Ranking the AAC Coaching Gigs

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 17th, 2013

Last week, Sports On Earth‘s Will Leitch let everyone know that he had so much fun putting together his top 25 coaching jobs in college football that he wanted to repeat the process for college basketball. Similarly, we here at the microsite had so much fun reading and debating his list that we figured we would get even more granular and rank the 10 AAC coaching jobs from most to least desirable. For the most part, we used the same rules and criteria as Leitch did, and we took a little bit more time to explain our reasoning for the order. Enjoy!

Pitino Has Louisville Easily on Top of This Group (Getty Images).

Pitino Has Louisville Easily on Top of This Group (Getty Images).

  1. Louisville – It seems mildly unfair to even include the Cardinals in this list since they are merely squatting in the AAC for a single season, but they are technically in the conference as of now, so they lead the group and it isn’t particularly close. Louisville has great tradition, new facilities, and the most profitable basketball program in the entire country. The fan base is generous ($20 million in donations from alumni), and loyal (the Cardinals average more than 20,000 fans per game), and the notion of working for a renowned athletic director like Tom Jurich is probably pretty appealing. The Louisville job is not only the best job in the conference, it is also one of the top 10 jobs in the entire country and that’s not at all debatable. Read the rest of this entry »
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AAC M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on October 28th, 2013

AAC_morning5_header

  1. In the latest edition of as the Chane Behanan turns, Louisville coach Rick Pitino has again changed his story about when the junior power forward might suit up for the defending national champions. At first, it was possible, but not probable, that he would return to the team. Then Thursday night in Owensboro, Kentucky, Pitino signed some books and told a local newspaper reporter that Behanan might be “back on the team in a short period of time.” On Friday, he told ESPN that while he didn’t expect Behanan to play in November, he might rejoin practice then. Obviously, the sooner he returns the better for the Cardinals’ chances to defend their title, but their non-conference schedule doesn’t present much in the way of challenges before a late December trip to Rupp Arena.
  2. UConn received some very good news for its thin frontcourt with the NCAA clearing freshman Kentan Facey and granting the 6’9” forward four years of eligibility. Facey tweeted his appreciation to the school’s compliance staff upon getting the news, while head coach Kevin Ollie, as you might expect, was more circumspect (though equally appreciative) in a statement released by the school. Facey, the Gatorade State Player of the Year in New York last season, will be relied upon to help senior Tyler Olander shore up the Huskies’ weakness inside.
  3. Among the worst kept “secrets” in college basketball is that teams hold closed scrimmages in the preseason. ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman compiled a list of these “secret” matchups, and on Sunday night tweeted out some updates from this weekend’s scrimmages. Among them was SMU vs. Texas Tech; Goodman reports that “Nic Moore was standout for SMU in scrimmage against Texas Tech.” Moore, a transfer point guard from Illinois State, is one of several newcomers expected to help five returning starters improve the Mustangs’ outlook this season. Also among the scrimmages was Houston vs. LSU. Goodman reported that “Danuel House and TaShawn Thomas were standouts” for the Cougars. The Conference USA Freshman of the Year and First Team all-conference member, respectively, are Houston’s top two returning scorers, and the forwards’ play this year will go a long way toward determining if the Cougars can successfully manage the step up in competition to the American.
  4. Former Cincinnati star Kenyon Martin will be inducted into the school’s athletics Hall of Fame tonight. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Martin’s feelings have mellowed since he declared that he was cutting ties with his alma mater following the ouster of coach Bob Huggins in 2005. “It’s a great honor,” Martin said. “I’m definitely coming in. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Martin was the consensus National Player of the Year for the 1999-00 season, and the Bearcats were among the national title favorites before he broke his leg in the Conference USA Tournament. The team went on to lose in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and Martin was subsequently taken first overall by the then-New Jersey Nets. He remains the last American-born senior to be taken first overall in the NBA Draft.
  5. Finally, a melancholy happy trails to Wes Bialosuknia, owner of UConn’s highest career and single season scoring average, who passed away last week. A member of UConn’s all-century team, an inaugural inductee in Huskies of Honor, and an Academic All-American, Bialosuknia averaged 23.6 points per game during his three-year career, and 28.0 as a senior in 1966-67. Both remain school records. He and his wife of 39 years, Maureen, often sat behind the bench at UConn games in recent seasons.
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Big East M5: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 4th, 2013

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  1. Twelve points doesn’t seem like a particularly crazy total, but in a 58-53 defensive deadlock in a bustling Carrier Dome against a Syracuse team desperate to get back in the win column, Luke Hancock‘s four three-pointers were key to Louisville‘s big Saturday win. As Adam Himmelsbach writes, three of Hancock’s treys came in the final nine minutes of the game, the final one breaking a 48-all tie and giving the Cardinals the momentum to ride to the victory. While Louisville struggled against Syracuse’s zone for much of the game, Hancock brought a three-point threat to the floor which the Cardinals had lacked for much of the game, and he hit big shot after big shot down the stretch.
  2. While there aren’t too many optimists in Central New York right now, one important person is keeping faith that the Orange can right the ship come tournament time: Jim Boeheim. After the loss to Louisville, Boeheim discussed the recent three game slide, and his team’s prospects going forward: “I like what we can be… We’ve lost to three ranked teams. We haven’t played very good. We haven’t shot very good and we could’ve won two of the three. If we were getting beat by 15 or 20 points, I’d be worried. I’d be very worried. But we’re right there.’’ Syracuse has a brief reprieve from their brutal season-ending stretch with a game against DePaul before heading down to Washington for their last Big East regular season game, a fitting match-up with Georgetown.
  3. The Marquette-Notre Dame rivalry is another that may be lost after conference realignment rears its head. The Golden Eagles can count another victory over the Irish after a comfortable eight point win this weekend. Without Jack Cooley, Notre Dame had no answer for Marquette bigs Chris Otule and Davante Gardner. Chicago Sun-Times writer Dan McGrath suggests that the nature of this rivalry added a lot of weight to this game, especially for Marquette: “Notre Dame’s perceived haughtiness over a higher national profile and stronger academic reputation can stir resentment in the most level-headed Marquette types. So a victory over the Irish in anything is cause for celebration on a campus that embraces celebrating as part of the culture.”
  4. The winner of the Big East’s regular season is usually a good bet for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, and this year it is looking more and more like Georgetown will hold on to win that crown. However, many projections haven’t included Georgetown on the top line of their brackets. The Hoyas have moved into the top five in the polls and they’re winners of 11 straight games going back to a now-inexplicable loss to USF, not to mention that they have one of the nation’s best players in Otto Porter. With the top few teams losing seemingly every week, it shouldn’t shock anyone that a consistent winner like Georgetown could be staring at a top seed at this point, as crazy at that may have sounded just a few weeks ago.
  5. After a gutty 20-point, five-rebound, three-assist game that helped propel Cincinnati over UConn, Mick Cronin heaped plenty of praise on guard Sean Kilpatrick: “Mental toughness and work ethic is the hardest thing to find in recruiting, and you really don’t know until you get a guy in practice. I knew during his redshirt year the way that guy attacked practice every day with the life and the energy he had.” Cronin also went out of his way to mention Kilpatrick among Bearcat greats like Kenyon Martin and Steve Logan. Kilpatrick has carried Cincinnati with 17.7 points per game, and was especially key during stretches mid-season when Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker struggled to give the Bearcats strong secondary scoring options.
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Past Imperfect: Major Losses, Mixed Results

Posted by JWeill on January 20th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape.  This week: How teams over college basketball history have dealt with seemingly devastating injuries to star players.  The answer? It depends …

When freshman Duke point guard Kyrie Irving came down awkwardly in a game against Butler with what was a then-seemingly innocuous injury to his toe, the entire landscape of this college hoops season was altered, perhaps irrevocably.  Up to that point, there was little disputing who was the 2010-11 college basketball favorite. Not only was Duke the defending NCAA champion, it also returned most of the firepower from that title-winning side as well as adding the nation’s top point guard prospect in New Jersey’s Irving, at a position that was previously the only real soft spot on the Blue Devils roster.  With Irving out indefinitely, gone was the swagger of invincibility Duke had in droves in the early weeks of the season. Gone, too, was the sheer talent and ability of Irving, who had earned his accolades and then some with his performance in the season’s first eight games. Irving had saved Duke with 31 points in a win over Michigan State at Cameron Indoor and had reached double figures in points in all of his few games as a collegian.  Of course, Purdue would have gladly taken even eight games from its star, Robbie Hummel. Already rehabbing a rebuilt knee from an injury last season, Hummel lasted all of a practice and a half before coming down in a heap after blowing out the same knee. A trendy preseason Final Four pick, Purdue was left without its senior leader and second-leading returning scorer before the season had really even begun.

Kyrie Irving's Loss May Not Kill Duke's Chances in March

It remains to be seen whether Duke will shake off the likely loss of Irving’s freshman season and make a run to a second straight title or whether Purdue can find among the guys remaining the makings of a Final Four contender. Both teams have talent on the roster, if not replacements exactly. Teams in the situation Duke and Purdue find themselves in have historically had mixed results recovering. For every championship-caliber team to overcome a major personnel loss to injury there is one for whom the absence of a star player was devastating to its long-term NCAA hopes.  Much of that, it turns out upon review, is related to the timing of the injury, as well as just how crucial a role the injured player played on his team. For some squads, losing a player at midseason turned out to be, while never preferred, preferable to losing him just before or during March. For others, losing an on-court presence isn’t as much an issue as losing the club’s emotional leader.

In February of 1997, Rick Pitino’s defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats were ranked fifth in the nation, riding the stellar play of dynamic scoring wings Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson to a 15-2 record heading into a seemingly innocuous game against an overmatched Auburn team at Rupp Arena. At the time, Mercer and Anderson were the most explosive 1-2 combination in America. Then, during the game, Anderson twisted his knee awkwardly on a break and tore his ACL, effectively ending his career as a Wildcat.  “It’s like it’s October 15 again as far as our offensive execution is concerned,” Pitino said a few weeks later.  But partly because of roster depth and partly because they had time to work around Anderson’s absence, the Wildcats regrouped and managed only three more losses the rest of the season, the final one coming in a classic overtime NCAA championship game vs. Arizona. Anderson returned for just one brief moment, sinking a pair of free throws in zero minutes played in a Final Four win over Minnesota. Kentucky fans still maintain that had Pitino played Anderson even a few minutes in the final, the Wildcats would have taken the title.

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A College Basketball Fan’s Guide To Watching The World Cup

Posted by jstevrtc on June 10th, 2010

In less than 48 hours, our televisions will be taken over by the biggest sporting event the world has to offer.  Your TweetDeck (or whatever Twitter application you use) will be lousy with friends, celebrities, and sportswriters tweeting about it.  Your Facebook friends will be centering their status updates about it.  And, for the next five weeks, when you walk into your favorite sports bars, as you peer at the flat-screens you’ll notice an increased presence of a game to which you might not be accustomed.

It’s World Cup time.

Like the Olympics and the Fields Medal, this is an every-four-year event.  It pits nation against nation in the sport that still stirs up the most passion among its fans on a worldwide scale.  Imagine if we only got one NCAA Tournament every four years.  Well, this is the one summer in four that soccer (the word we’ll use for this article, though we’re aware that most of the world calls it football) lovers get to enjoy their chance to crown a champion.  If you follow RTC on Twitter (if you don’t, shame on you, and go click our logo at right), you’ve probably been impressed by our occasional tweet about other sports or even current events.  It’s not exactly a long limb we’d be going out on for us to assume that if you’re a college basketball fan, you’ve probably got an interest in other sports, too — though international soccer might not be one of them.

Want to talk to her? Know your World Cup. Yeah, we thought that'd keep you reading.

Worry not, our fellow college hoopheads.  We’ve got you covered.  We want you to be able to hang in those conversations at those sports pubs.  We want you to be able to approach that lovely blonde bespectacled German girl wearing her Deutschland jersey in the supermarket (this actually happened to us a week ago).  We want you to impress your friends with your world vision and increased overall sports knowledge.  You think those kids in the stands at Duke or Xavier or Utah State are both well-prepared and berserk?  Wait until you hear the crowd at a World Cup soccer match.  We want you to enjoy that vital aspect of it all, as well.  We’re by no means experts on the subject, but to those ends, we give you — trumpet flourish — Rush The Court’s College Basketball Fan’s Guide to Watching the World Cup.

If this England squad is like Kentucky, then Wayne Rooney is their John Wall.

THE TEAMS

First, let’s list some of the participating  teams and define those squads in terms familiar to college hoop fans.  As you’ll see, by the way, national soccer teams have some of the best nicknames you’ll ever hear.  The best?  Cameroon.  The Indomitable Lions.  I mean, COME ON…

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West Virginia Loses Darryl Bryant To Broken Foot

Posted by jstevrtc on March 24th, 2010

West Virginia will be without starting sophomore point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant for the rest of the NCAA Tournament.  X-rays taken on Tuesday revealed that Bryant has fractured a bone in the fifth toe of his right foot.  It’s not exactly clear when Bryant sustained the injury, but the cited ESPN.com report above says that he had noticed increased pain in the foot during a recent practice, then today’s imaging showed the broken toe.

The Mountaineers are famous for being chock-full-o-forwards, often playing four forwards and a guard at any given time (they have no true center).  Bryant — who averages 9.3 PPG and 3.1 APG in 24.3 MPG — will most definitely be missed, but he’s not a traditional dime-dishing point guard.  He’s known more for the mental and physical toughness he brings to the table for his team, not so much for his high yield in terms of assists or forcing turnovers.  Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, and Devin Ebanks — the only three Mountaineers who average more than 30 minutes per game — do most of the ball-handling, and will only see a slight increase in touches, which they probably won’t mind.

The Truck, unfortunately, has a bum wheel. (AP/Mel Evans)

WVU also has a ready replacement in Joe Mazzulla, a 6’2 junior point guard averaging 2.2 PPG and 2.3 APG.  Mazzulla redshirted last year after injuring his shoulder, but has seen steadily increasing minutes throughout the season.  Mazzulla actually played more minutes than Bryant in the Mountaineers’ second-round game against Missouri, and the two had no problem with the Tigers’ vaunted full-court press.  His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 is higher than Bryant’s 1.5, though Mazzulla did average ten fewer minutes per game.  Any further minutes at the guard position will go to 6’4 junior Casey Mitchell (3.8 PPG, 0.4 APG in 8.3 MPG), who only played three minutes against Missouri but did contribute six points, four assists, and two steals with only one turnover in 11 minutes in WVU’s first round 77-50 win over Morgan State.

There’s been no mention of how severe Bryant’s injury is, but most fifth metatarsal fractures do not require surgery and heal on their own over time with the “conservative” therapies — ice for swelling, no weight-bearing on the foot, and immobilization with a splint or cast.

WVU chief Bob Huggins is certainly no stranger to tournament-time injuries when he’s got a team poised for big things.  Back in 2000 — another year in which the Final Four was held in Indianapolis — his #2-seed Cincinnati squad was a favorite to win it all before Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA Tournament, and the Bearcats were subsequently dispatched in the second round by Tulsa.  The next time the Final Four is in Indianapolis and Huggins has a highly rated team, don’t blame the man if he sequesters his whole team in a padded room and locks the door, opening it only for games.

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RTC Daily Bracketbusters: Saturday & Sunday

Posted by nvr1983 on February 27th, 2010

Even though ESPN likes to hype up its Bracketbuster day the fact is that the last few weeks of the season act like an elimination tournament with teams moving in and out of the NCAA Tournament while other teams move up and down on a daily basis. While each and every game could theoretically have an impact on the Bubble and NCAA seeding there are a few games that matter more than the others which we will feature over the next two weeks leading up to the conference tournaments. We will feature these in two posts per week. The first will be a post released on Sunday night for games from Monday through Thursday and the second will be a post released on Thursday/Friday night for games from Friday through Sunday.

Fifth
#21 Texas at #23 Texas A&M at 2 PM on ESPN on Saturday – These two teams are on edge of being anywhere from a #4 to a #8 seed so this is obviously a big game for both teams because when the Selection Committee is placing teams in the bracket they will look at how they did head-to-head. Texas has been disappointing this year, but they have a chance to salvage their season with a late rally. The big question is how they respond to the loss of Dogus Balbay.  Texas A&M is in essentially the same situation that the Longhorns are just with much less fanfare and volatility. The winner here has a shot at a 4 seed while the loser is going to be looking at a #7 seed at best barring a run in the Big 12 Conference Tournament, but perhaps the biggest prize for the winner will be moving up to try and avoid Kansas in the Conference Tournament for as long as possible.

Fourth
Illinois State at #22 Northern Iowa at 8:05 PM on ESPN2 on Saturday – I know after the media’s lovefest for the Panthers this year it might be shocking to hear that they might need to win this game to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but after their shocking loss at Evansville they might need this one for an at-large bid if they slip up in Arch Madness. Jordan Eglseder is scheduled to return from his suspension today and the Panthers will need him against Illinois State. The Redbirds have no illusions of an at-large bid, but this game is significant for their automatic bid chances as it would give them a shot at the #2 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and help them avoid the Panthers until the finals, which is particularly important since there are only 3 solid teams in the MVC.

Will Eglseder’s return spark the Panthers?

Third
#8 Villanova at #4 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN on Saturday - Yes. The biggest game ever (!) slides in as the #3 game of the weekend in our rankings. Obviously this is the marquee game of the weekend in terms of big names, but it holds a little less significance for the NCAA Tournament then some would think. A win here for Syracuse would give them clinch the Big East regular season title for the Orange, but they already have the coveted double-bye (an absolute joke) in the Big East Tournament. The bigger issue for Jim Boeheim‘s squad is their quest for a #1 seed. With Purdue basically being eliminated in the talk about the final two #1 seeds (see below), a Syracuse win would give them the inside track for one of those seeds. As for Villanova, they have an outside shot at a #1 seed, but they will need a lot of help thanks to their #50 SOS (yes, I double checked and yes I was shocked too). Their main concern should be trying to avoid slipping for a #3 or possibly even #4 seed with a difficult three-game stretch to end the season (at Syracuse, at Cincinnati, and home versus West Virginia).

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Evan Turner Favored in NPOY Straw Poll

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

For the third week in a row, Michael Rothstein at AnnArbor.com has taken a straw poll of nearly fifty journalists from around the nation who have a vote in one of the major national Player of the Year awards (presumably the AP, Wooden, and Naismith).  Like the annual Heisman Trophy analyses that pop up every November, the straw poll gives us a sense as to who the top NPOY candidates are heading into the final few weeks of the season as well as any trends for better or worse that are occuring.  This week’s list, released Wednesday prior to tonight’s games, is below.

Right now it appears to be a two-horse race between Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Kentucky’s John Wall, but for the first time in the three weeks of the straw poll, The Villain received more votes.  It’s unclear whether these votes were tallied before Wall’s near-triple double on Tuesday night, but Turner more than held his own tonight against Purdue with 29/7/5 assts himself (although OSU lost the game).  If DeMarcus Cousins keeps putting in the work for John Calipari’s Wildcats, he could begin shaving off even more of Wall’s supporters, as murmurs of an anti-Wall hype backlash are already surfacing in some circles.

Evan Turner is #1, For Now...

It’s somewhat interesting to us that Scottie Reynolds outpolled Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson in the Big East, even though Johnson has been the more celebrated player throughout the season — their relative placement on this list could literally come down to one game in Syracuse on February 27.  If Kansas keeps winning, expect to see Sherron Collins rise up this list fairly quickly, especially if he has another big game where he leads his team to a close victory.  We wouldn’t think Cole Aldrich will have a similar track, though, simply because his overall numbers are so pedestrian compared to the other names above him on the list (note: we recognize his substantial impact, but NPOY winners have better numbers than Aldrich will have this year).

With nearly four weeks until Selection Sunday, keep in mind that college basketball writers are a fickle bunch.  At this time of year, one particularly inspiring nationally-televised game can seal it for a player near the top of this list.  For example, who could ever forget the dominating Kenyon Martin performance against DePaul that sealed his NPOY award in 2000, or the 30/16 game that a baby-faced freshman Kevin Durant dropped in a double-overtime win against rival Texas A&M in 2007?  There may not seem like there’s a lot of basketball to be played, but writers fairly or unfairly place much more emphasis on the games near the end of the season when making their selections.  It’ll be worth keeping an eye on this straw poll the final few weeks to see how it ends up.

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