Welcome to October. For many Americans, the 10th month of the calendar represents the leaves changing, the heart of the football season, the if you’re over 55, the World Series. For us, it means we’re talkin’ ’bout practice. Officially, college basketball practice won’t begin until two days from now — Friday, October 3 is this year’s earliest possible date for teams to start lacing them up — but with the preseason now basically here, you’ll be hit with a flurry of previews, prospectuses and all the rest of it in short order. Forty-four days until tipoff…
And just over two weeks until Midnight Madness, or what the modern-day equivalent has become with all of its high-profile musical acts, firework shows, and cults of personality. ESPNU on Tuesday announced its complete lineup for the October 17 programming, which begins at 6:00 PM ET and will cycle between both of last season’s national finalists — Connecticut and Kentucky — along with Arizona, Gonzaga, Florida and San Diego State over the next three hours. ESPN3 will offer the entire proceedings that same night from Harvard, Mercer, Kentucky, Connecticut, NC State and Florida Gulf Coast, if you’re not interested in all of the studio time cutting into the Madness festivities. And if you can’t wait a mere two weeks, ESPN3 will carry Kansas’ “Late Night in the Phog” on October 10 at 7:30 PM ET, if you want to get a first look at Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre (unsolicited advice: you do).
Speaking of ESPN’s wall-to-wall college basketball coverage, the organization also announced on Tuesday that Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will replace Jalen Rose and Digger Phelps on this year’s version of College Gameday. As Matt Yoder describes in his writeup at Awful Announcing, Williams and Greenberg have both come on strong with their sharp studio analysis in recent years, and with the stale Phelps now retired and Rose focusing on his preferred NBA, this seems like a good crew to pair with host Rece Davis and Renaissance Man Jay Bilas. But the bigger news that came out of this report from our perspective is that ESPN is planning on finally, finally, finally moving to the College Gameday football model, where the group camps out at the campus site of the week’s biggest game, regardless of whether ESPN is carrying it on prime time. Certainly there will be some overlap — do we really believe that Duke-UNC won’t be one of those games? — but this is a long-awaited improvement.
In the Southwest, the Behemoth Otherwise Known as the Athletic Department at the University of Texas at Austin has decided that its $165.7 million in annual revenue (FY13) isn’t enough to unilaterally fund the construction of a new basketball arena to replace the sterile on-campus Erwin Center. Speaking to a local civic group earlier this week, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson told the crowd that the cost of a new $500 million arena should, at least in part, be shouldered by the taxpaying citizens of the Lone Star State. His underlying argument: that the city of Austin has enjoyed the free services of a nice mid-sized arena for 35 years without having “invested a nickel” in its construction or operation. Wow. Of course, Patterson’s flaw here is that he’s asking for public funding for a basketball arena in an area that’s lukewarm at best about the sport. Why not just build another Godzillatron and be done with it?
Stony Brook entered 2013-14 with a combined 49-15 record in conference play over the previous four seasons, a stretch which included three regular season titles and a few trips to the NIT — a categorical success by most measures. But for Steve Pikiell and the Seawolves, there’s one ever-important goal that has continuously eluded them despite all that winning, often in heartbreaking fashion: a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Odd things tend to happen in a league that rewards the highest remaining seed in its conference championship game home court advantage. And that is why Stony Brook’s tilt against fellow-undefeated Vermont tonight looms large in the team’s quest to go Dancing — the top seed matters in the America East.
Jameel Warney and the Seawolves look to take control of the America East tonight. (Ryan Restivo/Big Apple Buckets)
Based on tangibles alone, the Seawolves are probably the most talented team in the conference, featuring a stable of excellent guards and one supremely skilled, load of a big man in sophomore Jameel Warney. The 6’8’’, 280-pound center is almost unguardable when he gets the ball on the low block, either using his size to back down defenders or finding buckets by utilizing his wide range of post moves, the soft-touch baby hook being among his favorites. With any one of team’s backcourt studs able to attack the basket — Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson the senior leaders, Carson Puriefoy the breakout sophomore — or run the pick-and-roll with Warney (who also possesses great hands, mind you), Stony Brook has a clear personnel advantage over just about every other league opponent. Indeed, Pikiell’s group would probably be the standalone favorite this season if it weren’t for one area where it might have a meaningful disadvantage, especially against Vermont: experience.
If you hit the town Friday night to enjoy a few beverages or catch up on Oscar-nominated flicks and you missed the Horizon League/MAAC double-header on ESPNU, allow us to catch you up on a couple storylines that emerged from two excellent basketball games.
Alec Brown and the Phoenix can play with anyone this season. (Courtesy: Green Bay Athletics)
Green Bay has tremendous potential. Green Bay withstood another monstrous dunk by Jerran Young to beat Wright State on Friday night and move to 4-0 in the Horizon League, marking its eighth straight win overall. Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes again led the charge for Brian Wardle’s club, combining for 42 points and controlling the game from start to finish, even as the Raiders made numerous mini-runs throughout the second half. Now 14-3 and with metric rankings that scream ‘dangerous mid-major’, it’s time to start asking the question: Just how high is the ceiling for the Phoenix? If the team’s recent play is any indication, the answer might be “really, really high” — as in, NCAA-Tournament-victory-or-victories high. For one, there probably isn’t another inside-out combination as productive and dynamic as Brown and Sykes at the mid-major level. Brown is a legitimate NBA prospect (scouts were in the building on Friday night) whose athletic, 7’1” frame and ability to shoot from the perimeter (50% from three) — when he’s not dominating the paint — make him unstoppable on most nights. Sykes, meanwhile, is a quick, explosive point guard whose skills as a distributor are surpassed only by his scoring prowess — he dropped a career-high 34 points against Milwaukee last week and had 32 against Wisconsin in November. The rest of the group — players like the athletic forward Greg Mays and rebounding/defensive maven Jordan Fouse — complete a Green Bay team well-rounded enough to sit 42nd overall in KenPom’s rankings, having already beaten ACC-contender Virginia and pushed Wisconsin to the wire earlier in the season. Sure, the Phoenix could go on to drop several Horizon contests, lose in the league tournament and miss the Big Dance altogether. But it’s just as easy to see this team winning the conference, embracing the role of disrespected underdog and pulling off an upset or two in March.
ESPNU’s National Signing Day Special airs tonight, and features two top-30 players who may select Big East schools. Four-star center Kennedy Meeks will reportedly decide between Georgetown and North Carolina. Meeks is a big-bodied post player who should be able to dominate the glass at the next level. Four-star Tyler Roberson will choose between Syracuse, Villanova, and Kansas. Roberson would fit well in both Jim Boeheim’s and Jay Wright’s up-tempo systems. He has range out to the NBA three-point line, and his coach Dave Boff from Roselle Catholic in New Jersey calls him the best rebounder in the state.
Following a big win in Germany over Michigan State, UConn fans are pretty excited about their prospects this season, with a pair of student writers debating the possibility of the Huskies claiming the one title they can win this year – a Big East regular season crown. While the Huskies are certainly a talented team, they lack the depth and experience of the top-tier Big East teams, and the grind of the conference season does not bode well for teams in that situation. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are both talented scorers, but neither is a tremendously efficient player, and if one has a really off night it will be interesting to see what other players are capable of picking up the slack. The Huskies are talented, but choosing them to win the Big East is an aggressive prediction.
In other news about a wiser monetary investment in Connecticut basketball, interim coach Kevin Ollie further demonstrated his loyalty to the program with a $100,000 donation to the new UConn Basketball Developmental Center. Combined with his big first win over Tom Izzo and the blessing of his mentor Jim Calhoun, Ollie seems to be doing all the right things in order to have his coaching contract extended at UConn. He really needs to just focus on his team improving every day in practice so that they can compete in every game where they lace them up.
One of the major themes of this early season seems to be the growth of many big players in the conference. Yesterday’s M5 touched on the evolution of Eric Atkins, and today we learn about Louisville’s Russ Smith‘s own maturity as a player. Smith spent last year as a sparkplug off the bench for the Cardinals, and while he had a penchant for the big play, his usage rate was incredibly high and he was prone to big mistakes as well. Going into this year, Rick Pitino tasked Russ with improving his consistency and becoming a more reliable basketball player. Eamonn Brennan’s ESPN article also delves into the etymology of Smith’s nickname “Russdiculous.” I’m not sure if it’ll ever catch on outside of Louisville, but if it’s good enough for one of Pitino’s horses, it’s good enough for me.
This early signing period has been a joyous occasion for Marquette, as the school looks to bring in one of the best classes in school history. The Golden Eagles, who in the past have built the program on the backs of underrated players and junior college prospects from all over the nation, focused on higher-rated high school talent this time around, and were able to keep a few Milwaukee-area stars at home. Scout has Marquette’s 2013 class ranked seventh in the nation, with four top-100 players committed to Buzz Williams. If this class can pan out for the school, we may see the Golden Eagles’ ascendance from conference contender to top-flight program.
If you’re in the market for an experienced scorer just a few weeks before practice begins and you missed out on the extremely late and unanticipated transfers of Xavier’s Dez Wells and Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi, you might still be in luck. Washington State shooting guard Reggie Moorewas dismissed from his team on Monday for an undisclosed “violation of team rules,” effectively ending his career in Pullman and making him an immediate free agent for a team in need of some help. Even if Moore were able to find a school with an open scholarship at this late date, it’s unlikely he’d be eligible for the upcoming season anyway; but, Moore has shown flashes of offensive pop (10.7 PPG) and good play-making acumen (4.4 APG) in his three years at Wazzu. Whether Moore will be able to clean up his act (he was suspended in 2011 for marijuana possession) is another story, but sometimes the incentive of a last, best chance in a new environment is what it takes.
On Monday ESPNU announced its television schedule for this year’s Midnight Madness whirlwind, scheduled to begin at 5 PM on October 12, which, if you’re scoring at home, is a shade over 17 days from now. The broadcast will begin at likely preseason #1 Indiana with an actual nuts-and-bolts practice rather than the fan frenzy Hoosier Hysteria (scheduled for one week later), and will be followed by a studio show peeking in on 12 other prominent programs including Kentucky, Missouri, Baylor, North Carolina, Georgetown, NC State, Syracuse, Murray State, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Florida State and Kansas. While we’re absolutely thrilled to have college basketball in any form coming back in two weeks and change, can we strongly encourage the producers at ESPNU to focus predominantly on the action on the floor at these schools rather than endlessly talking at us in the studio? There will be plenty of time for that as we get closer to the start of the season.
In yesterday’s M5 we mentioned a piece by Gregg Doyel excoriating the NCAA for its presumed lack of interest in aggressively investigating the allegations involving Lance Thomas’ 2009 trip to a New York City jeweler. In the interest of equal time, today it’s North Carolina‘s turn. AOL Fanhouse‘s David Whitley doesn’t break any new ground in his scathing piece against the governing body (and his missive could be premature, depending on what the Martin Report shows), but the way in which he frames the NCAA’s lack of interest in the school’s academic scandal is amusing. Whitley’s best line: “The fact a basketball power like UConn got nailed shows that the NCAA is somewhat serious about putting the student in student-athlete. The fact UNC skated shows that the NCAA is still the NCAA. It wrote the manual on double standards and arbitrary justice. In fact, NCAA officials could teach a course on those subjects. If they taught it at North Carolina, it would be in front of an empty room.” The NCAA is an easy target to pile on — everyone knows that — but its weirdly inconsistent usage of precedent given very similar sets of facts is without question confounding.
With rumors persisting that Class of 2014 superstar prep player Andrew Wiggins will reclassify to the Class of 2013 soon, one of his peers beat him to the idea. Noah Vonleh, a 6’8″ power forward who was considered a top five player in his class, has performed enough academic work at New Hampton School (NH) to reclassify as a senior for the current academic year. ESPN.com‘s Dave Telep reports on the move and says that Vonleh compares favorably with some of the elite players in his new class, rating him as ESPNU’s #7 overall player in the Class of 2013. This is actually the second reclassification for the 17-year old in that this move represents Vonleh’s return to his original class, so let’s hope that he’s finished moving around so that some lucky suitor — Indiana, Ohio State and UNC have recruited him the hardest — will have him in uniform just over a year from now.
It’s nothing new that Butler’s Brad Stevens is a prominent user of advanced statistical metrics as a tool to understanding his team’s strengths and weaknesses. This article by WISH-TV in Indianapolis explains that one of Stevens’ directives for this offseason was for his staff (led by statistical wunderkind Drew Cannon) to determine what kind of RPI the Bulldogs will need heading into conference play to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid now that they’ve moved to the more competitive Atlantic 10. People game the system in all kinds of different ways — some ethical, some not — but we get the feeling that coaches like Stevens and Buzz Williams are so far ahead of their competitors in this regard that it’s astonishing to us that the rest of the coaching lemmings haven’t already fallen in line.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
Say what you want about the signing day process, one that includes kids announcing their college intentions on live television specials, but the effect of the announcements certainly meets the hype. While most of the top recruits had already made their decisions earlier this year, Wednesday night showcased the top two players in high school basketball announcing their decisions on ESPNU. Nerlens Noel (6’10” center from Massachusetts) chose Kentucky while Shabazz Muhammad (6’6” wing from Nevada) chose UCLA, enormous gains for each of these programs. Let’s take a look at what it means for the Wildcats and Bruins to each add a star recruit, as well as breaking down how teams like Georgetown, Syracuse, and Duke that were in the mix are now negatively affected.
They've Announced: Shabazz Muhammed (Left) is Headed to UCLA; Nerlens Noel (Right) is Off to Kentucky (Photo Credit - BleacherReport.com)
UCLA – Despite the disappointing season in Westwood and the shaky ground under head coach Ben Howland, the Bruins have now found a way to notch a top-two recruiting class with the addition of Muhammad. Muhammad joins Kyle Anderson, another top 10 player in this class, as two talented, versatile wing players. Anderson is closer to 6’7” yet excels as a distributor with excellent awareness and vision with the basketball. Muhammad is 6’6” and more of a scorer, one whose attacking mentality should mesh perfectly with Anderson’s game. These two immediately become a potent one-two duo in the Pac-12 to match the solid talent already on the roster (David Wear, Travis Wear, Josh Smith, Larry Drew), and the Bruins may not be done. Top unsigned big man Tony Parker is also considering UCLA. The Bruins are a surefire Top 25 team heading into next season and could easily have Top 10 upside. There is reason for great optimism in Westwood, and the Pac-12 as a whole should be on the rise with Arizona and UCLA now taking home two of the top three recruiting classes in the nation.
Kentucky – The 2012 National Champions already had a very strong recruiting class for next season, but continuing the theme of the past several years the Wildcats will now welcome the top player in high school basketball — Nerlens Noel. Muhammad and Noel both had UK on their short lists, and Big Blue Nation surely wanted both to commit, but adding Noel is still a massive gain. John Calipari’s team now has a player to build around in the 6’10” Noel, who is an Anthony Davis-like shot-blocker that can have a similar defensive impact next season. He’s less skilled on the perimeter and has work to do offensively, but Noel is the No. 1 player in this class for a reason. He can be a dominant big man to pair up with the other talented freshmen Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley, and another likely one or two unsigned recruits. Kentucky once again has the top recruiting class in the country, and the Wildcats will be favorites to repeat as champions if any of the starters from last season decide to stick around for another year.
Remember MTV? It’s evidently still popular with the kids these days, not so much for the playing of actual music videos, but…wait a minute. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Remember music videos? Oh, forget it. Suffice to say, there’s still this thing called MTV and they now play alleged reality shows as often as they used to play music videos (go look those up yourself), and have even made a few forays into the world of sports. Soon, they’ll even have a hand in college basketball, or at least in the life one particular kid who will be playing it starting in the fall of 2011.
As reported by CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish last week, Melrose High School in Memphis — the high school of Adonis Thomas, a consensus top ten recruit in the class of 2011 — will be featured on an upcoming MTV reality series similar to the Two-A-Days series that chronicled the lives of those kids from high school football powerhouse Hoover High in Alabama. Shooting could begin as early as this week, and it’s said the show will focus on the battle of, as Parrish writes, “inner-city minorities trying to repeat as state champions.”
Hey, sounds good. We’d tune in for that. But we wonder if the upcoming MTV series might have also led to this:
That’s from Adonis’ Facebook page, as you can tell. We’ve all seen kids announce final college choices on ESPN-U before, so that’s nothing new. We enjoy those a lot — almost as much as we enjoyed the eloquent invitation on Thomas’ page for him to stay at home and play at Memphis by the inarguably well-dressed Charles Sims, Jr. But an ESPN-U appearance to announce a final list of colleges? Is this something we should all be getting behind?
When Adam Zagoria, a writer for SNY.tv and ZagsBlog.com, broke the news last Tuesday night about super-recruit Kyrie Irving‘s committing to Duke(note: initial report did not have Irving’s denial and had Chris Collins named in place of “[a Duke assistant]”) reaction across the blogosphere varied from ecstatic to negative after Irving denied Zagoria’s reports. After Irving eventually officially committed to Duke on an orchestrated ESPNU ceremony less than 48 hours after his initial denials and told multiple media outlets that he had decided on Duke long before he went on ESPNU several media members (Seth Davis and Gary Parrish being the most prominent) felt that Irving owed Zagoria an apology. We were a little more measured and felt that the entire episode reflected more of the circus that is college basketball recruiting. Since that time, the issue of the interaction between Zagoria (the journalist) and Irving (the recruit) has grown increasingly contentious on message boards across the Internet so we decided to go to Mr. Zagoria and get his take on it.
Rush the Court: What kind of background do you have doing this type of stuff [covering recruiting]?
Adam Zagoria: I’ve been a sportswriter for about 15 years and I’ve been doing basketball recruiting for I guess about 5 years. I was at a newspaper, The Bergen Record and The Herald News, in New Jersey for 10 years and I’ve been at SNY for about 2 years.
RTC: I don’t know if you have been reading what they have been saying on the Duke message boards and other places like that. Have you been keeping up with that at all or do you try to avoid that stuff?
AZ: I’ve read some of it. I’m pretty busy with my other job duties, but I’m aware of it.
RTC: Ok. Could you talk a little bit about how you developed a relationship with Kyrie Irving and his family and how that came about happening?
AZ: I cover metropolitan-area basketball and I know the players and coaches at the local high schools–St. Anthony’s, St. Patrick’s, and St. Benedict’s–for a number of years so I met Kyrie going to his team’s games and going to different events.
RTC: So your relationship with him was no different than the typical star recruit in the area? Or was it a little closer than that?
AZ: I have a lot respect for Kyrie and his family. I think they’re great people and he’s a tremendous player and person. I wish him nothing, but the best going forward.
RTC: Could you tell us a little bit about what happened when you broke the story [about his commitment]?
Ed. Note: for our Midnight Madness wrapup post, click here.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our first Boom Goes The Dynamite of the new season. And now, we can say those words — “new season.” For tonight is the final hurdle in that long lull of the off-season that we have to cross. Maybe it’s inappropriately named, but who cares? Tonight is Midnight Madness across the country. Schools all over the place have got the festivities going, the first official games are less than a month away, and we can finally say that the new season is here.
ESPN-U’s broadcast is minutes away from starting. I’m John Stevens, one of the editors here at Rush The Court, and I’ll be live-blogging the whole way with RTMSF, our founder and guru, behind the scenes watching message boards, Twitter accounts, and getting texts and video from all over, and we’ll put up everything we get. So settle in, enjoy the coverage, and let us know your opinions as always. Keep hitting that refresh button, and we hope you enjoy it. Most of all — welcome. It’s finally here.
9:01pm: Here are some tweets RTMSF has already procured from various sources:
Mike Davis, Illinois
IlliniBalla24… @BuckWildBill33: Three point contest tonight, i’m looking to go 15 for 15 <—- I like ur confidence but I like @dkeller23 for a bill lls
Abdul Gaddy, Washington
gaddy0uw…Midnight madness tonight! Everybody come support
Jim Boylen, Utah
JimBoylen…Talking to the media for a few minutes before practice starts. We’re going to hit the ground running!
MDCoachWilliams…MARYLAND MADNESS IS HERE!!!! Come out to the Comcast Center and check out all the action.
9:12: Evidently the University of Kentucky had recording artist Drake at the festivities. No report on Ashley Judd’s whereabouts.
9:16: Right now, just lots of talk by Katz, Gallindo, and Branch. Mostly about North Carolina. Keep in mind, in the race for all-time wins, UNC is only 4 behind Kentucky, and the two face off on December 5th. Might be REALLY important.
(ed. note: if you’re looking for the 2009 NIT Bracket, click here.)
The Preseason NIT, the Granddaddy of all the Preseason Tourneys, begins tonight, with all sixteen teams in action at four regional pods (Chestnut Hill, MA; W. Lafayette, IN; Norman, OK; Tucson, AZ). Unlike many of the D2 and whatever-else teams thrown into the pods of the CvC last week, the PNIT at least uses all D1 teams for its sacrificial lambs. A new feature is that each of the sixteen teams was seeded, although we’re not sure how BC and Arizona ended up with protected seeds over Davidson (also, why isn’t #1 Purdue playing #16 Miss. Valley St., and #2 v. #15, etc.?). We suppose BC fans would buy more tickets in Manhattan next week? Whichever. Below is the regional bracket, and our thoughts and picks follow.
Best first-round game.#8 St. John’s v. #9 Cornell. You don’t think that Big Red is looking forward to sticking it to their Big East brethren to the south? Click here if you don’t believe us. These two NY teams have never played, but we’re thinking that Cornell will ride its three-point shooting to the upset win in Chestnut Hill tonight.
Other Upset Possibilities. Keep an eye on these two games in the Tucson regional:
#3 Arizona v. #15 Florida Atlantic. Nobody has a clue how Arizona is going to respond to all of its turmoil from the offseason, or whether half of its players will even be available tonight (apparently so), but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about college basketball and despite trite cliches to the contrary – adversity generally does NOT end well. New FAU head coach Mike Jarvis knows how to coach up a team for one game, and this could be a rude awakening for Russ Pennell as a D1 coach.
#7 UAB v. #11 Santa Clara. The recipe for an upset here is clear. WCC talent is generally underrated. This is a west-coast team playing an east-coast team in the Pacific time zone. John Bryant inside the paint. Robert Vaden may still be feeling the effects from his recent arrest hanging over his head (4 pts last game on 2-13 FGs). UAB head coach Mike Davis has been known to lay an egg or two in his career. UAB will have no answer for Santa Clara big man
Will MVSU Break 30?#2Oklahoma v. #16 Mississippi Valley St. Knowing what we know about Oklahoma’s defense, and knowing also what we know about MVSU’s inability to score the basketball, we foresee something along the lines of 75-35 in this game.
They Should Roll.BC at home v. Loyola (MD). Purdue at home vs. Eastern Michigan. And Davidson in Norman vs. James Madison. No way any of these three loses tonight.
Two Evenly Matched Bad Teams.#6 Georgia v. #10 Loyola (IL). Wow, the PNIT should commend itself for getting two Loyola into this tournament. Was Loyola Marymount not available? No further comment on this game, other than to say either team could win, and Purdue will blast said winner tomorrow night.
Regional Picks. We’ve got BC, Purdue, Davidson and Santa Clara (taking advantage of the FAU upset). We really didn’t want to pick against Oklahoma at home, but then again, how do you justify picking against Stephen Curry? If the Wildcats can contain Blake Griffin inside, they can win that game and head to MSG.
Enough with ESPNU!!!! Three of the four televised games tonight in this tournament are on the U. Look, we understand why the games are on there. But why not also put them on the ESPN Full Court package so that those of us held completely hostage by our cable companies can actually take advantage of those games as well? We already pay for the FC service, so what possible harm could it do to expose more paying customers to your product? Make us pay $10 if you like, but just give us access to it!
The official start of the 2007-08 regular season isn’t until Friday, but the NCAA exempted the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament, which is starting tonight in Memphis and will run throughout the week at several other sites (Storrs, Lexington, Norman) before holding the championship rounds at MSG next week. ESPN and Comcast have ensured that we won’t be able to see any of this week’s games in our local viewing area – thanks, guys! But jeez, this seems really early – we just changed our clocks for chrissakes. Mike DeCourcy has the best take on the matter:
Once again, instead of the triumphant introduction to the season we have in such sports as NFL football and Major League Baseball, college basketball just sort of stumbles in and grabs a seat in the corner.
With college football and the NFL in full swing, it’ll take until Thanksgiving for anyone to notice that we’re already playing games, but that’s ok. It gives us a chance to bone up on early hits and misses (ahem, Michigan St.) while nobody’s watching.
Here’s the CvC bracket:
A few comments:
Quick Rant. Why the hell aren’t ESPNU games part of the Full Court Package? That makes completely no sense to us as it seems a natural fit. And yes we’re extremely annoyed that Comcast will not offer ESPNU in our area.
Predictions.Memphis will roll through its regional, keeping the nation’s longest homecourt winning streak (32) alive. Kentucky will bomb CentralArkansas but struggle with Alabama A&M and shotblocker extraordinaire Mickell Gladness in the second round. UConn will get a game from Todd Bozeman’s Morgan St. squad before faltering, then destroy Buffalo in round two. Our possible upset alert is USF over Oklahoma. The Dons probably don’t have enough to pull it off, but we expect a close game there. Still, we expect Jeff Capel’s OU team to represent the Norman region at MSG next week.
Quick Fact. Kentucky is 0-2 in this event, with both losses coming in 2000 (UCLA, St. John’s) when it was a four-team tourney. Grab the ball, Tayshaun! That record will change this time around.
Midnight Madness went off at several venues around the country tonight, and as a result the message boards and blogs have been buzzing all night long with news about how players looked and speculation on what to expect this season. Since ESPN was typically worthlessno help whatsoever in letting us see how some of these teams looked, we decided to try to piece together some fan commentary and photos (and in a couple cases, video footage) of opening night impressions.
We start with Indiana, where expectations are sky high with the unveiling of uber-frosh Eric Gordon in a Hoosier uniform. From The Hoosier Scoop blog:
Kelvin Sampson walked out to the middle of the court, microphone in hand. It took a minute, at least, for him to actually be able to say anything. The fans kept chanting his name.
Sampson is thanking the fans for being here, and telling them how excited they are to start a new season.
He’s called Holman out to the middle of the court, and has congratulated him on being eligible. Crowd loves that.
Now DeAndre Thomas has been called out to mid-court. Sampson is discussing his weight, opening with the line “I don’t want to make a big deal of his weight . . .” I think it’s already become a big deal, with 14,000 people watching. Thomas has gone from 356 to 299.
Now Sampson is talking football, saying that he’s looking forward to watching the Hoosiers beat the Spartans tomorrow. And he’s saying “Why not a BCS bowl?”
What will happen when Gordon faces a little adversity? When his shot doesn’t fall, or he’s fouled four times in a row by a team trying rattle him?
Well, Gordon missed his first dunk attempt during this drill — which is nothing more than the guys running up and down dunking. But then he came back with a behind-the-head slam that was so utterly resounding I only hope somebody got it on video.
After the dunk practice, Indiana ran a transition drills, with three players breaking down the court against two defenders and then, following a possession, those two defenders breaking the other way again one player. Sampson has stated that this team will score more in transition, and here’s early proof.
Oh, and the passes made by Eric Gordon in this video sequence are pretty sick.
What about Billy G. over at Kentucky? 23,000+ filled Rupp Arena to greet the new coach and rooks Patrick Patterson and Alex Legion. Gary Parrish has the take:
We’re Diggin the New Nike Warmups, Mr. Meeks
And then the curtains dropped.
And right there behind them, there he was, the person who made this always wild atmosphere even wilder than normal. Standing and waving and flashing that big old goofy smile, Billy Gillispie received an ovation fit for, well, fit for the new basketball coach at Kentucky. And when the chant died down and the clapping finally ceased, this Texas man who was an assistant at Illinois just six years ago was handed the microphone and asked for his first impressions.
“I can’t talk,” Gillispie said.
Ahhh, (Wild)cat got your tongue, Billy?
But in all seriousness, it’s difficult to blame Gillispie for being totally overwhelmed. Because regardless of all the games he’s won and lost in his still relatively young career (featuring stops at UTEP and Texas A&M), there’s nothing in Gillispie’s 47 years on this planet that happened before Friday night that could’ve possibly prepared him for what it’s like to stand in the middle of Rupp Arena and give other humans goosebumps.
No, I’m not exaggerating.
Over in Lawrence, RTC’s preseason #1 Kansas Jayhawks put on a show in the Phog.
Sherron Collins led all scorers with 13 points coming on 6-of-13 shooting. He hit only one of his six three-point attempts, but that’s no big deal because, well, no one ever looks all that sharp in Late Night scrimmages.
More important on Collins is that he looks like he did in mid-season as a freshman. He drove to the basket in a smart manner, only recorded one of the game’s 14 turnovers and looked noticeably lighter and bouncier.
He put on a display of mid-air acrobatics before the game in layup lines. When asked after the game if he could have done all that a year ago, his answer, with a smile, was simple: “Absolutely not.”
He was also a pretty good dancer, to boot.
Jeremy Case led the Red team with 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting, including a pair of threes. Now, of course, nothing concrete in terms of Bill Self’s rotation can come from tonight’s scrimmage, but Case looked at ease on the Fieldhouse floor. That, too, could be because he’s entering his fifth season as a Jayhawk.
Case said he’s playing right now with no pressure on him, which could do nothing but help his basketball endeavors. It’ll be interesting to see how having his degree out of the way already helps Case as he tries to work himself into the rotation. He could be this year’s feel-good story, I would predict if solely based on what we saw tonight.
Elswewhere… Sasha Kaun had a workmanlike nine points and six rebounds for the Red team, though should probably stay away from wearing top hats, which he donned as a backup dancer during Russell Robinson’s ‘New York, New York’ performance. With his fledgling afro, it wasn’t the greatest of looks…Darrell Arthur was third on the red squad with eight points, while Mario Chalmers paced the offense up and down the floor repeatedly, notching five points, five assists and two steasl in 15 minutes on the floor…Conner Teahan, Brady Morningstar and Darnell Jackson each had six points for the Blue team. Jackson also registered six rebounds, three assists and three steals, giving him the most balanced line of any Jayhawk on the night.
An enterprising and informative Memphis Tiger fan had this to say about his Blogpoll #1 squad:
Rose: Looked confident running the team. You can just tell that this kid has “it.” He showed freakish athleticism on his one dunk in the dunk contest. He is very fast and seems to play under control. He probably will get lost during the season as most freshman do, but once he figures it out. Dorsey: Just a physical freak. He dunked anything he could get his hands on. Douglas-Roberts: CDR always looks uncoordinated, then he just puts the ball in the basket. His upper body looked bigger. He had a sweet stroke on one three pointer. If he improves from behind the line, how do you defend him. Anderson: Didn’t really notice Antonio much, but he always does the dirty work that doesn’t get noticed anyway. Dozier: Definitely looked bigger. Rob showed some fire when dunking the ball, which seemed to be lacking last year. Maybe going up against Taggart every day will turn Dozier’s potential into improved stats. Kemp: Willie looked good. He shot the ball well from behind the line. I think he will do well backing up Rose at the point this year. Probably will play some two guard with the way he can shoot. Mack: I think Doneal hit 12 or 13 three pointers in the three point contest. His shot looked really good. I liked how he dunked the ball during the scrimmage. He has the hops to turn drives into highlight dunks. It is incredible the amount of talent on this roster. No offense to guys on past teams, but it amazes me that we used to start guys like Chad Allen and Michael Brittain in the post.
JTIII and friends had a roaring time in McDonough Gym on the campus of Georgetown, as one fan who got a coveted seat (only 2000 available) reports:
I think it was well received by the recruits, at least the couple I was sitting upstairs with. They were into it and yelling along. I thought the crowd inside was great, loud and much better behaved than last year and Athletics did a great job getting folks in the gym. Some quick hits:
Step team’s routine was 5 minutes too long and way longer than any other performance (wife-beaters, really?). Dance team … well, I’m gonna leave it at that. Groove Theory awesome as usual. Two new male cheerleaders, so now a total of three. Cheerleaders still look as though they are in Junior High. A lot of Soulja Boy, and extended dancing this year (more dancing then anything else): each of the players as they were introduced; men’s vs women’s team; and both teams with AKD’s little brother.
Coach’s dance moves were old school smooth. The appearance of Jeff Green’s mom and dad was great (the unveiled his jersey). The seniors unveiled the 2007 Final Four banner … in fact, they now have new Final Four banners along with a Championship banner on the opposite wall of the jerseys (main entrance side).
Lay-up line turned dunkfest (Tyler Crawford is gonna be a beast this year, you already see the aggressiveness … him, Wallace and Sapp had some solid dunks). A nasty scoop behind the back dunk by Ewing Jr was best dunk of the night. Coach said they probably dance better, so he stopped the drill and they started dancing again: both teams together; both teams vs the crowd; and Ewing Jr. tutoring Mr. Rice for the Soulja Boy.
They did the five man weave full-court drill as well. But it seemed that the program was running long and the team seemed to tucker out a bit towards the end. Gotta say, it was a shame not to see the women’s team get a little bit of time to run drills (they basically sat around and watched the men, was kinda awkward). I know ESPNU was covering the men’s team but some time would have been nice.
Overall I thought the event inside the gym was great and the teams represented Georgetown in a great light for the recruits (recruits busted up at some of the dancing on the women’s team and a few of the guys as well).
We have to go to Yahoo for a report on USC and OJ Mayo:
Southern California has got Mayo, as in O.J. Mayo, and the Trojans showed off their star recruit when he and the rest of the team scrimmaged for fans Friday night.
The Midnight Madness session kicked off the start of practice for the Trojans, who open the season Nov. 10, at home against Mercer.
Introduced next-to-last, Mayo jogged onto the court with the index and middle fingers on both hands signaling the Trojans’ V-for-victory sign. He wore a No. 32 jersey in tribute to his favorite player, Magic Johnson.
Mayo teamed with a female fan in a 2-ball game, with each of them trying to make as many shots as possible in 60 seconds. He tossed up an air ball on his first attempt and smiled as he chased after the ball.
Mayo made four of nine shots, mostly from the perimeter, capped by a miss on a half-court attempt.
Late Night with Roy in Chapel Hill was another exercise in weirdness, but the Heels fans were generally pleased with what they saw, as a fan reports:
I was very pleased with Graves. I believe that we did not look quite as explosive as last year. I will kind of run down the players for you. I will put them in order as to the way that I thought that each player played with an emphasis on expectations.
1. Tywon A+ I thought that he looked a little winded/slow to start, then he settled down, and he was slap awesome!!!! I think this will be his last year.
2. Tyler A+ His usual self!
3. Graves A+ I was very pleasantly surprised. I will preface the rest of my reports to say that I was in the nose bleed section, and much of my view was heavily obstructed by everyone leaving. It seemed that halfway through the scrimmage, half of the audience was gone. It seemed that 1/4 left at the beginning of the scrimmage, and they just kept filing out one by one. I was most surprised at his intensity and tenacity on the defensive effort that he put out there. Then he was equally effective on the offensive side of the ball. Some one needs to tell him that he is not McCants. He even guarded Bobby pretty well.
4. Danny A I will bet that we play a lot of small ball this year. Danny did very well rebounding, and he played under control. His shot was also falling.
5. Marcus A Great job did very well.
6. Bobby A steady, ran the team, knocked down a few shots.
7. Wayne B It was very obvious, he is intent at taking it to the rim, but not great at it yet, and probably to the detriment to his shot. I don’t think he hit any jumpers. I was pretty disappointed with him. I would say that he def. looked like a 4 year player. I hope that his shot returns. His will to drive might well pay off if he can get his shot back on.
8. Alex B about what I expected. I think that he was trying to tear the rims off. He will be a defensive force!! He bobbled the ball some on offense.
9. Deon B- He was kind of transparent in that I did not notice him do very much, except one steal and ran the break. Other than that, I am not sure he was even on the court. He ties with Wayne as the two biggest disappointments of the night.
Over all, I think that we will have a slightly worse regular season, but may actually make it to the final four, because we should have last year. I think that we will def. play small ball a lot. From what I could tell tonight, Deon and Alex were not ready. Of course it was pick up style, and one bad game does not a season make, unless it is in March.
We conclude with Illinois for two reasons – 1) we really wanted to show this pic of Jeffrey Jordan wearing his dad’s jersey rising for a monster flush; and 2) it was kinda neat that everyone in the crowd wore pink as a show of solidarity to fight cancer. Two Illini fans gives their takes on Weber’s squad:
1. shaun pruitt is GOOD. i mean GOOD. ive always been hard on the guy but he brought the ball down the court once and was doing all this ball handling and i thought it was one of our guards at first til he stood up, i was like, what the heck! looks much more mobile and better handles.
2. jeff jordan jumps OUT OF THE GYM. hes short, but good lord can he jump. he did a 360 in warm ups.
3. as someone mentioned in another thread, carlwell wearing jamars jersey was good to see. i think in the end, believe it or not, jamar will be a better person from all this.
4. besides the outside threat, we could be a very solid team. alexander and davis are both very very athletic and seem to have decent shots. mccamey has mad ball handling skills and i thought holdren looked very well too.
5 things i noticed:
1) Mike Davis is a freak of an athlete. He can jump high and far and in control.
2) I agree with Quadcities that Jeffrey Jordan inherited his father’s ability to jump.
3) I also agree with Quadcities that McCamey had some really really impressive ball handling skills
4) Rodney Alexander looks very fluid, smooth, and an overall great package
5) This team is going to be better and more athletic than last years team. I really believe that.
If you seek even more info, Andy Katz gave this report on several other places, including Texas A&M and Washington St. Also, CSTV live blogged several events tonight, although the depth of detail is a little lacking. We guess they get ESPNU on their package.