Rushed Reactions: #4 San Diego State 73, #13 New Mexico State 69 (OT)

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 21st, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregionKenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is an RTC columnist and correspondent. He is covering the Spokane pods of the East and West regionals this week. He wrote this story after San Diego State’s 73-69 win Thursday night over New Mexico State.

Three Key Takeaways.

Sim Bhullar and His Aggie Friends

Sim Bhullar and His Aggie Friends Gave SDSU All It Wanted Tonight

  1. Overdosing on X. San Diego State leans heavily on its lone offensive play-maker, guard Xavier Thames, who made his return to the Inland Northwest after transferring over from Washington State (now hiring). The senior had 23 points on 6-of-17 shooting and played 43 of 45 minutes, aided in part by late fouls from New Mexico State as they chased the lead both in regulation and overtime. Thames is the only Aztec capable of getting into the lane with regularity, which could be problematic if this team runs across a lockdown defender in the upcoming rounds. The Aztecs only shot 39 percent from the field for the game; the Aggies shot 40 percent despite not being known for their field goal prowess.
  2. Big trouble ahead? San Diego State never trailed in the game, but still were taken to overtime by a New Mexico State team that trailed 32-20 at halftime and had its starting center, Sim Bhullar, pick up three fouls in the first half. They missed free throws, blew defensive assignments, dropped an inbounds pass, and gave up two clean looks to the Aggies’ Kevin Aronis for tying three-pointers at the end of regulation (the second of which he hit). With a North Dakota State team awaiting that has a similar interior presence but is coupled with much better outside shooting, Saturday will be another difficult test for the Aztecs.
  3. New Mexico State is built to win big in a small conference. The Aggies’ bruising, offensive-rebounding-reliant style of play is great against WAC schools, as evidenced by its four NCAA Tournament bids since 2010. But this was only the second of those games that ended within 10 points (a 70-67 loss to Michigan State in Spokane in 2010 was the other). Their plodding big men are vulnerable to major-conference athletes and their guards oftentimes aren’t good enough perimeter shooters to punish teams for overloading on their big men. Or their INCREDIBLY LARGE MAN, the 7’5” Bhullar.

Star of the Game: Xavier Thames, San Diego State. His 23 points and five assists both led all players; he also had two blocked shots despite playing point guard.

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: Arizona, #1, 30-4. The Wildcats are the nation’s best defensive team – this is beyond debate. In 34 games to this date, they’ve allowed teams to score better than a point per possession just six times all year (and seven times they’ve held their opponent to less than 0.8 points per possession). They’ve got freshman Aaron Gordon, who is on the short list of most versatile defenders in the nation, capable of guarding players from power forward to point guard. Likewise, guys like Nick Johnson, T.J. McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are terrific athletic defenders, while sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski is a rugged rim protector. Point is that it is going to be very hard for any opponent to score consistently on this team. Throw in the fact that the Wildcats are a quality offensive team as well (only six times all season have they scored less than a point per possession in a game) and that they’re playing arguably their best ball of the season at the right time for rising star Sean Miller, and the West is theirs to win.

Arizona Earned A #1 Seed In The West Region And Fortunate Geographic Placement

Arizona Earned A #1 Seed In The West Region And Fortunate Geographic Placement. (AP)

Should They Falter: Wisconsin, #2, 26-7. Aside from a head-scratching downturn in the middle of the season when the Badgers lost five out of six games, Bo Ryan’s squad has been excellent. Only once in the last 12 seasons has Wisconsin had a more efficient offense (2011, and even then, it is a razor-thin margin), but what is different about this team is an increased tempo, a sparkling shooting percentage, and a complete avoidance of turnovers. However, all of this offensive wonderment does not come without a price, as this is also the worst Badgers team on the defensive end in those same dozen years, with the team – especially in that bad stretch in January – failing to contain dribble penetration and regularly getting scorched. This happened again this past weekend against Michigan State, so the Badgers are not here without concerns. But in a region where there are few teams without some blemishes, the Badgers are the safest bet – beyond Arizona – to wind up in Dallas.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #10, 23-11. Let’s just refer back to 2012 in the West region and read what I wrote then. Sure, some of the details have now changed, but the gist of this is the same: Why is BYU in the field again? They’ve got a solid win over Gonzaga, they beat Stanford and Texas in the non-conference. Sure. But all of those good spots are balanced out by atrocious losses to Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Portland and Pacific. There aren’t a ton of other great options to go into BYU’s spot, for sure, and rewarding them for playing a tough non-conference slate is fine. But if anything, the Cougars should have to win their way into the field of 64 by getting through the First Four in Dayton.

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Bracket Prep: UCLA, New Mexico, New Mexico State

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 16th, 2014

As we move through the final stages of Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners. 

UCLA

Steve Alford's Hire Was Met With Resistance Last Spring, But Less Than Twelve Months Later, He Has The Bruins Back On Top Of The Pac-12

Steve Alford’s Hire Was Met With Resistance Last Spring, But Less Than Twelve Months Later, He Has The Bruins Back On Top Of The Pac-12. Next Stop: NCAA Tournament.

  • Pac-12 Champion (26-8, 15-6)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #21/#16/#16
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +13.8
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #4-#5

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In making Arizona look mortal for the first time all week in Vegas, UCLA became Pac-12 Tournament champions and earned the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA has now scored 75 points against the Wildcats in both meetings this season, and since Michigan is the only other Wildcat opponent to score 70+ points on Sean Miller’s team, it’s an achievement worth noting. If you can score on Arizona, you can score on anyone, and UCLA looks likely to accomplish just that in the Tournament. Each member of Steve Alford’s eight-man rotation is capable of scoring in double figures on any given night, paced by leading scorer Jordan Adams (17.2 PPG, 2.7 SPG). The high game totals that the Bruins’ quick pace generates obscures what has actually been a pretty decent defensive effort (UCLA has the 49th best defense in the country according to Ken Pom), but there’s no hiding that it’s the hyper-efficient offense that makes the Bruins go.
  2. Kyle Anderson (14.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.6 APG) is a joy to watch on the court, but it might be even easier to appreciate him on KenPom.com, especially if you like to spend Saturday nights poring through free throw rates and true shooting percentages. The All-Pac 12 selection and Pac-12 Tournament MOP ranks in the top-500 in a whopping 12 of 15 individual categories on the site, with the only average categories being percentage of shots taken (who cares), offensive rebounding percentage, and turnover rate. Figuring out how many players have a similar variety in their statistical profile would take quite a while, but it’s difficult to imagine any player in college basketball even having ten of their fifteen categories among the top-500. He’s as proficient at cleaning the glass as he is setting up teammates, equally likely to knock down a three as he is to a shot block a shot. There will be only one Kyle Anderson is the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and that absurd Ken Pom stat-line is testament to just how diversely special he has been all season.
  3. Steve Alford is a massive part of the UCLA narrative heading into this NCAA Tournament. Alford has done a wonderful job in Westwood this season, but don’t think it’s nearly enough for him to outrun his shaky Tournament resume. Seeing is believing, and the latter will only happen with Alford after the former occurs.  The reticence to trust the UCLA head man stems from Alford’s 3-6 Tournament record at Iowa and New Mexico, a mark that includes exactly zero Sweet Sixteen appearances and one nice ugly upset to #14 seeded Harvard just twelve months ago. Do you want to believe in Alford already? Hang your hat on the differences between this UCLA team and the eleven previous ones he coached at Iowa and New Mexico, because only one of those teams (2004 Iowa) finished among the top-100 teams in possessions per game (and still just 66th). The Bruins are currently 14th in the metric, and there’s little doubt that this is the most up-tempo, offensively efficient basketball team that Alford has ever coached.

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Who Won The Week? Indiana, Arkansas, and a Team Led by the Nephew of an NBA Hall of Famer…

Posted by Kenny Ocker @KennyOcker on January 17th, 2014

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.

WINNER: Indiana

The Indiana faithful certainly had something to cheer about this week. Could the Hoosiers be on the upswing? (Getty)

The Indiana faithful certainly had something to cheer about this week. Could the Hoosiers be on the upswing? (Getty)

The Hoosiers were off to a poor start in Big Ten play, falling at Illinois in overtime and then getting blown out at Assembly Hall by Michigan State. The second week of conference play proved to be far better in Bloomington. Led by freshman forward Noah Vonleh’s 19 points and six rebounds, the Hoosiers went into State College and beat Penn State 79-76 on Saturday. And when I say “led by,” I mean “Vonleh was the only Hoosier to make more than half of his shots, and his teammates combined to go 16-of-49 from the field.” A road win is a road win, after all, and when it’s your first win in conference, it’s nothing to complain about. But what really won the week for Indiana was its performance against heretofore undefeated Wisconsin on Tuesday night. The Badgers, one of four teams in the nation undefeated to that point, came into Assembly Hall riding a 12-game winning streak against the Hoosiers. Yeah, that’s over. Yogi Ferrell made sure of that. The sophomore guard lit up the nets for 25 points while also dishing four assists, leading his team to an instant resume-building win, downing the Badgers 75-72. Considering that Indiana’s best win to that point was over an 11-7 Washington team, the Hoosiers picked a mighty fine time to show up huge. Because of their skimpy resume, though, the Hoosiers will likely have to go at least 10-8 in conference, if not 11-7, to get an NCAA Tournament at-large bid come March. This week’s turnaround from a slow start will give them a much better opportunity to get to that point, and to get a ticket to the Big Dance.

(Related winners: Undefeated-in-conference Michigan State and Michigan, who have the conference lead to themselves now. Related losers: Penn State, which is a painful 0-5 in conference so far; Wisconsin; Wisconsin forward Duje Dukan, who got one rebound in 11 minutes, ruining his chance at 11 trillion in the box score.)

LOSER: Iowa State

So much for that 14-0 start in Ames. A pesky trip to Norman undid that. And then the familiar hoodoo against Kansas reared its head again. And now the Cyclones are 14-2. Somewhere in the middle, star guard and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane got hurt, although you wouldn’t know it by his performances. Iowa State went into Oklahoma’s gym and decided that letting Ryan Spangler grab every rebound he possibly could (15, including seven on the offensive glass) would be a fantastic idea. Spangler turned that into 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. The Cyclones also forgot to guard guard Buddy Hield, who had 22 points and hit six three-pointers. That’s a really good way to blow a game in which Kane had 23 points and nine rebounds before rolling his ankle late, and the Robin to his Batman, Melvin Ejim, having 21 points and six rebounds of his own.

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The Other 26: Bracket-Busting, East and Midwest Edition

Posted by IRenko on March 20th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC columnist and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

This is part two of our TO26 bracket analysis, focusing on the 17 non-power-conference teams that populate the East and Midwest regions. The teams are grouped into five rough categories, and, within each category, they are ordered by their likelihood of advancing.  For our analysis of the South and West regions, see here.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

  • St. Louis (#4 Midwest) — The Bilikens are flying a bit under the radar, but this is a team that should be a favorite for a Sweet 16 run. They have one of the best defenses in the country, a group of experienced guards who can attack and shoot (Kwamain Mitchell, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett), a surprisingly effective post presence in Dwayne Evans, and a pair of pick-‘n-pop big men (Rob Loe, Cody Ellis) who can drain the three. It should be said, though, that the Bilikens’ draw is not necessarily ideal. A first-round game against New Mexico State presents some matchup quandaries (see below), as does a potential Third Round game against Oklahoma State — both teams are prepared to bang and grind with the Bilikens down low. Ultimately, I think the St. Louis’ defense is strong enough to get them to the Sweet 16, where their steady guard play gives them a non-trivial chance of knocking off the Cards.
Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

  • Butler (#6, East) — Yes, they’re back. Neither Bucknell nor their potential Third Round opponent (Marquette or Davidson) will be an easy team to conquer, but all three of these teams will give Butler an important reprieve from its biggest vulnerability — a tendency to turn it over. Bucknell and Marquette will also play at the kind of grinding pace at which the Bulldogs excel. And they’ll focus their offense on the areas of the floor where Butler’s defense is strongest — the paint. Butler also has the shooters — Rotnei Clark, Kellen Dunham — to bombard Marquette’s compact defense and the rebounders to exploit Marquette’s weakness on the glass. If anything, Bucknell may pose a bigger matchup problem, as they tend to chase teams off the three-point line and they don’t give up much on the offensive glass. The Bison will be a tough opponent, but when you look at Butler’s pod as a whole, a Sweet 16 run looks well within reach.

One and Done

These teams have at least a 50/50 (or better) chance of picking up a win, but are unlikely to get two.

  • Colorado State (#8, Midwest) – I would actually bump the Rams up to the tail end of the “Regional Threats” group if not for the uncertain status of starting point guard Dorian Green. The team’s unquestioned floor general, Green suffered an ankle injury in the first round of the MWC tournament, and though he played in a semifinal loss to UNLV, was ineffective. With a fully healthy Green, the Rams’ have a good chance of toppling Missouri. The two teams are somewhat similar in that they try to score in the paint on offense, while keeping opponents out of the paint of it on defense. Neither team is especially potent from the three-point line, and both rely a fair amount on offensive rebounding, though the Rams’ have the advantage here, especially as they are equally adept at controlling their defensive glass. That, along with Missouri’s tendency to be a bit loose with the ball, may be the difference-maker. And don’t sleep on Colorado State’s chances against Louisville in the next round. The Cardinals’ weak points are defensive rebounding and three-point shooting. The Rams are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, and as noted above, their defense forces teams to beat them from the three-point line. They also take pretty good care of the ball, which will serve them well against Louisville’s pressure defense. But this analysis could be all for naught if Green isn’t healthy enough to be effective.
  • Creighton (#7, Midwest) Doug McDermott is perhaps the most fundamentally sound player in college basketball. His All-American status owes itself to his incredibly precise offensive footwork, positioning, movement, shot, and cuts. He has inside-outside skills that present a very tough matchup if you’re not used to guarding him. And he’s surrounded by lots of great three-point shooters. Cincinnati’s defense has generally been strong, so they might be able to contain McDermott and the Bluejays’ three-point attack. But they’ll have to be especially effective because their offense has been truly miserable. I like the Bluejays’ chances here. A Third Round matchup with Duke would be a tougher proposition, as the Blue Devils combine a defense that shuts down the three-point line with an offense that is far more high-powered than Cincinnati’s. McDermott may well get his points, especially posting up inside, but that’s not likely to be sufficient.

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Bracket Prep: Akron, Louisville, Northwestern State, Montana, Oregon, Pacific & New Mexico State

Posted by BHayes on March 17th, 2013

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Saturday’s flurry of bid snatching wound down out West and left us with a near-complete picture of the puzzle. Just four automatic bids remain to be earned on Selection Sunday. As we have for each of the 31 automatic qualifiers to play their way into the Dance, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets this week.

Akron

Zeke Marshall And Akron Overcame Late-Season Drama To Reach The NCAA Tournament

Zeke Marshall And Akron Overcame Late-Season Drama To Reach The NCAA Tournament

  • MAC Champion (26-6, 16-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #49/#54/#62
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +10.7
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #12-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. Last year’s Tournament darlings, the Ohio Bobcats, saw their shot at a return bid die on Saturday night, but don’t be surprised if their conquerors put some of that MAC mojo to use again this year. The Akron Zips turned in one of the most impressive performances of the day, comprehensively picking apart a good Ohio team en route to the MAC Tournament title. A pair of late regular season losses had recently killed the bubble talk surrounding the Zips, but let’s not forget how they entered the conversation in the first place. Keith Dambrot’s club ripped off 19 straight wins between December 15th and March 2nd in what still measures up as the longest winning streak in all of college basketball this season.
  2. Akron is as well-rounded a mid-major as you will find, but the Zips truest strength lies in a tougher-than-nails frontcourt. Demetrius Treadwell is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.4 PPG and leading rebounder at 7.9 RPG. His crafty, below-the-rim game may not be the sexiest, but it’s a great complement to the other important Zip on the interior, 7’0” Zeke Marshall. Marshall is the team’s leading scorer (13 PPG) and one of the nation’s leaders in FG percentage at 66%, but the big senior truly excels on the defensive side of the ball. He boasts the 4th best block percentage in the country (14.1%), and is, quite literally, a huge reason why Akron is one of the 20 best teams in the country in effective field goal percentage defense.
  3. The March suspension of point guard Alex Abreu (for drug charges) momentarily shook the team, but back-to-back good wins provide Keith Dambrot with some hope that his team has moved on, however much the loss of Abreu (10.3 PPG, 6.0 APG) hurts on the floor. Freshman Carmelo Betancourt has seen his minutes rise from 10 to 26 a game since the Abreu suspension, but the youngster will certainly not be asked to replicate Abreu’s production. The Zips have won with a balanced, team approach all season long, and the “next man up” attitude should come naturally for Betancourt and others. Dont overlook that even before that 19-game surge, the Zips beat Middle Tennessee State, pounded Penn State (by 25) and took OK State to overtime. Could a MAC team crash the Big Dance for the second straight season?

Louisville

A Decisive Second Half Surge Made The Cardinals Big East Tournament Champions For The Second Straight Season

A Decisive Second Half Surge Made The Cardinals Big East Tournament Champions For The Second Straight Season

  • Big East Champion (29-5, 17-4)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #3/#2/#1
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +19.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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The Other 26: Let the Madness Begin

Posted by IRenko on March 2nd, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

As the calendar turns to March, let us declare: Let the Madness begin. The NCAA Tournament is still three weeks away, but the fight to get there begins in earnest this coming week, as 12 mid-major conferences will kick off their tournaments. The Big South and Horizon League will have the honor of kicking things off on Tuesday night, with their first round tournament games. Ten more conferences will follow suit with the first auto-bids being awarded a week from today in the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley.

We’ll be back next week with updates on all the action, but until then, there is still the homestretch of the regular season to attend to. So let’s move on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and (regular season) games to watch this week.

Top 10

RTC -- TO26 (3.2.13)

Honor Roll

The Honor Roll is our weekly fixture highlighting the teams, players, and performances that impressed us in the past week.

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Pac-12 Game of the Weekend: New Mexico State @ Oregon State

Posted by KDanna on November 9th, 2012

Finally, after five weeks of covering college basketball news, we are ready to get down to some actual game action. Each week, the Pac-12 microsite will break down a game we feel is the one to keep an eye on. While November and December are perhaps more important for the Pac-12 than any other conference in terms of restoring respectability, the opening weekend of play is largely devoid of any big matchups. However, considering recent history, that doesn’t mean it will be an easy road to a perfect Pac-12 weekend. One such contest that could provide a few worries will play out on Sunday night, when Oregon State hosts New Mexico State as part of the 2K Sports Classic.

Can Craig Robinson get his team to avoid non-conference letdowns in 2012-13? (credit: Don Ryan)

Why it’s important: Perhaps more than any other school in the Pac-12 (last year not withstanding for the most part), Oregon State has struggled in the non-conference portion of its schedule. In the last three years, Oregon State has lost to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Sacramento State (just like football), Illinois-Chicago, Seattle (twice, once by 51 points), Texas Southern, Utah Valley and Idaho, with many of those games taking place in Gill Coliseum. Hence, it is very well within the makeup of this team to lose to New Mexico State, a squad that made the NCAA Tournament last year and won 26 games. Granted, the Aggies lost their top four scorers from last year’s WAC Tournament Championship team (and three of which hit the 1,000-point plateau in their Aggie careers), but Oregon State can’t take anything for granted.

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Morning Five: 08.25.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 25th, 2011

  1. Bruce Pearl received his punishment yesterday from the NCAA and although he did receive a show cause penalty under the language of the document (PDF here) he would be allowed to be hired by a university, but could not participate in any recruiting activities until August 23, 2014. While some consider this to be a harsh penalty there are ways to work around this (having a strong recruiting staff that can talk up Pearl). In the end it seems to be a much lighter penalty than we would have expected for a head coach who willfully violated NCAA rules and then lied to the NCAA about having done so (don’t forget that Dez Bryant lost all of his eligibility for lying about something that wasn’t even a violation). Put another way, the violation is light enough that Mike DeCourcy at The Sporting News is advocating for Pearl to be hired. If the NCAA wants to coaches and administrators to follow their rules they need to put in place that would make violators radioactive.
  2. Recently-retired Maryland head coach Gary Williams will receive $400,000 per year for the next five years for his job to help with fundraising and speaking engagement “from time to time as reasonably requested”. While the figure is a far cry from the $2.3 million that Williams received in 2010 it is a substantial paycheck for someone who no longer has to deal with the rigors of coaching in the ACC. We aren’t sure what Williams deems reasonable, but that actually doesn’t sound like a horrible deal when you consider that the new coach Mark Turgeon will be making $1.9 million and Williams will probably raise a lot more money on the road than a coach that is unproven at the school.
  3. After initially committing to Xavier as a member of the class of 2012, 7’5″ recruit Sim Bhullar has decided to enroll at New Mexico State this fall due to what Bhullar and his family call “unique clearinghouse issues that have forced us to really examine the best course of action”. Neither Bhullar nor the involved programs have expounded on what those issues were, but apparently they were big enough that Bhullar opted not to spend a year in prep school in West Virginia before trying to become eligible and instead will pay his way at New Mexico State for the first year. Bhullar, who has a stated intention of playing in the NBA in two years, will join a roster that features five other Canadians.
  4. Texas was dealt a setback today when Kevin Thomas, an incoming freshman from Canada, was declared academically ineligible. Normally losing a three-star recruit wouldn’t be a big blow to a team with a roster as talented as what the Longhorns, but this isn’t a typical Rick Barnes team. Instead of a roster that goes ten deep, the Longhorns are currently left with a team of eight scholarship players with five of those being freshman and only three of the eight being frontcourt players. The announcement means that the Longhorns will be pushing even harder for Pittsburgh to release Jaylen Bond from his signed letter of intent and allow him to play for Texas now instead of having to sit out a year.
  5. We have been hearing fans claiming for years that Tom Crean has Indiana on the road back to glory. Today, they have ESPN’s new recruiting rankings for the class of 2012 to point to as proof after ESPN ranked the Hoosiers current recruiting class of 2012 as the best in the country (may or may not require Insider access). Realistically though it is way too early to even bother with class rankings. Just scanning the order of these rankings, which has several programs that aren’t considered traditional recruiting powers at the top, should tell you something is a bit fishy with these rankings. Basically none of the top players have committed, which makes these rankings meaningless. Pittsburgh, for example, is ranked 4th in the country with one recruit. Kentucky, which has dominated the recruiting circuit since John Calipari‘s arrival, isn’t even in the top 25 because nobody has committed to them yet since they are recruiting all the top guys in the class. We are pretty sure the Wildcats will find a way to sneak into the top 25 when all is said and done.
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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
  • The Coaching Carousel:  The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, Mike Lonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
  • Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.

Tu Holloway Makes the XU Offense Go

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Morning Five: 07.08.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 8th, 2011

  1. The Reign Man is heading back to Seattle. Sort of. Washington announced yesterday that Shawn Kemp Jr. (yes, that one; no, we won’t be making the obvious Jr. joke) had signed a financial aid agreement to get the final scholarship the Huskies had available. Kemp Jr. has taken an interesting path to get to Washington as he previously committed to Alabama in 2008 before being declared academically ineligible and to Auburn in 2009 before being declared academically ineligible again. Now it appears that he is academically eligible although coach Lorenzo Romar has already said, “The first thing he’s going to have to do is get into condition.” Unfortunately that isn’t the first time we have heard that about a player named Shawn Kemp.
  2. After Kyrie Irving went down last December, Jared Sullinger stepped up to become the premier freshman in the country. This season the Ohio State star is looking to take his game to another level by attempting to lose up to 30 pounds in an effort to get into better shape and develop his game more. It is rare that we would question any big man trying to lose a few pounds, but given Sullinger’s inside game and his relatively good conditioning (not falling apart late in games even as a freshman) we have to wonder if Sullinger’s play might actually suffer in a weird way from him getting into shape.
  3. UNC coach Roy Williams was honored yesterday in Marion, North Carolina, where he was born, with the unveiling of a sign honoring him with the official ceremony to follow on July 18, which Williams is expected to attend. Before fans of rival teams start harping on the cost of the sign in these fiscally challenging times it is worth noting that the sign was paid for with private donations. The more interesting thing for us is that due to his very well-documented difficult childhood Williams actually spent very little time in Marion and grew up in Asheville, North Carolina.
  4. Luke Winn checks in with his summer update from the FIBA Under-19 Tournament in Latvia, and the biggest storyline involves a player who isn’t even suiting up this summer.  Youssef Mejri is a 6’8″ power forward prospect who has committed to Davidson despite never playing a minute of American high school basketball, and few people are quite sure as to whether the Wildcats are getting a major sleeper or an unfulfilling headache.  Several other D-I players that Winn evaluates include rising freshmen Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Sim Bhullar (Xavier), Jackson Aldridge (Butler), and Hugh Greenwood (New Mexico).
  5. Finally, one of our correspondents, Kelly James Powers, was in Indianapolis yesterday for the adidas Invitational and noted that in addition to the star power on the court (Andre Drummond and Shabazz Muhammad were showcasing their considerable talents) there was plenty of star power in the stands (John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, and Tom Izzo, just to name a few). As exciting as the on-court skills of the players might be, the positioning and interactions of these coaches while evaluating these prospects would be fascinating to watch. Obviously Calipari and Pitino have to act like the other doesn’t exist, but what about the other coaches there?
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Who’s Got Next? Nike EYBL, Kevin Ware, New Lists and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 31st, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

Try saying Nike EYBL five times fast — it’s tough, but after this past weekend, it’s fairly easy to write. When the best players in the country come together for a three-day weekend leaving everything on the court because a Peach Jam appearance is on the line, you get the best prep basketball in the country. From excellent shooters to freak athletes to dominant big men, the Los Angeles EYBL had it all this weekend and it also gave us a chance to get some updates from prospects regarding their recruitment. And remember that guy Kevin Ware (yes, this Kevin Ware)? Well, he committed… again.

What They’re Saying

  • Josh Gershon on L.J. Rose‘s (#20) recruitment: “L.J. Rose says UCLA and Texas lead. He’ll visit UCLA on Monday and also check out UT again.”
  • Junior Rodney Purvis (#7) on adding a school to his list: “Adding Coach [Josh] Pastner and the Memphis Tigers to my list of schools….” On the best player in the Class of 2013: “[Power forward] Julius Randle (Watch List) is way better then advertised. Hands down best player in country in his class!.”
  • Lis Mack, mother of senior Kevin Ware, on her son’s commitment to Louisville: “The visit was pretty much the deal closer. We had a comfort level that he developed and he thinks it’ll be a great place for him. On top of the ability to learn and they have a great fan base.”
  • Sophomore standout Jairus Lyles on his favorite school: “I wanna go to Wake Forest… that’s my dream school.”
  • Senior Sidiki Johnson (Arizona) on who he’s recruiting among the sophomores and juniors: “[Class of 2013 shooting guard] Chris Thomas (Watch List), he’s a great player… [Class of 2012 power forward] Danny Dingle out of New York, he’s pretty good… and this kid from California, [Class of 2012 small forward] Shabazz Muhammad (#3), that’s about it.”
  • Sophomore sensation Kuran Iverson (Watch List) on location factoring into his recruitment: “Well, my mom may say something about it, but I don’t really care.”

What We Learned

Kevin Ware Commits… Again. With the drama from the Central Florida recruiting scandal dying down, Class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to Louisville over the weekend. After de-committing from both Tennessee and UCF in the past couple of months, Ware joins a Cardinal class that includes shooting guard Wayne Blackshear (#22), small forward Angel Nunez, power forward Chane Behanan (#35) and center Zach Price. With this addition, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino now has a top ten class and will be moved into either the #8 or #9 slot when I update my 2011 Class Rankings later this week. However, keep in mind that Ware cannot make a binding agreement since the spring signing period ended and what he will be signing is non-binding grant-in-aid papers until he enrolls in classes. This means he has the opportunity to de-commit again without penalty if he chooses to do so (but to see why it’s likely that Louisville is where he’ll attend college, check out what his mother had to say in the “What They’re Saying” section above). Ware is a great athlete who excels in transition and is a tremendous finisher above the rim. He is a spectacular slasher from the wing and has improved his perimeter shooting so it too is respectable now. However, he needs to continue to get better at shooting in both catch-and-shoot situations and off the dribble so he can be a scoring threat in a variety of ways on offense. He can also become a better ball-handler since he commits too many turnovers as the secondary ball-handler. Look for him to be a three to four year player for the Cardinals since despite his fantastic athleticism and raw talent, Pitino could really help him develop into an elite player when he’s an upperclassman. 

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