The Ultimate Kentucky Villain Will Coach In Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on October 4th, 2011

Kentucky basketball fans, get ready. He…is…coming.

Just under two weeks ago, several Kentucky outlets reported that another one of these NBA lockout-induced games was in the works, this time one that would pit a squad of former Kentucky players against a team comprised of guys considered “villains” of the UK program. We’re talking about players like Kemba Walker, who, along with the rest of Connecticut mates, bumped Kentucky from the Final Four last season. Tyler Hansbrough would certainly be a candidate for such a team; UK thought they had Hansbrough wrapped up during his recruitment in 2005, and his eventual signing with North Carolina seriously irked Kentucky fans. Then he came into Rupp Arena for an ESPN GameDay game in 2007 and put 14/11 on the Wildcats en route to an 86-77 win.

If It Happens, Surely It Was Predicted in the Book of Revelations.

So, as far as the Team of Villains, you get the idea. We have to admit — it’s a darn good one. We were even inspired (cue shameless self-promotion) to have some fun and come up with other villain teams for other schools. But to actually stage a game like this in Kentucky, where passion for college hoops — and the ability to hold a basketball grudge — resides in the very bone marrow of its citizens, is a strong play.

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NBA Draft Thoughts From a College Perspective

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2011

The NBA Draft has come and gone with one of the most boring evenings in its televised history.  Maybe it was the arena setting, maybe it was the lack of marquee names, maybe it was the fact that none of the draftees wore anything particularly ridiculous, but the league’s capstone summer event was so uninspiring that even Bill Simmons’ usually-hilarious draft diary felt trite and mailed in.  Still, the draft represents to every major college basketball player the culmination of a lifelong dream to hear one’s name called by David Stern, and it’s worth a quick reflection on how things went last Thursday for many of the players we’ve been watching and tracking for years.

The 1-and-Dones Did Well in This Year's Draft (AP)

The 1-and-Dones.  Generally speaking, the NBA Draft went well for the seven 1-and-done players who declared after their freshman season.  Excluding Enes Kanter, who never played a minute at Kentucky, from the discussion, six of the seven players who left school after one season were drafted, and five of those went in the first round.  Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Texas’ Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, and Tennessee’s Tobias Harris were chosen in the first thirty selections, while Kansas’ Josh Selby was taken in the next thirty picks.  The lone holdout was Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, a player who clearly had a much higher opinion of himself than did NBA general managers (although if you listen to his uncle, delusions of grandeur may extend beyond Richmond to his extended family).  Whether any of the others are “ready” for the NBA is an irrelevant notion in this day and age, but seeing Thompson jumping up to the #4 selection despite not being able to shoot the ball, and Joseph going at #29 despite averaging only 10.4 PPG as a “scorer” has us raising our eyebrows. 

Sneaking Into the First Round... Not Exactly.  We heard time and time again in April that the impetus behind numerous marginal players deciding to enter the NBA Draft this year was because players like Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones were not coming out.  The logic was that their staying in school opened up more first round spots for lesser talents, a statement certainly true in theory but in no way a sane justification for a dozen additional players to declare for the draft.  Four doesn’t equal twelve the last time we checked.  Interestingly, three of the four beneficiaries to earn guaranteed first round money were college seniors: Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, and Marquette’s Jimmy Butler (Texas freshman Cory Joseph was the fourth player to benefit).  As for the players who came out early in an attempt to sneak into the first round of this year’s weaker draft, it didn’t really work out for them.  We’re looking at second rounders like Shelvin Mack (Butler), Jordan Williams (Maryland), Trey Thompkins (Georgia), Darius Morris (Michigan), Malcolm Lee (UCLA), Travis Leslie (Georgia), DeAndre Liggins (Kentucky), and Isaiah Thomas (Washington), as well as undrafted guys like Scotty Hopson (Tennessee), Jeremy Green (Stanford), Terrence Jennings (Louisville), Greg Smith (Fresno State) and Carleton Scott (Notre Dame).  What’s going to be awesome is in future years when underclassmen have roughly two weeks to gauge their draft prospects before having to commit to the draft or heading back to school — we’re sure this will result in nothing but great decisions.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Shelvin Mack

Posted by nvr1983 on June 10th, 2011

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Shelvin Mack

School: Butler

Height/Weight: 6’2, 210 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Late First/Early Second Round

Overview: After spending his sophomore season playing in the shadows of Gordon Hayward, Mack emerged as the leader of the Bulldogs along with senior Matt Howard last year. While Howard may have been the public face of the Bulldogs, it was Mack’s stellar play that helped them achieve a similar result to the previous season even without Hayward leading them. As a junior, Mack averaged 16.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 3.4 APG while directing a Butler team that had suddenly become one of the biggest games on every opposing team’s schedule. However, at the same time he started shouldering a heavier load at Butler, his efficiency numbers also plummeted (FG% down from 45.4% to 40.8% and 3FG% down from 39.1% to 35.4%), which is certainly reasonable, but is still concerning for a fairly short point guard who doesn’t possess your typical one-guard skills. The questions surrounding Mack are ones that dog nearly every college guard that is a hybrid between a point guard and shooting guard but lacks the requisite height and/or athleticism to make the player stand out from about a dozen other prospects in the same year. Mack could be a successful player in the NBA, but that will depend on his ability to learn to play point. 

Mack thrived at Butler, but the NBA may be a different story

Will Translate to the NBA: Mack will have to play the point guard position in the NBA. He lacks the size or quickness to play any substantial minutes in the NBA as a shooting guard, but if he doesn’t adapt he can still get a few minutes here and there but his time at the next level will be limited by the fact that he lacks an elite NBA skill to make him stand apart. While Mack may struggle to adapt to the point guard position offensively he should be a solid defender as soon as he gets to the NBA because he already has a pro-ready body and should be able to defend almost any NBA point guard with the exception of uber-athletes like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. Mack will probably be a career back-up, particularly due to the recent resurgence at the point guard position, but could potentially start in a few years if he finds the right situation on a team that can adapt to not having a strong traditional point guard.

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Morning Five: 06.08.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 8th, 2011

  1. Bob Knight described the rule that a bunch of Ohio State football players broke when they sold some memorabilia for cash and tattoos as “idiotic” at a speaking engagement on Monday night. Listen, there’s no denying the man his rightful place on the Mt. Rushmore of college basketball coaches, but there are a few things about his bemoaning that rule that leave us unconvinced of his stance on it: 1) Coach Knight is an OSU alum; 2) he doesn’t strike us as the type of guy who prefers his players walking around with tattoos on their skin or cold rolls of cash in their pockets; 3) would he feel the same if a couple of John Calipari’s players did the same thing? Or would he preach about how players should be happy with the compensation that comes in the form of the opportunity to receive a college education, and therefore should stay away from places like pawn shops and tattoo parlors?
  2. In the wake of Tennessee AD Mark Hamilton’s firing on Tuesday, Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press wrote an interesting piece that got us wondering about punishment, blame, and where the truth lies within those. Hamilton departs UT with the school’s two biggest men’s sports in trouble and we assume he’d been packing up his own office for months in anticipation of getting the ziggy, but we always wonder how much policing the ADs are really able to do when they hire some of these guys. And we agree with Wiedmer’s mention of how Hamilton’s ouster a mere three days before UT stands tall before the man (“the man” being the NCAA Committee on Infractions) is an obvious move to gain favor with the COI.
  3. We’ve been having an enjoyable exchange over Twitter with Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy about his article on Tuesday in which he ranked the best college hoops coaching jobs out there. We did our own writeup on the same topic about a month ago, and it’s generated a nice discussion, which is…well, sort of the point of all this. We assume you’re already following both RTC and DeCourcy on Twitter, so by all means, let us know what you think of both lists, even if you vehemently disagree. We’re all big boys, so we can take the bad with the good. And if you comment via tweet or the comments section, let’s also hear your defense for your position.
  4. Thomas Emma played at Duke from 1980-83 and captained the Blue Devils as a starter at guard in his final year there. Known for his long-range ability on the court and his sense of humor off of it, he also shot over 84% from the free throw line during his time there, placing him among the school’s best in that department. After graduating, he earned a master’s degree from Columbia, and was president of a company called Power Performance that helps train young athletes. On Monday morning, facing undisclosed health issues and reportedly suffering from increasing depression because of them, Mr. Emma leapt from the 12th floor of the New York Athletic Club and plunged to his death onto a second-floor landing of the Essex Hotel next door. We can’t imagine the agony his family is going through right now, but our thoughts and best wishes are with them.
  5. Khyle Marshall impressed a lot of people with his play last season in helping Butler get back to the national championship game, and that evidently includes the decision-makers at USA Basketball. Marshall, a rising sophomore who was the Bulldogs’ leading bench scorer and rebounder despite adding only 5.8 PPG and 3.8 RPG last year, has been invited to try out for the American team that will defend its 2009 title at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia, which starts at the end of this month. He can ask a couple of his fellow Brad Stevens disciples for advice on this, if he likes; both Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack were on that 2009 team that took gold in New Zealand.

 

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Early Entry Winners & Losers

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2011

Now that the NBA Draft early entry withdrawal has passed (Midnight ET on Sunday night), it’s time to take a look at who the winners and losers were from this year’s process.  Of the nearly 70 players who declared as early entrants for this year’s NBA Draft, we count a dozen or so who will return and make their teams significantly better next year.  The biggest impact will be felt at the following places…

The Winners

Jones Fills Out a Ridiculous UK Lineup in 2011-12

  • Kentucky.  How do we figure that a team that ends up losing its best scorer and best perimeter defender is a winner?  Because of who they didn’t lose.  Terrence Jones will team with Kentucky’s fabulous duo of incoming forwards — Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis — to produce the most dynamic and talented front line college basketball has seen in some time.  As good as Brandon Knight was in a Kentucky uniform, his loss to the draft also ensures that there’s no question as to who lead this team next year, as incoming superstar Marquis Teague will take over the reins from day one.  The loss of DeAndre Liggins was surprising and will hurt, but on balance, the player UK most needed to return did.
  • The Big East.  With the notable exception of NPOY candidate and Final Four MOP Kemba Walker and the somewhat shocking departures of Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott and Louisville’s Terrence Jennings, the Big East avoided losing three of its better returning players for the 2011-12 season.  Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones will all return to teams that could not afford to lose them; with so many talented seniors leaving the Big East, it was imperative for the league’s overall health that these talented upperclassmen come back.
  • Missouri.  A very early Christmas came for new Tigers head coach Frank Haith as two of his best returnees, Kim English and Laurence Bowers, made smart decisions to return to Columbia for their senior seasons.  With leading scorer Marcus Denmon already back in the fold, Haith is walking into a situation where his top six players will be back next year.  So long as he can enable his more methodical system with a group that loves to run and press, Mizzou fans should be excited for the possibility of something special in 2011-12.
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Morning Five: 04.14.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2011

  1. Add Illinois forward Jereme Richmond to the group of disappointing freshmen exhibiting their selfishness by skipping the year-end team banquet in favor of “preparing” for the NBA Draft.  As if spending two to three hours eating, laughing and commiserating with your teammates will derail that dream.  Kansas guard Josh Selby did the same thing last week, as he was “working out” in Las Vegas during the KU banquet and couldn’t be bothered with celebrating a 35-3 season with his team.  Interestingly, both players routinely found themselves in their head coach’s doghouse this season, and each at times seemed to think he was a lot better than he was actually performing — Richmond averaged 7/5 RPG in 22 MPG, while Selby went for 8/2 APG in roughly the same amount of time last season.  This is yet another reason why the one-and-done rule needs to go; it gives players like these two prima donnas a false sense of their talent based on high school rankings made not even a year ago.  Speaking of Selby in particular, Gary Parrish deconstructs the Rivals #1 recruit’s draft prospects (being compared to Willie Warren, ouch!) and how he got there — very instructive stuff.
  2. Of course, the biggest NBA Draft news of Wednesday was Arizona’s Derrick Williams taking his prodigious talents to the League.  Thanks to a great March including a game-saving plays against Memphis and Texas and a statement performance against Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, Williams has shot up most draft boards to the point where he’s considered one of the top two picks in the draft.  He will sign with an agent, leaving no doubt that his fantastic two-year career in Tucson is now over.  He will also undoubtedly go down as one of the players who led Arizona back into the national consciousness, something that probably didn’t seem possible so soon a couple of short  years ago.
  3. And a couple more…  Butler’s Shelvin Mack has decided to test the waters but will not sign with an agent, while Memphis’ Wesley Witherspoon announced that he will return for his senior year.  Mack in particular is an interesting case — he performed extremely well last summer against both professional players and his peers, and although he struggled with his shot for much of last season, he came on very strong in the Bulldogs’ run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.  He’s considered a late first round/early second round pick.  Witherspoon is making a good decision, as he had an injury-plagued junior year that didn’t allow him to show the true talent that he possesses — coming back healthy for a senior season will do him a lot of good.  One other note with respect to testing the waters, John Calipari is encouraging all three of his draftable players — Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and DeAndre Ligginsto explore their professional options over the next few weeks.
  4. Note we said “weeks” with respect to the UK players exploring their options above.  The actual deadline for a player to return to school is May 8 this year, which gives players some, but not a lot, of time to assess their prospects before making a final decision.  Yet with today’s shameful ruling by the NCAA Legislative Council to further reduce the amount of time players have to make such a life-altering decision, it begs the question as to who these people are actually working for — the student-athletes that need valid information about their prospects, or the coaches who want to get out onto the golf course (as Mike DeCourcy eloquently argues)?  MD is much more tactful than we’ll be here, but in case you’re wondering where this all came from, a certain ACC coach got very annoyed by having to wait until the very last day of the deadline in 2008 (which was then mid-June) to see what his players would do.  The irony is that Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington ultimately stayed in school, and that coach won a national title the next season because of their late decisions.  Makes sense, right?
  5. Enough about that.  How about a little post-championship analysis from Luke Winn to finish things off?  The Brooklyn Bohemian comes strong as always with a put-it-to-rest analysis of whether Butler’s miserable shooting night in the title game was a result of an off night or great defense.  You’ll need to read it to see his conclusion, but you should open the link assured that he leaves very little room for debate about the correct one.
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2011-12 RTC (Way Too Early) Top 25

Posted by KDoyle on April 5th, 2011

The 2010-11 season just concluded — we are just as sad as you guys are — but rather than get all nostalgic, teary-eyed, and lament the next  seven months without college basketball, let’s look towards the future. That’s right, folks, hot off the presses: the first 2011-12 Top 25. Our assumptions on who is staying/leaving are within the team breakdowns.

  1. North Carolina—The Heels have a whole lot coming back and lose next to nothing. Harrison Barnes looked like the stud he was advertised in the preseason as he developed into Carolina’s top player down the stretch, and Kendall Marshall flourished at the point guard position once he was given the keys to the car. It sure doesn’t hurt that a couple McDonald’s All-Americans will be joining the program next year, either. Look for Roy Williams to be significantly happier next season than he was for much of this season.

    Roy Williams should be in a good mood next season

  2. SyracuseJim Boeheim’s squad returns virtually all the pieces to the puzzle — a puzzle that certainly went unfinished this year — and the Orange look like they may be the top dog in the Big East next season. Scoop Jardine has the ability to be one of the top guards in the BE and Kris Joseph is a very explosive scorer, who should continue to develop in the offseason. The development of Fab Melo is an absolute must in the offseason, though, if this team wants to reach its potential.
  3. Kentucky—With the instability of the NBA next year, the Wildcats may be fortunate enough to hang onto their young stars for at least another season. Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones are all NBA talents and all three of them could enter the NBA Draft, but if even one of them returns, this team will be very dangerous, particularly with the class that John Calipari is bringing in, which might be one of the best assembled in the past ten years. If two of those three return to play with that class, this team immediately becomes the favorite to cut down the nets next April.
  4. Ohio State—Will he stay or will he go? Obviously, we are referring to Jared Sullinger’s decision to remain a Buckeye for another year. While graduation will claim Jon Diebler and David Lighty, there is still ample talent returning to help the Buckeyes take care of some unfinished business. William Buford could be the X-factor that determines just how good the Buckeyes will be.
  5. Louisville—The coaching prowess of Rick Pitino and his most important assistant Ralph Willard was a thing of beauty this year. Not much was expected out of the Cardinals, but the ‘Ville had an exceptional season up until their Tournament collapse to Morehead State. Loftier goals will be set for Louisville next year with Preston Knowles the only player departing. The Cardinals might not have quite as publicized a recruiting class as their in-state rivals, but still have one of the top incoming classes in America. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 4th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

  • Many felt that it would be impossible for a mid-major to ever win a national title; nevertheless, Brad Stevens and Butler are about to turn what once was a myth into a reality. If the Bulldogs are able to cut down the nets tonight, the question emerges whether Butler can still be considered is a mid-major.
  • Athletic Director Barry Collier has made it known that keeping head coach Brad Stevens is a major priority. We think that it is unlikely that Stevens goes anywhere, as his personality does not correlate with that of a mercenary head coach looking to go anywhere to make his next buck.
  • Before Butler was able to advance to two consecutive national championship games, a 2007 three-way phone call between Zach Hahn, Matt Howard, and Shawn Vanzant changed the fortunes of the Bulldog program. The phone call revolved around the future of the program’s leadership when then-head coach Todd Lickliter left the school for Iowa. The three decided to give the unproven Brad Stevens a chance, and it has undoubtedly paid off.
  • Matt Howard has been a great player for Butler throughout his career, but with his various quirks and his general personality, he oozees greatness in an indefinable way.
  • The matchup between Shelvin Mack and Kemba Walker will likely decide the national championship. Walker is a fantastic playmaker and an an unbelievable scorer, but we acknowledge that Mack and the Bulldogs will be a tough out for Kemba and the Huskies.
  • While last season against Duke felt more like a David/Goliath matchup for the Butler Bulldogs, this season they enter their national title tilt with UConn not feeling as if they are underdogs. The huge role experience plays in easing the nerves of lower seeded teams makes the argument rational, even if it doesn’t sound like it at first glance.
  • After losing to Butler, giant killer VCU reflects positively on its season. The word “improbable” hardly scratches the surface when describing the Rams’ run, and a Final Four berth is something the team will always get to cherish.
  • Despite falling to the Bulldogs, VCU’s fans remain proud of what their team accomplished. Shaka Smart could have taken the approach of “playing with house money” after Selection Sunday and nobody would have blamed him, but he and his team quickly altered the perception of the Rams.

Connecticut

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NCAA Championship Game Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2011

Nearly 350 teams start practice on October 15 with a single goal — to play on Monday night.  UConn and Butler are the two teams left standing; it promises to be another epic national championship game for the annals. 

#3 Connecticut vs. #8 Butler – National Championship (at Houston, TX) – 9:21 pm ET on CBS.

It Says Here That Calhoun Will Hold Another One of These Tonight

A year ago, when Butler advanced to the championship game against Duke, they were an unmitigated surprise, the very essence of the Cinderella story that gets talked about every March. One look at the personnel changes since that team (losing Gordon Hayward as an NBA Lottery pick, along with all-glue guy Willie Veasley and big man Avery Jukes to graduation), coupled with the Bulldogs’ struggles early in the season this year (starting 4-4 on the season and 6-5 in Horizon League play), and most people would consider this year’s run to the championship every bit as surprising as last year. But a closer look reveals a Butler team that is now riding a 14-game winning streak, a team that has turned things around on the defensive end. After allowing more than a point per possession in their first 23 games, they’ve trimmed that number to under 0.96 points per possession by locking down opponents and cleaning the defensive glass. Coupled with their capable offense, highlighted by key veterans Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard and newly efficient contributors like Andrew Smith and Shawn Vanzant, while it is still a remarkable accomplishment for the Bulldogs to be in the championship game, it is not nearly the shocker that last year’s run was. Conversely, while the average fan will see the name UConn in the championship game and barely bat an eye, the fact that the Huskies have made it this far is a bombshell. At the start of the season, they were picked by Big East coaches to finish tenth in the conference, and only improved upon those projections by a single slot (9-9 Big East), despite being in and out of the national top ten all season. The Huskies dropped seven of their last 11 conference games and it looked like their overreliance on All-American guard Kemba Walker was taking its toll. But as they have done all season with their backs against the wall, Jim Calhoun’s club has come back swinging, winning five games in five games to take the Big East Tournament title, and backing that up with five more consecutive wins in the Tournament. While Walker has continued to be excellent, it has been the emergence of freshman wing Jeremy Lamb and sophomore center Alex Oriakhi as consistent contributors that have allowed the Huskies to flourish. Lamb has scored in double figures in every game in that winning streak, while Oriakhi has averaged just under ten rebounds per game in that stretch, acting as perfect complements to Walker’s 25.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Freshman point guard Shabazz Napier has also been an important spark off the bench. As with any team that faces UConn, slowing Walker will be priority number one. Junior defensive specialist Ronald Nored should get plenty of up-close-and-personal time with Walker, but Brad Stevens has made it clear that containing Walker is not a one man job. Expect the Bulldogs to try to clog the lane and make it more difficult for UConn to get penetration, while still making sure to keep an eye on Lamb – the Huskies’ best three-point shooter – on the perimeter. UConn will counter offensively with a veritable ton of ball screens for Walker, and off-the-ball screens for Lamb. The Huskies will also try to get guys like Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu and Roscoe Smith involved inside, hoping to take advantage of a relatively foul-prone Butler interior players Howard and Smith. On the offensive end, Butler will look to Mack and Howard for their offense most often, but a hallmark of the Butler Way is balanced offense, with players up and down the roster called upon at various times throughout the game. In the end, expect this game again to be tight throughout. However, the Huskies have shown the ability time and again throughout this tournament to weather a big run by the opposition, change momentum on a spectacular play by Walker, and then couple efficient offensive execution with steely defense down the stretch to eke out a nailbiting win. While it is awfully hard to pick against Butler given what they’ve done, it says here that UConn has one Kemba too many for the Bulldogs. Unless, of course, they find the range and some better luck on their halfcourt bank shots at the buzzer.

The RTC Certified Pick: Connecticut 61, Butler 60.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 3rd, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Kemba Walker finally admitted what most onlookers believed: he’s getting tired. While his supporting cast has stepped up, he’ll need to reach back for just a little more on Monday.
  • Elite company awaits Jim Calhoun if the Huskies beat Butler. With one more win, Calhoun would become just the fifth coach in NCAA Tournament history to win three titles. The others are John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Adolph Rupp.
  • Shabazz Napier cooly made the decisive free throws to put Connecticut up four with two seconds to go. As a freshman at the Final Four, it takes a lot of guts to succeed in a pressure situation like that.
  • UConn’s freshmen starred alongside Kemba Walker, but senior big man Charles Okwandu has fought perhaps harder than anyone in the Huskies locker room for his spot on the team.
  • The news of Nate Miles‘ willingness to speak with the NCAA about his recruitment comes at an inconvenient time for UConn, and at least one columnist believes the gesture is reprehensible and that any new information revealed will be tough to vet.
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Final Four Daily Diaries: Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2011

RTC is at the Final Four in Houston, our sixth as a fan but our first as a member of the working media. What that means, exactly, we’re still trying to figure out, but we think it has something to do with wearing a rectangular piece of plastic with our mug on it and nodding approvingly at the people in the NCAA blazers walking around the innards of Reliant Stadium. Or maybe it means dropping dime on one of the coaches at the dais for one thing or another — we’re not sure. Anyway, over the next four days of collegiate basketball activity here in H-town, we’ll be providing a daily diary in much the same way we’ve done with our correspondents throughout this year’s Tournament — equal parts observation and analysis, with a hint of the absurd.

Saturday, April 2 – Houston, Texas

  • For my money, of which I will have very little after this trip to Houston, the moments prior to the start of the first game at Semifinal Saturday are the absolute best of the entire season.  The anticipation, buzz, nervous vibe, whatever you want to call it… is off the charts, as all four schools dare to dream the impossible.  Bands are playing, fans are screaming, media are flittering, and the whole place contains an electricity that is only captured in my opinion at the collegiate level of sports.  There’s something peculiar about schools and fandom that makes this so, and it’s different than what you see with fans in the various professional sports leagues around the country and world.  At any rate, if I could bottle that energy in the air in those fifteen minutes prior to the first tipoff, I’d strap a nipple to that thing and drink it down as a part of my daily regimen.  No question.

VCU Fans Were More Amped Than Anybody Here Tonight

  • That said, my seating arrangement in the pressbox of Reliant Stadium (remember, this is a football stadium by design) left a little to be desired.  The worst part actually wasn’t the view — I could see the players and the ball going through the hoop fine, and so forth — rather, it was the giant windows that kept the noise of the stadium below from reaching all of us within the box.  It muffled everything to the point where I felt I wasn’t actually watching the game live inasmuch as viewing it as a tourist observes the sharks as the local aquarium.  It was more like watching the game on television rather than being there, even though I didn’t have a high definition screen in front of me and the PA announcer was clear as day (piped into the room).

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The Other 26: Examining Butler & VCU’s Runs to the Final Four

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  Throughout the season, he has authored a column, The Other 26, which examines the teams from the non-power conferences and their impact on the game at a national level.  Today he attempts to tackle the questions of how Butler and VCU have crashed the party down in Houston.

First it was George Mason, and now it is their brethren Virginia Commonwealth in the Colonial Athletic and distant cousin Butler in the Horizon League. Not too far off in the distance are those pesky Davidson Wildcats who burst onto the national scene in 2006, nearly knocked off Maryland in 2007 with freshman sensation Stephen Curry, and just missed crashing the Final Four party with this lusty crew by just a game back in 2008.

 

Mason Set the Template in 2006

By my count, that is four different teams—one more not too far away either—from true Mid-Major conferences to reach the tasteful waters of the Final Four since 2006. Prior to 2006, one would have to search all the way back to 1998 to find a non-power league team—the Utah Utes—that reached this stage. The overriding question that not only myself, but many others in the college basketball world have is: How are these guys doing it? We can all elect to listen to the self-proclaimed “experts” on the subject who know all when it comes to college hoops, but then again didn’t one of them state in so many words that VCU “doesn’t pass the laugh test?” Now, I will not pretend to stand atop the highest of horses and preach what I believe several of the reasons are why Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have had a great deal of success in the 2011 edition of the world’s greatest postseason tournament, but I will rather merely provide a slew of reasons why Butler and Virginia Commonwealth will be squaring off against one another on Saturday evening instead of Kansas and Pittsburgh, or any of the other marquee names out there for that matter.

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