Pac-12 M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. If things weren’t going bad enough for the Utah basketball team, what with a 1-7 start to Pac-12 play, they got worse news yesterday when leading scorer and rebounder, freshman Jordan Loveridge, was held out of practice with a hyperextended knee suffered in practice on Tuesday. The good news is that the results of his MRI showed no structural damage or any issues with ligaments, but Loveridge is considered day-to-day and may miss Saturday’s game with Colorado.
  2. Following UCLA’s home court loss to cross-town rival USC on Wednesday night, Ben Howland says his team has a lot of soul-searching to do in advance of the back half of the conference schedule. And, according to senior guard Larry Drew, the Bruins had guys who weren’t “all the way into the game on the defensive end.” There is still plenty of time to turn things back around, but after fighting off rumors of his impending demise earlier in the season with some big wins, once again Howland finds himself in need of stringing together several wins in order to feel entirely comfortable about his job. Or, as Bruins Nation puts it, in typically understated fashion, “pathetic, delusional, dumpster fire, disgraceful.” I’m beginning to think those people aren’t enamored of the direction of the UCLA program.
  3. You know how you always hear announcers talk about how a shooter who is struggling might suddenly right himself if he gets to the foul line and gets a couple unhampered looks at the hoop? Well, maybe that is what has happened to Stanford. On Sunday night, they played a Utah team that was completely uninterested in playing basketball and, as a result, the Cardinal got to roll to a blowout win, turning in their best offensive performance of the year against little more than brother-in-law defense. That was the equivalent of the shooter in a mini-slump getting to the free throw line and having a chance to see the ball go through the hoop. Repeatedly. Because on Wednesday night, they continued that hot-shooting and took it to previously unbeaten Oregon. And now that we’ve all of a sudden seen the type of offensive explosion out of Stanford that we had hoped to see all year, we’ve got to wonder if this is the start of a run. Oh, and the Ducks still haven’t swept a trip to the Bay Area since, like the Garfield presidency.
  4. Thursday night was another wild night around the conference, highlighted by Sean Miller’s first win at Washington in his fourth season as Arizona’s head coach. Still, despite coming away with a road win, it was yet another underwhelming win for the Wildcats. Turnovers, poor shooting and uninspiring offense were the order of the night, and while wins are always better than losses (now there’s some hard-won wisdom for ya!), this ‘Cats team isn’t scaring anybody lately.
  5. Lastly, the newest selections for the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Hall of Honor, to be inducted prior to the conference championship game in March, were announced on Thursday. Washington’s Nate Robinson is the most recent player to be selected, with the other big names including UCLA’s Lucius Allen, Utah’s Keith Van Horn, Cal’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Arizona’s Jason Gardner. The full list is here.
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A Spin Around The Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2012

Now that we’ve got games coming fast and furious, every team around the conference has a story to tell, and often we don’t have time to get to them all. So, in the interest of checking in semi-regularly with every team, we’re going to take a quick spin around the conference and check the temperature of each team, beginning with the spots that have gone the most terribly wrong and working backwards to the success stories.

UCLA – More or less a co-favorite heading into the season, the Bruins are likely the biggest story going in the Pac-12 right now – and not for anything good. Sunday night’s blown 18-point second-half lead en route to a loss to Cal Poly is one (terrible, horrible, atrocious) thing, but the fact that this team is doing this kind of thing with a the level of talent they’ve got is unforgivable. If Ben Howland is going to stick with more or less this personnel in his rotation (you know, the Wear twins, Larry Drew and a pair of wings), he’s gotta just break down and play a ton of zone. Really, this will do two good things: (1) minimize the effect of this team’s low level of overall athleticism, and (2) give them plenty of work on their zone offense in practice, something they desperately need. The other thing that absolutely has to happen for UCLA to even get within shouting distance of its potential ceiling is to find a way to get Kyle Anderson comfortable in this offense, and really that means putting the ball in his hands and letting him create, at least in the halfcourt. Drew has been excellent running the show and in no way should be scapegoated for UCLA’s struggles, but this team needs Anderson to be a factor and, while he’s shown his versatility, his defense has been bad, his shooting has been worse, and he hasn’t done enough elsewhere to make up for those serious drawbacks. There is still plenty of time for this team to turn things around, but UCLA fans have rightly run out of patience with Howland and are demanding immediate success. If this team doesn’t get drastically better, the big story come March will be whether UCLA’s legacy will be enough to pull either Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens away from their current jobs.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Ben Howland Needs To Find a Way To Get Kyle Anderson Comfortable, Or He’ll Be Looking For A New Job

Washington – The thinking at the start of the year was that maybe, minus a pair of talented but conflicted wings, the Huskies could be a textbook example of addition by subtraction. Minus Terrence Ross and especially Tony Wroten Jr., the remaining members of the team would know and accept their roles better. Well, somebody forgot to tell guys like Desmond Simmons, Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig that a big part of their roles would be to clean the defensive glass. While the Huskies have more or less won the battle of the boards against lesser teams, versus Ohio State and Colorado State they were dominated – in fact, against the Rams, the Huskies actually grabbed fewer defensive rebounds than CSU grabbed offensive boards. Sure, it sucks that Shawn Kemp Jr. went down with an injury just before the start of the year, but either Jarreau or Breuning needs to be ready to step in and do some of the dirty work, lest they be not asked back next season.

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ACC Weekly Five: 06.18.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on June 18th, 2012

  1. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: In January, when Georgia Tech ended up as the landing place for former Kentucky player Stacey Poole, it was a nice get for the beleaguered Yellow Jackets, but not a game-changer. However, taking on Stacey has paid dividends in the form of a younger brother, Solomon Poole. Stacey’s little brother is a five-star point guard for the Class of 2013 and he is headed to join his older brother in Atlanta. Solomon admits that his brother’s presence was a major factor in his decision to attend Georgia Tech, and I doubt if Brian Gregory could be much happier with this turn of events.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Though conference schedules have yet to be officially released, tidbits about the schedule have been making their ways into various reports. The good folks at DBR have taken it upon themselves to round up the reports (which are focused on Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and North Carolina). You can also see the match-ups for Florida State on the school’s athletic department website. Though it’s probably a little early to make assessments about the difficulty of a given schedule, it looks like the Tar Heels may have a rough season ahead.
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: Speaking of rough seasons for North Carolina, the troubles of  2010 and 2011 are still haunting the team, albeit in a fairly minor way. North Carolina’s streak of six years of APR Public Recognition Awards for the men’s basketball team has ended and it’s all UCLA’s fault or something like that. The APR is a simple measure of the academic status of a given collegiate athletic program. Though North Carolina has typically fared pretty well by this measure, transfers count against the school’s retention rate, and the defections of David Wear, Travis Wear, and Larry Drew to UCLA, in addition to the dismissal of Will Graves means that UNC has one really ugly looking APR season on it’s record. While complete APR scores are slated for a Wednesday release,  it bears mentioning that Duke paced the ACC with the most awards, including one for the men’s basketball team.
  4. Kansas City Star: Missouri will continue it’s reign as a landing spot for ACC coaches who enjoyed success and then moved on. Former Miami and current Missouri head coach Frank Haith has hired Dave Leitao as an assistant. Leitao, before a stint leading the Maine Red Claws of the NBDL, was of course the head coach at Virginia and the ACC Coach of the Year in 2007.  It’s a good hire for Missouri and a nice move for a guy who is good enough to be a college head coach just about anywhere.
  5. Washington Post: The situation of recently appointed Virginia Tech coach James Jones is as interesting as it is difficult . Former head coach Seth Greenberg left behind a legacy of confusion and accusations that seemed to undermine the program at every turn, nearly undoing all the building that Greenberg had accomplished during his tenure. This profile takes some time getting to know the ACC’s newest head coach and exploring the major task he faces in rebuilding a  basketball program that took some major blows in Greenberg’s wake.
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Baby Bruins v.2: Comparing UCLA’s Situation Now to Top-Ranked Class of 2008

Posted by EJacoby on April 25th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

With the news on Monday that top unsigned big man Tony Parker is headed to UCLA next season, the Bruins now have a super-stacked recruiting class for next year that should give Ben Howland’s squad a great chance to become elite right away. Recall that last week we discussed that bringing in an elite recruiting class doesn’t necessarily result in program success, with one of the highlight examples being Ben Howland’s #1 class of 2008 Bruins. That UCLA team brought in the top recruiting class and also had some returning veteran talent, but the team badly failed to meet expectations (some of the roots of UCLA’s transgressions were recently highlighted in a popular Sports Illustrated article in late February). Fair or unfair, the 2012 class and next year’s team is going to have to deal with comparisons to those 2008 Baby Bruins, at least until it starts to win. This time around, though, their coach’s job is on the line too. Let’s take a quick look at how the two classes and situations match up, and why UCLA fans should have no reason to expect a repeat performance this time around.

Now That Tony Parker Signed with UCLA, the Bruins Have Huge Expectations Again (Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Back in 2008, UCLA was coming off of three straight Final Four appearances, one of the best runs of team success of the past decade for any program. Bringing in the top recruiting class that offseason was no surprise, and that group of freshmen was expected to continue the long tradition of winning in Westwood. Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, and Drew Gordon were part of a group of five top-50 recruits who were quickly dubbed the Baby Bruins, players who “were famous before they played a game,” as the SI report claims. The freshmen also got to play alongside some returning veterans, most notably senior All-American Darren Collison. But UCLA was unable to win with this group right away that season nor during the next four years. Instead of stacking up Ws and bringing home banners like the previous groups led by Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo and Kevin Love, the Baby Bruins never made the Sweet Sixteen in four years and failed to make the NCAA Tournament twice. The disastrous chemistry on the team throughout this period led to players fighting and transferring, and it all ended up in far more losses than anyone expected. UCLA entered this offseason really in need of a talent (and attitude) infusion.

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Most Impactful Incoming Transfers For Next Season

Posted by EJacoby on April 18th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

As most of the top high school recruits have signed their letters of intent and the NBA Draft early entries finish piling up (official deadline: April 29), we’re starting to get a much clearer picture of next season’s rosters. But the other huge factor to consider is the transfer ‘market,’ in which hundreds of players decide to change schools every offseason. Always an unaccounted-for variable in recruiting, certain transfers can drastically change programs. The majority of names on the transfer list each season are players that won’t leave significant dents in a program (coming or going), but there are always some notable departures. Here we lay out the transfers that will have the most significant impact for next season. In that context, this list only includes top incoming players that will be eligible in 2012-13. Most players must sit out for a full year after a transfer, so many of these guys have not been in the news for over a year. We haven’t forgotten about them, and neither should you.

Alex Oriakhi Won a National Title at UConn and Gets to Play Next Season for Missouri (Getty Images/R. Martinez)

INCOMING – These players will be eligible next season for their new teams.

  • Jared Swopshire, Northwestern – He’s taking advantage of the ‘graduate program’ rule in which he can play immediately next season after transferring this offseason, thanks to having graduated from his former school (Louisville) with a year of basketball eligibility still remaining. Despite limited playing time at Louisville, Swopshire is a versatile and talented forward that will look to replace the departed star forward John Shurna and lead Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament, which is still possible with several returning starters.
  • Alex Oriakhi, Missouri – And the run of Missouri Tigers begins. Oriakhi is eligible immediately next season for a different kink in the rules (UConn being postseason-ineligible), and he fills an important role as a big man for a talented team that lacks size. Laurence Bowers returns from injury next season and Oriakhi steps in as another experienced forward for Mizzou.
  • Jabari Brown, Missouri – This top 20 recruit left Oregon and will be a huge get for Mizzou. The very talented 6’5” guard Brown will help replace the scoring void of departed shooter Marcus Denmon.
  • Earnest Ross, Missouri – Another 6’5” guard, Ross was the leading scorer at Auburn two seasons ago and will step in as another talented scorer for Frank Haith’s Tigers. He can help replace another departed star in Kim English.
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Behind the Numbers: Our Robot Overlords Think We Give UNC Too Much Credit

Posted by KCarpenter on November 17th, 2011

Kellen Carpenter is an ACC microsite staffer and an RTC columnist. Behind the Numbers will publish weekly throughout the season.

Preseason rankings are a funny thing and once real basketball begins, these guesses about the season grow increasingly meaningless. People forget who was ranked where in the preseason by January, if they haven’t already forgotten by December. This, for what it’s worth, is probably a good thing.  Preseason polls can turn out to be pretty embarrassing, highlighting how little journalists and coaches actually know about how the basketball season is going to turn out. Remember Kansas State and Michigan State last season? They weren’t exactly huge factors in the postseason despite being almost unanimously ranked in the top five at the beginning.

Ron Morris Was Certainly On To Something

Gary Parrish’s “Poll Attacks” column is devoted to critiquing what he feels aren’t well-considered ballots. It’s an interesting idea and is usually very fascinating, but since Parrish can’t see the future, the columns have a tendency to not age all that well. What seems like understandable ridicule in November can seem less well-founded when the championship game is being played in April.  Here is a particularly infamous  passage from last year’s pre-season column:

Same dude voted Connecticut 18th.

This would’ve made sense three years ago, but it makes no sense now given that the Huskies have a coach who can’t seem to stay healthy, and a roster that looks nothing like your typical UConn roster. That’s why Big East coaches picked UConn 10th in the league, and why somebody needs to shoot me Ron Morris’ email address. With little effort, I can get him added to the official Big East email list, at which point he’ll start receiving announcements, and then this sort of stuff can probably be avoided. I don’t mean to be pushy.

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Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

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

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims- are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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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 SI.com’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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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by zhayes9 on September 26th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

Following a blissful 2009 that culminated in Roy Williams’ second national championship since taking over at his alma mater, life as a North Carolina basketball fan hasn’t exactly been business as usual. The development of the John Henson-led recruiting class didn’t advance as quickly as hoped, guard play and defense continued to be lingering issues, injuries curtailed the seasons of some key players and a staggering five ACC losses at the Dean Dome followed. This all resulted in a spot in the NIT while their bitter rivals from down Tobacco Road emerged as the final team standing. Don’t feel so sorry for Tar Heel fans, though. With a Hall of Famer at the helm, continued success on the recruiting trail and the history and lore of UNC basketball remaining strong, there won’t be too many more NIT berths on the horizon. With a questionable ACC and arguably the best freshman in the nation wearing the powder blue, a jump from tenth to second in the conference isn’t out of the question (schedule here).

A common Roy Williams expression last season

Team Outlook: One thing that Roy Williams should stress during October practice and even into non-conference play is that every single spot in the starting five is an open competition. There’s talent and potential stardom flooding this roster, but the roles and minutes have yet to be determined. Larry Drew improved his court vision and shooting touch from his freshman to sophomore seasons, but he could be challenged by incoming freshman Kendall Marshall. Williams also has sophomores Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and rookie Reggie Bullock, known for his athleticism and outside shooting, to compete for time in the backcourt. Harrison Barnes will in all likelihood instantly be their most dynamic player. Barnes is a one-and-done who can create his own shot and has such a mature and refined game for an 18-year old. The question mark could be in the frontcourt where it’s yet to be determined if Tyler Zeller can remain healthy and John Henson can contribute more offensively as a sophomore. Both possess the skill level for breakout campaigns, giving Williams plenty of weapons.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7. After a warm-up against Lipscomb, the Tar Heels embark for Puerto Rico where they’ll be the prohibitive favorites to take the tournament crown. The most threatening obstacles will be Minnesota in the semifinals and a potential championship game against Kevin Jones and West Virginia. After downing Michigan State the last two seasons in the Challenge, Carolina receives another tough test in lllinois on the road. The Illini should be greatly improved in 2010-11 with Demetri McCamey opting to return for a senior season and the skilled frontcourt duo of Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. The series with Kentucky continues with the Wildcats visiting the Dean Dome, a young, inexperienced group still likely trying to mesh at that early stage in the season. The final challenge is a semi-home game in Greensboro against Texas after the two teams battled it out in Dallas last December, a hyped battle that turned out to be quite pedestrian when both schools grossly underachieved by seasons end. Carolina also faces rebuilding Rutgers in NYC and travels to Evansville for a game against the Missouri Valley bottom feeder.

Cupcake City: I’d give Williams credit for striking an appropriate balance on the number of challenging games a program with the stature of North Carolina should take on while also sprinkling in a handful of cupcakes that will help this curious team mesh and develop chemistry. The opener against Lipscomb is a glorified exhibition and the Puerto Rico opener against Hofstra shouldn’t be an upset threat unless Williams’ rotation is in flux and CAA POY candidate Charles Jenkins has a career performance. The Heels also draw UNC-Asheville and will be looking for some revenge when College of Charleston comes to town (unbelievably, Carolina was ranked ninth during that upset). Two teams that may challenge the Heels are Long Beach State and William & Mary. The 49ers return their top three scorers under former Minnesota headman Dan Monson. The Tribe, one of the feel-good stories of last season that saw their season end in the NIT against Carolina, brings back Quinn McDowell to a team that attempted the third most three-pointers in the nation last season, a dangerous proposition should they catch fire.

Toughest Early Season Test: Due to Kentucky’s inexperience, the question marks surrounding Texas and the lack of another preseason top-25 caliber school in Puerto Rico, look for the Tar Heels toughest early season test to take place when they travel to Champaign to visit the Orange Krush.  The return of McCamey changed the prospects of this entire team. The 6’3 senior led the nation in assist rate last season and will have an instant matchup advantage against any one of Drew, Marshall or Strickland. Look for sophomores Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson to greatly improve during their sophomore seasons, the twin towers of Davis and Tisdale are back to man the paint and stretch defenses, and head coach Bruce Weber was able to lure McDonalds All-American Jereme Richmond to Illinois. If the leadership and toughness improve this winter, the Illini could very well challenge Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State atop the Big Ten. Harrison Barnes will have to be the best player on the floor for UNC to leave such a rabid atmosphere with a confidence-building victory.

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After the Buzzer: Opening Night Recaps

Posted by zhayes9 on November 10th, 2009

atb

Welcome back to RTC’s THIRD season covering college basketball with one of our old standbys, the nightly After the Buzzer feature.   If you’re new here, the purpose of these nightly updates is to go a little deeper than game recaps.  We’ll talk about the key games and storylines of each night of the regular season so that you can join the watercooler crew with some knowledge to throw around the next morning.  Tonight we got the season underway with four opening round subregional games in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.  None of the four favorites were every seriously threatened, but there were quite a few good storylines tonight.

Isiah’s debut. #4 North Carolina 88, Florida International 72. For a team picked last in their Sun Belt division and has just eight scholarship players on its roster, Isiah Thomas had his Florida International Golden Panthers putting up a respectable fight against the top-five Tar Heels in his much-anticipated coaching debut. The bright spots for the powder blues in the first post-Tyler Hansbrough era contest: Deon Thompson appears to be in for a fine year in the post, totaling 20 points and 10 boards on 7/11 FG while frontcourt mate Ed Davis used a slew of putbacks and easy buckets to complete his own double-double: 13/11/4 blks on 5/8 FG. The other big question mark heading into the season was whether Larry Drew could provide steady point guard play for UNC, and the sophomore put in a solid performance with 6/2 A:TO in 21 minutes, including a Lawson-esque coast-to-coast layup in the first half and a few pretty dishes to Thompson and John Henson for jams. The bad news: Even with the incredible turnover and rustiness of a season opener, Roy Williams cannot be pleased with a 26-turnover performance from his team against a Sun Belt foe (the most in any game coached by Williams at UNC), especially backup point guard Dexter Strickland’s five turnovers in 11 minutes. Also worth noting is Williams opting to go with a more experienced starting five with Thompson, Drew, Davis,  Marcus Ginyard and William Graves getting the nod and Henson, Strickland, Tyler Zeller, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins coming off the pine. This group is absurdly deep up front and, due to the high-impact departures, shouldn’t be expected to look like a world-beater in early November.  They don’t.

Boeheim gets win #800. #25 Syracuse 75, Albany 43. Coming off their embarrassing defeat in an exhibition contest at the hands of D2 Le Moyne, Syracuse needed to come out in their first actual game of the 2009-10 season and make a statement. Their 2-3 zone defense confused the Albany Great Danes all night and was the primary factor in garnering a 75-43 victory for Jim Boeheim’s 800th win, putting him on an esteemed list with only two other active coaches — Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun. Syracuse’s defense and superb athleticism forced Albany into 32 turnovers and only 27% shooting in a primarily ugly game that lacked much flow. Syracuse shot just 2/17 from outside themselves including a clunker from three-point specialist Andy Rautins (0/6, 0/4 3pt) who left the game midway through the 2nd half with a sprained ankle (3am update: doesn’t sound too serious, but he was wearing a walking boot after the game). The good: Scoop Jardine coupled a productive preseason into another stellar performance at the point tonight, totaling 12 points and 4 assists on 5/7 shooting with just one turnover while his main competition, Brandon Triche, had some moments but mainly struggled with six turnovers. Syracuse looks extremely athletic with Wes Johnson (who features a sick one-handed posterization on an unsuspecting Great Dane) around the perimeter and Rick Jackson swatting shots down low.

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10.22.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2009

It’s coming fast and furious now.  Eighteen days…

  • Adidas/Nike Flap at UCF.  So you probably know that Michael Jordan’s other son (the one not acting all wishy-washy at Illinois) is a freshman guard at Central Florida.  It didn’t take long, but Marcus Jordan has already become notorious in the national media for something other than his play on the court.  The issue is that UCF allegedly promised him during his recruitment that he could wear Nike shoes (hundreds of millions of dollars to the trust fund might have something to do with that), but the school has an airtight agreement with adidas that all of their sports teams will be outfitted with their shoes and apparel.  This is a huge deal for UCF, who, as a mid-major cannot afford to lose the $3M that adidas is paying for the privilege; but, it brings up issues of individual rights versus contractual obligations and appears to be getting messy.  The practical solution would be what often happens when a rich kid is in trouble – Daddy Warbucks swoops in with the checkbook in hand.  The Jordan brand could theoretically buy out the adidas contract and add UCF to their portfolio, but ultimately that would have to be Nike’s decision, and we’re not convinced there’s enough added value in a mid-level CUSA team to justify the cost.  Of course, bad publicity is still publicity, and there will probably be people somewhere out there that want to buy the shoes that MJ designed for his kid(s), so that’s another factor that the company may consider.  A final possibility is that Jordan could play in his bare feet, but that would probably reduce his height to 6’1.5 and his quickness by a factor of half. 
  • UK Lowballed Gillispie.  Word was released late last week that one reason Billy Gillispie pursued legal action against UK was because they lowballed him with an offer well below one year of his current salary and buyout ($925K).  Was there a single good decision involving Mitch Barnhart and Billy Gillispie over their two-year relationship?  Let’s recount:  1) hiring him (bad idea); 2) hiring him without a contract, instead relying on an MOU (worse idea); 3) hiring a driver for him and generally ignoring his extracurricular activities all over town (even worse idea); 4) firing him (ok, that was a good idea); 5) lowballing him with a $925k offer of settlement when he was owed $6M from the MOU agreement (horrible idea because it only pissed him off; a reasonable offer would have likely been accepted); 6) settling with him for $3.25M (anything ending this debacle now is a good idea).   
  • Preseason Stuff.  10 teams under the radar in 2009-10, Parrish’s top 10 point guards and top 10 wings, Goodman visits Notre Dame and Michigan State, Luke Winn’s 16 impact freshmen, and Seth Davis breaks down Cal.  The Big East media came out with its preseason awards here, and Zagsblog followed up with its preseason awards this week (Gody: POY; Oriakhi & Stevenson: ROY), but why aren’t Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson and Seton Hall’s Herb Pope (both made the all-Big East team) eligible for the “rookie” award?  Here’s the SEC’s, and it makes absolutely zero sense that John Wall was voted second for SEC POY but didn’t even make the all-SEC first team.  Florida #5 in the SEC East is just painful for Billy Donovan.  And once again, here’s Vegas Watch’s SEC preview, where we too came up with the conclusion that Florida is the fifth best team in that division.   
  • Quick HitsLarry Drew: the key to UNC’s repeat hopesKansas: moving forwardUCLA: facing a ‘rebuilding’ year in Westwood.  Memo to Dana O’Neil: It’s CORN HOLE not CORN TOSSButler & Purdue: seeking to play in their back yard next April.  Midnight Madness: a nice pictorial of several from CNNSI.  Jay Wright: talks about the Bataan Death March of Big East scheduling.  Illinois: back in the mix locally recruiting-wise.  Binghamton: freeze all records for investigation (h/t Carpy).  Rivalry: is UW-Gonzaga back on?  Memphis: makes a statement at Midnight MadnessIsaiah Thomas: yeah, that’s a 5’8 guyOne man’s bracket: not enough B10 teams, and JMU in the CAA?  Brady Morningstar: $500 and keep your nose clean for a year (at least Self suspended him for the semester).  Pitino: finally moving on?
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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: November/December

Posted by zhayes9 on October 18th, 2009

seasonpreview

To get our readers excited for the endless possibilities of 2009-10, I’ve compiled an extensive list of the top 65 college basketball games of the upcoming season. Any true college hoops fan knows why we selected the number 65. Splitting up this season preview feature into three posts the next three Mondays (November/December, January and February/March), hopefully this list will provide you with the most vital of dates to circle on your calendar. Coaches are realizing more and more the importance of compiling a respectable non-conference slate to boost RPI/SOS numbers and provide their team adequate experience and preparation for the grind of conference play. Let’s lead off with the first batch of potentially memorable meetings during the first two months of the season:

Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

November 17- Gonzaga at Michigan State (#59 overall)- The featured game in ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon pits a backcourt-laden Gonzaga squad in the first of many difficult road tests against a top-five Michigan State team. The State backcourt of Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious will be given a true test from the Bulldogs trio of scoring senior Matt Bouldin, deep marksman junior Stephen Gray and emerging sophomore Demetri Goodson.

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November 17- Memphis vs. Kansas in St. Louis (#64 overall)- A young and largely inexperienced Memphis team will receive a stiff test right away with the likely #1 team in the nation- Kansas. Guards Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie must shoot well from deep for the Tigers to stay competitive. Former JUCO standout Will Coleman and burly senior Pierre Henderson-Niles will have their hands full down low with likely All-American Cole Aldrich.

November 19- North Carolina vs. Ohio State in NYC (#39 overall)- November and December means one thing: plenty of electrifying non-conference action at Madison Square Garden. This semifinal matchup could prove the best. Ohio State has their entire team returning besides the underwhelming B.J. Mullens and return defensive stalwart David Lighty from injury. They could definitely surprise the inexperienced Heels, who should have a distinct frontcourt advantage with Dallas Lauderdale sidelined.

December 1- Michigan State at North Carolina (#10 overall)- The Spartans and Heels meet in a rematch of the national title game that once again headlines this year’s ACC/Big Ten challenge. State may be able to avenge those two harsh defeats a year ago by taking advantage of the point guard mismatch. With Ty Lawson no longer around, Kalin Lucas could dominate against Larry Drew or Dexter Strickland. On the flip side, Draymond Green should have his hands full with a loaded UNC frontline.

December 5- North Carolina at Kentucky (#8 overall)- Notice a trend with this list so far? Roy Williams has challenged his team with an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, and this early season matchup in Lexington should be one of the best on the early season. There will be loads of projected lottery picks on the floor in this one, from North Carolina’s Ed Davis to Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

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