Enes Kanter Isn’t The Only One Who Needs Freeing

Posted by jstevrtc on September 27th, 2010

It looks like some Kentucky students (we’re assuming) had a little fun with GarageBand recently and put together a little tune and, um, rap “video” about Kentucky freshman-in-limbo Enes Kanter and the desire to see his eligibility confirmed by the NCAA:

Now, we don’t imagine a certain Mr. Mathers is shaking in his sneakers at the prospect of a showdown versus “Rich Breezy,” but we salute the creators of the “Free Enes” video, since it’s certainly better than this particular RTC contributor could do.

The video did remind us, though, of that wonderful annual ritual of sweating out tardy eligibility determinations by the NCAA, that seemingly endless process that players, coaches, and fans must endure before each season. We  are still awaiting final eligibility decisions on three players in the 2010 Rivals top twelve — specifically Kanter, Missouri commit Tony Mitchell and top-ranked Josh Selby at Kansas. Last year, Deniz Kalicli, another extremely talented Turkish player, had to sit out 20 games before making his debut at West Virginia. Kentucky’s John Wall wasn’t cleared to play until late October. Lance Stephenson didn’t know if he was eligible at Cincinnati until November 5th, and Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney missed all of last season (his situation was admittedly a tad more complex than the others, we should note).

We assume that the NCAA adjudicates these matters as quickly as it can and is reliant upon the timeliness and veracity of the information they receive, but it seems like these decisions get handed down later and later each season. The final decision on Kanter was due almost a week ago, and we’re unaware of a timeline regarding a call being made for Selby, and for Mitchell’s chances to play in the second semester this year (he’s ineligible for the first). We all agree that in the end the most important thing is that the fairest decision be made for each kid, and that the NCAA’s calls are consistent. Unfortunately, with practices officially starting in 17 days, it’s about as likely that all of these issues will be ruled on by the time basketballs hit hardwood as it is that Rich Breezy is a pseudonym for Pete Thamel.

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2010 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

After another summer of loud belly-aching, moaning and groaning about how the NBA’s one-and-done rule is methodically destroying college basketball as we know it, we’re left with the fact that, in reality, only eleven players from the prep class of 2009 found their way into the 2010 NBA Draft pool.  As it turns out, approximately 90% of the RSCI Top 100 players from last year’s freshman class will return to play another season of college basketball in 2010-11.  And this is not unusual.  In the four NBA Drafts where one-and-doners were forced to attend at least one year of college (2007-10), there have been a total of 35 such players, or around nine per season.  There are obvious problems with the NBA’s one-year rule that we won’t get into here, but we shouldn’t be losing our heads over what amounts to a handful of players each season.

And what about those players — how did it go for them?  We can safely presume that if you’re good enough to be one-and-done, a year in college probably worked out well enough for you (ahem, Tommy Mason-Griffin excepted).  But we’re more interested in the schools.  How did recruiting and ultimately matriculating a one-and-done player work out for those institutions?  Put in real terms, was bringing a player like Derrick Favors on campus at Georgia Tech for one year worthwhile?  What about Calipari’s den of young Cats?  You may recall that we did this school-centric analysis in each of the last three summers (2007, 2008, and 2009), and the basic conclusion that we’ve found is that one-and-done players have generally benefited their schools in the two areas that matter most: 1) wins; and 2) marketability.  Let’s take a closer look at this year’s group.

2010 One-and-Dones

Kentucky – Well Worth It. Say what you want about the meltdown of Calipari’s Cats in the Elite Eight against a tougher, more experienced West Virginia team, but the fact that Kentucky brought in the #1 recruiting class of 2009 and delivered on the implied promise that Cal’s system develops NBA draft picks is why his cadre of one-and-dones (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton) was well worth it.  And here’s the what behind the why: four five-star prospects arrive in Lexington next year (Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones) and two more are signed on for 2011 (Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) with several others lurking in the wings.  Not every one of these players will become a one-and-doner, so eventually Calipari will be able to season some experienced talent around his annual lottery pick arrivals (see: 2008 Memphis) to give himself a great chance to win that elusive national title.  As far as the difference in Q rating from the Gillispie era to now, it’s like that $22M/year Tiger Woods lost in endorsements since last November somehow ended up in Lexington as gold-plated streets.  UK has become the program du jour for the young, moneyed and hip, and when the head coach infamously stated that this year’s NBA Draft night was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he’s referring to marketability.  The pitch: come to Lexington, play a fun style of uptempo basketball, win 30-35 games, market your brand on television through our deals with CBS and ESPN, have a shot to win a title, meet celebrities such as LeBron James and Drake, and end up shaking David Stern’s hand in a year or two…  not exactly fraught with hard decisions.  If Calipari can keep his program in the headlines for the right reasons, this class will be looked at as the tipping point for a whole new era of Kentucky basketball.  Definitely well worth it.

John Wall Was Only the First of Many Cats to Meet Stern

Marshall – Well Worth It. If you recruit a player who wasn’t even ranked in the RSCI top 100 and he ends up dominating your league as a freshman center to the point of becoming the Conference USA defensive POY and leading the nation in blocked shots, it was well worth it.  Hassan Whiteside’s one year in Huntington led the Thundering Herd to its best season in over two decades, culminating in a fourth-place finish in CUSA, big late-season wins over UAB and Tulsa, and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIT.  For a program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1987, any postseason appearance is a great year, and Whiteside’s patrolling of the paint had no small part in it.  The unfortunate part of Whiteside’s meteoric rise is that the Herd had such a good season that as a result it also lost its head coach Donnie Jones, which may impact the long-term marketability aspect of Whiteside’s year there.  Nevertheless, we doubt anyone at Marshall regrets the year that both Whiteside and Jones resided in Huntington together, so we think that this was a huge boost for a mid-major program not used to having such players around.

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Lance Stephenson

Posted by nvr1983 on June 16th, 2010

Player Name: Lance Stephenson

School: Cincinnati

Height/Weight: 6’6″, 227 lbs

NBA Position: SG/SF

Projected Draft Position: Late first/early second round

Overview: Coming into his freshman year Stephenson was one of the most talked about recruits in recent memory. Unfortunately it was for all the wrong reasons as Stephenson was considered egotistical and there were even questions about his eligibility. As it turned out Stephenson was not the much-ballyhooed recruit that spent the season on the sidelines because of eligibility issues. Although he avoided the long arm of the NCAA, Stephenson had his own struggles on an inconsistent Bearcat team that mirrored their mercurial freshman star’s personality. Stephenson had the potential to develop into a top 10 pick. Normally we would be critical of such a decision (as college basketball fans), but Stephenson has stated that his primary reason for leaving school early was to support his 2 year-old daughter.

Will "Born Ready" Be Ready for the NBA?

Will Translate to the NBA: Even though Stephenson is a borderline first round pick his game is NBA ready (his nickname is “Born Ready” after all) and if he works on keeping his ego in check, which reports out of workout sessions suggest, he should be a solid NBA player. With his power, quickness, and a solid mid-range jumper Stephenson should have a spot on a NBA roster for the next decade along as he continues to be the new-and-improved Lance Stephenson instead of the malcontent who nearly turned the basketball recruiting world upside down in the spring and summer of 2009.

Needs Work: For all of his athletic gifts Stephenson lack the explosiveness (both with his first step and his vertical) that scouts expect in high draft picks. While there isn’t much Stephenson can do about that other than try to shed a few pounds and go to Tim Glover during the off-season a few times. As for the more realistic targets for Stephenson, he could work on his long-range shooting (21.9% from 3 last year), defensive intensive intensity, going with the flow of the game instead of making up his mind before the play develops, and going with the simple play instead of the “And 1″ play. So Stephenson has a lot to work on over the next few years. . .

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Comings & Goings: UK’s ‘Fab Five’ Gone; Gaudio Out at Wake

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2010

HUGE DAY.

John Calipari has a major rebuilding task ahead of him in the 2010-11 season, as his five best players are leaving the program for the bluer waters of the NBA Draft.  In a move that shocked absolutely no one, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton all declared today, leaving UK with just a handful of returning scholarship players heading into next season.  According to KSR, however, P-Pat has yet to file his papers although he would undoubtedly become a top fifteen pick when he does so.  If all five of these guys stay in this year’s draft, it’s likely that each of them would be selected in the top twenty, a first in the history of the event.  This begs the question, of course, whether we should be impressed by so many draft-worthy players on a single team; or by the curious fact that five top twenty picks couldn’t even make it to the Final Four despite an embarrassment of talent at its disposal.

Ohio State’s National POY Evan Turner also declared that he will enter the draft today, and as the presumed #2 overall pick he is making a good decision.  The multi-talented point forward has a chance to become an outstanding perimeter player at the next level, and we’re very happy that his year turned out the way it did after a horrific fall in December threatened to derail his season and (potentially) career.  Some other names that threw their hats into the ring today were: Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who is expected to fall into the #8-#20 range, Xavier’s Jordan Crawford (late 1st/early 2d round), Cincinnati’s Lance Stephenson (late 1st/early 2d round), Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside (late lottery pick), Oklahoma’s Willie Warren (early 2d round), Dayton’s Chris Wright (mid 2d round), Texas’ Avery Bradley (late 1st round), and Florida’s Alex Tyus (undrafted).  Stephenson is the most interesting case study in why we should never listen to players during the season with respect to this stuff, as he clearly stated earlier this season that his return to Cincinnati for a sophomore campaign was ‘definite.’   He’s already signed with an agent, so that sophomore season will have to occur elsewhere.  Can we just say this again for the record?  Please, please David Stern — negotiate a two-year rule for players after their HS class graduates or none at all.

Moving to coaching news, the surprise of the day was the abrupt dismissal of Wake Forest’s Dino Gaudio by the school on Wednesday.  Gaudio was 61-31 in three seasons at the school, but what sealed his fate were his 1-5 postseason record that included two epic collapses down the stretch of the last two years.  It’s unlikely Wake AD Ron Wellman would make this move without a serious candidate in mind, so we should expect to see this position filled in a matter of days.  In more pleasant news, Cornell’s Steve Donahue accepted the job at Boston College, which makes a lot of sense given his northeastern pedigree, and the Rutgers job may be opening up as soon as Thursday if Fred Hill is canned as a result of his bizarre insubordination in the form of attending a baseball game (JR Inman must be ecstatic!).

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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: Quarterfinals

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the late quarterfinal games.

Georgetown 91, Syracuse 84

  • This performance from Georgetown shouldn’t surprise you. Remember, when healthy early in the season, this team was in the top ten nationally, and for good reason. Austin Freeman‘s health situation affected this team more than people realize  – Thompson said that was long as the Hoyas “keep Freeman’s levels fine he will be able to perform” – and they are just now hitting their stride again.
  • You know about Georgetown’s big three, but don’t underestimate Jason Clark. Jeff Goodman called him the “ultimate glue guy” earlier today, and while I agree with him to a point – Clark is a great defender, he can go and get you an offensive rebound, and he racks up some assists – I think by definition a glue guy isn’t a scorer. Clark can be. He hasn’t put up the numbers simply because he doesn’t get a ton of shots, but he is a nightmare to stay in front of and a lights out shooter. Jason Clark isn’t a glue guy, he is a very good basketball player.
  • The only way Syracuse doesn’t deserve a one seed is if both Duke and Ohio State win their conference tournaments. Otherwise, Syracuse is ok, although they may be headed out west.
  • JTIII on the Orange: “That team is still one of the best, if not the best team in the country in spite of today’s outcome. Do I expect them to be a dangerous team in the tournament? Absolutely?” Very true, but today may have exposed a flaw in this team –  a stopper. Not on the defensive end, but a guy that can get you a basket when things aren’t going well. Can Wes Johnson be that guy? Right now, he is a jump shooter and an athlete.

Marquette 80, Villanova 76

  • The Golden Eagles shot 65% in the second half. The were 6/6 from three in the second half and 11/18 overall. They had 17 assists and just 8 turnovers. I think it is safe to say Villanova hasn’t solved their defensive issues.
  • There may not be two more underrated players in the Big East than Corey Fisher and Darius Johnson-Odom. Both were on full display this afternoon. Fisher was impossible to keep out of the lane, finishing with 16 points and 6 assists, while DJO had 24 points, 5 assists, and hit five threes.
  • Marquette is going to make it out of the first weekend. Put that on the record. This team is so difficult to defend. Hayward and Butler are match-up nightmares for opposing bigs. Their guards can all shoot it, they can all get into the lane, and they all can kick the ball out to an open shooter. Most importantly, everyone on the team understands that they are at their best when they move the ball offensively.
  • Buzz Williams on Jay Wright: “I think he will be in the Hall of Fame long before his career is over”

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Morning Five: 03.10.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

  1. We love this bracket science stuff, which is reminiscent of some of the work we did when this site was in its infancy nearly three years ago.  It’s good to see Peter Tiernan continuing to do this every year, now for CBS Sportsline.  Maybe the NCAA Selection Committee should bring him on board.  Here’s a taste: best team against seed expectation in the last decade?  Florida.  Worst?  Wake Forest.  Sounds about right.
  2. The NCAA’s Greg Shaheen came out yesterday with the news that there has been no decision made to expand the NCAA Tournament.  Sounds great, but is Mr. Shaheen playing the role of Colin Powell standing before the UN here, or is this more like Mark McGwire’s contention that he only took steroids for health reasons?  Willfully misleading or delusional — you tell us?
  3. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a select movie theater chosen by the NCAA overlords, the Final Four will be shown in living, breathing 3-D.  Because nothing says March Madness like seeing Sherron Collins barreling down the court at you at 100 miles an hour.  We have no idea if this will be incredibly awesome or incredibly lame, but we’ll make sure to send someone out there to check it out.
  4. Speaking of all three dimensions, here’s Seth Davis’ 2010 All-Glue team.  The headliner is Ohio State’s David Lighty, but we also love the Willie Veasley (Butler) and Rick Jackson (Syracuse) picks.
  5. More conference awards today.  POYACC: Greivis Vasquez, Maryland; Big East: Wes Johnson, Syracuse; SEC: John Wall, Kentucky.  COYACC: Gary Williams, Maryland; Big East: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse; SEC: Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt.  FrOY: ACC: Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech; Big East: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati; SEC: DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky.  Some weird goings-on in the SEC there.  First, how does John Wall win POY but not FrOY?  Isn’t he a freshman, and isn’t he the best player in the league according to the voters?  Second, how does Kevin Stallings win COY — DeMarcus Cousins was so shocked he didn’t even know who Stallings was!

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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action.  Here is his submission on the First Round games.

South Florida 58, DePaul 49

  • South Florida looked really good in the first half. In the second half, a scrappy DePaul team started hitting some shots and made it somewhat exciting. But in the first half, USF looked absolutely dominant. They got just about whatever they wanted offensively, they hit the offensive glass, they scored in transition, and they held DePaul to merely 15 points.
  • Jarrid Famous could be a very good player one day. Great frame, good size and athleticism, but he needs a post game. I like his aggressiveness as well; he had seven offensive rebounds.
  • In one of the stranger stats I’ve ever seen, South Florida scored 58 points. 50 of them came in the paint, and six at the foul line, meaning that the Bulls got just one basket outside of the paint.
  • The most entertaining part of this game was actually the battle of the bands in an empty gym before tipoff. In my opinion, USF clinched it with a stirring rendition of “You Can Call Me Al”.

St. John’s 73, UConn 51 (RTC Live)

  • Where to start about the Huskies?  They turned it over 20 times; they went 6-18 from the foul line; they clearly had no interest in playing this game; Jerome Dyson packed it in three games ago, as he finished with four points and nine turnovers this afternoon. All around, it was ugly.
  • St. John’s is going to be a good team next year given they learn how to hold onto a lead. They will have ten seniors on their team, and the only rotation player they are losing is Anthony Mason, Jr. I’ve already got them slotted as my sleeper pick. They have size, they have athleticism, they have a stud in DJ Kennedy, and they have a couple experienced PGs.
  • Will UConn accept an NIT bid? Did Jim Calhoun just coach his last game in Storrs? Is Kemba Walker going pro? All questions you should keep in mind over the next month.  Another thing to think about with the Huskies – they have not won a Big East Tournament game since the 2005 first round against Georgetown. Jerome Dyson is 0-4 in the Big East Tournamen and 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament. The only year he was on the team and the Huskies had any postseason success was last year’s Final Four run, while he was injured.

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Lance Stephenson to Stay at Cincy?

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

“Born Ready” has decided he’s not quite ready for the NBA, as the NYC prep legend-cum-Cincy guard told Bill Koch at the Cincinnati Enquirer today that he’s strongly leaning toward staying in college another year after (so far) a relatively up and down season.  The UC freshman is averaging 11/4/2 assts in just over 27 minutes of action per game, but he’s only scored six points on 2-9 shooting in his last two games and has struggled with turnovers (2.6 per game) and his outside jumper all season long (20%).   Here’s Lance Stephenson’s quote on the matter:

“I think I’m going to stay and keep working.  I don’t think I’ve had an NBA season this year so the best choice for me is to stay.”

Maybe Born Ready is Wise Enough to Know When He's Ready

Well, at least he’s being honest.  According to the article, NBA scouts have stated privately that he would be a low second-rounder at this point, and two draft tracking sites currently have him at #39 at #41, respectively.  There’s no shortage of New York City schoolboy legends who failed to live up to their hype, but Felipe Lopez, Sebastian Telfair and Omar Cook immediately come to mind in varying degrees.  But perhaps the best decision Stephenson ever made was to get away from the hustle and flow culture of the NYC basketball circuit by moving to the calmer and more reasonable environs of the Queen City.  By avoiding the endless crush of wannabe agents and hangers-on endemic to New York telling him how great he is at every turn, he might have just saved his career from an early flameout. 

As Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin alluded to in the article, Stephenson’s biggest difficulty as a freshman in the Big East has been learning when to play within the offense rather than taking it upon himself to score every time downcourt.  Even the more-ballyhooed John Wall has started to face the reality that playing 1-on-3 or even 1-on-4 isn’t always the best option in a team’s offense, no matter how many ridiculous skills at putting the ball in the basket you possess.  When you’ve been The Man for your entire life, this is a subtlety often lost on young players transitioning to both the college and NBA game, but the ones who become great eventually learn it.  The first step toward that end is simple recognition of physical limitations, and the above quote from Stephenson signifies to us that he might be getting it. 

The “Born Ready” moniker is a humorous one because it portends an arrogance that young players often carry, but maybe in this case, the nickname actually refers to the wisdom to know when you’re ready rather than the actual readiness itself.  If so, we’d expect to see Stephenson playing for pay for a very long time.  Just not next year.

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Set Your Tivo: 1.24.10

Posted by THager on January 24th, 2010

SYT Star System

***** - 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 2012
* - don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Georgia Tech @ Florida State – 12 pm on ESPN360  (****)

This contest between two 14-4 teams should be highly entertaining.  FSU’s early season success is starting to look less impressive as their earlier opponents continue to struggle and the Seminoles drag their feet through ACC play.  Nevertheless, the Seminoles have built a solid resume so far and a win over Georgia Tech would only further their tournament potential.  At the beginning of conference play in Atlanta, Florida State handed the Yellow Jackets their only home loss of the season in overtime.  Ryan Reid, a senior who hadn’t scored in double digits in his previous nine games, led the Seminoles with 17 in that game.  Could he have the hot hand again on Sunday?  A more likely scenario would be for the scoring to come from big men Solomon Alabi and Gani Lawal.  Georgia Tech averages more points per game, but Ken Pomeroy ranks their offense 73rd in offensive efficiency, so look for Tech’s offense to slow down against a Seminoles squad that surrenders just 59.8 points per game.  The Yellow Jackets have a respectable 4-2 road record, but given FSU’s performances at home this year, and that they won the first matchup in Atlanta, expect the Seminoles to remain a four-loss team.

Cincinnati @ Louisville – 12 pm on ESPN360  (***)

These are the games that the selection committee takes a look at when they decide who gets left out of the tournament.  The 13-6 Bearcats and 12-7 Cardinals have some work to do to play themselves back in, and a win Sunday would be a good start.  With wins over Notre Dame and South Florida in their last two games, UC already appears to be on their way to improving their stock.  The Cardinals, on the other hand, have lost three games in a row, and a fourth consecutive loss will not help their chances.  One of the worst qualities about UL is their inability to finish close games.  Of their seven losses, five have been by single digits, including a heartbreaking collapse in the final minute against Pitt followed by a three point loss to Seton Hall.  Louisville at least has the luxury of playing at home, and Cincinnati is just 1-4 on the road this year.  UC’s Lance Stephenson and Samardo Samuels will be interesting to watch.  Both players are extremely inconsistent, so if one has a hot hand on Sunday they will likely lead their team to victory.

Penn State @ Wisconsin – 2:30 pm on BTN  (***)

Wisconsin has had a respectable 2-1 record since Jon Leuer’s injury, but they have gotten it done in extremely ugly ways.  In their 54-48 win against Michigan last week, they did not take their first lead until there was just three minutes left in the game, largely due to a 6:05 scoreless streak to start the game.  They shot just 34 percent from the field, including 16.7 percent from beyond the arc, which will not cut it every night.  However, it may be enough to get by Penn State.  The Nittany Lions are 0-6 in the Big Ten this year, and have lost to bad teams like Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan.  Teams just don’t win in the Kohl Center, and Penn State is no exception.  Besides junior guard Talor Battle, the Nittany Lions do not have a second option on offense.  With Wisconsin only surrendering 56.2 points per game this year (due largely in part to their ability to run the clock down on every possession) look for even Battle to struggle in this game.  Still, Penn State’s last three losses have come by a total of 10 points, so they may end up losing another close one in Madison.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on January 15th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Let me paint you a picture.

Pitt is loaded. They have the Big East player in the post, an all-conference 20 PPG scorer on the wing, and a senior leader at the point running the show. They have depth, balance, quality role players, and one of the most unappreciated coaches in the game.

That was last season.

This season its a different story.

DeJuan Blair is gone. Sam Young is gone. Levance Fields is gone.

Before the season started, the consensus seemed to be that with those three went Pitt’s hopes of an NCAA Tournament trip. Nothing the Panthers did before the start of Big East play changed that assumption. Not coming back from a 13 point second half deficit against Wofford. Not an ugly, two overtime win over Duquesne. Not the 47 points they scored against New Hampshire. Not the loss to Indiana in Madison Square Garden.

But there’s something we didn’t take into consideration.

Jamie Dixon isn’t like most coaches.

Jamie Dixon doesn’t rely on talent to win. He doesn’t need a roster full of McDonald’s all-Americans. In fact, when Dixon brought freshman Dante Taylor into the program, he was Pitt’s first McDonald’s all-american since Bobby Martin and Brian Shorter joined the Panthers in 1987.

What we ignored was the fact that Dixon develops players. He grooms the kids that are overlooked by other programs to fit his system. Like Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon and Tyrell Biggs and even Levance Fields and Sam Young before them, guys like Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee bided their time last year. They played their limited minutes while practicing every day against some of the best players in the country, while learning how to defend, execute, and carry themselves like Big East champions.

Now that Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown are back in the rotation, now that this Pitt team is finally complete, we are finally seeing just how good the Panthers are; just how good of a program and system that Jamie Dixon runs.

Pitt’s team is built on toughness, defense, and execution on both sides of the ball. While we pointed out in the preseason that the Panthers had flaws this year — they don’t have any sure-fire lottery picks, they don’t have a dynamic playmaker at the point, they don’t have anyone that can go out and get you 25 points on a given night — what we didn’t point out was that they have a group of kids that bought into what Dixon was selling.

Like every team in Dixon’s tenure, this year’s Panthers defend. They rebound. They get seemingly every loose ball. They run their offense until they get an open look or a lane to the rim. They hit big shots. They demonstrate the physical toughness and the mental make-up required to compete with more talented teams, and to beat them on the road.

And they have just enough natural talent to get by.

Proof?

How about a 4-0 start in the Big East.

Three of those wins came on the road — in Syracuse, in Cincinnati, and in Hartford. All three are difficult places to play, and all three were NCAA tournament caliber teams.

When playing the cream of the Big East crop, there will be few games where the Panthers will be considered the more talented team on the floor even with their run the last two weeks. But rest assured, the Panthers will come away with more than their share of wins.

If the Big East was a car show, Jamie Dixon would be me and Pitt would be my 1995 Honda Accord. While the Jags breakdown, and the Lambo’s get speeding tickets, and the Corvette’s are traded in for newer models, and the Hummers guzzle gas, my Accord keeps getting the job done. The paint may be chipped on the side, the AC may be broken, there may be four blown out speakers that are useless because I don’t have a CD player and the radio antenna was ripped off, but you better believe that Accord gets me where I need to go and gets me there on time, all on 30 miles-per-gallon.

And while Pitt may not be the most aesthetically pleasing basketball team to watch, Dixon keeps steering this team right where it wants to be.

Atop the Big East standings.

Other notes from this week

  • I think it is safe to say we have the choke of the year, possibly in the country. Up 50-48 with 15 seconds left, Cinci’s Rashad Bishop took the ball out of bounds under St. John’s basket. He thought he had Deonta Vaughn open deep, but pulled a Pennington and underthrew the baseball pass. It was picked off by Dwight “Buckets” Hardy, who was fouled, making both free throws. With the game now tied and just 8.5 seconds on the clock, Lance Stephenson threw an inbounds pass away, which was stolen by Hardy who, again, knocked down two free throws. Vaughn missed a three at the buzzer that would have won it as the Bearcats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • Speaking of “Buckets” Hardy, one thing I’ve noticed in watching, and attending, a lot of these games is the number of fantastic nicknames in this conference. You know about Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson, but how about Jamine “Greedy” Peterson of Providence, Stanley “Sticks” Robinson of UConn, Robert “Sticks” Mitchell of Seton Hall, or Darryl “Truck” Bryant of West Virginia. I know there are more out there, as well.
  • Pitt wasn’t the only team getting to 100% as the season progressed. Villanova has now played six games with Reggie Redding, who has been exactly what we expected – 10.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG. Take away a two points/seven turnover debacle in Monday’s yuck-fest against Louisville, and those numbers are much more impressive. Nova also got Mouph Yarou back. Yarou had been out with Hepatitis B, but came back on Jan. 6th against DePaul. While his numbers have been less than stellar as he works his way into the rotation, what has impressed about Yarou is his conditioning (Wright is on record saying Yarou is in better-than-expected shape). If Yarou can provide some strength on the glass and on defense, he could end up being a very nice complement to Antonio Pena. All of a sudden, with these two in the line-up, Villanova got a lot more physical.
  • Samardo Samuels was a monster against Villanova. He finished with 21 points and seven boards, hitting every shot he took (4-4 from the floor, 13-13 from the line) and blocking four shots. The problem? Louisville was too concerned about shooting threes to consistently get Samuels the touches he deserved in the paint. The Cardinals will be at their best when they play inside-out, because if Samuels is scoring and defenses are helping down on him (which will more often than not be the case), it will get the Louisville guards better looks on the perimeter.

CO-PLAYERS OF THE WEEKScottie Reynolds, Villanova, and Austin Freeman, Georgetown

Georgetown was dead in the water against UConn. The Huskies had absolutely imposed their will on this game, forcing Georgetown into turnovers and poor shot selection while making it a glorified pick-up game. In other words, they were playing Husky basketball. In Jim Calhoun’s words, it was UConn’s best half of the season. But during the break, Georgetown regrouped and came out more focused on the offensive end. They started to run their offense, to work through their sets, and as a result got much better looks at the rim. It just so happened the majority of those looks came with the ball in Austin Freeman’s hands. Freeman would go on to score 28 of his career-high 33 points in the second half (his previous career high was 21). For the week, Freeman averaged 23.0 PPG  as the Hoyas went 2-1.

Scottie Reynolds, on the other hand, solidified himself among the best player’s in the country with the most efficient display of clutch shooting I’ve ever seen. Villanova, down 17 points at one time in a first half that saw them turn the ball over 17 times, turned the tables on Louisville in the second 20 minutes, and Reynolds was the reason why. He scored 30 second half points, 36 on the game, while shooting just 9-10 from the floor, 13-17 from the line, and making all five attempts from three. For the week, the Wildcats went 3-0, and Reynolds averaged 24.0 PPG in the three games.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Clearly, the team of the week was Pitt, but seeing as I’ve already wasted the majority of this column on the Panthers, I’m giving the Irish the nod. All-in-all, the Irish are not a bad team. They have the most productive player in the conference in Luke Harangody. They have two solid shooters/scoring options on the perimeter in Tim Abromaitis and Psycho-B Ben Hansbrough. They have a veteran point guard in Tory Jackson. They have some talent coming off the bench. But what the Irish didn’t have was a win to justify their record. They got that on Saturday, as they hit their first nine shots and opened up a 25-4 lead on West Virginia before the Mountaineers decided to start playing. While Notre Dame wasted away just about all of that cushion when WVU got hot (they hit 9-19 from deep in the second half), Harangody scored a big bucket with three minutes left to answer a Dalton Pepper three and put the Irish back up, 69-66. After getting some key stops down the stretch, the Irish can now add claim a resume win.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: 15-1, 4-0

Last Week: 1/6 vs. DePaul 99-72, 1/9 vs. Marquette 78-76, 1/11 @ Louisville 92-84

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Georgetown

2. Pittsburgh: 14-2, 4-0

Last Week: 1/13 @ UConn 67-57

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Louisville

3. Syracuse: 16-1, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Memphis 74-57, 1/10 vs. South Florida 82-65, 1/13 @ Rutgers 81-65

Next Week: 1/16 @ West Virginia, 1/18 @ Notre Dame

4. Georgetown: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Marquette 59-62, 1/9 vs. UConn 72-69, 1/14 vs. Seton Hall 85-73

Next Week: 1/17 @ Villanova

5. West Virginia: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Rutgers 86-52, 1/9 @ Notre Dame 68-70, 1/13 @ South Florida 69-50

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Syracuse

6. Connecticut: 11-5, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Seton Hall 71-63, 1/9 @ Georgetown 69-72, 1/13 vs. Pitt 57-67

Next Week: 1/17 @ Michigan

7. Louisville: 12-5, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Providence 92-70, 1/9 vs. St. John’s 75-68, 1/11 vs. Villanova 84-92

Next Week: 1/16 @ Pitt

8. Notre Dame: 14-3, 3-1

Last Week: 1/9 vs. West Virginia 70-68

Next Week: 1/16 @ Cincinnati, 1/18 vs. Syracuse

9. Marquette: 10-6, 1-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Marquette 62-59, 1/9 @ Villanova 76-78

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Providence

10. Cincinnati: 11-6, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield 87-58, 1/9 @ Seton Hall 76-83, 1/13 @ St. John’s 50-52

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Notre Dame

11. Providence: 11-6, 3-2

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Louisville 70-92, 1/9 vs. Rutgers 94-81, 1/14 @ DePaul 79-62

Next Week: 1/17 @ Marquette

12. St. John’s: 11-5, 1-3

Last Week: 1/9 @ Louisville 68-75, 1/13 vs. Cincinnati 52-50

Next Week: 1/17 vs. DePaul

13. Seton Hall: 10-6, 1-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ UConn 63-71, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati 83-76, 1/14 @ Georgetown 73-85

Next Week: N/A

14. South Florida: 10-6, 0-4

Last Week: 1/10 @ Syracuse 65-82, 1/13 vs. West Virginia 50-69

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Rutgers

15. Rutgers: 9-7, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ West Virginia 52-86, 1/9 @ Providence 81-94, 1/13 vs. Syracuse 65-81

Next Week: 1/16 @ South Florida

16. DePaul: 7-9, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ Villanova 72-99, 1/14 vs. Providence 62-79

Next Week: 1/17 @ St. John’s

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Morning Five: 01.14.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2010

  1. Ken Pomeroy does what he does and concludes that, when you break down games by minutes 1-40, it’s the first minute of the game where offenses are the least aggressive.  Somewhere, some coach will read this and try to put his energizer bunny reserve in for the first couple of minutes of the game.  Guaranteed.
  2. UCLA’s J’Mison Morgan will miss at least two weeks with a torn quad in his right leg.  Despite his pedigree, Morgan doesn’t play much (only 8 MPG), but it’s been that kind of a year for Ben Howland in Westwood.
  3. Rutgers transfer Greg Echinique will re-surface at Creighton, which was one of his finalists coming out of high school.  Big, big get for the mid-major power in Omaha.
  4. Could everyone have been completely wrong about “Born Ready” as an uncoachable cancer to a team?  This article by Paul Daugherty suggests that Lance Stephenson only needed a change of environment to “out here” aka Cincinnati to get his head straight.
  5. Several hours before UNC got smashed by Clemson, the UNC bus got smashed by a Clemson student (photo below from Larry Drew II’s tweet).  Roy must have known he was in for a tough night when this happened.

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