per game as Jimmer Fredette’s sidekick in the Cougars’ playmaking backcourt. Emery goes down in history as the career steals leader at BYU.

5 – Kendall Marshall, Fr, North Carolina – I’m not sure Marshall is the best player in the country wearing a single five on his back, but he was likely the most important one – and the biggest story at that. He took over the starting point guard position in Chapel Hill in mid-January and led the Tar Heels to a 17-3 record from there, averaging 7.7 often spectacular assists per game and kick-starting much-heralded freshman wing Harrison Barnes along the way.

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2011-12 RTC (Way Too Early) Top 25

Posted by KDoyle on April 5th, 2011

The 2010-11 season just concluded — we are just as sad as you guys are — but rather than get all nostalgic, teary-eyed, and lament the next  seven months without college basketball, let’s look towards the future. That’s right, folks, hot off the presses: the first 2011-12 Top 25. Our assumptions on who is staying/leaving are within the team breakdowns.

  1. North Carolina—The Heels have a whole lot coming back and lose next to nothing. Harrison Barnes looked like the stud he was advertised in the preseason as he developed into Carolina’s top player down the stretch, and Kendall Marshall flourished at the point guard position once he was given the keys to the car. It sure doesn’t hurt that a couple McDonald’s All-Americans will be joining the program next year, either. Look for Roy Williams to be significantly happier next season than he was for much of this season.

    Roy Williams should be in a good mood next season

  2. SyracuseJim Boeheim’s squad returns virtually all the pieces to the puzzle — a puzzle that certainly went unfinished this year — and the Orange look like they may be the top dog in the Big East next season. Scoop Jardine has the ability to be one of the top guards in the BE and Kris Joseph is a very explosive scorer, who should continue to develop in the offseason. The development of Fab Melo is an absolute must in the offseason, though, if this team wants to reach its potential.
  3. Kentucky—With the instability of the NBA next year, the Wildcats may be fortunate enough to hang onto their young stars for at least another season. Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones are all NBA talents and all three of them could enter the NBA Draft, but if even one of them returns, this team will be very dangerous, particularly with the class that John Calipari is bringing in, which might be one of the best assembled in the past ten years. If two of those three return to play with that class, this team immediately becomes the favorite to cut down the nets next April.
  4. Ohio State—Will he stay or will he go? Obviously, we are referring to Jared Sullinger’s decision to remain a Buckeye for another year. While graduation will claim Jon Diebler and David Lighty, there is still ample talent returning to help the Buckeyes take care of some unfinished business. William Buford could be the X-factor that determines just how good the Buckeyes will be.
  5. Louisville—The coaching prowess of Rick Pitino and his most important assistant Ralph Willard was a thing of beauty this year. Not much was expected out of the Cardinals, but the ‘Ville had an exceptional season up until their Tournament collapse to Morehead State. Loftier goals will be set for Louisville next year with Preston Knowles the only player departing. The Cardinals might not have quite as publicized a recruiting class as their in-state rivals, but still have one of the top incoming classes in America. Read the rest of this entry »
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