Morning Five: 10.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a bit of a weird college basketball news day, mostly filled with quotes, non-controversies, and Andrew Wiggins. Ever heard of him? Let’s start with Jesus Shuttlesworth combined with Butch McRae (bonus points for that reference), otherwise known as Kansas’ young superstar, Wiggins. His fantastic Sports Illustrated cover started making the rounds on social media Tuesday night and Luke Winn’s profile story (print or digital subscription only) released yesterday. The comparison he makes is with another couple of former Jayhawk stars who came to the Great Plains to make their basketball marks, Wilt Chamberlain in 1955 and Danny Manning in 1984. Wiggins is the third star in this line of succession, but as Winn writes in his supplemental Wilt, Danny, Andrew: 22 Thoughts column (available online), “It is not a pronouncement that Wiggins will have a Wilt-like impact.” It is, however, an informative and compelling read, but his 22 Thoughts piece might be more fun. Over the series of blurbs, Winn manages to reference Neal Cassady, shows a ridiculous looking drawing of a giant “Wilt” hand dunking a basketball, and reveals some Wiggins-related tweets from starstruck KU students that will have you cracking up at the absurdity of it all. Check out both stories, even if you are so cheap that you have to read the paper copy in the checkout line at the grocery store.
  2. As we all know, Kansas also picked up Kelly Oubre from the class of 2014 earlier this week. The commitment was notable in that it represented the third straight time that uber-recruiter John Calipari had been beaten out for an elite recruit (Wiggins, Emmanuel Mudiay, Oubre). While three times isn’t necessarily a trend, it is a bit odd considering Calipari’s prodigious record of recruiting success. Well, at least one explanation for the commitment was revealed on Wednesday, as Oubre’s father, Kelly Sr., told the Lawrence Journal-World that Self “doesn’t kick you out if you’re not ready.” Although he didn’t name who he was referencing with his barb, it was interpreted by the rest of the world as a shot at Calipari’s one-and-done program (he later told KSR’s Matt Jones that he meant nothing of the sort). Kentucky fans rightfully took umbrage at the allusion, pointing out that a number of talented freshman have in fact become sophomores at Kentucky (Terrence Jones, Alex Poythress, Doron Lamb, to name a few), but the damage was already done. Kentucky vs. Kansas again, anyone — this is getting pretty good.
  3. Or Kentucky vs. Michigan State? Wait, we already have that one on the schedule, coming on November 12, just over a month from now. The background on this is somewhat convoluted, but the gist of it is that a student at Michigan State’s September Madness reported that head coach Tom Izzo said that the Spartans were going to “kick Kentucky’s a–.” John Calipari of course caught wind of it, and did what he does even better than recruiting and coaching — he spun it to his favor. In two separate public venues over the last week, Calipari has made reference to the MSU comment and spun it back to his own players “not knowing” when they will play the other elite teams on their schedule. Leave it to some other enterprising reporter to poll the Wildcat players as to when they will play the defending national champions (answer: December 28), but suffice it to say that the marketing pitch is already in full blast this season. Like we said, non-controversies.
  4. Players don’t know when they play, and coaches don’t know who they play. Does anybody pay attention anymore? We’re only half-kidding. Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger published an interesting piece on Wednesday that revealed George Mason head coach Paul Hewitt and Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli didn’t even realize they were playing in the same conference (the Atlantic 10, if you’ve lost track) this season as recently as July. Even this week, Martelli mentioned that, as he waited for his train to Brooklyn, he wondered where his peer and longtime A-10 competitor Fran Dunphy at Temple was. Then he realized that Temple is now in the Big East, along with Xavier and one-year wonder Butler. Honestly, it’s going to take a while to get used to these changes for everyone. We really can’t blame them for this gaffe (but that doesn’t excuse the fictional Kentucky players that don’t realize who they’re playing).
  5. Some injury news to finish off a strange M5 on this Thursday (we warned you). Texas point guard Javan Felix underwent hip surgery last week and is currently on the mend with an indefinite timetable for his return. With all the pressure on the Longhorn basketball program given athletic director DeLoss Dodds’ recent disparaging comments, this is not good news for Rick Barnes. Felix is the most experienced returning guard on the team, and if he can’t go at 100 percent this season, Barnes is going to need to do the best coaching job of his entire career just to keep this team above water. Down at Florida, Will Yuguete and Eli Carter are still not ready to practice due to their injuries, but more importantly, Billy Donovan has reinstated senior guard Scottie Wilbekin to the team. Wilbekin has had found repeated trouble in his time at Florida, but he has satisfied his head coach in recent months to earn his spot again. The Gators are a tough team to figure this season — they bring in some excellent transfer and freshman talent, but the returnees more or less look like a collection of role players. We know they’ll be good, but can they become great?
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Morning Five: 10.02.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2013

morning5

  1. The drumbeat of pay-for-play continues echoing through the chambers of college athletics. The latest and greatest: Jay Bilas tweeted out an article last night called “Money Madness: Why and How NCAA Athletes Should Be Paid” from Duke Political Review, a piece that probably wouldn’t have otherwise been seen by anyone beyond a small group of policy wonks. Zach Gorwitz argues that the free market should allow for college football and basketball programs to pay its players a reasonable salary beyond the cost of a full scholarship — he suggests $10,000 to $60,000 for football players, as an example — limited by an NCAA-wide salary cap and organized through negotiations with a players’ union. It’s an interesting idea, for sure, if for no other reason than it provides specific ideas beyond the “they should be paid without consideration of cost” crowd. Expect more. This is only just beginning. Meet Jeff Kessler.
  2. Wake Forest is one of the forgotten schools in the new-look ACC. Aside from a single Orange Bowl trip in 2008, the Deacs are not a regular football power like Clemson or Florida State; nor are they a basketball power like Duke or North Carolina (or Syracuse; or Pittsburgh; etc.). Since a brief but halcyon stretch in early 2009 when Wake hit #1 in both major basketball polls, it’s been mostly downhill on both the hardwood and gridiron ever since. The football team hasn’t had a winning season in five years and the hoops program has reached a level of moribundity under fourth-year head coach Jeff Bzdelik that it hasn’t seen in nearly three decades. As such, Wake alumni and fans are none too happy with their athletic director, Ron Wellman. After sowing their oats with an anti-Bzdelik billboard/publicity stunt at last year’s ACC Tournament, they are now planning to attack this coming weekend with a an aerial banner assault circling over the school’s football stadium during a game with NC State. The details, should you choose to consider them, are posted on a public Google Doc that was sent to us by a concerned Twitter follower. Best of luck with your endeavor, Wake fans. You are a forlorn lot.
  3. As we mentioned on the national site, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson announced suspensions on Tuesday for two of his most prominent returnees, Eric Moreland and Devon Collier. For unspecified internal reasons, Moreland will sit out half of the team’s regular season games (14), while Collier will only miss one. The two forwards represent the bulk of the Beavers’ returning frontcourt this season (with both players averaging more than 25.0 MPG), and thus their benchings is quite the gamble for a head coach who might be on the hottest seat in all of major D-I college basketball. Moreland in particular is an elite rebounding presence, ranking fifth in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage last season (27.5%) and more than holding his own on the offensive window (10.5%). Luckily for Robinson, he expects to have both back at full strength in time for the bulk of the Pac-12 season in early January, and the non-conference schedule other than a trip to Maryland and a mediocre field at the Diamond Head Classic does not appear terribly daunting.
  4. One of the players that Robinson had hoped to have returning this season was former guard Ahmad Starks, a 5’9″ whirlwind of a player who took care of the ball, made free throws, and knocked down long-range shots for the Beavers. The Chicago native headed back east in May to play at a school closer to his ailing grandmother, hoping that the NCAA’s transfer exception would allow him to play immediately at his new, closer destination. He ultimately decided to play for John Groce at Illinois but, according to ESPN’s Andy Katz, the NCAA on Tuesday denied his waiver, citing the distance in mileage from Champaign to Chicago (roughly 135 miles) as too far to justify the exemption. It’s been somewhat rare for the NCAA to deny these waiver requests, so this is a peculiar turn of events given that Starks is realistically only a couple-hour drive away from his grandmother. Katz cited a “100-mile” standard that perhaps signals that the NCAA is going to use for future adjudications of these decisions, which although an arbitrary distance, would still create some much-needed clarity to the rule. Let’s see if they stick to it in future iterations of this decision. Tough break for Illinois too, seeking to replace much of its backcourt this season after the losses of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson.
  5. Although we still find preseason material to be a bit too early for prime time on this early October date, that hasn’t stopped the college hoops writing cabal from putting in some work. We’ll mention some of the more interesting items as we get closer to the traditional time for Midnight Madness in a couple of weeks, but here are a couple of things you should see now. First, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg released his preseason Top 25 yesterday, with his top five,  in order: Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, and Kansas. For each team he lists both their best-case and worst-case scenarios, and by our count, he lists those five teams as the group with enough upside to win the national title. Over at Sporting News, Mike DeCourcy lists seven key players who have something to prove this season. As always, the dreaded slideshow format is mitigated by strong writing and analysis by the longtime hoops scribe. Give both a look.
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Analyzing Lindy’s and Sporting News’ Preseason Top 10 Rankings

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 30th, 2013

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

College football’s season kickoff Thursday night offered another small reminder that Division I’s basketball brethren aren’t too far away from getting things started themselves. People have begun analyzing and prognosticating how the upcoming season – expected to be one of college hoops’ best in the past decade – will shake out, which teams will win which leagues, who can compete for a national championship, which likely one-and-done freshmen will leave the most memorable imprints on the game. All of this stuff is fun and exciting and at the same time frustratingly titillating, and the rush of emotional anticipation will resonate even more acutely as we move closer to November. Two notable preseason rankings were unveiled this week, and while there will be many of the same rolled out over the next two months, the relative dearth of interesting college hoops news this week was just the invitation I needed to dissect the contents of a pair of speculative team orderings.

Pushing Louisville down to 7th was a big oversight by Lindy’s (Getty Images)

The two rankings come courtesy of Sporting News and Lindy’s. Nothing about either list was particularly surprising or puzzling, with the inexplicable exception of one certain defending national champion being excluded from one of the top 5s (more on this below). There isn’t too much to dig into here, but if it means discussing the best teams entering college basketball this season in a totally speculative context, I’m not going to say no. If there is a fun aspect to the college basketball offseason, it is this: criticizing other people’s rankings.

  • Talking point No. 1, undoubtedly, is Louisville’s shocking No. 7 ranking on Lindy’s top 10 list. Not only are the Cardinals expected, in many corners, to compete for a national championship, they bring back the core of the team that won the national championship last season. What compelled the college hoops hive minds at Lindy’s to push the Cardinals down six spots from their championship perch, I can’t possibly begin to explain. Save for the loss of shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, Louisville is just as deep and talented as it was last season. Protecting the rim could be an issue, especially if 6’8″ forward Montrezl Harrell doesn’t morph into the formidable post defender Rick Pitino needs to make his high-pressure defense flourish, but the Cardinals should again rank among the nation’s top five or so defenses; return one of the most talented backcourts in the country, including Ken Pomeroy’s 2012-13 Player of the Year, Russ Smith; and have the added motivation of – and this almost sounds insane, considering where UL finished up last April – trying to dethrone Kentucky from its preseason national championship front-runner status. That rivalry is vicious and impassioned and highly entertaining in any season. Imagine what it will be like this year, with a reloaded Cardinals team and UK welcoming in the most highly rated recruiting class since the Fab Five. The Bluegrass rivalry tangent misses the point, sure, but whatever measure you wish to use to vet Louisville’s preseason merits, a No. 7 ranking seems drastically low. Maybe it was a typo (ed. note: European sevens sometimes look like US ones.)?

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Morning Five: 08.15.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. August is without question the slowest month in the college basketball calendar, but a couple of key releases of information on Wednesday allowed for some pizzazz in an otherwise dry landscape. First and foremost, ESPN’s 2013-14 Gameday schedule was announced, and the early returns on the eight-game slate are quite favorable. In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the schedule contains the best (on paper) games in the ACC, AAC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC this year. The “mid-major” game between Memphis and Gonzaga is certainly no slouch, and the second ACC game (depending on which between Syracuse-Duke and UNC-Duke is “the best”) is another great match-up. Even the Pac-12 either/or battle between Arizona-Colorado and UCLA-Stanford has promise. We don’t have the entire history of Gamedays in front of us at the moment, but there’s little doubt that we’ve enjoyed a group of games that (again, on paper) has had the star power and quality of these eight. Absolutely. Cannot. Wait.
  2. The other promising news that came out of Wednesday was also of a scheduling variety, although not related to the upcoming season. The Champions Classic, a fantastic event that pits blue-blooded powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State against each other on a round robin three-year basis, is set to extend its contract for another three seasons (2014-16, according to Tom Izzo). As one commenter notes below that revelatory tweet, it would be great if the organizers of the event continued to spread the love around the country so that places other than New York, Atlanta and Chicago would have an opportunity to host the proceedings. Roger Kuznia at TSN believes that the event should open itself up to more schools (such as UNC, UCLA, Indiana, Syracuse, Louisville and Arizona) so that one of the marquee nights of the early season doesn’t begin to lose its luster, and it’s a fair point. We’d like to see a two-night, eight-team event where schools rotate through (avoiding conference foes, of course), with perhaps an opportunity to earn their way into or out of future events based on their performances. Either way, we’re still glad to see the existing format headed to another rendition.
  3. The NCAA also released its attendance figures for the 2012-13 season on Wednesday, and as always, the aggregate numbers only get you so far to a real understanding of the topic. We hope to have more analysis on this later today, but for now, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg does a pretty good job breaking down some of the key stats. That a school like Creighton outdrew a school like USC by more than four times the number of fans per game is a testament to how whacked the BCS system is when it comes to college basketball. The Mountain West also outdrew the Pac-12 by more than a thousand fans per game, and you have to once again address the chicken/egg argument of what drives what when it comes to on-court success. Do fans who demand success at the best programs foster the overarching pressure to win from their teams; or do the teams that win boil up interest by virtue of people’s willingness and desire to associate with winners? It’s obviously a combination of both factors, but we have to believe there’s a pretty strong correlation between fans actually caring (and showing up regardless) and success on the hardwood. The NCAA should do that analysis.
  4. Asking a group of college coaches to name the best current coach in the sport would no doubt result in a plurality of names ranging from Mike Krzyzewski to Bill Self to Rick Pitino to several others. But asking a group of college coaches (or anyone, really) to name the best current recruiter in the sport leaves no room for debate — we’re honestly surprised that the numbers taken by CBSSports.com‘s crew didn’t approach 100 percent in favor of Kentucky’s John Calipari. In fact, the man who has inked 15 of the last 50 recruits ranked in the RSCI top 10 (think about that for a second…) didn’t even receive a majority of the votes (49 percent). Still, nobody else was close, as Kansas’ Bill Self (8 percent), Duke’s Coach K (6 percent), Florida’s Billy Donovan (5 percent) and Marquette’s Buzz Williams (5 percent) filled in the other blanks. It’s somewhat interesting that North Carolina’s Roy Williams didn’t receive a single vote — it wasn’t all that long ago that he was considered the best in the business in this regard.
  5. It’s called subsequent remedial measures (SRMs) in the legal realm, but what it essentially amounts to are actions made by an entity to mitigate future liability based on an alleged previous wrong (already under litigation). The idea is that SRMs cannot be used to “prove” that the responsible party is guilty of any previous wrongdoing based on those later actions, and it makes sense from an evidentiary sense (the case needs to be proven by intent used at the time of the infraction). But it sure as heck looks bad from a public relations perspective, and that’s exactly what both the NCAA and several of the major BCS conferences are doing now that the Ed O’Bannon/EA Sports case is taking on a life of its own. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 announced this week that it will follow the NCAA’s lead and no longer allow EA to use its trademarks in its college football video game. It’s not all that important with respect to the O’Bannon case, but it’s very important in terms of
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Early Look: Ranking the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon’s Top Five Matchups

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 13th, 2013

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

Covering college basketball year-round can, in the months not filled with actual college basketball, turn into a scavenger hunt for interesting topics to write about. We’ve just about hit the nadir of the offseason college hoops news cycle, and trust me, the next month or so could get even worse. Luckily, ESPN came through early this week with a totally awesome diversion – its release of the schedule, ordered in lockstep with the actual succession of games three months from now, for the 2013 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon, which begins at 7:00 PM on November 11. It’s become annual appointment viewing for college basketball dorks, myself humbly included, and the match-ups this year are just as enticing, if not more so, than anything the Mothership has lined up since the event’s christening. Now that I’ve explained the basics, and there’s nothing else to do during this offseason dry spell but anxiously await the start of games this fall, it’s as good a time as any to pick out the Marathon’s very best games, five of them – which will only have the effect of intensifying your craving for the beginning of the season. But hey, I pine for November just as much as you do. With our mutual longing for the upcoming season now recognized, let’s look ahead to one of the year’s best non-conference events. I’ll be waiting, caffeine and sugary comestibles in hand, buttocks planted to padded recliner, cathartically rejoicing after a long offseason spent, well, doing this.

The Marathon’s final match-up could be one of the best games of the season, full stop. (USA Today)

1. Duke vs. Kansas (November 12, 10:00 PM ET, ESPN)

This selection could have been predicted when ESPN released its highly-anticipated Champions Classic duo a long while ago. There are two match-ups to consider here. First, we get two of the most culturally impactful, nationally successful, blueblood-identifiable programs in the country squaring off in a potential Final Four, or even National Championship, preview. These teams are going to be good. The top-ranked freshmen they inherited this season are even better. Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins are the main attractions — not just of this game, but of the entire college hoops season writ large; both are expected to enjoy wildly successful one-year stints in college, lead their respective teams on deep NCAA Tournament runs and land a spot in the NBA Draft lottery shortly thereafter. That process will get its formal introduction this November, in the second half of the Champion Classic’s cant-miss double-header (which coincides with the finale of the Tip-off Marathon). If you’re limiting your Marathon sampling size to just one game – first things first: I strongly urge you to reconsider – this is the game of choice, no doubt about it. It’s been a long time since college basketball has seen so much freshmen star power this enticing enter its ranks. Watching the very best of it, two generational NBA franchise-changers, going head-to-head during the first month of the season is a treat no fixture on the 2013-14 hoops calendar can possibly hope to live up to. Maybe the Final Four. Other than that? Nah.

2. Kentucky vs. Michigan State (November 12, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN)

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Morning Five: 07.03.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 3rd, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s conference realignment absolution week around the land, with the ACC, Big East and AAC all welcoming new members in their own imitable ways. The ACC did so with considerable hoopla, unveiling Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame as new members at the NASDAQ headquarters in lower Manhattan on Monday. Everyone is toeing the party line at this point, of course, (“best basketball conference of all-time,” etc.) but the sticking point is going to eventually hit some of the old-timers in this league when the ACC Tournament is no longer always held/incarcerated in the friendly confines of the Tar Heel State. The new Big East just hired a commissioner last week, and was last seen traipsing through midtown Manhattan trying to find some office space. Regardless, Butler, Xavier and Creighton are now on board with the Catholic Seven, and at least one mammal is ready for the transition. In the meantime, here’s the top five storylines facing the basketball-centric league as it sets out on its own path. The AAC is a little further along, even if the conference has not yet changed the sign on the door in Providence or has a crystal clear notion of its ultimate direction in both the BCS and college basketball. Dan Wolken writes that the league’s advantage is that it is finally able to move forward with a “clean slate,” even if it is mocked at “Conference USA 2.0″ for a while. This is the world we now live in; we may as well get used to it. 
  2. One of the new Big East schools, Creighton, received some great news on Tuesday when guard Grant Gibbs was given a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA (his reaction to the news in this video is priceless). Gibbs applied for the sixth season based on the fact that he missed his true freshman season with an injury and his transfer season for a different injury. Next season will give him a full fourth year of action, and with teammate Doug McDermott’s return in lieu of heading to the NBA Draft, the Bluejays again look like a serious contender on the conference and national levels next season. And as for where the scholarship for next year will come from? Doug’s dad, of course. Head coach Greg McDermott will pony up the $38,000 tuition plus expenses for his future millionaire son next season, surely a small price to pay for a team with a reasonable shot at crashing the Final Four party in Arlington next April.
  3. One of the former Big East and new ACC schools (confused yet?), Syracuse, put one more piece of the Bernie Fine saga to bed yesterday with the news that the former Orange assistant was dropping his defamation suit against ESPN. You recall that Fine was investigated but never charged by federal authorities in response to allegations that he molested two former ball boys some time ago. He was fired regardless, and later brought suit against ESPN for airing the allegations that included a secret tape made of his wife, Laurie Fine, discussing the allegations with an accuser a decade ago. His wife still has a defamation suit pending over the release of that tape. ESPN says that no settlement was reached, so the elephant in the room question is why would Fine — who has maintained his innocence throughout — drop the case? The only reasonable explanation is that it simply wasn’t winnable on the merits, and in fact, could expose him to further embarrassment and/or damage to his reputation, right?
  4. This is an odd story, but let’s not make a federal case of it. The FAA is apparently investigating the practice of leasing the state of Michigan’s four passenger jets to Michigan State’s head football and basketball coaches for the purpose of recruiting visits. Of course, that means Spartan head coach Tom Izzo and his 55 recruiting trips in the last five years are also under scrutiny. The current reports are unclear on what the organization is looking for, specifically, but “it is known that the billing documents and receipts for many of these trips are being sought-out by investigators to determine whether the use of the planes violated any laws or incurs any cost to the common taxpayer.” MSU, like many major players in the college athletics world, pays for such costs from a self-sufficient fund separate from taxpayer dollars, so we’re not really sure what the objective is here. But it’s worth following at this point.
  5. This came out last week, but as we’re heading into the heart of the summer recruiting circuit, it’s worth mentioning here now. The Rivals150 recruiting rankings for the Class of 2014 have been updated, and Chicago center Jahlil Okafor remains at the top of the list. He and Rivals’ #2 prospect, Minneapolis’ Tyus Jones, are allegedly looking to become a package deal, which would make one of the group of  Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan State or Ohio State very, very happy. It appears to be a very strong year for the Midwest, with six of the top 11 players in the nation playing in the Big Ten footprint. For the complete list, check it out here.
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Morning Five: 05.01.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. One of the problems with the NCAA is its stark lack of investigative power. Sometimes what is obvious to everyone cannot be properly investigated and proven because the organization is a private entity, and as such, does not possess subpoena power. In short, they can’t make people do much of anything that would help punish wrongdoers. They pretty much have to depend on folks stepping forward of their own volition or some kind of whistleblower situation where they are provided clear evidence of illicit activity. Enter Duke and Lance Thomas. Even though it is abundantly clear that Thomas received a loan for jewelry where it was unclear how he could pay for it while still enrolled at Duke, the NCAA was unable to get anybody — Thomas, the jeweler, his dog — to talk about the situation. No proof equals no violation, and if you follow it out to its logical conclusion, that means no negative consequences for Duke — especially for the 2010 national championship team (of which Thomas was a starter). Is it fair that such a clear NCAA violation is unprovable? At what point is it acceptable to apply a standard of strict liability where the preponderance of the evidence is greater than what can be proven? These are the kinds of questions that the NCAA really needs to clarify if it ever wants to be taken seriously by the media and public at large when it comes to these situations. Until then, people will continue to assume an agenda-driven basis for how it metes out punishment, and that’s never a good thing.
  2. The NBA Draft deadline was Sunday night and we here at RTC found time to release our post-deadline Top 25 yesterday. We weren’t the only ones. SI.com‘s Luke Winn came up with his post-deadline Power Rankings, and go figure, but our top four is exactly the same as his. Of course, the big difference is that you’ll learn more about TJ McConnell, Shabazz Napier, and Luke Hancock than you ever knew was possible. As we start to hit the long, dry desert of college basketball news from now until October, make sure you read this one as one of your jumping-off points into the summer.
  3. While on the subject of next season, ESPN.com‘s Fran Fraschilla gives us his take on what some of the more prominent returnees can improve their overall effectiveness next season. From probable preseaseon NPOY Doug McDermott to All-America candidates Jahii Carson, Glenn Robinson III, and Gary Harris, the ex-coach evaluates what these players need to do to maximize their collegiate careers. If you said that Carson needs to figure out his left hand, Robinson should understand screens better, and Harris needs to work on ball control, then you’re well on your way to working for the WWL someday.
  4. The last time a prominent player headed south from Rutgers to Florida, it worked out pretty well for the Gators. Mike Rosario headed to Gainesville two summers ago, and in the interim, he learned the difference between scoring and shooting, found that the game works a little better when he passes the ball on occasion, and became a much more effective and efficient all-around player in fewer minutes per game. Can lightning strike twice from New Jersey to Gainesville? Rutgers’ Eli Carter announced on Tuesday that he too was transferring to Florida, and the current Scarlet Knights gunner (14.9 PPG on 31.0% usage) is hoping to find the same uptick in his game after the transfer. Carter will face a similar backlog in backcourt talent but Billy Donovan has shown that he’s more than willing to give players like him a chance to succeed.
  5. And then there’s this from Lexingtonia. Ships passing, man; ships passing. Next year is going to be some kind of awesome.
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RTC Bracketology: March 5 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 5th, 2013

bracketology

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is RTC’s new resident bracketologist. According to Bracket Matrix, he ranks as one of the top bracketologists among those who have produced brackets for more than three years, including two seasons with perfect bracket projections. He updates the field daily on his site, Bracketology Expert, and will be producing a weekly bracket update here at RTC on Fridays. RTC Bubble Watch will publish on Sunday nights and Thursday afternoons for the rest of the season.

New in This Update:

  • The No. 1 seeds are far from decided at this point. Michigan State‘s loss to Michigan on Sunday all but ended the Spartans chances, barring a Big Ten tournament championship. Both Michigan teams are now No. 3 seeds.
  • Duke is also a No. 1 seed after holding off Miami (FL) on Saturday.

LAST FOUR IN: Saint Mary’s, Villanova, Tennessee, Iowa State
FIRST FOUR OUT: Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Maryland

NOTE: Projected conference champions (or auto bid winners) are in capital letters.

(full bracket after the jump)

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Big Ten M5: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 1st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Penn State‘s win against Michigan takes the cake for easily the biggest upset and most puzzling game of the Big Ten season, and perhaps the single biggest upset in the nation this year. Much of the credit goes to the Nittany Lions, but some of the blame has to be directed toward Michigan guard Trey Burke, who committed a season-high six turnovers after playing exceptional basketball all year. Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said after the game that he had his team key on Burke, hoping it would slow down Michigan’s offense as a whole, and he was right. Michigan’s offense couldn’t generate enough to put the Nittany Lions away, and its defense faltered from the very start.
  2. We’ve been dissecting the Big Ten title race and even considering Trey Burke vs. Victor Oladipo for Big Ten Player of the Year, but there’s also an interesting race for Big Ten Coach of the Year brewing in these final weeks of conference play. Tom Crean certainly deserves to be in the running for keeping Indiana near the top of the polls and the conference all season, Michigan’s John Beilein has put forth one of the best Wolverine teams in recent memory, and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has the Spartans primed once again for a March run. But certainly, no one expected Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin team to compete like this, especially considering the team’s early-season setbacks. Ian McCue makes the case that Ryan has never done so much at Wisconsin with so little, and it’s hard to disagree with him.
  3. Pete DiPrimio is convinced Indiana will not lose at Assembly Hall the rest of the way. “Ain’t gonna happen,” he writes. “Not with these stakes. Not with that crowd.” So, he says, the Big Ten race will come down to the Hoosiers’ season-finale date with Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Hoosiers still control their own fate in the Big Ten, leaving what many consider to be the conference’s best overall team with the chance to take home the title. Things could change for Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin along the way, but if the Hoosiers win out, nobody can stop them from hanging that banner in Bloomington.
  4. Things were probably going to be pretty difficult for Michigan State heading into Ann Arbor this weekend as soon as the Spartans blew out the Wolverines in East Lansing. Then Michigan went and lost to Penn State this weekend and the Spartans are guaranteed to run into an even angrier Michigan team this weekend. Tom Izzo knows he’s going to have some work to do to get his team prepared for the game. The Spartans are reeling a bit themselves, having dropped games against Indiana and Ohio State in somewhat disappointing fashion.
  5. It’s been a long road for Illinois’ Sam McLaurin, a fifth-year senior who earned his way on to the roster because of his ability to shoot the three-pointer. Now, the former Coastal Carolina player has the opportunity to realize his dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. He was the first “recruit” of the John Groce era, and now Groce has the chance to help provide McLaurin with a memory he can hold on to for a lifetime.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 28th, 2013

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  1. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan gets right to the point: What’s the matter with Michigan? It’s been a strange few weeks for the Wolverines, who were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season but have now been blown out by Michigan State and upset by the only team in the conference who didn’t have a Big Ten win entering play Wednesday. Penn State gave the Wolverines a run for their money in Ann Arbor on February 17 and the Nittany Lions finally finished the deal on Wednesday in State College. Before that, Michigan snuck by Ohio State in overtime and was beaten by Wisconsin in overtime prior to the MSU loss. The problem, Brennan writes, has been their defense, which is giving up 1.11 points per possession over its last seven games. Michigan’s offense is and always has been there. But the defense is fading fast. Can they figure it out in time to play like a Final Four team when it matters most?
  2. All of Tubby Smith‘s naysayers have probably grown pretty quiet for the time being. The Minnesota head coach has had doubters ever since his time at Kentucky, and they were chattering pretty loudly when the Gophers experienced their fall from grace after beginning the season 15-1 and rising as high as No. 8 in the country. But Smith says he doesn’t really listen to what people are saying — good or bad — so whether the team is on a slide or they’ve just upset the No. 1 team in the national polls, it’s not something that gets to him.
  3. Almost every team has one player who sets the tone for the rest of the team. For Michigan State, that guy is Keith Appling. As Appling goes, so go the Spartans, and Appling hasn’t been going much of anywhere lately. He’s been a non-factor in both Indiana losses this season, and he hurt more than he helped against Ohio State this week by allowing Aaron Craft to dismantle the Spartans’ backcourt. If the Spartans have any fighting chance at working their way back into the Big Ten title chase, they’ve got to beat Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor. And to do that, they need Appling to play like an all-Big Ten-caliber player again. Tom Izzo is confident Appling will do just that, saying that Appling has done a good job of carrying this team all year long, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t find that in him again this weekend.
  4. As Ben Axelrod writes, Thad Matta had not made a midseason starting lineup change for anything other than an injury since the 2008-09 season — that is, until he moved Evan Ravenel to the bench in December. But that move has allowed Matta to bring an experienced senior off the bench and is working well for the Buckeyes. Ravenel had a career game against Michigan State, and he’s proven to be a guy who Ohio State wants on the floor at the end of games, despite losing his starting spot to Amir Williams. “That was kind of what we were looking for, a little bit more of what Evan had brought to the table last year when he would come in,” Matta said. “I thought he was pretty effective, especially down the stretch of the Big Ten season.”
  5. Last week, ESPN broadcasters spent some time during the Michigan State-Indiana game dissecting a play that officials were reviewing in which it appeared Derrick Nix hit Cody Zeller with a cheap shot. As further review took place on the web after the game, it appeared that Zeller may have staged the incident by grabbing Nix’s arm. Either way, it was hard to draw any real conclusions. Then there was another strangely similar incident in Tuesday’s Indiana-Minnesota game in which Indiana’s Will Sheehey fell to the ground clutching his face while defending Minnesota’s Andre Hollins in a trap on the baseline. Officials again went to the monitor to review it, and many on the Internet speculated again — is there something fishy going on at Indiana, with players trying to draw attention with these “dirty” plays? We’re used to flops on charges and blocks, but is this something else, something more?
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The RTC Podblast: Episode 14.5

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2013

Welcome to this week’s RTC Podblast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114). In a week full of competitive and interesting games, the guys focus in on the three biggest of the slate — Michigan State-Indiana, Kansas-Oklahoma State, and Florida-Missouri, while looking ahead to a weekend of action slightly better than last. As always, the weekly outline is below, so feel free to jump around to the place that most suits your interest…

  • 0:00-6:19 – Kansas in the Big 12 Driver Seat Yet Again
  • 6:19-13:45 – Indiana Cements Itself as Top Team
  • 13:45-15:33 – Florida Reminds Us Not to Trust Them
  • 15:33-17:57 – Preview Big Weekend in the A-10
  • 17:57-19:17 – Creighton and Saint Mary’s Headline Last BracketBusters
  • 19:17-20:57 – Another Week Another Exciting MW Game
  • 20:57-23:16 – End of a Big East Battle at the Carrier Dome/Wrap
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Previewing This Weekend’s Big Ten Games

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 15th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

We have reached the point in the season where it feels like every game has conference implications of some kind, and there’s no better period of time to enjoy them all than Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Weekends through the end of the season will be packed with quality basketball, so let’s take a hard look at this weekend’s slate of games and what’s in store.

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes have a tough game against the Badgers in Madison on Sunday.

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes have a tough game against the Badgers in Madison on Sunday.

  • Purdue @ Indiana (2:00 PM EST on Saturday, ESPN): The Hoosiers might end up winning this one comfortably but the game features an excellent match-up in the low post between Cody Zeller and A.J.Hammons (11.2 PPG). It is easy to forget when you evaluate Zeller’s game that he is only a sophomore and Hammons, a freshman, has shown flashes of brilliance in the paint as well. During the first version of this match-up in West Lafayette, Hammons scored 30 points but picked up two early fouls due to poor defense. But if the Purdue big man can manage to stay on the floor, you could see his strong array of post moves – a hook shot, a 10-foot jumper, a nice turnaround – against Zeller tomorrow. This will also be a good test of Zeller’s defense if the game ends up being relatively close late into the second half.
  • Michigan State @ Nebraska (8:00 PM EST on Saturday, Big Ten Network): Nebraska head coach Tim Miles continues to motivate his team to compete against the top dogs in the conference despite many tough losses. The Cornhuskers hung tight with the Spartans in East Lansing on January 13, only to lose the game 66-56, but don’t expect them to roll over and hand the game to the Spartans on Saturday night. Gary Harris continues to play through his back spasms and even if Travis Trice suits up, his minutes may be limited because he is still recovering from an injury. Despite these issues, Tom Izzo has enough talent on his team to not let this game slip away on the road as he is trying to make a case for the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and win the Big Ten title. Read the rest of this entry »
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