RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Michigan State (15-3)
  • 2. Ohio State (13-5)
  • 3. Illinois (12-6)
  • 4. Wisconsin (11-7)
  • T5. Purdue (9-9)
  • T5. Minnesota (9-9)
  • T5. Northwestern (9-9)
  • 8. Penn State (7-11)
  • 9. Indiana (6-12)
  • 10. Michigan (5-13)
  • 11. Iowa (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Demetri McCamey, Illinois (15.1 PPG, 6.8 APG)
  • G: Kalin Lucas, Michigan State (14.9 PPG, 3.9 APG)
  • F: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin (15.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
  • F: John Shurna, Northwestern (18.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue (15.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG)

6th Man

G: E’Twaun Moore, Purdue (16.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

Jared Sullinger (above) and three returning double-figure scorers succeed Evan Turner in Columbus, but Michigan State is the team to beat in the Big Ten.

Impact Newcomer

C: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger is a consensus top-five recruit. The 6’9 post player from Columbus played his high school basketball at Northland High School and won three national AAU championships with the All-Ohio Red team. He was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball his junior and senior seasons and the Naismith National High School Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year in 2010. While some have compared him to Greg Oden, scouts say that Sullinger has a better face-up offensive game than the former Buckeye, but isn’t as intimidating on the defensive end. The hype reached epic proportions when Gary Parrish named Sullinger to his Preseason All-America team along with Harrison Barnes.

What You Need to Know

The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in college basketball, potentially the best this season. The pace is typically slower (eight of the 11 teams played at an adjusted tempo that ranked lower than 200th in the nation last season) and the play might be a little rougher (the top seven teams in the conference had a defensive efficiency that ranked 53rd or better last season), but there are a lot of teams that are a tough out come tournament time. Michigan State always seems to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament and there’s seldom a shortage of talent. Northwestern is the oddball in the conference, as the Wildcats are the only major conference team to have never been to the Big Dance.

Predicted Champion

Michigan State (NCAA Seed: #1): The Spartans took a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament last season and ran with it all the way to Final Four before falling to Butler in the National Semifinals. Most of that team returns this season. Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers will drive the backcourt, but there is also depth behind those two to help counter the conference grind. Up front, Draymond Green is an underrated force in the paint that should be able to absorb the minutes left behind from Raymar Morgan, the biggest loss from Michigan State’s Final Four team. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are two high-profile recruits that can only help bolster the Spartans’ rotation. The Spartans have the look of a team that will be in the top five all season. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Conference Primer: #2 – Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the Big East correspondent for Rush The Court.


Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Villanova (15-3)
  • T2. Pittsburgh (14-4)
  • T2. Syracuse (14-4)
  • 4. Georgetown (12-6)
  • T5. West Virginia (11-7)
  • T5. Marquette (11-7)
  • 7. Seton Hall (10-8)
  • T8. Notre Dame (9-9)
  • T8. St. John’s (9-9)
  • T10. Connecticut (8-10)
  • T10. Louisville (8-10)
  • T12. South Florida (7-11)
  • T12. Cincinnati (7-11)
  • T14. Providence (3-15)
  • T14. Rutgers (3-15)
  • T14. DePaul (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Corey Fisher, Villanova (13.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.8 rpg)
  • G: Kemba Walker, UConn (14.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 spg)
  • F: Austin Freeman, Georgetown (16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 44.4% 3pt)
  • F: Kris Joseph, Syracuse (10.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 spg)
  • F: Kevin Jones, West Virginia (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

6th Man

Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 42.9% 3pt)

Impact Newcomers

  • Fab Melo, Syracuse: Melo should have an immediate impact as the starting center for the Orange. Regarded as one of, if not the, best center in the class, Melo has more polish offensively than most bigs do as freshman, but his size in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone may be more important.
  • Vander Blue, Marquette: Blue should step in and start immediately for the Golden Eagles. He’s everything you imagine when you think of a Marquette wing player. He’s tough, athletic, and can slash to the basket. He’ll remind some of Jerel McNeal.
  • Nate Lubick, Georgetown: With the Hoyas losing Greg Monroe to the NBA, they will have a gaping hole in the middle. Lubick has the skill set to be the high post forward of the future for John Thompson III, and he could immediately slide into the starting lineup.

Jay Wright has Villanova in the driver’s seat, with Pittsburgh nipping at the Wildcats’ heels. (AP/Michael Perez)

What You Need To Know

As much as it pains me to say it, the Big East is going to be down this season, especially near the bottom of the league. The two best players in the conference are probably Austin Freeman and Corey Fisher, and while I don’t want to take anything away from those two — I love the way that both play — they are a long way from being lottery picks. Providence, Rutgers and DePaul are as bad as any three teams at the bottom of the power conferences, which is saying a lot considering what the cellar of the Pac-10 and SEC have to offer. Now think about this: If the Big East wants to get more than six teams into the Big Dance, the teams that will likely be fighting for the last couple of at-large bids this season are Seton Hall, St. John’s, Notre Dame and UConn. And that assumes that Marquette and West Virginia are dancing. Yuck.

Predicted Champion

Villanova (NCAA #2 Seed): I like Villanova a lot more than other people do. I think Corey Fisher has a chance to become a star this season as he steps out of the shadow of Scottie Reynolds. I think Maalik Wayns has a chance to come into his own as well. Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek should provide some size, athleticism, and versatility on the perimeter, while Jayvaughn Pinkston and Isaiah Armwood provide the same along the front line. The trio of Antonio Pena, Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton is one of the better front lines in the conference. More than anything, however, I think that Jay Wright has answered the biggest questions his team had last season. Without a doubt, Villanova will be better inside with Yarou healthy, Pinkston on the roster, and Armwood and Sutton a year stronger. They should also be better defensively without Reynolds and Fisher sharing the floor. This team has a great mixture of size, athleticism, youth, experience, and versatility. They remind me quite a bit of the Villanova team that made the 2009 Final Four.
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RTC Conference Primers: #3 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 4th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for The Big 12.

Predicted Order of Finish

  • T1. Kansas (12-4)
  • T1. Kansas State (12-4)
  • 2. Baylor (11-5)
  • 3. Missouri (11-5)
  • 4. Texas (10-6)
  • 5. Colorado (9-7)
  • 6. Texas Tech (8-8)
  • 7. Texas A&M (7-9)
  • 8. Oklahoma State (6-10)
  • 9. Nebraska (5-11)
  • 10. Oklahoma (3-13)
  • 11. Iowa State (2-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Jacob Pullen – Kansas State (19.3 ppg)
  • G: Alec Burks – Colorado (17.1 ppg, 5 rpg)
  • G: LaceDarius Dunn – Baylor (19.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
  • F: Marcus Morris – Kansas (12.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
  • F: Curtis Kelly – Kansas State (11.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

6th Man

Cory Higgins - Colorado (18.9 ppg)

Impact Newcomers:

Perry Jones – Baylor – It’ll be tough to replace Ekpe Udoh’s defensive tenacity, but the dropoff won’t be that steep with Jones manning the paint at 6’11 and 235 pounds. As a big man with shooting range, Jones will throw off weaker defenses and also possesses advanced ball-handling skills for someone as raw as he is. Scott Drew is making waves on recruiting trails, but now is the time for his sales acumen to translate on the court.

Josh Selby – Kansas* (if eligible) – The Jayhawks went longer than most schools of its ilk without having a player leave after just one year, but they may go two straight seasons with a post-freshman departure after Xavier Henry and Josh Selby. The #5 recruit by ESPNU in the class of 2010, Selby is a big guard who can score on his own or penetrate and dish to bigger guys like Marcus Morris down low. The coaching staff, players and fans alike have to be getting restless waiting for the NCAA to make a ruling regarding Selby’s eligibility.

The effusive Frank Martin has built the Wildcats into a top-five program with the help of AP Preseason All-American Jacob Pullen. (Bruce Thorson/US Presswire)

What You Need to Know:

  • Kansas State returns several very key pieces from an Elite Eight team a year ago. The biggest question mark is going to be how they handle replacing Denis Clemente, who forced the tempo and managed the offense from the point. A potential boost could come in the emergence of Wally Judge and several other young Wildcats who began to assert themselves late in the 2009-10 season.
  • The Missouri Tigers added one of the top recruiting classes in the country to a team that is now one of the deepest and more experienced groups in the conference.  While Tony Mitchell didn’t make it to campus due to an eligibility ruling, Ricardo Ratliffe does solidify the inside and put the Tigers and Mike Anderson in the perfect position to run the “40 Minutes of Hell” style.
  • Kansas loses three players to the NBA, but looks poised to make a run at the conference championship once again. Marcus and Markieff Morris will step into key leadership roles while the development of Tyshawn Taylor and eligibility of Josh Selby will be huge in whether Kansas can go from conference contender to being in the National Title hunt.
  • Colorado is the fourth team in the North making waves, as the balance of power has shifted in the Big 12.  Alec Burks and Cory Higgins make up one of the most dangerous duos and the Buffs could be in a position to make a run at an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2003.
  • Baylor and Texas will battle it out in the South.  The Bears return LaceDarius Dunn and several other developing players while the Longhorns will rebuild after a disappointing season a year ago.  Both schools have the pieces to challenge for the conference and a year after Baylor swept the series, the games between these two teams in Waco and then in Austin should have some added intensity.

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RTC Conference Primers: #4 – Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 3rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC Correspondent for the ACC.


Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Duke (15-1)
  • 2. Virginia Tech (12-4)
  • T3. North Carolina (10-6)
  • T3. NC State (10-6)
  • 5. Florida State (9-7)
  • 6. Maryland (9-7)
  • 7. Clemson (8-8)
  • 8. Miami (7-9)
  • 9. Boston College (5-11)
  • 10. Wake Forest (4-12)
  • 11. Georgia Tech (4-12)
  • 12. Virginia (3-13)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech (20.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.5 APG)
  • G: Nolan Smith, Duke (17.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 APG)
  • F: Kyle Singler (POY), Duke (17.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG)
  • F: Harrison Barnes, UNC (26.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.1 SPG for Ames High School)
  • C: Tracy Smith, NC State (16.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 APG)

6th Man

Chris Singleton (F), Florida State (10.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.2 APG)

Impact Newcomers

Harrison Barnes (F, UNC) and Kyrie Irving (G, Duke).

Here’s the catch.  Barnes might be the better player statistically, and he should have an unbelievable season, but if Duke’s repeat hopes rest on Irving’s shoulders, I’m not sure how he couldn’t be an impact newcomer. Both have NBA scouts fawning over them.

Kyrie Irving (left) and Harrison Barnes have sky-high potential, but how will they do in their respective coaches' systems? (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

What You Need To Know

People will probably say the ACC is having a down year again, but statistically, in the ACC’s “down season” last year, it finished as the highest ranked conference by Ken Pomeroy (just above the Big 12).  Even though the conference has won five of the last ten NCAA championships, people will argue it’s in decline after perennial contender UNC had a devastating season and Duke caught a few breaks on the road to the National Championship. That said, the ACC will not be the country’s deepest conference this season, but that doesn’t mean it will be irrelevant beyond the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.  The ACC has five recruiting classes in ESPN’s top 25, which should ease the loss of important conference players like Greivis Vasquez, Jon Scheyer, Sylven Landesberg, Trevor Booker and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Predicted Champion

Duke (NCAA #1 Seed) – Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad should not only be favored to win the conference, they should be favored to win the NCAA Tournament.  Duke returns two Preseason All-Americans in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith from last year’s championship team.  Kyrie Irving is the highest-touted Duke recruit since Jason Williams, who led the Blue Devils to the 2001 title. Irving is also considered by scouts as the best true point guard of this class.  Additionally, the Blue Devils picked up four-star power forward Joshua Hairston and Seth Curry (who averaged 20.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 2.3 APG in his freshman season at Liberty), both of whom should see lots of playing time. Duke loses three starters from last year’s team: Jon Scheyer (18.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.9 APG), Lance Thomas (4.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.9 APG), and Brian Zoubek (5.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.0 APG).  Losing three starters would normally lower expectations for a team.  But, if anything, this Duke team should be more talented than last year’s squad.  According to Evan Daniels of Scout.com: three people who have watched Duke recently “are raving about their overall talent and Kyrie Irving.”  If you’re looking for more praise (not likely), Dan Wetzel tweeted: “Keep hearing from NBA scouts who’ve seen Duke practice describe Devils as ‘scary’ ‘complete’ ‘even better.’”  He followed that up rebutting the pro-Coach K media saying “These are NBA scouts raving about Duke, not supposedly pro-Coach K media.”  And last but not least, Luke Winn ranked the Blue Devil backcourt first in the nation and the frontcourt second (after Purdue, whose loss of Robbie Hummel almost certainly drops them a couple of spots). Long story short, Duke is going to be very, very good this year, especially if Mason Plumlee has the breakout season people are expecting. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

SEC East

  • T1. Florida (11-5)
  • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
  • T1. Georgia (11-5)
  • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
  • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
  • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

SEC West

  • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
  • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
  • T3. Alabama (7-9)
  • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
  • 4. LSU (4-12)
  • 5. Auburn (3-13)

All-Conference Team

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
  • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
  • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
  • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

6th Man

Travis Leslie – Georgia

Impact Newcomers

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
  • F Patric Young – Florida
  • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
  • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

What You Need To Know

  • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
  • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.

  • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.

  • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

Predicted Champion

Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Washington (13-5)
  2. Arizona (12-6)
  3. UCLA (11-7)
  4. Washington State (10-8)
  5. Arizona State (10-8)
  6. Cal (9-9)
  7. USC (9-9)
  8. Stanford (6-12)
  9. Oregon State (6-12)
  10. Oregon (4-14)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Isaiah Thomas. Jr, Washington (16.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.2 APG)
  • G: Klay Thompson, Jr, Washington State (19.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG).
  • G: Jeremy Green, Jr, Stanford (16.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
  • F: Derrick Williams, Soph, Arizona (15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
  • F: Nikola Vucevic, Jr, USC (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

6th Man

Ty Abbott, Sr, Arizona State (12.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

Impact Newcomer

Josh Smith, Fr, UCLA: Smith is the biggest incoming recruit in the conference, in more ways than one. Ranked the 20th-best recruit in the 2010 class according to ESPNU, Smith also tipped the scales at somewhere over three bills when he stepped onto the UCLA campus this summer. Immediately, head coach Ben Howland put him in a conditioning program and Smith changed his dietary habits as well, putting him on the road towards dropping 40 pounds already. Paired with his soft hands and quick feet, the trimmed-down Smith will play a vital role in the Bruins’ attempts to bounce back from last year’s brutal campaign.

UCLA’s Ben Howland is among several Pac-10 coaches looking to make the conference an NCAA Tournament threat again after a poor showing in 2009-10.

What You Need to Know

  • Pac-10 Blues: Last year, the Pac-10 was saved from the indignity of receiving only one NCAA Tournament berth when Washington won nine of their last 11 games of the regular season, then proceeded to win the Pac-10 Tournament to clinch the automatic berth. Together with regular season champion California, the Huskies represented the Pac-10 well, advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual Final Four team West Virginia, while the Golden Bears fell in the second round to eventual champion Duke. However, the Pac-10’s limited success in the tournament did little to hide the fact that last season was a down year across the conference, and with 11 of last year’s top 20 scorers, and nine of the top 20 rebounders gone, it doesn’t seem that the talent level across the conference is ready to skyrocket.
  • Stability and Youth: But, while there aren’t loads of household names up and down the rosters in the conference, there is some stability, as only Oregon welcomes a new head coach (Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton) and teams across the conference average a total of 3.2 returning starters. And there is plenty of youth, with just 17 seniors on rosters across the conference. Schools will need to see their youngsters step up quickly for the Pac-10 to improve upon last year’s showing. There is a bright side here, though. Even with five members of last year’s all-tournament team (all except the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Isaiah Thomas) and six of the ten All-Pac-10 first team members having graduated, most teams around the conference, with the significant exception of Cal, return the majority of their production – eight of the ten conference schools return more than 50% of their scoring production, and nine of the ten return more than 50% of their rebounding production. If the kids around the conference can put some of that experience they earned last season to use, this could be a much-improved conference, as the veteran coaches around this conference have proven their ability to coach up their players. There are five coaches in the Pac-10 with more than 300 career wins, and that doesn’t even include some of the most respected young coaches in the land like Sean Miller and Lorenzo Romar. While the talent level seems to be down across the conference, expect this lineup of stellar coaches to get the most out of what they do have.
  • Last Roundup: This season marks the end of the Pac-10 conference. Next year the conference will welcome Colorado and Utah, officially becoming the Pac-12. In the process, plenty of tradition will be discarded: no more home-and-home round robin and the resultant crowning of a true regular season champion, the biggest change. There will be years where UCLA doesn’t visit McKale and Oregon won’t visit Hec Ed, for instance. But in the long run, the conference will add a Utah program that has had some significant success over the years (including a run to the national championship game in 1998) and a Colorado program that, well…hey, they made a Final Four in 1955, I’m told. In any event, come 2011-12, basketball season around the conference will have a different feel.

Predicted Champion

Washington (NCAA Seed: #5): The Huskies are pretty much the de facto favorite, given that last year’s regular season champion Cal lost about 85% of its scoring, but Lorenzo Romar’s team, despite having plenty of talent, still has some question marks. Not in question is the team leader, 5’8 junior point guard Isaiah Thomas, a dynamo who is the team’s leading returning scorer and an interesting personality. Paired in the backcourt with 6’0 senior Venoy Overton (8.5 PPG, 3.1 APG. 2.9 RPG), the duo are undersized but form an intimidating pair for opposing ballhandlers, with the quickness and aggressiveness to get up into their opponents, keeping the opposition from getting comfortable in the half-court set and forcing turnovers which the Huskies can use to jump-start their transition game. They can be overpowered by bigger guards in the half-court game, but use their quickness to good advantage defensively. On the offensive end, Thomas plays with a style that belies his stature, getting into the lane and drawing fouls or finishing in often spectacular ways. The Huskies also return sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy (3.9 PPG, 2.3 APG), the second-ranked point guard in the 2009 recruiting class, who struggled finding his rhythm in his rookie campaign. Should he get his swagger back and become a consistent offensive force for Washington, they could have one of the stronger backcourts in the nation, with junior Scott Suggs (4.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG) providing depth and a good long-range threat. However, up front the team still has something to prove, given the graduation of last year’s leading scorer Quincy Pondexter and the retirement from basketball over the summer of forward Tyrese Breshers due to medical issues. Matthew Bryan-Amaning (8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Justin Holiday (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) figure to start at the forward spots, giving the Huskies an undersized but athletic starting five. Bryan-Amaning will need to prove himself capable of taking over Pondexter’s role, but all signs show that he is ready for that challenge, as he finished his junior season strong and was one of the big reasons for Washington’s improvement down the stretch. Depth up front will come from 6’8 junior scrapper Darnell Gant (2.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG), 7’0 transfer Aziz N’Diaye and 6’6 wing Terrence Ross, one of the conference’s most heralded newcomers, and a guy who could be an offensive weapon immediately for Romar, provided he can earn the minutes. In a conference where the talent level is presently in question, there is little doubt that the Huskies have plenty of talent. But they’d like to come out of the gates more quickly than they did last season and prove that they are ready to win on the road on a consistent basis, something they struggled with in 2009-10, when they lost their first seven games away from the Hec Ed. Odds are, they’ll be improved in that area due to an extra year of experience for their hyper-talented backcourt, but they’ll have a good early season test of that theory when they travel to the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week.

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RTC Conference Primers: #7 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2010

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

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Temple (14-2)
  2. Richmond (13-3)
  3. Xavier (13-3)
  4. Dayton (11-5)
  5. Rhode Island (9-7)
  6. Charlotte (9-7)
  7. St. Louis (9-7)
  8. Duquesne (7-9)
  9. George Washington (7-9)
  10. St. Bonaventure (6-10)
  11. Massachusetts (5-11)
  12. Saint Joseph’s (4-12)
  13. La Salle (3-13)
  14. Fordham (2-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from 2009-10 in parentheses)

  • G Tu Holloway, Xavier (31.9 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 3.9APG)
  • G Kevin Anderson, Richmond (37.8 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 2.7 APG)
  • F Damian Saunders, Duquesne (36.7 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG)
  • F Chris Wright, Dayton (28.6 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG)
  • F Lavoy Allen, Temple (34.5 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG)

6th Man

Aaric Murray, La Salle (12.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.3 BPG)

Impact Newcomer

SG Daniel West, Rhode Island (transfer from Pensacola State College)

A-10 Conference All-Rookie Team

  • G Juwain Staten, Dayton
  • G/F Jay Canty, Xavier
  • F Maxie Esho, Massachusetts
  • F C.J. Aiken, Saint Joseph’s
  • F/C Rob Loe, St. Louis

What You Need to Know

The conference, identified by Kyle Whelliston of the Mid-Majority blog as neither above nor below “The Red Line,” sent half of its conference members to post season tournaments last March. Three (Richmond, Temple and Xavier – one more than the Pac-10 Conference) went to the NCAA Tournament, while two each went to the NIT (Dayton and Rhode Island) and the CBI (St. Louis and George Washington). Xavier, seeded #6 in the West Region, advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in three postseasons, losing to Kansas State in a two-overtime game, 101-96. Rhode Island was eliminated in the NIT semifinals, while Dayton beat North Carolina 79-68, to win the NIT. St. Louis lost the CBI finals series 2-0 to Virginia Commonwealth.

Reigning A-10 POY Kevin Anderson returns for Richmond, but will he get the Spiders over Temple?

The Predicted Champion

Temple (NCAA Seed: #4). Coach Fran Dunphy brings back 66% of the Owls’ 2009-10 minutes and 70.3% of the scoring of the team that tied Xavier for the regular season title and won the A-10 Conference Tournament outright. The 2009-10 season ended on a down note, but the casual fan could not tell from the raft of 2010-11 season previews that place the Owls in the Top 25 – 30, usually at the head of the A-10 contingent.

Dunphy returns three starters and a solid rotation. Juan Fernandez (31.6 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 3.6 apg), a 6’4 180 pound point guard, who started his freshman season late but made huge strides last season, earned an All A-10 Honorable Mention and Conference Tournament MVP award last March. He dished a team-high 122 assists and yielded a 24.4% assist rate, ranking #254 in Ken Pomeroy’s Top 500 assist leaders. Junior Ramone Moore (18.0 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 1.5 apg), sophomore T.J. DiLeo (6.4 mpg, 1.1 ppg), freshman Aaron Brown, a 6’4, 185 pound gunner out of St. Benedict’s in New Jersey, along with sophomore Rahlir Jefferson (16.6 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and junior Scootie Randall (7.0 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg) will compete for starts at #2 and #3 spots vacated by glue guy Ryan Brooks and 2009-10 starter Luis Guzman.

Returning starter senior power forward Lavoy Allen (34.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and 6’11, 225 pound junior center Michael Eric (15.7 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg), will anchor the frontcourt. Eric is a raw talent who will need to cut down on his fouls if he wants to log significant minutes this season. Allen was voted to the 2009-10 All A-10 First Team and subsequently invited to play on Team USA’s Select squad last summer that prepped the USA Men’s Team. Graduate transfer (Monmouth University) Dutch Gaitley, Craig William sand freshman Anthony Lee round out the front court rotation, though Williams is rehabbing from a right foot injury.

The conference schedule maker was kind to Dunphy, matching the Owls with three mirror opponents (Fordham, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s) who sported a collective conference record of 9-39 last season, the poorest for any set of mirror opponents. All three recruited good talent over the spring and summer months, but if the Owls focus, they shouldn’t have much trouble in disposing of those three teams. The Owls may have road rendezvous with Dayton and Xavier (Saturday 2/12 and Saturday 1/22 – mark the dates), but will host their biggest rival, Richmond (Thursday 2/17). Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Mountain West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. San Diego State (13-3)
  2. BYU (12-4)
  3. New Mexico (11-5)
  4. UNLV (11-5)
  5. Colorado State (9-7)
  6. Wyoming (6-10)
  7. Utah (6-10)
  8. TCU (3-13)
  9. Air Force (1-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Jimmer Fredette, Sr, BYU (22.1 PPG, 4.7 APG)
  • G: Dairese Gary, Sr, New Mexico (13.1 PPG, 3.9 APG)
  • G: Tre’Von Willis, Sr, UNLV (17.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
  • F: Afam Muojeke, Jr, Wyoming (16.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, Soph, San Diego State (12.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG)

6th Man

Billy White, Sr, San Diego State (11.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG)

If you aren't already, get used to seeing and hearing about Jimmer Fredette.

Impact Newcomer

Drew Gordon, Jr, New Mexico – Gordon left UCLA midway through the Bruins awful season last year after never meshing with Ben Howland and his system, and as a result, he won’t be eligible for Steve Alford until after the first semester. But Gordon showed enough talent in his years in Westwood that he will be a welcome addition for what was an undersized Lobo team last season. However, Gordon did tear the meniscus in his right knee in mid-October and, although he is not expected to miss any game action, he may miss out on valuable practice time leading up to his expected December 17 debut.

What You Need to Know

  • Best In The West? Given the Mountain West’s history as a contender for the title of the top non-BCS conference in the nation, and given that the Pac-10 is at its lowest point in memory, it’s quite possible that, at least for 2010-11, the MWC may be the best conference in the West. Last season, four MWC teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and in just over a decade of existence, only once has the MWC failed to place more than one team to the Big Dance (2000-01). However, major changes are afoot in the conference, as Utah and BYU, both consistently strong basketball forces, will be leaving for the Pac-10 and WCC, respectively. Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada will join the conference, but while those teams are capable of putting together strong seasons (Nevada, in particular, has  recent success on the court), they’ll be hard-pressed to replace the production of the two Utah schools.
  • Familiar Faces: When you look around the conference this season, there will be a lot of veterans up and down the rosters, as 70% of the players that averaged more than five points per game last season return. Only Utah, of the nine conference teams, will look drastically different, as they lost two starters to graduation, a third starter to transfer, and five additional bench players to transfers as well. Bolstering the general experience around the league is a flood of incoming transfers: Drew Gordon and Emmanuel Negedu at New Mexico, Quintrell Thomas at UNLV, Hank Thorns at TCU, Wes Eikemeier at Colorado State and James Rahon at San Diego State. Not only will there be a lot of recognizable players on the court, there continues to be a lot of stability on the sidelines, as for the second consecutive year, every head coach in the MWC returns.
  • Non-conference Boost: Last season seemed to mark the first year of a new era in non-conference scheduling in the MWC. After earning a reputation as a conference whose teams would play consistently tough games, they slipped out of the top 20 in non-conference strength of schedule for a stretch from the 2006-07 season through the 2008-09 season. However, last year, the MWC addressed this in several ways. First and foremost, their teams were able to go out and get games against Pac-10 and Big 12 competition, but they were also able to get their teams in some good early-season tournaments, and they began the MWC/MVC Challenge, guaranteeing every team in the conference a matchup with a team from the Missouri Valley. That MWC/MVC Challenge will continue (the two conferences signed a four-year agreement), as will the involvement of conference teams in early-season tournaments (for instance, New Mexico plays in the Las Vegas Classic, UNLV in the 76 Classic, Colorado State in the Cancun Governor’s Cup, BYU in the South Padre Island Classic, Utah in the Diamondhead Classic, Wyoming in the Cancun Classic and San Diego State in the CBE Classic – and yes, the people that run these tournaments need to consult a thesaurus for an alternative to “Classic”). Additionally, the tougher non-conference scheduling continues, with conference schools making trips to places like Spokane, Berkeley, Logan, Ann Arbor, El Paso, Dayton, Tulsa, Louisville and Kansas City over the course of the non-conference slate.

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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2010

Steve Coulter of the DU Clarion is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (15-1)
  2. UTEP (14-2)
  3. UAB (12-4)
  4. Marshall (10-6)
  5. Southern Mississippi (9-7)
  6. Houston (8-8)
  7. Tulsa (8-8)
  8. East Carolina (6-10)
  9. Southern Methodist (6-10)
  10. Central Florida (5-11)
  11. Tulane (2-14)
  12. Rice (1-15)

All-Conference First Team

  • G: Justin Hurtt, Tulsa, Sr.
  • G: Randy Culpepper, UTEP, Sr. (Preseason Player of the Year)
  • F: Wesley Witherspoon, Memphis, Jr.
  • F:  Gary Flowers, Southern Mississippi
  • F/C: Will Coleman, Memphis, Sr.

All-Conference Second Team

  • G: Brock Young, East Carolina, Sr.
  • G: Joe Jackson, Memphis, Fr.
  • G/F: Will Barton, Memphis, Fr.
  • F: Jeremy Williams, UTEP, Jr.
  • F/C: Papa Dia, SMU, Sr.

Memphis has a talented stable of young talent, including the recently-cleared Will Barton. (bouncemag.com)

Impact Newcomers

Several freshman and transfer players will suit up for C-USA squads this season, but three that have grabbed everyone’s attention before the season has gone under way.

  • Charles Carmouche, SG, Memphis: The junior transfer from New Orleans is a sharpshooter who can be the difference-maker late in the season. He is eligible to play right way, as the Privateers dismantled their program and moved to Division III status.
  • Scottie Haralson, G, Tulsa: The UConn transfer could get a lot of playing time and be one of those studs that people talk about at the end of the season. Of course, it really depends whether he is cleared to play.
  • Joseph Young, G, Houston: The freshman was a Parade All-America Third-Team selection from Yates High School. He is a talented young guard in a class with athletic forwards that makes Houston a contender in the conference once again. The infusion of a guy like Young into the lineup could spark a team looking for a playmaker. Young was the Texas Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year last season.

What You Need to Know

  • There are six first-year coaches in the league this season; Tim Floyd getting hired at UTEP was probably the biggest offseason coaching move.
  • The Conference USA Men’s Basketball Championships will be held in El Paso, giving UTEP a slight home court advantage against their conference opponents. The first game tips off on Wednesday, March 9. The tournament ends on Saturday, March 12 and the final will be broadcasted on CBS.
  • UAB’s Aaron Johnson enters the season in need of 173 assists to become the school’s all-time leader. 597 assists is currently the record and the senior point guard leads a well-balanced UAB squad that could emerge as an at-large dark horse. The 5’8 point guard finished his junior year averaging 9.6 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, and 2.5 rebounds per game.

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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

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

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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RTC Conference Primers: #11 – Colonial

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2010

Alex Varone is the RTC Correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association and the MAC.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Old Dominion (15-3)
  2. VCU (14-4)
  3. George Mason (13-5)
  4. Hofstra (11-7)
  5. James Madison (10-8)
  6. William & Mary (9-9)
  7. Northeastern (8-10)
  8. Delaware (8-10)
  9. Towson (8-10)
  10. Drexel (6-12)
  11. UNC Wilmington (3-15)
  12. Georgia State (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • Charles Jenkins (G) – Hofstra (20.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • Chaisson Allen (G) – Northeastern (13.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.6 APG)
  • Joey Rodriguez (G) – VCU (12.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 1.9 SPG)
  • Frank Hassell (F) – Old Dominion (9.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG)
  • Denzel Bowles (F) – James Madison (20.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG)

Sixth Man

Cam Long (G) – George Mason (12.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG)

Impact Newcomer

Mike Moore – Hofstra

While Blaine Taylor and ODU are the early favorites in the CAA, they can also do damage against quality non-conference opponents.

What You Need to Know

  • A league record six CAA teams made the postseason last year. For the conference to match that number this season, squads such as Northeastern and William & Mary will need to retool on the fly after suffering heavy losses, and up-and-comers such as James Madison and Delaware will need to take a big step forward in 2011.
  • The aforementioned James Madison Dukes and Delaware Blue Hens both lost at least 20 games in 2009-10 and combined to win just seven conference games, but hopes are high for both programs. James Madison has the most explosive offensive duo in the CAA with Texas A&M transfer Denzel Bowles and Julius Wells, both of whom averaged over 15 PPG last year. Delaware returns its top seven scorers, including an explosive duo in its own right with seniors Jawan Carter and Alphonso Dawson.
  • The predicted struggles of UNC Wilmington and Georgia State could end up costing the Colonial Athletic Association an NCAA Tournament berth in March. Both teams had a final RPI in the mid-200s last season and neither team should be much improved this season. The Colonial desperately needs its bottom-level teams to avoid dragging down the conference’s overall RPI in order to successfully secure two NCAA Tournament bids.

Predicted Champion

Old Dominion (NCAA Seed #9) – The CAA’s defending champions have the potential to be even better this season with four starters returning, including senior forward Frank Hassell and breakout candidate Kent Bazemore. Even with the loss of leading scorer Gerald Lee, Old Dominion is still a physical team that wins with defense under coach Blaine Taylor, who has led the Monarchs to seven straight winning seasons and six straight postseason appearances. This year should be no different. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Conference Primers: #12 – West Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2010

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Gonzaga (11-3)
  • 1. Saint Mary’s (11-3)
  • 3. Loyola Marymount (9-5)
  • 4. Portland (8-6)
  • 5. Santa Clara (7-7)
  • 6. San Francisco (6-8)
  • 7. San Diego (2-12)
  • 7. Pepperdine (2-12)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Mickey McConnell, Saint Mary’s
  • G: Steven Gray, Gonzaga
  • F: Elias Harris, Gonzaga
  • F: Drew Viney, Loyola
  • C: Luke Sikma, Portland

6th Man

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

Impact Newcomers

  • G: Steven Holt, Saint Mary’s (12.7 ppg, 6.0 apg in senior year at Jesuit High School, Portland)
  • G: Ben Vozzola, San Diego (21 ppg, 6.0 apg in senior year at Centennial High School, Las Vegas)
  • F: Charles Standifer, San Francisco (24.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg in senior year at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento)
  • F: Yannick Atanga, Santa Clara (15.2 ppg, 14.8 rpg in senior year at Besant Hill, Ojai, CA)
  • C: Kenton Walker, Saint Mary’s (5.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg as sophomore at Creighton University in 08-09)

Just imagine the smile on Mark Few's face if he knocks off some of Gonzaga's top-flight nonconference opponents. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

What You Need to Know

The WCC sent 10-time regular-season champion Gonzaga and conference tournament champion Saint Mary’s to the NCAA Tournament last year, with the Gaels advancing to the Sweet Sixteen after victories over Richmond and Villanova and the Zags winning their first-round game against Florida State. Loyola Marymount and Portland also played in the CollegeInsider.com Post-Season Tournament (CIT), with the Lions losing to Pacific in the first round and Portland losing to Northern Colorado, also in the first round. The conference is hopeful to return to its high-water mark of 2007 when Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego made the NCAA Tourney. LMU is bidding for the third NCAA invite in 2010-11, counting on a strong performance from its veteran core (four of five starters return) that produced an 18-16 record last year. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga will be favored to fight for the automatic NCAA bid or an at-large berth.

Predicted Champion

  • Saint Mary’s (NCAA: #10) and Gonzaga (NCAA: #6) will tie atop the WCC regular-season standings at 11-3 each, with Saint Mary’s receiving the automatic bid with a victory over Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Championship. The Gaels will match their #10-seed of last year, while the Zags, on the strength of a monster out-of-conference schedule, (San Diego State, Kansas State, Duke/Marquette, Illinois, Xavier, Wake Forest and Memphis) receive a #6-seed.
  • The situation regarding Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga was best exemplified by SI.com’s preseason pick of the Gaels as the 15th-best college backcourt and the Zags as the 13th-best frontcourt. Will the Gaels’ wily veteran Mickey McConnell, he of the gaudy 51% three-point average, and Energizer Bunny Matthew Dellavedova, with his ill-fitting jersey and oversized mouthpiece, edge out the Zags’ fearsome frontcourt of 7’0 center Robert Sacre, 6’7 forward Elias Harris and either 7’0 Kelly Olynyk or 6’6 swingman Manny Arop? This face-off will headline the WCC race and might not be decided until the Feb. 24 showdown between the two in Moraga.
  • In the postseason, Saint Mary’s will be hopeful of crossing the Sweet Sixteen divide in 2011, erasing the memory of its collapse against Baylor (72-49) in the 2010 tournament. Gonzaga, which lost in the first round in ’07 and ’08, the Sweet Sixteen in ’09 and the second round in ’10, looks to revive the glory days of deep tournament runs.

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