A John Stevens Holiday Wish List

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2008

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

I can’t believe how I soaked my parents when I was a kid.  Right after Thanksgiving they’d start asking me to make a Christmas list so they could just go ahead and start buying me everything on it and I’d have yet another memorable holiday.  My sisters did the same thing.  True, we were good kids; we racked up enough academic and athletic achievements during the rest of the year to keep them stocked in stories to bore the crap out of their friends and the rest of the extended family with, but looking back on it, we were really lucky.  Still are.

These days, when Christmas rolls around, my wants are not of games for my Atari 2600, or life-size Shogun Warriors, or the like.  Today, I only ask for one thing for the holidays, and that is Time.  I want to sit in the recliner at our home in the country with a drink in one hand and a remote control in the other, my brain awash in college basketball images, Christmastime tournaments and match-ups lighting up my television screen until I can hardly remember my own name.  There will be family time, present-opening time, time for playing with the nieces and nephews of the family.  All of that is fantastic and it can’t be beaten.  But this year I’m especially looking forward to having the time to just devour Mom’s cooking, forget what my next obligation is, stay warm from the marrow-cracking cold outside, and enjoy some college hoops as we close the book on non-conference play for this season.

Santa is Checking John's Wish List

Santa is Checking John's Holiday Wish List

But make no mistake.  I’m a giver, as well.  I don’t just want those things above for myself, I want them for everyone.  And as I got a headstart on things this past Saturday by watching some freaking amazing games, I couldn’t help but wonder – what would be my college basketball wish list for this year?  Hey, sounds like a column idea!  So, here goes.  Six things I want inside the world of college basketball for this season.  Why six?  Because I say so.  I even ranked them for you.  You’re welcome.

John Stevens’  Holiday Wish List

#6.  Davidson to find other options. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE watching Stephen Curry and his lightning-quick release go nuts for 42/8/10, and I don’t want to minimize the work by Andrew Lovedale (13.5 and 10.1), for whom I actually feel a little sorry.  Its not easy being Salieri, is it?  Those are solid numbers and yet almost nobody knows this guy’s name.  But after him there’s just not a lot going on.  I think this is something we all suspected but didn’t want to admit because we’ve been mesmerized by Curry’s game, and we wanted to think this Stephen could lead this team to heights even loftier than last season.  That is yet to be disproved, but the Purdue game this past Saturday was damning.  Davidson’s tournament chances hinge on other options emerging when Curry is smothered by excellent defense like he was this past weekend, or when he’s just plain having a tough shooting night.  ESPN’s Pat Forde had a great article about this topic yesterday, incidentally.  We’ve seen what Curry can do as a virtual one-man show.  Now I’d like to see other fellows step up and for the team to go even farther even if it means that Curry might take a hit on his scoring average.

(Will settle for:  more amazing feats by Curry; no matter how deep Davidson’s tournament run, Curry is that enjoyable to watch.)

#5.  A nice airplane companion for my Vegas trip in March. I haven’t taken that many flights in my life, but the ones I have taken have been pretty lengthy and there’s only been one case where I had an enjoyable neighbor in the seat next to me.  I was flying to California this past Summer to attend a friend’s wedding and the fellow to my right just happened to play Division I college hoops about 40 years ago.  He told me stories of games he played against Wooden’s UCLA and Rupp’s Kentucky; the secret, behind-the-scenes stuff was amazing, some of the best sports stories I’ve ever heard.  I sat there motionless and listened until he got tired and actually had to take a nap.  But that was my only pleasant experience so far, as far as who I’ve had next to me on a plane.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?  You’re sitting there in your seat as the plane loads, watching who’s coming down the aisle, and every attractive girl who approaches you’re thinking, “Come on, come oooooon…” but then you end up getting some foul-breathed 400-pound pet store employee who didn’t have time for a shower that morning and wants to talk to you about how his life totally changed after he saw The Blair Witch Project.  I don’t care if you’re single, married, or whatever, if you’re a male and you’re flying alone on a long trip, it’s the same.  We all want the Padma Lakshmi or Robin Meade look-alike, or maybe the stray USC Song Girl, to slide into the neighboring empty seat, look at us with puppy-dog eyes and whisper to us about how she’s “the bad girl of the team” but, alas, doesn’t have a place to stay in your destination city.   Hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe someday.

Keep Dreaming, John...

Gals Like Her Don't Sit in Coach...

(Will settle for:  the plane to land in one piece, both coming and going.)

#4.  A Final Four for Gonzaga. I’m not affiliated with the place in any way – didn’t go to school there, never have even been to the state of Washington, though I’d love to visit – so here’s my thinking on this.  I’m hearing more and more alleged college hoop pundits using the terms “high mid-major” and “low mid-major” to denote a certain cadre of teams that…well, I probably don’t have to explain it.  A few years ago there were just mid-majors.  A few years before that there were just the big time programs and the rest of the world.  I kind of miss those days.  Now we have teams that actually feel insulted when you call them a low mid-major when they think they’re a high mid-major, and so forth.  That’s pure crap.  Gonzaga was the first team to really relish the “mid-major” moniker since I’ve been into this sport and they’ve certainly put in their time.  Mark Few has always come off as a perfectly nice guy and quite honestly his teams, without exception, play a brand of basketball that’s always been fun to watch for me, even though I can’t point to one particular thing that makes it so.  We’re long past the honeymoon phase with Gonzaga, meaning that it was one thing when they did well in the tournament while nobody was looking, but for over a decade now we’ve come to expect more from the Zags.  It’s important that they get to a Final Four when people actually expect something from them – like maybe this season.  I specifically admire Josh Heytvelt’s comeback and Austin Daye’s a pleasure to watch.  A Final Four would also move Coach Few more toward that elite level of coaches, which is due for a new member.

Another reason:  go back a few years to another Vegas trip.  Some of the boys and I are in the front row of a standing-only section of one of the sportsbooks watching the end of a game; the start of Gonzaga’s first game of that tournament was a couple of minutes away.  The Gonzaga supporters – and there were well over a hundred of them – gathered behind us and were definitely a polite crowd, meaning no pushing or jockeying to steal a spot in front of us, or anything.  And they certainly came prepared to support their team.  They were a fun lot, and definitely social.  Many of them started conversations with us and we shared a few beers and so on.  Pretty cool, eh?  Well, I noticed that from where I was standing, just behind and to the right of me was a pretty dark-haired girl in a big Gonzaga sweatshirt and an almost-empty beer in her hand.  I figured I’d maybe talk to her before the game started, so I turned to say hello, when, at that very millisecond, she takes a deep breath and, at a deafening volume, belts out:  “GOOOOOON-ZAG-UH BAAAAAAS-KET-BAAAAAALLLLL!!!!”  The crowd behind her echoed this offering.  I thought, “OK, she’s cool, probably knows the game, definitely loves her team.  Here we go…” and I turned around again.  What does she do?  She lets fly another, “GOOOOOOOOOON-ZAG-UH BAAAAAAS-KET-BAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!” at twice the original volume.  The crowd behind her really began frothing.  I was impressed on one hand but hoped she would be able to at least carry a conversation or scream another cheer.  I never really found out, because for the next two hours, at random times she would scream this same cheer, in the manner of the Detroit Pistons’ announcer Mason.  I never heard her say anything except that as she kept pounding those beers.  So, maybe if Gonzaga finally gets to a Final Four, this girl, wherever she is, will feel that her yelling has done its job and she can now preserve her voice, or learn another cheer.  In all seriousness, they were good fans, and they deserve a Final Four.

This Was Not Her

This Was Not Her

(Will settle for:  an iTunes gift card.)

#3.  Eric Devendorf to get this nonsense settled and rejoin his team. According to the ESPN.com article, Devendorf’s suspension for introducing his hand to a female student’s face earlier this year is that he has to complete 40 hours of community service before he can ask to be reinstated as a student by Syracuse University and resume his place on the basketball team.  The spring semester on the Syracuse campus starts January 12th and the Orange(men) have a game two days later at Georgetown.

Devendorf has said all the right things in the press since this incident, and he seems genuinely contrite.  He probably knows that to sock a female student in the jaw with the heel of your hand for any reason is the move of a black-belt douchebag and I’d speculate he understands the need for punishment.  Fine.  40 hours.  I say get it done as fast as you can, Eric.  Do a Monday-through-Friday, eight hours a day.  Better still, do four ten-hour days.  By getting it done quickly, you get it over with, and you send a message to your teammates that you really can’t wait to get back on that squad, if they’ll have you.  You’re showing them that you want to miss as little game and practice time as possible.  That ruling, in point of fact, came down on December 19th, which means that by the end of today you could been DONE with this if you’d have chosen the ten-hour-day option.  Whatever schedule you can set – the point is, get it done as fast as you can.  You’ll impress your teammates, you’ll fulfill your obligation, you’ll send a message to your coaches, and I bet you’ll return to the Carrier Dome to more cheers than anything.  Your team is good, but they’re better with you there.  Despite their curious history in the NCAA Tournament, they are a dangerous team this year and I wouldn’t want to be the guy responsible for Syracuse fans wondering how good they could have been.

(Will settle for:  Nothing.  This one’s not negotiable.)

#2.  An end to the objectification of Miss Erin Andrews. That’s right.  I’m going to be the champion for Miss Andrews’ cause.  I think it’s high time that we recognize the hard work this woman puts into actually being a journalist, interviewing coaches at halftime when they’re more annoyed than anything and don’t want to convey any real information to the viewers.  It’s thankless, and I for one want to say a big Thank You to Miss Andrews.  And on top of all that, she has to do it while most of the viewers are wondering how snug her shirt is or how high her heels are, probably not even hearing what she’s saying.  I can’t even fathom the catcalls she must endure from horny college kids while she’s just trying to do her job.  I even hear that some sports blogs actually use any possible reason to post pictures of her on their sites, hoping to generate cheap pageviews.  I am appalled!  Who, I ask you, WHO would do such a thing?!?  Anyway, I think we need to do a better job of showing her how much we love her reporting as well as her…*sigh*…looks.  And, I dunno, if Miss Andrews feels like talking about this subject with me, she can use the e-mail link for this site located at right, and perhaps we can discuss it over dinner.  Not that I said all that stuff above for that reason, or anything.

I Have No Objection to this Photo of Miss Andrews

I Have No Objectification to this Photo of Ms. Andrews

(Will settle for:  Not taking a beating.  You see what I’m doing there, right?  Remember that kid back in, like, the 8th or 9th grade who was friends with all the girls because he sucked up to them like crazy?  You know the guy, he always thought he could parlay that ill-gotten friendship into something else if he wanted (even though the girls knew it would never happen) once he got to high school, and he liked to rub your nose in it a little.  I ALWAYS wanted to administer a beating for the ages to that guy.  If you see what I’m doing with my above paragraph about Erin, you’ll exempt me from a similar throttling.)

(Will also settle for:  ESPN to make some airtime for another Andrews, namely Thea, who I always dug in a major way even though Cold Pizza was an abomination.)

And finally, the number one item on the John Stevens Holiday List for 2008 is:

#1.  A Duke fan to admit that…it’s getting to be a little much.
Well, this should be good.  It all started with those American Express commercials a couple of years ago where Coach K talked about how he doesn’t just prepare you for basketball, he also prepares you for life, etc.  Then I’m sitting watching the amazing United States victory over the Europeans in the 2008 Ryder Cup on TV earlier this summer and what do I see?  A smiling Krzyzewski on my TV screen doing a lead-in to the coverage about every hour; I mean, it’s a GOLF tournament.  And it happened in Louisville, which means that among college basketball coaches, Rick Pitino would have been a more appropriate choice.  It’s an event that Coach K’s mug should have been nowhere near.  In my opinion, the most mind-blowing example of the Coach K free pass is his weekly hour-long talk show on Sirius XM, called “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K,” now entering its fourth season.  It’s basically an hour of Coach K hanging out with special guests, talking about basketball, talking about life in general, talking about whatever he wants.

Many people have argued that these appearances by Krzyzewski constitute a recruiting advantage, and it’s a tough argument to refute.  He seems to be the only coach out there doing it, though it should be said that he’s probably the most desirable spokesman out there, as far as coaches go.  But honestly, in addition to everywhere else he shows up, the guy’s got an hour of satellite radio time every week where he kicks it with famous friends and espouses his opinions on just about everything – including subjects that might even come up during, oh, I don’t know…in-home and/or campus recruiting visits?

To be sure, I don’t know if these things provide much of a recruiting advantage; let’s be honest, even without Coach K’s extra appearances there’s a lot about Duke that sells itself.  We all know the place’s academic reputation, and the basketball program had reached elite status long before Krzyzewski started with the commercials/promos/radio shows/etc.  But the problem is that other coaches certainly don’t get to do these things.  Yes, Krzyzewski has created these opportunities through his achievements as a college basketball coach.  But let’s say Coach K retires tomorrow and Sirius XM decides to give a show to only one coach – say, Ben Howland, or Roy Williams, or Billy Gillispie, or Jamie Dixon.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the NCAA stepped in and nixed it, saying it provided an unfair advantage.  As chronicled by this very website, the NCAA chooses to apply its disciplinary bitch-slap in such strange and uneven ways at times – but THIS, a weekly hour-long pulpit for a coach – ANY coach – to freestyle about any subject he wants to millions of people – is allowed?  The NCAA claims to try to keep things fair, to keep the playing field even.  Is that what we’ve had for the past few years with Coach K preening himself as the official brand face and name of college basketball?

So that’s my number one wish for this holiday season.  One single Duke fan to admit that their coach, despite his successes, might just be getting away with something.  In the meantime, enjoy this clever YouTube spoof of Coach K’s AMEX ads.

(Will settle for:  a winning Powerball ticket.  I’m more likely to actually get that.)

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Share this story

Checking in on the… Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week):

  1. Oklahoma (11-0) (1)
  2. Baylor (9-1) (3)
  3. Texas A&M (10-1) (5)
  4. Texas (8-2) (2)
  5. Missouri (9-1)  (4)
  6. Kansas (8-2) (6)
  7. Texas Tech (8-3) (7)
  8. Kansas St. (8-3) (8)
  9. Oklahoma St. (8-3) (11)
  10. Nebraska (7-2) (9)
  11. Iowa St. (7-3) (10)
  12. Colorado (5-3) (12)

Most teams only played one game this week.  The holidays are a little slow for the Big 12 teams.  However what is starting to show is that this conference is wide open and it will be a  battle once conference play starts.  Oklahoma looks a little above the rest, but not much.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Texas A&M (3-0 this week)—Texas A&M is starting to make me a believer, winning 3 more games this week to move to 10-1.  With some solid wins now over Arizona, Alabama, and an undefeated LSU team, this team is building itself quite a resume.    Things are definitely going their way as they almost got themselves in a position to lose the LSU game, but a controversial call late in the game led to an LSU technical and A&M sealed the win.  They should get a win over Sam Houston St. this week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Bracketology – Never Too Early Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on December 22nd, 2008

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist.   He’ll be regularly out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.

Happy Holidays, everyone. My name is Zach Hayes and you might know me as a college hoops writer for the blog Northwestern Wins. Due to the unfortunate folding of that site, the head honchos here at Rush the Court graciously invited me on board as their Senior Bracketologist from now until Selection Sunday. Just think of me as Joe Lunardi but seven inches taller and without a hairpiece. Every Monday morning for the next six weeks or so a new bracket will be revealed until February heats up and multiple brackets per week will be released. I hope you guys enjoy this new RTC feature. For me, it’s just a ton of fun.

Quick disclaimers: The obvious one- it’s probably too early for bracketology (blasphemy! It’s never too early for this, how dare you! You know what I mean). RPI is still rounding into form at this point, and many key numbers I use from ESPN (Wins vs. Top 50, etc.) have yet to be released. I didn’t use much for this first bracket: record, conference strength, SOS, perused the individual schedules for quality wins/bad losses, and took RPI with a grain of salt. On the bracket you’ll notice I also made predictions for the entire tournament based on my matchups.  Syracuse as the monumental upset should surprise no one that follows college basketball.

These seedings are based purely on performance thus far. If I was projecting future performance, I’d probably have Louisville in the tournament because they have to improve, right? Other than some of the mid-major/small conference auto-bids (i.e., I’m predicting Creighton takes the Missouri Valley even though you’d go with Illinois State by default), these are all based on the small amount of games played thus far. As you know, this entire operation will improve once teams complete more of their resumes.

RTC Bracket 12.22.08

RTC Bracket 12.22.08

Some explanations about the first edition (click brackets or right-click/view image to see a larger version):

  • The 1 seeds were pretty clear to me even before I began gathering info: North Carolina, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. In fact, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma are 1-2 in RPI, respectively. Butler is #4 and Northwestern is #9, so take it for what it’s worth.
  • #2 seed Tennessee and #3 seed Michigan State are probably over-seeded for their performance this season. But I had to take into account that I have both teams pegged to win their conference tournaments, meaning three extra wins before Selection Sunday that will certainly boost their seed.
  • My bracket came down to 12 teams for 8 positions: California, Maryland, Florida State, Stanford, Miami, Boston College, Louisville, Kentucky, Dayton, Cincinnati, Illinois State and Arizona. As much as I wanted to deny Illinois State and Stanford because of their lack of any semblance of a quality win, they’re undefeated and I had to slip them in the field. Maryland has the wins over Michigan and Michigan State and Arizona has the win over Gonzaga, with two of their three losses by the narrowest of margins. Dayton is 10-1 and has the Marquette win, with their only loss at Creighton. Florida State has nice computer numbers and beat California, Cincinnati and Florida, meaning if they’re in, Cal has to be. Painfully, the final seed came down to Louisville (only average win: depleted Mississippi) and Boston College (only average wins: UAB, Providence, @Massachusetts). I went with BC.

Conference Winners: Vermont, Xavier, North Carolina, Stetson, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Portland State, VMI, Michigan State, Cal State Fullerton, VCU, Memphis, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Miami (OH), Hampton, Creighton, BYU, Quinnipiac, Murray State, UCLA, Navy, Tennessee, Davidson, Lamar, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State

Multiple bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 10 (7), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), SEC (3), MVC (2), WCC (2), Atlantic 10 (2), MWC (2).

Last Four In: Boston College, Stanford, Florida State, California
Last Four Out: Louisville, Cincinnati, Miami (FL), Kentucky

Any questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond.

Share this story

A Lazy Sunday at MSG

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC Conferences.  He attended the Aeropostale Holiday Festival on Sunday this past weekend.

NEW YORK CITY – The games on the ‘big stage’ are an event. The crowds, the media crush, the atmosphere which hints of March. Example as are the Jimmy V, Coaches vs.Cancer, Xavier-Duke at Izod Center. Granted the latter was a blowout but the stage was set.

Basketball Mecca
Basketball Mecca

Sunday gave a different scenario but a special one just the same. Noon, a snowy day in New York, two mid majors tipping it off at Madison Square Garden. Columbia and Marist met in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival consolation game. The crowd was sparse but enthusiastic. The play, not always the greatest but competitive and entertainingly enjoyable. “These games are always special,” said veteran AP college basketball writer Jim O’Connell. “Especially when two teams like this get a chance to play at a venue as this.”

The Garden, even a sparsely attended one, is still a big thing. Marist brought, count them, 23 cheerleaders. And a band as good as there is around. Columbia brought their entire cheer and dance squad.

We'll Be Nice and Make No Further Comment
We’ll Be Nice and Make No Further Comment

The game saw Columbia battle back from a 10 point second half deficit largely on the play of K.J. Matsui. The 6-2 senior drained two treys and took a charge, “he didn’t take charges prior to senior year,” joked coach Joe Jones, to ignite the run. The contest went down to the final seconds with the Lions prevailing 63-58.

A consolation game on a Sunday morning following a loss on Saturday, no problem per Columbia senior forward Jason Miller. “In our (Ivy) league we play a lot of conference games back to back,” Miller said. “I’m a senior, to get to play in the best arena ever is great. To play in Madison Square Garden is exciting. To win here even better.”

Marist coach Chucky Martin echoed the sentiment. “I’m a Bronx guy,” Martin said. “It’s great to coach and compete here. The only unfortunate part is not leaving the building with a win.”

The second game saw Virginia Tech defeat St. John’s 81-67 for the championship. Tech coach Seth Greenburg spoke about growing upon Long Island and coming to the city to watch Joe Lapchick coached  St. John’s teams compete in the Garden. “When you play here,” Greenburg said,  “you play in a way you respect the game.”

Greenburg knows. He’s in the ACC now but his roots are mid-major,  as a player at Fairleigh Dickinson University and later a head coach at Long Beach State. And he knows and appreciates how special is to get the privilege to play in Madison Square Garden.

Share this story

Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the MVC and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week Rank):

  1. Illinois St. (10-0) (1)
  2. Creighton (8-2) (2)
  3. Drake (9-3) (4)
  4. Evansville (8-2) (3)
  5. Missouri St. (7-3) (5)
  6. Northern Iowa (6-5) (7)
  7. Bradley (5-5) (6)
  8. Wichita St. (5-5)  (9)
  9. Southern Illinois (4-6) (8)
  10. Indiana St. (2-8) (10)

The non-conference season for the Missouri Valley Conference basically ended this past week with conference play starting next Sunday.  The non-conference games left for the Valley this coming week are most teams playing lower level competition that should result in wins for the Valley.  Since Conference play will have started by the time I report for RTC, here is a little recap of what I expected versus what we got from the Valley in the Non-Conference.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

It was quite an eventful week for Conference USA basketball, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

The issues off the court practically overshadowed the actual games this week as the season has picked up after final exams.

  1. UAB loses four players: It has become a pattern that each year under coach Mike Davis the UAB basketball program loses players to academic, attitude and other off-the-court issues. This past week the Birmingham News reported that Ed Berrios, Armon Bassett, Jeremy Mayfield and Terrence Roderick all were booted off the team due to a failure to comply with team academic and conduct standards. Bassett was a transfer from the troubled Indiana program and was sitting out this season and Mayfield had not been eligible for the fall semester. Roderick had averaged 5.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, while Berrios averaged 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds. While the Blazers do not lose any starters, they now have only 6 scholarship players available for the rest of the year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Weekend Review

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

afterbuzzer1

What a Saturday! We hope you had as much on Saturday as we did, sitting around in our sweats in front of a family member’s HD flatscreen while the wind pushed thermometers to nearly zero outside.  If there was ever a day for lazing around and watching nothing but college hoops, this was it.  And the games did not let us down.  From Minnesota to Gonzaga/Arizona St. to Xavier to Steph Curry, there were upsets, great finishes, shocking blowouts and a struggling all-american for good measure.

Game of the Year (to date). Connecticut 88, Gonzaga 83 (OT). For our money, the Connecticut-Gonzaga game in Seattle was the game of the year thus far.  Each team brought NBA-level talent and NCAA Tournament intensity to this one, and it took an extra period to finish it off.  We really felt as if we were watching a March game in December.  Both teams ran out to leads where they appeared the far superior team, and both teams made huge plays to get back into the game, capped off by a simply astounding three to send the game into OT by AJ Price (where he was floating left and had a man right in his face upon the release).  For large portions of this game, Gonzaga looked like a F4 team, with Austin Daye’s captivating talent (13/5) all over the court, Josh Heytvelt’s steady interior play (15/3) and Jeremy Pargo’s timely forays (16/4 assts) into the paint (not to mention Steven Gray’s 23/7/4 assts off the bench).   The Zag D held UConn to 43% shooting, while hitting half of its own shots, and yet, UConn showed a resolve and toughness that we haven’t seen out of a Calhoun team since Emeka Okafor left campus.  The Huskies really had no business pulling this game off, especially since big man Hasheem Thabeet spent the last fifth of the game on the bench in foul trouble, but team leader AJ Price (24/10 assts) kept finding penetration into the lane for easy looks and trips for his teammates to the foul line.  This was a take-notice game – we’ve been down on UConn until now because we still weren’t sure they had the chemistry and resolve to win six tough games in March.  Now we’ve taken notice.  UConn will go as far as Price takes them, and that could be all the way.  It wouldn’t surprise us at all to see a rematch of this game in Detroit in April.

Upset of the Weekend. Minnesota 70, Louisville 64. Ok, Louisville is officially the most disappointing team in America right now.  We sensed something was wrong with them the last couple of times we watched them play (and that’s not even including the WKU loss), but the Minnesota game proved to us that this is a team without a soul right now.  The Cards have enough pure talent to compete with any team in college basketball, but they don’t seem to want to give the effort that it takes to do so.  And the Edgar Sosa situation has every hallmark of another exceptional talent crawling into a hole and dying under Pitino’s tutelage (we’re channelling Rodrick Rhodes here) – it’s amazing just how ineffective he has become.  As for Minnesota, they’re now 11-0 and this was the signature win the Gophers needed to announce that Tubby Smith is once again building a competitive program.  The Gophers played hard, held Louisville to 38% shooting, and made all the right plays down the stretch to secure the win (when UL crept back within four pts).  Tubby has now won his last four games against his mentor, and suddenly the Big 10 is looking a lot stronger than it did a month ago.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

12.22.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on December 21st, 2008

A short, but solid list of links for you going into the holidays. . .

  • Seth Davis with a good primer on the various foul calls. Hopefully, this clears things up for a lot of you and will stop a lot of whining about officials making the incorrect foul call. That means you Xavier fans.
  • I wasn’t expecting many impact players to be coming back, but Jeff Goodman provides a good list of the top mid-season additions.
  • The NCAA came up with a cool idea recently where they set up 11 games in 4 days in the state of Indiana. They project which was called the “Indiana Basketball Extravaganza” featured games from all divisions including women’s games. Howard Smith did a great job live-blogging the event and we think the NCAA should do more of this to increase basketball awareness of all levels not just the D-1 games featured on national TV.
  • Bill Simmons already mentioned it on one of his podcasts, which means that 95% of you have probably already heard about it, but we wholeheartedly recommend you check out Mark Titus’s Club Trillion blog. The hoops aficionados already know what a trillion means, but for the rest of you it is the box score when a player plays but doesn’t record any other stats (points, assists, rebounds, steals, field goal attempts, etc.). Just the name alone should give you an idea what his blog is like.
Share this story

Checking in on the… Big West

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2008

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference.

For the casual Big West fan – but really, who’s “only” a casual Big West fan – the conference standings may seem a bit perplexing as we near the end of the preseason schedule.  For starters, the current standings look nothing like the predicted order of finish, with UCR all the way at the top and CSUN second from the bottom.  A couple of embarrassing losses during the conference’s few televised games certainly did not help its image – but remember, friends, the pre-conference standings can be deceiving.  A closer look reveals contenders, pretenders, and a few hidden gems to watch.

Let’s run down the Big West conference, beginning with the top of the standings, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… MAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2008

Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the OVC andMAC Conferences.

As 2008 winds down, the MAC is looking more and more like a one-bid league (again).

The league still has yet to beat a ranked team and is 0-17 against the BCS leagues (Pac-10, Big Ten, Big XII, SEC, Big East & ACC).

If there is any good news, despite their stuggles the league still has four teams in the RPI’s top 100; #20 Miami, #85 Buffalo, #88 Bowling Green, #98 Akron.

Unfortunately a deeper look into the numbers shows us there are only two teams that falls in between #100 and #200 (#103 Ohio & #147 Ball State).

The rest of the league falls at #229 or worse.

As expected the East is king in the MAC with five of their six teams in the top 103.  The only team outside the top 103 is Kent State, a pre-season favorite.  The Flash have played a weak schedule, but should still be a factor come conference play.

Strangely enough, the league is ranked #17 in the RPI and has a #7 strength of schedule ranking.  Too bad they don’t have many wins over the strong part of that schedule.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2008

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Not much to report from the Ivies as players from the nation’s last non-scholarship league have been taking finals rather than playing many games. Nerds. But the good news for Penn fans is that the Quakers have not lost since the last time this site had its Ivy update – which may or may not be because they haven’t had any games since then. Still, Penn fans are beginning to get a little rowdy as evidenced by this new blog called Fire Glen Miller, which I’m pretty sure is anti-Quakers head coach Glen Miller. The blog, which was created by Penn students after the Quakers were drowned by Navy (get it?) to fall to 1-6 two weeks ago, recently had an interesting guest column from former player Steve Danley. Danley, a member of a very talented senior class that helped Penn get to three straight NCAA tourneys, played for Miller in the coach’s first season in 2006-07 and maintains that he is an “offensive genius.”  He also believes the young team needs time to gel, drawing a comparison to the not so good ’03-04 team when he and other future stars were freshmen. Let’s hope Danley is right, because Penn’s former coach Fran Dunphy just led Temple to a pretty nice win over Tennessee. And we miss him. A lot. (The Quakers, by the way, return to action on Dec. 29 with a tourney in Florida.)

Despite a recent 71-54 loss to Minnesota in which it shot 17 percent in the second half, Cornell remains clear front-runners in the Ivy League. The Big Red are only 4-5 but they’ve had a brutal non-conference schedule with their last eight games coming on the road. Needless to say, they’re excited to come home, which actually is saying something because not many people are excited to go to Ithaca in December. With reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Louis Dale nearly back to full strength, Cornell welcomes La Salle tomorrow – and La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini is concerned, calling the Red the “best team on our schedule with the possible exception of those Big East and ACC teams.” He’s a doctor, so you should listen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2008

Rick Henderson of The Owl’s Nest is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.

Top of the Hill?

Can’t figure out Western Kentucky.  Just after upsetting the then #3 Louisville Cardinals, they go on to get waxed by Evansville 72-40.  A couple of points fine.  But 32?  This obviously was scheduled as a “quality road game meant to be a win”, but the final score resembled a “guarantee” game.  Well, we “guarantee” you that Evansville is one happy camper team right now adding this “W” to thier 7-1 record.  The Purple Aces held the Toppers to a mere 26.7 FG% on the night.  The loss comes on the heels of having made a nice out-of-conference run by defeating Northern Illinois,  Louisville, Georgia, and Tulane consecutively.  The Toppers did recover by gaining a big conference win over fellow East powerhouse USA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story