Tracking The Four: NBA Prospecting

Posted by EJacoby on February 3rd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent & regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Fans, writers, and analysts aren’t the only ones watching games these days. As the second half of the conference season heats up, more and more NBA scouts also have their eyes peeled to the college game to track how players perform in big games. During the NCAA Tournament and after the season is typically when you’ll hear NBA talks pertaining to players, but those in tune with the draft already know the relative value of many players. This week’s TT4 Wildcard breaks down which players on our four teams have a shot to play at the next level. There’s plenty of time left for guys’ stock to go up or down, as well. Let’s do some NBA prospecting:

Top Prospects:

There are no surefire lottery (Top 14) picks on any of our four teams, but there are a couple of players who will make a definite push for consideration:

Scouts are Taking Note of Cody Zeller's Productive Freshman Season (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

  • Cody Zeller, Indiana – He’s only a freshman, and it seems like a sure bet that the big man will be returning to Indiana next season to improve with an even stronger team. But if he were to declare for this year’s NBA Draft, Zeller would likely go in the top 20 picks. Looking further down the road, the big man should have a great chance at being a lottery pick in the 2013 Draft. NBADraft.net currently has Zeller rated as their 13th best overall college prospect, and they have him slotted as a top five selection in 2013. With a smooth game and rock solid fundamentals on both ends, Zeller has been perhaps the most productive freshman in the country this season, averaging 15 points, 6.3 boards, 1.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks on an outstanding 65.2% field-goal percentage. He should only continue to improve as he gets stronger and more confident.
  • Mike Moser, UNLV – Our other player with major intrigue is the Runnin’ Rebels leading man, Moser. A top 50 recruit a couple of years ago, Moser was a quick transfer out of UCLA as a freshman and has stormed onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore this season for UNLV. He’s 6’8” and a freak rebounder with tremendous athleticism — his 11.6 RPG leads the Mountain West and is third in the nation. He also has perimeter skills and range out to the three-point line, hitting 30-87 on three-pointers this season. The combination of strength and skill for an athlete his size has Moser as the #22 overall college prospect at Draft Express. They have him slotted as a top 20 pick in the 2012 Draft, though we’d expect him to come back for another season and have a chance to go even higher in 2013.

First Round Fliers:

The following group of players all have something obvious in common, besides the fact that they could be NBA first-round picks. Take a look:

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • A Bad Saturday for Big East Referees:  It started in Philadelphia in the noon game between Villanova and Marquette. The referees made themselves the story of that game, calling three technical fouls and 45 total foul in a 40-minute game. That game lasted well over two hours as the officials used their whistles to take all the rhythm out of what was a very good game. James Breeding doesn’t have the best reputation across the conference for the quality of his calls, but apparently he has a short fuse as well. Breeding called all three techs and embarrassed himself on national television in the process. I realize the Big East and NCAA want better sportsmanship, but nothing Jay Wright, Buzz Williams, or Maalik Wayns did warranted a technical foul. It’s never good when officials make themselves the story of the game, but that’s exactly what James Breeding did. The bad officiating continued in the Syracuse-West Virginia game as the crew of Karl Hess, Gene Steratore and, Brian O’Connell blew a goaltending call that was obvious to the 28,740 Syracuse fans in attendance at the Carrier Dome, the ESPNU commentators, and anyone who was watching the game. While the proper call would have only resulted in a tie game and actually given Syracuse a chance to win it in regulation, it denied West Virginia a chance to force overtime. Too often, we see officials swallow their whistles in the final minute to “not affect the outcome of the game.” Once again, a crew of officials decided to do just that and that decision negatively affected the outcome. While there’s no guarantee West Virginia would have won if the game went to the extra session, the Mountaineers were denied that chance by incompetent officiating. My beef is as follows:  I’m all for player safety, but this season it has been ridiculous how many times officials have gone to the television monitor to review elbows that may or may not have been thrown during the course of a game. If they can review every elbow that was ever thrown (not needed in my opinion) as well as end-of-half scoring plays, why can’t they review a call like that? Nobody likes slow games, but the officials should be permitted to review every call they aren’t 100% sure about. All in all, Saturday was a disgrace to the officiating profession.
  • Mike Brey, Coach of the Year?: At this point, it would be hard to argue against him. The Notre Dame head coach led his team to two road wins at Seton Hall and Connecticut last week, holding the home teams to a combined 90 points. Brey’s team executed the burn offense to perfection, protected the basketball and got timely rebounds. Notre Dame, considered an afterthought after Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending ACL tear, is now in the thick of the NCAA Tournament conversation. Brey seems to get the most out of his teams when expectations are low, and that reputation is holding true as we head into the crucial month of February. The Irish still have work to do in order to overcome a lackluster non-conference performance but Brey has his team well on its way towards a top half conference finish.
  • Pittsburgh Wins a Pair: After starting league play 0-7, Pittsburgh has won two straight. With Tray Woodall healthy and back in the lineup, the Panthers are a team nobody wants to face down the stretch. Jamie Dixon’s NCAA dreams are almost surely extinguished, but the Panthers have an opportunity to finish the season strong and end with a respectable record. Pittsburgh’s offensive efficiency improved in a big way with Woodall’s return, but its defense was outstanding in Saturday’s win over Georgetown. The Panthers posted an 86.5 defensive efficiency rating, by far their best against a quality opponent. Their season-best was 81.0 against St. Francis (PA) on December 20, their last win before beating Providence last week. With a softer schedule in February, Pittsburgh has the potential to make some noise over the season’s final nine games.

Dante Taylor And The Panthers Are Still A Proud Bunch. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (22-1, 9-1) – After suffering its first defeat at Notre Dame, the Orange responded well in a win at Cincinnati two days later. Kris Joseph led the victors with 17 points on eight of 11 shooting. Still without Fab Melo, the Orange big men did an admirable job in his place. Rakeem Christmas had nine rebounds as Syracuse survived an early onslaught of Bearcat three-pointers. Syracuse then beat West Virginia on Saturday in a closer-than-expected game as the Mountaineers were able to score against the zone, mostly because of rebounding. Syracuse was out-rebounded 36-20, but committed only six turnovers as it survived the blown goaltending call in the final seconds. Brandon Triche had 18 points in the win. Rebounding has been a concern all season, but it’s obvious that Syracuse is not nearly as dominant with Melo out of the lineup. Free throw shooting came and went (33% at Cincinnati, 76.5% against West Virginia) but mental toughness is one of its biggest strengths. As we head into the teeth of the season, Syracuse is more prepared to absorb and respond to every team’s best shot. This week: 2/4 @ St. John’s.
  2. Marquette (18-4, 7-2) – I’m not overly impressed every time I watch this team, but it makes the winning plays when needed most. The Golden Eagles won a pair of games last week to push their winning streak to six games. Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Davante Gardner combined for 47 points in a home win over South Florida on Tuesday, equaling the total points scored by the Bulls. Marquette ventured to Villanova on Saturday and was involved in one of the more bizarre games I have seen all season across college basketball. The game lasted two and a half hours and didn’t even go to overtime. 45 fouls (three technical) were called and 57 free throws were attempted in a game that wasn’t the finest moment for the officiating crew of James Breeding, Tim Clougherty, and Pat Driscoll. Breeding in particular had a short fuse, whistling Buzz Williams for a technical when the coach simply slipped and fell down. Memo to Breeding: Get over yourself, he wasn’t showing you up. Johnson-Odom had 26 points, Crowder added 20 points and 11 boards for Marquette and Jamil Wilson added 12 points off the bench. Marquette rallied from an 18-point deficit and forced 20 Villanova turnovers to key the comeback. This is a good basketball team, but one that has a ceiling. I’m not sure the Golden Eagles have the scoring depth to make a big run in March. This week: 1/31 vs. Seton Hall, 2/4 @ Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Cincinnati Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 24th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. Four Thoughts is our brand new, not-so creatively titled feature where, in lieu of a game recap, we give you (in this case a belated) four thoughts about key Big East action. Enjoy!

1. Syracuse showed its resiliency.

Last season the Orange got off to a blistering 18-0 start, but when they traveled to Pittsburgh and lost a hard-fought game, the wheels started to wobble. After losing to the Panthers, Syracuse then lost five of their next seven games, including a 22-point shellacking by Seton Hall at home. The team was eventually bounced in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, much to the disappointment of ‘Cuse fans who just a few weeks earlier had been thinking National Championship.

Last night, the Orange had a chance to head down a similar path. Two days earlier they had lost their first game of the season on the road to Notre Dame and now they were headed to “The Shoe” to take on a rugged Cincinnati team still smarting from their overtime loss to West Virginia on Saturday. If Syracuse lost, most would probably be willing to forgive them and brush the loss off as part of the pitfalls of playing two road games in three days.

But they didn’t lose, and even when the Bearcats took the lead early in the second half, Jim Boeheim‘s club didn’t panic, instead calmly engineering a mini-run in the middle of the second half to take the lead for good. Good teams find ways to win ugly, and Syracuse played ugly basketball, especially at the start of both halves. But they withstood those barrages, calmed down, and overcame their shooting deficiencies to beat a strong conference foe on the road, proving they are still a national title contender in the process.

2. Hello Rakeem Christmas, it’s nice to finally meet you.

Rakeem Christmas Played His Best Game Monday, But Was It A Trend Or A Fluke?

No one expected Christmas — a four-star prospect coming out of high school — to average a double-double out of the gate, but it’s fair to say that ‘Cuse fans were hoping for more than 3.5 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game out of the ultra-gifted forward. But, for whatever reason, Boeheim hasn’t trusted Christmas yet this season. He has started every game this season but — much like Fab Melo last year — Christmas would get yanked quickly and is still averaging less than 13 minutes per game. The quick hook led some to believe that Boeheim was messing with Christmas’ confidence.

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Blueprint To Beat Undefeated Syracuse

Posted by zhayes9 on January 19th, 2012

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

Near the tail end of Monday’s Baylor-Kansas game, Dick Vitale, ESPN’s master of hyperbole, predicted that Syracuse would not lose once during the regular season. The odds of becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since the Jameer Nelson/Delonte West-led St. Joseph’s juggernaut of 2004 is slim. In fact, Ken Pomeroy’s projections grant the Orange only a 13.1% chance of running the table.

Still, the Big East conference doesn’t feature nearly as many elite teams as in previous seasons. Potential slip-ups at Notre Dame and Cincinnati are approaching, while visits to ranked teams Louisville and Connecticut remain. All in all, though, the road is as navigable a team can ask for in the gauntlet of conference play.

The Syracuse hype goes deeper than their unblemished record. Aside from a near upset against Stanford, their level of performance from opening night to today has been extraordinary.  In their first 20 games, Syracuse’s margin of victory is a staggering 19.7 points per contest. They lead the nation in steals and can deliver a 14-0 spurt as quickly as any team in the country with their high-flying transition game. Their depth is at the point where most believe members #6 through #10 in their rotation would be a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament.

Still, even the most menacing teams of the last few years are vulnerable to a poor 40-minute output. Illinois’ loaded 2005 squad fell in their season finale to unranked Ohio State and the Hansbrough/Lawson Tar Heels were stunned by Boston College at the Dean Dome, just to name a few. These are college kids, not robots. But how specifically can a Notre Dame or Cincinnati or Louisville knock off this seemingly unstoppable machine? Here are eight essentials to dethroning what may be Jim Boeheim’s best team in 34 years at the helm:

1. Keep the game in the halfcourt

Any hope of knocking off Syracuse begins and ends with limiting the Orange transition game. Boeheim has instructed his guards at the top of their 2-3 zone to always be active in the passing lanes in order to get deflections and race the other way. Not even North Carolina, the near-unanimous preseason number one and a team averaging 85 points per game, is as proficient in transition opportunities as this Syracuse unit. It’s no coincidence that two of their more competitive games- against Virginia Tech at MSG and the recent home victory over Pittsburgh – were two of the three lowest possession contests of the season. Pitt was able to limit the Orange to just 62 possessions despite a 13-0 run to begin the game and stayed within striking distance.

2. Make transition defense a priority

Just like the Wes Johnson/Andy Rautins-led Syracuse outfit of two years ago, the Orange run at every possible opportunity. Their triumvirate of guards – Jardine, Triche and Waiters – is absolutely lethal in full-court mode. If you make Syracuse work for open looks in the halfcourt, they’re much more vulnerable to defeat. Two possible chinks in the armor for the Orange are three-point shooting and ability to get to the free throw line. Syracuse shoots a mediocre 36% from three as a team and ranks 279th in Division-1 in free throw rate. If a future opponent can keep their guards in the halfcourt and force them into contested jump shots, the odds of an upset dramatically increase. Make or miss, Notre Dame’s guards should make it a priority to sprint back after every shot goes up on Saturday.

3. Employ a threat in the middle of their 2-3 zone

One of the areas where the Syracuse zone is susceptible to a breakdown is near the free throw line. The zone can be carved up by employing a player in that soft spot who can face-up, deliver a pass to a cutter along the baseline or pose a mid-range shooting threat. Of course, only a handful of teams boast a player with that type of skill set. Perusing their schedule, look out for Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones and even Connecticut’s Ryan Olander as players who can flash into the free throw line area and cause problems.

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Four Thoughts: Providence vs. Syracuse Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 16th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. Four Thoughts is our brand new, not-so creatively titled feature where, in lieu of a game recap, we give you four thoughts about key Big East action. Enjoy!

Council Overruled

It is rare that conference opponents would face each other twice by mid-January, but that was the case on Saturday when Providence and Syracuse met in the Carrier dome.  Syracuse won the first meeting by an 87-73 score that was not indicative of the overall play.  In one of the few challenges Syracuse has faced this year, Providence hung tough at home in a game where both teams played well.  Syracuse led by only two points at the half, and six with just over five minutes to go in the game before making a late run  to log the double-digit victory.  Despite that good home showing by the Friars, coupled with any momentum generated by their 31-point romp over #14 Louisville on Tuesday, Providence (justifiably) remained heavy underdogs on the road versus the #1 Orange.  Long odds became virtually impossible when it was learned publicly just an hour or so before Saturday night’s game that Providence’s best player and leading scorer, point guard Vincent Council (16.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.1 APG) would be held out of the game due unspecified coach’s decision.   Council was coming off a 15-point, 14-assist performance in the Louisville win and had 17 points and five assists in the first meeting with the Orange.  Not only is Council Providence’s leader, he is their only legitimate point guard averaging 37.7 minutes per game as a result.  In the court system that is Providence basketball, the judge, jury and probably even court stenographer is head coach Ed Cooley.  After the game, as reported in the Providence Journal, Cooley termed the reason for sitting Council an “accountability issue,” adding “it could be multiple games but it definitely is my decision.” Council’s suspension represented a bold move by first-year head coach Cooley, who is trying to change the culture of what was an undisciplined program under former coach Keno Davis.

Syracuse's Pressure was Too Much for the Council-less Friars (Photo by Frank Ordonez, The Post-Standard)

Under Pressure – The Turning Point

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Quiet Yet Effective: Syracuse’s Offense Continues to Hum Along Without a Star…

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2012

Bill Hupp is an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp). He filed this report after Syracuse’s win over DePaul on Sunday afternoon.

Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim smirked at the reporter’s question and, with a slight shake of his head, replied, ““I’ve been here for 36 years and I’ve only had one of those guys.” That one guy was Carmelo Anthony, and though the Orange don’t have anyone with Anthony’s level of individual star power on this year’s team, they seem to have the right mix of savvy veterans and talented youngsters to make this season a memorable one for Syracuse basketball. Playing on the road near Chicago in front of a crowd half full of Syracuse orange on New Year’s Day, SU blocked 11 shots and swiped 10 steals as they overwhelmed DePaul, 87-68.

Joseph and the Rest of His Orange Continue to Roll (AP)

Defensively, the ‘Cuse are possibly as good as they’ve ever been. Their length and athleticism comes at you in waves.  The quickness and active hands of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine at the top of the vaunted 2-3 matchup zone means you can’t just rotate the ball from side to side at will. You want to try to split the zone and get into the lane? Fine, 7’0’’ Fab Melo, 6’10’’ Baye Keita or 6’9’’ Rakeem Christmas will be waiting to swat (or at least) alter your shot. There’s a reason Syracuse leads the country in steals per game (11.5) and is third in blocks (7.8).

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Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Big East Morning Five: 12.08.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 8th, 2011

  1. Georgetown basketball players are making news off the court this week, but settle down Hoyas fans, it’s actually light-hearted news and not some sort of suspension or legal issue. Ballin Is A Habit unearthed a video in which a bunch of Georgetown students sing Handel’s Messiah. Yes, those three rather tall men in the back row are in fact senior captain Jason Clark, sophomore Nate Lubick, and walk-on John Caprio, and kudos to them for being involved in something so potentially embarrassing. John Thompson, III‘s team certainly has plenty to celebrate this holiday season as the Hoyas are exceeding expectations and look like a legitimate contender in the conference.
  2. It’s no secret that Rutgers coach Mike Rice has his work cut out for him turning the Scarlet Knights into a conference contender, but injuries to some key freshmen like Kadeem Jack and the slow development of freshmen big men like Derrick Randall has meant that Rice is playing a good deal of rotation roulette as he tries to fill in holes. Even if some of the freshman get healthy and mature quickly, the Scarlet Knights still can’t really be considered contenders this season. But it would certainly improve their chances for next season if their freshmen could get some additional seasoning and experience.
  3. After yet another nailbiting win, it is only right we give some love to Marquette‘s best player, guard Darius Johnson-Odom. The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel alerted us to the ESPN Sports Science segment featuring the Golden Eagles’ star and its focus was on his quickness. Long story short, they established that Johnson-Odom is really quick.  Like, NBA-caliber quick. It certainly isn’t shocking news to anyone who has watched the team play this year, but it is fun to see how far Johnson-Odom has come in his time in Milwaukee. There must be something in the water up there, because not many teams develop lightly regarded combo guards quite like Marquette.
  4. It was good to see a reader call out Sports Illustrated‘s Seth Davis for his critique of Syracuse freshmen Michael Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas and it was just as good to see Davis acknowledge he might have jumped the gun on saying the players are developing too slowly. As I noted on this blog earlier, the Orange are unbelievably deep, and they really don’t need Carter-Williams or Christmas to be impact players right away, a luxury few teams have when it comes to talented freshmen. In one sense, it could hurt their growth in that Boeheim has given them spotty playing time, but their talent is evident, and I wouldn’t worry about these two just yet. Neither player has one-and-done potential and they will undoubtedly get their chance to prove themselves on the court. My guess is it happens before the end of this season.
  5. It is a good thing Louisville is so good defensively, because, as Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal points out, the Cardinals are going to struggle to score points. Rick Pitino was not at all happy despite the fact that his team scored 90 points in a win over IUPUI last night, and his team seemed to understand his frustration. Some of the struggles can be attributed to the fact that the rotation has fluctuated because of injuries and early-season development issues, but this team’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t have a go-to scorer. Peyton Siva is the closest thing, but he also needs to handle the point guard duties and Kyle Kuric is more of a shooter than a scorer. The Cardinals might be the best team in the conference, but if they want to make a Final Four run, they will need to find some more consistent scoring options.
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Jumping to Conclusions: Syracuse Is The Deepest Team In The Country

Posted by mlemaire on November 25th, 2011

Entering the season, there was little doubt that Syracuse was loaded. They returned four starters from a team that won 27 games last season; they had two preseason All-Big East performers in forward Kris Joseph (first team) and guard Scoop Jardine (second team); and they welcomed the No. 16 recruiting class to campus.

So it was only fitting that locked in a back-and-forth battle with Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the Orange turned to none of the aforementioned players to give them a lift. Instead of Joseph or Jardine, it was reserves C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters who led Jim Boeheim‘s club to the win after they had trailed at halftime. The duo combined for 21 points in the second half and scored all but three of the team’s points during a 17-3 run that helped Syracuse pull away from the Hokies for a 69-58 win in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

An Improved C.J. Fair Gives Syracuse Another Weapon Off The Bench

But the performance Waiters and Fair didn’t just serve as a coming out party for two of the more underrated role players in the conference, it also highlighted the team’s incredible depth. Depth that could make the difference between a second round NCAA Tournament exit like last season, and the program’s first National Championship since Carmelo Anthony was draped in orange.

Through five games, Boeheim has 10 players who are averaging at least 12.8 minutes per game, and no one on the team — not even Joseph or Jardine — is averaging more than 25.4 minutes per game. Now against the Hokies, only seven players were on the court for more than ten minutes of game time and that may become a trend as the season goes on. It is unlikely that the Orange will stick with a ten-deep rotation, especially as the competition gets stiffer and certain players start to assert themselves, but it is a luxury that any coach would love to have.

Last season only eight players averaged more than ten minutes per game for the Orange, and Joseph, Jardine, Brandon Triche, and Rick Jackson used more than 70 percent of the team’s minutes. The result was a team that started 18-0, but went just 9-8 the reason of the season including a disappointing 66-62 loss to Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Stanford vs. Syracuse

Posted by AMurawa on November 25th, 2011

When the last remaining undefeated Pac-12 team, Stanford, knocked off Oklahoma State on Wednesday night to advance to the championship game of the NIT Season-Tip Off to face the #5 team in the country, Syracuse, we had our Pac-12 game of the week all set up. Let’s preface the rest of this post by saying that we, like most of the rest of the college hoops public, have no expectation that Stanford will win this game. The Cardinal are a young team, still very much in the process of improving, and they’re facing a team that is arguably as talented as anyone in the country on a neutral-site court that will be anything but neutral. Can Stanford beat Syracuse? I point you to Exhibits A, B and C, to show that, sure, anything can happen, but the fact is Cardinal fans should temper their expectations. The goal is to win, but if they play the Orange close, that’s a success.

Josh Owens, Stanford

Josh Owens Will Play A Big Role As Stanford Tries To Attack Syracuse's 2-3 Zone

So, how does the Cardinal go about playing the Orange close? First and foremost, they need to be thankful today for their video coordinator and go to school on Jim Boeheim’s zone. Conventional wisdom says you attack the 2-3 zone by getting into the middle of it and playing inside out. Stanford has two good candidates to man the middle offensively against the zone: senior forward Josh Owens and sophomore forward Dwight Powell. Both are capable passers who can handle the ball a bit when needed, and each can turn around and hit the 15-foot jumper on the rare occasion when they are given space. Either player is also capable of flashing to the baseline when the ball is kicked back out to the guards and either hitting the baseline jumper or putting the ball on the floor and attacking the meat of that lengthy Syracuse zone. However, because of that length (the Orange feature seven-footer Fab Melo in the middle, with guys like 6’7” senior Kris Joseph, 6’9” freshman Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” sophomore Baye Moussa Keita, and 6’7” sophomore C.J. Fair elsewhere along the frontcourt), not only will the windows to get off jumpers disappear quickly, but any shots inside will be challenged.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Realignment Circus Continues: The latest blow to the Big East came just recently as West Virginia was accepted into the Big 12. That leaves the Big East with 13 basketball schools remaining and a handful of others (football schools) desperately trying to flee the sinking ship. Commissioner John Marinatto has said he is committed to holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the 27-month notice provision in the conference’s bylaws but one has to wonder if a financial settlement will be worked out in order to expedite the transition and move the conference into rebuilding mode. It’s going to be quite awkward if these three schools remain in the league until 2014. All of the current Big East members should eventually find a stable home in one form or another, but the days of Big East basketball as we know it will soon come to an end. Enjoy the 2011-12 season because it just might be the last year of this remarkable 16-team behemoth.
  • How Many Bids This Year?: After sending a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, can the Big East reach that mark again? That seems unlikely but you never know how things will truly play out. I’d say there are ten contenders for NCAA bids and to make 11 you would need all of those teams plus one of the three New York City-area schools to have a wildly successful year and snatch a bid. The Big East is quite possibly the best conference in the land yet again but 11 NCAA teams is far-fetched. Eight or nine bids this season would seem to be much more realistic.
  • Can Connecticut Repeat?: The technical answer is yes but it will be extremely tough to do. There’s a reason only two teams have gone back-to-back in the last 20 years. College basketball is as deep as ever in terms of talent and quality teams, plus there’s someone missing from last year’s Connecticut team. Kemba Walker is now in the NBA and, despite Jim Calhoun’s impressive recruiting haul, there is a major leadership void to be filled. This team is stocked with talent but Walker was a one-of-a-kind leader who took complete control in Maui and parlayed that into a way of life for the rest of the season. Jeremy Lamb figures to take control but remember how young this group is. They’ll get better as the season progresses and may even win the Big East but when the chips are down in the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be able to call on Kemba and that’s why I feel they will not repeat.

Calhoun Won't Have His Mr. Everything Around This Season

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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Analyzing the Top Ten Recruiting Classes of 2011

Posted by zhayes9 on October 7th, 2011

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

In this era of one-and-done, where every touted freshman and blue-chip prospect must lace up the sneakers in college for at least a season, recruiting has never been more important.

As recently as a decade ago, programs were built, legacies were formed and trophies were hoisted on the basis of developing and grooming four-year players. In 2003, freshman Carmelo Anthony bucked that trend by carrying his Syracuse team to a national title. When David Stern instituted an age limit to participate professionally, impact players such as Greg Oden, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose may have only dipped their toes in the collegiate water, but the Final Four berths won’t soon be forgotten.

This upcoming season, college basketball hasn’t been gutted as dramatically as in the past. Assumed lottery picks passed on the immediate NBA riches whether in fears of a prolonged lockout or simply to accomplish goals left unmet. A plethora of battle-tested seniors also make their dramatic return. Despite this welcomed development, freshmen will still have their say in who grabs the four all-important #1 seeds and who ultimately graces the hardwood in Indianapolis next April.

Here are the ten teams primed to receive a substantial contribution from their talented newcomers this upcoming season:

1. Kentucky- Brandon Knight is the latest Calipari-coached freshman to bolt early for the pros. Luckily for Big Blue, their coach’s recruiting skills hasn’t eroded in the least bit. In pretty much any other freshman class in the country, Kyle Wiltjer would top the list; in Lexington, he’s easily the fourth-best rookie on the squad. The headliner is center Anthony Davis, the early favorite to be selected first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.  The Chicago native reminds many scouts of a young Kevin Garnett with his tremendous versatility, remarkable athleticism and exceptional rebounding abilities. Formerly a lightly-recruited guard prior to a timely growth spurt, Davis is more than comfortable handling the ball around the perimeter. Taking over at point guard for Knight is Marquis Teague, a lightning-fast lead guard and the younger brother of former Wake Forest and current Hawks reserve Jeff Teague. Teague is a better fit for Calipari’s preferred dribble-drive motion offense than the ball-screen dependent Knight. The third potential freshman starter is St. Patrick’s own Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Gilchrist is an intense competitor and will be absolute joy for Calipari to coach. Witjer should prove a valuable backup big man with a refined perimeter game.

Anthony Davis/kentuckysportsradio.com

2. Duke- Losing your three most productive players – two face-of-the-program seniors and a point guard that just happened to be chosen #1 overall — would result in a multi-year rebuilding process at most schools. Most schools aren’t Duke, and the Blue Devils are once again expected to compete in the top ten. The biggest reason why is Austin Rivers. Easily the best scoring guard in the freshman ranks, Rivers is a legitimate threat to average 17-20 PPG during his first (and likely only) season in Durham. Rivers does possess the ability to create his own shot, but could struggle to get opportune looks until Seth Curry develops a comfort level at point guard. Oak Hill’s Quinn Cook is expected to compete for minutes at the point once he recovers from a knee injury. He appears destined to be Duke’s floor general of the future. Cook is a born leader that has one priority: to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. How deep Coach K opts to utilize his bench will determine the playing time of wings Michael Gbinije and Alex Murphy, along with the third Plumlee brother, Marshall Plumlee. All three will be regular contributors down the road. Once Murphy develops some strength, he could be the best of the lot as a scoring threat with sneaky athleticism.

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