USC Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 2nd, 2012

It has now been 20 seasons since the USC Trojans last finished a season with less than 10 losses, 26 years since they earned at least a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 whopping years since they won their conference outright (then known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities – or the Big Five). Compared to that history of futility, the recent past in USC basketball has been relatively successful. Between the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, the Trojans posted a combined 103-66 record, finished tied for third twice and never finished lower than a tie for fifth. And then came last season, when the wheels came off the bus entirely, as the team limped home to a school-worst 6-26 record, helped along by an almost unbelievable stretch of injuries. Of the five players who started in USC’s first exhibition game last summer in Brazil, just one was still active when their season wrapped up, and all told, just six scholarship players remained available.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

The USC Basketball Program Had Been Relatively Successful In Kevin O’Neill’s First Two Seasons, But Nothing Went Right Last Year (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Teams are going to have injuries from time to time, and head coach Kevin O’Neill understands that, but last year’s streak of bad luck came at a particularly tough time, with the program left in a fragile state by previous head coach Tim Floyd. In June 2009, Floyd resigned abruptly in the wake of NCAA investigations (and eventual penalties) related to illegal benefits for O.J Mayo, just shortly after starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett had all decided to leave school early to pursue professional careers. With the change in staff and the NCAA sleuthing around, the Trojans lost all but one player from their 2009 recruiting class, including Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Renardo Sidney. The Trojans were able to scrape into the NCAA Tournament in 2011 behind a molasses-slow tempo and stingy defense, but the program was still in recovery mode from the Floyd fiasco, lacking the depth to be able to mask the multiple injuries they endured last year.

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2009 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2009

It’s no secret that the high school Class of 2008 was one of the weakest in recent memory.  Coming into the 2008-09 regular season, could you realistically point to any one player who would impact their team enough to become another Derrick Rose or a Michael Beasley (class of 2007), a Greg Oden or a Kevin Durant (class of 2006)?  No way, right?  The consensus #1 player, Brandon Jennings, high-tailed it to Europe when it became apparent he wasn’t going to become eligible to play college ball at Arizona, where he proceeded to burn up foreign nets at the clip of 6 ppg and 2 apg in limited action (17 mpg).  The rest of the elite remained stateside, but from Jrue Holiday on down to his teammate Malcolm Lee at UCLA, the collegians too had middling degrees of success.  We use the RSCI top 20 ratings provided by Statsheet for our table below.

2008 top 20 recruits

The last two summers (here are 2007 and 2008), we’ve taken it upon ourselves to review how these one-and-dones did during their freshman year to determine whether their presence on campus for a mere 6-8 months was worth it for the schools involved.  As it turned out this time around, only four college freshmen (+ Jennings) thought they were ready for the NBA Draft after only one season, so let’s take a look at how things turned out for them and their teams last year.

2009 One-and-Dones

Memphis – Worth It. After losing three starters from their 2008 national runner-up team, Memphis could have slid back into relative mediocrity by Tiger standards – very good, but not great.  One-and-doner Tyreke Evans prevented that from happening.  He averaged 17/5/4 assts/2 stls in 29 mpg and was the most efficient player on the team.  He also showed that he was a gamer, dropping 33 huge points in the Tigers’ loss to Missouri and leading a furious comeback from 24 points down in that contest.   More importantly,  Memphis was 6-3 and ranked #24 in the nation when Evans moved from the shooting guard to the point guard slot; the Tigers then ran off 27 straight wins en route to a #2 seed and another Sweet Sixteen appearance, much of it due to Evans’ command of the team.  Furthermore, prior to John Calipari’s departure, Memphis was building a pretty impressive reputation as a successful stopover for NBA-level point guards.  Is there any coincidence that John Wall followed Calipari to Kentucky after seeing what Evans and Rose were able to do at Memphis?  We’d have to say that Tyreke Evans coming to Memphis for one year was most definitely worth it for that program.

tyreke evans memphis

USC – Worth It. USC knew when they signed Demar DeRozan that they were unlikely to have this acrobatic swingman on campus for more than one year.  For much of that year, however, it wasn’t looking like a good fit.  Three points in a loss vs. Seton Hall.  A 2-9 shooting night against Missouri.  Six turnovers and fouling out of another loss at Washington.  But around midseason, as things began to click in DeRozan’s game, USC benefitted.  He provided a consistent threat on the wing and may arguably have been the Trojans’ top option in the last six weeks of the season.  His season numbers were good – 14/6 on 52% shooting – but his stats from February on were better – 16/7 on 54% shooting with 22 of his season-total 51 assists coming in the last nine games.  USC rode DeRozan’s playmaking abilities to win its first-ever Pac-10 Tournament and a convincing win over BC in the NCAAs before succumbing to national runner-up Michigan St in the second round.  Or, in others words, more than what OJ Mayo was able to produce as a one-and-doner in 2007.  Notwithstanding all the choas that has enveloped this program in the interim, we’d have to say that getting DeRozan to USC for one year was worth it.

Ohio St. – Not Worth It. For the third year in a row, Thad Matta lost a one-and-done player whose actual performance during his only season in Columbus didn’t really mesh with what you might expect from an elite prospect.  He lost Daequan Cook in 2007 (along with stars Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr.), Kosta Koufos last year, and BJ Mullens this season.  To date, we’ve yet to see any indication that Mullens has any discernible basketball skill other than being big (7’0).  He averaged 9/5 in about 20 mpg with only two starts over the course of the season, but as an indication of how much Matta ultimately valued him, Mullens’ minutes tailed off considerably in the last 6-8 games.  His defense was often considered suspect (37 blks all season) and he earned a reputation for loafing and failing to get back downcourt after an offensive possession.  OSU had a solid season, mostly on the back of super-soph Evan Turner, but it’s difficult to construct an argument that Mullens brought much of anything to the Buckeye program other than an ability to get drafted in the first round.  Ultimately, that may have been all Matta wanted to get from him, as he’s shown a substantial willingness to take one-and-dones every year that he can.  Still, we don’t think that Mullens was on balance a good pickup for the Buckeyes, so we’re saying that he wasn’t worth it.

UCLA – Not Worth It. After Kevin Love’s departure from Westwood as a one-and-done, we thought UCLA might continue that trend this season with another superb guard ranked #2 in his class named Jrue Holiday.  We were wrong.  Holiday is exceptionally athletic, but he never seemed to ‘get it’ with respect to how Ben Howland runs his team and expects his players to execute.  When we watched Holiday play, we saw a player who had a tendency to play out of control and get frustrated when things weren’t going his way (in other words, like most freshmen).  Had Holiday stuck around for another couple of years at UCLA, he probably could have tamed his tendencies to become an elite guard in college basketball, but we’ll never know.  After averaging a mere 9/4/4 assts as a starter who seriously tailed off down the stretch (single figure points in 10 of his last 13 games) ending in a second round NCAA blowout loss to Villanova, Howland may be questioning why he bothered to take this player for only one season.  His contributions to the program were minimal and his general unhappiness with the program could actually end up hurting UCLA’s recruiting in the future more than it ever helps to have gotten him.  Unlike Demar DeRozan across town at USC, Holiday wasn’t worth it.

jrue holiday ucla

*Brandon Jennings – Push.  Of course, this is a weird situation because Jennings didn’t play for an American college last season, instead deciding to go to the Italian leagues and get paid for his services.  He would have been drafted higher last season had he been eligible to come out, but then again, so would have all these one-and-doners except for Evans (who at #4 is about where he would have been last year).  Playing in Europe didn’t hurt him very much despite his paltry stats, but it didn’t appear to help him, either, in any way other than financially.  It’ll be interesting to watch how he develops in the NBA now.  You’d have to believe that Jennings’ previously indomitable confidence would be somewhat tempered after spending a year as the backup-cum-waterboy.  We’re quite certain he had images in his head of going to Italy and winning MVP in his rookie season, but the broken American basketball system doesn’t exactly inspire schoolboy humility.  Will that carry over to his development as an NBA player, or will he be able to accept his European comeuppance and use that to improve his game in the next few years?  There’s no way of knowing at this point.

One-and-Dones: Historical Snapshot

1-and-done v.2

As stated above, RTC has done this for the three years in which the one-and-done rule has been in existence.  We’ve made a qualitative determination as to whether recruiting a particular one-and-done was worth it for each program, and what we’ve found is that so far it’s been a roughly equivalent proposition.  Of the 24 one-and-dones in three years, we’ve found thirteen instances (57%) where the player in question was either worth it or well worth it, “it” being the trouble of landing a top player and dealing with the disruption and potential hole he leaves in the program after one season.  Additionally, in seven of the thirteen ‘worth it’ instances, we found that the player was such a great boost to the program in terms of success and marketing that the residual effects of his presence there will be felt for many years after he’s gone (e.g., OSU and Memphis making it to the NCAA Championship Game).  On the other hand, we can only count ten occasions (42%) where a one-and-done player wasn’t worth the trouble of getting him into the program.  So let’s look at it this way…  if you were a college coach and you knew you had a historically better than even chance that recruiting a John Wall or Derrick Favors would end up making your program better, and a 25-30% chance of truly elevating your program into an elite echelon, there’s no question you do it, right?   What’s the downside?  Your player doesn’t do a whole lot, leaves after one year and you end up where you were before he got there.  Exactly.  Not only is recruiting one-and-dones worth the risk (so long as you’re doing it legally, Tim Floyd), but if you’re not doing it then you’re putting yourself at a serious competitive disadvantage.

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06.28.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 28th, 2009

Let’s get caught up after a glorious weekend…

  • Elliot Williams to Memphis.  Nothing surprising here, as we reported last week that Elliot Williams was leaving Duke to move closer to home to attend to his mother’s illness.  The only school that made reasonable sense was his hometown University of Memphis, and Gary Parrish reported yesterday that Williams will indeed become a Tiger.  If Williams can get the NCAA to approve his hardship waiver so that he can play next season, he should walk right into a starting position at the PG spot for Josh Pastner’s squad.  While we’re on the subject of Memphis getting new players, former Kentucky player (well, he never actually played) Matt Pilgrim is probably transferring to Memphis with the assistance of new UK coach John Calipari.  Pilgrim, a transfer from Hampton who sat out last season at UK, wasn’t part of the new regime’s plans.  Since he didn’t want to leave Lexington but was no longer welcome, Coach Cal is trying to facilitate a seamless transfer for him.
  • The NCAA Shell Game. Seth Davis wrote an article last week that illustrates just how one-sided the NCAA scholarship system can be.  When new coaches (e.g.,Isiah Thomas and John Calipari) get to their new schools, they often feel the need to run off players (such as Pilgrim, mentioned above) who don’t fit in their lofty plans for the program.  That’s all fine and well for replacing lesser players, but the whole house of cards gets exposed when a coach wants to keep a player who otherwise would like to transfer.  Meet Freddy Asprilla, a 6’10 Colombian center at FIU who had a great freshman year and wants to transfer to a major conference school, but whom isn’t being released by FIU simply because, well, they don’t have to.  There’s an adage about the deck getting stacked somewhere in here.
  • FIU Cheerleading.  We know it’s purely coincidental that FIU is enabling cost-cutting measures by cutting its cheerleaders during the same year that they hired Isiah Thomas to coach their men’s basketball team (Thomas isn’t taking a base salary this year).  Still, the rich irony of FIU wholly dismantling the cheerleading team within months of Thomas’ arrival on campus isn’t lost on anyone.  Sometimes the unintended consequences are more compelling than the intended ones.
  • NBA Draft DetritusGary Parrish: the NBA will find you wherever you play.  Luke Winn: behind the scenes at MSG, and raising legitimate questions as to Ty Lawson and DeJuan Blair’s draft positions.  Jeff Goodman: Brandon Jennings made the right choice to go to Europe.  More Parrish: like RTC, he also thinks Demar DeRozan is going to be a stud.
  • More Quick Hits.  Marquette’s Maurice Acker: done with basketballRenardo Sidney: stop delaying, NCAAJeremy Tyler: headed to Israel Brian Ellerbe: new assistant at GW.  BYU’s Dave Rose: now cancer-free and returning to coach this fall.   William & Mary: considering an asparagus mascotRoy Williams: Aw Shucks… the RW Story, on sale in November.  Antonio Anderson: those Ws are ours!
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Boom/Bust Cycle

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2009

It’s a little less than an hour before tonight’s NBA Draft, and this should have probably been done days ago, but we wanted to use our undeniable RTC expertise when it comes to projecting college hoops talent to the pros so we can say “told ya so” when the one undervalued player we said would be a star pans out (while the other ten we said would be don’t, but let’s not quibble).  We’ll use Andy Katz’s final mock draft from this morning, and we’re only going to evaluate college players (because we’ve seen them play for at least one year).  The criteria is BOOM or BUST – either that player is undervalued or overvalued based on his selection.  That’s it.  Here we go…

SKU-000062925_COVER.indd

1.  Blake Griffin, Oklahoma - BOOM, although the fact that he’s going to ClipperLand means drug addiction and/or horrific injury.  Bill Simmons agrees

2.  Hasheem Thabeet, UConn – BUST, his offensive game won’t develop any further and he’s no Dikembe.

4.  Tyreke Evans, Memphis – BUST, not seeing it at this selection; opposing defenses can lay off of him out to 18 feet. 

5.  James  Harden, Arizona St. – BOOM, a Joe Johnson/Monta Ellis clone.  Kid can really play.

6.  Stephen Curry, Davidson – BUST, limitless range but really, #6?  Too many question marks to be this high.

7.  Jordan Hill, Arizona – BUST, nice player but he’s not even as good as Big Baby.

8.  Jrue Holiday, UCLA – BUST, classic example of being a better athlete than player. 

9.  Demar DeRozan, USC – BOOM, DeRozan really came on at the end of the season and appears poised to break out.

10.  Jonny Flynn, Syracuse – BUST, is Flynn really the best true point in this draft?  No way. 

11.  Terrence Williams, Louisville – BUST, seems like the kind of player who will be out of the league in 3 years (does everything well, nothing great).

12.  Gerald Henderson, Duke – BOOM, second best guard in the draft behind Harden.

13.  DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh – HEDGE, this is about the right position for an undersized beast like Blair. 

14.  Earl Clark, Louisville – BOOM, should have been higher but has a reputation for being lazy.  Will shed that and become an excellent NBAer.

15.  Austin Daye, Gonzaga – BUST, we used to love this guy, but he hasn’t shown much improvement in two years of college.  We don’t believe in him.

16.  BJ Mullens, Ohio St. – HUGE BUST, this is a joke.  Either he’ll be washing cars in two years with Patrick O’Bryant or turn into Chris Kaman, who knows?

17.  Ty Lawson, UNC – BOOM, he’s proven that he’s a winner and has improved his game substantially.  Could be TJ Ford w/o the back problems.

18.  James Johnson, Wake Forest – BOOM, has a reputation for being lazy, but he’s silky smooth at his size and will succeed in this league.

19.  Tyler Hansbrough. UNC – HEDGE, we all know what kind of player he’ll be.  Average at best.

20.  Sam Young, Pittsburgh – BOOM, an absolute steal at this pick; Young could end up being a star.

21.  Jeff Teague, Wake Forest – BOOM, would have been a lottery pick had he not packed in the second half of the year; the talent and athleticism is apparent.

24.  Eric Maynor, VCU - HEDGE, nice pickup for this position. 

25.  Jon Brockman, Washington – BUST, sorry, but Brockman just isn’t NBA material in the long run.

26.  Toney Douglas, Florida St. – HEDGE, could go either way here, but we’d expect Douglas to find a niche in the League.

27.  Darren Collison, UCLA – BUST, Collison has always struck us as someone who should have been better than he was. 

29.  Nick Calathes, Florida – BOOM, Calathes will find a way to make himself a good pro if he decides to play in good ole USA instead of Greece.

30.  DaJuan Summers, Georgetown – BUST, but it’s worth a gamble given his natural abilities.  Could become a defensive stalwart at some point if he tried.

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Tim Floyd’s Rollercoaster Ride at USC

Posted by rtmsf on April 12th, 2009

It’s gearing up as another interesting offseason for Tim Floyd at USC.  For the second consecutive year, with the news that Demar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson are going pro, he’ll be losing a significant portion of his team to NBA early entry after another relatively disappointing campaign.  (note: we’re sorry, but if you lose potentially five draft picks in two seasons and win only one NCAA Tournament game in that period, that’s really disappointing).  And guess what, probable one-and-doner Renardo Sidney is set to arrive on campus in 2009-10, further contributing to the problem that Floyd annually faces: it’s great to have NBA-level talent every season, but he doesn’t have enough ‘program guys’ who stick around for 3-4 years and provide consistency within the USC program.

007081118427_new_mexico_st_at_usc

An interesting analogy is John Calipari at Memphis.  When Calipari returned to college coaching at Memphis in 2000, there was a common presumption that he would do very well immediately.  The truth, however, is that it took Calipari five years at Memphis before he really got rolling – his first half-decade with the Tigers resulted in 2 NCAA appearances and only one NCAA win.  Remember the Dajuan Wagner, Antonio Burks and early Rodney Carney teams?  Yeah, we don’t really either.  It was only after he had built up enough depth of talent to sustain annual high draft pick losses and still win 30 games the next season did Memphis become a brand name again.

Floyd has struggled in his four seasons at USC to put together a team that looks largely like its predecessor, which is really the only way to consistently perform at an elite level.  The last three champions (UNC, Kansas, Florida) were essentially the same teams as the year prior, and that’s basically true of many of the F4 teams as well (with a piece here or there added).  Floyd’s problem is exacerbated by his tendency to utilize a short bench, as he typically plays only 7-8 guys throughout the season, so when he ends up losing a couple or three key players he’s left with depending on star freshmen to lead his team the next year (e.g., Sidney and star wing Noel Johnson in 2009-10).

Floyd would do well to continue recruiting elite players who are likely one-and-dones, but he should also try to get a few more of the three- and four-year players that will provide a backbone of consistency for his program.  Otherwise, the annual postseason rollercoaster of incoming/outgoing talent that USC basketball currently finds itself on won’t end anytime soon.  Of course, this all may be for naught if the NCAA continues snooping around

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04.08.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2009

Lots more swirling around the basketball landscape today…

  • Fran McCaffery Staying at Siena.  Well, one way to keep your coach from going to Xavier is to give him an eight-year extension
  • See Ya, Big Fella.  Pitt’s DeJuan Blair is leaving the program for the NBA Draft and he will sign with an agent. 
  • Wake Rumors.  We know about James Johnson, but the word is that Jeff Teague will test the waters but not Al-Farouq Aminu this year.   
  • Pac-10 Stars.  USC’s Demar DeRozan will capitalize on his strong finish as he too heads to the draft; Arizona’s Jordan Hill will join him.  Add ASU’s James Harden to that list.  All three are projected lottery picks. 
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Sweet Sixteen: Midwest Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2009

Looking back at the Midwest Region 1st/2d Rounds…

Best Game:  undoubtedly the game of the Tourney thus far, the Ohio St.-Siena game had not one, but two, game-changing threes by the underdog Saints to keep their hopes alive. 

Shocker:  Wake Forest’s complete and utter failure to show up for its game against Cleveland St. last Friday night.  With three first-rounders on the team, there is no excuse for a team to be this mentally out of it (which they were much of the last six weeks of the season). 

Cinderella That’s Not Really One:  Arizona was one of the last teams invited to the Dance, but we all knew that their talent was better than most #12 seeds if they could just put it together.  They received a favorable draw in the first two rounds, playing an overrated #5 Utah team and a true Cinderella #13 Cleveland St., but if they really want to impress us, beat Louisville tomorrow night. 

Region MVP (so far):  Cole Aldrich, Kansas.  A player who gets a trip-dub automatically wins the MVP from us.  Aldrich terrorized Dayton for 13/20/10 blks on Sunday. 

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2009

dynamiteWe’d like to apologize for our coverage yesterday. We had some technical/communication issues regarding the post yesterday, but I’ll be back covering the games today so everything should be back to normal. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering today:

Early Games

  • 12:15 PM: #14 Stephen F. Austin vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 12:25 PM: #9 Tennessee vs. #8 Oklahoma State
  • 12:30 PM: #11 Utah State vs. #6 Marquette
  • 12:30 PM: #14 North Dakota State vs. #3 Kansas

Afternoon Games

  • 2:45 PM: #11 Temple vs. #6 Arizona State
  • 2:55 PM: #16 East Tennessee State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 3:00 PM: #14 Cornell vs. #3 Missouri
  • 3:00 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #6 West Virginia

Evening Games

  • 7:10 PM: #16 Morehead State vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:10 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #5 Utah
  • 7:20 PM: #10 USC vs. #7 Boston College
  • 7:25 PM: #13 Portland State vs. #4 Xavier

Late Night Games

  • 9:40 PM: #9 Siena vs. #8 Ohio State
  • 9:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #4 Wake Forest
  • 9:50 PM: #15 Robert Morris vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:55 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #5 Florida State

Quite frankly, today’s slate looks a lot more interesting than what was on yesterday. There are 3 games in each of the 4 groups that seem like they will be entertaining except for the afternoon set where only the 6/11 match-ups really catch my eyes. Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions on any of these games or the ones from yesterday in the comment section. I’ll be back around noon to cover the day’s action.

12:15 PM: Ok. We’re about to get underway. I was a little delayed by the fact that the bus to RTC East decided to pick up 3 people in wheelchairs, which slowed down my trip significantly (had to get them in/out during 6 stops). Is anybody rooting for Stephen F. Austin just because they can’t stand Eric Devendorf?

12:20 PM: “The best look the Lumberjacks have had so far”? That was only their 2nd possession of the game. The crows is awful in Miami. I know its early, but there is nobody there. I have to say the NCAA did a pretty poor job with their pod placement. I’ll have to double check, but Miami is probably the worst pod location in terms of distance from the participating schools (and the fact that they don’t care about sports in Miami).

12:30 PM: Rough start for Stephen F. Austin in Miami. Already down 10-2. Hopefully they can keep it close although this was probably the game that was the most likely to be a blowout in this group.

12:35 PM: Did anybody pick upsets in this group of games? I have North Dakota State and Utah State.

12:40 PM: Good game in Dayton (Ok State 14, Tennessee 13 with 12:20 left in the first half). In Boise, Lazar Hayward is up 7-5 on Utah State.

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Midwest Region Game-By-Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by zhayes9 on March 18th, 2009

MIDWEST REGION PREVIEW (by Zach Hayes)

#1 Louisville vs. #16 Morehead State

For Louisville to win: It’s pretty simple for Louisville in this 1-16 matchup: do exactly what has gotten you to the point of receiving the #1 overall seed in the tournament. They shouldn’t have much problem playing their usual lockdown defense, employing their frantic press and letting the pure athletic ability of guys like Earl Clark and Terrence Williams completely overwhelm the star-struck Eagles.

For Morehead State to win: The triumphant winners of the inaugural Play-In game, Morehead State will need a God-delivered miracle to prevail over Louisville. They hope their stud big man Kenneth Faried (13.9 PPG, 13.1 RPG) can push around Clark, Williams and Samardo Samuels enough inside where it becomes a guard-oriented shooting contest. Hope that Edgar Sosa, Preston Knowles, Andre McGee and Co. reverts back to their November shooting woes and pull off the monumental upset.

#8 Ohio State vs. #9 Siena

For Ohio State to win: The Buckeyes will need to play steady, Big Ten-like team defense on Siena’s trio of scorers and run a bunch of isolation plays down the stretch for their superstar Evan Turner (17.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG). At times Turner can penetrate and score at will; Siena simply does not have that type of talent on their roster. They also need to utilize B.J. Mullens inside due to Siena’s lack of height.

For Siena to win: The Saints have been led all season by their own Big Three- Kenny Hansbrouck, Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin. Receive balanced scoring out of those three like they’ve perfected all season (all average between 14.8 and 13.6 PPG) and they could surely take down the Buckeyes. The Saints will also be shorthanded inside trying to box out bodies like Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens. They’ll need Ryan Rossiter and Franklin to pound the boards constantly.

#5 Utah vs. #12 Arizona

For Utah to win: Luke Nevill outplaying Jordan Hill would be nice. Seriously, this is one of the best first-round matchups in the entire tournament. If Nevill can get Hill into foul trouble, the entire complexity of this game changes. Nic Wise and Chase Budinger love shooting it from the outside and the Utes wouldn’t mind getting into a three-point contest with Shaun Green and Lawrence Borha both over 40% from downtown.

For Arizona to win: Even though Arizona is the 12-seed, not many would refute that the Wildcats have the superior talent in this game. They can escape all of the regular season’s distractions now and out-talent the Utes. Nic Wise needs to have a quality outing for Arizona to win; when he’s hitting threes and running the offense with ease, Budinger gets open shots, Hill gets touches inside and Arizona can beat anyone.

#4 Wake Forest vs. #13 Cleveland State

For Wake Forest to win: The Demon Deacons need to avoid underestimating a clearly inferior opponent. As with losses to Georgia Tech, NC State and Virginia Tech, the young Deacons have played down to their competition. The Vikings went into the Carrier Dome and won this season when Syracuse did the same thing. Hopefully Jeff Teague and James Johnson come out right away with a fire in their collective bellies.

For Cleveland State to win: One thing Wake Forest does not do well at all is make threes. Their entire offensive game is generated by penetration and mid-range jump shooting. Coach Gary Waters should pop in the game film from Wake’s latest loss to Maryland and examine how the Terps chopped up the inconsistent Deacon defense. Cedric Jackson is the perfect point guard to lead the way.

#6 West Virginia vs. #11 Dayton

For West Virginia to win: The Mountaineers simply need to play like they did last weekend in the Big East tournament. Set screens to free deadeye shooter Alex Ruoff, let DaSean Butler work his multi-faceted offensive game, continue to witness Devin Ebanks mature into an elite scorer and rebounder and hope Darryl Bryant keeps distributing like a senior.

For Dayton to win: It’s going to be awfully difficult as West Virginia seems to be picking up steam lately and you know Bob Huggins will have them prepared and intense. Not only will stars Chris Wright and Marcus Johnson need to play outstanding games, but their deep bench must contribute offensively. It’s all about keeping West Virginia off the boards and hoping Ruoff has a bad day from the outside. If that happens, the Mountaineers can look very confused offensively.

#3 Kansas vs. #14 North Dakota State

For Kansas to win: Ben Woodside is not only the Bison’ top scorer, he’s the engine behind their incredibly efficient and unselfish offensive game plan. He’s quite a task for Sherron Collins in the first game of the tournament. If Collins can shut down Woodside on the defensive end, North Dakota State should have trouble scoring with the Morris twins, Cole Aldrich and others blocking shots inside. This young Jayhawk team will live and die with the play of their junior leader Collins.

For North Dakota State to win: They need to play some semblance of tough defense. We all know the Bison can score points in bunches and have some prolific offensive options, but the only way the Bison will be fitted for Cinderella’s slipper is if they can contain slashers Collins and Tyshawn Taylor and bang bodies with the Morris twins and Aldrich. If they fall behind early, it is imperative they stick with their offense that’s gotten them this far instead of panicking.

#7 Boston College vs. #10 Southern California

For Boston College to win: The Eagles can sometimes look really crappy on defense. The Trojans have so many weapons, BC needs to play inspired defense to win this game. The most arduous task will be to contain Taj Gibson inside with Joe Trapani and Josh Southern. Gibson has an NBA-body and tremendous scoring potential. Trapani and Southern must play defense inside similar to their effort in Chapel Hill when they knocked off the Tar Heels.

For Southern California to win: Stud freshman DeMar DeRozan played like a possessed man during the Pac-10 tournament and USC finally came together to play up to their potential. If DeRozan outplays Rakim Sanders and explodes to the rim with ease, the entire USC offense improves drastically. Defending Tyrese Rice will also clearly be imperative. Should Daniel Hackett hold Rice, the Trojans will win.

#2 Michigan State vs. #15 Robert Morris

For Michigan State to win: The Spartans clearly have enough talent to win this 2-15 game easily. If only a couple of their many weapons are flowing offensively, they should be fine. Izzo’s boys are also in the top ten in defense and rebounding. Overwhelm the Colonials with the talent of Lucas, Morgan, Suton, Summers and they’ll prevail by 20+.

For Robert Morris to win: For the Colonials to pull another Duke-Belmont 2-15 scare, they’ll need to play their usually efficient offensive game. Their entire team shoots 48% from the floor and Jeremy Chappell is especially remarkable- 16.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 47% FG, 85% FT, 41% 3PT, 2.5 SPG as one of the most unheralded all-around players in the nation. If Chappell has a monster performance and Michigan State can’t get into any flow offensively, the Colonials have a shot.

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NCAA Preview: Boston College Eagles

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2009

Boston College (#7, Midwest, Minneapolis pod)
vs. USC (#10)
Fri., 3/20 at 7:20 PM
Vegas Line: Boston College, +2

bc-vegas

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile
Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
Conference: ACC, At-large
Coach: Al Skinner, 232-148
08-09 Record: 22-11 (9-7 in the ACC)
Last 12 Games: 7-5
Best Win: At UNC (when they were undefeated and “unbeatable”), 85-78 on January 4th. A close second is their victory at home against Duke, 80-74 on February 15th.
Worst Loss: Following their win at UNC, they lost to Harvard 82-70 at home on January 7th.
Off. Efficiency Rating: 113.9, 27th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 99.3, 132nd

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Tyrese Rice (17.1 PPG and 5.4 APG); Joe Trapani (13.5 PPG and 6.6 RPG)
Unsung Hero: Rakim Sanders (13.0 PPG and 4.5 RPG)
Potential NBA Draft Pick: Rice, projected at #43 (in 2009). Trapani and Sanders are potential late 2nd round picks when they decide to leave.
Key Injuries: N/A
Depth: 29.7% (200th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: Inconsistency. See their January 4th/7th Jekyll and Hyde where they knocked off #1 UNC on the road and then lost the next game to Harvard at home.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Rice can play consistently and within himself. He tries to get too fancy sometimes with the alley-oops when a simple bounce pass will do.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: The supporting cast (outside of Rice, Trapani, and Sanders) doesn’t step up.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited:
2007; lost to Georgetown in the 2nd round
Streak: N/A
Best NCAA Finish: Elite 8 (1967 and 1982)
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.28. On average, the Eagles win 0.28 more games than they would be expected to based on their seed compared to historical norms.

Other
Distance to First Round Site:
1,389 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: The Eagles boast three famous QBs (Heisman trophy winner Doug Flutie, one-time All-Pro Matt Hasselbeck and the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Matt Ryan)
School Wishes It Could Forget: The 1978-79 basketball point shaving scandal, but Bill Simmons won’t let them.
Prediction: The Eagles have played well at the end of the regular season, but they drew a hot USC team. They should be competitive against the Trojans, but in the end Taj Gibson, DeMar Derozan, and Daniel Hackett will be too much.
Major RTC stories: RTC Live: Wake Forest @ Boston College and RTC Live: Clemson at Boston College

Preview written by Rush The Court.

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NCAA Preview: USC Trojans

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Southern California (# 10, Midwest, Minneapolis pod)
vs. Boston College (# 7)
Fri., 3/20 at 7:20 PM
Vegas Line: USC, -2

General Profile
Location: Los Angeles, California
Conference: Pac-10, automatic bid
Coach: Tim Floyd, 89-57
08-09 Record: 22-12, 9-9
Last 12 Games: 6-6, but currently on a 5-game winning streak
Best Win: 65-55, UCLA, 3/13/2009
Worst Loss: 62-58 (OT), Oregon State, 1/4/2009
Off. Efficiency Rating: 109.7, 62nd nationally
Def. Efficiency Rating: 90.5, 19th nationally

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player: Taj Gibson – 14.3 ppg/9.4 rpg
Unsung Hero: DeMar DeRozen – He’s like OJ Mayo II, but with less touches thanks to Gibson’s improvement in the past year.
Potential NBA Draft Picks: DeMar DeRozen – 10th overall in 2009; Taj Gibson – 33rd overall in 2009; Daniel Hackett – 60th overall in 2010
Key Injuries: No injuries to report
Depth: 21.9% (324th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: The charity stripe. USC’s starters shoot a paltry 68% from the line.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: The USC starters use their size advantage. Both of Southern Cal’s starting guards are listed at 6’5″ and 215 lbs, creating nightmare match-ups for smaller opponents.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: They don’t continue on this hot streak that got them their bid-stealing Pac-10 title.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 2008, 1st round
Streak: 3 straight years now for USC.
Best NCAA Finish: Final Four appearances in 1940 and 1954.
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (minimum 8 bids during the period)

Other
Distance to First Round Site: 1,926 miles.
School’s Claim to Fame: USC is the alma mater of many famous figures, including Neil Armstrong, George Lucas, Will Ferrell, and John Wayne.
School Wishes It Could Forget: Since Floyd arrived at USC in 2005, the program hasn’t exactly been the pride of the NCAA. The most recent incident came to light in May of 2008, when reports surfaced that during his lone season playing for the Trojans, OJ Mayo had received $30,000 in benefits.
Prediction: Southern Cal has a good chance of beating the higher-seeded BC team in the first round. That means a good old Trojans vs. Spartans war in the second round, but with Gus Johnson narrating instead of Homer – MSU advances, USC goes home.
Major RTC stories: OJ Mayo’s End of an Era and No more OJs at USC?

Preview written by Matt the Intern of Rush the Court

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NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

bcs-fail

With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings  based on the teams involved. Here are the results:

bcs-2009

If you want to try and follow along, here are the BCS criteria.

Now onto the match-ups. . .

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