An Unexpected Detour For PJ Hairston on His Way to the NBA

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 15th, 2014

Most every high school star and prominent AAU recruit dreams of the traditional ascent to the professional ranks. That typically includes playing for a shoe-sponsored AAU team, getting recruited at the highest level, and ending up at a powerhouse program before their name is called at the NBA Draft. However, as history shows us, only a small fraction of these players make the big time, and often it can be some of those who were least expected to do so. For some prominent collegiate stars, there might be a number of road bumps and bouts with adversity standing in the way of their ultimate dreams.

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill (Getty)

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill. (Getty)

Anyone familiar with ACC basketball this season has heard ad nauseam about the P.J. Hairston scandal and the hits that UNC’s basketball program has taken as a result. Regardless of what occurred and how it was handled, it is clear that his collegiate playing days prematurely came to an end. As a result, Hairston and his team of advisors and family recently made it known that he plans to spend the rest of the season in the NBA’s Developmental League (D-League). Hairston is not eligible to be called up to the NBA (if a team was so inclined) in the 2013-14 season, but he will be allowed to put his name among the entrants for the 2014 NBA Draft.

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Morning Five: 06.03.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 3rd, 2013

morning5

  1. It is hard to believe that Rutgers could appear more out of touch with reality than they have been in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal, but new senior vice president and general counsel John Farmer Jr’s letter defending Julie Hermann might be a new low. In the letter Farmer compares the accusations of abuse against Hermann to accusations of marijuana use by Bill Clinton. What Farmer’s argument essentially boils down to is that the claims against Hermann are from her distant past and are of questionable validity much like the allegations that were made against Bill Clinton before the 1992 election. If the ridiculous comparison was not enough to make you aware that Hermann was keeping her job, Farmer closes by saying “She starts June 17. Period.” That may be true given how out of tune the Rutgers administration is to public perception, but don’t be surprised if Hermann is given less leeway for any future mistakes.
  2. Yesterday, the Pac-12 released an independent review of officiating for the Pac-12 Tournament that determined its officials acted appropriately (full report here). The entire investigation stems from a report that Pac-12 head of officials Ed Rush had offered a bounty (reportedly a free trip) to the official who gave Arizona head coach Sean Miller a technical. That revelation and the fact that Miller was given a technical, which was considered very strange before the reports about a bounty and may have affected the outcome of the game, eventually led to Rush’s resignation a few days later. The report’s conclusion was that Rush’s statements were not taken literally by other officials and did not affect the integrity of the game and the Pac-12 considers the matter closed. What remains to be seen is how Pac-12 officials will officiate Arizona games next season with this scandal still hanging over them (the Pac-12 may consider the case closed, but we can assure you that the fans do not feel that way).
  3. Houston‘s hopes of making its program nationally relevant again were dealt a big blow as director of basketball operations Michael Young announced that he was leaving the school after refusing a reassignment within the program and he will be taking his son Joseph Young, the team’s leading scorer, with him. Michael, who played for Houston’s famed Phi Slama Jama teams, had been serving as director of basketball operations, but had recently signed a new contract that reportedly offered him the same pay, but with a role in community service instead. According to the school, Michael had accepted his new position, but something changed in the past week. The big question now is what happens with Joseph and whether the NCAA will give him a waiver based on his father’s decision to leave the school since the other players who were granted such waivers were fired while Michael decided to walk away from the program.
  4. It was just a year ago that Shabazz Muhammad was considered a can’t miss prospect and one who could help lead UCLA back to glory even if only for his one season in college. Then came questions about his eligibility that was followed by up-and-down play where he showed flashes of brilliance, but never lived up to the hype. The latest twist in the Muhammad saga is that his father is now under house arrest after being charged with running a mortgage scam. Ronald Holmes, Muhammad’s father, is accused of obtaining “mortgage loans by fraudulent means to buy houses” and now the government is seeking to collect $2.5 million from him. As the article notes this is not the first time that Holmes has been accused of such an act. And if you were wondering $2.5 million would be right around Muhammad’s salary for his first two seasons (before taxes) based on where he is projected to be selected.
  5. You probably will not notice either decision next season, but a pair of moves involving two assistants coming to and leaving Kansas could have a big impact in the coming years. The decision by Iowa State to hire Doc Sadler probably will not make much of an impact on the Hawkeyes next season, but it does set up Sadler for a potential return to take over a new team in the near-future. Sadler’s two previous stops were at Nebraska (101-89) and UTEP (48-18) so it would seem like he would be an attractive candidate for almost any mid- or lower-tier program. Sadler’s move was actually part of a series of moves involving Kansas where Sadler was Director of Basketball Operations as the school brought in Jerrance Howard to replace Joe Dooley who left to take over a Florida Gulf Coast. The addition of Howard may actually be more important for the school as they are looking to Howard to help build on their recruiting as Cooley departure would have left a void in the program.
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Morning Five: 04.17.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 17th, 2013

morning5

  1. In one of the least surprising early entry decisions ever Shabazz Muhammad announced that he would be leaving UCLA after one season during which he became two years older. Muhammad’s recruitment and arrival at UCLA was one of the more controversial ones and portended a career that was more hype than production. After Muhammad was reinstated (in part due to comments made by the boyfriend of a NCAA investigator on a cross-country flight) he showed flashes of ability that reminded people why he was considered the best player in his class for much of his senior year of high school, but those moments were separated by stretches of mediocrity and more ridiculous scandals including the ridiculous Gucci backpack controversy and the recent admission that he was actually a year older than he had previously stated. In the end, Muhammad did not live up to the ridiculous hype given to a recruit of his caliber, but he will probably end up being a lottery pick so we cannot really fault him for heading to the NBA, which he was been destined to do this summer even before he headed to Westwood.
  2. If Muhammad needed any extra motivation to head to the NBA the performance of James Michael McAdoo this past season should help Muhammad feel more secure in his decision to strike while the iron is hot. Now we will start of by admitting that Muhammad was a much more highly touted prospect and produced more as a freshman than McAdoo has done in either of his first two seasons at North Carolina, but McAdoo was considered to be a potential All-American this season. In the end his play was so uninspired that he has decided to return to Chapel Hill for his junior season. Writers and fans can make all of the comments about improving his game that they want, but the fact is that McAdoo probably played himself out of the late lottery this season. With a solid year next season McAdoo could get back into the lottery and make himself more money, but he will have to compete with what is expected to be a much deeper draft class in 2014.
  3. Unfortunately for Roy Williams, McAdoo will not be joined in the locker room by Reggie Bullock, who was named the team’s MVP yesterday and then promptly announced that he would be declaring for the NBA Draft. Bullock showed quite a bit of improvement between his sophomore and junior seasons (or he just started playing on a weaker team that focused more of the offense on him) as his points per game jumped from 8.8 to 13.9 and his shooting (field goal, three-point, and free throw) all improved. At this point Bullock is a borderline late first round pick so it is not unreasonable for him to leave school especially with how loaded next year’s Draft could be, but he needs to shoot well in his workouts if he doesn’t want to have his name called by Adam Silver.
  4. We have no idea who is in Vander Blue‘s ear, but they are costing him a year of free education and are probably sending him straight to Europe or the NBDL as he announced yesterday that he would be entering the NBA Draft. Blue put together a solid junior season, but even the most optimistic projection we have seen for Blue has him projected as a late second round pick. For all of Blue’s ability he cannot reliably hit a college three-pointer (30.3% last season) and he is undersized for a shooting guard, which is a bad combination. While we won’t have to watch Blue deal with the consequences of his decision (don’t watch much NBDL or Euroleague action), we will probably see Marquette suffer as a result of the loss of senior leadership in the backcourt next season.
  5. We already know plenty about the four players we have already mentioned, but there is one intriguing NBA Draft prospect who was highly regarded coming out of high school about  whom we know very little–Norvel Pelle. After failing to meet the NCAA’s academic qualifying standards, Pelle, who was once the #1 center in the class of 2011, has been floating in a no-man’s land and now must prove himself to NBA teams in a series of workouts over the next few months. Pelle certainly has the tools and at 6’1o or 6’11” he is very close to the magic 7′ mark–time to let the hair grow a little–that gets you drafted as long as you can walk and chew gum a the same time (and sometimes even if you can’t) so we don’t doubt that he will get looks from NBA teams, but he needs to prove himself in workouts if he wants to get drafted.

Bonus: Late last night news broke that Oklahoma State star freshman Marcus Smart would be returning for his sophomore season. Honestly, we have no idea why he would do this as he is a top-five pick on every mock draft we have seen. With how loaded next year’s incoming freshman class is there is no guarantee that he will improve his draft position. He clearly has some things that he can work on with his game (29% from 3 and 1.25 assist-to-turnover ratio), but we have no idea why he would have to work on that in Stillwater. Having said that the Big 12 suddenly got a lot more interesting next season.

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UCLA Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 15th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: UCLA.

What Went Right

All things considered, a lot of things went right for the Bruins this year. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were cleared of their eligibility concerns early and both played (mostly) a full season. Ben Howland made the decision to play to his team’s strengths and emphasized an up-tempo offense-first style. Larry Drew II made the most of his lone season in Westwood and ended his college career on a very positive note. And freshman Jordan Adams was far far better than anyone outside of his immediate family had a reasonable right to expect. Still, the season ended with Howland getting fired after a Round of 64 loss in the NCAA Tournament, so that tells you that not everything went well.

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Had An Eventful Season In Westwood (credit: USA Today)

What Went Wrong

Well, where to begin? Let’s start with the continued trend of halfway-talented players departing from Howland’s program, leaving the team with just eight scholarship players on the roster at the end of the season. Then, for all the good things Muhammad showed in his ability to do offensively, he didn’t show much of a desire to do anything else (32 games, 27 assists, four blocked shots, 8.5% defensive rebounding percentage,  abhorrent body language and sportsmanship). For the rest of the team, things just never congealed on the defensive end, resulting in the third-worst defensive performance out of a UCLA team in Howland’s career in Westwood. Throw in a little bad luck in the form of Adams’ freak foot injury on the final play of a big win in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and despite high hopes at the start of the year, it turned into a disappointing result.

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Wrapping Up the 2012-13 Season: The 10 Biggest Stories

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 12th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The awesomeness of the national title game almost makes you wish the season had another five months of games to offer us. It doesn’t, of course, which means it’s about time we start glaring into the blank expanse of another long offseason. But before we move ahead, before we start counting down the months, weeks and days until tip-off 2013 (Midnight Madness!), let us go back and review the stories that defined the 2012-13 season. I’m talking about the headlines with the most resounding impact – not always the rosiest or most enjoyable developments. That means good and bad, but hopefully more good. If you kept a pulse on the game this year, the following tropes will strike a familiar note, positive or otherwise; if not, then where exactly have you been since November? In the interest of not dragging out this preamble, let’s turn to the matter at hand and count off 10 of the 2012-13 season’s biggest storylines.

(* in no particular order)

Kentucky. The domination and instant stardom of Kentucky circa 2012 had the poll voters convinced: the Wildcats had perpetually solved the one-and-done riddle, and everything that happened during that Anthony Davis-led title season would become something like a yearly occurrence for John Calipari’s team. Calipari would recruit the best players, mold them into a national champion-caliber outfit, and repeat the whole process again the next year. Clockwork. So Kentucky entered the reason ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll. This seemed like a reasonably fair assessment at the time; another loaded recruiting class, the residual winning momentum of the previous season, a once-recruiter turned excellent head coach who seemed to have this recruit, develop and draft thing figured out was evidence enough that the Wildcats would turn in another deep-Tournament run with the same freshmen-lead constitution that had brought the BBN so many good memories during the first few years of Calipari’s tenure. Kentucky needed to get to the Tournament first, and as the season wore on and the flaws of UK’s roster construction – almost zero experience to speak of, the absence of a true leader, the realization that not all highly-recruited freshmen are Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – became evidently obvious, reality sunk in: Kentucky wasn’t going to make it.

One year after winning a national title, Kentucky missed out on the NCAA Tournament (Getty Images).

One year after winning a national title, Kentucky missed out on the NCAA Tournament (Getty Images).

A season-ending ACL injury to star center Nerlens Noel in February doomed the Wildcats’ chances, but the speculation hung right up until Selection Sunday, and when the Wildcats were passed over by the likes of Middle Tennessee, La Salle and Saint Mary’s, the only question remaining (a minor one, to be sure) was how motivated John Calipari’s team would be in a prospective NIT matchup at eight-seed Robert Morris. Yes, Kentucky, college hoops royalty at its purest, was being asked to finish its season on the road in Moon Township, PA., Calipari’s home town. And yes, Kentucky fell to the Colonials, prompting a rare NIT court storm from a packed Charles L. Sewall Center, a fitting end to a season that never lived up to the one preceding it. The backdrop to UK’s sudden plunge was that Calipari, seemingly undeterred by the chaos of the regular season, was assembling a recruiting class for the ages, built on six five-star commitments and still waiting word on the player many consider to be the best high school product since LeBron James, Andrew Wiggins. The BBN will be back in 2013, rest assured, but their dramatic fall from grace this year is not lost.

The Big Ten Was Awesome. We began the season with the highest of expectations about the Big Ten. Five of its teams (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin) began the season in the top 25, Indiana was a unanimous pick for preseason No. 1 and the top-to-bottom depth, just as much as the upper-tier quality, were huge selling points for a league many billed to not only outclass every other major conference this season, but also go down as one of the most dominant versions of any league in recent memory. The Big Ten didn’t disappoint us. Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin waged intense wars in blaring campus gyms on a weekly basis, shocking upsets were sprung (Penn State over Michigan, Northwestern over Minnesota, Wisconsin at Indiana, etc.) and the league grew to corner the market on the most exciting brand of high-powered, tense, must-watch hoops in the country. It was good from start to finish, all the way up to the NCAA Tournament, where four teams survived the first weekend to land a spot in each of the four regional sites.

In the end, only one made it to the Final Four – ironically, of the four Big Ten teams left standing, Michigan was probably the biggest surprise of them all; they were widely pegged to lost their round-of-32 bout with VCU – and after fending off a nightmarish Syracuse 2-3 zone no one else had managed to decode during Tournament play, the Wolverines lost a close but thrilling national championship game. The lasting memory from the 2012 Big Ten, beyond all the consistent regular season drama and Victor Oladipo’s star turn and Trey Burke’s brilliance and Wisconsin’s remarkable year-to-year consistency, will be Spike Albrecht – for the sheer fact that Albrecht, on the last and most important date of the season, not only scored an unfathomable 17 points in 16 minutes while NPOY-sweeping Burke, hit with two early fouls, was fixed to the bench. It was awesome because Albrecht followed up his once-in-a-lifetime night by milking every last drip of his newfound celebrity: Spike tweeted at international modeling icon Kate Upton after learning of Upton’s attendance at the national championship game. Like I said, Big Ten: Awesome. There’s no confusion here.

Officiating Controversies. There is no escaping one lamentable truism about the 2012-13 season: the referees were not very good. Overall, on a composite game-by-game measure, the quality and consistency of officiating was rather low. Even if that’s just an arbitrary and fuzzy subjective measure, I can take it one step further. Just off the top of my head, I can point out three calls that directly affected the outcomes of important game. The first happened in Colorado’s January 3 road game at Arizona. The Buffaloes took the No. 3 Wildcats to the wire, and on the final possession, with the game knotted at 83, Colorado reserve guard Sabatino Chen banked in a wild three at the buzzer. GIFS and close-ups slowly made the rounds on Twitter, and most every angle confirmed what the real-time game tape appeared to say: Chen’s shot was good. The zebras thought otherwise – the shot was discounted. We later learned that standard definition replay monitors (the Pac 12 doesn’t use HD screens as a cost-saving measure) may have impaired the referees’ ability to clearly determine whether Chen’s shot went off before the buzzer. Like, Really? Incident No. 2: Kansas’ road win at Iowa State, wherein guard Elijah Johnson’s drive into Cyclones forward Georges Niang, resulting in an objectively false block call, actually merited an independent review from the Big 12 conference. Or, even better, we can talk about the national championship game, where Trey Burke’s perfectly clean block on Peyton Siva with just over five minutes remaining put the game seemingly out of reach for the Wolverines.

block

I’ve never felt comfortable pinning the outcomes of games entirely on the backs of officials; teams decide the games, referees impartially monitor the proceedings and anything that gets in the way is but another challenge in a game full of them. Everything evens out in the end, on balance. But then you get calls like Burke’s block and Niang’s blocking foul and the countless gaffes I failed to mention above, and it gets to a point where the competence and on-sight decision making of the most important third-party in sports is called into serious question. The Ed Rush Pac-12 officiating scandal only added more stink to the skeptical aura surrounding the entire profession. Officials are going to make mistakes. Judgments will be misguided. The human element of the game is not infallible. True. True. True. When the neutrality of those officials becomes a topic of debate, and we can’t wholeheartedly confide in those officials to respect the integrity of the game, the problem transcends mere block-charge minutiae or ticky-tack holding calls. The whole premise of a level playing field in college athletics is thrown into sharp scrutiny.

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2012-13 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by KDoyle on April 3rd, 2013

If this was baseball, a batting average of .333 would represent Hall of Fame type numbers. Back in November when our group of RTC pollsters and hoop experts selected their preseason All-America teams, just five names lived up to expectations that we originally had placed on them: Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas, Michigan’s Trey Burke, and Kansas’ Jeff Withey. In fact, the only player who was named to the preseason All-America First Team and finished there was McDermott. If there is one thing to take away from this exercise, it’s that projecting player performance is far from an exact science.

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

The 10 players we selected as preseason All-Americans who failed to live up to our hype were: Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum — let’s remember McCollum missed more than half the season due to injury — UNLV’s Mike Moser, Missouri’s Phil Pressey, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin, North Carolina’s James Michael McAadoo, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer. It would be foolish to think that most of these players did not have exceptional seasons — look no further than Canaan, who averaged 21.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 4.3 APG for the Racers this year. He had a very good senior season, but it’s not his fault that a guy like Victor Oladipo came out of nowhere to prove he was one of the best players in the country. Of course, there were a few disappointments, and we can look right at Mitchell as the most obvious example. Whether fair or not, expectations were probably too high for Mitchell, who many project to be a future NBA player. Mitchell averaged 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG, but his team slogged to a rough 12-20 season.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the players who met or exceeded our expectations this season. After tallying up the votes from our nine experts, here are the 2012-13 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. Burke, Porter, and Oladipo were consensus First Team All-America selections.

First Team All-America

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

  • Trey Burke, SO, Michigan (consensus) (18.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.1 A/TO). After spearheading arguably the nation’s most potent offense during the regular season, Burke was named a First Team All-American by the AP. His virtuoso performance in the South Region semifinal against Kansas where he singlehandedly brought Michigan back in the final minutes of regulation supplanted himself as not just a surefire First Teamer here at RTC, but perhaps the National Player of the Year as well. More than just his knack for hitting the big shot, Burke’s most impressive attribute may be as a distributor; boasting a 3.1 A/TO ratio is downright impressive given the responsibility John Beilein has bestowed upon him in running the offense.
  • Otto Porter Jr., SO, Georgetown (consensus) (16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 48.0% FG, 42.2% 3FG). Many often lamented Georgetown’s stagnant Princeton-style offense as the reason for its lack of production, but imagine where the Hoyas may have been this season without Porter. The sophomore emerged as one of the nation’s best players after consecutive games in Brooklyn where he led Georgetown past then #11 UCLA and nearly upset top-ranked Indiana the following night. Porter was expected to be a key cog for Georgetown this season after averaging just south of 10.0 PPG as a freshman, but his outburst was a surprise to many this year. His stark improvement with his three-point shot — a 22.6% to 42.2% increase — has made Porter a much more complete player, and bodes well for his future at the next level.
  • Victor Oladipo, JR, Indiana (consensus) (13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 59.9% FG, 44.1% 3FG). A role player in his first two seasons at Indiana, Oladipo emerged as Indiana’s best and most valuable player as a junior, surpassing more celebrated teammate Cody Zeller in that regard. While his offensive game improved in nearly every department — how often is it that a guard shoots 60% from the field? — it was Oladipo’s defense which made him an invaluable part of Tom Crean’s team. There may not be a better on-ball wing defender in the country as Oladipo created havoc — to borrow a term from Shaka Smart — on the perimeter. In looking at just his statistics, one would think Oladipo is a 6’10 power forward given his high shooting percentage and rebounding totals; that’s what makes him such a unique and dominant player.
  • Doug McDermott, JR, Creighton (26) (23.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 54.8% FG, 49.0% 3FG, 87.5% FT). Perhaps the most prolific and talented offensive player in college basketball, it came as no surprise to find McDermott’s name on the First Team All-America list. His shooting percentages in all three departments are off the charts, and were a big reason Creighton was tops in the nation in team 3FG% and third in 2FG%; McDermott went off for 20+ points in 26 of his 36 games this season. While his defensive and athletic abilities are both question marks, there’s no denying that McDermott is a natural scorer who is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Assuming he returns for his senior season, McDermott will most likely eclipse the 3,000-point mark as a collegian which has only been done seven times in history.
  • Kelly Olynyk, JR, Gonzaga (24) (17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 62.9% FG). Playing behind Robert Sacre and Steven Gray for his first two seasons at Gonzaga, Olynyk averaged just 12.3 MPG as a freshman and 13.5 MPG as a sophomore. For his redshirt junior season, however, he owned the frontcourt. A legit seven-footer, Olynyk runs the floor like an athletic forward and scores in a variety of ways. His 62.9% FG was especially impressive considering he spent a fair amount of time outside of the paint in Gonzaga’s offense. He was the biggest reason that Gonzaga ascended to its first-ever #1 ranking in the polls and commensurate #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Second Team All-America

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Pac-12 M5: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 1st, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Dan Wetzel broke the news over the weekend that USC is targeting Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield to be hired at the same position. Enfield, of course, led his Eagles to victories in seven of their final eight games on a magical run to the Sweet Sixteen. While there may be some reservations about hiring a coach whose team was inconsistent for the majority of the season, there is no question that Enfield’s high-octane, “Dunk City” offense could appeal to a Los Angeles crowd. And for a team that has struggled mightily to draw the average fan to the Galen Center, Enfield would be a perfect fit. Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins also remains a candidate for the job.
  2. With some preseason projections hailing UCLA as a top 10 team, it would have been nearly impossible for Shabazz Muhammad and company to live up to the expectations bestowed upon them by its ever-demanding fan-base and local media. And while a 20-point upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament isn’t the way any of the Bruins wanted to go out, it shouldn’t stain the superb freshmen season of Muhammad. The guard/forward led the team with 17.8 PPG, and also sprinkled in 5.3 RPG. Sure, he invited criticism and controversy (whether deserved or not) while not going to celebrate with his teammates after Larry Drew II’s game-winner, or wearing a black Gucci backpack after a road victory in Tucson, but all in all, the season was a personal success for the freshman.
  3. Five star small forward Aaron Gordon will announce his long-awaited college decision on Wednesday night during the McDonald’s All-American Game. Gordon appears to now be considering Pac-12 schools exclusively, with the group being Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. Kentucky was in the mix as well, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. There were whispers of the Bruins making a late push to grab the blue-chip prospect out of San Jose (the connection being new coach Steve Alford having coached UCLA transfer and former New Mexico star Drew Gordon, who happens to be Aaron’s brother), but that too is an extreme long shot.
  4. There are 12 teams still playing college basketball in the 2012-13 season, and none of those happen to play in the Pac-12. That means the worst part of the year, the long and torturous off-season, is upon us. But there are also things to look forward to at Arizona, as Bruce Pascoe points out. From the maturing of last season’s freshmen, to point guard T.J. McConnell taking over the offense and providing a true one for the Wildcat offense, to a long shot waiver request, we’ll certainly have our eyes on the desert in the coming months. 
  5. The coaching carousel continued to spin out west this weekend when Cal State Fullerton hired Dedrique Taylor away from his post as the associate head coach at Arizona State. The Titans opted to go with an interim head coach for the entirety of the 2012-13 season, but needed to change that after Andy Newman posted just a 14-18 record. Taylor will be a good fit at CSUF, being a California native and working previous stints at UC Davis and Loyola Marymount. He was named one of Basketball Scoop’s National Coaches of the Year in 2009.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. News on this UCLA head coaching search is moving quickly with Pete Thamel reporting that the Bruins are moving on down the list as Shaka Smart is working on an extension with VCU and Brad Stevens is reportedly not interested in the job. From out of the blue, apparently UCLA boosters are interested in their former assistant coach and current N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried is fresh off of leading a team with arguably more talent that this year’s UCLA team to a fourth-place tie in the ACC and an early NCAA Tournament exit. Throw in his four other exits from the NCAA Tournament in his team’s first game, one Sweet Sixteen and one Elite Eight in nine Tournament appearances, and it is clear just what an upgrade he would be over UCLA’s former coach.
  2. Across town, one of USC’s potential targets for its open head coaching position is now officially off the market, as Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has committed to staying in his current position at Memphis and is working on details for a new five-year contract. But as the search for a new coach continues, you’ve got to wonder exactly what athletic director Pat Haden has been doing for the last couple months. Ostensibly, part of the reason that Kevin O’Neill was fired abruptly in the middle of the season was so that USC could get a jump start on finding a new guy. Apparently, that hasn’t worked out so well, which is just one reason I get a kick out of seeing things like “USC is a better job than UCLA” every so often these last couple days.
  3. The Pac-12 conference announced its All-Academic teams for basketball today and, before we get to the names on those teams, let’s just say we’re grateful that these teams only have five players on each team. Good to see that whoever is putting these teams together has more sense than those who come up with the 10-man All-Conference team. Anyway, here’s the five-man first team, with all players checking in with a GPA above 3.5: Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Carrick Felix from Arizona State, Jeremy Olsen from Utah, and John Gage and Robbie Lemons, both from Stanford. The second team features four additional Stanford players (Andy Brown, Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle), with a seventh player from that roster (Anthony Brown) earning honorable mention. Special congratulations go out to Powell for being the only guy on these lists to also earn RTC All-Pac-12 first team honors. And, taking in that impressive haul makes it a lot clearer why Johnny Dawkins is getting another chance on The Farm.
  4. California’s season ended on Saturday with a loss to Syracuse in the round of 32, equaling the program’s best NCAA Tournament finish in the last 16 years. And so the question that California Golden Blogs asks is, does that make the season a success? The answers are almost resoundingly positive, with people noting that in the middle of January, the Golden Bears probably weren’t even on the radar for an NCAA invite, but that first stat – no Sweet Sixteen since 1997 – that’s gotta sting a little bit.
  5. Lastly, we’ve offered up our opinions on what we hope many of the Pac-12 underclassmen decide with regards to the NBA Draft, but Jack Follman of Pacific Takes also offers up his observations, suggesting that, aside from Shabazz Muhammad, who is already gone, Dewayne Dedmon and Allen Crabbe may well be the only other guys around the conference who leave early. While we hope that would ultimately be the case, as Eric Moreland has already shown us, there are always a couple of guys that come from off the radar to make peculiar decisions to leave early. Stay tuned.
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NCAA Regional Reset: South Region

Posted by KDoyle on March 25th, 2013

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Kevin Doyle (@KLDoyle11) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. 

The South Regional begins Friday night in Arlington, Texas, with Kansas vs. Michigan followed by Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast. The East Region ResetWest Region Reset and Midwest Region Reset published earlier today. Also make sure to follow RTCSouthRegion for news and analysis from Texas throughout the week.

Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Hosts the South Regional

Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Hosts the South Regional

New Favorite: #3 Florida. It hasn’t been an arduous road to the Sweet Sixteen as Florida dismantled #14 Northwestern State and #11 Minnesota to advance to Arlington. Although the Golden Gophers cut a 21-point halftime deficit down to eight midway through the second half, they never truly challenged Florida and the Gators coasted to an easy win. Did we learn anything that we already didn’t know about Florida in the process? Probably not. Billy Donovan’s team is as good as anyone at blowing out inferior competition, but it was impressive to see their resolve demonstrated against Minnesota. The common belief is that the Gators crumble down the stretch in close games — amazingly, they have not won a game by single digits this year — but there was no need for late-game drama this weekend. To reach the Elite Eight, Florida will have to next beat #15 Florida Gulf Coast. Not exactly murderer’s row to get to the South Region final by having to play against all double-digit seeds, but FGCU has already proven that it is far from a traditional #15 seed. After posting big wins over Georgetown and San Diego State, the Eagles have shown they can more than hang with any team in the NCAA Tournament. With that said, I projected Florida to win the region when the bracket was initially released and they’ve only confirmed that belief after the first weekend.

Horse of Darkness: #4 Michigan. So much for Shaka Smart’s vaunted havoc defense. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. had little problem dealing with Virginia Commonwealth’s pressing defense en route to a convincing 25-point victory. The Rams’ 71 point swing— a 46-point win against Akron and 25-point loss to Michigan — is by far the greatest two-game switcheroo in NCAA Tournament history, as the Wolverines demonstrated that all a team needs to foil Smart’s plan is a backcourt consisting of two NBA-level players. Michigan is grossly underseeded and is probably closer to a #2 seed than #4. This is a team that was ranked in the Top 10 for virtually the entire season, but limped into the NCAA Tournament after going 6-6 in its final 12 Big Ten games. It has been evident that Michigan’s style of play has kicked up a notch against non-Big Ten teams; South Dakota State and VCU’s urge to speed up the pace of the action seemed to play right into Michigan’s hands. With Trey Burke running the show, John Beilein has the best point guard in the South Region going up against a Kansas team that clearly lacks a steady one of its own. Kansas played one good half in the first two rounds — albeit an extremely good second half against North Carolina — but is ripe for the taking.

Burke Played Like a NPOY Candidate Last Game (AnnArbor.com)

Burke Played Like a NPOY Candidate Last Game (AnnArbor.com)

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #15 Florida Gulf Coast 78, #2 Georgetown 68. What, like you thought there could possibly be a surprise that trumps what Florida Gulf Coast did in Philadelphia on Friday and Sunday? Not only did the Eagles make history as the first #15 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, they did so with flying colors — quite literally — in beating Georgetown and San Diego State by 10 points each. FGCU’s win over Georgetown was certainly a major surprise, as a 24-10 team that finished in second place in the Atlantic Sun and had been swept by Lipscomb soundly beat a 25-6 Big East team with a slew of wins over top teams. Yet after its resounding win over the Hoyas, was anyone that surprised with its victory over a San Diego State team that proved to be mostly average in a Mountain West Conference that went 2-5 in this year’s Dance? Neither win was a fluke for Andy Enfield’s squad; the Eagles flat out beat these two teams that spent much of the season ranked in the Top 25. From Andy Enfield’s story — a former NBA assistant with Rick Pitino, owning his own company called “Tract Manager,” and marrying a supermodel — to the fact that FGCU has been a Division I program for less than a decade, the endless stream of alley-oops and ridiculous dunks thrown down by high-flying no-name players, the swagger and jovial attitude of Sherwood Brown, and the heartwarming story of Brett Comer, among many other things… words simply cannot do justice to what Florida Gulf Coast accomplished over the weekend.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by KDoyle on March 22nd, 2013

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#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Florida Gulf Coast is one of the better stories in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Only in their sixth year as a Division 1 program, the Eagles are riding their first winning season in history thanks to the hiring of former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. In Enfield’s first year, they finished 15-17, but were a game away from the NCAA Tournament as they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. This year, Florida Gulf Coast has been the team to beat, and it began with an early season win over Miami (FL). FGCU’s style of play greatly differs from today’s opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas are predicated on a stingy zone defense that rarely allows for clean looks at the basket, and they play at a snail’s pace. Led by Otto Porter, Georgetown has a legitimate star that can carry them deep into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU very much likes to get up and down the floor with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson leading the attack. If FGCU is able to get out in the open floor and score in transition, they’ll keep it close for much of the game. Problem is that not many teams control the pace of a game quite like Georgetown—that’s what makes them such a difficult opponent as they force the opposition to play their style of game. Historically, Georgetown has struggled in the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III as they’ve failed to reach the second weekend in four of six appearances under him, but many believe this is a different Hoya team. FGCU is playing with house money and expect them to make a game of this, but in front of a heavy Georgetown crowd in Philadelphia the Hoyas are simply too much in the end.

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the nation’s most balanced teams, the knock on the Buckeyes for the longest time this season was that they didn’t have a secondary scorer to help out junior DeShaun Thomas. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s just say that Iona never had such a problem. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones has always been the main offensive weapon on this team, never afraid to look for his own shot, but the Gaels have always trusted guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury to chip in heavily in the scoring column. And as a result, the Gaels have one of the most efficient offenses in the mid-major ranks. The problem for Tim Cluess’ team is the complete inability to stop teams on defense; only nine times all season have they held an opponent below one point per possession in a game. Given that Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation (sixth in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), you can expect the Buckeyes to at least slow Iona’s prolific offense. And given that Thad Matta has been getting significantly improved offensive play out of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, you can expect the Bucks to take advantage of that buttery soft Gael defense. While Momo Jones, et al. have the ability to make some exciting plays when they’ve got the ball, their inattention to details defensively will allow the Buckeyes to have more than their share of exciting offensive plays as well.

The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: Oregon 78, UCLA 69

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report after Saturday night’s Pac-12 Tournament championship game between Oregon and UCLA.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Jonathan Loyd, The Oregon Point Guard. After slowly returning from injury, this was supposed to be the week when Dominic Artis returned to form in the Oregon starting lineup. He did return to the starting lineup, but it was Jonathan Loyd who was the man at the point for the Ducks. He was terrific all weekend averaging 24 minutes and 11.3 points per game, but was particularly good in the championship, scoring 19 points and bailing out the Ducks at the end of the shot clock by knocking down jumpers. However, is that the type of offense that head coach Dana Altman really wants? After the game, Altman made it clear that there were times that Loyd took some shots that he wasn’t exactly pleased with. To be honest, often in the second half, the Ducks didn’t run particularly good sets but got bailed out either by Loyd late or by offensive rebounds off misses. Ideally, Loyd would be generating good looks for his teammates more regularly than getting his own shots, but it is awfully hard to argue with the results tonight.
  2. Life Without Jordan Adams. In UCLA’s first game following Jordan Adams’ broken foot, the Bruins clearly struggled offensively, to the tune of 0.96 points per possession — their least effective offensive performance since their Valentine’s Night massacre at the hands of California. Some of the problems can be chalked up to fatigue in the face of playing their third game in as many nights with basically just a six-man rotation, and some of it can be explained away by the idea that this team didn’t have much time to game plan for life without Adams. But, let’s just say that game one in the post-Adams era did not go smoothly. Shabazz Muhammad was limited by a defense free to key on him and Kyle Anderson was unable to step into a secondary scorer’s role, leaving Larry Drew II to pick up the scoring slack, which he accomplished to some extent (14 points on 11 field goal attempts). Norman Powell was a pretty bright spot as well, scoring 10 points on six FGAs in 37 minutes. UCLA will probably be more comfortable in its next game out, but the long-term prognosis for the Oregon offense without Adams is not bright.
UCLA's Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

UCLA’s Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

  1. Pac-12 NCAA Tournament Viability. The conference is in all likelihood going to wind up with five teams dancing, but it is hard to see one of these teams capable of making a run of any sort. UCLA without Adams doesn’t have the depth or offensive firepower to get to the second weekend; Oregon, though they righted the ship somewhat this weekend, is still not playing as well as they were prior to the Artis injury; California’s hot streak is officially over; and Colorado has never been a completely trustworthy team this season. That leaves Arizona, the most talented Pac-12 team and a team that is certainly capable of stringing together some wins should everything break right, but a team that has underachieved for since conference play began. While anything is possible in a one-game setting, none of these teams will be favored to advance past the first weekend of NCAA play. Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Thoughts on the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 16th, 2013

Day three of the Pac-12 Tournament is complete, and teams have made their may through the 12 team field to tonight’s championship game. The first team through was top-seeded UCLA, who used an 18-7 run late in the second half to erase an 11-point deficit and pull out a two point win over Arizona. In the second game of the night, Oregon took advantage of a tired Utah team and led the Utes by 14 at halftime before cruising to a 64-45 win.

Here are four things that stood out on day three of the Pac-12 Tournament:

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (USA Today)

  1. Adams’ Last Game? – UCLA freshman Jordan Adams may have played his last game as a Bruin last night after breaking his fifth metatarsal in his right foot on the final play of the game. Adams led all scorers with 24 points before breaking the foot trying to defend Solomon Hill’s last shot. A few weeks back Adams said he did not want to discuss his future and just wanted to focus on finishing the rest of the season. With his season complete, look for an announcement in the coming days on whether the star guard will go to the NBA this summer.
  2. Pac-12 Refs - With 4:35 remaining in the game and Arizona leading 56-54, point guard Mark Lyons drove into the lane, had the ball slightly dislodged by a Bruin defender, caught the ball, and resumed his dribble. This was inexplicably called a double-dribble by the officiating crew, and then the officials compounded their mistake by T’ing up head coach Sean Miller. The calls resulted in two made free throws to knot up the score, the first time the score was not an Arizona lead since the 14:30 mark in the first half. Pac-12 refs gonna Pac-12 ref – nuff’ said.  Read the rest of this entry »
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