Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2009

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings

  1. Texas (12-0) – Last Week the Longhorns beat Michigan State pretty handily. I’m going to side with the Rush the Court Top 25 and say that right now Texas is the best team in the country.
  2. Kansas (12-0) – The Jayhawks have a pretty tough three game stretch coming up: at Temple, vs. Cornell, and at Tennessee. If KU takes care of those teams they could reclaim the top spot.
  3. Kansas State (12-1) – Jacob Pullen is one of the best guards in the country that isn’t getting nearly enough recognition.
  4. Oklahoma State (11-1) – I don’t know if I really believe that the Cowboys are the fourth best team in the conference, but they take this spot by default because all the teams above them lost.
  5. Texas A&M (9-3) – The loss to Washington was expected, but the loss of  Derrick Roland to a broken leg was not. Hopefully he can regain his eligibility and come back strong next season.
  6. Texas Tech (10-2) – The Red Raiders became the second Big 12 team to lose to New Mexico (Texas A&M also lost to the Lobos) Tuesday night.
  7. Missouri (10-3) – The Tigers get a big jump after taking care of Illinois on a neutral court. Kim English is playing very good basketball right now.
  8. Baylor (10-1) – I’m still skeptical of the Bears because they really haven’t had any tough competition since Thanksgiving, but they took care of Arkansas easily.
  9. Nebraska (10-3) – The Cornhuskers get to move up because of their impressive win over Tulsa.  This team has set themselves up for an NIT bid if they can finish in the top nine in the conference.
  10. Iowa State (9-3) – I’m waiting for this team to get hot, because when they do they are going to be an exciting team to watch. They have two huge home games coming up against Houston on 1/3, and Duke on 1/6.
  11. Oklahoma (8-4) – I thought this Sooner team was supposed to compete for the conference title.
  12. Colorado (8-4) – I like Alec Burks, and I think he can be a very good player in conference play, but I don’t see Colorado ever getting out of the cellar.

Team of the Week: Missouri Tigers – In a quiet week, Missouri beat their interstate rivals Illinois pretty handily. The Big 12 is looking very strong right now, and its teams like the Tigers that are helping make it the best conference in the nation.

Player of the Week: Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas – The reason I’m giving it to Aldrich is because of his rebounding. This past week he had 10 rebounds against California and 14 against Belmont. Aldrich isn’t putting up Player of the Year numbers like some thought he would, but to his credit he has only registered 30 minutes in a game twice this season.

Top Stories

  • Derrick Roland. I feel terrible for this kid who broke his leg against Washington ending a season in which the Aggies were probably headed for the NCAA Tournament. Now the Aggies are left without their star player and they’re in trouble of missing the Tournament if they can’t find someone to pick up the slack left by Roland.
  • New Top Team. Texas overtook Kansas for the top spot in the Big 12 Power Rankings. Right now the Longhorns are playing like a national championship caliber team. Their frontcourt is the best in the nation, and their young guards are slowly getting better. Avery Bradley is key to this teams hopes of winning a national championship.

This Week’s Predictions (* indicates “Game to Watch”, # indicates “Upset Watch”)

  • Texas – vs. TX-AM CC 1/2 (W), at Arkansas 1/5 (W) – The Longhorns are probably remembering their loss to Arkansas last season, and they don’t want that to happen again.
  • Kansas – at Temple 1/2 (W)*, vs. Cornell 1/6 (W) – These are two tough games that the Jayhawks really want to win. You can’t sleep on either of these teams, especially Temple, who beat Tennessee at home last season.
  • Kansas State – vs South Dakota 1/3 (W) – Kansas State will get one more cupcake before conference play begins on January 9th.
  • Oklahoma State – at Rhode Island 1/2 (L) #, vs. Coppin State 1/5 (W) – Rhode Island is 10-1, and I think they will be too much for James Anderson and the Cowboys.
  • Texas A&M – vs. Northwestern State 1/2 (W), vs North Dakota 1/5 (W) – The Aggies will get to play some easy games in order to adjust to life without Derrick Roland.
  • Texas Tech – vs UTEP 1/3 (L) # – The Miners now have Derrick Caracter, and I think that makes them too much of a match for the Red Raiders.
  • Missouri – vs. UMKC 12/30 (W), vs. Georgia 1/2 (W), vs. Savannah State 1/6 (W) – The Tigers need to beat Georgia if they want to keep their NCAA hopes alive, barring a tremendous Big 12 finish.
  • Baylor – at Arkansas 12/30 (L), at South Carolina 1/2 (L), vs Morgan State (W) – I don’t believe that Baylor will be a good team in conference play, and I think they’ll prove it this week when they lose to two mediocre SEC teams on the road.
  • Nebraska – vs. Maryland Eastern Shore 1/2 (W), vs. Southeastern Lousiana 1/5 (W) – Two cupcake opponents should give the Cornhuskers a respectable record going into conference play.
  • Iowa State – vs. Houston 1/3 (W), vs. Duke 1/6 (L)* – I could see the Cyclones putting up a good fight against the Blue Devils, but ultimately Duke has too much talent for this Iowa State team.
  • Oklahoma – at Gonzaga 12/22 (L)*, vs Maryland-Eastern Shore ¼ (W)- The Sooners could make a statement against Gonzaga if they pull off a win, but they probably won’t.
  • Colorado – at Tulsa 1/2 (L), vs Miami (OH) 1/5 (W) – Tulsa will prove to be too much on the inside for Colorado to handle.
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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Boy, that was a rough non-conference season, huh? Everybody and their mom jumped on the Pac-10 for underachieving, and there is certainly some merit to that. The teams that were expected to compete for Top 10 spots sometimes looked like they shouldn’t be ranked at all. As a whole, the conference won very few quality games and for the most part waltzed through laughably easy opponents. Then, of course, there were the downright embarrassing losses that began to pile up one after another.

But don’t think for a second that there aren’t dangerous teams in the Pac-10 Conference. We expected California and Washington to be good, but the past few weeks have seen the impressive rise of Arizona State and USC, who now look like at-large bid candidates. And for as dreadful as we all made UCLA out to be, their losses came against good teams and the Bruins are still hovering around .500. In fact, they’re the only sub-.500 team in the Pac-10, so how bad could the conference really be?

Things will get sorted out as conference play begins tonight, and as the weeks go on the cream will likely rise to the top. Let’s catch up on how everyone has been doing, and analyze their chances at winning the league as we get started with play within the ‘family.’

Player of the Week: Quincy Pondexter, Washington – The 6’6 forward scored 47 points in two wins this week to get the #16 Huskies on track heading into Pac-10 play, and is looking like one of the clear frontrunners for conference Player of the Year. Without a third scoring option to complement he and Isaiah Thomas, Washington will need everything Pondexter’s got if they’re going to win the conference.

Power Rankings

#16 Washington (9-2): You have to wonder about the Huskies heading into their conference opener tonight. They’ve played just two games away from home, their two biggest wins are against Wright State and Texas A&M and they still haven’t found a suitable offensive weapon save Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas. They’re talented enough to win the league, sure, but without really challenging themselves in the non-conference it’s tough to know exactly what Washington is all about.

Arizona State (10-3): Similarly, the Sun Devils have played away from home just three times and dropped two of those games. Those losses to Duke and BYU came against good squads, but otherwise their schedule has been soft as cotton candy. They’re riding a three-game winning streak that began with a big win over hot San Diego State, but that is literally Arizona State’s only win of substance. WARNING: leading scorer Derek Glasser has gone cold in the past month after a very hot start.

California (8-4): The Golden Bears have rallied after a surprisingly rough start to win four out of their last five games; the one loss coming in a valiant effort against #1 Kansas and the four wins each coming by 19 points or more. With the return of 6’6 forward Theo Robertson – Cal was 3-3 during his absense – there’s another wing threat to keep defenders honest and give stars Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle a chance to do what they do. Heading into the conference schedule tonight, Cal still has a great chance at winning the Pac-10.

Washington State (10-2): It looked like the Cougars were a fluke thanks to an easy schedule, but they just kept on winning so you’ve got to give them credit for winning the games they should. Still – and this is a definite theme for the Pac-10 so far – they literally have no quality wins unless you count last Tuesday’s overtime victory over a struggling LSU (I don’t).

USC (8-4): Without a doubt, the Trojans are the most dangerous team in the entire conference right now. It looked like USC was off to a terrible season with a 2-4 start, but they’re now riding a six-game winning streak that includes three quality, double-digit wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV. Senior guard Mike Gerrity has become the team’s leading scorer in just four games and lit a fire under the Trojans, who now boast a potent scoring attack to balance one of the conference’s stingiest defenses.

Stanford (6-6): The Cardinal have faltered a little bit, dropping three of their last four games to Oklahoma State, Northwestern and Texas Tech. Shoot, at least they played somebody! You’ve gotta give Stanford credit for a tougher schedule than most. Senior forward Landry Fields leads the conference in scoring and has put up 20 points in each of the last eight games. Watch for Stanford to shock some Pac-10 opponents this season.

Oregon (8-4): The Ducks open their conference season tonight in what is actually one of the most compelling matchups in the Pac-10 against Washington State. Neither team boasts a difficult non-conference schedule and we’ll get to see whether either of them is for real when they face off. Oregon rides a four-game winning streak that featured nary a quality win, so facing the 10-2 Cougars will be a good barometer for the progress of both teams. Leading scorer Tajuan Porter has battled an ankle injury but may finally be getting back into a rhythm after a recent five 3-pointer effort.

Oregon State (6-5): In all truthfulness, this should be a 9-2 Beaver team. I know what you’re thinking, their offense is such a jumbled mess that they might as well just punt on most possessions. But their defense is stellar, even against excellent opposition, and if they get freshman guard Roberto Nelson back (currently ineligible) then Oregon State will be dangerous down the stretch. Still, there was that home loss to Sacramento State; shudder…

Arizona (6-6): You just don’t know what to do with Arizona. Heading into the conference opener against streaking USC tonight, the Wildcats have suffered several losses to good teams – which is more than most of the Pac-10 can say – but still don’t have a defining win and just gave up a 49-point effort to BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. On the other hand, point guard Nic Wise is playing like a conference MVP contender and he makes ‘Zona dangerous on any given night. Then again, a one-point home win over Lipscomb (in overtime!) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

UCLA (5-7): The head-scratching continues in Westwood as Bruin faithful try to digest exactly what is going on. Yes, UCLA’s losses have all come against quality teams, but the Bruins hardly put up a fight in any of them. They get a tough opener tonight hosting Arizona State. Let’s see if Malcolm Lee and his merry band of underachievers can put up a better fight in the conference season.

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Morning Five: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2009

  1. Jason King at Yahoo gives his midseason all-americans, and it’s a strong list.  Surprising inclusion – Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh.  Surprising exclusions – Ohio State’s Evan Turner (despite the injury), and Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu.
  2. ESPN.com ranks the decade’s best NCAA Tournament and non-Tourney games.  Pretty good list.
  3. Want to learn how Duke-Carolina became THE rivalry in college basketball sports in the modern era.  A good read by Dan Wiederer who maps it out over the last two decades-plus.
  4. Andy Glockner takes a look at the first two months of the season and the results of the games that will matter most when it comes to Selection Sunday in about 75 days.
  5. We know that the RPI as an objective measurement of the relative strength of teams is (mostly) worthless, but the NCAA Selection Committee still uses it, among other things, so we like to keep an eye on it from time to time.  What’s interesting about this is that the A10 is so high (4th), while the Big Ten is comically below the Pac-10 (7th).

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

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

Here we are on the brink of Big East play. What does that mean? MID-SEASON AWARD TIME!!!

Co-Players of the Year: Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia and Wes Johnson, Syracuse

Depending on who you ask, these two are in the mix for the national player of the year. Butler (16.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.8 apg) has been the best player for West Virginia, even sliding over and playing some point guard in the past few games as Joe Mazzulla works his way back from a shoulder injury and Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries. Butler may not be West Virginia’s best NBA prospect, but he has been the Mountaineers’ most valuable player this season. He is their best scorer in the halfcourt, and is quick becoming their best creator. He can step outside and knock down a three or run the point just as well as he can post up a smaller defender. He’s also hit two game-winners in the last two weeks.

Johnson has really lived up to the excessive hype he had in the preseason. He is averaging 17.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 spg, and 2.0 bpg while shooting 51.1% from three. His length, athleticism and versatility has been his biggest assets; he makes it so difficult for opposing players on the baseline in the Cuse zone; he plays like a three on the offensive end, but blocks shots and rebounds like a four on the defensive end; and most importantly, he can really score, be it in transition or in the half court set. Think the love child of T-Mac and Shawn Marion. Scary, right?

Freshman of the Year: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati

Born Ready wasn’t quite born ready, but 11 games into the season, its pretty clear that Stephenson is going to be a player in this league. Stephenson has averaged 12.5 ppg and 2.4 apg, but more than the numbers he has put up, it has been what he hasn’t done that has been most important – this kid is not a distraction. Yes, he does have his outbursts (his reaction at the end of the Gonzaga game and his yapping at Chris Mack in the Xavier game come to mind), but what 19 year old doesn’t? Cincy has struggled a bit early in the season as they haven’t quite lived up to some of the lofty expectations, but none of that has been Lance’s fault. He makes smart plays, he makes unselfish plays, and, most importantly, he simply makes plays.

All-Conference Teams

1st team

  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame: 24.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg
  • Jerome Dyson, UConn: 19.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.7 apg
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette: 19.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
  • Dominique Jones, South Florida: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia: 15.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg

2nd team

  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall: 23.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn: 17.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova: 17.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
  • DJ Kennedy, St. John’s: 16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown: 15.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.0 apg

3rd team

  • Andy Rautins, Syracuse: 9.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.5 spg
  • Herb Pope, Seton Hall: 13.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville: 16.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
  • Antonio Pena, Villanova: 13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg
  • Gus Gilchrist, South Florida: 18.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Biggest Surprise – team: Syracuse

If I have to explain this to you, you should be reading Perez Hilton and not Rush the Court.

Biggest Surprises – player: Kevin Jones, West Virginia and Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

We knew that Jones was good. He’s long, he’s strong, he’s athletic, and he has a nose for the ball, which makes him a perfect fit for a Bob Huggins-coached team. But did anyone expect him to be West Virginia’s best low post player? He has given the Mountaineers a true low-post threat, he can knock down threes, and he attacks the offensive glass very hard. 15.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg is just the beginning for this kid.

Tim Abromaitis is a different story. He barely played as a freshman and redshirted last year, and when Scott Martin went down with an ACL injury in the preseason, a chance was given and Abro has made the most of it. He is averaging 15.8 ppg while shooting 50.7% from three, giving Notre Dame another option if defenses collapse on Harangody. If he can bulk up a bit and become a better rebounder, Abro may be an all-conference player when it is all said and done.

Biggest Disappointment – team and player: Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati

I really thought that the Bearcats were going to make a push for the Big East crown this season. With Vaughn teaming up with Stephenson and Cashmere Wright on the perimeter and Yancy Gates anchoring a big, physical front line, I thought this team had the roster to be a factor. But with Vaughn’s early season struggles, Cincy has lost three games in the non-conference, and has yet to look like a contender. For the first time in his career, Vaughn is averaging below double figures at just 9.8 ppg, but lets face it – he is just too talented to struggle for a full season. I’m not writing off the Bearcats just yet.

The runner-up for most disappointing team is Seton Hall. The Pirates have a ton of talent, but they just don’t have the team chemistry to compete with the big dogs. I’m not talking about the players getting along. They may very well be best friends. What I mean is that this team just doesn’t play well together right now. Jeremy Hazell, as good as he is, seems to be more concerned with finding his best shot of offense as opposed to the team’s best shot. Herb Pope is a load on the block, but he can’t hit free throws, turns the ball over too much, and seems lost offensively at times. Eugene Harvey, Keon Lawrence, Robert Mitchell, Jeff Robinson – these guys over-dribble and don’t consistently take good shots. Seton Hall could easily be 2-0 in the league right now, but instead they have dropped two heartbreakers early on, and in a league as balanced as the Big East is, that is going to be a tough thing to overcome.

Coach of the Year: Norm Roberts, St. John’s

The Johnnies are flirting with the bubble this season, and with a good performance in the Big East, the Red Storm could very well make it back to the tournament this season. And keep in mind that St. John’s has done this without Anthony Mason, Jr., playing a minute yet this season and with Justin Burrell missing a few weeks with an ankle injury.

Notes

  • West Virginia is currently playing with five forwards in their starting line-up – Butler, Jones, Ebanks, Wellington Smith and John Flowers – as Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries and Joe Mazzulla makes his way back from a shoulder injury. This creates two problems for the Mountaineers – they are struggling against pressure defenses and creating easy shots in the halfcourt, and they give up way too much penetration. This was completely evident against Marquette, as the Golden Eagles spread the floor, attacked gaps, and got a number of wide-open looks from three. But this is a good thing for WVU, believe it or not. Mazzulla is not going to be healthy this season (he’s playing right now with the inability to raise his left arm – he’s shooting free throws right handed as a lefty), which means that once Bryant gets healthy, they will have one true point guard. If injuries our foul trouble strikes later in the season, learning to play with five forwards now is better than learning in March.
  • UConn has two major achilles heels this season – depth and free throw shooting. The addition of Ater Majok is not going to be as influential as many believe. Majok is long and plays with energy, but he has no basketball IQ and he is nothing more than length right now – he’ll block a few shots and grab a few boards, but he’s a 12-15 mpg player at best. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has played well in the last couple of games, but he is still learning what it takes to compete in the Big East. This is still basically a five player team. But the bigger issue will be free throw shooting. Neither Stanley Robinson nor Jerome Dyson are great free throw shooters, which is a big problem when you consider how often these two are going to get to the line the way they attack the rim. UConn is going to struggle to put points on the board, and a few missed free throws are going to make a huge difference. You can argue pretty convincingly that it cost them both the Duke and Kentucky games.
  • Villanova is not going to be a great team until they play better defense. KenPom has them at 89th in the country right now in tempo-free defensive efficiency. They give up too much penetration, allow too many open threes, and don’t have the size inside to prevent post-ups and defend at the rim. This team is really going to miss Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, but hopefully getting Reggie Redding back will make a difference.
  • Jeremy Hazell scored 41 and 38 points in losses to West Virginia and Syracuse, respectively, but it took him 64 shots to do so. He needs to be more efficient and/or take better shots for the Pirates. Any above average guard in this league could put up those numbers with that many shots.
  • Chris Wright had 34 points in Georgetown’s win over Harvard, but lost in that was the fact that he still had 4 turnovers and just 4 assists. On the season, he is only averaging 3.5 apg and 3.0 turnovers.

Power Rankings

1. Syracuse – 13-0, 1-0

Last Week: 12/29 @ Seton Hall 80-73

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Pitt

2. West Virginia – 10-0, 2-0

Last Week: 12/26 @ Seton Hall 90-84, 12/29 vs. Marquette 63-62

Next Week: 1/1 @ Purdue

3. Villanova – 11-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Delaware 97-63

Next Week: 1/2 @ Marquette

4. Georgetown – 9-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Harvard

Next Week: 1/3 @ DePaul

5. UConn – 9-2

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Iona 93-74

Next Week: 12/30 @ Cincy 69-71, 1/2 vs. Notre Dame

6. Louisville – 9-3

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette 84-69, 12/27 vs. Radford 79-53

Next Week: 12/30 vs. South Florida 73-52, 1/2 @ Kentucky

7. Cincinnati – 8-3

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. UConn 71-69, 1/2 @ Rutgers, 1/4 vs. Pitt

8. St. John’s – 10-2

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Bryant 80-44

Next Week: 12/31 @ Georgetown, 1/3 vs. Providence

9. Marquette – 9-4, 0-1

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Presbyterian 102-62, 12/29 @ Marquette 62-63

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Villanova

10. Notre Dame – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. Providence 93-78, 1/2 @ UConn, 1/6 @ South Florida

11. South Florida – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Louisville 52-73, 1/5 vs. Notre Dame

12. Seton Hall – 8-3, 0-2

Last Week: 12/26 vs. West Virginia 84-90, 12/29 vs. Syracuse 73-80

Next Week: 1/2 @ Virginia Tech

13. Pitt – 11-2, 1-0

Last Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul 65-52

Next Week: 1/2 @ Syracuse, 1/4 @ Cincinnati

14. Rutgers – 9-3

Last Week: 12/28 @ UNC 67-81

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Cincinnati

15. Providence – 8-4

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Notre Dame 78-93, 1/3 @ St. John’s

16. DePaul – 7-6, 0-1

Last Week: 12/28 @ Pitt

Next Week: 1/3 vs. Georgetown

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. V

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2009

backdoorcuts(3)

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh. This week they each pick their favorite moment of the decade — and their answers may surprise you.

DAVE ZEITLIN: Guys, in life I only have two rules: 1) Don’t commit murder; and 2) When a decade is coming to an end, I need to categorize everything in “best of” formats. Seriously, I eat that stuff up like I’m Rick Majerus at a buffet table. I’ve already listed the top 10 Penn basketball moments of the decade for my new Penn sports blog (yes, that’s a plug — now click on the link before I consider breaking rule No. 1) and I’ve read countless more of these types of lists. Who knows why? I guess I’m just a sucker for moments — glorious, spine-tingling, remember-where-you-were-when-you-see-them moments that shed a little light on why I devote way too much of my pathetic life to sports.

College basketball, to be sure, had plenty of great moments this decade. For a good walk down memory lane, be sure to check out a nice recap from Seth Davis. From Syracuse’s national championship in 2003 (Hakim Warrick’s block!) to George Mason’s truly amazing run to Adam Morrison crying on the floor, there are so many moments I remember vividly.

But this is a column where we get stuff done. So our goal is to pick out the truly best moment of the decade. Of course, this can mean a lot of things. For me,it’s hard to pick just one from the NCAA tournament, which features a handful of memorable games and plays every year. So after further consideration, I’ve decided my favorite moment of the 2000s happened this year. It wasn’t a do-or-die game for either team and many people didn’t even watch the end. But Syracuse’s six-overtime win over UConn in last season’s Big East tournament was truly epic — and my No. 1 choice.

I won’t recap the game for you. That would take up too much space, and I don’t even think I remember much of it. Here’s what I do remember: placing a friendly wager with my sports editor about the game (I picked ‘Cuse!), leaving work after the first overtime, listening to one or two  overtimes in my car ride home, coming home and chatting with anyone who was online (was that you, Steve?) through the next couple of overtimes, and then pacing around my apartment and muttering like a crazy person during the final two overtimes. How many overtimes is that? I don’t even know. That game made me forget how to count.

Seriously, I didn’t know what to do during the last hour of that game. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run around the city and find people to talk to about the 2-3 zone. I wanted to drive to Syracuse, find the walk-on that played the final overtime because everyone else fouled out and hug him. I wanted to write the words “March Madness” on a piece of paper and then make out with it. It was that good.

Was it the most important moment of the decade? Definitely not. But it was my favorite. And now I’m eager to know — what are yours? There are no rules, no restrictions. Mike, this is your chance to pen a poem on why St. Joe’s was the best sports story in Philadelphia in 2004 other than a horse. And Steve, you can, um, write about how BU’s only trip to the tourney was spoiled by Bob Huggins being mean. I’ll be anxiously waiting — it’s just too bad there won’t be any six-overtime games to keep me entertained in the meantime.

A polarizing figure for our columnists

STEVE MOORE: First of all, that 2002 tournament game still gives me nightmares. Did Steve Logan really need to go back in the game when Cincinnati had a bazillion-point lead? Bob Huggins thought so. Bob Huggins also hates puppies. So there’s that. Also, what does a list of Top 10 Penn Basketball moments of the decade look like, exactly?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Go-to Guys

The term “Go-to” guy was Ken Pomeroy’s first attempt to describe a player who took more than 25% of his team’s possessions and shots when he was on the floor. The term might be a cliche, a slight misrepresentation even, so Pomeroy over time modified the adjective several times, eventually settling on “Major Contributor” to describe a player who took 24% or more of the team’s possessions (irrespective of the number of minutes played).

Who are the “Go-to” guys of the A10? If the first 10-12 games of the season are an indication, these 27 players will find their names in game previews, usually at the end of sentences that begin “…must shut down.” And of course in postgame newspaper and blog accounts. Maybe even a highlight spot or two. Note, the A10’s All-Conference team pool is not limited to these players alone (there is, after all, about 224 conference games still to play), but more than a few of these guys will find their way onto voter ballots by late February.

Player stats for games through 12/20/09. Many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for providing player breakdowns on his web site.

The names ought to be familiar, especially if the reader follows the conference’s Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week awards. Ten of the players listed above have earned “OtW” (“Of the Week”) recognition at least once. To be sure more will be recognized before the end of the regular season.

Shamari Spears and Darrio Green (Charlotte) are typical of a number of players in the table — “Significant/Major Contributors” in either (or both of) possessions and shots, but a bit light on playing time (Min%). I set the lower (%Min) boundary at 50% in an effort to find those players whose time is/will be increasing over the course of the non-conference schedule. It’s a shame Jio Fontan bailed out on Fordham this season, as the sophomore could have paired with freshman Chris Gaston to form a potent scoring combination on both the perimeter and with penetration in the lane. Instead he will sit a year at another school, rumored to be USC, before he can resume his career. La Salle’s freshman Aaric Murray forms a kind of odd couple with senior guard Rodney Green. According to Ken Pomeroy’s inside/outside measure, Green is an “inside” player with a rating of 9.7, but the 6’10, 250 pound Murray, with a rating of 3.0, veers more to neutral (0.0) than even Green. Murray has taken 17 3-point attempts (and converted 9) and gotten to the line for only 20 free throw attempts. Murray’s 98.1 offensive rating is typical of freshmen (see also Chris Gaston and Carl Jones of St. Joseph’s). In time he will learn to use his body to score more efficiently near the basket, instead of stepping away from the defender for a three. St. Louis’ pair, Willie Reed and Kwamain Mitchell, along with Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, epitomize the notion of the “Go-to” guy — they combine lots of minutes (well maybe not so much for Mitchell…) with high usage (possessions and shot taking) and efficiency (ORtgs greater than their team). These guys consume a lot of possessions, but they make their teams better in the process.

And Then There Is…

I wanted to keep the list to 1-2 players per team at most, but a few teams/player combinations posed a challenge. Charlotte, Duquesne and La Salle are cases in point. Charlotte’s freshman Chris Braswell will most likely make the short list for the All-Conference Newcomers team, but his 24.8% possession rate was probably inflated by his 26.5 turnover rate. His 98.3 offensive rating (about 0.98 points per possession), though low for a “go-to” type player, is typical for a freshman. Braswell may well find the ball in his hands at a crucial juncture of a few of Charlotte’s games this season, but Green and Spears will probably have to pass on their shots first. La Salle’s junior forward, Jerrell Williams, also had a high possesion rate (about 24.4%), but took relatively few shots, 18.6%, more typical of a role or basic “starter”, rather than a go-to type player. The difference between possession and shot rates may be explained by Williams’ outstanding offensive rebounding rate (15%) and FTA/FGA rate (about 90%). Duquesne’s Malquan Bolding has been out with a broken wrist, injured  in the Dukes’ first game of the season. His offensive role may well have passed to guards Bill Clark and Eric Evans. Bolding logged an offensive rating of 102.7 by the end of the 2009 season, an efficiency mark Evans (79.7) and Clark (99.5) have been unable to achieve, though both were more efficient last season than this. Which may explain in part why the Dukes have been tagged with four losses so early in this season. The last two, a road loss to Summit League member UIPIU and a blowout in Morgantown at the hands of West Virginia, have to be especially damaging to Duquesne’s postseason expectations. Temple’s Lavoy Allen takes even fewer possessions just below “Regular” (or Pomeroy’s new descriptor “Significant Contributor”), but any team taking on the Owls has to account for Allen’s board work, under both baskets, and his efficienct conversion rate (52% eFG%). Richmond’s David Gonzalvez logs 82% of the minutes, takes 21.3% of the shots and converts at a very efficient 59.8% (eFG%), but possessions, and even shots when compared to Anderson (and Harper when he is in) suggest those two get looks before Gonzalvez. Too bad, given that his offensive rating is an outstanding 117.4 (100.0 is good). If he could develop consistency, game-to-game, Coach Mooney would probably figure out how to get him more looks and shots.

Standings as of 12/29/09

  1. Temple (10-2)
  2. Rhode Island (10-1)
  3. Charlotte (10-2)
  4. Dayton (10-2)
  5. Richmond ((10-3)
  6. George Washington (9-2)
  7. Duquesne (9-4)
  8. St. Louis (9-4)
  9. Xavier (8-4)
  10. La Salle (7-5)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-7)
  14. Fordham (2-9)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

The 49ers hosted Mercer Tuesday night, beating them soundly, 91-80, before 5,400 hometown fans. Dario Green and Shamari Spears (see above) led the way with 23 points apiece. Freshman forward Chris Braswell logged his fifth double-double of he season, scoring 14 points to go with 14 rebounds. Reserve center Phil Jones also scored 10 points. The 49ers have won 8 of their last 9 games.

Charlotte will host the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech on Saturday (1/2) and then travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee next Wednesday (1/6) before they open their A10 schedule against St. Bonaventure.

Dayton

The Flyers dropped out of the rankings on the heels of their 1-2 trip to Puerto Rico at the end of November are back and knocking at the door this week. The AP has them ranked #28 (listed among “those receiving votes”), 50 votes below #25 Northwestern. While guard Marcus Johnson is working himself back into game shape after his sprained ankle, wing Luke Fabrizius is doubtful, having not practiced (according to local reports) last week. Guard Chris Johnson was also doubtful, but the sophomore wing logged 16 minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points in Dayton’s 74-60 win over Boston University on Tuesday (12/29). Rob Lowery might be approaching 100%, the guard led all scorers with 23 points in 23 minutes of play. Forward Chris Wright was the third Flyer to log double digit minutes with his 19 points on 8-10 (0-1, 8-9) and 3-4 shooting. The Flyers led end-to-end, with a 2-2 tie the closest Boston came.

Dayton will celebrate New Year’s at New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, in Albuquerque, then return home to host Ball State on Tuesday (1/5) before opening their A10 schedule with Duquesne a week from Saturday (1/9).

Duquesne

The Dukes await the return of Melquan Bolding as they travel to Norfolk, VA, to play Old Dominion Wednesday night (12/30). Duquesne will then take another week to get ready for Richmond on 1/6.

Fordham

Coach Grasso’s team will take a Southern Swing before starting their A10 schedule. Against the Kennesaw State Owls, the Rams lost a 13 decision, 79-66 on Tuesday (12/29). Chris Gaston logged his eighth double-double of the season, and led the Rams in scoring, notching 26 points on 11-23 (0-2, 11-21) and 4-8 shooting. Senior guard Brenton Butler scored 25 points on 9-21 (2-7, 7-14) and 5-5 shooting. Butler tied his season-high effort against Stony Brook, and has now scored 20 or more points 8 times in his 4 years on Rose Hill. Fordham heads up to Virginia to play Hampton on 1/3.

George Washington

The Colonials squeaked by the Crusaders, 70-68, extending their run to 5 of the last 6 games, as they have won 5 road games so far this season. Damian Hollis scored a team-high 19 points on 7-14 (1-4, 6-10) and 4-4 shooting. Freshman forward Dwayne Smith broke his career-high 19 minutes at East Carolina with a 21 minute run Monday night. Smith’s 13 points were second on the team. Sophomore guard Tony Taylor chipped in 10 points and 5 assists in 36 minutes of play.

George Washington will swing into Cambridge, MA to play Harvard Wednesday (12/30), then return home and close out their OOC schedule with a game against cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

La Salle dropped a 78-75 decision to Cornell of the Ivy League on Tuesday (12/29) at the Tom Gola Arena on campus. Big Red senior forward Ryan Wittman led all scorers with a 34 point on 11-21 (4-9, 7-12) and 2-3 shooting. The win can only fuel speculation that Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, a former assistant under Fran Dunphy at Penn, will be a “person of interest” as Penn AD Steve Bilsky looks around for a candidate for the Quakers’ vacant coaching position. Rodney Green led the Explorers with 19 points, as all of their starters scored double digit points.

The Explorers will take to the road to play Binghamton on Saturday (1/2), then open their A10 schedule against Xavier on 1/6.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen swing back into action on Wednesday (12/30) with a trip to Davidson. They return to host Fordham in their A10 opening game on 1/6.

Rhode Island

Someone has noticed the Rams’ great start as Rhode Island received 5 votes in the AP’s 12/27 poll, making them the 3rd A10 team to receive votes in the poll this week. The nine day layover ended Tuesday (12/29) as the Rams squeezed by the Dragons of Drexel University 80-79 in Philadelphia. Rhode Island was led by senior guard Keith Cothran’s game-high 28 points (no surprise, see table above), augmented by rotation player Orion Outerbridge, a sophomore forward who scored 13 points on 5-6 (0-0, 5-6) and 3-5 shooting, in just 16 minutes of play.

The Rams travel to Uncasville, CT to meet Oklahoma State in the 9,500 seat arena in the Mohegan Sun casino on Saturday (1/2). Not quite a neutral setting, the Rams have a great opportunity for a Top 50 RPI win (Ok State is #40) for their resume. Rhode Island will close out their out of conference schedule with a trip to Ohio to take on the Akron Zips on Tuesday (1/5).

Richmond

The Spiders scraped by UNC-Wilmington 66-64 on Monday night. Richmond took a 5 point lead into the locker room at the half,but lost it quickly in the 2nd half, dropping behind by 10 at the 5:00 mark. Led by Kevin Anderson who scored 13 points (with support from David Gonzalvez and junior forward Kevin Smith), the Spiders launched a 22-10 blitz to overtake the Seahawks and close out the game.

Richmond will take an extended road trip as a bridge to the New Year. They face Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC on Thursday (12/31), then travel to Lewisburg, PA to play the Bison of Bucknell on Saturday (1/2), then swing down to Pittsburgh to open their A10 schedule against Duquesne the following Wednesday (1/6).

Saint Joseph’s

Congratulations to Carl Baptiste for his Rookie of the Week honor. The forward scored a career-high 13 points in 22 minutes of play when the Hawks downed Lehigh,77-66, on 12/20. The Hawks lost to the Saints of Siena 92-75 in Albany, NY on Tuesday (12/29). Junior forward Idris Hilliard scored a team-high 13 points as the Hawks were again outrebounded 29-39 by an opponent.

Saint Joseph’s will host the Princeton Tigers at the Hagan on Saturday (1/2), then travel across town to play Temple on 1/6.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies play their last game of 2009 on Wednesday (12/30), hosting Canisius in Olean, NY. They then take to the road to play Marshall Saturday (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule by hosting George Washington the following Wednesday (1/6).

St. Louis

The Conference Office named Kwamain Mitchell the Player of the Week, citing his career-high 33 points scored in St. Louis’ 61-54 win over Missouri-Kansas City and noting that 20 of those points came in the 2nd half. The Billikens hosted, and clobbered, Eastern Illinois, 60-42 on Tuesday (12/29). Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed led all scorers with 19 and 13 points respectively. Mitchell shot 7-17 (5-12, 2-5) and 0-0, while Reed’s numbers were 5-7 (0-0, 5-7) and 3-6.

The Billikens travel to Bowling Green for a game with the Falcons on Saturday (1/2), then return home to open the A10 season against Richmond the following Saturday (1/9).

Temple

Coach Dunphy’s Owls strangled the MAC’s Bowling Green, 63-39, on Monday night. Concerned the semester break would cut into attendance, Temple moved the game to the old McGonigle Hall, where, according to reports, they sold out their 3,700 seat gym and even turned fans away. The Owls donned retro unis reminiscent of the 1990s when playing in McGonigle and residing in the AP Top 25 were the norm. Maybe the old time feeling accounts for the smothering defense they put on the Falcons, as the Owls limited Bowling Green to an outstanding 0.66 points per possession in a game that played for about 59 possessions. Temple’s 1.06 ppp is very respectable. Ryan Brooks, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez continued to dominate possessions and shots, with junior Lavoy Allen again contributing as a 4th/5th option on offense. Brooks played virtually the entire game (90% of the available minutes) and logged an impressive eFG% of 81.8% (with a PPWS of 1.54), Ramone scored an notable 17 points in 21 minutes, recording an eFG% of 83.3% and a PPWS of 1.56. The duo of Fernandez, and Allen (along with senior guard Luiz Guzman) logged eFG%s in the range of 50.0 – 55.0 as well.

The Owls close out the MAC portion of their schedule at Northern Illinois on Wednesday (12/30) when they travel to De Kalb, IL. Temple plays D1-A (Bowl Division) football in the Mid American Conference, and are obligated to schedule 4 teams from that conference in basketball. Temple’s standing should help the MAC’s conference RPI this season. Temple will return to Philadelphia to host Kansas on Saturday night (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule with a game against Saint Joseph’s on 1/6.

Xavier

Xavier hosted Louisana State on Tuesday (12/29) and pummelled the Tigers 89-65 at the Cintas Center. Four Musketeers, led by guard Terrell Holloway’s 20 points, scored in double digits. Junior forward Jamel McLean recorded his second career double-double (10 & 10) and the first this season. X’s record versus Top 100 (RPI) teams improves to 3-3.

The Musketeers take to the road with a game in Winston-Salem, NC against Wake Forest on Sunday (1/3). And then to Philadelphia to open their A10 schedule against La Salle next Thursday (1/7).

Games to Catch

  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 – This is the last big OOC opponent for the Spiders. And another opportunity for a top 75 RPI win (the Demon Deacons’ RPI is #51).  Richmond’s front court contingent, Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 – New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, is a notoriously difficult place for a visitor to win. The Lobos, expected to contend in the Mountain West Conference this season, are off to a 12-1 start and sport a #16 RPI. A good line on the resume and a great confidence builder going into conference play (the Flyers are 3-2 when playing away from their home court), if the Flyers can bring home a win.
  • Temple vs Kansas,  Saturday 1/2 — The #19 ranked Owls host #1 ranked Kansas in a game that could be a signature win for their tournament resume, and boost their chances of an at-large bid should they fail to win the A10 Tournament.
  • Charlotte vs Georgia Tech, Saturday 1/2 — Ranked #20 in the Coaches’ Poll, the Jackets are Charlotte’s second ACC opponent this season, and provide a great opportunity to add another signature win to their resume.
  • Rhode Island vs Oklahoma State, Saturday 1/2 — The Rams have a short  trip down I-95 (to I-395) to Uncasville, CT where they will match up with the #40 ranked (RPI) Cowboys in a sort of neutral site game. Big 12 teams have been very tough to beat this season (ask Dayton, La Salle and Xavier). A good win if the Rams can bring it home.
  • Xavier at Wake Forest, Sunday 1/3 — The Demon Deacons are the X-Men’s last BCS opponent this season.  Xavier is 1-3 (thank heaven for LSU!), so this one is for the tournament resume. Win or lose, another road test can only make the Musketeers stronger for conference play.
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The First Shot in Saturday’s UK-UL Game…

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

We all know that Kentucky-Louisville rivalry went up a notch or twelve when the state’s flagship university hired Rick Pitino’s BFF John Calipari to take over the reins in Lexington, right?   As we head into the Bluegrass State’s annual civil war with fans on both sides getting a little testy, we’re presented with one enterprising contractor/UK fan who looked to fire the first shot by leaving his mark on the Cards’ under-construction new downtown arena.  From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

WHAS-11’s Sky11 got a picture of something that may have never been noticed if not for a keen eye.  As you can see, someone inserted the UK logo into the freshly poured concrete at the new UofL arena site.

Yeah, this is going to be good.  The media crush alone signifies the importance of this game.  See ya Saturday afternoon in Lexington.

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Morning Five: 12.30.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

  1. Illinois guard Alex Legion will leave his second team in three years as he has plans to transfer from Illinois during the semester break.  The former Parade All-American clearly exhibits a disconnect between his actual talent level and his production, as the 6’5 junior guard with a career 32% shooting percentage and 3.8 PPG average just hasn’t been able to find a comfortable home in his college career.  Mike DeCourcy points out that Legion’s second go-round on transferring mid-season has cost him up to as many as fifty games over the life of his career.
  2. Kalin Lucas: suspended by Tom Izzo.  No legal or school issues involved, but it’s clear that Izzo is trying to send a message to his team’s captain (and his team) that they’re not performing up to expectations.
  3. Iowa’s Anthony Tucker has pleaded guilty to public intoxication.  He’ll pay a little less than $200 in fines and is working toward reinstatement on his team given the requirements of the university’s student-athlete substance-abuse policy.
  4. Here’s Luke Winn’s early warning signs column on which teams are likely overrated and underrated via the nonconference schedule.  It’s a great article and very enlightening, but the point about Kentucky is apparent — the young UK players aren’t taking lesser teams as seriously as they should (until last night, gulp).  That could be very different by February, however.
  5. Gary Parrish delves more deeply into the interesting case known as USC basketball.
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ATB: Da’Sean is Da’Man

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

Apologies.  We ran out of time with the travel schedule to do a complete ATB tonight, but we’ll be back tomorrow to cover both Tuesday and Wednesday.  In the meantime, all you really need to know about tonight is Da’Sean.  See ya tomorrow…

Da’Sean West Virginia 63, Marquette 62.  In a game where it looked like WVU was going to lose its unblemished record, and in a game where it probably should have lost its unblemished record, WVU’s Da’Sean Butler had other ideas, singlehandedly winning the game all by himself in the last minute (start the video at around the 5:00 mark).

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Early Week Check-Ins…

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2009

Missouri Valley – Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review (READ MORE)

Surprises at the top — A year ago, you would not have seen Missouri State and Wichita State at the top of the conference with Creighton and Bradley towards the bottom.  But this is how the crazy Valley non-conference season has gone so far.  The Valley is an impressive 80-32 (.714) in non-conference play with some nice wins against top level conferences that have been missing over the past few seasons.

SEC – Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog (READ MORE)

Finally!   College basketball is back in the SEC after a couple of weeks of finals (and the holidays) and it is back with a vengeance with two bitter in-state rivalries for both Kentucky and Tennessee.  Aside from that, Baylor does a curious double dip in the SEC and most of the good action is actually televised this week.

Big Ten – Jason Pzirobowski  (READ MORE)

I don’t know if you looked at the new AP top 25 poll, but if you have, you may have done a double take when you saw Northwestern at number 25. It’s for real, for the team that has never made the NCAA Tournament, they are well on their way.  Now five Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #4 Purdue, #11 Michigan State, #13 Ohio State, #23 Wisconsin and #25 Northwestern.

ACC - Steve Moore  (READ MORE)

What’s the deal with UNC-Greensboro? I understand that the poor Spartans have a short trip to almost every ACC school, and can fatten their athletic wallet with games in ACC gyms. But they’ve gotta grow tired of this, right? Greensboro plays 13 non-league games this season, and six of them come against ACC foes. The Spartans have already lost to Duke, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Wake Forest  by a combined score of 319-235, and still have to face N.C. State and Maryland this week. To add to their misery, the Spartans have also been thumped by Richmond (26 points), Akron (24 points) and East Carolina (21 points). I’d love to hear that recruiting pitch…

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2009

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

First, let me apologize for the delay in this week’s ACC update. I got a concussion Christmas Eve and Mike Leach locked me in a closet because I wouldn’t go back to practice. Oh well, these things happen.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Monday, Dec. 28)

1A. Duke (9-1, 0-0)

PAST:  No games last week. (And yes, I took the easy way out and did the 1A/1B thing.)

FUTURE: The Blue Devils face Long Beach State tonight and Penn on New Year’s Eve (double-yawn) before hosting Clemson in the first real anticipated league game of the year (more on that later).

1B. North Carolina (10-3, 0-0)

PAST:  Most people expected sophomore Ed Davis to lead the young Tar Heels this year, but he has possibly exceeded expectations so far, including this week, as UNC rolled over Marshall and Rutgers. He’s shooting an absurd 66% from the field, and ranks second in the ACC with 6.7 rebounds per game.

FUTURE:  UNC wraps up its pre-conference slate with two games – home against Albany on Wednesday, and a tricky road game at the College of Charleston next Monday.

3. Wake Forest (9-2, 1-0)

PAST:  Easy win over UNC-Greensboro Monday night.

FUTURE:  The Deacons better be ready for their New Year’s Eve date with Richmond. The Spiders already scalped Florida this year, and as is often the case in these regional big fish/small fish games, Richmond will be up for this game more than any other this season. It doesn’t get easier for Wake Forest on Sunday, when Xavier comes to town. A 2-0 week will be a big victory for the Deacons heading into ACC play.

4. Georgia Tech (9-2, 0-1)

PAST:  Tech rolled over Kennesaw State.

FUTURE:  The Jackets host Winston-Salem State today and then travels to Charlotte on Saturday.

5. Florida State (11-2, 1-0)

PAST:  With an easy win over Tennessee-Martin, the Seminoles stay at No. 5 – for now.

FUTURE:  Upcoming dates with Alabama A&M and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi won’t say anything about FSU. A Jan. 10 trip to Maryland will.

6. Clemson (11-2, 0-0)

PAST:  The Tigers took care of Western Carolina last Tuesday.

FUTURE:  Clemson hosts in-state rival (tongue in cheek) South Carolina State tonight before heading to Duke on Sunday.

7. Miami (12-1, 0-1)

PAST:  Miami rolled over North Carolina A&T.

FUTURE:  After they take care of Bethune Cookman Wednesday, the Hurricanes travel to Pepperdine. Winter in Malibu. Tough life.

8. Virginia Tech (10-1)

PAST:  The Hokies flat-out embarrassed the Retrievers of UMBC last week in a 71-34 victory.

FUTURE:  Tech plays Longwood Wednesday, then travels to Cancun for an interesting game against Seton Hall Saturday.

9. Maryland (8-3, 0-0)

PAST:  The Terps recorded two cupcake wins this week, but had a relatively close call in a 13-point win over Florida Atlantic. Greivis Vasquez continues to lead Maryland, and was named ACC Player of the Week, but he was without second-leading scorer Sean Mosely, who sat out with a sprained ankle.

FUTURE:  Maryland hosts William & Mary Wednesday and travels to UNC-Greensboro on Sunday.

10. N.C. State (8-3, 0-1)

PAST:  The Wolfpack dropped a heartbreaker at Arizona on Wednesday, as the Wildcats pulled off their second-straight buzzer-beating win.

FUTURE:  N.C. State hosts Winthrop tonight then plays at UNC-Greensboro on New Year’s Eve. I swear, UNC-Greensboro should just join the ACC already.

11. Boston College (8-4, 1-0)

PAST:  Someone please explain this team to me. Home losses to Harvard and Rhode Island. Road wins at Providence and Michigan. And a convincing home win over UMass this week. You figure it out.

FUTURE:  Interesting home game with South Carolina Wednesday night.

12. Virginia (6-4, 0-0)

PAST:  Virginia routed NJIT and Hampton by a combined score of 148-91. Wake me when it’s over.

FUTURE:  The Cavs host a very good UAB team Wednesday night. A win here would definitely help Virginia get out of the ranking cellar.

WEEK THAT WAS…

  • DESERT DRAMA: There was only one game worth talking about this week, and that was N.C. State’s 76-74 loss to Arizona. The Wolfpack made a furious comeback from eight points down with 37 seconds left, but played some pretty porous defense in the final seconds as Arizona’s Nic Wise pulled a Tyus Edney for a coast-to-coast game-winning layup. Javier Gonzalez was impressive for the Wolfpack, who deserve credit for a tough trip out west while the rest of the ACC was fattening up on garbage games.
  • RAMBLING RANT OF THE WEEK:  What’s the deal with UNC-Greensboro? I understand that the poor Spartans have a short trip to almost every ACC school, and can fatten their athletic wallet with games in ACC gyms. But they’ve gotta grow tired of this, right? Greensboro plays 13 non-league games this season, and six of them come against ACC foes. The Spartans have already lost to Duke, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Wake Forest by a combined score of 319-235, and still have to face N.C. State and Maryland this week. To add to their misery, the Spartans have also been thumped by Richmond (26 points), Akron (24 points) and East Carolina (21 points). I’d love to hear that recruiting pitch…

WAITING IN THE TUNNEL…

  • REAL LEAGUE GAME ALERT!:  With Clemson heading to Duke on Sunday (7:45 pm), we can FINALLY see what these teams are made of. A Clemson win would be enormous for the Tigers, but just seeing an exciting game would be a moral victory for Clemson (and a win for hoops fans still sleeping off Duke’s snoozefest with Gonzaga). How will Trevor Booker and the Clemson frontcourt deal with Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee and the Duke big men? It’ll be nice to have real games to watch – finally.
  • DAUNTING FOR DEACONS: Wake Forest has a tough twinbill this week with surprising Richmond and a very good and physical Xavier squad. Two wins will be huge, especially with three of their next four league games coming on the road at Miami, Duke and North Carolina. Ouch.
  • WORTH WATCHING: Three teams from the mid- to lower-half of the league face interesting nonleague tests – Virginia Tech vs. Seton Hall (Saturday); B.C. vs. South Carolina (Wednesday); Virginia vs. UAB (Wednesday).

Happy New Year!

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2009

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Two things from the past week:

  • Luckily for Michigan State, it is still December, because they have still yet to prove that they can beat a top 10 team, losing to Texas in the biggest game they have played so far this year.
  • I don’t know if you looked at the new AP top 25 poll, but if you have, you may have done a double take when you saw Northwestern at number 25. It’s for real, for the team that has never made the NCAA Tournament, they are well on their way.  Now five Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #4 Purdue, #11 Michigan State, #13 Ohio State, #23 Wisconsin and #25 Northwestern.

Standings

  1. Purdue 11-0
  2. Michigan State 9-3
  3. Ohio State 10-2
  4. Wisconsin 10-2
  5. Northwestern 10-1
  6. Illinois 8-4
  7. Minnesota 9-3
  8. Penn State 8-4
  9. Michigan 6-5
  10. Indiana 5-6
  11. Iowa 5-7

Top Storyline

This past week was relatively calm with the holiday season, but I believe that was just the calm before the storm. This week there are some amazing matchups that will really show who’s who in the Big Ten, both in conference and on the national stage. Be sure to check out RTC throughout the week to make sure you don’t miss any of the action. If you want to see all of these games, you might need to get a little creative.

Coming Up

  • December 30th – Northwestern @ Illinois, 9:00 ET – I think this game, if Northwestern wins, adds legitimacy to their ranking and actually makes the January 2nd game against Michigan State even more important. If Northwestern wins, the MSU game doesn’t matter that much.
  • December 31st – Ohio State @ Wisconsin, 2:00 ET, ESPN2 – This is the matchup of the week in the Big Ten as far as conference standings shake up. Of course, it will also lead to repercussions on the national stage as well. Wisconsin is super tough at the Kohl Center, but Ohio State is a team with something to prove without Evan Turner.
  • January 1st – West Virginia @ Purdue, 2:30 ET, ESPN – This is the marquee matchup nationally, and a chance for Purdue to either show up or fall. It could go either way, as West Virginia is coming off of two solid wins this past week, especially the overtime victory against Seton Hall.
  • January 2nd – Michigan State @ Northwestern, 6:30 ET – Like I said earlier, if Northwestern loses against Illinois, this game could be a moot point if Michigan State plays like they can. If not, this could get very interesting, as Northwestern needs to prove they can play against top teams, and see what kind of home court advantage they can have in the Big Ten. A lot is at stake for the Spartans too.
  • January 2nd – Gonzaga @ Illinois, 1:00 ET, CBS – Since I have already started to play the scenario game, I am going to keep at it. Let’s say Illinois pulls off the upset against Northwestern at home, and the victory gets them back on track. This is exactly the type of game Illinois needs, and Gonzaga doesn’t want to let slip away. If we want to comparison shop the Big Ten, Wisconsin lost by 13 earlier in the season to Gonzaga, and Michigan State won by four.

Breaking It Down

  • West Virginia @ Purdue – It’s on. I have mentioned this game for weeks now, but now it is finally here. This is by most measures, the biggest test for Purdue this year, and since Purdue is carrying the banner for the Big Ten, a great game to showcase the Big Ten against the Big East. Stats of the game: free throws and offensive boards. Purdue has an almost 10% lead from the charity stripe, but West Virginia sends a lot of big men to the offensive glass. If Purdue can hold WVU to their season averages without giving up the boards they will win this game.
  • The Spartans were corralled, but must slay a cat. Okay, enough about MSU losing to Texas. They played a solid first half, and couldn’t stop the Longhorns from coming back to win the game. If you want to read more about the game though, check it out here on RTC: ATB: Texas the New Florida? Ok, last week is last week, and this week is well… this week. Michigan State, if they are good team, should beat teams they are expected to beat. Cinderella status notwithstanding, MSU should beat Northwestern, so they need to get it done.
  • Ohio State needs to pack a winter coat this week. Ohio State, or should I say, David Lighty and Ohio State put on a show and took down Cleveland State. David Lighty lit it up for a career best 30 against the Vikings (pun intended), so nobody is wondering if he is serious about filling a void. Cleveland might be a past tournament Cinderella, but the Buckeyes might need a more balanced effort to slay the mighty Badgers at the Kohl Center. The Kohl Center holds one of the most sizable home court advantages of anywhere in the nation. OSU can hope that Wisconsin students are still on break, and won’t come back from vacation early for this game. The key word there is hope.
  • Northwestern made the rankings, now can they stay? Somebody either has a great sense of humor or has been schooled in irony. Northwestern has been getting votes all year to be in the top 25 while not really playing anybody, but now that they made it, they have to be play Illinois followed by Michigan State. It is completely plausible that the Wildcats could be 0-2 in the Big Ten and definitely be out of the top 25 by the end of the week. Winning on the road at Assembly Hall in Champaign is tough, so if they can do that, their confidence should be sky high to take on the Spartans. That game, given the talent level of the two teams, should go to MSU, but don’t count the Wildcats out yet.
  • Wisconsin extinguishes the Flames to get ready for the Bucks. What else can I title the only game Wisconsin played since last week, other than that? Ok, I could think of a few more, but I will leave it at that. Illinois-Chicago was a good filler game to remind the Badgers that they are now concluding the preconference slate, and a 36-point drubbing got the point across. The first week of conference for Wisconsin is what I call The Week of the States: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State. The Buckeyes game should be very interesting, as Wisconsin would love to slow it down, and OSU would love to hit the century mark. May the team that best plays its game and doesn’t allow the other team to do the same will win.
  • Illinois likes a consistent win-loss pattern this year. Lucky for Illinois, so far each time they have won four games, only to follow it up with two losses. Why lucky you ask? In case you weren’t following the embarrassing loss to Mizzou, but that made it two losses in a row. Surely Illinois will follow it up with four wins a row. To pull it off though, they need to take down one Cat and then one Dog. They need to bring in Northwestern and Gonzaga, and beat them both. If they can do that, their four-game win streak gets easier with Iowa at home, and then Indiana on the road.
  • Minnesota will be looking for wins 6 and 7 before Purdue. Not much to report on Minnesota since they haven’t played in a week, but I am hoping the break did them well because the easy schedule will be coming to an end very soon, and they will have to prove where they stack up in the Big Ten. I expect them to take down Penn State and Iowa, but it isn’t preposterous that they could lose the next three in Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State.
  • It’s make or break time for the Michigan Wolverines. Such high hopes for Michigan this year, but as of yet, very little has materialized. Two unpredictable teams will meet up this New Year’s Eve in Michigan and Indiana. If IU brings the team that lost to Loyola, it’s an easy Michigan win. If they bring the team that knocked off Pittsburgh, the Wolverines will be clawing their way through a tough one (yes, another pun for those keeping track). After Indiana, maybe the basketball team can make up for the frustration of the football team when they bring Ohio State to town.
  • Penn State takes a break from basketball. Penn State cruised against American, but they will be in trouble against Minnesota on the road, especially having not played in eight days, and then the tough road doesn’t stop. They will have Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois. They could be 0-4 before battling it out for the bottom of the Big Ten against Iowa. Hopefully it won’t be the case, but stranger things have happened.
  • Indiana without Maurice Creek, what team will emerge? Indiana has had a rollercoaster year thus far, some exciting, some frustrating, all unexpected. The one steady positive variable for the Hoosiers this season has been the superstar freshman Creek, but now Indiana will be without him for the rest of the year, as he fractured his knee against Bryant during a rout, and will have season ending knee surgery about the time you read this. What will happen to Indiana without Creek’s 17 PPG and emerging leadership presence?
  • Iowa is in for a long month. Iowa decided to take an 8-game break in between their game against South Carolina State and Purdue, mainly as a way for it to really soak in that they would be kicking off conference play against Purdue. I don’t see a winnable game in much of January until they play Indiana, so they did an ingenious scheduling move to build confidence mid-conference: they scheduled a game against Tennessee State on the 12th of January. The only problem is that move could backfire, as TSU only lost to Northwestern by 7 and Vanderbilt by 13. I wish I had better news for the Hawkeyes.
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