Night Line: Big Ten Proving Superior to ACC and the Rest

Posted by EJacoby on November 30th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

The major focus on day one of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was the thrashing suffered by No. 5 Duke in Columbus at the hands of No. 2 Ohio State. But before the Buckeyes finished off their 85-63 beatdown of the Devils, fellow Big Ten schools Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue had already completed at least nine-point victories of their own. The Big Ten now holds a 4-2 advantage over the ACC at the halfway point of the competition, and its teams are favored in five of the six remaining games on Wednesday. The Big Ten has only won this inter-conference challenge twice in its 12-year history, and never by more than a single win. We could be looking at the first-ever convincing Big Ten victory in the event, and it’s fitting given the strength and depth of the league this year.

While Beating Duke, OSU's Jared Sullinger Proves He's the Best Player in the Best Conference (Credit: Jay LaPrete, AP)

With Ohio State’s domination of Duke, the Big Ten clearly outclassed the ACC in a battle of two of its top teams. The Buckeyes improved to 7-0 on the season, one of five undefeated teams in the conference, and that includes Illinois and Northwestern, both of whom won convincing road games on Tuesday over Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively. Neither team has looked spectacular as of yet, but both the Illini and Wildcats are building solid non-conference resumes to boost the Big Ten’s early RPI ratings. Purdue’s win over Miami improved the Boilermakers to 7-1 on the year, with a loss only to a very good Alabama team, and Robbie Hummel is leading the push for Matt Painter’s team to return again to the NCAA Tournament.

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The Big East and SEC Join Challenge Week

Posted by nvr1983 on December 16th, 2010

Given the growing popularity of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge over the past few years it seemed inevitable that the other power conferences would join the fray and earlier today the Big East and SEC announced that they would be expanding their relatively under-the-radar SEC/Big East Invitational into a more comprehensive Big East/SEC Challenge. Over the past four seasons the two conferences have engage in a series of 4 games to decide a winner. To date the conferences are tied 1-1-2 with the conferences splitting the overall games 8-8.

We could be seeing more huge SEC/Big East games in the future

While the SEC/Big East Invitational has yielded a few good match-ups over the past few seasons with the most recent being Tennessee‘s big win at Pittsburgh the fact that it only involves 4 match-ups between the conferences limits the ability of fans of either conference to confidently claim superiority based on these results although we have a sneaking suspicion that the Big East fans would have a stronger argument over the past few seasons. The new format would involve 12 games meaning that all the SEC teams would play every year and 12 of the 16 (then 17) Big East teams would participate each year. Because only the SEC teams would get to play every year the home-and-away rotation would be based on the SEC team. The games will be played over 4 days beginning on the Thursday after Thanksgiving. Keeping the Challenge to a confined period should keep fans interest and avoid some of the pitfalls that plagued the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series that is coming to an end. In a somewhat amusing move the name will alternate each year from the Big East/SEC Challenge in 2011 to the SEC/Big East Challenge in 2012 and so on. The match-ups have not been announced yet, but will be broadcast on one of ESPN’s family of networks starting on December 1, 2011.

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ATB: Big Ten Wins Second Challenge in a Row

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2010

The LedeBig Ten Goes Back-to-Back.  Maybe the plan is for the Big Ten to win eight more ACC/Big Ten Challenges in a row so as to tie up the all-time record (now 10-2 ACC), but thanks to a strong Tuesday performance where the league went 4-1 against the ACC, the Big Ten did just enough tonight (2-3) to once again crow about basketball dominance for the next 363 days.  Well, sorta.  As much as we enjoy the concept behind these conference challenges (and this one is clearly the best one), they don’t truly mean much in terms of assessing the relative strength of the conferences.  As we mentioned last night, the Big Ten is much stronger than the ACC in its top half, and that’s the half that truly matters when discussing this game we call college basketball.  We’re not sure if anyone outside of Iowa City or Winston-Salem cares much if Wake Forest is marginally better than Iowa, but most of the nation cares whether Duke is better than Michigan State  (they are) or Virginia Tech is better than Purdue (they’re not).  If we were ranking the top ten teams by combining both leagues, it would go something like this:  1) Duke; 2) Ohio State; 3) Michigan State; 4) Illinois; 5) Minnesota; 6) Purdue; 7) Wisconsin; 8) Virginia Tech; 9) Northwestern; 10) Maryland/FSU (?).  At the level where the checks are signed, the Big Ten is by far the better league and we’ll stand by that assertion throughout the season.

Irving's Skills Belie His Youth (credit: Herald-Sun)

Your Watercooler Moment Just How Good Is Kyrie Irving? A common refrain during and after tonight’s Duke victory over Michigan State, 84-79, was that Blue Devil point guard Kyrie Irving was not only the best player on the floor — with 31 pts, 6 rebs, 4 assts, 2 stls and 2 blks — but he might just be the freshman who should have been chosen as preseason first-team All-American and NPOY candidate (instead of the popular pick eight miles down the road, Harrison Barnes).  It’s hard to argue with that assessment right now.  In two games matched up against elite senior All-America point guards (Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen and Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas), Irving has out-everythinged his more experienced peers.  During parts of the game tonight, he simply made his defenders look like they were standing in quicksand as he hesitated and stepped-through the lane for numerous clever finishes.  When the MSU defense laid off of him, he calmly sank a couple of threes.  When they double-teamed him, he consistently made the right pass to the open man.  And this isn’t just one game, either.  On the season, he’s averaging 17/4/6 assts , carries a 2.5:1 assist/turnover ratio and he’s in the spectacular 50/40/80+ zone as a matter of shooting percentages (52%/44%/88%).  Oh, and he appears to be the best player on the #1 team in America — there’s that too.  It’s early, and there’s a point guard named Kemba and a couple of other freshmen named Terrence and Jared who we think are playing just as well or better as the Dookie getting all the love tonight, but without question Irving makes Duke a fantastically dangerous team in ways that they never were with Jon Scheyer running things last year.  If the Devils can figure out the big man situation and defend a little better (allowing 49%/53% against MSU is a little disconcerting), they have a chance to become an epic team (but not good enough to run the table, see below).

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RTC Live: Georgia Tech @ Northwestern

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2010

Game #51.  RTC Live joins in on the ACC/Big Ten Challenge fun with an intriguing game between two teams swinging up this year.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge continues on ESPN2 with Northwestern vs. Georgia Tech at 7:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. CT. The Wildcats are 4-0, their best start in 17 years, and are taking on a Yellow Jackets team that appears to have turned the corner since losing at Kennesaw State earlier this season. After going 1-1 in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with a victory over UTEP and a loss to Syracuse, this should be another test to see how far Paul Hewitt’s squad has come already this season. Georgia Tech also could be Northwestern’s toughest non-conference opponent as the Wildcats attempt to go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program’s history. There are tons of players to watch from Northwestern’s baby-faced assassin John Shurna, who’s coming off of 23 points against Creighton on Sunday, to Georgia Tech’s famous son, freshman Glen Rice, Jr. Come join John Templon of Chicago College Basketball from Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston starting 15 minutes before tip-off.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #23 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 12th, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#23- Where Big Ten 6, ACC 5 Happens

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. III

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

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Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between correspondents Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore (and this week guest player Mike Walsh) that will appear every Wednesday in Rush the Court. This week they challenge each other to write about the conference challenges while excessively using the word “challenge” — before the new guy decides to monopolize the column for “Holy War” purposes.

DAVE ZEITLIN: With the Big Ten/ACC challenge finished, the SEC/Big East challenge coming up and the Pac-10/Big 12 challenge going on forever, we thought it was time to hear who your favorite RTC writers believe to be the best conference this season. Let’s call this the Dave Zeitlin/Steve Moore Challenge. Only nobody wins. And there’s no hard work or sweat involved (except maybe for Steve, whose fingers sweat when he types too fast). Here goes anyway:

Before the season started, it seemed like the Big East and ACC would be a little bit down, while the SEC and Big 10 would be a little bit up — and I think, for the most part, that’s held up so far. But even with Coach Cal (Steve’s hero), Billy Donovan and everyone’s favorite orange Jew leading a reloaded SEC East, I don’t think the conference has made up enough ground from its woeful 2008-09 performance (when only two teams finished in the top 50 of the RPI). The ACC is clearly down after losing the challenge to the Big 10 for the first time ever, and, despite their challenge triumph, I don’t think the Big 10 should stand at the top, especially after Evan Turner’s unfortunate injury. The Pac-10? Please.

So where does that leave us? I think the discussion at this point should come down to the Big East and the Big 12. The Big East may be a little down from last year when they were stacked top to bottom, but the conference still has three teams (Villanova, Syracuse and West Virginia) in the top 10. The Big 12, meanwhile, might boast the best two teams in the nation (Kansas and Texas) while also featuring teams like Texas Tech, which is coming off the biggest win in the coaching career of Pat Knight, who I like far better than his father.

So … Big East or Big 12? Big 12 or Big East? Even though I grew up watching the Big East and rooting for ‘Cuse, I’m going to give the nod to the Big 12 right now. Now I’ll let Steve crunch some numbers for you and disagree with me.

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STEVE MOORE: What, no America East/Ivy League challenge? Oh…wait, that happened Tuesday night when Penn lost AGAIN to those fighting Great Danes of Albany.

As the official RTC correspondent for the ACC, I can say that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge didn’t really say much about the strength (or lack thereof of the ACC). Duke is still a better team than Wisconsin, but playing in Madison is tough. The real swing came at the bottom of the ACC (Florida State, Virginia, etc.), which is much weaker than the bottom of the Big Ten.

For my money, the Big East is the best conference in the country, and it’ll be hard for anyone to compete with that over the next few seasons. Continuing — and this is a very abstract belief on my part with no real evidence to back it up — the league seems to have more programs that are intent on competing year-to-year, i.e. not necessarily recruiting guys who are clear one-and-doners, but going more for the long-term kids. Look at the roster Jay Wright has at Villanova, or Syracuse, or West Virginia. Lots of sophomores, juniors and even the rarest of college basketball species: SENIORS! Sure, the bottom of the Big East is pretty putrid (see DePaul, South Florida), even though they all have winning records right now on a steady cupcake diet.

Texas and Kansas are obviously great teams, and the Big 12 is clearly in the discussion. But it’s really hard to even have this debate so early in the year. Texas Tech’s win over Washington was nice, but I can’t take the Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge seriously considering how terrible the Pac-10 is this season.

That’s it for my abstract, totally baseless arguments on the subject. At least for now. I’m tired, and have no brain space for stats and numbers. I’ll leave that to the Ivy Leaguer…

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ATB: Big Ten Victorious on Comeback Wednesday

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2009

atb

Wisconsin: First RTC of the Season? If anyone knows of another one, let us know.  But this is the first one we’ve seen this year.  But c’mon Musberger, get it right!  RUSH.  THE.  COURT.  (Ed. note – apparently UNLV fans RTC’d on Saturday after defeating Louisville, which is about as unjustified of an RTC as we’ve ever heard of… goodness gracious, folks, it’s Vegas.  And beating an overrated Louisville team excites you?)

Story of the NightBig Ten Finally Gets Monkey Off Its Back.  It didn’t turn out the way we thought it would tonight, but it did end up as a 6-5 victory for the Big Ten schools over their ACC counterparts.  Two unexpected events conspired to make this possible — Illinois’ inspirational comeback win at Clemson after being down by as many as 23 points in the second half, and Wisconsin’s home victory over Duke in the type of game the Blue Devils always seem to win (because, well, they do — Duke was 10-0 in the ACC/B10 Challenge prior to tonight).  These two surprises combined with Ohio State’s expected win over Florida State at the end of the evening resulted in three straight victories at the end of the Challenge to put the midwesterners on top for the first time EVER.  So what does that mean?  Does it prove once and for all that the Big Ten is better than the ACC this year?  Well, not at all.  In fact, if anything, this year’s Challenge has shown us that the middle of the ACC might be a tad bit stronger than we thought it was (Wake, Miami, BC, Clemson).  Now… about our predictions for tonight.  Regression to the mean is the lesson here.  After a perfect 6-0 start over the first two evenings of play, it all crashed and burned with a 1-4 record tonight.  But yeah, at least we called it, baby!  That’s all that matters!  6-5 Big Ten over the ACC, just like we said!*

*note – our Caribbean friends disagree with this assessment.

Game of the Night #1. Wisconsin 73, #5 Duke 69. Duke took its first ever loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight for two reasons as we saw them.  First, their big men other than Kyle Singler (28/6/3 assts) were virtually nonexistent.  Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers combined for just six points and fourteen rebounds.  Compare that with 16/27 against UConn last week, and you’ll see that almost all of the scoring burden fell onto the Duke backcourt + Singler.  Second, Wisconsin’s Trevon Hughes was spectacular tonight.  The senior guard shredded the Duke defense for a career-high 26 pts, using an assortment of drives to the basket to go along with a solid outside stroke (4-7 threes).  After taking an 11-pt lead with five minutes to go, though, Duke guard Andre Dawkins nearly brought the Devils back all by himself, hitting three straight triples to cut the lead down to 2 with two minutes left.  It appeared that this was going to be one of those epic Duke comeback wins, but UW ran clock down the stretch (surprise) and when Singler missed a wild layup attempt off the bottom of the backboard with under thirty seconds left, it was clear the Badgers were going to take the win tonight.  One odd situation occurred in the very last few plays, when color commentator Bob Knight seemed to lose his mind for a moment as he stated that Wisconsin was “for sure” at worst going to overtime after only going up two with 4.9 seconds left (he clearly thought they were up three), and then contemplated whether Trevon Hughes should intentionally miss his second FT (again, thinking up three).  What’s that phrase coaches like to use?  Time and score? Can you imagine if one of Knight’s players had made a similar mistake at such a key juncture?  Maybe now we know why Texas Tech wasn’t nearly as good as Knight’s Indiana teams — he wasn’t paying attention!

Game of the Night #2Illinois 76, #19 Clemson 74. What can you say about Bruce Weber’s young backcourt of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson tonight other than we’re extremely impressed.  There is absolutely no way that Clemson should have lost this game.  The Tigers ran out to a 20-pt halftime lead, pushed it up to 23 early in the second half, and had Littlejohn rocking.  But Weber’s kids dug deep, showed the kind of composure that belies their age, and dropped a combined five threes in the next ten minutes of a 35-10 run that got the Illini back into the game and ultimately allowed them an opportunity to steal this one away from Clemson and the ACC.  The Clemson players suggested that they relaxed after getting such a big lead, and from our viewpoint, there’s probably something to that.  It certainly appeared that Illinois was the team with the drive and moxie throughout most of the second half, and when it came down to Demontez Stitt’s driving layup attempt at the buzzer, we just had a feeling that it wasn’t going down.  It didn’t, and Illinois has a rallying cry for the rest of this season no matter how badly they’re playing.  Mike Davis had 22/9 for the Illini, but as mentioned above, it was the youthful backcourt of Paul and Richardson (34/8/5 assts) that made tonight happen.

Game of the Night #3.  #21 UNLV 74, Arizona 72 (2OT).  The Runnin’ Rebels justified their shiny new Top 25 ranking by taking to the road for the first time this season, heading down to Arizona, and knocking off the Wildcats in double-overtime.  Despite poor overall shooting from both teams (UNLV 39.7%, UA 36.5%; both teams less than 20% from three!) this one was neck-and-neck from the tip, as neither team ever led by more than six points the whole way.  Arizona got up three in the second OT but UNLV’s Derrick Jasper (12/7/5/3 stls) hit one from deep to tie it at 70, and the Wildcats never led after that.  Tre’Von Willis continued to carve his name out on the national scene with 25/4 for the Rebs, and Arizona got a huge game from freshman forward Derrick Williams with 28/5 on 10-15 shooting.  This kind of win in such a difficult and hostile setting can only help Lon Kruger’s club, which has a few easy ones coming up except for a home game against Kansas State thrown in there on 12/12.  If they can get by those Wildcats, there’s a very good chance UNLV will be 12-0 going into a pair of tough road games in early January at BYU and at (currently undefeated) New Mexico. 

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ATB: The More Things Change…

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

atb

The More They Stay the Same… #11 UNC 89, #9 Michigan State 82.  Ok, can we now all just agree that UNC just has Michigan State’s number?  For the fifth straight time, and the third episode within one calendar year, North Carolina made Tom Izzo’s Spartans look like charlatans on the basketball court.  How is this possible?  How can a team like Nevada hang with the Heels a few days ago for most of the game, and a loaded, deep, talented, athletic team like MSU continually get punked and embarrassed by the same squad?  Well, motivation helps.  Ed Davis (22/6) and Larry Drew II (18/6 assts) both had career highs in points, and in watching the game, it seemed as if Carolina could get and make nearly any shot it wanted.  Michigan State, for some reason, seems to think that it can run with Carolina, and as they learned for the third time with the same core of Lucas, Morgan, et al., they cannot.  Why do they try?  The thing about MSU is that they weren’t the second-best team last year, and they surely aren’t this year either — but aren’t we used to this with Izzo’s teams by now?  They typically underachieve in the regular season, only to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament.  The problem is that teams that are routinely blown out do not win national championships.  Granted, Michigan State made a run in this game to get the margin back to a respectable score, but Carolina was never seriously threatened after the first ten minutes of the game.  So what went wrong other than allowing UNC to shoot lights-out again?  How about 2-20 from three (and many of those misses were open looks), a terrible evening from deep for a team that came into this game shooting 37% from distance?  How about allowing point guards Drew and Dexter Strickland to torch the MSU defense for repeated forays to the rim for easy buckets (9-12 FG)?  How about the rough-and-tumble Spartans getting outrebounded (36-34) by the admittedly bigger (but tougher?) Heels?  Honestly, the reason we thought this game would go Carolina’s way was because they were playing at home, but we’re not sure that it would have gone any differently had they played this game on Mars.  Michigan State simply cannot get over on Carolina, and it’s starting to get ridiculous.  At least Raymar Morgan (18/6) looked healthy and played well, right?

Michigan St NCarolina Basketball

ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  We’re deadlocked at 3-3 going into the last day, and yeah, it’s gone exactly as we predicted so far.  Which of course means all five games tomorrow will go crazy — expect all kinds of upset specials.  Seriously, though, we still think it comes down to the BC-Michigan game tomorrow night.  Winner of that one wins the Challenge (our choice: UM).

  • #6 Purdue 69, Wake Forest 58.  Wake played well enough for a half to win this game, but the Deacs don’t have enough offensive threats beyond Al-Farouq Aminu when he has an off game (12/10 on 3-11 FG including 6 TOs) and they turn the ball over like it’s their job.  But we knew that already.  Purdue, on the other hand, is only getting production from their Big Three of Robbie Hummel (11/11 on 3-11 FG), E’Twaun Moore (22/4/3 assts) and JaJuan Johnson (21/9/3 blks) — the rest of the team only scored fifteen points.  That’ll carry the Boilermakers against the lesser teams, especially in Mackey Arena, but we have concerns about when they start playing athletic teams like WFU that also have multiple serious scorers.  Wake played superb defense, holding Purdue to 34% for the game and 1-15 from deep, but their endemic problems with ballhandling and lack of a three-point threat will be problematic all season.
  • Northwestern 65, NC State 53. Northwestern is quickly becoming our second favorite team of this season (behind Portland).  With the injury troubles that they endured to start this season, we would have completely understood if the Wildcats had simply packed it in and hoped for next year.  But they didn’t.  Beating Notre Dame, Iowa State and NC State isn’t exactly equivalent to Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, as they’ll face in the Big Ten, but the key is that NW is gaining experience with winning and they’re doing it in environments away from the comforts of home.  Tonight Michael Thompson stepped up with 22/4 and Jeremy Nash also chipped in 12/8/4 assts in the win.  The Wildcats could realistically enter Big Ten play at 10-1 by the end of this month.  Good for them.

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ATB: DeMarcus Cousins Unimpressed With UNC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

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Gauntlet, Thrown#4 Kentucky 94, UNC-Asheville 57.  DeMarcus Cousins was the star of the game for the Wildcats tonight, as his 6’10, 250-lb frame was simply too large for the much smaller Ashevilleans to handle.  Cousins dropped 24/10 in seventeen minutes of action on the hapless Bulldogs, who you may recall lost to Tennesee by about 1000 points two weeks ago.  But it was a post-game comment to the media that has people buzzing, as it exhibited a little bit of the youthful naivete/candor that you rarely see in players who have had a little more time in from of media microphones.  When asked what he thought of the next team Kentucky will play, the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels, Cousins said with a shoulder shrug, “I’m not impressed.“  Copy machines immediately went into overdrive in Chapel Hill to place said quote into the lockers of UNC bigs Ed Davis, Deon Thompson, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and the Wear twins.  Roy Williams is a master motivator and you know that he’s going to use that quote to get his players, especially his ridiculously large frontline, to come out spitting fire when they enter Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon.  It’s better for all of us as fans when players and coaches on the elite teams don’t particularly care for each other, so maybe we’ll get something fired back from the other side — perhaps even a tweet or two!  Regardless of any future social networking smack, John Wall did not get involved in that, but he did find time to dish out fourteen assists (4 more than UNCA) to go with his twelve points and six steals.

ACC/Big Ten ChallengePenn State 69, Virginia 66.  We wrote up our predictions here earlier today on how we thought this year’s Challenge would go, and so far, so good.  We said that there were three either/or games that would probably decide which league won this thing, and the only Monday night game in Charlottesville was one of those.  Now if the Big Ten can win one of the remaining two, and have everything else go as reasonably expected, then we’re predicting they will win this Challenge for the first time since its inception eleven years ago.  As for this game, it was the Talor Battle show, as the mercurial and clutch guard from PSU scored 28 of his 32 points in the second half to lead his team from a 6-pt halftime deficit to build a commanding 12-pt lead with under four minutes to go.  Virginia made a furious rally to cut the lead to one point with 5.7 seconds remaining, but Battle (who else?) stepped to the line and drained both to give Penn State the insurance they needed to win.  Tomorrow night there are five games on the Challenge agenda, and the Big Ten already has a huge early advantage by virtue of this win tonight.

Other Games of National Interest. Really light night tonight, which makes sense given almost everyone played (sometimes multiple times) over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

  • #7 Syracuse 92, Colgate 58.  Syracuse ran out to a very quick dominating lead over Colgate, ultimately taking a 31-pt lead into the halftime break.  The Orange got 19/9/5 assts from Wesley Johnson and put five players into double figures as they shot a blistering 57% for the game.
  • #14 Georgetown 83, Mt. St. Mary’s 62.  Do these teams think it’s Big Monday or something?  The Hoyas enjoyed a balanced scoring effort tonight behind Greg Monroe’s 19/11, but it was once again the play of Julian Vaughn (14/8/3 assts/3 blks) that turned heads, putting together his second consecutive outstanding game.
  • Seton Hall 93, NJIT 53. Did you guys realize that NJIT already has two wins this season?  We didn’t either.  Granted, one of those Ws was against a St. Joe’s in Brooklyn (not Philly), but they did defeat Wagner.  Tonight was no such equivalent night, as Herb Pope dominated NJIT for 22/11/5 blks.
  • Memphis 77, Oakland 46. Memphis completely dominated a team that many were picking to make some noise in the Summit League this year behind Elliot Williams 20/3 stls.
  • St. Mary’s 78, San Jose State 71.  SMC roared back from a 15-pt halftime deficit in their first road game this season by getting 19/8 from guard Mickey McConnell and 12/13/3 from center Omar Samhan.
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How the Big Ten Will Win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge…

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2009

We’re a little short on time for this post, but we wanted to make sure that it’s up ahead of tonight’s Penn State @ Virginia game (7 pm ET, ESPN2) that tips off the 2009 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  If you’re reading this post, you’re undoubtedly well aware that the ACC holds a commanding 62-35 record in the ten-year history of this event, and that the ACC has won all ten challenges.  The Big Ten has had four years where it lost by only one game (6-5 or 5-4), but the schools from the midwest have never been able to put it all together in a single season to overtake the mighty ACC. 

Until this year. 

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We here at RTC believe that 2009 is when the tide will finally shift in favor of the Big Ten.  The talent and coaching are there, the matchups are favorable, and nothing lasts forever (except Clemson losing in Chapel Hill, apparently).  Here’s our quick analysis of how this year’s Challenge will go down…

Monday November 30

  • Penn State @ Virginia (ESPN2) – 7 pm.  This might appear to be one of the least important games of the Challenge, but given the other matchups, this could be the rubber game that the Big Ten needs to bring the whole ACC house of cards down.  Both teams are 4-2 so far this year, but on paper, Virginia’s losses (South Florida and Stanford) are a little more impressive than Penn State’s (UNC-Wilmington and Tulane).  This will be a meat-grinder of a game, and the team whose star guard plays better — Sylven Landesberg (UVa) or Talor Battle (PSU) — will win.  Our money is on Mr. Clutch, Talor Battle, and PSU will give the Big Ten a key road win to start it off. 

Tuesday December 1

  • Wake Forest @ #4 Purdue (ESPN) – 7 pm.  This might be a chic upset pick for the ACC, but don’t bother going there.  Wake has yet to play anyone of consequence and lost to William & Mary on Saturday night anyway because they have no outside shooting to speak of.  Purdue will triple-up on Al-Farouq Aminu and dare the Deacon guards to fire away.  They will, and they’ll miss, and Purdue’s easy victory will put the Big Ten into an early 2-0 lead. 
  • Northwestern @ NC State (ESPNU) - 7pm.  After Kevin Coble injured his knee, we would have chosen NC State here.  But Northwestern dispatched of Notre Dame and Iowa State over the weekend after testing Butler the week before, and we’re becoming convinced that the Wildcats are still going to be heard from this season.  NC State is 5-0 with its best win over Auburn, but NW isn’t going to shoot 45% from the line tonight (as NCSU’s opponents have this season), and it says here that the Big Ten steals another road win to go up 3-0. 
  • Maryland @ Indiana (ESPN2) – 7:30 pm.  Indiana continues to play tough games they end up losing (0-3 in the islands last week) and Maryland looked less than impressive in Maui, but we dare you to count out Gary Williams.  Because as soon as you do, he makes you look silly.  This has the makings of a Greivis Vasquez explosion game…  national tv, people doubting Maryland, all the red in the building.  Maryland draws the first Big Ten blood with a commanding road win to make the tally 3-1. 
  • #9 Michigan State @ #10 North Carolina (ESPN) – 9 pm.  The marquee game of the entire Challenge, just like last year.  Even though MSU has the majority of its team returning, and UNC does not, we don’t like that this game is taking place in Chapel Hill.  The preponderance of Carolina blue in the building is going to glaze over the eyes of Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe, Raymar Morgan and company as they remember the two shellackings from 2008-09, and MSU turns in a stinker of a game as the youthful Heels strut their stuff in front of the home crowd.  The tally moves to 3-2 Big Ten. 
  • Virginia Tech @ Iowa (ESPN2) – 9:30 pm.  Iowa is without question one of the worst BCS teams in existence this year, and as bad as Virginia Tech is profiling right now, they’re still significantly better than the Hawkeyes.  We’d expect this game to be incredibly ugly and close, but Malcolm Delaney as the best player on the court will take over in the last few minutes to give Va Tech the win.  This result will even things up 3-3 going into Wednesday’s games. 

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07.20.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 20th, 2009

Is there a worse time of year for roundball fans than July/August?  Well, is there?  Let’s see what’s been cooking over the last week or so…

  • Economics, NCAA Style.  Have you guys heard that we’re in a recession – that the economy may not exactly be whirring along at a blistering pace?  Inevitably, college athletic departments are starting to feel the crunch nearly as much as your local Citibastard – some are cutting expenses such as chartered flights and media guides, while even the venerable and uber-rich Stanford athletic department is cutting employees.  Meanwhile, schools such as UCLA, Cal, and others are instituting high-dollar seat licensing fees (we’re talking hundreds of thousands) to finance their stadium renovations and attend their games for the next quarter-century.  Crisis is another word for opportunity, and we’re wondering if the current economic climate will only provide leverage for the NCAA haves (Florida, Texas, Ohio St., UCLA, etc.) to exploit and exacerbate the widening gap between themselves and the have-nots by using private equity as the hammer.  The NCAA ADs have given lip service to construct a more equitable model of competition for its member institutions, but like the Yankees/Red Sox freight train in MLB, the arms race inertia is already accelerating downhill and moving too quickly to be stopped.  The final solution may ultimately have to be a separation of BCS schools from the remainder of D1, and to get there, you have to pay to play.   
  • 2009 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Last year we had very high hopes that the Big Ten would finally get off the mat and win one of these challenges.  Alas, MSU took its first of two emasculations at the hands of UNC last year in Ford Field, and the Midwesterners lost 6-5.  This year’s schedule is out, and unfortunately for the Big Ten, our first glance reveals that the odds are significantly in the ACC’s favor to win this event again.  The Monday and Tuesday night games (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1) favor home teams Virginia, NC State, UNC, Purdue and Iowa, but we’d expect the ACC to break serve by Maryland winning in Bloomington for an early 4-2 lead.  Even with a Dec. 2 slate that favors the Big Ten, with Michigan and OSU holding serve at home to match Clemson, we’d expect Minnesota to get a road win at Miami (FL) only for the league to fall on its face again when Duke does what it does and rips Wisconsin a new one in the Kohl Center.  The ACC wins again, 6-5.  We have it coming down to three road winners, with the ACC taking two of them (Maryland and Duke).  How do you see it?
  • UConn Savior?  This was quiet over the weekend but we find it to be a significant piece of news out of the UConn program, which is that the oft-confounding Ater Majok has committed that he will indeed play for Jim Calhoun’s Huskies next season.  Majok’s eligibility has been a wild ride for UConn faithful, beginning a year-plus ago with his verbal commitment and two semesters of classwork in Storrs, only to be followed by a flirtation with the NBA Draft (withdrawing) and lucrative professional options overseas.  The versatile 6’10 forward will help Calhoun shore up a somewhat inexperienced frontcourt led by returnees Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards, and if the reports of his potential are true, could provide an offensive force on the blocks to relieve some of the pressure from the very talented perimeter tandem of Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson.  Major good news for the UConn program, which has taken its share of hits the past few months.   
  • Quick Hits.  Noel Johnson: the former USC recruit will end up at ClemsonDave Bliss: resurfaces in Texas (not coaching, thank God).  Karen Sypher: no merit to her complaint against PitinoTark the Shark: his spinal surgery delayedKeno Davisextended through 2016Al-Farouq Aminu: looking to dominate in 2009-10Larry Sanders: thinking first round next season.  Renardo Sidney: Part 1 of the NCAA inquiryLance Stephenson: much ado about disorderly conductJared Sullinger: another in a run of Buckeye bigsHarrison Barnes: get used to that nameMichael Gilchrist: another World Wide Wes guy with no chance at a childhoodSeth Davis: analyzes the top players on the summer recruiting circuitSouth Carolina: in violation of impermissible snackage.
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Will 2009 be the Year the Big 10 Finally Challenges the ACC?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 23rd, 2009

Yesterday the pairings for the 2009 ACC/Big 10 Challenge were announced, and cries of rejoice went up from Iowa City through Evanston over to State College as the Big 10 schools realized that they have a fighting chance at actually winning their first Challenge in the eleven years of its existence.   Let’s take a look at the matchups and show you the games where the land-grant institutions (+NW) from the midwest can actually make this happen.

acc-big-10-logo
Penn St. @ Virginia
– PSU is coming off of an NIT Championship and will return its best player, Talor Battle, along with a strong corps of juniors.  UVa will still be learning new coach Tony Bennett’s system.  This is a winnable road game for the Big Ten, and PSU will win it.

Maryland @ Indiana – Assuming Greivis Vasquez returns to school (he should), Maryland should be able to pull away from Indiana relatively easily.  Even moreso if they nab Lance Stephenson.  Tom Crean has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s heavy on volume, not stars, and Maryland should get this one.

Michigan St. @ UNC – Goodness, haven’t we seen enough of this already?  We don’t care who UNC loses or Michigan St. keeps.  It’s in Chapel Hill, and even that doesn’t matter.  UNC wins.

Northwestern @ NC State – NW wasn’t terribly far from being an NCAA team this year, and they return most everyone; NC State was pretty far from it and they may lose Brandon Costner.  The gut says this is a winnable game for the Wildcats, but you never know with those guys.  If the Big Ten expects to win this year’s challenge, though, they’ll need this one, so we’re giving it to them.

Virginia Tech @ Iowa – Todd Lickliter’s extremely young team should make a leap of progress next season, but we’re still not sure they’re ready for Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen.  ACC gets the road win.

Wake Forest @ Purdue – Best game of the Challenge, with two black/gold teams taking each other on.  While Wake has proven it can look dominant in November/December before crumbling in February/March, Purdue will be super-jacked for this one.  Look for Hummell and Moore to outplay Teague and Aminu as the home team wins.

BC @ Michigan – In Y2 of John Beilein’s rebuild in Ann Arbor, he worked miracles.  Next year his best two players (Harris and Sims) return, and Crisler Arena will become a place nobody wants to play.  Big 10 win.

Duke @ Wisconsin – these are the games where the home team camps out for weeks in anticipation of beating the Devils, only to watch as Duke eviscerates said home team by 18 pts in the first half on their way to a laugher.  Wisconsin will think it can win this game; Duke knows better.

Florida St. @ Ohio St. – For the first time in four years, OSU won’t be bringing in some 7-foot top recruit, but they won’t need it because they’re bringing back everyone else, including star Evan Turner.  FSU will lose their star Toney Douglas and Uche Echefu, and while they’ll be very good next year, they’ll still be adjusting to life without those players at that time.  OSU at home gets the W.

Illinois @ Clemson – This game is a tossup because both teams bring back a substantial amount of talent as well as bring in strong recruiting classes.  We have a feeling that Illinois is about to become relevant nationally again, but we’re not sure Clemson is ready to cede their spotlight.  Especially in December, when Clemson excels.  We’re going with the home team here.

Minnesota @ Miami (FL) – Tubby welcomes back every player of consequence from an NCAA squad while bringing in a top 12 recruitng class.   Miami isn’t that tough to play at anyway, but especially when Frank Haith loses three of his top five players (incl. Jack McClinton).  Minnesota wins.

There you have it.  Final results (projected):

Big Ten: 6
ACC: 5

The key tossup games in our eyes are Northwestern @ NC State and Illinois @ Clemson.  The Big Ten will need to win one of those two to supplant the ACC for the title of this challenge for the first time in, um, ever.

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