Morning Five: New Year’s Eve 2013 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 31st, 2013

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  1. It did not take very long for Louisville’s title defense to turn into a mess. On Saturday, the Cardinals lost to their in-state rival Kentucky in a game in which the Wildcats played for long stretches without Julius Randle, their best player. Yesterday, they lost something even bigger as they dismissed Chane Behanan from the team for an undisclosed violation of university policy. Unlike Behanan’s previous indefinite suspension we think this one will stick regardless of how much sleep Behanan gets. It goes without saying that it is a big blow for the Cardinals who now face an uphill battle in their quest to repeat as Behanan’s departure means an even bigger void on the inside.
  2. Kevin Ware‘s potential redshirt is not as devastating to Louisville’s title defense chances as Behanan’s departure, but it serves as another setback for a team that is essentially living off last season’s reputation this year. Ware, whose injury and comeback served as a symbol for Louisville’s title run, had battled back to return to the court earlier than many expected. Unfortunately, it appears that a kick that he received to the same area as the fracture has caused enough damage that he might sit out the rest of the season.
  3. This has not been the typical Gonzaga season so far and things appear to have gotten even tougher with the news that Gary Bell Jr. will be out “for a while” with a broken right hand. In addition to being much lower in the rankings than they are accustomed to, Gonzaga is also already dealing with injuries to Kevin Pangos and Sam Dower so Bell’s injury only exacerbates a growing problem. Fortunately for Gonzaga it seems like they will only have two teams–BYU and St. Mary’s–to deal with in the WCC and they play them at home first so if they are able to weather the storm in January they could be in good position if they are healthy by February.
  4. On some levels Luke Fischer‘s decision to transfer from Indiana is not particularly notable, but the speed at which he did and how much of a higher level program Indiana was than the rest of his offers is interesting. We won’t pretend to know that much about Fischer or his game, but when a player has one offer from an elite program and a bunch of offers from good, but not elite programs it makes you wonder. Either the elite program is jumping on a hidden gem or maybe everybody else knows that the player might not be as competitive at that level. In any event, we suspect that Fischer will probably end up at one of the other schools that offered him a scholarship in high school.
  5. Finally, with all the injuries, suspensions, and transfers that we have been talking about recently now seems like the perfect time for Seth Davis and his annual Jigsaw Man column. If you are not familiar with the concept, Davis tries to find a “relatively obscure” player who would fill a void on teams that seem to be missing one key element. The most common complaints with the column tend to be on how to define “relatively obscure” since we probably are familiar with almost every significant player in the country. After looking at this for years the best way to do it is just to accept any player who would not be considered a star on his team.
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AAC M5: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on December 23rd, 2013

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  1. The American had a pretty nice weekend, posting an 11-1 record with 11 straight wins over the past four days before South Florida dropped its Las Vegas match-up against Mississippi State on Sunday night. We will take a closer look once the non-conference slate wraps up (mostly) next weekend, but the AAC has posted only a so-so 79-31 overall record, fifth in winning percentage behind the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big East. Worse, it ranks ninth in conference RPI, indicative of the problems some AAC members might have come Selection Sunday.
  2. UConn coach Kevin Ollie suggested as much before Sunday’s match-up with Washington, and before tip-off it was announced that the Huskies’ starting lineup had indeed changed. Indeed, freshman Amida Brimah got the start in the Sunday win, with Phil Nolan losing his spot there. Both performed relatively well; Brimah managed four points, three rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 17 minutes, while Nolan ended up with eight points and five boards in 13 minutes. The Huskies have been a terrible rebounding team all year, ranking outside the top 200 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, and it’s understandable why Ollie might want to mirror Louisville’s Rick Pitino in starting a raw freshman at center who might improve more quickly over a limited veteran. Still, Nolan’s only a sophomore, and he’s been a better rebounder than Brimah thus far.
  3. Sean Kilpatrick continued his move up Cincinnati’s all-time scoring list, sliding into eighth place with 23 points in Saturday’s win over Middle Tennessee. He now has scored 1,650 points in his career, 16 behind Ron Bonham for #7. If he stays on his current pace, he’ll finish with more than 2,000 points, only the second Bearcat in the history of the program to pass that threshold. The other guy who reached that milestone, the school’s all-time leading scorer, remains out of reach; it’s some guy named Oscar Robertson, who managed 2,973 points in his career and was the leading scorer in college hoops history when he graduated in 1960. Still, Kilpatrick, who’s off to a great start this season, has been a very important player for the program, and particularly for coach Mick Cronin, whose job was in some danger when Kilpatrick arrived.
  4. Louisville rolled over Florida International on Saturday night short a couple of reserves. Kevin Ware, whose gruesome leg injury in March made him a national celebrity, suffered a shin injury against Missouri State on Tuesday night and was wearing street clothes on the bench. Freshman forward Akoy Agau also missed the game after being suspended for not “acting the way a University of Louisville basketball player should,” as coach Rick Pitino put it. It was unclear if either will be available for Saturday’s massive tilt at Rupp Arena against hated rival Kentucky, but it also probably matters very little. Agau, a little-used reserve, is unlikely to see the floor in such a high-level contest anyway; and while Ware might have gotten some run, he’s been a pretty distant fourth in the Cardinals’ guard rotation behind Russ Smith, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier.
  5. Two AAC schools, Temple and Houston, have something major in common despite the differences inherent in being located more than 1,300 miles apart. They are both struggling to achieve relevance in their hometowns, where they not only face competition from other college programs but also professional squads in all major sports. Houston appears to be ahead of Temple in its local efforts, and may therefore offer a blueprint. “We’ve had to fight, scratch, and claw to become relevant, not just in this city but in the state,” Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “By no means do I think we’ve conquered that. But we’ve made inroads.”
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AAC M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 19th, 2013

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  1. We weren’t the only folks who thought Memphis‘ effort Tuesday night was commendable. The Tigers played very well in a one-possession loss to almost-full-strength Florida and came back from multiple large deficits to make a game of it. Rob Dauster is right; this loss shouldn’t feed in to the “Memphis can’t win the big game” narrative because the Tigers are much better and tougher and experienced than they have been in the past. Their recruiting class outside of Austin Nichols has done little this season, but that hasn’t been a big deal because all of Memphis’ veterans are playing so well. Joe Jackson was terrific and he has outplayed expectations slightly this year as the leader of Josh Pastner’s band. The Tigers showed a lot of moxie in fighting back against one of the most athletic teams in the country and they proved they are a legitimate Top 25 team along the way.
  2. UConn was anxious to get back to work last night against Stanford after 12 days off and maybe the extended break wasn’t a good thing as the Huskies couldn’t shoot the ball at all in the second half as the Cardinal held on late for a two-point win. UConn’s high-wire act was bound to bite them at some point and Stanford is a good team, but it was still disappointing considering the Huskies led by as much as 13 in the game. Shabazz Napier had his worst game of the season offensively and neither Omar Calhoun nor Ryan Boatright picked up any of the slack. The Huskies need to shoot well to win and that unpredictability is why many still don’t consider them a true national title contender despite the fact that they have still only one loss. You’ve got to give uneasy credit to whomever put together UConn’s schedule this season, because things don’t get any easier when the Huskies cross the country this weekend to play at Washington.
  3. I agree and disagree with what Kevin Ware had to say about the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry being “old and boring.” The larger point he is making is true. The rivalry is about the fans more than anything else, and the media obviously overhypes it. The fringe of both fan bases is the closest thing to SEC football lunacy in college basketball and I’m not sure there have been more “that’s sounds like it could be true” rumors that have passed through the ether of the message boards. I am not complaining, it’s a fantastic rivalry to write about and watch, but I’m not buying Ware’s “most players aren’t from here” remarks. The players may hail from the Southwest or the Northeast but I just can’t believe that this game doesn’t mean more to them than any other non-conference game, and nearly all conference games as well. I will buy that players don’t hate each other as individuals, but they are competitors and they will be more hyped to play the Wildcats than they were to play Missouri State, even if they couch their quotes in feigned indifference.
  4. When Richard Pitino took the job at Minnesota, you just knew that father and son were going to find a way to play each other. Well now it’s happened sooner than most expected as the two teams will open next season on a military base in Puerto Rico and the Pitino family television pieces are already writing themselves. The two have played each other before when Louisville thumped Florida International last season, but the younger Pitino should have considerably more talent at his disposal in Minneapolis next season. Yeah, it is a little bit cheesy and the novelty will wear off eventually, but I am all for a little father-son rivalry, so maybe I will be secretly pulling for the Golden Gophers.
  5. Cincinnati’s offense this season can be best summed up by coach Mick Cronin explaining that he thought it was better in the team’s 44-43 win Tuesday over Pittsburgh because they rebounded more of their missed shots. Offensive rebounds are nice and all, but the Bearcats aren’t going to win a lot of games by fiercely grabbing offensive rebounds only to be followed by another missed jump shot. They aren’t exactly an offensive machine, but Cronin also hinted that some of his inexperienced players like Jermaine Sanders and Shaquille Thomas need to become more confident shooters. Of course it would also be nice if senior leader Justin Jackson played with some consistency too.
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AAC M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on December 3rd, 2013

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  1. Shabazz Napier bailed out Connecticut again. The senior guard, who flirted with the NBA before returning this season, has definitely made the most of it so far. Napier, like former Husky Richard Hamilton before him, collected his own miss and launched the game-winning jumper just before the buzzer sounded last night for a strong non-conference win at home against Florida, 65-64. Nappier also drew comparisons to a more recent Connecticut star, Kemba Walker, who was known for his late game heroics leading the school to its third national championship. As long as Connecticut handles Maine Friday evening, they will most likely be in the top 10 next week, but with three victories by only a single point (and another by 2), it’s hard to say exactly how good the Huskies really are. One thing that’s easy to say is, with the game on the line, there’s no one in college basketball I would want to have the ball more than Shabazz.
  2. The Tampa Bay Times writes that South Florida’s loss Saturday night to Detroit could be a bubble-buster when March rolls around. Stan Heath’s squad needs to worry about getting into bubble consideration first, and losing to 4-4 Detroit is not the ideal way to do so. The Bulls gave up an eight-point lead early in the second half and were unable to bounce back. It didn’t help that Detroit was nearly perfect from the free throw line down the stretch making 11 of 12. Heath said he hopes the loss sends a message to his group, who now face George Mason (tomorrow) and Alabama (Saturday). If the Bulls want any hope of a postseason after the AAC Tournament in Memphis, they can ill-afford to drop another non-conference game.
  3. SMU coach Larry Brown said maturity was the main reason the Mustangs took out in-state rival Texas A&M Saturday in the team’s biggest win of the young season. Brown said his team would have never won a game like this a year ago. The Mustangs did all of the things down the stretch needed to pull out the win: hit free throws, grab rebounds, and got stops. Senior guard Nick Russell did all three. SMU continued to show maturity by beating McNeese State by 29 last night, improving to 7-2.
  4. Gary Parrish wrote yesterday about the significance of the big Memphis win over Oklahoma State for the basketball crazy town. Parrish said the bar was set with John Calipari’s last four years in Memphis, and while Josh Pastner hasn’t touched that unbelievably lofty bar yet, he has done a lot of good things in his own right. Something no one ever talks about is how Pastner’s teams have had zero off-the-court issues, which Parrish called “close to a miracle” for Memphis basketball. He has also won ball games. A bunch of them, but none bigger than Sunday night. First and foremost, he changed the narrative of not being able to beat teams with equal or better talent by beating a top 25 team, ending the 0-13 vs. AP top 25 opponents talk. And while Pastner didn’t openly talk about the significance of the win, his players did by saying the wanted to get the win for their coach.
  5. Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s popularity following last season’s horrific knee injury and his response to it, and his team’s ensuing national championship, put him near the top of the most-searched American athlete list for 2013. Ware fell in line fourth behind Tim Tebow, Lindsey Vonn, and Tiger Woods. Strong numbers for a guard who averages 2.2 points per game this season (and only 4.5 points per game last season). But just the fact that he’s on the court after that injury is impressive. The next highest searched basketball player was LeBron James, who came in sixth.
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Chane Behanan’s Final Four Ring Becomes Louisville’s Latest Distraction

Posted by Will Tucker on November 27th, 2013

It looks like Christmas has come early for Kentucky fans this year. On the heels of Louisville’s first loss since February, reports emerged last night that Chane Behanan’s 2012 Final Four ring was up for auction on a high-end sports memorabilia website called Grey Flannel.

Behanan Ring Auction

Grey Flannel quickly suspended the auction, and added an explanatory note to the listing

The ring was quickly removed from auction after Behanan’s mother, Heaven Warren, notified Grey Flannel that it had been stolen. In subsequent interviews with local media this morning, Warren indicated that she had stashed the ring at her mother’s house in Cincinnati to ensure its safekeeping. She told the Courier-Journal’s Adam Himmelsbach that she thought the auction listing was a hoax when she first saw it last night, and had discovered otherwise only after she called Behanan’s grandmother to have her look in her jewelry box. Warren speculated that the ring was likely taken by someone passing through her mother’s house, which is apparently a congregating place for friends and extended family, and said Behanan was “distraught” by the news. Another source close to the team told the Courier-Journal that the junior forward was “just as surprised as anyone,” and Behanan himself reportedly denied any involvement in a Facebook post last night.

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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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