Examining ACC Teams in Early Season Tournaments: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 28th, 2013

As part of our preseason coverage on the ACC microsite, we will be looking at ACC teams competing in early season tournaments in a three-part series . Today we present Part II, which includes a look at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, the Paradise Jam, the Progressive Legends Classic and the EA Sports Maui Invitational.  To check out Part I of our series, click here.

These early season tournaments mean different things to different teams. For the traditional powers Duke and North Carolina, these events are just another part of the non-conference schedule, and not usually the most important part. With the national profile of those schools, building a quality non-conference slate is not all that difficult. But for others in the ACC, these tournaments are often the most challenging games those teams will face outside of league play. If you’re a potential NCAA Tournament team, a good performance in one of these events can considerably lessen the pressure to need a great league record to make the field.

Virginia's Early Loss to Delaware Last Season Badly Damaged Its RPI

Virginia’s Early Loss to Delaware Last Season Badly Damaged Its RPI

The opposite is also true, as Virginia found out last year. Losing to Delaware at home in the Preseason NIT gave Virginia a bad early loss and cost the Cavaliers a trip to New York, which would have improved their non-conference RPI and was a primary reason an 11-7 ACC team was left out of the field. Beyond just notching quality wins, the additional benefit is the RPI boost received from merely playing these games against other quality opponents. As Ken Pomeroy wrote in a March 2011 article, the RPI may not be a great metric but it is the main way NCAA Selection Committees sort teams. With 75% of a team’s RPI based on opponents’ RPI, poor performances in the non-conference schedule by multiple teams can damage an entire conference’s standing dramatically.

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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #30 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2013

seasonpreview-1

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#30 – Where Maui Madness Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Syracuse Orange

Posted by BHayes on August 28th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

In many ways, the 2013-14 season looks to be business as usual at Syracuse. The roster is deep and talented, expectations are sky-high, and Jim Boeheim is manning the sidelines for the Orange. But you can rest assured that there will have never been a Syracuse basketball season like this one. The day is finally here – the Orange, charter members of the Big East conference, are now officially ACC constituents. Heading south with them are former Big East brethren Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The addition of these three formidable basketball programs makes the ACC, at least on paper, the toughest hoops conference in the land.

Jim Boeheim And CJ Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse's First Year In The ACC

Jim Boeheim And C.J. Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse’s First Year In the ACC

  • Team Outlook: Duke will undoubtedly be eager to remind the newbies that the ACC is its conference to rule, but Syracuse should be as poised as any foe to upend the Blue Devils. The Orange frontcourt is loaded, with junior and all-Big East second teamer C.J. Fair (14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG) leading the charge. Surrounding Fair up front is a trio of high-upside sophomores. Rakeem Christmas (5.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 BPG), DaJuan Coleman (4.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG), and Jerami Grant (3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG) are all expected to see an uptick in production in year two, but of the three, it is Grant who has the best chance to quickly transform himself from role player into star. Junior Baye Keita (8.6 block percentage) will also see minutes up front, while Duke transfer Michael Gbinije and freshman B.J. Johnson will battle to find time in this crowded frontcourt. Not surprisingly, given the remarkable depth up front, the question marks for Jim Boeheim and the Orange all appear in the backcourt. Gone are Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, leaving Trevor Cooney as the sole backcourt returnee who saw any time a year ago. The sophomore is an engaged and capable defender, but will be expected to shoot the ball better from the outside this time around (he was just 27% from three as a freshman). He may also be tasked with handling some backup point guard duties, as there is no obvious reserve for presumptive starter Tyler Ennis. Ennis, a freshman from Ontario, California, may be the most important player on the Orange roster. With said deficit of ball-handlers, the consensus top-25 recruit will have the rock in his hands a whole lot, and what he does with it will go a long ways towards determining the fate of this Syracuse season. With all the talent around him he does not need to be nearly as dynamic as MCW was a year ago, but with few other options around, he most certainly has to play a solid floor game for the Orange to begin to tap their full potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Butler 82, #11 UNC 71

Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2012

rushedreactions

Some quick thoughts from today’s first Maui Invitational semifinal game between North Carolina and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Butler Lives For These Games. And it was apparent in the warmups. Whereas the Carolina guys had a very relaxed — almost too relaxed — attitude in the layup lines (Maui living!), Butler was all business. And from the opening tap, it was clear that if UNC was going to walk out of the Lahaina Civic Center today with a victory, it was going to have to cost the Tar Heels considerable blood, sweat, and tears. This was not going to be another Mississippi State laydown event. Brad Stevens knows that his program, even despite back-to-back national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011, is still not respected in the same way that, say, even Wisconsin is. As an example, the Bulldogs were not ranked in the Top 25 this preseason. After wins over Marquette and North Carolina this week, they will be now.
  2. Remember Those 15 Threes? Yeah, We Don’t Either. At the 11:30 minute mark of the second half, the UNC guard quartet whom we lauded yesterday had put up a huge stinker. And that’s a problem, because they along with James Michael McAdoo are going to have to carry most of the Tar Heel offense. At that point, they had combined for a measly 13 points and had shot somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-20 from the field (they finished 17-46 with . And the credit goes 100% to the Butler defense, which Brad Stevens had clearly designed to bump, pressure, and challenge the Tar Heel guards. They didn’t like it. Generally, they settled for jumpers in the thinking that since they fell yesterday, so why not tonight? The difference, of course, was that Butler was defending them. By the time Carolina figured out how to speed up the game by returning the favor with full-court pressure on the Butler guards, the game was too far out of hand to matter.
  3. The Comeback. With nearly three-quarters of the game gone, UNC finally got a couple of outside shots to fall and started pressuring the Bulldogs fullcourt. From that point forward, the Heels went on a 37-15 run that included seven Butler turnovers (keep in mind that the Bulldogs committed zero second half turnovers yesterday). Down 28 to begin with, though, and playing a team that typically doesn’t rattle and makes the right play with the ball, it was highly unlikely that Butler was going to completely cave — still, UNC deserves credit for getting back into the game. As Roy Williams said afterward, he’s never had a “team quit” on him, so this will certainly be a teaching point about bringing that same toughness out of the gate.

Star of the Game. Kellen Dunham, Butler. Butler’s attack tonight was rather balanced, but it was Dunham’s five treys (on nine attempts) that really helped Butler build an insurmountable lead tonight. He also provided the assist on one of the Bulldogs’ late threes that stemmed the onrushing UNC tide, while adding five rebounds and a couple of assists in the game. Of course, we all know that the true star here was Brad Stevens’ game plan, but we’ll save that one for later depending on how tomorrow goes.

Quotable.

  • “I love giant killers.” Butler head coach Brad Stevens in reference to a question about Chaminade beating Texas and possibly playing his Bulldogs if they get past Illinois.
  • “I’ve never had a team quit… one possible exception could have been Florida State [last year].” UNC head coach Roy Williams, paging Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, possibly.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Realignment, UConn, Maui and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. As someone who doesn’t watch one minute of college football but loves college basketball to no end, conference realignment frustrates me to no end as you might imagine. It’s actually quite depressing and I hate talking/writing about it. However, it’s a relevant story and must be discussed because of the far-reaching impacts it will have on the sport I love. I realize this is all about “stability,” TV markets and football. It bothers me like nothing else but I accept it. I’m in the minority when it comes to this and the minority holds very little influence in our country. The consequences (both intended and unintended) of realignment for basketball are distressing. The Big East conference, the pre-eminent college basketball league for the last 25 to 30 years, is on life support. The conference I grew up watching, with the best conference tournament of them all, is all but gone. Yes, Connecticut and Louisville are still in the league, but make no mistake, they’ll bolt at the first opportunity they get as we saw this week with Rutgers going to the Big Ten. Once everything shakes out, I find it hard to believe any Big East football program will remain in the league. It simply makes no sense to do so at this point and they’re looking out for themselves in doing so. I don’t blame them. I blame the greedy conference leadership concerned about how many eyeballs the Big Ten Network can draw in New York and New Jersey, the schools who set this in motion (Syracuse and Pittsburgh), and the Big East as a whole for turning down a massive TV deal that could have given the conference a great deal of security. Once the football schools leave, the Big East will be down to seven Catholic basketball-only schools: DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova. As an alumnus and fan of one of those seven schools, this pains me greatly. I could live with Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Notre Dame leaving the league. The real punch to the gut was Syracuse, a Big East founding member, saying it could find long-term stability in the ACC. The final, fatal blow will be Connecticut and/or Louisville bolting, likely in short order. The basketball-only schools have no leverage and must wait and see as everything crashes around them. Hopefully they get together, keep the Big East name and pick up a few other schools like Butler, St. Joe’s and Xavier. That wouldn’t be a bad league and it would get back to the roots of the Big East, basketball and basketball only.

    The Big East Needs to Find Its Roots in Basketball

  2. How does realignment affect other schools and conferences?  For one, the bottom teams in the ACC may stay there for a very long time. With Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame coming in (and possibly Connecticut/Louisville), how will schools like Wake Forest and Boston College compete? There will be a good five or six programs ahead of them each and every year, plus they have to battle it out with the likes of Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech just to make it into the middle of the pack. It’s a vicious cycle that will keep programs like these as the bottom of their respective conference for many years to come. They always said it was tough to climb up the Big East ladder but now the ACC is effectively the Big East (six of the ACC’s 14 future members, not including Maryland, will be former Big East schools). It’s going to be extraordinarily tough for schools like Boston College to compete in the revamped ACC. Only the strong shall survive in conference realignment, it seems. As for the Big Ten, the impact isn’t as significant. Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern will always be among the worst programs in the league but the climb to respectability isn’t as difficult. Look at Northwestern. The Wildcats have never made the NCAA Tournament despite knocking on the door in the last few seasons, showing how it isn’t impossible to climb the conference ladder. Now though, the addition of a similarly starved program at Rutgers and a strong program at Maryland makes it more difficult for Northwestern to make a move. It’s uncertain what Rutgers is getting itself into. The Scarlet Knights haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in 22 seasons but have shown signs of progress under Mike Rice. You have to think it can go either way for Rutgers. The new recruiting avenues can help but the school is already situated in the middle of the talent-rich New York City area. That said, road trips to Wisconsin and Michigan State aren’t as simple as heading over to St. John’s or up to Providence. I’d lean towards Rutgers struggling in the Big Ten. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 11.20.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 20th, 2012

  1. The big news of the day happened off the court and likely behind closed doors in a room with paintings of men who have been dead for over 100 years as Maryland is headed to the Big Ten after its Board of Regents approved the move and Rutgers is expected to join suit later today. Obviously these moves are driven by football-generated television revenue, but it is unfortunate how this move will negatively affect some current college basketball rivalries, particularly Maryland-Duke. The decision to invite Rutgers, a school that has largely been irrelevant in revenue-generating sports, appears to be motivated by its proximity to New York City and the huge television market that comes with it. Our writers at the Big Ten microsite have already provided an overview of how these moves will affect the Big Ten, and the ACC microsite has chimed in as well, but for our part the loss of Maryland as a charter member of the ACC is one of the sadder stories of the entire conference realignment era and we wonder how Terps fans will take to their new conference.
  2. Nobody with half a brain these days still thinks that schools give much, if any, consideration to their student-athletes, fans or sentiment to longstanding and traditional rivalries when making these purely financial decisions to chase the highest possible payout. This mindset is perfectly laid out by ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil, who with a scathing edge to her pen, writes: “The landscape is a storm-ravaged mess and the last idealistic fan has left the building, seeing this entire enterprise for the sausage-making caper it is. College sports are gaining money and losing credibility, the sham of amateurism and purity reserved merely for the athletes and their vow of poverty.” Pat Forde follows her with a missive describing how Maryland and Rutgers’ incompetence both on the fields of play and in the boardroom are virtually meaningless in modern realignment calculus. What does matter: “Location, location, location [near major media markets]. That’s what this latest round of conference realignment is about.” Both are absolutely correct, of course — in just the last year we’ve lost (or will lose) Missouri-Kansas, Syracuse-Georgetown, and now Duke-Maryland. All in the name of more dollars. At what point do those dollars level off when fans realize that Rutgers-Michigan or Maryland-Iowa simply doesn’t have quite the same passion and intensity surrounding it?
  3. Wednesday’s game between Kentucky and Morehead State was supposed to be a nice homecoming for former Wildcat star Sean Woods (you may remember him as the guy who hit the shot before Laettner hit The Shot). It may not turn out to be so friendly, though, after a story was published in the Louisville Courier-Journal in which Woods criticized the current Wildcats for their sense of youthful entitlement. Perhaps as the result of some harsh local feedback, Woods backed off his earlier statements via his official Twitter account. We are guessing that Woods’ clarification will be enough for most Wildcat fans — his banner hangs in the Rupp Arena rafters, after all — but there will probably be a few of the less reasonable ones who use it as an excuse to create a minor scene on Wednesday night.
  4. While the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament has been able to bring in big name programs the past two years — Kentucky (2011) and Ohio State (2012) — it has failed to draw large crowds even when Big Blue Nation invaded Mohegan Sun last season with an absolutely loaded team. Now the organizers are trying to overcome that with a  2013 field that includes two powerhouses — North Carolina and Louisville — as well Richmond, Belmont, and a group of four local schools. Having been to the event once we would be surprised if even the presence of these two schools could make up for the odd atmosphere surrounding the arena and casino, but it should at least make for a better televised final. Along the same lines, the Maui Invitational announced its field for the 2014 tournament (two years from now), and it includes the following eight schools: Arizona, BYU, Missouri, Purdue, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Kansas State, Chaminade. It’s not the strongest Maui event we’ve ever seen, but we’d expect at least three of those teams to rank in the Top 25 that season, perhaps more.
  5. Speaking of the Garden Isle, we don’t typically discuss game results in this space, but on the 30th anniversary of Chaminade‘s historic upset over #1 Virginia in 1982, we thought it was too coincidental to fail to mention the Silverswords’ 86-73 victory over Texas on Monday night. Certainly there are failures in the comparison — first of all, Texas 2012 is not Virginia 1982. The Longhorns aren’t even ranked, and they are playing in Maui without their best player, Myck Kabongo, in the lineup. Secondly, the gap between Division I and Division II basketball isn’t what it was 30 years ago — better training methodologies and techniques at all levels of basketball have helped, but the regular gutting of high-D-I hoops by the NBA creates situations like at Texas where Rick Barnes faces a rebuild every couple of years (Ralph Sampson would have without question been one-and-one in today’s environment). Still, it’s pretty cool. Texas has by far the nation’s top athletic department budget (last check: over $150 million) and it’s unlikely that Chaminade even surpasses a cool million. Could the D-II darlings use a home court advantage to take down Illinois tonight — nobody knows the answer, but it’s stories like these that answers the question of why we watch the games.
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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: #11 UNC 95, Mississippi State 49

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Some quick thoughts from today’s Maui Invitational quarterfinal game between UNC and Mississippi State…

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The UNC Guards Are Big, Deep and Talented. This is a completely different type of North Carolina team from the last couple of seasons, and frankly, given a Roy Williams’ system that looks to get into transition at every available opportunity, it may work a little better. With all the size along the Tar Heel front line last year, it sometimes felt like the Heels got bogged down in the half court, but this year’s group doesn’t seem to have that same problem. At least not today, when a Mississippi State defense gave them every opening they wanted — to the tune of 15 threes (the fourth most in school history) and 21 assists — Roy Williams found a reason to be upset with his defense in the postgame (UNC held MSU to 27% shooting), but the fortunes of his team are going to ride on PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock, and Dexter Strickland (combined for 65 points today).
  2. Carolina’s Young Size is Raw But Promising. It won’t show up on the stat sheet as very impressive, but the trio of Joel James, Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert and JP Tokoto is a collection of raw talent whose size, springiness and hustle are going to win Carolina some games this season. The seven-foot James is somewhat reminiscent of a young Brendan Haywood, while the beauty of the others is that they aren’t expected to score in favor of hustling and protecting the rim. Williams’ teams are at their best with featured guard and wing play, so this team’s interior corps, already seeming to already understand its role in the scheme, will serve the Heels well going into the heart of the season.
  3. Mississippi State Has a Long Way to Get Back to Respectability. Rick Ray seemed rather disappointed after this game, and why wouldn’t he be? The realization that his team is roughly 40 to 50 points worse than a top 10 opponent is humbling to say the least. His group of inexperienced players were clearly shaken by the match-up at the opening tip, finding themselves down 9-0, 29-6, and 40-15 at various parts of the first half. They were never able to figure out how to find a good shot in the UNC defensive creases, and turnovers (21) were a major problem. The one bright spot was the hustle and play of Gavin Ware off the bench — he contributed eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks against a much bigger front line.

Star of the Game. PJ Hairston, North Carolina. Hairston had the shot of the game (not the week, thanks to Rotnei Clarke) when his 60-footer at the buzzer of the first half found net. But his all-around game set the pace for the Tar Heels with 18 points (on 7-11 shooting), four rebounds, and three blocks this afternoon.

Quotable. We asked Roy Williams what he thought about Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and this was his response:

  • “Stunned, shocked… Didn’t see it coming… Strange what’s going on with college athletics… Hate to see them go, but if they don’t want to be there… [hand motion waving goodbye].”

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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Butler 72, Marquette 71

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Some quick thoughts from today’s Maui Invitational quarterfinal game between Marquette and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Rotnei Clarke Redeems Himself With a Buzzer-Beater for the Win. We were prepared to write about how much of a chucker Butler’s transfer senior can be with the basketball, but his off-balance, one-footed, double-covered leaner from well beyond the three-point arc as time expired won the game for his team. Those are the kinds of shots chuckers make simply because they’re so comfortable shooting the ball… from anywhere. Clarke finished with seven makes versus 14 misses on the afternoon for a 20-point outing, but his last trio of points were the difference for the Bulldogs, and the reason that they will advance to play in the semifinals tomorrow.
  2. Marquette’s Sustainability. In a game where it felt that Marquette was always just a play or two from putting away always-scrappy Butler, it was a missed free throw by Junior Coudagan followed by a prayer of a leaning three from Rotnei Clarke that let the game get away from the Golden Eagles. But take nothing away from Butler, as the Bulldogs hit 57% in the second half and committed zero turnovers in keeping the game close — Butler’s greatest deficit was twice at six points, but Marquette in both cases gave up an easy layup and was unable to sustain enough momentum to put the Bulldogs away.
  3. Khyle Marshall Breaking Out? His teammate Clarke will get all of the press for today’s win, but junior wing Khyle Marshall spent most of this afternoon looking like the best player on the floor. He found his spots all over the paint, going for 24/9 in an efficient 11-15 shooting performance. In the past Marshall has struggled with inconsistency (case in point: his seven-point game against Elon last week), but if Butler expects to ride Clarke’s shooting back to the NCAA Tournament, they will absolutely need Marshall’s abilities on the wing to come to fruition.

Star of the Game. Rotnei Clarke, Butler. Clarke’s 20/6 line on 7-of-21 shooting was not something to write home about, but um, this shot certainly was…

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Big East M5: 11.19.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 19th, 2012

  1. It’s a sad state of affairs in college sports when the most urgent news is determined in a boardroom rather than a gym or stadium. Just when it appeared as though the Machiavellian engineering of conference realignment had subsided for long enough for fans to actually enjoy a full season, we learned over the weekend that Maryland will likely become the next shoe to drop when its Board of Regents deliberates whether to move to the Big Ten this morning at 9 AM. Pete Thamel reiterated in Sports Illustrated last night that Rutgers will join the Terrapins in the corn-fed dominion of Legends and Leaders. According to his media sources, the rationale for the Scarlet Knight’s inclusion is the $100 million annual windfall promised by the expansion of the Big Ten Network onto cable packages in the New York City market. But one executive issued a warning that should resonate with any fan who’s ever searched for a New York bar screening a college game before March: “Hey, it could be big money… But it’s a lot of risk. Rutgers isn’t the Yankees.”
  2. While it would be a bummer to lose Rutgers, their move could accelerate a far more calamitous result for the Big East if Connecticut is tabbed to replace Maryland in the ACC. The departure would exacerbate a year of chaotic discontinuity for the Big East and completely undermine any bargaining leverage the conference currently wields in its media negotiations. On an experiential level, it would make Big East basketball a lot less fun to follow, with few remaining powerhouses and very little remaining tradition to unify the disjointed reaches of the ragtag Big East tapestry. John Rook at The UConn Blog touches on these points and reflects on the commercial desecration of hollowed college basketball icons from the nuanced perspective of a fan of a school that is, ostensibly, benefiting from this sea change. Rook makes the point that realignment destroys not only traditional rivalries and geographic continuity, but also erases individual program’s accomplishments from our collective memory: “Now, if the Big East no longer exists, UConn’s dominance over it matters less. Do you know how many Conference USA titles Louisville has? Neither do I. You know why? Now that they are in the Big East all that matters is what they do in this conference. The moment UConn goes to the ACC they are no longer the dominant program of the Big East but simply the really good program with no ACC titles.”
  3. Big East teams face two high-profile non-conference tests away from home tonight, as Georgetown takes on #13 UCLA in Brooklyn and Marquette meets Butler in the Maui Invitational. The Hoyas’ odds of pulling off the upset took a hit last Friday when the NCAA cleared star freshman Shabazz Muhammad to suit up for the Bruins. Despite not stepping on the court yet this season, teammate Kyle Anderson predicts Muhammad won’t miss a beat, “because in practice, he’s a beast.” The Hoyas’ wings will have their work cut out for them defensively.
  4. Marquette, for its part, looks to avoid a letdown when it plays a Butler team coming off a crushing defeat against Xavier. Cracked Sidewalks put together a very cogent explanation of why the game is such a watershed moment: a loss could spell “a neutral court loss to a non-top 50 team come Selection Sunday, and would saddle MUs RPI with the record of consolation opponent Mississippi State (#132 in Value Add).” A first-round stumble would also deprive Marquette of a shot at North Carolina in the winner’s bracket.
  5. Last Friday, the M5 mentioned four-star Union, NJ, forward Tyler Robinson’s impending college decision between Syracuse, Villanova and Kansas. Robinson ultimately cast his lot with Boeheim’s crew, which came as somewhat of a surprise after his final visit to Villanova seemed positive enough to inspire him to cancel a scheduled recruiting trip to Lexington. Robinson cited Boeheim’s coaching reputation and the program’s upcoming move to the ACC as major attractions in committing to the Orange. Syracuse appears poised to reload with what’s sure to be another top-15 recruiting class, highlighted by Robinson and four/five-star point guard Tyler Ennis.
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Big East M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 26th, 2012

  1. Connecticut’s basketball’s academic woes have reared their ugly head once again, this time in the form of the team’s graduation success rate (GSR). The Huskies’ GSR dropped from 36% to 11% this year, representing the lowest such mark in all of Division I basketball.  The score, which reflects how many of the team’s players were able to graduate within six years of their enrollment at school, is different from the APR, the Academic Progress Rating that is currently preventing UConn from participating in the 2013 postseason. On the bright side for the Huskies, their APR is on the rise. Academic success is one of the major black marks on the end of the Jim Calhoun era at Connecticut, and as the NCAA’s APR requirements continue to increase every year, it needs to be a major focus for Kevin Ollie or whoever has control of the program in the long term.
  2. Big time non-conference series are always fun, and yesterday we learned that Georgetown and Kansas have agreed to play four games starting next season.  The series will open at Allen Fieldhouse on December 31, 2013 and continue on for three successive seasons home-and-home until 2016-17. Georgetown and Kansas have only faced each other twice, including last year in the Maui Invitational, a 67-63 Kansas victory. The all-time series is tied at one win apiece.
  3. Pitt’s J.J. Moore may be a bit rusty on the court after missing months of basketball from an April surgery to repair his fifth metatarsal, but he spent his summer wisely. After living in the weight room during his rehabiliation, Moore put on around 15 pounds of muscle, and is now a stout 6’6″ and 215 pounds. Moore was not a major part of Jamie Dixon’s rotation last season, sitting behind Lamar Patterson and Nasir Robinson at the forward slots, but with his added size and strength he should factor in at both small forward and power forward this year. Moore adds some added quickness and versatility at the four when Dixon wants to go with a smaller, more athletic line-up: “I’m definitely ready to make that transition and play power forward,” Moore said. “We’ve been practicing right now with me being the power forward. It’s looking good. I think it’s looking good for the team, as a matter of fact. With me as a power forward, the guys can get open because we can space the floor.”
  4. Marquette blog Anonymous Eagle is running a player preview series for the start of the 2012-13 season. Today featured “silky” freshman forward Steve Taylor, whom Buzz Williams has called the best freshman he’s ever signed at Marquette. While Taylor has a ton of potential, he is going to start behind Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson in the rotation, and the AE guys don’t foresee him seeing a lot come Big East play, especially with Williams’ penchant for leaning on experienced players down the stretch.  There is also an excellent photoshop done involving Taylor, Williams, and a 1995 Chevy Chase film, so the full profile is definitely worth your time.
  5. Having spent four years in Syracuse, I can verify that there are a number of notable food spots in town. Dinosaur BBQ is the first place to roll off of most tongues, but Jim Boeheim’s favorite hot dog joint Heid’s and the nearly-90 year old Varsity on the SU hill both deserve all the recognition that they receive as well.  However, there is one particular Syracuse food item that is particularly legendary – the Mother’s Cupboard frittata.  This six-pound heap of egg, pepperoni, home fries, sausage, and vegetables has been finished by few and has conquered many, but another brave soul was able to put down the entire dish on Monday: Syracuse basketball walk-on Russ DeRemer. DeRemer utilized a strategy that allowed “Man vs. Food” host Adam Richman to overcome the mighty frittata, and he was able to put away the entire plate in 25 minutes. DeRemer was quite humble about the accomplishment, but fellow walk-on Albert Nassar was more candid about his teammate’s impressive feat: “Honestly, he didn’t even struggle,’’ Nassar said. “Until the last bowl, he didn’t pause once. He just kept going. Then on the last bottom, he paused for like a minute and then knocked it out.’’
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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the USC Trojans.

Strengths: Fresh blood. You know the old legend about Keith Richards getting a complete change of blood in order to beat a heroin addiction prior to the Rolling Stones 1973 European tour? Well, if you’ll indulge a tortured analogy for a second: If Keith Richards is the USC basketball team, and his heroin addiction is SC’s 1-17 finish in a historically bad Pac-12, that blood transfusion is USC’s almost completely remade roster. With transfers, freshmen and players returning from seasons lost to injury, head coach Kevin O’Neill will likely only run a player or two out there who was around and active at the end of 2011-12. Instead Jio Fontan, J.T. Terrell, Eric Wise, DeWayne Dedmon, Aaron Fuller, Ari Stewart, Renaldo Woolridge and others will give the Trojans a chance to start anew, and with certainly a larger collection of offensive talent than has ever been assembled in the O’Neill era in Los Angeles. To reference the apocryphal story even further, it should be noted that even if Richards did undergo such a transfusion, it wasn’t his last run-in with addiction. But, nevertheless, that ’73 Stones tour was an undeniable success. And this Trojan team is capable of going from one with no expectations a year ago to one who could get some serious satisfaction this season, so long as that relapse can be withheld until after the tour.

Jio Fontan, USC

Jumpin’ Jio Fontan Is Back For The New Look Trojans, Who Hope A Complete Change Of Blood Will Reverse Their Fortunes

Weaknesses: While the Trojans have been strong defensively in each of O’Neill’s three years as head coach, they’ve been a plodding mess on offense, ranking no better than #93 in the nation in offensive efficiency (as always, per KenPom.com) before dipping to a putrid #326 last year. While he’s got tons of new pieces that could fit perfectly into his team’s jigsaw puzzle, KO’s got to prove that he can get it done with plenty of guys on this squad who have a history of bombing their way to unacceptably low field goal percentages (Fontan’s never even approached a 50% eFG rate, while Terrell, Stewart, Wise and Woolridge all had similar struggles at their previous stops). A newer concern for O’Neill is that, with the departure of last year’s point guard Maurice Jones, there is no margin for error at the point guard position for Fontan. If, god forbid, his surgically repaired knee causes him to miss any time again, the Trojans could be playing with fire.

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Breaking Down the Five Best Non-Conference Tournaments

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 22nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

For the first time this offseason, thanks to new NCAA legislation allowing coaches to work with their teams over the summer, coaches began official practice with a good grip on what to expect from their teams this season. This is a generally positive development. It helps eliminate some of the rust players typically carry into fall workouts, allows coaches to begin formulating and implementing tactical tweaks earlier than usual, and gives incoming freshmen a chance to leave a positive first impression while benefiting from a longer and more relaxed transition into their college careers. Sadly, this takes some of the luster off Midnight Madness, which is traditionally viewed with excitement and anticipation as the official start of hoops practice and the symbolic commencement of another season-long slate of hardwood drama. But from a coaches perspective, getting an early look at your team before the usual date would seem like a positive change of pace, if nothing else.

All the Hoosiers need to do is sneak by Georgia to do battle with a promising UCLA squad in the Legends Classic final (Photo credit: Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

With teams starting preseason preparations early this year, some of the usual sloppiness of non-conference play should be replaced by a more crisp and disciplined brand of basketball. This hypothesis may or may not bear fruit, but whatever the effect of the rule – whether it better conditions teams for promising starts, or eliminates the intensity of fall preseason workouts – the value of an extended offseason program will be put to the test in rather abrupt fashion with the annual slate of non-conference tournaments. These little events spring up stateside just as much as they do in island states and commonwealths, from Las Vegas to Brooklyn, Hawaii to Puerto Rico, and pretty much anywhere with a basketball court, hotels and some bleachers. It’s awful hard to keep track of them all, so I’ve chosen five events to narrow your focus. Each fixture is intriguing in its own way, and a variety of factors went into constructing the list. Exciting games between top teams carried the most weight.

On a side note: I decided to exclude mega-events such as the ACC/Big Ten and SEC/Big East Challenges, as well as the Preseason NIT. Those are great events, no doubt, but they’re great events each and every year. Plus, they don’t fit the categorical purpose of this exercise, so listing them here is unnecessary. I also excluded mini-events such as the Gotham Classic, Jimmy V Classic, Champions Classic and Wooden Classic in favor of actual tournament-style events.

1. Legends Classic 

  • Where: Barclays Center; Brooklyn, New York
  • Teams: Indiana, Georgia, UCLA, Georgetown
  • When: November 19-20
  • Bracket

Before we get to breaking down the matchups, the venue – the state of the art Barclays Center, which offers a cutting-edge food-ordering app, free wi-fi and the very real possibility you might spot hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, 2013 Super Bowl halftime diva Beyonce, or both – is a spectacle on its own, an urban hoops palace taking a lead role in modernizing the sports viewing experience with unprecedented technological amenities. Watching basketball played on that court is exciting no matter what teams inhabit it. Then you take a shiny new stadium and put two Top 25 squads on the floor, both of whom will still be figuring out their lineups and rounding into form, and it’s hard to envision anyone being disappointed by the end product. If Indiana can get by Georgia in one semifinal and UCLA takes care of business against Georgetown in the other (which, admittedly, is far from a guarantee), the championship game could make for one of the upcoming college hoops calendar’s best non-conference games altogether, let alone the bracketed tournament variety. Indiana will get its first real test of the season, while UCLA may still be feeling things out with an expected freshman-heavy lineup. If I had my druthers, I’d rather see this game played later on in the  schedule, mostly because of the very real possibility that No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad won’t be available due to an ongoing NCAA review of possible violations committed during his recruitment. With Muhammad, the potential Indiana-UCLA Final is a Final Four-worthy bout. Without him, it’s exciting but incomplete, insofar as it won’t accurately gauge the Bruins at full strength against another legitimate national title contender.

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