For one reason or another and you may not have noticed it, but last year Solomon Hill was really, really good. Maybe it was because the Pac-12 was way down and at times unwatchable. Maybe it was because his Wildcats finished in an unusual position, watching instead of participating in the NCAA Tournament. But for whatever reason, Hill’s performance as a junior got swept under the rug. A closer look shows that Hill wound up as the first Wildcat since Andre Iguodala in 2003-04 to lead his team in both assists and rebounds in a season. Better yet, he’s the first ‘Cat since Luke Walton in 2001-02 to pull off that two-fer while also finishing in the top two on the team in scoring. And, in case you forgot, Iguodala and Walton were both very special college basketball players.
Now, certainly Hill has a ways to go before he can quite measure up to either of those great Wildcats. After all, while Hill led his team with a mere 2.6 assists per game last season, Walton notched 6.3 assists and Iguodala 4.9 per night. But Hill’s numbers more than compare to either of those future NBA players in other areas. Check out our handy-dandy chart below.
Aside from the above numbers, we’ve also got to give Walton credit for being a part of at least a Sweet Sixteen team, while Iguodala’s club bowed out in the first round and Hill’s suffered an ignominious first-round NIT loss. But looking at the above numbers alone, Hill’s at least in the ballpark with the other two. Taking a look at some more advanced stats (that I’m not even going to pretend I know how to calculate – h/t to sportsreference.com for the numbers), Hill’s 5.6 Win Shares last year dwarf the totals for the other two.
We aren’t sure if the NCAA is taking a tougher look at academic transcripts, but it seems like there have been more major recruits ruled academically ineligible in the past few weeks than we are used to (more likely that is is just the recency effect). The latest incoming freshman to fall under the watchful eye of the NCAA is Ohio State recruit LaQuinton Ross who was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA. NCAA rules state that non-qualifiers cannot receive a scholarship or play for the year and lose a year of eligibility if they remain at the school. Ross is reportedly trying to circumvent that rule by attending another school and retaking the necessary classes and tests to qualify academically then enroll at Ohio State in January. It is a risky strategy, but Ohio State’s season could depend on whether Ross is able to qualify as the Buckeyes lack depth and experience on the perimeter and Ross could bring an interesting blend that might be enough to propel the Buckeyes into the Final Four given all the other pieces they already have in place.
In a story that may only interest fans that hate Duke (wait, that includes fans of every other college basketball team?) recruit Alex Poythress has reportedly cut his list to four schools and the Blue Devils are not among that group after telling Poythress they are no longer interested in recruiting him. Given the media storm surrounding Mike Krzyzewski‘s potentially rule-breaking recruitment of Poythress during the July recruiting period we have to say this is sort of humorous. We doubt that Duke will ever discuss why they were no longer interested in Poythress so the entire incident will probably just end up being something relegated to Internet message boards like the Myron Piggie saga.
We normally stick to college basketball, but we found Malcolm Gladwell’s article on the financial incentives of some professional franchises (in this case the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets) particularly insightful in light of the current NBA work stoppage and all the debates about NCAA finances. While we have had our qualms with Gladwell’s analysis in the past (see here) he does an excellent job of distilling a rather complex issue into a simple one. Just remember this article and the example of Bruce Ratner when you hear a team or school talking about taking a significant loss on a sport. We aren’t saying that some schools/teams don’t lose money as we firmly believe that many programs are in the red, but it is something you should look at with a grain of salt.
Speaking of the new Barclay Arena, the Atlantic 10 has decided to move its conference tournament there starting in 2013. While we wouldn’t consider this a major coup, it is a nice addition and will help build up the marketability of Barclay’s for more sporting events in the future. As for the Atlantic 10, this will the fifth venue for the post-season tournament since 2000, but does stay close to their major geographic region, which has traditionally been Philadelphia. We are guessing that both Barclay’s and the conference hope that this location can be a little bit longer-lasting than some of the recent previous sites even if the stability of many conference is questionable at best.
When Memphis added Luke Walton to its staff we thought it was little more than a cute marketing gimmick, but it appears that Josh Pastner is serious about utilizing Walton as he has been taking him on recruiting visits including one to visit Alex Poythress who has kept Memphis on his list (unlike Duke). While we do find this entire experiment interesting we do question the impact that Walton’s presence has on the recruits since (1) Walton didn’t play at Memphis, (2) he has no tie to the school other than knowing the coaching staff, and (3) he is gone as soon as the NBA ends its work stoppage. If we were a top high school recruit, Walton coming into our house would mean a lot less than someone like John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski coming as Walton is nothing more than a celebrity fan kind of like Justin Timberlake except that our sister wouldn’t be going crazy when Walton walks in the house.
If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.
Bruce Pearl Expected to Receive “Show Cause” Penalty: Reports indicate that the former Tennessee coach will receive a multi-year show cause penalty. (A Sea of Blue)
USA 86, Germany 83: “Team USA earned it’s sixth win of the World University Games tournament and secured fifth place with a three point win over Team Germany, 86-83.” (Villanova by the Numbers and The Daily Gopher)
Billy Gillispie already causing problems at Texas Tech: Reports of multiple staff members leaving including at least one after an altercation with Gillispie. (Kentucky Sports Radio)
Lakers’ Luke Walton to play assistant coach at Memphis during NBA lockout: “Walton was recommended by Memphis Tigers head coach Josh Pastner to become an assistant coach on his staff, a move that will go through barring any disapproval by the Tennessee Board of Regents or the school itself.” (Arizona Desert Swarm)
Pittsburgh’s Non-Conference Schedule: A look at a fairly benign list of opponents. (Pitt Blather)
Forgive West Tennessee residents if they feel like their beloved Memphis Tigers have taken on a colorful desert hue lately. Head coach Josh Pastner announced on Monday that his open third assistant coaching position will go to former Arizona star and currently locked-out Los Angeles Laker, Luke Walton. Walton continues the Wildcat theme on the banks of the Mississippi River, as Pastner and his two other assistants, Jack Murphy and Damon Stoudamire, are also UA graduates having come from the coaching tree of Lute Olson. Walton will be responsible for big man instruction as well as some recruiting at Memphis, and the 31-year old who has only played intermittently because of nagging injuries the last two seasons, is probably looking for a comfortable landing spot once his playing career ends. If you’re interested in more information on this, Pastner discusses the hiring of Walton in this clip.
New Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers received great news with the completion of transfer paperwork for Southern Mississippi guard DJ Newbill on Monday. Newbill, a native of Philadelphia where he was the Pennsylvania Class AA player of the year in 2009-10, had a fantastic freshman season in Hattiesburg. He was selected as an all-CUSA frosh after a year where he contributed 9.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG while shooting 53.5% from the field. His rebounding numbers are what sets him apart, though; at only 6’4″, 195 lbs, the lithe Newbill finished in the top 200 players nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (11.3%) and had six games of double-figure boards. When he becomes eligible with three years remaining in 2012-13, Penn State fans are going to fall in love with the heart, effort and desire of this guy.
It’s been a week since the Nevin Shapiro/Miami fiasco hit the media, and in the interim, Gary Parrish writes that Missouri brass have done exactly the wrong thing in leaving their new head coach (and subject of allegations) Frank Haith dangling in the wind. By stating on the record that they are “waiting for the NCAA process to carry itself out,” they’re essentially cutting the legs out from under Haith’s ability to compete on the recruiting trail against schools that are without question using that uncertainty against him. Of course, what Parrish argues makes complete sense here: Either you come out with full public support of your coach, or you don’t, but to leave him in a purgatory of pending is to effectively emasculate your own program.
We talk a lot about the difficulties that mid-majors have in developing good schedules to improve their RPIs and, by proxy, their chances at the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. But we rarely discuss the quandary that lower-level power conference teams face when setting their non-conference schedules. As this piece by Brian Rosenthal at the Lincoln Journal-Star shows, Nebraska assistant coach Chris Croft called nearly every major basketball school in America in an effort to improve the Huskers’ schedule in 2011-12. Most had no interest in a game with Doc Sadler’s team anywhere, and even fewer were inclined to travel to Lincoln during the winter. Eventually they confirmed games against USC, Wake Forest and Oregon, but other schools, like Notre Dame (“stop calling”) and Duke (“only in Durham”) were considerably less interested. Furthermore, with Nebraska’s recent move to the Big Ten and a less-than-amicable split from the Big 12 still fresh on everyone’s minds, the Huskers got a full Heisman from their old league — not a single school would play them next year, anywhere. Go figure.
Staying in the Big 12, Kansas announced on Monday that it would be holding an alumni game called “Legends of the Phog” on September 24 in Lawrence. The NBA lockout has created a situation where NBA players have more available time for games like these (Kentucky, as you recall, had something similar in Lexington and Louisville last week). The Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce has already committed to the game, and you can bet that many of Bill Self’s recent Jayhawk stars such as Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers and others will be in attendance. Some of the proceeds will go to charity, and tickets will go on sale the week after Labor Day.
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Kyle Singler
Height/Weight: 6’9, 225 lbs.
NBA Position: Small Forward/Power Forward
Projected Draft Range: Late First Round
Overview: Although he was unable to lead the Blue Devils to a repeat national championship, Singler leaves Duke as one of the most decorated players in the school’s history. Throughout his four years in Cameron, Singler put up solid if not spectacular numbers. While he doesn’t have a single skill that jumps out at you as being “great,” he does possess a solid overall game that will attract no shortage of NBA scouts and executives. One of the more interesting aspects in evaluating Singler is that while he has puts up good numbers in all four years at Duke, he never really took the next step as his production appeared to level off around his sophomore season. Prior to his arrival at Duke, Singler was a highly recruited prospect out of Oregon whose team actually beat Kevin Love in the state tournament in their senior year. To his credit, unlike many highly recruited prospects, Singler lived up to the hype although he never developed into a dominant superstar that many had earlier hoped for. It is true that Singler has improved certain aspects of his game (most notably his free throw shooting), but at some level it is also concerning that Singler’s game hasn’t progressed as one might hope. Some of this may be attributable to the improvement in the players around him with Kyrie Irving arriving for Singler’s senior season (albeit briefly) and Nolan Smith showing a dramatic improvement at the same time. This leads to the obvious concern that despite playing for one of the greatest college coaches of all-time Singler’s game may have plateaued and he may not demonstrate the improvement that many players show after making the transition to the NBA. Of course, it could also just be a case of Singler needing to get into new surroundings and playing in a different system that utilizes his all-around game more than was done at Duke.
Singler Has a Lot to Offer an NBA Team in Versatility
Will Translate to the NBA: Singler’s function in the NBA will be a role player. While this might concern some fans, it is also about the risk/reward of a draft pick at the point in the first round that a team would be considering Singler. It is extremely unlikely that a team would be able to land a franchise player in the late first round particularly in this year’s weak draft. On the other hand, it is unlikely that Singler will be a bust. Out of any player in the draft pool, Singler may have the most defined role on his future team–that of a solid rotation player who might start for a team that doesn’t make the playoffs or come off the bench for a playoff team. Obviously there will be some overlap there, but don’t count on Singler being the star of a NBA championship team any time soon. He will probably end up being a solid role player who does a little bit of everything well and becomes a fan favorite because of his fundamentals and willingness to give up his body for this team even if he won’t be putting up many 20+ point games.
Well it’s the series everybody has been waiting for (ok, not rtmsf). I’ll try to limit my bias in this preview although all of my friends are well aware of the extent of my taunting. Honestly, they’re just happy there isn’t a potential Triple Crown (and eternal bragging rights) at stake here. Anyways, on to what might be the most hyped NBA Finals since 1991 when Michael Jordan formally took the throne away from Magic Johnson (and Larry Bird).
By now, you may have heard that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have a little bit of basketball history. Boston comes in sporting an amazing 16-3 record in NBA Finals, but no appearances since 1987 andno titles since 1986 (following that title they selected a forward out of Maryland named Len Bias). Meanwhile, LA comes in with a 9-13 record, but had a 3-peat from 2000-2002 and appeared in the 2004 Finals. However, as Rick Pitino said during his ignominious stint in Boston:
Despite all the hype ESPN has given (wonder who has broadcast rights) to the history of this rivalry–think hammer versus nail (sorry, I can’t help myself)–none of the players that led the franchises to their numerous titles will be walking through that door except for some guy named Kobe Bryant. So instead of focusing on the glorious past of this match-up, I’ll focus on the present and this season.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fischer. It seems like this match-up hasn’t been getting much press, but I think it could be the most pivotal of the series. This is definitely a young gun versus experience veteran type of match-up as Rondo is much more athletic than Fischer, but is more prone to making silly mistakes. Along with experience, Fischer has a big edge on Rondo in terms of shooting. With all the helpside defense that Kobe demands, Fischer will likely get a lot of shots. Advantage: Fischer. This match-up is closer than you might think because of Rondo’s athleticism and his surprising maturity. Unfortunately for Boston, Rondo is too inconsistent to give Boston the advantage at PG, but if he plays well he should be able to equal Fischer.
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant. Somehow this turned into a rivalry soon after Shaq left LA and Ray Allen told the media that Kobe would go to to Mitch Kupchak in a few years and demand a trade (a few years later. . .). Later, Kobe said that he and Jesus Shuttlesworth shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence. Now, the two All-Stars are saying that there never really was a feud. Why do I bring this up? Well because even though these two play the same position, I can’t see them guarding each other much. LA might put Kobe on Allen particularly if he goes into another one of his funks, but Kobe roams too much and that’s a very bad idea against Allen even if he hasn’t been performing up to his standard. As for Allen guarding Kobe, even Doc Rivers isn’t that dumb. Kobe will see a steady diet of James Posey and occasionally Paul Pierce although Ray Allen will probably play some matador defense against him early in the game as Kobe will probably defer to his teammates early as he notes “I can get off any time I want” (insert Colorado hotel room joke here). Advantage: Kobe. This one isn’t even close. Allen has sort of become a wild card for the Celtics. Even when he’s on this position goes to Kobe and the Lakers, but if Allen can hit from the outside he can keep Boston in the series.
Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs. Vladimir Radmanovic. This might be the biggest mismatch of the series (not including the coaches). If they match up head-to-head, Pierce will dominate Vlad. As Shaq once said, “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.” An Inglewood native, Pierce grew up idolizing Magic and the Showtime Lakers, but during his time in green, he has torched the Lakers for a career average of 27.9 PPG (his most against any team). My guess is that Kobe will be guarding Pierce in crunchtime. The rest of the time Vlad will try to stay in front of him. The key for LA is for Vlad to hit his 3s, which usually energizes the Hollywood crowd (if it’s after the 6 minute mark in the 2nd quarter when the crowd shows up) and will make Pierce or whoever is guarding him work. Advantage: Pierce. Big edge although this might turn into a Kobe vs. Pierce match-up, which Kobe would still win.
Power Forward: Kevin Garnett vs. Lamar Odom. This is the most interesting match-up of the series. Although Pierce is Boston’s go-to guy, KG is the heart-and-soul of the team. Usually he is able to dominate at the 4 because he is much more versatile than the opposing player. However, Odom’s unique skill set could theoretically pose a problem for KG especially with the amount of help defense he will have to play with Kobe and Gasol. Odom has the type of game that could limit KG’s ability to roam, but Odom is so inconsistent that it may not matter. Advantage: Garnett. If you look at the match-up on paper based on skills, it would be pretty close other than defense, which Odom doesn’t seem to care about most of the time. However, KG’s consistency and effort wins out over Odom’s tendency to space out (insert bong joke here).
Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Pau Gasol. The Boston fans will really hate Chris Wallace by the time this series is over. Not only did he kill a few years of Paul Pierce’s prime by trading Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk (some blame falls on Paul Gaston, the Celtics owner at the time, who refused to resign either player), but he also gave the Lakers Gasol, who poses a tough match-up for Perkins. One of the 3 straight-to-pro starters this series (you probably know the other two) Perkins has grown a lot this year. Playing alongside KG has certainly helped during games, but perhaps more importantly off the court in practice and it shows in his improved performance. Unfortunately for Kendrick, Gasol is basically the worst match-up he could have. While Perkins is a hard-nosed defender with good strength, he isn’t particularly agile and the Lakers pick-and-roll with Kobe and Gasol could give Celtics fans nightmares over the next 2 weeks. Gasol will probably dominate this match-up unless Perkins can somehow turn this into a physical match-up. To limit the Lakers advantage, Perkins will have to try and dominate the glass as the Lakers don’t really have a great rebounder (Gasol can put up numbers, but isn’t going to get physical) while the Celtics have two (Perkins and Garnett). Advantage: Gasol. The Lakers have a clear advantage here as Gasol is one of the best centers in the league, but it’s closer than most people think. Perkins has had some big games in the playoffs and will need to do so in this series if the Celtics are to win #17.
Bench: James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, & Sam Cassell vs. Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmer, Ronny Turiaf, & Trevor Ariza. The Celtics will probably use Posey quite a bit on Kobe and Brown on Gasol as neither of the Celtic starters appear to match up particularly well. If Posey can focus on staying in front of Kobe and knock down 3s on kickouts, he could become an important facto in the series. Outside of Posey, Brown and House are the most likely to play key roles in this series. Brown primarily for his interior presence against Gasol and House to spot up for 3s assuming Doc notices Cassell couldn’t cut it in a YMCA league. Powe and Big Baby could also contribute in spots, but I have a feeling that Doc will yank around their minutes too much to give either a chance to contribute for more than a game or two. If Doc is smart, Allen and Cassell won’t take off their warm-ups as neither of them has contributed much this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers have a very strong bench. I’m pretty sure Walton would start on most teams in the league. He’s one of the rare players who can come into the game and make an immediate impact, which I attribute to Luke being one of the few players in the NBA who plays with his head instead of his body. Vujacic and Farmer have also proven to be valuable and will spell Fischer when Rondo starts to wear him out. Both of them can hit 3s, which will make them valuable when Kobe decides to drive. As for Turiaf, he’s not a great player, but he’s the only legit thing the Lakers have as a 4/5 backup. Advantage: Lakers. This may be the difference in the series even if Doc doesn’t screw up the rotations like he usually does.
Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers. The Zen Master with 9 rings as a coach (tied with Red Auerbach) and 11 rings overall (tied with Bill Russell) versus the least stable rotation in basketball history. Advantage: Jackson. This is probably the biggest mismatch in Finals history. Even Ubuntu can’t save Doc in this one and it might cost the Celtics a shot at the title.
Prediction: Lakers in 6. If the Celtics play to their potential (that means you Ray), I think they can win, but he’s just been so inconsistent and the Lakers have been so dominant (in a better conference) that I just can’t pick them to win as much as it kills me if you haven’t caught my bias in the preview. I think LA and Boston will split the opening 2 games and Boston will come back to win 1 of 3 in LA before Kobe takes over in Game 6 and puts the Celtics away.