Morning Five: 08.19.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2011

  1. It’s official.  USC point guard and best returning player Jio Fontan will miss the entire 2011-12 season with a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during an exhibition game in Brazil earlier this week.  Fontan was flown back to the US for an MRI, but word leaking out of the USC camp all week indicated that this was a rather concerning injury rather than a simple sprain.  Fontan was to be the Trojans’ only returning starter from a team that snuck into the NCAA Tournament as a member of the inaugural First Four, and as the captain and floor leader, he was going to be relied upon to shoulder much of the responsibility in leading a young team.  Head coach Kevin O’Neill will now have to hope that incoming freshman guard Alexis Moore, a three-star player from nearby Long Beach, will be up to the task.  The only possible silver lining Trojan fans can draw from this is that next year’s team will develop considerable experience on the fly so that when Fontan hopefully returns in 2012-13, USC will be in a much better position to make another run at the postseason.
  2. Duke’s next great freshman made his debut in China this week during the Blue Devils’ exhibition tour, and although he did not manage to get into a chair-throwing brawl, he had his ups and downs.  In two exhibitions against the Chinese junior national team, Austin Rivers had 18 points (8-15 FG) and five assists in a 77-64 victory Wednesday, followed by a 12-point (5-16 FG), seven-turnover performance in a 76-66 victory on Thursday.  Duke won both games despite a herculean effort on the part of the Chinese referees (yes, we may have discovered the one place in the world…) — in their two games, China shot 72 free throws to a Duke total of 25, nearly a 3:1 ratio (you may recall that Georgetown got a little perturbed by a similar officiating pattern in its game on Wednesday).  Notwithstanding the choppy play of Rivers, it has been Duke’s junior forward, Ryan Kelly, who has looked fantastic thus far.  Kelly has averaged 17/11 while shooting a scorching 75% from the floor in the two games.  Considering that China has significant size in its lineup and that the frontcourt represents Mike Krzyzewski’s greatest area of concern heading into next season, Kelly’s play is tremendous news for Duke fans worldwide.
  3. Villanova rising junior and team captain Isaiah Armwood announced on Thursday that he will be transferring out of the program.  Although he started in every game on VU’s recent exhibition trip to Europe and is considered a key “heart and soul” type of player, it didn’t appear that the minutes were going to be there for him in a crowded frontcourt next season.  The Wildcats return an improved Mouphtau Yarou and adds freshmen Markus Kennedy and JayVaughn Pinkston (back from suspension), so Armwood perhaps saw the writing on the wall in deciding to leave.  He will have two years of eligibility remaining and is reportedly looking at schools such as Maryland, George Washington, Iowa and Texas Tech.  Armwood hails from the Baltimore/DC corridor and has ties to former VU assistant coaches now at Iowa and TTU.
  4. Thursday the MAC announced that it would be changing its 2012 MAC Tournament format to give its two best teams byes to the conference tourney semifinals in the hopes that one of its best teams will ultimately win the league and represent itself well in the NCAA Tournament.  This mirrors what the Horizon League has done for the better part of a decade, and although there’s no Butler in the MAC, five of the last seven MAC Tournament champions were seeded #4 or worse coming into the postseason.  The new format will give the top two seeds a significantly greater chance of winning the coveted automatic bid, and presumably, a better chance to do some damage in the NCAAs (although #9 seed Ohio still says hello, Georgetown).  We’re on board with this idea in principle — whatever these smaller conferences can do to make the regular season more meaningful is a good thing from our view.
  5. The Lapchick Character Award is given annually to coaches who “have shown the characterand coaching ability of [St. John's and New York Knicks head coach] Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick.”  This year’s trio is no exception, and well known to students of the game: former Princeton legend Pete Carril, former Mt. St. Mary’s head coach Jim Phelan, and former Virginia women’s head coach Debbie Ryan.  The three will be honored at a ceremony on November 17 at Madison Square Garden during the 2kSports Classic (of which St. John’s is a participant).  They collectively won over 2,000 games — Phelan, 814; Ryan, 739; Carril, 514 — and never ran afoul of any ethical behavior over their many years of coaching.  A deserving honor to three tremendous coaches.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 14th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse asks who the best prototype player in the game is, backs the Princeton Tigers, and laments his bad bracket luck. Yeah, Jesse…tell it to Coach Greenberg.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..trying to figure out a unique question. I was having a debate with someone about Connecticut, and in the course of that argument said that “you have to remember, the Huskies don’t have five Kembas.” Well, my buddy (RTC’s own David Ely) asked which player I would take five of in order to form a team that would be the most competitive against a full squad from another school. Think about it, it’s a really interesting question. They have to be able to handle the ball if a team pressed, have to be big enough to compete on the boards (is 6’4 or 6’5 big enough?), have to shoot well enough to keep a D honest, have to be a versatile defender, etc. I think Jordan Hamilton from Texas might be my pick, but here are some of players that came to mind: Harrison Barnes (he’s the prototype you’d think of, 6’8 with some guard skills), Kyle Singler, Derrick Williams, Daniel Hardy, Brad Wanamaker, Scotty Hopson, DeAndre Liggins, Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph. Who would you take?

Is Barnes the Best "All-Rounder" of a Player?

I LOVED…..two perfect buzzer beaters. Kemba Walker and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas gave us a couple of doozies to salivate over this week, and I liked them for different reasons. With Kemba, it was the ridiculous move. Yes, he had a post player on him, but that stepback was so comically absurd (Pitt’s Gary McGhee fell down) that the only critique might be that he exerted too much energy getting more space than he needed. He’s still my POY, by the way. With Thomas, it was the perfect setup. It was an incredible game (a TITLE game), overtime, swings for both teams…and a perfect ending. Thomas played the clock absolutely perfectly, and the backboard lit up just as his J swished through the hoop. Oh, and by the way, Gus Johnson was on the call (watch to get excited for this coming week): “Thomas….shake….crossover….stepback…..AHHHHIAAHHHH!!!!! AT THE BUZZER!!! YOUNG!!!…..ZEKE!!! (someone told Gus that Thomas was named after the NBA great PG)…….. COLD!!!! ….. BLOODED!!!!!”

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The Other 26: Week 14

Posted by KDoyle on February 18th, 2011


Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor

Introduction

If you are a true fan of Mid-Major basketball, then this is the weekend for you. Many fans who find a whole lot of joy in watching teams from the smaller conferences compete, share the common gripe that there is not nearly enough coverage of these teams. Well, at no other point during the season will you see ESPN dedicate an entire Saturday of basketball almost exclusively to the best Mid-Major teams around the nation.

Playing against the same faces within a team’s conference can become monotonous, but the BracketBuster weekend enables 114 teams around the country a brief recess before the final stretch of the regular season and tournament time to play an opponent they would otherwise never play. Although many of these games will have little meaning in the grand scheme of things, there are a select few that have serious implications as several Mid-Major teams partaking in the BracketBuster weekend sit squarely on the bubble.

Brace yourself for a great day of college hoops on Saturday. With so many of the top Mid-Major teams in the country playing—George Mason, Utah State, St. Mary’s, Cleveland State, Old Dominion, Missouri State, and Wichita State—you can bet that at least one of these teams, if not more, will be wearing Cinderella’s slipper come March.

The Other 26 Rankings

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Past Imperfect: The Reign of Doughnut Man

Posted by JWeill on February 3rd, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the sine-wave career arc of Doughnut Man.

It’s still one of the NCAA tournament’s most indelible moments: disheveled Princeton coach Pete Carril grinning in disbelief moments after his backdoor-cutting Tigers stunned defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament. Replayed over and over through the years, the moment resonates because it captures the essence of what college basketball’s great March tradition is all about: little guy beats big guy, Cinderella at the dance, etc. But lost in all those good vibes for the white-haired coaching legend is that the other side in that game, the losing coach seen congratulating Carril on his career-defining victory, in its own way represents college basketball, too. In many ways, perhaps more so.

Pete Carril and Sydney Johnson celebrate the win over UCLA.

No one fathomed at the time that the upset loss would be Jim Harrick’s last as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. A year removed from the school’s first national title in two decades, flush with a contract extension, with a bevy of blue chip recruits on the verge of replenishing his team’s talent level for years to come, Harrick looked to have it all working. Then, in the course of a few months, it was all over. Harrick was out. Assistant Steve Lavin, with no head coaching experience at all, was in as interim coach.

How did it all go south so quickly? The answer is a tale of two coaches, of lies and deception, of risks taken and undying myths writ large. It’s an ugly story, without much grace and lacking humility. It is, in short, the story of college basketball at the highest levels.

*      *      *

It is amusing now to go back and look at statements of outrage former coach Jim Harrick made about his abrupt dismissal by UCLA in 1996. At the time, Harrick was the man who’d brought UCLA back from the ether. The West Virginian had been all smiles hoisting the national championship trophy along with Ed O’Bannon, Tyus Edney and the victorious Bruins. And rightfully so. Harrick had taken a job a slew of previous coaches had tried to tame and done the only thing he’d been hired to do: win a national title again. Favorite sons Walt Hazzard, Gary Cunningham and Larry Farmer didn’t do it. Future coaching legends Gene Bartow and Larry Brown couldn’t do it, either. But the onetime UCLA assistant – the guy who never even played college basketball – did it. And he did it his own way, with style.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 24th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball. This week Jesse decides to liberate us of our Kentucky readers — seriously, Jesse, why do you hate our website? — takes pleasure in Clemson’s frustration, and finally figures out that Matt Painter is a top-notch leader of men. Wildcat and Tiger fans, we’ll make sure Jesse gets your hate mail.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..looking at the countdown to March Madness last week and seeing it was just a mere 54 days until my favorite three weeks in sports. Then I heard a Gus Johnson cackle – OhhAhhWOWWW!!! — on CBS this weekend. In fact, it made me go back and watch this highlight compilation — just to get my Gus fix.  The Madness is drawing near.

I LOVED…..Syracuse’s zone. I had a buddy bring this to my attention this weekend while ‘Cuse-Nova was on TV, and it’s so true. College basketball is the game of constant change, what with players graduating, coaches moving, etc. But the 2-3 zone is one piece you can bank on every year, without fail. Jim Boeheim stands by his trademark D, and though at times it might be mediocre, it’s never bad. How amazing is it that teams still can’t completely figure it out after all these years?

The Boeheim Zone Often Vexes Opponents, Even Still

I LOVED…..the transformation of Washington’s Isaiah Thomas. As a west coast resident I probably see way more of the Pac-10 than most, but this has been stunning. UW put Thomas at the point after Abdul Gaddy went down for the year, and he’s suddenly changed from a sometimes-too-selfish scorer into a pint-sized version of Steve Nash. Here’s a guy that averaged 2.6 and 3.4 assists a game his first two years, and had more than six dimes just once this season prior to Gaddy’s injury. Since then? Try 9, 8, 7 13, 10 and 8. Plus, he’s averaging 20.2 PPG over those six games. Take a look if you get a chance, because I swear Lorenzo Romar’s staff made him stop practicing and watching nonstop tape of the Phoenix Suns. Lots of over-penetration while keeping the dribble and a pass-first mentality that just wasn’t there before.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #9 – Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2009

seasonpreview

Joseph Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Dayton (14-2)
  2. Richmond (12-4)
  3. Xavier (11-5)
  4. La Salle (11-5)
  5. Duquesne (10-6)
  6. Charlotte (9-7)
  7. Temple (9-7)
  8. Massachusetts (8-8)
  9. Rhode Island (7-9)
  10. George Washington (6-10)
  11. St. Bonaventure (5-11)
  12. St. Louis (4-12)
  13. St. Joseph’s (4-12)
  14. Fordham (2-14)

All-Conference Team:

  • Kevin Anderson (G), Richmond (36.8 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 2.8 APG)
  • Rodney Green (G), La Salle (35.3 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.4 APG)
  • Levoy Allen (F), Temple (31.3 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG)
  • Chris Wright (F), Dayton (26.1 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
  • Damian Saunders (F), Duquesne (34.6 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 BPG)
  • 6th Man: Kenny Frease, Xavier (14.6 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

Impact Newcomer/All-Conference Rookie Team:

  • Carl Jones (G), St. Joseph’s
  • Christian Salecich (G), St. Louis
  • Terrell Vinson (F), Massachusetts
  • Chris Braswell (F), Charlotte
  • Aaric Murray (C), La Salle – Rookie of the Year

Atlantic10

What You Need to Know. Over the past two seasons the A10 has earned 6 NCAA bids, sending four different teams to the D1 post-season party of 64 65. That is more teams over the same period than any other non-BCS conference. Those teams garnered a higher winning percentage (6-6 or 50%) than the SEC (5-9 or 35.7%). This season should track with previous seasons as the A10 will look for 2-3 teams with enough talent and success to earn 1-2 at-large bids in addition to the conference’s automatic bid. The A10 has become a showcase for ‘tweeners and front-court players lately. The A10′s last two POYs were a pair of  undersized (for the positions they played) frontcourt players. Gary Forbes, a 6-7 PF out of Massachusetts won in 2008, and Ahmad Nivins a 6-10 235 pound C out of St. Joseph’s, won last spring. This season is no different as fans will see Dayton’s Chris Wright (a preseason Wooden nominee), Xavier’s Jason Love, Rhode Island’s Delroy James, Duquesne’s Melquan Bolding and Richmond’s Kevin Smith play a position or two “up” from their size and weight. The conference will showcase a number of very well-regarded incoming freshmen as Charlotte’s Chris Braswell, Massachusetts’ Terrell Vinson and La Salle’s Aaric Murray held offers from high-major programs, but chose A10 schools.

Predicted Champion. Dayton (NCAA Seed:  #4) Returning 84.5% of the minutes and 85.6% of the points from a team that finished 2nd in the conference and sent the Big East’s West Virginia home in the 1st round of the NCAAs before bowing out to Kansas, it is no wonder that the Flyers are the strong favorite to take the conference title and return to the NCAAs again in 2010. Dayton took the top spot in the A10 Coaches preseason poll, announced on Media Day (10/22). The squad is deep and experienced as Coach Brian Gregory brings back seven seniors and four juniors including four starters and nine of the top eleven scorers from last year’s team. Led by 6-8, 225 pound forward Chris Wright, a 2009-10 preseason Wooden Award nominee, the Flyers will try to pick up where they left off in March of 2009. Wright led the team in points per game (13.3) and rebounds per game (6.6). Dayton, however, is not a one man show. The Flyers return senior London Warren (the “Jacksonville Jet”), a 6-0 point guard  who led the team in assists (154) last season while averaging 21.5 minutes and 4.1 points per game. Gregory can play 3 guards by bringing in two 6-3 senior guards, Marcus Johnson and Rob Lowry. Johnson was the second-leading scorer (behind Wright), averaging 11.8 points per game while playing an average of 28.3 minutes. Rob Lowry, who came to Dayton via Cecil Community College (and Chesapeake Community College), watched the team’s last ten games from the bench, as he tore a tendon in his right knee on February 12th. Lowry was the team’s leading scorer 5 times in 2009 and was second to Warren in assists. If the Flyers play like they did at the end of the 2009 season they should separate themselves from the A10 pack early and pick up a #3 or #4 seed in the NCAAs. Look for their performance in the Puerto Rican Tip-Off, where they will face up to 3 high-major teams, as a gauge for where they stand in the Top 25.

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