Morning Five: 05.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 4th, 2012

  1. In just the last three days, the Atlantic 10 has added Butler, the Mountain West has eviscerated the WAC with its additions of San Jose State and Utah State, and now Conference USA has finished it off as a major conference by grabbing Louisiana Tech to go along with the A-10’s Charlotte and the Sun Belt’s North Texas and FIU. There will be a quiz on all of these moves in mid-August. What does this mean from a college basketball perspective? Probably not much. Neither Charlotte nor Louisiana Tech have been relevant in a long time, and although North Texas made the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2010, winning in the Sun Belt is less challenging than it will be dealing with UTEP, Tulsa, Southern Miss, and UAB in a revamped Conference USA.
  2. A little under two years ago we touched on an ESPN story about a high school basketball player named Jerry Joseph who may have actually been a 22-year old named Guerdwich Montimere. It was a bizarre story at the time, and it got only weirder as ultimately Joseph/Montimere was convicted and sent to prison for sexual assault on an underage high school student and tampering with government records. In a recent column for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Wright Thompson attempted to connect all the dots of the saga in a meaningful way, putting a story behind the story of a wayward young man who no doubt got lost in the hype and fame of being the big man on campus. Great read.
  3. Illinois fans caught a glimpse into the mind of one of their incoming transfers when Sam McLaurin, a senior at Coastal Carolina who will take advantage of the one-year graduate school exception, announced (via Twitter, of course) “F— it im going to Illinois #illinination” on Thursday afternoon. McLaurin, a 6’10” power forward who averaged 10/8 last season, will provide some additional frontcourt depth in the wake of Meyers Leonard’s departure to the NBA. He later apologized for his choice of words (“Hey everyone sorry about my language last night. I was just extremely excited to be apart of #illinination”), but we doubt anyone from Waukegan to Carbondale will care much so long as he can bring his numbers every night next season.
  4. In one of the stupider bits of news to come out of our game this offseason (and there are plenty of candidates), Kentucky and Indiana have apparently decided to not renew its annual rivalry that dates back a half-century. The crux of the issue appears to be that UK wanted to move the series back to a rotating neutral site arrangement (likely splitting time between Indianapolis and Louisville, as it did from 1991-2005), while IU insisted on keeping the home-and-home series that had been in effect for the last seven years (and, of course, prior to 1991). If you read the tea leaves, and Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart suggests as much, it was John Calipari not “thrilled about going back to Bloomington” that appears to be driving this ridiculous decision. Look — we understand that a national championship coach typically gets what he wants when he wants it, but as Andy Glockner argues very well in this piece, that doesn’t mean that he’s right for wanting it. College basketball loses when rivalries like these end, and this is especially true now that IU under Tom Crean appears to finally be coming back around. Fix it.
  5. What’s this, a MAY version of Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings? That’s right, now that the NBA Draft deadline has passed and we have a better sense of where the top recruits are headed next season, Winn put together a list of 16 teams that mimics the RTC Top 25 (released Tuesday) at the very top, but has some significant differences with respect to where we ranked schools such as Syracuse, Michigan State, and Arizona. As always, you’ll learn quite a few things that you didn’t already know about people, places and things surrounding the game, so make sure to check it out before you head into the weekend.
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Morning Five: 05.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 3rd, 2012

  1. Round and round and round we go… coming on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement that Butler will join the Atlantic 10 beginning in the 2013-14 season, the Mountain West leaked on Wednesday that Utah State and San Jose State are set to join its ranks on Friday of this week. While bolstering the MW in light of its pending losses of TCU, San Diego State and Boise State, this move may effectively finish off the WAC, a high-mid major conference with just shy of 50 years of history behind it. The league may be left with only two football-playing members (New Mexico State and Idaho) and it appears that the remaining schools are likewise off to greener pastures. Such is the natural consequence of every school acting in its own self-interest.
  2. While on the subject of conference realignment, everyone has had a little time to digest the Butler move to the Atlantic 10 by now, and Luke Winn writes that much of the media got it wrong in suggesting that the “Butler Way” will need to change in order for the Bulldogs to find success in their new conference. His argument makes total sense — while the Atlantic 10 as a whole is a clearly better league than the Horizon, it’s really only better at the top. Now, instead of having to rely on non-conference play to build its overall NCAA resume, the Bulldogs will have enough games against the likes of Xavier, Dayton, Richmond, St. Louis, et al, by which to impress the selection committee. As Winn notes, efficiency metrics suggest that Butler would have finished in one of the top two positions of the A-10 standings in five of the last six years, and while those metrics don’t actually play the games, there’s not a compelling piece of evidence we’ve yet seen that would suggest Brad Stevens or Butler will have trouble in their new league.
  3. The 2012 Jimmy V Classic matchups were announced on Wednesday and the event will have a decidedly nostalgic feel next season in Madison Square Garden. The school where Jim Valvano became famous, NC State, will headline with its strong squad heading to New York to face Connecticut, while Texas and Georgetown will play in the other game. It’s only been 31 days since we last saw a college basketball game tip off, but simply reading about these matchups has already caused a marked increase in our heart rate and blood pressure.
  4. The 2012-13 version of ESPN Gameday will have a decidedly lower pitch next season, as the hyena-like laughter of Hubert Davis will no longer be a regular part of the show. Davis has agreed to take Jerod Haase’s open assistant coaching spot at his alma mater, North Carolina, after Haase decided to accept the head job at UAB last month. Roy Williams noted in previous comments about the position that a number of his former players were interested in the spot on his bench, and although Davis never played for the Kansas/UNC coach, his claim that the new assistant would have Carolina ties was clearly a factual statement. At the ripe age of 41, Davis is getting into the collegiate coaching game a bit late, but he’s certainly well connected and could use his seven years as an ESPN personality to help with recruiting and name recognition.
  5. Stanford’s basketball program may not be among the elite, but we’re becoming increasingly convinced that the university through its deep connections with tech giants such as Google and Facebook is well on its way to taking over the world, one terabyte at a time. In the Moneyball world of sports analytics, a Stanford senior named Muthu Alagappan recently developed an entirely new (and award-winning) way of looking at positions in basketball, based on the actual production of NBA players regardless of size or favored spots on the floor. Using data visualization techniques, he came up with 13 basketball positions with such descriptive names like the “Defensive Ball-Handler,” the “Paint Protector,” and the “One-of-a-Kind.” By grouping players into similar buckets and showing how they interact in a visual way, the concept is that value between similarly situated players will be easier to discern and effective balance between players on a team will be more easily achieved. It’s really interesting stuff — if you want to see the entire presentation, click over here.
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Morning Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2012

  1. Yesterday we mentioned that Luke Winn had written a piece handing out eight different coaching awards based on efficiency metrics from the entire season. His follow-up article published on Thursday broke down six more awards based on the data from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Several of the usual suspects populate this list, but you might be surprised at which head coach had the best after-timeout numbers in the Dance this year — he’s widely considered a very good coach, but probably not to the extent he deserves.
  2. Assistant coaches around the country must have thrown up in their mouths Thursday after it was reported that Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich would leave his position to become a “coach-in-waiting” at SMU under new top man Larry Brown. The reported salary that Jankovich will earn while he waits for the itinerant 71-year old to get bored and retire again is over $700,000 per year, nearly double his pay at ISU. Jankovich went 104-64 (.619) in five seasons as a Redbird but despite four 20-wins seasons, he never broke through to the NCAA Tournament there (settling for four NIT appearances instead). The sound that you now hear murmuring in the background is the collective scrum by the nation’s top assistants clamoring to renegotiate their compensation packages. Wow.
  3. It’s the offseason and although we’re still only about three weeks removed from the national championship game, some of the key questions heading into the 2012-13 season are already apparent. In this piece by Mike DeCourcy, you get a double-dip of the Cincinnati Kid (replete with goatee) through both his writing and a video clip discussion of some of those issues. Will UCLA improve its defense with their additions? Can Louisville find a reliable shot-maker? Can Thad Matta find someone to replace Jared Sullinger in the post? These and a couple other answers await if you click on over to TSN.
  4. Roy Williams did a Q&A with UNC fans in Charlotte on Wednesday night, leading to some interesting comments from the venerable coach who is heading into his 10th full season as the head coach of the Tar Heels. Of note: his team considered cutting down the nets in Cameron Indoor Stadium after winning the ACC regular season title, but thought that such a display “might cause a scene” (ya think?); recruiting the Wear Twins over Mason Plumlee was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done” (um…); and he has not completely bought into the 1-and-done methodology for winning a championship, making “some decisions over the last four or five years to not recruit certain kids, because it’s just going to be a one and done” (hey, John Wall).
  5. Finally, we’d be remiss as we close out this week if we didn’t at least mention the strong possibility that the BCS will move away from its incomprehensible system of choosing a football national champion and finally, inexorably, move toward a four-team playoff system beginning in 2014. There aren’t many policy decisions in public life that are complete no-brainers, but this is one of them. A decade from now people will mostly wonder why such an elementary solution to a complex problem took so long to implement. They’ll find the answer in the pocketbooks and vacation homes of bowl executives, but once January Madness takes hold and they realize that the real dollars lie in capturing casual fans (see: Bowl, Super), they too will realize the error of their ways. Congrats to our college football brethren for finally joining the 20th century.
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Morning Five: 04.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 26th, 2012

  1. Kermit Davis, the head coach of Middle Tennessee State for the last decade, parlayed an offer to become the new top guy at Southern Miss into an opportunity to secure himself a nice extension at his current school. Proving the old adage that you’re only as valuable as what someone will pay for your services, Davis’ cachet on the MTSU campus increased significantly more in the last 24 hours than it did over the course of all 27 of those wins for the Blue Raiders last year. Middle Tennessee expects to return nine of its top 10 players from a team that won the Sun Belt regular season going away and reached the NIT quarterfinals in the postseason.
  2. In yesterday’s M5 we talked about the possibility of Indiana legend Calbert Cheaney joining Tom Crean’s staff as an associate coach if he decides to take the promotion. On Wednesday another college hoops legend from the early 1990s agreed to a promotion to the coaching ranks, as Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress will become the Demon Deacons’ new Director of Player Development. After a long career in the NBA and Europe that ended in 2011, Childress returned to his alma mater last year to work as AD Ron Wellman’s assistant. Perhaps this move will help head coach Jeff Bzdelik revive a moribund program that has never truly recovered from Skip Prosser’s tragic death in 2007.
  3. One of the hardest luck stories from Louisville’s surprising run to the Final Four last season was that redshirt junior forward Jared Swopshire was clearly nowhere near the player he was prior to groin surgery in early 2011. He played 13.4 minutes per game in all but one of Louisville’s 40 contests last year, but his averages of 3.3 PPG and 2.8 RPG were well off his numbers two years ago when he was a regular starter. With Swopshire due to graduate this year and Louisville choosing to move on, Northwestern formally announced on Wednesday that Swopshire will transfer there for his fourth and final season of eligibility. As the Wildcats make their annual attempt to sneak into the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13, having a still-athletic and experienced forward like Swopshire on the front line to battle Big Ten foes will come in quite handy.
  4. You don’t see many longer-form articles like this piece from Jason King at ESPN.com at this time of year, but his article discussing how coaches such as Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall, Dan Monson and others have found happiness at their mid-major oases is a good one. One of the key differences of course is that those particular programs have made financial and resource commitments that — even if not apples-to-apples with power conference schools — at least make those programs competitive with the big boys. There’s a huge difference between a Butler and a Duke, for example, in terms of basketball facilities, fan base, and the rest; but is there that much of a competitive advantage for a school like Iowa over Butler by virtue of its membership in the Big Ten? Probably not.
  5. While on the subject of coaches in this heavily-themed M5, Luke Winn brings us his first-ever Data-Based Coaching Awards, a compendium of prizes given in a variety of efficiency-based categories. The categories range from such specific metrics as the “After-Timeout Efficiency King” to “Most Success With the Least Experience,” and there is a mishmash of predictable and interesting results. We won’t give it away here, but three of the eight awards listed in this piece went to the same guy and you probably already know who that is. Winn promises us even more data-based coaching awards later today with a focus on the NCAA Tournament alone. Can’t wait.
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Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

  1. We suppose that we should recognize that there’s a football game going on this weekend in Indianapolis that involves a couple of well-known quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas sports gambling establishments are offering all kinds of ridiculous prop bets on the Sunday evening Super Bowl, but as The Dagger’s Ryan Greene writes in this piece, there are an interesting array of crossover props available that institute both this weekend’s college basketball action as well as the NFL championship. That’s right, if you are inclined to pick between Northwestern star John Shurna’s combined points and rebounds vs. Tom Brady’s number of completions or any number of other crazy wagers, Vegas invites you to come on down and give them some of your money.
  2. It’s not every day that you’ll read an article that compares the New York Times and Deadspin in the same sentence, but this piece by Dave Pickle at the NCAA does exactly such a thing. Feeling a need to respond to an onslaught of negative reporting from the Times’ Joe Nocera, the NCAA is fighting back using its own media platform. We read the original pieces that Nocera wrote regarding Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright, but he’s moved well beyond that criticism into other areas including the right to privacy and other associated injustices that he accuses the NCAA of perpetrating. The organization has responded in kind by accusing Nocera of an inherent conflict-of-interest (his fiancee’ is the communications director for a law firm suing the NCAA on the “likeness” issue) and bringing up a prior rebuke for calling Tea Party members “terrorists.” We certainly appreciate the interest that Nocera has taken in the inner workings of the NCAA, but we’d prefer if there were more news organizations asking similar questions on multiple fronts so that the one-man crusade aspect of this would disappear.
  3. A bit of recruiting news beyond Nerlens Noel on Thursday — the Jordan Brand Classic rosters were announced for the April 14 game in Charlotte, and seven of the top 10 players according to Rivals will be on the rosters. Noel himself will not be there because he did not reclassify to the Class of 2012 in time for consideration, but somehow we don’t think that will affect his hyper-recruitment in the next couple of months. The West team will be comprised of consensus #1 player Shabazz Muhammad (undecided) along with “forward Brandon Ashley (Arizona), center Isaiah Austin (Baylor), forward Anthony Bennett (undecided), wing Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), wing Danuel House (Houston), wing Grant Jerrett (Arizona), guard Marcus Paige (North Carolina), wing Alex Poythress (Kentucky) and guard Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke).” The East team will consist of UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson, “guard Kris Dunn (Providence), wing Jerami Grant (Syracuse), guard Garry Harris (Michigan State), forward Brice Johnson (North Carolina), wing Ricardo Ledo (Providence), center Tony Parker (undecided), guard Rodney Purvis (N.C. State), center Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona) and wing J.P. Tokoto (North Carolina).”
  4. This story doesn’t involve Division I basketball, but it’s scary enough to be newsworthy. A charter bus from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, carrying the men’s and women’s basketball teams (the ‘Roos) caught fire during the trip to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday forcing both teams to evacuate the bus to get to safety. One athlete was provided medical treatment for smoke inhalation, but the remainder of the traveling party was able to transfer to another bus and move on to its road trip to Colorado. Still, a harrowing situation that luckily didn’t involve anything more serious than that.
  5. It’s Friday, which means that Luke Winn‘s latest and greatest Power Rankings came out yesterday. In this week’s column, you’ll learn which of the elite teams in America has the most balanced offense (hint: it’s not a school near Lake Oneida), Ricardo “Right Hook” Ratliffe’s offensive tendencies, a titillating teaser for more defensive charting on Syraucse, and even a reference to St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova’s mouthguard. Read it. In case that doesn’t provide you enough hoops analysis for one morning, Seth Davis also released a new Mailbag, which features an analysis of all the unbeaten conference teams’ chances for an at-large bid. Compelling stuff, as always.
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Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2012

  1. We all love college basketball — otherwise, you’re not reading this sentence and we’re not writing it. But do you ever wonder how the game matches up against the rest of the major American sports in terms of its popularity? Luckily for us, the Harris Poll annually measures exactly that thing, publishing its results in Sports Business Daily.The methodology of this poll is not all that sophisticated — the one question asked of 2,237 adults was to name their favorite US sport — but if you buy what they’re selling, college hoops at 5% is roughly equal in popularity to the NBA (5%), but is far behind the sporting goliath known as the NFL (36%) and has some ground to make up on MLB (13%), college football (13%), and NASCAR (8%). Since Harris didn’t ask people to list, for example, their top five favorites in popularity, it’s not really a true approximation of the sport’s popularity, but it’s worth noting nevertheless.
  2. In this interview with Gene Wojciechowski about his new book, The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball, here is his answer as to why the Elite Eight battle between the two titan programs was so epic: “Because it was Kentucky vs. Duke, Pitino vs. Krzyzewski, the soon-to-be-called Unforgettables vs. the virtually unbeatables of Duke. Because the game was played at an incredibly high level from start to finish. Because it went to overtime. Because you need a calculator to add all the great shots down the stretch and during OT. Because a Final Four was at stake. Because Kentucky was back from the near-dead and Duke was going for dynasty status.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up, with one additional caveat: David vs. Goliath — Kentucky wasn’t given a chance by anybody to win that game. Young folks, here’s your assignment: Read Wojciechowski’s book, then re-watch the game from start to finish. After that, if you can make an argument for a more compelling game in the last 35 years of college basketball, let us know.
  3. Player quote of the year? NC State got pummeled by North Carolina last night in Chapel Hill, the eleventh loss in a row for the Wolfpack to its hated rival a few miles up the road. After the game, NCSU junior Scott Wood (0-5 himself) expressed his frustration with continually losing to the Heels with a rather vivid analogy: “I don’t know. Has your wife ever cheated on you… (pause)… that’s probably how frustrated it would be.” We cannot speak from experience, but we’d imagine that Wood is suggesting a level of frustration suitable for medication. The Heels will pay NC State a return visit to Raleigh on February 21 — maybe by then Wood will have been re-educated by NC State brass to not actually speak his mind in public (although we appreciate the honesty, frankly).
  4. One of the chic picks for an upset this weekend is Iowa State hosting Kansas at Hilton Coliseum in Ames Saturday. With the Cyclones currently at 4-3 in the Big 12 race with wins at home already over Texas and Oklahoma State, it’s certainly a reasonable choice. If Iowa State manages to pull off the shocker, there’s no doubt that its big man, Royce White, will play a major role in the win. Myron Medcalf writes that the huge space-eater in the paint is dominating this season after a long layoff in large part because he’s learned to handle the anxiety that has at times caused him severe emotional problems in the past. It’s a very enlightening read, and for a player whose problems have inspired more ridicule than sympathy, perhaps provides some context to many of the negative stories surrounding this kid.
  5. It’s Friday which means that Luke Winn‘s power rankings are out for this week. A few of teaser jewels from this version: Kentucky may not be the best defensive team in the SEC, much less the nation; Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe is nothing if not consistent; Nike’s new uniforms are not only spacey but can elicit “super-sick dunks”; and, Vegas isn’t as smart as everybody thinks it is (well, at least when it comes to San Diego State’s travel woes). Enjoy.
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Big East Morning Five: 01.05.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 5th, 2012

  1. After some debate about who would start in place of injured center Chris Otule, Marquette coach Buzz Williams went with Jamil Wilson in lieu of Davante Gardner. But in the end, Gardner played 31 minutes and Wilson played just 14, and none of it mattered because neither made a big enough impact to stop Georgetown from rallying from a 14-point deficit at halftime to stun the Golden Eagles in a marquee early season conference match-up. Wilson finished with just four points and two rebounds while Gardner managed 11 points and four rebounds as Marquette lost its second straight game.  They did a good job containing the Hoyas’ underrated frontcourt, but it was Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson as usual who made the difference in the end. This would have been an excellent road win for the Golden Eagles, but alas, that will have to come from somewhere else.
  2. It isn’t every day that high-profile basketball coaches speak with true candor, but I guess when you are Villanova coach Jay Wright, and your team is 7-7 and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight seasons, you don’t really have to worry about sugar-coating anything. Wright placed the blame for his team’s slow start squarely on himself and the rest of the Wildcats’ coaching staff, but he surprisingly lamented the loss of some of the team’s recent transfers, even going as far as to single out Taylor King and Malcolm Grant by name. The reason these players got their names in the newspaper was because Wright correctly thinks that his team is lacking leadership and toughness. They are also — at least according to KenPom — lacking in defense (#113 in Adjusted Defense ), creation of turnovers (#327 in defensive turnover percentage), and luck (#329), but who’s counting anyways? The point is, the program has fallen on hard times at least for the time being. There is no reason to believe that the Wildcats will stay down given Wright’s recruiting and coaching ability, but Villanova fans might want to start looking forward to next year rather than hoping for a miraculous turnaround in this one.
  3. One of Sports Illustrated‘s finest, Luke Winn, took the changing of the calendar to reflect on a few of his preseason predictions, including one that pegged Syracuse, Louisville, UConn, and Pittsburgh as the top four teams, and a severe drop-off after that. It’s hard not to agree with thoughts like Syracuse being the conference’s best team by a wide margin, and that the conference’s middle teams are as “soft” as they have been in a long time. I still think Louisville, despite its offensive struggles, will be a Top-10 team at the end of the year and UConn has a great chance to be in the mix as well. As for Pittsburgh, well, let’s just say that until they learn how to stop anybody, they look as soft as the rest.
  4. Yearning for more X’s and O’s links, well you are in luck, because The Mikan Drill broke down Pittsburgh‘s effective fast break and gave senior forward Nasir Robinson some high praise for his basketball IQ in the process. Much like Brad Wanamaker was last year for the Panthers, Robinson is a tough but versatile player who provides leadership, intelligence, and attitude for a team still finding its identity. I will leave the film breakdown to the more experienced, I just agreed that Robinson deserved some credit for his play and felt like highlighting it and probably will again in this space.
  5. Excellent piece recently in The Chicago Tribune about DePaul sophomore Cleveland Melvin and his journey to the Chicago after growing up on the rugged streets of East Baltimore. Melvin, the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, was the lone bright spot (23 points and eight rebounds) for the Blue Demons in their conference-opening loss to Syracuse. He will likely play another big role tomorrow night when DePaul looks to upset Pitt. In fact, I am calling it here early, I think DePaul, playing at home, against a struggling team that still doesn’t have the services of a healthy Tray Woodall, will pull off the upset tomorrow night. Of course it is just as likely that Pitt’s offense is too much for DePaul’s bad defense, even without Woodall, and this game turns into a blowout. But I will take the Blue Demons in this one.
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Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

  1. In a recent interview with a local radio station, Purdue coach Matt Painter had some interesting things to say about last weekend’s Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. He laid a considerable amount of blame on the officials working the game for allowing things to escalate to the point of on-court mayhem (“experienced officials and guys who have control of games, they handle it, take care of it early and it’s not an issue […] to me, it was avoidable.”), but he also took some candid shots at XU’s players for their physical style of play and running mouths. “Right away, from watching film, they talk. They talk a lot. That was one of the first things we talked about in the scouting report (to our players) was don’t get caught up in that. In the game, I’m talking to officials about their guys coming running on the court and (bumping into, pushing) our guys coming off a time out and the referees look at me like I’m crazy. I go back and watch the film, and it’s easy to see and they just ignored it.” Cincinnati has rightfully taken the brunt of this week’s criticism for its role in the brawl, and much of the associated vitriol with UC well predates the Mick Cronin era, but if you listen to Painter, maybe fans and media should take a closer look at how the Musketeers are composing themselves on the court too.
  2. Well, at least he didn’t shove a guy to the ground, instigate a full-on brawl between two teams, and subsequently refer to his squad as a bunch of ‘gangstas’ and talk about ‘zip[ping] ‘em up” when discussing the other team. No, New Mexico State guard Christian Kabongo (cousin of more-heralded Myck, at Texas), is guilty of grabbing his crotch area twice during a recent game against UTEP and has been suspended indefinitely as a result of his transgression. Kabongo is a significant loss to the Aggies, even in the short term, as he brings averages of 16/4/4 APG to the table for Marvin Menzies’ team. Just imagine how long he’d have to sit out if he was any better.
  3. With news Wednesday that the Hamilton County (OH) prosecutor will not pursue criminal charges stemming from last weekend’s brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier, it appears that we’re finally putting this ugly incident behind us. Had charges been filed, they would have most likely come against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their respective punch and stomp to the face/head of Xavier center Kenny Frease. But prosecutor Joe Deters (a law enforcement name if ever there was one) said that he was satisfied that Frease’s recent outreach to Gates was met with a subsequent apology and, among other factors, his mea culpa contributed to Deters’ decision to not pursue the case. Historically speaking, US criminal law as a general rule has shied away from imposing jurisdiction on athletes during the bounds of competition, but there have been some precedents, particularly in the NHL, where that is not the case.
  4. While on the subject of legality, the NCAA‘s new rule allowing conferences to offer $2,000 stipends to next year’s recruits is in jeopardy after 97 of the 345 Division I institutions have signed a petition that will force the organization into a reconsideration of the measure at its upcoming January meetings. If 28 more schools sign the petition in the next 11 days to get to 125 institutions, then the legislation will be automatically suspended until further review or modification. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the support for rescission is reportedly coming from the non-BCS football schools whose budgets are far below its peers who can better afford up to a $2 million annual price tag for its scholarship athletes. As we wrote a couple of months ago when this news first came out, “this policy initiative could be another step toward the permanent stratification of college basketball between the haves and have-nots.” This petition to the NCAA from the have-nots clearly bears this out. If you’re interested in more analysis on this topic, USA Today‘s Christine Brennan skewers the idea in her commentary published Wednesday.
  5. SI writers Seth Davis and Luke Winn are going a little crazy with the “breakout” players angle this month. Recall that last week Davis published his list of 10 breakout sophomores; this week he’s decided to give us his list of eight breakout juniors (plus a mailbag). Not to be outdone, Winn comes correct with his list of five breakout seniors! If we see an article on breakout graduate students next week, we’re coming to the Sports Illustrated offices and with a sole intent of burning the place down. All kidding aside, we might have added juniors CJ Harris (Wake Forest), Chase Tapley (San Diego State) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) to Davis’ list, and Jae Crowder (Marquette) and Noah Hartsock (BYU) to the Winn’s. Give both pieces a read and see what you think.
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Morning Five: 12.09.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

  1.  We were very afraid of this when we saw it happen live on Tuesday night, and sure enough, the results came back yesterday. Marquette center Chris Otule has torn his left ACL and may miss the rest of the season depending on the severity of the tear and the treatment decision between he and his doctors. As we mentioned in that night’s After the Buzzer, we really hate this for the 6’11” junior. Not only is he playing with the severe disadvantage of only having vision in one eye, but he’s suffered broken bones in both his left and right foot during his time in Milwaukee. Despite his best efforts, the guy has seemingly never been able to stay healthy. No matter his decision on a treatment plan, he’s only been able to play in 57 games in four seasons, so we’re crossing our fingers that he’ll get at least one more injury-free season of basketball at Marquette.
  2. How about some better injury news? Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton is expected to officially return to his team for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe after spending the better part of the last month rehabilitating a hamstring injury suffered in the first game of the season. His loss hasn’t impacted A&M’s fortunes terribly against a light schedule, as the Aggies have only one loss against Mississippi State so far, but he will be needed on the floor for an upcoming game against Florida and of course the 18-game Big 12 schedule. In other good news, Ohio State sounds like it expects to have its NPOY candidate, Jared Sullinger, back in action for Saturday’s monster game versus Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. Although Thad Matta played coy with his answers in the article, if Sullinger is “dancing around” his dorm room, he’ll be ready to play this weekend.
  3. In a somewhat odd turn of events, St. John’s sophomore point guard Nurideen Lindsey has decided to transfer out of the program. What makes it peculiar is that the starter has averaged nearly 30 minutes per game and is putting up good numbers in the first month of the season — 12.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG. His statements about leaving are even more confounding: “I came to St. John’s for a couple of reasons. One was to be close to my mom, whose health has been up and down due to some past experiences. The second was to play for Coach Lav. In both instances, it has not worked out how I envisioned.” He surely isn’t holding Lavin’s own health issues against him, so there has to be something else going on here. More on this later today on RTC’s Big East microsite.
  4. The number of D-I schools is apparently set to grow again, as Northern Kentucky will join the Atlantic Sun Conference and start playing a full conference slate as soon as next season. Even though the school will not be eligible for league championships and revenue sharing for a few years while going through a probationary period, NKU preferred to join the much-farther geographic footprint of the A-Sun rather than the closer-to-home OVC because it was willing to let them play games next season. The A-Sun is generally located in the deep South — Georgia, South Carolina, Florida — although it does have two schools in Tennessee and as we’ve learned in conference realignment theater, geography rarely matters anymore. The article reports that the average road trip within the league will be around 580 miles, though, which can seriously add up for mid-major school budgets.
  5. You’ve been waiting patiently for it, well here it is: Luke Winn‘s weekly power rankings. Per usual, there’s more graphs, still frame images, and thoughtful analysis than you can shake Seth Davis’ stick at, but if you look carefully, you’ll find his All-Americans after one month, his analysis as to why Louisville fails to impress us, and an rundown of why Saturday’s delightful stack of games without the annoyance of football is something worth carving your day around.  Enjoy.
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Morning Five: 12.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2011

  1. Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings are back this week with a bit of a surprise team at the top. Ok, not really, but his choice for the #1 spot is different than the pollsters have anointed this week, including our very own RTC Top 25 released on Monday. His rankings release on Thursday, though, and can anyone blame him after the beatdown that Ohio State put on Duke in Columbus Tuesday night? That is, until we see how Saturday’s little tilt between Kentucky and North Carolina goes. From our view of the world after three-plus weeks of action — Ohio State and Kentucky are the only two teams this year that have a chance to be great, while UNC, Syracuse, Duke, Wisconsin, Connecticut and a few others have a chance to be very, very good. Whether any will actually reach their potential is quite another story, but that’s why we do what we do.
  2. A new Rupp, same as the old Rupp? Apparently not, suggests a preliminary study from a Lexington task force that pushes a $110-$130M renovation of Kentucky’s venerable old barn, Rupp Arena, as the appropriate course of action over building an entirely new arena at a cost of three times that amount. The size and noise in that building is second to none in college basketball when at its peak, but even including some recent fan-friendly renovations in the last decade, the place isn’t as instantly gratifying to outside observers as some of the other venues around the country. Maybe these proposed renovations would help to eliminate some of the multi-purpose 70s feel of the place, which is probably what it needs to truly become a college basketball cathedral for the next 50 years.
  3. If the reports are accurate (and PJ Hairston himself would seem the best source), the freshman shooting guard for North Carolina who injured his wrist during the Heels’ hard-fought victory over Wisconsin Wednesday night will not play against Kentucky this weekend. This presents an issue with the perimeter shooting of the Tar Heels, who will come in to Lexington with only three players who have connected on four or more treys this season. Hairston, a 6’5″ wing with a nice stroke, has 14 of UNC’s 37 makes this year, which leaves Reggie Bullock (11-25) and Harrison Barnes (7-18) as the only other realistic perimeter threats. If UK goes long defensively on the perimeter and shuts down UNC’s three-point shooting Saturday, the Heels will need to have monster games from Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Barnes inside to have a good chance to win.
  4. While we’re on the subject of the biggest early-season game of the year (and perhaps the season), Kentucky’s Anthony Davis dropped a ridiculous line of 15/15/8 blks against St. John’s last night. After the game, he told Adam Zagoria that he’s “looking forward” to facing up against John Henson from North Carolina. He added that Henson “plays just like [him]” and no doubt believes that he will create just as much defensive havoc against the Heels as he has with everyone else this season. An NBA scout told Zagoria that he expects ten first round picks to be in uniform at Noon ET Saturday, with a couple more second rounders in the mix as well. While we’re resistant to the excessive hype machine of the modern 24/7 media environment, there’s no question that this game will be a doozy. Must-watch television for any sports fan this weekend, regardless of other obligations.
  5. Everyone feel free to rest their heads. There will be no third Plumlee taking the court for Duke this season, which means the gravitational pull that would no doubt result from nearly 21 feet and 7o0 pounds of Plumlee on the floor at one time will be averted. At least this season. Freshman Marshall Plumlee, equally as tall but a bit slighter than his older brothers Mason and Miles, will take a redshirt year and still have four years of eligibility remaining beginning next fall. Coach K already said in the preseason that he had no intention of playing “three 6’10” guys” for the sake of a novelty, but maybe the Plumlee dream will come through for us at some future point in the NBA next season.
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Morning Five: Veteran’s Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2011

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of FanDuel.com to tip off the season. The league, which is completely free to enter, starts on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and features $200 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

  1. Happy Veteran’s Day, everyone. If you have a family member, friend or acquaintance who has given their time and energy during their lives to help this nation stay safe, shake their hand or give them a pat on the back — trust us, they’ll appreciate it. This year’s Veteran’s Day has a particularly deep meaning for our purposes, as it also doubles as the official ‘unofficial’ opening night of the college basketball season. Several teams have already gotten under way in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but most everyone else begins this weekend. One hundred thirty-one games dot the schedule this evening, including 19 of the RTC Top 25 teams in America. The headliner game on this holiday is that curious little aircraft carrier game down in San Diego involving the consensus #1 team, North Carolina, and a perplexing but always-dangerous Michigan State squad. But there are several other noteworthy games tonight, including a talented Belmont squad visiting Duke at 9 PM on ESPNU and a rising Oregon team visiting a Vanderbilt program harboring massive expectations in Nashville. For a complete list of view-worthy games, be sure to click on our Nightly Nonsense tab above here, and check back this afternoon for our weekend version of Set Your TiVo, which will outline all the interesting games for the next three days.  As of tonight, we can say it without qualifying language — college hoops is back, baby…
  2. And what about that game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson? The temperature will be in the mid-60s and winds are expected to be in the 10-15 MPH range this evening in San Diego, but the one thing everyone seems to be forgetting about the players is that every one of them has played outdoor pickup ball at one time or another. Sure, it’s not the same as playing in the controlled environment of a gym, but who hasn’t experienced the unique situation of having to slightly adjust your jumper to account for the breeze? Many of these players probably developed their games on the playgrounds across America. The players will probably be more jittery because President Obama will be there rather than dealing with the sun and wind.
  3. The NBA could be on the verge of a return with a 72-game season, or none at all, but if you’re at all interested in reading about the 2011-12 college basketball season as written for NBA fans, Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus is your man. It’s an intriguing look at the collegiate game in that the perspective changes when one’s only use for NCAA hoops is as a finishing school before the big time. While we’re on the subject of the pros, the current deal offered by the owners to the players has not yet addressed the ‘ancillary’ issue of a minimum draft age. We wonder that if the players cave here on the revenue split whether that will embolden them to ask for and receive concessions with respect to the draft age (among other things). From the perspective that a two-year minimum is better for the game of college basketball, it might actually be better in the long run if the players refuse the owners’ latest offer.
  4. Miami’s DeQuan Jones has been suspended by the university for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his alleged involvement with improprieties relating to his recruitment by Frank Haith, as uncovered by Yahoo! Sports during the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Shapiro stated in interviews that Haith arranged for $10,000 to be paid to Jones’ family to secure his commitment in 2008. Given that the Hurricanes could potentially lose a number of wins if Jim Larranaga now played Jones and it was later determined that he was an ineligible player, this is a smart move. Still, it doesn’t help with the Hurricanes’ current glaring lack of depth, as UM will now have only seven scholarship players available heading into tonight’s opening game against Tennessee Tech.
  5. Finally, it’s time for the SI Crystal Ball, where Seth Davis, Luke Winn and Andy Glockner make their preseason picks on the 2011-12 Final Four, NPOY, surprise team, flops, and so on. Would you believe that the only category of consensus among the trio came when picking their Best Mid-Major team? We’ll give you three guesses to see if you can get it right… As always, it’s a good read, but even the best in the business (as these guys are) are lucky to bat just above the Mendoza line with their predictions — in last year’s Crystal Ball, for example, the three picked a grand total of zero Final Four teams (including darkhorses). College basketball prognostication is more art than science, we’ll readily admit, but we’re totally on board with Davis and Glockner’s darkhorse team this season (hint: it starts with an “X”).
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SEC Morning Five: 11.10.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 10th, 2011

  1.  Yesterday was 2012 National Signing Day, and unfortunately the SEC didn’t fare well as it did last year. The league only landed one five-star recruit, Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin, according to Scout’s Evan Daniels. In Daniels’ conference breakdown, the SEC finished last out of the six power conferences one year after bringing in the most talent. Kentucky landed an additional top 30 prospect in Willie Cauley, while Florida was the other big winner grabbing two top 100 guards — #39 Braxton Ogbueze and #87 Michael Frazier. Auburn hauled in a surprising four-man class, good enough for third place so far in the conference rankings. There are still plenty of unsigned prospects available, so most teams will continue rounding out their classes during this signing period.
  2. Mississippi State played another hard-fought game against a mid-major team, but went down 68-58 to Akron. The Dogs shot 34.5% from the field, and failed to get much production from Renardo Sidney. Sidney seemed winded throughout the game, and most troubling for Bulldog fans, he again sat on the bench during crunch time. Head coach Rick Stansbury did not play Sidney in the final four and a half minutes of last night’s game. “We were trying to fight from behind defensively,” Stansbury said. “They went small. You knew the answer to that.” Sidney’s production is a big key to the Bulldogs’ success, but it looks like he is coming undone at the seams well before even his biggest critics would have predicted.
  3. Tennessee Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin has not only been impressed with his team’s hard work on the court, but praised their behavior off the court in his latest press conference. “They’ve done a good job, especially from the first day until now of just taking care of business on and off the court,” said Martin. “Doing the right things in the classroom, being consistent in going to class — which shouldn’t be an option, but just making sure guys go to class every day, with their tutor assignments — making sure they’ve been better.” Win/loss records are ultimately what head coaches are measured on, but it is refreshing to see a head coach who seems to genuinely care about his players’ well-being and success off the court.
  4. We all love statistics. Admit it. There’s nothing better for basketball-crazed fans like ourselves than to sit down and analyze graphs and charts of tempo-free statistics. Luke Winn at Sports Illustrated (with the help of David Hess from Audacity of Hoops) noticed a gap in the statistics for defensive rankings for players and teams, and they have taken on the monumental task of measuring five championship contender’s possession by possession defensive prowess. Great stuff here, and one of the five teams analyzed happen to be the SEC’s Vanderbilt. The gist of the article is that Vandy needs to step up its’ defense with a need for “turnover creators and defensive rebounders. Vanderbilt ranked 308th nationally in turnover percentage last season (17.5), and 168th at protecting the defensive glass (67.9 defensive rebound percentage).” If the Commodores are to make a run at the SEC title or anything past the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, improvement will have to take place on the defensive end of the court for Kevin Stallings‘ club.
  5. The SEC announced its 2012 SEC Men’s Basketball Preseason Awards on Wednesday. Thirty-two different players received votes, while seventeen players were honored. Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt each had three players named to the First or Second Team. Vanderbilt led the way with three All-SEC first team selections with reigning SEC Player of the Year John Jenkins along with teammates Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli.
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