That’s Debatable: Surging Team With Best Long-Term Prospects?

Posted by WCarey on February 9th, 2012

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This Week’s Topic: There are a number of teams trending up — Notre Dame, Florida, Pittsburgh, St. Mary’s, Florida State, Iowa State, etc. Among these and other non-elite teams, which one do you think has the best long-term prospects this season?

 

Andrew Murawa, Pac-12/MW Correspondent & Pac-12 Microsite Writer

When I’m looking for a sleeper team in the NCAA Tournament, I like to see size, depth, good guard play and an experienced head coach. When I look at Wisconsin, I can check off all of those categories with confidence. Still, while Bo Ryan’s Badgers have made the Tournament in each of his nine previous seasons and won at least a game in eight of those years, they’ve advanced beyond the Sweet Sixteen just once, in 2005 before losing a hard-fought regional final to North Carolina. The Badgers struggled early to replace several key big guys, and senior point guard Jordan Taylor’s numbers haven’t been up to last year’s lofty realm. But things are picking up now, as Taylor’s scored in double figures now in 14 straight games and frontcourt guys like Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren have stepped into that typical three-point shooting big man role for Wisconsin. Given the right matchups, this team could be playing into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and possibly beyond.

Walker Carey, Correspondent

I am going with Notre Dame. Three weeks ago this answer would have been insane, but look what the Irish have accomplished in that time – wins at home versus Syracuse and Marquette and road victories over Seton Hall, Connecticut, and West Virginia. Mike Brey has his squad playing much better than anyone would have ever imagined. The most surprising part of Notre Dame’s resurgence has been that it has come without the services of preseason All-Big East senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who tore his ACL in late November. While at first the Irish struggled mightily without him, they are currently in a groove led by a variety of players. Sophomore guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, freshman guard Pat Connaughton, junior forward Jack Cooley, and senior forward Scott Martin have all been instrumental to the season’s turnaround. If the Irish continue to show great defense, smart basketball, and timely shooting, I think it is reasonable to believe that Mike Brey’s squad will be a force to be reckoned with in March.

Kenny Ocker, Correspondent

With the exception of its second inexplicable conference loss Wednesday night, Florida State has the best prospects throughout the rest of this season, mostly because of its conference form and remaining schedule. Before the BC debacle, the Seminoles had run off seven straight wins to sit atop the ACC. In those seven straight wins are victories against the three other ACC contenders — a 33-point shellacking of North Carolina at home, a 76-73 win at Duke, and a 58-55 win over Virginia at home on Saturday. According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida State is in a dead heat with North Carolina to become the outright ACC regular-season champion, but the Seminoles hold the tiebreaker against the Tar Heels because they only play once this season. The best part of this recent run of form for Florida State is that it has been keyed by the team’s offense, which ranks second in the ACC in efficiency, but the team’s stalwart defense hasn’t gone anywhere either. Although the Seminoles seemingly peaked with their Sweet Sixteen run last season, the potential is there for this team to reach those heights again this season, or possibly go beyond.

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That’s Debatable: May Madness?

Posted by WCarey on February 2nd, 2012

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This week’s topic: Last weekend Dan Wolken of The Daily wrote an article suggesting that college basketball should move its season forward to the spring semester so as to not compete with football. Is this a good idea? Bad idea? Why?

Patrick Prendergast, Big East Microsite Writer

All the article does is validate the argument that college football should have a tournament to decide its champion. From a television standpoint, a comparison cannot be made between a football bowl game and a regular season basketball game.  Traffic is herded to bowl games, not to mention the gambling angle. Bowls are played in a media competition vacuum and promoted to no end.  The great thing about college basketball is its depth and breadth. Fans are likely to be just as entertained and intrigued by Boston University vs. Stony Brook as they are Georgetown vs. Syracuse, so the audience spreads itself artificially thin.  The only schedule tweak that would make meaningful sense is to work conference play around the semester break. Home courts are much better with a student presence to drive the energy.

Brian Otskey, Big East Correspondent

Bad idea. I like Wolken’s one semester argument because that would make transfer rules a lot less complicated while allowing freshmen and transfers more time to get acclimated to their new schools, but I don’t agree with much of anything else in his piece. College basketball already goes out of its way to not conflict with the NFL. Just look at the lackluster schedule every Sunday from November to January. If college basketball can’t draw ratings during the week or on Saturdays (when the NFL isn’t playing), there isn’t much hope to begin with. It is hard to go up against college football on November Saturdays but that’s why college basketball saves most of its good non-conference matchups for December, in between the college football regular season and bowl games. It pains me to say this as a person who follows only two major sports (college basketball and MLB) but college basketball will never be more than a niche sport in months not named March. Making the season run January to May instead of November to March won’t change that.

Brian Goodman, Editor

The idea of moving the season to a window entirely within the second semester is interesting, but would wreak logistical havoc. I wouldn’t envy those tasked with planning the NCAA Tournament sites around the potential of conflict with the NBA playoffs, for instance. Also, early entry candidates would have a shorter window of time to gather information and be properly evaluated, increasing the potential of regrettable decisions. It wouldn’t be without its advantages, though. In addition to the idea of owning the spotlight, positioning the end of the season to coincide with the end of the semester would probably lead to a lower rate of classroom attrition by draft candidates, which would bring some relief to programs with APR concerns. Wolken’s column raises some valid points – for the longest time, college basketball has lacked a true “kick-off” event that maximizes viewership. This is hardly a new revelation, but it’s nonetheless relevant. Events like the Carrier Classic and ESPN’s 24-Hour Tip-Off marathon are nice starts, especially for us die-hards, but the endurance of casual fans of marquee programs in the Eastern and Central time zones is tested every year with late games during the Maui Invitational. Competing with football is a tall order, and it may be impossible if the pendulum doesn’t swing back to the days before the gridiron took over.

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That’s Debatable: How Will Murray State’s Season Finish?

Posted by WCarey on January 26th, 2012

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This Week’s Topic: With Syracuse’s loss last Saturday, Murray State is the last unbeaten team. How do you see the rest of the Racers’ season playing out?

 

Kenny Ocker, Correspondent

I honestly think Murray State is going to go undefeated until the NCAA Tournament. Morehead State doesn’t have a return trip to face the Racers, the matchup against Austin Peay is a home game, and so is the BracketBusters game. If that happens, Murray State will probably get the courtesy of a #4 seed from the committee, and that may mean that the Racers actually get a pretty clear path to the Sweet Sixteen. I don’t see them going any farther than that, simply based on the intense level of scrutiny and attention that will be given to a team that hasn’t seen another NCAA Tournament-bound team since early December. But it’s going to be one hell of a fun story to follow for the next couple of months, regardless of when there is finally a blemish on Murray State’s record.

Brian Otskey, Big East Correspondent

Murray State is a real tough team for me to get a read on because of its schedule. Sure it’s 20-0 but with only one or two quality wins, I don’t think anyone can say with certainty just how good this team is. I believe Murray State is a borderline top 25 team. Going forward, it should be able to win out in the regular season and will likely take the OVC Tournament title as well now that Ivan Aska has been cleared to play. Playing with a target on your back every night is never easy but this team is good enough to run the table against the incredibly poor completion its conference offers. The Racers’ final three games are on the road and that’s where they’re most likely to fall as the pressure mounts and they don’t have the home crowd behind them. Plus they will get a still to be determined BracketBuster matchup, another possible stumbling block. With an RPI in the high 30s and an SOS well over #200, I don’t see this team getting more than a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It has the potential to make a run but I foresee it bowing out in its first or second NCAA game. 

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That’s Debatable: Which Player Has Been the Biggest Surprise?

Posted by WCarey on January 19th, 2012

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This Week’s Topic: Through the first half of the season, which player has been the biggest surprise? 

 

Walker Carey, Correspondent

With Kemba Walker leaving Connecticut early for the NBA Draft, I knew someone on the Huskies was going to need to step up to complement Jeremy Lamb. I thought that player was going to be Alex Oriakhi. As it turns out, my thought was very wrong. As of right now, Oriakhi is only averaging 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest. The junior big man has also apparently fallen out of Jim Calhoun’s good graces, as he is only averaging 19.9 minutes per game after averaging 29.1 last season. In Connecticut’s three conference losses, Oriakhi has only scored a combined 10 points and grabbed a combined 11 rebounds. I highly doubt that was the kind of production Calhoun and his staff were looking for this season. I believe that if the Huskies are going to be a major player in the Big East conference race, they’re going to need a much better contribution from Oriakhi.

Kellen Carpenter, ACC Microsite Correspondent

Duke's Ryan Kelly has Bumped His FT Percentage Up 50 Percent This Season

Ryan Kelly has made big strides in his game this year for Duke. Increasing offensive efficiency while having your offensive role and usage expand dramatically is a hard task to pull off. While I’d say that overall he’s improved most facets of his game, the most impressive change is how he is getting to the line this year. After posting a free throw percentage of 22.3% last season, he’s bumped the rate to 72.1%, one of the best marks in the country. He’s gone 71-of-88 from the line so far this year, meaning that he’s already made more free throws in half a season than he even attempted in his past two years combined.

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That’s Debatable: Most Exciting Conference Race

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season.  Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This Week’s Topic: With conference play heating up, what conference race are you most excited about this year and why?

Danny Spewak, Big 12 Microsite Correspondent

A one-bid conference since 2007, the Missouri Valley may finally regain its status this winter as college basketball’s premiere non-BCS league. And that’s not just because of Doug McDermott and his ranked Creighton Bluejays. This league has more substance than that. Only 0-5 Bradley is more than two games out of first place right now, where Wichita State, Missouri State and Creighton each sit at 4-1. Indiana State, which won at Vanderbilt earlier this season and represented the MVC in the NCAAs a year ago, will also surely recover from a disappointing 2-3 start in conference play. Same goes for Northern Iowa, which rolled through its non-conference schedule before losing four of its last six. That’s five teams right there with a shot to win this whole thing, and Evansville, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Drake aren’t going away without a fight either. If you’re still not convinced that somebody could knock off CU, consider that reigning POY Kyle Weems already outplayed McDermott in Omaha in a 77-65 victory on December 28. And you wonder why we’re all so fascinated by the Missouri Valley Conference on a yearly basis.

Brian Otskey, Big East Correspondent

When I first thought about this question, the Big 12, Pac-12 and Missouri Valley came to mind. Then I took a closer look at the Big Ten. Preseason favorite Ohio State has two losses already and Michigan State sits atop the league at 4-0. That two game lead over the Buckeyes in the loss column is significant and Ohio State’s loss at Illinois on Tuesday night officially opened the door. The Big Ten has five teams that can contend (six if you include a good Purdue team). With home court advantage being historically more significant in this league than others, anything can happen. There seems to be something missing from this Ohio State team. The easy answer is it doesn’t have Jon Diebler anymore but there may be something deeper. With the Buckeyes losing two of their first five league games, this conference is up for grabs and may be the best race.

I. Renko, Columnist

West Coast Conference — Gonzaga and St. Mary’s now have some company atop the WCC, with BYU having joined the conference and showing very little letdown after the departure of The Jimmer.  All three teams are in the Pomeroy top 25, and a true round-robin schedule — something only one power conference can boast — ensures that they play each other twice, home and away.  Four of those five remaining games are on ESPN2 on late night Thursdays, where they will have little competition for the eyeballs of college hoops fans.  While there isn’t the star power of an Adam Morrison, Patty Mills, or Jimmer Fredette, it’s fun to watch each team work to be more than the sums of their parts. Plus, there’s just enough depth in this league for one of the big three to suffer an upset loss and add more intrigue to the race for the top.

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That’s Debatable: NCAA First Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

As we head into the Sweet Sixteen round, let’s take a look back at some of the key questions and moments of the first two, er, three rounds…

RTC Take:  It was more interesting than it was the last nine years when it only involved two #16 seeds, but the only way to make it truly compelling is to pick teams with a little more national oomph than USC, VCU, UAB and Clemson. 

RTC Take: The fouls at the end of Butler/Pitt offset each other and the two no-calls appeared to be play-on situations in those games.  The Kalin Lucas travel probably wouldn’t have impacted the outcome anyway.  But the Texas five-second call seemed to be a fast whistle, and it essentially gave Arizona the daylight it needed to win the game. 

RTC Take:  We really liked the ability to surf between games without too much trouble, and the free online platforms worked great.  We did not like having entire afternoons on Saturday & Sunday limited to one game per window, though.  That could end up poorly in future years with blowouts. 

RTC Take:  It’s true that Barkley/Jet don’t do their homework, but the scene where Barkley razzed Pitino about Louisville losing in their first game and clowning the Big East was priceless, well worth putting up with the rest of it.  We’ve never seen someone so openly disdainful and dismissive of Pitino in his presence.  Awesome.

RTC Take:  Was Jimmer, still Jimmer.  His performance against Gonzaga was phenomenal, and although Kemba was equally awesome, we still think BYU would essentially be Air Force without Fredette in the lineup.

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That’s Debatable: Small Conference Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: Many of the small conferences are starting their tournaments this week.  Which one do you find the most compelling in terms of the possibility of upsets and/or creating chaos for the NCAA Selection Committee in a little over a week?  Also, pick a relatively unknown team that you’d like to see make a run through their conference tourney so that America will get to watch them play on the big stage in March Madness. 

Walker Carey, RTC contributor.

I think the Horizon League Tournament is the small conference tournament that is the most compelling in terms of creating chaos for the NCAA Selection Committee. In my mind, Butler, Cleveland State, and Milwaukee are the only teams that have the capability of winning the tournament. If Butler loses (which is very possible), it will be very interesting to see how the committee will view the Bulldogs’ resume. I tend to believe that Cleveland State will win the Horizon League championship because they have the best player in the league on their team in senior guard Norris Cole. I would enjoy to see the Vikings make a run to the Horizon League championship and shake things up in the tournament like they did when they were a #13 seed and upset #4 seed Wake Forest two seasons ago. With Cole, I think this is very possible for Gary Waters’ Cleveland State squad.

John Stevens, RTC editor.

I’ll take the Colonial. You’ve got six 20-win teams out of twelve, and you’ve got to figure George Mason has a bid locked up with Old Dominion looking good, as well. Let’s say someone like Drexel (a 20-9 team with a resume that includes a win at Louisville, mind you) gets hot and wins this thing. Could we be looking at a four-bid year for the Colonial, with James Madison or VCU sneaking in as a function of the soft bubble this year? And how can you not root for William & Mary, a team that’s never been to the NCAA Tournament, after the fantastic case they made for at-large inclusion last year? As far as a team I’d like to see make a run, I’ll go with Morehead State. It wouldn’t be much of a run, of course, since as a 2-seed they earned that weird double-bye in the OVC Tournament and only need to win two games (same situation as 1-seed Murray State) to claim the title. But the world needs to see Kenneth Faried play at this level one more time. He and the Eagles won a preliminary round game in 2009 before getting cooked by 1-seed Louisville, and two NCAA Tournament games for the Fabulous Faried just doesn’t seem like enough.

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor.

Vermont won the America East Conference by one game and rightfully earned the top seed in the tournament by avoiding slip-ups against the league’s lower-tier teams. You’ll want to keep an eye on this tourney, though, because Vermont hasn’t exactly faired well against the top of the AE.  Second-seeded Boston University swept Vermont this year, including an overtime win Sunday. And the third seed, Maine, routed the Catamounts on their home floor back in January. The Black Bears, a preseason favorite, have since collapsed and lost seven of eight games to finish the season. Regardless, either team could still pose a threat to Vermont’s NCAA tourney hopes at some point during the next week.  For sympathy’s sake, I’d like to see Weber State win the Big Sky this March and pluck a spot in the Big Dance. How can you not feel bad for this program? Two years ago, the Wildcats ripped through the league with a 15-1 record but slipped to the NIT. Last year, Anthony Johnson’s legendary performance helped Montana stun the regular season champs again. Finally, 2010-11 appeared to be “The Year,” with two-time POY Damian Lillard returning for his senior year. Naturally, he broke his foot and played just 10 games this year, and he’ll now wait on the status of a medical redshirt. It’d be nice to see the third-seeded Wildcats win three games for their tragic hero. 

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That’s Debatable: BracketBust?

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: It’s BracketBuster weekend on ESPN and its family of networks.  What seemed like a great idea when it originated a few years ago has gotten stale with so few games actually seeming to impact the brackets.  How would you suggest ESPN tweak this model to make it more interesting to college basketball fans and more meaningful for the schools involved?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

A quick check of the BracketBusters website reveals there are actually 114 teams participating in this event, the largest number ever. It was created solely for television purposes so I have to ask, why are only 19% of the games televised? This is called “BracketBusters,” but arguably only five or six teams participating have any chance of an at-large berth. Should we call it NIT BracketBusters? CBI BracketBusters? CollegeInsider.com BracketBusters? Come on now. This event is a joke except for a select few teams. To be completely honest, I’ve never been a fan of it. The only games I’ll watch are George Mason @ Northern Iowa, Utah State @ St. Mary’s and maybe Cleveland State @ Old Dominion. I will give ESPN some credit here because they clearly recognize the importance of the Utah State @ St. Mary’s matchup. This game could have major NCAA implications and I wouldn’t be surprised if it draws a solid rating against the Saturday Prime Time game, Illinois @ Michigan State. Another issue with BrackeBusters is it has the potential to end a team’s at-large dreams. It has been a concern in the past and will remain so going forward. I’d either: a) eliminate it all together, or b) limit it to five games between teams with legitimate NCAA aspirations. 

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor

While ESPN’s BracketBusters may give the illusion that the network cares about non-BCS conferences, it’s a cop out. In reality, the event televises only 11 games, appearing on ESPN2 or ESPNU. Those channels already feature mid-major games every Saturday. If ESPN wants to make this event truly special, then put Utah State and St. Mary’s on ESPN at 8 p.m. Saturday– not ESPN2. Don’t send the College Gameday crew to East Lansing; designate this weekend as a mid-major site and choose the top BracketBuster game to attend. Televise 30 games, not 11, and use regional coverage and ESPN3.com to switch between games when necessary like CBS does for the NCAA Tournament. In short, ESPN’s problem is that it only goes through the motions with regards to giving BracketBusters the attention it deserves. The public relations team talks a big game, but the network still sends College Gameday to the Big Ten and televises only a handful of games on secondary channels. I’ve seen Michigan State and Illinois play so many times on national television that I could recite their starting lineups in my sleep. Can’t we give the prime-time limelight to someone else for a change?

John Stevens, RTC editor/contributor

Scrap it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about the event as it is now, but I don’t think it has the effect that it’s intended to have. And the smaller conference schools don’t want to play each other. If the most important criterion for NCAA Tournament admission is who you played and how you did against them, that underscores the much-discussed problem of how large conference schools refuse to play games in the home gyms of some of the really tough small conference (mid-major) programs. If ESPN really wants to try to impact the eventual bracket more than it already does and if it wants to continue to give mid-majors the spotlight for a day, come up with a BracketBusters-type of scheme that incentivizes power conference programs to get out on the road and let some of these smaller guys take a shot at them. I don’t know how you’d do it (large amounts of cash seem to influence people), and they may even have to move it back on the schedule a bit, but if they could come up with something, it would be much more compelling to watch a series of games in which some of the big boys have to travel to, say, Utah State or George Mason, or even St. Mary’s. Aside from the NCAA Tournament, that’d be the most watched college basketball event of the year.

Walker Carey, RTC contributor

To reinvigorate the Bracketbuster event, I believe that ESPN should move it from February to the first weekend in December. I think this move would be effective because it would expose top mid-majors early in the season and it would allow for fans to really gain a grasp for what mid-majors can make some noise as the season goes on and which ones will not. For example, if a game between Butler and George Mason was played on the first Saturday of December, it is not illogical to assume that George Mason would win. Such a game would prove to the basketball world that Butler is not the team they were a year ago and that George Mason has a solid squad that could do some damage in March.

Kevin Doyle, RTC contributor

While it would be nearly impossible to accomplish due to an overlap in team’s schedules, the BracketBuster event could become much more attractive to the casual fan if teams of a certain RPI and record were obligated to participate in a BracketBuster game. This year there are a few teams that I am sure would love to have one final opportunity to attain a signature non-conference win—Gonzaga, Butler, and Oakland immediately come to mind. In fact, Oakland’s head coach Greg Kampe is on record saying that he wished his Golden Grizzlies were playing in a BracketBuster game. For instance, if a team was in first place in their conference, had a top 150 RPI, or a certain number of wins then they would automatically take part in the BracketBusters. Again, this is a real long-shot, but it would unquestionably heighten the interest in the weekend, as well as place all Mid-Major teams on an equal playing field as it would not be determined before the season began who would play in it.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

The BracketBuster idea is one whose time has passed at this point. So let me offer another option. Block off the same weekend, but make it an exempt tournament involving the top eight teams from the leagues they currently draw the pool from. Tonight’s VCU and Wichita State game could be a great first round matchup; tomorrow’s Utah State-St. Mary’s game another. Include four other teams such as Cleveland State, Belmont, George Mason and Oakland, and all of a sudden you have a compelling reason to watch these games this weekend. It also helps fans who are gearing up for tournament basketball next month to learn about those teams, many of which they’ll be seeing again soon. It would give the mid-major schools a major boost to their RPI by playing other really good mids for up to three consecutive days and it would potentially leave the Selection Committee with an indelible impression based on their performance in this BracketBuster tourney. It would also give the schools themselves a big incentive to get picked for this tournament — there could be a selection show and everything.

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That’s Debatable: Home Stretch

Posted by rtmsf on February 4th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: We’re heading into the home stretch of the season, merely five weeks and change from Selection Sunday.  We have a pretty good idea about the contenders and pretenders this season, but give us one team that you look to make a strong push to finish off the season and one team that you expect to tail off the rest of the way.

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

For the better part of the last month or two in my MWC Check-ins, I’ve been promising good things to come for New Mexico. With underrated veteran leadership at the point in Dairese Gary surrounded by a group of talented athletes, it was just a matter of waiting for the parts here to gel into a cohesive unit. With Drew Gordon now comfortable in his new digs (he’s scored in double figures in seven straight games and averaged almost 13 rebounds over that span), Philip McDonald and Kendall Williams providing talent on the wing and a pared-down rotation of talented role players, the Lobos are on the move. They dug an awful big hole early in conference play, but they could be a scary team to line up against come the MWC Tournament. As for a team ready to tail off, I’ve never been in love with this year’s Arizona squad. Yes, Derrick Williams is as good as anybody in America, but if opposing defenses can control him and make his teammates win ballgames, the Wildcats could fade fast.

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

I would have picked Washington to finish strong (they still might) but their embarrassing loss at Oregon State on Thursday scared me away. Instead, I’m going with North Carolina, the team I originally picked to be the surprise team of the second half. The Tar Heels blasted Boston College on Tuesday and have won nine of their last ten games. North Carolina is ranked sixth in defensive efficiency and looks like a safe bet to get to 12-4 in the ACC as a result. With Harrison Barnes looking like the player we all thought he would be and Kendall Marshall now starting, Roy Williams has to be optimistic heading down the home stretch. As for my team that will fade, I’m looking at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers lost their point guard, Al Nolen, to injury and he was the key to their team’s success. Without him, Minnesota will have difficulty scoring. They don’t play great defense and will struggle in their three remaining road games, currently owners of a 2-5 road record. Their schedule isn’t all that difficult but the slide has already started, having lost two in a row. I expect the Gophers to fall towards the NCAA bubble.

Matt Patton, RTC contributor

I think Notre Dame is destined to tail off pretty soon.  The Fighting Irish been playing well over their heads this season, and I’m not very confident in their ability to win in hostile environments.  Give tons of credit to coach Mike Brey, who totally reworked this team after Luke Harangody left last year, and Ben Hansbrough, who started living up to the family name.  Don’t get me wrong, Notre Dame is still a very good team, but it’s not a top ten team.  Contrarily I think Wisconsin is very underrated right now (ironically the Badgers lost to Notre Dame on a neutral site early in the season).  They are undefeated at home with two certified stars in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor.  This team doesn’t make mistakes, and it’s nearly impossible to come from behind against them between their deliberate (read: slow) pace, ability to avoid turnovers and incredible free throw shooting (81.8%, really?). 

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That’s Debatable: Huge Road Wins

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: Let’s talk road wins.  Last week Texas defeated Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, while Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh in its own house.  Those two home teams basically never lose in those places.  Which win was more impressive and why?  Also, do these wins legitimize UT and ND as Final Four candidates?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

There is no doubt in my mind that Texas’ win at Kansas on Saturday was more impressive than Notre Dame’s victory at Pittsburgh. While both teams have surprised most observers this season, the Longhorns are coming off a disaster of a season with plenty of questions regarding chemistry and leadership. Those questions were answered last month against North Carolina and validated against Kansas last week. To hold the high-powered Jayhawks to 63 points on 36% shooting, outscore them 51-28 in the second half and come back from a 15-point deficit in their own building is absolutely incredible. Kansas had won 69 straight games at the Phog before this one, their last loss coming almost four years ago. This win does establish the talented Longhorns as a Final Four contender but I can’t say the same about Notre Dame. While it was a great win, the Irish can’t win against high level competition when they don’t shoot well. While Pitt had only lost 11 (now 12) times at the Petersen Events Center, they’ve lost five games there over roughly the same time Kansas was winning 69 in a row at home. Great wins for both teams but Texas’ was better by far.

Ned Reddick, RTC contributor

Texas going into Allen Fieldhouse is more impressive because the Jayhawks had won 69 straight there and were considered a legitimate title contender. The Notre Dame win was solid too, but I don’t quite place Pittsburgh at the same level of Kansas in terms of potentially winning the national title. I also think Texas is a Final Four candidate based on their impressive series of wins and balance of inside/outside presence. The Longhorns also have a nice blend of youth and experience and have a legitimate inside defensive presence in the form of Tristan Thompson who is averaging over two blocks per game and also manages to keep the ball inbounds, which you almost never see young players do. As for the Irish I just don’t see enough firepower outside of Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough to make a deep run. Sure they can slow things down and play ugly like they did beating Pitt by essentially playing what used to be “Pitt basketball,” but that usually is not a successful formula in March (ask Pitt who still hasn’t made a Final Four playing “Pitt basketball”).

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

Notre Dame’s win at Pittsburgh was big-time, not solely because Pitt is so tough at home, but because the Fighting Irish have been so inept on the road recently. Prior to the win at the Petersen Events Center, the Irish had lost all three true road games they had played this season, and by an average margin of 17.3 points. Throw in a 14-point loss against Kentucky in Louisville and the Irish had been continuing their recent history of struggling on the road. Last season, Mike Brey’s club started out 1-7 on the road (the sole win at South Florida) before getting clutch road wins at both Georgetown and Marquette in the last three games of the regular season to secure their tournament credentials. The year before, they were just 2-8, with wins only over DePaul and Providence. Now, this one road win does not automatically make this team a Final Four contender, but it seems Brey has finally bought into the idea that his team’s best chance at winning is not the freewheeling tempo of a couple years back, but a more reserved, defense-first philosophy which is better suited to weather the storm on the road. Assuming that attitude doesn’t disappear, the Irish, though perhaps not as hyper-talented as some major contenders, will be an awful tough out come March.

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That’s Debatable: Most Compelling Conference Race

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: We’re a couple of weeks into conference play and early results are in on some of the contenders and pretenders.  Which conference race have you found the most compelling so far and why?

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

The most compelling conference race this year is in the SEC.  The reason is that out of the twelve conference teams, only Auburn is so ridiculously bad so as to not cause problems for another conference team on a given night.  And hell, even the Tigers beat Florida State (y’know, the team that defeated Duke last week).  It’s a veritable trainwreck of a league this year, but what’s the adage?  You can’t take your eyes away from it, because you have no idea what will happen.  Which Tennessee team will show up — the one that beat Pitt and Villanova or the one that lost to Oakland and Charlotte?  Will Mississippi State gets its act together or will Renardo Sidney start throwing haymakers on some fans during a timeout?  Will Kentucky figure out how to play on the road or will they self-destruct due to selfish m*****f***** play?  Consider that the SEC East, by far the better division, has South Carolina at the top of its standings at 3-1.  South Carolina!  Three of the teams from this division projected to make the Tournament are 2-2 already.  On the other side, Alabama and LSU are on top.  This isn’t football, folks — those two teams have been largely terrible for the better part of the last three or four years.  Yes, this year’s most compelling league is the SEC, if for no other reason that nothing would surprise us about this basketball quagmire of a conference.

JL Weill, RTC contributor

Another year, another dog fight in the Missouri Valley. No unbeatens in the conference and all five teams with three losses or fewer have a chance. And as with most so-called mid-major conference teams, there isn’t a lot of meat on the pre-conference menus for any of the contenders. Wichita State beat Virginia and LSU, but they already have two losses in the MVC. Last year’s NCAA Tournament darling Northern Iowa took out Indiana and Iowa State but has three losses to conference foes.  The firing squad effect means that the team that finally emerges from the pack will be battle-hardened for the conference and postseason tournaments. It also means that there’s a good chance that for the fifth year in a row only one team from the MVC will make it to the NCAAs. While the conference has four teams in the RPI top 100, only one of them is in the top 40 — Missouri State — and Cuonzo Martin’s Bears haven’t beaten anyone of note. Finding an at-large berth from the MVC, even with an expanded field, could be tough. Wins are at a premium, and it’s a multi-horse race. Gotta love it.

Kevin Doyle, RTC contributor

It is anyone’s best guess as to what team will be the last one standing in the Atlantic 10. Throughout much of the non-conference slate, the Temple Owls and Richmond Spiders emerged as the frontrunners. Bill Clark and the Duquesne Dukes quickly knocked Temple off of their pedestal, while Richmond lost a heartbreaker to Bucknell at the buzzer in their final OOC game. Now, it is the school from Pittsburgh along with Xavier who are the lone squads undefeated in the A10. There are, however, five schools that are 3-1 in the conference who are nipping at the heels of the two leaders. You’d be foolish to think that the two teams up front won’t fall at some point in the coming weeks. Even Dayton—the lone .500 team in conference—has a supreme amount of talent and is fully capable of going on a run. But, losses at UMass and Xavier have set them back in the conference. Unlike many of the BCS conferences—although, the Pac-10 and ACC sure are weak this year—the Atlantic 10 is likely to only receive two bids to the NCAA Tournament this year. Ranging from 2-2 Dayton all the way up to 4-0 Xavier and Duquesne, there are a total of eight teams that are vying for an Atlantic 10 championship and that coveted automatic berth.

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That’s Debatable: Considering NCAA Consistency

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: The NCAA has taken a lot of flak in the last week for its seeming inconsistency in recent rulings involving Cam Newton, the Ohio State football players and Enes Kanter, among others.  Give us your ideas on how the NCAA should handle an increasingly complex environment involving the eligibility issues of its student-athletes.  Can it be consistent?

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

If the NCAA can at least be consistent in attempting to look out for the best interests of student-athletes, while maintaining as near a level playing field as possible for all schools to compete upon, that should be enough. In the Kanter case, it seemed to me that Kanter didn’t do anything inherently “wrong.” He accepted money from a Turkish professional team above and beyond expenses for housing, education and the like, but Kanter never showed any real interest in becoming a professional. If he had wanted to be a professional, he could have been pulling a salary overseas for years now, but he made the commitment to come to the United States and try to compete at the college level. If the NCAA was going to rule with the best interests of the student-athlete in mind, Kanter would have been eligible at some point, after an appropriate penalty and his repayment of whatever additional funds he received. The NCAA is never going to be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution to these types of amateurism cases, and comparing the circumstances and motives behind each individual case will never be exact, but if they can consistently rule in a manner protective of its student-athletes – while still protecting the goal of amateurism – they’ll at least be serving their mission.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

Transparency, transparency, transparency.  The NCAA’s biggest problem in my eyes is that nobody seems to be able to predict how rules will be interpreted or penalties handed out in a given case.  And then when the organization is questioned, they have trouble articulating the nuance and distinguishing between decisions.  The only way to combat this is with complete transparency in how their enforcement system works and the decision-making matrix that the NCAA uses to establish guidelines for punishment.  If Cam Newton’s situation is indeed different than Enes Kanter’s, and his is different than Derrick Rose’s, et al., then the NCAA needs to inform us as to the specific criteria used to make decisions and then follow those same guidelines in future, similar cases.  The way it stands now is entirely too ambiguous, which ultimately creates an appearance of the NCAA enforcement folks playing favorites and impropriety.  And isn’t that the exact thing that the NCAA purports to be working for — a level playing field with a fair and just system?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

I think it’s impossible for the NCAA to be consistent when it comes to every student-athlete. I know Cam Newton was basically shopped around but I don’t follow college football and don’t know anything beyond that so it’s not my place to comment on that or the Ohio State football controversy. What I do know is that Enes Kanter is a professional athlete. He played for a professional team and received $33,000 above his necessary expenses, according to the university and the NCAA. The outrage from Dick Vitale and others that the NCAA declared him ineligible to get back at John Calipari is ludicrous. Kanter would be ineligible no matter what team he played for and teams knew he was a risk while recruiting him. I can’t blame Kentucky for taking a risk with a potentially great reward but let’s stop with the conspiracy theories about this. When it comes to Josh Selby, that money wasn’t even 15% of what Kanter was paid, though it does seem strange that he’s allowed to pay it back and play while Kanter cannot. The bottom line is that it’s impossible to create one rigid standard for everyone. Each situation should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

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