Happy New Year, Everyone!

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2010

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RTC Live: Ohio State @ Indiana

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2010

Game #86.  RTC Live heads to Assembly Hall in Bloomington as Indiana hosts the #2-ranked team in America.

Happy New Year, college hoops fans!  Welcome to Big Ten basketball and to Assembly Hall, home of the Indiana Hoosiers.  It has been a tale of two very different seasons for these clubs.  Coach Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes are undefeated, ranked #2 in the nation, and coming off a 100-40 laugher over Tennessee-Martin.  Leading the way for the frightening Buckeye starting five is All-American and Big Ten POY candidate Jared Sullinger, a 6-9 280-pound beast of a freshman.  Sullinger is a load inside and leads Ohio St. in scoring and rebounding (17.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG).  All signs point to Jared and his Buckeye mates having their way with the undersized Hoosier frontcourt, but Ws never come easy on the road in the Big Ten.  Coach Tom Crean’s young Indiana Hoosiers are a desperate team in search of a marquee win.  Entering this game with a record of 9-5 and losers of three straight to Northern Iowa, Colorado, and Penn State, the Hoosiers can turn their season and their tradition-packed program around if they can upset the talented Buckeyes.  During their recent skid, the Hoosiers have struggled to play at a high energy level for a full 40 minutes.  Indiana will be counting on their crimson clad home fans in this game to make Assembly Hall a hostile environment for the visitors from Columbus.  Which Big Ten squad will have a happy new year and which one will start drafting their resolutions for better conference play?

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Set Your Tivo: 12.31.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 31st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A really good schedule awaits college basketball fans today on your New Year’s Eve. The Battle of the Bluegrass gets things going right away with an early noon tip, a game tailor made for Gus Johnson. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#12 Kentucky @ Louisville — 12 pm on CBS (*****)

Louisville will be shorthanded in this game but is favored according to the Vegas odds. The Cardinals, still without Jared Swopshire, will also be missing the services of Rakeem Buckles and Mike Marra this afternoon. Still, this is a game you must watch with Gus Johnson on the call. It is a unique rivalry that doesn’t get enough press and has only heated up with the addition of John Calipari and the switch of Rick Pitino from Kentucky blue to Louisville red. It started almost 100 years ago in 1913 but the teams have only met 41 times prior to today with Kentucky holding a 27-14 edge. These teams did not meet for 24 years from 1959 until an elite eight NCAA Tournament game on March 26, 1983. They have met every year since then with UK leading 18-11 in the modern era. One interesting fact is that Kentucky has never failed to win at least two games in a row after winning one throughout the entire history of this series. With the Wildcats on a one game winning streak entering the game today, that statistic, though ultimately meaningless, would suggest a UK win. Expect this game to feature a lot of threes, a big part of each team’s offense. Kentucky actually has five guys who can knock down a triple, much more than the average team. Doron Lamb and Preston Knowles are the big shooters for their respective teams with Lamb being the better of the two so far this year. The freshman has connected on 54% of his treys including a seven for eight performance against Winthrop, a large part of Kentucky’s #13 three point percentage. Knowles is Louisville’s leading scorer and a good defender who teams with Peyton Siva to really disrupt opponents on the defensive end. That will be a big factor against Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight, averaging almost four turnovers per game. Rick Pitino loves the zone press so expect a lot of trapping and aggressive on-ball defense from the Cardinals, trying to get Knight out of a rhythm and make him turnover-prone. As a whole, Kentucky takes remarkably good care of the ball with only 11 turnovers as a team. Calipari needs a good point guard to run his dribble drive offense and Knight is often the key to their success. He had an awful game in a loss to Connecticut and fouled out after committing six turnovers in UK’s loss to North Carolina. In the front court, Kentucky has the best player on the floor in Terrence Jones. The 6’8 freshman can score from almost anywhere on the floor and uses his superior athleticism effectively to create space. Another T.J., Terrence Jennings, has to have a good game defensively for Louisville. He’s a good shot blocker and must neutralize Jones inside. Despite their reliance on the three pointer, the Cardinals get a lot of points inside as well, the seventh best two point shooting team in the country. With Buckles out however, Louisville may turn even more towards the trey in order to win. Kentucky lacks a true scoring center as Josh Harrellson rebounds well but doesn’t look to score much, attempting just four field goals per game. Expect Kyle Kuric to step up in the absence of Marra and Buckles. He’s played more minutes lately and scored 25 points against Morgan State on Monday. Quite simply, this game is going to be a war. The fans hate each other, the coaches do too and even the players got into it right away last year. Most rivalry games are close and despite Louisville’s personnel issues, we expect this one to be as well. However, depth could rear its ugly head if the Cardinals get into foul trouble. Louisville fouls a lot and Pitino has to ensure that doesn’t become an issue. Even though they’re on the road, Kentucky is the better team and has to get the edge here. Take the Wildcats and the points today.

#13 Minnesota @ #18 Michigan State – 4 pm on Big Ten Network (****)

A critical game for both teams, the loser will face some tough questions going forward. With a loss today, Minnesota faces the real possibility of starting Big Ten play at 1-3 with a game at Ohio State next Sunday and Indiana in between. Michigan State would drop to 8-5 overall with a loss today, making Monday’s game at Northwestern a huge one for the Spartans. For Tom Izzo’s team, the three point line is critical in this matchup. Minnesota doesn’t defend it well at all (#260) and the Spartans shoot 40% behind a trio of capable long range bombers. Durrell Summers leads Michigan State in scoring and is arguably their best shooter from deep while Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious can also knock down the trifecta. Tubby Smith likes to play a zone but that may hurt the Gophers in this matchup. Unless Minnesota extends their defense beyond the line, Michigan State can easily shoot right over it. Of course when you extend a zone there will be holes inside. Minnesota’s big men must lay down the law in the paint and force MSU to beat them from the outside. A strong defensive game will really limit the Spartans offensively and turn this into a rebounding battle, one Minnesota should feel confident in their ability to win. Michigan State has not been a vintage Izzo team in terms of defense and rebounding, a bad sign against a tall and talented Minnesota team. Trevor Mbakwe could be deadly against the Spartans today with his quickness and long arms around the tin. With Mbakwe inside and Blake Hoffarber outside, the Gophers will keep Michigan State on their toes all game long. Al Nolen must play better for Minnesota. Wisconsin shut him down on Tuesday night held the Minnesota offense in check en route to a victory. Turnovers will again be the story for the Spartans, averaging 16 per game. Extra possessions only enhance the Gophers chances. Michigan State looked awful against Syracuse and the Gopher bigs are even taller than Syracuse’s. Despite the KenPom prediction and the Vegas odds, we’re going against the grain and feel this game will come right down to the very end. This is anyone’s ballgame in East Lansing this afternoon.

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That’s Debatable: New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: You have one New Year’s resolution to make and you can choose it on behalf of any figure in the world of college basketball.  What is that resolution and who is it for?

John Stevens, RTC editor/contributor

I’m going to take the low road and use this space to tell everyone what I they think they should do, because I know people love hearing that, especially when it’s unsolicited. But as I visit various gyms and arenas in my travels around this part of the country doing RTC Lives or whatever, I will beg as many college basketball fans as I can to resolve to come up with a NEW AIR BALL chant, if there really has to be one, and to abolish the “overrated” chant. Everyone knows why “overrated” is ludicrous. But the air ball chant is about 30 years old, and it’s time to upgrade. I tweeted about this a few nights ago and got GREAT responses, so I’m confident that a better idea exists out there. There are a few student sections who tout themselves as the best in the nation — Duke, Xavier, Utah State, Kentucky, this means you — and I specifically challenge you to rise to your claims and come up with something new and humorous, but doesn’t involve insulting the shooter’s mother or use a “clap, clap, clap-clap-clap” at the end (liked those responses, but there are too many of those). Send your proposals (or insults) to me at JStevRTC@gmail.com, or just use them during games. I’ll be listening. Happy New Year.

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor

Here’s a New Year’s resolution for Randy Bennett: get over the hump in 2011 and knock Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference throne. The Bulldogs’ streak of 10 straight league titles is the second longest in the history of college basketball. In six of those seasons, Gonzaga finished either undefeated or 13-1 in the WCC, and it hasn’t lost more than three conference games since 1998. St. Mary’s has established itself as the Zags’ main rival, though, with three straight second-place finishes. If they can ignore the scary numbers mentioned above, the Gaels may have a shot to win this league. They’ve got great guards to lead their efficient, unselfish offense, and former San Diego forward Rob Jones is a valuable frontcourt contributor with NCAA Tournament experience. St. Mary’s may not have many quality wins, but its only losses came at San Diego State and in the final seconds to BYU. Despite an 8-5 record, Gonzaga’s probably still the favorite to capture an 11th straight regular season championship, especially now that Elias Harris appears healthy and more comfortable on the court. But it’s a brand new year in 2011. The gap in the West Coast Conference is quickly closing– and St. Mary’s will need to take advantage of the opportunity.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

This year’s New Year’s resolution is reserved for Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones.  Be smart about your future.  There’s about a 99.9% chance that the NBA is headed for a long impasse beginning next summer, and if you decide to take your chances with the June draft, you’ll certainly be rewarded with a high selection.  But you won’t play (nor will you get paid a dime) until well into 2011 in what would have been your sophomore years.  Please don’t listen to the agents who will tell you that they’ll float you financially until the lockout ends or that two months of a season is better than no season at all.  The last time things looked this ugly between ownership and labor, nobody played a professional game until February, and there’s no guarantee that this dispute will be shorter this time around.  Do your due diligence, of course, but if it looks as if both sides are settled in for a long negotiation, head back to college and continue to develop your games in a college hoops season that would boast the most talent among its players in the last fifteen years.

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RTC Live: USF @ UConn

Posted by nvr1983 on December 31st, 2010

Game #86. RTC heads back to UConn for the first time since Kemba Walker was a freshman, but this time we are headed to Hartford instead of Storrs.

Jim Calhoun will be looking for a strong response from his Huskies after they were exposed earlier this week at Pittsburgh. While Calhoun got his usual great offensive contribution from Kemba Walker the rest of the team was nowhere to be found. During and after the game Calhoun was particularly critical of his #2 offensive threat, Alex Oriakhi, who only had 8 points and 1 rebound after coming into the game averaging nearly a double-double. As for USF, it has been a rough season so far and they no longer have the threat of Dominique Jones going off to scare opposing coaches, but the Huskies should be careful in this one because the Bulls have given some very good teams all they could handle this season including a six-point loss at UCF and a two-point double overtime loss against BYU. So even though the Huskies will be heavily favored today, they should be careful to avoid a letdown here because things don’t get any easier for them as they have 8 more games against ranked opponents left on their schedule.

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Morning Five: 12.31.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on December 31st, 2010

Before we embark on this final edition of the M5 for 2010, we’d like to wish all of you a happy, healthy and safe New Year’s and a fantastic 2011. Thanks for making us a part, no matter how large or small, of your regimen of college basketball enjoyment. And by all means, be careful out there tonight. Now, to the Five…

  1. Seth Davis is trying to follow up on a tasty 7-3 week with his latest batch of weekend game predictions, and if his score projections are any indication, we’re all going to be diving into the new year with some exciting basketball games. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due, here — 19-11 so far is a respectable tally. We have one question, though: when is Courtside going to show up on our televisions again? Soon, we hope. You know, because Seth probably isn’t busy enough.
  2. Another Davis — this time, Ken, from NBC Sports — minces no words when it comes to his opinion on who he’d hire if he were running a program and had to choose between Rick Pitino and John Calipari. That query is the first of his latest mailbag, and we really wish there were a comments section so we could read the volleys that would surely have occured between Kentucky and Louisville fans. When you click the link, though, check out the subtitle (right below the title, obviously) that they tried to slip by us. You really think so, Ken?
  3. Something about Jelan Kendrick to Ole Miss just feels right to us. Kendrick was dismissed from Memphis quicker than Ricky Ponting in the Ashes (our demos show that we have a few readers from England, for some reason), but eventual opponents of the Rebels would do well to remember that this kid was also the third-ranked shooting guard prospect (or second-ranked small forward, depending on who you asked) in last year’s high school senior class. He’s also Mississippi’s first-ever McDonalds All-American. Adam Zagoria brings you up to speed.
  4. This was a nice display of friendship and sportsmanship, and yet…why does this make us uncomfortable? After that hard-fought Vanderbilt vs Marquette game from Wednesday night in which Vandy dealt the Warriors with quite a(nother) heartbreaking loss, the head coaches from each team — Kevin Stallings and Buzz Williams, respectively — sat up on the post-game dais together, exchanged compliments, patted each other on the back, so on. We’re aware that the two are good friends. It’s just all this friendliness between opponents on game day…fine, maybe we’re just Philistines.
  5. We’re big San Diego State fans around these parts, but we’d like to issue a challenge. See, according to this piece at KPBS.org, the Aztecs’ final non-conference game of the year (which takes place today at 1 pm PT) isn’t sold out yet, with over 2,000 seats left open in a 12,000-seat arena. Yeah, we know, it’s agaisnt Occidental College. We know they’re Division III. But come on, SDSU. You’re undefeated, but don’t get too cocky. Respect every opponent. Your team wants you there. If you’re reading this as it posts, you’ve still got a few hours to make this right.
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Two Minutes’ Hate: The RTC Rivalry Series — Kentucky vs Louisville

Posted by jstevrtc on December 31st, 2010

One of the best things about college basketball is the rivalries. Whether rational or not, rivalries usually manifest themselves through the players and fans of the involved schools in the form of true, unmitigated disdain for the other side. Because we love making trouble, and with apologies to Orwell, we give you the Two Minutes’ Hate, a series of posts in which we give fans/bloggers/writers of both sides of a given rivalry a chance to vent about the other side, with minimal but identical prompting from us. We encouraged them to cut loose and hold nothing back, and we’ll be doing this with various rivalries throughout the year as such games arise. If you want to nominate a rivalry or even offer a submission, email us at JStevRTC@gmail.com. And remember, the published opinions are those of the respondents and not necessarily those of RTC, heh heh.

Today’s Rivals: Louisville and Kentucky

Coaches Crum And Hall Might Be Smiling Here, But BOY, Do These Two Teams Hate Each Other.

First, speaking on behalf of the Cardinals, we have Mike from the excellent Louisville site Card Chronicle. You can follow him on Twitter here. And you should, if for no other reason than because his bio describes him as the “fourth-ranked Chaucer scholar in the Ohio Valley.”

1. In your opinion, what was the Ville’s greatest win over UK?

The 1983 “Dream Game” without a doubt.

Even after Louisville had established itself as a national power, Kentucky refused to play them. The game finally happened in ’83 when the teams were paired in the same region and met in the Mideast Regional championship on March 26 in Knoxville. Despite a buzzer-beating shot by Jim Master to send the game into overtime, the Cardinals ran off 14 straight points in the extra period and prevailed, 80-68.

The U of L community erupted and quickly the governor, legislators and even the boards of trustees at both universities began to talk about a series between the two. Shortly thereafter, the announcement was made that Louisville and Kentucky would begin playing each other annually.

The game played a huge role in making the rivalry what it is today. If Louisville loses that day, the two might still not be playing annually.

2. What was the most painful loss?

Probably the ’04 game where Louisville led by 15 at half and as many as 18 before the Cats came all the way back and won it on Patrick Sparks‘ free-throws with less than a second left. Sparks walked twice. Neither were called. Louisville won the game.

Still, we went to the Final Four a few months later and UK didn’t.

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RTC Live: Arizona @ Oregon

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2010

Game #84.  RTC Live returns to the venerable Mac Court for one of Oregon’s final home games at the ancient arena.

Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats and Dana Altman’s Oregon Ducks will kick off their Pacific-10 Conference slates Thursday night at 10 p.m. EST in the penultimate game at 84-year-old McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore. The Wildcats (11-2) are led by star sophomore forward Derrick Williams, who is averaging 19.3 points per game this season, and scored 20 points in both of his team’s victories against the Ducks (7-5) last season. Williams is ranked as the 15th most efficient player by kenpom.com, primarily because of his effective field goal rating and free throw rate, which both rank in the top 15 nationally.  Oregon is led by redshirt senior Joevan Catron, the last vestige of the school’s 2006-07 Elite Eight run. Catron, who missed most of last season after a back injury, has shouldered the load for a team decimated by departures during the offseason, averaging 17.5 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game.  Arizona’s two losses have come against Kansas in Las Vegas and against BYU in Salt Lake City. However, the team lacks a signature victory, with its best victory a road win over North Carolina State. Arizona is one of the most efficient teams in the country, with the 13th-ranked offense and 35th-ranked defense nationally. Its greatest weaknesses are turning the ball over offensively and generating turnovers on defense.  The Ducks have had flashes of brilliance, but have struggled throughout most of the season. The Ducks won at home against UC Santa Barbara and had a 20-point second half comeback come up just short against Missouri, but they also have taken questionable home losses from San Jose State and Idaho, and enter the game with a two-game losing streak. Collectively, Oregon does not turn the ball over often, ranking 34th nationally in turnover percentage, but it struggles to make shots and defend on the perimeter. The Wildcats have won their last four meetings against the Ducks and lead the all-time series 42-32.

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Xavier To Serve Fried Gator At Florida Game Tomorrow

Posted by jstevrtc on December 30th, 2010

During tomorrow’s matchup between Xavier and Florida at the Cintas Center, you might notice a unique smell wafting from the concession stands — that of fried alligator.

Get it? Fried alligator? Florida Gators? Of course you do. That’s not a typo, though. For the XU vs UF game — while supplies last — the folks from Xavier Dining will have fried alligator on offer.

We Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny That Your Serving Will Be This Large

Not that we’re anti-Florida around here, but you have to love this move. And going by the linked article, fried alligator isn’t exactly cheap, but I guess you’ve got to expect that, since they flew these babies in from Louisiana. We think that Florida should take this as a compliment, since this is the kind of thing you’d do only if you think it’s a big, important game. If you attend the game and you try this delicacy, we’d love to hear what you think of it, so don’t hesitate to e-mail or tweet us your Bourdain-like review.

[grateful h/t to the Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Clay, at @johnclayiv]

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RTC Live: Temple @ Villanova

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2010

Game #83.  RTC Live heads to the City of Brotherly Love for one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball.

The battle for Philadelphia bragging rights is on the line when Temple invades the Pavilion to take on Villanova tonight at 7 p.m. The two squads, which have combined to win or share every Big 5 title since Jameer Nelson and St. Joe’s won it in 2003-04, are far and away the cream of the city crop once again. The eighth-ranked Wildcats, led by high-scoring guards Corey Stokes (15.7 ppg) and Corey Fisher (15.5 ppg), can wrap up the Big 5 title tonight as they’ve already beaten Penn, La Salle, and St. Joe’s. This will be Temple’s first Big 5 game of the season but the No. 25 Owls are riding a six-game winning streak and are coming off a Big 5 crown of their own. Last year, Fran Dunphy’s Owls stunned then-No. 3 Villanova, 75-65, on their way to a perfect 4-0 city record. The winner of this year’s game will almost certainly win the quirky Philadelphia round-robin tournament — and also charge into the new year as perhaps the best team in their respective conference.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.30.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The Big Five takes center stage tonight followed by an under the radar matchup in Missouri. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Temple @ #9 Villanova – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

What is Dunphy Thinking For Tonight's Big 5 Brawl?

Temple won last year’s Big Five meeting between these squads but Villanova holds a slight edge in the series, 43-41. Each team enters on a winning streak and both are rated in the top ten in defensive efficiency. However, Temple has been the more consistent defensive team over the years and Villanova has a tendency to lapse back into a weaker defense against better opponents. Temple is 2-0 against the Big East, having defeated Seton Hall and Georgetown at home earlier this season, and will look to make it three on the road tonight. Interior play and rebounding will be important aspects of this game. Temple gets two thirds of its points from two point range, mostly due to the fact that they can’t shoot the three. The Owls are one of the worst teams from deep (27%) and Villanova plays very good defense on the arc. Don’t expect Temple to get to the line much either, making points inside the arc extremely important for Fran Dunphy’s team. Lavoy Allen has a tendency to disappear on offense and it would be wise if he didn’t pick this game to do it again. The 6’9 forward is talented and a strong defensive player but must provide the Owls with offensive production inside. Getting him the ball is another story and that’s where Juan Fernandez comes in. He’s struggled with his shooting (six for his last 23) as well as turnovers but has averaged seven assists over his last three games, using his strong dribble penetration to get others involved. Fernandez’s shooting has been so bad that his three point shooting is down a stunning 25% from last season. He has to get the ball inside to Allen and fellow guard Ramone Moore (30 points against Georgetown). Moore has the ability to drive and make some crafty shots around the tin. Temple is not a deep team and must defend and rebound well in order to win on the road against a strong Villanova team. The Wildcats have a talented starting five with pretty good balance, at least in terms of their height. However, Villanova’s guards take the majority of shots, sometimes not for the better. Jay Wright should look to utilize his big men more, especially against a Temple team that can be severely limited when their bigs get into foul trouble. Antonio Pena (59% FG) figures to have an advantage, though he’ll have to work hard against a Temple defense ranked #12 inside the arc. Villanova’s offense revolves around its talented trio of guards. While Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns haven’t exactly shot the lights out, Corey Stokes remains a constant threat on the arc for the Wildcats as the senior from New Jersey has connected on 14 of his last 30 triples. 14 makes is more than Fisher and Wayns have made all year. Stokes has taken 30-40 more threes than his back court teammates and the Temple defense must make them shoot to get the ball out of Stokes’ hands. Coach Dunphy may want to try a box-and-one defense on Stokes, forcing Fisher and Wayns to beat him. Temple will look to slow the pace down and get into a half court game, a situation where they excel on both ends of the floor. The rebounding battle will be huge as both teams rank in the top ten in keeping their opponent off the offensive glass. Grabbing offensive rebounds will be crucial, especially for Temple. Villanova has a significant edge at the free throw line and should look to penetrate and pick up some early fouls on the Temple front court players. Big Five games are usually close and this shouldn’t be an exception. Playing on campus at the Pavilion, expect Villanova to take this contest by single digits with Temple hanging close throughout the game.

Old Dominion @ #10 Missouri – 8 pm on ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 30th, 2010

Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics, and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

A Look Back

The WAC finished up non-conference play and no team did better than the Hawai’i in closing out its non-conference season.  Playing shorthanded, the Warriors hung tough with the ACC’s Florida State and then picked up wins over Utah (just its tenth in 57 tries) and a short-handed Mississippi State team from the SEC (playing without Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey).  New Mexico State lost by 20 to St. Mary’s and Nevada lost by 30 at Washington and by four at Portland while Boise State also lost by nine at Portland.

Player of the Week: San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver was named the Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 20-26.  Oliver scored a career-high 42 points in just 25 minutes of play in a 95-62 win over Puget Sound. The 42 points broke the 30-year old San Jose State single-game scoring record of 40 points. Oliver also broke the SJSU single-game mark for the most points in a half with 30, besting his own mark of 25 which he set last season. He also set a San Jose State record for most consecutive three-point baskets made in a game with seven and tied the school record for most threes made in a single game.  Oliver out-scored Puget Sound by himself in the first half of the contest, 30-29.  In the game, Oliver tallied 42 points on 12-of-15 (80 percent) shooting from the field. He hit 7-of-9 (77.8 percent) shots from three-point range and was 11-of-13 (84.6 percent) from the free throw line. He also recorded three rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal.

Top 10 Scorers Heading Into Conference Play:

  1. Adrian Oliver (SJSU) – 25.8 PPG
  2. Robert Arnold (BSU) – 16.2 PPG
  3. DeAndre Brown (LTU) – 16.1 PPG
  4. Justin Graham (SJSU) – 16.1 PPG
  5. Olu Ashaolu (LTU) – 15.4 PPG
  6. Zane Johnson (UH) – 14.4 PPG
  7. Tai Wesley (USU) – 13.8 PPG
  8. La’Shard Anderson (BSU) – 13.5 PPG
  9. Malik Story (NEV) – 13.3 PPG
  10. Dario Hunt (NEV) – 13.1 PPG

Top 10 Rebounders Heading Into Conference Play:

  1. Dario Hunt (NEV) – 10.2 RPG
  2. Olu Ashaolu (LTU) – 9.1
  3. Brady Jardine (USU) – 8.6
  4. Tai Wesley (USU) – 8.3
  5. Wil Carter (SJSU) – 7.9
  6. Joaquim Vander (UH) – 7.1
  7. Shawn Henderson (UI) – 6.4
  8. Matt Ballard (SJSU) – 6.2
  9. Brandon Wiley (UI) – 6.0
  10. Greg Smith (FSU) – 6.0

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (11-2)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. Hawai’i, 12/31 vs. San Jose State

Utah State heads into conference play as the only WAC team in the RPI Top 100 (56th) but has dropped over 20 spots in the last two weeks despite not losing any games.  Utah State sports the league’s best record at 11-2, however, they haven’t exactly played a murderer’s row schedule-wise.  Believe it or not, their best win (based on RPI) is a win over 4-8 Long Beach State and four of their last five victories have come against teams with RPIs higher than 230 including last week’s pastings of Western Michigan and Troy.  The UtAgs open up conference play at home versus a resurgent Hawai’i squad on Wednesday night and then host San Jose State, also a team playing well, on Friday night.  Tai Wesley is one of just three WAC players currently in the Top 10 in both scoring and rebounding in the league.

2. Hawai’i (7-2)

Up Next: 12/29 at Utah State, 12/31 at Nevada

Home cooking has aided the sparkling record (8-1 in games in the islands) but regardless, nobody expected such a record, especially early on with a mostly brand new team.  The Warriors head into conference play as one of the hotter teams in the league with solid wins over Utah and Mississippi State in the very competitive Diamond Head Classic (won by Butler).  Forward Bill Amis remains sidelined but seemingly should be back soon and guard Hiram Thompson is also hurting but still playing major minutes and performing effectively. Counting Amis, Gib Arnold‘s squad has five players scoring in double figures and boasting a 45% overall shooting percentage, plus 40% on three-pointers — this is not last year’s UH roster. Hawaii is also holding opponents to 37% shooting. But 213 turnovers in 12 games needs roundball liposuction.  UH opens up at Utah State and at Nevada so we’ll know very quickly how much momentum they generated from their 5th place showing at the Diamond Head Classic.

3. Louisiana Tech (9-5)

Up Next: 12/29 at Boise State, 12/31 at Idaho

Louisiana Tech, 8-5 against Division I teams, their best win is against 6-5 Houston (RPI 216).  They’ve played one game against a team with an RPI in the Top 100 and that was against Texas (10-2, RPI 26) to start the season.  The Bulldogs have two players in the Top 10 in the league in scoring, DeAndre Brown (3rd) and Olu Ashaolu (5th) and two of the Top 12 rebounders in the league, Olu Ashaolu (2nd) and Brandon Gibson (12th).  The Bulldogs are 3rd in the league in scoring averaging 71.3 points per game and they are third in the league in field goal percentage defense with opponents hitting 41.4 percent of their shots.  The Bulldogs open up conference play at Boise State and at Idaho.

4. San Jose State (8-3)

Up Next: 12/29 at Fresno State, 12/31 at Utah State

The split for the Spartans is 4-1 at home and 4-2 roadin’ it, the best away record in the league so far.  SJSU leads the conference in scoring offense (yes, pick yourself up off the floor) at 75.9 points per game and star backcourter Adrian Oliver is coming off a 42 point performance. It a backcourt-led team with Justin Graham averaging 16.1 points a game on 51% overall shooting and 58% with his 33 trey attempts. But frontcourters Wil Carter and Matt Ballard must do better than 37% and 24% shooting respectively or such deficiencies may prove harmful especially when matched up against the bigs of Utah State and New Mexico State.  SJSU meets Fresno State in Fresno on Wednesday and then heads to Logan for a New Year’s Eve matchup with Utah State on Friday.

5. Boise State (7-5)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. Louisiana Tech, 12/31 vs. New Mexico State

The Broncos dropped their final non-conference game of the season at Portland but head into conference play with a chance to make an early statement with home games versus Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State.  The Broncos are one of the four surprise teams in the league thus far.  While their record is just 6-5 and they’ve lost five of their last six games, first year head coach Leon Rice has them playing competitive ball.  They lost by just three against UNLV (11-2, RPI 13) in Vegas and by nine at Portland (10-3, RPI 36).  The Broncos are the league’s second best scoring team (74.9 PPG) and the third best scoring defense team (64.0 PPG).

6. Idaho (6-5)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. New Mexico State, 12/31 vs. Louisiana Tech

Idaho looks to get off to a good start in conference play against the outpost schools, New Mexico State and LA Tech.  Idaho head into league play as the lowest scoring team in the league averaging just 64.4 points per game but are second in the league in assists per game (13.4) and are the second best three point shooting team in the league (38.5 percent).  The Vandals are allowing just 66.0 points per game.  Not surprisingly the Vandals do not have a player in the Top 15 in scoring, however, they have three of the top 15 rebounders in the league in Shawn Henderson (7th), Brandon Wiley (9th) and Luiz Toldeo (15th).

7. New Mexico State (6-8)

Up Next: 12/29 at Idaho, 12/31 at Boise State

The Aggies’ struggles have come because of a spate of injuries that at one point had wiped out four of their five projected starters, Troy Gillenwater, Hamidu Rahman, Gordo Castillo and Wendell McKines.  Castillo is back on the court but McKines has not played all season due to the broken foot, Gillenwater has not played since the first half of the New Mexico game in Albuquerque on December 11th and Rahman has not played since the December 13th game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  The Aggies have played eight games against teams in the Top 125 RPI but have lost all eight.  The four wins have come against Louisiana twice (1-8, RPI 309), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-11, RPI 279) and Pacific (5-5, RPI 126).  Head Coach Marvin Menzies believes that two of the remaining three players who are out with injury could see action in the next couple of games.  Under Menzies, the Aggies have tied for the regular season title (’07/’08), reached the conference tournament semifinals (’08/’09) and won the conference tournament (’09/’10) in his first three seasons and has led the Aggies to a 32-16 record in conference play.  The Aggies have just one player in the Top 15 in scoring, Christian Kabongo (11.5 PPG, 13th) and just one Top 15 rebounder, Tyrone Watson (5.6 RPG, 11th).  The Aggies open up on the road making the Idaho swing first in Moscow then to Boise.

8. Fresno State (4-6)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. San Jose State, 01/03 vs. Nevada

The Bulldogs are actually in the positive at home with a 3-2 record but the road hasn’t been so hospitable at 1-4. Taking heed of the admonition that a child shall lead them, frosh backcourter Kevin Olekaibe tops the squad in scoring at 10.7 a contest. The Greg Smith Funk remains ongoing as he is mired at 9.7 points per game along with 6.3 boards each time out. Point guard Steven Shepp just returned from academic exile and should help with the assist-to-turnover ratio. Believe it or not, Steve Cleveland‘s team lacks a familiar name in the top 15 point producers in the WAC, indicating just how much Paul George and to a lesser extent Sylvester Seay are missed offensively.  League play commences with San Jose State coming to town on Wednesday, followed by Nevada on Monday.

9. Nevada (3-10)

Up Next: 12/31 vs. Hawai’i, 01/03 at Fresno State

Nevada’s struggles have come because they lost 83 percent of their scoring through the NBA Draft and graduation.  They have really struggled to find consistency and their two Division I wins have come against Montana (6-4, RPI 140) and Portland State (6-5, RPI 247).  Nevada opens up conference play versus resurgent Hawai’i and then heads to Fresno to take on Fresno State.

A Look Ahead

The league did not look good in non-conference play so the WAC will revert back to a one-bid league.  It’s the swan song for Boise State as it completes its farewell tour in the WAC before jumping to the Mountain West next season.  Everyone is 0-0 starting tonight and with the change in format to the conference tournament, finishing in the top four in the league assures playing no more than three games in three days (just two games if you’re the first or second place finisher) whereas a bottom four finish means a trip to the Big Dance will require winning a four-game in four days gauntlet.

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