Big Ten Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

The big thing from the past week. Big Ten season ends in three way tie. Exciting as the seesaw race was all year, it ended in melodramatic fashion as both Purdue and Michigan State hung on after Ohio State had already won out several days prior. The Boilers and Spartans took care of business, beating teams they were supposed to beat. Michigan State racked up back to back banners, but the big story is that this was the first title for Purdue since 1996. Now to see how many teams can go to the dance based on their performance in the Big Ten tournament.  Four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #5 Ohio State, #6 Purdue, #11 Michigan State, and #13 Wisconsin.

Power Rankings (final)

  1. Ohio State 24-7, 14-4
  2. Purdue 26-4, 14-4
  3. Michigan State 24-7, 14-4
  4. Wisconsin 23-7, 13-5
  5. Illinois 18-13, 10-8
  6. Minnesota 18-12, 9-9
  7. Northwestern 19-12, 7-11
  8. Michigan 14-16, 7-11
  9. Iowa 10-21, 4-14
  10. Indiana 10-20, 4-14
  11. Penn State 11-19, 3-15

Big Ten Tournament – Indianapolis – March 11th-14th

First Round

  • #9 Iowa vs. #8 Michigan – March 11 – 2:30 ET – ESPN2 – This game could really go either way. The first game was a 14-point victory for Michigan at home, whereas the second game was a two-point victory in OT for Michigan on the road. For Michigan, Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both had at least 20 in each game, so look for that to continue. For Iowa, Aaron Fuller played well in the first game, but went crazy for 30 in the second game. Matt Gatens was absent in the first game, but exploded for 21 in the second game. Michigan comes in having lost four of six games while Iowa has lost the past five of six games. Iowa should do well inside in this game, but I think Michigan has finally figured out that they can’t rely totally on threes, so I am going with Michigan in this one.
  • #10 Indiana vs. #7 Northwestern – March 11 – 4:55 ET – ESPN2 – This game will most likely go to Northwestern. It is just too difficult to win two games against the same team within a week’s time, especially for a team as inconsistent as Indiana has been all year. The big thing Indiana has going for itself in this game and for this tournament is that they are essentially the home town team, especially if they are able to fill Lucas Oil Stadium with Indiana fans. If not, I think Northwestern has too much John Shurna and too much Michael Thompson for IU to handle. I also think Northwestern will make the adjustments on Jordan Hulls to stop his flurry of threes.
  • #11 Penn State vs. #6 Minnesota – March 11 – 7:30 ET – I am going with Minnesota in this one. They have really come on strong to close out the season, winning four of their last six games, including a 35-point drubbing of Iowa. Both of the matchups between these teams during the regular year were close victories for Minnesota, so I expect this one to be close because it is on neutral ground, and I wouldn’t expect either of the team’s fans to come out in droves. Penn State will need Chris Babb to have a big game along with Talor Battle and David Jackson, while Minnesota needs a consistent performance from Westbrook, Sampson, Hoffarber, and Johnson. The X-factor for Minnesota is Devoe Joseph who struggled in both contests. If he can step up then Minnesota wins easily;  if not they will win in a close battle.

Quarterfinals (projected)

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

The big thing from the past week:

  • The Big Ten’s top four moved up as a group. Both Purdue and Ohio State reached their highest rankings of the year. The same can’t be said for Michigan State and Wisconsin, but as a group, this is the highest that the top four have been ranked. It is looking very likely that the Big Ten will send at least five teams to the Tournament this year.  Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #4 Purdue, #9 Ohio State, #11 Michigan State, and #14 Wisconsin.

Power Rankings

  1. Purdue 22-3, 10-3
  2. Ohio State 20-7, 10-4
  3. Michigan State 21-6, 11-3
  4. Wisconsin 19-6, 9-4
  5. Illinois 17-9, 9-4
  6. Northwestern 17-9, 6-8
  7. Minnesota 14-10, 5-7
  8. Michigan 13-12, 6-7
  9. Indiana 9-16, 3-10
  10. Iowa 9-18, 3-11
  11. Penn State 9-16, 1-12

Coming Up

  • Wisconsin @ Minnesota – February 18th – 9:00 ET – ESPN – This game means a lot for Wisconsin, as another loss for the Badgers really takes them out of the race for the Big Ten regular season title. Minnesota has nothing to lose and everything to gain at this point. Add to the mix that Minnesota usually plays well at home, and it could spell defeat for Wisconsin. I am sure Trevon Hughes and company will have something to say about that though.
  • Illinois @ Purdue – February 20th – 4:00 ET – ESPN – Last game was a close one that ended Purdue’s losing streak, and since then, Illinois has been playing a lot better. This game definitely has big time potential impact in the Big Ten and as far as seeding goes in the tournament. Demetri McCamey had a monster game last time around, so Illinois will look for him to contribute once again. Mike Davis and DJ Richardson also played well. They will need more out of Mike Tisdale this time, as JaJuan Johnson dominated that matchup and got Tisdale in foul trouble. The Big Three for Purdue will have to lead once again. This should be a good one, although it is always tough to win at Mackey.
  • Ohio State @ Michigan State – February 21st – 12:00 ET CBS – This is another game that has direct Big Ten Title implications. Having seen both of these teams play in person as well as on TV now several times, this will be quite a battle of two very different teams. Michigan State has a much more traditional makeup to their team, with big post guys, shooting guards, and a quick high-scoring point guard. Ohio State on the other hand has oversized guards and an undersized post presence. The game is at Michigan State, so that should give the Spartans an edge. OSU has to be able to stop the post scoring of the Spartans and keep them off the boards, whereas MSU has been able to stop Evan Turner and the outside scoring of Jon Diebler and David Lighty.

Breaking It Down

  • Purdue cracks the top four. Purdue has now beaten all of the top teams in the Big Ten at least once after last night’s win at Ohio State. It is kind of amazing to look back now when Purdue went through their three-game slide at the beginning of conference play, and now they are ranked #4 nationally behind Kansas, Kentucky, and Villanova. Nova’s loss to UConn on Tuesday puts Purdue is in position to move up even higher next week after their big win at OSU (assuming they can get past Illinois over the weekend).
  • Ohio State had increased its Big Ten winning streak to nine games prior to the home loss to Purdue last night. All year everyone has been saying that if you can stop everyone else but Evan Turner, you should be able to beat Ohio State. Purdue was able to prove that notion correct, but Indiana didn’t have the scoring power to overcome it. Against Illinois, Turner had almost triple double numbers (16/11/8 asst), but even more impressively was the performance of Jon Diebler and David Lighty. OSU visits Michigan State on the road next, and they’ll need to win that one to have any remaining realistic shot at the conference title.
  • Michigan State is marching out of their mid-season valley. The problem during the Spartans’ losses was defense, and even though it appears like they have solved that problem, it’s still too early to tell. The reason I say it is too early to tell is because that improved defense has occurred against two of the bottom of the teams in the league in Penn State and Indiana. The other problem during the losses was the lack of Kalin Lucas. That problem has also disappeared as Lucas went off for 24 against Penn State and a much bigger than it seems 13 against Indiana. Michigan State has OSU and Purdue next, so there is no rest for the Spartans anytime soon.
  • Wisconsin’s destiny is in its own hands. The Badgers were upset by Illinois a week ago at home, something that never happens, due to great games by Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale. They bounced back at home trouncing Indiana behind Jason Bohannon, who lit it up from 3-point land on his way to dropping 30 on the Hoosiers. Wisconsin has the easiest schedule remaining of the top five teams in the Big Ten. They should win the next four easily, with the exception of their last game on the road against Illinois, which could prove difficult. Illinois will have battled the best in the Big Ten before taking on Wisconsin, so Wisconsin will need to make sure not to play down to the competition for the rest of the month of February.
  • Illinois’s gauntlet continues. Last week I mentioned that I thought Illinois had made great strides and proven that they weren’t gunning for the top of Big Ten just based on their scheduling. I may have underestimated Illinois’ talent and the way they have been playing lately, but I think I was redeemed a bit by watching the Ohio State game. Illinois was blown out early, and never really made much of a run against the Buckeyes. They actually did well in a couple of statistical categories, but really suffered on the shooting end and could never really stop OSU. I was very surprised that Demetri McCamey didn’t step up earlier, and it was unfortunate that Mike Tisdale got in foul trouble, because he was hurting OSU in the zone by keeping the ball high and being able to throw over the top to him near the basket. The tough thing for Illinois though, is that they don’t get to take any nights off, as they take on Purdue on the road this weekend.
  • Northwestern’s slipper came off against Iowa and got put in the closet last night agaisnt previously-winless Penn State. In the Iowa game, John Shurna and Michael Thompson combined for 36 of Northwestern’s 65. Unfortunately, nobody else was in double figures. Also dooming them was the fact that they shot under 45% from the field and 30% from deep, while Iowa shot 50% from both the field and 3 point land. Unfortunately, it was a similar story against Penn State.  The Wildcats did sandwich their two losses with an OT win against Minnesota where all of the aforementioned players were in double figures. I have heard many people say that Northwestern’s shot at the tournament is now over because of those two bad losses, but if they win at Wisconsin and the rest of their games, they might give the committee something else to think about.
  • Has Minnesota left the building? The month of January and now February hasn’t been kind for the Golden Gophers. They sandwiched a couple of wins against Northwestern and Penn State with a bunch of close losses and a blowout to Ohio State on the road. This team overall has just been too inconsistent. Lawrence Westbrook is playing well now, but where has Ralph Sampson III gone? He has been invisible the last couple of games. Devoe Joseph and Blake Hoffarber have been similarly inconsistent. What would make their season at this point is to score upsets against Wisconsin, Purdue, or Illinois.
  • Michigan wins two straight. Looks like DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris aren’t willing to ride off into the sunset just yet. These two have continued to put up huge numbers, with Sims going for 27 each of the past two games and Harris going for 20 each. All they need to win is for someone else to put in a couple buckets here and there, and they have been doing it recently. They also have three games left that they can really put a thorn in the sides of the better teams in the conference, potentially shuffling the standings at the end of the year.
  • Indiana’s streak goes to unlucky number seven. IU has turned into a two-man show lately, with Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford carrying the load. The problem is that these guys aren’t putting up Harris and Sims type of numbers. The Hoosiers need someone else to score, especially inside. The one good sign for the Hoosiers against the Spartans was how often and how many times they scored from the charity stripe. They haven’t shot 89% all year from the line, and certainly haven’t made close to 30 trips in a night either. The part where the Hoosiers really need work is on the defensive end. Everyone has been basically scoring at will, so once the Hoosiers can plug the big hole on defense, maybe their offense will come around.
  • Iowa steals Northwestern’s slipper. Iowa fulfilled its duty as a spoiler this year, or at least if Northwestern doesn’t end up making it into the tournament, they will have. There was some off the court news this past week for Iowa as well, with Anthony Tucker officially leaving the program. In their loss to Purdue, Iowa shot a frigid 30% and then stepped up to shoot 50% against Northwestern, while holding Northwestern to 44% in addition to taking 30 trips to the free throw line. Against Purdue, Aaron Fuller had an uncharacteristically bad game with only two points, but in their OT heartbreaker to Michigan, he exploded for 30. I would say that’s getting back on the right track. They go on the road against Northwestern again next, and something tells me that this result might be different.
  • Penn State finally won a game. The Nittany Lions picked apart Northwestern in Evanston last night by shooting 56%, putting all five starters in double figures and destroying the Cats on the boards (+17).  It was the kind of performance that makes you wonder where it’s been all year?  It was the Talor Battle show on Saturday against Michigan State. It was fortunate that he poured in 30 points against the Spartans. The unfortunate part was that he didn’t have a ton of help, and Kalin Lucas scored 24 points himself, thus minimizing the Battle Effect. This team has two scorers, and they both performed. Michigan State won the game on the boards, something that this Penn State team just doesn’t do well enough.
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Morning Five: 12.30.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

  1. Illinois guard Alex Legion will leave his second team in three years as he has plans to transfer from Illinois during the semester break.  The former Parade All-American clearly exhibits a disconnect between his actual talent level and his production, as the 6’5 junior guard with a career 32% shooting percentage and 3.8 PPG average just hasn’t been able to find a comfortable home in his college career.  Mike DeCourcy points out that Legion’s second go-round on transferring mid-season has cost him up to as many as fifty games over the life of his career.
  2. Kalin Lucas: suspended by Tom Izzo.  No legal or school issues involved, but it’s clear that Izzo is trying to send a message to his team’s captain (and his team) that they’re not performing up to expectations.
  3. Iowa’s Anthony Tucker has pleaded guilty to public intoxication.  He’ll pay a little less than $200 in fines and is working toward reinstatement on his team given the requirements of the university’s student-athlete substance-abuse policy.
  4. Here’s Luke Winn’s early warning signs column on which teams are likely overrated and underrated via the nonconference schedule.  It’s a great article and very enlightening, but the point about Kentucky is apparent — the young UK players aren’t taking lesser teams as seriously as they should (until last night, gulp).  That could be very different by February, however.
  5. Gary Parrish delves more deeply into the interesting case known as USC basketball.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2009

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Standings

  1. Purdue       10-0
  2. Michigan State      9-2
  3. Ohio State      9-2
  4. Wisconsin       8-2
  5. Northwestern      9-1
  6. Illinois       8-3
  7. Minnesota     8-3
  8. Penn State     8-4
  9. Michigan      5-5
  10. Indiana       5-5
  11. Iowa             4-7

Three Things Last Week

  • Evan Turner looks like he might be back early – a full four weeks ahead of schedule, which will help Ohio State as well as the Big Ten.
  • The Big Ten has speculated on adding another team to its ranks, adding further confusion as to how it will be able to call itself the Big Ten. Apparently if you spell out Ten you can add as many teams to the conference as you want.
  • Three Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #4 Purdue, #9 Michigan State, and #17 Ohio State.

Top Storyline

The Big 10 is busy off the court.

  • Bobby Knight singles out John Calipari to show the dismal state of the NCAA when it comes to academics.
  • Minnesota’s Royce White decides to give it up and leaves Minnesota and college basketball after his mounting legal troubles caused him, his family, and the school undue stress.
  • Not to be outdone, Iowa’s Anthony Tucker drops 17 on Drake, gets drunk in public, and is then suspended indefinitely by Iowa.

Coming Up

  • December 22nd – Michigan State @ Texas, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2 – As far as I am concerned, this is the biggest matchup for a Big Ten team this year. One could argue that the MSU vs. UNC game earlier in the season was bigger, but after Texas’ thrashing of UNC the other day, I would say that this is a biggest test for Tom Izzo and company. They are going to have to come to play down in Austin if they want to stay in this one.
  • December 23rd – Illinois @ Missouri, 9:30 ET, ESPN2  - This is a classic Bi-State rivalry, as the 29th Annual Busch Braggin’ Rights game happens in St. Louis at the Scottrade Center. This game could be close, or it could be a blowout. If you play the who played who and what happened game, you will find that there could be 17 points separating these two teams, with Illinois having the advantage. That’s the difference in what happened when both teams played Vanderbilt earlier in the year. The other stat that could prove interesting is 6-0. That’s Missouri’s record at home this year. Too bad this game is being played in neutral territory. Watch the game to see if the Vanderbilt proves as an accurate guide. 

Breaking It Down

  • Purdue first to Ten in the Big Ten. Robbie Hummel had a 19/9 game and Purdue’s top three scorers were good for 47 of the 69 points that the Boilermakers put on the board against Ball State. Purdue will blow out both SIUE and Iowa, but I can’t wait to see what they do against West Virginia in West Lafayette. To move up in the rankings, though, they will need some help from Michigan State against Texas or Louisville to knock off Kentucky.
  • Michigan State has one more blowout before Texas. Admittedly, I had never heard of IPFW and Oakland, but they definitely found out how dominant MSU can be, even on off nights. MSU hasn’t lost to Texas in three years, and hopefully they can make it four. Time will only tell how both of their inside games match up.
  • Ohio State could be saved by the Christmas bell. The Buckeyes have done an admirable job in Evan Turner’s absence, but if his recovery is going to be as speedy as he announced this week, they won’t have to keep it up for much longer. They just have to get past Wisconsin and Michigan on the road, and Indiana at home before Turner is back. If they can do it, it’s anyone’s game in the Big Ten.
  • Northwestern is the best basketball nerd school in the nation. Two great things about last weekend’s Stanford game for the Wildcats. First, they beat probably the only school that can compete with them on the hardwood and in the classroom. The second is that John Shurna is back. He had a 22/8 game against Stanford, so I hope I don’t jinx him. Stanford actually shot better from the field and from 3-pt territory, but the Wildcats dominated from the free throw line. Northwestern is going to have to find a bench though, as five points from the reserves isn’t going to cut it in the Big Ten.
  • Wisconsin gives opponents a nice Madison Tour, they might not come back. It’s no secret that Wisconsin does ok in the Kohl Center, but their game against Cal Poly gave the southern California team a Wisconsin blizzard. The Badgers were up by 52 points at one time in this game, and dominated in every area. That type of performance will be repeated in the next two games, but after that OSU will be sure to give Wisconsin a run for its money.
  • Illinois gets cocky, loses to Georgia. Illinois had a good run, and maybe this game is just a hiccup on its way to another four-game win streak. Actually, if you look at earlier in the season, they reeled off four straight, only to lose two straight followed by another four wins. Let’s hope they don’t need two losses to learn their lesson. Let’s see if Demetri McCamey can repeat his 21/5 performance against Mizzou.
  • Will Minnesota’s distractions end anytime soon? I already mentioned what hopes to be end of the Royce White era, but is this theme going to repeat itself throughout the year, or will the Gophers make all of their news on the court for the rest of the year? The good news is that Minnesota is torching outmatched opponents on the court, but once conference starts, it could be a different story. Blake Hoffarber set a school record by hitting eight shots from long range in their last game, so that is definitely a bright spot when someone goes off for 26 points after only averaging 10.5 on the year. Look for another three wins for Minnesota before colliding with Purdue on January 5th.
  • Michigan doesn’t get embarrassed by Kansas. Ok, so the good news is that Michigan managed to stay in the game against Kansas. The bad news is that they let a great opportunity to beat Kansas slip away. My main question with Michigan is when will they figure out that they aren’t a very good three-point shooting team? They shot an ice cold 17.9% against the Jayhawks, and on 28 attempts nonetheless. They are now 28.4% on the year on 257 attempts. Kansas in contrast is shooting 43% from long range. Michigan needs to take it to the basket and leave the threes for someone else.
  • Penn State hits the Century Mark. Who knew that the Nittany Lions hadn’t hit 100 in a game since a game against Virginia Military Institute three years ago. Penn State was lights out against Gardner-Webb, led by Talor Battle’s 21. Penn State most remarkably shot 87.5% from the free throw line, which I can’t say I have seen much this year in the Big Ten. The bad news is that Penn State has eight days off before traveling up to Minnesota to take on the Gophers.
  • Indiana has definitely found the guy to build the program around. Maurice Creek is his name, and lighting it up from three and leading the team last game in rebounds with seven is his game. He followed up his 31-point performance against Kentucky with 29 against North Carolina Central. Want to be amazed by more stats from Creek? Ok, so he is shooting 44.3% from three, 53.3% from two (as a guard), and a respectable 4.1 boards per game. IU should get a couple more wins before battling Michigan at Assembly Hall for a New Year’s Eve special.
  • Iowa is not the worst in state, just the Big Ten. Iowa just got worse after suspending their second leading scorer in Anthony Tucker after beating Drake by four. Guess December just isn’t Anthony’s month, as he pulled the same move last year as well. The bad news for Iowa is that they will have to venture outside the state, and the competition is much better. It will be a long year for the Hawkeyes.
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Morning Five: 12.21.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2009

  1. Iowa starting point guard Anthony Tucker was charged with public intoxication on the night of his team’s win over Drake, 71-67, and he will be suspended from the team immediately.  This is his second such charge, as he pleaded guilty to the same charge one year ago in Iowa City.
  2. According to Jim Calhoun, he and UConn are very close to signing a five-year extension to his current contract that will keep the acerbic coach in Storrs into his seventies.  Reportedly, Ken Kreyeske was his top negotiator in the discussions.
  3. Ohio State’s Evan Turner is on the record stating that his return will be on January 9 against Minnesota, a full four weeks ahead of initial projections.  Let’s hope he’s right, because the more Turner plays, the better for college basketball.  But let’s also make sure that he’s healthy, and we’re sure Thad Matta will have a say-so in that respect.
  4. This is a great story.  The NCAA granted Mike Gerrity’s waiver on Friday, making him eligible at USC immediately.  So what does he do?  Only drop 12/10 assts in the Trojans’ unreal (in margin) upset of top-ten Tennessee on Saturday evening, his first game in two years!
  5. Rutgers lost big man Gregory Echinique to eye surgery over the weekend, but he is expected to make a full recovery.  He was averaging 13/8 in seven games for Fred Hill’s Scarlet Knights.
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Set Your Tivos: New Year’s Eve Spectacular

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2008

I’ll be honest with you. This doesn’t even come close to Super Saturday from a couple weekends ago, but it’s certainly better than watching all the specials about how your retirement account fell apart this year or some mediocre college football teams play in a meaningless bowl games that nobody has ever heard of. It certainly should be enough to distract Big Ten fans away from their teams getting blown out in the bowl games. In any event it will get the rest of you ready for Dick Clark at midnight. . .

http://www.museum.tv/
Credit: http://www.museum.tv/

Noon ET
- #15 Michigan State at #21 Minnesota on the Big Ten Network: Both teams are riding high after impressive victories on Super Saturday. The Spartans (9-2) have rebounded from a slow start including a blowout loss to UNC (doesn’t seem that bad any more. . .ok losing by 35 in a virtual home game is really bad) to reel off 5 straight wins including a win against Texas on the 20th. Meanwhile, Minnesota (12-0) has been playing consistently good basketball–quality wins over Virginia and an overrated Louisville team–all year despite coming into the season with modest expectations from the media. While the Spartans are more of a known quantity with a number of marquee players, the Gophers are more of an unknown as their soft early season schedule (only Louisville was a RPI top 100) is the reason they are 12-0 yet only ranked #21 in the country. The key to this game will likely be Spartan sophomore PG Kalin Lucas who comes into the game boasting a better than 6.5:1 assist to turnover ratio. If he continues to play at that level, Tubby Smith will have a tough time matching Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

2 PM ET
- #3 Pittsburgh at Rutgers on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: The Panthers are heavy favorites in this game, but we’ll be more interested in how the Scarlet Knights are performing in the middle of the toughest 3 game stretch in college basketball history (#1 UNC then #3 Pitt then current #2 UConn in the same week). Jamie Dixon should have his guys ready for this game after UConn’s loss to Georgetown a couple night earlier, but you never know with college kids particularly ones who probably went home for the holidays and spent time around people who praised them even more than what they normally hear at school. This is definitely an “upset alert” game, but we think the UConn loss should be enough to keep Levance Fields and the Panthers on their toes.

- Wisconsin at #24 Michigan on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: At first glance this would appear to be a mismatch with the Badgers being unranked and the Wolverines receiving a lot of attention from the media this year, but this game should be very close. Most of you know about the Wolverines (10-2) with losses to Duke (avenged) and Maryland, but the Badgers (9-3) come in with a pretty strong resume too–a blowout loss against UConn along with 2 close losses to Marquette and Texas (by a combined 8 points). Despite their strong starts, both teams still have work to do if they want to guarantee themselves a ticket to the NCAA tournament. As usual the Badgers come in without a true superstar, but have a very balanced attack with 5 players averaging between 7.8 and 12.6 PPG. The Wolverines rely on their stars–Manny Harris (19.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 5.1 APG) and DeShawn Sims (17.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG). I figure the Wolverine fans (and Manny Harris) should be enough to put their team over the top in the Big Ten opener.

4 PM ET
- Iowa at #23 Ohio State on the Big Ten Network: Unfortunately we don’t think we will be seeing Mr. Trillion (Mark Titus) make an on-court appearance because this also figures to be a close game. The Hawkeyes (10-3) haven’t been world-beaters, but they should put up a pretty good fight if Anthony Tucker can rebound from his recent suspension and play up to his early-season form. The Buckeyes looked absolutely awful in their last game a 76-48 loss to West Virginia, which dropped them 10 spots in the polls. If the Buckeyes expect to rebound and contend for a Big Ten title, which they have the potential to do, they will need freshman B.J. Mullens to start playing like the big-time recruit he was out of high school. At the very least, Thad Matta needs Mullens to start playing like the 7-footer that he reportedly is. Seriously, 4.0 RPG in 17.7 minutes per game against mediocre competition isn’t going to cut it for someone who has been hyped as a potential lottery pick. If Mullens can raise his game, he and Evan Turner should be enough to make them contenders for the Big Ten title.

6 PM ET
- UNLV at #18 Louisville on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: I would use an “upset alert” on this one, but with the way Rick Pitino’s boys have been playing this year they haven’t played well enough for me to consider another loss an upset. Louisville has the talent to blow out UNLV, but to date they haven’t shown the ability to translate that talent into performance this season. UNLV certainly hasn’t been playing great this year, but their pressing defense has started to pay dividends recently with a big win over Arizona. Normally a team as talented as Louisville shouldn’t have trouble with a trapping defense of the level of UNLV’s (saw it on Christmas Eve on a replay of the Southern Utah game on Mountain TV–don’t ask), but it might just be enough pressure to rattle a team that appears to be as mentally weak as Louisville. My prediction: Let’s just say I have a strong suspicion that Rick will be giving another long speech after this one.

8 PM ET
- #17 Gonzaga at Utah on CBS College Sports: As much as I would like to make this a game about 2 teams (sorry Utah), this game is really all about Gonzaga. The Bulldogs, who were ranked 4th in the nation a couple weeks ago, have lost 3 of 4. We’re willing to let the loss to UConn go (we called it the “Game of the Year (to date)” at the time, but neither team has done much lately to help with that claim), but losses to Arizona and Portland State have basically knocked Gonzaga out of contention for a #1 seed this year. However, Mark Few still has a chance at a #2 seed and spot in the West Region if Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, and company can get back in gear.

10 PM ET

-#1 UNC at Nevada on ESPN2. This is a true road test for the Heels, but it looked better on paper a month ago than it probably will be tonight.  The Wolfpack, with Luke Babbit, Armon Johnson and Brandon Fields, appeared to be ready to compete for another WAC championship and an NCAA bid coming into the season, but they have been nothing short of a disappointment so far, losing to pretty much every good team they’ve played.  Still, there is talent here, and if UNC is looking ahead to hanging out in the seedy casinos afterwards, Nevada could use their homecourt advantage to make a game of this one.  It’s worth keeping an eye on as you lift your glass to toast the new year in the east.

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ATB: So Louisville Plays Nightly Now?

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2008

News & Notes. It’s a light night here at RTC, so we’ll throw in some overdue links.

Tyreke Evans Celebrating RTC Hon Mention

Tyreke Evans Celebrating RTC Honorable Mention

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