ACC M5: 11.17.14 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 17th, 2014

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  1. Louisville Courier-Journal: Louisville’s Rick Pitino came out victorious over Minnesota’s Richard Pitino on Friday night in a U.S. Coast Guard hangar in Puerto Rico, 81-68. Afterward, the elder Pitino admitted that he never wanted to play this game, knowing that a win over his son’s team would cause him so much parental agony. Louisville’s coach also said that Montrezl Harrell was the clear difference between the two teams, as the junior All-America candidate led the way with 30 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Harrell also showed off a newly found outside shooting touch, making 3-of-4 three-point attempts after only hitting a pair of threes all of last season. He appears to have addressed another issue in the offseason as well, as he knocked down 9-of-10 free throws after a woeful season from the stripe last year (46.4%). Already a dominant interior player, this guy may now be almost impossible to defend.
  2. Macon Telegraph: Brian Gregory may have found an answer to Georgia Tech’s offensive problems from a surprising source. Lanky sophomore Quinton Stephens, who scored more than 10 points only once during his rookie campaign, erupted for a game-high 22 in the Yellow Jackets’ 80-73 home win Friday over intrastate rival, Georgia. Stephens connected on an impressive 6-of-8 from three-point land, a positive sign for Gregory’s team, as the team only made 31.5 percent from deep last season.
  3. ESPN.com: Pittsburgh had an unexpected struggle on Sunday afternoon in the Petersen Events Center, holding off Samford, 63-56, in a game where the Panthers never held a double-figure lead against a team picked to finish at the bottom of a weak Southern Conference. In related news, Jamie Dixon announced that junior Durand Johnson has been suspended for the entire 2014-15 season for undisclosed reasons. Johnson missed the second half of last season after tearing his ACL and had been struggling with a bad ankle this preseason, but apparently there is some other issue as Dixon would surely have mentioned his injuries if they were the cause of the suspension. Pittsburgh is allowing Johnson to remain with the program and continue to practice with the team during his suspension.
  4. UND.com: Notre Dame is off to an impressive start to the season, winning two games at home by large margins. On Friday night the Irish blew out Binghamton, 82-39, and then destroyed Navy, 92-53, on Sunday afternoon. This was against the same Navy squad that only lost by five points to Michigan State in Friday night’s opener. It seems that junior Zach Auguste is thriving as the primary post player in Mike Brey’s four-out/one-in lineup this year. Auguste has already set consecutive career high scoring marks with 19 in the opener and 20 against Navy. Keep an eye on the Irish during pre-conference play.
  5. ESPN: The ACC is off to a good start, winning 21 of its 22 opening weekend games. The lone loss came Sunday afternoon in Boston’s TD Garden, as Boston College fell to Massachusetts, 71-62, in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader. Coming into Jim Christian’s debut season, the Eagles needed to show some improvement on the defensive end, and they did so in Friday’s opening win over New Hampshire. But they struggled to guard UMass on Sunday without fouling, as the Minutemen shot 46 free throws and outscored the Eagles by 14 points from the foul line.
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ACC Preview: Pittsburgh’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Pittsburgh overcome key personnel losses and injuries to compete with the ACC’s big boys?

Last year was Pittsburgh’s first season in the ACC, and the Panthers came out of the gate like gangbusters, winning 18 of their first 20 games and starting conference play with a 6-1 record. Then things headed south as Jamie Dixon’s squad limped home, finishing fifth in the league with an 11-7 mark. There was even some talk that Pittsburgh was on the bubble before they won two games in the ACC Tournament to secure an NCAA bid. Now the Panthers are ready for a second go-round in an improved ACC, but without the services of last year’s two best players, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna.

Jamie Dixon's Team Was Beyond Impressive on Thursday Afternoon (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon’s Team Has Already Suffered Some Key Injuries in the Preseason (US Presswire)

The explanation for last year’s dropoff midway through the ACC season was twofold. The primary reason was a series of injuries that ran through the squad like a mini-epidemic. Durand Johnson was Pitt’s third-leading scorer when he tore his ACL in a January win over Wake Forest, immediately ending his season. While his was the only major injury, the team was soon beset by nagging ailments that seemed to hit at the same time. Patterson was mentioned as a possible ACC Player of the Year candidate before a hand injury caused the senior to lose his shooting touch. Zanna played through a severe ankle sprain, but the injury zapped him of his explosiveness and caused the Panthers staples — interior defense and rebounding — to suffer immensely. Others that played hurt were freshmen Michael Young (back) and Chris Jones (thumb). The second problem was that the schedule got tougher after that excellent ACC start, and the Panthers subsequently went 0-5 against the ACC’s top four teams. That issue, combined with an extremely weak non-conference slate (278th nationally), is what put Pitt in the position of needing quality wins in Greensboro to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers got that cherished victory when they barely held off North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals. Can Dixon’s squad avoid the same scenario this season?

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ACC M5: 11.05.14 Exhibition Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 5th, 2014

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  1. Pittsburgh: On Halloween night, Pittsburgh tipped off its preseason with a 72-58 exhibition win over Division II Indiana (PA) at the Petersen Events Center, and sophomore forward Michael Young looks like he may be ready for a breakout year. Most people don’t know that Young played through pain for much of the latter part of his freshman campaign after suffering a small stress fracture in his back. In his postgame comments, Jamie Dixon seemed optimistic about the potential of a healthy Young and his other big men, assuming they improve their defense.
  2. Louisville: Louisville relied on its pressure defense to top Barry, 91-71, on Saturday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center, and afterward Rick Pitino discussed his team’s progress in this postgame video. Specifically, he credited the Division II Buccaneers with exposing a major rebounding problem on his squad, as the Cardinals gave up an astounding 29 offensive boards. Of course, part of the reason there were so many second chance opportunities for Barry was that Louisville held Barry to 33.3 percent field-goal shooting. Still, in order to get out in transition the way Pitino wants his team to run, the Cards must shore up that clear flaw on the defensive boards.
  3. Notre Dame: In another Saturday exhibition, Notre Dame used a balanced attack to best Minnesota-Duluth, 88-71, at the Joyce Center. Mike Brey was encouraged by the performances of his point guard, Demetrius Jackson, and big man, Zach Auguste. With established senior leaders Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton manning the wing, the play of Jackson and Auguste could be the difference as the Irish try to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, Auguste will shoot better from the foul line than the 3-for-9 performance he delivered in this contest, but based on last year’s foul shooting mark (48%), this may not be a solvable problem for the junior.
  4. Syracuse: Coming off a rough week dealing with the NCAA Infractions Committee, Syracuse almost had an equally alarming start this week. The Orange needed to rally from a 15-point deficit to overtake traditional Canadian college basketball power, Carleton, by a score of 76-68. Freshman Kaleb Joseph will be in the spotlight this year, taking over the point guard job from Tyler Ennis. The good news is that the rookie showed gerat promise, leading the team to the win with 19 points. A couple of concerns for the Orange, though, were their huge deficit in total rebounds (45-31) and poor shooting (0-6 FG) by Trevor Cooney.
  5. Duke: On Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke rolled Livingstone in its first exhibition game of the year, 115-58. The much ballyhooed freshmen class performed well, with three of the group scoring in double-figures and the fourth, Tyus Jones, handing out 11 assists. A surprise starter this year apparently will be Matt Jones. Most pundits expected either senior Quinn Cook or junior Rasheed Sulaimon, or perhaps even both, to be starters when this season got under way, but the veteran guards came off the bench in this contest. On the other hand, the sophomore Jones helped his cause, burying 5-of-8 three-point attempts after only making 3-of-21 during his entire freshman year. The Blue Devils should face a tougher test in Saturday’s second and final exhibition game, when they take on defending NCAA Division II national champion Central Missouri.
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ACC Big Men Have Bright Futures: Will Their Teams Follow?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 22nd, 2014

It is often bandied about that guards win games (along with defense) because they have the ball in their hands most often and thus affect the action more than other positions. While this is certainly a valid viewpoint, interior post players can often mean the difference between a championship team or a bubble team. The popular mindset is that big men take longer to develop in the college ranks because of the learning curve required to manage their combination of power, size and dexterity. Most post players come to the Division I ranks with a limited post game but raw with athleticism and length, prized characteristics that NBA GMs in every professional franchise covet.

Kennedy Meeks is a handful in the paint (USA TODAY Sports)

Kennedy Meeks is a handful in the paint (USA TODAY Sports)

The ACC this season is rich in young frontcourt talent that is likely to stay for more than a year in the collegiate ranks. North Carolina is a great example of the conference’s youthful exuberance in the post, sporting a terrific breadth of versatility in that regard. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson are the tip of the iceberg, both terrific rebounders with vastly different approaches.  At 290 pounds, Meeks is a strong and sturdy freshman who isn’t a terrific leaper but uses his body and angles to score and rebound the offensive glass very well. He also possesses one of the nation’s best outlet passes, a perfect conduit for guards Nate Britt and Marcus Paige to start Roy Williams’ break. Johnson, on the other hand, is a long beanpole of a forward who has had a breakout sophomore year for the Tar Heels, ranking fourth in ACC field goal percentage at 54.5%. UNC’s frontcourt depth doesn’t completely end there, though, as the Heels also have 6’10”, 280-pound sophommore Joel James, who is a load in the paint but hasn’t found consistent playing time this season. Freshman Isaiah Hicks too has a bright future ahead of him at UNC; the McDonald’s All-American recorded seven blocks and pulled down an insane 30 rebounds in his state’s high school championship game last year. But the ACC’s young frontcourt brigade of talent doesn’t end in Chapel Hill.

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A Closer Look at the ACC’s Early Impact Freshmen

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 11th, 2013

The ACC has struggled as a whole to live up to its self-proclaimed billing as the best basketball conference of all-time. It can’t even lay a claim to the best conference currently, as it came out with a tie in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, an event in which three of the ACC’s worst teams weren’t invited. However, the talent in the ACC is deep and it remains an exciting conference from top to bottom. Part of the reason for that is the emergence of new and exciting young players across the league, tantalizing casual fans with skills usually reserved for seasoned veterans. These ACC newcomers play various roles on their teams, some shouldering a large offensive burden while others bring a spark off the bench. Whether these players are one-and-done or around for the long haul, they represent the future of the ACC and have fan bases optimistically looking toward future conference championships and Final Four runs. While some relatively high-profile freshmen have struggled to adapt to the college game — UNC’s Isaiah Hicks and N.C. State’s Beejay Anya come to mind there are plenty of freshmen to note who are already producing. Broken down into a tiered system based on efficacy and impact, the following 13 freshmen represent the best of the ACC so far this season.

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse's success

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse’s success this season.

The Elite ACC ROY Candidates

1). Jabari Parker, F, Duke: Parker is not only an ACC ROY front-runner but an ACC Player of the Year favorite as well. His offensive game has been compared to Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony and he possesses an abundance of elite moves in isolation, ranging from the perimeter to the post. Parker carries a large burden of Duke’s offense this season and his ultimate performance will be judged largely on the Blue Devils’ success. If he can lead his team to an ACC title, he’ll probably win both awards.

2). Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse: Ennis is a calming and consistent offensive presence for Syracuse. He rarely gets flustered and is a key member at the top of the Orange’s 2-3 zone. He has started since day one for Jim Boeheim and is a large reason why Syracuse remains undefeated and an ACC title favorite. On ESPN‘s college basketball podcast, ESPN commentator and former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said Syracuse would be a “borderline NCAA Tournament team without Ennis.” This shows how much of an impact the youngster has had.

On the Cusp

3). Anthony Barber, G, N.C. State: Barber is playing nearly 30 minutes and averaging 13 points per game for the Wolfpack. A lightning-quick, reed-thin guard, Barber shares the floor with diminutive point guard Tyler Lewis and has been relied on thus far for his scoring more than his distributing abilities.

4). Kennedy Meeks, F/C, UNC: Kennedy Meeks recently took home the ACC Rookie of the Week award after a pair of convincing performances versus UNC-Greensboro and a statement win at Michigan State. The big-bodied, 290-pound frontcourt player is known for his Kevin Love-like outlet passes and is an efficient interior scorer and big-time rebounder for this Tar Heels’ team.

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

5). Demetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame: Jackson has to back up one of the best backcourt tandems in the country in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, but it is a testament to his abilities that Mike Brey finds 24 minutes per game for him. Jackson is the future of the Notre Dame backcourt and is having a very successful, if not understated, freshman campaign, averaging almost eight points per game with very good shooting numbers — 50 percent from three and 53.7 percent from the floor.

6). Ben Emelogu, G, Virginia Tech: Much was made of Emelogu getting named a freshman captain for the Hokies, but he has validated James Johnson’s decision to the tune of 14.0 PPG for the 7-3 squad.

Productive and Will Continue to Improve

7). Davon Reed, G, Miami (FL): Reed averages 9.0 PPG in almost 29 minutes per game for a rebuilding Miami program, and he will be a key cog for the Hurricanes’ future.

8). Roddy Peters, G, Maryland: Peters has taken over some point guard duties (along with Dez Wells) since Seth Allen’s early injury, and he has risen to the occasion.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

9). Michael Young, F, Pittsburgh: A highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school, Young has complemented the experience and maturity of Pitt’s seniors well.

10). Devin Wilson, G, Virginia Tech: This rookie guard is handling 32 minutes per game well for the inexperienced Hokies, whose true talent will be tested come conference play.

11). Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson: Blossomgame has shown himself to be a versatile interior force, averaging close to 5.0 RPG and PPG while blocking over a shot per contest as well.

12). Nate Britt, G, North Carolina: Britt plays 25 minutes per game and has taken on the point guard duties as Marcus Paige has become the Tar Heels’ primary perimeter scoring option with P.J. Hairston still sidelined.

13). Lennard Freeman, F, N.C. State: Freeman plays 26 minutes per game for Mark Gottfried, and the Washington, D.C., native is a huge help on the boards, averaging almost seven rebounds per contest.

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What Could Have Been: Houston With Joseph Young

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 6th, 2013

Rather than cite KenPom.com throughout, just recognize that all of the non-basic statistics used in this piece come from that site.

If he hasn’t already, Oregon coach Dana Altman should consider sending Houston coach James Dickey a gift basket or at least a thank you card, because without Dickey’s shortsightedness, the Ducks’ best player of the young season would probably still be playing for the Cougars. If you are a little confused, we are talking about junior shooting guard Joseph Young, who has quickly put himself on the early short list for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors by shooting 54 percent from the floor (including 42.4 percent from three) and averaging 20.3 points per game in the Ducks’ 8-0 start. Young has been the offensive catalyst for Oregon and looks like one of the country’s best and most efficient players, which shouldn’t be all that surprising considering he was much the same last season in Houston.

Joseph Young Has Been Spectacular For Oregon, While Houston Fans Are Forced To Watch The Fireworks From Afar (credit: Lee Jim-man)

Young Has Been Terrific For Oregon While Houston Fans Are Forced To Watch From Afar

A Houston native and star at nearby Yates High School, Young initially committed to Providence coming out of high school, only to switch his commitment to the hometown school when new coach James Dickey chose to keep his father — Phi Slama Jama legend and former NBA player Michael Young — on staff as the program’s Director of Basketball Operations. The story is actually a bit more complicated than that, but that story has already been fleshed out plenty.

Young eventually suited up for Houston at the start of the 2011-12 season and he almost immediately became one of the team’s best players. He finished his freshman campaign as the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 11.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He raised the bar even further last season when he led the team in scoring at 18.4 points per game while also chipping in 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. The Cougars also boasted an exciting crop of freshmen led by Danuel House and Jherrod Stiggers (technically a redshirt freshman) and the thought was that Houston would take a giant step forward this season with Young spearheading the charge.

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Joseph Young Makes Oregon the Top Pac-12 Threat to Arizona

Posted by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn) on October 28th, 2013

This is not the first time Dana Altman, Oregon’s fourth-year head coach, has used a one-year transfer to improve the Ducks’ roster. It happened in 2011-12, when guard Devoe Joseph and forward Olu Ashaolu, formerly of Minnesota and Louisiana Tech, respectively, combined to average 27 points and nine rebounds to help lead the Ducks to a 24-10 record. It happened last season, too, when former Rice big man Arsalan Kazemi gave Oregon a tough frontcourt complement to its deep backcourt while leading the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (29.0%). Using one-year transfers on a yearly basis might not seem like a viable long-term strategy, but it doesn’t have to be. At some point, Altman ostensibly hopes, Oregon will have won enough games and wooed enough elite high school basketball players with its glimmering facilities and Nike-sponsored “Tall Firs” court, that it won’t need to tap the transfer market to repopulate its roster with top-end talent. It can just recruit those players straight out of high school, because Oregon will be a destination program, because prospects will value the campus in Eugene as harboring one of the top programs in the country. Altman is pushing Oregon in that direction, but the Ducks aren’t there yet. So in the meantime, the former Creighton coach will continue to welcome one-year transfers with open arms.

The addition of Young makes Oregon one of the top contenders in the Pac 12 (AP).

The addition of Young makes Oregon one of the top contenders in the Pac 12 (AP).

The latest additions are former UNLV (and UCLA) forward and Portland native Mike Moser, former Detroit guard Jason Calliste and former Houston guard Joseph Young. All three should play a big role in helping Oregon push Arizona at the top of the Pac-12 this season, and two of them, Calliste and Moser, knew they’d be able to play for the Ducks right away this season thanks to the NCAA’s graduate transfer clause. Young was a different story; he needed the NCAA to grant a hardship waiver – based on the claim that his father, Michael Young, a member of Houston’s great Phi Slama Jama teams from the early-1980s, was reassigned from his position as director of basketball operations with the Cougars, a decision that prompted his departure from the program. Joseph argued that his father’s exit was a “hardship” sufficient to forgo the one-year holdover penalty most undergraduate transfers face – in order to play for the Ducks this season. On Friday, two days after the governing body settled one of the most baffling transfer waiver cases in recent memory, the NCAA declared Young eligible for the upcoming season. In 32 games for Houston last year, Young averaged 18.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from three, 87.5 percent from the free throw line, and posting a 124.1 offensive rating, which ranked one spot outside the top-25 such marks in the country. He joins what was – already without Young – one of the best backcourts in the country, as point guard Dominic Artis, wing Damyeon Dotson and Calliste form a deep and athletic group. Young and Calliste’s additions also address one of the Ducks’ main flaws from last season: three-point shooting. Oregon shot just 33.3 percent from deep, a number Altman’s two backcourt transfers – and possibly Moser, if he can shoot more like he did two years ago (33.1 percent) than last season (26.7) – should improve.

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What In The World Is Going On At Providence?

Posted by jstevrtc on July 21st, 2010

Did Keno Davis run over a nun, or something?  Is there a Boston College fan somewhere snickering  sinisterly while poking pins into a Providence College doll?

This past Saturday, Kadeem Batts, a redshirt freshman at Providence, was arrested outside a club on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and failure to leave premises.  He’s still on the team, but it’s not the most confidence-inspiring start, and it’s just another in an improbable string of unfortunate events that have befallen the PC men’s basketball program in recent months.

Back in April, forward Johnnie Lacy and guard James Still, both freshmen, were charged with felony assault in the beating of a PC student.  They’re not just off the team, they’re gone, expelled from the college.  About a month later, sophomore Jamine Peterson — only the team’s leading scorer (19.6 PPG) and rebounder (10.2 RPG) — was dismissed from the squad for violating team rules (not otherwise specified) while hosting a recruit for a weekend.

And then there’s this Joseph Young situation.  In case you’re not familiar, Young is the son of former Houston Cougar and Phi Slamma Jamma member Michael Young, who’s currently the Director of Basketball Operations and Performance Enhancement at the University of Houston.  Last month, Joseph signed a letter of intent to play for Providence as a freshman in the 2010-2011 season.  He changed his mind soon after, citing his concern for an aunt to whom he’s particularly close who is awaiting a heart transplant, and an increased desire to therefore attend school close to home.  He asked Providence for a release from his LOI — and was denied.

At this point, if we were Coach Davis we'd be looking upward for random falling anvils. (AP/H.R. Abrams)

Providence didn’t do this just to be mean, though.  Check it out:  Mr. Young was quickly hired to his current position at Houston (he was also an assistant coach for a year and strength/conditioning coach for five years) after James Dickey was brought on to replace the retired Tom Penders, and Young happens to have a basketball-playing son with some skills.  You can’t blame Providence for at least raising an eyebrow in regard to the timing, here — the elder Young is hired to a new position at the hometown school right at the time the younger Young is about to embark on his college basketball career? With all that Providence has had to deal with recently, you can’t blame them for wanting to hold onto a player for whom they have high hopes, especially if they have reason to think they’re not being given the whole story about that player’s desires to leave.  Providence has stated that they expect Joseph Young to honor his commitment, a lesson it’s never too late to teach (or learn).

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Morning Five: 06.04.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 4th, 2010

Without question, the condition of John Wooden is the most important concern in the world of college basketball right now, and certainly beyond it, and we will be updating the site as needed on that issue.  Because that is obviously a subject that demands much greater reflection, today’s Morning Five links five other stories relevant to our sport.

  1. This has been a very busy week for college hoops news despite the calendar showing June.  We know that it won’t be today as we had all originally heard, but at some point in the near future USC will learn its NCAA-meted fate as a result of the Reggie Bush/OJ Mayo/Tim Floyd eras.  Should the Trojan faithful be worried?  Mike DeCourcy believes that the hoops program will come out relatively unscathed, but Floyd and the footballers?  Not so sure.
  2. Is the Big 12 seemingly disintegrating right before our very eyes?  It would certainly appear to be the case after yesterday’s report that the Pac-10 is looking to raid the southern half of the conference and a stalwart such as Missouri failing to calm the whispers about its imminent move to the Big Ten.
  3. Great story today by ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil about Bill Courtney, the new head honcho at Cornell, and his boundless optimism.  He definitely seems like the kind of guy for whom it would not just be fun to play, but maybe play hoops with, as O’Neil references in the article.  It’s tough taking over a program that just had one of its best seasons and just lost its key players, but it sounds like Courtney will enjoy and smile right through any weighty expectations.
  4. We know about DePaul not releasing Walter Pitchford from his LOI, and here we go again.  Joseph Young, son of former Houston star and Phi Slamma Jamma member Michael Young (who also happens to be Director of Basketball Operations at UH), had signed on to attend Providence, but wants out so he can be nearer to home and a sick aunt with whom he’s very close.  Providence is saying no dice, and the Youngs aren’t happy.
  5. This was posted a couple of days ago, but if you haven’t read Seth Davis’ article about Steve Lavin immersing himself in his new position as the caretaker at St. John’s, here’s another chance.  Evidently the guy’s been so busy with vital aspects of the job like, er, recruiting, fundraising, and finding some assistants, that the he hasn’t even found a permanent residence in NYC yet.
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March Moment: Lest We Forget, Sometimes It’s Good Just To Be Invited

Posted by jstevrtc on March 31st, 2010

Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment?

Our final installment for this year has a pair of remembrances that remind us how just being part of the magic of the NCAA Tournament is something for which to be thankful. RTC correspondents Kraig Williams and Russell Burnett recount being in the crowd (and eventually on the floor) to see their teams earn automatic invites to the NCAA Tournament.  Butler may be a 5-seed but they’re still a so-called “mid-major,” and this is obviously the biggest storyline of this year’s Final Four.  These stories from Messrs. Williams and Burnett amplify how great Butler’s achievement is, and goes to show that if you think every single mid-major program in the nation doesn’t take pride in and hope from the Bulldogs’ presence in Indy this weekend, you’d better think again:

KW: I’ve always been a big college basketball fan, and fondly remember the days of filling out a bracket before I even knew how to pronounce some of the schools’ names. Growing up in Utah, I remember watching Keith Van Horn carry Utah to a championship game; I jumped on the band wagons of Duke in ’01 and Syracuse in ’03 to win bracket pools among my friends and slowly college basketball seeped into my blood. It wasn’t until last season that I had my ultimate March Moment.

As a student at Utah State University, we survived the adjustment from the Big West to the WAC only to surfer heartbreaks in the conference tournament year after year. Last season though, things were different. It was clear the Aggies were head-and-shoulders above the rest of the conference. Utah State steamrolled through Fresno State, somehow survived New Mexico State in the semi finals, and then came the dream matchup with Nevada on their home floor. Sitting outside the arena a couple hours before they would even let us in, it became apparent that this would be our night. Utah State students had the Nevada crowd nearly outnumbered, and when we got into the stadium it became clear that we would have the better team. Utah State jumped out to a 21-4 lead and the party began in the student section. After years of following the Aggies, and watching them come oh-so-close so many times, we were finally going to have a conference tournament banner to hang in The Spectrum. The clock ticked down, we shouted the “winning team, losing team” chant, and then we rushed the court in Reno like our lives depended on it. We spent the next hour or so just standing on the court, talking to the players, taking photos with the trophy, and watching our guys cut down the nets. That’s a feeling I’ll never forget, knowing that we weren’t going to be sweating bullets at home waiting to see if the selection committee would be nice enough to send us to the dance.

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