Make Your Case: USC Trojans

Posted by jstevrtc on March 11th, 2011

It’s back. Around this time of year we like to yield the soapbox to representatives of bubble teams and give them the opportunity to explain to the hooping nation why their team should be granted admission into the NCAA Tournament. We encourage them to be as irrational and nonpartisan as they want. As always, feel free to tell us how you think they did  in the comments section. If you’d like to make the case for your school, send us an e-mail at JStevRTC@gmail.com and we’ll hear your preliminary arguments.

Taking up the argument for USC is Joey Kaufman (twitter feed) of the USC blog Conquest Chronicles. Joey, the floor is yours.

I find the question of whether USC is deserving of an NCAA tournament at-large bid to be self-evident. Of course, our Trojans do!

After all, they don’t always get a chance to play past the regular season. Last year, self-imposed sanctions prevented ‘SC from participating in the Pac-10 tournament and possibly earning an at-large bid. Not that a team composed of players such as Mike Gerrity and Dwight Lewis (no offense) would have earned one anyway, but still. They never even had a chance (holding back tears). And heck, our football team has been barred from postseason participation for two years.

The Increased Effort On the Defensive End Is the Causative Factor of USC's Late-Season Improvement

So, obviously, we’re deserving of a bid to the Big Dance, because well, we don’t always get a chance to play into March. Sometimes the basketball program isn’t eligible, and other times, it just isn’t good enough (see: Henry Bibby-coached teams).

But this current USC hoops team is playing surprisingly well late in the season. A year ago, the Trojans, plagued by similar depth issues, dropped the final five games of the season, finishing just 16-14 overall after once appearing in contention for the conference title. Presently, Kevin O’Neill’s group has won six out of its last seven games, including yesterday’s 14-point victory over California in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament.

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USC Hoops Should Be Thanking Gerrity, Johnson, and Lewis

Posted by jstevrtc on June 10th, 2010

USC received the official response from the NCAA regarding penalties to the men’s basketball team.  Jeff Goodman from FoxSports.com posted a good succinct rundown of USC’s self-imposed penalties plus what the NCAA added today.  The penalties as described below are paraphrased from his article, but you should check out his article by clicking the link above.

Was it worth it?

Here is how USC stuck it to itself in the middle of last season:

  • They ditched one scholarship from last year and this upcoming season,
  • They reduced by one the number of coaches who could hit the road recruiting,
  • Took 20 days off their allowed recruiting time this year,
  • Vacated (a concept we hate) any wins in which O.J. Mayo played,
  • Gave back just over $200,000 they earned by being in the 2008 NCAA Tournament,
  • Let three kids out of their LOIs for the next season, and
  • Took a year off from both the Pac-10 and NCAA Tournaments.

More on that last one in a bit.  Here’s what the NCAA tacked on as far as basketball penalties today:

  • Four years of probation. It starts today, and it ends in exactly 1,461 days on June 9, 2014.  In other words, the NCAA  acknowledges you were bad.  It added some penalties.  But if you screw up any time in the next four years, they’re really going to be ticked.
  • Vacate all those post-season wins from the 2007-2008 season. USC won their first game in the Pac-10 tourney that year over Arizona State, then lost to UCLA.  Then, as a 6-seed, they lost to #11 Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament first round.  Total penalty there?  One win. Crippling.
  • Hold the Mayo.  USC must “disassociate” itself from O.J. Mayo and the guy who provided illegal benefits to Mayo, Rodney Guillory.  USC can’t take any donated money from him, can’t have him helping with recruiting, can’t have him do anything on behalf of the school.  That was probably happening anyway.  We can’t imagine that USC would have him out trumpeting the virtues of USC basketball.
  • If you’re not part of the team, get out. “Non-university personnel” can’t fly on charters, donate money, help with camps, go to practices, or hang out in the locker room during/after games.

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

Standings

  1. California    (12-5, 20-9)
  2. Arizona State     (10-6, 20-9)
  3. Washington     (9-7, 19-9)
  4. USC     (8-8, 16-12)
  5. Arizona      (8-8, 14-14)
  6. UCLA     (8-8, 13-15)
  7. Oregon State    (7-9, 13-15)
  8. Stanford    (7-10, 13-16)
  9. Washington State    (6-10, 16-12)
  10. Oregon     (6-10, 14-14)

It may not have been the type of season that Cal head coach Mike Montgomery envisioned at the start of the year when his Golden Bears and their five returning starters were ranked in the top 15, but as the calendar page gets flipped to the only month that really matters in college basketball, his team has just finished clinching at least a part of the Pac-10 regular season title and the top seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament. What could be very interesting for the Bears, however, is a scenario that Montgomery has no interest in seeing happen: the Bears failing to win the Pac-10 Tournament and its automatic bid, leaving Cal — a team with an RPI in the 20s but no wins against top-50 RPI teams -– squarely on the bubble for NCAA at-large consideration.

Team Rundowns

  • California – The Bears wrapped up their portion of the Pac-10 title by sweeping the Arizona schools behind strong play from their seniors. Over the course of the weekend, the five Bear seniors (Jamal Boykin, Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Nikola Knezevic) combined for 129 of the 157 Cal points. Boykin led the way and took home Pac-10 player-of-the-week honors behind averages of 17 points and 8.5 rebounds. Cal still needs either a win at Stanford or a loss by Arizona State in one of their games against the Southern California schools to wrap up sole possession of the regular season crown.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils hung around for a half at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, but ice-cold second half shooting (just 7-26 from the field) and a complete inability to hit from range throughout the game (only 3-22 from behind the arc) doomed ASU. Only senior Jerren Shipp was able to get off against the Bears, hitting six of his nine shots (including two threes) for 14 points. Senior center Eric Boateng tied a Pac-10 record by hitting all 11 of his field goal attempts (on his way to 24 points) in their win over Stanford on Thursday. The Devils still have the inside track on the number two seed in the Pac-10 tournament, with a one-game lead over Washington.
  • Washington – The Huskies completed a season-sweep over intrastate rival Washington State on Saturday by getting out to a big first half lead (they led 35-21 at the half) and then fighting off a charging Cougar squad for a seven-point win. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 22 points and junior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning continued his recent tear by adding 17 points and 12 rebounds. Bryan-Amaning has now averaged 13/7 over the past six weeks. Washington will head to the Oregon schools to wrap up their regular season, needing to win both games and get some help out of the Southern California schools in order to take over second place.
  • USC – Coming into the week, the Trojans still had an outside shot at winning the regular season Pac-10 title. Those hopes died Thursday night when they scored 12 points in the second half (6/25 FGs, 0/13 3s in the second half) against Oregon. The Trojans followed that up with a similar performance against Oregon State on Saturday, shooting just 25% from the field in the second half (and 29% for the game). Coach Kevin O’Neill will lose senior starters Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson off a team that has leaned heavily on its starting five, assuring that things will look different around the Galen Center next season.
  • Arizona – The Wildcats split their trip to the Bay Area this weekend, stealing a game from Stanford on Saturday on a 15-foot bank at the buzzer by freshman guard Lamont “Momo” Jones. Jones had a career high 16 points for the ‘Cats and fellow freshman Derrick Williams added 24 points to push Sean Miller’s club into a three-way tie in the middle of the conference. While senior point guard Nic Wise will be wrapping up his college career this weekend, the Wildcats boast a young team (five freshmen get playing time) that will likely be considered one of the early favorites in the Pac-10 next season.

  • UCLA – Senior day summed up the UCLA season pretty well. Before the game started, senior forward Nikola Dragovic, a couple of days after having his shoulder pop out against Oregon State, tripped over a basketball during warm-ups and sprained his ankle. And then, after battling back from a 10-point halftime deficit to tie the game late, sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson had two bad turnovers in the last minute and the Bruins sank back to .500 in the conference. Senior Michael Roll did go out in style, knocking down six three-pointers on his way to 25 points in his last regular season appearance in Pauley Pavilion.
  • Oregon State – The Beavers shot just 4-31 from 3-pt range this week, hit only 37% from the field, turned the ball over 30 times, and still got a split in Southern California when they forced 20 USC turnovers and held the Trojans to 29% shooting on Saturday. Senior guard Seth Tarver led the Beavs with 15 points in a game that was ugly enough to deserve special mention in a season of ugliness in the Pac-10. Oregon State still has a chance to finish the Pac-10 season at .500 with wins over the Arizona schools in the final weekend of the season.
  • Stanford – Despite senior Landry Fields’ strong last weekend in Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal dropped both games this week and are destined for a lower-division Pac-10 finish. Fields averaged 21.5 points and seven rebounds this week, but against the Sun Devils on Thursday he received very little help. Sophomore guards Jeremy Green and Jarrett Mann combined to score just six points on 2-15 shooting (and, to be fair to Mann, he only accounted for one of those field goal attempts – a miss). They both bounced back against Arizona on Saturday, going for 19 and 13 respectively, but the Cardinal lost a heart-breaker on a shot at the buzzer.
  • Washington State – The Cougars stumbled out of the gate on Saturday and by halftime were down 14 on Senior Night in Beasley Coliseum. But sophomore forward DeAngelo Casto led the Cougars on a second half run to get back in the game and even take their first lead of the game in the middle of the second half. However, the Cougars were unable to contain the Huskies’ Thomas late and the Cougs faded down the stretch. Casto wound up with 19/6, but the Cougs’ leading scorer, sophomore Klay Thompson, struggled all day, missing 12 of his 14 field goal attempts and turning the ball over five times. The Cougars will close the season with a road trip to Oregon.
  • Oregon – The Ducks went on the road to Southern California and swept UCLA and USC, breaking a five-game losing streak in a big way, and now have put themselves in position to climb out of the cellar with a strong closing weekend of the season, as the Ducks host the Washington schools while saying goodbye to senior Tajuan Porter as well as MacArthur Court. Porter averaged 22.5 ppg in the LA sweep and threw in seven threes in the win over the Bruins, leaving him just eight threes behind former Arizona star Salim Stoudamire for the all-time Pac-10 mark.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on December 29th, 2009

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. The most competitive conference in the land this season should spark the most competitive Player of the Year race come March. Top-seeded Kansas boasts three potential candidates once center Cole Aldrich starts to play with a more aggressive mentality on the offensive end. Senior point guard Sherron Collins has the skill set to explode come conference play and should provide the Jayhawks with more than one clutch play the season wears on. Freshman Xavier Henry has surpassed everyone’s expectations early in Lawrence as the Jayhawks early scoring leader. Nipping at the heels of #1 Kansas is #2 Texas and their all-time rebounder Damion James. James has exploded onto the scene the last week-plus with two masterful performances against North Carolina (25/15/4 stl on 8-22 FG) and Michigan State (23/13 on 10-18 FG). You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that argues James isn’t the current frontrunner for Big 12 POY and deserves definite consideration for first team All-America honors. Kansas State has been one of the bigger surprises in college basketball through the first month and a half behind sharp-shooting guard Jacob Pullen. The junior went on a tear recently scoring 28 in a big road win at UNLV then topping himself with 30 points at Alabama. In his last three games, Pullen has nailed an incredible 16 of his last 25 threes. Lurking in the shadows is Oklahoma State’s James Anderson (21.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG) and Iowa State forward Craig Brackins (17.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG) with Baylor’s Ekpe Ugoh and Oklahoma’s Willie Warren also making large impacts on their respective squads.

2. It’s fairly clear the top two teams in a weaker Pac-10 conference will be Washington behind Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter and California behind their big three of Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher. While both teams have encountered their early season struggles, Washington knocking off an emotionally scarred Texas A&M squad at home Tuesday and California hanging in with Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse should convince most critics that those two will compete for the Pac-10 title. Prior to the season, many believed UCLA would be that third team in the Pac-10 to cause some damage and sneak into the NCAA field. But with a week that included wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV, it’s becoming quite evident that USC might very well be that team. Even with early season home defeats at the hands of Loyola Marymount and Nebraska and blowout losses at Texas and Georgia Tech, the Trojans are coming together behind newly-entrenched point guard Mike Gerrity and coach Kevin O’Neill. The two-time transfer Gerrity is already the Trojans leading scorer and far and away their best assist man. He won’t blow anyone away with flash and speed, but he knows how to run an offense and play the position with efficiency. A starting five of Gerrity, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Stepheson, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson all of a sudden doesn’t look too shabby, does it?

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ATB: Holiday Hoops (what little there was)

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2009

A Weekend So Quiet, Not Even a Mouse...  Yeah, it was a holiday weekend filled with high-calorie food, insane family members and yet another sweater that we don’t need, but college hoops was on the back burner with only a smattering of games throughout.  There were, however, a few games that we need to get you caught up on, so here goes…

Game of the Weekend/RTC Live#6 West Virginia 90, Seton Hall 84 (OT). A modern arena packed with hometown fans so hungry for a win you could hear it in their cheers and see as they stood and cheered for their heroes. The host Seton Hall Pirates, a team of stitched-together scrappers made of overlooked local high school ballers, transfers and JUCOs nipped at the heels of the West Virginia Mountaineers all game long, but never quite able, despite the high-energy encouragement from the partisan crowd to close the gap. Down by ten with 57 seconds left and the fans slowly trickling towards the exits, Seton Hall put on a 12-2 run that put the fans back into their seats (or better put, in front of their seats) cheering like banshees,  knotted the score at 77 apiece and sent the official Big East opener into overtime. This was a script CBS could only have prayed for (see the amazing comeback in the second half of this video).

Too bad Coach Gonzalez’s band of Pirates could not close out the shaken but still confident Mountaineers. Playing off of each other’s enthusiasm, the West Virginia squad mounted an 8-0 run to open the overtime. No more miracle threes left, the Pirates worked the ball into the paint for Herb Pope to put away on a layup. Too little too late however, as Coach Huggins’ squad responded with a pair of free throws from Devin Ebanks to push it back out to eight for the remainder. Jeremy Hazell’s last field goal was a two, and brought his point total on the afternoon to 41 on 14-33 (10-14 FT, 4-19 3FG) and 9-12 FG shooting. West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks logged a double-double with 22 points and 17 rebounds. “He was 3 turnovers away from a triple-double” joked Coach Huggins in the post game press conference.

What to Make of USC? USC 67, #20 UNLV 56. It can’t just be the addition of Mike Gerrity, right?  After a 40-minute, 13/3 asst performance, the MVP of the Diamond Head Classic could be the most important unheralded player of the season.  But what has changed since he’s taken over the reins of the Trojan team?  Many will point to his team-leading 15 PPG and 4 APG as the primary reason, and no doubt that helps on a team struggling with offense, but where he’s really been beneficial is making an already-good defensive team even better.  In the four games where Gerrity has played, USC’s defensive points per possession has been a stellar .795, which would rank in the top ten in America for the entire season (as it stands their .851 defensive PPP is still a staunch #18).  In this game against UNLV, the USC defense held the Rebels to their season-low in FG% (34%) and points (56), while getting their typical production from their seven-man lineup.  Marcus Johnson led the way with 19/9, while Dwight Lewis added 14, and Oscar Bellfield with 17 points was the only UNLV player to reach double figures.  This four-game winning streak over two ranked clubs (UNLV and Tennessee), in addition to a solid team outside the rankings (St. Mary’s) makes us wonder if USC isn’t the second-best team (behind Washington) in the weakened Pac-10 this year.  Stay tuned…

Other Games of National Interest.

  • #11 Connecticut 93, Iona 74. UConn got 29/5 from Stanley Robinson while his two young daughters watched him play, and the Huskies will enter conference play leading the nation in blocks/game (nearly ten per contest) after nine again tonight.
  • #19 Washington 86, San Francisco 71. Quincy Pondexter continues to make his case for all-american honors with 22/5/3 blks on 10-12 shooting, and why not?  Even though many people haven’t seen QP play much this year, he’s currently the fifth most efficient player in America, dropping 22/9 on 56% shooting for his team, currently 9-2 and trending positive.  UW managed to put this one away even without a good game from its other star Isaiah Thomas, who had four points on 1-9 FG tonight.
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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 12.19.09

Posted by jstevrtc on December 19th, 2009

Welcome back!  Another weekend means another edition of everyone’s favorite college basketball live blog.  Assuming they all actually happen (there was, like, a huge snowstorm, you see), there are actually some pretty darn good games happening today (Michigan at Kansas, anyone?  Maybe a little Xavier at Butler?), and since we know you’ll be watching, and we know we’ll be watching…why not watch with us?  We’ll be commenting all day, but we want to know what your thoughts are on the games as they’re being played.  So keep checking this space and hitting that refresh button, and let’s have your comments as well.  It’ll start at noon and go all day long, so I suggest you grab some hot chocolate (or your beverage of choice), turn on your favorite game, and join us.  Keep checking back every few minutes!

12:03 pm: So here we go.  Starting off with Michigan at Kansas on ESPN as our principle (and as of right now, only noteworthy) game.  This is a good but perplexing Michigan team.  Their four losses are Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and at Utah.  Michigan was a tournament team last year and returned those two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, which would make me think they should have at least won a couple of those.  BC is tough, but Michigan has to defend the home floor against a team like that if they want to be taken seriously.  Quite a tall order they’ve got today.  As I type this, Michigan’s last three shots have been threes, none of which went down.  Meanwhile, Kansas has been getting the ball inside every trip down.

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Big West conferences.

Player of the WeekNic Wise (Arizona) – The 5-foot-10 warrior has willed the Wildcats to a few victories this season and posted 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists this week with a loss to Oklahoma and a win over 7-2 Louisiana Tech that could point Arizona in the right direction going into a tough stretch of the schedule. Some players score more points, but no player means more to his team than Wise does. He absolutely belongs in the Pac-10’s elite class of point guards with Jerome Randle and Isaiah Thomas.

Power Rankings

  • #16 Washington (6-2) – The Huskies finally got a double-figure performance from highly touted freshman guard Abdul Gaddy when he scored 11 in a win over Cal State Northridge, but he didn’t do much in a tough 74-66 loss against #13 Georgetown today.
  • California (6-3) – The preseason favorite to win the conference is still a damn good team, with losses to three quality opponents and one of the few victories in the lopsided Pac-10/Big-12 Challenge. The Golden Bears righted the ship this week with two blowout wins and have ten days between now and their next game, a true challenge on the road against the #1 Jayhawks. The conference’s deepest squad boasts four players in double figures and a likely Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate in point guard Jerome Randle.
  • Washington State (7-2) – The Cougars rebounded from consecutive losses with a win over Idaho this week. No secret here, but Washington State’s chances almost solely depend on guard Klay Thompson, who is currently balling out loud. The sophomore scores 25.8 per game, but posted just 18.5 in losses to Gonzaga and Kansas State.

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big West and Pac-10 Conferences.

Sometimes it’s not so painful to watch a once proud and mighty warrior fall from grace, as it is bizarre.  You may be able to accept that nothing lasts forever, and that eventually the tide must turn. But it’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, and quite another to be a national laughingstock.  Yet, that term best describes the way that Pac-10 teams have performed so far in this early season. It also describes the way that the conference’s flagship program, the UCLA Bruins, has performed so far in this early season.  The Pac-10, we knew, was a conference in decline. But few predicted that the decline would be so far, so fast.

The conference’s two Top 25 teams have each suffered losses to unranked, seemingly-lesser teams.  The conference was soundly beaten in this week’s Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge, losing each of Thursday night’s three games. In fact, until late Friday, the Pac-10 Conference has not won a single game since Monday night, when Arizona State defeated 0-5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Obviously it’s early in the season, and this is a conference that will play its best basketball later in the season, but the Pac-10 was considered mediocre among the power conferences this season and has instead looked dreadful, while the two teams that did possess national potential are obviously flawed and UCLA continues to trip all over itself. It’ll take a lot for the Pac-10 to rebuild its reputation this season, so let’s take a look at what’s transpired thus far.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

impactcountry(2)

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

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

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2009

impactplayers

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

It’s time for the ninth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of hot, dry, desert-y states known as the Southwest Region.   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?

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, southern CA)

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  • Rihards Kuksiks – F, Jr – Arizona State. Advice to Pac-10 coaches writing up their scouting reports for when they go up against Arizona State this season: when Rihards Kuksiks enters the building, get a man on him. Don’t bother waiting until the game actually starts. You don’t want him getting comfortable, because he’s the kind of shooter who can change a game just that quickly. The guy can touch the ball a few times and the next thing you know you’re down nine before the first TV timeout. Or you get a little comfortable with your late-game lead and after Kuksiks gets a couple of touches the lead is gone and you’re wondering how time can tick so slowly. You want numbers? Fine. Kuksiks is third in terms of returning individual leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3%) in the country among players who hit at least two threes a game and finished 8th in that category last year. A recent article on FoxSports.com by Jeff Goodman reveals some other incredible stats: in games decided by 2 points or less, Kuksiks shot 47% from behind the 3-point line; against ranked opponents he shot 46% from beyond the arc, and in the loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament’s second round last year, he put up his career high in points with 20, with 18 of those coming from long range. In other words, the man steps up during big games. If the numbers don’t interest you, then consider the fact that many of these threes are not from a hair behind the line. They are often from distance. And they are often clutch (ask Arizona about a couple of late ones he nailed in that February game last year). Most importantly, watch the form. It should be an instructional video. He gets good height on his jumper but doesn’t overdo it, and you can see how he gets his legs into the shot. He releases the ball out in front just a little bit, but then the follow-through is a perfect example of that “reach into the cookie jar” that basketball coaches start teaching kids from the moment they can lift a basketball. By the way, he’s 6’6 and more than happy to mix it up in the paint, if needed. My favorite bit about Kuksiks comes from an interview he did for a site called EuropeanProspects.com in which he was asked what kind of player he was. The first words out of his mouth? “I am a sharpshooter.”  This is confidence, not cockiness, from the big man from Riga, Latvia. But I think it’s just fine if there actually is a little cockiness there. Long-range shooters are like neurosurgeons. They’re often asked to do the most difficult things in their field…and if I get to the point where I need to depend on one, I want them a little bit cocky.

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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.

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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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