There isn’t any game that really stands out as being head and shoulders above the rest so I won’t have a game of the day per se, but there are quite a few good games worth watching.
#22 Notre Dame at # 3 Pittsburgh at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This should be an interesting game with Pittsburgh coming off a 10-point loss at Villanova and Notre Dame coming in having lost 4 in a row including back-to-back losses at home after coming in with a nation-leading 45-game home winning streak. The big match-up here is obviously Luke Harangody versus DaJuan Blair on the inside. I’m thinking Pitt should win this game relatively easily in the second half. If Mike Brey wants to have a chance to steal one on the road and get back into the Big East race, he will need Kyle McAlarney to regain his touch from the outside.
Michigan at #17 Purdue at 1 PM on CBS: It is amazing that just 2 months ago, the Wolverines were the talk of college basketball having knocked off UCLA and Duke. Now, they are 4-5 in the Big Ten and look like they might not make the NCAA Tournament. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims will need to have a big game if they want to steal one against Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and the Boilermakers who come in having won 5 straight in the Big Ten after dropping their first two games in conference.
#23 Georgetown at #8 Marquette at 2 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: I’m not sure what to say about Georgetown. They are undoubtably one of the most talented teams in the country, but they have played themselves out of the top 25 in the past 2 weeks. On the other sideline, after their big win on Monday night at Notre Dame, the Golden Eagles will have a chance to move into the top 5 with a win over a Hoya team that is falling apart right now. The Hoyas have lost 4 (?) straight games and DaJuan Summers, their leading scorer, was injured in their last loss. John Thompson III will need a big game out of Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman, and Summers (presumably healthy) to snap the Hoyas out of their skid. However, if Buzz Williams can get a solid game out of Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews the Golden Eagles should be able to pull off the win.
Stanford at # 16 UCLA at 3:30 PM on ABC, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I don’t think this one is of particular interest especially with the way Stanford has played so far in the Pac-10, but I think it should be worth watching for our East Coast readers who don’t stay up past midnight to watch some of the mediocre teams out West play.
Providence at #2 Connecticut at 4 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Assuming UConn wins this, they will be your new #1 team on Monday. Keep an eye on this one because Providence has been playing well lately including a victory over a depleted Syracuse team on Wednesday night.
Washington at #14 Arizona State at 5:30 PM on FSN: Ok. I took my requisite West Coast shot earlier when discussing the Stanford-UCLA game, but this one is acutally worth watching. I’m still unsure why Washington wasn’t in this week’s top 25 after knocking off USC and UCLA last week, but maybe the voters knew something as the Huskies followed up those 2 big wins with a loss on the road at Arizona. The Sun Devils will be looking to bounce from a shocking loss at home against Washington State on Thursday night. I’ll be watching the match-up of the star guards in this one: Isaiah Thomas for Washington and James Harden for Arizona State
Rick Henderson of The Owl’s Nest is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.
Rohnert Seals Two Quality Wins for the Pioneers
Denver’s recent streak of bad luck in close games came to an end last weekend against East with a 78-74 win at home over Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers pulled within two points in the final minute last Saturday, but Denver’s Brian Stafford connected on a bounce pass to cutting teammate Nate Rohnert for a backdoor layup. This put the Pioneers up by four points with 13 seconds left to finish off the Toppers. WKU saw its four game winning streak come to an end. On their next outing, Rohnert struck again, scored 12 points, and made the game-winning basket with five seconds left to lead the Pioneers to a 56-54 victory over South Alabama at Magness Arena. “We’ve been playing well every game for the past three weeks, but tonight at those critical moments we made the shots and didn’t turn the ball over…I thought our big turning point could be a win on the road, but why can’t it be beating the class of our conference at home?”, said Denver Coach Joe Scott.
JC of HBCU Sports Blog is the RTC correspondent for the MEAC and SWAC Conferences.
If we ever needed insight on SWAC basketball before, we sure do need it now. A new contender in the conference has emerged, and there’s some explanation as to why the SWAC champion deserves better than the play in game this season.
So before you scoff, at least check out the evidence from the week that was in the SWAC.
THIS WEEK – Alabama State and Prairie View A&M have had winning streaks of seven and six games, respectively. The next longest winning streak? That belongs to the University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff Golden Lions, who shocked Prairie View last Monday at home to pull ahead of Jackson State for third place in the conference standings.
Despite what you see from the SWAC in relation to their conference RPI, remember that these teams play a full-slate of out-of-conference games on the road to open the season. When you stack their records against those of other mid-major conferences, (Big South, A-10, etc.) you see that there is a real way to look at their numbers and a skewed way.
Unfortunately, the tournament selection committee often takes the skewed route.
The Bison are pouring it on now. 5th year seniors Brett Winkleman and Ben Woodside combined for 59 points in a 10 point overtime victory at SDSU on Jan. 23rd. Interesting to note the Bison only managed 8 assists the entire 45 minutes. On Thursday night (Jan. 29) NDSU used a 13-0 run inside of the 6 minute mark of the 2nd half to drown the Grizzlies. Ben Woodside notched his 3rd double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 dimes. This win puts NDSU up 3 games on Oakland and a half a game ahead of Oral Roberts. The NDSU “team of destiny” murmurs are now circulating the Summit League landscape (gut source).
Oral Roberts 10-11 (8-1)
The last 2 Golden Eagle opponents have scored 54 and 51 respectively. Holding both opponents under 37% shooting will drastically help out the cause most nights. Oral Roberts is playing so well right now that Robert Jarvis (17ppg) has not needed to be a prime time offensive force (just 23 total points in the last 2 games). Senior forward Marcus Lewis scored 26 on 11-13 from the field in a victory over Southern Utah on Jan. 24th, all but ending the silly talk of Oral Roberts being too reliant on Jarvis shooting 20 + times a game. Really.
David Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Ivy League, its regular season is unlike any other. For starters, it is the only league without a conference tournament, thus making it the only league whose regular-season winner gets an automatic invite to the NCAA Tournament. The debate has long raged over the merits of having a conference tourney and while I don’t really want to get into that timeless argument, I will say that I appreciate the uniqueness of the Ivy League and firmly believe that the best way to crown a champ is over 14 games, not over three in the final week. That said, teams that stumble early are often dead by midseason. The Ivy League schedule is structured in a way (for academic and travel reasons) so teams play back-to-back games every Friday and Saturday. As you might expect, many seasons have been lost in single weekends alone. The dreaded weekend trip to Penn and Princeton, for example, has been a virtual death sentence for many NCAA Tournament hopefuls.
But the winds of change have swept through the Ivy League. Penn and Princeton, which combined to win every league title from 1989 to 2007, have recently been passed by Cornell as league bully. And as the Ivy season begins its Friday-Saturday routine tonight, the Big Red look to be clear-cut favorites to win the league’s “14-game tournament.”
They will, however, be tested. Here is a look at all eight Ivy teams, their projected order of finish and a case for why they will or won’t be dancing in March:
Damon Lewis, a reporter and play-by-play announcer for the Horizon League Network, is RTC’s Horizon League correspondent.
Butler (#13/13) 9-0 18-1
Green Bay 8-2 16-6
Milwaukee 8-3 13-8
Wright State 7-3 13-8
Cleveland State 5-5 14-8
Loyola 4-6 12-10
UIC 3-7 10-10
Youngstown State 3-7 6-14
Valparaiso 3-7 6-15
Detroit 0-10 5-15
I’ve used up the majority of this space over the last several weeks explaining why and/or how the Horizon League would be a two-bid league in the NCAA Tournament this year. Actually, it was more like “explaining why” early in the season because the hopes were so high, then “explaining how” as of late, as the chances became slimmer and slimmer. That said, let me make something very clear…
The Horizon League will ONLY send 2 teams to the NCAA Tournament if Butler stumbles in the Horizon League Tournament. Period.
I’m really, really disappointed about this. The fact that the HL will likely be a one-bid league once again this season isn’t a knock on the overall level of basketball. It’s simply evidence that, right now, there’s really only one elite team/program in the Horizon League. That program, of course, is Butler. Having seen nearly every team play in person (and all of them via TV or Internet), I have a lot of confidence in saying that there truly isn’t much difference between team #2 and team #10. There may be a wide margin in the wins and losses, but talent-wise and coaching-wise, the gap is much tighter. To me, the differences between teams 2-thru-5 and teams 6-thru-10 are things like experience, lack of injuries, or mental toughness. Some teams have better results in these areas, and because of that they’ve risen slightly higher in the league standings. It’s not because of a disparity in talent. The only disparity in talent I see is at Butler. Along with doing the little things right, they have the most talent, and it shows.
No need to go on, and on, about teams that are irrelevant right now, unless I feel like poking a little fun (which I will). There have been some impressive performances since the last time we checked in, which has prompted a lot of chatter in Horizon League circles about who this season’s “HL Player of the Year” will be, “All-HL 1st Team,” etc. We’ll dive into that, among other things, right about…now.
The Sharpest Tool in the Shed!! For the second time this season, a player has cracked the 60-point barrier in a single game. First was Ben Woodside from North Dakota St. with 60 pts in December; tonight Ryan Toolson of Utah Valley St. blew up for 63 in a quadruple-overtime victory over Chicago St (who put two players at 40+). Toolson, a 6-4 senior, shot 18-31 from the field, 7-11 from three, 20-21 from the line, and he even found time to grab twelve boards and dish six assists while playing all sixty minutes. Toolson raised his scoring average +2.3 pts (from 22.3 ppg to 24.6 ppg) in one night, and talk about a comeback game – he had a season-low 5 pts on 1-10 shooting in his last outing, a win on Saturday against Savannah St. For those of you who aren’t mathemagicians, that’s an incredible 58 pt difference between games. No matter what else happened tonight, Toolson deserves top billing. Ice that arm, buddy.
Upset of the Night.Washington St. 65, Arizona St. 55. What a strange game. Wazzu hasn’t shown much of anything this season, especially against any team worth a damn. Then tonight a freshman guard by the name of Klay Thompson decided to drop eight of ten threes against one of the better three-point defensive teams in the nation on their home floor. WSU also got 22/9 from Aron Baynes, but only three other players even scored. ASU was even more sporadic, with James Harden struggling to get his 26/4 on 8-20 from the field. Amazingly, as bad as Washington St. has looked, and with this win, Wazzu has crawled back into the Pac-10 race at 4-4, only two games behind the leaders UCLA and Washington.
Patty Mills’ Injured Wrist Ended St. Mary’s Winning Streak.Gonzaga 69, St. Mary’s 62. This was far and away the most anticipated game of the night at the RTC compound. It’s just a shame that we didn’t get to see what would happen when both teams were at full strength. Well, we sorta did, at least for a half. In the first half, St. Mary’s came out firing on all cylinders behind all-everything guard Patty Mills. His six first-half threes led the Gaels to a six-pt halftime lead in front of the hostile Gonzaga crowd. But when he fell and injured his right wrist, the wheels came off for SMC, as they only scored 23 pts the rest of the way without their team leader on the floor. Let’s really hope that it’s only sprained, and not broken, because given the intensity and level of skill exhibited by both teams in the first half, we can’t wait for the rematch in late February in Moraga. Matt Bouldin led the way for the Zags in a balanced attack that saw four starters reach double figures.
VT Will Regret Losing This One.Clemson 86, Virginia Tech 82. With just under 17 minutes remaining, Va Tech looked totally in control of this game and on its way to its fifth conference win. An 18-0 run over the next six minutes by Clemson (on the road, mind you) totally changed the complexion of this game, and the Tigers were able to hold on to a slight lead down the stretch to get a huge road win in the ACC. KC Rivers had 27 on 7-10 shooting from three to counter Malcolm Delaney’s 37 on 6-10 from three (including the 60-footer below), but it was Trevor Booker’s 21/13 that made all the difference for Clemson, as it seemed he made big play after big play when they needed it most. Now, as it stands, both of these teams are tied with UNC in third place in the conference.
This is Why We Can’t Watch the Big 10.Minnesota 59, Illinois 36. Minnesota’s stifling defense held every Illinois player to single figures and 29% shooting from the field (13% from three) in a defensive exhibition that broke a 20-game losing streak to the Illini. Freshman center Ralph Sampson III has really been coming on of late for the Gophers, and he had another nice outing tonight, with 10/7. More importantly, Minnesota now sits at 6-3 in the Big 10 and is still well positioned to finish in the top half of the conference and nail down an NCAA bid. As for Illinois, they’ve now lost their last three road games, and not looked particularly good in any of them.
Pac-10 Thursday. We’re having trouble figuring out this conference. ASU laid an egg at home and Arizona finally showed up.
Arizona 106, Washington 97. Just days after taking over the lead in the conference, Washington gave it right back in a high-scoring affair in the desert. These two teams combined for an absurd 128 pts in the second half, but it was Arizona who seemed to find their confidence scoring seemingly at will, whether it was Nic Wise (29/8 assts), Chase Budinger (25/8/4 assts) or Jordan Hill (18/9). On the UW side of things, Jon Brockman had 27/16 and Justin Dentmon had 23 in the losing effort, but it was Arizona’s FT shooting (41-51) that made the difference in this game – the Wildcats made 21 more FTs than the Huskies even attempted (20). SEVEN Washington players had 4+ fouls in this game. The good news for Arizona fans was that Jamelle Horne was nowhere near the final play of this one, but the bad news is that the Cats are still a long way from becoming relevant again despite this impressive win.
UCLA 81, California 66. UCLA bullied the visiting Golden Bears tonight, holding Cal’s top two scorers (Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle) to a combined 17 pts on 6-18 shooting. Darren Collison led the Bruin attack with 18/5 assts, as five UCLA players got to double figures. An early second-half run by UCLA finished off the Bears, who were playing catchup the rest of the way. This win, combined with the Washington loss, put UCLA into a tie for first place in the Pac-10, while Cal fell into a third-place tie with Arizona St. and USC one game behind the two.
USC 70, Stanford 69. In a game between two teams that we just don’t believe are all that good, USC withstood a Lawrence Hill shot at the buzzer that rimmed out to get the victory. USC now sits at 5-3 in the conference, with three of those wins coming by 2 pts or less. We suppose it’s a good thing to be able to win close games, but to us, it suggests more that USC isn’t elite – they’re just able to sneak by inferior competition.
Other Games While You Were Watching The Office/30 Rock.
Arkansas 89, Alabama 80. Arkansas got its first SEC win against new Alabama interim coach Philip Pearson.
Utah St. 72, Nevada 61. USU contines to roll in the WAC, now 8-0 and a full two games ahead of Nevada after tonight’s win.
Michigan St. 71, Iowa 56. MSU moved to 7-1 in the Big 10 behind Kalin Lucas’ 24 and Durrell Summers’ 21 tonight.
Evansville 65, Drake 62. Neither of these teams are going anywhere this year, but what a great finish!
“I was hoping that we’d build upon the success that we had in the SEC tournament,” said Evans, referring to the Bulldogs’ tornado-interrupted championship run last March in Atlanta. “That’s what all the Georgia fans wanted; that’s what we wanted; that’s what Dennis wanted. We thought it would be a momentum-builder for us. To be where we are today is disappointing.”
Better Times for Felton and Georgia
Obviously, the final straw was Georgia’s 83-57 rape at the hands of Florida in Gainesville last night, as it was the Dawgs’ seventh loss in a row. A meeting was set up between Evans and Felton this morning, where the coach was given the news. Pete Herrmann, an associate coach, will take over the reins on an interim basis through the rest of the season. Georgia plays Alabama on Saturday, which sets up a once-in-a-lifetime scenario where two teams will play a midseason head-to-head game in the same week where both head coaches were canned. Call it the Pink Slip Bowl.
Is Gary Williams Next?
By way of a post-mortem for Felton, he showed a lot of promise at Western Kentucky, winning three consecutive Sun Belt titles from 2001-03, but at Georgia, he never could seem to get over the wanton destruction that previous coach Jim Harrick had left in his wake. With Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC East Division, Felton was usually guaranteed six losses per year, and there was a seemingly constant influx of players moving into and out of his program. It just never appeared that things got settled there. Felton’s record at Georgia – two NIT appearances, 1 incredibly unlikely NCAA appearance and SEC Tourney title (the “Tornado Tourney“), and five+ years of general malaise in Athens (84-91 overall, 26-59 SEC).
Soon VCU’s Anthony Grant will be able to name his price with all these SEC schools calling.