Morning Five: 06.19.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2014

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  1. Most college sports fans probably aren’t following the day-by-day action in the Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA case taking place in Oakland, California, this month, and why would they? First of all, there’s no nifty “doink doink” Law & Order plot mover to let us know we are moving on to a more important part of the proceedings, and secondly, many people probably don’t believe that the outcome will amount to much change in their annual sports viewing habits anyway. Fair points, both, but if you’re interested in summarily catching up through the better part of two weeks of proceedings and following along in the future, SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel and Andy Staples have you covered with their daily updates. The big fish scheduled on the line this week, of course, is NCAA president Mark Emmert, who will be called to testify today and possibly beyond (if necessary). Emmert has been a staunch public supporter of the NCAA’s amateurism model throughout his four-year tenure, and you have to wonder if he will fall victim to fits of hubris while on the stand defending what is widely becoming disparaged as an indefensible system. His testimony could be a key tipping point in the ultimate outcome of this case, so keep an eye on it.
  2. The underlying force driving the O’Bannon case, of course, is money. It’s always money, and specifically, who is getting their grubby little hands on it. To most Americans just getting by, the division of tens of millions of dollars between the NCAA, schools and the television networks doesn’t much move the needle — in their view, it’s just a case of rich people enriching other rich people. But even their fur gets a little raised when a clearly successful business model that can produce a third of a billion dollars (“B”) in a single year doesn’t give a taste of the steady stream of money to those whose backs on which all those dollars were made — the athletes. And yet, the Pac-12, as Dennis Dodd reported this week, produced $334 million in 2012-13 — the most of any conference in college sports history — disseminating around $18.5 million back to each school as a result. Once you start to add ticket sales, bowl games, NCAA Tournament shares and other revenue producers to each school’s athletic pie, you start to see some very large numbers generated at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Good luck with your arguments for amateurism, NCAA.
  3. Kansas basketball got some really interesting news earlier this week when it was announced that Bill Self’s team will represent Team USA in next summer’s 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Typically, the WUG teams have consisted of some of the top rising stars in college basketball, but the all-star model with limited practice time for players to get to know each other has resulted in only one gold and two bronze medals in the last seven events (Team USA won six straight golds from 1989-99, for some perspective). The Jayhawks have another loaded team coming into next year’s college basketball season, but a number of those players such as Cliff Alexander and Wayne Selden, are unlikely to still be in uniform for international competition a year from now. Still, perhaps the knowledge of Self’s system and the resultant familiarity among the remaining players will allow Team USA to improve on its ninth-place finish in 2013. We can only hope.
  4. It wouldn’t be summer without some transfer news, and there were a couple of name-brand players who found new destinations this week. First, LSU guard Anthony Hickey, a solid if not spectacular player whose senior-year scholarship was not “renewed” by head coach Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge, has resurfaced at Oklahoma State and was deemed eligible to play for the Cowboys immediately. This is a major boon for an upcoming year where head coach Travis Ford is in dire need of a reliable point guard after the losses of both Marcus Smart and Stevie Clark from his team. It may not save Ford’s job in Stillwater, but it gives him a fighting chance. In other news, Maryland guard Nick Faust has decided to finish his career across the country at Long Beach State. Unlike Hickey, who took advantage of the NCAA’s “run-off” rule to become eligible for next season, Faust will have to sit out 2014-15 before playing his senior year with The Beach. We wish both the best of luck in their new environments.
  5. You probably heard about the too-soon passing of the late great baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn earlier this week, and while every American sports fan recognizes the ridiculous batting prowess of the man who hit safely 3,141 times with a .338 average over two decades in the majors, they may not realize that Gwynn was a college hoops star before he ever became one of the friendliest and most beloved faces of Major League Baseball. As SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton explains in this piece, Gwynn to this day remains one of the best point guards to have ever played at San Diego State, a two-time all-WAC selection on the hardwood that featured the best single-season assist average in program history (8.2 APG in the 1979-80 season). We never saw him play hoops, but we have to imagine that he brought the same passion and respect for our game as he did to the baseball diamond. RIP, Tony Gwynn.
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Morning Five: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2013

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  1. With many observers expecting the NCAA to hand down its notice of allegations soon to Miami, the NCAA instead revealed that it was essentially putting its investigation from the Nevin Shapiro scandal on hold while it hires an external agency to look into a charge of improperly obtaining information for its investigation. The NCAA has retained the services of Kenneth Wainstein, who has previously served in the roles of Homeland Security Advisor, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and FBI General Counsel. It is a rather sudden turn of events and means that both Miami and other involved parties (see: Missouri’s Frank Haith) can breathe easy for a little while. It remains to be determined whether this will affect any punishments that are ultimately handed down or if in fact the NCAA will have to abandon the entire case, but if the latter is true, it’s safe to say that it will probably be the most embarrassing moment in the NCAA’s long history of rules enforcement.
  2. Leslie McDonald, who missed North Carolina‘s last three games with an injury to his right knee, will be out for another three games, but not because of his knee. Instead, he will miss the additional games because he did not take care of his “responsibilities as a student-athlete.” While this could mean a variety of things, we are assuming that the “student-athlete” bit means scholastic problems. In any event, the Tar Heels will need to overcome McDonald’s extended absence as they appear to have turned a corner (for now) but have games at home against Georgia Tech and on the road at North Carolina State and Boston College. With the weakness of the top teams in the power conferences so far this year, North Carolina would still be in the NCAA Tournament as of today, but they cannot afford too many more mistakes.
  3. After quite a bit of drama and instability in the first couple months of the season, UCLA has seemed to put the pieces back together in recent weeks but there are still some loose ends to tie up. Enigmatic former center Josh Smith has resurfaced at Georgetown, but until yesterday, it was still undetermined where former guard Tyler Lamb would end up. While Smith looked to get as far away from Westwood as possible, Lamb is simply moving about 30 miles southwest to the LBC. He will suit up for Dan Monson’s Long Beach State squad beginning in 2013-14, bringing a solid scoring punch and ability to distribute the ball to a team that appears to be following the Missouri template for adding talented high-major transfers in bulk (Keala King, Dan Jennings, and Tony Freeland). Lamb chose LBSU over San Diego State and began practicing with the team yesterday.
  4. Luke Winn‘s weekly Power Rankings came out prior to Wednesday night’s games, but as we all know, the real value in his column comes from the unique statistical analysis and sartorial commentary that Winn provides each week. Perhaps portending Duke’s struggles at Miami (FL) last night, Winn examines the Blue Devils without Ryan Kelly in the lineup while also making time to evaluate a disturbing trend in Nike uniforms adding a logo to the team’s chest (we completely agree, by the way). As always, you’ll learn more reading this column in 10 minutes that you will reviewing 95% of the college basketball coverage on the web, so get on over there and give it a try if it’s not part of your weekly routine.
  5. A final note about a quirky scheduling anomaly where the nation’s highest scoring team, Northwestern State (85.0 PPG), will face the nation’s lowest scoring defense, Stephen F. Austin (allowing 49.4 PPG), in a battle of contrasting Southland Conference tempos this coming weekend. According to a press release put out by the league on Wednesday, this is the first time that anyone can remember in college basketball history that such a game will occur. We can’t say that we’re going to set aside two hours to watch this one at 4:00 PM ET on Saturday, but we will keep an curious eye on the result to determine whether the old coaching adage is true that great defense is preferred over great offense.
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CIO… the Big West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2012

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John Hurwitz is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference.

Looking Back

Many predicted the Big West conference to have a down year after key departures from previous championship contenders such as Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara. While the loss of two of the conference’s top playmakers last year in Casper Ware from Long Beach and Orlando Johnson from Santa Barbara may tone down the excitement going into conference play, it opens the door for fresh faces to become marquee names among Big West fans.

  • Hawaii In The Mix: The Hawaii Warriors are set to begin conference play this season as the Big West’s only school located outside of the state of California. At 4-3, the Warriors have already proved they can hang with anyone (especially on their home floor), after nearly upsetting Illinois on November 17. Senior center Vander Joaquim led the way with 22 points and 11 boards, while junior guard Brandon Spearman contributed 20 points before D.J. Richardson of Illinois hit a three at the overtime buzzer (below) to win the game.

  •  Can Pacific Make A Return To The Top? Head coach Bob Thomason’s Pacific Tigers are making noise in the early going, having already secured wins over Xavier and Saint Mary’s in Anaheim at the DirecTV Classic on Thanksgiving weekend. This will be Thomason’s 22nd year at the helm in Stockton and there is no reason not to believe this year’s group is capable of capturing the program’s first bid to the Big Dance since 2006. What makes the Tigers so dangerous is their potent combination of depth and experience as ten players average over 10 minutes per game, four seniors and six juniors. If there is one individual to watch on the 2012-13 edition, it is senior point guard Lorenzo McCloud, who leads the team in points and assists per game at 12.4 and 4.0 respectively.
  • Race Wide-Open: At this point in the season it is almost impossible to rule out any team from conference championship contention. The field is about as wide open as it gets and every team has high hopes as conference play begins at the end of the month. How will former top dogs Long Beach State and Santa Barbara recover after losing so many important players? Can Hawaii challenge for a top seed and a potential automatic bid in their first year in the Big West? Every conference game, little by little, will help piece together and solve the puzzle that is the 2012-13 Big West.
Cal Poly's Upset Over UCLA Is The Big West's Marquee Victory (Richard Mackson-US Presswire)

Cal Poly’s Upset Over UCLA Is The Big West’s Marquee Victory. (Richard Mackson-US Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Pacific (5-4) – Despite a small sample size, the Tigers already are putting together an impressive portfolio with their wins over the Musketeers and the Gaels. Any team traveling to the Spanos Center this season will have their hands full and should be prepared to battle for the entirety of the game. If I were a coach in the Big West, I would have my matchups with this squad circled on the calendar. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2012

  1. The AP on Monday released its All-America squad and there were no surprises with this year’s group. Indiana’s Cody Zeller received all but one vote (64) for the first team (queue the Gary Parrish outrage article), while mid-major stalwarts Doug McDermott (62), Isaiah Canaan (43) and CJ McCollum (16) joined fellow Big Ten stars DeShaun Thomas (26) and Trey Burke (16) on the squad. There are six players on this year’s team because McCollum and Burke tied for the last spot — not because the AP has, like many conferences, forgotten how to count. Keep this and all preseason All-America lists in the proper context, though — of the five players chosen to last year’s preseason team, only Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger ended up on both the preseason and postseason first team. Three others — Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, UNC’s Harrison Barnes, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor — finished as Honorable Mention postseason winners, while Kentucky’s Terrence Jones didn’t even earn that distinction. The two season-long NPOY candidates from last year — Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson — were among the others receiving votes in last year’s preseason list. Caveat emptor.
  2. Tis the season for preseason rankings, selections, lists, and all sorts of fun but ultimately meaningless analysis. Still, until the first games tip off just over 10 days from now, this is all we’ve got. Basketball ProspectusDan Hanner has produced his preseason analysis of all 345 Division I teams, and as he notes, some of the results of his model may well surprise you. For example, the model loves UCLA and all of its incoming talent but isn’t nearly as high on Louisville and all of its returning talent. It seems to think that the Big 12 conference race is going to be one for the ages with eight teams at .500 or better, but it’s not buying into the hype that NC State is ready to overtake one of its rivals to win the ACC. If you’re a numbers geek who gets off on efficiency analytics, it will be interesting to do a cross-tabbed comparison between Hanner’s preseason rankings and the Ken Pomeroy preseason rankings which are due to release sometime later this week.
  3. For non-stat geeks, there’s always the controversial RPI, which despite its myriad shortcomings, remains the “organizational tool” of choice for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Building off of SI.com writer Luke Winn’s previous work examining several power conference schools gaming the RPI by playing (and beating) good mid-majors in the non-conference slate, TSN’s Ryan Fagan takes the next step and reviews a number of mid-major programs that have figured out the best way to prepare a team in terms of both the RPI and its corresponding mental toughness is to play those kinds of games, often on the road in places like Lawrence, Durham or Pittsburgh. He mentions that Davidson, Lehigh, Detroit, Belmont, UNC Asheville and Long Beach State (what else is new?) have all taken this tack with their non-conference scheduling this season. We’re certainly not complaining — these are some of the best games of the November and December months of the schedule.
  4. Iowa State’s transfer project keeps right on truckin’, with the weekend news that USC point guard Maurice Jones has matriculated there and will become eligible in the 2013-14 season. While Fred Hoiberg has picked up another talented piece for his backcourt — Jones did everything but serve fajitas to the fans in the Galen Center last year — there is a degree of oddness about his departure from the Trojan program. According to a September statement released by the school, Jones was declared academically ineligible at USC and would be forced to miss the season as a result. Jones disputes this characterization, stating unequivocally that he “just got suspended from the school for a year, but it wasn’t because of my grades. [...] It was something that happened at the school. I can’t really say what it was, but it wasn’t my grades.” It would seem somewhat unusual for a school to suspend a player for a different reason while using academic issues as a cover story, so we’re not sure what exactly is going on with this one — what we do know is that Iowa State has picked up a talented waterbug of a player who should seamlessly move into a starting role to replace Korie Lucious (another transfer) next season.
  5. With Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky all populating the preseason top five lists, this is as good a time as any to make sure that you’re regularly reading the WDRB.com College Basketball Notebook from Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich. Based in Louisville, the duo is perfectly situated to report on many of the anecdotes, rumors and tidbits that come out of this basketball-crazed Fertile Crescent on a daily basis. In this week’s version, for example, Crawford and Bozich discuss the numerous suitors for Andrew Wiggins, Tom Crean’s threat to use his bench productively, Calipari’s naysaying about his latest batch of fabulous freshmen, and Pitino’s verbal merengue around his contract extension with the Cardinals. Trust us,  you’ll learn something new every time you stop by — make it part of you weekly reading.
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Morning Five: 08.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 28th, 2012

  1. Long before Coach K, JJ Redick, Christian Laettner, or Johnny Dawkins, Duke basketball was defined by one name only: Art Heyman. One of only 13 Blue Devils to have his number retired and perhaps more influential in creating Duke basketball than any other single player in its illustrious history, the three-time All-American and 1963 NPOY died yesterday at his home in Florida at the age of 71 years old. Prior to Heyman’s arrival on the Durham campus, Duke had been a plucky third fiddle in the Triangle region to the much more powerful programs down the road in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Consider this fact: When Heyman arrived at Duke (after the New Yorker reneged on a commitment to UNC, incidentally), the Blue Devils had only been a grand total of two NCAA Tournaments in its history with one Elite Eight appearance to show for it in 1960. Heyman took Vic Bubas’ Blue Devils to its first-ever Final Four during his senior season, setting in motion the blossoming of a legitimate Tobacco Road basketball program over the next half-century that would go on to 32 more NCAA Tournament appearances, 16 more Elite Eights, and 14 more Final Fours (not to mention Coach K’s four national titles). Heyman is one of the all-time ACC greats, bearing the shared distinction of one of only three players in conference history to receive first team all-ACC accolades three years in a row (NC State’s David Thompson and UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough were the others). Anybody who traded punches with Larry Brown is OK in our book, and hopefully Heyman is resting in peace secure in the knowledge of his eternal influence at Duke and in the ACC.
  2. Coming into the season Indiana will be at or near the top of every preseason poll you will see, but one Hoosier who will not be along for the ride is Matt Roth. Who is Matt Roth? That’s a good question, but you will probably hear more about him over the next few days than you did in his previous four years in Bloomington. Roth has been a Hoosier since the 2008-09 season but only completed three seasons of his eligibility after redshirting his sophomore year with a foot injury early that year. Roth was hoping to be a member of a Hoosier team that appears to be a legitimate national title contender next season, but he appears to have been caught in a numbers game as the odd man out with too many players on scholarship. While some may view this as a harsh outcome for a loyal Hoosier, it is worth noting that Roth received a four-year scholarship to Indiana, where picked up both a bachelor’s and master’s degree during his time on campus. Still, the entire situation and the way it went down (Tom Crean basically told him that he could use him as a job reference) might rub some people the wrong way.
  3. While most writers are focused on the hotbeds of the AAU circuit, Jeff Eisenberg has decided to take a look at the other end of the spectrum — Wyoming, the only state in the Lower 48 that does not have an AAU program and all the hardships that players and their families endure trying to earn a Division I scholarship. With no in-state AAU program available, players are forced to travel enormous distances on a regular basis over the summer to try to catch the wandering eyes of recruiters. As Eisenberg notes, all this effort very rarely results in Wyoming players achieving the desired result — a Division I scholarship. With all the money that these families have to spend, you have to wonder if these players might be better off staying at home working on their games and then using that extra money to pay for college if they don’t land that elusive scholarship.
  4. The concept of painting thematic murals onto a school’s basketball court appears to be continuing in earnest, as Long Beach State is the latest school to get in on the act by renovating its home court to look like just another afternoon on the courts down at Venice Beach. Unlike the Oregon tall firs floor — which we still think looks like a toddler upchucked all over the joint — the look at the Walter Pyramid Arena is considerably more subtle, with a couple of iconic palm trees painted on each side of the court. Truthfully, reaction to this new look has been mixed, but we don’t mind it — the colors and images seem to fit the floor without dominating it, and The Beach is the sort of irreverent place where an alternative-look like this works well.
  5. As most high school seniors around the country have already returned to school or are about to do so, the top recruits in the Class of 2013 are starting to narrow down their options. One of the top five players in the class, Julius Randle, announced his list of final 10 schools on Twitter yesterday: Texas, Kansas, Baylor, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The heavy Big 12 influence is no doubt a product of his location in the Dallas area, as five of those schools along with the usual national recruiting suspects show up on his list. With Jabari Parker also having narrowed his list to 10 schools and the Harrison twins setting a date for their announcement in late October, Jeff Borzello says that this year’s group is only now starting to come into focus.
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Rushed Reaction: #5 New Mexico 75, #12 Long Beach State 68

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Steve Alford Can Coach. Dan Monson went with some trickery during what could have potentially been the game-winning play down the stretch, using a play called “Iowa” to try to get a late three — it’s named after the Hawkeye State because Monson said in the press conference afterward that he had stolen it from Alford while the Lobo coach was at Iowa. When another coach is stealing your plays and admitting to it, that’s a pretty good indication of coaching acumen alone, but it was also obvious in how New Mexico handled the 1-3-1 zone that Long Beach threw at them. Monson said that they did that because the Lobos hadn’t seen much of it before, but they consistently handled it and found the open man in the creases of the zone (most notably, when Kendall Williams nailed a huge three from the wing to give New Mexico its lead back). 
  2. New Mexico’s Unsung Heroes. Drew Gordon had the best numbers on the winning team with an 18/13 performance, but it was some of the other Lobos who made the bigger plays down the stretch to ensure that New Mexico advanced to the next round. We’ll discuss Kendall Williams below, but the players who kept making big plays when the Lobos needed them were the unsung guys, also including the freshman Hugh Greenwood (12/4/4 assts) and Demetrius Walker (11/4). For New Mexico to advance any further in this Tournament, they will need to have that sort of consistent performance from players other than Gordon inside.
  3. Casper the Ghost. We said at the half when Ware had only scored seven points that we felt he’d need to triple his scoring output for Long Beach State to win the game. He ended up with 17 points on 5-19 from the field, and his last several possessions were an unmitigated disaster. First, he missed a layup on a drive, then he missed a much-needed three from the corner. He then got lucky after a turnover led to a loose ball to put him on the line for two free throws (he made them), but then another missed layup finished his team off in the final 30 seconds. Ware had a tremendous career at LBSU, and you hate to see a guy go out like that, but Dan Monson’s team wasn’t going to win without him playing better.

Star of the Game. Kendall Williams, New Mexico. Williams ended up with 16 points and five assists in the game, but it was his defense on Casper Ware late that really frustrated the talented 49er guard, in addition to some timely buckets on the other end. With just under five minutes to go, Long Beach had just taken a one-point lead and had all the momentum — Williams’ response was to nail a wing three to give his team back the lead. He followed that up with a couple of foul shots a minute later, and a layup in the last 90 seconds that created a four-point cushion when Long Beach was surging again.

Quotable. Williams, when asked about his game-changing three with just under five minutes to go being the biggest shot of his career: “Hopefully I’ll have some bigger ones on Saturday.”

Sights & Sounds. Long Beach State’s Casper Wareshows how much it hurts to walk off the court for the last time in your uniform.

What’s Next? New Mexico advances to face #4 Louisville on Saturday in an interesting matchup that will be played above the rim by both teams. Both teams like to mix up defenses, with the Lobos effectively using a 1-3-1 against Long Beach today. We’d have to believe that this will be a tough, low-scoring affair with the key matchup being Peyton Siva vs. Kendall Williams.

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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis, South and West Regions

Posted by IRenko on March 14th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).

Joe Ragland Point Guard Play Will be Key to the Shockers' Sweet Sixteen Chances

Wichita State (#5, South) – I’m a great fan of the Shockers, who finished the season atop our TO26 top 15 rankings.  They have a balanced lineup that can do it all.  Inside scoring presence?  Garrett Stutz.  Steady point guard play?  Joe Ragland. Attacking guard?  Toure’ Murry.  Blue-collar enforcer?  Carl Hall.  Three-point marksmen?  Ragland, Ben Smith, and David Kyles.  And they back it up with a solid, steady defense.  If this team has a weakness, it’s the lack of a single go-to player, which can come in handy in crunch time in March.

The key for the Shockers’ getting to the regionals may be slowing their games into halfcourt contests.  They have a tough first-round draw against VCU and its frenetic defensive style.  It will be a challenge to maintain calm amidst the storm that the Rams will bring – Murry in particular can play undisciplined — but if I had to make a call, I’d say that the Shockers will rise to the challenge and get the ball into the lane, where VCU is vulnerable.  In the next round, Wichita State would likely face an Indiana team with a fast-paced offense, but somewhat softer defense that is susceptible to dribble penetration.  Again, if the Shockers can slow things down and turn it into more of a halfcourt game, they could be on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.

Memphis (#8, West) – No team has a more legitimate grievance about its seed than the Tigers.  They have steadily, but markedly, improved ever since a nearly two-hour closed door team meeting following a loss at Georgetown on December 22.  Few have taken notice because it came mostly against C-USA competition, but during this stretch, the Tigers have gone 19-3, with their three losses coming by a combined total of 6 points.  Oh, and freshman standout Adonis Thomas just returned to the lineup.

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a brutal week for the TO26 top 15, as the top four teams lost five games combined.  Read on to see how that shuffled the rankings.  After the revised top 15, we look at the top 10 results of the past week, sorting through both the headline-grabbing upsets and the big games that may have slipped past your radar.  Then we preview the top 10 games of the coming week, which includes a bounty of top matchups this Saturday and several small conference teams putting their first-place records on the line against their stiffest competition.

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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Key to UNC’s Title Hopes Lie With Kendall Marshall (But Not the Way You Think)

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011

Will Rothschild is a RTC correspondent. He can be found on Twitter @warothschild. He filed this report following Saturday night’s North Carolina-Long Beach State game from Chapel Hill, N.C.

Long Beach State knew the blueprint to win in Blue Heaven. At this point it’s not a big secret:

Each Team Facing UNC Has a Marshall Plan

  1. Challenge Kendall Marshall on the defensive end.
  2. Challenge Kendall Marshall on the offensive end.

It may seem counterintuitive to dare one of the top two or three point guards in college basketball to beat you. But that’s the strategy opposing teams are sticking with so far – if for no other reason than no one has found any other vulnerability on a team that was the consensus preseason favorite to win the national championship. Of course, this is a program accustomed to being a big target – this year marked the third time since 2007-08 the Tar Heels entered the season ranked No. 1. And if any of the current Tar Heels understand the tradition in Chapel Hill and the pressure to perform that comes with wearing the famous argyle-trimmed uniform, it’s Marshall. The sophomore from Dumfries, Virginia, fell in love with the Carolina program as a grade-schooler, and committed to Roy Williams before his sophomore year of high school. So it’s perhaps fitting that Marshall, more than any other Tar Heel, is who must shoulder the burden of the one player opponents look to try to attack the most.

Case in point was Saturday night’s 84-78 defeat of Long Beach State. Betcha’ never seen a stat line like this before from a preseason All-American:

  • 1-for-6 shooting.
  • Two points.
  • Three rebounds.
  • And… wait for it… 16 assists.

And when Marshall – now averaging an even 5.0 points to go along with 10.2 assists per game – was at his best for about a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, Carolina was rolling, the Smith Center was rocking, and the Beach was on the verge of getting routed. Reggie Bullock was pouring in jumpers, Tyler Zeller was finishing on the break, and John Henson was dunking, all at the other end of Marshall’s room-service passing. But – and there always seems to be a “but” with Marshall and the Tar Heels these days – you could argue the game against the 49ers (4-5) was a lot closer than it should have been because of how well LBSU stuck to its Marshall Plan.

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ATB: Jimmy V, Jae Crowder, Mizzou & Washington’s Late Game Management Issues…

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. We Will Not Give Up. On this same night every year, we feel compelled to join Dick Vitale and the rest in our support of the V Foundation in its fight against cancer. And every year, we find that we as a society have come a little bit closer to defeating the scourge that takes so many of our friends’ and families’ loved ones away from them too soon. As a bitter contemporary reminder, one of our colleagues lost her father to the disease yesterday. Another friend’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia last year. Yet another friend recently underwent surgery to remove a precancerous polyp. Medical research is painstakingly slow and expensive and there’s unlikely to be a one-hit wonder out there that can ‘cure’ cancer, but treatments are improving. The V Foundation has given over $100 million dollars to fund 92 cancer research grants nationwide in its nearly 20-year history, and the benefits that have resulted from those dollars are certainly immeasurable. No matter who you might feel about Vitale, or Jim Valvano, or even ESPN, this is a noble and just cause. The page to donate is located here — and remember, the V Foundation passes along 100% of its donations directly to research initiatives.

Your Watercooler Moment. Crowder Not Crowded On the Right Wing. The second half of the Jimmy V Classic was more entertaining than the first tonight, even though it appeared that only a few hundred fans were in attendance for Marquette vs. Washington. A back-and-forth game that rarely saw either team take a lead of more than three points came down to execution in the clutch. After Washington’s Terrence Ross (a future star who had 19/9/3 assts) knocked in a tough heave off glass from the lane to give his team a one-point advantage with 19 seconds left, Marquette immediately went into its offensive set, confused two UW defenders who ended up falling on each other, and found Jae Crowder standing all alone in the corner for three. His bucket from the right wing gave Marquette the win, and showed just how important coaching is in late-game situations. Marquette is now 8-0 and playing like one of the better offensive teams in America. We just love watching Buzz Williams’ guys perform in close games.

Jae Crowder Silences the Small But Boisterous Washington Contingent in MSG (AP/F. Franklin)

Dunkdafied. Washington’s Terrence Ross and Marquette’s Vander Blue one-upped each other with huge dunks in the second half of tonight’s Jimmy V Classic nightcap.

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Jumping To Conclusions: Why Pittsburgh Is Overrated… For Now

Posted by mlemaire on November 17th, 2011

Tucked away, within the second-to-last sentence of the preview of his team in this week’s Sports Illustrated,  Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs flashed a little bit of braggadaccio. “We’re good enough to win a national title,” the 6’2” senior told SI‘s Rebecca Shore when she asked about the collection of talent on the Panthers’ roster. And although it’s still very early, after last night’s 86-76 loss to a veteran Long Beach State team, that bold claim looks quite a bit bolder. Of course, when Gibbs gave that quote, the season hadn’t even started yet and coach Jamie Dixon is looking to him for leadership this season, so what else is he supposed to say? But he isn’t the only knowledgeable source who set high expectations for Pittsburgh this year. Many experts readily picked Pittsburgh to finish near the top of the Big East alongside Connecticut and Syracuse. Some even picked them to win the conference title.

If last night was any indication, Jamie Dixon will need to do a lot of coaching this season.

And why not? The team lost three excellent veterans in Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, and Gary McGhee. But they also returned a solid nucleus of Gibbs, Travon Woodall, Nasir Robinson, and Dante Taylor, and a highly rated recruiting class that included consensus top-10 recruit Khem Birch. They also had one of the most consistent and proven coaches in the country steering the ship. But after watching the 49ers thoroughly outplay the Panthers on their home court, it may be time for expectations to be reset.

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RTC Live: Long Beach State @ Pittsburgh

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2011

After another exhausting but fun Hoops Marathon, RTC Live is back tonight with a couple of Big East teams taking on motivated mid-majors at home. Pitt comes in with a 2-0 record and is looking to avoid the upset bug among highly ranked teams that has already struck a few others. Join the conversation from the Steel City, after the jump.

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