Seven Sweet Scoops: A Viewer’s Guide to the McDonald’s All-American Game

Posted by Sean Moran on April 2nd, 2014

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/7sweetscoops.png

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Tonight the top high school players in the country gather to participate in the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American game held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Twenty-four of the top ranked high school seniors will provide the college basketball world with a glimpse of what can be expected from the next touted class of youngsters on ESPN at 9:30 PM ET. The high school class of 2014 might not have the star power similar to last year in a game that featured the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon, but there are still several good storylines and match-ups to keep an eye on during tonight’s contest.

1. Chicago Natives At Home

There are three McDonald’s All-Americans from Chicago this year, including two of the top five players in the country. Five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star power forward Cliff Alexander will suit up for the East and West squads, respectively. The two played together on the AAU circuit this past summer and faced off in high school action several times over the last three years. Okafor is considered the No. 1 player in the country and is headed to Duke next year, while Alexander is ranked No. 5 and has committed to Kansas. Alexander put together a monster senior campaign, but it was Okafor who won the Illinois state title. Okafor and Alexander excel with different styles although they are both low post scorers. The 6’11” Okafor has the more refined post game and is almost impossible to stop in a one-on-one situation while Alexander is a DeAndre Jordan clone who looks to dunk and block everything in sight. While these two might not match up in tonight’s game, you can be certain that they will both have the hometown crowd on their feet. To go along with the Windy City twin towers, there is also diminutive 5’9” point guard Tyler Ulis (#29). The four-star prospect is headed to Kentucky and will be the quickest player on the court. The floor general is great at beating his man off the dribble and creating easy shots for his teammates. Ulis will suit up on the East squad along with Okafor, while Alexander will play for the West.

2. Where Will Myles Turner Go?

There is only one prospect in the game that remains uncommitted and he is 7’0” center Myles Turner, who is also the No. 2 ranked recruit in the country. This time last year the Texas native wasn’t even considered a top 100 player, but after a meteoric rise last summer he is now the hottest commodity in high school. Turner just recently took an official visit to Texas after previously visiting Ohio State, Duke, Oklahoma State and Kansas. He has also taken unofficial visits to SMU and Texas A&M, and is also reportedly considering Arizona and Kentucky. It’s been a whirlwind journey for Turner, who plans to sit down with his advisers and family after the Jordan Brand Classic to discuss his choice of suitors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: #3 Iowa State 85, #6 North Carolina 83

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Iowa State Just Took It From North Carolina. The Tar Heels did almost everything that it needed to do to win today. But Iowa State just wouldn’t let them. The last run, which went 21-9 in favor of the Cyclones over the last five minutes of action, was a clinic in offensive execution. On Iowa State’s last 11 possessions, they scored on nine of them, including four threes that wouldn’t allow the Tar Heels to pull away. For those of you wondering, that’s a 1.91 points per possession pace, which is simply outstanding for a team that appeared to have lost its legs in the middle of the second half. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that it’s not like UNC fell apart during that stretch. They scored on roughly half of their possessions during the same period, and EVEN hit a back-breaker of a three by Leslie McDonald with a minute-and-a-half left as well as two free throws from James Michael McAdoo (of all people) with 15 ticks to go. North Carolina made plays to win; it’s just that Iowa State made more of them.
  2. DeAndre Kane Pulled a Dwyane Wade Today. Without beefy forward Georges Niang in the lineup to relieve some of the offensive pressure, DeAndre Kane decided to pull out his cape and turn into a Dwyane Wade clone, replete with a ridiculous one-handed dunk down the lane as well as an extremely athletic driving layup to win the game. It was quite reminiscent of a younger Wade tearing up defense at Marquette a decade ago, and the stat line — 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, on 9-of-18 shooting – supports that comparison. It’s an overused cliche, but it seems to fit here — Kane was not going to leave this building without a victory today.
  3. The Final Play. After Kane’s driving layup for the win, I kept my eyes on the clock and noticed that it was stuck at 1.6 seconds even after North Carolina had inbounded the ball and started dribbling upcourt. It only started running once the Tar Heel player had gotten near midcourt, and then it ran out completely. It didn’t surprise me at all that the final call was that the game was over, because it felt like at least two seconds were spent dribbling. It was a really unfortunate way to end the game, but UNC perhaps should have thought to use one of those two remaining timeouts after the ball went through the net. For those couple of minutes, the North Carolina fans behind me were as quiet as a church mouse — everyone just watching the officials and trying to read the body language. Just a fantastic game all the way around, and Iowa State a deserving victor.

Star of the Game: DeAndre Kane, Iowa State. He was the player who kept Iowa State alive when North Carolina was surging, and of course his all-around floor game resulted in a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, the school’s first in over a decade.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.21.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 21st, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

South Region

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

What North Carolina Needs to Do to Beat Providence

Posted by Chris Kehoe on March 19th, 2014

North Carolina has its hands full tonight with its first round match-up against #11 Providence. The Friars are red-hot at the moment, coming off a Big East Tournament title that included an upset win over Creighton. Head coach Ed Cooley placed a premium on winning the title in Madison Square Garden because the Friars hadn’t won it since 1994 and only once in the past 34 years. Providence may have lucked out in avoiding top seed Villanova after the Wildcats were upset by Seton Hall at the buzzer, but they still managed to get past the Bluejays and college basketball’s likely NPOY. The Friars’ best player, senior guard Bryce Cotton, was a unanimous first team all-Big East selection and he is a handful for any defense. A capable scorer who has increased his distribution skills this year, Cotton is much like North Carolina’s Marcus Paige in that they are both rail-thin, ball-dominating guards that are relied upon heavily from the perimeter. Their battle at that position will be one of the key match-ups in this game, and if Paige can play Cotton even or better, the Tar Heels will be well positioned to advance.

Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

The competitor in Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton ( Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: Pittsburgh 80, #15 North Carolina 75

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Marcus Paige has been a revelation this season. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige has been a revelation this season. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

  1. Pittsburgh finally got its big win. The Panthers were on the bubble coming into the ACC Tournament, but a dominant beatdown of Wake Forest and a convincing (albeit close) win against North Carolina puts the Panthers squarely where they should be talking about seeding rather than sweating on Selection Sunday. The Panthers are healthy and have two great players in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. This team finally lived up to its computer profile. They pass the ball very well (when not being trapped in the backcourt, but more on that later), but most importantly, the way Pittsburgh plays there are no obvious weaknesses for opponents to exploit.
  2. North Carolina can’t keep starting slow. It’s a dangerous game to play. It’s even worse when you consider the Tar Heels appear to expect a perfect performance from Marcus Paige in the second half of every game. That said, give major credit to the Roy Williams for going to the press in the final quarter of the game. Pittsburgh really struggled with the pressure, and it got the North Carolina team (and crowd) back in the game. But there’s no reason this team should have stretches like the 3-of-19 start to open the contest. All that said, North Carolina almost pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks I’ve ever seen. They never quit, almost seeming to forget about the first three quarters of the game. That could pay dividends later.
  3. These are both good teams. Good enough to make a deep run in the Big Dance (or lose the first weekend). After the game, Paige was asked how they had lived up to his expectations.

    “The season is not over for us. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot that could happen in the next however many weeks that could change that answer. I think we have dreams and goals of making the deep Tournament run and I think we’re capable of doing that. A lot of it rests on that. We’re pleased with the way we’ve been able to fight back and win 12 games in a row and put ourselves in the good position. That’s not what our expectation was coming into the year. That’s what really made this month.”

    Couldn’t say it any better myself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Sentimental Value: On the Notion of an ACC Regular Season Crown

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on March 14th, 2014

Since many of the ACC’s founding members sprang from what was known as the ‘Southern Conference’ in 1953, the ACC adopted many of the SoCon’s mannerisms and bylaws. The Southern Conference traditionally anointed a champion via their postseason tournament and out of that came their postseason automatic bid. Ever since the ACC formalized the wording of a similarly fateful decision in 1961, the ACC regular season title has been all but a formality. The idea behind awarding a postseason victor in a short and somewhat chaotic multi-day tournament setting was to provide a free-for-all environment that was both entertaining and unpredictable. This ACC Tournament gave lower seeded teams who had a less successful regular season a chance at making The Big Dance. And back in the day and age where these rules were first enacted, only 15 teams were awarded chances at the NCAA Tournament, making a bid all that more valuable and cherished.

Is ACC Tournament success a strong indicator of NCAA Tournament success?

Is the ACC Tournament success a strong indicator of NCAA Tournament success? Florida State parlayed a win in the tournament in 2012 into a solid showing in the Big Dance.

In a format where games are played on top of each other with little or no rest or time to prepare, less superior teams would essentially be able to pull a win out regardless of their records. But while all the other major conferences today at least recognize officially the regular season champion, why has the ACC lagged behind is perplexing to say the least. The ACC finally began paying homage to the regular season winners in 1990, and retroactively recognized the winners from 1954-1989 in that same year. But why it took them so long, and why more conferences do not go along with the Ivy League method of a regular season champion is beyond me. ESPN‘s entrance into the foray and emphasis placed on Championship Week may have something to do with it, glamorizing the end of season postseason tournaments as bubble bursting madness.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Bracket Watch: March 8 Update

Posted by Chris Kehoe on March 8th, 2014

A lot can change in the world of college hoops as it relates to the NCAA Tournament, and recently, a lot has. Since the last update we did in early February, Syracuse is no longer undefeated; Virginia is the regular season champion; and UNC has embarked on a mind-boggling winning streak. While the top tier of the ACC has become even more clear since Pittsburgh fell off the face of the Earth, most of the ACC bubble teams living in the #7-#10 seed range have largely disappointed on their way to the outside looking in — surely perennial bubbler and current ESPN personality Seth Greenberg can relate from his ACC days. But while tallies in the loss column have mounted high enough for Syracuse and Duke to be largely removed from #1 seed consideration, Virginia has quietly pushed itself into the discussion. The Cavaliers find themselves in this position thanks to its 16 conference wins and the startling point differential in which they secured them.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett must be ecstatic with the Cavaliers' most recent bracket projection (photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia coach Tony Bennett must be ecstatic with the Cavaliers’ most recent bracket projection (photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

So while North Carolina and Virginia’s stocks are soaring, Syracuse and Duke have taken a hit. It remains to be seen if the ACC can land a bid outside of its top four programs, but at this juncture it seems improbable. Since the last update, Florida State and Pittsburgh have both fallen into a steep decline. Jamie Dixon’s team remains close, residing in and around most people’s ‘Last Four Out’ category, but the Seminoles are nowhere to be found. N.C. State also created some February rumblings about making a run at the bubble until the Wolfpack lost badly to Clemson and Miami in a period of two weeks. The ACC Tournament provides the sole venue for teams seeking an automatic bid, but a team running through the slate of Syracuse, UNC, Virginia and/or Duke seems rather daunting at this point.

‘Busting the Bracket’ Projected ACC Seeding*

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Challenging the Narrative: Marcus Paige Has “Unpredictable” North Carolina Rolling

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 28th, 2014

College basketball media coverage is predictable. Early in the season, teams become associated with certain narratives. As teams evolve over the course of the season, the narratives may seem less and less apt, but we do our best to hang on to them as long as possible. Some teams don’t change enough to warrant a reconsideration of the way they’re written and talked about. Others change so much, and so quickly, that by February we can’t possibly attempt to re-apply the labels we slapped on them in November and December. Let’s run through some examples.

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins (Getty Images).

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins. (Getty Images)

  • Iowa: “KenPom likes ‘em, but they can’t win the close games.”
  • Michigan State: ‘Boy, if this team ever gets healthy, it’s winning it all. Mark it down.”
  • Kentucky: “So much talent, but not enough leadership.”
  • Louisville: “Pitino’s guys can really play, but without Chane Behanan, that frontcourt is going to be an issue come March.”
  • And, my personal favorite, North Carolina: “I have no idea what to expect from this team on a nightly basis.”

The origin of the unpredictability the Heels have become known for this season is easy to pinpoint. Over its first nine games of the season, Carolina beat then-No. 1 Michigan State, then-No. 11 Kentucky, and then-No. 3 Louisville. It also lost at home to Belmont (ranked #73 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings at the time) and on the road against UAB (#66). This mix of great wins and baffling losses didn’t sit well with us narrative architects. How does one go about describing a team that’s so unpredictable? It was maddening. That’s how Carolina earned its reputation as the most unpredictable team in the country. Trust Carolina at your own peril, was the thought. The only thing we thought we knew about the Heels was how much we didn’t know. Which is to say, a lot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 28th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the season winding down, UCLA appears to be looking at a fairly high seed (we have seen anywhere from 4-7 in brackets), but we have to wonder about them going forward after Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, the team’s two best players were suspended for last night’s game against Oregon. The outcome of last night’s game isn’t nearly as important as the suspensions–one game each for “violating team rules”. That could certainly mean a lot of things, but it has to make you wonder about the mindset of Anderson (14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game) and Adams (17.2 points per game) heading into March.
  2. It has been a few weeks since we had heard much about the North Carolina academic scandal so we were a bit surprised to see that Business Week had decided to make it this week’s cover story. For those who have followed this story there is not anything particularly shocking in the story, but it will only serve to further damage the school’s reputation. At this point it seems unlikely that either the NCAA or any governing body will take significant action against the school and you can argue that print media is dying, but having that cover on newsstands across the world certainly won’t help North Carolina’s brand.
  3. For the Tar Heel fans who might be feeling a little down after yet another mainstream media source took a shot at the school for their handle of the academic scandal, Grantland has a feature on a topic–the 2005 title team–that should serve as a way to perk you up. Except that it is about how the key players on that team failed to live up to expectations. We don’t mind to pile on Tar Heel fans today, but it is an interesting topic particularly when you consider that you can make a strong case for that team being one of the top teams since 2000. Oh, and if you want to know if Illinois fans are still upset about losing that title game check out the comment section.
  4. Bill Self might not want to play Wichita State, but that does not mean he does not appreciate what they are doing. When asked about the Shockers, Self reiterated his stance that he would continue to schedule games to help his program not others. This certainly won’t endear him to Wichita State fans, but Self did come out in support of the Shockers as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they are undefeated when Selection Sunday rolls around. Honestly, we don’t understand how anybody could believe that the Selection Committee would pass on an undefeated team much less one that made it to the Final Four last year (yes, we know the last part shouldn’t matter).
  5. By now you should know that we basically link Luke Winn’s Power Rankings almost every week. It’s not that Luke pays us (that would be a nice gift though), but it is because it is one of the few columns that we learn something new from every week. This week the two things that jump out at us are the block matrix that Luke created and how Xavier Thames‘ usage and production has decreased recently. The part of the block matrix that jumped out at us is how underrated Chris Obekpa is as a defender. He won’t generate the headlines that Joel Embiid does mainly because of Obekpa’s limited offensive repertoire, but these numbers suggest that he might be able to find his way onto a NBA roster some day. As for Thames, being on the East Coast we do not get to see as much of him as we would like, but the graph showing his drop in usage and production is instructive if you are trying to figure out what is wrong with San Diego State.
Share this story

Rushed Reaction: #24 North Carolina 105, Wake Forest 72

Posted by nvr1983 on February 22nd, 2014

rushedreactions

Here are our observations after North Carolina crushed Wake Forest, 105-72:

  1. UNC will be an extremely difficult out in March. This shouldn’t be too much a surprise after their early season victories against Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky, but for much of the season the Tar Heels were dogged by the perception that they were inconsistent and for good reason. Mixed in with their big early wins the Tar Heels also had some awful losses–at home against Belmont and Miami and on the road against UAB and Wake Forest. Since their loss at Virginia on January 20, the Tar Heels have won nine straight and are starting to display the type of consistency that they will need to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Some of their win streak can be attributed by the current weak state of the ACC, but it also includes wins against Duke and Pittsburgh. Current bracket projections have the Tar Heels being anything between a #5 and #8 seed after this week they should be somewhere near the top of that range.
  2. Jeff Bzdelik needs a real estate agent. I know that the Wake Forest administration showed a lot of faith in Bzdelik by firing Dino Gaudio, who had taken them to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, to hire Bzdelik, who was 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado. With nearly three seasons in the books in Winston-Salem, Bzdelik is approaching 30 games under .500. Ron Wellman talked about culture when he hired Bzdelik, but we doubt that he was thinking of this type of culture at the time. At this point we would be shocked if Bzdelik returned next season so the question really is who will replace him. The two names that get thrown around for every power conference vacancy are Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland, but we cannot see either of them going to Wake Forest with the options they will have in front of them. Perhaps the most interesting potential candidate we have heard is Jeff Capel, who has experience at Oklahoma and knows the ACC well sitting alongside Mike Krzyzewski. We obviously have our reservations about hiring a retread who went 27-36 A.B. (after Blake Griffin departed), but he would be a relatively safe hire and one with some decent credentials.
  3. Roy Williams seems much more relaxed. Early in the season there were rumors that this might be Roy’s last year. Those were obviously premature particularly with what appears to be an outstanding freshman class coming in. Still everybody who followed the Tar Heels could clearly tell that this team and this season was taking a toll on Roy. The turnaround in how the Tar Heels are playing has led to Roy’s mood to improve significantly (shocking). Although Williams is certainly not young at 63 years old, we would be looking at some of his colleagues in the ACC to retire before we would expect Roy to do so.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Podblast: Wacky Week Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2014

Start your weekend off right, with the RTC Podblast, a quick review of the week that was and a look ahead to the weekend that comes. It was a wacky week of college basketball, with some really odd results, but as we approach the two-week mark until the end of the regular season, it’s likely to only get nuttier as desperation sets in for many teams. Join us as we do our best to work through some takeaways from all of the action.

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast/podblast on iTunes so that you’ll get all of the episodes immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-4:18 – BC Stuns Syracuse!
  • 4:18-10:41 – UNC Rushes the Court Against Duke (oh yeah, they won the game too)
  • 10:41-18:10 – Weekend Preview
Share this story

Tobacco Road Rivalry Morphs into Friendly Bond in Los Angeles

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 14th, 2014

Both Ryan Kelly and Kendall Marshall were highly regarded prospects coming out of their respective high schools in the south — Marshall from Bishop O’Connell in Northern Virginia and Kelly from Ravenscroft Academy in the heart of ACC country, North Carolina. Marshall was the pure, pass-first point guard who at 6’4” could see over the top of most defenders, and Kelly was a 6’11” reed thin stretch-four. Both chose to play in the ACC, but at different programs that happened to be a part of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. Marshall went to North Carolina, where he bid his time behind Larry Drew until he set an UNC single-season record with 351 assists and won the Bob Cousy Award his sophomore season at Chapel Hill. While Marshall was breaking records in his first two seasons as a Tar Heel, Kelly had a longer and more arduous route to prominence as a Blue Devil in Durham. Kelly really emerged as a junior and senior, where he began to average over 25 minutes per game and double figure points. He clearly became an integral part of Duke’s interior defense as well, not rebounding extremely well for his size but being a great help defender, communicator and rim protector alongside Miles and Mason Plumlee. His defining moment came in his return from injury in a 36-point performance versus a loaded ACC champion Miami (FL) team at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Kendall Marshall & Ryan Kelly cheer on the Lakers bench (lostlettermen.com)

Kendall Marshall & Ryan Kelly cheer on the Lakers bench (lostlettermen.com)

Unfortunately during their collegiate careers, both Kelly and Marshall suffered through rough injuries, Kelly with a recurring foot problem that caused him to miss a good stretch of games and Marshall’s fractured wrist which took him out of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. But even after his wrist injury, Marshall declared for the NBA Draft and was taken in the late lottery at 13 by the Phoenix Suns, one pick before UNC teammate John Henson. A product of a crowded backcourt of Goran Dragic, Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair and even Jared Dudley, Marshall struggled to find consistent playing time. But, Marshall also lacked the ability to create for himself, score in isolation, or shoot from the perimeter. His size was a huge benefit at the next level but his lack of elite athleticism had people worried if he would ever make it in the NBA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story