The Other 26: The New A-10 Asserts Itself

Posted by IRenko on December 21st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

When the A-10 added Butler and VCU to its ranks this past offseason, we knew that the two teams would strengthen the now 16-team conference. The two schools, each of which has had recent improbable Final Four runs, were expected to join the ranks of Xavier, Temple, St. Louis, and Dayton, and, along with a resurgent St. Joseph’s, UMass, and LaSalle, make the A-10 the deepest and, arguably, most exciting non-BCS conference in the country. But after the past week, it’s become clear that not only are these two programs going to add depth to the A-10, they may very well conquer it in their first year.

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

By now you know that Butler took down top-ranked Indiana 88-86 in a thrilling overtime win last Saturday. What was most surprising about the win, though, was how Butler did it. It wasn’t their vaunted defense, which gave up 1.13 points per possession to Indiana’s full-throttled attack — the second most this year for the Bulldogs and well above their averages during the Brad Stevens era. Rather, it was Butler’s efficient offense, which registered 1.16 points per possession. Part of that was their three-point shooting (11-24, 48.1%) with Rotnei Clarke leading the way (5-11). We have come to expect that from Butler, which often relies on the three-point shot as a great equalizer. But the more surprising, and perhaps more significant, elements of Butler’s offense were its willingness to attack the basket and its prodigious output on the offensive glass.  Sophomore wing Roosevelt Jones led the attack, often exploiting a favorable matchup against Jordan Hulls, en route to 16 points on 6-10 shooting (no threes). And the Bulldogs rebounded nearly half of their own misses — 48.7%. To some extent, the Bulldogs took advantage of sloppy block-outs by Indiana, but this reflects a season-long strength and a marked shift from the early years of Brad Stevens’ tenure. In Stevens’ first four seasons, Butler never averaged an offensive rebounding percentage of more than 32.8 percent. But last year, the Bulldogs hauled in 35 percent of their misses, and this year, it’s up to 39.4 percent.

As impressive as Butler’s win was, VCU quietly made waves of its own this past week as they pummeled Alabama and Western Kentucky by a combined 51 points. In both games, VCU went for the kill early, jumping out to big leads on the strength of their Havoc defense. The Rams did not allow Alabama to score a field goal until 10:44 had elapsed, en route to a 33-18 halftime lead that they would convert into a 73-54 final score. Alabama finished the game with 18 turnovers — a season high, as it often is for teams facing VCU’s defensive pressure. Four days later, VCU suffered no letdown from its BCS beatdown, whipping on Western Kentucky, one of the Sun Belt’s top teams and last year’s Tournament participant. After jumping out to 15-3 lead, the Rams would head into halftime up 42-16, cruising the rest of the way to a 76-44 win.  VCU forced a whopping 32 turnovers, including one on each of Western Kentucky’s first three possessions.

The old Bulldogs may be learning new tricks while the Rams thrive on the tried-and-true, but regardless of how they’re doing it, both teams have vaulted themselves to the top of A-10 heap.  Don’t take my word for it, ask the computers. Any of them — Butler and VCU are the A-10’s two highest ranking teams in the RPI, Sagarin ratings, and Pomeroy ratings.  The A-10’s mainstays have not distinguished themselves. Temple was routed badly by Duke in its first real competitive game of the year and just lost to Canisius at home by 10 points; Xavier is trying to replace five starters; St. Louis is trying to get their feet under them after losing their coach and then their star point guard to injury; and St. Joe’s, UMass, and Dayton have struggled to find consistency. As a result, there is a good chance that the A-10 will crown a champion it has never crowned before.

On to this week’s Top 10 and more …

Top Ten Rankings

RTC -- TO26 (12.21.12)

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Andrew Smith Shows His Importance to Butler’s Long-Term Fortune

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 9th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC correspondent. He was in Evanston for Butler’s 74-65 victory over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night. You can follow him @ChrisDJohnsonn

The biggest weak spot in Butler’s season body of work entering tonight’s game at Northwestern was a road defeat at Xavier. It was the Bulldogs’ second game of the season, and their only true road test. It was hard to know what to make of that result, mostly because Xavier itself remained something of a mystery. But over the next four weeks, as Butler notched impressive victories over Marquette and North Carolina at the Maui Invitational, and handled three consecutive home tune-ups against Hanover, Ball State and IUPUI, the perception lingered – however faint – that Butler needed to prove itself in a hostile road environment before drawing a long-term prospectus about the Bulldogs’ chances of competing in the new and improved Atlantic 10.

The Bulldogs dominated the paint against Northwestern, with Smith leading the charge en route to his best performance of the season (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Those doubts all but evaporated at Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night. Butler showed the poise, savvy and steadfast discipline that’s come to define Brad Stevens’ recent wave of national success. More importantly, it flashed newfound strength on the low block, a physical disadvantage that’s limited Butler in recent seasons against athletically superior teams. Senior center Andrew Smith had scored the ball at an efficient rate through the early part of the season, posting a 114.0 offensive rating and a 55.1% effective field goal percentage, but his usage rate (19.6 percent of available possessions) ranked behind two teammates and his main priorities typically hinged on defense and rebounding. Smith proved Saturday night he’s more than capable of carrying the load offensively. “I thought he played his best game of the year,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said following the Bulldogs’ 74-65 victory in at Welsh-Ryan Arena. “We needed every bit of it.”

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

Rick Majerus, 1948-2012 – Former Saint Louis Billikens head coach Rick Majerus succumbed to his chronic heart condition Saturday in California while undergoing extended treatment. Deteriorating health forced the 25-year veteran to take his first medical leave in 2003-04 when he coached the Utah program. He resigned during the 2004 season. After a three-year hiatus that included a stint behind the microphones at ESPN, the coach returned to the bench at Saint Louis University to begin a rebuilding process that earned the Billikens their first NCAA bid since 2000.

In His Twilight, Rick Majerus Led SLU To A Tournament Upset Over Memphis. (AP)

“The entire Atlantic 10 family is grieving tonight over the loss of coach Majerus. His undeniable knowledge and love of the game was known to all, and he was an excellent teacher committed to the student-athlete. This passion made his impact on A-10 basketball over the past five years immeasurable,” said Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “He will be missed at Saint Louis, within the A-10 and nationally; our prayers and condolences are with coach Majerus’ family and the Saint Louis University community.” said Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade in a press release late Saturday night.

Though he had not been on campus since the end of the 2011-12 season, the first public notice was an announcement in July that he was in California seeking treatment for his heart. St. Louis issued a Friday afternoon announcement in late August that he would take a medical leave for the 2012-13 season, followed by another Friday afternoon press release nine weeks later that heart problems would preclude his return to the Billikens bench at all. Over the course of a head coaching career at four schools (Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis) that dates back to 1983-84 (Marquette), the coach developed a resume that included a 517-216 lifetime record, only one sub-.500 season, 15 20-win seasons, 19 postseason bids (12 NCAA, 6 NIT, 1 CBI) and a Final Four appearance with the Utah Utes in 1998. Those mentored by Majerus over the course of his career include consensus All-Americans Andre Miller (Utah) and Keith Van Horn (Utah), along with Boston Celtic Coach Doc Rivers (Marquette).

Versus Other Conferences – Nearly 60% of the A-10’s non-conference games are in the books and the conference has posted a very power conference-like winning percentage of (about) 63%. The conference’s sluggish start, often recorded on neutral courts in invitational tournaments, appears to be offset by a combination of home court wins and strategic road wins. Current for games through Wednesday December 5, the table below shows how the conference did head-to-head with the other Division I conferences. The summary at the bottom breaks out the A-10’s record versus the six power conferences, versus other non-power conferences with similar profiles (i.e., the Missouri Valley Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the West Coast Conference, Conference USA and the Colonial Athletic Association) and the other 20 Division I conferences (and independents):

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Butler: New Conference, Same Style of Play

Posted by WCarey on December 6th, 2012

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Wednesday night’s Butler-IUPUI game in Indianapolis.

When Butler advanced to consecutive National Championship games in 2010 and 2011, the Bulldogs were known for their unselfish style of play that revolved around sharing the basketball and taking good shots.Last season Butler experienced a bit of a rebuilding phase, as the program had to replace several key contributors from the previous two national finalists. While the Bulldogs still finished a respectable 22-15 in 2011-12, it was a fairly significant departure from the illustrious campaigns of the previous two years.

Rotnei Clarke is the Leader of This Year’s Butler Squad

The beginning of the 2012-13 season brought a few positive changes to the Butler program. First, Butler announced that it would be leaving the Horizon League to join the Atlantic 10 – a move that was highly praised due to the program’s substantial upgrade in competition. Second, Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke became eligible after sitting out the 2011-12 campaign following his departure from Fayetteville. During his three seasons at Arkansas, Clarke earned a reputation of being one of the best three-point shooters in the country, and rightfully so, as the guard converted on 274 three-point attempts during his time as a Razorback.

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ATB: Bruins Fall in Brooklyn, Chaminade Beats Rick Barnes Again, and Indiana Finds Other Scoring Options…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 20th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Shabazz Muhammad Gets A Harsh Welcome. In light of Friday night’s 11th hour news of freshman super-prospect Shabazz Muhammad’s reinstatement, an immediate upward revision of UCLA’s season expectations was very much in order. After all, Muhammad is, depending on your source, arguably the top freshman in the country, and a huge difference-maker for the Bruins’ chances of a major rebound to the upper echelon of the Pac-12 after several uncharacteristically down seasons. We got our first look at the Bishop Gorman product tonight, and the results were mostly what you’d expect from a guy getting his first taste of major college hoops. The potential was readily there — Muhammad scored 15 points in 25 minutes; the polish – that’ll come in time, with more game action and meaningful repetitions. The larger takeaway from Monday night wasn’t Muhammad’s debut. It was Muhammad’s team, and the way it dropped the ball in its first showcase game of the season. How did the Bruins, No. 1 recruiting class in tow, get worked at the Barclays Center? We shall explore…

Your Watercooler Moment. UCLA Not A Finished Product.

The debut of the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country, Muhammad, was overshadowed my Georgetown’s offensive execution (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The obligatory modifier for college hoops teams at this time of the year is one you’ve heard time and again: it’s still early. Teams need time to develop, to guess at different schematic adjustments and lineups, to grow comfortable in their respective offensive and defensive systems. This logic applies for most every team, but most of all for young and inexperienced ones. Which brings us to UCLA, and the Bruins somewhat surprising loss to Georgetown. The Hoyas spoiled Shabazz Muhammad’s debut by shooting over 50 percent from the field, getting 23 points from junior Markel Starks and unleashing sophomore Otto Porter from relative medical obscurity to great effect (18 points, 11 rebounds). UCLA looked disengaged and unorganized defensively. The Bruins didn’t click on the other end of the floor. Muhammad’s debut brought the mostly expected reality that this year’s No. 1 recruit is not – despite what this UCLA fan’s widly popular t-shirt solidarity might have you believe – a LeBron James-type basketball destroyer of worlds. If this was the Pac-12 championship game, or an NCAA Tournament contest, all measures of criticism and conclusion-drawing would be fair game. In this instance, UCLA’s first real run with a new roster against quality competition, chalk it up as a learning experience. UCLA will tighten things up defensively – Ben Howland’s coaching track record is a documental embodiment of defensive improvement. And Muhammad will learn how to play with rising star Jordan Adams. Missing out on a potential Final matchup with No. 1 Indiana isn’t the outcome Howland had in mind. It’s also not a doomsday scenario. Not in the least.

Also Worth Chatting About. Buzzer-Beating Madness in Maui. It didn’t take long for college hoops to provide us the first truly memorable slice of buzzer-beating hysteria. This one came courtesy of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke, whose uncharacteristically poor shooting streak (he finished 7-of-21 and 4-of-14 from three) did a complete 180 when Butler needed it most. Butler trailed Marquette by two with eight seconds remaining in regulation when Clarke received the inbound pass, drove the length of the floor and netted a one-handed off-balance leaner – after which his teammates, expectedly, piled on to celebrate. The dismissal of Chrishawn Hopkins late this offseason left Butler with a dearth of perimeter scoring. It made Clarke’s transfer even more crucial. He may not own Hopkins’ ability to create and score off the bounce. What he does have is a lethal three-point stroke, and apparently one that glosses over whatever struggles felled him the previous 40 minutes.

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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Butler 72, Marquette 71

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Some quick thoughts from today’s Maui Invitational quarterfinal game between Marquette and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Rotnei Clarke Redeems Himself With a Buzzer-Beater for the Win. We were prepared to write about how much of a chucker Butler’s transfer senior can be with the basketball, but his off-balance, one-footed, double-covered leaner from well beyond the three-point arc as time expired won the game for his team. Those are the kinds of shots chuckers make simply because they’re so comfortable shooting the ball… from anywhere. Clarke finished with seven makes versus 14 misses on the afternoon for a 20-point outing, but his last trio of points were the difference for the Bulldogs, and the reason that they will advance to play in the semifinals tomorrow.
  2. Marquette’s Sustainability. In a game where it felt that Marquette was always just a play or two from putting away always-scrappy Butler, it was a missed free throw by Junior Coudagan followed by a prayer of a leaning three from Rotnei Clarke that let the game get away from the Golden Eagles. But take nothing away from Butler, as the Bulldogs hit 57% in the second half and committed zero turnovers in keeping the game close — Butler’s greatest deficit was twice at six points, but Marquette in both cases gave up an easy layup and was unable to sustain enough momentum to put the Bulldogs away.
  3. Khyle Marshall Breaking Out? His teammate Clarke will get all of the press for today’s win, but junior wing Khyle Marshall spent most of this afternoon looking like the best player on the floor. He found his spots all over the paint, going for 24/9 in an efficient 11-15 shooting performance. In the past Marshall has struggled with inconsistency (case in point: his seven-point game against Elon last week), but if Butler expects to ride Clarke’s shooting back to the NCAA Tournament, they will absolutely need Marshall’s abilities on the wing to come to fruition.

Star of the Game. Rotnei Clarke, Butler. Clarke’s 20/6 line on 7-of-21 shooting was not something to write home about, but um, this shot certainly was…

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Xavier’s Dismantling of Butler Shows Musketeers Are Underrated Again

Posted by Will Tucker on November 13th, 2012

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent and a Big East microsite writer. He filed this report from Xavier’s game versus Butler in Cincinnati today. 

Does Xavier look significantly different than in years past? Butler coach Brad Stevens shook his head vigorously when asked the question after his team had been thumped, 62-47, in the Cintas Center. “No, no,” he stressed, “maybe different enough that they have a big-time chip on their shoulder. I see them having a great year,” admitting he laughed when he saw Xavier picked ninth in the Atlantic 10 this season.“I thought that that was silly to begin with.”

Senior Jeff Robinson is eager to prove himself

Chris Mack’s Musketeers had won two years in a row and nine of the last 11 meetings with Butler but still entered today as a four-point underdog on its home court against a CBI team that lost starter Ronald Nored and projected starter Chrishawn Hopkins. But that wasn’t entirely unreasonable, considering Xavier’s roster was shrouded in uncertainty, completely overhauled from a season ago after its starters all either graduated or left town. Its most experienced returning player, Travis Taylor, entered his senior campaign having logged less than 15 minutes per game, 4.5 PPG and 3.7 RPG last season. So it’s hard to fault all but the most devout Musketeer faithful for writing Xavier off as a rebuilding project in 2012-13.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first full week of the college hoops season provides us several excellent non-conference match-ups between the true blue bloods of the sport, as well as a first glimpse at some of the mid-majors we may be hearing from in March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#2 Kentucky vs. #9 Duke – 9:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

Nerlens Noel needs to step-up his offensive game against the Duke Blue Devils

  • Duke took care of business in last Friday’s opening game against Georgia State. Because of the the level of competition, the first game does not give us too much insight into the 2012-13 version of the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad shot and rebounded well, but they were expected to against the Panthers. Mason Plumlee leads the way for Duke and his match-up against the Kentucky front line should be a key factor on Tuesday. The Wildcats can throw Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel at the Duke big man. While Maryland forward Alex Len was able to have a big game against these four, look for Kentucky coach John Calipari to make major adjustments to stop Plumlee. Duke senior Ryan Kelly needs to step-up to help Plumlee, particularly on the offensive glass where Duke struggled a bit in their first game. Also, keep an eye on Duke’s turnover numbers. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions against Georgia State. Neither Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton, or Quinn Cook had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in the first game. Continued turnovers will come back to bite the Blue Devils against better competition.
  • Kentucky gets its second ACC team of the season, but now it’s the cream of the crop in the Blue Devils. UK’s freshmen performed reasonably well in their first game but need to put together a full 40 minutes of effective basketball. Maryland was down by double figures in the first half of their first game last week but was able to make the game very tight by the end. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin put together a solid game against the Terps with 16 points, but highly touted freshman center Noel looked lost on offense. Pay close attention to how the freshmen play in the second half in this one. Interestingly enough, Kentucky played very good team defense even with so many freshmen. Typically, defensive skills take longer to develop but the Wildcats held Maryland to a 35% eFG, including 3-19 from three-point land. Duke is a three-heavy team, so watch to see how the Blue Devils fare against a tough perimeter defense.
  • Kentucky is going to need more of their freshmen to step up on offense, if they want to beat the Blue Devils. Wiltjer carried them in the first game and is as smooth as they come on the offensive end, but they need additional offensive support. Watch to see who among all the rookies is able to provide more offense. If Goodwin can continue to provide punch and they can get double figure points from one other freshman, Kentucky can win this game. Duke needs to limit turnovers and get scoring and rebounding from Ryan Kelly. He is very capable on the offensive end but needs to be more aggressive.

More Great Hoops

#8 Michigan St. vs. #4 Kansas – 7:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2012

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can follow him on Twitter at @vbtnblog

Top Storylines

  • The Best Basketball (Only) Conference in the NCAA? You Bet– With the departure of Temple (to the Big East) and Charlotte (to CUSA), A-10 fans knew the conference would not “make due” with a 12-team configuration. The question was which candidates would match best with the conference profile and mission and not in the chase for football money? The A-10 could afford to focus on candidates with high quality basketball programs, thereby offering regional rivalries to the Midwestern and Washington D.C. metro area members. Virginia Commonwealth and Butler were the logical choices as both have had recent Final Four appearances, are high quality programs, and boast two of the hottest young coaching names in Division I. Both schools accepted and the existing circumstances of member departures and arrivals means that the A-10, with 16 members and an 18-game conference slate, will have a superconference look and feel this season.

    Veteran St. Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli Has Garnered Plenty Of Media Attention Over The Years. Now Thanks To A New TV Deal, The Entire Atlantic-10 is Going to Get a Dose Of Camera Time (AP)

  • The New TV Deal – The conference announced an eight-year partnership with ESPN, the CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Network, worth an estimated $40 million dollars ($5 million per year) to run from 2013-14 through 2021-22. The three media outlets will televise 64 regular season men’s games (CBS and NBC Sports Network will televise 25 apiece and the ESPN outlets will televise 14). These three outlets will divvy the responsibilities for the conference tournament with NBC televising the men’s (and women’s) quarterfinals, CBS televising the men’s (and women’s) semifinal games, and ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU televising the men’s championship game. Though financial details were not disclosed, the conference’s 14 members are expected to collect about $400,000 apiece each season.
  • Brooklyn, Here We Come – A quiet affirmation that the move to lock up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn came with Hurricane Sandy. The superstorm swamped Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the Boardwalk Hall, previous site of the conference’s championship tournament. The Barclays Center has garnered positive reviews for its architecture, facilities and amenities. The brand-new facility will work out the kinks with a number of invitational tournaments (Barclays Center Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer, Legends Classic, Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational) and be ready to host the conference tournament next March.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

Signs that the A-10 is in for a wild ride this season are everywhere. CBS Sports’ five basketball experts (Jeff Goodman, Doug Gottlieb, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello) tabbed four different schools (Butler, Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth) to take the regular season crown. The A-10 coaches named a fifth school – Saint Joseph’s – at the conference’s Media Day earlier this month. Note that nobody in that group is named Temple or Xavier – the two schools which have passed the regular season crown back-and-forth for the last five seasons.

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Get to Know Them: Ten Players Ready to Break Out This Season

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 2nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Every college basketball season brings a new cast of stars. There are freshman, the super-prospects hyped up to disproportionate levels who may or may not live up to their billing. Then there are the returning players, the guys who showed flashes of stardom the previous season and are ready to truly hit their stride after an offseason honing their games. Highlighting these players doesn’t require much insight or deep thought. You know a star when you see one. Discovering under-the-radar gems, the diamonds in the rough, the players who emerge from the depths of the unknown to make a splash on the national stage, is another matter entirely. It requires a comprehensive knowledge of the game – and not just the Kentuckys and the North Carolinas and the Dukes of the world. You know those guys. The focus here is the more unheralded crop of players ready to make the leap into the general college hoops consciousness. What follows is my vain attempt at singling out those very players I described above. You may not know these names now, but by the time March rolls around, my bet is that you will.

*Editor’s note: you will notice there are no freshmen on this list. That is no mistake. This list is geared towards returning players. If you’re interested in a more freshmen-centric preview analysis, check out this list of newcomers who are “ready to play big roles on their new teams.”

Rotnei Clarke – Butler

The Bulldogs three-point shooting will improve immensely with Clarke joining the fold (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Relative to recent history, Butler did not have the best 2011-12 season. Let’s not sell the Bulldogs short: They reached the semifinals of a national postseason tournament for the third straight season. Only this time, it wasn’t the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Butler got bounced in the semifinals of the CBI, a huge downturn from the two preceding Final Four trips. Butler may never again string together that level of Tournament success, but Clarke gives Brad Stevens’ team a much better chance than it had last season. Plain and simple, Clarke, who made 91 of 208 three-point attempts in 2010-11 (he sat out last season after transferring from Arkansas), can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. And what does Butler desperately need as it enters its debut season in the A-10? Long-range shooting, where last season it finished ranked 341st in three-point field goal percentage.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Georgia

Basically any chance Georgia has of challenging in the SEC this season and making a push for an NCAA bid rests on Caldwell-Pope, whose freshman season was something of a disappointment considering the McDonalds All-American hype he brought to Athens. With a year of experience under his belt, and a greater chance to showcase his talents without being comparatively dwarfed by the likes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Caldwell-Pope should blossom. Georgia doesn’t offer much help in terms of solid complementary players, so Pope will be asked to carry the load. Kentucky and Missouri are heavy favorites to challenge for the SEC crown this season, but if Pope plays to his recruiting promise, the Bulldogs are more than capable of notching a few wins against the league front-runners. NBA scouts are already drooling over the 6’4’’ guard’s potential. He’ll make good on those claims this season.

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Considering the Highest Impact Transfers in 2012-13

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 23rd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

There were few topics more thoroughly dissected and debated this offseason than transfers. The discourse began not one month after the coronation of last season’s National Champion Kentucky Wildcats with Jared Uthoff’s highly-publicized transfer tug-of-war with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. It continued when the NCAA released word (via ESPN’s Outside the Lines program) of its intentions to review transfer guidelines as part of a larger concern over a the growing frequency of player movement, much of which – as quantified  by SI.com’s Luke Winn – is characterized by a nontraditional upward flow, whereby players seek to improve their competitive situations by jumping to better teams in high-major conferences. There is a growing fear, one that bears out in Winn’s numerical analysis, that coaches are using the pool of dissatisfied players in lesser conferences as a secondary recruiting market, that mid-major teams will increasingly suffer the possibility of having their players lost to a “poaching culture” of high-major powers plucking the lower ranks’ top talents.

After being overtaken by Kendall Marshall, Drew left UNC to reignite his career in Los Angeles (photo credit: US Presswire)

This is a legitimate concern. The NCAA will likely implement policies to cut down on the various loopholes and pathways in which players are allowed to relinquish their initial commitments in favor of joining a new program, or at least skew the cost-benefit analysis of making such a move towards staying put, but those changes may not come to bear for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we’re left with a college hoops landscape where established players with proven track records can pack their bags for greener pastures. This year’s batch includes several players who could alter their new teams’ seasons in important ways. The list of newly-eligible transfers is long and varied, so I highlighted 10 newcomers whose first seasons in new locales should find immediate success. As is the case with all of these preseason lists, the qualifications for inclusion are at best fuzzy, and at worst, flawed. There are a lot of transfers, so narrowing the list wasn’t easy. So before you rage against your favorite team’s new hot shooting guard being left out of the group, remember to take into account the sheer numerical backdrop from which any selective transfer-based analysis is grounded.

Herewith, in random order, the list:

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