So, over the last month or so, I’ve sat down to write this piece a couple of different times, and each time, I kind of stare dumbly at the stat pages and wonder what I could possibly have to say about this season in regards to Mr. Ratliffe that isn’t being Musberger’ed all over the WWL. Then I wonder if (in true paranoid fan fashion) by saying something, I will cause it all to come crashing down. I hope not.
Well, let’s just start at the top, shall we?
Top, as in, "Leading the Nation". ‘Cardo is number one in college basketball in Field Goal Percentage. He leads the category by almost nine percentage points, at 77%. He is threatening not only S. Johnson’s Div I record (OreSt, 1981, 74.6%), but also T. Weiss’s Div III record, of 76.6%. As previously mentioned by Bill C. in a couple Study Halls, Ricardo is absolutely deadly with his left handed baby hook. He threatens a baseline drop step, gets the defender on his hip, then goes back towards the lane and straight up, and settles the ball right in the netting approximately 77% of the time. Science. Facts.
How about staying "on top"? A team high 6.7 rebounds per game, a full board/game higher than anyone else on the squad. Team rebounding is key, though, with six Tigers over three per game.
Offensive boards? Add up Kim English’s, and Steve Moore’s, and throw in Kadeem Green’s (just for good measure) and you only have 5 more than Ricardo has. I think the coaching staff has made it a priority for Ricardo, to focus on putbacks and second chances.
Clutch? I don’t have the numbers to break this down, but to the "eye test" (Bill C. just shivered) when Ratliffe is on the floor near the end of a tight game, he seems to always cleanly catch the Phil Pressey pass, or get contact, or track down the board the Tigers need.
(A point about having Flip Pressey around: Like a quarterback buying watches and dinners for his offensive linemen, post players should really lay the appreciation on their point guards. I just had a quick football discussion with a Senior -- VERY SENIOR -- Rock M editorial member who posited that Ricardo plays very much like a poacher, or Target Forward, in soccer. Flip is the attacking midfielder, laying in through-balls and crosses. Cardo is very good at "one-touch" scoring; he doesn’t wait for the defense to catch up with him.)
And he’s doing this all in less minutes than Super-Sub Mike Dixon gets per game.
What else can I say? Denmon might be the "best", and Flip might be the "flash", and Kim might be the "glue", but I can say with no reservations that Ricardo Ratliffe is the "lunch pail" guy. He shows up every game with his hard hat on, ready to go to work. And Tiger nation has their highest national rankings in almost a decade to show for it.