2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Mid-American Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2012

Ethan Back is the MAC correspondent for RTC.

Top Storylines

  • Will Ohio Be Able to Reach the Sweet Sixteen Again? After an extremely successful season that ended in an overtime loss in the Sweet Sixteen against ACC power North Carolina, Ohio will look to make another deep NCAA Tournament run. The Bobcats have a lot of hype to live up to, as they return all of their significant contributors from a season ago, including standouts D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Not all of the personnel returns from a season ago, however, with former head coach John Groce now at Illinois, but new head coach Jim Christian will look to keep momentum going.

Ohio’s D.J. Cooper Hopes To Follow One Head-Turning Season With Another. (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

  • Toledo’s Postseason Ban: Toledo has a very solid core intact from the 2011-12 season, so it’s a real shame that the Rockets won’t be able to qualify for postseason play due to its academic problems. Luckily for the Rockets, two of its best players (Rian Pearson and Julius Brown) are underclassmen, so they’ll still get a chance to win the MAC Tournament in future years, assuming they stay in school beyond the 2012-13 season.
  • East vs. West: Last season, the East had five teams finish with a winning record, whereas the West had a measly one. This clear imbalance within the MAC doesn’t have serious ramifications, as the conference tournament seeds are not based on division, but for the sake of self-respect, the West will hope to have a better season than it did last year.
  • No More Zeiglers: Winning games hasn’t been an easy task for Central Michigan these past two seasons, as its 12-20 conference record during that span indicates. It won’t be any easier this year after the firing of head coach Ernie Zeigler led to the transfer of his son and the Chippewas’ leading scorer Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh. New head coach Keno Davis brings great experience to the program, but his first season on the job will likely be a rough one.

Reader’s Take I

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ACC Team Previews: Wake Forest

Posted by KCarpenter on October 18th, 2011

Wake Forest had a rough season this past year. No, wait, that’s not right. Bad? Terrible? Catastrophic?  I’m having a hard time capturing the scale and scope of how bad last season was. The ideal word would capture a sort of hopeless, inevitable despondency mixed with mind-blowing, frustrating futility. Imagine a turtle trying to climb up a hill. Then the camera zooms out, and the turtle is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon trying to scale the side of a cliff. Now imagine that the turtle accidentally falls onto it’s back. Now imagine a mob gathering at the top of the cliff to push boulders down onto the turtle. That’s how last season felt in Winston-Salem.

Jeff Bzdelik Has A Lot Of Work To Do After Last Season's Disaster

Wake Forest had a single win in the Atlantic Coast Conference against lowly Virginia. Wake Forest won a single game away from its home court: a neutral court win against Elon at Greensboro Coliseum. Wake Forest stunned the world by losing the season opener against Stetson and then proceeded to lose to Winthrop, UNC Wilmington, and Presbyterian. They also lost to a number of very good basketball teams, but that kind of goes without saying when Stetson and Presbyterian are giving you the business on your floor. Ken Pomeroy’s basketball efficiency statistics demonstrate that this wasn’t just a few unlucky games. This was a systemic and utter, season-long failure. Every 16-seed in last year’s NCAA tournament was significantly better than Wake Forest. For the record, that group included UNC-Asheville, Boston University, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Texas-San Antonio. Last season, in short, was an unmitigated disaster. I hope we’re clear on that. That said, this summer may have been worse.

While Jeff Bzdelik had certainly counted on losing senior starter Gary Clark, it’s unlikely he had prepared for the other losses. Another starter, Ari Stewart, announced that he was transferring to USC. Melvin Tabb was hardly a major contributor to the Demon Deacons, but on a shrinking roster, it didn’t help that he was suspended and then released from the team after facing charges of breaking/entering and fraud. Another starter, freshman sensation J.T. Terrell, left school after he was charged with driving under the influence. Finally, 7’0″ senior Ty Walker was ruled ineligible to compete with the team throughout the duration of the fall semester due to a violation of Wake Forest’s honor code. All of this happened from the months of April to September. Ouch.

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Morning Five: 08.11.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on August 11th, 2011

  1. Andre Drummond announced his “final five” list of considered colleges yesterday, putting to rest the question about his intentions to either go to college in the next couple of weeks or attend prep school for another year (our summary from yesterday). He will do the latter, which means while one round of speculation has ended, another has begun. Drummond has graduated from high school, so another year of prep school would put him a year out from his graduating class, meaning he could make himself eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft. If he decides ever to attend college, his five-school shortlist has a decidedly Big East flavor, save one. In ESPNU’s updated recruiting rankings for 2012, he now occupies the #2 spot, behind only Shabazz Muhammad.
  2. Any fan of college basketball should read Jeff Goodman’s examination of the big bad class of 2002 and how things are going for them now, but if you are a supposed big-shot high school baller and you are reading this, you definitely need to stop what you’re doing right now and check it out. Shows what can happen to you if you start believing all the hype. We’re glad that so many of them have found ways to be happy whether playing basketball or not, but it also sounds like there are a couple of fellows from that class still blaming everyone else except themselves for their lack of NBA success.
  3. Former Tennessee assistant Tony Jones has claimed that the school’s legal counsel instructed him and the rest of the UT staff, including head coach Bruce Pearl, not to be totally open with NCAA officials during the agency’s probe into the program last summer. It should be noted that this, in and of itself, isn’t as sinister as it sounds; clients are almost always told by their attorneys only to answer the questions asked of them and not to, er, volunteer any extra information. That’s how Jones describes the directive from UT’s counsel. In the linked article, he gives an example of a question he was asked during the investigation, along with his response, so we’ll let you decide if he did what he was told or if there’s anything wrong with his answer.
  4. NCAA prez Mark Emmert is a fan of restricting the post-season opportunities of teams that don’t perform up to par academically. He advocates a raising of the minimum team Academic Progress Rate score from 925 to 930, as well as possibly keeping teams caught under it out of the NCAA Tournament. It sounds interesting, but we’re wondering how such a provision would weigh on the minds of high school prospects when it came time to narrow down their school lists. Some schools, as we all know, are harder than others.
  5. It was a good news/bad news day for Wake Forest. The bad news came in the form of the arrest of sophomore forward Melvin Tabb (1.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG last season) on a trio of charges including felony breaking and entering from an incident that happened on the Wake campus back in June. Between suspensions and injuries, Tabb played in just 14 of the Deacs’ games last season, but he’ll play in none this year; head coach Jeff Bzdelik has booted Tabb from the team. What struck us as good news for Wake, though, was the hire of former WFU stud Randolph Childress as an assistant to the AD. That can only mean the little jewel below will be replayed and acted out during practices numerous times, and you couldn’t really blame them. It’s just too funny not to show on the occasion of Childress’ return to Wake, so here you go (sorry, Jeff McInnis fans):

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Morning Five: 07.12.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 12th, 2011

  1. It’s a somewhat weird time to come out with a Top 15 list for the 2011-12 season, but the folks in the City of Angels would be remiss if they didn’t do things a little differently.  There are no major surprises in this version, but Alabama at #11 is a bit ambitious for an NIT team.  The Big East carries the day with four teams — #4 Connecticut, #5 Syracuse, #13 Pittsburgh, and #15 Louisville –  which are the same four (albeit in a different order) our conference correspondent Brian Otskey chose in his summer update yesterday.  The team that is consistently showing up in everyone’s top ten because of its returning talent but despite consecutive First Round upsets as high seeds is #6 Vanderbilt.  The trio of Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli are all-SEC talents, but we’re going to need to see a little more evidence of getting over their mental hangups before believing that Kevin Stallings’ team is better than the likes of #7 Arizona or #8 Wisconsin.
  2. We may have missed out on this until now, but you shouldn’t.  CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy are halfway through a five-part series examining cheating in college football, and it’s clear that, put rather simply, cheating pays off.  In part three, an examination of the five-year program outcomes after major violations, the writers found that winning percentages actually rose.  Although their analysis doesn’t touch on college hoops, we all know that athletic departments are often rather insular places — some of the findings from this analysis will without question apply to basketball programs facing similar demands for success and a common enemy (the NCAA).  It’s a thoughtful series of pieces, and we highly recommend that you keep up with it.
  3. The hits keep on coming at Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacon basketball program, still reeling from the ouster of head coach Dino Gaudio last summer, lost two more players on Monday.  Rising senior/perennial disappointment Ty Walker and rising sophomore Melvin Tabb were suspended from the squad indefinitely, with no reasons stated other than to say the causes were not academically-related.  You probably recall that Tony Woods, one of the other highly touted recruits along with Walker in the Class of 2008, was booted after getting into a fight with his girlfriend that resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge against him.  He was also suspended at Wake indefinitely, eventually left school, and is expected to suit up at Texas next season.  Wake was one of the worst power conference programs in America last season; head coach Jeff Bzdelik has a huge rebuilding project ahead of him for the Deacs to merely rise back up to respectability.
  4. While on the subject of disappointments, Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney has transformed himself Jerod Ward-style from one of the elite players in his class to someone many scouts believe may have peaked at the age of 16.  The Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger caught up with Sidney as he is spending his summer working out at John Lucas’ facility in Houston, and having already lost 23 pounds, he seems motivated to get back into shape.  At his playing weight of 270 lbs. last season, he averaged 14/8 but often appeared winded and uninterested for several plays at a time.  There’s not much question that Sidney has the requisite size and touch to play this game for pay, but second and third chances won’t come easily, so he’d serve himself well to come into next season at a chiseled 250 lbs. and enjoy the spoils of hard work that will accompany it.
  5. Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson came to Corvallis as the most highly-rated recruit to enter the Beaver program in years.  After two-thirds of a freshman season in 2010-11 where he averaged 8/2 APG in about 17 minutes per contest, big things are expected for the talented Southern California native.  During a recent summer foreign tour called “Beavers Without Borders” in Macedonia, as the below video shows, Nelson destroyed a glass backboard with a dunk in a game that seemed more pick-up than organized (start at the 2:00 mark).  The ensuing spill Nelson took as a result of his force was no joke, as he celebrated his powerful jam in the aftermath with a bloodied and broken nose.  This isn’t the Jordan Crawford/LeBron dunk from a couple of summers ago, but expect to see this one shown on numerous Pac-12 broadcasts next season.

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Morning Five: 02.10.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 10th, 2011

  1. It has been a tough season so far for Wake Forest as the Demon Deacons have fallen from a solid NCAA Tournament team to one that is widely considered to be one of the worst in any major conference, and things do not seem to be getting any better in Winston-Salem. The latest blow for the team is the dismissal of Melvin Tabb, a freshman forward whose time with the team was more notable for his frequent suspensions than his on-court productivity. We don’t want to place all the blame for this season on new coach Jeff Bzdelik but we have to think that the administration is going to have him on a very short leash going forward if he even survives this off-season.
  2. Over the past few months there has been a lot of media attention (news, not just sports) on states cutting their budgets on what many people consider essential services. The state of Arizona has garnered a lot of unwanted attention with their decision to stop paying for organ transplants for Medicaid patients. We can only imagine that the news that Arizona spent $1.5 million dollars on renovating its men’s basketball locker room, including six different types of mood lighting, will ignite a media firestorm even if it was paid for through donations and not taxpayer money. [Ed. Note: RTC could have provided a significantly cheaper contract based around lava lamps. Please contact us for competitive quotes.]
  3. Since you read our site, you are probably aware of Kenneth Faried of Morehead State and how special he is on the court, but we are guessing that you didn’t know that much about his background off the court. If the Eagles make it to the NCAA Tournament, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot more about that, but we doubt that you will find a much better piece than the one Dana O’Neil put together about Faried and his background.
  4. You may have heard that there was a rather big game played at Cameron Indoor Stadium last night between Duke and UNC. You may have also heard about how their fans can get really worked up and sometimes cross the line (not unexpected). Sometimes even the coaches cross that line (somewhat unexpected). Well, it turns out that even administrators aren’t immune from making idiotic statements. Case in point: UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, who issued this since-deleted Tweet: “Our students are talking about the future and asking smart questions instead of wasting time sitting in a tent #USFutureEconomy.” In the grand scheme of things, we don’t consider the tweet itself that offensive since we see many more offensive ones every day, but the fact that someone in such a powerful/political position would actually issue a statement like that to the world is dumbfounding. Is there any chance UNC could ban its administration from social media sites?
  5. Speaking of Duke, they have been pretty active on the recruiting trail over the past few days picking up one highly rated class of 2012 recruit in Alex Murphy, a 6’8″ forward out of Rhode Island, and putting on quite a show in a comeback victory in front of Rasheed Sulaimon, one of the top shooting guards in the class of 2012, who was in attendance for the game last night and reportedly grew up a Blue Devils fan. With Duke’s recent success on the recruiting trail, Coach K could be approaching 1,000 victories more quickly than many of us expected.
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Morning Five: 12.13.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2010

  1. How hard is it to lay off the phones? Seriously. We are starting to lose count of all the programs that have gotten in trouble for excessive phone calls and/or text messages. California is the latest program to fall under the NCAA’s microscope for inability to use a phone properly. The alleged infractions occurred in 2008 by a current member of the basketball staff just as Mike Montgomery had taken the job. According to the school, the infractions were discovered during a routine review of records. We don’t expect much to come of this outside a light slap on the wrist, but the NCAA might want to consider either clarifying these rules or start to come down with the hammer on programs to show it has some teeth because it seems like nobody respects any of the rules relating to use of phones.
  2. The weekend’s big winner? Louisville. The Cardinals not only pulled off the most impressive win of the weekend knocking off UNLV after a sluggish start, they also landed Rodney Purvis, the top rated point guard in the class of 2012. It looks like all the work that Rick Pitino and the administration at Louisville have been doing is starting to pay dividends with their new facilities likely being a major draw. It is worth noting that Purvis is the second big-time point guard recruit to leave the state of North Carolina to play for a school in Kentucky in the past few years (the other being John Wall).
  3. In a surprising piece of news, Angel Garcia is the first player in college basketball this season to opt to forgo the rest of his college eligibility (at least to our knowledge). Garcia, a junior forward at Memphis who was averaging 6.1 points and three rebounds per game this season, is leaving the Tigers to sign a professional contract in Spain. Garcia said that he wished that he did not have to leave Memphis, but that there were mitigating circumstances (family financial pressures).
  4. Duke may be still be the #1 team in the country, but the loss of Kyrie Irving for an unspecified amount of time has led many to question whether the Blue Devils can repeat. For those people, Doug Gottlieb offers an explanation of how Duke can change its game plan to succeed even without Irving in the line-up (ESPN Insider required). For those of your who don’t have access, it basically amounts to playing like last year’s team did. While that might work (it did last year), that style of play would probably only make them about #3 or #4 on our list of favorites this year.
  5. Wake Forest welcomed Melvin Tabb back to their team on Friday afternoon after previously suspending the 6’8″ forward while he got his academics in order. According to reports, Tabb has met the academic requirements set forth by Jeff Bzdelik and was voted back on the team by the remaining Demon Deacons. While every bit of help is needed by a team that has is barely above .500 against a weak early schedule, Tabb only provides a small part of the production (2.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game).
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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • The ACC looks rough early.  I think I was a little optimistic coming into the season, especially with Virginia Tech.  I definitely underrated Florida State and Maryland marginally (at least so far), but as a whole, play has been underwhelming in the early going.
  • Unfortunately, the ACC wasn’t helped when N.C. State’s Tracy Smith went down with a knee injury.  I really think Smith would have been a major factor in the Georgetown game.  State was absolutely picked apart inside, and Smith’s talent and experience would have been invaluable — especially as things started getting out of hand in the second half.  I’m not sure Smith would have been the difference, but he certainly would have helped significantly.  Smith is expected to be back in around three weeks.  The injuries don’t stop there: Virginia Tech is having major injury issues with J.T. Thompson and Allan Chaney out for the season.  Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski is out for the first couple of months recovering from knee surgery.  Wake Forest is fighting injuries to Melvin Tabb (mono), Tony Chenault (foot, 8-10 weeks) and Nikita Mescheriakov’s eligibility (not to mention anyone who has suffered through watching them play).
  • In recruiting news, the ACC had a huge signing day.  Duke looks ready to reload with three LOI’s from 5-star recruits Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Michael Gbinje (not to mention 4-star Marshall Plumlee).  North Carolina inked two 5-stars in James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.  Virginia Tech also has a sneaky-good class coming in with four-star recruits Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin and C.J. Barksdale.

Player of the Week: Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton has been absolutely unbelievable for the Seminoles so far.  Through four games, he’s averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 3.8 steals per contest.  The performance that sealed the deal was his unconventional triple-double against UNC Greensboro (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, 6 assists and 4 blocks).  If he can keep his scoring up this season, the Seminoles could be a dark horse in the ACC runner-up race.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (4-0): Through four games, the Blue Devils have been incredible.  Kyrie Irving introduced himself to the college basketball world with nine assists and one turnover against Princeton.  Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have looked good, not great, but Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry can shoot.  If the Blue Devils catch fire from downtown (and with five players who could shoot 40% from beyond the arc in Singler, Smith, Curry, Dawkins and Irving, that should happen plenty) they’ll be close to unbeatable.  It’s still early, but so far the Blue Devils lead both adjusted offense and adjusted defense in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Duke’s ability to get past Marquette in the second half Monday without much from Kyle Singler speaks to their depth across the starting lineup. How will Mason Plumlee build on his big game in Kansas City?
  2. Virginia Tech (2-1): I’m leaving the Hokies here mainly out of respect for Kansas State.  The Hokies have come out flat: they rely too much on Malcolm Delaney and are easily drawn into sloppy play.  There’s a reason Seth Greenberg’s squad didn’t make the tournament last year: they weren’t that good.  I expect Virginia Tech to get better (though losing J.T. Thompson really hurts), but I expected a team that returns all five starters to be ready to go right away.
  3. Florida State (4-0): The Seminoles have a very good defense: color me not surprised.  It’ll be interesting to see how Florida State’s defense evolves as the season progresses, but they’ll get a big test next Sunday against Florida.  If the Seminoles can muster up some solid offense, they’ll be a very tough team to beat this year.  Definitely a tournament-level team, and arguably a top-25 team so far.
  4. N.C. State (3-1): Getting blown out in the second half by Georgetown wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible.  N.C. State is a very young team with Tracy Smith, and it’s no surprise they struggled against a veteran Georgetown team with one of the country’s best backcourts (especially if you consider Georgetown’s biggest weakness in the post).  Hopefully, for Sidney Lowe’s sake, the Wolfpack get Smith back before their showdowns with top-25 teams Wisconsin and Syracuse.  In the meantime I expect them to manhandle Fairleigh Dickinson.
  5. Clemson (4-1): The Tigers’ lone loss comes against Old Dominion (one of the top mid-majors in the country), and Clemson made a game of it, only losing by one after an ugly first half.  There’s no doubt they miss Trevor Booker, but Demontez Stitt looks like he’s ready to take on a much bigger offensive role this season.  Consistency will be the biggest question for the Tigers going forward.
  6. Maryland (3-2): I thought Maryland would be totally lost without Greivis Vasquez, but the Terps played Pitt and Illinois down to the last minute.  Gary Williams has done a great job getting this team to such a competitive level very quickly.  Unfortunately, Maryland still turns the ball over a lot, and they haven’t shown an ability to close out big games.  That said, I’m still very impressed with the showing they put up at the 2k Classic against two of the country’s top teams. The Terps would be better served to feed Jordan Williams the ball more than they have.
  7. North Carolina (2-2): This team is having some major growing pains.  Two straight losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt are not what Tar Heel Nation was expecting out of Harrison Barnes’ debut.  Before you’re too quick to judge Barnes, remember: he’s a freshman (with colossal expectations), and the Heels do not have a legitimate point guard.  If I were Roy Williams, I’d bench Larry Drew II immediately to get some quality time in for frosh Kendall Marshall.  Marshall is the future of the program, and can he really play that much worse than Drew?
  8. Miami (2-2): Miami can deal with losing at Memphis.  And they made a very close game of it.  But getting blown out at Rutgers?  That’s totally unacceptable.  Reggie Johnson (12 points and 14 boards) was the only Hurricane in double figures.  I’m not sure where Durand Scott was, but he needs to step up his game if the Hurricanes don’t want to join the lowest tier of the conference.  Right now, I’m pegging Miami as a horrendous road team that could prove a tough out at home.  They just as easily could be a terribly inconsistent team.  Frank Haith’s seat started warming up this week.
  9. Virginia (2-2): The Cavaliers are the best of the worst this week.  While they notched wins over William and Mary and U.S.C. Upstate, they got blown out by the Pac 10 – first by Stanford, then by #11 Washington.  If it’s possible to have a bad time during a November trip to Hawaii, Virginia has found the way. They’ll try to salvage things against Oklahoma on Tuesday.
  10. Georgia Tech (3-1): 3-1 isn’t that bad, right?  Georgia Tech has looked awful so far-most notably in their blowout loss at Kennesaw State.  The most important question is what was Paul Hewitt doing playing at Kennesaw State in the first place?  What good comes out of that game?  The Yellow Jackets get a chance to prove the doubters (which should be nearly everyone at this point) partially wrong this week with a game against UTEP.
  11. Boston College (2-1): Boston College has got to stop losing to Ivy League teams.  They lost to Yale last week.  Yale isn’t even supposed to be a real competitor in the Ivy League, much less the ACC.  Steve Donahue runs a very different style than Al Skinner, and I’m not sure he or his players have totally adjusted.  It’ll take a few years to get everything optimized to his style of play, but in the meantime he should be avoiding the easy losses. To keep the bad loss from dwelling, the Eagles beat Holy Cross rather soundly.
  12. Wake Forest (2-3): Wake Forest has major issues.  So far they’ve lost to Stetson, been blown out by Virginia Commonwealth, and couldn’t keep up at Winthrop. They check in at a smooth 159th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, lowest among any of the “Power Six” conference teams, save DePaul and Auburn.  So far the Demon Deacons miss Ish Smith more than anything: currently they sport a ghastly 25.5% turnover percentage…  That means they turn it over more than once every four possessions.  If Wake can’t improve their offensive execution by conference play, the ACC will have a new conference doormat.

A Look Ahead

The non-con tournaments continue!  Duke will look to make a major statement this week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City with a big game against #4 Kansas State Tuesday. It may as well be a true road game with the Wildcats’ campus just two hours away.  Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech also participate in early-season tournaments throughout the week.  Most importantly, the Big 10-ACC Challenge is right around the corner (starting November 29).  While the Big 10 looks like a far superior conference on paper, the basketball gods were very kind in placing games (Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke all play at home) and somehow Wake Forest drew Iowa and Boston College drew Indiana.  Even if the ACC doesn’t win, there are a ton of great games, so make sure to get it on your calendar early.

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