RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

Welcome to our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, SoCal)

  • Jio Fontan – Soph, G – USC. Last year, USC was the talk of the college basketball world for a stretch, when senior point guard Mike Gerrity, a transfer from Charlotte, took over the team in December and promptly led the Trojans to an upset blowout victory over then #8 Tennessee in his first game of the season. The Trojans went on to win their next five games, including the inaugural Diamond Head Classic, with Gerrity serving as a big spark. In 2010-11, head coach Kevin O’Neill and his team will welcome another Division I transfer to the active roster over the winter break, and they hope to sustain the bump in talent they’ll get when Fontan joins the team as a midseason transfer from Fordham. In fact, Fontan was in the midst of an on-campus visit last December 19 when Gerrity was leading the Trojans to their win over the Volunteers and he committed to the school just days later, perhaps seeing the blueprint for his own success in Gerrity’s. Luckily enough for O’Neill and the Trojans, Fontan will have more than just the one semester of eligibility that Gerrity had.  But while their paths to the USC roster may seem similar, their games are different. Fontan is more of a combo-guard, capable of running an offense, but more adept at creating for himself than being a pure distributor. Not that he isn’t capable of handing out assists – he averaged more than four assists per night during his one season plus five games at Fordham – but Fontan is at his best with the ball in his hands, able to both blow by defenders and hit from long range, scoring the ball to the tune of 15.3 points per game in his freshman season on his way to Atlantic 10 rookie of the year honors. Paired with established frontcourt returners Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson and a talented group of newcomers, including 5’7 point guard Maurice Jones who will handle the lead guard duties until Fontan is eligible, Fontan will be surrounded by far more talent than he ever was in his time at Fordham. And if things go as well as could be hoped for, Fontan will have a chance to reprise Gerrity’s Trojan debut, as Southern Cal will travel to Kansas (and then, three days later, they’ll play the return game in the Tennessee series) for Fontan’s first game, giving USC a chance to make another big mid-season splash on the national stage.
  • Tre’Von Willis* – Sr, G – UNLV. For a good part of last summer, Tre’Von Willis, the star shooting guard for the Runnin’ Rebels, may have thought that his collegiate career was over thanks to his June 29 arrest for felony battery involving an ugly incident with a woman in nearby Henderson, Nevada.  Willis ultimately copped to a plea agreement of a lesser charge of misdemeanor domestic battery, and in interviews since the incident he has shown considerable sincerity and self-awareness in suggesting that he placed himself in a bad situation.  After he serves a mandated three-game suspension meted by coach Lon Kruger, Willis will likely be back in action for UNLV’s second regular season game against Southeastern Louisiana.  And it’s a good thing that he will be, as the Rebel program has eyes on putting together its best season since the understated head coach rolled into town several years ago.  Considering that the Rebs have been to a Sweet Sixteen and won 30 games in a season under his tutelage (both in 2006-07), those are lofty goals.  But they are also realistic ones so long as some of the injury problems that Willis and several others have recently endured are controlled.  Willis in particular continues to experience knee pain as a result of arthroscopic surgery in August to repair cartilage, a recurring problem which caused the capable scorer to lose some of his lift at the end of last season and definitely impacted his effectiveness.  As an example, after scoring twenty or more points ten times through mid-February, Willis only hit the figure one more time during the last eight games of the year, a sure indication that he was not at 100%.  The hope is that his summer surgery,  a new outlook on opportunity as a result of his legal troubles, a sprinkling of maturity (he also had a daughter) and much-needed rest will encourage Willis to come back with an all-America caliber season.  He was chosen as a first-team all-MWC guard in 2009-10 when he contributed an all-around game of 17.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 3.5 APG while increasing his previously-sketchy shot selection to the point where he added nearly 10% (from 38% to 48%) on his field goal percentage.  If he can truly put everything from last summer behind him and remain healthy for an entire season, the new Aria Hotel may not be the only must-see on The Strip this winter.

Tre'Von Willis Has to Sit Three Games (LV Sun/S. Morris)

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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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Rihards Kuksiks Returns To Sun Devils

Posted by jstevrtc on September 2nd, 2010

Arizona State coach Herb Sendek is a happy man today. Dan Haller of the Arizona Republic reports that 6’6 senior shooting guard Rihards Kuksiks is back on the ASU campus and will indeed play for the Sun Devils in the upcoming season.

A step behind the line is nothing for Rihards.

There had been some speculation regarding Kuksiks’ participation for 2010-11, but after a stay in his native Latvia during the summer that included time playing for the national team, Kuksiks has decided to return to Tempe and finish his college career. Known as a streaky long-range shooter (and what three-point bomber isn’t?), Kuksiks has range out to the hash marks when he’s on. He had nine games last season in which he hit at least four threes, including seven against San Francisco on 11/20/09 and eight against UCSB on 12/21/09. He shot 38.3% from beyond the arc last year and is just over 40% for his career. Last season, he and fellow rising senior Ty Abbott both led the Sun Devils in scoring with 12.0 PPG, and he was fifth best in the entire Pac-10 in free throw percentage at 87.5%.

His return to ASU means Sendek gets back not just a senior leader and top scorer, but one with further seasoning over the summer, having helped the Latvian national side qualify for the 2011 European Championships. It also moves ASU back into the top contenders for the crown in the Pac-10, a conference which looks to be only slightly improved from last season’s dull version.

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20 At The Top: Pac-10 Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on August 6th, 2010

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

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

“Banner season” probably isn’t the first phrase that comes to mind when describing the Pac-10 in 2009-10. Much bandied about as a potential one-bid league until Washington peaked in March with a conference tournament run, the Pac-10 was largely kicked to the curb as an inferior of their fellow BCS brethren. A mass exodus of high draft picks coupled with down spirals for normally contending programs resulted in only California vying for a spot in each Monday’s national rankings last season. Bad news for Pac-10 diehards searching for a comeback as soon as this winter: six of the ten All Pac-10 first team members are gone. Regular season champion Cal lost their top four scorers. Powerhouses UCLA and Arizona are not back to elite status yet. The prized incoming freshman changed his mind and bolted for Kentucky. While a conference as proud as the Pac-10 will surely reclaim its glory sooner than later (especially if a raiding of the Big 12 is inevitable), fans may have to hold off on these wishes another season. Still, intrigue does exist. Many feel that Washington is the clear favorite, but there’s question marks abound from that point on, making for what should be an unpredictable Pac-10 slate.

Thompson will become a household name this season

1. Klay Thompson, Washington State- Thompson heads into his junior season as many experts’ preseason pick for conference player of the year. A high volume scorer blessed with a picture perfect jumper, Thompson delivered to the tune of nearly 20 PPG and 17 20+ point performances. Forced into carrying his team on the scoreboard for long stretches- only Stanford’s Landry Fields utilized more of his teams’ possessions- was the only reason Thompson’s shooting percentages dipped a bit last season. He’s also an ace from the charity stripe and his excellent court vision goes unnoticed at times. Thompson could turn into the Evan Turner of the West Coast by season’s end in terms of his versatility, ball-handling and ability to play multiple positions while filling up the stat sheet. Adding some bulk, improving toughness and shaking off a late-season shooting slide are the only areas of improvement that jump out when it comes to this special talent.

2. Isaiah Thomas, Washington- The diminutive Thomas was expected to make a gigantic leap and lead Washington to a year-long stay atop the conference standings last season. Part of the reason Thomas’ sophomore campaign was labeled a disappointment by some when February rolled around was largely due to the expectations he established as a freshman. Luckily for the purple-clad UW fans in Seattle, Thomas played his best basketball late, scoring in double digits in his last 12 games, averaging less than two turnovers per game in his last seven contests and helping lead Washington to a surprising Sweet 16. Thomas isn’t a pinpoint shooter and he’s always been more of a scorer than point guard, but there are only a handful of players in the nation that play with more energy and toughness than the 5’9 Tacoma native. He’s fearless driving to the rim, has a strong frame for his size and the athleticism is jaw-dropping. Expect first team all-conference honors for Thomas as a junior.

3. Derrick Williams, Arizona- A freshman revelation for Sean Miller in his first season at the helm, the former USC commit established himself with an early 25/8 against Wisconsin in Maui and never looked back. Williams went on to surpass even the loftiest expectations as the conference’s rookie of the year: a 16/7 average, double digit scoring in all but three games and top-100 season nationally in true shooting percentage and effective FG%. Williams is a 6’8 versatile forward that lived at the free throw line, shooting 232 free throws last season. Developing his mid-range jumper even further would help disguise suspect athleticism, but Williams’ strengths has piqued the interest of NBA evaluators and the potential is there to lead the Pac-10 in scoring as a sophomore. His role will only expand with senior Nic Wise exhausting his eligibility.

4. Jeremy Green, Stanford- Last season was the Landry Fields & Jeremy Green show for Johnny Dawkins and his Cardinal, two all-conference players that combined for almost 39 PPG and kept the team afloat. With Fields drafted by the New York Knicks, the onus now falls on Green and a duo of talented freshmen to boost Stanford towards the upper portion of the Pac-10 standings. Green improved mightily as a sophomore, more than doubling his scoring average and playing an effective second fiddle to Fields. His ten 20+ point games and establishing the single season Stanford record for threes were strong enough to earn second team all-conference accolades. There’s little doubt Green has the capability to score 20+ PPG as Fields accomplished, it’s other facets of his game that must improve- namely getting to the free throw line at a higher rate and improving extraordinarily low assist totals- in order for Stanford to climb out of the Pac-10 basement.

Will this be Malcolm Lee’s breakout season?

5. Malcolm Lee, UCLA- Lee is the player who I feel could make the biggest leap this season and finally tap into that potential that has scouts pegging him as a future first round selection. Thrust into directing the Bruin offense after Jerime Anderson flopped, Lee was learning on the fly and a disappointing overall campaign for UCLA masked some considerable steps forward for the jet-quick sophomore. There are flashes where it rings clear Lee can develop as a steady point guard, but the turnovers still can come in bunches and, although Lee loves to run in transition, his proficiency in half-court sets certainly needs work. His 6’5 frame will allow Ben Howland to play Lee at either guard position and he’s displayed a propensity to defend either 1’s or 2’s at the college level. It’s asking a great deal, but refine a questionable jumper while continuing to progress directing traffic and Lee could be the most improved player in this conference.

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ATB: Don’t You EVER Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

atb

Jimmy V Classic.  As someone whose family and loved ones have been seriously impacted by cancer, this is always one of our favorite events of the season.  We vividly remember the night at the ESPYs in March 1993 when Jim Valvano gave his inspirational speech, and even sixteen years later, it continues to stand the test of time.  “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” became a mantra for people of our generation, and the positive effects that the Jimmy V Foundation has produced over the years gives Valvano a lasting legacy that many of his fellow coaches, many of whom were more successful at coaching basketball, will never know.  As long as this site exists, we’ll do this every year, and we’ll do it for the Green Bay Packers, Coach!

And now, on to the games…  RTC Live was in the building.

  • #13 Georgetown 72, #20 Butler 65.  Georgetown got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Greg Monroe as the Hoyas dominated Butler on the inside, outrebounding the Bulldogs 43-30. Perhaps Monroe’s biggest impact came on the defensive end, as he helped force Matt Howard into one of the worst games  of his career as he finished 1-9 from the floor while looking intimidated in the post before fouling out. Georgetown jumped out to a 52-35 second-half lead, which Butler couldn’t bounce back from. Austin Freeman was 4-5 from deep in adding 18 points for the Hoyas, who picked up a must-needed statement win. Butler, who got 24 and 8 boards from Gordon Hayward, is not the top 10 team that many predicted they would be during the preseason right now, but this is still an impressive win nonetheless. For Butler to be in position to earn an at-large bid should it come to that, they are now probably going to have to beat both Ohio State and Xavier in coming weeks.
  • Indiana 74, Pittsburgh 64.  Indiana picked up their first relevant win over a BCS team (beating Iowa last year doesn’t count) in the Tom Crean era as they thoroughly outplayed Pitt in MSG tonight. Indiana go 20 from Verdell Jones and 18 from Christian Watford as they finally broke through for a good win after losing three heartbreakers this season. The Hoosiers are going to be a dangerous team, as they do have some talented youngsters (we didn’t even get a good feel for Maurice Creek tonight), but IU may still be a year away from really being able to compete and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Pitt, on the other hand, didn’t look like Pitt. They struggled defensively, they were beat up inside, and they settled for tough, deep jumpers. If Ashton Gibbs hadn’t been hitting from three (he had 25 on 8-25 shooting, 5-15 from three), this one could have been ugly (although, uglier than being down 17 to Indiana in this stage of their rebuild is tough to do).

Not an Upset of the Night Illinois 79, #24 Vanderbilt 68. Yes, Vandy was the ranked team, but Illinois was ranked as recently as last week and these teams are roughly even in our eyes.  A very nice intersectional matchup nonetheless.  The Illini shot a lights-out 59% from the field and ran out to a 9-0 early lead that put Vandy behind the eight-ball from the beginning.  Illinois guard Demetri McCamey lit up the Commodore defense for 8-10 from the field and 23/5 assts, while DJ Richardson added 16/3/3 assts in the win.  The Illinois defense has been somewhat maligned thus far this season, but they did a good job tonight of limiting AJ Ogilvy’s (8/3) touches and forced Jermaine Beal into a 4-14 shooting night.

Some Mid-Major Revenge (Some Not).  There were a few good opportunities for mid-majors to take down BCS teams tonight, and the little guys got a split this evening among the four games up for grabs.

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Consolation & Finals (Ariz St vs. LSU; UConn vs. Duke)

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009

RTCLive

Welcome back to MSG as we take in the third place game and the finals of the Preseason NIT. In the first game, tipping right at 2:30  pm today, LSU takes on Arizona State. The Tigers were run off the court against UConn, as their backcourt was unable to handle the pressure from the Huskies. The Sun Devils come out strong against Duke, but looked lost on the offensive end over the final 30 minutes of the game. A big issue for the Tigers is going to be how they match up with Arizona State defensively. The Tigers are pretty big — Storm Warren and Tasmin Mitchell are the two forwards, but neither is what you would call a “pure” small forward. ASU plays four guards (including Rihards Kuksiks), meaning that Trent Johnson is going to have to decide between dealing with the mismatch or playing zone. At the other end, ASU is going to have their hands full with Warren inside. He had 15 and 6 in limited minutes against a good Husky front line. Eric Boateng (4 points, 4 boards, 9 turnovers) will need to play much better for ASU.

The final is the game everyone will be waiting to see. There are a few certainties in life — gravity exists, turkey puts you to sleep, Dickie V loves Duke — and one of those certainties is that Duke-UConn is going to be a classic. Think back to 1990 and Christian Laettner‘s heroics; or the 1999 title game and Trajan Langdan’s travels; or the 2004 national semifinal and the UConn comeback. Whenever these two teams tango, it is an event, and tonight will be no different. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith have been playing fantastic basketball, but they have yet to face a team that has the athletes that UConn has in the backcourt. Jerome “Slicin'” Dyson (ESPN really needs to stop using that nickname, it is terrible. What’s wrong with Romey?) and Kemba Walker are as good defending on the ball as anyone in the nation, and the ability of the Duke guards to handle the 2-2-1 press (with Romey and Kemba up top) will be a huge determinant in the outcome of this game. That said, the difference between UConn last night and UConn of the first three games was their aggressiveness going to the glass. But for the first time all season, they will play a team that can match up with them size-wise. Will the Huskies still be able to rebound the basketball?

Two things to keep an eye on: 1) Who controls the tempo of this game. UConn is going to want to get this thing going up and down, as Duke does not have the athletes to run with them. But Duke is going to want slow this down, sit back in a packed-in zone, and let the Huskies try to shoot their way to the title. 2) Stanley Robinson vs. Kyle Singler. Singler is the best player on this Duke team, and is the guy they look to for big shots. But Sticks is a phenomenal athlete, and will be counted on to slow down Singler.

Is it 5 pm yet? In the immortal words of Fergie, “Let’s get it started in here.”

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That’s Debatable: What Excites Us About the 2009-10 Season

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

debatable

That’s Debatable is a new feature that we’re rolling out this season.  Each week we plan on pulling out a theme or topic relevant to the 2009-10 season.  Some weeks it might be embarrassingly whimsical and other weeks serious and muted.  It totally depends on what the relevant news and issues are that surround the game each week.  Our editors and primary writers will contribute most weeks, but often we’ll ask other friends, writers and correspondents to send us something if they’re particularly well-suited for that week’s topic.  To make it palatable, each writer’s argument will be limited to 200 words: brevity will be just as important as the points being made.  We hope to have fun with it and encourage you to join us in the comments.

This week’s topic: What Excites You About the 2009-10 Season?

zach hayes – editor/contributor, RTC.

I’m most looking forward to the return of the great rivalries that college basketball provides. Whether it’s the powder blue of the Tar Heels marching onto the Cameron Indoor floor, the Georgetown grays battling down low with the orange of Syracuse, or the Jayhawks walking into the pandemonium of Manhattan, Kansas, I cannot wait for these rivalry flames to be sparked yet again. It’s not just the major conferences that provide hatred and bitterness: what about Xavier and Dayton doing battle for the A-10 title this year, Northern Iowa and Creighton as MVC foes atop the standings or Nevada and Utah State out west? Think about the individual rivalries that could bloom this season: Luke Harangody banging with Samardo Samuels inside, Edgar Sosa trying to contain John Wall and Robbie Hummel looking to stay with Evan Turner in the midwest. Even the coaching rivalries will spark up: John Calipari vs. Bruce Pearl, John Calipari vs. Rick Pitino, John Calipari vs. Jim Calhoun… you get the picture. What makes college basketball so fun is the intensity and passion. Nothing exemplifies those two qualities more than these historic rivalries.

rtmsf – editor/contributor, RTC.

And so it begins.  Within a matter of a few hours we’ll hear the first squeaks of rubber against hardwood, we’ll smell the popcorn wafting through the air, and we’ll feel the all-t0o-familiar mixed pangs of pride, sentimentality and adrenaline as we get to know these institutions all over again.  For people like us, today is Christmas without the tree or Easter without the Bunny.  But the presents are better.  Instead of an ugly tie and processed marshmallow candy we don’t need, the presents are getting to know the next-gen players like John Wall, Derrick Favors and Lance Stephenson.  It’s wondering which teams will come out of literally nowhere like Washington State in 2007, Drake in 2008 or Missouri in 2009.  It’s breaking down schedules and trying to figure out creative ways to match family vacations with top ten matchups.  It’s dreaming of 6 OTs and upset Saturdays and a 24-hour orgy of televised hoops.  This season, as every season, the cellophane-wrapped newness excites us with its pristine, shiny facade.  Anything is possible.  Everything is possible.  What excites us about the 2009-10 season?  Its existence.  Let’s tip it off and watch the beauty unfold, shall we?

john stevens – editor/contributor, RTC.

“Preseason” tournaments.  Big Monday.  Conference challenges.  Bill Raftery referencing lingerie.  Philadelphia’s Big 5.  The joy of Gus Johnson.  The late-night west coast game (in the East).  Mid-majors.  Kalin Lucas.  Buzzer-beaters.  Championship Week.  Verne Lundquist and Len Elmore.  The sounds of rubber on hardwood and leather through string.  Majors.  A screaming Gary Williams.  The concurrent holiday season.  Dick Vitale.  The love/hate of Duke.  The (presumed) resurrection of Kentucky.  The defending-champ entitlement of Carolina.  The hope of Purdue, Texas, ButlerLuke Harangody.  The perseverance of Miss Andrews.  Low-majors.  Rihards Kuksiks‘ shooting form.  Conference play.  Kyle Whelliston’s Mid-Majority (and Bally).  Dance teams.  Gordon Hayward.  Road trips to games.  Student sections.  The early-season importance of Dayton-Creighton.  The enormity of Duke-UNC.  The new Spring.  Bubbles.  Selection Sunday.  Burst bubbles.  The first two rounds.  The Four.  Monday night.

This is about one hundredth of what I could write.  I’m excited about this season in the same way that I get excited in those minutes waiting in an airport before a relative or a good friend steps off the plane.  It’s the return of something I love, and because it’s been gone for so long.

nvr1983, editor/contributor, RTC.

Two things stick out for me: Kentucky’s freshman class and the potential emergence of a mid-major as a threat in March/April.

  • Kentucky’s freshmen have been one of the major stories of the offseason after Kentucky fired Billy Gillispie and hired John Calipari who had put together one of the top recruiting classes since Michigan’s famed Fab 5. Although Calipari lost Xavier Henry to Kansas when he moved to Kentucky, his incoming class with Patrick Patterson might be enough to get him a chance to face Henry in April.
  • While college basketball has a tournament that college football fans can only dream about that gives the little guy a chance it seems like the talk of the rise of the mid-major has been premature. In the past five years only one mid-major (outside of Memphis) that was feared coming into March has advanced to the Elite 8 (#3 seed Xavier in 2008). While Gonzaga (all hype in March since Casey Cavalry’s sophomore season) and George Mason (one fluky run) are nice I am looking for something more substantial. Right now the top candidates are Butler, Dayton and Siena. I’ll be watching to see if someone steps up.
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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

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If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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Cooler Than You: Some Of The Best Of College Basketball

Posted by jstevrtc on November 6th, 2009

seasonpreviewJust about anyone can name the best teams in college basketball, and, as far as individual players, if you’re reading this site you can most likely reel off three or four of your own personal All-America teams.  But what about those individuals who specifically excel at a few of the more exciting aspects of the game?  There are certain plays that make everyone come out of their seats:  a massive and powerful dunk that liberates some poor defender of his pride;  a ridiculously long three-pointer, especially at crunch time; and a blocked shot where the ball goes into orbit.  And of course everyone loves basketball players with cool names.  So here they are:  RTC’s rankings of the best dunkers, best long-range bombers, best shot-blockers, and coolest names in the game today.

The Most Excellent Dunkers

Unlike the NBA All-Star Weekend, we’ll begin with the dunk artists.  Each player is listed with a link leading you to an example or two of his work.  Sorry, UConn fans.  We respect you and your team, but we had to put Summers over Robinson because…well, you know why.

  1. Paul George, Fresno State  (vs St. Mary’s 2008, practice video 2009, Open Gym 2009)
  2. Chris Wright, Dayton  (vs Ohio State 2008, vs Marquette 2008)
  3. Durrell Summers, Michigan State (vs UConn over S. Robinson 2009, vs Minnesota 2009)
  4. Stanley Robinson, Connecticut (vs Michigan State 2009, vs Villanova 2008)
  5. Isaiah Thomas, Washington  (Madness 09)
  6. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee (vs Arkansas 2009)
  7. Keion Bell, Pepperdine  (Madness 09, Madness 09 over 5 guys)

Honorable Mention (or, guys who will probably be on this list by year’s end): Will Coleman, Memphis; John Wall, Kentucky; Delvon Roe, Michigan State; Wes Johnson, Syracuse.

The All-Jeff Fryer Team

This list of the best long-range bombers is named after the legendary (in our minds) Loyola Marymount guard who still holds the record for most three-pointers made in an NCAA Tournament game, an incredible 11 against Michigan in 1990’s second round.  If you can catch that game on ESPN Classic, it is something to behold.  You have to be a little nuts to be a bomber; you have to forget your last miss like it never happened and be willing to keep firing even when they just won’t fall (our editors are familiar with this feeling).  Here’s our ranking of 25 of this season’s best:

  1. T.J. Campbell, Portland
  2. Rihards Kuksiks, Arizona State
  3. Jared Stohl, Portland
  4. Andrew Goudelock, College Of Charleston
  5. Mike Roll, UCLA
  6. Jerome Randle, California
  7. Brandon Hazzard, Troy
  8. Ryan Staudacher, Montana
  9. Corey Allmond, Sam Houston State
  10. Ryan Wittman, Cornell
  11. Josh Young, Drake
  12. Corey Stokes, Villanova
  13. Jonathan Tavernari, BYU
  14. Gordon Hayward, Butler
  15. Troy Cotton, Wisconsin-Green Bay
  16. Tweety Carter, Baylor
  17. Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas
  18. Corey Lowe, Boston University
  19. Ricky Harris, Massachusetts
  20. Mac Hopson, Idaho
  21. Andy Rautins, Syracuse
  22. Nic Wise, Arizona
  23. Willie Warren, Oklahoma
  24. Jimmy Langhurst, Robert Morris
  25. Kelvin Lewis, Houston

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest and Mountains) are located here.

It’s time for the ninth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of hot, dry, desert-y states known as the Southwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, southern CA)

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  • Rihards Kuksiks – F, Jr – Arizona State. Advice to Pac-10 coaches writing up their scouting reports for when they go up against Arizona State this season: when Rihards Kuksiks enters the building, get a man on him. Don’t bother waiting until the game actually starts. You don’t want him getting comfortable, because he’s the kind of shooter who can change a game just that quickly. The guy can touch the ball a few times and the next thing you know you’re down nine before the first TV timeout. Or you get a little comfortable with your late-game lead and after Kuksiks gets a couple of touches the lead is gone and you’re wondering how time can tick so slowly. You want numbers? Fine. Kuksiks is third in terms of returning individual leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3%) in the country among players who hit at least two threes a game and finished 8th in that category last year. A recent article on FoxSports.com by Jeff Goodman reveals some other incredible stats: in games decided by 2 points or less, Kuksiks shot 47% from behind the 3-point line; against ranked opponents he shot 46% from beyond the arc, and in the loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament’s second round last year, he put up his career high in points with 20, with 18 of those coming from long range. In other words, the man steps up during big games. If the numbers don’t interest you, then consider the fact that many of these threes are not from a hair behind the line. They are often from distance. And they are often clutch (ask Arizona about a couple of late ones he nailed in that February game last year). Most importantly, watch the form. It should be an instructional video. He gets good height on his jumper but doesn’t overdo it, and you can see how he gets his legs into the shot. He releases the ball out in front just a little bit, but then the follow-through is a perfect example of that “reach into the cookie jar” that basketball coaches start teaching kids from the moment they can lift a basketball. By the way, he’s 6’6 and more than happy to mix it up in the paint, if needed. My favorite bit about Kuksiks comes from an interview he did for a site called EuropeanProspects.com in which he was asked what kind of player he was. The first words out of his mouth? “I am a sharpshooter.”  This is confidence, not cockiness, from the big man from Riga, Latvia. But I think it’s just fine if there actually is a little cockiness there. Long-range shooters are like neurosurgeons. They’re often asked to do the most difficult things in their field…and if I get to the point where I need to depend on one, I want them a little bit cocky.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

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Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by nvr1983 on February 26th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

News & Notes

  • Lute Olson compiled a 43-6 record against Arizona State. Since he took a leave of absence last year, Arizona is 0-4 against the Sun Devils.
  • Against ASU, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and Nic Wise all logged 40 minutes. For the year the three are each averaging over 35 minutes a game. They are the only team in the Pac-10 with three players averaging over 35 minutes a game. Come Pac-10 tournament time these three horses have to be tiring.
  • Oregon State swept the season series against Cal for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
  • Jerome Randle has 59 three-pointers this season putting him 9 shy of the school season record 68 set by Ryan Drew in 1990. With four games left and Randle averaging over two a game he stands a fighting chance at overtaking Drew.
  • Washington State’s win at UCLA last week was only their second win in their 53 games at Pauley Pavilion.
  • The battle for coach of the year in the Pac-10 has four solid candidates. With the jobs Mike Montgomery, Russ Pennell, Craig Robinson, and Lorenzo Romar have done, there is an excess of candidates to choose from.
  • Pennell is the front-runner right now in my mind. He turned this Arizona team around and has them at 8-6 in the Pac-10 and 18-9 overall. He was the second choice for interim coach in late October. Last year he did color commentary for Arizona State radio network.
  • Jon Brockman is the only mid-season candidate for the Naismith trophy from the Pac-10.

Player of the week: Taylor Rochestie
Rochestie scored 24.5 points a game for Washington State this week. Rochestie also averaged five rebounds and four assists a game. Rochestie scored 33 points in WSU’s upset of UCLA. He shot 5-for-7 from three-point range and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw stripe.

Honorable Mention: Darren Collison and Rihards Kuksiks
Collison scored 18.5 points and averaged 6.5 assists for UCLA this past week. Collison went a perfect 7-for-7 from the line in the two games. Kuksiks scored 17 points in Arizona State’s win this week. Kuksiks scored 15 of those on five three-pointers.

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