Night Line: Mason Plumlee’s Post Dominance Keying Duke’s Phenomenal Start

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Plenty of elite teams have impressed in the opening month of this season, but Duke is in a tier by itself when it comes to a complete resume. After exacting revenge on Ohio State from last season’s drubbing with a 73-68 victory over the Buckeyes on Wednesday night, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has now defeated three top-five teams in November. That doesn’t even include victories over Minnesota and VCU, as well, two other likely NCAA Tournament squads. In Wednesday’s win, Duke trailed by eight points at halftime to a tougher-looking Buckeyes squad while itself looking fatigued, and it needed a significant second half spark to change the tone of the game. That’s where it turned to Mason Plumlee, who turned momentum back on Duke’s side with two monster alley-oops from point guard Quinn Cook. Blue Devil fans have waited three long years for Plumlee to become a dominant post force who successfully harnessed all of his athletic potential, and tonight’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort in a comeback win over an elite opponent shows just how far the big man has come.

Mason Plumlee has Duke soaring up the rankings through victories over elite opponents (AP Photo)

We knew Duke had the depth, shooting, and coaching to remain an ACC contender this season, but Plumlee’s transformation into a dominant, All America-caliber forward gives the team a chance to reach greater heights than almost anyone imagined. Through seven games, the 6’10” senior is now averaging 19.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 65% shooting from the field; all good for top-five rankings in the ACC. But what’s most astonishing about Plumlee’s stats is his free throw percentage, which at 79% is an exponential improvement over his career 50% shooting coming into this season. Never mind the massive 8.8 PPG  jump; an increase of 30 points on a go-to player’s free throw percentage is enough to change the entire dynamic of an offense. As Jay Bilas consistently pointed out during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, Plumlee plays with improved aggressiveness near the basket this season now that he’s not afraid to get fouled. The senior converted 9-12 freebies tonight while also producing a game-high in scoring and rebounding.

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Duke’s Ryan Kelly: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Posted by mpatton on November 26th, 2012

Ryan Kelly may be Duke‘s most important player. Just look at the Blue Devils’ tailspin last season when he went down with an injured foot. In Duke’s losses last year Kelly averaged five points a game (not including the two Ls he missed due to injury). In Duke’s wins he averaged over 13 points a game. That’s a striking difference. Kelly’s averages from last season are identical to this season (11.8 points per game and just over five rebounds per game), though he’s seen a dramatic drop in his efficiency from beyond the arc and at the charity stripe. The free throw problem is probably a short-term slump and his three point percentage will also likely rise but remain below last season’s excellent 41% mark. But don’t let identical output and depressed percentages confuse you: Kelly is an improved player whose game has evolved a lot even since last season.

Duke really missed Ryan Kelly at the end of last season. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The most quantifiable change has come in his shot selection. Last year over 40 percent of Kelly’s shots were threes; this year just over 30 percent of his attempts come from distance. Rather than taking low-percentage contested twos, Kelly’s mid-range game is flourishing. At 6’11”, he’s virtually impossible for more athletic wings to guard, instead drawing power forwards to the perimeter where he has the advantage. Instead of settling for threes this season, he’s taken one or two steps inside the arc, where he’s nearly automatic. Kelly also appears to be more comfortable operating out around 12-16 feet from the basket, as his turnovers are down this year, potentially because he isn’t forcing things as much.

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ACC M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on October 16th, 2012

  1. ESPN: The ACC coaches have submitted their preseason poll and the results are unsurprising: North Carolina State is the favorite to win the conference, with Tobacco Road rivals Duke and North Carolina rounding out the top three. While North Carolina State hasn’t won the regular season ACC title since 1989, it’s not a big surprise that the coaches like their chances this year. The coaches’ picks of C.J Leslie and Rodney Purvis, both Wolfpack players, for Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year respectively, is an easy explanation of the reason that so many of the conference’s coaches are big on NC State.
  2. Raleigh News and Observer: Duke started practice in an unusual venue yesterday. Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina played host to the Blue Devils as they practiced in front of a group of soldiers at the U.S. Army base. Mike Krzyzewski, of course, is a graduate of West Point and former Army captain. In addition to standard practice, the Duke team slept in the barracks Sunday night, got up for an early morning workout and run, and braved an obstacle course on the base.  It seems like it was a memorable experience for both the soldiers who got to watch and participate in the Duke practice as well as the players who got an inside look at the machinations of Fort Bragg.
  3. CBS Sports: On a more disappointing note, Marshall Plumlee, the youngest of the Plumlee brothers, has suffered a stress fracture in his foot. He’ll miss 6-8 weeks for Duke, and although he was not expected to be a major contributor to this year’s team, the obvious loss of depth and size inside is always something that gives coaches a cause for concern. Older brother Mason and Ryan Kelly will have to stay healthy themselves lest Duke become painfully thin on the interior over the first month of the season.
  4. Syracuse Online: The Orange have a verbal commitment from Chinonso Obokoh, a springy center from Rochester. Of course, while Syracuse continues to play in the Big East this season, their incoming move to the ACC means that Obokoh will become part of the first class of Syracuse basketball players that play their conference games solely in the Atlantic Coast Conference — still a strange thought. Obokoh joins highly-ranked gurd Tyler Ennis as the first two building blocks for Syracuse’s incoming class.
  5. NCAA: The governing organization of college basketball has issued a few new interesting guidelines for the upcoming season. These rules include an extra set of standards for correctly determining block/charge calls that seem to be aimed at making the offensive foul a bit harder to draw. The NCAA is also emphasizing coach and bench decorum with a set of explicit standards about what warrants a sportsmanship technical. In news sure to disappoint Roy Williams, “emphatically removing one’s coat” is specifically singled out as an inappropriate action. Perhaps, the implementation of  the new policy banning slippery floor decals will placate him?
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Morning Five: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2012

  1. From the we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it department, ACC coaches on Monday squarely put NC State’s Mark Gottfried right into the conference crosshairs with their decision to pick his Wolfpack as the front-runner for the 2012-13 league championship. Whew. NC State received eight of the 12 first-place votes, with second-place Duke receiving three, and North Carolina receiving the other top vote. Nobody will deny that Gottfried returns the most talent in the ACC from a Sweet Sixteen team — and adds quite possibly the best freshman in the league to boot — but still, the Wolfpack were a 9-7 conference team last season and Gottfried has never been a coach who has consistently gotten it done in the regular season. His best two teams at Alabama went 12-4 in the SEC (2001-02 and 2004-05) and he wasn’t facing the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams when he was cementing those records. From our perspective, the league belongs to Duke and North Carolina until it’s taken from them (the last team to win the ACC outright other than Duke/UNC occurred a decade ago).
  2. While on the subject of Duke, the Blue Devil program made quite a bit of news on Monday. While spending the day 90 miles south of Durham at Fort Bragg, going through physical training drills and holding an inspired open practice in front of a number of US Army troops — apparently Duke players applauded the soldiers as they entered the gym — the school also announced some less inspiring news. Redshirt freshman forward Marshall Plumlee has developed a stress fracture in his left foot and will miss the next 6-8 weeks of practice, putting significantly more pressure on older brother Mason and senior Ryan Kelly to man the boards and shore up the low blocks defensively. This is especially true given that the Blue Devils will face an early-season murderer’s row of Kentucky in the Champions Classic on November 13, the Battle 4 Atlantis (including a loaded field of Minnesota, VCU, Memphis, Louisville, Missouri, and Stanford) soon thereafter, and Ohio State at in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the end of November.
  3. Coach K’s respect for the military of course comes from his time at West Point, where he played under a fiery disciplinarian named Bob Knight. The three-time national championship head coach, who has never struck us as much of a sentimentalist, is planning on auctioning his three Indiana championship rings, his Olympic gold medal (given to him by the LA Olympic Committee) as well as a sports coat and warmup jacket he received as the head coach for the 1984 US Men’s National Team (a squad that included Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing). With his regular speaking engagements plus his lucrative ESPN commentator gig, it’s unlikely that Knight is hurting for money — but, sensing that he could pay for his grandchildren’s college educations with one fell swoop through this auction — this was probably an easy decision for the 71-year old. The “Bob Knight Collection” will be auctioned off through Steiner Sports, ending on December 5 — if you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, that 1976 championship ring from the last undefeated team in college basketball would make for a great conversation starter.
  4. Harvard appeared to be on the verge of an Ivy League dynasty prior to a recent academic cheating scandal that has enveloped over 100 undergraduates including two of the basketball team’s best players, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Still, there are hopes among Crimson faithful that Tommy Amaker’s team can bridge the gap this season while awaiting the return of its two stars in 2013-14 (both players withdrew from school this year, but plan on returning next season). Meanwhile, in coming off the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 65 years, the university is now backing a plan to build a brand-new basketball arena to replace its antiquated 1920s-era Lavietes Pavilion. The new arena will hold 2,700 people and be ready for the bouncing of balls some time between 2017-22. Whether Harvard will grow to become a regular NCAA Tournament participant by that date remains to be seen, but this next step in the progression of the program would not have been possible without the drive and vision for excellence that head coach Tommy Amaker had for Harvard basketball upon his arrival several years ago.
  5. Don’t expect any NCAA Tournament games in the great state of New Jersey anytime soon. The Meadowlands/Izod Center in East Rutherford has held multiple East Regionals (most recently in 2007), and the Prudential Center in Newark has taken that mantle more recently (hosting in 2011), but with the Monday’s publication of regulations licensing and outlining operating rules for Atlantic City casinos and racetracks so as to offer sports gambling, the NCAA’s long-running mandate of not offering its championships in states with such laws has gone into effect. Although there are currently no planned NCAA Tournament events scheduled in the Garden State, five other championships — including the Women’s NCAA Tournament East Regional in 2013 — have been pulled effective immediately. The natural outcome from this mandate is that the most prominent New York and Philadelphia arenas, including the Wells Fargo Center, the Barclays Arena, and Madison Square Garden, potentially stand to gain considerably in future bidding for NCAA Tournament sites. But hey, at least you can bet on the games in Jersey!
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ACC Summer Recess: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by mpatton on August 8th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Duke.

Where They Stand Now

Duke fans are still reeling from an embarrassing upset bid from CJ McCollum and the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh, but the sour ending to the team’s season overshadowed a very strong year. The Blue Devils showcased the most flaws  it has had since the 2006-07 Duke team that went 22-11, but they managed to keep winning games. They beat a loaded North Carolina team on the road; they finished second in the conference; and, they won a loaded Maui Invitational. Ryan Kelly‘s late season injury stagnated one of the country’s best offenses, leaving Duke with a decent offense and mediocre defense for its last three games. Long story short, the Blue Devils managed to overachieve and disappoint last season.

Mason Plumlee is the Anchor to Duke’s Young, Potentially Great Front Line.

Who’s Leaving

Austin Rivers went to the NBA, Miles Plumlee graduated, Michael Gbinije transferred to Syracuse, and Andre Dawkins will redshirt. Despite frequent deserved criticism during his playing career, the eldest Plumlee’s strength and athleticism in workouts earned him a guaranteed contract with the Pacers. Gbinije saw very little playing time his freshman season, and with the additions of Rasheed Sulaimon and redshirt freshman Alex Murphy, he may not have seen much more next year. Gbinije’s lack of playing time puzzled many Duke fans because his length and athleticism were exactly what Duke’s perimeter defense needed. Fans concerns are probably overreactions: Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t have a history of sticking with experienced guys over more talented freshmen.

Rivers’ departure is harder to evaluate. On paper, it’s terrible. Rivers was the only playmaker on last year’s team. Without consistent play at point guard, Coach K relied on the freshman to create his own shot a lot of the time. However, Rivers’ season had its detractors. While the heat he took for being selfish was over the top, comments Seth Curry made earlier this summer to Shawn Krest certainly point to a lack of chemistry on last year’s team.

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ACC Morning Five: 04.03.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 3rd, 2012

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Speaking of tall lanky game-changers in college basketball, Ralph Sampson finally was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame. You can blame the delay on his injury-laden NBA career and a combination of Sidney Lowe, Michael Jordan, and Sam Perkins (who kept him from ACC Championships in 1983, 1982 and 1981 respectively). Sampson was truly a once-in-a-generation player. At 7’4″ and athletic, he was comfortable smoking opponents from inside and out. He’s also one of two players to be chosen the consensus national player of the year three times (Bill Walton is the other).
  2. Yadkin Valley Sports: This is a great article on Victor Davila, who watched his senior season evaporate from the bench with a groin injury. Davila is a product of Puerto Rico by means of the foothills of North Carolina. Here’s to hoping he finds some basketball success overseas before having to get a real job.
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: Steve Wiseman checks in with questions facing Duke in the offseason. I will try to answer them. Will Mason Plumlee return? No idea. Will Rasheed Sulaimon make an impact as a freshman? Yes. He’s a great shooter and looks like a solid defender (albeit in the McDonald’s All-American game). Will Duke pick up any transfers? I think Alex Oriakhi comes if Plumlee leaves; Trey Zeigler seems more likely. Strengths? Definitely scoring, though the defense should get better with the addition of Alex Murphy. Speaking of Murphy I think he will start next year, and Marshall Plumlee will get decent minutes off the bench (to commit fouls if nothing else).
  4. Fox Sports: Here’s Andrew Jones with Florida State‘s final report card for the season. I think he’s a little harsh on the Seminoles’ offense, though their nonconference play certainly merits a harsh rating. The real question is what Leonard Hamilton can put together losing so many players. The team was so deep last year that he’ll still have plenty of players coming back with experience, but things will look very different in Tallahassee next year (Michael Snaer is the difference to me).
  5. NC State Technician: While part of me agrees that CJ Leslie should stick around for another year (namely, he’s not a first round lock), I abhor these types of articles. Players know fans want them to come back. I think the jump Leslie made between last year and this year was the difference between a flame out career and sticking around in the NBA. He matured a ton between last year and this year. If Leslie comes back, he’s definitely preseason first team All-ACC and should be in the running for conference player of the year (on a team that might be picked on top of the league).

Today in Carefully-Framed Stats:

(That would be ignoring the ACC’s three consecutive championships from 1991-1993.)

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ACC Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 17th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer(photo): NC State coughed up a brutal game at Duke after leading by 20 in the second half. But the Wolfpack lost in style. Below is an image of Lorenzo Brown shooting over Andre Dawkins in the team’s special black-on-black jerseys:

    NC State's Threads Looked Good in Cameron (Credit: Chuck Liddy/News & Observer)

    But more interesting is the cursed history of black-on-black, which was brought to my attention by Patrick Stevans of the Washington Times. The last time the Wolfpack donned similar colors, they blew a 12-point halftime lead (the largest lead was 17) to fall 73-78 to Maryland in 2000. The final last night was 73-78.

  2. TarHeelBlue.com and Grantland: Miami lost a very tough game to North Carolina in Coral Gables. It would have backed up a weaker NCAA tournament resume with a second signature win. And the upset looked likely through the start of the second half with the Hurricanes leading most of the way. But combine a Harrison Barnes three with four straight forced Miami turnovers by the Tar Heels, and you have a lead that never disappeared. I link both articles because they show the two sides of a game. One (by a Duke fan) laments a loss that could be the difference-maker come Selection Sunday. The other talks about a team tired of being told about its struggles when by any reasonable measure, its 21-4 record should speak for itself.
  3. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs looked at the top rebounding performances in the ACC, inspired by Miles Plumlee‘s 22-board game against Maryland. It turns out no ACC player since 1971 has nabbed more than 24 rebounds. North Carolina’s Sean May leads the way with 24 rebounds in a win against Duke (seriously, people forget just how good a rebounder May was). He also clocks in tied for fourth since 2004 with 21 rebounds against Akron.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of the Plumlees, Marshall Plumlee has learned a lot from red-shirting his first year. The season hasn’t been without frustrations, though an extra year of practice and time in the weight room should definitely benefit the raw frosh. Plumlee and fellow freshman Alex Murphy are sitting for their first years. And while I don’t know anything about their offensive games, both should be incredibly valuable defensive assets in the coming season. Murphy is a fairly athletic wing, who should be able to guard three positions. Plumlee was known as a defensive stopper in high school.
  5. Lost Letterman: Get excited Wake Forest fans! Demon Deacon recruit Devin Thomas made history last night, shattering a backboard. The game had to be suspended until today because of the damage. You can see the video below.

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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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ACC Morning Five: 11.24.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 24th, 2011

Unfortunately shoddy wireless means I can’t get a screenshot, but the elation at the end of the Maui championship game between Duke and Kansas came through the TV. Even Coach K was jumping up and down after Tyler Thornton hit the biggest shot of his life. Twice. Austin Rivers was as active as any of the Duke players on the bench (save Marshall Plumlee, whose level of enthusiasm is insane). It’s clear Duke isn’t a dominant team by any meaning of the word, but it’s a really fun team to watch. And the Blue Devils, as always, know how to win.

  1. Washington Post – Cavaliers Journal: Virginia is a defensive team this year. Or at least it is without senior Sammy Zeglinski, whose playing time is currently limited by a nagging ankle injury. And Tony Bennett sounds OK with that. He pointed out that the team is “a possession by possession team,” which probably explains why the Cavaliers savor each possession so much (there are only four slower teams in D-I). One has to expect the Cavaliers’ outside shooting will come around eventually, but until then they’ll have to continue relying on their defense.
  2. Indy Week: Since 1945 only two coaches, Press Maravich and Les Robinson, were older than Mark Gottfried (who’s only 47) when they took the head coaching job at NC State. The article also provides a nice introduction to the individual roles, many of which have changed since Gottfried arrived, of each major contributor on the team. The final line is still the biggest question that remains:

    While Wolfpack partisans still loudly applaud Gottfried’s name during pregame introductions, all honeymoons come to an end. Ultimately, the question is whether Gottfried is the next big thing… or just next.

  3. ESPN: Florida State takes to the Bahamas this week for the Battle 4 Atlantis where the Seminoles will start out with UMass, an undefeated team that just throttled Boston College on the road. To be fair, the Minutemen were picked twelfth in the A-10 before the season started. Should Florida State win that game, it will probably face mid-major upstart Harvard in the second round and defending national champion Connecticut in the championship game. This is a pretty good primer for the tournament, which has plenty of interesting storylines and will be Florida State’s first true test this season.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: One of the biggest questions facing Duke is who will run the point. Duke Basketball Report has a fairly exhaustive article looking at the history of the point guard position and its use in both Roy Williams’ and Mike Krzyzewski’s offenses. Essentially, the conclusion is that Duke’s backcourt needs to share the responsibilities of a point guard, rather than putting everything on one player. I think the article under-appreciates Quinn Cook’s point guard abilities; then again, I don’t think Cook will be the main option at point until at least conference play and, more likely, next season.
  5. iSportsWeb: North Carolina 2013 commit Isiah Hicks is already struggling with eligibility issues. It sounds like there are some missing records from his old school district. If the records are just missing from his previous school district. But if there are red flags at the high school level, there will definitely be red flags at the collegiate level. [In more upbeat North Carolina news, the Tar Heels are slashing prices on tickets to men’s games against Evansville and Nicholls State by 40% for Black Friday.]

EXTRA: Per The Daily Telegraph, several gentleman’s club owners have gotten together in hopes of taking advantage of the NBA lockout and starting a topless basketball league. So far there are 23 teams including ones in Minnesota (may I suggest the Minnesota Bimbowolves for a team name?), Miami and New York. I’ll be sticking with college basketball, but the title of this article was too good to let go unnoticed.

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Analyzing the Top Ten Recruiting Classes of 2011

Posted by zhayes9 on October 7th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

In this era of one-and-done, where every touted freshman and blue-chip prospect must lace up the sneakers in college for at least a season, recruiting has never been more important.

As recently as a decade ago, programs were built, legacies were formed and trophies were hoisted on the basis of developing and grooming four-year players. In 2003, freshman Carmelo Anthony bucked that trend by carrying his Syracuse team to a national title. When David Stern instituted an age limit to participate professionally, impact players such as Greg Oden, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose may have only dipped their toes in the collegiate water, but the Final Four berths won’t soon be forgotten.

This upcoming season, college basketball hasn’t been gutted as dramatically as in the past. Assumed lottery picks passed on the immediate NBA riches whether in fears of a prolonged lockout or simply to accomplish goals left unmet. A plethora of battle-tested seniors also make their dramatic return. Despite this welcomed development, freshmen will still have their say in who grabs the four all-important #1 seeds and who ultimately graces the hardwood in Indianapolis next April.

Here are the ten teams primed to receive a substantial contribution from their talented newcomers this upcoming season:

1. Kentucky- Brandon Knight is the latest Calipari-coached freshman to bolt early for the pros. Luckily for Big Blue, their coach’s recruiting skills hasn’t eroded in the least bit. In pretty much any other freshman class in the country, Kyle Wiltjer would top the list; in Lexington, he’s easily the fourth-best rookie on the squad. The headliner is center Anthony Davis, the early favorite to be selected first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.  The Chicago native reminds many scouts of a young Kevin Garnett with his tremendous versatility, remarkable athleticism and exceptional rebounding abilities. Formerly a lightly-recruited guard prior to a timely growth spurt, Davis is more than comfortable handling the ball around the perimeter. Taking over at point guard for Knight is Marquis Teague, a lightning-fast lead guard and the younger brother of former Wake Forest and current Hawks reserve Jeff Teague. Teague is a better fit for Calipari’s preferred dribble-drive motion offense than the ball-screen dependent Knight. The third potential freshman starter is St. Patrick’s own Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Gilchrist is an intense competitor and will be absolute joy for Calipari to coach. Witjer should prove a valuable backup big man with a refined perimeter game.

Anthony Davis/kentuckysportsradio.com

2. Duke- Losing your three most productive players – two face-of-the-program seniors and a point guard that just happened to be chosen #1 overall — would result in a multi-year rebuilding process at most schools. Most schools aren’t Duke, and the Blue Devils are once again expected to compete in the top ten. The biggest reason why is Austin Rivers. Easily the best scoring guard in the freshman ranks, Rivers is a legitimate threat to average 17-20 PPG during his first (and likely only) season in Durham. Rivers does possess the ability to create his own shot, but could struggle to get opportune looks until Seth Curry develops a comfort level at point guard. Oak Hill’s Quinn Cook is expected to compete for minutes at the point once he recovers from a knee injury. He appears destined to be Duke’s floor general of the future. Cook is a born leader that has one priority: to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. How deep Coach K opts to utilize his bench will determine the playing time of wings Michael Gbinije and Alex Murphy, along with the third Plumlee brother, Marshall Plumlee. All three will be regular contributors down the road. Once Murphy develops some strength, he could be the best of the lot as a scoring threat with sneaky athleticism.

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Who’s Got Next? Purvis Picks Pack; Stars Talk Midnight Madness, Visits

Posted by Josh Paunil on October 5th, 2011

 

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Purvis Picks In-State Wolfpack

North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried has to be happy about Purvis' commitment.

Things Looking Good For N.C. State Head Coach Mark Gottfried. Class of 2012 shooting guard Rodney Purvis committed to North Carolina State Friday giving the Wolfpack one of the best guard combinations in any recruiting class thus far between him and point guard Tyler Lewis (to see why Purvis committed check out the “What They’re Saying” section). Purvis ended one of the more interesting recruitments in the class after he committed to Louisville last December, de-committed from the Cardinals in May, made it look like it was a three-horse race between Duke, N.C. State and Missouri, and expanded his list to eight schools that included North Carolina Central and Virginia Commonwealth. His commitment comes just a month after Class of 2012 shooting guard Torian Graham de-committed from the Wolfpack and after Lewis predicted Purvis would be N.C. State’s next commit. This year’s senior class is looking like it could shape into a top ten recruiting class for N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. Although Graham de-committed, the Wolfpack made small forward T.J. Warren‘s final four list of schools along with Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Gottfried also still has a shot at small forward Devonta Pollard and power forward Amile Jefferson among many others in the Class of 2012.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Rodney Purvis on committing to North Carolina State: “After many conversations and prayers with the Lord, and visits, I came to a conclusion. There is no place like home.”
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Who’s Got Next? DeAndre Daniels Commits, Duke Spotlight, Rodney Purvis and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on June 10th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

The DeAndre Daniels saga is finally over. After committing and then de-committing and then setting up different decision dates and not following through on them, Daniels let everyone know where he will play college basketball. Where, you may ask? Well, that may be the most surprising thing that’s happened is his whole recruitment. Class of 2012 shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7) also spoke out on a couple of his recent visits and many other top prospects talked about their new lists. And speaking of Purvis, why will he be attending the same camp as North Carolina star Harrison Barnes this weekend?  You can find out that and more in this edition of Who’s Got Next?

What They’re Saying

You Have to Think Calhoun Will Be Back Now

  • Senior DeAndre Daniels on why he committed to Connecticut: “I chose UConn because I thought it was the best fit for me, just their style of play, and just how they develop their wing guys. And just how he makes his guys better.” On head coach Jim Calhoun possibly returning: “[Calhoun said] I don’t have to worry about him not being there. He said he’ll be there.”
  • Junior Archie Goodwin (#19) on his list and when he will commit: “Kentucky, Baylor, Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, UConn, Missouri along with a lot of others including Louisville and Georgia. I’m definitely going to [sign] later.”
  • Junior Devonta Pollard (#40) on his offers and what he’s looking for: “Mississippi State, Georgetown, Ole Miss, North Carolina State, LSU, Alabama and Kentucky… a place where I can go and be comfortable, where I can play and be successful.”
  • Junior Perry Ellis (#10) on who he’s considering: “I still am considering all six teams (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State), as well as Duke now.”
  • Sophomore Malcolm Hill on his Indiana visit and the schools who are recruiting him: “They have a nice campus, it’s a good environment and I saw that they have good study habits. I really like the practice facility a lot. The other schools that are looking at me are Ohio State, Xavier, UCLA, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Providence and Tennessee.”
  • Sophomore standout Isaiah Lewis on what he’s looking for in a school: “The fan base… academics, that’s an important part. I want to see where coaches play me. I really want to go to college playing point guard.”
  • Freshman shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes on his list: “Arizona, North Carolina State, Texas, Oregon and a couple of other schools.”

What Rodney Purvis is Saying

Rodney Purvis talked a lot about recent visits. (Credit: HighSchoolHoop)

Class of 2012 shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7) recently wrote a player blog for ESPN RISE in which he said some interesting things. Take a look below.

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