ATB: What We Learned

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2009

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Weekend Wrap.  We did a pretty good job of keeping up with most of this weekend’s key games in semi-real time in our Boom Goes the Dynamite series (Saturday and Sunday), so with this weekend’s ATB we decided to test our viewing comprehension and determine what we learned over two days of high-level hoops.

  • The Mess in the Middle of the ACC. The Noles’ comeback win at Clemson put them at 5-3 in the conference, tied with Wake, Clemson and Virginia Tech at the halfway point.  Throw in Miami (4-6), who lost a heartbreaker at Duke but proved itself as more than capable in its previous outing against Wake last week, and you’ve got five ACC teams (Maryland too) fighting for anywhere from 2-4 more bids to the NCAA Tournament.  All but Maryland already have a marquee win and everyone but the Terps also have a top 50 RPI rating.  BC, with only two road games remaining, and Miami, with only one game left against the top four of UNC, Duke, Wake, and Clemson, appear most well positioned to take advantage down the stretch.
  • Marquette is a good, not great, team. The Golden Eagles benefited from a fortuitous Big East slate of opponents that averages #85 in KenPom’s ratings to date, with their best wins coming against Villanova and WVU at home.   Regardless of South Florida’s upset win on Friday night, their fortunes were poised to change, as six of their final eight games are against the KenPom top 35, four of which are on the road.  We love how Jerel McNeal is playing, and Buzz Williams should be commended for their 20-3 (9-1) record, but we’re afraid that their marginally effective defense will catch up with them in the last few weeks of the season.
  • Short of a miracle run, Georgetown and Notre Dame are officially DOA. ND’s best win all season is a one-point win over Texas in Maui, and it’s second-best win?  Probably fellow Big East swooner Georgetown.  The Irish have dropped seven Big East games in a row in all shapes and sizes, its RPI is at 81, and they just got humiliated on national tv by UCLA (including a putrid 5/1 effort from their usually consistent dub-dub machine, Luke Harangody).  So what’s wrong?  Put simply, they don’t play defense: the Irish are currently ranked #276 in the nation.  At 3-7 in the Big East, ND has eight more games to turn this wreck around, and they probably need to win a minimum of six of those to just get back on the bubble.  Highly unlikely.  In our mind, the Georgetown collapse is even more confounding because of the pieces they have on that team with Wright, Summers and Monroe.  Still, the Hoyas have dropped six of seven after their OT loss vs. Cincy on Saturday, and sit barely above ND in the conference standings (4-7).  There are seven games remaining on their schedule, and JT3’s team must win all three against the bottom-dwellers and split the remainder to get to 9-9.  With a strongish RPI (36), Georgetown is in better shape than its Catholic friends to the west, but the Hoyas simply cannot afford another slip-up (and in fact, they need a couple of upsets down the stretch to feel safe).
  • UCLA is showing signs of making another run. Behind Alfred Aboya’s rise (15/8 over his last four games), the Bruins suddenly have the look of a team where things are starting to click for Ben Howland.  The upcoming road trip to the Arizona schools may tell the tale, but UCLA’s last four opponents were beaten down with highly efficient offense.  You can always count on UCLA to defend, so what might stand in the way of a fourth straight trip to the Final Four for UCLA?  Probably only the lack of a go-to scorer who they can count on for instant points.  Regardless, those who wrote off UCLA around midseason will likely regret that decision.
  • Memphis shouldn’t be forgotten.  It was easy to write off John Calipari’s Tigers after losing all the players they lost from last year’s national runner-up team, but much like Bill Self’s Kansas team, there were plenty of pieces on that bench to make another run.  We don’t expect this version of Memphis to make it back to the F4, but they could definitely play into the regional round.  Their dismantling of Gonzaga in Spokane Saturday night was nothing short of masterful.  Gonzaga hadn’t seen defense like that all year long (incl. Connecticut), and they’re getting just enough offense from the troika of Tyreke Evans, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier to keep teams honest.  Watch out for this Memphis team next month.

Some News & Notes.

On Tap Monday (all times EST). Just a couple of Big Monday game border wars.

  • West Virginia @ Pittsburgh (ESPN) – 7pm.  In the last matchup, a 12-pt win by Pitt on 1/25, the Panthers hit 55% behind Sam Young’s 22 and Dejuan Blair’s 16/11.  As long as DB is on the floor, the Panthers should be ok in this one.
  • Kansas @ Missouri (ESPN) – 9pm.  KU brings its 8-0 Big 12 record to Columbia, where Mizzou if 14-0 and it’s clear that Mike Anderson has finally turned the corner with his style of play there.  While we know that Kansas isn’t anywhere near as good as last year’s team, they’re playing very well and Mizzou will have to bring its best tomorrow night to get this win.

Shameless Plug.

  • Keep an eye out for RTC Live returning on Tuesday night of this week, as Clemson visits Boston College at 9pm EST.  Rush the Court will be courtside live-blogging the game, and you will have a chance to submit questions so that we can ask coaches and players whatever you like.  Yes, you will even be able to ask Oliver Purnell to explain his reaction to this atrocity.
rtmsf (3775 Posts)


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