RTC Bracketology: A Look at Early Winners & Losers

Posted by Daniel Evans on November 14th, 2013

bracketology

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is RTC’s resident bracketologist. According to Bracket Matrix, he ranks as one of the top bracketologists among those who have produced brackets for more than three years, including two seasons with perfect bracket projections. He updates the field daily on his site, Bracketology Expert, and will be producing a weekly bracket update here at RTC on Thursdays. 

Right now, guessing the NCAA Tournament field with less than a week of game results would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Well, maybe more like finding a needle in the ocean. No matter the analogy you use, it’s pretty impossible. So for this week at least, let’s look at the few teams that have already helped their NCAA Tournament hopes and those who have already fallen behind the eight ball.

No. 1 Seed Race

Kansas' Win Over Duke Tuesday is Likely to Look Great in #1 Seed Discussions in March

Kansas’ Win Over Duke Tuesday is Likely to Look Great in #1 Seed Discussions in March

Winners

  • Michigan State and Kansas: Obviously wins over the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 ranked teams help the cause of getting a No. 1 seed, but I think it’s also important that both teams won their games a neutral floor. Doesn’t it seem like Kansas always gets these kinds of wins?

Losers

  • Florida, Kentucky and the SEC: Obviously losses hurt your case to be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday but I think there is a little more to it than that with these two teams. Florida has not been at full strength and a loss in Madison, Wisconsin, is nothing to lose sleep about, but the Gators didn’t look great in losing. While Kentucky looked young and super-talented (as expected) in its loss to Michigan State, the ‘Cats and Gators are both hurt by the SEC’s early struggles as a league. Alabama has already lost to Oklahoma. LSU lost to Massachusetts. Tennessee fell to Xavier. South Carolina came up short against Baylor. What is the SEC’s best win so far? Is it Mississippi’s win over Troy? Ouch!

Tournament Chances Already in Trouble

  • Miami (FL): I think we all saw a bad season coming for the Hurricanes, but this is ridiculous. A loss to St. Francis and then a one-point overtime victory over Georgia Southern doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Next they play head coach Mike Davis and Texas Southern, who could run through the SWAC undefeated.
  • Boston College: Not to hate on the ACC here, but the Eagles had a legitimate shot to make a run for an at-large berth, but losses to Providence and Massachusetts — who looks like a NCAA Tournament team as of today — have already derailed some of those early hopes. Next up is Toledo. The Eagles better win that one.
  • West Virginia: Considering Virginia Tech started its season by losing to USC Upstate, it was a shock to learn that West Virginia had blown a big lead and fallen to the Hokies. It’s not that I expected West Virginia to be good, but I did at least expect them to be competitive in the Big 12 this season.
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2013-14 RTC Season Preview Materials: Easy Links to Everything

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2013

seasonpreview-11As we’re typing this, the first college basketball game of the 2013-14 season has already begun, at the All-Military Classic in Lexington, Virginia, between Air Force and Army. This soldier-on-soldier match-up represents the first of some 10,000-plus regular season games that will be played around College Basketball Nation this season, and although there’s no organization on earth that can adequately cover, consider, review and analyze all of them, we’re certainly planning on doing our best, in this, Rush the Court‘s seventh full season of coverage.

The Armed Forces Classic Tips Things Off in Earnest Tonight

The Armed Forces Classic Tips Things Off in Earnest Tonight

We have some new offerings for you this year. Not everyone has time or interest in reading through thousands of lines of copy, but everyone enjoys pictures and video. To that end, we’re ramping up our TumblRTC this year to provide some fun to pair with our analysis. Additionally, there’s so much good video available nowadays that we’ve decided to build our own YouTube channel, rushthecourtTV, which is already curating some fantastic stuff — from conference-specific video streams to game highlights to oddball videos to, of course, the best RTCs of the season. It’s well worth checking out periodically if you know you’re going to have some time to kill.

Longtime readers will know that we’re also continually active on Twitter (@rushthecourt) and Facebook (rushthecourt), but to keep the visual trend going, you can also now find us on Instagram (rushthecourt) these days. We encourage everyone to find us on social media to share pics, videos and whatever else related to college hoops all season long. As we move into games, let’s take a breath and review all the great stuff that our crack staff of writers — the best in the college basketball business — have produced this month. From 20 Questions to 30 Reasons We Love College Basketball, we’ve got you covered. Enjoy the ride with us this year.

Superlatives

Key Preview Questions

RTC Interview Series Previews

RTC Podcast Previews

Conference Microsite Previews

The Other 26 Previews

Let’s tip things off!

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Your SEC Hoops Twitter Must-Follow Guide

Posted by David Changas on November 8th, 2013

As we approach the start of the 2013-14 season, we think it’s important that you have access to all the latest news you can get about the SEC, and we all know that Twitter is the best way to do that. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of must-follows for all 14 SEC squads.

If You Follow These SEC-Related Accounts, You'll Be Covered

If You Follow These SEC-Related Accounts, You’ll Be Covered

Alabama

Arkansas

Auburn

Florida

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The RTC Podcast: 2013-14 Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2013

seasonpreview (1)

That little countdown clock in the uppper left of this site says it’s about 24 hours from the return of the college hoops. We’ve got you covered. Throughout this preseason, the RTC Podcast has been putting in some serious recording work. Led by hosting and producing stalwart Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), we have now dropped a total of two preseason podcasts (Part I, recorded in mid-October and featuring guest Mike DeCourcy, can be found here) and seven conference-specific podblasts (listed below).

Today’s Part II of the national preseason podcast is a festive one. Anything is possible! Perhaps an All-America team that will look nothing like the postseason version. Perhaps a trip to the Final Four from a school that was last seen running Steve Alford out of town (no, not that one, keep thinking). Maybe even a new bandwagon to replace the Maize and Blue (alright, not really to replace… more like supplement). There might even be a t-shirt contest in this week’s edition. The point is that we’re all in a great mood with real, live games starting very soon, and we hope you’ll join us for a listen.

Keep in mind that from now until the second week in April, the podcast will publish once early in the week with a review of all the big weekend action, and the RTC Podblast, a much shorter 15-20 minute quick hits version, will publish late in the week reflecting on all that week’s action. As usual, the rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-1:45 – Open
  • 1:45-3:40 – ACC Preview Takeaway
  • 3:40-5:00 – AAC Preview Takeaway
  • 5:00-6:25 – Big East Preview Takeaway
  • 6:25-7:28 – Big 12 Preview Takeaway
  • 7:28-8:21 – Big Ten Preview Takeaway
  • 8:21-9:15 – Pac-12 Preview Takeaway
  • 9:15-10:40 – SEC Preview Takeaway
  • 10:40-16:47 – Randy Officially Picks a New Bandwagon
  • 16:47-27:18 – Rush the Take with Chris Johnson
  • 27:18-33:14 – All-America Discussion
  • 33:14-45:16 – You, Me and the AP: Top 25 Talk
  • 45:16-50:43 – Opening Weekend Preview
  • 50:43-57:11 – Final Four Picks/Wrap
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SEC M5: 11.07.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 7th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. After securing a commitment from power forward Trey Lyles, Kentucky now has the number one ranked 2014 recruiting class – seemingly an annual tradition at this point. With six of 247Sports top 10 players still undecided, that ranking is by no means locked in, but regardless, the Wildcats will reload again. Even if Kentucky does not land the biggest names like Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander (and the rumors are that it won’t), this is still an amazing recruiting class. Kentucky fans should take a look at the players they are adding next season as a net positive. Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are two players that are likely to stick around for two or three years rather than leave for the NBA after one season. Those are the type of players who help sustain championship-level teams as the elite prospects roll through on their one-year stopovers. The 2012 National Championship team needed senior Darius Miller as well as sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. The one-and-done players are awfully nice, but having some 4-star recruits stick around an extra year or two also benefits the team in the long run.
  2. Speaking of Kentucky and highly touted recruits, Ken Pomeroy examined how many first round picks this Kentucky is likely to have next June. He looked back in the Draft Express archives and examined where players were picked and then compared it to their projected draft position before the season. The conclusion was that Kentucky is most likely to have either four or five first round picks this season. Something to keep in mind is that what we think of players now is often not what we think of them at the end of the season. Last January nobody would have thought Alex Poythress would be back for his sophomore season, and Nerlens Noel was the runaway choice to be picked first overall. Things can change drastically over the course of a season. Perhaps Andrew Harrison wants to stay in school with his brother who is not ready for the NBA yet. James Young could decide he wants to wait a year and get picked higher. No matter what happens, projections suggesting up to seven Kentucky players could go in the first round should be taken with a grain of salt. Too much can change between now and June to know anything for certain.
  3. When Missouri coach Frank Haith sits for his five-game NCAA suspension related to the Miami/Nevin Shapiro scandal, Tim Fuller will take over the Tigers’ head coaching duties. Fuller came to the Tigers with Haith and has been the associate head coach the last two years. This move is a bit of a surprise, considering assistant coach Dave Leitao has some experience as a head coach at the D-I level. Still, Fuller has been rumored to be a prime head coaching candidate the last couple of summers, and he deserves a chance to prove himself too. Missouri has a fairly easy opening five games (Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb, IUPUI), but not having the head coach in place creates a leadership void. Haith feels as though Fuller is up to the task, and it is a good bet that when Haith returns on Thanksgiving to face Northwestern, the Tigers will already be 5-0. The two things to watch for with Fuller: managing the rotation of players, especially with a young and unpolished frontcourt; and how he coaches at the end of games. Haith struggles himself at the end of close games, perhaps Fuller can prove himself capable in avoiding that same issue.
  4. Buried within the Tim Fuller news was the announcement that two Missouri big men might not play the season opener on Friday night. Forward Tony Criswell has been suspended for the first game of the season, while fellow big man Keanau Post hasn’t practiced all week with a bad ankle. Criswell is the only returning interior player for the Tigers this season, so they need him to play as much as possible. While Haith said he expected Criswell to be back for the team’s second game, that is not a given. When a team has as much roster turnover as Missouri does, they need as much time to play together as possible. Post was a solid scorer at the JuCo level and Missouri desperately needs someone who can score inside this season. Until these two inside players are able to return to the lineup, look for Mizzou to use its four-guard lineup quite often to spread the floor and overcome the size disadvantage.
  5. Billy Donovan isn’t sure what to expect in the early part of this season because he’s missing so much of his team. Donovan questions the team’s top 10 ranking to start the season, pointing out that the team pollsters voted on is not the team he currently has available. With three key players suspended, one sick with mononucleosis, and five-star point guard Chris Walker struggling with test scores, the Gators are missing a starting lineup that could beat Auburn by 15. Donovan is right, his team is going to hit some really rough patches early. Their non-conference schedule is tough, and they could suffer a few losses that probably would not have occurred if the team was at full strength. Playing Wisconsin on Tuesday will be especially challenging without all their athletes around to negate the Badgers more deliberate pace. Hopefully by the time Florida plays UConn on December 2, the team will be more intact. Like Devon Walker says in the article, eventually they will get most of their players back and have time to come together. Perhaps a slow start removes an opportunity for a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but a fully healthy Florida roster in March has no ceiling.
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Can Tennessee Emerge as a National Player This Season?

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 6th, 2013

The top two finishers in the SEC this season are easy to project: Kentucky and Florida. The Wildcats, who welcome in arguably the greatest recruiting class of all-time – one built on the backs of six McDonald’s All-Americans and three players ranked No. 1 at their respective positions – are the odds-on favorite to win the league, while Florida, with its potent mix of veterans, freshmen and transfers, should pose a fierce challenge for first place. The SEC is more top-heavy than every other major conference (other than, maybe, the Big 12); no objective observer truly believes anyone other than Kentucky or Florida will win the regular season championship. But is there a third team that can at least make some noise on the national scene? A squad that can give Florida and Kentucky fits in conference play, if not knock them off once or twice over the course of the season?

With Stokes and Maymon anchoring the Vols’ frontcourt, Tennessee will be a tough out in SEC play (AP Photo).

Let’s name some candidates. LSU brings back first team all-SEC forward Johnny O’Bryant III, junior guard Anthony Hickey and adds six players, including five-star forward Jarrell Martin, from a top-10 recruiting class. Frank Haith has Missouri positioned for another upper-tier league finish thanks to a host of transfers, the best of them Tulsa import Jordan Clarkson, who averaged 15.6 points per game for the Golden Hurricane two years ago. Arkansas and Alabama will win their share of games. But none of those teams are as promising as Tennessee, a team that has yet to qualify for the NCAA Tournament since a flurry of recruiting violations resulted in Bruce Pearl’s firing in 2011. Left to pick up the pieces was Cuonzo Martin, the former Missouri State coach who, while fielding competitive, talented, dangerous teams in his two years at UT – the Vols have finished at least .500 in SEC play, and won at least 19 games overall, in consecutive seasons – has not elevated Tennessee to the lofty national stature it enjoyed under Pearl (lest we forget: It was only five years ago that the Volunteers briefly inhabited the No. 1 spot in the polls). Tennessee should make the NCAA Tournament this season. Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes comprise one of the best frontcourts in the country, wings Jordan McRae and true freshman Robert Hubbs III offer more perimeter firepower than most teams could ever hope to wield, and Memphis transfer Antonio Barton should fill in capably at point guard for Trae Golden, who transferred to Georgia Tech. That’s a talented starting five, and while Tennessee may lack depth, there’s no reason it shouldn’t crack the SEC’s top three this season.

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The RTC Interview Series: SEC Preview with Dave Baker, Barry Booker and Chris Dortch

Posted by WCarey on November 4th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the SEC, we recently had the pleasure of speaking with three SEC experts in television analysts Dave Baker and Barry Booker, as well as Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor, Chris Dortch. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

faceprofile

Booker, Baker and Dortch Shared Their SEC Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Rush the Court: How good is Kentucky and what makes it that good? Do you expect the Wildcats to win both the SEC and the national titles?

Dave Baker: A lot of folks think that Cal can be a little blustery at times. I think he’s actually pretty frank in his assessments. Last year, he thought they were gonna be better than they were. He thought they were gonna be a good team; he didn’t they they could be a great team. But he’s really got that swagger back this year. And this team is an incredibly talented team. People can debate whether, coming into their college careers, this is the best recruiting class of all-time, but I can tell you, just in the couple of practices I’ve seen, there has been a marked difference in terms of talent level, attitude and the way these guys are working together. There are some natural leaders that have come in this class. Based on what I’ve seen, his confidence is well-placed. With what their expectations are, they certainly believe they should be in the mix at the end of the year.

Barry Booker: Kentucky has everything it takes to be extremely good. It has elite talent all over the court. I think Kentucky is the surefire favorite in the SEC and I believe it has to be considered one of the top contenders to win the national title. This 2013 recruiting class is just one of the best we have seen – by all reports. It seems like every year, Kentucky gets some of the best recruits. In a year like this, where Kentucky has an outstanding class and it has players like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein returning, it would be hard to see the Wildcats not being a top-notch team. It is amazing what John Calipari is doing in bringing in that top flight talent to replace top flight talent every year.

Chris Dortch: This historically great recruiting class gives coach John Calipari his most talented team ever, with at least seven future NBA first-round draft picks. Kentucky is definitely favored in the SEC and will be a title threat come March, but there are a handful of teams with more experience that are capable of executing a game plan and sending the Cats home short of the championship game.

RTC: Florida lost its three leading scorers from last season’s Elite Eight team. Are this season’s Gators a legitimate challenger to Kentucky in the SEC?

Baker: I think Billy and Florida will have another really good team. He’s got a situation down there where he just finds people to replace the players who have moved on. They are just incredibly consistent year-in and year-out. I know that they would have liked to have made some deeper runs in the NCAA Tournaments since their championships, but other than that, they’re just really consistent.

Booker: Absolutely. The Gators have gone to the Elite Eight three straight seasons and they are at that level again this season. I am not sure if you can call them number two – maybe Kentucky is 1A and Florida is 1B. If Kentucky does stumble and does not get things figured out, Florida can come in and take over at the top of the league. Freshman Kasey Hill is a dynamic point guard. Even with the departures from last year, Florida is still very strong on the perimeter with Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier. The Gators also return Patric Young inside – who is the best interior player in the league. This is a very solid team. It just has to stay healthy this season. The injury to Will Yeguete really hurt the team last season. It was never able to get back to the same level that it was at before the Yeguete injury.

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The RTC Podblast: SEC Preseason Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2013

seasonpreview-11

We’re just a little over a week from the start of games across this fair nation, and that means it’s time to preview each of the major seven basketball conferences on the RTC Podcast. This week we’ll unveil previews for the Big East (Tuesday), Big Ten (Wednesday), SEC (Thursday) and Pac-12 (Friday), with the AAC, ACC and Big 12 to come next week. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) is our talented and engaging host, leading the group through a series of topics and questions related to the upcoming season. For this podblast, we invited RTC SEC microsite correspondent Brian Joyce (@bjoyce_hoops) to the program, as he helped us consider whether this year’s league will be another version of Kentucky & Everyone Else.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And don’t forget to check out our 2013-14 Preseason Podcast, the National Edition, and feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

The rundown is below if you’d like to skip around.

  • 0:00-10:04 – Is This Kentucky Team More Like 2012 or 2013?
  • 10:04-14:44 – Florida as a Contender
  • 14:44-21:00 – Anyone Else in the SEC Going to be Good?
  • 21:00-23:16 – Randy Rejects Tennessee as a Potential Favorite Team
  • 23:16-24:48 – MARSHALL HENDERSON!
  • 24:48-29:24 – Other SEC Stars
  • 29:24-30:33 – Underrated SEC Players
  • 30:33-33:41 – Impact of Frank Haith’s Suspension on Mizzou and the Rest of the SEC
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Who’s Got Next? Ben Simmons Joins a Beefy LSU Class, Tennessee Lands a Shooter, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 21st, 2013

whos-got-next

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

LSU Stays Hot

Less than one week after adding powerful big man Elbert Robinson from the class of 2014, LSU’s Johnny Jones struck  gold in the 2015 class with the commitment of 6’9” Australian Ben Simmons. In a surprise decision, the five-star forward went with the Tigers over schools such as Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky. Simmons is currently rated as the No. 8 player overall and No. 2 power forward in his class, despite limited time in the United States. Simmons made his first appearance in the United States in early June 2012 in California. In a three-day showcase camp, Simmons took the camp by storm, showing off the skills he honed in Melbourne. In January 2013, Simmons came over to the U.S. for good and enrolled at Montverde Academy (FL), which also happened to be the top high school team in the country. Simmons joined forces with current Florida freshman guard Kasey Hill and Kentucky center Dakari Johnson on the team.

Ben Simmons is the Best LSU Commitment in Years

Ben Simmons is the Best LSU Commitment in Years

The Tigers have been on a roll with their recent big men commitments, but Simmons will provide the team with an added dimension of versatility. In the 2013 class, Jones signed a five-star power forward in Jarrell Martin (No. 14 overall, 2013) and four-star power forward Jordan Mickey (No. 37 overall, 2013), adding to class of 2014 four-star center, Robinson (No. 59 overall, 2014). Martin possesses the most skill of the bunch and has range out to the three-point line, but he is most effective down low. Mickey’s calling cards are his rebounding and defensive abilities while Robinson is a load to handle in the post. Martin and Mickey average 230 pounds while Robinson weighs a massive 320 pounds.

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Morning Five: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2013

morning5

  1. As we mentioned yesterday, Wednesday was the day that four major basketball conferences, all of their own independent accord, decided, “hey, let’s dominate the news cycle for our basketball product by competing for attention with three other competitors, even though we could have easily chosen any of a number of other days during the month of October! Brilliant!” Sometimes the ruling parties of this sport really make you wonder. Alas, the ACC, AAC, Big East and SEC all held their media events yesterday, providing us with a steady stream of quotes, notes, predictions and controversy throughout the day. You’ll get better coverage of the details of each of those leagues at each of our microsites (excepting the SEC, which relaunches next week), but for now, here are some of the things we learned. ACC: Jim Boeheim says the only thing Syracuse fans will miss is the Big East Tournament; AAC: Commissioner Mike Aresco says no-way, no-how to paying players. Big East: Are the biggest celebrities in this league Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson?  SEC: Kentucky’s best player is James Young? The SEC will continue with its two-day event in Birmingham today, and the Pac-12 will hold its one-day media event in San Francisco as well. The Big 12 and Big Ten will follow with theirs over the next couple of weeks.
  2. The best quote of the day, however, didn’t come from one of the roughly 50 coaches assembled yesterday at the various conference media days. It came from USC’s Andy Enfield, who exhorted his team during a recent practice by telling the Trojans, “We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Perhaps not since the days of Shaq and Kobe trashing each other through Jerry Buss has the City of Angels heard such a fine display of braggadoccio. Given that it’s coming from a brash young coach who quite literally was making a CPA’s salary somewhere on the gulf coast of Florida one year ago, even better. The two schools have never liked one another, but sometimes the crosstown rivalry got lost in the football vs. basketball focus of each. It would be nice to see the rivalry heat up with two cocky new coaches in town ready to trade barbs back and forth for the better part of the next decade. The Pac-12 microsite has a fantastic piece coming later today on this topic, and we highly encourage you to check it out in a few hours. Meanwhile, do you think the west coast media will bring up this quote to Steve Alford and his counterparts later today?
  3. Jumping back to the media days, all four leagues released their preseason choices to win the conference races and the standard other superlatives we typically expect this time of year. In the ACC, Duke was picked first with Syracuse’s CJ Fair chosen as the top player; over in the AAC, it was Louisville and Russ Smith. In the new-but-not-improved Big East, Marquette was the choice, with Creighton’s Doug McDermott as the player of the year. In the SEC, Kentucky and Julius Randle were the selections. From our perspective given what we know about these sorts of things, the media will be lucky if even half of these choices come in by March — there’s just too much variability and unpredictability at the conference level to make sterling predictions like these. The closest might be McDermott in the Big East, so long as he’s healthy all season, and Louisville to win the AAC. Beyond that? It’s hard to say anything is a lock.
  4. There was a period in the mid-1990s when Georgetown basketball, so feared and despised by so many in the 1980s, became the coolest thing around, in a retro sort of way. Sporting some of the best college basketball uniforms ever produced and an electrifying backcourt led by the unguardable Allen Iverson and his sidekick, Victor Page, the Hoyas became everything they hadn’t been during the previous era: fun, fast and perimeter-oriented. Bubba Chuck, of course, went on to an MVP award and great riches in the NBA, but Page, the Big East Tournament MVP in 1996 and Big East scoring champion in 1997, was never able to get there. As a result, Page has spent much of the last two decades in and out of correctional institutions for a series of petty and serious crimes, the most recent of which, a brutally violent assault against a Maryland woman, was described by Nathan Fenno in the Washington Times as the product of “one wasted opportunity after another.” Page has been charged with 33 crimes in the last 42 months (guilty of six, including the assault, for which he was sentences to 10 years in prison), but the clear lesson here is that young players with all the talent in the world still need to have realistic backup plans. Education, work, whatever. Because if there’s nothing else to live for, that allows the darkness to creep in.
  5. After that one, let’s finish today off with a good story. In an era of coaches working themselves to the bone with all the different CEO aspects of running a Division I college basketball program, the New York Times‘ Zach Schnobrun writes about the youngest D-I coach in the country, Wagner’s 29-year old Bashir Mason. Mason, it turns out, is finishing up a Master’s in elementary education at the school and the second-year head coach must complete 220 hours of classroom instruction to earn the degree. As a result, he spends five mornings and one afternoon a week at a local elementary school, working through reading comprehension and other practical exercises with kids who are too young to recognize that their teacher is a bit of a local celebrity. It’s a story about persistence and follow-through, and it’s one that Mason deserves to have heard. Here’s hoping that his team listens to him as intently as his six-year old students do — they’ll assuredly learn a thing or two about discipline and hard work.
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Morning Five: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. Maybe we should just start calling this post the Wiggins Five, given how often Andrew Wiggins is finding his way into it without having played a single minute of college basketball. But yesterday’s news regarding the precocious Kansas freshman was more than just standard hyperbole and filler, as Bleacher Report‘s Jared Zwerling (yes, this is a first for this site; we’re just as astonished as you are) reported that the shoe giant adidas is already estimating a deal of $140-$180 million over 10 years to sign Wiggins to pitch its brand next spring (and that Nike is set to match it). By way of a comparison, Nike signed LeBron James to a then-ridiculous $93 million deal a decade ago, and that was without the benefit of ubiquitous social media tracking his every dunk, quip and Hummer purchase. Nor did James have a year of nationally-televised college basketball games to help build his overall branding — can you imagine how high the number could get if Wiggins dominates the season and leads Kansas to a national title next April — is a quarter-bill out of the question?
  2. A different class of 2013 prep star may not be looking at a nine-figure endorsement deal like Wiggins in several months, but he’s poised to make more money than the Kansas freshman (and every other freshman) for the duration of the 2013-14 season. Aquille Carr, a top 100 recruit at the point guard position, is reportedly taking David Stern’s “sage” and controversial advice about getting a better education in the NBA Development League than at one of America’s colleges by entering his name into next month’s NBADL Draft. The 5’7″ prospect from Baltimore originally committed to Seton Hall but decided to go pro before ever making it to campus, briefly entertaining the idea of playing in China before settling on his decision to come back home and settle into a year of long bus rides between Frisco, Texas and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While we don’t know Carr’s specific issues with respect to skipping out on a subsidized education at Seton Hall, his dream of getting picked up in next year’s NBA Draft as a waterbug distributor is probably a significant long shot. For the next six months, though, he should take solace in all the pocket change that his pay scale of $13,000 to $25,500 (2013 numbers) will give him over the chumps playing for free in college.
  3. For some strange reason, four of the seven power basketball conferences have decided to have their annual media day on the same day, that is, today. The ACC (Charlotte), AAC (Memphis), Big East (New York) and SEC (Birmingham) will all introduce their coaches, players and teams at overblown events Wednesday, with the SEC taking an extraordinary two days (Wednesday and Thursday) to sell the world on its mediocre basketball product. The Pac-12 will have its annual event in San Francisco on Thursday, while the Big 12 and Big Ten had enough sense to space theirs out into later weeks. As ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil writes, this week’s events in Charlotte, Memphis and NYC should make for some world-class awkwardness as coaches try to size each other up and figure out who is staying and leaving. #awkwardconferencemeetups, anyone?
  4. Officiating is always going to be a point of contention among coaches, fans and media in large part because there are so many different leagues and organizations supporting the 838 Division I referees calling games across America. Inconsistency (along with its cousin, general incompetence) is the most common complaint, as people have trouble understanding how a touch foul in the ACC can be called while a mugging in the Big Ten is ignored. The NCAA has made some strides in trying to normalize the rules and criteria for calling fouls, for example, but it often seems as if the referees spend the non-conference season making calls the new way only to revert back to the old way by conference play. This year is no different. Preseason points of emphasis on hand-checking and the incomprehensible block/charge rule are the talk of coaches around the country, but as ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman writes, there remains a great deal of apprehension over the effect of the changes. One thing we suppose that most people can agree upon, though, is that it surely can’t get much worse?
  5. Let’s end things with some fun today. NBCSportsCollege Basketball Talk released its list of the top 20 dunkers in the game yesterday, and although you can nitpick around the edges of  any ranking like this, you’ll have a whole lot more enjoyment by just sitting back and watching the clips. It really must be the Year of the Freshman, as CBT selects two rookies among its top three (it’s not difficult figuring out who they might be). Our one quibble might be that they left out a transfer student who became infamous for perhaps the greatest missed airballed dunk layup of all-time last season — Georgetown’s Joshua Smith. But no worries — the 6’10” jumping jack of a center will be tearing down rims at a DC-area arena near you soon.
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Morning Five: 09.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a day of moves — some planned, others not — as we slowly but assuredly inch our way to the start of season practice at the end of the month. The biggest news, of course, was that former Missouri guard Michael Dixon had been cleared by the NCAA to play at Memphis this upcoming season. Dixon was dismissed from Missouri last fall after a pair of unrelated sexual assault allegations (no charges were ever filed against him), leaving the former Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year something of a free agent last season. Perhaps using the Dez Wells/Xavier incident as a related precedent, the NCAA decided to allow Dixon to play without sitting out the mandated transfer year, a good call considering that would have represented a 32-month layoff for the senior. His addition to a Memphis backcourt of Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson makes Josh Pastner’s group one of the most talented in America — the key question is whether there will be enough basketballs to go around. In Dixon’s final year in Columbia, he accounted for nearly a quarter of the available shots while he was on the floor, while the returning Memphis trio also likes to chuck in the 19-22 percent range. Still, there’s plenty of reason for Memphis players and fans to be excited now, as Johnson tweeted a picture of the “4Kings” soon after the news was released yesterday — Dixon is a player who can mean the difference between a Sweet Sixteen and a Final Four.
  2. Another player on the move is former Louisville, FIU and Minnesota (albeit ever so briefly) forward, Rakeem Buckles. According to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman, Buckles was back on campus at FIU last week and plans on spending his final year of eligibility playing for the school where he sat out last season. He had originally intended to transfer for a second time to Richard Pitino’s club after FIU was put in APR jail (hey, Isiah), but the NCAA rejected his waiver request leaving him with few other viable options. Buckles has been a case study in hard luck over his career, suffering two ACL injuries at Louisville that never allowed him to find much momentum there, followed by a transfer to a school where he now has no shot at sniffing the NCAA Tournament. At a minimum, we hope that he has an injury-free 2013-14 season with the dangling carrot of a possible pro career awaiting him somewhere overseas.
  3. So about those transfers… Luke Winn from Sports Illustrated has been quiet lately, but now that we can see the finish line of the offseason, expect a lot of great new stuff from him. On Tuesday he published his second annual look at the phenomenon of up-transferring, the growing tendency of good players at small programs to transfer to bigger programs to finish out their careers (especially in the case of those using the graduate transfer exception). What he finds is that the trend that appears to have taken off during the last offseason has continued on its upward trajectory. A total of 30 up-transfers are at bigger programs heading into this season (with three others awaiting NCAA decisions), a slight increase over last year, with notable new talent at national contenders such as Florida, Duke, Kansas, Arizona and several others. Oregon by itself is hoping to have as many as three up-transfers in its lineup, one year after former transfers Arsalan Kazemi (Rice) and Tony Woods (Wake Forest) led the Ducks to the Sweet Sixteen. Winn digs into some of the theories and reasoning behind why this trend continues to grow, and as always, you’ll enjoy the thoughtful analysis that he puts forth.
  4. Rivals.com released its post-summer Top 150 of prep basketball prospects yesterday, and there were few surprises as Chicago’s Jahlil Okafor remained firmly planted at the top of the list. Emmanuel Mudiay, the most heralded recruit that Larry Brown has wooed since Danny and Ed Manning came to Lawrence, Kansas, has moved into the #2 overall position. The rest of the top 10 at this point only bears one other committed player, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson at the #10 slot, but as we know that will begin to change in earnest as we head into the official visit period and look forward to the November signing day. Speaking of package deals — the Mannings were of the most epic variety — Adam Zagoria from Zagsblog.com breaks down the likelihood that any of the rumored deals in this year’s senior class will actually attend school together next season. The most likely scenario remains the longest-running one, which is that Okafor and Minneapolis’ Tyus Jones will end up in the same place next year — most likely at Duke. While getting two top five players in the same class has become de riguer at Kentucky under John Calipari, it’s still nearly unprecedented elsewhere. So if Coach K pulls off this coupling of elite hoops talent at the ripe age of 66, it will prove perhaps once again that as long as Krzyzewski is still involved in this game, Duke isn’t going anywhere.
  5. Winn’s partner at SI.com, Andy Glockner, was also active this week. The resident master at crowd-sourcing his Twitter followers to develop interesting column ideas, he sought to answer the question of which of the major conferences was most likely to produce the 2013-14 national champion? Given that this isn’t the BCS and there’s a wider variety of talent diffused throughout more leagues in college basketball, Glockner writes that there was “absolutely zero consensus” to the answers (we’d have to imagine that “SEC” would carry three-quarters or more of the vote in college football). Breaking down the component parts of each conference viewed through the “title or bust” analysis, he ultimately settles on the Big Ten, SEC and ACC as the three leagues with the strongest possibilities. We’d have to agree — each of those conferences has at least two teams with national championship talent, and although coaching, seeding, injuries and a lot of luck has to do with who ends on on the crown in April, you’d want to hedge your bets as much as possible with teams carrying the most future pros.
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