Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 31st, 2012

  1. It wasn’t too long ago where Washington was given up for dead as another underachieving Lorenzo Romar squad doomed to limp through the regular season before perhaps scraping it together in time for a run in the Pac-12 Tournament. But now, after a road sweep of the Arizona schools in which the Huskies played with assertiveness and passion, they’re tied for first place and have a schedule advantageous enough where they should be considered legitimate title contenders. Unfortunately, with an RPI still in the 70s, even a regular season Pac-12 title may not be quite enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, so winning that Pac-12 Tourney may still be a necessity.
  2. Washington’s win over Arizona knocked the Wildcats back to 5-4, putting Sean Miller’s club in a position where they may need to win the rest of their games to have a chance at the conference title. Add the fact that they will now have to do so without junior wing Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in the loss to the Huskies. The Parrom loss now makes this UA team that was already undersized even smaller, leaving Miller with only 6’7” Jesse Perry, 6’6” Solomon Hill and 6’9” Angelo Chol as regular contributors up front.
  3. What’s a rivalry without a little controversy? And hey, if there’s not any controversy, why not make one up? The fact that Oregon State’s cheerleaders were not going to be allowed a spot on the court Sunday night when the Beavers faced in-state rival Oregon at the Ducks’ Matthew Knight Arena was known prior to the game. And, in fact, both schools’ athletic departments had decided that neither road team would send their cheerleaders to the games at the other’s school. But, on Monday, Oregon State’s sports information director, Steve Fenk, noted that if Oregon wanted to bring their cheerleaders to the return game in Corvallis on February 26, they would be welcome to do so.
  4. With a 5-16 record, Utah doesn’t have a whole lot left to play for this season. But for any Ute that wants a chance to get on the floor, earn some playing time and maybe generate some momentum for next year, the door is wide open. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak is making it very clear that players who are willing to play hard and to play smart will earn minutes the rest of the way. In Saturday’s loss at USC, guys like Alex Mortensen and Kyle Perkins found themselves earning significantly more minutes than normal, a trend that could continue over the last month of the season.
  5. Lastly, it is always good to check in on the ongoing legacy of former UCLA head coach John Wooden. While his impact on the sport of college basketball is well known, Wooden’s philosophies have now reached into war-torn Uganda, where a handful of basketball coaches have begun trying to use some of the former coach’s teachings to help reach former child soldiers and others touched by the fighting in that country. Last week, a delegation of four coaches from Uganda visited UCLA as part of a State Department grant to learn more about Wooden and to talk about how they use his “Pyramid of Success” and other teachings to help kids in their country.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on January 31st, 2012

  1. Vanderbilt returned to the AP top 25 rankings, checking in at #25 after a week that saw the Commodores defeat a pair of in-state foes – Tennessee on Tuesday and 20-3 Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Their stay inside the top 25 will depend on how they fare in a pair of tough road contests this week. First, Vanderbilt travels to Fayetteville for their one regular-season meeting with Arkansas then follow up that trip with a road contest at #12 Florida on Saturday. Combined, the Razorbacks and Gators own a 27-1 mark on their home floors.
  2. Tuesday also gives a chance to react to the many bracketology projections around the web. Here on RushTheCourt.net, Zach Hayes gave six SEC schools dance invitations: Kentucky as a #1; Florida and Vanderbilt #4s, Mississippi State a #6, Alabama a #11, and Ole Miss a #12 playing in one of the “First Four” contests. He put Arkansas as one of his last four out. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi puts five SEC teams in the field, led by Kentucky as a #1. Vanderbilt and Florida received #4 seeds, Alabama drew a #7 seed, Mississippi State garnered a #8 seed. He put Ole Miss as one of his “Next Four Out.” On SBNation.com, the same five Lunardi put in the field earned spots: Kentucky a #1, Vanderbilt a #4, Florida a #5, Mississippi State a #6, and Alabama a #10. Ole Miss ranked as one of Chris Dobbertean’s Next Four Out.
  3. On the SEC coaches teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury was asked by Brad Locke, of the NEMS Daily Journal about the Sunday report that had Renardo Sidney considering leaving Bulldogs either for the NBA or as a transfer. “Not at all. I don’t know where all those reports come from. No discussion at any time,” Stansbury said. He also asked if the two had discussed Sidney’s future at all. Stansbury: “We haven’t talked one bit about his future plans at all. We’re just trying to get through this season.”
  4. Tuesday’s other SEC contest features a rematch between Tennessee and Kentucky. The Volunteers led by six at halftime and nearly stunned the now top-ranked Wildcats before losing 65-62. Terrence Jones made some interesting comments to Lexington Herald-Leader in regards to Jarnell Stokes. Stokes, who made his collegiate debut in the first Kentucky game, drew a pair of fouls on Jones and finished with nine points and four rebounds in 17 minutes. Despite that, Jones said “I don’t think he really made that big an impact.” In other quotes, Volunteer head coach Cuonzo Martin said “We’re a better team, but now you have to go on the road in a hostile environment and prove it.” Kentucky has won 47 straight at home and hasn’t lost to Tennessee at Rupp Arena since Chris Lofton scored 31 points in a 75-67 win on Feb. 7, 2006.
  5. The third installment of ESPN’s SEC Storied series will premiere on Saturday, February 11. It features Nolan Richardson and his famed “40 Minutes of Hell” style of basketball that culminated in a national championship in 1994. Arkansas fans will be able to catch a screening before the 9 p.m. airing on ESPNU as it will air on the Bud Walton Arena video boards. From the ArkansasSports360.com account, the movie “produced by NASCAR Media Group and directed by Kenan Harris-Holley, includes interviews with former President of the United States Bill Clinton, Richardson himself, former Arkansas Chancellor John White and current Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. Players Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Al Dillard, Ken Biley and John Engskov contribute to the film, as well as radio announcer Mike Nail, author Rus Bradburd and ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Ryan McGee.” You can watch the trailer here.
Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 31st, 2012

  1. Washington Post: Remember how Lefty Driesell complained about Maryland naming its court after Gary Williams? Well, he’s still talking. I’ll just pick out some choice quotes:

    “Everybody’s gonna think well Gary Williams’s players are the ones that put Maryland on the map. You know, Maryland was on the map before Gary got there.
    [On Georgia State's court being named after him] Yeah, it sure is. Well, you know, they never had a successful program before I got there. Never.
    I think Mark Turgeon’s gonna win a couple of national championships.
    [On how Williams should have been honored] Well, I don’t know. You know, he got banners up there for winning the national championship. Maybe like the Orioles do, put a statue out back.”

    The moral of the story is Driesell isn’t happy and isn’t hiding his opinions.

  2. Beyond the Arc: Mike Miller sat down with Adam Rowe of Duke Hoop Blog to talk about the Blue Devils. One thing I really wish Rowe had mentioned is the lack of a versatile wing on the perimeter defensively. Kyle Singler was a big part of Duke’s defense the last four years. Combine his versatility with Nolan Smith’s on-ball pressure and you got a top defensive team despite not having ludicrous athleticism (as Arizona exposed in the NCAA Tournament). This year’s team doesn’t have that versatility and only Tyler Thornton applies great on-ball pressure. One of the more interesting points Rowe made was that Thornton is often credited as a great defensive stopper when he really is just good at playing physical defense and getting into passing lanes (though I think stopping, outside of shot-blockers, is generally a team stat on defense).
  3. ACC Sports Journal: Frank Haith had a reputation in the ACC “as a nice guy who recruited good players and did a middling job molding them into competitive teams.” Frankly, that’s probably generous. Haith was frequently panned, especially following last season when he brought back an experienced and talented squad but did little with it. But Haith’s success at Missouri stands in stark contrast with perceptions at Miami. Is it the perfect storm of the right players? I don’t know. What I do know is that Haith put on a miniature coaching clinic last night against Rick Barnes (another ACC coaching alum) when he went zone against Texas, shutting down J’Covan Brown entirely on the final possession of Missouri’s one-point win over the Longhorns in Austin.
  4. The State: Bad news coming out of Clemson, as Milton Jennings will be suspended because of  “‘failure to comply’ with the team’s academic standards.” Failure to comply is an interesting word choice — maybe just a slip of the keys, but that doesn’t sound like a grade issue. It sounds like a cheating, class cutting or missed assignment issue. The last of those options seems the most likely as Jeff Borzello tweeted yesterday that Jennings “should be back soon.” It hasn’t been a great season for Jennings off the court between this and getting into it with Brad Brownell.
  5. Washington Post: I always love it when coaches talk some trash. And Shaka Smart fired some shots across the Commonwealth of Virginia, saying “the reality is if you go by the numbers, if you go by postseason, if you go by even guys going to the NBA, the best programs in the state are in the CAA. It’s really not even close.” My guess is Tony Bennett has something to say about that. Most years Seth Greenberg would probably be a little more outspoken too.

Fun Fact: Richard Howell is on pace to break NC State’s foul record of 110 (set by Ilian Evtimov). He already has 73 in the books and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Share this story

Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2012

  1. Seth Davis is back with his annual Jigsaw Man column. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, Seth adopts the persona of “The Jigsaw Man” to pick out players who if they switched teams would fill significant voids and does so while speaking in the third person. He tries to avoid picking out obvious targets like Anthony Davis who would make any team better even if they didn’t have a deficiency at that position. We are not sure if we are just getting cranky in our old age, but it seems like Seth is cheating a bit with some of his picks. Stealing players like Terrell Stoglin (the leading scorer in the ACC), Scott Machado (maybe the best point guard in the country), and Mike Moser (a potential All-American and a long-time crush of Andy Glockner and Ryan Greene) seems to be too easy. Obviously, adding the best point guard in the nation would make Duke a better team. So if you are reading this Seth Jigsaw Man (and we know that you are), step it up a little bit next year. Pick someone like Alex Oriakhi who is wasting away on the bench, but could and should be a double-double guy in the right situation instead of picking a potential All-American who is the best player on a top 10 team like Moser.
  2. Whenever we hear someone talk about how unsavory recruiting is for top football recruits we hear someone else talk about how it is worse in basketball. We now have found at least one example where it is not. According to some media reports, one five-star football recruit who chose to attend Alabama over LSU was influenced by a promise that the former would give the recruit’s girlfriend a job. Interestingly, according to the NCAA bylaws, this appears to only be an infraction if it was committed for a basketball recruit, but for a football recruit apparently is it ok. The NCAA never ceases to amaze us.
  3. Last week, the National Coordinator of basketball officials in Division I, John Adams, posted a memo urging officials to pay a closer attention to sportsmanship and call technical fouls on coaches and players who violate this principle. After the officiating over the weekend, Adams decided that he needed to respond to the criticism of officials. While he did not discuss the atrocious officiating in Philadelphia or the missed goaltending call in upstate New York, Adams did discuss the role of officials in dealing with unsportsmanlike acts. Adams essentially believes that the controversial sportsmanship fouls were correct and hopes that these moves will help rebuild college basketball’s image after a rough past few months. While legislating the trash talking more effectively may reduce some of the unseemly incidents we have seen, we would also like to see Adams work on improving the officiating of all areas of the game.
  4. With his team on its way to a second straight solid season and a potential NCAA Tournament bid that it did not get last year, Iona coach Tim Cluess was given a contract extension through the 2016-17 season. Cluess, who came to the school without any prior Division I head coaching experience, is actually in the last guaranteed year of his initial contract. Thanks to a 25-win season to start his coaching career and what appears to be an even better second season, Cluess has a well-deserved contract extension, which should only help him with recruiting although we cannot imagine that any recruit thought Cluess was in jeopardy of losing his job.
  5. His team is currently on the wrong side of the bubble, but that did not stop VCU coach Shaka Smart from making a bold proclamation that the “the best programs in the state are in the CAA. It’s really not even close.” When you look at the numbers over the past ten years, the three programs he is referring to (VCU, George Mason, and Old Dominion) have put up much better numbers (detailed in the article) than the the ACC programs (Virginia and Virginia Tech). So technically Smart is correct even if he does come off as untactful, but it is more amusing to hear new George Mason coach Paul Hewitt talk about this when he guided another ACC program (Georgia Tech) right into the ground.
Share this story

ATB: Kevin Murphy’s 50 Points, Pitt Keeps Surging, and Mizzou’s Dixon From Goat To Hero…

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. It was a standard Big Monday around college basketball nation tonight, but the biggest news from the evening did not come from two pretty good games between Big East and Big 12 rivals in Morgantown and Austin. No, an unknown player from the OVC ended up with tonight’s headlines after waltzing into the night of his basketball life in an otherwise mundane game played in the nation’s midsection. Let’s jump in…

Your Watercooler MomentKevin Murphy’s Half-Century.

Kevin Murphy, Not Kevin Martin, Hit For 50 Against SIU-Edwardsville Tonight (credit: TTU)

Somewhat reminiscent of last year’s 52-point explosion from Lamar’s Mike James, Kevin Murphy, a 6’7″ senior guard from Tennessee Tech, dropped a career-high and NCAA season-high 50 points against SIU-Edwardsville tonight. The wiry wing was on fire from everywhere, hitting 16-21 from the field, including 6-9 from behind the arc and 12-14 from the line. Murphy has always been a gifted scorer, sporting a four-year average of 15.5 PPG and moving into second place on the all-time scoring list at TTU this evening, but he’s never approached this kind of rarefied air. His half-century worth of output tonight was six points more than the 2011-12 season’s previous high game of 44, held by Creighton’s Doug McDermott in a game against Bradley earlier this month. Interestingly, OVC and mid-major darling Murray State’s most likely road loss according to KenPom (at 24%) is its season-ending game versus Tennessee Tech on February 25 — maybe Murphy will have another blow-up left in him to perform the major upset.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Backyard Brawl Win Establishes Pitt. We’ll discuss the larger context further in tonight’s Night Line feature, but Pitt’s win at West Virginia was the win that announced that the Panthers were not going to simply slide off into obscurity for the rest of this season. Since Tray Woodall’s return to the starting lineup, Jamie Dixon’s team is 3-1, but home victories against Providence, and yes, even Georgetown, do not carry the same weight of winning a rivalry game against WVU in Morgantown. Rather than dropping dimes as he had in the last two wins with 19 assists, Woodall tonight took it upon himself to score, going for 24/4/3 assts on 8-12 shooting. Now at 3-7 in the Big East, the Panthers have a lot of work left to do, but the next five games are all winnable, and a 9-9 record with a positive trend line would probably be enough to earn Pitt the unlikeliest of NCAA Tournament bids we’ve seen in a long time.
Share this story

Night Line: Could Revitalized Pittsburgh Possibly Make the NCAA Tournament?

Posted by EJacoby on January 31st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

It’s no secret that Pittsburgh has been a massive disappointment this season, beginning Big East play with a surreal 0-7 record during an overall eight-game losing streak. By failing to meet expectations or excel on the defensive end of the floor, this year’s Panthers are entirely unlike what we usually expect from Jamie Dixon’s teams. But after a 72-66 road win at West Virginia on Monday night, Pitt has now won three straight games and looks like an entirely different team with their starting point guard back from an extended abdominal injury. Pitt is averaging about 17 more points per game in conference games with Tray Woodall than without him, and the Panthers are finally starting to look like the team that was picked to finish fourth in the conference during the preseason. At 14-9 overall and 3-7 in Big East play, Pittsburgh has an incredibly steep hill to climb, but the pieces are in place to make a run for NCAA Tournament consideration.

Tray Woodall is Back and Pittsburgh Looks Like a New Team (AP Photo)

Pitt is used to qualifying for postseason play; they’ve made the Big Dance in 10 consecutive seasons, the longest current streak in the Big East. The Panthers’ 80.1% winning percentage since 2001 is the fourth best in Division I over that span, trailing only Duke, Memphis, and Gonzaga. Dixon has been the head coach for the past nine years, and the Panthers have simply been superbly consistent under his watch. So the fact that Pitt sits at 12th place in the conference right now is a complete shock that nobody saw coming. The eight-game losing streak that they suffered, which began with a home loss to Wagner on December 23 and ended also at home against Louisville on January 21, was twice as long as any during the Dixon era. Losing starting big man Khem Birch to a transfer request and Woodall to injury put the team into a massive tailspin, and they’re just now recovering from it all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

20 Questions: Pac-12 Style

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 30th, 2012

Inspired by last week’s “21 Questions” with Indiana, UNLV, Syracuse, and Murray State, here’s a look at 20 questions (and answers) related to the Pac-12 after the first half of conference play.

Jared Cunningham (left) and Tony Wroten, Jr. (right) are two favorites for Pac-12 Player of the Year. (Elaine Thompson)

1.  If you could pick one remaining game as a must-see for everyone in the country, what would it be?

  • Washington at Oregon on February 9 will be a thriller. Not only is it a rivalry game in one of the best arenas in college basketball, but the winner will have a huge say who goes on to win this conference.

2.  Which team from the bottom half of the conference has the best chance of coming back and winning the Pac-12?

  • My money would be on UCLA and the Wear twins, but wins at Washington (February 2) and home against California (February 11) will be huge in deciding that.

3.  Will Oregon State win a conference road game?

  • They should win in Salt Lake City on February 4, but I don’t see another opportunity besides that. [Ed. Note: And obviously Oregon now.]

4.  Since the Pac is in such a down year, let’s see how bad they really are. Starting at the top of last week’s “The Other 26”, how many mid-majors would knock off any Pac-12 team on a neutral floor?

  • I would say seven, with the streak ending at Memphis. But I would comfortably take Gonzaga, Whichta State, Creighton, etc. against any Pac-12 team.

5.  Down three with a minute left, who is the one player in the conference you turn to for the tying three?

  • Tony Wroten, Jr. Although he is just a freshman, that doesn’t really matter this late in the season. I’d give the ball to him without a doubt.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

What Has Happened To Seton Hall?

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC. He covered Louisville’s 60-51 win at Seton Hall on Saturday and filed this report.

Heading into a two-game home stand against a pair of middle of the pack Big East teams, Seton Hall players, coaches and fans thought two consecutive road losses to South Florida and Villanova were nothing more than a bump in the road. After all, the team started the season 15-2 and 4-1 in the Big East and looked well on its way to the program’s first NCAA berth in six seasons. After dropping both games this week to Notre Dame and Louisville at the Prudential Center, the 15-2 start seems like light years ago and the prospect of a spot in the 68-team NCAA Tournament may be only a dream at this point. Seton Hall shot a mind-blowing 26% against Notre Dame and 28% against Louisville in its own building, scoring only 93 points combined in the two games. Head coach Kevin Willard was candid after the Louisville loss saying, “We really suck offensively right now.” That much is obvious but why is this happening? Let’s attempt to determine what is going on with the Pirates.

Seton Hall Needs to Right Its Ship Soon...

Seton Hall is now on a four game losing streak and faces three upcoming road games: at Marquette, Connecticut and Rutgers. If the Hall doesn’t get at least one of those, it will return home on February 12 to face Pittsburgh with a 4-8 Big East record, a stunning collapse for a team that had been playing so well for an extended period of time. How does Seton Hall reverse this trend and get back on the winning track? There are many things that must change but it starts with Willard’s two senior leaders, Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope.

Theodore has done an admirable job running the point this year for the Pirates. While his shooting percentages are down from last year, his assists have jumped from 4.4 per game a year ago to 7.0 this season without a major increase in turnovers. Looking at the assists alone, you notice a drop off right away over Seton Hall’s four-game slump. In the Hall’s first five Big East games (4-1), Theodore averaged 8.2 APG and 18.2 PPG on 45.6% shooting. Those are numbers that would put any player in the conversation of the best point guards in the conference and maybe the nation, a discussion Theodore was in the thick of just two weeks ago. In his team’s extended slide, Theodore has averaged only 4.3 APG and 14.5 PPG on a putrid 27.9% shooting. The senior point guard’s turnovers have shot up to 3.5 TOPG as well, above his season average. Point guard is the most important position in college basketball and Seton Hall’s success begins and ends with Jordan Theodore.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Colorado Still A Work In Progress, But The Future Is Bright

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2012

Coming into the weekend, Colorado had won just one road game this season: a three-point overtime win over an Air Force team that, let’s face it, isn’t very good. The good news for the Buffaloes is that this weekend in Los Angeles, they doubled their number of road wins; the bad news is, that one road victory came against a USC team that would be an underdog even against Air Force.

On Saturday, when the Buffs faced a physical UCLA team at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, they were again exposed as a team that doesn’t quite yet have what it takes to beat good teams on the road.

“To win on the road against good teams, we have to be tougher and we have to execute better,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “I thought we had great focus against USC and played well enough to win, but they’re struggling right now and everybody knows that. But UCLA, they’re as good as anybody in our league, talent-wise and coaching-wise.”

Tad Boyle, Colorado

Tad Boyle Has His Team Within A Game Of The Conference Lead Halfway Through The Season (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera)

Colorado came to play early, racing out to a 12-4 lead and getting out on the break on a regular basis throughout the first half. But in the second half, Colorado’s defense, which came into the game as the best field goal percentage defense in the conference, was unable to slow the Bruins, allowing them to shoot 61.5% from the field. After the game, Boyle listed any number of defensive breakdowns (ball screen defense, post defense, guarding the ball, fighting through screens) that contributed to his team’s poor defensive performance. And their inability to keep the Bruins from scoring helped to limit the Buffaloes’ offensive game. “We couldn’t get stops,” he said. “We were getting stops early, and when you get stops you can run. But when you’re not getting stops, it is hard to run when you’re taking the ball out of the net.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • A Bad Saturday for Big East Referees:  It started in Philadelphia in the noon game between Villanova and Marquette. The referees made themselves the story of that game, calling three technical fouls and 45 total foul in a 40-minute game. That game lasted well over two hours as the officials used their whistles to take all the rhythm out of what was a very good game. James Breeding doesn’t have the best reputation across the conference for the quality of his calls, but apparently he has a short fuse as well. Breeding called all three techs and embarrassed himself on national television in the process. I realize the Big East and NCAA want better sportsmanship, but nothing Jay Wright, Buzz Williams, or Maalik Wayns did warranted a technical foul. It’s never good when officials make themselves the story of the game, but that’s exactly what James Breeding did. The bad officiating continued in the Syracuse-West Virginia game as the crew of Karl Hess, Gene Steratore and, Brian O’Connell blew a goaltending call that was obvious to the 28,740 Syracuse fans in attendance at the Carrier Dome, the ESPNU commentators, and anyone who was watching the game. While the proper call would have only resulted in a tie game and actually given Syracuse a chance to win it in regulation, it denied West Virginia a chance to force overtime. Too often, we see officials swallow their whistles in the final minute to “not affect the outcome of the game.” Once again, a crew of officials decided to do just that and that decision negatively affected the outcome. While there’s no guarantee West Virginia would have won if the game went to the extra session, the Mountaineers were denied that chance by incompetent officiating. My beef is as follows:  I’m all for player safety, but this season it has been ridiculous how many times officials have gone to the television monitor to review elbows that may or may not have been thrown during the course of a game. If they can review every elbow that was ever thrown (not needed in my opinion) as well as end-of-half scoring plays, why can’t they review a call like that? Nobody likes slow games, but the officials should be permitted to review every call they aren’t 100% sure about. All in all, Saturday was a disgrace to the officiating profession.
  • Mike Brey, Coach of the Year?: At this point, it would be hard to argue against him. The Notre Dame head coach led his team to two road wins at Seton Hall and Connecticut last week, holding the home teams to a combined 90 points. Brey’s team executed the burn offense to perfection, protected the basketball and got timely rebounds. Notre Dame, considered an afterthought after Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending ACL tear, is now in the thick of the NCAA Tournament conversation. Brey seems to get the most out of his teams when expectations are low, and that reputation is holding true as we head into the crucial month of February. The Irish still have work to do in order to overcome a lackluster non-conference performance but Brey has his team well on its way towards a top half conference finish.
  • Pittsburgh Wins a Pair: After starting league play 0-7, Pittsburgh has won two straight. With Tray Woodall healthy and back in the lineup, the Panthers are a team nobody wants to face down the stretch. Jamie Dixon’s NCAA dreams are almost surely extinguished, but the Panthers have an opportunity to finish the season strong and end with a respectable record. Pittsburgh’s offensive efficiency improved in a big way with Woodall’s return, but its defense was outstanding in Saturday’s win over Georgetown. The Panthers posted an 86.5 defensive efficiency rating, by far their best against a quality opponent. Their season-best was 81.0 against St. Francis (PA) on December 20, their last win before beating Providence last week. With a softer schedule in February, Pittsburgh has the potential to make some noise over the season’s final nine games.

Dante Taylor And The Panthers Are Still A Proud Bunch. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (22-1, 9-1) – After suffering its first defeat at Notre Dame, the Orange responded well in a win at Cincinnati two days later. Kris Joseph led the victors with 17 points on eight of 11 shooting. Still without Fab Melo, the Orange big men did an admirable job in his place. Rakeem Christmas had nine rebounds as Syracuse survived an early onslaught of Bearcat three-pointers. Syracuse then beat West Virginia on Saturday in a closer-than-expected game as the Mountaineers were able to score against the zone, mostly because of rebounding. Syracuse was out-rebounded 36-20, but committed only six turnovers as it survived the blown goaltending call in the final seconds. Brandon Triche had 18 points in the win. Rebounding has been a concern all season, but it’s obvious that Syracuse is not nearly as dominant with Melo out of the lineup. Free throw shooting came and went (33% at Cincinnati, 76.5% against West Virginia) but mental toughness is one of its biggest strengths. As we head into the teeth of the season, Syracuse is more prepared to absorb and respond to every team’s best shot. This week: 2/4 @ St. John’s.
  2. Marquette (18-4, 7-2) – I’m not overly impressed every time I watch this team, but it makes the winning plays when needed most. The Golden Eagles won a pair of games last week to push their winning streak to six games. Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Davante Gardner combined for 47 points in a home win over South Florida on Tuesday, equaling the total points scored by the Bulls. Marquette ventured to Villanova on Saturday and was involved in one of the more bizarre games I have seen all season across college basketball. The game lasted two and a half hours and didn’t even go to overtime. 45 fouls (three technical) were called and 57 free throws were attempted in a game that wasn’t the finest moment for the officiating crew of James Breeding, Tim Clougherty, and Pat Driscoll. Breeding in particular had a short fuse, whistling Buzz Williams for a technical when the coach simply slipped and fell down. Memo to Breeding: Get over yourself, he wasn’t showing you up. Johnson-Odom had 26 points, Crowder added 20 points and 11 boards for Marquette and Jamil Wilson added 12 points off the bench. Marquette rallied from an 18-point deficit and forced 20 Villanova turnovers to key the comeback. This is a good basketball team, but one that has a ceiling. I’m not sure the Golden Eagles have the scoring depth to make a big run in March. This week: 1/31 vs. Seton Hall, 2/4 @ Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

RTC Top 25: Week 12

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

With many of the teams in the bottom half of the Top 25 losing last week there was quite a bit of movement in the rankings. However, with so many teams losing, very few teams had significant moves, and for the most part the top of the rankings still pretty closely resembles what we would have expected at the beginning of the season. While the traditional powers take up the top spots in this week’s RTC Top 25, seven non-Power Six conference teams managed to make it into the poll. The Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Jayhawks Tumble In Ames: Kansas lost its first conference game, losing 74-62 to Iowa State in Ames. Kansas didn’t make many shots and sent the Cyclones to the foul line, but what will undoubtedly make Bill Self the angriest is the general lack of effort. Kansas had the second-lowest offensive rebound rate of Self’s tenure, and there were multiple times when a lone Cyclone got a loose ball despite three Jayhawks being around it. It certainly won’t be a fun couple of practices for the Jayhawks this week as they get prepped for Missouri.
  • Nash Bash: Like Kansas, Missouri was bitten by the upset bug, losing 79-72 in Stillwater. LeBryan Nash had by far the best game of his college career, pouring in 27 points on 12-18 shooting (3-4 from three), and the Cowboys held Missouri to just 4-19 shooting from distance. Missouri probably has the best offense in the country, but it is so dependent on jump shots that when they have an off night in that department, they seem to be a bit more vulnerable to an upset than the best offense in the country should be.
  • White Shows His Stripes: ESPN had a very nice story on Iowa State forward Royce White, highlighting some of the issues he has had in his life with anxiety. White had numerous criminal and other behavior issues while at Minnesota and while his anxiety should not be used as a blanket excuse, it is yet another caution that we as fans should not make our minds up about a player’s character without knowing the full story.

After Spinning His Wheels For Most Of The Season, LeBryan Nash Raised The Roof In Stillwater. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (17-4, 7-1): The Jayhawks remain in first in the rankings due to their loss being “better” than Missouri’s. They are just now hitting the meat of their conference schedule, with three of their next five games on the road at Missouri, Baylor, and Kansas State. Winning all three of them will all but lock up the conference title for Kansas, but if they play like they did in Ames they will be lucky to win one of them, and their streak of Big 12 titles could be over.
  2. Missouri (17-2, 4-1): The Tigers, as I mentioned above, rebounded nearly half of their misses at Baylor over the weekend and shot 68% from two, with Ricardo Ratliffe scoring 27 points on 11-14 shooting.  All season, they have struggled rebounding and at defending the two-point shot, so questions about how they will react when faced with size in the tournament are still valid, but they answered some of those questions on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story