Summer School in the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 27th, 2010

Around The Big 12:

  • One Foot Out The Door: The big news in the Big 12 is that it’s no longer the Big 12.  This season will be the final season with the Big 12 as we know it.  Nebraska departs for the Big Ten and Colorado will eventually make the jump to the Pac-10, either in 2011 or 2012.  Either way, the transformation in the conference has major implications as far as basketball is concerned, as the unbalanced schedule that has existed since the league’s inception goes away, and a new 18-game conference slate could become the norm.  In an ideal world, no more excuses – everybody plays everybody at home and on the road from here on out.
  • New Coaches: Two teams in the conference will have new head coaches in 2010. Colorado lost Jeff Bzdelik to Wake Forest and his self-described dream job.  The timing couldn’t have been worse for Colorado, as the program seemed to be gaining some traction, and any time there is a lack of stability, it can hurt a program.  In terms of the hire itself, Tad Boyle from Northern Colorado doesn’t necessarily have the name recognition, but he was able to keep all the current pieces in place for Colorado and in the short term, that’s very important.  Things at Iowa State didn’t necessarily shake out quite as well.  The Cyclones are bringing back “The Mayor,” Fred Hoiberg, who has an extremely limited coaching resume, but tremendous amount of clout with the Iowa State faithful.  The program lost the top two players from a year ago and then some.  With the new start and a fresh face on the bench, it’s a full-blown rebuilding job awaiting an Ames legend.
  • Diaper Dandies: The Big 12 has made a name for itself as a league that can reload. This year is no exception; around the league, a host of high-profile recruits join various programs, ensuring the viability of the league as a basketball power for the future.  Perry Jones at Baylor, Josh Selby at Kansas, Tony Mitchell at Missouri and both Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph at Texas join each respective program as big-time national recruits. The only problem right now is that both Tiger and Jayhawk fans are awaiting eligibility news related to their blue chip talents.
  • An I-70 Battle: Three teams situated on or very close to Interstate 70 look poised to battle for the conference title.  In years past, the gripe from the Big 12 South has always been the competitively unbalanced schedule and the built-in advantage that it provided Kansas in winning the conference.  In 2010, three North teams in Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri all appear to be legitimate contenders for the conference crown.  Mike Anderson and Frank Martin have done a tremendous job in recruiting players to their respective programs, developing talent and getting the buy-in that it takes to step onto the national stage.  Both appear to be inching ever closer to Bill Self and the Jayhawks and the three-way “rivalry” will no doubt play a major role in who wins the Big 12.

With or without Josh Selby, Kansas is ready to defend its string of six consecutive regular season conference titles.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas: When you lose three starters, the common belief is that you will take a step back.  With Kansas however, the cupboard is far from bare.  The Jayhawks were easily one of the deepest teams in the country a year ago and while losing Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich certainly isn’t an easy pill to swallow, Kansas returns a Big 12 POY candidate in Marcus Morris, depth and talent at every position, and they add one of the top recruits in the country in McDonald’s All-American Josh Selby, who as of this writing, has yet to be cleared to play. Two players who could prove critical to success in 2010 are Markieff Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Both have enjoyed success off and on in their careers thus far, but neither has found the consistency or leadership on the court that’s necessary to be viewed as a leader.  With the turnover in the program, the opportunity is there for one or both to make that leap.
  2. Kansas State: The Wildcats return a good amount of talent from their Elite Eight team of a year ago.  Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly could easily represent the best inside-outside combination in the league. But the biggest reason to not doubt Kansas State is their coach, Frank Martin. A hire that was highly criticized when it was made, Martin’s move to the head job in Manhattan has proven to be a great one. His teams play an extremely hard, tough, physical brand of basketball, and as a coach, he’s found a way to put together a team that buys into that style.  The biggest question mark will be finding a way to replace Denis Clemente, arguably the most athletic player in the Big 12 a year ago.  Martin will look to sophomores Rodney McGruder and Wally Judge to step up and provide support for the Wildcats as they battle for the conference title
  3. Missouri: Mike Anderson has stocked up on quality depth and added the top recruiting class in the conference to boot.  While the eligibility of blue-chip talent Tony Mitchell remains a question mark, the Tigers have made another major addition on the interior in the top ranked junior college forward, Ricardo Ratliffe. The biggest thing the Tigers will have to replace is leadership.  The departures of seniors J.T. Tiller, Keith Ramsey and Zaire Taylor aren’t major blows in terms of production, but they are in terms of leadership.  All three were part of the initial transition from the Quin Snyder era to Anderson and all three were in the top four in minutes played a year ago.  The talent in Columbia is there for a Big 12 run, the question is who will lead them? Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 08.24.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2010

  1. College athletic departments are not immune to the economic downturn either, as the NCAA reported that only fourteen of the 120 FCS (I-AA) schools turned a profit in the 2008-09 fiscal year.  Specific names were not released, but some of the usual suspects were confirmed by Transylvania University accounting professor Dan Fulks, who performed the research – Texas, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.   Slightly more than half of the I-AA schools made money in both football and basketball, but the range between the two was quite a bit larger at the big football powerhouses.  It goes to show just how important these two cash cows are for athletic departments, though, as so few are actually turning a profit due to subsidizing the other sports.
  2. LSU guard Bo Spencer did not meet the school’s academic requirements, so the two-year starter who averaged 15/3/3 APG last season was dismissed from Trent Johnson’s program and will transfer to Nebraska as a walk-on, eligible to play in the 2011-12 campaign.  Yes, you read that correctly — he was unable to make the grade at LSU.   Regardless, Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler said that Spencer is not guaranteed a scholarship even for the year that he plays.  As an interesting side note, Spencer will sit the bench watching his teammates play Big 12 teams next year, but he will be playing Big Ten teams in his senior season after Nebraska changes conference affiliation.
  3. Hey, we enjoy college football as much as the next guy — if you’re a fan of college sports, how can you not?  But this is also the time of year when all the holier-than-thous come out of the woodwork (when every team is 0-0 and therefore still eligible for the national title game, unless your name is Utah, Boise State or TCU…) to tell us about the beauty and sanctity of the CFB regular season.  To that we say: get over yourselves.  If the entire regular season is a ‘playoff,’ then when teams lose one (and most definitely, two) game(s), we don’t want to hear about said team any more this season.  Of course, the hype machine doesn’t work that way (how many Notre Dame games in the last decade have been relevant?  One?), which goes to show that the entire argument is built on a house of cards anyway.
  4. Texas guard Varez Ward is leaving the Longhorn program and his likely destination, according to the Dallas Morning News, is Auburn.  Ward is supposedly moving closer to his Montgomery, Alabama, home to be closer to his mother who suffers from a heart condition.  Ward, as you recall, blew out his knee early last season in a bizarre incident in the layup line at the CBE Classic.  He was expected to have been a significant contributor last year, so even with super-frosh Cory Joseph in the fold, this is a definite blow to Rick Barnes’ backcourt depth, as described in detail over at Burnt Orange Nation.  Ward received a medical redshirt for last season, so he’ll have three years of eligibility left when he joins Tony Barbee’s club next year.
  5. The long national nightmare is over in Minneapolis, as Trevor Mbakwe finally suited up as a Gopher after a year in limbo as a result of his felony assault charge in Miami.  As we mentioned ten days ago, Mbakwe entered a diversionary program that will allow him to work off the charge through community service.  He expects to have that completed prior to Minnesota’s first regular season game in early November.  The Gophers are practicing this week in preparation for a trip to Canada during Labor Day weekend, and Mbakwe’s size and strength inside — he hopes to lead the conference in rebounding — should help Tubby Smith’s team reach its goals for another trip to the NCAA Tournament and a finish in the top half of the Big Ten.  Below is an interview he did yesterday showing how excited he is to finally get to lace them up…

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RTC Class Schedule 2010-11: Texas Longhorns

Posted by zhayes9 on August 15th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After looking at Kansas last week, here’s a breakdown of Big 12 foe Texas and their quest to avenge last season’s disappointing collapse:

Gary Johnson: no longer a role player

Team Outlook: Rick Barnes lost three of his most productive players from last year’s up-and-down campaign. The fact that all three of those cogs were selected in the top-32 of the NBA Draft renders their descent from #1 ranked team to first round flameout all that more disturbing. Barnes and his burnt orange faithful are ready to look forward to a new season where, due to the incredible depth assembled last season, the drop-off talent wise isn’t monumental. While Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas are primed to finish in some order atop the Big 12, Texas isn’t too far behind. It’s also not blasphemy to suggest that the loss of a handful of bodies could be addition by subtraction for a coach that often struggled to maintain a consistent rotation. From scoring wing Jordan Hamilton to the rugged play of Gary Johnson to the lockdown defense of Dogus Balbay and a star studded recruiting class, the Longhorns could very well see their season last longer than it did last March.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8.5. Coach Barnes has never been shy about loading up his non-conference schedule. That strategy certainly didn’t change in 2010 with a number of powerhouse programs both on the road and in Austin featured on the slate. After two warm-ups at home, Texas will travel to NYC for the 2K Sports Classic and face Illinois, a projected top-25 team that returns nearly all of their production from a year ago. Emerge victorious and it’s likely the Longhorns will face a Pitt team that brings back everyone but Jermaine Dixon from a squad that collected a #3 seed out of the always-challenging Big East. Texas was paired with USC in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood series game to be played out in LA. Finally, four rematch games will provide Texas with a challenge- December 18 vs. North Carolina in Greensboro, four days later in a true road game at Michigan State and two early January home dates with Arkansas and Connecticut.

Cupcake City: To avoid burning out his team, Barnes did schedule a few walkover games. Louisiana Tech is one of the two warm-ups for New York, but the Bulldogs lost both Kyle Gibson and Magnum Rolle. Sam Houston State is on the slate, a program that gave Baylor a brief scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March, yet once again they were hit hard by graduation. Texas State could contend in the Southland with a fair share of talent returning. Other squads on the slate include North Florida, Lamar, Coppin State and Rice with none of these contests on the road or on neutral floors. The Longhorns should cruise through these games.

Toughest Early Season Test: A matchup with Pitt at NYC would provide a stiff test, but this one isn’t even close: a true road game at Michigan State, a team that could easily be #1 in the nation when the Longhorns invade the Breslin Center. State only lost Raymar Morgan to graduation off of  last year’s Final Four club that completed the run without the services of star point guard and potential First Team All-America Kalin Lucas. Other than possibly Jacob Pullen, containing Lucas sets up to be Balbay and stud freshman Cory Joseph’s toughest task. Forwards Gary Johnson and the other star frosh Tristan Thompson will have their hands full with a healthy Delvon Roe and Draymond Green. The Spartans are also incredibly deep and always well-coached. Still, they have been vulnerable in the last couple seasons to losses on their home floor. Texas will need an A+ effort to accomplish that feat.

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Morning Five: 05.14.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 13th, 2010

  1. Luke Winn calls it the Year of the Scramble with respect to prospective NBA Draft entries having to make their decisions so quickly this year (two weeks after declaration), and he talks to six players who all thought they didn’t have enough time.  We haven’t done an exhaustive search, but we’ve yet to see anyone taking the stance that the  new deadline is a good thing.  Maybe this spring’s groundswell of negativity will inspire the NCAA to address this foolish rule as soon as possible.
  2. Texas players Varez Ward and Shawn Williams have received medical hardship awards, which will mean that the few games each played last season will not count against them.  Ward, who you may recall injured his right quad during warmups in the CBE Classic, will return as a redshirt sophomore, while Williams will be a redshirt freshman.
  3. How powerful is Roy Williams as a national recruiter?  We’ll find out very soon, as UNC is getting in very late with two big men who are still available after coaching changes — 6’11 Kevin Noreen and 6’7 Marcus Thornton — to replace the recently-departed Wear twins.  Noreen is a Minneapolis native who originally signed with Boston College and is trying to get out of his commitment now that Al Skinner is no longer in Chestnut Hill, while Thornton was released from his LOI after Oliver Purnell left Clemson earlier this spring.
  4. TrueHoop reports that several NBA general managers believe that Lebron James is headed to become the next great Chicago Bull, but the question around these parts is whether that would inspire a certain itinerant college coach to join him for the chance of a lifetime?  John Calipari’s AD of course believes that his guy will be back in Lexington next year, but you have to believe that if the best player in the world wants Calipari to coach him, he’ll get his wish.
  5. We mentioned the other day that former Baylor head coach Dave Bliss had been hired at a Texas high school despite the long trail of skeletons behind him, so it’s only fair that we now give him a chance to defend himself and his new life.  Thanks to SRI for reaching out to him to an interview.
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ATB: The A-10 Rises. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2009

atb
In our first college football-free weekend of the season (except for Mark Ingram’s Heisman and ESPN’s phenomenal documentary on “The U”) we had quite a few interesting story lines from the weekend, but one stood out on Sunday — the pair of upset victories by Atlantic 10 teams over highly ranked Big East teams in crosstown rivalry games (Temple against Villanova and Xavier against Cincinnati). Not only does it give those individual programs some bragging rights and a much needed boost on the recruiting trail, but it also gives a huge lift to the national perception of the Atlantic 10 and might cause some consternation amongst the Big East fans who like to promote their conference as the best in the nation for college basketball.

A great night for Xavier and the A-10 (Credit: AP/David Kohl)

A great night for Xavier and the A-10 (Credit: AP/David Kohl)

The A-10 Rising

  • Xavier 78, #19 Cincinnati 75 (2 OT). This might not be as shocking to the rest of the nation, but it might go down as the game of the year so far. It had a little bit of everything you could ask for in a game at this point of the season. Bitter rivalry? Check. Physical play? Check. Biting fan chants? Check (Brian Kelly). Big comeback? Check. Buzzer beater? Check (later waved off). National TV audience? Not so much thanks to ESPNU’s sparse national penetration, but RTC Live was there. In the end it was Terrell Holloway‘s 26 points and Jason Love‘s 19 rebounds that were the difference as the Musketeers overcame 22 points from Lance Stephenson in a game where neither team led by more than 4 points during the last 19 minutes of the game and that was only after the Bearcats fouled Xavier in an attempt to get the ball back when Dion Dixon missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with 21 seconds left in the second overtime.  To get a really good feel as to how intense this game was, definitely read our accounting from RTC Live above and check the highlight package below.

  • Temple 75, #3 Villanova 65: The Owls used an 11-0 run to start the 2nd half to overcome a 6-point deficit at halftime to knock off the Wildcats. The story of the game was Juan Fernandez who scored 33 points including 7 of 9 from 3-point range to knock off the highest ranked Big East team coming into the weekend. While the casual basketball fan will consider this a huge upset, those of us who follow college basketball closely knew that this would be a tough game for Jay Wright‘s crew against a team that had only lost by one to Georgetown (still undefeated) and St. John’s (only one loss by nine against Duke). The Wildcats managed to keep it relatively close with 23 from Scottie Reynolds, 16 from Antonio Pena, and 14 from Corey Fisher, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome Fernandez, 20 points from Ryan Brooks, and 10 points and 17 rebounds from Lavoy Allen. The loss was just the 2nd loss for Villanova in their last 23 games against one of their Big 5 rivals. After the victory, the fans began chanting, “We want Kansas!” in reference to their upcoming game on January 2nd. We love what the Owls have done so far this season, but the student body might want to be careful what they wish for because they might just get it. One bright spot for Villanova fans: Reggie Redding (think he might have been helpful against Allen today?) will return to action against Fordham on Saturday in his first action since he was suspended ten games for his arrest for possession of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.

In other action…

Saturday’s Games.

  • #1 Kansas 90, La Salle 65: The Jayhawks were able to overcame an off-night from Sherron Collins (1/12 FG) thanks to a season-high 31 points from Xavier Henry (the last KU freshman to score 30 points in a game was some guy named Paul Pierce) and a 12-point, 12-rebound effort from Markieff Morris. Cole Aldrich added 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 blocks while Tyshawn Taylor had 10 points and 6 assists with no turnovers. The Jayhawks’ next two games should be a bit more competitive as they face a pair of teams—Michigan (12/19) and California (12/22)—that have failed to live up to preseason expectations, but both have a lot of talent.

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Morning Five: Turkey Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

morning5

  1. It turns out that the layup-line injury to Texas guard Varez Ward suffered Tuesday night was indeed as bad as it looked.  He will miss the entire season with a ruptured quadriceps, and surgery is scheduled for next week.  It’s a tough break for Rick Barnes’ team, but the good news is that he’s loaded in the backcourt with J’Covan Brown, Avery Bradley and Dogus Balbay all currently vying for minutes, and Jai Lucas becoming eligible at semester’s end.   Texas will be fine.
  2. Bob Huggins announced on Wednesday that his star forward Devin Ebanks will make his debut in Thursday’s first round game at the 76 Classic against Long Beach State.  The world may never know what ‘personal issues’ struck Ebanks over the last week, but we hope that whatever it was it’s settled.
  3. On a related note, UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic has also been reinstated to play in Thursday’s 76 Classic by head coach Ben Howland, but he is not expected to start in James Keefe’s place just yet.
  4. Jeff Goodman totally one-upped us on our recent tour de basketball by ending up in San Juan, PR, but he shares with us ten things he learned on this road trip.   Major disagreement on one point, though.  We didn’t find Evan Turner to be all that inconsistent in NYC last week — after all, he had 49/25/10 assts in two games on 18-28 shooting.  We did have 14 turnovers, however, so we assume that’s what Goodman is referring to here.  Sure, he may struggle as a point guard at times, especially in terms of decisionmaking, but we’re really not seeing him having many struggles in terms of a player — his average game on a given night is still better than all but about ten players in the country, in our humble opinion.  And when he’s dialed in, we’re not sure there’s anyone better.
  5. One of our favorite annual columns from Seth Davis is when he predicts the top ten breakout sophomores for the upcoming season.  Last year he was right on the money with several, including superstars Jeff Teague, Kalin Lucas and Chris Wright.  This year’s column has a couple of interesting choices (Larry Drew II and Tony Woods come to mind), and we’re wondering how nobody among UCLA’s sophomore corps can be on the list, but it makes for interesting debate and discussion.

Finally, have a Happy Thanksgiving of Hoops, everyone!

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Texas Longhorns

Posted by zhayes9 on September 2nd, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

The primary debate throughout college basketball this offseason is not who should claim the top spot in the polls in early November. It’s fairly evident Kansas is the near-unanimous choice and the most talented team in the land on paper. Instead, the serious discussion will surround which team should hold the rights to the #2 spot in the country after the Jayhawks. Some will say Kentucky and their immense talent, or Villanova and their elite backcourt. Some will argue Duke or North Carolina or Michigan State deserve the nod. My money is on Kansas’ main Big 12 foe: the Texas Longhorns.

Losing the all-time Big 12 leader in three point field goals, a 16.6 points per game scorer and a guard who played over 35 minutes per contest the last three seasons will be an adjustment for coach Rick Barnes. Consistency wasn’t always A.J. Abrams’ forte, but the constant threat he posed from outside would stretch defenses and help teammates find easier lanes to the basket. Even with Abrams gone, the backcourt looks strong led by holdover Dogus Balbay, a tremendous passer, and Florida transfer Jai Lucas, an elite guard that played thirty minutes per game for Billy Donovan just two seasons ago and shot 44% from deep. The #1 recruit in the entire nation according to ESPN, Avery Bradley, also joins the backcourt as an attacking wing that can hit mid-range jumpers and defend like a senior. Talented guard J’Covan Brown also joins the fray after missing last season due to academics.

95248361_Texas_v_Rice[1]

The frontcourt also looks strong, bolstered by the return of Damion James for another campaign in Austin after testing the NBA Draft waters. James nearly averaged a double-double as a junior and could very well accomplish said feat in 2009-10. Another top-ten recruit, small forward Jordan Hamilton, has the potential to be a huge scoring force for Texas. Hamilton is an exceptional shooter with a long wingspan that can finish at the rim with equal prowess. Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson, two monsters inside, both return as double-digit scorers a year ago. Justin Mason and Varez Ward are the glue guys on the perimeter defending and contributing when needed. This team is loaded and could challenge Kansas for the top spot in the country at some point.

How does the schedule play out for my #2 team in the nation? Let’s examine:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8.5. The Longhorns non-conference slate features two top-ten teams in a span of four days right before Christmas. On December 19, Texas will face defending champion North Carolina in Arlington at Jerry Jones’ new monstrosity and take on Michigan State at home in Austin on December 22. Rick Barnes is never one to dodge challenging non-conference schedules and this year is no different. Still, the Longhorns don’t leave the state of Texas for an entire month (November 28 vs. Rice in Houston to December 29 vs. Gardner-Webb at home). Their neutral floor games in Kansas City are against Big Ten bottom-feeder Iowa and a rebuilding Pittsburgh team who will be without Gilbert Brown for the fall semester (assuming they beat Wichita State). They’ll also take on a talented Connecticut team in late January. Barnes put together this schedule in brilliant fashion. He’ll pick up neutral floor wins against moderately big names and brings two highly ranked schools to his home state, surely boosting his RPI and SOS with the chance to pick up quality wins in hopes of grabbing a #1 seed in March.

Cupcake City: Barnes did schedule his fair share of cupcakes, but nothing excessive to the point of being embarrassing. I count seven games against “cupcakes” (including Long Beach State, the Big West preseason favorites) in Austin with two to begin the campaign as part of the CBE Classic and the others sandwiched around the North Carolina and Michigan State games, which makes perfect sense. I never understood why coaches schedule weaker opponents 8-9 games in a row during the season. Sprinkling in serious challengers in the middle portion, as Barnes did, is the best strategy to keep his Longhorns motivated and focused.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Three

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a relatively weak set of 1st round games (except for very late last night), we’re looking to forward to our beloved tournament returning to form with a strong set of 2nd round games. One of the benefits of the lack of shocking upsets in the first round games is that we get a good set of 2nd round games that won’t be blowouts. Right? Anyways, here is your slate of games.

  • 1:05 PM: #6 UCLA at #3 VillanovaRTC Live will be there
  • 3:20 PM: #10 Maryland vs. #2 Memphis
  • 3:35 PM: #9 Texas A&M vs. #1 UConn
  • 5:40 PM: #5 Purdue vs. #4 Washington
  • 5:45 PM: #8 LSU vs. #1 UNC
  • 5:50 PM: #10 Michigan vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 8:10 PM: #12 Western Kentucky vs. #4 Gonzaga
  • 8:15 PM: #7 Texas vs. #2 Duke

We’ll be starting this post around 3:20 so head over to the aforementioned RTC Live before that time for our coverage of the start of round 2.

3:23 PM: Memphis starts off like they did in the 1st round with a 35-second violation that wasn’t called because Maryland stole the ball as the shot clock expired. Greivis Vasquez just got called for his first foul 57 seconds into the game. That’s definitely something to watch for.

3:27 PM: Nice run by Memphis to silence any of the early doubts after their ugly opening game. This is the Memphis team I put in the Final 4.

3:40 PM: Sorry for the delay. I was busy responding to an e-mail from the NCAA trying to get you coverage from the NCAA East Regional (they’re pretty myopic in Indianapolis). Anyways, back to the game. . . John Calipari has to be  pleased with this start. His Tigers have come out much sharper than they did against Cal State-Northridge.

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