Big East M5: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 24th, 2013

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  1. Just days removed from being the top ranked team in the nation, Louisville has fallen on tough times.  Back to back losses to Syracuse and Villanova has Rick Pitino noticeably upset about his team’s play.  After the Villanova loss, his venom was directed towards the Cardinals’ free throw shooting, at the expense of a pair of basketball stars:  “It was really a simple answer to why we lost.  Basically we were Dwight Howard or Shaquille O’Neal. We came down we had a six-point lead and it could have been eight. Could have kept coming down and extending it but our free throws were a turnover. Very simple answer for why we lost. Our foul shooting was despicable.” Despite the two losses, Louisville can still be considered the class of the conference, and we know that Pitino is coaching his team with March in mind.  That being said, with both Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harris shooting ~50% from the line, the Cardinals may have a tough time closing out savvy teams.
  2. Moving forward, the game may say more about Villanova than it does Louisville.  The Wildcats have struggled to notch conference wins to this point, but they’ve been knocking on the door.  Against the Cardinals, they just decided to kick it down.  Where in previous games against Pitt and Providence, Villanova was unable to put away its opponent, against Louisville the Wildcats applied the pressure while playing from behind, and with an assist from the Cardinals’ poor free throw shooting, Nova finally stole one.  The Wildcats have a chance to make another big statement against Syracuse on Saturday morning.  Another strong performance would go a long way towards getting Villanova back into NCAA Tournament talks.
  3. I wouldn’t have guessed Buzz Williams as the Big East coach to utilize long-running extended metaphors to describe his team from season to season, but here we are.  Marquette‘s a hard team to pin down.  They haven’t looked awfully impressive in any game this season.  It took overtime to beat Pittsburgh and UConn, they snuck by Georgetown in a classic Hoya 49-48 game, and they only topped Seton Hall by seven.  However, they only have one loss in league play, in overtime against Cincinnati, and the Golden Eagles find themselves in second place, 1.5 games behind Syracuse.  Some teams have played below expectations, others have surpassed them.  Marquette seems to be right where it should be, it just hasn’t been an easy path taken.
  4. Scott Martin‘s six year Notre Dame career may be coming to a close.  The oft-banged up Irish captain has struggled to regain form after offseason ACL and meniscus repair, and has been shut down for the time being.  Mike Brey says that it’s all hands on deck to try to find a replacement for Martin: ”But I think I’m going into it thinking, we’re looking at everybody in a gold (practice) shirt – Zach (Auguste), Austin (Burgett), (Garrick Sherman), Tom Knight. We’re going to do it today, we’re going to do it tomorrow, and we’re probably going to do it the first half Saturday to see, what do we have?”  Martin’s scoring has dipped a bit this season, but he’s a solid player who is especially dangerous with his .463 mark from three-point range.  More than anything, the Irish will miss Martin’s consistency, and the team needs it more now than ever.  Hopefully Martin is able to come back from this most recent issue.
  5. UConn freshman Omar Calhoun was not only lucky enough to be blessed with tremendous skill on the court, but he also has two parents who have a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed off of it.  Calhoun’s father, Omar Sr., played at St. Francis College before leaving the game when Omar Jr. was born.  His mother, Semara Breland, was a star in high school on track to receive multiple scholarship offers before she left the game as a Junior.  Both stayed in school and received their college degrees while raising Omar and his sister Sierra, a good player in her own right, and that experience has been invaluable in guiding their kids to making good, informed choices with their basketball careers.
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Morning Five: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The SEC media on Monday released its preseason selections for the upcoming season and with the exception of some carpetbagging school called “Missouri” on this year’s list, it looks an awful lot like last year’s list. Kentucky came in as the choice for first place in the 2012-13 version of the SEC race with 17 first-place ballots, with Florida (five), Missouri (one) and Tennessee (one) following up the Wildcats. It appears that not much is expected from South Carolina (#11) or Mississippi State (#12) this season, which gives Frank Martin and Rick Ray an opportunity to immediately exceed expectations if they can put together some conference wins. Missouri’s Phil Pressey was chosen as the preseason SEC POY, another interesting choice given that he was a third-team selection in the Big 12 last year — clearly many pundits are predicting big things for the dynamic waterbug guard this season. Pressey was joined on the first team by Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Arkansas’ BJ Young, Florida’s Kenny Boynton, and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes.
  2. While on the subject of making preseason lists of elite players, CBSSports‘ Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman released their combined ballot for their top 50 Wooden Award candidates (which by rule cannot include transfers or freshmen). Forty-two players showed up on both of their lists, but the devil is always in the details, and where the pair differ is far more interesting and open for debate. Which writer left Ohio’s DJ Cooper off his list? Or Allen Crabbe? Or Elias Harris? The one thing missing here is the why/why not — we wish that the pair had taken the time to explain their differences, even if was only with a sentence or two at the end.
  3. NCAA president Mark Emmert gave a talk at Wright State University on Monday, and The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy was there to report on the proceedings. In response to a question about the highly controversial NBA one-and-done rule, Emmert stuck to his previous position on the matter by stating that he “dislikes it enormously” and finds it “anathema to the collegiate model of academics.” When pressed for additional information afterward, Emmert appears to have once again punted to the NBA, stating only that he’s had “conversations” with the league and its players’ union about changing the rule. While we certainly recognize that Emmert has no authority over the NBA whatsoever, we’d like to see him take a more forceful stance on the issue that would satisfy fans and coaches alike. If the NBA refuses to cooperate in pursuit of its own self-interest, then Emmert should begin saber-rattling likewise — he has more leverage here than he’d like to admit if he’d only recognize it.
  4. With all the bad news coming out of the UCLA program recently — the ongoing sagas involving the eligibility of star recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson and recent injuries to David Wear and Tyler Lamb — it was somewhat shocking to read this sunnier-than-SoCal headline from the LA Times on Monday:  UCLA basketball seems to be entering a bright new era. Mmmkay. Granted, the piece by Bill Dwyre focuses more on the long-term prospects of the Bruins program with a renovated Pauley Pavilion and a gleaming new statue of the Wizard of Westwood outside, but other than a brief mention of the NCAA’s investigation into the two freshmen, it more or less glosses over the fact that the program from the outside appears to be tottering. Maybe when Dwyre is walking around the tree-lined campus it’s easier to get lost in the Wooden mystique, but several things — not of all which are completely under Ben Howland’s control — need to come together for this program to get back on its blue-blooded track this season. It remains to be seen whether the planets and stars will indeed align.
  5. Finally, Luke Winn gets historical with us in his latest column where he enters the wayback machine and finds a slim but sturdy Shaquille O’Neal facing off in an “epic” battle between LSU and the running and gunning Loyola Marymount Paul Westheads some 22 years ago. The theme of his piece is that last season’s scoring across all of college basketball was the lowest it has ever been in the shot clock era (including when it a 45-second clock was in effect in the late ’80s and early ’90s). What was defined as uptempo two decades ago would look like a different game today — even then, nobody ran the ball like LMU, but teams regularly hit 80 possessions per game, whereas nowadays most teams never see the north side of 70 per game. There are a number of reasons for this trend, of course, but we’ll save that for the book that we’ll write someday — for now, just get over there and check out the data and a superb highlight clip of a young Shaq destroying everything in his path on the way to a 148-141 victory (you read that correctly).
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Anthony Davis Named a Finalist for USA Olympic Team: Should He Make It?

Posted by EJacoby on May 3rd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

As international basketball continues to gain steam, so does widespread intrigue in the Summer Olympic Games. The upcoming 2012 London Olympics will include some tremendous competition for the heavily favored United States, such as a Spanish team that can boast a monster front line of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka. To counter that front line, and as a side effect of several unfortunate injuries, the Americans are in need of some serious size of their own. As a result, college basketball’s reigning National Player of the Year and projected No. 1 NBA draft pick Anthony Davis has already been named as one of the 20 finalists for Team USA this summer. Would Davis be a good fit for this team, and could “The Unibrow” possibly make the cut? Historical precedent says it could happen, and a roster breakdown shows that Davis might just be the big man inside that Team USA is missing.

Anthony Davis is now Shooting for a Spot on Team USA (AP Photo)

The USA Basketball Committee, led by chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, already selected the 20 finalists for the team back in January but several significant injuries has left Team USA in need of more bodies to compete for the final 12-man roster by the June 18 deadline. Specifically, there is a glaring lack of healthy size on the roster given injury troubles to Dwight Howard (back) and LaMarcus Aldridge (hip). The only true center currently on the roster is Tyson Chandler, with power forwards Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, and Lamar Odom in the fold as well. But there are issues with all of these forwards — Odom was released by the Dallas Mavericks after a terrible season, Griffin brings more ‘flash’ than production as an interior player, and Love and Bosh both thrive offensively on the perimeter. There is an absolute need for an interior presence to back up Chandler.

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SEC Mount Rushmore

Posted by EMoyer on February 21st, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

In honor of President’s Day, RTC is putting together the Mount Rushmores of the six power conferences. For all the history in the SEC,  picking four who represent all of basketball proved difficult and will surely (hopefully) create good debate. So without any delay, here’s the Mount Rushmore of SEC basketball:

Adolph Rupp – Kentucky: Rupp, a fixture on the Mount Rushmore for all of college basketball easily earned one of the four coveted spots. Rupp learned under Phog Allen while playing at Kansas, then came to Kentucky and ultimately passed Allen before retiring as the winningest coach in college basketball history. His Wildcat teams won four NCAA titles (1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958) and 27 SEC titles in his 41 years on the bench. In 11 of those years, he posted undefeated seasons in SEC play. In SEC Tournament play, he posted a 57-6 record with 13 more titles. During the height of his reign, he made it nearly impossible for teams to win at Kentucky. Rupp authored the longest home court winning streak in Division I history, winning 129 straight from January 4, 1943, to January 8, 1955. As part of his legacy, his name adorns the  current Wildcat home court, Rupp Arena, the student section is named the eRUPPtion Zone, and one of the major national player of the year awards is the Adolph F. Rupp Trophy.

Pete Maravich – LSU: When your conference boasts the all-time leading scorer in Division I despite only getting to play three seasons due to an NCAA rule prohibiting freshmen from playing for the varsity team, you can guarantee another spot on Mount Rushmore. Combine his mythical status and ball-handling wizardry, the choice of Pete Maravich is almost as easy as Rupp. He still holds 15 NCAA records and owns the top scoring seasons for a sophomore, junior, and senior. On the LSU freshman team, he scored an additional 741 points and averaged 43.6 points per game. The Sporting News, AP, and UPI named Maravich a First-Team All-America in 1968, 1969, and 1970. In 1970, he claimed the Naismith Award and Player of the Year awards from The Sporting News and the USBWA. Like Rupp, Maravich’s name lives on as the Tigers play in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

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20 Questions: Who is the Best Defensive Player in College Basketball?

Posted by dnspewak on November 1st, 2011

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference and a Big 12 microsite staffer.  

Question: Who is the Best Defensive Player in College Basketball?

Measuring the top defender is a near-impossible task in almost every sport. Offensively, you’re golden once you take a few glances at the right statistics. The top quarterbacks in the NFL throw the most touchdowns and complete the most passes; the top players in college basketball score the most points and make the most shots; and the top hitters in baseball collect the most hits and drive in the most runs. It’s a a very simplistic way to look at the world, of course. But it’s true. Arguing who the best offensive players are in every sport, including college basketball, are easy, straightforward discussions.

But defense? That’s a whole other story. Do you measure the top defenders by blocks? Steals? Or is it deflections, opponent’s field goal percentage or some other hidden statistic only understood by sabermaticians?

The point is, selecting the nation’s top defender is a subjective task based on a variety of criteria. Most of all, it’s based on the individual impressions we form of players as we watch them compete, whether live or on television. For example, the statistics showed that Jimmer Fredette led the NCAA in scoring last season and shot 40 percent from behind the arc. But Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore won the Defensive Player of the Year award but did not even finish in the top 15 nationally in steals per game.

Taylor Draws the Toughest Assignment Each and Every Night

ODU’s Bazemore is certainly a candidate for this honor again, but we’re going to go in a different direction here. Our choice for the best defensive player in the country is Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor, a 6’7” forward with a multitude of assets on both ends of the floor. In his three years at Vandy, Taylor has gotten the opportunity to shut down players as varied as Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks, South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Missouri’s Kim English, and many others. He has proven that he won’t back down from any defensive challenge, and he’s got the strength and versatility to match up with any collegiate position Kevin Stallings needs covered.

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Morning Five: 09.09.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 9th, 2011

  1. We’re all well aware that this coming Sunday, September 11, is a notable and infamous anniversary in the historical annals of this country. It’s a day for reflection of the memory of those who were tragically taken from us that unforgettable morning ten years ago, and each and every American will surely do his and her part to commemorate and remember.  The juxtaposition between the harsh and brutal reality of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the fun we have watching, discussing and obsessing over our favorite teams has perhaps never been so poignantly described as ESPN’s Kieran Darcy does in a heartbreaking open letter to his father, Dwight.  Darcy’s dad was a senior attorney at the New York Port Authority, and his office was located on the 66th floor of the north tower of the WTC.  According to the 2,996 Project, a list of biographies of each of the nearly three thousand lives lost, he had recently experienced foot surgery and was still hobbling around in a cast on that fateful day.  There is so much pain and suffering seared into our national consciousness from that Tuesday morning a decade ago, especially among those families like the Darcys who endured such a profound emptiness in the intervening years, but the underlying beauty in what Darcy wrote is that he and his family have been able to pick up the pieces and successfully move on.  Kudos to him and all the other 9/11 families who have survived ten years later.
  2. To that end, Dana O’Neil writes about how Rick Pitino and his family have rebuilt their lives after his brother-in-law (wife Joanne’s brother), Billy Minardi, was killed on September 11.  This story of Minardi is much more well-known than Darcy’s but no less touching — ten years ago on Labor Day weekend, Pitino and his brother-in-law had spent an unforgettable weekend at Pebble Beach, enjoying the golf, the natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, and each other’s company.  They were the best kind of best friends — the kind where you’re not afraid to tell the hard and honest truth — and it’s taken every bit of the decade since then for his family to move on to the point where Pitino and his three sons re-enacted the same trip this past Labor Day weekend.  Another great story, and we’re sure there are approximately 3,000 of them out there this week.
  3. On a lighter note, Luke Winn checks in with his third and final installment this week about the most efficient players of the last decade of college basketball.  Thursday’s piece focused on the best big men of the era, and many of the top seasons are what you might expect — for example, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley’s 1-and-done years in 2007-08.  But how about some love for former Oregon forward, Maarty Leunen in 2007-08 (#4 on the list) and everyone’s favorite floppy-haired Catamount, Taylor Coppenrath in 2004-05 (#3 on the list).  Winn also takes the time to break out players by their 1-and-done status and by national championship teams.  As always, it’s an interesting piece and well worth a few minutes looking through it.
  4. Shabazz Muhammed is widely considered the top player in the Class of 2012, but it appears that at least one fanbase is going to exorbitant lengths to get the 6’6″ wing to stay in Las Vegas and play for the hometown UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.  According to this interview with Muhammad on ESPN’s high school basketball blog, he says that one enterprising UNLV fan has offered to name his baby after the rising senior.  We have no clue whether such a thing would qualify as a booster providing undue influence, but we’re fairly certain that there’s some legal intern in Indianapolis right now looking at case precedents.
  5. On Thursday evening, LSU unveiled its 900-pound statue of one of the most dominant players in the history of the game, Shaquille O’Neal.  The bronze rendering of Shaq with both knees raised while straining the rim, backboard and stanchion with the force of his massive frame after a dunk is an exact doppelganger of what the mind’s eye sees when remembering O’Neal at LSU.  An absolute freak of nature, there simply hasn’t been another player with his combination of size, strength, athleticism and skill in the last two decades of basketball.  He averaged 22/14 in three seasons as a Tiger, but his legacy as a collegian is somewhat spoiled by a 2-3 NCAA record that didn’t include even a single Sweet Sixteen trip.  Still, his individual dominance in college inspired fear in coaches worried that his team might eventually figure out that he was mostly unstoppable in the post.  Don’t believe us?  Feast your eyes on this highlight package from his time in Baton Rouge.

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Morning Five: 06.06.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 6th, 2011

  1. The weekend started off with Penn State finding themselves a basketball coach. Pat Chambers will leave Boston University to take over the Nittany Lions, with Penn State AD Tim Curley announcing that Chambers brings “proven success, an appreciation of and commitment to Penn State ideals, and the energy and enthusiasm required to compete at the highest level” to the table. The third of those is true. We’ll take his word on the second. But the first? “Proven success?” We suppose it’s technically true, since in his two seasons as a head coach at BU, Chambers posted a 42-28 record and took the Terriers to two postseasons (CBI in 2010, NCAA in 2011). It’s just strange hearing someone at Penn State described as having “proven success” after two seasons as a head coach, considering the old guy who’s currently got his feet propped up over in the football coach’s office.
  2. What’s this? Bill Self in a shiny silk green shirt and a gold chain? His wife in a rainbow dress and go-go boots? Fear not, Jayhawks, your coach and his wife haven’t lost their minds nor their fashion sense. The occasion for such sartorial splendor was Bill’s Basketball Boogie, a charity event co-chaired by Mrs. Self that offers attendees the chance to break out their disco-era garb. Sounds like it was hoppin’, with around 700 guests, but the one who stood out the most was not in costume at all. Rather, he donned his customary shirt-and-tie, just like he did on his recruiting visit (this is rare) to Kansas. Naadir Tharpe sounds like one of those kids for whom it’s easy to root.
  3. Can you believe it’s been nearly 25 years since Indiana won its last national title? Upon his arrival in Bloomington, Tom Crean was handed the keys to a Hindenberg-esque pile of wreckage and was asked to make it fly again. If you’re around the guy for even a few seconds, you can tell how much he cares about his players as individuals and about reviving the winning tradition at IU. And with a nice little recruiting class coming in, maybe this is the year that things start to turn for the Hoosiers. If it doesn’t, we’ll bet that Crean’s/IU’s detractors and rivals will throughout the year be repeating a quote that operates as part of the headline to this story from a Louisville television station: “All that’s left is the winning.”
  4. As the basketball world knows, Shaquille O’Neal formally retired from hoops on Friday with a legacy as one of the greatest big men to ever play the game.  We’ve been on record as saying we’ve never before or since seen a combined package of power, agility and athleticism as canned in one player at 17 years old as we did in 1989 when Shaq hit the LSU campus.  This piece from the Monroe (LA) News-Star gave a brief glimpse into the player Shaq was to become at the LSU media days event when O’Neal was still an unknown freshman — some 22 years later, we can’ t say that we’re surprised that Shaq was already commanding the center of attention.
  5. It’s been one year since the great John Wooden passed, and as Victoria Sun writes in this piece, UCLA’s Black Alumni Association hosted a private fundraiser on Saturday to commemorate the Wizard’s progressive view on race relations.  Even at this point, we’re still learning about the greatness of this man’s life.  It turns out that in 1946, nearly two decades before the national civil rights movement resulted in the banishment of Jim Crow, Wooden stood up for one of his players — a black player — named Clarence Jackson whom NAIA officials would not let play in their national tournament in Kansas City.  He was a bench player — not a star by any stretch — and yet Wooden, cognizant of the injustice of such racism decades before most of his peers, pulled his team from the tournament.  This may just seem trite to some of our readers too young to know the difference, but let’s be explicit about this — as hard as it was to take a stand like this in the mid-60s at the height of the civil rights movement, it was nearly unheard of in the 1940s.  Most people simply didn’t think that way at that time, and the fact that Wooden not only sensed the unfairness but did something about it speaks volumes about the character of this man.  A national treasure, he.
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Morning Five: 05.23.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on May 23rd, 2011

  1. The coaching carousel may have slowed down a little recently, but the player pinball is still operational and making noise. Over the weekend, St. John’s Red Stormer Dwayne Polee announced his intent to transfer to a school closer to home so he can help his family “get through a health issue.” Polee played in all 33 games for SJU as a freshman last season, starting most of them, and averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 boards in 15.5 per contest. We hope the family health issue he cites resolves to the best possible outcome, obviously. Much less importantly: Polee is from Los Angeles, so you may begin your speculation on his eventual college choice at once.
  2. Another player on the move is forward Luke Hancock, most recently of George Mason, and he’s evidently prepared to eschew mid-major life and head off to Louisville. As a sophomore last season, Hancock led the Patriots in assists (4.3 APG, 3rd in the CAA) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9), and was third in scoring with 10.4 PPG. He had 18/5 in Mason’s first second-round win over Villanova in the NCAA Tournament, but a gastrointestinal bug kept him out of their next game — that 98-66 spanking administered by Ohio State. Hancock has serious game, folks. This is a nice pickup by the Cardinals.
  3. The official report doesn’t come out until Tuesday, but it looks like Connecticut will lose two scholarships for next season because of a low academic progress rate (APR). In this limited space we won’t get into the goods and bads of APR methodology, but in addition to leaving UConn with ten scholarships next year, one brow-raising factoid from the linked New York Times/AP summary is that the low APR will cost Jim Calhoun almost $200,000, including every dime of his postseason bonus of $87,500 that he received for the run to the national championship.
  4. The Hurleys have done their homeland proud, and we’re not just talkin’ about New Jersey. Dan and Bobby — now head and assistant coach of Wagner College, respectively — and their father Bob, the legendary head coach of Saint Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, were all recently named to Irish Central’s Top 100 Irish Americans for 2011 (um…isn’t it only May?). Dan and Bobby shared a spot on the list, but Bob got his own among the honorees, a list that also includes Regis Philbin, Will Ferrell, and Muhammad Ali. Erin Go Bragh, boys!
  5. Tim Brando had the idea and then John DeShazier of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune ran with it, and the result is this article from yesterday that makes the case for former LSU head coach Dale Brown. What do you think? Pete Maravich’s name is on the home arena. Shaquille O’Neal is getting a statue in front of the practice facility. Does Brown, who led LSU to 448 wins, 13 NCAA Tournaments and two Final Fours, at least deserve to have the court named after him? Brando/DeShazier are pretty convincing.
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Morning Five: 05.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2011

  1. Might there be a Gus Johnson reprieve?  Yesterday we wrote about how incredibly disappointed we were that Gus had decided to take his talents to Fox Sports in coming years, effectively ending his career with CBS and seemingly eliminating any more future chances for Heartbreak City! Michael Hiestand of USA Today writes, though, that his new employer would have no problem with ‘loaning out’ Gus to CBS/Turner during future NCAA Tournaments should they want him for their wall-to-wall coverage (see: ESPN’s Jay Bilas, for example).  That last bit is the key part, right there.  As popular as Gus was among college basketball fans under the age of 40, his departure was in some ways political in nature, and we figure it would be tough for CBS to bring back someone who rejected their final offer and left for another network (jilted girlfriend theory).  Still, a glimmer of hope in what appeared to be cavernous darkness…
  2. Now that the Maryland job search is over, it’s Texas A&M’s turn.  Athletic Director Bill Byrne has quite a tough job ahead of him given the success of his two previous hires, Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie, but according to TSN, native Houstonian and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is not available.  The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Marquette’s Buzz Williams was now A&M’s primary target, but his buyout and salary were probably too rich for TAMU to match.  This leaves a reported list of three intriguing names — Nebraska’s Doc Sadler, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, and Colorado’s Tad Boyle.  Of the three, Marshall would appear to be the kind of coach in the Gillispie/Turgeon vein to seem the best fit, with demonstrated success at the mid-major level and the requisite ambition to make it at the highest level.
  3. Luke Winn breaks down the somewhat embarrassing coaching searches that went on at four ACC schools so far this offseason — NC State, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, and most recently, Maryland.  Among the four schools, roughly eight to ten candidates (depending on who you ask) turned these  programs down in favor of their current schools that, by and large, would have represented stepping stones to bigger things in the not-too-distant past.  Mark Few at Gonzaga began this trend last decade: an absurd notion that a coach could build an A-list program at a non-BCS school, short of the pressures of insane fan bases but with nearly as much exposure, recruiting penetration and success as many of the big boys.  More recently, Brad Stevens at Butler, Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Shaka Smart at VCU and Chris Mooney at Richmond have decided to stick with the devil they know rather than the one they don’t, and we can’t truly say we blame them.  This is especially true in a league like the ACC, where the twin titans of Duke and Carolina lord over the league nearly every year and it’s extremely difficult to challenge and (even temporarily) overcome them.  Gary Williams did it as well as it’s been done in the last twenty years, but we don’t blame coaches who think they’d be walking into situations where they’re mostly set up to fail.
  4. A bit of transfer news from Tuesday… Kansas State forward and overall disappointment Wally Judge has decided that he will play his final two seasons at Rutgers, ultimately betting on the future of Mike Rice’s program rather than to take a chance at Maryland with new head coach Mark Turgeon.  The 6’9, 248-lb former McDonald’s All-American averaged 6/4 in around fifteen minutes per game last year before leaving the K-State program in late January.  Meanwhile, NC State point guard Ryan Harrow has announced the schools he will visit in coming weeks, including Kentucky, Louisville, St. John’s, Georgia and Texas.  The odds-on favorite is SJU, as both of Harrow’s folks are products of Queens and consider the Johnnies their hometown school.  Whoever gets the freshman will be getting a talented floor leader, as Harrow averaged 9/3 in 23 minutes per game and started most of the Wolfpack’s contests at the end of last season.
  5. Love or hate the man as a comedian-cum-superstar center or lazy, out-of-shape impresario who wasted some of his best playing years getting involved in things other than basketball, but there can be no question that Shaquille O’Neal possesses a heart of pure gold when it comes to his generosity.  Anyone who has watched his Shaq-a-Claus bit each winter, or has heard the numerous off-record stories about his many random acts of incredible kindness to regular Joes, knows this truth.  So when we read that Shaq was resisting the placement of a life-sized statue of himself outside the new LSU practice facility that he helped pay for, consider us completely unsurprised.  It turns out that the Big Aristotle has been anonymously putting millions into LSU infrastructure for years, including to help pay for an on-campus hotel and an academic center, contributions to the point that two LSU Board of Supervisors members demanded that Shaq’s statue go up first — even ahead of the man whose name adorns the arena, Pete Maravich.  We’ve said for a long time that we’ve never seen another player at 19 years old who could do the things at his size that Shaq could do, but we were always referring to his athleticism and stature; it turns out we might have been unwittingly also referring to the big fella’s ticker, and we didn’t even know it.  Here’s what the statue will look like, if Shaq ever approves its completion.

Best Collegian We've Ever Seen At His Size

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Past Imperfect: The Long Road To Humility

Posted by JWeill on January 27th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape.  This week: in a week BYU and San Diego State meet for a top 10 matchup, a look at two key figures in each school’s basketball history.

It’s June 1991, and Steve Fisher is in a good mood, a really good mood. It may seem odd, given he’s just emerged from coaching Michigan to a 14-15 record, his first losing season in his brief stint as a head coach. To add to it, he’s just graduated his leading scorer and captain. And yet, here is Fisher, serene and smiling in his bespectacled, professorial way. If it looks as if he knows something the rest of us don’t, that’s because he does.

What Fisher knows is that he’s just signed the best freshman class in school history – maybe in NCAA history. Combined, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King will go on to win 97 games for the Wolverines, coming within reach of back-to-back national titles. It’s also a crew that will have most of its wins expunged. But Fisher doesn’t know any of that yet. All he knows right now is that after a trying season, the cavalry is coming in baggy shorts and tall black socks, a group of young men who will change college basketball and the coach who brought them together. Forever.

* * *

It’s July 1991, and a 7-foot-6 Mormon basketball player – one of the tallest men on the planet, probably the world’s tallest Mormon — is giving up the game that is going to make him a millionaire someday. Well, maybe not exactly giving up, because what Shawn Bradley is really doing is taking a break to spread the word of God. For two years.

That he’s just finished an All-American freshman season in which he set an all-time record for blocks in a game is immaterial right now. The game-changing giant is heading to Australia to take a break, not knowing if he’ll ever play the game he’s loved his whole life again. It will be a confusing, often frustrating time, but one that will change him. Forever.

* * *

In many ways, Fisher is an unlikely spark for the basketball revolution that’s coming. A former high school coach in Park Forest, Ill., Fisher was on the slow track. For 10 years an assistant coach, Fisher was never the lead guy. Like all college assistants, he was the brains and hard work behind the scenes. He went on recruiting trips, sure, but the glory, and of course the headaches, ultimately went to the man in the seat beside him.

Interim coach Steve Fisher led Michigan to the 1989 championship.

Then came March 1989, and the man in the seat beside him, Bill Frieder, was fired for taking another job before Michigan’s season has come to an end. The NCAA tournament is one day away and now Fisher is the one responsible for wins or losses. Of course he is nervous. So what does the accidental head coach go out and do? He wins the whole damn thing. In a matter of three weeks, there’s more glory than Steve Fisher ever imagined, and all after just six games. It’s a story too remarkable to be believable, but believable because it is true. Six games and Fisher had just reached the pinnacle of the job he’d only just joined by accident. Six games and a mountain of glory you can only tumble down from.

Because what can Steve Fisher do to follow up six-and-oh my God?

* * *

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Morning Five: 09.23.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 23rd, 2010

  1. It appears that NPOY candidate Kyle Singler will be 100% in time for Midnight Madness in three weeks (and a day) after surgery to repair some cartilage damage in his left meniscus (knee).  The Duke forward is TSN’s preseason player of the year, and he is expected to lead an even better team into 2010-11 than the one that cut the nets down last April.  It’s still hard to believe considering the star power that previous Duke players shooting for B2B titles brought to bear, but Singler has an opportunity to join very select company in the Blue Devil Annals (Hurley, Hill, Laettner to name the troika).
  2. Oklahoma basketball has certainly taken it on the chin in the last twelve months, but this is ridiculous.  Senior guard Cade Davis, the top returning scorer/rebounder/assister/stealer/3-point shooter from last year’s Sooner debacle, fractured his face in a recent team workout.  He’s not expected to miss any practice time, but we’re quite certain that we’re going to be rooting for this guy to have a great senior campaign.
  3. Mick Cronin is entering his fifth season at Cincinnati, and although he cites an improved win total in his four previous years (from 11 to 13 to 18 to 19), he’s definitely feeling the heat under his rear to get the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament.  This article by Paul Daugherty looks into the difficulties that Cronin faces in an environment where he is supposed to win without taking any chances in recruiting.
  4. Rivals #1 high school senior Austin Rivers published his latest diary where he describes his in-home visits with Coach K, Roy Williams and Bill Self.  If you read between the lines; hell, or just read the actual lines (Duke “was kinda like old friends coming to the house.”), it’s fairly clear that Duke is his current leader.  Assume Kyrie Irving sticks around for his sophomore year… can you imagine a backcourt of Irving, Rivers and Seth Curry in Durham? — wow!  Dan Wiederer makes the case that Roy Williams may slide in through the back door by trying to sell Rivers on an opportunity to play with Harrison Barnes for one season, but that’s a longshot.
  5. This is an interesting article describing the popularity of the first name “Shaquille” among athletes in the 15-18 year-old range.  Shaquille O’Neal was a global phenomenon in the early-mid 1990s as he blew up rims from Baton Rouge to Orlando and arenas everywhere in-between — it appears that many pregnant ladies who later had children who became star athletes in basketball and football liked that name quite a bit.
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Morning Five: 09.09.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 9th, 2010

  1. The big news so far this week has been The New York Times reporting that Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter had received improper benefits while playing semi-professionally in Turkey and while we haven’t had the typical full Kentucky explosion we are expecting it to happen any moment now particularly when we stumble upon news like this. If you are looking for the aforementioned explosion we would recommend checking back here intermittently for when Kentucky fans finally decide to go off the deep end on Pete Thamel.
  2. We typically save this for our Recruiting Rumor Mills, but Chane Benahan‘s commitment to Rick Pitino and Louisville is notable for the fact that he is the first recruit in quite a while to turn down John Calipari and Kentucky. His reasons for turning down the Wildcats: difficulty getting playing time in Lexington and because he felt that Kentucky only offered him a scholarship because Louisville did. At the very least, Benahan’s decision appears to have convinced Louisville fans that the rivalry between the two schools is back. Of course, the folks over at KSR were quick to post this video of Chane as a back-up dancer for a song that we are sad to admit has not found its way onto our iPod yet.
  3. Twenty-one years ago Rumeal Robinson was celebrated for hitting two clutch free throws in overtime against Seton Hall in the 1989 NCAA championship game to seal the victory for Michigan. Yesterday, he was found guilty of 11 charges of various forms of fraud including attempting to sell his mother’s house without her knowledge. We’re going to guess that Rumeal won’t be a popular guy in prison where he could be for up to 30 years in addition to facing a maximum of $1 million fine per charge.
  4. The guys from Lost Letterman caught up with former USC star Harold Miner who was once billed as “Baby Jordan”. The content of the interview isn’t particularly enlightening, but we do find it interesting that Miner has been so reclusive that he had not done an interview in over a decade and makes an interview request such an ordeal. We also found the fact that Sports Illustrated selected him as the 1992 College Basketball Player of the Year over Christian Laettner and Shaquille O’Neal rather amusing. Fortunately the current crop of SI writers, whom we all like, had nothing to do with that selection.
  5. I know that many of you are not Duke/Coach K fans, but when he gets into an argument with the Russian coach (who happens to be an American citizen) about whether or not the 1972 Men’s Olympic Basketball Final was rigged I think we can all get behind Coach K on this one.
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