SEC Week That Was: Volume II

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 30th, 2015

Feast Week is in the books and there’s plenty of good and not-so-good happening throughout the SEC. Here’s the good: The league boasts two undefeated teams and four teams with just a single loss. On the flip side, there are two teams siting at .500 and two others already under .500. Here are the nuts and bolts of the previous week in SEC basketball.

The Aggies didn't win the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they impressed nonetheless (

The Aggies didn’t win the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they impressed nonetheless. (AP)

  • Team of the WeekTexas A&M didn’t win the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, but the Aggies nonetheless made a statement. They started with an emotional win over intrastate rival Texas in the opener, and while the Longhorns are in a transition year, that win may improve as the year wears on. A&M then knocked off top 10 team Gonzaga in its second game, notching a win that will pay dividends the rest of the year. The experience that young players such as Tyler Davis and Tonny Trocha-Morelos got against the Bulldogs’ elite frontcourt should be a good primer for future games against Kentucky. And while the team ran out of gas against Syracuse in the championship game, what stood out most might have been the Aggies’ depth. Over the three-game tournament, Davis, Morelos, Jalen JonesDanuel House and Anthony Collins all played starring roles at various times. The team has been extremely balanced in both contributions and results, ranking among KenPom’s top 30 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency — a combination that can be useful in predicting March success.

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Giving Thanks: Setting the Table for the Rest of the Season

Posted by Shane McNichol on November 26th, 2015

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday by a significant margin. From the moment I wake up to the moment I slide into a food-induced coma at the end of the night, I have a wide smile on my face. My relationship with college basketball is much the same. It’s my favorite sport by a comparable margin and I certainly find my share of smiles throughout the season. The two are unquestionably intertwined, with Turkey Day acting as an unofficial turning point of the season. Everything prior feels like two boxers dancing and feeling each other out, but once Thanksgiving comes and goes, the real haymakers start to be thrown.


And a Happy Thanksgiving to All…

Even if that may be well and good, I want to mash them together even further. If notable college basketball teams were the dishes on your Thanksgiving table, what would you eat? What would you pass along? What would you hoard all for yourself?

Turkey – Wisconsin

The bird may be the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner, but even that status can’t outweigh the connotation of its name. If we’re calling someone the “turkey” of the young season, it’s not a compliment. And that distinction goes to the Badgers. Losing the likes of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker wasn’t supposed to be easy, but count me among the masses who though Bo Ryan, Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes would be able to steady the ship in the wake of their run to the National Championship game last season.

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Who’s Got Next? Meeting Kentucky’s Next Vaunted Recruiting Class

Posted by Sean Moran on November 24th, 2015


Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitment of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Note: used for all player rankings.

Kentucky took down Duke 74-63 in last Tuesday’s Champions Classic and now it has surged ahead of the Blue Devils in the race for the top recruiting class in 2016 as well. Adding two five-star recruits in the span of a week (and three in the span of a month) will usually do that. It started on November 12, when 6’3” point guard De’Aron Fox committed to John Calipari’s program. It continued last week, when 6’8” Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and 6’3” shooting guard Malik Monk followed Fox’s lead with commitments of their own.

Surprise, surprise - John Calipari is cleaning up on the recruiting trail. (Getty)

Surprise, surprise – John Calipari is cleaning up on the recruiting trail. (Getty)

So what is Kentucky getting in these three commitments? Fox will look to follow in the footsteps of John Wall and Brandon Knight, two of the many five-star point guards that Calipari has brought to Lexington during his tenure. He is a three-year veteran of the Nike EYBL, having first played on the Houston Hoops AAU squad as a rising sophomore with Justise Winslow, Kelly Oubre and Justin Jackson. Despite playing with older competition, Fox was usually somewhat of an afterthought in a loaded class of point guards. Even Kentucky originally prioritized Derryck Thornton (before he reclassified) and Kobi Simmons over Fox. However, this was before Fox put together a sensational summer and established himself at the front of the pack in a class that includes Dennis Smith, Frank Jackson (Duke commitment), Lonzo Ball and Simmons. The left-handed Fox is a menacing defensive presence who can lock down guards with his quick feet and fast hands. His primary weakness revolves around outside shooting, but he is a capable shooter off the dribble and is plenty explosive around the rim. While Fox was not always a priority for Kentucky, the Wildcats might have ended up with the best point guard in the class. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Top 25: Week One Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 24th, 2015

The first week of the college basketball season was unquestionably highlighted by four of the RTC Preseason Top 10 suffering defeats. It all started last Monday when #9 Virginia went into a hostile road environment at George Washington and left with a 73-68 setback. Tuesday’s Champions Classic then saw #7 Duke fall to #1 Kentucky, 74-63, and #4 Kansas unable to hold off Denzel Valentine’s heroic performance en route to a 79-73 loss. Finally, #11 North Carolina — sans senior point guard Marcus Paige — stumbled on the road at Northern Iowa, 71-67. While it is way too early for any of these squads to panic, expect these highly-ranked preseason teams to ensure one loss does not spiral into multiple defeats. On the other hand, it will also be surprising if Feast Week fails to provide a few more surprising results. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty is after the jump.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.09.53 AM

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

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The SEC Week That Was: Volume I

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 23rd, 2015

We’re less than two weeks into the season and the losses are starting to mount in the SEC, as just five of the 14 teams remain undefeated. If we’re looking on the bright side of things, there is really only one truly inexcusable result: Mississippi State falling to Southern. Keeping with the positive vibes, Kentucky yet again dominated the Champions Classic, and LSU and Texas A&M have tantalized with promise. Let’s hand out some hardware for the first week and a half of action.

Jamal Murray and Kentucky are off to a great start (

Jamal Murray and Kentucky are off to a great start. (Getty)

Team of the WeekKentucky is probably going to get ink in this space more than a few times this season, so why not start right away? The Wildcats’ win over Duke is easily the best the league can offer thus far, and freshmen Skal LabissiereJamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have all shown dynamic flashes. Kentucky is already defending at an elite level even though John Calipari lost his entire starting frontcourt and didn’t add an elite defensive big man (as he often does). On a micro level, Alex Poythress has settled very well into a “supporting” role, putting up at least nine points and seven rebounds in each of the last three games. Labissiere is going to need help in the paint and on defense, but Poythress and Marcus Lee have been up to the task thus far.

Player of the Week. Ben Simmons. LeBron James, Magic Johnson and — on the “low” end — Lamar Odom, are just a few of the comparisons we’ve have heard for Simmons. With the understanding that these were more about a skill set than anything else, the Aussie freshman has nonetheless lived up to expectations in his first three games. He has proven to be an alley-oop waiting to happen so far and is averaging 18.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He has also been the main presence for LSU on the glass despite frequently being featured in the pick and roll on offense. His matchup with Marquette’s super freshman Henry Ellenson this week will be our first glimpse at whether he has lockdown defender potential in him, as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 11.20.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 20th, 2015


  1. Much of the debate around college athletics on the macro level recently has focused in on how to allow student-athletes to share in the profits that they help generate. As we have mentioned in this space on several occasions the discussions are rather myopic as they ignore the potential implications of what a true free market would do to most of the athletes on scholarships in both revenue and non-revenue sports. Many others have also noted that most athletic programs do not generate a profit, but we didn’t realize how big that probably was until we read a report by The Chronicle that estimated that nearly $10.3 billion have been provided to athletic departments over the past five years via student fees and other subsidies. It is a long article, but it is an extremely interesting read if you want to consider the other side of the equation. There are obviously externalities involve that limit the ability to take away too much from this analysis, but hopefully it will make some of you reconsider the role that college athletics play within the college experience.
  2. It has been quite a week so far for John Calipari. Not only did Kentucky beat Duke rather easily on Tuesday night, but he also picked up a commitment from Malik Monk, the #5 ranked recruit in the country. Monk, an Arkansas native, ended up picking Kentucky over Arkansas leading to the inevitable backlash by Razorback fans as well as former Razorback star Bobby Portis. Monk’s commitment moves Kentucky’s class to the top of the recruiting rankings for the time being, but as we said when Edrie Adebayo committed there are still a lot of uncommitted players remaining on the board.
  3. Miami might not be the dominant force it once was in football, but their basketball team is increasingly becoming a more significant player in the ACC and national landscape. Outside of being much more competitive in the ACC than many expected them to be, the Hurricanes are also starting to make waves on the recruiting trail with Wednesday probably being the biggest day in the program’s history in terms of recruiting as they added two top-30 commitments in Dewan Huell and Bruce Brown. Huell, a 6’9″ power forward who goes to school near Coral Gables, picked Miami over South Carolina while Brown, a shooting guard from Massachusetts, picked Miami over Indiana. While the decision of a player to stay at home over going to South Carolina is not that big of a surprise, an out-of-state player choosing to go to Miami over Indiana certainly is.
  4. With college football season winding down and college basketball season picking up steam the dynamics within athletic departments can be interesting as the two sides compete for attention in resources. Few schools have the success in both sports that Michigan State enjoys, which makes the relationship between Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo even more interesting. We aren’t privy to the relationship between most basketball and football coaches at major colleges, but most of the stories we have heard are about jealousy and how the coaches fight for resources so it seems like this relationship is somewhat unique although that may be affected by the fact that both of them are successful to a level that few in their respective sports are.
  5. New Mexico forward Devon Williams has decided to stop playing basketball after a medical exam demonstrated that he had cervical spinal stenosis. Williams who underwent the exam on Wednesday after a fall on Sunday led him to lose feeling in his extremities for ten minutes. The on-court loss of Williams, who started 30 games last season, is a significant blow to the Lobos, but he will stay involved with the team acting as another coach.
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The Champions Classic Lesson

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 18th, 2015

Let’s get it out there: Kentucky and Michigan State collected MAJOR wins at the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. If Kansas and Duke turn out to be anything close to the top five teams that they are expected to be, these are the type of victories that can separate #1 seeds from #2 seeds come March. For teams closer to peril (not that either Kentucky or Michigan State is likely to fall into this category), wins like these can redirect NIT-bound seasons into the field of 68. Nevermind that it’s only November, or that all four of these teams will evolve dramatically over the course of the season: These results will still matter in March. But with that note out of the way, we can also admit something that all four coaches seemed to know last night: These games don’t matter all THAT much. There’s no realistic way that last night’s results will define any of these team’s seasons, and all four coaches, given a chance to improve over the next five months, trust their own ability to mold a team — no matter how dysfunctional they may appear in November.    

Denzel Valentine Was Tuesday Night's Show-Stopper (Photo: The Sporting News)

Denzel Valentine Was Tuesday Night’s Show-Stopper (Photo: The Sporting News)

But that isn’t to say that any of these four teams looked especially bad last night. Duke’s leading scorer, sophomore Grayson Allen, did look bad, but expectations should have been restrained in his first take in a starring role against elite competition. Allen and the other young Blue Devils — Brandon Ingram (1-of-6 from the field, four turnovers, four fouls), Derryck Thornton (3-of-7 FG, four turnovers) and Luke Kennard (0-of-5 FG) — are all good bets to steadily improve in the months to come. Kansas was the other team that left the United Center a loser last night, but Bill Self’s team displayed no signs of panic in the aftermath of Michigan State’s victory. Jayhawks junior Wayne Selden admitted that early season struggles had worried him in years past, but he said the more experienced composition of his current team quelled any such concerns this time around. Kansas handed away a game they held complete control of for 33 minutes — Bill Self admitted as much afterward — and the ball screen defense (or lack thereof) that enabled Denzel Valentine (29 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists) to repeatedly break Kansas down will need significant revisions. However, the Jayhawks have the talent, experience and coaching to cure their November ills, not to mention plenty of time in which to do so.

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Evaluating the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon: 29 Takeaways From 29 Hours of Action

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 18th, 2015

My name is Andy Gripshover (@apgripsh) and I watched the entire ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. All 29 hours of it, from start to finish. Here are 29 takeaways from the proceedings.

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

  1. I actually like the Oregon court. I really do. It’s unique; it’s fitting for the area; and everyone wastes too much time hating on the brightness in the middle when it’s actually a perfect contrast to the shade of brown used inside a three-point arc that doesn’t get NEARLY enough love. But that court plus the Ducks’ all-neon yellows PLUS Baylor’s forest greens with the neon green lettering? Yeah, that was a little much. Or perhaps a secretly evil way of starting off the Marathon.
  2. As for the game itself, Baylor was flat most of the way, trailing by double figures for the first 10 minutes of the second half before making a push late. Oregon put four starters in double figures plus Dwayne Benjamin doing his thing off the bench, and Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook thoroughly outplayed Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince.
  3. Now the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State is a court that I think we can ALL agree is beautiful. Very light and easy on the eyes, and those palm trees….
  4. The offenses in that game between the Beach and BYU were anything but beautiful, though. The Cougars were 26-of-62 from the field, including 5-of-21 from three and an utterly ghastly 8-of-21 from the free throw line. Was that bad? Because Long Beach was worse: 22-of-71 (!!!) from the floor, including 7-of-24 from three. The 49ers had a 22-2 run midway through the first half and held on for dear life in the second to knock off an NCAA Tournament team before heading to Charleston this weekend.
  5. As for the Cougars, Kyle Collinsworth looked at less than 100 percent in going 4-of-9 from the field…. and also 4-of-9 from the foul line. Chase Fischer took five threes and made none of them. It was a nightmarish offensive performance for BYU, and yet, the Cougars almost stole a win at the end anyway.
  6. There’s a certain feeling you get when you see the Stan Sheriff Center court at Hawaii for the first time and realize you’ve made it that far in the Marathon.
  7. Nevada made its first 17 free throws before missing and losing on a Roderick Bobbitt layup with 1.4 to go on the island despite an inspired 34 (!) for Marqueze Coleman. Quality Hawaii game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 11.18.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 18th, 2015


  1. As you may have noticed that was a lot of college basketball played over the past few days. The marquee event was Kentucky‘s win over Duke at the Champions Classic, but for our money the most exciting game/environment was Maryland‘s win over Georgetown due to the combination of the college environment and the fact that it was a more competitive game. As we mentioned last night on Twitter, we would love for the Champions Classic to rotate between the home arenas of the four teams involved, but unfortunately we doubt that will ever happen because of both the desire to keep the series in big markets and the reluctance of some coaches to play tough non-conference road games.
  2. Kentucky didn’t just win on the court yesterday as the picked up another top recruit when Edrice Adebayo, the #6 recruit in the ESPN Top 100, committed to play at Kentucky next season. Adebayo, a 6’8″ 235-pound power forward, picked the Wildcats over North Carolina State and Auburn citing a desire to play for John Calipari given his relationship with Calipari and Calipari’s success in helping players reach the NBA. Adebayo’s commitment gives the Wildcats the #2 recruiting class behind Duke although there is still plenty of time and recruits who are still uncommitted.
  3. The new rule changes implemented since the end of last season were the source of considerable debate, but they seem to have led to increased scoring at least through the first weekend. As Ken Pomeroy notes, the rule changes appear to have had the intended effect thus far. Not only is scoring up, but so is shooting both in terms of field goal/three-point percentage and three-point shot frequency. We are not sure if this will continue and there are definitely other ways that they could make increase scoring, but this appears to be a good start.
  4. Northwestern State will be without star senior guard Jalan West for the rest of the season after he tore the ACL in his left knee late in their loss on Friday at Ole Miss. West, who averaged 20 points, 4.4 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 2.1 steals per game last season, had scored 24 points in the second half before suffering the injury. Northwestern State probably wasn’t going to be better than Stephen F. Austin even with West, but his presence would have given them the possibility of getting hot in a one-game scenario and knocking off the Lumberjacks.
  5. We have used this space to discuss NCAA eligibility issues a lot in the past as well as the various legal issues players find themselves involved in, but we don’t often talk about forgery and pretrial diversion programs. Thanks to Arkansas guard Anton Beard we can check off those two boxes after the sophomore, who was an All-SEC freshman selection last season, struck a deal to avoid jail time (for now) after being caught trying to use and exchange counterfeit $20 and $50 bills. The technical issues involved with his arrangement are a little too detailed for this space, but essentially if he doesn’t mess up he will be eligible to play starting December 18.
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SEC Quotable and Notable, Volume II: Opening Weekend Overreactions

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 16th, 2015

The opening weekend is in the books and with the exception of Georgia’s surprising home loss to Chattanooga, the SEC emerged unscathed. Nothing is more fun than analyzing microscopic sample sizes, so this edition of Quotable and Notable is chock full of overreactions. Let’s jump right in.

Horace Spencer preserved Auburn's win over UAB with a block in the final seconds (

Horace Spencer preserved Auburn’s win over UAB with a block in the final seconds (

  • “And I’m not comparing him to them two, as far as he’s as good as them, he’s different.” – John Calipari on comparing Skal Labissiere to Karl-Anthony Towns. And oh boy, could you ever see against NJIT on Saturday why the Haitian big man has drawn rave reviews on the recruiting circuit. Labissiere went off for 22 second half points and scored from seemingly everywhere on the floor. This came after a lackluster opening night effort against Albany, but the freshman’s offensive versatility and touch suggests that Calipari has a player on this year’s roster unlike any he has coached in the past. It’ll be interesting to see how Calipari uses Labissiere and whether his veteran big men, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress, can be utilized to shore up any rebounding or defensive issues. Many people are going to harp tirelessly on whether Labissiere’s defense can catch up to his offense, but for now it might be best to sit back and appreciate what he can do. That said, Labissiere becoming an effective player on both ends of the floor would make Kentucky an even tougher team to beat in March.

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2015-16 RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 13th, 2015

And so it begins — that wonderful time of year when we hear familiar voices on the television and our favorite teams playing college basketball games that count in the standings. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With a sizable slate of games commencing this evening, we officially unveil the RTC 2015-16 Preseason Top 25. This poll will hold for about the next 10 days, but you can expect our weekly poll to come out every Monday morning starting on November 23 through the rest of the season. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives a bit more deeply into how the teams shake out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2014-15 preseason poll — sure, we nailed some (Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona), and missed on some others (Florida, Michigan, Texas, Syracuse). We promise to do better this time around. Here’s the preseason poll.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 7.33.52 PM

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

  • There is significant uncertainty at the top of the poll – Last season’s preseason poll also had Kentucky in the #1 spot, but those Wildcats garnered six of seven first-place votes. This time around, three other teams — #2 Kansas, #4 North Carolina, and #5 Virginia — each grabbed first-place votes. It is very difficult to argue with any of these selections at this point and that should ultimately make for a very exciting season. It should be noted that North Carolina was ranked first by the Associated Press, but that poll was released before Tar Heels’ senior point guard Marcus Paige suffered a broken hand that should sideline him for three to four weeks. Will the Tar Heels be able to remain within striking distance in Paige’s absence? And if so, will they be as good as advertised when he returns?

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Where 2015-16 Happens: Reason #3 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2015

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2015-16 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 13. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#3 – Where Dream Seasons Happen.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-14 and 2014-15 preseasons.

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