Morning Five: 06.19.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2014

morning5

  1. Most college sports fans probably aren’t following the day-by-day action in the Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA case taking place in Oakland, California, this month, and why would they? First of all, there’s no nifty “doink doink” Law & Order plot mover to let us know we are moving on to a more important part of the proceedings, and secondly, many people probably don’t believe that the outcome will amount to much change in their annual sports viewing habits anyway. Fair points, both, but if you’re interested in summarily catching up through the better part of two weeks of proceedings and following along in the future, SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel and Andy Staples have you covered with their daily updates. The big fish scheduled on the line this week, of course, is NCAA president Mark Emmert, who will be called to testify today and possibly beyond (if necessary). Emmert has been a staunch public supporter of the NCAA’s amateurism model throughout his four-year tenure, and you have to wonder if he will fall victim to fits of hubris while on the stand defending what is widely becoming disparaged as an indefensible system. His testimony could be a key tipping point in the ultimate outcome of this case, so keep an eye on it.
  2. The underlying force driving the O’Bannon case, of course, is money. It’s always money, and specifically, who is getting their grubby little hands on it. To most Americans just getting by, the division of tens of millions of dollars between the NCAA, schools and the television networks doesn’t much move the needle — in their view, it’s just a case of rich people enriching other rich people. But even their fur gets a little raised when a clearly successful business model that can produce a third of a billion dollars (“B”) in a single year doesn’t give a taste of the steady stream of money to those whose backs on which all those dollars were made — the athletes. And yet, the Pac-12, as Dennis Dodd reported this week, produced $334 million in 2012-13 — the most of any conference in college sports history — disseminating around $18.5 million back to each school as a result. Once you start to add ticket sales, bowl games, NCAA Tournament shares and other revenue producers to each school’s athletic pie, you start to see some very large numbers generated at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Good luck with your arguments for amateurism, NCAA.
  3. Kansas basketball got some really interesting news earlier this week when it was announced that Bill Self’s team will represent Team USA in next summer’s 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Typically, the WUG teams have consisted of some of the top rising stars in college basketball, but the all-star model with limited practice time for players to get to know each other has resulted in only one gold and two bronze medals in the last seven events (Team USA won six straight golds from 1989-99, for some perspective). The Jayhawks have another loaded team coming into next year’s college basketball season, but a number of those players such as Cliff Alexander and Wayne Selden, are unlikely to still be in uniform for international competition a year from now. Still, perhaps the knowledge of Self’s system and the resultant familiarity among the remaining players will allow Team USA to improve on its ninth-place finish in 2013. We can only hope.
  4. It wouldn’t be summer without some transfer news, and there were a couple of name-brand players who found new destinations this week. First, LSU guard Anthony Hickey, a solid if not spectacular player whose senior-year scholarship was not “renewed” by head coach Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge, has resurfaced at Oklahoma State and was deemed eligible to play for the Cowboys immediately. This is a major boon for an upcoming year where head coach Travis Ford is in dire need of a reliable point guard after the losses of both Marcus Smart and Stevie Clark from his team. It may not save Ford’s job in Stillwater, but it gives him a fighting chance. In other news, Maryland guard Nick Faust has decided to finish his career across the country at Long Beach State. Unlike Hickey, who took advantage of the NCAA’s “run-off” rule to become eligible for next season, Faust will have to sit out 2014-15 before playing his senior year with The Beach. We wish both the best of luck in their new environments.
  5. You probably heard about the too-soon passing of the late great baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn earlier this week, and while every American sports fan recognizes the ridiculous batting prowess of the man who hit safely 3,141 times with a .338 average over two decades in the majors, they may not realize that Gwynn was a college hoops star before he ever became one of the friendliest and most beloved faces of Major League Baseball. As SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton explains in this piece, Gwynn to this day remains one of the best point guards to have ever played at San Diego State, a two-time all-WAC selection on the hardwood that featured the best single-season assist average in program history (8.2 APG in the 1979-80 season). We never saw him play hoops, but we have to imagine that he brought the same passion and respect for our game as he did to the baseball diamond. RIP, Tony Gwynn.
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Morning Five: 05.08.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 8th, 2014

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  1. We knew that the moment Eron Harris received his release from West Virginia he would be a hot commodity so it should be no surprise that most of the significant programs have already contacted him the same day that he received his release. According to reports, Butler, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and UCLA contacted him within two hours of Harris receiving his release. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points while shooting 42 percent from three-point range as a sophomore, is from Indiana and according to his father being closer to home could be a major driving factor in his selection, but compatibility with a coach would be a bigger factor.
  2. Jamal Jones might not be the same caliber of player as Harris, but his departure from Texas A&M is a big blow for their program. Jones led the Aggies in scoring last season with 13.4 points per game while adding 3.9 rebounds per game. He has not indicated which destinations he is considering, but this is not the first time that he has left a school as he played one year at Mississippi (ok, maybe the word play is overstating it since he only played 25 minutes all year) before moving on to Lee College for a year before moving to College Station. Jones’ production might make him an appealing transfer for some coaches, but we suspect that his tendency to move so frequently will make many coaches weary of pursuing him.
  3. Nick Faust‘s announcement  that he was longer committed to Oregon State after Craig Robinson should hardly be a surprise. What is surprising is that he committed to a school with such an unstable coach and that the school waited this long to fire Robinson with how much a late firing could affect recruiting. While Faust says he is “open to everyone” his most likely destinations would appear to be Richmond, Cleveland State, Siena, UCLA, George Mason, and George Washington, which were the other schools that he considered before committing to Oregon State. Out of those the only one that we would be surprised by him going to is UCLA because we can’t envision a scenario where a player of Faust’s caliber would decide to play at Oregon State instead of UCLA particularly with how poorly the Beavers played under Robinson. Faust also has not closed the door on going to Oregon State in the end depending on who Robinson’s replacement is.
  4. They are not necessarily big-name positions, but two of the few remaining Division I coaching vacancies filled over the past two days. Coppin State took more than a month to find its new head coach before settling on Michael Grant. Although Grant is coming from Division II Stillman College he does have coaching experience at the Division I level going 26-31 in two seasons at Southern between 2003 and 2005. If going from Division II to Division I seems like a big jump that is nothing compared to what Bob Walsh is trying to do at Maine, which hired him from Division III Rhode Island College. Unlike Grant, Walsh has no coaching experience at the Division I level outside of serving as an assistant at Providence.
  5. If you ever wondered why some assistants at top programs did not jump at any head coaching opportunity, we would direct you to the recently released information about the new contracts that Kentucky‘s assistant coaches received. One of the assistants, Kenny Payne,  signed a two-year extension worth $500,000 annually. That figure puts him ahead of almost 1/4 of head coaches who led their team’s to NCAA Tournament bids last year. Coming in just behind Payne are assistants John Robic and Barry Rohrssen, who will be paid $375,000 per year. Those figures my pale in comparison to John Calipari’s annual salary of $5.5 million, but all of them should be quite comfortable and should keep them loyal to Kentucky unless a pretty big program comes after them.
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Morning Five: 05.01.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 1st, 2014

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  1. Yesterday was a surprisingly busy day on the coaching carousel. The big news came out late last night when Southern Mississippi filled its coaching vacancy by hiring Doc Sadler. The Southern Miss spot opened up when Donnie Tyndall moved to Tennessee, but he did leave a fairly good program for Sadler as the team went 56-17 in the past two seasons although they did not make the NCAA Tournament either season. Sadler compiled a 149-107 record at UTEP and Nebraska, but was fired in 2012 at Nebraska after going 12-18. It was just yesterday that the job was reportedly offered to Brad Underwood, who “decided” to stay at Stephen F. Austin just a few hours before the Sadler hiring was announced so we suspect that his decision may have been impacted by Southern Mississippi’s decision. The other announcement was that Tom Izzo intends to stay at Michigan State rather than pursuing a NBA job. In our opinion, this really isn’t particularly newsworthy although with coaches of Izzo’s caliber we always assume that some NBA team will have interest in Izzo. While Izzo stated that he plans on staying at Michigan State he noted that if the right offer comes up he might reconsider and he did mention the Lakers as such a job. And Mike D’Antoni did resign yesterday…
  2. It wasn’t that long ago that Rick Barnes was on the “hot seat”. After a surprisingly good season last season, Barnes appeared to be in good shape heading into next season with most of last year’s team returning. On top of that, he added Myles Turner, who committed to Texas yesterday essentially ending this recruiting season (at least for high school recruits). Turner, the consensus #2 recruit in the class of 2014, announced that he was heading to Texas in a press conference that was televised on ESPNU. For a more thorough breakdown of what Turner’s commitment means, check out Jeff Borzello’s excellent breakdown.
  3. We aren’t sure if one coach needs to replace another on the hot seat, but if he does then we would nominate Mark Turgeon. He already lost three players to transfer this off-season (more on one below) and now according to some reports both Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell have both asked for their release from the program. Maryland is denying these reports, but if true we cannot imagine how much longer Turgeon can stay on board. It is too late in the coaching carousel cycle for the school to get rid of him and look for a new coach and with their upcoming move to the Big Ten they need some stability, but they need to be looking in another direction. Last season, Allen averaged 13.4 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds per game while Mitchell averaged 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. If they do leave, Maryland will have lost five of its top eight players from last season to transfer.
  4. With most of his production from last year leaving and an undistinguished freshman class coming in we knew that Craig Robinson needed to do something significant if he wanted to keep his job. It appears that he has in the transfer market. Yesterday, Maryland transfer Nick Faust announced that he would be headed to Oregon State. Faust, who averaged 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, will have to sit out this season and has one more year of eligibility left. According to reports, Oregon State is also active in reaching out to several other prominent transfers. This method probably isn’t what Oregon State needs for long-term success, but it might be enough to let Robinson keep his job for a few more years.
  5. Danny Manning hasn’t had his first practice at Wake Forest, but his tenure is already off to a rough start. Yesterday, Shelton Mitchell, the team’s top incoming recruit, received his release from Wake Forest. Mitchell, a four-star point guard, is recovering from an ACL tear is reportedly still considering Wake Forest, but is keeping his options open now that Jeff Bzdelik, the coach who recruited him, is no longer there. At this point, the only class of 2014 commit that Manning has is two-star shooting guard Rondale Watson. Manning might turn out to be a better coach than Bzdelik, but with that recruiting class it will be very hard to prove it in the ACC.
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Morning Five: 04.09.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2014

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  1. Following a sophomore season in which he finished third in the nation in scoring at 24.9 points per game to go with 7.1 rebounds per game, T.J. Warren announced that he will be entering the NBA Draft. The news is not exactly a surprise as it had been reported that Warren would be leaving almost three weeks ago, but Warren did not make it official until yesterday. Warren might lack a good outside shot, but he is projected to be a mid-first round pick so it makes sense that he would leave. Even though NC State has a solid class coming in next season Warren’s departure likely means that next season will be a rebuilding one in Raleigh.
  2. So that John Calipari to the Los Angeles Lakers  rumors appear to have hit a roadblock. The rumor was started when former Kentucky legend Rex Chapman tweeted out that Calipari was going to the Lakers less than an hour before the championship game. Now Chapman has offered his version of backtracking by claiming that he is not a journalist (even if he was on TNT for the national semifinal teamcast). Rex says that he stands by his comments, but he thinks that Calipari will wind up staying at Kentucky. So essentially what he is telling us is that he is just talking in circles and should just be ignored.
  3. Maryland is headed to a new conference next year and it will be doing so a very different team as three players–Nick Faust, Shaq Cleare, and Roddy Peters–announced that they will be transferring. While none of the players would be considered a star on the team they all contributed with Faust being the biggest contributor with 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. The Terrapins will probably be able to cope with the losses, but as former Terrapin Terrell Stoglin notes the moves raise questions about how firm of a hold Mark Turgeon has over the program.
  4. Yesterday, Appalachian State named Davidson assistant Jim Fox to be its next coach replacing Jason Capel, who was fired almost a month ago. On some level we are interested in the what Fox can do for the program, but honestly we are more interested in seeing how he handles the Devonte Graham situation. Graham as you may remember signed a letter of intent to play for Appalachian State before his stock shot up. When he asked for a release to explore other options, the school refused and has since been widely criticized by fans. How Fox handles the Graham situation, which is a mess he had nothing to do with, could set the tone for his program going forward.
  5. With Saul Phillips headed to Ohio, North Dakota State has moved on and named assistant coach David Richman to be their next coach. Richman, 35, does not have any head coaching experience, but has been on the Bison staff for 11 years including seven as an assistant coach. That might be a concern for some programs, but that is the same position that Saul Phillips was in when he took over for Tim Miles at North Dakota State when Miles left for Colorado State. While that transition was not completely seamless, the Bison can only hope that the end result is as good as what Phillips left them with.
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ACC M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 19th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Run The Floor: Expect a break from the constant “ACC is the best conference ever” articles we got used to in the preseason. The conference’s performance to date has been less than satisfactory, to say the least, which Michael Rogner makes very obvious with the categories: “Could have been a statement win but wasn’t,” “Losses at home to plucky mid-majors,” “Home losses to teams which were beaten by Coppin State or Winthrop,” and “Losses to teams whose mascot is a yippy dog wearing a sweater.” Bottom line: The best conference on paper is sputtering a bit at the start. Also, Boston College fans should be very wary of the team’s slow start if they have any NCAA Tournament hopes at all.
  2. College Basketball Talk: Everyone get ready for the semi-annual “Roy Williams can’t coach” meme after a lackluster start from the lineup challenged Tar Heels. Now’s the time everyone will take quotes and throw on their imaginary coaching hats where they are sure they could do more than Williams with the current roster. But here’s the thing: North Carolina is playing a lot of people (read: the rotation at center and members of the eligible backcourt not named Marcus Paige) either before they’re ready, or out of position. Rob Dauster makes an important point that Williams is likely focused on getting players acclimated to his system. But another worthwhile point is that this roster is going to struggle without PJ Hairston.
  3. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Trevor Thompson has been a very pleasant surprise this season for Virginia Tech. The team’s relative success has also been a surprise — especially considering the conference’s lackluster start (see above). Thompson has earned a spot in the rotation, though with CJ Barksdale‘s return last night his role probably will be more limited. Regardless, Thompson played well in the second and third games of the season. James Johnson desperately needs depth at the forward position, so Barksdale’s suspension may end up being a positive for the Hokies.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Ian Miller drew a lot of praise from Leonard Hamilton following Florida State‘s win against Tennessee-Martin. Obviously, the level of competition for Florida State hasn’t been high thus far (though a road win against UCF will likely prove valuable), but right now Miller appears to be getting back to the player many thought he could be until his injury last year. Miller was known as an explosive scorer, but has worked very hard the last two years at getting better on defense. If he can become a good defender, it will help the Seminoles dramatically on the perimeter. The real test will come this Thursday against Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams and their havoc defense look like trouble for turnover-prone Florida State, but Devon Bookert and Miller are much better than they were a year ago. If they can limit turnovers and Ram fast breaks, I like Florida State’s chance at keeping things competitive.
  5. Fox Sports Carolinas: Lauren Brownlow highlighted the best and worst from early ACC play. Surprise finisher on her week’s All-ACC team? Donnavan Kirk. For the record, any Miami player making the list will be somewhat of a surprise this year. Brownlow also highlighted two Maryland players – Shaquille Cleare and Nick Faust – whose struggles have been killing the Terrapins this season. Cleare managed more turnovers than points and assists in the loss to Oregon State, while Faust’s career-long shooting slump has continued into his junior season. Strangely enough, Faust had the reputation of a shooter coming into College Park as a freshman. To be fair, maybe he’s just trying to make up for Pe’Shon Howard‘s transfer.

EXTRA: Yesterday marked Len Bias’ would-be 50th birthday. Here’s a great article on Bias from Mike Wilbon’s archives.

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Maryland Backcourt Shows Potential Without Allen

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 9th, 2013

When it was announced in late October that sophomore point guard Seth Allen would be out until early January with a broken bone in his foot, we all wondered how Maryland would respond. We got at least a partial answer in Friday night’s 78-77 loss to Connecticut in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Despite facing maybe the best backcourt in the country in the Huskies’ Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright, the Terrapin guards held their own. Looking at this game gives us an excellent picture of how Maryland plans to adjust to playing without Allen and raises questions concerning who should lose minutes when he comes back.

Roddy-Peters

Roddy Peters Helped Spark 2nd Half Rally (Photo: rantsports.com)

When Allen went down, head coach Mark Turgeon had three choices to start at point guard. Freshman Roddy Peters is easily the most natural at the position but Turgeon opted not to throw him into the fire right away. That left two natural wings, juniors Nick Faust and Dez Wells, to pick up the slack. In a telling move, Turgeon decided to give the ball to Wells. Perhaps part of the reason is that Wells is expected to be the team leader, and Turgeon thought having him as the starting point guard would settle the team down. But just as likely, Turgeon realized that no matter which wing he moved, decision-making would be at a premium. Even though he is regarded as a better ball-handler than Wells, Faust has had issues with shot selection and understanding time and score.

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ACC Team Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 2nd, 2013

Last year, Maryland had an impressive 13-game winning streak after an opening-night three point loss to the defending champions, Kentucky. Most of that run can be attributed to soft scheduling by head coach Mark Turgeon, but nonetheless it showed promise. Maryland finished out the regular season with a solid record of 20-11 and was rewarded with an NIT bid for its troubles. In addition to a run to the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa), the Terps had a couple of signature wins on their résumé over #2 Duke late in the season. After the season was finished, they lost Ukrainian center Alex Len to the NBA Draft, but he struggled with inconsistency under Turgeon and never quite lived up to his potential.

Maryland Preview 2013

This season the Terps will be bolstered on the interior by Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, a versatile 6’8” junior who can play as a stretch-four for this athletic Maryland team. They also have a powerful 260-pound tandem of interior sophomores in Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, who are expected to shoulder the majority of the rebounding and post defense responsibilities this season. How they are able to perform as two of the biggest players on the Maryland roster will go a long way in determining this team’s ultimate success. This may also speak to Maryland’s lack of frontcourt height, seeing as Cleare is 6’9” and Mitchell is only 6’8”. Going against larger ACC frontcourts, some with legitimate seven-footers, may prove to be a problem for this relatively inexperienced duo. Another particularly relevant story surrounding this year’s Terps will be their pending move to the Big Ten, which will show up in press conference quotes and in the form of cheers (and jeers) from opposing fan bases. Maryland will want to leave the ACC on a positive note, and this team certainly has the requisite talent to make an NCAA run in its ACC finale. If last season proves as any indicator, Maryland’s fate is inextricably tied with Dez Wells‘ output and performance.

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If a Coach Says Something Interesting at a Media Day, Does It Make a Sound?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 18th, 2013

There is nothing quite like media day season, is there? Well, okay there is, but amidst all the generic answers and meaningless chatter are tiny, real pieces of actually interesting information – I swear. In case you haven’t spent the week sifting through sound bites and press releases, here are a few of the more noteworthy revelations from recent media days in the AAC, ACC, and Pac-12.

No Speed Limit At USC -- If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

No Speed Limit At USC — If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

Let’s start out west. While some may have been disappointed by the lack of intra-LA fireworks at Pac-12 media day, we’re going to count the continued discussion of the UCLA-USC “rivalry” as a step in the right direction. Earlier in the week, Andy Enfield was quoted as saying “we [USC] play uptempo basketball here – if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” He took a predictable shot at softening the blow of those words on Thursday, but let’s focus instead on his tacit admission that the quote is real. Sarcastic or not, those words exited his mouth. Steve Alford played nice and refused to bite in response to the comment, but you better believe that the architect of those grinding, tough New Mexico teams would love nothing more than a snail-paced 65-35 beat-down of his cross-town foes come January 5. The tempo clash will be a constant subplot to the rivalry as long as these two coaches are at the helm, and despite the niceties of yesterday’s media day, don’t expect Enfield’s declaration to disappear from memory anytime soon.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 79, Maryland 76

Posted by mpatton on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after the ACC Tournament semifinal between North Carolina and Maryland on Saturday afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Turgeon sounded as positive as ever, despite his team's loss.

Turgeon sounded as positive as ever, despite his team’s loss.

  1. Maryland Looked NCAA Good: This hasn’t been the case most of the year, but Maryland looked like an NCAA tournament team this weekend. The past couple of weeks, the Terrapins have looked much better. They’ve improved as much as any group in this league other than possibly Boston College. After the game, Mark Turgeon heaped the praise on Nick Faust, but credit also goes to the more active Alex Len and Dez Wells. Turgeon’s team — known to be very turnover prone — only finished with 10 turnovers against a very active defensive team (Faust, Pe’Shon Howard and Seth Allen combined for three between them). This team may not make the Big Dance, but there’s a lot to be positive about in College Park going forward.
  2. North Carolina Rebounding Struggles: The biggest concern people should have coming out of the game about the Tar Heels is one that will certainly rear its head against Miami. North Carolina couldn’t keep Maryland off the offensive glass. Despite only a 13-9 advantage on the offensive glass, the Terrapins owned a remarkable 24-4 advantage in second-chance points. Charles Mitchell had three offensive rebounds in 12 minutes. Jake Layman added two in 14 minutes. Len added three more. That could kill North Carolina against a team as big as Miami.
  3. Layman’s Reduced Role: After playing most of the game against Duke and acting as the Ryan Kelly stopper, Jake Layman saw his role dramatically reduced (even after starting) against North Carolina. Mark Turgeon turned to Logan Aronhalt instead, looking for another shooter and not needing Layman’s size. However the shift showcased Maryland’s youthful depth. Not only can the Terrapins execute hockey-style front line changes with Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, they have the ability to adapt their backcourt as well.

Star of the Game: Reggie Bullock deserves a ton of credit. He shut down Dez Wells for much of the game with terrific defense, and ended up tied as North Carolina’s leading scorer with 15 points on 10 shots, four assists and no turnovers. Bullock is the best player North Carolina has on both ends of the floor. He’s a ballhawk on defense and the most consistent shooter on the roster. The only thing missing from Bullock’s game is the attitude that he needs to shoot more and take over games. 

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Rushed Reactions: Maryland 72, Clemson 59

Posted by IRenko on February 23rd, 2013

rushedreactions

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Maryland and Clemson. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three key takeaways:

  • Maryland’s Tournament Hopes Are Alive — Last weekend’s win over Duke gave the Terps’ Tournament hopes a big boost, but a letdown loss at Boston College on Tuesday left them on the thinnest of ice. A loss to Clemson at home would have been a big blow, and it seemed a real possibility when the Tigers pulled to within a point just after halftime. But a 21-6 run gave the Terps a comfortable 16-point cushion with 11:20 to play, and from there, they eased to a comfortable 13-point win, keeping their Tournament hopes alive. While acknowledging his team’s somewhat slow start, head coach Mark Turgeon was quite happy with the Terps’ second-half performance, crediting their defense even more than their offense for enabling them to take control.
  • Maryland’s Freshman Frontcourt May Be Its Future — Sophomore Alex Len has been the focus of the media’s attention for most of the year, but Maryland’s freshmen frontcourt shows signs of being a real force for years to come. Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, and Shaquille Cleare were averaging just 5.2, 5.5, and 4.2 points coming into today’s game, but they scored 12, 8, and 10 respectively today. More than that, they showed a certain kind of maturity and poise that belied their status as freshmen. The 6′ 8″ Layman is a swing forward with the athleticism, quickness, and shooting touch to play on the perimeter. He has been a full-time starter since late January, and the confidence and skill he displayed against Clemson show why. Mitchell and Cleare are a pair of big bodies who are still refining their post moves, but are strong finishers and rebounders who use their bulk to great effect. They added 6 and 7 boards apiece today and were a big reason Maryland was able to dominate the paint against a typically stout Clemson defense. Their physicality will suit the Terps well when they make the transition to the Big Ten.
  • Clemson’s Offense Is In A Deep Funk – The Tigers have a strong defense, as they showed in taking Miami the distance last week in a 45-43 loss. But their offense has struggled and especially badly of late. This was the fifth straight game in which they scored less than a point per possession. For a team that is likely looking forward to next season already, the news gets worse — two of their three leading scorers, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, graduate this year. That leaves a heavy load for K.J. McDaniels, who managed seven points against Maryland, and Jordan Roper, who scored a very inefficient 13 points on 5-of-15 FG shooting.

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Alex Len’s Coming Out Party Nearly Spoils Kentucky’s Title Defense Debut

Posted by EJacoby on November 9th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Maryland game tonight in Brooklyn. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. 

We assumed it was nearly impossible for Kentucky to repeat the kind of immediate, dominant success it had last season with a brand new crop of young players this year. For the first half of their season-opening game against Maryland on Friday night, though, the Wildcats came out on fire and efficient on both ends en route to opening a 15-point lead just minutes into the second half in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But it didn’t take long for the inconsistency, poor decision-making, and defensive mistakes that are typical of freshmen players to crop up for John Calipari’s team, which opened the door for Maryland to make a run in front of a very pro-Terrapin crowd. Led by emerging sophomore center Alex Len, the Terps went on a 15-0 second half run and eventually took the lead before seesawing to a tough, 72-69 loss. Len was the catalyst on both ends for Maryland’s near-upset, as the sophomore seven-footer finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks — all game-highs. He shot 10-18 from the field and committed zero turnovers. Despite failing to capitalize with a monster non-conference victory, Maryland and its fans must feel confident about this season’s outlook on the heels of Len’s dominant opening performance.

Alex Len nearly led his Maryland team to a big-time upset win over Kentucky on Friday night (Maryland 247 Sports photo)

The big sophomore showed flashes of greatness last season for Maryland, but he did not put together any dominant performances that could propel Mark Turgeon’s team to big wins. The center from the Ukraine recorded six total games in double-figure scoring last year, and none after February 4. He averaged 4.1 points per game in his final 10 games and amassed just one double-double all season. Tonight was a completely different story, as Len looked much more polished in the paint with offensive moves, finishes at the rim, rebounding prowess, and strong defensive positioning. Len turned national consensus #1 recruit Nerlens Noel of Kentucky into an afterthought, dominating the freshman in the paint as well as beating him down the floor in transition on multiple occasions. Noel had just four points on 2-6 shooting to match his nine rebounds and three blocks. If not for the unlikely late-game heroics of former Kentucky walk-on Jarrod Polson, who scored 10 points tonight after recording a total of seven previous points in his career, the Terps could have left Barclays Center with a defining victory.

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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 6th, 2012

With all of the ACC previews behind us, it’s time to put everything together in our first ACC Power Rankings of the season.

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke has all of the pieces to be a much better team than last year’s team. While the recruiting class is small, don’t forget redshirt freshmen Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. Mason Plumlee may be the focal point of the Blue Devil offense. But the big question is how improved will Quinn Cook be?
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State has the most complete team on paper. Add three top-shelf recruits to a talented returning group that includes two potential conference players of the year, and there’s bound to be plenty of hype. But will the Wolfpack be able to overcome their defensive woes (and the historical defensive woes of Mark Gottfried) and play like the end of last season, or will they play like the rest of the year?
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (tied) lost a lot from last year’s team with the four leading contributors with Reggie Bullock as the sole returning starter. But Roy Williams reloads instead of rebuilds. James Michael McAdoo may be the best player in the league, and Bullock looks ready to step up production. Freshman point Marcus Paige has big shoes (or at least a lot of shoes) to fill, but he’ll have help from backcourt veterans Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.
Florida State Seminoles 3. Florida State (tied) may fall on its face, but Leonard Hamilton and Michael Snaer have earned the right to be taken seriously after knocking Duke and North Carolina off en route to the conference championship. Keep an eye on Okaro White and Terrance Shannon this season. You can trust Hamilton’s team to bring it defensively, but can they stop turning the ball over?
Miami Hurricanes 3. Miami (tied) looked rough in its exhibition loss, but there’s no denying the talent on this roster. The Hurricane frontcourt of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji is the best in the league; Durand Scott and Shane Larkin make an exciting backcourt duo; and there’s no shortage of athletic wings to help fill out the lineup. But can Jim Larranaga realize his team’s talent?
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland also has a lot of talent on its roster, but the Terrapins were abysmal offensively last season. To make matters worse (though potentially better in the long run), Terrell Stoglin is no longer with the team. Nick Faust and Alex Len need to make big improvements for Maryland to finish in the top half of the conference. Keep an eye on Maryland’s freshmen.
Virginia Cavaliers 7. Virginia has some interesting pieces, and Tony Bennett‘s system appears very effective. But the Cavaliers don’t have Mike Scott and his mid-range game to bail mediocre offensive possessions out anymore. This team will rely on its tenacious defense because it’s hard to see the offense being consistently effective.
Virginia Tech Hokies 8. Virginia Tech hired James Johnson to replace Seth Greenberg, and Greenberg left Johnson with some real talent. The Hokies are a sleeper to finish in the top half of the conference if Erick Green, Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines mesh well. Depth will be an issue, but those three are very good players. Johnson also has established relationships with the players, which should make his transition smoother.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest is really young. But a strong freshman class joining two of the best scorers in the league should make the team marginally more competitive than the last two years. Don’t sleep on Travis McKie. McKie is a match-up nightmare for every team, and shouldn’t surprise anyone when he averages close to 20 points a night.
Clemson Tigers 10. Clemson probably should be ranked higher than this. Certainly based on roster talent and previous results, the Tigers look better than tenth in the league. That said, Milton Jennings and Devin Booker haven’t shown the consistency to take over primary roles. If Jennings lives up to his McDonald’s All-American billing and Booker gets more aggressive, this team could finish much closer to the middle of the pack.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 11. Georgia Tech (tied) looks OK on paper, but didn’t add anything significant from last season’s 4-12 campaign. This points to another rough season in Atlanta, though Glen Rice Jr.’s sudden departure may prove more of a blessing than a curse.
Boston College 11. Boston College (tied) will be a significantly more watchable team this season. The team is still young, and still low on ACC-caliber talent. But the sophomore trio of Ryan Anderson, Patrick Heckmann and Dennis Clifford are the real deal. They also all improved a lot just over the course of last season (except Heckmann, who went down with mono).
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