AAC M5: 11.26.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on November 26th, 2013

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  1. Rodney Purvis can’t play this year, but he’s still helping the Huskies get off to a hot start. The former highly-touted recruit who transferred to UConn after a year at NC State has been the star member of the scout team, helping one of the nation’s top backcourts prepare for the likes of Dez Wells and Yogi Ferrell. The full year of practice will be crucial for Purvis, who likely will have to step into the sizeable shoes of Shabazz Napier next season. Of course, it may also be playing a pretty big role in Napier’s blazing start, which will have him in consideration for a number of postseason awards if he can maintain it. Based on the early returns, luring Purvis to Storrs looks to be a pretty major win-win for both he and head coach Kevin Ollie.
  2. Sean Kilpatrick was angry when coach Mick Cronin redshirted him due to a crowded backcourt and a mechanical flaw in his jump shot four years ago. Both he and Cronin have to be pretty pleased with how it worked out, though, as Kilpatrick now ranks #13 on the school’s all-time scoring list as a fifth-year senior. If he keeps up his current pace – he’s averaging nearly 20 PPG through five games – he could end up second on the list to some guy named Oscar Robertson. And while Cronin might have had some inkling that the little-recruited guard would help more down the road than right away, he almost certainly couldn’t have understood just how much. Kilpatrick is posting a ridiculously high 155.2 offensive rating through five games, vital for a mediocre offensive squad like the Bearcats. If he can approach that number during a key three-game swing next month – at New Mexico, then neutral court games with Xavier and Pitt – both he and his team will earn some rightful attention.
  3. Kevin Ware‘s eventful year (life?) continued with a plea deal involving a $268 fine, bringing the latest kerfuffle over a speeding ticket and missed court date to a merciful end. This follows Rick Pitino’s rather pointed press conference on the topic last week after he was apparently blindsided by the news. That all followed on the heels of, shall we say, some colorful tweets from Ware’s Twitter account to Anthony Davis, quickly deleted and attributed to hacking. That followed denials from Ware and Pitino of summer “reports” that Ware had been secretly dismissed from the team. All of that, of course, follows the gruesome injury in last season’s NCAA Tournament which catapulted the quiet reserve to national prominence. That followed an indefinite suspension last spring that lasted one game. Even that followed a recruitment which included a commitment to Tennessee, later withdrawn when Bruce Pearl was fired in the face of an NCAA probe, then a commitment to UCF, later withdrawn in the face of an NCAA probe, then a commitment to Louisville, delayed by a semester due to the NCAA probes. Seems like quite a bit of drama for a junior with a career high of 11 points, no? Whew.
  4. When Louisville went way off the board for the fifth member of its signing class last week, no one knew much of anything about Matz Stockman. He wasn’t ranked by any of the major recruiting watchers, nor had his name been tied to the Cardinals publicly before his papers came through the fax machine. Not even Rick Pitino had seen him play. Now that his team has played a few games on American soil, word has started to trickle out. Jerry Meyer of 247Sports says the seven-foot Norwegian will be a three-star recruit, one who has a good scoring touch near the basket but “will likely need a couple years of development before he is ready to compete at a Louisville type level.” A year ago, Louisville’s thin backcourt ended up with a walk-on as its only reserve in the Final Four, so the recruiting class featured three guards. It’s no coincidence that this year’s Cardinal frontcourt, which got exposed by North Carolina on Sunday, has led to Pitino bringing in three recruits 6’9” and taller.
  5. Another night, another couple of blown opportunities for AAC teams to earn a much-needed yet impossible to find quality win. First, Oklahoma State continued its roll through the conference with a 93-67 win at USF. Then Houston gave Stanford a tough test before falling in Brooklyn. And now the AAC nears the end of November with UConn’s two wins over a mediocre Maryland, and a young, inconsistent Indiana, and that’s about it. This is nice for the Huskies, but less great for the other teams that hoped for a few chances for quality wins in conference play to make up for weak non-conference slates. Now those opportunities might not be there, making it tougher to build an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume.
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AAC M5: 11.21.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 21st, 2013

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  1. Sometimes, when you are afraid you won’t have enough news to fill the Morning Five, you have to pray to the College Basketball News Gods. They don’t always listen to your prayers, but when they do, they always answer them by sending Richard Andrew Pitino to save the day. After Louisville demolished Hartford on Tuesday night, Pitino could have just answered questions about the Kevin Ware speeding ticket by expressing his disappointment and moved on. Instead he took the time to make vague insinuations that the story only broke because a Kentucky fan tipped off the media outlets. It can’t be proven, but given the nature of this rivalry, absolutely no one would be surprised if Pitino’s suspicions were totally true. Ware’s suspension rumors from the summer were also supposedly started by someone in Big Blue Nation and let’s not pretend like Louisville fans are any nobler. They would be direct messaging every national college basketball writer in the country if they thought they could get Julius Randle suspended or even looked at by the NCAA. I’m not a proponent of trading in gossip but this is also partially what makes the rivalry between the teams so fun… so… uh… work those phones Cardinals’ and Wildcats’ fans!
  2. It’s a little bit surprising to hear that former Boston College coach Al Skinner never even bothered to call Shabazz Napier and at least feign interest just in case his preferred targets fell through. Napier wasn’t exactly a can’t-miss prospect coming out of prep school, but he did play in the Eagles’ backyard and was probably worth at least a phone call. Skinner’s loss (it is really Steve Donahue’s loss since he actually tried to recruit Napier but was too late) was Jim Calhoun’s gain as Napier has built himself into a conference player of the year candidate and the Huskies’ most important player. Napier gets a chance to indirectly exact his revenge tonight as the Huskies and Eagles square off at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports Classic. Donahue has a pair of solid sophomore guards in Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon, just don’t think for a second that either one of them is going to be able to stop Napier.
  3. The coronation of Troy Caupain as Cincinnati‘s point guard of the future will have to wait at least one more game after last night’s underwhelming performance. I won’t pick on the members of the media who were already starting to sing his praises because I was singing them just as loudly after his excellent all-around game against Appalachian State. But the beginning of the breakout that was supposed to happen against Campbell last night never materialized as Ge’Lawn Guyn played most of the minutes and Caupain missed the only two shots he took from the field to finish with one point, one rebound, one assist and one steal in just 14 minutes. I will readily admit that my itchy “breakout performer” trigger-finger got the best of me on this one, but I am not jumping of the Caupain bandwagon quite yet. Caupain is still more than a week away from his 18th birthday and he is already part of an AAC team’s rotation. He will undoubtedly have bouts of inconsistency throughout the season but he has a lot of room to grow and he is going to do that by playing a lot.
  4. The theme of the week for Temple is patience. Coach Fran Dunphy is preaching it. The student newspaper is preaching it; and star forward Anthony Lee is preaching it too. Although the Owls were picked to finish fifth in the preseason AAC coaches poll, it is now fair to wonder whether that prediction has more to do with the respect for Dunphy than it does with the Owls’ actual abilities. The outlook from KenPom is far less favorable (for those without the subscription, he is predicting the Owls finish 10-18) and the team is going to need to grow up in a hurry if they want to prove the prognosticators wrong. They have the pieces and a good amount of talent, but right now they aren’t particularly good in any facet of the game. They have been particularly bad from behind the three-point arc, shooting just over 26 percent from downtown, and they also rank near the bottom nationally when it comes to forcing turnovers. The hope is that some of this will improve as the team gets more comfortable and more experience, they just better hope that happens before its too late.
  5. I’m fine with giving Houston‘s TaShawn Thomas conference player of the week honors, as he has dominated in all four games this season. I am not fine with hyping Houston as a contender, however, not at least until they play someone even remotely worthwhile. They are still a bad defensive team, and while the offense is improving, it still isn’t that efficient and certainly not enough so to help them beat conference foes. The schedule doesn’t get any better against Howard, which rates as one of the worst teams in the country, so expect Thomas and Danuel House to get theirs in an easy win.  But the Cougars get a shot at Stanford at the Barclays Center on Monday and if they can beat the Cardinal, then I will consider to start to take the team seriously.
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AAC M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 20th, 2013

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  1. Last night was supposed to be the national stage on which Josh Pastner and his Memphis Tigers announced they were for real. Instead, Marcus Smart happened. And now the scrutiny on the Tigers and their inability to win games against quality opponents will be even greater. Last night’s game was never close at any point as Smart and the Cowboys led by 18 at the half and cruised to an easy victory from there as the Tigers turned the ball over 14 times and made just two of their 13 three-point attempts. There was never any question that Smart would be the best player on the floor for either team last night, but many expected Memphis’ veteran and deep backcourt to make things competitive. Instead the team’s best player was reserve forward Nick King and the quartet of senior guards were basically non-existent for much of the game. Senior leader Joe Jackson had exactly zero assists in 25 minutes and super-transfer Michael Dixon went just 1-of-10 from the field and turned the ball over three times. For years the Tigers and Pastner have garnered national recognition thanks in large part to the program’s ability to beat up on Conference USA opponents and bring in ballyhooed recruiting classes. But after last night’s drubbing, it seems like everyone is starting to figure it out and Memphis will have to earn its way back into the national conversation as Pastner fends off questions about whether his coaching will ever catch up to his recruiting.
  2. Yesterday was a good day for Louisville guard Kevin Ware. The junior made headlines last year when news leaked that he had missed a court date for a reckless driving and speeding citations. To make matters worse, the media immediately started asking questions about a 2013 Dodge Challenger that Ware was driving. Right before another solid 13 minutes of play in an easy win over Hartford, Louisville announced that Ware has been cleared by school compliance and would remain eligible. It seems like Ware had simply been lent the car by his close friend (I wish I had close friends who would lend me their awesome cars), which is not a violation of any NCAA rules. Ware still has to be back in court next Monday for his rescheduled hearing, but he will probably be allowed to pay the fine and move on with his life. This story appears to have quickly runs its course, but before it disappears it did the handy job of wrecking the feel-good story of Ware’s triumphant return to the court. This is all fine by us as we weren’t particularly comfortable with the cheesy “long road back” stories and we aren’t comfortable with all of the moralizing being done by some media members on the issue of this speeding ticket. Having now been on both ends of the media barrel, hopefully Ware can move on and we can talk about his play on the court rather than all of the extra noise off it. Although it’s worth noting that any time we can get an opportunity watch Rick Pitino scold the media about doing their jobs, we all win.
  3. It has only been five games but it already feels like it is going to be an up-and-down season for Rutgers and new head coach Eddie Jordan. One night after the Scarlet Knights looked impressive in knocking off Canisius, they were completely throttled last night by a Drexel team that was clearly better than them in every facet of the game. This is what happens when you combine legitimate talent with a complete lack of depth under the tutelage of a first-year coach still navigating the college game. Unfortunately, the ups and the downs have already started happening and the Scarlet Knights really haven’t played anybody yet, which makes some of us wonder whether they are in for a long season. There was some good news for the program today as the 2014 recruiting class officially signed and it is a good one. It’s only a three-man class, but it offers talent and versatility that will hopefully help the team return to relevancy sooner rather than later.
  4. In the most trivial news of the day, Cincinnati freshman guard Deshaun Morman broke his foot in practice and will be forced to redshirt this season for obvious medical reasons. We say trivial not because breaking a foot is trivial but because Morman hadn’t played in any of the team’s first three games and was likely going to redshirt anyway. Head coach Mick Cronin seemed to indicate there was a chance Morman wouldn’t redshirt, but now the decision has been made for him and the limping Bearcats’ backcourt will need to find depth from somewhere else. In the same story, Cronin mentions that starting point guard Ge’Lawn Guyn‘s status for the Bearcats’ next game is up in the air as Guyn recovers from a sore right knee. The silver lining is that at least these injuries are happening in the early part of the schedule and not in February.
  5. Larry Brown has forgotten more about coaching basketball than my puny head will ever be able to comprehend, but it’s quotes like the one he gave after last night’s disappointing loss to Arkansas that make me wonder why recruits enjoy playing for him. The quote, if you are really too lazy to click on the link, went something like this, ”Ben Moore was great… found out that I have some freshmen that need to play more and seniors who shouldn’t.” Giving Moore credit where credit is due is all well and good, but calling out two seniors on your team in front of the media after the third game of the season seems like an irrational tactic. Shawn Williams and Nick Russell were the only two seniors who played last night, so it’s not hard to figure out who Brown was throwing under the bus, and the best part is that neither Russell nor Williams played particularly poorly last night. Brown cleaned house when he arrived in Dallas and got away with it because he quickly replaced those departing players with more talented ones, but it’s hard to believe Brown has any loyalty to any of his players given the way he talks about them publicly. Forward Jalen Jones has already announced he will transfer and the Mustangs could actually use him. Don’t be surprised if some of the newcomers now get pushed out of the rotation as Brown tries to continue to improve the talent level in the program. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve the team, but you won’t get the team to play hard for you if you don’t have their backs and Brown has made it very clear that if you don’t play well, he won’t have your backs.
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Morning Five: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 20th, 2013

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  1. The start of this season has certainly been challenging for Billy Donovan who has been dealing with an ever-changing roster. The latest blow came on Monday night when freshman Kasey Hill injured his left ankle in their game against Southern. The Gators got a little bit of good news when x-rays on that ankle revealed that there were no fractures and Hill is expected to be out for one month with a sprained left ankle. The timing of Hill’s return as well as that of Scottie Wilbekin who still has not played this season as Florida has a brutal three-game stretch against Connecticut (December 2), Kansas (December 10), and Memphis (December 17), which would fall right around the time. Florida will have a tough time against those three teams regardless of whether Hill and/or Wilbekin return by that time, but if both of them are still out of action it seems likely that the Gators will lose all three.
  2. When Rick Pitino heard about Kevin Ware‘s speeding ticket while using a new car he expressed his lack of interest in the situation. It appears that the Louisville compliance department feels the same way as they have officially cleared him after their investigation. Although we certainly do not approve of driving 95 miles per hour in a 45-mile per hour work zone the bigger issue surrounding Ware was his use of a 2013 Dodge Challenger that was owned by a fellow Louisville student who reportedly let Ware borrow the car to visit a friend at Western Kentucky. We are sure that some people (read: Kentucky fans) will latch onto the fact that Ware’s friend–Matt Case–works for a company that paid ran autograph sessions for former Louisville player Gorgui Dieng. That involvement would seem to warrant further investigation, but apparently not for Louisville.
  3. Over the years many teams both at the the professional and collegiate level have used strange gimmicks to try to package their less desirable tickets in with their more high-profile games. Professional teams usually do this by making tickets to the high-profile only available to season ticket holders or through multi-game ticket packages featuring games that most fans would not otherwise be interested in. Colleges often do this, but cannot do it to their students. What they can do is force them to sit through less desirable events in order to get the tickets. And that is exactly what Colorado is doing to their students who want to be there when Kansas comes to town. In order to get the Kansas tickets, students will have to sit through the entire women’s game tonight against Iowa. Think you can just show up at the beginning, walk out, and still claim your ticket? Nice try, but the school is claiming it will take away the wristbands of those who leave the game early. While this gimmick might boost attendance we are not sure how much it will add to the atmosphere as most of those in attendance will just want the game to end.
  4. It has been quite a while since we mentioned conference realignment in the Morning 5, but we guess that all good things have to come to an end. Yesterday, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit asking Maryland to pay the ACC $52 million as its exit fee could go forward. The lawsuit, which was filed nearly one year ago, has been in legal limbo as the ACC has contended that the case can be tried in North Carolina where the ACC is based (in Greensboro) while Maryland has argued that North Carolina has no right to sue a Maryland state-based institution for the fee. For its part, the Maryland attorney general’s office says that it is “considering its options”. We are getting the feeling that this case will go on for quite some time before finally being decided.
  5. In the wake of the 2011 brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier there were calls to cancel the series. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the schools agreed to play the games at an off-campus site for the next two seasons. Last year’s game went off without a hitch and with this year’s game less than a month away, the obvious question arises as what to do next. At this point, it seems to be up in the air whether the rivalry will be continued at an off-campus or on-campus site, but judging from the comments it seems almost certain that the rivalry will continue. While we can understand the desire to avoid another ugly incident like 2011, it should be clear to everybody involved that off-campus events lack the atmosphere and excitement of on-campus ones.
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AAC M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by mike lemaire on November 19th, 2013

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  1. A few things came to mind as I read that Louisville’s Kevin Ware failed to show for a court appearance Monday for driving a friend’s 2013 Dodge Challenger 95 miles per hour in a construction zone. The first is that the speed limit where Ware was caught was 55 miles per hour. If he had been going 60 miles per hour, it still would have been stupid to miss the court appearance, but at least some of us who have been in that situation could have related. But he was driving 40 miles per hour over the speed limit. Even excluding the obvious illegality of his actions, that is insane and totally unnecessary, and Ware didn’t even have a good excuse when the officer asked him why he was speeding. Second, if Ware pays the ticket or actually shows up for his court appearance, this story likely never makes the headlines. It’s totally possible a local reporter could have stumbled across the citation, but if Ware had just paid the fine (which admittedly probably costs a small fortune for trying to break the speed of sound in a construction zone), then he wouldn’t have to be dealing with questions about where he got the really nice car he was driving at the time. And finally, I am anxiously awaiting the day when a college basketball player gets pulled over in a 1996 Ford Windstar at the very least because when someone confronts the player’s mother about where she got the car, her answer will have to be something like, “Why don’t you try lugging equipment for three kids around in a Porsche!” I know, it sounds like a long shot, but my fingers are crossed anyway.
  2. A lot of college basketball eyes were in Fayetteville to see whether SMU‘s transformation from mediocre Conference USA team to above-average AAC team was for real and the Mustangs answered the challenge by turning the ball over 18 times and allowing the Razorbacks to shoot 11-of-22 from downtown in a disappointing loss for the team’s bandwagon. The team’s supporters have swelled so much that the beat writer for the Dallas Morning News has devoted not one, but two, blog posts to national media members touting the Mustangs’ resurgence. The team was admittedly without top freshman Keith Frazier and the man who replaced him in the rotation, Crandall Head, did not acquit himself well. The Razorbacks are also going to be a good deal better than most people seem to think, but that’s still no excuse for falling behind by more than 20 points in the second half, especially for a team that has been lauded for its defensive ability. The folks who think the program has turned around aren’t necessarily wrong, they may have just jumped the gun by a season.
  3. I remember reading that Rutgers guard Jerome Seagears was set to transfer to Auburn but I admit I didn’t remember until just now that he actually enrolled for less than a month only to transfer back to Rutgers after a change of heart. It is hard to blame his indecision based on what was going on in Piscataway, but after last night, coach Eddie Jordan is probably pretty glad to have him back. Seagears atoned for his overall poor play in the close win over Yale by scoring 15 points and dishing out nine assists as the Scarlet Knights handled a decent Canisius squad in the second half and pulled away to win. His play at point guard can be erratic, but he is explosive and can be an absolute problem on the defensive end. Kadeem Jack and Wally Judge both did their things on the glass and when you throw in the emergence of transfer D’Von Campbell as a rotation-worthy guard, the Scarlet Knights have a decent  nucleus to compete in the AAC. Depth will still be a major concern going forward and the lack of a legitimate backup in the frontcourt will also hinder the team’s chance for success, but if Seagears can be consistently productive and Jack continues to impress, Rutgers will be a tough opponent for anyone in the conference.
  4. Connecticut is raring to restart its rivalry with fellow New England foe Boston College Thursday in the semifinals of the 2kSports Classic. SMU landed with a thud last night, so Thursday’s tilt between the Huskies and the Eagles may very well be the second-most exciting game on paper involving an AAC team to date, after the Memphis-Oklahoma State showdown going off tonight. The Eagles barely snuck past Florida Atlantic over the weekend for their first win of the season, but there is still a lot of talent on the club and its unlikely that coach Kevin Ollie and his bunch will be underestimating the challenge. The game will be sure to feature a lot of terrific guard play and probably a lot of points as well, which will be exciting for AAC fans waiting to see some good, competitive games. The Huskies always know how to get up for games in Madison Square Garden and it seems likely that their fans will be out in force on Thursday, so let’s hope they are ready for the limelight.
  5. Speaking of Memphis and good guard play, there will be some pretty good ones on display for both teams in Stillwater tonight. The Tigers have more depth when you consider that four more-than-competent seniors will play heavy minutes at the guard spots, but the Cowboys will have the best guard for either team in Marcus Smart, and his backcourt mate, Markel Brown, is no slouch either. It will be interesting to see how Tigers’ coach Josh Pastner chooses to defend Smart and whether he will use multiple players to do so throughout the contest. Smart is incredibly strong and physical, but so are Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford and Michael Dixon, and they are all plus defenders as well, which means a combination of the three may be enough to wear down smart if Brown and others can’t find ways to take the pressure off him. This will also be a nice early litmus test for Memphis but don’t rush to judgment either. The Tigers are looking for legitimate respect in a better conference and this win would go a long way towards getting it, but they are still a very young team trying to figure out how to fit the pieces together, so they shouldn’t truly be judged until conference play gets underway.
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Morning Five: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 19th, 2013

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  1. We are not ready to tell you to jump off the Kevin Ware bandwagon, but his story took an interesting turn yesterday. Ware, to many the story of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, made his triumphant return to the Louisville lineup recently and appeared to be working his way back into the Cardinal rotation. That is until he was cited for driving 95 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour work zone and then missing his court date for that offense. So what is Rick Pitino going to do? Apparently nothing as Pitino said, “That is his business. That has nothing to do with basketball.” We can almost feel an Allen Iverson “Practice” rant coming on. The part of the story that many people will latch onto is that Ware was driving a 2013 Dodge Charger. Before that gets out of control, current reports indicate that it belonged to a “friend” of Ware’s. What that actually means is anybody’s guess.
  2. Fordham will be without junior center Ryan Canty for an undetermined length of time as he has taken “a leave of absence from the team to address personal issues.” Canty, who averaged 6.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season, has seen his production to drop to 3.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game this year. The decision should be a pretty big blow for the Rams who probably expected big things from Canty after a successful sophomore season. However, after all the things we have heard about players struggling with “personal issues” we hope that he gets whatever is wrong sorted out well before he returns to a court.
  3. One of the things that we often miss in the big upsets is the back stories that never get mentioned. Although we would question how big of an upset Belmont’s win over North Carolina was given the current state of the Tar Heels, that does not make the story of J.J. Mann any less remarkable. Mann, who Rick Byrd gave a scholarship to despite his players protesting, keyed the win with his career-high 28 points including 11 in the final 2:22 topped off by the game-winning three with 13.1 seconds left. We are not sure how the rest of Mann’s career will go, but stories like his are part of what make college basketball so great.
  4. If you are looking for more team-focused telecasts for the Final Four, then you are in luck. Turner plans on using its three networks–TNT, TBS, and TruTV–to telecast the national semifinals with national announcers on one telecast and team-specific announcers on the other two networks. Turner only plans on using this concept for the national semifinals as the championship game will be telecast on CBS. The proposition is interesting for us on a number of levels not the least of which is what kind of ratings they will get on cable versus the regular broadcast. And of course, we also wonder how advertisers will react to getting a split audience although you could argue that Turner can negotiate three fees instead of one.
  5. We have big proponent of advanced analytics on this site, but sometimes we think they go too far or in the case of “korfball” indicate that someone has way too much time on his/her hands. Essentially what korfball comes down to is trying to figure out the last date that two teams both lost on. According to Pomeroy, the leaders in this “game” are Ohio State and Kansas with Duke and Kansas coming in a close second. For some reason this was fairly popular on Twitter (maybe we follow the wrong people), but we are having a hard time believing this is anything other that a joke that took way too much time. Anyways, we have gotten some criticism for being too heavily into advanced analytics so here is our shot at the field.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 18th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. starting this year off with what for my money was the best preseason event in recent memory. Combining the history of the Duke/Kansas/Kentucky/Michigan State programs with the incredible talent those squads have this year was a November treat for any college basketball fan who has grown tired of the NFL’s unthinkably terrible Monday/Thursday schedule this fall. Michael Wilbon said it right in his column after the game — this type of night makes college basketball relevant earlier in the year and gets people paying attention before January. I think you saw that same sentiment from those coaches, too, in their postgame interviews – this was not your ordinary non-conference event.

I LOVED…. Jabari Parker. When I look at freshmen now, I put them through what I call the Kevin Durant Eye Test. When you saw Durant during his unbelievable freshman year at Texas, you stopped doing whatever it was you were previously doing. You thought, no way is this kid this big with these type of perimeter skills and that feathery stroke. No way is he only 18, and no way would he not be making an impact on an NBA team right now. Parker passed that test, and this year is going to be fun.

Parker and Friends are Worth Stopping What You’re Doing to Watch Them

I LOVED…. that I still had to think about if the night’s star was Parker, because UK’s Julius Randle (Zach Randolph should sue for post-game style patent infringement) and KU’s Andrew Wiggins (who woke up for the second half against Duke to remind us what all the hype was about) delivered similarly eye-opening performances. I also loved that for how great Parker and Randle were, it was the more-balanced Jayhawks and Spartans that came out on top.

I LOVED…. Kevin Ware back on the floor. It’s hard to remember the last time that everyone wanted to see a kid back on his feet more than Ware, whose gruesome injury last March caused America to collectively turn their heads away from the TV set. Making his first three-pointer was pretty great, but I loved this past week even more when Ware cut into the lane and bounced off of a two-foot jump stop for a high-flying finger roll at the cup. What a great story.

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AAC M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Despite the fact that he was practicing and had played some in the preseason, Kevin Ware didn’t make his official return to the court until Friday when he played 13 minutes and scored five points in Louisville‘s romp over Cornell. Ware didn’t seem to be feeling any lingering pain from last season’s gruesome leg injury and that is good news not just for Ware’s basketball future but also the Cardinals’ prospects on the court. Assuming Ware continues to work his way back into coach Rick Pitino’s rotation, the Cardinals will boast one of the deepest and best backcourts in the entire country. Somewhat lost in the concern over whether Ware would ever play again was the fact that Ware developed into a pretty good player last season. It doesn’t seem like Chris Jones will have any trouble replacing Peyton Siva at point guard and Russ Smith is one of the best in the country at his position, but it’s still nice to have such a talented security blanket for both positions.
  2. Temple is the only team in the conference that has lost more than one game this season and that is because the Owls  haven’t figured out how to hold on to a second-half lead yet. To be fair, Temple has played the conference’s most difficult schedule to this point, but the opportunities to win all of their games have been there. They led for all but the final four minutes of the loss to Kent State, and they led for all but the final five minutes of the loss to Towson. They also very nearly kicked away a big second half lead in the season-opening win against Penn. The struggle to close out games isn’t terribly surprising considering the Owls are very young and inexperienced, but that excuse also won’t help the team’s case in March if they find themselves perched precariously on the bubble. It is pretty clear there is talent in North Philadelphia but it will be up to coach Fran Dunphy and his veteran leaders to make sure there is discipline as well.
  3. Cincinnati picked up a mostly irrelevant win Saturday over Appalachian State but we may have seen the light go on for freshman point guard Troy Caupain. The freshman was pressed into a larger role when starter Ge’Lawn Guyn left early in the game with a right knee injury and he didn’t disappoint, filling the box score with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, and four assists. The performance did come against an overmatched opponent, but if Caupain can continue to play that well it would be huge for a Bearcats team with big questions about the point guard position heading into the season. Cashmere Wright was the team’s offensive engine last season, and now that he has graduated, many wondered how Cincinnati would score points without its best playmaker. Guyn is a steady and experienced hand, but at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, Caupain has more talent and upside, meaning his development will play a big role in how well the Bearcats’ offense operates this season.
  4. South Florida thumped Bowling Green Friday night to give head coach Stan Heath his 200th career victory. It would be a more impressive milestone if Heath didn’t also have 186 career losses, but hey, a coach on the bubble will take what he can get. The game also marked the return of point guard Anthony Collins, who played 26 minutes and finished with seven points and five assists and didn’t appear to be affected by his surgically repaired left knee. The Bulls have won their first three games of the season rather easily, but we still don’t know anything about the team because the Falcons are the best team they have faced thus far and they are not very good at all. The good news is that Corey Allen has been something of a revelation albeit against vastly inferior competition and freshman big man John Egbunu has the look of a legitimate post presence already. The bad news is that the Bulls are still going to struggle to score points as their schedule gets more difficult, and it gets more difficult in a hurry as they welcome Oklahoma State to town a week from today.
  5. It wasn’t pretty. Well, it was actually pretty ugly and uninspiring, but Rutgers came away from its weekend bout with mighty Yale with a one-point win and some guts in coming from behind and getting the win when senior J.J. Moore hit a clutch three-pointer when a layup could have tied the game. Unfortunately, the struggle also exposed one of the Scarlet Knights’ major flaws – rebounding. The team outrebounded Yale but firsthand observers weren’t fooled because outrebounding Yale is a lot easier than doing the same against Cincinnati or Memphis. The Scarlet Knights have some size up front in Kadeem Jack, Wally Judge and Greg Lewis, but Judge and Lewis have yet to get going and depth is nonexistent behind that trio, so rebounding will need to be a point of emphasis for the team going forward. Eddie Jordan really only has eight players to work with, so there are going to be a lot of holes that will need patching up along the way. Still, for now, getting after it on the glass will be especially important for this team as the schedule becomes more difficult.
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Morning Five: Veterans Day 2013 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 11th, 2013

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  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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AAC M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on November 8th, 2013

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  1. While the big news of the week was Kevin Ware’s return to the floor Wednesday evening, the question still remains exactly how Ware will fit into a loaded backcourt. Ware said he can play all three positions at point guard, shooting guard and small forward, but as of now, the starting backcourt looks to be Chris Jones at point, Russ Smith at the two, and Wayne Blackshear at the three. Terry Rozier, Anton Gill, and Tim Henderson — the walk-on who stepped up in Ware’s absence in last year’s Final Four — also figure to be in the mix. Ware brings a rebounding prowess that only Rozier can match at the guard position, and he also has length, quickness and jumping ability that will be impossible to ignore. Look for the recovered junior to play a vital roll in the Cardinals’ quest for an AAC championship and repeat National Championship.
  2. Junior point guard Anthony Collins, arguably South Florida’s best player, may not be available for the season opener because of lingering effects from knee surgery. The removal of his inflamed bursa sac was expected to limit him for only a week of the preseason, but it has now been a month and there is no guarantee that he will play tomorrow against Tennessee Tech. The only good news is that head coach Stan Heath has quite a bit of depth compared to previous years, as was evident in an easy exhibition win over Division II Barry. JuCo transfer Corey Allen Jr. and freshman Josh Heath provided solid minutes, while veterans Vic Rudd and Martino Brock helped out in the backcourt. There’s no doubt that the Bulls will need a healthy Collins to make any sort of noise in the inaugural AAC season.
  3. Louisville senior forward Luke Hancock will miss the first three games of the season because of an Achilles tendon injury, Rick Pitino announced yesterday. Hancock, the 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, averaged 8.1 points per game last season. The Cards’ first three games are all at home including the opener tomorrow against College of Charleston. The other two are Hofstra and Cornell. Louisville should be fine without Hancock until the fifth game of the season, which could be a top 10 match up with future ACC opponent North Carolina. The match-up will occur at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut if Louisville gets by Fairfield and North Carolina beats Richmond on November 23. The Cards and Tar Heels would then square off the next day at 1:00 PM.
  4. Twenty ESPN analysts predicted Final Four participants and a national champion yesterday and the AAC didn’t receive much love at all. Not a single analyst predicted Louisville to defend its national title, although eight of the 20 said the Cardinals would return to the Final Four. The only other AAC team to be mentioned was Connecticut. Digger Phelps predicted the Huskies to make the Final Four. Nine predicted Kentucky would win it all, seven went with Michigan State, and two each for Kansas and Duke. A few odd Final Four choices included Harvard, VCU and Marquette.
  5. With tomorrow the opening day in college basketball, six AAC teams will take to the floor this evening and three more play on Saturday. The best game of weekend featuring an AAC team will be Friday night at in Brooklyn when Connecticut faces Maryland. Anything less than a 9-0 weekend from the conference would be considered a disappointment, although a rebuilding Temple squad could have its hands full on the road at Penn. The defending national champion Louisville Cardinals will unfurl a new 2013 championship banner before tip-off  against the College of Charleston. Another covered banner, presumably for Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, will also be unveiled at the KFC Yum! Center.
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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #5 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2013

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Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#5 – Where A Fallen Hero Inspires Us All Happens.


We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

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Halloween Tricks and Treats For Hoops Fans Everywhere

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2013

As an army of ghosts, goblins, witches and werewolves prepares to descend upon neighborhoods from coast to coast, we thought it might be worthwhile to hand out a few tricks and treats of our own before the autumnal extravaganza begins in earnest this evening. We’ve got a basket full of goodies to give away, but not everybody in our neighborhood is deserving of the full-size candy bars and gummy worms we have in our cache. Some of the trick-or-treaters in College Basketball Nation are frankly more deserving of healthy sweets (yay, fruits!) and some brand-new toothbrushes. Let’s take a look:

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TRICK: Our first trick goes to Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, who will receive a Costco-sized package of Dove from us this Halloween. With a mouth as profane as his, Henderson could stand to abide any good grandmother’s advice and wash his mouth out with a plentiful helping of soap. His act is one part entertaining and three parts tiresome, so let’s knock on wood to hope that he figures out a way this season to let his highly-impressive (and efficient) game do his talking.

TREAT: It’s still October, so we’re going to hand out treats in the form of a bag of candy corn (it’s striped, after all) to our intrepid game officials. The new rules instituted this offseason by the NCAA to eliminate hand-checking on the perimeter and bumping of cutters is designed to improve player movement and make the game more free-flowing. The NBA went through a similar transformation during the last five years, and the preponderance of open-floor offenses in the league has made the professional game a much better product as a result. Now, the zebras just need to implement it. Like we said, it’s still October.

TRICK: Some trick-or-treaters simply can’t get past others’ success, and they’re smaller for it. There’s no narrative more annoying in college basketball these days than the “[John] Calipari cheats” meme. The Kentucky head coach hasn’t always been an uber-recruiter (he had one legitimate NBA player in eight years at UMass), but he has always been a winner (at least in the college game). Yet many people in and around the sport simply won’t let go of the idea that he is some kind of masterful Dr. Evil on the recruiting trail, offering “one millllll-ion dollars” to the best prep talent the US has to offer. For these people, we’re giving out black licorice vines in the hopes that the candy stains their teeth as much as bitterness has stained their souls.

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