Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 25th, 2011

  1. Over the past few months there has been a movement in some parts of the media to pay athletes money in addition to their scholarships with Taylor Branch and the NCPA being the two most prominent voices. Now it appears that the NCAA might actually be considering paying athletes a stipend although it may not be to the level that some are hoping for. According to reports, NCAA president Mark Emmert plans to finalize a proposal that would pay student-athletes $2,000 per year that he would send to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors for their approval. That $2,000 per year would be in addition to the scholarships that already cover tuition, fees, room, board, and books. As the NCPA study notes student-athletes currently receive funds that are $3,222 short of covering the average university’s stated full cost of tuition so even this extra sum would leave the athletes $1,222 short. Of course, even the initial payment opens up a whole other can of worms, which we delved into yesterday, but we have to say that for the pro-pay people this appears to be a step in the right direction.
  2. In an unrelated move, but one that ties in to the previous story a group of more than 300 players sent a petition to the NCAA asking for a portion of TV revenues to supplement scholarships to cover the full costs of attending college and for an “educational lock box” that would help cover additional education if their eligibility is up or just be a cash payment to the players after their careers are over. While many would be willing to agree with most of the request the last part is where you start to get on the slippery slope of professionalism. We haven’t seen the actual petition yet because it was just released to the Associated Press so they could get their stories up before everyone else, but we found it interesting that this based off the signatures from players at five schools (Arizona, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Purdue, and UCLA). As we mentioned in our aforementioned interview with Taylor Branch one of the problems that college athletes will run into is creating a strong union when the lifespan of the college athlete is so transient (typically four years). Perhaps if they can organize on a smaller scale (like these five schools) they can build some momentum to push for change in a relatively short time. That said we expect the NCAA to crush this petition given the amount of money that would be involved.
  3. It should not come as much of a surprise that the SEC and national media has selected Kentucky as the preseason pick to win the conference even if one site predicted that another team may end up taking home the title. What is surprising, or at least interesting to us, is that a Kentucky player was selected as the SEC Preseason Player of the Year and it was not Anthony Davis. That honor went to sophomore (yes, there are still a few left) Terrence Jones. Davis ended up as a preseason second-team All-SEC selection despite being one of only four players to receive a vote for preseason Player of the Year. The rest of the selections were about what you would expect as they were dominated by players from Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Florida.
  4. While expectations are high as usual at Kentucky they are much more muted at Kansas where Bill Self is apparently trying to temper what was already lukewarm expectations for a program of that caliber. Self decided to take some jabs at the media for pegging the Jayhawks as the co-favorites in the conference even though his Jayhawks have won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title the past seven years and, to be brutally honest, the conference is pretty weak. Self does have a point that the Jayhawks will be much weaker this year than in previous years especially with their depleted freshman class, but the only other team in the Big 12 that we have any faith in is Baylor and they are questionable with their point guard play although they may have enough talent at the other spots to overcome that deficiency.
  5. Coming into the season we expected St. Mary’s to have a difficult time replacing Mickey McConnell and now that task appears to have become even more difficult as Paul McCoy, a transfer from Southern Methodist, injured his right knee and might miss the upcoming season. McCoy, who already had his sophomore season at SMU end after he tore his ACL, will undergo arthroscopic surgery on the knee today with a second operation to repair the damage after three months of rehabilitation. For McCoy it is another significant setback in what appeared to be a promising career after he averaged 13.4 PPG as a freshman and now he is looking at a second medical redshirt. As for the Gaels, the injury will place even more pressure on Matthew Dellavedova, who has very little support around him in the backcourt with only two other scholarship guards on the team. Despite returning Dellavedova and Rob Jones the Gaels may struggle to play to the level that we have come to expect of them in recent years.
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RTC Summer Updates: West Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 5th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our first update is from the West Coast Conference and comes courtesy of Will Green, an editor and writer with The Slipper Still Fits.

Readers’ Take One

Summer Storylines

  • Brigham Young University Joins The Conference: When this story was first reported back in September, it was largely forgotten. BYU’s move was a football one with basketball repercussions, not the other way around. If anyone was talking about the Cougars, the dialogue was centered around how much money it would receive from it slew of nationally televised football contests this coming fall, and how many years the vaunted program would remain as an independent before choosing to join another league, securing even more lucrative contracts. The move, however, might make a greater impact on the collegiate basketball landscape than the football one, competitively speaking. For one thing, resident king Gonzaga’s streak of conference championships – which is older than most of your children – or at least its general reputation as the WCC’s top dog, is seriously endangered.  With Jimmer Fredette seizing all available national attention like a Venus flytrap, lost on many fans last year was the fact BYU was not merely a fortuitous program enjoying an unusually good year. The Cougars have been a top 40 RPI team since 2006, with a pair of top 20 finishes. That’s not a second Gonzaga — that’s better than Gonzaga. They also bring by far the largest student body and largest fan base that the league has ever seen. Indeed, the league can leverage BYU’s prominence to grow its influence and scope (more on that later). Despite being a “football move,” BYU’s departure from the Mountain West Conference is not, as so many of the recent realignment moves have been, a casualty of circumstance. The aforementioned “repercussions” became a mutually beneficial improvement for both the Cougars and the league. Credit alert diplomacy and geographical convenience to why commissioner Jamie Zaninovichwas able to lure a team into his league that’s also, statistically speaking, better than any team in his current league.

    Brandon Davies, if Reinstated by BYU, is an X-Factor for the Cougars in 2011-12 (Getty/E. Miller)

  • The League Gets A New TV contract: Over the course of the 2000s, the WCC did a remarkable thing: It became the most widely televised college basketball league of all the leagues in the West, while being only the fourth highest-rated league by RPI of the six in the region. Resident behemoth Pac-12 trusted its games to the insipid hands of Fox Sports’ cluster of regional networks. The Mountain West conference was largely marooned out on “The Mtn,” a network that truncated both its name and its audience by being available in a far more limited number of homes than the heavy-hitting Pac-12. The Western Athletic Conference enjoyed the occasional ESPNU game. The WCC, on the other hand, had its most intriguing matchups beamed into peoples’ living rooms in prime time on Thursday and Saturday nights (and for a time, on Big Monday) via ESPN or ESPN2. Both sides had such a good time putting the whole mess together that when their previous contract expired on June 1, it took exactly one week to renegotiate an eight-year extension. The new deal increases the amount of ESPN games featuring WCC teams by an average of at least five per year, possibly much more, and is spread across Thursday, Saturday and select Monday nights. While some critics contend the new ESPN contract isn’t much of an improvement over the previous one, their voices were provoked loudest during the rather dwarfing aftershock of the Pac-12’s mammoth deal with the same network. While this upcoming season could mark the first time in a long while that the WCC won’t be the most-watched west coast league, the league strengthened its relationship with ESPN and is poised to showcase what should be its most successful year ever in front of its widest audience to date.  In an era of scrambling realignment and a fragile economic landscape, this is a still a huge win.
  • The University of San Diego Suffers A Bribery Scandal: In April, this story looked crippling. San Diego had just finished one of the worst seasons by any WCC team ever when news broke that Toreros’ all-time leading scorer and current Memphis Grizzlies protégé, Brandon Johnson, was allegedly used to solicit current USD player Ken Rancifer on behalf of a delinquent named Steven Goria and several others to fix a game against the University of Portland on February 24. Also revealed was the news that Johnson himself had allegedly fixed a game during his senior season one year earlier. The good news for USD is that the story is quickly losing momentum, due in large part to the recent news that the 2011 team has largely been cleared of wrongdoing (Rancifer turned down the bribe from those attempting to fix the game) Repercussions from the 2010 game will ensue once the FBI is done investigating the entire case, and could involve recruiting sanctions or a postseason ban. Frankly, the Toreros are so deep in the throes of rebuilding that they might not enjoy any such postseason for the NCAA to ban in the first place. All told, this could have been much, much worse for USD. The true damage of the scandal is neither physical nor fiscal, but is still potentially very heavy. While it’s growing steadily, the WCC is not yet a national brand and one dominant negative story can define the WCC and USD for a large group of fans who aren’t very familiar with a non-power six league that’s on TV after they go bed. Show-stealing years from perennial contenders like Gonzaga and BYU, as well as postseason disruptiveness by the likes of St. Mary’s and Santa Clara, would be a good first step toward taking casual fans’ focus off of the scandal. Of course, if USD itself can somehow bounce back from a 6-24 record and win a few games they’re not supposed to, they just might turn themselves into national feel-good story.

Power Rankings Read the rest of this entry »

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WCC Wrap-up and Postseason Primer

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Power Rankings and Postseason Outlook

1)      Saint Mary’s (24-8, 11-3). The record puts them slightly ahead of Gonzaga, but the Gaels would gladly trade places with the Zags as the NCAA Tournament looms. Without an automatic bid, the Gaels and their mediocre out-of-conference record are at the mercy of the NCAA Selection Committee. Hope for the Big Dance, but consider the NIT a strong possibility.

2)      Gonzaga (24-9, 11-3), WCC Tournament Champions, recipient of automatic NCAA bid. How well a rugged out-of-conference schedule will hold up to the Selection Committee’s scrutiny will determine where the Zags are seeded. They are definitely on an upsurge at regular season’s end, something the committee considers favorably.

3)      San Francisco (17-13, 10-4), not an NCAA Tournament contender but an intriguing late-season story, the Dons gave Gonzaga a tougher game in the WCC Tournament semis (lost 71-67) than Saint Mary’s did in the championship game. The NIT is definitely a possibility for Rex Walters’ team.

4)      Santa Clara (19-13, 8-6) seems to fit the profile for a bid to the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

5)      Portland (20-11, 7-7) posted another 20-win season and played in the CollegeInsider.com tourney last year, but would seem to rank behind Santa Clara for a bid this year.

6)      Pepperdine (12-21, 5-9) finished with a small push to stay out of the bottom of the conference, but will have to settle for that. Team anomaly: the Waves played better with the dismissal of star guard Keion Bell than they did with him in the lineup.

7)      San Diego (6-24, 2-12). The Toreros ruined Randy Bennett’s season with their improbable upset of the Gaels on February 16, but did little else to give Bill Grier a reason for an upbeat off-season.

8)      The hands-down Disappointment of the Year in the WCC, Loyola Marymount ended in last place after being picked second ahead of Saint Mary’s in a pre-season coaches’ poll. Does embattled Max Good have a future with the Lions after his team’s utter collapse? Only time will tell.

A Look Back

When the nets were cut by the victorious Gonzaga Bulldogs Monday night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, there was a sense of déjà vu for the West Coast Conference. The same foes, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, battled it out for the WCC tournament championship and the automatic NCAA bid that went with it. Gonzaga won this year’s title, 75-63, avenging an 81-62 pasting administered by the Gaels in 2010, and could claim WCC supremacy for the 11th straight year even though the Zags and Saint Mary’s tied for the regular-season championship with 11-3 records.  Gonzaga now stands at 24-9, and Saint Mary’s at 24-8 with a rare Friday contest in between against Weber State – added as a warm-up for possible post-season play – still to come in Moraga.

For all the apparent similarities, however, the story of the Gaels and Bulldogs was marked by differences. The turning point in both teams’ season came in a January 27 game between the two on the Zags’ court in Spokane. Saint Mary’s gutted out a 73-71 win on the strength of Mickey McConnell’s last-second one-handed leaner from the free throw stripe with the Zag’s seven-footer Robert Sacre draped all over him.

The game should have been a difference-maker for Saint Mary’s, marking the first victory in Spokane during the immensely successful 10-year reign of 2011 WCC Coach of the Year Randy Bennett. Instead of using the victory to spark a late-season run to the outright WCC championship and a secure NCAA seeding, however, the Gaels stumbled badly from that point on. They were routed 85-70 by a pesky Portland Pilots team two nights later in Portland, followed that up with an inexplicable 74-66 loss to cellar-dwelling San Diego on February 16, lost an ESPN Bracketbuster contest against Utah State 75-65 in Moraga on the 19th, and then dropped the rematch against Gonzaga, 89-85 in overtime on the 24th to give the Zags a shot at a conference season tie. Only a regular season-ending victory over Portland in Moraga on February 26 enabled the Gaels to avoid total collapse heading into the WCC Tournament.

Gonzaga, on the other hand, used the Saint Mary’s loss to spur itself to a 9-0 WCC run marred only by a 62-58 non-conference setback against Memphis on February 5. Gonzaga’s spurt was fueled in part by the ascension of JC transfer Marquise Carter to the starting point guard spot that had eluded him previously. On the strength of his late-season play, Carter garnered Newcomer of the Year honors in the WCC and was named Most Valuable Player in the WCC Tournament, indicating the realization by other conference coaches of his impact on what had been a wavering Gonzaga offense.

As Selection Sunday looms, Gonzaga considers NCAA life with possibly a lower seeding than they are accustomed to – perhaps a 9 or 10 seed instead of a 5 or 6 – but they know they’re in. Saint Mary’s, on the other hand, will be Nervous Nellies on judgment day, hearkening back to two years ago when they were stiffed by the NCAA Selection Committee and won two games in the NIT instead. Most bracketologists had the Gaels in the NCAA field despite the WCC tournament result, but Bennett has been burned before and will probably not relax until he knows the Gaels’ fate for sure. The game against Weber State was not intended, nor will serve, to sway the Selection Committee.

All-Conference Honors:

McConnell, the Gaels’ crafty senior point guard, was voted Player of the Year and his stats – 16.8 points and 6.0 assists per game – reflected that. McConnell was joined on the All-Conference Team by his sophomore backcourt mate Matthew Dellavedova, who contributed 13.5 points and 5.3 assists-per-game, and junior transfer forward Rob Jones, who totaled 13.4 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. Others were:

  • Kevin Foster, Santa Clara, the WCC’s leading scorer at 19.4 ppg
  • Steven Gray, Gonzaga 13.8 ppg and 3.9 apg
  • Rashad Green, San Francisco guard, 11.8 ppg, 2.8 apg
  • Nemanja Mitrovic, Portland guard, 13.7 ppg
  • Mikey Williams, San Francisco guard, 15.0 ppg
  • Robert Sacre, Gonzaga center, 12.5 ppg and 6.2 rpg
  • Luke Sikma, Portland forward, 13.1 ppg and a league-leading 10.5 rpg
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Set Your Tivo: 03.07.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Four automatic bids will be handed out this evening in places stretching from Connecticut to Las Vegas. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Colonial Championship (at Richmond, VA): VCU vs. Old Dominion — 7 pm on ESPN (****)

Old Dominion looks like a safe bet even if they lose but VCU more than likely has to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament. The Rams and Monarchs split the season series, each winning on the other’s home floor. This game will be all about pace and one team’s strong defense against the other’s potent offense. If Old Dominion can keep this game in the half court, they can let their stellar two point defense and rebounding take over. The Monarch’s are the best offensive rebounding team in the country while VCU ranks #303 in defensive rebounding percentage. Old Dominion also ranks highly in defensive rebounding, placing them among the best overall rebounding teams in the nation, led by Frank Hassell, averaging just under 15/10 on the season. Over his last eight games, Hassell has been even better, averaging 19/10 down the stretch. Not coincidentally, the Monarchs have won all eight of those games and 12 of their past 13. ODU is #9 in two point defense but allows 36.9% three point shooting, #298 in America. That has been the bugaboo for Blaine Taylor’s group and the Rams are one team that can really take advantage of that. Four out of ten VCU field goals attempted are threes and they shoot it at a pretty good clip, 35.6% this season. However, that percentage drops to 33.7% when you look at CAA games only. The Rams must create offense through their defense by forcing turnovers. That will offset part of the rebounding edge ODU is almost sure to have. An energetic and aggressive defense can help push the pace and take Old Dominion out of its rhythm. The Monarchs struggle to shoot and score, relying on their defense and rebounding to win games most of the time. Shaka Smart should use some zone from time to time in order to force Old Dominion to make jump shots, something they don’t do well. Rebounding out of a zone is always difficult (especially against the #1 offensive rebounding squad) but we feel it’s worth the risk. VCU shouldn’t spend all game in a zone but mixing it up defensively will greatly help their cause. Old Dominion gets 57.5% of its points from two point range but they have a few threats from deep, most notably Kent Bazemore. He’s arguably their best three point shooter and also a terrific defender, ranked eighth nationally in steal percentage.  The Rams shouldn’t have that much trouble answering Old Dominion from the arc considering they have a number of quality shooters, including Bradford Burgess (16/13 vs. George Mason yesterday), but they need to get some looks inside for Jamie Skeen. The Wake Forest transfer has had a terrific year in Richmond and is averaging 21.7 PPG over his last three. It’ll be tough to score against Old Dominion’s interior defense but Skeen should look to get to the free throw line where he’s a 73.7% shooter. VCU is a good free throw shooting team overall and they’ve made it to the line on 41.5% of their possessions in conference play. Foul trouble for Old Dominion would open up the interior a bit and allow the Rams to spread the floor easier. VCU had lost four of their last five games heading into the conference tournament but seems to have found new life just down the road from campus in Richmond. They’ll be slight underdogs tonight but this is anybody’s game. Old Dominion will likely win the rebounding battle but whoever controls the turnover margin and the tempo will likely win this game and clinch the automatic berth.

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O26 Primers: CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 4th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

As we near the weekend, more of the higher profile Other 26 conferences are beginning their postseason tournaments. In the east, the CAA, MAAC, and Southern Conference all get going with matinee affairs between Georgia State and UNC-Wilmington in the CAA and UNC-Greensboro and Davidson in the SoCon. Out west, the West Coast Conference kicks off their first round in what looks to be a very competitive tournament with St. Mary’s recent struggles and the resurgence of Gonzaga.

Colonial Athletic Association

The Favorite: Behind Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, George Mason has dominated the CAA and is the clear favorite to win the league. Old Dominion will be a tough challenger for the Patriots though.

Dark Horse: There have been many instances throughout the year that Virginia Commonwealth looks to be just as good as George Mason, but ending the year losing four straight games in the CAA will not instill confidence in many people. The Rams’ ability and talent is clearly there, and if they can string some wins together they can win the CAA championship.

Who’s Hot: George Mason winning 14 straight CAA games makes them easily the hottest CAA team.

Player to Watch: One of the most decorated players in Hofstra basketball history, Charles Jenkins is the best player to don a CAA uniform this year. The senior from Queens, NY is averaging 23.2 points per game.

First-Round Upset: William & Mary over James Madison. After having a very successful 2009-10 season, the Tribe has largely struggled this year, but is entering the CAA tournament having win two of three games. They have also split the season series with JMU this season winning the last game 73-67 and losing the first one 84-79.

How’d They Fare? Old Dominion, as a #11 seed, defeated Notre Dame 51-50 and then fell to Baylor in the second round.

Interesting Fact: The last time the CAA sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament was in 2007 when Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion went; it appears as if the CAA will be a multi-bid conference this year.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.24.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 24th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

This is one of the biggest Thursday nights we’ve had this year in terms of quality games with NCAA bids and conference titles on the line. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

West Virginia @ #3 Pittsburgh – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Are Dixon and the Panthers #1? #6? Does It Matter, As Long As It's #4 Or Better?

The Backyard Brawl (Part II) takes place in Pittsburgh tonight. The Panthers won the first meeting in Morgantown on February 7, a game they played without their star Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs returned to the lineup with a bang, scoring 26 points, including 6-9 from deep, in the team’s loss to St. John’s last Saturday. Gibbs will play a central role in a matchup between the Big East’s best three-point shooting team (Pitt) and the best three point defense (WVU). The Panthers are shooting 40% from deep in conference play and 38.4% overall while the Mountaineers allow 28.4% shooting overall and 29.1% in league games.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on February 22nd, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

- I deemed Saturday’s Washington-Arizona game appointment viewing with the specific intent of watching Derrick Williams for 40 minutes. I had seen Williams play multiple times this season, but mostly for small snippets against weaker competition in the Pac-10. Williams is an absolutely outstanding collegiate player that flashes moments of brilliance on the basketball court. He attacks the glass with ferocity, can face up or back an opponent down and is outstanding in isolation situations. I’m not sure Williams has the personality or the attitude to completely take over long stretches of a game like Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette or Nolan Smith, but nobody utilizes his possessions with more proficiency than Williams. When he chooses to enter another gear, as he did for the majority of the final five minutes of an Arizona win that effectively clinched the Pac-10 regular season title, he’s impossible to contain. If I were the Cavaliers GM – although I shouldn’t assume they’ll win the lottery based on that city’s tortured sports past – I’d snag Williams #1 overall over the likes of Kyrie Irving, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger or any other entry. You think Williams is a special prospect now, just wait until he’s playing with an NBA-caliber pass-first point guard. His all-around excellence in isolation situations and ability to knock down shots anywhere on the floor are tailor made for the pros. I see him developing into a better David West. The only area Williams needs to shore up is avoiding foul trouble. Arizona must have their superstar on the floor for more than 29.2 PPG in the NCAA Tournament if the Wildcats want to advance. Williams has picked up four or more personals in eight Pac-10 games this year.

Derrick Williams clutch block clinched Saturday's win over Washington

- Duke shouldn’t be #1 in the nation. I think most of us agree with that sentiment. Thankfully, we adore a sport where these kinds of things are irrelevant, especially in late February. What bothers me is that most have Duke pegged as a #1 seed over Kansas and BYU, two candidates much more deserving of this honor than the Blue Devils. The Cougars resume is actually incredibly impressive, more so than their MWC brethren San Diego State. The Fightin Jimmers have five wins vs. the RPI top-30 and Duke has two. BYU beat San Diego State, Arizona, Utah State, Saint Mary’s and swept UNLV. Duke’s best win after North Carolina is Kansas State followed by UAB (currently out) and Michigan State (bubble). The Blue Devils have yet to beat an NCAA Tournament team on the road. Sure, this has plenty to do with the fragile state of the ACC, but don’t overlook Duke’s annual resistance to play true road games out of conference. Plus, since when do we provide Duke a scheduling excuse over a MWC team? The overall records are identical. The reason Duke is first in the polls is basically because they didn’t lose during a week they played Virginia and Georgia Tech. Vaulting Duke on the back of those  two wins over the entire body of work of, say, Ohio State and Pittsburgh, is ridiculous enough in itself. Handing them an undeserving #1 seed at this stage in the season is an even worse idea (luckily we still have 20 days till Selection Sunday, so this is largely irrelevant as well, but it sure is fun to debate, no?).

I’m hearing plenty of candidates thrown out there for National Coach of the Year, and none of them are egregious. Coaches like Mike Brey, Steve Fisher, Matt Painter, Jim Calhoun, Steve Lavin and Sean Miller have all done outstanding jobs this season leading their teams to unforeseen heights. To me, the coach of the year is a runaway and his name hasn’t been mentioned: Rick Pitino. I was initially hesitant to buy into the Cardinals, especially after they won all their non-conference games in the comfort of the KFC Yum Center and both Butler and UNLV underachieved relative to expectations. Now that I’ve watched Louisville sweep Connecticut, edge Syracuse and West Virginia, pull off an epic comeback against Marquette and down St. John’s, the magic act Pitino has pulled in the face of tremendous adversity is becoming more and more evident. All five starters from last year’s #9 seed squad left. His top freshman didn’t qualify. His leading returning scorer hasn’t played a minute. Still, by pulling out his old tricks of a relentless full-court press, switching defenses and an abundance of threes, the ‘Ville has jumped from likely NIT team to a #4 seed in my latest bracket. Say what you want about his forays into the back of Italian restaurants or his failed NBA coaching stints, but in case anyone forgot, this season was a definite reminder: Rick Pitino can motivate, prepare and instruct college athletes better than anyone in the business. Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your Tivo: 02.18-02.20

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 18th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it’s time for teams to make their moves. This weekend provides ample opportunities for some to do so. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

VCU @ Wichita State – 7 pm Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Skeen Leads VCU In Scoring (14.6 PPG), But Is Also Top Ten In the CAA In Rebounding (7.7 RPG) And PP40 (19.0)

This could very well prove to be an elimination game. VCU has lost two straight games at home and now has to venture out of conference on the road. Wichita State has lost three games at home already this season, however, and probably has to win out and make a run in the MVC Tournament in order to have a chance at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers don’t have a win in the RPI top 50 and those three home losses are really holding them back. VCU was blasted on the boards by Old Dominion recently (40-21) and it’s going to be hard to avoid that again in this game. If the Rams can’t create extra possessions through turnovers, it’s going to be a very long night.

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The Cousy Award Committee Changes Its Mind On Jordan Taylor

Posted by nvr1983 on February 17th, 2011

Earlier this month the Basketball Hall of Fame announced its list of ten finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guard, and created a minor controversy when it left off Wisconsin star Jordan Taylor. At the time, the ten finalists appeared to be deserving although some might question Jimmer Fredette‘s passing ability/frequency and Demetri McCamey‘s play recently:

  • Norris Cole, Cleveland State
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jimmer Fredette, BYU
  • DJ Gay, San Diego State
  • Brandon Knight, Kentucky
  • Demetri McCamey, Illinois
  • Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s
  • Nolan Smith, Duke
  • Isaiah Thomas, Washington
  • Kemba Walker, UConn

The Cousy Award committee eventually came to its senses on Taylor

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ATB: Rhythm Of The Saints And Baseline Complaints

Posted by jstevrtc on February 11th, 2011

The Lede. It was Day Four of Rivalry Week, and though the tag of “rivalry” on some of the games might have been questionable, there was no lack of storylines. Connecticut might have been indoors but still got caught up in one heck of a Storm, and Vanderbilt managed to dodge an entire Tide, though the majority of our friends and Twitter followees feel that the Commodores may have gotten a little help at the end. Oh, and there’s a little WCC team on whom you might want to keep an eye. Let’s jump in…

St. John's Had Walker Frustrated All Night (F. Franklin/AP)

Your Watercooler Moment. There were very few points in this game at which Connecticut appeared to be playing at full speed, and even fewer at which St. John’s appeared to play at anything less. Sure, the Garden may have had a little to do with the Johnnies’ 89-72 win over the Huskies, but the bigger factor was that one team showed up for whole game and the other didn’t. UConn didn’t play its best basketball in the first half but at least seemed interested and stayed close enough to where their talent could have pulled them through in the end. Instead, in the second half, Connecticut didn’t defend in the half-court, didn’t get back in transition defense, didn’t seem at all prepared for St. John’s’ match-up zone, and did nothing to stop SJU’s Dwight Hardy. The St. John’s senior guard dropped 33 on the Huskies and got help with 20 more from D. J. Kennedy, whose 11 boards helped the Red Storm to a 41-31 rebounding edge. UConn got the help it’s been wanting from its non-Kemba corps — Roscoe Smith (16/6), Alex Oriakhi (12/8), Jeremy Lamb (13/5) all played well, though Lamb’s 2-7 from three was a bit of a pinch — it just didn’t defend for most of the game. Nobody expected that from a team who came into MSG ranked in the top ten nationally in FG% defense, especially inside the three-point arc. [Note: For our RTC Live summary and link to the coverage, see below.]

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Morning Five: 02.08.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2011

  1. The Mountain West has received a lot of attention this year due to the excellent play of top ten teams San Diego State and BYU and, of course, the NPOY candidacy of the Cougars’ Jimmer Fredette.  Yesterday the attention on the league was of a different sort, though, as Wyoming, dead last in the league standings at 1-8, fired head coach Heath Schroyer after three-plus seasons at the helm.  This move comes after the Cowboys lost its seventh consecutive game on Saturday, a three-point home loss to Colorado State.  Schroyer was 49-68 during his tenure in Laramie, with his best season coming in 2008-09 as Wyoming went 19-14 (7-9 MWC) and made the NIT.
  2. Ugh.  Oklahoma State forward Darrell Williams was charged with three counts of rape and one of sexual battery on Monday stemming from an incident in December where he allegedly assaulted two women at a party.  The junior college transfer has given head coach Travis Ford a solid season, averaging 7/7 in twelve starts and around 21 minutes per game, but according to the coach, he will be held out of the lineup and practice until his legal issues are resolved.  His preliminary hearing is scheduled for the first week in March, which probably means that Williams’ season is effectively over.  OSU has been playing better of late, beating Missouri and Oklahoma to get back to the middle of the Big 12 pack, but any further push will be that much more difficult without the sometime-starter available to bang bodies down low.
  3. Dan Wiederer delves further into the phenomenon known as Kendall Marshall going for a record sixteen assists in UNC’s destruction of Florida State over the weekend.   We didn’t know, for example, that Marshall has a tendency to pull a Bill Russell during halftime of games, but we do now and we’re quite sure that Roy Williams will provide the rookie with his own four-year supply of barf bags if he keeps dropping double-figure dimes the rest of the season.
  4. A new Monday meant another version of Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts.  In this week’s edition, he deplores the fly-by-night departure of Larry Drew II from the program (blaming Drew’s mother more than his famous father), St. John’s as the most interesting bubble team at this point, and a Kyrie Irving update that you haven’t seen anywhere else.
  5. The ten final candidates for the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s top point guard were announced on Monday, and there were a couple of surprising omissions.  The complete list is below, but as Mike Miller at Beyond the Arc points out, there’s really no legitimate excuse for leaving out Xavier’s Tu Holloway and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.  Both players have been outstanding for their respective teams, and outside of the NPOY candidates Fredette, Smith and Walker, arguably better than any of the other names on this list.
  • Norris Cole, Cleveland State
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jimmer Fredette, BYU
  • D.J. Gay, San Diego State
  • Brandon Knight, Kentucky
  • Demetri McCamey, Illinois
  • Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s
  • Nolan Smith, Duke
  • Isaiah Thomas, Washington
  • Kemba Walker, UConn
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Constructing The Perfect College Basketball Player

Posted by zhayes9 on February 4th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Every college basketball player has flaws. Even the scoring leaders, double-double producers and faces of blueblood programs have portions of their game open to exploitation. For all of Jimmer Fredette’s heroic shooting performances, there’s the flat-footedness he sometimes shows on the defensive end of the floor. For every time Kemba Walker splits a ball screen and tear-drops a beautiful floater through the depths of the net, there’s questions abound regarding the reliability of his outside shot. For these numerous transformative qualities that make the cream of the crop in college basketball so memorable, no 21-year old can possibly have perfected his overall hoops arsenal.

That’s where I come into play. Working tirelessly for hours with the MIT Science and Engineering departments this week, I’ve successfully capitalized on the celebrated strengths and disposed of the much-critiqued flaws of some of our favorite players into one finished product. It is my honor and privilege to present my final creation: the perfect college basketball player.

David Lighty's defense adds another dimension to our perfect player

Pure Scoring Ability of Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins- No player in college basketball can put the ball in the hole with as much variety and skill as Jenkins. The Queens native and two-time Haggerty Award winner as the top talent in the New York area will go down as the greatest player in Hofstra basketball history and one of the top scorers in CAA history. Jenkins’ efficiency totals are off the charts: 21st in offensive rating, 43rd in effective FG% and 14th in true shooting percentage and his raw numbers (23.3 PPG, 54% FG, 42% 3pt) are doubly impressive when one considers there’s only one other double-digit scorer on the Pride and, as a result, Jenkins has to deal with endless double and triple teams from opposing defenses. Jenkins shows an equal propensity and efficiency both driving to the basket and drawing contact (161 free throw attempts already this season) while defenses must also respect a pinpoint outside shot. Jenkins could play, start and contribute for any program in the nation, but his unwavering loyalty to the Hofstra program through losing seasons and coaching changes only renders Jenkins college career even more extraordinary.

Defense of Ohio State’s David Lighty- There were other candidates that certainly could have qualified for this specific trait, but the experience of a fifth year senior, his winning credentials and the aptitude to guard multiple positions were the main reasons Lighty received the nod. Folks tout Lighty as the ultimate glue guy, but he’s so much more than that because of his defensive prowess. Lighty can effectively guard a scoring point guard with the shot clock winding down or contain a bruising power forward in the lane with the same excellence. He has a remarkable ability to corral loose balls, take timely charges, collect steals without gambling and quickly transfer from defense to transition. There isn’t a smarter player who’s seen more different situations under the spotlight in his five years in Columbus than Lighty.

Versatility of Arizona’s Derrick Williams- There’s not a tougher player in America to guard than Derrick Williams because of his ability to score from any place on the basketball court. The raw numbers are, frankly, staggering: 19.9 PPG on 64% FG and 24-35 3pt. Williams not only possesses solid post fundamentals and a variety of scoring moves on the block, but he’s also lethal facing the basket and operating in the mid-range game all the way to the perimeter and beyond. The sophomore forward is also wildly efficient and supremely intelligent, showing tremendous awareness, a high IQ, length and athleticism. This makes Williams nearly impossible to contain once he touches the rock. His operational ability both around the rim and on the perimeter is the ideal blend of versatility we need.

Craftiness of BYU’s Jimmer Fredette- Combining the pure scoring ability of Jenkins with the overall offensive repertoire and craftiness of Fredette would certainly be something to behold. Unless you’ve been trapped under a rock the last two weeks, The Jimmer has become the face of the sport for his previously unimaginable shooting displays. How Fredette collects his 40+ point performances without even breaking a sweat has to be witnessed to truly appreciate. First there’s a spin move and a scoop in the lane amongst the trees. Then there’s a hesitation dribble, killer crossover and explosion to the rim for an and-1. Respect the drive and he’ll pull up in a split second for a dagger three from NBA range. There are no limits on the basketball court for Fredette on the offensive end. This year’s frontrunner for National Player of the Year has the intelligence and scoring craftiness that’s simply unmatched on the collegiate level today.

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