Morning Five: National Championship Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 8th, 2014


  1. So it’s over. Another season in the books. If you want to hear our thoughts on last night’s title game, check out our post from afterward. Briefly though, congrats to Connecticut, who played a phenomenal game making all of its free throws and making key shots when they needed to. On the other side of the ball, Kentucky made the plays they needed to stay in the game, but couldn’t make the shot that would put them over the top and never actually led in the game. In fact, they were never tied except when it was 0-0. Oh, and those free throws. Again for a Calipari team. We will have more on the season later this week as we recap the season.
  2. The immediate future of Manhattan basketball will be determined over the next few months in Lexington as Manhattan announced that it would welcome disgraced coach Steve Masiello back to his head coaching job after he receives his degree from Kentucky. The school has decided to frame Masiello’s deceit about his education as poor judgement rather than a lie. While that might be considered as forgiving it is worth noting that the school would not be able to get a coach of Masiello’s caliber if they didn’t take Masiello back.
  3. We are not sure what it is about South Florida that draws former NBA players and coaches to coach lower-tier teams, but we are up to two in the past five years as Florida Atlantic hired Michael Curry to be its next coach. Curry played in the NBA for 11 years and coached the Detroit Pistons for one season where he went 39-43 before being fired. Curry does not have any other head coaching experience, but apparently that was enough to beat out LaVelle Morton and Matt McCall for the job. Hopefully, Curry will have more success in South Florida than the last head coach with NBA experience (Isiah Thomas at FIU) had there.
  4. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 10-member class of 2014 yesterday. The headliners for college basketball fans are Gary Williams and Nolan Richardson with Alonzo Mourning and to a lesser degree Mitch Richmond. The resumes of the first three on the college level does not need much explaining, but perhaps Richmond’s does since we noticed that the college part of his Wikipedia entry had been left blank so this might be a useful primer. The induction ceremonies will be held from August 7-9 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  5. We have probably seen the last of Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd on the basketball court (at least if you don’t want to watch overseas basketball), but we could see him in an Oregon jersey this fall except this time he will be a wide receiver on the Oregon football team. Thanks to a NCAA rule allowing a player to compete for a fifth year if it is in a different sport (remember Greg Paulus at Syracuse) Loyd would have another year of eligibility. Normally we would worry about how someone of Loyd’s size would survive on a football field, but perhaps Oregon’s up-tempo style might help him.
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SEC Mount Rushmore

Posted by EMoyer on February 21st, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

In honor of President’s Day, RTC is putting together the Mount Rushmores of the six power conferences. For all the history in the SEC,  picking four who represent all of basketball proved difficult and will surely (hopefully) create good debate. So without any delay, here’s the Mount Rushmore of SEC basketball:

Adolph Rupp – Kentucky: Rupp, a fixture on the Mount Rushmore for all of college basketball easily earned one of the four coveted spots. Rupp learned under Phog Allen while playing at Kansas, then came to Kentucky and ultimately passed Allen before retiring as the winningest coach in college basketball history. His Wildcat teams won four NCAA titles (1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958) and 27 SEC titles in his 41 years on the bench. In 11 of those years, he posted undefeated seasons in SEC play. In SEC Tournament play, he posted a 57-6 record with 13 more titles. During the height of his reign, he made it nearly impossible for teams to win at Kentucky. Rupp authored the longest home court winning streak in Division I history, winning 129 straight from January 4, 1943, to January 8, 1955. As part of his legacy, his name adorns the  current Wildcat home court, Rupp Arena, the student section is named the eRUPPtion Zone, and one of the major national player of the year awards is the Adolph F. Rupp Trophy.

Pete Maravich – LSU: When your conference boasts the all-time leading scorer in Division I despite only getting to play three seasons due to an NCAA rule prohibiting freshmen from playing for the varsity team, you can guarantee another spot on Mount Rushmore. Combine his mythical status and ball-handling wizardry, the choice of Pete Maravich is almost as easy as Rupp. He still holds 15 NCAA records and owns the top scoring seasons for a sophomore, junior, and senior. On the LSU freshman team, he scored an additional 741 points and averaged 43.6 points per game. The Sporting News, AP, and UPI named Maravich a First-Team All-America in 1968, 1969, and 1970. In 1970, he claimed the Naismith Award and Player of the Year awards from The Sporting News and the USBWA. Like Rupp, Maravich’s name lives on as the Tigers play in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

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SEC Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 17th, 2012

  1. The SEC announced the 2012 Allstate® SEC Basketball Legends. The 12-man class will be honored at the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament March 8-11 at the New Orleans Arena. The 2012 class includes Jack Kubiszyn (Alabama), Nolan Richardson (Arkansas), Chris Morris (Auburn), Mike Miller (Florida),  Willie Anderson (Georgia), Adrian “Odie” Smith (Kentucky), Jack Waters (Ole Miss), Chuck Evans (Mississippi State), Henry Martin (South Carolina), Gene Tormohlen (Tennessee), and Drew Maddux (Vanderbilt). Each SEC Basketball Legend will be recognized at halftime of his institution’s first game at the tournament.
  2. While Vanderbilt was throttling Ole Miss, 102-76, on Thursday, much of the drama came outside the lines. In the game, the Rebels received three technical fouls, one because of some fans throwing ice on the floor for a second time. Andy Kennedy and Terrance Henry also received technical fouls by the end of the night. After the game, teammates Reginald Buckner and Jelan Kendrick had to be separated by the coaching staff after an argument. “When you played like we played there’s a lot of frustration to go around,” Kennedy said. “I’m sure some of that got misguided.” Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger filed this video regarding the altercation.
  3. In that win, Jeffery Taylor scored 28 points as he continued his ascension up the Vanderbilt scoring chart. At Taylor’s current average, Vanderbilt would need to make the SEC Tournament championship game, and the NCAA championship game for him to pass Foster.  The Tennessean’s Mike Organ spoke to Taylor and his teammates about his chances of taking down Shan Foster of the school’s all-time leading scorer. “I’ve always been among the top scorers on the team, but we’ve always had good scorers and we’ve always had a balanced team,” Taylor said. “But where I am on the (all-time) scoring list is nothing that I’ve ever really had that great an interest in.” Organ writes that “at Taylor’s current average, Vanderbilt would need to make the SEC Tournament championship game, and the NCAA championship game for him to pass Foster.
  4. As Auburn basketball is starting to see a uptick under Tony Barbee, the story of Tigers’ walk-on starting point guard Josh Wallace has picked up steam. Evan Woodbery writes how Wallace, the owner of a 4.45 GPA in high school, can balance his book studies with his playbook studies. “Engineering is a pretty tough major, and I guess to balance that and play a sport is pretty demanding on both ends,” Wallace said with a shrug. “So I guess people want talk about it a lot.”
  5. Jack Blankenship, the subject of the “SEC basketball photo of the year” has seen the popularity of the picture grow to the point where ESPN’s Dave Wilsonwrote about Blankenship’s sudden stardom. “I thought it’d be cool to find a way to get a picture of myself and bring it to the games and hold it up,” Blankenship said. “It’s been amazing. I’ve always wanted to be famous.”
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SEC Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on January 31st, 2012

  1. Vanderbilt returned to the AP top 25 rankings, checking in at #25 after a week that saw the Commodores defeat a pair of in-state foes – Tennessee on Tuesday and 20-3 Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Their stay inside the top 25 will depend on how they fare in a pair of tough road contests this week. First, Vanderbilt travels to Fayetteville for their one regular-season meeting with Arkansas then follow up that trip with a road contest at #12 Florida on Saturday. Combined, the Razorbacks and Gators own a 27-1 mark on their home floors.
  2. Tuesday also gives a chance to react to the many bracketology projections around the web. Here on, Zach Hayes gave six SEC schools dance invitations: Kentucky as a #1; Florida and Vanderbilt #4s, Mississippi State a #6, Alabama a #11, and Ole Miss a #12 playing in one of the “First Four” contests. He put Arkansas as one of his last four out. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi puts five SEC teams in the field, led by Kentucky as a #1. Vanderbilt and Florida received #4 seeds, Alabama drew a #7 seed, Mississippi State garnered a #8 seed. He put Ole Miss as one of his “Next Four Out.” On, the same five Lunardi put in the field earned spots: Kentucky a #1, Vanderbilt a #4, Florida a #5, Mississippi State a #6, and Alabama a #10. Ole Miss ranked as one of Chris Dobbertean’s Next Four Out.
  3. On the SEC coaches teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury was asked by Brad Locke, of the NEMS Daily Journal about the Sunday report that had Renardo Sidney considering leaving Bulldogs either for the NBA or as a transfer. “Not at all. I don’t know where all those reports come from. No discussion at any time,” Stansbury said. He also asked if the two had discussed Sidney’s future at all. Stansbury: “We haven’t talked one bit about his future plans at all. We’re just trying to get through this season.”
  4. Tuesday’s other SEC contest features a rematch between Tennessee and Kentucky. The Volunteers led by six at halftime and nearly stunned the now top-ranked Wildcats before losing 65-62. Terrence Jones made some interesting comments to Lexington Herald-Leader in regards to Jarnell Stokes. Stokes, who made his collegiate debut in the first Kentucky game, drew a pair of fouls on Jones and finished with nine points and four rebounds in 17 minutes. Despite that, Jones said “I don’t think he really made that big an impact.” In other quotes, Volunteer head coach Cuonzo Martin said “We’re a better team, but now you have to go on the road in a hostile environment and prove it.” Kentucky has won 47 straight at home and hasn’t lost to Tennessee at Rupp Arena since Chris Lofton scored 31 points in a 75-67 win on Feb. 7, 2006.
  5. The third installment of ESPN’s SEC Storied series will premiere on Saturday, February 11. It features Nolan Richardson and his famed “40 Minutes of Hell” style of basketball that culminated in a national championship in 1994. Arkansas fans will be able to catch a screening before the 9 p.m. airing on ESPNU as it will air on the Bud Walton Arena video boards. From the account, the movie “produced by NASCAR Media Group and directed by Kenan Harris-Holley, includes interviews with former President of the United States Bill Clinton, Richardson himself, former Arkansas Chancellor John White and current Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. Players Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Al Dillard, Ken Biley and John Engskov contribute to the film, as well as radio announcer Mike Nail, author Rus Bradburd and ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Ryan McGee.” You can watch the trailer here.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 12th, 2012

  1. ESPNU will debut the latest in the SEC “Storied” documentary series on February 11 with 40 Minutes of Hell. The film goes behind the scenes on former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson‘s success with the Razorbacks in the early 1990s. The “40 minutes of hell” fast paced and pressing style that Richardson employed in the SEC won him the National Championship in 1994. Richardson’s separation from the university was anything but amicable as he slapped Arkansas with a wrongful termination lawsuit. The Razorbacks hired Richardson’s protege, Mike Anderson, as head coach helping to bring the former coach closer to fans, players, and the University of Arkansas. Not to mention, the hire also brought back a style of play that is modeled after Richardson’s championship winning system.
  2. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne has found his role on Vanderbilt’s roster, and he is making his impact felt on the defensive end. Goulbourne has limited the role of several prominent big men in recent games, holding Marquette’s Jae Crowder to 30.8% shooting and Auburn’s Kenny Gabriel (just to name a couple) to just 2 points on 1-7 shooting. “He’s done an unbelievable job about three games in a row where the team’s best player was the four man,” Vanderbilt guard Brad Tinsley said. “He’s really figured out how to take what the coaches tell him and put that out on the court.” With the return of center Festus Ezeli and solid defense from Jeffery Taylor, Goulbourne’s defense is an added plus for a team known more for its offense. The Commodores’ commitment to the defensive end has their defense ranked ahead of their offense in latest Pomeroy efficiency rankings.
  3. Kentucky coach John Calipari has a theory for why his Wildcats haven’t been effective on the road in the last couple of years. He says the SEC is not an easy league to compete in, and declares that the league could have as many as five teams competing in the Sweet Sixteen. “This league, with the top five teams that we have, that are all NCAA Tournament teams, and really,” said Calipari. “I’ll make a prediction, other than us, of those five, I would say four of those, without us, will be Sweet 16 teams. How about that?” It’s not that far-fetched of a prediction. Vanderbilt and Florida have the talent to compete with anybody in the nation, and Alabama and Mississippi State have both proven its legitimacy within the top 25 teams in the country. And of course, Kentucky, which Calipari didn’t put as a Sweet 16 team, will be competing well into March and most likely early April.
  4. Billy Donovan wasn’t happy with Florida’s defense in its loss against Tennessee, but the Gators played with much more intensity in their win Tuesday night over the Georgia Bulldogs. With all eyes on the defensive end, Florida held the Dogs to just 36.4 percent shooting on the night. Donovan was satisfied this time around. “I thought we defended them very, very well,” Donovan said. “We held them to 48 points. I think if you hold any team to 48 points you’ve done a pretty good job defensively.” The Gators, however, continued to neglect Patric Young in the post, as Young attempted just five shots on the night. If Florida can continue to hold opponents to 48 points, the lack of a post game may be a moot point.
  5. Mississippi State’s big man Renardo Sidney didn’t start on Saturday for the Bulldogs because of a coach’s decision. “I wanted to save him some foul trouble,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He had two fouls early in all those games.” The strategy wasn’t very effective as Sidney still committed three fouls in the first half. The fast paced action perpetuated by Arkansas’ full court pressure limited Sidney’s effectiveness. He scored just six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes of play. His replacement in the starting lineup, Wendell Lewis had similar issues. Lewis was limited to two points in 14 minutes of action.
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Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012

  1. Vegas is a lot of things to a lot of people, but it also happens to currently be a recruiting hotspot for the Class of 2012. According to a published report from Five Star Basketball, the nation’s #1 and #8 recruiting targets (Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett) are both strongly considering Kentucky and UNLV, causing the hearts of many Wildcat and Rebel fans to flutter with the possibility of a package deal involving two of the very best talents the prep ranks have to offer. This is nothing more than wild speculation at this point, as the two players suit up for different high schools (Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep, respectively) and have kept their cards close to the vest, but those two schools are the only overlaps on each player’s list of his final five candidates. The two will face off on January 21 in a nationally televised game — something tells us that ESPN’s ratings will spike in and around central Kentucky and southern Nevada on that particular evening.
  2. In the wake of the BCS National Championship snoozer on Monday night, several college basketball writers have put together their “half-year” awards, with the emphasis on half. Mike DeCourcy at TSN starts us off with several lists that may or may not surprise you with his current choice for NPOY (think Valley), Most Improved Player (think gunner), and Toughest Team to Judge (think #1). Jason King at takes it a few thousand words further with his analyses, but he details the teams that he feels you should hold on to and fold on to. Perhaps the most interesting piece of King’s article is where he lists a number of coaches who he feels deserves a raise at this point in the season. Rick Pitino? Really? We really hope that he wrote that prior to Louisville’s last two games.
  3. Regardless of losing a hard-fought game last night against Temple, St. Louis has been one of the feel-good stories of the season, as Rick Majerus’ Billikens have seemingly gotten past the rebuilding stage and moved into the era where they will regularly start competing for Atlantic 10 championships and NCAA Tournament bids. It didn’t start out so smoothly, though, as the Cleveland Cavaliers swooped in and, as Majerus puts it, “LeBron’d” him by grabbing one of his top assistants, Alex Jensen, a mere four days before practice was set to begin in October. According to the coach, the Cavs organization never so much as contacted him about their outreach to Jensen, but the Billikens have managed to put that behind them en route to a 13-4 start this season.
  4. It’s a rather light news week so we’ll throw this up for some mid-season levity. We don’t at all understand the context behind this website built about North Carolina (basketball? football?), but it was passed along to us, so here it is. A quick whois search shows that the owner of the site is someone named Matt Hisamoto, a programmer at McKinney in Durham, NC, and a 2008 graduate of NC State. Hatred runs deep in those parts, that’s for sure.
  5. This trailer debuted last week but we’d missed it to this point. For a period in the early-to-mid 1990s, Arkansas basketball — or more colloquially, Forty Minutes of Hell — was just as big a name as some of the other blue-bloods in the sport such as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. Nolan Richardson, the second black head coach to win a Division I men’s basketball championship in 1994, was a lightning rod with his outspoken demeanor and freewheeling style of play. But he was a winner at Arkansas, and he won big. This documentary about Richardson and the rise of his program, entitled Forty Minutes of Hell, will debut on February 11 on ESPNU as part of its “Storied” series. The film purports to delve into the makeup of the man that led him to such great heights, along with his inevitable downfall at the university after his teams stopped winning. For college basketball fans of all ages, it’s sure to be a must-watch.

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Morning Five: 03.24.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 24th, 2011

  1. It appears as if Mike Anderson‘s decision to leave Missouri for Arkansas had everybody confused as many of the major media outlets were filing contradictory reports throughout the day. In the end, Anderson decided to head back to Arkansas where he will make $2.2 million per year over his 7-year contract, which will probably be incentive-laden although details are still sparse. Razorback fans will be hoping that Anderson can return the team to the success it enjoyed under Anderson’s mentor Nolan Richardson and Anderson will have a nice start with the outstanding incoming recruiting class that John Pelphrey signed.
  2. A DukeUNC NCAA Tournament match-up has been discussed so many times, but never happened leaving many to pretend that it could never happen. Gregg Doyel is not one of those people as he is already talking about the potential of the two teams meeting for the fourth time this season in the Final Four with Duke having a chance to advance to the championship game along with a chance to repeat and Coach K getting win #903 (passing Bob Knight‘s record). UNC would also be playing for the chance to reach the championship game after being essentially written off as a contender around Thanksgiving and more importantly prevent Duke from doing the aforementioned things. As Doyel notes the magnitude of such a game would almost be too much to comprehend.
  3. Speaking of Coach K and coaches switching jobs, those LA Laker rumors appear to have surfaced again and this time Coach K has turned down the theoretical offer before any Duke students had to resort to writing letters begging him to “Please still be my coach” (that was from a student who wasn’t on the basketball team). Honestly we are kind of surprised that this is even really an issue at this point in his career and would be stunned if he took a job that required him to leave his position on the sidelines at Duke so the rest of the media should probably calm down with any other rumors about the NBA trying to lure him away.
  4. One of our favorite regular columns is Luke Winn’s Power Rankings because unlike most iterations of power rankings online not only does he rank teams (duh), but he also teaches us something. This week’s Sweet 16 version is no different as he has interesting nuggets on every remaining team. Based on Luke’s ranking of VCU he might end up being Shaka Smart‘s next press conference target.
  5. Finally, we usually use this space to highlight coaches, players, and/or programs in the news, but The New York Times had an interesting feature on Ken Pomeroy and how college coaches are utilizing the data that he collects and incorporating it into their game plans. It is worth noting that although Pomeroy does this as a part-time job/hobby his basketball predictions are a lot more useful than what our local weatherman has to say about tomorrow’s weather.
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Morning Five: The Day After Selection Sunday

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2011

  1. With the new broadcast arrangement between CBS and Turner Sports most of you probably have a ton of questions about what they are doing with our beloved NCAA Tournament. Richard Deitsch has the answer to at least a dozen of them including the all-important question of which games Gus Johnson is scheduled to call in the opening round.
  2. While most of the nation was fixated on the announcement of the NCAA Tournament brackets there was also some other tournament news as the NIT, CBI, and CIT announced their fields. You already probably know most of the NIT field (think every team that was whining about getting snubbed a few hours ago). The one thing that stood out to us was the NIT committee putting Harvard as a #6 seed. We never bought the possibility that the Crimson could be an at-large team, but saying that there were at least 20 teams ahead of them that got left out of the NCAA Tournament seems absurd. The CBI field (bracket here) is notable for having Oregon (playing on its infamous home court in the opening round), Davidson, and Central Florida (winners of this year’s award for biggest disappearing act). The CIT field (schedule here) is only notable for having Northern Iowa in it. The NIT does offer a few intriguing match-ups and could be interesting if the “snubbed” teams stop feeling sorry for themselves and try to show the NCAA Selection Committee that they said that they made a mistake. As for the CBI and CIT feel free to check them out if you really need a college basketball fix.
  3. There was plenty of news around the country on the coaching front as several coaches were let go. The most notable in terms of potential impact is Arkansas firing John Pelphrey who leaves behind a solid incoming class of recruits to a new coach. It appears that the Razorbacks are targeting current Missouri coach Mike Anderson to replace Pelphrey. If they are unable to land Anderson, who spent 17 years at Arkansas as an assistant to Nolan Richardson, then they are expected to go after current Marquette coach Buzz Williams, who also has some ties to Arkansas.
  4. Few individuals in college basketball had as good of a day yesterday as USC coach Kevin O’Neill did. Not only did his Trojans get into the NCAA Tournament albeit into one of the play-in First Four games, but O’Neill was also reinstated by the university after his run-in with an Arizona booster in a Los Angeles hotel bar before the team’s meeting in the Pac-10 Tournament.
  5. Washington reinstated Venoy Overton for the NCAA Tournament after suspending the senior point guard for the Pac-10 Tournament. Overton had been suspended after the Seattle city attorney charged him with providing alcohol to a minor. Overton is expected to play against Georgia on Friday, but it will be interesting to see how the Charlotte crowd, which should have a heavy UNC bias, will react to Overton in light of some of the speculation surrounding the incident that led to the charges particularly if Washington advances to play UNC in the second round.
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Madly Spins The Carousel: An Early Look At Coaches On The Hot Seat

Posted by jstevrtc on February 28th, 2011

Walker Carey is an RTC contributor.

There is much uncertainty surrounding the status of several high profile coaches around the country. While Wyoming’s Heath Schroyer, Stetson’s Derek Waugh, Georgia State’s Rod Barnes, and Monmouth’s Dave Calloway have been the only head coaches this season to already receive their pink slips or be asked to step down, there are definitely more changes that will come at the end of the season. The challenging part of the coaching carousel is determining what coaches will be fired.

Sidney Lowe Is Feeling the BTUs In His Office Chair And Spot On the Bench

In an attempt to determine what coaches should be considered on the chopping block, one can rate a coach’s chance of dismissal by three criteria: (1) There must be considerable fan disdain, (2) There should be a degree of waffling administrative support, and (3) There must be a pattern of losing over an extended period of time. If a coach meets all three then a coaching change is extremely likely. If a coach meets two of the three there still exists a good chance that a change would be made. If a coach only meets one then it is a safe bet that he will be given more time to turn things around.

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Four Teams Up…

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Every year teams come out of nowhere and burst into the top 25, while sports writers run to their keyboards to type the requisite “Where Did Team X Come From” story. I mean how many people saw Cornell coming last year? Who said last October that Butler would go on to lose the national championship game by just a couple of inches?  Conversely, there are teams that look great on paper in the preseason but fail to live up to the hype once the season starts. Think North Carolina last season. Why did the Tar Heels begin the year in the top 10 again?  Allow us to sort through the mess and pull out this year’s Cornells and North Carolinas for you. Missouri fans, get ready to be excited. West Virginia fans, start thinking of things to say in your hate mail.

Today we’ll take a look at four teams that will be up this season as compared to where they were in to 2009-10.  Wednesday we’ll look at four teams that will be down.

Four Up

#1) North Carolina

Drew Will Have a Superstar to Get the Ball To This Year

I know, I know, you’ve seen this script before. The Tar Heels enter the season ranked in the top 10. They don’t have many players on their roster that have accomplished anything in the college ranks, but they boast a highly touted incoming freshman class. Sound familiar? That was last year’s UNC squad, and we all know how disastrous the 2009-10 season was in Chapel Hill. So why the reason for optimism for Roy Williams & Co.? Two words: Harrison Barnes.

In Barnes the Tar Heels have the top freshman in the nation, and a guy many foresee as next year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The 6’8 forward gives UNC the kind of scorer last year’s offensively challenged squad lacked. He’ll instantly become the primary option in Williams’ offense, and his inside-outside game should have the Tar Heels back in the NCAA Tournament as a dark horse Final Four candidate. In addition to Barnes, the Tar Heels have a rookie point guard in Kendall Marshall who should provide the competition in practice to make Larry Drew II a better floor general, and at the very least should give UNC two capable ball handlers. The lone reason to be concerned is North Carolina’s lack of depth along the front line. UNC lost Deon Thompson (last year’s top scorer) to graduation, Ed Davis left for the NBA and David and Travis Wear transferred to UCLA during the offseason. If center Tyler Zeller suffers another injury this season, North Carolina might be in trouble, but the Tar Heels definitely won’t suffer another NIT season.

#2) Missouri

Kim English is Ready to Take Mizzou Deep Again

It didn’t take long for Baylor to lose its momentum from last season’s run to the Elite Eight. All it took to bring the Bears back to earth was LaceDarius Dunn’s arrest for aggravated assault and indefinite suspension from the team coupled with Ekpe Udoh’s decision to enter the NBA draft. And the team that gained the most from Baylor’s drama? Missouri.  The Tigers are well equipped to jump into the Big 12 elite and it’s all because of head coach Mike Anderson. Anderson is 88-46 in his four seasons at Missouri and reached the Elite Eight in 2009. Last year the Tigers made it to the Round of 32, and Anderson’s squad is predicted to finish fifth in the Big 12 this year.

Personally, fifth seems a little too low. The Tigers’ brand of basketball (the “fastest 40 minutes in basketball”) that Anderson learned at Arkansas under Nolan Richardson is incredibly tough to prepare for and usually leaves the opposition bent over in exhaustion by halftime. And if that’s not enough, the rest of the Big 12 has to account for preseason Wooden All-America selection Kim English and five-star recruit Phil Pressey. If Anderson’s other five-star signee, Tony Mitchell, ever becomes eligible then the Tigers will have the frontcourt presence necessary to post Anderson’s best season in Columbia.

#3) Florida

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