RTC Weekly Primer: At Long Last, It’s Basketball Season

Posted by Henry Bushnell on February 3rd, 2015

It’s basketball season. At long last, it’s basketball season. It’s a shame that the general sports-loving public takes so long to realize that’s the case, but regardless of their failures and inadequacies, it’s time to look ahead. Football is finally and definitively over, and it’s time for the roundball and the hardwood floor to take center stage on the American sports landscape. The Super Bowl was awesome — one of the greatest of all-time, and a phenomenal advertisement for the competitiveness of the NFL — but as always, it was a bit anti-climactic. After two weeks of buildup, it’s all over; and just like that, there is a major void on the sports scene.

There's No Better Environment That Those in College Basketball (USA Sports Images)

There’s No Better Environment That Those in College Basketball (USA Sports Images)

College basketball must fill that void. For the dedicated fans, it undoubtedly will. But a frequently posed question in recent years has been whether college basketball has become a “niche sport”? According to a recent Harris poll, the game has indeed declined in popularity. Currently only three percent of American sports fans identify college hoops as their go-to game — down from five percent in 2011, and 10 percent in 1989 — and only a seismic shift in popularity could see the sport return to its peak levels in the 1980s and 1990s. Does that matter? For those who attach themselves to the overall health and growth of the game, yeah, it does. But at least in the short run from now until April 6, no poll will inhibit the joy we derive from the on-court action of college basketball. “Niche” can be viewed as a demeaning word when it is used in this context, but niche is fine so long as it can produce compelling games like Duke-Virginia in Charlottesville on Saturday and atmospheres like Kansas-Iowa State in Allen Fieldhouse last night.

Three for the Money

  • West Virginia at Oklahoma | Tuesday, 8:00 PM EST, ESPN2. After an explosive Big Monday of important (if not competitive) games, it’s a rather slow work week in the world of college hoops. But before we jump ahead to the weekend’s action, let’s not lose sight of this one on Tuesday night in Norman. It’s time to focus on the season that West Virginia is putting together. All of a sudden, the Mountaineers at 6-2 appear to be the biggest threat to Kansas in the Big 12 race. Bob Huggins has done a spectacular job in rebuilding this team after a couple of down years. He has possibly the conference’s best player in senior Juwan Staten but his true value with this year’s group has been molding them into a new identity featuring pressure defense all over the floor. Four West Virginia players rank among the nation’s top 100 in steal percentage, and the team prides itself on turning opponents over and getting out in transition. Tonight’s game could go either way. Oklahoma could get sucked into West Virginia’s traps and come out on the wrong end of a helter-skelter contest; or the Sooners could constantly be in attack mode, using the fast tempo and a raucous home crowd to play right into their hands.

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Tulsa’s Shaquille Harrison Defines Throwback Guard

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 21st, 2015

If you spend enough time mining websites like KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com for statistical oddities, you are bound to find some numbers that just don’t jibe with your understanding of college basketball and its players. For example, the season that Tulsa’s Shaquille Harrison is having isn’t just at odds with everyone’s understanding of what makes for an effective shooting guard, it is nearly unbelievable. If the season were to end today, there is little doubt that Harrison would be a first team all-AAC performer. The junior has been the best player on the only undefeated team in conference play and he is probably in the mix for conference Player of the Year honors as well. He is fourth in the conference in scoring (15.4 PPG), eighth in assists (3.3 APG), second in steals (1.8 SPG), and he is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor — combining for a solid Offensive Rating of 108.9. Amid all of those impressive numbers, it is his shooting percentage that deserves the most attention because Harrison has done it without the benefit of a serviceable jump shot.

Shaquille Harrison Has Been One Of The Best Offensive Players In The AAC Without Being Able To Shoot

Harrison Is One Of The Best Offensive Players In The AAC, Only He Can’t Shoot. (James Gibbard/Tulsa World)

In his first two seasons with the Golden Hurricane, Harrison was a volume scorer who occasionally filled up the box score. This season, however, he has transformed into a much more efficient offensive player without changing his style of play, which is noteworthy because he doesn’t play like a stereotypical two-guard. Frank Haith said it best after Harrison contributed 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting  in a an early January win over Houston. “He is so good off the dribble. Everyone plays him the same way, they play him for the drive,” the head coach said. “And he still drives it.” Coaches are prone to exaggeration but in this case Haith might be downplaying just how often Harrison “drives it.” Consider this comparison: According to Hoop-Math, 67.4 percent of Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor’s shot attempts come at the rim. This makes great sense because Okafor is a 6’10” athletic marvel who is probably the best big man in college basketball. Harrison, on the other hand, is a lanky 6’4″ combo guard who typically would be jacking three-pointers, but instead takes a whopping 68.2 percent of his shots at the rim. Let that sink in for a second. A combo guard from a perimeter-oriented team is taking more shots at the rim than one of the best offensive big men in recent college basketball history. It’s certainly not what a modern combo guard’s shot distribution is supposed to look like, but what’s especially crazy is that the strategy is working very well for Harrison and his team. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 01.20.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 20th, 2015

morning5

  1. Most fans probably missed the most significant news in college basketball from over the weekend when the so-called schools from Power 5 conferences voted nearly unanimously (except Boston College) to pass a rule that will allow them to pay student-athletes between $2,000 and $4,000 per semester depending on the school towards a cost-of-attendance stipend. The rule extends beyond just the schools in those five conferences so beginning in August all schools will have the option of providing this to their student-athletes. It will be interesting to see how student-athletes who attend schools that decide not to provide this stipend react. It was also noteworthy that 15 of 80 votes on the measure came from student-athletes themselves (three each from the five power conferences).
  2. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times… Well, Southern Methodist might find out the hard way as the NCAA has opened up an investigation into reported academic improprieties at the school. We might not consider this that noteworthy or ignominious except this might end up being the third time that Larry Brown could leave a school with NCAA violations. We aren’t sure of the details of the investigation, but we do know that Brown’s time at the school has certainly made life a lot busier for the reporters covering the SMU basketball beat. In a one week span, Xavier transfer Justin Martin announced that he was leaving the program and turning pro, assistant coach Ulric Maligi (the program’s top recruiter) too an indefinite leave of absence, and former McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier was ruled academically ineligible. And now they have this. With all of the noise surrounding Brown and the relative lack of success he has had (still impressive given the program he inherited) we have to wonder how much longer he will be around at the school.
  3. Michigan‘s rough season got a lot worse over the weekend after Caris LaVert breaking his left foot and will miss the rest of the season. For LaVert it will be another surgery for the same foot he broke in May and required surgery on at that time. The season has been nothing short of the disastrous for the Wolverines so far and with this injury (LaVert leads them in points, rebounds, assists, and steals) they can forget about making the NCAA Tournament. It remains unclear what LaVert’s plan will be after the season as he could theoretically come back in time for draft workouts and would likely be a first-round pick even with any concerns about that left foot.
  4. Notre Dame got a huge boost late last week when they announced that Zach Auguste was eligible to play again after missing one game (against Georgia Tech) due to unspecified academic issues (a suspension by the school not the program). Auguste, who is the team’s only reliable big man, only played 9 minutes in their win over Miami, but he is indispensable for the team going forward. While Auguste is valuable offensively (second on the team in scoring) they could probably function reasonably well offensively without him. That isn’t the case on the defensive end where they need his size if they want to make a deep run in March.
  5. There were also a couple notable transfers late last week. The more prominent one was the expected decision by Kuran Iverson to transfer from Memphis. We aren’t sure about what exactly went into Iverson’s transfer, but we are guessing the decision to part ways was mutual after Iverson retweeted a tweet critical of Josh Pastner after Iverson has been suspended for violating team rules. Although Iverson was highly touted out of high school he only averaged 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game this season. The other transfer news, which gathered less headlines but might be more impactful, was that Marcus Marshall had decided to transfer from Missouri State. The decision by Marshall, who led the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game (second in the Missouri Valley Conference), came after he had been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Marshall will be a highly coveted transfer this off-season at the very least at the mid-major level and will probably get some looks from lower-tier high-majors.
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SMU’s Alleged Academic Improprieties and How Scandals Still Follow Larry Brown

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 16th, 2015

Nearly 30 years since the NCAA lowered the boom on SMU’s football program by giving it the “death penalty,” it is time for SMU’s basketball program to take its turn in the not-so welcome crosshairs. It was reported earlier today that the school has received a Notice of Allegations from the the governing body that “includes accusations of academic improprieties.” Is anyone all that surprised that Larry Brown is once again in hot water with the NCAA? The allegations, or at least the one that sources are discussing, centers around sophomore Keith Frazier — a player who was declared ineligible earlier in the day and will miss the remainder of the season — and whether the school helped grease the wheels for Frazier’s eligibility coming out of high school. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows Mustangs’ basketball, however, as several outlets were reporting about improper grade changes and the SMU coaching staff’s involvement as far back as January. But this story shouldn’t really be about Frazier, or the imperfect and semi-hypocritical academic standards set forth by the NCAA; it should be about the SMU basketball program and Larry Brown’s dedication to flouting NCAA rules everywhere he ventures.

Larry Brown Is In Trouble With The NCAA, In Other News, The Sky Is Still Blue

Larry Brown Is In Trouble With The NCAA. In Other News, The Sky Is Still Blue.

This is the third ineligibility issue related to academics under Brown this season alone. Star forward Markus Kennedy sat out the first half of the season because of his academic shortcomings and Xavier transfer Justin Martin‘s decision to leave school to play professionally reportedly had as much to do with shoddy academics as with his desire to take his game to the next level. Now Frazier has been ruled ineligible for the rest of the season and it turns out that the “personal reasons” that forced star recruiter and assistant coach Ulric Maligi to take an indefinite leave of absence were probably related to his seemingly hands-on role in helping Frazier become eligible. The willful misinformation that SMU is putting out there is strong enough to make us look like jerks and wonder whether Frazier’s absence from Thursday’s practice actually was related to a death in the family. It sounds terribly crass to even suggest such a thing, but the Mustangs have brought this type of scrutiny on themselves because of their efforts to mask the underlying issues within the program.

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AAC M5: Welcome Back Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 9th, 2015

  1. AAC_morning5_headerIt’s been a while since a morning roundup has appeared on our fine microsite but we are bringing it back as a regular feature. We start in Dallas where, in the only conference game last night, SMU walloped Memphis, 73-59, and it was never really close. Things are getting so bad in Memphis that coach Josh Pastner is actually trying to pretend that saying things like this makes sense. We should also note that Tigers’ forward Shaq Goodwin must see Mustangs’ forward Markus Kennedy in his nightmares, because Kennedy has eaten him for lunch every time the two teams have squared off. In the three meetings between the two all-conference caliber forwards, Kennedy has averaged 18.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game (including 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting last night) while Goodwin has averaged 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. The Tigers will get one more crack at Kennedy and the Mustangs at home, but they have too much to fix between now and then to be looking that far ahead.
  2. Unfortunately for Memphis, last night’s loss was just the latest bit of disappointing news coming out of the program, as sophomore forward Kuran Iverson has washed himself in drama thanks to his lack of a social media filter. To recap: Iverson got caught retweeting criticism about his head coach and one day later was suspended for at least two games. He sat out last night’s game but folks in the know seem to think that Iverson has played his last game as a member of the team. Once perhaps the Tigers’ most promising recruit, Iverson has struggled to stay on the floor and has been a total dud for the better part of two seasons. It would be one thing if he was having a breakout season and felt the need to criticize his coach, but all he has really proven he can consistently do on the basketball court is turn the ball over, so I don’t think Pastner will lose any sleep if Iverson and the program cut ties.
  3. I wouldn’t go as far as to call UConn‘s start to the season a disappointment, but it’s safe to say that Huskies’ fans were hoping for better results thus far. The good news is that the Huskies have barely scratched the surface of their potential and now, finally, with a full complement of players, coach Kevin Ollie has some depth and flexibility to work with. Just getting everyone healthy won’t be enough, though, as almost everyone on the roster other than Ryan Boatright has been wildly inconsistent this season. But as long as the injury bug has passed and all of his players stay eligible, this team will continue to get better as conference play wears on. There should be little doubt that the Huskies remain one of the favorites to win this conference.
  4. Earlier this season, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was quoted as saying that freshman forward Gary Clark had offensive rebounding instincts “in his DNA” and thus far Clark has proven his coach prophetic. The Charlotte native not only ranks second in the AAC in rebounding, snagging almost eight caroms per game, but he also boasts one of the 35 best offensive rebounding percentages in the entire country. He is quietly having one of the best freshman seasons in the conference and has put himself in elite company when it comes to former Bearcats’ greats. His offensive game needs further development, however, as almost all of his points are a result of his yeoman’s work on the offensive glass, but once again Cronin and his staff have unearthed a gem and turned him into seemingly the next great two-way forward for the program.
  5. This has been pointed out ad nauseam elsewhere but there have really only been two bright spots for UCF this season: freshman guard Adonys Henriquez and classmate and fellow Orlando native B.J. Taylor. Each would be front-runners for the all-Freshman team in the AAC and both are legitimate candidates for Newcomer of the Year in the conference as well. A big reason why they have been so good is because they have been downright lethal from behind the three-point arc. The pair aren’t just one of the best shooting freshman combinations in the conference, they are one of the best shooting combos in the conference, period. Henriquez is second in the conference in three-point shooting and Taylor is just one spot behind his friend. Both are shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc and contribute in other ways as well. Despite how bright their futures are, I’m not sure it is bright enough to save head coach Donnie Jones’ job, which is a bummer for Jones, because the new coach will be inheriting some serious talent if he does get canned.
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AAC Midseason Awards

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 8th, 2015

Conference play is underway and its time to hand out some fictional hardware that we reserve the right to confiscate and redistribute to more deserving recipients at the end of the season. Here we go…

Player of the Year: Ryan Boatright, UConn

UConn's Ryan Boatright Will Be A Key Player To Watch In Tonight's Contest

UConn’s Ryan Boatright Has Improved His Game In All Facets This Season

Give Ryan Boatright credit: He has definitively improved his game this season. He is attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line at a career-best clip while his shooting percentages have remained in line with his career averages. The result is a more efficient offensive player who is also a more willing distributor and one of the best rebounding and defensive guards in the conference (if not the entire country). He is also the unquestioned alpha dog and best player for the conference front-runner. Despite all of that evidence, it still feels like Boatright wins this midseason award by default and that is in large part because the pool of contenders is so uninspiring. SMU‘s Nic Moore is the better offensive guard, but any coach worth his salt would rather have the Husky. Moore’s teammate Yanick Moreira has been solid, but he doesn’t scare anyone on either end of the floor. And don’t even try talking us into anyone on Cincinnati. It would actually be good for the conference if UConn steps up and Boatright runs away with this award because the AAC could use some brand-name recognition this season.

Coach of the Year: Fran Dunphy, Temple

Congrats to Fran Dunphy on His 400th Victory

After Just One Rebuilding Season, Fran Dunphy Has Temple Back On Top

Let’s say it all together now — never doubt Temple’s Fran Dunphy. The Owls’ formerly mustachioed leader not only has his team atop the AAC standings with a road win over UConn in his pocket, but Dunphy has the team well-positioned for an NCAA at-large bid thanks to no truly bad losses and a dominant win over Kansas. The Owls finished 4-14 in the AAC last season and were the conference’s worst defensive team, but now they are just one win away from matching last season’s league win total and have become one of the best defensive teams in the country. Temple has plenty of individual talent, but if the awards were handed out today, none of the players would be likely to make an all-conference team. That interesting fact has Dunphy’s fingerprints all over it as well. Tulane’s Ed Conroy is a viable candidate for this honor as well, but give me the coach who might take his team to the NCAA Tournament over a coach whose team is merely exceeding expectations.

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AAC Non-Conference Report Cards: Part II

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 6th, 2015

Conference play is well underway by now, so here is the second part of our report cards on AAC teams. Part I, including UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina and Houston, released last week.

Memphis: D

It's Been A Rocky Start To The Season For Memphis' Coach Josh Pastner

It’s Been A Rocky Start To The Season For Memphis’ Coach Josh Pastner

The good news is that all of the Tigers’ non-conference losses to date have come against teams ranked (KenPom) higher than them. The bad news is that all four of those losses have been by 12 points or more, and, even if Stephen F. Austin is putting together a pretty good season, losing to the Lumberjacks at home is not what the Tigers had in mind. A January date with Gonzaga looms, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone across the country who thinks Memphis will win that game in Spokane. Now Memphis has to hope it can dominate conference play, because if the Tigers don’t, they have an almost zero chance at securing an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament and saving Josh Pastner‘s job.

South Florida: D

Much like the Tigers, the Bulls don’t have any truly awful losses this season. But their best win was by one point at home against a mediocre Hofstra team, and the rest of their wins are against teams so bad that they’re not even worth listing here. Everyone in Tampa knew it was going to be a rebuilding year for Orlando Antigua‘s club and so losing to teams like Alabama and North Carolina State was expected. Fans, however, were also hoping for a better showing than a home loss to Georgia Southern.

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Morning Five: 12.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 29th, 2014

morning5

  1. After a few bumps to begin the season, it appears that the Larry Brown experiment at Southern Methodist appears to be getting back on track. The latest addition to the Mustangs is Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye who committed to SMU over the weekend. Although Ojeleye only put up modest numbers–3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game–in limited playing time this season, he was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and might flourish in an environment where he is not sitting behind multiple McDonald’s All-Americans. The 6’8″ sophomore will be eligible to play in December 2015 since he will have to sit out a year. When he does return, he could be part of a dynamic frontline that will probably have Markus Kennedy, Jordan Tolbert, and Ben Moore back next season.
  2. If you were expecting to see Dwayne Polee II back in a San Diego State uniform any time soon, you might want to reconsider that after Steve Fisher revealed that Polee had a similar event last season during a practice. Given this new information, we certainly understand why the school is not offering a time table for Polee’s return as he will now have to go a much more extensive medical work-up. Polee, a senior forward who is averaging 8.4 points per game, will likely be out for quite a bit more time and given the data in recent years about sudden cardiac death in Division 1 men’s basketball players we cannot fault them for being extremely cautious.
  3. It has been a rough few weeks for UCLA basketball. After the embarrassment of going down 24-0 and only scoring seven points in the first half against Kentucky, they lost to Alabama yesterday after only scoring 17 points in the first half and that is better than it seems because they only had scored five points with 5:15 left in the first half. Things will not be getting any easier for the Bruins who lost Wanaah Bail for the season after he was declared academically ineligible. On the surface, Bail’s paltry output of 1.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in 9 minutes per game might not seem like much (and it isn’t), but on a team with as little depth as UCLA has it only exacerbates that weakness even more.
  4. We tend to stay away from the AAU scene for a variety of reasons, but have heard plenty of horror stories involving the people who bankroll some teams. So when we heard about a a banker in Houston who financed a prominent AAU team, we we intrigued. Unlike the typical AAU stories we read, the key piece in this story–Steve Trauber–does not appear to have any intention of using the players for his own financial gain (and it appears that he is already doing quite well financially anyways). In fact, one of the players on the team last year was Trauber’s son, J.T., who is currently a walk-on Rice. We doubt that we will see many similar stories of rich individuals backing youth basketball teams, but it is nice to see it happen.
  5. For years we have heard arguments about which city produces the best basketball talent. We usually hear cities like New York, Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta thrown around, but it might be time that we expand our horizons. As Scott Cacciola of The New York Times notes Toronto is quickly becoming a basketball hotbed. Although they do not have the tradition of major cities in the US, the talent produced by Toronto (at least the very top tier) in recent years rivals that of any major US city. While we are not quite ready to get on board with the idea that Canada will be a legitimate threat to the US in the 2016 or 2020 Olympics, the spread of basketball outside of the US and its impact on the game and college basketball recruiting is certainly something to keep an eye on.
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Dear Santa: Conference Season is Beginning, Please Bring Help

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 25th, 2014

The man in the red suit is a busy guy right about now, but more than a few college basketball teams should be hoping Santa has time to swing by campus before his work is done. No milk and cookies were left fireside in Lexington, KY, or Durham, NC (reinforcements not needed), and some programs need seek only a stocking stuffer or two (hey there, Virginia and Wisconsin). But most teams have wish lists that stretch far longer. Conference play is here, and the blissful ignorance of the non-conference season? Long gone. In its place arrive true days of reckoning – grinding tests against peers that won’t allow deficiencies to go unpunished any longer. With conference season looming, we take a look at a handful of college basketball teams in desperate need of a gift this Christmas.

Which College Basketball Teams Will Receive A Visit From Santa This Year? (Photo Credit: AP)

Which College Basketball Teams Will Receive A Visit From Santa This Year? (Photo Credit: AP)

Iowa: Last Season’s Shooting Touch

Shoddy defense destroyed the Hawkeye’s promising start a season ago, but things have changed this winter. The defense has been much improved (22nd nationally in defensive efficiency), but a sputtering offense has left Iowa just 9-4 heading into conference play. All eight of the Hawkeye returnees have seen their three-point percentage drop this year (team: 259th nationally in three-point percentage), while only Gabriel Olaseni has improved upon his 2013-14 two-point field goal percentage (team: 232nd nationally in two-point percentage). The widespread nature of the shooting epidemic would seem to indicate some sort of systemic explanation. No Roy Devyn Marble? A lack of comfort with a quicker tempo? A coaching staff that has lost its players? Any or all of these questions could be a dig at the root cause, but even if they are, expecting some reversion to the more efficient levels of 2013-14 is entirely fair. The defense has been there; can Santa bring back the Hawkeyes’ shooting strokes?

Arkansas: Road Victories

For most of Mike Anderson’s tenure at Arkansas, the New Year (and conference play) has brought two things in bunches: home wins, and road losses. The Razorbacks are well positioned to earn their first Tournament appearance under Anderson after a 9-2 start, even if old habits die hard. The Hogs are undefeated on the home hardwood (8-0) and less perfect on the road: Both of the Hogs’ losses (Iowa State and Clemson) have come in enemy arenas. A November win at SMU should not be overlooked, but Arkansas needs to prove they can win games away from Bud Walton Arena in 2015. A depleted SEC should play the role of enabler.

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Morning Five: 12.22.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 22nd, 2014

morning5

  1. Cincinnati‘s loss on Saturday took a back seat to the bigger news that Mick Cronin would be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with an “unruptured aneurysm” during a workup for persistent headaches. Cronin, who turned around a program that appeared to be in disarray when he started there, has led the Bearcats to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances after failing to do so in his first four years at the job. With Cincinnati being one of the top medical centers in the country we would assume this will be a fairly quick work-up although that does not necessarily mean Cronin will be back any quicker than he otherwise would be.
  2. After a rough past few months Southern Methodist finally got some good news when they found out that Markus Kennedy had been cleared to play prior to their game against Michigan. Kennedy, an All-AAC performer who averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season, had been ruled academically ineligible for the first semester. In his first game back, Kennedy had five points and three rebounds in ten minutes of action during SMU’s 11-point win at Michigan.
  3. If Rick Pitino was worried about keeping his Louisville team focused with two games remaining before their showdown on December 27 against Kentucky he may have found his solution with Montrezl Harrell‘s one-game suspension. Harrell, the Cardinals’ All-American junior forward who was averaging 16.7 points and 10 rebounds per game this season, was ejected from Saturday’s win at Western Kentucky for throwing a punch. While we never expected Harrell to miss the Kentucky game as a result of this suspension he got off about as light as he and Pitino could have hoped for given the circumstances.
  4. At this point we are ready to call Fred Hoiberg the John Calipari of transfers as he seems to be almost as successful in landing big-name transfers as Calipari is at picking up McDonald’s All-Americans. His latest addition is Marquette transfer Deonte Burton who committed to Iowa State. Burton, a consensus top-100 recruit, averaged 6.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore after being expected to see more playing time this season. With Marquette’s strong incoming class it appeared less likely that Burton would see a big increase in his playing time in coming years so the decision makes sense. As for Iowa State, they seem to be reloading on transfers every year with no apparent end in sight.
  5. Mitchell Wilbekin, who had been averaging 7.6 points per game this season, has been suspended for six games for an undisclosed NCAA violation. Interestingly the first game Wilbekin missed was Saturday’s loss to Florida, his older brother Scottie’s former team. For their part, Wake Forest will appeal the ruling saying that they disagree with the NCAA both in terms of the violation and the length of the suspension. Wilbekin’s suspension means that he will miss the team’s first two ACC games, which are against Louisville and Duke that we would consider likely losses except that they are in Winston-Salem.
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AAC Bests and Worsts: Holiday Wrap-Up Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 1st, 2014

Let’s start by putting it bluntly — the teams in the AAC did not have a very good week. The conference’s final three unbeaten teams — Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF — all lost for the first time this season and the supposed standard-bearers for the conference — UConn, Memphis, SMU, and even Tulsa — all lost high-profile games and the Huskies were the only team with a realistic shot to win their game. We are now nearly a month into the season and UConn’s 11-point win against Dayton remains the best win by an AAC team. These are not fun days to be an AAC basketball fan, but the season is young, and there is time for some of these teams to turn things around. So let’s get into the best and worst of the week:

For Ryan Boatright and the rest of the AAC, Thanksgiving week wasn't too kind. (US Presswire)

For Ryan Boatright and the rest of the AAC, Thanksgiving week wasn’t too kind. (US Presswire)

  • Worst Inbounds Defense With The Game On The Line: UConn had a chance for the conference’s first statement win of the season yesterday as they led Texas at home for most of the game. But Ryan Boatright missed a free-throw to put the Huskies up by three and Texas’ relatively simple play out of the timeout worked to perfection as Jonathan Holmes was left open to bury the game-winning three-pointer. Give the Longhorns credit, they executed the play about as well as it could have been executed. But Holmes is the Longhorns’ best player and it is inexcusable that he should be left all alone no matter how good the screen was and no matter how badly injured Boatright was on they play.

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SMU is Already on the Wrong Side of the Bubble

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 26th, 2014

When the NCAA Tournament Committee shocked many bracket prognosticators by leaving a ranked SMU team out of the field of 68, committee chairman Ron Wellman was quick to point out that the Mustangs’ non-conference schedule was a bit of a joke. Wellman had a point. The Mustangs played just two teams (Arkansas and Virginia) ranked among KenPom’s top 50 teams and lost to the both. The rest of the team’s non-conference wins — against the likes of Arkansas Pine Bluff and McNeese State — were easy for the committee to ignore.

Larry Brown (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Larry Brown Needs Some Quality Wins, and Fast (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

When SMU released its 2014-15 basketball schedule, it was evident that the school had listened when Wellman dumped on its non-conference schedule.The patsies are still really, really bad, but road games against Gonzaga, Indiana, and Michigan as well as home dates with Arkansas and Wyoming were supposed to make up for those RPI killers. The only problem is that in order for those games to boost the team’s RPI, SMU needed to actually win a few of them, which they haven’t done thus far.

Last night was the Mustangs’ latest lost opportunity as they let Arkansas run out to an early double-digit lead in the first half on the road and then were unable to claw all the way back into the game, eventually losing 78-72. That loss comes just five days after SMU kicked away a second-half lead on the road in a loss to Indiana. And that loss came just three days after the Mustangs were blown out by Gonzaga in Spokane. Individually, none of these losses are truly that bad. The Razorbacks, Hoosiers, and Bulldogs are all really good teams who should make the NCAA Tournament. But together, these losses show that SMU has now nearly struck out on its chances to get a non-conference win that would impress the NCAA Tournament Committee.

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