Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2012

  1. For awhile, as Herb Sendek seemed to be building a new power in Tempe and the Lute Olson regime was falling apart in Tucson, it appeared that the balance of power in the Arizona basketball landscape was shifting. The Sun Devils were ticking up, with James Harden taking ASU to the Second Round and Arizona missing the Tournament for the first time in 25 years. But, after three straight double-figure victories by the Wildcats over their in-state rival, including a 17-point thrashing on Saturday, and with the best recruiting class in the nation headed to play for Sean Miller next season, clearly Arizona is again widening the gap.
  2. In California, the gap is closing, at least temporarily, as California completed its first home sweep of the Southern California schools in eight years by handing UCLA its biggest loss in the series in almost ten years. It is the first time since Walt Hazzard’s final year as the UCLA head coach that the Bruins have started conference play with two losses. While two Bruins went off for career high’s offensively (Tyler Lamb with 26, David Wear 17), Ben Howland stubbornly stuck with an ineffective man defense (although, to be fair, his team’s zone defense wasn’t much better) through most of the loss as all five Cal starters, plus reserve Robert Thurman, scored in double figures, shooting a 71.1% eFG and handing out 28 assists on 34 field goals. In short, California did what they needed to do to begin its chase for a conference title in style, while UCLA left Bruin fans considering a coaching change.
  3. Washington State bounced back from a horrible defensive performance of its own in its conference opener to hand Oregon State its second loss on the weekend. It was a “gut check” game for the Cougs, according to junior forward Brock Motum, and he came through in a big way, scoring 26 very efficient points and grabbing eight rebounds. Freshman guard DaVonte Lacy was also huge for Ken Bone’s squad, scoring 18 points (just a point shy of his 19-point career-high he set in the loss to Oregon on Thursday), while Reggie Moore handled OSU’s pressure defense with aplomb, turning it over just once in 35 minutes while dishing out nine assists.
  4. For Utah, a bad season got worse on Saturday, as the Utes played their first ever Pac-12 conference game and scored its fewest points in a game since 1947 in a 73-33 loss to Colorado. The Utes scored just 11 points in the first half and shot just 24.5% eFG while allowing Colorado to shoot 60%. They allowed CU to grab 42.9% of their own misses, along with 82.1% of the Utes’. Leading scorer Josh Watkins hit just one of his 12 field goal attempts and the whole team was treated to a post-game tirade from head coach Larry Krystkowiak that included threats for future benchings and suspensions for players who were either late to or absent from team-related functions, a problem that has been ongoing and has already resulted in an earlier one-game suspension for Watkins. With 17 games remaining in a season from hell, it remains to be seen how low this proud program can go.
  5. Lastly, while some may attribute Washington’s strong start to the conference season to lessons learned in a home loss to South Dakota State, head coach Lorenzo Romar sees these results growing from lessons planted throughout the season. He’s been preaching defense for weeks now in the hopes of correcting some of their problems, and now that is paying off. Not only are stars like Tony Wroten and C.J. Wilcox buying in defensively, but Romar has gotten redshirt freshman forward Desmond Simmons to play like a “junkyard dog,” killing it on the glass and working hard away from the ball.
Share this story

Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 21st, 2011

  1. The big story of the weekend was the ongoing Bernie Fine saga. As we mentioned on Friday, the case at Syracuse is more nuanced than the one at Penn State although there are plenty of strange things going on at both locations.  After Jim Boeheim basically called out the two individuals who accused Fine of sexual molestation, one of them issued a response that indicates this case will end up being a he said, he said controversy. For their part, the team responded by leaving Fine’s seat on the bench vacant during their first game since he had been put on administrative leave. Interestingly, it appears that the accusers may not be able to bring the case in front of a court due to how long ago the alleged crime happened. We have a feeling that this case will drag on for quite a long time.
  2. Connecticut received some good bad news when the NCAA announced that it would be suspending freshman Ryan Boatright for six games for improper benefits — a plane ticket he received while playing AAU basketball. Including yesterday’s game, Boatright has already missed four of the required six games so he will only need to sit out the first two games of the Battle4Atlantis Tournament this week. Boatright could potentially see his first action of the season in the final game of Battle4Atlantis if the Huskies are able to win their first two games. Boatright’s return could be a big boost for the defending champions, who have not posted a dominating win yet during the regular season while their primary competitors for this season’s championship have all done so at least once.
  3. We are not exactly sure what is happening at Oregon with Jabari Brown and it appears that neither does the Oregon staff. The most recent reports indicate that Brown is on his way out of Oregon, but earlier reports suggested that Brown’s name had been removed from the school’s online roster and that school officials, as well as head coach Dana Altman, were unaware of the reasons behind it. Now it appears that Altman will essentially be left to beg for the school’s one stud five-star recruit to come back to them, as the loss of such a hyped recruit so early in the season will certainly affect the decision of uncommitted prospects who now might be more weary of playing for Altman after this incident.
  4. Arkansas was dealt a significant setback at a practice last Thursday when Marshawn Powell suffered what is being called a “serious” knee injury that will sideline him indefinitely. The loss could be a huge one for the Razorbacks as Powell, a junior, led the team in scoring the first two games with 19.5 PPG on a team full of freshmen and sophomores and bereft of the services of Rotnei Clarke, last year’s leading scorer who decided to transfer. The Razorbacks are talented enough and their non-conference schedule is weak enough — with the exception of a game at Connecticut — that they should be able to survive until their SEC schedule starts. If Powell is not back by then, things could get ugly very quickly for the young Razorbacks.
  5. Former UCLA legend Walt Hazzard died on Friday from complications related to cardiac surgery at UCLA Medical Center. Many of our younger fans may not be as familiar with Hazzard as they are with other members of the UCLA dynasty, but Hazzard was the one who gave John Wooden his first national championship in 1964 when Hazzard was named the MOP of the 1964 NCAA Tournament. Hazzard teamed with Gail Goodrich to form one of the most devastating backcourts in NCAA history and help build the UCLA dynasty. Along with his contributions as a player at UCLA, Hazzard also won a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, played 10 seasons in the NBA, and coached the Bruins for four seasons. There has been no word on when and where funeral services will be held, but we imagine that it will be a who’s who of basketball royalty at the event.
Share this story

Who’s Got Next? Top Uncommitted Prospects To Commit Soon…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 18th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

From an important commitment Monday to an important commitment today, we’re bringing you everything you’ve missed in the past week in the world of recruiting including new developments in a top ten prospect’s recruitment, the meteoric rise of a somewhat unknown recruit, more rankings being released, a challenge issued to two powerhouse programs on Tobacco Road, and how an ACC program’s recruiting class is falling apart.

What We Learned

Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) might stay in Wichita.

Wichita State Has a Realistic Shot at Perry Ellis. Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) has long had the same list of six schools (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State) that’s he interested in, but lately, it seems as though there has been some movement as to who his favorite is. The latest shift involves Wichita State after they hired assistant coach Dana Ford, who has a longstanding relationship with the Ellis family. Ford has watched Ellis play since his first middle school game and even worked out with Ellis several years ago when Ford was a Shocker intern. The WSU coaching staff also met with Ellis and his family last Wednesday and emphasized how much they wanted to keep Perry in Wichita (Ellis attends Wichita Heights HS). Some other news involving Ellis includes the fact that Minnesota is now starting to recruit him and head coach Tubby Smith called him on the phone recently. A source very close to the situation also says that they suspect Kansas and Kentucky are two of the front-runners in Ellis’ recruitment.

Mitch McGary is Becoming a Top 2012 Talent. This time of year last year you probably didn’t know who class of 2012 power forward Mitch McGary was; well now he is one of the best players in his class. McGary has become significantly better in all parts of his game over the past 12 months and is a force to reckon with both inside and out. He is a tough, strong, big man to handle in the paint and has the ability to step out and score on the perimeter. However, the biggest reason he has received much more attention lately is because of his incessant motor and the fact that he has gotten his grades in order. Now that schools don’t have to worry about whether he will qualify or not, programs such as Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are in near-constant contact with him. He says that his recruitment is wide open and that he will likely wait until late in the process to make his decision. He also says location isn’t a factor in his choice. As of January, before top programs began taking notice of McGary, he had visited Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Marquette.

Maryland’s Recruiting Class is Falling Apart. Many people wondered what would happen to Maryland’s recruiting class when the Terps found their new coach and whether their commitments would stay with Maryland or seek releases from their letters of intent; well now we know. The Terrapins have lost every recruit in its Class of 2011 after the university granted shooting guard Nick Faust (#38), point guard Sterling Gibbs and power forward Martin Breunig releases from their signed letters of intent. To make matters even worse, just days after his release was granted, Gibbs committed to the Texas Longhorns (read more about this in the “What You Missed” section below). However the Terps still have a shot at Faust, who is now the second highest rated uncommitted prospect and still likes Maryland (Check out the “What They’re Saying” section below to find out why), and Breunig, who visited Washington Monday night. Keep in mind Faust and Gibbs are good friends so Gibbs’ commitment to Texas might push Faust away from College Park. This coaching change is also affecting Maryland’s 2012 class since small forward Justin Anderson (#45) said Sunday in a text that he isn’t sure whether he will open his recruitment back up. On the brighter side of things for Terps fans, head coach Mark Turgeon picked up Class of 2012 shooting guard Seth Allen who is a prolific scorer and can get the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 03.16.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2011

  1. Every year there are a few lucky individuals who beat the odds and end up on top of national pools through a variety of reliable methods (based on team color, mascots, or personal allegiance) for picking their bracket. Other individuals get their brackets analyzed just because of who they are. Two individuals who fall in that latter category are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Barack Obama. While James and Wade announced their brackets already (picking Ohio State and Marquette, respectively), President Obama will reveal his on the noon edition of SportsCenter today although it has already been revealed that he has gone with chalk again selecting all four #1 seeds to make it to Houston.
  2. If you are looking for a more intellectual way of filling out your bracket we highly suggest that you check out the latest from Luke Winn who goes through each region looking at the offensive and defensive efficiency stats for the top four seeds in each region with a particular focus on the top seed in each region.
  3. For nearly every event there is an individual who spends most of their time ripping apart the way things are because they prefer the way things were. Despite being one of the most beloved events in American sports the NCAA Tournament is not immune to this phenomenon as Michael Wilbon uses his new platform on ESPN.com to take plenty of shots at the NCAA and college basketball in general. Wilbon actually used the same exact argument(s) on both PTI and The Tony Kornheiser Showso much so that it feels like certain passages are lifted directly from one of those appearances. Or is it the other way around? While Wilbon makes a few valid points (who wouldn’t love to have had John Wall or Blake Griffinhang around for all four years?) he lacks any reasonable arguments for how to turn things “back to the way they were” without infringing on the liberties of the individual players that he defends so vigorously on-air. What drives us even more crazy is the argument by Jay Bilas that so many 11+ loss teams making the field is clear evidence that this is the weakest field ever. It seems pretty clear to us that Bilas hasn’t been spending much time in court (and if he has his clients probably haven’t been winning much) as that argument would fall apart in any Logic 101 class. Let’s just move on…
  4. Most of the news in the past few days has been about the NCAA Tournament and coaching firings, but we also expect to see quite a few fairly big names transfer schools. These are often hyped recruits who failed to live up to expectations and are looking for a fresh start. In other cases it is a player who performed well at a smaller school and is looking to try his talents at a higher level of college basketball. Sam Maniscalco appears to fall into the latter category. Although he will graduate from Bradley in May, the 6′ guard, who averaged 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season still has another year of eligibility left. Following the firing of coach Jim Les10 days earlier, Maniscalco opted to transfer to Illinois although he refused to explicitly state that as the reason. Maniscalco’s toughness and experience could be a big boon for Bruce Weber, who will enter next season without an experienced point guard following the graduation of the enigmatic Demetri McCamey. Maniscalco is expected to be eligible to play for the Illini next season because he will be transferring into a master’s program at Illinois.
  5. For those of you who have a few extra dollars, you may want to keep your eyes out for an upcoming auction that will feature the original round center section of Pauley Pavilionthat was used between 1965 and 1982. During that period UCLA won 8 men’s national championships. The section is currently owned by a UCLA alum and was signed in 1998 by John WoodenKareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Sidney WicksWalt Hazzard, and many other UCLA legends. The auction is expected to run between April 15th and 30th (likely found on the company’s website at that time) with the majority of the proceeds going towards medical research.
Share this story

Past Imperfect: The Reign of Doughnut Man

Posted by JWeill on February 3rd, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the sine-wave career arc of Doughnut Man.

It’s still one of the NCAA tournament’s most indelible moments: disheveled Princeton coach Pete Carril grinning in disbelief moments after his backdoor-cutting Tigers stunned defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament. Replayed over and over through the years, the moment resonates because it captures the essence of what college basketball’s great March tradition is all about: little guy beats big guy, Cinderella at the dance, etc. But lost in all those good vibes for the white-haired coaching legend is that the other side in that game, the losing coach seen congratulating Carril on his career-defining victory, in its own way represents college basketball, too. In many ways, perhaps more so.

Pete Carril and Sydney Johnson celebrate the win over UCLA.

No one fathomed at the time that the upset loss would be Jim Harrick’s last as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. A year removed from the school’s first national title in two decades, flush with a contract extension, with a bevy of blue chip recruits on the verge of replenishing his team’s talent level for years to come, Harrick looked to have it all working. Then, in the course of a few months, it was all over. Harrick was out. Assistant Steve Lavin, with no head coaching experience at all, was in as interim coach.

How did it all go south so quickly? The answer is a tale of two coaches, of lies and deception, of risks taken and undying myths writ large. It’s an ugly story, without much grace and lacking humility. It is, in short, the story of college basketball at the highest levels.

*      *      *

It is amusing now to go back and look at statements of outrage former coach Jim Harrick made about his abrupt dismissal by UCLA in 1996. At the time, Harrick was the man who’d brought UCLA back from the ether. The West Virginian had been all smiles hoisting the national championship trophy along with Ed O’Bannon, Tyus Edney and the victorious Bruins. And rightfully so. Harrick had taken a job a slew of previous coaches had tried to tame and done the only thing he’d been hired to do: win a national title again. Favorite sons Walt Hazzard, Gary Cunningham and Larry Farmer didn’t do it. Future coaching legends Gene Bartow and Larry Brown couldn’t do it, either. But the onetime UCLA assistant – the guy who never even played college basketball – did it. And he did it his own way, with style.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Yeah, You Might Be Better than a UCLA Player

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2008

Imagine that during your senior year of high school, you manage to scrape and claw your way onto the varsity basketball team.  You sit the bench, but you’re the first number called by the coach in most games, and you provide leadership, hustle and smarts in the twenty games you see action for your 26-2 conference championship team.  But a D1 collegiate prospect you’re assuredly not - your 3.4 ppg and 2.5 apg averages don’t even rise to the level of your GPA (4.3).  So you send your college applications out like everyone else in the Class of 2008, and the year of varsity hoops is but one of your many extracurriculars that you hope will give you an edge in the process.  Good fortune intervenes as you are accepted into your dream school, and before you know it, you’re not only on the varsity of a national powerhouse team coming off of three straight Final Four trips, but sitting on the bench in uniform alongside several HS all-americans and actually seeing a minute-plus of playing time in a real game against a Big East opponent (he missed his only three, by the way). 

John Wooden with great-grandson Tyler Trapani

John Wooden with great-grandson Tyler Trapani

Preposterous?  Nah.  Meet Tyler Trapani, UCLA’s walk-on seventeenth man, who also happens to be the great-grandson of a rather illustrious presence around Westwood - John Wooden.   Normally, we’d be up in arms over this clear case of nepotism, but actually, we don’t have any problem with this story.  As Ben Howland said in a recent AP report, he’s just acting as a caretaker for Coach Wooden’s program, and it’s not as if Trapani’s presence on the team otherwise injures any current Bruin’s standing (apparently, for most games he sits in the stands in street clothing). 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As part of the Wooden Classic festivities against Depaul on Saturday, the elder Bruin coach was there when Trapani (#4) played for ninety glorious seconds.  Given that the current walk-on Bruin once as a child told his great-gramps that he already knew how to shoot the ball when “Papa” was trying to correct his form, what was the WoW’s take on his 6’0, 185-lb. scion’s all-around game? 

He’s a little heavy-footed, but he works hard for a young fellow just starting college.  He doesn’t have the quickness for changing direction that I always like to have.

Translation: I was too busy recruiting players like Lew Alcindor, Sidney Wicks, Walt Hazzard, Bill Walton, Marques Johnson, et al., than to go after slow-as-molasses chumps like you.  Still love ya, though, kid. 

Share this story