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4 Tickets Punched, 61 to go…

We punched four RSVPs to the Dance in the last 24 hrs, so we thought it’d be worthwhile to show these guys a little love before they get crowded out by all the bigger leagues next week.

These Four Teams Got Their Dance Tickets

These Four Teams Got Their Dance Tickets

#1 – Cornell (21-9, 11-3 Ivy). Your back-to-back Ivy League champion dominated Penn 83-59 last night to clinch the Ivy again.  The Big Red fans were so excited that they RTC’d and “demolished” a computer that ran the scoring system.  Believe it or not, the o/u for that game was 142 – maybe the students knew that.  Cornell lost to Stanford by 24 in last year’s first round.

Projected Seed: #14

Something to Remember: Cornell is the nation’s fifth best three-point shooting team (41%).  You’d better close out on their shooters.

#2 – Radford (21-11, 15-3 Big South).  VMI was the team with the better storyline, but Radford was the top seed in the Big South Tourney as the regular season champion.  They played VMI’s game today and beat them at it 108-94 behind Artsiom Parakhouski’s ridiculous 26/18 today. Radford has one  prevoius NCAA appearance, a 1998 thrashing at the hands of Duke.

Projected Seed: #15

STR: Get after it on the glass – Radford is the nation’s sixth best rebounding team in total boards (37.3 rpg) and twelfth best in rebound pct (55.8%).

#3 – East Tennessee St. (23-10, 14-6 A-Sun). ETSU is old hat at this, winning today against Jacksonville 85-68 to earn a bid to its seventh NCAA Tourney.  Mike Smith had 22/12 to help pick up for teammate and star guard Courtney Pigram, who was 3-12 for 9 pts today.  ETSU has a strong NCAA history, having three 3-pt losses and a 7-pt win over higher seeds in their last four appearances.

Projected Seed: #14

STR: With three legitimate scorers (Smith, Pigram, Kevin Tiggs) plus their NCAA history of being a thorn in the side of higher seeds, nobody will want to see ETSU in their bracket next Sunday.

#4 – Morehead St. (19-15, 12-6). Best game of the day, as MSU rode its workhorse Kenneth Faried and his 15/10/3 blks to a double-OT victory over Austin Peay, 67-65.  The Eagles put all five starters in double figures, but it was a reserve named Steve Peterson who knocked down the 12-foot baseline jumper to give Morehead St. its first NCAA bid in 25 years.

Projected Seed: #15

STR: MSU is susceptible to pressure teams because they turn the ball over a lot – ranking #276 in the nation in turnover pct. at 15.1 per game.

NCAA Preview: East Tennessee State Buccaneers

East Tennessee St.  (#16, East, Dayton pod)

vs. Pittsburgh (#1)
Mar. 20 @ 2:55pm
Vegas Line: ETSU +20

General Profile

Location: Johnson City, Tennessee
Conference: Atlantic Sun — Tournament Champion
Coach: Murray Bartow, hired 2003. Record at ETSU = 118-71
08-09 Record: 23-10 (14-6)
Last 12 Games: 8-4, won 5.
Best Win: vs Jacksonville 85-68 on 3/7/09 for the Atlantic Sun title.
Worst Loss: at Florida-Gulf Coast, 61-64, on 1/12/09.
Off. Efficiency Rating: 105.3 (105th)
Def. Efficiency Rating: 100.3 (149rd)

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): Kevin Tiggs (6’4″ senior guard), 21.5 ppg on 54% shooting.
Unsung Hero: Mike Smith (6’6″ junior forward), 17.5 ppg/7.7 rpg/1.3 steals/gm.
Potential NBA Draft Pick: None.
Key Injuries: No significant injuries.
Depth: 28.4% mins (230th nationally)
Achilles Heel: Shooting the three. ETSU shoots 33.6%, 184th in the nation.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: …they improve their offensive efficiency. ETSU averages 74 possessions per 40 minutes, which is 17th in the nation. They need to take advantage of each one of them to pull of an upset(s).
Will Make an Early Exit if…: …they can keep their main three players — Tiggs, Smith, and Courtney Pigram — out of foul trouble, since they each play about 34 minutes/game with the other two spots on the floor basically platooned.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2004
Streak: 1
Best NCAA Finish: 1992, Second Round.
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): n/a

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: Two of ETSU’s starters (Kevin Tiggs, Greg Hamlin) are from Flint.
Distance to First Round Site: 407 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: ETSU has the only master’s degree program in the discipline of Storytelling.
School Wishes It Could Forget: How everyone violates/ignores last year’s campus-wide smoking ban.
Prediction: First round and out.

Major RTC stories: 4 Tickets Punched, 61 To Go

Preview written by: John Stevens, Rush The Court.

NCAA Preview: Morehead State Eagles

Morehead State (#16, Midwest, Dayton pod)
vs. Louisville (#1) having defeated Alabama State on 3/17/09 in the Preliminary Round.
Friday, March 20th at 7:10 pm
Vegas Line:  TBD

General Profile

Location: Morehead, Kentucky — approx. 50 miles east of Lexington on I-64
Conference: Ohio Valley Conference — Tournament Champion

Coach: Donnie Tyndall; hired 2006. MSU record 46-48
08-09 Record: 19-15 (12-6 OVC)
Last 12 Games: 7-5, Won 3

Best Win: at East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun tournament champion), 71-61 — 12/30/08

Worst Loss: vs Grambling State, 71-72 — 11/29/08

Off. Efficiency Rating: 101.1 (175th)

Def. Efficiency Rating: 101.4 (174th)

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player: Kenneth Faried, 13.9 ppg, 12.8 rpg (3rd nationally); 23 double-doubles this year

Unsung Hero: Leon Buchanan, 15.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg; 66.7% 3PFG (12th nationally)

Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Faried, currently a sophomore, is a future candidate.

Key Injuries:  No significant injuries.
Depth: 24.9% bench minutes (303rd nationally)
Achilles Heel: Guarding the three. Opponents shoot 36.7% (290th nationally)
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Faried, Buchanan, and Maze Stallworth can all achieve an Arceneaux-level of performance, now that the prelim is over.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: They play their usual game, and a miracle doesn’t happen.  No disrespect intended, but Louisville isn’t Alabama State.  Congrats to Morehead on getting an NCAA Tournament win, but the road likely ends here for the Eagles.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 1984. Beat NC A&T (70-69) in the “Preliminary Round,” then lost to Louisville in Round of 64 (59-72).
Streak: Consecutive invites in 1956, 1957 and 1983, 1984.

Best NCAA Finish: 2-1 in 1956 (Lost in Sweet 16 and won Regional 3rd Place game)

Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): n/a

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: Junior guard Cecil Brown is from Grand Rapids, MI. The Eagles’ campus is 402 miles (6.5 hrs by car) from Detroit.

Distance to First Round Site: 193 miles

School’s Claim to Fame: One of only four US universities to offer a BS in Space Science. Also the alma mater of NPR personalities Steve Inskeep and Noah Adams, ESPN college football commentator Mike Gottfried, game show host Chuck Woolery.

School Wishes It Could Forget: Billy Ray Cyrus (of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame, and father of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana) is an alum. The school doesn’t necessarily want to forget this…but a lot of people do.

Prediction: Lousville will be too much to handle, of course. It would take something even bigger than a Chaminade-like upset to get out of the official first round. This is a team that lost its last four games of the regular season before the OVC tournament and the play-in game. They deserve congrats for getting through the conference tournament, and I hope they enjoy the trip.

Major RTC stories: OVC Season Wrap & Tourney Preview; 4 Tickets Punched, 61 to go…
Preview written by: John Stevens, Rush The Court.

NCAA Preview: Radford Highlanders

Radford (#16, South, Greensboro pod)
vs. UNC (#1)
Thurs., 3/19 at 2:55 PM
Vegas Line: Radford, +27

General Profile
Location: Radford, Virginia
Conference: Big South, Automatic bid
Coach: Brad Greenberg, 31-31
08-09 Record: 20-11 (15-3)
Last 12 Games: 11-1, won 3.
Best Win: At VMI, 97-90, on 2/21/09.
Worst Loss: At William & Mary, 53-73, on 11/25/08.
Off. Efficiency Rating: 100.5 (187th)
Def. Efficiency Rating: 101.2 (165th)

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Artsiom Parakhouski (6’11″ junior center), 16.3 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.5 blocks/game.
Unsung Hero: Amir Johnson (5’9″ junior guard), 9.6 ppg/4.7 rpg/5.3 apg and plays most minutes/game on the team (36.3).
Potential NBA Draft Pick: None yet — but Parakhouski’s big and you can’t teach size.
Key Injuries: No significant injuries.
Depth: 22.7% (320th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: Turnovers. Radford averages 16.1 turnovers/game, 313th in the nation.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: They keep hitting the boards. The Highlanders are 4th in the nation in rebounding (37.9 r/g).
Will Make an Early Exit if…: They don’t take care of the ball. Tough to beat higher seeds if you don’t score on as many possessions as possible.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 1998
Streak: One year.
Best NCAA Finish: 1998 First Round.
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (Minimum 8 bids)

Other
Distance to First Round Site: 137 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: It’s the first university in the state of Virginia to use wireless technology throughout its entire campus.
School Wishes It Could Forget: Their only previous NCAA appearance 11 years ago? A 36-point pounding by Duke in a 1-vs-16 game.
Prediction: First round and out.
Major RTC stories: 4 Tickets Punched, 61 To Go

Preview written by John Stevens of Rush The Court

Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Temple In Big East Talks: The Big East may have a new all-sport member as early as this fall if the reports are true that the Temple Owls are in discussions about joining the conference.  Adding Temple to the mix would be terrific for Big East basketball. While Syracuse is irreplaceable, you could make an argument that Temple and Memphis offset the departures of West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The enhanced stature of these two programs in the Big East will help fuel recruiting and could easily make them equal to what WVU and Pitt are right now. Temple will make its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance next month, its 30th in a storied history. The Owls have made two Final Fours and five Elite Eights, better than both Pittsburgh and West Virginia (WVU has two Final Fours, Pitt has one). Memphis has been to more Final Fours and Elite Eights as well, although two were vacated (1985 and 2008). All in all, I’d argue that the Big East hit a grand slam with Temple and Memphis, should this all go through. The league simply couldn’t have done better given the constraints it faced.
  • Punching Your Ticket And Voiding It In The Same Week: One could argue that Seton Hall and Cincinnati punched their NCAA Tournament tickets with wins over Georgetown and Louisville, respectively, last week. However, both squads lost over the weekend (to Rutgers and South Florida), wiping out the good vibes from huge home wins earlier in the week. As of right now, the Pirates and Bearcats are likely still in the Tournament, but in much more precarious positions than before. In late-season college basketball, nothing is ever a sure thing until all the games are played. A team’s status can change at a moment’s notice.  

Syracuse Senior Scoop Jardine Helped Lead The Orange To A Title-Clinching Win Over Connecticut. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (29-1, 16-1) – The men in orange just keep moving right along, picking up two more wins this past week. Finding a way to win is so cliché, but it has been the theme with this group over the last few weeks. Syracuse has moved its record to 29-1 with seven of their nine wins since the loss to Notre Dame coming by ten points or less. In the win over South Florida, Syracuse overcame 35% shooting and a 20-7 Bulls run to start the game by going on a massive 26-0 run that started about midway through the first half and bled deep into the second. Kris Joseph struggled shooting, but Scoop Jardine picked him up by scoring 15 points. Joseph rebounded in a big way with 21 points at Connecticut while Fab Melo added 11 points and nine rebounds. This team has more weapons than any in the nation, allowing the Orange to overcome off nights by some of their key players. More importantly, Syracuse out-rebounded UConn, 39-35. That’s significant because of what the Huskies bring to the table in their front court and Syracuse’s awful rebounding numbers that have persisted throughout the season. With the win at UConn, Syracuse officially clinched the Big East regular season title, something everyone knew was going to happen as early as when the calendar flipped to January. This week: 3/3 vs. #23 Louisville.
  2. Marquette (24-5, 13-3) – There are teams more talented than Marquette out there, but you will not find one with a greater will to win than this bunch of Golden Eagles. You might as well call them their old nickname, the Warriors, because that’s exactly what they are. Jae Crowder made his case for Big East Player of the Year last week in grand fashion, totaling 53 points in two wins over Rutgers and West Virginia. Crowder dominated West Virginia’s Kevin Jones in their head-to-head matchup and may have moved in front of Jones in the POY race in the process. Crowder certainly plays for a better team and that has to enhance his case even more. Despite Buzz Williams suspending Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan for the first half against West Virginia and Todd Mayo for the second half, Marquette rallied yet again to pull out a victory. I don’t understand the half-suspensions. Sit them down for the whole game if you want to make a statement, but that’s beyond the point. The Golden Eagles shot 50% for the game and forced 19 WVU turnovers, helping to offset 16 Mountaineer offensive rebounds. In the win over Rutgers, Marquette forced 21 turnovers and Johnson-Odom added 21 points alongside Crowder’s 27 as the Golden Eagles shot 54% overall. MU can close out the Big East regular season in grand style and finish with a 15-3 record if it takes care of two tough games in the coming week. This team has a legitimate chance to win the Big East Tournament and go deep in the NCAA’s. This week: 2/29 @ Cincinnati, 3/3 vs. #9 Georgetown. Read the rest of this entry »

Checking In On… the Atlantic Sun Conference

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Tickets Punched: The conference’s two newest programs, USC Upstate and FGCU, secured the first General Shale Brick A-Sun Championships berths recently. Eight of the 10 schools will earn spots for the event, set to begin on Wednesday, February 29. For the third straight year, Mercer will serve as host.
  • High Scoring Defeats: Stetson’s grasp on the eighth and final qualifying position became more tenuous as the Hatters dropped a pair of high-scoring affairs to Lipscomb (99-91) and Belmont (106-93). The Hatters have lost six games this season when scoring at least 80 points. Only one other school in the country has suffered even five such defeats (VMI).

The Talented Torrey Craig Of USC Upstate Was More Than Deserving Of The RTC Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Honor

End-of-Year Awards

Since this edition is the last “Checking In On” for the A-Sun before the end of the season, no time seemed more appropriate than now to dole out some hardware (hardware not included).

  • Coach of the Year: Bob Hoffman, Mercer – In the preseason, Belmont dominated the top of the polls, garnering a combined 36 of the 39 first-place votes between the coaches and media. Hoffman’s Bears reached 20 wins for just the seventh time in 106 years and did it without the star power of someone like past standouts such as James Florence, Danny Emerson or Brian Mills. Six players average between 8.1 and 11.0 points per game this season.
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Isiah Brown, ETSU – Brown moved into the top 10 in A-Sun history in blocks and top 20 in rebounds. He also surpassed the 100-steal mark for his career.
  • Game of the Year: While Mercer scored the only win against a BCS school (at Georgia Tech) and ETSU’s Jarvis Jones buried a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer at Charlotte, the winner goes to USC Upstate taking down Belmont for the first time in program history. The Spartans rallied from 16 points down in the first half and only took the lead on a game-winning bucket by Torrey Craig with two seconds left. That win started a three-game win streak for USC Upstate against Belmont, Lipscomb and ETSU, a streak not seen in the league in six years.
  • Freshman of the Year: Brett Comer, FGCU – After teaming with Austin Rivers in high school, Comer fit right in at FGCU by averaging 9.1 points and a league-leading 5.5 assists. He is on pace to be one the few freshmen in the country to record both 100 rebounds and 100 assists.
  • All-Conference Team: Torrey Craig, USC Upstate (17.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG); Jake Gollon, Mercer (10.6 PPG, 5.7 APG, 83.3 FG Pct) Kerron Johnson, Belmont (13.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 52.5 FG Pct); Adam Pegg, Stetson (14.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 50.4 FG Pct); Adam Sollazzo, ETSU (15.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.5 APG)
  • Player of the Year – Torrey Craig, USC Upstate. Craig reaps the benefits of the balance attacks featured at Mercer and Belmont to earn the league’s top individual honor. Of course pacing the league in scoring and ranking second in rebounding didn’t hurt his candidacy.

Bob Hoffman (coach), Isiah Brown (defensive), and Brett Comer (freshman) also earned RTC honors for their impressive regular season campaigns

Power Rankings

  1. Mercer (20-7, Previous Ranking: 2): The Bears won the highly-anticipated showdown with USC Upstate on Feb. 4, then survived a tight road contest an in-state rival Kennesaw State to reach 20 victories for the seventh time in school history and for the first time since 2002-03. The regular-season title, top seed in the A-Sun Championship and the league’s automatic NIT bid could be at stake when the Bears welcome Belmont in the regular-season finale.
  2. Belmont (20-7, Previous Ranking: 3): In improving to 12-2 in A-Sun play, the Bruins extended their streak of seasons with at least 12 league victories to nine-in-a-row. No other school can boast such an active streak, however, Kansas needs to win just one of its final five Big 12 contests to join the Bruins at eight.
  3. USC Upstate (17-10, Previous Ranking: 1): The Feb. 4 loss to Mercer likely ended the Spartans’ dreams of an A-Sun regular-season crown. However, they are in a strong position to post the biggest turnaround in the nation. The Spartans have 12 more victories than a season ago, matching Manhattan for the biggest win improvement from 2010-11.
  4. FGCU (13-13, Previous Ranking: 4): The Eagles held steady in the #4 position thanks to scoring their largest victory against a league foe not named USC Upstate, a 21-point win against Lipscomb on Monday.
  5. ETSU (13-12, Previous Ranking: 6): The Bucs’ offensive woes in losses reared their ugly heads again in recent losses at Mercer an at home against Jacksonville. In the two losses, the Bucs shot only 31.8 percent from floor (22.2 percent from 3-point arc). ETSU needs only one win or a Jacksonville loss to clinch its spot in the A-Sun Championship.
  6. North Florida (13-15, Previous Ranking: 7): After winning four of five to return to the .500 level, the offensive fire power left the Ospreys on their road trip to ETSU and USC Upstate. They were outscored by 20.0 points per game. The sputter came after shooting nearly 56 percent in wins against Stetson and FGCU. Like the Bucs, the Ospreys need only a win or a Dolphin loss to return to the A-Sun Championship.

    Lipscomb Released Jordan Burgason Due To A Violation Of Team Rules (AP)

  7. Lipscomb (12-14, Previous Ranking: 5): The Bisons suffered a major setback last week when the school kicked out Player of the Year contender and the nation’s top 3-point shooter, Jordan Burgason, citing a violation of team rules. In the team’s first game without him, the Bisons came within one point of matching the all-time NCAA Division I record for points in an overtime session when they scored 24 in besting Stetson on Saturday.
  8. Jacksonville (6-20, Previous Ranking: 9): One considered dead in the water, the Dolphins have re-entered the picture for making an sixth straight appearance in the A-Sun Championship. They have closed to within one game of Stetson by scoring big recent victories against the Hatters and at ETSU. The Dolphins close with three home games and could use their recent stingy defense (60.8 PPG) to claim that eighth spot.
  9. Stetson (8-18, Previous Ranking: 8): Despite increasing their scoring in league games by more than 10 points per game on last season, the Hatters, once a sure bet to return to the A-Sun Championship now hold only a one-game lead on Jacksonville and face road games at FGCU, USC Upstate and ETSU to close out the regular season. As an add on to the Hatters’ bad luck when scoring at least 80 points, the rest of the country is 1407-197 when scoring at least 80 points (87.7 win percentage); the Hatters are 0-6.
  10. Kennesaw State (3-24, Previous Ranking: 10): The Owls’ modest streak of qualifying for the A-Sun Championship in consecutive years officially ended as the Owls fell to 0-14 in league play. No A-Sun school has gone winless in league games since Campbell in 2004-05.

Looking Ahead

Here are a couple of games in the coming days for fans to keep an eye out for:

  • Monday, February 20: USC Upstate at Belmont: The only A-Sun school to beat Belmont besides Lipscomb since the start of last season came on Jan. 21 at USC Upstate. The Spartans rallied from 16 down at the half to score their first-ever victory against the perennial heavyweight. Torrey Craig hit the game-winning shot with two seconds left, part of a 22-point effort. The Spartans will attempt to become just the fifth team to sweep the Bruins in the last seven years.

    Justin Cecil and Mercer Have A Huge Game Looming Against Belmont (mercer athletics)

  • Friday, February 24: North Florida at Jacksonville: With Belmont leaving for the OVC next season, the “SunTrust River City Rumble” becomes the conference’s lone crosstown rival. The Dolphins have controlled the series until very recently. Beginning at last year’s A-Sun Championship where the Ospreys broke an 11-game losing streak to the Dolphins, UNF has won the last two meetings. Jacksonville will need to keep winning to pass Stetson for the eighth spot in the upcoming A-Sun Championship.
  • Saturday, February 25: Belmont at Mercer: This game could loom monumental of both teams postseason aspirations. With two weeks to play, the Bears and Bruins own identical 12-2 marks in league play with Belmont owning the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a 82-78 home victory on Dec. 3. Despite all the advantages that come to the top seeds, the loser can take solace in the fact that the top seed has won only two of the last 10 A-Sun Tournament titles.