Floriani: Tempo-Free at the Preseason NIT

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC, and makes additional contributions based on his analysis from action around the country.

There has been a lot of news coming out of Knoxville, Tennessee, as of late. Until last week, all of it centered on activity off the court – from Bruce Pearl’s recent troubles with the NCAA to last year’s player suspensions. Presently, the conversation is shifting to what is transpiring on the floor as Tennessee captured the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. They did it in resounding defensive fashion.

Let’s take look at a tempo-free analyses of each of the games contested at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

First Semifinal

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
VCU 39 28 29 18
Tennessee 42 26 38 19

Neither team was a walk-it-up-the floor type as they both came to New York averaging over 70 possessions per game. In an 80-possession contest, Tennessee had the offensive efficiency edge, 96-90. The talk at halftime was the Rams’ shooting, or lack of it. Their eFG percentage the first half was a horrid 28%. Only a rebounding edge and the Tennessee’s careless ball-handling style (23% TO rate) kept them within one at intermission.  In the second half, VCU found the range thanks to 6’2 guard Brandon Rozzell (23 points, 19 in the final half). The big story was rebounding. Bruce Pearl’s club cleaned the glass the second half. Scotty Hopson, a 6’7 wing who was a matchup problem all night for VCU, had 11 boards to complement his 18 points and 6’10 Brian Williams enjoying a New York homecoming, adding 13 rebounds. In the end, the Vols edged the Rams, 77-72.

Jamie Skeen made these fans proud of his tenacity on the boards.

Second Semifinal

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
UCLA 44 31 26 18
Villanova 44 45 33 10

At the half, Villanova enjoyed a 15-point lead and a huge 122-78 edge in offensive efficiency. In a low 70s possession game (UCLA 73, Villanova 71), the final numbers were a bit more respectful but Villanova still enjoyed a 116-96 OE edge. Credit a better second half by UCLA largely due to an improved defensive effort after halftime. Throughout the contest, the Bruins could not keep the Villanova guards in front of them defensively as Ben Howland planned. Corey Fisher shot 6-9 en route to a game high 26 points. Fisher constantly drew fouls from beaten Bruin defenders and was 14-15 from the line. Villanova cleaned the glass, largely due to sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou who pitched in a big 13-point 16-board night.  UCLA did have four in double figures, but not Tyler Honeycutt. The 6’8 forward came in averaging 15 PPG but struggled scoring just eight points on 3-8 shooting. Villanova was able to prevail, 82-70, also on the basis of their low turnover rate.

Consolation

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
VCU 56 26 33 17
UCLA 54 15 52 26

VCU was devastated on the glass, but extremely efficient overall. The pace was to the Rams’ liking (UCLA 80 possessions, VCU 76) with Shaka Smart’s club owning an impressive 117-106 edge in offensive efficiency. Even with a quick pace, VCU did not get into transition similar to the semis and actually trailed UCLA 16-6 in fast break points.  As noted in the table, UCLA owned the backboards largely due to Tyler Honeycutt (13 rebounds) and Reeves Nelson (10). The turnover rate was a killer for the Bruins with Honeycutt and Reeves in the mix again, combining for 8 of the 21 Bruin miscues.  Another encouraging sign for VCU was inside play. The Rams scored 34% of their points from three (actually right on the team average coming to New York) but displayed a nice presence in the paint in Jamie Skeen. The 6’9 senior scored a game high 23 points while grabbing a team high 9 boards. In the end, VCU topped UCLA, 89-85. The level to which the Bruins’ defense improves is a major storyline in Westwood.

Final

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Set Your Tivo: 11.26.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 26th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

There are lots of good games today, most with implications are from tournaments. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Old Spice Classic Semifinal: #25 Wisconsin vs. Boston College — 12 pm on ESPN (***)

Wisconsin enters today’s game coming off a brutal to watch 50-35 win over Manhattan in the opening round yesterday at Disney. Jon Leuer led the Badgers with 16/13 in a game that had the same halftime score (17-10) as the Patriots/Lions NFL game. Boston College scored a thrilling 67-65 win over Texas A&M as Dash Harris’ coast-to-coast layup try fell off the rim as time expired. Reggie Jackson scored 21 points on 8-12 shooting to pace an Eagles team that shot 47% overall from the floor. BC held off a second half charge from the Aggies and overcame a 29-14 shellacking on the boards to pull out the win. Wisconsin is rated eighth in offensive efficiency but has struggled shooting the ball recently. They’ve shot under 40% in their last two games but have made up for it on the defensive end, especially yesterday. Bo Ryan’s stingy defense held Manhattan under 50 FG attempts and 28.6% shooting. Wisconsin is strong on the boards as well, ranking #1 in offensive rebounding percentage and #7 in the same statistic on the defensive side meaning they clean the defensive glass very well. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin has out-rebounded every opponent it has faced this season. That’s going to be a problem for Boston College, a team that ranks #267 in offensive rebounding and had a rough time against the Aggies yesterday. The Eagles shot it well from three for the first time all year against A&M and that’s something Steve Donahue may want to take advantage of again today. Wisconsin ranks #298 against the three, the one thing they don’t do well defensively. BC isn’t much better however, ranking #293. Expect a well played game at an average to below-average speed as Boston College protects the ball very well and Wisconsin doesn’t force many steals and turnovers due to their deliberate style of play. The Badgers have assisted on 63% of their made shots this year, a sign of a disciplined offensive system led by Jordan Taylor. We expect this to be a close game but Wisconsin has the edge in most areas and that should be good enough to advance to the finals of this tournament.

76 Classic Semifinal: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State — 2:30 pm on ESPN (**)

Oklahoma State got by a pesky DePaul team in the first round on the back of Marshall Moses’ 27/9 on 11-14 FG while Virginia Tech rolled over Cal State Northridge. This game features a lot of statistical contrasts and most would seem to favor the Hokies. The most glaring of which has to be turnovers. Virginia Tech does turn the ball over too much but they also force a bunch due to their style of play. Oklahoma State turned it over 25 times against an up-tempo DePaul team while Virginia Tech forced the same number against Northridge. That doesn’t bode well for today’s matchup if you’re a Cowboy fan. The Hokies get to the line extremely well and that should give them a big advantage in this game. The Pokes of OSU foul a lot, ranking #321 in FTA/FGA, a measure of how often your opponent gets to the line. Virginia Tech doesn’t take advantage as much as they should, averaging 69% from the stripe. Malcolm Delaney is the creator and best player for Seth Greenberg while Jeff Allen has had a nice start to his senior season in the post (11.5/9/4). He’ll play a key role defending Moses if he chooses to enter the paint. Virginia Tech blocks a lot of shots, ranked #16 in blocked shot percentage. Oklahoma State is even better at #12 so expect a war in the paint. Neither team shoots or defends the three very well so a lot of the action should be confined to be inside the arc with guard penetration and dishing to guys like Allen and Darrell Williams for OSU. The Hokies have an edge in talent and Travis Ford still isn’t too sure about what to expect from his club in a transitional year. Virginia Tech is a solid favorite here and should advance. For Oklahoma State to win, they’ll need to do a great job controlling the ball and getting rebounds in order to limit opportunities for the Hokies.

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2010

Games #33-#34.  It’s back to the World’s Most Famous Arena for the semifinal round of the Preseason NIT.

Villanova comes into this one at 4-0, although their path has not been as easy as their margins of victory would indicate. Bucknell and Boston U. both gave the Wildcats a fight, all while they are dealing with a suspension to star freshman JayVaughn Pinkston. Villanova’s attack is centered around their backcourt, and while Corey Fisher has yet to really catch fire this season, Maalik Wayns looks like a potential superstar. UCLA will be the first real test for this Villanova team. The Bruins come into this one at 3-0 and a bit under the radar. The front line of Reeves Nelson (19.3 ppg), Tyler Honeycutt, and Joshua Smith is underrated and Lazeric Jones is an upgrade over Jerime Anderson at the point. The question mark is going to be Malcolm Lee. He rolled an ankle against Pepperdine, and his status (as of this writing) is still uncertain.

The nightcap is between Tennessee and VCU. Tennessee is a bit of a question mark this season. They have some talented and versatile players in Tobias Harris, Scotty Hopson, and Cam Tatum. All three are capable scorers with length and athleticism. But Brian Williams still is not in shape at center and the combination of Melvin Goins and Trae Golden has not exactly yielded terrific point guard play. VCU may play in the CAA, but don’t be fooled — this is a very good basketball team. Joey Rodriguez is the best point guard you’ve never seen play (18.3 ppg, 10.3 apg, 2.0 TO’s in three games), Jamie Skeen is a power forward transfer from Wake Forest, Ed Nixon is as good a defender as you will find on the perimeter, and Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell are terrific complementary scorers. I’ll go as far as to say that I think VCU will win tonight.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: ESPN’s 24 Hours Of Hoops Marathon 2010

Posted by jstevrtc on November 15th, 2010

PUT. THAT COFFEE. DOWN.

For the third year in a row, ESPN is bringing us what we consider one of the great television events on the sports television calendar, the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon. That means that for the third year in a row, I’ll be live-blogging the whole thing from start to finish — and this year, we’re climbing this hoops blogger’s Everest without supplemental oxygen. That is to say…I’m going caffeine-free. More importantly, here is the schedule of games for this year’s marathon (all times Eastern):

  • 12:00 midnight — Miami (FL) at Memphis (ESPN)
  • 2:00 am — St. John’s at St. Mary’s (ESPN)
  • 4:00 am — Central Michigan at Hawaii (ESPN)
  • 6:00 am — Stony Brook at Monmouth (ESPN)
  • 8:00 am — Robert Morris at Kent State (ESPN)
  • 10:00 am — Northeastern at Southern Illinois (ESPN)
  • 12 noon — Oral Roberts at Tulsa (ESPN)
  • 2:00 pm — La Salle at Baylor (ESPN)
  • 4:00 pm — Virginia Tech at Kansas State (ESPN)
  • 5:30 pm — Marist at Villanova (ESPNU)
  • 6:00 pm — Ohio State at Florida (ESPN)
  • 7:30 pm — Miami (OH) at Duke (ESPNU)
  • 8:00 pm — Butler at Louisville (ESPN)
  • 9:30 pm — Belmont at Tennessee (ESPNU)
  • 10:00 pm — South Carolina at Michigan State (ESPN)
  • 11:00 pm — San Diego State at Gonzaga (ESPN2)
  • 11:30 pm — Pacific at UCLA (ESPNU)

The first attempt at this resulted in some hallucinations and arrhythmias as the hour got late (I had been up for 16 hours before starting the live blog) and I required a few caffeine-laden beverages. Last year, we had a technical glitch that kept us on our toes, but the live blog survived. This time, to raise the standard yet again, I’ll be sans caffeine. I know that without a webcam (we’re not that kind of site) you have no reason to believe that I’m not pounding sodas and cappuccinos and Five Hour Energy drinks by the blender-full. Since I believe RTC is the only site that’s done this all three years, well…you’ll just have to trust me. After two years, I think our relationship is in that kind of place. I hope you’ll join us right here (the live blog will continue in this post) a few minutes before midnight. Now, for my pre-live-blog meal. How’s a little turkey and wine sound?

11:47 PM Monday — Here we go. The high-def at the RTC Southern Compound is rockin’. We’ve checked the router and the internet connection to the building (which bit us in zee buttocks last year), and it appears solid. The football game is all but over (as it has been since halftime). Let’s go.

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After the Buzzer: Opening Night Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2010

Year the Fourth.  Welcome to the fourth season of Rush the Court’s continuing coverage of college basketball.  If you’ve lurked around these parts before, you already know that our After the Buzzer (ATB) feature is something we try to do most every weeknight of the season and quite a few of the weekends — pretty much any night there are nationally-interesting games going on somewhere.  If you’re new to this joint, the concept behind this feature is that we want to prepare you, Mr. College Basketball Citizen of the World, to face a new day armed with the knowledge you need in order cast forth into a hostile environment of hoops poseurs, charlatans and frauds.  We’re going to be experimenting with this piece over the next couple of weeks as the fresh, shiny new season gets underway, so let us know in the comments if there’s something you find particularly interesting or sucky.

Scotty Hopson Must Lead His Team This Year (UTsports.com)

Your Watercooler Moment: D2 Shows It Can Ball With the Big Boys (or, at least the SEC). There were three games that counted tonight in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but for realz games that counted in the standings were actually not the most newsworthy part of tonight.  Rather, it was Exhibition Madness tonight, as no fewer than two SEC teams dropped games against D2 opponents and a couple of other BCS teams required a total of three overtimes to sneak past two more.  The biggest “upset” took place in Knoxville, as the University of Indianapolis (Butler, is that you?) whomped Tennessee 79-64 behind a 60% shooting second half where the visiting team nearly doubled up the Vols.  The Indy backcourt of  Adrian Moss and Darius Adams torched UT, going for 47 combined points and getting to the line an astounding thirty times.  Meanwhile, over at Auburn, Tony Barbee’s new team shot 7-20 from the line as the Tigers dropped a close one against Columbus (AL) State, 54-52, a team picked to finish twelfth in its thirteen-team D2 division.  Not to be outdone, state rival Alabama was taken to double-overtime prior to pulling out a 73-68 win against Alabama-Huntsville.  It’s been a number of years since we have actually been able to state without equivocation that the SEC was a legitimate basketball league, but despite what columnist John Clay says, if tonight is any indication we may still be a ways off.

Moving away from tonight’s SEC disaster for a moment, Indiana stormed back from a 13-point deficit with seven minutes remaining against Ferris (MI) State, converting a gigantic four-point play by freshman Victor Olapido and surviving a buzzer-beater by FSU that was waived off to win 78-65 in overtime.  It’s not as if anyone in Indiana is expecting IU to compete for a Big Ten championship this season, but Hoosier faithful are expecting improvement.  Sneaking by D2 teams — even good ones — by the hair of your chin isn’t exactly inspiring the faith.

Does It Matter? Enhhhh… probably not much.  The past few years have been lightly littered with examples of good teams dropping games in the exhibition season.  In 2009, Syracuse lost to Le Moyne — the Orange went on to become a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; in 2007, #8 Michigan State was shocked by Grand Valley State while Ohio State lost to Findlay — that season the Spartans went to the Sweet Sixteen while the Bucks won the NIT.  There are undoubtedly other examples over the years, but we’re inclined to believe that the only real lesson learned here is that the truly elite (national-title caliber) teams do not lose these games while very good ones sometimes do.  But we’re not sure that anybody actually believes this year’s Tennessee team (and most definitely, Auburn) is a legitimate threat to go deep in March anyway.

Oh Right, Real Games.  The 2kSports CvC began today with four games at home sites around the country, keeping in mind that the four host schools this week are already slotted into the semifinals round next week in NYC.  We’re biting our tongue once again about the absurdity of these games starting four days prior to everyone else, but hey, it’s college basketball on the television and we’ll take it.  The best game of the evening was Rhode Island visiting #5 Pittsburgh and giving the Panthers pretty much all they wanted before succumbing down the stretch on FTs and a key block by Gilbert Brown.  The Pitt backcourt of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker was outstanding, going 15-28 from the field to combine for 46/7/11 assts, but URI’s ability to bomb the threes (14-32) very nearly allowed the Rams to pull off the road upset.  We have faith that Pitt will be very good this year, but URI with its four seniors is an intriguing team to watch in the Atlantic 10.  In the other games, #16 Illinois rode reserve guard Brandon Paul’s scorching shooting from deep (6-8) to a huge first half lead and never looked back, winning 79-65, while Texas woke up in front of about 150 people in Austin to obliterate Navy 83-52 behind Jordan Hamilton’s extremely effective night (26/10).  Tell us if you’ve heard this one before — the Horns dominated the boards (+20) while throwing up a house of bricks at the foul line (19-34).  In the last game, Maryland and Seattle ran up and down and all over the court at the Comcast Center with the Terps easily prevailing 105-76 despite an alarming 29 turnovers.  Normally, we’d talk about what the next matchups in the bracket will be on Wednesday night, but that’s not useful here as they’ve already been established for months.

Tonight’s Quick Hits.

  • ESPN’s New Home Court of College Hoops Ad.  Kinda diggin’ it.  Especially the last few seconds.  (anybody got a clip?)
  • Jordan Hamilton. Looked like the player we were promised last year, smoothly dunking and shooting his way to a 26/10 night.  If he plays like that all season, he’s an AA.
  • Jordan Williams.  While we’re talking about Jordans blowing up, Maryland’s star dropped 17/15 on Seattle and will need a lot more of those this year.
  • Scotty Hopson.  The anti-Jordan with three points, three turnovers and one assist in a five-foul fiasco that didn’t actually count, yet gives us pause about believing that the talented player will ever make the leap to stardom at UT.
  • Cory Joseph & Tristan Thompson.  The talented Texas freshmen showed flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of looking completely lost, but if Rick Barnes can bring them along slowly, this will be a very good duo in Austin.
  • Victor Olapido.  Underhyped IU freshman saved the Hoosiers from an embarrassing exhibition loss by scoring the last eight points in regulation and providing a key block with two seconds left.  Rare to see such clutchness out of a rook.
  • Talib Zanna.  Starting for injured Pitt forward Nasir Robinson, the 6’9 Zanna may have Wally Pipp’d him with 9/11 in his collegiate debut.
  • Texas Fans.  Look, we know you’re a football school, but come on… the sparse attendance for tonight’s game vs. Navy was ridiculous.

Tweet of the Night.  Was it real or was it fake?  The Twitterverse went a little nutty when a tweet went across the wires earlier tonight where Duke super-recruit Austin Rivers supposedly wrote the following during the Indiana-Ferris State game:

He immediately retracted the statement, saying that his Twitter feed had been hacked by someone.  Cynics such as this one have noted that all of Rivers’ preceding and subsequent tweets came from an iPhone, suggesting that either Rivers himself actually made the offending tweet or someone picked up his phone and started playing while he was away from it.  Either way, we’re really, really, really hoping that Duke and Rivers somehow gets to play IU and “Creme” next year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge or elsewhere (we know, extremely unlikely).

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players: National Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

Over the past month-plus, we’ve been presenting our RTC Impact Players for the 2010-11 season. From coast to coast and the Canadian border down to Mexico, we’ve selected the sixty players nationally who we believe will have the most impact on the game this year.  Each of the ten geographic regions was allotted five “starters” and a “sixth man,” an artificial construct that was easy to fill in some areas while much more difficult in some of the others.  In case you’ve missed the series along the way, this post will serve as your wrap-up.  We’re rank-ordering the ten “teams” by geographic region and list some of the near-miss players in each one.  Each regional post has a much more extensive writeup on each player chosen, so be sure to click on its respective link if you’re looking for additional information.  Here’s the view of the 2010-11 college basketball world from 500,000 feet.

The 2010-11 RTC Impact Players Map

The Ten Regions

(* denotes current injury, suspension or ineligibility)

1. Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL). Wow, and imagine if Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt.  Another group of first-rounders has everything, but what really sets this team apart is the inside dominance that Sullinger and Johnson can impose.  There isn’t a region on our list this year that would be able to stay out of foul trouble against those two, especially with the heady play of Mack, McCamey and Moore finding the big men in the right spots time and time again.  It’s no coincidence that the nation’s best conference — the Big 10 — has its footprint located here.

  • Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
  • E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
  • Chris Wright, F, Dayton
  • Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
  • JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
  • Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois (6th)

Near Misses: William Buford, Ohio State; Maurice Creek, G, Indiana; John Shurna, Northwestern

2. South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC). Obviously, if you can’t find a space for a likely all-american like Nolan Smith, this is a sick team.  Its only weakness is that other than Tracy Smith, it is extremely perimeter-oriented.  Granted, nobody can put a more talented five on the floor, but if a team like the above can pound the ball inside on them, that could make the difference.

  • Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech
  • Kevin Anderson, G, Richmond
  • Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
  • Kyle Singler, F, Duke
  • Tracy Smith, F, NC State (6th)

Near Misses: Nolan Smith, Duke; Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

3. Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX). This is a ridiculously talented region, with first-rounders everywhere on the floor.  The only possible issue would be who would be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, but if Selby is eligible to run the show, we’re not sure there’s a much better group anywhere else in America.  This region is so strong we had to leave a high-major conference POY (Culpepper) off the team.  Wow.

  • LaceDarius Dunn*, G, Baylor
  • Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State
  • Perry Jones, F, Baylor
  • Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
  • Cory Higgins, F, Colorado
  • Josh Selby*, Kansas (6th)

Near Misses: Alec Burks, Colorado; Gary Johnson, Texas; Randy Culpepper, UTEP

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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

SEC East

  • T1. Florida (11-5)
  • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
  • T1. Georgia (11-5)
  • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
  • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
  • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

SEC West

  • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
  • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
  • T3. Alabama (7-9)
  • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
  • 4. LSU (4-12)
  • 5. Auburn (3-13)

All-Conference Team

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
  • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
  • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
  • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

6th Man

Travis Leslie – Georgia

Impact Newcomers

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
  • F Patric Young – Florida
  • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
  • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

What You Need To Know

  • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
  • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.

  • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.

  • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

Predicted Champion

Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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Morning Five: 10.28.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

  1. For some strange reason, the preseason all-SEC first team has nine players on it and Kentucky’s Brandon Knight is not a member.  Here’s your list, as voted on by the coaches: Dee Bost (Mississippi State); JaMychal Green (Alabama); Scotty Hopson (Tennessee); Travis Leslie (Georgia); Chandler Parsons (Florida); Marshawn Powell (Arkansas); Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt); Trey Thompkins (Georgia); Chris Warren (Ole Miss).  We won’t list the second team, but it had another eight players on it, amounting to a total of seventeen all-SEC preseason players.  Is it really so hard, SEC brass, to do three five-person teams?  Who is the genius who thought of this and why does it continue to happen?
  2. Pitt junior forward Nasir Robinson had surgery on Wednesday for a torn meniscus in his right knee after injuring it in practice on Monday of this week.  There was no long-term damage and the prognosis is that Robinson will be back in action in the next three to six weeks.  He was a full-time starter last season in his role as a mop-up man to the tune of 7/6 per game.  The best case scenario is that he would be back in the Panther lineup against Maryland at MSG in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on November 18.  Luckily for Jamie Dixon, he has plenty of frontcourt depth (Gary McGhee, Dante Taylor) to lean on in the interim.
  3. Things just got a lot tougher for new Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, as his star player Matt Gatens injured his left hand and had surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn tendon.  His layoff is currently indeterminate in length, but goodness, the Hawkeyes, coming off a 10-22 (4-14 B10) disaster last season, surely could have used some better news going into the start of the year.
  4. It appears that current WAC members Nevada and Fresno State will not bail from the conference in 2011 to go to the Mountain West as they’ve repeatedly threatened to do — it will instead happen in 2012.  A teleconference has been announced for today and the WAC is expected to declare that the feuding parties have come to an agreement where they will pay reduced walkaway fees in exchange for sticking around an additional year.  We’re actually kind of excited to see some of the clever signage that students at some of the remaining WAC schools might come up with this year and next when the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs visit town.
  5. We mentioned that this would ultimately happen in a M5 over the summer, and it’s now come to fruition — John Wooden’s den is now on permanent display at the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, just a few paces away from the House that Wooden Built, Pauley Pavilion.  This is something that we’re most definitely planning on visiting the next time were down in LA.  When we do, expect a full report on the place.
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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Mid-South Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2010

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

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

Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR)

  • Brandon Knight – Fr, G – Kentucky. What on earth could Brandon Knight do to live up to what has preceded him? It’s not just that he’s been stood for membership along the Caliparian Derrick Rose-Tyreke Evans-John Wall axis, or that he’ll immediately be expected to live up to the ridiculous standard entailed by that little club. Yeah, that’s hard enough, but there’s something more. Last year’s Kentucky team wasn’t just about five first-round draft picks and an Elite Eight run. It wasn’t about the actual on-court achievements of Messrs. Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe, and Calipari. It was what the season symbolized, a pronouncement that, after two years of weirdness under Billy Gillispie, Kentucky had returned to prominence in a major way, wasn’t likely to go anywhere for a very long time, and that deep tournament runs with big bad recruits were to be the norm once again. That’s quite a show to follow. Brandon Knight says he’s up for the challenge, and he might be right. Don’t let the 32.5 PPG average as a prep senior in Ft. Lauderdale fool you. Even though Calipari cautions people against comparing last year’s Wildcats to this year’s, since Knight has yet to play a single second of college basketball, something has to be used as a reference point right now. That said, Knight shares Wall’s second-most important attribute as a collegian, which is the ability to provide whatever’s needed. Scoring? Not a problem. Less emphasis on points and more on distribution? Consider it done. Help on the glass? Let’s do it. Defensive leadership? Fine. Another similar aspect is that while Wall was a genius at getting to the rim, taking contact, and finishing, Knight has this gift as well and will gladly take whatever’s waiting on him in terms of body blows, but he’s also likely to pull up at the edge of the lane to shoot his mid-range jumper or slip a pass to an open teammate before defenders know what happened. Finally, as for the most important thing Knight has in common with Wall? That’d be the commitment in the classroom. You might as well just go ahead and fill in the bubbles on Knight’s APR sheets. He arrives from high school riding a 4.3 GPA, which we’ll assume is based on an accelerated/AP scoring system. Unless that 4.3 is based on some screwy 9.0 scale from Florida that we don’t know about, anybody looking for an offseason scandal here is wasting their time.

Brandon Knight Will Take the Reins From Wall at UK

  • Will Barton – Fr, G – Memphis. Considered by many to be the top shooting guard in this year’s freshman class, Will Barton has already taken a rather interesting path on his way to Midnight Madness. First there was concern over whether he would be academically eligible for the coming season, which he ultimately overcame. Then there was his Twitter guarantee that the Tigers were going to win the national title, which upon questioning he defended by simply saying, “What was I suppose [sic] 2 [sic] say?” Now that Memphis appears to have gotten past all of the headaches (hopefully) it is time for Josh Pastner and Tiger fans to enjoy Barton’s many gifts. If they’re expecting another Derrick Rose they are going to be disappointed because Barton’s game is quite different from the one-and-done Tiger star — who technically never played at Memphis according to the NCAA — as Rose was more of a distributor whose athleticism and physical skills made him a legitimate scoring threat, whereas Barton is primarily a scorer who also distributes because of his athleticism and physical skills. Barton also lacks many of the complementary pieces that Rose had around him so don’t expect a repeat of the 2007-08 season for the Tigers, but Barton could lead them further than you would otherwise expect for a team that was weaker than recent Memphis teams even before the departure of Elliot Williams. Although Barton does not have range of some of the premier scorers of recent vintage like J.J. Redick or Stephen Curry, he does possess a solid outside shot, which he combines with a mid-range game that very few players at any level have, and an ability to get to the basket. What could potentially set him apart from  the likes of Redick and Curry is Barton’s ability to rebound and play defense. With that combination of skills and his potential for improvement (he is rail-thin right now, listed at 6’6” and 170 pounds coming out of high school) Barton could be the best player at Memphis since Rose and if he sticks around for a few years his name could be mentioned alongside Keith Lee, Elliot Perry  and Anfernee Hardaway as one of the all-time greats there.

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Morning Five: 09.08.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 8th, 2010

  1. Yesterday’s big news:  UConn finally got its response on violations into the NCAA, but we’ll have to wait at least another week to see what it says; and, a NYT report stated that Enes Kanter’s former Turkish club team paid him $100,000 that could jeopardize his amateur eligibility at Kentucky.  Much more on these items will be buzzed, tweeted, posted and emailed about today, you can count on that.
  2. The 1990-91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were quite simply the most devastating college basketball team the authors of this website have ever seen (we’re not old enough to remember the UCLA dynasty teams nor the last unbeaten team, Indiana).  Granted, Tark’s defending champs didn’t win the 1991 national title, but as Andy Glockner writes in this piece, many folks with far longer and better memories than ours tend to agree.  The best team to not win the championship? — yes, we think so.  How could they have possibly lost?  Well, they played a pretty darn good team with an axe to grind in the national semifinals, and the beauty of March Madness is that upsets happen, even to legendary teams.  For more information on this team, check out our breakdown of the epic UNLV-Duke game from the 1991 Final Four in this piece, part of our Greatest Games series.
  3. Embattled Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins retired from his position yesterday, one year earlier than he was originally scheduled to do so.  His seven-year tenure at the school was very successful on the surface — even though he didn’t hire Mark Mangino or Bill Self, both KU football and basketball were extremely productive on his watch, and the athletic department budget doubled from $27M to $55M during this time.  Unfortunately, the last twelve months have been scandal-ridden, from the ugly fights between the football and basketball teams last fall to the recent ticket-favor scandal that the feds are still investigating (Perkins has not been implicated, incidentally).  Sports by Brooks reports that there may be more to this retirement than meets the eye, however, in that KU officials allegedly do not want Perkins’ input on hiring his successor, and sometimes when you want a clean slate, it’s best to cut all ties.  Probably a good move.
  4. Oklahoma State received good news yesterday when Matt Pilgrim, one of the Pokes’ top returning players who averaged 8/7 in only nineteen minutes of action per game last year, was cleared of an emergency protective order placed on him by a woman who accused him of rape.  The judge stated that there was insufficient evidence of rape to substantiate a continuation of the protective order, which likely means that there’s not nearly enough evidence to charge him with the corollary crime.
  5. Gary Parrish gives us his five players that he expects will have breakthrough seasons in 2010-11:  Kim English (Missouri), John Henson (UNC), Scotty Hopson (Tennessee), Kris Joseph (Syracuse) and Jon Leuer (Wisconsin).  There’s one crossover player (English) with the twelve that we projected as our very own breakthrough guys back in early July, but we don’t have any major beef with his list.
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The RTC Big Four State Tournament: First Round (day 2)

Posted by rtmsf on September 2nd, 2010

Yesterday we introduced our 2010 RTC Big Four State Tournament, and it was great to see some of the responses and feedback on it.  We’re convinced this is going to be a fun series.  Today we’re back for the second day of First Round games (the right side of the below bracket), including our analysis and projected winner, but we encourage you guys to make your picks for each game in the accompanying polls.

In case you missed yesterday’s post explaining what we’re talking about, here’s our selection criteria:

  1. Similar to the Fanhouse post, we picked the top four programs in each of the 33 states (including DC) with at least that many D1 universities.
  2. We then chose the top sixteen states based on the current status and power of those four programs within each state.
  3. Next, we chose a starting lineup ”dream team” of players from those programs in each state, thinking about how to best integrate them by position (three guards & two bigs; or vice versa).
  4. We also chose two subs — one guard and one big man — as well as a head coach.
  5. We limited each school to two starters and one bench player for a maximum of three per team (sorry, Duke).  We also made sure to include at least one player from each of the four chosen programs (hi, Seattle).
  6. Finally, we seeded the sixteen teams into our bracket and analyzed the matchups.  We encourage you to use the polls below to do likewise.

#2 North Carolina vs. #15 California

The first thought we had when analyzing this matchup is… that’s all you got, Cali?  Good grief — the nation’s most populous state by far can only muster a lineup of players that includes Jorge Gutierrez as a starter?   No offense to the ponytailed energizer bunny from Cal, but this game is a mismatch from start to finish.  Sadly, even if we had included every single one of California’s 24 D1 schools and added some studs like Stanford’s Jeremy Green, LMU’s Drew Viney and Vernon Teel, Santa Clara’s Kevin Foster, San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver and the St. Mary’s backcourt of Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavadova, the Tar Heel Staters still wipe the floor with this team.  Maybe California could draft Kobe Bryant, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry to their squad?  There’s simply too much talent on Coach K’s team from top to bottom (sound familiar?) for his team to sweat this one too terribly much.  The only area that North Carolina has a problem with California is in the post, where SDSU’s Kawhi Leonard can take advantage of the slighter frames of the NC bigs to put in some work.  But the speed, athleticism and scoring punch of the #2 seed is far too powerful here.  North Carolina rolls in a blowout.

RTC Choice: North Carolina 82, California 59.

#7 Washington vs. #10 Tennessee

 

The matchups at the two guard spots and the wing are tantalizing in this game. The fatal flaw with the boys from the Volunteer State is their lack of a true point guard. Adding Melvin Goins or Brad Tinsley to the roster would have meant sacrificing one of Wesley Witherspoon, Scotty Hopson, Jeffery Taylor or bench ace John Jenkins, and it’s hard to blame coach Pearl for not making that move. Luckily for him, his team is loaded with intriguing first round talent, albeit at times inconsistent and frustrating talent. It also helps that Washington’s point man, Isaiah Thomas, isn’t much of a distributor either. Although Elias Harris may be limited by the length of Taylor, it’s his Zag teammate Robert Sacre that’s primed for a monster performance being guarded by Brian Williams at 2-3 inches shorter and the inexperienced Tobias Harris. Plus, we haven’t even mentioned Klay Thompson, a popular choice for Pac-10 Player of the Year.  It’ll be a well-played back-and-forth game, but we have the Washingtonians moving on.

RTC Choice: Washington 81, Tennessee 77.

#3 Pennsylvania vs. #14 Wisconsin

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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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