ACC Teams Struggling to Adapt to Styles of New Programs

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on January 16th, 2014

Much was made of the three former Big East teams entering the league this season and having to adapt to the ACC’s style of play. This notion was supported by the simple fact of sheer numbers; the returning ACC teams would number 12 teams while the Big East was sending over only three units. What did not get enough preseason attention was how the ACC as a whole would adapt to the very different styles of play of the three incoming teams, all quite successful programs in their own rights. Notre Dame under head coach Mike Brey is known for its selfless team basketball, execution, cutting and the extra pass, while developing a litany of elite low post big men like Luke Harangody, Jack Cooley, and now Garrick Sherman. While the Irish lost its best player in Jerian Grant for the year, their style of play was on display and ultimately decided the outcome in a statement win against Duke.

Pitt's James Robinson is a large reason they are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Pitt’s James Robinson is a large reason the Panthers are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Syracuse’s famous 2-3 zone has helped in establishing itself as one of the best teams in the nation and has put the Orange among a group of three unbeaten teams remaining. Their defense has flummoxed ACC opponents to the tune of allowing only 50.0 PPG to ACC foes through their first four games. They clearly have taken charge and dominated the tempo in their outings, most recently holding UNC a full 30 points below its season average of 75.6 PPG. While it remains early in the ACC race, so far it seems obvious that both Syracuse and Pittsburgh have been forcing their own tempo and style of play on their opponents and not vice versa. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers are known for their toughness and gritty play, both of which were evident in their recent 12-point road victory over N.C. State. Famed ESPN analyst Dick Vitale confirmed this theory and perception when he noted: “There are certain programs that get certain labels that help them big-time psychologically… the mindset is where you’re at a negative before you ever start playing, and I think Pittsburgh has that, that label of being tough.”

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What Can We Learn From NBA Draft Combine Measurements?

Posted by EJacoby on June 11th, 2012

The top 60 prospects for the upcoming NBA Draft were invited to Chicago for the official NBA Draft Combine late last week, where players seek to impress the loads of pro scouts and executives in attendance in preparation for June 28. Before players even began competing in drills and scrimmages, they were first tested by the ‘tape’ in an extensive set of measurements. This year’s numbers were released on Friday, which include everything from height and weight to hand width and horizontal wingspan. But do these physical measurements really mean anything? Does the fact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist measured a half-inch shorter than expected, or Jae Crowder’s hands are some of the widest of the group, have an impact on that player’s chances to succeed in the league? Adjusting to the elite size and speed of NBA competition is important for all incoming prospects, but a ball player is a ball player, regardless of his standing reach or hand size. History shows that some Combine measurements become useful in predicting future success while others bear no weight at all, making it a difficult data set to analyze.

Kevin Jones didn't measure out well at the Combine; does this mean anything for his NBA potential? (AP Photo/D. Smith)

This year’s athletic testing results (bench press, agility drill, vertical jump, etc.) are not yet released, so we’ll just take a look at the player measurements and what they mean. Some notable numbers from this year include Meyers Leonard’s massive height without shoes (6’11.75”), Andre Drummond’s ridiculous wingspan (7’6.25”), John Henson’s skyscraping standing reach (9’3.5”), Kevin Jones’ excessive body fat (11.2%), and Andrew Nicholson’s enormous hands (10” long, 10.75” wide). But didn’t we already know these things? We knew that Drummond was a freakish physical specimen, and Henson’s intrigue as a prospect stems from his elite length. We know Leonard is huge and Jones doesn’t look like much of an athlete. But that becomes the dilemma – should scouts put more stock in Kevin Jones’ physical measurements, or his versatile skill set that’s been on display at West Virginia for four years? The hard part is determining to what extent, if any, a player’s body will impact his ability to contribute in the NBA.

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Big East Mount Rushmore

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 22nd, 2012

With all due respect to the legions of legendary players the Big East has produced in its storied history, the Big East has always been a coach’s league.  This makes perfect sense given that the conference was conceived by, and molded through the eyes of a coach.  It was the vision of that coach which propelled the Big East and college basketball to new heights beginning in the early 1980s.  The Mount Rushmore of the Big East resides in its foundation and backbone.  In many ways these are the four fathers of the conference.  They all made long-term and lasting contributions to the league, and their statures grew in-kind with that of the conference as a result.  These four men are your pillars.

Dave Gavitt:  It is impossible to conceive any reference to the success or history of the Big East without Dave Gavitt at the forefront.  A true visionary who gave life to the Big East Conference when he founded it in 1979, Gavitt relinquished a successful coaching career at Providence where he led the Friars to the 1973 NCAA Final Four to devote his attention to building the league as its first commissioner.  It is hard to imagine where smaller Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence , Boston College and Villanova would be today without Gavitt’s influence.  He believed that there was an audience for college basketball, a belief that probably saved the relevance of college basketball in the northeast and one that transcended his league, leading to the national television attention and marketing of the sport as we currently know it.

Jim Calhoun: The long time Connecticut head coach epitomizes the tenets of the Big East.  A New England-born no-nonsense guy and tireless worker who always appears ready for a challenge, Calhoun was hired by Connecticut in 1986. He has led the Huskies to three National Championships, including last season’s historic double where Connecticut came out of nowhere from a ninth-place regular season conference finish to win both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.  The Huskies have made 22 NCAA tournament appearances and four Final Fours under Calhoun’s watch.  Further, in this age where football and football money are deemed king, it is important to note that Connecticut has major Division I college football today as a result of the success Calhoun and Connecticut had on the basketball court and not vice versa.

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Why Mike Brey is the Leading Candidate for Coach of the Year, Again

Posted by EJacoby on February 16th, 2012

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

Think back to November 24, when many teams were playing in early-season tournaments and fans were able to get a strong first glimpse of their favorite teams. Notre Dame got plenty of exposure that week, but for all the wrong reasons. The Fighting Irish had just incurred a 29-point beating at the hands of Missouri in the CBE Classic semifinals and followed that performance up with a loss to Georgia in the third place game. The next day, star senior forward Tim Abromaitis suffered a torn ACL in practice that would immediately end his season and seemingly the team’s too. If you told a Notre Dame fan back then that three months later their team would be 10-3 in conference on a seven-game winning streak in the Big East, it would be truly hard to believe. For that, and many other reasons, Irish head coach Mike Brey is the current leader in the clubhouse for National Coach of the Year once again as we head into the home stretch of the regular season.

Things Are Looking Good for Mike Brey, Who Just Might Win Another Coach of the Year Award (AP Photo)

Brey has been named Big East Coach of the Year three times (’07, ’08, ’11), and was the AP National Coach of the Year last season for guiding his team to an unexpected run at 27-7, an NCAA Tournament 2-seed and #5 overall ranking when the season ended. Coach Brey also has a habit of making a splash with his team in conference play when it looks like it has no chance to be competitive. Think back to two seasons ago, when the Fighting Irish were sitting at 6-8 in the Big East on a crash course for the NIT before Brey led the team to four straight victories to end the regular season. Then came a deep run in the Big East Tournament, and Luke Harangody, Ben Hansbrough, Abromaitis, and company were safely in the NCAA field, from NIT to 6-seed in just three weeks. The head coach in South Bend doesn’t get the same kind of recognition as some of his conference coaching peers like Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, and Rick Pitino, but Brey has often done as fine a job as them with far less talent to work with.

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Luck Of The Irish? Hardly.

Posted by jstevrtc on February 9th, 2011

Walker Carey is an RTC contributor.

Just before the start of this season, not much was known about this year’s edition of Mike Brey’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Over the course of the last four seasons, Notre Dame’s roster has had three consistent standout performers in forward Luke Harangody, combo guard Kyle McAlarney, and point guard Tory Jackson. Even with the services of Harangody and Jackson last season, the Irish posted a campaign that was widely viewed as a disappointment. ND finished last season with a 23-12 record, and their season ended when Old Dominion upset them on the first day of the NCAA Tournament. Needless to say, there were many questions about a team that underperformed last season and graduated their two best players.

Hansbrough Has Led By Both Word And Example

One thing the Irish did have on their side entering the season was an experienced starting lineup. Ben Hansbrough, Scott Martin, Tim Abromaitis, Carleton Scott, and Tyrone Nash are all either fourth or fifth year players. Martin entered the season, however, having not played the past two — he sat out the 2008-‘09 season after transferring from Purdue and the ‘09-‘10 season after tearing his ACL last preseason. Scott also entered the season without much experience, as prior to this season he was not a regular in Mike Brey’s rotation. Even though Hansbrough, Abromaitis, and Nash had varying levels of experience, questions still remained regarding all three of them. Hansbrough and Abromaitis had battled inconsistency throughout their Irish careers, while throughout his time as an Irishman, Nash had played second fiddle to Harangody in the frontcourt.

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Let’s Kick It Off: Observing a College Football Weekend Through A Hoops Lens

Posted by rtmsf on September 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Hooray! Today is the official end of the Great Sports Desert – you know, that period of time between the first Monday in April and the first weekend of the college football season. Beginning tonight, there are actual meaningful sporting events that I am interested in. Let’s be clear, I love college football. Easily my second favorite sport. But, I’m a college hoops junkie first and foremost, and part of the reason I love the start of college football season is because that means that the start of college basketball is within shouting distance from here. And, while looking over the slate of college football games this weekend, I couldn’t help but imagine some of these matchups as college basketball games. So, here I have, in reverse order, the ten most intriguing matchups of the college football weekend, provided they are re-imagined as season openers in basketball season.  (ed. note: yes, he is sick, but we love him for it)

College Sports is Back on the Calendar!

First, a nod to a handful of games which, being a junkie and all, definitely appeal to me, but were just a bit off of my top-10 list:

  • Pittsburgh @ Utah – on Thursday night, with only six other games on. If this was basketball season, and there were only six other games on, you could bet I’d watch some of this. Sure, Utah isn’t going to be very good, but it would be interesting to see Pitt go on the road early into a hostile environment.
  • Murray State @ Kent State – a very good mid-major matchup between one of last season’s Cinderellas and one of the MAC’s always competitive teams.
  • Connecticut @ Michigan – this game just sounds really good, but in reality, UConn is down and Michigan is, well, I would say Michigan is down, but its been awhile since they’ve been up.
  • Richmond @ Virginia – a big intrastate matchup between the A-10 and the ACC. If Virginia was just a little bit better, this may have made the cut, because UR will be very good again, but a road trip into the John Paul Jones Arena would be a good early test for Kevin Anderson and company.
  • Northwestern @ Vanderbilt – as enticing as this Wildcat/Commodore matchup would be between two talented teams with NCAA Tournament hopes, this just misses the cut.

And on to the top 10:

  • #10 – Washington State @ Oklahoma StateKlay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto invade the Gallagher-Iba Arena to provide a good early season test for a young Cowboy squad minus last season’s two leading scorers. While the young Cowboy guards Ray Penn and Keiton Page keep this close throughout, too much Thompson eventually does them in.

Predicted Football Score: Oklahoma State 31 Washington State 10

Predicted Basketball Score: Washington State 72 Oklahoma State 66

  • #9 – UCLA @ Kansas State – Kansas State is one of the teams on the short list of national title contenders. UCLA is, well, honestly, not very good at least judging by last season’s performance. But, they’re still UCLA. And their frontline of Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith and Tyler Honeycutt will test Curtis Kelly, Wally Judge and company, perhaps even to a draw. We’ll also get a first chance to see if the Bruins have even remotely solved their problems at the point, an area of concern that will eventually be the deciding factor in this matchup as Jacob Pullen eventually gets over on Malcolm Lee and the Wildcats pull away in the second half.

Pullen is Back With Another Strong Team

Predicted Football Score: UCLA 23 Kansas State 17

Predicted Basketball Score: Kansas State 70 UCLA 60

  • #8 – Syracuse @ AkronJim Boeheim taking his Orange on the road early against a Midwest mid-major? Sure, that’ll happen. But, if it did, I’d be thrilled to see my first glimpse of Syracuse freshman center Fab Melo battling the Zips own young center, sophomore seven-footer Zeke Marshall. Sure, the Orange’s talent would probably win out in the end with Akron not having an answer for Kris Joseph, but I’m pretty sure that we’d get at least 30 minutes of pretty compelling basketball here.

Predicted Football Score: Syracuse 24, Akron 20

Predicted Basketball Score: Syracuse 67 Akron 55

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Summer School in the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Around The Big East:

  • NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
  • Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ‘em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead.  Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Timessued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
  • LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At MarquetteDJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
  • Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested.  Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
  • Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.

Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.

Power Rankings:

  1. Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
  2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
  3. Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tim Abromaitis Arrested In South Bend

Posted by nvr1983 on July 17th, 2010

It turns out that there are still kids at college during the summer. Unfortunately for the athletic department at Notre Dame some of the players on the football and basketball team were arrested while attending an off-campus party late last night. According to reports out of South Bend, 44 individuals were arrested (41 for underage drinking) including 11 athletes. While the 8 Irish football players (one of whom was Nate Montana, son of Joe Montana) will garner most of the national headlines because it is Notre Dame (and they play football), there were two basketball players arrested as well (Tim Abromaitis and incoming Irish point guard Eric Atkins). Although Atkins is a talented point guard who should fit in well with Mike Brey‘s system, the bigger news is the arrest of Abromaitis, who was the team’s leading returning scorer (16.1 PPG) and is expected to take over as the team’s star with the departure of Luke Harangody. Given the nature of the crime (underage drinking), his age (turns 21 on September 17th), and the precedent that the Irish administration with Jimmy Clausen, we don’t expect Abromaitis to get much more than a small non-public slap on the wrist. Our guess is that the most Brey and the Irish administration will do is threaten not to make Abromaitis a captain next year if something similar happens again.

Not the image that Mike Brey wanted to see of his star this summer

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The Two-Week Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline Must Go

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2010

If you regularly read this site, you know that the early entry withdrawal deadline for the NBA Draft passed with much zero fanfare at 5 pm ET on Saturday afternoon.  Prospective draftees, many of whom were in the middle of exam periods at their schools, had a mere two weeks to make a final decision whether to take the plunge and give up their collegiate eligibility for the dream of NBA riches.  The two-week window for withdrawal is a new NCAA rule designed to engender program continuity and recruiting at the expense of the student-athletes they purport to care about.  The elephant in the room question is whether players on the fence about declaring for the draft had enough time to be able to properly consider and assess their draft prospects, and the short answer appears to be that they did not.  Surprise surprise

Let’s take a quick comparative snapshot of last year’s early entry pool versus this year’s.  The 2009 early entries had an additional five-plus weeks to work out for teams, attend the draft combine and communicate with scouts, coaches and family members before making a final call on the matter.  It’s quite possible that two months was too much time, but the salient point is that they had plenty of it from which to make an informed decision.  From a pool of 74 underclassmen who originally declared for the NBA Draft, nearly half withdrew resulting in a final total of 39 early entries, two-thirds (26) of whom were ultimately drafted.  This year there was a rough equivalent of 80 early entries, but only 30 of those players withdrew by Saturday afternoon’s deadline, leaving 50 hopeful underclassmen jockeying for positions in a 60-pick draft (see above list).  Keep in mind that there are numerous international prospects as well as seniors such as Luke Harangody, Damion James, Jarvis Varnado and Jerome Jordan who will also be chosen in late June. 

The key problems are apparent:

  1. NBA teams are not evaluating players yet.  As of last week, there were still eight teams playing games, and the others were still closing out their seasons.  According to Louisville head coach Rick Pitino who was trying to get information for his sophomore center Samardo Samuels, only one of the thirty NBA teams held player evaluations prior to this year’s May 8 deadline.  If the idea behind ‘testing the waters’ is for players to receive accurate evaluations of their game from professional scouts, then we’re at a loss in understanding how this date makes any sense whatsoever. 
  2. The Chicago Pre-Draft Camp needs to move.  This camp that takes place in late May/early June allows fence-sitting players to see how they stack up in drills and workouts against their peers rather than trying to patch together a guesstimate based on little more than rumor and third-hand information.  Obviously, the NBA does not care about appeasing the NCAA, but perhaps Stern & company could be persuaded to move it up by a couple of weeks to reach a happy medium.  Otherwise, if it doesn’t move, then the NCAA needs to give in and make the deadline fit the calendar of this camp. 

Looking at the list of early entries above, we see more than a few names who are likely to be incredibly disappointed come draft night — from Bassett to Young and numerous faces in-between, we wonder if these players would have made the same decision if they’d actually been able to, you know, test the waters, as the original concept of the rule was intended. 

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Appreciation For The Departing Seniors

Posted by zhayes9 on May 7th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a regular RTC writer and resident bracketologist. You can follow his sports-related thoughts at Twitter.

Too often during the month-long period between the Final Four and the early entry deadline of the NBA Draft, the media, hoops blogs and talking heads only focus on the underclassmen that have put their name in the hat. Was it the correct decision? Should he come back to school instead? Did that player sign with an agent? These questions should be forwarded and debated, but it seems a distinguished group of players are left out of the national dialogue during this time: college seniors.

While most drafted seniors are plucked closer to the end of the second round than the lottery (there’s a reason they stayed in school four years, let’s face it) it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged. There’s an extensive list of four-year college players that have made a memorable impact for the Association. Thus, this article will be devoted entirely to those that battled on the college hardwood for four years, examining their impact on the collegiate game during their long stay and determining how they can have a lasting influence at the next level.

Damion James (Texas)- I wouldn’t rule out another senior sneaking into the first round, but it’s looking likely that James is the lone four-year player to be picked in the top-30. A unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 first team, James averaged a double-double during Texas’ disappointing campaign and passed Nick Collison’s conference record for rebounding. NBA scouts will drool over James’ ferocity in the glass and his superb athleticism. He also features an unblockable mid-range jumper that’s improved in accuracy over his development from a dependable role player to a superstar in one of college basketball’s most premier conferences. While James may not have a defined position at the moment, he will likely build a lengthy NBA career just based on his drive, athleticism, explosiveness, innate rebounding ability and mid-range jumper. James suited up in burnt orange with everyone from D.J. Augustin to Avery Bradley and his name should be lifted to the rafters at the Frank Erwin Center.

Quincy Pondexter (Washington)- Displaying awe-inspiring glimpses of potential throughout his first three seasons in Seattle, Pondexter finally molded into the player that every Washington fan so desperately wanted during his senior campaign. Bumping his scoring average over seven points per contest, Pondexter led his Huskies out of the Pac-10 abyss and into the Sweet 16. Pondexter’s consistency- a constant battle that eventually turned into a strength- was never more evident than during Washington’s Pac-10 Tournament final win over California and first and second round triumphs over Marquette and New Mexico. Pondexter poured in a steady 18 points in each contest and shot a clip under 50%, even notching a key offensive rebound and extending his season two days more with a short bank shot that sent the Huskies to the second round. There’s little doubt in my mind Pondexter will continue to harness that natural talent at the next level. His extensive wingspan, ability to score in transition and comfort with defending multiple positions provide just a glance into Pondexter’s value.

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Let The Madness Begin

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2010

All season long we have heard about how this year did not feature a “dominant team” and this was the “weakest bubble ever”, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a great tournament, which may be off the greatest start to a NCAA Tournament ever. While I’m not usually one prone to hyperbole, I can confidently say that I am having a hard time thinking of an opening set of games that can compare with this year. So far we have had the following things happen today:

  • Double-overtime thriller between BYU and UF where Jimmer Fredette (37 points) announced himself to the non-college basketball obsessed nation and proved to be a bit of a prophet when he told Chandler Parsons (aka “The Regular Season Christian Laettner“): “No game-winning shots tonight”. Parsons proceeded to miss potential game-winners at the end of regulation and the first OT.
  • #3 seed Baylor, a trendy pick to advance to the Final Four out of the South, struggling to put away #14 Sam Houston State in a game that was tied at 55 with 2:40 remaining in regulation
  • #2 seed Villanova, a Final Four team last year, almost falling to #15 seed Robert Morris in a game that the Wildcats trailed by 7 points with under 4 minutes to go. If the Wildcats hadn’t found a way to comeback, Jay Wright‘s decision to sit his senior star Scottie Reynolds at the start of the game as a “teaching point” then having Reynolds respond by going 2/15 from the field would have been talked about for a very long time in Philadelphia.
  • Old Dominion knocking out Notre Dame, 51-50, after the Irish missed a late 3 to tie the game and Luke Harangody, one of the most decorated players in the program’s history, added a meaningless put-back (he said he was trying to draw a foul and tie it with the continuation) for only his second basket in 23 minutes of action.

And that was only the undercard to the main event in San Jose where Vanderbilt took on Murray State in a game that was even more emotional for the Racers than you would normally expect given the recent death of the mother of Picasso Simmons, a guard for the Racers.  After letting a small lead in the 2nd half slip away, the Racers found themselves down by one with 4.2 seconds left. What followed will certainly put Racers guard Danero Thomas into this year’s “One Shining Moment” and quite possibly into NCAA lore:

(h/t to Dan Levy for the video)

I don’t want to sound like Magic Johnson, but after years of critics bashing the tournament I think it is safe to say “The NCAA Tournament is BACK!”

After the jump we have a picture of A.J. Ogilvy in the aftermath of the shot by Thomas from our correspondent who is covering the games in San Jose and a full highlight video from the game.

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First Round Game Analysis: Thursday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Thursday afternoon games.

Thursday, March 18 (all times ET)

12:20 pm – #7 BYU vs. #10 Florida  (Oklahoma City pod)

The NCAA Tournament kicks off in style this year with a good first round game from Oklahoma City.  BYU enters the postseason riding the wave of one of its most successful regular seasons in decades, but it won’t matter much if the Cougars can’t slay their old bugaboo of winning a first round game on Thursday afternoon.  The last time BYU won an NCAA opener in 1993, Grant Hill’s high fade was in style and the internet was something employees wore in their hair at fast food joints.  Eight trips later, BYU has by far its best team and chance to end that losing streak.  Jimmer Fredette is the best player casual fans haven’t yet heard of, but his 21/3/5 assts per game and 45% three-point shooting allow for the occasional explosion, as in the cases where he dropped 49 points at Arizona or 45 against TCU just last week in the Mountain West Tournament.  The Cougs’ opponent, Florida, limped into the postseason, having lost four of five games and is a questionable entrant (especially as a #10 seed).  But the Gators are still dangerous, boasting five players who average double figures with an ability to go off at any time.  The most difficult problem Florida will face, though, is how to stop the highly efficient offense that BYU brings to the dusty plains.  Dave Rose’s team shoots well from everywhere on the floor, and the Gator defense has been appropriately described as soft throughout the season, so UF will have to get into a high-scoring shootout to have a chance to outscore the Cougars in this one.

The Skinny: it’ll be difficult for Florida’s defense to slow the offensive talents of Fredette and his Cougars so we’re going with BYU by ten in a shootout.

12:25 pm – #6 Notre Dame vs. #11 Old Dominion  (New Orleans pod)

Everybody knows about the Irish and their response to what was believed to be a potential season-ending injury to their superstar Luke Harangody. After the injury (and during Harangody’s return), the Irish have rebuilt themselves into a better team. We’re not saying they are a better team without Harangody because that would be ridiculous, but the brand of basketball they play when they don’t dump it down to him and watch him go to work is producing better results. They will have their hands full with the CAA champion (both regular season and tournament) Old Dominion. While the Monarchs ended up losing many of the “resume-building” games they played this year, they were competitive in most of them (5-point loss versus Missouri and 9-point loss at Northern Iowa) they also managed to win the biggest game on their schedule at #3-seeded Georgetown. So we know they can hang with a Big East team. Now the question is whether senior Gerald Lee can put it together to lead Blaine Taylor’s squad to an upset in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.  It says here that they can, but the Irish are playing so well that they won’t.

The Skinny: Notre Dame gets enough production from each of its key scorers and is able to clamp down late on Lee and company to eke out a six-point victory.

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