Set Your DVR: Week of 12.04.12

Posted by bmulvihill on December 4th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s Jimmy V. Week and the college football regular season has come to end. That means college hoops takes center stage at universities across the country and we couldn’t be happier. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#16 Georgetown vs. Texas – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (***)

Expect Otto Porter to Bounce Back Against Texas (AP/R. Sutton)

  • The big question in the Georgetown-Texas game is where are the points going to come from on both sides. The Hoyas are coming off the ugliest game college basketball has seen in quite some time. While they beat Tennessee on Friday night by a score of 37-36, coach John Thompson III cannot be happy with how his team is performing on the offensive end. On the other side, the Longhorns are struggling to score as well. They are shooting an eFG% of 48.7% on the season against teams like UT-Arlington, Sam Houston State, and Chaminade (a game in which they lost). Expect this game to be a defensive slugfest. No one wants to see a disaster similar to Georgetown-Tennessee, but this game has that kind of feel. The Hoyas have the length advantage once again in this match-up and should be able to take advantage on the boards, and it’s unlikely that Georgetown forward Otto Porter will be held in check again. So keep a close eye on how he responds to his eight-point performance on 4-11 shooting against the Vols. While the Texas defense has been strong, their competition does not give us much to go on. The Longhorns will continue to struggle without point guard Myck Kabongo in the lineup regardless.

#21 North Carolina State vs. Connecticut  9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (***)

  • Since UConn’s surprise win against Michigan State in the opener, the Huskies have come back to earth and played very mediocre basketball. A close win against Quinnipiac and a loss to New Mexico showed that Kevin Ollie’s team still has a lot of work to do. NC State is on the verge of a very disappointing non-conference season already with losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan, and a too-close-for-comfort game against UNC-Asheville. The good news for the Wolfpack is that their offense performed much better against Michigan, shooting almost 60% eFG in the loss. Look to see if they can put together a complete game for the first time this season against a quality opponent. The guard match-ups between UConn’s Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright and NC State’s Rodney Purvis and Lorenzo Brown should be fun to watch. However, the difference in this one should be the Wolfpack’s frontcourt of C.J. Leslie and T.J. Warren. NC State just has more scoring options across the lineup than the Huskies.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 30th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Many of the power conference teams hit the road for the very first time this weekend, so we should start to get a real sense of where teams stand early in the season. With a little less college football going on this weekend, you should make some time to catch a few games. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Tennessee at #16 Georgetown – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Exceeding Expectations (Getty)

  • Tennessee heads to Georgetown for its first true road game of the season. Like many of the games this past week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and now the Big East/SEC Challenge, we are going to get a true indication of where a lot of teams stand. While the Vols are 4-1, they lost their toughest test against Oklahoma State. They face a Geogetown team that is extremely long. The Hoyas start four players who are at least 6’8”, while the “shortest” player, 6’2” guard Michael Starks, is their leading scorer. Look for the Hoyas to take advantage of their size and shoot a lot within the paint. Georgetown currently shoots 56% from inside the arc while the Vols rank 106th in the country in two-point defense. Also, keep a close eye on free throws. With this game looking like it’s going to take place inside the arc, free throws will be a key to victory. The Hoyas are struggling to get to the line and it caught up with them in their recent overtime loss to Indiana. On the other hand, Tennessee is ranked in the top 25 nationally in free throw rate. The team that gets to the line more and sinks its free throws should be the winner in this contest.

Baylor at #8 Kentucky - 12:30 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • Kentucky and Baylor are two teams in desperate need of a good win. Kentucky is coming off a beating on the road at the hands of Notre Dame. As coach John Calipari discussed in many of his preseason press conferences, the Wildcats are not consistent on offense or defense. As soon as you think they are coming together, they lay an egg and shoot 40% against ND. Baylor is also struggling to find an identity outside of “The Pierre Jackson Show.” While Jackson’s play has been mostly excellent, it does not seem to be working particularly well with recent losses to Colorado and College of Charleston. Kentucky will be tough to beat at home but they need better consistency on both ends of the court. They should be able to shoot the ball against a struggling Baylor defense, particularly from downtown. If the Wildcats can get back in the long-ball groove, they should win at home for the 56th straight time under Calipari.

#18 Oklahoma State at Virginia Tech 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN3 (****)

  • While Oklahoma State lost to Virginia Tech last year in a close contest and will play a true road game for the first time this year, the Cowboys have not been tested so far this season. More importantly, they have responded with drubbings of Tennessee and North Carolina State. For the Hokies, OSU is by far their toughest opponent to date. The Cowboys have been winning with solid defense. Opponents have been held to 36.3% from two and an overall eFG% of 39.8%. Typically, you may take these stats with a grain of salt given the competition, but Travis Ford’s team has played a strong schedule thus far. The match-up you should keep a close eye on is the Cowboy defense versus Virginia Tech guard Erick Green. The 6’3” Green is averaging 24.3 points per game thus far, and Ford will counter with a trio of big guards in 6’7” LeBryan Nash, 6’4” Marcus Smart, and 6’3” Markel Brown. Do not expect Green to hit for two dozen against the Pokes. If he does, Virginia Tech will be in good shape. Finally, watch the Hokies on the offensive glass. They currently rank 314th in the country in offensive rebounding rate against a fairly soft schedule. It’s not going to be easy for coach James Johnson’s squad to hit their shots, so he needs them to grab offensive boards desperately. If they don’t, look for the Cowboys to win in Blacksburg.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.27.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 27th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday/Wednesday nights will give us some of the best non-conference match-ups we’ll see this season. It should be a great battle between two of the top conferences in the nation. We sneak in Kentucky vs. Notre Dame also later this week. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge gives us some of the best games of the season so far.

#23 Minnesota at #25 Florida State – 7:15 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Minnesota comes into this game battle tested from a tough, early non-conference schedule. With the exception of the Gophers’ loss to Duke, Tubby Smith’s squad is winning with defense. Typically, we would say the same thing about Florida State’s defense, but it’s their offense that is winning their games this season. The Seminoles are shooting 56% from two and 41% from three. While Minnesota has only allowed opponents to hit 29.6% of their three-point attempts this season, they have been susceptible to the long ball in their last three outings. Additionally, they have been poor on the defensive glass, allowing teams to grab 37% of their misses. FSU has four players that shoot over 40% from beyond the arc and they are actually taller than the Gophers, particularly in the backcourt. Pay close attention to FSU’s three-point shooting and offensive rebounding in this one. Because Minnesota is not a great shooting team, they are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the Seminoles’ size on the offensive glass. Thus far, the Gophers are grabbing 47.3% of their missed shots on the offensive end, which is good for fourth in the nation. The winner of this game will be the team that owns the offensive glass.

#21 North Carolina State at #5 Michigan  7:30 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

  • Both of these teams are in the top 20 in effective field goal percentage thus far in the season. Three-point shooting will be a key factor in this match-up with both teams hovering right around the 40% mark. The Wolfpack is led by Rodney Purvis and Scott Wood on the outside, shooting 58.8% and 44.8% respectively. Those are the only two players on NC State who have attempted more than 10 three-point shots on the season. The Wolverines, however, have four players – Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III – who have attempted 10+ threes and all are shooting at over 30%. Both teams are middle of the pack at defending the outside shot, so it will be interesting to see who is able to take this advantage. While offensive firepower seems to be the key in this game, defense will ultimately determine the winner. Michigan has held all of its opponents under a point per possession this season and has proven it can win ugly against Pittsburgh. NC State is the best offense UM has faced thus far, though, but the question remains if the Wolfpack can hold off the plethora of Wolverines who can score. NC State is coming off a shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma State and a very close win against UNC-Asheville, where they allowed an eFG of 56.3%. If they don’t improve that field goal defense against Michigan, they will get crushed again.
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Set Your DVR: Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The Battle 4 Atlantis and the NIT Tip-Off continue over the weekend with some very interesting match-ups. So grab some Thanksgiving left overs and settle in for some good hoops.

#5 Michigan vs. Kansas State (PNIT Finals) – 4:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

The Wolverines are going to need better three-point shooting from Tim Hardaway Jr. against Kansas State. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Both Michigan and Kansas State. are coming off tough semifinal wins in the NIT Tip-Off. Michigan was able to pull out a victory with strong second-half defense in the 1-3-1 zone and great defensive rebounding. While the Wolverines are not going to win many games going 3-17 from three-point land, it is encouraging to see them win with their defense, particularly because Kansas State brings a strong defense into any game. The Wildcats are only allowing teams to shoot 27.4% from downtown and are creating turnovers on 28% of opponents possessions. K-State also had eight players go double-figure minutes against Delaware while the Wolverines only had six players go into double-figure minutes against Pitt. The Wolverines could get tired in the second half due to K-State’s physical play if they do not get more minutes from the bench. KSU is going to have to improve its shooting significantly if they want to walk away with a big win. They’ve shot 41.5% eFG against Delaware and 44.8% eFG through five games this season. The Wildcats need to shoot over 50% eFG to have a chance at winning this one.

#23 Cincinnati vs. Iowa State (LV Invitational) – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on CBS College Sports (***)

  • While Cincinnati and Iowa State have two common opponents already, Campbell and North Carolina A&T, its tough to glean any significant information from the games because both were blowouts. The Bearcats come into the game with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.4, which is good for 11th in the nation. They are cleaning up on the defensive boards and shutting down two-point shooting. ISU is ranked 16th in the country in two-point shooting, hitting 56.9% of their shots inside the arc thus far. Keep a close eye on who wins the battle in the paint, as it should determine the winner of this one.

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Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 16th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The second weekend in the college hoops season cools off a bit and settles into some of the preseason tournaments. While the different tourneys play out over the weekend, there are several games you should keep an eye on as we head into Feast Week. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#22 Notre Dame vs. Saint Joseph’s – 9:30 PM EST, Friday on TruTV HD (****)

Notre Dame needs guard Eric Atkins to pick up his scoring against Saint Joseph’s

  • After a 2-0 start, Notre Dame faces its toughest challenge of the young season in a Saint Joseph’s team returning 99% of its minutes from last season. Thus far, the Irish is not getting the production they have come to expect from their two starting guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. Only Grant has reached double figures once in the two games they have played. Both players averaged 12 points per game last season and coach Mike Brey needs every bit of those 12 points for his Irish team to meet expectations. Since St. Joe’s will still be without suspended guard Carl Jones, look to see if the Irish guards are able to take advantage. It’s critical that they do, because Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley and center Garrick Sherman will face a tough test against the Hawks front line. It will be interesting to see how Cooley and Sherman respond to the much more athletic forwards than they have seen thus far in 2012.
  • While Saint Joseph’s blew out Yale in its first game of the season, Phil Martelli needs to be a little concerned with his team’s offensive performance. The Hawks averaged less than a point per possession, shot a 45.9% eFG, and were only 3-14 from three in that game. Obviously, missing leading scorer Jones is a major factor, but they can ill afford to have another poor offensive showing against the Irish. Look to see if guard Chris Wilson can improve on his three points in 36 minutes and provide St. Joe’s with some backcourt scoring. Guard Langston Galloway was able to drop 20 points against Yale, so keep an eye on his ability to maintain that level of scoring against a much tougher opponent.
  • This should be a close battle between two experienced teams. If St. Joe’s is going to beat Notre Dame, it’ll need to do it on defense.  The key will be the ability of St. Joe’s forwards Halil Kanacevic, Ronald Roberts, and C.J. Aiken to neutralize Cooley and Sherman down low and grab defensive boards. If Notre Dame gets its  typical scoring production from Atkins and Grant, it should win this game. If not, Martelli and the Hawks will come away with a nice win for the Atlantic 10 against its rival Big East.

More Great Hoops

Florida State vs. BYU – 7:00 PM EST, Friday on TruTV HD (****)

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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first full week of the college hoops season provides us several excellent non-conference match-ups between the true blue bloods of the sport, as well as a first glimpse at some of the mid-majors we may be hearing from in March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#2 Kentucky vs. #9 Duke – 9:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

Nerlens Noel needs to step-up his offensive game against the Duke Blue Devils

  • Duke took care of business in last Friday’s opening game against Georgia State. Because of the the level of competition, the first game does not give us too much insight into the 2012-13 version of the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad shot and rebounded well, but they were expected to against the Panthers. Mason Plumlee leads the way for Duke and his match-up against the Kentucky front line should be a key factor on Tuesday. The Wildcats can throw Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel at the Duke big man. While Maryland forward Alex Len was able to have a big game against these four, look for Kentucky coach John Calipari to make major adjustments to stop Plumlee. Duke senior Ryan Kelly needs to step-up to help Plumlee, particularly on the offensive glass where Duke struggled a bit in their first game. Also, keep an eye on Duke’s turnover numbers. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions against Georgia State. Neither Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton, or Quinn Cook had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in the first game. Continued turnovers will come back to bite the Blue Devils against better competition.
  • Kentucky gets its second ACC team of the season, but now it’s the cream of the crop in the Blue Devils. UK’s freshmen performed reasonably well in their first game but need to put together a full 40 minutes of effective basketball. Maryland was down by double figures in the first half of their first game last week but was able to make the game very tight by the end. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin put together a solid game against the Terps with 16 points, but highly touted freshman center Noel looked lost on offense. Pay close attention to how the freshmen play in the second half in this one. Interestingly enough, Kentucky played very good team defense even with so many freshmen. Typically, defensive skills take longer to develop but the Wildcats held Maryland to a 35% eFG, including 3-19 from three-point land. Duke is a three-heavy team, so watch to see how the Blue Devils fare against a tough perimeter defense.
  • Kentucky is going to need more of their freshmen to step up on offense, if they want to beat the Blue Devils. Wiltjer carried them in the first game and is as smooth as they come on the offensive end, but they need additional offensive support. Watch to see who among all the rookies is able to provide more offense. If Goodwin can continue to provide punch and they can get double figure points from one other freshman, Kentucky can win this game. Duke needs to limit turnovers and get scoring and rebounding from Ryan Kelly. He is very capable on the offensive end but needs to be more aggressive.

More Great Hoops

#8 Michigan St. vs. #4 Kansas - 7:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

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Set Your DVR: Opening Weekend

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The college basketball season is finally here! This season Set Your DVR (ed. note: sadly, nobody has TiVos anymore) will be a twice-weekly column outlining the must-see games for the upcoming week and weekend.  This column will lay out the key factors in each game to focus on and how those factors could affect the outcome. It’s a military-themed weekend of hoops with three games taking place on aircraft carriers and one game taking place at a military base located across the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#16 San Diego State vs. #5 Syracuse – 4:00 PM EST, 11/11/12 on FSN HD (*****)

Jim Boeheim takes the Orange to the USS Midway to take on San Diego State

  • The USS Midway provides the backdrop for an exciting opener between Syracuse and San Diego State. SDSU returns four starters including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin as well as Chase Tapley, James Rahon, and Xavier Thomas. Keep a close eye on the match-up between the Aztec guards and Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche. Triche is taking over for Scoop Jardine and faces a tough test against this crew. Steve Fisher’s squad will have to improve in two areas if they are going to start beating top-tier programs like Syracuse – shooting and offensive rebounding. The Aztecs grabbed only 30.8% of their offensive rebound opportunities last season, so if they are only going to hit 33% of their three-point attempts and 49.8% of their two-point attempts like they did in 2011-12, it’s going to be difficult to beat the best teams in the country. Watch to see if transfers Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien can help the Aztecs grab more of those missed shots.
  • After losing four starters to graduation and the NBA Draft, Syracuse is in a much different place than SDSU. Jim Boeheim’s ability to fill the talent void will be a key factor in determining if this Orange team can beat an experienced Aztec team. The ‘Cuse returns two significant contributors from last year’s team – C.J. Fair and Triche. Both players need to improve their sub-50% eFG in order to prevent the team from taking a step backwards.  The key to the Orange’s success in this game and in the future, however, may be 6’8” senior forward James Southerland. In a somewhat limited role last year, Southerland put up some impressive shooting numbers from inside the arc. Keep a close eye on Southerland’s ability to take advantage of his size inside the three-point line. Syracuse will also be able to throw additional size at the Aztecs with 6’9” sophomore Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” junior Baye Keita, and 6’7” 275 lb. wide-body freshman, DaJuan Coleman. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 03.06.12

Posted by bmulvihill on March 6th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are knee deep in Championship Week and the bigger conferences kick things off today.  However, the mid-majors are fighting for their tournament lives in championship games around the country. We’ll stay focused on the smaller guys for one more day. What an amazing time of year!

Pennsylvania at Princeton – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN3 (****)

Penn needs to win one more to face Harvard in a winner take all playoff game (credit: Meghan Cadet / Daily Pennsylvanian)

  • If Penn can pick up a road win tonight, they will force a one game playoff with Harvard to determine the Ivy League champion and who will get the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. To say this game is a must-win for the Quakers is an understatement. Penn knocked off Princeton at the end of January with an 82-67 win at home. While both teams shot over 60% eFG for the night, the Quakers dominated the offensive glass and the free throw line. They posted their highest offensive rebounding rate and highest free throw rate of the season. It turns out that Penn has one of the worst OR% rates (#299) and one of the worst free throw rates (#303) in the country. Inconceivably, Princeton is worse in both categories, coming in at #313 and #304, respectively, so the Quakers took advantage. Keep a close eye on Penn’s ability to get to the line, as it will play a huge factor in their ability to win one on the road.
  • Princeton has shot the ball 41% from downtown in conference play, ranking first in that category in the conference. Watch to see if the Tigers can pick up some timely threes against the top three-point defense in the Ivy League. Princeton is no slouch on defense either. They have been able to hold teams to 45.5% eFG in league play. However, they must play good defense without fouling, which they struggle to do. Princeton is 3-10 when their opponents have a free throw rate above 36%.
  • This game will be won at the free throw line. While it’s a little more complicated than that, watch the foul situation closely. The Tigers have the field goal defense to slow down the Quakers. However, if they are putting Penn on the line because they are fouling on second chance opportunities, they will lose like they did in the first game, and we’ll be treated with another Ivy League playoff game with a bid on the line later this week.

Horizon League Championship: Detroit at Valparaiso – 9:00PM EST on ESPN (****)

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Set Your TiVo: 03.05.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Four conference tournament titles will be decided this evening. The most important game may be in the Colonial where the loser of the game needs to make a good impression for the NCAA Selection Committee. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

Colonial Athletic Association Championship: Drexel vs. VCU (at Richmond, VA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Will Shaka Smart Earn Himself More Nets Tonight?

  • This is a huge game because the loser is going to be sweating it out for the next week. Drexel won the first and only meeting between these teams way back on January 8. The Dragons bring the #4 eFG% defense to the table along with one of the slowest tempos in Division I. That combination could really frustrate a VCU team that likes to play faster and score in transition. The Rams are the best team in the nation when it comes to defensive turnover percentage but creating turnovers against Bruiser Flint’s Dragons is going to be very difficult. It’s always easier to slow a team down than it is to speed one up and that’s exactly what Drexel has to do in order to win in Richmond tonight. Drexel point guard Frantz Massenat will have to play a complete game and set the tone for his team in front of what should be a quasi-road atmosphere.
  • The one problem an aggressive team like Shaka Smart’s group can have is foul trouble. Drexel is a solid free throw shooting team (76% in CAA play) so VCU needs to avoid fouling and putting the Dragons in the bonus early and often. VCU’s defensive free throw rate is not good and Drexel had a remarkable 89.7% free throw rate when these teams got together in Philly in early January. VCU simply can’t afford another effort like that if it hopes to win the CAA’s automatic NCAA bid. The Rams are not a particularly great shooting team but Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels pose major perimeter threats. Burgess has last year’s experience to fall back on in a pressure situation and you have to believe that helps when faced with what should be a very close elimination game.
  • The point guards could decide this game. Massenat can distribute and shoot with the best of them in this conference while VCU’s Darius Theus must play the role of facilitator and not as the go-to scorer. Theus went 1-6 from the floor in the first meeting but did record six assists. A few less shots and a couple more assists could be the difference for VCU tonight. For Drexel, Samme Givens has to come up big on the boards. The 6’5” swingman is a terrific rebounder for his size and should look to take advantage of VCU’s weakness on its offensive glass. We think this is going to be a contest that comes down to the very end. With an NCAA bid on the line and no guarantees for the loser, it should be quite an atmosphere in Richmond on this night.

West Coast Conference Championship: #20 Gonzaga vs. #24 St. Mary’s (at Las Vegas, NV) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • These teams will meet for the third time after splitting the regular season series, each winning at home. Gonzaga smashed BYU on Saturday night behind 30 points from Kevin Pangos and the Bulldogs will look to do more of the same against a St. Mary’s defense that is vulnerable to the three-ball. The Gaels allow opponents to shoot 37.5% from deep and that’s not something Randy Bennett wants to see when going up against a shooter as talented as Pangos. While the SMC defense is a concern, the Gaels shoot more threes than Gonzaga and can gain an edge because of it. When Clint Steindl and Matthew Dellavedova are knocking down triples, St. Mary’s is tough to beat. Gonzaga’s defense is pretty good on the perimeter but it will be tested significantly by the Gaels’ guards and forwards. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 03.02.12 – 03.04.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are going to mix it up a bit for the final three days of the season. There are so many good games on the schedule that it wouldn’t do them justice to leave them unmentioned, not to mention the games with an impact for bubble teams. Here are some quick hitters on all the games you need to be following.

Top games:

West Virginia @ South Florida – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

The Bulls notched a huge win over Louisville earlier this week, but many feel they still have to win this game to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers are hanging on by a thread but could really enhance their chances with a nice road victory in Tampa. This game has Big East Tournament implications as well, but both teams need it more for their NCAA chances. As a member of the Big East, South Florida has beaten 14 of the 15 other teams in the league. West Virginia is the only team they have yet to knock off. This would be one heck of a time to grab that win in West Virginia’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East. Pretty much everything is on the line in this game.

Can West Virginia Win A Big One On The Road?

#11 Georgetown @ #8 Marquette – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

Both teams are obviously in the NCAA Tournament so this game is about seeding more than anything. A win over the Golden Eagles would be Georgetown’s ninth against the RPI top 50 and fifth against the top 25. Marquette has just one RPI top 25 win (Wisconsin) so adding another could really help Marquette’s seeding when the NCAA committee debates next Sunday in Indianapolis. The winner of this game will grab the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. The contrast of styles in this game will be fascinating as Marquette looks to run at home against a disciplined Georgetown defensive unit.

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Set Your TiVo: 03.01.12

Posted by bmulvihill on March 1st, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Oh baby! It’s finally March! The Championship Fortnight is upon us and we are quickly moving towards the Big Dance. We’ve waited all year for this month and it’s finally here. Enjoy the remainder of the of the regular season and get ready for the Madness.

#12 Michigan at Illinois – 7:00PM EST on ESPN HD (***)

  • Michigan still has an outside shot at a share of the Big Ten title so this game is still important for the Wolverines. Also, Michigan is coming off its first home loss of the season and headed on the road where they are 3-6. John Beilein’s team was able to beat the Illini a few weeks ago with solid shooting and free throws. The Wolverines will need more of the same in this game. Keep a close eye on the number of threes Michigan is taking. In the first match-up they limited their three-point attempts to 16 and were able to make 7 of them. If the Wolverines are taking 20 plus three-point attempts, they are an easier team to beat because they only shoot 33.1% from deep. Tim Hardaway Jr. and company need to drive and slash to the hoop, thereby creating more open attempts from beyond the arc.

Michigan and Trey Burke still have a shot at the Big Ten title (AP)

  • Illinois broke a six-game losing streak with a home win against Iowa on Sunday. Bruce Weber’s team needs to own the paint on both ends of the floor in order to win this game. Look to see if they pack in the defense and dare Michigan to shoot threes. 7’1” Illinois center Meyers Leonard towers over the Michigan front line, however he only had five points in the first match-up. If the Illini want to have any chance in these game, Leonard is going to have to be much more aggressive both offensively and defensively. Keep a close eye on his play through out the game.
  • There are two keys to this game – Leonard’s play in the paint and Michigan’s ability to take it to the hole. If Leonard does one of his disappearing acts, Michigan should have an easy time winning again. However, if he gets aggressive and demands the ball against the small Michigan front line, Illinois can win at home. Michigan, on the other hand, cannot fall in love with the three-point shot like they have a tendency to do. Poor shots from deep makes them very one dimensional and easy to beat.
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