Set Your Tivo: 02.10.10

Posted by THager on February 10th, 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

Connecticut @ #3 Syracuse — 7 pm on ESPN (***)

Most fans in basketball circles have the Huskies out of the tournament right now, but UConn has plenty of chances to make up for their recent three-game losing streak.  In addition to tonight’s game against Syracuse, they have upcoming games against powerhouses Villanova and West Virginia, as well as three other bubble teams (and Rutgers).  If the Huskies can win five or six of those games, they can play themselves back into the tournament.  Their first task may be the toughest of all the remaining games.  Syracuse is currently a #1 seed, and they have won ten consecutive games.  The Orangemen rank in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency, while UConn ranks 76th in offensive efficiency.    Led by Wesley Johnson, SU ranks first in the country in field goal percentage, second in assists per game, and average 82 points per game.  Johnson played through a leg injury against Cincinnati, but only scored five points and was ineffective.  With Johnson at less than 100 %, Andy Rautins stepped up and scored 20 points to lift Syracuse to the win.  Unless Syracuse wants another 6OT game like they had the last time they played Connecticut, they will need major contributions from both their second and third options, meaning Rautins and forward Kris Joseph.

#7 Duke @ North Carolina — 9 pm on ESPN (****)

These teams could be winless on the year and this would still be a great game.  This version means much more to UNC than it does to Duke.  Coach K has lost six of the last seven matchups against Roy Williams, but UNC could use a win to get them back in the discussion of those “last four teams in.”  They are 2-7 in their last nine games, but a win over Duke would help their poor record against the RPI top 50.  Both squads average over 80 points per game, but UNC’s statistics may be deceiving.  While the Blue Devils are the top team in offensive efficiency, the Tar Heels rank outside the top 60 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  North Carolina gives up nearly 74 points per game, a number that will likely jump when the Blue Devils come to Chapel Hill.  One of the most surprising statistics about UNC is their home record, as they have four losses at the Dean Dome.  In their last six losses, the Tar Heels have not scored more than 75 points in any of those games, and will need to find a way to break down a Duke team that allows only 63 points per game.  Duke, a team usually known for their three point shooting, has shot below 40 % from beyond the arc this year, but if Kyle Singler can get a hot hand like he had against Georgia Tech, Duke will send UNC to another loss.

#19 New Mexico @ #25 UNLV — 11 pm on CBS College Sports (*****)

It is a shame more people won’t be able to see this game between two of the best mid-majors this season.  The Mountain West Conference now has three teams in the top 25 after UNLV beat BYU by 14 points.  Perhaps more than any team in the country, the Rebels had the most impressive win over the weekend when they never allowed BYU to take a lead, much less keep the game close.  New Mexico also enjoyed a recent win over BYU in a game that was close throughout.  Both of these teams are enjoying win streaks; UNLV has won five games in a row, while UNM has not lost since a January 9 meeting with UNLV.  In that game, the Lobos shot just 22% from three point range and ended a 19-game win streak at the Pitt.  With all three MWC powerhouses sitting at 7-2, this game has huge conference standing implications.  Tre’Von Willis outshined Jimmer Fredette in the UNLV vs BYU game with 33 points, and if he scores over 25, it will be hard for UNLV to lose.  Although the Rebels have more of a go to player in Willis, he has only one other teammate averaging in double figures, while the Lobos have four players averaging over 10 points per game.  Fortunately for the Rebels, even if they lose this game, they still get to host the conference tournament.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles… (With a Wednesday Twist)

Posted by zhayes9 on February 3rd, 2010

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

This week’s Scribbles column will look ahead to a couple months down the road in Indianapolis, where 65 deserving teams will be whittled down to just four, and to that blissful Monday night in April when one lucky group will be dancing at mid-court to the tune of One Shining Moment. In my estimation, there are ten squads with a promising-to-slight chance of hoisting a 2010 National Champions banner during their home opener next season. I’m here to tell you those ten teams, why they have hopes of winning a national title, what’s holding them back, and the most realistic scenario as I see it come late March or beginning of April. These teams are ranked in reverse order from 10-1 with the #1 school holding the best cards in their deck.

10. Duke

Why they can win it all: Their floor leader and senior stalwart Jon Scheyer is the steadiest distributor in all of college basketball, evident from his incredibly stellar 3.28 A/T ratio and a 5.6 APG mark that ranks third in the ACC and 23d in the nation. Scheyer is also a deadly shooter coming off screens when he has time to square his body to the basket, nailing a career-high 39% from deep to go along with 44% from the floor overall. Duke is also a tremendous free-throw shooting team as a whole and Coach K has the ability to play a group of Scheyer-Kyle Singler-Nolan Smith-Mason Plumlee-Lance Thomas that doesn’t feature one player under 70% from the charity stripe. Duke also features a ton more size in the paint than during previous flameouts in the NCAA Tournament. When Singler plays small forward, Coach K can rotate Miles and Mason Plumlee, the glue guy Thomas, rebounding force Brian Zoubek and even Ryan Kelly at two positions with no player under 6’8. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more efficient backcourt in the nation than Scheyer and Smith. And it’s widely known that exceptional guard play is the ultimate key to winning in March.

What Makes Duke 2010 Different than Duke 2006-09?

Why they won’t win it all: Depth could certainly be an issue for the Blue Devils’ chances of raising their first banner since 2001. Andre Dawkins has fallen almost entirely out of the rotation and Coach K has started to limit Mason Plumlee’s minutes during important games. Also, Brian Zoubek’s tendency to immediately step into foul trouble limits his availability. It wouldn’t shock me to see Duke play Scheyer, Smith and Singler 40 minutes per game during their time in the NCAA Tournament. That could cause those key players, who rely primarily on their jump shot, to lose their legs and start throwing up bricks. Kyle Singler isn’t quite the superstar he was last season, either. Singler’s numbers are down across the board — scoring, rebounding, FG%, 3pt% — and he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury that may not improve in the weeks and months ahead. Duke also lacks the athleticism of teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Texas. They could struggle with quicker guards like John Wall and athletic rebounders of the Damion James mold.

Likely scenario: I see Duke reaching the Sweet 16 as a #2 seed where they fall to a more athletic, quick group of guards that can explode to the rim and draw fouls. Duke may have height, but most of that height just isn’t a threat offensively by any stretch of the imagination. Eventually getting into a jump shooting contest could be the Blue Devils’ downfall if two of Smith, Scheyer and Singler go cold.

9. West Virginia

Why they can win it all: Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in the nation when the chips are on the table. If the Mountaineers need a big shot to keep their season alive, Butler will demand the basketball and more than likely deliver. He’s downed Marquette and Louisville on game-deciding jumpers and led the second half charge against Ohio State. West Virginia is also supremely athletic and Bob Huggins’ teams always crash the boards with a tremendous ferocity. No contender can match the height across the board that West Virginia touts other than Kentucky. Huggins has experimented with lineups in which all of his players are 6’6 or taller, including 6’9 Devin Ebanks acting as a point-forward and 6’7 Da’Sean Butler capable of posting up smaller two-guards. Sophomore Kevin Jones is an incredible talent and a rebounding machine (7.7 RPG) that hits 55% of his shots from the floor and 44% from deep. West Virginia has the luxury of any of their forwards being able to step out and drain a mid-range jumper, from Ebanks to Jones to Wellington Smith to John Flowers every once in a full moon.

Ebanks is the X-factor for West Virginia

Why they won’t win it all: Let’s face it: Bob Huggins doesn’t have exactly the best track record when it comes to NCAA Tournament success. Huggins hasn’t reached the Elite 8 since 1995-96 with Cincinnati and only one Sweet 16 in the last ten years. In 2000 and 2002, his Bearcats lost just four games all season and yet didn’t reach the second weekend of March both times. Most also question whether the Mountaineers can hit outside shots on a consistent basis. They’ve struggled mightily in the first half of Big East games and can’t afford to fall behind against elite competition in March like they did against Dayton last season. Point guard play is a prudent question for West Virginia, as well. Joe Mazzulla is a quality perimeter defender and a capable distributor, but he’ll never be the offensive threat he was two seasons ago due to that shoulder injury. Darryl Bryant can certainly catch a hot streak shooting-wise, but in all honestly he’s more suited as an undersized two-guard. Bryant is averaging just 3.6 APG in 25+ MPG of action.

Likely scenario: I’m still fairly high on this team. I love Butler at the end of games and Ebanks can do anything for Huggins — from score to rebound to run the point — and Kevin Jones is one of the most underappreciated players in the Big East. In the end, I see a clankfest from outside ultimately costing West Virginia their season. And for all their rebounding history, the Mountaineers are in the mid-60s in the nation. The Elite Eight seems like a proper place for their season to conclude.

8. Texas

Why they can win it all: No team boasts better perimeter defenders than Texas. Anyone that watched Dogus Balbay completely shut down James Anderson in the second half Monday night knows he’s the best perimeter defender in the nation, even stronger than Purdue’s Chris Kramer. Avery Bradley came in with the reputation as an elite defender and he’s certainly lived up to that billing. Even J’Covan Brown off the bench is a capable defensive player and Justin Mason is a plus defender. When Dexter Pittman stays out of foul trouble, Texas boasts a legitimate shot-blocking presence that can negate quick guards on the rare occasion they slip past Balbay or Bradley. Texas is also the deepest team in the nation and Rick Barnes has the capability of playing 10 or 11 men on any night if he feels the need. The preserved minutes could pay dividends in the form of fresh players come March. Damion James should also be on a mission come March as a senior. He’s never reached a Final Four during his Longhorns career and came back for a fourth year in Austin to accomplish that very feat.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 1.16.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 16th, 2010

WOW.  284 of the 345 Division I college basketball teams are in action on Saturday, and an inordinate number of those games are being broadcast on TV somewhere.  We all know what happened last week — an upset-lover’s dream, with a wave of surprising results that started about halfway through the day and kept rolling through Sunday night.  And then we had the equally compelling performances by Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds on Monday night and the Robbie Hummel/Evan Turner show on Tuesday.  What will this weekend bring?  If you check the schedule, many of these match-ups are pretty intriguing, with quite a few highly-ranked teams heading into the home lairs of some squads that really need wins (Purdue at Northwestern comes to mind, where we’ll be courtside with RTC Live).  There are some excellent early games of which we’ll be keeping track, starting off with an incredible (not to mention VITAL for both teams) A-10 game involving Dayton at Xavier at 11 AM ET.  How about a little bit of #5 Syracuse visiting #9 West Virginia at noon?  Maybe you’d prefer a couple of angry ACC teams coming off of losses with #18 Georgia Tech traveling to Chapel Hill to say howdy to #13 North Carolina at 2 PM ET?  Well, whatever hoops we can find (and as I say, it is everywhere this weekend), we’ll be live-blogging it here for most of the day, not to mention we have two OTHER RTC Lives we have in store in addition to the aforementioned Purdue/Northwestern: Arizona at Oregon at 4:30 PM ET, and Portland at Saint Mary’s at 10 PM ET.  We’ll be here starting at about 11 AM for the first game, so get that refresh-button finger warmed up and join us — and better yet, let us know what you’re watching and what’s on your mind.  See you in a bit!

11:00: So here we go with Dayton at Xavier.  What a rivalry, and what a way to start the day!  This is something like the 4,286th meeting between these two schools (OK, actually 115th, I think).  Both teams are currently undefeated in the A-10, and this one would REALLY look good on the ol’ NCAA Tournament resume’.

11:10: I’m sitting here wondering what sort of high-flying exploits Dayton’s Chris Wright will have on display.  It’s also fun to watch Dayton coach Brian Gregory on the sideline; he’s a high-energy guy, not that Chris Mack’s not.  Gregory is one of those coaches where, if you’re just talking basketball with him, you want to ask him, “Hey, are there some lines I can run for you?  Could I do a couple of miles out on the track?”  In other words, he’s a good motivator.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

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

Here we are on the brink of Big East play. What does that mean? MID-SEASON AWARD TIME!!!

Co-Players of the Year: Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia and Wes Johnson, Syracuse

Depending on who you ask, these two are in the mix for the national player of the year. Butler (16.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.8 apg) has been the best player for West Virginia, even sliding over and playing some point guard in the past few games as Joe Mazzulla works his way back from a shoulder injury and Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries. Butler may not be West Virginia’s best NBA prospect, but he has been the Mountaineers’ most valuable player this season. He is their best scorer in the halfcourt, and is quick becoming their best creator. He can step outside and knock down a three or run the point just as well as he can post up a smaller defender. He’s also hit two game-winners in the last two weeks.

Johnson has really lived up to the excessive hype he had in the preseason. He is averaging 17.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 spg, and 2.0 bpg while shooting 51.1% from three. His length, athleticism and versatility has been his biggest assets; he makes it so difficult for opposing players on the baseline in the Cuse zone; he plays like a three on the offensive end, but blocks shots and rebounds like a four on the defensive end; and most importantly, he can really score, be it in transition or in the half court set. Think the love child of T-Mac and Shawn Marion. Scary, right?

Freshman of the Year: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati

Born Ready wasn’t quite born ready, but 11 games into the season, its pretty clear that Stephenson is going to be a player in this league. Stephenson has averaged 12.5 ppg and 2.4 apg, but more than the numbers he has put up, it has been what he hasn’t done that has been most important – this kid is not a distraction. Yes, he does have his outbursts (his reaction at the end of the Gonzaga game and his yapping at Chris Mack in the Xavier game come to mind), but what 19 year old doesn’t? Cincy has struggled a bit early in the season as they haven’t quite lived up to some of the lofty expectations, but none of that has been Lance’s fault. He makes smart plays, he makes unselfish plays, and, most importantly, he simply makes plays.

All-Conference Teams

1st team

  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame: 24.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg
  • Jerome Dyson, UConn: 19.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.7 apg
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette: 19.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
  • Dominique Jones, South Florida: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia: 15.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg

2nd team

  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall: 23.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn: 17.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova: 17.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
  • DJ Kennedy, St. John’s: 16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown: 15.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.0 apg

3rd team

  • Andy Rautins, Syracuse: 9.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.5 spg
  • Herb Pope, Seton Hall: 13.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville: 16.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
  • Antonio Pena, Villanova: 13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg
  • Gus Gilchrist, South Florida: 18.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Biggest Surprise – team: Syracuse

If I have to explain this to you, you should be reading Perez Hilton and not Rush the Court.

Biggest Surprises – player: Kevin Jones, West Virginia and Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

We knew that Jones was good. He’s long, he’s strong, he’s athletic, and he has a nose for the ball, which makes him a perfect fit for a Bob Huggins-coached team. But did anyone expect him to be West Virginia’s best low post player? He has given the Mountaineers a true low-post threat, he can knock down threes, and he attacks the offensive glass very hard. 15.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg is just the beginning for this kid.

Tim Abromaitis is a different story. He barely played as a freshman and redshirted last year, and when Scott Martin went down with an ACL injury in the preseason, a chance was given and Abro has made the most of it. He is averaging 15.8 ppg while shooting 50.7% from three, giving Notre Dame another option if defenses collapse on Harangody. If he can bulk up a bit and become a better rebounder, Abro may be an all-conference player when it is all said and done.

Biggest Disappointment – team and player: Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati

I really thought that the Bearcats were going to make a push for the Big East crown this season. With Vaughn teaming up with Stephenson and Cashmere Wright on the perimeter and Yancy Gates anchoring a big, physical front line, I thought this team had the roster to be a factor. But with Vaughn’s early season struggles, Cincy has lost three games in the non-conference, and has yet to look like a contender. For the first time in his career, Vaughn is averaging below double figures at just 9.8 ppg, but lets face it – he is just too talented to struggle for a full season. I’m not writing off the Bearcats just yet.

The runner-up for most disappointing team is Seton Hall. The Pirates have a ton of talent, but they just don’t have the team chemistry to compete with the big dogs. I’m not talking about the players getting along. They may very well be best friends. What I mean is that this team just doesn’t play well together right now. Jeremy Hazell, as good as he is, seems to be more concerned with finding his best shot of offense as opposed to the team’s best shot. Herb Pope is a load on the block, but he can’t hit free throws, turns the ball over too much, and seems lost offensively at times. Eugene Harvey, Keon Lawrence, Robert Mitchell, Jeff Robinson – these guys over-dribble and don’t consistently take good shots. Seton Hall could easily be 2-0 in the league right now, but instead they have dropped two heartbreakers early on, and in a league as balanced as the Big East is, that is going to be a tough thing to overcome.

Coach of the Year: Norm Roberts, St. John’s

The Johnnies are flirting with the bubble this season, and with a good performance in the Big East, the Red Storm could very well make it back to the tournament this season. And keep in mind that St. John’s has done this without Anthony Mason, Jr., playing a minute yet this season and with Justin Burrell missing a few weeks with an ankle injury.

Notes

  • West Virginia is currently playing with five forwards in their starting line-up – Butler, Jones, Ebanks, Wellington Smith and John Flowers – as Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries and Joe Mazzulla makes his way back from a shoulder injury. This creates two problems for the Mountaineers – they are struggling against pressure defenses and creating easy shots in the halfcourt, and they give up way too much penetration. This was completely evident against Marquette, as the Golden Eagles spread the floor, attacked gaps, and got a number of wide-open looks from three. But this is a good thing for WVU, believe it or not. Mazzulla is not going to be healthy this season (he’s playing right now with the inability to raise his left arm – he’s shooting free throws right handed as a lefty), which means that once Bryant gets healthy, they will have one true point guard. If injuries our foul trouble strikes later in the season, learning to play with five forwards now is better than learning in March.
  • UConn has two major achilles heels this season – depth and free throw shooting. The addition of Ater Majok is not going to be as influential as many believe. Majok is long and plays with energy, but he has no basketball IQ and he is nothing more than length right now – he’ll block a few shots and grab a few boards, but he’s a 12-15 mpg player at best. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has played well in the last couple of games, but he is still learning what it takes to compete in the Big East. This is still basically a five player team. But the bigger issue will be free throw shooting. Neither Stanley Robinson nor Jerome Dyson are great free throw shooters, which is a big problem when you consider how often these two are going to get to the line the way they attack the rim. UConn is going to struggle to put points on the board, and a few missed free throws are going to make a huge difference. You can argue pretty convincingly that it cost them both the Duke and Kentucky games.
  • Villanova is not going to be a great team until they play better defense. KenPom has them at 89th in the country right now in tempo-free defensive efficiency. They give up too much penetration, allow too many open threes, and don’t have the size inside to prevent post-ups and defend at the rim. This team is really going to miss Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, but hopefully getting Reggie Redding back will make a difference.
  • Jeremy Hazell scored 41 and 38 points in losses to West Virginia and Syracuse, respectively, but it took him 64 shots to do so. He needs to be more efficient and/or take better shots for the Pirates. Any above average guard in this league could put up those numbers with that many shots.
  • Chris Wright had 34 points in Georgetown’s win over Harvard, but lost in that was the fact that he still had 4 turnovers and just 4 assists. On the season, he is only averaging 3.5 apg and 3.0 turnovers.

Power Rankings

1. Syracuse – 13-0, 1-0

Last Week: 12/29 @ Seton Hall 80-73

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Pitt

2. West Virginia – 10-0, 2-0

Last Week: 12/26 @ Seton Hall 90-84, 12/29 vs. Marquette 63-62

Next Week: 1/1 @ Purdue

3. Villanova – 11-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Delaware 97-63

Next Week: 1/2 @ Marquette

4. Georgetown – 9-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Harvard

Next Week: 1/3 @ DePaul

5. UConn – 9-2

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Iona 93-74

Next Week: 12/30 @ Cincy 69-71, 1/2 vs. Notre Dame

6. Louisville – 9-3

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette 84-69, 12/27 vs. Radford 79-53

Next Week: 12/30 vs. South Florida 73-52, 1/2 @ Kentucky

7. Cincinnati – 8-3

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. UConn 71-69, 1/2 @ Rutgers, 1/4 vs. Pitt

8. St. John’s – 10-2

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Bryant 80-44

Next Week: 12/31 @ Georgetown, 1/3 vs. Providence

9. Marquette – 9-4, 0-1

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Presbyterian 102-62, 12/29 @ Marquette 62-63

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Villanova

10. Notre Dame – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. Providence 93-78, 1/2 @ UConn, 1/6 @ South Florida

11. South Florida – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Louisville 52-73, 1/5 vs. Notre Dame

12. Seton Hall – 8-3, 0-2

Last Week: 12/26 vs. West Virginia 84-90, 12/29 vs. Syracuse 73-80

Next Week: 1/2 @ Virginia Tech

13. Pitt – 11-2, 1-0

Last Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul 65-52

Next Week: 1/2 @ Syracuse, 1/4 @ Cincinnati

14. Rutgers – 9-3

Last Week: 12/28 @ UNC 67-81

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Cincinnati

15. Providence – 8-4

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Notre Dame 78-93, 1/3 @ St. John’s

16. DePaul – 7-6, 0-1

Last Week: 12/28 @ Pitt

Next Week: 1/3 vs. Georgetown

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on December 29th, 2009

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

1. The most competitive conference in the land this season should spark the most competitive Player of the Year race come March. Top-seeded Kansas boasts three potential candidates once center Cole Aldrich starts to play with a more aggressive mentality on the offensive end. Senior point guard Sherron Collins has the skill set to explode come conference play and should provide the Jayhawks with more than one clutch play the season wears on. Freshman Xavier Henry has surpassed everyone’s expectations early in Lawrence as the Jayhawks early scoring leader. Nipping at the heels of #1 Kansas is #2 Texas and their all-time rebounder Damion James. James has exploded onto the scene the last week-plus with two masterful performances against North Carolina (25/15/4 stl on 8-22 FG) and Michigan State (23/13 on 10-18 FG). You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that argues James isn’t the current frontrunner for Big 12 POY and deserves definite consideration for first team All-America honors. Kansas State has been one of the bigger surprises in college basketball through the first month and a half behind sharp-shooting guard Jacob Pullen. The junior went on a tear recently scoring 28 in a big road win at UNLV then topping himself with 30 points at Alabama. In his last three games, Pullen has nailed an incredible 16 of his last 25 threes. Lurking in the shadows is Oklahoma State’s James Anderson (21.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG) and Iowa State forward Craig Brackins (17.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG) with Baylor’s Ekpe Ugoh and Oklahoma’s Willie Warren also making large impacts on their respective squads.

2. It’s fairly clear the top two teams in a weaker Pac-10 conference will be Washington behind Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter and California behind their big three of Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher. While both teams have encountered their early season struggles, Washington knocking off an emotionally scarred Texas A&M squad at home Tuesday and California hanging in with Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse should convince most critics that those two will compete for the Pac-10 title. Prior to the season, many believed UCLA would be that third team in the Pac-10 to cause some damage and sneak into the NCAA field. But with a week that included wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV, it’s becoming quite evident that USC might very well be that team. Even with early season home defeats at the hands of Loyola Marymount and Nebraska and blowout losses at Texas and Georgia Tech, the Trojans are coming together behind newly-entrenched point guard Mike Gerrity and coach Kevin O’Neill. The two-time transfer Gerrity is already the Trojans leading scorer and far and away their best assist man. He won’t blow anyone away with flash and speed, but he knows how to run an offense and play the position with efficiency. A starting five of Gerrity, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Stepheson, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson all of a sudden doesn’t look too shabby, does it?

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on December 2nd, 2009

checkinginon

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

Despite the holiday, loyal readers of RTC may have noticed something missing last week.

Where was Checking in on the Big East?  Without BIAH waxing poetic about the happenings within the nation’s biggest conference, how were you able function?

For that, I must apologize.  But, you see, it wasn’t all my fault.  For starters, the editors at RTC are ruthless.  Not only did they have me traveling up and down the eastern seaboard during the busiest travel weekend of the year, they forced me to cover the semifinals and finals of the Preseason NIT for RTC Live.

Brutal, those guys.  I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Anyway, I probably could have found the time to put together a recap for you, but apparently grandmas don’t realize that having dial-up isn’t the same as having the internet.  Old folks, you gotta love ‘em.  She made me a mean Thanksgiving leftover sandwich as a peace offering.  She’s not all bad, that one.  I forgave her, just like I hope you all will forgive me.

Back to the point, since we have a lot to go over, and seeing as the first few weeks of the college hoops season are a bit hectic, the structure of this post is going to be a bit different than future posts.  But never fear, as your trusty Big East expert is here to guide you through it.  So tuck the children in, strap on your seat belts, and, well, you tell them, B.B…

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Set Your Tivo: 11.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 23rd, 2009

tivo

After last week when we really kicked off the season, our list of games this week is a little weak to be quite blunt primarily because of the Thanksgiving holiday break. Don’t worry though. It’s not all football games and turkey. There are some interesting games this week that are worth following even if you are travelling (or like some of us here) working during the week. Today we only have one game worth Tivo-ing, but it is one of the more intriguing games so far this season.

Cornell at #9 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN360.com: We mentioned this game in our post naming Syracuse as our Team of the Week. Everybody has been praising the Orange (and for good reason), but those who follow college basketball closely know that they could very easily lose to the Big Red, which is something I am sure that Jim Boeheim has stressed to his players since the morning after their huge win over UNC. After their wins over Caland UNC this past week everybody knows about the Orange. They have one of the best frontcourts in the nation with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, Kris Joseph, and Arinze Onuaku complimented by some outstanding perimeter play (so far) from Scoop Jardine, Andy Rautins, and Brandon Triche. The country isn’t quite as familiar with Cornell who have already notched impressive road wins at Alabama and UMass before falling by 10 at home against Seton Hall. The Big Red are led by Ryan Wittman (17 PPG and 4 APG)–one of the nation’s top  players that the casual fan doesn’t know about–who is complimented by fellow seniors Louis Dale (13.7 PPG and 3.7 APG)  and Jeff Foote(11.0 PPG and 8.7 RPG). If the Orange need any motivation to get up for this game, Boeheim will just have to remind them of last year when they barely outlasted Wittman and his game-high 33 points  before pulling away late. We expect the Orange to win this one since they are the more talented team and are playing at home, but don’t be surprised to see Cornell hanging around as I’m sure their players have been looking forward to this game for quite some time as it is the second biggest game on their schedule trailing only their trip to Allen Fieldhouse on January 6th to take on preseason #1 Kansas. While I think that motivation will aid the Big Red, it probably won’t be enough to make up for their massive disadvantage inside where they won’t have an answer for the Orange big men and Johnson in particular.

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RTC Team of the Week: Syracuse

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2009

We will readily admit that we crushed the Orange for their embarrassing exhibition game loss to Le Moyne three weeks ago and even left them out of our Top 25 after that loss, but we can admit when we were wrong even if we are pretty sure most Syracuse fans felt the same way that we did at the time. We figured that Jim Boeheim was in for a long year waiting for next year’s much hyped recruiting class to come to upstate New York. After the Le Moyne loss, the Orange rolled off big wins at home against Albany (by 32) and Robert Morris (by 40), but those two programs were hardly in the same category as the three teams that would be travelling to Madison Square Garden for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (UNC, Ohio State, and Cal) and we expected the Orange to have a difficult time competing with those teams even if we never really considered any of those teams that great (you will notice that my co-editors were a bit behind me on the Tar Heels being overrated if you look at that last poll).

syracuse orange

The Orange opened up against Cal, a team we had already covered live twice this season (against Murray State and against Detroit), and destroyed the more highly touted Bears. After falling behind 5-0 to start the game, the Orange took the lead with 17:08 left in the first half and dominated Cal from that point forward with their frontcourt outscoring Cal’s 54-22. The Bears highly regarded backcourt struggled against the zone and shot just 30% as a team from beyond the arc only managing to outscore the Syracuse guards by 10 (51-41). The fact that the Orange dominated on the inside was no surprise to us. They have one of the best frontcourts (Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku) in the country and Cal’s frontcourt is lackluster to put it kindly. The real surprise was the play of their guards and redshirt sophomore Scoop Jardine (22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists) in particular.

We figured the next hurdle — defending national champion UNC — would be a much higher hurdle and it was. For a half. The first half of the game was as good as any we have seen this season with the teams trading quick runs and both teams making big shots. The Orange opened the game with an 8-0 run that had us questioning whether Roy Williams was trying to channel Phil Jackson by not taking a timeout and letting his team work things out on their own. The Tar Heels responded with a quick run of their own and took the lead at 12-11 with 15:06 left in the first half. The Orange briefly took a 9-point lead at 31-22 before the Tar Heels rallied again to tie it up before taking a 39-37 lead into the intermission. Then the Orange exploded opening up the 2nd half on an insane 22-1 run that left us speechless and led Williams to comment after the game that Syracuse “beat the dickens out of us”. Andy Rautins was the star of the game with an Andrei Kirilenko-like line of 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 steals (minus all the whining) and Wesley Johnson added a 25 points and 8 rebounds against one of the best frontcourts in the country. The Orange’s performance left us wondering if this year’s version might be better than last year’s version even without Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris. And for those of you who are wondering, the Orange will be in this week’s yet unreleased RTC Top 25, which should be out some time on Monday. The Orange need to be careful not to let the honor of being RTC’s inaugural Team of the Week get to their heads though because their next game is at home against a very good Cornell team that much of the country doesn’t know about, but has already won on the road at Alabama and UMass.

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ATB: Wesley Johnson Makes Syracuse Better Than Last Year

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2009

atb

Coaches vs. Cancer.

Addition by Subtraction? Syracuse 87, North Carolina 71.  We all knew that Roy Williams’ Carolina team was likely to take a bit of a step back this season after losing four players (Hansbrough, Ellington, Lawson, Green) to the NBA Draft, and we expected the same from Syracuse after losing the core (Flynn, Harris, Devendorf) of its Sweet Sixteen squad.  But is it possible that Syracuse, with the addition of multi-dimensional forward Wesley Johnson and the natural progression of players such as Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine, are actually better than they were in 2008-09?  Forget the loss to Le Moyne in the preseason — when the games have actually counted, they’ve mauled every opponent they’ve faced by an average of 27.5 pts.  Albany and Robert Morris, sure — but highly-ranked California by 22 and North Carolina by 16?  Not so much.  As Roy Williams put it after the game, Syracuse “beat the dickens out of us,” and he wasn’t exaggerating.  The Orange broke out of a 39-37 deficit at halftime with a ridiculous 22-1 run that had Carolina looking as befuddled as they’ve been in what seems like a long time (don’t let anyone tell you that it’s actually been that long, though – the 2008 Final Four game against Kansas looked similar for long stretches).  The key to that stretch of play was that North Carolina all of a sudden looked much like the young, inexperienced team that they are.  Williams made sure to stress that youth isn’t an excuse, but during the blitzkrieg by SU it was clear that many of the Heels were uncertain how to stem the tide, incapable at this point in their development of settling their nerves with several bad decisions on both ends of the court.  At the end of the night, it was obvious that the better team (with the best player, Johnson) won the game.  We have to be careful to crown anyone with anything this early in the season, but there’s no doubt that Syracuse is much further along than UNC, and we found ourselves wondering (along with Ray Floriani) if this year’s version of the Orange might actually be better off with the talented trio of Flynn, Harris and Devendorf out of the picture.  Sometimes those players, particularly Harris and Devendorf, could cause more problems than they solved for Jim Boeheim.  Is it possible that the group he has now — last year’s backups  + Johnson (transfer) and Jardine (redshirt) — have better team chemistry and trust for each other, resulting in wonderfully efficient execution on both ends?  Boeheim would never admit to it, but there could be something to this.

wesley johnson syracuse

Can We Send Cal Home 0-3? Ohio State 76, California 70. Memo to Pac-10 teams.  Don’t bother sending your schools back east unless they plan on actually showing up for the games.  For the second consecutive night, Mike Montgomery’s California team got completely outclassed by a bigger, more athletic foe that simply imposed its will on the Bears in the first half, rendering the second stanza as (mostly) garbage time.  Ohio State was much better tonight than they were last night, hitting five threes in the first half over the much shorter Bears, and generally controlling the game from start to finish.  Dallas Lauderdale in particular tortured the Cal interior players, getting credited for seven blocks and generally intimidating any Cal player of consequence who entered his lane.  Evan Turner was masterful as usual, notching another near-triple double of 26/14/6 assts on 9-14 FG.  More importantly for Thad Matta, Turner cut down his turnover total to a more reasonable (yet high) four, quite a few less than his ten last evening against UNC.  Jerome Randle was once again the only bright spot for Cal, as he dropped 26/3 assts in what was clearly a frustrating couple of games for the competitive guard.  The loss of Theo Robertson for these last two games with a stress reaction was undoubtedly a tough blow, but we’re not convinced that Cal would have beaten either Syracuse or Ohio State even with Jason Kidd back on campus.  Their problems with the interior players are just too damning, and there doesn’t appear to be any easy solution.  So what have we learned from this?  First, if Cal is indeed the best team in the Pac-10, then there won’t be a single Pac-10 team beyond the second round in March (again), and secondly, if there’s a better player than Ohio State’s Evan Turner (22/15/6 assts), he’d better start putting up some ridiculous games soon or the NPOY race will be over before it gets started.

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ATB: Statement Wins At MSG for UNC and Syracuse

Posted by zhayes9 on November 20th, 2009

atb

Coaches vs. Cancer.

  • Carolina Hangs OnNorth Carolina 77, Ohio State 73.  The marquee matchup of the evening featured Roy’s defending national champs taking on Ohio State and early NPOY candidate Evan Turner in Madison Square Garden.  RTC Live was a bust due to MSG’s terrible internet connectivity, but we were still able to witness the game and what we saw was a team in North Carolina that could look utterly brilliant on one possession and really disjointed on the next.  The good news for the Heels is that their defense and length, particularly inside, made the Buckeye look worse — as in, totally incompetent — for the majority of the game.  Up until four minutes remaining, the game had settled into the comfortable 12-18 point lead range for Carolina.  Every time that OSU threatened, UNC would get a key steal or three to stem the tide (Will Graves, with his 14/5, was particulary effective with this).  Then OSU seemed to instantaneously find its mojo: the threes that had bricked and caromed off the rim and glass all night long suddenly starting finding their mark.  Lighty with a three, Buford with another, Lighty again and Diebler once more along with some forays to the rim by Evan Turner, and the comfort zone that Carolina had shrunk to a very uncomfortable two points with fifteen seconds remaining.  The general sense in the building, echoed by both coaches after the game, was that if Ohio State had just been able to find the mark a little better in the first half (29% FG, 10% 3FG, 50% FT), they’d have been right there all along.  Problem is that we’re not buying it.  In our view, the Buckeyes only started playing well and hitting shots when the pressure was essentially off and Carolina’s defense relaxed.  Say what you want about Roy Williams’ penchant  for offense, but this Carolina team has the potential to be devastating defensively, whereas on offense they might be a little more suspect (Graves & Ginyard are nice players, but let’s not kid ourselves here).  OSU was clearly hurt by turnovers and Turner(over) was the worst offender by far with a triple-double the wrong way — 23/11/10 TOs, but if UNC realizes that its strength may actually lay on the end where they don’t have the basketball, this UNC team could in fact be very dangerous as a Final Four team come March.
  • Cal Exposed by Syracuse Size.   Syracuse 95, California 73.  The interesting contrast in styles simply exposed Cal for what they are — a nice team that’s reliant on great guardplay to win games.  We mentioned this during the live-blog briefly, but Cal’s guards accounted for 51 of the team’s 73 points, and the disparity was even worse than that prior to garbage time.  Contrastingly, Syracuse’s bigs scored 54 of the Orange’s 95 points, which means that the guards chipped in 41, resulting in a balanced distribution of points that most good teams have.  Cal just isn’t going to be able to battle teams with athletic post players like Rick Jackson  (8/6) and Wesley Johnson (17/11).  We noticed in the first half that the Cal guards, particularly Randle, seemed way too willing to step out another 2-4 feet behind the three-point line to fire away, and this is a good example of what the long Syracuse zone does to players.  It makes them think that they have an easy open shot, but the truth is that the shot the player is getting is just a smidge farther outside his normal range, and you end up with bricks all over the joint.  Case in point: Cal ended the night at 30% from deep (6-20), and 5 of those came from Randle (25/4/4 assts).  Patrick Christopher continues to struggle when the lights are on, as he went 6-20 from the field (0-7 from deep) and only finished with 12 points.  We’d like to be able to say that Cal will improve, but with a team of seniors, it’s probable that they’re as good as they’re going to get this year.  Syracuse, on the other hand, could be scary good if they continue to get strong and efficient play from Johnson and Jackson inside as well as Andy Rautins (8/4) and Scoop Jardine (22/6/6 assts) on the perimeter.  It’ll be very intriguing to see how North Carolina handles the Syracuse zone tomorrow night, as the Orange will be able to throw more size at the UNC players than what Ohio State was able to do tonight.

Puerto Rico Tipoff.

  • Nova dodges upset bid. #6 Villanova 69, George Mason 68. The game of the day didn’t take place blocks from Times Square Thursday. Instead, Puerto Rico was home to another top-ten team dodging the proverbial upset bullet, this time from the fighting George Mason Patriots coached by Jim Larranaga. And it was touted freshman Isiah Armwood who will forever live in Nova lore (okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration) with his stunning three-pointer to give the Wildcats a lead with 13 seconds to go on his only shot attempt of the contest. Coach Jay Wright even admitted after the game that Armwood was the last option on the floor to take that shot as the 6’7 freshman isn’t exactly renowned for his outside touch. Villanova never led until the second half and actually trailed by four in the final minute before a clutch Maalik Wayns three (another frosh) and a hair-pulling Mason turnover, along with missed FTs, opened the door for a miracle. Corey Fisher (1-12 FG but 14-18 FT) and Scottie Reynolds (8 turnovers) both looked shaky. Regardless, it’s a good opportunity for Jay Wright to show his team they can be beaten on any night while notching one in the win column. Villanova will be tested again today against a really good Dayton team. Worth noting: freshman Mouphtaou Yarou will miss the tournament with a viral infection leaving Wright thin up front.

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After the Buzzer: Blowout Wednesday in the CvC

Posted by zhayes9 on November 12th, 2009

atb

Three more Coaches vs. Cancer games tonight, and exactly zero of them were good games.  Here’s how bad it was.  The three favorites — UNC, Syracuse and California — were collectively favored by 80 points in Vegas, and all three easily covered the spread.  Still, that doesn’t mean that the games weren’t interesting.  RTC Live was at Cal for the second time in three nights, and we were rewarded with some of the excellent long-range shooting that the Bears have become noted for.  Let’s take a look at each game.

Rautins Gets His Revenge. Syracuse 100, Robert Morris 60. A sterling performance and total effort for the Orange tonight against a Colonials team that returned three starters from the NEC champions of a year ago. Andy Rautins, two nights after missing all six of his shot attempts and rolling his left ankle, drained seven treys on ten attempts against Robert Morris in the triple-digit Syracuse scoring output, just two three-balls shy of Gerry McNamara’s school record. Overall, Syracuse shot 13/26 from downtown after a 2/17 performance against Albany, including two from Mookie Jones, James Southerland and, most importantly, Wesley Johnson. Big man Arinze Onuaku had a field day in the paint against the outmanned Colonials (7-8 FG) and Rick Jackson (4-5 FG, 10 pts, 5 reb) continues to improve. As far as the ever-changing point guard competition, both Scoop Jardine (6 pts, 9 asst, 2 stl, 3 TO) and freshman Brandon Triche (4-5 FG, 4-4 FT, 12 pts, 7 asst, 1 TO) contributed stellar efforts. Coach Jim Boeheim even elected to play both points on the floor at the same time when Rautins took a breather, a trend you could very well see extend further into the season. Overall, Syracuse fans have to be pleased with impressive back-to-back efforts to begin the year after the stunning Le Moyne loss during the exhibition season. They’ll battle California in the semifinals of what should be a memorable 2K Sports Classic in NYC next weekend.

Heels Win a Glorified Scrimmage. North Carolina 89, NC Central 42. The only question unanswered during the waning minutes of NC Central’s death march into Chapel Hill Wednesday night was whether Carolina could cover their 45.5-point spread. Although the 18 turnovers (including four from starting PG Larry Drew II) against this competition is still eye-opening, the Heels pretty much put an exclamation point on this one. The highlights: Tyler Zeller (who looks like Roy Williams’ most complete player in the early going) went 6-6 from the floor and added five boards, freshman backup point guard Dexter Strickland drained three treys, while elder statesmen Marcus Ginyard (17 pts, 3 reb, 3 asst, 3 stl, 7-10 FG) and Deon Thompson (13 pts, 6 reb, 5-9 FG) both chipped in on the cakewalk. Carolina invites Valparaiso to the Dean Dome before battling Ohio State in the 2K Sports Classic semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

Cal Shakes off Detroit in Second Half. California 95, Detroit 61.  Cal’s big three of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson outscored Detroit by themselves (62 pts on 17-32 FG, 7-14 3FG and 21-22 FT), using a strong second-half surge to put away the pesky Titans from Detroit tonight.  It was clear after Monday night’s game that Randle was not pleased with his play, and tonight he started off quickly with 16 first half points to lead Cal until his teammates (most notably Christopher and Robertson) heated up.  Cal’s defensive energy was significantly better than Monday night, holding Detroit to 35.7% shooting for the game, although often the Titans forced up bad shots making it easy for the Bear defense.  And despite actually being smaller that the Titans inside the paint for much of the game, Cal dominated the boards (41-25).  Our observation is that Detroit had some talent on the floor, especially the raw but capable Eli Holman (the IU transfer who threw a potted plant at or near Tom Crean 2 years ago), but it’s clear that the players haven’t quite figured out how to play together yet.  As for Cal, it’ll be very interesting to see how they handle the trip to New York and the long Syracuse zone defense.  You’d initially think that a great three-point shooting team would have an advantage against a zone, but it’s doubtful the Bears have seen such an athletic zone before.

On Tap Thursday (all times ET). Two games tomorrow night — one is in the CvC and the other is something called the Glenn Wilkes Classic.

  • James Madison @ Ohio State (BTN) - 7pm.  This is worth watching just to see what Evan Turner can do again.
  • Georgia State @ NC State 7pm.  And the Sidney Lowe Watch begins.
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Morning Five: 11.10.09 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on November 10th, 2009

morning5

  1. Opening night went pretty much as predicted in terms of winners and losers, but we did see a couple of notable events.  Ohio State (16) rolled over Alcorn State 100-60 behind Evan Turner’s triple-double of 14/17/10; OSU’s only other trip-dub was in 1986 when Dennis Hopson drilled Ohio University with 27/11/10.  Elsewhere, Syracuse exorcised the Le Moyne demons and put Jim Boeheim into the 800-win club by beating Albany 75-43; California was up by as many as 18, then got a little more than they wanted from a very game Murray State squad, but the 13th-ranked Bears still prevailed 75-70; and defending champs North Carolina (6) started the celebration of their 100th year of college basketball by donning throwback uniforms (with red highlights!  *gasp!*) of the undefeated 1957 title team (a message being sent, there?) and spoiling Isiah Thomas’ coaching debut with Florida International by beating them 88-72.  If you need more information, we’ve got detailed writeups of each game in our After the Buzzer post from last night.
  2. You’ve heard enough from us — Luke Winn is all over last night with his Opening Night Impressions.  His points, as usual, are all right on the money, especially his concerns about Cal’s lackluster play and the “teams of November.”
  3. In the Syracuse win, guard Andy Rautins rolled his left ankle on an opponent’s foot and told the media afterwards, “It hurts.  I rolled it pretty good.”  He claimed that he would “take it day to day, see how it feels.”
  4. Seton Hall guard Keon Lawrence was arrested and charged with DWI and driving with a suspended license after crashing his car into another motorist while driving the wrong way just before 3 A.M. on Monday.  He and his passenger were taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries; although the exact value has not yet been released, his blood-alcohol level by blood testing was said to have been over the 0.08 legal limit.  Despite media reports of the DWI charge and the fact that he has been suspended from the SHU team, Lawrence is denying that either of those is true.
  5. With their win over FIU on Monday night, North Carolina (1,985) is within three games of all-time wins leader Kentucky (1,988).  Kentucky will get a chance to stretch the lead back out to four wins this Friday when they open their season against Morehead State in Lexington.  If both teams stay out of the loss column until then, they would be at 1,995 to 1,992 when they meet each other at Rupp Arena on December 5th.
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