Mike Krzyzewski’s Daughter Recovering Well From Mild Stroke

Posted by jstevrtc on January 31st, 2011

Duke released a statement on Monday night confirming that Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino, the oldest daughter of Mike Krzyzewski, suffered a mild stroke as a result of a vertebral artery dissection “several weeks ago.” She is expected to make a full recovery, according to the short AP article from Yahoo! Sports (linked above) and a more detailed writeup from Durham’s Herald-Sun. Mrs. Savarino, 40,  is in fact already back at work in her position as assistant director of Duke’s Legacy Fund and Director of External Relations for Duke basketball.

Vertebral artery dissection is a leading cause of strokes in younger patients, especially those under 45. If you place your fingers on either side of your neck (gently), you’ll feel the pulse from your carotid artery. The vertebral artery runs right behind and parallel to the carotid, along the vertebrae in the neck, and supplies blood to the brain. Dissection doesn’t mean that the artery opens up and blood empties out into the body, but rather that one of the layers of the artery’s inner lining breaks and blood flows into the wall, causing it to bulge, get trapped, and then clot. The clot obstructs the normal flow of blood through the artery and therefore to the brain, and the patient starts having any of numerous symptoms, like headache, dizziness, loss of coordination, facial droop (we don’t know what Mrs. Savarino’s symptoms were and will not speculate) — in other words, the symptoms people usually associate with a stroke. Obviously all strokes are inherently dangerous, and the possibility of long-term deficits is always there, but patients who experience a stroke caused by vertebral artery dissection often have good outcomes with little or no lingering effects.

Every single person here at RTC extends their prayers and well-wishes for Mrs. Savarino, and we’re elated to read about what sounds like a great prognosis and a full recovery.

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RTC Top 25: Week 12

Posted by KDoyle on January 31st, 2011

Another wacky week of college hoops that saw some of the top dogs fall in a big way, and three very familiar names enter into the poll. Hard times up there in Syracuse, NY, as the Orange have dropped four straight and are reeling right now. Ohio State, the only undefeated team in the nation, is obviously the clear choice at #1.  Some quick n’ dirty analysis after the jump, as always…

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An Odd Quirk About Tennessee Retiring Allan Houston’s Number

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

News was released Monday that the University of Tennessee has decided to retire the number of one of its greatest all-time players, Allan Houston.  His #20 jersey will be raised to the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena on March 6 during a pre-game ceremony prior to the annual home rivalry game with Kentucky.  From the years of 1989-93, Houston was a fantastic player for Tennessee, playing for his father Wade all four seasons and averaging 21.9 PPG as a four-time all-SEC performer. 

Houston Was a Fantastic Vol, But He Never Danced

Despite its institutional reputation as a football school, the Vols have extremely stringent criteria for the jersey retirement of basketball players.  They had none prior to Bruce Pearl’s arrival on campus in 2005 — Ernie Grunfield and Bernard King have since been added — but realizing the marketability aspect of honoring the program’s history, the school came up with a set of guidelines which are outlined here:

To receive this honor, a player must achieve TWO of the following:

  • First Team All-American
  • SEC Player of the Year
  • Played on an Olympic Basketball Team
  • NBA All-Star

According to Rocky Top Talk, the only former Vols who currently fit those criteria and who are not already honored are Dale Ellis and, of course, Allan Houston.  Interestingly, despite scoring over 2,800 points in his career and finishing second in the SEC to NCAA all-time scoring leader Pistol Pete Maravich (LSU), Houston was never a First Team All-American nor the SEC Player of the Year.  He meets the specifications, though, by virtue of his two NBA All-Star appearances (2000, 2001) and his membership on the 2000 Olympic gold-medal winning Team USA. 

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RTC Live: Louisville @ Georgetown

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

Game #124.  RTC Live is back in DC for yet another Big East battle between ranked teams. 

There may not be a hotter team in the Big East right now than the Georgetown Hoyas. After starting off conference play 1-4, the Hoyas have won four straight, including a 25-point blowout of Duke-killers St. John’s and a nationally televised road win against Villanova. While Chris Wright has struggled a bit of late (he didn’t score against Villanova), Austin Freeman has refound the stroke that made him the preseason player of the year in the conference. He went for 30 against Villanova. Throw in the ever-improving play of big men Nate Lubick and Henry Sims and the spark that Hollis Thompson has provided since his move to the bench, and Georgetown has proven that they are still a force to be reckoned with in this league — for now.  If Georgetown isn’t the hottest team in the conference, then Louisville probably is. The Cardinals had a terrific week, notching comeback wins against both West Virgnia and UConn, the latter coming in double overtime on the road. Rick Pitino has said repeatedly that the Cardinals don’t have a “star,” but Peyton Siva is making a strong claim for that role. He hit the game-winner against West Virginia and made a number of huge plays down the stretch to beat UConn. Both the Hoyas and the Cardinals love to shoot threes which should make for an entertaining, back and forth game tonight.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2011

Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Three-Team Tie Atop Conference Standings: With UAB’s win last Saturday, the Blazers moved into a three-way tie for first place in the conference standings. Now, UAB, UTEP and Memphis share the top spot in Conference USA with five weeks remaining in the regular season schedule.
  • Tulsa Nips UTEP in 69-68 Thriller: Only days after losing a nail-biter to SMU, Tulsa got its own dramatic victory on Saturday when they knocked off UTEP on Justin Hurtt’s 16-foot jumper that went in with 6.8 second remaining. Hurtt scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, soaring past Preseason Conference Player of the Year Randy Culpepper in the final seconds to make the clutch shot. Culpepper finished with 28 points and had made a big-time three-pointer only seconds before Hurtt nailed the game-winner on the other end of the court.
  • Memphis Slams UCF, Falters Against Marshall: Inconsistent play continues to sidetrack Memphis this season as the Tigers were able to earn a double-figure win earlier in the week against Central Florida, but couldn’t compete at all on Saturday night in a 85-70 loss to Marshall. DeAndre Kane continues to lead the Thundering Herd, scoring 20 points and adding four assists.
  • Southern Mississippi Recovers, Blasts Past ECU and Tulane: A week after losing a pair of conference games, Southern Mississippi retaliated by dropping East Carolina and Tulane by a combined 20 points. Gary Flowers continued his dominance, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 boards in the win over Tulane. The Golden Eagles outrebounded the Green Wave, 42-26, and went on to score 24 points in the paint, including 17 second-chance points.
  • UAB Sweeps Week, Hands UCF Sixth Consecutive Loss: Central Florida has plummeted from mid-major darling to Conference-USA doormat, losing six in a row, including a loss last Saturday to UAB. The Blazers couldn’t have marched to the top of the conference in a more dominating fashion. First they topped surging Marshall on Wednesday night 60-56, then beat the Knights, a team that was undefeated until earlier this month. Against UCF, the Blazers saw big games from Dexter Fields (19 points), Jamarr Sanders (18 points) and Aaron Johnson (11 points, 11 assists).
  • SMU Squeaks Pasts Tulsa On Game-Winning Shot, Completes Perfect Week by Knocking Off Rice: Junior Robert Nyakundi shined in Saturday’s win over Rice, notching a career-best 29 points. However, Nyakundi’s best moment of the week came in Wednesday’s victory over Tulsa, when he hit a game winning three-pointer from the left corner with 1.1 seconds remaining. The Golden Hurricane blew a perfect opportunity, missing seven free throws in the final eight minutes and allowed SMU to win a game in which they didn’t score in the final eight minutes of play.
  • Tulane Road Woes Extend Losing Streak To Five: It’s a toss-up as to which team is struggling more—Tulane or UCF. Although the Green Wave have the better conference record, they have struggled more than most people can see. During their six-game win streak, the team scored above 85 four of six times. However, that offense has disappeared, as the team has failed to score more than 67 in five straight losses that now have them at the bottom of the conference after starting 2-0 on the opening weekend.
  • Rice Edges Houston in OT. Arsalan Kazemi was the story once again for the Owls as the team claimed their second conference win this year, beating Houston 79-71 in overtime. The sophomore forward and sure-ballot First-Team Conference USA, scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. It didn’t stop there – Kazemi recorded four assists, four steals and four blocks as well. Teammate Connor Frizzelle carried a bit of the burden too, leading the team with 18 points and hitting a crucial three pointer with 13 seconds left in regulation.

Power Rankings

  1. UTEP (17-5, 5-2) –You can’t really blame Tim Floyd’s squad for coming up short at Tulsa, especially losing in the final seconds. While senior Randy Culpepper may get all the attention, fellow classman Julyan Stone has emerged as a team leader. Stone averages 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, both team best.
  2. Memphis (16-5, 5-2) – The Tigers have to be disappointed in the loss to Marshall, however the conference crown is still a possibility. With their young talent, Memphis can be dangerous, what they really need is consistency. Freshmen Will Barton and Tarik Black are finding their stride.
  3. UAB (13-5, 5-2) –UAB survived 19 lead changes against a UCF team desperate for a win. The made it through with a win and a share of the conference’s No. 1 spot because they made 10 of 20 three-pointers. In addition, 19 points from sophomore Dexter Fields off the bench was gigantic. The team needs to continue that type of play against a tough upcoming schedule.   
  4. Southern Miss (16-5, 5-3) – Southern Miss got back on track against a struggling Tulane. Credit the Golden Eagles for a 16-1 run in the second half to close out the win. Trumping East Carolina had to give them some confidence as well. The team is 30th in the nation in rebounding behind Gary Flowers. The forward leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks.
  5. Marshall (14-7, 2-4) – Like the teams above them in the standings, Marshall has found its way to 14 or more wins thanks in large part to a dominating trio of scorers. For the Thundering Herd, these men are all starting guards—DeAndre Kane, Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson—who just defeated Memphis this past weekend. Credit senior Tirell Baines for dropping 17 points in the big game.
  6. SMU (13-8, 4-3) –Papa Dia and Robert Nyakundi have become the conference’s best duo over the past three weeks and they have the Mustangs surging heading into February.   
  7. Tulsa (10-9, 4-3) – The Golden Hurricane have interchanged a win for a loss since Dec. 30, hence their just above .500 record in conference play. Although not consistent, Tulsa has emerged as a looming threat thanks to Justin Hurtt. The senior, who averages 20.5 points per game, will have no problem being on the First Team All-Conference at the end of the season.  
  8. East Carolina (12-9, 4-3) – Jontae Sherron and Darrius Morrow have provided a spark for a team that appeared to be stuck in the bottom part of the conference only weeks ago.  
  9. Houston (11-9, 3-4) –A three-game losing streak has Houston reeling in the conference standings. It may be time to hit the panic button if the Cougars lose to Marshall on Tuesday night. They have an opportunity to get back to the top of the conference—the product of a tight conference race, which means Adam Brown will need to continue to be the team’s offensive spark.
  10. UCF (14-6, 1-6) –Coach Donnie Jones must right the ship and do it fast, because the Knights out of conference wins will be meaningless if this team doesn’t have a surge in February. Although they have lost six straight, they are only four back of the conference lead.   
  11. Tulane (12-8, 2-5) – Kendall Timmons is leading this team every single game, however, the support has faded and so have the Green Wave.
  12. Rice (10-11, 2-5) –You can’t mention sophomore Arsalan Kazemi enough when talking about the Owls. The Iran native is one of the more interesting stories in college basketball, averaging 11.6 rebounds a night, while carrying the team offensively.  

A Look Ahead

  • Houston and Marshall Joust To Stay Alive in Conference Standings: Tuesday night the conference schedule gets started early as the Cougars and the Thundering Herd square off. Houston is struggling currently, however, the league has been inconsistent thus far and the Cougars have the experience necessary to get back on track.
  • UAB Hosts So. Miss In Mid-Week Showdown: The game of the week has to be Southern Miss traveling to UAB. The inside match-up, as well as the guard play, will be more than interesting to watch. The winner adds a pretty solid win to their resume.
  • Struggling UCF Looks To Tap UTEP for Second CUSA Win: The Knights may rank last in the conference standings, and the Miners rank tied for first, however the standings don’t matter for a UCF team taking it one game at a time. Keith Clanton has been a consistent threat for the Knights, but can he top Randy Culpepper?
  • Memphis Looks to Avoid Consecutive Losses To Tulsa, Gets Ready for Gonzaga: Memphis remains atop the conference standings, because of their high-scoring offense, which is led by young, talented guards like Will Barton. The question remains though, can these youngsters be consistent for the Tigers? The home test versus Tulsa will gauge how serious this team is and then their out of conference showdown will display whether or not they are ready for March.
  • SMU and East Carolina Duel to Stay a Game Back of Conference Leaders: The Pirates have won their last two road contests. In addition, they played Memphis close on the road, losing by three on January 8. ECU remains a game back of the conference lead due to great road play. If they can beat a surging SMU team, it will be big for the program.
  • Rice Travels to Tulane In Battle of the Basement: Arsalan Kazemi and Kendall Timmons square off in a match-up between conference bottom-dwellers. Tulane looks to end a five game losing streak, while the Owls look to ascend from the bottom and reach the middle of the pack.

 

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2011

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

A Look Back

Conference RPI vs. Other Mid-Majors SchoolsThe Missouri Valley Conference is really suffering in the RPI as a conference this season.  RPI Forecast has the conference ranked #12, just behind the Horizon but ahead of the WCC.  Things are even worse in the Pomeroy rankings, where the MVC stands 14th behind the WAC. The chance of being a multiple-bid conference gets slimmer by the week.

MVC/MWC Challenge Opponents AnnouncedThe Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference have announced the matchups for next year’s MVC/MWC Challenge.  The winter of 2011 will be the third of the four contracted years for this challenge, and some very interesting matchups are created:

  • Nov. 30 – Creighton at San Diego State–Creighton leads all-time series, 3-1; last meeting 1/3/1974
  • Dec. 3 – Air Force at Drake—Drake leads all-time series, 5-0; last meeting 12/12/1981
  • Dec. 3 – Indiana State at Boise State– First meeting
  • Dec. 3 – Colorado State at Northern Iowa– First meeting
  • Dec. 3 – Missouri State at New Mexico—New Mexico leads all-time series, 1-0; only meeting 12/22, 1962
  • Dec. 3 – TCU at Evansville–First meeting
  • Dec. 3 – Bradley at Wyoming–Bradley leads all-time series, 1-0; only meeting 3/30/1951
  • Dec. 4 – UNLV at Wichita State–Series tied, 1-1; last meeting 1/10/1979

Panthers Still RisingNorthern Iowa is still working its way back to the top of the MVC, where they have been the past two seasons.  A win over Creighton and a thrilling victory against conference leader Missouri State have put them back into the thick of things.  They have won eight of their last nine games and are currently on a seven-game roll.  Don’t be surprised to see Northern Iowa working their way to a third straight NCAA Tournament berth.

Bracketbuster MatchupsThe Missouri Valley Conference schools will find out their opponents for Bracketbusters on Monday.  All ten schools are involved in this event, with Wichita State and Missouri State lined up for likely TV games.  Northern Iowa also remains a possibility for one of the 11 television spots on the ESPN family of networks for this event.  Schools like St. Mary’s, Old Dominion, Utah State and George Mason will likely get matched up with teams in the Valley.

Player of the Week—Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems is continuing to make his case for conference Player of the Year honors with solid performances this week, averaging 18 points and six rebounds a game.  After having a somewhat slow start to conference season, Weems has been more consistent.

Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—McDermott is continuing his great freshman season, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds in games against Northern Iowa and Indiana State this week.  It is very likely that McDermott is considered for All-Conference first team honors at the end of the season.

Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record)  (Last week rank)

  1. Wichita State (18-4) (9-2) (2)—The Shockers finally take over the top spot since they are winning right now.  They had a somewhat easy week with Southern Illinois and Bradley, but wins are wins and that is what the goal is at this point in the season.   Wichita State should enjoy back to back 20-win seasons again, but February has always been a tough month for the Shockers.  Things could get interesting when they go to Indiana State this week before hosting a streaking Illinois State.
  2. Northern Iowa (16-6) (8-3) (4)— Right now, the Panthers are playing the best ball, knocking off Creighton and Missouri State this past week.  Their seven-game winning streak is a familiar feat as they reeled off 11 straight in conference play two seasons ago and started off winning 13 of 14 games to start conference play last season.   Ben Jacobson does his best to keep from providing bulletin board material and wants no distractions.  They should continue their streak against Drake and Illinois State this week.
  3. Missouri State (17-5) (9-2) (1)— Missouri State easily had the game of the week in against Northern Iowa on Sunday night, but lost it in the final seconds breaking a 19-game winning streak they had at JQH Arena.  The win against Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls at the beginning of conference season broke a large home winning streak for the Panthers.   They had to hold off Drake earlier in the week and the Bears are pretty vulnerable at this point.  It is possible they may have problems with a hot Evansville team before the rematch with Indiana State who gave them their other loss in conference play. 
  4. Creighton (14-9) (6-5) (5)— Creighton’s up-and-down season continues, but they may be turning a corner.  They came up just short against Northern Iowa despite shooting 70% from the field in the second half, and earned a hard-fought victory against Indiana State where 51 fouls were called between the two teams.  The play of Doug McDermott is easing the stress on his dad, Greg.  A lot of Creighton fans wonder what this team would be like without the young McDermott on the team this season.  The schedule is somewhat favorable for the Bluejays over the next five games as they play teams in the bottom half of the league.  They head to Bradley and then host Evansville this week.
  5. Indiana State (12-10) (7-4) (3)— The Sycamores are coming back to earth after the fast conference start.  They have now lost three in a row and things do not get easier with the return game against Wichita State and Missouri State on the schedule this week.  Against Creighton, turnovers were a problem.   At the same time, it is a great opportunity to turn things around and get back in the conference race if they take things “one game at a time.” 
  6. Evansville (12-9) (6-5) (6)— Don’t look now, but Evansville is on a bit of a roll.  They have won five of their last six and are playing with a lot of confidence.  The Aces are exceeding expectations for the second year in a row. They could really make the Valley standings interesting with games against Missouri State and Creighton this week. 
  7. Southern Illinois (10-12) (4-7) (7)— Southern Illinois is going the opposite way of the Purple Aces.  They have lost five of their last six and time may be running out for Chris Lowery.  However, he may still be back next season because it would cost the school too much to replace him and their financial state to keep the university running could not afford to take that kind of hit. It is getting to a point where their best player, Mamadou Seck is having to bring the ball up the court and he isn’t the point guard.   They could pick up a couple of wins this week against Drake and Bradley. 
  8. Illinois State (11-11) (3-8) (9)—After starting conference season 0-8, the Redbirds have won three in a row and have risen out of the bottom of the rankings. Their confidence is soaring after getting a last second shot reversed in the Drake game to send it to overtime.  Like Evansville, they could play the role of spoilers against Northern Iowa and Wichita State this week.
  9. Drake (8-14) (3-8) (8)—Drake has lost six of seven, and you really don’t know what team will show up from game to game.  They are 0-5 on the road in conference play, so they are definitely not a road team.  At home, they rank last in attendance with less than 4000 attending home games.  They travel to Southern Illinois  before hosting Northern Iowa this week
  10. Bradley (6-16) (0-11) (10)— Losing stinks and I’m sure Bradley fans are tired of it. I fully expect Bradley to get a win before the season is over, but who will it be against?  Taylor Brown is definitely not coming back this season as there was talk he might end up playing during the stretch run after his required three months off.  But there are way too many factors that could make things worse.  Between Evansville, Illinois State and Bradley, they will create some havoc before conference season is over, but it may hurt the MVC more than help it.  The Braves get Creighton and Southern Illinois this week.

A Look Ahead

The top teams will try to avoid upsets this week.

  • 2/1—Wichita State @ Indiana State (Local TV)—The Shockers had to fight in three overtimes for the win in the first meeting.  The second meeting could be another great battle.
  • 2/1—Creighton @ Bradley (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—At some point Bradley will win a Valley game, it is just that the Bluejays don’t want to be that team.
  • 2/2—Missouri State @ Evansville (Local TV)—The Bears could be that much closer to locking up the MVC regular season, but the Purple Aces have been hot as of late.
  • 2/5—Indiana State @ Missouri State (No TV)—The Sycamores were impressive early in the conference season, but if they want to stay in the race, then they need a win here badly.
  • 2/5—Northern Iowa @ Drake (ESPNU)—The Panthers won the game in Cedar Falls.  Will the Bulldogs return the favor in Des Moines?

Other games on National TV this week:

  • 2/2—Drake @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)
  • 2/5—Evansville @ Creighton  (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)
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Set Your Tivo: 01.31.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 31st, 2011

***** – 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.

It’s another “Big Monday” as two Big East powers collide, fresh off huge road wins on Saturday. The nightcap features two of the better teams in the Big 12 getting together for the second time this year in a good old fashioned Texas rodeo. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Louisville @ #21 Georgetown – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

These teams are coming off very successful weeks, each capping theirs with big time road wins, with Louisville winning at Connecticut and Georgetown coming away victorious at Villanova. This game should feature a lot of target practice from deep, as the Cardinals are highly dependent on the triple while the Hoyas have three players who can get hot from long range at any time. Austin Freeman has been lately, and is the reason why Georgetown has turned their season around by winning four straight games. During their three game losing streak at the beginning of the month, Freeman was averaging only 10 PPG. Over the last four games, he’s averaged 24 PPG and it’s no coincidence that Georgetown has won all four. The senior guard had 30 points at Villanova on Saturday, and Louisville must keep him in check tonight if they hope to tack on another solid road win.

No Time To Celebrate Recent Successes For JT3 and the Hoyas

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Weekly Bracketology: 01.31.11

Posted by zhayes9 on January 31st, 2011

Zach Hayes is RTC’s official bracketologist.

  • Last Four In: UAB, Washington State, Richmond, Penn State.
  • Last Four Out: Maryland, Gonzaga, Butler, Colorado State.

Analysis:

  • With the upheaval at the top of the rankings, there was as much competition for the #1 seeds this week as in any of the previous brackets. After Ohio State as the standout overall #1 seed, Pittsburgh, Kansas and Texas slid into the final three spots. Connecticut likely would have earned the spot occupied by Texas if they had closed out Louisville at home on Saturday. Although the Huskies edged the Longhorns in Austin, the overall portfolio leans ever so slightly towards Texas. As always, this is a fluid situation and could change tonight should Texas fall in College Station.
  • BYU also would have been in prime contention to snag a #1 seed if they hadn’t slipped up at the Pit against New Mexico on Saturday. The Cougars boasted the top RPI in the land prior to the loss (Kansas re-claimed that esteemed spot). BYU now joins fellow Mountain West member San Diego State on the #2 seed line along with Connecticut and Duke, who drops to the final #2 seed and #8 overall.
  • This past weekend was a major step forward for the Big East in their quest for obliterating the record for NCAA teams in one conference with Marquette edging Syracuse and St. John’s trouncing of Duke. All 11 contenders remained in the field this week and the lowest was Cincinnati as a #10 seed. The Bearcats look like the most vulnerable team in the conference to miss on an NCAA bid with both Marquette (Notre Dame, Syracuse, a plethora of close losses to NCAA teams) and St. John’s (Duke, Notre Dame, Georgetown, at West Virginia) having compiled some exemplary wins. Cincinnati still plays Louisville, Connecticut and Georgetown on their home floor.
  • Bid stealer alert! Alabama at 5-1 in the SEC automatically gains that conference’s automatic bid with both Florida and Kentucky having suffered two defeats in conference play. This bumps Maryland just barely out of the bracket.
  • Where have you gone Cinderella? The most famous of the last decade’s tournament darlings — Gonzaga and Butler -- both find themselves out of the field this week. The Zags have lost three of four in WCC play including road defeats at San Francisco and Santa Clara, while Butler has now fallen four times in Horizon play after running the table a season ago. Downing St. Mary’s in Moraga or Memphis in February would go a long way for Gonzaga and their ugly #90 RPI. Butler may have to win the Horizon League tournament which could be played in Valparaiso or Cleveland.
  • I’d like to formally welcome Penn State to the field! Home wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois carried the Nittany Lions into the bracket for the first time. Close losses at Ohio State and at Purdue also won’t be ignored by the committee. While objectivity always comes first in Bracketology, I’d personally love to see Talor Battle in an NCAA Tournament game.

Conference Call

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IX

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 31st, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball. This week, Jesse kicks Purdue while they’re down and questions Peyton Siva’s true motives, but applauds Bob Huggins and — as all human beings with ears indeed should — Gus Johnson’s all-too-short turn at the desk.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a coach thumbing his nose at the politically-correct answer. West Virginia coach Bobby Huggins had an interesting development recently when forward Dan Jennings just walked away from the bench during a game. Now, you could just say the kid’s off the team. Or that it’s “unfortunate” and you’re “dealing with it internally” — that’s one of my favorite coach-speak phrases. But no, Huggins gets rolling and says: “The truth of the matter is that he’s been a non-entity. We started him to try and get some other guys motivated and he did work hard in practice for a while, but look at his career stats.” Ouch. If leaving the team didn’t hurt enough, that one should sting Jennings for a while.

Huggins Did Not Mince Words When Answering Questions About Jennings. Anyone Surprised?

I LOVED…..The great diversity of POY candidates this season. You have Jimmer “When I don’t score 40 it’s an off night” Fredette on a solid BYU team. The Mountain West competition might not be great, but man that J is pure. Then there’s a classic NYC guard in Kemba Walker, who has made UConn perhaps the biggest surprise of the season. And finally Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, who keeps coming to play in the big games and leads the nation’s No. 1 squad. We have the shooter, the slasher and the post player — all on intriguing teams, all very different, and all still very much in the mix to be named top dog. My pick? If UConn is a top-15 team after the Big East season, it’ll be tough to beat Kemba.

I LOVED……Roy Williams’ rabbit ears. You can have your own opinion on Williams, but you can’t deny that he’s a bit sensitive to criticism on occasion. Recently it was some unhappy callers on his radio show who prompted this response at a press conference: “Don’t call me next week and say how good we are; keep your [darn] phone calls to yourself.” Could he stay mad at the fans for long, though? Wait for it…..wait for it…..just a few days later: “Do I wish that I would have just let it go and not said a word?” Williams said. “You’re darn right I do. I wish I had not said one word. I wish that I would have just kept swallowing it. I hate that I said that.” And all of Tar Heel Nation lived happily ever after.

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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League

A Look Back

Let the Games Begin: For the teams in the power conferences, February is the time when jockeying for position begins. Regular season conference games are used for conference tournament and NCAA seeding purposes. But for the Ivy League, whose season got into high gear this past weekend, these games are precious, for this is a one-bid league with no conference tournament. Only the regular season champ will begin the Road to the Final Four in March.

Poll Position: Last year, Cornell, after some impressive non-conference performances, made an appearance in the Top 25. While an early season conference loss knocked them out, they continued to receive votes each week. And given their NCAA Tournament success, the votes proved to be warranted. Trying to follow in the footsteps of the Big Red, Harvard (15-3, 4-0) received a vote last week in the AP Top 25. What have they done to impress? An eight-game winning streak and opening up 4-0 in conference helps. But it is what they have accomplished outside the Ivy which has swayed the scribes. Their three losses have come at the hands of George Mason (17-5, 9-2, currently second in the CAA) in the opening game without Kyle Casey; Michigan, a young, improving Big Ten team and recent conqueror of MSU; and #5 UConn (17-3, 5-3 in the Big East). And all of those losses came on the road. The Crimson also own wins over Colorado, who themselves have beaten both Missouri and Kansas State in the Big 12; and BC (14-7, 4-3; 4th in the ACC). Can Harvard duplicate Cornell’s tournament run? Perhaps. But first they must find away to get past Princeton and win their first ever Ivy League crown.

Is the Bloom Off the Rose-n?: In 2010, RTC named Zack Rosen of Penn as the Ivy League Player of the Year. It was a somewhat controversial choice, as most gave the award to Jeremy Lin of Harvard. Either way, most observers thought Rosen would run away with the title this season. And he still may. After all, he is second in the league in scoring (15.3 points per game) and is shooting 45% from the field and close to 50% from beyond the arc, as Penn closes in on Harvard and Princeton. However, a closer look at the box score is in order. Penn has played five non-conference foes of note: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Kentucky, Drexel and Temple. Only against ‘Nova did Rosen perform up to par, scoring 20 points on 7-14 shooting. Against the other four combined,  he shot 9-25 (36%), including 6-14 from deep (42%) for a total of 37 points (9.1 per game). A disturbing trend? Maybe, but he was facing superior athletes than those he will see in conference games. But when Penn was going to the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis, guys like Onyekwe and Jabber would save their best performances for the biggest games and toughest competition. While it is definitely not yet time to pack the tack on Zack, the jury is still out.

Player of The Week: A difficult choice this time as there are some very worthy candidates, with the nicknames to match. There is Errick (Bushel and A) Peck who seems to be blossoming amidst the Cornell disaster; Jack (Scrambled) Eggleston who has become a stat sheet stuffer for the Quakers; Greg (“The Eater”) Mangano of Yale who leads the league in rebounding and is averaging a double/double. But this week, the rosters were combed to honor an unsung hero; a player who has emerged as a more than a capable running mate for Noruwa Agho at Columbia and is responsible for the Lions rise to first division status. And that is none other than Brian Barbour, who wins the award by a hair. In Columbia’s first four conference games (3-1) the 6’1 sophomore from California has averaged 19 points per game on 45% shooting. Over that span, he has also converted an astounding 27 of 29 free throw attempts. So rise from your chair, Mr. Barbour, and do an Argentine Tango while accepting the trophy.

Power Rankings

1. Harvard (15-3, 4-0)–An eight game winning streak; a six-man rotation that is as solid as they come; a mention in the AP Top 25; undefeated so far in conference. It is easy to see why they are # 1. This coming weekend will be a test and Friday at Princeton could be a game for the ages, and for the conference championship.

2. Princeton (14-4, 2-0)—It’s difficult to assess the Tigers as they have only played four games in a month and none of them versus tough competition. Their top six is equal to that of the Crimson and perhaps have the experience edge. Jadwin Gym should be rocking on Friday.

3. Columbia (12-6, 3-1)–Winners of nine of their last 11; an unlucky one-point loss to Elon and a loss at league elite Harvard are the only speed bumps for the Lions. Kyle Smith has to be the front-runner for Coach of the Year and Barbour and Agho clearly the top backcourt in a league full of quality guards.

4. Penn (8-8, 2-0)– The third of the league’s undefeated, the Quakers did what they had to do beating the bottom feeders at home, albeit in overtime over Brown. Two more home games followed by a five-game road trip should go a long way in determining where Penn’s landing will be. The good news is that they get Harvard on the rebound following their titanic clash against in New Jersey.

5. Yale (9-9, 2-2)–Two wins versus travel partner Brown followed by competitive losses in their toughest road trip against Princeton and Penn. Greg Mangano has been a beast, a POY candidate,  and with six home games in their next eight, the Bulldogs have a real chance for a top-four finish.

6. Brown (7-11, 0-4)–Two competitive losses versus travel partner Yale and an OT loss at Penn have contributed to their winless record. Sophomore forward Tucker Halperin is one of the bright spots in the league.

7. Dartmouth (5-13, 1-3)–Many thought the Big Green would go winless; the same people thought Cornell would be contenders. However, Friday’s game put an end to both parts of that speculation, as Dartmouth broke a five-game losing streak with a seven-point victory against the Big Red. Unfortunately, Paul Cormier may not get another conference win.

8. Cornell (4-14, 0-4)—I wonder how many that watched Ryan Wittman and company get to the Sweet 16 last year thought the descent would be so rapid. Peck, Ferry, and Wroblewski can play. But can Bill Courtney coach? He’ll have time, but his squad’s four victims? Wofford, Delaware, Stony Brook, and Albany. ‘Nuff said.

A Look Ahead

The loser of this Friday’s clash between league powerhouses Harvard and Princeton will have to wait a month (March 5) for a rematch. It is not unreasonable to assume a head-to head split and an early March playoff to determine league supremacy and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Princeton experience vs. Harvard athleticism.  Tommy Amaker vs. Sydney Johnson. Hummer, Maddox, Davis, Mavraides vs. Wright, Casey, Curry, and Webster.  Catch it if you can.

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The Carolina Bandwagon Shall Soon Ride Again

Posted by jstevrtc on January 31st, 2011

Fifteen days ago, North Carolina went to Atlanta for an ACC tilt against Georgia Tech. The Tarheels looked slow and listless, shot 27.6% from the field, hit only two of their 12 three-pointers (16.7%), and gave up 13 steals to the Yellow Jackets while answering with only five of their own. It was a clanger of epic proportions, especially for a program so consistently loaded with talented players. Professional pundits, bloggers, neutral fans and even some die-hard UNC backers chose that night as their jump-off point from the North Carolina bandwagon, and seemed proud to proclaim their disembarkment publicly.

Was Everybody Too Quick To Bury Roy and the Tar Heels?

The pollsters agreed. The Monday before the UNC vs GT game, the Heels received 31 points and six points in the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls, respectively. The day after the game, UNC was down to two points in the AP and zero in the coaches’ poll. They only had one game the following week, and that was the continuation of their home winning streak against Clemson. The rankings from last Monday showed them netting a mere two points in the coaches’ poll and nothing in the AP. The lack of votes isn’t surprising, considering just the one game, but people still seemed reluctant to give UNC much credit for their two wins this week, chalking up the win at Miami (FL) as a result of Miami’s propensity for losing close games, and blaming Saturday’s victory over North Carolina State on a Wolfpack team that appeared uninterested in anything basketball-related that afternoon. In the three wins since being drilled by the Yellow Jackets, people have found reasons to deny UNC full credit for the victories, their minds still poisoned by the game in Atlanta.

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That’s Debatable: Huge Road Wins

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

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: Let’s talk road wins.  Last week Texas defeated Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, while Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh in its own house.  Those two home teams basically never lose in those places.  Which win was more impressive and why?  Also, do these wins legitimize UT and ND as Final Four candidates?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

There is no doubt in my mind that Texas’ win at Kansas on Saturday was more impressive than Notre Dame’s victory at Pittsburgh. While both teams have surprised most observers this season, the Longhorns are coming off a disaster of a season with plenty of questions regarding chemistry and leadership. Those questions were answered last month against North Carolina and validated against Kansas last week. To hold the high-powered Jayhawks to 63 points on 36% shooting, outscore them 51-28 in the second half and come back from a 15-point deficit in their own building is absolutely incredible. Kansas had won 69 straight games at the Phog before this one, their last loss coming almost four years ago. This win does establish the talented Longhorns as a Final Four contender but I can’t say the same about Notre Dame. While it was a great win, the Irish can’t win against high level competition when they don’t shoot well. While Pitt had only lost 11 (now 12) times at the Petersen Events Center, they’ve lost five games there over roughly the same time Kansas was winning 69 in a row at home. Great wins for both teams but Texas’ was better by far.

Ned Reddick, RTC contributor

Texas going into Allen Fieldhouse is more impressive because the Jayhawks had won 69 straight there and were considered a legitimate title contender. The Notre Dame win was solid too, but I don’t quite place Pittsburgh at the same level of Kansas in terms of potentially winning the national title. I also think Texas is a Final Four candidate based on their impressive series of wins and balance of inside/outside presence. The Longhorns also have a nice blend of youth and experience and have a legitimate inside defensive presence in the form of Tristan Thompson who is averaging over two blocks per game and also manages to keep the ball inbounds, which you almost never see young players do. As for the Irish I just don’t see enough firepower outside of Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough to make a deep run. Sure they can slow things down and play ugly like they did beating Pitt by essentially playing what used to be “Pitt basketball,” but that usually is not a successful formula in March (ask Pitt who still hasn’t made a Final Four playing “Pitt basketball”).

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

Notre Dame’s win at Pittsburgh was big-time, not solely because Pitt is so tough at home, but because the Fighting Irish have been so inept on the road recently. Prior to the win at the Petersen Events Center, the Irish had lost all three true road games they had played this season, and by an average margin of 17.3 points. Throw in a 14-point loss against Kentucky in Louisville and the Irish had been continuing their recent history of struggling on the road. Last season, Mike Brey’s club started out 1-7 on the road (the sole win at South Florida) before getting clutch road wins at both Georgetown and Marquette in the last three games of the regular season to secure their tournament credentials. The year before, they were just 2-8, with wins only over DePaul and Providence. Now, this one road win does not automatically make this team a Final Four contender, but it seems Brey has finally bought into the idea that his team’s best chance at winning is not the freewheeling tempo of a couple years back, but a more reserved, defense-first philosophy which is better suited to weather the storm on the road. Assuming that attitude doesn’t disappear, the Irish, though perhaps not as hyper-talented as some major contenders, will be an awful tough out come March.

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