Behind the Lines – Week 7

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

btl-header

Obsessed With Sports will be providing coverage to RTC throughout the season.

Thursday, January 29th

Clemson (11) at Virginia Tech

Behind The Line:  This is going to be a very small line. VT could be favored at home where they are 7-1 this season. They have also covered 4 in a row against some good competition. Clemson on the other hand is 1-4-1 in 2009 against the spread.

St. Mary’s (18) at Gonzaga (25)

Behind The Line:  Gonzaga is going to be giving points to a good St. Mary’s team. The ‘Zags are 4-5 against the spread in their last 9 games.

Friday, January 30th

No games of note. Prepare yourself for the weekend ahead that included college ball, UFC 94 and the Super Bowl. But now back to the games…

Saturday, January 31st

Notre Dame (22) at Pittsburgh (3)

Behind The Line:  ND finds themselves on the road again, where they are just 2-3 this season. They have faield to cover 6 of their last 7, including 5 in a row.

Georgetown (23) at Marquette (8)

Behind The Line:  The Hoyas have also struggled away from home and are 1-4. They are also 1-6-1 in 2009 against the spread.

Sunday, February 1st

Cincinnati at Villanova (21)

Behind The Line: Two very hot teams. Cincy is 4-1 in their last 5 against the spread while ‘Nova has covered their last 4.

Share this story

Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedcrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

Last week was a week of opportunities. Some took advantage while others did not. Boise State took their opportunities by the horns as they completed a home sweep to put themselves into third place. New Mexico State on the other hand did not falling twice on the road after having a chance to rise to third in the standings, instead of coming out of the week in fifth place. Idaho had an opportunity at redemption and took advantage by avenging an earlier loss to New Mexico State, a game that head coach Don Verlin felt they should have won. This week is another week of opportunities. Utah State has the opportunity to give themselves a two-game lead on the rest of the league. Idaho has the opportunity to lay claim to being the best team in the state of Idaho and then the opportunity to sweep Nevada for the first time since the 1998-1999 season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

01.29.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2009

Lot of good links today with many of them follow-ups of stories we have reported on in the past.

Share this story

Checking in on the… WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

Michael Chin is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

So now here it comes, the premiere game we have been waiting for all season in the WCC: Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (1/29 at 11pm EST on ESPN2). Both are ranked, both are undefeated in conference play, and both are really talented.  So with that said lets break this sucker down:

Point Guard – Jeremy Pargo v. Patty Mills:

Advantage: Saint Mary’s

Analysis: A few months ago, most analysts had Pargo winning this matchup. At the time Jeremy was the more physical of the two guards and was believed to be farther along from a maturity standpoint. Fast forward and I think Patty, by many expert’s accounts, wins this matchup. From a draft potential standpoint, one has to say that Mills has the bigger upside, but just looking at the stats, the two are about even. Patty is far and away the more prolific scorer this season, averaging nearly 20 points a game. However Jeremy has over 100 assists and has a 2.76 assists to turnover ratio whereas Patty’s is 1:1. In two matchups last year Pargo beat Patty up with his more physical style of play. I don’t think he will be able to do that this year. Mills’ most improved asset this year has been on the defensive end of the floor. If Pargo holds Patty to under 15, he wins this matchup, as I believe the trio of Bouldin, Downs, and Gray could more than make up those points. However it Patty goes off for 25+, the Gaels have a good shot of scoring the upset

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Upset Wednesday

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

afterbuzzer1The Lead. There were seven ranked teams playing conference road games tonight, and only three of them survived.  One of the survivors, the Greatest Team of All-Time, did so by a sliver.  It’s a rough life playing on the road in the conference, and did anyone else notice that the calendar is turning to February very soon?  The shortest month of the year is when all those gaudy 20-2 records suffer scrutiny, as great teams start to hit their stride, and merely good ones begin taking their lumps.  We have a sneaky suspicion that it began tonight – let’s lock in for the ride.

Game of the NightWake Forest 70, Duke 68. This game was everything that was anticipated, and a little more.  Sick dunks, clutch shooting, and some tremendous hustle and defense were the markers on both ends of the court.  Oh, and one really bad call.  Call us crazy, but we’re not sure how you call a travel on Duke when a player is lying beneath him on a rebound, but the call was moot (Wake still would have possession on the inevitable and ensuing jump ball).  Still, as we watched this game, we had much the same sentiment we had two weeks ago when Wake “upset” North Carolina, which was, Wake appears to have the superior talent on the floor.  Now, the Deacs certainly showed signs of youth and inexperience in the last few minutes (missed FTs, poor decision-making) when Duke fought back to tie the game, but we never once thought Duke might actually win the game (ok, one time, and that was when James Johnson failed to hustle after the rebound after Jon Scheyer missed what would have been the go-ahead three – but no others).  Wake’s defense was once again spectacular, harassing the Duke shooters into 33% from the field (and 18% from three), including nine blocks and ten steals.  But the fact of the matter is that Duke plays every possession and Wake tends to take some off (both mentally and physically), and that’s why the Deacs didn’t run away with it in the second half.  Wake got dub-dubs from Al-Farouq Aminu (15/10, including a filthy follow flush, below) and James Johnson (13/11) to help pick up for Jeff Teague (11 pts on 4-14 FGs), who Duke swarmed all over the court.  Duke got good nights from their only two consistent scorers, Kyle Singler (22/12) and Gerald Henderson (20/8, including a nasty flush in his own right, also below), but Scheyer struggled (2-10 FGs) and there was no other production for the Blue Devils.  Wake has now won five of its last six home games against Duke, and definitely gotten a huge leg up on the ACC regular season race with wins over Duke, UNC and Clemson so far.  One final note:

HEY WAKE FANS!  This delayed rushing the court nonsense has to end.  You’re a top five team.  You’re a national title contender.  Act like it.

Life On the Road is Tough.

  • Villanova 67, Pittsburgh 57. Just another night in the Big East, right?  Playing in the last college basketball game in the Spectrum (site of the greatest NCAA Tournament game of all-time), VU’s Reggie Redding channeled Christian Laettner and went 10-10 from the line for 18 pts.  It also helped that Villanova was able to get DeJuan Blair in foul trouble and limit his effectiveness in the form of 7 pts in only twenty minutes of action.  This game, along with the Louisville loss two weeks ago, showed just how vulnerable the Panthers are when Blair is not on the floor – in the four games this season where he has had 4+ fouls, Pitt has been outscored by 4 total points and is just 2-2 in those contests.  In all other games, they’re +324 total points and 16-0.  No other player in America has such a huge impact.
  • Providence 100, Syracuse 94. In what was a wild game at the Dunk (luckily Jonathan Xavier wasn’t out on supervised release), Providence nailed ten threes against the SU zone and held on down the stretch for a victory that now puts the Friars in a tie for third-place in the Big East.  Who saw that coming?  Syracuse nailed twelve threes on its own but simply could not get necessary stops at any point in the second half against the PC shooters, particularly Sharaud Curry (22 pts) and Marshon Brooks (17 pts).  Syracuse, who has now lost four of its last five games in this rugged league, was led by Jonny Flynn’s 35 and Eric Devendorf’s 27, but Paul Harris didn’t bring much (8/6) and Arinze Onuaku was ineffective in fifteen minutes based on recent swelling in his knees.  If PC can get to nine wins in this league (and they should, with 2 games against Rutgers and one against S. Florida), they should be in good shape for an NCAA invitation.  Cuse has now lost four of five and has five more tough games upcoming – they need to win a couple of those to stay in the middle of the pack of the league.
  • Cincinnati 65, Georgetown 57. Georgetown has now officially fallen apart.  Was it really only thirty days ago that the Hoyas went into UConn and eviscerated the Huskies with such precision?  Now they’re 3-5 in the Big East with a road trip to league leader Marquette this weekend.  And possibly even worse news – Dajuan Summers turned his ankle tonight and may not be available for a couple of games down the line.  Georgetown already had a minuscule bench – how are the Hoyas to be expected to replace their best wing scorer?  Cincy might be making a Providence-type run of its own now, after having won four of their last five games to move to 4-4 in the conference.  But the bigger story of this game is of course what has happened to Georgetown, and can they recover?
  • UNC 80, Florida St. 77. It looked as if UNC was going to take its third loss of the season tonight in Tallahassee, but Ty Lawson’s running floater from THREE (see below) made sure that wasn’t going to happen.  FSU stormed back in the second half behind Toney Douglas’ 24 (32 for the game), but the Noles couldn’t take advantage of a poor shooting night from UNC (38%) and a single-figure scoring night from Tyler Hansbrough (first time in 56 games).   We’re becoming more and more convinced that this UNC team is the same team as last season.  In Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller, they have two one more scoring option, but their defense is still marginal at best for a supposedly “great” team, and it’s not going to surprise us when these Heels drop 2-3 more games this conference season because of it.  Wasn’t tonight, though.

Other Scores of Meandering Interest.

  • Ohio St. 72, Michigan 54. Is it safe to now say that Michigan has officially come back to earth? – this loss to OSU is four of their last five.
  • Louisville 80, South Florida 54. Louisville is really starting to play like the team we thought they’d be back in October.  A second half 22-3 run finished off USF, behind 16 from Edgar Sosa (averaging 13 ppg in his last three).
  • Memphis 85, East Carolina 64. The Tigers won their 48th in a row against CUSA competition behind Antonio Anderson’s 28/8 assts.
  • Davidson 92, Chattanoooga 70. Stephen Curry had 32/5/8 assts in another easy win for the Wildcats.
  • St. Joseph’s 68, Richmond 58. Watch out, but with tonight’s road win, SJU is now 5-0 in the A10.  And Ahmad Nivins (15/14) is a beast.
  • Kansas 68, Nebraska 62. Kansas got itself in an early 13-pt hole but was able to rally back and stay unbeaten in the Big 12.
  • Xavier 69, Charlotte 47. XU improved to 6-0 in the A10 behind a dominant performance from their defense, holding Charlotte to 31% shooting.
  • Florida 83, Georgia 57. Nick Calathes had a triple double (20/13/10 assts) in another game on the Dennis Felton death watch.
  • LSU 79, Tennessee 73. We think that Tennessee is pretty much garbage this year, and the fact that LSU can go into Knoxville (after losing to Xavier at home) confirms it.
  • Northern Iowa 59, Illinois St. 55. NIU continues to roll right along in the MVC (now 9-1).
  • Northwestern 77, Indiana 75. IU continues to get so very close to winning one of these games, but they can’t seem to get over the hump (now losing ten in a row).
  • Connecticut 71, Depaul 49. Not every Big East road team lost tonight.  Depaul is an abomination, and Jerry Wainwright should be fired for this (0-8) disaster.
  • Kansas St. 88, Missouri 72. Mizzou had been rolling (4 Ws in a row), so this was a minor shocker.  We guess 12-22 from three will do that, though (KSU).
Share this story

Checking in on the… Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2009

College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. 

cct_logo

This Week in the A-10
By CCT Staff | January 26, 2009

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Ahmad Nivins (Sr.), Saint Joseph’s

Nivins once again put the Hawks on his back and carried them to two victories on the week.  In the two contests, Nivins averaged a spectacular 27 points and 16.5 rebounds per outing.  Against Duquesne, he set a career-high scoring mark, netting 34 points and pulling down 16 rebounds.  The senior forward also had a standout performance against Big 5 rival Penn, scoring 20 points and snagging 17 rebounds.  The two strong efforts by Nivins were his tenth and eleventh double-doubles on the season.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Rodney Green (Sr.), La Salle; Justin Harper (So.), Richmond

(Note: College Chalktalk’s week runs from the previous Monday through Sunday, given the release of ‘This Week in the A-10′ each Monday morning.)

GAME OF THE WEEK:  Jan. 21, 2009.  Saint Joseph’s 99, Duquesne 98 (OT)

In a game that featured double-digit leads for both teams, the outcome was decided by just one point and on the final play of the game.   By the way, that final play occurred in overtime.

Duquesne broke out of the gates early and opened up a 16-5 lead.  The Hawks came roaring back and built a 53-37 margin going into the half.  The Dukes rallied once again with a 24-4 run to retake the lead, before Ahmad Nivins scored six straight points in the final 45 seconds to tie the game and send it into an extra frame.

In the overtime,  Jason Duty hit a three-pointer with eight seconds to play to give the Dukes a one-point lead.  The Hawks had one last chance. Tasheed Carr, playing well of late, had his shot blocked and it fell into teammate Garrett Williamson’s hands.  Williamson’s game winning attempt misfired, but Idris Hilliard tipped in the rebound as time expired giving the Hawks a huge early conference win.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Trouble in College Park

Posted by nvr1983 on January 28th, 2009

Since winning the NCAA title in 2002 (in the ugliest title game I have ever seen at any level), Maryland basketball has fallen on hard times. Since that win, the Terrapins have made the NCAA tournament just 3 times in 6 years and have only advanced to the Sweet 16 once in that period. As you can see from the graphic below, the Terrapins have been a pretty mediocre ACC team since 2002.

Maryland's record since 2000-01
Maryland’s record since 2000-01

During that stretch, Gary Williams‘s teams have a combined record of 136-79 (63%) overall and 53-49 (52%) in the ACC. While they have had their bright spots (knocking a freshman Stephen Curry out of his first NCAA tournament), it seems like the Terrapins have had more than their fair share of bad moments in the past year.

Terrapin fans and the local media have already started to question Gary Williams. After the massacre at Cameron, I began to wonder how long Williams had to right the ship at Maryland (and rtmsf mentioned it in this morning’s ATB). The program is no longer even considered among the upper echelon in the ACC and Williams has been widely criticized for his inability to recruit top players to Maryland. The last class that Maryland had that was even was in Rivals.com’s Top 30 was back in 2006 (#19 that year). To be fair to Williams, he never really landed top recruiting classes (exception: 2003, the year after they won the national title, when they landed the #3 class, which unfortunately never panned out), but still managed to have great teams with Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, and Lonnie Baxter.

To make matters worse, the Terrapin players don’t even seem to go to class or at least not enough to graduate. (Note: This isn’t something new. It has been going on for a while at Maryland.)

Williams has been able to weather all these storms, but the latest news about his public disagreements with the Maryland administration regarding his inability to close on Gilchrist and Evans may just be the tipping point and provide the impetus needed for his opponents in the Maryland administration to get him off the sideline.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This leaves us with the question: How long do Maryland fans have to wait before calling for Williams’s head (figuratively please)? Bill Simmons says fans should give their teams a 5-year grace period. Unfortunately for Gary, that period ended with the loss in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament in 2007 and Maryland fans are not always the most supportive of their own team. With this latest fiasco, which unfortunately for Gary involved the Maryland administration, it may just be a matter of time before the most successful coach in Terrapins’ basketball history is sent packing from College Park.

Share this story

Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

I’m not sure if anyone actually noticed, but Checking in on the… Big East was absent from RTC last week (amazing the blog could survive, right?). Long story short, I work in the restaurant industry in DC, and last week there was some big, citywide party for some guy who just won some election or something. Did anyone hear about that? Needless to say, I was a bit short on time, which meant my blogging efforts took a serious hit.

But you can sleep easy kiddies and kiddettes. Your favorite RTC correspondent is back to fill you in on the inner-workings of the biggest and baddest conference in all the land. We’re going to mix things up a bit this week, as a lot has happened in the past two weeks and, frankly, I was a little bored with the old format. So without further ado, let’s get you caught up on all the Big East action:

The way that I see it, there are ten teams that can seriously be considered for a spot in the NCAA’s. Of those ten teams, there are essentially two tiers they can be broken into – UConn, Louisville and Pitt (and maybe Marquette, but more on this in a second) in one; Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Providence, West Virginia and Notre Dame in the other.

To be completely honest, the teams in that second tier all are beginning to look very average. The question I am stuck trying to answer is whether these teams are actually mediocre on a national scale, or if it just seems that way because they are getting pounded by excellent teams night in and night out in the Big East.

Take Notre Dame as an example. Once thought to be a top ten team, the Irish have dropped out of the AP Poll after four straight losses. But those losses are to Louisville, Syracuse, UConn and Marquette and the Irish also own a win over Texas and Georgetown (again, more on the Irish in a bit).

As the conference season moves on, one thing everyone needs to be keeping in mind is the way the Big East Tournament is going to work this year. All 16 teams are going to reach Madison Square Garden, but it is not going to be a typical 16 team tournament. The way it is scheduled is that teams ranked 9-16 will all play on Tuesday (9 vs. 16, etc.). On Wednesday, the winners of the Tuesday games will play the teams ranked 5-8 (8 vs. 9/16 winner). From there on, the tournament bracket is normal (1 vs. 8/9 winner, etc.).

Looking at the conference standings, it is going to be tough for anyone to crack the top four and get the double bye.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… SEC

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of  LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the ACC, SEC and Big West Conferences.

Meeks may very well inherit the conference with a Kentucky SEC Championship this season, but last night the Wildcats were shocked in a road loss to Ole Miss, whose 1-4 conference record was hardly intimidating.  But the Rebels held the Wildcats to 38.5% shooting on the way to their first SEC loss.  Kentucky still sits atop the SEC East standings with a half-game lead over Florida, and Ole Miss moves into third in the SEC West with a half-game lead over ‘Bama (trust me, we’ll get to them later).

Not to take away from the Rebels’ victory, but I’d like to take a moment to take away from the Rebels’ victory by bestowing further praise on Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks.

For most shooting guards, a 4-15 shooting night (3-10 from three) could be thrown away as a garbage game.  But Meeks still managed to put up 21 points because he was able to get to the line and hit all ten of his charity shots.  This is our sign that Meeks is the real deal and will be able to score at the next level – even when the defense focuses on him and his shot isn’t falling, the 6’4″ junior can put up enough points to keep his team competitive.  Pat Patterson led the ‘Cats with 24 by going 8-12 and hitting 8-9 free throws, but Meeks put up a game that reassured anyone not sure if he was ready for the big time.  More than his 54-point performance, showing that he’s able to get his even in the midst of a bad shooting night proves his ability.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Big Ten

Posted by nvr1983 on January 28th, 2009

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

Looking Back
Wow! Northwestern scored a thrilling upset over Michigan State at the Breslin Center this past week  prevailing 70-63. While the Wildcats still face a (very) uphill battle to get to the NCAA Tournament, at least this win made the other teams in the conference take notice. Kevin Coble put on one of the finest performances we have seen all season pouring in 31 points on just 16 shots. He’s not a household name yet, but with a couple performances like that, he will be.

Illinois also separated itself from the pack a bit, scoring home wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin, two teams that now appear to be in free fall. Wisconsin has lost four straight games as of this writing (and tips off against Purdue in a couple of hours) [Ed. Note: Now 5 straight], and Ohio State now sits at 3-4 after dropping a home game against Michigan State. To be fair, that’s the only home loss for the Buckeyes in the conference season, who might go on a run once the schedule eases up a bit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Over- and Underachievers

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

All right, now we’re talking.  We’re several games into conference play, now, and the leagues are starting to take shape.  We’ve known the fates of some teams for a long time, both the good (your Carolinas and Dukes, Oklahomas and UConns, etc), and the bad (no need to pile on, here).  The most interesting part of it all, to me, are those teams which are doing a little better than they expected and may be making tenuous hotel reservations for a very large dance in March…and others that are becoming quickly aware that they are only one or two losses away from being tossed into the dustbin of NIT-worthiness.  Even worse, many squads are realizing that they may not even have THAT to worry about, that there will be no post-season, that the only thing they have waiting on them after the basketball season is over is — horror of horrors — going to class.

photobucket.com)
Many teams know this is all they have to look forward to in March. (photo credit: photobucket.com)

So who’s not behaving like we expected?  Who has both surprised and disappointed us, in terms of conference play?  Without further delay, I give you…our early-conference edition of Over- and Underachievers.

ACC

Overachiever:  Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

As much as their win over then-#1 Wake Forest turned heads, I think people were just as surprised (at least I was) that they avoided the usual post-big-victory letdown by going to Miami (FL) four days after the Wake win and knocking off what I still think is a very capable Hurricane squad.  I know it’s early.  But right now it’s the Hokies who sit second in the conference, a game behind new national #1 Duke.  Victories like the ones they’ve enjoyed so far can sometimes set the tone for a great season, or they can make you overconfident so that you screw up the rest of your conference schedule.  We’ll see how far they can take it, but you’ve got to give them props to this point.

daylife.com)
Greenberg and Vassallo, Overachievers. (photocredit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6)

Whew.  What happened here?  After starting 7-2, something happened just before Christmas and the Jackets just haven’t gotten up from it.  Maybe the competition just got a little better, but with all the talent on this team and a coach like Paul Hewitt there’s just no excuse for going one-for-2009.  Their only victory of this year?  A 5-point win at home against Georgia, a bottom-feeder team in a terrible SEC.  To be completely honest, I’m already tired of talking about them.  Maybe next year Derrick Favors will bring the antidote this program needs.

Big 12

Overachiever:  Missouri (17-3, 4-1)

Hands up, who had Missouri at 17-3 after 20 games?  Yeah, me neither.  The Tigers have great individual talent but have succeeded this year by being the epitome of unselfishness, which has led to efficiency.  They average 19.4 assists per game (2nd nationally), just a ridiculous number.  The only question mark…only three true away games so far.  Probably the only reason they aren’t well-entrenched in the Top 25 right now.

daylife.com)
Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll, a large human, happy about overachieving. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4)

That 14-1 start was lookin’ pretty good, then conference play started.  12 assists per game just isn’t going to get it done (248th in the nation).  Donald Sloan averages the most dimes per game on this team at a mere 3.2.  We’re pretty sure Mark Turgeon is a fine coach, but right now the Aggies are giving the NCAA Tournament committee reasons to deny them entry in March.  They’d best learn to stay afloat for the rest of Big 12 play.

Big East

Overachiever:  Marquette (18-2, 7-0)

Winners of 10 straight.  RPI of 15.  7-0 in a monster conference.  The coolest thing about Marquette is that they’ll beat you any way you wish to get beaten — they can play slow, half-court basketball and cut you to pieces, and they’re also more than happy to outrun you and get it up near triple-digits.  And Monday night was telling — I bet Maurice Acker followed Kyle McAlarney to class today.  McAlarney couldn’t have gotten have rid of him even if he’d cut the brake lines on Acker’s car.  The Jerel McNeal/Wesley Matthews/Lazar Hayward three-headed monster has turned into one of the most fearsome in the game.  DO NOT forget this team when filling out your bracket in the office pool in a month and a half.

Underachiever:  Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)

The Pirates raised some eyebrows when they started off 9-3 including wins versus Southern Cal and Virginia Tech, and then — sense a trend, here? — conference play began.  Boom, six straight losses.  I think the Georgetown game really showed us something closer to who the real Seton Hall team is, but this conference is going to end up being just too vicious overall for them.

SEC

Overachiever:  Kentucky (16-4, 5-0)

According to a number of my Wildcat connections, before this season, UK supporters were basically ready to give Billy Gillispie another “free-pass” sort of season, inasmuch as a coach can actually have that at Kentucky.  Doesn’t look like Gillispie needs it.  This team is an interesting statistical mix.  They rank 3rd in the country in FG% (50.2%) and 2nd nationally in FT% (79%).  We know about the potency of the Jodie Meeks/Patrick Patterson tandem.  Defensively, they hold opponents to 36.4% a game from the field, which is 3rd best in the nation; and they rank second in the country in blocks per game with 7.5 (and, oddly, second in the conference as well behind Mississippi State’s 8.0/game).  So…great offense, great defense…what’s the problem?  Well, how about 18.1 turnovers per game?  That’s 338th out of 341 Division One teams.  Egad.  Nobody — even Kentucky fans, I don’t think — saw Kentucky improving this fast with so many unknowns starting the year.  Clean up the turnovers and you’re a top five team.

daylife.com)
Class of the SEC? We’ll see… (photo credit: daylife.com)

[Ed. note:  since this was written, Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi on Tuesday night to give UK its first loss in the conference and take them to 5-1.  I think, however, that UK still qualifies for Overachiever status in the SEC so far for reasons outlined above.   –J.S.]

Underachiever:  Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)

If you look at the win-loss pattern on Arkansas’ schedule, you’d say, “Yep, conference play, again.”  I don’t think you can’t say that, here.  It’s baffling, because in an eight-day span less than a month ago, John Pelphrey’s Razorback squad knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma, not exactly a couple of pansies.  It makes absolutely no sense that beginning conference play in a WAY-down SEC (6th in conference RPI, and probably falling) would cause Arkansas any problems at all, but here they sit at 0-4 in the conference, including an inexcusable 22-point home court butt-smoking at the hands of Auburn.  Arkansas is another team that is just loaded with great athletes, and if they straighten up a little the committee will remember those two earlier big wins.  Arkansas reminds me of Avril Levigne.  I’m pretty sure there’s something attractive there…but they’re doing whatever they possibly can to screw it up and make themselves ugly.

radaronline.com)
Avril has a message for Mr. Stevens (photo credit: radaronline.com)

This is not a complete list, by any means.  But I think it shows us how breezing through questionable non-conference opponents might not be the best recipe to impress the committee, as attractive as it is to post a nice big number in the pre-conference ‘W’ column.  Everyone knows that late losses simply mean more, that the committee likes you to finish strong.  You can’t allow yourself to be a conference underachiever.  Conference play will give you a bellyache if all you’ve been doing is loading up on cupcakes.

Share this story

Set Your Tivos: 01.28.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 28th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Tonight features the biggest game of the week (possibly the biggest game of the season so far.) No, I’m not talking about the Allen at Savannah State game. Instead, I’ll be focusing on a small game in North Carolina that you may have seen advertised a time or two on ESPN.

Game of the Night

  • #1 Duke at #4 Wake Forest at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: It will be interesting to see how the young Demon Deacons respond in their first game since their surprising loss at home against Virginia Tech. The Winston-Salem crowd will definitely be amped up for a visit from Duke (ranked #1 for the first time in 2 years). This game provides interesting match-ups all over the floor, but the two to watch are Nolan Smith versus Jeff Teague and Kyle Singler versus Al-Farouq Aminu. Teague will likely have a big advantage unless Coach K puts Smith on Ishmael Smith and puts Gerald Henderson on Teague. Singler versus Aminu will come down to a battle of Singler’s versatility and toughness going against Aminu’s athleticism and raw talent. I have a feeling that Singler will get the better of Aminu this time, but that could change when they meet later this year. I’m assuming that Smith/Singler and Teague/Aminu will basically neutralize each other so they can will probably be decided by whether or not Dino Gaudio can find a way to slow Henderson, who has been making a case for All-ACC honors with his play the last two weeks. In the end, I don’t think Gaudio will find an answer for Henderson and Duke will survive to stay at #1. Well at least until February 11th when Tyler Hansbrough and UNC come into Cameron (aka “The Most Important Game Ever” -ESPN).

Other Games Worth Watching

  • #3 Pittsburgh at #21 Villanova at 7 PM on ESPNU: Jay Wright‘s team is in a similar situation to what Marquette faced on Monday night. Like the Golden Eagles on Monday, the Wildcats have a relatively high ranking, but do not have a marquee win yet. Although Villanova gets this game at home while Marquette had to travel to South  Bend to take on Notre Dame, the Wildcats’ task is significantly harder. To knock off Pittsburgh (ranked 3rd in the nation, but quite possibly only the 3rd best team in their own conference right now), Villanova will need big games out of their stars, Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds, as well as solid performances out of their “Two Coreys”, Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher, to be in a position to beat the Panthers. Even then, the Wildcats will have to find a way to limit Sam Young and DeJuan Blair on the inside and hope that Reynolds can outplay Levance Fields. Even though Villanova has the home court, I’m going with Pittsburgh here because Villanova has not proven that they can win a big game yet (and they have had plenty of opportunities).

Hopefully Jay Wright's "Two Coreys" will be more successful
Hopefully Jay Wright’s “Two Coreys” will be more successful

  • #6 UNC at FSU at 9 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: The Tar Heels really shouldn’t have any problem in this game, but to be honest they shouldn’t have much trouble against all but the top 5-10 teams in the country if they are playing well. This game just feels like one where UNC is ready for a letdown. After going through a rough stretch at the beginning of 2009 where they lost 2 of 3 and were temporarily in last place in the ACC, the Tar Heels have rebounded and are coming off a 24-point victory over then #9 Clemson. They’re finally starting to resemble the team that people thought they could be earlier this season. The Seminoles come in with a solid 16-4 record with all of their losses coming against respectable opposition (ok, maybe not Northwestern). The Seminoles are certainly capable of pulling off an upset in Tallahassee (see their close losses versus #1 Duke and #3 Pittsburgh this year), but to get over the hump and actually win one Leonard Hamilton will need someone other than Toney Douglas to have a big game. Douglas averages more than twice as much as any of his teammates. An unbalanced scoring attack might get FSU wins over teams like Florida and Virginia, but it won’t work against a team that has 5 players in double figures including national POY candidate Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington (finally found his stroke), and Ty Lawson (playing much better this year). UNC will win this game, but I have a feeling it will be much closer than people expect.
Share this story