2019-20 RTC16: Week Nine

Posted by Walker Carey on January 13th, 2020

Much of the narrative surrounding college basketball this season has been how any team can win on any night and how this uncertainty has allowed several non-traditional powers to become among the best in the country. #2 Baylor definitely fits the non-traditional mold, as the Bears are continuing to establish themselves as one of the nation’s top teams this season. The latest step happened Saturday afternoon when Scott Drew‘s squad went into Allen Fieldhouse and thoroughly dominated #7 Kansas throughout a 67-55 win. The Bears used incredible performances from guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague to control the game and throw the Jayhawks completely off. The victory was Baylor’s first ever win in Lawrence, as the program had previously been 0-16 at Allen Fieldhouse. The Bears have now won 12 straight since a November 9 loss to Washington and, even before Saturday’s win, they had built quite an NCAA Tournament résumé with wins over #5 Butler, #14 Villanova, Arizona and Texas Tech. There is still a long way to go in Big 12 play, but Baylor’s 4-0 start in the league has already put itself in a solid position to earn the program’s first ever Big 12 regular season title. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Eight

Posted by Walker Carey on January 6th, 2020

The beginning of conference play is always good for temporarily removing the shine from a team or two that had been a non-conference darling. This season that phenomenon applies to #11 Louisville and #13 Ohio State. Louisville started its season 9-0, but has since lost three of its last five games, with the most concerning coming Saturday in a 13-point home loss to #10 Florida State. Guard play continues to be a significant issue for the Cardinals, as Fresh Kimble, Darius Perry and Ryan McMahon combined for just 14 points on 6-of-27 shooting in the loss. Ohio State was another early season standout, as the Buckeyes stood at 11-1 on Christmas Day and looked to be the class of a strong Big Ten. They have since lost two straight, including a puzzling 61-57 home loss to Wisconsin last Friday. While sloppy play was a major reason for the defeat (Ohio State committed 14 turnovers to just eight assists), it must be noted that the Buckeyes are currently without junior starting forward Kyle Young, who had an appendectomy early last week and is game-to-game moving forward. It is certainly too early in league play to speculate whether Louisville and Ohio State will regain their early season form, but it would be wise for both teams to get back on track before their NCAA Tournament résumés begin to take significant hits. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Seven

Posted by Walker Carey on December 30th, 2019

The final full week of 2019 did not really get going on the hardwood until Saturday when one of the most bitter rivalries in college basketball resumed with #4 Louisville visiting #16 Kentucky. The game did not disappoint, as the Cardinals fought back from an eight-point halftime deficit to force overtime before the home Wildcats grabbed control in the final minute of the extra period to earn a hotly contested 78-70 victory. It was a much-needed win for Kentucky, as it entered riding a two-game losing streak and had not earned an impressive victory since its season opening dispatch of Michigan State. The Wildcats were led by incredible efforts from freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, who tallied a game-high 27 points, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley, who added a career-high 18 points, and junior forward Nick Richards, who controlled the game inside with 13 points and 10 rebounds. John Calipari‘s squad also did an excellent job frustrating star Louisville forward Jordan Nwora all afternoon, as the standout junior was mostly a non-factor, finishing with just eight points and four rebounds. Kentucky is still far from a finished product, but if it can string together several more impressive efforts, the Wildcats will once again be a factor in both the SEC race and on the national landscape. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Six

Posted by Walker Carey on December 23rd, 2019

Another week of the season has been completed and another #1 team fell victim to an upset. Like Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and Louisville before it, #4 Kansas had a rather short stay in the top spot of the RTC16. The Jayhawks saw their nine-game winning streak end on Saturday with a one-point loss at #12 Villanova. Following the defeat, Kansas coach Bill Self hypothesized that the parity we are seeing this season is because he believes there are not as many good players as there used to be in the sport. He referenced his own team as an example, noting that star forward Dedric Lawson left Kansas after last season with eligibility remaining. Self’s argument has merit, as the 2019 NBA Draft had 175 early entries while the 2018 NBA Draft had 181, but it does seem premature to conclude that this season will not see a dominant team emerge once conference play fully begins. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Five

Posted by Walker Carey on December 16th, 2019

The past week of the college basketball season was marked by unbeaten teams falling victim to unranked opponents away from home. It began Tuesday night when #4 Louisville fell to Texas Tech in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, while #7 Maryland was unable to overcome a slow start in a loss at Penn State. Both defeats showed that each team is a bit more susceptible offensively than previously thought, as Louisville only shot 34 percent from the field while committing 19 turnovers and Maryland shot just 33 percent while committing 20 miscues. Both the Cardinals and Terrapins also failed to get strong performances from their stars, as Louisville forward Jordan Nwora was held to just 4-of-16 shooting and Maryland forward Jalen Smith logged only five field goal attempts. #3 Ohio State joined the fray late Sunday afternoon when it trailed throughout the game in an 84-71 loss at Minnesota. Much like Louisville and Maryland, the Buckeyes were done in by poor shooting (38.3% FG), turnovers (14), and a poor performance from a key contributor (forward Kaleb Wesson was just 4-of-13 from the field while committing six turnovers). Louisville, Maryland and Ohio State are all primed for successful seasons, but they must view setbacks like those from the past week as something to learn from and correct. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Four

Posted by Walker Carey on December 10th, 2019

Around this time in the calendar every season, a team grabs national attention for, not just piling up wins, but piling up those wins in a demonstrative manner. That team in this season is #2 Ohio State. The Buckeyes are now 9-0 after a 25-point win at North Carolina and a 32-point win over Penn State in its Big Ten opener. Since an eight-point win over Cincinnati in the first game of the year, Ohio State has won every one of its contests by at least 19 points. The most remarkable aspect of Chris Holtmann‘s group is how balanced it is, with six different players averaging at least eight points per game — led by junior big man Kaleb Wesson at 14.1 PPG and sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. at 11.4 PPG. The Buckeyes got off to a 12-1 start last season before fading down the stretch and needing a win in the Big Ten Tournament to comfortably earn an NCAA Tournament bid, so their hot start this season is not unprecedented. Having said that, there has been nothing about this season’s Ohio State team that suggests that another swoon in conference play is coming. The Buckeyes have established themselves as a terrific team that should be one everyone’s radars as a legitimate national title contender. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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The 2019-20 RTC16: Week Three

Posted by Walker Carey on December 3rd, 2019

It seems like every Feast Week there is a team or two that establishes itself as a legitimate national contender — that was no different this year as #2 Michigan and #5 Maryland both made it known that they will be forces to be reckoned with for the rest of the season. The previously unranked Wolverines put together the most impressive performance of Feast Week with a championship run at Battle 4 Atlantis, as Juwan Howard‘s squad magnificently ripped through Iowa State, #8 North Carolina, and #7 Gonzaga en route to the tournament title. It was fair to have concerns about Michigan this preseason, as legendary former coach John Beilein departed for the NBA and was replaced by Howard, who had no previous experience coaching college basketball. The Wolverines’ returning core has done a commendable job in fully easing those concerns, as senior point guard Zavier Simpson looks to be one of the best ball distributors in the country and former role players Eli Brooks, Isaiah Livers and Jon Teske have emerged as key pieces in an offensive attack that ranks third in the country. The Terrapins were also victorious in a Feast Week tournament, knocking off Temple, Harvard and Marquette en route to the Orlando Invitational title. The championship game was especially noteworthy, as Maryland’s defensive effort limited Marquette scoring machine Markus Howard to just six points in an 84-63 victory. The backcourt had led the way to its 8-0 start with Anthony Cowan Jr., Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins all averaging over 10 points per game. The Terrapins have had early season hype before in the Mark Turgeon era, and while that failed to materialize for a variety of reasons, this Maryland team — with its strong backcourt and solid interior play — appears like it should be able to buck that trend. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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The 2019-20 RTC16: Week Two

Posted by Walker Carey on November 25th, 2019

It is not uncommon for teams breaking in new pieces to experience some peaks and valleys early in the season, but that does not appear to be the case thus far for #2 Duke and #6 Virginia. The mostly new-look Blue Devils rode a star in the making turn from freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. to throttle California and survive an inspired effort from Georgetown at the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden this weekend. Carey was far and away Duke’s best player, contributing averages of 25.5 points and 11.0 rebounds to the winning efforts. With most of the scoring production from last season’s national championship squad now gone, Virginia has relied on its famous defensive intensity in its 6-0 start. The Cavaliers suffocated Massachusetts on Saturday en route to a 58-46 win, and then brought that vigor up another another level Sunday when they held Arizona State to just seven points over the final 11:33 in a plodding 48-45 victory. While Virginia’s offense still needs some work, it did receive a noteworthy contribution from freshman guard Casey Morsell, who tallied 19 points against the Sun Devils. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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The 2019-20 RTC16: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 18th, 2019

It is unusual to see a college basketball team begin its season experiencing the highest of highs and shortly following that up with a truly head-scratching defeat. But that was certainly the case with how #10 Kentucky began its year. The Wildcats earned a very impressive victory at the season-opening Champions Classic by riding a game-high 26 points from star freshman Tyrese Maxey to knock off #2 Michigan State, 69-62. Kentucky then followed up that victory with a 42-point mauling of Eastern Kentucky. After those two wins, everything seemed to be right on schedule for John Calipari‘s squad, but that came to a screeching halt last Tuesday when the Wildcats were upset by 25-point underdog Evansville in a 67-64 loss in Lexington. It is still just November and, per usual, Kentucky is still breaking in some new parts, but losing to a team that was picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference only a week after beating a team of Michigan State’s caliber shows the Wildcats will go through some growing pains this season. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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The 2019-20 RTC16: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 4th, 2019

And so it begins — that wonderful time of year when we once again find our favorite teams playing college basketball. It is a glorious time, indeed. With a sizable slate of games set to commence on Tuesday evening, we are ready to officially unveil our 2019-20 preseason RTC Top 16. This initial poll will hold for the next two weeks, but you can expect our weekly RTC16 to release on every subsequent Monday morning starting November 18. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives more deeply into trends that the poll reveals. To see how we did last year, check out our 2018-19 preseason poll – sure, we nailed a few (Virginia; Duke; Gonzaga; North Carolina), and missed on some others (Kansas at #1; Syracuse; Texas Tech not even receiving a vote), but we promise to do better this time around. Here is our preseason poll. Enjoy opening week!

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

  • Michigan State checks in as the preseason #1 team. Fresh off its first Final Four appearance since 2015, Tom Izzo’s squad begins the 2019-20 season in the #1 spot of the RTC16. Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston is back at point guard — and having a dynamic veteran talent like him as your floor general is a luxury few teams will ever experience. Junior forward Xavier Tillman also returns and appears primed to improve on a sophomore campaign where he averaged 10 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 60.5 percent from the field. Sophomores Gabe Brown and Aaron Henry showed flashes as freshmen and figure to be important pieces in their second seasons in East Lansing. In addition to the returning production, the Spartans enroll guard Rocket Watts and forward Malik Hall, both of whom enter college as elite prospects with decorated prep résumés. The only noticeable concerns for Michigan State are the departures of key role players Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins, and senior guard Joshua Langford‘s injury status. Langford, who was limited to just 13 games last season with a foot injury, suffered a setback in his recovery and will remain sidelined until at least January this season. Even with Langford’s uncertain availability, the Spartans are strong contenders to both bring home another Big Ten title and cut down the nets in Atlanta in April.
  • Defending national champion Virginia begins the season at #9. The Cavaliers are going to look significantly different than the group that fatefully responded to the UMBC debacle in the 2018 NCAA Tournament by capturing the National Championship this past April. Gone is the star-studded trio of Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter — replacing those three would be a daunting task for any team, but Virginia has maintained enough program stability over the last several seasons to make Tony Bennett‘s task much more manageable. Sophomore Kihei Clark, junior Jay Huff, and seniors Braxton Key and Mamadi Diakite each served as role players of varying degrees last season and they will all see their responsibilities increase this season. Freshman guard Casey Morsell is the new name in Charlottesville to learn. He joins Virginia — and is expected to start at shooting guard — after a highly successful prep career that culminated in the 2019 Gatorade Player of the Year award for Washington, DC. It would not be surprising to see the Cavaliers undergo some growing pains at the beginning of this season, but considering Bennett’s recent track record of developing ACC contenders, it would also not be surprising if this new-look group of Cavaliers becomes an important factor in the league race.
  • All eyes will be on #14 Memphis. When Penny Hardaway took over at Memphis prior to the 2018-19 season, it was only a matter of time before the native son used his AAU ties in both the city and beyond to stock the Tigers’ roster with elite talent. Entering just his second season on the sideline, Hardaway has enrolled the top-ranked recruiting class in the country and has brought a national interest back to the program that has been missing since John Calipari was running the program more than a decade ago. The crown jewel of that class is consensus #1 recruit, James Wiseman. The athletic seven-footer spurned Kentucky to stay home and play for his hometown Tigers. Fellow freshmen Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis, D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Malcolm Dandridge and Damion Baugh were all at least four-star recruits and also project to make an early impact for what will be a young Memphis squad. Success is never a sure thing for a team that will rely so heavily on freshmen, but the talent alone will make Memphis a team to track for the entire season.

Poll Defenses.

  • Louisville returns preseason ACC Player of the Year Jordan Nwora, a wing in Dwayne Sutton who averaged 10 points per game and just under seven rebounds per game. Throw in seniors Ryan McMahon, Steven Enoch and Saint Joseph’s transfer Lamarr Kimble, and I believe Louisville enters the season with few question marks. Unlike Louisville, I have too many question marks for many of the other highly regarded teams in the preseason. Florida adds Blackshear, but losses three of its four leading scorers. I have question marks with Kansas and Azubuike. North Carolina and Duke each have tons of talent, but have to replace way too much from last year’s squads for me to give them the second spot. At the end of the day, I gave Louisville the #2 preseason ranking based off of what is coming back and a bump up in year two of Chris Mack.” – RTC pollster Matt Eisenberg on his decision to rank Louisville #2, the highest of any of the pollsters.
  • “It feels like Maryland has real potential to make a leap from a first weekend, 23-win team into a legitimate Final Four contender. The improvement en masse starts individually with senior point guard Anthony Cowan, who has been on the precipice of stardom for what feels like the better part of a year and a half. If he puts it all together in his final collegiate campaign, presumptive lottery pick Jalen Smith gives the Terps a viable second star. Sophomore Aaron Wiggins has all the makings of a player who takes a significant step forward in year two, after showing signs in spurts as a freshman — combine that with a dynamic and versatile incoming crop of talent, and Mark Turgeon has a roster with the balance and upside that is capable of making a run to Atlanta.” – RTC pollster Matt Auerbach on going out on a limb and tabbing Maryland as his preseason #3.

    Game of the Week. #1 Michigan State vs. #2 Kentucky. The top two top teams in the preseason RTC16 will meet Tuesday night at the Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden. This will be a heavyweight battle between two Hall of Fame coaches with loaded rosters that could reasonably see each other again in Atlanta next April. The individual match-up to keep an eye on here will be Spartans point guard Cassius Winston going up against Wildcats point guard Ashton Hagans. Winston is as steady as they come and his calm demeanor coupled with his elite playmaking skills is a major key to Michigan State’s success. Hagans is a hounding defender who made a name for himself as a freshman with his ability to make opposing point guards uncomfortable. Which point guard is able to get the best of the other should play a major role in determining who departs New York with a benchmark early-season victory.

    Keep Tabs On. #3 Kansas vs. #6 Duke; #7 North Carolina vs. Notre Dame; #13 Ohio State vs. Cincinnati; #9 Virginia vs. Syracuse; #5 Florida vs. Florida State; #14 Memphis vs. #16 Oregon; #11 Villanova vs. #13 Ohio State; #1 Michigan State vs. #15 Seton Hall.

    Conference Call. ACC (4), Big Ten (3), SEC (2), Big 12 (2), Big East (2), WCC (1), AAC (1), Pac-12 (1).
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