The RTC Interview Series: One on One with NBADraftBlog’s Ed Isaacson

Posted by Walker Carey on June 25th, 2014

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get some input from an expert. RTC Correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the please of speaking with NBA Draft Analyst Ed Isaacson, the founder of NBADraftBlog.com. You can follow Isaacson on Twitter via @nbadraftblog.

Rush the Court: Joel Embiid’s back (and now foot) injuries are the hot topics leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft. How badly do you see this impacting Embiid’s stock and how would you approach these legitimate concerns if you were a team picking early in the draft?

Ed Isaacson: I do not think Embiid’s drop is going to be as drastic as Jared Sullinger’s (Note: Sullinger was medically flagged due to back issues) was in 2012 when he went from being a top six guy to being the 21st pick. My basic thought is that there is no way Embiid makes it beyond the Lakers at seven – if he happens to still be around then. If you are a general manager who is already on board with taking the risk with Embiid – he had a back problem in high school and had it again at Kansas – is the stress fracture in the foot suddenly going to be the thing that dissuades you from picking him? Once there is more information regarding the surgery and the timetable for his recovery, I think that will alleviate some concerns. I still believe Joel Embiid will be a top four pick.

Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

Joel Embiid and Teammate Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

RTC: Andrew Wiggins entered college with a ridiculous amount of hype. He was a very good player at Kansas, but it would be tough to say that he was a superstar. Do you believe his year in Lawrence negatively impacted his pro prospects and where do you see him ending up Thursday evening?

Isaacson: He is still the number one prospect to me. Even when Embiid was healthy, I had more value in Andrew Wiggins. One year in college is extremely tough to gauge a player and the Kansas system is much more different than at other schools. The main concern with Wiggins is the question if he is too passive on the court. The exact same thing was brought up last year in regards to Ben McLemore. I am not concerned. He is still a 19-year-old kid and I think he is going to be an All-Star. I have had him at number one throughout the process and I really think he is the best fit for Cleveland.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Rodney Hood

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 17th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Rodney Hood

School: Duke

Height/Weight: 6’9”/210 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid First Round

On The Journey From Duke To The NBA, Rodney Hood's Sweet Stroke Should Travel Well

On The Journey From Duke To The NBA, Rodney Hood’s Sweet Stroke Should Travel Well

Overview: It was Hood, not Jabari Parker, who was the Duke newcomer with the highest offensive rating last season (119.8 to Parker’s 111.7), and the Mississippi State transfer also doubled as the Blue Devils’ best perimeter defender to boot. The latter point may not be stating much on a team that finished 116th in defensive efficiency nationally, but Hood projects as a solid two-way player at the next level – something that may not necessarily be the case for his more-acclaimed former teammate. No, we aren’t starting a push for Hood to hear his name called before Parker’s on draft day, but the sophomore’s production to buzz ratio (the PTB?) clearly and quietly outdistanced that of Duke’s All-American. All year long, Hood showered in buckets from everywhere on the floor, shooting 49 percent from two-point range, 42 percent from three-point range, and 80 percent at the free throw stripe. He was also a capable ball-handler and passer for Coach K’s team (more assists than turnovers), and used his plus athleticism well enough on defense to earn Duke’s “Best Defensive Player Award” at the team banquet. His shooting touch may have eluded him at the most untimely of moments last season — he went just 2-of-10 from the field against Mercer in the Blue Devils’ shocking second round NCAA Tournament ouster — but Hood made quite the impression in his one and only season in Durham. He will almost surely be overshadowed by Parker one final time on draft night, but green room attendants should make room for two Dukies, because the 2014 lottery could very likely house both Hood and Parker.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Adreian Payne

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 12th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Adreian Payne

School: Michigan State

Height/Weight: 6’10”/240 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

On And Off The Floor, Adreian Payne Grew Into A Man During His Time In East Lansing -- Is He Now Ready To Help An NBA Team?

On And Off The Floor, Adreian Payne Grew Into A Man During His Time In East Lansing — Is He Now Ready To Help An NBA Team?

Overview: Four-year college players have found it harder and harder to sneak into the NBA Draft’s first round in recent years, but if you need an example of a player who properly utilized every minute of their four years of eligibility, look no further than Adreian Payne. When he arrived at Michigan State, Payne was a raw athlete on the floor and an at-risk student off of it (his ADHD playing a large role in the latter). Now, four years later, Payne doubles as a polished NBA prospect and a college graduate. A freshman who averaged nine minutes per game and shot 49 percent from the free throw line morphed into a senior who shot 42 percent from three-point range (and 79 percent from the charity stripe), as Payne led the Spartans to within a game of the 2014 Final Four. He posted an offensive rating of 113.5 as a senior (a far cry from the 89.5 rating of his freshman campaign), and put his athleticism to use on the defensive glass in grabbing 22.9 percent of opponent’s misses, the 78th best individual rate in the nation. What Payne lacks in fluidity he makes up for with a violent version of athleticism, often rattling rims with aggressive finishes. Sticking to the theme, Payne’s perimeter jump shot also isn’t the smoothest you’ll find, but on the back of that stroke (as slow as it may be), Payne developed into one of college basketball’s most lethal inside-outside threats as an upperclassman. It’s that rare combination of outside shooting touch and raw strength and athleticism — in a 6’10” man with a hulking frame, no less — that has made Payne one of the most desirable quantities in this draft, even at his relatively advanced age of 23. Will one of college basketball’s most notable success stories make an NBA franchise as happy as he made Spartan nation?

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Shabazz Napier

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 11th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Shabazz Napier

School: Connecticut

Height/Weight: 5’11”/175 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

Shabazz Napier Dominated The NCAA Tournament. Will His Proficiency Continue At The Next Level?

Shabazz Napier Dominated The NCAA Tournament. Will His Proficiency Continue At The Next Level?

Overview: Shabazz Napier’s inspired NCAA Tournament performance not only netted UConn its third National Championship in 11 seasons, but it also supplied his draft stock with an explosive surge. The Boston native was likely a mid-to-late second round pick if you asked scouts about him before the NCAA Tournament, but after averaging 21.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.5 APG on college basketball’s biggest stage, Napier is now a safe bet to be drafted in the first round. The college senior turned first rounder is a rare breed in today’s day and age, but the UConn faithful can tell you that the enigmatic Napier has always been one to shirk convention. The “confident” swagger that propelled Napier to stardom this March wasn’t always perceived as such; as an underclassman, he was seen as brash and erratic, a petulant youngster who struggled when shots didn’t drop or passes missed teammates. He outran that reputation under Kevin Ollie, but that doesn’t mean NBA teams won’t fear a regression to his less mature days. If he avoids such a step back and maintains his spectacular 2013-14 form, one NBA team will have added a gifted floor general to their roster. When it comes to competitiveness and confidence, few players have more of it – in this draft or any other – than Mr. Napier.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: T.J. Warren

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 6th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: T.J. Warren

School: North Carolina State

Height/Weight: 6’8”/220 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

T.J. Warren's ACC POY Season Should Have Him First-Round Bound

T.J. Warren’s ACC POY Season Should Have Him First-Round Bound (USA Today Images)

Overview: For the better part of the 2013-14 season, NC State’s inconsistent results seemed to leave them at a safe distance from the hustle and bustle of the Tournament bubble – a measure of mediocrity that also kept T.J. Warren, the Pack’s bucket-producing star, under a relative veil of anonymity. But a series of March surprises – many of which Warren himself had little part in bringing about — would raise the sophomore’s national profile significantly. First came the surprise ACC POY award (over Jabari Parker), then NC State went out and posted an ACC Tournament upset of nose-diving Syracuse (in which Warren scored 28 of the Pack’s 66 points), a victory that set the stage for the biggest surprise of Selection Sunday: NC State’s inclusion in the 2014 Tournament. Warren’s stellar under-the-radar season suddenly became popular fodder for talking heads in advance of the quartet of First Four games in Dayton, and NC State and their star went out and validated the growing buzz in a first-round victory over local favorite Xavier. It appeared Warren and the Pack’s Tournament stay might extend another round when they held an 11-point lead within the final three minutes against #5 seed Saint Louis, but a late collapse from the free throw line brought a close to an NCAA Tournament appearance that few could ever see coming. Short as their stay may have been, the brief turn that the Pack took in the March spotlight exposed the talented Warren for what he likely was: The best scorer in college basketball not named Doug McDermott. He averaged 24.6 PPG on the season, went for 40+ points in back-t0-back outings against Pitt and BC in early March, and contributed at least 20 points in 31 of his 35 outings. No razzle-dazzle here (another reason for the lack of publicity), but Warren brought offensive production almost every time he stepped on the floor in 2013-14.

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Morning Five: 06.06.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2014

morning5

  1. Paging Rex Chapman… Two months ago, in the tweet that rocked Big Blue Nation to the core, the former Kentucky star and media presence (he had just finished doing color commentary for the Wildcats on the Final Four Teamcast) unloaded what he termed a #donedeal on Wildcats’ fans. Head coach John Calipari was supposedly going to take the open Los Angeles Lakers job, “win or lose,” as he put it, in the national championship game against Connecticut. Well, either the Lakers job moved to Lexington or Rex hit the sauce a little too hard in the pregame that night, because Calipari on Thursday signed a seven-year extension worth $52.5 million that will ensure Kentucky stays atop the heap for many years to come. After four Final Four appearances and a National Championship in just five years at the helm, and given the size and passion of the Kentucky fan base, the scary thought is that Calipari is still probably quite a bit underpaid relative to the value of the program. Not that he cares about that — he’s quite happy with where he is, in fact, and that’s a good thing for college basketball.
  2. Calipari doesn’t miss out on many recruiting targets, but nobody can bat 1.000 either, and one of the best players of the past several cycles that the Kentucky coach whiffed on was SMU freshman Emmanuel Mudiay. In this SI.com piece on Mudiay, Luke Winn explains that Larry Brown’s appeal for Mudiay to stay close to his family — including older brother Jean-Micheal Mudiay, a rising senior on the Mustangs — was one of the major factors in his decision to commit to SMU. With Mudiay in the fold to lead a team that returns most of its talent from a 27-10 team that was one of the first left out of the NCAA Tournament, SMU is poised to make a major leap in national status next season. 
  3. We mentioned in the M5 earlier this week that a $40 million settlement between EA Sports and a class action of former and current NCAA athletes had been finalized, and now the lawyers and all the highly-paid administrators who handle such things are figuring out who will get what. It probably would have shocked nobody in America if the NCAA (still in a battle with the Ed O’Bannon class action, remember) had gone into full pettiness mode and decided that the minuscule payouts to its current athletes would constitute an impermissible benefit. Full credit to the NCAA for not going there, however, as the organization announced on Wednesday that payouts (which could range from as low as a couple hundred bucks to a couple grand) in no way represent “pay” and therefore will not be in violation of any NCAA amateurism rules.
  4. And now, about that Ed O’Bannon lawsuit. As you have no doubt heard for months, even years now, the case is set to begin on Monday morning in Northern California. Still, how many people can accurately state what the whole thing is about — is it amateurism? Video games? The very core of the NCAA itself? The truth is that there are elements of all of these things, but as with most complex forms of litigation, there are plenty of nuances and considerations beyond the sound bites. SI.com‘s Andy Staples separates truth from myth in a Thursday piece that gives a nice overview (along with a video explanation) of what is really on the line in this landmark case.
  5. With the NBA Finals starting last night, the NBA Draft is just a few weeks away (you hopefully noticed that we’ve been rolling out Bennet Hayes’ draft profiles). But while the players in this year’s draft are no longer eligible to play college basketball, the top prospects in the 2015 draft class will lead our sport next season. SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton breaks down his list of the top 15 prospects who are likely to be high selections in next year’s version, and a few of the names may surprise you. Have a great D-Day anniversary weekend, everyone.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: P.J. Hairston

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 5th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: P.J. Hairston

School: North Carolina

Height/Weight: 6’5”/220 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

It's Been Over A Year Since P.J. Hairston Has Donned The Carolina Blue. Can He Use His D-League Experience To Boost His Draft Stock?

It’s Been Over A Year Since P.J. Hairston Donned The Carolina Blue. Can He Use His D-League Experience To Boost His Draft Stock?

Overview: Thirteen months ago, everything was looking up for PJ Hairston. He had announced his return to a North Carolina team that was poised to build off a strong second half of the ACC season, a surge catalyzed largely by Hairston’s insertion into the Tar Heels’ starting lineup. He was to be the leader and primary scoring option for a preseason top-10 team, a tough, physical wing who could score the ball in a variety of ways. Last season looked to be a big year for both Hairston and the Heels… and then the summer happened. Camp and popsicles on the summer vacation was not for Hairston, as a series of violations — speeding tickets, marijuana possession, impermissible benefits received – would wind up costing the senior his final year of college eligibility. Hairston’s loss was a major blow for a UNC team that would struggle to find perimeter scoring options all season, but the suspension may not have injured Hairston’s basketball future as significantly. Sure, PJ was probably disappointed to not be a part of this Carolina season, but Hairston quickly moved on to the professional ranks after being ruled ineligible, latching on with the Texas Legends of the D-League in short order. Once in the Lone Star State, Hairston displayed the scoring touch that had made him one of the ACC’s most lethal offensive players, averaging 21.8 PPG (in just 32 MPG) in 26 contests with the Legends. Game to game consistency is still a major concern with the mercurial ex-Heel, but the diversity of Hairston’s D-league scoring (55% 2FG, 2.8 3FG per game, 87% FT) solidified his status as a likely first-round pick in this June’s draft. Hairston’s road to the NBA will have been far more circuitous than it appeared to be a year ago, but PJ is still right on time in arriving at his destination.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Jerami Grant

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 3rd, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Jerami Grant

School: Syracuse

Height/Weight: 6’8”/215 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round

Jerami Grant Feasted At The Rim During His Brief Stint At Syracuse, But Developing A More Varied Offensive Game Will Be A Point Of Emphasis For Grant At The Next Level 

Overview: I suppose there are some Syracuse fans capable of recalling the good times of the first three months of last season (in which the Orange ran out to a 21-0 start), but the lingering bitterness of a 3-6 close to the year is now difficult to avoid. Late February and March went as poorly as those months possibly could have for Jim Boeheim’s team, but the stench of that disastrous stretch appears to not have infiltrated the draft stock of Syracuse’s underclassmen, turned NBA hopefuls, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. We’ll get to Ennis a little later on, but Grant’s breakout sophomore season appears to have planted him solidly in the middle of the draft’s first round. The stupendous athletic ability that he displayed during infrequent spells on the floor in his freshman season was put to much better use last year, as Grant made the most of a significant increase in minutes (more than double) to boost his per game averages in points (12.1 PPG from 3.9) and rebounds (6.8 RPG from 3.0) in 2013-14. His offensive efficiency rating also leaped from 103.2 to 115.6 (280th-best in the country), as Grant avoided the perimeter and focused on what he does best: offensive rebounding and attacking the rim from 12 feet and in. Grant made significant strides in many fundamental areas of the game last season, but even more exaggerated development will be needed if the Syracuse product is to become a quality NBA player. He lacks any sort of perimeter jump shot (although he did improve his free throw shooting, making 67% of his attempts at the line as a sophomore), struggles to put the ball on the deck and create his own shot, and hasn’t been asked to play much man-to-man defense. All are areas of concern, but as long as highlight reels exist, reminders of Grant’s tantalizing upside are never far from reach.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Kyle Anderson

Posted by Bennet Hayes on May 29th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Kyle Anderson

School: UCLA

Height/Weight: 6’9”/230 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard/Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

Is Kyle "Slo-Mo" Anderson Fast Enough For The NBA Game?

Is Kyle “Slo-Mo” Anderson Fast Enough For The NBA Game?

Overview: UCLA may be losing one of the most unique talents to grace the college hardwoods this millennium, but the Bruins’ loss is the 2014 NBA Draft’s gain, as Kyle Anderson has simultaneously become one of the most intriguing and confounding prospects of this or any draft. Long and rangy 6’9″ point guards don’t grow on trees, particularly ones who led their teams to the Sweet Sixteen and posted per game averages of 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists last season. Along the way, Anderson became the first Pac-12 player to compile 200 assists and 200 rebounds in a season — just one of many statistical firsts that this freakishly versatile sophomore recorded in 2013-14. New head man Steve Alford’s decision to let Anderson run his team’s point — he wasn’t offered that opportunity during a statistically pedestrian freshman season — paid almost immediate dividends, as Anderson fueled an up-tempo Bruins offense that quickly staked its claim among the nation’s best (they finished 13th nationally in offensive efficiency). A pair of potential first-rounders in this year’s draft (Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams), among others, joined Anderson in breaking the chains off the stagnancy of the Ben Howland era, but no player deserves more credit for that than Anderson. Aside from an unusually high turnover rate (20.2%) and occasionally soft one-on-one defense, Anderson offered positive contributions in nearly every area on the floor. He shot 48 percent from both two and three-point ranges, 73 percent from the line, and chipped in defensively with a combined 2.6 blocks and steals per contest. Below average athleticism (they call him “Slo-Mo” for a reason) and an uncertain role at the next level has the former UCLA guard grading out as a late first-rounder right now, but Kyle Anderson is as distinctive an NBA prospect as you will ever encounter.

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Following Mr. Smart: Could Jabari Parker Give Us an Encore?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 25th, 2014

Last season Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart shocked the entire basketball world when he decided to return to Stillwater for a sophomore campaign. In a year in which he had taken home Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and unanimous first team all-conference honors, Smart had NBA scouts salivating about the prospect of drafting him. But against all odds, Smart turned his back on the NBA and decided it could wait another season. He wanted to enjoy the college atmosphere for another year and he wanted to compensate for OSU’s disappointing first round exit from the NCAA Tournament. It was hard to turn down the guaranteed money for what would have most likely been a top-five selection, but he did and here we are. Oklahoma State currently sits at 15-3 and is ranked 11th in the national polls, but a 3-2 start in Big 12 play means that the Cowboys are likely to spend the rest of the winter looking up at Kansas in the league standings. Smart has impressed individually as well — he’s a bona fide All-American — but he will be facing a much deeper field in this year’s NBA Draft if he decides two years is enough. This brings us to a similar situation in which a star freshman who is all but guaranteed a top-five draft slot has rumors swirling that he too is considering not making the jump.

Could Parker Commit to Duke Again?

Could Parker Commit to Duke Again?

Duke’s Jabari Parker is not Marcus Smart; they don’t play the game the same way or even the same position. But they are both incredibly talented underclassmen shouldering an intense offensive burden for Top 25 teams. In Parker’s case, whispers have been mounting over the past few weeks — most recently with Parker’s dad, Sonny — suggesting that Parker has yet to make up his mind about his future. Perhaps a typical reaction from a confidant, advisor, or family member, Parker and his team are wise to desire minimal distractions during Duke’s season. But after Duke landed the top overall recruiting class for 2014, fans and pundits alike began dreaming up scenarios of potential Duke lineups that include Parker along with top 10 prospects Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, five-star prospect Justise Winslow and fringe five-star recruit Grayson Allen. For an individual who has said that he hopes to leave a legacy at Duke as one of the all-time greats, Parker will only be able to do so if he brings home another title to Durham.

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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #27 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2013

seasonpreview-1

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#27 – Where Unfinished Business Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

 

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Big East M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 21st, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. New York Times writer Zach Schonbrun experienced a sense of relief among the various schools at last week’s Big East Media Day in Manhattan. After many seasons played under the shroud of conference realignment, culminating with the awkwardness of last season’s farewell tour for Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the Big East is now a settled, basketball-driven league focused on private schools in metropolitan markets. While the conference’s new members — Butler, Creighton, and Xavier — are all located in the Midwest, they fit into the league quite well culturally. St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin actually thinks the new schools fit in better than some of the public universities that have moved on to the American Athletic Conference, and the schools who left for the ACC for largely football-based reasons: “It’s not like a ‘Sesame Street’ deal — which one doesn’t belong… You’ve got a tree, a bush, some seaweed and then a truck. It just didn’t fit. I think now we have a league that’s more similar.”
  2. Georgetown lost an excellent player to the NBA Draft in standout forward Otto Porter, but guard Markel Starks thinks that the Hoyas are more than just one player and that his team will look to prove that this season: “We play as a unit… We play as a group. Obviously, we just lost a great player. Even still, with or without him, we play as a unit. … I think we can still be a very dangerous team.” Starks, now a senior, will probably bear much of the weight of Porter’s absence in the scoring column, after averaging 12.8 points per game last season. He will be joined in the backcourt by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who proved capable of exploding for big point totals last season. Smith-Rivera scored at least 14 points in three of his last four regular season games last season, and dropped 33 in 34 minutes against DePaul on February 20.
  3. One of the major changes fans will notice in the conference this year is a lack of legendary coaches on the sidelines, although the Big East will not be hurting for talent in that spot. Gone are Hall of Famers like Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino, but rising stars like Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Georgetown’s John Thompson III are poised to lead the conference into this new era. Thompson agrees that the coaching talent in the league is very high: “If you look around the room, the quality of coaching is outstanding. Yes, we lost some Hall of Fame coaches, but I don’t think too many teams want to go up against the guys in this room. Every game is going to be a battle. That was true last year; that’s going to be true this year.” Williams also believes in the overall quality of the league, and thinks it stands up with the best conferences in college basketball: “Every coach is going to say they play in the best league, but if you objectively study the numbers, I think what this league has done the last five years speaks for itself. I think this year that will hold firm, too.”
  4. Even without the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, and UConn, many are excited about the prospects of the Big East, especially those at the league’s three new schools: Butler, Creighton, and Xavier. Between the television contract with Fox Sports 1 and the ability to play at Madison Square Garden, the Big East provides a great increase in exposure for the former Horizon League, Missouri Valley Conference, and Atlantic 10 teams. Rumble in the Garden‘s Chris Ronca caught up with Xavier’s Chris Mack and Creighton’s Greg McDermott, who were both very excited about these new possibilities. Mack says his players are excited about playing at MSG:  “Playing for your conference championship in the Mecca is an amazing opportunity for Xavier fans and players.” McDermott talked about the league’s TV contract and it’s impact on the Creighton program: “[Creighton's] fans have longed for this for awhile.” McDermott went on to say that “with Fox [Sports] 1, it’s very exciting for the program… there’ll be a lot of new ideas with how [Creighton's] product is shown nationally.”
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s [and RTC's] Chris Johnson’s “Stock Watch” series sets its gaze on the Big East, and he’s quite bullish on Villanova, while throwing a bit of shade on Butler. Johnson cites Villanova’s surge in the middle of last season, where the Wildcats knocked off top five Louisville and Syracuse outfits in a a five-day stretch, as evidence that Jay Wright’s club is very dangerous. He likes the combination of Ryan Arcidiacono, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Daniel Ochefu, and believes that if the team continues to get to the free throw line and play stingy defense, it can push for the top of the league standings. As for Butler, Johnson believes that the loss of Brad Stevens in conjunction with an increase in the difficulty of conference play will hurt the Bulldogs, as will the departures of Rotnei Clark and Andrew Smith as well as the injury to Roosevelt Jones.
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