Debunking the Myth: Has the Big East Really Been a Dominant Conference Recently?

Posted by EJacoby on February 17th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

We all know that the future of the Big East conference is going to look much different than as is currently constructed. West Virginia is headed to the Big 12 next season, and Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be on their way out to the ACC within the next two years. This league that in recent years has been known as the most dominant basketball conference will have much more competition for that title in the near future. But even this year, fully intact with the same 16 teams from which 11 qualified for the Big Dance last year, the league is not a shoo-in for the top conference. The Big East only has four NCAA Tournament locks right now, with five or six teams middling on the bubble. Which is more of an aberration – this year’s average play or the past few years of perceived dominance?

Perceived as a Dominant Conference, Has the Big East Been Overrated? (AP Photo/K. Rivoli)

There are plenty of metrics to use when attempting to determine the best conference during a season. One could look at conference RPI to determine the strength of the league during the regular season, but that treats every team equally so a couple of bad teams at the bottom of a 16-team league could weight down the conference significantly. Conference RPI also does not reflect postseason success. Amount of future NBA draft picks could tell us a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect anything at the college level equating to program success. For the purpose of measuring a conference’s success from year-to-year, we’re going to look at the number of postseason bids they received and how well those teams performed in the bracket.

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Who’s Got Next? Top Uncommitted Prospects To Commit Soon…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 18th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at


From an important commitment Monday to an important commitment today, we’re bringing you everything you’ve missed in the past week in the world of recruiting including new developments in a top ten prospect’s recruitment, the meteoric rise of a somewhat unknown recruit, more rankings being released, a challenge issued to two powerhouse programs on Tobacco Road, and how an ACC program’s recruiting class is falling apart.

What We Learned

Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) might stay in Wichita.

Wichita State Has a Realistic Shot at Perry Ellis. Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) has long had the same list of six schools (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State) that’s he interested in, but lately, it seems as though there has been some movement as to who his favorite is. The latest shift involves Wichita State after they hired assistant coach Dana Ford, who has a longstanding relationship with the Ellis family. Ford has watched Ellis play since his first middle school game and even worked out with Ellis several years ago when Ford was a Shocker intern. The WSU coaching staff also met with Ellis and his family last Wednesday and emphasized how much they wanted to keep Perry in Wichita (Ellis attends Wichita Heights HS). Some other news involving Ellis includes the fact that Minnesota is now starting to recruit him and head coach Tubby Smith called him on the phone recently. A source very close to the situation also says that they suspect Kansas and Kentucky are two of the front-runners in Ellis’ recruitment.

Mitch McGary is Becoming a Top 2012 Talent. This time of year last year you probably didn’t know who class of 2012 power forward Mitch McGary was; well now he is one of the best players in his class. McGary has become significantly better in all parts of his game over the past 12 months and is a force to reckon with both inside and out. He is a tough, strong, big man to handle in the paint and has the ability to step out and score on the perimeter. However, the biggest reason he has received much more attention lately is because of his incessant motor and the fact that he has gotten his grades in order. Now that schools don’t have to worry about whether he will qualify or not, programs such as Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are in near-constant contact with him. He says that his recruitment is wide open and that he will likely wait until late in the process to make his decision. He also says location isn’t a factor in his choice. As of January, before top programs began taking notice of McGary, he had visited Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Marquette.

Maryland’s Recruiting Class is Falling Apart. Many people wondered what would happen to Maryland’s recruiting class when the Terps found their new coach and whether their commitments would stay with Maryland or seek releases from their letters of intent; well now we know. The Terrapins have lost every recruit in its Class of 2011 after the university granted shooting guard Nick Faust (#38), point guard Sterling Gibbs and power forward Martin Breunig releases from their signed letters of intent. To make matters even worse, just days after his release was granted, Gibbs committed to the Texas Longhorns (read more about this in the “What You Missed” section below). However the Terps still have a shot at Faust, who is now the second highest rated uncommitted prospect and still likes Maryland (Check out the “What They’re Saying” section below to find out why), and Breunig, who visited Washington Monday night. Keep in mind Faust and Gibbs are good friends so Gibbs’ commitment to Texas might push Faust away from College Park. This coaching change is also affecting Maryland’s 2012 class since small forward Justin Anderson (#45) said Sunday in a text that he isn’t sure whether he will open his recruitment back up. On the brighter side of things for Terps fans, head coach Mark Turgeon picked up Class of 2012 shooting guard Seth Allen who is a prolific scorer and can get the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court.

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Early Entry Winners & Losers

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2011

Now that the NBA Draft early entry withdrawal has passed (Midnight ET on Sunday night), it’s time to take a look at who the winners and losers were from this year’s process.  Of the nearly 70 players who declared as early entrants for this year’s NBA Draft, we count a dozen or so who will return and make their teams significantly better next year.  The biggest impact will be felt at the following places…

The Winners

Jones Fills Out a Ridiculous UK Lineup in 2011-12

  • Kentucky.  How do we figure that a team that ends up losing its best scorer and best perimeter defender is a winner?  Because of who they didn’t lose.  Terrence Jones will team with Kentucky’s fabulous duo of incoming forwards — Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis — to produce the most dynamic and talented front line college basketball has seen in some time.  As good as Brandon Knight was in a Kentucky uniform, his loss to the draft also ensures that there’s no question as to who lead this team next year, as incoming superstar Marquis Teague will take over the reins from day one.  The loss of DeAndre Liggins was surprising and will hurt, but on balance, the player UK most needed to return did.
  • The Big East.  With the notable exception of NPOY candidate and Final Four MOP Kemba Walker and the somewhat shocking departures of Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott and Louisville’s Terrence Jennings, the Big East avoided losing three of its better returning players for the 2011-12 season.  Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones will all return to teams that could not afford to lose them; with so many talented seniors leaving the Big East, it was imperative for the league’s overall health that these talented upperclassmen come back.
  • Missouri.  A very early Christmas came for new Tigers head coach Frank Haith as two of his best returnees, Kim English and Laurence Bowers, made smart decisions to return to Columbia for their senior seasons.  With leading scorer Marcus Denmon already back in the fold, Haith is walking into a situation where his top six players will be back next year.  So long as he can enable his more methodical system with a group that loves to run and press, Mizzou fans should be excited for the possibility of something special in 2011-12.
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Morning Five: 05.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2011

  1. Clearly the massive news of Thursday, and really, the entire offseason thus far, was the announcement that longtime Maryland coach and ACC curmudgeon-in-charge, Gary Williams, is retiring.  We covered his career impact in our story on him earlier this morning, but our lasting memory of his body of work will be how for a period from the late 90s to the early oos, from Steve Francis to Juan Dixon, from Joe Smith to Lonny Baxter, he made Maryland  basketball must-watch television.  Along with that, the Duke vs. Maryland battles were at the time the best rivalry games in the entire game.  Here’s some of the reverent commentary on Williams’ retirement from around the web: Mike DeCourcy, Seth Davis, John Feinstein.  Happy trails, Gary — you will be missed.
  2. As for the future of the Maryland program, we have a prevailing sense that this could go either way.  The resources, fan support and conference affiliation in the basketball-centric ACC are all major positives, leading some to argue that the Terrapin head coaching job is one of the top 15 or so in the country.  We agree with that sentiment, but the hire will need to be the right one — the DC area is a fertile recruiting base, but Williams ran a clean program that stayed away from much of the AAU nonsense that passes as prep basketball these days.  Whoever the new coach is will need to find a way to circumvent the agents, runners and hustlers with their hands out on the east coast playgrounds; or, like Williams, find enough diamonds in the rough whom he can coach up.  No easy task in a league where you have to deal with Duke, Carolina and a group of promising young coaches elsewhere.  Some early names being thrown around for the job include Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Arizona’s Sean Miller, and several others.  Of that group, Brey, from the DC area, makes the most sense; but could Terp fans tolerate having a former Dookie as their head coach?
  3. Not so fast on everybody’s favorite March Madness play-by-play guy leaving CBS.  According to the New York Daily News, Gus Johnson has an offer on the table from Fox to do NFL and Pac-12 games next year, but the Blinking Eye Network will have up to a week to match the offer and retain one of the best assets it has for its NCAA Tournament coverage.  Seriously, we can’t believe that CBS wouldn’t open their checkbooks for this guy — the anticipation among anybody under 45 years old when a “Gus game” is scheduled is off the charts, especially when it involves two evenly-matched teams.  Make it happen, Sean McManus.
  4. Last year’s offseason was headlined by seemingly constant chatter about conference realignment, and with the new television deal that the Pac-12 signed this week for $3 billion over twelve years, we now see more clearly what all the fuss was aboutUtah joins the reconfigured conference on July 1 of this year, and their TV windfall will begin soon thereafter, with expected payouts in successive years of $2M (2012), $10.5M (2013), $15.75M (2014), and $21M (2015).  The Utes made a relatively paltry $1.2M last year as a member of the Mountain West; in four years, they will have vigupled it (go ahead, look that one up).  Simply… amazing.
  5. There was some interesting transfer news on Thursday, with two notable players from NCAA Tournament teams possibly losing a key contributor.  First, UConn wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has decided to leave the Husky program to seek more playing time elsewhere.  The sophomore forward averaged 5/3 in just over sixteen minutes of action last season, but after a three-game stretch in mid-February where he scored 64 points, he only contributed 62 more the entire rest of the season (15 games).  He was also arrested for marijuana possession two weeks ago, so perhaps a fresh start somewhere else is best for everyone.  The other big transfer news yesterday came from George Mason, perhaps still reeling a little from the loss of longtime coach Jim Larranaga last month.  Luke Hancock, the hero of Mason’s second round win over Villanova, has requested permission to talk to other schools about transferring.  He averaged 11/4/4 APG last year in a promising sophomore campaign, and it appears that new head coach Paul Hewitt will have his work cut out to get him back to Fairfax next season.
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Gus Johnson and CBS, Together No More

Posted by jstevrtc on May 5th, 2011

Richard Deitsch of has reported that play-by-play icon Gus Johnson and CBS could not come to terms on a new contract and have thus parted ways. No more Gus Johnson buzzer-beaters at NCAA Tournament time, folks.

Yeah, This Makes Total Sense.

According to Mr. Deitsch, Johnson has been in talks with Fox Sports to work college football games, given the network’s move to increase their profile in that sport. There is no mention as to whether Gus’ position calling college basketball for the Big Ten Network is affected by this. As Deitsch points out, Fox owns a nice big chunk of the BTN, and they’re also (obviously) a player in the recent deal between themselves, ESPN, and the Pac-10, a package that includes 68 college basketball games.

Johnson is by far CBS’ most popular announcer. Again…it is not close. The convnetional wisdom among college basketball fans was that the network would and should only work to increase Johnson’s presence wherever they could, especially when it comes to college basketball, and it would do anything possible to keep him. His departure has hoopheads everywhere wondering what on earth CBS could be thinking, though admittedly we haven’t heard either side of the story, and no details of the failed negotiations are mentioned in Mr. Deitsch’s article.

Nevertheless, college hoopheads are left with no Gus Johnson for March Madness. We’re certain he’ll be around, and we’re praying someone at Turner will scoop him up and find a way to get him back where he belongs by Tournament time, because March won’t be the same until he’s calling Tournament games again. If you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go transfer our old The Cure CDs to MP3 and listen to them until we’re dehydrated. Life is unfair.


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Analyzing the Major Conference Awards

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2011

Amidst all the hullabaloo about conference tournament action this week, it might have been easy to overlook the major conference awards that were handed out earlier this week.  We thought it would be a good idea to get them all in one place and see if anything weird happened.  We’ll first list the teams from each of the BCS conferences plus the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West, and then add some quick thoughts after each one.

ACC All-Conference Team

  • Nolan Smith- Guard- Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney- Guard- Virginia Tech
  • Reggie Jackson- Guard- Boston College
  • Kyle Singler- Forward- Duke
  • Jordan Williams- Forward- Maryland

Player of the Year- Nolan Smith- Guard- Duke

Coach of the Year- Roy Williams- North Carolina

Freshman of the Year- Harrison Barnes- Forward- North Carolina

Quick Thoughts. We have no issues with these selections. It is interesting that North Carolina won the regular season title and had zero guys on the first team, although, the Heels put Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson on the conference’s second team, and Kendall Marshall on the third team (even though he didn’t start half the season).  And as much as Barnes was criticized this year for not living up to oversized expectations, he still managed to win ACC FrOY and make the second team.

Big East All-Conference Team

  • Ben Hansbrough- Guard- Notre Dame
  • Kemba Walker- Guard- Connecticut
  • Dwight Hardy- Guard- St. John’s
  • Marshon Brooks- Guard- Providence
  • Ashton Gibbs- Guard- Pittsburgh
  • Austin Freeman- Guard- Georgetown

Player of the Year- Ben Hansbrough – Guard- Notre Dame

Coach of the Year- Mike Brey- Notre Dame

Freshman of the Year- Cleveland Melvin- Forward- DePaul

Quick Thoughts.  An argument could be made that Kemba Walker should have been player of the year, but Hansbrough was the best player on a team that finished second in the conference; Connecticut finished ninth (notwithstanding his play this week thus far). An argument can also be made that Syracuse big man Rick Jackson deserved a spot on the first team, as he was an inside scoring and rebounding stalwart for the third place Orange. While Brey was probably the strongest candidate for coach of the year, it would have been reasonable to consider Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and St. John’s Steve Lavin.

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RTC Live: Stanford @ Washington

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2011

Game #138.  RTC Live is back in Seattle for another Pac-10 tilt; can the Huskies continue to show the dominance at home that they lack on the road?

In five Pac-10 home games, the Washington Huskies have dominated its competition by an average margin of victory of 22.2 points.  The road has been a completely different story, though, as the Huskies have gone 3-4 in losing to some of the same teams they’ve rolled up at home.  Tonight represents one of those situations, as Stanford visits Edmundson Pavilion a mere month after having beaten Washington in Palo Alto, 58-56.  It was, in fact, the only team that the Cardinal defeated during a three-week period in mid-January.  Since that time Johnny Dawkins’ team has come back to win three of four, including  an impressive thirteen-point road win at Washington State on Thursday night.  The Cardinal sits at 6-6 in league play, while Washington at 8-4 still has designs on catching UCLA and Arizona for the Pac-10 lead.  Given the way the Huskies score in bunches in Seattle, Stanford is going to need to bring its absolute best defensive game to have a chance tonight.  Join us for all the action tonight on a west coast edition of RTC Live.

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RTC Live: California @ Washington

Posted by rtmsf on February 10th, 2011

Game #137.  RTC Live makes its first trip to the Pacific Northwest for a key Pac-10 game for both Washington and California.

Coming into this season’s Pac-10 race, the storyline on these two teams were headed in different directions.  Both were NCAA Tournament participants last year, with UW heading to the Sweet Sixteen and Cal making the Second Round.  The difference was that Washington returned everyone except all-around star Quincy Pondexter, while Cal returned nobody except all-around role player, Jorge Gutierrez.  The Huskies were expected to run away with the Pac-10 regular season race, while the Bears were expected to be in serious rebuilding mode.  It hasn’t quite worked out that way.  Washington comes into tonight’s home game having dropped three perplexing games in a row, while Cal enters Edmundson Pavilion having won four of five.  As it is, Cal is only one game behind the Huskies in the Pac-10 standings, while Washington at 7-4 doesn’t want to give up any more ground to UCLA at 7-3 or Arizona at 9-2.  Tonight’s game should be a very interesting one, as both teams have considerable reason to give it their all in this one.  Join us on RTC Live for all the action tonight.

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ATB: Not So Super Weekend in College Hoops World

Posted by rtmsf on February 7th, 2011

The Lede.  It might have been a Super Weekend elsewhere in the American sports universe, but this weekend’s college hoops slate left a lot to be desired.  There were few good matchups on paper, and even fewer in practice.  It’s hard to get through approximately 165 games, though, and not have something worthwhile to talk about, so we’ll of course ferret out the best of the weekend here.

Derrick Williams & Arizona Are On the Rise (Az Daily Star/D. Sanders)

Your Watercooler MomentGame of the Year? Arizona Beats Cal in a Regular Season Classic.  RTC Live was lucky enough to be there for the 107-105 thriller, and we’re not sure we’ve seen a more back-and-forth, exciting game in a random regular season setting.  Certainly not in person.  The comparison that immediately comes to mind was the 2007 Texas-Oklahoma State game, another game where nobody outside of certain local viewing areas actually saw the action.   With around ten minutes to go, in what had to that point been a fun high-scoring game that visiting Arizona appeared to be in control of, the Wildcats’ Solomon Hill elbowed Jorge Gutierrez on the break, drawing an intentional foul and handing the momentum back to Cal.  From that point on, with the score 59-54, both teams punched and counter-punched each other in a classic final twenty-five minutes of action with more twists and turns than Highway 1 up the Big Sur coast.  The game ultimately changed hands seventeen times and was tied fourteen other times, including after regulation and a first and second overtime.  So many players stepped up for both sides, including Pac-10 FrOY candidate Allen Crabbe (27/7), POY candidate Derrick Williams (12/18), but the star of stars on this night was UA’s sophomore guard Lamont “MoMo” Jones.  The brash New Yorker hit a tough runner (and-1) from behind the basket to send the game into the first overtime, then drained a 22-footer with six seconds to go in the second overtime to tie the game, then made the go-ahead layup with a minute left in the third overtime.  “Just a day in the life of MoMo Jones,” he said afterward, but with Arizona now at 9-2 in the Pac-10 and a game ahead of UCLA in the loss column and two games ahead of league favorite Washington, people around the country should do themselves the favor to learn that Sean Miller’s desert rats are more than simply a dominant post player on the blocks in Williams.  This Wildcat team is a year or more ahead of schedule, but should anyone who has tracked Miller’s career to this point be surprised?

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

[ed. note: our BGTD coverage of Saturday’s games is located here, in three parts.  Early Games; Late Afternoon Games; Evening Games.]

  • Buckeyes Roll On.  After Ohio State’s Sunday win over Minnesota in Minny, the Buckeyes are 24-0 with its next game scheduled on Saturday, February 12, in Madison.  The last time any team has gone this late in the year with an unbeaten record was Memphis in 2007-08, a team that didn’t lose until February 23 that year.  The last time a power conference team went undefeated this late was the 2005 Illinois Fighting Illini, who ran out to a 29-0 record before losing in the final regular season game against none other than Ohio State.  That Illini team also went to the national title game before losing a close one to North Carolina.  Certainly with a diversified offense that includes Jared Sullinger as its centerpiece (18/13 against the Gophers), OSU has designs on a similar or even better track than their conference brethren from a half-decade ago.
  • A Wildcat Sort of Saturday.  We mentioned the Arizona Wildcats above, but a couple of other sets of Cats had pretty a pretty good weekend as well.  The Northwestern Wildcats kept what little NCAA pulse they have alive with a nice win over Illinois in Evanston, and the Kansas State Wildcats did likewise with a one-point road win over Iowa State.  Jacob Pullen used the bounce to get to the rim for the game-winning layup with three seconds remaining.  Neither of these wins are blockbusters, but they’re the type that you simply must have if you have designs on making a final push.  The Big 10 Wildcats next five games are against unranked teams, while the Big 12 Wildcats face similar in three of the next four — does either team have the guts to save its once-promising season?  Other Wildcat teams — Davidson, New Hampshire, Villanova and Weber State — also won on Saturday.  Apologies to Kentucky and Bethune-Cookman, though, the sole losing felines.
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RTC Live: Arizona @ California

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2011

Game #133.  RTC Live is at Cal to see surprising Pac-10 leader Arizona take on the equally surprising Bears this afternoon in Berkeley.

In a Pac-10 season that was essentially handed to Washington through the early going, Arizona has had something else to say about that conventional wisdom.  Coming into tonight’s game in Berkeley, Arizona is 8-2 in conference play while Washington is 7-3.  UW will play Oregon in Eugene this afternoon, and both teams have home-dominated schedules the rest of the way (Arizona with three; Washington with two).  If the Wildcats hope to keep a one-game lead until the rematch on February 19 in Tucson, today’s game is very important.  In typical Mike Montgomery style, Cal has overachieved its way to a 6-4 Pac-10 record at this point.  Behind Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe’s fine play, the Bears have not been a pushover despite losing all five starters from last season’s conference championship team.  Cal comes into this one having won four in a row, while Arizona is on the same number in its streak.  Something has to give today — will it be Derrick Williams again making his case as one of the top big men in the country; or will it be Cal reminding everyone that Montgomery gets the most out of his personnel year after year?  Join us this afternoon on RTC Live for all the action.

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