Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 28th, 2011

  1. The first exhibition game for a Pac-12 team this year went down on Thursday night, and while the rest of the sports world was enthralled by a magical World Series Game Six, or even Case Keenum throwing like nine or 12 or 15 touchdowns (sorry, lost count) against Rice, defending Pac-10 champion Arizona was busy losing to Seattle Pacific. Sure, it was an exhibition game, and sure, anyone who wants to overreact to this game needs to remember Syracuse losing to Le Moyne a few years back and then proceeding to be a top five team all year, but we got a couple of things out of the game Thursday night. First, and foremost, we got to watch college basketball again, and we got to see an entertaining game and a close finish. More importantly for the long haul, we got a look at the new Arizona. Freshman guard Nick Johnson looked like a guy unafraid to take a big shot in the closing minutes, while back court mate Josiah Turner looked very much like a freshman playing in his first collegiate game. He got the start at point over Jordin Mayes, but despite a few flashes here and there, he looked like a work in progress. For a bit more detail on this surprising game, check out our debut version of After the Buzzer, Pac-12 Edition from late last night.
  2. As was mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Five on the main RTC site, a scrimmage between current Washington players and Washington alumni was cancelled after head coach Lorenzo Romar mentioned the game on a local radio station and some of the players invited fans on Twitter. Holding the scrimmage would not have been a violation, but publicizing the scrimmage in such a manner would have qualified as a secondary violation. Dumb, right? Well, luckily for the players (both current and former), the scrimmage did occur, with former Huskies like Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Quincy Pondexter and others apparently playing  for the alumni team. Unfortunately for fans, security was in place keeping anybody from seeing the game. Well done, NCAA.
  3. USC’s redshirt sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon is just one among the several Trojans battling injury concerns in the early going (Jio Fontan and Curtis Washington, the two other prominent injuries on the roster). But for Dedmon, at least, there is a bright side to his injury. A natural lefty, what little basketball Dedmon has played (he didn’t start playing organized basketball until his senior year in high school), he has mostly played with his right hand. However, since breaking his right hand on October 11, Dedmon has spent the past few weeks giving his left hand some work. While the injury may not be ideal for the undermanned SC roster, head coach Kevin O’Neill thinks “in the long run, it’s going to help.” Dedmon’s hand will be re-evaluated next week with the hope that he’ll be ready to go when the Trojans open their season on November 11 against Cal State Northridge.
  4. In yesterday’s Morning Five, we talked about how Arizona State was toying around with the idea of using two seven-footers, sophomore Jordan Bachynski and junior Ruslan Pateev, in the lineup at the same time. If you wondered why, consider these troublesome stats: Last year ASU didn’t outrebound a single conference opponent, opposing post players typically went off against the Sun Devils (for example, career-highs for Derrick Williams, DeAngelo Casto and Matthew Bryan-Amaning in three straight games, which were preceded by double-doubles by Josh Owens and Markhuri Sanders-Frison), and the trio of Kyle Cain, Pateev and Bachynski combined to average 10.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in Pac-10 games. Suffice it to say, there is room for improvement up front for ASU, and with Cain bulking up and Bachynski getting more comfortable after a two-year Mormon mission, advances should be on the horizon.
  5. Finally, we’d like to unveil a little Friday fun at the five spot. Connor and I will engage in a little pick ‘em on Friday mornings, starting with Pac-12 football games for now, but moving onto some of the more interesting basketball games as the season progresses. Each week we’ll put our picks for the weekend games here, keep track of them as we go along, and eventually declare a winner and award Paul Bunyan’s Old Oaken Skillet (okay, we’re still working on the name) at the end of the year. Each week we’ll pick the most interesting game and try to call a score on that one (in bold below), while the other games we’ll pick straight up. Here are our picks for this week:
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Washington at Arizona Washington Washington
Colorado at Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
California at UCLA UCLA California
Washington State at Oregon Oregon Oregon
Oregon State at Utah Utah Oregon State
Stanford at USC Stanford 35-28 Stanford 38-23
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2011 World University Finalists – Will the Next NPOY Be Buried on the Bench Again?

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2011

As summer heats up, the various Team USA basketball rosters also start rounding into shape.  One of the better such international events that includes collegians, the World University Games, is scheduled to occur from August 13-23 in Shenzhen, China.  As such, the training camp roster of 22 current college players was released on Wednesday with a goal of cutting the group to a final 12 in late July.  The remaining dozen will spend early August practicing as a team before traveling overseas to represent the United States in an event that hasn’t been kind to the Yanks in the last decade.  Perhaps as a result of increasingly fewer talented players still in college or representative of the world catching up to the USA in basketball, this team has only finished first or second once in its last four outings — the 2005 team led by Shelden Williams (Duke) went 8-0 on its way to collecting gold in Turkey.  Two years ago, the 2009 team went 7-1 with its sole blemish a one-point semifinal defeat to Russia to bring home the bronze.  This year’s team will have its work cut out for it in an increasingly competitive international landscape.  Here’s the training camp roster:   

It’s a guard-heavy group, as Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, Xavier’s Tu Holloway, Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor all have All-America potential in 2011-12.  This isn’t surprising, as many of the better big men in the game have either opted out of international basketball this summer (Kentucky’s Terrence Jones; Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger), or they’re moving on to NBA riches (Arizona’s Derrick Williams; Georgia’s Trey Thompkins; Kansas’ Morris Twins; Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson).  It’s notable that Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine (2010), Northwestern’s John Shurna (2010, 2009), Kentucky’s Darius Miller (2009), Gibbs (2009), and Alabama’s JaMychal Green (2008) have all had previous international experience, which would presumably give each a leg up to make Jim Boeheim’s team this summer. 

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RTC’s Top 10 Moments of 2010

Posted by nvr1983 on January 6th, 2011

Ok. Maybe this is a little bit later than most of the 2010 retrospectives that you have seen over the past month or so, but just consider our countdown very thoroughly reviewed. We decided to focus on the defining moments of the past year. These weren’t necessarily the most exciting moments, but the ones that made us hold our breath, run around our respective RTC-funded mansions, bury our head in our hands, or reflect on the sport. Even though we think we did a good job of reviewing the biggest moments of the year and ranking them appropriately it is possible that you may disagree with us on either the ranking or inclusion/exclusion of certain moments. If you feel that way, leave a comment and we will respond to you. If you have a strong enough argument we may even update the post.

#10. Izzo Sticks at Michigan State: In the universe of potential train-wreck decisions, Tom Izzo’s summer dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers ranks alongside Justin Bieber’s hair and Sarah Palin’s Alaska as near-misses of epic proportions.  (Wha?  you mean they actually exist? ughhhhh…)  With his six Final Four appearances and a national title in the last twelve seasons, Izzo is already one of the best coaches in the game; by turning down the additional millions to coach Boobie Gibson and Mo Williams to twenty-five wins for the next several seasons, he has a great chance to cement himself as one of the greatest of all-time. Frankly, it was surprising to most that the fiery Michigander so strongly considered leaving East Lansing without a promise from LeBron James that he would stick around, but in the end, we believe Izzo’s choice to remain in the college game was the right one. After all, few coaches make the transition from college to pro successfully, and even among those who do (Larry Brown) there is a lingering sense that true greatness was never achieved in either domain.  As for us, we’re happy to see Izzo stalking the sidelines in the college game again, and we’re quite certain that Michigan State fans are too.

#9. Hummel tears ACL and breaks Boilermaker Hearts…Again: Wasn’t it bad enough the first time? It’s not like Purdue fans had totally climbed out from under the fate-dropped anvil that landed on them on February 24th last season, 27 games into the schedule, ranked third and the holy month of March merely DAYS away, when Robbie Hummel‘s right ACL tendered its resignation and removed the Boilermakers from any discussion of likely title contenders. I mean, that’s just cruel, right? Sure, bad luck sometimes befalls even the best kids and eventually finds all teams. But there was always the NEXT year, because there’s no way that something else could happen that would ruin the 2010-11 squad, right? Um…sure. Even to basketball fans neutral toward the Purdue program, the news was hard to fathom on the Saturday morning after this year’s Midnight Madness night (or whatever) when it was announced that Hummel had torn the same damn ligament AGAIN. The very serious and justified championship talk had returned to West Lafayette as fall settled in. At least it was there was up until the morning of October 16th. By noon, it was all gone. That’s one season-changing moment.

#8. Pearls of Untruth: A lie, by definition, is not accidental. At some point, whether it’s a week or a millisecond before it happens, there is a decision point. There is that moment where you make the call to tell the truth or — usually because of something you stand to gain or lose — to deceive. Bruce Pearl was already under suspicion for his telephoning and party-hosting skills, which is what put him in the position to lie to NCAA investigators back in June while they were investigating his program. We don’t know when his decision point was, and it really doesn’t matter. When he deceived the NCAA, at that very moment he violated the trust of a huge sports-loving fan base, not to mention that of every player who hoped he could teach them something about being a being a better basketball player and a better man. Some people want to give Pearl a pass because he went back later and told the truth. But that’s like the moment in the outstanding film Quiz Show when, after Charles Van Doren confesses to the Senate that he lied to America and he receives kudos from various Senators for his courageous statement, the Senator from New York tells him that a grown man does not deserve praise for finally telling the truth. We are not saying Pearl is a bad person — just that he made some bad decisions here. We all do that, just as we all lie. And we all know that after the lie, there is usually punishment and a chance to learn from it. The hole Bruce Pearl has dug for himself only tells us a small something about him. It is whether or not he climbs out of it in the years to come that will tell us what we really need to know about this man.

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Four Teams Up…

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Every year teams come out of nowhere and burst into the top 25, while sports writers run to their keyboards to type the requisite “Where Did Team X Come From” story. I mean how many people saw Cornell coming last year? Who said last October that Butler would go on to lose the national championship game by just a couple of inches?  Conversely, there are teams that look great on paper in the preseason but fail to live up to the hype once the season starts. Think North Carolina last season. Why did the Tar Heels begin the year in the top 10 again?  Allow us to sort through the mess and pull out this year’s Cornells and North Carolinas for you. Missouri fans, get ready to be excited. West Virginia fans, start thinking of things to say in your hate mail.

Today we’ll take a look at four teams that will be up this season as compared to where they were in to 2009-10.  Wednesday we’ll look at four teams that will be down.

Four Up

#1) North Carolina

Drew Will Have a Superstar to Get the Ball To This Year

I know, I know, you’ve seen this script before. The Tar Heels enter the season ranked in the top 10. They don’t have many players on their roster that have accomplished anything in the college ranks, but they boast a highly touted incoming freshman class. Sound familiar? That was last year’s UNC squad, and we all know how disastrous the 2009-10 season was in Chapel Hill. So why the reason for optimism for Roy Williams & Co.? Two words: Harrison Barnes.

In Barnes the Tar Heels have the top freshman in the nation, and a guy many foresee as next year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The 6’8 forward gives UNC the kind of scorer last year’s offensively challenged squad lacked. He’ll instantly become the primary option in Williams’ offense, and his inside-outside game should have the Tar Heels back in the NCAA Tournament as a dark horse Final Four candidate. In addition to Barnes, the Tar Heels have a rookie point guard in Kendall Marshall who should provide the competition in practice to make Larry Drew II a better floor general, and at the very least should give UNC two capable ball handlers. The lone reason to be concerned is North Carolina’s lack of depth along the front line. UNC lost Deon Thompson (last year’s top scorer) to graduation, Ed Davis left for the NBA and David and Travis Wear transferred to UCLA during the offseason. If center Tyler Zeller suffers another injury this season, North Carolina might be in trouble, but the Tar Heels definitely won’t suffer another NIT season.

#2) Missouri

Kim English is Ready to Take Mizzou Deep Again

It didn’t take long for Baylor to lose its momentum from last season’s run to the Elite Eight. All it took to bring the Bears back to earth was LaceDarius Dunn’s arrest for aggravated assault and indefinite suspension from the team coupled with Ekpe Udoh’s decision to enter the NBA draft. And the team that gained the most from Baylor’s drama? Missouri.  The Tigers are well equipped to jump into the Big 12 elite and it’s all because of head coach Mike Anderson. Anderson is 88-46 in his four seasons at Missouri and reached the Elite Eight in 2009. Last year the Tigers made it to the Round of 32, and Anderson’s squad is predicted to finish fifth in the Big 12 this year.

Personally, fifth seems a little too low. The Tigers’ brand of basketball (the “fastest 40 minutes in basketball”) that Anderson learned at Arkansas under Nolan Richardson is incredibly tough to prepare for and usually leaves the opposition bent over in exhaustion by halftime. And if that’s not enough, the rest of the Big 12 has to account for preseason Wooden All-America selection Kim English and five-star recruit Phil Pressey. If Anderson’s other five-star signee, Tony Mitchell, ever becomes eligible then the Tigers will have the frontcourt presence necessary to post Anderson’s best season in Columbia.

#3) Florida

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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Washington (13-5)
  2. Arizona (12-6)
  3. UCLA (11-7)
  4. Washington State (10-8)
  5. Arizona State (10-8)
  6. Cal (9-9)
  7. USC (9-9)
  8. Stanford (6-12)
  9. Oregon State (6-12)
  10. Oregon (4-14)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Isaiah Thomas. Jr, Washington (16.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.2 APG)
  • G: Klay Thompson, Jr, Washington State (19.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG).
  • G: Jeremy Green, Jr, Stanford (16.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
  • F: Derrick Williams, Soph, Arizona (15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
  • F: Nikola Vucevic, Jr, USC (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

6th Man

Ty Abbott, Sr, Arizona State (12.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

Impact Newcomer

Josh Smith, Fr, UCLA: Smith is the biggest incoming recruit in the conference, in more ways than one. Ranked the 20th-best recruit in the 2010 class according to ESPNU, Smith also tipped the scales at somewhere over three bills when he stepped onto the UCLA campus this summer. Immediately, head coach Ben Howland put him in a conditioning program and Smith changed his dietary habits as well, putting him on the road towards dropping 40 pounds already. Paired with his soft hands and quick feet, the trimmed-down Smith will play a vital role in the Bruins’ attempts to bounce back from last year’s brutal campaign.

UCLA’s Ben Howland is among several Pac-10 coaches looking to make the conference an NCAA Tournament threat again after a poor showing in 2009-10.

What You Need to Know

  • Pac-10 Blues: Last year, the Pac-10 was saved from the indignity of receiving only one NCAA Tournament berth when Washington won nine of their last 11 games of the regular season, then proceeded to win the Pac-10 Tournament to clinch the automatic berth. Together with regular season champion California, the Huskies represented the Pac-10 well, advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual Final Four team West Virginia, while the Golden Bears fell in the second round to eventual champion Duke. However, the Pac-10’s limited success in the tournament did little to hide the fact that last season was a down year across the conference, and with 11 of last year’s top 20 scorers, and nine of the top 20 rebounders gone, it doesn’t seem that the talent level across the conference is ready to skyrocket.
  • Stability and Youth: But, while there aren’t loads of household names up and down the rosters in the conference, there is some stability, as only Oregon welcomes a new head coach (Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton) and teams across the conference average a total of 3.2 returning starters. And there is plenty of youth, with just 17 seniors on rosters across the conference. Schools will need to see their youngsters step up quickly for the Pac-10 to improve upon last year’s showing. There is a bright side here, though. Even with five members of last year’s all-tournament team (all except the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Isaiah Thomas) and six of the ten All-Pac-10 first team members having graduated, most teams around the conference, with the significant exception of Cal, return the majority of their production – eight of the ten conference schools return more than 50% of their scoring production, and nine of the ten return more than 50% of their rebounding production. If the kids around the conference can put some of that experience they earned last season to use, this could be a much-improved conference, as the veteran coaches around this conference have proven their ability to coach up their players. There are five coaches in the Pac-10 with more than 300 career wins, and that doesn’t even include some of the most respected young coaches in the land like Sean Miller and Lorenzo Romar. While the talent level seems to be down across the conference, expect this lineup of stellar coaches to get the most out of what they do have.
  • Last Roundup: This season marks the end of the Pac-10 conference. Next year the conference will welcome Colorado and Utah, officially becoming the Pac-12. In the process, plenty of tradition will be discarded: no more home-and-home round robin and the resultant crowning of a true regular season champion, the biggest change. There will be years where UCLA doesn’t visit McKale and Oregon won’t visit Hec Ed, for instance. But in the long run, the conference will add a Utah program that has had some significant success over the years (including a run to the national championship game in 1998) and a Colorado program that, well…hey, they made a Final Four in 1955, I’m told. In any event, come 2011-12, basketball season around the conference will have a different feel.

Predicted Champion

Washington (NCAA Seed: #5): The Huskies are pretty much the de facto favorite, given that last year’s regular season champion Cal lost about 85% of its scoring, but Lorenzo Romar’s team, despite having plenty of talent, still has some question marks. Not in question is the team leader, 5’8 junior point guard Isaiah Thomas, a dynamo who is the team’s leading returning scorer and an interesting personality. Paired in the backcourt with 6’0 senior Venoy Overton (8.5 PPG, 3.1 APG. 2.9 RPG), the duo are undersized but form an intimidating pair for opposing ballhandlers, with the quickness and aggressiveness to get up into their opponents, keeping the opposition from getting comfortable in the half-court set and forcing turnovers which the Huskies can use to jump-start their transition game. They can be overpowered by bigger guards in the half-court game, but use their quickness to good advantage defensively. On the offensive end, Thomas plays with a style that belies his stature, getting into the lane and drawing fouls or finishing in often spectacular ways. The Huskies also return sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy (3.9 PPG, 2.3 APG), the second-ranked point guard in the 2009 recruiting class, who struggled finding his rhythm in his rookie campaign. Should he get his swagger back and become a consistent offensive force for Washington, they could have one of the stronger backcourts in the nation, with junior Scott Suggs (4.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG) providing depth and a good long-range threat. However, up front the team still has something to prove, given the graduation of last year’s leading scorer Quincy Pondexter and the retirement from basketball over the summer of forward Tyrese Breshers due to medical issues. Matthew Bryan-Amaning (8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Justin Holiday (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) figure to start at the forward spots, giving the Huskies an undersized but athletic starting five. Bryan-Amaning will need to prove himself capable of taking over Pondexter’s role, but all signs show that he is ready for that challenge, as he finished his junior season strong and was one of the big reasons for Washington’s improvement down the stretch. Depth up front will come from 6’8 junior scrapper Darnell Gant (2.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG), 7’0 transfer Aziz N’Diaye and 6’6 wing Terrence Ross, one of the conference’s most heralded newcomers, and a guy who could be an offensive weapon immediately for Romar, provided he can earn the minutes. In a conference where the talent level is presently in question, there is little doubt that the Huskies have plenty of talent. But they’d like to come out of the gates more quickly than they did last season and prove that they are ready to win on the road on a consistent basis, something they struggled with in 2009-10, when they lost their first seven games away from the Hec Ed. Odds are, they’ll be improved in that area due to an extra year of experience for their hyper-talented backcourt, but they’ll have a good early season test of that theory when they travel to the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week.

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Five Teams Nobody Can Quite Get a Handle On…

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

As the pre-Midnight Madness polls trickled out last Friday, it became glaringly obvious to us that consensus was more the exception than the rule. Aside from Duke at the top, teams like Butler and Kentucky somewhere in the middle and a precipitous decline for Purdue following Robbie Hummel re-tearing his ACL, agreement was about as prevalent as a British parliament session. Examining polls from a handful of websites that compiled a top 25 to prepare for the start of practice — ESPN’s Andy Katz, TSN’s Mike DeCourcy, CBS’ Gary Parrish, Fox’s Jeff Goodman and yours truly here at RTC — we found five teams with a noticeable amount of dissent attached to their name in the preseason. Let’s examine those schools and break down what they need to do to match optimistic projections and how they can avoid sinking to the depths of other predictions.

Team #1: Syracuse (Preseason Rankings: #7, #10, #13, #19, #20)

Overrated at #7 if: the Orange are unable to replace the leadership, chemistry and production provided by fifth year seniors Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku and fourth year junior Wes Johnson. At times last season, Syracuse was a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor. Players embraced their roles offensively and Jim Boeheim had the perfect roster at his disposal to stymie opponents with his patented 2-3 zone. The jury’s still out on whether Kris Joseph will be able to step into Johnson’s shoes and replace that versatility on the wing. Scoop Jardine was that sparkplug off the bench last season — will he be able to channel that effort for 35 minutes per night rather than 21.3 MPG? As many accolades as Fab Melo and Dion Waiters achieved in the high school ranks, depending on freshmen can be risky business. Asking them to drop just three spots in the polls after losing that considerable amount of production seems unreasonable and unrealistic.

When Boeheim Speaks, We Should Listen (TSN/B. Leverone)

Underrated at #20 if: Remember last summer when Boeheim hyped up that transfer from Iowa State named Wes Johnson? He’s been doing the same with Fab Melo, telling SI.com’s Seth Davis that his seven-foot freshman will be “a strong contender for national rookie of the year.” Plus, let’s face it: storied, winning programs like Syracuse prefer to reload than rebuild. Last October, we were wondering how the Orange would replace Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris (in hindsight, that looks foolish, but it was true at the time). Why should we believe any differently this time around? NBA scouts have tabbed Joseph as a future lottery pick, Jardine and Brandon Triche shot well enough in 2009-10 to believe they can pick up Rautins’ slack, and Melo is an immediate upgrade offensively over Onuaku. In a conference that lost personnel across the board, Boeheim has a shot to put together back-to-back Big East title squads.

Team #2: Missouri (Preseason Rankings: #8, #12, #13, #16, #16)

Overrated at #8 if: Missouri’s returning talent isn’t that good in the first place. The Tigers return their top three scorers from a season ago, but it’s not as though Missouri lit the world on fire in 2009-10: they lost games to Oral Roberts, Oklahoma and Nebraska before garnering a #10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s also concern about the Tigers frontcourt — Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratcliffe, Justin Safford and Steve Moore -- regarding their ability to contain the behemoths that face them in the Big 12. Any team that takes care of the basketball, keeps the action in the halfcourt and boasts legitimate scoring big men can negate Mike Anderson’s chaotic full-court press and take the Tigers out of their comfort zone. The prized recruit of Anderson’s class, 6’8 power forward Tony Mitchell out of Texas, is dealing with eligibility concerns and hopes to join Missouri in time for the bulk of Big 12 play, but that proposition is in serious jeopardy.

Underrated at #16 if: people underestimate the ability of Anderson to get the most out of his team. He’s positively giddy about the prospects of this year’s roster. There’s scoring punch on the outside with Kim English and Marcus Denmon, a dynamic point guard duo with Mike Dixon and Paul Pressey and plenty of candidates to thrust themselves into stardom in the frontcourt, especially Ratcliffe, the ultra-talent top junior college recruit. The Tigers full-court press keeps them in any game against any opponent if they’re able to force turnovers and impose their will. Anderson has the speed, versatility and athleticism to pressure opponents into oblivion. English is a phenomenal scorer and potential all-conference performer. If he develops more of a well-rounded game and improves efficiency, Anderson also boasts a go-to scorer when the Tigers need a clutch bucket.

Team #3: North Carolina (Preseason Rankings: #6, #9, #12, #14, #14)

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Summer School in the Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 24th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

Around the Pac-10:

  • Down Times: Last season was clearly one of the low points in Pac-10 basketball history. It took a late-season run out of Washington to ensure two NCAA Tournament bids from the conference, with California earning the other after a strong but somewhat disappointing season. The conference had just one player (the Huskies’ Quincy Pondexter) picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, and just two players picked overall (with Stanford’s Landry Fields somewhat surprisingly being drafted by the Knicks, much to the chagrin of New York fans in attendance, with the 39th pick). The two total players drafted were the lowest total for the league since 1986.
  • Returning Fire: Despite the lack of players picked in the NBA Draft, just nine of the league’s top 20 scorers from last year return, although Rihard Kuksiks is still uncertain whether he will return for his senior season at Arizona State. Likewise, just 11 of the league’s top 20 rebounders return.
  • Fresh Blood: But not to worry, plenty of excellent new talent is headed the Pac-10’s way. Or not. Actually, out of Scout’s Top 100 list, just ten players (and just four out of the top 50) committed to Pac-10 institutions, with the highest ranked player, Washington’s Terrence Ross, checking in at #26. According to ESPNU’s projections, the outlook is slightly rosier, with the Pac-10 accounting for 12 of the top 100 players, five of the top 50, and UCLA’s Josh Smith checking in at #20. Either way, while there is some new talent, it is not of the caliber of the other BCS conferences. There was some intrigue here, however, as Enes Kanter (Scout #3 overall recruit, ESPNU #25) originally verbally committed to Washington before backing out and heading to Kentucky. Additional salt in the wound came when Washington’s top recruit, Terrence Jones (ESPU #9 overall, Scout #8) announced at a press conference that he would be committing to Washington, but then failed to sign a letter of intent and wound up changing his mind and committing to Kentucky as well, giving Husky fans an entirely new Cal to dislike.
  • Head Honchos: While a lot of familiar players have moved on, there is consistency in the hot seat for all but one team: Oregon ended the Ernie Kent era and will welcome new head coach Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton. While Altman wasn’t the sexy hire that Pat Kilkenny and Phil Knight wanted to start the new era in Oregon basketball, he is an excellent coach who will likely have the sleeping giant in Eugene back in the thick of things in the Pac-10 very quickly.
  • Home Cooking: The coaching change isn’t the only big news in Eugene, as the Ducks will break in a new arena this season, when the brand-new gleaming Matthew Knight Arena (named after Knight’s son who died prematurely in a scuba-diving accident) replaces the venerable old McArthur Court in January. The Ducks had planned to kick off the Pac-10 season in the new venue, but the move-in date has been pushed back for a variety of reasons.

Newcomer Terrence Ross will look to keep Washington atop the Pac-10.

Power Rankings:

  1. Washington: The Huskies lose last year’s lone Pac-10 NBA first rounder in Quincy Pondexter, but just about everyone else of consequence returns. Pint-sized point Isaiah Thomas (no, not the suspiciously crazy one who ran the Knicks into the ground) leads the way in a talented backcourt, with energetic pace-setter Venoy Overton back for another season of annoying opposing guards. Also keep your eye on sophomore Abdul Gaddy, who was at one time considered the second-best point guard in the ’09 high school class. He struggled as a 17-year-old freshman, but Lorenzo Romar will certainly give him plenty of chances to earn more playing time this season. Up front, senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning will need to take a big step forward as the frontcourt scoring threat for this squad, with Tyreese Breshers and Darnell Gant doing the dirty work in the paint. Additionally, Romar welcomes three freshmen, including Terrence Ross to add some more talent to the backcourt and 7’0 juco transfer Aziz Ndiaye to add size, if not a polished offensive game, to a relatively small frontcourt. Senior Justin Holliday and junior Scott Suggs will add depth at the wings. The Huskies suffered from lapses in concentration last season, but an additional year of experience for a veteran roster should fix that problem.
  2. Arizona: The Wildcats are on their way back from their struggles at the end of legend Lute Olson’s regime. But while I’ll nab them as my number two team here, this is not a Wildcat team that is going to make any McKale denizens forget the 1988 or 1997 teams – this ranking is more of an indication of the conference’s weakness. However, sophomore forward Derrick Williams is the conference’s fourth leading returning scorer and second-leading returning rebounder and an absolute beast in the paint. Senior Jamelle Horne will start alongside Williams, and he’ll be called on to improve on the nine points and six rebounds he provided nightly last season. Shooting guard Kyle Fogg displayed some nice offensive punch last season, and he’ll be asked for even more, but the most pressure will be felt by sophomore point Lamont “MoMo” Jones, who will be tasked with taking over for departed fixture Nic Wise. The development of frontcourt sophomores Solomon Hill and Kyryl Natyazhko and incoming freshman guards Daniel Bejarano and Jordin Mayes will be important for team depth. This is still an undersized team, which hurts them a bit on the boards and on defense, two areas where they will need to improve from last season.
  3. UCLA: While the 2009-10 season was a nightmare for the Bruins, the cupboard is not completely empty in Westwood. There are a lot of unanswered questions here, however, and the biggest one is at the point. Malcolm Lee got plenty of time there last season, but he is more ideally suited to play on the wing, and if all goes well for the Bruins, that’s where he’ll be this season. With the Jerime Anderson era justifiably considered a failure to this point, Ben Howland has brought in juco transfer Lazeric Jones to man the point, with any positive contributions that Anderson might provide just being bonus. Sophomore Tyler Honeycutt is a skilled ball handler and passer at the three, so he’ll be around to add an additional guard when necessary. Up front, Reeves Nelson was perhaps the biggest bright spot for UCLA in his freshman season, when he averaged 11 points and six rebounds a night in just over 20 minutes per game. He’ll need to keep out of foul trouble to gain additional minutes, and he’ll need to improve his horrid free throw shooting as well, but he looks ready for a big leap forward, especially considering he’ll be joined by UCLA’s big (and I do mean big, once listed at 320, now working towards approaching 270) freshman Josh Smith, a skilled and soft-handed center. Freshman wing Tyler Lamb will also get some early run. But the fact is, there is plenty of talent here, and if the Bruins get nothing more than a caretaker at the point, Howland will win games in a weak Pac-10 with this team. Read the rest of this entry »
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2010 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Posted by zhayes9 on June 25th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:

Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images

Winners:

Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.

John Calipari - As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.

Paul George - It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.

Greivis Vasquez’ reaction - I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Quincy Pondexter

Posted by rtmsf on June 18th, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Quincy Pondexter

School: Washington

Height/Weight: 6’7, 215

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late first round/Early second round

Overview: Washington’s Quincy Pondexter had a superb senior year apart from much of the national conversation due to the weakness of the Pac-10 and the fact that UW was written off very early — the Huskies in fact needed to win the Pac-10 Tournament just to make the NCAAs.  To their (and mostly Pondexter’s) credit, Washington was playing some of its best ball of the season during late February and March, ultimately winning nine of ten games to push through to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Final Four squad West Virginia.  Pondexter was outstanding all season, though, as he waited for his teammates to jump aboard the express with him.  The undersized power forward went for 19.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 1.7 SPG while shooting a very high percentage and consistently getting to the line and converting opportunities.  Late in the season he was a lock as a go-to man in the clutch, most notably against a tough Marquette squad in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when he broke down his defender and got to the rim to give his team the lead with 1.7 seconds left.  Pondexter’s ability to create shots in the mid-post area and finish with authority makes him an interesting prospect as a small forward backup at the next level.  He will have to continue to improve the range on his jump shot, but the mechanics and intelligence are already there, so this shouldn’t be a big problem moving forward.  Whoever picks up QP will likely be pleased with how he turns out in the next several years.

We See QP as a Career Sub, But That's Not a Bad Thing

Will Translate to the NBA:  Pondexter’s work ethic and arc of improvement along with his athletic tools should translate very well to the small forward position in the NBA.  He put in four seasons of steadily improving work at Washington, adding more facets to his game each year and there’s no reason to expect that he has reached his peak as he only recently turned 22 years old.  In terms of athleticism and the ability to finish in traffic, Pondexter will do very well at the next level.  He was always a very efficient scorer, but it really came together for him last season when he shot a remarkable 53% from the field and 83% from the line.  As an NBA coach, you won’t need to worry about QP jacking up crazy shots outside the offense or his available skill set.

Needs Work: The 6’7 forward will have to become accustomed to playing more of a perimeter role in the NBA, which means his jump shot must become more reliable.  In college he was asked to use his athletic gifts to attack the rim, and although he was a solid three-point shooter at 35%, he knew that wasn’t his preferred shot and limited his attempts from deep (51 all season).  Mastery of the 18-22 footer in the NBA is absolutely essential to his playing time, because he will never be a primary option in the offense but will need to be ready for the kickouts and ball reversals that will come his way.

Comparison Players: The best comparison we could come up with would be Travis Outlaw in the sense that Pondexter’s probably looking at carving out a niche as a career backup who can come into the game and provide minutes at the small forward position.  Though not in bunches, he has the ability to score and with his length and smarts, he could potentially also become an excellent defender at the next level.

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Appreciation For The Departing Seniors

Posted by zhayes9 on May 7th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a regular RTC writer and resident bracketologist. You can follow his sports-related thoughts at Twitter.

Too often during the month-long period between the Final Four and the early entry deadline of the NBA Draft, the media, hoops blogs and talking heads only focus on the underclassmen that have put their name in the hat. Was it the correct decision? Should he come back to school instead? Did that player sign with an agent? These questions should be forwarded and debated, but it seems a distinguished group of players are left out of the national dialogue during this time: college seniors.

While most drafted seniors are plucked closer to the end of the second round than the lottery (there’s a reason they stayed in school four years, let’s face it) it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged. There’s an extensive list of four-year college players that have made a memorable impact for the Association. Thus, this article will be devoted entirely to those that battled on the college hardwood for four years, examining their impact on the collegiate game during their long stay and determining how they can have a lasting influence at the next level.

Damion James (Texas)- I wouldn’t rule out another senior sneaking into the first round, but it’s looking likely that James is the lone four-year player to be picked in the top-30. A unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 first team, James averaged a double-double during Texas’ disappointing campaign and passed Nick Collison’s conference record for rebounding. NBA scouts will drool over James’ ferocity in the glass and his superb athleticism. He also features an unblockable mid-range jumper that’s improved in accuracy over his development from a dependable role player to a superstar in one of college basketball’s most premier conferences. While James may not have a defined position at the moment, he will likely build a lengthy NBA career just based on his drive, athleticism, explosiveness, innate rebounding ability and mid-range jumper. James suited up in burnt orange with everyone from D.J. Augustin to Avery Bradley and his name should be lifted to the rafters at the Frank Erwin Center.

Quincy Pondexter (Washington)- Displaying awe-inspiring glimpses of potential throughout his first three seasons in Seattle, Pondexter finally molded into the player that every Washington fan so desperately wanted during his senior campaign. Bumping his scoring average over seven points per contest, Pondexter led his Huskies out of the Pac-10 abyss and into the Sweet 16. Pondexter’s consistency- a constant battle that eventually turned into a strength- was never more evident than during Washington’s Pac-10 Tournament final win over California and first and second round triumphs over Marquette and New Mexico. Pondexter poured in a steady 18 points in each contest and shot a clip under 50%, even notching a key offensive rebound and extending his season two days more with a short bank shot that sent the Huskies to the second round. There’s little doubt in my mind Pondexter will continue to harness that natural talent at the next level. His extensive wingspan, ability to score in transition and comfort with defending multiple positions provide just a glance into Pondexter’s value.

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NCAA Basketball 2010: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2010

With all the talk about the coming 96-team tournament, many in the sports media have forgotten that there is already another ridiculous major college sport championship in place: the BCS. We took you through this process in a post last year, but it’s worth going over again as the blogosphere is ablaze with opinions on changing our beloved NCAA Tournament.

Here are the basic ground rules:

  1. We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible. Obviously there are some differences. A college basketball team is expected to win more than 9 games (we kept a cut-off at a 75% winning percentage). We replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
  2. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. The computer polls include data from the NCAA Tournament, but as you will see it didn’t affect the results that significantly.
  3. We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.

Here are the results:

We will let you digest that for a minute and will provide more information/analysis and the BCS Bowls after the jump.

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