Surprise! Assessing Early Signs of Life at Providence, Oregon & Iowa State

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is an RTC contributor.

Last week we spent some time praising the work of two of the most familiar faces in the college basketball coaching world, Rick Pitino and Bruce Pearl, in getting their teams off to sparkling starts in the aftermath of some rough off-court patches. Today, I’d like to recognize some perhaps less well-known coaches who have turned awful offseasons of a different sort into solid starts for their respective teams. At Providence, Oregon and Iowa State, the basketball programs all went through turbulent summers full of personnel changes and uncertainty, but thus far the coaches at each of those programs has fought through the adversity to earn a combined 29-9 record for the three schools, albeit against maybe some lesser competition. None of the three schools are necessarily expected to be major contenders for NCAA Tournament berths, but at least they’ve got their programs headed in the right directions after rough offseasons.

Marshon Brooks Has Been a Revelation This Season

For Keno Davis and the Providence Friars, the offseason was an absolute nightmare – not that 2009-10 was all that great to begin with. The Friars lost their last 11 games of last season on the way to a 12-19 record, during which time junior guard Kyle Wright abruptly left the program. After the season was over, a new rash of bad news hit the Friars. First, it was announced that point guard Johnnie Lacy and center Russ Permenter would be transferring out of the program. Then, a couple days later, Lacy and freshman center James Still were charged with felony assault, leading to Still’s eventual dismissal. A month later, the bright spot in the Friar program was extinguished when leading scorer and rebounder Jamine “Greedy” Peterson was kicked off the team. About a week later, assistant coach Pat Skerry left to head to Big East rival Pitt, and in the process, severely hurt Providence’s recruiting with incoming 2010 recruit Joseph Young announcing that he would be staying closer to his Houston home for college. After Davis lost some face in refusing to allow Young out of his scholarship for a time, he was eventually released and allowed to enroll at the University of Houston. Next, 2011 commit Naadir Tharpe announced that he was withdrawing his commitment to the Friars and opening back up his recruitment. And finally, for good measure, Kadeem Batts suffered a disorderly conduct charge in July. In short, it was a miserable offseason.

But, in the face of all of that turmoil, the Friars are off to an 11-2 start to this season. Yes, they’ve dropped games to La Salle and Boston College, and for every win over a Rhode Island and an Alabama, there’s a win over Central Connecticut and Prairie View A&M, but at least Coach Davis has not allowed the negative momentum of the offseason to boil over into a disastrous 2010-11 campaign. Senior wing Marshon Brooks has developed into a versatile threat (22.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 2.0 3PG) and a team leader, while sophomores Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon are each developing into serious Big East-level talents. Council is among the top ten point guards in the nation in assists, with seven per game (he had 16 in a game against Brown), while Dixon has been killing the boards on both ends, to the tune of 9.7 rebounds per night (more than three of those on the offensive glass), and adding almost three blocked shots a night. While much more serious competition awaits the Friars come Big East play, Davis has focused on tightening things up on the defensive end where PC ranked in the bottom 100 teams in Division I last year in defensive efficiency; now PC ranks in the top 100. There is certainly a ways to go for this Friar team, and the talent level  is still such that any dream of a run to an upper-division Big East finish should be tempered with, you know, sanity, but Davis has taken what was a disastrous offseason and settled things down in Providence to the point where the program is no longer in freefall and is playing up to their talent level. There are sure to be plenty of losses (and losing streaks) in conference play, but expect the Friars to beat a team or two that they have no business beating, and to be competitive on a regular basis.

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Morning Five: 01.22.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2010

  1. Washington State lost its dispute with Oregon over a controversial technical foul call at the end of the first overtime in a New Year’s Eve conference game in Pullman.  The issue arose after Wazzu seemingly won the game with 0.3 seconds remaining when several bench players and at least one fan stepped onto the court.  A technical foul was called, and Oregon was awarded two FTs to tie the game, sending it into double-OT where they won 91-89.  From our viewing of it here, it looked like a hundred other exciting endings that happen during the normal course of a season, but the Pac-10 chose to hide behind the technicality.
  2. St. Louis coach Rick Majerus, in the midst of a somewhat promising season at 12-6 and 3-1 in the A10, took an opportunity to throw his conference (the Atlantic 10) under the bus yesterday, sparing no complaint about the expensive East Coast cities, the travel, the airports and even the old standby, academics.  He said he’d prefer to play in the MVC, which makes geographic sense, but what’s left unsaid is that he’d prefer the built-in advantage of playing in Arch Madness for a trip to the NCAA Tournament just minutes from the SLU campus.  He didn’t mention whether a lack of high thread count towels in their budget hotels factored into his decision.
  3. Another interesting insight from Mike DeCourcy — Duke’s much-lauded point guard Jon Scheyer isn’t getting it done down the stretch of close games.  Someone out there surely has the time and energy to track his numbers in those games, right?  Let us know in the comments if you do.
  4. Gary Parrish: not a fan of the Christian Drejer/Lucca Staiger method of doing business.  We think the lesson here is that coaches will have to carefully vet European players they’re recruiting to try to ensure they’ll have a modicum of loyalty to the school should an offer appear on the table back home midway through the season.
  5. Luke Winn moves Kentucky up to #1 in his Power Rankings.  He refers to it in the Tennessee section (#7), but it’s worth noting that KenPom rates the Cats #13 in his latest rankings, in large part because the defensive efficiency is a pedestrian #36 in the nation (offensive efficiency is #11).  The biggest two drivers of that stat are the fact that UK doesn’t defend the three well (36%, #254) and doesn’t force a lot of turnovers (20.9%, #167).  This should be somewhat concerning for John Calipari, as his best Memphis teams (2006-09) all had superb defenses that consistently shut down the three-ball.  If/when Kentucky loses, expect it to be because of a hot shooting night from deep.
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Morning Five: 01.20.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2010

  1. Despite a pretty miserable year at Oregon State, athletic department officials there are already worrying about the possibility of losing head coach Craig Robinson to his former stomping grounds of Chicago and DePaul University in the offseason.  Certainly reasonable, especially given that some ADs are often more excited about shiny objects rather than layers of substance (i.e., wins; cf. with Lane Kiffin).
  2. Speaking of the Pac-10, apparently the Wall Street Journal has just caught on to the state of the league this season.  On tomorrow’s WSJ lede: Evan Turner Back From Injury!
  3. Vegas Watch looks at the current KenPom top 20 and adjusts his ratings according to how Vegas sees those teams.  Key findings: Kansas and Duke are by far the two best teams in the country; and presumptive #1-in-waiting Kentucky is incredibly overrated!
  4. Luke Winn delves a little deeper into Jim Calhoun’s decision yesterday to take a medical leave of absence from Connecticut.  He expects it to merely be a temporary respite that was caused by excessive stress.
  5. From the Christian Drejer school of flaking out, Iowa State’s Lucca Staiger announced that he is leaving his team immediately to pursue professional opportunities in his home country of Germany.  This is a huge blow to Greg McDermott’s program, as Staiger was averaging 9.4 ppg and hitting nearly 43% of his shots from distance this season.
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Checking in on the… Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week):

  1. Oklahoma (8-0) (1)
  2. Baylor (7-1) (2)
  3. Texas (6-1) (4)
  4. Kansas (7-1) (5)
  5. Missouri (7-1)  (7)
  6. Texas Tech (7-1) (8)
  7. Texas A&M (6-1) (9)
  8. Nebraska (6-1) (3)
  9. Kansas St. (5-3) (6)
  10. Iowa St. (6-1) (11)
  11. Oklahoma St. (5-3) (10)
  12. Colorado (3-3) (12)

A light week for the Big 12 as most teams only played once and it was their game in the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series where the Big 12 dominated.

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