AAC M5:03.25.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on March 25th, 2014

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Houston joins South Florida as AAC teams looking for a new leader, as head coach James Dickey stepped down for personal reasons on Monday afternoon. The main replacement candidate is former Oklahoma and Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson, who received a five-year show-cause order from the NCAA in 2008 for impermissible phone calls to recruits. Dickey, who completed four mediocre seasons at Houston (64-62), had one year left on his contract. “This has been a difficult decision to make. I continually preach to my players about being an everyday guy, and the balance of your personal and professional life is a major part of it,” the coach said. “With that being said, I have a family matter that requires my time and energy.”
  2. Another strong candidate has emerged for the other opening in the AAC, Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello, at South Florida. Masiello reached out to mentor Rick Pitino about the job opportunity when it was offered and Pitino told him It’d be a “grand slam.” Pitino said he thought USF was a marginal job in the Big East, but a great job in the AAC. Masiello, 36, led Manhattan to a 60-39 record including an NCAA Tournament appearance this season. Pitino said Masiello is both a great recruiter and an X-and-O’s coach. Stan Heath was fired after compiling a 97-130 mark in seven seasons.
  3. Even after sluggish wins in their first two games of the Tournament, Louisville remains one of the favorites to cut down the nets in North Texas. The Cardinals are the third favorite at 5 to 1, behind Florida (7/2) and Michigan State (9/2) to win it all, according to Bovada.LV. Rick Pitino’s squad is the favorite, however, with 11/10 odds, to win the Midwest Region. Connecticut on the other hand is the 13th betting favorite to win it all, tied with San Diego State and is the long shot to win the East Region with 9/2 odds. The site also gives odds to win the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four and Russ Smith (9/1) is the second betting favorite behind Scottie Wilbekin (7/1). Odds for the winner of the award last year, Luke Hancock, are 18/1. Montrezl Harrell also made the list with 20/1 odds, while Shabazz Napier comes in at 40/1.
  4. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer declared Friday as “Cardinal Red Day” and encouraged everyone to wear red. In 2012, Fischer made a similar declaration before the Kentucky vs. Louisville Final Four game and said the city set a world record for people wearing red in a single day. He hopes to break that record this week. “This is another great time to be a Louisvillian and to show your support for our hometown team,” he said. “I want to paint the town red — literally. Everyone knows that UK fans will be seeing red when the Cards win on Friday.” Fischer encouraged all businesses to display the Cardinals’ colors in their windows and for residents to do the same with their homes.
  5. Cincinnati needed more than Sean Kilpatrick throughout the season. In the Bearcats’ NCAA Tournament defeat to Harvard, the Bearcats needed more Kilpatrick. The senior finished with 18 points on just 13 shots, taking only four shots in the second half and going more than 13 minutes without attempting a shot. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, no one else picked up the slack as Kilpatrick was double-teamed and taken out of the game. It was a familiar story in Bearcats losses throughout the year, and nothing changed in the Tournament. Good defense can only take a team so far when it can’t find a way to put the ball in the hoop.
Share this story

Draft Deadline Winners and Losers: Big East Edition

Posted by mlemaire on May 3rd, 2013

The deadline to declare early entry for the NBA Draft has passed and as is apt to be the case with a league as good as the Big East, there were a number of teams in the conference that were waiting down to the wire to see who they would lose to the professional ranks and who they would get to keep on campus for one more season. 45 players officially announced they were declaring for the NBA Draft and six of those players came from the Big East. Here is some brief on analysis on which teams are feeling good about who they got back, and which teams were left wishing for just one more year. And yes, we do realize some of these teams won’t be in the Big East next season, but we are nostalgic and are looking into the past for as long as we can.

Winners:

Louisville

Russ Smith's Return Makes The Cardinals A Trendy Repeat Candidate (AP Photo).

Smith’s Return Makes The Cardinals A Candidate To Repeat (AP Photo)

Gorgui Dieng knew his stock wasn’t going to get any higher and so he headed off to the NBA, but Louisville expected that. What they likely didn’t expect was that All-Big East guard Russ Smith would announce his return to school, especially after his father was quoted as saying his son was as good as gone. Smith immediately becomes an early favorite for Big East Player of the Year honors and his play-making and shot-creating ability will be even more important to the Cardinals’ success now that Peyton Siva has graduated. The Cardinals defense will undoubtedly take a step back without Dieng, but Montrezl Harrell is ready to be a starter and don’t sleep on Stephan Van Treese, who showed signs in the NCAA Tournament of becoming more than just a serviceable backup.

Providence

There is no doubt that Ricardo Ledo could help the Friars next season and you could easily make the argument Ledo would be the most talented player on the team from the first day of practice but it is still good news that Ledo declared for the NBA Draft and is leaving the program without having played a single minute. It’s nothing against Ledo, who was only forced on to a college campus because the NBA barred their gates and has clearly had the NBA on his mind since he graduated high school, but in order to rebuild Providence for the long haul, coach Ed Cooley needs to build a foundation and one-and-done players like Ledo don’t help. The Friars have a chance to plant their flag near the top of the new Big East, and if Ledo came back, he would absolutely make the Friars better, but there is no guarantee  there would be enough shots to go around with chucker Bryce Cotton as his backcourt mate. There is also no chance that Ledo would be back for his junior season, which means a year of development for Ledo would be a wasted opportunity to get valuable experience for another guard. Ledo has always had his eye on the NBA and good for him, he shouldn’t have been dropped onto a college campus in the first place, now the program and fans can let him go and focus on the improvement of his classmates who will be back – Joshua Fortune or Kris Dunn.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Russ Smith’s Return to Louisville Inspires National Title Repeat Potential

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 25th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Most of college basketball’s truly elite programs annually grit their teeth and devise creative scholarship and recruiting stratagems to deal with an extremely unfortunate fact of roster life. The very best and most aspirational players usually aren’t in this here amateur basketball thing purely for the fun of it. They have their professional lives, their financial well-being, and that of their family’s, as overriding motivations to have the best and most NBA-translatable college career possible. They want to not only make it to the next level, but survive and enjoy the same unwavering fan support available at the college level (which, let’s just say professional fan bases are… blah) while earning the salary their talents rightfully warrant. Whereas in some cases the money and professional fame and draft stock considerations recommend a player’s departure after two or even one season, others elect to finish out their four years of eligibility in an uninterrupted cycle. These decisions – stay or go; money and bright lights or infectious fan bases and genuine campus pride; David Stern or Mark Emmert – are never easy, and if there ever were a case to illustrate the inner mental tug-of-war wrought in advance of a player’s draft decision, Louisville’s Russ Smith was an A-List prototype.

A return run to the Final Four, and possibly beyond, was made much more likely with Smith's announcement Wednesday (AP Photo).

A return run to the Final Four, and possibly beyond, was made much more likely with Smith’s announcement Wednesday (AP Photo).

Having already banked a Final Four appearance and national championship in consecutive seasons, won over the affection of his previously irascible head coach (to the point of influencing his racehorse naming rights), and scored boundless national media love over an endearingly reckless two years of mercurial point guard play, Russ Smith finished his national championship season with an utterly brutal decision to make: leave or stay? His erratic shooting and often-horrifying decision-making no doubt gave NBA scouts pause, as did his miniature stature and riverboat-gambler approach on the defensive end, but was it even reasonably possible that an eternally unrestrained Smith would boost his draft stock to any measurable degree in a potential return season? What were the chances Smith just was what he was, and anything he did next season wasn’t going to affect his status in such a way as to greatly improve his fortunes at the next level? Smith put the matter to rest Wednesday, and whether you agree with his decision on principle – whether you think it was in Smith’s best interest to cash in on a season that, in Ken Pomeroy’s wonky efficiency world, ranked better than any other last season – the upside for college hoops itself is tough to deny. Smith is back, and with the possible exception of Kentucky and its relentless fan base, everyone can come together in unison: This is a good thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story