20 Questions: Who is This Year’s Wichita State?

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on November 4th, 2013

seasonpreview-11Before answering the question of who this year’s Wichita State might be, we should probably make sure we know who last year’s Wichita State was. Gregg Marshall’s eventual national semifinalists overachieved (relative to preseason expectations) their way to a #8 seed, but even then, the Shockers were largely ignored as a candidate to reach the Sweet Sixteen, let alone the Final Four. Well, four NCAA Tournament wins later – and a competitive Final Four loss to eventual champion Louisville – and the Shockers label of “solid mid-major” was due for a major upgrade. So, what team could be in line for a similarly eye-opening run in the 2014 Dance? Three teams stand out as especially viable candidates, but the preseason buzz surrounding Harvard and Boise State has them sporting a trendiness that wasn’t circulating in Wichita this time last year. The Saint Louis Billikens, however, enter the year a bit more under the radar. Their preseason aspirations may be slightly elevated from those of the Shockers’ 12 months ago, but after disappointing pundits as a sleeper pick in last season’s tourney, SLU could be bound for a quiet, productive season that leaves them poised for a March Madness run that nobody sees coming.

Dwayne Evans (#21) Quietly Averaged 14 Points And 7.7 Rebounds A Game Last Year; Could He Lead Saint Louis To Greater March Heights? (Getty)

Dwayne Evans (#21) Quietly Averaged 14 Points And 7.7 Rebounds A Game Last Year. Could He Lead Saint Louis To Greater March Heights? (Getty)

Like Wichita State last season, Saint Louis comes into this year not expected to match the success of last season’s wildly successful campaign. Despite that authoritative early dismissal (Oregon defeated the Billikens by 17 in the round of 32), SLU swept the A-10 regular season and tournament crowns en route to earning a #4 seed. These Billikens will be hard-pressed to match the 28 games won by that group, but the nucleus does return mostly intact. Read the rest of this entry »

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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #26 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2013

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

#26 – Where A Memory Carries On Happens.


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

 

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Bracket Prep: Saint Louis, Miami, Mississippi & Ohio State

Posted by BHayes on March 17th, 2013

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The last four auto-bids were handed out on this most special of college basketball Sundays, and as we have for each of the 31 automatic qualifiers to play their way into the Dance, we take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets.

Saint Louis

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

  • Atlantic-10 Champion (27-6, 16-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #22/#17/#15
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #3-#5

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In a crazy year of Atlantic-10 basketball, one complete with new faces, wild finishes and a constantly changing standings page, no team stayed the course better than the Saint Louis Billikens. They overcame the tragedy of losing Rick Majerus in November while fighting through their own early-season on-court struggles, eventually righting the ship in a major way. They enter the NCAA Tournament with a sweep of the A-10 titles, and winners of 24 of their last 27 games. A top four seed is not only possible but expected – relatively uncharted territory for the Atlantic-10.
  2. While the notion may be a bit clichéd at this point, it’s impossible to look at this Saint Louis team and not think of Majerus. His fingerprints are all over these Billikens. It’s evident in the stingy defense (8th in the country in defensive efficiency), apparent in the patient, mistake-free offense (36th nationally in turnover %), and undoubtedly a factor in the gritty, tough identity that his former team has taken on. Former Majerus assistant  Jim Crews deserves a lot of credit (and some serious COY consideration) for keeping the ship upright and moving in the right direction, but at their core, this is still a Rick Majerus team.
  3. The Majerus effect, slow tempo, and balanced offense have obscured the individual Billikens from the national spotlight, but there is some talent on this roster. Kwamain Mitchell (10.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG) is perhaps the most finest of that talent, and it was his return in late December that gave the Billikens a needed boost. Juniors Dwayne Evans (13.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and Mike McCall (10.0 PPG, 42% 3PT) have stepped forward this season as well. On this balanced, unselfish team, there is no member of the eight-man rotation that does not know their role and play it effectively. A year ago they showed well at the Big Dance, beating Memphis before giving #1 seeded Michigan State all they could handle in the third round. That Tournament experience will surely serve them well this time around, as they continue to dedicate this season to Majerus. That alone won’t carry them through this loaded field, but when you give a talented and focused team a real purpose, the sky can often become the limit. The Billikens may not be legitimate national title contenders, but anything short of that? Well within reach.

Miami

There's Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season -- How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

There’s Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season — How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

  • ACC Champion (27-6, 18-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #4/#14/#14
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1-#2

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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Morning Five: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2013

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  1. Many pundits have been writing endlessly about how this season has lacked a superlative team, but they may have been looking at the wrong end of the spectrum as Grambling State just completed a truly remarkable season going 0-28 with only its last loss being by less than double digits. It may be hard to get your mind around how horrific the season has been we would direct you to Ken Pomeroy who has Grambling State rated as the worst team since he created his site in 2003. It is hard to say how historically bad their season was beyond that, but given the distance between this team and prior standard bearers in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings we think they would be pretty competitive.
  2. With the NCAA Tournament two weeks away and teams starting to lock up automatic bids we are already beginning to see several dominant story lines emerging, but we doubt that many will be bigger than the play of St. Louis following the death of Rick Majerus. In the week following Majerus’ death on December 1 the media churned out hundreds of columns on Majerus–both on his genius and complexity. Since that time the play of his Bilikens has been nothing short of inspiring. After winning the Atlantic 10 regular season title, they should have a decent shot of making a run to the second weekend and if that happens you should expect to see plenty of Majerus montages.
  3. Conference realignment means a lot of things to a lot of schools and one of them is the need to upgrade their coach as they move into more difficult conferences. That appears to be the case at San Jose State (or the fact they won nine games in each of the past two seasons) as they fired George Nessman (86-161 in eight seasons at the school) yesterday. With their move from the WAC to the Mountain West the Spartans will need to field a much better team if they hope to be anything other than the conference doormats. Even with a serious coaching upgrade it is hard to envision the program becoming competitive in the Mountain West any time soon.
  4. We had thought that Texas Tech was just unfortunate in winding up with some odd coaches (Mike Leach in football then Billy Gillispie in basketball), but now that we heard about how they treated Trency Jackson we are beginning to wonder if it is also an administrative issue. As Gary Parrish notes the administrators at Texas Tech made Jackson’s attempt to transfer much more difficult than it had to by providing him with poor advice on multiple occasions and mislabeling him as a violator of team rules rather than just a player who was academically ineligible. The whole story is a lot more complex than that, but it leaves you feeling dirty reading it and that has been happening in Lubbock a lot recently.
  5. Schools have been very active in redesigning/rebranding their courts as we pointed out in a column four years ago that preceded the infamous atrocity that is the Matthew Knight Arena floor, but few conferences have tried to be creative with their floor design. That is until the Mountain West decided to purchase the floor from last year’s Women’s Final Four after champion Baylor declined the right to purchase the floor. These type of designs are not for everybody, but the way that the conference went about getting the current floor is still worth reading about.
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RTC Top 25: Week 15

Posted by KDoyle on February 25th, 2013

At long last, we have stability atop the RTC25 as Indiana checks in at #1 for the third straight week. The Hoosiers earned a big road win at Michigan State in their only game last week, and are beginning to look like the team that was ranked #1 in the preseason rankings. One player who was thought  in the preseason to be more of a role player rather than a star and legitimate candidate for National Player of the Year is Victor Oladipo. Oladipo has led the way with 19 points and outstanding play this season for Indiana. In looking at the Top 10, there is very little separation between #3 Duke and #10 Louisville in terms of the average ranking (5.33 to 7.44), but then there is a noticeable drop-off between Louisville and #11 Syracuse. It is refreshing to have some parity in the Top 10, especially after last season when at a certain point Kentucky was nearly untouchable.

More good stuff with the Quick n’ Dirty after the jump…

Week 15

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 31st, 2013

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  1. Losses to teams like Albany and Utah yet victories over the likes of Stanford and Colorado have Washington fans confused and wondering what the next step is for a program with potential and frustration at every turn. The immediate future likely holds an NIT berth for the Dawgs, but as The Husky Haul points out, this year’s recruiting class could answer the question of when Washington returns to national prominence, and if Lorenzo Romar is the one to lead it there. Landing Archbishop Mitty (CA) wing Aaron Gordon would be a big first step in that direction, as the five-star senior has the bounce and athleticism to turn a team around instantly. At the moment, however, the Huskies have more important things to worry about, as number eight Arizona comes calling tonight in Seattle.
  2. Behind Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, and Brandon Ashley, Gabe York played a bit of the role of “forgotten freshman” early in the 2012-13 season. But York has improved his play significantly the past couple of weeks in practice, and he has continued his success in game situations. The freshman guard dropped a pair of threes on Saturday against USC en route to a career high seven points in Arizona‘s 24-point thrashing of the Trojans. As the feature points out, York needs to step up his play on both ends of the court (averaging just 0.2 SPG) before he sees any extended action for the Cats. But you can never be too deep once we hit the home stretch of the season, and York provides a nice option on Sean Miller’s bench.
  3. Drew noted yesterday of yet another Pac-12 Player of the Week award for Arizona State wing Carrick Felix, and House of Sparky takes a wider look here at how the senior has led the Sun Devils from a 10th place finish last season to the NCAA bubble in 2012-13. Felix’s constant positivity and willingness to give up some of his touches to freshman Jahii Carson has paid dividends for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils find themselves at 16-4 and 5-2 in conference play heading into the final month and a half of basketball. The duo is now one of the most fun to watch in the league, as opposing defenses have to continually be on high alert for a streaking or backdooring Felix awaiting a dime from Carson. And then there’s this, which is on the short list for my favorite play of the season thus far. The Sun Devils visit Pullman tonight and will look to add to their two-game winning streak.
  4. DISASTER. For once, that’s not exactly hyperbole surrounding the UCLA hoops program. In front of a lackluster blued-out crowd at the new Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, Bruin fans felt extra blue as they fell behind by as many as 15 points and were upset by crosstown rival USC in overtime. UCLA is still safely in the field of 68 at this point, but it has to be careful in eight days when Washington comes calling. Another trip-up against the Huskies would mean a three-game skid and the rumblings would be back in earnest in the Los Angeles basin.
  5. Utah will honor the late Rick Majerus on Saturday by hanging a replica sweater inside the Huntsman Center during its “rivalry” game with Colorado. Majerus took the Utes to seven NCAA Tournaments while in Salt Lake City and will be the first coach honored with a retirement ceremony by the university. “We need Rick in the building. The sweater is going to be there and some of what he has created around here,” current head coach Larry Krystkowiak said about the pending events.
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Night Line: In Wake of Majerus Passing On, His Billikens Push On

Posted by BHayes on January 11th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

No team endured a more difficult first month of the season than the Saint Louis Billikens. November was a struggle on the court, as they listlessly stumbled to a 3-3 beginning. Not the opening that the preseason Atlantic 10 favorites had hoped for, but all that mattered little on December 2 when news came that former coach Rick Majerus had passed away. The controversial Majerus’ legacy is still being sorted out, but what cannot be denied is the SLU basketball revival he oversaw. More importantly, as he had done at each of his previous coaching stops, the charismatic Majerus profoundly impacted many of his players’ lives along the way. His passing left this Saint Louis basketball season at a crossroads; a disappointing year could easily head into complete freefall, or a core that Majerus brought to SLU could use their old coach’s passing as inspiration for a turnaround. Nine wins and zero losses later, it appears quite clear which direction the Billikens have chosen.

Saint Louis Is Happy To Have Kwamain Mitchell Back

Saint Louis Is Happy To Have Kwamain Mitchell Back

Majerus’ death will be a motivator for St. Louis right up until the moment their season ends, but there are practical reasons for the turnaround as well. For starters, none of the three early season losses look especially bad anymore, now that Santa Clara has surprisingly continued its winning ways (12-5 on the year) with the Broncos even giving Duke a scare at Cameron Indoor Stadium at the end of 2012. The December schedule also relented somewhat for the Billikens, as their next six games came in the friendly confines of Chaifetz Arena, and only one pitted St. Louis against a top-200 team (Valparaiso). Six straight wins had to help their confidence before the Billikens’ next real test, and SLU responded against a solid New Mexico team, delivering a resounding 60-46 New Years’ Eve victory. Also making things easier against the Lobos was the return of senior guard Kwamain Mitchell, who had made his season debut just three days earlier. Mitchell may not have been his sharpest self against New Mexico (or even tonight against UMass), but SLU head man Jim Crews has to feel better with his star player back on the floor.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #5: Rick Majerus Passes Away

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

The outpouring of nostalgic literature produced in the immediate aftermath of Rick Majerus’ passing bore a common theme. Everyone had a personal anecdote to relate, a unique encounter that spoke louder than general platitudes and standard obituary prose. For some, the stories dealt with Majerus’ shameless discussion of personal toils with health issues. Others described his astounding disregard for normative comportment Majerus would often receive guests in his hotel residence with nothing but a towel cloaking his massive figure – or the wacky recruiting tactics, or the borderline obsessive eagerness to talk hoops at all times. The post-mortem compendium of Majerus remembrances painted a picture of a basketball coach, teacher of the game and man whose underlying trait was an adherence to the obscure and the outlandish, and a resistance to the conventional.

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The Other 26: The RIP, Rick Majerus Edition

Posted by IRenko on December 8th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

We start this week on a somber note, adding our voices to those who have mourned the passing of Rick Majerus. Much has been said, and said well, about his place in the game, as a teacher, a tactician, and a person. But his loss is felt especially deeply by fans of mid-major basketball. That’s in part, of course, because Majerus coached exclusively at non-BCS schools. He will go down with greats like Don Haskins and John Cheney as coaches whose imprint on the game far exceeded the imprint of the conferences in which their teams played. Most coaches who excel at the mid-major level quickly ascend to the top rungs of the game, a fact to which the annual coaching carousel testifies. Majerus never made the leap, his one opportunity prematurely aborted due to his ongoing health problems. As a result, he may never be mentioned in the same breath as Wooden, Knight, Smith, Krzyzewski, Rupp, or Allen, though he was perhaps their equal, if not better, when it came to Xs and Os.  But Majerus was able to do something that those greats were not — to make a distinctive mark on the game while operating from its periphery.

The Mid-Major Community Has Lost An Icon With The Passing Of Rick Majerus (Getty Images)

Yet, there was much more to what made Majerus a mid-major icon. It wasn’t just that he was coaching at the margins of the game, it’s that he seemed to be living at the margins of life. Has there ever been a more unlikely figure to pace the sideline at a National Championship game than the bald and portly Majerus, a divorced and childless bachelor living for years in a hotel and who, 30 years earlier, had been cut from his high school basketball team? We were all familiar with Majerus’ public battle with his appetite, which had exacted a personal and professional toll long before it took his life last week. Even the heartwarming stories of Majerus’ devotion to his mother seemed a constant reminder that this was a man who had formed no lasting human attachments beyond the one he came into the world with. He was a misfit and despite his disarming and self-deprecating personality, an easy target for ridicule.  But he proved that you don’t need All-American talent, All-American looks, or an All-American family to make good on an All-American promise — that one’s starting point does not dictate their destination. It is the maxim by which mid-major basketball abides, and for the past 30 years it has had no greater exemplar than the one we lost last week. May he rest in peace.

TO26 Top Ten

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Award Tour: The Struggles of Ranking Cody Zeller

Posted by DCassilo on December 7th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What do we do about Cody Zeller? That’s what we’re asking after his second game this season with fewer than 10 points. The preseason pick for Player of the Year has simply not been the monster in the middle that was expected, but he hasn’t been a disappointment either. We’ll start with the bad. He’s scored 20 or more points just twice in eight games and is averaging a pedestrian 15 PPG and 7.6 RPG this season. You’ll find about 100 players with numbers like that. Now the good. He’s shooting 63.2 percent from the field and his numbers are almost identical to his stellar freshman season. To be honest though, Zeller is likely staying as high as he is on this list based on expectation. But now we’re giving him one final chance. If he doesn’t break out by the end of December, he’ll be off the top 10 list.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Elias Harris – Gonzaga (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG

Harris has Gonzaga thinking national title. (AP)

As a senior, Harris is finally coming into his own in all areas of the game. That has especially been true for his offense. After a slow start, he’s scored at least 16 points in five of his last six games. As Gonzaga continues to win, his candidacy will pick up steam. This week: December 8 vs. Illinois

9. Isaiah Canaan – Murray State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 21.4 PGG, 3.7 RPG, 3.9 APG

With one game this past week against an NAIA opponent, Canaan essentially had an off week. His slight fall down the rankings has more to do with the other players on the list than with himself. Canaan’s biggest challenge for the rest of the season will be playing well enough to overshadow his weak competition. This week: December 8 at Evansville

8. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 24.4 PPG, 5.0 RP, 3.2 APG

We’ve said all season that if a player from a conference like the Patriot League is going to win this, he needs to be beyond spectacular. McCollum has been close to that, but performances like the 13 points he put up against Fordham in his last game won’t cut it. Chances are we’ll see another 30-point game from him soon enough, though. This week: December 8 vs. St. Francis (Pa.)

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Pac-12 M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2012

  1. Gonzaga’s last second win over Washington State on Wednesday night goes down as one of the best games of the young season so far, and while Ken Bone and the Cougars aren’t big on the concept of the moral victory against a bitter rival, there are some good things they can take away from that game. First and foremost, their stars stepped up in a big way. Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy combined for five threes in a four-and-a-half minute stretch to bring the Cougs back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game and set up the final scramble. And if WSU has any plans to turn around a slow start to the year, it will need to be on the backs of those two. The other big thing is that, while this team will be without a traditional point guard the whole year, Bone seems to have cobbled together a workable solution. Mike Ladd seems to do most of the play-making in the halfcourt set, but guys like Royce Woolridge, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Lacy have all pitched in and assembled a good point-guard-by-committee group that is doing an excellent job limiting turnovers and getting WSU into their sets. It was bumpy at the start of the year, but the Gonzaga loss proved to me, at least, that the situation is workable.
  2. Meanwhile, Utah, another team expected to finish near the bottom of the conference, was able to come up with its best performance of the year in blowing out Boise State. On a night when the Utes honored former head coach Rick Majerus prior to the game, Utah center Jason Washburn said “we felt like Coach Majerus was with us all night; he was right on the bench with us, smiling down.”  Washburn went 6-of-6 from the field to pace an incredibly hot shooting night for the Utes, in which they shot a ridiculous 78.8% eFG. Block U calls the win the best by the program in the last four years, and, although I could nitpick, it is being taken as a sign by the Ute faithful that Larry Krystkowiak has got this ship headed in the right direction.
  3. We’ve talked a lot about Mark Lyons over the last few days, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News has his own take on his transition to the point, which includes the unconvincing argument of “hey, they’re beating a lot of bad teams by a lot of points!” But, DeCourcy does make the point that Lyons is never really the sole ballhandler on the floor for Arizona and that Sean Miller is quite pleased with Lyons’ production. I would maybe go even one step further and say that, while Lyons is the closest thing to a point guard on the team, very rarely is he tasked with being the initiator of the halfcourt offense, a role that just as often falls to either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson. Lyons may spend a bit more time with the ball in his hands this year than he did last year playing with Tu Holloway at Xavier, but really, Miller hasn’t exactly tried to rebuild Lyons from the ground up.
  4. Even with UCLA’s struggles out of the gate, Shabazz Muhammad still thinks his team is going to make an impact in the Pac-12 this season, even if it has been relegated to sleeper status by their early losses. He told the Petros and Money show on Fox Radio on Wednesday how he feels about the rest of the season. But, the big takeaway from Muhammad’s comments (other than the overwhelming use of the word “really”) may be that Ben Howland has “become a players’ coach.” Muhammad ties that comment to the change that encourages the team to get out in transition more, and it is true that UCLA’s averaging about three more possessions per game this year than last, but certainly Howland is still trying to figure out the sweet spots on both ends of the floor for this team.
  5. Another team that has earned the title “sleeper team” in the Pac-12 is Oregon, off to a 7-1 start behind the production of an all-freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. While senior leader E.J. Singler is quick to praise his younger players, Dana Altman, ever the coach, sees the need for better consistency and better shot selection out of the backcourt duo. Still, he sees them as key cogs in the long-term plans for the Ducks. And, an already deep and talented team expects to get even deeper and more talented, when freshman Arik Armstead is expected to join the team in January. Armstead, a defensive tackle for the Ducks football team, won’t join the team until after Oregon’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl (January 3 against Kansas State) and it’ll take some time for him to get into basketball shape and learn the ins and outs of the teams’ sets, but he’s been spending a bit of time working with team managers. Just how much of an impact he’ll have is unknown, especially with a now deep Ducks big man rotation, but you can never have too much talent, can you?
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ATB: Florida Drills Florida State, Colorado Lives Up To Smack Talk, and the Best Tribute Yet to Rick Majerus…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 6th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. A Reminder Of College Basketball’s Lesser-Touted Rivalries. When you think college basketball rivalries, you think Duke-Carolina or Kentucky-Louisville. You think about infectiously enthusiastic student sections and fight songs and longstanding grievances. Wednesday night ran the gamut on college hoops rivalries, from the bloodletting knockout that took place on Florida State’s home floor, to the grossly underrated but cancelled BYU-Utah State clash in Provo, to Colorado’s nascent feud between the Buffaloes and Rams. Three different games, all of different styles and talent levels, each with its own unique outcome. Nothing comes close to the Commonwealth’s rivalry or the famed Tobacco Road clash, but Wednesday night provided a diverse selection of some of the nation’s lesser-known tussles. These games often get swept under the rug in the face of more storied fixtures between blueblood programs. I get that. Rivalries mean different things to different segments of the college basketball-watching public. Let this be a plea for greater and more careful analysis of the lesser known hatefests. Disillusioned by Wednesday night’s events though you may be, give these rivalry games a few minutes of your TV allotment. You won’t be disappointed.

Your Watercooler Moment. Florida’s Good and All, But What Happened To The Seminoles? 

The Seminoles are reeling after this latest blitzing in Tallahassee (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The key to unlocking Florida State’s typically suffocating defense is not difficult to discover. No one’s getting worked up about preparing for the Seminoles’ relentless pressure, or their ability to turn you over, or disrupt your offensive flow. That’s a safe conclusion to make following the Seminoles’ most embarrassing result yet in a long line of disappointing outcomes to open the season. Rival Florida handed Florida State its fourth home loss, and did so with a punctuating 25-point margin of defeat, just three days after losing at home to Mercer and eight days after Minnesota’s win at the Tucker Center. I could go on about how incredibly dominant Florida looked, how well the Gators defended, how the ability to sustain tonight’s complete effort over any extended context precludes but the slightest challenge from a Kentucky, Missouri or whoever else wants to emerge from the muck of mediocrity in the SEC to challenge the Gators for a league crown. I’m more concerned with Florida State, because the Seminoles are no longer the most perplexing team in the country. They’ve long retired that label. I’m starting to wonder whether Leonard Hamilton’s team simply isn’t what it was billed to be. Not only are the Seminoles not defending – after ranking first nationally in defensive efficiency in 2010 and 2011, the Seminoles have dropped to 80th in that category – they’re not scoring efficiently enough (their 107.1 offensive rating ranks 54th in the country) to offset their aberrant ball-stopping tendencies. The Seminoles need to figure things out sooner rather than later. They’ve squandered every prime non-conference opportunity, which means they’ll need to run through ACC play with minimal hiccups in order to secure an NCAA Tournament berth and continue their recent curve of success under Hamilton.

Video of the night. Many were quick to praise the Gators after their evisceration of the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Florida has every right to be excited — not only about Wednesday night’s comprehensive beatdown but also their place in the national landscape.

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