The ACC/Big Ten Challenge ramped up last night, and as you’re probably aware by now, the Big Ten leads the Challenge 4-2 after a dominant evening where only Iowa lost on the road at Wake Forest. Going into tonight’s five-game set, the ACC will be favored in three of the games, but if Wisconsin and Penn State can take care of business at home against NC State and Maryland, respectively, the Big Ten will win its second consecutive Challenge. If either of those two drops the ball, the Big Ten’s next best shot for a road win will be Tom Crean’s Indiana team taking on a rebuilding Boston College, or Purdue going to Coleman Coliseum to take on Virginia Tech. The one game we’re giving to the ACC right now is the Duke game against Michigan State in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Remember when MSU played UNC a couple of years ago at Ford Field in this event — that Spartan team still made the Final Four, if you recall, but Carolina ran Michigan State out of the building. We expect Duke to do likewise tonight.
Free Guy-Marc Michel? We’d expect to see shirts like this popping up around Bloomington after the NCAA yesterday rejected Indiana’s appeal for the 7’0 freshman’s eligibility to play college basketball for the Hoosiers this season. The Martinique native played in five games with a French club team that included professionals in 2007-08, but the more troubling issue according to the NCAA was his admission to a university in 2006 which created problems with their “five years to play four” rule. Indiana is off to a 6-0 start but they haven’t played anyone of consequence yet, but it’s never bad to have a seven-footer lying around in case you need one. That option is now off the table for Tom Crean’s team.
Speaking of Indiana, the Hoosiers’ ACC/Big Ten Challenge opponent tonight will be Boston College. Gary Parrish takes a look at how its new coach, Steve Donahue, is trying to balance the competing interests of teaching his players how he wants them to play the game and trying to win those games. He used the early-season loss to Yale as an example of what not to do, and it paid off with a 2-1 record at the Old Spice Classic last weekend.
One of the few remaining uncommitted top 25 players in the Class of 2011, DeAndre Daniels, has narrowed his list to four schools: Texas, Kansas, UCLA and Florida. The 6’8 forward whom Rivals has rated as the #9 overall prospect in the class was once a Texas commitment, but he re-opened his recruitment last summer. He’s originally from the Longhorn State so the smart money is still probably on Texas, but don’t count out Bill Self or Billy Donovan in this race (Daniels is playing at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida this season).
Former Maryland star and current ESPN commentator Len Elmore, a Harvard Law graduate who never suppresses his informed opinions, believes that the NCAA should suspend Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl for two years as a consequence of his lying to investigators about his transgressions. He said that the Tennessee’s salary docking of $1.5M and the SEC’s eight-game suspension of the coach were a “total cop-out.” Our position on this isn’t quite as punitive as Elmore’s, but we also believe that the NCAA will come down hard on Pearl when they decide to hand out any sanctions.
The Lede. Tonight had a bit of a March feel to it, with so many big-time programs taking on other big-time programs and culminating in a thrilling back-and-forth shootout in Kansas City with Georgetown taking on Missouri.
Your Watercooler Moment. The ACC is horrible right now. Already down 4-2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after tonight’s thrashing (only moribund Wake Forest managed to get a W), we’re having trouble seeing anybody other than Duke getting to the second weekend of the NCAAs once again. We’re on record in this space that the ACC, the traditional standard-bearer of basketball conferences, has for at least five years been living off two things: that gilded reputation built through several decades of across-the-board excellence; and, the ability of two teams — Duke and UNC — to make runs to the Final Four and win championships. In the last five seasons, the ACC has only put seven teams into the Sweet Sixteen, and only one of those seven (Boston College in 2006) was located on a highway other than US 15-501. The 2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge only crystallizes how far the rest of this league has fallen behind Duke. Tonight Georgia Tech walked into Northwestern and got destroyed, giving up 55 first-half points; Florida State, possibly the second or third best team in the league, ‘defended’ its home court for the second time in a week with another pitiful offensive performance; Clemson allowed a weak Michigan team to enter Littlejohn and defile its building; and, old reliable UNC with its stable of McDonald’s All-Americans still couldn’t figure out how to properly run an offense or make a free throw. It’s ugly out there in ACC-land, and tomorrow promises to only be marginally better. The ACC has three home games (and three Vegas favorites), but do you honestly believe in anybody other than Duke at home? Are you willing to trust Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland or NC State based on what you’ve seen out of this league so far? Look, it could turn out that Duke wallops MSU (a likely scenario) and BC, VT and the Terps all get wins (less likely but possible) so that the ACC notches yet another victory in the Challenge, but such a result still doesn’t change the reality that this league is light years from where it once was in terms of quality and depth of talent. The Big Ten has at least four teams that are Sweet Sixteen-worthy and the Big East and Big 12 aren’t far behind; even the lowly SEC has two or three teams at that level this year. How many do you see out of the ACC, realistically — Duke and who else?
Game of the Season (So Far). RTC Live was in the house in KC tonight for this instant classic, and our correspondent Brian Goodman reported from the scene.
Georgetown 111, Missouri 102 (OT). Georgetown and Missouri spun a November tale from which March memories are made: a big comeback, a missed free throw that proved vital, career nights by players on both sides, a buzzer-beating three, and ultimately for the Hoyas, a highlight win to remember. Georgetown used a scorching perimeter attack from Austin Freeman (31 points, including 19 in the first half) and Jason Clark to race out to an 18-point lead in the first half, but from then on, Mike Anderson’s Tigers systematically wore Georgetown down. Gradually chipping away at the deficit, Missouri guard Marcus Denmon sent the frenzied semi-home crowd into hysterics with a three to pull ahead in the second half. The Hoyas, noticeably fatigued by the Tigers’ trademark press, still had enough in the tank to battle back and took advantage of a window cracked by MU guard Michael Dixon (who came into the game shooting 85% from the line). After the sophomore missed a free throw in the waning seconds, the Hoyas corralled the rebound, and when a loose ball swung out to Chris Wright on the perimeter, the guard cooly sank a three just before the buzzer to send the game into an extra frame. Wright, who was 1-6 from three before that crucial moment, then passed the baton to Clark. The junior from Arlington, Virginia, made three consecutive threes in overtime to seal the 111-102 victory, and Missouri went from having a huge win in their back pocket, to sitting in the interview room talking about missed opportunities in the span of 15 short minutes. Georgetown, with a big non-conference win to add to their already-impressive Tournament resume, returns to DC flying high on their continued consistency beyond the arc and a perfect 18-18 night from the stripe. Both teams still have work to do — the Hoyas are looking for answers down low and Missouri needs rebounding help outside of Ricardo Ratliffe — but each now knows what they need to improve upon in the next several months.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
The VS Fashion Show. If there’s one thing that can distract all of our tweeple (99% of whom are American males between the ages of 18-35) from the Game of the Season (So Far) in college basketball, it’s a Victoria’s Secret television special. It was actually fairly hilarious — one tweet would be about Jason Clark dropping another trey on Missouri while the next one would be about Katy Perry’s husband cavorting with the models backstage.
Kemba Walker’s 30 for 30. After six games, Walker is averaging exactly 30 PPG, and he’s doing it in the coveted 50/40/80 zone, hitting 51.4% of his shots, 40.5% of his treys, and 88.5% of his foul shots. Furthermore, as he did last night when he shot 16 FTs, he’s getting to the line at a prolific pace for a guard, averaging ten trips per game. All great scorers know that the foul line is where the points are, and Walker is getting nine of his from there each night out. Can he average thirty for the entire year? It’s doubtful, but at this rate, who knows? For a little context, only two players in the last twenty years have reached the prestigious 30 PPG threshold — Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1993-94 (30.3 PPG) and LIU’s Charles Jones in 1996-97 (30.1 PPG).
Georgetown’s Backcourt. There may not be a better guard trio anywhere in America than the Hoyas’ Austin Freeman, Jason Clark and Chris Wright. Experienced, athletic and physical, the three are combining for 42 PPG, 11 RPG and 12 APG while shooting the ball exceptionally well (15-32 from deep last night and 48.4% on the season). Somewhat reminiscent of the Villanova teams of Foye, Allen and Nardi a few years ago, if the Hoyas can keep their big men on the floor to play defense and producing where needed, they should be very good again.
JT Terrell, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Tobias Harris. Tonight’s freshman corps showed what they were capable of in varying degrees — Terrell hit seven threes including the game-winner for Wake en route to 32 points; Sullinger dropped his third dub-dub of the season with 11/13 in 36 physical minutes against FSU; Jones did likewise with 18/10 while his teammate Knight added 23/6/6 assts; Harris continues to impress with another solid 21/6 outing for UT;
Syracuse’s CJ Fair With the Sicknasty. His only bucket of the game was, needless to say, rousing.
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Top 25 Games
Virginia 87, #12 Minnesota 79: “Minnesota wasn’t dominated by Virginia for much of the game, but for a seven minute stretch in which the Gophers couldn’t score and the Cavs couldn’t miss, the game quickly got out of hand and never really bounced back the other way.” (From the Barn or The Daily Gopher)
Other Games of Interest
Seton Hall 69, St. Peter’s 49: ‘The two teams entered the Monday night game at the Prudential Center with personnel issues. Seton Hall was able to get through theirs en route to a 69-49 win over St.Peter’s.” (Villanova by the Numbers)
Preview: #18 Purdue (5-1) @ Virginia Tech (4-2): Breaking down the Boilermakers match-up with the Hokies. (Tech Hoops)
A Brief Look at Illinois: “It’s a strange ACC/Big Ten Challenge this year. The Big Ten, fresh off their first victory in eleven tries, is the favorite to repeat. And the UNC game isn’t even expected to be close, with 6-1 Illinois an overwhelming favorite. How did the Illini, a team that needed a miracle comeback to beat Clemson a year ago, come in a heavy favorite?” (Carolina March)
Know Thy Opponent: Boston College Eagles: “Wednesday’s game, as Ryan wrote in The Minute After on Friday, will be the first true test for a team that made relatively easy work of it’s first six home games. While the game is certainly winnable, it’s not one the Hoosiers will be favored in by those making the odds.” (Inside the Hall)
We’re Back. These After the Buzzers dropped off a little bit over the long holiday weekend, and for that we apologize. Still, we’re working through some ideas as to how we want to set them up, so if you have any suggestions for improvement or additions/deletions, we’re all ears. So long as it doesn’t take us all night to do and it sounds reasonably interesting, we’ll consider it. Hit us up in the comments.
The Minnesota Defense Wasn't Tight Tonight (MST/R. Tsong-Taatarii)
Your Watercooler Moment. ACC 1, Big Ten 0. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Minnesota was without defensive stalwart Al Nolen tonight — the Gophers still came into this home game as a fifteen-point Vegas favorite, and Tony Bennett’s Virginia team hadn’t exactly shown any signs of breaking through after a 1-2 trip to Maui last week. A 39-18 second-half run by the Wahoos fueled by 77% three-point shooting (10-13) erased a ten-point halftime deficit and had Tubby Smith fuming after the game about his team’s shoddy defense. So what is the teachable moment here? Perhaps that Minny wasn’t quite as good as their 6-0 record with wins over a UNC team in disarray and a West Virginia team still finding itself would have led us to believe? Or that ACC teams just find ways to win these ACC/Big Ten Challenge games year after dastardly year? Well, that’s certainly true, and the Big Ten now finds itself in a serious hole going into Day Two of the event considering that this game was a supposed lock for the midwestern league. In looking at the remaining ten games, Ohio State on the road (@ FSU) and Illinois/Northwestern at home (vs. UNC and Georgia Tech, respectively) become must-wins, with the hope that Iowa and/or Michigan can break through versus Wake Forest or Clemson on the road. If we were laying odds at this point as to which league will win this challenge, we’d go heavily on the ACC — that’s how important the Minnesota loss tonight at home was.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
Jacob Pullen’s 241st Trey. With Pullen’s second three of the evening tonight in an easy win against D2 Emporia State, Pullen became the all-time leader in made threes at the school. He already has 1,618 points in his career and is well on his way to becoming the all-time leading scorer at the school (he needs to average 17.8 PPG the rest of the way, assuming 28 more games). Here’s the question, though — is Pullen the greatest player in program history? The greatest guard? Mitch Richmond and Rolando Blackman were awfully good players at K-State, but Pullen could eclipse both of them with a first-team all-American type of a season and a deep Tournament run.
LaceDarius Dunn’s Return. In two games back from suspension against admittedly weak competition, LD has averaged 22 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG, and 4 SPG while shooting 10-19 from deep. We know that Dunn can bomb away, but only seven of his shots have been from within the circle; he may want to mix it up a little more as we get into the heart of the season.
Blake Hoffarber’s Jumper. He shoots them in volume like JJ Redick once did down on Tobacco Road, but every time he puts one up, we think it’s going in. He’s been somewhat “off” so far this year, but after a 5-11 performance tonight, he’s still at 38.7% on the season. Of course, this is down from last year’s nearly-automatic 46.7% from deep, but we figure he’ll catch fire soon enough.
8-0 Before December. There are only thirty D1 teams remaining with a flawless record, but did you know that Cleveland State has already racked up eight wins before November is out? The Vikings have mostly feasted on a steady diet of mid-level teams, but with a win already against Iona (who beat Richmond), CSU may be looking at a strong season in the Horizon League.
Wichita State’s Balance. One of the most effective shooting teams that you’ll find, Gregg Marshall’s Shockers utilize a cadre of ten players who average between 14-25 minutes per game, nine of whom tally at least four points per contest. Even though WSU came out of Maui with a 2-1 record, it was the Shockers who arguably played tournament champion UConn the toughest among their three wins.
… and Misses.
Those Ridiculous-Looking McDonald’s Stairs at The Barn. Minnesota’s Williams Arena is a grand old barn, the fourth oldest building currently in use in Division 1 basketball. And we certainly understand that sponsorships will happen and must happen, even at grand old barns. But those McDonald’s stairs in the camera view on each side of the scoring table look ridiculous and are embarrassing for a program of this stature. Maybe it would be ok if the “M” used was the same configuration as the Gophers’ “M,” but it’s not. Please, please get rid of this travesty.
USC Basketball. With four losses to the likes of Rider, Bradley, Nebraska and TCU already under its belt, Kevin O’Neill’s team is already in serious trouble this season. The Trojans have games coming against #20 Texas, #4 Kansas and #15 Tennessee in the next three weeks, and even with Jio Fontan returning on Dec. 18 for the KU game, we’re not sure that this dysfunctional unit will recover.
Tweet of the Night. Yeah, this is more or less what we thought too when told that TCU was becoming the seventeenth Big East basketball school.
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Top 25 Games
#12 Syracuse 80, Georgia Tech 76: “Syracuse is your Legends Classic champion and they won the championship game exactly how they’ve come to win most of their games this season. The Orange stalled early, took the lead around the half and held on for the close 80-76 victory over Georgia Tech. That said, the Orange also got something they haven’t gotten all year long…balance.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
#12 Missouri 91, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 63: “I’m doing a lot of nit-picking for a 28-point win, but it is what it is. Mizzou has only been sporadically great this year. If it’s true that they’re suffering from “Play To The Level Of Competition”-itis, then we should see them play pretty well tomorrow … as Georgetown is a damn fine team.” (Rock M Nation)
#20 UF 55, FSU 51: “Despite the clear problems the Gators have, the play of the young bigs and a very good road win against a tough opponent will mean something. As the Gators roll towards Christmas and a tough non-conference schedule that includes several road games, Sunday’s win will hopefully be a sign of things to come.” (Alligator Army)
#21 UNLV 71, Virginia Tech 59: “The Malcolm Delaney Show was not enough to pull out a 76 Classic title and the Hokies lost to UNLV 71-59 in the Championship Game in Anaheim, CA.” (Tech Hoops)
Texas A&M 54, #24 Temple 51: “Oversized when one of our bigs were out of the game with foul trouble. Outrebounded as a result of that. Outhustled and outworked when the game was on the line. Texas A&M’s hard work through all 40 minutes of play allowed them to hand Temple it’s second loss of the year. I cannot take anything away from the Aggies. They wanted the win more than we did, and earned the 54-51 victory.” (Owlified)
Other Games of Interest
Northwestern 65, Creighton 52: “Excuses aside, there is not any time to dwell on it as a few more tests await this week for the Bluejays. On Wednesday, an undefeated and likely ranked BYU Cougars come into the Qwest Center for a matchup in the MWC/MVC Challenge. With prolific scorer Jimmer Fredette coming in and Creighton’s difficulty in keeping control of certain players, there is a lot to be worried about. Then on Sunday, Creighton takes another road trip. This time it is down to Lincoln to take on in-state rival Nebraska which is always a challenge in the Devaney Center the last few times as the Bluejays haven’t won in Lincoln since the 2004-05 season. There is not any time for confusion–this stretch will be big if the Bluejays are anywhere near postseason NCAA contention come March.” (White and Blue Review)
UNC 74, College of Charleston 69: “First things first; it’s a better outcome than last year. It may not feel all that better, as UNC trailed often in the second half, but 74-69 is infinitely more comforting than 79-82. Of course, last year’s shocker and this year’s squeaker were both the result of one man, Andrew Goudelock. Last season he went 10 of 20 from the field and hit four threes to finish with 24 points. This year in Chapel Hill he was 11 of 28 with five threes to finish with 28. The early spurt in the second half to take the lead was almost entirely his doing, as he was draining some incredible threes from absolutely insane places. He’s a pretty impressive player. The difference is, this year he was alone.” (Carolina March)
Here’s hoping everyone out there in college basketball land had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The next five weeks will be a blur between now and the new year, but by the time the calendar moves into 2011 we should have a pretty good idea as to who the half-dozen legitimate contenders for the crown are (and the multitudes of pretenders vying to be taken seriously). Even though exams loom and the interminable bowl season kicks off in earnest soon (featuring 2-6 SEC teams!), we’ll happily plod along with our college hoops addiction and of course, invite you all to join us along for the ride.
The scariest news of the weekend was at the 76 Classic on Sunday where Stanford star Jeremy Greencollapsed as a result of dizziness and stomach pain after the Cardinal’s 81-74 overtime win over DePaul. RTC’s Andrew Murawa was on the scene there in Anaheim and reported as to what he saw and heard there. The great news is that after Green was hospitalized and received IV fluids, it appears that he will be fine. Always great to see that word “fine” associated with something like this.
Mike DeCourcy breaks down the upcoming ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which tips off on Monday night with an oddly placed Virginia at Minnesota game. You probably recall that the Big Ten won its first-ever challenge last season, 6-5, and comes into this year’s tilt with a decided claim as the top conference in America. DeCourcy decides to get a little crazy with his prediction that the ACC will actually re-take the crown this year. As for the first game tonight, Minnesota will be without Al Nolen, who is nursing a foot injury, and Rodney Williams, who has an ankle injury. It seems as if Tubby Smith’s team there can never get everybody on the floor at the same time (Devoe Joseph has been held out for a rules violation).
President Obama, recovering well from twelve stitches he took to the mug during a Friday pickup game, showed up with family in tow to watch the First Bro-in-Law, Craig Robinson, lead his Oregon State team to a victory over DC-based Howard on Sunday. While there’s nothing particularly novel about Obama’s love for hoops, especially the collegiate variety, we feel compelled to mention this in the unlikely scenario that he’s a closeted RTC reader and wants to offer us a chance to interview him prior to next year’s Tournament.
You may have missed this among all the weekend’s action, but nothing gets past the crack crew around here. It was just a few short days ago that California was getting some love as a possible Pac-10 contender this season after beating Temple on Thursday (after all, who isn’t a contender in the Pac-10?). But that talk died down after the five-point stinker of a half that Mike Montgomery’s team threw up against Notre Dame in a 57-44 loss on Saturday. Yeah, you read that correctly : five points. The Bears went the final 10:44 of the first half without a single point, but amazingly, that’s still not the record for fewest points in a half of a D1 game — Savannah State produced only four points in a game two years ago against Kansas State. Still, Cal is a long way from SSU in terms of resources and expectations; but those may need to be tempered somewhat after a weekend filled with struggling offense in Orlando (Cal also lost to Boston College on Sunday, scoring only 46 points).