Set Your TiVo: 03.02.12 – 03.04.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are going to mix it up a bit for the final three days of the season. There are so many good games on the schedule that it wouldn’t do them justice to leave them unmentioned, not to mention the games with an impact for bubble teams. Here are some quick hitters on all the games you need to be following.

Top games:

West Virginia @ South Florida – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

The Bulls notched a huge win over Louisville earlier this week, but many feel they still have to win this game to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers are hanging on by a thread but could really enhance their chances with a nice road victory in Tampa. This game has Big East Tournament implications as well, but both teams need it more for their NCAA chances. As a member of the Big East, South Florida has beaten 14 of the 15 other teams in the league. West Virginia is the only team they have yet to knock off. This would be one heck of a time to grab that win in West Virginia’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East. Pretty much everything is on the line in this game.

Can West Virginia Win A Big One On The Road?

#11 Georgetown @ #8 Marquette – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

Both teams are obviously in the NCAA Tournament so this game is about seeding more than anything. A win over the Golden Eagles would be Georgetown’s ninth against the RPI top 50 and fifth against the top 25. Marquette has just one RPI top 25 win (Wisconsin) so adding another could really help Marquette’s seeding when the NCAA committee debates next Sunday in Indianapolis. The winner of this game will grab the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. The contrast of styles in this game will be fascinating as Marquette looks to run at home against a disciplined Georgetown defensive unit.

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a brutal week for the TO26 top 15, as the top four teams lost five games combined.  Read on to see how that shuffled the rankings.  After the revised top 15, we look at the top 10 results of the past week, sorting through both the headline-grabbing upsets and the big games that may have slipped past your radar.  Then we preview the top 10 games of the coming week, which includes a bounty of top matchups this Saturday and several small conference teams putting their first-place records on the line against their stiffest competition.

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 13th, 2012

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • UCF Hits Speed Bump With Transfers: Usually at this point in the season it’s all about lacing up the sneakers and getting to business. However, the challenges striking the Central Florida men’s basketball program persist. Transfer guard Jeffrey Jordan, Michael’s oldest son, left the Knights over the weekend citing “personal reasons” and Central Florida Future announced Thursday that senior forward Dwight McCombs will be following suit after he was handed a season-ending suspension on Wednesday. The losses may not seem like that big of a deal with Jordan sitting on the bench and McCombs only averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds a night; however, the decisions of both players to leave the school only adds additional trouble to a program that has been marred with the departure of its athletic director this season.
  • Memphis Continues Success Against Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles took the nation’s seventh-longest winning streak into FedEx Forum on Wednesday night (11 games), but exited with their third loss of the season and their 18th consecutive loss to the Memphis Tigers. On the other sideline, the Tigers enjoyed their 135th home victory since the 2004-2005 season. Memphis is the winningest home team in the nation at 135-16 since that year. The Tigers were able to hold to a close victory behind a pair of Chris Crawford free throws with 31.7 seconds remaining.
  • Dennis Tinnon Has A Career Night: Marshall barely escaped with a victory last night, defeating UAB 60-58 and setting up a marquee conference matchup with UCF on Saturday night.  Junior forward Dennis Tinnon led the Thundering Herd, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds. Another unheralded junior, forward Robert Goff, sealed the victory for Marshall with a gigantic three-point play with under a minute to play. DeAndre Kane also enjoyed a successful evening, scoring 21 points and recording 10 rebounds. UAB senior Cameron Moore put the Blazers up late, but failed to convert on what would have been a game-tying basket in the final seconds.
  • Kazemi Keeps Rolling: Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi continued his case for conference player of the year last night in a 68-52 rout against Southern Methodist. The junior forward recorded his 40th career double-double, the 13th of the season, which ranks him as the nation’s best. The Iran native finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman Ahmad Ibrahim made a solid first career start for the Owls, recording 14 points.

Head Coach Donnie Jones (left) Hit A Bump In The Road When Dwight McCombs And Jeffrey Jordan Decided To Leave The Knights.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (11-5, 2-0): They may not have the conference’s best overall record, but the Tigers are the deepest team in conference and they have the most offensive firepower. Wednesday’s win over Southern Miss proved that the Tigers can win defensive bouts too. Memphis has won six of its last seven after falling from the national rankings. Will Barton continues to put forth a First-Team All-Conference effort, averaging 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per night.
  2. Southern Miss (15-3, 2-1): The Golden Eagles were unquestionably the best team in conference until last night, which should be a great learning lesson for a relatively young team. Southern Miss can rebound the ball almost better than anyone in conference, averaging 38.1 boards a night as a team, which is third only to UCF and Marshall in C-USA. Senior guard Darnell Dodson has elevated his play.
  3. UCF (13-3, 3-0): With guard A.J. Rompza back in the lineup, the Knights have been unbeatable, winning both at home (carrying a 16-game home win streak) and on the road. Forward Keith Clanton and guard Marcus Jordan continue to be the conference’s best duo for coach Donnie Jones in what has been an up-and-down season for the Knights.
  4. Marshall (12-4, 3-0): If Marshall—the same team that has wins over Cincinnati and Iona—is the fourth best team in conference, then C-USA could be presenting a reasonable case for four teams come March. The Thundering Herd have revived from a two-game losing streak by winning their first three conference games. DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts have found a force in the low post in junior forward Dennis Tinnon. Marshall is fourth in the country in rebounds with over 42 a night.
  5. Rice (10-7, 1-1): Arsalan Kazemi continues to be the story here. The junior forward is averaging 14.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, leading the nation in double-doubles with 13 this season. Fellow junior Tamir Jackson has been a pivotal player, running the team’s offense and averaging 12.9 points per game. The Owls don’t seem to be in the upper echelon of the conference, but with Kazemi they will contend throughout the season.
  6. Tulane (12-4, 0-2): After a 9-0 start, the Green Wave has stumbled; however, there isn’t a team in the conference that has played a tougher schedule in recent weeks. Since their December 22 loss to top-ranked Syracuse, the Green Wave has played two of the conference’s best teams in UCF and Southern Miss.
  7. Houston (9-7, 1-2): The Cougars have followed a five-game win streak with back-to-back conference loses at UTEP and UCF. With the losses, Houston has fallen to the middle of the conference rankings, but have a huge opportunity this weekend when they play host to the Memphis Tigers. If the Cougars can continue shooting the way they have this past month, then they can contend with anybody. Currently, Houston ranks 25th in the country in shooting percentage, knocking down 48.3% of their shots from the field.
  8. SMU (9-7, 1-1): Senior forward Robert Nyakundi continues to lead the Mustangs, averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The Arlington native hasn’t had to do it alone, though, with the addition of Texas transfer Shawn Williams. The sophomore swingman has been an immediate contributor in Dallas since joining the team on the court eight games ago. Williams isn’t the only transfer making a difference. Junior guard London Giles, a Nevada transfer, has been a crucial performer at SMU all season, averaging 11.5 points per game.
  9. Tulsa (8-9, 1-2): Another team on the outside looking in, the Golden Hurricane have struggled consistently this season in close games, losing three times in overtime and four times by three points or less. Jordan Clarkson will end up on an All-Conference team, but he hasn’t much help thus far.
  10. UTEP (8-9, 1-2): Tim Floyd’s squad enjoyed a bit of a revival before the holidays, but has floundered since, failing to win consecutive games since December 22. The Miners enjoyed a nice home victory over Houston, but haven’t been able to win a true road game all season. Although they haven’t found a replacement for Randy Culpepper, the Miners are extremely deep with a bench of 11 players.
  11. East Carolina (9-6, 0-2): The backcourt has been stout this season for the Pirates. Junior Miguel Paul has emerged as one of the best point guards in the conference, scoring 16.2 points and dishing out 5.7 assists per night. Senior forward Darius Morrow has also been a force for ECU, averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. In addition, the big man is shooting 54 percent from the field for a streaky Pirate club that won five straight heading into conference play, but have gone 0-2 early on.
  12. UAB (5-10, 0-2): The Blazers have continued a porous non-conference run with a rough conference start, dropping contests at home to Memphis and Marshall. UAB’s offense is still the worst in conference, averaging less than 60 points per game. Even worse, preseason conference player of the year Cameron Moore has been spectacular, but hasn’t been able to abate the Blazers’ woes. With their next four games scheduled against Southern Miss, Rice, UCF and Marshall, the losing skid could very well continue.

Looking Ahead

  • UCF at Marshall, January 14 at 7 p.m. ET: While the Southern Miss-Memphis showdown lived up to the hype, C-USA fans will be watching this one with a close eye as first place in the conference is on the line. It will be extremely interesting to watch the backcourt duo of A.J. Rompza and Marcus Jordan duel against DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts. Marshall boasts a three-game winning streak; however, it is UCF that is undoubtedly the hottest team in the conference. The Knights have won nine of their last 10.
  • Rice at Tulane, January 14 at 8 p.m. ET: Two of the conference’s best individual talents will square off on Saturday when Arsalan Kazemi leads the Owls into New Orleans against Kendall Timmons and the Green Wave. Tulane is coming off a full week’s rest and is arguably the most rested team in conference, which should play into their favor against a Rice team that has played five games since the holiday break.
  • Memphis at Houston, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: The Tigers are riding an emotional high into Saturday’s contest at the Hofheinz Pavillion, which gives the Cougars the perfect opportunity to pull the upset. Houston is probably the best team in conference to matchup against Memphis’ high-powered offense. Currently, the Cougars are 39th in the nation in points per game with 76.6 a night. Houston has developed a quartet of double-digit scorers in addition to three other players that average more than six points a night. The Cougars are surprisingly deep and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • SMU at UTEP, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: Neither of these clubs is able to rebound well, lacking frontcourt talent and depth. The Mustangs rank 326th in the nation in rebounding with an average of 30.4 boards a game, while the Miners are even worse at 335th with 29.6 rebounds a night. However, UTEP has been able to improve its field goal percentage in recent weeks, shooting 47.4% from the field. Last time they played in the Don Haskins Center, the Miners shot 61.2% in a 70-50 thumping over Houston on January 7.
  • Marshall at West Virginia, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3): This game serves as the conclusion for Marshall’s non-conference schedule and provides head coach Tom Herrion’s club with another opportunity to showcase their talent on national TV. Of course, this is an in-state rivalry so the emotions will be as high as any game this season. So far, Marshall is 1-1 against Big East competition. Another win against the nation’s deepest conference, in addition to their victory over Iona, could serve them come March if they fall short in the conference tournament.
  • Memphis at UCF, January 18 at 8 p.m.: It’s not too early to look towards next week’s conference schedule with Memphis traveling to take on Central Florida in a matchup that could be for first place in the conference. Another marquee game to look ahead at is Marshall at Southern Miss, which won’t be played until January 21 and will be aired on national television. These are the four top teams in conference and for the second straight week in a row, there will be a pair of pivotal conference matchups that feature all four.

Spotlight On…Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan

UCF has greatly benefited from the addition of A.J. Rompza and from the development of sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes. However, it has been the tandem of Clanton and Jordan that has fueled the Knights this season with consistent performance. Clanton is arguably the best post player in the conference, averaging 15.4 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. His latest performance against Houston, a 18 point and 13 rebound outing that included 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals, showed that he will be able to dominate teams with inferior big men, which the conference is chock full of. To further understand Clanton’s importance, one only needs to evaluate the Knights as a team. They are ranked 200th or lower in every major statistical category other than rebounding, where they rank 38th in the country with an average of 38.9 boards a night. In addition to Clanton, Marcus Jordan has been playing top-notch ball for head coach Donnie Jones. In addition to be the team’s leading scorer, Jordan has been the epitome of consistency, scoring in double-digits in all fourteen games he has played in so far this season. In a season filled with tons of upheaval for the UCF athletic department, the Knights basketball program has weathered the storm, winning nine of its last ten. They couldn’t have done it without the stellar play of both Clanton and Jordan.

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Morning Five: 01.10.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 10th, 2012

  1. After thinking it over on Sunday night Khem Birch announced that he would be transferring to UNLV. Birch chose UNLV over Florida and New Mexico State, his two other reported finalists. In the end, it appears that Birch saw what Mike Moser, one of several transfers on the UNLV roster, was doing in UNLV’s system and felt that he could play a similar role for the Rebels. Birch will join an interesting roster next year that will feature three other transfers and a solid incoming class with one more scholarship spot available. Of course, many Rebels fan will view this decision through the prism of how it will affect their recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad, the #1 overall recruit in this year’s senior class. According to Muhammad’s father, Birch’s announcement “only strengthens UNLV in the eyes of Shabazz.”
  2. While Birch knows that he will be playing college basketball in a year, the future is not so bright for UAB student Todd O’Brien as his appeal for a graduate student transfer exemption was denied by the NCAA. O’Brien’s saga, which technically began last summer, rose to national prominence last month when he wrote a column for Sports Illustrated calling out Saint Joseph’s and Phil Martelli for not granting him a waiver and not providing him with a reason for their denial. As we noted last week, Saint Joseph’s has tried to hide behind the veil of  student privacy although reports last week indicate that the school would not divulge its reason(s) even if O’Brien waived that right. Now it appears with little non-legal (the real legal system not the NCAA version), O’Brien appears willing to call Saint Joseph’s bluff and we will see how the school and Martelli respond.
  3. Over the past few years, Todd Bozeman has become known as the one coach who had managed to overcome the  now infamous show-cause penalty to become a success Division I basketball head coach. Unfortunately, Bozeman’s path to redemption took a detour over the weekend as Bozeman was involved in an altercation of some sort with senior guard Larry Bastfield. There are conflicting reports on what actually happened–Bozeman says it was “accidental contact” while others say it was a deliberate punch–but for the time being Morgan State has decided to suspend Bozeman indefinitely while they conduct an investigation. From the reports we have read the evidence does not appear to be clear cut especially since both Bozeman and Bastfield now claim that the incident was overblown, but for someone with Bozeman’s history this is the last thing he needs to have around him.
  4. It did not generate nearly the same level of buzz that Birch’s announcement did, but St. John’s picked up a commitment from transfer Jamal Branch, who left Texas A&M after just 11 games this season. Branch, who was a consensus top 100 recruit last season, will be a welcome addition to a Red Storm team that lost much of its heralded freshman class to a variety of eligibility issues and are still waiting on several members of next season’s incoming freshman class to finalize their decisions.
  5. In this week’s Hoops Thoughts column Seth Davis explores the downtrend in fouls called and scoring with some analysis from John Adams, the NCAA’s supervisor of officials. Adams provides some interesting insight and clarifies a few common misconceptions that some fans have about new or controversial rules. Seth also offers a variety of random thoughts on different teams and even touches on his belief that coaches should wear more casual/comfortable clothing on the sideline citing St. John’s big win over then #1 Duke last January when its coaches wore sneakers and open collars, which they also did when they when they lost at home in November to Northeastern by 14.
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Morning Five: 01.05.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 5th, 2012

  1. Legendary coach Gene Bartow died on Tuesday after a two-year battle with stomach cancer. Bartow, who may not be well-known to younger or more casual basketball fans, was an iconic figure in college basketball compiling a 647-353 record while making it to a national championship game at Memphis State (now Memphis) and another Final Four appearance at UCLA. In addition to those accomplishments, Bartow was also known as “The Father of UAB Athletics” and for being the man who had the unenviable job of following John Wooden at UCLA. While we tend to get a flood of media members and coaches complimenting the recently departed, the outpouring this time seemed unusually large and came from all over including people such as John Calipari who made a post about Bartow’s impact on his life.
  2. With the start of their ACC schedule right around the corner, North Carolina got a little boost as junior guard Leslie McDonald returned to practice for the first time since he tore his ACL this summer. While there is no timetable for McDonald’s return as he is practicing for short periods and essentially getting worked back into shape, his return could be a key piece for the Tar Heels in March as he would give them another outside shooter that they desperately need. Despite a relatively high three-point percentage at 38.8%, which is #34 nationally, the Tar Heels only take 21.5% of their shots from beyond the arc, which ranks #343 out of 345 teams nationally. With all the attention that UNC’s interior players get McDonald would have plenty of open looks and with his shooting ability he might be make the difference between a team that makes a deep run in March and one that cuts down the nets in New Orleans in April.
  3. We are sure that many Oklahoma State fans are aware of this, but we imagine that most of the rest of you were not aware that Travis Ford has lost his entire recruiting class from 2009. As Jeff Goodman notes this isn’t the first time that Ford has basically lost an entire recruiting class as this also happened when Ford was at Massachusetts and he had nine commitments in 2007 that he got almost nothing out of them. We are not sure what it is about Ford that has led to this happening twice in a relatively short period, but we suspect that it is something that his Big 12 recruiting rivals will be sure to point out to their common targets.
  4. Yesterday, The Naismith Hall of Fame announced its list of the 20 finalists for the Cousy Award that is given to the nation’s top point guard. We discussed the list in detail yesterday, but it is worth reviewing a couple key points regarding the list. The biggest one is that there was not a horrendous omission like there was last year when Jordan Taylor was initially left off the list of finalists. We imagine that the inclusion and exclusions of certain names will rile up some fan bases, but nothing close to the level of Taylor last year. The other that this appears to be a three-horse race although Scott Machado is a very intriguing mid-major darkhorse.
  5. Saint Joseph’s has been taking a beating in the court of public opinion, but even they have a fell-good story as Dana O’Neil showed us with her story on C.J. Aiken. Aiken who is probably known to most of the nation as a premier shot-blocker and one of the players who ended up taking minutes away from Todd O’Brien before his well-documented transfer attempt, but the reality is that there is a lot more to Aiken’s story. After enduring surgery and chemoradiotherapy for Burkitt’s lymphoma before he entered second grade, Aiken became more introverted and had to be coaxed into playing basketball by his mother. Now he is thriving as a sophomore at Saint Joseph’s and is one of the most electrifying and efficient players in the country.
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Morning Five: 01.02.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 2nd, 2012

  1. Almost three months after Taylor Branch’s piece in The Atlantic reignited the debate about amateurism and the NCAA, The New York Times has joined with mix with a relatively short piece (compared to Branch’s enormous essay) by Joe Nocera in the Sunday Magazine issue titled simply enough “Let’s Start Paying College Athletes”. In the piece, Nocera reiterates some of the points that Branch made about the inequities in the system without going into the historical detail that Branch did. However, unlike Branch, Nocera offers a proposal (for football and men’s basketball) to correct these inequities using five “elements”:
    • Paying players
    • A salary cap with a set minimum payment for each player
    • An additional two-year scholarship after a player’s athletic eligibility is up
    • Lifetime health insurance
    • A union to collectively bargain

    While we agree with Nocera that college sports would benefit from some fundamental reforms Nocera’s appear rather short-sighted. We were willing to give Branch a pass on the economic aspects of his argument because he is a Civil Rights historian, but Nocera is a business reporter and reportedly consulted with “sports economists, antitrust lawyers and reformers” before coming up with this proposal so the fact that he ignores some basic economic realities is shocking. In addition to blithely estimating how many Division I football and basketball programs would survive with the new requirements, Nocera ignores the thousands of college athletes per year that would be out of scholarships at those schools (guess which socioeconomic class that would disproportionately affect) as well as waving his hands to create a superficial argument that would be politically untenable against Title IX opposition. Perhaps, the most shocking off all is Nocera’s suggestion that all college athletes be provided with lifetime health insurance. You would think a business reporter would realize how unrealistic this would be in the long run (remember the problems the US auto industry had a few years ago with its relatively small population to cover and its much higher revenues?), but apparently that is too far in the future for Nocera to consider.

  2. The Wall Street Journal is one media institution that understands economics even if they do not know the difference between Chrysler and Crisler. In addition to their business reporting and rather opinionated op-ed section, they also do publish interesting features piece such as an interview with former Michigan great Jalen Rose where he talks about his charter school in Detroit, his DUI arrest over the summer, and the controversy around his “Uncle Tom” comments. While Rose received quite a bit of criticism for his DUI arrest (and rightly so), we commend him for trying to be productive and contribute to society when he could very easily be living the easy life in a much more desirable location although we do not fault individuals who choose to do so. It will be interesting to see if Rose’s work is able to create significant results in the academic performance and socioeconomic status for his students in the long run.
  3. There will be at least one more chapter in the ongoing Todd O’Brien story as the former Saint Joseph’s player, who had his initial request for a graduate school transfer denied by either Saint Joesph’s or the NCAA, has resubmitted his request to be granted a waiver to play for UAB this season. In his request, O’Brien cites his 3.0 GPA in the fall semester as evidence that his transfer was academically motivated to counter the supposed reason that Saint Joseph’s has used to block his transfer. From what we have read about the NCAA’s interpretation of the rules in this case, it seems like it is unlikely that it will work unless the NCAA decides to overrule its earlier decision where they said they were strongly influenced by the recommendation from Saint Joseph’s. We tried to speak with Phil Martelli about this topic after their loss at Harvard on Saturday, but were told that nobody at the school could discuss the issue until O’Brien waived his student privacy rights. We are not sure how legitimate the school’s reported claim of silence is, but we would love to see what happens if O’Brien calls their bluff on it.
  4. Joe Jackson has decided not to transfer from Memphis after considering his options over the weekend. Jackson, who is averaging 11.8 points per game this season had only scored two points combined (both on free throws) in his last two games before missing Saturday’s game for “personal reasons”. After meeting with Josh Pastner the sophomore guard was told to take a few days to think about his future before deciding to come back. We are not sure how Pastner will use Jackson in his first game back, which is against Tennessee on Wednesday. The events of this weekend could either be the beginning of the end of Jackson’s time at Memphis or help him refocus his game and become a more consistent player for a Tiger team that needs someone other than Will Barton to play consistently (and Barton isn’t even that consistent).
  5. We have a little bit of ACL news to catch up on from Friday as Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe had surgery to repair his torn right ACL and Dayton forward Josh Benson tore his left ACL. Mbakwe’s surgery appears to have went “very well”, but we doubt that we will hear a legitimate time table for Mbakwe’s return to the court for at least another month or two. According to reports, Mbakwe still has not decided if he will apply for a medical hardship redshirt exception or if he will attempt to jump to the NBA after rehab. There has not been any decision on when Benson, who was having a breakout season with 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, will have surgery, but he will be out for the season. Assuming his recovery goes as expected, we expect to see Benson back in a Dayton uniform at the start of next season.
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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 26th, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • Rice Upsets Texas A&M; Kazemi Records 36th Career Double-Double: The conference had arguably its best night of the season on Thursday, posting a 6-2 overall record, which was highlighted by Rice’s 65-58 upset victory over Texas A&M at College Station. Junior forward Arsalan Kazemi led Rice with 10 points and 13 rebounds, recording his ninth double-double of the season and 36th of his career, as the Owls snapped the Aggies’ 80-game regular season, non-conference home win streak. Kazemi is now six double-doubles shy of the conference record. The junior carried the scoring load in his sophomore season, but has found help this season from fellow junior Tamir Jackson and senior Lucas Kuipers.
  • Tulane Drops Second Game, Falling to Syracuse: The conference’s only losses Thursday night came against ranked competition. Tulane took on #1 Syracuse, losing 80-61 in a lopsided contest. However, the team’s trio of top scorers Kendall Timmons, Jordan Callahan and Ricky Tarrant were not shut out, combining for 41 points. Timmons was the top performer, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
  • Memphis’ Continues To Tumble: The high-powered Memphis Tiger offense was contained and exposed on Thursday night when it faced the #16 Georgetown Hoyas, falling 70-59. Despite averaging 80 points a contest, Memphis was held in check throughout the game, which has become a trend when the Tigers take on tougher competition. Sophomore guard Will Barton continued his fantastic play, contributing a double-double in the losing effort. Barton finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but fellow sophomore Chris Crawford led the team with 17 points. Barton currently leads the conference in scoring with an average of 19.9 points per game, which is more than two points higher than UCF’s Marcus Jordan, who is second in scoring.
  • UTEP Builds Mo’ In Hawaii: In the first game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, UTEP had a chance to make a statement and did, dominating Clemson. The Miners walked away with a 61-48 victory, following a 23-8 run during the game’s final 13 minutes. The Tigers recorded a lone field goal during that span. With the win, UTEP improves to .500 for the first time this season. Though they fell to the streaking Wildcats in the semifinal game, UTEP bounced back in the consolation round, holding off Auburn 83-76. The Miners are streaking at the right time, winners of four of their last five. Sophomore guard Michael Perez is finally filling the void left by Randy Culpepper, as he averaged over 17 points per game in the Diamond Head Classic.

Marcus Jordan Is Second In Conference USA In Scoring And The Knights Boast Two Of The League's Top Five Point-Scorers (Credit: Chris Schubert).

Power Rankings

  1. Tulane (11-2): The Green Wave suffered its second loss of the season on Thursday night, but they take a lot of experience away from facing the top-ranked team in the country. Tulane is the best defensive team in conference, allowing only 55.1 points a night. In comparison, the league’s worst defensive team, Memphis, allows 74.3 points per night. Kendall Timmons has found a long-term running partner in freshman Ricky Tarrant, who has blossomed into a star in the early part of this season.
  2. Southern Miss (10-2): It’s hard to pick nits on a team that has won six in a row. Southern Miss has emerged as one of the best teams in conference because they play complete team basketball. Lacking a consistent top performer, the Golden Eagles have relied on several players to make plays.  A lot of credit goes to the Golden Eagles seniors such as Darnell Dodson and Maurice Bolden, who each recorded a double-double in Thursday night’s win over South Florida. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 21st, 2011

  1. As we mentioned yesterday the big news in the college basketball world (or at least the media world) was the first-person column by Todd O’Brien describing how St. Joseph’s and Phil Martelli have denied his attempt to use a graduate school exemption to transfer to UAB. Yesterday, the media got a chance to chime in with columns of their own. Outside of the expected “Martelli is a symbol of all things wrong with college sports” there were a few interesting posts. One of them comes from Gregg Doyel who urged the public to wait for St. Joseph’s side of the story to come out while Andy Staples took a bigger picture view at the landscape of the NCAA to point out its uneven approach in dealing with movement of coaches and players. We are sure that there will be several other interesting columns about this topic particularly if (when?) St. Joseph’s decides to tell its side of the story.
  2. Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus provides us with something he calls “Grand Unified Point Guard Theory” (in reference to particle physics theories that are way too complex to discuss here) using Kendall Marshall, Aaron Craft, Jordan Taylor, and Seth Curry as examples. Basically what Cannon argues is that a point guard’s impact is more about fit than the particular skills they have (at least in these four examples). While we do agree at some level that a point guard’s value can be greatly increased or decreased by the pieces around him, we tend to think that Cannon’s GUPGT is way too simplistic and undervalues a lot of what some of these players bring to a team. Perhaps it is because point guards may be doing things that even the most advanced basketball sabermetricians have not figured out a way to quantify. Of course, we could be wrong here (and John Gasaway, who works with Drew, agrees with GUPGT) and will admit that like everybody we may fall into a trap of overvaluing some qualities in players. One thing we can agree on is that the phrase “true point guard” is vastly overrated and would prefer to use something along the lines of “facilitator” that allows for inclusion of a player like Henry Sims, who manages to do many traditional point guard things despite not fitting the mold.
  3. It didn’t take long for the decision by DeQuan Jones to hire a lawyer to pay off as he was reinstated by Miami yesterday. We already discussed in detail the impact that the reinstatement of Jones would have on the Hurricanes. We don’t have more much to add here that wasn’t stated in yesterday’s post other than to reiterate our stance that Miami’s original decision to suspend Jones was ridiculous particularly since all of the coaches and administrators were allowed to continue to have jobs as well as Charles Robinson’s point that this decision does not indicate any change in the NCAA’s investigation and probably reflects more on Miami’s preference not to get sued.
  4. It has been a rough season so far for St. John’s, but help may be on the way in the form of Amir Garrett. After losing several recruits who failed to meet NCAA Clearinghouse standards and another freshman who transferred earlier this month, Garrett’s arrival could be a huge boost to a team that is just 5-5 as we approach Christmas. Garrett was one of the three incoming recruits who failed to meet the NCAA Clearinghouse requirements, but he is the only one who appears to be staying with St. John’s as the other two are exploring other options. There is a possibility that Garrett could play as early as tonight against Texas Pan-American. While the Broncs are by far the easiest remaining opponent on St. John’s schedule (the Broncs are #329 out of 345 in Division I according to Ken Pomeroy) we will be interested to see what impact if any Garrett has on the team.
  5. We missed this news from late Monday night due to the late hour and the fact that we don’t have our RSS feed set to find the latest news on Big Sky teams that started the season 2-8, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the mid-season resignation of Idaho State coach Joe O’Brien. O’Brien, who did not offer a public reason for stepping down, is the third coach to resign in recent weeks with the others also not providing a direct answer for their decision to leave. O’Brien’s record was a horrific 56-105 at Idaho State, but he was much more successful at the junior college level where he is one of only three coaches to win three national championships. Unfortunately, his time at Idaho State may be remembered most for his brutal scheduling according to school’s official biography of him (hello guarantee game!). Assistant coach Deane Martin will act as the interim coach with his first game tomorrow night against Wyoming.
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Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 20th, 2011

  1. If you want to get upset with a coach and a school for abusing its control over a player, check out Todd O’Brien‘s first-person account of his attempt to try to play for UAB as part of a graduate school transfer, but being thwarted by Phil Martelli and St. Joseph’s. O’Brien chronicles his attempts to gain his release from the school and the denials by what appears to be an increasingly petty Martelli. Obviously, we are only getting one side of the story here, but St. Joseph’s appears to have been offered a chance at offering an appropriate rebuttal and issued what amounts to a non-denial denial. This story won’t get as much attention as all the reports about players behaving badly or being offered extra benefits and it is a very rare occurrence (this is the first time it has happened in NCAA history), but it should not get swept under the rug.
  2. The latest Hoop Thoughts column by Seth Davis touches on a variety of topics including Khem Birch and other prominent freshmen who have left school after one semester or less. One of the interesting points that Davis makes is a reference to a piece by Luke Winn this summer that showed that players who switched high schools were more likely to decommit. Obviously, leaving a school after you have already enrolled there is a big step from switching commitments as a high school player, but it does suggest a certain lack of loyalty and stability. As our previous point noted, this issue can get more complicated if a school is unwilling to accept a young adult’s change of heart. If you caught Seth’s Twitter rant last night, you can be sure his Hoops Thoughts column may have looked very different if it were released today.
  3. One of the aforementioned freshmen who left school early (and attended multiple high schools) is Jabari Brown, the five-star recruit who left Oregon after less than a semester. Brown left Eugene under unclear circumstances and was soon followed be fellow freshman Bruce Barron. Reports yesterday indicate that Brown is headed to Missouri and cited his mother as saying that her son had a “good fit” with the system and Frank Haith. If Brown enrolls at Missouri, he could become eligible as early as next December and would be a big addition to a team that will lose quite a bit to graduation.
  4. Speaking of Oregon, the school was a victim of a cyber attack in the wake of its 67-54 loss to Virginia. The school’s website had a fake quote sheet for Oregon’s Dana Altman in which he was critical of the team’s pregame spaghetti and said he “wasn’t that impressed” with Virginia’s Mike Scott. The page has been scrubbed from the Internet although if you play around with Google Cache you can easily find it (ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan got a screen cap of it before it was taken down). We are sure that the people at Oregon were not amused by the stunt, but the fake quotes were fairly benign (other than the Mike Scott one) so while we don’t condone hacking this was pretty humorous (unless it happens to us).
  5. We usually try not to question the medical/personnel decisions of coaches and teams here, but the decision by Thad Matta to play Jared Sullinger today against Lamar is a strange one. As the interview session continued, Matta appeared to back off his assessment that Sullinger would play today and moved towards something more akin to probably play. Ohio State would be wise to remember that it was just this past Saturday when Sullinger, who was already battling back spasm, had to get x-rays on what appeared to be broken foot that turned out to be negative. If Matta has any doubt in his mind about Sullinger’s health, he should rest him for both Sullinger’s future and for that of this Buckeye team. The Buckeyes could probably play without Sullinger and any starter not named Aaron Craft and easily beat Lamar in Columbus.
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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2011

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • Memphis Drops From Top 25: Memphis is unranked following the program’s 76-72 loss to Murray State last week. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Memphis and catapulted the Racers into the Top 25. The Tigers received 13 votes in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches poll along with 27 votes in the Associated Press poll, neither number being high enough to keep Memphis in the rankings with a mediocre 5-3 start. The Tigers have a chance at redemption this Saturday when they travel to No. 4 Louisville for a pivotal non-conference game. Following that contest, they travel to No. 17 Georgetown on December 22, where they will look to avenge an early season overtime loss to the Hoyas.

Once Again, Memphis Has No Shortage Of Mental Miscues To Iron Out

  • Tulane Gains Votes, Syracuse Looms: Before losing its first contest of the season last week, the Tulane Green Wave were marching to the beat of an undefeated drum. And the national media took notice. In the December 5 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll, the Green Wave received some votes following a 9-0 start. Although the team didn’t receive any votes in Monday’s poll, they have a chance to prove themselves against top-ranked Syracuse on Dec. 22.
  • Washburn Gets Dap: UTEP freshman swingman Julian Washburn claimed his first C-USA Freshman of the Week Award on Monday, following a career-best performance in the Miners’ 73-69 win over non-conference rival New Mexico State. In the contest, Washburn recorded a career-high 16 points, three rebounds, four assists and a block. The win snapped a three game losing skid for the Miners and avenged an early season road loss to the Aggies on Nov. 19. Next up for UTEP is UNLV tonight at 10 PM ET. The Runnin’ Rebels are off to a 9-2 start, including a win over then-top ranked UNC. The Miners are statistically one of the worst offenses in the NCAA, ranking #320 overall. UNLV has had no problems offensively so far this season, averaging over 80 points a game, which is good for 24th in the nation.
  • Tarrant Gathers Accolades: Tulane freshman guard Ricky Tarrant chose a good time to deliver the best performance of his young career, gashing the Georgia Tech defense for 24 points, 20 of which were scored before halftime, en route to a 57-52 upset victory. Tarrant’s performance, which included a seven rebound effort, was good enough for him to take home both Conference USA Player and Freshman of the Week honors on December 5. It was Tarrant’s second consecutive Freshman of the Week honor, winning his first honor just a week earlier. The sweep marks the first time a freshman took home both weekly awards since 2008. In addition to the win over Georgia Tech, Tarrant helped the surging Green Wave past Southern earlier in the week.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl

Reader’s Take

 

Caught on Film

Conference USA Player of the Week Alandise Harris had the throwdown of the week with this dunk in a win over Arkansas that earned the top spot on ESPN’s Top Plays.

The Week That Was

  • Memphis Falls In Maui, Picks Itself Up: The 13th ranked Memphis Tigers have had an up-and-down beginning of their season, finishing with a total of 196 points in their two victories, while shooting a miserable 33 percent from the field in their lone loss to No. 15-ranked Michigan. The Tigers failed to find an offensive spark against the Wolverines, losing 73-61 in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday. Senior Charles Carmouche was the only Memphis player to shoot 50% in the game making six of his 12 attempted shots and finishing with a team-high 14 points. On Tuesday night, the Tigers redeemed themselves, holding on to narrowly defeat in-state foe Tennessee 99-97 in double overtime. Memphis was in control most of the way, but blew its ten-point halftime lead as the Volunteers surged late behind a stellar performance from junior Jeronne Maymon, who hit a game-tying shot in the closing second of regulation. He finished with 32 points and 20 rebounds while guard Will Barton had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomores Antonio Barton and freshman Adonis Thomas helped the Tigers, providing a spark off the bench and finishing with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Antonio, the little brother of Will, hit a crucial jump shot in the second overtime with a little over a minute remaining.
  • Rice, Marshall, Tulane Off To Hot Starts: While the conference’s current leaders—Rice, Marhsall, Tulane (all 4-0)—will see tougher competition in weeks to come, the three teams have gotten to the top of the conference standings by throttling weaker competition. Junior swingman Arsalan Kazemi has the Owls started in the right direction, averaging a double-double through the first four contests. Similarly, junior swingman Kendall Timmons has been an integral part of the Green Wave’s early season surge out of the conference cellar. Timmons is shooting a pristine 66.7% from the field while averaging 18.7 points a game for Tulane. The Thundering Herd are the least shocking of the unbeatens remaining in conference; however, they’ve taken advantage of a weak early schedule. Marshall can prove themselves in weeks to come when they play a pair of Big East giants—Cincinnati and Syracuse—on the road. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2011

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Reader’s Take

Despite having two teams earn bids into the NCAA Tournament last season, Conference USA walked away without a win.

 

Top Storylines

  • Can Memphis Pull Away?: While the Tigers have fielded strong teams since John Calipari left after the 2008-09 season, they’ve never had quite as much talent in that time as they figure to show this season. With essentially every notable contributor returning, a huge gap could form quickly. On the other hand, chemistry rarely comes instantly, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Memphis have a double-digit loss season, either.
  • Central Florida Continues To Build: Thanks partially to a soft non-conference schedule of six opponents with KenPom ratings 200 or lower and a non-D-I matchup, UCF cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history. While the Knights came down to Earth once conference play began, momentum is important no matter how it’s established. After winning two postseason games, we’re excited to see how the UCF follows up on a surprising season.
  • Realignment Hovers Over C-USA: Perhaps no single conference houses as many schools that were rumored to be on their way out than Conference USA, even if its membership ultimately stayed intact. East Carolina and UCF are frequently connected to the Big East; Memphis’ basketball program is as valuable a commodity as there is outside of the Power Six, and in its shakier days, the Big 12 could have found itself eyeing the Texas schools as a contingency plan in case the Longhorns and Sooners packed up for the Pac-12. It didn’t come to pass, but you have to wonder just what C-USA will look like in the long term.

This Year's Tigers, Led By Will Barton, Could Be Pastner's Most Talented Memphis Team Ever

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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