Morning Five: 10.09.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 9th, 2013

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  1. The biggest news in the college hoops universe on Tuesday without a doubt sent a shudder through the spines of the rest of the country’s basketball powerhouses. Class of 2014 wing Kelly Oubre tweeted that he will be attending Kansas next season, which taken by itself may not be a remarkable piece of information. But the fact that the top-10 recruit chose KU after visiting Lawrence for Late Night in the Phog last weekend, and the additional fact that he cancelled his official visit to Kentucky next week for Big Blue Madness, and the third fact that Kansas head coach Bill Self has signed four top-20 prospects in the last 12 months… well, let’s just say that Self has never had trouble winning with good talent. What will he be able to do with great talent? Oubre is a great early pickup for the Jayhawks and his commitment may just be the tip of the iceberg in Lawrence — top-five prospects Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are visiting soon and KU is reported as one of the purported “package deal’s” four finalists (along with Duke, Baylor and Kentucky). We’ll have more on the topic of Oubre and Bill Self’s hot hand in recruiting later today.
  2. That’s for next year, what about this season? The two highest-quality basketball leagues that are not members of the “power seven” conferences released their preseason polls and all-conference teams on Tuesday. The new-look Atlantic 10 features a 13-team field with high expectations for Shaka Smart’s VCU program, chosen as the #1 team (with 19 first-place votes) in its first year in the league. Jim Crews’ Saint Louis squad was the only other team to earn #1 votes (five), but we’re certain that this league will not be a cake walk for either team — the A-10 always produces one of the nuttiest regular season slates in college basketball. The conference’s five-member preseason first team features two VCU players, guard Treveon Graham and forward Juvonte Reddic. La Salle, sitting quietly in third place in the preseason poll, placed three players on the league’s three preseason teams, more than any other squad. Keep an eye on the Explorers this year.
  3. Across the country, the Mountain West released its preseason poll as well, and even with the loss of former head coach Steve Alford, New Mexico appears to be the team to beat (grabbing all but one #1 vote). The remaining #1 vote went to UNLV, tied for second with Boise State, with head coach Dave Rice looking to replace a whole lot of talent that didn’t quite mesh well together. The MW was sensible enough to pick only a single preseason team of six players, with New Mexico placing preseason POY Kendall Williams as well as center Alex Kirk on the squad. Boise had a couple selections as well, wing Anthony Drmic and guard Derrick Marks. UNLV’s Khem Birch and Nevada’s Deonte Burton filled out the group. The quiet team in this year’s Mountain West is San Diego State, picked fourth — Steve Fisher’s team has not finished below that spot in the regular season standings in nearly a decade (2004-05), so even though the Aztecs also lost a great deal of talent, we’d expect that they too will be heard from.
  4. We’re not going to be one of those schadenfreude types who takes great pleasure in the misfortune of others, but we heard more than a few snickers in the background earlier this week when news was released that Murray State’s Zay Jackson had torn both the ACL and LCL in his right knee during a recent practice and will miss the entire season. If the name sounds familiar to you, it should; Jackson made international headlines for all the wrong reasons a little over a year ago when he was videotaped running his car into another person after a verbal altercation in a Walmart parking lot. He served a total of 60 days in jail on assault and wanton endangerment charges, and at least from reports surrounding the Murray program this year, he had grown up and put the incident behind him. His father had also passed away recently, so we certainly wish him well going forward and hope that he uses his rehabilitation time wisely.
  5. We’ve written previously about the NFL’s recent trend in looking at some of college basketball’s better athletes to fill some out its roster spots, especially at the tight end position, and the world is starting to take notice. New Orleans’ tight end Jimmy Graham, an explosive but otherwise average forward on the Miami (FL) basketball teams of the late 2000s, just won the NFC Offensive Player of the Month award, the first ever given to a tight end in its nearly 3o-year history. His September of work resulted in 26 receptions and six touchdowns to help the Saints off to a quick 4-0 start, and as this article describes, guys like he, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron are completely changing the concept of the position in NFL circles. We’ve known all along that college basketball’s best athletes are some of the most versatile and skilled in the world — it’s interesting that both homegrown and other sports around the globe are starting to take notice.
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Morning Five: 05.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2013

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  1. Perhaps feeling green with envy that Louisville’s Rick Pitino (championship, tattoo, Derby) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (recruiting, NCAA) were receiving all the offseason college basketball attention, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got himself back into the conversation this week with his comment to SI.com‘s Pete Thamel that he is considering a return to coach USA Basketball’s men’s national team again in 2014 (Worlds) and 2016 (Olympics). We’re kidding about the jealousy bit — sorta — but coaches gotta coach, and everyone has trouble stepping away from doing the thing they love most. Mike DeCourcy writes that the numerous Duke haters who simply cannot endure anything associated with the four-time national championship head coach miss the point — Coach K (and certainly Jerry Colangelo) made the concept of preparing and competing for Team USA cool again. Prior to their involvement, players showed up and expected to win simply because, well, because they thought they could. Miserable performances in the 2002 Worlds (sixth) and 2004 Olympics (third) led to the system we now have in place, and for that Krzyzewski should absolutely be lauded and celebrated by every American who cares about USA basketball.
  2. It certainly doesn’t have the ring or cachet of its predecessor at the Garden, but the inaugural AAC Tournament is beginning to look a lot like the old Conference USA Tournament (and the old Great Midwest Tournament; and the old Metro Tournament) in that it may be headed to Memphis. Don’t get us wrong, the city of Memphis has a tremendous local fan base that loves college basketball and will fill the FedEx Forum with their beloved Tigers now in the new league. But can we liven this thing up a little bit in its first go-round — how about slotting in the top four seeds into the conference semifinals and leaving it at that? A semifinal round of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut next March wouldn’t be awful, and we’ll even allow you to throw in Temple in place of Cincy if the Bearcats falter. Deal?
  3. We’re a big believer in second chances, especially when someone who has done wrong can show that they’ve learned from their previous mistakes. Still, we believe there should be limitations to those reprisals, and we’re having a little trouble swallowing the Zay Jackson story at Murray State. You remember Jackson — he was the Racer guard who rather infamously ran over a man with his car in a Walmart parking lot last September – according to Andy Katz’s report earlier this week, after serving 49 days in jail for hit-and-run, MSU’s athletic department has decided to allow him back on the team. The school apparently (?) did not have a protocol to deal with situations like these, but how about a protocol of redemption and common sense? Again, we support the concept of a second chance. The young man served his time and by all indications hasn’t caused any problems since his release. But wouldn’t this be a situation where both parties would be better served by shaking hands with each other and walking away? Wouldn’t Jackson want to have a fresh start at another school? Does Steve Prohm really want to endure the endless mocking and jeering his team will suffer as a result of this decision? At a minimum, how about ensuring that Jackson can keep his nose clean for an entire year (just school and practice) before allowing him the privilege of playing college basketball again? Poor form here, we’re afraid.
  4. Depending on whom you ask, the voluminous and growing number of transfers is destroying the integrity of the collegiate game or finally shifting the balance of power back to the producers of all that money flowing to the schools — the players. But the coaches still have several dirty tricks up their sleeve when needed, and the power to “block” transfers from alighting to certain schools is one of the more nefarious ones. Sometimes the notion derives from a misguided but legitimate attempt to protect “trade secrets,” but more often it just seems that the coaches are vindictively limiting the players simply because they can. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings’ blockage of freshman Sheldon Jeter from transferring closer to his hometown school of Pittsburgh has the look and feel of exactly that. Pitt and Vandy are not in the same league, nor are they scheduled to play next season; in fact, they haven’t played in over two decades. So what’s the deal here? Why on earth would Vanderbilt care if a mediocre freshman wanted to play closer to home for the rest of his career — what possible reason could Stallings have other than “because he can.” Remember, college athletics is about the student-athletes.
  5. Remember the San Diego/Brandon Johnson bribery incident a couple of years ago? That’s OK, nobody else does either. For something that supposedly destroys the very integrity of a sport by its very existence, it sure seems as if incidents like these are quickly reported and summarily swept right on under the rug so as to not get in the way of moving right along. As this FBI narrative reports, Johnson was convicted of point shaving during four games in the 2009-10 season, and he was ultimately outed when the criminal enterprise that had recruited him was investigated for drug trafficking. The FBI report states that “tampering with sports events strikes at the integrity of the games; this kind of betrayal is not merely disappointing—it is criminal and worthy of prosecution,” but the greater public has largely not seemed to care all that much. They still attend and watch games, fill out brackets, and enjoy all the other accessories of being a college sports fan. Maybe we’re all so ambivalent to scandal that we’ve become accustomed to it — as a sort of new normalcy. Oh hey, IRS. How’s it going?
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The Other 26: Saturday’s Top Five Bracketbuster Games and More…

Posted by IRenko on February 22nd, 2013

other26

This weekend marks the end of the decade-long Bracketbuster era — or experiment, depending on your perspective. Sadly, if appropriately, it looks like the event will go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Not a single game features a top 25 team, resulting in little hype for this year’s slate. But for true mid-major basketball fans, no top 25 ranking, or lack thereof, is going to dissuade them from devouring the late season, inter-conference action among the country’s best, under-the-radar-until-March teams. Here’s a preview of the five Bracketbuster games we’re most looking forward to, followed by an updated Top 10, our weekly honor roll, and the most compelling non-Bracketbuster games of the coming week.

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

  1. Creighton at St. Mary’s (6 pm, ESPN) — Both teams enter what is perhaps the premier Bracketbuster matchup with a great deal to prove. Creighton’s hot 17-1 start has given way to a rough 5-5 stretch, as the depth of the MVC has taken its toll. In four of those five losses, Creighton’s once unstoppable offense slowed to a pace of less than a point per possession. An at-large Tournament bid remains a safe bet, even with a loss to St. Mary’s, but the Bluejays are no doubt looking to this game to reignite their offense and their season. St. Mary’s, on the other hand, is in desperate need of a quality win for its Tournament resume. Having been swept by Gonzaga, Saturday’s matchup is a virtual must-win for the Gaels. Both teams have highly efficient offenses that rely heavily on the three-point shot. Whichever defense can step up its game may emerge with the win.
  2. Ohio at Belmont (10 pm, ESPN) – This should be a really entertaining game between two teams who love to run and gun. But for the colors of their jerseys, it may be hard to tell the two apart, as the Bobcats and Bruins have remarkably similar statistical profiles. Both are high-possession squads that shoot more than 40 percent of their field goals from three-point range and rank in the top 20 nationally in forcing turnovers. Both have high effective field goal percentages, but rebound poorly and allow their opponents to shoot far more free throws than they do. Toss in a great point guard matchup between seniors D.J. Cooper and Kerron Johnson, and you have the ingredients for a great nightcap to the day’s action. 
  3. South Dakota State at Murray State (8 pm, ESPN2) – Neither team is as good as it was last season, but both returned their star player. And it’s their matchup at the point guard spot, with Nate Wolters squaring off against Isaiah Canaan, that makes this a must-see game. The two players are the heartbeats of their respective team’s offenses. Each uses roughly 30 percent of all possessions, ranking them in the top 50 in the country. Wolters has been on a particularly nasty tear of late, averaging more than 33 points over his last five games, though two of his 30-plus efforts in that stretch were in defeat. Canaan, meanwhile, is coming off his own 35-point outburst in a win over Morehead State.
  4. Detroit at Wichita State (4 pm, ESPN2) — Wichita State has bounced back from a recent three-game swoon with a four-game win streak that includes two close victories over Illinois State and Indiana State this past week. They’ll be the favorites against Detroit, but his game has definite upset potential. Detroit is on the upswing, winning six of their last seven, and developing a potent offensive attack with a multitude of options, from Ray McCallum’s attacking ability to Jason Calliste’s three-point shot to Nick Minnerath’s versatile inside-out game to Doug Anderson’s physical interior play. The Titans will try to push the tempo, while the Shockers will try to slow things down and pound the ball inside to their big men Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who may find success against Detroit’s mediocre interior defense.
  5. Denver at Northern Iowa (8 pm, ESPN3) — After a rough 4-6 start to MVC play, Northern Iowa has righted the ship and fought its way back to where we thought it would always be — at the top of the league standings, just a step behind Wichita State and Creighton. They face a Denver team that has flown a bit under the radar, recovering from a slow start to the season to win 13 of their last 14 games. A trip to Cedar Falls will be a test of just how far the Pioneers have come. Expect a low-possession, halfcourt-oriented game, with a steady barrage of three-point shots. The Panthers have a balanced attack, with five players averaging between 9 and 13 points. Denver will turn primarily to Chris Udofia, the versatile forward who is the hub of their Princeton offense.

And now on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and the (other) games we’re keeping an eye on …

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Morning Five: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2012

  1. UCLA is lately starting to challenge Kentucky in terms of its news-making prowess as it seems like we’re discussing some new twist with Ben Howland’s team virtually every day in this space. The latest news out of Westwood is that still-ineligible superstar freshman Shabazz Muhammad injured his right shoulder in practice on Wednesday and underwent an MRI last evening to determine if there is any damage to the joint. He’ll be re-evaluated as a matter of course today, but at least so far, sources around the Bruins have been mum on the possible extent of his injury. This comes on the heels of an injury to David Wear’s ankle that has kept the big man out of practice for the last several days, not to mention the continuing dark cloud hovering over the program as a result of the ongoing NCAA investigations of Muhammad (the best wing in college basketball, according to CBSSports.com) and Kyle Anderson. Is there a turning point coming soon or are this year’s Bruins simply doomed from the start?
  2. One school that has found clarity on the eligibility of one of its key players is Murray State. School administrators have made the difficult but correct decision to suspend guard Zay Jackson for the entire 2012-13 season as a result of his dastardly actions last month in using his car as a human battering ram in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We wrote in this very space last week that athletic director Allen Ward had no reasonable choice other than to bring the hammer down on Jackson, and it appears that in light of the shocking video showing Jackson’s rage, he certainly acceded to public pressure. Ward stated that Jackson could earn his way back on to the team next season, but it would take a showing of steps “above and beyond… [those] of an exemplary citizen” to prove to Ward, head coach Steve Prohm, and his teammates that he deserves a second chance. We’ll say this — the legal system will have its pound of flesh (Jackson will be sentenced next week for wanton endangerment) and now the school will have its penance as well. If Jackson wants to atone for his sins, he’ll have what should be a one-time opportunity to make things good in the next 50 weeks until the start of the 2013-14 season.
  3. Don’t you hate when you read a piece that you wish you had already written? That’s exactly how we felt yesterday when we became aware of a fantastic article from The Atlantic‘s Stephen A. Miller that discusses an eminently reasonable solution to much of the perceived and actual inconsistencies in the NCAA‘s application of its rules. Outsource it. Miller argues that the NCAA carries so many inherent risks with its existing enforcement structure — conflicts of interest, inadequate funding, arbitrary and capricious rulings, a perception of playing favorites — that paying an outside entity to build a fair, transparent and consistent body of case law would result in growth in the one thing that the NCAA has trouble selling to the public right now: a strong perception of integrity. Miller’s piece is well worth the time for a read, but in the protect-your-own environment that we live in today, this has about as much chance of happening as Mark Emmert sprouting wings and delivering papers to Shabazz Muhammad’s dorm room.
  4. A really interesting bit of news was released as part of a SiriusXM show Wednesday hosted by Mike Krzyzewski (“Basketball and Beyond“) with Louisville head coach Rick Pitino giving some insight as to how he ended up back in the Bluegrass State after an unsuccessful stint with the Boston Celtics. According to Pitino, it was his wife, Joanne, who talked him out of his commitment to become the new Michigan head coach by — are you ready for this? — challenging him for being “afraid to go back to the state of Kentucky to coach at Louisville, his old school’s arch-rival.” Now, we don’t claim to listen to or read every single comment that the loquacious Pitino has made over the last 10 years, but we’re pretty sure about one thing — the Louisville coach has gone on record dozens of times stating that he expected those same Kentucky fans to embrace him after his return to collegiate coaching. If this is in fact true — and, of course, we know it is not — what would he possibly have been afraid of? As a side note, props to Coach K for his investigative reporting in getting such a jewel of honesty out of Pitino — maybe he has a career on 60 Minutes ahead of him, as even in his 70s, he’d certainly mesh with the median age of its reporters.
  5. Let’s close today with a list, as those are always fun for some debate no matter how ridiculous they turn out to be. Luckily, SI.com‘s Andy Glockner does his homework year-round, so his opinions are on the positive side of the cut line. He ranks all the Division I conferences from #1 to #33 with brief descriptions explaining why, for example, the Pac-12 ended up at #8 (ouch!) or the Big East shows at #2 in its last season as we typically think of it. Keeping in mind that people generally rate conferences based on the quality of their better teams — nobody really cares if your conference’s worst two teams would beat another league’s worst two teams — Glockner chooses the Big Ten as the top conference for the second year in a row. As we discussed on our Big Ten Preview Podblast yesterday, the top five teams in this league are legitimately good-to-great basketball teams. The four or five below that group are all good enough to threaten to make the NCAAs, although not all of them will do so; and so you’re left with just a couple of bottom-feeders whose fans are already thinking of next year. That’s an excellent and talented basketball league.
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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #30 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#30 – Where Perfection Upended Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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Morning Five: 07.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2012

  1. The year-plus mystery about how much longer Syracuse and Pittsburgh will play as members of the Big East was partially revealed on Monday, as the conference released terms of an agreement that will allow the Orange to join the ACC in July 2013. The school will pay an exit fee of $7.5 million in return for leaving one year early (league bylaws require over two years of notice), but according to a tweet from Andy Katz, there’s no way that Pittsburgh will remain in the Big East in 2013-14 without Syracuse. Assuming that the Panthers join Syracuse as new members of the ACC that year, they’ll likely join an ACC with a loaded Duke team sitting at the top of the league and a reloaded North Carolina squad on its way back up. In other words, welcome to always. For what it’s worth, as much as we hate losing classic Big East battles such as Syracuse-Georgetown and Pittsburgh-Villanova, to note a pair, we’re also looking forward to the new blockbusters that the expanded ACC will enable. Syracuse in Cameron Indoor… Pitt visiting the Comcast Center… Yes, please.
  2. The nation’s top prospect in the Class of 2013 is shutting it down for the summer AAU circuit to let his injured right heel recover. Jabari Parker will have an MRI soon to determine if it will require surgery, but his father in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that regardless of the outcome of that test, their intent is to let him rest so that he’ll be ready to play for his high school team again this fall. The Simeon (IL) HS forward is unanimously regarded as the top player in his class, but according to the article, there are “rumblings by those who rank individual teenagers for a living” that he could lose his top spot as a result of his absence in summer action. At least his dad has the right attitude about the importance of summer prep rankings: “That stuff doesn’t mean anything.”
  3. It’s mid-July so somewhat surprising to see this list right now, but The Big Lead‘s Jason McIntyre released his annual ranking of the top 50 returnees in college basketball for the 2012-13 season. These things are always incredibly subjective so we’ll leave it to his legion of commenters to make snap judgments as to the list’s accuracy, but we’ll allow ourselves one critical comment: Creighton’s Doug McDermott is far better than the seventh best player in college basketball. All in all, it’s a fairly thorough list and will no doubt engender a healthy amount of debate as we move into the early months of next season. As an interesting side note, one of the comments enlightened us to a website called Value Add Basketball where next season’s players are projected based on a number of assumptions and calculations. It’s worth a few minutes of your time to poke around over there.
  4. The player who McIntyre listed as the third-best player in his top 50 for next season is an RTC favorite, Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. Will Aubrey of The Examiner did a short interview with the returning All-American, and here was the result. Canaan spent time at several of the top camps this summer, including the Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Deron Williams versions, where he was told that his game only needs a few tweaks to be ready for the next level. Despite his size (listed at only about 6’1″), he is projected at #20 overall in NBADraft.net’s 2013 mock draft — you can’t measure heart and leadership, though.
  5. We’re not going to belabor this point here but in yesterday’s M5 we mentioned that there are rumblings of a significant backlash against collegiate sports from those souls — many of whom are general sports fans — who are sick and tired of the scandals, the hypocrisies, and the rah-rah attitude that can foster situations where a known child molester is free to terrorize children for 13 years under the auspices of a moral and ethical university. The Atlantic‘s James Fallows put together a mash-up of user responses to the Penn State scandal and their tone crystallizes exactly what we were talking about. Are we reaching a tipping point where college athletics as we know it will come crumbling down and rebuilt as a quasi-professional entity with transparency about what it is; or will it continue down this beer and circus path that some have derided for years, but of which many others are finally starting to notice?
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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis, South and West Regions

Posted by IRenko on March 14th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).

Joe Ragland Point Guard Play Will be Key to the Shockers' Sweet Sixteen Chances

Wichita State (#5, South) – I’m a great fan of the Shockers, who finished the season atop our TO26 top 15 rankings.  They have a balanced lineup that can do it all.  Inside scoring presence?  Garrett Stutz.  Steady point guard play?  Joe Ragland. Attacking guard?  Toure’ Murry.  Blue-collar enforcer?  Carl Hall.  Three-point marksmen?  Ragland, Ben Smith, and David Kyles.  And they back it up with a solid, steady defense.  If this team has a weakness, it’s the lack of a single go-to player, which can come in handy in crunch time in March.

The key for the Shockers’ getting to the regionals may be slowing their games into halfcourt contests.  They have a tough first-round draw against VCU and its frenetic defensive style.  It will be a challenge to maintain calm amidst the storm that the Rams will bring – Murry in particular can play undisciplined — but if I had to make a call, I’d say that the Shockers will rise to the challenge and get the ball into the lane, where VCU is vulnerable.  In the next round, Wichita State would likely face an Indiana team with a fast-paced offense, but somewhat softer defense that is susceptible to dribble penetration.  Again, if the Shockers can slow things down and turn it into more of a halfcourt game, they could be on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.

Memphis (#8, West) – No team has a more legitimate grievance about its seed than the Tigers.  They have steadily, but markedly, improved ever since a nearly two-hour closed door team meeting following a loss at Georgetown on December 22.  Few have taken notice because it came mostly against C-USA competition, but during this stretch, the Tigers have gone 19-3, with their three losses coming by a combined total of 6 points.  Oh, and freshman standout Adonis Thomas just returned to the lineup.

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Evaluating Murray State’s Chances In March Madness

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2012

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after observing Murray State at the OVC Tournament this weekend.

If it is possible in college basketball to win 30 games in relative anonymity, Murray State has done it.  The Racers, who became a story in college basketball when they were the last team undefeated team this season, capped off a remarkable run to capture the Ohio Valley Conference championship with a 54-52 victory over conference runner-up Tennessee State Saturday in Nashville.  But while the Racers dominated their league (their only loss coming to the same Tennessee State team on February 9) and ascended to a rare Top 10 ranking that they have held for a good portion of the season, most of America still doesn’t know a lot about this team, which is led by first-year coach Steve Prohm.

Murray's Dream Season Continues, But Now As OVC Champions

The discussion surrounding the Racers over the past few weeks has not been whether they would make the NCAA Tournament without winning the OVC automatic bid – that became a foregone conclusion after Murray State’s BracketBuster win over St. Mary’s – but where they would be seeded.  While Prohm said after the game that a look at the Racers’ body of work would justify as high as a #2 seed, he admitted that a “four, five, or six” is more likely.  What is most important to him is that his team’s loyal fans – and they dominated the crowds in Nashville over the weekend – have a chance to see them play. “I just want proximity. Nashville, Louisville. Somewhere where our fans can come and support our guys,” Prohm said.

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Bracket Prep: UNC-Asheville, Murray State & Belmont

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2012

The first three NCAA Tournament bids were earned on Saturday afternoon, so as each of the 31 automatic qualifiers plays their way into the Dance over the next week, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets next weekend.

UNC Asheville

UNCA Was the First Team to Dance This Year (E. Brethauer/Citizen-Times)

  • Big South Champion (24-9, 19-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #108/#123/#128
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +4.7
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16 (First Four)

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. UNC-Asheville is one of the smallest teams in America, sporting a starting lineup that goes between 6’1″ and 6’5″.  Their next three players off the bench are roughly the same size, which means that UNCA’s primary objective each night is to make the game into a full-court running affair. The Bulldogs are among the top 35 fastest tempos nationally, and you might expect them to rely heavily on the three-ball, but that’s not the case. Asheville’s offense instead seeks to drive the ball into the paint to shoot twos (52.5% 2FGs) and pick up fouls (77.4% FTs).
  2. The straws that stir the Bulldog attack are the backcourt duo of JP Primm and Matt Dickey, both all-Big South selections (Dickey was the conference POY). The pair of seniors are both capable shooters and distributors who played well in last year’s First Four win against Arkansas-Little Rock and subsequent loss to #1 seed Pittsburgh. They’ve played enough high major teams in their careers — North Carolina, NC State, Connecticut, Tennessee in just this year — so that they’re unlikely to get rattled.
  3. The best matchup for the Bulldogs would be another undersized First Four team that does not defend well, allowing the uptempo guards of Primm and Dickey to pick their spots and make things happen. Their next round game against a #1 seed is unlikely to matter in terms of a favorable matchup, but clearly bigger teams would be more difficult for Eddie Biedenbach’s team to handle. The Bulldogs were competitive with each of the power conference teams mentioned above.

Murray State

  • OVC Champion (30-1, 17-1)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #24/#47/#41
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +10.6
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #4-#6

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ATB: Friday Night Lights With Jack Cooley, Harvard, and Plenty of Conference Tourney Action…

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Friday night is usually reserved for the likes of the Ivy League and the MAAC, but that’s not the case during Championship Fortnight. With eight mid-major conference tournaments in action and 22 more teams eliminated from national title contention tonight, there were plenty of reasons to stay interested. Furthermore, we were treated with some compelling Ivy action as well as another look at one of the surprise teams of not only the Big East but also the entire country this year. Let’s jump into it…

Your Watercooler Moment. Cooley Than You.

Jack Cooley Is One of the Big East's Biggest Surprises This Year (US Presswire)

Just four days after Jack Cooley’s worst game of the year — a two-point, zero-rebound outing at Georgetown — the junior center returned to the lineup with a vengeance tonight, going for a 27/17 masterpiece on 10-15 shooting from the field to lock his team into a double-bye at next week’s Big East Tournament. The fact that we just wrote the previous sentence — that Notre Dame finished in the top four of the Big East standings and received a double-bye — is nothing less than phenomenal and a testament to the vast improvement of Cooley and several of his teammates this season. After losing its top three players to graduation (Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott) and injury (Tim Abromaitis), nobody expected the youthful Irish to do much of anything this year. Instead, Mike Brey’s team is now locked into the #3 seed in next week’s conference tournament and owns the only victory of the season over the Syracuse juggernaut. We’re not completely sold on the Irish making a deep run into March Madness, but the fact of the matter is that Mike Brey is one of the most underrated coaches in the country given that he’s pushed his team to six straight 20-win seasons and will make the NCAAs for the fifth time in six seasons.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Harvard Keeps Hope Alive. It’s seemed a foregone conclusion for months that Harvard would win the Ivy League’s automatic bid this season and earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in over six decades. After last weekend’s home loss to Penn, however, the Crimson and Quakers were locked in a tie with two defeats each in the loss column. The Ivy doesn’t do artificial tiebreakers — like last year’s Harvard-Princeton classic, they decide their ties on the court. With alumnus Jeremy Lin watching from the stands in Morningside Heights tonight, Harvard barely survived Columbia in a nail-biting game that went to overtime. Penn kept the pace with an easier win over Brown, but HU will travel next to Cornell while the Quakers still have a home game against Yale before its rivalry game at Princeton on Tuesday. With one more win Saturday, the Crimson are at least guaranteed a berth in the Ivy playoff game again, but they probably do not want to tempt the basketball gods by losing that one.
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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a brutal week for the TO26 top 15, as the top four teams lost five games combined.  Read on to see how that shuffled the rankings.  After the revised top 15, we look at the top 10 results of the past week, sorting through both the headline-grabbing upsets and the big games that may have slipped past your radar.  Then we preview the top 10 games of the coming week, which includes a bounty of top matchups this Saturday and several small conference teams putting their first-place records on the line against their stiffest competition.

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.

In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:

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