SEC M5: 01.03.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 3rd, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. SI.com‘s Luke Winn always has interesting metrics nuggets in his weekly power rankings. This week he has Kentucky at #15, and writes that Willie Cauley-Stein is living up to the rim-protecting precedent set by Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel. Cauley-Stein’s block percentage (13.8%) is identical to Davis’s and better than Noel’s (13.2%). He is also keeping a greater percentage of those blocked shots (64.2%) than Davis or Noel did. On the whole, the SEC has a handful of elite swatters, but not much after that. In addition to Cauley-Stein (who leads the league), only Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, Jordan Mickey, and Aaron Jones have block percentages greater than 10 percent.
  2. You have to go back a few days, but Tennessee picked up a momentum-building win on Monday night over Virginia. The margin they won by (35 points) was the largest in the Cuonzo Martin era, and all the more impressive because the Cavaliers are a good defensive team. Rocky Top Talk‘s Will Shelton writes that the Vols improved shooting percentage against Virginia could be a sign of good things to come. ”Tennessee isn’t going to shoot 60+% from three and 85+% from the line every night.  But the fact that they did it [Monday] against such a great defensive team and got it from so many different contributors suggests the transformation we’ve all known this team needed is very possible.” The Vols have largely disappointed this season, but when their solid defensive and elite offensive rebounding is paired with shots falling, it’s not hard to see why they were given such lofty preseason expectations.
  3. Georgia‘s five game winning streak was snapped last Saturday in Boulder, but the Bulldogs can rebound in a big way with a road win tonight over George Washington. Colorado is a good team so Georgia’s 14-point road loss isn’t a head-scratcher. If you want to stretch optimism to its limits, you could say that the Bulldogs were nearly even with Colorado in the second half, losing just 38 to 35. Winning at George Washington would be no small feat, as the Colonials own an impressive win over Creighton this season. But they are coming off a loss to Kansas State on New Year’s Eve and have a weakness the Bulldogs could exploit. George Washington allows its opponents to grab 30 percent of their own misses. Georgia has also struggled giving up offensive rebounds this season, and must take advantage of extra opportunities that may come their way.
  4. It’s never good when a head coach starts apologizing. ”I apologize to the fans that came to the game,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “We are not that bad, but we sure looked like it at times,” Kennedy felt compelled to say that after the Aggies’ 20-point loss to North Texas at home on New Year’s Eve. The Aggies enter conference play without a quality win, and are now saddled with a demoralizing home loss. One issue Texas A&M has had this season is a lack of effectiveness from the three point line. The Aggies were just four of 18 against the Mean Green, and as a team have shot 30.2% on the season, good for just 286th in the country. That’s difficult for a team that lacks many impact athletes. Senior guard Fabyon Harris shot 45%last season but has followed it up at 33% thus far this season. The Aggies best three-point shooter, J-Mychal Reese (42%), is no longer with the team. Opposing coaches may be more willing to unleash a zone defense on Texas A&M if they continue to struggle from deep.
  5. It hasn’t been all bad news for the Aggies recently. Kennedylanded SMU transfer Jalen Jones, and if he’s granted a waiver to play immediately, will be a big help in avoiding a repeat of the offensive performance against North Texas. Jones was a respectable shooter last season (56% true shooting), and got to the line nearly 5 times a game. When paired together on the perimeter, the 6’7” Jones and 6’8” Jamal Jones should create challenge for play-by-play announcers and opposing defenses. It appears Jones left SMU because of playing time, so if there isn’t anything more to the move a waiver seems unlikely. If there is no waiver, it’ll be interesting to see if Kennedy even gets to coach his prized transfer in an actual game.
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Morning Five: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 2nd, 2014

morning5

  1. 2013 did not end well for Oklahoma State with the loss of Michael Cobbins to a ruptured Achilles tendon. 2014 is not starting off much better as backup point guard Stevie Clark was arrested just ten hours into the New Year for possession of marijuana. This is not the first time that Clark has dealt with disciplinary issues while in Stillwater as he was suspended at the start of his freshman year for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Given the way these type of issues are dealt with we doubt that Clark will miss a substantial amount of time. And we would certainly expect him to be back by January 18 when the Cowboys welcome Kansas to Stillwater.
  2. This has not been the type of season that we have come to expect of Temple and things may have taken a turn for the worse as sophomore Daniel Dingle could miss the rest of the season with a tear in his right meniscus. Dingle, 6’7″ forward, had been averaging 6.7 point and 2.3 rebounds per game this season. Without him, the Owls are down to just nine scholarship players. With their AAC schedule starting on January 9, the Owls are in a precarious position and at this point can probably forget about getting into any kind of postseason tournament.
  3. Texas A&M picked up a big transfer yesterday as they landed SMU transfer Jalen Jones. You may remember that Jones announced that he would be transferring from SMU just as the season started. Jones, who led the Mustangs in scoring (14 per game) and rebounding (7 per game) last season, has two more years of eligibility remaining. Although there are reports that the Aggies will be applying for a waiver so Jones can play immediately we cannot imagine a scenario in which the NCAA would grant it although as we have said before they seem to granting waivers for everything else.
  4. Looking for a more “scientific” preview of the upcoming conference races? As usual, Ken Pomeroy has you covered. In Part 1 and Part 2 of his three-part conference race preview (we assume Part 3 will be coming later today), Pomeroy ran Monte Carlo simulations of each conference race to predict the likelihood that each team will win their conference regular season. These races are ranked in order of competitiveness so do not wait for Part 3 to see where your power conference team is projected to finish. The Big 12 and Big Ten (arguably the two best conferences in the country) are ranked 17th and 14th respectively in terms of competitiveness.
  5. Was one 116-12 game not enough for you? If you answered yes, then you may in luck as it appears that Southern and Champion Baptist appear to want to continue their “rivalry”. For those of you who missed the game on Monday, Southern scored the first 44 points of the game to set a NCAA record and continued to press well after the game was decided, which was probably in warm-ups. There is a possibility that next year’s match-up could be more competitive as Southern only beat Christian Baptist 90-36 last season so maybe Monday night was an aberration.
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Tuesday AAC Roundtable: Assessing the Season’s Start

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 19th, 2013

Every week the four AAC microsite writers will come together in an effort to make sense of and answering questions about what happened in the AAC over the course of the previous week. In the future, we hope these thoughts will post on Monday and the questions will get more interesting as the schedule does. 

1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the start to the season as a whole?

C.D.- I’d say a 4. Through Sunday’s games, the AAC is 24-4, which is obviously pretty good. Unfortunately, not many of those wins were the kind that earn the “quality” label. That explains why the conference ranks 10th in RPI, with only one team (UConn, #36) in the top 70. Obviously, that will change. But by how much?

Ross- I’d give it a 3. The conference certainly could have gotten off to a worse start, but to see a team predicted to finish in the top five of the conference, Temple, struggle to two early season losses to Kent State and Towson puts a damper on the AAC excitement. Central Florida also had the big stage at home on national television against ACC and in-state rival Florida State, and promptly flopped. The top of the conference — LouisvilleMemphisConnecticut and Cincinnati — has looked strong, albeit mostly against weak competition. Cincinnati has the conference’s best win knocking off North Carolina State at home by 11.

These Guys Are Partially To Blame For Scheduling That Has Produced A Yawn-Worthy Start.

These Guys Are Partially To Blame For Scheduling That Has Produced A Yawn-Worthy Start.

Will- I’m going with 6. Appropriately, that’s also the number of AAC teams that remain undefeated as we enter the second half of November. Teams have made the most of the lackluster schedules their coaches and administrators have dealt them, and have avoided the dumpster-fire losses that have peppered the non-conference schedules of teams like RutgersUSF and Houston in the past. UConn and Cincinnati notched wins versus a pair of mediocre ACC teams; Louisville and Memphis have convincingly rolled over outclassed competition; even South Florida and Houston sport unblemished records with wins away from home. Rutgers, UCF and Temple are the only teams that have looked fatally flawed through three games.

Mike- It’s a 1 for me and that’s entirely because of the match-ups we have seen thus far. The most exciting game of the season has been the Huskies’ one-point win against Maryland. I’d dare you to name even one other exciting basketball game an AAC team has played in. Yes, it’s unfair to the programs in the conference to base a rating on such a small sample size but most of the other major conferences have had multiple teams play more competitive and interesting games than the entire AAC members have played combined. Wake me up when Memphis travels to Stillwater tonight.

2. What player or team or news has been the biggest surprise thus far?

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What We Learned in the AAC’s First Weekend

Posted by Will Tucker on November 11th, 2013

The inaugural weekend of American Athletic Conference basketball is in the books, and the nine members who kicked off their seasons each emerged from their first contest unscathed. We took a quick look at a couple of the early story lines from around the league.

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Chris Jones gives Louisville a major scoring threat at point guard (Brandon Fry/Card Chronicle)

Will: Louisville’s Chris Jones appears to be a more-than-adequate replacement for Peyton Siva. While Siva’s value, particularly as an on-ball defender, was indispensable to the Cardinals’ national championship, Jones looked no less critical to Louisville’s offense than his predecessor in his first game. Racking up 12 points, six rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes during their win against College of Charleston, Jones’ value was most obvious when he was off the court, at which point the Cardinals’ offense seemed stagnant with Russ Smith and freshman Terry Rozier sharing ball-handling responsibilities. In addition to an ability to hit the three in transition, the junior college transfer showed glimpses of a polished mid-range game that Siva never fully mastered in his time at Louisville, hitting a couple of floaters with a feathery touch. And while the Cardinals’ offense still looked like a work in progress on Saturday, their three total turnovers in Jones’ debut was the fewest any Louisville team had committed in a single game since 2007. One game might be a small sample size, but Jones passed his first official test under intense scrutiny.

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AAC M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 11th, 2013

AAC_morning5_header

  1. In the most high-profile AAC contest of the opening weekend, UConn avoided a last-minute collapse against Maryland in the Barclays Center. While The UConn Blog expressed some alarm over the shaky play of Shabazz Napier in the final 10 minutes, the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore focused more on the fact that the win was made possible by the depth at Kevin Ollie’s disposal this year. After the game, Ollie said “I’ve got 10 guys who can start. I truly believe that,” adding “if we take care of the ball and get good shots, we’ve got a lot of weapons, a lot of guys who can do a lot of things.” UConn’s depth stands in stark relief against their situation last year, when Napier and Ryan Boatright scored 45 percent of the Huskies’ points. Amore points out that this is the first time Ollie has had the luxury of implementing any sort of substitution philosophy.
  2. As our own C.D. Bradley points out, the unexpected departure of junior Jalen Jones is likely symptomatic of instability and potential chemistry issues at SMU, as coach Larry Brown strives to mesh new talent with returning players. Despite averaging 14 points on 50 percent shooting and nearly eight rebounds per game last season, Jones seems to be a casualty of recruiting as he faced additional competition from AAC preseason Rookie of the Year Keith Fraizer and 2014 blue chip commit Emmanuel Mudiay. The loss of their leading scorer deals a major blow to the Mustangs, whom many had identified as a possible dark horse in the AAC race.
  3. Aside from the steady play of Victor Rudd, South Florida fans got a good look at the future of the program as freshmen big men Chris Perry and John Egbunu both contributed to the Bulls’ opening win. Despite the absence of Anthony Collins from the lineup, the two combined for 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, and Stan Heath said afterward that “for a period of time, we played them both together and I can definitely see that as a future combination.” The coach was particularly complimentary of Perry, saying that he “doesn’t know how good he can be. When he figures that out, when that light bulb really clicks on, he’s an all-conference type player.”
  4. Attempting to replace 70 percent of last season’s scoring, Temple coach Fran Dunphy admitted to “flying by the seat of your pants” in the Owls’ first game of the season. The coach deployed a number of lineups during his team’s 78-73 win over Penn, noting afterward that “we’re still figuring it out, we’re a work in progress.” Aside from returning starters Will Cummings and Anthony Lee, City of Basketball Love notes that each player in Dunphy’s eight-man rotation either played a minor role last season or was not yet on the roster. Senior Dalton Pepper made the most of his first opportunity to start at Temple, scoring a career-high 19 points, while sophomore Quenton DeCosey and true freshman Mark Williams rounded out Temple’s first starting lineup of 2013-14.
  5. University of Louisville administrators had Luke Hancock wear Google Glass during the unveiling of the Cardinals’ National Championship banner, and it’s worth a watch. Apart from learning about Luke’s fascination with secret agents and Ghostbusters, it’s interesting to experience high-major pregame lineups from a first-person perspective. Hancock sat out his team’s first game and is expected to miss two more with an Achilles injury, and his absence was noticeable as the Cardinals shot just 22 percent from beyond the arc in their win over College of Charleston.
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Morning Five: Veterans Day 2013 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 11th, 2013

morning5

  1. You might have noticed that Friday was the start of the college basketball season. Despite all the hype surrounding it as usual we would advise you to not get too worked up over any of the results, but if you need a recap of some of the sights and sounds surrounding the night’s events, we suggest you check out our post on it from Saturday. None of the games over the weekend produced any particularly shocking results although there were a few interesting results that could have implications down the road (like Oklahoma’s win over Alabama), but that should change later today with the 24 Hours of Hoops kicking off (here is the full schedule if you need a refresher).
  2. Southern Methodist‘s chances of surprising teams in the AAC took a hit over the weekend as Jalen Jones, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, announced that he was transferring. As we have stated before several times on this site, Larry Brown has brought a lot of good to the SMU program including making them a player in national recruiting particularly with top Texas recruits. However, the other thing it has added to the program is a measure of unpredictability with players competing for minutes and nobody being sure of their role. Our question is if the top player on the team transfers because he is unhappy with his role on the team how many other players are questioning their role on the team.
  3. Rutgers finally got news from the NCAA that freshman forward Junior Etou was ineligible to play the first six games of this season for reportedly accepting impermissible benefits last year. Etou, the first high schooler to commit to Rutgers after the Mike Rice incident, is originally from Congo and according to the NCAA the “benefits” he received were from overseas. Based on what we have heard out of Rutgers it appears that they will not try to appeal the ruling. Fortunately for the Scarlet Knights their first six games are against relatively easy competition before they play (out-of-conference) Seton Hall. Yes, that last sentence felt weird.
  4. Coming into the season as the defending national champs we knew there would be quite a bit of focus on Louisville (even if they are only the second-most interesting team in their state). What we didn’t know was how much of that attention would be focused on the “off the court” stuff. We all knew that Kevin Ware and his return would make news, but didn’t expect him to be back in two weeks. A return at that time would come during an easy stretch for the team and would allow them to ease him back into the lineup without much problem. The more interesting return is that of Chane Behanan, who just a short time ago was off the Louisville team before he miraculously returned to Rick Pitino’s good favor. Behanan returned to practice on Friday and sat on the team’s bench on Saturday. Given how quickly Pitino has changed his mind on Behanan (and other matters) we would expect to see him playing in the very near-future.
  5. Lost amid all the Friday afternoon season opener chatter was a key ruling in the Ed O’Bannon likeness case against the NCAA. Federal district judge Claudia Wilken partially certified the plaintiff’s class action request made over the summer, allowing for all current and future student-athletes to join the case. The judge, however, denied certification to all former NCAA student-athletes other than the ones already attached to the case (O’Bannon, etc.), potentially saving the NCAA from the astronomical multi-billion dollar payout it could have faced. As Michael McCann explains in the well-written SI.com piece, there are good and bad implications to both sides as a result of this decision, and it also means with the scope of economic risk now settled that there’s a far greater likelihood of each side beginning to look at settlement options. Trial is scheduled to begin in June 2014.
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Jalen Jones’ Transfer Illustrates SMU’s Chemistry Challenge

Posted by CD Bradley on November 9th, 2013

Many observers, us included, consider the SMU Mustangs a darkhorse (pardon the pun) contender for an NCAA bid out of the AAC this season. At the same time, we also have noted that the biggest challenge facing Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown is figuring out how to combine five returning starters with a bunch of talented newcomers. That chemistry experiment had its first failure before SMU’s first game even tipped off on Friday night. Reporters noted that Jalen Jones, a 6’7” wing who averaged 14.0 points, 7.7 rebounds (leading the team in both categories) and more than 32 minutes per game for SMU last season, didn’t dress for Friday night’s opening win over TCU. After the game, Larry Brown implied the reason had to do with a disagreement over playing time. And Saturday afternoon, Jones tweeted that he would be transferring at the end of the fall semester.

Jalen Jones is Leaving SMU at the End of the Semester

Jalen Jones is Leaving SMU at the End of the Semester

Four newcomers played key roles in the TCU win. Illinois State transfer point guard Nic Moore led the team in points and minutes, McDonald’s All-American freshman guard Keith Frazier scored 11 in his college debut, JuCo center Yanick Moreira grabbed eight boards, and Villanova transfer big man Markus Kennedy scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in 23 minutes. With incoming players taking many of the minutes in the rotation, there was a logjam of incumbent wings between 6’4” and 6’7” – Ryan Manuel, Nick Russell, Shawn Williams, and Jones – all of whom all started last season. Jones apparently got squeezed out.

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The RTC Interview Series: AAC Preview with Dom Amore and Jason Smith

Posted by Walker Carey on November 8th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the AAC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two AAC experts in Hartford Courant reporter Dom Amore and Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jason Smith. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

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A Couple of AAC Reporters Share Their Preseason Insights With Us

Rush the Court: Even with the departures of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng from last season’s national championship team, Louisville is still highly ranked and viewed as a contender for another national title. In the past few weeks, news broke that starting forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely. How will Behanan’s banishment affect Louisville in the conference race and what impact will it have on the team when looking at the national landscape?

Dom Amore: Chane Behanan is obviously one of the best players on the team. Along with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, he is one of the reasons that Louisville is ranked as high as it is. With the way that Rick Pitino has recruited, though, there are a lot of great players on that team, so it is going to have some depth. Due to that depth, Louisville is going to be able to handle Behanan’s suspension better than most teams would. Still, experience is going to be a huge factor in this league, and Behanan has a lot of that. Losing a guy as good as Chane Behanan and with the experience of Chane Behanan is going to be a problem, but with Louisville’s depth and amount of talent, it should be able to weather the storm until Behanan is able to return.

Jason Smith: I think it all comes down to how long Rick Pitino decides to hold Chane Behanan out for. It sounds to me that Behanan is going to be back. Everything you read says he is doing the right things to get back on the team. I expect him to be back at least by the time conference play begins. You add Behanan to the group Louisville already has with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell, and you see why Louisville is so highly ranked. Louisville is also adding Chris Jones, who is the reigning national junior college player of the year. Jones and Russ Smith are going to make quite the formidable backcourt. This team is clearly the favorite in the conference and is definitely among the contenders for the national title. There will still be some challenges. It is going to have to figure out who is going to be the big rebounder. Losing Gorgui Dieng created a hole in the frontcourt, so some things still have to be figured out. Still, top-to-bottom, you can see why Louisville is considered one of the best teams in the country.

RTC: Josh Pastner probably has his most talented team since has been the head coach at Memphis. What do you expect from the Tigers in their first season away from Conference USA?

Amore: It is really a great thing for Memphis to be in this conference. There are other teams in this conference – namely, Connecticut and Cincinnati – that might not be too thrilled to be in it. For Memphis, this is a huge and a great step up in class. Memphis won 27 games in a row to finish its tenure in Conference USA. While it really dominated that conference, Memphis has not really been rewarded with high seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Being in this conference where it will play Louisville, Connecticut, and Cincinnati twice will really help with its RPI and those other things that are looked at when determining NCAA Tournament seeding. It is going to be a bigger challenge for Memphis, but it does have a lot of talent and it should be able to do more with that talent in the new league.

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Welcoming The Big East Newcomers: SMU

Posted by mlemaire on December 12th, 2011

The Big East announced in a teleconference they would be adding five new schools to the fold. Three of those schools, Houston, Central Florida, and Southern Methodist, will play all of their sports in the conference starting in 2013. Of course it is far too early to tell what sort of impact these teams will have in their new conference, but that won’t stop us from pontificating. Next up is Southern Methodist.

The Past

The addition of Southern Methodist is the perfect evidence that the decision to add new teams was based on football implications. While the Mustangs’ football team has made improvements under June Jones and is actually a threat to make a bowl game consistently, the basketball program is a barren wasteland filled with mediocrity and little historical success. When compared to tradition-rich basketball programs like Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the Mustangs don’t even really deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.

How Can You Not Love That Fabulous Hair?

SMU has never had a winning record in Conference USA and they haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since they won the Southwest Conference in 1993. If you are looking for notable NBA alumni, you will have to look pretty hard until you stumble across Quinton Ross, or even better, Jon Koncak and his perfectly coiffed hair.  They brought Matt Doherty in to coach in 2006 and opened a brand-new $13 million basketball facility in 2007, but the added facilities and supposed recruiting prowess have yet to make a difference.

The Present

Last season was the team’s best finish in Conference USA, and they only finished 8-8 and were bounced in the first round of the conference tournament by Rice. Unfortunately, they will be lucky if they get back to that point again this season. Currently they sit at 5-3 and their best win is six-point overtime win against Arkansas-Little Rock. They have shown little semblance of solid defensive play at any point, and their offense hasn’t been much better.

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