RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Lower Midwest Region

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South and Mid-South) are located here.

It’s time for the sixth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of rust belt and farming states that we like to call the Lower Midwest.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

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Ed. Note: for the purposes of our analysis in this region, Butler was considered a high-major program.

  • Cole Aldrich – Jr, C – Kansas. Much like North Carolina one October ago, Kansas appears to be the unanimous selection to begin the season atop every poll and ranking. One of the main reasons for such accolades is the continued improvement of Cole Aldrich, the Kansas double-double machine in the post. Remember the national semifinals against UNC in 2008 when Aldrich burst onto the scene recording eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a then career-high 17 minutes? That was the night college hoops fans first saw what Aldrich can provide for Bill Self and his Jayhawks. In a full season of play, Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins were the anchors behind Kansas’ surprising run to a #3 seed and a Sweet 16 berth in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Cole Aldrich and a pretty good player named Blake Griffin were the only players in the Big 12 to average a double-double in 2008-09. Speaking of stats, Aldrich’s triple-double in the second round against Dayton – 13/20/10 blks- was the first recorded triple double in KU’s illustrious basketball history. Aldrich led the conference in blocks with at 2.7 BPG, finished second in rebounding at 12.4 RPG, second in FG% at 60% and tenth in FT% at an impressive 79% for a 6’11 center.  Aldrich possesses great length, a high motor and displays the fundamentals under the basket that Self loves. The insane talent around Aldrich this season will only put less of a load on his shoulders as the big man can rely on Collins for the clutch outside shot, Xavier Henry on the wings, Thomas Robinson on the block or Tyrel Reed to knock down the long-range three. But the pressure will be on Aldrich to provide a post presence that simply cannot be matched in the Big 12 (sorry Dexter Pittman).  If he achieves his potential, a national POY award isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Kansas’ prized junior center.
  • Craig Brackins – Jr, F – Iowa St. Craig Brackins won’t get half the airtime this season as any of the other high-major names on this list, but he could end up becoming the best player of the group when it’s all said and done.  It’s not as if Brackins came out of nowhere – he was a five-star recruit out of Brewster (NH) Academy in 2007, and he turned down offers from Indiana and Pitt, among others – but, when you play in the Big 12 and your team is generally an afterthought (4-12 in 2008-09), it’s tough to get noticed.  But noticed he got on Jan. 24th in a nationally-televised home game against the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks.  Brackins sliced and diced the vaunted Jayhawk defense for 42/14 in a losing effort that had Bill Self afterwards stating that the lanky center could be the “best player in the country today.”  That single game may have put the Iowa State star on the casual fan’s radar screen, but it’s not like Brackins wasn’t tearing it up against everyone else too:  32/16 against N. Iowa; 28/17 against Jacksonville St.; 38/14 against Houston; 25/13 against Nebraska.  The all-Big 12 first teamer nearly averaged a double-double for the season (20.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG) despite seeing hard and fast double-teams every time he touched the ball.  It was widely presumed that Brackins would jump into the NBA Draft last summer after such a spectacular season; after all, projections for him of the lottery and mid-first round were prevalent.  However, Brackins said that he had some unfinished business to attend to at ISU (meaning, getting the Cyclones to an NCAA Tournament), and he returned to what should be an improved squad with 6’7 juco transfer Marquis Gilstrap’s arrival on the blocks and a solid returning backcourt of Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger.  The only true weakness he has exhibited so far in his career is his 28% from beyond the arc, but with more firepower on the team this year he may be less inclined to feel like he has to do it all (Brackins attempted 37% of ISU’s shots last year).  Regardless of how the team’s season plays out in 2009-10, there should be no doubt that Brackins is on the short list of best post men in America.  With another year of seasoning under his belt at the collegiate level, however, we could be looking at a top five pick next June.  Don’t flip the channel so quickly if you see that Iowa St. is playing on the tube this year – it may be one of your few chances to see one of the best big men in the country.
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NCAA Preview: Northern Iowa Panthers

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Northern Iowa (#12, West, Portland pod)
vs. Purdue (#5)
Thurs., 3/19 at 2:30 PM
Vegas Line: Northern Iowa, +8

General Profile
Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference, Automatic Bid
Coach: Ben Jacobson (3rd season), 59-37
08-09 Record: 23-10, 14-4
Last 12 Games: 8-4, 5 straight wins
Best Win: 57-51, Auburn, 11/29/08-Chicago Invitational
Worst Loss: 74-65, @, Wyoming, 12/13/08
Off. Efficiency Rating: 109.9, 57th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 98.9, 129th

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s):
Adam Koch, 12.3 pts./game, 5.1 rebounds /game and Kwadzo Ahelegbe, 10.3 pts./game, 3.2 assists/game
Unsung Hero: Ali Farokhmanesh, 73 3-pointers, 38% from three.
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): None
Key Injuries: None
Depth: 30.7% (177th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: The team is still pretty young. Only one Senior on the team.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: They get hot from 3
Will Make an Early Exit if…: They do not control the tempo

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 2005-06, First round exit (Wisconsin)
Streak: 1
Best NCAA Finish: 1989-90, 2nd round
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (minimum 8 appearances)

Other
Distance to First Round Site: 1,912 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: Kurt Warner, MVP quarterback for St. Louis Rams and most recently starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals in the past Super Bowl
School Wishes It Could Forget: Rick Hartzell. Rick was both Athletic Director and an NCAA referee at the same time he was at Northern Iowa. Since he left Northern Iowa, he is still an NCAA referee and now referees Missouri Valley Conference games except for ones involving Northern Iowa. Some question whether he should be involved in refereeing these games because of his former affiliation with UNI and how that could affect games that directly impact Northern Iowa.
Prediction: With the right matchup, this Northern Iowa team could be a real pain for a major conference team that just got in on the bubble. The guard play is tough and they can shoot from anywhere. With a 7 footer that can provide some inside play, they could have an inside/outside presence. They could probably get to the 2nd round, but not the Sweet 16.
Major RTC stories: N/A

Preview written by Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball

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QnD West Region Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

WEST REGION PREVIEW (by Ryan ZumMallen)

Favorite
UConn, #1, 27-4

Should They Falter
Memphis
, #2, 31-3

Grossly Overseeded
Washington, #4, 25-8

Grossly Underseeded

Mississippi State, #13, 23-12

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower)
Mississippi State, #13, 23-12

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower)

Purdue, #5, 25-9

Carmelo Anthony Award
Tyreke Evans
, 16.6 pts, 5.5 assts, 3.8 rebs

Stephen Curry Award
Northern Iowa’s Adam Koch, 12.3 ppg, 5.2 rebs – relatively unknown player who can take his team a long way

Home Cooking
#4 Washington – 148 miles, #11 Utah State – 293 miles, #1 UConn – 238 miles

Can’t Miss First Round Game
#4 Washington vs. #13 Mississippi State, 3/19

Don’t Miss This One Either
#6 Marquette vs. #11 Utah State, 3/20

Lock of the Year
#6 Marquette upsetting #3 Mizzou and heading to the Sweet Sixteen

Juiciest Potential Matchup – purists
#2 Memphis vs. #7 Cal, Second Round – this matchup would be for those who want to see great basketball

Juiciest Potential Matchup – media

Mike Montgomery
(#7 Cal) vs. Gary Williams (#10 Maryland)

We Got Screwed
Purdue, #5 – How are the Boilermakers rewarded for winning one of the nation’s toughest conference tournaments?  With a five-seed matchup against a dangerous Northern Illinois team… in Oregon.  If they move on, they’ll likely draw Washington just a short jaunt from the Huskies’ hometown.

Strongest Pod

Portland
– #4 Washington, #5 Purdue, #12 Northern Illinois, #13 Mississippi State.  Three conference tourney champions and one regular season conference champ.

Wildcard, Bitches
Texas A&M had a difficult time in the rough Big XII (9-7), but has shown they can beat good teams and beat UConn if they play above themselves and catch the Huskies napping.

So-Called Experts

MemphisThe Tigers showed last season that you can dominate a weak conference and still make it to the title game.  Now they carry the nation’s longest winning streak into the tournament and their toughest competition is a talented but flawed UConn team (struggling with the injury to Jerome Dyson).

Vegas Odds to Win Region

2009-west-odds

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RTC Aftermath: MVC Semifinals

Posted by nvr1983 on March 8th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Patrick Marshall is in St. Louis all weekend covering the MVC Tournament for RTC.

RTC Live Aftermath—Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, March 7, 2009

Today’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament game between Creighton and Illinois State was covered by Rush the Court. Illinois State dominated Creighton from the start and won 73-49 to advance to the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Tournament officials decided to do something a little different than what was done in Thursday or Friday’s games for the starting lineups as they dimmed the lights and spotlighted the players.

MVC SpotlightIllinois State came out on fire and did not let up. They shot 55% from the field and 68% from the three point line (13/19) while Creighton shot only 27% from the field and 18% from the three point line. The Creighton huddle was befuddled by what Illinois State was doing.

In all reality though, the biggest issue was the shooting and making scoring plays. Illinois State had 16 assists on 28 baskets so they were getting great ball movement which gave them open shots. Creighton actually won battle of rebounds 39-35 (including 20 offensive rebounds) and made more free throws than Illinois State. Steals and turnovers were also basically even.

Creighton’s dance team tried to get the Jays going, but was unsuccessful.

Creighton Cheerleaders Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your Tivos: 02.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2009

Set Your TivosI’m back with another edition of Set Your Tivos, which should be daily now until the NCAA tournament where you won’t need your Tivo because you’ll be glued to your couch for 3 weeks. Obviously the big game of the night at RTC East will be our RTC Live coverage of #1 Pittsburgh at Providence, but there are a lot of games for you to watch when you are not following our coverage and sending in your questions/comments to us courtside.

#1 Pittsburgh at Providence at 7 PM on The Big East Network, Fox Sports, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: As I mentioned before, this will be the site of the 4th installment of RTC Live so we’ll be covering this game from the lay-up lines until they turn out the lights. The Friars come in needing a signature win (beating a depleted Syracuse team in Providence doesn’t qualify) to bolster their chances of getting an at-large bid as I can’t remember seeing any “bracketologist” with the Friars in the NCAA tournament right now despite the fact that they have an 8-7 record in the Big East going into their game tonight. Pitt comes in as the #1 team in the country following their win at previous #1 UConn in a game where DeJuan Blair destroyed Bill Russell Hasheem Thabeet. After all the talk by Jim Calhoun and ESPN about how Thabeet was the Big East POY, Blair has thrown his hat into the ring as a potential Big East POY candidate. Blair, who is averaging 15.8 PPG and 13.0 RPG, has 22 points and 23 rebounds against the Huskies and followed it up with 20 points and 18 rebounds against DePaul. Providence coach Keno Davis will counter with. . .ok, he has nobody who can guard Blair if the Pitt big man avoids dumb fouls. Providence doesn’t really have an athlete of the caliber of Sam Young that Jamie Dixon has, but few teams in the country do. Davis does have a fairly deep rotation with seven players averaging more than 8.0 PPG. Davis will have to hope that Weyinmi Efejuku has a big game and that Sharaud Curry can give Levance Fields (still over 4 to 1 for his assist to turnover ratio) some trouble. The Friars will probably keep the game close for 30 minutes to keep this RTC co-editor entertained, but in the end the Panthers should have enough

Penn State at Ohio State at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a pretty big game for both teams. They both are probably in the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, but both could use a little work on their resume to guarantee a bid and move up a seed line or two. Penn State has bounced back to a 3-game losing streak to pick up two solid wins (Minnesota and at Illinois) while Ohio State has struggled recently losing their last 3 games by a combined 10 points. We’ll be watching two potential first team Big Ten members (Evan Turner and Talor Battle) as the winner of that match-up will probably determine the outcome of this game since this game will likely come down to the last few minutes. In any event, we’re just hoping that this game will be slightly more aesthetically pleasing than the last time Penn State took the court.

Northern Iowa at Illinois State at 8:05 PM on GameTracker: After dominating the Missouri Valley Conference for most of the season, the Panthers have fallen apart losing 3 straight and 4 of their last 5 games falling into a tie for the conference lead with Creighton. The losing streak has taken them out of consideration for an at-large bid so they need to right the ship before the MVC tournament (covered by Rush the Court). The Redbirds are coming off a BrackerBusters loss at Niagara and will be looking to rebound against a Northern Iowa team that it lost to by 4 points on the road at the end of January. Neither team really has a superstar player you should focus on, but they both have  a lot of depth. UNI has 5 players averaging between 9.0 and 11.6 PPG (Adam Koch, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Jordan Eglseder, Ali Farokhmanesh, and Johnny Moran) while Illinois State has 5 players averaging between 9.1 and 14.9 PPG (Champ Oguchi, Osiris Eldridge, Lloyd Phillips, Emmanuel Holloway, and Dinma Odiakosa).

I couldn’t find this one listed on any TV stations so I threw up a link for GameTracker. If any of you know what channel(s) this game will be televised on, post the info in the comment section and I will update this.

Florida at #18 LSU at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: LSU is running away with the SEC regular season title and a win here would essentially clinch it for them unless they lose their last 3 (at Kentucky, home against Vanderbilt, and at Auburn), which I don’t think will happen. Billy Donovan‘s Gators are most likely in, but could use a marquee win to solidify their resume for the Selection Committee. [Side Note: What happens to Donovan's reputation if his team fails to make the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years immediately after winning back-to-back titles?] Nick Calathes (18.6 PPG) will have to have a big game as LSU has 2 guys who can fill it up in Marcus Thornton (20.5 PPG) and Tasmin Mitchell (16.8 PPG). I’m expecting this one to be close, but for LSU to pull away in the last 2-3 minutes.

#25 FSU at Boston College at 9 PM on ESPNU: FSU is already in the tournament and BC is most likely in as well (wins over UNC and Duke should guarantee you a spot even if you do blow a game against Harvard) so both teams are playing for seeding right now. One interesting thing about this game that a lot of people might not be aware of is that FSU still has a shot of catching UNC for the ACC regular season title. Even though FSU has been the more consistent team (see the aforementioned BC loss to Harvard), I think that Tyrese Rice and Jeff Trapani will be enough to overcome Toney Douglas, who is amazingly the only double-digit scorer (20.5 PPG) on a top 25 team.

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Set Your Tivos: 02.08.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 7th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Today’s schedule is a lighter than yesterday, but there are several solid games today.

#13 Purdue at #21 Illinois at 1 PM on CBS: Both teams looking to bounce back from road losses in the Big Ten. The homecourt should be pretty big here as Illinois is 13-1 with their only loss coming by 2 points against a Clemson team that is pretty good (just ask Coach K about the Tigers). If Purdue was at full strength, they might be able to give them a challenge, but they will be without Robbie Hummel. Purdue coach Matt Painter will have to rely on E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson to have big games against Bruce Weber‘s squad. Watch the Mike Davis-Johnson match-up because Johnson will have to dominate Davis in order for the Boilermakers to win.

Creighton at Northern Iowa at 2:05 PM on CBS Affiliates (in Iowa), ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Yes. Sometimes we think it’s worth watching the “little guys”. This match-up, which features the top 2 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (Creighton is tied in 2nd with Illinois State), might end up being the most compelling match-up of the day. The Panthers don’t have any player who puts up huge numbers, but they have 5 players averaging between 9.5 and 11.5 PPG with Adam Koch leading the way (11.5 PPG and 4.8 RPG) and Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 PPG and 3.3 APG) close behind. The Bluejays have a legitimate go-to-guy in Booker Woodfox (16.3 PPG).   The last time these two teams met Northern Iowa escaped with a 3-point win. Johnny Moran had a big day for the Panthers scoring a season-high 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. I doubt Moran will be able to duplicate the effort, but it should be a close game as the Panthers have a tendency to play close games (only have a +/- of  4.7 PPG despite their 17-6 record).

Boston College at #6 Wake Forest at 4 PM on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Will Wake come out as flat as Duke did after their 27-point loss? I’m sure that Dino Gaudio will mention that sometime before the start of this game. The last time these teams played, RTC was there and the Demon Deacons dominated the Eagles. The match-up at guard featuring Tyrese Rice and Jeff Teague could be interesting, but I would expect to see Ishmael Smith on Rice. If Wake has shaken off the shock from their blowout loss at Miami, they should be able to win this game relatively easily utilizing Al-Farouq Aminu, Chas McFarland, and James Johnson on the inside.

#25 Washington at Stanford at 5:30 PM on Fox Sports: Despite their nearly identical overall records (16-6 versus 14-6), the Huskies are well ahead of the Cardinal in their quest to land a NCAA tournament bid as they sit 7-3 in the Pac-10 compared to 4-6 for the Cardinal. Lorenzo Romar will be looking to get his Huskies out of their recent skid (losing 2 of 3) when they travel to The Farm. This game will likely come down to which team’s trio of stars plays better. The Huskies are led by Isaiah Thomas, Justin Dentmon, and Jon Brockman while the Cardinals are led by Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, and Mitch Johnson. The PG match-up of the freshman Thomas against the senior Johnson should be particularly entertaining as the winner of that duel will probably end up winning the game. I’d look for the Huskies to ride Thomas and Brockman, who comes in averaging a double-double and doesn’t really have anybody on Stanford who can slow him down, to a road victory.

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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by nvr1983 on January 26th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and My Standings (Conference Record) (Last Week Rank)

  1. Northern Iowa (14-6) (8-1)(1)
  2. Illinois State (17-3) (6-3)(2)
  3. Bradley (12-8) (6-3) (4)
  4. Drake (14-7) (5-4) (3)
  5. Creighton (15-6)(5-4) (5)
  6. Evansville (12-7) (4-5) (6)
  7. Southern Illinois (9-11) (4-5) (7)
  8. Wichita State (9-11) (3-6) (9)
  9. Missouri State (9-11) (2-7) (8)
  10. Indiana State (4-16) (2-7) (10)

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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings  (Conference Record)(Last Week Rank)

  1. Northern Iowa (10-6) (4-1)(6)
  2. Drake (13-4) (4-1) (5)
  3. Illinois St. (14-2) (3-2)(1)
  4. Creighton (13-4)(3-2) (3)
  5. Bradley (10-6) (4-1) (4)
  6. Evansville (11-4) (3-2) (2)
  7. Southern Illinois (7-9) (2-3) (9) 
  8. Indiana St. (4-12) (2-3) (10)
  9. Missouri St. (7-9) (0-5) (7)
  10. Wichita St. (6-10) (0-5)  (8 )

So many things have happened this week and the Valley power has shifted this week.  Thus life in the Missouri Valley Conference. 

GAME OF THE WEEK:

Bradley  56, Illinois St. 52—Bradley won this one in a grind it out affair.  Holding Illinois St. to 37% shooting for the game and 23% from 3-point land helped knock off the last non-major conference undefeated team.  Champ Oguchi was held to 3 points in this game which was key since he has been a major part of helping get this team to where it is. 

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