ESPN’s Toughest Arenas Survey: Analyzing Coaches’ Responses

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2011 had an interesting series of stories that went up today regarding various folks’ favorite college basketball arenas to visit and the toughest ones to play in.  As always when you read blurbs of primary source information, it’s enlightening to see the reasoning behind their choices.  For example, we never knew that NC State’s old home was such an ACC snake pit, but ESPN commentators Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis both independently cited Reynolds Coliseum as the toughest arena they ever played in. Davis even claimed that he never scored “on the opposite basket away from our bench in the first half” due to the flustered situation he found himself in all four years he visited Raleigh.

A number of media types also weighed in with their favorite places to experience a game, and several of the old faithfuls represent well here — Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (3 votes), Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse (2 votes) and the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden (2 votes) — along with a few other tried-and-trues including Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stanford’s Maples Pavilion, Penn’s Palestra, and UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (1 vote each).  But it was the list provided by Dana O’Neil (excellent usage of “sepia,” by the way) from her interviews of several head coaches back in July on the recruiting trail that really caught our eye. First, here’s her list:

Fifteen prominent coaches chose nine different arenas between them.  Three of those are already retired to the dustbin of history, and three others are clearly a personal house of horrors to specific coaches.  Not many people in this business will choose a place like Murray State Arena over somewhere like the Kohl Center or Breslin Arena, but Big Ten coach Bruce Weber did.  The remaining joints are again places we’re all familiar with as incredibly difficult to walk out with a win, but we quickly noticed that there was something peculiar about the responses among O’Neil’s interviewees.  Take a closer look — of the 15 coaches, only one of them gave an answer that includes a site where his team must regularly play games.

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The Week That Was: Feb. 15-21

Posted by jstevrtc on February 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 


Monday’s Syracuse-Villanova and Kansas-Oklahoma State games kicked off Judgment Week at ESPN, and TWTW has no idea what that exactly means. Are our opinions (or “judgments,” if you will) supposed to be dramatically altered based on this week’s outcomes? Syracuse’s win over ’Nova doesn’t mean they’re no longer a flawed team that’s capable of looking great one night and mediocre the next. And barring any game-changing injury, you shouldn’t think differently about a squad based on a couple of games at the end of February. You are who you are at this point — no extra judgments are necessary. So why does ESPN feel the need to dub almost every week now? Just stop at Rivalry Week. Sometimes games are just games, they don’t need any extra labels. There’s only one real judgment to be made this week — Battle: Los Angeles looks like a god-awful movie. 

What We Learned

Smith And the Devils Are Back On Top of the Polls, But It Means Less At This Time of Year

We thought that Tristan Thompson was just speaking for Texas when he said that the Longhorns would prefer not to replace Kansas as the No. 1 team in the next AP poll — turns out he was expressing the sentiments for just about every possible No. 1 team in the nation. On Saturday #4 Pittsburgh went down at St. John’s, followed by #2 Texas at Nebraska, and then on Sunday #3 Ohio State lost at Purdue. ESPN Stats & Information said it was the first time that the #1-4 teams in the ESPN/USA Today poll all lost in the same week since 2003 — yikes. But this isn’t the first week that we’ve seen this level of attrition in the polls; remember, it was just a few weeks ago that 13 of the AP’s Top 25 lost and half of the top 10. So who deserves to be #1 now? Duke got the nod on Monday, but do the Blue Devils deserve to be vaulted all the way from #5 to the top? In all honesty, you could probably just put the top six teams on a dartboard (top seven if you want to include BYU who got two first place votes), close your eyes, throw your dart, and there’s your #1 team. Not that it matters — during the season #1 in college hoops has always felt like a superficial title to TWTW. What’s really important is who’s in position for a #1 seed. It’s not important to determine who’s #1 now. The competition to watch is the race to distinguish between teams #4 and #5.

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Morning Five: 11.15.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2010

  1. Have you heard a little something about a 24-hour hoops extravaganza that might be starting at Midnight ET tonight over on ESPN?  Yeah, us too.  Well, for the third year in a row (as in, 1… 2… 3…), our very own John Stevens will be Boom Goes the Dynamiting (that’s a form of live-blogging for the newbies) the proceedings from reasonable start to ridiculous finish.  Just as he did in 2009.  Just as he did in 2008.  Now we’ve caught wind that there are some other bloggers out there who have a half a mind to try to replicate what John has already perfected in years past.  Good for them.  The standard has been set exceptionally high, so we’re interested to see how they stack up.
  2. The biggest non-game related news of the weekend came out of the Memphis camp, as the Tigers’ Jelan Kendrick was dismissed from the program.  Dan Wolken has been all over this story with reports of Kendrick’s antics releasing at seemingly an hourly basis.  As he put it, there was no single incident that led to  dissolution of the hoops marriage, but there were a series of insubordinate acts, clashes with teammates, outright lies and other distractions that finally reached a breaking point for the coaching staff.  6’7 burger boys don’t grow on trees, though, and we fully expect that Kendrick has already received a dozen offers from other schools around the nation, attitude be damned.  One note pointed out by Wolken in last night’s tweets — Memphis is unlikely to release Kendrick to another CUSA school (read: Tim Floyd’s UTEP), but we’re guessing there are several SEC and Big 12 schools willing to at least take a look.
  3. You just never know when you  might be in danger of an injury, as new UConn assistant coach Kevin Ollie learned last week when an elastic band he was using for stretching purposes snapped back and hit him in the eye.  The eye started filling with blood and he subsequently was ordered by his doctor to bed rest, causing him to miss the Huskies’ season opener against Stony Brook on Friday night.  UConn travels to Maui next weekend, but Ollie may have to miss that trip as well due to the possibility of stressing the injury through changes in air pressure.  Ollie, one of our favorite Huskies of all-time, has certainly had a crazy start to his coaching career, so we wish him a speedy and successful recovery.
  4. You may have noticed that preseason Big-12 first teamer Curtis Kelly was held out of K-State’s first game on Friday night against James Madison and the Wildcats’ front line struggled as a result (2/5 from Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla).  Jeff Goodman reported that KSU head coach Frank Martin is unhappy with the leadership (or lack thereof) that Kelly has shown over the last two weeks in practice, so he probably won’t play in Tuesday night’s game against a much more talented Virginia Tech team either.
  5. Section 103B, Row 2, Seat 1.  That was the location of a certain Wizard of Westwood for the last three-and-a-half decades at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion when he called upon his old school to watch a game, a frequent occurrence up until the last year of his life.  That seat was kept empty in honor of  John Wooden for Friday night’s game when the Bruins easily defeated Cal State Northridge, 83-50.  Frankly, UCLA brass should bronze over that chair and  keep it vacant for as long as the building is standing.
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07.01.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 1st, 2009

Already halfway through the calendar, which means that we’re almost equally distant from Midnight Madness as we are from last Selection Sunday…

  • Rumors Be Damned.  In case you missed it, the rumor mill has been flaring up considerably this week.  Lance Stephenson to CincinnaticonfirmedXavier Henry and brother CJ to KentuckydeniedCoach K to the Lakers – not a chance.  RTC to Vansterdam – pending.  The rumor that had us vexed was the Henrys leaving KU story.  When your father is going on talk radio shows and spouting off about his kids’ unhappiness and unwillingness to stay in a particular place (Kansas), that’s usually pretty convincing evidence that something is afoot.  Turns out, though, that Carl Henry is just a smidge on the aft side of crazy athlete-dads, and he came off as a real sh*t-stirrer in follow-up radio interviews he gave earlier this week.  If Bill Self can manage to get the Henrys to sacrifice self for team, that’ll be a really impressive accomplishment, it appears.
  • All Games Are Presumed Equal.  Even though some are more equal than others.  Um, ok.  The NCAA revised its Tournament criteria to remove the “last 12” record analysis (which used to be “last 10”) because the selection committee found it confusing to give more value to games played later in the season over games earlier in the season.  In other words, every game is now supposed to count equally in their analysis.  The conventional wisdom is that this is a good thing, but we’re uncertain.  Think about it: all else being equal, would you want a team that started 15-1 but finished 4-8 getting into the Dance over a team that started 9-7, but finished 10-2?  We think that there needs to be some reward for finishing strong.  Basketball is a tournament sport, and teams are built to be working on all cylinders by the time tournament season rolls around, not in November and December.  Our general feeling is that committee members will still reward strong closers over strong starters, but it just won’t be officially sanctioned.  Let’s hope they do, at least.   
  • Bruins Pony Up.  In what’s becoming a national trend in both football and basketball, schools are holding their long-time season ticket holders hostage by requiring enormous donations to reserve the best seats at their venues.  We recently read about this occurring as Cal upgrades its football stadium, and now UCLA is requiring up to a half-million dollars worth of largesse to get the choicest seats courtside at the new and improved Pauley Pavilion (set to re-open in 2012).  Schools can obviously do whatever they want with the seats in their stadiums, but it seems absurd that a family that has held on to seats for generations but may not have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around won’t be able to keep them.   
  • 2010 Mock Drafts.  Here’s a version from Jeff Goodman,, DraftExpress, and Draft Depot.  Everybody and their brother has Kentucky PG John Wall as the #1 guy right now. 
  • More Quick Hits.  Cameron Dollar: high hopes for fledgling Seattle U.  SEC Coaches: we don’t suckCraig Brackins: two national articles on the Iowa St. big man in the same week!  Ohio St. AD Gene Smith: will chair the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Tournament CmtesRenardo Sidney: NCAA eligibility meetings postponed to next weekGreivis Vasquez: sweeping the ACC titles next season.  UNC: University of Nike Carolina.  Coach K: of course he doesn’t like the one-and-done rule.  Of course he doesn’t.  Tom Brennan: first Whelliston, now Brennan.  ESPN is shedding all of its best CBB studio people, and that’s sad.
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05.12.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 12th, 2009

While there’s not a ton of things happening, what has happened the last few days has been mildy interesting…

  • Everyone in the state of Kentucky wants to know what this “unspecified 2003 encounter” is all about.  For what it’s worth, Rick Pitino denied any interest in the Sacto Queens job that he was rumored to have wanted over the weekend.   Jeff Goodman likes this.
  • Luke Winn says that John Wall, Jeff Teague and Jodie Meeks are the three players still in limbo that will impact next season.  Our take is that both Wall and Meeks end up in Lexington and Teague returns to the Dash.
  • Lance Stephenson – “like a supermodel with herpes.”  Well done.
  • Pauley Pavilion is getting a long-overdue $185M renovation that will displace the home UCLA Bruins for the 2011-12 season.
  • It appears that the Toledo gamblers didn’t exactly front for a slick gaming syndicate – they probably lost money on the deal.  Here’s a breakdown of each of the games they bet on with the results against the spread.
  • Maybe the SEC won’t suck again next year – MSU’s Jarvis Varnado is returning to the Bulldog program for his senior season, joining super-frosh Renardo Sidney (assuming he’s eligible).  The nation’s two-time defending blocks leader will have a good shot at setting the record next season – he needs 142 to do so.  Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson will also return, meaning that the Cats are Jodie Meeks and possibly John Wall away from giving Kansas a run for its money as preseason #1 next season.
  • Suckers only need play in Delaware, as sports betting will be legal there very soon (only parlays, though).
  • Well, if you’re loaded and your ride got collard so you’re walking alongside a road in Maine of all places, why not add a sexual assault charge to the evening’s events?
  • Purdue head coach Matt Painter will join Pitt’s Jamie Dixon and S. Illinois’ Chris Lowery as the trio of coaches for the Team USA Under-19 team that will play in New Zealand this summer.
  • Utah’s Jim Boylen received a nice raise to $850k per year after his NCAA Tournament appearance this season.
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Wazzu @ UCLA Preview

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2008

#4 Washington St. @ #4 UCLA preview.   Ok, let’s get this out of the way immediately.  Wazzu is 1-49 all-time at Pauley Pavilion.  What else do we know?  We know that the last four games at UCLA have come down to the last possession of the game (UCLA won all four by 3/3/2/3 pts).  We know that both of these teams play old man ball (each has a tempo hovering near the bottom of D1), but they also play stifling defense (Pomeroy has UCLA as the fifth best D and Wazzu as the eighth) and don’t make many mistakes (each is in the top thirty most efficient teams on both ends of the court).  We know that both teams play a high-caliber basketball and do not suffer fools lightly (poorly coached teams simply stand no chance against these two).  We know that Tony Bennett and Ben Howland are both tremendous motivators and tacticians.  We know that Wazzu has been criticized for a soft nonconference schedule (#304 – Pomeroy) to get to their 14-0 mark but we also know that winning at Washington and USC are no cupcakes, and UCLA already lost once this year at Pauley to Texas.  And we know that the old-school game of Kevin Love (16/10) and how Wazzu handles him with Aron Baynes (12/7) and Robbie Cowgill (8/5) will probably be the deciding factor in what will likely be another very close matchup tomorrow.   

Fwiw, Pomeroy is only giving Wazzu a 24% chance of winning the game, gives them a 30% chance and Sagarin has the Bruins as a seven-point favorite. 

Let’s see what’s coming out of both camps today – it appears that both sides are expecting an all-out war:

From UCLA:

Well we are going to need lot more of Love, Mata-Real, Westbrook, Shipp and AA2 on Saturday when taking on the Cougars. Howland described what Saturday is going to be like to Dohn:

“It will be like getting a root canal without any pain killers,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “Playing them is going through the grinder. It is unbelievably hard because of how patient they are offensively, and how they just wait for a breakdown.”

Hopefully Luc and DC will be ready to go on Saturday. And if one of them can’t or they are not 100 percent, rest of their team-mates will have to step up through the adversity. It is going to be another all out war. And judging from the past we know our warriors will battle through the adversity and give it everything they have.

From Wazzu:

If there’s one thing to worry about heading into Saturday, it’s this: Low, Rochestie and Weaver each played 37 minutes or more, including 38 high-effort minutes for Weaver, who had the unenviable task of chasing O.J. Mayo around for most of the game. He’ll likely draw Josh Shipp on Saturday, who doesn’t figure to run off 32 screens the way Mayo did.

One key factor could be the availability of UCLA uber-guard Darren Collison.  According to Bruins Nation blog:

“Right now, my hip hurts a lot,” Collison said. “I’m going to be doing treatment (today) and I don’t really know the status of how things are, if I’m even going to play or not. Hopefully, I can play Saturday. Right now, they’re looking at it as a hip contusion.”

“I am frustrated, but I’m going to continue to stay positive,” Collison said. “This team has a bright future ahead, and all I can do is keep my head up and stay positive. I’m going through a lot of adversity right now. It’s going to really challenge me to see how I’m going to progress and mature through those situations.”

If Collison can’t go, Russell Westbrook is a more than adequate replacement at the point.  But knowing Howland players’ penchant for toughness, we’d expect to see DC out there tomorrow afternoon.  At least we hope so.  Should Wazzu pull the upset, we’d like to know that it happened with a full-strength UCLA.  Not that we’re calling the upset.  Just sayin’… 

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