BGTD: Saturday Night Tourney Sessions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.  If you are interested in the action earlier today check out our afternoon post.

  • 5 for 5. The UConn Huskies capped off a historic run winning their fifth game in five nights with the last four coming against ranked teams in scintillating fashion knocking off a game Louisville team. Led by another solid performance by Kemba Walker who was nothing short of sensational the past week in Madison Square Garden the Huskies likely played themselves into a #3 seed and a favorable regional placement. While Jim Calhoun may be dealing with some significant professional struggles he has a team that is capable of making a run deep into the NCAA Tournament behind a solid, but inexperienced group of role players and a superstar in Walker. On the other side the Cardinals are probably looking at a #3 or #4 seed as well and Rick Pitino should be looking forward to making a push towards Houston.
  • The Aztecs stand up to Jimmer. The closing moments of the Mountain West Conference final will be remembered for Kawhi Leonard jawing at Jimmer Fredette, but in reality the Aztecs had been making a statement to the Cougars for the previous 40 minutes. In avenging their two losses to BYU (the only two blemishes on their resume this season) San Diego State showed signs of a being a team that could make a run to the Final Four. While Fredette still got his 30, the Aztecs dominated the Brandon Davies-less Cougars on the inside outscoring them 38-14 thanks to big games out of Billy White and Leonard. The Aztecs and Cougars are likely headed toward the 2 and 3 lines respectively, but the two teams appear to be headed in opposite directions as the Aztecs have few glaring holes and Cougars still have a big one in the middle.

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BGTD: Saturday Afternoon Tourney Sessions

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.  Twelve automatic bids will be decided on this day, let’s take a look at some of the top storylines so far.

  • Well, Hello, Memphis.  Nice to See You Again.  It’s seemingly been nothing but bad news out of the Memphis Tiger program this year.  From suspensions to players leaving to selfishness to really bad losses, pretty much everyone wrote Josh Pastner’s team off as a non-factor midway through the season.  Coming into the Conference USA Tournament, Memphis was considered one of several teams with a shot to win a balanced tourney, but with UTEP playing at home, the Miners were considered a slight favorite.  When the two teams matched up in today’s title game, you’ll forgive everyone for thinking the 74-47 beatdown the Tigers suffered two weeks ago might be indicative of what would happen today.  Instead, Memphis roared back from a 12-point deficit with six minutes remaining to nip UTEP by a single point and vault Pastner into his first NCAA Tournament as the head coach of the program.  This freshman-laden team has been unpredictable all year, but what #4 seed wants to see Memphis with its several Burger Boys opposite their draw as a #13 — are you serious?
  • The Re-Introduction of Harrison Barnes.  It’s taken most of the season, but the Harrison Barnes that UNC thought it was getting when it signed the top prep player in America last year has finally arrived.  In his last five games, he’s gone for a minimum of 18 points and has started to look the part as an elite scorer comfortable with the ball in his hands.  It culminated today in a 40-point explosion that tied the all-time freshman scoring record in the ACC (held by Tyler Hansbrough) and represents the largest scoring performance in sixteen years of the ACC Tourney.  He’s now hit ten threes in his last two games, not bad for a player who only hit 45 all season, but the more important thing for Roy Williams is that he’s playing and shooting the ball with confidence.  As long as the talented wing keeps playing like he has been recently, UNC can go as far as anybody in the field (although we wouldn’t recommend constantly trying to play catch-up, as the Heels have led for only 36 seconds during 80 regulation minutes).
  • Douglas Davis a New Ivy Legend.  In one of the best-played games of the entire Championship Week (it should have been on broadcast television rather than online), Princeton’s Douglas Davis had the moment of his young life when he dribbled right, pump-faked, and hit a fading-left step-through jumper to send Princeton back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.  Put the slightly-built junior guard from Philadelphia in the annals of Tiger history along with Gabe Lewellus and Bill Bradley as bonafide postseason heroes, and chalk Harvard and Tommy Amaker up as the hard-luck school who can finish first in everything except Ivy League basketball (no NCAA appearances as a member of the league).  Expect to see this moment many times over the next five days, as America has once again found its new favorite Cinderella to root for next week.
  • Nolan Smith’s Toe.  Whatever concerns there were over Nolan Smith’s injured toe from yesterday’s ACC quarterfinals, those fears were quickly erased today as Smith went for 27/6 assts in 39 minutes of action where he looked pretty much as good as new.  This is obviously a huge relief for Duke fans everywhere, because even with the deep backcourt Coach K has at his disposal, not even the top Devil can overcome losing two All-American caliber point guards in the same season.  The win over Virginia Tech sets up a blockbuster rubber match between Duke and North Carolina on Sunday, with the winner very likely making a claim on a #1 seed in the Southeast Region (and playing in Charlotte/DC the first two rounds).
  • More Auto-Bids. Other than Princeton, there were a few other automatic bids handed out this afternoon.  In the America East, Boston U. came back from a fifteen-point second half deficit on the back of its star, John Holland, who torched Stony Brook with a 14-0 streak by himself.  In the MEAC, Hampton ended the Morgan State stranglehold on that league (2009 and 2010 champs) in a game where losing coach Todd Bozeman accused a referee of “bias” against his team afterward.  Way to go, coach.  In the Southland, UT-San Antonio outlasted McNeese State with a young team that will head back to the NCAAs for the first time in seven seasons.  Welcome back, everyone.
  • Bubbling Up.  Penn State is clearly off the bubble and into the Dance after today’s impressive win over Michigan State… Similarly, Richmond is likely safe after moving on to the A-10 championship game with an upset win over Temple…
  • Bubbling Down.  Alabama could have used a better performance against Kentucky today to again prove its worth to the Committee, but that didn’t happen… UTEP probably needed to win on its home court with a double-figure lead late in the game to secure its bid…  Harvard is likely waiting another year, even though many people think they should at least be considered…  Michigan State is probably ok after two wins this weekend, but today’s loss ensures they’ll cause a lot of problems for some high seed next weekend.
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BGTD: Friday Night Tourney Sessions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day. For a recap of the action earlier today, check out our afternoon BGTD post.

  • Jimmer goes off. For most of the past week we have focused on who BYU doesn’t have (Brandon Davies) while seemingly ignoring the who they do have (Jimmer Fredette) and Jimmer reminded us how good he can be thanks to a ridiculous 52-point performance to knock off New Mexico, a team that had beaten the Cougars the two previous times they played this season. We aren’t saying that the Cougars are still a contender without Davies because we think they lack the depth to make it past the second weekend without him, but with Fredette and a decent supporting cast we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Cougars in the Sweet 16. As for Fredette, this should basically be the stamp on his national player of the year campaign. There are plenty of excellent players this year (more on a few in a bit), but nobody has been as dominant throughout the entire seen as Fredette.
  • OT at MSG. The Big East seminfinals provided us with a pair of excellent games that required an extra session. In the first semifinal Kemba Walker finally played like the phenomenal player we saw in Maui, but UConn still required an extra 5 minutes to knock off Syracuse after a pair of huge threes by Scoop Jardine late in regulation. In the end, Walker (33 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals) and Alex Oriakhi (15 points and 11 rebounds) were too much for the Orange. In the nightcap, Louisville overcame a 14-point halftime deficit against Notre Dame to force overtime and join the Huskies in the Big East finals. The key for the Cardinals was forcing Ben Hansborough into numerous poor shots as he ended the day 3 for 16 from the field. The Cardinals comeback victory sets up an intriguing Big East final match-up involving two of the league’s most controversial coaches who each have dealt with major issues in the past year (Rick Pitino‘s being personal and Jim Calhoun‘s being professional). One thing to watch for is the Huskies legs as they are attempting to become the first team in Big East Tournament history to win 5 games in 5 days. You might also want to watch for how the Huskies respond when they get to the NCAA Tournament as all these miles might begin to take a toll on them.
  • Toe Problems at Duke. Normally we would brush off Nolan Smith‘s toe injury against Maryland in a game that the Blue Devils won handily, but given how innoucous another toe injury to another Duke guard (Kyrie Irving) seemed at the time we think the Blue Devils will be a little more cautious heading into their game against Virginia Tech.

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BGTD: Friday Afternoon Tourney Sessions

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.  Here’s Friday afternoon’s coverage…

  • OSU Survives.  Northwestern seems to play the #1 Buckeyes as well as anybody, taking Thad Matta’s team to the brink twice this season, and losing both.  No other Big Ten team played OSU as closely as the Wildcats did this year, not even Purdue and Wisconsin, the two teams who beat the Buckeyes once each but were blown out in Columbus.  Jared Sullinger did his thing dominating the inside (20/18), but the key takeaway from this game is that in two contests this season, Bill Carmody has found a way to slow down Jon Diebler’s scorching three-point attack.  Recall that Diebler had hit a ridiculous 17-20 in his last two games and is over 50% for the season, but in the close games against the Wildcats, Diebler was only 2-8 from deep and 5-14 overall.  Slowing him down is absolutely essential to knocking off the Buckeyes, so you’d better believe that coaches over the next three weeks will be studying the Northwestern game films very carefully for clues.
  • Michigan Surges. We couldn’t really figure out what happened to the Wolverines last season, but we knew that something was structurally wrong because John Beilein is an excellent coach.  He’s proving it again this year, as Michigan has now won nine of 12 games after today’s comeback victory over Illinois, with the three losses being by one point to Wisconsin, two points at Illinois and eleven points at #1 Ohio State.  At the under-8 timeout, the Wolverines were down nine points and struggling to put points on the board (only 42); from that point on, UM went on an 18-4 run, holding Illinois to a single field goal down the stretch by making several big plays to finish it off.  Michigan is playing well, and their style is very difficult to prepare for — don’t be surprised if Darius Morris, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and company give the Buckeyes all they want tomorrow and make a run at the Sweet Sixteen next week.
  • Carolina: Master of Close Wins.  Everyone knows that the Tar Heels have been on fire, winning eight in a row and thirteen of their last fourteen games and making a case for an outside shot at a #1 seed next week.  What’s interesting to us is how Roy Williams’ relatively young team is consistently  coming back to win close games — today’s buzzer-beater by Tyler Zeller underneath against Miami (FL) is only the latest example.  The Heels were down nineteen points with around ten minutes to go, but somehow, someway, led by Kendall Marshall’s artistry and some timely three-point shooting, they went on a 27-6 run to close out the game and get the victory to move into the ACC semifinals.  Whether these close wins against average competition (six ACC wins by one possession) represents a weakness or a strength, we’re not quite sure, but Carolina is showing an ability to make the right plays in the clutch.
  • Do You Leave Alabama Out? If the intent of the NCAA Tournament is to invite the 37 best at-large teams to dance, then we’re not sure you can leave Alabama out of the NCAA Tournament.  In a recurring theme this weekend, the Tide roared back from fourteen down in the last seven minutes to force overtime where they were then able to pull out the key victory against Georgia.  That gives Anthony Grant’s team 13 SEC wins out of 17 tries, and although the conference is exceptionally weak, especially on the West side, it’s difficult for us to fathom that Alabama isn’t one of those top 37 right now.  We think the Committee will see it the same way, and Alabama will be in one of the First Four games on Tuesday or Wednesday night.
  • A-10 Craziness.  The top half of the Atlantic 10 bracket was blown up this afternoon with #9 seed Dayton getting out to a big lead early against #1 Xavier and holding on down the stretch; and, #12 St. Joseph’s knocking out #4 Duquesne in overtime.  This sets up a Saturday semifinal between a #9 and a #12 seed that nobody who follows this league could have seen coming.  Bubble teams around the country are rooting for #2 Temple to run its way to the title game and easily handle one of these two; otherwise, the Atlantic 10 will be guilty of bid larceny on Sunday.
  • Bubbling Up.  Clearly, Alabama, who may have played its way into the First Four with today’s win over Georgia… Clemson, who crushed BC in a possible knockout game in the ACC Tourney…
  • Bubbling Down.  Georgia, who may have played its way out of the Tournament with its collapse and unfortunate timing on the time out at the end of regulation…  Boston College, who never showed up against Clemson…
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BGTD: Thursday Evening Tournament Sessions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 10th, 2011

Our evening BGTD for today is brief because our earlier session covered a majority of the day’s news.

  • Big 12 Bubble. Shortly after Colorado‘s win over Kansas State–its 3rd in 3 games against the Wildcats–Missouri lost to Texas A&M. Even though Missouri has long been considered a lock and Colorado has been on the bubble for the past month it is worth noting that the Buffaloes have a surprisingly comparable resume. We aren’t saying that the Buffaloes deserve consideration for a 6 or 7 seed as their few horrible losses essentially knock them out of contention for such an honor, but they do have a good enough resume, particularly after knocking off Kansas State for a third time in three tries, to merit a spot safely in the field of 68.
  • Tennessee begins to make its case. This season there have been few teams as confusing as the Volunteers. From their resounding win at Pittsburgh to their numerous perplexing losses they always find a way to keep us on our toes. At the start of tournament play the Vols would appear to be safely in the NCAA Tournament, but they must be keeping the Selection Committee up late at night trying to figure out how to seed them. A run deep in the SEC Tournament would go a long way toward getting them a higher seed, but even if they get stuck around the 8/9 line we can’t imagine many teams in that area that would be more formidable (at least on paper) than the Volunteers.
  • Singler Steps Up. No, not that one. While Duke and the rest of the country wait for his brother Kyle to return to form it was E.J. Singler who was the star in the family tonight putting up 24 points and 7 rebounds in Oregon‘s surprising win over UCLA. Singler’s career high was enough to lead the 7th-seeded Ducks past the 2nd-seeded Bruins who will probably slip a line or two as a result of their early exit from the Pac-10 Tournament. UCLA’s early exit also opens up the door for Arizona to claim the postseason conference crown as well and make a strong case for a 4-seed or better when Selection Sunday rolls around.
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BGTD: Thursday Afternoon Tourney Sessions

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.

  • Kemba’s Childress Moment.  He may not win the NPOY award due to a bit of a slump in the middle of the season, but there is no other player in America who we’d rather have with the ball in his hands and the clock winding down.  Like the former Wake Forest assassin, Randolph Childress, Kemba Walker has built a reputation this season for making the big shot down the stretch, and his double-crossover move into a step-back jumper that found the bottom of the net was a thing of beauty.  Somewhere Pitt’s Gary McGhee is still trying to figure out how to untangle his legs after getting twisted and turned into a spinning mess of fall-down — Fran Fraschilla’s call that Walker “has a mismatch” is comedic in just how prophetic he was.  UConn has now won three in a row in the Big East Tournament so you start to wonder about fatigue, but if anybody has the stones and wherewithal to do something crazy like win five games in five days, it would be Walker.
  • Pitt’s Presumptive #1 Seed.  The great thing about the Big East Tournament is that there are so many good teams beyond the first round that when a top team loses, as Pitt did today, it’s considered a “good” loss and will only marginally impact that team’s NCAA seeding.  As the regular season champions of the toughest and deepest conference in America, Jamie Dixon’s Panthers probably could have lost to South Florida or DePaul and still been a strong favorite for a #1 seed, but it says here that the Selection Committee is unlikely to hold a loss to UConn, a name program with a NPOY candidate, against it.  Pitt will still be a top seed come Sunday evening.
  • Miami’s Absurd Comeback. It was overlooked because the game involves two teams that are going nowhere this postseason, but the Miami comeback against Virginia this afternoon was one of the best we’ve ever seen.  With 42.5 seconds remaining, the Canes were down 53-43 before hitting a Durand Scott three-pointer.  Two missed Wahoo FTs led to another Miami three, which was followed up by two consecutive steals and layups to tie the game at 53-all with 13.9 seconds left.  To those of you at home, that’s a 10-0 run in a mere 28.6 seconds, a remarkable achievement.  UM actually stole the ball again with under a second to go and had a shot at the buzzer to win, but it was off.  Capitalizing on their momentum, though, they took care of the Cavaliers in overtime and will move on to face UNC on Friday.
  • Fabulous Melo.  Has Jim Boeheim been holding his freshman center back all season so as to unleash him on an unsuspecting Big East Tournament in March?  Doubtful, of course, but there’s no question that Boeheim’s usage of the big man is now paying dividends.  After a ten-point game against DePaul on Wednesday, Melo came back with a 12-pointer today, including two gigantic layups down the stretch that effectively won the game for his team.  His point total and minutes (22) are both career highs, and he’s yet to miss a field goal attempt in two games in the postseason (10-10).  This is a big if, as freshman bigs are notoriously inconsistent, but if Melo can continue to play substantial minutes and make these kinds of contributions, Syracuse suddenly vaults from a top twenty team to a top ten caliber team.  Let’s see how he handles UConn on Friday.
  • Kansas Sleepwalks But Escapes.  Speaking of presumptive #1 seeds, KU acted like they were already settled in for Selection Sunday today, as they sleepwalked through a game that they probably should have lost this afternoon in Kansas City.  Had Marcus Morris’ long three at the end of the shot clock not found the bottom, we think the Jayhawks would have been upset today.  Travis Ford agreed, saying that the shot was the biggest of the game, even bigger than the terrible 30-footer that his team attempted to win the game at the buzzer (rather than driving the ball to the hole).  For KU fans intent on getting back to the Final Four and winning another title, though, today had to have been reminiscent of last year’s Northern Iowa debacle; a game where for all intents and purposes it appeared that the Jayhawks simply weren’t mentally into it.  Bill Self better get his team’s attention or another meltdown might be imminent.
  • BYU Appears Shaky.Against a team that in TCU that only won a single Mountain West regular season game this year, we’d have liked to see BYU shake off some of the residual tentativeness from losing its big man, Brandon Davies, to the Mormon code.  Didn’t happen.  In fact, TCU hung around until the final few minutes as The Jimmer had trouble finding his shot, going only 7-21 from the field.  Maybe it was some of the same first-game doldrums that Kansas experienced today against an inferior opponent, or maybe this is a serious signal that the Cougars are not going to be able to recover from the loss of Davies.  We know this much — BYU will need to bring  a much better game to play tomorrow against New Mexico or Colorado State.
  • Minnesota’s Train Wreck of a Season.  With today’s Gopher loss to Northwestern, Minnesota’s train wreck of a second half of the season mercifully came to an end.  The team that had beaten UNC, West Virginia and Purdue earlier this season finished up by losing ten of its last eleven games, essentially becoming a shell of its former self when point guard Al Nolen went down with a broken foot in late January.  With Tubby Smith’s seemingly endless cattle call of injuries, suspensions and transfers over the last few years, we’re starting to wonder if he’ll ever put together the kind of sustained success that the Golden Gopher program expected when they hired him out of Kentucky a few years ago.  How bad is it?  This year is only the third in eighteen seasons that a Smith-coached team did not win at least one conference tournament game.  Ouch.
  • DJ Kennedy’s Knee.  Hate, hate, hate to see this.  In a play somewhat reminiscent of Da’Sean Butler’s injury against Duke in the Final Four last season, St. John’s guard DJ Kennedy crumpled down in pain after twisting his knee on an early drive in today’s game against Syracuse.  At this point, the injury is described as a “serious knee injury,” but the lingering sense surrounding this is that Kennedy might be out for the rest of his senior season.  If so, Steve Lavin would be without one of his best players and team leaders in the NCAA Tournament, a real shame considering how far he and his team have come this year.
  • And Then There’s This.  From the Big East Tournament…
  • Bubbling Up.  Memphis, after hanging on against Southern Miss…  Colorado, after knocking out Kansas State… USC, after ripping apart Cal… BC, by virtue of taking care of business against Wake Forest…  Georgia, ditto against Auburn…  Michigan State, outlasting Iowa (anyone surprised?)…
  • Bubble Popping.  UAB, after dropping a terrible overtime game against East Carolina…
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BGTD: Late Afternoon/Evening Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on February 26th, 2011

It’s been a great late February Saturday of college basketball, with some high-quality action that you’d hope and expect to see this time of year.  Let’s take a look at a few of the key storylines from the second half of today’s coverage.

  • Colorado Second Half Bombards Texas Defense.  It was one of those games where we were barely keeping an eye on the gametracker because it appeared quite early on that this would become another UT blowout led by their defensive mastery.  As it turned out, a 48-33 halftime lead in Boulder didn’t mean much, because the Buffs shredded the vaunted Longhorn D in a way that nobody else in the Big 12 (or America) has been able to this season.  Consider this: in fourteen conference games, the Longhorns had not given up more than 58 points in eight of them — today, Colorado put up that number in the second half in coming from as many as 22 down to win, 91-89.  CU’s Alec Burks had a monstrous 33/10 game, and it appears that the Colorado team that many suspected was in Boulder before the season began is finally hitting its stride.  Having now won three of four, with two more winnable games (@ Iowa State; vs. Nebraska), the Buffs could be in position to finish at 9-7 in the conference and even make a run at a first round bye in the Big 12 Championship.
  • So, About Texas? It’s cliched to point out that Rick Barnes’ teams at Texas have by and large not finished up strong, but with road wins in consecutive weekends at places not named Lawrence, Columbia or even College Station, there need to be some alarm bells going off in Austin.  With the loss today, the Longhorns’ fifth of the season, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where UT has a reasonable shot at a #1 seed — and they certainly would need some help regardless.  The question is whether this is just a blip or if teams have started to figure them out — two of the Horns worst four defensive showings this season (as measured by points per possession) occurred today and against NU.  In order to prove to us (and the nation) that this UT team is in fact different than some of the others in recent vintage, they really need to clobber surging K-State and Baylor in their last two regular season games.
  • Kentucky’s Home vs. Away Quandary.  After today’s 76-68 win over Florida, one of the nation’s most schizophrenic teams has moved to 7-0 in the SEC at home and 1-6 on the road.  How and why is this happenening?  It’s pretty simple, actually.  The two legitimate NBA talents that John Calipari has at his disposal — guard Brandon Knight and forward Terrence Jones — are almost equally effective no matter where they play.  The problem is that their less-talented teammates such as DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb, drop off considerably away from Rupp Arena.  Lamb, for example, averages 15.8 PPG on 57% shooting in Lexington (today: 14 pts on 6-9 FG); away from home he’s at 12.4 PPG and 47%.  DeAndre Liggins is even more volatile: 11.0 PPG on 47% shooting at home, and  6.0 PPG on 32% away.  A general tenet of March basketball is to never trust teams who can’t win away from home — something to remember when filling out brackets in just two short weeks.
  • Miserable SoCal Trip For Arizona. After last weekend’s big win over Washington in Tucson, the last thing Sean Miller wanted to see was a two-loss trip to Southern California.  That’s what he got, though, as his team dropped a close one to USC on Thursday night before getting run out of the closing-for-renovations Pauley Pavilion today.  A 22-2 run blew the thing open, rendering the second half a showcase for the ever-improving Reeves Nelson (27/16) and ending in a fitting way, with John Wooden’s great-grandson, Tyler Trapani, scoring the final points in the old barn before it becomes closes to become modernized.  We’re still not sure if Ben Howland’s team is any kind of postseason threat, but we thought Arizona was; it’ll be interesting to watch how the Wildcats recover from a lost opportunity this weekend next week at home in addition to seeing if UCLA can steal one or two on the road at the Washingtons.  
  • Did Virginia Tech Finally Get Over the NCAA Hump? Of course, it’s hard to say for certain with these guys.  After vanquishing #1 Duke for its most important win in years, the Hokies will probably turn around and lose to Boston College at home on Tuesday.  Let’s hope not.  When he’s not whining about being left out of the Tournament in March, Seth Greenberg strikes us as a nice fellow, and for a school that has had a number of ups and downs in its basketball program this year, we’re hoping that the Hokies don’t blow the good will and RPI boost that this win engenders.  As for Duke, this loss may have cost the Devils a #1 seed.  They still have to travel to Chapel Hill (a team that gave them all kinds of hell in Durham) and win the ACC Tournament.  One more slip-up and we’re not sure they’ll have the overall profile needed to earn it outright.  Their profile honestly doesn’t look significantly different than BYU’s, for example.
  • Bubbling Up: Colorado, Baylor and Kansas State in the Big 12; Butler in the Horizon; Clemson and Virginia Tech in the ACC; Michigan in the Big Ten; UAB in CUSA.
  • Bubbling Down: Wichita State in the Valley; Alabama in the SEC; Memphis and Southern Miss in CUSA; Minnesota in the Big Ten; Colorado State in the Mountain West.
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BGTD: Early Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on February 26th, 2011

The only question on a day like today after the early flight of games is…how’s the bubble? The biggest worry for bubble teams is not necessarily racking up good wins late in the year, because the schedule is, of course, already set. What you don’t want to do is give the selection committee something negative on which to hang their hat so they can leave you out. In other words, don’t play yourself out of the Tournament. So far today…

  • Let there be no doubt about Kansas State. They’ve already done enough to get in, but if you’re a bubble team you still don’t want to trip up late and drop games at home. The Wildcats, knowing that they’re in, could have come out complacent in an early game today against Missouri and  just gone through the motions. No, sir. The raves will pile up for Jacob Pullen (24 points on 6-10 and 4-4 from three) and Curtis Kelly (15/6 on 7-9), and with good reason. Pullen’s vocal leadership late in the season has been a revelation for KSU, but let’s give some juice to the Kansas State bench today, chipping in 29 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists. And look at the unselfishness on display. The Wildcats hit 28 shots…off of 23 assists!
  • For a team playing themselves out of The Dance, look no further than VCU. A few weeks ago all the talk was about how the CAA might get two or three teams in, with VCU an obvious choice. Over the past two weeks, all the Rams have done is drop four of five, including today’s senior day game against Colonial sixth-placers James Madison (72-69). No disrespect to the Dukes, because you don’t win 21 games (so far) without being a solid squad, especially in a rapidly improving conference. But despite NCAA selectors confirming that the “last 10 games” criteria isn’t considered, bubble teams that run into late losing streaks tend to wind up on the outside looking in on post-selection Monday. Barring a CAA Tournament title, you’ve got to figure that VCU is done.
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BGTD: Late Afternoon/Evening Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on February 20th, 2011

Since we did a separate BracketBusters BGTD today, we’re combining the late afternoon and evening analyses into one post here.

  • Disappointing Weekend Coverage.  ESPN is excluded from this complaint, as the WWL’s wall-to-wall coverage of college basketball makes us very happy from November through March.  But folks, it’s three weeks from Selection Sunday — why aren’t there more networks showing games; and why aren’t there more marquee matchups on a weekend so close to the end of the season?  Granted, Michigan State-Illinois looked great on paper a few months ago, but the schedule today was by and large fairly weak.  If you’re looking for Exhibit A as to why the NFL wants to take over the entire month of February as well, this is it — CBS did a split-coverage game for two hours this afternoon, while none of the other broadcast networks showed anything (why did ABC completely give on hoops?).  Throw in a bunch of ranked teams playing unranked teams today, and you have a sports weekend where college hoops should dominate conversation, except that there’s not much left to discuss than the occasional upset.
  • It’s Not Just St. John’s.  It was an entertaining game in Syracuse this afternoon, with the Orange escaping against an increasingly gritty and tough Rutgers squad led by first-year coach Mike Rice.  With the recruiting Rice is doing in northern Jersey along with the renaissance going on across the Hudson River at St. John’s, New York City area basketball may have finally turned the corner after what seems like a million  years.  SJU is clearly leading the charge with its team of experienced players, but we love the hustle, heart and discipline exhibited by Rice’s players.  They utilized an 11-2 run in crunch time in the Dome to force the Orange back onto its heels, something that simply would not have happened in previous years.  After today’s overtime loss, the Scarlet Knights are only 4-10 in Big East play, but they’ve been competitive in nearly all of those Ls and the close win over Villanova along with today’s close defeat shows us that it’s only a matter of time before Rice’s troops figure it out and cause major problems for the rest of the Big East.
  • Sparty Can’t Be Killed.  As soon as you think the Spartans are dead, they give us another reason to think they still have life.  And life they have after tonight’s ugly yet important win over Illinois on ESPN Gameday.  They did it with an old Izzo standby, strong defense, holding the Illini backcourt to 12-37 shooting from the field.  This was pretty much a must-win for Michigan State, and with four games left (two home; two away), they’ll have more opportunities to improve their resume.  Games at Minnesota and home against Purdue will be tough, but the Gophers are reeling and two other games against Iowa and at Michigan will necessarily have to be victories.  Our gut still says that MSU will do enough to get into March Madness, but this season has been one surprise after another with these guys.
  • Utah State Legitimizes Itself. Much had been written about Utah State’s lack of quality wins this season, but the Aggies really only had one bad loss coming into tonight’s game at St. Mary’s (@ Idaho).  They made sure to leave with the one thing they didn’t have, though, thanks in large part to the forceful inside play of Tai Wesley and his 22/11 night.  During the first half of this game, it appeared that St. Mary’s was going to go on a patented three-point-fueled run led by Mickey McConnell and his thirty-footers, but USU came out in the second half with a clear strategy to a) pound the ball inside; and b) cut off McConnell’s looks.  In doing both, the Aggies went on a huge 27-7 run to start the half and effectively finished the game with ease.  They also put to rest any talk of the bubble for this team, now sitting at 25-3 with three WAC games remaining.  St. Mary’s has Gonzaga and Portland coming to town next week, and the truth is that the Gaels need to win these games.  Their quality wins consist of St. John’s (looking better and better) and Gonzaga.  That’s not much to hang your hat on if you crash and burn down the stretch.
  • Forget the Other Dunk Contest.  Speaking of the SMC-USS game, and then there was this…  say hello to Brady Jardine!

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BGTD: BracketBuster Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, writer of the weekly column, The Other 26, will be providing some BGTD-style analysis throughout Saturday’s BracketBuster games, mostly focusing on the evening sessions.

(ed. note: we’ll work our way backwards so the most recent update is always at the top of the post.)

8:34 PM – UNI is holding onto a slim lead against George Mason thanks in large part to the strong play of Kwadzo Ahelegbe. The senior from Minnesota already has 18 points as the Panthers are up on GMU 54-50 late in the second half. I have not seen Ahelegbe play once this year, but I love his pure stroke from beyond the arc and his quickness while attacking the basket. If Northern Iowa can hold on against GMU it would be a huge confidence booster heading into the MVC tournament.

7:58 PM – The Panthers are besting George Mason 36-32 at the half and are playing the kind of basketball they have failed to play lately in the Missouri Valley. UNI lost three straight in the MVC and are no longer contending with Missouri State and Wichita State, but seem to be peaking at the right time. George Mason, win or lose, will still be the favorite in the CAA going into the conference tournament, but a win in Iowa over the Panthers would certainly help their resume if they falter in the CAA tournament. Cam Long and Ryan Pearson are two of the CAA’s best and are a tough match up for any opponent. I’d argue that the outcome of this game means more for GMU than UNI for the sole reason that Mason is still in contention for an at-large berth.

7:15 PM – College of Charleston ended up defeating Vermont 85-70 in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate. The Cougars proved how dangerous of a threat they are due to the play of one player: Andrew Goudelock. The senior from Georgia tore apart Vermont and in doing so proved they are they class of the Southern Conference. Can Charleston do what Davidson did a few years ago? Probably not, but Goudelock is a very similar player to Stephen Curry in how he is able to take over a game.

As for the other 5:00 game, Valpo soundly defeated Missouri State 80-67. The Crusaders, along with Cleveland State who thoroughly defeated Hofstra earlier today, appear to be the clear favorites in the Horizon League.

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