RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Deep South

Posted by zhayes9 on September 29th, 2009


Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Atlantic South) are located here.

It’s time for the fourth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico known as the Deep South region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Deep South Region (FL, AL, MS, LA, TX)


Ed. Note: our assumption is that Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney will not be eligible to play this season.

  • Aubrey Coleman – Sr, G – Houston. Young Mr. Coleman was a controversial pick for our panel, to say the least.  There’s no denying his talent, but the 6’4 rock of a player went national (and viral) last season for his footplant on Chase Budinger’s face during a game at Arizona.  Seriously, that thing made what Christian Laettner did to Aminu Timberlake in 1992 look like playtime in the sandbox.  Coleman served his one-game suspension for the ugly incident, and proceeded to take out any residual anger he might have on the rest of Conference USA to the tune of twelve double-doubles and becoming the only player to finish in the top five in both CUSA scoring and rebounding.  Yeah, rebounding.  At 6’4.  Playing guard.  If that doesn’t give you a clue as to Coleman’s toughness (despite his cowardly act against Budinger), we don’t know what will.  Despite his position, Coleman makes it a common practice to regularly venture into the lane for frequent trips to the foul line on offense and for rebounds on defense (ranks #294 in def reb%).  He also ranked in the top 25 nationally in steals, and we should point out that only three guards in the entire country pulled down more boards per game than Coleman.  About the only part of Coleman’s game that isn’t quite honed is his outside shot (21% on threes), but he doesn’t take many, which shows recognition of his strengths and weaknesses.  With two star players (including Kelvin Lewis) returning for their senior seasons in Houston, it’s safe to say that Tom Penders is sitting on an explosive duo who could lead UH to a successful slate in a wide-open CUSA and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly twenty years.
  • Damion James – Sr, F – Texas. Just three days prior to the declaration deadline for the 2009 NBA Draft, Damion James told Texas head coach Rick Barnes that he’d be returning for a final season in Austin, a decision that drastically alters the expectations of a Longhorns team that underachieved a campaign ago. Texas should be a top-five team in 2009-10 due to an influx of talent from all angles: from returnees like Dexter Pittman, to transfers like Jai Lucas, stud freshmen like Avery Bradley and, most importantly, a senior season from Damion James. James has just about as much pure athletic talent as any forward in the nation featuring an NBA-ready body, constant activity on the glass and an ability to run the floor like few other 6’7 forwards. The issue with James has always been complacency and wavering effort. Often James will hang around the perimeter, settle for outside shots, disappear when his team needs him the most or settle for being a secondary figure when a player with the ability of James should always be The Man. When James is motivated, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player in the Big 12 that can contain him. James finished on the All-Big 12 Second Team his junior season after finishing with 15.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg a year following a sophomore campaign in which James averaged a double-double. James ranked fourth in the Big 12 in rebounding, tenth in the conference in scoring and totaled double-figures on 31 occasions in 2008-09. A player the caliber of James should be right there with Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins at the top of potential Big 12 POY candidates for the upcoming season. He should be a first round pick and he should average another double-double. One of the reasons I have Texas pegged #2 in the nation preseason is because I trust James to provide that consistent effort for Rick Barnes in search of a very realistic Final Four.
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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 22nd, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

Just a mere five months ago, the once proud and feared Kentucky basketball program was mired in a state of chaos. The Billy Gillispie era at the university turned out about as well as the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination. Mystifying losses at storied Rupp Arena to such powers as Gardner-Webb and VMI, puzzling interviews with ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards making the blog rounds and exposing Gillispie as a clown, point guards refusing to enter games, rumors of bar scenes of an inebriated Gillispie making a mockery of his reputation and, worse of all, the Wildcats missing the NCAA Tournament in 2009 only to falter in the NIT. After Gillispie was fired, both parties sued each other and now Gillispie is releasing a book that nobody will read. It’s been a whacky offseason in Big Blue Country, and even though their new savior has some issues of his own, the Kentucky basketball program has experienced an unfathomable turnaround over the summer from the laughing stock of college basketball to a legitimate contender to win a national title.

The hiring of John Calipari and the return of forward Patrick Patterson has rejuvenated Kentucky to the point of being widely considered the favorites in an improving SEC this season. The addition of two top-five recruits- point guard John Wall and power forward DeMarcus Cousins– along with Gillispie’s recruits staying on board and a decent core returning from last season’s squad means expectations are once again sky-high in Lexington. Nobody is thinking about Billy Gillispie but rather the school’s first Final Four berth since the Jeff Sheppard era of 1998.


Here’s the official schedule for a Kentucky team that may be the most exciting to watch this season in all of college basketball:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 7. The non-conference schedule in John Calipari’s first season features some big names and decent tests, but no overwhelmingly challenging road games are included on the slate. The only true road game is a trip to Bloomington in early December to take on a rebuilding Indiana squad that Kentucky should run out of the building. Emotions will be high for both the North Carolina and Louisville visits during the non-conference season. North Carolina has embarrassed Kentucky handily in two previous meetings and the Wildcats will be eager to exact revenge on their rival Cardinals following last season’s Edgar Sosa miracle (not to mention the coaches aren’t exactly best friends). The schedule also includes a trip to Cancun to take on Cinderella Cleveland State and the Stanford/Virginia winner, none of those teams posing close to a threat. One team that could surprise Kentucky is their opponent in the SEC/Big East Invitational in New York: the Connecticut Huskies. UConn did lose a boatload of scoring and rebounding, but Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker and Stanley Robinson could be enough to hang with Kentucky’s immense talent. At least for a while.

Cupcake City: While Gillispie was prone to the shocking early-season upset, we suspect Calipari will have his team 100% prepared offensively and defensively every single night throughout the campaign. Kentucky has eight games at home against mid-major or low-major competition this season and one visit to Louisville to take on UNC-Asheville. They should sprint through this slate and remain a decent bet to run the table in non-conference play.

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06.08.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 9th, 2009

Another week has started, and we’re within one week of the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline, so let’s see who’s returning…

  • LSU’s Tasmin Mitchell will return to Baton Rouge for his senior season (smart move).
  • Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds is leaning toward a return to the Main Line for his senior year (also a smart move).
  • Arizona’s Nic Wise will also return for his senior season (a wise move, indeed).
  • Miami (FL)’s Dwayne Collins has wisened up and will also be back for his senior season (yep, these guys are getting it).
  • Memphis players continue to jump ship, with Shawn Taggart now deciding to forgo his senior season (not a great move, but he’s already 24 and who knows what penalties Memphis may face next season).
  • Tennessee’s Tyler Smith is still thinking about returning, but he’s also considering going to Europe to start his professional career.  While on the subject of collegians moving to Europe, Luke Winn explores the issue a little further in the context of Nick Calathes’ decision to play in Greece.
  • Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague injured his knee in a workout last week, but is expected to remain in the first round and therefore will most likely stay in the draft.

Some other news bouncing around the early summer months…

  • Memphis made its defense to the NCAA on Saturday, and we pretty much agree with most of what Gary Parrish writes here.  Details are scarce as to what was actually said at the hearing, but Kentucky’s John Calipari did phone in from China, and Memphis official stated on the record that they feel that they’d made their case to the NCAA.  Not sure what else they could say in that spot though.  Memphis should hear something from the NCAA in 6-8 weeks.
  • The Shane Battier Memorial Rule will be in effect beginning next season.  Wonderful.
  • We really don’t have a good feeling about the long-term prospects of Josh Pastner at Memphis.  Nothing against the kid, but Calipari is just too tough of a situation there to follow.  He’s showing his recruiting chops already, but can he coach?
  • In a cost-cutting measure, three Big Ten schools (Michigan, Ohio St., Wisconsin) are eliminating their annual media guides for their sports teams.  We’d expect this to be a major trend in the next few months nationwide.   The NCAA is also lending a hand by suspending members’ dues this upcoming year.
  • A Tennessee congressman named Steve Cohen is petitioning the NBA to change its “one-and-done” rule.  Interesingly, his district includes Memphis, who is of course dealing with the Derrick Rose fiasco.  Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt took offense at some of Cohen’s comments about his former player, Thaddeus Young, and is now demanding an apology.
  • Former Razorback Patrick Beverley threw Arkansas under the bus in an interview with DraftExpress when he said, “Someone from Arkansas was doing papers, was doing me and some of my teammates’ papers…”
  • UK countersues Billy Gillispie.  This could be really fun.
  • Gary Parrish explores Billy Donovan’s thoughts on the Orlando Magic making the NBA Finals two years after he backed out of his commitment to coach that team.
  • In a bit of a shock, Fairleigh Dickinson fired head coach Tom Green after 26 years of loyal service, including four NCAA Tournament appearances and 407 wins at the school.
  • UT-Martin’s head coach, Bret Campbell, resigned after an internal audit found that he had deposited $20k in basketball camp checks directly into his personal account.
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04.09.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 9th, 2009

Would the word flood be an appropriate representation?

  • Early Entry Fatigue.  LSU’s Tasmin Mitchell will test the waters, but he won’t sign with an agent.  Ditto for Memphis’ Shawn Taggart.  And Miami (FL)’s Dwayne Collins has the same idea.   UCLA’s Jrue Holiday is a bit of a surprise given how he struggled at the end of the season, but he too will take a dip
  • Curry Watch.  One player who has yet to throw his hat in the ring is Davidson’s Stephen Curry.  Will he be back to make a run at Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record next season?
  • Nice raise.  Alabama’s new coach Anthony Grant will earn $1.8M annually through the term of his seven-year contract.
  • Nobody?  It’s really hard for us to believe that nobody currently in D1 wanted this guy after he did a pretty good job keeping the Arizona program together this season. 
  • Xavier Coaching Search.  Word is that assistant coach Chris Mack is the most likely candidate to take over for the departed Sean Miller. 
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NCAA Preview: LSU Tigers

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

LSU (#8 seed, South region, Greensboro pod)

vs. Butler (#9 seed)
12:20 p.m. ET – 3/19/09

Vegas Line: LSU -2.5


Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Southeastern, at-large
Trent Johnson, 26-7 for 78.8%
08-09 Record:
26-7, 13-3
Last 12 Games:
Best Win:
79-73, @ Tennessee, 1-28-09
Worst Loss:
59-65, @ Alabama, 1-11-09
Off. Efficiency Rating
: 110.3; #53
Def. Efficiency Rating:
94.1; #53)

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): Marcus Thornton – junior guard – 20.7ppg…2nd in SEC – 5.5rpg…23rd in SEC – 46.7% FG…9th in SEC and 2nd amongst guards – 74.0% FT…10th in SEC – 1.55spg…7th in SEC – SEC Player of the Year
Unsung Hero:
Tasmin Mitchell – junior forward – 16.3ppg…8th in SEC – 7.2rpg…11th in SEC – 52.1% FG…7th in SEC – 73.2% FT…11th in SEC – 1.58spg…6th in SEC – First-Team All-SEC
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s):
Marcus Thornton – projected #45, Chris Johnson – projected #58
Key Injuries:
24.9%, #299
Achilles Heel:
The Tigers are not a very deep team, but are immensely athletic and talented. Their depth does not serve them especially well for a long run in the tournament.Will Make a Deep Run if…: Thornton comes out with confidence and the team wakes up after losing 3 of their last 4
Will Make an Early Exit if…:
Thornton isn’t draining shots

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2005-06, Final Four
Best NCAA Finish:
Final Fours in 1981, 1986, 2006
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present):


Six Degrees to Detroit: None
Distance to First Round Site:
856 miles
School’s Claim to Fame:
School Wishes It Could Forget:
Nick Saban.
LSU is a very talented team, and can beat anyone in the country on the right night. With UNC struggling with Lawson’s injury, the Tigers could be a dark-horse Sweet Sixteen team

Major RTC stories: None

Preview written by… Kurt Wirth/SEC Hoops: The Good. The Bad. The Dirty

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.28.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 28th, 2009


Welcome back to Boom Goes the Dynamite.  It’s Noon eastern and it’s Saturday, so that means we’re affixed to the couch for the rest of the weekend.  The day gets off to a little bit of a slow start, but keep in mind that RTC Live will be coming to you from Gampel Pavilion at UConn at 2pm, and we’ll be here for the rest of the action today (all 135 games).  Let’s get it going…

12:17pm. We’ve got Villanova – Georgetown on ESPN and Cleveland St. – Butler on ESPN2 right now.  UNC – Georgia Tech is on CBS, and if you’re really misogynistic, Depaul – St. John’s is on ESPN 360.  Here at the RTC compound we’re going to keep an eye on Butler right now because they don’t get much air time, tracking the others.

12:22pm. Has anyone else noticed that we’re only a week until the end of the regular season, but several of these “national” games are complete garbage?  Who’s making these schedules?  There’s no way UNC – Georgia Tech should be a CBS game on Feb. 28 this year.  Later we get the thrilling Oklahoma – Texas Tech game.  Oh well, at least Blake Griffin is due to return today.

12:27pm. So far it’s a brickfest in Philly at the Georgetown-Nova game, while the UNC-Ga Tech game is (shockingly) lacking defense.  Cleveland St. is giving Butler all they want so far – love the Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Where are Coach Dale, Shooter and Jimmy Chitwood?

12:43pm. Yes, Bucky, it is definitely a whiteout there.  Speaking of white, could Gordon Hayward be the second coming of Adam Morrison (w/o the floppy hair and needle injections during games)?  They both have similar builds and games (from our viewpoint), but Hayward has the superior numbers as a frosh (GH: 14/6 on 48%/83%/46% vs. AM: 11/4 on 53%/73%/30%).  Granted AM played 20 mpg his freshman season versus Hayward’s 32 mpg, but still.  Butler takes a six-pt lead into the half.

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Set Your Tivos: 02.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2009

Set Your TivosI’m back with another edition of Set Your Tivos, which should be daily now until the NCAA tournament where you won’t need your Tivo because you’ll be glued to your couch for 3 weeks. Obviously the big game of the night at RTC East will be our RTC Live coverage of #1 Pittsburgh at Providence, but there are a lot of games for you to watch when you are not following our coverage and sending in your questions/comments to us courtside.

#1 Pittsburgh at Providence at 7 PM on The Big East Network, Fox Sports, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: As I mentioned before, this will be the site of the 4th installment of RTC Live so we’ll be covering this game from the lay-up lines until they turn out the lights. The Friars come in needing a signature win (beating a depleted Syracuse team in Providence doesn’t qualify) to bolster their chances of getting an at-large bid as I can’t remember seeing any “bracketologist” with the Friars in the NCAA tournament right now despite the fact that they have an 8-7 record in the Big East going into their game tonight. Pitt comes in as the #1 team in the country following their win at previous #1 UConn in a game where DeJuan Blair destroyed Bill Russell Hasheem Thabeet. After all the talk by Jim Calhoun and ESPN about how Thabeet was the Big East POY, Blair has thrown his hat into the ring as a potential Big East POY candidate. Blair, who is averaging 15.8 PPG and 13.0 RPG, has 22 points and 23 rebounds against the Huskies and followed it up with 20 points and 18 rebounds against DePaul. Providence coach Keno Davis will counter with. . .ok, he has nobody who can guard Blair if the Pitt big man avoids dumb fouls. Providence doesn’t really have an athlete of the caliber of Sam Young that Jamie Dixon has, but few teams in the country do. Davis does have a fairly deep rotation with seven players averaging more than 8.0 PPG. Davis will have to hope that Weyinmi Efejuku has a big game and that Sharaud Curry can give Levance Fields (still over 4 to 1 for his assist to turnover ratio) some trouble. The Friars will probably keep the game close for 30 minutes to keep this RTC co-editor entertained, but in the end the Panthers should have enough

Penn State at Ohio State at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a pretty big game for both teams. They both are probably in the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, but both could use a little work on their resume to guarantee a bid and move up a seed line or two. Penn State has bounced back to a 3-game losing streak to pick up two solid wins (Minnesota and at Illinois) while Ohio State has struggled recently losing their last 3 games by a combined 10 points. We’ll be watching two potential first team Big Ten members (Evan Turner and Talor Battle) as the winner of that match-up will probably determine the outcome of this game since this game will likely come down to the last few minutes. In any event, we’re just hoping that this game will be slightly more aesthetically pleasing than the last time Penn State took the court.

Northern Iowa at Illinois State at 8:05 PM on GameTracker: After dominating the Missouri Valley Conference for most of the season, the Panthers have fallen apart losing 3 straight and 4 of their last 5 games falling into a tie for the conference lead with Creighton. The losing streak has taken them out of consideration for an at-large bid so they need to right the ship before the MVC tournament (covered by Rush the Court). The Redbirds are coming off a BrackerBusters loss at Niagara and will be looking to rebound against a Northern Iowa team that it lost to by 4 points on the road at the end of January. Neither team really has a superstar player you should focus on, but they both have  a lot of depth. UNI has 5 players averaging between 9.0 and 11.6 PPG (Adam Koch, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Jordan Eglseder, Ali Farokhmanesh, and Johnny Moran) while Illinois State has 5 players averaging between 9.1 and 14.9 PPG (Champ Oguchi, Osiris Eldridge, Lloyd Phillips, Emmanuel Holloway, and Dinma Odiakosa).

I couldn’t find this one listed on any TV stations so I threw up a link for GameTracker. If any of you know what channel(s) this game will be televised on, post the info in the comment section and I will update this.

Florida at #18 LSU at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: LSU is running away with the SEC regular season title and a win here would essentially clinch it for them unless they lose their last 3 (at Kentucky, home against Vanderbilt, and at Auburn), which I don’t think will happen. Billy Donovan‘s Gators are most likely in, but could use a marquee win to solidify their resume for the Selection Committee. [Side Note: What happens to Donovan’s reputation if his team fails to make the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years immediately after winning back-to-back titles?] Nick Calathes (18.6 PPG) will have to have a big game as LSU has 2 guys who can fill it up in Marcus Thornton (20.5 PPG) and Tasmin Mitchell (16.8 PPG). I’m expecting this one to be close, but for LSU to pull away in the last 2-3 minutes.

#25 FSU at Boston College at 9 PM on ESPNU: FSU is already in the tournament and BC is most likely in as well (wins over UNC and Duke should guarantee you a spot even if you do blow a game against Harvard) so both teams are playing for seeding right now. One interesting thing about this game that a lot of people might not be aware of is that FSU still has a shot of catching UNC for the ACC regular season title. Even though FSU has been the more consistent team (see the aforementioned BC loss to Harvard), I think that Tyrese Rice and Jeff Trapani will be enough to overcome Toney Douglas, who is amazingly the only double-digit scorer (20.5 PPG) on a top 25 team.

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Checking in on the… SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2008


Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Okay, so the Southeastern Conference has…well…embarrassed itself. Kentucky got the party started with a home loss to VMI and as of this posting, only four unbeatens remain in what was formerly considered a “power conference.” This season is looking like a major reloading session for the SEC, as nearly every team is falling short of pre-season expectations. Stars like Shan Foster, Chris Lofton, Jamont Gordon and Marreese Speights have exited and the conference is feeling the losses in a big way.  Let’s get to this week’s SEC rankings…

Week One Power Rankings

  1. #12 Tennessee (3-0)
  2. Mississippi State (4-0)
  3. LSU (3-0)
  4. #17 Florida (3-1)
  5. South Carolina (3-0)
  6. Vanderbilt (1-1)
  7. Auburn (2-1)
  8. Alabama (1-1)
  9. Kentucky (2-2)
  10. Ole Miss (3-1)
  11. Georgia (3-1)
  12. Arkansas (2-1)

For now, we’ll classify the teams in terms of how they are performing versus how they were expected to before the season. This category will change pretty often, depending on the week, but each one will feature a short snippet of each team in the conference.

Surprise Teams

While “expectations” are subjective, these are teams that are playing above the level they were expected to at this point in the season.

Mississippi State – The Bulldogs’ offseason seemed to be one gigantic nightmare. The most potent duo in the conference in Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes departed for the NBA (or not) and a third starter in Ben Hansbrough to transfer. Instead of taking a step backward, the squad has meshed surprisingly well on the shoulders of reigning National Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado, who is thus far averaging just short of a triple-double with 10.3ppg, 13.0rpg, and 7.8bpg. Varnado again leads the nation in blocks and has helped State lead the SEC in seven statistical categories thus far. Freshman point guard Dee Bost has been outstanding in early play, currently leading the SEC in assists per game with 6.75apg. The competition has been weak, but while other league teams are dropping those games, the Bulldogs have been owning their opponents so far.

LSU – The other West standout is in a very similar situation as Mississippi State, except that expectations for the Tigers are high considering their high talent level and experience versus the rest of the Western Division. LSU’s competition level has been similarly weak, but LSU is defeating teams by an average of 25.7ppg and is looking to be the surprise team of the SEC. The Tigers are stacked with potent offensive players in Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton, but are surprisingly stingy on defense as well.  With the conference down, LSU could win enough conference games to make the NCAA Tournament as long as the squad stays healthy. LSU lacks depth, so any loss would be a disaster.

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