ATB: UCLA Struck Down by a Phog Phantom (in a striped shirt with a whistle)

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2010

The Lede. It was billed as a probable blowout, but when you place two of the game’s regal programs on the same floor with two of the best coaches in the business standing opposite one another, we all knew better. Kansas and UCLA represent about a million wins, a couple hundred conference titles and several dozen national championships (Helms titles included!) — well, at least it feels that way. The point is that no matter the present rankings, so long as Bill Self and Ben Howland are patrolling the sidelines at these two schools, they’ll always be competitive. Tonight’s game personified that word, competitive. Too bad it got ruined by an egregious whistle made by an official who needs to remember to let the kids decide the game.

KU Got the Call It Wanted At This Moment (LJW/N. Krug)

Your Watercooler Moment. Foul or not a foul? Should a referee make the same call with 19:01 on the clock as he does with 00:01 on the clock? These questions were the biggest story in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series game between Kansas and UCLA this evening. After 39 minutes and 59 seconds of back-and-forth basketball between two of the sport’s bluest of bloods, the game balanced on a loose ball situation where a UCLA player bumped a Kansas player as both pursued the rock. Kansas guard Mario Little arrived at the ball a split-second prior to UCLA’s Malcolm Lee, and the referee on the near-side thought the ensuing bump with 0.7 seconds remaining on the clock was sufficient to justify blowing the whistle. From our view (and most of America’s, if Twitter is any indication), that’s a bit of contact that you don’t call at any point of the basketball game, but ESPECIALLY not in a tie game such as this one with under a second to play. Although ours appears to be the majority viewpoint, there are alternate ones: ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, for instance, stated that he believed the bump was a foul at any point of the game, and it was in fact the correct call. Gary Parrish says that there’s something for everyone in that play — KU fans, UCLA fans, and the fence-sitters. UCLA head coach Ben Howland, however, only saw it one way, throwing down a water bottle in disgust before later saying that it was a poor way to end the game. Star of the night Tyler Honeycutt said afterward, “as refs, you’re supposed to just let that go.” If this were the NBA, both UCLA player and coach would be facing hefty fines from the league, but we think that the Pac-10 will cut them some slack here, because, well, they’re right. But don’t take our word for it, check it out for yourself.

We were also lucky enough to have our correspondent Brian Goodman at the game in Allen Fieldhouse tonight. He filed this report after the exciting 77-76 finish.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.02.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 2nd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Arizona State @ #7 Baylor – 7 pm on ESPN2 (**)

Since his return from suspension, LaceDarius Dunn has played like the player Baylor needs him to be if they’re going to contend for a Big 12 title. Dunn has hit 10-19 (53%) three’s and is shooting 58% from the floor while averaging 22 PPG. The Bears haven’t been tested yet but the matchups strongly favor them against Arizona State. ASU averages just 64 PPG and 34 RPG while Baylor, led by Dunn and one of the nation’s best frontcourts, has averaged 77/43 a game. Against a Baylor front line that features three important contributors at 6’10, expect Arizona State to play their usual slow and methodical offense trying to create open mid-range shots. The Sun Devils do not shoot it well at all from three (29%) but they have 6’4 Trent Lockett (19/7/3) to exploit Baylor from inside the arc. Lockett is shooting 65.5% from the floor in five games, an astounding figure for someone of his size and position. Scott Drew figures to use a lot of zone defense which will keep his big men near the basket and out of foul trouble so Arizona State has to be on from the outside to have a chance. Rihards Kuksiks, a 40% career three-point shooter entering this year, is in a slump at 30% so far this year. He has, however, drilled five of his last ten from deep so Herb Sendek hopes that will continue against Baylor’s zone. It has to or else ASU will get run out of the building. With the versatile Quincy Acy and big man Perry Jones grabbing 19 combined boards a game for Baylor, Arizona State is going to need a heck of an effort in order to win the rebounding battle. One glimmer of hope for the Sun Devils is that Baylor averages 19 turnovers a game, one of the worst teams in D1 at protecting the ball. Baylor clearly has more talent but turnovers and hot shooting can keep Arizona State in the game. While that might happen early, talent will take over and Baylor should win this game by a nice margin.

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ATB: ACC Takes Early Lead 1-0

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2010

We’re Back.  These After the Buzzers dropped off a little bit over the long holiday weekend, and for that we apologize.  Still, we’re working through some ideas as to how we want to set them up, so if you have any suggestions for improvement or additions/deletions, we’re all ears.  So long as it doesn’t take us all night to do and it sounds reasonably interesting, we’ll consider it.  Hit us up in the comments.

The Minnesota Defense Wasn't Tight Tonight (MST/R. Tsong-Taatarii)

Your Watercooler MomentACC 1, Big Ten 0.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that Minnesota was without defensive stalwart Al Nolen tonight — the Gophers still came into this home game as a fifteen-point Vegas favorite, and Tony Bennett’s Virginia team hadn’t exactly shown any signs of breaking through after a 1-2 trip to Maui last week.  A 39-18 second-half run by the Wahoos fueled by 77% three-point shooting  (10-13) erased a ten-point halftime deficit and had Tubby Smith fuming after the game about his team’s shoddy defense.  So what is the teachable moment here?  Perhaps that Minny wasn’t quite as good as their 6-0 record with wins over a UNC team in disarray and a West Virginia team still finding itself would have led us to believe?  Or that ACC teams just find ways to win these ACC/Big Ten Challenge games year after dastardly year?  Well, that’s certainly true, and the Big Ten now finds itself in a serious hole going into Day Two of the event considering that this game was a supposed lock for the midwestern league.  In looking at the remaining ten games, Ohio State on the road (@ FSU) and Illinois/Northwestern at home (vs. UNC and Georgia Tech, respectively) become must-wins, with the hope that Iowa and/or Michigan can break through versus Wake Forest or Clemson on the road.  If we were laying odds at this point as to which league will win this challenge, we’d go heavily on the ACC — that’s how important the Minnesota loss tonight at home was.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Jacob Pullen’s 241st Trey.  With Pullen’s second three of the evening tonight in an easy win against D2 Emporia State, Pullen became the all-time leader in made threes at the school.  He already has 1,618 points in his career and is well on his way to becoming the all-time leading scorer at the school (he needs to average 17.8 PPG the rest of the way, assuming 28 more games).  Here’s the question, though — is Pullen the greatest player in program history?  The greatest guard?  Mitch Richmond and Rolando Blackman were awfully good players at K-State, but Pullen could eclipse both of them with a first-team all-American type of a season and a deep Tournament run.
  • LaceDarius Dunn’s Return.  In two games back from suspension against admittedly weak competition, LD has averaged 22 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG, and 4 SPG while shooting 10-19 from deep.  We know that Dunn can bomb away, but only seven of his shots have been from within the circle; he may want to mix it up a little more as we get into the heart of the season.
  • Blake Hoffarber’s Jumper.  He shoots them in volume like JJ Redick once did down on Tobacco Road, but every time he puts one up, we think it’s going in.  He’s been somewhat “off” so far this year, but after a 5-11 performance tonight, he’s still at 38.7% on the season.  Of course, this is down from last year’s nearly-automatic 46.7% from deep, but we figure he’ll catch fire soon enough.
  • 8-0 Before December.  There are only thirty D1 teams remaining with a flawless record, but did you know that Cleveland State has already racked up eight wins before November is out?  The Vikings have mostly feasted on a steady diet of mid-level teams, but with a win already against Iona (who beat Richmond), CSU may be looking at a strong season in the Horizon League.
  • Wichita State’s Balance.  One of the most effective shooting teams that you’ll find, Gregg Marshall’s Shockers utilize a cadre of ten players who average between 14-25 minutes per game, nine of whom tally at least four points per contest.  Even though WSU came out of Maui with a 2-1 record, it was the Shockers who arguably played tournament champion UConn the toughest among their three wins.

… and Misses.

  • Those Ridiculous-Looking McDonald’s Stairs at The Barn.  Minnesota’s Williams Arena is a grand old barn, the fourth oldest building currently in use in Division 1 basketball.  And we certainly understand that sponsorships will happen and must happen, even at grand old barns.  But those McDonald’s stairs in the camera view on each side of the scoring table look ridiculous and are embarrassing for a program of this stature.  Maybe it would be ok if the “M”  used was the same configuration as the Gophers’ “M,” but it’s not.  Please, please get rid of this travesty.
  • USC Basketball.  With four losses to the likes of Rider, Bradley, Nebraska and TCU already under its belt, Kevin O’Neill’s team is already in serious trouble this season.  The Trojans have games coming against #20 Texas, #4 Kansas and #15 Tennessee in the next three weeks, and even with Jio Fontan returning on Dec. 18 for the KU game, we’re not sure that this dysfunctional unit will recover.

Tweet of the Night.  Yeah, this is more or less what we thought too when told that TCU was becoming the seventeenth Big East basketball school.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • Thanksgiving week tends to signal the unofficial start of basketball season as the non-conference competition ticks up a notch and holiday tournaments tip off in force.  For the Big 12, that meant trips to Hawaii, Kansas City, Cancun and Las Vegas, among other destinations.  For some, it was a positive experience, for others it was a bit of a negative, but for nearly all, the week provided a test and some answers as to where the early season concerns might lie.
  • Perhaps the biggest pair of games for the week in the Big 12 occurred in a city experiencing a resurgence in basketball relevance, Kansas City.  The Wildcats of Kansas State took to the court against two top-15 foes in successive nights.  The first resulted in a victory for Frank Martin’s team over a tough Gonzaga opponent in convincing fashion.  Kansas State’s hard-nosed, physical style wore down the Bulldogs and set the stage for a huge early-season matchup and a big time measuring stick with a game against top-ranked Duke.  Unfortunately for Kansas State, the Blue Devils played every bit the part of the #1 team in the nation.  Their defense came out and punched Jacob Pullen and the Wildcats in the mouth.  Duke experienced a comfortable lead throughout the game and while Kansas State stepped up the defensive effort after a slow start, missed free throws and turnovers kept a stalling offense on the ropes.
  • Elsewhere in the conference, the Kansas Jayhawks took on a surging Arizona Wildcats squad in Las Vegas.  The contest looked like a runaway early, but Kansas struggled for the first time all season before eventually putting away a pesky Arizona squad that appears to be well on its way to a return to the top of the Pac-10.  The win secured the Vegas Tourney Title for Kansas.
  • Another tournament winner from the Big 12 emerged in Cancun, as the Missouri Tigers ran through the competition with relative ease and took the Cancun Challenge with wins over Wyoming and La Salle.
  • Not all the holiday tournaments proved kind to the Big 12, however, as Oklahoma lost in every appearance during the annual Maui Invitational, including an embarrassing losing effort against perennial host and Division II school, Chaminade.
  • A few other notable wins in the conference as Nebraska kicked off the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series with a win over USC.  Texas A&M dropped a game to ACC opponent Boston College while Colorado and Texas Tech continue to struggle with early season competition, the pair losing to Harvard and St. Mary’s, respectively.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas Jayhawks (6-0) – Kansas looked vulnerable for the first time against the Arizona Wildcats during tournament play in Las Vegas.  With Marcus Morris on the bench in foul trouble, the Kansas offense wasn’t its normal self and Bill Self finally has a little bit to work on as he prepares for UCLA this coming week.
  2. Kansas State Wildcats (5-1) – It’s hard to fault a team for losing to Duke.  Watching the Wildcats take on the Blue Devils, it probably proved more about how good Duke is than what can be expected from Kansas State.  The Wildcats still played a high caliber of defense during stretches, and if they can learn to value the basketball a little more and knock down free throws, they’ll be in the conference hunt.
  3. Texas Longhorns (5-1) – Texas struggled against a pesky Rice Owl squad but managed to get a win as their schedule softened after a tough early stretch.  The Longhorns continue to show strength on the interior, an area that will be critical in any hopes at a conference title run.
  4. Baylor Bears (4-0) – Baylor continues to coast through sub-par competition, but did receive 24 points from LaceDarius Dunn in his first game back from suspension.
  5. Missouri Tigers (5-0) – The Tigers are still a tough read.  They are winning, but not necessarily in the convincing fashion one might expect.  Ricardo Ratliffe is looking the part of the big man they’ve needed, but the Tigers still look like a team trying to find itself.  That hasn’t been all that uncommon for a Mike Anderson-led team as they typically improve throughout the season.
  6. Texas A&M (5-1) – The Aggies dropped a game against ACC’s Boston College, but recovered with a win over nationally-ranked Temple at the Old Spice Classic in Florida.  Right now, they look to be the best of the Big 12’s middle tier, but Oklahoma State is in the rearview.
  7. Oklahoma State (5-1) – Oklahoma State is beating the teams they should, but dropped a close one to a tough Virginia Tech team that was ranked to start the season.   The early play of Marshall Moses has been cause for optimism in Stillwater, however, and the Cowboys could be better than originally thought.
  8. Iowa State (6-0) – Iowa State and Fred Hoiberg keep winning basketball games.  The competition hasn’t been particularly impressive, but they’ll get a chance to show what they can do against a real opponent in the very near future.
  9. Nebraska (4-2) – A win on the road (Hofstra) and a 20-point comeback over a Pac-10 opponent (USC) show that Nebraska might not be the worst in the conference.  This still isn’t a team with any tournament aspirations as of yet, but they might be able to outclass a few in their final season in the Big 12.
  10. Texas Tech (4-3) – Tech has lost two in a row, but against decent competition.  The same can’t be said for the two teams below and that might be the saving grace for Tech in the power rankings.
  11. Colorado (2-3) – Two potential lottery picks and the Buffaloes lose to Harvard?  Colorado was picked much higher headed into the year, but they just don’t look like a team that is going to live up to those expectations.
  12. Oklahoma (3-3) –  Three straight losses in Maui including one to Chaminade.  Not a good loss by any stretch and the Sooners look to be in trouble if Jeff Capel can’t get his team to recover.

A Look Ahead

  • The game of the week in the Big 12 once again tips in Kansas City.  The Sprint Center plays host to Georgetown and the Missouri Tigers in yet another early season marquee matchup in Big 12 country.  The Tigers have started the season 5-0, but will face their toughest test in the Big East power.  Georgetown brings a 6-0 record and a very efficient offensive game to Kansas City in hopes of pulling the upset.
  • Elsewhere in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, tradition-rich UCLA is headed to Lawrence for a game against the Kansas Jayhawks Thursday in a matchup of two blueblood programs.  Unfortunately, this is a game that, in name, has a little more excitement than the reality.  UCLA is down, Kansas is not and the Jayhawks will be heavily favored in this one.
  • Missouri will play in their second notable game of the week when they head to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks, a team that courted head coach Mike Anderson unsuccessfully in the offseason.
  • Other notable Big 12/Pac-10 games include Iowa State vs. Cal on Saturday as the Cyclones try to put a little more substance to the fast start this season.  Baylor takes on Arizona State, Texas Tech takes on Washington and the Colorado Buffaloes go head-to-head against Oregon State as they get a little preview of what’s to come in the future.

Stats, Quotes and Other Notables

  • #1. That’s where the Kansas Jayhawk rank overall, according to Ken Pomeroy’s basketball rankings in offensive efficiency and in defensive efficiency.  Interestingly, last year’s #1 team headed into the tournament was Duke.
  • “They knocked the living piss out of us.” Frank Martin describes the loss to Duke in a way that only he can.  Again, last week’s game probably spoke more to how good Duke really is and Kansas State and Martin will be better off having played them.
  • 24 points on 7 of 11 from the three point line. LaceDarius Dunn returns for Baylor in impressive fashion.
  • 4 points on 1 of 12 shooting. Jacob Pullen struggles against Duke.  Is it a sign of what Denis Clemente’s complementary play meant to Pullen as a scorer?

Player of the Year Watch

  • Jacob Pullen – (14.3 PPG, 4 APG, 39% FG) Trending down
  • Marcus Morris – (19.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 68% FG) Even
  • Quincy Acy – (17.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 60% FG)Trending up
  • Alec Burks – (23.0 PPG, 48% FG) Trending up
  • Jordan Hamilton – (22.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG) Even
  • LaceDarius Dunn – (24.0 PPG, 5 RPG, 61% FG) NEW
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

[ed note — this post was written prior to Tuesday’s games]

A Look Back

  • The early season Big 12 non-conference slate has played true to form early.  The heavy hitters in Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Texas and Baylor have all successfully negotiated the handful of cupcakes on the schedule without much resistance. Two contenders have stepped out into heavier competition early, those teams being the Texas Longhorns and the Kansas State Wildcats. The Longhorns defeated a ranked Big Ten opponent in Illinois before dropping a close one to Big East favorite Pitt.  The early returns seem to indicate that Texas is back in business after the collapse of 2009-10.
  • For Kansas State, an early season matchup against Top 25 Virginia Tech was handled with a big second half in Manhattan.  A game that turned into a foul-fest eventually wore down the Hokies and the Wildcats pulled away on a 28-9 second half run.
  • The early season has also given way to a few surprising losses, the unenviable honors going to Texas Tech and Colorado.  The Red Raiders, who return four of their top five scorers from a year ago, dropped a tough one on the road to the North Texas by a nine-point margin.  To their credit, North Texas is a tournament team from a year ago after winning the Sun Belt conference.
  • In Boulder, the Buffaloes have fallen to an early 1-2 start with losses on the road to Georgia and San Francisco.  The struggles early will certainly raise questions as to the legitimacy of the Buffalo program as a potential tournament representative.
  • The other big news in the conference actually took place away from the court as the Kansas Jayhawks received word on Friday night that top incoming freshman Josh Selby has been ruled eligible by the NCAA.  Selby will serve a nine-game suspension before hitting the court for a December 18 matchup against the USC Trojans in Allen Fieldhouse.  Selby’s return adds another dimension to a Jayhawk team that has been impressive early, albeit against inferior competition. Whether or not you agree with the NCAA’s decision, his addition will be a major boost as the Jayhawks look to bring the noise deep into the tournament.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas Jayhawks (3-0) – Early on the Jayhawks have looked as good as any contending team should against inferior competition.  The Jayhawks are balanced offensively and athletic on the defensive end.  Perimeter shooting has been a bit inconsistent early and the loss of Cole Aldrich has definitely affected the defense on the interior.
  2. Kansas State Wildcats (4-0) – Kansas State is winning basketball games the way they do and that isn’t always pretty.  Tough, physical, hardnosed basketball makes for a bit of a grind at times but it’s been successful at eventually wearing down the early opposition – case in point, Gonzaga.  The biggest concern? Free throw shooting, as K-State is shooting just 51.5% from the charity stripe.
  3. Texas Longhorns (3-1) – Jordan Hamilton has looked like an All-Big 12 candidate early and the Longhorns have a top 20 victory to their credit.  The close loss to Pitt can hardly be faulted, and overall the Longhorns look tough on the boards, with several consistent offensive weapons at their disposal.
  4. Baylor Bears (4-0) – Tough read on the Bears early.  They’ve looked solid on the interior with Quincy Acy, Perry Jones and Anthony Jones all making big contributions.  Overall, they don’t seem to be putting away lesser opponents the way a good team should.  Perhaps a team still adjusting to the loss of their floor leader, Tweety Carter, while awaiting the return of LaceDarius Dunn.
  5. Missouri Tigers (2-0) – It’s been a tale of two games for this group.  They squeaked one out against Western Illinois while being outrebounded.  A game later they dominated North Florida defensively and received a big boost from Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers on the interior.  Certainly the play of Ratliffe and Bowers is a welcome sign for Tiger fans and a good indication of what could be this season.
  6. Texas A&M (3-0) – The Aggies look balanced, they’ve handled business with ease and are currently flying under the radar in the conference.  That may not last long, though, as Mark Turgeon looks to have some potential to work with and a savvy group of upperclassman leaders.
  7. Oklahoma State (3-0) – The Cowboys might just be a player when it’s all said and done.  A suspect interior game might be an overblown concern as seniors Matt Pilgrim and Marshall Moses have combined with junior college transfer Darrell Williams to make a solid three-man rotation early.  How consistently the trio can score as the competition picks up will be the question.
  8. Iowa State (4-0) – The Mayor, Fred Hoiberg, returns and the Cyclones have looked decent early.  A good revenge win over former coach Greg McDermott and Creighton provides some early season confidence and a group of largely upperclassman might make for a few surprises along the way.
  9. Texas Tech (3-1) – An early loss to North Texas raises the question of whether or not Pat Knight is on the hot seat early.  A huge concern is rebounding as the Red Raiders have been outrebounded in all four games this year.  That isn’t likely to improve as the competition does.
  10. Colorado (1-2) – Not the start they were hoping for in Boulder.  The Buffaloes had the makings of a potential tournament team but after a rocky start that may be doubtful.  Transition years are never easy and despite have two stars in Cory Higgins and Alec Burks, the interior game appears to once again be a problem and outside of the two known names, not much else in the way of scoring.
  11. Oklahoma (3-1) – The Sooners are undefeated, but it’s not easy to get excited just yet for a team that many see as one bound to struggle.  To the Sooners’ credit, they have defended well, rebounded well and shot well at times this year.  Now they get a chance to do it against good competition in Maui and make for a few more believers.
  12. Nebraska (3-2) – Same old Nebraska.  The Huskers beat the teams you’d expect them to beat and lose where you’d expect.  The Huskers aren’t particularly good in any one area and they don’t seem to have a go-to player.  Right now, it feels like a team with an identity crisis and one that won’t likely recover.

A Look Ahead

  • This week things begin to kick into high gear in the Big 12.  Kansas State set up a huge early season matchup against the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils by topping Gonzaga in Monday night’s CBE Classic semifinal.
  • Elsewhere in the conference, the Kansas Jayhawks will look to break their home court win streak record Tuesday night by extending the nation’s longest current mark to 63 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  The Jayhawks are then headed to Las Vegas for a matchup against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.  While Sean Miller hasn’t quite rebuilt the Arizona program, he does have things moving in the right direction and both schools have this matchup in Vegas circled on the calendar.

Stats, Quotes and other Notables

  • 34 Turnovers forced by the Missouri Tigers in their win over North Florida represents a school record and helped the Tigers hold their opponent scoreless over the final seven minutes of the game.
  • LaceDarius Dunn returns to the Baylor lineup this week after serving a three-game suspension.
  • Ben McLemore, a five star recruit out of the St. Louis area, has yet to make a college choice for 2011.  It was believed that Missouri and Kansas were his finalists and it appears he will now decide between the two this spring.
  • Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon on Texas: “They out-rebounded us tonight [37-35] and we take a lot of pride in our rebounding. I think it’s a very good team that knows their roles.”
  • North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll on Missouri’s pressure, ““It’s relentless, never-ending from every angle, you can’t simulate it, you can’t do things in practice to make you think ‘Hey, this is what they’re going to do.”’
  • Bill Self on Marcus Morris,” “He’s the best all-around player that I’ve coached since I’ve been here, maybe ever. All around — I’m not saying he’s the best player but there’s no one I’ve coached that does more things.”

Conference POY Watch

  • Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – 16.5 PPG, 4 APG, 46.3% FG
  • Marcus Morris, Kansas – 20.0 PPG, 5.3 APG, 72% FG
  • Quincy Acy, Baylor – 17.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 65% FG
  • Alec Burks, Colorado – 23.3 PPG, 45% FG
  • Jordan Hamilton, Texas – 24.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG
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Baylor’s Dunn Suspended For Three Games

Posted by jstevrtc on November 12th, 2010

Baylor guard and scorer extraordinaire LaceDarius Dunn will stay suspended for the first three games of the season in the aftermath of the allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend in a domestic dispute in September. Dunn will therefore miss the games against Grambling State, La Salle, and Jackson State and return against Lipscomb on November 22nd.

The Bears Will Be At Full Strength By Thanksgiving; Dunn Returns 22 November

The details of the incident involving the alleged assault are still hazy. Early reports indicated that Dunn broke his girlfriend’s jaw in the altercation; later, she claimed that there was no assault at all, and she did not pursue charges against Dunn. The McLennan County DA still has the case, as the linked AP report says. Dunn resumed attending classes shortly after the incident but was suspended from all competitive basketball activity. That suspension will end after the Jackson State contest.


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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players: National Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

Over the past month-plus, we’ve been presenting our RTC Impact Players for the 2010-11 season. From coast to coast and the Canadian border down to Mexico, we’ve selected the sixty players nationally who we believe will have the most impact on the game this year.  Each of the ten geographic regions was allotted five “starters” and a “sixth man,” an artificial construct that was easy to fill in some areas while much more difficult in some of the others.  In case you’ve missed the series along the way, this post will serve as your wrap-up.  We’re rank-ordering the ten “teams” by geographic region and list some of the near-miss players in each one.  Each regional post has a much more extensive writeup on each player chosen, so be sure to click on its respective link if you’re looking for additional information.  Here’s the view of the 2010-11 college basketball world from 500,000 feet.

The 2010-11 RTC Impact Players Map

The Ten Regions

(* denotes current injury, suspension or ineligibility)

1. Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL). Wow, and imagine if Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt.  Another group of first-rounders has everything, but what really sets this team apart is the inside dominance that Sullinger and Johnson can impose.  There isn’t a region on our list this year that would be able to stay out of foul trouble against those two, especially with the heady play of Mack, McCamey and Moore finding the big men in the right spots time and time again.  It’s no coincidence that the nation’s best conference — the Big 10 — has its footprint located here.

  • Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
  • E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
  • Chris Wright, F, Dayton
  • Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
  • JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
  • Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois (6th)

Near Misses: William Buford, Ohio State; Maurice Creek, G, Indiana; John Shurna, Northwestern

2. South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC). Obviously, if you can’t find a space for a likely all-american like Nolan Smith, this is a sick team.  Its only weakness is that other than Tracy Smith, it is extremely perimeter-oriented.  Granted, nobody can put a more talented five on the floor, but if a team like the above can pound the ball inside on them, that could make the difference.

  • Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech
  • Kevin Anderson, G, Richmond
  • Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
  • Kyle Singler, F, Duke
  • Tracy Smith, F, NC State (6th)

Near Misses: Nolan Smith, Duke; Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

3. Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX). This is a ridiculously talented region, with first-rounders everywhere on the floor.  The only possible issue would be who would be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, but if Selby is eligible to run the show, we’re not sure there’s a much better group anywhere else in America.  This region is so strong we had to leave a high-major conference POY (Culpepper) off the team.  Wow.

  • LaceDarius Dunn*, G, Baylor
  • Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State
  • Perry Jones, F, Baylor
  • Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
  • Cory Higgins, F, Colorado
  • Josh Selby*, Kansas (6th)

Near Misses: Alec Burks, Colorado; Gary Johnson, Texas; Randy Culpepper, UTEP

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Your 2010-11 RTC All American Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on November 4th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

The AP has weighed in with their preseason All-American teams. Now it’s our turn at Rush the Court to identify the 15 players on three top teams that will dominate the headlines in college basketball in 2010-11. From seasoned seniors to impact freshmen, our teams are littered with names prepared to fill up the box scores, carry their teams to unforeseen heights and enter the annals of the sport’s history. Through a simple voting process among the powers-that-be here at RTC, these are the 15 players we identified as the class of college hoops this upcoming season:

Singler is the easy choice for preseason RTC POY

First Team

G- Jacob Pullen, Kansas State, Sr. (19.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 42% FG, 82% FT, 40% 3pt) – Behind pinpoint shooting and a beard that took on cult status by the end of his breakout junior season, Pullen established himself as one of the best off-guards in the country scoring the basketball. With former backcourt mate Denis Clemente no longer in Manhattan, Pullen must pull double duty, continuing his scoring prowess while also balancing the responsibility of distributing to an array of talented big men. Pullen is a candidate to lead the Big 12 in scoring and propel his Wildcats to a Final Four berth.

G- Jimmer Fredette, BYU, Sr. (22.1 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 46% FG, 89% FT, 44% 3pt) – One of the more crafty scorers in college basketball, Fredette operates with such smoothness and efficiency, it’s almost impossible to prevent him from finding a spot on the floor to put points on the board. Fredette is one of the highest-usage players in the nation, ranking at the top in assist rate, fouls drawn per 40 minutes, offensive rating and percentage of shots taken. He’s the early favorite to lead the nation in scoring during a senior season that the Cougars hope takes them into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

F- Kyle Singler, Duke, Sr. (17.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 42% FG, 80% FT, 40% 3pt) – The AP and RTC both agreed on this point — Kyle Singler is the preseason national player of the year. Fresh off of garnering MOP of the Final Four and leading Duke to their first title since 2001, Singler passed on a near-certain first round selection to experience all the goodness of a senior season on a #1-ranked team. Singler is a versatile and skilled forward that can operate around the perimeter or get dirty inside. He’s the MVP of the best team in the country.

F- Harrison Barnes, North Carolina, Fr. (ranked #1 overall in 2010 ESPNU100) – How good can Harrison Barnes be? Here’s two clues: 1) he is the first freshman EVER to earn AP All-American status in the preseason; and 2) he’s projected by nearly every NBA Draft prognosticator to be chosen #1 overall in June 2011. Barnes could be the best newcomer to college hoops since Kevin Durant. He excels in the mid-range, rebounds, possesses an otherworldly basketball IQ for an 18-year old and makes his teammates better. Simply, he’s the savior for Carolina.

F- JaJuan Johnson, Purdue, Sr. (15.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 51% FG, 72% FT) – Johnson isn’t necessarily a dominating big man. In fact, he’s battled some inconsistencies during his time at Purdue. Still, he earned this spot based on what most project as a ceiling that keeps getting higher. He displayed that skill in the NCAA Tournament and is a defensive presence that can also score from the mid-range or paint. Johnson should pile up the double-doubles for a Purdue squad that needs him to be a constant force in 2010-11.

Second Team

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RTC Conference Primers: #3 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 4th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for The Big 12.

Predicted Order of Finish

  • T1. Kansas (12-4)
  • T1. Kansas State (12-4)
  • 2. Baylor (11-5)
  • 3. Missouri (11-5)
  • 4. Texas (10-6)
  • 5. Colorado (9-7)
  • 6. Texas Tech (8-8)
  • 7. Texas A&M (7-9)
  • 8. Oklahoma State (6-10)
  • 9. Nebraska (5-11)
  • 10. Oklahoma (3-13)
  • 11. Iowa State (2-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Jacob Pullen – Kansas State (19.3 ppg)
  • G: Alec Burks – Colorado (17.1 ppg, 5 rpg)
  • G: LaceDarius Dunn – Baylor (19.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
  • F: Marcus Morris – Kansas (12.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
  • F: Curtis Kelly – Kansas State (11.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

6th Man

Cory Higgins – Colorado (18.9 ppg)

Impact Newcomers:

Perry Jones – Baylor – It’ll be tough to replace Ekpe Udoh’s defensive tenacity, but the dropoff won’t be that steep with Jones manning the paint at 6’11 and 235 pounds. As a big man with shooting range, Jones will throw off weaker defenses and also possesses advanced ball-handling skills for someone as raw as he is. Scott Drew is making waves on recruiting trails, but now is the time for his sales acumen to translate on the court.

Josh Selby – Kansas* (if eligible) – The Jayhawks went longer than most schools of its ilk without having a player leave after just one year, but they may go two straight seasons with a post-freshman departure after Xavier Henry and Josh Selby. The #5 recruit by ESPNU in the class of 2010, Selby is a big guard who can score on his own or penetrate and dish to bigger guys like Marcus Morris down low. The coaching staff, players and fans alike have to be getting restless waiting for the NCAA to make a ruling regarding Selby’s eligibility.

The effusive Frank Martin has built the Wildcats into a top-five program with the help of AP Preseason All-American Jacob Pullen. (Bruce Thorson/US Presswire)

What You Need to Know:

  • Kansas State returns several very key pieces from an Elite Eight team a year ago. The biggest question mark is going to be how they handle replacing Denis Clemente, who forced the tempo and managed the offense from the point. A potential boost could come in the emergence of Wally Judge and several other young Wildcats who began to assert themselves late in the 2009-10 season.
  • The Missouri Tigers added one of the top recruiting classes in the country to a team that is now one of the deepest and more experienced groups in the conference.  While Tony Mitchell didn’t make it to campus due to an eligibility ruling, Ricardo Ratliffe does solidify the inside and put the Tigers and Mike Anderson in the perfect position to run the “40 Minutes of Hell” style.
  • Kansas loses three players to the NBA, but looks poised to make a run at the conference championship once again. Marcus and Markieff Morris will step into key leadership roles while the development of Tyshawn Taylor and eligibility of Josh Selby will be huge in whether Kansas can go from conference contender to being in the National Title hunt.
  • Colorado is the fourth team in the North making waves, as the balance of power has shifted in the Big 12.  Alec Burks and Cory Higgins make up one of the most dangerous duos and the Buffs could be in a position to make a run at an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2003.
  • Baylor and Texas will battle it out in the South.  The Bears return LaceDarius Dunn and several other developing players while the Longhorns will rebuild after a disappointing season a year ago.  Both schools have the pieces to challenge for the conference and a year after Baylor swept the series, the games between these two teams in Waco and then in Austin should have some added intensity.

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Four Teams Up…

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Every year teams come out of nowhere and burst into the top 25, while sports writers run to their keyboards to type the requisite “Where Did Team X Come From” story. I mean how many people saw Cornell coming last year? Who said last October that Butler would go on to lose the national championship game by just a couple of inches?  Conversely, there are teams that look great on paper in the preseason but fail to live up to the hype once the season starts. Think North Carolina last season. Why did the Tar Heels begin the year in the top 10 again?  Allow us to sort through the mess and pull out this year’s Cornells and North Carolinas for you. Missouri fans, get ready to be excited. West Virginia fans, start thinking of things to say in your hate mail.

Today we’ll take a look at four teams that will be up this season as compared to where they were in to 2009-10.  Wednesday we’ll look at four teams that will be down.

Four Up

#1) North Carolina

Drew Will Have a Superstar to Get the Ball To This Year

I know, I know, you’ve seen this script before. The Tar Heels enter the season ranked in the top 10. They don’t have many players on their roster that have accomplished anything in the college ranks, but they boast a highly touted incoming freshman class. Sound familiar? That was last year’s UNC squad, and we all know how disastrous the 2009-10 season was in Chapel Hill. So why the reason for optimism for Roy Williams & Co.? Two words: Harrison Barnes.

In Barnes the Tar Heels have the top freshman in the nation, and a guy many foresee as next year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The 6’8 forward gives UNC the kind of scorer last year’s offensively challenged squad lacked. He’ll instantly become the primary option in Williams’ offense, and his inside-outside game should have the Tar Heels back in the NCAA Tournament as a dark horse Final Four candidate. In addition to Barnes, the Tar Heels have a rookie point guard in Kendall Marshall who should provide the competition in practice to make Larry Drew II a better floor general, and at the very least should give UNC two capable ball handlers. The lone reason to be concerned is North Carolina’s lack of depth along the front line. UNC lost Deon Thompson (last year’s top scorer) to graduation, Ed Davis left for the NBA and David and Travis Wear transferred to UCLA during the offseason. If center Tyler Zeller suffers another injury this season, North Carolina might be in trouble, but the Tar Heels definitely won’t suffer another NIT season.

#2) Missouri

Kim English is Ready to Take Mizzou Deep Again

It didn’t take long for Baylor to lose its momentum from last season’s run to the Elite Eight. All it took to bring the Bears back to earth was LaceDarius Dunn’s arrest for aggravated assault and indefinite suspension from the team coupled with Ekpe Udoh’s decision to enter the NBA draft. And the team that gained the most from Baylor’s drama? Missouri.  The Tigers are well equipped to jump into the Big 12 elite and it’s all because of head coach Mike Anderson. Anderson is 88-46 in his four seasons at Missouri and reached the Elite Eight in 2009. Last year the Tigers made it to the Round of 32, and Anderson’s squad is predicted to finish fifth in the Big 12 this year.

Personally, fifth seems a little too low. The Tigers’ brand of basketball (the “fastest 40 minutes in basketball”) that Anderson learned at Arkansas under Nolan Richardson is incredibly tough to prepare for and usually leaves the opposition bent over in exhaustion by halftime. And if that’s not enough, the rest of the Big 12 has to account for preseason Wooden All-America selection Kim English and five-star recruit Phil Pressey. If Anderson’s other five-star signee, Tony Mitchell, ever becomes eligible then the Tigers will have the frontcourt presence necessary to post Anderson’s best season in Columbia.

#3) Florida

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Plains/Mountains Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX)

  • LaceDarius Dunn* – Sr, G – Baylor. Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: there’s no news. We know that in order for him to be an Impact Player for this region and to indeed fulfill the promise that’s implied when your name pops up on all sorts of pre-season All-America teams, LaceDarius Dunn has to actually see the floor, and as of right now he’s still suspended from competition. He’s practicing, he’s attending classes, but that suspension from games of any kind is indefinite, so what Dunn is doing most is waiting. So are we, because we want to see the guy play some more, and soon. We’ve backed LaceDarius since his first moments on the Baylor campus and we’ve enjoyed watching him grow as a basketball player during his time there. Dunn was a factor right from the start in Waco, averaging 13.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 22 MPG as a freshman, and he’s only gotten more impressive each season. You could see his confidence grow by the game through his sophomore year as he tacked a couple of points onto that scoring average (15.7 PPG) and took on more responsibility. Last season was probably the school’s best since 1950 and earned the Bears their best year-end ranking ever (#10), and Dunn was the centerpiece along with Ekpe Udoh. The unquestioned team leader, Dunn put his scoring gift on full display, contributing 19.6 PPG (33rd in the nation) in just over 32 MPG. Because of his quickness and his deep shooting range, he represents the ultimate defensive conundrum. If you play up on him, he’s by you. If you give him a cushion — and he doesn’t need much space at all — he’ll drill you from range. If you get physical, not only will he match you (Dunn is a disturbingly solid 6’4, 205), but he’ll be more than happy to repair to the free throw line (85.7% last season) and bleed you to death with paper cuts. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his game is that shooting accuracy. If Dunn can see the rim, he’s in range, and he has no qualms about letting it sail. He nailed 116 threes last season, a single-season record for the school. His next trey will be his 300th, and he’s already hit more of them than any other Baylor player. Those 299 threes put him 91 bombs away from breaking the Big 12 record of 389 held by Texas’ A.J Abrams, and seeing as how Dunn has had no problem breaking 100 the past two seasons, we think he’ll get there. Considering all that, his overall shooting percentage becomes that much more impressive. He shot 45.2% last year and has posted a 44.9% mark for his Baylor career. This brings up the question, again: how do you guard this man? It’ll be fun to watch Big 12 opponents make a go of it this season, that’s for sure — we just have to get the guy on the floor and past this current situation regarding the alleged assault. Because of the strange, conflicting stories from some of the people involved and the paucity of other details that have emerged about this matter, we’re not sure where the truth lies or what outcome would constitute justice. We just hope it’s one that results in LaceDarius Dunn playing basketball as soon and as much as possible.

If Dunn Keeps His Head, He Could Be Baylor's first AP All-American First Teamer

  • Jacob Pullen – Sr, G – Kansas State. Expectations, much?  The last time Jacob Pullen’s Kansas State Wildcats were ranked as high as they are in the Preseason Coaches Poll (#3), John F. Kennedy was a relatively unknown senator from Massachusetts.  The year was 1959, and the Wildcats were ranked #1 in the final AP poll heading into the NCAA Tournament (regrettably, the Cats lost to Oscar Robertson’s Cincinnati in the regional finals).  In large part due to the big-shot making abilities of the six-foot guard who has a great chance to re-write the K-State record books this season, Frank Martin’s KSU squad is poised to make a run at its first Final Four since the 60s and its first Big 8/12 conference title since the 70s.  Pullen, the Big 12 Preseason POY as voted on by the coaches, is expected to run more of the point now that last year’s starter at that position Denis Clemente has graduated, but his ability to successfully play either the one or the two position is well-documented by league opponents.  Let’s be honest, though; with Pullen mimicking the scorer’s mentality of other height-challenged combo guards that have come before him, it doesn’t matter what “position” head coach Frank Martin puts him in.  The Beard (which is rounding into form for the season, incidentally) will have the ball in his hands when it’s crunch time, just as he did in a 34-point explosion against Jimmer Fredette and BYU in the NCAA second round last season and in multiple overtimes in another win (and 28-point performance) against Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen.  It’s not very easy to stop a player who can routinely go for 20+ against some of the best defensive coaches in the country (16 times last year), but the one thing you do not want to do against Pullen is leave him open from behind the arc.  Make him put the ball on the floor and try to get to the rim.  He’s not a traditional dead-eye shooter by any stretch, but he can torch it from outside when he finds a groove — seven threes against UNLV and BYU; six against Alabama, Xavier, Baylor and South Dakota.  Last year he tied Askia Jones’ school-record of 110 threes in a season because he’s learned how to pick his spots appropriately, exhibited by the nearly 40% conversion rate he enjoyed (a significant improvement from his 30% and 34% he shot from deep in his first two years in Manhattan).  Perhaps reflecting the grit of his fiery head coach, Pullen is also an elite defender, having been selected as a member of the six-man Big 12 all-defensive team last year.  Put all of this together — the  scoring, the defense, the grit, the BEARD — and you’re faced with the simple fact that the K-State guard is on the short list of a dozen or so players who are in contention for 1st team All-American and national Player of the Year honors in 2010-11.  The better he plays, the more likely it is that the fortunes of Kansas State basketball is on its way to reclaiming some of its ancient glory and make comparisons with teams a half-century ago completely moot.

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Five Teams Nobody Can Quite Get a Handle On…

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

As the pre-Midnight Madness polls trickled out last Friday, it became glaringly obvious to us that consensus was more the exception than the rule. Aside from Duke at the top, teams like Butler and Kentucky somewhere in the middle and a precipitous decline for Purdue following Robbie Hummel re-tearing his ACL, agreement was about as prevalent as a British parliament session. Examining polls from a handful of websites that compiled a top 25 to prepare for the start of practice — ESPN’s Andy Katz, TSN’s Mike DeCourcy, CBS’ Gary Parrish, Fox’s Jeff Goodman and yours truly here at RTC — we found five teams with a noticeable amount of dissent attached to their name in the preseason. Let’s examine those schools and break down what they need to do to match optimistic projections and how they can avoid sinking to the depths of other predictions.

Team #1: Syracuse (Preseason Rankings: #7, #10, #13, #19, #20)

Overrated at #7 if: the Orange are unable to replace the leadership, chemistry and production provided by fifth year seniors Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku and fourth year junior Wes Johnson. At times last season, Syracuse was a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor. Players embraced their roles offensively and Jim Boeheim had the perfect roster at his disposal to stymie opponents with his patented 2-3 zone. The jury’s still out on whether Kris Joseph will be able to step into Johnson’s shoes and replace that versatility on the wing. Scoop Jardine was that sparkplug off the bench last season — will he be able to channel that effort for 35 minutes per night rather than 21.3 MPG? As many accolades as Fab Melo and Dion Waiters achieved in the high school ranks, depending on freshmen can be risky business. Asking them to drop just three spots in the polls after losing that considerable amount of production seems unreasonable and unrealistic.

When Boeheim Speaks, We Should Listen (TSN/B. Leverone)

Underrated at #20 if: Remember last summer when Boeheim hyped up that transfer from Iowa State named Wes Johnson? He’s been doing the same with Fab Melo, telling’s Seth Davis that his seven-foot freshman will be “a strong contender for national rookie of the year.” Plus, let’s face it: storied, winning programs like Syracuse prefer to reload than rebuild. Last October, we were wondering how the Orange would replace Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris (in hindsight, that looks foolish, but it was true at the time). Why should we believe any differently this time around? NBA scouts have tabbed Joseph as a future lottery pick, Jardine and Brandon Triche shot well enough in 2009-10 to believe they can pick up Rautins’ slack, and Melo is an immediate upgrade offensively over Onuaku. In a conference that lost personnel across the board, Boeheim has a shot to put together back-to-back Big East title squads.

Team #2: Missouri (Preseason Rankings: #8, #12, #13, #16, #16)

Overrated at #8 if: Missouri’s returning talent isn’t that good in the first place. The Tigers return their top three scorers from a season ago, but it’s not as though Missouri lit the world on fire in 2009-10: they lost games to Oral Roberts, Oklahoma and Nebraska before garnering a #10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s also concern about the Tigers frontcourt — Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratcliffe, Justin Safford and Steve Moore –– regarding their ability to contain the behemoths that face them in the Big 12. Any team that takes care of the basketball, keeps the action in the halfcourt and boasts legitimate scoring big men can negate Mike Anderson’s chaotic full-court press and take the Tigers out of their comfort zone. The prized recruit of Anderson’s class, 6’8 power forward Tony Mitchell out of Texas, is dealing with eligibility concerns and hopes to join Missouri in time for the bulk of Big 12 play, but that proposition is in serious jeopardy.

Underrated at #16 if: people underestimate the ability of Anderson to get the most out of his team. He’s positively giddy about the prospects of this year’s roster. There’s scoring punch on the outside with Kim English and Marcus Denmon, a dynamic point guard duo with Mike Dixon and Paul Pressey and plenty of candidates to thrust themselves into stardom in the frontcourt, especially Ratcliffe, the ultra-talent top junior college recruit. The Tigers full-court press keeps them in any game against any opponent if they’re able to force turnovers and impose their will. Anderson has the speed, versatility and athleticism to pressure opponents into oblivion. English is a phenomenal scorer and potential all-conference performer. If he develops more of a well-rounded game and improves efficiency, Anderson also boasts a go-to scorer when the Tigers need a clutch bucket.

Team #3: North Carolina (Preseason Rankings: #6, #9, #12, #14, #14)

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