UCLA Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on August 13th, 2012

There are no two ways around it, so we might as well get right to the punch: The past three seasons at UCLA, even with an NCAA Tournament appearance and win in 2010-11, is in the conversation for the worst stretch of three consecutive seasons in the history of the storied program. Aside from the transition at the end of the Steve Lavin era to the beginning of the Ben Howland era, you have to go back to Wilbur Johns in the World War II era for a string of three such poor seasons in Westwood. All that is bad enough, but if you consider where this program was at the end of the 2007-08 season, coming off three consecutive Final Fours and welcoming in the nation’s #1 recruiting class, such a precipitous fall was highly unlikely.

Kevin Love, UCLA

It Has Been Four Unsatisfying Seasons Since Kevin Love Helped UCLA Last Advance to A Final Four (Mark J. Terril, AP Photo)

So how did Howland and the Bruins go from being on the verge of ushering another great era of UCLA basketball to missing the NCAA Tournament in two out of three seasons? Much of it has to do with underachievement from that 2008 recruiting class. In the 2008-09 season, after future pros like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute departed early (a certain byproduct of the type of success the Bruins were having), the Bruins rode gutsy performances by veterans like Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya to a solid 26-9 overall record, but failed to win the Pac-10 for the first time in three years and were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in resounding fashion by a Villanova team that outhustled and outfought the Bruins. More ominous for UCLA was the fact that none of the highly-regarded freshman class made much of an impact that season. And despite point guard Jrue Holiday’s struggles as a frosh, he couldn’t get out of Westwood fast enough, declaring for the NBA Draft while averaging just eight points and four assists in his lone season.

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30 Days of Madness: The Night Adam Morrison Cried

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2010

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months.  You have too.  In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while.   Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage.  Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face.  Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep.  Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style.  The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go.  Are you?  To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month.  We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er.  Or whatever.  Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with.  That’s the hope, at least.  We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so all of this week we re-visited some of the timeless moments from the regionals of the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoy.

NCAA Regionals

Dateline: 2006 NCAA Regional Semifinals – Gonzaga vs. UCLA

Context: You knew it was going to show up on here sooner or later.  How can it not?  In a game that pitted the two biggest western powers of the era in an Oakland Sweet Sixteen showdown, Gonzaga and NPOY candidate Adam Morrison had run out to a 37-20 first half lead to put Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins on the brink of a disaster.  But in typical UCLA fashion, the Bruin defense kept them within reach, having closed the gap to nine points with just over three minutes to go in the game at 71-62.  Things weren’t looking good, but the Bruins started chipping away.  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made two free throws, then followed that up with a layup a little while later.  After a JP Batista and Adam Morrison miss on the other end, Jordan Farmar’s layup brought the game to three points with just under a minute remaining.  We pick it up below as Gonzaga takes the ball out up three with 40.8 seconds remaining.  The amazing finish and the accompanying call from Gus Johnson makes The Night Adam Morrison Cried one of our favorite March Moments of all-time (note: no disrespect intended toward Morrison or the Zags, but the emotion of the moment shows just how incredibly lifting and devastating the Tournament can be).

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March Moment: Morrison And The Zags

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2010

Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment? We’ll be posting some of their answers for the rest of the month.

In this submission, RTC Big 12 correspondent Patrick Sellars illustrates one of the great aspects of being a college basketball fan — how a team with which you have no rooting interest or affiliation can somehow find its way into your heart:

It was my freshman year in high school, and I would say I was a modest college basketball fan at best. I watched the big games, the conference tournaments, and of course the “Big Dance” but I wasn’t a diehard like I am today. The team, but more importantly the player, that changed this all for me was Adam Morrison and his 2005-06 Gonzaga Bulldogs. The first game I watched the Zags play was the 3OT thriller against Michigan State in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Morrison put up 43 points in the Gonzaga win. After this game I was hooked on Morrison, this shaggy haired, awkward, lanky, peach fuzz mustache flaunting kid with diabetes was draining NBA range threes over athletic guards, and he did it with passion and intensity that I haven’t seen in college basketball since.

Over the course of the season I saw every single game they played, I even talked my parents into buying the Fox College Sports West TV package so I could stay up late for all of their WCC contests. I lived and breathed Gonzaga basketball, and as a kid from Wisconsin with no affiliation to the school all my peers called me a “fair-weather-fan”. However, I didn’t care, because I was so enticed by the Gonzaga team.

As the rest of the season unfolded there were many great moments. Everyone remembers the Oklahoma State game with Morrison’s bank in three, Gus Johnson screaming at the top of his lungs “LARRY BIRD!!!! BABY!!!” I was euphoric, ironically Gus Johnson would make another call later in the year that still haunts my dreams to this day.

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2008 Early Entry Winners and Losers

Posted by rtmsf on June 16th, 2008

Whew. After an exhausting day trying to track the news feeds seemingly every minute to figure out who was staying and who was leaving college, we can finally take a deep breath and start to sort out what this means for all the parties involved. Of the 69 early entries of US collegians submitted to the NBA league offices last month, 35 will remain in the 2008 NBA Draft pool. Here are the 35 early entries:

  • Joe Alexander, West Virginia
  • Ryan Anderson, California
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas
  • D.J. Augustin, Texas
  • Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas State
  • Mario Chalmers, Kansas
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
  • C.J. Giles, Oregon State
  • Donte Greene, Syracuse
  • Kalen Grimes, Missouri
  • Eric Gordon, Indiana
  • DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
  • Kosta Koufos, Ohio State
  • Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State
  • Shawn James, Duquesne
  • Davon Jefferson, Southern California
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford
  • Robin Lopez, Stanford
  • Kevin Love, UCLA
  • O.J. Mayo, Southern California
  • Richard Hendrix, Alabama
  • J.J. Hickson, North Carolina State
  • George Hill, IUPUI
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA
  • JaVale McGee, Nevada
  • Kojo Mensah, Duquesne
  • Trent Plaisted, Brigham Young
  • Anthony Randolph, LSU
  • Walter Sharpe, Alabama-Birmingham
  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
  • Brandon Rush, Kansas
  • Marreese Speights, Florida
  • Bill Walker, Kansas State
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

We’d Be Excited Too, Roy

Today’s Winners

  • Roy Williams. Ole Roy could slip into a coke-induced coma for half of next season and still watch his team win 30+ games and make the Final Four. Why? Because the nation’s top backcourt (Ty Lawson & Wayne Ellington) and sixth man (Danny Green) all decided to return to Chapel Hill today to join forces with the reigning NPOY and a top five recruiting class. Yeah, apparently Roy is living right.
  • Lute Olson. It’s been a rough year for Olson, what with all his divorce proceedings and the loss of Jerryd Bayless to the NBA. The surprising return of the sensational Chase Budinger for his junior season provides Olson a key bulding block to get his program back on track.
  • Mark Few. Few only had to sweat out his beefy point guard Jeremy Pargo’s decision, but this player remains the key to Gonzaga’s success next season. With Pargo back to run the system, interior players such as Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt can expect the ball in the right place at the right time.
  • Mark Gottfried. Alabama was facing a seemingly unthinkable situation where they would lose their best player from last season, forward Richard Hendrix, while simultanously losing their best player from two seasons ago, point guard Ronald Steele, even though Steele sat out the entire last season due to injury. We’ve shown previously how important a healthy Steele is to the Alabama attack, and with the additional return of Alonzo Gee to help offset the Hendrix loss, Gottfried must feel as if he dodged a serious bullet.
  • John Calipari. Why is he here? Didn’t he lose super-frosh Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the NBA? Well, yes, but he also retained the services of Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier, which when combined with incoming stud wing Tyreke Evans, there will be more than enough talent for Calipari to roll through CUSA pretty much unscathed again. Calipari isn’t as big a winner as some of the above coaches, but today was a good day for him.

Tough Day For Howland, But He Knows He’ll Have More Chances

Today’s Losers

  • Ben Howland. There was some talk that Kevin Love may return to Westwood, but that quickly died down. When Russell Westbrook decided to leave as well, few were surprised. Josh Shipp made the wise choice to return, but today’s decision by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to leave early has to leave UCLA fans scratching their heads – he’s unlikely to be drafted in either round, according to some people.
  • Rick Stansbury. It’s bad enough that all-SEC guard Jamont Gordon left Stansbury’s Mississippi St. program, but it’s even worse when there’s a strong sentiment that Gordon may not get a sniff of the second round. This feels a lot like Kennedy WInston from Alabama a few years ago.
  • Bill Walker. Yes, he gets his own mention here. The popcorn munching, towel-pissing, former K-State guard had it in his head all along that he was going League. So even though he sat out the NBA Predraft Camp and then proceeded to seriously hurt his knee during a workout last weekend – giving scouts even more pause about his shaky sticks – Walker decided that he was ready for the NBA and shouldn’t be too surprised if he finds himself in the D-League next season.
  • Bill Self. How bad can it be if you just won the national title? Not very. Still, there was a chance Mario Chalmers would return next season to lead Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and the other Jayhawks back to another F4 opportunity. Only Collins of the quartet of he, Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush is returning, but somehow we think Bill Self is still smiling.
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Orlando Predraft Camp Days 3 & 4

Posted by rtmsf on May 31st, 2008

We’re running a little late today on updating the news from the Orlando Predraft Camp (Day 1 and Day 2 reviews archived), so we’ll make amends by combining a report from both Thursday and Friday’s games and workouts. In short, Carolina fans had best hope Bobby Frasor’s injury is 100% healed next year because Ty Lawson now appears a lock for the first round, and NBDL star Mike Taylor (who?) may have played his way into the draft during the course of this week.

We’ll start first with some of the impressions given by DraftExpress on the fifteen ‘elite’ prospects who held workouts today but did not participate in games.

  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
    • Clearly the most impressive workout of any of the 15 players belonged to Derrick Rose. Not so much for what he showed, but mostly just for what he is. He got up and down the floor fluidly and smoothly, covering tons of ground with each and every stride, and looked excellent changing speeds and operating skillfully with both hands in the ball-handling drills. His athleticism is nothing short of stunning, starting with his phenomenal first step, his ability to change gears, and his incredible explosiveness finishing around the basket. He came out with a business-like approach, and left no doubt about just how unique his talent-level and physical tools are. A nice bonus was the way he shot the ball, hitting more than one NBA 3-pointer and looking solid from mid-range as well.
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

    • Also catching our eye was Russell Westbrook, who came out very seriously and didn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. He was fantastic in the transition drills, flying up and down the court with his terrific athleticism, and also shot the ball fairly well after starting off slowly. His ball-handling skills are just OK at this point.
  • OJ Mayo, USC
    • O.J. Mayo was very smooth and very confident in everything he did, barely missing in the perimeter shooting drills. He’s clearly not on the same level athletically as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook for example, but already has the looks of an NBA player with the way his body looks and how he conducts himself out on the floor.
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas St.

    • Michael Beasley looked super fluid and athletic getting up and down the court, finishing with either hand and looking to be in pretty good shape. He attacked the drills with a lot of competitive fire, but most definitely was clowning around way too much throughout the day right underneath the noses of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. There were a few people that expressed concern with some of his antics over the past few days.
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas

    • Darrell Arthur looks like someone who is going to impress mightily in workouts based off what we saw here. He passes the eye test and then some on first glance, and then showed really nice athleticism to go along with a fairly high skill level in the drills, although oddly attempting to bank every 3-pointer he took. He struggled a little bit remembering what to do in some of the drills, though.
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford

    • Speaking of lukewarm impressions, Brook Lopez didn’t do a whole lot to ease the concerns NBA people have about him, not moving all that well up and down the floor and showing a very average skill-level in most of the drills.

Among the rest of the players who were actually playing games, here are a few of the high (and low) lights (h/t to the usual suspects, DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Goodman & Katz):

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
    • Goodman – The speedy North Carolina point guard made the most intelligent move of the camp, coming up with a mysterious hip injury and bowing out of the rest of the camp after a terrific performance in his only game. Lawson displayed his athleticism and, according to NBA executives, should have solidified a place in the first round.
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
    • DraftExpress – Wayne Ellington bounced back in a big way after his disastrous performance yesterday, starting off extremely hot on his way to a 7-13, 17 point outing in 20 minutes. His shot simply fell for him at a much better clip, as he did a great job moving off screens and being aggressive using fakes and utilizing his strong one-dribble pull-up. On the negative side, he again did not look very good putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the rim, not standing out that much in terms of his size, quickness, toughness at the rim or ball-handling skills. He still needs to have a strong showing in the last day of the camp if he’s truly serious about making a run at the late first round.
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky

    • DraftExpress – Last, but certainly not least, Joe Crawford again had another very strong game (15 points, 6-11 FG) as the go-to scoring option for his team. He got to the rim very effectively, shot the ball well from mid-range and long-range, was excellent coming off screens and played fairly well in transition. His defensive effort was good, particularly in terms of pressuring the ball, and he showed absolutely no hesitation in anything he does, which people here have to like. He needs to become a little bit more efficient with his ball-handling (he pounds the ball a little too much), but it’s hard not to like what he brought to the floor today.
  • Mike Taylor, Iowa St./NBDL
    • Goodman - The athletic ex-Iowa State guard, who spent this past season in the NBDL, appeared to have the easiest adjustment of anyone in the camp and rightfully so. He’s been playing against older players and is also accustomed to the NBA game. Taylor was aggressive in getting to the basket and also proved he can make shots. He had 24 points on Thursday night.
  • Gary Forbes, UMass
    • NBADraft.net - If there was to be a player of the day award, then without a doubt it would have to be given to Gary Forbes (30pts, 15-16ft, 2stl). Even though his team lost, it was no fault of Forbes, who almost singlehandedly brought his team back from a large deficit. Although he was very impressive scoring, he may have been just as good on the defensive end, where he chased Richard Roby (3-9fg) off screens and forced him to put the ball on the floor and settle for difficult shots.
  • Josh Duncan, Xavier (OH)

    • DraftExpress – Josh Duncan continued the trend of Portsmouth Invitational Tournament standouts who were able to translate their excellent performance from the all-senior pre-draft camp in April to this setting as well—scoring 20 points (5-8 FG, 9-10 FT) and pulling down 6 rebounds. Duncan knocked down a number of open shots from the perimeter, scored a bit in the post off good feeds from his guards.
  • Davon Jefferson, USC
    • DraftExpress – Davon Jefferson continued not to show the type of effort or fire you would expect to see from a player who is currently fighting for his professional future, after having prematurely hired an agent following an average freshman season. His conditioning looks poor, he’s dribbling the ball excessively, and he’s yet to make use of the terrific athletic ability that made him a prospect to start with. This is turning into a very disappointing pre-draft camp for him.
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA

    • Katz – UCLA junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hasn’t stood out enough to warrant staying in the draft. He still may, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of buzz around him.
  • Ronald Steele, Alabama
    • Goodman – He still doesn’t look like himself — and for good reason. The Alabama junior point guard hasn’t played competitively in more than a year and needs to return to school.
  • Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
    • DraftExpress – Jeremy Pargo had a game-high 20 points (7-16 FG, 5-7 FT) to go along with 4 assists. Unfortunately, he also had 6 turnovers and missed three of his four 3-pointers. He pushed the ball up the floor extremely well, showed terrific explosiveness getting by his man and giving himself options in the half-court, and also flashed some glimpses of solid court-vision, but his poor decision making led to way too many turnovers, which has typically been his problem. Going back to school and improving his decision making skills looks like a very good option at this point.

Final thought – we’re very excited to see how the height/weight and strength tests look when they come out.

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Orlando Pre-Draft Camp Day 2

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2008

So Wednesday was Day 2 of the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp (Day 1’s notes are here), and once again we’ll try to synthesize some of the reports coming from various sources who are actually attending the camp. Hopefully we’ll start to get a sense as to who is improving or shatting all over decreasing their stock. Our sources today are DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Jeff Goodman and Doug Gottlieb.

Players Doing Well So Far:

Lawson Really Must Not Want to Return to UNC (photo credit: USA Today)

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
    • DraftExpressTy Lawson was a cut above everyone else on the floor here, showing incredible quickness taking an outlet pass and getting his team out in transition, and fantastic court vision finding open teammates on the move. He made the game very simple for all of his teammates, as all they had to do was run with him and make sure their hands were ready for the pass.
    • GottliebBest point guard here so far – UNC’s Ty Lawson, trailed closely by Sean Singletary. While Singletary is more refined than Lawson and seems to be using his experience from being here last year to his benefit, Lawson has an extra step that you just cannot teach.
    • NBADraft.net - (10pts, 5ast, 3stl) From the moment he came on the floor he changed the tempo of the game. Pushing the ball in transition, he made some nice decisions finding open teammates or getting to the hoop and finishing. The highlight for him may have been the fact that he completely outplayed Lester Hudson, the man he was matched up with. Not only did he get by Hudson at will of the dribble, but he held him scoreless for the longer part of the game.
    • Gary Parrish also wrote an article yesterday explaining how shocked Ty Lawson has been by UNC fans’ reactions to his attempts to enter the NBA Draft. Many of the same people who congratulated him as a Tar Heel are now trashing him through this process. Maybe that’s why he’s playing so well?
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky
    • DraftExpressJoe Crawford had a very strong game with 19 points on 6-11 shooting, thanks to an extremely hot and aggressive start that kept his team in the game. He took the ball to the rack extremely well, showing smoothing body control, solid ball-handling skills and impressive overall scoring instincts, and also knocked down a number of shots from outside.
    • GottliebKentucky’s Joe Crawford and UAB’s Robert Vaden both looked very much at ease with the added 3-point range needed for this level of basketball. Crawford looks smaller that the 6-5 he has always been listed at, but he was explosive in terms of scoring in the first half of his first game.
    • NBADraft.netJoe Crawford was one of the big surprises of Day One. His 19 points were the high point total on the day. Crawford was able to use his quick first step to get by his man and to the rim. He also knocked down 2-3 from 3 showing the ability to pull up off the dribble from distance. Crawford appears on his way to claiming a spot in the second round if he can keep up his quality play.
  • Pat Calathes, St. Joseph’s
    • DraftExpress – Pat Calathes only got to play 15 minutes (sitting an extensive amount of time between stints), but really made the most of his time out on the floor, scoring 10 points and dishing off 5 assists (compared to just one turnover), many of the spectacular variety. His ball-handling skills, vision and all-around creativity were on full display throughout, looking aggressive and intelligent while not forcing the issue in the least bit. He would have had even more assists playing with some more skilled big man. He seems like a lock to get drafted at this point, and may be able to work himself considerably up the board if he continues to play like this in the next two days.
    • NBADraft.net - (10pts, 5ast) Showed some nice moves off the dribble and in transition, he was able to use his quickness to get by the defense. He seems to have put on some weight since Portsmouth, but still looks extremely skinny. He can knock down the mid-range shot, but with his unorthodox release he seems to lack range out to the NBA 3.
  • JR Giddens, New Mexico
    • Gottlieb – Giddens looked like, well, J.R. Giddens of old. He can still shoot the deep 3, runs like a deer, had a nice two dribble pull-up jumpers and generally looked good in trying to score. He did pout and not run back on defense a couple of times, he struggles to handle the ball on pick-and-roll situations, and he is not a pure guard by any stretch of the imagination. The consensus is Round 2.
    • DraftExpress(not the most skilled with the ball, but capable as a spot-up shooter and constantly making plays offensively and especially defensively thanks to his trademark length and explosiveness)

Players Hurting Themselves:

Can Shan Foster Do Anything Other Than Shoot? (photo credit: vanderbilt.edu)

  • Davon Jefferson, USC
    • GottliebDavon Jefferson will be taken in this draft. He moves well offensively off screens and looks like he will become a solid pro shooter. But he has no left hand and seems lost defensively. Jefferson will knock heads will Walker both in workouts and maybe the D-League.
    • NBADraft.net(7pts, 6rebs, 3ast) In the early going it seemed as if Jefferson may have made a mistake showing up this week, as he was almost non-existent. Although his performance was still not spectacular, he was able to salvage the day as he put up a decent 10 minutes together to finish the game off. His offensive skill is still in need of much work, but one cannot deny his terrific frame, and explosiveness.
    • DraftExpressWho hurt himself the worst? Most likely Davon Jefferson. He came here out of shape, and has barely been hustling at all for the past two days. Although he was able to use his freakish athleticism to make some plays on the glass and in transition, NBA types can’t be crazy about what they are seeing here. He needs to realize the urgency of the situation quickly if he wants to avoid destroying what otherwise might be a very promising future. At this point it looks very obvious that the 21-year old freshman is not ready to be in this draft, and definitely made a hasty decision hiring an agent
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
    • DraftExpressThe most intriguing story might have been the incredibly poor play of North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington—projected by some as a first round pick, but looking like anything but one from what we’ve seen in the first two days so far. Ellington was 1 of 8 from the field until the game was pretty much over with two minutes left and he managed to make his boxscore look somewhat respectable with two garbage-time baskets. He forced a number of shots badly, dribbled the ball off his foot on his way to 6 painful turnovers, played poor defense and did not grab even a single rebound in 27 minutes. He finished the game with 8 points, and is looking like he’ll be on the first plane back to Chapel Hill to kick off his junior season once this camp is over unless he can turn things around in a major way.
    • NBADraft.netWayne Ellington was one of the day’s big disappointments. He scored a couple buckets late to salvage his stats to a degree but in reality he was thoroughly outplayed by Gary Forbes who appears to have strength, size and experience over Ellington.
    • GottliebIf UNC gets Wayne Ellington back, which they should, Roy Williams should thank Deron Washington. Washington played picture-perfect defense on the UNC sophomore the entire first half of their matchup. Ellington got just two contested looks and struggled to separate himself from Washington’s long arms and great lateral quickness.
  • Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
    • DraftExpressShan Foster was a big disappointment once again, continuing the same trend we saw in the morning and the day before. He looks completely out of his element mentally, forcing bad shots and even air-balling one 3-pointer by about five feet, which is completely uncharacteristic of the player widely considered the top shooter in this draft class. He got chased off the 3-point line way too easily, getting caught into the trap of being forced to use his ball-handling skills, which he is much less effective at than just spotting up from behind the arc. He looks like he’s putting way too much pressure on himself, and will need to settle down a bit and remember what got him here.
    • NBADraft.netShan Foster struggled to get on track with just 7 points on 2-7 shooting. His lack of a great handle and ability to get by opponents appears to be getting exposed some. He’s a great shooter, but still must show a more diverse offensive game.
  • Danny Green, UNC
    • DraftExpressAlso on the negative side of the spectrum we found Danny Green (forcing the issue way too much, especially from behind the arc [0-4], and looking clearly hobbled by his sprained left ankle).
    • GottliebGreen is dribbling too much and seems stuck between wanting to be a 2 guard and playing more like his natural 3 position. He has plenty of upside since he is only 20, but family concerns may keep him in this draft.
    • GoodmanHe said he felt somewhere between 75 and 90 percent. Green also sounded upset that Roy Williams didn’t initially include him among the Big Three (Tyler Hanbsrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington), when he was getting early reports from NBA executives on where his players were projected

More takes on some of the other players at the Pre-Draft Camp:

  • GottliebRichard Hendrix looks leaner (he said he has lost 15 pounds and wants to lose more), and he was much more agile because of it. Hendrix, Maryland’s James Gist and Memphis’ Joey Dorsey are three very different, yet very draftable big men who give teams in the late first round and the early second round interesting options. Hendrix, who looks like the only one who could go in Round 1, is a skilled wide body who can face up and beat you with a catch and shoot off the pick-and-pop, and he is a good rebounder/outlet passer. Gist is the lean athlete who can block shots, has streamlined his jumper to 18 feet and runs the floor very well. Dorsey is a beast. He caught two alley-oops that counted, he is a pretty solid passer both on the outlets and in the offense, and his long arms make up for his lack of great height.
  • NBADraft.net - LR Mbah Moute (9pts, 5rebs) He seemed to have tweaked his ankle in the early going, but showed some character fighting through and still put up a decent performance. With his length and athleticism, he is always able to alter plays defensively, and convert on hustle baskets offensively. Devon Hardin had three thunderous dunks but struggled to display any touch or post skills. As impressive a physical specimen as he is, he appears to be a big tease, a player who gives the impression that he can become a force, but lacking the focus and direction to get there. Patrick Ewing (14pts, 5-7fg) With Ewing Sr. in attendance, the younger Ewing put in a decent game. He was able to convert on a number of open jumpers and showed some nice athleticism, but his overall skill set has glaring holes and he does not have a natural position on the floor. James Gist displayed his tremendous athleticism with a reverse jam in which he was fouled and missed, followed by a nearly identical reverse dunk in which he was able to covert. He also showed a mid range game knocking down a number of 12-15 foot jumpers. And while he still needs to add consistency to his shot, there’s some reason for optimism about his offensive game.
  • DraftExpress - Richard Hendrix had a solid outing with 12 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes. He was extremely unselfish and did a great job crashing the glass, showing a good feel for the game but also struggling a bit defensively on the perimeter and not being very effective finishing around the rim in traffic. Malik Hairston’s stat-line might not have been that impressive on paper (8 points, 4 assists, 3-4 FG), but he did a very nice job finding teammates within the flow of the offense and playing with and off of Pat Calathes, who he seems to have nice chemistry with. His athleticism looked better than advertised getting off the floor and elevating for dunks. DeMarcus Nelson was intense and aggressive, but looked a bit out of control at times too with some of his drives. Trent Plaisted had some flashes with his ridiculous athleticism, but was a bit too quiet in stretches, not making his presence felt enough.

Update: See our summary of Days 3 & 4 of the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp here.

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Sweet 16 Preview: West Region

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2008

- #1 UCLA vs. #12 Western Kentucky (9:40 PM): Already more than one analyst has declared that WKU is going to pull off the monumental upset in this game. And one UCLA blog is seriously tempting the Weauxfgods with its rather brazen mocking of the Hilltoppers’ chances in tonight’s game. (Retracted strikethrough: rtmsf thinks he is the Dennis Miller of the college basketball blog world). So we ask ourselves – is this possible? Could UCLA lose to a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16?

One thing we know for certain is that the Bruins will not score enough points to obliterate the Hilltoppers. The question is whether the Toppers will be able to score enough points to put enough pressure on the Bruins to make something interesting happen. The answer lies in WKU’s backcourt of Courtney Lee (20/5/2) and Tyrone Brazelton (14/3/4), who have collectively averaged 44 PPG in the NCAAs thus far. UCLA’s perimeter defense is notoriously good at shutting players down, but will have their hands full with this pair.

On the other side of the ball, the Bruins have talented guys at every position. While uber-frosh Kevin Love has taken most of the headlines, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Russell Westbrook have provided solid perimeter play to compliment the Pac-10 POY along with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the inside. The Bruins cruised in their first round game, but ran into a stiff challenge in the 2nd round against Texas A&M. In the end, they survived with some timely shooting from Love and a little help from the stripes. One of the concerns for the Bruins is that while their Ben Howland-designed defense has been as good as advertised, they have struggled offensively in the tournament outside of Love and Collison, who combined for 40 of the team’s 51 points versus the Aggies. UCLA is talented enough and this region is weak enough that they probably can get to San Antonio without bringing their “A” game, but eventually they will need more from Shipp and Mbah a Moute, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle.

Opening Line: UCLA -13
Prediction: I think that UCLA will eventually get pissed off at all the press they have gotten for getting away with calls (looking around . . .). This is a really big spread for a Sweet 16 game, but I guess it is a 1 vs. 12 so maybe it isn’t that big of a spread. Maybe Vegas Watch knows what a typical 1-12 spread is although I don’t think it happens that often. Anyways, the Bruins should be too much for the Hilltoppers and advance by double digits pulling away at the end after a hard-fought game. Even if their offense isn’t clicking, their intensity and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball will rattle Western Kentucky.

- #3 Xavier vs. #7 West Virginia (7:10 PM): The Musketeers may be the least heralded #3 seed of all-time and could be considered a mid-major of Cinderella of sorts, but after West Virginia knocked out Duke I’m pretty sure the Mountaineers have enough national goodwill that the crowd won’t be rooting that hard against them.

As I noted in an earlier preview, Xavier throws out a deep lineup with 5 players now averaging between 10.1 and 12.1 PPG to go along with a solid defense. For those that still doubt they are a legit team, I would suggest that you look at their wins over teams from power conferences in the first 2 rounds. Yes, Georgia’s record was mediocre at best, but they were hot coming off their SEC tournament run while Purdue had been a solid team the entire season in the Big 10, which admittedly isn’t having a great year.

West Virginia will counter with Joe Alexander, a rtmsf favorite, and a set of players who have adjusted well to the contrast in styles between current coach Bob Huggins and former coach John Beilein. As anyone who watched this team come from behind to beat #2 seed Duke in the 2nd round knows, Huggins has a nice stable of guys who can really play as they controlled the 2nd half of that game.

Opening Line: Pick ‘em
Prediction: I’m going with the A-10 champs. These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Xavier doesn’t have a “star player” like Alexander, but they probably have a little more depth and experience and I’m going with that for the win.

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West Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

For our second-to-last regional analysis we look to the West, which has 2 of the most storied programs in the history of the sport as its top two seeds.

Teams
#1 UCLA: The Bruins seem to be the popular pick among analysts. We can clearly see why. They have experience (and no UF to go through this year), an inside game, an outside game, and a solid coach. Ben Howland has done an excellent job getting the Bruins to play defense, which has long been a trademark of Howland’s teams. When you combine that commitment to defense with talented offensive players and the easiest region in the tournament, you have all the makings of a championship team. The big question with UCLA is their health. Pac-10 POY and uber-freshman Kevin Love (lower back spasms) and his sidekick inside Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (sprained ankle) will have to be near 100% for them to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Duke: Coach K (everyone’s favorite leader who happens to coach basketball) has done an outstanding job utilizing this flawed team’s strengths while managing go cover up its huge hole in the inside most of the season. The Blue Devils have several outstanding perimeter players in Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson, and Jon Scheyer, but they have absolutely nothing inside unless they drive by their guy on the perimeter. While ESPN (and the rest of the media) would love to have the Blue Devils advance to the Final 4, we think they rely on the outside shot too much. One of the nights they will have an off night and unless it’s in the first round, their opponents are too talented and the Blue Devils are too weak on the inside for Coach K’s squad to overcome it. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Xavier: When the casual basketball fan first looks at the bracket, this seed might confuse them. However, the Musketeers have been solid all year-long and they are ranked #12 in both polls. The Musketeers play solid defense and have an extremely balanced attack with 6 players averaging between 10 and 11.7 PPG. They should be a formidable team in the West and could give the Blue Devils all they can handle if both teams get that far. Schedule/Roster.

#4 Connecticut: Before you get too excited about Jim Calhoun’s Huskies, you should realize that this isn’t a typical Connecticut team well other than their star point guard having a history of trouble with the law (A.J. Price joins the proud legacy of Khalid El-Amin and Marcus Williams). Price has turned into the leader of the Huskies. If Calhoun’s team is going to uphold his tradition of doing well in the tournament, Price will need help from shot-blocking savant Hasheem Thabeet and the teams 4 other players who average double figures (most notably Jeff Adrien). The Huskies will be hard-pressed to get by the Bruins in the Sweet 16 where their season will likely end, which is assuming they even get by a game San Diego team in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Drake: After graduating 4 starters from last year’s team, Drake vastly exceeded expectations this year going 28-4. To be honest, before this year we never would have imagine Drake with a seed this high. One interesting note is that Drake starts Klayton Korver (younger brother of former Creighton star Kyle Korver). We thing the Korvers have a Roger Clemens-like obsession with naming their kids. Schedule/Roster.

#6 Purdue: You have to admit that it’s sort of weird watching the Boilermakers without seeing the comb-over. We like Purdue’s talent and hustle, but we think they are a year away from making a run in the tournament. Schedule/Roster.

#7 West Virginia: Bob Huggins has done a good job keeping the program at a respectable level and avoiding the Morgantown cops. They face a tough matchup in the first round against a very athletic Arizona team. Win or lose we are predicting there will be couches on fire in West Virginia after the game. Schedule/Roster.

#8 BYU: The Cougars are led by Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted along with strong team defense. The Cougars are a legit team that gave UNC a tough game earlier in the year after knocking off Louisville. If they survive their first round game against the Aggies, they will have to play UCLA in a virtual home game for the Bruins. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Texas A&M: After starting the season 15-1, the Aggies have been up and down. The question is which team will show up in Anaheim. Regardless of which teams show up, we can’t see them getting by UCLA in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Arizona: Kevin O’Neill managed to get the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament despite the unexpected and temporary absence by Arizona legend Lute Olson. While the media has widely killed the Wildcats inclusion in the tournament, we think they are very dangerous primarily because of their strong schedule and NBA-quality talent (Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger). Schedule/Roster.

#11 Baylor: One of the feel good stories of the tournament, Scott Drew has turned this program around. Baylor relies on 5 guards and 1 forward for their offense. If you couldn’t tell, they (like Duke) doesn’t have much on the inside. Unfortunately for Baylor, their players aren’t as good as Duke’s. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Western Kentucky: Led by Courtney Lee (20.4 PPG), the Hilltoppers snuck in under the radar most of this year playing in the same conference as South Alabama. Lee will have to have a big game if Western Kentucky is going to knock off Drake in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#13 San Diego: This is one of the most interesting teams in the tournament. They have shown people that they can beat big name schools this year (wins versus Kentucky and Gonzaga). Despite being the third best team in the West Coast Conference this year, the Toreros will be a stiff challenge for a UConn team that isn’t your typical Jim Calhoun powerhouse. One thing is certain is that the Toreros will not be in awe of the Huskies having played a strong non-conference schedule this year. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Georgia: The media’s darling last week will be put in an interesting situation in the first round. Can you have a SEC team be a legitimate underdog against an Atlantic 10 team in the NCAA tournament? The answer is yes, but can anybody outside of Athens, GA root for them? We say no. We hope Dennis Felton and the Bulldogs enjoyed their ride. Schedule/Roster.

#15 Belmont: Belmont will get a few minutes of fame playing against TV favorite Duke. Unfortunately, they won’t be on TV long as they will likely fall way behind Duke early in the game and their game is paired against the USC-Kansas State game. Schedule/Roster.

#16 Mississippi Valley State: Jerry Rice’s alma mater will last all of about 5-10 minutes against a UCLA team playing in Anaheim, CA. That’s about all you need to know about them. Schedule/Roster.

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ATB: Weekend Recap

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.11.07

Recap. Apologies to everyone, but we’ve had a serious family matter to attend to in recent days, so we’ve lost a little of our mojo in keeping up with the blog. The good news is that Saturday was really the only decent day’s worth of games over the last four days. So here are the highlights (some of which we saw) from last weekend.

Games We Watched. Arizona 78, Illinois 72 (OT). The big news surrounding this game was the re-emergence of Lute Olson on Friday long enough for his wife to notify everyone that she is a money-grubbing Republican operative and Olson are getting a divorce and he needs time (i.e., the rest of the season) away from the program to put his personal life back together. What we saw: for the second consecutive game, Kevin O’Neill’s Wildcats got themselves down big early (12-0 to start the game), only to gut out a second half comeback led by Jerryd Bayless (20/5 assts) to win against a tough opponent. Sure, it took a fortuitous no-call for UA guard Nic Wise, who quite obviously signalled for a timeout that his team didn’t have, to get them into OT, but a road (Chicago) win is a road win. Arizona sophomore forward Jordan Hill added 23/14 for the Cats, who we’re starting to think might have a little toughness in them this year after all. As for the Illini, they have only themselves to blame with their feeble 10-22 from the foul line for the game. #19 Pittsburgh 79, Washington 78. This was another fantastic game. Pitt picked up a hard-earned road win in a venue where UW simply doesn’t lose very often (33 straight against non-conference opponents). The game was close throughout, and it was ultimately decided with a five-minute video review of Washington’s Justin Dentmon’s runner at the buzzer that dropped through the net after bouncing around the rim several times. In the olden days before video review of buzzer beaters, UW walks off with that win and Pitt goes home 8-1, but not now. The officials concluded (rightly, although it was extremely close) that Dentmon’s shot was after the horn and therefore Pitt was the winner, much to the communal chagrin of the Washington crowd. Great non-conf win for Pitt. #14 Indiana 70, Kentucky 51. We watched this one out of a sense of history and tradition of the sport, but we wish we hadn’t, in retrospect. E-Giddy didn’t even play and still the Hoosiers rolled up the Cats and smoked them like a fat Cohiba. The story of the game was that IU guard Jordan Crawford (20 pts on 5-10 shooting) completely and totally outplayed his older UK brother, Joe Crawford (10 pts on 4-15), to the point where even Billy Packer was gushing. If any game encapsulated the frustratingly enigmatic career of former HS stud Joe, this was it. DJ White added 16/13 for the Hoosiers (his fifth straight dub-dub), while UK’s only legit player, Patrick Patterson, finished with 15/5. Oh, and we don’t have the time nor inclination to get into all the Alex Legion nonsense, but if you’re interested, he’s leaving UK (possible destination: Michigan?) and ASoB discusses it much more in-depth than we can.

Other Good Games. #15 Marquette 81, Wisconsin 76. Tremendous win for Marquette, because Wisconsin just does not lose in the Kohl Center (28 in a row prior to this game). Surprisingly, it was the undersized Marquette interior players who played with abandon on the boards and won that battle (37-29) against the taller, beefier Wisconsin front line. Marquette is awfully tough to beat when Dominic James (20/5/6 assts) plays well. #13 Michigan St. 68, #21 BYU 61. This battle of ranked teams had upset written all over it, but give credit to MSU, who was down ten at the half on the road but managed to regain its composure and stick it to the Cougars in the second half (67% shooting). If you want an upset specialist for March, keep an eye on BYU as a #5-#7 seed, especially if their draw is out west. They’ve played UNC, Louisville and Michigan St. very tough already (defeating UL), and Trent Plaisted (19/8) is an interior stud. #5 UCLA 75, Davidson 63. Davidson must be getting tired of this same old song and dance by now: play a top ten team extremely well for about 30-35 minutes, only to have the other teams’ size and strength win out in the end. They have a really good team, but they probably should have scheduled more teams ranked in the 25-50 range in order to pick up a few more Ws (we still think they’ll beat NC State later this month). In this one, Davidson roared out to an 18-pt lead in Pauley Pavilion (32-14) before the Bruins awakened from their slumber and led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (21/8) and Kevin Love (12/12), took over the game. Davidson’s Stephen Curry didn’t shoot well (6-19) in a 15/4 performance. UCLA is showing signs of boredom, and their next really tough game isn’t until the Pac-10 schedule begins in January.

Upsets. It was a good upset Saturday. Dayton 70, #10 Louisville 65. The enigma known as Derrick Caracter signed a good behavior contract on Saturday morning, put up 16/7 in a home loss to Dayton, then proceeded to break said contract (curfew) that very night after the game. After getting busted by the coaches, he then stewed in his room for an hour before sneaking out AGAIN. Wow. So with Palacios and Padgett out injured until who knows when, and Caracter seemingly unable and unwilling to stay eligible, the word is that Pitino is tinkering with the idea of a five-guard lineup. A once promising season is bordering on the edge of disaster in Louisville these days. Dayton’s Brian Roberts lit up the Cards for 28 pts, as the Flyers (now 7-1) won against UL for the second straight year.

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Rhode Island 91, Syracuse 89. Staying with the A10 over Big East theme, how did Syracuse shoot 54% at home and still lose? Well, it didn’t hurt that URI was 12-18 from three and made its FTs down the stretch. This might be one of those games that doesn’t look like much of an upset a month or two from now (URI is now 10-1. with the one loss at BC). Jonny Flynn had 21/10 for the Orange. Wright St. 43, #9 Butler 42. Butler just can’t get past these guys, especially in Dayton. Three of Butler’s last six losses were to Wright St., and the MO for each one has been the same – stop AJ Graves. Graves was held to 6 pts on 2-11 shooting in the high -scoring affair (only three players combined reached double figures). Butler may get all the hype, but Wright St. under Brad Brownell has once again announced that it will be a contender in the Horizon. Stephen F. Austin 66, Oklahoma 62. OU’s losses to Memphis and USC are understandable, but how does the same team that blitzed Tulsa by 26 and TCU by 24 in its previous two games turn around and lose to SFA at home?

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Other Ranked Teams.

  • #3 Texas 80, Rice 54. Abrams, Augustin and James each with 18 pts.
  • #4 Kansas 84, Depaul 66. Brandon Rush came off the bench for 13 pts and one bench warrant.
  • #6 Duke 95, Michigan 67. Please, please, please end this series soon.
  • #7 Georgetown 87, Jacksonville 55. steady as she goes for Georgetown (59% FG).
  • #8 Washington St. 72, Portland St. 60. even more steady for Wazzu (69% eFG)
  • #11 Texas A&M 109, Texas St. 73. We’re just amazed that A&M played 18 guys in this game.
  • #16 Oregon 75, Utah 64. Another solid home win for Oregon.
  • #17 Gonzaga 85, Cal St. Northridge 59. Micah Downs (19 pts) and Matt Bouldin (18) led the way.
  • #23 Vanderbilt 90, Lipscomb 67. 26/10 for AJ Ogilvy as Vandy remains unbeaten. Could he be the next Bogut?
  • #25 Villanova 101, Temple 93. Scottie Reynolds was huge (27/6/9) in this Big 5 matchup.

Other Notable Scores.

  • Boston College 81, Maryland 78. BC is much better than everyone thought, Maryland much worse.
  • Kansas St. 82, California 75. Cal shoots 51% and still loses their first game – three players with dub-dubs (Walker – 30/10; Beasley – 19/11; R. Anderson – 24/11).
  • Illinois St. 62, Cincinnati 52. Hard to argue Cincy is better off w/o Thuggins at this point.
  • Charlotte 71, S. Illinois 56. Make that three solid wins in a row for Charlotte.
  • East Carolina 75, NC State 69. Sam Hinnant dropped 30 on the incredibly overrated Wolfpack. Anybody still got NCSU third in the ACC?
  • St. Mary’s 69, San Diego St. 64. very nice road win for the Gaels (prior to tonight’s loss v. SIU)
  • Kent St. 73, George Mason 55. Another solid mid-major win for the Golden Flashes.
  • Georgia 72, Wake Forest 50. We still don’t think much of UGa, but Wake took it on the chin from the SEC last week.
  • Fordham 88, NJIT 44. Stony Brook 62, NJIT 53. NJIT’s quest for winlessness continues (0-12). Avg. margin of defeat = 25.0 ppg. Next game: Thurs. at Rutgers.

On Tap Today (all times EST).

  • Xavier (-19) v. Cincinnati (ESPN2) 7pm – we love the Crosstown Shootout – XU should roll this year, though.
  • Maryland (-8.5) v. Ohio 8pm. the way the Terps have been playing, this could be interesting…
  • Wisconsin (-13.5) v. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (ESPN FC) 8pm - the battle of Cheeseheads.
  • Vanderbilt (-3) v. Depaul (ESPN Classic) 8pm - winnable road game for Vandy to remain unbeaten.
  • Arkansas (NL) v. Texas-San Antonio (ESPN FC) 8pm - we still haven’t gotten a good feel for the Hawgs.
  • Colorado (-5) v. New Orleans 9pm – the Privateers with another shot at defeating a BCS team.
  • Boston College (-4) v. Massachusetts (ESPNU) 9pm – the battle of Chowderheads.
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ATB: Hey Mr. DJ, Keep Playin That Song…

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2007

ATB v.4

12.02.07

Game of the Day. #8 Texas 63, #2 UCLA 61. One thing lost amidst last year’s undoubtedly deserving Kevin Durant hype at Texas was that Rick Barnes brought in five other talented freshmen in the class of 2006 who accounted for nearly half of UT’s points and rebounds in their 25-10 campaign. Everyone already knows about the head point guard capabilities of DJ Augustin, but players such as Damion James and Justin Mason have been largely overlooked. No longer. Tonight the Horns, led by those three sophs + juniors Connor Atchley and AJ Abrams, went into Pauley Pavilion and earned a far more impressive win than the Durant-led Horns had all of last season. Midway through the first half, UCLA went through yet another of those confounding Howland-era droughts, going almost nine minutes without a field goal, and in the process allowed Texas to take a commanding lead during a 17-0 run. Augustin (19/4) in particular shredded the vaunted UCLA defense, repeatedly showing his Steve Nash-tutelage in the form of stepback jumpers and blow-by abilities. The expected UCLA run came in the second half, as Mbah a Moute (14/7) and Shipp (11/7/4 assts) led the charge. UCLA took back the lead at the 12-minute mark, and had a three-point lead as late as 1:15 remaining. Then the unexpected occurred, as Connor Atchley made a clutch three to tie the game with 1:00 left, and UCLA missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on its next possession. After forcing DJ Augustin into a horrible leaning airball from the right side, Kevin Love & Co. didn’t block out, allowing Damion James (19/10) to rise over the top for a strong throwdown and a 2-pt Texas lead with 0:09 on the clock. UCLA ran it upcourt and got a great look for Mbah a Moute from three, but it was off the mark and Texas secured a tremendous early-season win against the #1 team in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, breaking UCLA’s 25-game homecourt winning streak. We don’t have the database to check this, but we gotta figure this is one of the only times in Texas basketball history the Horns have beaten a #1 team on the road. More importantly, this win announced to the college basketball world that a Texas without Kevin Durant will be dealt with this season. Right now, no other team has two quality wins as impressive as their neutral court dismantling of Tennessee and this road win at UCLA. As for the Bruins, the key stat Howland should be worried about is rebounding (+2 Texas) – considering the size and prowess of Love, Mata-Real, Mbah a Moute in the paint, they simply got outworked tonight on the boards, and it came back to bite them hard on the putback by James that won the game.

More Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Arizona 78, #9 Texas A&M 67. With seven minutes to go in the first half, TAMU was already up twenty on Arizona and we were making plans to go get our Xmas tree. Arizona was once again showing absolutely no signs of life, letting yet another team brazenly come onto their court and push them around. That’s when UA freshman Jerryd Bayless (26/3/6 assts) decided to step up and make his presence known, sparking a late first-half run and leading the way in the second half for Arizona to get back and ultimately win the game. Will this game act as a turning point for Arizona? #4 Kansas 59, #25 USC 55. We admit that our expectations for this game were pretty low. Even though the game was at the Galen Center, we thought KU was way too disciplined, experienced and talanted to let USC’s young freshmen take this game. We were wrong in the sense that USC was able to hang with the Jayhawks the entire way. But we were right in that Kansas Mario Chalmers made the plays it needed to win the game. Chalmers’ 26-footer with 24 seconds left to essentially salt the game away was one of those shots where you initially think “he must have panicked” until it falls through the bottom of the net (which it did, dead center). Still, USC didn’t even play very well and was right there at the end – OJ Mayo was 6-21 from the field, Taj Gibson pulled another disappearing act (2 pts and fouled out again), but only Davon Jefferson (17/3) had a good game. We’re still not sure whether that tells us more about Kansas or USC long-term, though. Stanford 67, Colorado 43. Um, so much for Stanford having trouble with another road game, as someone in this space implied yesterday. Nebraska 62, Arizona St. 47. We obviously didn’t watch this game, but an eight-minute scoring drought by ASU that finished them off sounds an awful lot like Herb Sendek to us.

Big 12/Pac-10 Final Thoughts. The final tally was 6-5 in this matchup, with road teams winning five of the games. What did we learn? Probably not much, but looking at this slate beforehand we probably would have predicted the Pac-10 to win a couple more of these games, which may suggest that the league is a tad overrated from where pundits were projecting. Obviously, the bottom-dwellers of Oregon St. and Arizona St. are terrible teams. Washington and Cal are probably NIT-worthy. That leaves USC, Arizona, Stanford as NCAA first-weekend teams, with Oregon, Wazzu and UCLA as the likely second-weekend teams. In the Big 12, we see more talent at the top level with Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas. K-State, Baylor, Missouri and the Oklahomas will sort themselves out as NCAA/NIT-worthy, while Colorado, Texas Tech, Iowa St. and Nebraska look to be pretty bad teams this year.

Notable Scores.

  • Miami (FL) 66, St. John’s 47. Is Miami for real this year?
  • East Carolina 68, George Mason 65. Tough home loss for GMU today – let’s hope this doesn’t bite them come March.
  • VCU 85, Maryland 76. Eric Maynor blew up for 25/8 in the upset of the Terps. What’s going on, Gary?

On Tap Today (all times EST). Probably a night better spent doing something else, like, we dunno, talking to your wife/girlfriend.

  • Florida (NL) v. Jacksonville (ESPN FC) 7pm – Florida continues its quest to dominate the Sunshine State.
  • Arkansas (-10) v. Missouri St. (ESPN FC) 8pm. this border war game should be intriguing.
  • Wisconsin (-23) v. Wofford (ESPN2) 9pm - ESPN was obviously hurting for programming opposite MNF tonight.
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ATB: HowlandBall > IzzoBall (for now)

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2007

ATB v.4

11.20.07

Game of the Day. #3 UCLA 68, Michigan St. 63. Whew. One night after declaring UCLA the best team in the country, we turned our tv on tonight and watched the Bruins go scoreless for the first 5+ minutes against Michigan St. and put in a lackluster first half before righting the Shipp in the second half (sorry, that was terrible). Down 11 at the break and shooting only 24% from the field, Howland must have implored his guys to execute better in the halfcourt in the second half. They did, and after keeping within contact of MSU through most of the second half, Love’s three-point play with 1:58 remaining initiated a 10-0 Bruin run to finish the game (from down 63-58 to up 68-63). It seemed that every time down the stretch that UCLA needed a play, whether defensively or offensively, they made it. From the Mbah a Moute follow-dunk to tie the game to the sick perimeter D they draped on Drew Neitzel’s three-point tying attempt (airball), UCLA did what was necessary to win. This is why we think this version of HowlandBall is the team to beat come March. They withstood an inspired performance by Michigan St. (54% FG, 93% FT), and still came out with the W. When they get Darren Collison and friends back at full strength, they should be even better. Final comment on Love (21/11): obviously, the guy is extremely skilled. Great court awareness, deft touch around the basket, and a nose for the ball (8 off rebs). Our only complaint with him is the same one we mentioned a week ago – we wish he had some explosion around the rim, as there were a couple of times he just couldn’t get the ball up against MSU’s athletes despite having inside position. But his numbers are still sensational for a freshman, and we recognize that’s a nitpick that will become a problem at the next level more than this one. Final comment on MSU: they’re better than we thought they would be this year, but the question is how will Big 10 teams (who are used to their style of basketbrawl) play them this year?

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WCC Pride. St. Mary’s 99, #9 Oregon 87. The upset of the night (was it really? yeah, we guess so…) took place in tony tiny Moraga, CA, on the campus of WCC annual also-ran-to-Gonzaga St. Mary’s College. We noted this as an upset alert last night, and sure enough, SMC really stuck it to the Ducks tonight. Despite winning its first four games by an average of 19.8 pts (all at home), and just like Pac-10 colleague Stanford (@ Siena) last weekend, the Ducks wilted when faced with an inspired opponent defending their home court. From what we saw, Oregon routinely played matador defense as one of the St. Mary’s guards glided down the lane for another score (most notably freshman Patrick Mills, who set a school record for a frosh with 37/5 assts for a blistering 36 efficiency rating). It also appeared to us that SMC just wanted it more, regularly beating the Ducks to loose balls and errant caroms. For Oregon, Hairston, Leunen, Porter and Kamyron Brown (Bryce Taylor was out with a shoulder injury) combined for 62 pts, but it was on 22-51 shooting. We take nothing away from St. Mary’s here, as they are a very good team that can potentially ride this win to an NCAA at-large berth next March (presuming a solid WCC campaign), but the takeaway here is just how different Oregon looked in a road environment. With a core group of seniors such as Leunen and Hairston, we just expected more poise. Enjoy RTC #2 of the year (both at the expense of Pac-10 teams, btw).

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Maui Wrapup. #11 Duke 79, Illinois 66. The third marquee game of the day was in Maui, where Duke rode great shooting (eFG% = 63%) to a dominating performance over Illinois. This game went pretty much as expected. Duke’s guards scored 62 of their 79 total pts, Illinois couldn’t throw it into the Pacific (eFG% = 35%), and the Illini kept themselves from being humiliated by murdering Duke on the boards (19 off rebs to 4). This is why Marquette, with its trio of talented guards, may have a chance to beat the Devils (again) tomorrow night in the Maui finals. The wildcard is what Duke gets from Singler, as tonight he was in foul trouble and relatively quiet (8/1). They’ll need his production tomorrow night. #12 Marquette 91, Oklahoma St. 61. Marquette got 51 pts from its starting guards, as this game was never close (MU was up 18 at halftime). At the risk of annoying one of our prominent critics, all we’ll say about OSU in this game is that Sean Sutton has perfected his father’s trademark scowl.

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Ridiculous Score of the Night. #6 Tennessee 109, Middle Tennessee St. 40. UT is starting to scare us a little bit. Beating a D1 team – any D1 team – by 69 pts is something not seen very often. The Vols started this game on a 31-4 run and clearly never looked back, leading by 40 at halftime and as much as 71 in the second stanza. Some absurd stats – UT scored 1.47 ppp, had an eFG% of 79%, and scored on almost two-thirds of its possessions in this game. JaJuan Smith led the way for the Vols with 32 pts (on 7 threes), and Chris Lofton broke out of his slump with 17 pts on 6-9 (5-8 from three) shooting. 69 pts… Bruce Pearl better watch himself in Murfreesboro.

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #1 Memphis 84, Arkansas St. 63. Kemp 22, Mack 19, CDR 16.
  • #2 UNC 110, South Carolina St. 64. Only 46 pts, Roy? Bruce Pearl says “pfshaw…”
  • #10 Indiana 95, UNC-Wilmington 71. E-Giddy with 30/6/3 assts.

On Tap Today (all times EST). The Maui Finals are in action and the NIT semis kick back up.

  • Texas A&M (-4) v. Washington (ESPN) 7pm – NIT semis - we think this will be a fun game to watch.
  • Georgetown (-20) v. Ball St. 7pm - JTIII may take his bro Ronny’s frustrations out on BSU.
  • Davidson (-4) v. W. Michigan 7pm – an excellent mid-major road test for Davidson – avoid the letdown!
  • Oklahoma (-25) v. Morehead St. (ESPN FC) 8pm – snooze…
  • Kansas (-26.5) v. N. Arizona (ESPN FC) 8pm – we like KU, really we do, but we’d like to see them outside of Allen Field House.
  • Syracuse (-1.5) v. Ohio St. (ESPN2) 9pm – NIT semis – anticipating our first look at Flynn and Green.
  • Louisville (-3) v. UNLV (Vs.) 9pm – a no-joke road test for the Cards.
  • Duke (NL) v. Marquette (ESPN) 10pm - let’s hope this game is half as exciting as last year’s version.
  • Butler (-6) v. Michigan (ESPN2) 11:30pm – Great Alaska tips off with a solid mid-major/BCS matchup where Butler is expected to win.
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04.25.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2007

  • Guess none of these guys got the memo that this is the deepest draft in years…
    • Georgia Tech’s Javaris Crittenton going pro but will not hire an agent.
    • Despite early reports to the contrary, Brandon Rush is still undecided about leaving Kansas for the NBA. His frontcourt teammate, Darrell Arthur, is apparently staying for his sophomore year.
    • Clemson’s James Mays also will test the waters.
    • Who are these guys? Texas A&M’s Joseph Jones also declares.
    • This is a hoax, right? 7’3 Jason Bennett of Kansas St., who averaged 1.9 ppg last year, is going pro.
  • Finally, some sanity. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute & Darren Collison announced they were both returning to UCLA next season.
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