After the Buzzer: Opening Night Recaps

Posted by zhayes9 on November 10th, 2009

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Welcome back to RTC’s THIRD season covering college basketball with one of our old standbys, the nightly After the Buzzer feature.   If you’re new here, the purpose of these nightly updates is to go a little deeper than game recaps.  We’ll talk about the key games and storylines of each night of the regular season so that you can join the watercooler crew with some knowledge to throw around the next morning.  Tonight we got the season underway with four opening round subregional games in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.  None of the four favorites were every seriously threatened, but there were quite a few good storylines tonight.

Isiah’s debut. #4 North Carolina 88, Florida International 72. For a team picked last in their Sun Belt division and has just eight scholarship players on its roster, Isiah Thomas had his Florida International Golden Panthers putting up a respectable fight against the top-five Tar Heels in his much-anticipated coaching debut. The bright spots for the powder blues in the first post-Tyler Hansbrough era contest: Deon Thompson appears to be in for a fine year in the post, totaling 20 points and 10 boards on 7/11 FG while frontcourt mate Ed Davis used a slew of putbacks and easy buckets to complete his own double-double: 13/11/4 blks on 5/8 FG. The other big question mark heading into the season was whether Larry Drew could provide steady point guard play for UNC, and the sophomore put in a solid performance with 6/2 A:TO in 21 minutes, including a Lawson-esque coast-to-coast layup in the first half and a few pretty dishes to Thompson and John Henson for jams. The bad news: Even with the incredible turnover and rustiness of a season opener, Roy Williams cannot be pleased with a 26-turnover performance from his team against a Sun Belt foe (the most in any game coached by Williams at UNC), especially backup point guard Dexter Strickland’s five turnovers in 11 minutes. Also worth noting is Williams opting to go with a more experienced starting five with Thompson, Drew, Davis,  Marcus Ginyard and William Graves getting the nod and Henson, Strickland, Tyler Zeller, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins coming off the pine. This group is absurdly deep up front and, due to the high-impact departures, shouldn’t be expected to look like a world-beater in early November.  They don’t.

Boeheim gets win #800. #25 Syracuse 75, Albany 43. Coming off their embarrassing defeat in an exhibition contest at the hands of D2 Le Moyne, Syracuse needed to come out in their first actual game of the 2009-10 season and make a statement. Their 2-3 zone defense confused the Albany Great Danes all night and was the primary factor in garnering a 75-43 victory for Jim Boeheim’s 800th win, putting him on an esteemed list with only two other active coaches — Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun. Syracuse’s defense and superb athleticism forced Albany into 32 turnovers and only 27% shooting in a primarily ugly game that lacked much flow. Syracuse shot just 2/17 from outside themselves including a clunker from three-point specialist Andy Rautins (0/6, 0/4 3pt) who left the game midway through the 2nd half with a sprained ankle (3am update: doesn’t sound too serious, but he was wearing a walking boot after the game). The good: Scoop Jardine coupled a productive preseason into another stellar performance at the point tonight, totaling 12 points and 4 assists on 5/7 shooting with just one turnover while his main competition, Brandon Triche, had some moments but mainly struggled with six turnovers. Syracuse looks extremely athletic with Wes Johnson (who features a sick one-handed posterization on an unsuspecting Great Dane) around the perimeter and Rick Jackson swatting shots down low.

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Cooler Than You: Some Of The Best Of College Basketball

Posted by jstevrtc on November 6th, 2009

seasonpreviewJust about anyone can name the best teams in college basketball, and, as far as individual players, if you’re reading this site you can most likely reel off three or four of your own personal All-America teams.  But what about those individuals who specifically excel at a few of the more exciting aspects of the game?  There are certain plays that make everyone come out of their seats:  a massive and powerful dunk that liberates some poor defender of his pride;  a ridiculously long three-pointer, especially at crunch time; and a blocked shot where the ball goes into orbit.  And of course everyone loves basketball players with cool names.  So here they are:  RTC’s rankings of the best dunkers, best long-range bombers, best shot-blockers, and coolest names in the game today.

The Most Excellent Dunkers

Unlike the NBA All-Star Weekend, we’ll begin with the dunk artists.  Each player is listed with a link leading you to an example or two of his work.  Sorry, UConn fans.  We respect you and your team, but we had to put Summers over Robinson because…well, you know why.

  1. Paul George, Fresno State  (vs St. Mary’s 2008, practice video 2009, Open Gym 2009)
  2. Chris Wright, Dayton  (vs Ohio State 2008, vs Marquette 2008)
  3. Durrell Summers, Michigan State (vs UConn over S. Robinson 2009, vs Minnesota 2009)
  4. Stanley Robinson, Connecticut (vs Michigan State 2009, vs Villanova 2008)
  5. Isaiah Thomas, Washington  (Madness 09)
  6. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee (vs Arkansas 2009)
  7. Keion Bell, Pepperdine  (Madness 09, Madness 09 over 5 guys)

Honorable Mention (or, guys who will probably be on this list by year’s end): Will Coleman, Memphis; John Wall, Kentucky; Delvon Roe, Michigan State; Wes Johnson, Syracuse.

The All-Jeff Fryer Team

This list of the best long-range bombers is named after the legendary (in our minds) Loyola Marymount guard who still holds the record for most three-pointers made in an NCAA Tournament game, an incredible 11 against Michigan in 1990′s second round.  If you can catch that game on ESPN Classic, it is something to behold.  You have to be a little nuts to be a bomber; you have to forget your last miss like it never happened and be willing to keep firing even when they just won’t fall (our editors are familiar with this feeling).  Here’s our ranking of 25 of this season’s best:

  1. T.J. Campbell, Portland
  2. Rihards Kuksiks, Arizona State
  3. Jared Stohl, Portland
  4. Andrew Goudelock, College Of Charleston
  5. Mike Roll, UCLA
  6. Jerome Randle, California
  7. Brandon Hazzard, Troy
  8. Ryan Staudacher, Montana
  9. Corey Allmond, Sam Houston State
  10. Ryan Wittman, Cornell
  11. Josh Young, Drake
  12. Corey Stokes, Villanova
  13. Jonathan Tavernari, BYU
  14. Gordon Hayward, Butler
  15. Troy Cotton, Wisconsin-Green Bay
  16. Tweety Carter, Baylor
  17. Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas
  18. Corey Lowe, Boston University
  19. Ricky Harris, Massachusetts
  20. Mac Hopson, Idaho
  21. Andy Rautins, Syracuse
  22. Nic Wise, Arizona
  23. Willie Warren, Oklahoma
  24. Jimmy Langhurst, Robert Morris
  25. Kelvin Lewis, Houston

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #3 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

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

Predicted order of finish:

  1. Villanova
  2. West Virginia
  3. UConn
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Louisville
  6. Georgetown
  7. Syracuse
  8. Seton Hall
  9. Pittsburgh
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Marquette
  12. South Florida
  13. Rutgers
  14. Providence
  15. St. John’s
  16. DePaul

Preseason Awards.

  • Player of the Year. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
  • Newcomer of the Year. Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Breakout Player of the Year. Kemba Walker, UConn

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All-Conference First Team.

  • Kemba Walker, UConn
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
  • Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown
  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

All-Conference Second Team.

  • Jerome Dyson, UConn
  • Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
  • Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
  • Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette

All-Conference Third Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville

All-Rookie Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Peyton Siva, Louisville
  • Maalik Wayns, Villanova
  • Dante Taylor, Pitt
  • Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part One)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 25th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December and January in case you missed it):

Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

February 1- Texas @ Oklahoma State (#33 overall)- Hard to imagine you won’t see plenty of scoring in this Big 12 clash. The point guard situation is a bit dicey in Stillwater with Byron Eaton’s departure, but Travis Ford loves to run and James Anderson can score with the best. Expect this to be one of the toughest tests for Texas in their pursuit of a regular season Big 12 title.

February 6- Texas @ Oklahoma (#25 overall)- This could very well be another test. Two freshmen will have to fill major roles for Jeff Capel’s squad with Tommy Mason-Griffin helping out Willie Warren in the backcourt and Tiny Gallon bulldozing opponents in the paint with Blake Griffin in LA. It’s entirely possible defensive stud Avery Bradley could earn the job of trying to lock down the quick Warren.

95208122242_Oklahoma_v_Rice[1]

February 6- Villanova @ Georgetown (#31 overall)- A Big East clash in February between two teams that have top-three aspirations in the conference. The point guard duel is a dandy with Chris Wright of the Hoyas matched up with Scottie Reynolds of the Wildcats. This should prove a worthy test for Villanova’s thin frontline trying to contain Greg Monroe, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

February 6- Michigan State @ Illinois (#37 overall)- The orange-clad students right on top of the floor will be out in full force to support their Illini in hopes of knocking off the loaded Spartans. With Chester Frazier departed, it could be the freshman guard D.J. Richardson trying to contain potential All-American Kalin Lucas. There’s some tremendous outside shooting in this one from State’s Durrell Summers to the Illini’s Demetri McCamey.

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RTC’s 2009-10 Impact Players – Northeast Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 2nd, 2009

impactplayersYesterday the calendar moved into September and we’re all foaming at the mouth around here to get started on the 2009-10 season preview materials, but we realize it doesn’t make much sense to start really gearing up on that until October.  Nevertheless, one feature we want to start that we’ll be publishing weekly all the way up to the start of the season is our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series.   Each week we’re going to pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Northeast Region (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, Upstate NY)

northeast

  • Joe Trapani – Jr, F – Boston College. Al Skinner hit the jackpot when Vermont transfer Joe Trapani elected to join the BC basketball program for the 2008-09 season after a successful debut campaign with the Catamounts, averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and earning America East all-rookie team honors. Trapani wanted to challenge himself at a higher level of competition, transferring to nearby Chestnut Hill where the 6’8 forward made quite an impression in his sophomore season, upping his scoring average to 13.4 ppg and rebounds to 6.6 per contest. Trapani earned a spot on this list mostly due to his all-around game; in fact, the skilled big man led the Eagles in assists in four games. His best performance may have come against Kyle Singler and Duke at home, an upset win for BC in which Trapani registered 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Not many 6’8 forwards can score, rebound, dish and shoot 36% from deep. His inside-outside game reminded many of the Eagle faithful of the recently departed Jared Dudley and will be even more vital to the Eagles success in 2009-10 without leading scorer Tyrese Rice. While the rest of the roster returns, it is Trapani who must lead the way if BC wants to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Rakim Sanders, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and other Eagles will contribute, but Trapani’s model of consistency and constant leadership makes him indispensable to Skinner and the BC program.
  • Arinze Onuaku – Sr, F/C – Syracuse. The Syracuse behemoth is one of the most puzzling players in all of college basketball. There are two statistics that jump out at you when analyzing Onuaku’s 2008-09 junior season with the Orange: 67% and 30%. Incredibly, that was Onuaku’s field goal and free throw percentage last year… in order. That’s right, Onuaku was an insanely efficient 178-267 from the floor, higher than Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Nevill, Patrick Patterson, DeJuan Blair or anyone in college basketball. On the flip side, his free throw shooting (37-124) was abysmal and downright embarrassing, meaning if Onuaku doesn’t improve in this area mightily over the summer and into the upcoming season, Hack-A-Onuaku will be explored greatly by Big East coaches in 2009-10. The big man MUST improve to at least 50% if he doesn’t want to greatly cost the Orange. Onuaku’s impact to Syracuse is mostly positive, though. The field goal percentage speaks for itself, along with 10.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and a 19/12 double-double against Cole Aldrich and Kansas last season. With Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris gone to riches (just kidding for two of them), Onuaku will be relied on heavily by coach Jim Boeheim to be a reliable force in the paint by blocking shots, staying out of foul trouble, scoring with efficiency and scooping up rebound after rebound. With Blair and Thabeet departed, nobody can have as much of an impact down low at Onuaku both in the Big East conference and in the entire Northeast region.
  • Jerome Dyson – Sr, G – UConn. When Jerome Dyson knocked knees with an unidentified Syracuse player and crumpled to the floor during a routine win for the 23-1 Huskies on Feb. 11, you could almost hear the collective groan from the UConn faithful throughout the Northeast.  You see, the dirty little secret for UConn was that Dyson at 34.8% was one of the only two players on the roster (AJ Price at 40.2% was the other) who could reliably nail a three-pointer for the Huskies.  UConn was never going to be confused for a team of marksmen, but it’s no coincidence that a team who was shooting a robust 36.4% from deep on the season at the time of injury shot a horrid 29.8% from outside the rest of the way.  It was painfully obvious in the F4 loss to Michigan St. that once the Huskies got in the hole, the three-pointer – a useful offensive weapon in comeback attempts – simply wasn’t available to them (2-6 for the game).  Dyson should be back at 100% this season, as his meniscus injury is completely healed and he has a chip on his shoulder from seasons lost.  With four key contributors gone from last year’s team, Jim Calhoun will be looking at his senior guard to put the team on his back and take the lead in crunch time.   This shouldn’t be much of a problem considering Dyson’s scorer’s mentality and natural abilities.  If UConn is going to avoid a major letdown from its 31-win season, it’ll be largely due to the poise and play of the player who has always seemed just on the cusp of greatness, but due to some bad decisions mixed in with worse luck, has never quite made it there.
  • Kemba Walker – Soph, G – UConn. Kemba Walker is the latest in a long string of NYC-bred point guards who is set for stardom in the Big East.  As a freshman backing up AJ Price in 2008-09, it was easily apparent to anyone watching that Walker was the player with the quicker first step, better touch around the basket, and ultimately, brighter future.  As such, he’s a projected first rounder whenever he decides to come out for the NBA Draft.  However, perhaps typical of many Big Apple products, his outside jumper is still a work in progress (27.1% from deep last year), but he needn’t rely on 22-footers because he can get to the cup and finish with anybody of any size (52% on twos, which is phenomenal for a six-foot guard).  Walker had some ups and downs during his freshman year, but the reason he’s on our Northeast Region squad has a lot to do with his performance in the Elite Eight against Missouri where he sliced and diced the Tiger defense so effectively (23/5/5) that we should be forgiven for thinking he was the best player on the floor.  Several of our braintrust believe that he could double his offensive output this season en route to becoming an all-american playmaker for the Huskies in the mold of former point guards Chris Smith and Khalid El-Amin.  Regardless of postseason accolades, we should expect the UConn backcourt of Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker to be one of the very best in the nation this year.
  • Ricky Harris – Sr, G – UMass. While the Minutemen may have underachieved in 2008-09, the scoring production provided by Ricky Harris on a game-by-game basis did not go unnoticed.  With point guard Chris Lowe and shot-blocking extraordinaire Tony Gaffney departed, Harris will be the centerpiece for Massachusetts in Chris Kellogg’s second year as the Minutemen head coach. Harris reached the top six in scoring in both his sophomore and junior campaigns at 18.2 ppg, so predicting a 20+ ppg senior season out of Harris is not outside the realm of possibility. He could very well challenge Dayton big man Chris Wright for A-10 POY this year and should be the #1 scoring force and premier outside shooter in the entire conference. Want more proof? This past season Harris became the 40th UMass player to accumulate 1,000 points in his college career and has scored in double-figures in 61 of his last 66 games along with 28 career contests with 20+ points. He lit up ACC foe Boston College for 35 points on 12-19 FG and 6-11 3PT in an overtime loss. While his rebounding and passing game leaves much to be desired, Harris will make or break whether the Minutemen surprise in a weaker Atlantic 10 and reach a postseason tournament this season. Now that Tyrese Rice and A.J. Price are no longer amateurs, nobody in the entire Northeast region can match his scoring potential on any given night. Harris’ ability to catch fire and will the Minutemen to victory earns him a spot on our all-Northeast squad.
  • DJ Rivera (MM) – Sr, G – Binghamton.  Our mid-major “sixth man” for this region shouldn’t be viewed as a slight of any kind.  We recognize that Rivera, the 6’4 do-anything guard from upstate New York can capably play with anyone in the Northeast region.  In fact, the player who was openly snubbed by America East coaches when it came to conference POY votes last season might just be the top mid-major player in the entire country in 2009-10.   You know the story: the nephew of Philly legend Hank Gathers, Rivera transferred from St. Joe’s after his sophomore year, received a hardship waiver from the NCAA, and proceeded to dominate the America East unlike anyone has, um, ever?  Rivera showed his clutch abilities by averaging 25/11 against league rival Vermont in two games last year, and even dropped 20/5 on 9-14 FGs against Duke in Binghamton’s first-round blowout loss to the Devils.  He’s an absolute stud, and we expect that after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft, he’ll be back with an enormous chip on his shoulder this season given the way the rest of his league treated him.  It’s our wager that  Rivera, with a substantial amount of his team returning, will make a run at a national scoring title (#5 returning scorer in the NCAA) and another trip to the NCAA Tournament to solidify his standing. 

Impact Players NE 2

Honorable MentionTim Ambrose, Albany.  Will Harris, Albany.  Rakim Sanders, BC.  John Holland, BU.  Corey Lowe, BU.  Ryan Wittman, Cornell.  Louis Dale, Cornell.  Jeremy Lin, Harvard.  Matt Janning, Northeastern.  Sharaud Curry, Providence.  Ryan Rossiter, Siena.  Alex Franklin, Siena.  Edwin Ubiles, Siena.  Andy Rautins, Syracuse.  Wesley Johnson, Syracuse.  Stanley Robinson, UConn.  Marqus Blakely, Vermont.

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About That Syracuse National Title Next Year. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2009

Despite their embarrassing performance in the Sweet 16 against Oklahoma (aka “The Tony Crocker Show”), many people around the Syracuse basketball team expected that they might have a chance to win a national title next year if they returned their nucleus with Kristof Ongenaet being the only senior who played significant minutes. Although there had been talk of some of the stars testing out NBA waters, it was widely expected that only 1 player would declare. Well it turns out that Jim Boeheim may have some more work to do next season.

According to reports, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris have decided to enter the NBA Draft (neither has hired an agent yet) while Jonny Flynn has decided to “test the waters”. Interestingly, Flynn is the only one of these three who is in Chad Ford’s Top 100 although he has Harris listed as being “late first to early second” despite being ranked #103.

Jim will be busier this off-season than previously expected

Jim will be busier this off-season than previously expected

While Syracuse should be able to compete for a NCAA bid with Andy Rautins, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku returning and the addition of DaShonte Riley and Brandon Triche, their fans will have to hope that Flynn decides to return because if he decides to go pro (projected to be a late lottery pick) they might end up going from a national title favorite to the middle to back of the pack in the Big East next year.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

RTC interns Matt P. and Mike L. are our NCAA Tournament East Region correspondents.

Isn’t it amazing how perfectly paired the Sweet 16 games look in the South Region? It’s almost as if the best four teams advanced, or something like that. Currently, Ken Pomeroy has both match-ups at nearly 50-50 odds: UNC with a 55% likelihood of beating Gonzaga and Syracuse with an even slimmer 52% of moving on over Oklahoma. Here’s hoping both games come down to the last shot so all the chalk haters out there can’t complain about a boring tournament.

Team That Almost Went Home
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were 0.9 seconds, some semblance of transition defense, and an acknowledged timeout away from going to an overtime session with Western Kentucky. Luckily for them, none of that happened and a guy who averages 3.8 points per game hit the shot of his life at the buzzer helping Mark Few’s team advanced. Things don’t look to get any easier though. After WKU’s starting guards, A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, dropped 24 and 25 points each on the Zags, they get to try to slow down a rested Ty Lawson and hot-shooting Wayne Ellington from UNC.

Team That Has Cruised So Far
After their marathon time in the Big East Tournament, Syracuse desperately needed two no-sweat wins in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, in which they only trailed once – a 24 second stretch in the first four minutes against Arizona State. Most likely, the ho-hum affairs end when they meet Oklahoma in Memphis. Guard Jonny Flynn is currently projected as a mid/late first round draft pick, but a dominant performance against Blake Griffin’s team could boost him into lottery contention.

Team With the Most to Prove
Despite having the player expected to be Player of the Year and first pick in the upcoming draft, there is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma. They’ve yet to win that defining game. They seemed to sputter a bit at the end of the season, but much of that is due to Blake Griffin’s injury. But what seems most uncertain is how freshman guard Willie Warren will play when facing the more experienced guards of Syracuse.

Team With Highest Expectations
For Gonzaga, Syracuse, and Oklahoma, a trip to the Sweet 16 might constitute a respectable 2008-2009 season. For a North Carolina team that came in with talk of running the table, it would mean an embarrassing failure. The week off before Friday’s game against Gonzaga has to help UNC’s chances of surviving, giving point guard Ty Lawson a chance to heal the injured toe that hobbled him for much of March. It should be interesting to watch the Josh Heytvelt/Tyler Hansbrough match-up after the Zags center owned Psycho T two years ago, admittedly while Bobby Frasor was still UNC’s main point man. Then, the Heels went as Tyler Hansbrough went. Now, they go as Ty Lawson goes. He’ll be the key to any championship hopes in Chapel Hill.

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South Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

North Carolina v. Radford (#1 v. #16)

This is probably the most interesting 1 v. 16 in the tournament. North Carolina will be heavily favored, and will probably win the game, but the Radford Highlanders are no slouch. They have four players that score in double digits, led by 7-foot-0 Artsiom Parakhouski, who is leading the team in scoring (16.3), rebounding (11.2). Matching Parakhouski with Tyler Hansbrough will be fun to watch. One analyst said the Tar Heels don’t even need to start Ty Lawson, but this is the NCAA Tournament, if he is ready to go, he will play.

The Tar Heels are more talented and deeper than Radford, so this wouldn’t be the game to hope for a monumental upset. Radford’s best win is against VMI in the Big South Conference Final, and they have been blown out by every team they have played in a major conference. I will still tune in, just to see Hansborough post up Parakhouski.

LSU v. Butler (#8 v. #9)

This game pits two teams that were under-seeded by the NCAA and as a result, will give the viewers a competitive, fast-paced game to watch. Both teams are in the middle of the tournament pack in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency but they both have great athletes and fun players to watch.

The key match-up will be on the wing where Butler’s Gordon Hayward and LSU’s Marcus Thornton will see a lot of each other. Both players can light it up offensively in a number of ways. Matt Howard and Chris Johnson should be a good one down low. Johnson has a significant height advantage, but Howard scores  a lot of points of hustle, and can be a crafty scorer in the post.

Illinois v. Western Kentucky (#5 v. #12)

Everyone’s trendy upset pick is looking even better with the news that the Illini senior point guard, and best defender, Chester Frazier, is a “long shot” to play according to coach Bruce Weber. But, the Hilltoppers are not the same team they were last year when they made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to UCLA; however, they are good.

Illinois has not played well away from home (4-6), and Portland is quite a trip from Champaign. The Illini have not shot well from the field, and they will need to get Mike Davis (11.6 pts/game, 53.2 FG%) involved early if they want to keep up. The Hilltoppers have four players between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-5 who average double digits and they will run away with this one if the Illini aren’t careful.

Gonzaga v. Akron (#4 v. #13)

I don’t think this game will be as close as many people think. The ‘Zags are one of the hottest teams in the country having won 18 out of their last 20 games, and dismantled Saint Mary’s 83-58 in the WCC Final.

The ‘Zags are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Akron just does not have the firepower or the athleticism to keep up with Gonzaga for 40 minutes. Akron has the advantage in depth though. The Zips can go ten deep, and defend well. If they can wear down Jeremy Pargo, they have a chance.

Arizona State v. Temple (#6 v. #11)

Anyone who thinks these teams are both one-man shows is sadly mistaken. There is absolutely no doubt the Sun Devils’ James Harden and the Owls’ Dionte Christmas can take over a game offensively, the there will be another battle to keep an eye on down low.

ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph (14.5/8.4/66.5%) and Temple’s Lavoy Allen (10.9/8.9/57.9%) will be banging on the low blocks, and crashing the glass will be extremely important for both teams. The role players will be the deciding factor in this game, and if ASU point guard Derek Glasser minimizes mistakes, and finds Harden often, ASU has the advantage over the surprising Owls.

Syracuse v. Stephen F. Austin (#3 v. #14)

The Orange enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season, and despite their fatiguing run through the Big East Tournament are a heavy favorite over the Lumberjacks. Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins have been absolutely on fire, and there is no one on the Lumberjacks roster to match up with them.

The Lumberjacks are an interesting case. They are in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, but are 242nd in offensive efficiency. They beat Drake in December, but they also lost by 16 to Arkansas and 14 to Texas Tech, and neither one of those teams are as good as the ‘Cuse. The Lumberjacks will rotate in a lot of guys, and they only stand a chance if Syracuse isn’t fresh and comes out slow.

Clemson v. Michigan (#7 v. #10)

Both teams and their coaches come into the game with something to prove. The Tigers have to prove they are for real this year, and that they can make noise in the tournament, and the Wolverines need to prove their system works outside of the plodding Big Ten.

The game will feature two of the more athletic combo forwards in Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Michigan’s DeShawn Sims. It will be interesting to see if the two guard one another. But, the Wolverine offense goes as Manny Harris goes, but he is inconsistent as he has nine games with single-digit point totals. If Clemson’s KC Rivers can frustrate Harris, the Wolverines will have a tough time offensively.

Oklahoma v. Morgan State (#2 v. #15)

On paper, the Sooners have a clear advantage in every facet of the game, but the Bears have beaten both DePaul and Maryland, and played close games with Mississippi and St. Mary’s. The problem is, they don’t have anyone who can guard Blake Griffin, or Willie Warren.

Oklahoma has been struggling late and if ever there was a time to strike for Todd Bozeman’s club, now is the time. But they might not have enough weapons to keep up with the Sooners, and Griffin will get to have his way on the low blocks.

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NCAA Preview: Syracuse Orange

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2009

Syracuse (#3 seed, South, Miami pod)

Stephen F. Austin (#14)
Mar. 20 @ 12:15pm

Vegas Line:  Syracuse -12

syracuse-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Syracuse, NY
Conference: Big East, at-large
Coach: Jim Boeheim, 797-287
08-09 Record: 26-9 (11-7 in the Big East)
Last 12 Games: 8-4
Best Win: vs. UConn, 127-117 in 6 OT on 3/12 (You may have heard about this one.)
Worst Loss: At Providence, 100-94 on 1/28
Off. Efficiency Rating: 117.7; 10th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 92.7; 42nd

Nuts ‘n Bolts

Star Player(s): Jonny Flynn, 17.5 PPG, 6.7 APG, 37.2 MPG)
Unsung Hero: Kristof Ongenaet, his stats couldn’t possibly measure his importance as SU’s intangibles guy
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Jonny Flynn, N/A. Has said he plans to stay but left the door open based on NCAA Tourney
Key Injuries: None.
Depth: 30.9% (314th nationally); percentage of total minutes played by players coming off the bench
Achilles Heel: Arinze Onuaku’s free-throw shooting – 30%
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Jonny Flynn controls the tempo, Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf’s three-pointers fall, and the zone defense confuses teams)
Will Make an Early Exit if…: they are completely burnt out from the Big East Tournament

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2006, L-1st Round
Streak: N/A
Best NCAA Finish: 2003, National Champion
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.25. On average, the Orangemen win 0.25 more games per year than would be expected for a team with a similar seed based on historical data.

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: Legendary Syracuse player Dave Bing is currently running for mayor of Detroit.
Distance to First Round Site: 1,417 miles (Miami, FL)
School’s Claim to Fame: Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, who has played for or coached Syracuse since 1963
School Wishes It Could Forget: The 1987 National Championship game and Keith Smart’s shot to win it for Indiana.
Prediction: Syracuse is hitting it’s groove at the right time and I fully expect the team to make it at least to the Sweet Sixteen. An assumed match-up with Oklahoma awaits there and I’m hopeful, but realistic.

Major RTC stories: ATB: Syracuse Gets “Jacked” From 60 Feet, Paul Harris Will Eat Your Food, Six OTs in New York, Revisited, ATB: Epic Night in MSG, and Sweetest NCAA Memories #7: Two Shades of Orange(men)
Preview written by… Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

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ATB: Epic Night in MSG

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009

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Six OTsSyracuse 127, Connecticut 117 (6OT). Every once in a while there’s a game where as you’re watching it you just know something amazing is going to happen.  Maybe it’s the bounce the players have on the court or the electricity in the air of the crowd.   Maybe it’s the way a seven-foot-three giant outhustles a guy half his size for a loose ball on the floor, or the  way a shooter comes hard off a curl to drill a 28-footer like it was a floater in the lane.  It’s unclear how you know what you know, but you know that you’re witnessing something special, and you’re not alone – everyone in the joint can sense it, and the fans watching from home feel it too.  There are only a few games in our personal history that we can remember having that sensation.  The Laettner game was one – we realized it when UK started nailing threes all over the place to erase the 12-pt Duke lead in the blink of an eye.  The Arizona-Gonzaga second round game in 2003 was another.  Tonight’s Syracuse-UConn game was the latest.

Games like this, you don’t just watch.  All the senses are engaged.  You breathe them.  You taste them.  Even better, these games breathe you.  They inhale the collective emotions and anxieties of everyone in the building, and like a living organism, emit a beautiful poetry of synaptic orgasmica. The final game time was just shy of four hours (an absurd length for a hoops game), but the second half and OTs felt like about fifteen minutes.  It’s like nestling up with a loved one or stumbling across your favorite movie on TNT.  Time no longer matters.  That’s how you know.  Our Big East correspondent, Rob Dauster, was live-blogging this game from his Blackberry inside MSG tonight, and reading through his posts is like reading the wild scribblings of a man reaching hoops nirvana (and exhaustion).  There was one post that he made that absolutely crystallized this game for everyone tonight – Every single person is standing in this gym.”  Because that’s what it comes down to: the crowd, the players, the gym – all in unison, all making magic happen.  For what it’s worth, Rob, every single person at home was standing too.

Now let’s get to the game itself.  Obviously, we’ve been saying all year that Syracuse has F4 talent.  The problem has been that they haven’t been able to maximize that talent, but the Orange are now showing signs that they’re starting to figure it out.  This SU team has a swagger that we haven’t seen since the G-Mac days, but the key difference is that Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris, Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins are far more talented than McNamara’s last two teams.  We fully expect the Orange to have nothing left in the tank for WVU tomorrow night, but we’d be utterly shocked if this team laid an egg in next week’s NCAAs.  The Cuse plays hard, and we just have a sneaky suspicion this year that they’re going to make some noise in this year’s Tourney (Flynn’s Charles Smith impression notwithstanding).

As for UConn, they had three possessions in the first five OTs to win the game, and each time they dribbled the ball around and forced up some horrible shot.  Even the play that gave them the tie to send it to OT before Devendorf’s absurd three at the end of regulation was off of a broken play.  This is indicative of the same problem that has plagued this group of Huskies since they got to Storrs – they’re just not clutch.  Here we are discussing a group of juniors that spent several weeks at #1 this year, and they’ve yet to win a postseason game.  Not one!  Husky fans are going to get angry at us and declare that they were able to win some meaningless game against Gonzaga or whoever during the regular season… but they’re UConn, an elite program, and they should know better than that.  Legacies are built in March (that’s how Calhoun built his), and this group of players remains suspect until they prove once and for all that they can play championship level basketball in tournament formats.  We’re still waiting on it.

After 70 Mins of Action, Syracuse Moves On (photo credit: NYT)
After 70 Mins of Action, Syracuse Moves On (photo credit: NYT)

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.22.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2009

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1:00pm. Welcome back to another day of BGTD.  There are only 2o games today, but there are five of particular interest that we’ll be tracking.  Villanova @ Syracuse and Illinois @ Ohio St. at 1pm, Wisconsin at Michigan St. @ 3pm, Wake Forest @ Duke at 7:45pm, and Arizona at Arizona St. at 10pm.  Pretty strong day.  Let’s get it started in upstate NY…

1:02pm.  Before we get going, we want to touch on this story from the LA Times yesterday that UCLA has stopped recruiting local 6’11 prep star Renardo Sidney even though by mid-last week the Bruins were still considered the front-runner.  Certainly UCLA could use a big man with guard skills such as those that Sidney has, so what gives?  Color us jaded, but all we could think of when we heard that UCLA so abruptly dropped Sidney was this story written by Gregg Doyel about a Pac-10 recruit who was charging $10k per on-campus visit a few years ago.  Did Sidney finally give UCLA his price?  Was there a package deal that Ben Howland wasn’t willing to stomach?  Not surprisingly, USC (of OJ Mayo, Daniel Hackett and Reggie Bush) is now considered the leader. Let’s see what happens later today when Sidney announces his college choice at 4pm PDT.

1:13pm.  Villanova looks fantastic thus far, with seven scores in eight possessions, including three threes from Dwayne Anderson.  If you’re still reflecting on yesterda’s wild Saturday, here’s Andy Katz’s article focusing on how quickly things can change.

1:23pm. Nova is getting whatever it wants offensively, and the Syracuse crowd still looks asleep (the players aren’t much better).  Uh-oh alert – Clemson is already down double-figures at Georgia Tech – remember the Tigers lost a road game last weekend at bottom-feeder Virginia.

1:45pm. Cuse is coming back here just before the half, now down 2, behind Devendorf, Rautins and Flynn.  Clemson is also back in the game, after getting down by as much as 15 to Ga Tech.  Illinois appears like they’ll hit their total from the Illini’s last game vs. OSU in the first half (up 26-24 with 2:30 left).

2:00pm.  Nova goes into the half with a six-pt lead, 46-40.  Neither one of these teams is playing much defense – both sides are shooting 55% from the field.  The key difference is that Villanova has been able to get to the line eight more times than the home team.   Clemson fought back to tie things up at Georgia Tech, and Xavier is ripping GW 36-20 at halftime.

2:05pm. Seth Davis just got on board the RTC train with the Duke Swoon at halftime of the Syracuse-Nova game, predicting that the Devils will be the highest ranked team to lose early next month.  Not sure if Duke will lose tonight, but there are two things in Wake’s favor…  1) Duke will play man-to-man, which helps Wake penetrate to the rim; and 2) Wake has shown this year a propensity to take ranked teams seriously, home or away.  The Deacs get into trouble when they’re playing teams they don’t respect.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2009

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

Remember all that talk about the Big East getting nine, maybe ten, teams into the dance? It seems like a long time ago now, as it is a legitimate possibility the league only gets seven teams in. The three teams in danger of missing out are Georgetown, Notre Dame and Providence.

The Irish are in the worst position right now. They are currently sitting at 12-8 and 3-6 in the Big East, but they are just 2-7 against the RPI’s top 50. Their RPI is 77 and their SOS is 49, which aren’t great. But the Irish still play four teams in the RPI top 20, and three more in the top 70, which means the Irish have plenty of chances to up their RPI rating.

Providence could also be in trouble. Their RPI is 63 and their SOS is 42. Their record is a little better than the Irish (14-7, 6-3), but they have struggled against the best teams (1-5 vs. RPI top 50, but 3-2 against 51-100). They, too, will get plenty of chances to improve their resume as they have five more games against the top 20.

Georgetown looks to be the safest right now. They have an RPI of 20, have played the toughest schedule in the country (and second toughest in Big East play to West Virginia). They are just 3-5 against the RPI top 50, but they do own wins against Memphis and at UConn. All Georgetown needs to keep in mind is Arizona last year. The Wildcats finished 16-14, 8-10 in the Pac-10 (good for 7th), but got into the dance as a 10 seed based on their tough scheduling (#2 in SOS).

The bottom line is that it is tough to rule out anyone near the bubble in the Big East. With so many quality teams in the league, all it would take for a Cincinnati or a St. John’s is a great finish to the season, and a run to the quarters or the semis of the Big East Tourney.

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