RTC Top 25: Week Fourteen

Posted by Walker Carey on February 23rd, 2015

Former Big East rivals #16 West Virginia and #18 Louisville probably turned in the most eventful week in college basketball. The Mountaineers jumped eight spots this week after earning victories against two ranked opponents, beginning on Monday when senior guard Juwan Staten made a layup with four seconds remaining to give his team a one-point home triumph over #8 Kansas. Bob Huggins’ squad followed that up on Saturday when it grabbed a nice 10-point win at Oklahoma State. Those two Big 12 wins moved West Virginia’s conference record to 9-5, which at this point still gives the Mountaineeers a glimmer of hope in the Big 12 race. While West Virginia’s week had a great week, Louisville experienced something of a media circus that concluded with the dismissal of one of its key players. First, news broke Tuesday evening that senior guard Chris Jones was suspended indefinitely and would not be with the team for Wednesday’s game at Syracuse. Predictably, Louisville blew a second half lead at the Carrier Dome and lost to the Orange by 10 points. Jones was then reinstated on Thursday for Saturday’s home game versus Miami (FL), a game in which Louisville overcame a 10-point halftime deficit on its way to a much-needed two-point win. Just when it seemed like things were returning to normal for Rick Pitino’s program, the school then announced on Sunday afternoon that Jones had been formally dismissed from the program. The Cardinals now have the unenviable task of finishing the balance of the regular season and the postseason without their senior point guard and one of their best offensive threats. College basketball is often where the unexpected happens, and that was certainly on display at Louisville last week.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty Analysis after the jump…

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Danny Manning is Making Progress at Wake Forest

Posted by Walker Carey on February 18th, 2015

During Sunday’s NBA All-Star game, there was a stretch of the game when Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan were all on the court at the same time. This was notable because the three All-Stars — tied for the most of any single school — played their college basketball at Wake Forest. If you have just started following college hoops sometime in the last few seasons, that fact may seem strange to you, as from 2010-14, the Demon Deacons compiled an anemic 51-76 overall record with a ghastly 17-51 mark in ACC play. But once upon a time, Wake Forest was one of the premier programs in the ACC. Former head coaches Dave Odom followed by the late Skip Prosser routinely directed the Demon Deacons to the NCAA Tournament, and elite talent flocked to the tiny school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to suit up in the old gold and black.

Danny Manning (USA Today Images)

Danny Manning’s Team Appears to Be Heading in the Right Direction (USA Today Images)

Following last year’s 17-16 season, athletic director Ron Wellman decided to make a coaching change. Jeff Bzdelik was out and former Kansas legend and Tulsa head coach Danny Manning was pegged to take over. Manning was an intriguing choice for the job given his terrific track record as an assistant coach to Bill Self at Kansas and two years as the head coach of the Golden Hurricane. During his nine-year stint at his alma mater, Manning oversaw the development of a star-studded pack of Jayhawks’ big men, including future pros Darrell Arthur, Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson. He carried that success over to Tulsa, where he led his squad to a successful second season, winning both the regular season and Conference USA Tournament titles on its way to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.

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RTC Top 25: Week Thirteen

Posted by Walker Carey on February 16th, 2015

The story of the last week in college basketball was that #2 Wisconsin, #3 Virginia, #5 Villanova and #8 Kansas continued on their paths towards regular season conference titles. After easy victories over Nebraska and Illinois, the Badgers are now 23-2 overall and their 11-1 Big Ten record gives them a commanding three-game lead over Maryland and Purdue. Bo Ryan’s team just quietly keeps chugging along. In its first week without star swingman Justin Anderson, Virginia had to battle to earn wins over NC State and Wake Forest last week. But those latest victories now put the Cavaliers at 23-1 overall and 11-1 in the ACC. Tony Bennett’s squad has a two-game lead over Notre Dame and does not play another ranked opponent until the final weekend of the regular season. Things are definitely in place for Virginia to take home its second consecutive regular season conference title. Villanova may have turned in the most impressive performance of any team last week. The Wildcats were victorious at both Providence and Butler, which improved its record to 23-2 overall and 10-2 in the Big East. Jay Wright’s team has a fairly easy slate through the rest of Big East play, so it is reasonable to think that the Wildcats could also win their final six regular season contests. After some shaky play in recent weeks, Kansas again looks in prime position to take home its 11th consecutive Big 12 title. After last Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks rebounded in sterling fashion with a dominant victory at Texas Tech and a come-from-behind win over Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday. The Jayhawks currently hold a two-game lead over Iowa State in the standings and it would be stunning if they relinquished that lead.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty Analysis after the jump….

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Villanova 68, #18 Butler 65

Posted by Walker Carey on February 14th, 2015

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s game between Villanova and Butler in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

Darrun Hillard (USA Today Images)

Darrun Hilliard Blew Up Butler on Saturday (USA Today Images)

  1. Darrun Hilliard picked a great night to turn in a career-best performance. Villanova’s leading scorer took his game to another level against Butler, finishing with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-16 shooting (8-of-13 from three) to go along with eight rebounds. Hilliard really got things going in the second half, as he hit 5-of-7 from three and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe in the game’s second stanza. He also showcased his knack for knocking down the big shot after Butler swingman Roosevelt Jones tied the game with 18 seconds to play. With teammate Ryan Arcidiacano double-teamed at the top of the key, Hilliard called for the ball from the right free throw line extended and drained a wide open three to give the Wildcats a 68-65 lead with just 1.2 seconds to play. At 23-2 on the season, Villanova is currently in the discussion for a potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Wildcats can get similar performances from Hilliard for the remainder of their Big East slate, they could easily be on that top line when Selection Sunday arrives.
  2. Both teams were great defensively in the first half and great offensively in the second half. Throughout the first half, this game looked like it was going to be a slow-paced and physical slugfest. Villanova held a 27-22 lead at the break and neither team put up strong offensive numbers in the opening 20 minutes. It might have been their way of paying homage to the frigid conditions outside, but Villanova shot just 36.7 percent from the field while Butler made just 30.8 percent of its attempts. The offensive end of the court was much kinder to both teams in the second half with both teams topping 40 total points (Butler outscored Villanova 43-41 in the second half) and 50 percent shooting (Villanova shot 60 percent and Butler shot 56.5 percent). It was almost like the first half and second half were two completely different games. With that being said, it was clear as day that both Villanova and Butler have the ability to get it done on both ends of the court.
  3. Villanova pretty much locked up its second straight regular season Big East title with the victory. With Saturday evening’s victory, Villanova moved its Big East record to 10-2. That conference mark gives the Wildcats a two-game lead in the conference standings and the schedule the rest of the way is very favorable for Jay Wright’s squad. Villanova will go on the road three more times, but games at Marquette, Xavier and Creighton are certainly winnable. It is definitely reasonable to believe that the Wildcats will finish the regular season with a 29-2 overall record and a 16-2 mark in Big East play.

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RTC Top 25: Week Twelve

Posted by Walker Carey on February 9th, 2015

Fresh off losing its first game of the season to Duke last Saturday, #2 Virginia completed a week that has to put the Cavaliers in any weekly award discussions. Tony Bennett’s squad first went to Chapel Hill on Big Monday and earned an 11-point victory over #11 North Carolina. It then returned home on Saturday to face a hot #9 Louisville squad and emerged victorious with a hard-fought five-point victory. Virginia receives a great deal of credit for its stifling defense and you could see why in that game, as it held Louisville to just 13 measly first half points. All is not perfect in Charlottesville though, as star swingman Justin Anderson suffered a fractured finger on his left hand and is expected to miss four to six weeks. Elsewhere in the ACC, #4 Duke continues to rebound quite nicely from its three previous league setbacks. The Blue Devils scored a victory over Georgia Tech last Wednesday before avenging their January 28 loss to #12 Notre Dame, annihilating the Irish by 30 points in Durham . While Virginia still has a lead in the league standings, the ACC race is definitely one to keep an eye on as the second half of conference play progresses.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Can Jim Christian Return Boston College to Relevance?

Posted by Walker Carey on February 5th, 2015

Throughout the first decade of this century, Boston College was among the most consistent programs in the Big East (and later, the ACC). The Eagles earned six NCAA Tournament bids between 2001 and 2007, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2006. Head coach Al Skinner enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for taking unknown prospects and turning them into marquee players. For example, Skinner plucked former Eagles point guard Troy Bell out of Richfield, Minnesota, before he became a three-time First Team All-Big East performer (2001-03) and two-time Big East Player of the Year (2001, 2003). Things were definitely going well on the hardwood for the program, but things took an unexpected downturn in the late 2000s, which resulted in Skinner’s termination following the 2009-10 season (his second losing year in three). Little did the school’s administration know at the time that disappointment experienced at the end of Skinner’s tenure was a sign of more to come.

Boston College (USA Today Images)

Boston College Head Coach Jim Christian Gets Great Effort From His Players (USA Today Images)

Tasked with replacing Skinner was Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, who was fresh off leading the Big Red to the Sweet Sixteen. While his tenure in Chestnut Hill got off to a fairly promising start with a 21-13 record and a resultant NIT appearance, things only went down from there. In the next three seasons, Boston College amassed a combined 33-63 overall record with a 15-37 mark in ACC play. Donahue was dismissed following last season.

After Donahue’s termination, it was widely speculated that Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker would become Boston College’s next coach. Amaker said thanks, but no thanks, however, and chose to remain at in Cambridge. Shortly after that rejection, the Eagles found their man in Ohio head coach Jim Christian. In his introductory news conference, athletic director Brad Bates noted “three remarkable traits” that he believed set Christian apart from other candidates: 1) his ability to recruit and develop players; 2) his energy and enthusiasm; and 3) his proven track record as a head coach. And yet, before Christian could even preside over a single practice, his roster took a significant hit when incumbent starters Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon both transferred out of the program.

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RTC Top 25: Week Eleven

Posted by Walker Carey on February 2nd, 2015

The story of the past week in college basketball was highlighted by some really good games between the ACC’s best. It all started last Wednesday when #10 Notre Dame came back from a 10-point second half deficit to knock off #4 Duke in South Bend. The loss dropped the Blue Devils to 4-3 in conference play and, coupled with the dismissal of junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon on Thursday, it appeared that Duke swirling in turmoil. Before the Blue Devils faced off with #2 Virginia on Saturday evening, Duke’s archrival, #11 North Carolina, blew an 18-point second half lead at #9 Louisville, thus suffering its second conference loss of the season. Later that night in Charlottesville, Duke showed that reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated when it rallied late in the second half to best the previously-unbeaten Cavaliers. To make matters even wackier in the ACC, Notre Dame suffered a loss at Pittsburgh earlier in the day for its second league loss of the season. As the calendar turns to February, Virginia is still on top of the ACC standings at 7-1, but it certainly has several teams breathing down its neck:  Notre Dame is right behind at 8-2; North Carolina is at 7-2; Louisville is at 6-2; and always-dangerous Duke now sits at 5-3. The ACC may not be the deepest league in the country, but watching these five great teams battle it out over the final five weeks of the regular season promises to be extremely entertaining.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Notre Dame 77, #4 Duke 73

Posted by Walker Carey on January 29th, 2015

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Duke and Notre Dame in South Bend.

Irish Eyes Were Smiling Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Irish Eyes Were Smiling Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Jerian Grant proved that he is one of the best players in the country. The senior guard turned in an amazing performance on Wednesday night, finishing the game with game-highs in both points (23) and assists (12). His dozen assists also set a new career-high. None of those assists were more important than the one he threw to sophomore guard Steve Vasturia for an open three to put the Irish up by four with 22 seconds to play. Points and assists were not the only categories where Grant excelled, though, as he showcased his durability by playing all 40 minutes and picking up six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Notre Dame is now 20-2 on the season and 8-1 in ACC play, and the biggest reason for the team’s incredible start to the 2014-15 campaign has been the All-America play of the team’s senior leader. The Irish now expect to be an ACC contender for the rest of the season, and if Grant can continue his play at such a high level, that expectation will become a reality.
  2. This was an incredible college basketball game. There has been talk this season about how college basketball has been a bit unwatchable, but that was absolutely not the case on Wednesday night as Notre Dame and Duke completed one of the most entertaining games of the regular season. Swings in momentum came fast and furious. For example: Notre Dame led by seven at the 9:01 mark of the first half before Duke went on a big run to take a three-point lead into the half; Duke then led by 10 at the 10:58 mark of the second half before being outscored 22-8 the rest of the way. Another reason why Wednesday’s battle in South Bend was so entertaining was that two of the best players in college basketball turned in star performances. Jerian Grant’s stat-stuffing game was mentioned above and Duke freshman big man Jahlil Okafor also turned in a performance that has practically become the norm for him during his first year in Durham. The freshman finished the game with 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with a game-high 17 rebounds. Sure, there are some nights where college basketball doesn’t put its best foot forward, but Wednesday night at Notre Dame, those nights seemed very distant. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Top 25: Week Ten

Posted by Walker Carey on January 26th, 2015

The last week of the college basketball season was highlighted by two previously Top 10 teams falling victim to a conference foe on the road. First, Maryland was knocked off Thursday night in Bloomington by a hot-shooting Indiana squad. Then on Saturday, Iowa State – fresh off of home victories over Kansas and Kansas State – went down to Lubbock and suffered a surprising defeat to Big 12 cellar-dweller Texas Tech. While the Terps and Cyclones were unable to avoid the road upset bug, #2 Virginia and #9 Notre Dame overcome road deficits Sunday to earn key victories. The Cavaliers trailed for most of the game at Virginia Tech before finally grabbing the victory. The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 18 points at North Carolina State before storming back and securing an overtime victory. With the calendar flipping to February next Sunday, expect conference play to continue to deliver the good as we get closer and closer to March.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

RTC25 01.26.15

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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RTC Top 25: Week Nine

Posted by Walker Carey on January 19th, 2015

After nine weeks of the regular season there is probably not a conference that has more uncertainty in it than the Big 12. If the importance of home court advantage in that loaded league had not been clear before, this past week really made sure that everyone realizes it. From Tuesday through Saturday in conference games featuring at least one ranked team, the home team notched a sterling 7-0 record. No Big 12 win last week was more important, though, than #9 Iowa State knocking off #14 Kansas on Saturday night. The victory moved the Cyclones to a 3-1 league record, which helped them keep pace in the loss column following Wednesday’s narrow loss at #23 Baylor. The Big 12 has been so crazy this season that an unranked team (Kansas State) somehow holds sole possession of first place. There is a lot of basketball still to be played, of course, so it will be a good idea to keep an eye on this conference as Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Baylor, and Oklahoma State figure to battle tooth-and-nail for the league crown all the way to the last weekend of the regular season.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump….

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Three Takeaways as Notre Dame Rallies Past Miami

Posted by Walker Carey on January 17th, 2015

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Miami (FL) and Notre Dame in South Bend.

There are very few teams in the country that have the backcourt talent and depth of Notre Dame. That was illustrated again on Saturday afternoon as Irish coach Mike Brey relied on small ball to secure a 75-70 come-from-behind victory over Miami (FL). With his team trailing 40-31 at the 15:32 mark of the second half, Brey inserted a five-guard lineup featuring seniors Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton along with sophomores V.J. Beachem, Demetrius Jackson, and Steve Vasturia. The perimeter-oriented lineup played the balance of the game and it outscored the Hurricanes 44-30 while it was on the court. Saturday’s victory concluded another successful week for the Irish, as they moved to 17-2 overall and 5-1 in ACC play. The following are three takeaways from Saturday’s action.

Notre Dame is Playing Together (USA Today Images)

Notre Dame is Playing Together (USA Today Images)

  1. Jerian Grant broke out of his mini-slump in impressive fashion. In each of Notre Dame’s last three games (wins over North Carolina and Georgia Tech, and a loss to Virginia), Grant was held below his season average of 16.3 points per game. That trend changed in the victory over Miami today, as Grant was without question the best player on the floor for the duration of the afternoon. He finished the game with 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with eight assists. None of those 23 points were more impressive than the three he got from hitting a ridiculous step-back three-pointer at the 6:19 mark of the second half. That three put Notre Dame up 61-58 and it did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game. The Irish trailed by as many as 12 in the second half, but it was the steadiness and leadership of Grant that kept the Irish in the game and eventually earned his team the victory. Great players make big plays in winning time, and that was exactly what Grant did for Notre Dame on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Top 25: Week Eight

Posted by Walker Carey on January 12th, 2015

Last week’s college basketball action was highlighted by a Sunday of crazy upsets. First, unbeaten Duke was knocked off by NC State in Raleigh. Next, Wisconsinwithout the services of star big man Frank Kaminsky – was stunned by Rutgers in Piscataway. Last, Arizona experienced defeat at the hands of Oregon State in Corvallis. Winning on the road in conference play is always a tough task, and that was never more on display this year than it was Sunday. A team that was able to grab a crucial conference road victory, though, was Virginia. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers went into South Bend on Saturday and knocked off Notre Dame in a back-and-forth battle that was not decided until the final minute. If this past week was any indication of how conference season will play out, we are certainly in for two months of surprises and thrilling finishes.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump….

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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