Morning Five: 05.22.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2014

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  1. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the long summer of college basketball purgatory awaits – June, July and August are fun months for many other reasons, but getting your college hoops fix isn’t one of them. Message boards and social media will remain active, of course, and we’ll do our part here from time to time as well, but at the end of the day, we’re all daydreaming about how next season will play out. The Sporting News waited a little longer than most outlets to release its post-early entry Top 25 for the preseason, but the timing works because it gives us something to chatter about. Perhaps the most surprising selection here is that TSN went against the grain in choosing a team not named Kentucky as its overall #1 team, but there are a few other surprises scattered about the list (particularly at #5). If you need a comparison Top 25, here’s RTC’s version from about a month ago.
  2. One of the teams looking to reload after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins to next month’s NBA Draft will be Kansas. With another elite recruiting class headed to Lawrence, however, headlined by star forwards Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, the Jayhawks populate most pundits’ preseason top 10s. Bill Self’s squad might find itself rising in everyone’s mind by October, as Kansas on Wednesday added another impressive piece to the class in Ukrainian guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – good luck pronouncing that one — a tall but talented shooting guard who has been favorably compared with former Michigan star Nik Stauskas. With a ton of frontcourt talent on board as well as Wayne Selden and now Mykhailiuk joining the program, Self only needs to figure out his point guard situation in order to roll out another big-time National Championship contender.
  3. Speaking of one-and-dones, seemingly everyone who has a stake in the game is sick of them. Whether you’re in favor of going back to the preps-to-pros of the multi-year NFL model, people seem to agree that something needs to change. For the good of the game and all that. The Pac-12 on Wednesday took its own shot across the bow of the NBA’s dominion by releasing a letter addressed to ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC schools suggesting as one of its key reforms the following admonition: “Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.” Of course, the NBA, under the new leadership of Adam Silver, appears to have prioritized a two-and-through model for its next round of player negotiations, but there’s certainly no guarantee that such a change in rookie eligibility will occur. But freshman ineligibility as a measure of pushback? It would only serve to further marginalize college basketball as a major American sport. 
  4. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s former VP of Enforcement who was run out of the organization on a rail after the disastrous investigation of Miami (FL) athletics and the influence of Nevin Shapiro? After a 14-month hiatus doing consulting work, she’s back in college athletics, now as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Horizon League. Her new responsibilities will include oversight of the league’s 19 championships, student-athlete development, finances, corporate sponsorship and branding, all interesting and important aspects of an organization that has little to do with her previous role involving enforcement. Still, her breadth of experience and without question also her ties to the inner workings of the NCAA right down the street from HL offices are attractive qualities, and everyone deserves a second chance to prove their value and integrity. We wish her and the conference well on their new endeavor.
  5. Some transfer news from the midweek: Creighton picked up Cal transfer Ricky Kreklow; Michigan State’s Russell Byrd plans to play at NAIA school Master’s College; and the nation’s top returning scorer, Niagara’s Antoine Mason, is on the move for his final season of eligibility. All three will be eligible to play next season (Kreklow and Mason are set to use the graduate transfer exception next season, while there is no transfer penalty for Byrd to drop to the NAIA), but it is the free agency of Mason that might be the most interesting of this group. The 6’3″ guard and son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason will no doubt be a hot commodity in coming weeks for schools seeking to add some immediate scoring punch to their backcourts. The caveat with Mason, of course, is that he’s a high-volume, low-efficiency guy who took as many shots as he liked for a 7-26 MAAC team last season. If a high-major coach can get through to him to cut way back on his three-point attempts (28.6% on 168 attempts last season) and focus on driving the lane to draw fouls and get to the line (where he shoots a much nicer 72.8%), then Mason could become a key contributor on a contender next season.
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Key Questions Heading into Michigan vs. Michigan State Today

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on January 25th, 2014

Well, this is it. The final two undefeated teams in conference play will go head-to-head tonight in East Lansing. The Spartans will have the advantage of playing in the raucous Breslin Center, but they’ll be shorthanded since both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are expected to miss the game. Michigan, on the other hand, doesn’t have Mitch McGary to man the post, but Nik Stauskus has been red hot offensively and the team appear to have moved on from its early season troubles. Two of our Big Ten microsite writers, Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso, tackle the big questions headed into the game.

All eyes are on the Big Ten this weekend, as Michigan and Michigan State face off for first place in the league.

All eyes are on the Big Ten this weekend, as Michigan and Michigan State face off for first place in the league.

Michigan State is a top 10 defensive unit but their two best defensive players (Dawson and Payne) are likely to be out for the game. Michigan, on the other hand, is an elite offensive team. Will the Spartans be able to slow down the Wolverines given their injuries?

BB: The Michigan offense has been really impressive lately, and Michigan State might have had problems slowing them down even with Dawson and Payne in uniform tonight. Without those two seeing action, I just don’t know how they can hinder the Wolverines from scoring essentially whenever they want. Stauskas has been the best player in the conference over the last several weeks, but this team has much more weaponry than their sophomore assassin to call upon. Caris LeVert and/or Glenn Robinson III should have a huge advantage as the Spartans are going to have to use either a small guard like Travis Trice or with some combination of Kenny Kaminski/Russell Byrd to defend them. Big men like Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford aren’t strong offensively, but everyone else that gets significant playing time can score the ball from a multitude of different spots on the floor. Unless they go into some horrific shooting funk where they can’t make anything, Michigan will not be slowed down offensively tonight.

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Three Keys for Michigan State’s Trip to Texas Today

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 21st, 2013

In what many thought would be a mismatch coming into the season, Michigan State will travel to Texas today in a game that has turned into an interesting battle of one-loss teams. In beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill Wednesday night, the basketball discourse surrounding Texas has taken a turn from the topic of when will Rick Barnes get fired to one more reasonably assessing the legitimacy of the group that he has assembled in Austin this year. That said, the Longhorns have only beaten one other top 100 team (Stephen F. Austin), so this game will give us an inkling as to whether Texas should be taken seriously. Michigan State has a good deal of question marks itself due to health problems and that the Spartans have come back to earth after strong start to the season. What follows are three keys for Michigan State to come away with the win later today (4:00 PM EST, CBS).

Tom Izzo might have this same look on his face on Saturday if Michigan State doesn't beat Texas(AP)

Tom Izzo might have this same look on his face on Saturday if Michigan State doesn’t beat Texas(AP)

  1. Take advantage of Texas’ Perimeter Defense. This will much easier if Gary Harris comes back strong from his ankle injury, as he will probably be the biggest key if he’s in the lineup. Right now, Michigan State really does not have much in the way of depth, so the return of one of the best players in the B1G obviously adds to that. It’s also important because Texas doesn’t do a great job in defending the three. The Longhorns are ranked 250th in the country in three-point defense, so with Harris back in action they’ll be able to find more spots to take advantage of this. Keith Appling has shot the ball really well this year too, but Travis Trice could play a huge role. He’s shooting 39.4 percent from deep, and if he gets some open looks with Texas paying more attention to Appling and/or Harris, he has a chance to blow up his 7.0 PPG average. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 25th, 2013

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  1. Senior guards can be a great asset to a coach who is under the pressure of leading his team to a Final Four. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is hoping that senior guard Russell Byrd can provide maturity for the Spartans, both on and off the floor. Byrd averaged just over one point per game last season, but is eager to contribute to the #2 Spartans. He was plagued with injuries during his first two seasons in East Lansing, but is finally healthy enough to help Izzo reach a Final Four. “Russell Byrd [is] much healthier, much more confident,” Izzo said Tuesday during the Spartans’ media day. Even though Byrd may not see more than 10 minutes per game this season, his positive attitude and senior leadership should help the Spartans push toward March.
  2. No other player will be under more scrutiny in the Big Ten this season than Michigan’s Mitch McGary. After a slow start to his freshman campaign, he stepped up during the last six weeks of the 2012-13 season to help the Wolverines get to the Final Four. To make things more interesting, he chose to come back for his sophomore season with the intention to dominate the conference and lead his team to Arlington. He can definitely meet those high expectations, provided he is healthy, but he has had a few issues with his back during the offseason. Heading into November, McGary says that his back is no longer an issue. He said, “There’s no timetable for me being back. We’re just being cautious right now and we’ll see what happens in the future.” The 6’10″ forward will be expected to carry a heavier offensive burden on a more consistent basis this year as the Wolverines adapt to life after NPOY Trey Burke.
  3. While McGary will be the best forward in the Big Ten, Minnesota’s Oto Osenieks will have to earn his playing time on the Gophers this season. The 6’8″ forward averaged 9.1 minutes per game and shot 29.7% from the field – a virtual non-factor for the Gophers last season. But new head coach Richard Pitino remains optimistic about his improvement and believes that the forward can contribute offensively this year. Pitino said, “he was fighting for every single rebound. He’s another guy that has really responded to kind of the challenge. And I thought he did a really nice job defensively.” Andre Hollins (14.6 PPG) will be one of the best scoring guards in the Big Ten, but Pitino will need any help he can get from other players, and Osenieks could chip in at some point this year.
  4. Remember when Matt Painter’s Boilermakers were a dominant Big Ten team? That was only a couple of seasons ago, but Purdue really struggled to score last season. Painter is hoping for a return to relevance with a strong and diverse backcourt. Ronnie Johnson, Sterling Carter, and Bryson Scott will see significant minutes to complement Terone Johnson’s (13.5 PPG) scoring and leadership this season. Carter, a transfer, shot 39% from beyond the arc at Seattle and Painter believes his shooting touch will help the Boilermakers: “He can come off screens and shoot shots with people on him and make them.” Johnson is also quite sneaky off of pick-and-roll action, averaging 10.1 points per game last year using a nice-looking floater in the painted area. This team could surprise.
  5. While Purdue has two new guards in the backcourt, Illinois returns two of their own — Joseph Bertrand and Tracy Abrams – who played significant minutes during John Groce’s first season in Champaign. Both are expected to start, but Groce said that there are a couple of starting spots up in the air as the Illini gear up for their exhibition games. Rayvonte Rice, a transfer guard from Drake, is likely to take one spot as a third guard because of his offensive capabilities. The fifth position is also up in the air and it is possible that Groce will choose to go with a fourth guard instead of another forward. Nnanna Egwu, another returnee, will be the primary big man for the Illini this season.
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Big Ten M5: 11.26.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 26th, 2012

  1. The Wolverines have won their first five games comfortably on their way to the Preseason NIT crown. Part of the reason for that comfort level is that John Beilein is very satisfied with junior Tim Hardaway Jr‘s performance after the first two weeks of basketball. Hardaway’s offense, despite averaging over 14 PPG last season, was a question for the Wolverines coming into the year because of his poor shot selection. He shot only 28% from beyond the arc last year and was notorious for bad shot selection during certain games during the conference season. But he has shot 47% from deep this year and more importantly has averaged 6.8 RPG to exhibit an overall improvement to his game. Hardaway’s diversified skill set on the floor combined with the emergence of Glenn Robinson III provides the Wolverines multiple good scoring options on the offensive end.
  2. While John Beilein has several offensive options at his disposal, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is still trying to find some consistency after the Buckeyes’ first four games. Matta is hoping that his team can be more consistent, specifically sophomores Amir Williams and Laquinton Ross — both have averaged double-figure minutes but need to step up if the Buckeyes hope to compete with the likes of Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten. Ross in particular might be on the “verge” of breaking out per Matta and he is often compared to DeShaun Thomas’ tendencies during his freshman season. Matta has been pushing Williams to practice harder and improve his defensive intensity as well. Both of the sophomores will have an opportunity to crack the starting lineup if they can continue to improve with every game.
  3. Coaches are looking beyond offensive contributions during the first few games of the season. Illinois head coach John Groce is not just happy about his team’s offensive production in Maui (the Illini averaged over 70 points in each game), but he knows that his team can have an off night but still come back to win in different ways. For example, the Illini came back from a 13-point deficit against Hawaii on the road to win in overtime prior to the Maui Invitational run. Traveling though multiple time zones and playing in a hostile environment is not an easy task in itself but his senior guards, Brandon Paul and D.J.Richardson, showed a tremendous amount of toughness in a gutsy win. After the Maui invitational, Illinois clearly experienced a bit of a hangover against Gardner-Webb but found a way to beat them by a point on Sunday night. Groce understands that it will take some time for his team to become more consistent but pulling out close wins proves to him that these Illini are a confident and gritty bunch.
  4. Speaking of gritty and tough players, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo always expects those qualities in his team captains. According to the head coach, captain Russell Byrd is struggling offensively which makes it tougher for him to lead. Byrd is shooting just 22% from the field and has only made two of his fifteen attempts from beyond the arc. Without star freshman Gary Harris in the lineup, the Spartans dodged a big upset at home over the weekend against UL-Lafayette as they won, 63-60, in East Lansing. Byrd was responsible for four of the Spartans’ 20 turnovers during the nailbiter, but his contributions will be very important over the next few games until Harris can return to the lineup.
  5. Indiana’s appeal to the NCAA about the suspensions of freshmen forwards Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin were unsuccessful. Their original suspension of nine games has been upheld and the forwards will not be eligible to play until December 15 against Butler in the Crossroads Classic. The Hoosiers, despite not having Derek Elston available due to an injury, have not had any trouble rebounding so far with Cody Zeller dominating the paint. They outrebounded Georgetown 30-21 and have not missed either of the freshmen forwards at this early point of the season. But Tom Crean will need some depth in the frontcourt during Big Ten play and the sooner Perea and Jurkin see some minutes on the court, the better for his Hoosiers.
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Big Ten M5: 11.20.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 20th, 2012

  1. The news of the day in Big Ten land was the formal announcement that Maryland would be leaving the ACC and joining the conference for the start of the 2014-15 school year, and that Rutgers was expected to announce a similar move to the Big Ten from the Big East on Tuesday. Such realignment would have a profound impact on the state of basketball in the conference, with the Terrapins known as the perennial No. 3 team in the ACC (Rutgers is a Big East bottom-feeder). Michigan State coach Tom Izzo admitted he enjoys the tradition-rich Big Ten and worries about the increase in travel (New Jersey to Nebraska, anyone?) but says he’s pleased about the proactive approach Jim Delaney and the conference presidents/chancellors have taken during realignment. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said the location of the two schools opens the conference to a new market and a new world of recruiting that can help not only those additional two schools, but also the universities already positioned in the Big Ten.
  2. Here’s an unfamiliar and somewhat odd concept to come out of basketball camp in Lincoln: High expectations. That’s what coach Tim Miles has for center Andre Almeida, who certainly has a physically imposing presence in the post as he clocks in at 6’11″, 310 pounds. As for what Miles expects? “19 and 7,”he said, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. “Realistically, we need somebody to step up, so it might as well be him,” Miles said. “Why not? Seriously, why not? Because he hasn’t done it in the past, right? That’s why not. But why live that self-fulfilling prophecy? Let’s get him the dang ball where he deserves it and see what he can do with it.” Almeida averaged 5.2 PPG and 3.3 RPG last season as a junior, but his 19/7 against Nebraska-Omaha was exactly what Miles hopes to see out of the big man this season.
  3. One of the most concerning aspects for Wisconsin in last week’s blowout loss at Florida was how the Badgers were handled on the defensive end, allowing the Gators to dictate the pace of the game nearly throughout. That was a point of emphasis in the Badgers’ bounce-back win against Cornell, as Wisconsin provided suffocating defense while holding Cornell to 26.2 percent shooting from the field and 13.3 percent from long range. The win not only helped put to bed the Florida loss, but also a previous Cornell upset. In the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Big Red shot 61.1 percent overall and 53.3 percent from three to end the Badgers’ season, 87-69.
  4. The absence of true freshmen Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea was noticeable in Indiana‘s win against Georgia on Monday night in Brooklyn as the Hoosiers found themselves in a bit of early foul trouble before rallying to avoid the upset. But Indiana may not be without the duo as long as originally expected — the NCAA suspended the two for nine games, meaning they wouldn’t be eligible until the December 15 game against Butler, but that suspension could be reduced on Tuesday, ESPN‘s Andy Katz first reported. The two were suspended right before the Hoosiers’ first regular-season game for receiving improper benefits as AAU players for Indiana Elite.
  5. For a cupcake game — a 69-41 win over Texas Southern — there was a bit of drama in Michigan State‘s home opener, concerning both a big man who was on the floor and one who was not. Derrick Nix did not start after opening Michigan State’s first two games, and Matt Costello made his season debut in a bit of a lineup shakeup for Tom Izzo’s group. The freshman had four points and three rebounds in 11 minutes after returning from a tailbone bruise, while fellow big man Alex Gauna got the nod in favor of Nix. Izzo had hinted at the idea earlier in the month that he might like to switch up the starting lineup and a lesser opponent may have given him just the opportunity to do so. He likes to experiment with his rotation early on and whittle it down later into the year, but a deep frontcourt that also includes Adreian Payne and potentially Branden Dawson and Russell Byrd at the four gives Izzo and the Spartans a wealth of options down low.
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Four Thoughts on Michigan State vs. Kansas…

Posted by jnowak on November 14th, 2012

With a 67-64 win against No. 4 Kansas in the Champions Classic in Atlanta on Tuesday night, No. 8 Michigan State avoided starting consecutive seasons 0-2 for the first time since the first two years of Spartan basketball (1899 and 1900). Now, after a grueling five days that included two games on a national stage — on Friday at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and Tuesday at the Georgia Dome — the Spartans can settle in to a more manageable non-conference slate with a 1-1 start. There’s plenty to feel good about with this group of Spartans, but still some early-season concerns. Here are a few thoughts from Tuesday night’s game:

Keith Appling took over late in Michigan State’s 67-64 win over Kansas on Tuesday. (Paul Abell/US Presswire)

  1. Keith Appling might just be ready to lead – In more ways than one, perhaps. The Spartans desperately need a go-to scorer, and they desperately need a leader this season after the departure of Draymond Green. Appling showed on Tuesday that he can be both, turning in a game-high 19 points — including a late 3-pointer that appeared to be the dagger, and then a beautiful drive-and-scoop off the glass that ultimately was — and taking control of the game when the Spartans needed leadership. Appling had a realization of sorts after the UConn game that the offense was going to have to run through him this season. It can be a difficult thing to harness, particularly since he’ll be shifting between the one and two when Travis Trice is healthy and in the rotation, and because the Spartans want to run the fast break but also have a wealth of half-court sets. But Appling’s ability to shoot the ball presented itself on Tuesday (6-for-9 from the field and 3-for-3 from deep) and he turned the ball over just twice in 38 minutes. But most importantly, those shots came in crunch time. The Spartans needed big baskets a couple times against Connecticut and never got them. Tuesday, Michigan State’s go-to scorer obliged. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer Updates: Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 8th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big Ten correspondent, Will Green.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines 

  • Sully’s Back, But With Demands – In the year 2011, in the age of ‘now,’ in a profit-first educate-yourself-later society, amidst a flittering of teenage NBA draft picks, ferocious freshman phenomenon Jared Sullinger decided to stay in school. How quaint. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing quaint about Sullinger, his (rightly) assumed sense of on-court leadership, his brutally physical style of play, or that Ja Rule-esque snarl that makes him look like a squirrel who just ate a questionable nut. But seriously, it’s highly unlikely that anyone other than Jordan Taylor will stand in the way of Sullinger winning the Big Ten Player of the Year Award, and rightfully so. He has spent the better part of the off-season slimming down and getting faster. The best player on the best team in the conference simply can’t suffer a slump; he’s worked too hard and has clearly made a commitment to improving his game before leaving for the pros. The question is less about what Sullinger’s level of performance will be than it is about the effect his performance will have on other members of his team. Last year, his 17 /10 were a reflection of consistent contribution that was also part of a greater team-wide cohesion. Jon Diebler, David Lighty and even Dallas Lauderdale each had pronounced and vital roles on last year’s team. They’re all gone now. While some of the supporting cast and several new stars-in-the-making will join Sullinger, will increased reliance upon him make OSU more of a one-man show? Or will the Buckeyes continue to roll out a team-focused squad with four scorers in double figures and a core group of five guys who notch 30 minutes a game? Whatever happens, Sullinger will be back and he will be better than last year. Consider yourself warned.
  • Welcome, Nebraska – On July 1, Nebraska officially joined the B1G, an acronym whose ludicrousness we continue to subconsciously validate by pronouncing it ‘Bih-one-ggg’. If you’re scoring at home, UNL’s entry makes for 12 teams in the Big Ten, a conference that shouldn’t be confused with the Big 12, which only has ten teams now since Nebraska left it. Now that we’ve all scratched our heads for second, we should pause to consider how massive the amount of potential football revenue must have been to persuade the intransigent Big Ten to alter its ranks. The Cornhuskers’ inclusion marks only the second change in league makeup since the 1950s. So how will the other 11 schools adjust to the adjustment? Football-wise, they should all watch their backs. On the basketball court, though, it probably won’t have a big (or should we say, a ‘B1G’) impact. Sadly for Husker fans, their roundball team loses two of their top three scorers and has some major offensive issues to solve in a league whose tempo of play limits even the country’s very best offenses. Head coach Doc Sadler continues to recruit a healthy mix of transfers and high school players, but over his five-year tenure nine of them have left due to reasons other than matriculation or the NBA. Nebraska has had some encouraging moments in recent years, including a five game improvement in Big 12 play from 2009 to 2010 (from 2-14 to 7-9). The team’s defensive efficiency would’ve finished fourth and it’s adjusted tempo would’ve finished fourth slowest in last year’s Big Ten. In some respects, Nebraska feels like a perfect match for the conference. And yet, for many of those same reasons, it might be a little out-matched in its first few years.
  • Ed DeChellis Leaves For Navy – Nowadays, stories like these are rarer than that bloody slice of carpaccio you once had at a fancy restaurant: a coach leaving a higher paying, higher-infrastructure, higher strength-of-schedule situation for a middle of the pack team in a unambiguously low-major conference. Make no mistake: Ed DeChellis didn’t become the new head coach at Navy. He stopped being the head coach at Penn State. Unless they’re ousted via scandal or especially egregious results you simply don’t hear about power six coaches voluntarily leaving for a “lesser” job. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Or is it? The answer to that question centers around just how much “less” of a job the Navy coaching position really is, and if anything DeChellis might have done warranted the move. The wink-wink nudge-nudge consensus is that while DeChellis didn’t necessarily knock anyone’s socks off, the school refuses to take basketball seriously. Some have lambasted the athletic department’s commitment to DeChellis and the program overall at a school that’s known best for intense linebackers and an 84 year-old Italian-American man. It will be interesting to observe new head coach Patrick Chambersin his first few seasons and see whether or not he runs into a similar set of struggles as DeChellis did during his tenure. If the holistic drawbacks of coaching in University Park really outweigh the benefits to the extent that someone would walk away from the position, then PSU has bigger problems to fix than figuring out how to win in the Big Ten this season. But if anyone can overcome whatever said “drawbacks” may or may not be, it’s Chambers.

    The Buckeyes, led by big man Jared Sullinger, are easy favorites in the Big Ten.

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Morning Five: 05.26.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on May 26th, 2011

  1. By Michigan State standards, last year was a tough one to say the least. They could use some good fortune, but they’ll have to wait a little longer. Yesterday they learned that Russell Byrd, a 6’7 freshman guard with reliable three-point range who missed last season with a left foot injury, will have surgery on that same foot tomorrow. He should be back and ready in time for the start of practice in October, but MSU had hoped to have Byrd healthy and up to speed by now.
  2. Penn State has hired former South Carolina and Vanderbilt head coach Eddie Fogler to assist with their coaching search. You know, ’cause he helped with previous coaching searches at…Auburn and Georgia Tech. Yeah. Can you imagine this call from PSU AD Tim Curley to former coach Fogler? Curley: “Hey, Eddie, you know we have a coaching vacancy here, right?” Fogler: “Yeeeees…” Curley: “Well, we were wondering if…” Fogler (smiling in anticipation): “YEEEESSSS??” Curley: “Do you know anyone who might be interested?”
  3. “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” Couldn’t agree more with the great Lefty Driesell, who was inducted into the Southern Conference Hall of Fame this past Tuesday. Before moving on to Maryland, Driesell posted a 176-65 record at Davidson over nine seasons, went to the Sweet 16 three times and the Elite Eight twice, won five regular season titles and three conference tournament crowns. He hasn’t totally removed that coaching hat — he regularly advises his son Chuck, head coach at The Citadel. Chuck’s choice for the most important piece of advice his father has given him: “Recruit daily or perish.”
  4. Ryan Harrow decided to leave North Carolina State after his freshman year and the ouster of Sidney Lowe, and late last night he decided that he’ll head to Lexington and play for Kentucky. The 6’0 and 160-pound point guard was rated as the 39th-best overall player on the ESPNU 100 for 2010, and the eighth-best point guard. He averaged 9.3 PPG and 3.3 APG for the Wolfpack in his only season there, and led the team with a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’ll sit out the 2011-12 season while learning to guard the likes of Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb in practice every day, and will eligible to play in 2012-13.
  5. Four years ago, North Carolina mascot Jason Ray was hit by a car and killed right in front of the team hotel in New Jersey before his team’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game. He was an organ donor. Because of that, he helped save the lives of four people. One of them was Ronald Griffin of Franklin Township, New Jersey, who received Ray’s heart. Griffin lived for four more years. That’s four more birthdays, four more NCAA Tournaments, four more anniversaries, four more whatevers — and everything in between. 1,461 more days he got to enjoy the privilege of breathing, walking, perceiving. Mr. Griffin, who became a big Tar Heel fan after learning whose heart he received, died this week, aged 62. We have nothing to add to this, other than to express our condolences to Mr. Griffin’s family, and our respect to Jason Ray.
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RTC’s Top Ten Recruiting Classes of 2010

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist and a frequent contributor.

For the college basketball fanatic, incoming freshman are like shiny, new toys. It’s one of the true pleasures of following the sport religiously and a benefit of the current one-and-done era: every talented prospect from all reaches of the nation must compete on the college hardwood for at least one season. It gives us a chance to enjoy John Wall’s end-to-end speed, Kevin Durant’s heroics and Michael Beasley’s scoring prowess, even for just five months. A handful of  coaches have assembled an accomplished group of these freshmen, whether as a complete annual overhaul (Kentucky) or an influx into an already stable core (Duke). Here are the top ten freshmen classes around college basketball this season and a preview of what fans that may not follow the ins and outs of recruiting can expect from these all-world talents:

1. Kentucky - G Brandon Knight, C Enes Kanter, F Terrence Jones, G Doron Lamb, F Stacey Poole, F Eloy Vargas

Calipari's Newest Band of Merry Freshmen

Let this sink in: John Calipari’s 2010 class is good for tops in the nation, yet his 2011 group is even better with arguably three of the top five prospects next year. This year’s collection is highlighted by Knight, Gatorade’s National High School Player of the Year as a junior and easily one of the nation’s top prospects. In fact, he’s even further along as a pure scorer than his predecessor at the point for Kentucky, with a more reliable jumper and the ability to carry his team offensively. Maybe more importantly, Knight has the mentality, toughness and competitive nature to take on the burden of leading a program of Kentucky’s stature with such lofty expectations. The class would take a considerable blow if Kanter, a Turkish import dealing with eligibility concerns, can’t take the Rupp Arena floor at any point this season. Kanter plays in the post with high efficiency and an array of advanced moves, making him the ideal replacement for the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Kanter is talented enough to be a First Team All-America candidate if he plays an ample amount of games. Like Kanter, Jones is a former Washington commit that features a tremendous outside jumper and a hard-working mentality on defense, a trait that will endear him to Calipari immediately, a coach that has always demanded equal effort on both ends of the floor. Lamb is another gifted scoring two-guard that would be the highlight of nearly every other recruiting class in the nation, while Poole is more of a slashing wing with supreme athleticism. Look for Florida transfer Eloy Vargas to earn playing time immediately for what could be a relatively thin Kentucky frontcourt.

2. North Carolina - F Harrison Barnes, G Reggie Bullock, G Kendall Marshall

This three-man class continues the steady stream of Roy Williams recruiting coups, although the Hall of Fame coach hopes that this trio has more of an immediate impact than his 2009 unit of John Henson, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins. Barnes is the near-unanimous choice for the best all-around player in the 2010 class and the prohibitive favorite to take home Freshman of the Year honors this season. Good luck finding easily noticeable flaws in Barnes’ game. He excels in the mid-range, can score in a multitude of ways, has an excellent perimeter shot, shows unwavering effort on the glass and plays with an IQ off the charts for an 18-year old. Williams hit the jackpot when he convinced Barnes to spurn Duke (can you imagine Barnes with Irving and that returning team?) and spend his one year in college at Chapel Hill. He’s a phenomenal student and a coaches’ dream, always willing to listen to advice to improve this game. The Heels backcourt is somewhat crowded with Larry Drew, II, also expected to see heavy minutes, but both Bullock and Marshall are way too gifted to keep on the bench. Bullock features a pinpoint outside jumper — possibly the best in the entire class — and has a true offensive mentality as a two-guard in Williams’ offense. Marshall is more of the pure point guard, a phenomenal distributor blessed with uncanny court vision. He could be an upgrade over Drew in a short period of time. Marshall will need to improve his shooting range to avoid defenses sagging off of him late in games.

3. Ohio State - C Jared Sullinger, F DeShaun Thomas, G Aaron Craft, G Jordan Sibert

Sullinger is Reminiscent of Zach Randolph in the Paint

Nobody would be shocked to see Sullinger challenge Barnes for top freshman in the country this season. What makes him so effective in the post is a rare combination of brute strength and touch around the rim. Always playing with confidence and a high motor, Sullinger can score in a multitude of ways down low that make him nearly impossible to guard. Expect the Columbus native to step in immediately at the center position as an upgrade from the incumbent Dallas Lauderdale. Thomas is one of Indiana high school’s top all-time scorers, a versatile southpaw forward that can finish anywhere on the floor and has the strength/athleticism to guard power forwards. Due to the return of David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford, along with Sullinger entering the fray and the question mark at point guard, Ohio State has enough depth that Thomas may prove Matta’s ace in the hole off the bench this season.  Craft could end up winning that open point guard competition. While his offensive game needs improvement, all Matta will need from his freshman is the ability to find his plethora of talented teammates and play capable defense against opposing point guards, two areas where Craft is very capable. Sibert could also see chunks of minutes as a freshman. The Cincinnati product is still inching back to 100% following a leg injury, but when healthy will provide the Buckeyes with another slashing wing with a scorers’ mentality.

4. Memphis - G Will Barton, F Jelan Kendrick, G Joe Jackson, F Tarik Black, G Chris Crawford

Hopefully UTEP, UAB and other Conference USA foes enjoyed one year of lackluster Memphis basketball. That brief spell is about to come to a quick and decisive end when this prized recruiting class takes the floor at FedEx Forum. Barton has the highest ceiling — a 6’6 shooting guard that can score at virtually any spot inside of halfcourt, uses his size to lock down defensively and finishes smoothly at the rim. He should start immediately alongside Wesley Witherspoon, giving head coach Josh Pastner plenty of height and versatility around his perimeter. Kendrick is another 6’6 prospect with point guard skills. He has the vision and distributing skills to direct traffic late in games for Pastner, but can also step in at the shooting guard or small forward. Local product Joe Jackson could win the point guard job immediately as another phenomenal scorer with an offensive repertoire that reaches far beyond his years. He’s been seemingly unstoppable late in games scoring the basketball, although his progress running the Tigers attack as a pure point is something to keep an eye on. Black is the top post player in this class, another Memphis kid that’s virtually unguardable with the rock deep in the paint. He should see immediate minutes alongside Will Coleman and Angel Garcia on the Tigers frontline.

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Morning Five: 10.08.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2010

  1. Players are doing individual workouts and getting a good amount of fullcourt run on their own time as they ramp up to the start of practice next weekend, so injuries are inevitable.  A couple of notable ones reported yesterday include St. Peter’s star forward Wesley Jenkins, who is suffering from a partial tear of his ACL, and Michigan State freshman Russell Byrd, who has a stress fracture in his foot.  MSU will be fine without their youngster in the lineup, but St. Peter’s is a team expected to contend in the MAAC this season, so potentially losing Jenkins and his 14/5 averages from 2009-10 could seriously hurt the long-term fortunes of the Peacocks.
  2. Better to be injured than dismissed from the program, we suppose.  UNC’s Will Graves, a player who seems to have been in Tar Heel blue since Matt Doherty was hanging out at Top of the Hill, has been kicked off the team for failing to comply with team rules.  The 6’6 redshirt senior was supposed to be UNC’s top returning scorer (9.8 PPG) and three-point shooter (73 treys last year), but Roy Williams is going to have to find offense elsewhere now.  That Harrison Barnes kid better be pretty good, or it’s progressively looking like another rough season in Chapel Hill.
  3. A little nepotism never hurts, especially when your brother is a successful basketball coach and you’re looking to get back into the game.  Oral Roberts head coach Scott Sutton has hired his big brother Sean as an advisor, er, “executive advisor to the coaching staff,” which essentially means help out where you can but stay the hell outta my way.  The position is a voluntary one, which means that Sean can advise the coaches but he cannot interrelate with the players.  Of course Sean is coming off an ugly addiction to painkillers that resulted in several felony charges for which he pled guilty, but if he can keep his nose clean the next six months while assisting his brother, we’re sure that a college somewhere out there will be willing to take another chance on him.
  4. Luke Winn’s transparency with how he picked his 53-player Naismith Award ballot last week shows a remarkably similar process as to how we here at RTC went through the country to pick our sixty Impact Players for 2010-11.  What’s that saying? — great minds…  although we’re going to definitely take some heat in coming weeks for a few of our omissions.  No doubt about it.
  5. There were a couple of big commitments yesterday in the recruiting world.  Tony Wroten, a 6’4 point guard from Seattle ranked in the top 30 on Rivals.com, signed with his hometown school Washington over Louisville, UConn, Villanova and Seattle.  Down the I-5 a piece, new head coach Dana Altman got a huge recruiting coup for Oregon by grabbing 6’4 shooting guard and #22-rated Jabari Brown out of Oakland over Arizona State, Washington, Georgia Tech and UConn.  Brown specifically stated that the Nike affiliation and the new facilities drew him to Eugene.  There are now only seventeen uncommitted players in the top 50 of the class of 2011.
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