Morning Five: 06.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 27th, 2012

  1. Providence appears to be turning things around at least on the recruiting trail, but their on-court product took a significant hit yesterday when it was announced that incoming McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn will be undergoing surgery on his right shoulder for a torn labrum in the next two weeks and will miss the next four to six months. Although as much as a half-year is a relatively insignificant amount of time in the life of a basketball player, especially at Dunn’s age, it will likely derail the start of Providence’s season as they look to turn things around under Ed Cooley without one of its stars. We wish Dunn the best in his recovery and hope to see him playing in a Friar jersey soon.
  2. We have to give credit to Tom Izzo who is taking the idea of “playing anybody anywhere” to a new extreme as Michigan State is scheduled to open the season against Connecticut at an Air Force base in Germany (pending approval by the Department of Defense) just a year after the Spartans played North Carolina on an aircraft carrier. Fortunately for Izzo his opponent this year will be markedly weaker than the Tar Heel team MSU faced in the Carrier Classic a year ago and they won’t have to do it on the water. While we would welcome more page views from Germany, we do not believe that this type of game is going to generate any more interest in college basketball overseas, as many of the top teams already make international offseason trips and play against high-level teams including occasional match-ups against national teams.
  3. As he does before every NBA Draft, Seth Davis queried a group of NBA scouts, coaches, and executives and got what amounts to a consensus view on the top players in tomorrow’s NBA Draft. A few of the more interesting comments came about players such as Andre Drummond (“scares me to death”), Draymond Green (“his shot’s not broken”), Darius Johnson-Odom (“a killer”), Austin Rivers (“spoiled and selfish”), Marquis Teague (“not going to be playing against Mississippi State and Auburn up here”), and Renardo Sidney (“no chance”). As always, there’s a bunch of great insights from the quotes in the piece, so make sure to check out the entire thing sometime before Thursday night.
  4. We have already seen plenty of 2012 NBA mock drafts, but the latest ESPN Insider feature is the first one we have seen this year where current NBA players select the draftees who would be their eventual teammates (requires membership, sorry). Like most mock drafts there is a certain degree of groupthink here, but this one varies more from the consensus than most. You might say that players have a capacity to notice special skills that draftniks are unable to grasp; or, that players usually make for horrible general managers (we are going with the latter). If you have ESPN Insider access, it is worth a click just for J.J. Redick‘s analysis of Bradley Beal whom he selected 19th (!). Who knew that behind all that poetry there was a sense of humor?
  5. Duke or Ohio State is set to get some excellent news today when Mississippi State forward Rodney Hood announces his decision as to where he will transfer. The 6’8″ all-SEC freshman averaged 10/5/2 APG last year but decided to leave Starkville upon Rick Stansbury’s firing. If you read the tea leaves in his quotes about each school, it would seem that Duke is where he’ll end up. Regardless of where he heads, though, he’ll have to sit out the mandatory transfer year and will not suit up again until the 2013-14 season. There won’t be a many players in next year’s class of 2013 better than Hood as a rising sophomore, so whichever school gets him will be well ahead of the recruiting game a year from now.
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Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 7th, 2012

  1. Alabama star forward Tony Mitchell was suspended indefinitely on Monday by head coach Anthony Grant, who did not elaborate on specific causes other than to say that it wasn’t the result of a specific action but a series of transgressions. The junior wing who averages 13/7 on the season picked a tough time to fail to come through for his team, as the Crimson Tide travels to Auburn tonight and LSU on Saturday. Sitting firmly on the early February bubble, Alabama cannot afford to lose either game against two lower-tier SEC teams without one of its two best players in the lineup.
  2. From a player forced to sit to a coach choosing to do so, College of Charleston head man Bobby Cremins opened up Monday about his recent leave of absence from the team. Citing doctor’s orders, the 64-year old coach said that he was running himself into the ground: “I got physically exhausted, fatigued and lacked the necessary energy to coach our team. My doctor advised me to take an immediate medical leave of absence, which I did.” Coaches are competitive and stressed-out people in general, so it probably didn’t help matters that Cremins’ team got off to a 9-1 start this season before dropping eight of their next 11 games. Reading between the lines a bit in Cremins’ statement to the media, he didn’t sound like someone ready to stop coaching — let’s hope he gets his energy back in time to lead CofC to a run in the Southern Conference Tournament next month.
  3. If you were like most of America, you didn’t know Duke had lost another home game until sometime yesterday given that Miami’s overtime victory over the Blue Devils finished as most people were either en route or settling into their Super Bowl parties. One man who knew it all too well and no doubt carried it with him into a sleepless night on Sunday was Mike Krzyzewski. Already having assailed his team in the postgame interview for a perceived lack of effort, the venerable coach on Monday took to the airwaves on 99.9 FM The Fan in Raleigh to further chastise his team for not “playing hard” during parts of the loss to Miami. As we all know, Duke’s ridiculous success has always been predicated on its tough man-to-man defense; and its defensive success has derived from equal parts talent and effort. This year’s defense, however, is one of the worst the Blue Devils have fielded since Chris Collins and Jeff Capel were hoisting shots at the rim rather than dry erasers at the white board. Coach K cannot change the talent part of his defensive problem overnight, but he can change the effort issue. We’d expect his players to come at North Carolina like a pack of starving jackals in Chapel Hill tomorrow night.
  4. We’re really not sure what to make of this, but if your goal is to figure out who has the best chance of finding the sunny side of the bubble on Selection Sunday, maybe this simple equation from Drew Cannon at Basketball Prospectus is really all you need. Could it really be that easy — perhaps so. Considering that the RPI is the metric favored by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, it makes sense that teams rated highly in that manner have a bit of a leg up. When you then add Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency-based metrics to the RPI, you’re essentially favoring teams that play the game of basketball (from a possession-by-possession standpoint) a little better than those who do not. Voila, the combination seems to result in a hybrid model that is a fairly accurate predictor of the field.
  5. Seth Davis was back in action Monday with a new Hoop Thoughts column, and although we disagree with him that the Kansas-Missouri rivalry will take very long to see back on the regular season schedule (five years, tops), we completely concur with his sentiment that the entire rabbit hole of conference realignment is a very, very bad thing for college athletics. And yet this is the tip of the iceberg, we’re afraid. The Pac-12 on Monday just rewarded its commissioner, Larry Scott, with an extension of his contract through 2016. How is this relevant, you ask? Recall that it was Scott’s maneuvering two summers ago in trying to lure several Big 12 schools to the Pac-10 that set into motion much of the ensuing hysteria and deal-making among schools and conferences looking out only for themselves. Without Scott’s overtures, would Missouri and Texas A&M be going to the SEC? Would Pittsburgh and Syracuse be ACC-bound? It appears that there’s no honor among the barbarians at the gate, though — say it with us now — Scott’s contract extension was approved… unanimously.
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Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

  1. We suppose that we should recognize that there’s a football game going on this weekend in Indianapolis that involves a couple of well-known quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas sports gambling establishments are offering all kinds of ridiculous prop bets on the Sunday evening Super Bowl, but as The Dagger’s Ryan Greene writes in this piece, there are an interesting array of crossover props available that institute both this weekend’s college basketball action as well as the NFL championship. That’s right, if you are inclined to pick between Northwestern star John Shurna’s combined points and rebounds vs. Tom Brady’s number of completions or any number of other crazy wagers, Vegas invites you to come on down and give them some of your money.
  2. It’s not every day that you’ll read an article that compares the New York Times and Deadspin in the same sentence, but this piece by Dave Pickle at the NCAA does exactly such a thing. Feeling a need to respond to an onslaught of negative reporting from the Times’ Joe Nocera, the NCAA is fighting back using its own media platform. We read the original pieces that Nocera wrote regarding Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright, but he’s moved well beyond that criticism into other areas including the right to privacy and other associated injustices that he accuses the NCAA of perpetrating. The organization has responded in kind by accusing Nocera of an inherent conflict-of-interest (his fiancee’ is the communications director for a law firm suing the NCAA on the “likeness” issue) and bringing up a prior rebuke for calling Tea Party members “terrorists.” We certainly appreciate the interest that Nocera has taken in the inner workings of the NCAA, but we’d prefer if there were more news organizations asking similar questions on multiple fronts so that the one-man crusade aspect of this would disappear.
  3. A bit of recruiting news beyond Nerlens Noel on Thursday — the Jordan Brand Classic rosters were announced for the April 14 game in Charlotte, and seven of the top 10 players according to Rivals will be on the rosters. Noel himself will not be there because he did not reclassify to the Class of 2012 in time for consideration, but somehow we don’t think that will affect his hyper-recruitment in the next couple of months. The West team will be comprised of consensus #1 player Shabazz Muhammad (undecided) along with “forward Brandon Ashley (Arizona), center Isaiah Austin (Baylor), forward Anthony Bennett (undecided), wing Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), wing Danuel House (Houston), wing Grant Jerrett (Arizona), guard Marcus Paige (North Carolina), wing Alex Poythress (Kentucky) and guard Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke).” The East team will consist of UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson, “guard Kris Dunn (Providence), wing Jerami Grant (Syracuse), guard Garry Harris (Michigan State), forward Brice Johnson (North Carolina), wing Ricardo Ledo (Providence), center Tony Parker (undecided), guard Rodney Purvis (N.C. State), center Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona) and wing J.P. Tokoto (North Carolina).”
  4. This story doesn’t involve Division I basketball, but it’s scary enough to be newsworthy. A charter bus from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, carrying the men’s and women’s basketball teams (the ‘Roos) caught fire during the trip to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday forcing both teams to evacuate the bus to get to safety. One athlete was provided medical treatment for smoke inhalation, but the remainder of the traveling party was able to transfer to another bus and move on to its road trip to Colorado. Still, a harrowing situation that luckily didn’t involve anything more serious than that.
  5. It’s Friday, which means that Luke Winn‘s latest and greatest Power Rankings came out yesterday. In this week’s column, you’ll learn which of the elite teams in America has the most balanced offense (hint: it’s not a school near Lake Oneida), Ricardo “Right Hook” Ratliffe’s offensive tendencies, a titillating teaser for more defensive charting on Syraucse, and even a reference to St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova’s mouthguard. Read it. In case that doesn’t provide you enough hoops analysis for one morning, Seth Davis also released a new Mailbag, which features an analysis of all the unbeaten conference teams’ chances for an at-large bid. Compelling stuff, as always.
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Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2012

  1. Gray is the way, so says the shoe company behemoth Nike, which on Wednesday unveiled nine new “platinum” uniform designs that will be worn by hand-selected schools that have won national championships as members of the Beaverton, Oregon, product line. Seven men’s schools — Arizona, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Syracuse — along with two women’s schools — Baylor and Connecticut — will sport the post-modern uniforms for one game later this season. These uniforms are certain to be a marketing hit in much the same way that some of their alt-football jerseys have been, most notably at Oregon. The template for each uniform is basically the same — a silver base with one primary accent color as trim — and you can see a few of the examples here: Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse. One interesting note is that each school has an aerographic star on the back of the jersey for each national title it has won. Kentucky’s, for example, has seven stars on its back. North Carolina has five, while Duke has four, and so on. Somebody needs to get Phil Knight on the phone immediately to explain to him the necessity of claiming Helms titles as national championships too. Right?
  2. Michael McKnight of SI.com checks in with an in-depth look at the point-shaving scandalthat enveloped the San Diego basketball program last year, and concludes that the evidence that the federal government thinks it has against former Torero star player Brandon Johnson and the other defendants might not be all that it’s cracked up to be. For one, the primary informant that the government relied upon for its information is not only marginally credible, but there may be major problems rendering his testimony admissible in a court of law anyway. Further, a review of the possible game that Johnson was most likely to have shaved points from — February 18, 2010 vs. St. Mary’s — shows that the evidence to support such a claim is less than persuasive. It’s an interesting read about a situation that made a very mild wave last year before everyone moved on to conference realignment, but one that SI has clearly done its work on in the interim.
  3. Seth Davis has been busy this week as we slip and slide into the final six weeks of the regular season. His always-fun mailbag column has made a re-appearance, and this time the topics ranged from the legitimacy of Missouri (written before the Tigers were RTC’d last night at Oklahoma State), the highest NCAA seed that Murray State can expect in March (we’d generally agree), the passion of Iowa’s Fran McCaffery (don’t you hate Iowa?), doubting San Diego State (and San Diego State?), and a few others (and everyone else?).
  4. Star treatment — it’s a fact of life in basketball at almost every level of the sport. From grade school to the highest of the professional leagues, defensive schemes are typically designed around stopping the other team’s best player. Mike DeCourcy takes a look at how such treatment has impacted an RTC favorite, Creighton’s Doug McDermott this season as game plans have adjusted to compensate for his ridiculous numbers (24/9 on 62%/50%/83% shooting). It’s true that his numbers have dropped a bit in conference play as the double-teams have come at him in earnest, but great players get their numbers regardless, and we have no doubt that McDermott will learn to adjust on the fly as he’s been so capable at doing throughout his short collegiate career.
  5. We mentioned this in yesterday’s M5, but the public unveiling of Gary Williams Court at Maryland occurred prior to last night’s game versus Duke at the Comcast Center. Even though the game ended up as yet another loss to the hated Blue Devils (1-10 in the last five seasons), the moments prior to the game were touching as Maryland fans received a final chance to cheer for and say goodbye to the coach that led the Terps to their greatest heights as a basketball program. Remember that Williams decided to retire after his star player last season, Jordan Williams, left school in early May to enter the NBA Draft. His many supporters and fans at the school had not had a chance until last night to give him a proper sendoff.

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Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 24th, 2012

  1. It seems like we’ve been doing a lot of this lately, but we all should get used to it because three of the top six leaders in Division I men’s basketball all-time wins are actively coaching and within 50 wins of each other. With Syracuse’s win at Cincinnati last night, Jim Boeheim earned his 877th career victory to pass Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for fourth place on the career wins list. With three more wins he’ll pass North Carolina’s Dean Smith (879) and with 26 more he’ll move past Bob Knight (902) for second place behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (916 and counting). Just behind Boeheim is Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, sitting at 867 with a reasonable shot to pass Rupp himself before the end of this season. After Calhoun, it’s a substantial drop to the next active coaching leader, UNC’s Roy Williams with 659 wins to his name.
  2. Not only did Murray State receive positive national news on Monday when the school achieved its highest-ever national rankings (#11 AP; #9 USAT) as the last unbeaten team in America, it also received good news in the form of the return of a key player from injury. The Racers’ starting all-OVC forward, Ivan Aska, has been cleared to return to practice after missing several weeks with a broken hand, and is expected to be back in action for Saturday’s game against Eastern Illinois. Despite season averages of 13/6, Steve Prohm’s team was able to make do without him in the lineup, although the Racers were outrebounded in four of the six games he missed. With the burly senior back in action going forward, Murray State’s already-deep team will become even more dangerous.
  3. Speaking of Murray State, Seth Davis‘ Hoop Thoughts this week focuses on a program that is a lot better than most people are aware of. For example, only three other programs can claim longer streaks of winning seasons than the Racers (now at 25) — a not-shabby trio of Syracuse, Arizona and Kansas. The current squad, certain to win the OVC regular season title this season, is the two-time defending champion, and the junior class — led by Isaiah Canaan (18.7 PPG, 4.0 APG) and glue-guy Ed Daniel (7.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG) — has gone an astounding 74-14 in its two-plus seasons together. Those two players were instrumental in the Racers’ 66-65 upset of Vanderbilt in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, and everyone forgets that it was upstart Murray State who gave Butler its toughest test en route to the Final Four that season, barely escaping the Racers, 54-52. This is no flash-in-the-pan program, and Davis eloquently makes that case.
  4. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and will become a Razorback at the semester break next season. The Fayetteville native averaged 4/3/2 APG in eight games for the Cowboys this season, but he apparently believes that getting back home and into Mike Anderson’s up-and-down style of play will help further his collegiate career. Next door to Arkansas, Memphis guard Charles Carmouche is considering sitting out the remainder of this season because of recurring pain in his knees (tendinitis). The danger with this strategy is that there’s no guarantee that the NCAA would approve a redshirt season for the senior, so he runs a significant risk of his career being finished if he is ultimately denied. He’s only seen action in seven games this season, but that number represents more than the maximum 20% of a team’s scheduled games to qualify for the hardship waiver. Given that fact, he’d need to make a compelling case to the NCAA to earn the extra year, certainly no easy task.
  5. Finally, after a compelling weekend of college basketball where three of the top five ranked teams lost and a number of other intriguing storylines emerged, The Onion reminds us that it’s all just fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Love this line: “College basketball went on to remind fans it puts a great deal of work into making each season dramatically satisfying, unlike college football, which just hands its championship to whichever school’s boosters give it the most money that year.”
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Voices of the Big East: Volume IV

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 31st, 2011

Voices of the Big East is an ongoing feature intended to capture the essence of the conference through the words of those involved and those impacted. This will come in the form of quotes, tweets, videos and anything else we feel like sticking in here. It’s perfect for you multitasking short attention-spanners. If you find something you think is a candidate for this feature send it to us and we might even give you credit!

Happy New Year!

The voices of Rush the Court would like to wish you a happy and safe New Year.  Thank you for reading.  We hope you have enjoyed what you have seen so far.  Of course there is one ball drop we will always be watching. 

We Will Forego the Crystal for This

Khem-ical Reaction

Khem Birch left Pittsburgh two weeks ago after one semester at the school.  This his has led to a variety of commentary, including from himself.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

  1. In a recent interview with a local radio station, Purdue coach Matt Painter had some interesting things to say about last weekend’s Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. He laid a considerable amount of blame on the officials working the game for allowing things to escalate to the point of on-court mayhem (“experienced officials and guys who have control of games, they handle it, take care of it early and it’s not an issue [...] to me, it was avoidable.”), but he also took some candid shots at XU’s players for their physical style of play and running mouths. “Right away, from watching film, they talk. They talk a lot. That was one of the first things we talked about in the scouting report (to our players) was don’t get caught up in that. In the game, I’m talking to officials about their guys coming running on the court and (bumping into, pushing) our guys coming off a time out and the referees look at me like I’m crazy. I go back and watch the film, and it’s easy to see and they just ignored it.” Cincinnati has rightfully taken the brunt of this week’s criticism for its role in the brawl, and much of the associated vitriol with UC well predates the Mick Cronin era, but if you listen to Painter, maybe fans and media should take a closer look at how the Musketeers are composing themselves on the court too.
  2. Well, at least he didn’t shove a guy to the ground, instigate a full-on brawl between two teams, and subsequently refer to his squad as a bunch of ‘gangstas’ and talk about ‘zip[ping] ‘em up” when discussing the other team. No, New Mexico State guard Christian Kabongo (cousin of more-heralded Myck, at Texas), is guilty of grabbing his crotch area twice during a recent game against UTEP and has been suspended indefinitely as a result of his transgression. Kabongo is a significant loss to the Aggies, even in the short term, as he brings averages of 16/4/4 APG to the table for Marvin Menzies’ team. Just imagine how long he’d have to sit out if he was any better.
  3. With news Wednesday that the Hamilton County (OH) prosecutor will not pursue criminal charges stemming from last weekend’s brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier, it appears that we’re finally putting this ugly incident behind us. Had charges been filed, they would have most likely come against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their respective punch and stomp to the face/head of Xavier center Kenny Frease. But prosecutor Joe Deters (a law enforcement name if ever there was one) said that he was satisfied that Frease’s recent outreach to Gates was met with a subsequent apology and, among other factors, his mea culpa contributed to Deters’ decision to not pursue the case. Historically speaking, US criminal law as a general rule has shied away from imposing jurisdiction on athletes during the bounds of competition, but there have been some precedents, particularly in the NHL, where that is not the case.
  4. While on the subject of legality, the NCAA‘s new rule allowing conferences to offer $2,000 stipends to next year’s recruits is in jeopardy after 97 of the 345 Division I institutions have signed a petition that will force the organization into a reconsideration of the measure at its upcoming January meetings. If 28 more schools sign the petition in the next 11 days to get to 125 institutions, then the legislation will be automatically suspended until further review or modification. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the support for rescission is reportedly coming from the non-BCS football schools whose budgets are far below its peers who can better afford up to a $2 million annual price tag for its scholarship athletes. As we wrote a couple of months ago when this news first came out, “this policy initiative could be another step toward the permanent stratification of college basketball between the haves and have-nots.” This petition to the NCAA from the have-nots clearly bears this out. If you’re interested in more analysis on this topic, USA Today‘s Christine Brennan skewers the idea in her commentary published Wednesday.
  5. SI writers Seth Davis and Luke Winn are going a little crazy with the “breakout” players angle this month. Recall that last week Davis published his list of 10 breakout sophomores; this week he’s decided to give us his list of eight breakout juniors (plus a mailbag). Not to be outdone, Winn comes correct with his list of five breakout seniors! If we see an article on breakout graduate students next week, we’re coming to the Sports Illustrated offices and with a sole intent of burning the place down. All kidding aside, we might have added juniors CJ Harris (Wake Forest), Chase Tapley (San Diego State) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) to Davis’ list, and Jae Crowder (Marquette) and Noah Hartsock (BYU) to the Winn’s. Give both pieces a read and see what you think.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 6th, 2011

  1. This week’s Big East accolades are out and Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson has earned Player of the Week Honors after averaging 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in a 3-0 week for the Hoyas.  Thompson’s week was highlighted by his game-winning three to give his team a win over then #12 Alabama in the Big East/SEC Challenge.  Providence freshman forward LaDontae Henton took home Rookie of the Week honors, scoring 17.5 points and grabbing 8.5 rebounds per game in two Friar victories.  Henton backed the honor up on Monday with a career high 19 points versus Brown.  Other Honor Roll recipients include Henton’s teammate, sophomore guard Gerard Coleman, Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones and Seton Hall’s Herb Pope.
  2. The latest installment of Top 25 rankings are out and the Big East welcomed a new guest to the party as Georgetown (7-1), fresh off a 3-0 week including the above mentioned road victory over Alabama (the Hoyas’ second victory over a ranked foe this year (Memphis)), debuts at #18.  On the strength of a good effort in the Big East/SEC Challenge, all of the conference’s previously ranked squads not only remained so, but four of five moved up.  Connecticut (7-1), despite not losing, slid a spot to #9 and looks forward to an intriguing matchup with #24 Harvard on Thursday.  Syracuse (8-0) hopped up a spot to #3 after taking down #12 Florida and faces a test tonight against 5-1 Marshall.   Louisville (7-0) continued its steady climb, again moving up one position to #5 after beating Vanderbilt and knocking the Commodores out of the rankings. Marquette (7-0) shot up five notches to #11, beating Wisconsin and sending them back seven spots to #14.  Lastly, Pittsburgh elevated two steps to #15 with wins over Duquesne and Tennessee.  No other Big East team received votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.
  3. Providence freshman point guard Kiwi Gardner has been ruled academically ineligible to play this season due to an issue with a core course taken at Westwind Prep (AZ), where Gardner studied last year.  Gardner had been ruled ineligible prior to the start of the season but Providence appealed the matter with the NCAA and had been optimistic about a positive outcome.  The news was announced by Providence head coach Ed Cooley in his postgame press conference following the Friars’ 80-49 victory over Brown on Monday night, adding, “my heart goes out to him.”  Gardner was recruited by Cooley and his staff last year while at Fairfield, as well as by former Providence head coach Keno Davis. Shortly after the news broke, Gardner indicated via Twitter that he would remain at Providence despite not being able to suit up this season.  The Friars have been playing with just eight scholarship players, as sophomore forward Kadeem Batts has also been serving a suspension for a violation of team rules.  As noted here yesterday, it was reported over the weekend that Batts will return for Providence’s December 20 game versus New Hampshire.
  4. Villanova will be without 6’11” junior Maurice Sutton for a month with a dislocated thumb.  Sutton, who injured the thumb in practice,  did not play in Saturday’s win over Penn but appeared in all six of Villanova’s previous games, averaging 9.2 minutes, 1.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest for the 5-2 Wildcats.  Head coach Jay Wright commented on the injury, “our staff and team is disappointed for Mo. He’s been making a contribution to our team on a daily basis and we’ll miss his presence, especially defensively. But the positive in this is that Mo can still maintain his conditioning while the thumb heals and we look forward to getting him back out there, possibly in time to start the Big East season.”  Sutton can only observe as his team takes on #10 Missouri tonight as part of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
  5. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated came out with his annual column highlighting sophomores to watch, and there was a significant Big East presence.  The premise of Davis’ analysis is to highlight sophomore breakout candidates. Davis provides sound analysis in that the freshman year often involves a maturation process where prep stars are learning to adjust to many differences both on and off the court.  Not to mention the fact that many rookies simply do not play much as freshmen while they wait their turn, and inevitably see an increase in production based on a more significant role in year two.  The headliner of the list was Syracuse’s 7’0” center Fab Melo.  Melo was the target of significant orange-tinted venom a year ago, which Davis argues was unjustified, as the much-hyped big guy struggled both on the floor in limited duty (2.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 9.9 MPG) and with his weight.  Melo came in this year much lighter and seemingly more focused, and this has paid dividends for the as-yet-unbeaten Orange.  His playing time has increased (22 MPG) as has his productivity (6.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.4 BPG). Other Big East’ers on the list include:

Marquette guard Vander Blue, who struggled with his shot last year but has put up solid numbers there so far this year (51.2% FG, 37.5% 3FG) for the surging Golden Eagles.

Villanova guard James Bell, who clearly is one of those guys who had to wait his turn.  His playing time has tripled to 27 minutes per game, and although a bit inconsistent at times, he has responded with 9.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game overall.

Connecticut forward Tyler Olander has earned minutes in the face of some pretty stiff competition.  As Davis notes, Olander came back stronger this year and perhaps has benefited some from the inconsistency and grousing of Alex Oriakhi.

Finally, Georgetown guard Markel Starks, who took a year to develop behind the now departed Chris Wright and is averaging 8.7 points in 25.1 minutes per game.

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Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

  1. You know those anthologies called the Top Fiction/Non-Fiction/Sportswriting/etc. in America that come out every year around the holidays? Have you ever wondered what the best college basketball sportswriting in America looks like (ahem, other than RTC, of course)? Here”s your chance. The USBWA announced its five winners for its Best Writing Contest in 2011, and each selection is well-received. The top column award went to David Teel of the Newport News (VA) Daily Press for a piece on Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith; the top game story award went to David Woods of the Indianapolis Star for his recap of the Butler vs. Florida Elite Eight game last March; the top enterprise piece award went to Dan Wiederer of the Fayetteville (NC) Observer for his three-part look at Mike Krzyzewski; the top magazine length feature award went to Sean Gregory of Time for his reflection on Princeton’s historic 1996 upset of UCLA; and, the top moderate length feature award went to Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated for his poignant story about Kenneth Faried’s life and passion for rebounding. If you have time, we’ll see you again in a half-hour. If not, just bookmark the page and get back to it later. Think of all the garbage you read (willingly or not) every day — if you’re a true college hoops fan, each of these five articles is well worth your time and energy.
  2. Speaking of SI, the magazine released its Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year yesterday and it had a decidedly college basketball theme. The all-time wins leader on the men’s side, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, will add yet another honor to his mantle with his selection, while the all-time wins leader on the women’s side, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, will do likewise. The duo of coaching titans have combined for a total of 1,982 wins, roughly fifty to seventy wins behind the grand total that schools like Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina have had in their entire histories. In the nearly-60 year history of the award, only three other college basketball personalities have been honored — Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas (1961), UCLA’s John Wooden (1972), and North Carolina’s Dean Smith (1997). They will be honored tonight in Manhattan at a special ceremony.
  3. Folks around the college basketball nation are still buzzing about Anthony Davis’ game-winning rejection in the North Carolina-Kentucky game from Saturday, where one of the top storylines involved all the future NBA talent playing in that game. DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony (doubling up at Grantland) took a look at the game from an NBA scouting perspective, and here is what he found. Perhaps exhibiting how evenly matched these two teams are, Givony broke down each position and picked a player advantage between each starter — the final tally was a 3-2 advantage. You’ll have to get over to read the piece to see which team “won” the NBA Draft component of Saturday’s blockbuster of a game.
  4. Utah is already on its way to an epically disastrous season, having lost six games against Division I competition by an average of over 20 points per game. How bad has it been? So bad that Utah is rated lower than Utah Valley and Southern Utah within its own state in the KenPom ratings… ugh. On Monday it got worse. Starting point guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was suspended indefinitely by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for failure to live up to team expectations (reportedly he was late for practice and had fallen asleep in class). Considering the fact that Watkins is the top usage player (39.7%) and seventh-highest shooting player (37.7% of Utah’s possessions) in America through four weeks of the season, but accounts for over half his teams assists (52%), his benching might be a good thing or a bad thing. Then again, how much worse could the Utes get?
  5. Seth Davis was back yesterday with his Hoop Thoughts column, and as usual, it’s a must-read. The topic this week is ten sophomores who were not stars as freshmen to keep an eye on this season, and he lists many of the most important names. Here are five more that should most definitely be considered as super sophomores after quieter freshman seasons — Terrell Stoglin (Maryland), Trae Golden (Tennessee), Eric Atkins (Notre Dame), Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State), and Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State). All of these guys have made significant strides in their second seasons on campus.
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Morning Five: 11.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2011

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of FanDuel.com to tip off the season. The league, which is completely free to enter, starts TONIGHT involving several teams — Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, Duke, Florida, Ohio State, Miami (FL), Rutgers — and features $200 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

  1. Maybe you’ve forgotten or maybe you’re just dropping by, but today is pretty much a national holiday around these parts. One of ESPN’s better ideas, the 24-Hour Tip-Off Marathon, tipped off at Midnight ET last night in Spokane and is currently plowing its way through sunrise in the eastern time zone after stopovers in California and Hawaii overnight. Of course, the late night and morning games are mere appetizers to a $50 steak dinner coming up this evening when we’ll be rewarded with two games from the Champions Classic (Duke vs. Michigan State and Kentucky vs. Kansas) and a Top Ten matchup between Florida and Ohio State in Columbus. From Coach K’s pursuit of win #903 to the fascinating development of Cal’s young Cats to the return of OSU’s Jared Sullinger for a second season, storylines abound on this day. If you’re lucky enough to not have to work on a random Tuesday in November (hint, hint), strap yourselves in for a smorgasbord of college basketball a full week before you’re legally allowed to stuff your face.
  2. Of course, the top storyline of the day remains Mike Krzyzewski‘s chance tonight to become the sport’s all-time wins leader in Division I men’s basketball. Coming into the Champions Classic game against Michigan State this evening, Coach K sits tied with his former coach and mentor, Bob Knight, at 902 total wins, and if you believe in Vegas odds, he has a 72% chance of doing the trick tonight in Madison Square Garden. We’re sure that the testimonials for K’s greatness will come fast and furious all day long, but here’s two good interviews to get you started.  Former Duke superstar and all-around good guy Grant Hill spoke with TSN’s Ryan Fagan recently about K’s far-reaching positive influence on him, and recent graduate Nolan Smith spoke with TSN’s Mike DeCourcy about some of the life lessons K imparted to him as a father figure. Expect to see many more of these in the next 24-48 hours.
  3. What UCLA head coach Ben Howland needs is more attitude problems on his team. Let’s recap recent events, shall we? After the vaunted Class of 2008 recruiting class nearly brought his program to its knees through various busts, poor attitudes and problem children, it appeared that the Bruins may have been turning the corner by shedding itself of most of those players (Jerime Anderson, currently on suspension, remains). Then, over the weekend, sophomore center Joshua Smith tweeted that his team had lost to a bunch of “bums” after an opening night loss to Loyola Marymount — but perhaps worse than that, he ‘lol’-ed about it, suggesting an alarming irreverence from a player whom Howland needs to stay on the floor (he contributed a paltry 5/4 in only 16 minutes of action). The latest kerfuffle involves UCLA’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, Reeves Nelson, a player whom an ESPN report alleges is causing problems within the UCLA team as a result of his attitude. After skipping practice Monday, he has been suspended for tonight’s game versus Middle Tennessee State and his long-term future with the team appears in doubt. What in the name of the Wizard is going on in Westwood?
  4. Seth Davis gives us his Hoops Thoughts for the opening weekend of college basketball and his first point about the ridiculous (and slippery) decals stuck to the floors of the various pre-conference events around the country is a salient one.  As he points out, Michigan State’s Branden Dawson is only the latest of disasters averted, as his right knee buckled on a Quicken Loans decal for the Carrier Classic, and for a few minutes it appeared as if the injury may have been much worse than it was. What’s amazing about this phenomenon is that college athletics has all kinds of rules meant to protect players in its various sports from injury, and yet even after years of complaining from coaches and media alike, the decals stay. Here’s an idea that seems a reasonable compromise — use the yellow-line first down technology in football to digitally layer the advertising images onto the floor. That way, the dollars that support these events remain secured, but not at the expense of potentially losing a player to severe injury. What are we missing here?
  5. Perhaps not since Damon Bailey was recruited to Indiana in the late 1980s has a single player held so much hope and promise for the Crimson and Cream denizens of the Hoosier State.  But freshman Cody Zeller represents a new beginning to many IU fans wishing for a return to the glory days of Indiana basketball under the General and even before him, Branch McCracken. Basketball Prospectus takes a closer look at the enormous expectations that are being placed on the young player, effectively (and graphically) showing that he faces perhaps more homegrown pressure than any other major recruit in the last four years. Can’t say we disagree with the premise, but it’s a little unfair that so much is riding on a young man who may need some time to develop into an effective player at the Big Ten level.
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Morning Five: Veteran’s Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2011

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of FanDuel.com to tip off the season. The league, which is completely free to enter, starts on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and features $200 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

  1. Happy Veteran’s Day, everyone. If you have a family member, friend or acquaintance who has given their time and energy during their lives to help this nation stay safe, shake their hand or give them a pat on the back — trust us, they’ll appreciate it. This year’s Veteran’s Day has a particularly deep meaning for our purposes, as it also doubles as the official ‘unofficial’ opening night of the college basketball season. Several teams have already gotten under way in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but most everyone else begins this weekend. One hundred thirty-one games dot the schedule this evening, including 19 of the RTC Top 25 teams in America. The headliner game on this holiday is that curious little aircraft carrier game down in San Diego involving the consensus #1 team, North Carolina, and a perplexing but always-dangerous Michigan State squad. But there are several other noteworthy games tonight, including a talented Belmont squad visiting Duke at 9 PM on ESPNU and a rising Oregon team visiting a Vanderbilt program harboring massive expectations in Nashville. For a complete list of view-worthy games, be sure to click on our Nightly Nonsense tab above here, and check back this afternoon for our weekend version of Set Your TiVo, which will outline all the interesting games for the next three days.  As of tonight, we can say it without qualifying language — college hoops is back, baby…
  2. And what about that game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson? The temperature will be in the mid-60s and winds are expected to be in the 10-15 MPH range this evening in San Diego, but the one thing everyone seems to be forgetting about the players is that every one of them has played outdoor pickup ball at one time or another. Sure, it’s not the same as playing in the controlled environment of a gym, but who hasn’t experienced the unique situation of having to slightly adjust your jumper to account for the breeze? Many of these players probably developed their games on the playgrounds across America. The players will probably be more jittery because President Obama will be there rather than dealing with the sun and wind.
  3. The NBA could be on the verge of a return with a 72-game season, or none at all, but if you’re at all interested in reading about the 2011-12 college basketball season as written for NBA fans, Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus is your man. It’s an intriguing look at the collegiate game in that the perspective changes when one’s only use for NCAA hoops is as a finishing school before the big time. While we’re on the subject of the pros, the current deal offered by the owners to the players has not yet addressed the ‘ancillary’ issue of a minimum draft age. We wonder that if the players cave here on the revenue split whether that will embolden them to ask for and receive concessions with respect to the draft age (among other things). From the perspective that a two-year minimum is better for the game of college basketball, it might actually be better in the long run if the players refuse the owners’ latest offer.
  4. Miami’s DeQuan Jones has been suspended by the university for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his alleged involvement with improprieties relating to his recruitment by Frank Haith, as uncovered by Yahoo! Sports during the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Shapiro stated in interviews that Haith arranged for $10,000 to be paid to Jones’ family to secure his commitment in 2008. Given that the Hurricanes could potentially lose a number of wins if Jim Larranaga now played Jones and it was later determined that he was an ineligible player, this is a smart move. Still, it doesn’t help with the Hurricanes’ current glaring lack of depth, as UM will now have only seven scholarship players available heading into tonight’s opening game against Tennessee Tech.
  5. Finally, it’s time for the SI Crystal Ball, where Seth Davis, Luke Winn and Andy Glockner make their preseason picks on the 2011-12 Final Four, NPOY, surprise team, flops, and so on. Would you believe that the only category of consensus among the trio came when picking their Best Mid-Major team? We’ll give you three guesses to see if you can get it right… As always, it’s a good read, but even the best in the business (as these guys are) are lucky to bat just above the Mendoza line with their predictions — in last year’s Crystal Ball, for example, the three picked a grand total of zero Final Four teams (including darkhorses). College basketball prognostication is more art than science, we’ll readily admit, but we’re totally on board with Davis and Glockner’s darkhorse team this season (hint: it starts with an “X”).
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.10.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 10th, 2011

  1.  The one word a college basketball coach never wants to utter is “suspension.” In Lon Kruger’s case, however, the suspension of junior guard Steven Pledger could be much, much worse. Pledger, who averaged 10.9 PPG last season for Oklahoma, will miss just one game after playing in a professional event this summer. If you’re wondering, OU plays Idaho State in its season opener Friday night, a team which finished 9-20 last season and lost three starters. Needless to say, when Pledger returns for the second game of the season against Coppin State on November 18, the damage should be minimal.
  2. The Michael Beasley lawsuit, part of which accuses Kansas State of serious NCAA violations, hasn’t gained much steam in the national media lately. One outlet in Manhattan, Kansas, is covering the story, of course, and this article breaks down the situation pretty coherently. Basically, it all comes down to any knowledge the coaching staff had of Beasley’s allegations. It’s very difficult to prove “knowledge,” though. Just ask Frank Haith, who’s embroiled in the same sort of scandal from his days at Miami. The issue for Haith is whether he knew about a payment to a recruit at UM, and that’s the same question raised in this case.
  3. The resignation of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno made national headlines Wednesday night, and it’s interesting to draw comparisons to the Baylor murder scandal from 2003. Like at PSU, the Bears’ situation also dealt with a cover-up by head coach Dave Bliss, though his role in that scandal was significantly more active. Bliss actually tried to paint the victim — former player Patrick Dennehy – as a drug dealer to hide several violations that had occurred during Dennehy’s career. The two scandals aren’t quite parallel, but they’re both landmark incidents in the continuing stain of college sports.
  4. Basketball prospects signed letters of intent all across the Big 12 on Wednesday, which marked the first day of the early signing period. And although Iowa State didn’t make national headlines with its signings, it did add Mr. Popularity. Georges Niang is already a Twitter sensation, and coach Fred Hoiberg says he’ll be replaced by Niang in terms of popularity “the minute he steps on campus.” And we’re talking about The Mayor here, folks. Here’s to a healthy and productive career for the likeable Niang over in Ames.
  5. Do you dare pick against Kansas in the Big 12 after seven league titles in a row? We didn’t, but Seth Davis has. He tweeted on Wednesday that he thinks Baylor would win the league — “eight is too much,” he said. After losing so much production from last season, it’s an understandable position. But with so many outspoken Jayhawks roaming the social media world nowadays, Davis had better be ready to defend his position.
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