Season In Review: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on May 15th, 2013

If you are one of those glass half-full type of people, then you could easily point out that a season which saw Pittsburgh finish 24-9 and 12-6 in the Big East is a giant step forward from the year before when the Panthers went just 22-17 and 5-13 in the conference. But chances are that if you are a Pittsburgh basketball fan, you aren’t one of those glass half-full type of people and that is because all of Pitt’s regular season success has never translated into anything more than a single trip to the Elite Eight and a few Sweet Sixteen appearances. The Panthers were good enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which likely saved coach Jamie Dixon from a wave of criticism this offseason, but it wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the Big Dance. Advanced metrics loved the Panthers because of the team’s exceptional efficiency on both ends of the floor, but that didn’t stop them from shooting 35.1 percent from the field in a first-round clunker against Wichita State and departing from the NCAA Tournament in unceremonious fashion.

Preseason Expectations

Most pundits were cautiously bullish on the Panthers’ chances of rebounding from the 2011-12 debacle. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson were both gone, but the team returned basically every other contributing player and also added Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 46.1% FG as a sophomore with the Chippewas) and ballyhooed freshman center Steven Adams, a seven-footer from New Zealand who was universally considered an NBA talent. No one expected the Panthers to shock the world this season, but both the coaches and our writers had Pitt pegged as one of the top five teams in the conference, and during the regular season at least, they made us look smart.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

The Good

Despite the disappointing finish, there are plenty of team-wide positives Dixon can point to this offseason. For starters, the Panthers’ trademark defense returned with a flourish. After finishing outside the top 150 in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12, the Panthers leaped all the way back into the top 20 in that category by creating turnovers and contesting shooters on every possession. The offense was even more efficient, finishing just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to the team’s terrific offensive rebounding, taking care of the basketball, and insistence on scoring inside of 20 feet. Also, he very much looked the part of a freshman point guard at times this season, but James Robinson (6.1 PPG and 3.5 APG in just 26.6 MPG) is going to develop into an excellent floor general for Dixon as quickly as next season. Neither Woodall nor Lamar Patterson took their games to the next level, but they were still the only two consistent offensive threats on the roster. Even Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%) proved himself to be an excellent prospect, although he didn’t exactly set the conference ablaze like so many had predicted.

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ACC M5: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 3rd, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Baltimore Sun: And then there were none. The ACC’s 2012-13 season officially came to a close Tuesday night when Maryland lost to Iowa in the NIT semifinals. The bright lights at Madison Square Garden (and the Hawkeyes’ press) forced 17 Maryland turnovers, which led to 27 Iowa points. Iowa also opted to use zone, which makes perfect sense against a team with a group of guards who struggle beyond the arc. Thus ends a frustrating season for the Terrapins, who couldn’t overcome its youth in the backcourt. The Terps’ season ended on a high note with a strong ACC Tournament performance before making the biggest stage of the NIT.
  2. Streaking the Lawn: Brian Schwartz has a good breakdown here of areas where Virginia players need to improve this offseason. Tony Bennett’s team has a lot of talent coming back next year, but the Cavaliers also need to improve in many ways. First and foremost, they need someone to step up and play point guard. But the biggest place to look for improvement is from this year’s freshmen. The young Cavaliers struggled defensively this year, which isn’t a surprise give how different Bennett’s system is from most high schools. At a minimum things look very good moving forward in Charlottesville.
  3. Orlando Sun-Sentinel: Miami will take a big step backwards next year, that much is certain. But if Jim Larranaga can make something positive of a year where he potentially loses all five of his starters (four to graduation, one to the NBA Draft), it could be good for the program going forward. The good news is Miami’s success (and proximity to Lebron James and Dwyane Wade and apparently an endless supply of awesomely garish shoes) this year should provide positive results on the recruiting trail going forward.
  4. Keeping It Heel: With the ACC now out of the postseason, it’s time to start looking ahead to the ACC’s new members. Coach K came out and said what we all know: “It makes us the most powerful basketball conference, I think, ever.” That sounds about right. And while the coming change makes me and other fans nostalgic, the prospect of more Duke-Syracuse and Louisville-North Carolina games should make up for it very quickly.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh had a rough couple of days. After getting bounced in the Round of 64, the Panthers also lost Trey Zeigler to transfer (the second of his college career) and Steven Adams to the NBA Draft. Adams averaged over seven points and six rebounds a game in a promising freshman campaign. Zeigler was less important, but his loss still won’t help Jamie Dixon’s process of building a conference contender next season.
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Morning Five: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 3rd, 2013

morning5

  1. It looks like the coaching carousel should be an opening in New Jersey pretty soon after video surfaced of Mike Rice berating players and throwing basketballs at them during several practices at Rutgers. By now pretty much every sports fan has seen it and the only question we have at this point is why Rice still has a job. When Rice was suspended for three games back in December for his behavior in practice we had no idea what could have led to that level of punishment as it appeared too harsh for something minor and too soft for something significant. It turns out the latter was true. Now we understand that emotions can sometimes get the better of us and make us do dumb things, but this was not an isolated incident as the videos show Rice acting this way on multiple occasions. At this point Rutgers has to fire Rice or should be shunned by every recruit in America not only in basketball, but instead in all sports as the lack of concern the administration has for the athletes, who are in no position to stand up for themselves, is appalling.
  2. Speaking of incompetence at the highest levels, USA Today has a pretty impressive takedown of Mark Emmert looking at his career of failing upwards. As the article points out, failure and scandal seem to follow Emmert, but like any good politician he manages to deftly avoid him. The fact that he has done so poorly at so many things may just reflect his incompetence, but the fact that he has done so and still manages to be critical of others for similar faults suggests a more manipulative, sinister side to Emmert than many would expect. If there was any question about Emmert’s ability to lead (and to push blame onto others), this article should answer those.
  3. If you are not a lawyer or have not been following the Ed O’Bannon case that closely, the primer that Andy Staples put together on the case and its potential implications is a great way to get up to speed. As some athletic directors have said this case could lead to a profound change in the business of college athletics including the way they are played. The case, which was initially thought of as little more than a legal curiosity, has come to strike fear in many in the NCAA and in athletic departments all over the country. If O’Bannon is successful in his case, it could change college athletics as we know it. As Staples points out the next big date in this case is June 20 and after that we should know a lot more about how this case may turn.
  4. As we mentioned earlier the Rutgers job should be opening up pretty soon, but there was some more news on the mid-major front (yes, we meant that) as Jimmy Patsos announced that he was leaving Loyola (MD) for Siena. Patsos, who helped turn around Loyola, apparently beat out a fairly competitive pool of candidates and will be introduced as the coach at a press conference tomorrow. At Siena, Patsos will be inheriting a once powerful mid-major that has fallen off rapidly with the departure of former coach Fran McCaffery. We aren’t sure if Patsos can get the program to the heights it saw under McCaffery, but he can certainly lift it above where it has been since McCaffery’s departure.
  5. When they decide to fix all the loopholes in transfer waiver policies one day they will use Trey Zeigler as an example of how they can go wrong. The one-time Central Michigan star transferred to Pittsburgh after last season and was granted a waiver–citing his father’s firing from Central Michigan–allowing him to play for Pittsburgh without having to sit out a year. It turns out that Pittsburgh didn’t fit him that well (and we are not just talking about his DUI in November) as Zeigler will seek to transfer again after less than a year at Pittsburgh. We are not sure what the specifics are behind Zeigler’s transfer are, but we suspect they are related to his drop in scoring from nearly 16 points per game in his first two years at Central Michigan to 4.4 points per game at Pittsburgh as he saw his minutes more than cut in half. We would guess that Zeigler is headed back to a mid-major where he can be the focal point of an offense and will be playing against lower caliber competition.
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Big East M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 5th, 2012

  1. St. John’s 81-65 loss on the road at San Francisco may have seemed like just another non-conference game in preparation for the Big East gauntlet which kicks off in early January. To Steve Lavin, though, this game meant a whole lot more. Steve’s father Cap Lavin played guard at San Francisco in the early 1950s, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1997. With his son’s trip out west, the school honored Lavin at halftime. San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kroner’s piece on this father-son relationship is an excellent read. Where many sporting parents may push their children towards athletics, Cap never put any pressure on Steve, but instead made sure that his career goal of becoming a basketball coach wasn’t him taking “the path of least resistance.” Steve’s relationship with Cap was also instrumental in helping him triumph in his recent bout with prostate cancer.
  2. The Big East Tournament has always been a big event for Connecticut faithful, and this spring’s tournament, with the impending departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, promised to be even more meaningful… until, of course, UConn was banned from all postseason play for poor APR scores. School president Susan Herbst is still fighting the ruling, citing the school’s stronger, more recent APR scores as evidence that the program has learned and improved upon past academic failures. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs theorizes that if UConn wants to overcome the “chaos” that has befallen the program and be readmitted to the Big East Tournament — and on a larger scale, be seen as having a strong athletic department again — they need to quiet Jim Calhoun. As we discussed in yesterday’s Big East M5, Calhoun recently stated that he would “never say never” in ruling out a return to coaching. Jacobs believes that Calhoun’s thirst for attention, which doesn’t seem to have dissipated even after his very public and odd retirement, is undermining the program.
  3. While the Syracuse low-post trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman, and Baye Moussa Keita have combined for a solid 18.2 points, 15.6 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game this season, Jim Boeheim still believes that this group is the one that must progress the most if the team wants to make a championship run this season. The Orange’s 2-3 zone has been especially active and long this season to the tune of 81 steals through six games, but their corresponding interior defense has been a bit weak at times. Boeheim is worried that a good mid-range jump shooter or a strong offensive big man could do some damage against his defense. Syracuse could also use a strong presence inside on offense when the shooting stroke from outside runs cold, as it did for stretches against Eastern Michigan on Monday.
  4. USF (the Big East one this time) seems to be gaining its sea legs after a rough few games to start the year, and are prepared to take on #23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. One can point to the improved health of Anthony Collins as one reason for the Bulls’ improved play. After missing a game against Stetson due to a lingering calf injury, Collins had one of his best games of the year against Georgia, scoring 17 points and adding 10 assists. A win in Stillwater would give USF a solid non-conference road win, and re-energize the thoughts of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. After the Oklahoma State game, USF has a 13-day break to focus on practice and schoolwork, so look for the Bulls to come out with a very strong effort knowing that rest is on the way.
  5. Pittsburgh could get back junior swingman Trey Zeigler as early as tonight for the Panthers’ City Game against Duquesne. Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan after his father Ernie was fired as head coach, was charged with a DUI on November 26 and was suspended indefinitely from the team. The scoring guard was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and had averaged 6.2 points per game for Pitt before his suspension — during his two years with the Chippewas, he averaged around 16 points per game so he could provide a great offensive spark for the Panthers if he gets back into a rhythm.
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Morning Five: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 27th, 2012

  1. The big news of the day was that Gorgui Dieng, Louisville’s anchor on the inside, would be out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured scaphoid. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t a huge setback for the Cardinals  as they will still probably be a top two seed when Selection Sunday rolls around barring some collapse. Rick Pitino is pointing towards the start of Big East play as the target date for Dieng’s return, but we are looking for a return a little bit before that–on December 29 at home against Kentucky. Louisville has a couple of interesting games between now and their match-up with the Wildcats, but they should be able to win all of those games relatively easily with the possible exception of a game against Missouri in a little under two weeks.
  2. We wondered how long Jamie Dixon would suspend Trey Zeigler after Zeigler’s DUI arrest over the weekend and we are still wondering as Dixon handed down the ubiquitous, but nebulous indefinite suspension. Zeigler was found asleep at the wheel of his Hummer (likely from his dad before any of you start talking about NCAA investigations although it is a different sort of hardship we guess) with a subsequent blood-alcohol content of 0.129 (above the legal limit of 0.08) and then reportedly vomited in his holding cell. Zeigler, who was expected to have an immediate impact for the Panthers, has been limited to a reserve role, but may have cost himself a shot at getting any meaningful minutes before the start of conference play. Zeigler’s preliminary hearing is set for February 5, but we expect that Dixon will come to a decision on the length of Zeigler’s punishment well before that.
  3. With the ACC-Big Ten Challenge nearly upon us there are several fairly big injuries to catch up on. The one that is the most certain involves North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston, who will miss today’s game against Indiana after spraining his left knee during a practice over the weekend. Hairston’s absence will hamper the Tar Heels’ hopes of pulling off an upset at Assembly Hall in what already was an extremely challenging environment for the young Tar Heels to come out of with a victory. The other two significant injuries come from the Big Ten and the state of Michigan specifically, but according to reports both Tim Hardaway Jr (recovering from a knee to his head–possibly a concussion, but the reports are vague) and Travis Trice (concussion) are expected to play in their games against North Carolina State and Miami, respectively.
  4. We have talked quite a bit about conference realignment in this space, but Denver appears to be taking it to an extreme as they are reportedly on the verge of moving to the Summit League from the WAC next year making it their third conference in three years. On some level we can understand Denver’s move as they went to the WAC that was hemorrhaging teams, but then realized they were in a failing conference so they had to move on for the sake of the athletic department, but on some level (ok, many levels) it just feels wrong.
  5. Over the past year we have seen quite a few players transfer from a program to be with an ailing family member. Unfortunately for North Carolina State’s Thomas de Thaey, a native of Belgium, that was not an option as he announced that he would be leaving the school to return to Belgium to be near his father, who is battling cancer. He will reportedly pursue a professional career in Belgium while being near his father. As for the Wolfpack, they will have to adjust their already short rotation to absorb the loss of de Thaey, who was averaging 9 minutes per game this year.
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Mid-American Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2012

Ethan Back is the MAC correspondent for RTC.

Top Storylines

  • Will Ohio Be Able to Reach the Sweet Sixteen Again? After an extremely successful season that ended in an overtime loss in the Sweet Sixteen against ACC power North Carolina, Ohio will look to make another deep NCAA Tournament run. The Bobcats have a lot of hype to live up to, as they return all of their significant contributors from a season ago, including standouts D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Not all of the personnel returns from a season ago, however, with former head coach John Groce now at Illinois, but new head coach Jim Christian will look to keep momentum going.

Ohio’s D.J. Cooper Hopes To Follow One Head-Turning Season With Another. (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

  • Toledo’s Postseason Ban: Toledo has a very solid core intact from the 2011-12 season, so it’s a real shame that the Rockets won’t be able to qualify for postseason play due to its academic problems. Luckily for the Rockets, two of its best players (Rian Pearson and Julius Brown) are underclassmen, so they’ll still get a chance to win the MAC Tournament in future years, assuming they stay in school beyond the 2012-13 season.
  • East vs. West: Last season, the East had five teams finish with a winning record, whereas the West had a measly one. This clear imbalance within the MAC doesn’t have serious ramifications, as the conference tournament seeds are not based on division, but for the sake of self-respect, the West will hope to have a better season than it did last year.
  • No More Zeiglers: Winning games hasn’t been an easy task for Central Michigan these past two seasons, as its 12-20 conference record during that span indicates. It won’t be any easier this year after the firing of head coach Ernie Zeigler led to the transfer of his son and the Chippewas’ leading scorer Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh. New head coach Keno Davis brings great experience to the program, but his first season on the job will likely be a rough one.

Reader’s Take I

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Big East Summer Capsules: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on July 20th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Pittsburgh.

1. Not to be outdone, this season will be Pittsburgh’s last hurrah in the Big East too.

After Syracuse announced it had come to terms with the Big East on a departure date, you knew it wouldn’t take long for Pittsburgh to follow suit and the Panthers surprised no one when they announced they would be leaving at the same time as Syracuse. The school will have to pay the Big East $7.5 million, but that is chump change compared to what the school stands to make after the switch to the ACC. The real losers here are once again Big East basketball fans. Physical, gritty, and well-coached, the Panthers epitomized Big East basketball and also just so happened to be one of its best programs under Ben Howland and now Jamie Dixon. They don’t have the same storied history and star power that Syracuse has, but fantastic players such as Brandin Knight, Levance Fields, Carl Krauser, and DeJuan Blair all left indelible marks of the basketball memories of fans, and the league will be hard-pressed to find a team to replace Pitt.

2. Get ready for the emergence of Lamar Patterson.

Lamar Patterson is poised for a huge junior season. Photo: Associated Press

Ashton Gibbs has graduated after what feels like eight years in a Panthers’ uniform and he has taken an awful lot of points with him. The Panthers are in the market for some scoring. Transfer Trey Zeigler – more on him in a minute – should help, but based on summer league reviews, the player who will be the most help in the scoring department is junior Lamar Patterson. Everyone seems to agree that Patterson’s solid but unspectacular statistics have been because he wasn’t selfish enough. Well apparently he got the message, and so he has used his improved shooting touch and aggression to basically dominate summer league competition and put himself atop the list of potential breakout candidates for next season. He has always had physicality and athleticism to become a standout performer, but now it appears he has added the necessary polish to be one of the conference’s most improved and well-rounded players.

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Morning Five: 05.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 28th, 2012

  1. On Friday the NCAA ruled that Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler would be able to play for Pittsburgh next season without having to sit out the usual one year. Citing historical precedent, Zeigler was granted a waiver because his father, Ernie, had been fired by Central Michigan. The addition of Zeigler to the Panther roster gives them one of the best backcourts in the country and makes them a potential top 25 team even if they have to work out a few things after last season’s disaster. We should note the curious decision by the NCAA to give athletes a waiver in this situation. Even though we are all for giving student-athletes the best opportunity to improve themselves it seems like the NCAA is creating some of these rules arbitrarily as your father losing a job is very different from someone in your family battling a terminal illness. In any event, it will be interesting to see how the Panthers utilize Zeigler over the next two seasons.
  2. As expected Connecticut transfer Roscoe Smith announced that he will be transferring to UNLV after leaving the Huskies program that will be forced to sit out next year’s NCAA Tournament. It is expected that Smith will be able to play for UNLV next season as his former team is ineligible for the postseason. If it is true, it could create a potential glut in the frontcourt for the Rebels. In fact, it will probably seem strange to many observers to say that a Mountain West team might be better to have a player who got regular minutes in the Big East sit out a year, but having Smith for two more years post-Mike Moser years might be of more benefit to the program. We doubt that Smith would want to do that so we might be seeing ridiculously early “buzzer-beater” shots coming to Las Vegas very soon.
  3. Another one of the 10 defendants charged in an illegal gambling ring that tried to influence the outcome of San Diego basketball games pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court. Richard Thweni became the third individual to enter a guilty plea in the case investigating the gambling operation that reportedly ran from January 2009 until April 2011. There are still seven more individuals who are waiting to be tried in court (or enter pleas), but we are unsure if all of the information surrounding reported attempts to influence those basketball games will ever come out.
  4. After a rumor was started that three teams from the ACC–Florida State, Clemson, and Miami–were looking at the possibility of moving to the Big 12. Of course that rumor was quickly refuted as a miscommunication, but it still got plenty of people talking. We did not really read too much into this as we assume that every school is constantly on the lookout for options that are better for themselves. Shawn Eichorst, Miami’s athletic director,  felt it was necessary to reiterate the Miami’s commitment to the ACC. It seems like a curious statement to make at least publicly, but to us there is only one translation–none of the better conferences want the Hurricanes right now..
  5. Remember all that talk about Kendall Marshall coming back from a scaphoid fracture to play within a week? It turns out that there was more wrong with Marshall than just that fracture as he also had a fractured elbow. In reality the injury is academic since no reputable medical staff would have cleared Marshall to play with the scaphoid fracture he sustained, but it makes all the talk about him playing again so soon in the NCAA Tournament seem even more ridiculous.
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Most Impactful Incoming Transfers For Next Season

Posted by EJacoby on April 18th, 2012

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

As most of the top high school recruits have signed their letters of intent and the NBA Draft early entries finish piling up (official deadline: April 29), we’re starting to get a much clearer picture of next season’s rosters. But the other huge factor to consider is the transfer ‘market,’ in which hundreds of players decide to change schools every offseason. Always an unaccounted-for variable in recruiting, certain transfers can drastically change programs. The majority of names on the transfer list each season are players that won’t leave significant dents in a program (coming or going), but there are always some notable departures. Here we lay out the transfers that will have the most significant impact for next season. In that context, this list only includes top incoming players that will be eligible in 2012-13. Most players must sit out for a full year after a transfer, so many of these guys have not been in the news for over a year. We haven’t forgotten about them, and neither should you.

Alex Oriakhi Won a National Title at UConn and Gets to Play Next Season for Missouri (Getty Images/R. Martinez)

INCOMING – These players will be eligible next season for their new teams.

  • Jared Swopshire, Northwestern – He’s taking advantage of the ‘graduate program’ rule in which he can play immediately next season after transferring this offseason, thanks to having graduated from his former school (Louisville) with a year of basketball eligibility still remaining. Despite limited playing time at Louisville, Swopshire is a versatile and talented forward that will look to replace the departed star forward John Shurna and lead Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament, which is still possible with several returning starters.
  • Alex Oriakhi, Missouri – And the run of Missouri Tigers begins. Oriakhi is eligible immediately next season for a different kink in the rules (UConn being postseason-ineligible), and he fills an important role as a big man for a talented team that lacks size. Laurence Bowers returns from injury next season and Oriakhi steps in as another experienced forward for Mizzou.
  • Jabari Brown, Missouri – This top 20 recruit left Oregon and will be a huge get for Mizzou. The very talented 6’5” guard Brown will help replace the scoring void of departed shooter Marcus Denmon.
  • Earnest Ross, Missouri – Another 6’5” guard, Ross was the leading scorer at Auburn two seasons ago and will step in as another talented scorer for Frank Haith’s Tigers. He can help replace another departed star in Kim English.
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Morning Five: 04.09.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2012

  1. Sometimes the coaching carousel is a strange creature. Later today, Trent Johnson will be announced as the next head coach at TCU. This would not be that notable except that Johnson is leaving LSU to take the job. Johnson has compiled a respectable 226-184 record in stops at Nevada, Stanford, and LSU, but that number is slightly inflated by three exceptional seasons at each stop where his team went 25-9, 28-8, and 27-8. Outside of those three seasons his record is 146-159. Now it may not be fair to exclude those three seasons because we could just as easily exclude his 9-20, 11-20, and 11-20 seasons, but it does point out some degree of inconsistency within his programs. Although Johnson still had a job at LSU perhaps he feared for his long-term security or had some issues with the administration there. In any event it does make an interesting situation when a coach left LSU to take over at TCU for a coach who went to Ohio, which is just about the exact opposite of what you would expect for most sports.
  2. After coaching at Florida International for three seasons Isiah Thomas was fired by the school on Friday. Thomas, who was a NBA legend as a player, but much less successful in his career afterwards, went 26-65. The initial thought that was perhaps with his name recognition and ties to Chicago he could bring in the type of players that would turn the school’s basketball program around. Unfortunately that was not the case and the team stumbled to a 8-21 record this season. Thomas appeared to be disappointed with the school’s decision and stated that he had been told he would get five years to turn the program around instead of the three years that he was given.  Thomas like most coaches who are fired claims that he was on the verge of turning the program around with several key incoming recruits. It will be interesting to see if the incoming coach will be able to keep those recruits and how Thomas will be viewed if those recruits can live up to his claims.
  3. After being led by Charlie Coles for sixteen seasons before he stepped down one month ago, Miami (Ohio) is set to introduce John Cooper as its next head coach. After being turned down by Arizona assistant coach James Whitford, the Red Hawks elected to pursue the Tennessee State coach, who led his team to the OVC championship game just three years after taking over a team that went 14-16 his first season. Perhaps, the most memorable moment of Cooper’s brief tenure at Tennessee State was their win over Murray State earlier this year giving the Racers their only loss of the regular season. Cooper will have a difficult task of following Coles, who was an icon within the program and the MAC. Fortunately for Cooper and the Red Hawks, we do not expect them to play Michigan any time soon.
  4. Later today, Eastern Illinois will introduce Jay Spoonhour as its next coach. Jay is the son of the well-known and well-liked late Charlie Spoonhour, who died of complications related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis earlier this year. Spoonhour’s coaching experience has been limited to time as an assistant at several programs and some time as a head coach at the junior college level including a national championship in 2001. His only head coaching experience came in 2004 when he acted as an interim coach for his father while at UNLV and went 6-3 during his brief run.
  5. Outside of the transfer of Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh there was some significant player movement as a few players announced that their plans for the NBA Draft. In one of the more surprising decisions we have seen, Khris Middleton has decided to leave Texas A&M forgoing his final year of eligibility. Based on what we have seen on mock drafts/draft boards Middleton is probably a late first/early second round pick. Given his injury issues this season, we figure it would have been better for Middleton to spend another year in college showcasing his skills while he is healthy, but perhaps Middleton thought it would be better to get a contract before another injury occurs. The people of Columbus have reason to celebrate as sophomore Deshaun Thomas has decided to return to Ohio State. Thomas, who had a huge NCAA Tournament, was projected as a borderline first round pick. Now with Jared Sullinger out of the picture perhaps Thomas can showcase his skills on a more regular basis. With Thomas returning expect to see the Buckeyes in the top 10 next season as they return most of their offense outside of Sullinger and have the potential to replace some of his productivity with one of their two primary recruiting targets–Amile Jefferson or Tony Parker. The last piece of news comes from Alabama where Tony Mitchell and Charles Hankerson Jr were granted releases by the school. While we expect Hankerson to transfer we are uncertain on Mitchell, who could consider entering the NBA Draft although we would advise against it. The more likely scenario is that Mitchell, who had discipline issues at Alabama, could be headed to another school.
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Trey Zeigler Is Heading To Pittsburgh

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2012

One of the problems with package deals is that sometimes when you let go of the bait you also lose the fish you lured in. Central Michigan found this out when they fired Ernie Zeigler last month and soon after his son Trey Zeigler sought a release from his scholarship that was granted. Trey, who you may remember was much like Ray McCallum in that he chose to play at a lower-tier school to be coached by his father rather than go to one of a dozen or so big-name programs that were recruiting him (in Ray’s case his eventual destination was Detroit). As those of you who follow recruiting are aware, Trey was a highly rated recruit who had plenty of suitors in the so-called power conferences. Although he did not dominate the MAC like some might expect such a highly rated prospect to do, Trey did put up very solid numbers in his two seasons at Central Michigan.

Trey Zeigler Should Play A Major Role At Pittsburgh (Credit: Andrew Kuhn/CM-Life.com)

His announcement that he would be transferring set off a heated recruiting battle and earlier this afternoon he announced that he would be transferring to Pittsburgh. The move should be a big boost for the Panthers who are coming off the worst season in Jamie Dixon‘s nine years at the school and the first that the team failed to make the NCAA Tournament. The question of when Trey will be eligible to play is still up in the air as he has requested a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to play next year. We are not sure what the basis of his waiver is, but we hope it is not “My father got fired” because we cannot imagine the NCAA signing off on that waiver. If he is able to play next season, he and Travon Woodall would immediately become one of the best starting backcourts in the Big East if not America. If he has to sit out he would join a talented, but largely unproven set of guards and form the nucleus of the next stage of Dixon’s tenure at Pittsburgh.

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ACC Morning Five: 04.03.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 3rd, 2012

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Speaking of tall lanky game-changers in college basketball, Ralph Sampson finally was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame. You can blame the delay on his injury-laden NBA career and a combination of Sidney Lowe, Michael Jordan, and Sam Perkins (who kept him from ACC Championships in 1983, 1982 and 1981 respectively). Sampson was truly a once-in-a-generation player. At 7’4″ and athletic, he was comfortable smoking opponents from inside and out. He’s also one of two players to be chosen the consensus national player of the year three times (Bill Walton is the other).
  2. Yadkin Valley Sports: This is a great article on Victor Davila, who watched his senior season evaporate from the bench with a groin injury. Davila is a product of Puerto Rico by means of the foothills of North Carolina. Here’s to hoping he finds some basketball success overseas before having to get a real job.
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: Steve Wiseman checks in with questions facing Duke in the offseason. I will try to answer them. Will Mason Plumlee return? No idea. Will Rasheed Sulaimon make an impact as a freshman? Yes. He’s a great shooter and looks like a solid defender (albeit in the McDonald’s All-American game). Will Duke pick up any transfers? I think Alex Oriakhi comes if Plumlee leaves; Trey Zeigler seems more likely. Strengths? Definitely scoring, though the defense should get better with the addition of Alex Murphy. Speaking of Murphy I think he will start next year, and Marshall Plumlee will get decent minutes off the bench (to commit fouls if nothing else).
  4. Fox Sports: Here’s Andrew Jones with Florida State‘s final report card for the season. I think he’s a little harsh on the Seminoles’ offense, though their nonconference play certainly merits a harsh rating. The real question is what Leonard Hamilton can put together losing so many players. The team was so deep last year that he’ll still have plenty of players coming back with experience, but things will look very different in Tallahassee next year (Michael Snaer is the difference to me).
  5. NC State Technician: While part of me agrees that CJ Leslie should stick around for another year (namely, he’s not a first round lock), I abhor these types of articles. Players know fans want them to come back. I think the jump Leslie made between last year and this year was the difference between a flame out career and sticking around in the NBA. He matured a ton between last year and this year. If Leslie comes back, he’s definitely preseason first team All-ACC and should be in the running for conference player of the year (on a team that might be picked on top of the league).

Today in Carefully-Framed Stats:

(That would be ignoring the ACC’s three consecutive championships from 1991-1993.)

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