Chicago Basketball Needs Chris Collins

Posted by Chris Hatfield on October 27th, 2017

Chris Collins probably has traces of Lake Michigan running through his blood. I mean, it wouldn’t be suprising. After all, the Northwestern head coach, once a Bulls ballboy, is about as Chicago as it gets. He’s also one of college basketball’s hottest names. In my view, the Wildcats and he are a heavenly pair. It just feels like it needs to be this way. “We are working hard every day to make this a program Chicago can be proud of,” Collins told the Northwestern fan base in a promo that aired a few days after he was hired.

Chris Collins and Chicago Wear Each Other Very Well (USA Today Images)

The city must protect him. He must protect his commitment. The fate of the known universe depends on it. Maybe that’s a bit excessive, but man, it’s quite important. It was more apparent than ever last season. Collins delivered Evanston what it hadn’t had in 78 years, not even once — an NCAA Tournament appearance. He then took it a step further. He actually won a game by defeating Vanderbilt in the First Round. After that, his Wildcats came within a few plays of defeating eventual national runner-up, Gonzaga.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

How Tournament-Proof Are the Nation’s Top Five Offenses?

Posted by RJ Abeytia on February 18th, 2017

This year multiple coaches across the country have conceded publicly that a team’s offense is the biggest factor in its ability to maintain a defense. “Defense wins championships” may still be a treasured maxim, but the truth is that offense is the fuel in college basketball. The question then becomes one of how vulnerable the best offenses in college basketball are to a one-game slump? Since only a single bad night is all it takes to be sent home from the NCAA Tournament, it’s worth investigating the nation’s top five offenses to set some criteria for evaluating the rest of the field. Per KenPom, here are the top five offenses nationally based on adjusted offensive efficiency, along with their corresponding adjusted tempo.

Team Adj. ORtg Adj. Tempo
1. UCLA 124.5 14.1 (6)
2. Oklahoma State 123.9 16.5 (91)
3. North Carolina 122.2 15 (16)
4. Gonzaga 122.2 15.7 (33)
5. Villanova 121.7 18.8 (314)


As the tempo column shows, teams can play at both warp speed (UCLA, North Carolina, Gonzaga) or at a relative crawl (Villanova) and still be extremely effective. That said, to the extent that the game slows somewhat in the NCAA Tournament, it is reasonable to suggest that some of these teams may face more trouble than others. 
The Bruins, Tar Heels and Bulldogs all use a healthy dose of tempo when they play. This is not to say that any of those three teams cannot also win a low-possession game, but their opponents would certainly be better-suited to impose a slowdown game on them to the extent possible. Villanova has already proven its favored pace can win championships. The next question then becomes which of the faster teams are most poised to handle a grind-it-out half-court game?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Not Every Big 12 Team Has Elevated Itself in Non-Conference Play

Posted by Drew Andrews on December 9th, 2016

The Big 12 has gotten off to a very good start in non-conference play, with several teams already notching important wins for Selection Sunday and the league sitting in the top spot in Ken Pomeroy’s conference ratings and second in the RPI. West Virginia beat Virginia in Charlottesville; Kansas knocked off Duke in the Champions Classic; and Baylor owns six top 100 wins including those over Louisville, Xavier and Oregon. As well as those three teams have represented the conference nationally, another trio of Big 12 schools — Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech — are still looking for a signature win.

Oklahoma State's Best Win Came Against a Struggling Georgetown Program (USA Today Images)

Oklahoma State’s Best Win Came Against a Struggling Georgetown Program (USA Today Images)

Oklahoma State has started the season on a scoring tear. As expected, Jawun Evans leads the team in usage but he hasn’t had to go it alone. Phil Forte and Jeffrey Carroll are both top 100 offensive players nationally who can help Evans carry the scoring load. The concern for when the Cowboys get to conference play will be about how an already shaky defense can hold up against stronger competition. North Carolina scored 107 points in a blowout win in Maui, and, while the Cowboys rank fourth nationally in steal rate, that gambling style of defense has led to a surplus of open looks from three-point range (opponents are making 39.2 percent of their threes against the Pokes). A talent advantage has mostly masked these deficiencies to this point, but Big 12 play is likely to expose Oklahoma State if Brad Underwood doesn’t improve his defense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Is Northwestern Finally Breaking Through?

Posted by Jim Root on November 30th, 2016

It’s nearly impossible to talk about Northwestern basketball without mentioning its ignominious streak of missing the NCAA Tournament in every year since the event’s inception. While that dishonor receives nowhere near the public interest that north side of Chicago neighbor Cubs’ 107-year World Series drought gets, it’s a similar marker of futility. Wait — what’s that? The Cubs did what this year? Well, I’ll be darned… so can another long Windy City sports dry spell be snapped this year? Early indicators look good.

Bryant McIntosh looks like an all-conference lead guard, both scoring and distributing the basketball. (AP)

Bryant McIntosh looks like an all-conference lead guard, both scoring and distributing the basketball. (AP)

The outlook at this point is relatively positive, as head coach Chris Collins did an excellent job of fixing last year’s primary problem — an incredibly weak non-conference schedule (334th nationally, per both KenPom’s ranking system and ESPN’s RPI formula). The Wildcats have already played a road game at Butler (L), neutral site games against Texas (W) and Notre Dame (L), and beat Wake Forest at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge earlier this week. A win at Butler or against the Irish would have been massively helpful for Northwestern’s at-large cause, but a vastly improved non-conference strength of schedule already puts Collins’ team ahead of last year’s resume. As it’s not even December yet, there’s still work to do. Northwestern cannot afford a loss in its five remaining non-conference home games against shaky-to-very-bad foes, and a December 17 date with Dayton at the United Center in Chicago looms as the team’s last chance to provide substance to its ledger. That game against the Flyers will present the Wildcats with the odd situation of having an interior advantage, something that they are unlikely to experience during the Big Ten grinder. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Best YouTube Moments in Oregon State Basketball: The Nominees

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 10th, 2014

Last month we introduced our new project, which is centered around determining the top YouTube moment in Pac-12 basketball history. We continue the nomination portion with Oregon State.

[ed note: These are just the top moments we could find on YouTube, which has a vast number and array of videos, but we won’t be able to cover the entire 99 years of the conference.]

 

We open with perhaps the most explosive dunk in Beavers basketball history, courtesy of shooting guard Jared Cunningham. With three minutes left in the opening week of conference play, Oregon State was hanging onto a two-point lead against vaunted Arizona. Getting a running start from the three-point line, Cunningham read Joe Burton’s missed jumper perfectly, rising over a pair of Wildcats and one of his own teammates to slam the ball home one-handed. If you were watching the game live, you’ll remember how officials just stopped the game for a good 20 seconds because no one was quite sure what they just witnessed. There was no foul or timeout called, everyone just stopped playing. I thought that was pretty cool. If the Beavers wouldn’t have pulled the upset, then the play would have just been remembered as a nice moment in an otherwise tough loss. But the offense continued to thrive down the stretch, and by the end of the night the Beavers were tied atop the league standings and owned the #6 play of the day on SportsCenter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Night Line: Even in an Off Night, Freshman Arcidiacono Impresses During Villanova Victory

Posted by EJacoby on November 16th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

In what can only be characterized as a chaotic game, Villanova used overtime on Thursday night to defeat Purdue, 89-81, in the second semifinal of the 2kSports Classic in Madison Square Garden. The two teams combined to commit 55 fouls and both shot under 40% from the field in a game that was equal parts sloppy and entertaining due to the back-and-forth play between two young teams. One consistent throughout the night, however, was the playmaking ability displayed by the Wildcats’ freshman starting point guard Ryan Arcidiacono. The 6’3″ guard played the worst game of his early Villanova career yet still scored 18 points with six assists and led all players with 39 minutes played. Missed shots and over-aggressive turnovers plagued him for much of the night, yet he easily made up for his mistakes with complete control of the ‘Nova offense and clutch free throws down the stretch. Like all young players, Arcidiacono will suffer some growing pains but it looks like Jay Wright has found a keeper and a future Big East star in his new point guard.

Freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono has complete command of the Villanova offense (U.S. Presswire)

The rookie guard shot just 3-14 from the field on Thursday while committing seven turnovers, several of which led to easy scores for Purdue in transition. But Arcidiacono’s mistakes were a function of his aggressive mentality, relentlessly seeking to attack weak spots in the defense and create scoring opportunities for himself or his teammates. There’s simply a buzz when the rookie has the ball in his hands, like something good is going to happen for his Wildcats. ‘Arch,’ as coach Wright calls him, has tremendous dribbling skills and one-on-one ability with the ball while constantly keeping his head up to find open teammates when the defense sends help to contain his drives. He has deep range on his shot that keeps defenders honest and good size at 6’3″ to finish in traffic near the rim. His shots weren’t falling on Thursday – he didn’t convert a single field goal in the second half after shooting 3-4 in the first – but he still put pressure on the Boilermakers throughout the night with his command of the offense. And, most importantly on this night, Arch is a fantastic free-throw shooter who rarely misses at the line. He shot 9-10 from the stripe and it was the freshman’s two clutch freebies with 44 seconds to play in regulation that tied the game at 75-75 and sent this one into overtime, where ‘Nova took control in the extra session.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Alex Len’s Coming Out Party Nearly Spoils Kentucky’s Title Defense Debut

Posted by EJacoby on November 9th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Maryland game tonight in Brooklyn. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. 

We assumed it was nearly impossible for Kentucky to repeat the kind of immediate, dominant success it had last season with a brand new crop of young players this year. For the first half of their season-opening game against Maryland on Friday night, though, the Wildcats came out on fire and efficient on both ends en route to opening a 15-point lead just minutes into the second half in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But it didn’t take long for the inconsistency, poor decision-making, and defensive mistakes that are typical of freshmen players to crop up for John Calipari’s team, which opened the door for Maryland to make a run in front of a very pro-Terrapin crowd. Led by emerging sophomore center Alex Len, the Terps went on a 15-0 second half run and eventually took the lead before seesawing to a tough, 72-69 loss. Len was the catalyst on both ends for Maryland’s near-upset, as the sophomore seven-footer finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks — all game-highs. He shot 10-18 from the field and committed zero turnovers. Despite failing to capitalize with a monster non-conference victory, Maryland and its fans must feel confident about this season’s outlook on the heels of Len’s dominant opening performance.

Alex Len nearly led his Maryland team to a big-time upset win over Kentucky on Friday night (Maryland 247 Sports photo)

The big sophomore showed flashes of greatness last season for Maryland, but he did not put together any dominant performances that could propel Mark Turgeon’s team to big wins. The center from the Ukraine recorded six total games in double-figure scoring last year, and none after February 4. He averaged 4.1 points per game in his final 10 games and amassed just one double-double all season. Tonight was a completely different story, as Len looked much more polished in the paint with offensive moves, finishes at the rim, rebounding prowess, and strong defensive positioning. Len turned national consensus #1 recruit Nerlens Noel of Kentucky into an afterthought, dominating the freshman in the paint as well as beating him down the floor in transition on multiple occasions. Noel had just four points on 2-6 shooting to match his nine rebounds and three blocks. If not for the unlikely late-game heroics of former Kentucky walk-on Jarrod Polson, who scored 10 points tonight after recording a total of seven previous points in his career, the Terps could have left Barclays Center with a defining victory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Unibrow & Other CBB Entrants Are Snubbed But Watford Wins at the ESPYs

Posted by EJacoby on July 12th, 2012

Last night were the ESPYs, and somehow, neither of the #15 over #2 shockers during last year’s NCAA Tournament won ESPN’s award for “Best Upset” of the year, and Anthony Davis‘ epic season wasn’t even enough to win over voters in the “Best NCAA Male” category. Not even legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was rewarded for breaking Bob Knight’s all-time wins record. In general, college hoops was vastly overlooked during Wednesday’s 2012 ESPY Awards, but one shining moment came in the form of Indiana forward Christian Watford‘s wild shot to beat Kentucky back in December. “Watford For The Win!” was crowned with the “Best Play” award from the past year in sports; a very deserving honor for one of the defining moments of the 2011-12 college hoops season. ESPN announcer Dan Shulman’s call on Watford’s game-winner over the top-ranked Wildcats sticks as one of the great broadcasting moments in recent memory, as does Dick Vitale’s incomparable reaction and IU head coach Tom Crean’s shocked celebration. It’s hard to find a singular more significant or lasting moment than that one, as Watford beat out a field of 31 other nominees through a lengthy tournament vote. Unfortunately, John Calipari, Anthony Davis, Kentucky, Coach K, the final Border War, Lehigh, and Norfolk State were unable to seize any hardware against their considerably thinner fields of competition.

Watford’s buzzer-beating three-point shot marked the official return of Hoosiers basketball. One of our sport’s bluebloods, Indiana had struggled at the bottom of the Big Ten for several years, and the victory over UK symbolized a resurgence. Indiana quickly jumped into the top 15 of the polls and stayed there much of the season, eventually making a run to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to those same Wildcats in a rematch not played in the friendly confines of Bloomington. But Watford’s shot isn’t forgotten for Hoosiers or Wildcats fans, both of whom were heavily invested in that December game as part of a longstanding border rivalry (which was sadly not renewed for 2012-13), nor the entire world of college hoops, which sent off an explosion of posts and tweets on social media across the country.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Is Calipari Protecting His Home Court Winning Streak? Kentucky’s 12-13 Schedule Says So

Posted by EJacoby on July 10th, 2012

John Calipari has yet to lose a home game as Kentucky’s head coach, and Tuesday’s release of the Wildcats’ non-conference home schedule suggests that he’s looking to keep it that way. Since Coach Cal became the Kentucky coach prior to the 2009-10 season, his team is 51-0 in Rupp Arena – the only team in the country not to have lost at home during that period. It’s a special distinction to have the nation’s most dominant home court, but do we need to keep praising the pristine record when his team is scheduling cupcakes specifically to uphold the winning streak? Not only has Calipari publicly clamored to avoid difficult road games against a resurgent program such as Indiana, but he’s also now starving the Big Blue Nation of any meaningful non-conference home competition. It’s no secret that the coach’s bottom line is to give his team the best chance at a #1 NCAA Tournament seed, but an undefeated home record won’t seem as special if it’s extended without much in the way of legitimate resistance. A home game or two against an elite non-conference foe wouldn’t hurt the bottom line and would also give UK fans a deserving treat, but they’ll have to wait at least another year before that happens.

Look for Kentucky to pile up easy wins next year to extend the home winning streak (AP Photo)

UK’s schedule includes snooze-fests against opponents like Lafayette, Samford, Lipscomb, and Eastern Michigan, all of which finished with sub-.500 records last season in poor conferences. These teams have no chance to give the Wildcats a contest on any floor, let alone at home (remember: Billy Gillispie now coaches at Texas Tech). The same goes for the Portland Pilots of the WCC, they of a 7-24 overall record last season. Morehead State loses three starters from an 18-15 team, so don’t expect the Eagles to put up any kind of fight, either. Long Island? The Blackbirds made the NCAA Tournament last year – but as a #16-seed after winning the NEC, a conference ranked 24th in RPI. Marshall showcases a talented player in DeAndre Kane but not much else with a team that finished 9-7 in Conference USA last season. That leaves Baylor – the squad that UK defeated handily in last year’s Elite Eight and the one team that can at least provide a watchable contest. Still, the Bears lost three forwards to the NBA Draft this year and will struggle to replace that size next season. It’ll be a surprise if Baylor is less than a double-digit underdog in Rupp Arena against the defending National Champions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Anthony Davis

Posted by EJacoby on June 28th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for tonight in New Jersey. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting 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.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Anthony Davis

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’11” / 220 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: #1 Overall Pick

Anthony Davis will hear his name first during Thursday’s NBA Draft (AP Photo)

Overview: Believe it or not, Anthony Davis was not even on the radar as an elite prospect in his high school class three years ago. But that was before he grew eight inches in one summer, retained some of his guard skills, and developed elite shot-blocking fundamentals. The rest is history, as we all know his story as the #1 recruit in his class who produced immediately in college. In his one season at Kentucky, Davis led his team to a National Championship as Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament while winning the AP, Naismith, and Wooden National Player of the Year awards. He averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and an NCAA-best 4.7 blocks per game on 62.3% shooting as an 18-year-old freshman. While considered a defense-first asset, Davis also led the SEC in field goal percentage, offensive rating, and free throws made. At nearly 6’11” in shoes with a 7’5.5″ wingspan, great agility, incredible discipline, and a high basketball IQ, Davis is one of the best shot-blocking prospects the NBA has ever seen. He’s very wiry and must add strength to avoid getting pushed around in the paint at the next level, but he’s such a good athlete that he makes up for any lost ground by swatting away everything near the basket. On offense he can face up and shows a decent jump shot with range or drives by defenders to the cup. He can also play with his back to the basket where he’s an efficient scorer, rarely turning the ball over and drawing fouls at a high rate. But he’s best at cutting to the paint for open looks and lobs at the rim, where he finishes alley-oops with perfect timing and explosion. He’s also a beast in transition with his speed and versatile skills for his size. He shoots over 70% from the free throw line, shows great work ethic, and is an intense leader. What can’t Davis do? He’s still a young kid who’s very raw offensively and needs to add strength. But it’s doubtful he becomes anything but a game-changing NBA force that a franchise can build around.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story