The Week That Was: From Sixteen To Four

Posted by jstevrtc on March 29th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

What We Learned

Ladies And Gentlemen, Your 2010 CBI Champions! (AP/E. Gay)

Throughout the regular season a lot was made about the lack of an elite team in college basketball. For about a month Duke fit the bill, but then Kyrie Irving hurt his toe and the Blue Devils lost their aura of invincibility. As the season wore on, Ohio State and Kansas emerged as the top two teams in the nation. They had all the elements of an elite squad — size, skill, experience and NBA talent — but no one would have confused the Buckeyes and Jayhawks with, say, 2009 North Carolina, 2007 Florida, or 2001 Duke. This year’s versions of KU and OSU were very good teams, but neither was at that usual level of “great” that at least one team achieves during a season. The NCAA tournament certainly has reinforced the good-but-not-great trend in college hoops this year. For the first time ever, there won’t be a single #1 or #2 seed represented in the Final Four, and the group of #3 Connecticut, #4 Kentucky, #8 Butler and #11 VCU comprises the highest combined seeding of any quartet in Final Four history. The games from the past two weeks show just how little difference there was from #1-20. Kentucky and Arizona looked every bit as talented as Ohio State and Duke, and neither victory felt like an upset. Yes, Butler needed a number of breaks to go its way to advance to the Final Four, but time and time again the Bulldogs made the necessary plays to win, and they never looked overmatched against any one of their higher seeded opponents.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: NCAA Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

What We Learned

It's Foolish To Think That the Big East's 2011 Tournament Record Proves That It Wasn't the Best Conference All Season

  • The Big East is not overrated; it’s just not as good as it was made out to be. The conference sent an NCAA record 11 teams into the field of 68 and Vegas set the over/under of total wins for the conference at 15.5. This year’s March Madness was supposed to be the cherry on top of an historic season, but instead the tournament has been a complete and utter disaster. Only two teams from the Big East will be playing next weekend (Connecticut and Marquette), and the only reason there are two teams remaining is because each squad beat a conference foe to advance to the Sweet 16. But let’s not jump the gun and label the Big East as the most overrated conference in the nation. For one thing, assessing the merits of a conference over a single weekend slate of games is somewhat foolish. That’s a ridiculously small sample size, especially considering during the regular season the conference posted a 34-19 record against tournament teams, according to the New York TimesNate Silver, who’s been spot-on with his analysis this month. The Big East was justified in getting 11 teams in the field — after all, Marquette made the Sweet 16 — but it was just a good conference, not an especially great one. If anything, we’re guilty of overlooking the fact that most of the teams in the Big East lacked NBA talent on their rosters (a key ingredient to any successful Final Four run). When Kemba Walker is your conference’s top NBA prospect, you know you have a talent deficit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Tournament Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2011

Introduction

March Madness is officially here. Introduction over.

What We Learned

What a Run, Young Man.

Connecticut scoffs in the face of conventional wisdom that says it’s better for a team to be well rested before the NCAA tournament. The Huskies won five games in five days to capture the Big East Tournament title last Saturday night. And for my money, Kemba Walker locked up the Naismith Award with his play over those five games. Walker averaged 26 PPG and 38 MPG at Madison Square Garden, carrying a team that finished 9-9 in the Big East to the #3 seed in the West. We are a little concerned that Walker went only 2-16 from three during the tournament, but he countered his poor outside shooting with at least nine attempts from the free throw line each game. For those who think Walker has to be running on fumes right now, remember that he had enough left to break some ankles, rise and knock down a J to beat Pittsburgh despite playing all 40 minutes of that game. Because of their 7:20 PM ET tip on Thursday, the Huskies will have had nearly five days off to ready themselves for the Tournament. That’s plenty of time for Kemba to recharge for another run.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Mar. 1-7

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

Congrats are in order for the following teams that locked up automatic NCAA berths this week: St. Peter’s (MAAC), Old Dominion (CAA), Wofford (SoCon), Gonzaga (WCC), Indiana State (MVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and UNC-Asheville (Big South). It’s always fun watching these teams celebrate their conference championships because the excitement just feels more honest than, say, when an Ohio State or a Pittsburgh wins its conference tournament. Championship Week is great for television purposes because there are so many great games to watch, but there usually is less urgency among the teams from the major conferences. For them, conference tournaments are about posturing for seeds and surviving the weekend injury-free. Roy Williams once called the ACC Tournament a big cocktail party, and it’s not surprising that his two title teams both bowed out in the semifinals.  

What We Learned 

 

Davies Will Obviously Be Missed, But Charles Abouo's Emergence Has Mitigated the Sting

 

If you’re a big time recruit and have BYU in your top five, you might want to reconsider your stance on the Cougars. Seriously, why would a player with options want to go to BYU now that its draconian honor code system is in the national spotlight. By now, everyone knows Brandon Davies (BYU’s third leading scorer and leading rebounder) was suspended from the BYU basketball team for allegedly having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Davies’ suspension is a crushing blow for the Cougars, who have gone from a sexy popular national title pick to a team some think won’t make it out of the first weekend.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Feb. 21-28

Posted by jstevrtc on March 1st, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

 

Introduction

March is here. Need we say more? Those three little words should be enough to put an extra skip in your step this morning and the rest of the week. March is the month when it’s not only socially acceptable to call in sick from work to watch sports — it’s encouraged. The way this season’s gone, the Tournament should be beyond epic, possibly even exceeding last year’s chaotic first two rounds. And if more male cheerleaders are involved, that’s OK by us. It’s March and we’re in a good mood.

 

What We Learned

Baring an epic collapse during the final two weeks of the regular season, BYU should get a #1 seed when the NCAA Tournaments brackets are released March 13. And none of this “in the discussion” talk. The Jimmer Fredettes (er, Cougars) are definitely one of the top four teams in the nation after their 13-point shakedown of San Diego State at hostile Viejas Arena on Saturday afternoon, a place where the Aztecs hadn’t lost a game all year. After San Diego State took a brief 2-0 lead, the Cougars led the rest of the way in an eye-opening performance that proved two important things: BYU can play some D, and it doesn’t always have to be all Jimmer, all the time. The Cougars held Kawhi Leonard to 17 points on 6-14 shooting, blocking his shot twice and harassing the Aztec big man whenever the he set up in the paint. BYU also had three players other than Fredette score in double figures. Charles Abouo led the way with 18 points, while Noah Hartsock finished with 15 and Jackson Emery added 13. The knock on the Cougars was always that they relied too much on Fredette. While it’s still a justified criticism (Fredette has the fifth highest usage rate in the nation), BYU gave teams reason to think twice about doubling Fredette, especially on the perimeter.

Will This One Do It for the Hokies?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Feb. 15-21

Posted by jstevrtc on February 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 

Introduction

Monday’s Syracuse-Villanova and Kansas-Oklahoma State games kicked off Judgment Week at ESPN, and TWTW has no idea what that exactly means. Are our opinions (or “judgments,” if you will) supposed to be dramatically altered based on this week’s outcomes? Syracuse’s win over ’Nova doesn’t mean they’re no longer a flawed team that’s capable of looking great one night and mediocre the next. And barring any game-changing injury, you shouldn’t think differently about a squad based on a couple of games at the end of February. You are who you are at this point — no extra judgments are necessary. So why does ESPN feel the need to dub almost every week now? Just stop at Rivalry Week. Sometimes games are just games, they don’t need any extra labels. There’s only one real judgment to be made this week — Battle: Los Angeles looks like a god-awful movie. 

What We Learned

Smith And the Devils Are Back On Top of the Polls, But It Means Less At This Time of Year

We thought that Tristan Thompson was just speaking for Texas when he said that the Longhorns would prefer not to replace Kansas as the No. 1 team in the next AP poll — turns out he was expressing the sentiments for just about every possible No. 1 team in the nation. On Saturday #4 Pittsburgh went down at St. John’s, followed by #2 Texas at Nebraska, and then on Sunday #3 Ohio State lost at Purdue. ESPN Stats & Information said it was the first time that the #1-4 teams in the ESPN/USA Today poll all lost in the same week since 2003 — yikes. But this isn’t the first week that we’ve seen this level of attrition in the polls; remember, it was just a few weeks ago that 13 of the AP’s Top 25 lost and half of the top 10. So who deserves to be #1 now? Duke got the nod on Monday, but do the Blue Devils deserve to be vaulted all the way from #5 to the top? In all honesty, you could probably just put the top six teams on a dartboard (top seven if you want to include BYU who got two first place votes), close your eyes, throw your dart, and there’s your #1 team. Not that it matters — during the season #1 in college hoops has always felt like a superficial title to TWTW. What’s really important is who’s in position for a #1 seed. It’s not important to determine who’s #1 now. The competition to watch is the race to distinguish between teams #4 and #5.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Feb. 8-14

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

What a weekend. We’re still reeling from the Saturday’s chaos in Madison. It’s always a bittersweet day when the final undefeated team in the nation suffers its first loss. Do you think the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers pop champagne and toast themselves every year once that game clock hits 0:00 and their legacy is preserved for one more year? Sure, they aren’t the ’72 Dolphins, but we easily could picture Bobby Knight smirking to himself and lighting a cigar after Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin. 

What We Learned

Taylor May Be the Most Talk-About Player In America Right Now

Ohio State wasn’t an invincible juggernaut and we already knew that. OSU endured close calls earlier the season against Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern. It wasn’t a matter of if Ohio State would suffer its first loss, it was a matter of when some team would rise up and topple the Buckeyes. Cue the Wisconsin Badgers. Jordan Taylor exploded in the second half scoring 21 of his 27 points to lead Wisconsin to a come from behind win and an all-time RTC. But here at TWTW, we’re not as interested in single game scenarios; we focus on the big picture. So in their win, did the Badgers show the nation a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes? The main quality a team needs in order to emulate what the Badgers did against OSU is offensive efficiency. Ohio State is the #12 team in the nation at forcing turnovers, causing them on 25% of opponents’ possessions. Wisconsin values the ball more than any other team in the NCAA, turning it over on just 13.6% of its possessions, and on Saturday the Badgers had just eight turnovers. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to point out that fewer turnovers increases your win probability. But what’s harder to duplicate is the Badgers’ enigmatic guard. Taylor pretty much single-handedly propelled Wisconsin to the upset. Few clubs have a guard capable of putting up that many points that quickly. So while opposing coaches can point to Saturday’s outcome merely as proof that OSU is beatable, it’s difficult to emulate the Badgers’ winning formula. Here’s the best recipe for beating a highly ranked Ohio State squad: schedule the game in Madison. Neither the OSU football nor basketball teams are invulnerable to the powers of Bucky Badger.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Feb. 1-Feb. 7

Posted by jstevrtc on February 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

You know how ESPN loves doing college basketball marathons? The network put on 24 straight hours of hoops at the beginning of the season, and then ESPN aired four-straight games on MLK Day for your viewing pleasure. Well, why stop with those two days? Monday would have been the perfect day to sit on your coach all afternoon and watch some roundball. TWTW can’t think of a better way to nurse your Super Bowl hangover. Make it happen, ESPN. 

What We Learned

North Carolina’s 20-point loss at Georgia Tech over MLK Weekend might have been the best thing to happen to the Tar Heels this season. Since that embarrassing loss, the ’Heels have ripped off five straight wins in ACC play, outscoring opponents by at least 20 points in the last three. A lot of people will choose to single out Kendall Marshall’s insertion into the starting lineup as the turning point of the season, but it’s been Harrison Barnes’ improved play that’s catapulted UNC into the ranks of NCAA dark horse. Barnes has scored at least 17 points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, and it’s no coincidence that UNC cruised in all three games. The Tar Heels already boast one of the better post duos with Tyler Zeller and John Henson, now they have the electric scorer they’ve missed since the 2009 title season. 

Is It Too Late For the Wildcats? (AP/N. Majamdar)

Baylor, Butler and Kansas State all went on the road Saturday and came away with mega wins as they attempt to remain in the discussion for NCAA Tournament bids. Baylor landed the most impressive W, riding Perry Jones III to an overtime win at Texas A&M. Butler got a boost with its 12-point win at Horizon League leader Cleveland State, and Kansas State avoided a crippling loss when it eked past Iowa State. It remains to be seen what these wins will do for them in the long run, though, as all three are firmly entrenched on the bubble. The Wildcats have the best RPI of the bunch, checking in at #31, and according to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, they appear to be in the best standing with the selection committee as an 11 seed, compared to Baylor (the last team in) and Butler (NIT bound). But anyone who feels secure in trusting Frank Martin’s team hasn’t watched any hoops this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Jan. 25-Jan. 31

Posted by jstevrtc on February 1st, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 

Introduction:

It’s Feb. 1. That means there’s only 40 days left until Selection Sunday, or 40 days left for teams to build up their resume so their bubble doesn’t pop. We’re sure there are going to be a lot of heated discussions about teams hovering within that last four in-last four out zone over the next six weeks. Heck, here at TWTW, we’ll probably change our opinion on certain squads three  or four times until the end of the regular season. It should be a crazy six weeks, but we know it’s going to be fun.  

What We learned

After a weekend that saw 13 ranked teams lose (and the entire top 25 go 22-20 for the week, as Seth Davis pointed out on SI.com) the chic thing to do is talk about the gigantic bulging central part of the bell curve that symbolizes this college basketball season. It’s nearly impossible to make sense of who’s good and who’s bad on a weekly basis, as a team is liable to have a monumental win one night and then lose to a lesser school a few days later. Let’s use Georgetown as an example. Just over two weeks ago the Hoyas were a mess at 1-4 in the Big East and losers of four of their previous five games. Now, they’ve won five in a row, including recent triumphs at Villanova and at home against Louisville. Georgetown isn’t the only school that enjoys playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Check out this paragraph from Davis’ Monday column

“Texas can lose at USC and then win at Kansas. Tennessee, which should be this movie’s poster child, can win at Villanova and Pitt (at the Consol Energy Center) and lose to College of Charleston and Charlotte. Louisville loses at home to Drexel but beats UConn on the road. Providence loses to LaSalle but beats Louisville and Villanova. Auburn loses to Samford, Campbell and Presbyterian, but it beats Florida State, which later beats Duke. What, you didn’t know Presbyterian was better than Duke? And on Sunday, St. John’s (which lost to Fordham) blew out Duke.” 

Given all this uncertainty, can anyone honestly say with any assurance that there’s a clear-cut elite set of teams? Ohio State might be undefeated, but the Buckeyes have had their fair share of nail biters over ho-hum teams (Michigan, Penn State, and most recently, Northwestern). TWTW would like to put its eggs into Texas’ basket. The Longhorns are this week’s Team du Jour, having torched four ranked teams in the last 13 days, but you wouldn’t be shocked if Texas didn’t have a hiccup or two to an unranked team before the season’s end, would you?

This Tristan Thompson-Nathan Walkup Encounter Accurately Summarizes Texas' Throttling of the Aggies Last Night (B. Sullivan/Dallas Morning News)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Jan. 17-Jan. 24

Posted by jstevrtc on January 25th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Get ready college hoops fanatics. Get ready for the stampede of casual fans that are about to crash the sports bars once the NFL season comes to a close. They’ll have to find something for their sports fix and they’ll turn to college basketball. So be prepared for people asking things like, “Who’s that big guy for Ohio State? He looks pretty good.” Or “San Diego State’s in the top five? Really?!?” Just try to smile and nod at those fools. No need to let them ruin the season’s stretch run.

What We Learned

TWTW Loves Jimmer and Kawhi, But Prefers E'Twaun and the Boilers Traveling to Columbus This Week

Even with SDSU and BYU squaring off on Wednesday, TWTW feels that if there’s only one game you watch this week, make sure it’s Purdue at Ohio State, tonight at 9pm ET. Matt Painter’s squad is one of our favorites and TWTW thinks they’re a good bet to pull off the upset. Purdue rebounded from back-to-back losses at Minnesota and West Virginia to grind out a win over a plucky Penn State squad and then took care of business against reeling Michigan State. It would have been easy for the Boilermakers to fold at the first sign of trouble this season. They have the built-in excuse of Robbie Hummel’s injury, and no one really believed they could sustain their early-season success once they hit the meat of their schedule, but seniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore wouldn’t let that two-game losing streak turn into a prolonged swoon. Johnson scored 25 points in the win over PSU, while Moore poured in 26 against the Spartans.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Jan. 11-Jan. 17

Posted by jstevrtc on January 18th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Only three undefeated teams are left in the nation after Duke and Syracuse suffered their first losses of the season within the past week. Who will be the next team to go down? Ohio State travels to Illinois on Saturday and Kansas hosts Texas. TWTW wouldn’t be shocked if San Diego State is the only unbeaten team remaining in this space next week.

What We Learned

Kemba Walker Is The Governor: He Always Saves You At the Last Moment (J. Woike/Hartford Courant)

When ESPN uses its full arsenal, it can put on a great day of college basketball. Monday (in honor of MLK Day) ESPN had a 24 Hours of Hoops Lite. They gave us four great games, three of which pitted two teams in the top 25 against each other, while the other featured a nice matchup in Kansas-Baylor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Jan. 4-Jan. 10

Posted by jstevrtc on January 11th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

It wasn’t the best of weeks for TWTW. Notre Dame and Kentucky failed to live up to TWTW’s lofty praise heaped upon them. Notre Dame’s defense allowed Marquette to shoot 53.1% from the field and 70.6% from three in a 22-point loss, and the Wildcats lost their SEC opener after TWTW proclaimed them a sure-thing to come close to running the table in conference.

What will TWTW say this week that in seven-days will seem ridiculous? Let’s find out…

What We Learned

Walker Is Still Your Leader In the POY Race. (P. Raycraft/Hartford Courant)

Connecticut probably wasn’t quite in panic mode yet, but no team scored a bigger win than the Huskies with their road win at Texas on Saturday. After a 12-0 start to the regular season, the Huskies stumbled to a 1-2 start in the Big East. UConn barely beat USF at home on Dec. 32, and that game was sandwiched between road losses at Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Considering how young the Huskies are (they play six freshmen) and their dependence on Kemba Walker, the slump definitely cast doubts on the Huskies’ bona fides as a national contender. UConn seems to have its mojo back now, as other players proved they can step up in big games. The Huskies received a tremendous effort from Alex Oriakhi (11 points, 21 rebounds), while Roscoe Smith and Shabazz Napier contributed 13 and 15 points, respectively. UConn even survived one of the most mind-boggling shots in recent history: Smith’s full-court heave with more than 10 seconds left in regulation. If you can win in spite of a play like that, you have to think you’re destined for big things this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story