AAC M10: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 5th, 2014

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  1. Temple is set to compete in the 2014 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against Duke, Stanford and UNLV, organizers announced on Tuesday. The tournament will take place in the Barclays Center on the nights of November 21-22, with each game airing on truTV. “It is an honor to be participating in such a prestigious tournament as the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic,” coach Fran Dunphy said in a statement. “[T]o be playing in this tournament is not only great for our team and our fans, but also helps to continue to raise awareness and money to combat this deadly disease.” For Dunphy’s Owls, the event also represents an opportunity to showcase their program’s return to college basketball’s upper echelon after a forgettable rebuilding year. With Big 5 rival Villanova and a rematch with Kansas in the Wells Fargo Center already on tap next season, Temple appears set to play a very challenging non-conference schedule, perhaps timely given that the AAC schedule is poised to take a step back next year.
  2. Heading into a senior night match-up with the defending national champions, SMU coach Larry Brown says his team is “capable of beating anyone” right now. “We still don’t have the look in our eye yet and that doesn’t happen overnight,” Brown qualified, adding, “We need to get to the point where we have the look in our eye that when we take the floor we know we’re going to win. We’re just not at that point yet.” While previous home wins over Memphis, UConn and Cincinnati have had more of an impact in terms of building a tournament resume and generating enthusiasm among the SMU fan base, there’s a certain element of celebrity to hosting Rick Pitino’s Cardinals that isn’t lost on Brown. “I think we could get 20,000 people if we played at American Airlines Center. I don’t know if everyone would come to see us but I think we could get 20,000 people.” Expect the bandwagon in Dallas to grow exponentially if the Mustangs can top off their resurgent season with a win over Louisville.
  3. After a few days of reflection, it sounds like Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has no regrets about his high-profile confrontation with official Ted Valentine during last weekend’s loss to UConn. Being covered in the news for any reason, he remarked facetiously, can enhance a coach’s visibility and name recognition on the recruiting trail, which Cronin recalled was an issue for him when he first arrived at Cincinnati. “I talked to Coach [Rick] Pitino about his beard situation, keeping Louisville in the limelight,” Cronin joked, “so my goal is to make sure Cincinnati stays on the ESPN.com front page.” Adopting a much more serious tone, Cronin also criticized the AAC for arranging the Bearcats to close out their regular season with a Thursday night home game against Memphis followed by a Saturday noon tip-off at Rutgers. “I voiced that to them through our athletic director when the schedule came out. My thing to them was there is a chance we could be playing for a conference championship and how fair will that be?”
  4. Louisville coach Rick Pitino stirred up a minor controversy on Tuesday with comments he made on “The Dan Patrick Show” about class of 2014 recruit Trey Lyles. Asked whether he had ever been told by a recruit that he intended to leave college after one season, Pitino responded that Lyles, who ultimately signed with Kentucky over Louisville, “said to me he wanted to stay in college one year. I said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t make that decision. I certainly couldn’t make that decision. You should let the pros make that decision.’” Responding to the interview, Lyles’ father gave a different account of the conversation in question to The Indianapolis Star, maintaining that while the NBA was discussed, “it’s not accurate to say Trey told him he’s going to be one-and-done.” In fact, Tom Lyles said, “part of the recruiting pitch from [assistant coach Kevin] Keatts was that Trey could be Pitino’s first one-and-done player… that he could break that stigma that Pitino doesn’t get one-and-done players.” The two versions seem so fundamentally opposed that some revision must have taken place on one, if not both, ends.
  5. For UConn’s Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander, tonight’s senior night represents the beginning of the end of four years in Storrs that began with a national championship. The trio helped guide the Huskies program through a period of major transition and upheaval, helping to earn 95 career wins under Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie. “We needed those guys to stay, and they stuck with us,” reflected Ollie, whose tenure as head coach began with a one-year postseason ban in 2012-13. “That loyalty, what they showed the program in the midst of adversity, the character that they showed, the leadership that they showed in a difficult time really means a lot to me.” Napier, who described playing at UConn as “kind of like utopia” and leaves behind the most illustrious legacy of the three, is currently fourth all-time in program history in career assists (606) and eighth in career scoring (1,755 points). Read the rest of this entry »
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Key Matchup in UConn-Louisville Could Take Place on the Wing

Posted by Will Tucker on January 18th, 2014

Heading into the first of two games between UConn and Louisville this year, the most obvious narratives have already been explored at length. On paper, the battle between senior All-America candidates Shabazz Napier and Russ Smith stands out as the most intriguing match-up, as the diminutive guards have been scoring prolifically and dramatically all year. They figure to do much of the heavy lifting, with backcourt partners Ryan Boatright and Terry Rozier playing a supporting role. UConn big men Amida Brimah, Phil Nolan and Tyler Olander will try to contain Montrezl Harrell the same way they slowed down Memphis in the paint.

UConn Daniels Memphis

UConn needs DeAndre Daniels to keep producing on both ends (Nelson Chenault / USA TODAY)

But the match-up that could ultimately dictate the outcome of the game will take place at the three and four spots, between DeAndre Daniels and Wayne Blackshear. Certainly, Luke Hancock has been playing magnificently in the early part of the Cardinals’ AAC schedule, but Daniels presents an NBA-caliber mismatch that could overpower Hancock and outmaneuver Harrell. Blackshear is much better equipped to guard him at multiple points on the floor, and as a result, he’ll likely be the one who is on the floor with the game on the line tonight. Both Blackshear and Daniels are highly skilled wings who have failed to meet lofty expectations after showing tremendous potential as sophomores. Both former five-star recruits have frustrated their coaches with their tentativeness and lack of productivity on the boards. And both appear poised to put it all together and become consistent go-to weapons for their teams.

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Four Thoughts on Connecticut’s Big Win Over Florida

Posted by CD Bradley on December 3rd, 2013

Four Thoughts is our way of providing some rapid reactions to some of the key games involving AAC teams throughout the season.

Shabazz Napier rises to take the game-winning jumper in UConn's 65-64 victory over Florida on Monday. (credit: AP)

Shabazz Napier rises to take the game-winning jumper in UConn’s 65-64 victory over Florida on Monday. (credit: AP)

  1. What is left to say about Shabazz Napier? UConn’s senior guard did it again, capping off another ridiculous shooting night with a buzzer-beater to seal the Huskies’ 65-64 win over Florida on Monday night. Napier finished with 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting (more on that momentarily) and another game-winner, plus a four-point play on the penultimate possession; he also scored the final points for UConn in one-possession victories over Indiana and Boston College. He added four rebounds, two assists and three steals, while controlling a sometimes sloppy game of runs. Due to some inconsistent offense by both teams – the game was mostly played with more effort than skill, despite some impressive athletic feats – the teams alternated bursts of points and traded the lead back and forth, including three times in the final minute. Through it all Napier was magnificent, and has to be near the top of the list for All-America consideration thus far.
  2. With the win, the Huskies are now 8-0 with wins over Florida, Maryland, Indiana and Boston College. They reached #2 in one RPI replicator Monday night; while that ranking is flawed in many ways and still unreliable so early in the season, it’s an indicator of the value of their hot start. UConn has four non-conference games remaining before AAC play begins; they will be favored in each of them, making it likely they will reach 2014 undefeated. Things couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start for Kevin Ollie’s team. But… Read the rest of this entry »
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AAC M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on November 25th, 2013

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  1. In sad news, particularly so close to the holidays, the family home of Cincinnati forward Jeremiah Davis III was severely damaged by a fire last week. No one was injured. “It’s Thanksgiving you know and I’m just thankful for my family,” Davis III told the News Record. “They’re what’s most important. Family is the biggest thing.” Davis said his teammates’ support has been invaluable. “They gave me their condolences and have been trying to make me laugh to just get my mind off of that.” Head coach Mick Cronin said the university is trying to figure out how to help his family without running afoul of NCAA rules. “We’re working on it but it’s a process,” Cronin said. “Nothing ever goes quickly with the NCAA.”
  2. Louisville rolled through its first three games at home in easy fashion, looking every bit a consensus top three team in America. Then came a weekend trip to Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun, where we would imagine Rick Pitino will not be booking another trip soon. The Cardinals slopped their way through a Saturday win over Fairfield — “This was a bad performance by us… But we’ll come back. I don’t expect us to have two bad games in a row.” — and then proved their coach wrong by getting manhandled by North Carolina on Sunday. Pitino blamed the loss on the team’s defense: “It’s quite evident tonight that this is not the same team defensively at the three, four and five spot.” Unfortunately, it’s the exact same players at the three spot and the four spot as a year ago, which suggests that the absence of NBA first-round pick Gorgui Dieng has weakened the team defensively as whole.
  3. Connecticut missed out on the last Big East Tournament as we’ve known it due to academic troubles last season, and the AAC won’t be playing its tournament in the Big Apple this year. And yet senior guard Shabazz Napier still managed to have his Kemba Walker moment in the world’s most famous arena, dropping 47 points over two nights at MSG to lead the Huskies to a 2KSports Classic title. “That’s my big brother. I try to emulate everything that he does in a sense, but also put my type of talent, my type of skills on it,” Napier said of Walker, the MVP of the 2011 Big East and NCAA Tournaments. “I’m not trying to be him — that’s hard shoes to fill. I’m just trying to be Shabazz.” Indiana’s Tom Crean, whose Hoosiers lost to UConn in the final, had a different comparison in mind. “I imagine it would be in the NFL like trying to deal with a great running back — like Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson now, something like that.”
  4. Playing a smaller but still crucial role in UConn’s MSG win was senior Tyler Olander, a former starter adjusting to a bench role this year. “You just have to be ready when your number is called,” he said, and he was when foul trouble snared Phil Nolan and Amida Brimah. In 24 minutes of action, he notched only four points and four rebounds, but he also got two steals, including one after Napier’s go-ahead basket than ended up being the game-winner. Olander had an eventful summer in a bad way, getting arrested twice and earning a spot in coach Kevin Ollie’s doghouse. Since then, he has been working hard to rebuild his reputation. “I’m so proud of Tyler and how he’s handled himself off the court,” Ollie said Friday night, “and that’s giving him the opportunity to do the different things he’s doing on the court.”
  5. It’s still early, but the AAC continues to struggle to acquire good wins this season. As of Sunday night, the conference ranked ninth in RPI, with no wins over a team currently in the top 50 (although Indiana is likely to end up there). Only UConn (#14), Cincinnati (#45) and SMU (#78) are in the top 100. Again, it’s early, and the RPI will definitely shift substantially in the weeks and months ahead. But nearly three weeks into the college basketball season, it’s hard to dispute that the conference is off to a disappointing start. If it doesn’t start getting wins over decent teams soon, it risks a disappointing overall season; just ask the 2011 and 2012 Pac-10, which discovered that if none of your teams beats anybody in the non-conference slate, they don’t turn into quality wins themselves for conference foes come January and February.
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Previewing the AAC Season to Come…

Posted by CD Bradley on November 9th, 2013

We may have run out of time to write previews for all of the AAC teams, but that doesn’t mean we can’t e-mail each other about our favorite sport on the first day of its season and use the contents of those e-mails as a de facto conference preview. Let’s tip it off!

Louisville Is Expected to Run Away With Its One-Year AAC Tenure

Louisville Is Expected to Run Away With Its One-Year AAC Tenure

Mike Lemaire: So the conference is brand new, almost all of the teams in the conference have major questions to answer, and you don’t need to be a college basketball fan to see that, barring unforeseen injuries or suspensions, Louisville is going to run away with this league quickly. Did I leave anything out C.D.? Are you delusional enough to believe that anyone in the conference has a shot at toppling the Cardinals?

C.D. Bradley: In short, no. Louisville brings the most back, has the best newcomers, the most depth, and the best coach. And their one potential weakness, a thin frontcourt exacerbated by the suspension of Chane Behanan, cannot be readily exploited by their closest competitors, Memphis and UConn. A much more interesting question to me is which of those teams finishes second. They’re largely mirror images — talented and experienced backcourts, frontcourts full of question marks, and young coaches with something to prove. So who you got? Huskies or Tigers?

ML: Until Josh Pastner can prove to me his team can the make the leap and until his fabulous group of freshman live up to their billing, I am sticking with the Huskies. I think Michael Dixon is going to make a huge impact for the Tigers, and I think they will be a surefire NCAA Tournament team by the time the regular season ends, but Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are the best backcourt duo in the conference and DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun are the type of complementary pieces that would be stars for most other Division I programs. They are obviously thin in the frontcourt, but I don’t think that will affect them much in a conference that lacks any dominant big men. Pastner’s teams always seem to have talent and then they always seem to underachieve and fall apart in big games. The Tigers need to prove they have the discipline to go along with the talent before anyone starts to take them seriously as a conference crown contender. I do believe the Cardinals, the Tigers and the Huskies are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league. Things get a bit murkier from here so try and help me sort it out. Can Cincinnati score more than 20 points per game? Can you even tell me one thing about Temple’s team? Should we be taking Larry Brown and his Mustangs more seriously?

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The RTC Interview Series: AAC Preview with Dom Amore and Jason Smith

Posted by Walker Carey on November 8th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the AAC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two AAC experts in Hartford Courant reporter Dom Amore and Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jason Smith. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

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A Couple of AAC Reporters Share Their Preseason Insights With Us

Rush the Court: Even with the departures of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng from last season’s national championship team, Louisville is still highly ranked and viewed as a contender for another national title. In the past few weeks, news broke that starting forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely. How will Behanan’s banishment affect Louisville in the conference race and what impact will it have on the team when looking at the national landscape?

Dom Amore: Chane Behanan is obviously one of the best players on the team. Along with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, he is one of the reasons that Louisville is ranked as high as it is. With the way that Rick Pitino has recruited, though, there are a lot of great players on that team, so it is going to have some depth. Due to that depth, Louisville is going to be able to handle Behanan’s suspension better than most teams would. Still, experience is going to be a huge factor in this league, and Behanan has a lot of that. Losing a guy as good as Chane Behanan and with the experience of Chane Behanan is going to be a problem, but with Louisville’s depth and amount of talent, it should be able to weather the storm until Behanan is able to return.

Jason Smith: I think it all comes down to how long Rick Pitino decides to hold Chane Behanan out for. It sounds to me that Behanan is going to be back. Everything you read says he is doing the right things to get back on the team. I expect him to be back at least by the time conference play begins. You add Behanan to the group Louisville already has with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell, and you see why Louisville is so highly ranked. Louisville is also adding Chris Jones, who is the reigning national junior college player of the year. Jones and Russ Smith are going to make quite the formidable backcourt. This team is clearly the favorite in the conference and is definitely among the contenders for the national title. There will still be some challenges. It is going to have to figure out who is going to be the big rebounder. Losing Gorgui Dieng created a hole in the frontcourt, so some things still have to be figured out. Still, top-to-bottom, you can see why Louisville is considered one of the best teams in the country.

RTC: Josh Pastner probably has his most talented team since has been the head coach at Memphis. What do you expect from the Tigers in their first season away from Conference USA?

Amore: It is really a great thing for Memphis to be in this conference. There are other teams in this conference – namely, Connecticut and Cincinnati – that might not be too thrilled to be in it. For Memphis, this is a huge and a great step up in class. Memphis won 27 games in a row to finish its tenure in Conference USA. While it really dominated that conference, Memphis has not really been rewarded with high seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Being in this conference where it will play Louisville, Connecticut, and Cincinnati twice will really help with its RPI and those other things that are looked at when determining NCAA Tournament seeding. It is going to be a bigger challenge for Memphis, but it does have a lot of talent and it should be able to do more with that talent in the new league.

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UConn’s Kentan Facey Eligible, Will Help Depth in Frontcourt

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 25th, 2013

Given how dire the situation in Connecticut‘s frontcourt is, news that the NCAA granted 6’9″ forward Kentan Facey a waiver to play immediately and awarded him four years of eligibility must be music to coach Kevin Ollie‘s ears. Facey had been forced to sit out because of issues with credits from his high school. He graduated from Long Island (NY) Lutheran last year but he was born, raised and had even attended some high school in Jamaica (the country, not New York), so the NCAA reviewed whether his college eligibility clock should have started a year early. Apparently they were satisfied with what they saw because Facey tweeted his thanks to the UConn compliance staff and the NCAA this morning, and the school issued a statement filled with quotes from Ollie that make it seem like he did some celebratory fist-pumping and chest-bumping this morning.

Kevin Ollie Should Be All Smiles This Morning (credit: CT Post)

Kevin Ollie Should Be All Smiles This Morning (credit: CT Post)

Ollie has good reason to be excited because Facey is going to be an immediate contributor and impact player in the Huskies’ frontcourt. The versatile forward averaged a double-double (14.5 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 3.8 BPG) on his way to being named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012-13. He was also a consensus top-100 recruit and easily the highest-rated prospect in the Huskies’ freshman class. His athleticism is probably his best offensive attribute right now, as his shot and ability to create his own offense off the bounce are going to take some time to develop, but he is a long and active rebounder who runs the floor well and has the athleticism and size to defend multiple positions.

It will take him some time to get adjusted to the Division I level, but he has been practicing with the team while awaiting the NCAA’s decision. That should mean that he is already in the process of getting acclimated, and at the very least, he will provide another talented body for Ollie to add to a dangerously thin and inexperienced frontcourt rotation. The likely starters on the baseline are senior Tyler Olander and junior DeAndre Daniels, but Daniels should hardly be considered your prototypical power forward and behind that duo, Ollie will be mixing and matching a combination of sophomore Phillip Nolan, raw freshman center Amida Brimah, and now Facey.

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American Athletic Conference Offseason Capsules

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 15th, 2013

We are a little less than a month away from the start of another college basketball season and as teams start to get in to the swing of things, we here at the AAC microsite will be doing the same things. The offseason in college basketball can be a tedious stream of coaching changes, arrests, transfers, recruiting, and injury news. But it is still an important part of the game and since we know you have had better things to do than sit at home and track the minutiae of each AAC team’s offseason, we figured we would do it for you as the perfect way to launch our coverage for this season. Look for a full conference preview in the next week as well as the standard Morning Fives, some other fun coverage, and maybe even a new writer or two, who knows. 

Louisville

When your team is fresh off a National Championship and looking like a legitimate candidate to repeat, the last thing you want as a coach is an offseason full of distractions. Luckily for coach Rick Pitino, the distractions and bad news have been very limited this summer. Tragedy struck as Luke Hancock learned he lost his father to cancer while trying out for USA Basketball in Colorado and there was a late-summer scare over a knee injury suffered by Montrezl Harrell which turned out to be much ado about nothing. But the team also got to visit the White House in July, learned that guard Kevin Ware hadn’t been secretly suspended over the summer and has now been cleared for practice.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

In fact, the most controversy surrounding Louisville from the offseason came when a pair of Boston radio hosts hung up on Pitino during a promotional interview after telling him that, “he ruined the Celtics.” Hilarious stuff, really. Pitino also gave a struggling assistant coach a job in the coolest way possible. Put it this way, if you are Pitino and the worst press of the offseason is that you were hung up on early during a promotional interview, you can live with that. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are loaded with talent and could be insanely deep if Ware makes it back to the court quicker than expected.

Connecticut

If it wasn’t for forward Tyler Olander’s DUI idiocy and suspension, it would have been a nice, quiet offseason for coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies – especially when compared with previous offseasons. But the DUI charges against Olander have since been dropped and the forward has been reinstated, which is a huge boon to team with major frontcourt issues. Also, freshman guard Terrence Samuel cleared up eligibility concerns over the summer, adding more depth to an already loaded backcourt. The only remaining question is whether another key freshman, Kentan Facey, will be cleared to play with the team as he deals with eligibility concerns stemming from his time at a high school in Jamaica. The 6’9″ Facey is a prized recruit and will be an important frontcourt contributor if he is cleared to play. The Huskies look poised to quickly return to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Cincinnati

As far as interesting news goes, there is no team in the conference that has had a quieter offseason than the Bearcats. The offseason started with a bang when senior guard Sean Kilpatrick announced he would return for his senior season, but since then, it’s been all crickets. I guess you could count gangly forward Justin Jackson putting on 20 pounds or highly-touted 2014 recruit Qadri Moore’s commitment to the Bearcats big news, but that would be stretching the definition. In some cases the lack of news might not be such a good thing, but coach Mick Cronin still needs to break in a new starting point guard and find anyone who can be a legitimate anchor in the post, so Cronin has probably welcomed an offseason without distractions of either kind. Kilpatrick’s return makes life a bit easier for Cronin and the team has plenty of athleticism, but points will be hard to come by and rebounds may be harder to come by still.

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Morning Five: 10.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 4th, 2013

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  1. UNLV may have lost Anthony Bennett to the NBA Draft and Mike Moser to Oregon, but that has not stopped Dave Rice, who got a commitment from Goodluck Okonoboh yesterday. Okonoboh, who is the #21 overall prospect in ESPN’s rankings, is a 6’9″ center with good defensive skills, but with a raw offensive game. We are not privy to the details of his recruitment, but are a little surprised that he chose UNLV over more established programs like Duke, Florida, Indiana, and Ohio State, which were his other finalists. If Okonoboh follows through on his commitment (see below), he would join Dwayne Morgan, a top-10 power forward, to give the Rebels an imposing frontline.
  2. One of the many reasons that we do not get too worked up about recruitment is the inevitable early commitment/decommitment. The latest example of this is Trevon Bluiett, who backed out of his one-month-old commitment to UCLA yesterday. Blueitt’s official reason for backing out of his commitment was the distance from his home state of Indiana to UCLA, but we would not be surprised if UCLA’s surplus of wings may have played a more significant role. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Bluiett’s decision is that the Bruins has already hired Ed Schilling, Bluiett’s former high school coach, as an assistant coach. Package deals like this are not unusual in college basketball, but it is unusual to see one part of the package fall apart like this.
  3. As we mentioned last month when he had his DUI charge reduced to a driving without a license charge, it did not take long for Connecticut to let Tyler Olander back on the team as Kevin Ollie announced yesterday that Olander, a 6’10” senior who has been arrested twice since March, was back on the team following his September arrest. We won’t pretend to know how to run a basketball team/program, but we are a bit surprised with how quickly Kevin Ollie let Olander back as he cited Olander’s “responsibility and maturity” as well as time management skills and academic work. We understand that Connecticut is in need of an inside presence, but we have a hard time believing that doing so for less than a month after his (second) arrest really demonstrates that.
  4. When the NCAA made its controversial decision to not allow coaches to attend practices for schools that do not participate in scholastic associations we assumed it was a backhanded attempt at questioning the legitimacy of the academic credibility of those institutions. If the case of Illinois State freshman MiKyle McIntosh is any indication, they may have targeted the wrong school. McIntosh, a 6’7″ forward from Canada, was ruled academically ineligible after the NCAA determined that some of his high school coursework could not be used. Of course, this is not an infrequent occurrence, but it is notable that McIntosh spent part of his time at Christian Faith Center Academy in North Carolina, the same school that Florida State non-qualifier Xavier Rathan-Mayes attended for part of his career. We do not have access to the details of what courses these two took that the NCAA deemed unworthy of meeting its requirements as both players appear to have bounced around high schools, but much like Prime Prep in Texas when multiple players who graduated from the same high school are ruled academically ineligible you start to wonder what is going on there.
  5. Ken Pomeroy writes some of the best publicly available analytic work available, but sometimes it takes someone else to put it into a format that makes others recognize its value. One example of this is the work of Dan Hanner who looked at two Pomeroy metrics–possessions per game and average possession length–to determine which teams had the biggest differences between perception and reality in terms of their tempo. The basis behind this is that a team that plays suffocating defense that leads to their opponent using up a large percentage of the shot clock will tend to have fewer possessions per game as their opponent will be consuming significant portions of the overall game time with their offensive possessions. We won’t get into the specifics of the analysis (you can check out the link for that), but it is interesting that teams that play faster on offense than standard metric suggest tend to be much better than teams that play slower on offense than standard metrics suggest.
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Morning Five: 09.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 24th, 2013

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  1. With the college basketball season getting closer by the day now is good time to start getting familiar with the new faces coming in. RTC’s own Chris Johnson with the help of Evan Daniels of Scout.com has a solid take on the ten biggest impact freshman this season. Most of these rankings have a tendency to regurgitate the recruiting rankings and while there is usually some truth to that the better ones (like what Chris produced) feature some players who did not necessarily at the very top of the recruiting rankings, but could play key roles on their teams and influence the college basketball season because of the situations that they are placed in.
  2. Few things inspire as much outrage as ranking programs and most of those rankings tend to be poorly thought out, but given Andy Glockner’s track record we are going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Over this week, he will unveil his top 20 programs (presumably in order since he isn’t Jeff Goodman), but yesterday he began with the honorable mentions. Most of the teams in the honorable mention seem like they would be worthy candidates of inclusion in the top 20 (particularly Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Xavier) although if you look at all of his criteria, which are not necessarily 100% based on on-court success, you can understand why those programs might fall out of his top 20. We will be interested to see how Glockner’s top 20 compares to one that we would be put together (as long as he doesn’t ruin this by doing a dumb slideshow).
  3. It appears that Connecticut and Tyler Olander have dodged a bullet  as prosecutors in Connecticut dropped a DUI charge against him after he pleaded guilty to driving without a license. Olander, who was charged with a DUI on September 7, failed field sobriety tests, but passed two breath tests after he was taken into custody. As The Courant notes, Olander claims that he was merely serving as a designated driver (presumably for someone more drunk than he was), but this was his second arrest in six month (the other was trespassing during Spring Break in Panama City, Florida). This second arrest led Kevin Ollie to suspending him indefinitely. It remains to be seen whether Ollie will let him back on the team, but given the lack of interior talent the Huskies have on the inside and the reduced charges we suspect that Olander will be back before the season starts.
  4. Mark Emmert’s statements yesterday that he expects “a lot of change” in NCAA governance structure during the upcoming year led to quite a bit of debate about what those changes will be. Having read plenty of articles like this over the years you will have to excuse us if we are waiting for something more substantial before we start singing the praises of the NCAA. And if you expect this “change” to be about the overall structure of college sports and how revenue is generated Emmert’s comments from last week (see our Morning Five reaction the following morning) should make clear that is not on the NCAA’s agenda at this time. Still we would support any more towards transparency by the NCAA. We are just waiting to finally see it.
  5. We are guessing that Mike Krzyzewski will not be a fan of the Missouri Valley Conference’s unique solution for Deontae Hawkins and his transfer dilemma. Hawkins initally signed with Wichita State, but failed to qualify academically so he went to prep school for a year before signing with Illinois State. This would be fine except the MVC has a rule prohibiting intra-conference transfers within two years of attending college classes. In the end, the MVC agreed to let Hawkins, who never actually went to classes at Wichita State, play for Illinois State in the 2014-15 season except when they play Wichita State. While we can appreciate the attempt to make Hawkins eligible to play earlier, the uneven application of the rules is part of what drives administrators, coaches, and fans crazy.
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Morning Five: 09.10.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. We are still trying to piece together the news about BYU coach Dave Rose, who reportedly had “cancerous spots” removed during a semi-annual screening that he has after being diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 2009. By its nature, this finding was likely asymptomatic and given the vague nature of the description we do not even know where these “cancerous spots” were located in his gastrointestinal tract. However, based on the report the intervention appears to have been successful and Rose is expected to be back with the team by October 7 when they officially start practice.
  2. After a year spent in NCAA Tournament purgatory for their low APR scores Connecticut seems primed to potentially make a run this coming March. Those plans appear to have taken a slight detour after the school announced that forward Tyler Olander had been suspended indefinitely for what was initially reported to be a violation of team rules (later found out to be a DUI). Although Olander put up modest numbers last season (4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game) he was expected to play significant minutes for a team that is lacking on depth on the inside. We are unsure of how long Olander’s suspension will last, but we suspect that it will be for at least a few games since Olander was also arrested in March for trespassing while on Spring Break in Panama City.
  3. One would think that being the head of a program that was embarrassed in front of a national audience less than half a year ago would you a pariah, but that does not appear to be the case of recently disgraced Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti. Pernetti, who was widely blamed for the school’s failure to react to Mike Rice’s actions, has somehow landed a job as Chief Business Officer of New York City Football Club. Now we have no idea how prestigious the job is (obviously it is a step down from Rutgers), but the fact that he was able to land a job with a professional sports team (ok, they don’t start playing until 2015) speaks volumes for how easily administrators and business people are willing to overlook such ridiculous behavior.
  4. We have been critical of the ways that colleges recruit and get commitments out of kids who are often still in middle school. So it may come as a surprise that we support the decision by Bradley to sign two brothers who are still in elementary school. The decision to sign the brothers–Johnah and Jarrett Sahrs–is not the result of some ridiculous YouTube video or even some coach looking to make a recruiting splash, but instead it is the result of five year-old Johnah’s 18-month battle with a high-grade neuroblastoma that he has fought with Jarrett, his nine year-old brother by his side. Obviously, these two have much bigger things to deal with than being part of the Bradley basketball team, but it was a nice touch by the school to help lift their spirits.
  5. If you are a Louisville fan and/or want to support a good cause, the school is selling pieces of this past season’s Final Four floor with proceeds going towards pediatric cancer research. With prices ranging for $99.99 for a 9″ x 12″ plaque with a section of floor on it to $499.99 for a 18″ x 13″ piece signed by Rick Pitino (“limited” to only 1,000 pieces) there is a pretty good chance that this sale will top the $200,000 that Kentucky reportedly earned last year for a similar sale. While the $499.99 price might seem ridiculous to some it is going towards a good cause and given the state of the economy (or at least the stock market) we wouldn’t be surprised to see many of those pieces sell.
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Season In Review: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on May 1st, 2013

Despite the fact that there was no postseason at the end of the tunnel thanks to the academic sins of those who came before them, UConn put together quite a remarkable season that should have Huskies’ fans excited about the future of their program. The year started with question marks on everything from who would play in the frontcourt to whether interim coach Kevin Ollie would become Jim Calhoun’s permanent successor. It ended with Ollie as the team’s head coach for the future and the squad winning a mildly surprising 20 games, including a 10-8 mark in Big East play, en route to somewhat of a feel-good story for coach and program. Let’s go deeper inside UConn’s season:

Preseason Expectations

The Huskies were one of the easier teams in the conference to predict but our scribes at the microsite proved at least slightly more accurate than the coaches as we pegged the Huskies to finish 8th, which is where they finished (the coaches pegged them 9th). The expectations were easy once it became clear that the team was going to play hard all season for Ollie. Many figured that their issues in the frontcourt and no prospect of the postseason would put the Huskies near the bottom of the conference. But they also understood that in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, and DeAndre Daniels, there was enough talent in place for UConn to compete with most every team if things went well — which is pretty much exactly what they did.

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

The Good

First things first, this season could have just as easily gone off the rails if the Huskies couldn’t stay motivated, so head coach Kevin Ollie deserves major kudos for the job he did with his new team and apparently the school agreed because midway through the season UConn removed the interim tag from his position. Not only did Ollie keep the team motivated (they only lost two games by more than 10 points and one was to that Louisville buzzsaw), but he helped the squad become an above-average team on both ends that was truly only hampered by its inability to rebound and defend the post. He has also already proven his recruiting chops and should continue to be a more-than-capable replacement for Calhoun. Napier (17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, 44.1 FG%) became a more judicious shot-taker, an excellent free throw shooter and one of the best floor generals in the conference, setting the stage for what should be a tremendous senior season. Boatright (15.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 42.9 FG%) also saw an uptick in his numbers, although that had something to do with his more prominent role in the offense and an increase in shots attempted. If he can cut down on turnovers and improve his three-point shooting a bit, there will be little doubt which team has the best backcourt in the conference next season. But the man who showed the most improvement was sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels. A non-factor in limited minutes as a freshman (3.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 34.1 FG%), the Huskies were counting on the uber-talented sophomore to make a leap and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG while shooting better than 46 percent from the field and turning into one of the better shot-blockers in the conference. Without Daniels, the Huskies would have been lucky to win 15 games this season.

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