CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Conference Round-Up

For weeks and weeks the constant talk around the conference was of confusion; who is the best team, where is the separation? Now, all of a sudden we look up with still a full two weeks remaining in conference play and, barring a collapse, New Mexico is going to take home at least a piece of the conference title (and a #1 seed in the conference tournament) and is a strong favorite to earn the regular season title outright. Along the way, Steve Alford has probably sealed up the MW Coach of the Year award, while teams like Colorado State, UNLV and San Diego State look locked into NCAA Tournament bids. In other words, what was once a confusing mess (and I mean that word in a good way) of a conference is now pretty much crystal clear. Yeah, we still have to settle who exactly gets what seeds, both in Las Vegas and in the NCAA Tournament bracket, but New Mexico has clearly separated itself from the pack.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

New Mexico – While it is not yet sealed, the Lobos went a long way towards earning themselves a Mountain West regular season title this week when they went into Fort Collins, interrupted Colorado State’s 27-game home winning streak and came away with an impressive road win. We’ve spent a lot of time this year talking about what the Lobos can’t do and where their weaknesses may lie, but this far along this much is apparent: These Lobos are tough and they know how to win ballgames.

Kendall Williams' Career Day Carried New Mexico To A Big Road Win

Kendall Williams’ Career Day Carried New Mexico To A Big Road Win

Player of the Week

Kendall Williams, Junior, New Mexico – For the second consecutive week, there is no serious debate about the winner here as Williams went for 46 points, knocking down 10 increasingly improbable three-pointers while doing a little bit of everything for the Lobos in one of the greatest individual performances anywhere in the nation this season. For a guy who hadn’t scored more than 20 since December 22, it was also one of the most unlikely performances, but it is a glimpse into the type of ceiling this ridiculously talented junior has.

Newcomer of the Week

Colton Iverson, Senior, Colorado State – While the Rams came up on the short end of  the stick in both of their games this week, it wasn’t due to lack of production from their senior transfer. Iverson was his typical efficient self, averaging 20 points, 12.5 boards and 34.5 minutes per game of action this week.

Despite Colton Iverson's Big Week, His Rams Went 0-2 (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Despite Colton Iverson’s Big Week, His Rams Went 0-2 (Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post)

Game of the Week

UNLV 61, Colorado State 59 – Both Colorado State games this week were wildly entertaining. But while the outcome of the New Mexico game was hardly in doubt in the final minute, this battle in Vegas went down to the wire. After getting outscored by 11 in the first half, the Rams came out of the halftime locker room on fire, scoring 19 of the first 27 points in the second half to get back to even with still more than 13 minutes to play. When Dorian Green knocked down a pair of free throws with just under two minutes in the game, the Rams were up two and looked to be in good position to earn a big road win. But the Rams would never score again, while allowing a Bryce Dejean-Jones offensive rebound and putback to tie the game. And then an Anthony Marshall jumper with a waning shot and game clock sealed the deal and sent the home crowd home happy.

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Award Tour: Trey Burke And Marcus Smart Rise to the Top

Posted by DCassilo on February 22nd, 2013

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a real college all-star game? First of all, it would give every team a break it needs, and second, seeing the top players face off would be great. Imagine something like Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Jeff Withey and Kelly Olynyk against Marcus Smart, Deshaun Thomas, Otto Porter Jr., Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller. Personally, I would love to see Burke and Smart run their teams against each other. I know there is some lame all-star game during Final Four weekend, but a mid-season game is something that the NCAA should consider.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 15 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.9 SPG

It’s amazing that Smart not only is this great already but also has so much room for improvement. In the double-overtime loss against Kansas on Wednesday, he was the most important player on the floor despite going 2-of-14 from the field. One more offseason of workouts will make him a lethal player. This week: February 23 at West Virginia, February 27 at TCU

9. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 17.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk's Breakout Year Has Gonzaga As One Of The Nation's Elite Offensive Teams (USA Today Sports Images)

Kelly Olynyk’s Breakout Year Has Gonzaga As One Of The Nation’s Elite Offensive Teams (USA Today Sports Images)

There is likely no better frontcourt tandem in the nation than Olynyk and Elias Harris. The two combine to average 32.5 PPG and 14.4 RPG. There are few teams in the country that will be able to match up with that duo in the NCAA Tournament. This week: February 23 vs. San Diego, February 28 at BYU

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 20.1 PPG, 6 RPG

Thomas is just a straight-up gunner. He takes 16 shots per game and has scored in double-figures in every game this season. It seems nearly impossible to completely take him out of a game defensively. This week: February 24 vs. Michigan State, February 28 at Northwestern

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG

For all his accolades as a scorer, McDermott’s ability to rebound often gets overlooked. The 6’8″ junior has eight double-doubles so far this season and has hauled in as many as 13 rebounds in a game. This week: February 23 at St. Mary’s, February 27 at Bradley

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.0 BPG

At the most important part of the season, Withey is playing his best basketball. He’s had double-doubles in his last three games, which is something he hasn’t done all season. The 14 rebounds against Oklahoma State on Wednesday were a season-high. This week: February 23 vs. TCU, February 25 at Iowa State

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.19.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 19th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are in the final stretch before conference tournaments tip off and there are several key match-ups this week that will help to determine not only postseason seeds but regular season titles. Let’s not waste any time and get to the breakdowns!

Indiana at Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

Tom Izzo's teams get the job done in March

How does Tom Izzo stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo from lighting up the Spartans again?

  • It doesn’t get any bigger than this game this week, as the Hoosiers and the Spartans battle for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. Michigan State faces a gauntlet of games as it goes up against Indiana at home, Ohio State and Michigan on the road, and then back home against Wisconsin. It is highly unlikely that they will get through the next four unscathed, so this first game at home is crucial if they want to win a regular season Big Ten crown. In the teams’ previous game this season, IU defeated MSU 75-70 in Bloomington. Tom Izzo’s squad turned the ball over too many times, couldn’t hit their two-point shots, and didn’t get to the free throw line enough. Since then, the Spartans have won five straight and are looking better and better each game. They are being led by point guard Keith Appling. Appling is averaging 16.4 points per game in their current five-game winning streak, since going 1-of-4 with three points in the loss to IU. Appling will once again be a key factor as the Spartans will need his scoring and play-making abilities. Izzo will also need his defense to figure out a way to stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo. Olidipo torched the Spartans last time out for 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. If Indiana is allowed to go 19-of-32 again from inside the paint, Michigan State will struggle to find a way to win. The Spartans need a better defensive effort on the interior and better rebounding if they are going to overtake the Hoosiers for the Big Ten lead.

  Virginia at Miami (FL) – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (****)

  • While Miami remains undefeated in the ACC and is aiming for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tourney, they face two tough tests the remainder of the season against Virginia at home and against Duke on the road. The Cavaliers have been anything but road warriors in the ACC (2-4), but they present a tough match-up because of their ability to shoot the ball, especially from three. Keep a close on Virginia’s Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. If they are to knock off the Hurricanes, these two players must have very big games. If UVA is still without 6’11” Mike Tobey (mononucleosis), scoring on the interior will be tough against Miami’s 6’11” Kenny Kadji and 6’10” Reggie Johnson. The three-point shot is a significant part of the Cavaliers’ offense, so pay close attention to their effort early from beyond the arc. If they can stay in the game with some made threes, they will have a shot to win it in the end. However, the Hurricanes play lockdown perimeter defense too. This is a tall task for the Cavaliers, but it will still be an interesting match-up nonetheless.

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Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Back at No. 1; A Farewell to Nerlens Noel

Posted by DCassilo on February 15th, 2013

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

College basketball suffered a devastating loss when news broke that Nerlens Noel had torn his ACL in Tuesday’s game against Florida. Perhaps the best defender in the country, Noel was starting to come into his own offensively. The injury has once again sparked the debate about the one-and-done rule. First of all, know your target with this debate. It’s the NBA, not the NCAA. David Stern came up with the rule, but the biggest effects have been seen in college basketball. The positive for the NCAA has been increased exposure. Everyone wants a chance to see players like Noel before they hit the big show. But on the flip side, it’s tough on coaches who can’t plan their recruiting as easily as they used to. And finally, there’s the health risk for the player. This is another reason why I think there needs to be some sort of union-like body watching out for college athletes’ interest. If we knew a player like Noel would be taken care of financially in the event of an injury, I don’t think people would have as big a problem with the one-and-done rule.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 17.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG

The big man for Gonzaga is as consistent as they come, seemingly giving the Bulldogs somewhere between 15 and 20 points every single night. Some say this is the best Gonzaga team ever, and he deserves much of the credit for that. This week: February 16 at San Francisco, February 20 vs. Santa Clara

9. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG

The drop for McLemore is mostly because of the terrific weeks by other players on this list. The freshman didn’t do too badly himself, as he poured in 30 points in a win over Kansas State. This week: February 16 vs. Texas, February 20 at Oklahoma State

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

As one of the few Buckeyes that can score, Thomas keeps posting 20-point games because he keeps getting a lot of shots. The junior has taken at least 15 shots in each of his last five games and fewer than 11 just once all season. This week: February 17 at Wisconsin, February 20 vs. Minnesota

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 23 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Losers of three straight and perhaps headed for a seat on the bubble, McDermott’s team is playing him out of the Player of the Year race. While he has played well, he’s missing the memorable performances he needs to overcome everything working against him. This week: February 16 at Evansville, February 19 vs. Southern Illinois Read the rest of this entry »

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Conference Round-up

Another week down the drain and we’re now officially four weeks away from the start of the Mountain West Tournament (well, three weeks and six days by the time this gets published). And, as time passes, some things are becoming more clear and some things are just as confusing as they were weeks ago. For instance: quick, who’s the best team in the conference?

New Mexico’s got a claim on first place as of now, but they’re coming off a season-series-evening loss to UNLV and they’ve already put up a horrendous 34-point offensive (in more than one way) output against San Diego State. The Rebels, for their part, have looked really good in their home win against New Mexico and their road win at San Diego State, but this is a team that just this week lost at Fresno State, the worst team in the conference. The Aztecs? Their backcourt is beat up and their still facing road trips to Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico and Boise State. Oh, and they’re entering that stretch already a game back of the Lobos and a half-game behind Colorado State. And as for the Rams, despite the fact that they made the AP Top 25 for the first time in just under 60 years, they’ve still got plenty to prove themselves, with a history of struggling away from home, especially against quality opponents. But, for now, I’m going to go out on a limb and put CSU at the top of the pack, based on a whim. But hey, give me credit at least for not taking the easy way out and declaring this a four-way tie for first atop my power rankings.

Who's The Best Team In The Mountain West? I Dunno, But Colorado State's As Good Of A Guess As Any (Dawn Madura, AP Photo)

Who’s The Best Team In The Mountain West? I Dunno, But Colorado State’s As Good Of A Guess As Any (Dawn Madura/AP Photo)

So, that’s the clear as mud part. What parts of this conference are starting to round into understandable shape? Well, that pipe dream back a few weeks ago about six teams making the NCAA Tournament? Yeah, well, that’s not gonna happen. Wyoming and head coach Larry Shyatt have done great things over the past two seasons in Laramie, but they’re getting eaten alive in conference play (2-7 so far) and it would take a complete 180 for them to have a prayer of NCAA consideration come March. Meanwhile, Air Force, which had been so hot the last time we talked, just got done dropping a couple of road games, most damningly to Nevada on Saturday. They needed a lot of stuff to break their way, and while they’re certainly not completely dead yet, I’ve got to see them make some serious noise, especially on the road, in order to think they belong even on the periphery of the conversation. And that leaves Boise State as the potential fifth Mountain West team. There isn’t a lot of room for error for the Broncos, but I, for one, have a hard time believing they won’t be among the field of 68 when the brackets get announced.

Elsewhere, you can start engraving Anthony Bennett’s name on the Freshman of the Year trophy, if you want to get a head start. And the list of serious Player of the Year candidates are limited as well; right now Jamaal Franklin has to be the odds on favorite to defend his title, with Bennett maybe his strongest competitor. As for Coach of the Year, that one is still wide open and will likely be determined in part by how the race at the top of the conference shakes out.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

San Diego State – The Aztecs didn’t leave Viejas Arena this week, but they also didn’t lose, something that only one other Mountain West team (Colorado State, who played just one game) can say. The Aztecs dodged a bullet against Boise State, but then came out and put away Fresno State with a dominating second-half performance. While still not back to full-strength (Xavier Thames, for one, remains limited, although Chase Tapley nears 100%), the Aztecs find themselves just a game back of first place with a chance this week to take a couple huge steps towards a conference title. Of course, those huge steps include going on the road to Colorado State and UNLV, but let’s put it this way: if SDSU wins these games, they’re in very good shape.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 8th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Bubble watching has officially begun, which means March is just around the corner. With less than a month to go in the season, everything is still up for grabs in what has been a truly unpredictable season in college hoops. The Big Ten and Big East lead a solid slate of games this weekend. With epic snow hitting the east coast, it looks like most people will have to sit at home and watch hoops. Sounds great to most of us, I’d assume. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#1 Michigan at Wisconsin – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

Tim Hardaway Jr has had significant ups and downs so far this year.

Can Tim Hardaway Jr. continue his hot shooting from the outside against a strong Wisconsin defense?

  • On a per possession basis, we will see the best offense (Michigan) in the Big Ten versus the best defense (Wisconsin) in the Big Ten in this game. Michigan’s poor two-point shooting against Ohio State was very out of character for John Beilein’s squad. Fortunately for the Wolverines, their three-point shooting was able to carry them to a victory. Michigan went 14-24 from deep against the Buckeyes. Don’t expect Michigan to have the same success from outside against Wisconsin, as the Badgers have the best three-point defense in the conference. Watch to see if UM can bounce back inside the arc. When Michigan’s Mitch McGary is in the game, the match-up between him and Jared Berggren should be fun to watch on the inside and a key factor in the outcome. McGary is coming into his own and will be needed down low for second chance points. Expect this game to be a slow, mistake free contest. Execution of the half-court offense will be critical for both sides. The Wolverines definitely have the advantage there. Wisconsin needs to force Michigan to make tough shots. If Michigan is able to get open looks in the half-court, it will be along afternoon for the Badgers.

#2 Kansas at Oklahoma – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (***)

  • Just when it looked like Kansas was going to run away and hide with the Big 12 title, Jayhawk Nation got shell shocked with two consecutive losses. Not only did they lose twice, but they lost at home and then against TCU, the only team in the conference without a win. Many are calling the TCU loss the worst in Kansas history. While that may be an overstatement, Bill Self certainly has to be concerned with his team’s effort as of late. The two losses are character tests for the Jayhawks, which is what makes this road game against Oklahoma so important. It’s not all roses for Lon Kruger and the Sooners, however. They are in the midst of their own two-game slide. Oklahoma has been up and down this season and could use a big win at home to boost their tourney chances. KU has been shooting awful in the past two games, particularly from three. They are 11-46 from downtown in that stretch. Look to see if the Jayhawks try to get in the lane more often with their big guards. Given Oklahoma’s mediocrity on offense and defense, this looks like it could be a bounce back game for KU. But given what we’ve seen so far in college hoops, nothing is for sure. Read the rest of this entry »
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Award Tour: Trey Burke Is The Best Player In The Country

Posted by DCassilo on February 8th, 2013

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

After weeks and weeks of coming close, Trey Burke has finally broken through and grabbed the #1 spot. It’s a long time coming, as Burke embodies everything you want in a player. He’s a scorer that can take over the game. He’s an unselfish player that likes to get his teammates involved. He’s a leader, who steps up in big moments and keeps his team focused. Look no further than his block of Aaron Craft’s potential game-tying shot on Tuesday as to why there’s nobody like him in the country. Michigan is in good hands come March.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day, if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

I’ll reluctantly include Oladipo, partly because there’s no one better and partly because you almost have to at this point. I don’t blame him, but the hype surrounding him has really surprised me. I just don’t see why people say he’s better than some one like Otto Porter Jr., who puts up equal if not better stats, when Oladipo has Zeller down low and Porter Jr. lost his second-best player to suspension. This week: February 10 at Ohio State, February 13 vs. Nebraska

9. Nate Wolters – South Dakota State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 22.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.5 APG

I don’t care what conference he’s in and how good his team is, Wolters is without question one of the 10 best players in the country. In case you missed it, he scored 53 points against IPFW on Thursday night. And as his numbers above show, he’s well-rounded too. This week: February 9 at Oakland, February 14 vs. IUPUI

8. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG

Porter Jr. played just once this week and had 11 points and seven rebounds in a win over St. John’s. He’s shot at least 50 percent from the field in five of his last six games. This week: February 9 at Rutgers, February 11 vs. Marquette

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG

It was a rough week for Kansas, but McLemore was only partially to blame. He had 23 points, his second-most in Big 12 play, in the loss to Oklahoma State, so he can be absolved for the game. Against TCU, though, his 0-for-6 3-point shooting was part of a dreadful night for the Jayhawks. This week: February 9 vs. Oklahoma, February 11 vs. Kansas State Read the rest of this entry »

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 5th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Conference Round-Up

When tonight’s games wrap up, we’ll officially be halfway through the conference season. The Super Bowl is over, all eyes are on college hoops, there will be just eight games remaining on all the team’s schedules and we’re all starting to think about the madness that awaits in Vegas in early March. For the longest time this season in the Mountain West, we’ve figured there were a pool of six teams in contention for NCAA Tournament bids. And, as we get ready to round the turn, it looks like we’ve still got six teams in the mix; the surprise, however, may be which six teams those are. After we take care of our weekly honors immediately below, we’ll take a look at where each team stands as we near the halfway mark in terms of their NCAA Tournament viability.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

Air Force – It was “only” a pair of home wins, but they were an impressive, and an important, pair. With wins over Fresno State and San Diego State, the Falcons put themselves within striking distance of the conference lead, all with a shot at that first place New Mexico team next up on the schedule. The former win was more a matter of just taking care of business, while the latter was truly impressive. Despite the fact that the Aztecs were hampered by injuries, Air Force withstood the full brunt of Jamaal Franklin attempting, and largely succeeding in his attempt, to take over the game. After giving up a 12-point second half lead, the Falcons had the wherewithal to answer every Aztec run and in the final seconds, they dodged a couple looks at game-tying threes, earning the Academy their very own RTC, even if it was small and relatively orderly. After weeks and weeks of having everybody overlook them, it is now time to give this team its due: with Colorado State, UNLV and New Mexico all coming to Clune Arena in the back half of conference play, the Falcons have a chance (even if it is still a slim one) to win this thing.

Michael Lyons and Air Force Have Reeled Off Five Straight And Are Within A Game Of The Conference Lead (Rhona Wise, AP Photo)

Michael Lyons and Air Force Have Reeled Off Five Straight And Are Within A Game Of The Conference Lead (Rhona Wise, AP Photo)

Player of the Week

Hugh Greenwood, Sophomore, New Mexico – Before we get to Greenwood, a quick mention of Colorado State’s Pierce Hornung, who made this week’s decision a tough one. Hornung averaged 17.5 points and 12 rebounds per game this week, double-doubling each night and even knocked down all three three-pointers he attempted against Boise State on Wednesday, bring him up to eight-for-15 on the season from deep. But, as versatile as Hornung was this week, versatility is Hugh Greenwood’s middle name (yup, Hugh Versatility Greenwood – it’s an Aussie thing, I think). The Lobo sophomore made ten of the 13 shots he attempted from the field this week, including five-of-six from deep, averaged 14 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and five assists. Oh, and during the Lobos’ trip to Laramie on Wednesday, Greenwood saved the day by knocking down the go-ahead jumper with eight seconds left and sealing the game with a pair of free throws later. After winning multiple Player of the Week awards from us last year, this is Greenwood’s first nod this year.

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Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach

Posted by DCassilo on February 1st, 2013

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What a couple of days it was for our freshmen across college basketball. On Tuesday, there was Nerlens Noel, who provided one of college basketball’s best performances of the year by blocking 12 shots in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, his teammate Archie Goodwin posted 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. A day later it was Baylor’s Isaiah Austin stealing the show with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Anyone who believes talent is down this year for the freshman class just hasn’t been paying attention.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

After starting the season on fire, Bennett has not been nearly as dominant in the Mountain West Conference. He clings to a spot this week after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds over his last two games. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Zeller has drawn a lot of criticism this season, mainly because of expectations that were too high in the first place. When the dust settles, he’s still the top scorer and rebounder on the third-best team in the country. This week: February 2 vs. Michigan, February 7 at Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season.

With the below-average competition in the West Coast Conference, Olynyk isn’t posting monster numbers lately because he really doesn’t have to. He’s coming off a week in which he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds, while the Bulldogs cruised to two victories. This week: February 2 at San Diego, February 7 vs. Pepperdine

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Early foul trouble against West Virginia on Monday had McLemore destined for his worst game in ages. But he still found a way to finish with a solid 13 points and four rebounds. It must be nice to have a freshman that you can pencil in for at least those numbers every night. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 29th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Conference Round-up

The dream around the Mountain West is six conference teams making the NCAA Tournament. But, in order for that to realistically happen, the top six teams here need to separate from the bottom three, with the teams at the back end of that first six earning at least a win or two over the upper-echelon teams. This week, that plan did not come to fruition. Boise State took care of Fresno State at home (good!) but then lost to Nevada on the road (bad). Wyoming lost on the road to UNLV (not good, but not unexpected), but then went back home and lost to Air Force (bad). In fact, Air Force has now knocked off a pair of MW teams dreaming of sneaking through that NCAA bubble (they knocked off Boise State the previous week) and, crazy as it may seem, they have their own devious designs on sneaking into the bracket come Selection Sunday. We’re now exactly one-third of the way through the conference schedule and one game in the standings is the difference between first and fifth place. Just two games separate first and seventh. And that team that started 13-0 and was among the last undefeated teams in the nation? Yeah, um, Wyoming is in eighth place and in need of 50 cc’s of an offensive injection, stat!

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

San Diego State – Two weeks ago, the Aztecs lost on their home court in convincing fashion to their biggest rival in the league, UNLV, then followed that up with a lackluster performance in a loss at Wyoming, sinking them back to .500 in the conference and causing some to reevaluate just how strong this team was. Well, Steve Fisher and company had an answer for those questions this week, first tearing through Nevada in Reno on Wednesday night, then coming home and absolutely locking up New Mexico in front of The Show. Their smothering defense held the previously unbeaten Lobos to a field goal percentage in the 20s and just 34 total points (UNM’s lowest total of the year), helping them to overcome their own relatively unimpressive offensive performance. With point guard Xavier Thames just starting to work his way back into playing shape after a back injury, and with freshman Skylar Spencer seemingly improving by the game, the Aztecs seem to be a team that has hit their nadir and is on its way to bouncing back up.

Player of the Week

Allen Huddleston, Junior, Fresno State – Handing out the POTW honors to a guy whose team just went 0-2 for the week is not a precedent I’m thrilled to set, but in a week without a bunch of great options, rewarding a guy for keeping a positive attitude and finding a way to help his team out seems like as good a way as any to go. You see, after transferring in from Pacific and starting the first 11 games of the season (while averaging a hair under 30 minutes a game), Huddleston lost his starting spot to freshman Aaron Anderson and saw his minutes slashed (down to about 12 minutes a game over the next six games). When he did get into the game, he seemed to force the action in an effort to regain his coaches’ trust, but the low point came in a couple of oh-fer performances in extremely limited minutes against Sonoma State and Nevada. But rather than pout or quit on his team or transfer again (although, certainly, he did have some low moments in the interim), Huddleston kept working and was rewarded by head coach Rodney Terry with 55 total minutes of run this week. And he responded with his best two back-to-back performances of the year, averaging 17.5 points, three assists and two steals while knocking down seven three-pointers over the course of the week (and shooting a 64.6% eFG). While his play didn’t wind up earning his team a win, you can be sure he did his best to give his team chances to win those two games.

Despite Losing His Starting Job, Allen Huddleston Had A Big Week In A Losing Effort For Fresno State (Gary Kazanjian, Fresno Bee)

Despite Losing His Starting Job, Allen Huddleston Had A Big Week In A Losing Effort For Fresno State (Gary Kazanjian/Fresno Bee)

Newcomer of the Week

Skylar Spencer, Freshman, San Diego State – Yeah, Huddleston is a newcomer, so he could just as easily be here too, but Spencer deserves some pub too. You see, the freshman big man hasn’t missed a shot from the field since January 12 — four games ago. For the year he’s made better than 76% of his shots. As you might expect, Spencer’s range is basically a dunk (or closer), but give credit to the guy for knowing his strengths, accepting his limits and doing the things his coaching staff wants him to do. Yeah, that basically comes down to stuffing home point-blank opportunities, grabbing rebounds and playing defense, but he’s done all of that well. He blocks nearly 10 percent of his opponents’ two-point field goal attempts, has quick enough hands to dislodge a ball on the floor and is a beast on the offensive glass. While the SDSU rotation is crowded, Spencer has carved out a nice 20-minute-per-game spot for himself. Oh yeah, and the “of-the-week” part of this: try on 5-of-5 from the field, 10 points, five boards, three blocks and four steals.

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Award Tour: Ben McLemore and Brad Stevens Reach No. 1 For the First Time

Posted by DCassilo on January 25th, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

The two players I have the most trouble with every week are Russ Smith and Michael Carter-Williams. With Smith, it’s because his on-ball defense, arguably his biggest strength, doesn’t show up in box scores or highlights, so I need to watch his entire games to stay up to speed. And I have to be honest, his reputation sometimes gives him credit in games he doesn’t deserve it. Couple that with a streaky jump shot, and he falls short of the top-10. As for MCW, I have a real problem ranking him because he’s a terrible shooter and a turnover machine. People say he makes the big shots, but if he made them in the first half or didn’t keep giving the ball away, there wouldn’t be big shots to make. So like it or not, that’s why those two guys aren’t on the list at this juncture.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Since the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer, Greg Whittington, was ruled ineligible, Porter has raised his game to another level. Over his last four games, he’s averaging 19.8 PPG and 9.3 RPG and played a full 40 minutes in Georgetown’s upset win at Notre Dame. This week: January 26 vs. Louisville, January 30 vs. Seton Hall

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Indiana and Cody Zeller Also Finished Strong in the Big Ten (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller has a lot of work to do to get back up the rankings. (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Zeller did not register a single field goal on Wednesday against Penn State, but prior to that, he had back-to-back games of at least 20/10. While people have made the case that Victor Oladipo is more valuable to the Hoosiers, I still think Zeller will dictate the big games. This week: January 27 vs. Michigan State, January 30 at Purdue

8. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Against Wyoming on Thursday, Bennett’s scoring finally returned, as he finished with 17 points. But the rebounding has disappeared. Bennett has just 13 boards over his last three games. Once a double-double machine, it will be interesting to see if he gets it back.  This week: January 29 vs. Nevada

7. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG

For those who didn’t see it late Thursday night, Olynyk had a night to remember against BYU. He went 9-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line en route to 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Make sure to catch him next time he’s on TV because he’s fun to watch. This week: January 26 vs. San Francisco, January 31 at Loyola Marymount

6. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Since breaking out against Iowa State to start Big 12 play, McLemore has been a steady contributor for the Jayhawks. Although teams are devoting more defensive attention to him, he finds a way to get his points. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia Read the rest of this entry »

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2013

CIO header

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Conference Round-up

Nine teams, six in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament invitation, four with a good claim on a Top 25 spot — It is safe to say that the Mountain West, while maybe not having the elite teams that the Big Ten does, is the most competitive conference in the country from top to bottom. We’ve had three overtime games in two weeks and another five games decided by single figures. And, just when you’re ready to count out one team (like for instance, Air Force following a 39-point loss at Colorado State), they bounce back and score a big win (like those Falcons did against Boise State over the weekend). Conversely, we’ve seen a team like UNLV score a major road win over their biggest rival, San Diego State, then come back and struggle on the road. While the road environments in this conference are brutal, so far we’ve seen road teams have good success (road teams have won six of the 16 conference games played), such that it is looking like specific match-ups and timing may have as big of an impact on the outcomes of games as venue does. Two weeks in, everybody in the conference has at least one win and everybody, save for conference-leading New Mexico, has at least one loss. In other words, buckle up, because it is going to be a wild ride, and in all likelihood, this conference is not going to be settled until the final week of the regular season.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

Colorado State – After taking intra-state rival Air Force out behind the woodshed on Wednesday, the Rams welcomed UNLV into Moby Arena on Saturday for the headlining MW game of the weekend. Despite Colton Iverson’s offensive struggles and Wes Eikmeier’s foul trouble, CSU rode Dorian Green’s offensive explosion (24 points, including four threes, along with five assists and five boards) to its second straight win over the Rebels. The Rams hit 10 straight free throws in the final four minutes of the game and held UNLV to just two points on six possessions to turn a two-point deficit into a five-point win.

With Colton Iverson Struggling And Wes Eikmeier In Foul Trouble, Dorian Green Had His Best Game Of The Year (Dawn Madura, The Coloradoan)

With Colton Iverson Struggling And Wes Eikmeier In Foul Trouble, Dorian Green Had His Best Game Of The Year (Dawn Madura/The Coloradoan)

Player of the Week

Anthony Marshall, Senior, UNLV – While Air Force’s Michael Lyons had the game of the week in the conference (37 ridiculously efficient points against Boise on Saturday), Marshall was the most consistent performer this week, averaging 20.5 points, four assists, seven rebounds and two steals while willing his Rebels to a road win at San Diego State. After the Rebels went more than five minutes without scoring, and in the process turned a nine-point lead into a three-point deficit, Marshall took over, scoring nine of the next 13 Rebels points and getting the lead back. Marshall followed that game up with an equally impressive effort against CSU, scoring 15 second half points in trying to earn his Rebels a secondstraight conference road win.

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