Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 30th, 2010

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

*Ed. note – this piece was written before Wednesday night’s action.

A Look BackHanging With The Big Guns

With 81.5% of the out of conference schedule in the books, the A-10 holds a 58.4% winning percentage (90-54) over all opponents. How has the conference fared against their above the Red Line opponents? The table below shows the results to date:

The conference still has a relatively large number of games to clear with the ACC, though one was cancelled (most likely not to be rescheduled) and three more are to be played this week. Their schedules with the Pacific-10, Big Ten and Big 12 in the books, and the conference has to be happy with their winning record against the Pac-10 and 40% winning percentage versus the Big Ten. With two games remaining with the Big East, the conference is guaranteed a worst-case winning percentage of 42.1% and a best-case 52.6% winning percentage. Overall the conference holds a 47.6% winning percentage, with games versus ACC and SEC teams still outstanding.

Against those below the Red Line conferences, which fall inside the A-10’s rather large footprint, the numbers are very promising, with one or two exceptions:

Filling out nearly 60% (59.3%) of their schedules with opponents from these conferences is not surprising, as local affiliations and historic rivalries with teams in these and the regional above the Red Line (Big East and ACC) conferences are powerful motivators. CUSA excepted, the conferences in the table above fall below Kyle Whelliston’s Red Line. CUSA, like the A-10, the Mountain West, Missouri Valley and Western Athletic conferences, is a “straddle” conference, for football reasons not above (the Red Line), but for a variety of budgetary and resource allocation reasons, not below either. The A-10’s 2-4 record in CUSA matchups to date is disappointing but understandable. There is one last opportunity (St. Bonaventure vs. Marshall on 1/2) to level the record a bit. The most puzzling result so far is that 6-8 record versus the Colonial Athletic Association. Seventeen games with CAA opponents makes sense, but why the relatively poor showing? Multiple games with George Mason and Old Dominion played a large role skewing the record as combined those two teams account for seven of the 17 games on the schedule. To date the two CAA teams have a 6-0 record versus their A-10 opponents. The two CAA powers cut a wide swath through the conference notching wins against Charlotte, Duquesne, George Washington, Dayton, Richmond and Xavier. Dayton has a last chance at redemption as they Flyers face George Mason on 12/29.

Power Rankings

Temple moved back into the AP Top 25 at #25 in the December 27 poll, and continues to top our power rankings. Richmond and Dayton kept pace with come from behind road wins, while Xavier missed their chance for a signature road win at Gonzaga, an opportunity that may haunt them at the end of the season. A few teams shuffled around in the middle and bottom levels of the conference as the conference overall worked through a 9-9 – with one cancellation – week versus their out of conference opponents.

1. Temple (9-2)  AP #25

Last Week: 12/22 @Ohio 76-65

Next Week: 12/30 @Villanova

The Owls re-entered the AP’s Top 25 (at #25) as they completed their MAC obligation with an 11 point win over the University of Ohio. Sophomore forward Rahir Jefferson earned a conference Honorable Mention for his double career-high outing. The sophomore forward posted 18 points in 31 minutes of play (both career highs) versus the Bobcats. Temple has swept their MAC slate of five teams by an average of 20.5 points per game. The MAC contingent had an average Pomeroy Ranking of 225 (out of 345).

Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will open their Big 5 slate when they travel to the Main Line to take on rival Villanova.

2. Richmond (10-3)

Last Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro 63-53, 12/26 @Seton Hall 69-61

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Wake Forest, 1/2 vs. Bucknell

Richmond swept the week, beating UNC-Greensboro by 10 three days before Christmas, then traveling to Seton Hall and beating the Pirates by eight as a blizzard howled outside of the arena. Senior forward Justin Harper drew his third conference Honorable Mention as he posted team-high points in both contests. Against Seton Hall he posted a team-high and season-high 24 points as the Spiders erased a five point half-time deficit to win by eight. Down by two with 5:33 to go Harper hit two consecutive field goals, a two point attempt, followed by a three pointer, to key Richmond’s closing 12-2 run.

Coach Chris Mooney’s team will finish their out of conference slate with a two game home stand before launching into the A-10 regular season slate. The Spiders open their A-10 schedule versus Charlotte on 1/5. Prospects are very good they will sweep the Demon Deacons and Bison on their way to a 12-3 out of conference record.

3. Dayton (10-3)

Last Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall 65-61

Next Week: 12/29 vs. George Mason, 1/1 vs. New Mexico

The Flyers posted a 1-0 week as junior forward Chris Johnson drew a conference Honorable Mention for his work in Dayton’s wins over Winthrop (on 12/20) and Seton Hall. Johnson averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds over the two games. Johnson recorded a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) against Seton Hall. Freshman point guard Juwan Staten was cited as co-Rookie of the Week, shared with Fordham’s Brandon Frazier. Staten posted two 9 point outings, grabbed three rebounds, dished three assists and notched a steal in his outing versus Seton Hall.

Dayton will host George Mason on the 29th, the fourth A-10 team to meet the Patriots this season. Hopefully the Flyers can do what the other three (Charlotte, Duquesne and George Washington) could not, and beat the Colonial Athletic Association power. They will close out their out of conference slate by hosting New Mexico in a return engagement from last season’s New Year’s trip to the Pit. Should the Flyers close out both with wins, they will start the conference slate (at Saint Louis on 1/5) with a 12-3 record and two solid road wins for the post season resume.

4. Xavier (7-3)

Last Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga 54-64

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Albany, 12/31 vs. Florida

The loss to Gonzaga dropped the Musketeers to 7-3, squandering an opportunity for a resume road win over the West Coast Conference powerhouse.  Tu Holloway scored 48% of the team’s  points while taking over 35% of the available shots and 43% of the team’s possessions when he was on the court. His 1.15 PPWS was efficient only because he scored 13-14 from the line. Xavier’s three guard back court of Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson, was remarkably inefficient as the table below suggests:

Holloway’s five steals was the highlight for the trio, as they combined for 13 turnovers against four assists. Chris Mack’s squad will be the first of two A-10 programs to meet Florida in the week before conference play commences as the Musketeers host the Gators on New Year’s Eve.

5. Rhode Island (8-4) 

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette 73-65

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Boston College, 1/3 @Florida

The Rams downed Lafayette by six points as sophomore guard Akeem Richmond was named Player of the Week by the conference. Richmond logged a career-high 25 points while grabbing three rebounds and two steals in the Rams’ come from behind win. Richmond’s scoring spree included a career-high seven three point conversions. Other double digit scorers included senior guard Marquis Jones (14 points) and sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic (15 points).

6. Massachusetts (7-4)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida 59-64

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Boston University, 1/3 @Central Connecticut

The Minutemen returned from their end of the semester hiatus to continue their losing streak, extending it to four with the loss to the Golden Knights of CUSA. Senior guard Anthony Gurley scored the team-high 17 points on another high-volume (6-19 overall, 3-4 from the line) outing. Gurley takes about 31.7% of the team’s shots when on the court, and while he is efficient against lesser opponents (Rider, New Mexico State, Holy Cross and Quinnipiac), against more defense-minded teams (Seton Hall, UCF) he tends to falter.  Coach Derek Kellogg’s team takes another extended break, this one for nine days, before returning for action as they host Boston University of the American East Conference. BU has a winning record, 2-1 versus A-10 opponents. Massachusetts has a chance to even the A-10’s record against this regional rival.

7. St. Bonaventure (6-4)

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech 68-76 OT

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Siena, 2/2 vs. Marshall

The Bonnies took Virginia Tech to overtime in Rochester, NY, before bowing by eight points. The final score may be disappointing, but they’ve improved enough to where they should be able to notch a couple more wins before conference play starts. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson was cited by the conference for the fourth time (in six weeks) for his 21-point scoring night against the Hokies. Junior guard Michael Davenport notched his first double-double of the season with his 15 point, 10 rebound performance.

8. La Salle (6-6)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Rider 68-77

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Towson, 1/2 vs. Binghamton

Dr. Giannini’s woes continue as the Explorers dropped their third game in a row, this time a nine point head scratcher to MAAC contender Rider. The Broncs, expected to finish somewhere near the middle-top of the conference, were beaten by Massachusetts early in November, but have since gone on to compile an 8-5 record. The 0.500 record will impress none of the post season selection committees, the Explorer staff will most likely concentrate on finishing out their out of conference schedule with two more wins, and try to address the defensive problems – lack of aggressive ball defense and defensive rebounding — for conference play.

9. Duquesne (5-5)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason 79-85 2OT

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Northwestern State, 1/2 vs. Norfolk State

Senior forwards Damian Saunders and Bill Clark, along with freshman TJ McConnell are emerging as the offensive nucleus for the Dukes. McConnell was cited among the conference Honorable Mentions for his career-high 19 point effort against George Mason. McConnell also had five steals. Saunders recorded a double-double in the two overtime period game, while Clark scored a team-high 21 points. Saunders, Clark and McConnell took 27.8%, 32.7% and 22.9% of the shots respectively when on the court. Clark and McConnell converted efficiently, but Saunders had an off night, recording an eFG% of 29.4% — his points came from volume shooting, going 5-17 overall. Size was again an issue, as the Hokies were able to grab over 53% of their misses for second chance opportunities.

George Mason has been one of the peskier CAA programs for the A-10 this season, as Duquesne, Charlotte and George Washington can attest. The Dukes faces two more out of conference opponents in Northwestern State and Norfolk State before beginning conference play with a game against Saint Joseph’s.

10. Charlotte (6-6)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State 57-53

Next Week: 12/30 @Mercer, 1/2 @Georgia Tech

The 49ers won consecutive games for the first time this season as they beat a visiting Wright State team 57-53 three days before Christmas. Off guard Derrio Green is beginning to find his rhythm, as the junior drew a conference Honorable Mention for the third week running. Green’s heroics included scoring the game-high 16 points versus Wright State, seven of them coming in the final two minutes as Charlotte came from behind to take the win. Junior forward Javarris Barnett chipped in 13 points and paced the team with seven rebounds. The 6’6 wing is becoming a strong complement to centers Chris Braswell and Phil Jones.

Coach Alan Major’s squad takes to the road in the week before conference play starts, first taking in a game with Mercer and then a trip to Atlanta for a game with Georgia Tech.

11. Saint Louis (5-7)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 71-49, 12/23 Southern Mississippi (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 67-74, 12/24 Mississippi (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 61-69

Next Week: 1/1 vs. Bowling Green

The Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational started well enough for the Saint Louis squad, as the Billikens downed Northeastern by 22 points. They were unable to follow up however, and dropped a seven point decision to Southern Mississippi of CUSA and then, as Rick Majerus DQ’d himself (food poisoning), they dropped an eight point decision to Mississippi of the SEC in the third round of play. Associate head coach Porter Moser filled in for the 64-year-old head coach. Junior forward Brian Conklin was named to the All-Tournament team and drew a conference Honorable Mention for his career-high 19 point effort against Ole Miss.

While the Reed/Mitchell situation has, to date, not been resolved, Coach Majerus’ only public statement of support for Reed (“…I did not want him to leave…”) was published about two weeks ago, around the time the Reed family began to hint he would like to return to Saint Louis. One last wrinkle for the Billikens is whether either or both would redshirt this season (assuming they are re-admitted and rejoin the team).

12. Fordham (6-4)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State 80-67, 12/27 @Georgia Tech cancelled

Next Week: 12/29 vs. American (Cable Car Classic), 12/30 TBD (Cable Car Classic)

Heady days in the Bronx as the Rams beat Kennesaw State while freshman Brandon Frazier shared Rookie of the Week honors with Dayton’s Juwan Staten. Frazier went 7-8 from the field and 2-2 from the line to go with four assists and four rebounds, as the Rams took their fourth straight win. In what might have been the best all around effort in two seasons, the Rams’ offense posted 1.21 points per possession while limiting the Owls offense to 0.99 ppp. Sophomore forward Chris Gaston posted a team-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as he recorded his 27th career double-double in 38 (career) games. Gaston earned his fifth Honorable Mention in seven weeks. Two other Rams, guards Alberto Estwick (15) and Brenton Butler (14) scored double digits points for a promising distribution of touches and shots. The Sunday blizzard shuttered all New York area airports, forcing Fordham to cancel their game with ACC power Georgia Tech.

Coach Tom Pecora’s team will fly out to Santa Clara, California, to participate in the Cable Car Classic, facing American University of the CAA in the first round. The second round opponent will be determined by the results of the American game.

13. George Washington (4-5)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina 82-80, 12/27 @UAB 44-79

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Holy Cross, 1/3 @Howard

Coach Karl Hobbs’ squad posted a 1-1 week, taking a two point win, 82-80, over East Carolina and dropping a 25 point road loss to University of Alabama Birmingham, 44-79. Junior guard Tony Taylor drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his career-high 26 points in the East Carolina win. With the loss of Lasan Kromah at the beginning of the season, the Colonials continue to search for players around which the offense can rally. Taylor has stepped into the central role, but reliable second and third options are hard to come by. Foul-prone senior center Joseph Katuka does not log enough minutes to have a lasting impact (though his numbers when he does play are solid), while sophomores Dwayne Smith and Tim Johnson (and freshman Chris Fitzgerald), though willing shooters when playing, are not efficient. Freshman Nemanja Mikic, while efficient, is not consistently assertive to this point in the season. With conference play around the corner GW will need some answer quickly, or their season could get very ugly very quickly.

George Washington has two more out of conference games, at home versus Holy Cross and a “road” game versus cross town rival Howard, to find some offensive answers.

14. Saint Joseph‘s (3-8)

Last Week: 12/21 @Boston University 79-85

Next Week: 12/28 @Holy Cross, 12/31 vs. Siena

Back from their finals, there is little evidence the Hawks did much regrouping and refocusing. They dropped a six point road decision to Boston University four days before Christmas. The loss extends Saint Joseph’s losing streak to six games. While scoring may be an obvious concern, as (per Ken Pomeroy) they are currently (through 12/27) ranked #252 (out of 345) in efficient field goal conversions with a 46.1% conversion rate, they could survive the low efficiency outing if their defense were better.  Their shot defense (eFG%) is 50.7, ranking them (through 12/27) at #227 (out of 345) in Division 1. Poor rebounding on both ends of the court really costs the Hawks. At the offensive end (30.3%, #250) it means they not only struggle to convert, but obtain few second chance opportunities. On the defensive end, they provide, with a 64.6% (#262 our of 345), their opponents with a better than one-in-three opportunity for a second field goal attempt opportunity. Against good offensive rebounding teams this margin can swell to nearly one-in-two second chance opportunities (Villanova – 47.1%, Drexel 46.5%, BU 45.2%), margins they cannot afford to concede.

Coach Phil Martelli has two more opportunities (at Holy Cross and versus Siena) to find some answers before conference play commences. After conference begins, the Hawks will have a single one last out of conference game – their match up with Big 5 rival Pennsylvania in late January.

Looking Ahead in the A-10

  • Rhode Island should have Orion Outerbridge back this week for games against Boston College and Florida if the sophomore has passed his fall classes.
  • As the out of conference schedule winds down there are few marquee match ups to offer this week, #25 Temple’s Big 5 tangle with #8 Villanova (12/30 7:00 pm ET ESPN2) the only Top 25 game on the slate. There are several above the Red Line opponents on tap, as Richmond faces a vulnerable Wake Forest (12/29, 7:00 pm ET; the Deacons’ second game versus an A-10 opponent this season), Rhode Island squares off against regional rival Boston College (12/29 7:00 pm ET) and Charlotte travels to Georgia Tech (1/2 6:00 pm ET; the Jackets third game versus a A-10 opponent, though the Fordham game was canceled). SEC contender Florida will face Xavier (12/31 4:00 pm ET ESPN2, at Xavier) and Rhode Island (1/3 9:00 pm ET ESPNU, in Gainesville).
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NCAA Basketball 2011: BCS Version – Introduction

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2010

For the past two years we’ve taken a look at what NCAA basketball would be like if the powers that be decided to adopt the antediluvian BCS system. In 2009 it would have yielded a championship game between UNC and Louisville along with several other less desirable match-ups. In 2010 it would have led to a championship game between Kansas and Kentucky, which could have been an interesting match-up, but both teams showed severe flaws that led to their elimination well short of the final Monday night game in April.

This season we decided that we would expand things a bit by offering our RTC/BCS college basketball rankings using a formula similar to what they use to determine the BCS rankings in college football on a weekly basis. As the season progresses, you can see how certain teams rise from relative obscurity and into the BCS picture while other teams fall from prestigious BCS games down to what would be the equivalent of pre-New Year’s Day games. With conference play about to start we thought that this would be the ideal time to start looking at the potential match-ups.

We kept the same basic rules as we used in previous years:

  1. We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible, but we replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
  2. The AP and ESPN/USA Today polls are used as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. We are not including six computer rankings and dropping the highest and lowest like they do in the BCS because frankly we are not familiar with six reputable computer ranking systems. If you know of any other computer rankings leave a comment below and we might include them in the next installment of our rankings.
  3. We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.

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Around The Blogosphere: December 30, 2010

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2010


If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #3 Kansas 82, UT-Arlington 57: “Sometimes the best thing you can do after a week off filled with a little extra turkey and egg nog is go out and take on a team that you can beat on talent alone.  That’s what the Jayhawks did on Wednesday night and that’s about all they probably could have handled through the first 25 minutes. In a game that saw an all new starting lineup, a choppy rotation and sluggish defense, the Jayhawks managed to hit a bit of a stride through stretches of the final 15 minutes allowing Kansas to pull away and get a victory over a Maverick basketball team that quite frankly isn’t very good.” (Rock Chalk Talk with a recap and Bill Self after the game)
  • #16 Notre Dame 69, #8 Georgetown 55: The Irish picked up their biggest victory of the year behind a great shooting night from Tim Abromaitis and solid team defense. Austin Freeman put up 21 points for the Hoyas, but it wasn’t enough. (Casual Hoya or Rakes of Mallow)
  • #22 Vanderbilt 77, Marquette 76: In one of the more entertaining games of the season Marquette came up just short and there were plenty of questions about the officiating after a late no-call. (Anonymous Eagle and Cracked Sidewalks)

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Morning Five: 12.30.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on December 30th, 2010

  1. You simply must check out how, in his attempts to get back to school for a game against Albany, Xavier’s Tu Holloway went through his own version of Plains, Trains, and Automobiles. Even more impressive was what he did when he made it back — 32 minutes, 11 points on 4-6 shooting, nine dimes, one turnover, and all while sick and exhausted. And let us say this — Tu, we love ya, man, but the image of you on a Greyhound bus with a morbidly obese man snoring on your shoulder is freaking hilarious. At least you didn’t have a conversation upon waking that ended with the words, “Those aren’t pillows!
  2. Speaking of Xavier, you can likely find coach Chris Mack down at City Hall in Cincinnati inquiring as to whether the Cintas Center was, in fact, built on a Native American burial ground. Whatever it is, there’s something out there that doesn’t like Xavier basketball — yesterday it was announced that freshman swingman Jay Canty (1.0 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 9.5 MPG) has a broken right foot and will be shelved for a month. That leaves XU with nine scholarship players. If we know Coach Mack, though — and we don’t — he’ll somehow get the Musketeers to overachieve in March even if he has to suit up the mascot and a pull a couple of business majors out of Smith Hall in order to have enough practice players.
  3. “Some guys hate losing more than they love winning.” A memorable line from a simply outstanding look at the life of Rutgers basketball under new boss Mike Rice. Writer Adam Zagoria intimates that Rice might just be the right man to bring the Knights back to prominence in the future, and that’s been our position as well; this article makes us feel confident about that prediction.
  4. The Niagara Gazette’s Jonah Bronstein invites all Western New Yorkers to come out and see native son Jimmer Fredette when he and BYU arrive at Buffalo tonight to play the Bulls. Bronstein and UB head coach Reggie Witherspoon anoint Fredette as the best player “ever to visit Western New York,” which we assume to mean UB’s Alumni Arena in this case. Bold claim, but the gentlemen make an interesting case.
  5. We’ve heard from so many people rooting for Northwestern to finally make the NCAA Tournament this season. Chicago Sports Guru takes a look at some NU stats and offers an intriguing breakdown of the Wildcats’ remaining schedule. And we’re totally diggin’ the “John and Juice” reference in the article’s title — strong work, fellas. Despite the 9-1 start, though, KenPom projects a 18-11 (8-10) final record for the ‘Cats, but six of those crystal-ball Ls are predicted to be by four points or less. The next chance for NU to change fate (that is, the next KenPom-predicted L) is this Friday at Purdue. KenPom gives the Wildcats a 12% chance of winning. Ouch.
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What Is The NCAA Telling Us With Curtis Kelly’s Suspension?

Posted by nvr1983 on December 29th, 2010

By now you have undoubtedly heard about the NCAA suspending Kansas State forward Curtis Kelly for six games for accepting excessive discounts while purchasing clothing. I was all set to go on a rant about it, but apparently Gary Parrish beat me to it with a brilliant column ripping the NCAA for its ridiculous recent decisions on punishing athletes for taking illegal benefits. While Parrish’s column is an amusing read about how the NCAA determines the severity of the infractions, it misses a larger point about how the NCAA goes after players harder than it does coaches or other administrators who run the business of college basketball at the university level.

It could be argued that athletes and coaches/administrators should be treated differently because the former are considered amateurs while the others are working what are, in a sense, traditional paying jobs, but using that alone should not clear the latter of the expectation of maintaining standards similar to what the NCAA expects of its athletes. We cannot even begin to fathom the perks that most big-name coaches get from local stores and restaurants that significantly exceed anything that either Kelly or Jacob Pullen received from Dillard’s. In these situations it isn’t an issue of amateur versus professional, which we already touched upon, but a question of using your position — either as a prominent athlete or coach/administrator — to get benefits that put them in a position that nobody else in the university system can obtain. Those benefits likely get repaid in a variety of ways, including through the giving of free merchandise, or, at the very least, giving them preferential treatment for highly sought-after tickets.

If Pearl was an athlete the NCAA would have already banned him

Still, the issue runs deeper than that and in no case made it more clear than that of Bruce Pearl, who has only received a partial suspension from the SEC (the NCAA still has not decided on what to do) and a fairly hefty fine for participating in illegal recruiting activities and lying to NCAA investigators about those illegal doings. Compare that with the situation of Dez Bryant, who last year lost his remaining eligibility for lying to NCAA investigators about his relationship with Deion Sanders even though the NCAA later found that Bryant had done nothing wrong other than lie to investigators about interacting with Sanders in what was a completely permissible way. Several pundits, most notably Jay Bilas and Len Elmore of ESPN, have called for the NCAA to ban Pearl, but the NCAA continues to drag its feet on the decision while it continues to dole out punishments against athletes. The way the system is set up it continues to punish young people between the ages of 18 and 22 who often come from underprivileged backgrounds without significant supervision and it continues to grant leniency on grown men who are making hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, have college educations, years of real-world experience, and a significant support network behind them. If the NCAA continues its haphazard and uneven application of its bylaws to athletes and coaches, Congress might actually have something worth investigating.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.29.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 29th, 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 terrific Big East game and two Pac 10 games highlight tonight’s schedule while Marquette seeks a quality win on the road against an underrated SEC squad. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#8 Georgetown @ #16 Notre Dame – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Two highly efficient offenses meet in each team’s first Big East game of the season. The visiting Hoyas are the top team in the nation when it comes to effective field goal percentage and rank in the top five in both two and three point shooting. Each team scores 81 PPG and is highly experienced, their key players all being veterans. Notre Dame starts four seniors, one of the most experienced teams in the entire country. Georgetown will look to take advantage of their superior marksmanship against an Irish defense that’s better but wouldn’t be confused with any of the top defenses in college basketball. Austin Freeman doesn’t need much room to shoot (49% from deep) and should find ample opportunities for good looks against Notre Dame tonight. Georgetown’s talented guards have the advantage but you can make the argument that the Irish have more balance. Notre Dame’s freshman point guard Eric Atkins has played well but Mike Brey counts on his seniors to do most of the damage. Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis can stroke it from deep and have the ability to score inside as well. Notre Dame has to rebound the ball well and get to the free throw line to win. If they do both, Julian Vaughn should be minimized. The Georgetown big man has had a nice year and gives them a threat up front where teams can’t just concentrate on the perimeter. However, foul trouble will open up the interior for Tyrone Nash and company while making it easier for the Irish to rebound. Notre Dame is already #3 in keeping opponents off the offensive boards and third in opponents free throw rate as well. Playing at home, ND should hold a significant advantage at the line against a Georgetown team that doesn’t get there often. Both teams shoot it well from the stripe but the Hoya offense doesn’t offer many chances to get fouled. Georgetown has played in quite a few tough environments this year and has emerged victorious all but once. The Irish are good but we love this Hoya team and expect them to earn another solid road win in a difficult atmosphere.

Marquette @ #22 Vanderbilt – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)

The Golden Eagles desperately need a quality win out of conference and this is their final chance to get one. However, it’s a tall order playing on the road against a Vanderbilt team that hasn’t received the respect it deserves. This is Marquette’s second true road game and the first was against city rival Milwaukee at U.S. Cellular Arena, literally a short walk from the Bradley Center. Memorial Gym will be an entirely different test for Buzz Williams and his team. Looking at this matchup, one immediately notices the height advantage the Commodores will enjoy. Marquette doesn’t really have anyone near the size of Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, having a tremendous season. Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler are good players but it’s hard to see them containing Ezeli for the whole game. Williams may have to turn to Davante Gardner, though the big freshman hasn’t been able to play any kind of extended minutes. Getting the Vanderbilt big man in foul trouble is highly encouraged if you’re a Marquette fan considering MU scores 61% of its points inside the arc. Ezeli has the potential to disrupt the flow inside and keep the men in gold off the boards. Kevin Stallings puts a balanced starting five on the court, a unit that’s efficient on both ends of the floor. Vanderbilt has a smart point guard, a three point gunner, good forwards and a strong interior presence. John Jenkins is the three point gunner and he’s caught fire of late, shooting 52% from deep over his last three games. He’ll look to take care of a soft Golden Eagles perimeter defense, ranked just #258 against the triple. Marquette will need an answer to Jenkins’ shooting prowess and Darius Johnson-Odom figures to be the most likely candidate. DJO has struggled most of the year with his shot but you can never count him out. He took the Big East by storm last year, making himself known to thousands of opposing fans. While he hasn’t been nearly the same shooter he was last season, you have to respect his ability and potential to break out at any point. Marquette needs a good game from their dynamic guard in order to pull the road upset tonight. Also key for Buzz Williams and his team will be turnover margin. Vanderbilt should have the edge on the glass so Marquette must come up with extra possessions by forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball on their own end.  Vanderbilt has lost just two games, each by three points. On paper this looks like a bad matchup for Marquette but that’s why they play the games. Still, we expect Vanderbilt to come away with a good home win against a middle of the pack Big East team that should improve as the season moves along.

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Behind the Numbers: Rebound, Rebound, Rebound

Posted by KCarpenter on December 29th, 2010

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor.

One of my favorite features about watching basketball on television is when the cameras try to take you inside the locker room at halftime or inside the huddle during timeouts. This inside peek theoretically should be endlessly fascinating and unceasingly cool. I initially hoped to watch the coach draw up the next play, talk about strategic weaknesses he’d noticed, and generally be smart and insightful about the game. Of course, anyone who has ever seen a single one of these “inside peeks” knows that my hopes are routinely dashed. Inevitably, because the networks won’t actually broadcast any of the juicy strategic content of the huddles or halftime speeches, we instead get clip after clip of hoarse coaches exhorting their players to rebound, rebound, rebound, while the players gulp down water and nod with intense understanding. This is, of course, hilarious. Certainly the coach doesn’t think, “My players don’t know they are supposed to rebound,” while the players think “Rebounding! Of course! I was just going to stand around and ignore the ball, but your way is so much better!” It’s just an absurd little bit of theater since everyone knows how important rebounding is. Of course the players are trying to get the rebounds. Why wouldn’t they?

DeJuan Blair Was a Rebounding Machine at Pitt

Rebounding has a cost. We tend to think of rebounding in terms of what it can grant a team: on the offensive end, a rebound offers another chance to score while it deprives the opponent of the same chance on the defensive end. Rebounding isn’t free, however. When a team attempts to rebound the ball, there is a trade-off. Every player who goes for an offensive rebound isn’t getting back on defense as quickly as he can, potentially giving up fast break points to the opposing team. Conversely, every player who attempts to get a defensive rebound isn’t leaking out, trying to get those high-percentage fast-break points. The potential cost of rebounding is forsaking fast-break points for your own team while giving up those same points to your opponent.

But does that matter? Offensive rebounding is important. When the shots aren’t falling and your opponents’ shots are, getting extra possessions is how you win games, and coming up with offensive rebounds is easier than getting steals or forcing other turnovers. In college basketball, the teams that win the championship are almost universally excellent at offensive rebounding. Does it have to be that way?

Not necessarily. In the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs dominated the early part of the last decade, winning four championships between 1999-2007,  even while largely forsaking offensive rebounds. Gregg Popovich made the unusual though clever decision to avoid crashing the offensive boards and instead emphasized getting back on defense, preventing the opponent from scoring any fast break points. While San Antonio often trailed the league in offensive rebounds, in those years the average field goal percentage of Spur opponents sunk to ridiculous lows. Likewise, until fairly recently, San Antonio didn’t emphasize fast breaking, choosing instead to focus on securing the defensive rebound and limiting their opponents’ second chance opportunities. Instead of emphasizing their own offensive efficiency, the Spurs chose to gleefully flummox their opponents’ offensive plans. Those four NBA championships speak to the strategy’s success.

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Around The Blogosphere: December 29, 2010

Posted by nvr1983 on December 29th, 2010


If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #10 Missouri 97, Northern Illinois 61: Going behind the numbers of the Tigers blowout victory. (Rock M Nation)
  • #11 Purdue 80, Michigan 57: “The Boilers started off hot as Smith, Moore and Johnson led Purdue to a very early 14-2 lead. UM stormed back by hitting a ton of threes while Purdue got cold. After Beilein’s squad took the lead briefly, Purdue regained a five point lead before the half…and never relinquished it.” (Boiled Sports or UM Hoops with additional video from UM Hoops of John Beilein and the Wolverine players)
  • #12 Kentucky 91, Coppin State 61: “The Kentucky Wildcats did not have a Christmas hangover, and handled the Coppin St. Eagles convincingly in Rupp Arena tonight.  It was the kind of game that we have become used to with this team — inferior opponents are rarely able to challenge Kentucky.  The ‘Cats have, for the most part, handled their weaker opponents easily, unlike last year’s team who struggled against them early.” (A Sea of Blue)
  • #14 Wisconsin 68, #13 Minnesota 60: “Several questions faced the Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball team as they entered Big Ten conference play.  How would they handle the relative increased level of competition?  Would they play up to their opponent after playing down so often in the non-conference season?  How would the team look with both Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph healthy and playing?  These questions were more or less answered in Minnesota’s frustrating 68-60 road loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten season opener in which they were torched by Jordan Taylor and unable to convert down the stretch.” (From the Barn or Gopher Nation)

Other Games of Interest

  • UNC 78, Rutgers 55: “For Christmas this year, the Tar Heels apparently asked for a shooting touch. And Leslie McDonald at least got one in his stocking – he went 4 of 7 from behind the arc, on his way to 14 points. The rest of the the team was a mixed mag, but they ran the transition game well, shot almost 47% from the field, and was never in any danger of losing, en route to a 23-point victory.” (Carolina March)

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Morning Five: 12.29.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 29th, 2010

  1. After a hectic off-season that included a move from the ACC, Oliver Purnell has flown under the radar for most of this season as DePaul has struggled to a 6-6 record so far. There has been a lot of talk about how Purnell could turn the program around if he can take back control of Chicago from the other programs that have raided it for numerous stars in the past few years (Derrick Rose and Evan Turner come to mind). Some NBA scouts believes that Purnell may have a more difficult time than originally stated and that this may be his toughest resurrection job yet. The basic premise is that geographically the local players that Clemson used to get who were passed over by the ACC powers might still want to stay local whereas the Chicago players who get passed over by the Big East powers will probably opt to play for a Big Ten team rather than DePaul, a team that is essentially a Big East doormat.
  2. After UConn‘s loss at Pittsburgh, Jim Calhoun had plenty to be upset about (essentially everything except for Kemba Walker‘s offensive play), but it looks like he took out the brunt of it on Alex Oriakhi, who only managed 8 points and 1 rebound in 19 minutes. We aren’t going to question Calhoun’s methods as he certainly has a few more national championship rings and has done a better job at dealing with the egos of young, talented males who probably have never been told that they did something wrong, but we have to wonder how Oriakhi will respond particularly if Calhoun keeps him in the doghouse for a little while. It is worth keeping an eye on as he may be the Huskies only reliable scoring option outside of Walker and if Oriakhi falls apart the Huskies may follow his lead.
  3. For the second consecutive season Marquette lost a freshman who wanted to transfer mid-way through the season. This time it was Chicago native Reggie Smith who decided to transfer citing a lack of playing time. The transfer itself isn’t particularly big news as Smith was only averaging 1.4 points per game and 1.5 rebounds per game although it leaves the Golden Eagles with only 4 scholarship guards, but we did find the assertion by Buzz Williams that 40% of freshman transfer as rather amusing. We haven’t run the numbers on that, but we would be surprised because that would mean that on average a program would lose 1 or 2 freshmen each year.
  4. Most of the college basketball world is fixated on the remaining undefeated teams, but there are others who are focused on the other end of the spectrum–the teams that have yet to win a game. As of this weekend there were six teams left that had yet to win a game although the likelihood of them going through the entire season without a win (based on Pomeroy’s numbers) varies greatly. I’m not sure what it says about us that we are familiar with all of those schools even if we haven’t seen those teams yet this season.
  5. A few days ago we had some fun at Joe Lunardi’s expense based on his ridiculous early assertion that both Gonzaga and Butler may have played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament by early December, but his list of 37 thoughts (ESPN Insider again, sorry) is worth a look even if most of them aren’t particularly insightful or earth-shattering. The most interesting thing in there is that he think that Kentucky will get a #1 seed. . .in the NCAA Tournament. If he is right, I will have to tip my hat even if I will ridicule some of his other assertions as I don’t think you will find even the most delusional Wildcat fan who would agree with this team of being deserving of a #1 seed based on their play this season and Lunardi does not even seem to be insinuating that he thinks that Enes Kanter might be coming back to play for the Wildcats this season.
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ATB: Big Ten Battles in December

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2010

The Lede.  There were a good number of games across the college basketball landscape tonight, but few of them held much interest to the casual observer.  The most important aspect of tonight (and really, this week) is that some of the power conferences are gearing up.  We have a fundamental aversion to pre-New Years conference games, but the honchos tend to not listen to us, so we take the smattering of Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 games dropping this week as yet another sign that the apocalypse is just around the bend and bearing down on us.

Al Nolen Meets the Wisconsin Defense (WSJ/C. Schreiner)

Your Watercooler MomentWisconsin & Purdue — Still Pretty Good.  Tonight’s marquee games were both Big Ten battles, and notwithstanding the fact that it’s still 2010 and these games shouldn’t be happening so early, that won’t erase the fact that they did in fact occur and two teams that are always pretty good are still pretty good.  The bigger game was Minnesota visiting Wisconsin, and even though many of the news outlets looked at the rankings (#13 visiting #24) and subsequently called a Wisconsin eight-point win an “upset,” anyone reading this site knows better.  In fact, the Badgers were a heavy favorite in Vegas (eight points, a-ha!), and few teams go into the Kohl Center and defeat Bo Ryan.  Despite getting dominated on the boards (-13), Ryan’s team played just enough sticky possession-defense  and took the care of the ball (only two TOs) to stymie a Gopher attack that is as diversified as it has been in Tubby Smith’s era in Minneapolis.  Meanwhile, across Lake Michigan in Ann Arbor, Purdue rode its two all-Americans JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore to a nice road win over a surprising UM team in convincing fashion.  The dynamic duo went for 43/17 combined, and contributed as they always do to one of the nation’s most effective defenses in tandem.  Many people wrote off Purdue as a national title contender and Final Four threat when Robbie Hummel went down with a knee injury in October, including us, but the Boilermakers are playing such impressive defense right now that we could be convinced that Matt Painter’s team could make a run to Houston after all.  Mind you, we’re not talking about cutting down the nets, but if the Boilermakers can continue to get offensive production beyond Johnson and Moore — and several players have stepped up at various times as a third option — then with the right matchups, Purdue could still be a darkhorse F4 contender.  Matt Painter’s defense and his two seniors are that good.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Mike Montgomery, Really? The California coach earned his 600th career victory tonight against Hartford, which puts him in a group of seven active coaches to have done so.  Without a doubt, he would be the last one you’d think of — the top six are: 1) Mike Krzyzewski; 2) Jim Boeheim; 3) Jim Calhoun; 4) Bob Huggins; 5) Gary Williams; 6) Roy Williams.  Pretty selective company there, as all but Huggz has won a national title.
  • 30 at the Cintas.  With tonight’s easy win over Albany, Xavier continued its second-longest homecourt winning streak in the nation to 30 games.  This is particularly amazing considering that, well, XU isn’t all that good this year.  The Musketeers have hosted six games at the Cintas Center so far this year, and already four of them have gone down to the last possession — a three-point win over Western Michigan, an overtime over IUPU-Fort Wayne, a triple-overtime win over Wofford and a two-point nailbiter over Butler.  The Muskies go for #31 on New Year’s Eve against Florida, a team with a definite upgrade in talent than most of the teams they’ve played so far this season.
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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

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

After Pitt’s win on Monday night over UConn, I’m officially declaring the Big East a four team race between Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse and Villanova as we prepare to kick off conference play. Here is a breakdown of why each team will and/or won’t win the conference:

Why They Will Win

  • Georgetown: Its a topic that has been beaten to death, I know, but the Hoya backcourt is just that good. Its more than just the individual talent of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. Those three play so well together. They are just so in tune with each other on the offensive end of the floor. And, more importantly, John Thompson III has allowed them to play more in transition, taking advantage of the ability of this group to play in the open floor.
  • Pitt: The thing I love about the Panthers is just how in tune they are with what Jamie Dixon wants them to do. Every player on the team understands what his role is and how to execute in that role. Their offense is a thing of beauty to watch, which is not something you often hear said about Pitt. They run their plays, they get the look they want, and they ferociously attack the offensive glass.
  • Syracuse: Rick Jackson is a new man. He’s streamlined his body and become the most dominant big man in the conference. Think DeJuan Blair plus a few inches and minus a few pounds on the bench press. He anchors a front line that is has been as good as any in the conference and still is not at full strength. With Kris Joseph starting to round into form, the Orange seem to have hit their stride this season.
  • Villanova: The Wildcats are going to be in this thing the entire season. Why? Because this team defends. I’ve said it all season long. This group reminds me so much of the team that went to the Final Four in 2009. They have a number of versatile players, they can utilize a number of different lineups, and they have frontcourt depth. That’s not something that you would have said about the Wildcats last season.

Why They Won’t Win

  • Georgetown: I’m concerned about the Hoyas winning under pressure. As I said, this team is experienced, but they haven’t exactly experienced success under pressure. In 2009, this team crumbled under lofty expectations and finished below .500 in the Big East. Last season, the Hoyas seemed to lose every time people started talking about them, including in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Ohio. This year, there have been two games against elite competition where the Hoyas had the final possession and were losing. Both times, Hollis Thompson forced up a tough three pointer with plenty of time on the clock. The Hoyas were bailed out against Missouri when Kim English saved the ball under his own basket, but they weren’t so lucky in the loss to Temple.
  • Pitt: The Panthers are not as good defensively as they have been in year’s past. They are physical on the perimeter, they are big inside, and they rebound the ball, but they also allow a lot of open shots from the perimeter. Tennessee exploited that defensive weakness. Texas nearly did as well. Even UConn got and missed a number of good looks from the perimeter.
  • Syracuse: Are the Orange going to be able to score consistently against better defenses? Putting up 100 points on Colgate is nice. Scoring 53 against Michigan isn’t. They’ve looked better of late, but a lot of teams look good playing cupcakes at home. Which Kris Joseph and which Scoop Jardine show up during Big East play will determine how far this team goes.
  • Villanova: Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns have not been able to fill the leadership void left by Scottie Reynolds. They’ve also not played well in his absence, shooting a combined 38% from the floor and 22% from three. If those two continue to struggle, Villanova is going to be in trouble.

1. Georgetown (11-1) (3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola MD 99-75, 12/23 @ Memphis 86-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ Notre Dame, 1/1 vs. DePaul

2. Pitt (13-1, 1-0) (2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. UM Eastern Shore 97-64, 12/22 vs. American 61-46, 12/27 vs. UConn 78-63

Next Week: None

3. Syracuse (10-0) (1)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Iona 83-77, 12/20 vs. Morgan State 97-55, 12/22 vs. Drexel 93-65

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Providence, 1/1 vs. Notre Dame

4. Villanova (10-1) (5)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Delaware 78-59, 12/22 @ Monmouth 76-36

Next Week: 12/30 @ Temple, 1/2 vs. Rutgers

5. Connecticut (10-1, 0-1) (4)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Coppin State 76-64, 12/22 vs. Harvard 81-52, 12/27 @ Pitt 63-78

Next Week: 12/31 vs. South Florida

The loss at Pitt will end up being a good thing for the Huskies. They needed to come back to earth. UConn is not a bad basketball team, especially with Kemba Walker on the court, but they certainly were not the fourth best team in the country. UConn looked bad against Pitt, but their younger players struggled in the Big East opener on the road against an actual top ten team. For the freshmen, it was their first Big East game ever, and it was also two days after Christmas. It is not yet time to panic with this team.

6. Notre Dame (11-1) (6)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. Stony Brook 88-62, 12/22 vs. UMBC 93-53

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Georgetown, 1/1 @ Syracuse

I really like this Notre Dame team. I like the pace they play at. I like their ability to execute offensively. I like that they have multiple lineups that can be effective. I like the number of different weapons they have. The problem? This team doesn’t force any turnovers. Playing great defense, forcing tough shots, and cleaning up the defensive glass is commendable. But the Irish will be that much better if they can start getting easy baskets off of turnovers.

7. Louisville (11-1) (7)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Gardner-Webb 78-49, 12/22 vs. Western Kentucky 114-82, 12/27 vs. Morgan State 104-74

Next Week: 12/31 @ Kentucky

Louisville slipped up against Drexel, as the Dragons were able to control the tempo and force Louisville into bad shots. So how do the Cardinals respond? By hitting 33-53 from three in routs of Western Kentucky and Morgan State, two teams expected to compete for their conference’s crown. Louisville may not have a star, but in those two games they had three guys (Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles) go for at least 25 points.

8. Cincinnati (12-0) (8)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Oklahoma 66-56, 12/21 vs. Miami OH 64-48, 12/23 vs. St. Francis PA 94-58

Next Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul, 12/31 vs. Seton Hall

I’m getting sick of writing this about Cincinnati. Their backcourt has been better than expected, their frontcourt is big, and they are undefeated against a Charmin-soft schedule. Come the New Year, we’ll finally start to get a grasp of how good this team is.

9. Marquette (9-3) (9)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Centenary 81-52, 12/21 vs. Mississippi Valley State 104-77

Next Week: 12/29 @ Vanderbilt, 1/1 vs. West Virginia

I say it every year, and then I sit back and watch as people disregard my advice until it comes to fruition — don’t count out Marquette. This is a scrappy team that competes as hard as anyone in the country. Once Darius Johnson-Odom finds his stroke, the Golden Eagles are going to be a team no one wants to play.

10. West Virginia (8-2) (10)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Cleveland State 74-63

Next Week: 12/29 vs. St. John’s, 1/1 @ West Virginia

I cannot figure out this West Virginia team yet, and I’m guessing Bobby Huggins hasn’t either. Casey Mitchell went for 20 ppg scorer to 20 mpg role player. Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli have had as many brain farts as post moves. Truck Bryant can’t stay out of trouble. There are a lot of pieces in Morgantown, the question is whether or not Huggins can put the puzzle together.

11. Providence (11-2) (11)

Last Week: 12/21 vs. Sacred Heart 84-76

Next Week: 12/28 @ Syracuse, 1/1 vs. St. John’s

Providence is going to be fun to watch this season. They run the floor, they shoot a lot of threes, and they score a lot of points. But will they play enough defense to win games in the Big East? Regardless, Marshon Brooks is a name you need to remember.

12. St. John’s (7-3) (14)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Davidson 62-57, 12/21 vs. Northwestern 85-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ West Virginia, 1/1 @ Providence

The Johnnies may have had the best half of any game from any team this season when they went 16-20 from the floor in the second half against Northwestern. But can that half erase the memories of a 21 point second half lead they blew against Fordham?

13. Seton Hall (6-6) (12)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT 68-45, 12/22 vs. Dayton 65-69, 12/26 vs. Richmond 61-69

Next Week: 12/31 @ Cincinnati

The Hall’s season went from bad to worse when Jeremy Hazell was shot on Christmas Day. I just don’t think it is in the cards for the Pirates this season.

14. Rutgers (9-2) (13)

Last Week: 12/18 @ Monmouth 79-56, 12/23 vs. St. Peter’s 55-52

Next Week: 12/28 vs. UNC, 1/2 @ Villanova

The biggest news coming out of Piscataway this week was that the Scarlett Knights opted to redshirt Kadeem Jack. Jack is a top 50 recruit and has the potential to be a very good player down the road. No sense in wasting a year of eligibility on half of a meaningless season.

15. South Florida (6-7) (15)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. James Madison 61-66, 12/22 @ Cleveland State 62-69

Next Week: 12/28 @ Seton Hall, 12/31 @ UConn

Gus Gilchrist quit the team. Then he came back. How many people noticed?

16. DePaul (6-6) (16)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola IL 81-74, 12/22 vs. Florida Atlantic 71-62

Next Week: 12/28 @ Cincinnati, 1/1 @ Georgetown

DePaul won two games this week. With Big East play starting, it may have been the last two games they win all season.

Looking Ahead

Big East play is kicking off this week. I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for top 25 matchups, Big Mondays, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery, Bob Huggins’ track suit, Jay Wright’s Gucci suit, Jim Calhoun’s scowl, the claims that the Big East isn’t the best conference because it’s too big, 3 am replays of Providence-Marquette on MASN, the trash talk between Georgetown and Syracuse fans, and, most importantly, arenas packed to the gills with drunk, screaming college students cheering on their team in games that actually matter.

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The Week That Was: December 18-27

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

It’s that time of year again: Conference season. UConn and Pittsburgh opened up the Big East slate Monday night with the first of what will be many highly-anticipated conference matchups over the next couple of months. It won’t be much longer until we get Pitt-Georgetown, Duke-Maryland, Washington-Washington State, Ohio State-Purdue and plenty over other mouth-watering games. It’s definitely a more appealing prospect than watching Kentucky pummel Winthrop or Texas beat down North Florida.

What We Learned

Taylor & Pitt Easily Ripped UConn

  • It might have been wise for Jim Calhoun to schedule some true road games for his young UConn squad before its Big East opener at Pittsburgh. The Huskies certainly played as though they weren’t prepared for what was waiting for them in the amped up Peterson Events Center. But honestly, there was little reason to think that this game was going to be anything other than a wakeup call for UConn. The Huskies boast seven freshmen, and only three players in its rotation that had ever played at that venue. No surprises here that the Panthers jumped out to an early double-digit lead and cruised to a 78-63 win. At least the Huskies can take solace in the fact that they don’t have to face Pittsburgh again until possibly the Big East Tournament. The Panthers’ length along the perimeter makes them a tough matchup for Kemba Walker, who needed 27 shots and 11 free throws to score 31 points against the likes of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.
  • After a less-than-stellar start to its season, in which Butler got smoked by Louisville and lost in overtime to Evansville en route to a 4-4 record through its first eight games, it now looks like Brad Stevens’ squad has righted the ship. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and just beat Washington State on Christmas Day to win the Diamond Head Classic. Key to the Bulldogs recent surge has been their improved play on the defensive end. Butler has not allowed more than 68 points since Mississippi Valley St. put up 71 on Dec. 11, and in their last four wins, the Bulldogs have allowed their opponents to shoot the following percentages: Stanford, 31.4%; Utah, 39.6%; Florida State, 38%; and Washington State, 40.7%. The Bulldogs’ defensive numbers still aren’t great, they rank 48th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings and they’re #272 in turnover %, but they’re on their way back to being a squad that can win games on the defensive end. As the schedule shifts to Horizon League play, the Bulldogs again are a safe bet to claim another conference championship.
  • When we last checked in with Tennessee, the Vols just had erased most of the momentum gained from a win over Pittsburgh with a home loss to Oakland (nothing to be embarrassed about, but not what we like to see from one of our top-10 teams). As it turns out, that loss to the Golden Grizzlies was a harbinger for what turned out to be a very unhappy holiday season for Bruce Pearl. The Vols lost their next two games, both to unranked opponents. Tennessee lost 49-48 to a Charlotte squad without leading scored Shamari Spears, who was kicked off the team a few days earlier. Then the Vols lost again by one point, this time to USC. To make matters worse, their win to halt the three-game skid did little to make people believe the Vols aren’t in the middle of a tailspin. Tennessee blew a 13-point lead to Belmont and needed a layup from Scotty Hopson with 5.7 left to escape with a 66-65 win. Despite his last-second bucket, Hopson’s recent play has been a major reason for the Vols’ struggles. Hopson scored a combined 28 points his losses to Oakland, Charlotte and USC on 8-31 shooting. He rebounded to score 19 points against Belmont, but he’s still suffering from a shooting slump. Hopson is 2-14 from three in his last four games.
  • TWTW isn’t a huge fan of making sweeping proclamations before conference play begins, nor do we like to divulge its national championship favorite until the most opportune moment. (Personally, TWTW prefers to wait until about 10 seconds left in the title game to announce who we think will win it all). But if TWTW was forced to name a team it would be Ohio State. UConn, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas are all fine choices, but there’s something about the Buckeyes that separates them from the pack. Everything starts with Jared Sullinger, who is first on the team in points (17.5) and rebounds (10.1) and is the clubhouse leader for national freshman of the year. Sullinger has owned the paint from Day 1 and has shown a knack for dominating games like few other big men this year (see his 40/13 against IUPUI and his 30/19 against South Carolina). What’s remarkable about Sullinger, though, has been his ability to avoid foul trouble. Sullinger hasn’t fouled out of one game this season and only has one game (his first) in which he had four infractions. But OSU isn’t just limited to Sullinger. The Buckeyes boast five players who average at least 10 points a game. They can beat you just as easily outside as they can inside with shooters like David Lighty and Jon Diebler, who shoot 45.5% and 47.4% from three, respectively. And freshman Deshaun Thomas is the kind of athletic wing that can score in bunches off the bench. Could Ohio State be better without Evan Turner? TWTW thinks so.
  • People wondered how Kansas would be able to integrate freshman phenom Josh Selby into its rotation once he returned from his NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension, the question being whether Selby’s presence would disrupt the Jayhawks’ chemistry from their 9-0 start. After two games, two wins and two electric performances by Selby, it’s obvious there was never a need to worry whether his addition would be anything but welcome. In his debut against USC, Selby scored 21 points and drilled a go-ahead three with 26 seconds ago to lead the Jayhawks to 70-68 win. There was no need for any late heroics in his second game, but Selby still made his presence felt, to the tune of 18 points and a 3-4 shooting night from beyond the arc. Selby’s already established himself as one of Kansas’ go-to scorers, and the fact that Bill Self had Selby not only on the court in the waning seconds against USC but shows how important Selby will be to any title run for KU.

Media Blackout

The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.

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