06.03.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 2nd, 2008

It sure is boring without basketball on the tube…

  • Alabama PG and former all-american Ronald Steele made the smart decision and is heading back to Tuscaloosa for his senior campaign.  Oops – maybe not yet
  • Arizona’s Nic Wise has decided to stick it out at UA – he had previously said he was transferring.  Since Lute finally got to the end of his divorce fiasco, maybe the good folks in the desert can get back to worrying about basketball this year. 
  • More OJ Mayo scandal – getting an Attorney General involved is never a good thing (unless Elliot Spitzer is springing for the booze and hos). 
  • Gary Parrish points out that former Iowa St. reject and D-League star Mike Taylor’s solid week at the NBA Predraft Camp in Orlando last week fashions him a sort of trailblazer for knuckleheads who can’t stick with college programs but still want a direct route to the NBA.  Um, good luck with that. 
  • How similar is this year’s draft class to the 1996 class
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Orlando Predraft Camp Days 3 & 4

Posted by rtmsf on May 31st, 2008

We’re running a little late today on updating the news from the Orlando Predraft Camp (Day 1 and Day 2 reviews archived), so we’ll make amends by combining a report from both Thursday and Friday’s games and workouts. In short, Carolina fans had best hope Bobby Frasor’s injury is 100% healed next year because Ty Lawson now appears a lock for the first round, and NBDL star Mike Taylor (who?) may have played his way into the draft during the course of this week.

We’ll start first with some of the impressions given by DraftExpress on the fifteen ‘elite’ prospects who held workouts today but did not participate in games.

  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
    • Clearly the most impressive workout of any of the 15 players belonged to Derrick Rose. Not so much for what he showed, but mostly just for what he is. He got up and down the floor fluidly and smoothly, covering tons of ground with each and every stride, and looked excellent changing speeds and operating skillfully with both hands in the ball-handling drills. His athleticism is nothing short of stunning, starting with his phenomenal first step, his ability to change gears, and his incredible explosiveness finishing around the basket. He came out with a business-like approach, and left no doubt about just how unique his talent-level and physical tools are. A nice bonus was the way he shot the ball, hitting more than one NBA 3-pointer and looking solid from mid-range as well.
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

    • Also catching our eye was Russell Westbrook, who came out very seriously and didn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. He was fantastic in the transition drills, flying up and down the court with his terrific athleticism, and also shot the ball fairly well after starting off slowly. His ball-handling skills are just OK at this point.
  • OJ Mayo, USC
    • O.J. Mayo was very smooth and very confident in everything he did, barely missing in the perimeter shooting drills. He’s clearly not on the same level athletically as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook for example, but already has the looks of an NBA player with the way his body looks and how he conducts himself out on the floor.
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas St.

    • Michael Beasley looked super fluid and athletic getting up and down the court, finishing with either hand and looking to be in pretty good shape. He attacked the drills with a lot of competitive fire, but most definitely was clowning around way too much throughout the day right underneath the noses of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. There were a few people that expressed concern with some of his antics over the past few days.
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas

    • Darrell Arthur looks like someone who is going to impress mightily in workouts based off what we saw here. He passes the eye test and then some on first glance, and then showed really nice athleticism to go along with a fairly high skill level in the drills, although oddly attempting to bank every 3-pointer he took. He struggled a little bit remembering what to do in some of the drills, though.
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford

    • Speaking of lukewarm impressions, Brook Lopez didn’t do a whole lot to ease the concerns NBA people have about him, not moving all that well up and down the floor and showing a very average skill-level in most of the drills.

Among the rest of the players who were actually playing games, here are a few of the high (and low) lights (h/t to the usual suspects, DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Goodman & Katz):

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
    • Goodman – The speedy North Carolina point guard made the most intelligent move of the camp, coming up with a mysterious hip injury and bowing out of the rest of the camp after a terrific performance in his only game. Lawson displayed his athleticism and, according to NBA executives, should have solidified a place in the first round.
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
    • DraftExpress – Wayne Ellington bounced back in a big way after his disastrous performance yesterday, starting off extremely hot on his way to a 7-13, 17 point outing in 20 minutes. His shot simply fell for him at a much better clip, as he did a great job moving off screens and being aggressive using fakes and utilizing his strong one-dribble pull-up. On the negative side, he again did not look very good putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the rim, not standing out that much in terms of his size, quickness, toughness at the rim or ball-handling skills. He still needs to have a strong showing in the last day of the camp if he’s truly serious about making a run at the late first round.
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky

    • DraftExpress – Last, but certainly not least, Joe Crawford again had another very strong game (15 points, 6-11 FG) as the go-to scoring option for his team. He got to the rim very effectively, shot the ball well from mid-range and long-range, was excellent coming off screens and played fairly well in transition. His defensive effort was good, particularly in terms of pressuring the ball, and he showed absolutely no hesitation in anything he does, which people here have to like. He needs to become a little bit more efficient with his ball-handling (he pounds the ball a little too much), but it’s hard not to like what he brought to the floor today.
  • Mike Taylor, Iowa St./NBDL
    • Goodman - The athletic ex-Iowa State guard, who spent this past season in the NBDL, appeared to have the easiest adjustment of anyone in the camp and rightfully so. He’s been playing against older players and is also accustomed to the NBA game. Taylor was aggressive in getting to the basket and also proved he can make shots. He had 24 points on Thursday night.
  • Gary Forbes, UMass
    • NBADraft.net - If there was to be a player of the day award, then without a doubt it would have to be given to Gary Forbes (30pts, 15-16ft, 2stl). Even though his team lost, it was no fault of Forbes, who almost singlehandedly brought his team back from a large deficit. Although he was very impressive scoring, he may have been just as good on the defensive end, where he chased Richard Roby (3-9fg) off screens and forced him to put the ball on the floor and settle for difficult shots.
  • Josh Duncan, Xavier (OH)

    • DraftExpress – Josh Duncan continued the trend of Portsmouth Invitational Tournament standouts who were able to translate their excellent performance from the all-senior pre-draft camp in April to this setting as well—scoring 20 points (5-8 FG, 9-10 FT) and pulling down 6 rebounds. Duncan knocked down a number of open shots from the perimeter, scored a bit in the post off good feeds from his guards.
  • Davon Jefferson, USC
    • DraftExpress – Davon Jefferson continued not to show the type of effort or fire you would expect to see from a player who is currently fighting for his professional future, after having prematurely hired an agent following an average freshman season. His conditioning looks poor, he’s dribbling the ball excessively, and he’s yet to make use of the terrific athletic ability that made him a prospect to start with. This is turning into a very disappointing pre-draft camp for him.
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA

    • Katz – UCLA junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hasn’t stood out enough to warrant staying in the draft. He still may, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of buzz around him.
  • Ronald Steele, Alabama
    • Goodman – He still doesn’t look like himself — and for good reason. The Alabama junior point guard hasn’t played competitively in more than a year and needs to return to school.
  • Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
    • DraftExpress – Jeremy Pargo had a game-high 20 points (7-16 FG, 5-7 FT) to go along with 4 assists. Unfortunately, he also had 6 turnovers and missed three of his four 3-pointers. He pushed the ball up the floor extremely well, showed terrific explosiveness getting by his man and giving himself options in the half-court, and also flashed some glimpses of solid court-vision, but his poor decision making led to way too many turnovers, which has typically been his problem. Going back to school and improving his decision making skills looks like a very good option at this point.

Final thought – we’re very excited to see how the height/weight and strength tests look when they come out.

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Orlando Pre-Draft Camp Day 1

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2008

This week (Tues-Fri) is the all-important Orlando Pre-Draft Camp, the place where marginal second-round picks can become late first-rounders overnight, and all the other garbage players who weren’t going to get drafted anyway can prove their unworthiness in front of a collection of NBA types in attendance. Still, there’s always at least a handful of players who benefit from this event – last year Jared Dudley and Daequan Cook probably wouldn’t have gone in the first round but for strong showings, and Ramon Sessions, Stephane Lasme and Demetris Nichols may not have been drafted at all. Not to mention we always get to learn who can’t do a bench press to save his life (yes, that means you, KD).

Since we’re not there, we’ll have to rely on updates from the various NBA draftniks who are doing yeoman’s work sitting through these glorified pickup games this week. But first, let’s get educated on who is there, who isn’t there and what they’ll be doing.

Will Trent Plaisted or Sasha Kaun Parlay Orlando into the First Round? (photo credit: Orlando Sentinel)

The 15 players selected by NBA scouts for the “elite” list will only go through physicals and measurements, as they are expected to be high first-round picks. Expect to see our analysis of these players’ physical numbers later this week. These players are:

  • Joe Alexander, WVU
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas
  • Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas St.
  • Eric Gordon, Indiana
  • Donte Greene, Syracuse
  • DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford
  • Kevin Love, UCLA
  • OJ Mayo, USC
  • Javale McGee, Nevada
  • Anthony Randolph, LSU
  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

Several players took offense at not being placed on the ‘elite’ list and will bypass the camp altogether. These players are:

  • Chase Budinger, Arizona
  • Mario Chalmers, Kansas
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
  • Jamont Gordon, Mississippi St.
  • Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
  • JJ Hickson, NC State
  • Kosta Koufos, Ohio St.
  • Robin Lopez, Stanford
  • Marreese Speights, Florida
  • Bill Walker, Kansas St.
  • Kyle Weaver, Washington St.
  • DJ White, Indiana

Finally, there are 64 additional players who will actually participate in the camp, led by the following notables (if you’re interested in the Orlando rosters, check here):

  • Brian Butch, Wisconsin
  • Pat Calathes, St. Joseph’s
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky
  • Joey Dorsey, Memphis
  • Josh Duncan, Texas A&M
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
  • Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
  • JR Giddens, New Mexico
  • Kentrell Gransberry, S. Florida
  • Malik Hairston, Oregon
  • George Hill, IUPUI
  • Davon Jefferson, USC
  • Sasha Kaun, Kansas
  • Ty Lawson, UNC
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA
  • Drew Neitzel, Michigan St.
  • DeMarcus Nelson, Duke
  • David Padgett, Louisville
  • Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
  • Trent Plaisted, BYU
  • Sean Singletary, Virginia
  • Ronald Steele, Alabama
  • Deron Washington, Virginia Tech

Sean Singletary & Ramel Bradley Mix It Up (photo credit: Orlando Sentinel)

Finally, to the action. Here are some tidbits from Tuesday night, which consisted entirely of drills (Wed-Fri will have game action).

  • Jeff Goodman reports that Alabama guard Ronald Steele is still favoring his bum reconstructed knee, and looks to have no chance at getting drafted this year. He also says that New Mexico forward and former Jayhawk JR Giddens looks fantastic and is ready to show off his eye-popping athleticism this week.
  • Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress (via Yahoo) reports that players generally looked nervous on Tuesday night – Wayne Ellington and Shan Foster had trouble finding their strokes, and there were a boatload of mishandled passes. Brian Roberts of Dayton appears to have had the best overall night, exhibiting quick hands and an ability to initiate an offense as a poing guard (his position at the next level).
  • Carolina fans can’t like hearing this – Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all scoff at the idea of ‘testing the waters.’ According to Andy Katz, each player is at the camp to get drafted, not just to see how they stack up with their peers. Great quote from Green: “I’m not in Tyler [Hansbrough’s] situation,” Green said. “He’s breaking records, and he has money. I’m not broke-poor, but my family doesn’t have as much as Tyler. He’s more fortunate, and I’m trying to do what’s best for my family.”
  • One thing to remember throughout all of this scouting – it’s often more art than science, according to Chris Ekstrand, publisher of the NBA Draft Guide. Ten years from now, “there’s going to be some kid who went with pick No. 37 who turns out to be a big-time player, and somebody who gets picked between 10 and 15 who doesn’t play two years.”

Reports from Day 2 are already coming in… we’ll post more tidbits soon.

Update:  See our summary of Day 2 here and Days 3 & 4 of the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp here.

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Post-Championship Fast Breaks (04.08.08)

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2008

A few more drops of residual knowledge in the wake of Super Mario’s bomb…

  • Where does 2008 KU rank among this decade’s champions?  We’d put them higher than seventh but lower than fourth. 
  • Brandon Rush is going pro, according to Yahoo Sports.  What an amazing silver lining for Rush and KU after he blew out his knee during NBA workouts last spring.   
  • As a mirror question to the one floated about One Shining Moment below, is there anyone alive who actually likes Billy Packer?
  • More blowback on Roy’s Kansas decal last night.  And here
  • Arizona’s Chase Budinger will test the waters of the NBA Draft, joining teammate Jerryd Bayless from last week. 
  • In a bit of a surprise, Florida’s Marreese Speights (14/8) will also test the waters of the draft.
  • When does that two-year rule start again?  LSU’s Anthony Randolph will also be testing the waters.
  • After not playing in the entire 07-08 season due to an injury, Alabama’s Ronald Steele is also putting his name into the draft. 
  • While not official at this point, reports are indicating that Kansas St.’s Bill Walker will also declare for the draft soon. 
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ATB: Northwest Passage

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.05.07

Game of the Day. #7 Washington St. 51, #18 Gonzaga 47. How fun would it be to watch a game at the Kennel? It wasn’t too much fun for the Gonzaga fans tonight as they watched their Zags lose for only the second time in that building and in the process, score their lowest total of points in almost eleven years. Although the stats would lead someone to believe that this was an ugly game, we didn’t really see it that way. There were enough bricks on both sides (esp. Gonzaga) to build a smokestack, sure, but the game was intense, defensive-minded and filled with show-stopping plays. For the second time in a week (Baylor), Wazzu went into a veritable lion’s den and slugged its way to a close win. This team is experienced, doesn’t panic and makes smart decisions with the ball – its only real weakness is a style of play that allows teams to stay in the game with them (i.e., Gonzaga shot 26% but was still in the game until the last ten seconds). It didn’t hurt that Kyle Weaver (12/6) seemed to make every big play for the Cougars each time the Zags crept withing striking distance. His airball rebound-turn-putback sequence was sick. On the Gonzaga side, Matt Bouldin (0-9 FG), Jeremy Pargo (3-11) and Austin Daye (1-12) should be ashamed of themselves for their performances at home tonight. We were really high on the Zags early, even going so far as to pick them for the F4, but their inconsistent performances are making us a little wary – still, we’ll wait to pass ultimate judgment until we see how they play once Josh Heytvelt returns.

Other Good Games. Syracuse 70, Virginia 68. Regrettably, we didn’t get to see anything but the last four minutes of this game. This is a very good win for Syracuse, especially in light of its loss at home to UMass last week. From what we can tell, UVa’s Sean Singletary was ill, and it showed in his shooting numbers (10/9/5 assts on 3-14 FG and 2-8 FT) and cramping at the end of the game. Virginia isn’t a one-man team by any stretch (Adrian Joseph had 19/13), but they’re typically not going to beat quality opponents unless SS has a solid game. Tonight was no exception. The Cuse’s Donte Greene (20/10) and Paul Harris (10/14) each had dub-dubs in the road win.

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SEC/Big East Invitational. What a joke this thing is. Hey, here’s an idea, let’s copy the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, except instead of, like, matching up teams based on relative abilities, we’ll just throw a bunch of cannon-fodder SEC teams out there against some good-to-great Big East teams and see how it washes out. Who came up with this plan – the Big East RPI Improvement Committee? Ok, we give them one mulligan. Georgetown v. Alabama was supposed to be a game between two top 25 teams, but then Ronald Steele went and got hurt again. Still, Bama put up a solid fight tonight in Birmingham (#5 Georgetown 70, Alabama 60), which is more than we can say for their mortal enemies over on the Plains. Thuggins and his band of merry men stormed Auburn like Sherman coming back through the South – the Tigers were down 28-6 before they knew what hit them. West Virginia 88, Auburn 59. Now let’s all put our hands together and furiously clap with excitement over tomorrow night’s slate of South Carolina v. Providence and LSU v. Villanova. Anyone got the Big East to go 4-0 in this event? We do.

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Upset of the Day. Charlotte 75, Davidson 68. We love Davidson, but after their recent losses at Eastern Michigan and now at Charlotte, they’re going to need to win the SoCon to make the NCAA Tourney (we’re assuming they will not beat UCLA this weekend). Stephen Curry ripped off 31, but he’s just not getting any offensive help from his frontcourt (7-22 shooting). Charlotte’s Leemire Goldwire sensed a shootout with Curry and ultimately one-upped him with 34 of his own points. Charlotte, with two solid wins in a row, is a team to keep an eye on going forward.

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #4 Kansas 85, E. Washington 47. Too bad Rodney Stuckey is already in the NBA.
  • #8 Texas 88, North Texas 72. The DJ blew up with 29/10, representing our #1 vote well.
  • #17 Pittsburgh 73, Duquesne 68. Pitt really struggled to win this crosstown rivalry game.
  • #18 Clemson 82, East Carolina 67. We’re not voting for you Tigers until you win ACC games.
  • #21 Xavier 79, Creighton 66. Drew Lavender with 28/10 as Creighton takes its first loss.

Other Notable Scores.

  • Florida 91, Florida A&M 52. UF now 4-1 against other Florida teams.
  • Drake 79, Iowa St. 44. Wow, how do you win at Oregon St. then get drilled by Drake?
  • George Mason 57, Hampton 54. Mid-major nirvana in Fairfax.
  • Purdue 70, Ball St. 57. How’s that Ronny Thompson thing working out for Ball St.?
  • W. Kentucky 69, Nebraska 62 (OT). WKU couldn’t afford to drop this BCS win at home.
  • Oklahoma 81, Tulsa 55. OU had a thirty-pt lead at the half.
  • Vanderbilt 83, Wake Forest 80. Vandy remains unbeaten behind Shan Foster’s 26 and Andrew Ogilvy’s 23.
  • Georgia Tech 72, Georgia St. 67. From what little we saw, Ga Tech sleptwalk through this one.

On Tap Today(all times EST). Yeah, a few tv games, but um, good luck with that.

  • Providence (-3.5) v. South Carolina (ESPN2) 7pm – set your alarm for more of the thrilling Big East/SEC Showdown!
  • Connecticut (-17) v. Northeastern (ESPN FC) 7:30pm. ugh.
  • Ill-Chicago (-5.5) v. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (ESPN FC) 8pm - if you’re going to show mid-majors, pick GOOD teams!
  • Villanova (-9.5) v. LSU (ESPN) 9pm – we cannot get over the garbage the SEC trotted out for this event.
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Coaches Poll!

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2007

Per ESPN today…

ESPN Coaches Poll - Preseason 08

Initial reactions:

  • UNC is #1, yet UCLA garnered more first-place votes (12-10).
  • 9 of the top 10 match the online Blogpoll – the one difference is that coaches like Indiana more than Marquette. Fwiw, so do we. (come on blogpollers! We should represent the non-MSM contrarian voice!)
  • Did the coaches go with the “name” programs over Calipari’s squad at #1? Interesting that the bloggers voted Memphis a solid #1 while UNC/UCLA were left behind.
  • Only one coach agreed with us that Kansas is preseason #1 (Bill Self?), although we aren’t predicting KU to win it all.
  • Buy: Oregon (mighty mite Tajuan Porter!), Gonzaga (magic mushroomania), Texas (hey mr. DJ put that record on…), S. Illinois (you sexy mother Falker!), Davidson (spicy Curry), VCU (Eric Maynor alone is worth more than five votes).
  • Sell: Duke (anxiously awaiting the Brian Zoubek experiment), USC (Young+Pruitt > Mayo+Jefferson), NC State (folks, they were 5-11 in the ACC last year!!), Alabama (no Steele = no chance).
  • Conference breakdown (top 25, all 54 teams receiving votes): Pac-10 (6, 8), Big East (5, 8), ACC (3, 6), Big 12 (3, 5), SEC (3, 6), Big 10 (2, 5), MVC (1, 2), CUSA (1, 1), WCC (1, 1), Colonial (0, 3), WAC (0, 3), A10 (0, 2), Mountain West (0, 2), Horizon (0, 1), Southern (0, 1).
  • Word to the Colonial and WAC with three teams each receiving votes even though none are in the Top 25.
  • Is there any value in this meaningless poll whatsoever? Some. Last year the top 6 (and 8 of the top 10) in the preseason coaches poll finished in the top 11 of the final poll (before the NCAA Tournament), and every team in the final top 11 had been ranked somewhere in the top 25 before the season started. Additionally, all four F4 teams were ranked in last year’s preseason top 8 (#1 Florida, #4 Ohio St., #5 UCLA, #8 Georgetown).
  • Only six of the preseason top 25 last year didn’t make the NCAA Tournament (#7 LSU, #12 Alabama, #16 Washington, #18 Connecticut, #20 Syracuse, #23 Creighton), so that’s fair evidence that the coaches (at least last year) have a bit of a clue. Note we said only a bit.
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09.26.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 26th, 2007

Some news flotsam and jetsam we’ve accumulated this week…

  • It was an expensive week for Ohio State paying its head coaches, as Thad Matta got a $500k raise (to $2.5M per annum) and contract extension through 2016.
  • Tennessee forward Duke Crews has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. How long is “indefintely?”
  • We mentioned it briefly above, but it deserves its own note. Former Hawg PG Corey Beck was shot Sunday morning during a robbery attempt – he is listed in good condition.
  • Free Shoes University is embroiled in another cheating scandal – the question is which sports are involved?
  • Porsches, Polo & Ponies. SMU basketball avoids NCAA sanctions – wait, SMU still has a basketball program? Oh, right. Matt Doherty. So the answer is no.
  • Plissken at the Buzzer gives a thorough and interesting breakdown of Memphis’ schedule (following up on Andy Katz’s top 10 last week) and how that will affect the Tigers’ NCAA seed next March.
  • Melo is giving back to Syracuse, as Jim Juli Boeheim convinced him to fork over $3M toward a new practice facility for the Orange.
  • Injury Report – Louisville freshman Clarence Holloway will miss the entire season after open heart surgery (!!), and NC State’s PG Javier Gonzalez will miss the next twelve weeks with a shooting thumb injury.
  • BC’s success in the ACC on the gridiron and hardwood have increased its applications from traditionally ACC country.
  • Construda still loves Luke Recker, oh these many years later…
  • We guess Shawn Stockton isn’t as good as his uncle John.
  • According to Jeff Goodman, 2008 #1 player Greg Monroe has narrowed his list to LSU, Kansas, Duke and Georgetown. Although Gary Parrish disputes this in a meandering article about Monroe’s eight finalists.
  • Speaking of Parrish and Goodman, the former riffs on Bama’s point guard situation after losing Ronald Steele, and the latter notes that Bruce Pearl is in search of outside shooters and Arizona is looking at possible successors for Lute Olson.
  • It’s NEVER too early for a projected field of 65.
  • MascotLove: College Hoops Heaven takes a look at the top 15 mascots.
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Bama Steele-ing for the NIT Again

Posted by rtmsf on September 18th, 2007

Quick, during which of the last two seasons did Alabama have a better record?

Before answering, fans would be wise to remember the following two facts:

1) In 05-06, the Crimson Tide overcame a midseason knee injury to big man Chuck Davis, and led by point guard Ronald Steele regrouped to a 10-6 SEC record and NCAA berth (defeating Marquette 90-85 and pushing eventual national runner-up UCLA before losing 62-59).

2) The 06-07 Tide was a chic preseason pick for the F4 and even reached a national ranking of #4 during early December. But after starting 13-1, injuries to Steele railroaded the promising season, ultimately culminating in a first round NIT loss to UMass.

So it should be a little surprising that the 06-07 Tide ended with a record of 20-12, while Coach Gottfried’s previous edition was only 18-13. This illustrates how expectations define perceptions. Little was expected of the 05-06 Tide after all-SEC first-teamer Davis got hurt, so Bama’s subsequent run to the NCAAs and defensive standoff with the Mighty Bruins in R2 engendered the perception that Bama had a successful season. Conversely, last year’s squad was burdened with high expectations from the beginning, and even though the team managed to get 20 wins without the services of a healthy Ronald Steele, the 06-07 season was deemed a failure.

Which brings us to the news today that Ronald Steele will be redshirting the 07-08 season to rehab his knees, and the value of the heady point guard to this team.

Ronald Steele pic

Consider Steele’s numbers and resultant effect on the Tide’s fortunes in the 05-06 season:

Ronald Steele Stats 7

Steele Steps Up. As you can see rather starkly, Steele (and Bama’s) fortunes rose considerably in 05-06 after Chuck Davis’s injury. Despite only a small rise in minutes played (Steele was a veritable ironman that year), his key stats increased across the board – most notably, his scoring and shooting percentages were considerably better in Davis’s absence.

Unfortunately for Alabama, 06-07 was a lesson in the importance of one player. Steele gamely played through injuries to his ankles and knees, but the ironman of the previous season was no longer available. In twelve of Bama’s thirty-two games, Steele either did not play or played well below 30 minutes. Even in the games where he played starter minutes, he wasn’t nearly as effective. Here are his stats for 06-07:

Ronald Steele 8

Lack of Explosion. It’s easy to see where Steele’s “explosive” stats dropped in 06-07 – PPG (he could no longer get to the rim and finish); RPG (he couldn’t jump); SPG (he couldn’t cut off passing lanes); FG% (less athleticism = tougher shots). But it’s also apparent of his value as the Bama floor leader in the wins/losses column. Bama was 13-7 with a less-than-healthy Steele in the lineup, and the 06-07 nonconference schedule wasn’t exactly Clemson-lite either – the Tide went 4-1 against Iowa, Xavier, NC State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. The harshest evidence of his steadying influence comes, however, when looking at how Bama finished the season – as Steele missed games and played sparingly during the last few weeks, the Tide limped into March losing five of its last six games.

Mark Gottfried is facing a difficult situation in 07-08 without his all-american point guard, but all is not completely lost. At least this year Alabama will know to move forward without Steele in the lineup, thereby giving other players a chance to step up much as he did two years ago upon Chuck Davis’s injury. Forwards Alonzo Gee and Richard Hendrix provide an athletic pair of wings, and Brandon Hollinger and Rico Pickett may yet prove capable in the backcourt. Even so, it’s difficult for us to believe that Bama will be able to overcome an injury to a player of this importance enough to make the NCAAs. Yet another tough break for Gottfried and Bama basketball.

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Breaking Down the Preseason Mags…

Posted by rtmsf on September 12th, 2007

We’re heading into the middle of September already, literally thirty days until Midnight Madness, and the first batch of preseason mags are already proliferating on B&N shelves like West Virginians on crystal meth at a swap meet (no offense intended to the West Virginians not on crystal meth, of course). We know many of our readers are asking, “what’s a magazine?” To which we reply, “it’s what old people read while they’re on the toilet.” For our few readers here over 30 (present company excluded), we offer the first installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.

First in line: Athlon Sports.

Athlon Preseason Cover 07

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

  • 34 regional covers seems like overkill, but we suppose having a Minnesota/Iowa/Iowa St. cover matters to someone.
  • Coolest Cover – for some reason, we particularly like the elated yet menacing look Patrick Beverly gives the camera on the Arkansas edition.
  • Say What? Athlon’s UCLA/USC cover (above) features Kevin Love and OJ Mayo in their Burger Boy unis – was it really too much trouble to shoot them with their correct jerseys on?
  • Total Points = 4

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

  • Conferences and teams are arranged alphabetically, allowing for quick navigation assuming you know your conference.
  • Standard format otherwise – features & predictions; analysis of teams; recruiting, in that order.
  • Total Points = 4

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

  • 10 Things to Watch is ok, but we didn’t learn anything new (i.e., the Pac-10 is great, keep an eye on Love/Mayo/Gordon, etc.).
  • Hoops Madness is a little better, mostly because of its lists of emerging stars (hot sophs to watch), top transfers and coaches on the hot seat. Also enjoyed learning that Dayton’s band has become the band by proxy for the Niagara Purple Aces (since NU doesn’t have one).
  • Cool Stat Award. Memo to Adam Lonon (VMI) – shoot more! (31 starts, 26 FGs)
  • Total Points = 5

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

  • Next Generation is a decent article about the young brigade of coaches who have been successful so far (Donovan, Matta, JT3, Howland, etc.). It wasn’t unique, as we expect to see a lot of this in the rags this year.
  • The Fix relates the story of the Tulane pointshaving scandal two decades ago. Although the article briefly mentions the Tim Donaghy story, it focuses primarily (and misguidedly) on the people involved in the scandal. What we needed to see here was an article about the existence of gambling among college athletes and efforts to prevent it. Big swing & miss here.
  • The Scoop is three one-page interviews with Ronald Steele (Alabama), Bill Walker (Kansas St.) and Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.), none of which are very interesting.
  • Total Points = 5

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

  • Athlon uses the 65-team prediction model, eschewing the traditional Top 25 (they get pts for that). But Athlon goes waaaaaaaaay safe by predicting six of the elite eight the same as 2007 (Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, UNC, Oregon, UCLA with Louisville and Tennessee added for good measure). UCLA defeats Carolina in the championship.
  • Big Conference Bias. 15 of its Sweet 16 are from BCS conferences – highly doubtful and incredibly LAME! NCAA Bids – ACC (5), Big Ten (5), Big 12 (5), Big East (9), Pac-10 (7), SEC (6).
  • Mid-Major Watch. Only Memphis from a mid-major conference (CUSA) into the Sweet 16. Mid-Major bids – 2 CAA (George Mason, VCU), 2 MVC (Bradley, S. Illinois), 1 A10 (Xavier), 1 Mountain West (BYU), 1 WAC (Nevada). We’ll bet anything Athlon’s editors choose that those six conferences will get more than eight bids next March.
  • All-Americans. Athlon really likes Drew Neitzel for some reason. He joins Psycho T, Chris Lofton, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison (?) on their first team. They took a big flier on putting oft-injured Ronald Steele on the third team.
  • Boldest Prediction. It’s sad that we had to dig this deep to find it, but it’s probably their pick for Cornell to win the Ivy League over Penn & Princeton. The last time a team other than those two won the Ivy Championship was in 1988 with (guess who?) Cornell.
  • Total Points = 10

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

  • The major conferences get a predicted order of finish, a brief recruiting roundup, and three teams of all-conference selections plus a “superlatives” section, which is fairly weak compared to others we’ve seen (POY, DPOY, most underrated, newcomer).
  • The mid-major and small conferences only get a predicted order of finish, one team of all-conference selections and an all-time NCAA Tourney stat for the conference (which is interesting).
  • Total Points = 2.5

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

  • All major conference and projected mid-major NCAA Tournament teams get a full page of analysis, including evaluations of the frontcourt and backcourt as well as a team roster (w/ stats) and a team-oriented stat.
  • Non-NCAA Tournament mid-majors and low majors get at most a half-page analysis and roster, but most only get a paragraph with a very brief synopsis.
  • Clearly much of the analysis is based on what coach’s interviews, which results in analyses from “glass half full” perspective. We would have liked to have seen more contrarian viewpoints.
  • The depth of analysis is solid if not spectacular for the major conference teams, but largely lacking for the others.
  • Total Points = 14

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

  • Four pages of recruiting information, including the top 100 (Scout.com) of 2007, the next 200 players, and the top 20 by position. Solid raw data.
  • It also includes the top 25 classes, but only as a list, with no additional details.
  • The top 100 in the class of 2008, top 25 in 2009 and top 10 in 2010 are also listed.
  • Total Points = 3

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

  • Only two pages worth, and at the very back of the magazine.
  • Total Points = 5

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

  • In the past, Athlon’s mag hasn’t always looked as professional as some of the others. This is no longer the case. Its layout looks great, the photos and graphics are solid, and the writing has improved.
  • Because it comes out so early, the advantage it gains in being one of the first published is mitigated by other temporal factors. Most notably, there are no schedules within the magazine – for that reason alone, Athlon cannot be your “go-to” preview issue during the season.
  • Additionally, its early publish date means that it misses late summer news involving injuries, transfers and coaching changes. While they did get the Skip Prosser news in there, they did not, for example, consider how Andy Rautins’ knee injury will impact Syracuse.
  • As a nontraditional magazine (i.e., not Street & Smith or TSN), Athlon should have taken more risks with their predictions – going all chalk won’t separate it from the pack.
  • Total Points = 8

RTC Grade for Athlon = 60.5 pts

Basis: Athlon is on the lower side of quality with the preseason magazines, but they have gotten better, and there is some value in their analysis. Its best use (given its early arrival on the newstand) is simply to refamiliarize yourself with the names and faces of the upcoming season. We wouldn’t recognize purchasing it unless you simply cannot wait for the better ones to come out.

Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
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09.11.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 11th, 2007

We’re so far behind in news that this is a must-post…

  • Huckleberry Hound Roy Williams and the entire 1966 Texas Western squad were the collegiate candidates inducted into the Basketball HOF on Friday.  No beef with the Glory Road fellas (although UK and Rupp’s ex post facto vilification is a story that still needs correcting), but has RW accomplished enough yet (five F4s, one title) to warrant inclusion?  Seems as if the committee jumped a little early on that one.
  • Come see the new inclusions in your town this fall, as the HOF is making a 30-city tour around the country over the next year.  The spokesperson of the tour is the Human Highlight Film himself. 
  • Stability in the Northeast – BC’s Al Skinner and Holy Cross’s Ralph Willard both had their contracts extended through 2013. 
  • Calipari mobilizes the entire city of Memphis to watch his players, who apparently cannot be trusted out on their own without inciting a freakin’ riot.  We knew before it even came out that The Mouth of the South, Joey Dorsey, would somehow be involved in this.  Make it rain, Joey.     
  • Not to be outdone, Mike Davis’s transfers at UAB decided to party without him, and all five were arrested on various charges.  The most disturbing in our eyes?  Walter Sharpe’s outstanding warrant for his arrest on a prior marijuana charge.  Not only did he already have a prior, but he didn’t even show up for the hearing?  And Davis didn’t know about this??  Now we know why IU fans wanted him gone.
  • Oh, and former Terp star and NCAA Champion Lonny Baxter has an unhealthy interest in firearms likes guns. 
  • From a while back, ESPN believes that nearly a third of D1 teams are eligible to become Bracket Busters.  (h/t to Awful Announcing)
  • Louisville’s new arena (due in 2010) is already bidding for future NCAA Tournament games.  Possible beneficiaries:  Kentucky, Indiana, Cincinnati, Xavier.   
  • Rivals weighs in with Alabama, Villanova, Illinois and others’ Labor Day weekend trips.  (takeaways:  Bama will struggle w/o Steele and Scottie Reynolds was on fire
  • Andy Katz also contributes with reports (here and here) of his trip to Mexico with OJ Mayo and USC.  (takeaway: OJ is the real deal)  
  • Goodman also has some summer excursion thoughts on Oklahoma, Duquesne, USC and Arkansas here; and Villanova, Marquette and James Madison here
  • Apparently Ohio St.’s Kosta Koufos was offered but did not take a Christian Drejer deal in Greece last week. 
  • Blue Ribbon’s preseason All-Americans are out – Drew Neitzel, Chris Lofton, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Dominic James.  We’re lukewarm on Neitzel as a first-teamer. 
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08.27.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 27th, 2007

In the spirit of the new school year and the imminent college football season… 

  • First we offer the top 10 party schools in America.  Looking at the top 5, might there be a link between hedonism, the South and football? 
  • Speaking of the dirty South, this future Clemson grad wants us to know that she has “the Iraq’s” education on her mind, er, something like that… 
  • Moving back to our bread & butter, in a tragedy of Odin-esque proportions, Oregon plans to take Phil Knight’s $100M largesse and use it to build a new on-campus arena.  Sadly, McArthur Court will be tossed into the dustbin of great historical arenas.  Why doesn’t UO end the charade and just call themselves the Oregon Nikes from now on?
  • Richard Jefferson donated $3.5M to his alma mater Arizona for their new practice facility.  But he’s still only the third best UA alum in the NBA, according to fellow Cat Agent Zero.   
  • SLAM put out its early top 25 last week.  Intriguing omissions – Duke, Florida, Oregon.  Say what inclusions? – Clemson, Alabama, Cal.
  • Mike DeCourcey at TSN picks five teams from which he believes a 2008 champion will emerge – Georgetown, UNC, Kansas, UCLA and Memphis. 
  • All kinds of knee problems – Syracuse guard Andy Rautins blew out his left knee during the Tournament of the Americas while playing for Team Canada – the Cuse’s leading returning three-point shooter will miss the entire 2007-08 season.  Duke’s David McClure (6-8 weeks) and Bama’s Ronald Steele (ditto) also had less serious knee surgeries last week – both are expected to be 100% by the season.   
  • Illinois guard Jamar Smith will miss the season due to his DUI arrest in February.  He will be eligible to return to the team in the 2008-09 season.  Oh, and Jeff Goodman reminds us that Bruce Weber still can’t recruit.   
  • From the rumor mill –
    • Word is pickup basketball at UCLA got heated Monday when Golden State star point guard Baron Davis engaged in some trash-talking with heralded Southern Cal freshman point guard O.J. Mayo. Davis got upset with Mayo after he didn’t respect one of Davis’ calls. Word is Davis, a native of Los Angeles, told Mayo that he doesn’t know who he is other than the fact that he wasn’t from Los Angeles and he also needed to respect a veteran’s call. Word is Mayo more than held his own in the games. (h/t to Bruin Report Online)
  • Former ECU head coach Ricky Stokes has been paid $250,000 to not take the administrative job originally offered him after his demotion.   
  • In a sad and bizarre end to what was probably a tortured life, former one-and-done Seton Hall star Eddie Griffin died of an apparent suicide last week when he drove his car into a moving train.  RIP Eddie. 
  • Finally, from the opposite end of the spectrum, Butch van Breda Kolff, former Princeton coach and hoops purist, died at 84 last week.  As head coach, he led Bill Bradley’s Princeton Tigers to the 1965 Final Four, its only appearance.  RIP Butch. 

 

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2007

Unless you notice because your team happens to take advantage of the rule in a given summer, one of the open secrets among college hoops fans is that many teams are allowed to get a jumpstart on their season by implementing NCAA Bylaw 30.7 – “Foreign Tours and Competition.” This rule permits teams to take a basketball-related road trip to a non-US territory (yes, even Canada) once every four years, and allows for ten days of practice and as many as ten games against international teams so long as no class time is missed.

Playing Hoops in Far-Flung Places

With only 25 or so days of practice after Midnight Madness prior to the first regular season games, ten extra days in August to get a team prepared for the season can really make a difference. Not to mention the additional experience of playing games against real competition in sometimes hostile environments (we’ll never forget the story of Rick Pitino famously getting ejected by an Italian official on an overseas jaunt while at Kentucky). An experienced team can use this trip to revitalize the well-oiled machine it left on the floor last March; whereas, a young team can use the trip to build camaraderie and let the coaching staff assess where team strengths and weaknesses will lie. Either way, short of a devastating player injury, there are no downsides.

Since so many programs use this rule, and data about who/when is difficult to come by, we can’t quantifiably state for a fact that the rule helps teams in the season of which it was used. But it’s reasonable to believe that more practice time ultimately begets a better team, and at least we can point to the 2006-07 Florida Gators as an example of where it worked – the Gators spent Labor Day weekend 2006 in Canada reminding themselves just how good they were by destroying the Brock Badgers (as you can see from the vid, Brock’s defenders are invisible) and Guelph (hugs!) in succession.

So here are ten schools who are taking advantage of the rule this summer:

  • Tennessee – the preseason top 5 Vols spent 11 days on the Continent from Aug 8-19, and Bruce Pearl rated his team only a “C+” in terms of basketball while there. The Vols lost one game to Slovakia, but according to this article, they came away with a greater sense of appreciation for each other and understanding of roles, necessary after losing glue guy Dane Bradshaw and adding super-soph Tyler Smith to the mix.
  • Utah – Coming off an extremely tough 11-19 season, new head coach Jim Boylen’s team spent twelve days in Australia from Aug 7-19 working on teamwork and confidence. The Utes went 3-3 on their trip to chilly (it’s still winter there) Australia, but they came away with a sense that the “floor was higher,” which is pretty much a shot at the work ethic and demands of former coach Ray Giacolletti.
  • Stanford – likely preseason top 25 Stanford left for Italy on Aug 20 and will spend twelve days (six games) in Rome, Florence and Milan touring the piazzas and showcasing the interior game of the Lopez twins and the outside shooting of Anthony Goods. Somehow that trip just screams Stanford the only way Stanford can.
  • Indiana – another team with high expectations for the coming season is now practicing in preparation for its Labor Day weekend trip to the Bahamas – wait a minute, Kelvin, is this a vacation ($895 – all-in) or a basketball trip? The Hoosiers waited until school began so that it could include uber-frosh Eric Gordon in the practices and the trip.
  • USC – Tim Floyd is using the same holiday weekend to take his sqaud to Mazatlan, Mexico for four games. OJ Mayo will begin practicing with the team during the first day of classes on Aug 27. Assuming he can be bothered to show up, of course.
  • Clemson – the Tigers are another veteran team with four starters returning who will be taking the long Labor Day weekend to go to the Bahamas. Maybe Clemson fans and Indiana fans can both pretend they’re in Maui instead. Who are we kidding – all 440,000 toothless Clemson fans will be in Death Valley that weekend.
  • Oral RobertsEddie’s Other Son lost the two stars (Ken Tutt and Caleb Green) who led ORU to 86 wins in the last four seasons, so he’s using their Labor Day weekend trip to Toronto as an opportunity to rebuild with some young faces. Toronto, eh? No word on how ORU’s penalty killing and shift changes are looking this year.
  • Alabama - what is it with these schools going to Canada? The Tide will spend Labor Day weekend in Ottawa, of all places – a city even further north than Toronto. Bama will be without star point guard Ronald Steele, who is still rehabbing both knees after a disappointing season in 2006-07. Still, Gottfried has a solid core coming back, and the last time they made this trip, they went to the Elite 8 (2004).
  • Washington – another disappointing team last year with promise of better things this season, the Huskies are now practicing in preparation for an extended Labor Day trip to Greece from Aug 31 – Sept 4. Head man Lorenzo Romar said that only one of his five starting positions is taken at this point – the rest are up for grabs (F – Jon Brockman).
  • Belmont – these trips aren’t limited to just the bigger programs, as tiny NCAA Tournament darling Belmont University took a nine-day trip to Europe from Aug 11-20, including stops in Paris and London. That’s more like it.
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