BGTD: Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2011

The great games don’t let up just because we’ve headed into the latter part of the afternoon.  Even though it’s January, quite a few late afternoon games have NCAA Tournament implications.  Let’s see what’s going on out there…

  • K-State in Serious Trouble.  No team in America has been more disappointing this season than Frank Martin’s Wildcats.  Not Michigan State, not North Carolina, not Gonzaga, not even Memphis.  In what seems like an eternity ago, K-State was ranked in everyone’s top five coming into the season and the Big 12 media even picked them to win the conference for the first time ever.  After this afternoon’s loss to Texas A&M (who is quickly moving into Bo Ryan/Wisconsin territory with their annual ascent up the rankings no matter the personnel), KSU sits at 1-4 in the Big 12 with two games remaining against Kansas and a pair against Missouri and Texas still to come.  It’s clear that the loss of Denis Clemente has impacted the Wildcats far more than anyone expected, but the NCAA Tournament is starting to appear like a mirage unless they can figure out things in a hurry.
  • Maybe Pearl Should Stay Suspended.  It made for a great storyline that Bruce Pearl returned to the sidelines today for a one-game respite from his SEC-mandated eight-game suspension.  But the truth is that Tennessee hasn’t looked all that much different with Tony Jones running the team than it did with Pearl over there on the sidelines.  Despite Kemba Walker’s lowest point output of the season (16 points), Tennessee wasn’t able to capitalize, all too often depending on Scotty Hopson’s wild forays to the rim (and turnovers) to produce points.  UT is without question the most enigmatic team in the country this season, and it wouldn’t surprise any of us if the Vols ripped off its next four before losing six in a row.  You just never know with this team.
  • Muskies Doing What They Do.  The Xavier-Temple game in Cincinnati was a pretty important Atlantic 10 matchup because the Musketeers once again are unbeaten in league play and Temple came in with a single loss.  We’re not sure how XU keeps doing this year after year, but they are doing it again.  Just a couple of weeks ago it appeared that Temple was by far the class of the A10 and could quite possibly run away with this thing.  The Muskies did it today with its highly efficient offense, putting four players in double figures and hitting 53% of its shots and 8-13 from deep.  Temple seemed generally flustered on its end of the court in showing that the only way they could score was to bang out threes (11 today).  As a result of today’s game, XU already has a two-game lead over its biggest rival for the crown on its way to its fifth-straight regular season Atlantic 10 title.  Wow.
  • Texas Breaks KU’s Homecourt Winning Streak.  Texas exorcised a whole host of demons today by going into Allen Fieldhouse and defeating Kansas, 33-33.  The streaks broken — KU’s 69-game homecourt winning streak; KU’s unbeaten season; Texas’ 0-9 record in Lawrence.  We’ve been saying for a while that among teams populating the top 35 in the country, it’s Rick Barnes’ Longhorns who might have the biggest upside of any team in America.  They are absolutely loaded with athletic talent, and with Jordan Hamilton on the wing as a playmaker, they have one of the very best players in the country at getting points when they need them.  After falling behind 18-3 in the early going and looking on the verge of another Allen Fieldhouse nightmare, Rick Barnes’ team kept its composure and continued playing defense.  The rest of the game:  71-45.  Teams not named Kansas don’t make those kinds of runs in Allen Fieldhouse.  We feel that this game says more about UT than it does about KU, but Kansas isn’t going anywhere in March if Josh Selby continues to struggle (2-9 FG, 4 points, 1 assist).
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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on January 22nd, 2011

The noon-to-3pm stretch today was one of those that helps make the case in favor of an electronics upgrade here at the RTC Southern Compound, specifically for a multi-screen video wall. Having two games like Ohio State @ Illinois and Villanova @ Syracuse happening at the same time was both fantastic and painful. Then Tennessee @ Connecticut after that, as well as Temple @ Xavier and the small matter of Texas @ Kansas? Oh, yeah. we’re hittin’ the electronics store at some point this weekend. But not until the games are done.

  • Wayns’ World. One of the basic strategies against any zone defense is to use quick perimeter passing  and penetration to create openings for shots and passing lanes. Of course, it’s never a bad strategy to just get hot from outside and shoot over the zone, and that’s what ‘Nova did early on against the Orange. When the defense extended, that opened up gaps for those quick, fearless Wildcat guards and even some nice interior passing between Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton. We’d say Jim Boeheim didn’t game-plan for Maalik Wayns, a 20% three-point shooter on the year (40% overall), to drill a trio of threes and go 6-11 from the field.
  • Blue Horseshoe Loves ‘Nova Basketball. We know a lot can happen between now and March, but if I’m playing the college hoops market, I’m pulling a Gordon Gekko on Villanova. I’m getting in there at a 45-degree angle and gobbling up all the Wildcat stock that I can. Top-flight coach, quick guards who can shoot as well as break down defenders anywhere on the floor, long big men who play even longer on both ends of the floor, and not to mention that they have guys who were in the Final Four two seasons ago? Time to accumulate.
  • A Buckeye Beauty. No, we’re not talking about a girl on the Columbus campus. We’re talking about one of the great performances of the season, this one by Jared Sullinger. Certainly, the 27 points and 16 rebounds are impressive, to say the least. We’re just as impressed by the 40 minutes played, though — ten minutes above his average — and the mere two personal fouls. You don’t get 27/16 if you’re not on the floor, or don’t know how to stay on the floor. And you’ve seen Sullinger. Not exactly a little guy who shies away from contact. We all knew Sullinger could play basketball, but he showed us today that he’s got guts as well as game.
  • The Arts of Craft. Another note from OSU’s win: Deshaun Thomas (a pair of threes, 8 pts in 12 minutes) sparked that second half run when the Illini had the lead, and Jon Diebler (15 pts, 3-5 from three) was his usual steady self. When your team takes a fair number of treys and shoots better from three-point range (46.7%) than your opponent does from the field (43.1%), you’re going to be fine most of the time. But we need to give some props to OSU freshman point guard Aaron Craft. He only had five points, but that’s not something they necessarily need from him. In his 31 minutes (more than two of the starters), he dished four assists, only turned the ball over once — he leads the team with a 2.3-to-1 assist/turnover ratio — and, most importantly, he found himself on Demetri McCamey for most of the game and covered the Illinois star like red ants on a Snickers bar.
  • We’re Cold, But Kemba and Melvin Aren’t. For the first half, Tennessee-Connecticut has been more evenly matched than we anticipated, and Kemba Walker needed that buzzer-beating three to give the Huskies the halftime lead. As we’ve mentioned often around here, you never know which of Tennessee’s multiple personalities you’re going to get on a given night, and for the first half the “good UT” has shown up. The Vols have done a good job bodying up to Walker and have held him to just eight points so far, including that three before the half. Melvin Goins has been UT’s best player, surpassing his 8.0 PPG average with ten points and he’s perfect from the field. By the way, it’s about 14 degrees outside and there’s a whole lot of action yet to come today. We ain’t goin’ anywhere…
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BGTD: Evening Game Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on January 15th, 2011

  • Our Game Ball Goes To. . .The obvious choice here is Jeremy Hazell. Many out there may have qualms with his style of play, but I don’t think there wasn’t anybody out there who wasn’t happy to see the Seton Hall star return to the court less than a month after being shot multiple times on Christmas. After the shooting there was quite a bit of talk that Hazell might miss the rest of the season and, all things considered, it would have been far from the worst potential outcome stemming from such a horrendous action, but we are glad to see him back on the court.
  • These Panthers Still Play Pitt Basketball. A lot of people have been talking recently about how this Pittsburgh team is different from ones in the past in the sense that they aren’t as defensive-oriented and have become much more offensively gifted, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to attack the glass, as Seton Hall can tell you after the Panthers out-rebounded the Pirates by a margin of 45-26. To be honest it would have been even uglier if not for a solid effort out of Herb Pope who had 10 rebounds and six blocks for the Pirates in a losing cause.
  • Freshmen Save The Day In Columbus. The Buckeyes barely survived today against Penn State, but should be the #1 team in the country on Monday thanks to outstanding efforts from a pair of freshmen — Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft — who came up big for Thad Matta. Sullinger was his usual brilliant self and, although he didn’t put up huge numbers, he was remarkably efficient, contributing 19 points (on 6-9 FG and 7-9 FT), six rebounds, and five assists with only one turnover. The real story was Craft who was huge on both ends of the court for the Buckeyes as he scored 19 points and also played a key role in stymieing Talor Battle who had a horrendous game shooting 5-17 from the field including 1-10 from beyond the arc. If Battle even plays a mediocre game, the Nittany Lions leave Columbus with a victory.
  • San Diego State’s Unknown Star. Most college basketball fans are aware of Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas, but they may not be as familiar with D.J. Gay who had a career-high 30 points thanks to some ridiculous 3-point shooting. After the game, Steve Fisher stated that Gay was not only the team’s most important player (an idea we could buy if he was referring to their need to have a reliable third scorer), but was also getting close to being the team’s best player (an idea we would never buy). Still, we think this game was notable for Gay’s emergence as a potential scoring threat. New Mexico got great efforts at home out of Drew Gordon and Dairese Gary, but the presence of a third scoring option would be huge for the Aztecs as the season progresses even if we can’t expect 30 out of Gay that often.
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BGTD: Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on January 15th, 2011

Upsetus Interruptus. There have been some exciting games this afternoon, but if you were hoping for an upset Saturday like last weekend, except for Temple losing at Duquesne and South Carolina winning at Florida, you’ve been left wanting. A few of the big boys took a while to wake up but they all pulled through. Duke waited until around the 11-minute mark of the second half to begin asserting its will on Virginia, but ended up having no trouble with the Cavaliers (76-60). Kansas struggled in putting Nebraksa away — the Huskers actually had a three in the air to tie it in the last seconds — but what really struck us in this game was, despite looking just moderately interested for the first 30 to 35 minutes, how confident the Kansas players suddenly looked late in the game, even while tied or up by only 1-2. After taking on this confident air, the Jayhawks then scored on six straight possessions consisting of four dunks, a layup, and a put-back — in other words, six scores within 10 inches of the basket. Bill Self would probably disagree, but as we watched, we never felt like Kansas would lose that game.

Wish You Were There. Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament? Put it out of your mind. After that 8-0 start, the Wildcats have gone into a flat spin and dropped five of their last eight. The two games they dropped to Michigan State within a 12-day span were not just games they needed but games they should have won, including today’s overtime loss in East Lansing. The difference between 11-5 (2-4) and 13-3 (4-2) feels bigger than two games, especially considering that NU has five road games left and the biggest names they’ll travel to are Minnesota and Wisconsin. We want Northwestern to make it to The Dance as much as anyone. This isn’t the year. You’ll more likely see Roger Waters take a job sitting next to Steven Tyler as a judge on American Idol.

But We Like You Both. The game that was the most pleasing to the eye so far today was Missouri at Texas A&M. The more we watch these two teams, the more we expect from them in March.  Both teams knew they had a great shot for a resume’ win today and they stepped up and played a beauty: great passing, low turnovers, high intensity and hustle from both squads, and an exciting finish. Missouri’s highly-caffeinated, almost viral defense didn’t achieve its usual level of annoyance today, grabbing only three steals and forcing just nine turnovers out of the Aggies. What Mizzou fans should be worried about are the unforced errors the Tigers showed us late in the game when things were still in doubt. TA&M’s 13th straight win should put them into the top ten of the polls on Monday, including our own. At this point in the season, Texas A&M wins the award for the best team generating the least talk. Get ready to hear more about the Aggies, especially a certain Khris Middleton (28/7 on 9-16).

Getting Buff. Oh, we see you, Colorado. That’s a good Oklahoma State team you just beat and that’s a very cozy 14-4 (3-0) you’ve built for yourselves. The best part about watching the Buffaloes is that they’re driven by that stupendous guard tandem of Cory Higgins (23 pts) and Alec Burks (20/11), but yet those two gentlemen don’t settle for threes and love getting to the line — and they’re darn good at it (combined 21-22 today). Colorado played nine players against the Cowboys, seven of them guards, and still owned the offensive (14-5) and overall glass against OSU (34-22). Consider us impressed.

Two final notes: To Rick Majerus: good to have you back, Coach. And as far aswe’re concerned, this day of games is all about San Diego State going to the Pit to face Dairese Gary and a nice 13-4 New Mexico team (in progress, CBS College Sports). We’re going to learn a lot about the Aztecs tonight.

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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2011

It might be a football weekend if you listen to the mainstream media, but we here at RTC know better.  The slate is absolutely stuffed with good games today, quite a few of which were played during the early session.  Here’s some of our thoughts from those games…

  • Tennessee Escapes.  We’re not sure that they should have escaped in their rivalry game with Vanderbilt today, but escape they did after an ugly and odd finish in Thompson-Boling Arena to get its first win with Bruce Pearl watching from home.  One of the surest calls in basketball is when an offensive player is tripped on the drive.  Jeffery Taylor did just that with Vandy down only one late in the game, but there was shockingly no call from the zebras (how all three could miss that we have no clue).  Even more amazing than that, Taylor slid across the floor for at least 6-8 feet with the ball in his arms after he fell, and again no whistle (another near-certain call they missed).  It was a disconcerting sort of play that has everyone on the floor confused, and it resulted in Vandy stepping on the sideline to turn the ball back over to UT.  The Vols then worked clock before throwing up a couple of wild, contested shots which Vandy failed rebound; then, after a Vandy foul, UT’s Tobias Harris nailed a couple of FTs and closed out the game.  Neither team played well offensively, but Tennessee at 0-2 in the SEC (and sans Pearl) was very nearly in a must-win situation and played like it.  Many people will think that Pearl’s presence would have made a difference in Tennessee’s shaky performances so far this SEC season, but we’re not sure about that.  UT is a flawed team, and they were pretty clearly flawed with the Big Orange on the sidelines before his suspension too (Ls to Charleston, Charlotte, Oakland).
  • Marquette & Maryland Kicking Themselves.  Both of these teams let huge opportunities for road wins against ranked opponents slip away late today with what can only be described as complete meltdowns.  For Marquette, it was a 24-5 Louisville run to finish off the game, allowing the faltering Cardinals to make a miraculous comeback over the last six minutes that will be remembered in those parts for a very long time.  At Villanova, it was a 19-0 run over seven minutes that allowed the Wildcats to come from twelve down and take a commanding lead into the final two minutes.  What was striking about both of these comebacks was just how quickly things changed.  Through most of the two games, the home team Wildcats and Cardinals couldn’t get much of anything going offensively, but when the two underdogs saw their own blood today, they collapsed while the home teams feasted on their shakiness.  Marquette already has some quality wins under its belt, but eventually if they’re going to be taken seriously as a contender, they’re going to have win one of these (close Ls to Duke, BC, Temple, Pitt, Illinois and zero – NONE – quality wins).
  • Freddy Asprilla Leaves K-State.  Jeff Goodman reported earlier today that Kansas State big man Freddy Asprilla has left the program.  Despite dominating Texas Tech today, the bad news just keeps coming for this program lately.  Asprilla was averaging 5/5 in limited backup action, but he’s shown ability and theoretically could have had a bright future there.  He’ll be returning home to his native Colombia to play professionally because his mother is ill, certainly a noble pursuit.  We wish him well with both his personal and hoops journeys.
  • Duke & Kansas Struggling. At the time of this writing, both #1 Duke and #3 Kansas are struggling with much weaker opponents — Duke with Virginia, and KU with Nebraska.  Both took deficits into the half.  Duke’s problem has been ice-cold three-point shooting, and as has been discussed at length the last couple of days, the Blue Devils cannot simply revert to being a jump-shooting team and expect to get back to the Final Four.  For a good number of years in the 2000s, that’s what they were, and those teams were often out of the NCAA Tournament by the Sweet Sixteen.  As for Kansas, the Morris twins who went off on Wednesday night have been MIA this afternoon.  At the half, they hadn’t even combined for double figures yet and Markief was already in foul trouble.  Obviously if one or both of these two drop a game today, that would be an enormous upset so stay tuned for more on those.
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BGTD: Evening Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2011

Things calmed down in the evening session, but that doesn’t stop us from giving you our observations…

  • Was It Really Upset Saturday? There’s a longstanding sentiment in our minds that conference losses on the road are rarely, by definition, upsets.  Yet today’s string of Ls by Top 25 teams — from #7 Missouri to #24 Central Florida — suggests that this is going to be a wild and wacky conference season this year.  None of the “upsets” were earth-shattering; teams like Colorado, Georgia and Oklahoma State have talent and the biggest Vegas spread was eight points (UCF favored over Houston).  But today’s results illustrate that outside of a select few teams  in the top five,  the margins between teams ranked in the top 10 versus the top 50 is exceptionally thin.  Does this portend week after week of craziness in college basketball?  One can always hope, and if today’s results are any indication, then some of this season’s conference races could be ridiculously competitive.
  • Arizona-Stanford Game Postponed.  This game was postponed tonight as a result of the horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and several others in her entourage, and it is absolutely the right call.  We get pissed as much as the next person from time to time, but to have the kind of mental imbalance to harbor such unbelievable hatred for someone whom you’ve likely never even met is incomprehensible to us.  Tucson needs time to mourn and heal, and although the game is only delayed by 24 hours, tonight was not the night for a community to come together and cheer for its team.
  • Notre Dame Continues to Impress at Home.  The Irish did what so far nobody else in the Big East has been able to do tonight — beat St. John’s.  And they did so rather convincingly behind a big 26-point night by Ben Hansbrough.  The Irish have beaten three good teams in the Joyce Center — Georgetown, UConn and now the Johnnies.  They’ll go on the road next week at Marquette and back against the Johnnies next Sunday.  If we were to rank the Big East into tiers as of what we’ve seen through two weeks of action, it would go something like this.  1) Syracuse and Pitt at the top; 2) Villanova, St. John’s and Notre Dame on the next tier; 3) Georgetown, WVU, Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and UConn on the next tier; and 4) everybody else.  The fact that both ND and SJU are on that second tier at this point in the season is surprising, isn’t it?
  • Gonzaga Will Not Win the WCC This Year.  You heard it here first.  We caught part of both of these WCC games tonight, and St. Mary’s again looked more impressive in going to Pepperdine and thoroughly thumping the Waves by 25 points than Gonzaga did at home in beating Portland (by 13).  Of course, it helps when you have a senior like Mickey McConnell dropping fifteen dimes (three more than the entire PU team) and one of the nation’s best three-point attacks (41%).  The Zags are playing better than they were, but as we saw tonight, they have a bit of a tendency to struggle offensively, going through long scoring droughts when Elias Harris (7 points) isn’t able to get it going.
  • Thank You, Mark Fox! We heard the “overrated” chant from Georgia students near the end of the Kentucky game, but didn’t know about Mark Fox’s retort until Jeff Goodman reported it later.  Apparently Fox chastised the students to cut it out, stating that UK is a “damn good team” and that maybe Georgia was in fact “underrated.”  This chant has been going on at schools forever, but it’s a major pet peeve of ours because it essentially minimizes the accomplishment that the winning team just achieved (i.e., if the team you beat is in fact overrated, then your win isn’t as impressive).  So thank you, Mark Fox, and hopefully his admonishment is just one small step to a point where we can eventually stamp out  a truly annoying student chant.
  • Auburn Reaches an Even New Level of Futility.  Really, Auburn?  Six points in the first half of your home loss to LSU tonight?  We’re not sure whether to be more impressed by the fact that the War Eagles put up a six-point stinker or if it’s that they worked back into it  and actually had a chance to win the game.  How’d they do it?  Try a one (Kenny Gabriel), a two (Scott Chubb) and a three (Gabriel, again), as Auburn bricked its way to an 8% shooting half to cause Auburn fans to boo them heading into the locker room.  With the football team playing for the national championship on Monday night, and Tony Barbee’s team finding new ways to look terrible, is there a greater disparity between football and basketball at any other major-conference school in America?  We don’t think so.
  • Down to Six Unbeatens.  It was bound to end sooner or later, but Central Florida’s perfect record went kaput this evening in Houston.  We can’t say we’re completely surprised.  It’s much easier to get jacked up for games against intrastate big-time schools like Florida and Miami than it is to play an 8-6 Houston team in front of a light crowd.  But that’s the problem with putting a target on your back, especially if you’re not used to being in that position.  This leaves us with six unbeatens.  Syracuse and San Diego State both had tough battles on the road but survived today, while Duke, Ohio State, Kansas and Cincinnati all play Sunday.
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BGTD: Late Afternoon Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on January 8th, 2011

Some mid-afternoon thoughts on today’s games filling the heart of the day…

  • Alex Oriakhi hits the boards. Kemba Walker may get all of the post-game hype after his great finish in UConn‘s big road win at Texas, but for our money the player of the game and the one that we think Jim Calhoun will credit most for the win will be Alex Oriakhi. Calhoun has been all over Oriakhi lately for his lack of rebounding (seven straight games with single-digit rebounds including just one rebound in their loss at Pittsburgh). When I spoke with Calhoun after the Huskies’ New Year’s Eve victory over USF all I had to say was “Alex” before he cut me off and went on a rant about Oriakhi’s lack of rebounding. He was quick to note that Alex was working hard, but that he thought he might have been pressing. After speaking with Calhoun I went back to Alex and asked him about it and he essentially told me that he couldn’t really do anything about rebounding because it wasn’t something that he could do anything about, which I disagree with completely, but he seemed like such a nice kid and seemed troubled enough about it that I didn’t want to tell him that he was wrong (especially since my 5’10” frame and lack of a vertical has been a major hindrance in the progress of my basketball career). He followed it up with an even worse game against Notre Dame where he failed to score a point and only had six rebounds. I wasn’t at the game, but I imagine that Calhoun was very critical of him after that game. Fast forward a few days to today against a Texas team that came in to the game ranked 3rd in the nation in rebounds and one that was expected to dominate the Huskies on the inside with Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, and Gary Johnson. Instead of getting dominated on the inside, Oriakhi turned in by far his best game since Maui and nearly matched the Longhorn trio in rebound total (22 to 21). Even though he struggled from the field going 5 of 16, Oriakhi more than made up for it on the boards and was probably the star of the game even if the rest of the media is going to focus on Kemba’s late game heroics. UConn is still a flawed team as it relies too much on Kemba to do what he did in overtime and it has too many young players who are still working on learning their roles playing around Kemba, but if Oriakhi can play like this on a more consistent basis the Huskies could be a team that nobody wants to play in March with Kemba on the outside and Alex on the inside.
  • Kemba Walker saves the day. Now that we have talked about Alex Oriakhi, we can get to Kemba Walker who shrugged off a rare off-night (going 8-27 from the field even with his late game heroics including the ridiculous heave to beat the shot clock with a little over 2 minutes left in OT). We have to give the Texas guards some credit for their defense on Kemba throughout the game, but we saw at the end of the game that there really isn’t anybody in college who can guard him. Rick Barnes had Dogus Balbay, who for our money is one of the best defensive guards in the nation, on Walker at the end of the game and Walker just brushed him off to him the game-winner with 5 seconds left in overtime. Walker might lose some of his early lead in the National Player of the Year race if UConn struggles in the Big East and he has plenty of competition particularly from Jared Sullinger and Nolan Smith, but the UConn PR department will probably have plenty of moments like late in today’s game to hype Walker’s candidacy if they choose to do so.
  • Roscoe Smith’s heave. We aren’t even sure where to begin with Roscoe Smith. Although it doesn’t quite rank up there with Jamelle Horne‘s pair of boneheaded plays from 2 years ago Smith’s 75-foot heave with nearly 10 seconds left in regulation is going to be replayed on blooper shows for years to come. We are going to give Smith a little bit of a pass (a very little bit) as I would imagine that the frantic finish and blocked shot by Alex Oriakhi that led to the ball ending up in Smith’s hands would have made it very difficult for anybody to be aware of how much time was left on the clock especially a 6’8″ freshman forward who is probably never asked to touch the ball late in games (and after this probably won’t for some time). I’m not sure words can do justice to just how bad this heave was and we can’t find any video footage of this shot yet, but when we do we will be sure to put it up.
  • Georgia knocks off Kentucky. It has already been a rough weekend for Kentucky. First there was the Enes Kanter ruling then there was the football team getting blown out by a Pittsburgh team that was playing without its recently hired head coach who had been fired after getting arrested on charges of domestic violence. Now their basketball team drops the SEC opener at Georgia. Before the fan base goes crazy (and we are guessing that based on the 4,573 fans on CatsPause at the time we wrote this that they are going crazy) we should point out that that the Bulldog team that they lost to could be very good. They have flown under the radar after losing two games at the Old Spice Classic to Notre Dame and Temple (two very good teams) in Trey Thompkins first games back after an early-season ankle injury. Since that time the Bulldogs have reeled off nine straight wins against some admittedly uninspiring opponents in somewhat unconvincing fashion (four games decided by three points or less). We are not sure if Georgia is a top 25 team, but we should have a better idea by January 18th as they play at Vanderbilt and at home against Tennessee during a three-game stretch. If they come out of that stretch with a 2-1 record don’t be surprised if this team is near the top of the SEC East standings by the end of the season.
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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on January 8th, 2011

With the first weekend of major conference action upon us, we’re back with another weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  The idea behind this is that we’ll update after each three-hour (or so) block of games with some instant analysis on what we’ve seen so far today.  So here goes…

  • Georgetown Moves to 1-3 We’ve been touting Georgetown for most of the early part of this season, but it’s obvious that the Hoyas have some serious identity problems at the halfway mark. By that, we mean that they have to find a way to succeed when Chris Wright is off his game. Wright had a miserable shooting day in today’s loss against West Virginia (65-59), going 3-13 from the field, including 1-7 from three. The other problem is that they have to learn how to finish games. Four straight turnovers at the end of the game doomed the Hoyas, but losing the battle on the offensive glass 15-4 and coughing up 18 turnovers will ruin you every time, too. Even the effort of Jason Clark (16/6) couldn’t offset the poor play of Wright and Austin Freeman today. Casey Mitchell continued his excellence for the Mountaineers (28 pts on 10-18) and showed that WVU will be a force in the Big East this year despite very little early season talk about them.
  • Upset Saturday? Looks like we have a little bit of an Upset Saturday brewing. Oklahoma State beats Kansas State by 14, right as people were starting to regain a little confidence in the Wildcats. What’s odd is that OSU was able to win despite showing just 40.4% and 2-10 from three. The defense was the story here for the Cowboys, snagging eleven steals and forcing 21 turnovers. KSU only got production fron two players, namely Jacob Pullen (20/5, but on 4-11 from the field) and Rodney McGruder (19/6 on 7-11). Oklahoma State showed up in force, placing four players in double-figures, led by reserve Jan-Paul Olukemi’s tasty double-double of 22/11 on an efficient 7-9 from the field. At 13-2 and a win over a ranked K-State team, you’ll see Oklahoma State grab some votes this week.
  • MSU Continues to Lapse.  We’re trying, Tom Izzo. We’ve defended your Michigan State squad pretty loudly this year. We know that you guys usually save the best for last. But it’s getting tougher. Yes, life on the road during conference play is tough, especially in the Big Ten. But if we’re going to keep backing you, you have to pull out games like this one you just dropped at Penn State (66-62). Talor Battle drilled a jumper with 18 seconds to seal the win for the Lions, who put four players in double figures, as opposed to Sparty’s two. Looks like there’s a little road team virus going around the country this weekend.
  • Another Top Ten Loses.  If you require further evidence for that diagnosis, we give you Missouri, who got shelled, 89-76, at Colorado. Of course when Alec Burks loses his mind on you with 36/8, where you’re playing matters a lot less. The Buffs owned the Tigers on the boards, 46-31, and the Missouri defense, known for forcing opponents into frustrated turnovers, could only coax 11 out of Colorado. Not a bad way to start your final Big 12 campaign, Buffaloes.
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BGTD: Evening Games Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on December 18th, 2010

We’re here to finish off an exciting day of college basketball. As some of you may notice there are still games going on and if you want our thoughts on those games be sure to check back later for our After the Buzzer feature.

  • College kids. . .: Before we get into our analysis we should take a moment to remember that we are talking about players who are mostly between 18 and 22 years old and that because we are at or near the end of finals week(s) so even though we are going to be analyzing every game as if it were the final Monday night in April you shouldn’t read too much into any of these games. Having said that. . .
  • Baylor Folds: The Bears had it right in front of them. Throughout the  early season the critics have harped on Baylor’s soft early schedule, but today was their chance to make a statement to the nation. The Bulldogs may be struggling and lack the national interest that they usually have at this point in the season, but a win over Gonzaga is always noteworthy no matter how big your program is. With Steven Gray out at halftime with back spasms, Elias Harris out with 6 minutes to go after fouling out, and Demetri Goodson turning the ball over 7 times the Bears should have had this one in the bag, but they let it get away. There is enough talent on this team that they will probably get some big wins in the Big 12 to make up for this loss, but you have to wonder about a veteran-laden team that comes up so small in a big game that was eminently winnable.
  • Perry Jones: The one bright spot for Scott Drew’s squad? There was one player who stepped up today and that was uber-recruit Perry Jones. So far this season he has been under the radar with the phenomenal performances of Jared Sullinger and Kyrie Irving, but he has managed to put up solid numbers–13.1 PPG, 9 RPG, and 1.3 BPG–although it has come against lackluster competition. Today he showed us that he can do it against the big boys even if some of them were out for part of the game. If the Bears can get Jones to play more on the inside rather than staying around the 3-point line they could have a dynamic force on the inside that could feed off of LaceDarius Dunn and A.J. Walton to become a potential game-changer and help the Bears make a run in March.
  • BYU Stunned: We won’t make too much of BYU’s loss at this point of the year in the opening game of the Wooden Classic to a Bruins team that apparently used the legendary coach as motivation for the game today (at least that’s what they said after the game), but it will bring up the usual questions about the Cougars namely what will they do when all-world Jimmer Fredette is struggling as he did today with 7 turnovers (along with 25 points). They were able to get an excellent offensive effort out of Brandon Davies today, but it was not nearly enough. Fredette’s brilliance will get them pretty far in March, but if they want to make that next step they will need the entire team to step up when he is off his game on both ends of the floor. On a side note, how has UCLA fallen so far in such a short period of time that a victory over BYU in the Wooden Classic would be considered an upset?
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BGTD: Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2010

Hello, Donnie. Get ready to see head coach Donnie Jones and his Knights of Central Florida in the next Top 25 that comes out in about 48 hours. They knocked off Miami (FL) earlier, 84-78, and are now 10-0. Understandably, your attention may immediately gravitate to Marcus Jordan (15.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.4 APG), given his famous papa, and he was outstanding tonight with 23 points. The name you also need to know is Keith Clanton (16.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG), their star 6’8 sophomore forward. They’ll next put that undefeated record on the line at Massachusetts on Wednesday.

Save somethin’ for the second half (of the season), big fella. There’s not much else to say about Jared Sullinger, but it’s still fun talking about how ridiculously good he is. South Carolina isn’t exactly long, and they looked like a team feeling the effects of a post-finals week, pre-holiday road trip — they shot terribly (38.3% FG, 42.9% FT), didn’t take care of the ball (15 turnovers) and their defense in transition was non-existent — but 30/19 for the Ohio State big fella is still an outstanding performance. And when he’s hitting halftime buzzer-beating spinning jumpers off glass from near the hash marks, you know what kind of day you’re in for.

An Early Christmas? Perhaps a little post-finals malaise from Illinois? You might drop a clanger of a game every once in a while and get away with it, but 18-55 (32.7%) from the field and 4-17 (23.7%) from beyond the three-point arc wasn’t going to get the Illini by Illinois-Chicago today. The Flames (now 5-7) forced some late Illinois turnovers and UIC’s Darrin Williams took advantage of every late scoring chance he had in helping his team pull off the upset, but the story here was how the Flames removed Illinois’ bigs from the equation. The Illini starting front line had a combined 13 points on 5-16 shooting, and they only got five more points from big guys off the bench.

Making a Point. North Carolina will take the next step forward when Kendall Marshall eats up more of Larry Drew II’s minutes. Drew plays twice as much as Marshall on the average but Marshall has shown to be a better distributor of the basketball, is great at getting into the lane and finding an open teammate, and is a little more comfortable getting physical than Drew appears to be. What do you think, Tar Heel fans? Would you be comfortable with Marshall seeing more time at Drew’s expense? Despite Harrison Barnes’ clutch three to tie it at 76 (his first three of the game and only UNC’s third) Texas just stunned the Heels in Greensboro on Cory Joseph’s stick in the final seconds.

Orange Bawl. From here, Kansas State has officially removed itself from consideration as one of the elite teams in the nation that could conceivably contend for a national title. We probably gave them longer than most people, actually. Losing to Florida in the Gators’ home state (this was an Orange Bowl Classic affair) is no crime, but that the Wildcats can be goaded into some of the shots they took tonight (15-55 or 27.3% FG, and 3-19 or 15.8% from three) shows that they aren’t ready to be considered among the big boys at this time.

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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on December 18th, 2010

We’re back with another weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  Keep in mind that we’re trying out a new format this year, so please let us know in the comments if you think it’s working, not working or we should tie bricks to our feet and go jump in the freezing lake.  We’re open to whatever feedback you have.  The idea behind it is that we’ll update after each three-hour (or so) block of games with some instant analysis on what we’ve seen so far today.  So here goes…

  • 64 Nearly No More.   Great game in Lawrence this early afternoon, as Josh Selby made his college basketball debut and in so doing saved a home court winning streak that began at Allen Fieldhouse when he was a mere freshman in a Baltimore high school.  More on Selby’s first appearance of the season below, but for the second time this season, the Jayhawks survived by the skin of their teeth against an inferior Pac-10 team on their home floor.  In an ugly, defensive-minded game favored by USC’s Kevin O’Neill and KU’s Bill Self, it was the inability for Southern Cal to secure two late defensive rebounds on scrambles that led to its loss here today.  On both misses, Kansas didn’t panic and instead rotated the ball to the reverse side of the floor (this made Bob Knight very happy) where  an open three-point shooter named Josh Selby was waiting.  On both occasions Kansas was already down two and had taken a poor shot — had USC gotten the rebound, especially with 26 seconds remaining, you’d have to figure the Trojans were in the driver’s seat to steal this one.  Didn’t happen, and perhaps that’s a reasonable explanation as to why Kansas has won a billion games at home and USC is 0-3 on the road this year.  The Trojans had one more chance down one with five seconds to go but point guard Jio Fontan stepped on the sideline as he made his move.  With the victory, KU has won 65 in a row at AFH, which is just over halfway to the all-time record of 129 that Kentucky put together in the 40s and 50s.  KU should easily get to the brink of #70 and the top ten all-time between now and January 22 and January 29, when Texas and Kansas State come to town on consecutive Saturdays.
  • Josh Selby’s Long-Awaited Debut.  In the most highly anticipated opener in the Sunflower State since Dorothy clicked her heels and found out you can go home again, freshman Josh Selby debuted in a Kansas uniform in Lawrence this afternoon.  And he looked like the Jayhawks’ best player, going for 21 points on 5-11 shooting, including two gigantic threes down the stretch that saved KU’s 65-game home court winning streak.  His five made field goals, in fact, were all threes, and he added five rebounds to go along with four turnovers.  The one area that concerned us was this little factoid: one assist.  Clearly Selby is a scoring point guard, and nobody is confused about that, but with the talent available to him on his team he’s going to have to make sure to pass the ball enough to keep the upperclassmen happy with their touches.  This has been a concern with KU in terms of successfully integrating the talented guard, and after seeing him today, we understand why.  He’s much more Jacob Pullen than Kyrie Irving.  One aside for Maeshon Witherspoon, Selby’s mom…  KU’s colors are crimson and blue with white trim and lettering — not orange.  You might want to hit the student store on the way off campus this afternoon.
  • Mister Fontan Makes USC Better.  USC has really struggled this season with early losses to Rider, Bradley, Nebraska, TCU and now Kansas already.  The problem has been clearly a lack of offense, and that issue is directly attributable to the lack of a serviceable point guard.  Fontan is beyond serviceable — he could be the second-best lead guard in the entire Pac-10 behind Washington’s Isaiah Thomas.  Considering that the Trojans are among the worst teams in America in terms of assists, the addition of Fontan (who only had two assists today, nevertheless) should help Kevin O’Neill’s team greatly with running his team.  With Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson inside, there is enough talent here for the Trojans to make some waves in the mediocre tidepools of the Pac-10, so it’ll be interesting to see how they develop together in the next few weeks.  He certainly felt that his team should have won the game today, as he tweeted after the game:
  • Oakland Hangover.  Just a few days after winning the biggest  game in program history, Oakland played badly in Ann Arbor today and never seriously threatened Michigan in a 69-51 loss.  Keith Benson was alright, going for 11/7/4 blks in 37 minutes of action, but his supporting cast who were so impressive earlier this week didn’t show up today.  Ledrick Eackles and Larry Wright combined for 31 crucial points in Knoxville, but they only came up with four today (on 1-15 FG).  Greg Kampe’s team has played a lot of good major conference opponents this season, but the Golden Grizzlies coach would have loved to have notched a win over a Big Ten on his resume as well — they’ll have one more chance against Jared Sullinger and Ohio State on Thursday.  Beating Michigan would have been easier.
  • Afternoon Games to Keep an Eye On...  Some interesting mid-game scores to keep an eye on the rest of the afternoon:  UCF leads Miami (FL) in an effort to keep their unbeaten record intact; UIC is challenging Illinois in Chicago; and Long Beach State is leading St. Mary’s at the Wooden Classic (RTC Live coverage there).
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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Evening Games

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2010

The evening set of games wasn’t chock full of great matchups on paper, but there were a few good ones that we were able to catch so here are tonight’s thoughts…

  • Washington: Nothing New to See Here.  Through nine games, Washington has convincingly beaten the six teams that it’s clearly better than and found ways to lose close games against the three teams it’s not.  KenPom loves this team because the Husky offense is regularly capable of throwing up triple-digits against bad teams, but unfortunately it doesn’t account for the ability to finish against similarly talented teams.  Blame Lorenzo Romar’s coaching or the basketball IQ of the players, but we’ve seen this song and dance from Washington for a number of seasons now — this year appears to be no different.  The Huskies are very talented, but they don’t perform well in the clutch.  Witness today’s finish against Texas A&M — Isaiah Thomas made a brilliant defensive play to steal the ball  in the backcourt with the Aggies leading by a single point and about six seconds remaining, but instead of using his ridiculous quickness and leaping ability to attack the basket, he instead inexplicably killed his dribble at the foul line and was forced into a fadeaway jumper that only got inches out of his hand (see below).  TAMU’s David Loubeau immediately rejected it and saved the game for his team in the process.  That’s not a winning decision, and Thomas, a vociferous jabberer on Twitter, has been getting killed for it this evening.  Through the first quarter of the season, what do we know about the Huskies?  Against nobodies, they can score and look spectacular doing so; but good teams can defend them, as both Kentucky (38.5%) and A&M have proven (37.7%).  They’re probably still a co-favorite with Arizona in the Pac-10, but so what — until they learn how to make better decisions against good teams it won’t get them very far into the postseason.
  • IU Progressing.  Indiana is by no means ‘back,’ but for the first time in a while it didn’t appear in today’s game against Kentucky that they were completely outclassed in talent on the court.  The Wildcats amped up its defense in the last part of the game and ultimately blew the Hoosiers out of the building, 81-62, but it was a close back-and-forth contest and IU actually still led the game at the 8:05 mark.  With a solid core of Christian Watford (19/9), Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones continuing to develop and Cody Zeller joining the Hoosiers next season, it appears that Indiana is on the right track again.  The next step in the progression is for Indiana to break through against one of these teams like Boston College or Kentucky — they’ve shown they can play with these teams, but they’re not yet capable of finishing those games.
  • Fab Melo Can’t Even Score Against Colgate.  Syracuse ran out to a 46-8 halftime lead and defeated winless Colgate 100-43, but freshman center Fab Melo still couldn’t get a point.  The seven-footer only played six minutes, but in that time he missed his only shot and managed to put up his fifth donut in ten games this season.  Considering the hype that Melo had coming into the season, we’re not sure that there’s been a bigger disappointment this season (2.1 PPG/2.2 RPG).  Still, it doesn’t appear to affect Jim Boeheim’s team at all, as the Orange just keep trucking along (now at 10-0).  Imagine if the big guy starts to figure it all out by midseason?
  • RTC at Fordham!  We’re still waiting to see photographic or video evidence of this, but we understand that Fordham fans RTC’d tonight to celebrate its first win over a Big East team (St. John’s) in ten years.  Keep in mind that the Rams, 4-4 this year, had won a total of five games the last two seasons, so this was a huge victory for their program, and it was made all the better by coming back from 21 down in the second half (60-39).  The Johnnies, hyped considerably this year with the hire of Steve Lavin, have now taken back-to-back losses to Atlantic 10 teams.  Not exactly the best way to endear yourself to the NYC Big East-centric media, coach.

RTC at Fordham (credit: Daily Dose of Hoops)

  • Gonzaga With a Losing Record.  Mark Few always loads up on quality opponents in the early going, but this year’s gauntlet has resulted in his team sporting a 4-5 record midway through December after tonight’s 83-79 loss at Notre Dame.  Elias Harris and his injured Achilles looked good this evening (19/5/4 assts), but the reason the Zags continue to lose these games is that their defense is failing them.  Gonzaga once again gave up a bunch of threes (11 tonight) and their three-point defense is among the worst in the nation this year (nearly 40%).  It’s very difficult for them to find enough points against good teams when they’re matadoring everyone, especially on the perimeter.  The Zags have one quality win over Marquette, but the opportunities for more are quickly dwindling.  Could Butler and Gonzaga both miss the NCAAs this year?
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