Fabulous Freshmen Usher in Next Era for Indiana

Posted by Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) on November 22nd, 2013

Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Washington and Indiana in New York.

Even the elite programs of college basketball will not contend for a national championship every year. There are ebbs and flows within every program, like when the big recruiting class gives you hope and the devastation when your superstar leaves prematurely. If everything goes well, the top programs will always contend but can only make a legitimate run at the title every few years. Last season was supposed to be that year for Indiana. They had Player of the Year candidates in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. They had experienced seniors in Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. They had depth, shooting, size and they spent several weeks at the top of the polls.

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Indiana

The Hoosiers also went cold at the wrong time, bombing out to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. Now, Oladipo is trying to figure out how to take care of the ball with the Orlando Magic. Zeller is trying to finally break into double figures for the Charlotte Bobcats. Watford and Hulls are only present in the record books, no longer on the court. No one expects Indiana to seriously contend for a national championship this season.

Yet last night against Washington at Madison Square Garden, Indiana showed it may not be too long before the Hoosiers are back near the top, and that was thanks to the presence of two promising freshmen, Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams. Vonleh is a long, skinny post player who can be devastatingly active on the glass when he chooses. Physically, he looks like a younger Chris Bosh but he plays a different game, staying closer to the basket and doing his damage on the boards. Indiana plays a similar style to last season with Yogi Ferrell pushing the tempo and attacking defenses, but unlike that group spearheaded by Zeller, they do not spend a lot of time working the ball into the post. Right now Vonleh is left to find scoring opportunities from offensive rebounds and the occasional pick-and-roll finish.

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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part I

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 29th, 2013

It’s that time of the year when fans get their usual dose of preseason predictions. One of the usual mechanisms in this onslaught is the “Coaches on the Hot Seat” list where writers identify those coaches whose job status relies on the success of their upcoming season. Each preseason in the Big Ten, previously successful coaches routinely find themselves on this list and almost never escape it. The conference is widely considered to have the best head coaches of any league which makes wins tough to come by. This competition leads to very good coaches experiencing disappointing seasons, finding themselves on the hot seat, and then eventually being fired. Last year, it was Tubby Smith at Minnesota who found himself without a job in April.  A national championship-winning coach at Kentucky, Smith led the Golden Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament win in 16 years (and, actually, longer since the NCAA vacated the 1996-97 season after charging Minnesota with academic fraud). The year before that, it was Bruce Weber at Illinois standing in the unemployment line. A former National Coach of the Year and NCAA Tournament runner-up, Weber won 100 more games than he lost over a nine-year stint. And there are others. All this goes to show that in this league, being a talented head coach might get you in the door, but it won’t save you from the hot seat.

Relax, Coach Crean.  You many have lost two NBA lottery picks.  But you're not going anywhere.

Relax, Coach Crean. You may have lost two NBA lottery picks. But you’re not going anywhere.

This year is a little different.  Barring any unforeseen scandals, there seems to be no Big Ten coaches who are in immediate danger of losing their jobs. So here at the RTC Big Ten microsite, we have instead decided to look at the coaches around the league and examine their current situations: Why are they not in danger of having to endure a sad and uncomfortable final press conference at the end of the year? In the interest of brevity, we will not review the likes of Tom Izzo, John Beilein, Thad Matta or Bo Ryan. Their current situations can be summed up in these words: They are awesome at coaching college basketball and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  For the rest of the Big Ten’s eight coaches, things are a little more nuanced. Here’s why:

John Groce (Illinois): I listed in a previous post Groce’s accomplishments from last year. Those include a trip to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament from a roster that had all but given up the year before. But more importantly, Groce has secured quite a bit of outstanding talent for the future of his program. A bevy of promising transfers and recruits are set to join the Illini this year and next. His program is in a position to start challenging for Big Ten titles as early as 2014-15, and if Groce can land a commitment from Top 10 recruit Cliff Alexander next month, Illini fans can start dreaming even bigger. He’s in good shape.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Victor Oladipo

Posted by BHayes on June 27th, 2013

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The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Victor Oladipo

School: Indiana

Height/Weight: 6’4”/215 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Top Five

Are you the GM of an NBA team looking for a jolt of energy and athleticism? Do I have the guy for you...

Are you the GM of an NBA team looking for a jolt of energy and athleticism? Do I have the guy for you…

Overview: No player saw their stock rise more in 2012-13 than Victor Oladipo. This time last year, Oladipo was a fringe second-round prospect at best. Now it appears he will be a top-five pick at worst, and he is still in play to be the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft just days from draft day. What a journey it has been. Along the way there were clutch moments (on both ends of the floor), copious Indiana W’s, and even some, gasp, MJ comparisons thrown Oladipo’s way. While that sort of talk may include a bit of hyperbole (just a little!), there can be no denying Oladipo’s impact on the Hoosiers last season. The stat sheet won’t blow you away – 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals a game, but Oladipo did shoot 60% from the field (44% from three point range) in the toughest conference in America. Let’s also remember that this is a 6’4” guard grabbing those six rebounds a game; if not for Jamaal Franklin, a case could be made that Oladipo was the best rebounding guard in the country last season. But Oladipo’s case to be one of the first players off the board has to do with a lot more than his numbers. His tireless work ethic, which helped spike this surge in both production and draft stock, is relevant here. Or how about the energy and leadership that was on constant display a season ago? You better believe NBA teams are salivating at the thought of inserting that kind of player into both their rotation and locker room. The intangibles are there for Oladipo, and his athleticism and work ethic seem to have built in a significantly high floor for him at the next level. The question becomes how high do those things make his ceiling?

Will Translate to the NBA: Oladipo will be a defensive stopper from the moment he steps on the floor in the NBA. His defensive metrics don’t align perfectly with his reputation as a stopper, but few scouts have any concern that he won’t be ready to guard NBA wings right away. His athleticism and competitiveness combine to make him a scorer’s nightmare. In college he proved capable of guarding anyone from point guards to power forwards; the scope of his duties will narrow in the NBA, but one NBA coach will have the luxury of Oladipo to throw on opposing perimeter scorers. Beyond his defense, Oladipo’s athleticism translates well into a transition, up-and-down game – another area where his relentlessness and passion will aid him in being effective in the league from the get-go.

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Morning Five: 06.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2013

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  1. College basketball’s worst kept secret became official late Wednesday night, as Missouri’s Michael Dixon, apparently the Teflon Don of sexual assault allegations in Columbia, announced via Twitter that he was transferring to Memphis. As we discussed in yesterday’s piece addressing the rumors of his transfer, Dixon brings a very interesting combination of talent and experience to a Tigers team desperately in need of some heady play to supplement the occasional wildness of returnees Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. The question of whether Dixon will ever suit up with those two rising seniors, though, will be for the NCAA to decide, as he plans to request a waiver after already sitting out last season at Missouri. His argument will hinge on the Dez Wells exception, a unique and slightly different scenario where Wells was expelled from Xavier over a sexual assault allegation that even local prosecutors found completely unsubstantiated. Of course, Wells was ultimately allowed to play last season at Maryland, where he blossomed into one of the ACC’s most dangerous wings, and whether Dixon will receive the same treatment from the sport’s governing body may involve determinations on guilt or innocence that it is simply unprepared or unwilling to make. If he is allowed to suit up as a Tiger of the Memphis variety next season, though, Josh Pastner’s team suddenly becomes a lot more interesting on the national stage. 
  2. Speaking of that stage, one of the biggest and best national events in the early weeks of the season is the Jimmy V Classic. Next season’s pair of match-ups have now been finalized, and Memphis in fact will be one of those teams featured. The Tigers will take on a top 10 outfit in Florida in the nightcap, while fellow AAC member Cincinnati will battle new ACC institution Pittsburgh in the undercard. Did you get all that? It’s AAC vs. ACC, and AAC vs. SEC. If Dixon is cleared to play next season, the backcourt battles between he and Crawford versus Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin will be fun to watch.
  3. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the former VP of NCAA enforcement who was fired in February related to a series of missteps that occurred under her watch, but most notably the ethical misconduct stemming from the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami (FL)? She resurfaced on Wednesday with an op-ed piece published at Yahoo! Sports giving her take on how the NCAA should operate its enforcement initiatives. It reads lawyerly, but if you can get past the tone and dryness of it, she makes several good points. From her perspective, the NCAA needed to accomplish three primary things with respect to its enforcement process: 1) make penalties against schools harsh enough to deter the risk/reward mindset; 2) shorten the length of its investigations; 3) in revenue sports, instill a valid fear in personnel of getting caught. As she writes in the article, the organization was moving steadfastly in that direction when the Shapiro case and subsequent media firestorm it entailed derailed the focus of the organization. Unfortunately for her, the piece has something of an air of desperation about it — even though Lach’s points are well-sourced and make sense, she won’t be taken seriously by either the media or the NCAA at this point. It’s worth a read, but what the organization now needs is the next general — a Lach without a reputation — who will carry the flag forward without the taint of scandal enveloping his every word.
  4. One of the NCAA initiatives of the past several years that we’ve gotten fully behind is the Academic Progress Rate (APR). Notwithstanding the fact that schools can game the numbers with bogus classes and coursework to increase their APR scores — baby steps — it still provides some degree of academic accountability where there was little before. And it has some teeth, as Connecticut found out the very hard way last season. So kudos to 2013 national champion Louisville, which was one of only 35 men’s basketball teams to score in the top tier of schools (scoring 978 or above) in the most recent APR cycle (covering academic years 2009-12). The entire top 10 percent list that the NCAA highlights as part of its “Public Recognition Awards” is located here. The biggest surprise on the list this year? It has to be Memphis, although Alabama men’s basketball and football clearly show that the army of tutors and student-athlete assistants in Tuscaloosa are very good at their jobs.
  5. We didn’t mention Indiana in the previous blurb, but we easily could have, as Tom Crean has taken a program that was scoring in the 800s to one that is at the very top of Division I men’s basketball on the APR nowadays (Will the Hoosiers print up commemorative t-shirts? Too easy.). But one IU player is not only receiving academic accolades, he’s also still getting lauded for his work on the court last year. The Tulsa Sports Charities organization has named Hoosiers wing Victor Oladipo as its 2013 recipient of the Eddie Sutton Tustenegee Award, an honor “presented annually to a college basketball player who best exhibits the traits of tenacity and unselfishness that Sutton advocated during a coaching career that landed him in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.” In a year when the race was fairly wide open among a group of about five players, we like to see the love spread around a bit. Good for Oladipo, probably the best player on both ends of the floor last season.
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Best of the Best: Big Ten Season Superlatives

Posted by jnowak on April 18th, 2013

There’s so much to look back on from this season’s Big Ten, and who doesn’t like receiving an award? So we decided to hand out a few more. Forget Class Clown. Our superlatives are a real honor:

Where does this moment stand against the best of the year?

  • Best game: Indiana at Michigan — We’ll get to the climax of this contest in a minute, but this was a heavyweight battle. After Indiana dealt then-No. 1 Michigan just its second loss of the season in Bloomington a few weeks earlier, the Hoosiers came to Ann Arbor with a Big Ten title on the line. If the Hoosiers won, they’d claim the conference championship outright. If the Wolverines won, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all had the chance to join the Hoosiers on the championship podium. Michigan led by three at halftime before the Hoosiers outscored the Wolverines by four in the second half. And that final play… well, you’ll just have to keep reading.
  • Best play: Ben Brust’s half-court three to force overtime and eventually beat Michigan — If Victor Oladipo had been able to finish this dunk in the aforementioned game against Michigan at Assembly Hall, it’d be my choice. But since that shot ends up on the score sheet as just another missed field goal attempt, we’ll go with a shot that actually went in. It looked like Michigan was going to escape Madison after Tim Hardaway, Jr. hit a huge three-pointer with three seconds to go, giving Michigan a 60-57 lead. But Wisconsin took a timeout, and Mike Bruesewitz hit Brust in stride. Brust took one dribble across the half-court line and drew nothing but net. The Badgers went on to win in overtime, with Brust also hitting the game-winner with 43 seconds left in OT.
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Morning Five: 04.10.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2013

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  1. We are entering the early entry period where news about who will be putting their name into the NBA Draft. There will be plenty of time to criticize the players who make bad decisions (usually based on bad information), but we will start off on a positive note with the one player who we knew was going pro and is probably the only player we would have criticized for coming back to college: Ben McLemore. On the selfish side, we would love to see McLemore stay another year (or three), but given the financial hardships that his family faces it would be irresponsible for him to go back to college when he could help bring his family out of poverty with just his rookie contract. As for the other announcement we were in favor of Victor Oladipo will also enter the NBA Draft and his teammate Cody Zeller may be close behind. Now the only benefit we give McLemore over Oladipo (probably) and Zeller (definitely) is that McLemore has to deal with more pressing financial issues that the other two. All three of them could use work on their game and McLemore in particular could improve his draft stock by staying in school, but
  2. We said there would be time to criticize the bad decisions players make we are already here. Today’s candidates are Russ Smith, who is leaving according to his father in a statement that everybody is taking as the truth, and Ricky Ledo, who did not play this year after being declared academically ineligible, but is still entering the NBA Draft. The Smith case is a little more complex because he played phenomenally well for five games of the NCAA Tournament and was probably the best player for Louisville during the NCAA Tournament even if Luke Hancock walked away with MOP honors. Still the bad Russ showed up on Monday night and that should have reminded NBA scouts and executives that he is too much of a gamble to spend a first round pick on. Of course, all this is based on a conversation by his father not the player so all of this could be completely incorrect and Russ might stay for his senior year. As for Ledo, he is a talented played with the frame and game to be a first round pick, but with his time away from the game and his reputation from the summer league circuit we don’t see Ledo making the first round either.
  3. We are not sure how having four players transfer from your program is anything other than a bad thing, but when you look four players who contribute as little as the four that are leaving DePaul it doesn’t seem that bad. Of the four players, Moses Morgan is by far the most productive and even his numbers are not that inspiring (5.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game as a junior last year down from 9 points per game as a sophomore). The moves are expected to open up roster spots for incoming players on a team that finished dead last in the conference formerly known as the Big East so hopefully they can find a few players to put around Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin to make them more competitive in their new/old conference.
  4. We mentioned several players that are leaving their schools–either for the NBA (or attempting to go to the NBA) or to different schools–but at least two players (Julian Boyd and Chris Otule) appear to be sticking around for their sixth year. Boyd, who was averaging 18.5 points and 6.1 points per game for Long Island University-Brooklyn before tearing his ACL last season, was granted a sixth year for medical hardship in what seemed like a near guarantee although you can never say that with the NCAA. The case of Otule is still in limbo as Marquette is waiting to hear back from the NCAA after he missed much of the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons with injuries. Otule’s numbers may not jump off the page as he only averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, but he came up big for the team in the NCAA Tournament with two important 11-point performances that helped them advance to the Elite Eight.
  5. The Boise State athletic department can at least say their men’s and women’s basketball teams interact with each other after Kenny Buckner, who played his last game for the school in the team’s First Four loss, and Brandi Latrall Henton, a player for the women’s team, were arrested for reportedly stealing food from a store (apparently a Wal-Mart). The two were charged with misdemeanor petit theft and were released after posting bond with their arraignment scheduled for later this month. This is amusing and dumb on some levels as college students presumably still have cafeterias available to them especially athletes on scholarship and it is not like Wal-Mart carries anything outside of possibly alcohol that college students cannot get in a cafeteria. However Hinton is the first Boise State basketball player to be arrested for theft in 2013 along with four men’s players including repeat offender Buckner who is set to be arraigned on April 16 along with three other players for a January arrest where they are accused of stealing several items including DVDs. This appears to be at least the third time Buckner has been arrested for theft. On the positive side with Buckner having finished his college basketball career so the school does not have to worry about suspending him.
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2012-13 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by KDoyle on April 3rd, 2013

If this was baseball, a batting average of .333 would represent Hall of Fame type numbers. Back in November when our group of RTC pollsters and hoop experts selected their preseason All-America teams, just five names lived up to expectations that we originally had placed on them: Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas, Michigan’s Trey Burke, and Kansas’ Jeff Withey. In fact, the only player who was named to the preseason All-America First Team and finished there was McDermott. If there is one thing to take away from this exercise, it’s that projecting player performance is far from an exact science.

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

The 10 players we selected as preseason All-Americans who failed to live up to our hype were: Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum — let’s remember McCollum missed more than half the season due to injury — UNLV’s Mike Moser, Missouri’s Phil Pressey, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin, North Carolina’s James Michael McAadoo, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer. It would be foolish to think that most of these players did not have exceptional seasons — look no further than Canaan, who averaged 21.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 4.3 APG for the Racers this year. He had a very good senior season, but it’s not his fault that a guy like Victor Oladipo came out of nowhere to prove he was one of the best players in the country. Of course, there were a few disappointments, and we can look right at Mitchell as the most obvious example. Whether fair or not, expectations were probably too high for Mitchell, who many project to be a future NBA player. Mitchell averaged 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG, but his team slogged to a rough 12-20 season.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the players who met or exceeded our expectations this season. After tallying up the votes from our nine experts, here are the 2012-13 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. Burke, Porter, and Oladipo were consensus First Team All-America selections.

First Team All-America

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

  • Trey Burke, SO, Michigan (consensus) (18.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.1 A/TO). After spearheading arguably the nation’s most potent offense during the regular season, Burke was named a First Team All-American by the AP. His virtuoso performance in the South Region semifinal against Kansas where he singlehandedly brought Michigan back in the final minutes of regulation supplanted himself as not just a surefire First Teamer here at RTC, but perhaps the National Player of the Year as well. More than just his knack for hitting the big shot, Burke’s most impressive attribute may be as a distributor; boasting a 3.1 A/TO ratio is downright impressive given the responsibility John Beilein has bestowed upon him in running the offense.
  • Otto Porter Jr., SO, Georgetown (consensus) (16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 48.0% FG, 42.2% 3FG). Many often lamented Georgetown’s stagnant Princeton-style offense as the reason for its lack of production, but imagine where the Hoyas may have been this season without Porter. The sophomore emerged as one of the nation’s best players after consecutive games in Brooklyn where he led Georgetown past then #11 UCLA and nearly upset top-ranked Indiana the following night. Porter was expected to be a key cog for Georgetown this season after averaging just south of 10.0 PPG as a freshman, but his outburst was a surprise to many this year. His stark improvement with his three-point shot — a 22.6% to 42.2% increase — has made Porter a much more complete player, and bodes well for his future at the next level.
  • Victor Oladipo, JR, Indiana (consensus) (13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 59.9% FG, 44.1% 3FG). A role player in his first two seasons at Indiana, Oladipo emerged as Indiana’s best and most valuable player as a junior, surpassing more celebrated teammate Cody Zeller in that regard. While his offensive game improved in nearly every department — how often is it that a guard shoots 60% from the field? — it was Oladipo’s defense which made him an invaluable part of Tom Crean’s team. There may not be a better on-ball wing defender in the country as Oladipo created havoc — to borrow a term from Shaka Smart — on the perimeter. In looking at just his statistics, one would think Oladipo is a 6’10 power forward given his high shooting percentage and rebounding totals; that’s what makes him such a unique and dominant player.
  • Doug McDermott, JR, Creighton (26) (23.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 54.8% FG, 49.0% 3FG, 87.5% FT). Perhaps the most prolific and talented offensive player in college basketball, it came as no surprise to find McDermott’s name on the First Team All-America list. His shooting percentages in all three departments are off the charts, and were a big reason Creighton was tops in the nation in team 3FG% and third in 2FG%; McDermott went off for 20+ points in 26 of his 36 games this season. While his defensive and athletic abilities are both question marks, there’s no denying that McDermott is a natural scorer who is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Assuming he returns for his senior season, McDermott will most likely eclipse the 3,000-point mark as a collegian which has only been done seven times in history.
  • Kelly Olynyk, JR, Gonzaga (24) (17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 62.9% FG). Playing behind Robert Sacre and Steven Gray for his first two seasons at Gonzaga, Olynyk averaged just 12.3 MPG as a freshman and 13.5 MPG as a sophomore. For his redshirt junior season, however, he owned the frontcourt. A legit seven-footer, Olynyk runs the floor like an athletic forward and scores in a variety of ways. His 62.9% FG was especially impressive considering he spent a fair amount of time outside of the paint in Gonzaga’s offense. He was the biggest reason that Gonzaga ascended to its first-ever #1 ranking in the polls and commensurate #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Second Team All-America

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Big East M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 28th, 2013

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  1. Jim Boeheim retirement rumor-mongering has become something of a cottage industry in recent seasons, so it’s always relieving when the man himself can add some clarity to the things that bounce around the world of message boards and e-mail chains. In his Sweet Sixteen presser yesterday, Boeheim took the time to end speculation as to whether he will coach the team in the 2013-14 season: “There is no process. There is no process. I’m coachin’ next year, I kid around a little bit and everybody gets crazy when I do so I’m not going to kid around about it anymore, I’m coaching next year, thrilled, got a great challenge, looking forward to it.” That is, unless he isn’t: “About September, if I don’t want to coach, I won’t coach.” That last little bit seems to open the door for a Jim Calhoun/Kevin Ollie situation, although Mike Hopkins has been the established head coach in waiting at Syracuse for years, so that type of manipulation seems unnecessary.
  2. Match-ups between elite programs like Syracuse and Indiana are always great fun for a variety of reasons. Because these types of schools dip into the same small pool of blue-chip recruits, a lot of these players have long relationships, and these back stories can only help build intrigue for the games. IU”s Victor Oladipo spent a lot of time on Wednesday talking about his relationships with Syracuse’s DMV-area forwards Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair. Oladipo is very close with the entire Grant family, and descibed Jerami as a “little brother” while calling Fair a “good player” who is “a real cool dude to chill with.”  Much of the pregame speculation on the Syracuse end of things has been about whom Oladipo will be tasked with guarding. That assignment may very well be Fair, who has been SU’s most consistent scorer all season.
  3. The Marquette-Miami game has its own built-in storyline heading into tonight’s Sweet Sixteen bout. Hurricane assistant Eric Konkol coached guard Trent Lockett, who has come on as a big factor in the backcourt for the Golden Eagles, at Hopkins High School. Both took an unconventional road to this NCAA Tournament match-up. Konkol found himself in the high school ranks after coaching under Jim Larranaga at George Mason while his wife worked on a degree at the University of Minnesota. He rejoined Larranaga in 2010, moving with him to Miami. Lockett spent his first three years at Arizona State, where he averaged over 13 points per game as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Marquette. Lockett had a big game in the Round of 32 against Butler, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbing six rebounds.
  4. Dueling articles are always fun. Think Progress‘ Travis Waldron penned a piece called “The University of Louisville is Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, where his basic thesis is that because Louisville is the most profitable college basketball program but their basketball alumni don’t all matriculate to the NBA and make millions of dollars within a year or two, they’re evil… or something. I’m not a fan of using someone’s alma mater and inherent biases to try to invalidate their arguments, but when Waldron brought up his Kentucky background a lot of things were cleared up. SB Nation‘s Louisville blog Card Chronicle writer Mike Rutherford responded with his own post: “The University of Louisville is Not Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, and I think he sums things up pretty well in response to Waldron – “You forgot the #BBN hashtag as your signature.”
  5. Alas, this year’s sprint towards NIT glory was not to be for the Providence Friars, who fell in the quarterfinals to Baylor in Waco last night.  The Friars had big performances from the usual suspects – Bryce Cotton led the team with 23 points while Vince Council and Kadeem Batts were close behind with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Kris Dunn was the only other Friar to score, however, and Baylor took advantage of Providence’s limited depth to cruise to a 79-68 victory. With Providence now out of the NIT, the three remaining Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament are the conference’s last representatives in postseason play this season.
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NCAA Regional Reset: East Region

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 25th, 2013

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Brian Otskey (@botskey) is the NCAA Tournament’s East Region correspondent.

The East Regional begins Thursday night in Washington, DC, with Marquette vs. Miami (FL) followed by Indiana vs. Syracuse. Be sure to look out for the West, South and Midwest Regional Resets later today. Also make sure to follow RTCEastRegion for news and analysis from Washington throughout the week.

The Verizon Center Will Host This Year's East Regional

The Verizon Center Will Host This Year’s East Regional

New Favorite: #1 Indiana. Despite a challenge from Temple on Sunday, nothing changes for the Hoosiers. This team remains the prohibitive favorite to get to Atlanta out of this region but will have to get through two teams playing well in order to do that. With Syracuse defending as well as it is and Marquette and Miami staying hot, the road is not as smooth for Indiana as it looked when the brackets came out last week.

Horse of Darkness: #3 Marquette. The Golden Eagles nearly lost both of their NCAA Tournament games over the weekend but, as the old adage goes, they survived and advanced. Marquette has limitations but this team is tough as nails and plays with great confidence in pressure situations. A potential Elite Eight match-up with Indiana and former head coach Tom Crean would also serve as extra motivation to push through to Atlanta.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #3 Marquette. It’s hard to pick a surprise in a region that saw all four top seeds advance to Washington but we’ll go with the Golden Eagles. Marquette was a trendy upset pick in the first round and was outplayed by Davidson for 39 of the 40 minutes in that game. Even after escaping Davidson in the round of 64, the Golden Eagles were on the ropes yet again Saturday against Butler. It’s not a surprise that Marquette is playing in the Sweet Sixteen; the surprising thing is the way it got there.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.25.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 25th, 2013

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  1. Michigan State‘s commanding win against Memphis was sweet in East Lansing and Michigan‘s dominant victory against VCU was just as greate in Ann Arbor, but the two teams together gave the state of Michigan something it had never seen before. With two Sweet Sixteen berths, the Spartans and Wolverines have advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the same year for the first time ever. The two teams split in head-to-head match-ups this year, with the Spartans routing the Wolverines in East Lansing before Michigan got payback in a close contest in Ann Arbor just a few weeks later. But this weekend at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the state was unified by both teams taking the floor in their home state and advancing to the next weekend of action.
  2. With the game on the line Sunday afternoon, Ohio State and the Big Ten’s top scorer stood idly by as the team’s point guard handled the late-game duties to advance the Buckeyes to the Sweet Sixteen. It was Aaron Craft, not Deshaun Thomas, who was the focal point against upset-minded Iowa State in Dayton. Craft had an overall up-and-down afternoon, but it ended on a huge up when he drained a three-pointer with Georges Niang in his face to give the Buckeyes a 78-75 win. Craft has always been known for his defensive prowess, but his play over the last month or so has proven he can be a scorer to lead Ohio State to big things. 
  3. Mighty No. 1 seed Indiana is just relieved to be moving on after a tough game against Temple. Yes, that’s right. The Owls were in it the whole way on Sunday, all the way up until the moment when Victor Oladipo hit a three-point dagger in the waning moments in Dayton. Bob Kravitz writes that it was not so much joy that overcame coach Tom Crean after the final buzzer sounded, but relief. The Hoosiers get Syracuse in Washington, DC, next, with a chance to advance to the Elite Eight on the line.
  4. Let’s not forget that there are other Big Ten teams that are still playing, just outside the auspices of the Big Dance. Iowa has advanced to face Virginia in the NIT, another team that was hovering around the bubble at the end of the regular season. The Cavaliers have some pretty good wins to go along with some puzzling losses,  and will present a challenge for the Hakweyes when the two teams tangle on Wednesday in Charlottesville. As Scott Dochterman writes, the teams have plenty of similarities — a deep bench, a good defense, a solid home record — which should make for a tough contest.
  5. It seems like there have been constant reminders since November that the Big Ten has been the best conference in the country, and the NCAA Tournament has been just the latest in a long line of them. Michigan and Michigan State are holding it down for the Mitten State, with fellow high seeds Indiana and Ohio State also taking care of business early. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though; overall, the Big Ten’s strong start to the NCAA Tournament is one of the best all-time.
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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 58, #9 Temple 52

Posted by IRenko on March 24th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #1 Indiana and #9 Temple. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOYs Do...

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOY Candidates Do…

  1. Victor Oladipo Won This Game – The stat sheet won’t tell you what Victor Oladipo means to Indiana, because it offers no metrics, advanced or otherwise, for heart and soul. Oladipo took this game over down the stretch at both ends of the floor. Indiana had used a number of defenders to try to slow Khalif Wyatt (more on him later), but it was Oladipo’s shut-down, ball-denial, in-your-grill defense in the closing minutes that prevented Wyatt from carrying his team across the finish line. With the game tied at 52 and under two minutes to play, Oladipo harassed Wyatt into a missed three, grabbed the rebound, and drew a Wyatt foul while pushing the ball up the floor. On the next possession, Oladipo denied Wyatt the chance to even get the ball, forcing Temple to burn a timeout and the entire shot clock before Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson missed a jumper. Oladipo then promptly ran down to the other end of the floor and drained his one and only three-pointer of the game to clinch the win for Indiana.
  2. Indiana Scored 58 Points — And Won – Indiana scores north of 1.15 points per possession, but they looked largely ineffective against Temple for two reasons. First, Temple’s tough interior defense. The best way to slow the Hoosiers is with physicality, and the Owls brought plenty today. They bodied Cody Zeller and Christian Watford in the post, swarmed Oladipo on his drives, and pushed the Hoosiers around on the glass. Zeller and Watford combined to shoot 6-of-17, Zeller committed six turnovers, and the Hoosiers rebounded less than 20 percent of their own misses. Second, the Hoosiers went cold from three-point range, missing eight of their first nine long-distance attempts. They got hot late just in time to push themselves over the top, but credit Temple for nearly stopping the nation’s most efficient offense in its tracks.
  3. A One-Man Offensive Band — This game was an almost comical display of the extent to which Temple relies on Khalif Wyatt offensively. The confident point guard has a tendency to rise to the occasion against the best of competition, and today was no exception. Relishing the role of the villain, taking on not just the quiet and unassuming Oladipo but a boisterous crowd full of Hoosier fans, Wyatt did his best to carry the Owls to the upset. Despite being the obvious focal point of Indiana’s defense, he managed to pour in 31 points — 60 percent of Temple’s total — on 12-of-24 shooting.  The rest of the Owls’ offense was dreadful, shooting 9-of-38 from the floor. Scootie Randall was the worst offender with an atrocious 0-of-12 night, and the team as a whole missed several makeable shots.

Star of the Game: So maybe the stat sheet does tell you a bit about how good Oladipo is. He led Indiana with 16 points on 7-of-12 field goal shooting and added eight rebounds and an assist.

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The Big Ten is Ready to End the Title Drought

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 21st, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him for Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g. 

It all started in early November when three Big Ten teams — Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State — were ranked in the top five of the preseason polls. Expectations were set very high but the regular season arguably beat those as four teams finished ranked in the top 10 (adding Michigan State). Over the last few days, almost everybody involved in the college hoops world has discussed the pressure on these B1G teams to get to the Final Four and for one to cut down the nets there. The following are three reasons why the league will break its 13-year national title drought this year in Atlanta.

Cody Zeller and Trey Burke may be the best players in the Tournament which should help the Big Ten end their title drought. (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller and Trey Burke may be the best players in the Tournament which should help the Big Ten end their title drought. (AP/D. Cummings)

  • Somebody needs to tell Charles Barkley that the Big Ten has plenty of individual talent this season: A few minutes into the Selection Show on Sunday, Barkley called the Big Ten overrated because they “don’t have a bunch of great players.”  He wasn’t way off in his comment because the conference hasn’t had many players picked highly in the NBA Draft over the last few years (and that’s under the assumption that NBA scouting is a good gauge to judge collegiate talent), but that argument deserves a separate discussion altogether. The Hall of Fame forward is wrong because among the favorites, there are several great individual players, such as Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Trey Burke and Deshaun Thomas. Those four are arguably among the top 10 players in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Even though Michigan State is still known for their being, well, Michigan State, they still have athletic wings such as Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson who are great within isolation plays as well as half-court sets.

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