Morning Five: 10.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2012

  1. It’s officially considered preseason when the various Top 25s start rolling out from the more reputable sources, and even though we’re still aghast that The Sporting News no longer publishes its college basketball annual (or any annual, for that matter), we’ll give them a break and assume that they still generally know what they’re talking about over there. TSN‘s Top 25 rankings were released Tuesday, and if you’re looking for any major surprises, this probably isn’t the place to start. Still, these rankings are bullish on the Big Ten (three teams in the top five), Duke (#6), and giving some love to the high-mids (seven teams on the list). On the flip side, the group is still a bit skeptical of UCLA (#11) and the Big 12 (only Kansas is represented). If you can’t handle the annoying slideshow format, check out Mike DeCourcy’s write-up on the logic of their selections here.
  2. Is the Atlantic 10 positioning itself to eventually become the pre-eminent basketball league with a predominantly east coast footprint? Obviously we’re excluding the ACC from this consideration, but with the news on Tuesday that the A-10 had signed a new eight-year television deal with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Group, you have to wonder if the conference could overcome the dwindling Big East during some of its down years, and especially if more moves (ahem, Louisville) are coming. According to‘s Jeff Goodman, the league will have roughly 150 annual games on those networks, and although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s reasonable to assume that the additions of Butler and VCU as mid-major basketball empires produced a significant uptick in the league’s overall marketability and value.
  3. That muffled groan you heard late Monday night emanating from Indianapolis had nothing to do with the Monday Night Football game but instead everything to do with a decision by a federal judge in San Francisco concerning its case versus Ed O’Bannon and his friends. The class action suit against the NCAA depends primarily on the plaintiffs proving that the organization has for decades knowingly exploited its “student-athletes” through the use and sale of their names, likenesses, and images. To show the financial incentives for such a scheme, the O’Bannon group filed a motion for the NCAA to release its licensing and television contracts with ESPN since 2005, and lo and behold, the judge sided with their request. As‘s Michael McCann writes, this information is invaluable for the plaintiffs, as it not only provides specific dollar figures for the ‘monetization’ of college sports but it also opens up other companies such as ESPN and EA Sports to lawsuits down the line for exactly the same thing. This is a substantial ruling, one that should be watched carefully.
  4. North Carolina continues to find itself under fire for its jock-friendly academic coursework, as the Raleigh News & Observer has repeatedly embarrassed the school with release after release of new information that only serves to further fuel a national sentiment that there needs to be a comprehensive NCAA investigation of the academic side of the basketball program. The latest news is that a number of Tar Heel hoops players (among other athletes) were surprisingly enrolled in a 2007 Naval Weapons Systems class, a course ostensibly designed to produce commissioned US Naval officers rather than eligible power forwards. A Twitter war erupted over the fact that every school has easy classes and majors of which many athletes are attracted to, but people omitting the other side of the story are missing the bigger point. There already is clear and convincing evidence that members of the football team committed academic fraud at the school, and there is significant circumstantial evidence that the university has been at best, incompetent, or at worst, obstructionist, in evaluating the basketball side of the equation — there’s enough smoke here to strongly suggest further scrutiny because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the school either cannot or will not adequately police itself.
  5. It’s becoming a huge recruiting week for the Class of 2013, as the Harrison twins are due to announce their decisions on ESPNU this Thursday and a couple of other top five players are busily narrowing their lists. Let’s start with some pundits’ overall #1 player, Jabari Parker. The Chicago big man released a list of 10 finalists over the summer (Connecticut was added last week), but his reported favorites Duke and Michigan State will be the first two schools to receive his official visits this fall. He will soon add three more schools from a list including the Huskies, BYU, DePaul, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Stanford. Another player considered by some to be the top overall player, Julius Randle, has narrowed his final list to six schools: Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Interestingly, Tobacco Road powerhouses Duke and UNC were removed from Randle’s list, while Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack remain. After this coming weekend, the pieces of this year’s recruiting class will start to really fall into place.
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Tracking The Four: Cuse Get Juiced and Leaves One Unbeaten Team Standing

Posted by EJacoby on January 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Welcome back to TT4, where the lowest ranked team of the four in this week’s RTC Top 25 also happens to be the only undefeated squad left in the country. Will Murray State lose a game before the Big Dance? They continue to win in impressive fashion and are now getting a key cog back in the lineup for the stretch run. Meanwhile, our two major-conference teams are coming off poor weeks and UNLV keeps quietly handling their business. All four TT4 teams remained ranked in the Top 20 and have important games this week. Let’s look at what’s new:

Murray State Racers

Isaiah Canaan and Murray State Continue Pushing Towards Perfection (AP Photo/S. Dennee)

  • Trending UP Because… – They are the only undefeated team left in the country! After being down at halftime, the Racers climbed back to defeat Morehead State on Wednesday, 66-60, in a huge road win that was their toughest remaining test. Please raise your hand and leave a comment below if you had Murray State as the last team to lose this season. Not only is MSU unbeaten but they are getting their third-leading scorer Ivan Aska back any day now, as the senior forward has been cleared to play by doctors. All things are looking up for the Racers (20-0, 8-0 OVC), and all of their remaining games have suddenly become must-watch, or at least must-follow action as they try to make history.
  • This Week’s Key CogIsaiah Canaan. The star guard was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week after going for 20 points in the win at Morehead State and 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals in a road win over SIU Edwardsville on Saturday night.
  • Play of the Week – The Racers were down by one against Morehead State until Canaan hit this deep three-pointer with 3:58 left to give Murray State a lead they would not relinquish.
  • Talking Point – The head coach of SIU-E, Lennox Forrester, was thoroughly impressed by the Racers on Saturday, and thinks they may have a special season ahead: “They carry a swagger about them. They’re at least a Sweet Sixteen team and maybe Elite Eight. They could be a so-called Butler.”
  • Coaching Tree of Life – The last time Murray State was ranked before this season (1998), Mark Gottfried was the head coach. The last Racers’ rookie head coach to win 20 games was Mick Cronin in 2003-04, and the in-jeopardy MSU single-season wins record of 31 came under Billy Kennedy’s watch in 2009-10. Gottfried, Cronin, and Kennedy are all major coaches at NC State, Cincinnati, and Texas A&M, respectively, today; perhaps coach Steve Prohm is next in line for a big-time job. Then again, Prohm could also be deserving of a major raise and extension there in Murray.
  • Stats Central – They’ve earned praise for proficient three-point shooting, but an underrated aspect of Murray State’s offensive game is their attacking prowess. The Racers have a season-long free throw rate (which measures FTA/FGA) of 45.1%, which ranks 19th nationally. But they’re even more outstanding in conference play, with a rate of 52.8% that ranks third in the country amongst all teams in their conference games.
  • What’s Next? – The Racers have just one game on tap for this week, at home against Eastern Illinois on Saturday (8:00 PM ET). EIU is 2-4 in OVC conference play and coming off three straight losses.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

  • Trending EVEN Because… – They took care of business this week by thrashing TCU at home before then opening up a big second-half lead and defeating New Mexico at home as well on Saturday. The Runnin’ Rebels continue to look the part of a consistent, elite team and they’ve even slid into the Top 10 of this week’s RTC Top 25. UNLV (18-3, 2-1 MWC) has only lost on the road to three teams that are either ranked (SDSU) or receiving votes (Wisconsin, Wichita State) this week. They are ranked sixth in the RPI and should get a very strong look at a top three NCAA Tournament seed if they continue to play this well.
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Tracking The Four: Conference Play Begins

Posted by EJacoby on January 10th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Welcome to Tracking The Four! This new series reads just like it sounds, as we will be following four buzz-worthy teams across the country. Those lucky teams are Syracuse (current #1 team and a title favorite), Indiana (a feel-good contender), Murray State (undefeated dreams), and UNLV (the best of the West). With TT4, we hope to provide readers with interesting insights about each of the featured teams that helps capture the atmosphere of the programs throughout the rest of the season. Look for a full TT4 piece every Tuesday, as well as a shorter update later in the week. Each post will be loaded with highlights, lowlights, and tidbits about each team, as well as recaps from their recent play and a look ahead at their upcoming games. Conference play is well underway and there’s plenty of news to get to this week:

Kris Joseph & Syracuse are All Smiles Right Now (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

Syracuse Orange

  • Trending UP Because… – They’re looking like national title favorites. The undefeated Orange (17-0, 4-0 Big East) remain number one in every national poll, including the RTC Top 25, with its consistently dominant play. They’ve beaten their four conference opponents by an average of 16.5 points, which includes two road games and two home games against ranked teams (Seton Hall & Marquette). Seton Hall has proven to be a solid and cohesive offensive team, yet the Pirates were blown out of the gym by Syracuse in a 75-49 thrashing. The Orange are the deepest team in the country with 10 meaningful contributors, and their patented 2-3 zone is as strong as ever. Jim Boeheim‘s team is now making bigger headlines on the court than off it (the Bernie Fine sexual harassment allegation was a big story), a refreshing trend for the sake of all its fans.
  • This Week’s Key Cog – Brandon Triche. The junior guard led the team in scoring last week, going for 16 points at Providence on Wednesday and another 16 at home against Marquette on Saturday. He hit four three-pointers in each game with an impressive line of 16/7/4 assts and two steals in the victory over Marquette.
  • Play of the Week – Point guard Scoop Jardine finds his go-to guy Kris Joseph in transition for a thunderous dunk from several feet away from the basket against Providence.
  • Talking Point – Guard Dion Waiters, who comes off the bench, had this to say after the win over Providence: “I’ve never been on a team with subs like this. It’s crazy. We continue to get better and make each other better in practice every day. We’ve got some of the best guards in the country.’’
  • Stats Central – Syracuse leads the nation with 37.5 points per game from its bench, further proving that they’re the deepest team in America. Also, their zone defense has been truly elite this season, as the Orange lead the country in steals (10.9 per game), are third in blocks (7.4 per game), and fifth in forcing turnovers (18.7 per game).
  • What’s Next? – The Orange play at Villanova on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (7:00 PM ET, ESPN2) against a struggling Wildcats team, but it’s still a rivalry game in which the Villanova crowd should be fired up and looking for the upset. Then, Cuse gets its second matchup with Providence, this time at home on Saturday (6:00 PM ET) as heavy favorites.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.03.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 3rd, 2011

  1. The Pac-12 sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, but apparently that isn’t enough to be “relevant.” The loss of Derrick Williams, close exhibition wins (and losses) so far this year, not playing on ESPN enough, and only having two teams in the Big Dance two years ago are the reasons for this, FoxSports’ Billy Witz says. “It’s the quality from top to bottom that gets you progress,” says California coach Mike Montgomery. “There’s been the notion that the Oregon States and the Washington States weren’t any good, so it didn’t make any difference if you beat them because they’re not any good anyway.” The same is true in nonconference play; if UCLA or California gets a big win against a Top 25 team but Oregon State loses to Utah Valley State on the same night, the wins don’t even matter. In fact, the losses will sometimes get more attention. If the Pac-12 is going to be relevant in everyone’s eyes across the nation, teams like Oregon are going to have to prove themselves by beating or at least staying close with the Vanderbilts and Nebraskas of the world.
  2. Washington will face Seattle Pacific in an exhibition tomorrow night and Percy Allen has the preview. The Falcons, as you surely recall, knocked off Arizona last Thursday in Tucson and will look to do the same thing against the Dawgs in Seattle. Wins against D-I opponents aren’t anything new though for SPU, as they defeated Eastern Washington and Nevada as well last season. “It’s been fun,” coach Ryan Looney said. “Our coaches have done a good job preparing for those games and obviously our kids are motivated to play them too. The Falcons outrebounded the #16 Wildcats, 29-20, so yeah, I’ll say they were pretty prepared. “You always would like to win, but I think what’s really important is that we go through game preparations the way we’re going to go through it next Friday in our nonconference opener (against Georgia State),” coach Lorenzo Romar said. It may be just me, but I think only a coach who was worried about losing that game would say that.
  3. In other exhibition news, Oregon won the only Pac-12 game of the night, an 82-75 victory over Grand Canyon. The Ducks looked anything but impressive in the first half as the Antelopes threw out some unique defensive combinations that seemed to confuse the Oregon guards. UO had 17 turnovers on the night, but the key stat was 33 — as in 33 free throws made. If not for GCU fouling so much (which seems to be a common theme among D-II opponents this year) the Antelopes could have very easily won this game. Instead Dana Altman’s team, led by forward E.J. Singler and center Tony Woods (16 points each) escaped with a win. The game was played in front of 6,271 people at TTATT.
  4. Derek Hart previews the UCLA in this article. The Bruins have been picked at or near the top of the Pac-12 by pretty much every preseason publication out there, mainly due to their frontcourt. They have the deepest group of big men in the conference, and possibly the nation, led by junior forward Reeves Nelson and sophomore center Joshua Smith. Both averaged double figure points last season. The addition of the Wear twins, David and Travis, not only bolsters the depth in the paint but on the perimeter as well. Due to renovations at Pauley Pavilion, Bruin home games will be spread out across the greater Los Angeles area this year. They will play14 games at the Los Angeles Sports Arena (former home of USC),  four at the Honda Center in Anaheim, and one game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
  5. The fate of Arizona State’s season relies on forward Kyle Cain and guard Trent Lockett, the latter of whom is featured in this story by Doug Haller. With freshman guard Jahii Carson most likely ineligible due to academics, this will be Lockett’s team to lead. In his first year he was named to the Pac-10 all-Freshman team; last season he was second-team all-Pac-10; and this year he wants to climb the ladder even higher. Before he does that though he needs to improve the range on his jumper. There might not be another guard in the league that has the mid-range jumper AND offensive rebounding ability that he has, but if this Sun Devil team is going to make a respectable postseason tournament, Lockett has to be able to knock down the three with consistency.
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Season in Review: The Best of RTC

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2011

It’s been a great season here at RTC, our Year the Fourth covering this great sport, and before we pack up the boxes and head to our summer hideaways in the Hamptons, Aspen and Santa Barbara, respectively, we wanted to share a little bit of our “best of” for the 2010-11 season.

Some RTC Season Highlights

RTC Live

Through our network of correspondents from coast to coast, we were able to cover a grand total of 295 games at 82 different venues this year.  We saw every single NCAA Tournament team at least once, and 78 other schools just for kicks.  We witnessed the Final Four quartet of Connecticut, Butler, Kentucky and VCU a total of 56 times, and we sat courtside at every one of UConn’s unprecedented 14-0 neutral site victories this season — from Maui to New York, then Washington to Anaheim, ultimately culminating in Houston.  Perhaps most proudly, we managed to send someone to each of the fourteen NCAA Tournament sites this year, an accomplishment we hope is merely the first in a long line of such successes.

We put together a short video encompassing some of the photos we took along the way.  See you on the road next season!

Read the rest of this entry »

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2010-11 RTC Season Preview: Complete Overview

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2010

Some of you may have noticed that we at RTC have been pretty busy getting lately. For those of you who have been keeping up to date on everything happening at RTC we would like to thank you. For those slackers who like to procrastinate in getting ready for the season (and you know who you are), we have put together this not-so-brief but comprehensive guide to get you ready for the season.

The RTC Top 25: Hard to pick against Duke this year, as all five of our voters were in agreement that Coach K’s Blue Devils are the team to beat.

Tweeting the Preview: Those of you who follow us on Twitter (@rushthecourt) are familiar with this feature, but for the past two weeks we have been Tweeting our rankings counting down every single Division I team in reverse order.

Preseason Bracketology: In conjunction with our run-down of the top 345 teams in Division 1 we also bring you the first of many installments of RTC Bracketology. [Ed. Note: If the seed doesn’t correlate with rankings just remember that just because a team has a higher seed doesn’t mean that they are better just that they have a better resume.]

RTC Conference Primers: Our countdown of every conference in Division I basketball with a breakdown of each (top players, teams, and what to watch for).

  1. Big 10
  2. Big East
  3. Big 12
  4. ACC
  5. SEC
  6. Pac-10
  7. Atlantic 10
  8. Mountain West
  9. Conference USA
  10. Missouri Valley
  11. Colonial
  12. WCC
  13. Horizon
  14. WAC
  15. MAAC
  16. Southern
  17. Big West
  18. Big Sky
  19. MAC
  20. OVC
  21. Sun Belt
  22. Atlantic Sun
  23. Southland
  24. Ivy
  25. America East
  26. Summit
  27. Northeast
  28. Patriot
  29. Big South
  30. MEAC
  31. SWAC

Where 2010-11 Happens: Our countdown of 30 things (via YouTube) to get us even more pumped up for the upcoming season.

  • It’s easiest to view all thirty clips in one place here.  And if you’re not excited about the season after watching that, well, you probably need to stick with arguing about the BCS.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 10.18.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2010

  1. It was an eventful weekend across the college basketball landscape as programs began officially practicing on Friday night with spirited Midnight Madness celebrations ranging from Duke’s banner unfurling to Michigan State’s astronaut theme to Pepperdine’s For Whom the (Keion) Bell Tolls…  in case you were busy with football and/or the MLB playoffs this weekend, be sure to check out our BGTD: Midnight Madness Edition from Friday night as well as our postmortem of highlights we posted on Sunday.  And believe it or not, we’re only twenty-one days from game action, folks.
  2. Like everyone else, we were extremely sad to hear that Purdue’s Robbie Hummel had once again ruptured his ACL, an injury that will leave him on the shelf this season.  You can really feel the pain in Jeff Goodman’s article over the weekend where he discusses just how unfair it is that a great kid such as Hummel seems to have such crappy luck.  For Purdue fans, this is also devastating — the Boilermakers rallied after Hummel’s late February injury last year to sneak into the Sweet Sixteen, but even with the experience of playing without him and E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson returning, we just can’t see a Final Four run in this squad.  Hummel will have one more year to play college basketball in 2011-12, but he’ll return to a team gutted by the graduation of those two stars and although hope springs eternal, we have a feeling that these couple of years will ultimately represent unfortunate missed opportunities for Matt Painter and his program.
  3. Speaking of Goodman, here’s his preseason Top 25 (keep in mind Purdue at #2 was prior to Hummel’s injury); here’s Mike DeCourcy’s at Sporting News; and here’s Gary Parrish’s over at CBS Sports.
  4. Seth Davis checks in with his 10 Burning Questions to start the new season, a great read as usual.  Unfortunately, we already know the answer to the second half of #2, but he brings up a good point about Duke managing to duck much of the ubiquitous hatred last season largely because most pundits (and the public) didn’t start taking the Blue Devils seriously as a title contender until the very end of the season.
  5. Friday was Midnight Madness at most places, but it was also the date of UConn and Jim Calhoun’s hearing in Indy with the NCAA Infractions Committee.  Calhoun reported that the meeting took thirteen hours, but he provided no additional details as to its substance (although a 13-hour meeting is no joke).  The NCAA is expected to make a ruling on this issue by December.  Let’s hope for Husky fans that their season is generally going well by then; otherwise, it could be a particularly cold winter in Storrs.
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RTC Top 25: Week 2

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2009

We’re back with the second version of the RTC Top 25.  Not a lot of movement this week, but Ohio State and California must have made an impression (in opposite ways) on some of us, because OSU jumped four spots while the Bears dropped four.  With the games on the schedule this week, we’ll definitely start to see some separation next time around. 

rtc top 25 wk 2 (09-10)

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RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2009


You’ve undoubtedly been tracking our Tweeting the Preview series over the last two weeks.  Well, we just finished it up with Kansas coming in at the #1 spot, so now it’s time for us to tell you how we got there with our Preseason Top 25.  The four primary writers/editors here at RTC are voting for our weekly rankings, and in the interest of transparency we’ll put each of our ballots on the site every week.  If you disagree, let us know about it in the comments and we’ll try to address your points in kind.  This will also be where we post our weekly ballot for the Blogpoll, which will presumably begin later this month.

rtc top 25 - preseason 09-10

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Preseason Polls Released Today

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2009


One of the favorite days of the year for us at RTC is when the preseason polls are announced.  Maybe it takes us back to our days growing up and anticipating the start of the season, but somehow, it just seems to make everything official.  Granted, media has changed a LOT since those days, and we spend more time nitpicking and disagreeing with these polls than we used to, but it’s still a cool harbinger that the season is just around the corner, so enjoy. 

Our QnD analysis follows the polls.

09 preseason polls v.2

QnD Analysis.

  • It’s clear the media thinks a little more highly of John Calipari’s Kentucky team and a little less than Roy Williams’ UNC team than the coaches do.  UK got 82.5% as many votes as Kansas in the coaches’ poll, while garnering 85.1% in the AP; meanwhile, UNC earned 84.8% in the coaches’ vs. 81.9% in the AP.  This is probably a good example that shows how coaches think versus how the media thinks.  It’s our view that coaches do not respect John Calipari as much as they probably should, so he gets dinged a little despite having A-list talent while Roy Williams gets a bump despite losing four starters.  On the other side, the media sees the players that Calipari has at his disposal this year and they get all googly-eyed thinking about it, so they tend to rate Kentucky higher than UNC, somewhat ignoring the history that Roy Williams has in getting teams to come together.  It’s a very subtle point, but we think a clear one.   
  • The team with the biggest disparity between polls, Minnesota, also illustrates this point beautifully.   Coaches rank Tubby Smith’s team #18 (19.5%) in the nation based on Smith’s reputation for overachieving; the media, however, doesn’t see as much talent on the court as some of the other teams around Minnesota, so while recognizing Tubby’s ability to get the most from his players, they rate the Gophers lower at #25 (10.6%). 
  • Louisville is also a strange case here.  The coaches rate the Cardinals quite a bit lower than the media does (#23, 15.9% vs. #19, 20.6%), and you wonder if they sense that all the bad news has taken a toll on the UL program and will manifest itself as a weaker team this year. 
  • Nice to see Butler getting nearly top-ten love as the best mid, but they’re going to have to earn that ranking very early in their schedule, with games at Northwestern, at Evansville, vs. Ohio St. and Xavier at home, plus neutral site games in the loaded 76 Classic in Anaheim and against Georgetown in MSG. 
  • In the ORV, Maryland will probably hover around the 20-30 zone all season, but what is going on with the coaches giving 22 votes to USC?!?!?  At first, we thought it was an abbreviation for “South Carolina” until we saw the other SC down at the bottom with a ridiculous one vote.  They do realize that Tim Floyd and OJ Mayo are no longer there, right?
  • No major qualms with the rest of it, although UCLA right now is a reach for the top 30 (too many unknowns) and Vanderbilt is going to be better than several teams in the top 25 this year. 
  • Conference Breakdown (Coaches, AP):  ACC (4, 4), A10 (1, 1), Big East (6, 5), Big 12 (3, 3), Big 10 (5, 6), Horizon (1, 1), Pac-10 (2, 2), SEC (3, 3).
  • Final thought – the RTC Preseason Top 25 will release on Opening Night (Monday, Nov. 9), so keep an eye out for that. 

What say you, readers?

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