Morning Five: MLK Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2010

  1. Happy MLK Day, everyone.  There’s probably no other American sport as impacted by the civil rights legislation spearheaded by the nonviolent resistance of Dr. King and his fellow agents of change as that of basketball.  Fifty years ago, major college basketball was whiter than virgin snow and the prevailing sentiment was that black players were too undisciplined to play the game at an elite level.  Look around today — how could so many people be so dreadfully wrong?  King’s lifelong work helped so many people in this country, and one of the relatively insignificant (in the grand scheme) results of his work was to change such an uninformed and misguided perception about black athletes (and basketball players in particular) for the better.  Our sincere hope as we celebrate Dr. King’s life today is that every player of color who will play a college basketball game this week understands the sacrifice and pain that he and others endured a half-century ago so that they can suit up and play nowadays without anyone raising so much as an eyebrow.
  2. Kentucky’s John Calipari held a telethon called “Hoops for Haiti” on Sunday that raised over a million dollars for the earthquake-stricken island nation.  Notable donors included Ashley Judd, Jim Boeheim, Dick Vitale and even former UK coach Tubby Smith.
  3. Cornell’s Jon Jacques, a 6’7 senior forward for the Big Red, blogs for the NY Times on his team’s recent trip to Kansas and learning what the word “snowdrift” means.  Keep in mind he’s spent 3+ years in Ithaca, NY, already!
  4. Marquette transfer forward Jeronne Maymon has enrolled at Tennessee, and will be eligible to suit up for Bruce Pearl’s team next season.  While on the subject of the Vols, suspended players Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum were reinstated on Sunday for practice and will be on the bench for UT’s next game versus Alabama on Tuesday night.
  5. Mike DeCourcy examines the ridiculous second half that Texas forward Damion James gave his Longhorns on Saturday night to preserve their first #1 ranking ever.
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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 1.16.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 16th, 2010

WOW.  284 of the 345 Division I college basketball teams are in action on Saturday, and an inordinate number of those games are being broadcast on TV somewhere.  We all know what happened last week — an upset-lover’s dream, with a wave of surprising results that started about halfway through the day and kept rolling through Sunday night.  And then we had the equally compelling performances by Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds on Monday night and the Robbie Hummel/Evan Turner show on Tuesday.  What will this weekend bring?  If you check the schedule, many of these match-ups are pretty intriguing, with quite a few highly-ranked teams heading into the home lairs of some squads that really need wins (Purdue at Northwestern comes to mind, where we’ll be courtside with RTC Live).  There are some excellent early games of which we’ll be keeping track, starting off with an incredible (not to mention VITAL for both teams) A-10 game involving Dayton at Xavier at 11 AM ET.  How about a little bit of #5 Syracuse visiting #9 West Virginia at noon?  Maybe you’d prefer a couple of angry ACC teams coming off of losses with #18 Georgia Tech traveling to Chapel Hill to say howdy to #13 North Carolina at 2 PM ET?  Well, whatever hoops we can find (and as I say, it is everywhere this weekend), we’ll be live-blogging it here for most of the day, not to mention we have two OTHER RTC Lives we have in store in addition to the aforementioned Purdue/Northwestern: Arizona at Oregon at 4:30 PM ET, and Portland at Saint Mary’s at 10 PM ET.  We’ll be here starting at about 11 AM for the first game, so get that refresh-button finger warmed up and join us — and better yet, let us know what you’re watching and what’s on your mind.  See you in a bit!

11:00: So here we go with Dayton at Xavier.  What a rivalry, and what a way to start the day!  This is something like the 4,286th meeting between these two schools (OK, actually 115th, I think).  Both teams are currently undefeated in the A-10, and this one would REALLY look good on the ol’ NCAA Tournament resume’.

11:10: I’m sitting here wondering what sort of high-flying exploits Dayton’s Chris Wright will have on display.  It’s also fun to watch Dayton coach Brian Gregory on the sideline; he’s a high-energy guy, not that Chris Mack’s not.  Gregory is one of those coaches where, if you’re just talking basketball with him, you want to ask him, “Hey, are there some lines I can run for you?  Could I do a couple of miles out on the track?”  In other words, he’s a good motivator.

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Tyler Smith Dismissed From Tennessee

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2010

The first shoe dropped today in the Tennessee basketball players New Year’s Day fiasco, as star forward Tyler Smith was dismissed from the Tennessee basketball team in a statement released by Bruce Pearl:

We felt we had enough information at this time to dismiss Tyler Smith from the team.  I am deeply troubled and saddened. Playing basketball at the University of Tennessee is a privilege, and where conduct is displayed that is detrimental to the team and the university, this discipline is required. Tyler has accomplished a great deal and we are all disappointed his playing career at the University of Tennessee will end this way.

Disappointment, Thy Name is Tyler

The three other players involved in the incident — Melvin Goins, Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum — remain indefinitely suspended as #1 Kansas visits Knoxville this weekend.  The twitterati and message board chatter yesterday implied that this decision was coming, as allegedly Smith was found to be the owner of the two guns found in the rental car where the four players were riding. 

This is obviously a huge blow to the Tennessee team this year as well as to Bruce Pearl’s program in general.  Smith was generally viewed as a success story around the SEC, as the local kid had returned home from Iowa after his freshman year to be with his sick father and help Pearl rebuild the UT program.  He was all-SEC first team as a sophomore and junior, and helped lead UT to its second straight Sweet Sixteen in 2008 for the first time in program history.  Furthermore, the perception that Pearl only has loose control of his players is exacerbated by this situation, and it may ultimately impact his recruiting to Knoxville. 

Smith, to his credit, said in a statement that he’s only a dozen hours short of his degree and he intends on finishing it, but what on earth was he thinking here?  If he really feels such imminent danger on a daily basis that he needs to have not one, but two, weapons near him at all times, then it’s probably for the best that he’s no longer staining Tennessee athletics with whatever he’s involved in; but if he’s just trying to act hard by brandishing guns in a way that really isn’t necessary given his lifestyle and status as a star UT athlete, then he may want to give Gilbert Arenas a text to see how that’s working out for him these days. 

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky       15-0    
  2. Tennessee      10-2
  3. Florida       11-3
  4. Vanderbilt         11-3
  5. South Carolina       8-5
  6. Georgia         7-5

WEST

  1. Mississippi State      12-3
  2. Mississippi      11-2
  3. Alabama      10-4
  4. LSU        9-5
  5. Auburn         8-6
  6. Arkansas       7-7

NEWS & NOTES

  • The big story in the SEC this week was the arrest and indefinite suspension of four Tennessee basketball players — Tyler Smith, Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams.  The group was arrested on a myriad of drug and weapon charges.  Some of the charges were felonies, and given the recent problems with UT’s football program, it is hard to imagine any scenario in which the players may step back on the court this season.  It is a big loss for the Vols, as the players had accounted for 33 points a game.  Elsewhere, South Carolina dismissed forward Mike Holmes from the team for repeated rule violations.  Holmes is the second starter lost this season for the Gamecocks as Dominique Archie was also lost for the season due to injury. 
  • Kentucky continues to be the class of the SEC in the rankings, holding onto their #3 ranking in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Tennessee is #15 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top 25.  Mississippi remains the third ranked team at #14 in the AP poll and #16 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Florida is hovering just outside the top 25 and may re-emerge with another strong week or two. 
  • Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Player of the Week again after averaging 18.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in two Wildcat wins.  Cousins also won the Freshman of the Week award last week for his double-double performances against Drexel and Long Beach State.  This week, that honor goes to Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, who averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a pair of Commodore wins.  

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK

The parade of cupcakes ends later this week as SEC play officially gets underway.  What else really needs to be said?  As of right now, the SEC has seven teams with 10 wins already, and you have to consider each strong tournament teams right now.  Let’s see how these teams hold up as it goes within the conference from here on out.

  • 1/5 – #2 Texas (13-0) @ Arkansas (7-7) – 7:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/5 – #17 Georgia Tech (11-2) @ Georgia (7-5) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/6 – Charlotte (10-3) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Florida (11-3) @ Vanderbilt (11-3) – 12:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/9 – Mississippi State (12-3) @ #16 Mississippi (11-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Alabama (10-4) @ LSU (9-5) – 5:00 PM
  • 1/10 – #1 Kansas (13-0) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 4:30 PM – CBS

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)
 
EAST

  • Kentucky (#3, #3)John Wall set a UK record for assists with 16 as UK crushed the Hartford Hawks 104-61 on Tuesday night.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and 12 boards and Darius Miller scored a season high 16 points to key the  ’Cats win.  On Saturday, Kentucky endured a sluggish first half and then pulled away in the second half to defeat bitter in-state rival Louisville 71-62.  Cousins led the way with 18 points and 18 rebounds.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall both had 17 points.  Kentucky, at 15-0, is off to their best start in 40 years. 
  • Tennessee (#16, #15)Wayne Chism had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Tennessee dominated inside for a 66-59 victory over Memphis on New Year’s Eve.  JP Prince and Tyler Smith had 12 and 11 to lead the Vols in the rivalry game.
  • Florida—Florida breezed to a 43-13 halftime lead against Presbyterian and then coasted for a 79-38 win.  The Gators outrebounded the Blue Hose, yes, the Blue Hose, by a 48-24 margin.  Chandler Parsons led the way with 21 points off the bench and Alex Tyus had 16 points and 13 boards while Erik Murphy had a double-double (16 pts, 11 boards) off the bench.  Chandler Parsons hit a dramatic 75-foot shot as time expired in OT to give the Gators a 62-61 win over NC State.  The three-pointer was Parson’s only FG of the game.  Vernon Macklin had 14 points and Erving Walker 13 to lead the Gators in scoring. 
  • Vanderbilt—Freshman reserve John Jenkins scored 15 points to lead Vanderbilt to an 86-48 victory over Manhattan.  Eleven players scored for the Commodores, the third straight game that Vanderbilt had at least 10 players score.  AJ Ogilvy also came off the bench to add 12 points.  John Jenkins scored a career-high 20 points to lead Vanderbilt in an 82-46 rout of Southern Mississippi.  The freshman guard was 6-of-6 from 3-point range and the Commodores shot a season-high 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from beyond the arc. Jeffery Taylor had 14 points off the bench and Ogilvy had 10 points in his return to the starting lineup as Vandy blasted Middle Tennessee 73-53.  Vanderbilt proves to be one of the SEC’s deeper teams as five players scored in double figures. 
  • South Carolina—The Gamecocks battled back from a 21-point halftime deficit, but it was not enough as they fell short to the Boston College Eagles 85-76.  Devan Downey had 29 points and Brandis Raley-Ross 13, but SC fell to 8-4 on the season.  Baylor made a clean sweep of its two games in the SEC, this time stopping the Gamecocks 85-74.  Downey had 20 points and Lakeem Jackson 19 but it was not enough to stop the Gamecocks’ second loss of the week.   
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulldogs dusted the Pepperdine Waves 64-47.  Travis Leslie and Ricky McPhee also scored in double digits for the Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs were no match for the Missouri Tigers on Saturday as they were routed 89-61.  Leslie was the only Bulldog in double digits with 18 points as the Bulldogs had only 6 assists against 23 turnovers.

WEST

  • Mississippi (#14, #16)—Ole Miss set a school record for three-pointers with 14 as they beat Jackson State 90-75.  Terrico White hit 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and scored 29 points to lead the Rebels.  Zach Graham added 14 points. 
  • Mississippi State—Jarvis Varnado scored a season-high 23 points and tied his career-best 17 rebounds as Mississippi State won its ninth straight with a 77-68 victory over San Diego on New Year’s Eve.  The Bulldogs used their superior inside game to take control of the game late in the first half and maintained its lead throughout the game.  Kodi Augustus added 17 points.  MSU also suffered a tough loss at the hand of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 55-52.  Jarvis Varnado had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs and Dee Bost added 13 off the bench. 
  • AlabamaJaMychal Green scored 19 points and had eight rebounds to lead Alabama to a 77-65 victory over Tennessee State.  Senario Hillman added 15 points and six assists for the Crimson Tide, who have won three of their past four games.  Mikhail Torrance scored 19 points to lead Alabama over Toledo 67-50 on Monday night for their third straight win. Justin Knox added 14 points and Green had 12 for the Crimson Tide who have put together a three-game winning streak for the third time this season.
  • LSU—LSU is starting to look like a team that will not be able to compete in the SEC as they got thumped by Xavier 89-65.  LSU has gotten blown out of a couple of matchups against NCAA-level teams so far this season.  Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Storm Warren accounted for 49 of the Tigers 65 points.  The Tigers also blew a 12-point second half lead in the second half and went down to Utah, 61-59.  Warren (21 points) and Mitchell (19 points) accounted for over two-thirds of the Tiger’s points.  LSU snapped their three game losing streak with a 83-60 romp over McNeese State.  Mitchell and Spencer had 19 and 18 points, respectively, to lead the Tigers. 
  • AuburnLucas Hargrove had 20 points and 13 rebounds as Auburn overcame a sluggish start to beat Charleston Southern 77-62 on Tuesday night.  The Tigers fell behind 22-15, but turned up the pressure and forced 22 turnovers.  Frankie Sullivan added 10 points and six steals for Auburn.  Brendon Knox scored 18 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double and Auburn defeated Georgia Southern 95-75.  The Tigers shot a season-high 54.2 percent from three-point range (13 of 24), including a 4-5 effort by Sullivan who finished with 15 points.
  • Arkansas—The Razorbacks had a chance to get a good statement win but were blown out at home by Baylor, 70-47.  Jemal Farmer, Rotnei Clark and Marshawn Powell were the only Razorbacks to show up as they scored 38 of Arkansas’s 47 points.  Arkansas had a chance to redeem themselves against #24 UAB but suffered a heartbreaking 73-72 loss as UAB scored at the buzzer.  The Hogs got good games from Powell (22), Washington (18), and Clark (16) but those three accounted for 56 of Arkansas’ 72 points. 
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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Tennessee Players Celebrate the New Year By Destroying Their Team

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

The hits keep on coming for the University of Tennessee athletic department.  Just seven weeks after three Vol football players were arrested for attempted armed robbery of a local convenience store, four hoopsters were arrested this morning (at 11:30 am) during a traffic stop where a baggy of marijuana and two guns were found in a rental car Cameron Tatum was driving.  From the police report:

According to the incident report, one KPD officer immediately requested backup and a K-9 officer after approaching the vehicle, driven by Tatum, and smelling a “strong odor of marijuana.”  The four players then were removed from the vehicle so it could be searched, and officers found two handguns, drugs and an open container of alcohol. One weapon was discovered under each of the front seats, and the one discovered under Smith’s passenger seat had an altered serial number, the report said. That led to felony charges at first, but all charges were misdemeanors later in the evening, according to multiple sources.

Smith, Tatum, Williams, Goins

These weren’t just any average players, either.  The arrested players were forward Tyler Smith, UT’s best all-around player, along with fellow starting forward Tatum, key reserve guard Melvin Goins and center Brian Williams — the four represent 41% of the team’s point production, 47% of the rebounds, 50% of the assists and 40% of the team’s minutes.In other words, this is a HUGE problem for Bruce Pearl.  As of Friday night, Pearl has indefinitely suspended all four players and will gather more details before making a decision as to their futures with the program.

Of particular concern are the guns found under the seats.  None of the four has taken credit for the ownership of these yet, and with good reason, as those weapons could be linked to other crimes.  But, it creates an interesting prisoner’s dilemma situation, where if any player realistically wants to have a chance to continue his career at UT, he should come clean about another player’s ownership of the guns to save himself; otherwise, all four players could be charged with possession of the firearms.  Will the code of the street/team take precedence over one’s self-interest and individual survival?  You would have to believe that one or more will finger the others in order to absolve themselves of responsibility for the whole mess.  But we ask again – WHY do players need to have guns lying around (see: Agent Zero and Javaris Crittenton)?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

It will be very interesting to see how this ultimately shakes out, but things are not looking very good at all in Knoxville, a mere 24 hours after UT took it to Memphis in a huge win over their rival in the FedEx Forum, and only a few days prior to big games at home against visiting Charlotte and #1 Kansas.  It appeared that Bruce Pearl’s team might have been turning the corner after some early struggles, but the only corner that may be in the future for much of his team at this point is looking more like something out of “The Wire” rather than at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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