Morning Five: 07.21.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 21st, 2015

  1. Last night, Harry Giles, the top recruit in the class of 2016, announced his five finalists: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Wake Forest. Giles, a 6’10” forward from Winston Salem, has been reported to be interested in playing alongside Jayson Tatum, a top five recruit in the class of 2016 and Giles’ roommate while they played for Team US in the U19 FIBA World Championships. Given that Tatum committed to Duke earlier this month it would seem that the Blue Devils would be favorites for Giles although the hometown pull of Winston Salem and the fact that Chris Paul is the sponsor of his AAU team (and probably in Giles’ ear a lot) could sway him to go to Wake. Giles has not set a date for when he will make his choice, but if you want to learn more about him be sure to check out Luke Winn’s profile on Giles.
  2. Yesterday, the NCAA announced some tweaks to its NCAA Tournament selection process that address the play-in games (yes, that’s what they are) and how the highest seeded teams are placed in the bracket. The play-in game change is a really just a revision in the language that gives the Selection Committee the autonomy to select whichever teams it sees fit to be placed in the play-in games. As you may remember this past March, UCLA’s inclusion in the main field without having to even win a play-in game generated quite a bit of controversy given their unimpressive resume. UCLA avoided the play-in games as they were not technically one of the last four teams in. If that happens again this year, the NCAA can point to this clause as a reason to put a team like that in the play-in games. The other change allows the Selection Committee greater freedom in balancing its top two seed lines. Now instead of focusing on geography when placing these teams they can focus on competitive balance. An example of this was the near-meltdown last year on Twitter when Wisconsin and Kentucky were almost placed in the same (Midwest) region. While they won’t go to the S-curve that Joe Lunardi loves to talk about, they will try to make the top two seed lines more evenly balanced.
  3. The NCAA also announced yesterday that it will be distributing an additional $18.9 million to its member schools to help offset the schools expenses for cost-of-attendance, additional food, and various other expenses. The money will be distributed evenly to every Division 1 school so it works out to around $55,000 per school. While that might seem like a small amount (and it probably is to the big-name programs), it is actually a fairly large sum of money to schools that operate on more modest budgets. This $18.9 million will be in addition to the more than $500 million the NCAA already distributes to the schools and conferences. Having said that, we’re sure that Mark Emmert and the rest of the NCAA big shots in Indianapolis will still manage to get by.
  4. As much as we hate what some lawyers do, we have to admit that occasionally be of some use. Such is the case of Austin Nichols, who announced that he was transferring from Memphis at the beginning of the month. While the announcement was not that unusual given the mass exodus out of the program, the timing irritated many within the Memphis program as well as few writers who voiced their displeasure with his timing. So when Memphis announced that they would not be granting Nichols a release to any AAC schools, Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa, and Providence most people assumed it would be a drawn-out battle between the two sides particularly since Virginia is widely considered the favorite to land Nichols–they had been one of his favorites before he went to Memphis and there are reports that billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II may be steering him there. Instead of waiting for Memphis to give in to public pressure, the Nichols’ family hired a high-priced attorney who cited the Sherman Antitrust Act while questioning the legality of the transfer restrictions. If you thought the Ed O’Bannon case was bad for the NCAA, you can imagine what an antitrust case would have looked like. As you can imagine, Memphis quickly “reviewed” the case and removed any transfer restrictions.
  5. If you want to know why conferences (and in some cases schools) are so eager to get their own TV networks, we would refer you to the report that the Big Ten distributed $1 million to each of its schools for the 2014-15 fiscal year from the revenue it generated from the Big Ten Network. While the BTN has been profitable since the 2011-12 fiscal year, the conference had been holding back that money to deal with conference realignment. The $1 million per school may fall short of what some other conferences have been able to generate, but when it makes up approximately 3% of the money a school receives from the one of the most prominent conferences in America it is far from an insignificant amount.
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Morning Five: 07.08.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 8th, 2015

morning5
It has been quite a while since we did our regular Morning 5s for a variety of reason (work, life, etc), but we’re back now and will be doing these more regularly. We won’t be posting these daily until the start of the season at earliest, but we will probably be posting once or twice weekly depending on how much news is out there. We won’t be going over all the news that happened since the last time we did one of these because that would be a 10,000-word post and that is only if we kept it brief.

  1. Lost in the hysteria around the Women’s World Cup title was the fact that the US also won another significant world title on Sunday: the FIBA Under-19 championship. While their win over Croatia wasn’t the prettiest thing you will ever see, it was nice to see some of our top prospects play together against high-level competition. There are a ton of places we could point you recap the action and highlight the guys you should be keeping an eye on, but we will just direct you to a pair of excellent columns from Luke Winn and Jon Givony. Winn’s column is a sweeping overview of Team USA with particular attention to Jalen Brunson (going to Villanova) and Harry Giles (a rising high school senior who is the projected #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft). Givony is still putting together his review posts, but his look at the top five point guards is informative and helps you look outside of Team USA, which is important because many of these international players will end up playing college basketball. We expect that Givony will review the other positions in the coming days so watch out for those.
  2. Having a top-tier player decide to transfer is not shocking in the current era, but when that player announces his intent on July 7–like Austin Nichols did yesterday–it certainly catches your attention. The rising junior forward, who averaged 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last year, informed Josh Pastner of his decision last week, but did not publicly reveal his decision until yesterday afternoon when he announced his intendt to transfer from Memphis. Pastner, who says he was caught off-guard by the decision, has stated he will not release Nichols for his transfer. While most people will be quick to criticize Pastner and his staff for not granting Nichols a release, the timing of this announcement is at just about the worst possible time for Memphis since every high-level recruit and transfer for the upcoming season has already committed to play elsewhere. In the end, we suspect that Nichols will get his release, but that may depend on what we find out about why Nichols decided to transfer in early July. As for Pastner, Nichols will be the seventh player to transfer from the program since last year. Given how underwhelming the program has been during his time there, we are not sure how much longer he will last in Memphis.
  3. Coming into this season, Eron Harris was expected to play a big part in Michigan State‘s attempt to make another run to the Final Four, but that may be in jeopardy as the junior transfer was arrested early on July 1 for driving while intoxicated leading Tom Izzo to suspend him indefinitely. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore at West Virginia in the 2013-14 season, sat out last season as one of the few transfers in the country who did not qualify for a transfer waiver. Harris will be arraigned on July 17 and faxes a maximum of 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. Given what we have seen in these case we doubt that Harris will spend any time in jail. At most he might get a suspended sentence or do some community service and then it will be up to Izzo to decide how much time Harris will have to miss.
  4. We will admit that we don’t pay that much attention to high school prospects until they are seniors and even then it is mostly around the time that high school All-American teams are announced that we start to recognize names. So when we saw posts on Twitter about how Florida State had landed a 5-star recruit, we initially assumed it was for football because even with their surprising incoming freshmen class the Seminoles have never been considered a threat for top basketball recruits. That was not the case with 6’9″ forward Jonathan Isaac, who climbed up the rankings rapidly in 2015, as the rising senior announced that he was committing to FSU. The decision took some by surprise particularly since Isaac had previously stated he was considering 12 schools including Kentucky and LSU (we know it seems weird to mention them, but with their incoming class they deserve it). In the end, it appears that FSU’s early pursuit of Issac–they had been recruiting him for two years even when he was less highly touted–paid off. Of course, there is still quite a bit of time before Isaac would start playing in Tallahassee so we wouldn’t write this one in pen just yet.
  5. The NCAA released its annual attendance report earlier this week and while the figures aren’t exactly shocking they are worth looking at for some interesting trends. You can read plenty of articles or tweets about how you can play with the numbers in the NCAA report, but attendance was basically steady (up or down a little bit depending on how you calculate it). Syracuse repeated as the leaders in home attendance narrowly edging Kentucky for the second year in a row in that category after Kentucky had finished first 17 of the previous 18 years. While that is particularly impressive for Syracuse with a mediocre team that self-imposed a NCAA Tournament ban, it is worth noting that the Carrier Dome has the capacity for more than 10,000 more fans than Rupp Arena can seat and if they built 10,000 more seats in Rupp they would have been filled for Kentucky this past season. Although Kentucky was not able to overcome its seating disadvantage in that category, Big Blue Nation came through giving the Wildcats a decisive edge in overall attendance (home and away). It is worth noting that Duke would have been much closer to Kentucky in that category (Wisconsin came in second) if they did not have their own home seating disadvantage with almost 13,000 fewer seats for home games. Duke will just have to comfort itself with taking home the national title.
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Morning Five: 01.29.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2015

morning5

  1. Any hopes that Washington had of making the NCAA Tournament this year disappeared over the weeekend when they announced that they had dismissed Robert Upshaw for an unspecified violation of team rules. The talented but troubled big man was clearly the Huskies best player averaging 10.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and a NCAA-leading 4.4 blocks per game. This is the second time that Upshaw has been kicked out of a program as he was also dismissed from Fresno State in 2013. While this certainly won’t help his draft stock he is still probably a late first round pick because skilled big men are hard to find even if there are some red flags around them. There is a possibility that Upshaw could start playing in the NBA Development League much like P.J. Hairston did last year, but that would require him to be ineligible to play NCAA basketball. Since we don’t know all the details behind Upshaw’s dismissal we cannot comment too much on the probability of that happening, but it is worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
  2. As we have mentioned many times we don’t pay that much attention to high school recruiting for a variety of reasons (including, but not limited to time constraints and a desire to remain sane), but the McDonald’s All-American designation has been around for long enough that we still pay attention when the rosters are announced. This year’s roster was no different even if we only know about half of the players well. The first thing that jumped out at us was that there was only one Kentucky commit on the two rosters, which is certainly different than previous years although part of that has to do with how Kentucky is recruiting now, but there are still nine uncommitted players in the game so John Calipari still has plenty of time to catch up. The other thing was that the players were spread out pretty evenly with only two schools–Duke and LSU–having two commits in the game.
  3. Speaking of Kentucky and their recruiting, maybe one of the reasons that their recruiting is “down” this year is that they are not just focusing on American talent. A striking example of this is the verbal commitment they received from Tai Wynyard, a 6’9″ power forward out of New Zealand. Although we are a little uncertain of the skills of a player from New Zealand, we do trust Calipari’s eye for talent and he has played at a high level internationally. For now the big question regarding Wynyard is when he would come to Lexington as he is still just 16 and currently in the class of 2016, but might reclassify to the class of 2015 meaning he would be on campus for next fall, which would already add to what could be the #1 class in the country (again).
  4. Wichita State guard Conner Frankamp was arrested early Sunday morning on a DUI charge. Frankamp blood alcohol level at the scene was 0.186, which is twice the legal limit in the state of Kansas (0.08). Although Frankamp is still sitting out this year after transferring from Kansas, the school did release the typical generic statement saying they will be looking into the matter. Despite Frankamp’s meager production at Kansas (2.5 points per game last year), he was a top-50 recruit coming out of high school, which would seem to suggest the possibility that he could have a big role playing with less competition particularly against a lower level of competition too.
  5. Speaking of transfer, former Memphis forward Kuran Iverson will be transferring to Rhode Island. Like Frankamp, Iverson’s production (4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game) does not particularly grab your attention, but he was also a top-50 recruit coming out of high school. Unlike Frankamp, Iverson made sure to leave a mark at the school on his way out by first getting suspended then retweeting someone’s criticism of Josh Pastner at which point the decision for Iverson to transfer was probably welcome on both sides. While the AAC is not exactly a basketball powerhouse, the move down to the Atlantic-10 (however slight it might be) and perhaps more importantly new scenery might be the boost that Iverson needs to show us why he was so highly recruited coming out of high school.
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Morning Five: 01.20.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 20th, 2015

morning5

  1. Most fans probably missed the most significant news in college basketball from over the weekend when the so-called schools from Power 5 conferences voted nearly unanimously (except Boston College) to pass a rule that will allow them to pay student-athletes between $2,000 and $4,000 per semester depending on the school towards a cost-of-attendance stipend. The rule extends beyond just the schools in those five conferences so beginning in August all schools will have the option of providing this to their student-athletes. It will be interesting to see how student-athletes who attend schools that decide not to provide this stipend react. It was also noteworthy that 15 of 80 votes on the measure came from student-athletes themselves (three each from the five power conferences).
  2. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times… Well, Southern Methodist might find out the hard way as the NCAA has opened up an investigation into reported academic improprieties at the school. We might not consider this that noteworthy or ignominious except this might end up being the third time that Larry Brown could leave a school with NCAA violations. We aren’t sure of the details of the investigation, but we do know that Brown’s time at the school has certainly made life a lot busier for the reporters covering the SMU basketball beat. In a one week span, Xavier transfer Justin Martin announced that he was leaving the program and turning pro, assistant coach Ulric Maligi (the program’s top recruiter) too an indefinite leave of absence, and former McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier was ruled academically ineligible. And now they have this. With all of the noise surrounding Brown and the relative lack of success he has had (still impressive given the program he inherited) we have to wonder how much longer he will be around at the school.
  3. Michigan‘s rough season got a lot worse over the weekend after Caris LaVert breaking his left foot and will miss the rest of the season. For LaVert it will be another surgery for the same foot he broke in May and required surgery on at that time. The season has been nothing short of the disastrous for the Wolverines so far and with this injury (LaVert leads them in points, rebounds, assists, and steals) they can forget about making the NCAA Tournament. It remains unclear what LaVert’s plan will be after the season as he could theoretically come back in time for draft workouts and would likely be a first-round pick even with any concerns about that left foot.
  4. Notre Dame got a huge boost late last week when they announced that Zach Auguste was eligible to play again after missing one game (against Georgia Tech) due to unspecified academic issues (a suspension by the school not the program). Auguste, who is the team’s only reliable big man, only played 9 minutes in their win over Miami, but he is indispensable for the team going forward. While Auguste is valuable offensively (second on the team in scoring) they could probably function reasonably well offensively without him. That isn’t the case on the defensive end where they need his size if they want to make a deep run in March.
  5. There were also a couple notable transfers late last week. The more prominent one was the expected decision by Kuran Iverson to transfer from Memphis. We aren’t sure about what exactly went into Iverson’s transfer, but we are guessing the decision to part ways was mutual after Iverson retweeted a tweet critical of Josh Pastner after Iverson has been suspended for violating team rules. Although Iverson was highly touted out of high school he only averaged 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game this season. The other transfer news, which gathered less headlines but might be more impactful, was that Marcus Marshall had decided to transfer from Missouri State. The decision by Marshall, who led the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game (second in the Missouri Valley Conference), came after he had been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Marshall will be a highly coveted transfer this off-season at the very least at the mid-major level and will probably get some looks from lower-tier high-majors.
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AAC Bests and Worsts: 01.13.15 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 13th, 2015

It was an up-and-down week for the AAC as conference play is well under way and the top six teams in the conference have started beating up on each other. There weren’t a ton of conference gamesl week, but there were more than enough to make some quick-trigger observations. After a rough start to the season, Tulsa remains the only unbeaten team in conference play, but the Golden Hurricane needed to rally from a double-digit deficit just to beat a Temple club without arguably its best player. Memphis continues to spiral out of NCAA Tournament contention while heavyweights like Connecticut and SMU are getting comfortable and playing up to their potential. Let’s take a look at the bests and worsts from last week.

If Omar Calhoun Can Become A Consistent Offensive Threat, UConn Is All The More Dangerous (Photo/USA TODAY)

If Omar Calhoun Can Become A Consistent Offensive Threat, UConn Is All The More Dangerous (Photo/USA TODAY)

Best Way to Step Up When Your Team Needed It Most: Connecticut has been a tough team to figure out this season. The Huskies are still playing championship-level defense but their offense has suffered a steep decline in large part because Kevin Ollie no longer has the three-point shooting of Shabazz Napier and Niels Giffey. The Huskies started conference play with a discouraging home loss to Temple and thus absolutely needed to beat Cincinnati when the Bearcats visited Storrs on Saturday. Luckily, Ryan Boatright knew the stakes were higb and put the team on his back. The senior went for 18 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and three steals as the Huskies rallied from a halftime deficit for a much-needed win. Sophomore Terrence Samuel deserves credit as well for handling UConn’s point guard duties, allowing Boatright to move off the ball where he was clearly more comfortable and focused. The senior was the best player on the floor by a pretty wide margin and he is the primary reason why we aren’t talking about how UConn is collapsing just one season after a national championship.

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AAC M5: Welcome Back Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 9th, 2015

  1. AAC_morning5_headerIt’s been a while since a morning roundup has appeared on our fine microsite but we are bringing it back as a regular feature. We start in Dallas where, in the only conference game last night, SMU walloped Memphis, 73-59, and it was never really close. Things are getting so bad in Memphis that coach Josh Pastner is actually trying to pretend that saying things like this makes sense. We should also note that Tigers’ forward Shaq Goodwin must see Mustangs’ forward Markus Kennedy in his nightmares, because Kennedy has eaten him for lunch every time the two teams have squared off. In the three meetings between the two all-conference caliber forwards, Kennedy has averaged 18.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game (including 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting last night) while Goodwin has averaged 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. The Tigers will get one more crack at Kennedy and the Mustangs at home, but they have too much to fix between now and then to be looking that far ahead.
  2. Unfortunately for Memphis, last night’s loss was just the latest bit of disappointing news coming out of the program, as sophomore forward Kuran Iverson has washed himself in drama thanks to his lack of a social media filter. To recap: Iverson got caught retweeting criticism about his head coach and one day later was suspended for at least two games. He sat out last night’s game but folks in the know seem to think that Iverson has played his last game as a member of the team. Once perhaps the Tigers’ most promising recruit, Iverson has struggled to stay on the floor and has been a total dud for the better part of two seasons. It would be one thing if he was having a breakout season and felt the need to criticize his coach, but all he has really proven he can consistently do on the basketball court is turn the ball over, so I don’t think Pastner will lose any sleep if Iverson and the program cut ties.
  3. I wouldn’t go as far as to call UConn‘s start to the season a disappointment, but it’s safe to say that Huskies’ fans were hoping for better results thus far. The good news is that the Huskies have barely scratched the surface of their potential and now, finally, with a full complement of players, coach Kevin Ollie has some depth and flexibility to work with. Just getting everyone healthy won’t be enough, though, as almost everyone on the roster other than Ryan Boatright has been wildly inconsistent this season. But as long as the injury bug has passed and all of his players stay eligible, this team will continue to get better as conference play wears on. There should be little doubt that the Huskies remain one of the favorites to win this conference.
  4. Earlier this season, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was quoted as saying that freshman forward Gary Clark had offensive rebounding instincts “in his DNA” and thus far Clark has proven his coach prophetic. The Charlotte native not only ranks second in the AAC in rebounding, snagging almost eight caroms per game, but he also boasts one of the 35 best offensive rebounding percentages in the entire country. He is quietly having one of the best freshman seasons in the conference and has put himself in elite company when it comes to former Bearcats’ greats. His offensive game needs further development, however, as almost all of his points are a result of his yeoman’s work on the offensive glass, but once again Cronin and his staff have unearthed a gem and turned him into seemingly the next great two-way forward for the program.
  5. This has been pointed out ad nauseam elsewhere but there have really only been two bright spots for UCF this season: freshman guard Adonys Henriquez and classmate and fellow Orlando native B.J. Taylor. Each would be front-runners for the all-Freshman team in the AAC and both are legitimate candidates for Newcomer of the Year in the conference as well. A big reason why they have been so good is because they have been downright lethal from behind the three-point arc. The pair aren’t just one of the best shooting freshman combinations in the conference, they are one of the best shooting combos in the conference, period. Henriquez is second in the conference in three-point shooting and Taylor is just one spot behind his friend. Both are shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc and contribute in other ways as well. Despite how bright their futures are, I’m not sure it is bright enough to save head coach Donnie Jones’ job, which is a bummer for Jones, because the new coach will be inheriting some serious talent if he does get canned.
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Morning Five: 01.09.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 9th, 2015

morning5

  1. Illinois suffered a huge loss when Rayvonte Rice, the team’s leading scorer, broke his left hand in practice on Monday. Rice, who was averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, is expected to miss the next three to six weeks, but that all depends on how he responds to the surgery. For Illinois, which managed to knock off Maryland in its first game without Rice, they now face an uphill battle if they hope to make it to the NCAA Tournament. While their win against Maryland (and the relatively weak Big Ten this year) might give Illinois fans a reason to believe they will be able to survive Rice’s absence, the reality is that they probably lack the firepower now to be competitive with the top of the conference.
  2. It takes a lot for a rehearsed recruiting announcement to catch our attention, but when you announce that you are committing to a different school than you actually are, we notice. So when Carlton Bragg, a five-star forward in the class of 2015, announced that he was going to Kentucky, but put a Kansas cap on (he is going to Kansas…we think) it caught our attention. Bragg could find himself in a crowded Kansas frontcourt, but for now he does not appear to have any issues with that saying, “I don’t really care for minutes, I just want to be part of the team.” For what its worth, Bragg isn’t the first Kansas commit to confuse people during his announcement as Cliff Alexander faked out Illinois fans last year by reaching for their hat before going for a Kansas hat. Unlike last year, we doubt that there will be much sympathy for Kentucky fans who finally missed out on a big-name target.
  3. If Syracuse fans were hoping that DaJuan Coleman could be the missing piece to help turn their season around, they can forget about that now as the junior center has opted to officially redshirt this year. The news should not be that big of a surprise since Coleman has not played in a year after injuring his knee on January 7, 2014. Although Coleman’s prior production (4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season) might not seem worth noting, he was a big-time prospect coming out of high school and a great deal of his poor production can be traced back to his injuries. His redshirt could help Syracuse going forward by giving them more experience in the frontcourt in coming years.
  4. It looks like we may have seen the last of Kuran Iverson in a Memphis uniform. The 6’9″ sophomore, who had been averaging 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, was suspended for two games earlier this week for an unspecified violation of team rules. He compounded that infraction by retweeting a tweet critical of Josh Pastner although he subsequently deleted that retweet. We don’t know much about Iverson’s background in terms of legal issues and his interactions with Pastner, but we would be surprised to see him in a Memphis jersey again.
  5. Proponents of increasing benefits for student-athletes appear to have received a small victory as the NCAA is trying a pilot program where they will pay for travel for the families of players competing in the men’s and women’s Final Four. The families of players competing in the college football title game will also be provided with this benefit. The football players will be allotted $3,000 (from the College Football Playoff not the NCAA) to cover their family’s expenses (travel, accommodations, meals, etc) while basketball players will receive $4,000 from the NCAA for those expenses. We are not sure how this will be enforced as players can definitely find ways to take advantage of this particularly if their families live near the venues, but overall it appears to be a victory for student-athletes albeit a very small subsection of them.
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AAC Midseason Awards

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 8th, 2015

Conference play is underway and its time to hand out some fictional hardware that we reserve the right to confiscate and redistribute to more deserving recipients at the end of the season. Here we go…

Player of the Year: Ryan Boatright, UConn

UConn's Ryan Boatright Will Be A Key Player To Watch In Tonight's Contest

UConn’s Ryan Boatright Has Improved His Game In All Facets This Season

Give Ryan Boatright credit: He has definitively improved his game this season. He is attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line at a career-best clip while his shooting percentages have remained in line with his career averages. The result is a more efficient offensive player who is also a more willing distributor and one of the best rebounding and defensive guards in the conference (if not the entire country). He is also the unquestioned alpha dog and best player for the conference front-runner. Despite all of that evidence, it still feels like Boatright wins this midseason award by default and that is in large part because the pool of contenders is so uninspiring. SMU‘s Nic Moore is the better offensive guard, but any coach worth his salt would rather have the Husky. Moore’s teammate Yanick Moreira has been solid, but he doesn’t scare anyone on either end of the floor. And don’t even try talking us into anyone on Cincinnati. It would actually be good for the conference if UConn steps up and Boatright runs away with this award because the AAC could use some brand-name recognition this season.

Coach of the Year: Fran Dunphy, Temple

Congrats to Fran Dunphy on His 400th Victory

After Just One Rebuilding Season, Fran Dunphy Has Temple Back On Top

Let’s say it all together now — never doubt Temple’s Fran Dunphy. The Owls’ formerly mustachioed leader not only has his team atop the AAC standings with a road win over UConn in his pocket, but Dunphy has the team well-positioned for an NCAA at-large bid thanks to no truly bad losses and a dominant win over Kansas. The Owls finished 4-14 in the AAC last season and were the conference’s worst defensive team, but now they are just one win away from matching last season’s league win total and have become one of the best defensive teams in the country. Temple has plenty of individual talent, but if the awards were handed out today, none of the players would be likely to make an all-conference team. That interesting fact has Dunphy’s fingerprints all over it as well. Tulane’s Ed Conroy is a viable candidate for this honor as well, but give me the coach who might take his team to the NCAA Tournament over a coach whose team is merely exceeding expectations.

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AAC Non-Conference Report Cards: Part II

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 6th, 2015

Conference play is well underway by now, so here is the second part of our report cards on AAC teams. Part I, including UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina and Houston, released last week.

Memphis: D

It's Been A Rocky Start To The Season For Memphis' Coach Josh Pastner

It’s Been A Rocky Start To The Season For Memphis’ Coach Josh Pastner

The good news is that all of the Tigers’ non-conference losses to date have come against teams ranked (KenPom) higher than them. The bad news is that all four of those losses have been by 12 points or more, and, even if Stephen F. Austin is putting together a pretty good season, losing to the Lumberjacks at home is not what the Tigers had in mind. A January date with Gonzaga looms, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone across the country who thinks Memphis will win that game in Spokane. Now Memphis has to hope it can dominate conference play, because if the Tigers don’t, they have an almost zero chance at securing an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament and saving Josh Pastner‘s job.

South Florida: D

Much like the Tigers, the Bulls don’t have any truly awful losses this season. But their best win was by one point at home against a mediocre Hofstra team, and the rest of their wins are against teams so bad that they’re not even worth listing here. Everyone in Tampa knew it was going to be a rebuilding year for Orlando Antigua‘s club and so losing to teams like Alabama and North Carolina State was expected. Fans, however, were also hoping for a better showing than a home loss to Georgia Southern.

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AAC Non-Conference Report Cards: Part I

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 2nd, 2015

Conference play in the AAC began this week, which means it’s time for us to a look back at a non-conference portion of the schedule that — based on the results — nearly every team in the conference would prefer not to look back upon. The conference has just two wins over ranked opponents, zero teams ranked in the Top 25, and a KenPom rating that has it battling the West Coast Conference and the Missouri Valley Conference just to stay among the top 10. There were some bright spots and some teams may look back on the non-conference portion of their schedule favorably, but most of these schools will not be taking these grades home to post on the refrigerator. It is worth noting that the grades for teams like UConn, Cincinnati, and Memphis are incomplete because all three programs still have massive non-conference games to play in January. Those games considered in the observations. Part 2 will come a bit later over the weekend.

UConn's Ryan Boatright Will Be A Key Player To Watch In Tonight's Contest

Ryan Boatright And The Huskies Have Plenty of Work Left To Do Out Of Conference

Central Florida: D+ 

The Golden Knights were actually done with the non-conference part of their schedule since December 22nd, so they have had a lot of time to think of lies to tell their parents when they take home this report card. The team’s best win was a five-point home win against a Detroit team battling to stay at .500 and before that win the team lost three straight games, including a blowout loss to Florida State and an embarrassing loss to a bad University of Illinois-Chicago team. The only reason this team avoids the F and earned a plus is because coach Donnie Jones may have the two best freshmen in the conference in B.J. Taylor and Adonys Henriquez. Unfortunately, they may not be enough to save Jones’ job when UCF inevitably misses the NCAA Tournament again.

Cincinnati: C 

The Bearcats are the proud owners of one of the conference’s only two wins over ranked opponents thanks to its 71-62 overtime win over San Diego State at home but the rest of their resume is rather blah. Even if you are willing to overlook the home curb-stomping they received from VCU because it was the first game the team had played without coach Mick Cronin (which is a totally viable reason in my book), the team doesn’t have any other quality wins. And while none of their losses are bad per se, most Bearcats’ fans would have liked to see the team beat either Mississippi or Nebraska, especially considering both teams may be on the bubble with the Bearcats in February. They can still give their grade a bump into the B- territory by beating Xavier in February, and they may need to if they want to be on the right side of the bubble.

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Cincinnati Win Gets AAC on the Board, Only Six Weeks Too Late

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 18th, 2014

Let’s be clear: Cincinnati’s Wednesday night victory over San Diego State was very important for the Bearcats. Mick Cronin’s team was in urgent need of a quality victory, and it got one. But the Bearcats didn’t need the win nearly as badly as the American Athletic Conference. Before Cincy’s takedown of the Aztecs, the league’s best wins were over Wyoming, Dayton and Creighton. Let’s do that again: The league’s best wins were over Wyoming, Dayton and Creighton. Throw in Temple’s home victory over Louisiana Tech, and you VERY quickly have the entirety of the league’s victories over KenPom top-100 foes this season. Four top-100 wins, none over a team in the top 60 as of December 17. Conference USA, a league that nine of 11 AAC programs chose to leave of their own accord, has more than twice that number. More unflattering comparisons are available, but the point is already clear: The AAC is off to a disastrous start. For the sake of a league that once formed a significant portion of the Big East, San Diego State had to lose last night.

Winston Shepard Should Know: Troy Caupin's Bearcats, Not To Mention The Entire AAC, Needed Wednesday Night's Game Far Worse Than San Diego State Did

Winston Shepard Should Know: Troy Caupin’s Bearcats, Not To Mention The Entire AAC, Needed Wednesday Night’s Game Far Worse Than San Diego State Did (Photo: Aaron Doster, USA Today Sports)

As far as early resumes go, Cincinnati’s looks pretty good, especially after last night. The bad isn’t so bad (their two losses came away from home to Ole Miss and Nebraska), and the Bearcats now have an actual win of substance. Further non-conference profile-bolstering opportunities also lurk in upcoming matchups with VCU (home) and NC State (road). Whether the Bearcats are good enough to take advantage of those chances is another story. The match-up with the Aztecs was billed as a “first to 50 wins” type of deal, but Cincy actually got by the Aztecs with some sneakily stingy shooting – 17-of-21 from the line, 21-of-42 on two-point field goals, and 4-of-11 from three-point range. Out of character? Certainly. Completely unsustainable? We’ll see. Expect the Cincinnati defense to remain as fortified as ever (among the top 25 nationally in defensive efficiency over the past four seasons, 26th this season), so the offense won’t need to come in bunches for the Bearcats to keep winning games. Keep an eye on sophomore Troy Caupin – the better his Sean Kilpatrick imitation, the more games this team will win.

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Morning Five: 12.15.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 15th, 2014

morning5

  1. Prior to Friday, this season had already been disappointing for Florida State, but things got worse on Friday as they announced that Aaron Thomas, the team’s leading scorer this season at 14.8 points per game, had been declared ineligible for the rest of the season. The exact reason for the decision has not been disclosed, but according to reports it is not due to academic reasons and it was made by the school not the NCAA. Thomas’ absence will put even more of an onus on Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who sat out last season as a partial qualifier. In reality, the season is probably over for the Seminoles who are 4-5 after losing their ACC opener at Notre Dame on Saturday.
  2. Missouri‘s season has not gone much better than Florida State’s so far, but at least they moved in the right direction this weekend as they added highly-touted JaKeenan Gant. Gant, a 6’8″ freshman power forward, was Mr. Basketball in Georgia in 2013 before transferring to a high school in Missouri for his senior year of high school. Gant, who sat out nine games while the school looked into reports that he had received impermissible benefits, was a four-star recruit rated #52 overall in last year’s graduating class. Although the Tigers lost in his first game back, he made quite an impact scoring 13 points in 15 minutes coming off the bench in a 74-58 loss to Xavier.
  3. Continuing the trend of teams off to poor starts, Memphis will be without guard Markel Crawford for at least four games after he injured his left knee in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State. While Crawford’s mother initially said it was “a torn ligament”, Josh Pastner says it is a “sprained knee”. If Crawford, who is averaging 5.5 points in 21.8 minutes per game this season, returns from injury as expected, his first game back would be the team’s AAC opener against Houston on New Year’s Eve. While Memphis might have enough depth on the perimeter to handle Crawford’s absence, they have much bigger issues as Saturday night’s loss dropped them to 3-4 against what has admittedly been a decent schedule, but one where they have not been close in their losses.
  4. There were also a couple of notable transfers from the weekend. Duke announced that sophomore forward Semi Ojeleye will be transferring. Ojeleye, who has 2.5 years of eligibility left, would typically be considered a highly-touted prospect, but at Duke he was the only member of the regular rotation (10.5 minutes per game) who was not a McDonald’s All-American. Having said that he was a borderline top 25 recruit coming out of high school so despite his meager production (3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this season) we would expect to see him at a top-tier program in a year. Tennessee sophomore forward Dominic Woodson announced that he will be transferring citing a desire to join a program that is a better fit and one where he can play a bigger role. The 6’10” forward, who averaged 3.5 points and 2 rebounds in 12 minutes per game, has only been in Knoxville after transferring from Memphis this summer. Losing Woodson will hurt a Volunteer team that already had issues with depth on the inside. As for Woodson, we have no idea where he will end up. Obviously, there is a market for 6’10”, 280-pound players, but with Woodson’s background–initially committing to Baylor before going to Memphis where he was suspended and now leaving Tennessee–we aren’t sure how many suitors he will have.
  5. One of the more interesting trends in college sports (and sports in general) is the recent trend for people to prefer to stay home rather than go to games. There are many factors driving this with the primary one in our eyes being convenience (not having to drive to a game, deal with traffic or lines, and being able to sit on your own couch) as well as the ability to switch between games and having a great view particularly with high-definition televisions. The one thing that you definitely miss is the atmosphere at games (particularly big games) and that is what schools are counting on with their attempt to sell “experiences”. These experiences range from a few hundred dollars and stuff like playing golf with a non-revenue sport coach to several thousand dollars with sideline access and exclusive pre-/post-game access. As the article notes, these auctions are not that well publicized so they probably aren’t bringing as much money as they could. We will be interested to see if schools go to this well more as they face revenue issues.
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