Vegas Odds to Win the Super Six Conferences

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

Last week we took a look at the Vegas odds for the 60 or so teams that sportsbooks offer futures wagers on to win the 2011 national championship.  In a complete surprise to nobody, Duke was at the very top of the list, but there were several mild eyebrow-raisers in the slots after the Blue Devils — Kentucky at #2, Memphis at #5, UNC at #7.  This week we thought it might be interesting to take a look at another futures bet that is offered: the odds for each team to win its conference regular season title.  Again, these odds aren’t necessarily an indication of what Vegas “thinks” will happen; it’s more a combination of market forces and line shading toward the more popular teams.  But these gambling establishments are not in the business of losing money, so there are some nuggets of information that we can draw from their established odds (e.g., if you think anyone but Duke will win the ACC this season, you’re a steaming hunk of moron).  Let’s break it down.  Each conference will have a few thoughts after its table.

Ed. note: keep in mind that Vegas doesn’t set its odds to add up to 100%; if they did that, they’d never be able to sucker people and make any money on long-term futures bets.  So these percentages do not represent the “true” chances of winning the conference; rather, they represent what Vegas is willing to risk on those teams. 

Quick ACC Thoughts.

  • Are there any surprises here?  Not really.  Duke is a prohibitive favorite for a reason — even if they have injuries, there’s not a lot of depth to this league right now.  UNC, an NIT team last year who lost its top three scorers, getting love as a strong second tells you a lot about the uncertainty of this conference beyond the Blue Devils.
  • Vegas doesn’t like Virginia Tech nearly as much as the pundits — that clearly has something to do with its recent history as an underachiever. 
  • Look at Maryland pretty far down the list — that’s not a typical position for the Terps to be in under Gary Williams.  Given their “brand name” value-add, Vegas must really not be fond of Jordan Williams and company this coming season. 

Quick Big 12 Thoughts.

  • This is a crazy grouping at the top, with four schools basically acting as co-favorites — Baylor, Kansas State, Kansas and Texas.  Again we see another school (the Longhorns) living off its recruiting prowess and not its actual performance with such a high placement.
  • In our opinion, Missouri is a darkhorse candidate to not only win the Big 12 this season but also go to the Final Four.  Yet there the Tigers sit at +800 and 11.1%.  We’re not sure there’s a better value in this entire post if you’re so inclined.
  • There may not be a better duo in the Big 12 than Alec Burks and Cory Higgins at Colorado, but the Buffs aren’t getting any love from Vegas.  The CU situation is an interesting comparison with Georgia in the SEC — both teams bring back two all-conference caliber players from a mediocre squad last year.  Yet, while the experts seem to like the ‘Dawgs this year, Colorado hasn’t gotten the same traction.  Is it a Big 12 vs. SEC thing; is it the coaching (Mark Fox vs. Tad Boyle)?

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Dissecting the Premier November Tournaments

Posted by zhayes9 on October 28th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

With college basketball approaching in a matter of days, fans across the nation can look forward to one of the major draws of the sport: pre-conference tournaments. Aside from catering to hungry fans that want to see highly ranked teams do battle even in the earliest stages of the season, these tournaments are golden opportunities for coaches to judge and evaluate where their teams stands against elite competition. It presents our first chance to surmise that, say, Kentucky’s fabulous freshmen may not quite stack up to last year’s history-making class, that Duke may miss Brian Zoubek and Jon Scheyer more than originally expected or that Jacob Pullen can adequately handle point guard duties for Kansas State. The teams we label in early November as the prime contenders to cut down the nets five months later in Houston are revealed for the first time in tournament settings that allow programs to build early season momentum, confidence and quality wins that stand out come Selection Sunday. No other sport provides such drama in tournament settings at such an early point in the season.

As usual, a handful of headlining programs have elected to participate in these tournaments. Duke will encounter their first true tests in the CBE Classic, Pitt eyes a difficult field in the 2K Sports Classic and North Carolina heads out to Puerto Rico in a wide open field. All of these fields could provide intense drama and classic clashes normally reserved for the first days of spring. Here’s a preview of the best tournaments college basketball has to offer in pre-conference play and the main storylines heading into each event. Mark your calendars now.

2K Sports Classic (Opening Rounds: November 8-10, Semifinals: November 19, Finals: November 20)


The Field: Ever since the Gardner-Webb shocker upended plans for Kentucky and their rabid fans to travel to Madison Square Garden, this has been an event where the four regional hosts automatically advance to NYC. This year’s participants are Pittsburgh, Illinois, Texas and Maryland. The prohibitive favorite has to be preseason Big East topper Pittsburgh and their four starters returning from an overachieving squad that garnered a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Ashton Gibbs is a game-changing scoring guard and the athletic Gilbert Brown is an x-factor on the wing for Jamie Dixon. Illinois has expectations of reaching the second weekend in March for the first time since the national championship defeat in 2005, while Texas hopes that addition by subtraction helps avenge last season’s collapse from #1 team in the nation to first round victim. Maryland will likely still be figuring out a rotation at this stage after their three leading scorers were all lost to graduation. One player that may vault into stardom is Terps big man Jordan Williams, who nearly averaged a double-double as a freshman in the ACC.

The Sleeper: It’s difficult to fathom that losing Damion James and Dexter Pittman can possibly make a team better, but one has to prescribe to the notion that more defined roles and a clear-cut rotation should translate into improved chemistry for Texas following last season’s bitter disappointment. Rick Barnes still has tremendous talent up and down his roster including the infusion of two McDonalds All-American recruits in point guard Cory Joseph and power forward Tristan Thompson. If he utilizes more discretion on when to pull the trigger, it wouldn’t shock us if Jordan Hamilton had a breakout campaign. This also provides an early chance for Florida transfer Jai Lucas to shine on a big stage. Remember, Lucas is just two seasons removed from averaging 8.5 PPG and shooting 44% from deep as a freshman.

The Pick: While Texas has a strong chance of advancing, we’re even more bullish on Illinois in the preseason. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale bring height and scoring inside, Demetri McCamey is an assist machine at the point and freshman Jereme Richmond is the perfect answer on the wing for Bruce Weber. If they were to face Pitt in the final, McCamey out-muscles Ashton Gibbs on the perimeter, Richmond’s length contains Gilbert Brown on the wing and Tisdale’s versatility pushes Pitt big man Gary McGhee from his comfort zone in the paint. With the victory, the buzz around Illinois’ chances in the ultra-competitive Big Ten will only escalate.

CBE Classic (Opening Rounds: November 12-18, Semifinals: November 22, Finals: November 23)

The Field: While Duke, Marquette, Kansas State and Gonzaga will play two warm-up games on their home floor, all four advance to Kansas City for a star-studded doubleheader (controversy could certainly unfold should San Diego State, the preseason MWC favorite and a top-25 caliber squad in some experts’ minds, upset Gonzaga and still be forced to play in Oxford, Ohio rather than KC). As the near-consensus #1 team heading into the season’s tip-off, Duke is the favorite and receives the easier semifinal matchup in Marquette. The Golden Eagles enter the season as a likely second tier Big East team along with West Virginia, Seton Hall, Notre Dame and possibly Connecticut or Louisville. Look for the Kansas State-Gonzaga matchup to be one of the best games of the entire month. The Wildcats boast one of the best players in the nation in Jacob Pullen and a bruising, deep frontline, while Mark Few has the Zags loaded with talent, notably German import Elias Harris and sharpshooting swingman Steven Gray.

The Sleeper: Gonzaga has a golden opportunity in this tournament to do some major damage, boost their portfolio with two quality wins and become the storyline of the month of November. Defeating two top-five teams is a daunting task, but all Gonzaga has to do is escape Kansas State and at least remain competitive with Duke to make a positive impression nationally. Last year, it would have been the hard-nosed Matt Bouldin to contain Pullen around the perimeter. With Few’s ability to match his frontcourt to at least a draw with the Kansas State paint patrollers, how defensive-minded junior guard Demetri Goodson handles the challenging assignment of slowing down Pullen could ultimately determine Gonzaga’s success in KC.

The Pick: We’ve seen the role of contrarian playing by some prognosticators pegging Michigan State at #1 rather than Duke, but I’ll abstain. Duke will win this tournament, although Frank Martin’s bunch should be an awfully difficult draw in the final with their physicality and the scoring prowess of Pullen. The Blue Devils’ remarkable perimeter depth has the tools to wear down either opponent. Expect both Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins to drain some key treys that help keep the Blue Devils atop the rankings.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Plains/Mountains Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX)

  • LaceDarius Dunn* – Sr, G – Baylor. Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: there’s no news. We know that in order for him to be an Impact Player for this region and to indeed fulfill the promise that’s implied when your name pops up on all sorts of pre-season All-America teams, LaceDarius Dunn has to actually see the floor, and as of right now he’s still suspended from competition. He’s practicing, he’s attending classes, but that suspension from games of any kind is indefinite, so what Dunn is doing most is waiting. So are we, because we want to see the guy play some more, and soon. We’ve backed LaceDarius since his first moments on the Baylor campus and we’ve enjoyed watching him grow as a basketball player during his time there. Dunn was a factor right from the start in Waco, averaging 13.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 22 MPG as a freshman, and he’s only gotten more impressive each season. You could see his confidence grow by the game through his sophomore year as he tacked a couple of points onto that scoring average (15.7 PPG) and took on more responsibility. Last season was probably the school’s best since 1950 and earned the Bears their best year-end ranking ever (#10), and Dunn was the centerpiece along with Ekpe Udoh. The unquestioned team leader, Dunn put his scoring gift on full display, contributing 19.6 PPG (33rd in the nation) in just over 32 MPG. Because of his quickness and his deep shooting range, he represents the ultimate defensive conundrum. If you play up on him, he’s by you. If you give him a cushion — and he doesn’t need much space at all — he’ll drill you from range. If you get physical, not only will he match you (Dunn is a disturbingly solid 6’4, 205), but he’ll be more than happy to repair to the free throw line (85.7% last season) and bleed you to death with paper cuts. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his game is that shooting accuracy. If Dunn can see the rim, he’s in range, and he has no qualms about letting it sail. He nailed 116 threes last season, a single-season record for the school. His next trey will be his 300th, and he’s already hit more of them than any other Baylor player. Those 299 threes put him 91 bombs away from breaking the Big 12 record of 389 held by Texas’ A.J Abrams, and seeing as how Dunn has had no problem breaking 100 the past two seasons, we think he’ll get there. Considering all that, his overall shooting percentage becomes that much more impressive. He shot 45.2% last year and has posted a 44.9% mark for his Baylor career. This brings up the question, again: how do you guard this man? It’ll be fun to watch Big 12 opponents make a go of it this season, that’s for sure — we just have to get the guy on the floor and past this current situation regarding the alleged assault. Because of the strange, conflicting stories from some of the people involved and the paucity of other details that have emerged about this matter, we’re not sure where the truth lies or what outcome would constitute justice. We just hope it’s one that results in LaceDarius Dunn playing basketball as soon and as much as possible.

If Dunn Keeps His Head, He Could Be Baylor's first AP All-American First Teamer

  • Jacob Pullen – Sr, G – Kansas State. Expectations, much?  The last time Jacob Pullen’s Kansas State Wildcats were ranked as high as they are in the Preseason Coaches Poll (#3), John F. Kennedy was a relatively unknown senator from Massachusetts.  The year was 1959, and the Wildcats were ranked #1 in the final AP poll heading into the NCAA Tournament (regrettably, the Cats lost to Oscar Robertson’s Cincinnati in the regional finals).  In large part due to the big-shot making abilities of the six-foot guard who has a great chance to re-write the K-State record books this season, Frank Martin’s KSU squad is poised to make a run at its first Final Four since the 60s and its first Big 8/12 conference title since the 70s.  Pullen, the Big 12 Preseason POY as voted on by the coaches, is expected to run more of the point now that last year’s starter at that position Denis Clemente has graduated, but his ability to successfully play either the one or the two position is well-documented by league opponents.  Let’s be honest, though; with Pullen mimicking the scorer’s mentality of other height-challenged combo guards that have come before him, it doesn’t matter what “position” head coach Frank Martin puts him in.  The Beard (which is rounding into form for the season, incidentally) will have the ball in his hands when it’s crunch time, just as he did in a 34-point explosion against Jimmer Fredette and BYU in the NCAA second round last season and in multiple overtimes in another win (and 28-point performance) against Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen.  It’s not very easy to stop a player who can routinely go for 20+ against some of the best defensive coaches in the country (16 times last year), but the one thing you do not want to do against Pullen is leave him open from behind the arc.  Make him put the ball on the floor and try to get to the rim.  He’s not a traditional dead-eye shooter by any stretch, but he can torch it from outside when he finds a groove — seven threes against UNLV and BYU; six against Alabama, Xavier, Baylor and South Dakota.  Last year he tied Askia Jones’ school-record of 110 threes in a season because he’s learned how to pick his spots appropriately, exhibited by the nearly 40% conversion rate he enjoyed (a significant improvement from his 30% and 34% he shot from deep in his first two years in Manhattan).  Perhaps reflecting the grit of his fiery head coach, Pullen is also an elite defender, having been selected as a member of the six-man Big 12 all-defensive team last year.  Put all of this together — the  scoring, the defense, the grit, the BEARD — and you’re faced with the simple fact that the K-State guard is on the short list of a dozen or so players who are in contention for 1st team All-American and national Player of the Year honors in 2010-11.  The better he plays, the more likely it is that the fortunes of Kansas State basketball is on its way to reclaiming some of its ancient glory and make comparisons with teams a half-century ago completely moot.

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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2010

Steve Coulter of the DU Clarion is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (15-1)
  2. UTEP (14-2)
  3. UAB (12-4)
  4. Marshall (10-6)
  5. Southern Mississippi (9-7)
  6. Houston (8-8)
  7. Tulsa (8-8)
  8. East Carolina (6-10)
  9. Southern Methodist (6-10)
  10. Central Florida (5-11)
  11. Tulane (2-14)
  12. Rice (1-15)

All-Conference First Team

  • G: Justin Hurtt, Tulsa, Sr.
  • G: Randy Culpepper, UTEP, Sr. (Preseason Player of the Year)
  • F: Wesley Witherspoon, Memphis, Jr.
  • F:  Gary Flowers, Southern Mississippi
  • F/C: Will Coleman, Memphis, Sr.

All-Conference Second Team

  • G: Brock Young, East Carolina, Sr.
  • G: Joe Jackson, Memphis, Fr.
  • G/F: Will Barton, Memphis, Fr.
  • F: Jeremy Williams, UTEP, Jr.
  • F/C: Papa Dia, SMU, Sr.

Memphis has a talented stable of young talent, including the recently-cleared Will Barton. (bouncemag.com)

Impact Newcomers

Several freshman and transfer players will suit up for C-USA squads this season, but three that have grabbed everyone’s attention before the season has gone under way.

  • Charles Carmouche, SG, Memphis: The junior transfer from New Orleans is a sharpshooter who can be the difference-maker late in the season. He is eligible to play right way, as the Privateers dismantled their program and moved to Division III status.
  • Scottie Haralson, G, Tulsa: The UConn transfer could get a lot of playing time and be one of those studs that people talk about at the end of the season. Of course, it really depends whether he is cleared to play.
  • Joseph Young, G, Houston: The freshman was a Parade All-America Third-Team selection from Yates High School. He is a talented young guard in a class with athletic forwards that makes Houston a contender in the conference once again. The infusion of a guy like Young into the lineup could spark a team looking for a playmaker. Young was the Texas Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year last season.

What You Need to Know

  • There are six first-year coaches in the league this season; Tim Floyd getting hired at UTEP was probably the biggest offseason coaching move.
  • The Conference USA Men’s Basketball Championships will be held in El Paso, giving UTEP a slight home court advantage against their conference opponents. The first game tips off on Wednesday, March 9. The tournament ends on Saturday, March 12 and the final will be broadcasted on CBS.
  • UAB’s Aaron Johnson enters the season in need of 173 assists to become the school’s all-time leader. 597 assists is currently the record and the senior point guard leads a well-balanced UAB squad that could emerge as an at-large dark horse. The 5’8 point guard finished his junior year averaging 9.6 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, and 2.5 rebounds per game.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #9 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#9 - Where The Butler Did It Again Happens

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Morning Five: 10.28.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

  1. For some strange reason, the preseason all-SEC first team has nine players on it and Kentucky’s Brandon Knight is not a member.  Here’s your list, as voted on by the coaches: Dee Bost (Mississippi State); JaMychal Green (Alabama); Scotty Hopson (Tennessee); Travis Leslie (Georgia); Chandler Parsons (Florida); Marshawn Powell (Arkansas); Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt); Trey Thompkins (Georgia); Chris Warren (Ole Miss).  We won’t list the second team, but it had another eight players on it, amounting to a total of seventeen all-SEC preseason players.  Is it really so hard, SEC brass, to do three five-person teams?  Who is the genius who thought of this and why does it continue to happen?
  2. Pitt junior forward Nasir Robinson had surgery on Wednesday for a torn meniscus in his right knee after injuring it in practice on Monday of this week.  There was no long-term damage and the prognosis is that Robinson will be back in action in the next three to six weeks.  He was a full-time starter last season in his role as a mop-up man to the tune of 7/6 per game.  The best case scenario is that he would be back in the Panther lineup against Maryland at MSG in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on November 18.  Luckily for Jamie Dixon, he has plenty of frontcourt depth (Gary McGhee, Dante Taylor) to lean on in the interim.
  3. Things just got a lot tougher for new Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, as his star player Matt Gatens injured his left hand and had surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn tendon.  His layoff is currently indeterminate in length, but goodness, the Hawkeyes, coming off a 10-22 (4-14 B10) disaster last season, surely could have used some better news going into the start of the year.
  4. It appears that current WAC members Nevada and Fresno State will not bail from the conference in 2011 to go to the Mountain West as they’ve repeatedly threatened to do — it will instead happen in 2012.  A teleconference has been announced for today and the WAC is expected to declare that the feuding parties have come to an agreement where they will pay reduced walkaway fees in exchange for sticking around an additional year.  We’re actually kind of excited to see some of the clever signage that students at some of the remaining WAC schools might come up with this year and next when the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs visit town.
  5. We mentioned that this would ultimately happen in a M5 over the summer, and it’s now come to fruition — John Wooden’s den is now on permanent display at the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, just a few paces away from the House that Wooden Built, Pauley Pavilion.  This is something that we’re most definitely planning on visiting the next time were down in LA.  When we do, expect a full report on the place.
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Tweeting the Preview: #308 – #285

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

We’re back with the second consecutive year of officially losing our minds, but they say the first step toward healing is recognizing the problem.  As of 11 am EDT on Monday, there were 345 hours until tipoff of four games of actual, it-counts college basketball on Opening Night, Nov. 8.  So… beginning that morning, we started releasing our rankings of every Division I team from worst to first as tweets on the social networking platform known as Twitter (you may have heard of it).  We’ll release one team preview every single hour from now until Opening Night, and in case you’re not following us over there, we’ll put the updated list here each night for your review in aggregate.  The key to tweeting, of course, is conciseness, so we’ll try our best to relay some relevant information on each and every team in the requisite 140 characters or less, and hopefully some of you will be paying attention along the way.  Here are Wednesday’s entries (#308-#285).

For all previous TTP posts, click here.

(major h/t to Matt Patton for his assistance researching and writing these Tweets)

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The 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11 (#26-14)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

College basketball fans: get your calendars out. Over the next few Wednesdays until opening night arrives on November 8, we’ll unveil a portion of our 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11, a countdown of the matchups that you need to make sure to see this season. From the early season headliners to the best rivalries conference play has to offer, this list has you covered with the game, date, time (ET), network and a brief synopsis of what to expect. Remember, folks: this list doesn’t even include another eight to ten must-see early-season tournament games, for which we’ll have a separate post later this month.  Without further ado, here is the fourth installment  of the list — set your Tivos/DVRs now.

To see the #27-68 games on this list, click here.

#26. January 26 – San Diego State at BYU, 9 pm (CBS College Sports) – This clash in late January could be an early indicator whether the Aztecs or Cougars will prove the class of a competitive Mountain West this season. While the most gifted pure scorer in the conference is unquestionably BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, one could argue San Diego State boasts the best overall player in sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard. The Riverside native and future pro nearly averaged a double-double during his debut campaign and only improved as the season continued. BYU’s frontline of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies’ attempts to contain Leonard may prove the difference, while the Cougars’ gameplan will clearly be to make this a perimeter-oriented game behind guards Fredette and Jackson Emery. The victor receives a leg up in the MWC race.

This Has Become a Great MWC Rivalry (K. Johnson/Deseret News)

#25. December 18 – Kansas State vs. Florida, 4:30 pm (FSN) – Two preseason top ten teams will meet in mid-December, the winner emerging with a victory that will look absolutely tremendous on Selection Sunday. No surprise defections and five returning starters from an NCAA Tournament team has Billy Donovan and Gator Nation as excited as any moment since the Noah/Horford-led squad disbanded. The success of Florida this season could come down to whether they improve their three-point accuracy, notably sophomore Kenny Boynton. The five-star recruit came to Gainesville with a reputation for proficiency behind the arc, but he shot just 29% on 245 treys as a freshman. Donovan expects a jump in accuracy from both Boynton and fellow guard Erving Walker this season. They’ll need every three they can get against a K-State squad that will attempt to physically impose their will on the Gators.

#24. December 1 – Purdue at Virginia Tech, 7:30 pm (ESPN) – I had this game higher up on the list until Robbie Hummel’s ACL tear dropped the Boilermakers a few notches on the preseason rankings. Regardless of that devastating blow, it’s still one of the premier contests of the non-conference slate and one of two ACC/Big Ten Challenge headliners on the first day of December. While we’re all pitying Matt Painter and Purdue, remember they still feature two all-Big Ten caliber performers in big man JaJuan Johnson and two-guard E’Twaun Moore, plus a steady point guard in Lewis Jackson that shone as a freshman before injuries derailed his momentum. In all likelihood, though, Purdue slipped from slight favorites to underdogs in this game with Hummel sidelined. Virginia Tech will be playing in front of their rowdy home crowd, boasts arguably the ACC’s best scorer in Malcolm Delaney, an underrated big man in Jeff Allen and the extra incentive to add a portfolio-building win after last year’s disastrous pre-ACC slate.

#23. February 6 – Michigan State at Wisconsin, 1 pm (CBS) – For as much success as Tom Izzo has had since becoming the head coach at Michigan State, there’s one task on his to-do list that has yet to be accomplished: beat Bo Ryan in Madison. Believe it or not, Izzo is 0-6 on the road against Wisconsin since Ryan took the helm. The most recent defeat came last February when the 19-3 Spartans, ranked in the top five in the country, marched into the Kohl Center and departed with a 67-49 beatdown. It was a banner game for two Badgers that will need to step into bigger roles if Ryan wants to have another successful campaign: junior forward Rob Wilson (5-5 FG, 10 points) and junior guard Jordan Taylor (17 points, 3-8 treys). The Spartans are a near-consensus #2 team in the nation behind Duke in the preseason, so there’s reason to believe Izzo’s winless streak could come to an end on this date.

This is a Win Both Teams Need for National Legitimacy

#22. November 16 – Ohio State at Florida, 6 pm (ESPN) – In this writer’s opinion, here’s the most intruging game in the month of November. Can the Buckeyes possibly be better after losing Player of the Year Evan Turner? The answer is yes. Thad Matta brought in a game-changing big man in Jared Sullinger, a frontcourt partner in DeShaun Thomas and a heady, defensive-minded point guard in Aaron Craft. Every significant contributor that played alongside Turner is also back — Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty and breakout candidate William Buford. The toughest test of their non-conference slate is this trip to Gainesville to battle a Gators team with equally lofty expectations. Florida will need defensive stalwart Vernon Macklin to contain Sullinger in the post and avoid an early home loss. This is another huge resume win for either team in March.

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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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The Sun Belt Is Tired Of Gettin’ Pushed Around

Posted by jstevrtc on October 27th, 2010

Having had sand kicked in its face for long enough, the Sun Belt Conference has taken a long, cold look at itself in the mirror, and decided that it’s time to hit the gym.

On Monday, the conference announced that it planned to implement rules designed to increase the conference’s RPI rating. Specifically, the Sun Belt will mandate that its member basketball schools must only schedule non-conference opponents that, as ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported, have a “three-year combined power rating within the top 150,” and/or teams that ended the previous season with an RPI within the top 150. The scheduling of games against non-Division I teams will be forbidden, and programs must constantly endeavor to average an attendance that surpasses the national average of 5,038 fans per game (as Katz reports, the Sun Belt brass are planning to help with this). The theory is that this scheduling upgrade en masse will raise the Sun Belt’s conference RPI and, in doing so, might lead to more than the single auto-qualifier each year in the NCAA Tournament, or at least a higher NCAA seed for the conference tournament winner. This would seemingly lead to other positive effects that all conferences love, like rising attendance at games, an increased television profile, and — to put it frankly — more respect. The rules outlined above will take effect starting in the 2011-12 season.

Troy's New Trojan Arena Will Seat Just Over 5,200 Hoops Fans

The Sun Belt is certainly ripe for a drastic self-determined change, meaning one that’s not being executed just to keep the conference alive. The great Sun Belt schism happened in the off-season of 1991, when most of the conference’s members bolted for other leagues and the remaining schools had to merge with the American South Conference to keep the Sun Belt in existence.  Since that time, the Sun Belt has had more than one representative – its conference tournament winner — in the Big Dance exactly three times: 2008 (#10 South Alabama, at large; #12 Western Kentucky, auto), 1994 (#11 Western Kentucky, at large; #11 Louisiana-Lafayette, auto), and 1993 (#7 Western Kentucky, auto; #8 New Orleans, at large). Note that long drought, there — the span from 1995 to 2007 represents thirteen consecutive tournaments in which the Sun Belt was a single-bid league. And they logged only one win in that interval (#8 Western Kentucky def. #9 Michigan, 1995). In terms of actual conference RPI, the Sun Belt finished last year at its 10-year nadir of 22nd out of 32 conferences, averaging a year-end rank of 17.5 over that time period.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #10 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#10 – Where Box Out=NCAA Happens

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Morning Five: 10.27.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2010

  1. The Fanhouse 2010-11 All-America Team features Kyle Singler (Duke), Jacob Pullen (Kansas State), Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Marcus Morris (Kansas) and JaJuan Johnson (Purdue).  To each their own, but we think it’s a mistake to leave off Harrison Barnes (UNC) given what we know about the talent of star freshmen these days (to be fair to Fanhouse, he was on their third team).  Also, we know that Morris is a great player only scratching the surface of his potential, but is he the second-best forward in the country behind Singler?  We just can’t get behind that one yet.
  2. Right, Leonard Hamilton, because your research about a preseason poll taken in 1975 is equally valid to one taken in 2010, with the crush of media and year-round coverage of the sport, not to mention the ability to watch nearly every high-major game on television (or at least streaming video).  Look, there are problems with some voters in preseason polls failing to do their homework – Lord knows that much is true — but if anything, the ACC traditionally gets too much credit based on the accomplishments of Duke and UNC  in most years.  The ACC has had a grand total of FIVE Sweet Sixteen teams in the last four NCAA Tournaments.  Five (compare with…  B12 = 9; BE = 14; B10 = 8; P10 = 8 ; SEC = 6).  Wanna know how many of those teams were not named Duke or North Carolina?  Zero.  Once upon a time, the ACC was a lock to have a minimum of two Sweet Sixteen teams every single year; and often other schools such as Maryland, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, etc, were getting there.  In fact, longtime ACC fans know that the league made its name  in the 70s, 80s and 90s for having quality depth beyond Duke and UNC.  Do you see a Sweet Sixteen team in this league other than Duke (or Carolina if you drink the kool-aid that they’re going to be significantly better)?  The league is down; it’s been down for a while, and it remains down.  Until some of the other ten schools start proving it in March, we don’t want to hear a peep from Hamilton and his coaching brethren in the ACC.
  3. Louisville finally received some good news regarding a player’s eligibility when the NCAA cleared 6’10 center Gorgui Dieng yesterday.  The freshman originally from Senegal with a 7’4 wingspan will provide some much-needed depth in the frontcourt for Pitino’s squad behind Terrence Jennings and Jared Swopshire.  He was a top fifty recruit according to Rivals, and although very raw, he could eventually become an interior defensive force for Louisville in the same way that Samaki Walker once was.
  4. Some comings and goings — you already know about Memphis’ Jelan Kendrick, who at this point may or may not ever suit up for the Memphis Tigers…  but Michigan State’s NCAA Second Round hero Korie Lucious should be back in a Spartan uniform, only not at the start of the season.  Tom Izzo still isn’t sure what Lucious’ exact punishment will be for his drunk driving arrest in August, but he said on Monday it would involve a suspension of between two to four games.  Including exhibition contests, this could result in Lucious possibly missing games that count against Eastern Michigan and South Carolina at the Breslin Center — we think the Spartans will be ok.  He would be back in any case to make the trip to the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week.  Also, Duquesne’s starting point guard, Eric Evans, will miss at least two months with a broken right foot.  This is a major blow to a Dukes program (returning A-10 POY candidate Damian Saunders) who had designs on making a run into the top five teams in the Atlantic 10 this year.  It’s still possible, but Evans will have to hit the ground running just after the new year.
  5. Former Vanderbilt head coach Roy Skinner passed away yesterday in Nashville; he was 80 years old.  Most people today probably don’t know anything about Skinner as he last coached in 1976, but the man partially responsible for turning Vandy’s Memorial Gymnasium into “Memorial Magic” (he won 82% of his home games during his career there) was also the first SEC basketball coach to break the color barrier.  How has this story not gotten more play over the years?  Skinner recruited Perry Wallace, the first black basketball player in the SEC, from across town in Nashville in 1966.  Wallace went on to become an all-SEC player for the Commodores and later went to Columbia Law School and a law professor at American University.  If that’s not a success story that Skinner should be lauded for, then we haven’t heard one.  RIP, Roy.
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