Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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Night Line: Missouri Plays Through Adversity in Rebound Victory

Posted by EJacoby on January 12th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

If Missouri is going to be a serious contender by the end of this season, they’re going to need to win several games in the fashion that they did on Wednesday night. Playing with just five available players in the final minutes and with their leading scorer having an off night, the No. 9 Tigers still found a way to pull out a road win over streaking Iowa State in Ames. Mizzou was coming off a 16-point loss in Kansas State’s raucous arena in their last game, so defeating ISU under adverse conditions was huge for this team’s confidence. “We had a tough loss at Kansas State, and when we came back the next day in practice, the whole week we focused on being mentally tough,” said senior Matt Pressey, and that toughness is exactly what carried the Tigers to the 76-69 victory. While tougher challenges lie ahead, Missouri found out on Wednesday that they can win on the road even when things don’t go their way, a great sign going forward.

Matt Pressey Showed Big Time Toughness in Mizzou's Win Over Iowa State (AP Photo)

Everything went right for Missouri during non-conference play, to the point where many pundits thought they were playing better than anyone in the country. The Tigers were dominant in victories over Cal, Notre Dame, and Villanova, and also defeated Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights game on way to a 13-0 start. But reality has quickly struck for Mizzou, who, in addition to getting spanked by K-State in its first conference road game, found out that freshman Kadeem Green requested to transfer out of the program. Though not a major contributor, Green was part of Frank Haith’s eight-man rotation as the third big man alongside star forward Ricardo Ratliffe and reserve Steve Moore that could bang inside and grab some boards (he averaged 3.4 rebounds in 10 games). Now, Haith plays just seven guys per night, only two of whom stand taller than 6’8”, so there will be plenty of times when the undersized Tigers have little margin for error against their opponents.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:

#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)

Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)

  • Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
  • Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
  • This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
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Night Line: Missouri’s Unselfish Offense Leading the Tigers to Success

Posted by EJacoby on December 7th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games. [ed. note: Jacoby was in MSG last night, so this necessarily ran a little later.]

After defeating another quality opponent on Tuesday night, undefeated Missouri improved its already-impressive offensive numbers on the season. In the win over Villanova at the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden, the Tigers assisted on 23 of their 28 field goals, a tremendous rate, and also improved their assist average to 17 per game for the season (#13 nationally). Phil Pressey was the catalyst on both ends, recording 12 assists and three steals in just 24 minutes of action. Backup point guard Michael Dixon relieved him to the tune of seven assists and two steals in 25 minutes. While Pressey and Dixon don’t get the national publicity of some of the other big-name lead guards across the country, they are extremely valuable pieces to the nation’s leading offensive attack.

Phil Pressey Led the Tigers' Efficient Offense to a Win in MSG (US Presswire)

Missouri now ranks first in the nation in offensive efficiency (124.8) and points per possession (1.25), fueled by the unselfish play of their primary ballhandlers. Not only does Mizzou rack up assists at an impressive rate, but it also turnsthe ball over as infrequently as nearly any team in the country. They turn it over just under 10 times per game, good for the sixth fewest miscues in the nation. Add up these two factors, and it’s no surprise that the Tigers lead all of Division I with a 1.79 assist-to-turnover ratio. While it’s hard to envision this team keeping up its scorching shooting for the rest of the year, what won’t change is this team’s style of play. Tremendous ball movement and valuing possessions will put the Tigers in a position to score points against anyone.

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Night Line: Four Guard Attack is Working Wonders for Missouri

Posted by EJacoby on November 23rd, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

When forward Laurence Bowers suffered a season-ending ACL injury in an early practice this season, the preseason buzz surrounding Missouri was quieted a bit. Anytime a team loses its second-leading scorer, it’s a big blow, but Bowers was especially important because of his role as one of the few inside scoring threats on the team. He was also their leading returning rebounder and shot-blocker. But Frank Haith’s Tigers have adapted well to his injury, deciding to go with a four-guard starting lineup in order to get their most effective players on the court regardless of size. The result? Mizzou, under its new and somewhat embattled head coach, is now 5-0 while thrashing Notre Dame and California at the CBE Classic to the tune of 29- and 39-point wins, respectively.

Kim English

Guard Kim English is Excited About Missouri's Hot Start (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Saying that Missouri has been impressive through five games is a massive understatement. They just stomped on unbeaten No. 18 California, perhaps the best team in the Pac-12, by 39 points. No, that’s not a typo; thirty-nine points. How’d it happen? For this team, when it rains, it pours, and the Tigers have been liquid from the perimeter all year. Coming into tonight’s game, Mizzou had already been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, averaging 84 points per game while shooting 50% from the field. Those numbers will improve even more after the 92-53 beatdown they just gave to Cal. During the ESPN2 telecast, Dick Vitale noted that the Tigers truly love sharing the ball. There’s nothing that makes a guard-heavy attack run smoother than such a trait. If selfishness could slow the Missouri offense down, unselfish passing makes it go. And Missouri is in full ‘go’ mode early on this season.

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Big 12 Team Previews: Missouri Tigers

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2011

Predicted finish: 5th

2010-11 Record: 23-11, 8-8 (5th, Big 12)

Head coach: Frank Haith, first season

Key losses: Justin Safford (6.4 PPG), Ricky Kreklow (2.1 PPG), Laurence Bowers- (11.6 PPG, injury)

It’s amazing the Missouri Tigers are still standing. After experiencing one of the roughest offseasons in recent memory, it’s a wonder MU didn’t simply fold its basketball program up and leave it for dead. First, in March, head coach Mike Anderson left for Arkansas, just weeks after telling a local sportswriter he planned to retire in Columbia (Firestorm #1). Then, several reporters erroneously reported this spring that athletic director Mike Alden had hired Purdue’s Matt Painter (Firestorm #2); when that didn’t materialize, Alden announced the hiring of Frank Haith, a coach who had gone 43-69 in ACC play at Miami (Firestorm #3). Later in the summer, a Yahoo! Sports investigation of the Hurricanes’ athletic programs accused Haith’s staff of paying $10,000 to a recruit (Firestorm #4), and there’s still no closure on that case. And, last but not least, starting forward Laurence Bowers tore his ACL this fall (Firestorm #5). He’s out for the season. After all that, Missouri is still ranked #25 in the preseason polls. That’s because the Tigers bring back a veteran group, headlined by terrific guard play and Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Marcus Denmon.

Marcus Denmon Is an Unselfish Star. (AP/M. Schiefelbein)

The Stars: It’s rare to find a star like Denmon. He’s one of the nation’s top three-point shooters and can score almost at will, but he’s sometimes criticized for playing too unselfishly. That’s part of his game, though. Denmon rarely forces a bad shot, but when he does, it usually goes in. He scores within the flow of the offense, he passes well, he plays tough defense, he rebounds in traffic, and he hustles his tail off. It’s almost as if Denmon is a star with a role player’s attitude, and that’s exactly the way Frank Haith would prefer it. This team feeds off Denmon’s work ethic and leadership, and his 16.9 PPG and 44.8% from three-point land doesn’t hurt, either.

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Who’s Got Next? Nike EYBL, Kevin Ware, New Lists and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 31st, 2011

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


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

What They’re Saying

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

What We Learned

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

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