The ABCs Of Why Oregon Is A Final Four Contender

Posted by Mike Lemaire on February 11th, 2016

We’ve been wanting to write about Oregon since the Ducks beat Arizona in Tucson two weeks ago, but coming up with new angles to discuss how good Dana Altman’s team has become is tricky. For the first time since Altman took over the program in 2010, the team is starting to garner real national attention. That of course means that most of the stories about the team’s patchwork roster and intriguing backstories have already been told. Still, the Ducks deserve all the publicity and attention they can get and we on the microsite have been severely lacking in that department, so we decided to make up for it. Rather than regurgitate observations that have already been analyzed to death, though, we instead used the entire alphabet to explain why the Ducks are legitimate Final Four contenders.

Note: This was not as easy as it might look, so we are asking for forgiveness on some of our more obvious reaches.

A is for Altman: It wasn’t very long ago that Oregon was in the middle of an ugly sexual assault scandal and some were calling for Altman’s job. Now he is coaching the best team in the conference and is in consideration for several national coaching awards as well. He gets plenty of criticism for his continued reliance on transfers, especially those from junior college, but players like Chris Boucher, Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook are silencing those critics. He has also made a concerted effort to make his team adaptable and that shows in his willingness to switch up defensive schemes and tinker with lineups. It has all come together this season and now we are watching Altman’s vision come to life.

B is for Blocks: The Ducks do a lot of this, as they are tied with St. John’s for the second-highest block percentage in the country. That elite rim protection is a big reason why Oregon is way more efficient on the defensive end of the floor this season. Boucher leads the country in blocks per game (3.4) and it would be foolish to forget that sophomore Jordan Bell – who is finally rounding into form – was the conference’s best shot-blocker last season.

Chris Boucher, Casey Benson And The Ducks Are Halfway Home To A Pac-12 Title (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Chris Boucher Has Been a Game-Changing Rim Protector                                                     (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

C is for Canada: Altman and Oregon have been luring players from north of the border to Eugene for years now (remember Jason Calliste and Devoe Joseph?) but recently he has outdone himself. Ontario native Dillon Brooks is on the short list of PAC-12 Player of the Year candidates, while Montreal product Boucher may be the team’s best NBA prospect. The Ducks’ Canadian flavor would grow even stronger if Dylan Ennis, another Ontario product, were healthy.

D is for Dillon: Brooks has always been considered a good player but the sophomore has raised both his game and draft stock this season. Oregon has made a conscious effort to run its offense through the versatile Brooks, and he’s responded by averaging 16.9 points per game, shooting 48% from the floor, and grabbing 6.0 rebounds per game. He also averages 3.2 assists per game and shoots 80 percent from the free-throw line. He is still a limited shooter from three-point range and can be sloppy with the ball, but the Ducks wouldn’t be nearly as good as they are now if Brooks wasn’t in the midst of a breakout season.

E is for Ennis: The very definition of a college basketball journeyman, Ennis was supposed to use his last year of eligibility to run the Ducks’ offense this season. Instead, a lingering foot issue sidelined him for the rest of the season. He’s likely played his final minute of college basketball, as the NCAA is expected to reject his appeal for a medical redshirt. But rather than sulk or drop out of school, Ennis has been front and center as the team’s biggest cheerleader. That type of support and loyalty can make subtle, crucial differences in team morale.

F is for Frontcourt: The loss of Ennis has left a gaping hole in the depth of the team’s backcourt, but Oregon makes up for it with a frontcourt that may feature the best grouping of five forwards in the country. Boucher and Brooks need no further explanation, but Bell is a defensive monster who is still shaking off the rust from missing the first portion of the season. Senior Dwayne Benjamin isn’t a great rebounder but makes up for it with his floor-stretching shooting talents, while fellow senior Elgin Cook is the perfect swing forward, capable of filling in wherever necessary. Oh and don’t think Cook is just a role player; he is currently Oregon’s second leading scorer.

G is for Gimmes: The importance of succeeding at the free-throw line can never be understated. While the Ducks are shooting six percent worse from the charity stripe this season than they did last (76 percent has come down to 70 percent), the percentage of free-throw attempts in relation to field-goal attempts has risen sharply, from 28 percent to 40 percent. Oregon is getting to the free-throw line far more often, which is a big reason why the offense has been able to overcome its long-range shooting issues. If anything, it might be worth trying to get to the line even more often.

H is for Homecourt Advantage: Here’s the first letter that demanded a real stretch! Considering the Ducks play in a 12,000-seat arena and can barely muster an average of 8,000 fans for conference home games, the fans may not deserve too much praise. But the crowd is starting to come back (with an assist from the school athletic department) and the team is noticing and responding. The Ducks have yet to lose in Eugene and with just three manageable home dates remaining on the schedule (vs. Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State), it doesn’t seem likely they will this season.

I is for Idolization: The second stretch of the piece! But idolization is a pretty good word for Ducks’ guard Casey Benson‘s fascination with watching his brother play. The elder Benson (T.J.) played at Weber State and now coaches at Grand Canyon University, so the younger Benson had a pretty good mentor to learn from. The younger Benson is one of the best decision-makers in college basketball and has become an unexpected linchpin in one of the nation’s most efficient offenses.

J is for Jumpers: Oregon makes a fair amount of them (its 53.3 percent shooting on two-point field goal attempts is best in the conference) and last we checked, making shots is an important part of becoming a good basketball team.

K is for Knight: It is pretty near impossible to mention the success of Oregon athletics without pointing out that a big part of that success is Nike chairman Phil Knight’s deep pockets and profound love for the school’s sports teams. Matthew Knight Arena is a gleaming testament to both Phil’s son and his own generosity. It may also be the coolest court in college basketball.


Matthew Knight Arena’s Hardwood Is As Distinctive As Any In College Basketball

L is for Luck: According to, opponents took 418 field goals in transition against Oregon last season and roughly 38 percent of those attempts came from downtown. Opponents made just 30.8 percent of those shots. This season, opponents have taken 255 field goals in transition (basically the same per game average as last season) and once again roughly 38 percent of those attempts have come from downtown. Opponents are now making 44.4 percent of those attempts, however. Oregon can definitely stand to tighten things up in that area, but that number screams regression. If and when that luck runs out, Oregon’s already solid defense might start looking even more efficient.

M is for Mennenga: As in assistant coach Mike Mennenga. Mennenga is in his second season as an assistant in Eugene but his strong ties to Toronto (he used to be a youth basketball coach there) are a big reason why Oregon is so popular with players from up north. We already explained how important Canada has been to Oregon’s success this season, so it is only fair we give Mennenga his due, as well. 

N is for Newcomers: Since Altman took over for Ernie Kent, the roster has seen an average of nearly eight new players each season. This season isn’t the best example of the constant turnover – in part because we never got to see Ennis play extended minutes – but at the risk of sounding redundant, Boucher and Dorsey have worked out pretty well. It takes a gifted coach and stable program to successfully integrate new players year after year. Oregon does it better than almost anyone else.

O is for Opportunity: At the risk of being a buzzkill, it is worth pointing out that there are no dominant teams in college basketball this season. This leaves a very large open window of opportunity for Oregon (and every other team out there) to climb through. If this were last season, Oregon might not even be the first or second best team in the conference, let alone the country. This is nothing to be ashamed of, but let’s not pretend it doesn’t have a big impact on Oregon’s potential tournament success.

P is for Playing Time: Ducks’ freshman Tyler Dorsey was originally committed to conference rival Arizona. But when Arizona took a commitment from Justin Simon and offered other guards, Dorsey knew his potential playing time was in jeopardy and reopened his commitment before eventually landing at Oregon. Playing time was unlikely to be the only reason Dorsey made the switch, but the point is moot now. Dorsey is suiting up for Oregon and is the team’s third-leading scorer and best outside shooter, shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range.

Q is for Quack: You know, like a Duck?

R is for Reckless: One would think that a rotation primarily comprising first or second year players would be more reckless. But in fact the opposite is true, as Oregon takes better care of the ball than almost any team in the country. Casey Benson has turned the ball over just seven times in more than 300 minutes of conference play and Boucher has just nine turnovers in nearly as many minutes. The Ducks lead the conference in turnover margin (+2.88) and are 26th best in the country in the category (ninth best among Power 5 schools).

A Casey Benson Turnover is a Rare Sight These Days

A Casey Benson Turnover is a Rare Sight These Days (Photo: John Sperry, 247Sports)

S is for Stubblefield: As in longtime Altman sidekick and ace recruiter Tony Stubblefield. Hired away from Cincinnati, Stubblefield has been the program’s best recruiter and is at least partially responsible for the commitment of Dorsey last year. He was also the primary recruiter of Oak Hill Academy forward Trevor Manuel, and 247 Sports credits him with successfully enrolling Cook and Brooks in years past.

T is for Transition Defense: Oregon opponents’ effective field-goal percentage in transition is 58.5 percent. This is in part due to the aforementioned problems defending the three-point arc, but what might be news to some is that Oregon ranks among the top 40 teams in the country in percentage of total field goals attempted in transition (18.3%) and effective field-goal percentage defense in non-transition situations (44.4%). In summation, Oregon is good at preventing opponents’ transition opportunities and is really good at defending when the opponents aren’t getting transition opportunities. This is a reminder to Dana Altman to get that transition perimeter defense cleaned up STAT.

U is for Unicorns: Unicorn was the most apt description for the type of once-in-a-generation talent and athlete Kevin Durant was and still is. Now it is being used, albeit slightly more moderately, to describe the 6’10”, 190-pound athletic freak that is Chris Boucher. There aren’t too many players in college basketball with the versatility to block seven shots and make four three-pointers in the same game. Boucher did it against Arizona State on Jan. 31. He is 23 and is essentially a walking string bean, but his arrival has been an obvious boon on both ends of the floor for the Ducks.

V is for Versatility: And versatility is something Oregon has in spades. Take a look at Oregon’s most frequently used lineups over the last five games and you will see Altman experiments with different combinations liberally. Every player in the rotation also plays more than one position. This is not coincidental. Altman readily admits that versatility is an important part of his recruiting strategy and that position-less basketball is the aim. Almost all of the Ducks are matchup problems for the opposition (especially Brooks) and that ability to play different roles is a big reason why the offense is so efficient.

W is for Warriors: To continue that thought, we won’t pretend the Ducks’ attempts to mimic the Warriors’ position-less defense is perfect. Oregon still has issues on the glass and defending the perimeter. But it is interesting to see how many similar pieces Oregon is working with. This excellent analysis of the Warriors’ ground-breaking defense can be applied to Oregon as well (to a lesser degree, obviously). The Ducks have no defensive footprint and can play man-to-man or zone depending on what suits them. They can switch on defense without worrying about size mismatches with Boucher serving as the Bogut-esque anchor. Brooks also has the potential to be an Iguodala-lite disruptor on defense. These similarities may not be perfect, but their potential existence is a definite good thing.

X is for X: This is one of those skip questions on the test and we will take the “X”.

Y and Z: Uhhhh, seems like we ran out of gas. We got nothing. Dana Altman has to hope his team has a more successful finishing flourish in them this March than we did here. And if you read all the way from A through W, you know the Ducks just might.

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Big 12 M5: 02.20.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 20th, 2015


  1. Kansas coach Bill Self revealed on Thursday that big man Cliff Alexander has been banged up, but that nagging back and chest problems shouldn’t keep him from playing at a high level as the Jayhawks enter the home stretch. While Alexander has started the last few games, Self has felt more comfortable with the more experienced Landen Lucas for most of the game and the redshirt freshman affirmed his coach’s faith with solid production against Baylor and West Virginia. How Self manages his frontcourt rotation is likely to continue to be newsworthy tomorrow when the Jayhawks square off against TCU.
  2. Burnt Orange Nation has a thorough preview of the best match-up of the weekend, which pits Texas against visiting Iowa State. The Cyclones, known for converting most every close shot they get, will face a Texas frontcourt that has improved since struggling in December and January. Despite a disappointing campaign to this point, there isn’t much reason to fret over the Longhorns’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament quite yet, but a loss would spark a heightened level of debate, so a win would definitely keep their heads above water.
  3. Meanwhile, the Cyclones, who had struggled on the road before beating Oklahoma State earlier in the week, will try to keep the good vibes going. With five games remaining to make up one game on conference-leading Kansas, history is still in Iowa State’s sights. They will need some help, but any help they get will be moot if they don’t take care of business themselves. As for Iowa State’s gameplan, the Longhorns have the ninth-best transition defense in the country according to hoop-math.comso if Fred Hoiberg’s team is going to pull off another upset, it will probably have to be on the efficiency of its half-court offense.
  4. Thursday afternoon saw craziness ensue during the NBA trade deadline, and there were a couple interesting developments for former Big 12 standouts. The headline-grabber is a mini-reunion of the memorable 2006-07 Texas Longhorns with D.J. Augustin and Kevin Durant once again joining forces as Augustin was dealt from the Pistons to Durant’s Thunder. On a less pleasant note, former Jayhawk Thomas Robinson, who has struggled to find a permanent home at the next level, is on the move again after he was dealt from the Trail Blazers to the Nuggets. Robinson has already reportedly agreed to a buyout with Denver, though, so it looks like he’ll be on the move again as he searches for a role more befitting of a former #5 overall draft pick.
  5. Lastly, it’s been a very up-and-down month for Oklahoma State, which rode a wave of stellar victories before running into bumps in the road against TCU and Iowa State. Refusing to let the inconsistent play be a source of frustration, the Cowboy blog Pistols Firing brought some levity to the situation with some good old-fashioned satire at the expense of the team’s coaching staff. The post re-imagines coach Travis Ford as a “Breakfast Club”-type principal with assistant coach James Dickey playing the good cop role. It’s definitely worth a read.
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2014 Bracket Nonsense: Win Final Four Tickets, Durant Autographed Texas Jersey, More…

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2014


It’s time to play RTC 2014 Bracket Nonsense, and we’re pleased to announce that we’re going to have some outstanding prizes in the game this year. Last year we traveled to Atlanta with some memorabilia celebrating the 1977 and 2007 Final Fours that took place in the Peach State. The year before that, we went on the Road to New Orleans with a Pistol Pete Maravich jersey as our grand prize. Even before then, we went to Houston with a Clyde the Glide Cougars jersey. Prior to that it was a Hickory High School (Indiana) jacket. You get the point. We love our nostalgia and celebration of the game through retro gear. This year, we’ve done ourselves even one better. Here’s what you need to know:

We’ll have three different prize levels this year — one for each weekend — and they’re all pretty awesome.

ncaa final four 2014

Yeah, You Can Win Tickets to This Year’s Final Four

  • First Weekend Prizes: The player who gets the most Bracket Nonsense points during the Second and Third Rounds will win their choice of a vintage 1986 Louisville national championship t-shirt (pictured below) OR a pair of tickets to the 2014 Final Four. Here’s the catch on the tickets — you actually have to show up in DFW in three weeks to receive the prize. You can do whatever you want with them after that point, but you have to meet us on the ground to earn the prize. If you can’t get there, take the t-shirt and we’ll move down the list to the next highest-ranked player.
Prizes For Each Weekend of Bracket Nonsense

Prizes For Each Weekend of Bracket Nonsense

  • Second Weekend Prizes: The player who picks the most correct games during the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds (using the second weekend results only) will win a 1986 Louisville Cardinals autographed basketball (pictured above). This celebrates the last time the Final Four was played in the DFW Metroplex area, nearly 30 years ago at the old Reunion Arena in Dallas when the Cards defeated Duke for its second national title. Denny Crum, Milt Wagner, Pervis Ellison… they’re all on there. This is a really neat historical keepsake.
  • Grand Prize. The player who wins RTC 2014 Bracket Nonsense with the most total points after the Championship Game will win an autographed Texas Longhorns Kevin Durant jersey (pictured above, to honor Texas, of course). The Durantula may not have had a long run in March Madness during his one season in Austin during the 2006-07 season, but he’s become one of the very best basketball players in the entire world since, and this is a fantastic piece of memorabilia that any college basketball fan would love to have in his collection.

There you have it. Some great prizes are on the line this year, and you can win something each of the next three weeks. Don’t forget to sign up before Noon ET on Thursday! Happy March Madness!

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With the Game on the Line, Which ACC Players Get the Call?

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on February 1st, 2014

The ACC is chock full of great athletes and even greater coaches. In such a highly competitive environment, there is bound to be a plethora of close finishes. Even the elite coaches can’t physically will their teams to victory, but instead have to rely upon the players who have ice in their veins. Some coaches prefer a heady point guard who can wind the clock down, penetrate into the paint at the right moment, and then fire off a pinpoint pass to a shooter on the wing for the win. Other coaches prefer a more traditional route of isolation basketball, putting the ball in the hands of the best player, someone who can rise up over the defense or break down his defender one-on-one.

Michael Snaer breaks the heart of many Duke fans in CIS

Michael Snaer breaks the hearts of many Duke fans in CIS

The list of memorable ACC finishes could fill an entire book, provoking court rushes and jubilant celebrations for one team and a traumatic letdowns for another. The most recent that comes to mind from Tobacco Road was Duke’s Austin Rivers buzzer-beater in Chapel Hill two years ago. That same season, and only a month prior to Rivers’ game winner, Duke was shocked at home by Michael Snaer‘s three at the horn to snap a 45-game Duke home winning streak. Flash forward to the present and both Snaer and Rivers are long gone from their respective campuses as new faces and even a few teams litter the ACC landscape. With that in mind, who are the players that ACC coaches most want with the ball in their hands and the game on the line this season? Here are 10 players who have their coaches’ trust in those game-ending situations. 

  • Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: The freshman point guard from Canada has won Jim Boeheim as well as his teammates’ confidence and has solidified himself as the go-to presence for this year’s undefeated Syracuse team. Look no further than Ennis’ play in the final minutes of Syracuse’s home win over old rival Pittsburgh, as the Orange eked out a victory late, largely thanks to Ennis.

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Marcus Smart Reminds Us That This Season Isn’t All About the Freshmen

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 20th, 2013

Marcus Smart sees your fab freshmen, and raises you a super sophomore. In what many anticipated would be an entertaining showdown between two top 15 teams last night in Stillwater, Smart took it upon himself to remind everyone in college basketball that this season isn’t just about Wiggins, Parker, and Randle.

Smart Was Sensational on Tuesday Night (

Smart Was Sensational on Tuesday Night (

We’re all aware of Marcus Smart’s story by now – the ultra-talented freshman who turned down what figured to be a guaranteed top five pick in last June’s NBA Draft for a chance to return to Oklahoma State and further cement himself among college basketball’s elite. Smart knows this much. He has acknowledged the fact that he could be making millions of dollars this season, rather than playing for free this year in Stillwater. He could be cruising around in whatever luxury vehicle he’s always dreamed of, but instead pushes his way around campus on a mountain bike. In an interview with ESPN’s Jay Bilas that aired during the game on Tuesday night, Smart pointed to his inconsistent jump shot, and the need for improvement in that area before taking his game to the next level.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 18th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. starting this year off with what for my money was the best preseason event in recent memory. Combining the history of the Duke/Kansas/Kentucky/Michigan State programs with the incredible talent those squads have this year was a November treat for any college basketball fan who has grown tired of the NFL’s unthinkably terrible Monday/Thursday schedule this fall. Michael Wilbon said it right in his column after the game — this type of night makes college basketball relevant earlier in the year and gets people paying attention before January. I think you saw that same sentiment from those coaches, too, in their postgame interviews – this was not your ordinary non-conference event.

I LOVED…. Jabari Parker. When I look at freshmen now, I put them through what I call the Kevin Durant Eye Test. When you saw Durant during his unbelievable freshman year at Texas, you stopped doing whatever it was you were previously doing. You thought, no way is this kid this big with these type of perimeter skills and that feathery stroke. No way is he only 18, and no way would he not be making an impact on an NBA team right now. Parker passed that test, and this year is going to be fun.

Parker and Friends are Worth Stopping What You’re Doing to Watch Them

I LOVED…. that I still had to think about if the night’s star was Parker, because UK’s Julius Randle (Zach Randolph should sue for post-game style patent infringement) and KU’s Andrew Wiggins (who woke up for the second half against Duke to remind us what all the hype was about) delivered similarly eye-opening performances. I also loved that for how great Parker and Randle were, it was the more-balanced Jayhawks and Spartans that came out on top.

I LOVED…. Kevin Ware back on the floor. It’s hard to remember the last time that everyone wanted to see a kid back on his feet more than Ware, whose gruesome injury last March caused America to collectively turn their heads away from the TV set. Making his first three-pointer was pretty great, but I loved this past week even more when Ware cut into the lane and bounced off of a two-foot jump stop for a high-flying finger roll at the cup. What a great story.

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Reported adidas Deal With Andrew Wiggins Sets Precedent Very High

Posted by David Harten on October 17th, 2013

According to various media reports on Tuesday, adidas is already stocking up to make a play on current Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, with the shoe giant ready to the throw a 10-year, $140 to $180 million contract at him when he goes pro after this season. Wiggins is widely touted as the top prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft, so let’s move past any issues or claims of amateurism and instead look at the how and why of this supposed deal. Looking at the immediate future, when Wiggins is selected in the first round of the draft next June, he will get the guaranteed four-year contract that comes with selection as a first round pick, per the NBA’s recent collective bargaining agreement. Breaking it down to a simple annual take of salary ($4 million-plus per year) plus endorsements, Wiggins will make a minimum of $18-$22 million per year beginning next summer, assuming of course that he lives up to the overflowing hype while passing through Lawrence.

Why Is This Man Smiling? Nine Figures Waiting Helps

Why Is This Man Smiling? Nine Figures Waiting For Him Helps

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at some of the more lucrative endorsement deals offered to young professional basketball prospects in the last decade. It’s tough to find a good benchmark, but you have to start with LeBron James’ deal with Nike in 2003, which was reportedly worth over $90 million at the time. In terms of one-year collegiate wonders, Kevin Durant signed a seven-year, $60 million deal with Nike when he came out of Texas, and lest we forget, Derrick Rose signed a monster “lifetime” (actual: 14-year) contract with adidas last year worth $260 million.

And yet, none of those deals are as important as the one that Wiggins could reportedly sign. There are certain number of factors that go into it. First, a company being publicly locked and loaded with such a deal (of course, neither adidas nor Wiggins can confirm it) could set off a behind-the-scenes bidding war and set the stage for preemptive moves like this in the future. Everyone around the game knows that the business of basketball begins when top players are still in the AAU ranks. With the shoe companies having such deep and prolific roots in the summer circuits and associations with the major prep schools, it’s easy to understand how and why many players are predestined for adidas, Nike, Reebok, and so forth from the beginning. Kansas is an adidas school. Wouldn’t it make sense for Wiggins to represent the shoe company on the court this season with such a tremendous payoff waiting for him in the wings? Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, Dream Vision and adidas all say hello.

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Big 12 M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 18th, 2013


  1. I said earlier in the week that this article by C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus may have changed my mind on Rick Barnes‘ coaching ability. I have never been a fan of Barnes and his seeming ability to do less with more than almost any coach in the country. Moore’s article was a nice rebuttal to opinions like mine. But a lot of Texas fans don’t see it that way, and articles like this one from Mike Finger of highlight those reasons. As Finger points out, Barnes has had no trouble throwing his players under the bus this season, and he’s had no problems doing so since around 2008. And while I’ve never been against a coach calling a player out in public (if they can take the compliments in the press, they should be able to take the criticism, too), there’s always the danger of a team zoning a coach out. Barnes has already had to diffuse those notions this season. Maybe Finger is right. Maybe blasting underclassmen isn’t the best way to get your team to respond.
  2. If you are wondering if Oklahoma has a chance to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009, Jordan Esco over at delves into that topic here. The Sooners have made appearances on most mock brackets as of late, and with the expanded NCAA Tournament field and their 12 wins at the midway part of the regular season, it looks like they will be in the dance barring a collapse in conference play. Esco has them going 9-6 from here on out to finish 12-6 overall in the Big 12. And with three more games against TCU and Texas Tech, West Virginia at home, and Texas at home before Myck Kabongo’s return, it looks like there are nine more wins on that schedule.
  3. I’m sure I’ve said this a few times already, but there are worse people to hire than Bruce Weber if you have an experienced team without a coach. The troubles seem to come when its time for him to start recruiting his own players, but we can discuss that when the time comes. For now, Kansas State is #16 in the country and playing defense as well as almost any team in America right now. They are on a seven-game winning streak and have held their last 10 opponents under 70 points, which includes the 67-61 win over #10 Florida on December 22 in Kansas City. They have a big game against Oklahoma on Saturday, as both teams are 3-0 in the Big 12.
  4. The Big 12 knows about the one-and-done rule as well as any conference, whether conference schools were getting torched by Kevin Durant in 2006-07, Ben McLemore this season, or Kansas losing to the most talented group of one-and-doners ever in last year’s national championship game. If it was up to Shaq, Durant and McLemore would be “three-and-dones” instead. O’Neal recently made the remarks at the NCAA convention in Grapevine, Texas, and had plenty of valid points arguing that players need to stay in school longer. It’s a topic many people feel strongly about, and both sides have their fare share of solid arguments. My take? One year of guys like Durant, Odom, Anthony Davis, McLemore and the rest is better than no years. And while these players staying in school for three years would be fun to watch, if a professional league wants to pay them, let them go earn the money.
  5. Jason King of updated his National Player of the Year ballot, and (rightfully so) Creighton’s Doug McDermott tops his list. McDermott is averaging 24 PPG and 7.2 RPG after being named a First-Team All-American last season. Jeff Withey is fourth on King’s ballot. I can’t help but think of a season ago as Anthony Davis was heralded as one of the best shot-blockers of all-time. A “game-changer” they called him. Davis averaged 14.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 4.7 BPG for Kentucky. Withey is currently averaging 13.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 4.7 BPG this season, just like Davis. I’d still give the award to McDermott this season, but it’s time Withey received more love for possessing the same shot-blocking ability that helped earn a guy the NPOY award last season.
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Big East M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 17th, 2013


  1. Many college basketball players will rack up on-court accomplishments for four years and never even sniff the opportunity of getting their jersey retired. But when you are Carmelo Anthony, all it takes is one season and a national championship apparently. Anthony will have his jersey retired by Syracuse in February and the No. 15 of the one of the most celebrated one-and-done players in history will hang alongside Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, and Sherman Douglas. Of course it doesn’t matter how much time he spent in school, ‘Melo obviously deserves this honor. The Baltimore native finished in the top-10 nationally in both points and rebounds and led the program to its only national championship. He, like Kevin Durant, was one of the few true NBA superstars to even play in college, and unlike Durant, he helped his school win a championship on his way to stardom. It is definitely a bit weird to see a player who basically used Syracuse as a stepping stone for one season getting his jersey retired, but if ever there was a one-and-done player who deserved to be honored this way, it’s ‘Melo.
  2. Yesterday morning we told you that Georgetown’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, Greg Whittington, would miss his second game for a violation of team rules. Then, before last night’s game against Providence, it became apparent that Whittington violated the “don’t fail school” rule and his suspension will be indefinite in length. Whittington’s academic ineligibility didn’t matter last night as the Hoyas jumped out to a huge lead on the Friars and held on for a nine-point win and it seems unlikely he will miss the remainder of conference play. But this is a team with plenty of well-documented scoring issues that is fighting to stay in the top half of the conference standings, and without Whittington that will be difficult. Jabril Trawick is a nice player, but not nearly as productive as Whittington, and Aaron Bowen is at least athletic, but he is a long way from being the player that Whittington is. The Hoyas have an important game this weekend against South Florida, because dates with Notre Dame and Louisville loom after that, and the Hoyas will need every win they can get.
  3. Villanova may have learned some valuable lessons from their loss to Syracuse last weekend but it didn’t show last night as the Wildcats took a slim lead into the half for the second-straight game and then gave it all back in the second half to let Pittsburgh escape with a crucial road win. The game was close for most of the second half as well but with less than six minutes to play, the Panthers clamped down on defense and held ‘Nova to zero points over the last five minutes and 13 seconds of the game while they poured in 15 of their own during that stretch to seal the victory. I will buy the argument that the Wildcats proved they have what it takes to hang with good teams in the conference, but only for a half. The Wildcats have made a habit of watching their halftime leads disappear (they did it in losses to LaSalle and Temple earlier in the season) and while some of that can be attributed to a young roster without a lot of lethal scorers, some of the blame should fall at the feet of Jay Wright, who is seemingly getting out-adjusted at halftime by every coach the Wildcats play. When Villanova was dominant, they had a roster that knew how to close out close games and keep the intensity high, this team seems to inevitably fold every time their opponents start to force the issue in the second half. If they want to return to their spot atop the conference, they will need to improve on that greatly.
  4. The heart-and-soul of Cincinnati will be okay as senior guard Cashmere Wright is only day-to-day after he only sprained his knee at the end of a close win over DePaul. This is hugely important news for the Bearcats because while injuries happen to every team, Wright has been the most consistent and best player on the floor for coach Mick Cronin all season long, and I shudder to think what Cincinnati’s offense would look like without their second-leading scorer, playmaker, and floor general. The Bearcats are off until Saturday when they square off with a hot Marquette team and then play at Syracuse two days later and having Wright in the lineup for both those games will be crucial if the Bearcats want to assert their position at the top of the conference standings. It might be worth a look later in the season but I think the argument can be made that Wright is the most important player in the conference to his team.
  5. Our friend Rob Dauster (#DausterForUSC) raises an excellent issue after watching Notre Dame inexplicably fall to a St. John’s team that had just been blown out by Georgetown — why was All-America candidate Jack Cooley on the bench in the closing minutes of the loss? Dauster correctly points out that Cooley had struggled mightily in the game and that the Johnnies were playing with a smaller lineup, but there can’t be too many good reasons why senior scrub Tom Knight was on the floor while he much more talented and experienced teammate watched.  The key moment came when Knight had what appeared to be an easy put-in blocked by D’Angelo Harrison and the Red Storm were able to seal the win. There is of course no way of telling whether Cooley would have fared any better in that situation, but at least if it was Cooley who had his shot-blocked then there is no need for second-guessing, you can know that you put your best player in a position to tie the game and for whatever reason he didn’t come through. But because he wasn’t in the game, fans and pundits are left to ask why Brey kept him on the bench.
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Big 12 M5: 01.15.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 15th, 2013


  1. The AP and Coaches Polls were released Monday, and Kansas climbed into the top five (#4 to be exact) in both polls. The Jayhawks jumped Michigan and Arizona this week, who lost to Ohio State and Oregon, respectively. Kansas State continues to climb in both polls as well, jumping to #18 in the Coaches Poll and #16 in the AP. While both teams from Kansas are climbing, the rest of the Big 12 is nowhere to be seen. Oklahoma State has been dropping fast while losing three of their last four games, and Iowa State and Baylor are still a few weeks worth of wins away from making appearances of their own.
  2. I’ve never been a big Rick Barnes fan. I’ve always thought that Barnes has underachieved with the amount of talent he has had at Texas and has never been held accountable because Texas fans are more worried about the third-string quarterback than the basketball team. But C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus began to change my mind today. It’s an eye-opening piece with plenty of noteworthy statistics. Moore does a solid job of rebuking the claim that Barnes should have advanced further into March during his one season with Kevin Durant on the roster in 2006-07, when the Longhorns lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe Moore is right — maybe Barnes is better than we think.
  3. A quick update on West Virginia sophomore guard Juwan Staten, who missed Saturday’s game against Kansas State for disciplinary reasons: Bob Huggins said during a teleconference on Monday that Staten will travel with the team for its game at Iowa State on Wednesday night. It is still uncertain whether he will play, though. Huggins seemed to infer that this week’s practices leading up to the game will decide Staten’s fate for that game as the Mountaineers will look to improve to 2-2 in the Big 12. Staten is second on the team with 10.5 PPG and leads the team with 2.9 APG at this point in the season. He played sparingly last week against Texas in logging just 13 minutes, but just the week prior he had 17 points in a home win over Eastern Kentucky.
  4. Kansas guard Ben McLemore has been getting the most attention of any freshman in the Big 12, but Iowa State freshman forward Georges Niang is quietly putting up impressive numbers for the Cyclones as well. He is third on the team with 11.5 PPG and is shooting 35.5% from beyond the arc. Fred Hoiberg told the Associated Press that he loves Niang’s footwork, and I think he has a high enough basketball I.Q. to mask his athleticism with smarts while he continues to develop his body at Iowa State. He scored 18 points in Saturday’s blowout win over Texas and has scored double figures in six of his last seven games. He has a very European style of game for a big man, shown in last week’s near-upset of Kansas. He drew shot-blocking extraordinaire Jeff Withey out of the paint with his ability to knock down jumpers, opening up the lane for his driving teammates.
  5. Jerry Palm of updated his latest bracketology on Monday. The Big 12 received six bids: Kansas (#1 seed), Kansas State (#6), Oklahoma (#7), Oklahoma State (#9), Baylor (#11), and Iowa State (#12). Who would have guessed before the season that Oklahoma would be projected as a higher seed than Oklahoma State and Baylor? There is obviously still a bunch of games to be played, but the Sooners are positioning themselves for a good day on Selection Sunday. On a different note, I wouldn’t want to be a #6 seed paired with Baylor in the first round (Boise State in this particular bracket). The Bears are far from a great team but, as in recent years, they have the talent to win a few games in the NCAA Tournament.
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