Complete NBA Draft List: After NCAA Deadline, Who’s Staying and Who’s Going?

Posted by EJacoby on April 10th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

In a rule that makes absolutely no sense, today (April 10) marks the new official date that college players had to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft pool if they wanted to return back to school with eligibility and had previously declared for draft entry. It’s the NCAA’s deadline. That means that all of the guys who declared since the end of the season (Kendall Marshall, Jared Sullinger, and Meyers Leonard to name a few) had to decide by today whether to forgo their NCAA eligibilities. But the NBA’s own deadline isn’t until April 29, meaning that players can still declare for the draft, but just can’t withdraw anymore and retain college eligibility. Essentially, it just means that “testing the waters” is now done, so if a player enters the draft from here then he is gone for good. Yes, it’s confusing and makes zero sense, but that’s an issue for another day. Today, we wrap up all of the players who are officially sticking in the NBA Draft, those who decided to return to school, and those that are still undecided until April 29. Here’s the status of all the top non-senior players of college basketball:

After Some Debate, Jared Sullinger Declared for the NBA Draft (AP Photo)

DECLARED - These players have entered their names into the NBA Draft and no longer have college eligibility.

  • Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (Sophomore) – The super-hyped prospect had a strong two seasons but perhaps underachieved in the eyes of many UNC fans. He is a surefire lottery pick and could go in the top five so it’s a smart decision to leave.
  • Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (Sophomore) – Dominant as a Buckeye from day one as a freshman, Sullinger’s NBA stock has slowly dropped over the course of two seasons. It’s his time to go now, but he may be slipping out of the top 10. Everyone seems torn on him, but Sully is too talented of a player to fall out of the lottery.
  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas (Junior) – No-brainer. Robinson was a NPOY candidate, accomplished great things in three years at Kansas and will be a top-five draft pick.
  • Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (Sophomore) – Despite being a stacked draft, this year’s pool severely lacks point guards. Marshall lacks athleticism at the position but is a solid height (6’4”) and has elite passing skills and floor awareness that will translate at the NBA level. Could be a surprise top ten pick, and will probably go in the lottery.
  • Austin Rivers, Duke (Freshman) – Another player that scouts are torn on, many believe that Rivers could have used another year of seasoning at Duke. But his scoring prowess is undeniable and someone will grab his talents likely between picks 10 and 20. Read the rest of this entry »
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Charting Kentucky’s Defense in the Championship Game

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 10th, 2012

Individual offensive statistics are easy to find by perusing a post game box score or site such as this one, but locating advanced statistics on a players’ defensive game is much more difficult to access. David Hess and Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated conducted a defensive charting project to improve upon the absence of defensive efficiency numbers. The challenge is these statistics are only accumulated through reviewing game film to assign credit and blame to each defender based on their individual defensive performance, and so this information is less readily available because of the time and effort it takes to collect.

We are talking about defense, right? (AP Photo)

Hess and Winn provided the groundwork for defensive charting research, and using their original work, I tracked Kentucky’s defensive performance during its national championship victory over Kansas. Here are the definitions of the chart below using information directly from Hess’ blog, The Audacity of Hoops, which he adapted from Dean Oliver’s book Basketball on Paper, followed by my chart of Kentucky’s individual defensive statistics.

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Morning Five: 04.10.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2012

  1. It was not much of a surprise, but yesterday Thomas Robinson officially put his name into the 2012 NBA Draft. A year after coming off the bench due to the Morris twins starting in front of him Robinson became the second best player in college basketball and should be a top five pick in this year’s draft. Kansas fans might have been hoping to have Robinson return for his senior year, but it would be unrealistic to have him return to school when he could help support his sister with his NBA contract (his family story is well-chronicled so we will not go through it here). Of course, this will inevitably raise another offseason of question as to whether Bill Self can win another Big 12 title without a superstar.
  2. Robinson will be joined in the NBA Draft by another Big 12 big man as Baylor‘s Perry Jones III also declared for the NBA Draft. Unlike Robinson, who to be fair was a highly rated recruit, Jones has failed to live up to the exceedingly high expectations placed on him coming into college. Averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game is pretty solid, but not when you were projected as a top five pick coming into the season. Looking at it from Jones’ perspective, leaving now appears to be the right decision as each year he has stayed in college has hurt his stock to the point that he is almost out of the lottery after being a probable top two pick coming out of high school and a consensus top five pick even after last year’s decent, but uninspired season. Fortunately for NBA GMs he has fallen far enough down the mock drafts that selecting Jones probably won’t cost the GM his job unless that GM does something idiotic like take Jones in the top ten.
  3. Jones’ Baylor teammates may not be in such good shape as the basketball programs (both men and women) are being investigated for impermissible phone calls and text messages that are so far out of bounds that Kelvin Sampson would blush. Some analysts might have been able to foresee some suspicious activity at Baylor given their sudden rise to prominence. In an attempt to save itself from severe NCAA punishment the coaches named have acknowledged their role and have taken self-imposed penalties and the school has done the same with scholarship and recruiting restrictions.  Given the degree of punishment other schools have received in the past we would not be surprised to see the NCAA issue even more stiff sanctions.
  4. Two other slightly smaller, but still significant names also put their names in the NBA Draft. Vanderbilt‘s John Jenkins announced yesterday that he would be entering into the NBA Draft and forgoing his senior year. Jenkins is projected to be a borderline first round pick could be an intriguing target for a NBA team as he is probably the best shooter in this year’s Draft and there are plenty of teams that will be picking at the end of the first round who could use a marksman. Jenkins is not the only junior guard who declared for the NBA Draft yesterday as Oregon State‘s Jared Cunningham did the same. Unlike Jenkins, Cunningham likely will not even get close to the first round and its guaranteed contract as he is projected to be a late second round pick or even undrafted. Still his athleticism and defense should be enough to get a look from several NBA teams and some training camp invitations.
  5. With all of the players declaring for the NBA Draft it is good to hear that at least a few players will be staying in school for at least a few more years (or at least that is what we think). The most prominent and interesting is Trey Burke, who is returning to Michigan after initial reports indicated that he was leaving. Burke’s decision means that the Wolverines could be a top ten team next season. Lehigh‘s C.J. McCollum, who gained notoriety with his performance in the team’s upset win over Duke, will also return to school. Learning from our criticism of how word spread that he might be leaving school early, McCollum, a journalism major, took matters into his own hands and wrote his own column for The Sporting News. Tony Mitchell, the one from North Texas not the one who is leaving Alabama, will also return to school after playing a shortened freshman season while his eligibility was sorted out. Out of the three, Mitchell might be the most intriguing NBA prospect and could wind up being a lottery pick if he has a strong sophomore season.
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Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Top Half

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2012

Yesterday we gave you our season grades for the bottom half of the Big 12. Today we bring you the top half.

5. Kansas State (22-11, 10-8)

McGruder Led a Surprising K-State Team This Season

FINAL GRADE: B+

Despite all of the personnel question marks and the graduation of star Jacob Pullen, you had the sense Frank Martin would figure something out. He certainly did, as his team weathered a mid-season swoon to finish strong and reach another NCAA Tournament. Martin may have left for South Carolina after the season, but his final Kansas State team fought hard in 2011-12 despite a load of adversity. A December championship at the Diamond Head Classic helped the Wildcats enter the Top 25 before Big 12 play, but poor offensive execution and a lack of consistency on the defensive end doomed the Wildcats during the winter. They weren’t playing like Martin’s teams usually did. They weren’t tough, and it showed, starting 1-3 in Big 12 play and dropping four home games in Manhattan. Oklahoma swept them. Things were getting ugly, and they hit rock bottom after a home loss to Kansas on Big Monday on February 13. That’s when Martin turned this thing around and solidified an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wildcats got back to the basics: defense, rebounding and delivering a knockout punch to opponents. Rodney McGruder stepped up his play as the team’s star, helping it win four of five games to close the season, including road wins at Baylor and Missouri. The controversial suspension of Jamar Samuels left Kansas State without its best forward in an NCAA Third Round game against Syracuse, but it’s impressive that this team even reached that point. With McGruder presumably returning next year, first-year coach Bruce Weber will have a lot to work with. Angel Rodriguez should be even better as a sophomore, and Will Spradling and Jordan Henriquez should grow, too.

4. Iowa State (23-11, 12-6) 

FINAL GRADE: A

The Transfer Effect worked to Iowa State’s benefit this year. In December, we wrote a piece questioning Fred Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics, as he’d brought in four Division I transfers this season. It took a while for everybody to get acclimated, resulting in a couple of losses to Drake and Northern Iowa during an inconsistent non-conference stretch. But once league play began, this team took off. Royce White took the nation by storm with his wild hair and versatile play, showing an ability to run the Cyclones’ offense as a sort of point-forward. He emerged as one of the most fascinating and entertaining players to watch in college basketball, but the team around him helped add to the fun. These guys shot lights-out from beyond the arc, including senior Scott Christopherson, who finished with the highest three-point percentage in the Big 12 (45.5%) for players with more than four attempts per game. Hoiberg added a fresh energy to this program, leading ISU to a victory over Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. His team even briefly competed against Kentucky before falling apart late in that matchup. There was no fairy-tale March run for The Mayor, but given time, his program may eventually reach those heights. The 2011-12 season marked a major turning point for the Cyclones.

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2011-12 Season Recap: The 12 Most Iconic Moments of the Season

Posted by EJacoby on April 5th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

A season in sports often gets remembered by a handful of different memories that fans can recall when thinking back on that year. Sometimes it’s a scene from the regular season, such as the 2004-05 NBA year that included the ‘Malice at the Palace’ brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Other times it’s the final play in the championship, such as the 2001 baseball World Series walk-off base hit by the Arizona Diamondbacks. So what will it be for the 2011-12 year of college basketball? Here’s a reminder of the top moments from the season, which certainly did not lack drama. Which ones will you remember when thinking back on this season? We give you the 12 most iconic moments from 2011-12, in no particular order:

Anthony Davis Blocks Henson at the Buzzer (December 3) – Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis was perhaps the biggest story of this entire season. Taking home nearly every Player of the Year award, Davis’ domination at this level as a freshman was must-see television every time he stepped on the floor. But his rise to true stardom perhaps began when the Wildcats defeated then-#5 North Carolina early in the season at Rupp Arena on a last-second block by the lengthy forward. Davis rejected UNC star John Henson’s final shot attempt to seal the one-point win for Kentucky.

Austin Rivers Silences Carolina Crowd (February 8) – One of the two best buzzer-beaters of the season was Duke freshman Austin Rivers’ silencing of the Dean Smith Center in early February. Down by two at Chapel Hill on the final possession, the freshman knocked down a long three over Tyler Zeller to beat North Carolina and send the Tar Heel crowd into a state of utter shock.

Robinson Rejects Mizzou in Border War (February 25) – In what was the final matchup between Kansas and Missouri as rivals in the Big 12 Conference (Mizzou is off to the SEC next year), the two teams put on a classic showdown in Allen Fieldhouse. Missouri dominated the game until a late KU charge, and it was the All-America forward Thomas Robinson’s rejection of Phil Pressey with seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime. Kansas won the game in the extra session to cap off a tremendous game between two top-5 teams.

Watford For the Win! (December 10) – One of the great stories of the season was Indiana’s resurgence as a top team. The Hoosiers had a tremendous year that was highlighted by their victory over #1 Kentucky at home to improve to 9-0 in December. Trailing by two on the final possession, it was this shot by Christian Watford that beat the buzzer and provided us with one of the most memorable shots, and calls, of the season.

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Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great

FINAL GRADE: D

The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)

FINAL GRADE: F

Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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Rushed Reaction (Extended): #1 Kentucky 67, #2 Kansas 59

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2012

Five Key Takeaways.

  1. Calipari Wins the Big One, Justifies One-and-Done Strategy. Sometimes it’s a very simple game — the team that has the best players wins. But to put it in those stark terms seems to minimize the role that coaching has on the game, especially at the collegiate level. In knockout scenarios like the NCAA Tournament, the best team (or the team having the best players) doesn’t guarantee a win, but John Calipari was able to mold a group of three star freshmen with two sophomores and a senior to put together one of the most dominant seasons in college basketball history (38-2). There’s been a lot of talk during the one-and-done era as to whether a team centered on young but spectacular talent could win it all in the crucible of March — Calipari’s 2011-12 group both justifies his recruiting strategy in targeting those players as well as elevates his own status as a great recruiter/good coach to one that has greatness on both sides of that equation.
  2. Anthony Davis Controlled the Game Defensively. The NPOY had one of the weirdest stat lines you’ll ever see, shooting only 1-10 from the field and scoring six points, but grabbing 16 boards, blocking six shots, dishing five assists, and ripping three steals. He also stayed out of foul trouble to play 36 total minutes. It’s a broken record that we’ve said this so much, but not only does Davis challenge a big number of shots for which he doesn’t get an official block, but he also gets into other teams’ heads because they’re thinking about him every single time they enter the paint. His effect on the game in that way is unquestionable and unquantifiable, yet it causes teams to make plays that they normally wouldn’t make if he wasn’t patrolling around the area. Kansas shot a meager 36% from the field, with really only Tyshawn Taylor having a decent offensive game (if you can excuse his five turnovers, including a killer with just under a minute left).
  3. The Quiet… Lamb Headlines Will Be Out of Control. We were wrong about how this game would go, thinking it would be much closer throughout, but we were right about one thing — that one of the lesser-known players on Kentucky would step up if they were to win the game. It turned out to be Doron Lamb, perhaps along with Darius Miller one of the most overlooked players on the Wildcats. His back-to-back threes when KU had crept back to within 10 points with just over 10 minutes remaining held the Jayhawks at bay and allowed UK sufficient buffer to make some mistakes and still keep a comfortable lead down the stretch. Lamb ended up with a huge 22-point, three-assist evening that helped make up for the vacuum created by Davis’ six-point night.
  4. Kansas Couldn’t Come Back Against This Team. Bill Self’s team did it against Purdue and did it against Ohio State, but Kentucky wasn’t going to be the third act in the KU Comeback Tour. They were valiant in making the game interesting down the stretch, but they’d just built themselves too big of a hole to make the comeback against a Kentucky team that doesn’t have long scoring droughts. One of the major keys to this game was that Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford combined to shoot an awful 6-for-19, and for KU to have had any realistic chance of winning this game, they were going to need production beyond Taylor (19 points) and Robinson (18 points).
  5. Jeff Withey Made Himself Some Money Tonight. Withey will probably be back in Lawrence for his senior season, but we imagine that while Anthony Davis is off next year winning NBA Rookie of the Year, analysts will repeatedly cite how Withey frustrated Davis into a 1-10 shooting night using his long arms and body to bump him froim his favorite spots in the post. Withey himself only shot 2-8 and grabbed seven boards, but his offensive game is a work in progress and he’ll have another year to fine tune it at Kansas.

Star of the Game. Doron Lamb, Kentucky. Lamb’s 22-point, three-assist night provided the necessary offensive support to both help the Wildcats run out to a comfortable 14-point lead at the half, but also to keep the Jayhawks at bay when they made a mini-run in the second half. You could give Anthony Davis the award just about every game for his defense, but we’ll go with the talented sophomore here tonight.

Quotable. “I said this a couple of years ago and everybody got crazy when we had five guys drafted in the first round. This is one of the biggest moments, if not the biggest, in Kentucky history. The reason was, I knew now other kids would look and say, You got to go there.” — John Calipari, justifying his remarks about his 2010 draft class, in that the seeds of this year’s championship were sown on that night. Can’t argue with that (although clearly nights like tonight mean a lot more to UK fans).

Sights & Sounds. Terrence Jones was kind enough to give us a great shot holding the trophy.

Terrence Jones Is Definitely Enjoying This One

What’s Next? Kentucky takes their nets home and celebrates with what we’re hearing is a burning Lexington right now. Presumably many if not all of the five underclassmen who play minutes for this team will enter the NBA Draft in June. But Calipari mentioned that he’s going recruiting later this week, and if he manages to pull a Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad out of his hat, he’ll be back in the Final Four with the Wildcats again soon enough. Kansas, on the other hand, will assuredly lose Thomas Robinson along with seniors Taylor and Connor Teahan, but Bill Self has a solid core to build around with Withey and we’re never doubting his coaching abilities again after what he did with this group.

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National Championship Game Showcases Rare Treat: The Nation’s Two Best Players

Posted by EJacoby on April 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

This year’s National Championship game not only features the two winningest programs in college basketball history, but from a more tangible matchup standpoint it also pits the two best players in the country against one another. After Kentucky dispatched of Louisville on Saturday and Kansas survived the physical battle against Ohio State, we now get that rare matchup – Anthony Davis against Thomas Robinson in the National Title game. Why hasn’t this pairing received a flood of media attention? When’s the last time the country’s two National Player of the Year frontrunners faced off in the finals? And will these two interior forces even guard each other during the game? We attempt to answer these questions to prepare you for one of the many great stories to track during tonight’s National Championship.

Thomas Robinson vs. Anthony Davis is the Headline Matchup, but Terrence Jones (Left) Must Check Robinson on Defense (US Presswire)

Think it’s a given that the National Title game produces stud players facing one another? Remember how difficult it is to advance this far in the NCAA Tournament, and history proves how rare the opportunity is. Monday’s game will mark just the fourth time since 1979 that two first team All-Americans face off in the National Championship, and that simply encompasses any of the five best players in any given season. With Davis and Robinson, we are talking about the two leading vote-getters for National Player of the Year; two players that have gone toe-to-toe all season to decide the best and most valuable player in all of college basketball. Magic Johnson (Michigan State) against Larry Bird (Indiana State) in the 1979 National Championship game is the benchmark example of the scenario, and that matchup is still famous as one of the great individual battles in college history. The most recent matchup between All-Americans came in 1999 between Elton Brand (Duke) and Richard Hamilton (Connecticut), which is another good one but certainly does not resonate as strongly as Magic vs. Bird, and Hamilton was not a consensus Player of the Year candidate. It’s still unknown what kind of legacy, if any, Davis vs. Robinson will leave, but both players are forwards that are likely to be drafted in the top five of the upcoming NBA Draft, with Davis a near-lock for the #1 pick. The narrative of comparison between these two players truly begins on Monday night.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: The National Championship Game

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

College basketball fans, this is it. A champion will be crowned tonight in front of 70,000+ people packed into the Superdome. Savor it because this beautiful sport of ours won’t be seen again for seven long and painful months. Between tonight and early November, many things will happen. Baseball and football will begin new seasons. The NBA will end one season and begin another. A long, hot summer will come and go. A presidential election will be held. All of this before we see another college basketball game that matters, after tonight’s phenomenal finale of course.

#1 Kentucky vs. #2 Kansas – National Championship (at New Orleans, LA) – 9:23 PM ET on CBS

It’s not often when the consensus top two players meet in the final game of the season, but that’s exactly what we have as Anthony Davis and Kentucky face Thomas Robinson and Kansas. You could make an argument that Bill Self and John Calipari are the best coaches in the sport as well, matched up in a battle between the two winningest programs in NCAA history. This has the makings of a special night, one that might trump them all in terms of the pregame storylines. Kentucky enters the game as a solid favorite (six points in Las Vegas) and won the first meeting by 10 points on November 15 at Madison Square Garden. Who had that as the national championship preview after watching it? Maybe you had the Kentucky half, but you certainly did not have the Kansas half of the equation. Plenty has changed since then, but there are a few things we can glean from that game. Kansas jumped out to an early lead before Kentucky rallied to tie it at the half and took control after the break. The Wildcats shot 51% but committed 19 turnovers (25.6% of possessions, their fifth highest total of the season). There were 45 fouls called in the game and Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor went to the line 17 times as a result. Kentucky’s defense was outstanding, limiting Kansas to 34% shooting and 4-15 from deep. The Wildcats blocked 13 shots (seven courtesy of Davis) and won the game in comfortable fashion.

Anthony Davis Will Need To Show Thomas Robinson Why He Is The National Player Of The Year

Tonight’s contest is a matchup between two elite defensive teams, tied for the national lead in defensive two-point percentage  (39.8%). The battles at the power forward and center positions are absolutely fantastic. Davis and Terrence Jones go up against Jeff Withey and Robinson, four outstanding defensive players and three who can change the game offensively as well. Robinson is the best defensive rebounder in the nation while Davis and Withey are the top two shot blockers. Jones can electrify the crowd with his athleticism and can also stretch his game to the three-point line. Kentucky is the more talented team, but Kansas has shown an incredible level of grit and toughness throughout the season, never more so than in the NCAA Tournament. Overcoming deficits against Purdue and Ohio State, plus putting away NC State and North Carolina late in the game has shown us this Kansas team is no fluke. The Jayhawks have absolutely nothing to lose in this game and are the more experienced team by a wide margin. On the other hand, Kentucky has one more game to go in order to live up to the preseason expectation of winning the program’s eighth national championship.

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Big 12 Morning Five: Championship Day Edition

Posted by dnspewak on April 2nd, 2012

  1. Tonight’s the night: how will the result in New Orleans affect the legacy of coach Bill Self? According to CBS’ Matt Norlander, it could change him from a great to a legend. Considering Self’s pedigree, it’s hard to argue with Norlander’s column. Self has reached the Elite Eight with three schools, and he’s experienced major success at four stops: Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois, and Kansas. He’s the head coach of one of the top programs in college basketball history and he has won or shared eight straight Big 12 titles. With a second championship, what’s not to like about that?
  2. Staying with Self… he also earned the Naismith Coach of the Year honor by beating out John Calipari, Frank Haith, and Jim Boeheim. Back when Self and Fred Hoiberg shared the Big 12 Coach of the Year title– and Haith subsequently won the AP Big 12 COY award– we had this debate. Does Self deserve it, despite the fact his roster includes Thomas Robinson, one of the nation’s top players and a sure-fire NBA Draft pick? Last time, you all had a lot to say about this. Let’s hear that feedback again.
  3. Interestingly, Self will now coach against the man who replaced him at Illinois earlier in the decade. Bruce Weber will become the new head coach at Kansas State, taking over for the departed Frank Martin. It’s an interesting hire by the Wildcats. On one hand, Weber built a power at Southern Illinois and had his share of success in Champaign, but his Illinois program tumbled the past few years and hit rock bottom in 2011-12. Like we saw with Haith at Missouri, though, don’t judge this hire until we see the results on the court.
  4. As much as we talk about Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor and even Bill Self and Jeff Withey at Kansas, there’s a forgotten man: Elijah Johnson. As Jeff Borzello mentions, he has now scored in double-figures seven straight times and could be the difference in Monday’s title game. “Lately, Elijah has been the guy,” Self said. Though his teammates have played inconsistently on the offensive end during the NCAA Tournament, don’t expect this likeable junior with the big smile to falter in New Orleans.
  5. Welcome to the Big 12, West Virginia. The Sporting News has ranked the school sixth in terms of football/basketball combinations, which will certainly help the league as it transitions in 2012-13 after the departure of Missouri and Texas A&M. On the basketball front, the Mountaineers actually have a fairly underrated program, and they should slide in nicely to replace Missouri.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2012

Kansas

  • When former Kansas coach Larry Brown watched this year’s Jayhawks practice early in the season, he was not sure if this year’s squad would win 15 games. Considering this notion, Bill Self has really done an exceptional job this season.
  • During his first three seasons at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor would be hardly allowed to play through his miscues. Now, the senior guard has the freedom and responsibility to correct errors and lead the team on the right path.
  • Even though he only played a limited role last season, many pundits still saw Thomas Robinson as a first round pick. Bill Self believes Robinson made the absolute right choice in coming back to school, as Self said, “Thomas wasn’t prepared to make a living.”
  • Most of the attention usually gets paid to Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, but it cannot be overlooked that Elijah Johnson has quietly become the Jayhawks’ top weapon in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky 

  • John Calipari was a pretty big flop when he coached in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. There will be rumors this offseason about Calipari returning to the NBA to coach the New York Knicks, but the question will emerge if Calipari deserves that opportunity.
  • John Calipari has made several stops in his coaching career, which has exposed him to a lot of different people. All those people do have something in common though and that is Calipari considers them part of his family.
  • Freshman phenom Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has had to deal with a lot in his life for being only 18 years old. The death of the forward’s father and uncle have helped shape who he is as a person and a player.
  • In Kentucky’s storied basketball history, it had never had an AP Player of the Year. This all changed Friday when freshman standout big man Anthony Davis was named AP Player of the Year.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: National Semifinals

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

For even more analysis of these fantastic games, check out Zach Hayes’ ultimate breakdowns for each matchup. UK-UL can be found here and OSU-KU here.

#1 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville – National Semifinal (at New Orleans, LA) – 6:09 PM ET on CBS

The RTC NPOY Is Two Wins From a Championship

Kentucky. Louisville. In the Final Four. Armageddon in the Commonwealth. Yep, it’s well worth the hype. The 44th meeting between these bitter in-state rivals comes to us from the ultimate setting in the national semifinals at the Superdome on Saturday night. Kentucky leads the all-time series, 29-14, and has won six of the past eight meetings dating back to 2004. The Wildcats enter this game with just two losses on the season and the heavy favorite to cut down the nets on Monday night. In order to advance to the championship game, Kentucky must continue to defend at a high level. By no means is Louisville an offensive juggernaut and that’s where the stifling UK defense must take control of the game. With shot blocker extraordinaire Anthony Davis on the back line of its defense, Kentucky and its #1 eFG% defense should be able to limit the Cardinals offensively. Do that and you would think the Wildcats have enough offensive weapons to win the game. But it’s not always that simple. While John Calipari and his team have a huge edge in talent, all the intangibles favor Louisville. When Rick Pitino said they would need to put fences on bridges in Lexington if Kentucky loses to Louisville, he wasn’t kidding. All of the pressure is on Kentucky, a team expected to win a national title. Louisville, a team that went 10-8 in a down Big East, certainly wasn’t expected to make it this far. The Cardinals have absolutely no pressure on them in this game and Pitino would love nothing more than to stick it in the face of Calipari and Kentucky fans. Pitino and his players couldn’t wait to talk about the matchup last week while Cal and his squad kept on saying this is just another game. That’s pure BS. They know the stakes and the weight on the collective shoulders of this young team could perhaps be Louisville’s best chance to win. The Cardinals boast the top defensive efficiency in the land so a grinder-type game should be expected. Three of the last four games in this rivalry have been decided by nine points or less and, despite the talent gap, we’d be surprised if this one isn’t as well given the stakes. The key for Louisville will be to push the pace and score in transition without allowing Kentucky to do the same. UK is lethal in transition but a game with fewer possessions favors the Wildcats. They excelled at a slower pace in the second half of the SEC season and we’re just not sure Louisville will be able to score enough points in a low possession half court game. That means Louisville, and Peyton Siva specifically, can’t turn the ball over. If the Cardinals wait and let Davis and UK set up in half court defense, their task becomes incredibly tough. Scoring in transition takes the Davis defensive threat away and allows the Cardinals to set up their zone press. Pitino is a master at morphing his matchup zone into man-to-man defense in the blink of an eye and changing defenses could throw Kentucky off balance. The best way to beat UK is to take away Davis inside (Gorgui Dieng can do that, provided he stays out of foul trouble) and force them to make jump shots. Kentucky doesn’t take many outside shots but Louisville’s defense could force them into contested mid-range looks that might not fall. One problem area for the Cardinals could be the defensive glass. If UK is taking lots of jumpers (a good thing for Louisville), UL must block out and prevent Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from crashing the offensive glass. Louisville has struggled all year in this department but must come up with a better effort on Saturday night. Siva makes everything go for Louisville and it’ll be interesting to see if Calipari puts Kidd-Gilchrist on him at times as he has done with other point guards this season. The freshman with an unquenchable motor could frustrate Siva and force him into turnovers, fueling UK’s transition attack. While we feel the intangible aspect of this game favors Louisville in a big way and we’d love to pick the Cardinals just for that (and to be different), Kentucky’s superior talent is undeniable. Louisville will make it close but Kentucky simply has too much in the end and should advance to play for all the marbles on Monday night.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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