Morning Five: 11.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. The 2004 USC football team might have some company soon after Dan Kane’s latest piece on the North Carolina academic scandal showed just how pervasive the academic fraud was on the 2005 North Carolina basketball team that won the national title. According to Kane, five members of that team–four of whom are labeled as “key players”–enrolled in 35 bogus classes with nine of them in the fall semester and 26 in the spring semester when they were on their way to winning the national title. The names of those five individuals have not been released, but we think it is safe to assume that Rashad McCants was one of them since he has come clean with his involvement in it. As for the other three “key players” they would have to include at least one other pretty big name as that UNC team only have seven players other than McCants even score 100 points the entire season. Regardless of which players were actually involved we cannot imagine the NCAA handling this any other way than to vacate that national title.
  2. Three teams–Virginia, Mississippi, and San Diego State–will be without significant pieces to start the season. At Virginia, junior forward Evan Nolte (2.8 points per game last season) and sophomore guard London Perrantes (5.5 points and team-leading 3.8 assists per game last season) were suspended for two preseason scrimmages and the team’s season-opener at James Madison for violation of team rules over the summer. At Mississippi, senior forward Aaron Jones (team leader with 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocker per game last season) was suspended for three games–an exhibition game and the first two regular season games–following a violation of team rules. The issue at San Diego State is not a suspension instead it is an injury as sophomore forward Matt Shrigley (5.2 points per game last season) will be out for a month after suffering a “small fracture” in his left elbow after being on the receiving end of a flagrant foul during an exhibition game.
  3. In this space we talk a lot about players getting suspended. What we don’t talk about very often is coaches having the sit out suspension. So that makes the decision by Kennesaw State to suspend Jimmy Lallathin for one game for a self-reported violation by the program interesting. What makes it even more interesting (or amusing depending on your point of view) is that Lallathin’s has not even coached a game as the official head coach yet. He did go 3-13 over the final two months of last season acting as an interim coach following the departure of Lewis Preston on January 3. And just to make the suspension a little more bizarre, the Kennesaw State administration decided to suspend Lallathin for the second game of the season–against California–so he will be available for their season-opener–against Syracuse.
  4. It always seems like the NCAA comes down to the wire with its decision regarding the eligibility of certain players. The case of Louisville freshman Shaqquan Aaron appears to be no different as he is still waiting to receive a response from the NCAA with the Cardinals opener coming up on Wednesday. Aaron, a top-30 recruit, reportedly submitted the final documents for the NCAA to review on Friday (truthfully, in most cases the timing of these decisions is probably more the fault of the player and his family than the NCAA) and is hopeful that he will get a (positive) response in time for Wednesday’s game against Minnesota. Even if he doesn’t start for the Cardinals, his presence should add some depth to the Cardinals in an area they need some more help.
  5. With all this talk of who won’t be available to start the season and who shouldn’t have been able to play nearly a decade ago, we do have one bit of positive news on Monday as BYU forward Kyle Collinsworth was cleared to play again after tearing his right ACL at the end of last season. Collinsworth, who averaged 14 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game last season while being named All-WCC, is a huge addition for the Cougars even if he is not back to full strength when the season starts. He probably won’t be enough to make the Cougars competitive with Gonzaga this season, but should make them a threat for second place in the conference and a possible NCAA Tournament bid.
Share this story

New Year’s Resolution For Power Conference Teams? No More Cupcakes – Conference Play Is Here

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 4th, 2014

With conference play arriving almost everywhere this weekend (it’s about time!), let’s take a peek at some of the major Saturday (and a few Sunday) games and storylines in college basketball’s seven major conferences.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The New League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The Recently-Birthed League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

AAC. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first-ever weekend of American Athletic Conference basketball! OK, so maybe it isn’t that exciting, but an old Conference USA matchup does offer the league a headlining game on 2014’s first Saturday. Cincinnati visits Memphis (12:00 ET, ESPN2) in an early match-up of presumed upper-echelon AAC teams, but look elsewhere if you seek a battle of stylistic comrades; the deliberate, defensively stout Bearcats (286th nationally in tempo, eighth in defensive efficiency) will look to put the clamps on an explosive Memphis squad that rarely presses the pause button (39th nationally in tempo, 19th in offensive efficiency). UConn and SMU, both 0-1 in league play, offer an alternate viewing option (2:00 ET, ESPNU), and with a visit to Louisville coming next, Larry Brown’s SMU team would be well served to get a win Saturday to avoid staring down the barrel of an 0-3 league start.

ACC. Will there be life after Jerian Grant for Notre Dame? If yes, then a visit from Duke (4:00 ET, CBS) will offer the Irish the chance to provide a more convincing affirmation than they offered in their first game without Grant – a gut-check overtime victory over Canisius. Garrick Sherman should have a chance to exploit the smallish Duke interior, no matter what Doug Gottlieb thinks about his beard. Elsewhere, Pitt and Syracuse join Notre Dame in making their ACC debuts. The Panthers visit NC State (12:00 ET, ESPN3), while the Orange play host to Miami (2:00 ET, ESPN3). And if you like defense, two of the nation’s 10 most efficient defensive units are set to meet in Tallahassee; Virginia and Florida State (5:00 ET, ESPN2) will tussle in a race to 50 between ACC sleepers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

O26 Buzz: This Week’s Storylines

Posted by Nicholas Patrick on January 3rd, 2014

Every Friday throughout the rest of the season, the Other 26 Microsite will dig into some of the top storylines featuring those leagues from the previous week.

1. Eye-Opening O26 Results from the Past Week

Kyle Collingsworth and his fellow BYU Cougars need to get back on track after opening WCC play with consecutive losses

Kyle Collingsworth and his fellow BYU Cougars need to get back on track after opening WCC play with consecutive losses

  • Saturday: UNC Greensboro 55, Virginia Tech 52: The Spartans’ complete list of victories against D-I opponents now includes High Point, Stetson, James Madison, oh, and a member of the ACC.
  • Saturday: Massachusetts 69, Providence 67 (OT): Derrick Gordon’s game-winner gave the Minutemen their fifth victory against power conference opponents.
  • Monday: Southern 116, Champion Baptist College 12: This game was already unsettling by the time CBC scored its first point (at that time, Southern had already put up 44 points).
  • Monday: Louisiana Tech 102, Oklahoma 98 (OT): Alex Hamilton scored 36 to lead the Bulldogs to their first win against a power conference opponent.
  • Monday: Pepperdine 80, BYU 74: The Cougars trailed from the opening minutes and finished a disheartening week that also included a loss to Loyola Marymount to open WCC play.
  • Tuesday: North Texas 61, Texas A&M 41: The Mean Green took charge midway through the first half and never looked back on their way to crushing the Aggies.
  • Thursday: Gonzaga 73, Saint Mary’s 51: If this blowout win over their primary WCC rival is any indication, the Zags may not have a true challenger for the conference crown.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Roundup: Week Four

Posted by Connor Pelton & Andrew Murawa on December 10th, 2013

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the fourth week of Pac-12 basketball.

Power Rankings (As voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler):

Arizona is once again the unanimous favorite, with Oregon the unanimous runner-up. From there, things get muddied, but we all agree that while there isn’t a lot of difference between Washington State and, say, USC, the Cougars have the basement sewn up tight.

booker dinwiddie

Askia Booker And Spencer Dinwiddie Led A Balanced Buffaloes Attack In Their Upset Of Kansas On Saturday.

  1. Arizona
  2. Oregon
  3. Colorado
  4. UCLA
  5. Stanford
  6. Arizona State
  7. California
  8. Utah
  9. USC
  10. Oregon State
  11. Washington
  12. Washington State

Game of the Week: Kansas @ Colorado: Marshall Henderson and Mike Moser trading punches and going to overtime deep in the heart of SEC country might have taken this title any other week, but this spot belongs to the thrilling meeting between Kansas and Colorado in Boulder over the weekend. The Buffaloes came in as winners of their last eight, but they had been handled easily by their only other Big 12 opponent on their schedule, Baylor, on the first night of the season. In front of a raucous sold-out home crowd on Saturday, they were determined not to let it happen again. It appeared as if coach Tad Boyle and Colorado had the signature win locked up with 1:40 remaining, up 68-62, but a 10-4 Jayhawks’ run, made possible by some crucial missed free throws, tied the game with five seconds to go. That was just where the Buffs wanted their old Big 12 mates. Askia Booker received an inbounds pass and took two dribbles and a euro-step before launching a three-pointer that sent the C-Unit into a frenzy, dog-piling and rushing the court.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Team Preview: Oregon Ducks

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 4th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Oregon Ducks

Strengths. The talent that Dana Altman has assembled in the post can compete with anyone in the Pac-12. Headlining that frontcourt is UNLV transfer Mike Moser, who just might be the biggest one-year pickup in the country this season. Moser is the fifth senior to transfer into Altman’s program in the past three years, and he brings star power, quickness and explosiveness as a face-up four along with him. Starting at small forward will be Northwest Florida State transfer Elgin Cook. Cook is replacing the do-everything E.J. Singler, and he provides a varied skill set that gives point guard Dominic Artis a lot of options. Finally, there’s forward/center Ben Carter. Carter may be the least talented of the trio at the start of the year, but he is highly-valued in Eugene as the designated “hustle player,” much like Arsalan Kazemi last season.

Moser Will Get A Chance To Fly Above California As A Member Of The Ducks In 2012-13 (credit: Stephen Lam)

Moser Will Get A Chance To Fly Above California As A Member Of The Ducks In 2012-13 (credit: Stephen Lam)

Weaknesses. As good as those above three will be in the post, the depth behind them is incredibly thin. With a solid one-two punch at the one and two and talent at small and power forward, the backups in the frontcourt could be the thing that drops this team from a top two Pac-12 finish to in the top four. Senior Richard Armadi has the body of a center but will have to play at the four, and sometimes even the three, because of the lack of depth. Armadi has some raw talent but it may be tough to display in a new role. And that’s the highlight of the second-string forwards and centers. Junior Jalil Abdul-Bassit and redshirt freshman Arik Armstead will also see time in the post, but only when needed.

Non-Conference Tests. All of Oregon’s acquired talent will be on full display on opening night in a made-for-ESPN tilt with Georgetown from Camp Humphreys, South Korea. Things ease up a bit after that, but a four-game stretch in mid-December may be one of the toughest in the Pac. Oregon goes to Mississippi, then meets Illinois in Portland before finishing the stretch by hosting a pair of likely NCAA Tournament teams, UC Irvine and BYU.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Optimism: Best Case Scenarios in the “West”

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 30th, 2013

Optimism. It’s what makes this an exciting time of year. You may have an idea what lies ahead for your team, but you don’t know for sure. Surprises happen. A freshman proves that the recruiting services were wrong, an underachieving group of seniors plays with new urgency, or the third-year coach’s offensive system finally clicks. In honor of this cliched “everyone has the same record” feeling, let’s take a glass half-full look at the 14 teams of the SEC. Here’s why each SEC “West” team will exceed their expectations in 2013-14.

To take a look at the SEC “East” teams’ best-case scenarios, click here.

Alabama

The Expectation: Middle of the pack SEC + NCAA Tournament bubble

Why They’ll Exceed It: Many feel that Julius Randle winning SEC Player of the Year is a foregone conclusion. Trevor Releford challenges this idea in becoming one of the top scorers in the country. As the returning SEC assists leader, he adds to this total by also setting up Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper, both of whom become more reliable perimeter shooters. Seven-footer’ Carl Engstrom shows no ill effects from his torn knee ligaments, and uses his size to create match-up problems on both ends. Forward Nick Jacobs builds on his improved play at the end of last season, and fills the rebounding void created by Moussa Gueye’s transfer. Anthony Grant rides his star point guard off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament.

Trevor Releford is the active SEC leader in points, assists and steals.

Trevor Releford is the active SEC leader in points, assists and steals.

Auburn

The Expectation: Bottom tier SEC + no NCAA Tournament

Why They’ll Exceed It: Yes, a three-win team replacing its leading scorer and best player (Frankie Sullivan) can exceed expectations. Virginia Tech transfer K.T. Harrell will be a big reason why. He was a 42 percent three-point shooter during his freshman year, and he recaptures his magic. Chris Denson provides a slashing counterpart and Tony Barbee finds himself with an offensively versatile backcourt. Freshman Tahj Shamsid-Deen grabs the point guard position and makes it all work. Change is inevitable with nine newcomers. Seven-foot freshman Ronald Delph and Brinas Griciunas join incumbent seven-footer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum to create a giant rotation other teams simply don’t have. Auburn fights its way to a .500 SEC record.

Arkansas

The Expectation: Middle of the pack SEC + NCAA Tournament bubble

Why They’ll Exceed It: Mike Anderson has elite talent in the form of freshmen forwards Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley. The duo join Coty Clarke to form a shot-blocking unit that can cover for aggressive defense by Razorback guards. This leads to steals and turnovers that fuel Anderson’s up-tempo system. Upperclassmen Mardracus Wade, Rashad Madden, Kikko Haydar and Rickey Scott improve as their collective eligibility ticks away. Even if none takes a giant step forward, they all play well enough to become the effective wave of players Anderson needs to pressure opposing guards. A reliable distributor must be found, and either Madden or Wade, the top two assist percentage returnees, grab that role. Arkansas finally wins a handful of road games, and Anderson returns to the NCAA Tournament with his high-pressure system in full gear.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Oregon and Oregon State

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 9th, 2013

October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up next; the Oregon schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

Oregon

Dana Altman's Oregon Team Is On The Rise, But They Have A Few Tests To Handle Before Pac-12 Play Begins In January. (credit: Alex Brandon)

Dana Altman’s Oregon Team Is On The Rise, But They Have A Few Tests To Handle Before Pac-12 Play Begins In January. (credit: Alex Brandon)

Cream of the Crop: vs Georgetown (11), vs Illinois (40)

Oregon has managed to get two high profile, neutral site games on its non-conference schedule. The Ducks will face Georgetown on opening night at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, in a game to be televised by ESPN. The Hoyas finished 2012-13 with a 25-7 record and notched six victories over Top 25 opponents. Of course, the last time we saw Georgetown, it was getting dunked all over by Florida Gulf Coast in an NCAA Tournament opener. Oregon’s second marquee opponent is Illinois, who they will meet in Portland on December 14 at 6:00 PM in a game also televised by the ESPN family of networks. It looked as if this would be a return game for former Oregon State point guard Ahmad Starksbut his transfer waiver was denied last week by the NCAA. The Fighting Illini are still loaded at guard, with both Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand returning.

Solid Names: San Francisco (167), Pacific (97), Cal Poly (164), @ Mississippi (48), UC Irvine (126), BYU (63)

Mississippi headlines the second group, and the Ducks and Rebels will meet December 8 in Oxford. The game will tipoff at 2:00 PM and be carried by ESPNU. Dynamite senior Marshall Henderson is back after leading Ole Miss with 20.1 PPG last year, and while the guard is currently suspended, he will likely be back by December. Outside of him, however, the Rebels are pretty thin, and a finish in the lower half of the SEC is likely. BYU presents a challenge for Oregon. The Ducks and Cougars will play December 21 in Eugene, and the team that won 24 games in the 2012-13 campaign is expected to compete with Gonzaga for the WCC title. Pacific is the only other team on Oregon’s non-conference slate with a double digit RPI.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 07.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 12th, 2013

morning5

  1. The story surrounding Marshall Henderson‘s suspension continues to evolve with the latest news being that he was pulled over on May 4 for speeding (the article says “suspicion of speeding”, but we have no idea what that means). When the officer approached the car he smelled marijuana and Henderson handed him a bag containing marijuana and a subsequent search revealed a small amount of cocaine. Additional details around the traffic stop remain unclear, but it appears that Henderson was only issued a citation for not having insurance and somehow was not cited for possession of drugs. We are not clear on the drug laws in Mississippi, but it appears that an individual would not be prosecuted if the amount of cocaine was less than one-tenth of a gram so perhaps Henderson was able to escape the school’s radar for the time if they were not informed of this part of the citation.
  2. However, as Andy Katz notes the Mississippi staff tried to address Henderson’s substance abuse issues at least six weeks ago as when they reached out to former basketball star turned drug abuse speaker Chris Herren to help get through to Henderson. As you might have guessed the call was never returned and Henderson continued his downward spiral in some course leading to the announcement of his suspension yesterday. It appears that Henderson has finally spoken with Herren so it appears that at least that line is open to Henderson. We voiced our opinion on how the media (and the public) handles issues around substance abuse in particular when combined with race, but we just hope that Henderson is able to get his life together even if that does not involve a significant basketball career.
  3. The next round of criticism of the NCAA is set to begin with USA Today‘s analysis of the the NCAA’s 2011 tax return. Among the interesting aspects of the document the one that will probably get the most attention is the Mark Emmert’s compensation package totaling $1,674,095, which is primarily base compensation ($1,201,159), but also includes retirement/deferred compensation ($234,300), undefined reportable compensation ($214,947), and nontaxable benefits ($23,689). Although the overall size of his compensation package is not that outlandish compared to many CEOs of public companies it will certainly raise some eyebrows especially given the political environment surrounding the NCAA now. As the article notes there were three other executives who made more than $500,000 that year. The other interesting aspect of the tax return was that it spent $9.5 million on legal expenses during the fiscal year. We have no idea what the breakdown of that was in terms of legal action against it or to pay for its legal counsel in ongoing cases, but we figure that with the momentum behind the Ed O’Bannon case that number may rise over the next few years.
  4. One of the issues surrounding prep schools (aka basketball factories) is the concern that many of their players will not be eligible to play college athletics due to issues regarding their academic workload at these “schools”. Prime Prep, a school in Texas co-founded by Deion Sanders, appears to be one of those schools and yesterday the NCAA ruled that two of its graduates–Jordan Mickey and Karviar Shephardwere not academically eligible due to academic issues at the school. Mickey, a top-50 recruit who committed to LSU, and Shepherd, a top-100 player who committed to TCU, reportedly had been informed by the school that they would be eligible to play NCAA sports with their grades and the coursework they had completed. However, that appears not to be the case. Some people may point out that it is the student’s responsibility to make sure they are eligible, but realistically this falls on the school because you cannot expect a teenager, who is at most 18- (or 19-) years old to be able to navigate all the details of NCAA eligibility without the help of experienced adult. Both players will appeal the decision, but may have to sit out this season. It is worth keeping an eye on this because the school also has two players who are top-5 players in the next two graduating classes.
  5. Last December, Mississippi State and Loyola (IL) played a game to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their historic NCAA Tournament game where the Mississippi State players had to sneak out of Mississippi in order to play an integrated team. Many view it as one of the key moments in sports in relation to the civil rights movement of the era (one that would eventually be overshadowed in the annals of history by the 1966 NCAA Championship Game). On Saturday, Leland Mitchell, one of the most prominent players on that Mississippi State team died at his home in Starkville. Mitchell, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the game before fouling out with over six minutes remaining in the 61-51 loss, and his teammates acknowledged that they did not understand the significance of the game at the time in the context of the larger social change that was happening around them. As Mitchell noted, “We were making history. We were ambassadors for the South, though none of us realized it at the time.”
Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 03.15.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 15th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. With Wednesday’s season-ending, 64-58 loss to Colorado, Oregon State dropped 15 of its final 19 games in the 2012-13 season. For a coach in his fifth season that hasn’t taken his team to a postseason tournament better than the CBI, that’s enough for some serious hot seat discussion. Grady Garrett hits it right on the head in this column, stating that while Craig Robinson may not deserve a sixth year, blowing up the team with so much potential is not worth it. So Robinson has one more chance. Roberto Nelson returns. So do Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, and Ahmad Starks. The pieces are there, and it’s up to Robinson to put them together.
  2. Ken Goe has an interesting piece up on the move from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, and more specifically, the move to the MGM Grand Garden Arena. All 12 teams are staying at the MGM Grand, and with the hotel operating a sports book accepting bets on Pac-12 Tournament games, one wonders what kind of trouble a player could get into with a little downtime and close proximity to sports book, boosters, and gamblers. The league office said that it’s not something they have even talked about, especially in light that the players aren’t allowed in in the sports book. Still, an interesting situation that only the Pac-12 and WCC (playing at Orleans Arena) find themselves in.
  3. With California‘s overtime loss against Utah on Thursday night, it’s time to panic for Golden Bears fans. The general consensus is that the bad loss dropped Cal squarely back onto the bubble, and while that may be true, I still like their résumé over most of the other bubble teams. The only worrisome item at play is the loss of their final two games. Teams like Tennessee (winners of its last three) and Mississippi (won its last two) are hot and can make a reasonable case over Cal because of the way they completed the regular season.
  4. After one of his worst first halves of basketball ever, Oregon forward Arsalan Kazemi wondered if he’d get a chance to redeem himself in the final 20 minutes against Washington on Thursday night. Kazemi only had one point at halftime, but once he got on the court again, the energy was at a level rarely seen. Feeding off fellow big man Tony Woods, the pair answered everything Washington threw at them and eventually pulled out a three-point win in overtime. Woods and Kazemi ended up combining for 17 rebounds and 33 points on the night.
  5. We close with an update from our Pac-12 Tournament Pick’Em, where our regular season champion is taking it to the rest of us again. Parker leads everyone with nine points, with the next closest competitors being Adam and I at seven. Drew is currently in last place, struggling to get past the five-point mark. The two projected champions by the four of us are still alive (UCLA and Arizona), but of course, one of those teams will be eliminated when they face off tonight.
Share this story

Ten Tuesday (Wednesday) Scribbles: On Underwhelming Teams, Soft Schedules, Wisconsin and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. The Super Bowl marks the beginning of a two month stretch where college basketball dominates the national sports scene. From now until April 8, the focus will be squarely on our terrific sport. Sure it can be frustrating for the diehard fans that have been following every game since early November but the attention of the casual fans is what drives coverage and television ratings. The unfortunate reality is that without casual fan interest, college basketball would exclusively be a niche sport. We all have had that NCAA Tournament pool experience where the person who starts watching in February or March and knows very little other than team names and rankings wins the pool while the person who studies the efficiency metrics and knows that Travis Trice is a great three point shooter but awful inside the arc (h/t Luke Winn) finishes near the bottom of the pool standings. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time of year as bubble talk, last four in and last four out quickly creep into the daily sports conversation. Games like Tuesday night’s Ohio State/Michigan classic are what drive interest in the sport. We’ve been treated to plenty of great games this season but this one couldn’t have come at a better time, a time when most of America is now squarely focused on college basketball. Strap in, it’s going to be really fun as we head into the part of the season where every game is so big and teams make their final push towards March.
  2. As we move into this crucial part of the season, the issue of teams peaking early can become a concern for some. The season is a process, an evolution if you will, and not every team is playing its best basketball come March. As I look across the nation, there are a few teams that may have already peaked or are peaking right now and may not be able to sustain their current level of play into March. Oregon, NC State, Miami and Butler come to mind. Two losses to the Bay Area schools have put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Is it a short term blip or a sign of things to come for the Ducks? Their ability to score and propensity for turnovers are causes for concern but Oregon’s defense is surprisingly solid. NC State’s issue is just the opposite. The Wolfpack certainly can score, although their offense was shut down in losses to Maryland and Virginia. However, defense has been a problem all year and NC State’s efficiency, ranked #141 in the country, is simply not at a level where you can win games consistently. Chances are the Wolfpack have already peaked and their inability to stop teams will catch up to them eventually. Miami is a case of a team that may be peaking as we speak. The Hurricanes have won 10 consecutive games in a variety of different ways. This fact (meaning they can play different styles/speeds) combined with a defensive efficiency ranked fourth in the country suggest Miami can sustain this level of play. Concerns for the Hurricanes include three point shooting, free throw shooting and offensive rebounding but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami hold steady, at least for the next few weeks. Butler is an interesting case. The Bulldogs are 18-4 (5-2) but have lost two of their four games since the emotional win over Gonzaga on January 19 while also struggling through a win over lowly Rhode Island. Butler’s league isn’t as tough as the other teams mentioned here so it will likely enter the NCAA Tournament with a very strong record. Of concern is the BU defense which is not at the elite level it was when the Bulldogs first went to the national title game three years ago. However, it would be foolish to doubt Brad Stevens and his group. With a soft schedule down the stretch, there is still time for Butler to pile up wins and gather confidence heading into the tournament. I would say Butler has not peaked yet despite some major wins already on its resume. Look out for the Bulldogs next month.

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

  3. As we head into February and the regular season begins to wind down, I figure this is a good time to look at a few of America’s underwhelming teams. There are teams out there with gaudy records but few quality wins or those who just haven’t gotten on track relative to preseason expectations. Notre Dame, UNLV, UCLA and Missouri come to mind immediately. Notre Dame is 18-5 and 6-4 in the Big East which appears good on the surface but this was a team many thought would finish third in that rugged conference. However, a closer inspection reveals the Irish have just two quality wins on their resume (Kentucky (maybe) and at Cincinnati). In Big East play, Notre Dame has lost twice on its home court, something that has been almost unheard of over the years in South Bend. Notre Dame has never been a defensive juggernaut under Mike Brey but this is arguably his worst defensive team in 13 years at the helm. UNLV is a team with lots of talent that always leaves you wanting more, always following up a stretch of good play with a disappointing loss. The Rebels struggle away from Vegas which is understandable but you would still like to see them beat a few good teams on the road. They have failed to do that. UNLV can still turn it around but I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Three consecutive first round NCAA flameouts show that UNLV isn’t quite ready for primetime. In fact, the Rebels have not won a postseason game since a first round victory over Kent State in 2008. UCLA is still a work in progress but there is no denying it has been underwhelming. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games since winning 10 straight games after a disappointing 5-3 start. Defense has been a concern all season long but it’s the offense that has scuttled of late. Five of UCLA’s final seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Arizona. Things could get a little dicey down the stretch for the Bruins. Missouri is the team I feel is the most overrated of all. Despite a resume that lacks one single freaking SEC road win and non-conference wins over fading Illinois and mediocre Stanford, the Tigers continue to be ranked in both major polls. Missouri is not a good defensive team and has given up a lot of points to pretty much every good team it has played. Phil Pressey can be a great distributor but he’s also a turnover machine and a poor jump shooter. Mizzou will probably make the NCAA Tournament but an early departure is highly likely. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On The Mountain West, Ole Miss, Villanova and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 29th, 2013

tuesdayscribbles

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. A lot of people are pumping up the Mountain West Conference this season and rightly so. Trailing only the Big Ten and Big East in the Pomeroy ratings, the Mountain West has seven of its nine teams in the top 100. Two Mountain West teams made the AP top 25 this week (New Mexico and San Diego State) while another (UNLV) is knocking on the door. That said, I don’t believe there is a single elite team in this league. The parity in this league makes for great action night after night but I would be surprised if any of these teams makes a legitimate run at the Elite Eight or Final Four. San Diego State and UNLV probably have the best potential to advance in the NCAA Tournament but each has too many flaws to make a serious run in my opinion. San Diego State does a number of things well but I question its ability to score against good competition and get a bucket when it is really needed. I think the Aztecs are the best in the Mountain West but their lack of size and occasional scoring issues will be their downfall. As for UNLV, it may have the most talent of any team in the league. But talent doesn’t always equal wins. Anthony Bennett is a flat out stud but the Rebels struggle against teams that can match their athleticism but also against teams that can slow it down and make it a half court game. UNLV’s turnover issues and shaky play away from Las Vegas are also major causes for concern. It always seems that whenever the Rebels look like they’re about to turn the corner, they lose. The win at San Diego State was a positive but UNLV gave it right back by losing to Colorado State three days later. This has been a trend for UNLV over the years as it just can’t seem to sustain a high level of play. A questionable or disappointing loss always seems to follow a nice win. New Mexico is an interesting team. Steve Alford has built a nice program in Albuquerque but I have been down on this team for the better part of the season despite its record. The Lobos really struggle to score, as evidenced by the putrid 34 points they put up in Saturday’s blowout loss at San Diego State. It’s disappointing because they have talented guards and a solid big man in Alex Kirk. Similar to UNLV, New Mexico often has a letdown after a period of strong play. The Lobos started 12-0 then lost at home to South Dakota State. Then they went on the road and beat Cincinnati, only to lose the next game in uncompetitive fashion to St. Louis. Then they won four straight (including at Boise State and vs. Colorado State) before getting blown out by the Aztecs. Until New Mexico proves it can consistently beat good teams, I will have my doubts. The Mountain West is really fun to watch but don’t get carried away about the league’s postseason prospects.

    Steve Fisher, San Diego State

    Steve Fisher may have the best team in the Mountain West (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  2. One team out west that I feel does have the potential to go deep is Gonzaga. I do have a few concerns about the Bulldogs but I really do believe this is the best team Mark Few has ever assembled in Spokane. The Zags have the perfect balance with talented guards and strong players around the rim. Kelly Olynyk is having a spectacular season coming off a redshirt year and he anchors a strong frontcourt that also features the uber-athletic Elias Harris. Gonzaga is tough to match up with because it can score in so many different ways. If you zone the Zags, you risk Kevin Pangos dropping a ton of threes on you while giving up a lot of offensive rebounds. If you play man-to-man, Pangos can penetrate and dish to the big men at will or Gonzaga will run him off ball screens for plenty of good looks from deep. Gonzaga, with the nation’s fourth-ranked offensive efficiency, is incredibly difficult to contain on that end of the floor. The Bulldogs have been held under 70 points only five times in 21 games. The way to beat Gonzaga is to be physical and take advantage of its very average defense. Few’s team struggles to defend ball screens and is vulnerable against teams with a rugged style of play. You often get a lot of rugged, slow it down games in the NCAA Tournament and Gonzaga is going to have to sure up its defense by March in order to survive. That said, Gonzaga’s offensive prowess is a huge asset and one that should carry it to at least two NCAA Tournament victories in a perfect world. Of course, the world isn’t perfect and basketball games, more than any other sport, are often determined by match-ups. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Set Your DVR: Week of 01.28.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 28th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Things are a little quiet this week with mostly match-ups between top and bottom teams in the conferences.  However, there are a few games that mean a lot to certain teams, including those in some of the smaller conferences. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Pittsburgh at #8 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

Pitino needs to stop the bleeding at Louisville (AP)

  • Louisville is in an absolute must-win situation. They have lost their last three games and have struggled at crunch time with opportunities to win. Everyone keeps saying the Cardinals still could be the team to beat in March. However, history shows that teams that lose three games in a row during the regular season rarely win the title. Only four teams since 1980 have lost three games in a row and still managed to win the whole thing – 1982-83 North Carolina State, 1984-85 Villanova, 1987-88 Kansas, and 2005-06 Florida. Only one team in history has lost four games in a row and still won the tourney – Danny Manning and the Miracles (Kansas actually lost five straight at one point that season). The reality is that Rick Pitino‘s team is a poor shooting team and unless they get that corrected quickly, Louisville should not be considered a threat to win it all. Pittsburgh on the other hand seems to be turning things around. After starting 1-3 in conference play, they have managed to rattle off four straight wins. Both teams need a win to stay within two games of Syracuse and Marquette in the Big East. Pitt has improved their shooting and offensive rebounding in the last four contests and has been able to play tough defense without putting teams on the line. Keep a close eye on how Pitt does in the paint against Louisville shot blocker Gorgui Dieng. The Panthers are not a threat from three, so most of their points will come from inside the arc. For Louisville, they need to convert their turnovers into points by simply hitting shots. While Pittsburgh is not as long as Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown, they are not short. So Pitino’s crew needs to get to the basket for lay-ups and dunks. Shooting over the top is not a great way to break a shooting slump. Watch Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, as their performance on the interior will be the key to Louisville breaking their losing streak.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story