Morning Five: 04.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. There were so many early-entry decisions over the past three days that we will have break them into groups. The first group will be the guys who left. Perhaps the most notable is Shane Larkin, who is leaving Miami after a sophomore year in which he took his stock from not being on the NBA’s radar to being a potential first round pick. We are not quite sold on Larkin as a NBA point guard–his limitations were exposed in a few games this season–but we do not see his NBA Draft stock getting much higher especially with how little Miami will be returning next season so it made sense for him to leave. On a smaller scale, but probably more important in terms of the landscape of his conference Ray McCallum Jr. announced that he is leaving Detroit after his junior season. McCallum is in a similar Draft position or possibly a little worse than what Larkin is based on the mock drafts that we have seen, but given the information that his father (Detroit’s coach) has we would expect that he has some pretty good information on where he could expect to be selected. Finally, there is Andre Roberson, Tad Boyle’s first recruit in Boulder, who announced that he will forgo his senior season at Colorado to enter the NBA Draft. Roberson’s draft stock appears to be similar to the other two although Roberson’s position in mock drafts has varied more than the other two.
  2. While a trio of players announced their departure from the college game another trio announced that they will be staying. The most significant in terms of the national championship picture is Adreian Payne, who announced that he will return to Michigan State for his senior season. Out of all of the players considering entering the NBA Draft early opinion on Payne may have been the most divided. He probably could have come out and been a first-round pick, but if he returns and improves his game he should be a lottery pick next year. The next biggest announcement was the Isaiah Austin will be returning to Baylor for his sophomore season. Austin seemed to be a fairly safe bet to be a first-round pick so his decision is a bit surprising, but it has been reported that he was diagnosed with a torn labrum, which would affect his NBA Draft workouts, and he clearly has some areas to work on his game so it doesn’t seem unreasonable. We will leave the question of coming back to Scott Drew to work on those deficiencies for another column. Shabazz Napier may not garner the same headlines as the other two players that we mentioned, but his decision to return to Connecticut for his senior season may have an equally significant impact on his team’s success. We are glad that Napier decided to return to school because he was at best a late second round pick although the fact that he waited so long to announce might suggest that someone was putting thoughts in his head that he could have been a first-round pick. Fortunately he did not listen to those voices and will return to finish his college career in Storrs.
  3. Most of the attention has been focused on NBA Draft decisions, but there were a pair of notable transfers. On Friday, Ahmad Starks announced that he is transferring from Oregon State. Starks, who has one more season of eligibility left is reportedly looking at Bradley or Illinois to be close to his ailing grandmother. Starks would be a huge addition for either program and given the way the family hardship waivers have been getting cleared by the NCAA we have no doubt that he would be able to play next season. The other transfer announcement is more of an update as Rutgers transfer Eli Carter has narrowed his list down to Florida and Maryland. Normally we would assume that Carter would have to sit out a year, but after the NCAA’s ruling on the players at Rice and how they received a waiver due to the abuse they alleged at the school we would not be surprised to see Carter and other Rutgers transfers to try for a similar waiver given the video evidence against Mike Rice.
  4. We may have finally moved past conference realignment, but it appears that conferences are looking at creating their own version of Manifest Destiny as the ACC is looking at expanding its brand into Europe by playing games there. As the article notes the entire idea is in the preliminary stages so a lot of work needs to be done, but other schools have played games overseas with some success. Our big qustion is how this would work at the conference level. It works great when teams are playing glorified exhibition games or when there is well-defined revenue-sharing the way that professional leagues do, but what happens when a school loses a lucrative home-game that could be the difference between them becoming bowl-eligible or being on the right side of the bubble. Obviously pro sports teams deal with this issue too, but they have more well-defined revenue-sharing agreements and have a much stronger central leadership structure that allows them to issue edicts that will be followed.
  5. It is a move that probably will not attract much attention on the coaching carousel, but UNC-Asheville filled its head coaching vacancy as it introduced Nick McDevitt as its next head coach. McDevitt, who played for the school from 1997 to 2001, had been an assistant with the team before taking over the head coaching responsibilities when the former coach left to take a job on the staff at UNC-Wilmington. McDevitt has no experience as a head coach so we are withholding judgement on his ability to coach so hopefully his alma mater gives him a chance to prove himself.
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2012

Ethan Back is the Horizon League correspondent for RTC.

Top Storylines

  • The Departure of Butler: It’s pretty crazy to think that the Horizon League has produced two of the last three runners-up in the NCAA Tournament, but Butler did indeed reach the final game of the season in both 2010 and 2011. The Bulldogs have been the reason why the conference receives the national attention that it does, but they are now members of the A-10. What does this mean for the conference? Wright State head coach Billy Donlon and Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters don’t seem to think much of the departure, as the former noted that Butler finished fifth in the conference a season ago, and the latter speculated that the Bulldogs would not have been the favorites this season. Despite this, Butler’s departure has been covered extensively by the national media, and we will be able to see its effects in the seasons to come.
  • Will Valparaiso Dominate Conference Play? Results from the Media Day polls would seem to indicate that Valparaiso will indeed dominate the Horizon League, as the Crusaders received 40 of the possible 44 first-place votes this preseason. Valpo went 14-4 in conference last year, and returns reigning Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff and first team all-Horizon League forward Kevin Van Wijk. Reaching the NCAA Tournament will be the goal for the Crusaders, as this was a feat they were unable to accomplish one season ago.

Will The McCallums And Detroit Step Up To Fill The Void Left By Butler? (AP)

Reader’s Take I

 

Predicted Order of Finish

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Morning Five: 03.08.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 8th, 2012

  1. Just eight years after essentially getting kicked out of the Big East for its poor on-field performance and attendance numbers Temple will rejoin the conference. Yesterday, the Big East announced that Temple would be returning to the conference for football this coming season and other sports the following year. The move ensures that the Big East will have eight football teams for the coming season and gives the Big East another very strong basketball program. In addition, it should create an even more interesting dynamic between Temple and Villanova now that they will be in the same conference.
  2. One of the big storylines of the opening week of the NCAA Tournament will be that of Detroit, which features the father-son combination of Ray McCallum Jr and Sr. Most college basketball fans are very familiar with their story, but if you need a refresher before next week’s onslaught, this column is a pretty good place to start. Between the father-son combo and the school’s former coach (some guy named Vitale) the school will be getting plenty of publicity as long as they stay alive.
  3. One player who will not be part of March Madness is Arizona‘s freshmen guard Josiah Turner, who was suspended indefinitely by the school after violating unspecified team rules. The suspension is Turner’s second this year as he missed a game earlier this season against Florida. Turner, who came in as a highly touted recruit, has averaged 6.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 29 games this season. Even with him the Wildcats would have been hard pressed to make a run in a weak Pac-12 conference, but as a local writer points out Turner’s absence is a big blow for the team right now.
  4. There have been plenty of columns on Bruce Weber and his imminent firing at Illinois, but most have focused on where he faltered. Michael Rosenberg takes a decidedly different approach choosing instead to focus on the decision to fire Weber and how it reflects on the current state of college athletics. Rosenberg compares Weber to Illinois legend Lou Henson and points out some small changes to history that would have led to Weber keeping his job. While we do find Rosenberg’s take interesting, it is worth pointing out that those small changes are essentially what makes history, which will most likely be demonstrated again over the next four weeks.
  5. Last year Charles Barkley‘s inclusion on the Selection Special on CBS created quite a bit of discussion among college basketball fans as Barkley, who is fantastic analyzing basketball games appeared out of his element discussing some teams and their resumes to that point. This year, Barkley will not be involved in the show, but will continue to be involved in the studio analysis. Both Barkley and CBS/Turner state that the move isn’t necessarily due to a lack of trust in Barkley, but instead a move to highlight his strengths and frankly a good move in our opinion.
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Checking in on … the Horizon League

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 25th, 2012

Deepak Jayanti is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League. Follow him on Twitter (@10thYearSeniors) for his thoughts on college basketball.

Reader’s Take

 

Halfway Checkpoint

  • Don’t Bet On It: Parity has been a common term used to describe certain conference races such as the Big Ten, CAA or Pac-12 so far this season. Add the Horizon League to that list after the games this past weekend. Cleveland State and a surprising Valparaiso team sit on top of the standings at the halfway point of conference play. Fans of this league with a gambling itch might want to stay away because there are three teams (Butler, Milwaukee and Youngstown State) right up there, only a game behind the leaders in the standings. Milwaukee and Cleveland State were expected to be the front-runners but few expected Valpo and Youngstown to challenge them for the title. There is only one aspect of this conference that is certain at the halfway point – unpredictability.
  • International Love: No, this is not a reference to the Pitbull/Chris Brown song that is overplayed on the radio nowadays. But Bryce Drew has two great foreign-born players that form an efficient inside-outside tandem. One of the lingering questions about the Crusaders before the season started was around a reliable second scoring option outside of Ryan Broekhoff (Australia). Kevin Van Wijk (Netherlands) is averaging 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as he compliments Broekhoff’s outside game by patrolling the paint without attempting a single three-point shot all season. Drew must be paying close attention to the shooting form of his players because the Crusaders are shooting a league best 58% inside the arc. They aren’t stacked with three-point gunners but their offensive sets are designed to maximize the player’s strengths, hence less reliant on the long-range shot.
  • Senior Backcourt Leads the Way: Cleveland State is fortunate to have three seniors controlling the game during key stretches. The three Vikings – Trevon Harmon (12.1 PPG), D’Aundray Brown (11.6 PPG) and Jeremy Montgomery (10.7 PPG) provide a great foundation along with a balanced scoring attack. Gary Waters’ guards have already proved that they can win at tough venues on the road – Vanderbilt, Kent State and Butler. Their experience and composure might just be enough to win pivotal games such as the one this past weekend when they steamrolled through Milwaukee at home, 83-57. They do more than just score – the Three Amigos also limited each of Milwaukee’s guards to single digit scoring on Sunday.

The Talented Trevon Harmon Headlines A Tremendous Backcourt

  • D in Detroit doesn’t stand for Defense: All of the offensive talent means nothing if you can’t (or won’t) defend. Sure, everybody around the league is well aware of the potential NBA players on the Titans’ squad – Ray McCallum Jr. (15.2 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Eli Holman (11 PPG, 6.6 RPG).  Without a consistent defensive effort, though, they have no chance at contending for the conference title. Detroit ranks last in defensive field goal percentage across the Horizon and are giving up about one point per possession* to their opponents during conference action. They will continue to lose key games against the top squads with their lackadaisical defense – for example, they gave up 84 points to Milwaukee, which is a team that only averages about 63.6 points per game. (*All tempo free statistics are courtesy of kenpom.com)
  • Disney on ice: Huh? That’s not a typo. This event could impact where the conference tournament is held. If the teams continue to beat up on each other, the overall record of the top teams won’t be enticing enough for the NCAA committee to consider selecting two teams for the Big Dance. So despite the regular season outcome, the conference tournament’s result might easily drive the decision on Selection Sunday. If Milwaukee ends up winning the regular season (only one game behind first place), they will not be able to host the first two rounds of the conference tournament because Disney On Ice has already booked the U.S. Cellular arena from March 1-4. Now, this will only impact Milwaukee negatively IF they win the regular season title because in such a case, the tournament will be held on the home court of the second place team from the regular season. Based on the parity of the league so far, a home court advantage might be extremely crucial during the conference tourney so the Panthers fans won’t be too happy come early March if they are forced to play on the road.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (7-2, 17-4) – In addition to an experienced backcourt, the Vikings can pull their weight in the paint. They lead the league in grabbing offensive rebounds. They clean the offensive glass at a league best 36.6%. Most of this is due to the upcoming freshman Anton Grady who grabs about 5.4 rebounds per game. Another senior forward, Aaron Pogue adds to the mix as he averages 4.1 boards per game. A balanced scoring attack combined with experience means that the Vikings are well positioned to take the conference title.
  2. Valparaiso (7-2, 14-7) – Well-coached players know their strengths. The Crusaders’ shot selection during their recent stretch exemplifies Drew’s coaching abilities. This team won’t shoot lights out like their former coach but have been running most of the plays through the paint. Capitalizing on Van Wijk’s post game is the best strategy because it opens up the outside shot for Broekhoff towards the end of the games. Van Wijk is very savvy with his moves in the paint and has a fairly high free throw rate of 83.6 this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Dickie V Court Debuted at Detroit

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. After nearly a month of non-stop action, the schedule begins to lighten during the weeknights of the next two weeks as teams go easy while preparing for and taking final exams. There were only 17 games tonight, none involving ranked teams, and the rest of the week  until Saturday is only marginally better. Still, that gives us all an opportunity to take a breath and begin reviewing exactly what we’ve seen in the first four weeks of play. That will come later this week, but as for tonight, there was really only one major storyline.

Your Watercooler Moment. Dick Vitale Court Unveiled at Detroit.

Dick Vitale: Defender of the Game (AP/C. Osorio)

It’s probably hard for college basketball fans under a certain age to believe this, but in the 1980s and part of the 1990s, Dick Vitale was almost as big a part of a broadcast as the teams playing that night. Whether Georgetown-Syracuse or Duke-Carolina or Michigan-Indiana, the game didn’t feel truly big time unless Vitale was in attendance. Long before he became the somewhat cliched caricature of himself known as “Dookie V,” the man was as instrumental as anyone alive in bringing college basketball to the masses and making it fun for fans. His coaching career at the University of Detroit Mercy was better than most think (78-30 overall, with a trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen in 1977), but he’ll not be remembered for that — rather, it will be his unbelievable passion and intensity in elevating a game from merely exciting to out-of-your-seat enthralling. Let’s put it this way — with his innovative sayings, his obvious love for the sport, and the way he could bring himself to an apoplectic state at a basketball game, he was Gus before Gus. And for that, we’ll always love the guy, no matter how many times he mentions Duke in a broadcast.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.05.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 5th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

This is a very light night of hoops but you may want to check out two games between bottom-tier Big East teams and a pair of Midwestern mid-majors.

St. John’s @ Detroit – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (**)

Godsgift Achiuwa and Friends Have Faced a Tough Early Schedule

  •  St. John’s has been in an early-season slide, having lost four of its last five games. The Red Storm play only seven men and the tired legs are already starting to catch up. St. John’s is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country at 26.2% and averages only 35 rebounds per game. This will likely be an up-tempo game because the Red Storm has athletes that like to run and Detroit loves to maximize the number of possessions in a game. One thing St. John’s does very well is to keep opponents off the foul line and it will have to do just that against a Titans team that shoots 78.4% from the charity stripe. Moe Harkless and God’s Gift Achiuwa played well at Kentucky last week and more progress against a severely depleted Detroit front court is something the Johnnies should count on tonight.
  • As mentioned, Detroit’s roster has been decimated. Head coach Ray McCallum, Sr., has only eight scholarship players available after Eli Holman’s legal troubles, Nick Minnerath’s torn ACL and a host of other issues including academics and other personnel departures. Chase Simon and Ray McCallum, Jr.,have to lead the Titans and score points in transition against the turnover-prone Nurideen Lindsey (3.9 turnovers per game) and company. Unfortunately for Detroit, Simon and McCallum are just as prone to giveaways.
  • This game will be a war of attrition with foul trouble and fatigue playing a major role. St. John’s is the better team but not by much. With Detroit playing at home against a Big East team while honoring former head coach Dick Vitale with a special ceremony, there will be some buzz in the arena. We have no idea who will win this one and the Vegas line agrees, calling this game a pick’em.

Milwaukee @ DePaul – 9:00 PM EST on SNY, Sports 32, ESPN3.com (**)

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume III

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 5th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly 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….a game so good that you’re left wondering if you just saw the National Championship preview. There was plenty of hype involved with Kentucky-North Carolina, and it would have been easy to see the game devolve into a sloppy, up-and-down affair. But instead we got everything we asked for and more. Fans and scouts alike were able to salivate over matchups like John Henson-Terrence Jones, and while lightning fast, the pace was still in control. One point on a non-neutral court certainly doesn’t give us any lasting conclusions, other than we’d all be happy to see these two powers square off again in April.

I LOVED….seeing something new. Every year we witness moments that are absurdly unthinkable, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one like this shot from Detroit’s Ray McCallum, Jr. When in doubt, use the bounce.

I LOVED….seeing a well-balanced attack this early in the year. It’s not shocking that I’m talking about Ohio State, with how much experience and chemistry they have on the court. But still, their dismantling of Duke last Tuesday was a clinic on offensive balance. They may have arguably the best player in the nation in Jared Sullinger, but the Buckeyes spread the ball around so well that it even overshadowed Sullinger’s brilliance on the block.

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Morning Five: 09.28.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 28th, 2011

  1. On Monday we mentioned that the SEC would be looking for a 14th member to round out its new conference in the very near future. Yesterday, SEC commissioner Mike Silve came out and said they did not have any current plans to add a 14th team and did not have any other institutions currently under consideration to be the 14th team in the conference. We aren’t sure what to say about this other than to say we don’t believe it for a second unless Silve is trying to argue semantics. We can’t imagine that anybody actually believes that the SEC plans on having one of its football team playing a non-conference game each Saturday because they cannot find another SEC team play.
  2. One of the more interesting aspects of the NBA work stoppage in our opinion  has been the presence of NBA players around college campuses to continue working on their games. One of those players is former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough, who has spent much of his summer in Chapel Hill living with Bobby Frasor (hopefully not jumping off roofs again). Jeff Goodman caught up with Hansbrough and got his thoughts on some of the current Tar Heels. Normally we just ignore commentary from former players talking about players from their school, but in this case Hansbrough actually critiques the players and points out some of their weakness. We already knew about many of these weaknesses, but it is interesting to see someone with a connection to the program call the players out on those weaknesses publicly.
  3. Detroit may have been dealt a major blow with the announcement that Eli Holman would be taking an indefinite leave of absence while he deals with “personal matters”. Obviously, the impact this has on the Titans will depend a great deal on how long “indefinite” ends up being. They start off the season with a fairly difficult schedule so missing Holman during that period would probably cost them any shot at an at-large bid, which is pretty slim to begin with. Still, if he returns and can continue to add a solid post presence to go along with the potentially spectacular backcourt of Ray McCallum Jr. and Chase Simon the Titans still could pick up the Horizon League’s automatic bid.
  4. Harvard has had a very solid stretch the past few days and we aren’t talking about their growing endowment. In addition to a previous commitment from Evan Cummins, Tommy Amaker picked up commitments from Mike Hall and Siyani Chambers, two highly-touted recruits who many say are the type of players that the Crimson has been unable to land in the past. Like many other members of the media, we are impressed by Amaker’s work in getting highly coveted recruits to come to a program without much basketball tradition even though the promise of an essentially free Harvard education does not sound like a bad deal for players who probably will never be NBA material [Ed. Note: Please don't start with the NCPA arguments.]. That said we aren’t drinking the Crimson Kool-Aid yet like some individuals who are already talking about an Elite 8 run as we are still waiting for Harvard to make the NCAA Tournament at some point after 1946.
  5. We are a little over two weeks away from Midnight Madness and it appears that some schools may have a significant dilemma on their hands. With this year’s Midnight Madness occurring on a Friday night several major recruits are facing a difficult choice–not play in their school’s Friday night football game or miss an event that has become a ritual in the recruiting process. At least one school, Indiana, has already changed its event from midnight on a Friday to 7:30 PM on Saturday to “meet families who come to a game or this event with their children and expose them to IU basketball for the first time”. However, as Terry Hutchens points out, “Only a cynic would suggest the change would allow top recruit Gary Harris of Hamilton Southeastern to attend the event. Harris, who also plays football at HSE, is busy on Friday nights.” We guess that makes us a bunch of cynics.
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Detroit Center Eli Holman Out On Indefinite Leave Of Absence

Posted by nvr1983 on September 27th, 2011

Coming into this season Detroit was thought by many to be a potential mid-major sleeper. After a 17-16 record last season, the Titans were expected to be one of the top teams in the Horizon League. Led by Ray McCallum Jr., who averaged 13.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 4.9 APG in a spectacular freshman campaign playing for his father Ray Sr., and Chase Simon, who also averaged 13.5 PPG last season, the Titans had one of the top backcourts in the country and they had an established inside presence in Eli Holman, who averaged 11.8 PPG (on 61% FG shooting) and 9.6 RPG in his first season after transferring from Indiana. Now, it looks like those aspirations at a conference championship may have to be put on hold as Detroit has announced that Holman will be out on an indefinite leave of absence while he tends to personal matters.

Holman's Absence Leaves A Big Hole In The Middle For The Titans (Credit: HorizonLeague.org)

In a statement, athletic director Keri Gaither said, “We have been working with Eli Holman for some time to assist him in addressing his personal matters. At this time, we feel it is in Eli’s best interest to step away from basketball to allow him to concentrate on these matters.  He has been excused from all team-related activity for an indefinite period while actively addressing these issues. We continue to support Eli during this time and we are asking everyone’s cooperation in respecting his privacy.” Like the school, we won’t speculate on the subject as nearly anything (family, health, academic, legal, etc.) could be classified as “personal matters” and we will respect Holman’s privacy. As for the Titans, this is a major blow unless Holman comes back relatively quickly because they have very little depth inside and Holman gives them a dimension–a major inside presence–that few teams in the Horizon League have.

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Team USA Finishes Fifth at World University Games: Notes On Player Performances

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2011

Team USA came out of the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, with its pride intact after sporting a 7-1 overall record, but because of an untimely loss over the weekend in the quarterfinal round versus Lithuania, they will leave Asia without a medal.  The twelve-man roster comprised of some of the best returning players in the college game finished fifth in the tournament despite sporting a 28.2 PPG scoring margin over its eight opponents.  The Americans did not earn a chance to play the top two finishers — Serbia (gold) and Canada (silver) — although the team that knocked them out of contention, Lithuania, ultimately took home the bronze.  We’ve already established the weak predictive power of the WUG experience (e.g., 2009-10 NPOY Evan Turner hardly played in the 2009 WUG), but we still thought it would be worth a quick look to see which players rose to the top and which did not during the last two weeks of action.

Trevor Mbakwe Was USA's Best Interior Player

Some of our thoughts on player performances:

The All-American Backcourt Was Solid, If Not Spectacular.  Simply glancing at the roster going into the World University Games, the two names that immediately jumped out as the best players were in the backcourt — Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs and Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins.  Both players will be on the short list next season as NPOY types who should also land on several of the major All-American teams.  In China, they both played the most minutes and shot the ball considerably more than the rest of their teammates.  Jenkins alone attempted 57 threes, more shots than anyone but Gibbs (73) on the entire team.  They both made enough shots to keep defenses honest (Gibbs: 46.6%; Jenkins: 42.4%), and were automatic (90%+) from the line, but on a team sorely lacking in the point guard department, neither player truly stepped up and separated himself in that manner (only 28 assists between them, one for every combined 12 minutes they were on the floor).  In the loss against Lithuania, the two guards combined to shoot 4-13 from behind the arc and dished out only one assist (versus 5 TOs).  Clearly this team could have used a better floor leader.

Trevor Mbakwe Was a Monster.  If we had to pick one player who came out of the WUG experience with the most hype for the upcoming season, it has to be Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe.  In just under 20 minutes per contest, Mbakwe averaged a near-dub-dub of 11.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG (or, 23/19 per 40 minutes!).  What’s more impressive is that international players simply could not handle his quick feet balanced by a bulky frame, bullying his way to the foul line 61 times, or 7.6 times per game.  He only was able to convert 57.4% of those attempts, but his 60.9% field goal percentage on the interior more than made up for it.  Mbakwe averaged a double-double in the Big Ten last year, but his maturity and continued improvement may have him on target for a DeJuan Blair type of senior season in 2011-12.

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RTC Summer Updates: Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 17th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Horizon League correspondent, Jimmy Lemke.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • End of an Era - Homer Drew may have done his best work in the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), but that doesn’t bar the Horizon League community from recognizing the tremendous stature of the now-retired Valparaiso coach. He’s done it before – briefly retiring earlier in the decade to pave the way for son Scott Drew and promptly retaking the reins after Scott took the very difficult job at Baylor – but this time you could tell it was final. His ability to recruit overseas is second to none, and we will always remember the feel-good story of his1998 team. Speaking of that year, the coach to now replace him? None other than his other son, all-time Crusader great Bryce Drew.
  • Dickie V. Rules In Motor City - The Detroit Titans made a big splash this summer by deciding to name their court for former Titans coach and renowned broadcaster, Dick Vitale. While he spent only four years as head of the Titans before taking over as coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, Dickie V’s exploits on behalf of college basketball are immeasurable. Dick Vitale IS college basketball, regardless of how you feel about him. As a longtime follower of the Milwaukee program, I see the court naming as a disappointment for Perry Watson, who coached the Titans for a considerably longer stretch and was very successful in that time, but there’s no doubting the decision from the future point of view. This season, St. John’s will play at Detroit on ESPN following a ceremony celebrating the honor, and I’d be willing to bet the Titans are banking on any Dick Vitale anniversaries falling on Detroit’s home schedule with a visit from ESPN.
  • Big Names DepartBrandon Wood took a highly-publicized transfer to Michigan State and will be able to play immediately because he finished his degree at Valparaiso where his graduate program isn’t offered. Shelvin Mack declared for the draft and stayed put, going early in the second round to the Washington Wizards. But the biggest move in the conference is from the graduating senior class. Nearly every big team lost multiple big time competitors. Butler, of course, lost Mack, but they also lost Zach Hahn, Shawn Vanzant and, most importantly, Matt Howard. Milwaukee loses Anthony Hill and streaky-but-dangerous shooter Tone Boyle. Wright State, already on the downturn, lost Cooper Land, Troy Tabler, Vaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans. Cleveland State waved a heartfelt goodbye to perhaps the most talented of them all, Norris Cole, now with the Miami Heat. Put simply, eight of the ten 2010-11 all-Horizon League team members have exited the conference, with only two remaining: Ray McCallum, Jr. and Eli Holman, both of Detroit.

Brad Stevens Led The Bulldogs To Another Title Game Appearance, But He Faces Life Without Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack in the 2011-12 Season.

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Horizon League Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League Correspondent for RTC. With the conference tournament set to tip tonight, get a leg up on all things Horizon in this week’s recap and postseason preview.

Tournament Preview

To be perfectly honest, the Horizon League Tournament is stacked to allow the top two seeds the ability to get into the tournament, and it’s hard to argue with the success – each of the co-champions has won in the NCAA Tournament since the current format began. The funny thing is, hot teams really should be able to win the thing, and this year is no different. Except the hottest teams, Milwaukee (nine conference wins in a row) and Butler (seven) are the two best programs running into the Horizon League Tournament. The way those teams played, against the top teams all the way down to the bottom of the conference, was good enough to warrant the double-bye.

Butler’s side of the bracket features some really tough teams. Cleveland State is a co-champion, the first such team to have to go four games to win it. Wright State split with Butler, and both Green Bay and UIC played Butler tough during the conference season.

The Milwaukee side of the invitational features Youngstown State, who very nearly beat everyone ahead of them at the Beeghly Center; Loyola, who actually won in the U.S. Cellular Arena against the hosts; Valparaiso, who had the #1 seed until eight days ago; and Detroit, who has all the talent in the world and fought their way into the #5 seed on the last day of the regular season.

Butler will have to play Cleveland State or someone else on their side of the bracket just to get to the conference championship, but make no mistake, they’ve got someone that they’re looking forward to playing. Fast forward to the 4:35 mark.

A Look Back

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