RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Eric Bledsoe

Posted by jstevrtc on June 21st, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Eric Bledsoe

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’1/190

NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Overview: Even with high school phenoms like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Daniel Orton headed to Lexington back in the fall of 2009, Eric Bledsoe was immediately liked by Kentucky fans.  He was going to give their beloved team something they hadn’t had in a while — a designated shooter.  Though Bledsoe was primarily a point guard in high school with reliable handle, he was also known as more than just a serviceable shooter from distance, a combination Wildcat fans craved at the time, especially considering the poor marksmanship and turnover-prone nature of Wildcat backcourts that preceded the Wall/Bledsoe duo.  As if that wasn’t enough, even though Wall didn’t commit until later, Bledsoe won over many card-carrying Big Blue Nation members by expressing his desire to return Kentucky to hoops prominence, proclaiming on his signing day that he and his fellow recruits were coming to Lexington to “get shit right.”  Playing out of position for almost every minute of his only college season, he gave the Wildcats what they expected — a good shooter who also provided a second point guard option, as well as a better-than-expected penetrator and creator.  He shot 38% from beyond the arc, but his streaky nature meant defenses had to stay close to him, which enabled him to utilize his blistering first step to rocket past defenders.

If he can motivate himself to improve on the defensive end, his value will increase during his early years in the league.

Will Translate to the NBA: Bledsoe’s a rock.  He has tremendous upper body strength and he’s great at using it to blaze a path to the hoop, absorb contact, and still score.  He’s quick in every direction, including straight up off the floor, and doesn’t lose much of that pace even when he has the ball.  He’s shown that he can play both point guard and shooting guard at the elite college level, so the team that drafts him will feel like they’re getting a skill set that spans the job descriptions of two different positions.  He definitely possesses a shooter’s mentality, and shows no fear in firing away even if he misses his first few attempts.

Needs Work: Bledsoe is streaky from long range, and on off-nights he would occasionally sulk, resulting in less production, more turnovers, and extended bench minutes.  Though he started the season as a capable defender, this is an aspect of his game that actually got worse as the year progressed.  His quickness should translate quite easily to the defensive side, so the fact that he went backwards in this area points to the fact that it’s a matter of motivation, and that won’t do in the NBA.  Despite his upper body strength, he’s still just 6’1, and that underscores the need for him to get his head right as far as defense is concerned and become a good close-up defender.  Finally, even though he’s got great springs, he doesn’t get a lot of elevation off the ground on his jumper, and he could use that at his height.

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In 1-and-Done Era, Experience Wins Championships

Posted by rtmsf on April 16th, 2010

(special h/t to Luke Winn for inspiring this analysis with his article here)

You may have heard  in recent days that Kentucky’s John Calipari has been filling up on the tasty nougat that has risen to the top of the Class of 2010 high school basketball recruiting lists.  Five-star prospect Brandon Knight followed an impressive chorus line of 1-and-done Calipari point guards (D. Rose, T. Evans, J. Wall) by committing to the Wildcats on Wednesday, and Doron Lamb,  another five-star combo guard ranked in the top 25, committed today.  Turkish stud Enes Kanter committed last week, and there are rumors that others, including versatile top 15 forwards Terrance Jones and CJ Leslie, could be next.  All this, and we haven’t even mentioned yet that Michael Gilchrist, the consensus top player in the Class of 2011, has already verballed to go to Kentucky after next season.

Knight is a Great Talent, But Will He Take UK to the Final Four?

The point here is as clear as Ben Roethlisberger’s analgesic salves — high school prospects with dreams of NBA riches a year from now view John Calipari as the pied piper of the NBA Draft.  Follow him down the primrose path, and you will end up playing in the League one year later.  John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton are the trailblazers here.  With all four projected as first rounders in June, the hype of Calipari’s flute-playing squares nicely with reality.  And Kentucky’s regal basketball program is the beneficiary.

Or is it?

We’re big believers that there are external benefits to programs who recruit and enroll 1-and-done players beyond wins, losses and NCAA Tournament success.  In fact, every year we do exactly such an evaluation that includes criteria beyond that scope.  For example, it is our view that the Texas program is still benefitting today from its one year of Kevin Durant on campus in 2007 even though UT only made the second round of the Tournament that season.  The same goes with Michael Beasley at Kansas State in 2008.  Call it the Jordan Effect.  Even if the players who are later inspired to follow Durant and Beasley to those campuses aren’t as good as those two were, there is a significant residual ‘coolness’ effect in recruiting those younger players who can help sustain the quality of the program over time.  To put it in terms of Kentucky, a 12-year old right now may spend the next few years idolizing John Wall in the NBA, and when it comes time for him to make his school choice in five years, the Wildcats and Calipari would have already have an inherent advantage over other schools.

With that said, we know what Kentucky fans hope to get from all of these 1-and-done types, and it’s not just a bunch of springtime recruiting victories.  Eventually it needs to translate to wins, most specifically those in March and April as Winn alludes to in his article.  The question then that we analyze here is whether a focus on recruiting 1-and-doners will get a team to that goal.  The available evidence we have, using admittedly a very small sample size, says that it will not.

Take a look at the table below, which lists all sixteen Final Four teams from the 1-and-done era (2007-10).

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Myles Brand’s Solution to 1-and-Dones: 2-and-Dones

Posted by rtmsf on July 7th, 2009

We stumbled across an article recently while reading about the latest Sarah Palin tragicomedy, and we were immediately surprised about a couple of things.  First, why is the Huffington Post writing about one-and-done basketball players?  And second, why is the author of the piece, NCAA head honcho Myles Brand, blogging for the HuffPo and not ESPN, CBS Sports, NCAA News or some other sports-related website?  Further investigation revealed that Brand has been writing on this platform since last August – 13 total entries – ranging in topics from the myth of the ‘dumb jock’ to diversity hiring in athletics to pay-for-play.  It made for some interesting browsing, and if you have an extra fifteen or twenty minutes, well worth the time to delve deeper into the mind of someone who has spent countless hours in contemplative thought about the major issues affecting collegiate athletics today.

myles brand painting

Of course, the post that caught our eye initially was written this week and called “Maybe Two is More Than Twice As Good As One,” and the central thesis to Brand’s argument is that there is a media-driven hysteria that significantly overblows the negative impact that one-and-dones have on college basketball.  Brand writes:

Other than all the articles written, it [one-and-dones] has little impact on the college game.  “But wait,” shout the naysayers, “What about the fact that the rule guarantees there will be basketball players — student-athletes — who have no intention of being students and even stop going to classes their second semester? And what about the fact that some may cheat to become eligible for their required one year?”  The problem with the majority of the media reports is that they focus on the same two or three examples and fail to point out that the number of one-and-doners is no more than a handful in any one year.

Brand, in aggregate terms, is right about this part.  We showed in our analysis of one-and-dones last week that there have been 24 total such players in the three year history of the rule, or, roughly eight per year, which accounts for <0.1% of D1 players in a given season.  Of the 24, only two players – USC’s OJ Mayo and Memphis’ Derrick Rose – have been involved in ex post facto allegations of impropriety (roughly 8% of those).  (Note: the class of 2009 with John Wall, Lance Stephenson, Renardo Sidney and others could significantly increase these numbers).  Eight percent of a sample of 0.1% of D1 players is a very small number indeed, and from Brand’s perspective as president of the entire shebang, seemingly insignificant.

The problem is that, from a casual college basketball fan’s perspective, those 24 players are significant.  And for a fan of a particular school that has lost multiple star players in three seasons to the one-and-done rule – schools such as Ohio St. (3), UCLA (2), Georgia Tech (2), Memphis (2), or USC (2) – those players are very significant.   Not to mention fans who are fatigued from watching star players pass through campus for one unfulfilling season before shuffling off to the NBA – keep in mind that of the nineteen one-and-dones, only Rose, Kevin Love and the OSU trio of Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook have played in a Final Four and none has won a championship (Melo, of course, came to Syracuse prior to the NBA rule).  As a result of this rule, college basketball is robbed of its top young players every single year, often before they can make a national splash, and that fact alone makes it increasingly difficult for casual fans to stay tuned in on a year-to-year basis.

Teaming Up Basketball

While we generally take issue with the relative impact of the one-and-done rule according to Brand (it’s a big deal!), we completely agree with his suggested solution: just add another year to the NBA requirement.  We’re as much a right-to-work person as anybody, and by no means do we want to suggest that this is the ‘right’ thing from the perspective of the athletes; however, if the NBA is going to continue to insist on a rule for its own selfish reasons of improved scouting, minimizing competitive risk, and providing players a less stressful opportunity to grow, then a two-year requirement is the proper compromise.  By staying in college for two seasons, Brand mentions that the marketability of stars would increase substantially and it certainly would get more players further along the path toward graduation (4+ semesters vs. 1+), and we completely agree with his assessment.

The word we’ve heard for some time now is that NBA Commish David Stern wanted a two-year requirement during the last collective bargaining negotiations, but he backed off in order to get some other things on his wish list.  With a rough economy taking a bite of the entertainment dollar in NBA cities across the land, Stern may be in good position to push through the two-year rule when the next bargaining session begins in 2011.  And who knows, with Myles Brand lobbying/blogging into his ear, college hoops may just end up better for this in the long run.

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Conference Primers: #25 – America East

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Vermont (21-7) (13-3)
  2. Boston U. (18-10) (12-4)
  3. Albany (16-13) (10-6)
  4. Binghamton (14-13) (9-7)
  5. Maryland-Baltimore County (13-16) (8-8)
  6. Maine (9-19) (6-10)
  7. Stony Brook (10-18) (6-10)
  8. Hartford (9-21) (5-11)
  9. New Hampshire (6-21) (3-13)

America East Logo

WYN2K. The Am East has a tendency toward top-heaviness, with a couple of good teams in a given year that are competitive with mid-major and (sometimes) high-major teams while the rest are relegated to the morass of low-major fiefdom. Over the last several years, the three sentinels of America East basketball have been Vermont , Boston U. and Albany, the three of which have won the last six regular season and conference tourney championships of the league (although only once in the same year – Vermont in 2005) . Led by these programs, the conference has gone 119-176 (.403) against nonconference opponents over the last three seasons, which is a clear step up in success from the conferences below it. We expect the same three programs to battle it out for this year’s crown.

Predicted Champion. Vermont (#16 seed NCAA). Choosing UVM here was an extremely close call, as we fully expect BU and Albany to make a push for the league crown as well. Despite the losses of rebounding fiend Chris Holm (#3 in oReb% nationally) and rising star Joe Trapani (transfer to BC), the Catamounts return probable Am East POY Mike Trimboli at the point guard slot. We feel that his heady play, combined with the losses at the other schools will allow Vermont to hang on to the top spot.

Others Considered. BU is rising quickly, led by a quartet of precocious sophomores who surprised the league by finishing 8-8 in the conference last season. The most interesting of these players is Tyler Morris, reigning Am East ROY who also has the distinction of being the HS teammate of Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. See if you can find him in the video below (look very closely for the white kid in green). Two-time defending NCAA entrant Albany must also be dealt with, despite losing Am East POY (twice over) Jamar Wilson. Brent Wilson and Brian Lillis (Am East DPOY) have more than enough support to make another run at the title. A final consideration goes to Binghamton, who hired Georgetown assistant coach Kevin Broadus to bring the Princeton offense to upstate NY. Considering that Binghamton was already one of the most sure-handed offenses in the nation (#9 in oStl%), we think this group will be ready for the transition. It also doesn’t hurt that the 2008 conference tourney will be located in Binghamton. Watch out for the Bearcats as a darkhorse.

Games to Watch. As a one-bid league, only one game will matter to most people.

  • America East Championship Game (03.15.08). ESPN2.

RPI Booster Games. The America East shies away from playing numerous BCS conference teams (18 games scheduled last year; 16 this year), but it makes up for it by playing quite a few winnable games against mid-major teams. For example, last year Albany defeated Utah to go along with the league’s three wins vs. BCS opponents (Vermont 77, BC 63; Binghamton 79, Miami (FL) 74; Stony Brook 59, Penn St. 51). There are several such opportunities this season.

  • Vermont @ George Mason (11.09.07)
  • Vermont @ Virginia (11.11.07)
  • Boston U. @ George Washington (11.14.07)
  • Maryland-BC @ Wichita St. (12.04.07)
  • Albany @ Duke (12.17.07)
  • Boston U. @ UMass (12.29.07)
  • Albany @ Iowa St. (12.30.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Zip. Even with Vermont going 15-1 in the league last year and losing to Albany by one point in the conference tourney final, they were relegated to the NIT (losing to Kansas St. 59-57). This year will be a more competitive race, which leaves no opportunity for multiple bids.

Neat-o Stat. We have several today. The Am East is a league where coaches get their starts – names like Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, Mike Jarvis, Mike Brey, and Jay Wright all earned their chops in the league before moving onto bigger and better things. Will Binghamton’s Kevin Broadus be the next coaching star from the America East? Also, just call Maryland-Baltimore County’s Brian Hodges the Human Cannon this season – he ranked sixth in the nation in shots attempted, taking 37.4% of his team’s shots while on the floor. Finally, everyone thinks UVM stands for University (of) Ver… Mont, right? Well, no – it actually is latin (Universitas Viridis Montis) for University of the Green Mountains. Go figure.

64/65-Team Era. The America East is 3-23 (.115) over this era, with three first-round victories from 1989 (#14 Siena over #3 Stanford), 1996 (#12 Drexel over #5 Memphis), and 2005 (#13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse). #13 Albany was blitzed last year by #4 Virginia, but in 2006 the Great Danes were leading #1 seed UConn 60-48 with eleven minutes remaining before Marcus Williams took over and finished them off down the stretch (34-9 run by the Huskies). And who can forget the Sorrentine and Coppenrath show vs. Cuse in 2005?


Final Thought. The Am East is one of our favorite low-major leagues. In the few games we see involving these teams, the fans seem to be incredibly rowdy and into the games. The level of basketball as a rule is decidedly below the rim, but teams make up for it in execution and shooting. And how can you not like resident Am East cheerleader (and former UVM coach) Tom Brennan doing studio work for ESPN all winter.

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One and Done (2007) – was it worth it?

Posted by rtmsf on May 14th, 2007

In the hypercompetitive world of college basketball recruiting, last year’s new NBA rule requiring a player to be one year removed from his high school class prior to declaring for the draft sent repercussions throughout the game. Coaches at the elite programs generally fell into two camps – you either recruit players who you expect will stick around for more than one season, hoping to keep stability (and consistency) within your program; or, you recruit the very best talent available year over year, hoping to catch lightning-in-a-bottle Carmelo-style without experiencing the program volatility that such a strategy may entail. Now that we have one season of one-and-dones behind us, let’s take a look at how the programs employing that strategy fared. We considered the top twenty players in the Class of 2006 (login required) as the most likely one-and-dones.

Greg Oden

Looks like one and done worked out for Greg Oden.

Ohio StateWell Worth It

This program, along with UNC, had the most players listed (3) in the 2006 top twenty – Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, Mike Conley, Jr. As of today, they’re definitely losing Oden; Conley is likely to leave, and Cook is a tossup. However, even if they lose all three, it would be fair to say that OSU got its money’s worth. A 35-4 (15-1) record, NCAA runner-up, Big Ten championship, and the best season in Ohio State’s post-UCLA history will do that. Essentially, this group of players made Ohio State relevant as a national powerhouse again. For many programs, losing a group like this would equal the NIT or worse next season; but with Matta bringing in another group of blue chippers next season (and the season after), OSU won’t take a terrible hit. This gamble definitely paid off, and will continue to do so, long after these players have moved on.

North Carolina - Well Worth It
Brandan Wright, Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington were all potential one-and-dones when they were recruited by Roy Williams to Chapel Hill. UNC dodged a substantial bullet by losing only Wright to the draft. Led by these three rooks (+ Tyler Hansbrough), Carolina played itself into a 31-7 (11-5) record, an ACC championship and a run to the elite eight where they were simply out-executed by a game Georgetown squad. Still, with Lawson and Ellington returning, Carolina’s gamble came in like Ari Gold at the blackjack table – they’re set to be preseason #1 next year.

Georgia Tech - Not Worth It
Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton were the two jewels of Paul Hewitt’s class last year, and both have declared for the draft this year, but neither has yet signed with an agent. It remains to be seen whether one or both of these players will return, but with Young projected in the low lottery and Crittenton in the mid-low first round, it is likely both will stay in the draft. So how did Georgia Tech fare with these guys? Not as well. A maddeningly inconsistent 20-12 (8-8) record with a first-round NCAA loss versus UNLV isn’t the type of season that the teams above enjoyed. Hewitt has a couple of decent players coming into Atlanta next season, but the 2007-08 campaign will be made or broken on the decisions of these two players. This was clearly a tenuous gamble that may actually set the program back if both fail to return.

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