Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #1 Louisville

Posted by mlemaire on November 11th, 2012

It is truly a testament to the coaching ability of Rick Pitino that last season’s offensively challenged Louisville team made the Final Four after finishing the regular season seventh in the conference. The Cardinals had trouble scoring and dealt with a rash of injuries all season, and yet when most of the dust had cleared, there was Pitino and his team, scrapping with an overpowering Kentucky team in the Final Four. In the end, Kentucky was too much, but now the roles have reversed. The team in Lexington has a lot of questions to answer, while the team in Louisville returns four of its top six scorers, including the reigning conference defensive player of the year and one of the favorites for this season’s conference player of the year. Assuming some of the team’s underclassmen progress as expected and most of the team can stay healthy, there are very few squads in the country who can match the Cardinals’ combination of talent and depth. Now it will be up to Pitino and his staff to put all the pieces together. There are still plenty of questions about where the offense will come from and the roster’s one weakness may be its lack of an accomplished outside shooter. But the Cardinals’ defense was the most efficient in the country last season and it should be almost as good if not better this season. Anything less than a return trip to the Final Four will probably be viewed as a disappointment, especially if that team in Lexington makes it back instead.

2011-12 Record: 30-10, 10-8

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Final Four, lost to Kentucky 69-61.

Rick Pitino Has Louisville Poised To Make A Repeat Run To The Final Four

Schedule: Just a quick glance at the Cardinals’ non-conference slate should make it plainly obvious that Louisville will have little trouble with the opposition in the early part of the season. A December trip to Memphis and the home bout with Kentucky right before the New Year represent what should be the only two challenging non-conference opponents Louisville will face. As for the conference schedule, aside from a four-game stretch in the middle of January where a home date with Syracuse is sandwiched between road games at Connecticut and Villanova and then Georgetown, the rest of the conference slate should be manageable for a team as experienced, deep, and physical as the Cardinals.

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Morning Five: 10.01.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 1st, 2012

  1. October is finally here! That means the squeaking of sneakers on the college basketball hardwood is right around the corner. You can sense it in the silent roar of anticipation coming from college campuses in Bloomington, Omaha, Lexington, Westwood, Memphis, Tucson, Richmond, Lawrence, Louisville and the rest — take a look at their fan message boards and blogs and feel the palpable collective sense of another season of possibility and wonder. Read the local beat writers and note that even their tried-and-true cynicism with the whole production is relatively muted. Peruse a few schedules and start figuring out where you’re headed this season. With the turning of the calendar into the last quarter of the year , it’s time we stop referring to this season as next season. For those of us who live this sport year-round, next season is now.
  2. Kansas head coach Bill Self is widely recognized as one of the best tacticians and recruiters in the game right now, and with good reason. His Jayhawks have made the Big 12 their own personal punching bag on the way to eight straight conference titles, and the talent that Self regularly brings to Lawrence has kept the longstanding KU-to-NBA pipeline intact. Over the weekend, Kansas rewarded Self for his continuing excellence, extending the coach’s contract four more years (through the 2021-22 season) and increasing his average salary to $3.856 million per year. A number of retention and other performance incentives make the value of the entire contract just north of $53 million over the next decade. It’s phenomenal money, of course, but according to KUSports.com, Self’s new deal is still only the fourth richest in college basketball — behind larger-than-life icons John Calipari, Rick Pitino, and Mike Krzyzewski.
  3. Speaking of Pitino, his Louisville Cardinals will be in everyone’s preseason top five this season, and one of the reasons for that is the amount of quality depth he’ll have at his disposal. That depth took a minor hit on Friday when senior Mike Marra re-injured the same left ACL that had kept him off the court for most of last season. With the increase in Louisville’s overall talent over the course of his career, Marra wasn’t expected to play a major role in the Cardinal lineup this season, but he had contributed in the past (21 MPG in 2010-11, for example) and he was someone who always brought great energy to the floor. He’ll become a graduate assistant under Pitino this season as he prepares to pursue coaching after he leaves school.
  4. Matt Glover is another in a long line of summer transfers who hoped to receive a waiver from the NCAA so that he could play immediately after transferring from Penn State to San Francisco during the offseason. The junior college guard arrived at PSU just in time for last fall’s whirlwind surrounding Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky, suffering through a miserable year on campus playing for a different coach (Pat Chambers) than the one who had recruited him (Ed DeChellis). His mother suffered a heart attack in April, but apparently because Glover was already considering a transfer closer to her Los Angeles home at the time, the NCAA denied Glover’s request to play for USF this season. Glover’s family has dealt with a number of health issues over the years, so it’s certainly a shame that the NCAA wasn’t willing to budge on this one.
  5. Finally, Rutgers head coach Mike Rice may have raised the bar considerably in terms of what future coaches will do for their charitable organizations. Forget the tennis shoes, telethons, and all the other fund-raising strategies — Rice is more of a doer than a talker. On Friday morning in the middle of a rainstorm in Jersey City, the 43-year old daredevil rappelled down the side of a 470-foot office building with nothing but a few ropes and cords holding him aloft. His trek downward took nine minutes, a slow time in large part because he stoped at every floor to wave at people on the inside of the building. He did this as part of the American Cancer Society’s “Over the Edge” fundraising effort, and he ended up with a fantastic recruiting yarn that he can regale to players the world over: “Your coach is crazy enough to scale tall buildings for you,” he can now truthfully say.

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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was

  • A Rough Week for the Big East: Conference teams lost 13 times this past week to the likes of UCF, Illinois State, Northeastern, and Richmond among others. Only three undefeated teams (Syracuse, Louisville, and Marquette) remain and of the 13 teams with at least one loss, only three (DePaul, Seton Hall and Georgetown) have not yet recorded a bad loss. As we enter December, the middle of the conference doesn’t appear to be as strong as in years past. The Big East has a handful of great teams and a host of teams that appear to be very average at this point. It’s a long season, but the chances of seeing nine or ten NCAA bids from this league are certainly not promising.
  • Syracuse and Marquette Take Home Titles: The Orange defeated Virginia Tech and Stanford at their second home, Madison Square Garden, to win the NIT Season Tip-Off while Marquette took home the Paradise Jam championship, albeit against a so-so field. Both teams struggled in their respective championship games, but managed to pull it out down the stretch, the sign of a good team. Each team’s schedule ramps up this week against a pair of top ten teams as Syracuse hosts Florida on Friday and Marquette visits in-state rival Wisconsin on Saturday.
  • Tim Abromaitis Tears ACL: There was awful news out of South Bend late last week when it was announced that Notre Dame fifth year senior forward Tim Abromaitis tore the ACL in his right knee during practice on Friday. The loss of Abromaitis is a huge blow to a Notre Dame team already with two neutral court losses on its resume and a pair of road games coming up this week. The Fighting Irish rotation is pretty much only seven deep now with only three or four reliable scorers. Point guard Eric Atkins has played very well, but Scott Martin and Pat Connaughton will have to step up in a big way for Notre Dame to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

With A Big Game Against Florida Looming Friday, How Will Jim Boeheim Keep His Team Focused Amid The Bernie Fine Scandal?

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (6-0) – After feasting on four cupcakes to begin the season, the Orange were impressive late in victories over Virginia Tech and Stanford in the NIT Season Tip-Off. They struggled for the better part of both games, but the ability of this team to flip the switch and play like the top five team it is is something that will suit them well outside of conference play. However, Syracuse had better play well for 40 minutes once the Big East season arrives or else they’ll lose more games than you think. Jim Boeheim’s team ranks in the top ten nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, one of only four teams at the moment. Syracuse has done a great job forcing turnovers leading to easy points in transition. Dion Waiters appears to have taken his game to the next level as a sophomore with transition play being a big part of that. How this team is affected by the Bernie Fine investigation, if at all, is something to watch over the next few weeks. This week: 11/29 vs. Eastern Michigan, 12/2 vs. #6 Florida.
  2. Louisville (6-0) – Rick Pitino was successful last year by molding a team of role players into a cohesive unit with no superstars through an incredible focus on defense. Louisville looks to be following that same formula again in 2011-12. The Cardinals rank third nationally in defensive efficiency and only one opponent has scored more than 54 points. Of course, offense is Louisville’s biggest challenge. Peyton Siva is back, but Pitino’s rotation has been scaled back due to injuries to Wayne Blackshear and Mike Marra. Blackshear may be back but Marra is lost for the season with a torn ACL. Louisville struggled against Ohio and has another tricky game with Long Beach State on Monday. Freshman Chane Behanan (9/9) is stepping up in the absence of Blackshear while Gorgui Dieng has been a shot-blocking machine in the paint at three rejections per game. This is a big week for the Cardinals as their competition gets stronger. This week: 11/28 vs. Long Beach State, 12/2 vs. #20 Vanderbilt. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 11.28.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 28th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The quality of games kicks into high gear this week with a pair of good ones to start it off.

Long Beach State at #9 Louisville – 7 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • Louisville’s depth has taken a big hit recently with Wayne Blackshear, Mike Marra, and Peyton Siva all dealing with injuries. Siva returned from a sprained ankle Friday against Ohio in a closer than expected Cardinals win but he remains in a shooting slump. He is just 5-24 (20.8%) in three games this season but is managing to dish out six assists per contest. The Cardinals are winning games defensively as they are ranked second in the nation in defensive efficiency while only putting up 67 PPG on the other end of the floor. A Long Beach State team that plays quick without much defense could be the recipe Louisville needs to gain more confidence offensively. However, Louisville must avoid turnovers against the 49ers, a team that loves to get out in transition. The Cardinals are averaging 15 turnovers per game with Siva at a shaky 3.7 per game.

    Louisville Will Have Its Hands Full With Long Beach State

  • Long Beach State has lost twice on the road since winning at Pittsburgh, falling to San Diego State and Montana. The 49ers defense has not been up to par and that is hurting them significantly. They love to play at a fast pace but they are very average defensively as well as on the boards. Casper Ware going up against Siva should be a terrific match-up and he will need to carry the team all night as he did against Pittsburgh on November 16. Long Beach State is not going to get many opportunities to score against the strong Louisville defense so limiting turnovers, especially on the road, has to be its top priority. They average 15 a game but simply cannot afford that many in this game. To win, Long Beach State must play its best defensive game to date and get to the free throw line where they will have a significant edge over Louisville. Depth has to be a concern for Dan Monson, whose team only goes seven deep.
  • Larry Anderson and James Ennis have a height advantage at the two and three positions against Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric, but they must stay in front of their men all game. Ennis is a good on-ball defender averaging 2.3 steals per game, but the Louisville guards may be able to exploit Long Beach State from the three-point arc. In the paint, T.J. Robinson is a terrific rebounder but he will be going up against the 6’10” Gorgui Dieng (3.4 blocks per game) and a Louisville team that rebounds well as a unit. To earn more possessions for his team, Robinson likely has to have a big game on the glass as well as offensively. That will be extremely difficult against a Cardinals front line that allows only 33.5% shooting inside the arc. Long Beach State does have a chance to win the game but there is one major difference between Pittsburgh and Louisville. It is defense and that is why we feel the Cardinals have the ultimate edge in this game tonight.
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Louisville at Butler: It’s Still Going to be a Good Game… Right?

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 18th, 2011

In college basketball they say the coaches are the stars.  Thank goodness for that because when No. 8 Louisville (2-0) takes on reigning two-time national runner-up Butler (1-1) on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse the marquee value on the rosters will not possess the sizzle it might have had a year, or even a couple of days, ago.  While many may need to rifle through programs and online game trackers to identify players, the head coaches certainly require no introduction in a game that will prove an ample test of their considerable skills.  And let’s face it, as we scour through a November slate that includes several undercard match-ups leading up to the Big East’s main events, we need something to sink our teeth into!

Pitino Will be Working Hard Against Butler

Rick Pitino is faced with the challenge of heading into a tough road venue with a team that has been besieged by injury. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish certainly are not coming through that door, and where is Greg Kite when you need him anyway?  With junior leader and point guard Peyton Siva doubtful for the game following the recent long term losses of backcourt mates Wayne Blackshear, out six-to-eight weeks due to shoulder surgery, and Mike Marra, gone for the season with an ACL tear, the Cardinals are especially thin right now, particularly at the point.  While Pitino said Siva’s injury could impact his availability beyond Saturday, he also left the door open for a cameo appearance should the game situation dictate.

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Who’s Got Next? Poythress Picks, Carter Commits and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 17th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Poythress Picks Kentucky, UK Still Able To Nab Number One Recruiting Class

Poythress Gave UK Fans Hope To Have the Best Recruiting Class In the Country... Again (Daryl Paunil/NRS)

Big Blue Nation Has Reason To Rejoice. Don’t lie Kentucky fans, you were worried about not getting the number one recruiting class for the fourth straight year. You tweeted about it, you posted on message boards about it, you wrote on Facebook about it. But when Class of 2012 small forward Alex Poythress decided to join Big Blue Nation last Thursday, head coach John Calipari kept his 2012 class in the running to be rated as the top collection of talent in the country. The 6’7″, 220-pound wing joins shooting guard Archie Goodwin and center Willie Cauley as Coach Cal’s commitments so far with top senior targets small forward Shabazz Muhammad and power forwards Anthony Bennett and Jarnell Stokes still out there. Poythress had a terrific summer and showed the ability to consistently get to the bucket, finish in traffic and an improved perimeter shot. At times, he’s simply unstoppable when he attacks the rim and he’s able to impact the game in a number of ways whether it’s defense, rebounding or running the floor. He fits in well with Calipari’s system and will thrive with Goodwin and Cauley running the floor with him. At this point, the Wildcats have the second-best recruiting class in the country only behind Arizona’s ridiculous haul of talent but with another commitment or two they could reign supreme for the fourth straight year.

What They’re Saying:

  • Senior standout Robert Upshaw‘s mother, Ceylon Sherman, on her son choosing Kansas State: “It was a close run, he had a lot of great schools, but when it came down to it, him and all of us family just all had Kansas State. For Robert, it was about how much he liked the guys out there. He had chemistry with them.”

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Big East Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 17th, 2011

  1. The St. John’s recruiting exodus continues.  Norvel Pelle is the latest player to de-commit from Steve Lavin’s program.  The news was initially reported by Johnny Jungle.com on Wednesday morning and confirmed by Pelle via Twitter later in the day.  The 6’10″ Pelle originally signed with St. John’s as a class of 2011 recruit but was declared academically ineligible in September along with fellow highly regarded signees, small forwards JaKarr Sampson and Amir Garrett.  Garrett remains committed and is currently enrolled at Bridgton Academy (ME).  However, Sampson re-opened his recruitment shortly after being declared ineligible and re-enrolled at Brewster Academy (NH), the same prep school he attended last year.  St. John’s remains in the mix with Sampson but there is plenty of competition for his services, including Big East foes Providence and Pittsburgh.  St. John’s also recently lost a verbal committment from Ricardo Gathers, a top 2012 recruit. The loss of these players is an obvious blow to a team trying to build on a young core.  No reason behind Pelle’s decision has been confirmed but speculation exists that continued qualification issues played a role.  With regard to the multiple departures, there have been theories bandied about that Lavin’s battle with prostate cancer coupled with the instability of the Big East have played a role, but this can only be considered conjecture at the present time.
  2. Providence star guard Vincent Council was seen around campus on Wednesday sporting crutches.  Council injured his left ankle at the 9:20 mark of the first half of Providence’s last game, an 82-70 win at Fairfield on Monday.  With time running out on the shot clock, Council hoisted a deep three from the top of the key and appeared to roll the ankle when he landed on the foot of Fairfield defender Derek Needham.  At first the injury looked to be serious as Council writhed in pain on the floor for several minutes.  However, he was then able to leave the floor under his own power and checked back into the game at the 8:31 mark after a brief trip to the locker room.  The 49-second departure would ultimately represent the only game action Council would miss as he logged 39 minutes, tallying game highs in scoring (26 points) and assists (seven).  The 2-0 Friars next take the floor on Saturday afternoon when they host Florida A&M at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center as part of the South Padre Island Invitational.  While the crutches appear to be a precautionary measure, there were rumblings Wednesday evening that Council’s status for Saturday is questionable. Currently playing with just eight scholarship players, Providence can ill afford to lose Council for any period of time.
  3. Louisville, a team seeking reinforcements following injuries to Wayne Blackshear, expected to miss six-to-eight weeks while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum, and Mike Marra, out for the season after tearing his ACL in Sunday’s win over Lamar, got news that they will be receiving help, although perhaps not soon enough but more on that in the next item.  As reported by ZagsBlog.com, 6’4″ guard Kevin Ware has been cleared to play with Louisville by the NCAA and can begin practicing on December 14.  It is anticipated Ware will suit up for Louisville’s December 17 home contest against Memphis at the KFC Yum! Center.  Ware’s recruitment has been fluid.  He originally signed with Tennessee a year ago but was released from that commitment when former Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl was fired.  Then Ware committed to Central Florida but got out of dodge last spring when the school came under NCAA investigation for a series of violations that ultimately led to the resignation of Athletic Director Keith Tribble and assistant football coach David Kelly, as well as a three-game suspension for men’s head basketball coach Donnie Jones.
  4. In related ankle and Louisville news (how’s that for a tie in of the last two items!), Louisville coach Rick Pitino has declared junior guard Peyton Siva (10.5 PPG, 6 APG) doubtful with a sprained ankle suffered in Monday’s practice when he landed on Elisha Justice’s foot.  The 2-0 Cardinals hit the road to face 1-1 Butler on Saturday and, if Siva cannot go, Pitino will have to mix and match at the point, citing a difficult match-up with Butler senior guard Ronald Nored, “the best defensive point guard in the country.”  Sophomore Russ Smith and junior Chris Smith have limited experience at the point but will also likely be called upon.  6’9″ junior forward Stephan Van Treese, a player who has been out with a knee injury, has returned to practice and is expected to play on Saturday.
  5. Notre Dame leading scorer Eric Atkins (20.0 PPG) was forced to miss last night’s game versus Sam Houston State due to illness.  This left the Fighting Irish down two starters as Tim Abromaitis continues to serve a four-game suspension for playing in exhibition games prior to his redshirt year in 2008-09.  It was also reported that starting guard Joey Brooks was battling a bug that appears to be making its way through the team.  Brooks started the game but left in the first half and did not return, although he did remain on the bench for the second half.  Fortunately the Irish were playing the Bearkats and not the Bearcats as they managed to squeak out a 74-41 victory despite being shorthanded in a game that was over by halftime. Freshman Pat Connaughton led the onslaught, scoring 17 first half points en route to a game high 24 (6-10 3FGs). Sophomore Alex Dragicevich started in Atkins’ place and contributed seven points, three rebounds, three assists and a block.  If this rash of illness continues, it could have a short-term impact as Notre Dame has two games over the next five days, including a match-up with #24 Missouri on Monday.  Irish Fans, your friends at RTC Big East are here to help!
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Playing Catch-Up: How The Big East Has Fared To Date

Posted by mlemaire on November 16th, 2011

Since the Big East microsite was a little later to the 2011-12 season than some of its other brothers and sisters, let’s take a few moments to get caught up on where things stand heading into this year.  These 16 teams are listed in no particular order.

Syracuse: Projected preseason Big East co-champs (with Connecticut) by the coaches and currently ranked No. 5 in the country by the Associated Press, the Orange are talented, deep and 3-0 to start the year. They captured the coveted de-facto New York state title with easy wins over Fordham, Manhattan and Albany. Through those three games, ten players have logged at least 30 minutes of playing time.  The early stat leaders have been 6’7” senior forward Kris Joseph (16.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) who notched his 1000th career point against Manhattan, and 6’8” junior forward James Southerland (13.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG).  However it is likely individual numbers will not tell the story as the wealth will be spread around Syracuse’s vast depth.  You know the names.

  • Guards:  Scoop Jardine (senior), Brandon Triche (junior) Dion Waiters (sophomore) and Michael Carter-Williams (freshman)
  • Forwards: C.J. Fair (sophomore) and Rakeem Christmas (freshman)

All of the above along with a fit and productive sophomore center Fab Melo will keep Jim Boeheim and the air horn busy all year long.  

James Southerland Has Been Great So Far This Season

Louisville: The good news is that Louisville is 2-0 as they prepare for this weekend’s matchup against Butler. The bad news is the Cardinals are already thinner then when they started the season, having lost versatile role player Mike Marra for the season because of a knee injury suffered against Lamar. The team might be deep enough to absorb the loss of Marra, but they will be thin up front, especially if sophomore center Gorgui Dieng (7 RPG, 4.5 BPG) is continuously in foul trouble. As is often the case with Rick Pitino-coached teams, the Cardinals played suffocating defense in holding both Tennessee-Martin and Lamar below 30 percent from the field and that defense will keep Louisville competitive all season long. Freshman Chase Behanan (12 PPG, 12.5 RPG) looks the part of a double-double machine, but he will be in danger of wearing down if he consistently has to play more than 30 minutes per game.

Pittsburgh: Everybody knew that Pittsburgh would have one of the better starting lineups in the conference this season, but after two games, the jury is still out on how deep Jamie Dixon’s bench goes. Rider only dressed nine players on Saturday and Pittsburgh still needed to come behind in the second half to win. Ashton Gibbs (22.5 PPG) is going to shoot a lot and will be in contention for the conference’s scoring title. Tray Woodall (52.9 3PT%) seems to have drastically improved his shooting and will be dangerous offensive weapon, and Nasir Robinson and Dante Taylor help form a rugged and experienced frontcourt. But if the Panthers want to contend for the conference crown this season, a lot will depend on the development of roles players like Talib Zanna and freshmen Khem Birch, John Johnson, and Cameron Wright.

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Morning Five: 11.14.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 14th, 2011

  1. The big game from a media perspective on what was essentially college basketball’s opening night was the Carrier Classic. From what we have seen and heard about the scene, it certainly lived up to the hype even if the game itself was a little disappointing. Of course, this game was more about honoring veterans on Veterans Day (something that honestly should be done more than once a year) as well as showcasing college basketball (also something that should be done more than once a year). We think the event did an excellent job of that and we have heard from quite a few non-college basketball fans (yes, we are forced to interact with them on occasion) who saw some of the game on television and thought that it was a really cool setting. We haven’t heard what the TV ratings were for the game, but we assume they will be outstanding for an early season college basketball game as long as they don’t include the nose-dive that certainly happened as soon as the Five for Fighting concert started.
  2. As you may have heard, Mike Krzyzewski tied Bob Knight‘s Division I record of 902 wins on Saturday with Duke’s win over Presbyterian. If you weren’t aware, you must not have been watching ESPN, which ran this news on its scrolls for much of the past 36 hours. And the hype is just getting started as Krzyzewski will be going for the record outright tomorrow night when Duke plays Michigan State in the opening game of the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. While the media is ready to crown Krzyzewski with the title as #1 among the rest, we think that might be jumping the gun a little for two reasons: (1) he is coaching against Tom Izzo, who is pretty good in his own right, and (2) we will be covering the game and Krzyzewski is 0-2 in games at which this editor has been (a ridiculous loss in 2002 to FSU and last season’s blowout loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden).
  3. There was some good news and some bad news on the injury front over the weekend. First, we will start with a little good medical news although it doesn’t qualify as an “injury”: Billy Kennedy, who took some time off to adjust to his new diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, returned to the sidelines yesterday and guided Texas A&M to a 25-point victory over Southern. Arizona also got some good news as Kevin Parrom, who was shot while he was home in New York City in September and also had to deal with his mother passing away less than a month ago, played for the Wildcats for the first time since the incident. While Parrom made an impact on the stat sheet with six points, four rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes, his presence was probably felt on more of an emotional level during Arizona’s ten-point win over Ball State. On the other hand, Louisville got even more bad news on the injury front as junior guard Mike Marra injured his left knee midway through the second half and had to be carried off the court by two people during its win over Lamar. Marra appeared to be relatively upbeat after the game, but an MRI last night revealed a torn ACL and therefore he will miss the rest of the season.
  4. There were a pair of interesting suspensions late last week. The first comes from North Carolina State where C.J. Leslie is being forced to sit out the first three games of the team’s season due to impermissible benefits he received (using a friend’s car and receiving money from that same friend to help pay for the apartment application fees for Leslie’s half-brother). The other is at Marquette where freshman Juan Anderson was also suspended for three games for accepting a free ticket to a luxury suite at a Milwaukee Brewers playoff game. We have heard quite a few people come to Leslie’s defense saying that it is common for college students to borrow cars, but with college athletes the concept of a “friend” can get blurred very easily and we understand the NCAA’s rationale in cases like this (particularly when you consider the payment for an apartment application fee). We haven’t heard many people jump to Anderson’s defense yet because that is a pretty clear violation to most people, although Anderson could have just as easily said a “friend” had an extra ticket and invited him to the game.
  5. On Thursday, we mentioned Jeff Capel‘s $1.75 million golden parachute from Oklahoma. Well, it turns out that Oklahoma also received a parting gift from the Capel era: three years of probation and $15,000 fine. The punishment is the result of an investigation into the actions of former assistant coach Orlando Taliaferro, who failed to report impermissible benefits given to Tiny Gallon and then lied to NCAA officials during their investigation. Taliaferro was hit with a two-year show cause penalty while the school was primarily hit by reductions in its ability to recruit, but is not prevented from playing in the postseason (unless you factor in the resultant quality of their team).
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Morehead State Pulls Off The First Upset Of The Tournament

Posted by nvr1983 on March 17th, 2011

When the Louisville-Morehead State match-up was announced it was panned online as more of an inside joke about Rick Pitino‘s extracurricular activities by the Selection Committee. Instead it provided us with our first upset of the NCAA Tournament. Led by Terrence Hill‘s 23 points and 8 rebounds and Kenneth Faried‘s 12 points and 17 rebounds the Eagles knocked off the Cardinals 62-61. The Eagles made a statement early jumping out to a 15-2 lead in the first 8 minutes before the Cardinals clawed their way back into the game taking the lead briefly before Hill ended the half with a 3 to tie it at 33 heading into the intermission.

The Cardinals, who got minimal contributions from Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles, appeared to take command in the second half opening up an 8-point lead before Morehead State made a run of its own to grab the lead. After that the teams traded mini-runs before Morehead State called timeout as they were down 61-59 with 24 seconds left. The Eagles set up an isolation play for Demonte Harper who made the first “ONIONS!!!” shot of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

On the following play Louisville rushed down the court and Mike Marra appeared to have a chance at a good look at a game-winning 3, but Faried blocked his shot on what appeared to be a lot of contact. We are sure that there will be plenty of discussion in Louisville about whether or not it was a foul, but it appeared to us on the replay that Marra initiated the contact by jumping into Faried.

Faried and the Eagles await the winner of Vanderbilt-Richmond

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Set Your Tivo: 03.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 12th, 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.

When we’re this late into Championship Week, every game is dynamite and a must-see event. There are too many games to preview in their entirety so here are a handful you absolutely have to watch today. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

ACC Semifinals (at Greensboro, NC): #5 Duke vs. Virginia Tech – 3:30 pm on ESPN (****)

With the status of Nolan Smith uncertain after suffering a toe injury yesterday (bad toes have killed the Blue Devils this year, right?), Virginia Tech can lock up a bid for certain with another win over Duke this afternoon. After a scintillating conclusion to their game against Florida State, one tenth of a second may be enough to vault this Hokies team into the Big Dance regardless of what happens today. If Smith can’t go, Kyle Singler and Seth Curry become Duke’s go-to players. Singler played like the guy we saw last year against Maryland yesterday, posting 29/9 on 10-15 FG, while Curry did a nice job filling in at the point after Smith left. Virginia Tech slowed the pace down in their win over Duke last month but more importantly committed only five turnovers in that game. The Hokies also held the Blue Devils to 20% shooting from three and owned the paint with Jeff Allen and Victor Davila combining for 29/25 in the win. To beat Duke for the second time, Seth Greenberg needs a similar game plan. If Duke can get out in transition, Virginia Tech’s limited depth will become a major concern, as will their propensity to turn the ball over. The Hokies are at their best playing in the half court where they work the ball inside to Allen and crash the glass, not when Malcolm Delaney is jacking up ill-advised deep shots leading to long rebounds and fast break points for the opponent. If Smith can’t go and Curry doesn’t make his teammates better, look for Virginia Tech to use a lot of zone (they might anyway) to force Duke into deep jumpers, especially Singler. He shot the ball poorly in the first meeting and was a big part of why Duke lost that game. A game like he had against Maryland will lead Duke to a win but Virginia Tech knows what is at stake and can definitely win this game if they stick to the blueprint we just outlined.

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Conference Tournament Daily Diary: Thursday

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2011

RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West.  Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site.  Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week.  Today’s coverage:  ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West & Pac-10.

ACC Tournament – by Kellen Carpenter

  • Miami-Virginia.  This was a truly bizarre game that I’m still not sure makes any sense.  Greensboro Coliseum was surprisingly packed for a 12 pm game between the 8 and 9 seed. Both teams boasted sizable and vocal fanbases who were each treated to a game of runs. Miami jumped out ahead, leading by six at the half, and then one of the weirdest second halves I have ever seen happened. Miami only scored eight points over the first 18 minutes of the second half. Virginia, rallying strongly, jumped out to a 50-39 lead with 2:15 left on the clock. Then Miami went nuts.  No, really. I’m still not sure what happened. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy by a series of weird, truly improbably events. Miami cut the eleven point deficit and forced an overtime which the Hurricanes suddenly dominated and walked away with a truly unexpected win. For a the first game of the ACC Tournament, it was not just a dinger, but a hum-dinger. Whenever you can get a crowd of Floridians and Virginians to scream their heads off in the early afternoon in North Carolina, you’ve put on quite a show. Beyond that, nothing about this game mattered.
  • Wake-BC.  After the drama of the Miami and Virginia game, any game with a team that had only managed to win one ACC game over the course of the season was bound to be a letdown. What was surprising to me, was the letdown in crowd energy. Winston-Salem, home of Wake’s campus, is a mere 20 minutes away, yet it seemed like the Demon Deacons had fewer fans present than Miami. Boston College had a very small and quiet contingent who seemed happy to quietly watch as the Eagles just took apart Wake. It really wasn’t much of a game, with the hyper-efficient Boston College offense firing on all cylinders (well, excepting the Raji cylinder). Reggie Jackson scored 27 points on 13 shots. Joe Trapani scored 22 points on 12 shots.  Nicholas Biko scored 21 points on 12 shots. Wake Forest’s porous defense could do little to stop them, and their impotence on the offensive end doomed them. Freshman Travis McKie was a bright spot, going 6-8 in the first half while the rest of his team struggled. But, for some stupefying reason, McKie only got two shots in the second half, one of these being a put-back dunk of his own manufacture. If there is a silver lining to that second half, it’s the fact that Wake actually managed to outscore BC, 36-34. Sadly, this was clearly not enough to make up for the 16 point deficit incurred in the first half. My favorite part of this game, was clearly the few, loud Wake Forest fans sitting directly behind me. One woman seemed particularly keen on trying to coach Travis McKie’s admittedly poor free throw shooting (2-5). Every time he got to the line she would yell “Bend your knees! Follow through!” If only he had listened? The season is mercifully over for Wake, and BC will get it’s chance at tougher competition tomorrow when they take on Clemson.
  • NC State-Maryland.  There were, as you might expect, an alarming number of loud, red-wearing people at this game. Maryland jumped out to an early lead which energized/enraged these loud, red-wearing fans. In response, the N.C. State band played Cee-Lo’s “Eff You,” which, when you think about it, is a perfect pep band song: catchy and insulting to the other team, while the lack of singing effectively makes it family friendly. Well-played, Wolf Pack band. That said, the pep band arrangement of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song was pretty excellent as well. And if the bands played with flair, the teams did too. There was more speed, athleticism, and acrobatic drives on display in this game than in the first two games combined. Cross-overs, spin moves, and behind the back dribbles on the fast break had the crowd frequently on its collective feet. Does Tracy Smith have the MVB (Most Valuable Beard) of this tournament? It’s hard to see anyone overtaking him. Maryland looked in command the whole game, but since Miami’s Miracle, there was a palpable nervousness in the crowd until the buzzer finally went off.
  • Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech controlled this game from the start and once it became clear that Georgia Tech could never catch up, the crowd that had gathered for the previous game started to vanish. Virginia Tech’s fans were consistently loud and even when the Hokies’ lead exceeded twenty, the fans took every call against them as if the game depended on it. Meanwhile, the Georgia Tech fans seemed resigned to his fate. Georgia Tech never managed to score more than a point per minute in the first half. It was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in a tournament setting, and remember, I watched the Wake Forest game earlier today. Virginia Tech played well enough, but I couldn’t help but be concerned about the minutes that the starters were playing. Malcolm Delaney played 39 minutes despite the massive lead VT held throughout. He only sat for the final minute of the game and that was after he had taken a needless hard foul. You have to wonder how such long minutes on consecutive days are going to affect the Hokies hopes of going deep into this tournament. Well, you don’t have to worry, but I would.

Big East Tournament – by Rob Dauster

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