RTC Top 25: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 24th, 2014

Week one is in the books and what a week it was. One of the great things about college basketball is that many of the elite teams play other elite teams early in the season, and that is what happened at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis last Tuesday. First, #2 Duke led the entire way in scoring a comfortable 11-point victory over #19 Michigan State, and in the nightcap, #1 Kentucky showed everyone why it will be the story of the year in college basketball, as the Wildcats thoroughly dismantled #11 Kansas. Duke’s win over Michigan State paired with its weekend victories over Temple and Stanford have the Blue Devils all the way up to the second slot in this week’s RTC25. #1 Kentucky remains in the top spot, but its style points in demolishing a talented Kansas squad earned the Wildcats every one of our pollsters’ number one votes. Outside of Kentucky, the team of the week had to be #7 Gonzaga, who rose from #11 after it impressively handled previously-#22 SMU and dominated its way to a 52-point thrashing of Saint Joseph’s.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.21.01 AM

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What’s Trending: Pre-Feast Week Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on November 24th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Griffin Wong (@griffwong90) is your weekly host.

Texas Looks Like a Top Ten Team

The Longhorns came to play late last week, taking the 2K Sports Classic event at Madison Square Garden rather handily. Jonathan Holmes, the tournament MVP, emerged onto the national scene after going for 40 points and 18 rebounds in Texas’s two convincing wins over Iowa and California.

Plus, mentioning Texas gives me the excuse to show you Cameron Ridley‘s insane block!

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Morning Five: 11.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. Texas showed off some of its potential last week winning the 2K Classic in convincing fashion, but it appears they will have to prove they can maintain the same level for at least a few weeks without the services of point guard Isaiah Taylor, who injured his wrist late in Thursday night’s win over Iowa and missed Friday night’s game against California. While the Longhorns have quite a bit of depth on the inside they are not quite as deep on the perimeter particularly after the departure of Martez Walker, who left the program after being suspended indefinitely following a domestic incident. Texas will have to figure out how to play without Taylor, who is expected to be out for four to six weeks which would mean that he would not be available for their December 10 showdown in Rupp in what could have been one of Kentucky’s toughest tests this season.
  2. Texas A&M received some good news on Friday as the NCAA cleared both Danuel House and Tonny Trocha-Morelos to play this season. House, a former five-star prospect who averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game at Houston, should be an immediate impact player for the Aggies. As Mike DeCourcy notes, the decision by the NCAA to allow House to play immediately is unusual given the information that has been released. Trocha-Morelos is a little bit more of an unknown quantity as the 6’10” center from Colombia had a breakthrough performance at some international tournaments in 2012, but has been in NCAA Clearinghouse limbo for the past two years.
  3. Ball State announced that it has suspended Zavier Turner indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Turner, who averaged 12.1 points and 3.7 assists per game last season on his way to MAC freshman of the year honors, had already played two games for the team before the suspension so we are assuming this is related to something that happened in the past week. This is the second notable suspension from the MAC in the past week as Akron had suspended All-MAC senior forward Demetrius Treadwell indefinitely after he was accused of assaulting a player on the women’s basketball team.
  4. A US District Judge ruled in favor the NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues in issuing a permanent injunction against the state of New Jersey, which had attempted to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The state is attempting to overcome the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that only allowed legal sports betting in very specific areas. The leagues have attempted to argue that allowing sports betting beyond those previously designated areas will reduce the fans’ perception of the integrity of their sports. New Jersey has fought this claim with a 2013 ruling that said the state was free to repeal those sports betting laws. It appears the leagues will continue to fight this despite one commissioner (Adam Silver) saying that expanded legalized betting is inevitable and various teams partnering with fantasy sports operators. Frankly, the argument that expanded legalized sports gambling will impact the perception of the integrity of the game seems rather myopic as everybody knows about all of the easily available non-legal sports gambling platforms. What New Jersey is doing is trying to bring this out into the open and create another stream of revenue from the government rather than keeping a black market alive, which is what the leagues seem to be in favor of doing.
  5. We are still working on this year’s in-season tournaments and they are already releasing the names of teams that will be participating in next year’s tournaments. North Carolina, Northwestern, Kansas State, and Missouri have been named as the headliners for the 2015 CBE Classic. The CBE Classic is held in Kansas City in conjunction with ceremonies for the College Basketball Hall of Fame. While we would normally point to UNC as the headliner in this field the location will probably make Missouri and Kansas State the crowd favorites. In any event the Tar Heels should be the heavy favorites in this field although the overall depth of the field is better than this year’s event.
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Texas Makes Its Case For Best Defensive Team in the Country

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 22nd, 2014

Fresh off an underdog Sweet Sixteen run at Tennessee, California head coach Cuonzo Martin got a different taste of the national spotlight with his new program by beating Syracuse in its home away from home, Madison Square Garden. The Golden Bears, led by a trio of guards who accounted for 48 of the team’s 73 points, relentlessly attacked and picked apart the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense with quick passing and sharp shooting. While many spent the next 24 hours attributing the win to Syracuse’s disappointing performance rather than Cal’s own doing, there was no denying the host of talented players Martin had in his hands. The plan was to take this newfound momentum and showcase the shooting prowess of Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird.

Texas Looked Very Impressive in NYC This Week (USA Today)

Texas Looked Very Impressive in NYC This Week (USA Today)

Texas was having none of it. And neither was senior forward Jonathan Holmes. Head coach Rick Barnes made his game plan clear from the start: Attack the middle and force Cal’s guards off the perimeter. This meant more interior passes to the Bears’ less talented forwards, and unlike Syracuse, whose big men were mostly inexperienced or physically soft, Texas has a wealth of size and talent in the frontcourt. As a team, Texas recorded 16 blocks in the two preceding games, and for a California team with just two players over 6’6″ receiving meaningful minutes, that meant trouble.

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Texas Loses Isaiah Taylor for “Several Weeks”

Posted by Chris Stone on November 21st, 2014

Texas will be without point guard Isaiah Taylor for “several weeks,” according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, a report that was later confirmed by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports and Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog. Taylor injured his wrist in the Longhorns’ 71-57 win over Iowa when he was hit by Iowa forward Gabe Olaseni while driving to the basket. According to Goodman’s source, the injury is not “season-ending,” and Taylor will be re-evaluated to determine if there is a fracture in the wrist when the team returns to Austin after tonight’s game against California. Taylor, a 6’1″ sophomore, averaged 12.7 points and 4.0 assists per game during his freshman season in Austin. Through three games of 2014-15, he has been the Longhorns’ leading scorer at 15.0 points per game while shooting an outstanding 60.0 percent effective field goal rate. Taylor’s loss from the lineup won’t just hurt Texas offensively, though, as the guard is also swiping 1.3 steals per game this year.

Isaiah Taylor was injured late in Texas's win over Iowa on Tuesday (Associated Press)

Isaiah Taylor was injured late in Texas’ win over Iowa on Tuesday (Associated Press)

The injury obviously looms large for a surging Texas team. The sophomore has been an integral piece on both ends of the floor for the Longhorns and their schedule is not particularly forgiving in the short-term. Texas will face California in the finals of the 2KSports Classsic tonight, a team that our own Brian Goodman predicted it would handle easily. However, the Longhorns will now face the Golden Bears without Taylor, which will make it harder to defend a deep California backcourt that includes Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird. Over the coming weeks, Texas is scheduled for away games against defending national champion Connecticut and top-ranked Kentucky — two teams that also feature strong guard play with Ryan Boatright and the Harrison twins leading the way. Looking beyond those contests, Texas will need a healthy Taylor to compete in the Big 12 where they have the potential to challenge perennial favorite Kansas.

Taylor’s injury also has implications for the rest of the Big 12. The conference got off to a rough start on Wednesday night when Oklahoma lost on the road at Creighton. Additional non-conference losses will put the league at a disadvantage come Selection Sunday because they drag down the league’s overall RPI. After sending seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, the conference will be aiming to achieve that mark again this year with depth that is unmatched by few conferences around the country. For the sake of Texas and the Big 12, hopefully Taylor’s injury is manageable so that he’ll be back on the court very soon.

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Big Win For Cal, But More Significant Test Pending

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2014

Midway through the second half of California’s 14–point win over Syracuse (#25 in the RTC preseason poll) at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, both Dick Vitale and John Saunders expressed surprise that the Golden Bears were picked seventh in the Pac-12 — astonished that there could be six teams in the conference better than them. And if you watched the game, you probably understood that surprise, because Cal looked great. They shot a 54.5 percent eFG against the vaunted Syracuse zone, kept the Orange’s athletes out of transition (for the most part), and really had a handle on the game from the closing moments of the first half (a late 12-0 run in that half featured four Cal threes in five possessions). Sophomore Jabari Bird had his national coming-out party with 16 points on four threes, and his more under-the-radar classmate Jordan Mathews wound up with 22 relatively quiet points. Up and down the rest of the roster, Cuonzo Martin’s players made the type of plays that they’ll be expected to make all season long. So, all that optimism that Golden Bears fans had to be feeling throughout that not-all-that-stressful second half is completely warranted and Cal should start looking into a nice brand of scissors for all that net-cutting they’re going to be doing at the end of the year, right? Well, slow your roll for just one minute.

Jabari Bird and The Cal Bears Looked Great In Handling Syracuse (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Jabari Bird and The Cal Bears Looked Great In Handling Syracuse (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

First, note that we’re not about to discount what the Golden Bears did last night at all. They beat Syracuse on a floor that was anything but neutral, and they did it in convincing fashion. They’ve got a star or two on the wing in Bird and Mathews. Tyrone Wallace is settling in at the point and has looked good enough there. And if he needs a hand, Martin’s best bench player at this junction is sophomore point Sam Singer who, by the way, handed out eight assists in a solid night of action. There’s senior center David Kravish, who contributed 12 points, 10 boards, three blocks, five assists and even a three against that Syracuse front line which, even if you don’t recognize any of the names off the top of your head, is an intimidating opponent. They looked really good, validating the initial opinion that most people who watched any of the Golden Bears’ first couple games of the season came away with.

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Texas Looks to Maintain Balanced Attack in 2k Sports Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2014

Over the next week, we’ll be bringing you breakdowns of notable Big 12 teams participating in neutral site holiday events. Today, we look at how Texas shapes up in the 2k Sports Classic in New York, where it will face Iowa tonight and either Syracuse or Cal tomorrow.

Outlook

Texas picked up right where it left off coming out of a successful 2013-14 campaign. It’s only been two games against teams who aren’t going to sniff NCAA Tournament bids this season, but in hanging 85 points on both North Dakota State and Alcorn State in blowout wins, Texas has done nothing to deter the preseason expectation of competing with Kansas for the Big 12 title. The most important development of the short season has been Myles Turner‘s stellar start to his college career. Through two outings, he holds per-36-minute averages of 22.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 7.2 blocks. That will definitely play. Leading returning scorer Jonathan Holmes has also been steady, averaging 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while point guard Isaiah Taylor is in the process of emerging from national obscurity with a terrific all-around skill set.

Get ready to meet Myles Turner in the 2k Sports Classic. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

Get ready to meet Myles Turner in the 2k Sports Classic. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

Opening Round Preview

One of the best frontcourts in the nation will find a competitive match-up in the Hawkeyes’ rotation, which consists of four players who are 6’9″ or taller. That core should help Iowa improve on its woeful two-point field goal defense from last season, and although it has done so this year in two games against inferior competition, the Hawkeyes still need to prove that they can do the job against quality opponents. To that point, look for Turner, Cameron Ridley and Holmes to test Aaron White, Adam Woodberry and Gabriel Olaseni early, and possibly stretch them out to the perimeter to free up cutting lanes for Taylor and Javan Felix. Defensively, the Longhorns should have the edge inside, so the big question is whether Texas’ backcourt can neutralize Iowa’s long-range attack. Despite losing Roy Devyn Marble from their rotation, the Hawkeyes can still launch it; Anthony Clemmons, Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok can all connect from deep, as can 6’9″ Jared Uthoff. Read the rest of this entry »

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2014-15 RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 14th, 2014

And so it begins — the time of year when we hear familiar voices on the television, see the faces on the floor, and our favorite teams again playing games that count in the standings. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With a large slate of games commencing this evening, we officially unveil RTC’s 2014-15 Preseason Top 25. This poll will hold for about 10 days, but starting November 24, you can expect our weekly poll to come out every Monday morning throughout the rest of the season. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives deeper into how the teams shake out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2013-14 preseason poll — we nailed some (Louisville, Michigan, Florida, Kansas), and missed on others (Oklahoma State, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown). We promise to do better this time around.

rtc25 preseason

Quick n’ Dirty Thoughts.

  • A Strong Majority Like Kentucky – Six of our seven pollsters were in agreement that Kentucky is the top team in the country, while the lone dissenter went with #2 Arizona. It is very difficult to argue with either selection, but Kentucky reigned supreme with John Calipari bringing another star-studded recruiting class (Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns) to play alongside a formidable returning unit (Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson, and Willie Cauley-Stein). Calipari has so much talent at his disposal that he is planning on starting the season with two separate “platoons” of six players that will roughly play the same number of minutes. Will this strategy work? That certainly remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting narrative to follow. After advancing to the Elite Eight last spring, Arizona is once again loaded with talent. T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all return, and the other Wildcats are joined by much-balleyhooed freshman Stanley Johnson.
  • After The Top Four, Everything Is Fairly Close – Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Duke are well-established by our pollsters as the four top teams in the country. After that, there was not a ton of agreement on the remaining 21 teams. For example, #7 North Carolina was voted as high as #5 by three pollsters, but the Tar Heels also drew two votes at #12. This much uncertainty regarding the placement of the #5 through #25 teams in the country should make for a fun early season stretch where some teams will undoubtedly distinguish themselves as bona fide contenders while others will fade out of the RTC25.

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Big 12 Preseason Predictions: Standings and First Team Picks

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 13th, 2014

With tip-off mere hours away, we enlisted the Big 12 microsite’s contributors — Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter), Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman), Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) and Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) — to stake their claims on how the Big 12 will shake out.

Predicted Finish

The unique thing that has separated the Big 12 from other power conferences over the years is the fact that it hasn’t taken more than three seconds to pencil in a winner. The bulk of the work comes in identifying which team is going to finish behind Kansas, and from there, predicting which of those is going to be in the running for NCAA Tournament bids and in which order. Moving toward the bottom of the standings, we always hold out some hope that Texas Tech and TCU can field a roster capable of making us think twice about putting them in the cellar, but their time hasn’t come just yet. Here are our Preseason Big 12 Predicted Standings.

Standings

Insights

  • No Surprise Here, Kansas is the Team to Beat: Between Bill Self’s track record and yet another top-notch collection of talent arriving in Lawrence, it’s a fool’s errand to bet against the Jayhawks now. It may take some time for Kansas to rise to its ultimate potential, but until proven otherwise, it is the unanimous alpha dog in Big 12 basketball. We’ll leave the bold picks to other outlets.

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Big 12 Whiffs in First Day of Early Signing Period

Posted by Chris Stone on November 13th, 2014

Wednesday marked the beginning of the early signing period in college basketball, and the Big 12 is off to a rather slow start. Midway through the day, Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, tweeted, “As of this moment, the Big 12 is getting lapped by the field.” So far, the conference has only managed to sign five top 100 recruits, according to Rivals, and by way of a comparison, former conference member Texas A&M — certainly no traditional basketball power by any stretch — has already signed four top 100 players. Here’s a quick look at each of the top 100 players that signed with the Big 12 yesterday.

Rick Barnes is Carrying the Big 12 Recruiting Flag This Week (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Rick Barnes is Carrying the Big 12 Recruiting Flag This Week (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

  • Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State) – Evans is the highest ranked player to commit to the Big 12 from the Class of 2015. He’s been described by ESPN‘s Fran Fraschilla as a “classic college point guard.” And according to Jerry Meyer of 247Sports, Evans is “lightning quick with the basketball, excels at penetrating defenses and has a great balance to his decision making.” It would seem likely that Evans will compete for a starting spot in Stillwater as soon as he steps on campus.
  • Kerwin Roach Jr. (Texas) – Roach committed to the Longhorns in late October and officially signed with Texas on Wednesday. He was attracted to Texas because of their development of elite guards, including D.J. Augustin and T.J. Ford. Roach, the Texas 5A state record holder in the triple jump, will offer the Longhorns incredible athleticism on the perimeter. Head coach Rick Barnes praised his basketball IQ, scoring ability and work ethic in announcing the signing.

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Big 12 Season Preview: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 12th, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: Texas. 

Texas

Hey look, Rick Barnes magically became a good coach again! Some may have actually had this thought, but no, he didn’t become a terrible coach after one bad season. Those calling for his termination have to remember that Barnes has taken the program to heights not seen since the midway point of the 20th century. It’s hard to believe the same Texas team picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll last season won 24 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. Now with virtually everyone back on board for another year, the Longhorns are primed to jostle with the Jayhawks atop the Big 12 standings. Just like old times.

Did we mention Rick Barnes won Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Did we mention Rick Barnes won 2013-14 Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Strengths: A team full of freshmen and sophomores at key positions a year ago grew up rather quickly. Most can point to their December win at North Carolina as a turning point in the season. Then you throw in some tournament experience, a blue-chip recruit and a largely intact rotation, this has the makings of a colossal year in Austin. Myles Turner is the blue-chip center out of the Dallas area. The center and forward spots are in capable hands even without Turner but there’s little reason to believe a player of his talent will not have a role carved out for him by Barnes. The fascinating thing about Texas is that they don’t beat you with a star or two. At any time, all five guys on the floor for the Longhorns can beat you in a multitude of ways. Isaiah Taylor showed great polish as a freshman driving and dishing. Jonathan Holmes successfully took on the role as top scorer, rebounder and big shot-maker (see buzzer beater vs Kansas State). A slimmed down Cameron Ridley still clogged up the paint scoring easy buckets, improving at the free throw line and altering shots on the defensive end. Aside from Taylor, Holmes and Ridley, guys like Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert, Javan Felix and Prince Ibeh were hustling after nearly every rebound (ranked fourth nationally; sixth nationally in offensive rebound percentage per Kenpom) and block (ninth nationally in block percentage per Kenpom). I could understand if a fan of another team became annoyed watching them. They were like a fly that would buzz past your ear every few seconds but you could never find and destroy. It would not be a stretch to expect the same effort this time around.

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Ranking the AAC Non-Conference Schedules: Part II

Posted by mlemaire on November 11th, 2014

Yesterday the microsite rolled out the first half of our AAC non-conference schedule rankings, listing teams from #11 to #6 based on the competitiveness of their schedules. Today’s rankings of the top five are a bit more interesting, primarily because a lot of these games are projected to have NCAA Tournament implications and are therefore deserving of a closer look. Here are the top five non-conference schedules in the conference, starting from the easiest to the hardest:

  • #5 Cincinnati: We have frequently used this space to blast Cincinnati for its soft non-conference schedule and it seems like Mick Cronin is finally listening. Last season’s slate featured four games against teams ranked #300 or lower, whereas this season only Eastern Illinois comes into the season lower than that mark, and the rest of the Bearcats’ schedule should give the team ample opportunities to pile up resume-enhancing wins. The Emerald Coast Classic could result in a match-up with Creighton or Mississippi, and the team also welcomes San Diego State and VCU to Fifth Third Arena before the end of 2014. And even though the game will be played in February this season, don’t forget about the Crosstown Classic against Xavier either. If the Bearcats can win a couple of those games and follow that up with double-digit victories in the conference, it will be tough to keep Cincinnati out of the NCAA Tournament.

    Josh Pastner is now 0-13 Against Ranked Opponents

    Josh Pastner’s team will have an early chance to answer how good they can be. (USA TODAY Sports)

  • #4 Memphis: No team in the conference plays a more difficult season opener than the Tigers, which are headed to South Dakota for a prime-time showdown with Wichita State. That’s a great opportunity, but aside from the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational in which Memphis will play Baylor and perhaps Illinois, the non-conference schedule looks comparable to last season’s 151st-best slate in the country. The only other game worth paying attention to is the December 13 return game home date with Oklahoma State. If Memphis is on the bubble in February, it will be worth remembering that the Tigers opted to play Prairie View A&M and Western Illinois as part of their non-conference schedule this season.

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