2010 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Posted by zhayes9 on June 25th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:

Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images

Winners:

Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.

John Calipari - As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.

Paul George - It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.

Greivis Vasquez’ reaction - I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Damion James

Posted by rtmsf on June 22nd, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.  

Player Name: Damion James 

School: Texas 

Height/Weight: 6’8, 227 

NBA Position: Small Forward 

Projected Draft Range: Mid-to-late first round  

Overview: Damion James is one of only a small handful of seniors with a good chance of hearing their names called by David Stern in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft. Over the course of his career in Austin, he played with several NBA-caliber players, including former first-round picks Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin, yet still managed to post impressive numbers. James’ scoring average increased every year, from just 7.6 a game as a freshman to 18 a night last season, and James always produced on the glass, posting 10.3 rebounds per game in both his sophomore and senior seasons, and an average of 9.3 RPG over the course of his career. As a result of being undersized for his natural power forward position, James has worked hard on his perimeter jumper, improving from a poor shooter (he hit just one of his 11 three-point attempts as a freshman) to a 37.5% three-point shooter over the final three years of his career, a facet of his game that will need to continue to improve.    

James is a Tough Kid Who Will Make His Way in the League

Will Translate to the NBA: James’ athleticism, rebounding ability and motor are his biggest strengths, and those will be the traits on which James’ NBA career rests. James has strong hands, is quick off the floor on multiple jumps, and is a tireless worker, all ingredients in his outstanding rebounding numbers. As a bonus, James is a more than capable outlet passer and relishes getting up and down the floor. While he is undersized for a full-time NBA power forward, he is versatile enough to spend some minutes at both forward spots, and can very effectively guard face-up or perimeter-oriented NBA fours.

Needs Work: Since James can’t do a whole lot to make himself taller, he’ll need to polish his skills at the small forward, his best fit in the NBA. While he has improved the range on his jumper, he’ll need to extend that out a couple more feet to the NBA three-point line while increasing his accuracy on his existing range. Although he has worked on offensive moves to free himself up, he’ll need to further develop his ball-handling skills in order to create space against superior defenders at the next level. There are plenty of things that are just going to be off-limits to James due to his lack of height, so he’ll need to solidify every other area in his game in order to make up for his shortcomings.

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The Two-Week Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline Must Go

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2010

If you regularly read this site, you know that the early entry withdrawal deadline for the NBA Draft passed with much zero fanfare at 5 pm ET on Saturday afternoon.  Prospective draftees, many of whom were in the middle of exam periods at their schools, had a mere two weeks to make a final decision whether to take the plunge and give up their collegiate eligibility for the dream of NBA riches.  The two-week window for withdrawal is a new NCAA rule designed to engender program continuity and recruiting at the expense of the student-athletes they purport to care about.  The elephant in the room question is whether players on the fence about declaring for the draft had enough time to be able to properly consider and assess their draft prospects, and the short answer appears to be that they did not.  Surprise surprise

Let’s take a quick comparative snapshot of last year’s early entry pool versus this year’s.  The 2009 early entries had an additional five-plus weeks to work out for teams, attend the draft combine and communicate with scouts, coaches and family members before making a final call on the matter.  It’s quite possible that two months was too much time, but the salient point is that they had plenty of it from which to make an informed decision.  From a pool of 74 underclassmen who originally declared for the NBA Draft, nearly half withdrew resulting in a final total of 39 early entries, two-thirds (26) of whom were ultimately drafted.  This year there was a rough equivalent of 80 early entries, but only 30 of those players withdrew by Saturday afternoon’s deadline, leaving 50 hopeful underclassmen jockeying for positions in a 60-pick draft (see above list).  Keep in mind that there are numerous international prospects as well as seniors such as Luke Harangody, Damion James, Jarvis Varnado and Jerome Jordan who will also be chosen in late June. 

The key problems are apparent:

  1. NBA teams are not evaluating players yet.  As of last week, there were still eight teams playing games, and the others were still closing out their seasons.  According to Louisville head coach Rick Pitino who was trying to get information for his sophomore center Samardo Samuels, only one of the thirty NBA teams held player evaluations prior to this year’s May 8 deadline.  If the idea behind ‘testing the waters’ is for players to receive accurate evaluations of their game from professional scouts, then we’re at a loss in understanding how this date makes any sense whatsoever. 
  2. The Chicago Pre-Draft Camp needs to move.  This camp that takes place in late May/early June allows fence-sitting players to see how they stack up in drills and workouts against their peers rather than trying to patch together a guesstimate based on little more than rumor and third-hand information.  Obviously, the NBA does not care about appeasing the NCAA, but perhaps Stern & company could be persuaded to move it up by a couple of weeks to reach a happy medium.  Otherwise, if it doesn’t move, then the NCAA needs to give in and make the deadline fit the calendar of this camp. 

Looking at the list of early entries above, we see more than a few names who are likely to be incredibly disappointed come draft night — from Bassett to Young and numerous faces in-between, we wonder if these players would have made the same decision if they’d actually been able to, you know, test the waters, as the original concept of the rule was intended. 

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Appreciation For The Departing Seniors

Posted by zhayes9 on May 7th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a regular RTC writer and resident bracketologist. You can follow his sports-related thoughts at Twitter.

Too often during the month-long period between the Final Four and the early entry deadline of the NBA Draft, the media, hoops blogs and talking heads only focus on the underclassmen that have put their name in the hat. Was it the correct decision? Should he come back to school instead? Did that player sign with an agent? These questions should be forwarded and debated, but it seems a distinguished group of players are left out of the national dialogue during this time: college seniors.

While most drafted seniors are plucked closer to the end of the second round than the lottery (there’s a reason they stayed in school four years, let’s face it) it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged. There’s an extensive list of four-year college players that have made a memorable impact for the Association. Thus, this article will be devoted entirely to those that battled on the college hardwood for four years, examining their impact on the collegiate game during their long stay and determining how they can have a lasting influence at the next level.

Damion James (Texas)- I wouldn’t rule out another senior sneaking into the first round, but it’s looking likely that James is the lone four-year player to be picked in the top-30. A unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 first team, James averaged a double-double during Texas’ disappointing campaign and passed Nick Collison’s conference record for rebounding. NBA scouts will drool over James’ ferocity in the glass and his superb athleticism. He also features an unblockable mid-range jumper that’s improved in accuracy over his development from a dependable role player to a superstar in one of college basketball’s most premier conferences. While James may not have a defined position at the moment, he will likely build a lengthy NBA career just based on his drive, athleticism, explosiveness, innate rebounding ability and mid-range jumper. James suited up in burnt orange with everyone from D.J. Augustin to Avery Bradley and his name should be lifted to the rafters at the Frank Erwin Center.

Quincy Pondexter (Washington)- Displaying awe-inspiring glimpses of potential throughout his first three seasons in Seattle, Pondexter finally molded into the player that every Washington fan so desperately wanted during his senior campaign. Bumping his scoring average over seven points per contest, Pondexter led his Huskies out of the Pac-10 abyss and into the Sweet 16. Pondexter’s consistency- a constant battle that eventually turned into a strength- was never more evident than during Washington’s Pac-10 Tournament final win over California and first and second round triumphs over Marquette and New Mexico. Pondexter poured in a steady 18 points in each contest and shot a clip under 50%, even notching a key offensive rebound and extending his season two days more with a short bank shot that sent the Huskies to the second round. There’s little doubt in my mind Pondexter will continue to harness that natural talent at the next level. His extensive wingspan, ability to score in transition and comfort with defending multiple positions provide just a glance into Pondexter’s value.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: First Round 03.18.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 18th, 2010

Best first flight of games ever?  It just might be.  Right now the Selection Committee are looking like a bunch of geniuses.  We have confidence in the second flight of games bringing some excitement, too.  We popped for the DirecTV package so we’ll be monitoring every game:

  • Ohio vs Georgetown
  • East Tennessee State vs Kentucky
  • Northern Iowa vs UNLV
  • Washington vs Marquette
  • San Diego State vs Tennessee
  • Wake Forest vs Texas
  • Lehigh vs Kansas
  • Montana vs New Mexico

After what we saw this afternoon, we suggest you join us for our live-blogging feature this evening.  Get that refresh-button finger warmed up, and by all means let us know in the comments section what you’re watching and how you’re celebrating this unofficial national holiday.  We’ll start at around 7 PM ET.  See you there!

7:00: That’s OK Hemogoblin.  Though scheduling a fantasy baseball draft TODAY??  Hmmm…  Anyway, Butler is polishing off UTEP in a game that is going to screw up a lot of brackets.  UTEP was a popular upset pick for the first round, and sometimes beyond.  Frankly, I expected more from Arnett Moutrie at the forward spot.  Zero points today.

7:30: OK, sorry there, folks.  Had a quick  dinner break, which I tried to time right so it would happen during the single-game interval.  Didn’t hit it.  We haven’t missed much.  Kentucky has started pretty hot against ETSU and UNLV has taken an early lead over Northern Iowa.

7:52: Kentucky is shooting 70% to start this game.  YEESH.  They’re already up 41-16 against ETSU.  At what point do you pull the starters to rest for the second game against either Wake or Texas?

7:58: Anyone want to wake up Georgetown?  The Armon Bassett/D.J. Cooper tandem has been quite effective for the Bobcats, so far a combined 6-12 and 15 of Ohio U.’s 33 points.

8:02: Goodness.  John Wall already has seven assists.  Let’s see what else is on…

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Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: Quarterfinals

Posted by jstevrtc on March 12th, 2010

After two days of hoops at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, what’s all the talk?  The rocking of chalk.

I don’t just mean the Jayhawk victory over Texas Tech.  The crowds in KC are definitely enjoying themselves and taking in some high-quality hoops, but they’re wondering where the upsets are.  So far, the only real upset we’ve had so far was the first round toppling of Missouri by Nebraska.  As I was talking to some Kansas State fans about this in a local restaurant after the game, one of them spoke the truth:  “Upsets are great, as long as it’s not happening to your team.”

Upsets or no, I’ll say this:  these flyover country folks know how to enjoy college basketball.  It’s obvious from being here how much everyone who’s taken over downtown KC this week, from the fan with the worst seat in the Sprint Center to the highest Big 12 administrator, loves college hoops.  My spot on media row is right beside ESPN’s (and Big 12 Network’s) Holly Rowe, who couldn’t be nicer, and is probably a bigger overall sports fan than anyone in the arena.  Like most experts, she says it’s coming down to Kansas and Kentucky in the final, but also is high on Ohio State.  And when I asked her about certain colleagues of hers who are appearing on certain ABC dancing shows later this year, she smiled, suddenly turned serious, and said, “I’m the better salsa dancer.  That’s all I’m saying.”

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RTC Live: Big 12 Second Round – KSU vs OSU and Texas vs Baylor

Posted by jstevrtc on March 11th, 2010

The Big 12 Tourament’s second round has one heck of a night session in store, wouldn’t you say?  First, #9 Kansas State will have to try to find a way to cool off the Cowboys’ Keiton Page who started his tournament off with no less than a 5-out-of-5 three point barrage, finishing with 24 points and 7-10 shooting against Oklahoma.  There’s this other guy named James Anderson who might draw some attention, as well.  It’s not like K-State’s just here in Kansas City for the barbecue.  A couple of weeks ago, they were talked about as the possible fourth #1-seed in the NCAAs, but they dropped two straight to end the year.  They need a good showing here to maximize that regional seed.  ESPN 360 has this one and it starts at 7:00 PM ET.

If that wasn’t enough for you, how about a little in-state rivalry to end the evening?  Texas held off a tough Iowa State team last night behind the grit of Damion James and an efficient performance from Dexter Pittman.  A nap might be required in between games to get rested for this one, since Baylor is going to match Texas’ athleticism with the formidable trio of Ekpe Udoh, LaceDarius Dunn, and Tweety Carter.  Get your runnin’ shoes on.  This is going to be fun.  It’s on ESPN2 at 9:30 PM ET, and we’re there too.  Come check it out!

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RTC 2010 All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 11th, 2010

Unanimous 1st Teamer Evan Turner

With the regular season winding down to a close, the powers-that-be here at Rush the Court met in rtmsf’s basement bunker and spent 36 hours without food or water sorting out our 1st, 2nd and 3rd All-American teams for the 2009-10 season. Just kidding, we actually did it by e-mail. Regardless, here is the much-anticipated unveiling (with a slight adjustment to the three-guard lineup for the 3rd team based on the voting). Enjoy:

1st Team

  • G – John Wall, Kentucky (16.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Evan Turner, Ohio State (19.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Greivis Vasquez, Maryland (19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • F – Wesley Johnson, Syracuse (15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.9 BPG)
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (15.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG)

There’s not much surprise with Wall, Turner or Johnson. All three garnered 1st-team selections from all four of our voters and accomplished the feat basically wire-to-wire. The two late bloomers were Cousins and Vasquez. Cousins was overshadowed in the early part of the season by his superstar teammate, but more and more attention was paid to his obscene production as the campaign wore on. His numbers spread out over 40 minutes are off the charts. Vasquez really took off late as well, dusting off the cobwebs from a slow shooting start to lead his Terrapins to a share of the ACC crown. His heroics at the end of the Duke win likely was the clincher for our voters.

2nd Team

  • G – Scottie Reynolds, Villanova (18.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – James Anderson, Oklahoma State (22.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • G – Sherron Collins, Kansas (15.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia (17.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG)
  • C – Cole Aldrich, Kansas (11.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.5 BPG)

The 2nd-team features the Jayhawks inside-outside tandem of Collins and Aldrich. While many expected at least one of them to finish the season as a first-teamer, I think both players would rather grab that #1 overall seed in the Dance. This honor is not a bad consolation prize, either. Reynolds and Butler provided the backbones for two squads that excelled in the loaded Big East, while Anderson posted the strongest raw stats of any power six-conference player other than Turner. He’s expanding his game to become more of a complete weapon, and, along with Turner, is probably the most important player to his respective team of anyone in the nation.

3rd Team

  • G – Jon Scheyer, Duke (18.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – Jimmer Fredette, BYU (20.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Darington Hobson, New Mexico (15.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.6 APG)
  • F – Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (23.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG)
  • C – Greg Monroe, Georgetown (16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 BPG)

The Mountain West received some serious love on this team with outstanding seasons from Hobson and Fredette both rewarded. Despite missing a good portion of the stretch run, Harangody’s statistics just couldn’t be ignored. Monroe put up a solid campaign for the Hoyas and might be the best passing big man in the nation. The most efficient guard? Could very well be Scheyer. He’s led Duke to #1-seed contention.

Also receiving votes: Quincy Pondexter, Washington, Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, Robbie Hummel, Purdue, Luke Babbitt, Nevada, Damion James, Texas, Kyle Singler, Duke, Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, Gordon Hayward, Butler, Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest.

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Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: 1st Round

Posted by jstevrtc on March 11th, 2010

I love days like yesterday.  Sure, the drive was a beautiful 8.5 hours of the same view — that is to say, farms, farms, and more farms, and where there weren’t actual farms, there was grass.  And it’s all flatter than a Shaquille O’Neal free throw.  But no matter the surroundings, it’s one of my favorite things to do.  Is there any greater feeling — especially right after thawing out from a tough winter — than packing a bag and a cooler (of fruit, granola, and bottled water, mind you), filling the gas tank, and hitting the road?  There aren’t many, for me.  Especially when the Big 12 Tournament is waiting at the end of that journey.  Don’t get me wrong, though — I was thankful for the satellite radio.  Have the satellite radio guys received their Nobel Prize, yet?  One second, I’m listening to ESPN Radio or Sporting News Radio dudes talking about hoops.  Then the NFL talk starts and I switch to, say, the BBC’s Europe Today, or a song by Gomez, or some blues from B.B. King.  Then back to hoops talk.  Fantastic.  And no, we’re not affiliated with them in any way.  I’m just being honest.

One of the best parts of any journey like this is when I text my friends who are at their jobs.  I’ll send them some generic message asking them what they’re doing, and they’ll respond with some variation of, “I’m at the office, knee-deep in status reports/memos/directives, trying to knock things off my action items list.  You never text during work hours.  What’s up?”  And I’ll type, “Oh, nothing.  I was driving to the Big 12 Tournament, enjoying some tunes, a gorgeous drive, a 70-degree day, and the prospect of four days of top-flight basketball.  Thought I’d give you a shout.  But you go back to your thing.”  Even though this is a blog and I’m allowed to type almost anything, I’ll spare you the vitriol that my friends offered in response.  Not even close to being safe for work.

So, as the comedian says, I’m here all week.  This’ll mostly be about basketball, but you might see some reviews of barbecue restaurants and/or interviews and pics from the festivities here.  This is such a great time of year, and this is the conference tournament at which to be.  Now, some notes from Wednesday’s games:

Texas 82, Iowa State 75

I didn’t know what we were going to get in this one, since Texas was obviously reeling, having dropped eight of 14, and Iowa State had just scored that victory over Kansas.  But is this what Texas needed, meaning the second season to arrive?  There’s a small part of me that’s been wondering if Texas mentally checked out at the midpoint of the season after they took their first loss because of the boredom that can take over teams.  A longshot, I know.  But there aren’t many reasons why a team this talented and athletic can’t get themselves out of first gear, a place they seemed to be stuck since the middle of January.

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Big 12 Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.  The Big 12 Tournament begins on Wednesday at Noon CT.

Final Standings

  1. Kansas (15-1, 29-2) - Obviously the Jayhawks are above and beyond the best team in the Big 12, and regardless of what they do in the Big 12 Tournament, KU will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, this season has been a wildly successful one for the Jayhawks, but Bill Self and his team will not be satisfied unless they’re hoisting the trophy in Indianapolis.
  2. Kansas State (11-5, 24-6) - After losing two straight games, one to Kansas in Lawrence and another to lowly Iowa State at home, its safe to say that KSU backed its way into the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas State was one of the many surprise teams in the conference this year, and they’ll hope to continue surprising people all the way into April.
  3. Baylor (11-5, 24-6) – This is probably the best team in college basketball that few people are really talking about. Ranked #20 in the nation, Baylor has the resume to be a three seed in the NCAA tournament. After where I picked this team in my preseason poll, I think Scott Drew is a safe pick for my coach of the year in the Big 12.
  4. Texas A&M (11-5, 22-8) - After the loss of Derrick Roland I thought the Aggies were done. But behind great leadership from Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, TAMU had a legitimate shot at finishing in second place. Even though they didn’t achieve that feat, Mark Turgeon’s team looks pretty good heading into the conference tournament as the winners of three straight. I think if anyone is going to beat Kansas again it could be the Aggies from A&M.
  5. Missouri (10-6, 22-9) - The Tigers are still adjusting to life without Justin Safford (1-2 without him, the one win coming off of a last second buzzer-beater in OT against Iowa State). Mizzou has the best shot to improve their tournament seed if they can beat A&M in the quarterfinals. A third shot at Kansas is what everyone in Columbia is wishing for, but I’m not sure another 20-point loss to Kansas is what MU needs before the NCAA Tournament.
  6. Texas (9-7, 23-8) – If there is any sportswriter in the world that picked Texas to finish sixth in the Big 12 please come forward and let me bask in your wisdom. I think its safe to say UT is the surprise team of the season in this conference, even more so than Oklahoma. The Longhorns have one of the most talented teams in the nation and they will probably end up being a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament. No one in Austin is satisfied. However, if the Longhorns go on a run we could still have the Big 12 final that everyone expected, Kansas vs. Texas.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-7, 21-9) – If the Cowboys want to make some more noise on the national level now is the time to do it. James Anderson will keep you in just about every game, but the other players around him need to step it up. I think this team could be the surprise of the Big 12 Tournament this season, remember they beat Kansas State in Manhattan back in late January and the Wildcats would be their second round matchup if OSU gets past Oklahoma.
  8. Colorado (6-10, 15-15) – Find me one person in Boulder that isn’t happy with an eighth place finish in the Big 12 and I’ll be overly surprised. CU has finally gotten themselves out of the cellar, and this could be enough reason for Cory Higgins to skip the draft and make a run at the NCAA Tournament next season.
  9. Texas Tech (4-12, 16-14) – What started out as a promising year for the Red Raiders has ended quite terribly. Right now TTU is riding a seven-game losing streak and even if they were to beat Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament, it is highly unlikely they could beat KU to make some kind of improbable run.
  10. Oklahoma (4-12, 13-17) - OU fans would love to see an upset of their in-state rival in the first round game, but I also think many Sooners fans feel the same way about this season that the Coates family felt about Old Yeller. Sure, you’d love to see the season go on, but it might be time to put this team out of their misery and head to the offseason.
  11. Iowa State (4-12, 15-16) – I think ISU pulled off the biggest upset of the year in the last game of the regular season. The Cyclones are playing their best basketball at the right time, and Texas can’t take this first round game lightly or they could find themselves on a bus back to Austin as early as Wednesday night.
  12. Nebraska (2-14, 14-17) – The Cornhuskers and Mizzou will meet for the third time this season, and the good news for NU is that usually its hard to beat the same team three times in the same season. However, I don’t see the Huskers pulling off an upset of that caliber, and it looks like NU fans can finally focus on the women’s team, which is undefeated.

Season Awards

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ATB: Hoyas Sink, Horns Swim…

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

#8 West Virginia 81, #20 Georgetown 68. Georgetown’s margin for error is just not very large against good teams, especially top ten teams on the road.  It showed tonight as the Hoyas clearly missed the third primary scoring option that Austin Freeman, out with the stomach flu, typically provides. WVU’s Da’Sean Butler, playing in front of the home fans for the last time, dropped 22/6/6 assts in a well-balanced Mountaineer effort that jumped on top of Georgetown early and never relented.  With this win, West Virginia clinched a double-bye in next week’s Big East Tournament and still has a chance at the overall #2 seed with some luck and a weekend win over Villanova.  Georgetown has now lost four of five games, and two of those losses (Notre Dame and Rutgers) were inexcusable for a team with their talent.  It could be that the heavy minutes are wearing down JT3′s team, as four starters average over 33 MPG and the Hoya defense has been considerably less potent recently than it was when beating top-10 teams like Duke and Villanova.  One thing is for certain, though.  For Georgetown to make any noise whatsoever in the Big East Tournament or NCAA Tournament this year, they have to get production from all four of Freeman, Greg Monroe, Chris Wright and and Jason Clark/Julian Vaughn at the same time.  With one more loss on Saturday against Cincinnati, the Hoyas will drop to 9-9 and jeopardize their chances at an all-important first round bye in the Big East Tournament next week.

WVU Towered Over Georgetown Tonight (AP/David Smith)

#25 Texas 87, Oklahoma 76. For a while it appeared that the Longhorn meltdown was imminent, as visiting Oklahoma took an 11-point lead five minutes into the second half as Cade Davis and Tony Crocker repeatedly lit up the Texas defense.  An 11-2 run got Rick Barnes’ team back into the game, and with Damion James (24/8) and Jordan Hamilton (12/11) finding their way to the hole for layups, UT avoided the unthinkable tonight in a game that should bolster their confidence.  It was just six short weeks ago that Texas was the #1 team in the land, but the shutdown defense that got the Horns to that lofty spot has been largely missing since, and tonight we only saw it in spurts as the Sooners shot 48% and hit ten threes.  Additionally, the J’Covan Brown experiment as a starter appears to have been nixed, as Justin Mason got the nod (3/3 in 21 minutes) and Brown easily outdid his last two performances (15/5  in 33 minutes) off the pine.  Texas is safely in the NCAA Tournament, but right now they appear to be a directionless team who, if they’re not careful, will be walking into a lion’s den at Baylor next weekend.

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