Weekend Storylines: Exams Over, But Tests on the Court Just Beginning

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 28th, 2013

Here’s to hoping that this week brought you plenty of holiday cheer, because it surely did not supply you (or anyone else!) with much quality college basketball. Entertaining Diamond Head Classic final aside, this week was as slow as the college basketball season gets. Don’t despair, however, because Santa has delivered a Saturday chalk-full of college hoops. Two big-time rivalry games occupy the prime real estate on this weekend’s marquee, but there’s plenty of substance, albeit understated, sprinkled throughout Saturday’s docket of action. Here’s a quick primer on the big games in Syracuse and Lexington, plus a few other worthwhile narratives to monitor on this busy Saturday.

For The First Time In Over Three Decades, Syracuse And Villanova Will Meet As Non-Conference Opponents

For The First Time In Over Three Decades, Syracuse And Villanova Will Meet As Non-Conference Opponents

A Couple Of Old Big East Friends

In the world of college basketball, eleven months is far from an eternity, but my, oh my; how things have changed since the last time Villanova and Syracuse locked horns! What was a Big East conference game last January will be an ACC versus (new) Big East affair today (2PM EST, CBS), and with both teams set to embark on their maiden voyages in the new leagues next week, the Carrier Dome will serve as the clinic for anyone needing one final dose of Big East nostalgia. Subplots abound in this game, but I’ll be especially interested to see how Villanova attacks the Syracuse zone. The Wildcats haven’t been a bad offensive team to this point in the season, but the Cats’ statistical breakdown on the offensive end puzzles. Villanova is 18th best in the country in two-point field goal percentage (55.1%), also shoots the ball pretty well from the stripe (72.2%), but struggles from beyond the arc (204th nationally in 3P% at 32.7%). With those splits, you’d expect Jay Wright’s team to focus their efforts inside the three-point line. So far, however, they’ve done the exact opposite – the Wildcats are 7th in the country when it comes to percentage of field goal attempts from three-point range (45.7%). Will the chucking continue against an Orange zone that begs opponents to settle for deep shots (43.1% of Syracuse opponent’s field goal attempts are threes), or can the Wildcats throw aside this bit of statistical dissonance and find a way to get quality interior looks against the zone? Remains to be seen, but expect 30,000+ to get a first-hand view of the answer.

Battle For The Bluegrass 

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Morning Five: 07.11.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2013

morning5

  1. A little more than a decade ago, a brash young rapper by the name of Marshall Mathers asked us if the “real Slim Shady” would please stand up and take responsibility for his actions. He could have easily been talking about another Marshall in present day — a bad boy Rebel from Ole Miss who plays the game with a certain, shall we say, modernist panache. The most polarizing figure in college basketball, Marshall Henderson, was reportedly suspended indefinitely by the school for a drug violation. According to Gary Parrish, there are legitimate concerns within the university whether he will be allowed to return to the team. Given that Henderson finds trouble nearly anywhere he travels both on and off the basketball court, it’s certainly no surprise that he’s finally run afoul of Andy Kennedy’s team rules. Could this mean that the gifted but certifiable shooting guard who averaged over 20 points per game last season could find himself at his fifth school in five years? Stay tuned on this one – like Mathers, Henderson isn’t one to stay quiet for very long.
  2. Trouble just seems to stick to certain people, and at least lately, North Carolina’s PJ Hairston appears to be one of those unfortunate souls. Yet his school, an institution that outwardly takes its integrity very seriously, has been up to this point largely quiet on the ramifications of his June 5 arrest and subsequent revelations that he apparently has some unknown association with convicted felon Haydn Thomas. Athletic director Bubba Cunningham went before the media on Wednesday to discuss the matter, and the tone and general theme of his comments echoed the tried-and-true of the Carolina Way in recent years: Nothing to see at this time. Parroting Roy Williams’ statements from last week, the school does not plan on discussing or doing anything until all the facts are learned. For those of you unfamiliar with organizational theory and messaging, the last part is silent: …until we figure out how to mitigate and manage any possible fallout so that the outcome puts us in the best possible light. Thank you. At least one prominent writer thinks this is the correct play, at least until Hairston is back at school and enrolled in classes a little more than a month from now.
  3. There are meaningful statistics and there are manufactured statistics. The difference between the two is sometimes difficult to discern, but the Wall Street Journal has provided us with a fantastic example of such a debate this week. We’ll have more on this later this afternoon, but the analytical premise in this article by Ben Cohen is that college teams with two top five NBA Draft picks in their lineups should be really, really good. Even accounting for the fact that the NBA Draft has moved from a model of demonstrated production three decades ago to one today of relative upside and potential, it’s a reasonably safe tenet. But to make the next logical leap and to assert that a team with those two draft picks has markedly underachieved relative to its peers (Cohen found 13 such two-high-draftee instances), well, that’s where Indiana found itself this week. The Hoosiers only made the Sweet Sixteen with Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo in this year’s lineup, which when compared with Cohen’s cohort, ties 2002 Duke and 1984 North Carolina as the biggest underachievers in college basketball history. At least that’s the assertion of the piece — and it couldn’t be more wrong. This is a manufactured statistic, because what the analysis fails to tell you here is that there are a number of other talented players on each of those 13 other teams that had a significant effect on their season outcomes. Cohen also glosses over the regular season dominance of those Duke and UNC teams by suggesting that their draft picks had won titles in a previous year — true, but not relevant to that year’s team. IU head coach Tom Crean fired back in reference to the article, tweeting that the duo won 54 games in two seasons and have left the program in great shape heading into the future. Although we’ve consistently argued that Indiana was never as good as its ranking last season, we don’t think that the Hoosiers significantly underachieved relative to the overall talent it had on the floor, or the rest of the nation at-large. More on this later.
  4. Kentucky’s Rupp Arena is without question one of the iconic buildings in all of college basketball, but its off-campus location, sheer size and affiliation with a downtown hotel and shopping mall has always felt a bit too sterile and dissociated when compared to the more intimate campus sites around the country. Regardless of that, the mid-70s building is vastly in need of an upgrade, and the Lexington Center Corporation board announced on Wednesday that it had finalized an architectural firm and a builder to provide a two-year facelift that will move the building into the 21st century, and essentially, make the place much cooler. The most interesting aspect from our eyes is that the building will become a stand-alone entity, no longer affixed to the hotel/mall complex, so we’re wondering what that will look like. UK fans, even in mid-July, wasted no time in offering up some advice on possible corporate naming partners (the “Rupp Arena” part isn’t going away). Our favorite: Makers Mark Rupp Arena, with the entire building dipped in blue wax (h/t Jen Smith of the LHL).
  5. Finally, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports‘ annual report on collegiate sports was released on Wednesday, and the headline that was blasted all over the country is that college athletics received a gentleman’s B with respect to diversity in hiring. Digging a bit deeper, though, and some unsettling numbers come to light. Most notably, a “major area of concern” is the steady decrease of black head coaches in men’s Division I basketball, now at 18.6 percent of all positions. This number reflects the lowest percentage in the sport in nearly two decades (1995-96), and is down significantly from an all-time high of 25.2 percent of all head coaches just seven seasons ago (2005-06). Whether this downward trend simply reflects variance in the data or something more sinister is unclear, but it is definitely something that the NCAA should continue to track and take seriously. Given that over 60 percent of D-I men’s basketball student-athletes are black themselves, initiatives to ensure diversity in recruitment and hiring are definitely worth pursuing.
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Night Line: A Productive Kyle Wiltjer is Necessary For Kentucky to Succeed

Posted by BHayes on January 16th, 2013

nightline2

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Youth and inexperience weren’t supposed to matter to John Calipari, to Kentucky. After all, there was still a lot of talent in Lexington, and it felt quite natural when nobody doubted the defending national champions in the preseason. But the two and a half months since have created a college basketball specimen that has been as rare in recent years as a senior superstar – the Kentucky skeptic. Their arrival is understandable, as Kentucky has already dropped five games here in 2012-13, the talented youngsters having yet to find the cohesiveness of UK’s past Calipari teams. There’s still plenty of time to get there, and all four of the key freshmen (Archie Goodwin, Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, and Willie Cauley-Stein) will surely need to display growth for the wins to roll in, but the player who serves as the finest barometer for UK success is not a newcomer. Kyle Wiltjer has been about as consistent as his team this season (i.e., not very), and his off nights have frequently coincided with Kentucky failures. But when Wiltjer has it going like he did Tuesday night against Tennessee, the Cats looked a lot closer to being a complete team.

wiltjer

Kentucky Fans Agree That The “Three Goggles” Are A Good Look For Kyle Wiltjer

Wiltjer finished with a team-high 17 points in the 85-75 victory over the Vols, also chipping in with five rebounds and a pair of blocks. Quite a dramatic shift for both sophomore and team from a game ago, when Texas A&M walked into Rupp Arena and knocked off the Cats, holding Wiltjer scoreless in the process. Wiltjer struggling in a UK loss is not a new storyline this year; he is averaging just 5.6 PPG in losses, about half of his season average. He has also only scored seven or fewer points in six of the Cats’ 16 games this season, but four of the five UK losses have also happened to occur on those nights. One final measure of the value of Wiltjer’s involvement: He has gone for 19 and 17 points, respectively, in Kentucky’s sole two victories over top-100 teams (two top-100 wins, yikes!).

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Night Line: Player of the Year Award is Anthony Davis’ To Lose

Posted by EJacoby on February 8th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

On Tuesday night, the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats continued its run of complete domination in SEC play, defeating No. 8 Florida by the score of 78-58 at Rupp Arena in a game that was never in doubt after about 12 minutes. The game featured another commanding performance by Anthony Davis, who tallied 16 points, six rebounds, four blocks, and two steals and, as usual, essentially eliminated any Gator offense at the rim. The freshman center not only dazzles fans with his spectacular dunks and blocks, but he’s become the pre-eminent defensive force in college basketball that truly alters the strategy of opposing offenses during every game. He’s also displayed impressive offensive efficiency to become a perfect fit on both ends of the floor. At 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds (second in the SEC), 1.5 steals (eighth in the conference), and 4.8 blocks per game (leads the nation), and as the best player on the top team in America, it’s safe to say that Davis is now the front-runner for National Player of the Year.

This Kentucky Freshman is Must-See TV and the Current Player of the Year Favorite (AP Photo)

In addition to his impressive per-game averages, Davis has an incredible efficiency to his game that is visible to everyone watching as well as all the statistics gurus that measure these kinds of things. Davis’ offensive rating of 137.8, which measures the amount of points a player would produce per 100 possessions, is the second-best number of any player in the country. This essentially means that every time a Kentucky possession features Davis making a play (either shooting or off the first pass), it’s wildly successful. Of course, this also plays out like that because he is so infrequently used in the offense. His shot percentage of 18.2% doesn’t even crack the top 50 of SEC players. But he’s nearly unstoppable on lobs and putbacks, and UK has used him perfectly for maximum effectiveness in these areas. You also must give Davis the credit for not forcing his offense and looking for easy baskets, as his 66.3% field-goal percentage and 61.0% free throw rate are both tops in the conference. His 70% free throw percentage is also solid for a player his size (6’11”) and will only get better as he improves the fundamentals of his shot. Those were just his offensive numbers; we don’t even need to break down his defense for you. At 4.8 blocks per game, he’s the most dominant college defender we’ve seen in years, and it takes just five minutes of watching UK play to understand how great his impact is on that end of the floor.

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SEC Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 3rd, 2012

  1. A pair of future Kentucky Wildcats  were named to the West roster for the 11th annual Jordan Brand Classic. Archie Goodwin, from Sylvan Hills High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Alex Poythress from Northeast H.S. in Clarksville, Tennessee, will be on the 10-man team that includes the #1 player in the country, Shabazz Muhammad.  The game will be played at 7 PM on Saturday, April 14 from the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
  2. Two SEC schools, Florida and Kentucky appear among the seven schools vying for the services of Nerlens Noel. Noel made headlines by announcing he would be finishing high school in the spring rather than in 2013, as expected. It would seem that John Calipari would just just have show an endless loop of Anthony Davis‘ exploits of this season as his closing argument to get Noel on board for the Wildcats.
  3. On Tuesday, Lexington city leaders approved a $250-$300 million renovation of Rupp Arena that would be occur over three offseasons starting as early as 2014.  Multiple sources would be used to raise the money including “revenue from naming rights of the arena, premium seating, advertising, sponsorships, concert and event promotions, concessions, stock offerings, state road funds, state tourism tax incentives, tax increment financing and new market tax credits.” Basketball is big business in Kentucky — certainly everyone has a financial stake in it one way or another.
  4. On the CBS Sports “Eye on College Basketball” blog, Jeff Goodman posed the question of which starting five is better, the Toronto Raptors’ five or Kentucky’s? He wrote the article after seeing Toronto, coached by a former Wildcat, Dwane Casey, open up against Boston by starting Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan (USC), James Johnson (Wake Forest), Ed Davis (UNC) and Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh). The online poll favored UK by a better than 4-to-1 margin which leads to the obvious question — would it be unanimous if the NBA team in the question were the Washington Wizards? Or worse, the Charlotte Bobcats?
  5. On FoxSportsSouth.com, Steve Eubanks writes about the varying reasons why SEC basketball gets so little attention and respect. His two top reasons: the dominance of SEC football and the dominance of Kentucky basketball. He writes that much of the rest of the the SEC plays in front of half-empty arenas. Texas A&M and Missouri should help raise the profile of the league as a basketball conference (although the television markets and football have driven the conversations thus far), but neither have such storied backgrounds as to approach Kentucky and if you were to put fans of the two programs on truth serum, both would more likley take football success over basketball (maybe it would be a closer vote with Tiger fans).
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SEC Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 25th, 2012

  1. Alabama forward Tony Mitchell is officially on a cold streak. After scoring nearly 14.5 points per game this season, Mitchell is averaging just three points per contest in the Crimson Tide’s last two games — both losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. “We have a couple of plays set up for Tony,” senior forward JaMychal Green said. “We just have to uncover him and get him moving so he can just play ball.” Mitchell’s frustrations showed on Saturday against Kentucky as the junior fouled out after only 20 minutes of play. The Crimson Tide are on a three-game losing streak in which Mitchell hasn’t scored more than eight points. Prior to the Tide’s loss to Mississippi State on January 14, Mitchell had scored in double figures in 10 straight games and in 15 of the Tide’s first 16.
  2. Renardo Sidney’s progress for Mississippi State is evident, especially on the defensive end. Sidney held Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli to four points in 25 minutes over the weekend and came up with a big block in what appeared to be an easy dunk for Ezeli. “The old Sid would have let him just dunk it,” freshman Rodney Hood said about the key block. “He went after it. That’s when I really realized he’s coming along – he’s back. Defensively, he’s being a presence out there.” While Sidney’s minutes are still somewhat limited, he has been effective for the Bulldogs. Sidney’s field goal percentage has improved from 51.7% last year to 55.5% in 2011-12.
  3. Artist renderings of a renovated Rupp Arena interior have been released. The 23,500 seat venue, opened in 1976, is home to the Kentucky Wildcats, and the Cats haven’t lost in Rupp since John Calipari took the helm in the 2009-10 season. Kentucky currently holds the nation’s longest home court winning streak with 46 straight victories, 45 of which came under Calipari. Pictures of the Rupp Arena concourse have also been released, complete with some interesting characters hanging out awaiting UK basketball. The recent push for a new and improved Rupp surely doesn’t have anything to do with the $238 million dollar KFC Yum! Center down the highway that opened in October 2010 to host the Wildcats’ in-state rivals, the Louisville Cardinals, right?
  4. Calipari says his newly crowned number one team might need a loss to fuel the Wildcats’ competitive juices. “We probably need a loss,” Calipari said. “So we’ll come together and say, ‘We’re not losing like this.’ The Kentucky head coach knows his Cats have taken a few “on the chin” in recent games, and need to develop a mentally tough attitude to continue winning games. The blueprint for defeating the Wildcats involves physical play in the post to push around Kentucky’s thin front line. This isn’t to say that Calipari isn’t happy with his team. “We’re young,” he said, “but we’re good, too.”
  5. Our own Rush the Court’s official bracketologist Zach Hayes has a couple of SEC teams on the bubble, with one surprise team on the positive end. While we have maintained that only five SEC teams will make it into the Big Dance, Hayes has six conference teams making it in. Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Alabama all seem to make a good case for inclusion, and Hayes has all five in comfortably. The Arkansas Razorbacks are one of his last four teams out. Mike Anderson’s Hogs have a 14-5 record with a recent quality win over Michigan. But RTC also includes Ole Miss as one of the last four teams in the Tournament. The Rebels are 13-6 with an RPI of #31, but lack a quality win on their resume. Ole Miss’ best win thus far was a 75-68 win over its in-state rival Mississippi State.
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Morning Five: 12.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2011

  1. Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings are back this week with a bit of a surprise team at the top. Ok, not really, but his choice for the #1 spot is different than the pollsters have anointed this week, including our very own RTC Top 25 released on Monday. His rankings release on Thursday, though, and can anyone blame him after the beatdown that Ohio State put on Duke in Columbus Tuesday night? That is, until we see how Saturday’s little tilt between Kentucky and North Carolina goes. From our view of the world after three-plus weeks of action — Ohio State and Kentucky are the only two teams this year that have a chance to be great, while UNC, Syracuse, Duke, Wisconsin, Connecticut and a few others have a chance to be very, very good. Whether any will actually reach their potential is quite another story, but that’s why we do what we do.
  2. A new Rupp, same as the old Rupp? Apparently not, suggests a preliminary study from a Lexington task force that pushes a $110-$130M renovation of Kentucky’s venerable old barn, Rupp Arena, as the appropriate course of action over building an entirely new arena at a cost of three times that amount. The size and noise in that building is second to none in college basketball when at its peak, but even including some recent fan-friendly renovations in the last decade, the place isn’t as instantly gratifying to outside observers as some of the other venues around the country. Maybe these proposed renovations would help to eliminate some of the multi-purpose 70s feel of the place, which is probably what it needs to truly become a college basketball cathedral for the next 50 years.
  3. If the reports are accurate (and PJ Hairston himself would seem the best source), the freshman shooting guard for North Carolina who injured his wrist during the Heels’ hard-fought victory over Wisconsin Wednesday night will not play against Kentucky this weekend. This presents an issue with the perimeter shooting of the Tar Heels, who will come in to Lexington with only three players who have connected on four or more treys this season. Hairston, a 6’5″ wing with a nice stroke, has 14 of UNC’s 37 makes this year, which leaves Reggie Bullock (11-25) and Harrison Barnes (7-18) as the only other realistic perimeter threats. If UK goes long defensively on the perimeter and shuts down UNC’s three-point shooting Saturday, the Heels will need to have monster games from Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Barnes inside to have a good chance to win.
  4. While we’re on the subject of the biggest early-season game of the year (and perhaps the season), Kentucky’s Anthony Davis dropped a ridiculous line of 15/15/8 blks against St. John’s last night. After the game, he told Adam Zagoria that he’s “looking forward” to facing up against John Henson from North Carolina. He added that Henson “plays just like [him]” and no doubt believes that he will create just as much defensive havoc against the Heels as he has with everyone else this season. An NBA scout told Zagoria that he expects ten first round picks to be in uniform at Noon ET Saturday, with a couple more second rounders in the mix as well. While we’re resistant to the excessive hype machine of the modern 24/7 media environment, there’s no question that this game will be a doozy. Must-watch television for any sports fan this weekend, regardless of other obligations.
  5. Everyone feel free to rest their heads. There will be no third Plumlee taking the court for Duke this season, which means the gravitational pull that would no doubt result from nearly 21 feet and 7o0 pounds of Plumlee on the floor at one time will be averted. At least this season. Freshman Marshall Plumlee, equally as tall but a bit slighter than his older brothers Mason and Miles, will take a redshirt year and still have four years of eligibility remaining beginning next fall. Coach K already said in the preseason that he had no intention of playing “three 6’10″ guys” for the sake of a novelty, but maybe the Plumlee dream will come through for us at some future point in the NBA next season.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.30.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 30th, 2011

 

 

 

  1. There are many extremely talented freshmen in the nation this season, several of which are in the SEC. Mike Miller of Beyond the Arc says that Florida guard Bradley Beal might just be the best of them all. Miller cites Beal’s consistency, his shooting efficiency (58.8 eFG%), and his significance in the Gator offense despite the glut of talented guards in the Florida backcourt. Beal is averaging 17.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1 block per game. He was named SEC Freshman of the Week for this past week for his performances against Jacksonville and Wright State. The Freshman of the Week award has become a difficult honor to win within the SEC. A different freshman has won the award in each of the three weeks of the season thus far with Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Mississippi State’s Rodney Hood as the other two winners. Davis might be Beal’s biggest competition for the title of the top freshman in the country. While Davis is still developing a consistent offensive game, he has been an absolute beast on defense. He is averaging 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and is fourth in the country in blocked shots with 4.3 blocks per game.
  2. Vanderbilt suffered a heartbreaking loss to Xavier on Monday night, but the Commodores had to be satisfied with at least a couple aspects of their game. CBS Sports RapidReports points out one positive from the loss was the continued improvement from the charity stripe. The Commodores rank 216th in the nation in free throw percentage (68.5%) yet they shot 75% from the free throw line on Monday making nine of 12 attempts. Jeffery Taylor was 5-6 for 83% despite averaging 60.5% from the line thus far this year. Although 75% is an improvement Vanderbilt has to get to the line more often than the 12 shots they attempted on Monday. For comparisons sake, Xavier went to the line 27 times. Vanderbilt must attack the rim off the dribble rather than settle for jump shots in order to improve this number, and this has not been an aspect of Vanderbilt’s game that they have displayed thus far this season.
  3. The guys at Anchor of Gold are not exactly sure why Vanderbilt lost, but they offer up a couple of suggestions. The stat I found most interesting is that Xavier walked away with a 51% offensive rebounding percentage against the Commodores’ depleted frontline. The Musketeers grabbed 25 offensive rebounds explaining how they were able to shoot just 37.2% from two-point field goal range and come away with the win on the road. Festus Ezeli‘s return has to significantly affect this deficiency. Ezeli won’t erase all of Vanderbilt’s struggles, but he will be a difference maker on both ends of the court. I’m not hopping off the Vanderbilt bandwagon just yet as I think it is important to see how this team plays with the big man in the middle before casting judgement on the quality of this team. Vanderbilt has another huge test on Friday as they face Louisville in the KFC Yum Center.
  4. CoachCal.com editor Eric Lindsey gave us a full report from John Calipari‘s Tuesday practice with the Wildcats as they prepare for St. John’s on Thursday and UNC on Saturday. Similar to two recent posts about UK on the SEC microsite, Calipari spent some time focusing on their low post game. Cal has worked with big man Anthony Davis to stay lower to the ground to avoid getting pushed around by stronger defenders. By bending his knees, Davis can create a lower center of gravity. Calipari also worked on having low post players seal off their defender and make quick, one bounce moves to the basket. By establishing a low post presence, Kentucky opens up a number of options within their offense, which was covered in our most recent Breaking Down the Play post. Expect to see the Cats go down low early and often this week.
  5. Rupp Arena will be on display on Saturday afternoon via CBS for the Wildcat’s showdown with North Carolina. The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the University of Kentucky could renovate Rupp rather than build a new arena as previously discussed and better meet the needs of the school. Kentucky is looking to upgrade spaces for the media room, interview room, and training room; add premium seating for the University president and others; and add a new center-hung scoreboard that displays the score, player stats, instant replays, and close-ups of players and coaches. Kentucky has led the nation in average attendance for 15 of the last 16 years, but seemed to be motivated by a brand new arena 85 miles to the west in Louisville. Now the plan appears to be to renovate Rupp Arena to make the improvements needed without building a new arena. In the long run, it would be a mistake to neglect the history that Rupp Arena brings to Kentucky and to college basketball as a whole.
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What Shall Be The Fate Of Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on August 25th, 2011

Make your pilgrimage now, Kentucky fans, and take as many photos as you can, for the Rupp Arena you have worshiped for so long is on borrowed time.

An article from Tuesday’s Lexington Herald-Leader by Beverly Fortune and Jerry Tipton has us thinking that it’s merely a question of time, now, and which model to follow. Do the powers that be in the Bluegrass go the Fenway Park route and make piecemeal renovations over several years to the existing structure in downtown Lexington, or do they adopt the Yankee Stadium philosophy and build a brand new church arena elsewhere? Among UK backers, a discussion on this matter can get every bit as heated as one between Red Sox and Yankees fans about which group has the right to claim moral ascendancy.

Renovate the Old Or Start Afresh? Rupp In Its Current Form (image: uky.edu)

Fenway might call itself the oldest sports venue used by a sports franchise in the United States, but it’s undergone an almost yearly series of alterations since 1999 to bring up to speed everything from the sod to the seats to the scoreboards. Heck, there’s even a party deck. Most importantly, the renovations have been so well done that, even though this isn’t your grandfather’s Fenway Park, Boston officials say that the place has another 60 years of life in it and you can forget any plans for a replacement. Yankee Stadium, as we know, received a different treatment; the one built in 1923 hosted its inhabitants for the last time in 2008 and was demolished in 2010, a year after the Yanks had moved into a brand new glittering jewel of a stadium called…Yankee Stadium. Aside from a tendency for balls hit to right field to carry a little longer than they did in the old park (this happened even when the Yankee pitching situation was more stable), it opened to raves, not to mention a championship in its first year.

So what fate, then, for old Rupp Arena? If it can be updated in its current location, should it be? Or is it time for a brand new facility?

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The Week That Was: Feb. 8-14

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

What a weekend. We’re still reeling from the Saturday’s chaos in Madison. It’s always a bittersweet day when the final undefeated team in the nation suffers its first loss. Do you think the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers pop champagne and toast themselves every year once that game clock hits 0:00 and their legacy is preserved for one more year? Sure, they aren’t the ’72 Dolphins, but we easily could picture Bobby Knight smirking to himself and lighting a cigar after Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin. 

What We Learned

Taylor May Be the Most Talk-About Player In America Right Now

Ohio State wasn’t an invincible juggernaut and we already knew that. OSU endured close calls earlier the season against Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern. It wasn’t a matter of if Ohio State would suffer its first loss, it was a matter of when some team would rise up and topple the Buckeyes. Cue the Wisconsin Badgers. Jordan Taylor exploded in the second half scoring 21 of his 27 points to lead Wisconsin to a come from behind win and an all-time RTC. But here at TWTW, we’re not as interested in single game scenarios; we focus on the big picture. So in their win, did the Badgers show the nation a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes? The main quality a team needs in order to emulate what the Badgers did against OSU is offensive efficiency. Ohio State is the #12 team in the nation at forcing turnovers, causing them on 25% of opponents’ possessions. Wisconsin values the ball more than any other team in the NCAA, turning it over on just 13.6% of its possessions, and on Saturday the Badgers had just eight turnovers. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to point out that fewer turnovers increases your win probability. But what’s harder to duplicate is the Badgers’ enigmatic guard. Taylor pretty much single-handedly propelled Wisconsin to the upset. Few clubs have a guard capable of putting up that many points that quickly. So while opposing coaches can point to Saturday’s outcome merely as proof that OSU is beatable, it’s difficult to emulate the Badgers’ winning formula. Here’s the best recipe for beating a highly ranked Ohio State squad: schedule the game in Madison. Neither the OSU football nor basketball teams are invulnerable to the powers of Bucky Badger.

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Morning Five: 11.02.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on November 2nd, 2010

  1. The NCAA ruled on Monday that there would be no penalty forthcoming as a result of Kutchergate at the University of Iowa. We use that portmanteau in jest, of course, since there was never really any chance of the NCAA seeing anything sinister about what they agreed was an “unintentional and incidental” encounter. Still, we think that if Iowa’s going to have celebrities from their state visible at Hawkeye athletic events, they might want to take steps to keep it on the level of, say, Tom Arnold, or even Cloris Leachman. That way, there’s less chance that visiting high schoolers will end up talking about it in the papers or show up in a tweeted photo.
  2. Tom Izzo has suspended Korie Lucious for Michigan State’s exhibition against Saginaw Valley State tonight and the November 12 season-opener versus Eastern Michigan as a disciplinary action for Lucious’ DUI arrest back in August. Lucious eventually pleaded guilty in September to misdemeanor reckless driving. It’s obvious that he’d rather be playing, but at least he’ll have that much longer to rest that surgically repaired left knee.
  3. We were at Rupp Arena last night for Kentucky’s exhibition game against in-state NAIA opponent Pikeville College, and even though it was an exhibition it still got our juices flowing to commense our travels this season. Less excited about the whole affair was UK head coach John Calipari, who, despite a 97-66 victory and a 22-point performance from new floor general Brandon Knight, lamented his team’s lack of toughness and energy, noting in the post-game presser that right now his players “don’t get it yet; we need to get more physical…the guys are going to have to accept it.” While praising Pikeville’s effort and confirming that the NAIA squad “outworked” his team, Calipari (who coached this one sans necktie, oddly) drove home his frustration with his players seeming lack of interest by adding, “this isn’t about cool, this isn’t about style points,” and insinuated that Tuesday’s practice might divide the men from the boys.
  4. As of yesterday, a pair of schools “be gettin’ over in the Big Sky Coun-try…” OK, if you can’t tell by the lyric, the Big Sky Conference just got bigger. It announced yesterday that it will add Southern Utah and North Dakota to its roster starting with the 2012-13 season. While the decision was motivated largely by something called “football,” it shouldn’t be ignored that the revenue sharing bonus nets each athletic team at the schools an extra $135,000. And you thought conference realignment was all through.
  5. Is it possible that West Virginia’s Kevin Jones rebounded 12% of all shots missed by the Mountaineers last season? And that WVU rebounded 41.8% of their misses as a team?!? Both of those are staggering figures, and just part of the reason you should check out this article from SI.com’s Luke Winn as he crystal balls the Big East. Six days until the first games, people…
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RTC Live: South Carolina @ Kentucky

Posted by jstevrtc on February 25th, 2010

Is this a revenge game for Kentucky?  You recall that it was South Carolina that beat Kentucky on ESPN near the end of January, giving UK their only blemish on the season and removing them from the #1 ranking to which they had ascended merely days beforehand.  The UK players and coaches downplay the revenge factor a bit, but you can’t help but think that the Wildcats would LOVE to get the Gamecocks back…especially after the USC Student Senate sent a rather boastful message to Kentucky after that game. USC is here to prove that first one wasn’t a fluke, and Devan Downey relishes these spoiler roles.  He has his critics (is USC really 6-0 when he takes less than 14 shots?), but he’s certainly exciting, and God only knows what the Rupp Arena crowd has in store for him tonight.  Should be fun.  ESPN2′s got this one at 9pm, and we’ll be there as well.  Join us, and join the discussion this evening.

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