Morning Five: 09.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 10th, 2012

  1. The biggest news from the weekend was without question the bombshell that dropped Friday that former Duke forward Lance Thomas is being sued by a New York City jeweler who caters to professional athletes for an unpaid debt of $67,800 — credit that was extended to Thomas upon a down payment of $30,000 and purchase of several items during December of his senior season. This is the same senior season that led to Duke and Mike Krzyzewski’s fourth national championship won over upstart Butler; the same senior season where Thomas started in most of the Blue Devils’ games and contributed five points and five rebounds in roughly 25 minutes per game. Right now, there are more questions than answers — where did Thomas get such a large sum of money to make the down payment? Why would a jeweler give a college student of marginal skill such exorbitant credit? What happened to the jewelry, and did anyone at Duke see him wearing it? Right now, all we know is that the NCAA and Duke both say that they are aware of the issue, but you’d better believe that a nation full of fans of schools other than Duke will be watching this one very, very closely.
  2. Of the six power conferences, the Big East has without question been the one most expendable because of its relative lack of marquee football programs. In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, it has expanded its gridiron presence to include schools from all four US time zones which hasled to understandable mockery over the word “East” in its moniker. Last week former interim commissioner Joe Bailey stated at a sports business conference that the league was investigating a name change to better fit its new national geographic presence. Within minutes of this news releasing, Twitter had a field day making fun of it, no doubt sending current Big East commissioner Mike Aresco into panic mode. Putting the matter to rest on Saturday, Aresco said that there are no plans to change the name, citing “tremendous brand equity” in the conference’s geographic misnomer. Let’s hope for Aresco’s sake that the equity he refers to is more Apple than Enron.
  3. The third buzzworthy item from the weekend related to a comment made by NCAA executive VP for championships, Mark Lewis, late last week. In a conversation with ESPN.com, Lewis said he pulled out a US map and openly wondered why the population-heavy east and west coasts were effectively shut out of the possibility of hosting a Final Four because there are no domed stadiums located in those areas (every Final Four from 1997 to present has been in a dome). The eight existing viable locations — Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and St. Louis — are generally found in the nation’s mid-section, far from the media hype machines located along the seaboards. The primary impact, of course, would be on the ticket market. Domes are set up to hold upward of 70,000 fans, whereas traditional basketball arenas top out in the low 20,000+ range. We’ve been to a number of Final Fours over the years, and in general have to agree with Mike DeCourcy who argues that the buzz and energy of the building filled with that many people surpasses the tradeoff of a more intimate environment. As a compromise position, we’d offer this suggestion — limit the regional rounds to traditional arenas only, allowing the NBA cities located up and down both coasts regular hosting opportunities; but keep the Final Fours in the dome environments, allowing huge fanbases as well as the general public a reasonable chance to experience one of the great spectacles in all of sports.
  4. As we inch closer to the 2012-13 season, UNLV basketball continues to receive positive attention. The Runnin’ Rebels are loaded with talent and expectations are sky high in the desert. With good attention and expectations comes demands, and the Nevada Board of Regents made an effort to keep head coach Dave Rice happy by approving a raise to a base salary of $600,000 and an extension through the 2016-17 season. Rice’s first season featured the emergence of star forward Mike Moser and a 26-9 overall record although it ended prematurely in the Rebs’ first game of the NCAA Tournament. Next year’s team will add star recruit Anthony Bennett and transfer Khem Birch to bolster the front line along with Moser, making UNLV a chic preseason pick to make a run at the 2013 Final Four.
  5. The 2012 Basketball Hall of Fame class was inducted on Friday night, and as always, college basketball was well-represented. The biggest name from our game was Virginia’s three-time NPOY Ralph Sampson — for those of you under 40, read that part in italics again — a player who was so utterly dominant during one of the most talented eras the sport has ever seen that his NBA career (only four All-Star appearances) pales in comparison. Other college stars of note were UCLA’s Jamaal Wilkes (two-time first-team All-American), UCLA’s Don Barksdale (second-team All-American), Reggie Miller (two-time first-team Pac-10), Iowa’s Don Nelson (two-time All-American, although he was selected for his coaching), Bradley’s Chet Walker (two-time All-American), New Mexico’s Mel Daniels (second-team All-American) and referee Hank Nichols. An interesting non-basketball-playing inductee was Nike CEO Phil Knight, whose impact on the sport through his sneakers and corollary marketing efforts have been incalculable.
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ACC Morning Five: 04.03.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 3rd, 2012

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Speaking of tall lanky game-changers in college basketball, Ralph Sampson finally was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame. You can blame the delay on his injury-laden NBA career and a combination of Sidney Lowe, Michael Jordan, and Sam Perkins (who kept him from ACC Championships in 1983, 1982 and 1981 respectively). Sampson was truly a once-in-a-generation player. At 7’4″ and athletic, he was comfortable smoking opponents from inside and out. He’s also one of two players to be chosen the consensus national player of the year three times (Bill Walton is the other).
  2. Yadkin Valley Sports: This is a great article on Victor Davila, who watched his senior season evaporate from the bench with a groin injury. Davila is a product of Puerto Rico by means of the foothills of North Carolina. Here’s to hoping he finds some basketball success overseas before having to get a real job.
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: Steve Wiseman checks in with questions facing Duke in the offseason. I will try to answer them. Will Mason Plumlee return? No idea. Will Rasheed Sulaimon make an impact as a freshman? Yes. He’s a great shooter and looks like a solid defender (albeit in the McDonald’s All-American game). Will Duke pick up any transfers? I think Alex Oriakhi comes if Plumlee leaves; Trey Zeigler seems more likely. Strengths? Definitely scoring, though the defense should get better with the addition of Alex Murphy. Speaking of Murphy I think he will start next year, and Marshall Plumlee will get decent minutes off the bench (to commit fouls if nothing else).
  4. Fox Sports: Here’s Andrew Jones with Florida State‘s final report card for the season. I think he’s a little harsh on the Seminoles’ offense, though their nonconference play certainly merits a harsh rating. The real question is what Leonard Hamilton can put together losing so many players. The team was so deep last year that he’ll still have plenty of players coming back with experience, but things will look very different in Tallahassee next year (Michael Snaer is the difference to me).
  5. NC State Technician: While part of me agrees that CJ Leslie should stick around for another year (namely, he’s not a first round lock), I abhor these types of articles. Players know fans want them to come back. I think the jump Leslie made between last year and this year was the difference between a flame out career and sticking around in the NBA. He matured a ton between last year and this year. If Leslie comes back, he’s definitely preseason first team All-ACC and should be in the running for conference player of the year (on a team that might be picked on top of the league).

Today in Carefully-Framed Stats:

(That would be ignoring the ACC’s three consecutive championships from 1991-1993.)

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ACC Mount Rushmore

Posted by KCarpenter on February 20th, 2012

The men whose visages grace the face of the Mount Rushmore of the Atlantic Coast Conference were chosen based on a simple set of criteria. The faces of those who grace the mountain must belong to truly legendary individuals; men who changed the game, left a lasting legacy, or otherwise accomplished feats of greatness that remain unmatched or unequaled. The ACC is fortunate to have such a rich history of legends that there is an embarrassment of riches, and it’s difficult to choose only four. Ultimately, the four that were picked were the ones whose accomplishments stand out  not just as spectacular in the conference, but in the entire sport.

  • Mike Krzyzewski – Simply put, he’s the most successful men’s basketball coach alive today. He has more wins than any coach in history, four national titles, and built Duke into a perennial national power. He has the most (77) NCAA tournament wins of any coach ever and has the second most Final Four appearances ever. In the history of all of college basketball, only John Wooden and maybe Adolph Rupp can point to coaching accomplishments that come close to what Coach K has achieved. Krzyzeski is a coaching icon whose adaptability and disciplined approach makes Duke a threat to win the national championship any given year.  The continued success of Krzyzewski and Duke are a credit to the ACC, and the high profile of the sport’s most famous active coach has helped to keep the national attention on the conference.
  • Dean Smith –  When Dean Smith retired, he had set the all-time record for wins in men’s college basketball at 879, had won two national championships, been to 11 Final Fours (second to John Wooden, tied with Krzyzewski), and won a record 65 NCAA tournament games (he now ranks second, having been surpassed by Krzyzewski).  While Frank McGuire won the ACC and North Carolina’s first national title in 1957, Smith is the man who built North Carolina into a regular championship contender. Over the course of 36 years, Smith built the Tar Heel program into a national heavyweight and helped turn the conference into a serious threat to take the national title any given year. Smith won the ACC Coach of the Year award eight times, a record that still stands. As a coach, he was a pioneer of advanced statistical analysis and his use of “points per possession” came literally decades before tempo-free statistics were a part of the national conversation. Similarly, his book, “Multiple Offenses and Defenses,” is the best-selling basketball strategy book of all time. While Smith’s quantitative accomplishments and coaching record may be surpassed, his outlook and philosophy have left a much deeper mark on North Carolina, the conference, and the game itself. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, PR, various city river walks and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • Halfway Home: As of this week, the regular season conference schedule is officially more than halfway done. And – with apologies to Dennis Green– teams are pretty much who we thought they were at the beginning of the season. Ohio State is the class of the conference; Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana are solid NCAA Tournament teams; Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern are fighting for seeding while Iowa, Nebraska, and Penn State pick up the rear. Of course, there have been some upsets and many compelling games, but now that the dust is starting to settle, the cream of the crop has risen to the top.
  • Super Shurna: Leave it to a savvy veteran to catch fire at just the right time. With Northwestern’s hopes of making its first NCAA Tournament fading fast, John Shurna won co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors after he shot a blistering 71% from the field and averaged 26 points, four rebounds, and two steals to lead the injury-depleted Wildcats to a home win over Nebraska and a road victory over Illinois. Shurna is up there with Michigan State’s Draymond Green and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor as the most valuable players to their respective teams.
  • Close Calls: Illinois may be struggling at the moment, but they aren’t getting blown out. Each of the Illini’s last six games has been decided by five points or less. Unfortunately for the Orange Crush, they are just 2-4 in those games. Now they get to go on the road for four of their next five, starting with a doozy of a week with games at Indiana and at Michigan.

Will Draymond Green And The Spartans Snap Ohio State's Impressive Winning Streak In Columbus Saturday? (Al Goldis/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (21-3, 9-2) – With the amount of scoring options Thad Matta has, it’s really just a matter of if Ohio State wants to defend you. They didn’t do that against Indiana or Brandon Paul (though he was just on fire that day), and sure enough, they lost both games. Purdue gave the Scarlet-and-Gray all they could handle before OSU escaped with an 84-81 win. Buckeyes face an interesting test when Michigan State comes calling to Columbus on Saturday. A win would put them in a comfortable position to win the regular season crown.
  2. Michigan State (18-5, 7-3) – All of East Lansing waited with baited breath to learn the results of Draymond Green’s MRI. After Green left the game with a minor knee injury, Michigan State struggled mightily in a 42-41 upset loss. They bounced back nicely against their in-state rivals, and sure enough, Green led them with 14 points and 16 boards. As good a season as State has had, it could be even better: Two of the three conference losses have been by a single point on the road. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Morning Five: 11.30.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 30th, 2011

  1. Cleveland Plain-Dealer and CBSSports.com: In case you missed it, Duke was absolutely throttled by Ohio State last night. Duke suffering blowouts on the road isn’t super shocking (see: St. John’s last year and Georgetown the year before), but every time it happens most people are caught off-guard. I think Rob Dauster said it best during the game: “Ohio State is not as good as they’ve played tonight and Duke is not as bad.” He’s right [Ed. Note: We allow our staff the freedom to express their own opinions, but this is pushing it], but the beatdown definitely highlighted a lot of places for improvement for the Blue Devils. Expect a recap later today breaking down the positives (yes, there were some) and negatives from the game.
  2. ESPN and Charlotte Observer: Despite both powers on Tobacco Road reeling after tough losses, both programs managed to bring in a touted 2013 prospect. Duke received a commitment from Matt Jones, a consensus top-25 shooting guard with ridiculous range. North Carolina received a commitment from Nate Britt, one of the top point guards in the class and the likely successor to Kendall Marshall.
  3. USA Today: Virginia legend Ralph Sampson was elected into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame a little over a week ago. Sampson’s mother keeps all of his honors in the basement. Like many retired athletes, Sampson focuses on teaching kids life lessons through the game he dominated three decades ago. He still leads the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounds. Sampson was elected with fellow ACC legend James Worthy.
  4. ESPN: Roy Williams isn’t happy that there was a UNLV fan behind North Carolina’s bench in the Tar Heels’ loss to the Rebels. The seats are supposed to be reserved for boosters, and Williams is tired of them selling their tickets: “I do not like that, will not like that, don’t ever forget it. I’m trying to find out who it was.” This isn’t the first time Williams has had run-ins with fans behind his bench. He had a Presbyterian fan thrown out of a game two years ago in a similar situation (although Williams claims he just asked to see if the fan had a ticket for the section).
  5. Charlotte Observer: When he first met Jordan Taylor, Kendall Marshall wanted to dislike the Wisconsin point guard. But after a couple of summers together at the Chris Paul basketball camp, the two get along fine. Marshall even praised Taylor before the two square off in one of the more anticipated point guard battles this season. This may be the only regular season game Marshall will be outmatched at his own position. The question is, “Which of the talented guards will be able to dictate the tempo?” Taylor has experience; Marshall has home court.
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Worthy, Mullin, Sampson and Other All-Time Greats Honored At College Hoops Hall Induction Sunday

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 21st, 2011

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

With an onslaught of coverage devoted to the new season and players to come, it can be easy to lose sight of the game’s storied past that made fans and followers out of so many of us to begin with. Sunday night was a time for the game to honor its illustrious history with the induction of some of the sport’s most beloved players, coaches and contributors, into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. This year’s inductees included Chris Mullin, James Worthy, Ralph Sampson and Cazzie Russell as players, Bob Knight and Eddie Sutton as coaches, and contributors Eddie Einhorn and Joe Vancisin. In a ceremony emceed by Dick Enberg, one of the classic voices of college hoops and Sports Illustrated contributing writer Seth Davis, the Class of 2011 was enshrined. A recap of RTC’s coverage comes after the jump.

The National Collegiate Basketball Hall Of Fame Added Some Highly Impressive Names To Its Membership Sunday Night

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ACC Morning Five: 11.07.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 7th, 2011

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: Fox Sports‘ Andrew Jones offers a throwback list of the top ten players “capable of significantly enhancing their team’s fortunes.” I only call the list throwback because Jones ignores the two extreme geographic points of the ACC (Boston College and Miami) when constructing his list. In general I agree with all of his selections, though I possibly would’ve substituted Miles Plumlee for Ryan Kelly based on recent reports. For Boston College, I would’ve chosen Danny Rubin (the most productive of the Eagles’ only three returning players), and I would choose sophomore Rion Brown for Miami.
  2. Boston Globe: Speaking of Boston College, Patrick Heckmann is hoping to make an impact on the Eagles this year, coming by way of Germany. This Globe piece gives a little insight into the recruiting world for international prospects, and Heckmann is a frosh out of Germany with a pretty unique story. He’s also a 6’6″ slasher who will get plenty of playing time for a young team. The story offers an especially interesting look at Heckmann’s decision in choosing Boston College over playing for a club team in Germany.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Looking for more lists? Bret Strelow and Sammy Batten compiled a pretty interesting list of superlatives for ACC basketball that will definitelybe good for starting debates. Sure, Milton Jennings is a great breakout candidate and Staats Battle definitely has the coolest name in the conference, but is Andre Dawkins really the most underrated dunker? He dunks almost rarely, which makes each time feel special, but we need to see more frequency in order to garner a superlative. Also, I wonder why they chose to ask a freshman (Wake Forest’s Travis McKie) about the toughest arena. For the record he chose Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, though this coming year will be McKie’s first trip to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  4. TarHeelBlue.com: North Carolina and NBA legend James Worthy will be elected into the college hoops hall of fame alongside of Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was the first overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft, led the Tar Heels to Dean Smith’s first NCAA Championship that same year (scoring 28 points on 13-17 shooting in the championship game), and is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  5. Searching For Billy Edelin and Fayetteville Observer: A couple of ACC previews and predictions with more “controversial” picks. For Nick Fasulo at Searching For Billy Edelin, the conference is down. Fasulo’s most interesting predictions come in his individual accolades, where he picked Jim Larranaga as Coach of the Year and Tyler Zeller as Player of the Year. Personally, I see Zeller as more of a complement (as he was at the end of last season), but “everything is in place for this guy. Assuming he stays healthy, there should be no [...] unexpected things to limit his production,” Fasulo tweeted. The Fayetteville Observer‘s contrary nature shows up in its projected finish: Unlike the media, the newspaper projects Virginia to finish eighth in the conference (NIT-bound), while Miami takes the fourth place spot and earns an eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Around the greater world of college sports, one of the most sickening alleged scandals in the history of college athletics came to light over the weekend. In a story that will turn your stomach, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 crimes (21 felonies and 19 misdemeanors) involving eight sexual abuse victims who were minors at the time. The worst part is that the PSU athletic department reportedly knew about some of the crimes and never reported them to the proper authorities despite extensive discussions internally. While the article is tough to read, Sara Ganim of The Patriot News does a great job breaking down the details of the case. As of today, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave and Senior Vice President for business and finance Gary Schultz has stepped down (both have been accused of perjury), but I’d be surprised if the punishments end here based on the heinous nature of these allegations.

Picture of the Day:

Len Bias Posts Up Michael Jordan in 1984. (Manny Millan/SI) h/t SI Photo Blog

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Time For The Hall of Fame To Reevaluate Itself

Posted by nvr1983 on April 12th, 2011

A little over a week ago, the Naismith Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2011 during the NCAA Final Four festivities in Houston. Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, and Arvydas Sabonis were among the individuals selected to join the list of luminaries in Springfield, Massachusetts in August. We would have a difficult time arguing against any of the individuals selected this year or previous years, but when we looked at the list of those currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame we were shocked to see which players the HOF voting committee (done anonymously) left out. Cases can certainly be made for at least a dozen individuals who have not already been inducted to the Hall, with many of them being some of the African-American pioneers of the game who played in less well-recognized venues and leagues, but the two who stand out for us — Ralph Sampson and Christian Laettner – do not fall into that group by any measure.

 

Sampson soared over the competition in college

Both players already meet the Naismith Hall of Fame’s requirement of being retired for five years, so they are eligible for selection. There will be some who will argue that neither player had a great NBA career, and we will not even try to argue that because there is little debate that both had disappointing pro careers although both had their moments. But that misses the point of the Hall of Fame. It is not solely a forum to recognize achievement at the professional level. As its own site states, since 1959 it has “honored and celebrated the game’s greatest moments and brightest stars.” There is nothing on its website stating that it is specifically for professional basketball either at the NBA level or overseas. Another argument you will hear is that both Sampson and Laettner were exceptional college basketball players who already have been honored at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri in the past two years. Once again, that misses the point, as there are multiple coaches in both Halls of Fame, including Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, and Lute Olson, none of whom ever coached at the professional level. The fact that neither player has been selected yet is simply a travesty and raises questions about the utility of the Naismith Hall of Fame when two of the greatest college basketball players of all-time (probably both in the top ten on most lists) are not included.

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The Week That Was: Mar. 1-7

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

Congrats are in order for the following teams that locked up automatic NCAA berths this week: St. Peter’s (MAAC), Old Dominion (CAA), Wofford (SoCon), Gonzaga (WCC), Indiana State (MVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and UNC-Asheville (Big South). It’s always fun watching these teams celebrate their conference championships because the excitement just feels more honest than, say, when an Ohio State or a Pittsburgh wins its conference tournament. Championship Week is great for television purposes because there are so many great games to watch, but there usually is less urgency among the teams from the major conferences. For them, conference tournaments are about posturing for seeds and surviving the weekend injury-free. Roy Williams once called the ACC Tournament a big cocktail party, and it’s not surprising that his two title teams both bowed out in the semifinals.  

What We Learned 

 

Davies Will Obviously Be Missed, But Charles Abouo's Emergence Has Mitigated the Sting

 

If you’re a big time recruit and have BYU in your top five, you might want to reconsider your stance on the Cougars. Seriously, why would a player with options want to go to BYU now that its draconian honor code system is in the national spotlight. By now, everyone knows Brandon Davies (BYU’s third leading scorer and leading rebounder) was suspended from the BYU basketball team for allegedly having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Davies’ suspension is a crushing blow for the Cougars, who have gone from a sexy popular national title pick to a team some think won’t make it out of the first weekend.

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College Basketball Hall’s 2011 Class Includes Several Huge Names

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Brian Goodman is an RTC contributor.

It may not technically be March yet, but the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame ushered in college basketball’s biggest month on Monday when it announced its Class of 2011. In November, the Hall will enshrine Bob Knight, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy and Chris Mullin among its class of eight inductees.

Bob Knight, now a popular commentator for ESPN, racked up a Division I record 902 wins in tenures at the helm of Army, Indiana and Texas Tech. Collecting three national championships along the way, Knight also made waves internationally, leading Team USA to Olympic gold in 1984.

One of this season’s biggest storylines is the rebirth of St. John’s basketball, so it’s fitting to hear former Redman Chris Mullin included in this year’s class. Mullin was a three-time Big East Player of the Year for Lou Carnesecca, and led his team to the Final Four in 1985 including the personal honor of the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. The all-time leading scorer in St. John’s history, Mullin went on to a successful career in the pro ranks and was a member of the original USA Dream Team that brought home the gold in Barcelona in 1992.

2011 inductee Chris Mullin was a dominant scorer in the early days of the Big East

Seven-foot four center Ralph Sampson enjoyed a college career at Virginia that left coaches in awe. A dominant player, Sampson is a three-time Naismith College Player of the Year Award recipient and two-time Wooden Award winner. With Sampson, Virginia won the 1980 NIT and took a trip to the Final Four in 1981. Though his pro career was limited by knee troubles after being selected as the top overall pick in the 1983 draft, he remains a collegiate legend as one of the best players to ever take the court for an ACC team.

Another ACC inductee comes in the person of James Worthy. Worthy led the 1981-82 Tar Heels to the national title, averaging over 15 points per game and sealing the championship by intercepting an inadvertent pass from Georgetown’s Fred Brown. Worthy left UNC after his junior year for a prolific life in the NBA, where he collected three titles and made the all-star team seven years in a row as a member of the Lakers’ “Showtime” dynasty.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 23rd, 2010

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

Pitt has a team capable of reaching that elusive Final Four

1. I had an opportunity to attend the consolation and championship games of the 2K Sports Classic last Friday and learned a great deal about the four teams participating- Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois and Maryland. The Panthers were one of my preseason Final Four teams and did nothing to give me second thoughts on that prediction. Ashton Gibbs is a true playmaker at the end of the shot clock, Jamie Dixon has an incredibly deep frontcourt and the Panthers play heady, smart, hard-nosed basketball for 40 minutes. It’s possible we overrated Illinois a bit coming into the year. They lack a bruiser down low that can post up on the block and demand the basketball. Mike Tisdale’s the same player he’s been his entire career at Illinois, a capable mid-range jump shooter that lacks any sort of physicality and is often mired in foul trouble because opposing power forwards constantly out-muscle him. Maryland looks like a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that should sneak into the NCAA Tournament because Gary Williams always receives max effort from his teams and Jordan Williams is a force in the post, although he needs to avoid silly fouls and demand the basketball more often. The team that needed to convince me they were a contender after last season’s disaster is Texas. The Longhorns are a top-20 team with a duo of physical, lockdown defenders on the perimeter in Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, an athletic low-post presence in Tristan Thompson and an explosive scorer in Jordan Hamilton. A shortened rotation and accepted roles has helped Rick Barnes develop improved chemistry, as well.

2. The story of the first two weeks of college basketball might just be Minnesota. The Big Ten was the best conference coming into the season with Michigan State and Ohio State shaping up to be Final Four frontrunners, Purdue and Illinois mainstays in the polls and Wisconsin as solid as ever. Minnesota was a team that nobody could quite get a handle on, especially considering it was impossible to predict just how much the additions of Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen would help Tubby Smith.  After three statements wins in Puerto Rico over Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia, the Gophers appear to be yet another contender primed for a deep March run out of the absolutely loaded Big Ten. Al Nolen was superb in the championship game against West Virginia locking down the Mountaineer’s point guard duo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant on defense and splitting the West Virginia defense with dribble penetration that either resulted in free throws (11-12 on the night) or open looks for sharpshooting teammate Blake Hoffarber. Where the Gophers have forged their identity, though, is inside with a plethora of size and length. Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, Mbakwe and big bodied Mo Walker provide Smith a frontline that can go toe-to-toe with any in the nation. Just wait till they get Devoe Joseph back.

3. The most crippling defeat for any team with NCAA Tournament aspirations could have come Monday afternoon at the Maui Invitational for Wichita State. The Shockers inability to contain Kemba Walker (29 second half points) cost them a chance to pick up a quality win over a Big East opponent and a shot at potential #1-seed Michigan State in the semifinals. Why is this so devastating? One, Wichita just blew their best chance for an RPI/SOS booster. The only other challenging non-conference game on the slate is a road trip to San Diego State, where it’s extremely unlikely the Shockers leave with a victory. Merely the addition of the Spartans on their schedule would improve Wichita’s power rating dramatically. Instead, it’s increasingly likely Gregg Marshall’s team will have to win the MVC Tournament. This task is very possible; after all, the Shockers are the prohibitive favorite, a senior-laden squad with talents like Toure Murry, David Kyles and J.T. Durley. Marshall’s goal in Maui was to pick up two quality wins for the resume in March. That chance has gone by the wayside.

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Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

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

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims- are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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