Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Florida, Illinois, Surprising Conference Leaders, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 22nd, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Saturday night’s epic Gonzaga vs. Butler game was everything college basketball is about and then some. The game had all the trappings: two great basketball teams, a national TV audience, a historic venue, two terrific (and classy) coaches, an electric atmosphere, 40 minutes of competitive action, and an indescribable finish to the game. This was college basketball in its purest form. Everything you could ask for in a game. The kind of game you would show someone who has never watched college basketball before. It was the game of the year to date, one that will be nearly impossible to top in the regular season (we know what the Tournament can do). This was a high-level game between two teams that have the potential to make deep runs in March and the top two “mid-major” programs of the last decade. Roosevelt Jones’ game-winner will be the lasting memory from this game but I hope people remember just how well it was played on both ends. In the final minute and a half, I don’t think either team missed a shot in those final 90 seconds and the only mistake was Alex Barlow’s turnover which, ironically, set up the memorable ending. Dick Vitale said it was one of the top five games he has seen since he started working for ESPN 34 years ago. I wouldn’t doubt it. The game was that good.

    Butler's contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

    Butler’s contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

  2. An important result from last week in the Big Ten was Wisconsin taking down Indiana on Tuesday night in Bloomington. That’s now 11 straight Badgers’ victories over the Hoosiers and it’s safe to say Bo Ryan owns Tom Crean. Even when Crean was at Marquette, he only won three games against Ryan’s Badgers in their annual intra-state rivalry making him 3-13 against Ryan in his career. “Tommy Basketball,” as Ryan once called him, didn’t have an answer for Wisconsin last week. The Badgers controlled the pace of the game from the opening tip and got physical with the more athletic and talented Hoosiers. Once again, Ryan overcame a talent disadvantage on the road to score a huge victory. He’s one of the best pure basketball coaches in the nation and it shows year after year no matter who is on his roster. Wisconsin let Cody Zeller do his thing in the first half but the Badgers really clamped down on him after halftime. A big key to the win was limiting Jordan Hulls. With Ben Brust glued to him most of the game, Hulls could only manage one three-point attempt. That’s outstanding defense and a great game plan against one of the best shooters in the country. Wisconsin limited everyone not named Zeller to 28.2% shooting, a remarkable accomplishment against one of the best offensive teams in the nation. It was a great win for the Badgers but, unfortunately for them, they followed it up with a road loss to Iowa on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is getting better. Never count out Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 18th, 2013

setDVR

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

The top teams in several conferences go head-to-head and a non-conference mid-major battle in the midwest should provide a spectacular weekend of college hoops. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#6 Syracuse at #1 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again...

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again…

  • The cream of the Big East crop lock up in what should be an epic defensive battle. This may be the best defensive match-up we will see all season. Jim Boeheim’s match-up zone versus Rick Pitino’s press will be fun to watch. Louisville is known for its ability to create lots of turnovers, but Syracuse is almost just as good at causing teams to make mistakes. Additionally, Syracuse blocks a bunch of shots and locks down the perimeter. Louisville counters with its own shot-blocker deluxe in Gorgui Dieng. The question for Syracuse is how they will break the Louisville press — look to see if they use their length to make passes over the top of the Cardinals’ defense to get down the court.  Also, watch the guard match-up between Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith of Louisville. Triche and Carter-Williams have a significant size advantage that could make scoring from the Louisville backcourt limited, although Smith just seems to find ways to score anyway. Ultimately, this game will come down to whose defense plays better, but this game is shaping up to be a classic.

#17 Missouri at #8 Florida – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Florida is coming off a dominant win against Texas A&M and is beginning to separate itself from the rest of the SEC. A win by Missouri on the road would be huge for the Tigers as they head into a stretch of games against the bottom tier of the league. Missouri needs to find a way to control the offensive boards without Laurence Bowers available if they are going to have a shot at winning this game. The Gators have been one of the toughest teams to shoot against this season, so don’t expect the Tigers to get a lot of great looks. However, as one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, the Tigers have a chance if they can get put-backs and tip-ins. The key will be the battle down low between Alex Oriakhi and Patric Young so pay close attention to those two big men battling inside. Also, keep an eye on Missouri’s perimeter defense. Florida is taking 40% of its total shots from three — if the Gators’ shooters  are hitting from the outside, it’s going to be tough sledding for Missouri in its first SEC trip to Gainesville.

Oregon at #21 UCLA – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The Pac-12 is looking like a three team battle between Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. With the Ducks already knocking off the Wildcats, they can make a huge statement early in the conference season with a road win against the Bruins. It won’t be easy, however, as UCLA has quietly put together a 10-game winning streak including back-to-back road wins against Utah and Colorado. Keep a close eye on turnovers in this game. Oregon is turning the ball over frequently at a rate of over 21% of its possessions. We have seen road teams get down early recently because of multiple mistakes in a hostile environment. If the Bruins can create turnovers early with some tough defense, it will make things very difficult for the Ducks in Pauley Pavilion. Also, watch the rebounding numbers. The Ducks are a far superior team on the glass at both ends. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and the Wear brothers need to box out. Rebounding will keep Oregon in the game and could prove to be the difference if they are able to avoid turnovers.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott is the New No. 1 Player and Nerlens Noel is Looking Special

Posted by DCassilo on January 18th, 2013

awardtour

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

For the first time this season, Doug McDermott is atop the Player of the Year race. It’s no fault of McDermott’s, but when a guy from a mid-major conference is having a season like he is having, there is always some skepticism. How would he do in the Big Ten? How would Mason Plumlee do in the MVC? These are fair points, but one thing I do know is that McDermott gets a defense’s best look every night he’s on the floor, and putting up numbers like his against that type of attention is always an impressive feat.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 18.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Outside of McDermott, the hottest player in the country might be Olynyk. In his last three games he scored 33 points against Santa Clara, 31 against St. Mary’s and 21 against Portland, in a game in which he went 8-of-9 from the field. Keep an eye on him against Butler on Saturday.This week: January 19 at Butler, January 24 vs. BYU

9. Russ Smith – Louisville (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 SPG

Being the best player on the best team in the country has to get you a spot on this list, right? While Smith can score, he’s probably most valuable when his defense takes another team’s best player out of the game. This week: January 19 vs. Syracuse, January 22 at Villanova

8. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG

McLemore is one of those shooters that NBA scouts drool over. He’s shooting 50.3 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from deep and 87.7 percent from the line. Translation: get this man as many shots as possible. This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

7. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.7 BPG

Jeff Withey is a Defensive Force With a New Found Offensive Game for KU (AP Photo)

Jeff Withey is a Defensive Force With a New Found Offensive Game for KU (AP Photo)

One of the most difficult things for me this week was trying to figure out who was more valuable to Kansas: McLemore or Withey. It’s almost impossible to figure out whose development has been more important, so if any Jayhawks fans have an opinion, drop it in the comments.  This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

6. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 8.9 RPG

So far in Mountain West Conference games, the trend for Bennett has been that he doesn’t perform well versus ranked teams. Against New Mexico and San Diego State, he’s averaging 11.5 PPG and 4.0 RPG. This week: January 19 at Colorado State, January 24 vs. Wyoming

5. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG

It apparently took until Big Ten play to wake Zeller up, as he’s already recorded as many double-doubles (two) in conference games as he did in all of his non-conference games. The loss to Wisconsin was a setback for the team, but he had 23 points and 10 rebounds in defeat. This week: January 20 at Northwestern, January 23 vs. Penn State

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

CIO header

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

Conference Round-up

One week of conference play is in the books and, yeah, we pretty much got confirmation that this season is going to be just about as interesting as we expected it to be. A couple of overtime games, a buzzer-beater and top 25-caliber match-ups filled the schedule with only a few snoozers (not coincidentally, all featuring at least one of the new conference teams) mixed in for variety. There were amazing plays that had the entire college basketball world buzzing, there were headscratching performances, and there were exhilarating games. And, we’ve still got eight full weeks of conference play remaining.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

Boise State – Beating out its more celebrated brethren San Diego State and New Mexico, the Broncos take the honor this week on the strength of the best road win in the conference this week, a buzzer-beating win over previously undefeated Wyoming on Wednesday night. Playing without four players who were suspended prior to the game, the Broncos fought, scraped and clawed, coming back from a 10-point second-half deficit to build up a seven-point lead with under three minutes to play, only to see that lead disappear again with just eight seconds left on the clock. And then, arguably the hottest player in the nation, Jeff Elorriaga, drilled a three-pointer from the left corner as time expired (his second three in the final 30 seconds, sixth on the night and 30th in his last 50 attempts over five games) to end Wyoming’s unbeaten streak and propel BSU to a thrilling opening night win.

Player of the Week

Mike Fitzgerald, Senior, Air Force – Apologies to Alex Kirk (21 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 61.5% eFG), but sometimes tough decisions need to be made. And, in spots like this, the tie goes to the senior, and certainly the underdog. Fitzgerald started the week strong for the Falcons, posting a career high 30 points (including 23 after the break) in helping the Academy come back from a three-point halftime deficit to earn a conference-opening win over Nevada. Saturday, while the outcome wasn’t quite as enjoyable for Falcons fans, Fitzgerald helped keep his team in it against UNLV for 45 minutes, adding another 22 points in an overtime loss. For the week, Fitzgerald made 14 of 20 shots from the field, including seven three-pointers (good for an 87.5% eFG) and hit 17-of-18 from the charity stripe while chipping in six rebounds per night.

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Will Privette, Dunk(s) of the Year, and Those Baylor Unis

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 16th, 2013

bythetweets

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

What were arguably the two most memorable incidents to go down in college basketball the last seven days? On the court, it was certainly the game’s final four undefeated teams falling one by one over a 96-hour span. Off the court, err, on the sidelines, it was Robert Montgomery Knight revealing his age and inability to make out the difference between the shot clock and game clock during the final moments of Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt. The most underappreciated handle on all of Twitter encapsulated it beautifully.

C.J. Leslie and his friend Will Privette

To call it heartwarming would be an understatement, but whatever it is, C.J. Leslie’s Saturday afternoon was one he will never forget. First he dropped a game high 25 points as the Wolfpack upset then top-ranked Duke, which led to this photo that should be sold as a 24″ x 48″ poster at the school’s bookstore.

But even after the final horn sounded, Leslie was still being attentive on the court, ushering a senior student in a wheelchair to safety amongst the sea of red that was stomping all over the PNC Arena court.

Yes, naturally, Will Privette’s act has gone viral. The kid is one of the most sought after interviews in sports media right now, and it’s doing wonders to his social media clout.

Brandon Paul, Anthony Bennett, Jamaal Franklin. Who ya got?

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Award Tour: Ben McLemore Rises As Conference Play Begins and a Russ Smith Sighting…

Posted by DCassilo on January 11th, 2013

awardtour

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

While the non-conference schedule gives us some fun match-ups, conference play is the time of year where we really see what players and teams are made of. Look no further than Ben McLemore. The Kansas freshman was on our radar before Wednesday, but his performance against Iowa State elevated him to another level nationally. So don’t be surprised when you see so many new names on this week’s rankings. It’s just that time of year.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Russ Smith – Louisville (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.6 SPG

Always a dangerous scorer, Smith makes his debut this week due to the versatility he’s been showing lately. Against Seton Hall on Wednesday, the junior grabbed seven boards and had six dimes. His ability to be useful even when he isn’t shooting well is what will make him a contender. This week: January 12 vs. South Florida, January 14 at UConn

9. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 16.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG

The Buffaloes were no match for Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Ben McLemore is in the middle of it all for Kansas. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

McLemore had perhaps the best performance in college basketball this season with his 33 points and 6-of-6 three-point shooting against Iowa State on Wednesday. That included a banked trey as time expired to save Kansas’ home court win streak. The freshman is now on everyone’s radar. This week: January 12 at Texas Tech, January 14 vs. Baylor

8. Jack Cooley – Notre Dame (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 15.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG

Here’s a player getting absolutely no love for Player of the Year, and I’m not quite sure why. Cooley is averaging a double-double and has carried Notre Dame to a 14-1 start. He may not be a pretty player to watch, but he’s still really good. This week: January 12 vs. UConn, January 15 at St. John’s

7. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG

Zeller has been one of only four players to stay in the top-10 all season. While he was expected to be a little higher right now, he has been consistently solid for Indiana, and that is why he is still here.  This week: January 12 vs. Minnesota, January 15 vs. Wisconsin

6. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 20.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Here’s another player that isn’t get as much love as he should. Yes, Ohio State probably isn’t as good as we expected, but Thomas has been a scoring machine since the season began, and he can rebound too. This week: January 13 vs. Michigan

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2013

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

Conference Round-up

It was a pretty quiet week on the hardwood around the conference, with just nine total games played by conference teams, eight of which resulted in wins, with six of those wins decided by an average of 27.3 points. Air Force absorbed the lone loss by getting drilled at Richmond, while Wyoming completed its perfect pre-conference slate by squeaking past SMU in Dallas. Elsewhere, Colorado State notched a couple of solid home wins by taking care of UTEP and St. Bonaventure.

The most intrigue in the conference over the past week came again in the court of conference realignment as the possibility of San Diego State remaining in the conference after this season is still up in the air. Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune has the most comprehensive rundown of the decision facing SDSU and the Mountain West, and after reading that, I’d put the odds somewhere south of 50% that the Aztecs will be playing in the MW come 2013-14. But, the odds are still higher than they were before Boise State opted to remain in the conference. Regardless of which way the Aztecs decide, it is probably a pretty good bet that if the Mountain West exists in some form a decade from now, it will look much, much different than it does now. Regardless of whether the conference’s giving in to Boise’s demands for special treatment turns out to be a good decision or bad, the odds are strong that it will cause some problems down the road. The Mountain West was formed when the 16-team WAC proved unsavory to some of the conference’s elite teams; it’s possible that somewhere in the future, further upheaval spawns a new home for many of the current MW teams.

San Diego State And The Show Are A Hot Basketball Commodity, But Is This Their Last Mountain West Season?

San Diego State And The Show Are A Hot Basketball Commodity, But Is This Their Last Mountain West Season?

Putting all of that aside for now, good times await for the Mountain West. Conference play tips off tonight and with six teams eyeing potential NCAA Tournament consideration, we’re in for yet another great season. Further down, we’ll take a look at what each team has accomplished in the non-conference slate, and what they need to improve upon from here on out.

Reader’s Take

Team of the Week

Wyoming – The Cowboys only played one game this week, and that one game was against an SMU team that has a 22-point loss to Rhode Island and a 13-point neutral-site loss to Arkansas-Little Rock on its resume. But in going to Dallas and emerging with a hard-fought three-point win, the Cowboys put the finishing touches on a perfect 13-0 non-conference slate, good for the best start in the history of the program. Just how good the Cowboys are in relation to the rest of the conference, let alone the rest of the nation, remains to be seen. A home win over Colorado and a road win at Illinois State are nice pieces, but more significant tests await.

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Award Tour: Anthony Bennett is a Stud, Tubby Smith is a COY Contender, and the Most Overrated Teams…

Posted by DCassilo on January 4th, 2013

awardtour

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

Can a team affect a player’s candidacy for Player of the Year? It’s a question I’ve been struggling with lately. There’s no question that guys like Erick Green and C.J. McCollum have played like top 10 players this season, but should they suffer because their teams are well outside the Top 25? The Wooden Award says that the honor is given to the most outstanding basketball player, and there’s no mention of team. But I think to be an outstanding player you need to find a way to lead your team to victories. So in the end, Green and McCollum stay, but if their teams continue to play poorly, that might change regardless of their individual numbers.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.2 SPG

Otto Porter has his Georgetown Hoyas back in the fold as a Big East contender (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

Otto Porter has his Georgetown Hoyas back in the fold as a Big East contender (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

It’s a long overdue appearance for Porter, who has done a little bit of everything for Georgetown this season. While his per game averages seem a little low, keep in mind he played six minutes in his season debut before leaving with injury. His stock could skyrocket with a strong start to Big East play. This week: January 5 at Marquette, January 8 vs. Pittsburgh

9. Erick Green – Virginia Tech (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 24.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.6 APG

While Green’s ranking is on the decline, it’s hard for me to remove someone from this list who has had just one bad game all season. His Hokies, though, are struggling and having to do it all is starting to take its toll on Green. This week: January 5 at Maryland, January 9 vs. Boston College

8. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 25.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.0 APG

Lehigh suffered an ugly loss to Bryant last Saturday, but it was no fault of McCollum’s, who poured in 34 points on a season-high six three-pointers. Despite receiving extra defensive attention every night, he still leads the nation in scoring and is shooting an impressive 50.8 percent from the field. This week: January 5 at VCU, January 8 vs. Muhlenberg

7. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 12.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.1 APG, 3.0 SPG

Carter-Williams has recorded double-doubles in his last two games, and has actually shot well (11-of-20) in the process. It’s the first time he’s shot 50 percent from the field in back-to-back games this season, and that is what the Orange need to win the Big East. This week: January 6 at South Florida, January 9 at Providence

6. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG

Zeller opened up his Big Ten season with a bang against Iowa by recording his first double-double since December 8. At this point, the sophomore will need a monster conference season to get back to No. 1. This week: January 7 at Penn State

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CIO…the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2013

CIO header

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

Looking Back

It’s been two weeks since we last caught up with the teams of the Mountain West, so we’ve got a lot to catch up on. All three of our favorites in the conference (San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico) have taken losses since we last did this, but at the same time, each of them has a quality win mixed in there as well. Meanwhile, the next tier of teams – Colorado State, Wyoming and Boise State – have all been blemish-free over the past two weeks. It still appears there is a drop-off between the top three and the next three, but it remains to be seen just how far that drop is. We’ve got one more week of some pretty uninspiring non-conference games before conference play tips off and we start to get some answers to our outstanding questions.

We’ve also been keeping our eye on a situation off the court, as the conference realignment shuffle continues. On New Year’s Eve, it was reported that Boise State would wisely back out of its agreement to join the rapidly dwindling football Big East and remain in the Mountain West. With Boise sticking around, suddenly San Diego State, which had been steadfast in its intentions to stick with the move to the Big East, decided it too wanted to stick around, but the Mountain West, apparently fed up with SDSU’s foot-dragging prior to that, isn’t exactly jumping back into the relationship. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports that the MW is poking around to see if there are other schools who would be a better fit with the conference. In the end, perhaps the only thing that would keep SDSU out of the conference would be if the MW is able to persuade BYU to rejoin. In an ideal world from a basketball perspective, both of those schools would rejoin, which would bring the conference up to 12 basketball teams next year, but that would also bring the football total to 13, probably one too many. If it is a choice between BYU and SDSU, though, the Cougars are the slam dunk choice.

After A Serious Fling With The Big East, The Mountain West Conference Has Acquiesced To Boise State's Demands (BSU Athletics)

After A Serious Fling With The Big East, The Mountain West Conference Has Acquiesced To Boise State’s Demands (BSU Athletics)

All of this was made possible when CBS allowed the conference to restructure its television agreement, allowing the conference to sell games to other national networks. It should be noted that the MW did have to cave to a pretty significant request wherein Boise State’s home football games will not be a part of the conference’s television rights contracts, allowing the school to sell those games themselves. Further, Boise will still owe some sort of buyout to the Big East for their change of heart (provided such an entity still exists to pay that buyout) and the Mountain West has agreed to chip in some amount to help Boise make that payment (rest assured that such an arrangement will not be made with SDSU). While this works out for the time being in keeping the conference together and perhaps even persuading BYU to rejoin, this sort of concession to one school at the exclusion of others is the exact type of thing that drove Nebraska and Texas A&M out of the Big 12. It remains to be seen if this type of move is sustainable, but, if everything works out for the best, we could be heading back to a MW basketball slate that still features SDSU, UNLV, BYU and New Mexico as its flagship programs. It the realm of unintended consequences, is quite possible that the Big East’s Catholic Seven defection could go a long ways towards rescuing another great basketball conference.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

Colorado State – The Rams swept to an impressive win in the Las Vegas Classic tournament just in advance of Christmas, winning four games in a week and capping that run off with a 36-point blowout of Virginia Tech in the championship game. They backed that up with a workmanlike 25-point win against Adams State this past weekend. We still don’t know just how good this team is after they’ve been completely remade from a guard-dominated team to one that relies on crashing the boards, and they still haven’t been tested much, but CSU fans have good reason to suspect that this iteration of the Rams is even better than last year’s tournament team.

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Kentucky/Louisville, Nick Johnson and Two Freshman Phenoms…

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 2nd, 2013

bythetweets

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Full disclosure: I grew up a grossly obnoxious Duke basketball fan. UNC was evil, but a necessary evil, making up one half of what I believed to be the greatest rivalry in all of sports. But as of late,  I can confidently say that the happiness felt from the hate of that lighter shade of blue has been usurped by another in-state rivalry. The build-up to Kentucky and Louisville’s annual late December battle was popcorn-making worthy. Twitter was abuzz all week, with profanity laced rants 140 characters at a time being hurled back and forth between the 80-mile stretch of I-64.

Never stop this hatred ever, guys. We’re all better for it.

More on Kentucky – Louisville

Per the usual, the build up was full of jabs that make this rivalry great.

Louisville fans secured home court for their team, as there was no Sea of Blue present at the Yum! Center.

Kentucky was down early, clueless against Louisville’s full court press, but foul trouble for the Cardinals and the emergence of Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein in the second half kept the game interesting.

But in the end, the experience of Rick Pitino’s club prevailed. A freakishly fast-paced game left everyone involved exhausted.

Nick Johnson To The Rescue

Perhaps the most exciting game of the holiday break was the finals of the Diamond Head Classic, where Arizona slipped past San Diego State, due in large part to a game-saving block by the Wildcats’ Nick Johnson. A 6’3″ guard, these are the types of plays a taller frontcourt player is supposed to make, meaning Sean Miller has a special athlete in his rotation.

https://twitter.com/jeffborzello/status/283806646881370113

Johnson’s block drew such oohs and aahs that fans started drawing comparisons with that play and another game saving swat by a former Wildcat, Derrick Williams.

My pick? Gotta go with Johnson. He’s no imposing big man, but a perimeter player who used his incredible hops to turn and make a play without even thinking.

Ben McLemore & Anthony Bennett:Two Stars In The Making

If you’ve seen Kansas and UNLV play this season, then you’ve probably noticed two freshman who have established themselves as clear-cut pros. Over the last 10 days, if you saw Ben McLemore drop 22 with ease on Ohio State, and Anthony Bennett show his versatility against North Carolina, you told yourself multiple times that these may be two of the best young basketball players in the country, regardless of level.

As part of a freshman class that few were psyched about following the litany of spring All-American games, the Jayhawks and Rebels seem to have the two most obvious one-and-done players as we enter the new year. McLemore, who is drawing comparisons to Dwayne Wade, seems to get less attention on Twitter because he makes it look so easy. He scores from anywhre on the floor, but doesn’t necessarily incite hashtag-inducing plays.

Conversely, Bennett has established himself as a must-see-TV player. He blows people away with his ability to create his own shot despite his girth, and his game compels people watching to immediately turn to social media…

Tony Parker Wanted To Be Home For Christmas

The curse of the overweight, overhyped Bruins big man continues. Just a few weeks after sophomore Josh Smith left the UCLA school and program, freshman Tony Parker aired, albeit cryptically, some grievances about his feelings about his first year in Westwood.

https://twitter.com/tonyparker32/status/282987874918477824

https://twitter.com/tonyparker32/status/283635223068024832

Parker soon defended his tweets, saying he was just a homesick college kid unable to be back in his native Atlanta for the holidays… which, let’s be honest, is completely understandable. Parker has not had an impact this season, getting only eight minutes of run a game. He finished with two points in just three minutes played Friday night in UCLA’s thrilling overtime victory over Missouri, meaning on the court he’s still got a ways to go to meet his potential and expectations.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 28th, 2012

setDVR

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

We are headed into the final weekend of 2012, which means conference season is just about here. There are a few teams playing this weekend that could use one more strong non-conference win for their NCAA Tourney resumes. However, there is one game this weekend that takes center stage in the Bluegrass State. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#24 Kentucky at #3 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

  • The Louisville-Kentucky series is starting to develop a pattern. Since the 2002-03 season, the Cardinals have won two in a row then dropped three in a row, won two in a row and then dropped three in a row. Rick Pitino and company are in the midst of another three-game slide to their in-state rival, so if the pattern holds, Louisville is due for a win on Saturday. The big news this week that may help secure that victory is the return of Gorgui Dieng from a wrist injury. Dieng has been out since before the Duke game and should have a significant impact against the Wildcats. While he may be a bit rusty, his defense is crucial against the UK frontcourt of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. Defense in general will be key for Louisville in this game. Watch Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin closely to see how he handles the Pitino press. In general, the Wildcats have not turned the ball over a great deal, but this is by far the best defense they have played all season long. Also, watch the rebounding numbers closely. Kentucky has a significant size advantage but the Cardinals have been better on the boards overall. This is where Dieng will make a huge difference. Without him, the Cards have little to no size. The question will be if he can play up to his pre-injury level without any major issues.
  • Kentucky’s three losses this season have been also been their worst turnover performances of the the year (on a per possession basis). Goodwin is turning the ball over at a rate of about 20%, so it will be interesting to see how John Calipari has the offense bring the ball upcourt. Let’s see if they utilize their big men and size advantage to advance the ball. If you see a lot of dribbling in the backcourt by Kentucky, it will probably result in too many turnovers. The Wildcats have shown a more balanced offense against weaker opponents since their last loss to Baylor, but again, they will be facing what could be the best defense in the country, so they must continue to get contribution from a lot of sources. Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiljter haven proven they can put up 20+ points any given night. Unfortunately, they both can disappear from the offense as well. Both players need to have their best games of the season for Kentucky to win on the road.
  • Dieng looks like he could be the difference in this game. Unfortunately, we do not know where he is at in terms of game stamina. If he can stay on the court and play defense and rebound at a reasonable pace, Louisville should be able to stop its three-game losing streak to Kentucky. If he gets tired or gets into foul trouble, the Wildcats can take advantage of their size and athleticism inside. However, they still need scoring from players like Harrow and Wiltjer if they plan to pull the road upset.

More Great Games

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Award Tour: Ben McLemore Rises and College Basketball New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by DCassilo on December 28th, 2012

awardtour

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

With the lack of college games lately, I’ve been catching up on some NBA action. To tie in with my article, I focused mostly on players who have won the Wooden Award over the last decade. To no one’s surprise, Anthony Davis is already starting to be a force in the NBA, but that’s not the case for most. There are stars (Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin), starters (Jameer Nelson, Evan Turner and Andrew Bogut), role players (J.J. Redick, Tyler Hansbrough and Jimmer Fredette), and T.J. Ford, who was forced out of the league due to injury. Overall, being the top player in college means little more than likely getting drafted. There’s still a lot of work to do.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG

While Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall were supposed to lead UNLV, that responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Bennett. He’s been more than up to the task and is our first freshman on this list since the preseason. This week: December 29 at North Carolina, January 3 vs. Chicago State

9. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 24.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.1 APG

Lehigh\'s C.J. McCollum Is an Elite Guard

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum will need to keep lighting it up.

With his injury, McCollum will go 21 days between games. He’ll need to shake off the rust quickly to move back up the list. This week: December 29 vs. Bryant

8. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 12.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 10.3 APG, 3.4 SPG

While Carter-Williams does a lot while he’s on the court, it will be hard to get much higher than No. 8 until he improves his shooting. Over his last two games, he is 4-for-23, 1-for-9 from three-point land and 16-for-25 from the line. This week: December 29 vs. Alcorn State, December 31 vs. Central Connecticut State, January 2 vs. Rutgers

7. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 20 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Two of Thomas’ worst games this season have come in titanic tilts against Duke and Kansas. He’ll need to play better in big games, as the Buckeyes will have plenty of them come conference play. This week: December 28 vs. Chicago State, January 2 vs. Nebraska

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 14.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.0 BPG

While Thomas struggled in the game against Kansas, Withey put together his second straight double-double. It’s a promising sight, as Withey has never been a dominant rebounder despite his size and athleticism. This week: December 29 vs. American

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