Can All Six Expected Kentucky Draftees Find NBA Success? History Shows It’s Unlikely…

Posted by EJacoby on June 27th, 2012

At this Thursday’s NBA Draft, expect to hear six former Kentucky players’ names called. But what are the chances that all six end up having strong pro careers? Four of the UK players are locks to go in the first round while two others are fringe picks, so there are high expectations for this group of newcomers. Has any past college team ever produced four or even five solid pros in the same draft? It turns out that 12 different college teams have seen at least four of their players get selected in a draft since 1989, when the draft shrunk from seven rounds to two. Unfortunately, none of these teams produced more than three successful pros, though the most recent examples include small sample sizes and show some promise. The bottom line is that history is working against the six former Wildcats, and it would be unprecedented for even five of them to pan out. Kentucky basketball has had a way of setting records recently, though, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if most or all of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller eventually become strong NBA players.

Can at least five Kentucky players from the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft end up having strong careers? (AP Photo)

Since the draft shrunk to only two rounds back in 1989, no college team has ever had six players drafted in the same year. It goes to show just how talented the 2011-12 Wildcats were, starting at the top with the expected #1 pick Anthony Davis.  The 2006 Connecticut, 2007 Florida, 2008 Kansas, and 2010 Kentucky teams are the only others to produce as many as five NBA draft picks, so the trend has been pointing toward this day.

Today we’ll break down the teams that have come closest to producing four quality pros, including the most recent teams which still have a chance to do so. In order to qualify as a successful pro, our criteria requires players to have enjoyed extended, productive NBA careers. Career scoring averages of around 10 points per game is a general floor. Statistics don’t always tell the tale, so minutes played and games started are also considered to generally mean that a player was useful to his team. A one-stop statistic is Win Shares, which calculates the value a player adds over accumulated time and can be easily accessed through Basketball Reference’s database. Players who aren’t ranked in the top 20 Win Shares of their draft class generally don’t qualify as contributors. We’ll note if exceptions apply for certain players.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Marquis Teague

Posted by EJacoby on June 15th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Marquis Teague

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’2” / 180 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Mid- to Late First Round

Marquis Teague excels at getting to the rim with his elite speed (AP Photo/J. Crisp)

Overview: Marquis Teague struggled with his decision-making for some of his freshman season, but he came on strong during the latter stage of the year to lead Kentucky to a National Championship as the team’s steady point guard. His greatest attribute is his blazing speed with the ball and an overall impressive set of physical tools for a point guard. The Wildcats really had no backup at the point, so Teague led UK in minutes played (32.6 MPG) while admirably handling the many responsibilities given to him on a team with several stars. Though turnovers were his biggest issue (2.7 TO per game), he also averaged 4.8 APG and made obvious improvements throughout the season in terms of his decisions. He had five or more turnovers in five of his first 25 games, but not once in any of his final (and more important) 15. Teague was really the Wildcats’ fifth offensive option on the floor, though he still contributed a solid 10.0 PPG through an array of drives and jumpers. He thrives in the open floor and also does well in isolation situations, which he displayed in the National Title game against Kansas by getting to the basket for several layups in the half court. His shot is a work in progress, proven by his shooting percentages — 41.2% from the field, 32.5% from three, and 71.4% from the line. He wasn’t a game-changing defender as a rookie and only averaged 0.9 steals, but his physical traits suggest he should become a solid perimeter defender. Though very raw in many aspects, Teague appears to be in a dead heat with Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten as the second point guard to come off the board on draft night.

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Won and Done… Kentucky Roster Undergoes Yearly Overhaul

Posted by EMoyer on April 18th, 2012

On Tuesday evening, the worst kept secret was revealed as Kentucky’s five heralded underclassmen, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague all declared for June’s NBA Draft. The five brings the total to 15 of John Calipari recruits to leave early since 2008.

It Was All Smiles For This Group in Lexington

Eight of the previous 10 went on to become first round picks and two (John Wall and Derrick Rose) went No. 1 overall. Both the mock drafts at NBADraft.net and on ESPN.com have all five Wildcats going in the first round. DraftExpress.com lists four Wildcats going in the first round with Lamb currently an early second-round choice. According to all three sites, Davis will join Wall and Rose as top overall picks. They also agree that Kidd-Gilchrist projects as a top three pick and two (ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com) put Jones in the lottery.

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Morning Five: Tax Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 17th, 2012

  1. Three sophomores from the Big Ten announced that they were moving on from their current locations. The big move is comes from Ann Arbor where Evan Smotrycz announced that he was transferring from Michigan to Maryland. During his sophomore season, Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game including making 43.5% of his three-pointers. Having a big man who can grab a few rebounds and step out to hit outside shots should be a big addition for Mark Turgeon’s squad that lacked size last season. The other moves should have a much smaller impact as Ohio State announced that two sophomore would be transferring: J.D. Weatherspoon and Jordan Sibert. Weatherspoon only averaged 3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game while Siebert averaged 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game last year so their numbers should not be missed too much. No information has been released about where either player is planning on going so where they will end up is anyone’s guess.
  2. Even with those transfers the Big Ten got a little tougher next season as Trevor Mbakwe was granted a sixth year of eligibility and will be returning to Minnesota. Mbakwe, who went down with a knee injury last season, was expected to consider entering the NBA Draft, but decided to return to handle “some unfinished business” (or his questionable NBA Draft stock). In either case, Mbakwe’s return should make the Gophers one of the better teams in the conference even if they are still probably just below the absolute upper-tier of the conference. At the very least, his return does mean that there should be some pressure on Tubby Smith to guide the Gophers back into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. The face of the SEC could change drastically over a 24-hour period. Well sort of. Yesterday, Alabama junior/transfer Tony Mitchell announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. Mitchell is certainly athletic enough to get the attention of NBA scouts, but there are enough questions about his maturity and his all-around play that he is probably looking at a second round spot. As for that other team in the SEC–Kentucky–they will have a press conference tomorrow at 2 PM ET where five of their underclassman (Anthony DavisMichael Kidd-GilchristTerrence JonesDoron Lamb, and Marquis Teague) will announce their decision as to whether or not they will enter the NBA Draft. The first three players have always seemed like sure things to enter the NBA Draft, but the latter two seemed to be a little less clear. Now that they are announcing at the same time it seems almost certain that all of them will head to the NBA. This will be a huge loss for Kentucky who should feel the effects all the way until their next ridiculous recruiting class comes in.
  4. While the rumors surrounding a potential move that would bring Larry Brown to Southern Methodist persist we know that at least one member of his coaching tree will not be on his potential staff as Buzz Peterson announced that he will be staying on as head coach at UNC-Wilmington. Peterson, who will probably go down in history as Michael Jordan’s roommate at UNC, will remain a head coach for his 15th season during which time he has only been to the NCAA Tournament once (back in 2000 with Appalachian State). With Peterson firmly in place in Wilmington it seems like the new issue will be who Brown will bring along with him if he does indeed head to SMU.
  5. Two of the most successful programs in  college basketball had freshmen announce that they would be transferring and the effect should be negligible. Even though there should be a little more playing time available in the Duke backcourt next season Michael Gbinije has decided to transferring from Duke. Gbinije, who was a top 30 recruit coming in, only averaged 1.8 points and 0.9 rebounds while playing 5.8 minutes per game. Given his pedigree and the type of teams that were recruiting him he should have plenty of suitors. On the other hand Merv Lindsay may have a harder time finding minutes at a school of the caliber of Kansas after deciding to transfer from Kansas. Lindsay, who was much less hyped as a 3-star recruit, managed to land a scholarship at the school, but only averaged 0.9 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.2 minutes per game this season. While most freshmen transfers from a program as prominent as Kansas who leave without injuries or significant behavioral issues would usually be guaranteed a spot at another major Division I program that may not be the case for Lindsay who had few suitors of the caliber of Kansas prior to matriculating there.
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Morning Five: 04.04.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2012

  1. Syracuse will play San Diego State on the USS Midway Museum on November 9. This event is similar to the Carrier Classic from last November except that it is being run by a different corporation and will not be on an active duty carrier. We have not heard how tickets will be allocated as the security presence at the event should be significantly less than what was seen last year as this is not an active duty ship and is in fact a museum that you can visit on a regular basis. We are also not sure if President Obama, who may or may not be returning to Washington for another term depending on the outcome of a small straw poll a few days earlier, will be coming to the game.
  2. There are conflicting stories on the report that the Sun Belt Conference would be adding Georgia State to its conference. A report filed early yesterday suggested that the move was imminent, but a subsequent report including a quote from the Sun Belt Conference’s commissioner appears to indicate that the decision is still very much up in the air. Given our history of hearing conflicting reports we are going to side with the initial report as it is more likely that Sun Belt is trying to conceal its hand until everything is certain and also to potential build up some buzz about the new announcement well at least as much buzz as a Sun Belt Conference move can have.
  3. The 2012 NBA Draft will not be short on point guards as two more probable first round picks–Tony Wroten Jr. and Damian Lillard–put their names into the Draft. For Washington the loss of Wroten is compounded by the loss of Terrence Ross will leave them significantly weakened as they try to rebound from a disappointing season. For Weber State the loss of Lillard will likely take them off the national radar for the time being. To us the interesting thing with these announcements is just how much talent there will be available to the NBA with Wroten and Lillard joining Kendall Marshall and Austin Rivers (ok, maybe he is a stretch as a point guard) as almost certain first round picks who have left school early. Will the presence of four such highly coveted point guards lead other point guards, who might have otherwise considered leaving (like Marquis Teague) to stay in for at least another year?
  4. Derrick Nix‘s offseason got off to a bad start as the Michigan State rising senior was suspended indefinitely following an arrest for marijuana possession and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. Nix probably will not miss any significant time for the Spartans, but the arrest may indicate a lack of maturity and leadership for the Spartans as Nix was their lone rising senior. Tom Izzo says that he wait until the legal process works out before making a decision on Nix’s punishment. We would be surprised if the punishment is anything more than missing a game or two.
  5. There were a lot of “way too early” 2012-13 preseason polls released yesterday, but there was one poll that was different from the others–the final ESPN/USA Today Poll. The rankings are not particularly surprising, but they do place a heavy emphasis on the NCAA Tournament. With few exceptions teams are ranked based on how they finished in the NCAA Tournament. The big moves (up and down) were the “Cinderellas” that made deep runs and the highly ranked teams that were upset on the opening weekend.
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SEC Afternoon Five: National Championship Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 3rd, 2012

  1. The Kentucky Wildcats have won its eighth national championship, and it’s all over but the analysis. The Lexington Herald Leader’s John Clay says the Cats won this championship because of how many superstars (and superstar-sized egos) came together as one unit. And Clay gives a lot of the credit for this molding of young stars to its superstar coach, John Calipari. The article states, “Calipari is the one who put this team together, who molded it, directed it, guided it, taught it most importantly how to play the game the right way.” And the right way was a balance of offensive and defensive efficiency that Kentucky relied upon all season.
  2. The local newspaper isn’t the only one giving Calipari credit for a job well done. Fox Sports says both Calipari and Kansas coach Bill Self deserve more credit for being excellent coaches and not just outstanding recruiters. “The one thing about Cal that goes unnoticed a little bit, though not in coaching circle, is he recruits and coaches good players and gets them to buy in and do it his way,” Self said. “They’re unselfish and they guard, and that’s the sign of a guy who can coach. He’s a unique guy, and I mean that in a favorable way.” Both coaches have proven that it isn’t talent alone that has gotten them this far, although talent certainly helps.
  3. Calipari won’t have any trouble recruiting more talent with the 2012 national championship ring on his hand. The argument against Calipari has always been that he couldn’t win the big one, and nobody could win it all with one-and-done players. Well, there goes that theory. As ESPN’s Dave Telep points out, “The brand (UK and Calipari) is stronger than anyone’s, the recruiting pitch has no holes and the success rate would be silly to challenge. Where’s the weakness?” After last night’s championship, it will be difficult to find one.
  4. Calipari’s players went out to win one for their beloved coach, but Cal is relieved that the chase is over. “You get emotional when they said they did it for me, they wanted me to win one. But for me, I’m telling you, I told my wife. It’s over now. I don’t need the drama of you guys saying, ‘He never won one.’ I can now coach my team and do what I do for young people. I don’t have to worry about it. If you’re having to make decisions to try to win a national title, think about it. I don’t want to do that. I just want to do my job, coach these young people, help them (with) life after basketball, prepare them for that and prepare them for their dreams.” The ironic part of Kentucky’s victory is that, as pointed out in the previous bullet, this only makes Calipari and the Cats’ brand even stronger. It is hard to imagine Calipari as an even better recruiter then he was before.
  5. Cal’s point guard, Marquis Teague, was a question mark for many entering the NCAA Tournament run. Teague had struggled throughout the year to lead Kentucky with the poise and stability of some of the Wildcats’ previous freshmen guards, but he answered in the Tournament with leadership and some big buckets. “I just wanted to knock it down,” Teague said of a huge three late in the game during a Kansas run. “Give my team a better chance to win.” Teague’s development now leads to a new question of whether or not he has done enough to solidify his chances of being highly selected in the NBA Draft. The deadline to declare for the NBA draft is April 29, although the NCAA has instituted a meaningless April 10 deadline (a player could simply change his mind between the two dates).
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He Won’t Admit It, But Kentucky’s National Title is Calipari’s Coronation

Posted by EJacoby on April 3rd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

After the Kentucky Wildcats captured their program’s eighth National Championship with a 67-59 victory over Kansas on Monday night, an unfazed coach John Calipari sat at the postgame podium and deflected all attention away from himself. “This is about them. It’s not about me. [...] I can just coach now. I don’t have to worry. If you want to know the truth, it’s almost like – done, let me move on.” Sounding more relieved than excited, the coach claims that nothing will change about his mentality or coaching style now that he’s finally a national champion. Whether fans believe him or not is up to them, but one thing remains clear: John Calipari has now elevated to the top step in college basketball coaching. As he tries to not make the victory about himself, we can take a moment to reflect on the significance of the 2012 National Championship and what it means for Calipari.

Coach Calipari Doesn't Want the Praise for the 2012 National Title, But He's Most Deserving of Such (AP Photo/D. Philip)

With the national title now under his belt, Calipari has validated everything he worked for in choosing to leave Memphis for Kentucky and recruiting the one-and-done type of players whom he encourages to leave for the NBA as soon as they’re ready. Cal still has his haters and doubters, such as this AP sports writer who can’t buy into the coach’s recruiting tactics. But those who watch the games understand that you don’t win national titles by letting top recruits play free-form basketball. There’s a reason why hoops is a thinking man’s game filled with elite athletes but only the most well-adjusted players succeed at the highest level. When Anthony Davis shoots 1-10 from the field and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t score a single point in the second half, they still have enormous impacts on the game because of their defensive prowess, how hard they play, and buy-in to the team game plan. It’s not easy to get 18- and 19-year-olds to reach their basketball potential in less than a year at a program, but Calipari got it done with this group in a big way.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: The National Championship Game

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

College basketball fans, this is it. A champion will be crowned tonight in front of 70,000+ people packed into the Superdome. Savor it because this beautiful sport of ours won’t be seen again for seven long and painful months. Between tonight and early November, many things will happen. Baseball and football will begin new seasons. The NBA will end one season and begin another. A long, hot summer will come and go. A presidential election will be held. All of this before we see another college basketball game that matters, after tonight’s phenomenal finale of course.

#1 Kentucky vs. #2 Kansas – National Championship (at New Orleans, LA) – 9:23 PM ET on CBS

It’s not often when the consensus top two players meet in the final game of the season, but that’s exactly what we have as Anthony Davis and Kentucky face Thomas Robinson and Kansas. You could make an argument that Bill Self and John Calipari are the best coaches in the sport as well, matched up in a battle between the two winningest programs in NCAA history. This has the makings of a special night, one that might trump them all in terms of the pregame storylines. Kentucky enters the game as a solid favorite (six points in Las Vegas) and won the first meeting by 10 points on November 15 at Madison Square Garden. Who had that as the national championship preview after watching it? Maybe you had the Kentucky half, but you certainly did not have the Kansas half of the equation. Plenty has changed since then, but there are a few things we can glean from that game. Kansas jumped out to an early lead before Kentucky rallied to tie it at the half and took control after the break. The Wildcats shot 51% but committed 19 turnovers (25.6% of possessions, their fifth highest total of the season). There were 45 fouls called in the game and Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor went to the line 17 times as a result. Kentucky’s defense was outstanding, limiting Kansas to 34% shooting and 4-15 from deep. The Wildcats blocked 13 shots (seven courtesy of Davis) and won the game in comfortable fashion.

Anthony Davis Will Need To Show Thomas Robinson Why He Is The National Player Of The Year

Tonight’s contest is a matchup between two elite defensive teams, tied for the national lead in defensive two-point percentage  (39.8%). The battles at the power forward and center positions are absolutely fantastic. Davis and Terrence Jones go up against Jeff Withey and Robinson, four outstanding defensive players and three who can change the game offensively as well. Robinson is the best defensive rebounder in the nation while Davis and Withey are the top two shot blockers. Jones can electrify the crowd with his athleticism and can also stretch his game to the three-point line. Kentucky is the more talented team, but Kansas has shown an incredible level of grit and toughness throughout the season, never more so than in the NCAA Tournament. Overcoming deficits against Purdue and Ohio State, plus putting away NC State and North Carolina late in the game has shown us this Kansas team is no fluke. The Jayhawks have absolutely nothing to lose in this game and are the more experienced team by a wide margin. On the other hand, Kentucky has one more game to go in order to live up to the preseason expectation of winning the program’s eighth national championship.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2012

Kansas

  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.

Louisville

  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.
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Big East Evening Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 28th, 2012

  1. We missed yesterday, so you are getting a double dose of Big East news this morning because we feel bad. We start with the scouting report on Louisville, based on the opinions of opposing coaches, and put together by the good folks at CBS Sports. The information isn’t exactly new if you have been following the Cardinals all season. Take care of the ball against their press, try to slow down their transition attack, keep Peyton Siva out of the lane, and you will have an excellent chance of winning the game. The good news for Kentucky is, that their defense is so good, Louisville should only be able to score in transition and off of turnovers. So assuming that Marquis Teague can handle the press, and assuming Kentucky’s athletes get back and set up defensively, they should be able to handle the Cardinals with relative ease.
  2. You didn’t think we were going to make it a whole week without a borderline insane story about the fervent passion of Louisville and Kentucky fans did you? In fact, we didn’t even make it through half the week before news broke that two fans got into a fight while awaiting treatment at a dialysis center. You really can’t make this stuff up. If you want to look on the bright side, this is part of what makes college sports so awesome. It may be a wild generalization, but fans of professional sports teams don’t care half as much about their teams as these folks in the Bluegrass State. And the passion for Alabama and Auburn football is on an entirely different level. I am setting the over/under on the breaking of more crazy stories like this at two, which won’t count fallout from the outcome of the game, which is sure to bring out only the best in both team’s fan bases.
  3. In predictable and also understandable fashion, the media has jumped all over the “hated rivals” storyline. Luckily, there is only one columnist angry enough to really put perspective on the whole rivalry, and that is noted flame-fanner Gregg Doyel. His column isn’t long, and it doesn’t make any profound points, but it does succinctly sum up just how insane this game will be.
  4.  The list of Big East players headed to the NBA Draft continued to swell yesterday as Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson announced he would forgo his senior season and hire an agent. Thompson tested the waters last season before withdrawing his name and from the looks of John Thompson III‘s comments, this decision is hardly surprising. The real question is whether Thompson will end up drafted. I understand the move, because his stock isn’t likely to rise dramatically even if he has an excellent senior season, but right now he looks like he will need to get lucky to stick with a team. He does have the skill set and size to be an NBA small forward, but he hardly dominated collegiate competition, so how can he be expected to make an impact at the next level?
  5. Our pal Jeff Goodman over at CBS Sports has released his initial transfer list and there are some interesting names worth noting. First, the list is what alerted me to the news that Notre Dame guard Alex Dragicevich is transferring out of South Bend, a blow to Mike Brey’s program which was going to rely more heavily on his outside shooting next season. The list also reminded me of one of the more interesting Final Four storylines and that is that Louisville forward Jared Swopshire already announced he won’t be back next season, but for now he is playing meaningful minutes on a team eyeing a national championship. Thanks to playing time and the scholarship numbers game, Swopshire will be looking for a new home. But for now, we are sure he is relishing the position he is in.
  6. Speaking of Goodman and transfers out of the Big East, soon after the list was published, Goodman tweeted that Providence sophomore Gerard Coleman was a likely candidate to transfer out of the program. Assuming Vincent Council stays in school and both highly touted freshman guards arrive on campus in time for next season, the Friars’ backcourt was looking awfully crowded. But if Coleman does indeed transfer, coach Ed Cooley loses quite the luxury. Coleman’s play tailed off in the second half of the season, but he is a quality scorer and is physical enough to give Cooley a legitimately dangerous three-guard lineup. On the other hand, his departure will open up more playing time for Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn, which can really only be a good thing, assuming the duo is as good as advertised.
  7. As an unabashedly biased Villanova fan, I have spent a good deal of words explaining that Wildcats’ guard Maalik Wayns would be silly to enter the NBA Draft this season, so it’s only logical that Wayns made it final recently, announcing plans to hire an agent and forgo his senior season on the Main Line. Look, players enter the draft for a litany of reasons, so saying he made a stupid decision without knowing his true reasons is rather presumptuous of me. That said, Wayns is looking like a second-round pick at best, and a great senior season probably could have given his draft stock a much-needed shot in the arm. Despite his penchant for taking terrible shots and making questionable decisions, Wayns would have been a huge help to ‘Nova’s rebuilding efforts next season, but now they will need to look elsewhere for that leadership.
  8. Not everyone in West Virginia is spitting on the Big East on their way out the door. Charleston Gazette columnist Mitch Vingle penned a letter to Big East basketball that reads like a breakup letter from a guy who is already regretting the split. He uses some personal reflections mixed with classic personalities from the conference to show plenty of awesome things about the conference and its rich basketball history. The sad thing is, the Big East will miss West Virginia too. Yes, of course they will miss their football tradition and revenue, but the Mountaineers are a quality basketball program, and no amount of SMU and Central Florida will change that. The Mountaineers made their choice, choosing money over tradition, and now so many of us will be left to cling to memories that may never happen again.
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The Ultimate Breakdown: Kentucky vs. Louisville

Posted by zhayes9 on March 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

The hysteria leading up to Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky national semifinal will be unprecedented.

The mutual loathing between legends John Calipari and Rick Pitino is only matched by the contempt between the two fan bases. Such a passionate and deep-seeded rivalry playing out on the grandest of stages is tantalizing to even the most casual observer. But once the smoke clears and the ball is tipped, those juicy storylines all become secondary, fading into the background with the hype and frenzy. Suddenly all that’s relevant is Peyton Siva’s speed, Kyle Kuric’s smooth jumper, Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the open floor.

For the lowdown on what to expect from the biggest basketball game in the history of the commonwealth, here’s a full-fledged Dr. Jack-style breakdown covering every aspect of Saturday’s opener:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist celebrating Kentucky's regional final win

Backcourt- It’s no accident that Peyton Siva’s remarkable late-season turnaround has coincided with Louisville’s spurt from a seventh place finish in the Big East to the Final Four in New Orleans. Russ Smith is an irrepressible, confident ball stopper just as prone to a mindless turnover as he to is scoring 10 points in the blink of an eye. Siva and Smith provide the engine to Louisville’s attack, while athletic two-guard Chris Smith and long-range marksman Kyle Kuric are Pitino’s steady cogs. Kentucky’s Achilles heel was long considered freshman point Marquis Teague, but he’s significantly cut down on his turnovers and can pack an unexpected scoring punch. Doron Lamb is a superior gunner to Kuric, shooting a fantastic 47% over his career from three. Look for Calipari to plug versatile swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Siva to stifle the Cardinals’ offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is a standout defender and the best collegiate player in transition since Derrick Rose. Edge: Kentucky.

Frontcourt- The progression of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng from a raw, bungling, and clumsy big man to a premier post defender and competent scoring threat in just two seasons has been nothing short of incredible. The popular crutch that freshmen are sophomores by the time March rolls around is often untrue, but it applies in the case of Chane Behanan, a gifted offensive rebounder who will be asked to contain Terrence Jones. When Jones is engaged, active and filling up the stat sheet, Kentucky is unstoppable. Anthony Davis has had an OK year: number one high school recruit, starting center for top-ranked Kentucky, national freshman of the year, likely national player of the year, and future top overall pick in the NBA Draft. Only North Carolina can come close to matching Kentucky’s weaponry down low. Edge: Kentucky.

Bench- Neither team extends very deep into their bench, yet both boast a de facto starter in Russ Smith and Darius Miller. At just 38% from two and 31% from three, Smith isn’t exactly the pillar of efficiency, but for a team that didn’t finish in the top 100 in offensive efficiency and scored less than 60 points in five of their final six conference games, Pitino will gladly accept the good with the bad (per Luke Winn, Pitino likes to say Smith “makes coffee nervous”). Any coach in America would love to have Darius Miller on their team, a steady wing defender equally adept at attacking off the dribble or firing from deep. Louisville steady defender Jared Swopshire and Kentucky pick-and-pop threat Kyle Wiltjer also see limited time off the pine. Slight Edge: Louisville.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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