Five Teams Nobody Can Quite Get a Handle On…

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

As the pre-Midnight Madness polls trickled out last Friday, it became glaringly obvious to us that consensus was more the exception than the rule. Aside from Duke at the top, teams like Butler and Kentucky somewhere in the middle and a precipitous decline for Purdue following Robbie Hummel re-tearing his ACL, agreement was about as prevalent as a British parliament session. Examining polls from a handful of websites that compiled a top 25 to prepare for the start of practice — ESPN’s Andy Katz, TSN’s Mike DeCourcy, CBS’ Gary Parrish, Fox’s Jeff Goodman and yours truly here at RTC — we found five teams with a noticeable amount of dissent attached to their name in the preseason. Let’s examine those schools and break down what they need to do to match optimistic projections and how they can avoid sinking to the depths of other predictions.

Team #1: Syracuse (Preseason Rankings: #7, #10, #13, #19, #20)

Overrated at #7 if: the Orange are unable to replace the leadership, chemistry and production provided by fifth year seniors Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku and fourth year junior Wes Johnson. At times last season, Syracuse was a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor. Players embraced their roles offensively and Jim Boeheim had the perfect roster at his disposal to stymie opponents with his patented 2-3 zone. The jury’s still out on whether Kris Joseph will be able to step into Johnson’s shoes and replace that versatility on the wing. Scoop Jardine was that sparkplug off the bench last season — will he be able to channel that effort for 35 minutes per night rather than 21.3 MPG? As many accolades as Fab Melo and Dion Waiters achieved in the high school ranks, depending on freshmen can be risky business. Asking them to drop just three spots in the polls after losing that considerable amount of production seems unreasonable and unrealistic.

When Boeheim Speaks, We Should Listen (TSN/B. Leverone)

Underrated at #20 if: Remember last summer when Boeheim hyped up that transfer from Iowa State named Wes Johnson? He’s been doing the same with Fab Melo, telling SI.com’s Seth Davis that his seven-foot freshman will be “a strong contender for national rookie of the year.” Plus, let’s face it: storied, winning programs like Syracuse prefer to reload than rebuild. Last October, we were wondering how the Orange would replace Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris (in hindsight, that looks foolish, but it was true at the time). Why should we believe any differently this time around? NBA scouts have tabbed Joseph as a future lottery pick, Jardine and Brandon Triche shot well enough in 2009-10 to believe they can pick up Rautins’ slack, and Melo is an immediate upgrade offensively over Onuaku. In a conference that lost personnel across the board, Boeheim has a shot to put together back-to-back Big East title squads.

Team #2: Missouri (Preseason Rankings: #8, #12, #13, #16, #16)

Overrated at #8 if: Missouri’s returning talent isn’t that good in the first place. The Tigers return their top three scorers from a season ago, but it’s not as though Missouri lit the world on fire in 2009-10: they lost games to Oral Roberts, Oklahoma and Nebraska before garnering a #10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s also concern about the Tigers frontcourt — Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratcliffe, Justin Safford and Steve Moore -- regarding their ability to contain the behemoths that face them in the Big 12. Any team that takes care of the basketball, keeps the action in the halfcourt and boasts legitimate scoring big men can negate Mike Anderson’s chaotic full-court press and take the Tigers out of their comfort zone. The prized recruit of Anderson’s class, 6’8 power forward Tony Mitchell out of Texas, is dealing with eligibility concerns and hopes to join Missouri in time for the bulk of Big 12 play, but that proposition is in serious jeopardy.

Underrated at #16 if: people underestimate the ability of Anderson to get the most out of his team. He’s positively giddy about the prospects of this year’s roster. There’s scoring punch on the outside with Kim English and Marcus Denmon, a dynamic point guard duo with Mike Dixon and Paul Pressey and plenty of candidates to thrust themselves into stardom in the frontcourt, especially Ratcliffe, the ultra-talent top junior college recruit. The Tigers full-court press keeps them in any game against any opponent if they’re able to force turnovers and impose their will. Anderson has the speed, versatility and athleticism to pressure opponents into oblivion. English is a phenomenal scorer and potential all-conference performer. If he develops more of a well-rounded game and improves efficiency, Anderson also boasts a go-to scorer when the Tigers need a clutch bucket.

Team #3: North Carolina (Preseason Rankings: #6, #9, #12, #14, #14)

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Summer School in the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Around The Big East:

  • NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
  • Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ‘em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead.  Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Timessued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
  • LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At MarquetteDJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
  • Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested.  Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
  • Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.

Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.

Power Rankings:

  1. Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
  2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
  3. Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Basketball 2010: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2010

With all the talk about the coming 96-team tournament, many in the sports media have forgotten that there is already another ridiculous major college sport championship in place: the BCS. We took you through this process in a post last year, but it’s worth going over again as the blogosphere is ablaze with opinions on changing our beloved NCAA Tournament.

Here are the basic ground rules:

  1. We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible. Obviously there are some differences. A college basketball team is expected to win more than 9 games (we kept a cut-off at a 75% winning percentage). We replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
  2. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. The computer polls include data from the NCAA Tournament, but as you will see it didn’t affect the results that significantly.
  3. We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.

Here are the results:

We will let you digest that for a minute and will provide more information/analysis and the BCS Bowls after the jump.

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ATB: Where to Begin? Another Tremendous Thursday…

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2010

Another great Thursday night, with the West Region in particular providing loads of excitement with another #1 seed falling by the wayside and arguably the best game of the entire Tournament in the nightcap.

J. Pullen and J. Crawford Went Back and Forth Down the Stretch (AP/C. Braley)

West Region

What.  A.  Game#2 Kansas State 101, #6 Xavier 96 (2OT).  With around four minutes remaining in this game and K-State up three points at 64-61, a public service announcement flashed across the jumbotron in the middle of the arena.  Paraphrasing, it stated that the regional final game between Kansas State and Butler would begin at 2 pm on Saturday afternoon.  Read that again: between Kansas State and Butler… with four minutes remaining in a three-point game.  Notwithstanding whether some gun-jumping intern was immediately drawn and quartered by the Energy Solutions Arena staff, the Xavier fans unilaterally roared their disapproval at such a public slight, and within a minute the game was tied again.  Whether this scoreboard mishap actually energized the XU players is up for debate, but there should be no debate about whom the two best players on the floor were tonight.  KSU’s Jacob Pullen (28/4/3 assts including six treys) and Xavier’s Jordan Crawford (32/2/2 assts) played a game of who can top whom in the last few minutes of regulation and through two overtimes before it was finally decided that K-State would meet the unanticipated scoreboard premonition and move on to face Butler on Saturday afternoon.  From the moment mentioned above, the two players combined to score 31 points, including several clutch threes that kept the game alive for longer than anyone imagined possible.  After K-State fouled Terrell Holloway (26/4/6 assts and 4 treys himself) as he dribbled into a long jumper with six seconds remaining and XU down three, the sophomore guard nailed all three to send the game into overtime.  Back and forth each team went and again K-State looked like they were safely in position to win the game with a single stop.  Instead, Jordan Crawford failed to find room near the three-point line, so he dribbled far enough away until there was space at which time he rose and fired from 35 feet to send Gus Johnson on CBS into a fit of apoplexy.

From there it was back and forth again until KSU’s Jacob Pullen decided enough was enough, hitting back to back bombs in the final minute-plus of the second overtime to finally create enough separation to make the fouling game work for Frank Martin’s team.  The Wildcats will move on to face Butler on Saturday after all.  This was only the second double-overtime game in the last thirteen years of Sweet Sixteen action, and the fans who attended the West Region tonight surely got their money’s worth.  It’s not often that Kansas State gets outbattled on the boards, but tonight Xavier was +2 in that category.  This was probably the game of the Tournament so far, and we wonder if the physical battle with a Xavier team that just would not quit will impact the Wildcats in their next game with Butler.  As we saw tonight, Butler isn’t the kind of team you want to get down early to — they know how to play with a lead.

Butler Survives and Advances to One Win From Indy (Indy Star/S. Riche)

Butler One Win From Home#5 Butler 63, #1 Syracuse 59.  We’re now left with two #1 seeds as Kentucky advanced to the Elite Eight in the East Regional and Duke plays for that prize tomorrow night, but Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange will be heading home after an uncharacteristic scoring drought at the end of the game did them in tonight.  With a little more than five minutes remaining in the game, Syracuse looked to have regained control of a low-scoring closely contested battle, 54-50.  Cuse would not score again until there were thirty-four seconds left and Butler had effectively put things away.  It was Willie Veasley’s  “HORSE” style three from the corner that put the Bulldogs in control with 1:50 left as the strong crowd of orange-clad fans stood and watched in amazement.  For Brad Stevens’ team, this is the kind of victory that can define and sustain a high-mid like Butler for a long time.  His recruiting for the next five years is already done — what can a program like Indiana give a player that Butler cannot at this point?  A chance to play in the NCAAs?  A chance to advance?  How about a chance to go to the Final Four?  Because that’s the cusp upon which his team is standing, merely forty more minutes of superb defense away from returning home with games still to play.  And when we say home, we really mean it.  Not like ‘Cornell home’ tonight or ‘Baylor home’ tomorrow night, but really, actually home — the Butler University campus is a mere 5.4 miles in Indianapolis from Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the Final Four.  Talk about Hoosiers on the grandest scale of all.  It’s so ridiculous we can hardly comprehend it.  As for Syracuse, the Orange struggled with unforced turnovers all night long (18 total), and many of those were expended in trying to get the ball inside to Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph.  It’s easy to place the blame for SU’s ‘early’ loss on the injury to Arinze Onuaku and his missing three games in this year’s Tournament, but  we wonder if his offensive production would have helped take some of the pressure off Wes Johnson (17/9) and Andy Rautins (15/5) tonight had he been available.   We also wonder if Boeheim’s team didn’t wear down a little at the end of this year — even prior to Onuaku’s injury in the Big East Tournament, the Orange had dropped two games to rather pedestrian Louisville in previous weeks.  He was only playing seven players substantial minutes, and with Onuaku out of the lineup, he was forced to surrender minutes to unproven and untested DaShonte Riley (0/1 in 5 minutes) tonight, for example.  His six ‘starters’ played every other minute of the game.  Were the Orange players spent during those last five minutes?  You won’t hear Boeheim use that crutch, but it would certainly be a reasonable excuse.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.25.10

Posted by THager on March 26th, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Midwest Region (Tom Hager)

  • One of Michigan State’s big advantages may be in their bench production, which has been averaging nearly 25 points per game lately and runs 11 players deep.
  • According to Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson, the decision to sign the contract extension was a no-brainer.  He signed a 10-year deal that will pay well over $400,000 per season.
  • The Washington Post notes that one of the major differences in the absence of Kalin Lucas is the contrasting and free flowing style that Korie Lucious plays at.  Lucious’ 13-point total in MSU’s game against Maryland was his highest total of the season.
  • Everybody knows Ohio State’s Jon Diebler has an incredible range, but not many people know that he used to shoot for dollar bills to hone his skills.
  • Michigan State is known for being mentally tough, but Northern Iowa is not used to the national exposure they have received from their trip to the Sweet Sixteen.  Although Ali Farokhmanesh has said that the confidence he receives has always been there, he admits that the media exposure has been overwhelming.

West Region (Andrew Murawa)

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30 Days of Madness: Six OTs

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months.  You have too.  In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while.   Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage.  Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face.  Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep.  Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style.  The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go.  Are you?  To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month.  We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er.  Or whatever.  Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with.  That’s the hope, at least.  We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so for the next two days, we’ll be re-visiting some of the timeless moments from Championship Week.  Enjoy.

Championship Week

Dateline: 2009 Big East Tournament – Syracuse vs. Connecticut

Context: Once in a very long while, a game comes along that unites a generation of fans, and this 2009 Big East quarterfinal matchup was such a game even though it was only a quarterfinal in a conference tournament.  Where were you when…  will start the discussion, and any fan of the sport will be able to seamlessly jump right into the conversation no matter his age or location.  Everyone will be able to faithfully answer that question in five, ten, twenty, or fifty years.  “I was at my brother’s house sitting on his sofa when Devo hit the three,” will say one; “Not me, I was actually on the road that night, but I kept having my wife give me updates over the phone,” will say another.  This game was such compelling theater that Madison Avenue has already made a commercial referencing it (starring Jay Bilas) and the Big East Conference has an entire website devoted to it at SixOvertimes.com.  And yet, unlike most games of such posthumous magnitude, this one doesn’t have a signature moment…  er, not one that counted, at least.  At the end of regulation, after a Kemba Walker putback layup for UConn to tie the game 71-all with 1.1 seconds remaining, Syracuse inbounded the ball the length of the court; it was partially deflected and then caught by Eric Devendorf, who turned and drilled what appeared to be the game-winner from 28 feet.  Multiple replays showed the ball still barely touching his fingertips as the red light came on, so the basket was negated and the two teams continued to play.  And play they did.  Even though there was no true signature moment that defined the six overtimes, there were plenty of great smaller moments: Rick Jackson’s dunk in OT to send the game into another period; Walker’s halfcourt near-miss at the end of the second OT; Paul Harris’ Charles Smith moment under the rim in the fourth; Jeff Adrien on the floor after missing the game-winner in the fifth extra period; the fact that Syracuse never so much as held a lead from the end of regulation until the sixth overtime.  In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the story of this game might be the incredible number of missed shots that both teams had to win it throughout the first five overtimes, but our takeaway here was sheer volume — the number of points (244), the minutes of live action (70), the length of the game (3 hours, 46 minutes), even the number of fouls (66) and disqualifications (eight, including six starters).  In fitting with the Big East and NYC attitude, everything about this game was more, and by the end of the night when an exhausted couple of teams shook hands completely spent in the wee hours of the morning (1:22 am), everyone in the building knew that they had witnessed a classic that will not soon be forgotten in the annals of this league. 

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Big East Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Season in Review

The Big East regular season ended on Saturday, and I think it is safe to say that the league had a bit of an unpredictable season. Don’t believe me? Show me a season preview that had Syracuse winning the league, Pitt getting a double-bye, UConn playing on Tuesday, and with South Florida and Notre Dame finishing above UConn and Cincinnati.  See? Unpredictable.

But what does that mean? Was the Big East better from top to bottom than it was last year? Did teams like Marquette, USF, and Notre Dame benefit from a down year?   The one thing that is for sure is that the top of the Big East is nowhere near the top of last year’s Big East. Five Sweet 16 teams and three No. 1 seeds is a pretty phenomenal feat. But last year the conference only sent seven teams to the tournament, and there is a very good chance that number will be surpassed this season.

The way the Big East bubble is shaping up right now, five teams are in – Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt and Georgetown. Louisville and Marquette should be ok, but a loss on Wednesday and things could get dicey depending on how the rest of the bubble plays out. If Notre Dame happens to lose their first Big East Tournament game (to either Seton Hall or Rutgers), then the Irish could be in trouble as they will likely be right on the cut line.  That gives us eight that are reasonably safe.

It is possible, however, for the Big East to get two more teams in. If today was Selection Sunday, then Seton Hall may actually be in the tournament. While they have 11 losses, the average RPI of the team’s that have beaten the Pirates is 26 and they have not lost to a team with an RPI below 64. Add into that mix that the Pirates have wins over Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt, at Cornell and an RPI of 53. Its not a great profile, but its a very weak bubble this year. That could be enough.  The other team that still has a shot of an at-large bid is UConn, simply because the Huskies have more good wins than most of the bubble teams. That said, they also have 14 losses. UConn will likely need to make it to the Big East semis for any kind of real shot at a bid.

The Big East Conference released their all-conference teams today, and there isn’t much there that I disagree with. (Note: there are six players on the first team because one of those six will win POY; POY, COY, and ROY will be announced on Tuesday between Big East Tournament sessions)

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ATB: Easy as 1, 2, 3…

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2010

Syracuse Poised to Move to #1.  Remember the paucity of insanity we were lamenting in this space last weekend?  No longer.  Although the calendar still officially says February, March arrived in earnest on Saturday.  In what was probably the single best weekend of the entire college hoops season (and hopefully portends a month of craziness), the top three teams in the media/coaches polls were vanquished.  By 2:15 pm Saturday afternoon, #2 Kentucky had lost in Knoxville; four hours later, #1 Kansas had dropped its second game of the year in Stillwater; and by the same time on Sunday evening, #3 Purdue had joined the others with a loss.  In an 0range-themed weekend with Tennessee and Oklahoma State doing damage, it is literally the Orange, as in #4 Syracuse, who stands to move to the top of the polls for just the second time during the regular season in its long and illustrious history (SU held the top spot for six weeks in 1989-90).  And why not?  The beatdown that Jim Boeheim’s team put on #8 Villanova on Saturday night was downright clinical in its division of labor and efficiency.  Six of Boeheim’s seven “starters’ contributed double figure points; five of them grabbed seven or more rebounds; and, four offered three or more dimes for their efforts.  If you focus on stopping Wesley Johnson, Arinze Onuaku (17/9/3 blks) burns you.  If you take away Andy Rautins, Scoop Jardine (16/7 assts) picks him up.  Rick Jackson?  Kris Joseph (16/9/3 assts).  Syracuse has an answer for every problem, and their zone, while perhaps not the best in college basketball history as Bob Knight said, is awfully good.  The Orange have met every major challenge thrown at them this year, and when you take a look at their two losses (Pittsburgh and Louisville at home) you start to think that maybe they weren’t as mentally prepared for those games as they should have been, because in every one of their “big” games this year, they’ve been virtually flawless.

A Record On-Campus Crowd Saw SU Dominate Villanova (P-S/Lauren Long)

As For the Top Three…  We’re not going to read too much into the losses that #1 Kansas and #2 Kentucky took on the road this weekend.  Even great teams lose road games once in a while, and both Tennessee and Oklahoma State are good enough teams to do some damage in March (more discussion on both games in the conference recaps below).  However, #3 Purdue isn’t getting off so easily.  We already knew that Matt Painter’s team would continue to fight and claw in their inimitable style without the services of Robbie Hummel, but the Boilers got completely pushed around today (-28 rebounds) by the bigger, stronger Michigan State Spartans and their offense was a complete disaster without the versatile forward in the lineup (30% from the field; 22% from deep).  How does the NCAA Selection Committee fairly evaluate this team?  They’re likely to win their final two games against Indiana and Penn State, which would put them at 26-4 overall and 14-4 in the Big Ten with a 3-1 record sans Hummel.  But Ohio State and Michigan State are likely to also finish at 14-4 in the Big Ten, which means that the winner of the Big Ten Tourney will have the inside track on a #1 seed, or at worst, a top #2 seed.  But what if Purdue loses in the B10 quarters or semis?  Are they a #2 seed or a #3 seed or lower?  The resume is strong, but they’re just not the same team as they were with Hummel in the lineup.  Honestly, we would wager that the Committee is secretly hoping that Purdue drops one or both of this week’s games to the bottom-feeders of the conference to make their decision to demote them more defensible.

Conference Recaps.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.27.10

Posted by THager on February 27th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#2 Kentucky @ #17 Tennessee -12:00 pm on CBS (****)

With a win today, the Wildcats will win the SEC regular season title (John Calipari apparently doesn’t care), and it will also keep them in contention for the overall #1 seed in the tournament.  It will be anything but an easy victory as the Volunteers gave the Wildcats a scare when they meet a few weeks ago in Lexington.  The Volunteers were leading midway through the second half, but scored just 10 points in the final 10 minutes, four of which came in garbage time.  This time, the game will be in Knoxville, where Tennessee is 13-1 on the year including a victory over #1 Kansas (their only loss to date).  UT’s drought against Kentucky should have come as no surprise, considering the Vols have the 88th best offense according to Ken Pomeroy.  However, they will need to improve upon their last performance (they shot below 40 % against Florida on Tuesday) if they want have any chance in this game.  Statistically Kentucky is not as imposing as people may think, as the Wildcats don’t rank in the top 10 in either offensive or defensive efficiency, but they manage to get it done in the win column–the most important statistic. Given Wayne Chism’s recent struggles and their ugly loss against the Gators, look for Kentucky to push their winning streak to nine games.

The man who could be Governor of Kentucky

#12 New Mexico @ #11 BYU – 4:00 on Versus (*****)

Versus will finally be making their debut on RTC’s Set Your Tivo feature, and they picked a great game to do so.  Brigham Young has won four straight games, and New Mexico hasn’t lost since January 9th.  New Mexico has been under-appreciated this year, as they rank lower than BYU despite more wins in the conference, a victory in a head-to-head match-up, and a higher SOS.  The RPI, which ranks UNM at #11, also has their stock dropping despite 12 straight wins.  If they are going to prove they belong in the top 10, they are going to have to beat a BYU team that is nearly impossible to beat in Provo.  They have won 21 straight games at the Marriot Center, which holds over 22,000 seats.  In the last matchup in Albuquerque, the Lobos led virtually the entire game, but were never able to push the lead to double digits.  The Cougars scored eight points in the final two minutes to push the game to the brink, but thanks to an equally raucous crowd at The Pit, New Mexico survived.  BYU’s Jimmer Fredette scored 27 points in that contest, and since that loss, he has been on a tear.  With the exception of a 43-point win against Air Force, he has scored at least 20 points in every game, and has two different games in which he scored 36 points.  New Mexico, which ranks just 78th in defensive efficiency, will have their hands full against a BYU team that ranks third in the nation in three-point field goal percentage.  Given Brigham Young’s home record and their #5 Pomeroy ranking, I think BYU will wrapping up the MWC title today with a win.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XI

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys jump the shark with a discussion about college hoops with an Olympic flavor.

MIKE WALSH: I don’t know about you guys, but the Olympics have monopolized the TV in my house since the opening ceremonies. And don’t get me wrong, I love the Olympics – the grandeur, the goosebumps, the medals – but they’ve seriously cut into my college basketball viewing these days. Take tonight, for example. I’m sitting here watching Olympic ice dancing with my wife, and I suddenly became inspired … to not watch ice dancing anymore.

Hopefully Our Olympics Won't Involve Cold War Era Fencing

I’ve got to get some hoops back in my life. With Selection Sunday just out of reach it still seems a little early to argue about who’s in and who’s out of the Big Dance (don’t tell ESPN … Doug Gottleib’s kids gotta eat). St. Joe’s is struggling to find 10 wins, Penn is struggling to find the basket, and Boston U. is struggling to pretend that anyone cares about college hoops when there’s hockey on. So what if we combine the two? What if we add a little Olympic flair to college hoops and hand out pre-March Madness medals?

I even borrowed an outfit from Johnny Weir just to get into the spirit. So wedgies be damned, we’re off to the first ever college basketball medal ceremony!

Men’s downhill: And the gold medal goes to … UNC! Get it? It’s because they won the national championship just last year and now they stink. They’re not even going to make the it to the Dance. Roy Williams has publicly questioned his team’s effort. It’s ridiculous. It’s like Canadians not being able to make ice. Oh wait … that happened too? Well, that’s unfortunate. But fear not Tar Heel Nation, it’s only a matter of time (and a few more blue chippers) until your boys are once again soaring above everyone else like Shaun White.

Curling: I’m not really sure why, but screaming like a maniac seems to be an integral part of curling. That being said, who better to win the gold than Kansas State’s own Frank Martin? If this guy was screaming, “HARD!” at the top of his lungs at me, well, I’d probably pee my pants, but you better believe I’d be sweeping that ice like a bastard too. The silver medal would be awarded to Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint, mostly because the man’s mouth goes like an outboard motor. Arizona’s Sean Miller rounds out this ear piercing podium.

Skating on thin ice:  This isn’t exactly one you want to be on the podium for. For their poor sportsmanship the students at West Virginia barely edged out the student section at Mississippi State for the gold, if only because someone actually hit an assistant coach with their flying projectiles at WVU. The Mountaineers’ fans thought maybe they should get extra rowdy for the big game against rival Pittsburgh, but guess what kids, there’s a big difference between rowdy and reckless. Maybe they’ll cover that in class next semester? As for Mississippi State, they thought they were getting hosed by the refs and the bottles started flying. News flash: bad refs are as much a part of college basketball as jump shots and lay-up lines. Those kids are as big a sore loser as Evgeni Plushenko, and they probably have the matching mullets, too.

What do you guys think? Who would you don with a Rush the Court gold medal? I’ll give you a push like a speed skating relay team, but I’ve got to get back to rooting against the Canadians.

DAVE ZEITLIN: I’ll be honest. Aside from the joy that is afternoon curling, I haven’t gotten too into the Olympics. Perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to any of the sports. I tried skiing for the first time last weekend, and other than the fact I couldn’t stop, let alone carry my skis and boots at the same time, it went really well. And if you want to understand how graceful an ice skater I am, picture a drunk moose walking on a balance beam.

 
But I like the topic, Michael, and I’m ready to dish out some more medals.
 
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RTC Live: Syracuse @ Providence

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

RTC Live will be coming to you from downtown Providence Tuesday night for a battle between a top-five Syracuse powerhouse and an upset-minded Providence team. Syracuse enters play tonight fresh off their monumental victory last Thursday at Georgetown but enter the Dunkin Donuts Center hoping to avoid a letdown in their sandwich game between the emotional win over the Hoyas and this coming Saturday’s hyped visit from Villanova to the Carrier Dome. The Orange are led by sensational Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson and the pinpoint long-range shooting of Andy Rautins. Productive big men are also imperative to Jim Boeheim’s success this season from the punishing Arinze Onuaku to the athleticism of Kris Joseph. Providence is hoping they can post a memorable win akin to their stunning upset over #1 Pittsburgh in 2009 at the Dunk. If the Friars win tonight, they must defend in the halfcourt and shoot well from outside, most notably Sharaud Curry and Marshon Brooks. Also, keep an eye on how sophomore Jamine Peterson handles the forwards of Syracuse down in the post. We could have a high-scoring, high-flying, up and down marathon tonight in the Big East. Hope you’ll join me courtside for Syracuse vs. Providence here on RTC Live tonight at 7 PM.

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(Elite) Eight Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on February 23rd, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

This week’s Scribbles column will take on a new twist- which eight teams I’d select to reach the four regional final games in late March. Now, I realize individual matchups within the bracket will determine the fate of these teams, but these are the eight clubs I feel like have an excellent chance of winning three games to reach the Elite 8 regardless of the teams that stand in their way. Some of these teams are the favorites, those expected to reach this level or their season will be labeled a colossal disappointment. The others are mild sleepers that certainly have the capabilities to make a serious run. Without further ado:

1. Kansas- One screaming commentator keeps telling me there’s not one clear favorite heading into March Madness this season. There’s no one team that stands above the rest akin to last year’s North Carolina entering the field as the favorite to hoist the championship trophy on that Monday night in April. This claim continues to baffle me for two reasons: 1) North Carolina was NOT the clear favorite to win the national championship last season. They entered the NCAA Tournament coming off a semifinal loss in the ACC Tournament to Florida State and were chosen as the #3 overall seed in the Dance behind Louisville and Pittsburgh. They were also dealing with question marks around Ty Lawson’s playing status. For a sample, I checked back to the NCAA Tournament pool I conducted last season and North Carolina was picked to win it all less than both Pitt (the most frequent) and Louisville. Even though the Heels featured the most pure talent, let’s put an end to this false claim. I also vehemently disagree that one team doesn’t stand alone this season ahead of the pack. To me, Kansas is the clear cut #1 favorite to win their second title in three years. Bill Self has the second most efficient offense and the third most efficient defense. He’s slowly but surely cut down his rotation and found a perfect balance. Most great teams start with a dominant point guard and center and Self has both of those covered. Even the enigma known as Tyshawn Taylor received a jolt from a surprising start by Self last Saturday and responded. I haven’t even mentioned the scorching hot Xavier Henry. The Jayhawks are an obvious Elite 8 team.

Taylor and Self finally on the same page?

2. Kentucky- If any team can hold a candle to Kansas at this stage of the season, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats have matched Kansas’ road triumphs in the Big 12 with impressive wins away from Lexington against Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. John Calipari has blended complicated personalities to perfection and found the ideal concoction to finally win a national title. I mentioned Kansas has a tremendous starting point with Collins and Aldrich; they’re actually topped by the inside-outside duo of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Wall has emerged from a mid-season turnover slump to play more like the December John Wall the entire college basketball world fell in love with. He’s absolutely deadly in transition and continues to make clutch plays down the stretch. Cousins will be the single most difficult player to guard in the entire NCAA Tournament, evident by his top-five rank in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He has guard skills in a 6’11 body and is the most effective rebounder in the nation. The real question is if Kentucky can play a halfcourt game against the likes of Purdue and West Virginia should they run into either team. The Wildcats are much more ordinary than spectacular when they play a game in the 60s and are forced to settle for outside jump shots. Still, this team has the goods and the talent to reach a regional final.

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