Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (9-0)- The Jayhawks dominated Radford and La Salle at home this last week, but now the schedule gets much harder.  A Michigan team that is in need of a big win will visit Lawrence on Saturday.
  2. Texas (9-0)- The Longhorns blow out every team they play, probably because they have such an easy schedule, but also because Damion James is averaging a double-double. The matchup between the frontcourts of Texas and North Carolina may provide us with the most evenly matched game of the season, between two final four contenders.
  3. Kansas State (9-1)- Sorry Red Raiders fans, but I have to give the three-spot to the Wildcats despite TTU being the only other team in the conference outside Texas and Kansas that is undefeated. In my opinion, a road win against UNLV is better than a home win over Washington.
  4. Texas Tech (9-0)- John Roberson put the team on his back against TCU after being down five at halftime. Roberson played all 40 minutes and finished with 21 points on 7-11 from the field.
  5. Texas A&M (8-2)- Losing to New Mexico is nothing to be ashamed of; the Lobos can play with anyone in the power conferences.  The Aggies need to look at their game against Washington on December 22nd to get their name back in the national spotlight.
  6. Oklahoma State (9-1)- James Anderson is continuing his great play, and if Marshall Moses keeps averaging a double-double, Oklahoma State will be a hard team to beat in this conference.
  7. Oklahoma (7-3)- The Sooners have a good streak going, and they should have two more wins before they play on the road against Gonzaga.
  8. Baylor (8-1)- The Bears were off last week, but they’re win over Xavier looks a lot better after Xavier beat Cincinnati.
  9. Iowa State (7-3)- Beating their in-state rivals should get this team back on track.  The Cyclones have a lot of talent, they just need everyone to play well at the same time.
  10. Missouri (6-3)- Losing to Oral Roberts?  That’s a sign of a team that is in rebuilding mode.
  11. Nebraska (7-2)- A very ugly win over Oregon State, but it was a win nonetheless.
  12. Colorado (6-4)- Losing against Colorado State, a team that has been dwelling in the basement of the MWC the last few seasons, won’t get anyone in Boulder excited about basketball.

Team of the Week:  Kansas State WildcatsJacob Pullen had a huge night against UNLV (28 points, and 7-10 from behind the arc), which helped lead the Wildcats to their second big win of the week.  Denis Clemente and Pullen can lead this team to a deep run in the NCAA tournament when all other parts of the team are running smoothly.

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Morning Five: 12.15.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2009

morning5

  1. Marquette lost freshman forward Jeronne Maymon today when coach Buzz Williams announced that he was transferring from the school after just nine games, leaving the Golden Eagles with a mere nine scholarship players.  Or are they?  According to Maymon’s father, it was news to him and his son is “loving every minute of being” at Marquette.   Stay tuned on this one.
  2. South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn received a two-year extension and a hefty raise of $300k yesterday in a showing by the school that they’re serious in trying to keep the talented young coach around for a while.
  3. Food for thought:  Seth Davis reminds us that Kansas guard Xavier Henry is pretty solid in his own right, while the rest of us have become a sticky hot wet mess over Kentucky’s John Wall.
  4. If you didn’t read John Stevens’ report from the Crosstown Shootout on Sunday night, grab yourself a cup of joe, relax, and let yourself be taken away to a college basketball nirvana.
  5. Roy’s ejectee Brian King was interviewed by Dane Huffman at WRAL Sports yesterday, and he unequivocally states that he was not intoxicated and that he did nothing to warrant the ire that the UNC coach projected at him after he heckled Deon Thompson.  We gave our opinion on this yesterday, and yeah, this pretty much confirms what we thought.  Roy’s knowing smirk at the end of his press conference interview is telling — he’s the teflon don and he knows it.
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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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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (5-0) — After five games freshman Xavier Henry is leading the Jayhawks in scoring.
  2. Texas (5-0) — Won the CBE Classic in dominating fashion with wins over Iowa and Pitt.
  3. Kansas State (5-1) — The Wildcats are getting solid production from guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.
  4. Texas A&M (5-1) — The Aggies went 2-1 at the 76 Classic, and the only loss was to #8 West Virginia.
  5. Oklahoma State (6-0)James Anderson is still playing great and helped lead the Cowboys to a win over Utah.
  6. Missouri (4-1) — The Tigers could not find any offense against Richmond in the final of the South Padre Invitational.
  7. Iowa State (6-1) — Losing to Northwestern will hurt this team’s resume in March, but I still believe Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap could lead the Cyclones to a good finish in the Big 12.
  8. Texas Tech (7-0) — We will learn a lot about the Red Raiders on Thursday night when they play host to the Washington Huskies.
  9. Oklahoma (3-3) — The Sooners finally stopped their losing streak with a win over Nicholls State, but so far OU has done nothing impressive this season.
  10. Baylor (6-1) — Finishing 5th in the Old Spice Classic is a good sign for Bears fans.
  11. Colorado (4-2) — The Buffaloes played Gonzaga and Arizona to the wire, but still only came away from Maui with a win over D2 opponent Chaminade.
  12. Nebraska (4-1) — Defeated USC in the first game of the Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series.

Team of the Week:  Texas A&M Aggies – TAMU defeated two ranked opponents en route to a third place finish in the 76 Classic, and they did it without much production from leading scorer Donald Sloan.

Player of the Week:  Cory Higgins (G), Colorado — Higgins only scored 6 points in a dominating win over Chaminade, but in big games against Gonzaga and Arizona, the guard scored 19 and 28, respectively.

Top Stories:

  • Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series Tips Off.  With Nebraska defeating USC in the first game, the Big 12 has taken an early 1-0 lead.  The series is in its third year and in the previous two seasons the conferences split the series 6-6.
  • Four Teams Suffer First Loss.  In this past week, previously undefeated teams lost their first game:  Baylor lost to Alabama, Iowa State lost to Northwestern, Missouri lost to Richmond, and Texas A&M fell to West Virginia.

Games to Watch This Week:

  • Missouri (4-1) at Vanderbilt (4-1), 12/2 — Mizzou tries to bounce back on the road against one of the SEC’s best teams.
  • Oklahoma State (6-0) at Tulsa (5-1), 12/2 — Upset Alert:  Tulsa has one of the best players that you’ve never heard of in center Jerome Jordan.  OSU is going to have trouble trying to contain him.
  • Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series -- The best games this week:  Baylor at Arizona State and Washington at Texas Tech on 12/3, Iowa State at California on 12/5, Arizona at Oklahoma on 12/6
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After the Buzzer: Threedonkulous…

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2009

atb

Well, if there’s over 100 games in one night, you’re going to have some interesting storylines through sheer volume, and sure enough, we had a little bit of everything this evening.

Story of the NightArkansas 130, Alcorn State 68Rotnei Clarke reached ‘the zone’ that most of us only dream about tonight in Arkansas’ home opener, as the 6’0 sophomore guard with a career average of 12.1 PPG blew the roof off of Bud Walton Arena for an insane school-record 51 points including THIRTEEN three-pointers in seventeen attempts.  Clarke’s ‘lucky 13′ on Friday the 13th breaks the SEC record for long-range bombs held by former Hawg Al Dillard, who would notoriously pull up from just inside the hash mark during his two years in Fayetteville in the mid-90s (Dillard also had 22 attempts in his record performance).  When you get in this kind of a zone (15-21 FG, 13-17 3FG, 8-9 FT), former gunner-cum-coach John Pelphrey knows that the only thing to do is keep firing, and Clarke was happy to oblige.  At halftime, the score was Clarke 31, Alcorn 26 as the Hawgs ran out to a ridiculous 45-pt lead, and even though he ‘cooled off’ in the second stanza with only four threes and 20 points, Clarke had to know that he was experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime type of night.  Jemal Farmer, a 6’5 junior guard/forward, also had a great night, going for 28/12/6 assts for the Hawgs.  This was a particularly pleasant way for Arkansas to start off its season, as the summer months were not kind to Pelphrey’s team with various off-court incidents and suspensions plaguing the program throughout.  Five players, including starters Courtney Fortson and Stefan Welsh, were suspended for tonight’s game.  Keep an eye on this Arkansas team this year, as they have enough talent to compete in the SEC West if they can all keep their heads on straight.

(photo credit: Michael Woods)

(photo credit: Michael Woods)

Upset of the Night. Rider 88, #19 Mississippi State 74.  It didn’t take long for the SEC to show that it’s quite possibly overrated again, as  SEC West favorite MSU got thoroughly outplayed at home on the night when it raised its banner for its 2009 SEC title.  So… when will Renardo Sidney be eligible again?  Rider, a darkhorse to win the MAAC this year and featuring one of the best mid-major players in America in 6’6 forward Ryan Thompson, used a balanced attack and very efficient offense (10-16 from three) to stick with the home team and take over the game in the second half.  Mike Ringgold and Novar Gadson combined for 42/17 despite having to deal with the nation’s pre-eminent defensive player in the paint, Jarvis Varnado (22/14/7 blks).  But it appears that lackluster play by MSU might be attributable to more than an off night.  One of the more interesting quotes you’ll ever read from a college player came from MSU junior Kodi Augustus, who threw his coach Rick Stansbury under the bus in post-game commentary: “I talked to my dad,” Augustus said. “He said we got outcoached. I don’t know. But I looked at it, I only played 15 minutes the whole game. Yeah, I’m [upset], but like I said, I can’t do nothing about it. I played all those minutes the exhibition games and then you come and play me 15 minutes? Wow!”  Wow, indeed, and it seems that a team who was one of the best defensive squads in America last season has major issues with egos and team chemistry right now, and this is BEFORE John Riek and Renardo Sidney have even suited up!

RTC Live RecapWake Forest 76, Oral Roberts 56. We were in Winston-Salem tonight for RTC Live, and although the game wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, we learned a few things about each team.  Behind 19 points and 9 rebounds from Kevin Ford, ORU made things interesting by pulling within ten late in the 2nd half. That’s when Wake sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu scored 11 straight points, giving him a total of 25 points and 13 rebounds. Wake looked good inside, outrebounding ORU 51 to 25 including a whopping 20 offensive rebounds. Conversely, the Demon Deacons looked rough on the perimeter, shooting only 29.4% from behind the arc and committing 18 turnovers to only 14 assists (the TO-plagued Ish Smith will start the year with a 4:5 A/TO ratio). Wake fans should be happy that Aminu looks like a lottery pick after the season opener, and freshmen CJ Harris and Ari Stewart looked cool and composed, but the outside shooting and turnover problems that doomed last year’s Wake Forest team to an early exit in the NCAA Tournament still persist.

Let’s Talk Freshmen.  So many good new players, so little November television coverage.  How’d the top freshmen do in their first games tonight?

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Harrison Barnes Will Announce at 4pm ET Today

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2009

The nation’s presumptive #1 player in the Class of 2010, Harrison Barnes, will make his college choice official this afternoon at 4pm ET on ESPNU.  Nervous but hopeful coaches and fans from his top choices of Iowa State, UNC, Duke, UCLA, Oklahoma and Kansas will all be tuning in at the end of the work day to hear whether it will be their favorite school that makes a huge leap in Final Four potential and a national title chances in 2010-11.  According to Seth Davis, nobody but nobody knows what Barnes is going to do this afternoon, so let’s briefly break down each of his choices (in no particular order) to see what makes the most sense for the 6’7 superstar from Ames, Iowa.

Dave Telep Thinks Barnes is the Real Deal

  • Iowa State – Never count out the hometown school.  ISU is a stone’s throw from Ames High School, and Barnes is undoubtedly familiar with the campus, players and coaches to a degree much more than the others.  In fact, his mother works there.  Stud inside force Craig Brackins is likely to be in the NBA in 2010-11, but Barnes could potentially be seen as a savior in much the same way Michael Beasley was for the Kansas State program in 2007-08.  Similarly, his presence at ISU, even for one season, could impact the recruiting fortunes of the Cyclones for the next five years. 
  • UNC – Roy Williams never lacks for talent, but he could use an elite scoring wing next season to supplement his formidable size inside.  The 6’10 freshman John Henson is currently playing that role, so there could be a little bit of an overlap if Henson develops into a very nice player this year and sticks around in 2010-11.  Still, Roy has often had multiple Burger Boys at each position, so it wouldn’t shock us if Barnes signs with UNC today and if you’re listening to people around Barnes, MJ (who else?) is his idol.
  • Duke – Necessity, meet invention.  If Duke lands Barnes this afternoon, the Devils will immediately shoot to the top of the 2010-11 ratings.  We’ve covered this before, but assuming that Kyle Singler sticks around for his senior year, there’s no other team in America who will have the firepower that a lineup of Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes, Kyle Singler and Mason (or Miles) Plumlee could bring to bear.  That’s a NASTY lineup, and Barnes is tailor-made for Duke’s system of slashing and shooting.  If Barnes is ok with leaving his home state (and we think he is), this is our projection as to where he lands.
  • UCLA – Ultimately, this choice depends on how much the winters of Ames suck compared to those in Westwood (and we’re pretty sure they do).  If Barnes had an unbelievable visit at UCLA, this is a possible choice, but we wouldn’t call it probable.  Plus, some of the same issues that UNC has about obvious playing time exist, with the young forward corps of Drew Gordon, Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee likely to return in 2010-11.
  • Oklahoma - Jeff Capel has been a surpisingly good recruiter thus far as the head coach at Oklahoma, and the mere fact that Barnes is listing OU as a finalist belies that point.  With Blake Griffin and Willie Warren, Capel will have had consecutive all-americans who both stayed in school for at least two seasons.  And with Tony Crocker entering his senior season, the minutes will be plentiful on the wing should Barnes alight to Norman.  Still, we just don’t see it happening.  Other than the hometown school, one of these five out-of-state schools isn’t like the others, so it would be a tremendous coup if Capel pulls this one off.
  • Kansas – Bill Self is clearly hoping that if he loses star freshman wing Xavier Henry after one season, he’ll have Barnes waiting in the wings to replace him in 2010.  And it makes sense.  Regardless of what happens this year, KU will definitely lose team leader Sherron Collins and probably lose Cole Aldrich inside.  The Henry brothers are also possibilities.  Just to be clear, Kansas doesn’t re-build, but it would be unreasonable to expect next season to be as rife with possibility as the current one, even with Barnes on board.  The minutes will be there if Henry leaves, but Barnes can’t possibly know that now. 

Here’s our completely speculative projection of Barnes’ list a mere 2.5 hours before he unveils his top choice. 

  1. Duke - everything makes sense for Barnes there – title contention, PT, academics.
  2. Iowa State – the hometown school is always in play.
  3. UNC - Roy is a master salesman, but how does he explain the Henson situation?
  4. Kansas - Bill Self could be telling him that Henry is likely to leave, therefore the wing is all Barnes all the time.
  5. UCLA - the weather won’t supplant the other issues (minutes, perceived style of play).
  6. Oklahoma – Capel should be happy to have just gotten onto his list.

Keep up with all the Harrison Barnes hype this afternoon at the Des Moines Register’s page devoted to him.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.09.09 – 11.13.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2009

tivo

It is time to rejoice college basketball fans. After seven long months college basketball is back (officially). Since the last game of importance (UNC dismantling Michigan State), we’ve put up with the drama of Billy Gillispie getting fired and John Calipari getting hired (technically before the title game) along with John Wall, Lance Stephenson, and Renardo Sidney taking a ridiculously long time to decide where they would go to college (maybe just for one year) then waited to see if they would be eligible to play, which will probably be an ongoing drama throughout the season, and put up with a lot of really bad behavior by players and coaches. Now it is time for the games to begin. To be honest, the opening week is a little light on great games, but the pace should pick up next week as the early season tournaments get underway and we know that college basketball fans are craving a fix of real games so this week should still be exciting.

Monday (11.09.09)
FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that will be Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he wished he had left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Deon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year). http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/inside/roywilliams/index-index.html?&url=http://mfile.akamai.com/8108/wmv/cstvcbs.download.akamai.com/8108/open/unc/08-09/video/m-baskbl/01jan/011709_unc_m-baskbl_pcpostmiami.wmv
Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shellshocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.
Murray State at #12 California on ESPN U:

Monday (11.09.09)

FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: Ok, I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that is Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he should have left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Tyler ZellerDeon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question about Ed at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year–it’s the last question on the video as he is folding up his papers both while I am asking the question and as he is dodging the question).

Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shell-shocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.

Murray State at #12 California at 11 PM on ESPN U: This might be the most interesting game of the night even if it might be the least interesting to the casual fan, but we will be courtside covering the game for this year’s opening RTC Live (and we’ll be back two nights later when Detroit comes to Berkeley). I’m not expecting the Racers to pull off the upset although I think this game could be closer than a lot of people expect as Billy Kennedy brings a team that has the potential to win the Ohio Valley Conference into Berkeley. Kennedy will rely on his talented trio of Danero Thomas, Ivan Aska, and Isacc Miles against Mike Montgomery‘s talented group of perimeter players led by Jerome RandlePatrick Christopher, and Theo Robertson. Montgomery’s trio (with some help from Duke transfer Jamal Boykin) should be enough to hold off the Racers, but if they come in believing the considerable hype we might just have our first upset of the regular season.

Friday (11.13.09)

Hofstra at #1 Kansas on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: I’m not really expecting this to be a competitive game, but it is worth watching to see the consensus preseason #1 open up. Expect to see Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich play about 20-25 minutes in what should be a glorified exhibition. Hofstra has a pretty big name for a mid-major, but coach Tom Pecora will have the unenviable task of having to replace Antoine Agudio, the school’s all-time leading scorer, and he also lacks an interior presence to battle Aldrich on the inside–expect to see Aldrich dominate Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo on the inside. One match-up that might turn out to be interesting is at point guard with Collins going against Charles Jenkins (the only returning player in D1 to average more than 19 PPG, 4 RPG, and 4 APG last season). Outside of that check out the game to see Xavier Henry, who will have to work for his minutes this season on a deep and talented Jayhawk team.

Morehead State at #5 Kentucky on ESPNU: We would like to talk about how we think that one of the contenders for the Ohio Valley Conference title could take down Kentucky’s vaunted group of freshmen in their opening game, but it’s more likely that this could be a preview of a NCAA tournament game — a 1st round NCAA tournament game. Donnie Tyndall‘s team will have its hands full going into Rupp Arena with 23,500 rabid Kentucky fans ready to witness the rebirth of their program. One match-up that might be interesting will be Patrick Patterson (yes, Kentucky does have players outside of its freshmen) against Kenneth Faried, the odds-on favorite to win OVC POY. For the NBA scouts who might be reading this, you’ll have to wait to see John Wall who is sitting out as part of his suspension, but there will still be NBA talent on the court with Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins on the inside for the Wildcats.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #4 – Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2009

seasonpreviewPatrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Kansas (15-1)
  2. Texas (14-2)
  3. Oklahoma (11-5)
  4. Kansas State (10-6)
  5. Missouri (9-7)
  6. Texas A&M (8-8)
  7. Oklahoma State (8-8)
  8. Iowa State (7-9)
  9. Baylor (5-11)
  10. Texas Tech (4-12)
  11. Nebraska (3-13)
  12. Colorado (2-14)

All Conference Team:

  • Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
  • Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
  • Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
  • Damion James (F), Texas
  • Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas

6th Man. James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State

Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas

big 12 logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • KU Dominance.  Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school.  Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
  • Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road.  The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
  • Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
  • X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons.  A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season.  He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Lower Midwest Region

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South and Mid-South) are located here.

It’s time for the sixth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of rust belt and farming states that we like to call the Lower Midwest.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

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Ed. Note: for the purposes of our analysis in this region, Butler was considered a high-major program.

  • Cole Aldrich – Jr, C – Kansas. Much like North Carolina one October ago, Kansas appears to be the unanimous selection to begin the season atop every poll and ranking. One of the main reasons for such accolades is the continued improvement of Cole Aldrich, the Kansas double-double machine in the post. Remember the national semifinals against UNC in 2008 when Aldrich burst onto the scene recording eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a then career-high 17 minutes? That was the night college hoops fans first saw what Aldrich can provide for Bill Self and his Jayhawks. In a full season of play, Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins were the anchors behind Kansas’ surprising run to a #3 seed and a Sweet 16 berth in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Cole Aldrich and a pretty good player named Blake Griffin were the only players in the Big 12 to average a double-double in 2008-09. Speaking of stats, Aldrich’s triple-double in the second round against Dayton – 13/20/10 blks- was the first recorded triple double in KU’s illustrious basketball history. Aldrich led the conference in blocks with at 2.7 BPG, finished second in rebounding at 12.4 RPG, second in FG% at 60% and tenth in FT% at an impressive 79% for a 6’11 center.  Aldrich possesses great length, a high motor and displays the fundamentals under the basket that Self loves. The insane talent around Aldrich this season will only put less of a load on his shoulders as the big man can rely on Collins for the clutch outside shot, Xavier Henry on the wings, Thomas Robinson on the block or Tyrel Reed to knock down the long-range three. But the pressure will be on Aldrich to provide a post presence that simply cannot be matched in the Big 12 (sorry Dexter Pittman).  If he achieves his potential, a national POY award isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Kansas’ prized junior center.
  • Craig Brackins – Jr, F – Iowa St. Craig Brackins won’t get half the airtime this season as any of the other high-major names on this list, but he could end up becoming the best player of the group when it’s all said and done.  It’s not as if Brackins came out of nowhere – he was a five-star recruit out of Brewster (NH) Academy in 2007, and he turned down offers from Indiana and Pitt, among others – but, when you play in the Big 12 and your team is generally an afterthought (4-12 in 2008-09), it’s tough to get noticed.  But noticed he got on Jan. 24th in a nationally-televised home game against the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks.  Brackins sliced and diced the vaunted Jayhawk defense for 42/14 in a losing effort that had Bill Self afterwards stating that the lanky center could be the “best player in the country today.”  That single game may have put the Iowa State star on the casual fan’s radar screen, but it’s not like Brackins wasn’t tearing it up against everyone else too:  32/16 against N. Iowa; 28/17 against Jacksonville St.; 38/14 against Houston; 25/13 against Nebraska.  The all-Big 12 first teamer nearly averaged a double-double for the season (20.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG) despite seeing hard and fast double-teams every time he touched the ball.  It was widely presumed that Brackins would jump into the NBA Draft last summer after such a spectacular season; after all, projections for him of the lottery and mid-first round were prevalent.  However, Brackins said that he had some unfinished business to attend to at ISU (meaning, getting the Cyclones to an NCAA Tournament), and he returned to what should be an improved squad with 6’7 juco transfer Marquis Gilstrap’s arrival on the blocks and a solid returning backcourt of Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger.  The only true weakness he has exhibited so far in his career is his 28% from beyond the arc, but with more firepower on the team this year he may be less inclined to feel like he has to do it all (Brackins attempted 37% of ISU’s shots last year).  Regardless of how the team’s season plays out in 2009-10, there should be no doubt that Brackins is on the short list of best post men in America.  With another year of seasoning under his belt at the collegiate level, however, we could be looking at a top five pick next June.  Don’t flip the channel so quickly if you see that Iowa St. is playing on the tube this year – it may be one of your few chances to see one of the best big men in the country.
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Team of the 2000s: #2- Kansas

Posted by zhayes9 on August 19th, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

Stepping away from this decade’s rankings for a moment, one could make the argument that the runner-up recipient on our list would top a list of the greatest college basketball programs of all-time. Sure, UCLA and Kentucky fans may quibble, but the combination of legendary players (Lovelette, Chamberlain, Manning, Pierce), pantheon coaches (Naismith, Allen, Brown, Williams) and an arena that every true college basketball fan should visit (Allen Fieldhouse) could surely provide enough ammunition to make an argument to head an all-time list. The successes of this program’s basketball has extended into the current decade, complete with Final Fours, national championship heartbreaks and a comeback for the ages. Let’s take a closer look:

#2 – Kansas

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Overview. As one can tell from the chart above, Kansas has been the model of consistency over the course of the decade. Not even a Hall-of-Fame coach departing for his alma mater could deter the Jayhawks program in the 2000s. In fact, Kansas is the only school to reach the top-five in every single category considered, including a runner-up rank in Sweet 16s and Final Fours reached with seven and three, respectively. Other teams on the list have gone without a losing campaign and reached the NCAA Tournament each season, but none of those schools lost a coach midway through the decade. After Roy Williams departed, Kansas made a tremendous hire, luring Illinois coach Bill Self to Lawrence. He’s responded by capturing a Big 12 regular season title each season with the exception of 2003-04, a year in which he finished second and reached the Elite Eight (ho hum). The peak for Kansas may have come in the early part of the decade under Williams, though. The Jayhawk squads from 2001-03 were truly memorable. The 2001-02 club is still the only team in Big 12 history to finish conference play undefeated, a Drew Gooden-led group that finished first in the nation in field goal and winning percentage. A year later, Kansas led the nation in scoring margin and reached the national title game.

Pinnacle. KU’s only national championship in the decade would not have occurred if Derrick Rose or Chris Douglas-Roberts had sunk one more measly free throw during the thrilling 2008 National Championship Game in San Antonio. You know the story: Memphis leads Kansas 60-51 with two minutes left, the national title within their grasp…only to experience heartbreak of the highest order. Give the Jayhawks credit, though, for going perfect from the field and line during those waning minutes. Mario Chalmers’ game-tying three-point shot with 2.1 seconds left will forever be etched in the mind of college basketball fans and may be the single greatest moment in Kansas basketball history (from the wayback machine: RTC’s “morning after” analysis of the game). And that’s saying something. Long known for NCAA Tournament chokes, (we’ll delve into that in a bit) Bill Self finally reached the pinnacle, a pinnacle that is still going strong today. That national title squad was stripped of nearly every contributing player besides sixth man Sherron Collins and little-used big man Cole Aldrich, yet Self’s superb coaching led Kansas to another Big 12 title and Sweet 16 appearance in 2008-09. As the preseason #1 team in the land entering the next decade, the pinnacle has yet to conclude.

Tailspin. Many fans would immediately point to the heartbreaking loss to Syracuse in the 2003 National Championship game (you remember the infamous Hakim Warrick block), a last hurrah for Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Roy Williams gone awry. But I’d be shocked if diehard Kansas fans didn’t select the consecutive first round losses in 2005 and 2006 to Bucknell (as a #3 seed) and Bradley (as a #4 seed) as the lowest points of the decade. The 2004-05 Kansas team completely collapsed after starting the season 20-1 and reaching the top spot in the polls, a squad led by Wayne Simien, Keith Langford and Aaron Miles during Self’s second season. They would go on to lose six of their last nine games before the shocking Bucknell last-second upset. The following season was different yet finished eerily similar. After a rough start, KU rebounded to win 15 of their last 17 games and the Big 12 tournament before falling to Bradley in the opening round. After the loss, Bill Self was labeled a perennial March choke artist and many questioned whether the Kansas program could ever return to prominence.

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Outlook for 2010s: Grade: A+. Kansas has returned to prominence. The Jayhawks enter the 2009-10 season as the near-unanimous favorite to raise another rafter in Allen Fieldhouse, a feat that would complete the quickest rebuilding job in the sport’s history. Aldrich appears to be one of the early favorites to win the Naismith Award and Self lured another McDonald’s All-American into the fray for next season in talented wing Xavier Henry, coupled with two more top-ten players at their respective positions in Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson to go with Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus Morris and Collins. Self is a recruiting machine and appears to be the frontrunner for Harrison Barnes, the top player in next year’s class. Kansas is the height of the coaching chain and, barring an unforeseen flameout, Self should be the KU coach for years and years to come (especially after rejecting a monster package from his alma mater, Oklahoma State). The March monkey is off his back and the future is extremely bright for one of the most storied programs in college basketball.

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07.06.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 6th, 2009

Hope everyone had a brilliant ID4…

  • Class of 2009. Evan Daniels of Scout.com wrote an interesting piece on how wishy-washy the high school class of 2009 was before finally settling on a school. Six of the top ten players – John Wall, Xavier Henry, Lance Stephenson, Renardo Sidney, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors – had what Daniels terms an ‘interesting’ recruitment. Interesting in the sense that the propect took forever to decide on a destination, had eligibility concerns, switched up commitments, or all of the above. From our view, this is a predictable byproduct of the NBA’s 1-and-done rule, which is now impacting its fourth class of high school seniors. All of these above players are viewing one year in college as just another somewhat annoying hoop to jump through – an unavoidable pit stop on their way to riches in the League. When seen through that prism, there’s little emotional investment in the process of choosing a college (in fact, choosing a coach is infinitely more important) and the concomitant worries about staying eligible for that one season become mitigated by all the shady characters and hangers-on offering nickels now for promises later. There’s no easy fix for this problem and as we showed last week, 1-and-dones generally help programs more than they hurt, but the NBA requiring two years after high school could help players take more ownership over this process simply because they’d be forced to care more.
  • 2009-10 Scheduling.  The Big East announced its completely unbalanced schedule last week, and Andy Katz believes that Villanova and UConn have the toughest two slates, with each having all three ‘home-and-homes’ with other contenders (at least, on paper).  What’s interesting in going down this list is just how far off the talent level has fallen in this conference since last season – it’s phenomenal, really.  Moving on…  the Jimmy V Classic is going for slow and methodical this year, with its recent announcement that Butler v. Georgetown and Pitt v. Indiana will be the schools represented.  Pitt should easily desecrate IU, but we’d look for Butler-Gtown to be a very good game.  And if you browse to the bottom of this blog post by Katz, you’ll see a good analysis of the various preseason tournaments as they currently stand.  We’d have to agree that the Maui Invitational seems very weak compared to its norm, but the 76 Classic for the second year in a row is strong. 
  • Top Rivalries.  Pat Forde took an old-fashioned beating for his article last week outlining what he thinks are the ten hottest hoops rivalries heading into next season.  To recap, Kentucky-Louisville was #1, Michigan St.-Purdue was #2 (???), Kentucky-Tennessee was #3, and UNC-Duke was #4.  Something seems amiss here.  We think we understand his premise that these are the projected top rivalries for the upcoming season, but maybe what he should have said was ‘games.’  For a rivalry to exist, there needs to be historical gravitas behind it – countless incidents, slights, fights, etc., that give each school a bitter taste in its mouth for the other.  Do Michigan St. fans have such negative feelings about Purdue?  Villanova and Pitt?  Instead, Forde seems to rely considerably on coaching rivalries in making this list – Calipari vs. Pitino; Calipari vs. Pearl; Ford vs. Capel; Montgomery vs. his old school.  This is an interesting way to categorize school rivalries, but he probably should have been a little clearer about that; otherwise, it’s difficult to swallow some of his inclusions without question.  Syracuse-UConn? Maryland-Duke?  And many more…  
  • Some Quick Hits.  Duke: playing zone next season?  Jay Wright: loving life at VillanovaClass of 2009 (again): mapping the top 25Dave Rose: a harrowing month of JuneClass of 2010: time for the July scouting period.  AAU Ball: shocking lack of fundamentals (um, thanks for the investigative journalism, WSJ). July Recruiting Period: Gary Parrish’s FAQ.
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07.01.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 1st, 2009

Already halfway through the calendar, which means that we’re almost equally distant from Midnight Madness as we are from last Selection Sunday…

  • Rumors Be Damned.  In case you missed it, the rumor mill has been flaring up considerably this week.  Lance Stephenson to CincinnaticonfirmedXavier Henry and brother CJ to KentuckydeniedCoach K to the Lakers – not a chance.  RTC to Vansterdam – pending.  The rumor that had us vexed was the Henrys leaving KU story.  When your father is going on talk radio shows and spouting off about his kids’ unhappiness and unwillingness to stay in a particular place (Kansas), that’s usually pretty convincing evidence that something is afoot.  Turns out, though, that Carl Henry is just a smidge on the aft side of crazy athlete-dads, and he came off as a real sh*t-stirrer in follow-up radio interviews he gave earlier this week.  If Bill Self can manage to get the Henrys to sacrifice self for team, that’ll be a really impressive accomplishment, it appears.
  • All Games Are Presumed Equal.  Even though some are more equal than others.  Um, ok.  The NCAA revised its Tournament criteria to remove the “last 12″ record analysis (which used to be “last 10″) because the selection committee found it confusing to give more value to games played later in the season over games earlier in the season.  In other words, every game is now supposed to count equally in their analysis.  The conventional wisdom is that this is a good thing, but we’re uncertain.  Think about it: all else being equal, would you want a team that started 15-1 but finished 4-8 getting into the Dance over a team that started 9-7, but finished 10-2?  We think that there needs to be some reward for finishing strong.  Basketball is a tournament sport, and teams are built to be working on all cylinders by the time tournament season rolls around, not in November and December.  Our general feeling is that committee members will still reward strong closers over strong starters, but it just won’t be officially sanctioned.  Let’s hope they do, at least.   
  • Bruins Pony Up.  In what’s becoming a national trend in both football and basketball, schools are holding their long-time season ticket holders hostage by requiring enormous donations to reserve the best seats at their venues.  We recently read about this occurring as Cal upgrades its football stadium, and now UCLA is requiring up to a half-million dollars worth of largesse to get the choicest seats courtside at the new and improved Pauley Pavilion (set to re-open in 2012).  Schools can obviously do whatever they want with the seats in their stadiums, but it seems absurd that a family that has held on to seats for generations but may not have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around won’t be able to keep them.   
  • 2010 Mock Drafts.  Here’s a version from Jeff Goodman, NBADraft.net, DraftExpress, and Draft Depot.  Everybody and their brother has Kentucky PG John Wall as the #1 guy right now. 
  • More Quick Hits.  Cameron Dollar: high hopes for fledgling Seattle U.  SEC Coaches: we don’t suckCraig Brackins: two national articles on the Iowa St. big man in the same week!  Ohio St. AD Gene Smith: will chair the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Tournament CmtesRenardo Sidney: NCAA eligibility meetings postponed to next weekGreivis Vasquez: sweeping the ACC titles next season.  UNC: University of Nike Carolina.  Coach K: of course he doesn’t like the one-and-done rule.  Of course he doesn’t.  Tom Brennan: first Whelliston, now Brennan.  ESPN is shedding all of its best CBB studio people, and that’s sad.
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