Otskey’s Observations: Wednesday at the Big East Tournament

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 13th, 2014

Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

While the makeup of the Big East has changed, much was the same on day one of the 2014 edition of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The crowd at the Garden was certainly not sold out but it exceeded expectations for what seemed, on paper at least, like a lackluster doubleheader featuring Seton Hall, Butler, Georgetown and DePaul. In fact, attendance was similar, if not better, than the Tuesday and Wednesday rounds in Big East tournaments past. The opening rounds have never drawn well so a decent crowd on hand Wednesday night has to be a positive sign going forward for the re-configured conference. The real test will come during Thursday’s quarterfinals with four games involving the league’s better teams.

Butler's Stay at the Big East Tourney Was Short and Sweet (C. Michael)

Butler’s Stay at the Big East Tourney Was Short and Sweet (C. Michael)

In game one, Seton Hall survived Butler in a match-up of two hard-luck teams. The Pirates had lost seven games either by one point or in overtime this year but finally put a one point game in the win column, holding by the count of 51-50. Butler had lost five games by either two points or in overtime entering tonight. Seton Hall looked to be in command as it built a 13-point lead with under ten minutes to play but the Bulldogs whittled the deficit to one with only 47 seconds to play but neither team scored again, resulting in the final margin. Seton Hall did a great job taking Kellen Dunham out of the game, especially when you consider Dunham went off for 29 points when these teams met in Indianapolis just four days ago. Dunham and Alex Barlow combined to shoot 3-of-21 from the floor but senior Khyle Marshall picked up the slack, pouring in a highly efficient 22 points. The Pirates came out strong on the defensive end and it carried them to victory. The Hall isn’t a bad team when it plays hard, but getting this team to bring it every night has seemed to be head coach Kevin Willard’s major problem in his four years with the program. With nothing to lose, Seton Hall may be a tougher than expected challenge for top-seeded Villanova tomorrow afternoon, although the Wildcats should end up prevailing.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Washington State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 28th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So Far: Washington State has looked awful in the first three weeks of the season. After sneaking by Cal State Bakersfield on opening night, the Cougars handled Lamar with ease nine days later. They then made the short trip over to Spokane to face Gonzaga, where they were easily dispatched by the Bulldogs, 90-74. That wasn’t the low point, however. That came three days later in front of a sleepy home crowd at Beasley Coliseum, where lowly TCU came in and pulled off a stunning 64-62 upset.

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

First Round Preview: Washington State meets Butler in Lake Buena Vista on Thursday morning. The Bulldogs have started the season at 4-0 and their best win came in overtime against Vanderbilt last week. They feature as balanced an attack on the offensive end of the floor as you’ll see in this field, with both forward Khyle Marshall and guard Kellen Dunham averaging 15.8 PPG a piece. Where the Cougars have been struggling is on offense, and junior Alex Barlow will prove to be a pesky pain in the side for their guards. He’s averaging 2.0 SPG and recorded three of them in Butler’s game at Ball State last Saturday.

Potential Later Round Match-up: If the bracket holds, it looks like the Cougs will face Purdue on Friday and Siena on Sunday. These aren’t exactly opponents that will provide a huge boost to the RPI, making a possible upset of Butler even more important. The Boilermakers have opened the season at 5-1, but that record doesn’t look as good when you consider the fact that the best win came against Eastern Illinois. Everything goes through sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson for head coach Matt Painter, who is scoring at a 13.8 PPG clip and averaging 4.4 APG. Siena has opened the year at 2-4 with wins over St. Bonaventure and Cornell. It faces Memphis in its opener at the Old Spice Classic.

Outlook: While two wins may be possible, in all honesty the Cougars should be expecting one. Until Ken Bone’s guys show some resemblance of an offense, it’s going to be best to keep the expectations low in Pullman.

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Big East M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 20th, 2013

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  1. Butler may not get flashy play  from starting point guard and former walk-on junior Alex Barlow, but the Bulldogs value the consistency and defensive intensity that he brings to the table. News-Sentinel writer Tom Davis often finds himself and his colleagues in the media openly questioning the athleticism and abilities of Barlow, but he admits that it is probably time that he stopped after talking about the guard with members of the program. Head coach Brandon Miller was quick to point out some of the crucial skills that help Barlow excel: “A lot of times when you think about Alex Barlow, you don’t think of athleticism, but he’s very good laterally. He has an ability to stay in front of the ball. He has quick hands.” Barlow’s contributions aren’t always tangible or easy to find in a box score, but they surely don’t lack importance, adds Davis: “There is no statistic in the box score under ‘help and recover’ or ‘talked on a switch’ or ‘rotated quickly and properly’ or ‘closed out under control and contested the shot.’ If those categories were tracked by the media, Barlow, who earned a scholarship as a sophomore, would be All-Big East this season.” Interesting stuff.
  2. Georgetown‘s non-conference slate is among the most challenging in the Big East, and it may take another leap depending on how things in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off shake out. The Hoyas open the tournament with Northeastern, and will then face either Charlotte or Kansas State.  Should the Hoyas make a run to the finals, most expect that they will meet last year’s national runners-up, Michigan, who is looking to rebound from its first loss of the season to Iowa State on Sunday. In speaking with The Hoya, Georgetown players and coaches brought up a couple of newcomers who may make a big difference for the team in Puerto Rico — UCLA transfer Josh Smith and freshman forward Reggie Cameron. Smith flashed his interior scoring talents in a loss to Oregon to open the season, while Cameron was 3-of-5 from deep against Wright State. They both add new dimensions to a Georgetown attack that is averaging 81.5 points per game in the young season.
  3. Providence point guard Kris Dunn saw his first action since the preseason, coming off the bench to score three points and dole out eight assists against Vermont. Dunn injured the shoulder that cost him the first nine games of his freshman season in an exhibition with Rhode Island College in early November. He solidifies a rotation that is already getting strong scoring from forward Kadeem Batts and stalwart shooting guard Bryce Cotton. With Dunn running the offense, Cotton scoring in bunches, and Batts threatening for double-doubles on a regular basis, Providence is off to a nice start in 2013-14.
  4. The Crosstown Classic, the annual showdown between Xavier and Cincinnati, a couple of universities separated by just over two miles, is one of college basketball’s great rivalries but recent turmoil has threatened the future of the game. Since the infamous 2011 brawl, which forced the game to be called early, the Classic has been moved off the campuses to a neutral site — downtown Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena. While both schools would like to continue the game, there is some debate as to where it should take place in the future; and quite naturally, there is some disagreement between the schools. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin praised last year’s neutral site game, while Xavier’s Chris Mack expressed a desire to have the rivalry back in the campus arenas.
  5. Between preparing for the likes of rivals like Cincinnati or the other foes in the new Big East, Chris Mack has taken on some coaching duties on the side, becoming the head of a proud third grade program at Blessed Sacrament School, where his daughter Lainee channels Semaj Christon on Sunday afternoons. As with any big-time program, Mack is keenly aware of how the rabid Internet fans react to poor play: ”I’m sure the message boards are saying, ‘They’re not shooting free throws good enough.’ “ CBS Sports‘ Gregg Doyel stopped by to watch Blessed Sacrament take on St. Pius, and penned a great story about how important this time is for Mack and his family: ”I didn’t want to be that dad who shows up with the lawn chair and then leaves at halftime because I have [a recruit coming on] an official visit. I want to have that same experience with my kids, and I want them to have those memories like I have with my father.”
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Rushed Reactions: #13 Butler 59, George Washington 56

Posted by IRenko on February 9th, 2013

rushedreactions

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Butler and George Washington. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three key takeaways.

  • GW is Getting There — Down 53-38 with under eight minutes to play, George Washington staged a furious 18-4 run, powered by an aggressive full-court defense and a renewed toughness on the glass. But with three chances to tie the game on the final possession, the Colonials couldn’t convert. This is the third time that the Colonials lost a game on the final possession to a high quality opponent at home, after falling to Kansas State 65-62 and Temple 55-53. But in his second year at the helm, Mike Lonergan has molded the Colonials into a very competitive team. At 5-4, they already have as many wins in A-10 play as they had all of last year. They’re also a very young team, starting four freshman and a junior, which should give Colonials fans optimism about the future. On Saturday, in spite of an abominable shooting performance (27.9% FG shooting), the Colonials managed to claw their way back against one of the best teams in the country. That kind of toughness and resilience that should serve them well the rest of the year and into the future.
Mike Lonergan Has Molded the Colonials Into an A-10 Contender (GW Hatchet / Jordan Emont)

Mike Lonergan Has Molded the Colonials Into an A-10 Contender (GW Hatchet / Jordan Emont)

  • Butler Is Not Exactly What You Think It Is – If you don’t watch Butler much, you might stereotype them as a team with good fundamentals, strong three-point shooting, and a solid, compact defense. The reality is more complicated.  First, as they showed in the first half against George Washington, many of Butler’s guards — Rotnei Clarke, Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham, and Chase Stigall — can drive the ball to the basket. This is not just a team that comes down the floor looking to free up shooters with off-ball screens. Casual fans may also be confounded by the fact that Butler has a propensity to turn the ball over. It’s the weakest part of their offensive game, and against George Washington, it showed. The Bulldogs committed 19 turnovers, including five in the final 2:15 of the game, breathing life into George Washington’s late rally. Walk-on point guard Alex Barlow has a great story, but his ability to take care of the ball has been less great; more than 37 percent of the possessions he uses result in turnovers. Oh, and one other surprising fact — Brad Stevens gets upset … sometimes. He may be more calm than the average Division I coach, but a game-long bird’s eye view confirms that he can be just as excitable about perceived officiating errors and bad turnovers as anyone.
  • To the Victor of the Glass Go the Spoils — Butler built its nine-point halftime lead in large part because of their rebounding dominance. They outrebounded the Colonials 30-19 overall and pulled down 50 percent of their own misses, which they converted into eight second-chance points. But George Washington turned the tables in the second half. They rebounded more than 70 percent of Butler’s misses and more than 40 percent of their own en route to finishing the game with 20 second-chance points. Crucially, they pulled down seven offensive boards in the last six minutes of the game, helping to power the 18-4 run that put them in position to tie the game on the final possession.

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Three Thoughts as Butler Overpowered Richmond

Posted by WCarey on January 16th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Richmond and Butler. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Butler has not lost a game since falling to Illinois in the championship game of the Maui Invitational on November 21, but the Bulldogs did suffer a loss this past Saturday when leading scorer Rotnei Clarke experienced a sprained neck in the team’s win at Dayton. It became known Monday night that Clarke would miss two games — Wednesday versus Richmond and Saturday night against #9 Gonzaga — as he recovers from the injury. In tonight’s game with Richmond, the Bulldogs proved there was a lot more to their team than just Clarke as they led the whole game on their way to a dominant 62-47 victory. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday’s game:

  1. Butler completely outworked Richmond on the boards (and that might be an understatement) – Butler outrebounded Richmond by a 53-20 margin tonigh — think about that. Butler had as many offensive rebounds as Richmond had total rebounds. The Bulldogs effectively held the Spiders to just six offensive boards. Those 20 offensive rebounds by the Bulldogs led to 21 second-chance points. Butler’s inside presence, led by starters Andrew Smith and Roosevelt Jones along with reserve Kameron Woods, grabbed a total of 26 rebounds while also playing hard-nosed defense that prevented the Spiders from getting anything going in the post. On a night where the Bulldogs shot just 37.5% from the field, they used their dominant rebounding effort to pave the way to an important conference victory.

    Brad Stevens Knows How To Direct His Team

  2. Andrew Smith’s production has been key to Butler’s success – In Butler’s December 15 win over Indiana, Smith went toe-to-toe with National Player of the Year candidate Cody Zeller and held his own – even outplaying him for stretches of the upset victory. Smith has proven that his performance was no fluke, as he has become a very important part of the team’s success on both ends of the court. Since Atlantic 10 play began, Smith has taken his game to an even higher level. In the conference opener at Saint Joseph’s, he tallied 24 points and collected 10 rebounds. In the Bulldogs’ win at Dayton, Smith’s senior leadership along with his 13 points helped lead the team through the adversity of Clarke’s injury to another important road win. Against Richmond, Smith turned in another quality performance by controlling the paint and tallying 15 points and seven rebounds. The Atlantic 10 is going to provide the Bulldogs with stiff competition each night, so they are going to need Smith to remain a strong inside presence in order to keep winning. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2013

CIO header

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

First Week: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • The Good: Charlotte is one of three teams still undefeated in conference play. Neither win was against a conference powerhouse, but both were good signs. Beating La Salle at the Holton suggests they will do well at home, while taking their road game versus Rhode Island was a sign that they should be able to win games there as well.
  • The Bad. Temple’s loss to Xavier will not preclude the Owls from drawing an NCAA bid, but it makes the conference-wide bid picture, expected in the preseason season to be five, possibly very murky. The preseason NCAA short list included Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Butler, VCU, Temple and Saint Louis, but poorer than expected non-conference results for Saint Joseph’s and Xavier seem to have pared that list. Xavier’s win over conference rival Temple may boost morale among the Musketeers’ faithful, but it undercuts the prospects for Temple (who has a very poor outing versus Duke on it’s resume), one of the stronger prospects on conference’s shrinking list.
  • The Ugly: Saint Bonaventure was not expected to perform at the same levels as the Andrew Nicholson-led teams, but the double-figure road loss to rebuilding George Washington lowers the ceiling on the Bonnies’ prospects for this season. That was a game they would have won last year (and the year before). This is a larger-than-expected step back for the program.

Impact Players

CBS Sports named two A-10 players to their mid-season Top 50 Impact players. Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, a senior guard who transferred in from Arkansas and sat last season, was ranked #42 with the comment “Best shooter in the country?” Treveon Graham, Virginia Commonwealth’s sophomore guard, was ranked #45. Recognized as a integral part of VCU’s Havoc defense, Jeff Goodman went on to comment “Makes plays at both ends of the floor.” The list, a collaboration by CBS Sports’ four basketball beat writers — Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello — focused on the 50 players who they felt had the greatest impact on the first two months of the college basketball season.

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Power Rankings

Conference play opened last week with every team playing twice before the end of the first weekend. While the top – and bottom — of the power rankings remains largely unchanged from the end of December, there is some shuffling within the middle eight.

  1. Butler (14-2, 2-0) – A 2-0 start to conference play has extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak to 11. The run is jeopardized by guard Rotnei Clarke’s neck injury, sustained when the senior was fouled as he completed a layup at the end of a breakout play in Butler’s 79-73 win over Dayton. A day-after MRI showed no spinal fractures (or other damage), but Clarke will be held out of the Bulldogs’ next two games (Richmond on Wednesday and Gonzaga on Saturday), pending a medical review. The Butler team doctor took issue with NBC Sports Network which had a crew covering the Dayton game. The crew overzealously opened a nearby microphone and broadcast the injured player’s conversation with attending medical staff, an act Dr. Thomas Fischer contended that was intrusive and unethical. Dr. Fischer will determine when Clarke can return to play. Richmond, without junior Derrick Williams, will be hard pressed to match the Bulldogs’ front court contingent, but Gonzaga, ranked #8 by the AP, could prove to be a very difficult opponent. Freshman Kellen Dunham, sophomore Alex Barlow and senior Chase Stigall will have to take up Clarke’s scoring contribution for at least the next week. Given Clarke’s contribution is 16.5 per game, that will be a task bigger than the collection can probably handle. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2012

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  1. The fields and arenas of play were more reserved than usual this weekend as Americans’ hearts remained heavy in the aftermath of the inexplicable and incomprehensible massacre that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday morning. Moments of silence were observed at games from coast to coast for the fallen children, teachers and administrators whose lives where brutally taken from them much too early. Here at RTC, we generally try to stay above the partisan bickering that passes for national political discourse these days, but enough is enough — whatever we’re doing with respect to national firearm policy isn’t working. We don’t claim to have a reasoned and fair solution to this problem, but our leaders who presumably work for we, the people, need to figure out something better, and now.
  2. The good people of the state of Connecticut of course are feeling more pain and heartache than anywhere else during this tragedy, and Kevin Ollie‘s Huskies will return to the court tonight with that burden in tow (with videos). It’s a bit more than an hour’s drive southwest from Storrs to Newtown, and many of the UConn players expressed their grief in terms of the connection to their own family members and loved ones: Tyler Olander’s mother is a sixth-grade teacher; Kevin Ollie has a school-age daughter; Shabazz Napier has a two-year old niece whom he adores. The school plans on wearing some sort of commemorative patch on its uniforms honoring the victims — perhaps as soon as in tonight’s game against Maryland-Eastern Shore — and the team will travel to Newtown soon to lend some additional support for the townspeople. As the most high-profile team in the Nutmeg State, these are necessary moves by the Husky program.
  3. Sigh… on to the rest of the weekend’s news. In a completely expected announcement Saturday, the so-called Catholic 7 Big East schools voted unanimously to leave the conference and set out on its own course as a basketball-centric league. Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence and DePaul have decided that the race to the bottom that its football-playing peers have forced them into during all this conference realignment madness is no longer palatable. Apparently, the RPI anchor that schools like Tulane and East Carolina represented was the final straw. Now, the details on the when and how the exit of these seven universities will happen needs to be settled, but the other major elephant in the room is which schools the New Big East will target to fill out its roster — early reports suggest that Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, Butler and Gonzaga — all or some of them — are on the wish list. Regardless of who this new conference grabs, it’s nice to finally see proud basketball schools pushing back against the football behemoth.
  4. While on the subject of Butler, Brad Stevens’ plucky squad knocked off the nation’s top-ranked team (per the AP/Coaches, not RTC) on Saturday afternoon at the Crossroads Classic, engendering another round of breathlessness (ourselves included) at just how excellent a head coach the 36-year old wunderkind already is. In a game that was must-watch television throughout, the final outcome hinged on a floater from a sophomore walk-on named Alex Barlow who had made a grand total of six buckets all season. The player who became a Bulldog so that he could apprentice under Stevens with a goal of becoming a head coach, added himself to the lore of a giant-killing school that has already scalped hoops titans North Carolina and Indiana this year. The overtime victory was Butler’s first ever win over a #1 team, and as the Indy Star‘s David Woods writes, it represents just another chapter in a program’s history where reality is better than fiction. Seriously.
  5. The Syracuse Post-Standard is reporting additional details regarding star guard Michael Carter-Williams’ odd situation last Sunday where people tweeted pictures of him appearing to be under arrest at a local mall. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, MCW was detained and fined after a shoplifting incident at a Lord & Taylor store where he allegedly placed a Polo Ralph Lauren bathrobe and pair of gloves valued at around $120 into his backpack and walked out of the store. He was stopped by loss prevention staff and offered a deal where he could avoid arrest by paying a “civil demand,” wherein he could pay five times the value of the merchandise up to $500 and walk away. One source stated that Carter-Williams paid the fine with his credit card and left the scene freely. After Saturday night’s game versus Canisius (where MCW went for 12/14 assts), Jim Boeheim had little else to say about the matter other than to say that everyone “is satisfied with the result.”
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