Morning Five: 01.31.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 31st, 2011

  1. Anyone who watched St. John’s take down Duke yesterday saw a strange and lethargic facsimile of the Blue Devil squad we’ve seen previously this year. That’s by no means an excuse and isn’t meant to take anything from the Johnnies’ victory, but before you fall victim to the tendency to put too much stake in one game and start selling your Duke stock, we offer you the calming tone of Mike Miller’s take at Beyond the Arc. By the way…whither the Red Storm? There are some bad losses there, but they have wins over Duke, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and at West Virginia. Their pressure-cooker January is over, and now we’ll see if that tough stretch of their schedule seasoned them for the second half of their Big East slate. If so, the Tournament awaits as a reward.
  2. Does anyone remember Central Florida? Donnie Jones‘ in-conference move from Marshall to UCF in the off-season (along with his reputation as a good up-and-coming coach) already had people aware of the Golden Knights, and then everybody got wise when they beat Florida and Miami (FL) on the way to winning their first 14 games this year. Since that start, UCF has dropped six straight and find themselves last in Conference USA. The Knights have eleven players who play at least 12 minutes a game, and Jones feels that one of the keys to UCF getting its mojo back is to shorten the rotation to seven or eight players for the last nine games. Unfortunately, that won’t be difficult, now that junior guard A.J. Rompza is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot.
  3. Having trouble finding a good comparison for The Jimmer with which to enlighten your unhip friends? Bob Ryan contemplates the methodology and validity of comparing one player to a former player and, in doing so,  offers an outstanding parallel to Fredette that we haven’t seen mentioned anywhere, even considering the unhealthy amounts of time we spend on Twitter and reading the works of our favorite columnists. The article also further justifies why you should be reading Bob Ryan on a regular basis.
  4. After the thrills that Butler provided all of us last season (and remembering how nice the people there were to us on our visit there last April), it’s been tough to watch last year’s finalist come back to earth as much as they have this year so far. Even with the early departure of Gordon Hayward, every Bulldog coach and player is aware of the difference between last season and this one: their effort on defense. In the article, Brad Stevens mentions how he’s ready to give walk-ons more minutes if it means better team defense, and Shelvin Mack includes himself in his own assessment, noting, “We gave up 60 points in one half [to Valparaiso on Saturday]. Last year we gave up sixty points in a game.”
  5. Even without rooting interest, the best part of this weekend of basketball was the hint of a smile we saw on the face of KansasThomas Robinson on a couple of occasions during the Jayhawks’ game against Kansas State. As much as fate has asked he and his little sister Jayla to grow up in the last month, it’s good to see that Robinson even still has the capacity to smile. It would be understandable if he had lost it for a while. One fellow who can relate to what Robinson is going through and recall that kind of loneliness is former Clemson defensive back Ray Ray McElrathbey, whose ordeal from five years ago bears some similarities to Robinson’s. A must-read from the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger.
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ATB: Wild Weekend Across the Hoops Universe

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

The Lede.  What a weekend.  Unless you care about the Pro Bowl (and really, other than gamblers, who does?), we here in the college hoops universe had the sports world to ourselves, and the weekend gods in charge made sure that we had a wild and woolly preview of March even though the calendar still said otherwise.  Fully half of the ranked teams in the RTC Top 25 lost over the weekend, and quite a few others including two of the top three teams in America hung on by the skin of their teeth.  What this shows us once again is that there are no dominant teams in basketball this year; even though Ohio State remains undefeated, they’ve had numerous close encounters and it’s clear that the Buckeyes are merely one of a dozen teams with the goods to win six straight this spring.  It should be a wild ride through the remaining five weeks of the regular season; if this weekend’s results are any indication, we should all down a few anti-vertigo meds and strap ourselves in.

St. John's Made the Garden Rock Again Today (Getty/N. Laham)

Your Watercooler MomentDuke Destroyed in the Garden.  The last time we saw the Duke Blue Devils so thoroughly undressed as they were in today’s matchup with St. John’s at the Garden, many observers at the time believed that Coach K had lost some of his touch on the recruiting trail and his teams simply could not compete at the highest level of college basketball anymore.  On that day, Villanova used a dominant second half to rattle the Devils with its superior quickness and athleticism, forcing Duke to fire off 22 bricks from beyond the arc (versus five makes) in the game and generally embarrassing a team that had been ranked as high as #1 at one point that season.  Today’s game against Steve Lavin’s fun group of Johnnies was not entirely dissimilar.  Duke looked generally slow, uninterested and incapable of making an outside shot (shooting 5-26 from deep after starting out 1-19) while SJU had all the energy and emotion of a home crowd desperate for a winning program again.  Whether this is emblematic of a bad day for Duke or indicative of a deeper set of problems, we’ll have to see how February goes before making that decision.  Make no mistake, though, today’s result was a major red flag for the defending national champs.  Teams that win titles don’t find themselves down 50-25 to anybody, much less unranked teams.

We have much more on this destruction of Duke from our correspondent’s report from the game here.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Ashton Gibbs and Jared Sullinger.  A couple of big-time players making big-time shots in the clutch with their teams on the verge of defeat.  #1 Ohio State appeared to be in serious trouble when David Lighty got the ball into Sullinger deep in the post off a steal.  He was fouled and subsequently hit 1-of-2 free throws with three seconds remaining and all the noise and pressure of the Northwestern students weighing on him at the time.  Just another day at the office (21/8) for the impressive freshman.  At Rutgers, it was the junior Gibbs (24/4) who played the role of Mr. Clutch, drilling a 25-footer as the shot clock wound down and the Panthers clinging to a precarious one-point lead.  His three gave Pitt just enough breathing room to keep Rutgers on the fouling strategy, ultimately unsuccessful as Pitt hit twelve down the stretch to salt away another win.
  • The Texas Defense.  It’s starting to scare us.  We know that the Longhorn defense is already the most efficient in America, but to put the clamps on an offensive juggernaut like Missouri in holding the Tigers to 58 points (25 below their season average) is ridiculous.  In six Big 12 games, they’re holding teams to 54 points per game, a statistic that is particularly amazing when you consider that three of those wins were against teams in the top 15.  If Rick Barnes can coax a little more offense from his young team, the Horns might end up as the best team in America by March.
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The Perfect Storm Leads to St. John’s Rout of Duke and Raises Questions About the Blue Devils

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2011

It was a game with a result that was shocking not so much for the fact that St. John’s beat Duke, but the manner in which they did so. Coming into the game on Sunday afternoon, the Red Storm had lost five of six after raising expectations with a win over Georgetown at the beginning of an unprecedented stretch of eight consecutive games against top 25 teams. That skid had threatened to put a damper on all the hype that had accompanied Steve Lavin‘s arrival in New York City and his much-ballyhooed incoming freshman class, but for one afternoon all of that was forgotten as the Red Storm put on as dominant of a performance against such a high caliber opponent as any St. John’s team has had since the days when they were still called the politically incorrect Redmen, Lou Carnesecca roamed the sidelines, and Walter Berry and Chris Mullin donned the uniform. Today, the newest generation of St. John’s players turned in a performance that certainly made Carnesecca and Berry (both in attendance today) proud.

St. John's Brought Back Ancient Memories This Afternoon

Behind a full court press than left Duke looking sloppy and some hot shooting, the Red Storm ran away with a 93-78 victory that was not as close as the 15-point final margin indicates. In front of a sellout crowd of 19,353 at Madison Square Garden that was nearly 50-50 in terms of allegiance to Duke or St. John’s, the Red Storm played their best basketball of the season and took advantage of the Blue Devils playing their worst. Even though Mike Krzyzewski seemed to imply in his post-game press conference that this game was an isolated incident, it does raise questions about the defending champions. On one hand we can probably discount Duke’s 5-for-26 shooting from 3-point range (and 1-for-19 before a late hot streak after the game was out of reach made the final numbers more respectable) as an aberration, but there were several other aspects of the game that should not be dismissed as easily.

  • Duke’s lack of athleticism: Last season Doug Gottlieb caught some heat from Coach K for calling the Blue Devils “alarmingly unathletic.” While it may not have been the politically correct thing to say, there was some truth to the statement. Outside of perhaps Mason Plumlee, none of the current Blue Devils will amaze any NBA scout with their athleticism. This doesn’t mean that Duke isn’t athletic enough to win the title (their biggest losses from last year’s championship team are Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, who were probably the two least athletic players in last year’s starting line-up), but it does mean that this Duke team isn’t going to blow any elite team off the court with their athletes, and, in certain situations like today when their shots are not falling, they are vulnerable to inferior teams.
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Checking in on… the SoCon

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2011

Clark Williams is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.

A Look Back

Greetings, fellow SoCon hoops lovers. Let’s jump right into it. All season long, UNC-Greensboro has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Not only had they lost every game, but they were getting run off the court. Nothing was working for them. Two weeks ago, they were at the bottom of my power rankings, and were receiving national media attention for being one of the two remaining zero-win teams in DI hoops. Since then, they have won three out of their last four, with their lone loss coming against first place Chattanooga in double-overtime. Needless to say, I’m excited to see how the rest of their season plays out. College of Charleston is still rolling, especially as Andrew Goudelock continues his offensive domination, averaging 23.6 points per game. Also, Jeremy Simmons’ contributions shall not be overlooked; Jeremy is averaging 13.7 points and pulling 6.4 rebounds per game. Georgia Southern has replaced UNC-Greensboro as the conference bottom-dweller. The Eagles have yet to win a conference game, and things aren’t looking good. The silver lining is freshman guard Eric Ferguson, who is wasting no time becoming comfortable in the college basketball world. He is averaging 13.7 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, and almost two steals per game.

Power Rankings

1. College of Charleston (15-7, 8-2)- The Cougars continue to be the SoCon team to beat. Their first conference loss came at the hands of Chattanooga, in a 91-88 thriller. Saturday’s slip-up against lowly Davidson is an unsightly blemish, but the Cougars should be fine as Andrew Goudelock continues to look like the SoCon POY.

A Look Ahead- The Cougars are in Charleston for home games against Wofford and Furman, two games that won’t disappoint.

2. Wofford (12-10, 9-2)- Winners of six of their last seven, the Terriers seem to have finally pieced it together, thanks in large part to Noah Dahlman, who is averaging 20 points per game.

A Look Ahead- The Terriers travel to College of Charleston (a SoCon must-watch) and The Citadel.

3. Furman (16-6, 8-3)- The Paladins’ offense was seemingly coming together quite nicely until they squared off against Western Carolina, and managed only 16 points in the first half of their loss. Amu Saaka continues to fill out the stat sheet, averaging 16.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

A Look Ahead- Furman takes to the road for showdowns against The Citadel and College of Charleston, the latter of which will be a crucial conference clash.

4. Chattanooga (12-10, 9-2)- Chattanooga, at times, has looked like the most talented team in the SoCon. Just ask College of Charleston. Other times, however, their play has left us all scratching our heads, like last week’s 88-56 loss to Wofford, or their 85-59 loss at Furman. If the Mocs are for real, they need to prove they can hang with fellow conference leaders.

A Look Ahead- The Mocs host Georgia Southern in a big showdown Thursday, especially with a four-game road trip coming up.

5. Western Carolina (9-12, 5-4)- It looked like the Catamounts’ rollercoaster season had taken another turn for the worse when they lost big to The Citadel and College of Charleston. Then, they got a much-needed victory over Furman, and are back in the conference race. Sometimes, all it takes is one big victory. Freshman guard Trey Sumler continues to look more and more comfortable out on the court.

A Look Ahead- Western Carolina will travel to Wofford and Elon, then host UNC-Greensboro, Chattanooga and Samford in a three-game homestretch.

6. The Citadel- (9-13, 5-5)- While the Bulldogs are on a roll, winners of their last four games, it might be too little, too late. The Bulldogs started 2011 with five consecutive losses. If they want to stay in contention for the conference title, they need this winning string to extend.

A Look Ahead- The Citadel will host Furman and Wofford, and then will travel to face the resurgent Spartans of UNC-Greensboro.

7. Elon (10-12, 4-7)- The Phoenix are having no trouble scoring, averaging 75 points per game, thanks in large part to the guard play of Chris Long and Drew Spradlin. Defense was the culprit in Saturday’s 85-76 loss at Chattanooga.

A Look Ahead- Elon hosts Western Carolina, Appalachian State, and College of Charleston after having played five of seven on the road.

8. Appalachian State (8-13, 4-7)- Once considered a likely candidate for the conference crown, Appalachian State has fallen hard, losing six of their last seven. On the bright side, Donald Sims continues to impress at 21 points per game. If there is one player who can challenge Andrew Goudelock for SoCon Player of the Year, it’s him.

A Look Ahead- Things won’t get any easier for the Mountaineers, as they play a pair away from home against UNC-Greensboro, and Elon.

9. UNC-Greensboro (4-16, 4-6)- Break up the Spartans! Ok, ok, they probably don’t deserve to be ranked this high, but I couldn’t resist. In earlier posts, I touted UNC-Greensboro as arguably the worst team in college hoops, so consider this my crow-filled meal. What is the method to UNC-Greensboro’s recent success, you ask? Scoring. Crazy, I know. In winning four of five, the Spartans scored over 70 points for the first time since November 14.

A Look Ahead- The Spartans will host Appalachian State and then hit the road again, traveling to Western Carolina.

10. Samford (11-11, 3-7)- The Bulldogs rank 317th nationally in points per game, and 343rd in rebounds per game. With these numbers, it’s rather impressive they’ve won 11 games already. Jeffrey Merritt is the only player averaging more than ten points per game.

A Look Ahead- The Bulldogs will host Davidson, then hit a three-game road trip, traveling to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and Western Carolina.

11. Davidson (9-12, 3-7)- At the end of 2010, Davidson had a winning record, and only one conference loss. Since the new-year has begun, the Wildcats are 1-8, their lone win coming against Furman.

A Look Ahead- Davidson will pay a visit to Georgia Southern for a battle of the conference bottom-dwellers.

12. Georgia Southern (4-18, 0-9)- Thanks to UNC-Greensboro’s “turnaround,” we have a new #12. Georgia Southern’s pitiful rebounding, which ranks 314th in the nation, continues to be their downfall, as they have yet to win a conference game. Eric Ferguson, however, is wasting no time with his transition into college basketball. The freshman is averaging almost 30 minutes per game, and dropping 13.7 points per game.

A Look Ahead- Davidson, Chattanooga, and Samford are next on tap for GSU.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

It’s been a crazy few weeks in the “race for the Summit.” Oral Roberts and UMKC have been gunning for IPFW’s shaky #2 spot, and I expect one of these three teams will have it locked up by early February, and South Dakota State is also in the mix as well. Oakland is still rolling, almost on a boring clip, still unblemished in league play. They set a league mark of 17 consecutive conference wins, and are now 34-1 in conference play the past 35 games, good for tops in the nation. I could pretend that there are four or five teams still in this race, but in reality, Oakland will win this with ease barring a Hindenburg-sized collapse. If the ultimate goal is a berth in the NCAA Tournament, Oakland is the only threat.  But there is still plenty of ball to be played, and a month to go in the season, so we will see how this thing continues to unfold.

Oakland fans will be pleased to know they were ranked #9 on the collegeinsider.com mid-major poll– Just one spot below their preseason rank. Keith Benson was also named player of the week for the Summit League, his third such award this season.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (11-0, 16-8)— they have won 34 out of the last 35 conference games, and they are closing in on all kinds of conference records. Keith Benson is not the only stud on this team, as Reggie Hamilton and Will Hudson have been stellar, and they clearly have no excuse to lose a conference game. But if you are one of those pessimistic Oakland fans (likely a Detroit resident), then let’s look at the ORU game.  A three-point home win against an inferior ORU team is hardly dominant or impressive. It is just a little seed of doubt in the minds of the players and fans, and it is motivation for the next time—should they face each other in South Dakota. But that is just getting picky. They get scoring from all over the floor. Hopefully Larry Wright will be healthy for them down the stretch. Any lengthy absence from him could be damaging.

2. IPFW (8-3, 14-7)—I still don’t think the Mastodons can hold on to second place. They are just not a very good team. They got run by SDSU 87-52. Good teams don’t get blown out.  They have been looking to Ben Botts to carry them, but it seems that every night someone else steps up to give them just enough punch to pull out a win (as in their three-point victory over Oral Roberts). But how long can that last?  For awhile, it looked like IPFW was on the brink of a collapse. Two games up with eight to go, plus now holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Oral Roberts is a strong lead.

3. Oral Roberts (6-5, 9-14)—there were three positives ORU could take away from the loss at Oakland: 1) It was a three-point loss on the road to a seemingly unbeatable conference foe. What will the game be like the third time they play, this time on neutral ground? 2) They got great production from both of their guards –Warren Niles and Ken Holdman—a big reason they have won four of their last six games. They have clearly become a more complete team since their 5-10 start. 3) They appeared to have solidified their low post presence, which has been a difficult task since the loss of Mike Craion to injury. The one glaring problem still remaining for ORU is the defense. Scott Sutton is a defensive coach, but it seems like his players are not buying in to his system.  It’s definitely crunch time after their loss to IPFW late. One other note: where is the leadership coming from on this team? It’s hard to lead from the bench, so that cancels out Kyron Stokes and Craion. Who will step up for this team?

4. UMKC (6-5, 13-9)—they showed us what they are capable of last week, beating IUPUI in double-overtime on the road, and nearly shocking ORU in a thriller. In my eyes, they surpassed SDSU with a rare road win on Thursday. Continuing their month of close games, the ‘Roos went on to drop a double-overtime thriller at North Dakota State. They try beating you with the three-point shot. If those are off target, they slash inside with Jay Couisnard, with Spencer Johnson crashing the boards. Their lack of size will likely keep them from winning this conference, but nobody in the Summit really wants to face the Kangaroos.  They are tied with Oral Roberts with one more home game against them in two weeks—never say never.

5.  South Dakota State (6-5, 14-8)— The numbers would suggest they have just as dangerous an offense as Oakland, but they have had some very tough losses in the conference so far. Nate Wolters and Clint Sargent can carry them; but they both have to be bringing their best for SDSU to beat the top 5 teams. Simply put: this is a dangerous offensive team, but they lack experience and defensive problems have dragged them down as of late.

6. IUPUI (7-3, 13-10)— This team has really underachieved in most Summit fans’ minds. They have the scoring thing down, but to win in the Summit, you need good defense and solid guard play. They have the guard play, now they just need to add the defense. Surrendering just 45 points against Western Illinois was a nice start, but not much to glean into considering the Leatherneck’s struggles. They’re third in the conference standings, but haven’t been impressive.

7. North Dakota State (4-6, 10-10) —it is virtually impossible for this team to get a win on the road, but credit the Bison for halting a four-game skid and then edging out the ‘Roos on Saturday. Wins over Centenary and Oral Roberts this week could bring them closer to the top of the middle-tier. This team is one of the better three-point shooting squads in the conference, so NDSU fans, pray for the basketball gods to send rain.

8. Southern Utah (3-8, 6-15)—at this point, SUU just needs to stay above Western Illinois and hope the weather in Montana is better than the Dakotas next year.

9. Western Illinois (2-8, 7-14)— A half-game behind SUU and still a month remaining in the season.  The Hunt for March! It’s on!

10. Centenary (0-11, 0-23)—The gents are currently 0-22, and closing in on many, many NCAA records.  and their manhood was recently brought into question with this ESPN article. The Centenary Gents, in my opinion, are by far the worst D-I team in the history of basketball as they bring up the rear of KenPom’s rankings.  We are all witnesses.

A Look Ahead

Almost every game from here on out is an important one in the Summit, especially with everyone bunched together in the middle. Keep an eye on IPFW’s schedule; they take on IUPUI February 3 and they get a crack at Oakland February 12. If they knock off IUPUI, the race for second could see an early end. On February 10, ORU will visit UMKC for a rematch of their OT thriller from a couple weeks ago, and IUPUI will visit South Dakota State on the same night. We should see some pretty decent basketball here in the Summit over the next two weeks.

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RTC Live: Dayton @ Duquesne

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2011

Game # 123.  It’s an Atlantic 10 blockbuster matchup as Duquesne faces off with Dayton on a Sunday afternoon.

Welcome to a flurry filled Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh for an Atlantic 10 Conference matchup between Duquesne and Dayton at the Consol Energy Center, the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Duquesne comes into the contest as the hottest team in conference, riding a nine-game win streak, including 6-0 in the A-10. Duquesne has been stuffing the stat sheet of late, leading to a #11 national ranking in points per game, and #2 in assists per game. Dayton, meanwhile, has had a bouncy ride so far this A-10, coming into the match 3-3. Look for the Flyers to try to control the tempo, as they come into the game averaging 14 points a game less on the year. This should be a great matchup at a great new venue in a town with Super Bowl dreams this time of year. Join us for a great A-10 matchup this Sunday afternoon.

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RTC Live: Duke @ St. John’s

Posted by nvr1983 on January 30th, 2011

Game #121. RTC heads to Madison Square Garden (aka “The World’s Most Famous Arena”) as the defending champs invade The Big Apple.

The Red Storm head into today’s game having finished what is likely the hardest seven-game stretch that any team has faced this season and things won’t get any easier as Coach K and the Blue Devils come to town. After initially raising expectations in New York City after a 3-point will over Georgetown on January 3rd Steve Lavin and the Red Storm have fallen on hard times losing 5 of their last 6 games. If the Red Storm are to reverse their fortunes today they will need big games out of Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee and try to find a way to contain Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler while defending the 3-point line against a Blue Devil team that is loaded with excellent shooters, but has struggled from 3-point range since starting ACC play.
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RTC Live: USC @ Arizona

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2011

Game #120.  RTC Lives makes its first-ever trip to Arizona’s McKale Center for a battle between Pac-10 stalwarts.

Today’s game between USC and Arizona at the McKale Center represents the turning point of the conference season.  Arizona has designs on catching first-place Washington in the standings, sitting only one game behind the Huskies with the difference being the Wildcats’ loss at Seattle nine days ago.  Secure in the knowledge that UW will have to pay Sean Miller’s team a return trip in late February, Arizona knows that it can’t afford a home loss here today.  USC is coming off a solid road win in Tempe on Thursday night, and it’s clear that when their inside/outside duo of Nikola Vucevic and Jio Fontan have it going, they can compete with anyone in this league.  Arizona has a strong frontcourt anchored by All-American candidate Derrick Williams, but guard play has been troublesome and inconsistent.  Nevertheless, we’re excited to be headed to McKale tonight, site of so many great games over the years.  Join us on RTC Live…

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RTC Live: UTEP @ Tulsa

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2011

Game #121.  RTC Live visits Tulsa this evening for what should be a key Conference USA battle.

We are expecting a good game tonight in this high-stakes bout between the UTEP Miners (17-4, 5-1) and the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (10-10, 3-3). For Tulsa, this is a revenge game. They were defeated 69-59 by the Miners in the conference opener on January 5, and they would love nothing more than to upset the C-USA standings, and hopefully right the ship with a win tonight. UTEP has a little more than just pride on the line. They are currently tied atop the conference standings with Memphis; I’m sure they would love for things to stay that way. It will also be a matchup between the conferences two biggest stars. Tulsa is led by leading scorer Justin Hurtt, who is averaging 20.7 points per game, while UTEP is led by Randy Culpepper; the returning Conference USA Player Of The Year.

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RTC Live: Ohio State @ Northwestern

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2011

Game #119.  The nation’s top-ranked team visits struggling Northwestern this evening.

#1 Ohio State comes to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday night with a perfect record and a dominating cast of players. Jared Sullinger should find plenty of room in the paint against a porous Northwestern interior defense, or the 1-3-1 zone, and the Buckeyes tend to knock down shots from everywhere. Northwestern’s star player, John Shurna, suffered a concussion in the Wildcats’ latest disappointing loss at Minnesota and will be a game-time decision. If he can’t go Northwestern will be undermanned at almost every position on the court. Still, can Northwestern pull the epic upset? It’ll be televised on ESPN2 and you can follow along during the whole game here starting at 6 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. CT.

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Checking in on… the America East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 29th, 2011

Matthew McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

A Look Back

  • Hope You Didn’t Believe It: At last check in, the Binghamton and Hartford were one-two in the America East standings. Now, they’re sixth and fourth, respectively, with Binghamton having dropped five straight games.
  • The Cellar Has Teeth: UMBC has 18 losses this year, but that did not stop them from taking down Boston University and Hartford in back-to-back games. But alas, they got blown out by fellow bottom-feeder New Hampshire and then couldn’t hold onto a 12-point halftime lead against Albany.
  • A Barnies Burner: Maine senior forward Troy Barnies has blossomed into one of the most consistent players in the league this year (14 PPG, 8 RPG) and has been crucial to steadying a deep, but sometimes inconsistent Black Bears team.

Power Rankings

1) Maine (13-7, 7-1): A convincing win at Vermont, 72-58, gave Maine the inside track for #1 seed (and home court advantage for the championship match). The two convincing wins against AE weaklings shows they can take care of teams they should be beating solidly. A six-game winning streak and a Gerald McLemore who is slowly coming back to form have things looking bright in Orono.

2) Vermont (15-5, 6-2): Loses against both Maine and Boston University throw into question whether this team has the ability to dance this season, especially with questionable guard play. Freshman Sandro Carissimo has seen some time at the guard position, but still hasn’t proven that he’s the answer.

3) Boston University (10-12, 5-3): “Most talented team in the America East, but…” It’s been a refrain this season, but never as much as the last two weeks. Horrible blown leads at Hartford and UMBC have left people questioning whether John Holland, the most skilled player in the league, has the make-up to be a crunch time performer.

4) Hartford (7-13, 4-3): Joe Zeglinski single-handedly ended Binghamton’s dream world with a 7-11 performance from three, but this team still relies very heavily on streaky shooters. Zeglinski and leading scorer Morgan Sabia both shoot under 35% from three and are prone to painful off nights.

5) Albany (11-12, 4-4): Down twelve to UMBC (literally the only AE team the Great Danes could beat least season), some fans were reaching for the panic button. Luckily, Logan Aronhalt snapped out of a prolonged slump and added to the week’s “thundersnow” outside with 20 second half points.

6) New Hampshire (8-12, 2-6) The floor drops out at the sixth spot. No one had really done much to earn it. New Hampshire gets the nod because despite the barrage of injuries and the recent temporary, but vague suspension of big man Dane DiLiegro, the Wildcats upset Hartford with a 33-point outburst from Tyrone Conley. Pogo stick forward Brian Benson has also chipped in a few nice performances on the glass.

7) Stony Brook (7-12, 2-5): The Seawolves simply cannot score. Brian Dougher is a second or third option player, and when teams can key on him, it’s just hard for him to find a rhythm. Albany scored one point in the final ten minutes against Stony Brook… and won.

8) Binghamton (6-15, 3-5): This team is in an embarrassing stretch, punctuated by 39-point beatdown at the hands of rival Albany, but their dominance over the bottom of the league keeps them from the cellar. This team still has some fight… but only about once every three or four games.

9) UMBC (3-18, 2-6): There was a brief moment of hope- two huge wins over BU and Hartford and two winnable games on the schedule. Dreams of .500! But then the rest of the team faded away behind stat-piling point guard Chris De La Rosa.

A Look Ahead

  • UVM visits Albany (who led the Catamounts at half earlier this season) in a game that could propel Albany into the league’s top four. (1/29)
  • For All The Marbles: Ok, this might be a bit premature, but if Maine goes to Boston University and knocks of the Terriers, that will be one pretty eight game winning streak.  (2/1)
  • Who thought of that one? In a strange scheduling choice, Hartford follows up it’s loss at Vermont with a game at Stony Brook then immediately welcomes Vermont at home. The rematch at Chase Arena will be a revenge game… and the wounds of the loss should be fresh in the Hawks’ mind.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.28-01.30

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 28th, 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

This weekend brings us yet another great slate of games with plenty of ranked teams heading out on the road to face unranked opponents. How many will go down this time? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#21 Georgetown @ #6 Villanova – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

Despite their win at the Carrier Dome over Syracuse last week, Villanova has lost two of its last three games and now welcomes their rival Georgetown Hoyas to the Wells Fargo Center. The Hoyas have won three straight over the New York-area schools to climb back to 4-4 in Big East play. Georgetown has won four true road games but none of those wins were against teams the caliber of Villanova.

If Freeman and the Hoyas Plan On Finishing Strong, Tonight's a Good Night To Start

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