Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Back at No. 1; A Farewell to Nerlens Noel

Posted by DCassilo on February 15th, 2013


David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

College basketball suffered a devastating loss when news broke that Nerlens Noel had torn his ACL in Tuesday’s game against Florida. Perhaps the best defender in the country, Noel was starting to come into his own offensively. The injury has once again sparked the debate about the one-and-done rule. First of all, know your target with this debate. It’s the NBA, not the NCAA. David Stern came up with the rule, but the biggest effects have been seen in college basketball. The positive for the NCAA has been increased exposure. Everyone wants a chance to see players like Noel before they hit the big show. But on the flip side, it’s tough on coaches who can’t plan their recruiting as easily as they used to. And finally, there’s the health risk for the player. This is another reason why I think there needs to be some sort of union-like body watching out for college athletes’ interest. If we knew a player like Noel would be taken care of financially in the event of an injury, I don’t think people would have as big a problem with the one-and-done rule.


10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 17.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG

The big man for Gonzaga is as consistent as they come, seemingly giving the Bulldogs somewhere between 15 and 20 points every single night. Some say this is the best Gonzaga team ever, and he deserves much of the credit for that. This week: February 16 at San Francisco, February 20 vs. Santa Clara

9. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG

The drop for McLemore is mostly because of the terrific weeks by other players on this list. The freshman didn’t do too badly himself, as he poured in 30 points in a win over Kansas State. This week: February 16 vs. Texas, February 20 at Oklahoma State

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

As one of the few Buckeyes that can score, Thomas keeps posting 20-point games because he keeps getting a lot of shots. The junior has taken at least 15 shots in each of his last five games and fewer than 11 just once all season. This week: February 17 at Wisconsin, February 20 vs. Minnesota

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 23 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Losers of three straight and perhaps headed for a seat on the bubble, McDermott’s team is playing him out of the Player of the Year race. While he has played well, he’s missing the memorable performances he needs to overcome everything working against him. This week: February 16 at Evansville, February 19 vs. Southern Illinois Read the rest of this entry »

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Kentucky Can Replace 10 Points Per Game, But Cats Can’t Replace Noel

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 15th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

Kentucky lost its leader in minutes, rebounds, steals, and blocks per game on Tuesday night to a tragic torn ACL. Nerlens Noel started every game this season for the Wildcats. He averaged double figures in points while shooting almost 60 percent from the field, and that from a player largely considered to be a project offensively. But UK lost so much more on Tuesday night than simply its best all-around player. John Calipari and his team lost the very intangible product on the court and in the locker room it searched for all season. Kentucky lost a big piece of its roster on Tuesday night, but statistics are replaceable. Kentucky lost its heart and soul. And the Wildcats aren’t likely to find that again this season.

Nerlens Noel's impact on Kentucky reaches far beyond the stat line.

Nerlens Noel’s impact on Kentucky reaches far beyond the stat line.

The real tragedy here is not in the hit on Kentucky’s NCAA chances, but for the student-athlete who must endure surgery and this unfortunate threat to his career. Kentucky’s ability to win basketball games is important to all of us who live and breathe college basketball every day, but we must remind ourselves that the players on that court are real people. They have real futures. And this particular person has a future that involves playing professional basketball. That point is not lost here, but was covered so well by writer Dana O’Neil’s coverage that doing lip service here just doesn’t do Noel justice. Read O’Neil’s piece as that echoes our sentiments of Noel the person, not just Noel the basketball player. The focus of this piece is on Noel the basketball player and his impact on Kentucky, and that impact reaches far beyond what you read in the box score.

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SEC M5: 02.14.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 14th, 2013


  1. Shot-blocking extraordinaire Nerlens Noel won’t be patrolling the paint for Kentucky again this season. On Wednesday, an MRI revealed a torn ACL, confirming what everyone assumed after seeing the freshman center crumble to the ground and scream in pain after a great hustle play Tuesday night in Gainesville. “I’ve been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we’ve had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating,” head coach John Calipari said. Despite the impending long rehabilitation process, Noel remains in good spirits, calling the injury “a minor setback for a MAJOR comeback” from his Twitter account.
  2. Questions about how Noel’s injury would affect his draft stock popped up even before the MRI. Noel was a sure-fire top five NBA Draft pick (and one of the few contenders to go first overall) before this setback, and SI‘s Michael Rosenberg believes that’s still the case. “Guys who are going to be top five picks tend to leave, and Noel will still go that high,” Rosenberg writes. “The only difference is that he might need crutches to walk over and shake David Stern’s hand.” I remain bullish on his draft stock. The injury brings up comparisons to Greg Oden, but it shouldn’t. Noel’s slight lower frame certainly didn’t do him any favors, but one awkward landing into the basket support shouldn’t indicate that he’s in for the same type of chronic knee problems as Oden. He still projects as the top defensive big man in the draft, and if a team like Cleveland or Orlando in need of a rim protector wins the lottery, don’t be surprised to see Noel follow in Anthony Davis’ footsteps as the top overall pick.
  3. So where does Kentucky go from here? (Insert super original NIT joke). “It’s not a question of, how do we replace Nerlens?” Jay Bilas said Wednesday. “It’s, how do we adapt to what we have?” The Wildcats’ remaining strengths aren’t immediately clear. Lost in the Noel commotion is the fact that the Wildcats didn’t belong on the floor with Florida. Outside of a bright opening few minutes, Kentucky’s ball-handlers looked incapable of dealing with the Gators’ full-court pressure. Even when they broke through, the UK offense lacked composure and creativity. Noel was never the focal point when Kentucky had the ball, but without their dominant defensive presence, the Wildcats need to make up some of that lost value on the offensive end. Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t too dissimilar to Noel in his playing style and should see his minutes increase drastically.
  4. Casey Prather has been little more than an energy guy during his time in Gainesville, but with his improved play in the absence of Will Yeguete, he’s showing that he can be much more valuable. Against Kentucky, the junior tallied 12 points, three boards, two blocks, and three charges drawn (of course, few players make drawing charges as easy as Archie Goodwin does). “I would just say I was trying to give the team a big boost, a big energy boost, and so I was just glad to help the team out any way I could,” says Prather, spoken like a true energy guy. The 6’6″ swingman can guard multiple positions, affording Florida flexibility in its defensive assignments, and rebounds well for his size. Yeguete could return for the postseason, but he may find minutes tough to come by if Prather continues to excel.
  5. Missouri finally earned its first road win of the season, and did so in emphatic fashion. Keion Bell tied a career-high with 24 points to lead the Tigers to a 78-36 win over Mississippi State. “I think Keion in the last four, five ball games has been outstanding,” coach Frank Haith said in a radio interview after the game. “We love to see him coming along because it gives him a chance to spell (Pressey) more.” Phil Pressey, who has struggled to score efficiently this season, was back in true point guard mode, taking only one shot (which he made) and adding eight assists. The junior would be wise to commit to this style. He’s averaging 14.5 shots per game in losses, while only putting up 10 per game in Missouri’s 18 wins.
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Morning Five: 02.14.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 14th, 2013


  1. Our fears from yesterday’s Morning Five were realized as an MRI revealed that Nerlens Noel had torn the ACL in his left knee and would miss the remainder of the season. According to the school’s press release they expect he will undergo surgery on his left knee within the next two to three weeks with an expected recovery of six to eight months, but as we all know much of that depends on how the surgery and rehabilitation go. Outside of the obvious impact on Kentucky (hello, bubble), this is a big blow to the young center who was a potential #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The injury has also led several individuals to question the “one-and-done” rule suggesting that if it had not been in place Noel would at least have had a multimillion dollar contract in place. It has also led a few individuals to speculate that Noel might come back for another year since this hurts his Draft stock although many sources indicate that Noel will still be a top-5 pick. We will table both discussions for another day (the latter is ridiculous) and just wish Noel the best in his recovery.
  2. This week’s edition of Luke Winn’s power rankings are less GIF heavy than some previous versions, but as usual it packs a ton of information including an interesting analysis of team free throws rates at home and on the road. And it isn’t Duke that leads in disparity (ok, I guess you can argue that Duke gets calls both at home on the road). Outside of that perhaps the most interesting thing in this week’s column is that Winn questions the findings of the Ken Pomeroy analysis of late game situations that we linked to in yesterday’s Morning Five. As usual we tend to agree with Winn here although this “nerd on nerd” makes us wonder which side those on different sides of the analytic aisle will take.
  3. We normally find court case involving college sports extremely boring, but the case involving Dominic Hardie, who along with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is suing the NCAA challenging a rule that bars felons from coaching NCAA-sanctioned events, is somewhat intriguing partly because we never knew such a rule existed. Hardie and his team are claiming that the rule violates the Civil Rights Act and unfairly discriminates against minorities[Ed. Note: We will leave the sociopolitical implications to others who want to open that can of worms.] Hardie was trying to coach in a NCAA-certified basketball tournament, but was not allowed to after a 2011 rule change barred all individuals previously convicted of felonies, which is a change from previous policy that only barred individuals convicted of violent felonies within the past seven years. The interesting part of this is just how far this would go since depending on the jurisdiction charges such as assault, fraud, and perjury could be felonies. Given the amount of trouble some coaches have been finding themselves in lately there could be some that would be barred although we aren’t sure if this rule pertains just to the youth events or also actual NCAA games.
  4. It must be something in the Connecticut media room that brings out the vitriol in some coaches as last night Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called ESPN’s Andy Katz an “idiot” and “disloyal” (more details including a brief transcript of the interaction and some background).  Outside of his team’s ugly loss we are not sure what set off Boeheim (there has been some speculation that it was related to some columns or information that Katz had released, but it should make for some interesting interactions between the two of them going forward. To be fair to Katz, he is not the first media member that Boeheim has feuded with; he is just the most well-known national media member that has felt Boeheim’s wrath.
  5. It wasn’t that long ago that we called out Andy Glockner for how stingy he was with handing out “Locks” for the NCAA Tournament, but looking at this week’s Bracket Watch we have to agree with him. When you look through the list the most jarring examples are in the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley Conference where he doesn’t have a single lock. A week ago we would have said he was crazy, but after some recent results we have to agree with him here. Having said that we think that there are more than a few of his “Should Be In” teams that are probably more like “Locks” at this point.
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Morning Five: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2013


  1. The college basketball community was abuzz last night discussing the gruesome-looking knees injury suffered by Kentucky center Nerlens Noel during the second half of the Wildcats’ loss to Florida in Gainesville. At the time of this writing, no official news has been released as to the severity of the injury, but as you can see from this video and this photo, the star freshman’s knee buckled in a way that caused him quite a bit of pain. Afterward, head coach John Calipari said that he feared the worst but hoped for the best, but the collective mood around Big Blue Nation suggests that Noel may not be coming back this season. You hate to see a player of any kind suffer a serious injury, and this is especially so when it involves a player with the talent, skill and future of Noel. Let’s all hope that by the time you’re reading this on Wednesday morning that Calipari’s hopes for only a sprain have rendered true.
  2. From a potential season-ending injury to a definite one, Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire‘s career is officially over after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday. The Louisville transfer graduate student had hoped to spend his only year in Evanston contributing toward the Wildcats’ first-ever run to the NCAA Tournament, but the snake-bitten team that has suffered multiple key injuries this year now sits at 13-11 and 4-7 in the Big Ten with a Thursday trip to Ohio State looming. Without the team’s best rebounder available, Bill Carmody’s squad expects to now have only seven scholarship players available for that game. Ouch.
  3. While on the subject of bad news, a bizarre and sad story is developing in the Philadelphia area this week as Maria Reyes Garcia-Pellon, the wife of former Penn starting center and 1979 Final Four participant Matthew White, was arrested on charges of murdering her husband with a pair of kitchen knives. She claimed to police that she found White “looking at pornography, young girls,” which caused her to attack him as he slept, but it’s unclear whether White was actually doing so. According to a written statement from a spokesperson for the county attorney’s office, “there is no indication that [what White was looking at] was child pornography,” but we’re sure that the specific details will come out if such an accusation is true. The last Ivy League team to make the Final Four was White’s Quakers, who lost to eventual national champion Michigan State in the Final Four.
  4. You’re up three points with eight seconds left and the opponent heading your way — do you foul or choose to defend? This strategic discussion has been bandied about for the last several years among the punditocracy, with a data-driven cabal arguing that fouling is the proper decision — that the likelihood of the sequence of events that will cause your team to lose is even smaller than forcing a tough contested three. Ken Pomeroy begs to differ. Looking at three years worth of data, he found that defending the three results in a win 94.0% of the time, while putting your opponent on the line produces a victory 92.7% of the time — a minor difference, to be sure, but a difference over a data set of 804 instances nevertheless. Considering the margin of error, perhaps there’s no meaningful difference between the two strategies, but Pomeroy argues that the preponderance of game-tying threes (witness: Wisconsin’s buzzer-beater versus Michigan over the weekend) compared with instances of  successful fouling strategies gives a false impression of one solution preferred over the other. It’s a fair point — perception drives reality for most — but we also wonder if the answer here might be mostly driven by the personnel on the floor analyzed through a matrix of three-point shooting, foul shooting, and rebounding prowess.
  5. It’s the end of the Big East as we know it, and Grantland‘s Charles Pierce does not feel fine. In a wide-ranging piece that focuses on ancient Eastern basketball rivalries, anti-Catholic nativism in the South (read: Tobacco Road), and somehow, a sluggishly-paced game between Georgetown and Marquette, Pierce laments the loss of one of the great college basketball leagues there ever was. While we’re just as torn up as anybody with the implosion of the venerable conference, we also recognize that the league really did this to itself. And when given the opportunity to shore up its ranks by getting back to what made the Big East relevant in the first place — basketball — the conference instead made a mockery of itself by reaching near and wide to schools like TCU, Boise State and (egads) Tulane and expected everyone to keep a straight face. Well, there is that new NBC Sports television contract, we suppose.
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SEC Freshman Watch: Breaking Down the “East’s” Most Effective Newcomers

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on February 12th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite Contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland. You can find past editions of the SEC Freshman Watch here (East) and here (West).

The SEC conference slate is more than halfway complete, and the league’s freshmen have begun to stabilize in their fourth month of NCAA competition. As expected, some first-year players are starting to wilt under the grind of the college schedule, while some surprising players are getting stronger as the year goes on. Kentucky has rebounded from early adversity to rejoin the Top 25 rankings, while Georgia, who once sat in the SEC basement with a 1-4 record, has ridden a five-game winning streak to stake its claim as a mid-tier team.

Noel's D is Keying the UK Resurgence (Photo credit: AP).

Noel’s D is Keying the UK Resurgence (Photo credit: AP).

These teams are getting big contributions from freshman play-makers to reboot their seasons. The Wildcats are playing well through Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin’s growing pains thanks in part to the burgeoning defense of Nerlens Noel in the middle. Georgia is riding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to key wins, but Charles Mann has turned into the Bulldogs’ third-leading scorer and Brandon Morris is becoming a pesky defender on the wing. Even South Carolina, mired in a 2-8 SEC season so far, can take solace in Michael Carrera’s scrappy production in the Gamecock frontcourt. Let’s take a closer look at how these first-year players have performed since SEC play got underway. This week, we’ll go back and examine how the freshmen of the former SEC East are doing.

Kentucky: Nerlens Noel has stepped his game up defensively for the Wildcats, and that’s been a big piece of Kentucky’s charge back into the Top 25. UK has won five straight heading into Tuesday night’s showdown with Florida, and Noel has averaged 5.2 blocks and 10.2 rebounds in that span. His offense is still a work in progress, but his impact has been undeniable.

Kentucky Freshmen 2/12

Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin have been trending in the opposite direction, as they’ve taken a back seat to Noel as the season has worn on. Poythress’s minutes and scoring have dropped as the athletic freshman has struggled with fouls (four per game in his last six contests). Goodwin has struggled as a shooter and a ball-handler recently. He hasn’t made a three-pointer in his last eight games (0-of-10) and his assists have dropped (while his turnovers have increased) as the Wildcats have faced tougher opponents.

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SEC M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 12th, 2013


  1. Road wins have been hard to come by in the league this season, but after a win over South Carolina on Sunday, Tennessee is no longer in search of its first. “Finally got that road win, great feeling,” coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday. “Getting on the plane after a road win, that was always one of the things I took great pride in as a player.” Jarnell Stokes is presumably feeling pretty great as well. The sophomore posted his fifth straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, convincing the SEC to name him the conference’s Player of the Week. Stokes was a disappointment in non-conference play, appearing to be lost without his veteran frontcourt mate Jeronne Maymon; but maybe or maybe not coincidentally, Stokes has been a beast ever since a well-placed call from his coach.
  2. Nerlens Noel is unquestionably the best shot-blocker in the SEC, with Kansas’ Jeff Withey serving as his only real competition nationwide (my sincere apologies, Chris Obekpa). Who is better? ESPN Stats & Info took a look at that question. Noel is certainly flashier by taking advantage of his elite athleticism, but he’s “more of a ‘swatter’, liking to block the ball as hard as he can”, whereas Withey’s blocks more often find their way into a teammate’s hands. A weakness of Withey’s, however, is that he uses only his right hand to defend shots. Noel has blocked 61 with his right hand and 42 with his left, a benefit that can be utilized when caught out of position.
  3. Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray addressed the mystery surrounding Jalen Steele’s suspension, calling the junior’s transgression a “selfish act.” “Now you’re taking away a chance for guys to go out and compete and win because you’ve shortened the rotation,” he said Monday. “I think more than anything you’re screwing your team and you’re screwing your teammates when you get into trouble like that.” The loss of Steele for a few games won’t help the Bulldogs on the court, but the stance from his first-year coach is what’s really important. Let’s be honest, Mississippi State, with a roster short on talent as well as bodies, isn’t headed for a successful season. With a full team, they just might be able to sneak into 13th place in the SEC standings. For a program that had more than its fair share of off-the-court issues under previous coach Rick Stansbury, an emphasis on discipline from Ray is necessary for the culture change he desires.
  4. A road trip to Mississippi State doesn’t usually demand maximum attention from opposing coaches, but Frank Haith isn’t overlooking his upcoming trip to Starkville. His Missouri Tigers, who fell out of both the AP and ESPN polls this week, know that Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to finally grab that first true road win. “You look at the numbers, we haven’t defended well on the road, we haven’t shot the ball as well on the road,” Haith said at the SEC teleconference. “We’re still not defending like I would like us to do. That’s all a mental toughness type thing.” Mizzou’s defeat of Ole Miss was its most impressive win of the conference season and they’ll look to build on that momentum before hitting a tough three-game stretch: at Arkansas, vs. Florida in Columbia, and at Kentucky.
  5. Kentucky is looking like the league’s hottest team after winning five straight, but the Wildcats aren’t the only team on a roll. In case you missed it (and I’m guessing you did), the Georgia Bulldogs have a nice little five-game winning streak of their own. Three of those wins have come on the road, which is extra impressive in a season when home court is being defended so fiercely. Unsurprisingly, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has led the way. Since there is no real secondary scoring threat on the roster, defenses key completely on the sophomore guard every moment he’s on the court, but he’s still producing to the tune of 17.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. The Bulldogs will try to make it six in a row this week when Alabama comes to town.
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Award Tour: Trey Burke Is The Best Player In The Country

Posted by DCassilo on February 8th, 2013

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

After weeks and weeks of coming close, Trey Burke has finally broken through and grabbed the #1 spot. It’s a long time coming, as Burke embodies everything you want in a player. He’s a scorer that can take over the game. He’s an unselfish player that likes to get his teammates involved. He’s a leader, who steps up in big moments and keeps his team focused. Look no further than his block of Aaron Craft’s potential game-tying shot on Tuesday as to why there’s nobody like him in the country. Michigan is in good hands come March.


10. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day, if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

I’ll reluctantly include Oladipo, partly because there’s no one better and partly because you almost have to at this point. I don’t blame him, but the hype surrounding him has really surprised me. I just don’t see why people say he’s better than some one like Otto Porter Jr., who puts up equal if not better stats, when Oladipo has Zeller down low and Porter Jr. lost his second-best player to suspension. This week: February 10 at Ohio State, February 13 vs. Nebraska

9. Nate Wolters – South Dakota State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 22.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.5 APG

I don’t care what conference he’s in and how good his team is, Wolters is without question one of the 10 best players in the country. In case you missed it, he scored 53 points against IPFW on Thursday night. And as his numbers above show, he’s well-rounded too. This week: February 9 at Oakland, February 14 vs. IUPUI

8. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG

Porter Jr. played just once this week and had 11 points and seven rebounds in a win over St. John’s. He’s shot at least 50 percent from the field in five of his last six games. This week: February 9 at Rutgers, February 11 vs. Marquette

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG

It was a rough week for Kansas, but McLemore was only partially to blame. He had 23 points, his second-most in Big 12 play, in the loss to Oklahoma State, so he can be absolved for the game. Against TCU, though, his 0-for-6 3-point shooting was part of a dreadful night for the Jayhawks. This week: February 9 vs. Oklahoma, February 11 vs. Kansas State Read the rest of this entry »

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

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 2013

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

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

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

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

  3. As we head into February and the regular season begins to wind down, I figure this is a good time to look at a few of America’s underwhelming teams. There are teams out there with gaudy records but few quality wins or those who just haven’t gotten on track relative to preseason expectations. Notre Dame, UNLV, UCLA and Missouri come to mind immediately. Notre Dame is 18-5 and 6-4 in the Big East which appears good on the surface but this was a team many thought would finish third in that rugged conference. However, a closer inspection reveals the Irish have just two quality wins on their resume (Kentucky (maybe) and at Cincinnati). In Big East play, Notre Dame has lost twice on its home court, something that has been almost unheard of over the years in South Bend. Notre Dame has never been a defensive juggernaut under Mike Brey but this is arguably his worst defensive team in 13 years at the helm. UNLV is a team with lots of talent that always leaves you wanting more, always following up a stretch of good play with a disappointing loss. The Rebels struggle away from Vegas which is understandable but you would still like to see them beat a few good teams on the road. They have failed to do that. UNLV can still turn it around but I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Three consecutive first round NCAA flameouts show that UNLV isn’t quite ready for primetime. In fact, the Rebels have not won a postseason game since a first round victory over Kent State in 2008. UCLA is still a work in progress but there is no denying it has been underwhelming. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games since winning 10 straight games after a disappointing 5-3 start. Defense has been a concern all season long but it’s the offense that has scuttled of late. Five of UCLA’s final seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Arizona. Things could get a little dicey down the stretch for the Bruins. Missouri is the team I feel is the most overrated of all. Despite a resume that lacks one single freaking SEC road win and non-conference wins over fading Illinois and mediocre Stanford, the Tigers continue to be ranked in both major polls. Missouri is not a good defensive team and has given up a lot of points to pretty much every good team it has played. Phil Pressey can be a great distributor but he’s also a turnover machine and a poor jump shooter. Mizzou will probably make the NCAA Tournament but an early departure is highly likely. Read the rest of this entry »
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Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach

Posted by DCassilo on February 1st, 2013


David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What a couple of days it was for our freshmen across college basketball. On Tuesday, there was Nerlens Noel, who provided one of college basketball’s best performances of the year by blocking 12 shots in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, his teammate Archie Goodwin posted 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. A day later it was Baylor’s Isaiah Austin stealing the show with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Anyone who believes talent is down this year for the freshman class just hasn’t been paying attention.


10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

After starting the season on fire, Bennett has not been nearly as dominant in the Mountain West Conference. He clings to a spot this week after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds over his last two games. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Zeller has drawn a lot of criticism this season, mainly because of expectations that were too high in the first place. When the dust settles, he’s still the top scorer and rebounder on the third-best team in the country. This week: February 2 vs. Michigan, February 7 at Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season.

With the below-average competition in the West Coast Conference, Olynyk isn’t posting monster numbers lately because he really doesn’t have to. He’s coming off a week in which he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds, while the Bulldogs cruised to two victories. This week: February 2 at San Diego, February 7 vs. Pepperdine

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Early foul trouble against West Virginia on Monday had McLemore destined for his worst game in ages. But he still found a way to finish with a solid 13 points and four rebounds. It must be nice to have a freshman that you can pencil in for at least those numbers every night. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

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