Champions Classic Provides Kansas With an Early Opportunity To Improve

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 12th, 2013

It’s very early in the college basketball season. Before you continue reading the rest of the preview for tonight’s showdown between Duke and Kansas, read that sentence again. Now read it again one more time, just for good for measure. I’ll wait here.

Now that we have that important housekeeping item out of the way, it’s now acceptable for everyone to lick their chops in anticipation of the nightcap of tonight’s Champions Classic in Chicago. It’s everything we could want in an early-season match-up: Two of the nation’s best programs, coaches and freshmen on a neutral court, with their biggest recruiting target in the house to take it all in. While both teams won their season openers Friday night, Kansas needs to change a couple of things if it wants to leave the United Center with arguably its biggest non-conference win since topping the defending champion Florida Gators in 2008:

Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins Needs to Work to Get Open More Often

  • Work To Get Andrew Wiggins Open: In Friday’s victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the Jayhawks struggled at times to get their freshman sensation open looks. Wiggins eventually finished with 16 points on nine shot attempts, and while that was hardly a bad game for someone criticized as passive, it won’t fly against better competition. Naadir Tharpe, who will make his season debut after being suspended for Friday’s opener, isn’t an elite passer – at least not yet. For Kansas to avenge a 2011 loss to the Blue Devils, Wiggins has to either meet his floor general halfway and work harder to get open, or his big-bodied teammates need to free him up — ideally, some combination of the two would occur. While Wiggins has the athleticism to create his own shot off the bounce, odds are he’ll fare better if he makes his defender (likely Rodney Hood) keep up with him from one possession to the next.

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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Predicted Standings

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2013

Yesterday, the four Big 12 Microsite writers (Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso) named their preseason All-Big 12 selections. On college basketball’s opening day, we take a look at each writer’s predicted order of finish.

B12Standings

Some key takeaways:

You can have Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, but we’re picking Kansas until someone knocks them off: As we touched on in the Oklahoma State team preview, the Cowboys have as good a chance to dethrone Kansas as some of the top challengers in the Jayhawks’ nine-year stay atop the conference. But if a Big 12 coach is going to clown our writers by the end of the season, it’s going to be someone other than Bill Self.

  • TE: The reason I went with Kansas as my pick to win the Big 12 is a culmination of several different factors. While I think both teams not only have great talent in Wiggins and Smart, both also have strong supporting players around them. On Smart’s team, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are both extremely talented and could go for 30 on any night, and for Wiggins, he has two other potential lottery picks beside him, not to mention Perry Ellis. I think Kansas is just more of a complete team. While Oklahoma State certainly has the advantage at the point guard spot, I’m not sure there’s another position where you could definitively say that OSU is better, and in my opinion Kansas is far better and more talented in the frontcourt. Also, I fully recognize that Marcus Smart is an outstanding college basketball player – maybe the best in the nation – but I do think as point guard and team leader his squad sputtered a bit down the stretch last season when they really had a chance to knock Kansas out of the top spot with a win in Stillwater, along with an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament and a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s not fair to put all that blame on Smart, and some of it should be shifted to Travis Ford, which I guess leads me to my last point. If we hold all else equal and believe that the talent levels in Lawrence and Stillwater are more or less a wash, it becomes a question as to who you’d take as a coach to lead your team between Ford and Bill Self, and I think that answer is pretty obvious.
  • KC: Marcus Smart is one of the best guards in the country, but Andrew Wiggins is better. Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are good guards as well, but there is a reason Wayne Selden is a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft while Brown and Nash aren’t. And even if you canceled out both backcourts, the Cowboys don’t match up well with a Kansas frontcourt that has as much depth as any unit in the country. Joel Embiid is projected to be taken in the lottery along with Wiggins and Selden, and he won’t even be starting early in the season. And when you throw in the Bill Self and Allen Fieldhouse factors, it isn’t hard to pick Kansas to win the conference, again.

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Big 12 M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 28th, 2013

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  1. When former Memphis transfer and current Kansas Jayhawk Tarik Black began his search for a school to set up camp with for his final year of college, Bill Self recognized Black as an opportunity to provide leadership and toughness to his very young Kansas team. What Black received in exchange was a summer-long date with KU strength coach Andrea Hudy, who helped him tone up, which in turn has helped improve both his jumping ability and quickness. Black has been active in early practices this season, giving up his body for loose balls and setting an example for some of KU’s youngsters. While many of Self’s freshmen have garnered the media’s attention, Black might be just as important in providing physicality to a Kansas frontcourt that otherwise would lack toughness.
  2. The new college basketball rule changes have created quite a buzz in the last few weeks, impacting the way Kansas State guard Will Spradling thinks about playing defense. K-State head coach Bruce Weber said that after taking a charge in practice, Spradling will go back and review film to determine if the call would hold in live action. In addition to the new emphasis on the charge rule, defenders will be unable to “hand check” an offensive player in an effort to clean up the game this season, although many believe the rule changes will instead result in more free throw attempts. After teams tip off the season in exhibition play this week, we have a feeling Spradling won’t be the only one reviewing his defensive approach.
  3. Oklahoma State kicked off its exhibition schedule with an 80-70 win on Sunday against Campbellsville, an NAIA opponent from Kentucky, and it appears Travis Ford was underwhelmed with the effort, to say the least. In his post-game comments, Ford stated that after great practices the first two weeks of the season, his team has been lackluster during the last week and Sunday’s performance mirrored that stagnation. We know Marcus Smart’s team certainly has the ability to win big time games like it did in Lawrence last season, but to have a realistic shot to win a conference title, sustained focus night in and night out in the Big 12 is crucial.
  4. Lon Kruger’s team enters the 2013-14 season with the difficult task of not only replacing the scoring from former players Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye, among others, but also filling the leadership void left by last year’s group. Enter Cameron Clark, who recently spoke about having a conversation with Osby, who told Clark to work hard and lead by example. Clark’s teammate Buddy Hield has noticed a difference in his demeanor this year, and said that while Clark is not overly vocal, when he talks his teammates tend to listen. It will be interesting to see if Clark’s leadership can help Oklahoma stay in the upper echelon of Big 12 teams this season.
  5. The biggest complaint surrounding Bruce Weber’s tenure at Illinois was his inability to sustain consistent success after making the NCAA championship game with players recruited by Bill Self. After experiencing tremendous success in his first season at Kansas State, many wonder if Weber can learn from his previous experience to keep his team among the league’s elite.  On Saturday night, Weber received a verbal commitment from 6’5″ combo guard Tre Harris, who currently attends Fishburne Military Academy in Virginia. Harris is considered a good shooter and will pair with fellow 2014 commitment Stephen Harris to bring viable scoring threats to the Wildcats next season.
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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by BHayes on September 16th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

We have seen rapid and successful overhauls in Lawrence before, but perhaps never on this scale. Kansas is short five starters from a year ago, and in their wake arrives a decorated freshman class headed by a once-in-a-generation talent. Commitments from top-50 recruits Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, and Conner Francamp had Jayhawk fans believing a quick rebuild was possible, but it was the May signing of Andrew Wiggins, the top player in the high school class of 2013, that has turned hope into belief. Another Big 12 championship and a return to the Sweet 16 would no longer constitute a brilliant coaching job by Bill Self, a man who has crafted many of them. Wiggins’ presence on campus has not only turned those achievements into mere expectations, but also transports hope to Lawrence that the ultimate prize – a National Title – is again a realistic possibility.

Could Perry Ellis Emerge As The Most Important Jayhawk Not Named Andrew Wiggins This Season?

Could Perry Ellis Emerge As The Most Valuable Jayhawk Not Named Andrew Wiggins This Season?

  • Team Outlook: Wiggins’ talent and projected impact has been well-documented, but even if he becomes the star he is expected to be, the Jayhawks will still need to develop the supporting cast around him. Perry Ellis (5.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG) is the one returnee that will almost definitely be a key part of that equation, but Nadiir Tharpe (5.5 PPG, 3.1 APG) and Jamari Traylor (2.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG) should also see minutes. We have seen Jayhawk role players emerge into key contributors after an offseason before, but no matter what happens with that trio, Bill Self will surely be relying on newcomers not named Wiggins to carry the load. Prime among them are freshmen Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid, who are expected to take over starting duties at shooting guard and center, respectively. Like Wiggins, both are projected as top-ten picks in next year’s NBA draft, so it’s a distinct possibility that this could be their lone rodeo in Lawrence. That being said, both need to add significant polish to their games, and despite the top-ten ranking recruiting gurus bestowed upon him, Embiid even drags the “project” title with him to Kansas. Freshmen guards Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene are also consensus Top-100 recruits, and both will have the opportunity to compete with Tharpe and Selden for minutes in the Kansas backcourt. Rounding out the frontcourt rotation is Memphis transfer Tarik Black (8.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG) and redshirt freshman Landen Lucas. Black’s addition was another significant coup for Self this offseason, as he provides the Jayhawks with a player who has actually been through it all before at the college level. Black, like nearly every Jayhawk outside of Wiggins, could end up as a thirty-minute a game starter, a marginalized bit player, or nearly anything in between. There is tons of talent in Lawrence and a superstar to headline the show, but much of the onus for the destination of this Jayhawk campaign rests on Bill Self and how he fits all the pieces together – something Jayhawk fans should feel pretty good about. Read the rest of this entry »
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Kansas Adds Former Memphis Big Tarik Black, Tidying Up a Gold-Striking Offseason

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 22nd, 2013

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

In professional sports, the offseason is when most teams proactively set out with clearly defined roster goals, scour the personnel grapevine and come up with intricate ways to improve their respective outfits within the limiting constructs of salary cap barriers. Teams dangle mid-level exceptions and veteran minimum deals in the hopes of discovering that year’s market inefficiency. LeBron James goes on national television, announces his decision to join the Miami Heat, generating millions of dollars for local Boys & Girls Clubs charities in the act, and immediately transforms into some variation of demonic NBA anti-Christ. That is, in its most polarized narrative rendering, the very essence of free agency – player movement, buzz, flash, improvement, cost-cutting, not-five-not-six-not-seven-championships-type stuff. It’s a complex system that involves a tsunami of minor contingencies and rules, each sport offering its own unique guidelines to control the same underlying concept: free player movement.

Landing Black, after landing Wiggins, makes Kansas the Big 12 frontrunner in 2013-14 (AP Photo).

Landing Black, after landing Wiggins, makes Kansas the Big 12 frontrunner in 2013-14 (AP Photo).

College sports are different. The nomadic tides of inter-team player voyages is much easier to follow, the stipulations and legislative jargon more streamlined and simply understood. There are two primary ways teams go about acquiring new players. The first is the transfer, which is complex only when coaches and players make it so – but the idea is simple. A player leaves one school, finds a new one, and begins his career in a new and hopefully more personally gratifying location. The more common mechanism underpinning the constant churn of the player-eligibility cycle is recruiting. First year players replace last year’s first year players, moving up the ladder and burning eligibility along the way, right up until the clock runs out and careers come to a screeching halt. Kansas used both avenues to improve its perennially dominant basketball program this offseason. If you live under a rock, or somehow happened to gloss over the fact that the best high school prospect of the past decade announced his college choice last week, the name Andrew Wiggins probably remains something like an ethereal, distant, fairy-tale concept. If you’re up to snuff on even the most nebulous outer fringes of  the college hoops news cycle, the name should ring a bell. Wiggins did announce his intention to play his (assumed) one season of college basketball at Kansas, and on Monday night KU learned its bullish offseason fortunes were only just beginning.

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Morning Five: 05.21.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. Kansas has made a rather rapid transition from a contender for the Big 12 title (just because they win it every year) to  an interesting potential Final Four team. The obvious big move was the addition of Andrew Wiggins last week, but yesterday’s addition of Tarik Black as he announced his transfer from Memphis to Kansas could make the Jayhawks a more formidable team in March. The biggest part of the transfer is that Black will be able to play next year for what is expected to be Wiggins’ only year in Lawrence. Although Black’s numbers last year–8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game coming off the bench–will not blow anybody away, but he was one of the most coveted available transfers because there are very few players of his size with his numbers that are looking to transfer. The big question for Black and the Jayhawks is whether Black can regain the form that he had early in his career or if he will continue the downward trend his college career has had recently.
  2. One of the interesting aspects of conference realignment is how players are able to transfer between schools that used to be considered conference rivals. One such case is that of Deuce Bello, who will be transferring from Baylor to Missouri in a move that was made significantly easier with the Tigers move to the SEC. Bello has been an Internet sensation since high school thanks to his ridiculous dunks, but his on-court production has been meager at best as averaged just 2.4 points last season as a sophomore. Several writers have speculated that the change in scenery may bring out Bello’s potential, but we are not quite sure that athleticism necessarily translates into potential.
  3. Speaking of conference realignment, it may significantly affect the earning power of many conference commissioners, but at least for now Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott appears to come out on top in terms of compensation. Thanks to a generous compensation package that included a $1,376,000 bonus for the 2011-12 year, Scott’s total compensation exceeded $3 million narrowly beating out Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney and nearly doubling SEC commissioner Mike Silve. This payout preceeds the basketball officiating scandal, which probably will not affect Scott’s salary although it oculd theoretically affect his job down the road. It will be interesting to see how conference realignment affects the salaries over the next few years.
  4. Isaiah Canaan might be headed to the NBA (hopefully), but Murray State appears to have found his replacement in Zay Jackson, who was released from jail in April and allowed to return to the team. Jackson was kicked off the team following his ridiculous hit-and-run incident in September and sentenced to 49 days in jail before being released in April. While we understand the idea of giving a player a second chance, but in Jackson’s case we have our reservations so we will be interested in hearing what Murray State has to say about the situation.
  5. It seems like NBA Draft combine numbers used to be a lot more interesting when top prospects participated, but the numbers from this year are still interesting. As the article mentions these numbers are not considered nearly as valuable among NBA teams as the comparable numbers are for NFL teams. The biggest surprises to us were Shane Larkin and Cody Zeller even though we both knew they were athletic. We just didn’t realize how athletic they were especially Zeller who was competing against everybody else without factoring in his size. If you are looking for a good way to kill some time, we suggest taking a look at the DraftExpress historical database and see how some notable recent prospects stack up.
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Mike Moser’s Decision Begins To Answer Questions About Oregon’s Frontcourt

Posted by AMurawa on May 7th, 2013

After weeks spent considering Oregon, Washington, and Gonzaga, Mike Moser has apparently chosen the Ducks, according to Matt Prehm of 247Sports.com. Moser, who started his collegiate career in the Pac-10 back in 2009 with UCLA before spending a pair of seasons at UNLV, will be eligible immediately with one year of remaining eligibility. And for an Oregon team coming off a Sweet Sixteen performance, but needing to replace four departing frontcourt seniors, the decision begins to clear up the picture of who Dana Altman will be able to play with next season. In short, expect the Ducks to be in the thick of things in the Pac-12 again next season.

Reports Have Mike Moser Ready To Join Oregon For His Final Collegiate Season (Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Reports Have Mike Moser Ready To Join Oregon For His Final Collegiate Season (Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Moser’s time at UNLV was up and down, but when things were going good in Sin City, things were going real good. He broke out in a big way early in his sophomore campaign, bursting onto the national scene with 16 points and 18 boards in an upset win over then-#1 North Carolina back in November of 2011. And for the year, his numbers were very good, grabbing 10.5 rebounds per game (28.1 DR%, 9.5 OR%), scoring 14 a night and providing some decent punch from deep (33.1 3P%). He thought about bolting to the NBA after that performance, but returned to Vegas for his junior year and things didn’t go as planned. Looking to cement his credentials as a small forward prospect, Moser struggled with injuries, struggled to find a place alongside transcendent freshman talent Anthony Bennett, struggled with his shot and, well, let’s just say he struggled. His numbers dipped to 7.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG (23.4 DR%, 6.8 OR%), he never really found the range from deep (26.7 3P%) and his minutes dwindled, especially late in the season following a return from a dislocated elbow.

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Morning Five: 04.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. We will start off today by offering our best wishes to ESPN analyst Digger Phelps who revealed that he had surgery and will be treated for bladder cancer. Most of America knows Digger for his work on ESPN including his matching tie and highlighter combinations, but he was also an outstanding coach at Notre Dame from 1971 to 1991 as he was able to knock off the #1 team in the nation seven times during that stretch (a record he shares with Gary Williams) including ending UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak. We do not know much about the stage of the cancer and subsequently the prognosis, but we wish Digger the best as he continues to undergo treatment.
  2. In what might end up being the biggest early-entry decision this year, Doug McDermott announced that he will be returning to Creighton for his senior year. There have been several players with more NBA-level talent than McDermott who made early-entry decisions over the past few weeks, but none of them will have as profound an impact on their school, conference, and the national landscape as McDermott will. The Bluejays will be losing some key pieces (Grant Gibbs and Greg Echenique), but McDermott’s return should make them competitive in the new Big East and a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. We are not sure how much McDermott will help his NBA Draft stock by returning, but as Andy Glockner points out the move to the new Big East should give McDermott the ability to showcase his skills against more high-level talent than he had in the Missouri Valley Conference.
  3. The other notable early-entry announcement yesterday came from Baylor where Cory Jefferson announced that he would be returning for his senior year. Jefferson, who showed a dramatic improvement last season, is essentially the polar opposite of McDermott as a NBA prospect in that he is a ridiculous NBA-level athlete, but his offensive game is very limited. We are not sure that Scott Drew is the best person to work on that–at least based on what we have seen from him in terms of in-game adjustments–but an extra year of college basketball should give Jefferson enough time to round out his game to make him a better NBA prospect and a probable first-round pick although with how deep next year’s NBA Draft could be Jefferson needs to continue his upward trajectory to ensure himself a first-round spot.
  4. One of the things that we always have a hard time understanding is the hype surrounding transfers. One example of this is Hunter Mickelson, who is transferring from Arkansas to Kansas. Mickelson was a highly recruited 6’10″ Arkansas native who tried to get out of his letter of intent when the coaching change at Arkansas occurred, but was not released by the school only averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season in just 16.6 minutes per game. His 2.3 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game as a freshman was impressive, but we are not quite buying the hype on Mickelson yet even if his block per minute numbers compare favorably with what Jeff Withey was able to do (see Jesse Newell’s excellent analysis for a more detailed breakdown of what Mickelson brings to Lawrence). Like Mickelson, Jabari Hinds was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, but struggled during his two seasons at West Virginia before eventually finding himself on the bench late last season. Now Hinds appears to be headed for Massachusetts where as Jeff Eisenberg points out he could benefit from playing against lower-level talent. Perhaps the most perplexing case of all is Tarik Black, the Memphis big man who put up unremarkable numbers–8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds–last season yet finds himself being heavily recruited by Duke among others. As Gary Parrish points out some of this is supply and demand. At this point there are not many big men who have proven they can play at a high-major level so now there are “at least 20 other high-major programs are all lined up and working like they’re the last 25 dudes in a bar with just one moderately attractive girl”. The part that Parrish leaves out is that the one “lucky” dude/program has to wake up the following morning next to the moderately attractive girl.
  5. With all the movement in the coaching carousel there will inevitably be a few recruits who change their minds about where they want to go to school (see Mickelson above). Two of the bigger moves in the coaching carousel this season were at UCLA and Rutgers both of whom were involved in some recruit movement yesterday. In the case of UCLA they released Allerik Freeman from the national letter of intent he signed last November when Ben Howland was still the coach at UCLA. We are not sure if this decision was mutual or if Freeman was the sole driving force, but given how quickly this went down we would be surprised if Steve Alford was not ok with having an extra scholarship available. On the other end of the country and spectrum was Rutgers who picked up its first recruit of the Eddie Jordan era when junior college guard Craig Brown committed to the school. Rutgers obviously has a very long way to go to be a national-level program again and picking up a junior college guard will not turn many heads in New Jersey, but the speed with which Jordan picked up the commitment is impressive.
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Rushed Reactions: #3 Michigan State 70, #6 Memphis 48

Posted by Will Tucker on March 23rd, 2013

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Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Michigan State and #6 Memphis from Auburn Hills. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

Three Key Takeaways:

Michigan State Ran Away From Memphis This Afternoon

Michigan State Ran Away From Memphis This Afternoon

  1. Michigan State’s brute force in the interior was too much for Memphis to handle. As athletic as the Tigers are, they don’t have enough size to defend the post against 6’9: Derrick Nix and 6’10: Adreian Payne, who weigh a cumulative 510 pounds. The Spartans’ imposing duo combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds, while Payne recorded five blocks. Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin are the only players in Josh Pastner’s trusted rotation who measure at least 6’8″ and 240 pounds, and the two combined for 4 points and 6 rebounds. Despite his size, Goodwin went scoreless and played with the tentativeness of a freshman in his first huge college game, and Black played much of the second half with 4 fouls. Pastner afterward called MSU “probably the best in the country at offensive rebounding,” but it was on the defensive end that the Spartans established their +20 rebound margin, courtesy of Memphis shooting 30% from the field.
  2. Free throw shooting finally caught up with the Tigers. Inability to cash in at the charity stripe nearly derailed Memphis against Saint Mary’s on Thursday, when they shot 9-18. Down 12 with 5:13 remaining, Tarik Black went to the line after a Flagrant 1 was assessed to Derrick Nix. Moments after Geron Johnson had drilled a three, with an opportunity to turn the momentum and stage a final push, Black unceremoniously missed both free throws. Michigan State would go on a 12-2 run to close the game, despite losing Keith Appling to a shoulder injury. The Tigers finished at 66% on the season after shooting 5-10 from the line today.
  3. The Spartans’ backcourt depth is suspect. While their starting five is undeniably one of the best in the country, today’s game illustrated the dearth of talented depth behind Gary Harris and Keith Appling. Harris had a huge first half, heading to the break with 16 points and 4 threes, but only played 8 minutes after halftime once saddled with four fouls. Keith Appling didn’t show up on the box score, ending with 2 points and 2 assists, but he managed the game well until aggravating his right shoulder and leaving the game with 8:35 remaining. At that point Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine were left to orchestrate things, and while they combined for 9 points and 7 assists as MSU pulled away, there was a substantial drop-off in explosiveness in the Spartans’ backcourt. It wasn’t an issue in this game, but it could portend problems in a closer contest against potential regional opponents Duke or Louisville.

Star of the Game. Adreian Payne left his mark on every portion of the court with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. The junior seems to be shedding his mercurial reputation, and turned in an MVP performance after apologizing to his teammates for a disappointing showing in Thursday’s Valparaiso win. Gary Harris also deserves to be acknowledged for his career-high 23 points in only 25 minutes on 6-9 shooting. Tom Izzo noted after the game that the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year seemed to thrive on the big stage in front of a sellout crowd of 21,723.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Memphis 54, #11 Saint Mary’s 52

Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013

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Will Tucker is a RTC correspondent. Will is covering the Auburn Hills pod of the Midwest Region. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Memphis is always a threat to get out and run. Even against the fifth-most efficient offense in the country, the Tigers found ways to capitalize on missed shots by getting out in transition and exploiting their athleticism. Outlet passes to a streaking Joe Jackson on blocks and defensive boards routinely led to points, as the shifty point guard would set up easy baskets for Tarik Black, D.J. Stephens and others. That advantage became less apparent as the Gaels’ cold shooting subsided, making fewer defensive rebounds available in the second half. But as St. Mary’s clawed back into the game, Memphis responded by turning up the defensive intensity, creating 19 points off turnovers with dunks and transition threes.

    It wasn't easy, but Joe Jackson and Memphis advanced to the third round. (Getty)

    It wasn’t easy, but Joe Jackson and Memphis advanced to the third round. (Getty)

  2. Simply put, Shaq Goodwin needs to foul less. Goodwin sat for most of the first half after accumulating two fouls in the first three minutes, in yet another installment of his well-documented issues with personals. His 3.3 fouls per game ranks top 40 in the country, despite only playing 21 points per game. Which is exactly the issue, because Josh Pastner needs the powerful 6’9″ freshman on the court if the Tigers are going to take down Michigan State’s frontcourt. The abusive tandem of Derrick Nix (6’9″, 270) and Adreian Payne (6’10″, 240) already demonstrated earlier in the day how productive they can be when they get anywhere near the offensive glass. Memphis has a plethora of athletes, but outside of Goodwin and Tarik Black, they don’t have the bulk to contain Michigan State’s big men in the style of play Tom Izzo will try to dictate on Saturday.
  3. Defensive rebounding and free throw shooting remain question marks for this club. Josh Pastner prioritized both after the Tigers shot 33% from the line and gave up an absurd number of second-chance opportunities in a loss to Xavier. The Tigers seemed to have reformed themselves since giving up 41.5% of available offensive boards to the Musketeers, but they allowed the Gaels to grab 15 offensive boards and score 17 second chance points today. They also shot 50% from the charity stripe, and made only 4-of-10 in the final three minutes, which left the door open for the Gaels to attempt a game-winning three at the buzzer that missed long.

Star of the GameJoe Jackson, who posted team-highs of 14 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, as well as orchestrating a beautiful transition offense that never let its foot off the gas. Discounting a crucial turnover at the end of the game, Jackson generally had a good awareness of time and situation, and helped hold Steve Holt and Matthew Dellavedova to a combined 4-of-23 from the field. (Co-star: Josh Pastner, who won his first NCAA Tournament game as a head coach.)

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Does the Xavier Loss Reveal the Arc of Memphis’ Season?

Posted by Will Tucker on February 27th, 2013

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s game between Memphis and Xavier in Cincinnati.

Xavier outlasted Memphis, 64-62, in a game that exposed systemic weaknesses in Josh Pastner’s team fewer than three weeks from Selection Sunday. The Tigers entered the Cintas Center tied for the nation’s longest winning streak and boasting top-20 rankings in both the national polls and RPI. Their visit to Cincinnati represented the first of three consecutive road trips against potential RPI top-100 opponents, opportunities to combat the perennial whispers of “paper tiger” that pepper discussion of their Conference USA record. It also represented an audience with Xavier AD Mike Bobinski, chair of the NCAA Tournament selection committee and strong proponent of the “eye test,” as Mike DeCourcy tells us.

(Credit FOX Sports Ohio)

Xavier exposed Memphis’ vulnerability on the defensive glass (Credit FOX Sports Ohio)

They faced a Xavier team hung over from a crushing VCU comeback that all but eliminated its hopes of an at-large bid, and a student section reduced by the diaspora of spring break. Moreover with starting point guard Dee Davis injured, the Musketeers would field one primary ball-handler against the Tigers’ athletic press. It was against that backdrop that Memphis showed up and did all it could to reinforce the criticisms of its detractors. The Musketeers set the tone early with ferocious intensity under the basket and on 50/50 balls. They made Memphis look like the team with nothing to play for in the first half as they ran out to a 30-21 lead. The languid effort struck a chord with Josh Pastner: “Our energy level stunk that first half, and I believe in energy… We were minus-five in 50/50 balls at halftime –– first time in a long time that’s happened.” The Musketeers outrebounded Pastner’s team by 11 in the first half, and an six-rebound advantage on the offensive boards helped establish a 12-0 disparity in second-chance points. Memphis went to the locker room with zero points off five Xavier turnovers and only two fast break points.

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Morning Five: 11.30.12 Edtion

Posted by nvr1983 on November 30th, 2012

  1. We were thinking it was a quiet day without any news about conference realignment or player eligibility and then we got what is probably the biggest news of this college basketball season (at least in terms of its effect): Michael Dixon will no longer be a part of the Missouri basketball team. Dixon’s departure reportedly centers around two accusations of sexual assault at the university separated by more than two and a half years. We still aren’t sure if this was a decision that Dixon made on his own or if he got a nudge from the Missouri administration, but he has announced that he will be continuing his career elsewhere. This situation obviously has some similarities to that of Xavier’s Dez Wells in that he too was accused of sexual assault but local authorities failed to bring charges against him. The difference is that it does not appear that Missouri expelled Dixon as Xavier did in Wells’ case, but the result appears to be the same — both players moving on.
  2. Media bans are amusing until you have a serious (non-legal) matter and then you are stuck with the media speculating wildly, which is what Josh Pastner is making everyone do now that co-captain Tarik Black missed last night’s game “to give [Black] some time to figure some things out”. Pastner was vague about what had led to Black’s absence and would not even comment on whether the junior forward was considering transferring. We understand a coach’s need to keep issues internal to the program, but it is beginning to seem like Pastner is using it as a crutch to hoard information that might be provide more ammunition for the growing chorus of people questioning his control over the program.
  3. We have been saying it in this spot for the past few days and yesterday Gregg Doyel joined the chorus of people proclaiming that the Big East is on life support. As Doyel poignantly notes, many of the original programs that are left in the next-generation Big East are too good for what they are being put through. St. John’s, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Providence deserve better — much better — and we don’t disagree with a word of Doyel’s article here. As much as we hate conference realignment, if we were a traditional Big East basketball school we would be looking at whatever options were open to get away from the sinking ship that the once-proud conference has become. The Atlantic 10 — sure. A Catholic school basketball super-conference — why not? Joining the ACC as basketball-onlys — make the call. But the way these remaining schools are tying their futures to the likes of Tulane and East Carolina? It’s embarrassing.
  4. We hesitate at RTC to ever link to a slideshow of any kind — they could be the most annoying aspect of modern web publishing — but this one seemed interesting enough to do so. The Memphis Business Journal unveiled an analysis of the 15 most profitable basketball programs in America earlier this week, and the school at the top spot with 2010 profits of $27.6 million — Louisville — might give people a little more indication as to why the ACC found the Cardinals enticing as a new member. There’s won’t be many surprises on this list with many of the usual suspects represented, but we were most surprised by the amount of expenses that #1 Louisville ($13.3 million) and #2 Duke ($13.8 million) had in comparison to some of its profitable contemporaries (e.g., #4 UNC = $6.5 million; #6 Syracuse = $7.5 million). Are the Cards and Devils serving their players meals in diamond-encrusted golden goblets?
  5. Seth Davis is back with this week’s Hoops Thoughts, focusing on Arizona State’s improvement in large part due to Jahii Carson, Jerry Tarkanian’s fitness for the Hall of Fame, and his usual assortment of tidbits, notes and other bullet-pointed errata. He gives mentions to Ed Daniels’ hair, Pe’Shon Howard’s jumper, the 70/20/10 rule, Gorgui Dieng’s wrist, and rooting for Kevin Parrom. Give it a read before you start you weekend — you won’t be disappointed and you’re likely to learn a few things in the process.
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