Big East M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 21st, 2013

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  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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Morning Five: 09.26.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 26th, 2013

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  1. A random late September day was an odd time for the tried-and-true “baseball model” argument to once again rear its ugly head, but Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney did his part in making a discussion of one-and-done headline-worthy on Wednesday. His stated premise is one that we’ve heard hundreds of times before: that the NBA (and interestingly, he also mentions the NFL, which is usually immune from this argument) and colleges should work together to allow elite basketball and football players to enter the “pro ranks” — whether through the minor leagues, IMG training, or whatever else — immediately out of high school. As he puts it, “if an athlete wants to professionalize themselves, professionalize themselves.” Forgetting the dripping irony implicit in comments from someone who has done more to “professionalize” his conference than any other administrator, he relies on the value of collegiate “brands that have been built over 100 years” to suggest that college athletics will be just fine without the star power of Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, and the rest. Here’s the thing: they won’t be. While it’s true that Michigan fans will continue to watch Michigan football in the same way that Kentucky fans will watch Kentucky basketball regardless of the talent wearing those uniforms, the rest of the country will not. Casual fans of both sports want to see stars, the “next big thing,” and as we already know from the awful preps-to-pros era of college basketball (roughly 1997-2005), the game suffered as a result of the loss of its best players before they ever made it to campus.
  2. Now, this isn’t to say at all that league rules forcing basketball players to spend a “gap year” between high school and the pros in college, overseas, or in the D-League is fair to them either — the above argument relates more to what’s best for the sport of college basketball rather than the elite players themselves. As such, Dana O’Neil gives the flip side of the debate, which is to ask what true positive effect does that single year between the ages of 18 and 19 have on NBA Draftable players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker? She figures that Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel lost approximately $2 million as a result of his knee injury last season, but she doesn’t address the money that #1 pick Anthony Bennett made for himself because of his one successful year at UNLV (the same dichotomy might be shown in a comparison between the stock drop of UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad versus the rise of Kansas’ Ben McLemore). Still, her point about the NBA protecting itself from draft mistakes is a salient one — teams hope to avoid the next Kwame Brown by evaluating men playing against other men — but her underlying question as to “the point” of the one year in college seems forced. The point is that the one-and-done rule is actually better for nearly all parties involved except for the tiny percentage of highly-evaluated high schoolers whose stock ends up dropping during that one season — it’s better for the NBA, its teams, college basketball, its teams, and even some of the players themselves (the ones, like Anthony Bennett and Kyrie Irving, whom it helps). Two years would be even better.
  3. We mentioned yesterday that SI.com‘s Andy Glockner is unveiling his top 20 current college basketball programs this week, using a methodology that includes historical and contemporary success, sustainability, budget, facilities, league affiliation, fan base, and recruiting pipeline. The biggest surprise in our view in the #16-20 grouping was the inclusion of Illinois at #19, but his latest group has a couple more interesting placements. At #15 was Memphis, which no doubt has a great fan base and facilities, but my goodness, it’s tough to swallow a program that has underachieved relative to its talent in each of its head coach’s four seasons on campus. The other peculiar placement is certainly UCLA at #12, behind a football-first school of Florida at #11 and back-to-back Sweet Sixteens Indiana (somewhere in the top 10). With a brand new Pauley Pavilion, this is probably based on some hesitation about Steve Alford as the new head man in Westwood, but if he can prove to have even an average recruiting touch in Southern California, it would be hard to buy this program falling outside the top 10. We’re looking forward to his rankings on Thursday — how will he handle North Carolina and Syracuse — do they fall into the second five behind Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville and Michigan State?
  4. Arkansas‘ Bud Walton Arena suffered a good bit of water damage due to torrential rains in the area last Friday, and as a result the men’s and women’s basketball teams have been forced to hold preseason practice sessions at the school’s PE/Rec building. While flooding of a school’s home arena isn’t a typical occurrence, the outsourcing of the team’s workouts to the intramural courts highlights the school’s need for a permanent basketball practice facility. Arkansas remains the only of the 14 SEC programs without one, and the Razorbacks’ 15-year long dalliance with mediocrity is partially to blame, especially from a recruiting standpoint. The damage to the arena isn’t expected to be long-term, certainly good news for the Fayette-nam Rim Rockers and all the other intramural stalwarts tired of ceding their best courts to the SEC’s most middling program.
  5. One of the best health stories of the past few years in our sport has been that of BYU’s Dave Rose. He was one of the very small percentage of survivors of pancreatic cancer, having a large tumor removed from the organ back in 2009. He recently spent another few days in the hospital after a six-month scan revealed a few more cancerous spots on his pancreas, and the Salt Lake Tribune filled us in on how he is feeling heading into a new season. Rose has proven to be someone with an eminently positive attitude, and it shines through in the piece. Still, a relapse from his remission with such an aggressive disease is cause for concern. We will certainly send equally positive thoughts his way, and hope for the best as his team heads into what should be a quite promising season on the hardwood.
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Morning Five: 07.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2013

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  1. Chalk this one up to history repeating itself. When Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was still a sharpshooting little guard at Kentucky in the early 1990s, his mentor and head coach Rick Pitino sat his superstar forward Jamal Mashburn down before his junior season and told the smooth forward that he had no choice but to declare he was entering the NBA Draft the following summer (remember, these were the days when top players tended to stay in school quite a bit longer than they do now). It was an unusual move at the time, but it helped both Mashburn and the rest of Ford’s team focus on the matter at hand, which was to remove that recurring question from the press conferences and get the Wildcats back to the Final Four in 1993. Ford may have suggested a similar strategy with his current superstar point guard, Marcus Smart, as the consensus high-lottery pick announced on Wednesday that his upcoming sophomore season will be his last in Stillwater. He’s one of only two collegians at the Team USA Mini-Camp this week, and CNNSI.com‘s Andy Glockner caught up with him after practice to get a better understanding of his thinking on that topic and several others.
  2. The AP reported on Wednesday that legendary former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian was released from a San Diego hospital after 11 days there dealing with clogged arteries and installing a pacemaker. The national title-winning head coach, now 82 years old, has suffered failing health in recent years but will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this fall. Tark the Shark is without question one of the most colorful and controversial figures in the history of the game, but there’s no denying that his program-building ability as well as his basketball contributions (“amoeba defense,” anyone?) far outweigh his irascible, contrarian nature. We wish Tarkanian all the best with his ongoing health battles, but with all the rumblings in college sports circles about Division 4, the O’Bannon case and the possible end of the NCAA as we know it, how much glee would the longtime rabble-rouser get out of seeing the hypocrisy of the NCAA finally brought to bear in a nuclear payload?
  3. Kansas freshman Brannen Greene is going to spend most of next season looking for a way to get people to remember his name. With classmate Andrew Wiggins soaking up all of the local, national and international attention focused on the 2013-14 Jayhawks, Greene will need to get creative to garner some of that oxygen in the room. He’s off to a decent start, as KUSports.com reported on Wednesday that Greene was cited last Wednesday morning for leaving the scene of an accident after a Chevy Trailblazer he was driving struck a parked Mercury Grand Marquis in a driveway. Notwithstanding the fact that it seems that no major college basketball player drives his own vehicle anymore (Greene was driving a car owned by an unnamed 25-year old Lawrence man), it begs the question as to why the 18-year old fled the scene in the first place. KU says that it will handle his punishment internally, which may or may not invoke the PJ Hairston rule. He will present in a Lawrence court on this charge in mid-August.
  4. Speaking of UNC, Hairston and the myriad academic/athletic issues that continue to become exhumed in the never-ending investigation done by Dan Kane at the Raleigh News & Observer, Mike DeCourcy addresses the matter in this week’s Starting Five column. We’ve been on record throughout this saga that UNC has done its very best to uncover the very least while taking accountability for the bare minimum… despite an increasingly clear and sinister connection between its athletic department and certain academic courses dating back two decades. With every new unveiling of information that makes the university look even worse, the school seems to further bury its head in the sand in hopes that nothing will stick. The mantra “nothing to see here” comes to mind, and DeCourcy comes to the same conclusion, but can we put the cards on the table here once and for all? UNC will do anything to protect the legacy of Dean Smith, period.
  5. Some people seemingly can’t catch a break, and while it’s difficult to make such a statement about someone who has gotten a free education at Stanford, we have to feel like Andy Brown is one of those unfortunate ones — at least on the athletic side of the equation. Johnny Dawkins reported on Wednesday that Brown, who has already suffered three ACL tears in his left knee while on The Farm, tore the ACL in his right knee on Tuesday during a workout, effectively ending his basketball career as a member of the Cardinal. Because of the injuries, he only managed to see action in a total of 54 games over the last three years, with 33 of those coming in his only full season in 2012-13. Brown will finish up his master’s degree in communications this year, which means that even though his athletic career didn’t turn out as well as he (or anyone) would have hoped, he’ll still end up with over a quarter-million dollars worth of academic sheepskin to his name. Not terrible.
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Morning Five: 07.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2013

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  1. Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens. The talk of the college basketball world has been centered on the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the Butler head coach was leaving his post for the glamour and riches of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Everyone, of course, has an opinion on this bold and very surprising move, so let’s sum up what folks are saying. First, from the Brad Stevens/Celtics side: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Stevens represents the “changing face of [NBA] coaches” in its new era of statistical analytics; the Indy Star‘s Bob Kravitz says that he can’t blame Stevens for jumping to the league; Fox Sports‘ Reid Forgrave calls the move a “gutsy” one on the part of Danny Ainge and the Celtics; while SI.com‘s Ben Golliver argues that the Celtics’ decision to pluck a successful college head coach with no NBA experience is a worthwhile risk. As we tweeted when we heard the news on Wednesday, the move makes sense from a logical standpoint, but it just doesn’t feel right. Stevens embodied our perhaps romantic notion of a college lifer, and in the NBA, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s hard to see him not coming back to our game sooner rather than later.
  2. The other angle in this story is what will happen to Butler without Stevens now leading the program? As our own Chris Johnson writes, the loss of a superstar like Stevens cannot be overstated — the program will absolutely take a hit, regardless of who is chosen to replace him. The most recent report suggests that either Butler assistant Brandon Miller or Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan will get the job, with Miller presumably holding the inside track given the school’s 24-year run of promoting coaches from within the program (although Jordan has more Butler experience). The general sentiment among the hoops cognoscenti is that Butler will figure out a way to still be Butler. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner writes that Butler is in great position to remain relevant and successful, regardless of who they hire to take over for Stevens. The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy thinks that the program may have a bit of a rude awakening with a new head coach suffering the indignities of a brutal Big East round-robin schedule next winter. But both Pat Forde and Matt Norlander move beyond that angle, arguing that college basketball as a whole is the real loser in Stevens’ move to the Celtics. Can’t disagree with that at all.
  3. From a coach on the way out of the college game to one sticking around, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton received an extension through 2016-17 (and a $750,000 raise, to boot) to remain in Tallahassee as the head coach of the Seminoles. The timing is somewhat surprising given that FSU last year suffered its worst season (18-16) in nearly a decade under Hamilton’s tutelage, but his previous four years of NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship certainly show that Hamilton has his program in overall good shape. His new salary of $2.25 million annually puts him second behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in terms of salaries among ACC coaches.
  4. We’re 51 weeks away from next season’s NBA Draft, but Mike DeCourcy took time during his Starting Five column this week to break down how he sees the top five picks going for 2014 (let’s just say that one-and-done is prominently featured). He also takes time to rip both FIBA — for its appalling lack of television broadcast options for the U-19 team — and Georgetown recruit LJ Peak, whose “psyche-out” trick using the school hats of suitors South Carolina and the Hoyas left a really bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths (ourselves included).
  5. Let’s finish the holiday week with some really good news on the health front: ESPN’s highlighter aficianado Digger Phelps has been declared cancer-free related to his bladder cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In just over one 12-month period, Phelps had survived both prostate and now bladder cancer, so it’s been a wild but ultimately successful year for the 72-year old television personality and former head coach. Phelps takes a lot of heat for some of his takes on ESPN’s Gameday show, but he’s always entertaining and we certainly hope that these health problems will remain behind him so that we can all enjoy many more years of green tie/highlighter pairings from January to March each season.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Eric Musselman

Posted by WCarey on July 1st, 2013

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.

As the son of the fiery, late coach Bill Musselman, Eric Musselman grew up around the game of basketball. Not long after his playing career finished at the University of San Diego, the younger Musselman followed in the footsteps of his father and became a coach. Starting as a head coach in the CBA and USBL, Eric Musselman soon earned the reputation of being one of the top young coaches in basketball. The NBA soon took notice and he earned spots on the staffs with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Memphis Grizzlies. He broke through for the first time with the Golden State Warriors, where he coached from 2002 to 2004, and later with the Sacramento Kings in the 2006-07 season. Following his stints in the NBA, he worked as an NBA and college basketball analyst and color commentator for several national networks. Musselman returned to coaching in the 2011-12 season when he took the helm for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBDL. In his only season with the team, he was named the NBDL Coach of the Year. In September 2012, Musselman became a member of Herb Sendek’s staff at Arizona State. In his first season coaching in the collegiate ranks, Arizona State improved from a 10-21 mark in 2011-12 to a 22-13 mark in 2012-13. In May, Musselman was rewarded for his efforts, being promoted by Sendek to associate head coach at ASU. RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to Eric Musselman about the 2013 NBA Draft and Arizona State’s development as the 2013-14 season nears. You can follow him on Twitter @EricPMusselman.

Rush the Court: The 2013 NBA Draft was widely viewed as a weak draft. What are your thoughts on the draft in terms of its overall strength?

Musselman Has Coached Elite Talent at Both the Professional and College Levels

Musselman Has Coached Elite Talent at Both the Professional and College Levels

Eric Musselman: Obviously, there are going to be years where the NBA Draft is going to be down, just like any other sport. A lot of people are already talking about the 2014 draft – and for good reason. Regarding this year’s draft, I think a few guys like Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Burke, and Shabazz Muhammad – to name a few – could end up making a impact . Then, there’s an assortment of other guys that were drafted that come could in and make an NBA rotation. As a whole, yes, the draft was down, but there are still guys that can help an NBA team. A lot of that depends on opportunity and fits with teams. Just because there was not a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant in the draft does not mean it was that weak. There are some good point guards in the class and a lot of hungry guys – like Nerlens Noel and Cody Zeller – who have something to prove to the critics. A lot of these guys have been questioned for being picked either too high or too low, so they are a hungry bunch.

RTC: What player do you believe has the most upside among the 2013 NBA Draft class?

EM: Anthony Bennett. At the end of the day, he is a young player who only played one year in college. He is a dynamic four or a three who has the ability to play both inside and outside. Not to mention the fact that he is already an impact player. I think he is only going to get better and he could end up being a key piece in helping the Cavaliers get back to the playoffs – sooner rather than later. Trey Burke is another guy whom I feel has a lot of upside.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Nerlens Noel

Posted by BHayes on June 27th, 2013

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The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Nerlens Noel

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’11”/205 lbs.

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Range: Top Two

Is Nerlens Noel deserving of the top pick in Thursday's NBA draft?

Is Nerlens Noel deserving of the top pick in Thursday’s NBA draft?

Overview: Nerlens Noel’s freshman season was cut short by a February ACL injury suffered in a game at Florida, but he still had plenty of time to stake his claim to the #1 pick in this draft. Unlike other names mentioned as a possible first pick in this year’s draft last summer (Muhammad, Zeller names that pop to mind), Noel’s individual season did little to take the luster off of his draft stock. Sure, Kentucky endured a historically bad season and Noel won’t be ready for live action until at least December, but when it comes to his future, this season went pretty well for Noel. He showed off the shot-blocking prowess that made him the most sought-after recruit in the country a year ago (4.4 blocks per game), rebounded at an efficient clip (9.5 boards a game), and even found ways to contribute on the offensive end, averaging double figure in the 24 games he played. Throw in an impressively high steals number – 2.1 a game – and you can begin to gather just how disruptive Noel was when healthy. Now, disruptive is great, and NBA teams can expect that defensive activity to continue at the next level for Noel. But with the specter of the top pick potentially looming over his early years in the NBA, there will be plenty of pressure on Nerlens to become more than just a great defender. Only time will tell if he has room for growth on the offensive end, and let’s remember – he did only turn 19 two months ago. For now, Noel has plenty of that one thing that teams crave and analysts blabber about this time of year – upside.

Will Translate to the NBA: Don’t hold your breath: Nerlens Noel is going to have himself a block party or two when he finally makes his NBA debut. With pogo sticks for legs, Noel became one of college basketball’s premier rim protectors a season ago, filling the space that Anthony Davis vacated in Lexington quite nicely. And like Davis, Noel’s length and timing will allow him to continue his shot-blocking ways in the NBA. Noel is a more explosive athlete than Davis, owner of a suddenness that will surprise even NBA-caliber athlete. Shot blocking is Noel’s one bonafide elite skill at this point, and you better believe it will be on full display from day one on.

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Morning Five: 06.27.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2013

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  1. It’s NBA Draft day, and we here in college basketball land will once again watch the proceedings to bid adieu to the one-year wonders and four-year plodders alike. Weak draft or not, the harsh reality is that most of these players will never be heard from again by any of us, but there’s always the hope that the next Kawhi Leonard or Paul George is hidden somewhere among the busts. One of the interesting notes with this year’s draft is that there’s no consensus on which player will be the first chosen — as many as seven individuals, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Maryland’s Alex Len, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Michigan’s Trey Burke, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, appear to be in the mix. The smart money probably lies with Noel heading to Cleveland to join Kyrie Irving, but it’s highly likely that a redrafting of this group in five years would look very different. For additional prep for tonight, check out the mock drafts at NBADraft.net, DraftExpress, and Chad Ford’s Insider; as well as our own RTC Draft Profiles series, and the RTC Offseason Podcast: NBA Draft Edition, featuring draft profiler and columnist Bennet Hayes. Plenty of great material there. 
  2. We’ve been waiting on this series to finish up before linking to it, but the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics group has been rolling out some data and related conclusions examining power conference schools’ ability in putting players into the NBA Draft (the entire series of posts is here). The one thing we will laud them for here is controlling for the incredibly important factor that the bigger and better schools recruit the best talent — a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument always ensues. Does Duke, for example, put a bunch of players in the NBA because they recruit great players, or because they develop and therefore produce great draft picks? The truth is both, but ferreting out how much of each input should be allocated is the hardest part. These guys try to explain away that issue with their analysis, but the time frame chosen (2002-11) creates another confounding issue. How important is the school — in other words, the brand and the physical university — versus the head coach when it comes to recruiting and player development? In our opinion, that distinction is significant. Tubby Smith was great at developing players at Kentucky; but John Calipari is great at recruiting them. In this analysis, Kentucky the program gets credit for both, and falls to third in the SEC as a result. Is Vanderbilt (and by proxy, Kevin Stallings) the best program in the SEC at “converting” talent to the NBA Draft? It seems a specious argument based on essentially one group of players, but we’re withhold a longer criticism until we see the next steps they have planned with this data set (which does look promising).
  3. We may have found our next Russell Westbrook in this year’s NBA Draft, and he goes by the name Trey Burke. No, we’re not suggesting that the NPOY has the explosiveness or all-around game that the NBA All-Star for the Oklahoma City Thunder has, but he may be very well on his way to matching Westbrook’s oft-ridiculous but always-talked about style. GQ Magazine chose the Michigan star as their top style pick in this year’s draft, and we have to say from our view that we’ll remain happy seeing the cocksure point guard in his jersey and basketball shorts. If he’s lucky, maybe he’ll get some run on Inside the NBA next season for more than just his play, though.
  4. The Big East got its (rumored) woman, as former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman was announced as the league’s new boss Wednesday. With the league formally opening up operations on Monday and in desperate need of a manager who can get things done — like, say, building a fall sports schedule — this appears on its face to be a strong move. Ackerman is widely respected within the basketball community, having played at Virginia, helped to found and build the WNBA in the mid-1990s, and acted as the president of USA Basketball for a successful period during the last decade. We’ll have a bit more on this on our Big East microsite later this morning, but it goes without saying that a bright, basketball-centric person with significant organization and business experience is a superb hire.
  5. Finally, the NCAA was busy handing out reprimands on Wednesday, as Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, Kansas head coach Bill Self, and a Wichita State associate athletic director named Darron Boatright were all censured for incidents during the NCAA Tournament. Henderson’s one-gun salute to La Salle fans after his team’s loss in the Round of 32 warranted his reprimand, while Self’s slamming of the scorer’s table during the Jayhawks’ win over UNC in that same round was cause for his. The Wichita State official’s reprimand was the most peculiar, as Boatright apparently got into a confrontation with a Staples Center security officer prior to the Shockers’ Sweet Sixteen contest against La Salle. It’s a good thing that the NCAA enforcement staff is all over these incidents, that’s for sure.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Ben McLemore

Posted by BHayes on June 26th, 2013

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Ben McLemore

School: Kansas

Height/Weight: 6’5”/190 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Top 5-10

Ben McLemore pairs jaw-dropping athleticism with a silky-smooth jump shot

Ben McLemore pairs jaw-dropping athleticism with a silky-smooth jump shot

Overview: Ben McLemore’s decision to enter the NBA Draft came as a surprise to no one. After a successful freshman season in which he often found the occasion to flash his massive potential, the time was now for McLemore to make the leap to the pros. Anyone familiar with his game know the knocks – too nice, passive, doesn’t want to dominate. His road to Lawrence, and now the league, has also been well chronicled. McLemore overcame an impoverished childhood and unsteady home life to develop into a prized recruit, and equally impressively, a great young man (by all accounts). Last season, McLemore averaged 15.9 points per game and shot 42% from three-point range for a Kansas team that earned a #1 seed to the NCAA Tournament. Despite the complaints of passivity, McLemore did have a slew of dominant performances as a freshman. They included a 33-point outing and OT-inducing three in a victory over Iowa State, a 30-point effort versus rival Kansas State, and a 36-point explosion in a rout of West Virginia. The challenge for scouts is to determine whether McLemore will ever be able to turn those 40-minute displays into consistent elite play, but if nothing else, Ben McLemore’s freshman season revealed a player with a skill set you don’t often find.

Will Translate to the NBA: McLemore is the best shooter in this draft. Concerns about his willingness to be demonstrative and take over games are well-founded, but if you can get him open looks, he will knock down shots. Everything is picture-perfect mechanically with the stroke, and McLemore is also able to shoot over the top of defenders by getting great lift on his jumper. Athletically, the Kansas product will also prove ready for the league. He’s a smooth but explosive leaper that excels in transition, and his length should assist him in becoming a good, if not great, defender at the next level. All the raw materials are in place for McLemore to be great – what will prevent him from putting them immediately to use will be his youth and immaturity, if anything.

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The RTC Offseason Podcast: NBA Draft Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 26th, 2013

The RTC Podcast crew hopes that you’re all having a good early summer out there in America-land. With a little over 24 hours left until the 2013 NBA Draft goes down in Brooklyn, we decided to come in with our takes on the draft from the perspective of guys who have analyzed many of these players very closely for the last several years. To provide the usual duo with a third voice of reason, we invited RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler), who has been putting in yeoman’s work the last couple of weeks in profiling many of the top stars who will hear their names called by David Stern tomorrow night. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) is our host, and the rundown of topics is listed below. We’ll see you again sometime in July!

  • 0:00-5:51 – What Separates NBA players and college players
  • 5:51-10:53 – Your #1 Overall Pick
  • 10:53-15:55 – Late Lottery Love
  • 15:55-20:22 College Star NBA Guys Are Overlooking
  • 20:22-22:50 – Potential Busts
  • 22:50-26:10 – College Coaches Beaming With Pride Thursday Night
  • 26:10- 29:04 – Draft Picks That Will Leave the Biggest Hole on Their College Team
  • 29:04- 31:28 – Players That Can Be Replaced
  • 31:28-38:17 – Can Alex Len and Ben McLemore Come Out of their Shells?
  • 38:17-41:51 – Picks to Look For in 2014
  • 41:51-43:09 – Who Will Go #1/Wrap
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Trey Burke

Posted by BHayes on June 26th, 2013

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Trey Burke

School: Michigan

Height/Weight: 6’1” / 190 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Top Ten

Will Trey Burke bring his winning ways with him to the the NBA?

Will Trey Burke bring his winning ways with him to the the NBA?

Overview: After flirting with the NBA a year ago, Trey Burke had almost no choice but to take the plunge this go-around. When you lead your team to the National Championship game, collect a smorgasbord of National POY trophies, and produce one of the most indelible March moments of recent memory, your draft stock can’t really get much higher. Burke’s stellar season is well-documented at this point, but it’s worth noting the drastic improvement in efficiency for Burke between years one and two at Michigan. He cut his turnover rate from 18.6% to 13.4%, increased his assist rate, and shot the ball better from the free throw line, two-point range, and beyond the arc. Oh, and he did all this in one of the best conferences college basketball has seen in years. Burke did everything he could on the court to impress scouts, but there are still concerns about his viability as an NBA point guard.  His height (barely six feet) scares a lot of teams, and both lateral mobility and overall athleticism has come into question with Burke. Some of the concerns are not dissimilar from those scouts had with Chris Paul before he entered the league, and Burke’s fiery demeanor and leadership also conjure up memories of a young Paul. But Burke is well behind where Paul was as a prospect, and if he ever hopes to come close to making the kind of impact Paul has made in the league, he will have to provide resounding answers to the questions that currently surround him. A tall (no pun intended) task ahead, but anyone who watched Trey Burke for the past two years knows better than to count him out.

Will Translate to the NBA: There may be some athletic limitations in play with Burke, but the diminutive point guard’s offensive game is quite evolved. He shoots the ball extremely well – both off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations – and gets teammates involved by driving and kicking. He is a great decision-maker who limited turnovers last season despite having the ball in his hands all the time. The length of NBA defenders will test Burke, but there are very few holes in his offensive game. Burke is also a winner, through and through. He wants the ball in clutch situations, demands the most from his teammates, and works tirelessly at his game. There is no player in this draft better suited to step in and lead a team from day one than Burke.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Anthony Bennett

Posted by BHayes on June 25th, 2013

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take fromNBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Anthony Bennett

School: UNLV

Height/Weight: 6’7”/240 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Top 5-10

Anthony Bennett was an imposing presence on the UNLV front line last season

Anthony Bennett was an imposing presence on the UNLV front line last season

Overview: Anthony Bennett needed just one season at UNLV to prove he was ready for the next level. Dave Rice assembled an amazing collection of talent in Vegas this past season, and despite the team failing to find success commensurate with the sum of those pieces, their freshman star rarely failed to impress. Bennett averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game in a brutal Mountain West Conference last season, and proved equally capable of stepping out and knocking down the three (over one make per game on 38% shooting) as he was throwing down a thunderous dunk down low (there were 42 of those). He is slightly undersized for a post at 6’7”, but a 7’1” wingspan and great athleticism eases any concerns about Bennett finding a home down low in the NBA. A shoulder injury has limited his recent availability, keeping him out of the combine, but the injury itself should not be an issue moving forward. Of more concern is the fact that Bennett has put on some 20 pounds since the end of the season – one of the few red flags (albeit a small one) for a player many consider to be the most talented in the entire draft. The top of the 2013 NBA Draft class has taken its share of pummeling over the last two months, and in most regards, deservedly so. In a draft devoid of elite talent, Bennett is one player with explosive, exciting upside – something college basketball fans bore witness to last season.

Will Translate to the NBA: Bennett often looked like a man among boys in the college ranks last season, where he was at his ferocious best grabbing rebounds and attacking the rim. While he is undersized for an NBA power forward at 6’7”, don’t expect that to stop him from having a similar impact on NBA backboards. His motor is nonstop, and he shows no fear around the rim. And let’s not forget about the massive wingspan, freakish athleticism, and soft hands that make him such an efficient finisher. We can’t be sure if he will be ready to guard in the league from day one, but his raw tools and polished finishing ability should allow him to have an offensive impact from the get-go.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: C.J. McCollum

Posted by BHayes on June 25th, 2013

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take fromNBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: C.J. McCollum

School: Lehigh

Height/Weight: 6’3”/197 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Lottery

C.J. McCollum looks to be just the second Patriot League player to be drafted in the NBA's first round

C.J. McCollum looks to become just the second Patriot League player to be drafted in the NBA’s first round

Overview: College basketball just wasn’t the same in 2013, as one of America’s favorite players played just 15 minutes of college basketball after the New Year arrived. C.J. McCollum broke his foot on January 5 in a game at VCU, an injury that would wind up closing down one of the most accomplished college hoops careers of recent memory. Loyal college basketball fans have known about the kid making noise in the Patriot League for some time now, but he made his formal introduction to America in March 2012, when his 30-point performance paced #15-seeded Lehigh to an upset victory over the #2-seeded Duke Blue Devils. It was hard not to notice that McCollum was the best player on the floor that night, and in a game against a team full of NBA talent, mind you. His draft stock was off and running at that point, and even the January injury has done little to slow the momentum. McCollum is now fully healthy and teams don’t seem concerned about the foot, leaving the Lehigh graduate poised to become just the second first-round pick ever selected out of the Patriot League. Questions remain about whether McCollum is a point guard or shooting guard at the next level, but one way or another, this silky smooth scorer should be able to find ways to put the ball in the bucket in the NBA.

Will Translate to the NBA: McCollum’s game is NBA-ready in a number of ways, but it’s first worth noting that from a personal standpoint, CJ McCollum the kid is also ready. Every year we see players enter the league who are simply not prepared to be a professional in anything. McCollum’s four years at Lehigh have served him well, and the mature, thoughtful and confident former Mountain Hawk is ready to tackle his next challenge. Oh, and his game is also prepared for the jump. He’s an NBA-ready scorer who can shoot the ball from deep and put the ball on the floor. Unlike many players today, he possesses a nice mid-range game which will only prove more useful at the next level. A high IQ player that uses savvy on both ends, McCollum has a knack for jumping passing lanes and getting out in transition. He is also a tremendous rebounder for a guard (over five rebounds a game in all four seasons, including 7.8 caroms per contest as a sophomore), a fact that has to ease a little of the concern that he is too small to play shooting guard in the NBA. More so than most in this draft, C.J. McCollum is ready for all the rigors the NBA has to offer.

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