Unrest In Memphis: Should Josh Pastner Be On The Hot Seat?

Posted by mlemaire on November 22nd, 2013

There probably aren’t too many college basketball coaches who have found themselves on the hot seat just one season after winning more than 30 games, but after a disappointing loss to Oklahoma State on Tuesday that left him 0-13 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, Memphis coach Josh Pastner is probably feeling a bit toasty. Tuesday’s showdown with the Cowboys was supposed to be an opportunity for Pastner’s Tigers to prove that they were ready for and deserved national recognition. Instead it served as the latest public service announcement on why you should never trust Memphis in big games. Sure, Oklahoma State may have won the game anyway because Marcus Smart doesn’t belong in college basketball and Stillwater is not an easy place to play, but Memphis didn’t even make it competitive. It’s probably unfair to judge this year’s team based on its second game of the season, but Pastner shouldn’t get to be so lucky.

A Proven Recruiter, Josh Pastner Needs To Prove He Can Coach Too If He Wants To Keep His Job

A Proven Recruiter, Josh Pastner Needs To Prove He Can Coach Too If He Wants To Keep His Job

Pastner’s reputation as an up-and-coming coaching superstar didn’t really begin until he graduated fromArizona and became an assistant at his alma mater under Lute Olson in 2002. Pastner’s reputation as a tireless worker preceded him and he quickly used that work ethic to establish himself as one of the best recruiters in the entire country, luring stars like Channing Frye, Mustafa Shakur, and Chase Budinger to the desert with a combination of charm and persistence. That recruiting prowess (as well as Olson’s retirement) played a big role in Pastner moving on to become an assistant coach and lead recruiter at Memphis, working under the Godfather of Recruiting himself, John Calipari, for the 2008-09 season. Calipari resigned after the season to take the job with Kentucky and it looked like Pastner would follow Calipari to Lexington. But the college basketball coaching ranks were experiencing a bit of a youth movement and a passionate and energetic 31-year-old like Pastner was the poster boy for this shift.

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Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun – Are Package Deals With Top Recruits Just The Flavor Of The Day Or Are They Here To Stay?

Posted by BHayes on September 25th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

With the recent news of a potential Cliff Alexander-Jaquan Lyle package deal, can we officially label the recruiting season of 2013 as the summer of bromance? An Alexander-Lyle pairing would mark the second duo of top-25 recruits in the class of 2014 to make the college decision a joint one, as Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones (both top-five recruits according to a number of outlets) have long marketed themselves as a package deal for college recruiters. We may not be witnessing Bigfoot here – package deals like this have certainly gone down in the past – but are these examples proof of an emerging trend? The most frequent iteration of the phenomenon in years past had to be the brother package – see Harrison, Andrew and Aaron (Kentucky) or Barton, Will and Antonio (Memphis) – or if we were stretching, close friends who either grew up together or played their high school ball with one another. But now we are beginning to push the definition of proximity even further, as high school basketball players from completely different parts of the country are forming relationships strong enough to consummate these package recruitment deals. It’s a testament to the growing reach of the AAU circuit, the increased facility of long-distance communication in today’s world, and last, but not least, an eerie imitation of the current dynamics within NBA free agency – the professional equivalent of the recruitment process.

Kentucky Has A More Common Version Of The Package Deal Arriving On Campus This Fall In the Harrison Brothers --Emphasis On Brothers

Kentucky Has A More Common Version Of The Package Deal Arriving On Campus This Fall In the Harrison Brothers –Emphasis On Brothers

The modern high-major college recruit simply isn’t afforded the same summer vacation  he used to have. Even a decade ago, there simply were not as many mandatory (in the sense that every other high-level recruit will be there) camps, AAU tournaments, and international competitions as there are today. We could spend a lot of time discussing the many negatives of this current grassroots setup, but one positive to grow out of the arrangement is that recruits have the chance to spend more time with their peers from across the country. Especially for kids not playing their high school ball at the hoop factories (Findlay, Oak Hill, Huntington, etc.), I would imagine finding peers in your native surroundings can be a challenge, so having the chance to spend time with those facing the exact same circumstances as you has to be a welcomed opportunity for these star recruits.

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Morning Five: 05.27.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 27th, 2013

morning5

  1. When the Mike Rice story broke last month it led to a Saturday Night Live skit, but at this point Rutgers is veering dangerously close to territory so ridiculous that South Park might consider the plot far-fetched (ok, maybe that is a stretch). The latest embarrassment for the school is the revelation that Julie Hermann, the athletic director the school hired to clean up the program after the Rice fiasco, has faced allegations of abuse from her players in the past too. Perhaps Hermann and the school hoped that these allegations (made just sixteen years ago at a small school named Tennessee) would never come up despite this thing called the Internet, which manages to find out almost everything about anybody in a matter of days. With the way this has gone we have a hard time believing that Hermann will be able to formally take the new job, which she is scheduled to start working at on June 17, and school president Robert Barchi should be looking for a new job too.
  2. Lost in the wake of the Rice/Rutgers fiasco was the continuing investigation into Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle who had been accused of abusing his players both verbally and physically. On Friday, the school announced that an outside investigation had cleared Wardle. Unlike Rice, Wardle had the support of many of his players and perhaps most importantly did not have a video of his alleged actions floating around for the world to see. Given what was released the school’s decision should not be that much a surprise. What is interesting is the concessions that Wardle will have to make despite being cleared–receive a disciplinary letter, have someone overseeing him, and not be able to renegotiate his contrast, which ends in 2017. Given those concessions it would seem like there was something happening at Wisconsin-Green Bay (perhaps something considered as benign in sports as cursing) even if it was not as bad as what Wardle was initially accused of.
  3. After setting off a round of speculation about where he would transfer to and briefly committing to play at Toledo, Kyle Vinales has decided to return Central Connecticut State. The rising junior, who averaged 21.6 points per game last season, initially stated that his decision to transfer was based on his desire to play in the NCAA Tournament–something his seventh place NEC team with 13-17 record didn’t seem destined to do–before deciding that he wanted to lead his team there rather than move onto a better situation. While we applaud Vinales for his decision to stick around (he had already transferred once in his college career) we wonder how easily he will transition back into the team concept at Central Connecticut where his coach has already stated that his role will be changed on the team due to a change in the abilities of his teammates. Given Vinales’ penchant for transferring we will be interested to see how long his decision to stay at Central Connecticut lasts or if he has another change of heart if they struggle next season.
  4. There were a few players who actually decided to follow through on their intention to transfer. The biggest news is the decision by Memphis transfer Will Barton to transfer to Tennessee spurning schools such as Maryland, Texas A&M, and Kansas State. Barton showed signs of promise early in his career averaging 8.2 points per game as a freshman before seeing his minutes and production fall the next two seasons. Barton, who will be eligible to play this fall as he will graduate from Memphis by then, will be a welcome arrival in Knoxville as the Volunteers are in need of a point guard with Trae Golden’s transfer. The addition of Barton makes them a potential top-three team in the SEC. The other transfer news is not quite as newsworthy on a national scale, but it may be more interesting as Stephen Hurt, the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year, decided to transfer from Lipscomb to Northwest Florida State. The move is interesting for several reasons with the primary one being the decision by a player who would attract interest from high-majors to head to a junior college where he can play immediately and then be recruited to play for a high-major without having to sit out any time. The other interesting aspect of the case is that Northwest Florida State is coached by Steve Forbes, who has been mentioned before in this space for having started over at the junior college level after receiving a one-year show-cause penalty for his association and possible involvement with Bruce Pearl’s infractions. You should keep your eyes on Forbes as a potential candidate for a Division I job if he continues to land recruits the caliber of Hurt.
  5. It seemed to be just an off-the-cuff comment in a 45-minute press conference, but Mike Krzyzewski‘s declaration that the 2013-14 ACC would be the best conference ever raised a few eyebrows. On the surface it appears to be an absurd comment, but as several writers have pointed out that depends on how you define “best”. It almost certainly will not touch the Big East’s 1985 where it had three teams in the Final Four or the Big East’s 2009 where it had 11 teams make the NCAA Tournament including a ninth-place team that won the title. However, with a core that includes Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, and Syracuse the ACC is poised to be as good at the top as any conference in recent memory and will likely be in the same category for the next few years. The bigger question for the conference is what it will look like at the middle and the bottom of the conference where it is soft to put it gently. Certainly the addition of Andrew Wiggins to Florida State would have bolstered at least one of those teams. For the time being, the best ever comments may seem outlandish, but we will probably have to wait until February to make a better judgement on that.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Will Barton

Posted by nvr1983 on May 24th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Will Barton

School: Memphis

Height/Weight: 6’6” / 175 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Early Second Round

Barton Can Score, But How Will He Translate In The NBA

Overview: Although his Memphis Tigers were very much an up-and-down team during his two years playing for Josh Pastner, Barton made tremendous individual strides during his time there. The Tigers earned bids to two NCAA Tournaments, but many would claim that Memphis underachieved especially when analyzing their high preseason ranking both years. As for Barton though, he certainly pulled his weight as a sophomore elevating himself to one of the premier shooting guards in the country. As a freshman, there was little doubt of Barton’s sheer ability and natural talent, but he struggled with his decision making on the offensive end. He settled for contested shots rather than creating his own off the dribble—being able to create your own shot is an absolute must at the next level—and his shooting percentage was an unimpressive 43% (26.5% from three) as a result. More disconcerting was averaging just a shade over two free throw attempts per game. Over the summer months, however, Barton became a much more polished player on the offensive end, and it showed. Using his quick first step to penetrate the line, Barton’s shooting percentage and three-point percentage rose by nearly 10 percent, and he was getting to the line much more frequently (over five attempts per game). His fluidity and smooth game on offense is a joy to watch—some would call him “slippery” with the ball as he has a knack to get to the basket—and his basketball IQ has really grown since his days at Brewster Academy. While Barton won’t be a lottery pick like his fellow Brewster alum Thomas Robinson will be, he does have an outside shot to be a first rounder assuming he performs well in workouts leading up to the NBA Draft.

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The Other 26: And Then There Were Two

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 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.

Thirty-three TO26 teams entered the greatest weekend in sports, and just two — Xavier and Ohio — survived to make it to the second weekend.  This is the weakest showing for non-BCS teams since 2005, when only Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Utah made it to the Sweet Sixteen (where they were dispatched by Illinois and Kentucky, respectively). But that’s not to say that it wasn’t an exciting first weekend for the TO26. Indeed, Friday was a historic day, as not just one, but two #15 seeds notched wins. It was mad, it was March, and it was why we — especially those of us who relish the mid-major game as much as the high-major one — love college hoops.

Below, we take a look at how those 15 seed upsets confounded us and and how they didn’t, the likelihood that Xavier and Ohio will continue to carry the TO26 banner into deeper rounds, and reflect on the surprising and not so surprising first round losses suffered by some of the best TO26 teams.

The Survivors

Can the TO26 makes its mark on the regional final or — gasp — the Final Four?

Ohio — For the second time in three years, D.J. Cooper has taken the NCAA Tournament by storm, scoring 40 points in two wins.  More generally, the Bobcats are a young, athletic, and dangerous team with a surprisingly high talent level for a MAC squad.  Their #13 seed reflects a bit of trouble that they had in the middle of the season, but this team is playing better than that, almost as well as the ’06 George Mason and ’11 VCU teams did when they stormed the Final Four with a #11 seed.

Can John Groce D.J. Cooper, and the Ohio Bobcats Make History?

Still, under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t give them great odds against a North Carolina squad that tends to dominate inside.  But for those of you who just returned to civilization from a one-week absence, be advised that these are not normal circumstances.  Kendall Marshall’s likely absence (or limited ability, at the least) may leave UNC vulnerable to Ohio’s turnover-generating defense and without the ability to run its vaunted transition offense.  If the Bobcats can rattle the Tar Heels and UNC is unable to push the ball effectively, this could be a real contest.  And after that, who knows?  Kansas, with its effective interior game, would be a real challenge, but NC State would be eminently beatable.  It is not inconceivable that the Bobcats could become the first team with a seed higher than 11 to land in the Final Four.

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Morning Five: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 23rd, 2012

  1. Despite failing to get Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament again (they still have never gotten there), Bill Carmody will be back in Evanston next season. Carmody, who has had the Wildcats on the verge of the NCAA Tournament several times in the past few years was unable to get the team over a fairly weak bubble when they lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament to Minnesota. While plenty of Northwestern fans were looking for a new face to lead their program the school’s administration felt otherwise. Carmody has actually made it to the NCAA Tournament  twice while at Princeton including winning a game in the first round in 1998 with one of the better Ivy League teams in recent memory, but he has only been able to compile a  179-189 record at Northwestern and only made it to the NIT four times in twelve seasons though to be fair it has been in all of his last four seasons.
  2. We did not even know that he was a serious candidate for the job to begin with, but yesterday Dana Altman formally took his name out of consideration for the head coaching vacancy at Nebraska. While Oregon has not been a great basketball program recently, we are not sure why someone would leave Oregon with its solid recruiting base and Phil Knight/Nike money to go to a place where basketball is probably the third most important sport behind college football and spring football. In any event, the Huskers will continue searching for their next head coach and we suspect it will be someone from the mid-major ranks or an assistant coach at a major program looking for his first head coaching opportunity.
  3. After a solid sophomore season at MemphisWill Barton will be declaring for the NBA Draft signing with an agent. Despite Barton’s obvious talents–chief among them is his athleticism and ability to score–there are still some concerns including his strength and decision-making. As a result he will likely remain a borderline first round pick (more likely a second round pick). Conversely, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will have no problem finding himself a spot in the first round as he is a certain top 10 pick and possibly a top 5 pick. While there are some reports indicating that he will also be entering the NBA Draft, the Kentucky freshman is denying those reports for the time being. We would not expect any reasonable reports until the Wildcats finish their season.
  4. If you are confused by all the new rules and stipulations for the early entry process, Jonathan Giovany of Draft Express has the rundown of what you need to know about the early entry rules and how they could affect your team. The new process is convoluted, but according to Giovany’s analysis if a player (or his family or coach) is smart they could potentially wait until April 29 instead of the previously assumed April 10 deadline before deciding whether or not to leave school even with the NCAA’s attempt “to help keep student-athletes focused on academics” still intact.
  5. Wednesday was a very bad for two seniors in the CAA as Kent Bazemore was arrested before Old Dominion‘s CIT quarterfinal game on Wednesday for what is believed to be failure to fulfill the conditions of a sentence he was given for a DUI conviction last summer and Andre Cornelius, who has had his share of legal issues recently at George Mason, was arrested on the same day for possession of marijuana. While both players are seniors and have exhausted their eligibility they certainly left their basketball programs with a blaze of glory.
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ATB: Wild Weekend Full of Tournament Tickets Punched And Regular Season Finales

Posted by EJacoby on March 5th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede – What makes the official start of March Madness? Saturday, March 3, which included 105 total games, three conference tournament championships, and 15 ranked teams playing their regular season finales definitely felt like the appropriate start date. Sunday saw eight more ranked teams play and one more conference tournament decided. It was a wonderful start to Championship Week that included both the usual (Murray State won the OVC) and the unexpected (Wichita State, Iona, and Middle Tennessee all lost before the title game) that makes our sport so much fun to watch. All regular season games but one Ivy contest are now completed, so the power leagues start up their own conference tournaments in the next couple of days. Over the course of the next week we will find out 27 more automatic bid winners and the 37 at-large teams to fill out the NCAA Tournament bracket. Let’s start by rehashing what took place over the weekend, and who looks good to go dancing. We start in the Big Ten…

Your Watercooler Moment. Buckeyes Victory Means a Three-Way Tie for Big Ten Supremacy 

Who said that Ohio State blew its chance at a Big Ten title last week with its loss to Wisconsin? Well, we were actually guilty of thinking the same, as Michigan State had built a two-game lead with two games to play in the conference season. But after losing at Indiana, the Spartans needed to defend their home court and defeat Ohio State in Sunday’s regular season finale if they wanted the outright Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes had other ideas, as they came back from down double-digits in the second half to eventually win on a game-winner with one second remaining. William Buford’s jumper not only evened Ohio State with Michigan State at 13-5 in the conference, but it also means that Michigan’s 13-5 record holds up as a third team atop the Big Ten. These three teams all slipped up at home late in the season, but none was more costly than this Michigan State loss with the outright title and a likely NCAA Tournament #1 seed on the line. The Big Ten Tournament will be as great to watch as ever before, with so many teams jockeying for postseason inclusion or seeding position, and three teams all as co-favorites. In the tiebreaker scenarios, Michigan State comes out victorious as the regular-season champion and #1 seed, but all three split their season series and can stake a legitimate claim as league champ.

Top Storyline – North Carolina Exacts Revenge on Duke. If it weren’t for Austin Rivers’ buzzer-beating three on February 8, then North Carolina would currently be on a 13-game winning streak in ACC play with a +13.6 average scoring margin in those games. The Tar Heels got revenge on Duke for that shot and made sure everyone remembers how great this team is as UNC throttled Duke from the outset of Saturday night’s regular season finale. The Tar Heels jumped out to an 18-5 lead in under four minutes, wound it all the way up to a 24-point advantage at halftime, and finished it off with an 88-70 blowout victory going away. Duke has struggled in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, but nothing like this, in which the road team was superior in every facet of the game. The Tar Heels’ entire starting lineup finished with at least 12 points, Kendall Marshall dished out his usual 10 assists, and John Henson and Tyler Zeller each had 10 rebounds. Carolina is the ACC champion and peaking at the right time of year.

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Welcoming The Big East Newcomers: Memphis Tigers

Posted by mlemaire on February 24th, 2012

After adding a flurry of new members in December, The Big East apparently wasn’t done. Recently Memphis announced they had accepted an invitation to become the Big East’s 12th member and join the conference in all sports in 2013. We rolled out the red carpet of analysis for the other three new members, so we will do the same for Memphis. As always, keep in mind, it is far too early to tell what sort of impact these teams will have in their new conference, but that won’t stop us from pontificating.

The Past

In a contest of basketball history with the other new members, no one can touch the Tigers. They also have a troubled history. Eugene Lambert led the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1955 and since then Memphis has played in 22 NCAA Tournaments, has gone to 11 Sweet Sixteens, six Elite Eights, two Final Fours, and two National Championship games. They have been the stomping grounds for great players like Larry Finch, Keith Lee, Elliot Perry, Anfernee Hardaway, Lorenzen Wright, and most recently, Derrick Rose.

Hey, Remember These Guys?

Of course it also true that a whole host of those appearances and wins have been vacated by the NCAA thanks to widespread rules violations. Everybody remembers the most recent snafu where John Calipari and the program dealt with infractions like providing travel money to Rose’s brother as well as playing Derrick Rose under suspicion of a fraudulent SAT score that caused the NCAA to remove its Final Four appearance and record 38-win season. But only older Tiger fans will also remember former coach Dana Kirk and the parade of allegations against him that led to his ouster and the vacation of all the team’s wins from 1982-86.

Regardless of the less-than-shiny past, the school’s football program is in tatters, so it is safe to assume that the Big East had an eye towards retaining some of their luster and reputation on the basketball court, and Memphis is an excellent fit in that regard.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.

In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 13th, 2012

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • UCF Hits Speed Bump With Transfers: Usually at this point in the season it’s all about lacing up the sneakers and getting to business. However, the challenges striking the Central Florida men’s basketball program persist. Transfer guard Jeffrey Jordan, Michael’s oldest son, left the Knights over the weekend citing “personal reasons” and Central Florida Future announced Thursday that senior forward Dwight McCombs will be following suit after he was handed a season-ending suspension on Wednesday. The losses may not seem like that big of a deal with Jordan sitting on the bench and McCombs only averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds a night; however, the decisions of both players to leave the school only adds additional trouble to a program that has been marred with the departure of its athletic director this season.
  • Memphis Continues Success Against Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles took the nation’s seventh-longest winning streak into FedEx Forum on Wednesday night (11 games), but exited with their third loss of the season and their 18th consecutive loss to the Memphis Tigers. On the other sideline, the Tigers enjoyed their 135th home victory since the 2004-2005 season. Memphis is the winningest home team in the nation at 135-16 since that year. The Tigers were able to hold to a close victory behind a pair of Chris Crawford free throws with 31.7 seconds remaining.
  • Dennis Tinnon Has A Career Night: Marshall barely escaped with a victory last night, defeating UAB 60-58 and setting up a marquee conference matchup with UCF on Saturday night.  Junior forward Dennis Tinnon led the Thundering Herd, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds. Another unheralded junior, forward Robert Goff, sealed the victory for Marshall with a gigantic three-point play with under a minute to play. DeAndre Kane also enjoyed a successful evening, scoring 21 points and recording 10 rebounds. UAB senior Cameron Moore put the Blazers up late, but failed to convert on what would have been a game-tying basket in the final seconds.
  • Kazemi Keeps Rolling: Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi continued his case for conference player of the year last night in a 68-52 rout against Southern Methodist. The junior forward recorded his 40th career double-double, the 13th of the season, which ranks him as the nation’s best. The Iran native finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman Ahmad Ibrahim made a solid first career start for the Owls, recording 14 points.

Head Coach Donnie Jones (left) Hit A Bump In The Road When Dwight McCombs And Jeffrey Jordan Decided To Leave The Knights.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (11-5, 2-0): They may not have the conference’s best overall record, but the Tigers are the deepest team in conference and they have the most offensive firepower. Wednesday’s win over Southern Miss proved that the Tigers can win defensive bouts too. Memphis has won six of its last seven after falling from the national rankings. Will Barton continues to put forth a First-Team All-Conference effort, averaging 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per night.
  2. Southern Miss (15-3, 2-1): The Golden Eagles were unquestionably the best team in conference until last night, which should be a great learning lesson for a relatively young team. Southern Miss can rebound the ball almost better than anyone in conference, averaging 38.1 boards a night as a team, which is third only to UCF and Marshall in C-USA. Senior guard Darnell Dodson has elevated his play.
  3. UCF (13-3, 3-0): With guard A.J. Rompza back in the lineup, the Knights have been unbeatable, winning both at home (carrying a 16-game home win streak) and on the road. Forward Keith Clanton and guard Marcus Jordan continue to be the conference’s best duo for coach Donnie Jones in what has been an up-and-down season for the Knights.
  4. Marshall (12-4, 3-0): If Marshall—the same team that has wins over Cincinnati and Iona—is the fourth best team in conference, then C-USA could be presenting a reasonable case for four teams come March. The Thundering Herd have revived from a two-game losing streak by winning their first three conference games. DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts have found a force in the low post in junior forward Dennis Tinnon. Marshall is fourth in the country in rebounds with over 42 a night.
  5. Rice (10-7, 1-1): Arsalan Kazemi continues to be the story here. The junior forward is averaging 14.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, leading the nation in double-doubles with 13 this season. Fellow junior Tamir Jackson has been a pivotal player, running the team’s offense and averaging 12.9 points per game. The Owls don’t seem to be in the upper echelon of the conference, but with Kazemi they will contend throughout the season.
  6. Tulane (12-4, 0-2): After a 9-0 start, the Green Wave has stumbled; however, there isn’t a team in the conference that has played a tougher schedule in recent weeks. Since their December 22 loss to top-ranked Syracuse, the Green Wave has played two of the conference’s best teams in UCF and Southern Miss.
  7. Houston (9-7, 1-2): The Cougars have followed a five-game win streak with back-to-back conference loses at UTEP and UCF. With the losses, Houston has fallen to the middle of the conference rankings, but have a huge opportunity this weekend when they play host to the Memphis Tigers. If the Cougars can continue shooting the way they have this past month, then they can contend with anybody. Currently, Houston ranks 25th in the country in shooting percentage, knocking down 48.3% of their shots from the field.
  8. SMU (9-7, 1-1): Senior forward Robert Nyakundi continues to lead the Mustangs, averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The Arlington native hasn’t had to do it alone, though, with the addition of Texas transfer Shawn Williams. The sophomore swingman has been an immediate contributor in Dallas since joining the team on the court eight games ago. Williams isn’t the only transfer making a difference. Junior guard London Giles, a Nevada transfer, has been a crucial performer at SMU all season, averaging 11.5 points per game.
  9. Tulsa (8-9, 1-2): Another team on the outside looking in, the Golden Hurricane have struggled consistently this season in close games, losing three times in overtime and four times by three points or less. Jordan Clarkson will end up on an All-Conference team, but he hasn’t much help thus far.
  10. UTEP (8-9, 1-2): Tim Floyd’s squad enjoyed a bit of a revival before the holidays, but has floundered since, failing to win consecutive games since December 22. The Miners enjoyed a nice home victory over Houston, but haven’t been able to win a true road game all season. Although they haven’t found a replacement for Randy Culpepper, the Miners are extremely deep with a bench of 11 players.
  11. East Carolina (9-6, 0-2): The backcourt has been stout this season for the Pirates. Junior Miguel Paul has emerged as one of the best point guards in the conference, scoring 16.2 points and dishing out 5.7 assists per night. Senior forward Darius Morrow has also been a force for ECU, averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. In addition, the big man is shooting 54 percent from the field for a streaky Pirate club that won five straight heading into conference play, but have gone 0-2 early on.
  12. UAB (5-10, 0-2): The Blazers have continued a porous non-conference run with a rough conference start, dropping contests at home to Memphis and Marshall. UAB’s offense is still the worst in conference, averaging less than 60 points per game. Even worse, preseason conference player of the year Cameron Moore has been spectacular, but hasn’t been able to abate the Blazers’ woes. With their next four games scheduled against Southern Miss, Rice, UCF and Marshall, the losing skid could very well continue.

Looking Ahead

  • UCF at Marshall, January 14 at 7 p.m. ET: While the Southern Miss-Memphis showdown lived up to the hype, C-USA fans will be watching this one with a close eye as first place in the conference is on the line. It will be extremely interesting to watch the backcourt duo of A.J. Rompza and Marcus Jordan duel against DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts. Marshall boasts a three-game winning streak; however, it is UCF that is undoubtedly the hottest team in the conference. The Knights have won nine of their last 10.
  • Rice at Tulane, January 14 at 8 p.m. ET: Two of the conference’s best individual talents will square off on Saturday when Arsalan Kazemi leads the Owls into New Orleans against Kendall Timmons and the Green Wave. Tulane is coming off a full week’s rest and is arguably the most rested team in conference, which should play into their favor against a Rice team that has played five games since the holiday break.
  • Memphis at Houston, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: The Tigers are riding an emotional high into Saturday’s contest at the Hofheinz Pavillion, which gives the Cougars the perfect opportunity to pull the upset. Houston is probably the best team in conference to matchup against Memphis’ high-powered offense. Currently, the Cougars are 39th in the nation in points per game with 76.6 a night. Houston has developed a quartet of double-digit scorers in addition to three other players that average more than six points a night. The Cougars are surprisingly deep and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • SMU at UTEP, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: Neither of these clubs is able to rebound well, lacking frontcourt talent and depth. The Mustangs rank 326th in the nation in rebounding with an average of 30.4 boards a game, while the Miners are even worse at 335th with 29.6 rebounds a night. However, UTEP has been able to improve its field goal percentage in recent weeks, shooting 47.4% from the field. Last time they played in the Don Haskins Center, the Miners shot 61.2% in a 70-50 thumping over Houston on January 7.
  • Marshall at West Virginia, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3): This game serves as the conclusion for Marshall’s non-conference schedule and provides head coach Tom Herrion’s club with another opportunity to showcase their talent on national TV. Of course, this is an in-state rivalry so the emotions will be as high as any game this season. So far, Marshall is 1-1 against Big East competition. Another win against the nation’s deepest conference, in addition to their victory over Iona, could serve them come March if they fall short in the conference tournament.
  • Memphis at UCF, January 18 at 8 p.m.: It’s not too early to look towards next week’s conference schedule with Memphis traveling to take on Central Florida in a matchup that could be for first place in the conference. Another marquee game to look ahead at is Marshall at Southern Miss, which won’t be played until January 21 and will be aired on national television. These are the four top teams in conference and for the second straight week in a row, there will be a pair of pivotal conference matchups that feature all four.

Spotlight On…Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan

UCF has greatly benefited from the addition of A.J. Rompza and from the development of sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes. However, it has been the tandem of Clanton and Jordan that has fueled the Knights this season with consistent performance. Clanton is arguably the best post player in the conference, averaging 15.4 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. His latest performance against Houston, a 18 point and 13 rebound outing that included 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals, showed that he will be able to dominate teams with inferior big men, which the conference is chock full of. To further understand Clanton’s importance, one only needs to evaluate the Knights as a team. They are ranked 200th or lower in every major statistical category other than rebounding, where they rank 38th in the country with an average of 38.9 boards a night. In addition to Clanton, Marcus Jordan has been playing top-notch ball for head coach Donnie Jones. In addition to be the team’s leading scorer, Jordan has been the epitome of consistency, scoring in double-digits in all fourteen games he has played in so far this season. In a season filled with tons of upheaval for the UCF athletic department, the Knights basketball program has weathered the storm, winning nine of its last ten. They couldn’t have done it without the stellar play of both Clanton and Jordan.

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 26th, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • Rice Upsets Texas A&M; Kazemi Records 36th Career Double-Double: The conference had arguably its best night of the season on Thursday, posting a 6-2 overall record, which was highlighted by Rice’s 65-58 upset victory over Texas A&M at College Station. Junior forward Arsalan Kazemi led Rice with 10 points and 13 rebounds, recording his ninth double-double of the season and 36th of his career, as the Owls snapped the Aggies’ 80-game regular season, non-conference home win streak. Kazemi is now six double-doubles shy of the conference record. The junior carried the scoring load in his sophomore season, but has found help this season from fellow junior Tamir Jackson and senior Lucas Kuipers.
  • Tulane Drops Second Game, Falling to Syracuse: The conference’s only losses Thursday night came against ranked competition. Tulane took on #1 Syracuse, losing 80-61 in a lopsided contest. However, the team’s trio of top scorers Kendall Timmons, Jordan Callahan and Ricky Tarrant were not shut out, combining for 41 points. Timmons was the top performer, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
  • Memphis’ Continues To Tumble: The high-powered Memphis Tiger offense was contained and exposed on Thursday night when it faced the #16 Georgetown Hoyas, falling 70-59. Despite averaging 80 points a contest, Memphis was held in check throughout the game, which has become a trend when the Tigers take on tougher competition. Sophomore guard Will Barton continued his fantastic play, contributing a double-double in the losing effort. Barton finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but fellow sophomore Chris Crawford led the team with 17 points. Barton currently leads the conference in scoring with an average of 19.9 points per game, which is more than two points higher than UCF’s Marcus Jordan, who is second in scoring.
  • UTEP Builds Mo’ In Hawaii: In the first game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, UTEP had a chance to make a statement and did, dominating Clemson. The Miners walked away with a 61-48 victory, following a 23-8 run during the game’s final 13 minutes. The Tigers recorded a lone field goal during that span. With the win, UTEP improves to .500 for the first time this season. Though they fell to the streaking Wildcats in the semifinal game, UTEP bounced back in the consolation round, holding off Auburn 83-76. The Miners are streaking at the right time, winners of four of their last five. Sophomore guard Michael Perez is finally filling the void left by Randy Culpepper, as he averaged over 17 points per game in the Diamond Head Classic.

Marcus Jordan Is Second In Conference USA In Scoring And The Knights Boast Two Of The League's Top Five Point-Scorers (Credit: Chris Schubert).

Power Rankings

  1. Tulane (11-2): The Green Wave suffered its second loss of the season on Thursday night, but they take a lot of experience away from facing the top-ranked team in the country. Tulane is the best defensive team in conference, allowing only 55.1 points a night. In comparison, the league’s worst defensive team, Memphis, allows 74.3 points per night. Kendall Timmons has found a long-term running partner in freshman Ricky Tarrant, who has blossomed into a star in the early part of this season.
  2. Southern Miss (10-2): It’s hard to pick nits on a team that has won six in a row. Southern Miss has emerged as one of the best teams in conference because they play complete team basketball. Lacking a consistent top performer, the Golden Eagles have relied on several players to make plays.  A lot of credit goes to the Golden Eagles seniors such as Darnell Dodson and Maurice Bolden, who each recorded a double-double in Thursday night’s win over South Florida. Read the rest of this entry »
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