Set Your TiVo: 12.21.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 21st, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

After several consecutive slow weeknights, Wednesday night offers some very good games. All eyes should be tuned in, especially, to the ESPN2 early game.

Texas at #4 North Carolina – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

UNC Will Attack Texas With Their Forwards, Tonite on ESPN2 (Getty Images/P. Williams)

  • Since their collapse against NC State on November 21, Texas has won seven straight games by double digits, including some nice wins over Temple and at UCLA. Their talented guard combo of J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo is starting to click, with Brown’s numbers up to 19.3 points and 4.3 assists per game and Kabongo at 10.8 points and 6.0 assists per contest. Four of the Longhorns’ five leading scorers are freshmen, including Kabongo and exciting reserve guard Sheldon McClennan. The Longhorns are ranked seventh nationally with 1.18 points per possession and eighth in overall offensive efficiency (117.5). For Texas to hang in this game, they’ll need their young guards to keep scoring at a high rate, and hope to contain UNC’s massive frontcourt from dominating the offensive boards.
  • North Carolina has a massive size, experience, home court, and overall talent advantage in this game, which is why they’re 10-point favorites. Look for the Tar Heels to feature Tyler Zeller and John Henson inside to feast on Texas’s smaller front line. The bigs should be able to control this game on the boards, where UNC ranks 16th nationally in offensive rebounds per game, and number one overall on the defensive glass. Even if Texas’s guards can score effectively, Carolina can counter with its wing scorers of Harrison Barnes, Dexter Strickland, and Reggie Bullock, lead by the nation’s top assist man in Kendall Marshall (10.2 APG).
  • Texas has won four straight games against Carolina since 1995. The Longhorns are playing well and will certainly be ready for this game. But it’s hard to envision UNC losing this one at home given their huge advantage in the paint and with just as many talented guards. Expect a super exciting, high scoring affair between two of the top programs in the country, with Roy Williams’ team coming out on top.

Seton Hall at Dayton – 7:00 PM EST, no TV (***)

  • This is a huge road test for 9-1 Seton Hall, whose only loss came in the finals of the Charleston Classic against Northwestern. Senior Herb Pope has been an absolute stud all year and he leads the Big East in scoring (22.1 PPG) AND rebounding (11.9 RPG). His fellow senior leader, point guard Jordan Theodore, leads the conference in assists with 7.1 per game. Sophomore guard Fuquan Edwin leads the Big East in steals per game with 3.4 per contest. He and Theodore each average about 14 points per game, as well. This dangerous trio will look to lead coach Kevin Willard’s team to a big road win and legitimize their strong start to the season.
  • Dayton is a talented but very inconsistent team. They have strong wins over Alabama, Wake Forest, and Minnesota on their resume, but they also have a shocking home loss to Buffalo by 29 (!) points. They lost road games to Miami (Ohio) and Murray State, as well. First year coach Archie Miller’s team has five players that average nine or more points per game, lead by junior lead guard Kevin Dillard. A transfer from Southern Illinois, Dillard leads the team in scoring (11.9 PPG), assists (5.1 APG), and steals (2.3 SPG).
  • This game is not televised nationally or on ESPN3.com, but be sure to follow along, or even watch if it’s being shown locally. Dayton is a four-point home favorite in this one, but this is anyone’s game. The Flyers have several big home wins and another awful home loss. Seton Hall will look to control the game with the dominant Pope inside, who will be a load to handle for Dayton’s short interior players. I’d take Seton Hall and their experienced leaders to come out with the road win, but this one could go either way.

Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN3.com (***)

  • Middle Tennessee is coming off a big home win over Belmont to push its record to 10-2. They are the class of the Sun Belt Conference, and are only two-point underdogs in this game. When you factor in the three-point cushion given to home teams in Vegas lines, that means MTSU is considered the slightly better team. This is a fair assessment, as the Raiders have an impressive trio of upperclassmen in guard Marcos Knight and forwards LaRon Dendy and J.T. Sulton who all average at least 12 points and 6 rebounds per game. These three all shoot at least 53.6% from the field, as well, which powers the nation’s best field goal shooting team (53.2% as a team for the year).
  • Ole Miss also comes into this game with just two losses, the most recent of which came on Saturday at a pretty good Southern Miss team. Ole Miss features five players that average nine points or more, lead by junior Murphy Holloway’s 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Not included in their five leading scorers is new addition Jelan Kendrick, who is now eligible for Mississippi after transferring from Memphis when he was kicked off the team at the beginning of this year. Kendrick is a very talented freshman who could start to make his mark tonight. Andy Kennedy’s team will have the athleticism advantage in this game, such as their 6.2 blocks per game which ranks 13th in the country.
  • This game might be the best of the 9:00PM EST slate, so be sure to have ESPN3 ready on your computer even if you’re tuned in to the television for another game. We expect Ole Miss to take care of business at home, but MTSU will offer a great challenge and could come out with another impressive victory.

Oklahoma State at Alabama – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)

  • Oklahoma State comes into this game at 6-4 having lost two straight games. The Cowboys have a collection of talented players but have not found the best way to utilize their pieces; nine different players have been in the starting lineup in the first 10 games. LeBryan Nash, the McDonald’s All-American freshman, is starting to play better of late, seeing his minutes increase in the past three games. He’s now up to 12.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the season. Markel Brown is a talented sophomore guard (9.7 PPG) and Cezar Guerrero is a freshman with a quick trigger that can fill it up in a hurry (7.7 PPG), though takes plenty of questionable shots per game. Upperclassmen Jean-Paul Olekemi (9.7 PPG) and, especially, Keiton Page (12.7 PPG) are the leaders of the team that will look to ignite the upset in this one.
  • Alabama was ranked in the top 15 to begin this month, but the Crimson Tide have suffered three disappointing losses in the past three weeks, albeit to some good teams. Anthony Grant’s team lost at home to Georgetown on a game-winning three from the Hoyas, and they followed that one with two road losses to Dayton and Kansas State. Bama has had trouble scoring in those games. They aren’t a very effective offensive team, with a 104.8 efficiency that ranks 120th nationally. The Tide get it done on the defensive end where they allow an eFG% of 40.6 that is seventh best in the country. Jamychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Trevor Releford are big time athletes who all average double figure scoring and can lock down defensively.
  • This game is technically not a home game for Alabama, since it is being played in Birmingham as part of the 2011 Legacy Credit Union Holiday Classic. But for all intents and purposes, consider the Crimson Tide the home team as they will draw the much larger crowd in their home state. Bama has fallen victim to a few upsets this season, as they were the favored team in all three of their losses. But don’t expect a repeat in this one, as Oklahoma State is still a work in progress and the solid defense of Alabama should lead them to a victory.

***** – 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 201
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

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Night Line: Another Blemish Jeopardizes Belmont’s At-Large Chances

Posted by EJacoby on December 14th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Coming off a 30-win season and returning nine players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game, Belmont was expected to be the next mid-major to make its way on to the national scene this year. After a tremendous season-opening game in Cameron Indoor Stadium in which they nearly took down Duke, the Bruins left a great first impression on the nation. But fast-forward to Tuesday night when the Atlantic Sun darlings lost another close road game (at Middle Tennessee State), and this team still has yet to produce a signature non-conference win on its resume. While Belmont consistently has the look of an NCAA Tournament team, it seems that they’ll have to earn their invitation to the Big Dance the traditional way, by winning the conference tournament.

Belmont Hasn't Held on For Any Signature Wins (AP/G. Broome)

Rick Byrd’s team has now squandered three excellent chances for quality wins, and an at-large bid seems nearly out of the question, regardless of how the Bruins play the rest of the season. Belmont played Duke to a classic season-opening one-point loss, but followed up that game with a poor effort at Memphis in which they allowed 97 points to a team now falling fast. The Bruins held on to beat this same Middle Tennessee State team after two overtimes on November 20, but Tuesday’s rematch saw their opponent come out victorious, 65-62. MTSU  at 10-2 is a  solid team and likely the class of the Sun Belt Conference, so a road sweep of the Blue Raiders would have looked impressive on their resume. Instead, Belmont now can only boast of a split against MTSU and a close loss at Duke as their non-conference highlights thus far.

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The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by KDoyle on November 20th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor and the Patriot League correspondent. Each week he will examine the other 26 non-power conferences in college basketball. You can find him on twitter @KLDoyle11.

Introduction

Well this is refreshing, isn’t it? College basketball on the tube every night, several Other 26 teams already knocking some ranked BCS teams off of their high horses, and a whole lot of goodness upcoming with more early season tournaments and games. There is not a specific theme that has made itself apparent to open the season — I will usually try to hone in on a theme during the introduction of each column — but business has been usual to open the season. We have seen two major upsets with Long Beach State and Cleveland State shocking Top 10 teams — both have crawled into our Top 10 as a result — and we have not seen The Jimmer all over ESPN routinely hitting shots from 35 feet, something that was all too common last year. Rest assured though, as more and more games are played, storylines and themes will naturally develop. For now, let’s dig into the Top 10 teams for the week.

The Top 10

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Is Ben Howland’s Job in Jeopardy?

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

The UCLA basketball program is 0-2 for the first time since Steve Lavin’s final disastrous year in Westwood. An 0-2 record isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but the Bruins haven’t exactly come by their record in the same way that Belmont did (with losses to college hoops powers Duke and Memphis). The Bruins have lost their opening two games to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State – and not in particularly compelling fashion either. Along the way, last year’s leading scorer and Sports Illustrated cover boy Reeves Nelson was suspended for behavioral problems, sophomore center Joshua Smith tweeted out an immature response following the LMU loss and senior point guard Jerime Anderson served the last half of his very light punishment for stealing a laptop over the summer with a suspension against LMU before coming back to underwhelm against MTSU. In short, the UCLA basketball program is a hot mess right now, a dumpster fire, a train wreck. Worse yet, it is all of those things for the second time in three years.

All of which begs the question, does head coach Ben Howland have reason to fear for his job? It’s not all that long ago that such a question would have been absurd. Remember, Howland had his Bruins in the Final Four three straight times between 2006 and 2008. Between the 2005-06 season and the 2008-09 season, he posted an astounding 123-26 (82.6%) record, with a 65-16 (80.2%) record in the Pac-10, including conference tournament games. Furthermore, Howland was absolutely killing it on the recruiting trail.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Has Had Some Great Successes At UCLA, But His Program Is Currently Struggling

After a two-man 2007 recruiting class ranked #10 in the nation by ESPNU, largely on the strength of Kevin Love, the #1 recruit in the nation (the class also included current UNLV senior Chace Stanback), Howland had then inked the #1 class in the nation for 2008, highlighted by point guard Jrue Holiday, with guys like Drew Gordon, J’Mison Morgan, Malcolm Lee and Anderson expected to make major impacts during their time in Westwood. The following year Howland added another five players (Tyler Honeycutt, Mike Moser, Brendan Lane, Nelson and Anthony Stover) for the #13 class in the nation. Of those 12 players in those three classes, six played either one season at UCLA or left the program prior to completing a second season. Four of them transferred out to other Division I schools with varying degress of success at their new destinations. The 2008 class goes down in history as a strong contender for the most disappointing recruiting class ever, with only Lee and Anderson making significant extended contributions to the program, and even those two players considered as serious underachievers compared to their incoming reputations.

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Checking In On… the Sun Belt Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 18th, 2011

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference and a Big 12 microsite staffer. You can also find his musings online at www.sunbeltbasketball.com or on Twitter @dspewak.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Blue Raiders > Blueblood: Middle Tennessee came to play this November. The Blue Raiders quietly earned a solid season-opening victory over Austin Peay, a favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference. Two days later, it knocked off Loyola Marymountand then, the Blue Raiders earned one of the more significant victories of Kermit Davis’s tenure by blowing out UCLA 86-66 on Tuesday night. Iowa State transfer LaRon Dendy dominated the Bruins, who played without star forward Reeves Nelson, and MTSU’s famous defense held UCLA in check. Most impressively, the Blue Raiders made 10-11 three-point attempts. Even Davis wasn’t quite sure how to describe the performance: “it was a perfect storm tonight,” he said.

Joshua Smith And UCLA Were No Match For The Blue Raiders, Who Notched A Huge Win Tuesday Night In Convincing Fashion. (Robert Gauthier/LA Times)

 

 

 

  • Arkansas State Sputtering: The start of the season didn’t fare so well for the Red Wolves. After losing all-conference forward Martavius Adams to dismissal earlier this fall, ASU fell by three points to Lamar and then got embarrassed by Missouri State in a home blowout. John Brady’s team didn’t start very well last year either, and it still finished with a share of the Sun Belt West title. But the Red Wolves have a long way to go at this point, but maybe they started to turn it around last night with a win over UT-Martin.
  • Owls Struggle Out Of The Gate: The consensus favorite in the Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, may be 1-3, but it looked very competitive in those two losses to solid Portland and Washington teams. FAU even nearly completed a double-digit comeback against the Huskies, cutting the lead to four before eventually falling short. The trouble came Wednesday night, when the Owls went cold from the field in an ugly loss to American. Again, it’s early; too early to make any sweeping judgments. These are the same players that dominated the East division last year, so we’ll cut them some slack for now.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 17th, 2011

  1. The Reeves Nelson suspension lasted a total of one game, as the mercurial junior power forward was reinstated on Wednesday after having missed UCLA’s Tuesday night loss to Middle Tennessee State. He’ll practice with the team today and travel with the team to play in the Maui Invitational early next week. In a statement announcing the decision, head coach Ben Howland said that Nelson “expressed to me in our meeting earlier that he desires to be a better person and better teammate going forward and, given that, I feel as though I should give him that opportunity.” Nelson issued his own statement saying that he is “grateful to Coach Howland to have this opportunity to improve and work on being a positive force for our team.” With all the negativity surrounding the Bruin program in recent days, it remains to be seen just how long this kumbaya moment will last.
  2. Utah played its first real competition of the season on Wednesday night when it traveled to Boise State, and not surprisingly, the young Utes (I can’t type that phrase without thinking of Joe Pesci) struggled mightily, losing by 21 points to a similarly inexperienced Bronco squad. In looking for a bright spot for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, one might point to either freshman guard Anthony Odunsi (14 points, four assists, three threes) or junior college transfer Dijon Farr (12 points, five rebounds), but the fact is that Utah turned the ball over 19 times on roughly 69 possessions, grabbed just 16% of their offensive rebound opportunities and didn’t do a great job on the defensive glass either (63.3 DR%). Single digit wins on the season are the unfortunate likelihood for Utah.
  3. Things went much better for Oregon State in the final regional game of the Legends Classic pseudo-tournament, as the Beavers outlasted Hofstra behind a career-high 35-point performance from junior guard Jared Cunningham. Sophomore forward Devon Collier also posted a career-high with 25 points, and junior center Joe Burton continued his strong start to the season with five points, ten rebounds and a career-high of his own in assists, with 11. OSU now heads to the Meadowlands for the championship rounds of the tourney, with a matchup with Texas awaiting in the semifinals on Saturday and either Vanderbilt or North Carolina State in the next round on Monday.
  4. With the early signing period now officially closed, every school in the conference has at least one 2012 recruit committed. Every school save for Washington, that is. But Lorenzo Romar still has a couple lines in the water, with Anthony Bennett and Zena Edosomwan a couple of top 100 recruits still on the Huskies’ radar. On Wednesday, another name reappeared as a possibility for Romar again, as former St. John’s commitment Norvel Pelle, who was unable to qualify immediately for the Red Storm, officially de-committed and reopened his recruiting. The 6’10”, 210-pound power forward originally chose St. John’s over Washington, so as long as he can get his academic house in order, it seems like the Huskies would have a good shot at landing him the second time around.
  5. We started in Los Angeles at the top of the Morning Five, and we’ll wind up there again as I want to take a moment to highlight one of my favorites youngsters thus far in the season: USC’s freshman wing Byron Wesley. Wesley has been compared to last year’s senior defensive stopper Marcus Simmons repeatedly by head coach Kevin O’Neill, and he’s been a stalwart already on the defensive end in just his first two collegiate games. His offensive game is still very much a work in progress, but he’s got a strong frame that belies his youth and a motor that does not stop. If Wesley can carry over the work ethic he displays during games to practice and beyond, he has the ability to be an all-conference performer on both ends of the floor by the time he is an upperclassman.
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Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 17th, 2011

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  1. After Tuesday night’s embarrassing loss to Middle Tennessee State, UCLA fans were questioning what Ben Howland could do to resurrect the floundering program. Howland appears to have answered them by reinstating Reeves Nelson after suspending the junior for what has been described as “behavior issues”. While the decision certainly makes the Bruins a more talented team that does not appear to be UCLA’s primary problem right now. They certainly were not any less talented than Loyola Marymount or Middle Tennessee State even without Nelson, but still lost to both of those teams. Now, Howland will be using a point guard who was involved in a computer theft earlier this year, an incredibly overweight big man, and a player whom he appears to have brought back in a desperate attempt to save this season. As Jeff Goodman notes that this act screams of Howland putting winning above everything else. It will be interesting to see how this affect UCLA’s recruiting going forward. They already have signed Kyle Anderson, who appears to be sticking with UCLA although we would argue that he doesn’t have much choice after signing with them, but we imagine this turmoil might affect Shabazz Muhammad, who apparently was watching both UCLA and Kentucky on Tuesday night.
  2. The NCAA has a history of making interesting decisions and yesterday’s announcement that Joe Castiglione, the athletic director at Oklahoma, had been appointed to the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee appears to be another one of them. Castiglione replaces former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, a man whose career fell so precipitously in the past few months that he got his own fake Twitter account that has over 15,000 followers. Castiglione appears to have a solid resume, but the timing is a bit odd since his school was put on probation just a week ago and although it appears that Castiglione probably could not have stopped it the selection is an interesting one especially in light of the fact that Connecticut‘s Jeff Hathaway is also on the same committee and serves as chairman despite his school having to take a scholarship hit and potentially being ineligible to play in next year’s NCAA Tournament due to a low APR score.
  3. The Kentucky fans who showed up en masse at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night for the team’s resounding win over Kansas will get another chance to return New York next year, but will have to head over to Brooklyn instead of Manhattan as the Wildcats are scheduled to play Maryland in next year’s Barclay Center Classic. We don’t know who will be playing at Kentucky next season, but we expect that they will be very talented and there will be plenty of Wildcat fans at the game. The night’s undercard is Morehead State against Long Island, which might actually bring some fans to the game given the proximity of the school.
  4. With many of the top recruits in the country having already committed or in the process of committing to a school Basketball Prospectus took a look at “basketball recruiting royalty,” which they use to refer to Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky. While the article does take quite a few liberties in assuming why or even if those schools target certain recruits based on where they are ranked and consequently what type of player they will be, it is an interesting read. It also provides some interesting statistics on how often players ranked in each recruiting ranking range stay at a school they committed to before leaving either due to graduation, transfer, or to the NBA. We would love to see someone try a more formal approach to analyze this and see if there is a “sweet spot” for schools to recruit in although it would probably change whenever the NBA makes its decision on how long a player has to stay in college before turning pro.
  5. The ratings for last Friday’s Carrier Classic are in and they were excellent as we all expected. The telecast received a 2.7 rating (3.859 million viewers), which is the highest rating that ESPN has ever had for a November college basketball game (technically tied with a 1992 Preseason NIT game). The press release claims that this is ESPN’s most-watched college basketball game since March 2005 when 3.78 million watched Duke play North Carolina. We are assuming they are referring to the Nielsen rating because 3.859 million is certainly more than 3.78 million. Of course, before we start getting too excited about this rating we should point out that more people watched ESPN’s College Football Scoreboard on Saturday night (2.8 rating for 4.232 million viewers) than watched an actual college basketball game.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.16.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 16th, 2011

  1. Less than a week ago, there was excitement around the UCLA program for the upcoming season. Now, after an opening game loss to Loyola Marymount, the suspension of last year’s leading scorer Reeves Nelson, and last night’s 20-point loss to Middle Tennessee State, the program is officially in freefall. The Blue Raiders shot 71.4% from the field, and made 10 of their 11 three-point attempts for a whopping 78.6 true shooting percentage. (To put that into perspective, when Villanova shot lights out in the 1985 National Championship game to upset Patrick Ewing and Georgetown, the Wildcats shot posted a 82.7 TS%.) Meanwhile, UCLA only managed a 42.9 TS% of their own, and after a 4-20 night from deep, they are now 6-35 from three on the season. Sophomore center Joshua Smith was fairly effective for the Bruins inside, posting 15 points and nine rebounds (with 11 of those points coming in the first half), but the twin faults of being unable to consistently hit perimeter shots and the inability of UCLA defenders to guard, well, anybody or anything, leaves UCLA at 0-2 for the first time since Steve Lavin’s final year. UCLA begins the Maui Invitational on Monday, and Nelson’s status for that trip remains up in the air.
  2. Things weren’t a whole lot better in Tempe on Tuesday night, as Arizona State dropped a home game to Pepperdine, a team that finished 12-21 last season and was picked to finish last in the West Coast Conference this season. Outside of junior wing Trent Lockett, who had 23 points and nine rebounds, ASU went 10-42 from the field for a 29.8 true shooting percentage. With still no update on the eligibility status of freshman point guard Jahii Carson, it looks like the Sun Devils will have to move forward with their currently eligible players, meaning that this is more or less the same team that struggled to a 12-19 record last season. And after all the offseason talk about significantly upping the tempo, the Sun Devils are still only using about 64 possessions per game, good for putting it right smack dab in the bottom 20% of Division I teams.
  3. With all the talk about the turmoil in UCLA, the fact that Arizona’s freshman point guard Josiah Turner was never asked up off of the bench in the Wildcats’ win over Ball State on Sunday has been swept under the rug somewhat. Turner has been ineffective so far in Tucson (seven points, four assist and three rebounds combined in UA’s first three games), but while head coach Sean Miller hinted that the DNP may at least be partially behavior-related, Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star points out that most of the great lineage of floor generals at Point Guard U took some time to get going out of the gate. In other words, it is far too soon to write off last year’s #15 recruit (according to ESPNU).
  4. Up in Corvallis, Oregon State has opened the season with a couple of wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Division II West Alabama by an average of 28.5 points. While neither opponent is much to write home about, the performance of junior center Joe Burton has Beaver fans excited. Burton has averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, five assists, and three steals in those two games, while knocking down a three in each game. Of course, much bigger challenges lie ahead for OSU, but head coach Craig Robinson believes that the hard work that Burton has put in off the court will continue to pay off the rest of the season.
  5. Finally, a look ahead. We mentioned UCLA’s trip to Maui above, but in the next couple of days we see a couple other Pac-12 teams hit the road to compete in early season tournaments. Arizona will be at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and Friday nights for the final two rounds of the Coaches vs. Cancer (okay, I’ll go ahead and call this thing by its actual name, the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer – name just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?), with a semifinal matchup against St. John’s followed by either Texas A&M or Mississippi State the following night. An Arizona/Texas A&M matchup in the championship seems mighty appealing. Also, Colorado is in the Caribbean as we speak, preparing for their Puerto Rico Tip-Off opening round game against Wichita State on Thursday, with either Maryland or Alabama lying in wait in their next game. The Buffs only have a warm-up against Fort Lewis under their belt, so we’ll get to see by the end of the week whether they have what it takes to compete in the Pac-12 this season.
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UCLA on the Verge of a Meltdown?

Posted by AMurawa on November 15th, 2011

Less than a week into a season where UCLA was picked by the media to win the conference, Bruin fans are beginning to have flashbacks to the 2009-10 disaster of a year. That season got off to an ignominious start with a double overtime home loss to a southern California afterthought, Cal State Fullerton, and proceeded downhill quickly, with an oh-fer 76 Classic close on its heels and sophomore big man Drew Gordon having some run-ins with head coach Ben Howland that ended in his eventual transfer out of the program. The season was “highlighted” by some awful guard play and an inability to stop anyone on the defensive end, and after a 2-6 start, ended in a 14-18 record.

Joshua Smith, Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Nelson and Smith Are Causing Chemistry Issues This Season

Although this vintage of the Bruins has only played one game, they’ve already got the loss to a southern California afterthought in the books, a game in which they displayed awful guard play and an inability to stop anyone, and with yesterday’s revelation that junior forward and preseason all-conference selection Reeves Nelson has been suspended indefinitely by Howland for poor conduct in the opening days of the season, they’ve got the attitude problems too. Aside from skipping Monday’s practice, Nelson’s immature behavior also reared its ugly head in the opener against LMU, where he failed to participate in a timeout huddle on more than one occasion, yelled at teammates, and made progressively more erratic shot selections. The length of the suspension will be determined in a face-to-face meeting between Nelson and Howland soon, but there have already been whispers that Nelson is considering moving on from UCLA. And with a trip to the Maui Invitational to face a stacked tournament field around the corner (luckily, the Bruins drew host Chaminade in the opening round), the Bruins are on the verge of a complete meltdown.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.15.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 15th, 2011

  1. On the heels of UCLA’s frustrating opening night loss to Loyola Marymount, there was a report out of Los Angeles Monday afternoon that head coach Ben Howland would have a meeting with junior forward Reeves Nelson to discuss Nelson’s recent behavior and his future with the team. Late Monday night, UCLA issued a statement announcing that Nelson would be suspended indefinitely after he skipped Monday’s practice, with the length of the suspension to be determined pending a face-to-face meeting between the two at a later date. Nelson, who has never been one to hide his feelings on the court, was visibly upset during the game on Friday night, failing to participate in a couple of timeout huddles and making several erratic plays, including a couple of wild three-point attempts as the game dissolved in the second half. While there have been rumors that Nelson is considering leaving the program, nothing has been substantiated to this point.
  2. While the Bruins will get back to business on the court tonight without Nelson against Middle Tennessee State, UCLA fans are in full panic mode. When the results of LMU’s second game against the Bruins’ next opponent, MTSU, came through with the Lions on the losing end of a 58-51 score replete with LMU getting dominated inside by the Blue Raider front court, UCLA fans rightly wondered why the Bruins weren’t able to get that kind of production out of their highly regarded front line. With all the turmoil around the program in the first few days of the new season, it will be interesting to see whether the team responds with passion or lets the poor start compound on itself. Who would have thought just a few days ago that an early-season UCLA/Middle Tennessee State contest would be a game to keep an eye on?
  3. Early in the first half of last night’s USC/Nebraska tussle, injured Trojan point guard Jio Fontan was interviewed by Fox Sports sideline reporter Amy Bender. During the interview, Fontan, who tore his ACL during USC’s trip to Brazil in August and had surgery on his knee on September 12, indicated that he hadn’t given up on foregoing a medical redshirt this year and returning to the team at some point. Nevermind the fact that such talk seems insane, we wish Fontan the best in his rehabilitation. As for the game, the Trojans dropped a nailbiter to the Cornhuskers for the third straight season, this time in double overtime. Sophomore sensation Dewayne Dedmon missed a wide-open free-throw line jumper at the end of regulation, then after sophomore point Maurice Jones made an improbable double-clutch push shot with 6.5 seconds in the first overtime, freshman guard Alexis Moore was called for a foul on the ensuing possession and Nebraska’s Tony McCray sent the game to a second overtime where NU sealed the deal. Jones again led the Trojans with 18 points, but had to take 22 shots to do so. In two games this year, Jones has made just eight of his 35 field goal attempts.
  4. Utah recorded a victory in its first game as a Pac-12 member on Monday night. Sure, it was a three-point victory over NAIA school San Diego Christian, but given how little success the Utes are expected to have this season, we might as well give them a little love while possible. Senior point guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins led all scorers with 23 points, just one shy of his career high, while freshman guard Kareem Storey added ten points (all on free throws). The other five Utah newcomers combined to score 12 points in 87 minutes, a problem considering that two of the four Utes that got any amount of playing time last season – specifically senior center David Foster and junior guard Chris Hines – are sidelined with injuries.
  5. Washington State was the final Pac-12 team to start its season, kicking off the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon against Gonzaga late last night. Despite allowing Zag freshman Kevin Pangos to knock down nine three-pointers on the way to building a 21-point lead, the Cougars fought back, cutting the GU lead to as low as four at one point before losing steam. WSU played without senior guard Abe Lodwick, who is fighting through a sprained foot, but had five players score in double figures, including freshman guard DaVonte Lacy who poured in 11 points in just 14 minutes of play.
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RTC Summer Updates: Sun Belt Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 26th, 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 latest update comes courtesy of our Sun Belt correspondent, Danny Spewak.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Staying Put: Not a single head coach in the Sun Belt changed jobs this summer. That fact is especially noteworthy in Bowling Green, a city that nearly chased Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald away during a mid-season losing streak. Athletic director Ross Bjork chose to retain McDonald, and he gave a fascinating interview to Nick Baumgardner about his decision. Down south in the state of Texas, Johnny Jones will return to North Texas after rumors linked his name to a few power-conference job openings. The folks over at ESPN Dallas saw a silver lining to UNT’s underachieving regular season and loss in the finals of the SBC Tourney. Jones interviewed at Auburn prior to last season, so although he’s in Denton for now, his name may keep popping up on the national radar.
  • They Don’t Count: Kentucky coach John Calipari made headlines this summer when NCAA officials asked him to apologize for holding a ceremony in February celebrating his 500th career victory. After all, due to vacated wins at Massachusetts and Memphis, some of Calipari’s wins don’t count in the formal record books. Turns out, Florida Atlantic’s Mike Jarvis is getting the same message from the NCAA—just without the media coverage. Reporters at FAUOwlAccess.com did some serious investigative reporting by obtaining a letter sent to FAU, telling the school not to count Jarvis’ vacated victories at St. John’s. School officials say they have no objections to the NCAA’s request.
  • Big-Time Transfer: Games between Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe just got a little more interesting. Vanderbilt transfer Darshawn McClellan announced in May he will transfer to ULL, and that means coach Bob Marlin picks up a 6’7″ forward who averaged more than 14 minutes per game during his first two years in the SEC. But more importantly, it means he’ll play against his brother, Steven McClellan, a sophomore forward who averaged 5.1 points per game last season. Who will the family root for?

Solomon Bozeman shot the UALR Trojans into the NCAA Tournament before falling to Akron in the first round (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images).

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Circle of March VI

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2011

Say goodbye to six more schools after Monday night…  Western Kentucky, Iona, South Dakota State, Charleston, IUPUI and Middle Tennessee State.

Coming Next:   At least sixteen more knockouts on Tuesday…

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