ATB: Fantastic Final Four – Buckeyes Squash the Orange, Carolina Misses Marshall, and an All-Kentucky Dream Game

Posted by EJacoby on March 26th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. The Final Four is set and ready for action with some of the biggest storylines in years. There were no Cinderella stories on this second weekend, as the Elite Eight was comprised of all powerhouse teams that have been the class of college basketball all season. This week will feature numerous awesome back-stories and matchups to look forward to in New Orleans, but first we’ll break down exactly what happened over the weekend that’s led us to the remaining four teams in the Big Dance. Without further ado, here’s how it went…

Your Watercooler Moment. Russ Smith Runs Wild For #4 Louisville as Unlikely Hero

Russ Smith Sparked Louisville to a Comeback and a Final Four Berth (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

The top players in the NCAA Tournament proved their worth over the weekend for their heavyweight teams, but the one team that lacks that superstar performer made for the best story of the weekend. Louisville was a slight underdog against #7-seed Florida in the West Regional Final and the Cardinals trailed by eight points at halftime by surrendering far too many open threes to the Gators. But Rick Pitino’s team stayed within striking distance throughout the second half before perhaps the most enigmatic, up-and-down performer in college hoops picked the perfect time to have his best game. Russ Smith, Louisville’s super-sub that provides instant energy, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Smith often leaves coaches and fans scratching their heads with his decision-making, but his no-fear mentality was the difference in this game. Making aggressive moves to the basket and taking big shots late, Smith came up huge for his team in its biggest spot of the season. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists (and four turnovers), and hit two consecutive shots with his team down by six points to cut the Florida lead to one. From there, Louisville closed out the game and sent the Big East Tournament champions to the Final Four.

Also Worth Chatting About. Late-Game Defense Allows #2 Kansas To Defeat #1 UNC

The Jayhawks defeated #1 North Carolina in the Midwest Regional Final by 13 points, but this was one of the most entertaining and close games of the entire NCAA Tournament. The teams were deadlocked 47-47 at halftime in a high-scoring affair, but the defense took over in this game’s second half. Kansas allowed 63.6% shooting in the first half but it was a completely different story after that. The Jayhawks gave up just 22.6% to UNC in the second frame and did not let the Tar Heels score again after a Harrison Barnes free throw cut a Kansas lead to 68-67 with 3:58 to play. Bill Self implemented a surprising ‘triangle and two’ defense that completely threw off UNC offensively, especially limiting what the Heels could do in the paint. Jeff Withey was unable to repeat his 10-block performance from the Sweet Sixteen, but he and Thomas Robinson got the best of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in scoring and rebounding inside. Combine that with the fact that Tyshawn Taylor had an incredible game going up against Stilman White, and Kansas was too tough for a Kendall Marshall-less Carolina team to overcome. There was not enough offense from UNC when it needed it, but Kansas’ terrific defensive effort was a big reason for that.

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ATB: Absolute MADNESS – Chaos Ensues As Round of 64 Concludes…

Posted by EJacoby on March 17th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede – Thursday was a fairly slow first day of NCAA Tournament action, producing just two total upsets and leaving much to be desired in terms of thrilling finishes. Friday was a completely different story – two #15 seeds won on the same day for the first time ever, with the results coming just a couple of hours apart. We also saw a #13, #12, #11, and two #10 seeds come out victorious in one of the craziest days in Big Dance history. Half of the games on the schedule resulted in upsets, including seven of the final nine contests on this freaky Friday night. Without further ado, we provide everything you need to know in this installment of After The Buzzer…

Your Watercooler Moment. #15 Norfolk State Stuns #2 Missouri.

It was supposed to be the late afternoon game to fill the only quiet block of the evening. #15-seed Norfolk State against #2 Missouri, the exciting up-tempo team that produced the most efficient offense in the country this season with its four-guard attack. Mizzou was a very popular Final Four pick, considered the team with the greatest upside in the West Region. But then things got interesting; pesky Norfolk State was hanging around and had the game tied at halftime. Every time you looked up at the scoreboard in the second half, Norfolk was ahead or behind by a couple of points and that’s when it was time to tell all your friends that we might have a serious bracket-buster taking place. Sure enough, it happened. The Spartans of the MEAC conference became the first #15-seed to win an NCAA Tournament game in 11 years since a fellow MEAC school did it in the form of Hampton University over Iowa State in 2001. This year, it was dominant big man Kyle O’Quinn who paced the way with a monster double-double for a team that shot 54.2% from the field and went 10-19 from three. Missouri played fine offensively, shooting 52.7% itself, but the Tigers allowed the tournament’s least-efficient offense to hit shots from everywhere on the floor as well as out-hustle them to loose balls and open rebounds. Little did we know, the madness was only beginning on this night.

Also Worth Chatting About. Hours Later, #15 Lehigh Makes History

Most brackets were busted from Missouri’s loss alone, but those who happened to have the Tigers falling early in their pools surely didn’t survive the rest of the night, either. The 7:00 PM ET block of games blew the roof off of this tournament, beginning with the little guys from the Patriot League. #15 Lehigh had a terrific year led by mid-major star guard C.J. McCollum, but nobody thought this team had a chance against Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, the most successful NCAA Tournament team of the past 20 years. #2-seed Duke, though, was vulnerable because of an injury to starting forward Ryan Kelly and an overall trend of weak recent play thanks to a porous defense. The Mountain Hawks took advantage early and often, leading this game early in the first half and continuing to put the pressure on Duke’s ‘D’. McCollum was the star of the show, Duke wasn’t hitting from the perimeter, and Lehigh really had a chance to win this game. Late in the second half it was anyone’s game, but McCollum made big play after big play while no Duke guard could counter. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, and Andre Dawkins combined to shoot 4-19 from three. Gabe Knutson matched Mason Plumlee inside going for 17 points on 5-5 shooting. And when the buzzer sounded, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks were winners in a thorough victory that made history. For the first time ever, two #15 seeds won in the same year of the NCAA Tournament. And it all happened on the same evening, just two-and-a-half hours apart.

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ATB: Big Dance Day One Roundup — Two Upsets, Top Four Seeds Roll, Defending Champs Are Gone…

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede – It’s madness, baby!!! The real start of the NCAA Tournament arrived on Thursday afternoon, as did the collective drop of productivity from employees across the country. March Madness brings the best sick days, mobile apps, and computer split screens out of us, in the pursuit of tracking our brackets and following our favorite teams throughout the day. This Thursday is always special; the mark of the most exciting postseason in sports, and this year was no different. Despite the lack of buzzer-beaters and major upsets, day one was still a fantastic day of college basketball with plenty of key storylines. More fascinating finishes and thrilling games are surely on the way, but let’s take a look at all the action from the first half of the round of 64…

Your Watercooler Moment. #12 VCU Pulls Another Shaka.

Wichita State Was Devastated After Shaka Smart's Boys Pulled Another Upset (US Presswire)

It was just last year when Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams pulled off one of the all-time great Cinderella runs in NCAA Tournament history, winning five games as a #11 seed to go from the First Four to the Final Four in the 2011 Big Dance. In 2012, things were expected to be different — VCU is no longer a sleeper, the Rams were stuck with an even worse seed, and they had to take on a fellow strong mid-major team with Sweet Sixteen aspirations of their own. But the VCU boys did it again, or at least completed stage one of another improbable run. The #12 seed Rams defeated #5 Wichita State in a thrilling game, 62-59, for the biggest upset of day one. VCU jumped to a quick advantage and led by nine at halftime, but a late run by the Shockers gave WSU the lead with about two minutes to play. Bradford Burgess, the lone returning starter from last year’s Final Four team, answered with the biggest shot of the night — a three from the corner that would give VCU a lead that it did not relinquish. Joe Ragland and Toure’ Murry did their best to keep Wichita State’s dreams alive, but VCU was not to be denied on this day. Burgess finished with 16 points, five boards, four assists, and two steals in the win, which sends VCU to a date with #4 Indiana on Saturday.

Also Worth Chatting About. #16 UNC Asheville Nearly Makes History. #16 seeds were 0-108 all-time in the NCAA Tournament coming into Thursday, but nobody told the Bulldogs, a senior-laden team that was fired up to take on a reeling Orange team after word that their center Fab Melo would be ineligible for the Tournament. Without Melo, Syracuse was completely out of sorts, though the player’s absence was no excuse for the rest of the team to play so poorly on both ends. ‘Cuse survived and will move on to Saturday while putting this game behind them, but the story was UNC Asheville’s incredible effort to nearly win this game. The Bulldogs led by four points at halftime and hung tough for the entire 40 minutes despite leading scorer Matt Dickey only shooting 1-13 with five points! Asheville got 18 points from J.P. Primm and all of the team box score statistics were very similar in this game, but Syracuse’s late-game execution proved to be too much. Plenty of fans and media members will say that poor officiating was a large factor in the outcome, as UNCA may have gotten jobbed on several calls in the final four minutes. There was one undoubtedly awful call against Asheville that should have resulted in a Syracuse turnover, but blaming the loss on the referees is not something coach Eddie Biedenbach would do. It was a valiant effort by the Bulldogs that just came short, ending in a seven point win for Cuse. The Orange survive to play #8 Kansas State in the next round on Saturday.

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A Rational Discussion of ACC Officiating

Posted by mpatton on March 11th, 2012

I waited a few hours to write this article because I wanted a chance to digest the game and get past the officiating. Instead it became about the officiating in NC State‘s loss to North Carolina, which I think was bad throughout but also very one-sided. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy in the ACC. I also can guarantee I couldn’t do a better job than the guys on the floor. But I do think that referees, no matter how hard they try not to, come to games with biases that affect 50/50 calls. Officiating requires making a split-second decision. That’s why selling contact is so successful. There’s no slow-mo or replays, and officials can’t even wait to see which way you fall (when they do, everyone including myself rips them for making late calls). Blocks and charges are the most difficult of these calls. Anytime someone falls down there are three choices: block, charge or no-call. But someone could hit the deck at any time. It’s not like players raise their hands and say, “Sir, I’m going to get a little out of control here but not lower my shoulder. Keep an eye on my defender’s feet for me.”

Gottfried Wouldn't Discuss Officiating Afterward

The biases come into play when it’s truly a 50/50 call, but you have to make the call. No matter what, officials are going to know that North Carolina is a good team and Tyler Zeller is a good player. Even if you brought in a top-notch official who’d never heard of Zeller, it wouldn’t take very long for him or her to figure it out. Knowing this, when a 50/50 play happens with Zeller, an official is more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt. In an ideal world, would they see everything and make the right call regardless of the context (player, team, time, etc.)? Yes.

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Players Still Struggling With Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2011

It’s nothing new that athletes love to talk.  Mostly about themselves, but sometimes about completely unrelated things too.  Such as… girlfriends, coaches, other players, fans, referees, or anything that tangentially relates back to themselves.  This is part of the reason that social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have had to become so regulated by coaches and universities — players don’t always have the ability to filter their thoughts from their mouths (but honestly, who does?).  Two incidents in college hoops this week help to crystallize this point. 

Smith Has Some Lessons Still to Learn (UCLA D-B)

First, UCLA center and freshman behemoth Josh Smith lashed out after Sunday night’s loss to USC where he was clearly frustrated by his 22-minute, five-foul performance.  In the postgame comments, he blamed much of his 8-point, 3-rebound night on the zebras:

The refs, honestly, were terrible.  They were giving me B.S. answers [about fouls]. They were telling me this, this, this.  Hopefully, they can watch tape and correct themselves.

He also left the Galen Center on Sunday night hoisting a one-finger salute to a USC fan who had obviously irritated him.  All in all, not the greatest debut for the rookie in his first rivalry game of the series.  Predictably by Tuesday, Smith had been reeled in by UCLA staff and forced to apologize (after all, he’ll see those Pac-10 referees again), with head coach Ben Howland acting the role of disappointed parent:

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Morning Five: 12.07.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2010

  1. For those of you who, like us, are into such things, Ken Pomeroy added the player ratings to his website late last night.  Some of the more interesting findings after one month of the season?  Arizona’s Derrick Williams and UConn’s Kemba Walker have the two highest offensive ratings in the nation, Miami’s Reggie Johnson has been the best offensive rebounder in the country, and St. Mary’s guard Steve Holt is the nation’s best pickpocket.  Steve Holt! You can spend hours fiddling around on there learning the hidden secrets of the game, secure in the knowledge that Pomeroy’s work has made the college basketball world a slightly better place.
  2. From the you-don’t-see-this-every-day department, College of Charleston announced on Monday that the school had signed top-50 recruit Adjehi Baru, a 6’9 forward who spurned offers from several ACC schools including North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech.  Needless to say, Baru represents the highest-rated recruit ever signed by the school.  The SoCon occasionally puts players into the NBA (most notably, Stephen Curry), but rarely are those players considered elite recruits coming out of high school.  Tremendous get for CofC head coach Bobby Cremins.
  3. Seth Davis takes a look at some of the intricacies of calling a foul when a player swings his elbows around, and even though he warned us, we came out of it more confused that we were before we started.  One of the more interesting nuggets of the article, though, is that it appears that the use of the block/charge semi-circle underneath the basket in select preseason tournaments was a rousing success.  We’ve been asking for that thing for years (familiarly called the “Battier zone”), and with that sort of a commendation it may be well on its way.
  4. Some injury news…  Duke’s Kyrie Irving will likely not play in Wednesday’s game at home against Bradley as a result of a toe injury that they’re hopeful will not become a serious problem.  They clearly want to be careful with him, but with games against the Braves, St. Louis, Elon and UNC-Greensboro between now and the new year, they can afford to take their time with him.  In less important-to-his-team news, Baylor will lose freshman guard Stargell Love for up to two months as a result of a stress fracture in his left foot.  He was playing about sixteen minutes per game, but with AJ Walton and LaceDarius Dunn manning most of the backcourt minutes, the Bears should be alright in his absence (assuming no further injuries).
  5. We hate doing these, but long-time Marquette Warrior Hank Raymonds passed away on Monday after a battle with cancer.  Raymonds was not nearly as well-known nationally as his boss Al McGuire, but he was an integral part of the Marquette program as the masterful x & o tactician/assistant behind the charismatic McGuire.  After the 1977 national title and McGuire’s retirement, Raymonds took over the program as head coach and athletic director, and led the Warriors to a 126-50 (.716) record in six seasons, including five NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet Sixteen in 1979.  In reading through the comments in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s story on Raymonds, it’s easy to see just how beloved this man was in the Marquette community.  RIP, Hank.
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Morning Five: 10.07.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2010

  1. Has anyone else noticed that the little countdown clock above is down to seven days and change until Midnight Madness hits?  Yeah, thought so.  One of the problems with MM (inasmuch as there can be a problem with something so completely awesome) is that many of the events around the country have become, well, rather boring.  The Maryland blog Testudo Times took the Terps’ 2009 version to task for lacking any forethought or originality whatsoever, and have offered a list of improvements that many other schools should also consider utilizing next week.  The best idea we know of, though, isn’t on there — which is to lose all the 7 pm “family-friendly” start times in favor of actually holding the events at 12:00 midnight.  Back in the mid-90s, ESPN would start with several eastern schools at the witching hour and move west hour-by-hour showing highlights from each event across the country, much as the news channels do on New Year’s Eve.  It was fantastic, especially if you attended one of the early ones then got to go home and watch the rest.  The crowds were raucous and it was compelling viewing for every college basketball fan across the nation.  Nowadays… less so (but still awesome).
  2. In an effort to consistently apply game rules across the 32 different conferences and 347 teams in college basketball, the NCAA has established an LLC to put all of the officials under one platform.  The mission of the new corporation will be “to increase the pool of officials; standardize messaging; more consistently apply playing rules, points of emphasis and mechanics; and remove “entry barriers” to those who are interested in becoming basketball officials.”  Hey, if it means that a Big Ten slugfest is called the same way as a Pac-10 roadrace, we’re all for it.
  3. Get ‘er Dunn?  On Tuesday news broke that Baylor star LaceDarius Dunn had been indefinitely suspended due to a domestic violence incident in August involving his girlfriend for which he was also arrested by Waco police.  Yesterday, said girlfriend Lacharlesla Edwards went on the record stating that what occurred (a punch) was actually an accident and that she has no interest in pressing charges or cooperating with police on the matter.  The local DA will still have the discretion to pursue the charges if he thinks he has the evidence to do so — it’s simply tough luck for Dunn that he doesn’t live in Ingham County, Michigan.
  4. Speaking of our favorite District Attorney in the Wolverine State, the Michigan Messenger continues to come correct with its cage-rattling about sexual assault allegations involving two players on the Michigan State basketball team.  After last week’s police report was released by the paper, the DA publicly provided transcripts of interviews with one of the alleged assailants and the victim to justify its decision to not bring charges against the two.  The Messenger responded by showing the documents to three experts in the field of criminal law — “a former Ingham County prosecutor, a defense attorney and a nationally recognized expert in sexual assault investigation and prosecution.”  Interestingly, the prosecutor said he would hesitate to bring the case, while the other two experts had trouble understanding why, at a minimum, further investigation would not be warranted.  Great stuff.
  5. Amen and pass the ammo we say in response to Gary Parrish’s article yesterday that explains just how tired he is of all the offseason negativity that goes on in the game today.  We don’t really believe that there’s any more bad behavior than there ever was, but it seems as if two things have happened in recent years to make it seem worse.  First, the media has changed, for better or worse.  Through no small part of people and sites like us here at RTC, there’s always another story or angle to dig up and talk about — trust us, we know, as this very feature thrives and depends on that very precept.  That endless chase for stories forces everyone, including the so-called mainstream media of which Parrish is a part, to up their games and talk about the next piece of news, no matter how relatively trivial (social networking makes this even more real-time in nature).  Second, the NCAA has gotten more serious about enforcement, and that means that high school players are increasingly being scrutinized for their associations with agents and other unsavories both before and after their enrollment as a freshman player; and, schools are finding that they need to run a much tighter ship because the days of only a few NCAA gumshoes covering the entire nation are gone.  Ten years ago a story like LaceDarius Dunn’s probably wouldn’t have gotten much run outside of Texas and the various Big 12 outlets; nowadays it’s a major story on every national site covering college basketball.  The landscape has most definitely changed.
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Morning Five: 01.25.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

  1. Thoughts and prayers from the RTC family to Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette, who collapsed on the bench Saturday during a game versus UNC-Greensboro.  He was in the process of being airlifted to UAB Hospital in Birmingham Sunday afternoon, and was in stable condition, so that’s good to hear.
  2. You may have heard about this on Saturday, but Michigan’s Manny Harris was held out of the Wolverines’ game against Purdue by John Beilein for “unsportsmanlike conduct” during a practice last week.  Of course, Michigan got rung up by the Boilermakers without Harris in the lineup on Saturday, but what did he do?  Word out of Ann Arbor is that he may be held out of the Michigan State rivalry game on Tuesday night as well, which suggests a fairly serious offense (beyond throwing a wayward elbow, per a UM message board).  For what it’s worth, Fab Fiver Jimmy King says that he doesn’t know the specifics, but that Harris needs “to understand that the coach is the man and ultimately you’re the player so you can’t go against the coach regardless if you feel you’re right.”  That sounds fairly specific to us, and suggests a lot Harris did something more than throw a ‘bow.
  3. Tyshawn Taylor got himself into more Facebook hot water last week after posting that he wanted to transfer out of Kansas last Wednesday night (if anyone has a screenshot of this, send it to us).  His FB account was deleted soon thereafter, and Bill Self spent part of his Friday press conference refusing to talk about it.  Whatever the case, Taylor put up numbers of 7/5 in thirteen minutes of action against Iowa State on Saturday.
  4. So what’s wrong with North Carolina?  BP says it comes down to their three-point shooting and defense.  The three-point shooting is understandable, as Will Graves appears to be the only reliable threat from distance, but the defense is a little perplexing given all the size and length there is on that team.  Maybe Roy should consider actually slowing the game down a bit to utilize his interior strength?
  5. That rule about the invisible charge-restriction area under the basket?  The NCAA Coordinator of Officiating, John Adams, thinks it’s working fine.  We absolutely agree that the Shane Battier Rule is a great thing for the game, but we’re not still not clear on why we can’t just put a dotted line down there to make it clearer where the zone starts and ends.
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ATB: Karl Hess Isn’t Invited to Our Thanksgiving Dinner Either

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

atb

Sean McDonough Rips Karl Hess.  Rarely will you hear an announcer publically call out an NCAA basketball official by name for a terrible call, but during the second half of the Vanderbilt-Arizona game tonight in the Maui Invitational, ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough ripped Karl Hess a new one for calling a bizarre quick-trigger technical foul on Arizona coach Sean Miller for protesting a cheapie on one of his players.  Another blog gives a much more detailed take than we will here, and we’re not really buying the gambling angle they suggest, but McDonough’s comments were without question incendiary and had us thinking that he might even face some sort of internal administrative censure for going after Hess so vigorously.  McDonough’s specific comments were that:

Karl Hess, he was involved in the 54-foul game the other night, and he’s one of these officials, unfortunately, who always finds a way, it seems, to be at the center of the action.  You don’t come here to watch him officiate, but more often than not, he finds himself at the center of attention.  And here he goes again over the scorer’s table to try to sort something out…

We found a video of the situation and posted it below — the relevant parts begin after the 2:00 mark, but there are comments throughout leading up to it.

OT Exotica.  We head into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with a couple of nice overtime battles in exotic locations for tournament titles.  Both were unexpected for completely different reasons.

  • #5 Kentucky 73, Stanford 65 (OT).  Even with Kentucky’s apparent growing pains in terms of defense and turnovers, nobody could have predicted that a team picked tenth in the Pac-10 that already has losses to San Diego and Oral Roberts would be able to hang with John Calipari’s stable of Wildcat stars  in the finals of the Cancun Challenge — even for a half.  Yet there was Johnny Dawkins’ Cardinal with a chance to seal the game away at the line as Jarrett Mann stepped to shoot two with under fifteen seconds remaining.  Problem is… and we see this with struggling teams all the time, Mann missed both.  That gave Kentucky wunderkind John Wall (23/4/5 assts) just enough of an opportunity to slice through the Stanford pressure to get into the lane for a foul and two free throws (which he nailed) with 2.4 seconds left.  This clutch performance came on the heels of another Kobe-style icewater jumper from the right side with thirty seconds left that had tied the game at 61-all.  In the overtime period, Stanford predictably fell apart and Kentucky’s other star freshman guard Eric Bledsoe hit a dagger three to salt the game away with 33 seconds to go.  The Cardinal should be proud of its performance, especially Landry Fields (23/13/3 assts/4 stls), who often appeared to be the best player on the court in this game (yes, just a mirage), but it’s now exceptionally clear that all the squawking Calipari has been doing about how far his team has to go is truth-speak.  The talent for this team to become something special is there, but it’s also painfully obvious that his Cats often rely on God-given abilities (especially on offense) rather than an actual understanding of strategy or the sets.  Decisionmaking by some players, especially DeMarcus Cousins, is also troubling in their naivete and youthful indiscretion.  For example, back to back horrendous decisions by Cousins late in the game to shoot a three (not his shot) and later to purposefully miss a FT attempt in a misguided attempt to get his own rebound only to foul Stanford in the process, exhibits these characteristics.  Kentucky has a chance to be very, very good, and when you have a release valve player like John Wall to cover up mistakes, that can go a long way, but there’s no doubt that UK has a lot of work ahead of it to reach its goals this season.
  • Gonzaga 61, Cincinnati 59 (OT).  The other really good game tonight was in the Maui Invitational finals, where those plucky little Zags from Spokane once again proved to the world that we should never take them lightly regardless of who they lose from year to year.  Mark Few’s team won its first Maui Invitational title behind a balanced scoring effort among its starters — Robert Sacre (14/5), Elias Harris (13/7), Steven Gray (13/7/4 assts), and Demetri Goodson (12/2).  The Zags’ supposed best player, Matt Bouldin, contributed the least offensively (6/11 on 1-7 FGs), yet the others stepped up and held off a very athletic and gritty Cincinnati team that looks nothing like the disaster that Mick Cronin inherited there a few years ago.  The Bearcats’ starting five is extremely athletic and talented, and nobody is going to want to face this team as it continues to develop together (remember, Lance Stephenson is brand new and Cashmere Wright is essentially so).  We were already high on Cincy but now we’re even moreso.  One tiny complaint, though.  When Cashmere Wright decides to take the game into his own hands as he did on the final drive in regulation, Born Ready needs to be ready to get to the rim for the putback and not stand around at the three-point line pouting that he didn’t get the ball.  Just sayin’…

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Morning Five: 11.19.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2009

morning5

  1. The holidays are approaching and lucky for us, Karen Sypher truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  Ms. Sypher was charged today by a Louisville grand jury with the federal crime of retaliation against a witness for accusing Rick Pitino of raping her.  In plain english, this means that the grand jury found no reason to believe her claim that Pitino raped her (same as the police).  Yep, just tack that one onto all the others — extortion, perjury, etc. — if she keeps it up, she might just end up doing some serious time over all this nonsense.
  2. The SI guys (Seth Davis, Grant Wahl and Luke Winn) give us their preseason selections for various categories in bite-sized form, but isn’t it a week late for this, fellas?  (ed. note – ok, got it — it was for the magazine)
  3. This is a nice piece by Alexander Wolff on the precocious career of Josh Pastner at Memphis.  Gary Parrish also has something to say about this year’s scrappy Memphis team.  We’re a little late to Pastner’s bandwagon, but after what we saw last night in terms of strategy, energy and fight, this guy is going to be around for a very long time.
  4. This was an interesting study done by professors at Indiana (where else?) that looks at the incidence of fouls called on college basketball teams over the course of a season.  The findings were compelling, but commonsensical: a) aggressive teams are rewarded by physical play by officials’ (unconscious?) tendencies to “keep it even” in terms of foul calls over the course of a game; b) home court advantage is a clear predictor of foul differential (+7%); and c) the greater the foul differential, the more likely it is that the next foul will be called on the team with fewer fouls.  We haven’t vetted the data or methodology but most everything sounds reasonable at first blush.  The smart coaches have known this for years, and even the not-so-bright ones know that teams that clutch, hold and grab on every possession can’t get called for everything.  The only possibly confounding factor not accounted for would be if the teams that are behind in the game get more aggressive through the course of play, which explains why there’s a greater likelihood of the team with fewer fouls getting whistled more often in this situations.  Interesting study.
  5. Former FIU star and RTC Impact Player Freddy Asprilla has committed to Kansas State as a juco — another great get for Frank Martin, who is putting together a nice program there in the Little Apple.
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Some Floor Time With The Big Time

Posted by jstevrtc on July 11th, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is a contributing writer for Rush The Court.  In his spare time, he officiates basketball at various levels and recently had the occasion to share the floor with a referee from the Big East.

Last summer Pat Devaney, who coordinates the Hamilton Park (high school) Summer League, asked if Brian O’Connell might be interested in officiating.  Brian is an outstanding official who works a good portion of his schedule in the Big East.  Brian and Pat are friends from their days growing up in Bayonne (NJ), so there was a realistic shot at getting him.  The one problem would be if his conferences (which happen to be the Big East and the MAAC) would permit Brian to work summer ball on a prep level.  As it turned out there was no problem and Brian accepted a schedule in the Hamilton Park circuit.  Just as a high school or lower division coach might be thrilled to be in a huddle with Roy Williams or Coach K, I was fortunate to have the chance to work three games with a major-conference official in Brian last Tuesday.

Why is that man smiling?  Because he knows Ray Floriani.  (Credit: statsheet.com)

Why is Mr. O'Connell smiling? Because he knows Ray Floriani. (Credit: statsheet.com)

We had three games at School #7 (air-conditioned, thank God) in the Heights section of Jersey City.  Our first game was Long Branch and Newark Tech.  Brian lives in the Jersey Shore area not far from Long Branch so he knew the coaches rather well.  An advantage of Summer ball is the opportunity to speak with coaches in an informal setting before or after a game.  From the outset it’s all Newark.  I get a good look at Brian’s people skills.  Many officials can make calls or have no calls but people skills, dealing with coaches and players, allow you to rise through the ranks.  Brian talks to one player who fouled, not adhering to verticality.  “You know why you fouled,” he said, “this is what you did… .”  As we move on, Brian has a great no-call on a defender flopping on a possible block/charge.  “If the shot didn’t go in I had a block,” he explains during a time out.  The game ends with Newark Tech a one sided victor.  “Wish I had at least one call back,” I said.  “The slap,” Brian answers, remembering the play perfectly.  It was third quarter with Newark up twenty-something and penetrating.  There is a slap on the arm but the Newark player finishes it.  Given the time, score and play I could have passed.”  The slap had me jump the gun,” I said.  “Just wait on a play like that,” Brian advises.

The second game is between St. Peter’s Prep and Union High School.  It is a well-contested one possession game. Late in the first half the Prep head coach Mike Kelly, who was quietly watching at the end of the bench while his assistant ran the team, disagrees with Brian over a no-call. Kelly jumps off the bench shouting, is well out onto the floor, and Brian gives him a technical.  Kelly persists and is thrown out.  Leaving, the coach makes a remark about being ‘big timed’.  We move on.  Prep spurts early in the second half and goes on to a well earned 44-32 victory.  “Can you believe that?” Pat Devaney says about the flare up.  “Maybe Kelly wanted a mention in the column,” I replied to interject a little humor.  Brian is one of the easygoing guys on the college circuit and is slow to ‘T’ people.  “That’s my second tech all year,” he says.  “Who got the other one?” I ask.  “John Thompson III, but he wanted it (to fire up his team).”

Game three is a full court track meet between High Tech and the Jersey Jayhawks AAU team.  The Jayhawks have only five players.  At the quarter Brian tells me # 15 of the Jayhawks has two fouls.  “I know, I called them,” I said.  As far as game management, Brian is very aware of the entire situation.  As officials in that spot, when someone is in foul trouble, we work hard to ensure further infractions are severely warranted.  As (revered former collegiate official and supervisor) Edgar Cartotto says, “Forget the misdemeanors, grab the felonies.”  At one point, we have a jump ball.  I have the arrow wrong.  Brian corrects me.  During a timeout I said, “I’m honored to be in the same situation as Jim Burr, in reference to a game at the Garden when Brian had to correct the veteran Burr on an arrow.  Brian had to leave the fourth quarter in our game; it was cleared with Devaney ahead of time and I finished up with  long time officiating friend Dennis Nuber.  On the way out Brian notes he was very pleased with my work but suggests getting in closer on an opening tap.  “Jump balls are tough,” he said, “that’s why I try not to toss too much.”

The second half is all Jayhawks as they post a convincing win over a good club.  On the way out, Pat Devaney tells me, “Brian said you did an excellent job.”  I have covered games Brian has worked at the RAC, the Garden, Prudential Center, et al.  I have watched NCAA tournament games he has worked.  Tonight we were partners on the same floor.  An unforgettable honor for yours truly.

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Thou Shalt Not Tech the Cheerleaders…

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences.  When he’s not writing, he serves as a basketball official in various New Jersey amateur leagues.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – In the course of my basketball life there is an officiating schedule. It is something I have done for two decades now and enjoy quite a bit. It also gives a different perspective on the game. For instance, before getting into officiating I never watched how a player set a screen while covering a college game. Now, it’s something watched closely courtside as it reveals how fundamentally sound a player may be.

At any rate, Monday night brought an assignment in the North New Jersey Suburban League, a sixth grade boys game between South Orange and West Orange. Entering the gym I noticed the West Orange coach was New Jersey Senator Richard Codey. He was acting governor of the state for a time and may be our next one down the road. Codey also has a passion for basketball and a close friendship with Bobby Gonzalez of Seton Hall. It is known that Codey has spoken to the Seton Hall University president on more than one occasion in support of Gonzalez. Likewise he has conversed with Gonzalez a good number of times.

We get going and early on South Orange gets out to a lead. Codey shows a little of the mentor that works about a half mile down the road by debating a few calls or no calls. Still, he is working hard genuinely teaching and encouraging his kids. On one play I call a three seconds on his player. “His foot wasn’t in the lane,” Codey protests, “Coach it was,” I answer politely,”plus I gave him about five seconds.”

Ray Would Never "T" Up This Crew

Ray Would Never "T" Up This Crew

During a time out, my partner comes over and tells me Codey wants a Technical on the South Orange cheerleaders. “Why,” I ask. “He said they are too loud and he can’t think” I suggest to my partner let’s just move on.

South Orange is too fast and athletic. The margin is in the thirties the second half. He might not agree with every call but overall Codey isn’t a problem to work with . He’s really in a teaching mode despite the score and at times gives a theatrical arms up in desperation on an unforced turnover. With 13 seconds to go South Orange is up 32 and calls time out to set a play. “Time out with 13 seconds left,” he says to me as if to say why? “Coach, I know what you’re saying,” I answer, “my partner and I commented on it.  We agree it’s not right, let’s just get it finished.” The game plays out the final seconds with a home win in the books. Codey commends us but adds, “you really should have ‘T’d’ those cheerleaders.” Provided they do not intentionally interfere with play, curse, or taunt,  there is no way to call a technical (which would be assessed to their team) on them.  My reply is I’m certain they can’t be ‘T’d’ but (taking a political route) I promise to check the ruling with my association.

“See you tomorrow at the ‘Rock’ (Prudential Center for Seton Hall-Villanova),” I said. “I’ll be there,” he replied.

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