Five Coaches in Need of a Good Season

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

On Monday we gave you the list our five biggest coaching moves from the last offseason, now it’s team to look into our crystal ball and see who’s in danger of getting a pink slip. The guys from Monday would be advised to check out this post. All of the coaches below at one point carried the same promise and excitement of better things to come at their respective schools. But as at least one of them will most likely see, sometimes things just don’t work out.  Here are the top five coaches who need to have good seasons in order to feel secure about their jobs.

Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech

Paul Hewitt Almost Left Georgia Tech On His Own Last Year

  • Record at School: 176-142 (67-93 ACC) in 10 seasons.
  • Postseason Results: Five trips to the NCAA Tournament (NCAA runner-up in 2004); one trip to the NIT.
  • High point/low point: Hewitt’s high point is an easy pick and it’s one of the reasons why it’s confusing that he finds himself with so much to prove this season. The man coached the Yellow Jackets to the National Championship game in 2004, his fourth season at Georgia Tech. At that time there was so much promise in Atlanta, what with Hewitt’s knack to bring in big time talent (Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack, for example) and what at the time seemed like an ability to coach ’em up and mount a run at a title. At least that’s what appeared to be the case. It didn’t take long for fans of the Ramblin’ Wreck to grow wary of Hewitt’s up and down nature. You could point out a number of things for the low point of the Hewitt era. There’s the fact that GT has never has won more than nine games in the ACC. There’s his four losing seasons. But I’d have to go with his disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2008-09, when the Yellow Jackets finished dead last in the ACC.
  • Reasons to stay: Hewitt knows how to recruit. He’s signed three guys that went on to win ACC Rookie of the Year honors in Bosh (2003), Ed Nelson (2002) and Derrick Favors (2010). Hewitt definitely knows how to sell the program to recruits, and it would be tough to find another guy that can bring in the same kind of hauls Hewitt has on his resume.
  • Reasons to leave: Hewitt is consistently inconsistent. Considering the talent on some of these Georgia Tech rosters, it’s dumbfounding that Hewitt has just one 9-7 ACC regular season to his name. Hewitt has made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments only once (2003-04) and hasn’t made it past the Tournament’s opening weekend since the Yellow Jackets’ run to the National Championship game in 2004.
  • Bare minimum he needs to stay: Hewitt needs to finish with at least a .500 record in conference, and the Yellow Jackets need to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. The preseason talk in Atlanta is how the Jackets are better than they were last year, despite Favors’ departure to the NBA. That means there’s no excuse if Hewitt can’t turn this team into a winner.
  • Possible job-savers: A strong finish at the end of the regular season. The schedule works out nicely for the Yellow Jackets to build momentum for the ACC Tournament and beyond. After traveling to Duke on Feb. 20, Tech finishes up home against Virginia, at N.C. State, at Wake Forest and home for Miami. Hewitt needs to sweep through those final four games to make sure there’s a chance for another season in Atlanta.
  • Odds of keeping his job: I’d say it’s 50-50. On the one hand, if A.D. Dan Radakovich was going to fire Hewitt, why didn’t he pull the plug after that dismal 2009 season? Then again, it should take a winning season in Atlanta for Hewitt to stick around for another year. Not many people are high on the Yellow Jackets this season because of the loss of Favors and Gani Lawal. Either Hewitt pulls a rabbit out of his hat or he reaches in and grabs a pink slip.

Jeff Capel, Oklahoma

  • Record at School: 82-51 (32-32 Big 12) in four seasons.
  • Postseason Results: Two trips to the NCAA Tournament (Elite Eight in 2009).
  • High point/low point: It’s hard to imagine Capel on this list considering that his high point at Oklahoma came just two seasons ago. In 2009 the Sooners were a No. 2 seed in the South Region and made it all the way to the Elite Eight before getting run out of the gym by eventual the national champion, North Carolina. The year before that Capel led the Sooners to a 23-12 record and NCAA second round finish; he was a coach on the rise and his program was headed in the right direction. Then everything fell apart. As expected, Blake Griffin decided to go to the NBA, but OU still had talent in guards Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin. It didn’t matter. Capel suffered his worst season in Norman, Oklahoma, on and off the court. The Sooners lost their final nine games of the season to finish under .500 for the first time since 1981. Worse, there’s an ongoing investigation into NCAA violations committed by ex-assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro. Five underclassmen (including Warren and Mason-Griffin) and two assistant coaches have left the program since the end of the season. Considering all the off-court drama, the court should be a safe haven for Capel. But then again, that’s where all his problems started last year.
  • Reasons to stay: If the Sooners ever need a last second half court shot they have the perfect guy to draw up a play. Seriously, though, Capel seems to be committed to Oklahoma and there’s no direct evidence that he had anything to do with the NCAA allegations. Capel easily could have fled the scene this offseason, but he chose to stick around.
  • Reasons to leave: Was Oklahoma’s two-year run a product of Capel’s coaching or was it because of Blake Griffin? Capel’s first year B.G. (before Griffin) ended with a 16-15 overall record and a seventh place tie in the Big 12. In the first year A.G. the Sooners went a paltry 13-18 and tied for eleventh in the conference. It could easily be that Oklahoma won 30 games in 2008-09 because of Griffin’s on-court brilliance rather than anything Capel was responsible for.
  • Bare minimum he needs to stay: Well first of all, Capel needs this NCAA investigation to end positively. You know what the Sooners did to Kelvin Sampson. And you have to think that the powers that be in Norman won’t accept any kind of improprieties. On the court, Capel has to finish at least over .500. People shouldn’t have any preconceived notions that it will be an easy return to prominence for Capel & Co. Not with nine new players on the roster. A winning record and a trip to the NIT should be enough to keep Capel from getting canned.
  • Odds of keeping his job: I think that Capel doesn’t have to worry about finding a new team come next spring. Capel should be able to meet the Sooners’ lowered expectations, and it will be fun to see this team fly under the radar in the Big 12.

Sidney Lowe, N.C. State

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

2010 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

After another summer of loud belly-aching, moaning and groaning about how the NBA’s one-and-done rule is methodically destroying college basketball as we know it, we’re left with the fact that, in reality, only eleven players from the prep class of 2009 found their way into the 2010 NBA Draft pool.  As it turns out, approximately 90% of the RSCI Top 100 players from last year’s freshman class will return to play another season of college basketball in 2010-11.  And this is not unusual.  In the four NBA Drafts where one-and-doners were forced to attend at least one year of college (2007-10), there have been a total of 35 such players, or around nine per season.  There are obvious problems with the NBA’s one-year rule that we won’t get into here, but we shouldn’t be losing our heads over what amounts to a handful of players each season.

And what about those players — how did it go for them?  We can safely presume that if you’re good enough to be one-and-done, a year in college probably worked out well enough for you (ahem, Tommy Mason-Griffin excepted).  But we’re more interested in the schools.  How did recruiting and ultimately matriculating a one-and-done player work out for those institutions?  Put in real terms, was bringing a player like Derrick Favors on campus at Georgia Tech for one year worthwhile?  What about Calipari’s den of young Cats?  You may recall that we did this school-centric analysis in each of the last three summers (2007, 2008, and 2009), and the basic conclusion that we’ve found is that one-and-done players have generally benefited their schools in the two areas that matter most: 1) wins; and 2) marketability.  Let’s take a closer look at this year’s group.

2010 One-and-Dones

Kentucky – Well Worth It. Say what you want about the meltdown of Calipari’s Cats in the Elite Eight against a tougher, more experienced West Virginia team, but the fact that Kentucky brought in the #1 recruiting class of 2009 and delivered on the implied promise that Cal’s system develops NBA draft picks is why his cadre of one-and-dones (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton) was well worth it.  And here’s the what behind the why: four five-star prospects arrive in Lexington next year (Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones) and two more are signed on for 2011 (Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) with several others lurking in the wings.  Not every one of these players will become a one-and-doner, so eventually Calipari will be able to season some experienced talent around his annual lottery pick arrivals (see: 2008 Memphis) to give himself a great chance to win that elusive national title.  As far as the difference in Q rating from the Gillispie era to now, it’s like that $22M/year Tiger Woods lost in endorsements since last November somehow ended up in Lexington as gold-plated streets.  UK has become the program du jour for the young, moneyed and hip, and when the head coach infamously stated that this year’s NBA Draft night was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he’s referring to marketability.  The pitch: come to Lexington, play a fun style of uptempo basketball, win 30-35 games, market your brand on television through our deals with CBS and ESPN, have a shot to win a title, meet celebrities such as LeBron James and Drake, and end up shaking David Stern’s hand in a year or two…  not exactly fraught with hard decisions.  If Calipari can keep his program in the headlines for the right reasons, this class will be looked at as the tipping point for a whole new era of Kentucky basketball.  Definitely well worth it.

John Wall Was Only the First of Many Cats to Meet Stern

Marshall – Well Worth It. If you recruit a player who wasn’t even ranked in the RSCI top 100 and he ends up dominating your league as a freshman center to the point of becoming the Conference USA defensive POY and leading the nation in blocked shots, it was well worth it.  Hassan Whiteside’s one year in Huntington led the Thundering Herd to its best season in over two decades, culminating in a fourth-place finish in CUSA, big late-season wins over UAB and Tulsa, and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIT.  For a program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1987, any postseason appearance is a great year, and Whiteside’s patrolling of the paint had no small part in it.  The unfortunate part of Whiteside’s meteoric rise is that the Herd had such a good season that as a result it also lost its head coach Donnie Jones, which may impact the long-term marketability aspect of Whiteside’s year there.  Nevertheless, we doubt anyone at Marshall regrets the year that both Whiteside and Jones resided in Huntington together, so we think that this was a huge boost for a mid-major program not used to having such players around.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Comings & Goings: James Anderson & Tommy Mason-Griffin Leaving OSU & OU

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

We’ll try to update these nightly or as needed as they start coming fast and furious over the next month.

James Anderson – Jr, Oklahoma State – SG.  Anderson, the Big 12 POY in a conference filled with all-americans, averaged 21.9 PPG and 5.8 RPG, and is a prototypical NBA shooting guard in the mold of James Harden or Marcus Thornton.  He has the ability to score in volume with his shooting ability, but he  is somewhat limited off the dribble and either cannot or chooses to not play defense.  Anderson will hire an agent and is a lock for the first round of the draft, currently projected in the middle (#14-#20) of that round.

Tommy Mason-Griffin – Fr, Oklahoma – PG.  Bad decision, thy name is Mason-Griffin.  According to the Tulsa World, TMG has already left Oklahoma, packing his bags up at spring break and moving back home.  It’s presently unclear whether Mason-Griffin intends on entering the NBA Draft (he is not on anybody’s draft board) or transferring to another school, but his career at OU appears to be over.  There are rumblings that two other prominent Sooners, guard Willie Warren and forward Tiny Gallon, will also be elsewhere next season.  Warren is expected to turn pro after a disappointing sophomore campaign, while Gallon may have his hand forced by a recent report from TMZ.com linking him to a $3,000 benefit from a financial advisor.

Share this story

Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: 1st Round

Posted by jstevrtc on March 11th, 2010

I love days like yesterday.  Sure, the drive was a beautiful 8.5 hours of the same view — that is to say, farms, farms, and more farms, and where there weren’t actual farms, there was grass.  And it’s all flatter than a Shaquille O’Neal free throw.  But no matter the surroundings, it’s one of my favorite things to do.  Is there any greater feeling — especially right after thawing out from a tough winter — than packing a bag and a cooler (of fruit, granola, and bottled water, mind you), filling the gas tank, and hitting the road?  There aren’t many, for me.  Especially when the Big 12 Tournament is waiting at the end of that journey.  Don’t get me wrong, though — I was thankful for the satellite radio.  Have the satellite radio guys received their Nobel Prize, yet?  One second, I’m listening to ESPN Radio or Sporting News Radio dudes talking about hoops.  Then the NFL talk starts and I switch to, say, the BBC’s Europe Today, or a song by Gomez, or some blues from B.B. King.  Then back to hoops talk.  Fantastic.  And no, we’re not affiliated with them in any way.  I’m just being honest.

One of the best parts of any journey like this is when I text my friends who are at their jobs.  I’ll send them some generic message asking them what they’re doing, and they’ll respond with some variation of, “I’m at the office, knee-deep in status reports/memos/directives, trying to knock things off my action items list.  You never text during work hours.  What’s up?”  And I’ll type, “Oh, nothing.  I was driving to the Big 12 Tournament, enjoying some tunes, a gorgeous drive, a 70-degree day, and the prospect of four days of top-flight basketball.  Thought I’d give you a shout.  But you go back to your thing.”  Even though this is a blog and I’m allowed to type almost anything, I’ll spare you the vitriol that my friends offered in response.  Not even close to being safe for work.

So, as the comedian says, I’m here all week.  This’ll mostly be about basketball, but you might see some reviews of barbecue restaurants and/or interviews and pics from the festivities here.  This is such a great time of year, and this is the conference tournament at which to be.  Now, some notes from Wednesday’s games:

Texas 82, Iowa State 75

I didn’t know what we were going to get in this one, since Texas was obviously reeling, having dropped eight of 14, and Iowa State had just scored that victory over Kansas.  But is this what Texas needed, meaning the second season to arrive?  There’s a small part of me that’s been wondering if Texas mentally checked out at the midpoint of the season after they took their first loss because of the boredom that can take over teams.  A longshot, I know.  But there aren’t many reasons why a team this talented and athletic can’t get themselves out of first gear, a place they seemed to be stuck since the middle of January.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

  1. Kansas (13-0, 27-1) - After taking care of Texas A&M in College Station and Oklahoma on consecutive Big Mondays, there is only one game left that I could see the Jayhawks losing (at Mizzou). However, after Kansas dominated the Tigers at home earlier in the year, it looks like KU is in great shape to finish the Big 12 season undefeated.
  2. Kansas State (9-3, 22-4) - This year’s surprise team won two games against some of the conferences’ worst teams. The Wildcats are in the best position to finish second in the conference as of today, but their next three games (at Texas Tech, vs. Mizzou, at Kansas) are definitely not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
  3. Texas A&M (8-4, 19-7) - The Aggies and Wildcats are in similar positions. TAMU has the tiebreaker over Missouri, so if they take care of business down the stretch they will grab the three seed in the conference tournament. However, their last four games are all losable (at Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma). Bryan Davis is coming on strong for this team as of late, and he will have to continue his dominant inside play if A&M wants to hold on to a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
  4. Baylor (7-5, 20-6) - I can’t fault the Bears for losing in Stillwater, especially when the best player in the conference is on the opposing team. In my opinion, Baylor has the best chance of any Big 12 team outside the state of Kansas to make the Elite Eight. Watch out for Quincy Acy, he is going to be key for Baylor in this home stretch.
  5. Missouri (8-4, 20-7) - The Tigers got a huge win over Texas at home on Wednesday that probably propelled them into the NCAA Tournament. Of the teams fighting for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament I think Mizzou is least likely to get the spot because of its two games against Kansas State and Kansas, plus Baylor and Texas A&M have tiebreakers over them. Still, Mike Anderson and this MU team have been proven many critics wrong all season, so there is really no science to accurately predicting how the Tigers will finish.
  6. Texas (7-5, 21-6) - Luckily for the Longhorns they somewhat control their own destiny. If they beat Texas A&M in Lubbock and Baylor in Waco they will most likely finish in the top four of the conference. The problem is that UT has been a pretty bad road team in Big 12 play (3-4 to be exact), so any Longhorns fans that blindly assume they’ll win those two games are most likely hallucinating.
  7. Oklahoma State (7-5, 19-7) - The best news for the Cowboys in the last two weeks has to be the fact that Obi Muonelo has been stepping up his game. In games when Muonelo is in double figures scoring, OSU is 14-3. So it is pretty obvious that he is key to the Cowboys’ success. Outside of Muonelo, James Anderson continues to awe college basketball fans around the nation. He is certainly making a case for why he should be a First Team All-American.
  8. Texas Tech (4-8, 16-10) - The Red Raiders are officially dead after dropping two games last week. To their credit, no one thought they would even be in the discussion come February. Good news for Tech fans is that Pat Knight has this program going in the right direction, and he is recruiting some pretty good players for future seasons.
  9. Colorado (3-9, 12-14) - The Buffaloes picked up a nice win over OU in Boulder on Wednesday, and they have the opportunity to maybe get two more wins before the season is over (vs. Iowa State, at Nebraska). I’d say this year has been somewhat of a success for CU, the Buffs acquired another prolific scorer in Alec Burks and they have been a lot more competitive in conference play.
  10. Oklahoma (4-9, 13-14) - The 09-10 Oklahoma Sooners are the definition of letdown. They were returning one of the best freshman from the 08-09 season, and had a stellar recruiting class around him yet they couldn’t get it done. Tiny Gallon has returned, but with Willie Warren out due to mono it’s hard to see OU pulling off an unprecedented run in the Big 12 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
  11. Iowa State (2-10, 13-14) - The Cyclones have lost some heartbreakers this season, but overall it has also been a big letdown. Many people thought this would be the year ISU returned to its glory days and got back into the NCAA Tournament on the back of Craig Brackins. However, Brackins has seemed to have regressed from last season, and while JUCO transfer Marquis Gilstrap has made a huge impact it hasn’t been enough to get ISU even on the bubble.
  12. Nebraska (1-11, 13-14) - One of the more underrated players in the conference is Ryan Anderson of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ leading scorer is a great three-point shooter, and does a pretty good job rebounding the basketball for his height (6’4). Outside of Anderson, NU has few bright spots.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State - Anderson had his third thirty-point game this week in a huge win over Baylor at home. In that game he also pulled down 12 boards and was 80 percent from the free throw line. Since his “bad” game against Texas Tech the Cowboys are 3-0 and Anderson is averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Team of the Week – Oklahoma State Cowboys – Travis Ford and his Cowboys need only two more regular season wins to feel good about their chances for an NCAA at-large berth. This last week moved OSU from a team on the wrong side of the bubble to feeling comfortable especially after the huge upset over Baylor at home on Saturday.

This Week’s Predictions

Kansas State at Texas Tech (Tuesday February 23,  8:00 PM ET) - I usually wouldn’t see Kansas State losing this matchup, but they have been cutting it close against lesser opponents recently. If the Wildcats let up at all in this contest they will be on the wrong end of the scoreboard. On top of that, Mike Singletary is one of the better players in the conference and he usually plays very well in Lubbock. It isn’t a Big 12 Weekly Update if I don’t mention Jacob Pullen, but I think he will have a tough time against the Red Raiders who still haven’t given up hope on making the Tournament. By no means will a win get TTU instant consideration for a bid, but Pat Knight will have his players going hard like it’s a tournament play-in game. So I’m picking a huge upset here, and saying that the Red Raiders take down one of the hottest teams in the nation on Tuesday.

Winner: Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) - Both teams are on long losing streaks and they really want a win. You never know what can happen with a talented team like Iowa State if they can put together a run before the conference tournament starts. Nebraska is an abysmal road team, and I don’t see them putting up too much of a fight, even against Iowa State.

Winner: Iowa State

Colorado at Missouri (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) - The only team the Tigers have really dominated in conference play is Colorado. Mike Anderson has never lost to the Buffaloes in his tenure at Mizzou, and I don’t see it happening for the first time in Columbia with his team playing their second to last home game of the season. Keith Ramsey had a big game in the first matchup between these two teams so look for him to be a key part of Missouri’s attack.

Winner: Missouri

Texas A&M at Baylor (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) - Here is a tremendous matchup that has huge implications for first-round byes in the conference tournament. Neither team can afford a loss, especially Baylor, because teams like Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State are nipping at their heels attempting to overtake them in the conference standings. It provides a great inside matchup between Bryan Davis and Ekpe Udoh, and also a great guard matchup between Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes of A&M vs. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter of Baylor. These teams are about as even as any in the conference, so I will go with the home team in this game and say the Bears win an overtime thriller.

Winner: Baylor

Oklahoma State at Texas (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) - If any of you remember the Big Monday game between these two teams a few weeks back, you must recall James Anderson’s stellar first half performance. Then OSU faded in the second half and Texas took care of business in Stillwater. UT has a lot to play for because they still think they can win out, including the Big 12 Tournament, and maybe get a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be a tremendous accomplishment at this point in the season. Damion James is the key to UT’s success, as he had an ok performance against Mizzou and the Longhorns lost that game on the road. If UT wants a big win they need James and Dexter Pittman to play like they were at the beginning of the season. I don’t like how Texas has been playing lately, but you still have to go with the Horns in Austin.

Winner: Texas

Iowa State at Colorado (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) - It’s a possible CBI Final preview in Boulder on Saturday. I like the Buffs in this game because they are the better team, and believe it or not they are not easy to beat at home.

Winner: Colorado

Baylor at Oklahoma (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) - The Bears should watch out here because it is the definition of a trap game. Norman will be loud as always, and the possibility of having Willie Warren back (although there is no way he would be close to 100 percent) is scary for BU fans. Tommy Mason-Griffin of OU is one to look for in this contest, as he has been the most efficient player for the Sooners all season and can be deadly from behind the arc. All that said, I don’t see any scenario in which Scott Drew lets his team lose focus and let this one slip away.

Winner: Baylor

Texas at Texas A&M (Saturday February 27, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) - The Longhorns seem to always struggle in College Station, then again so does most of the conference. I think Texas has the advantage of many mismatches in this game, for example UT’s experienced frontcourt against TAMU’s relatively inexperienced one. It’s hard for me to pick against the Aggies at home though, especially when the game is going to be sold out against an intrastate rival.

Winner: Texas A&M

Texas Tech at Nebraska (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET) - The Red Raiders should be hot coming off the Kansas State game and will blow out the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. NU is just overmatched athletically against every team in the Big 12, so its hard to think they will win any more games this season.

Winner: Texas Tech

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET CBS) - The best player in the conference will be going up against the best team in the conference on Saturday in Stillwater. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are looking to stay undefeated, but James Anderson and Obi Muonelo should provide a tough roadblock for the Jayhawks to break through. I love Travis Ford and what he has done with the Cowboys’ program, and there is no doubt that Stillwater will probably be one of the louder places in the country this weekend, but I’ve learned my lesson picking against KU before. This team is too good, and they always find a way to win the big game.

Winner: Kansas

Missouri at Kansas State (Saturday February 27, 8:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Everyone in Manhattan has been waiting to get revenge on Missouri since the Tigers upset K-State in Columbia back in late December. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will be the key players for K-State if they are going to destroy MU like they’re capable of doing. I think Mizzou comes in and plays tough for the first 30 minutes, but then they will hit a second half scoring drought and the Wildcats will pull away with a big conference win over a rival.

Winner: Kansas State

Share this story

Nothing Says Celebration Like Ripping Off Dillard’s

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

It’s been that kind of a year for Jeff Capel’s Oklahoma Sooners.  As soon as things start looking up, there’s an equal but opposite reaction that brings his team back to reality.  Oklahoma has experienced plentiful growing pains this year in large part due to the difficulties that Capel has had getting through to his star player Willie Warren, but also undoubtedly because of their numerous talented freshmen he has had to rely on.  Gifted though the quartet of Tommy Mason-Griffin (13/3/5 APG), Tiny Gallon (10/8), Steven Pledger (7/2) and Andrew Fitzgerald (4/2) are, with freshmen comes spectacular ups and downs, and this crew is no different.  On and off the court

Tommy Mason-Griffin and the Other Frosh Stepped Up Saturday

On Saturday afternoon at 3pm local time, OU tipped it off against its bitter rival Texas, running out to a twenty-point halftime lead behind the stellar play of the aforementioned guard Mason-Griffin and wing Cade Davis.  The Sooners cooled off in the second half, but they were still able to utilize some great free throw defense (10-27 for UT) and some timely buckets down the stretch to hang on to win, 80-71.  The freshman four stepped up in this one, combining for half of the Sooners’ points and two-thirds of their assists.  It was without question the Sooners’ biggest victory of the season, and one that Sooner faithful hope would springboard OU back into the Big 12 picture and contention for a late run at the NCAA Tournament. 

Cause for celebration, right?  The game ended at around 5:30 pm.  Give a reasonable amount of time for players to shower, dress and venture home, and you figure most everybody is gone by 7 pm.  Surely some players went out to eat with their families; still others may have had a date with a girlfriend; and perhaps some just went home and chillaxed for a while.  Not freshmen Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald, though.  They went to the mall.  But not only did they go to the mall, they were so excited by the big win and their individual performances (Fitzgerald: started and contributed 3/2/1 asst in 19 minutes; Pledger: 9/4/1 in 24 minutes off the bench) that they decided to steal some shirts from a local Dillard’s.  Allegedly, of course.  At 8:50 pm, the two players were watched by store security as they placed two shirts inside a blue plastic bag with the clear intent to conceal them. 

Pledger & Fitzgerald Making Smart Decisions

Not even four hours after the biggest win of their entire lives, these two knuckleheads thought they were entitled to some free shirts.  Instead of receiving a conga line of well-wishers and fans back in the dorms like campus deities, they’re busy getting written up by some rent-a-cop for petty larceny.  We’re sure that they’ll learn from this mistake, but at what cost to Oklahoma?  Tomorrow night’s game against Texas Tech in Norman is a must-win, and Jeff Capel now needs to make the decision on what punishment he’ll hand down to these two clowns.  If he’s harsh and suspends them, he’ll be extremely shorthanded for that game; if he lets them play, then there’s an implication that stealing things from department stores is ok.  We’re not sure which way he’ll turn, but we do have one question in all of this…  was Royce White visiting from out of town? 

Share this story

ATB: Blowout Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

Blowout Weekend.  On paper, it looked to be a dog of a weekend, and for the most part it turned out that way.  Among nearly 150 games, you’re bound to find some good ones, but among the Top 25 there were twelve games where the favorite won by 10+ points and of the six “upsets” involving ranked teams, even three of those were blowouts the other direction.  Maybe everyone knew that the sports world’s focus would be on the Super Bowl, so they figured they’d save some drama for the rest of the month.  Whatever the case, we’re expecting some much better games this week during ESPN’s self-described Rivalry Week.

Game of the WeekendIllinois 78, #5 Michigan State 73. For the second consecutive weekend, ESPN got lucky in that the best marquee matchup of teams happened to coincide with their Gameday game.  In a wild Orange Krush environment in Champaign on Saturday night, it was Demetri McCamey who brought the noise with a 22/11 assts night that included six threes, every one of which seemed to be of the timely variety.  Perhaps his biggest of the night was with less than a minute to go, a shot that effectively put the game away from the Illini.  MSU got a huge night from Draymond Green (17/16), but it seemed as if the Spartans lacked a little of their usual poise with their star point guard acting as an assistant due to his ankle injury (18 turnovers, six from his replacement, Korie Lucious).  It didn’t seem to bother the Illinois students who RTC’d afterward in a questionable display for a program of that caliber.  The win puts Illinois in a virtual tie with Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State just one game back in the loss column behind MSU, but we’re not sold on the long-term viability of that team as much as the others.  Still, they were the better team on this night, largely due to McCamey’s heroics, and we’re thankful that the Big Ten race has now gotten a lot more interesting.

Orange Krush Fail (AP/Heather Coit)

Notable Upsets This Weekend.   The theme here?  Home teams.

  • Oklahoma 80, #10 Texas 71.  It was Wayman Tisdale Day at Oklahoma, and the Sooners used the inspiration from the sweet-shooting big man and musician to jump out on the reeling Longhorns behind 20/10 from Cade Davis and 24/5 from Tommy Mason-Griffin.  The Horns once again looked indecisive and like a team without on offensive identity in this one, and it didn’t help that they were a putrid 10-27 from the foul line.  Can Texas find their mojo in time for a visit from #1 Kansas on Monday night?
  • UNLV 88, #12 BYU 74.  This was a good old-fashioned asskicking, as UNLV jumped out to a 47-18 first-half lead and never looked back.  Tre’Von Willis had a career-high 33 points as his team hit their first nine three-point attempts and effectively walloped the Cougars from their perch atop the conference.  BYU star Jimmer Fredette had 21 points, but he worked for it on 4-15 shooting.  The MWC might have three teams that are NCAA-worthy this year if you include New Mexico in that mix.
  • Richmond 71, #17 Temple 54.  It was Richmond that appeared to have one of the nation’s top defenses (and offenses!) on this night as the Spiders moved into a four-way tie in the loss column by torching Temple.  The Spiders shot 58% from the field and held Temple to just 32% behind Kevin Anderson’s 29/5/3 assts on 11-17 shooting.  With the Pac-10 looking like a one-bid league, could the A10 be a four-team league this year including some combination of UR, Temple, Rhode Island, Xavier, Dayton and Charlotte?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (19-1, 5-0) – The Jayhawks reclaim the number one spot this week after blowing out Iowa State and Missouri. Kansas looks pretty scary right now, but they may hit a roadblock in Manhattan on Saturday.
  2. Texas (18-2, 4-1) - Tough week for the Longhorns, suffering two losses. The good news for UT is that they should be 7-1 when they host Kansas on February 8.
  3. Oklahoma State (16-4, 4-2) – The Cowboys had the best week of any Big 12 team, defeating Kansas State on the road and wasting Texas A&M in Stillwater. James Anderson might be the best player in the Big 12, but he still is receiving little recognition outside of the conference.
  4. Kansas State (17-3, 4-2) – The Wildcats have plenty of opportunities to make an impact in the final conference standings. Hosting KU on Saturday means they’ll have a chance to get back in the conference race.
  5. Missouri (15-5, 3-2) - Mizzou’s biggest problem right now is that they can’t shoot the basketball. Their defense will keep them close in most games (obviously not in Lawrence) but they have to make shots if they want to play to their full potential.
  6. Texas A&M (14-6, 3-3) - The Aggies were very close to upsetting Oklahoma State on Tuesday night, but they fell just short in a high scoring second half. The biggest problem for TAMU is they have little production outside of Donald Sloan, the most underrated player in all of college basketball.
  7. Baylor (15-4, 2-3) – The Bears are going to look back at the loss against Colorado and wonder how different their season would be if they had won that game.  Granted the Bears have had the toughest Big 12 schedule thus far, they’re still in a great position to make the NCAA tournament.
  8. Oklahoma (12-8, 3-3) - The Sooners have to do so much in conference play to make the NCAA tournament, it’s a little bit ridiculous. They will need to win at least seven of their last ten games to even be considered, which will not be easy because there are three sure losses in those ten games (Texas twice and at Kansas).
  9. Texas Tech (14-6, 2-4) - The Red Raiders have little chance of making postseason play with no quality wins to their name.  I still think this team can pull some upsets in conference play, but that is all.
  10. Colorado (11-9, 2-4) - The Buffaloes already surpassed their win total from last season, and they have the opportunity to finish better than second to last in the conference for the first time since 2006. If Cory Higgins stays at school instead of entering the draft, CU will be a dangerous team next year.
  11. Iowa State  (12-8, 1-4) – I’ve officially given up on the Cyclones. Craig Brackins seems to have regressed and this team just isn’t playing the style of basketball I thought they would play. They still take bad shots and play minimal defense.
  12. Nebraska (12-8, 0-5) - Lincoln should just get used to having a good football team and sacrificing the basketball program because of it. There is no professional talent on the Huskers roster, which is usually unheard of in power conferences.

Team of the WeekOklahoma State Cowboys – This team just took itself off the bubble for the time being. Travis Ford has OSU playing good basketball right now, and they may have the best player in the conference in James Anderson.

Player of the WeekTommy Mason-Griffin (G), Oklahoma – The freshman stepped up huge for the Sooners who could not afford to drop a home game against Iowa State. Mason-Griffin went off for 38 points and shot 62% from the field.

This Week’s Predictions

  • Oklahoma at Nebraska (Saturday January 30th, 1:30 PM ET) – OU certainly can’t afford to lose this game, and I don’t think there is any chance that they will. Lincoln is the most docile environment for a Big 12 basketball game, and the Sooners shouldn’t have any problem going in there and taking care of business.

Winner: Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma State at Missouri (Saturday January 30th, 2:OO PM ET ESPN2) - This is almost as intriguing of a game as the KU-KSU matchup. Mizzou is coming off one of worst losses in recent memory and Oklahoma State is rolling. I don’t think MU will have any answer for James Anderson, and the Tigers will fall to .500 in the conference, also ending their 31 game home win streak.

Winner: Oklahoma State

  • Baylor at Texas (Saturday January 30th, 4:00 PM ET) - The Bears continue their brutal Big 12 schedule when they visit Austin on Saturday. Texas knows that if they want to have the Kansas game to mean anything they need to win all of their conference games leading up to that epic matchup on February 8.

Winner: Texas

  • Kansas at Kansas State (Saturday January 30th, 7:00 PM ET) - The Wildcats are going to try to repeat their performance against UT, and block KU from regaining their number one ranking. I think Cole Aldrich will have a big day on the boards, and look for Xavier Henry to have one of his best games for KU this season. However, I think lightning will strike twice in Manhattan and K-State pulls off the upset over their archrival. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente weren’t stars in their game against Texas, but this time I’d look for both of them to have huge games.

Winner: Kansas State

  • Texas Tech at Texas A&M (Saturday January 30th, 9:00 PM ET) - The Aggies need a win to stay in the mix for the NCAA tournament, and Donald Sloan should be able to will them to victory. The Red Raiders have been overachieving all season, and their finally crashing back down to earth.

Winner: Texas A&M

  • Colorado at Iowa State (Saturday January 30th, 9:00 PM ET) - No one is talking about Colorado’s freshman phenom, Alec Burks. Right now Burks is averaging almost 18 PPG and is the sole reason that Colorado isn’t sitting at last place in the conference standings this season. Burks and Higgins will have huge games against the Cyclones, and inch closer to finishing in the top half of the conference.

Winner: Colorado

  • Texas at Oklahoma State (Monday February 1st, 9:00 PM ET ESPN) - This is a game that I circled on the schedule early in the season. I love the matchup between the conferences two best players, Damion James and James Anderson. The difference between these two teams is that Texas has a ton of offensive weapons, and Oklahoma State has just one consistent scorer. If Obi Muonelo steps up for the Cowboys, I could envision a possible upset, but I’m taking the safe pick and going with the Longhorns.

Winner: Texas

  • Kansas State at Nebraska (Tuesday February 2nd, 8:00 PM ET) – No chance the Cornhuskers catch the Wildcats off guard, even if KSU pulls the upset over Kansas on Saturday. Frank Martin saw what happened after they beat Texas, and won’t let his team enjoy the Kansas win for too long.

Winner: Kansas State

  • Kansas at Colorado (Wednesday February 3rd, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) - The Buffaloes should be able to keep it close for at least the first half, but we saw what Cole Aldrich does to teams with no frontcourt in Kansas’ game against Missouri. The Jayhawks should have no problem marching into Boulder and coming out with a victory.

Winner: Kansas

  • Iowa State at Baylor (Wednesday February 3rd, 7:30 PM ET) - Ekpe Udoh and LaceDarius Dunn have been one of the best inside-outside duos in the conference. Udoh has solidified himself as an NBA prospect, and Dunn is not far behind. Iowa State will have problems containing either of them, and lose a blowout in Waco.

Winner: Baylor

  • Texas A&M at Missouri (Wednesday February 3rd 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Mizzou should be able to contain TAMU’s guards with their press, and I think the Tigers will have a relatively easy victory. Sloan will get his points, but he doesn’t have many other options on offense that will be able to get through Mizzou’s great defense.

Winner: Missouri

Share this story

2009-10 Conference Primers: #4 – Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2009

seasonpreviewPatrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Kansas (15-1)
  2. Texas (14-2)
  3. Oklahoma (11-5)
  4. Kansas State (10-6)
  5. Missouri (9-7)
  6. Texas A&M (8-8)
  7. Oklahoma State (8-8)
  8. Iowa State (7-9)
  9. Baylor (5-11)
  10. Texas Tech (4-12)
  11. Nebraska (3-13)
  12. Colorado (2-14)

All Conference Team:

  • Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
  • Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
  • Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
  • Damion James (F), Texas
  • Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas

6th Man. James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State

Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas

big 12 logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • KU Dominance.  Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school.  Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
  • Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road.  The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
  • Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
  • X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons.  A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season.  He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part One)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 25th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December and January in case you missed it):

Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

February 1- Texas @ Oklahoma State (#33 overall)- Hard to imagine you won’t see plenty of scoring in this Big 12 clash. The point guard situation is a bit dicey in Stillwater with Byron Eaton’s departure, but Travis Ford loves to run and James Anderson can score with the best. Expect this to be one of the toughest tests for Texas in their pursuit of a regular season Big 12 title.

February 6- Texas @ Oklahoma (#25 overall)- This could very well be another test. Two freshmen will have to fill major roles for Jeff Capel’s squad with Tommy Mason-Griffin helping out Willie Warren in the backcourt and Tiny Gallon bulldozing opponents in the paint with Blake Griffin in LA. It’s entirely possible defensive stud Avery Bradley could earn the job of trying to lock down the quick Warren.

95208122242_Oklahoma_v_Rice[1]

February 6- Villanova @ Georgetown (#31 overall)- A Big East clash in February between two teams that have top-three aspirations in the conference. The point guard duel is a dandy with Chris Wright of the Hoyas matched up with Scottie Reynolds of the Wildcats. This should prove a worthy test for Villanova’s thin frontline trying to contain Greg Monroe, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

February 6- Michigan State @ Illinois (#37 overall)- The orange-clad students right on top of the floor will be out in full force to support their Illini in hopes of knocking off the loaded Spartans. With Chester Frazier departed, it could be the freshman guard D.J. Richardson trying to contain potential All-American Kalin Lucas. There’s some tremendous outside shooting in this one from State’s Durrell Summers to the Illini’s Demetri McCamey.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story