ATB: The Original No. 1 Returns, Phog Allen Defiled and More Mountain West Craziness…

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 4th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The Weekend’s Lede. One More Month. Passage into February is a temporal marker for college basketball’s great postseason. Talks of preparing for “next month” are fair game now. Bubble discussion will rage on a daily basis. Each win will be scrutinized not just by the box score, but for its RPI and strength of schedule effects. The next monthly calendar flipping will bring even more excitement, but as the large masses who casually check in on the sport after the Super Bowl conveniently forget, the race to the dance can be just as tantalizing as the dance itself. From here on out, the competition will be fierce, the pressure will mount, and each and every day will bring us closer to our final destination: the NCAA Tournament. With another weekend in the books, time to revisit the first February action of this college hoops season.

Your Watercooler Moment. Another Slow Start Dooms Michigan.

A poor start hurt Michigan's chances Saturday in Bloomington (Photo credit: Getty Images).

A poor start hurt Michigan’s chances Saturday in Bloomington (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Everybody loses games. What separates the great from the merely good, is the ability to learn from those losses, eliminate the bad tendencies, keep the good ones and readjust your memory bank. Michigan knows the perils of getting out to a slow start on the road in Big Ten play. In its lone loss of the season prior to Saturday’s eight-point defeat in Bloomington, the Wolverines allowed Ohio State to storm out to a 16-3 lead in Columbus. Michigan clawed back to make a real game of it, but in the end, Ohio State held on. The Wolverines’ early sluggishness put them in too large a hole to climb out of. Michigan should have come away from that loss with a stern appreciation for how to handle the opening minutes of high-level conference road games. Against Indiana, managing the early possessions without letting things get out of hand was the foremost hurdle to knocking off the No. 3 team in the country in its own super-packed, deafening, red-and-white filled building. Michigan didn’t – the Wolverines allowed the Hoosiers to bust open a 28-13 advantage by the 10-minute mark in the first half, ignite a delirious Hoosiers crowd and force the Wolverines into a massive uphill climb from that point onward. Michigan responded with excellent point guard play from Trey Burke and solid bench production from freshman big man Mitch McGary, but much like the Ohio State game, the Wolverines couldn’t quite make it all the way back.

Other factors – Victor Oladipo’s energetic defense, Cody Zeller’s easy looks in the post, the natural benefits of playing in one of the nation’s fiercest home gyms, Michigan’s numerous chances to win the game later on – need to be considered before pinning this loss entirely on Michigan’s slow beginning. And I don’t doubt John Beilein counseled his team on the dangers of a slow start at a hostile hoops fortress like Assembly Hall. But it just felt like Michigan came out with a tentative, almost rattled mindset – that once Indiana started hitting shots, the Wolverines had no power to settle the game down, collect themselves and dictate the flow on their terms. The comeback effort was strong, again, but it doesn’t disabuse the fact that Michigan played into the Hoosiers’ home-crafted momentum advantage, and had a much, much better shot at leaving with a W if not for that poor opening stretch. An eight-point loss at Indiana is not the end of the world; Michigan will rebound, and when these teams meet again on March 10, you can expect another high-paced, high-intensity, high-stakes battle. 

Also Worth Chatting About. Um, Kansas?

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The Other 26: Niagara Rushes Forth

Posted by IRenko on February 2nd, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

When you hear the word “Niagara” you’re not likely to think of basketball. But in the shadow of one of the world’s natural wonders, something is percolating on the hardwood. After a thrilling 93-90 overtime win over Iona that included a rally from a late 15-point deficit and a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win the game, Niagara sits atop the MAAC standings at 10-1. A win over Loyola today would cap a tremendous week for the Purple Eagles, giving them a perfect 3-0 record against the next three teams in the standings — Iona, Loyola, and Canisius — over the past seven days.

Juan'ya Green Capped Niagara's Thrilling Win Over Iona With a Last-Second Three-Pointer  in Overtime (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

Juan’ya Green Capped Niagara’s Thrilling Win Over Iona With a Last-Second Three-Pointer in Overtime (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

Last year, Niagara finished 14-19, the first time in head coach Joe Mihalich’s 10-year tenure that he suffered consecutive losing seasons. Mihalich had taken the Purple Eagles to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and 2007 and to the NIT in 2004 and 2009, but the team had fallen behind the pack in the MAAC in the three years since. The seeds of a resurgence were planted during last year’s losing campaign, as a host of young players started to find their footing in Division 1 college hoops. Having lost no one to graduation, Niagara was predicted to finish fifth in the MAAC in the preseason coaches’ poll. That seemed a fair, perhaps optimistic, assessment, but the clear light of hindsight makes a mockery of it.

What accounts for the turnaround? Mostly the maturation of Niagara’s all-sophomore backcourt: Juan’ya Green, Antoine Mason, and Ameen Tanksley. Last year, the trio showed that they had talent. This year, they’re showing that they can channel it into efficient offense.  Green is actually averaging fewer points (16.5) than he did as a freshman (17.6), but that’s in part because he’s managed to corral his considerable talents and become a more effective facilitator. Coming out of high school, Green was known for his prodigious scoring ability, but questions lingered about his ability to create for his teammates. He’s answering those questions this year, increasing his assists (5.2 per game) and decreasing his turnovers (2.8 per game). With Green deferring more to his teammates, Mason, the son of former NBA player Anthony Mason, has stepped into the role of lead scorer. He’s upped his per-game average from 15.1 to a team-leading 18.7, but more importantly, he’s become a much more efficient scorer.  He’s increased his field goal percentage from 38.2 to 44.6. He now shoots almost 80 percent from the free throw line, after shooting less than 65 percent last year, a significant development because of his knack for getting to the charity stripe. Tanksley, for his part, has also boosted his field goal percentage, from 38.6 to 45.7 and upped his scoring average into double-digits.

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The Other 26: Week One

Posted by IRenko on December 1st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Greetings, readers, and welcome back for another year of The Other 26, RTC’s weekly foray into the mid-major world, now securely ensconced on a microsite that shares its name. College hoops seemed to start earlier this year than it ever has, producing a November that was packed with much more action than the few preseason tournaments to which old geezers like me are accustomed. That means that there is quite a bit of ground to cover, and precious little time to waste. Let’s get right to it after the jump, with our first installment of the TO26 Top 10, a look back at which teams caught our eye with strong (and not so strong) starts, and a look forward to this week’s most compelling TO26 match-ups.

Looking Back:  Strong Starts

  • The Rest of the Mountain West — Coming into the season, UNLV and San Diego State received well-deserved hype and top 20 rankings.  But it’s clear that they’re going to have quite a bit of competition in conference play. New Mexico has barely shown the effects of losing their frontcourt tandem Drew Gordon and A.J. Hardeman. They have notched several solid wins en route to a 7-0 record, defeating UConn, George Mason, Davidson, and Mercer — all teams with realistic NCAA Tournament hopes. Fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, and with a cast of strong returnees and transfers, Colorado State entered the season with reasonably high expectations. But their ability to adjust to new coach Larry Eustachy remained an open question. Well, question answered. The Rams are undefeated at 5-0, posting wins over strong mid-major teams Montana and Denver and pounding the Washington Huskies by 18 points on the road. But, wait! The MW’s depth does not end there. Leon Rice’s Boise State squad, which plays just one senior, is off to a 5-1 start and is coming off of a 13-point win over Creighton on the road. Meanwhile, Wyoming and Air Force are a combined 13-1 on the season.  Throw in competitive newcomers Nevada and Fresno State, and UNLV and San Diego State may not have an easy conference game all year.

Elias Harris Leads a Potent Gonzaga Frontcourt (US Presswire)

  • Gonzaga — Gonzaga came into the season with a Top 25 ranking, so they’ve not exactly snuck up on anyone. But they’ve nonetheless impressed, collecting wins over West Virginia, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Davidson by an average of more than 20 points. Throw in three more lopsided victories, and the Zags are sitting pretty at 7-0 and little sweat to show for it. Kelly Olynyk has emerged from his redshirt year as a genuine frontcourt force. Along with Elias Harris and Sam Dower, he gives the Bulldogs three skilled, athletic bigs. Throw in freshman post anchor Przemek Karnowski, and the Zags have four big men averaging nine or more points. While this frontcourt foursome has managed to outshine the heralded backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell on the offensive end, what’s been most impressive about Gonzaga’s start is its defense. Mark Few’s teams have steadily improved at that end of the floor over the past few years, and it could be the key that finally unlocks their door to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Opening Weekend

Posted by Nick Fasulo on November 12th, 2012

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

The concept was exciting, the buildup palpable. Friday, the hard start to the 2012-2013 season, was supposed to be a grand way to officially tip off the new season by building off of last year’s success of playing a game on an aircraft carrier. But this time around, things went horribly wrong. Yeah Kentucky – Maryland was a good watch. Alabama provided a thrilling finish in their victory over a dangerous South Dakota State team. And UConn surprised many with an impressive victory over Michigan State.

But two games had to be canceled. Canceled because they were being played outdoors on an aircraft carrier in humid areas. Marquette – Ohio State (the Carrier Classic)  and Georgetown – Florida (Navy-Marine Corps Classic) were canceled due to excessive condensation on the court, an embarrassing pair of incidents that will likely put an end to this novel idea, or at least make organizers proceed far more cautiously when attempting to schedule a basketball game in a unique setting.

Naturally, fans took those responsible to task on Twitter. We’ll start with those directly affected, as Marquette blog “Paint Touches” was the first to state the obvious:

Then just under 24 hours later, he dropped some valuable empirical knowledge as San Diego State and Syracuse held their Saturday afternoon shootaround.

And while it seems as though the Orange would have handled the Aztecs if they played indoors, Steve Fisher’s team struggled to get to the rim, relying on perimeter shots that were likely affected by sun and wind.

Meanwhile, Marquette/Ohio State event organizer Morale Entertainment had a major PR crisis on their hands, tweeting out the following to a number of ticked off fans.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Mid-American Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2012

Ethan Back is the MAC correspondent for RTC.

Top Storylines

  • Will Ohio Be Able to Reach the Sweet Sixteen Again? After an extremely successful season that ended in an overtime loss in the Sweet Sixteen against ACC power North Carolina, Ohio will look to make another deep NCAA Tournament run. The Bobcats have a lot of hype to live up to, as they return all of their significant contributors from a season ago, including standouts D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Not all of the personnel returns from a season ago, however, with former head coach John Groce now at Illinois, but new head coach Jim Christian will look to keep momentum going.

Ohio’s D.J. Cooper Hopes To Follow One Head-Turning Season With Another. (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

  • Toledo’s Postseason Ban: Toledo has a very solid core intact from the 2011-12 season, so it’s a real shame that the Rockets won’t be able to qualify for postseason play due to its academic problems. Luckily for the Rockets, two of its best players (Rian Pearson and Julius Brown) are underclassmen, so they’ll still get a chance to win the MAC Tournament in future years, assuming they stay in school beyond the 2012-13 season.
  • East vs. West: Last season, the East had five teams finish with a winning record, whereas the West had a measly one. This clear imbalance within the MAC doesn’t have serious ramifications, as the conference tournament seeds are not based on division, but for the sake of self-respect, the West will hope to have a better season than it did last year.
  • No More Zeiglers: Winning games hasn’t been an easy task for Central Michigan these past two seasons, as its 12-20 conference record during that span indicates. It won’t be any easier this year after the firing of head coach Ernie Zeigler led to the transfer of his son and the Chippewas’ leading scorer Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh. New head coach Keno Davis brings great experience to the program, but his first season on the job will likely be a rough one.

Reader’s Take I

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Analyzing the Big 12 Early Season Tournaments: Iowa State & Oklahoma State Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 10th, 2012

We’re just two days away from the official opening to the 2012-13 college basketball season as schools will be able to start officially practicing Friday night. Before then, though, we’re going to take a look at the various pre-conference tournaments that have become synonymous with the first month of college basketball. Nearly every Big 12 school is competing in one of those tournaments this season and we’ll take time each day this week to preview each bracket, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico to New York City. On Tuesday, we took a look at Texas and Kansas. On Wednesday, Kansas State and the NIT Preseason Tip-Off were previewed.  Today, we’ll analyze how Iowa State and Oklahoma State will stack up in their preseason tournaments. 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Dates: November 15, 16 and 18

Location: Coliseo Ruben Rodriquez in Bayamon, PR

Teams: Akron, Massachusetts, UNC Asheville, NC State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Providence and Tennessee

A sports photographer’s dream (Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman)

If you look at these teams by name alone, you’d think this was a pillowy type of tournament. But look harder and you’ll see a preseason top 10 team, a #16 seed who nearly upset a #1 in last year’s NCAA Tournament, three teams that played in last year’s NIT, and a team with two five-star recruits (maybe) in the starting lineup. Not bad, eh?

The Akron Zips not only have an awesome nickname but return four of its five leading scorers from a team that barely lost to Sweet Sixteen-bound Ohio in the MAC Tournament championship. UMass head coach Derek Kellogg made it to NIT Semifinals in New York last year and his 5’9″ point guard Chaz Williams was voted to the all-conference first team. If that doesn’t say something about how good they are in a deeper A-10, I don’t know what will.

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Morning Five: 07.23.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 23rd, 2012

  1. One of the more interesting aspects of summer is the media hype over the next big superstar that comes out of various camps. The latest “next big thing” appears to be Andrew Wiggins, who already was the #1 recruit in the class of 2014, but may have taken over the title of the top high school player in the country that left numerous college basketball pundits sounding like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert. With Jabari Parker, the #1 player in the class of 2013, sitting at home nursing a foot injury that he tried to play through earlier this summer Wiggins took on Julius Randle, the player many consider to be the #2 player in the class of 2013. What happened during their match-up was described as “mass destruction” in the words of Jeff Goodman and he may have been the most reserved observer in attendance. We tend to take all of the summer events with a grain of salt and are not ready to anoint anybody yet, but Wiggins appears to be a player worth keeping an eye on for the next few years.
  2. With the ugliness of the Penn State scandal mostly behind us we had hoped that we would be done with news reports about schools being investigated for their handling of such charges, but it turns out that Syracuse may be next in line to be put through the wringer if Gloria Allred had her way. The celebrity lawyer, who is representing Bernie Fine accuser Bobby Davis, has asked the New York State Attorney General to investigate Syracuse for not reporting Davis’ allegations to the police. Citing the Clery Act, a law with which we have become all too familiar with thanks to Penn State and Syracuse, Allred claims that Syracuse failed to live up to its obligation to report the accusations. This story will probably be hanging out in the background while people continue to pontificate on the situation at Penn State, but watch for it to come back to the surface as basketball season draws near.
  3. We have not been to Rick Pitino‘s personal site since we stumbled upon this gem a few years ago, but perhaps we should check it out more often as he posted a blog post on Saturday where he suggested that ESPN analyst Jay Bilas should be the next commissioner of the Big East. We are not sure if Pitino is being serious here or if he is joking around because Bilas does not have any of the credentials we would expect from a conference commissioner, but then again there have been quite a few conference commissioners who seemed to lack the necessary credentials. For his part Bilas has dismissed the idea in his typical flippant fashion. We doubt that anything will come of this as we all know it is much easier to be critical from the outside than it is to effect change from within.
  4. The money each year may not be surprising for a Division I coach, but the length of the contract extension that Akron coach Keith Dambrot signed after he agreed in principle to a 10-year deal that is estimated to have a base salary of $400,000 per year (a 25% raise from his prior contact). Dambrot, who is still best known for being LeBron James‘ high school coach, has compiled a record of 184-87, a MAC regular season title, two NCAA Tournament appearances, and three NIT appearances in eight seasons with the Zips. We are not aware of any source that keeps track of these sort of things, but we doubt that there are many Division I coaches with contracts that run that long.
  5. Jeremy Lin may not be returning to Madison Square Garden (outside of a yearly visit), but the NIT Season Tip-Off and the NIT will be for at least the next three years after reaching an agreement with the NCAA. While the Season Tip-Off has retained some of its luster as it occasionally attracts big programs that have good teams, the NIT, which had historically been a rival to the NCAA Tournament, has become an afterthought in college basketball as it fields teams that are mostly disappointed to be there. Still the event remains synonymous with New York and if it generates some travel dollars for New York we can understand it to a degree. We are interested in seeing what happens to MSG’s stock price today to see how the market reacts to the news of the NIT staying in Madison Square Garden.
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Morning Five: 04.06.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 6th, 2012

  1. After months of waiting Connecticut finally heard from the NCAA regarding its appeal against their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban for low APR scores. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the response was not the one they wanted to hear as the NCAA rejected the appeal so now the Huskies will be forced to sit out the NCAA Tournament. Outside of the immediate impact of the team not being able to play in the Big East and NCAA Tournament next year, this will likely have a significant influence on the NBA Draft decisions of Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond as well as the inevitable retirement of Jim Calhoun (he has to retire sometime, right?). And of course, as we have mentioned several times before this also means that Alex Oriakhi would be able to play for the school that he transfers to for next season without having to sit out a year. Although the Huskies do not have any other players who would appear to be in urgent need of going to a program that could play in the NCAA Tournament next year, it will be interesting to see if other players try to leave the program too.
  2. While some of Connecticut players may be leaving school early, there are at least a few notable names that will be staying in college. Yesterday, James Michael McAdoo, Isaiah Canaan, and Kenny Boynton all announced that they would be returning to their respective schools next season. McAdoo is perhaps the most interesting case as his playing time was limited by a loaded frontline in front of him at North Carolina, but he still would have been a first round pick. Now he will return to a Tar Heel team that has lost a lot of its minutes and McAdoo should be ready to showcase his skills for the nation and the NBA scouts. Canaan, who is coming off a spectacular junior year at Murray State, would not have been a first round pick so his return seems reasonable although we are not sure how much he can improve his stock unless he works on his point guard skills as the NBA is typically not in love with 6’0″ shooting guards. For us, the decision by Boynton to come back for his senior year at Florida seems like a no-brainer. While we have had issues with Boynton’s tendency to jack up shots (he will almost definitely end up as the school’s all-time leader in field goal attempts), his place in the Gator rotation should be more clear next season with the departure of at least one and probably two pieces from what was a crowded backcourt this season. Boynton will still probably end up playing overseas, but at least now he will have a chance to prove himself without a ton of other redundant options available to the coaching staff.
  3. Is this the beginning of the end for the ESPN BracketBusters event? One of the marquee conferences involved in the annual late February series of games, the CAA, has moved on to make an exclusive partnership deal with NBCSports Network starting in 2013, and therefore it will no longer participate in the event. In different-but-same news, the Mountain West’s television arm, The Mountain, will cease operations at the end of June as the league figures out its next step with a pending merger with Conference USA. This news undoubtedly will be received well far and wide for those of us who hated tuning into the fishbowl otherwise known as The Mtn’s production values every weekend. To whoever killed this network: Thank You.
  4. We’ve heard of a lot of crazy recruiting stories over the years — some true, most not — but we’re not sure that anything approaches what Nerlens Noel reported that a Kentucky fan offered him over Final Four weekend: the man’s wife. At this point, it’s just hearsay, but Noel seemed to have enough belief in the offer to state, “nah, [he’s] good,” so we’re generally tending toward belief on this one. Regardless of whether the surely fine young Mrs. was offered to a 17-year old, this much is true: Noel will choose between Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown in the coming week.
  5. While on the subject of recruiting, and really, what else is there at this time of year… the nation’s #1 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, is considered a must-get for Ben Howland’s UCLA program. His list of schools is down to UCLA, Kentucky, and Duke, but there hasn’t been more pressure on a single coach to get a single player in recruiting circles since Cody Zeller inked for Tom Crean’s Indiana program a year and a half ago. As the recruiting analysts all preach, it isn’t even about the single year that Muhammad would spend in Westwood as much as the future cachet that he would provide. John Calipari was able to lock down he likes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist through his work two and three years ago with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
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Pac-12 Who’s Going Where

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 13th, 2012

Here’s a look at each Pac-12 team’s postseason capsule, by order of each team’s tip-off. Enjoy!

Oregon

Who, When, Where: vs. LSU (18-14) in Eugene, Oregon, NIT First Round, 3/13, 6:30 PM PDT, ESPN

First Up: What the Tigers lack in scoring they make up in rebounds and points in the paint. LSU averages 37 RPG and they are led by big men Justin Hamilton and Storm Warren. What makes the Tigers dangerous is their ability to adapt to a certain style. They will play at the pace you want the game at, and then beat you with your own style.

Best Case Scenario: With the way Oregon has been playing of late (Pac-12 Tournament notwithstanding), the Ducks can easily make a run in this tournament. With players like Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim that are able to create and knock down their own shots, Oregon should be able to beat LSU in the first round. After that things get much more tough, but I can’t see the Ducks losing a “best case scenario” game until they would likely meet either Seton Hall or Arizona in the championship.

Worst Case Scenario: Even if the Ducks do not play well against the Tigers, home-court advantage should pull them through to the next round. However, they would likely have to travel to Dayton in the second round, and the Flyers pose matchup problems all over the court for Oregon. Expect an Oregon-Dayton matchup to be much like last Thursday’s Colorado-Oregon game. The Flyers stingy defense and potent offense should build a large lead early on against the Ducks, and while Oregon battles to cut the deficit to three with four minutes left, it is never able to come all the way back after a long road trip and an emotinal comeback drians all of its energy.

Devoe Joseph's offensive prowess has the Ducks dreaming of a trip to Madison Square Garden. (credit:Jayne Kamin)

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The Other 26: Week 13

Posted by IRenko on February 25th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Ah, the sweet smell of February Madness in the air.  Who says we need to wait until March to start cracking open the brackets?  Six TO26 conferences kick things off in February:  the Big South (2/27), Horizon (2/28), A-Sun (2/29), Ohio Valley (2/29), Patriot (2/29), and West Coast (2/29).  And several other conferences will kick things off just as soon as the calendar turns, including the MVC in what’s sure to be another great iteration of Arch Madness. No automatic bids will be awarded until March 3 (though Harvard is in position to clinch the Ivy bid as early as March 2), but with a number of top 15 TO26 teams with at-large aspirations kicking off tournament play next week (Wichita State, Murray State, Creighton, St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, BYU), there are heavy implications for the nationwide Bubble.  Speaking of the top 15 …

Looking Forward:  What to Watch

In addition to the conference tournaments that kick off over the next week, here are a few regularly-scheduled games to keep your eye on:

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The Other 26: Bracketbuster Preview and Analysis

Posted by IRenko on January 31st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. You can normally find him kicking off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

In this special mid-week edition of The Other 26, we take a look at all of the premier (read: televised) Bracketbuster matchups that were announced on Monday and offer a guide to the uninitiated on what to watch for. The annual mid-major hoops feast typically offers a host of compelling contests, and this year is no different. In roughly descending order of interest/excitement:

Main Event — St. Mary’s at Murray State (2/18, 6 PM, ESPN or ESPN2) — I was hoping we would get a double main event with St. Mary’s at Creighton and Wichita State at Murray State. Perhaps the Bracketbuster selection committee didn’t rate Wichita State that highly or was intent on giving the undefeated Racers a ranked opponent against whom they could prove their quality. So they sent top 20, 21-2 St. Mary’s to Murray, Kentucky, to set up the undisputed headliner of this year’s Bracketbuster event. Murray State will have a clear advantage from playing at home, but apart from that, this looks like a very close matchup. Offensively, both teams rely heavily on the two lines — the three-point line and the free throw line. Defensively, both teams are pretty good at not giving up many attempts from either of those lines, with the notable exception of Murray State’s tendency to foul too much. Both teams are also somewhat turnover prone, but only the Racers play the kind of defense that is likely to exploit such a weakness. Finally, the Gaels may look to get easy points off of the offensive glass, as defensive rebounding is a liability for Murray State. Which, if any, of these games within the game will determine the outcome? Only one way to find out:  tune in at 6 PM on February 18.

Can St. Mary's End Murray State's Undefeated Season?

Battle of the Supporting Casts — Long Beach State at Creighton (2/18, 10 PM, ESPN2) — Most eyeballs will be trained to watch Casper Ware and Doug McDermott, two of mid-major hoops’ most recognizable players. But I hope that fans will also tune in to get a glimpse of the extent to which these conference-leading teams depends on their supporting casts. LBSU has three other players who average in double figures — Larry Anderson (who also stuffs the stat sheet with 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 44% from three-point range), T.J. Robinson (who adds 10.2 rebounds a game), and James Ennis. Creighton, meanwhile, has discovered that they can be just as potent, maybe even moreso, when McDermott scores less than 20 a game. Antoine Young’s dribble penetration, Greg Echinique’s inside banging, and the marksmanship of Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Manigat make the Bluejays a much more multi-dimensional team than they’re often portrayed to be. It’s worth noting, too, that each of these teams will be trying to bolster their at-large bona fides in the event that they don’t win their conference tournaments — an especially distinct possibility for Creighton, who will have to get through three games in the always tough MVC to cinch an auto bid.

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RTC Top 25: Week Five

Posted by KDoyle on December 12th, 2011

After one of the most extraordinary weekends of college basketball in recent memory — for good and bad reasons alike — there is a real logjam with the top three teams in the RTC poll as Ohio State, Kentucky, and Syracuse are all bunched together. The Buckeyes have a slim edge as our pollsters deemed that a road loss to Kansas without Jared Sullinger did not warrant Syracuse jumping past them into #1 position. Two teams from the Big Ten made a splash into this week’s Top 25 in a big way as Indiana and Michigan State have joined the party after posting big wins.

The Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…


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