Pac-12 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. Yesterday was Monday, meaning a pair of new polls were released to lift fans from their post-weekend doldrums. Arizona was of course the highlight for Pac-12 fans, coming in at number four in the AP and fifth in the coaches poll. The argument could be made that there were four Mountain West teams better than the top Pac-12 team at most points in 2011-12, so that shows you just how far the top-tier of our conference has come in a year. The Wildcats are one of just seven undefeated teams ranked in the Top 25. The only other team without a loss is Wyoming, who comes in at #29 in the AP and #30 in the coaches.
  2. Washington State coach Ken Bone has reinstated sophomore guard Brett Kingma following a possession of marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension in late October. The Cougars could certainly use some assistance from Kingma, as DaVonte Lacy has been the only reliable scorer in the Coug backcourt. Kingma was a freshman at Oregon in the 2011-12 season, but transferred within the conference after playing just 9.8 MPG that season. He was arrested in the middle of preseason camp on possession of “several grams” of marijuana, as well as exhibiting the effects of consuming alcohol in a public place.
  3. After taking a 10-day break for Finals, Utah will return to the court tonight to face SMU. Head coach Larry Krystowiak and the Utes focused on a few different items during the layoff, with an emphasis coming in taking care of the ball and rebounding. They’ve turned the ball over at a clip of 14.4 miscues per game, including 17 in their odd, previous meeting with the Mustangs. SMU dropped Utah by a score of 62-55 in that one, but Krystowiak and company will have a chance to avenge the loss in a conference play-like second game of a home-and-home.
  4. UCLA got a nice surprise on Monday morning when former Bruin great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to the team during its shootaround. Coach Ben Howland asked the all-time scoring leader in the NBA to speak to the team after taping an interview for a local news program. The current Bruins exclaimed that it was an “eye-opening experience” and a clear reminder of the legacy the UCLA program holds. The Bruins, who have started the season a disappointing 7-3, host Long Beach State tonight.
  5. It may seem silly to think about for a team ranked as high as Arizona is, but Pac-12 fans always seem to cringe nowadays when a trap game arrives on the schedule. The Wildcats are doing the best to avoid that situation, quickly getting back to business to prepare for tonight’s meeting with Oral Roberts. The game comes sandwiched in between last Saturday’s thriller against Florida and a trip to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, where the Cats could face a pair of high-profile teams in Miami (FL) and San Diego State. But first up are the Golden Eagles, a team that won 27 games a year ago. As the article points out, ORU faces its own challenges preparing for the match-up, having to shake off both mental and physical rust that comes from not playing a game in nearly two weeks.
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ATB: Nebraska Basketball Rivalry Belongs To Creighton, Syracuse’s Improvement, and Another Player’s Sudden Collapse…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 7th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Tonight’s Lede. Final Exams: UGH. The recent frenzy of quality match-ups between nationally-relevant programs far and wide, Power Six to low major, blinded me from the annual scheduling lull that accompanies final exams. Starting Monday, the number of quality games over the next week will diminish as student-athletes hit the books in advance of the the winter holiday. Games will bore. Viewing intrigue will plummet. You’ll get nights like Thursday – with maybe one or two, if that, interesting fixtures, and a large dose of filler comprising the rest of a given night’s slate. For anyone who enjoys watching college basketball, it is not a fun time. What follows is my humble attempt to spin the oncoming dry period into a positive. The dip in activity serves as reminder of one of the few moments where class work takes precedence over sport and spectacle, where student-athletes implement the primacy of the word “student” before “athlete” in a tangible way that goes deeper than the NCAA’s willful definitional standard, where it reflects beyond a mere byword for amateurism. As much as I love watching and writing about the sport’s best teams, it’s rare we see the national TV tycoons and broadcast conglomerates that lord over Division I’s revenue-producing sports rendered powerless against the common academic mission of its money-producing subjects. I’ll suffer through a few boring nights of hoops if it means maintaining at least some measure of scholastic purpose in this whole college athletics thing. 

Your Watercooler Moment. Let’s Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves: Creighton Owns Nebraska Hoops.

The Huskers are improving under Miles, but Creighton remains far and away the more capable team (Photo credit: AP Photo).

The revenue-producing sports’ dichotomy in Nebraska is self-evident. The Cornhuskers handle the football side of things, while Creighton dominates all major headlines on the court. New Nebraska coach Tim Miles accepted his post earlier this year with designs on changing that perception, or at least narrowing the gap. Generating hoops interest on a football-dominated campus like Nebraska is not easy; Miles has a multi-year project on his hands. Still, the early part of the season provided green shoots of hope for the long-dormant program. The Huskers had won seven of eight to open the year, with respectable if noteworthy victories over Valpo and USC. There were noticeable improvements all over the floor. Miles was making headway on the recruiting trail. The arrow was pointing up. All of which – even in the wake of Creighton’s 22-point beatdown in Lincoln – hasn’t really changed all that much. In truth, Nebraska was never ready to handle a team as capable and offensively potent as Creighton. Thursday night’s humbling reminder of its little brother status doesn’t disabuse Nebraska of any of the progress it has made thus far. Nebraska is in good hands going forward with Miles at the helm. If you were looking for a quick-fix turnaround in Lincoln, well, sorry! The Huskers are headed in the right direction – they’re just not quite ready to challenge a national contender like Creighton.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week One

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 19th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the first week of Pac-12 games:

1. Colorado, 4-0 (Delta – N/A): After an opening night victory against Wofford, Colorado went to Charleston and got three great wins over the weekend. The Buffaloes dismantled a solid Dayton squad on Thursday before getting the signature win of the classic against Baylor on Friday. After a day off on Saturday, Spencer Dinwiddie and Josh Scott led the Buffs to a championship win over Murray State on Sunday night. Out of the seven remaining undefeated teams in the Pac-12, Colorado’s the only one to win four games in the first 10 days of play. Tad Boyle’s squad is now off until Sunday, when it’ll face 4-0 Air Force in Boulder. Up Next: 11/25 vs. Air Force

2. Arizona, 2-0 (Delta – N/A): Arizona successfully navigated two of its first three tests to start the season last week. Charleston Southern proved to be the toughest of the two, competing hard with the Wildcats for all 40 minutes. A 12-4 run from the 4:35 to 2:00 mark proved to be the dagger for the Buccaneers, who fell 82-73. The Cats didn’t take advantage of their height in the CSU game, but it wouldn’t be a problem in their second match-up of the year against UTEP. UA pulled down 20 more rebounds in their 72-51 trouncing of the Miners than they did against the Bucs. Xavier transfer Mark Lyons was definitely the player of the week for Zona, averaging 17 PPG and 3.5 APG in the two victories. Up Next: 11/19 vs. Long Beach State

Mark Lyons May Lead The Team In Scoring, But Heralded Freshmen Brandon Ashley Has Carried Arizona On The Glass (credit: Chris Coduto)

3. UCLA, 3-0 (Delta – N/A): After starting the season ranked in the Top 15, UCLA finds itself at the three spot after 10 days of play. They did escape the opening week unscathed, but their one point overtime win against UC Irvine (a game in which the Anteaters had plenty of chances to win), did enough for Adam and I to drop them from number one. The most impressive victory of the week was way back on November 9, when the Bruins dominated a solid Indiana State team in the second half for a 86-59 victory. Freshman Jordan Adams was undoubtedly the newcomer of the week, both on the team and in the Pac-12, by averaging 24 PPG and 3.6 RPG. Up Next: 11/19 vs. Georgetown in New York City

4. California, 3-0 (Delta – N/A): You rarely see Pac-12 teams play road games against WAC opponents, but after starting 2-0 against in-state rivals the Golden Bears went into Denver and downed the Pioneers for an 11-point win last Friday. And while Denver may not be competing for any large things in March, road wins are good wins, no matter who it’s against. The Golden Bears will continue to be tested in the coming weeks as games with Drake, Wisconsin, and UNLV are all on the schedule. They also have possible match-ups with Georgia Tech and Saint Mary’s this Thanksgiving weekend as part of the DirectTV Classic. The goal going forward for Cal will be to get more production on the offensive end from its frontcourt. Guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs both average in the 20s, but no other player is even in double digits. Up Next: 11/22 vs. Drake in Anaheim

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North Carolina and Long Beach State: Respect the Scheduling

Posted by AMurawa on November 17th, 2012

Drew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and a Pac-12 microsite writer. He filed this report from tonight’s North Carolina-Long Beach State game.

Right out of the box, we need to thank these two coaches for getting this type of game scheduled. It wasn’t necessarily a marquee game that every college basketball junkie around the country had been looking forward to, but this was a game that saw one of the sports’ bluebloods go on the road and play at a mid-major school. This is not something that happens every day. It’s really not even something that happens every decade, excepting North Carolina. Can you imagine Jim Boeheim scheduling this game for Syracuse? Coach K and Duke? Those schools barely even leave their own friendly confines in November and December, and when they do it is for made-for-television neutral site games. No, this was a true road game for the Tar Heels. And even though there were a lot of Carolina Blue shirts scattered throughout the arena, there was little doubt that most of the largest crowd in the history of the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State was there in the hopes of watching North Carolina lose.

North Carolina at Long Beach State

With North Carolina In Town, Long Beach State Set a New Attendance Record In The Pyramid

So how did this game get scheduled? Well, primarily it was scheduled because the Tar Heels are on their way across the Pacific for a trip to the Maui Invitational and have made a habit of stopping off for a road game on the way. In 2008 they played at LBSU’s Big West rival UC Santa Barbara, and in 2004 they traveled to Santa Clara on the way to Maui – and lost with a freshman point guard, Quentin Thomas, at the helm. So, unlike some of the other bluebloods, UNC is not afraid to take the occasional road trip. Last year they helped UNC Asheville open their new arena; two years ago they traveled to Evansville. Head coach Roy Williams thinks it is good for his team and plenty of fun as well. “Anytime you go get a win on the road, it’s a good thing,” he said. “The crowd was great, it was a wonderful college basketball atmosphere. I don’t mind the kids yelling at me and yelling for their team.” Sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo agreed. “I think it was just a perfect fit for us right now, coming out here and playing in this atmosphere is just what we need, especially going into Maui and being a young team.” In the end, regardless of who you root for or what you think of the Tar Heels, you’ve got to respect the fact that these guys are more than willing to go on the road and give smaller fan bases a thrill on occasion.

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Clean as the Opening Whistle: A Recap Of The Pac-12’s Undefeated First Weekend

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 13th, 2012

The Pac-12 made it through the opening weekend of college basketball with an unblemished record (13-0), one of only two power conferences to do so. Let’s take a closer look at how it all went down through the first few days.

Upsets – None. Zip. Nada. The Pac-12 team was the favorite in each of the 13 games played this weekend, and they won each and every time. Oregon State and Arizona were the closest schools to a loss as the Beavers held off New Mexico State, 71-62, and the Wildcats pulled away late to win 82-73 against Charleston Southern.

Best Game – New Mexico State at Oregon State: This one had all the makings of an upset for the first 10 minutes of the game. The Aggies used their height advantage to dominate the glass and took advantage of a slow-to-rotate Beaver defense by nailing mid-range and three-point jumpers. But down 18-12 midway through the first half, the Beavers went on a 22-6 run to kill the Aggies’ morale. New Mexico State hung around for the duration of the contest, and even had a chance to cut the deficit to three with 30 seconds left, but Terrel de Rouen clanked a three-point attempt and the Beavers escaped.

Ahmad Starks’ 33 Points Led Oregon State To A Nine Point Win Over New Mexico State (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

Player of the Week – Dwight Powell: Stanford’s junior forward scored 27 points in 32 minutes on Friday night against San Francisco. Even more impressive is the fact that Powell didn’t have a point in the final seven minutes of Stanford’s 74-62 win at the Oracle Coliseum. However, his final bucket, a tip-in to extend the Cardinal lead to 13, was a dagger to the heart of the Dons. Powell also pulled down seven rebounds on the night.

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The Best Non-Conference True Road Games For ACC Teams

Posted by KCarpenter on November 1st, 2012

Fall tournaments are fun, but they often seem to happen in a vacuum, or at least half-empty gyms on distant islands. The lack of a rowdy audience or a vicious crowd takes away one of the greatest joys of college basketball: the true road game. There is nothing quite as exciting as a team going to face their opponent on hostile terrain. It’s more challenging, riskier, and almost inevitably more fun. So, let’s check the schedules of the teams in the ACC and see who is diving headfirst into danger.

These Tourneys Are Fun, But They’re Not Hostile Venues

A quick note: semi-neutral site games are okay, but they lack the necessary zest. Sorry, Duke vs. Davidson in Charlotte. Likewise, though there are some truly fun ACC-Big Ten Challenge games where the ACC team is on the road, these games are starting to border on routine. I’m sure North Carolina State at Michigan will be a big time game, but it doesn’t quite have that sense of risk that is essential. Finally, I’m not including Virginia Tech or Wake Forest‘s away game against UNC Greensboro‘s Fighting Wes Millers; the Greensboro Coliseum is hardly unfamiliar ground for ACC teams.

Games Against Likely Mid-Major Tournament Teams

  • Virginia at George Mason on November 9
  • North Carolina at Long Beach State on November 16
  • Miami at Massachusetts on December 1
  • Wake Forest at Richmond on December 1
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Honorary Pac-12 Members For 2012-13

Posted by AMurawa on October 29th, 2012

There are seven teams from other conferences across the country that will have three different Pac-12 teams on their schedule this year. While fans of Pac-12 schools will likely be rooting against these seven teams in those games against conference foes, whenever these schools face other teams from other conferences, it will be in the best interest of the league as a whole to have these seven teams win as much as possible. We all know the RPI may be a flawed metric, but it is a metric that the selection committee uses in one form or another to help select and slot teams in the bracket come March. And how the RPI is determined is quite simple: It takes into account your team’s winning percentage, the winning percentage of your opponents, and one step further, the winning percentage of your opponents’ opponents. In other words, even if your school isn’t playing one of these teams this season, since your team will be playing against three Pac-12 opponents of these schools, your RPI will get a boost if these teams win. So, without further ado, below we will list and give a brief rundown of the seven Division I teams with three Pac-12 teams on their schedule.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (RPI: #302) – Last season, the Golden Lions started out by losing 19 of their first 21 games on their way to an 11-22 year. The sad thing is that was an improvement over 2010-11, when they lost their first 14 games and finished 7-24. There are some extenuating circumstances, however. For instance, two years ago their first 12 games – all non-conference games – were on the road, with seven games against teams from the top seven conferences in the nation. Last year was slightly better, with only nine games on their non-conference slate as true road games (the other four were neutral-site games). This year, though, head coach George Ivory is back to getting his team killed in the non-conference slate. Not only will UAPB play at Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon, but they’ll also make soul-crushing trips to San Diego State and Michigan State. But hey, give credit to Ivory for at least scheduling a trip to Hawai’i  to take part in the Rainbow Classic there. This team will have earned its preemptive vacation by the time its non-conference slate is done. The good news is that the Golden Lions have a pair of talented returning starters and a couple veterans coming back from medical redshirts. But let’s face facts. If UAPB comes out of its non-conference schedule with something like a 3-8 record, that will be an astoundingly good result. The Pac-12 will need this squad to clean up in the SWAC in order to get any benefit from having them on the schedule.

George Ivory, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

UAPB’s Head Coach George Ivory Is Not Adverse To Getting His Team Killed In the Non-Conference Schedule

Cal State Northridge (RPI: #324) – If anyone outside of the San Fernando Valley knows anything about the Matadors, it likely has to do with the fact that they were banned from NCAA Tournament eligibility last season due to poor academic performance. But, that’s in the past now, and CSUN used last year’s lost season to develop a bunch of youngsters. Between last year’s Big West freshman of the year, Stephen Hicks, classmate Stephen Maxwell, and sophomore point Josh Greene, the Matadors return the three most efficient high-use offensive players from last year’s squad. Throw in incoming freshmen Landon Drew (brother of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II) and Brandon Perry and this a young and talented squad. And, even better for Pac-12 schools, they have a manageable schedule. Their visits to UCLA, Arizona State and Utah comprise three of their four toughest games on the schedule and their non-conference slate is loaded with winnable games for them, including a trio of non-Division I opponents. But, the real test for CSUN will be how it can do in conference play this year, with the usual favorite, Long Beach State, being challenged by Cal State Fullerton and newcomer Hawai’i. But, if everything comes together, an upper-division finish in the Big West is not out of the question.

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Arizona State Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on June 11th, 2012

While ASU will return five different players from its 2011-12 rotation, there are four players who saw significant time last year that will not return to the program, none of whom had exhausted their eligibility. This continues a disturbing trend in Tempe, with now 12 different players having transferred out of the program in the last four years. Below, we’ll take a look at the four players who have moved on from the program and how big of an impact their loss will have.

  • Trent Lockett – The loss of Lockett does by far the most damage to ASU’s 2012-13 outlook. Lockett, who graduated in just three years by knocking out 20+ credits in recent semesters, wound up transferring to Marquette in order to be closer to Minnesota where his mom, who is fighting cancer, lives. Lockett was not only the Sun Devils’ leading scorer last season, but he also led the team in steals, rebounds per game, and three-point percentage, in addition to chipping in at point guard and being the unquestioned emotional leader for the young team. If Lockett had returned, he would have fit in perfectly on the wing across from Jahii Carson, as well as giving the team a solid secondary ballhandler on the floor at the same time. Instead, he’ll be tasked with making guys like Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue better under Buzz Williams. While his loss certainly puts a dent in the Herb Sendek’s 2012-13 plans, our thoughts are with him and his family as the go through a difficult time.
Trent Lockett, Arizona State

Trent Lockett Is Leaving Tempe In Order To Be Closer To His Ailing Mother

  • Keala King – King left the ASU program in January after being suspended prior to the team’s trip to face the Los Angeles schools, winding up at Long Beach State, where he will be eligible after the fall semester next season. A natural wing, King was asked to fill in at the point guard position in the absence of Carson and the ineffectiveness of Chris Colvin, but he struggled with turnovers and never struck a comfortable balance between creating for himself and distributing to his teammates. While he struggled with some immaturity problems that led to his departure from the program, he was the type of athlete that could have been an impact player as an upperclassman. Instead he just goes down as another coulda-been in Tempe. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 06.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 1st, 2012

  1. UCLA and Arizona have their 2012 blockbuster recruiting classes all sewn up, with up  north, Washington mostly struck out. But all eyes begin to turn to the 2013 class, and it could be Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies who are in a position to score big. Romar landed his first verbal commitment this week as 6’3” guard Nigel Williams-Goss, regarded as a four-star prospect, chose Washington over UCLA, Oregon  State, and UNLV (a school he once committed to prior to head coach Lon Kruger’s defection to Oklahoma). While one four-star guard does not a recruiting class make, Romar still has his eyes on players like Jabari Parker (the number one overall prospect), Aaron Gordon (the number two rated power forward), Jabari Bird (the fourth rated off-guard), and Isaac Hamilton (the fifth rated off-guard) among others.
  2. Aside from offseason trouble, some typically minor tweaks to rosters and the shaping of the 2013 recruiting class, the other big news that can be expected throughout the summer is the trickling out of teams’ 2012-13 schedules. UCLA’s calendar dropped on Thursday, with the highly-regarded Bruins reopening Pauley Pavilion on November 9 with a visit from Indiana State. Ben Howland’s club will also host Long Beach State and Missouri (along with a handful of low-major schools), play San Diego State in the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, and participate in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with potential matchups against Indiana, Georgetown, and Georgia. Here’s hoping the Bruins find matchups with both the Hoosiers and the Hoyas awaiting them in New York.
  3. Elsewhere around the conference, schedules are starting to take shape. Late last week, it came out that Colorado after a year away, would be renewing its competition with long-time opponent Kansas. While nothing is official yet, both schools have confirmed that an agreement is in place for the Buffaloes and Jayhawks to schedule a home-and-home series in each of the next two seasons. It’s unclear yet exactly where the 2012-13 edition will be played, but while Kansas has had Colorado’s number on a regular basis in their meetings, head coach Tad Boyle certainly has the Buffs on the upswing and his squad should be able to give the Jayhawks a couple interesting games. Down south, Arizona has added games with Charleston Southern, Long Beach State and Southern Miss. While none of those three teams is a huge name, both Long Beach State and Southern Miss made the NCAA Tournament last year and should provide solid challenges for an already strong Arizona schedule. The Wildcats are still looking to add two more games, both of which are expected to be home-and-home series’.
  4. Continuing our tour around the conference, Oregon State is on the verge of breaking ground on a new basketball practice facility. The structure will be a four-story structure with a couple different regulation-sized basketball courts layer in with locker rooms, support areas, offices and an entrance to the facility that will feature an Oregon State basketball hall of fame. With the upgrade in facilities, head coach Craig Robinson hopes to be able to induce a higher caliber of recruit to Corvallis.
  5. Lastly, last week Pacific Takes unveiled a feature on the ten best sleeper recruits in the last decade, with Kyle Weaver of Washington State leading the way. Interesting to note that of the 14 players on the list (including a four-man honorable mention), six of the players (Weaver, Derrick Low, Brock Motum, DeAngelo Casto, Robbie Cowgill and Reggie Moore) matriculated to Washington State. This speaks well for the Cougar coaching staffs’ (beginning with Dick and Tony Bennett and continuing to current head coach Ken Bone) ability to target under the radar players and develop the talent once it arrives on campus. Given that five-star recruits are rarely going to find their way to Pullman, that is a must for the Cougs.
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Who’s Got Next? Williams-Goss Goes With Washington, Pollard Poised To Pick

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 31st, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Top-100 Nigel Williams-Goss Commits To Washington

Class of 2013 Point Guard Williams-Goss Is A Great Pick-up for Washington.

Huskies Off To A Good Start In Junior Class. Class of 2013 point guard Nigel Williams-Goss announced his commitment to Washington yesterday via Twitter and a player blog on National Recruiting Spotlight, giving the Huskies their first verbal in the junior class. Williams-Goss chose the Huskies over Harvard, Oklahoma, UNLV, and UCLA and held offers from a plethora of other schools including Missouri, Arizona and his hometown Oregon Ducks. The Findlay Prep point guard is a standout on the defensive end and has good stop-and-go quickness. He also has terrific range on his three-point shot and is a good passer with matching court vision. Williams-Goss already has plans to hit the recruiting trail for Washington and has named Class of 2013 standouts such as shooting guard Isaac Hamilton and power forwards Aaron Gordon and Marcus Lee as his targets. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is also chasing after shooting guard Jabari Bird and power forward Jordan Bell, among others. Gordon is a Washington lean and Bird is interested in the Huskies so if Romar can close out on those two, Washington looks to have a very good recruiting class in 2013 in the making. Washington fans will have plenty of opportunities to see Williams-Goss next year as his Findlay Prep team will likely play in multiple televised games on the ESPN family of networks.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 16th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander believes Long Beach State‘s early exit at the hands of New Mexico shouldn’t cloud the legacy of the outgoing 49er senior class. Casper Ware, T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson and Eugene Phelps came to LBSU one season after the 49ers won six games and beat Xavier and Pittsburgh in this season.
  • Also in Portland, behind a strong game from Peyton Siva, Louisville handled Davidson and now must prepare for the Lobos. Any chances of a deep run by Louisville hinge on Siva stringing together strong performances instead of his on-again off-again style that’s drawn criticism this season.
  • A matchup of contrasting styles pits Florida against Virginia this afternoon. Expect the Gators to push the tempo on both ends with run-outs, quick threes and defensive pressure to try to throw the Cavaliers out of sorts.
  • The Missouri Tigers have won over 1,500 games in their history, but none of them have come in the Elite Eight. Mizzou’s quest to end that streak begins today when it takes on Norfolk State.
  • They may be seeded three spots better, but Marquette will be in a de facto road environment for Saturday’s tilt with Murray State, as the KFC Yum! Center hosts the third round game 3.5 hours away from the Racers’ campus.

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ATB: Big Dance Day One Roundup — Two Upsets, Top Four Seeds Roll, Defending Champs Are Gone…

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede – It’s madness, baby!!! The real start of the NCAA Tournament arrived on Thursday afternoon, as did the collective drop of productivity from employees across the country. March Madness brings the best sick days, mobile apps, and computer split screens out of us, in the pursuit of tracking our brackets and following our favorite teams throughout the day. This Thursday is always special; the mark of the most exciting postseason in sports, and this year was no different. Despite the lack of buzzer-beaters and major upsets, day one was still a fantastic day of college basketball with plenty of key storylines. More fascinating finishes and thrilling games are surely on the way, but let’s take a look at all the action from the first half of the round of 64…

Your Watercooler Moment. #12 VCU Pulls Another Shaka.

Wichita State Was Devastated After Shaka Smart's Boys Pulled Another Upset (US Presswire)

It was just last year when Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams pulled off one of the all-time great Cinderella runs in NCAA Tournament history, winning five games as a #11 seed to go from the First Four to the Final Four in the 2011 Big Dance. In 2012, things were expected to be different — VCU is no longer a sleeper, the Rams were stuck with an even worse seed, and they had to take on a fellow strong mid-major team with Sweet Sixteen aspirations of their own. But the VCU boys did it again, or at least completed stage one of another improbable run. The #12 seed Rams defeated #5 Wichita State in a thrilling game, 62-59, for the biggest upset of day one. VCU jumped to a quick advantage and led by nine at halftime, but a late run by the Shockers gave WSU the lead with about two minutes to play. Bradford Burgess, the lone returning starter from last year’s Final Four team, answered with the biggest shot of the night — a three from the corner that would give VCU a lead that it did not relinquish. Joe Ragland and Toure’ Murry did their best to keep Wichita State’s dreams alive, but VCU was not to be denied on this day. Burgess finished with 16 points, five boards, four assists, and two steals in the win, which sends VCU to a date with #4 Indiana on Saturday.

Also Worth Chatting About. #16 UNC Asheville Nearly Makes History. #16 seeds were 0-108 all-time in the NCAA Tournament coming into Thursday, but nobody told the Bulldogs, a senior-laden team that was fired up to take on a reeling Orange team after word that their center Fab Melo would be ineligible for the Tournament. Without Melo, Syracuse was completely out of sorts, though the player’s absence was no excuse for the rest of the team to play so poorly on both ends. ‘Cuse survived and will move on to Saturday while putting this game behind them, but the story was UNC Asheville’s incredible effort to nearly win this game. The Bulldogs led by four points at halftime and hung tough for the entire 40 minutes despite leading scorer Matt Dickey only shooting 1-13 with five points! Asheville got 18 points from J.P. Primm and all of the team box score statistics were very similar in this game, but Syracuse’s late-game execution proved to be too much. Plenty of fans and media members will say that poor officiating was a large factor in the outcome, as UNCA may have gotten jobbed on several calls in the final four minutes. There was one undoubtedly awful call against Asheville that should have resulted in a Syracuse turnover, but blaming the loss on the referees is not something coach Eddie Biedenbach would do. It was a valiant effort by the Bulldogs that just came short, ending in a seven point win for Cuse. The Orange survive to play #8 Kansas State in the next round on Saturday.

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