Thoughts From a Wacky Opening Night in College Basketball

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 14th, 2015

There were a lot of games and a lot of things that happened last night!  Some immediate takeaways on several of them…

Wisconsin. Yikes. You just don’t expect THAT from a Bo Ryan team, right? We all knew the Badgers were replacing a lot this season but it’s always been next man up in Madison. Perhaps it’s a little different though when you’re replacing the NPOY Frank Kaminsky, his sidekick Sam Dekker and many of the other key components of arguably one of the greatest offenses in college basketball history. Still, there shouldn’t be a drop from that to losing at arguably the nation’s greatest fortress to WESTERN ILLINOIS. Picked last in the Summit (as I’m sure you’ve heard by now), the Leathernecks weren’t exactly North Florida winning at Illinois or even Belmont winning at Marquette (both of which also happened last night). This was THE most shocking result of the night.

Shocker of Shockers on a Wild Opening Night

Shocker of Shockers on a Wild Opening Night

Monmouth over UCLA put in a late bid, though.  Playing 2,796 miles away from campus at Pauley Pavilion and with their body clocks at well after midnight Eastern time, the Hawks more or less debunked every time-zone theory by winning 84-81 in overtime. Maybe it’s fairer to say that the Bruins really lost this one, however, after blowing a 13-point lead with 12 minutes to play, and then up five with two minutes remaining in the extra session. Aaron Holiday had an end-of-game sequence to forget — first missing a jumper, followed by one-of-two free throws after an offensive rebound, and then badly bricking a game-tying three-pointer as time ran out. Perhaps tearing up San Diego State in a secret scrimmage isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2014


  1. Welcome to New Year’s Day! No, not that one where you wake up hung over and buy a new calendar. The one where the newest Pac-12 conference season tips off. We’ve got five games on the slate tonight, so let’s get right to it. First, we got a little bit of a surprise on Wednesday when Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson announced that senior forward Eric Moreland has “fulfilled the requirements of his suspension” (except for, you know, sitting out the 14 games he was suspended for) and will be in uniform tonight when the Beavers visit Colorado (7:00 PM PST, ESPNU). Moreland averaged 9.4 points, 10.6 boards and 2.5 blocks per game last season and will significantly increase the chances that Oregon State gives the Buffaloes problems tonight.
  2. While that game takes on more intrigue, the game of the night is probably Oregon visiting Utah (5:00 PM PST, Pac-12 Networks). The Utes have played one of the weakest schedules in Division I basketball, but also have largely taken care of business, including a blowout win over rival BYU (a win that doesn’t look quite as impressive now that BYU has dropped a few games). Still, they’ve looked pretty good in getting through that schedule, but beginning tonight there is no more hiding. The undefeated and No. 10 nationally-ranked Ducks visit and will immediately test the Utes’ resolve. For their part, Oregon is still something of an unknown, having earned a handful of good but not earth-shattering wins. We’ll probably know a heck of a lot more about both of these teams by Sunday night.
  3. The basketball version of The Big Game between Cal and Stanford (6:00 PM PST, Fox Sports 1) is the other big story of the night. Both teams have struggled with injuries this season, but the Cardinal have at least accepted the fact that they’ll be playing without guys like Aaron Bright, Andy Brown and Christian Sanders. The Golden Bears, on the other hand, are without Ricky Kreklow for another month and freshman Jabari Bird is out for “awhile” and not expected to play tonight. With that said, and with the Cardinal playing at home, this is a bigger game for Johnny Dawkins’ squad tonight. The Cardinal can’t afford a loss in this one.
  4. Wrapping up tonight’s slate, Arizona State will host Washington (5:00 PM PST, ESPNU), while Washington State gets the distinct pleasure of visiting the No. 1 team in the nation – Arizona (7:00 PM PST, Pac-12 Networks) – without the services of its best player in the lineup. DaVonte Lacy remains out following surgery to remove his appendix, meaning the Cougars had better find a way to get some scoring from guys like Royce Woolridge and Que Johnson, or risk suffering a ridiculously lopsided loss in Tucson.
  5. UCLA and USC won’t tip off their conference play until they face each other on Sunday afternoon (12:00 PST, Fox Sports 1), but former Bruins’ great and current ESPN broadcaster Bill Walton took in his first UCLA game of the Steve Alford era last weekend against Alabama and wasted no time in making his thoughts known. In short, Big Red thinks that the Alford era is already a huge upgrade over the slow and joyless Ben Howland era. But Coach Alford, beware. You still had better win. And fast. And regularly.
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First Impressions From the Big East Openers

Posted by Todd Keryc on November 12th, 2013

College basketball opened play over the weekend and we got our first glimpse at the 10 Big East teams this season. Now that we’ve seen each team in action, here are some initial takeaways from a few of them.


Bryce Cotton (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Bryce Cotton (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Bryce Cotton led all Big East players in scoring last year and he will have an opportunity to repeat the feat this season. But if Providence wants to take the next step into the NCAA Tournament, it will need to find some consistent support for him. In the Friars’ Friday night win against Boston College, Cotton was his usual self, deftly finding his way into the paint and finishing over much bigger defenders, but he struggled from the perimeter. Last year he averaged more than eight three-point attempts per game but limited himself to just four against the Eagles. His ratio of 3FGA to FTA will be a telling statistic this season in his personal development. However, the well-dressed Ed Cooley needs to find his star some help. With Kris Dunn sidelined by a shoulder injury and two freshman wings (Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock) suspended, it was again the Cotton show.  If the Friars want to improve upon their .500 finish in conference play last season, they will need those players back to create a depth that was lacking in their season-opening win.


Georgetown opened its season practically across the world in South Korea against Oregon and it was UCLA transfer Josh Smith who stole the show in a loss. The big man showed off an array of post moves and had his way in the paint against the smaller Ducks. Georgetown was ice cold from deep and still had chances late against a ranked team, albeit one missing a couple of key players. Assuming the Hoyas shoot better in future big games (and realistically, they could not shoot much worse), Josh Smith’s presence will make an enormous difference and put Georgetown in contention for a Big East title.

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Everybody Into the Pool: Celebrating the Return of College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2011

Exactly 31 long weeks ago, on a Monday night in a city more sprawling than sprightly, two teams stepped onto an elevated court in front of 80,000 people in a football stadium and tipped off a game more memorable for its unsightliness than its beauty. Connecticut and Butler may not have won over many new fans with their combined 26.1% shooting on that warm spring evening, but as a certain blockbuster game that took place in Tuscaloosa over the weekend shows, teams who are better at stopping people from scoring rather than scoring themselves have a peculiar tendency to make the game ugly.

It Wasn't Pretty, But Counts Just the Same...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though, and even if the score had ended at 2-0, the sport’s 73d national champion was crowned that evening in Houston. A short 21 weeks from now, we’ll do it again. From this Monday night to that Monday night and 147 days in between, we’ll submit ourselves to the altar of the college basketball gods, genuflecting before a slate of over 5,000 games involving 345 Division I teams, each with a specific hope/delusion of grandeur of a shot to play on the next elevated court… in the next football stadium… at the next Final Four.

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NCAA Informally Exploring Idea of a Season Tipoff Event

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2010

Yesterday the NCAA held a teleconference featuring Gene Smith, the current Chair of the Men’s Basketball Committee, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, and Butler head coach Brad Stevens.  The media was afforded the opportunity to ask questions of the three in a structured format, and while we didn’t have a question ourselves, there were quite a few interesting nuggets that came out of the event.  Rather than simply posting the complete transcript, we pulled out the parts that we found most compelling for the sake of simplicity.  (note: entire transcript can be found here)

Three Big Names in the Sport Fielded Questions Yesterday

The line of questioning that perked our ears the most revolved around the longstanding RTC complaint that the regular season trickles out in fits and twitches rather than exploding onto the sports scene as it should.  All three interviewees in this teleconference agreed that such a thing is worth exploring. 

  • Gene Smith:  [This was discussed as] a casual conversation we had in our meetings in New Orleans last week.  We were sitting around and realized that the games started, we were watching games.  We really thought it would be nice if we had, at the beginning of the basketball season, an event of some nature that brought attention and awareness right off the bat on the first games right away.  We’re blessed right now with the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon just concluding.  While that was going on, there was a great deal of excitement.  In the first week, it didn’t seem to have the energy and excitement that we felt the start of the season should have.  So it’s really a discussion we thought we needed to keep on our radars as we move forward.
  • Coach K:  I’d be in favor of that.  I think what happened yesterday was great for the game.  It actually felt like the start of the basketball season.  People watched those games, and they were great games.   We should have an official start to the season and not let it start from November 4th or 8th.  Nobody really knows when it starts.  To kick it off like that was tremendous.  That was a tremendous thing ESPN did. 
  • Brad Stevens:  Yeah, I think it’s really good.  I say I’d like to see us play a little bit better when we open a place like yesterday.  But I think it’s a great thing for college basketball.  It brings awareness to college basketball.  I think people get excited about it.  Like Coach Krzyzewski said, people now know that the season has kicked off.  I think sometimes towards the waning parts of the football season, or at least the regular season, all of a sudden pops up a college basketball game.  It’s like, I didn’t realize that was going on. 

Let’s hope that the NCAA continues its recent trend of listening to its constituents — the schools, coaches, and the fans — and figures out a way to make something like a true season tipoff event happen.  Another area of inquirey that all three gentlemen addressed was how expanding the NCAA Tournament to 68 teams next year may impact the decision-making process of the Committee. 

  • GS:   It’s really hard to speculate what that moment will bring for us.  Our policies and procedures on selecting and seeding and bracketing will pretty much stay the same.  We’ll move through our process.  Now, as opposed to stopping, we’ll go to 37 at‑large.  I just don’t see us changing anything.  I still believe there’s going to be that 38th and 39th team that feel they should have been the 36th or 37th team.  To my view, it will be a continued level of excitement from that perspective.
  • BS:  It helps four teams.  I don’t know which four teams it helps.  I don’t know they’re in any given league.  I found it to be the case, I think they look at it really objectively and [Smith] addressed that.  What we try to do is we try to go out and schedule the best schedule that we possibly can, which in the coaching fraternity they call me crazy for doing that, so that we at least have a shot to qualify for the tournament in two ways.  At the end of the day it’s going to be the next four best teams, and certainly there’s going to be some arguments, there’s always going to be No. 69 and 70.  But four more teams have a chance to get in.  I don’t think it necessarily helps one program or another. 

The proposal that the NCAA recently deliberated involving a banishment of the summer recruiting period was also discussed, and perhaps expectedly, neither coach was in favor of this measure.

  • MK:  First of all, I’d like to see legislation not put forward without input from coaches.  This summer the conference commissioners voted to get rid of summer recruiting, and there wasn’t anybody from basketball representing the game at that meeting, which sometimes is the reason that poor legislation is passed concerning our game.  We should always have a representative of basketball at committee meetings where they’re deciding things about our game.  Summer recruiting is essential for schools of all levels.  I think the amount of money that you would have to put into it if you didn’t have summer recruiting would be immense because you get to see so many kids during a short period of time in one area.  So it’s essential.  What we do with it, I mean, it should be a consensus with the coaches and our administrators as to what is best for our game.  You’re going to have to do something in the summer, there’s no question about it. […] If people would cut out summer recruiting, it would be a huge mistake.  Now, what we do with it, how we go forward, let’s figure out what’s in the best interest of our game, what’s in the best interest of all the schools involved.  You’re going to need to go out in the summer.  Kids are going to play in the summer.  You’re going to need to go out or else you’re going to have to deal with more people who have no restrictions.  They’re not answerable to any authorities as far as academic authorities.  Less access that we put in the early ’90s proved to be poor for the game.  To have further less access, you know, would be utterly ridiculous to do.  We should have learned our lesson from that.
  • BS:   I’ve been in plenty of discussions with different coaches and people around.  I think the key, like Coach K said, is more access, not less access.  I think we all agree on that.  We certainly can’t eliminate the July period.  But if we can come up with a way to make it whether it means you have more access to juniors, you get more calls, whatever the case may be, then if you want to limit July or cut July back by a couple of days, add a weekend or two in April, have all kinds of scenarios that work.  But you have to make it so we can watch these games, watch these kids all in one place or at least in a few different places.  It’s very cost‑effective.  I think it’s the right thing for us to do.  I think it’s the right way to go.  I don’t think you can, again, I don’t know that 20 days is the right thing.  I think that’s a bit much personally because I think kids are tired, coaches are tired.  It’s well documented how unhealthy the whole month is from that regard.  If you could knock it back a couple days and add a couple days in April, I’d be all for it.
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Morning Five: 11.12.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 12th, 2010

  1. It’s Opening Night, part trois.  Yeah, we know that the “official” opening night was on Monday and then again on Wednesday with the 2kSports CvC games, but there are 135 games tonight that say quite differently.  Tonight is the first night that teams not in that exempted tournament are allowed to hold games, and the majority of D1 teams have chosen to do so.  Why they’re exempted we have no freaking idea, but that’s an argument for another time.  The point is that college basketball is back in earnest this evening, and we can formally agree that the season is underway.  For a list of each night’s biggest games around the country, be sure to check out the “Nightly Nonsense” box above.
  2. Hoosier Nation rejoiced as Tom Crean beat out North Carolina and local-sensation Brad Stevens and Butler for the services of 6’9 power forward recruit Cody Zeller yesterday.  Zeller was one of only two of the top 25 players left on the big board, so under normal circumstances this probably wouldn’t be so newsworthy.  But the takeaway here is that Zeller, while likely not a program-changing recruit, is the first major homegrown talent to sign with Indiana since Crean took over in Bloomington nearly three years ago.  There was a time not too long ago when every kid who grew up in the Hoosier State wanted to play for the Hoosiers, but the last decade-plus hasn’t been all that kind to the program as player after player left for other environs.  Re-building that pipeline of in-state talent is essential to IU becoming once again a player commensurate with its historical presence as a top-six program along with Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UNC and UCLA.  This is the first step toward that end.
  3. Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston has been charged with two counts of assault and harassment and therefore will be held out of games until his legal situation is settled.  He will be allowed to continue with other team activitites, which includes practicing with the team.  VU has three games in the next eight days (vs. Bucknell, Lafayette & Marist), so we wouldn’t expect to see him in any of those.
  4. Sigh…  Minnesota’s Devoe Joseph is the latest and greatest player who has now been suspended indefinitely for “off the court issues” involving a violation of team rules.   According to the article, the issues are not academic nor injury-related, so that means it’s something he’s not doing up to Tubby’s standards of conduct.   He will not be playing in the Gophers’ season opener against Wofford nor next week’s game against Siena and traveling to the subsequent Puerto Rico Tipoff. Let’s hope he figures it out, because Minnesota needs him.
  5. You certainly now know that Kentucky’s Enes Kanter took $33K in salary as a member of a Turkish club team which the NCAA deemed makes him ineligible to play college basketball.  Jeff Goodman writes that it was a risk well worth taking for John Calipari, whose reputation wasn’t going to change regardless of the NCAA’s decision, and despite how unlikely it was that Kanter would ever have become eligible (not even Oak Hill Academy would take him).
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After the Buzzer: Opening Night Doldrums

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2008


Hello again, everyone.  For those of you who might be new to the site this season, we want to introduce you to a feature that we try to run most nights during the season.  We like to call this feature After the Buzzer (ATB) because it’ll be posted well after the witching hour in the East for your first perusal the next morning (make RTC your home page!  you won’t be disappointed…).  The format will change depending on what happened that night, but we’ll typically try to give some brief wrapups of the night’s biggest games and stories of interest with some commentary thrown in.  If we’re feeling particularly frisky, we may also take a look ahead to the next night’s games.  Note that we said most nights; there will inevitably be nights where the games that night were simply unwatchable, or we’re down at the Savoy because some Duke scrub hit a late three to cover the spread, or our better half threw the tv and/or computer out the window.  In any case, like Olbermann and O’Reilly, we’ll be there as many nights as we can muster, annoying the hell out of you with our smug banter. 

Game of the Night.  There was no Game of the Night because there really is no “Opening Night,” and this really irritates us.  Seriously, how stupid is the NCAA when it comes to how it starts the season?  MLB, the NFL, the NBA and even NCAA football have an opening day/night with significant fanfare – it’s something that fans and the media alike can get excited about.  Instead of a showcase night of several good ‘opening’ games, we get Duke vs. Presbyterian on ESPNU (was Methodist unavailable?  how about Baptist?).  Instead of Vitale/Bilas/Digger, we get the painfully monotonous Beth Mowins.  Instead of college basketball nation all at once reaching an orgasmic climax because hoops is finally back in action, we get a game that is hidden away on the least-watched channel in the ESPN suite of programming.  It’s ridiculous.  We’ll say that ESPN is at least thinking the right way with its 24 hour bonanza of coverage next week (Nov. 18), but the NCAA and ESPN need to work a deal out next year so that this happens on a true “opening night.” 

Other Games.  The only games tonight were in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament in the Durham, NC, regional.  The first game wasn’t televised, but Georgia Southern pulled off a mild upset (6-pt dog) in defeating CUSA’s Houston Cougars 65-63Sleeper schmeeperTrumaine Pearson led GSU with 19/11, as the Eagles withstood a late three attempt that was off the mark.  Georgia Southern will now play host Duke, as the Devils got out to a large halftime lead against Presbyterian (24 pts) before mostly coasting in the second stanza to win 80-49.  We actually saw most of this game – here are some quick thoughts.

  • Presbyterian is nicknamed the Blue Hose – someone needs to explain this to us.
  • Coach K wasn’t very happy with his team’s performance, and with good reason.  The Devils committed 21 turnovers and only shot 3-11 (27%) from long range. 
  • Kyle Singler (19/10) and Nolan Smith (15/3 stls) looked solid, if not spectacular, but what was alarmingly apparent was how Coach K’s recruiting in recent years has led to lineups in the Duke lineup that look way too much like the SEC and ACC in the mid-50s.  A Duke ‘whiteout’ will not be an uncommon occurrence again this year.
  • Time and time again the Presbyterian offense was able dribble penetrate into the paint for decent looks at the rim.  They rarely finished these forays because they were often too small and intimidated by the Duke ‘bigs,’ but this is going to be a serious problem again for the Devils this year.  Incumbent center Brian Zoubek fouled out in seven minutes of play.  Against.  Presbyterian.  The other option, freshman 6’10 F/C Miles Plumlee had 0/2 in thirteen minutes.  Why can’t Coach K get big man studs anymore?
  • ESPN isn’t allowing embedded video on this game yet, so here is the link to the highlights.

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST).  Several more CvC games, but only a few of interest.

  • Northeastern (-6) v. IUPUI – 4pm
  • Michigan v. Michigan Tech (ESPNU) – 7pm
  • Duke (-25) v. Georgia Southern (ESPNU) – 9pm
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Finally, It’s Here.

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008


John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

We can stop now.

No need to continue going to YouTube to relive highlights of last season.

We can stop reading (and re-reading) those strange single-issue pre-season magazines.

We don’t have to keep checking the listings at ESPN Classic or the Big Ten Network for a stray college basketball replay.

Somewhere in Florida, Dick Vitale has been taken out of a moth-ball-filled crate (or out of his tasty Tampa Bay Rays box seats) and has had his big bald pumpkin dusted off.  He is drinking hot tea to prepare his voice.  He knows that the weekly Mike-and-Mike appearances are not enough, now.  He knows it’s time to go to work.

Somewhere in New England, the always delightful and informative Tom Brennan is shopping for blazers.  Hopefully with his wife’s help.

At this moment, Digger Phelps is in a Staples, eyeballing the highliter section with genuine concern, holding up ties next to them to insure proper color-coordination.  Jay Bilas and the Davises (Rece and Hubert) are watching replays of the Tim Tebow pep talk and laughing like Charley Steiner

They’re polishing the floors at Pauley and Cameron Indoor.  Oh yes, they’re setting up chairs at Rupp and O’Connell.  If you listen hard enough, you can hear that blessed sound, that sweet, echoing collision between basketball leather and hardwood, coming from Louisville and Lawrence, Spokane and Storrs.

And we know why.  It’s back.


God, it’s always been this way for me.  Ever since I can remember, the middle of October has meant – political rhetoric aside — well, a feeling of new hope.  Not just for the prospect of a great season for my favorite team(s), but for the fact that there WAS a season; that for the next five months, my favorite sport was going to take over everything – the TV, the radio, the conversations between me and my friends – and man, how sweet it was going to be. 

“Take over” is the correct term, there.  Seriously, some of my earliest memories of childhood were sitting with my basketball-coach father in front of a TV as he taught me why you have to “overload” a zone, or the best way to break a 2-2-1 full court press, or how, by looking at your defender’s feet, to tell the exact moment to go on a dribble-drive.  On random weekdays in grade school and junior high, my friends and I would be bleary-eyed having stayed up to catch the end of, say, Seton Hall at UC-Santa Barbara, or Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga, because if you were in our crowd you had better be able to discuss it.  Especially during the season, we’d be fired up to play HORSE, 21, or 5-on-5 on any playground we could find.  Rain or snow?  Didn’t matter, makes it more interesting.  3am and the cops showed up?  Who cares, we’ll find another court.  Yeah, we were geeks, at least about college basketball.  We didn’t care.  We still are.

I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading a college basketball blog, you probably share my excitement, and you probably have similar memories to the ones I’ve recounted above.  Maybe you have a specific moment in college hoops’ glorious history that made you an immediate lifelong fan.  Perhaps you can recall the exact details of where you were for the Bryce Drew Miracle.  Or Tyus Edney coast-to-coast.  Or Gabe Lewullis in 1996.  Well take heart, friends.  November has arrived.  It ain’t March, but it’s still pretty damn good.

And the upcoming season is already intriguing in so many ways.  So many questions are waiting to be answered.  For the first time in a while, we have a true Goliath to start a season, this time in the form of the 2008-09 edition of the North Carolina Tarheels.  Can they live up to the already-churning hype machine and take their place as one of the greatest squads ever assembled?  Can Ol’ Roy live up to the challenge and complete this task?  What absolute sickness does Stephen Curry have in store for us this year?  Will this new three-point line redefine the position of the 2-guard?  Will the traditional center re-emerge as the premier position on the floor because of it?  Will it bring back the lost of art of the mid-range jumper?  Is Duke over- or undervalued this year?  Is Davidson the new Gonzaga?  Speaking of the Zags, is Austin Daye as special a player as he seems?  Will Billy Gillispie’s second season in Lexington be as impressive as his second seasons at UTEP and Texas A&M (therefore catapulting him to deity status)?  And what is it going to be like to look over at the Arizona sideline and NOT see Lute Olson?  Jeez, you might as well make the baskets 26 feet high and make the court triangular, because it will seem like a different game.

I can’t wait to have them all answered.  So serve it up, let’s light this candle.  With everything that’s gone on in this country (sports and otherwise) in the last seven months, it seems like a million years ago that we crowned Bill Self and his Jayhawks as champions.  So give me Big Monday.  Love him or loathe him, give me Dickie V having one of his on-air seizures of hoops happiness.  Give me Gus Johnson on the mic with a last-second shot in the air.  Bring on Bracketology and let’s have some mid-majors.  It’s time for Rick Pitino’s white suit and the Fox Sunday night game. 

Because finally…it’s here.  Rejoice, college hoops fans.  Our game is back.

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