After the Buzzer: Butler’s Unfurling & Opening Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2010

In case you’re just catching up with us after a football weekend, we covered Friday night’s games — the real Opening Nightin a special ATB that evening, while RTC contributor Zach Hayes put together an Opening Night edition of his 10 Scribbles series to share some of his initial thoughts on most teams’ first games of the year.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This is something we don’t see much and it may be a long time before we see something like it again, so Butler’s banner unfurling from Saturday night was this weekend’s best moment.  Jump ahead to the 2:20 mark if you’re the impatient type (a shorter alternate version is also available).

Quick Hits…

  • Emmanuel Negedu.  Hey, if you can literally come back from the dead and contribute 8 points, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block in your first game as a New Mexico Lobo merely a year after you were resuscitated, you deserve all kinds of props.  Can’t root for this guy enough.
  • Chris Singleton. Quite possibly the best defensive player in the country, Singleton pulled off a very difficult triple double by going for 22/11/10 stls on Sunday against UNC-Greensboro.  Oh, he also added four blocks just for show.
  • Illinois Backcourt. Bruce Weber’s backcourt of Demetri McCamey, DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul off the bench was outstanding on Saturday against Southern Illinois.  The three combined for 43 points and 16 assists in that game, and in three games this season all of them are shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from deep.  With the solid play inside of the two Mikes (Davis and Tisdale), the Illini look very strong right now.
  • Kyrie Irving.  As good as advertised, with 17/4/9 assts to prove it against Princeton on Sunday.  Everything seemed completely natural and smooth with very little wasted motion.
  • Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  MBA’s been getting a lot of hype all offseason, but we weren’t completely sold due to his inconsistency over the last three years.  After a 28/13 performance against McNeese State on Saturday, we might be coming around.  As a side note, the Huskies had an inconceivable 67 rebounds in that game.
  • Matt Howard’s Foul Trouble.  Sure, we know the game was against Marian College, but the fact that Howard failed to commit a single foul in 23 minutes of action is encouraging.  Without Gordon Hayward around, Brad Stevens must have his star big man on the floor most of the time this season, so committing nearly four fouls a game again isn’t going to work.
  • DJ Cooper.  Keep an eye on Ohio University again this year — the MAC champions who took out Georgetown in last year’s first round NCAA game return MAC POY candidate Cooper, who debuted the 2010-11 season with a strong 25/5/7 assts/3 stls evening.
  • James Rahon.  SDSU’s transfer guard from Santa Clara hit three straight threes in the mid-second half to give the Aztecs breathing room to win a true road game in front of a packed arena in Long Beach.  If the Aztecs can get solid guard play to match their dominant post play, Steve Fisher could have a MWC juggernaut on his hands.
  • Jeremy Hazell.  Seton Hall might be able to put together a surprisingly good season if it can continue to get the types of games it got from Hazell today.  28 points on 8-11 FG and 8-8 from the line is extremely efficient, something that Hazell hasn’t always done well.

… and Misses

  • Jetlag.  Whoever decided that North Florida needed to play two games in a 17-hour span in locations almost 1,000 miles apart should be clinically evaluated.  Especially when the second of those two games was at #5 Pittsburgh with its bruising style of play.  Was it any wonder UNF was down nearly thirty points in the first half?
  • Duke’s Rebounding.  It’s going to have to improve.  Significantly.  Despite a massive front line of the Plumlees, Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston to throw at Princeton, the Devils were only +1 on the glass and none of the bigs had more than four total.
  • Elias Harris.  The Gonzaga forward whom many people thought could be an all-american this year didn’t have the strongest start, averaging only 9/3 over two games against Southern and IUPUI this weekend.
  • The Ivy League.  Cornell took a bad loss at Seton Hall, Harvard took one at George Mason, and Princeton of course got reamed at Duke.  Penn was left to carry the conference flag this weekend with a 69-64 win over Davidson, as every team except the Quakers and Brown took a loss.  It appears that the brief era of an Ivy League team like Cornell ’10 hanging with elite teams (Kansas) and making a run to the Sweet Sixteen is presently back on hiatus.
  • Fab Melo.  We mentioned him in this space on Friday night as well, but it’s going to take some time for the seven-footer to catch up to the speed of the game.  Against Canisius on Sunday, he fouled out in a mere thirteen minutes of action after scoring a bucket and grabbing four boards.
  • UCSB.  If you have designs on winning the Big West and getting a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, you cannot lose to North Dakota State, 68-60, as UCSB did on Saturday night in the BTI Invitational.  Nor can you lose to Pac-10 cellar dwellar Oregon, 72-70, as the Gauchos did on Sunday night.  A disastrous weekend in Eugene for UCSB.  Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally need more help.
  • Fran McCaffery – old and new.  McCaffery’s new school, Iowa, lost by ten points to South Dakota State on Sunday, while his old school, Siena, lost to regional rival Vermont on Saturday despite 27/10 from Ryan Rossiter.  The Iowa rebuild is going to be extremely tough, we think.
  • SoCon, Patriot & SWAC.  Extremely rough opening weekends for these leagues, as the SoCon went 3-11, the Patriot 3-9 and the SWAC a miserable 1-14.
  • Wake Forest, Iowa, Auburn, Rutgers, Seton Hall & South Florida.  Congrats are in order to the six BCS programs that took an L this weekend.  All but USF has a new coach, and the first four on this list are going to have a tough time putting together any kind of serviceable season this year.  Seton Hall lost to a good team (Temple), so we’re willing to forgive that one.

RTC Live.  We covered six more games on Saturday and Sunday, and while we’ve yet to have a transcendent game yet, we expect it’s coming soon.

#1 Duke 97, Princeton 60. In the first game of their quest to repeat as national champions, the Duke Blue Devils handily defeated the Princeton Tigers in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Both teams looked out of sync at first, and Princeton cut the Duke lead to six with only a few minutes left in the first half, but the Blue Devils ran away from Tigers in the end, going ahead by a commanding 40 points at one moment in the second half. Upperclassmen Nolan Smith (22 points, 6 assists) and Kyle Singler (16 points) steadied Duke early, but the real story was the debut of freshman point guard Kyrie Irving. The McDonald’s All-American scored 17 while dishing nine assists and only making a single miscue. Irving drove the lane and shot from outside with equal parts ease, looking like the obvious heir apparent to the departed Jon Scheyer’s minutes. Ian Hummer (14 points, 7 rebounds) carried the Tigers early and Dan Mavraides (16 points) led the team in scoring, but Princeton’s 27 turnovers rendered the Tigers’ chances of upsetting the Devils impossible. Duke played in typical Blue Devil fashion, going 11 for 12 from the charity stripe and shooting 53% from behind the arc. Seth Curry didn’t disappoint in his Durham debut either, scoring 14 points, many of them late in the game. The only question mark for Duke on the evening was post play: between 6’10 Miles Plumlee, 6’10 Mason Plumlee, and 6’11 Ryan Kelly, the Blue Devils only got a total of 11 points and 10 rebounds. At the moment, those three seem to be the weakest link for this multi-talented Duke team, but watch out if they start producing? Hello back-to-back.

#5 Pittsburgh 95, North Florida 49.  This game came down to opportunities. Opportunities in the form of possessions, shots, and free throws. Pitt had the most possessions, shots and free throws. The Panthers were able to get the most possessions by taking care of the basketball when they had it, and making North Florida give it away when they didn’t. Pitt had the most shots by offensively rebounding its own shots, and making sure that North Florida didn’t do the same on its end. The Panthers ended up with 31 offensive rebounds to North Florida’s total tally of 24. Pitt got to the free throw line 24 times to North Florida’s seven. Those three things determined the game. The Panthers have a lot to look forward to, and the Ospreys have to make sure to not hang their heads too long, as they battled with a very tough team that people will be watching on TV deep into March.

#23 San Diego State 81, Long Beach State 65.  The Aztecs were in unfamiliar territory Saturday night, playing their first ever game as a ranked team, but after a tight first half, they outscored Long Beach State 39-23 in the second half, ruining the 49ers’ homecoming weekend in front of a record crowd at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach. James Rahon broke open a back-and-forth game in the second half by hitting three consecutive three-pointers and Kawhi Leonard bounced back from a first half in which he grabbed zero rebounds to snatch 12 in the second half to go with a game-high 21 points. Senior point guard D.J. Gay added 20 for San Diego State and he for one wasn’t surprised by the second half outburst of Rahon, a transfer from Santa Clara. “We all knew what he was capable of doing after playing with him in practice last season,” said Gay. Rahon, whose parents both graduated from Long Beach State, may be a key component for an Aztec team that struggled to get production behind the arc last season, and he should have plenty of open looks as opponents work to contain San Diego State’s interior forces. “After not playing for a year, every day I get more comfortable out there,” said Rahon. “We knew this was going to be a tough environment, but fortunately I got to see my shot go in tonight.” Steve Fisher and his club won’t have a lot of time to enjoy this win, however, as a big early season road trip to Gonzaga looms on Tuesday. T.J. Robinson led Long Beach State with 19 points and nine rebounds.

George Mason 66, Harvard 53. George Mason knocked off the Jeremy Lin-less Harvard Crimson by a score of 66-53 on Saturday afternoon, although the final does not indicate how poorly Harvard played, as they shot 32.7% from the floor and turned the ball over 24 times. Now factor in Keith Wright’s 22 point, 16 rebound and 9-12 shooting night, and the Crimson were 9-43 from the floor and 5-22 from deep.  Much of that has to be credited to the Patriots, who were absolutely suffocating defensively. This is a team that is long and athletic at just about every position, and when they defend with energy, they are going to be good. Luke Hancock led Mason with 14 points while Cam Long added 8 points, 10 boards and 6 assists. Both are versatile players — they can knock down threes, they can put the ball on the floor, they can finish above the rim, they can create for their teammates. Throw Ryan Pearson into the mix, and there is some serious talent on this Mason team. The CAA is good this year, and Mason will be in the thick of that conference race the entire season.

Utah State 77, Weber State 65.  There were three NBA scouts in attendance, including Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, to see Damian Lillard and the Weber State Wildcats take on the Utah State Aggies. Lillard did not disappoint, as he finished with 28 points and hit his first 6 threes of the game (many of them beyond NBA range) which left the scouts buzzing. In the second half, however, Utah State’s Brockeith Pane stole the spotlight. Pane had 17 points in the second half, including several and-ones during a 17-0 Utah State run that gave the Aggies a lead they would not relinquish. The unsung hero for the Aggies was senior guard Tyler Newbold, who took on the impossible task of guarding Lillard during the second half. Newbold didn’t shut Lillard down, but did enough to contain the future NBA point guard to let the Aggies escape with a win. Newbold will have to be up to the challenge again on Wednesday as Utah State travels down to Provo to take on Jimmer Fredette and the BYU Cougars.

Seton Hall 92, Cornell 68.  Aaron Osgood was very good, but the Cornell senior forward could not beat Seton Hall by himself, as the Hall cruised to a 92-68 win at home. Osgood scored a team-high 19 points on 5-7 shooting. Indeed the entire Big Red front court contingent acquitted themselves nicely on offense, shooting a collective 18-34 and 12-20 from the line, to account for 51 of Cornell’s 68 points. By mixing 10-footers with high post picks and back door screens the undersized and not very speedy Big Red front court kept their Pirate defenders off balance. But collectively they could not stop the Seton Hall frontcourt from collecting nearly every loose ball coming off the rim or backboard.  The Pirates grabbed a stunning 51% of their own misses in the first half, a margin that was instrumental to building a 50-35 lead going into halftime.  If Jeremy Hazell is the perennial story line for the Seton Hall offense, there was a plot twist this time. The 2011 edition (at least through two games) of Jeremy Hazell played well within Coach Kevin Willard’s offensive schemes, collecting a surprisingly modest 12 points in the first half on 3-6 and 4-4 shooting, hardly the volume shooter from seasons past. He added 16 more in the second half, four points coming compliments of two beautiful football passes from Herb Pope on back-to-back fast breaks off of defensive rebounds.  Hazell’s 28 points, the game-high, came on an un-Hazell-like 8-11 and 8-8 shooting. The Pirates rebounded 45.7% of their own misses, and 75% of Big Reds misses to boot.  Combine shot making (Jeff Robinson and Ferrakohn Hall, along with Hazell, get nods for efficient shotmaking) with absolute dominance under the boards and you have the makings of a rout. And at the 3:43 mark of the second half Coach Willard confirmed as much as he released his deep bench onto the court. For Cornell, senior forward Aaron Osgood led with 19 points, followed by sophomore forward Errick Peck and senior forward Adam Wire, each tied with seven points.  Wire also led Cornell rebounders with seven boards, while sophomore forward Josh Figini had five. Hazell led all scorers with 28, with Jeff Robinson (16), Herb Pope (13) and Jordan Theodore (10) all scoring in double figures. Robinson notched a double-double as he led all rebounders with 10.

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