C-USA Breakdown: Louisiana Tech & UTEP Atop Decidedly One-Bid League

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 18th, 2015

As recently as last Thursday, Conference USA still had a legitimate shot at becoming a two-bid league. Old Dominion – in second place behind Louisiana Tech – was considered among Joe Lunardi’s “Last Four In” selections, a team capable of sneaking into the Big Dance even if failed to win the league tournament. But life outside power conferences can be cruel, and the Monarchs all but squandered those at-large chances over the weekend, suffering back-to-back road losses at UT-San Antonio (Thursday) and UTEP (Saturday) while falling to fifth place overall. In fact, with several other would-be contenders also stumbling badly in recent weeks, the once-crowded conference field is looking more and more like a two-horse race between Louisiana Tech and UTEP. Let’s examine the top of the standings, the potential importance of the date of February 26, and why UAB has an ace in the hole come March.

The Top Five

'Speedy' Smith and the Bulldogs sit atop Conference USA. (Tom Morris/latechsportspix.com)

‘Speedy’ Smith and the Bulldogs sit atop Conference USA. (Tom Morris/latechsportspix.com)

  1. Louisiana Tech – 20-6 (11-2). The preseason conference favorites are right where we thought they would be back in November – all alone atop the standings. Louisiana Tech boasts the second-most efficient offense and defense in C-USA and its #67 overall KenPom ranking tops in the league. And while the Bulldogs’ excellent guard trio garners much of the credit – led by Kenneth ‘Speedy’ Smith, the nation’s top assist man (7.9 APG) – forward Erik McCree (12.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG) has also been superb in his first year since transferring over from Murray State. If Michael White’s up-tempo bunch can win at Old Dominion next Saturday, it may be one victory over UTEP away from an outright league title.
  2. UTEP – 18-7 (10-3). The Miners are equipped with the league’s best player, 6’8’’ forward Vince Hunter (15.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG), and a massive frontcourt that ranks seventh nationally in effective height. Their schedule is also favorable, with three of the team’s final five contests coming at home, and only one game – the showdown at Louisiana Tech – against an upper-tier opponent. Read the rest of this entry »
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O26 Weekly Awards: Harvard, Jalen Cannon, Jim Les & Rice

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 10th, 2015

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

Harvard. One could argue that Harvard’s season was at stake against Yale on Saturday, or at least close to it. The Crimson, 4-1 in Ivy League play, faced the prospect of falling two games back of the undefeated Bulldogs and severely damaging their hopes for a fourth-straight outright conference title. A victory for Tommy Amaker’s group would even up the records with a return game in Cambridge still ahead on March 6; a loss, and Harvard’s NCAA Tournament destiny would no longer rest in its own hands even if it did beat Yale next month. This was about as “must-win” as it gets in early February.

Harvard regained control of the Ivy League on Saturday. (Robert F. Worley / The Harvard Crimson)

Harvard regained control of the Ivy League on Saturday. (Robert F. Worley / The Harvard Crimson)

Yet the pivotal showdown would have been even direr for Harvard had it not been for some late-game heroics the night before. Trailing Brown by two with only a few seconds left, it took reigning Player of the Year Wesley Saunders corralling his own miss and banking in a shot at the buzzer just to send Friday’s game into overtime. In the extra period, the Crimson controlled things – ultimately winning by two – and Saunders finished with a career-high 33 points. “We’ve had these kind of games against Brown,” Amaker said afterwards, referring to his team’s third overtime victory in as many seasons against the always-pesky Bears.

Call it ‘survival,’ call it what you want, but a win is a win – and Harvard made the most of its second life the following night in New Haven. After an ugly 20 minutes of basketball (Harvard took a 16-11 lead into the locker room), the Crimson held on to their advantage throughout the second half, beating the Bulldogs 52-50 in their own house. Saunders again led the way, scoring 16 points and hitting two clutch free throws in the closing seconds, and in a matter of 24 hours Amaker’s team went from the brink of disaster to re-establishing control of the Ivy League. “We’ve taken these kinds of shots from the other teams the last few years; we’ve been up to the challenge,” he remarked afterward. With Harvard returning home for six of its final eight contests – including the Yale game in a few weeks – the Crimson’s ability to take those shots and respond when it mattered most has put them in good position to retain the conference crown and return to the Big Dance.

Honorable Mentions: St. Bonaventure (2-0: at Davidson, vs. VCU); Boise State (2-0: at Utah State, vs. San Diego State); Ohio (2-0: vs. Akron, vs. Eastern Michigan); Vermont (2-0: vs. Maine, at Stony Brook); IPFW (2-0: vs. South Dakota State, vs. Oral Roberts)

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Pac-12 M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 10th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Colorado is 7-11 in league road games since joining the Pac-12, and the 15th ranked Buffaloes will play their first of the 2013-14 season this Sunday in Seattle. The team says they’re ready to take the next step; they’ve beaten a pair of top ten teams at home and took down two solid Mountain West clubs on the road by a combined 29 points. But in order to join the top ten realm themselves, the Buffaloes need to get the Pac-12 road monkey off their back. Things didn’t go too smoothly in Colorado’s first conference game away from home two nights ago, when Washington State took the highly-favored Buffs to overtime in a neutral site game at Spokane Arena on Wednesday. Colorado did escape with the one-point win, but that was with it shooting 33 more free throws than the Cougars. It’ll need a much better effort than that to beat swiftly-improving Washington on Sunday afternoon.
  2. Arizona equaled its school best 16-0 start last night, hanging on for a great 79-75 win at UCLA. The Wildcats had revenge on their minds after suffering three losses to the Bruins last season, and a near-perfect first 34 minutes put Arizona up 68-55 and had a large contingent of fans dressed in cardinal red drowning out the hometown crowd. An insane 15-1 run by the hosts put UCLA up one with 1:45 remaining, but the top-ranked team in the nation proved why they belonged up there, making eight free throws in the final minute to secure the win. Wildcat guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 22 points.
  3. Joe Lunardi released his now weekly Bracketology report yesterday, and four Pac-12 teams were included in his field of 68. Undefeated and number one Arizona takes the top overall seed, with Colorado next for the Pac as a three. Oregon is just below the Buffaloes on the four line, and it seems likely that those two could be battling for those two spots all the way until March. UCLA is the last Pac-12 team included and is listed as a seven seed, and it gets the most intriguing opening round game (against Harvard) by virtue of having the worst seed of the four. California is Lunardi’s first team left out of the field, although that could change after its 13-point win at Oregon last night. Stanford is included on the “Next Four Out” list along with Arkansas, SMU, and Butler. Be sure to also read the latest edition of Rush the Court’s bracket projections, which are released last Monday.
  4. Transfer wizard Dana Altman pulled another one out of his hat on Thursday, when the Ducks officially announced that a class of 2013 Top 50 recruit, small forward Brandon Austin, would be transferring from Providence to Oregon. Austin had offers from Connecticut, Xavier, and Temple, among others, before deciding on the Friars, but did not see a minute of action in his stint there due to a pair of suspensions. Altman has brought in transfers like Arsalan Kazemi (Rice), Joseph Young (Houston), and Mike Moser (UCLA and UNLV) during his four years in Eugene.
  5. Oregon State junior Eric Moreland showed a bit of rust in his first two games back from a 12-game suspension to open the season, but that was all washed away on Thursday against Stanford. Starting your season with two games in Boulder and Salt Lake City is a difficult chore for a number of reasons, most notably of which is the altitude at which both schools are located. So maybe some home cooking is all the forward needed. Moreland scored 17 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and recorded four blocks and four assists, producing a career night when the Beavers desperately needed one.
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Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. What was supposed to be a promising season for a young, talented Providence team has gone off the rails a bit as suspensions and injuries have reared their ugly heads. Ed Cooley lost Kris Dunn to injury for Sunday night’s showdown with national power Kentucky, while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remain suspended indefinitely. All three players, especially Dunn and Austin, were expected to be major contributors for a Friars squad looking for an NCAA berth, but for now Cooley has to dance with the players that brought him: “I’m going to coach the team that’s on the bus.”
  2. So Feast Week was fun, right? Well next year’s slate of exotic star-studded tournaments should also be a good one. Georgetown and Butler have signed on to play in next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will have a chance to face North Carolina, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UAB.  This is the second straight year where there will be some potential for all-Big East tournament match-ups, after Creighton and Marquette nearly faced off in the finals of this year’s Wooden Legacy. Conference realignment is the gift that keeps on giving, it appears. While UNC, Florida, UCLA and the like are tough potential opponents, one Casual Hoya commenter looked on the bright side of this slate:gtown NE atlantis
  3. God’sgift Achiuwa hasn’t made a huge impact for St. John’s on the court this season — the forward is averaging 1.4 points in 7.7 minutes per game for the Red Storm — but he’s doing great things off the court in his community. ‘Gift’ is among 201 nominees for the 2014 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams. A St. John’s release further details all of the great things that Achiuwa and the rest of the Red Storm are involved in around New York City:”In 2012-13 Achiuwa and members of the men’s basketball team participated in more than 131 hours of community service, volunteering their time at the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, the San Francisco Food Bank, the annual Red Storm Dribble For The Cure benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Men’s Shelter and in the Community Mayor program. The 2013 Dribble For The Cure raised $70,000 for pediatric cancer research in the New York area bringing its three-year total to $120,000.”

    While basketball is why we’re all here at Rush the Court, it’s always great to hear about the human stories and incredible acts of charity that so many of these players are involved with.

  4. Butler wasn’t picked by many to finish very high in the Big East this season, but the Bulldogs have done a great job managing a tough schedule thus far. Indy Star took a look at how each of the Big East teams have fared so far this season, and how the Bulldogs stack up, relatively speaking. At 5-2 with the ‘2’ being a two-point overtime loss to LSU and a near take-down of a star-laden Oklahoma State team, Butler has impressed: “Butler accomplished something in Orlando, even if it won’t show up in their season record: They proved they can play with anyone in the country. Simply put, they looked like an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s something few expected to hear about this Bulldog team.”
  5. Villanova is the talk of the conference right now coming off an impressive Battle 4 Atlantis win over a possible national championship contender in Kansas and another ranked team in Iowa. The Wildcats have a deep group of talented perimeter players, headlined by Kansas-game hero Ryan Arcidiacono and swingman James Bell, who is having a breakout season, but Jay Wright believes it is Rice transfer Dylan Ennis who has made all the difference for his club: “He shocked me. He played with great composure. He didn’t force shots. He was really impressive.” Ennis averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists at Atlantis — his first three games of the season — and was especially effective from long range, knocking down eight of his 12 three point attempts.  Nova’s schedule now becomes very Philly-centric, with games against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle over the next few weeks, but the biggest match-up for Ennis comes on December 28 when he travels to the Carrier Dome for a showdown with his little brother Tyler, who has been excellent so far this season as the starting point guard for the Orange.
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Oregon Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 23rd, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: Oregon.

What Went Right

Considering most Oregon fans hadn’t even heard of former Rice standout Arsalan Kazemi until less than a month before Midnight Madness, the last-minute addition of the Iranian Sensation did wonders for the Ducks’ play in 2012-13. The team clicked well with Kazemi on board as he added the final piece to an almost-complete puzzle. His hustle and ability to grab seemingly every loose ball on the court made him a quick fan favorite.

The Addition Of Arsalan Kazemi Was The Final Piece To Dana Altman's Puzzle In 2012-13 (credit: US Presswire)

The Addition Of Arsalan Kazemi Was The Final Piece To Dana Altman’s Puzzle In 2012-13 (credit: US Presswire)

What Went Wrong

Unspecified left foot injuries. Star point guard Dominic Artis went down with one before Oregon’s January 26 game against Washington, transforming thet Ducks from a 17-2 team to one struggling to find an identity upon his return on the final day of February. When all was said and done, however, Oregon ended up advancing to the Sweet Sixteen regardless of its lower seed, a product of the development of the team during his injury. Still, it would have been interesting to see how the Ducks performed in the dance if Artis had played all year long and Oregon was given a higher seed.

MVP

For what Kazemi lacked in clutch scoring, senior forward E.J. Singler made up for it. He was pivotal down the stretch in overtime at Washington State, leading the Ducks with 25 points, and his 14-point performance to hand Arizona its first loss of the season was gritty and much-needed.

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Morning Five: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. We are nearly at the finish line as we have whittled the field down to four. The Regional games were not exactly things of beauty as outside of two games (Michigan-Kansas and Ohio State-Arizona) the games were not particularly exciting. Hopefully next weekend provides a little more drama, but there should be no shortage of story lines with one semifinal pitting Syracuse against Michigan (possibly Boeheim’s last run and Michigan’s first trip since the Fab 5) and Louisville against Wichita State (winning for Kevin Ware and the Cinderella trying to make history). We are sure that more story lines will come out as the week progresses, but we hope that they aren’t in the form of investigative journalism revealing some scandal.
  2. And the coaching carousel goes around and around. The big domino from the weekend was Steve Alford backing out of his brand new 10-year extension at New Mexico to take over at UCLA. Of course, that opens up a spot at New Mexico where the school is looking for a replacement. If Alex Kirk has any say in it the next coach of the Lobos will be Craig Neal as Kirk has reportedly threatened to graduate over the summer and transfer to UCLA if Neal is not named the next coach of the Lobos. UCLA may have landed its man, but Minnesota has not found a coach yet as they were rebuffed by Flip Sanders.  Meanwhile former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith is reportedly under consideration to be the next coach at Texas Tech (must have something for former Kentucky coaches). With USC reportedly targeting Andy Enfield we could likely see another spot open up although we doubt that Dunk City will be that attractive of an opening despite their run this year.
  3. The coaching carousel may have dominated the off-court news, but the bombshell of the weekend came from Arsalan Kazemi who claimed that Rice Athletic Director Rick Greenspan repeatedly directed racist comments at Kazemi and two other players from the Middle East while Kazemi was at Rice. That treatment was reportedly the basis for the hardship waivers that Kazemi and another player (Omar Oraby) used transfer to Oregon and USC respectively without having to sit out a year. Kazemi is not talking about those comments at this time, but in documents obtained by Sports Illustrated he claimed that Greenspan repeatedly referred to the Axis of Evil and Al-Queda when talking to the players. Rice, which obviously didn’t support the hardship waivers, has come out and strongly denied these claims, but it is not a good look for any organization much less an institution of higher learning. The NCAA has also refused to discuss the case citing privacy concerns, but we would hope that they did a decent amount of investigating before granting a waiver for such a claim.
  4. The decision by Ryan Harrow to transfer from Kentucky should not come as much of a surprise given his poor play this season and the tsunami of talent coming into Lexington next season that would essentially eliminate his minutes. While Harrow’s decision to transfer to Georgia State raised a few eyebrows initially it made much more sense when he revealed his reason for transferring there was to be closer to his father who is still recovering from a stroke. Harrow will reportedly attempt to use a family hardship waiver to avoid sitting out a year before playing for Georgia State. While we wish Harrow the best in his career and more importantly his father’s recovery the use of hardship waivers in situations like this feels strange to us. If your family member is doing so poorly that you need to move closer to assist with their care we aren’t sure how playing college basketball is going to help them recover.
  5. The college basketball epicenter of the universe has probably been somewhere around Louisville, but if you are looking for the epicenter of college basketball recruiting you need to head east to Washington, DC as the area has produced a ridiculous amount of talent recently. The article focuses quite a bit on the famed 2004 All-Met team, but the talent extends well beyond that year. The amount of talent and the lack of success of some college teams in the area has become a hot button topic and is probably responsible for the firings of some coaches in the area. The level of talent also probably means that some potential sleepers could be found there who may not be quite NBA-level talents, but certainly good enough to play Division I and will have had experience playing against great talent even before they get to college.
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Celebrating The Oregon Seniors

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 28th, 2013

On a night when the biggest story will be the return of an injured freshman, arguably the best group of seniors in the league will play their final home game at Matthew Knight Arena tonight. From a four year, in-state star to a trio of junior or senior transfers, all four graduating Ducks have had major impacts at separate points throughout the season. We break them down below.

Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods Have Dominated The Inside In 2012-13 (credit: Tess Freeman)

Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods Have Dominated The Inside In 2012-13 (credit: Tess Freeman)

Arsalan Kazemi has been Oregon’s difference-maker this year, bringing the Ducks from what most thought would be a bubble team at the beginning of the season to a team vying for the conference crown. The native Iranian spent his first three years at Rice, and if he had stayed put in Houston, he most likely would be named the C-USA Player of the Year. Kazemi is the definition of a hustle player, a constant ball-diving type who leads the team in rebounds and steals. He will be sorely missed by Oregon fans, but his story is far from over, as Kazemi is the type of player that can lead a team through the first week of the NCAA Tournament and beyond.

Tony Woods and Carlos Emory transferred to Eugene two years ago, and have been providing highlight-reel blocks and dunks since their arrival. Woods’ length in the post makes him a viable threat against opposing defenses, but it’s on his defensive end of the court where he makes a difference for the Ducks. Woods is the team co-leader in blocks per game, and his 6’11” frame clogs up the paint with great efficiency. Emory is by far the more athletic of the interior duo, and his versatility allows him to play at the three, four, or five, depending on where he is most needed.

Finally we come to the dean of the Oregon seniors, E.J. Singler. Singler has been a crucial part of Oregon’s six- or seven-man rotation in all four of his seasons with the Ducks, and he has averaged double figures in the scoring column in all but his freshman year. The small forward was Oregon’s Kazemi before Arsalan arrived at Oregon, so he has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of production this season. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been crucial to Oregon’s success at times; his 25 points in Oregon’s 79-77 win at Washington State led the Ducks to a grind-it-out, overtime win on the Palouse; and earlier in the season he poured in 22 as the Ducks demolished Vanderbilt. Singler has played through injuries his entire career and will go down as one of the best four-year players in Oregon history.

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Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Giving Thanks and Getting Transfers

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 27th, 2012

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.

Thanksgiving is a time to take a step back from the grind and routine of life and appreciate that which we often take for granted. Family, friends, employment, even simple things like food and shelter are worth thinking of on days like this in times like these, not to mention the opportunity we get to experience and chronicle something as exciting and beautiful as college basketball. In wet and soggy Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks have someone and something to be thankful for, too, as they wind through their early non-conference schedule. Arsalan Kazemi, who transferred from Rice just before the start of the season, put on an Oregon uniform for the first time just a day after his waiver request was approved by the NCAA.

Arsalan Kazemi starts off his second game as a Duck with a dunk against Jacksonville State. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Once a rarity, the upper-class transfer has become as big of a part of the college basketball landscape as the one-and-done. According to CBS Sports, more than 400 Division I basketball players have transferred schools this year, and ESPN cites an NCAA report saying that 40 percent of all college freshman basketball players will eventually change schools.  Some of these players are taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule, some are exiting Division I to one of the lower tiers of college hoops, and some are either planning to sit out a year or hoping to receive the gift of a hardship waiver from the NCAA, relieving them and their new teams from the burden of an academic year in residence.

The process by which the NCAA approves and denies these requests is a mystery even to those who follow college ball religiously. Earlier this month, the NCAA published new guidelines on its granting of waivers for players who are changing schools to move closer to ailing family members, clearing up some nagging issues but making some language even more confusing. Currently, ESPN reports that about half of the waiver requests made in the last five years have been approved, a figure that is expected to rise under the new regulations.

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Wrapping Up The DirecTV Classic in Anaheim…

Posted by AMurawa on November 26th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and a Pac-12 microsite writer. He filed this report after attending the DirecTV Classic over the weekend in Anaheim.

The field at the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim this weekend was anything but classic. The play was ragged at times, there were more than a couple of teams working through the growing pains of major roster overhauls, and so coming up with a coherent all-tournament team was no easy task. But, in the end, we come away with what looked like the most likely outcome going into the holiday weekend – a California win. It wasn’t always easy for the Golden Bears and it certainly wasn’t always pretty, but they leave Anaheim with a 6-0 record on the year with three serious tests ahead of them in the coming weeks. Below, we’ll run down some brief takeaways from each team that participated here this weekend and, at the end, give you what I came up with for my DirecTV Classic all-tournament team.

Justin Cobbs, California

Justin Cobbs Averaged Better That 19 Points, Five Rebounds and Four Assists On His Way To Earning Tournament MVP Honors (Getty Images)

  • California – We knew about Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs coming into this tournament, and while each had their bumps and bruises along the way, their strong performances in Anaheim were no surprise. The bigger questions for this team involve their frontcourt play and their depth, and Mike Montgomery got some promising answers this weekend. Up front, the trio of David Kravish, Richard Solomon and Robert Thurman were largely solid all weekend. Solomon had 12 points and nine boards against the biggest and most athletic team the Bears played all weekend, Georgia Tech, and was very good in the other games. And, he can get better. Kravish and Thurman each had their moments as well, but it is Solomon who has the ability to transform the Cal front line from merely acceptable to an actual team strength. As for depth, Monty definitely has gone with a solid seven-man rotation now, with point guard Brandon Smith and versatile freshman wing Tyrone Wallace seemingly taking turns manning that third perimeter spot. Throw in Ricky Kreklow when he returns from his foot injury, and there’s plenty of talent here for the rigors of the Pac-12 schedule. Cobbs and Crabbe are the established stars here, but there is plenty of upside potential too in Solomon and Wallace.
  • Pacific – The surprise team of the tournament, the Tigers, in the midst of head coach Bob Thomason’s retirement tour, sent Xavier to the consolation bracket on Thanksgiving, then handled Saint Mary’s before running into a Cal team that was too much for them. There are a lot of nice pieces here – the Tigers played 11 players in each game of this tournament – but more than one opposing coach this weekend attributed at least some of their early success to Thomason’s coaching, especially with the extra practices the team got this summer as a result of their international trip. As Randy Bennett put it, “they’ve just got more stuff put in than the rest of the teams here.” With no one standout talent on this squad, this team is going to be tough to game plan for on a nightly basis, but this is still probably a team that winds up in the middle of the Big West standings this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Who Won the Week? Not the ACC…

Posted by Kenny Ocker on November 16th, 2012

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Kevin Ollie

Kevin Ollie Has Gotten Off to a Nice Start at UConn (credit: CT Post)

The debutante coach of the UConn Huskies still has a huge task in front of himself this season in trying to motivate a team ineligible for the postseason because of terrible academic performance. But he couldn’t have started his tenure off better. Beating a talented Michigan State team on Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany was one of the first night’s biggest surprises, and then coming back home to blow out Vermont in what could have been a letdown game was an accomplishment in itself. Ollie and the Huskies should cruise through the next two weeks before a December 4 match-up with North Carolina State in the Jimmy V Classic.

(Related winners: The UConn program, Jim Calhoun. Related losers: Michigan State.)

LOSER: The ACC

The Atlantic Coast Conference could have a big problem — depth. The league’s lower half has taken four losses from mid-major schools in the first week (two more than any other BCS conference): Virginia falling to George Mason and Delaware, Florida State losing to South Alabama, and Miami losing by 12 to Florida Gulf Coast. The separation between Duke/North Carolina/N.C. State and the rest of the conference could be vast this year, and that may hurt a lot of middle-of-the-road ACC teams come Selection Sunday.

(Related winners: The Colonial Athletic Association as a whole, South Alabama, bubble teams from other conferences. Related losers: The teams that lost to mid-majors, the other teams in the middle of the ACC.)

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Pac-12 M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 16th, 2012

  1. Great news for the Ducks, as the NCAA has granted transfer Arsalan Kazemi a waiver and he will be available to play for Oregon right away. It’s a good thing, because Oregon has a huge home date with Vanderbilt later tonight. Many figured this was coming since Omar Oraby, a fellow Rice transfer, was not required to sit out a year given similar circumstances. An interesting point of contention with the Oraby and Kazemi transfers is that USC and Oregon alleged that the two faced racial discrimination at Rice, primarily by Rice AD Rick Greenspan. Rice head coach Ben Braun and Greenspan vehemently denied these allegations in a statement from the school, which is posted in full in the CBS Sports article (the first link). Without getting too much into Rice’s situation, the school said it did not sign off on waivers that would allow Oraby and Kazemi to play right away. Whatever is going on there can’t bode well for Braun, the former Cal coach who has seen six players leave his school via the transfer route since the end of last year. In any case, this is a huge positive for the Ducks, as they get a Kazemi who averaged a double-double last year in a conference (C-USA) that was comparable to the level of Pac-12 play. He will add a lot to a front line that already includes Tony Woods and Waverly Austin.
  2. Not so great news for the Washington Huskies, as Lorenzo Romar says he is unsure if Scott Suggs will play this weekend after he suffered a concussion in Tuesday’s loss to Albany. Suggs, whose status is day-to-day, is obviously a big asset to this team, but it would be great for the Huskies to have him available this weekend because the team travels to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut for the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic. A win against Seton Hall would mean (most likely) a date with No. 4 Ohio State. A loss and it’s a game against lowly Rhode Island, a team that is 0-2 on the season and isn’t expected to do much of anything in a loaded Atlantic 10. And, after losing to the Great Danes, Washington needs all the RPI love it can get. If Suggs is on the floor, the Huskies have one more shooter to space the offense and provide another option for Abdul Gaddy on a penetrate and pitch. If he can’t go, Andrew Andrews will get the starting nod, per Romar.
  3. Not much of a surprise here, but Colorado coach Tad Boyle has received a one-year extension on his contract that now lasts through the 2016-17 season. The folks in Boulder absolutely love Boyle, just ask our very own Parker Baruh. He has turned around a program that was consistently in the bottom tier of the Big 12 and led them to two straight 24-win seasons, the last one in the year after losing a lottery pick in Alec Burks. If Boyle can lead the Buffs to another 24 wins in 2012-13, he would have to be a leading candidate for Pac-12 Coach of the Year, considering he lost Carlon Brown and two other key seniors from last year in Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault. Just hours later, Boyle earned his 50th win as the Buffs’ head coach when Colorado beat Dayton in the first round of the Charleston Classic. Good timing for that extension.
  4. Speaking of the Charleston Classic, it’s one of a few non-conference tournaments that houses Pac-12 constituents. While Colorado knocked off Dayton after being behind for most of the game, the same can’t be said for Oregon State, which lost a close one to Alabama in the first game of the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden. The other tournament going on, as mentioned earlier, is the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic, which features Washington. Again, these tournaments are largely where conferences make or break its reputation for the season, as most of the other non-conference games come against guarantee-game opponents with a few challenges sprinkled in here and there. For the Pac-12 to have an acceptable weekend, each team needs to win at least one game: Colorado has done the bare minimum, but could really help out the Pac by beating Murray State or St. John’s in the third place game if a victory doesn’t come against Baylor. Oregon State needs to knock off Purdue to even itself up in Madison Square Garden, and that won’t be an easy task. Washington, again, really needs a win against Seton Hall, because a loss to Ohio State would probably look better than a win against Rhode Island. The non-conference tournaments are huge for the Pac-12 this year, especially considering what happened last year, with failures like Washington State going 0-3 against a weak field in the 76 Classic and UCLA going 0-2 against D-I teams in the Maui Invitational.
  5. Connor here, stepping in to finish off the M5 with our weekly Pick’em contest. Unfortunately, with Utah’s uninspiring loss last week in Seattle, I still trail Drew by four games with only 14 left to play. But it ain’t over til it’s over, and I’m pulling out everything I’ve got this week to make up some ground. I’m talking a Washington State upset in the desert. I’m taking a Cal team playing in what will likely be their head coach’s final game at the university. These may be long shots, but I’ve got no choice at this point. Our picks below, with, as always, our game of the week in bold.
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Washington at Colorado Washington Washington
Washington State at Arizona State Washington State Arizona State
USC at UCLA USC UCLA
Stanford at Oregon Oregon 52-20 Oregon 62-24
Arizona at Utah Utah Arizona
California at Oregon State California Oregon State
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Morning Five: 11.09.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2012

  1. We have seen a lot of inopportune suspensions leading up to the start of the season, but Florida may take the prize with the worst timing as they suspended their starting point guard, Scottie Wilbekin, indefinitely just one day before their first game. Neither the school nor Wilbekin has offered any additional insight into the reason for the suspension but from the words of Billy Donovan it sounds like a relatively minor offense. Fortunately for the Gators, they have quite a bit of perimeter depth. Unfortunately for the Gators, much of that perimeter depth is not particularly skilled at passing the ball.
  2. As bad as that timing is for the Gators Saint Joseph’s might have had them beat after the announced yesterday that they were suspending their leading scorer Carl Jones (17 points per game last season) for three games for violating the school’s community standards. Jones already served one game of that suspension sitting out last night’s exhibition game and will miss the team’s first two games in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against Yale and Notre Dame. We would put this above the Wilbekin suspension as Jones is clearly a more important player for the Atlantic 10 favorites than Wilbekin is for the Gators, but at least this suspension is finite whereas we are not sure when Wilbekin will return. Jones’ suspension could end up costing the Hawks more in the long run in terms of seeding if they lose to Notre Dame due to his absence as that could be a very nice resume builder although they will get other chances to make up for that later in the season.
  3. With all of the injury issues that USC has had to deal with recently it must be nice for them to get some good news about a player’s status and they got that yesterday when the NCAA granted Rice transfer Omar Oraby a hardship waiver allowing him to play immediately for the Trojans. The junior, who averaged 6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game despite playing just 11.6 minutes per game.  Oraby is expected to start for the Trojans when they open their season tonight against Coppin State. Oraby adds to what promises to be a huge Trojan frontline that has three 7-footers and might be the biggest in the nation (at least of the top of our head). We are not sure if that will make the Trojans a good team, but we doubt they will go 6-26 again.
  4. He may get a lot of criticism from opposing fans,  but even his most ardent critics will have to applaud John Calipari for his work in helping raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. Calipari along with his Kentucky players raised the money by answering phones during two telethons that raised $200,000 for the victims and now Calipari will be bringing a check for nearly $1 million to give to the Red Cross in conjunction with the Wildcats game in Brooklyn tonight. We are sure that there are plenty of other coaches out there who are doing similar work even if not quite to the same level in terms of dollar amount, but it is nice to note some of their work when we see it.
  5. If you are into advanced statistics, we have a page for you–John Pudner’s Value Add–to bookmark and check back in throughout the year. What the site promises to do is provide something similar to what baseball’s WAR (wins above replacement) does in interpreting a player’s contribution to his team. [Note: If you are looking for a better explanation including the formula, check out this entry.] Even though the season hasn’t started the rankings look like a reasonable estimation of what we would expect although there are at least two names in the top ten that you might not expect and that is not even including the two freshmen in there (we have no idea how the model adjusted for their high school competition), but it is worth checking to see if it performs as you would expect and/or we see some tweaks to try to create a better model.
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