Villanova Suspension Of Pinkston Best Move For All Involved

Posted by jstevrtc on December 6th, 2010

Villanova announced on Monday that freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston is suspended from the school for the spring semester, meaning he isn’t permitted to attend classes, let alone play or practice with the basketball team. The suspension comes as a result of an off-campus fight in which Pinkston was involved on November 6th. He was charged with two counts of assault, but has attended classes and practiced with the team since then.

The Next 12 Months of No Basketball Will Determine the Rest of Pinkston's Basketball Life.

It’s never good when a kid faces assault charges and also has to miss out on a year of college because of mistakes like this, or rather, that they happen in the first place. Supporters of Villanova basketball certainly don’t like that their team will have to go a year without a 6’6 and 235-pound power forward ranked as one of the top 75 recruits in the nation last year as a high school senior. Consider this, though — it might not seem it at first, but there is still a lot of good that can come from this. It may even end up actually being the best thing for everybody right now.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.26.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 26th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

There are lots of good games today, most with implications are from tournaments. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Old Spice Classic Semifinal: #25 Wisconsin vs. Boston College — 12 pm on ESPN (***)

Wisconsin enters today’s game coming off a brutal to watch 50-35 win over Manhattan in the opening round yesterday at Disney. Jon Leuer led the Badgers with 16/13 in a game that had the same halftime score (17-10) as the Patriots/Lions NFL game. Boston College scored a thrilling 67-65 win over Texas A&M as Dash Harris’ coast-to-coast layup try fell off the rim as time expired. Reggie Jackson scored 21 points on 8-12 shooting to pace an Eagles team that shot 47% overall from the floor. BC held off a second half charge from the Aggies and overcame a 29-14 shellacking on the boards to pull out the win. Wisconsin is rated eighth in offensive efficiency but has struggled shooting the ball recently. They’ve shot under 40% in their last two games but have made up for it on the defensive end, especially yesterday. Bo Ryan’s stingy defense held Manhattan under 50 FG attempts and 28.6% shooting. Wisconsin is strong on the boards as well, ranking #1 in offensive rebounding percentage and #7 in the same statistic on the defensive side meaning they clean the defensive glass very well. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin has out-rebounded every opponent it has faced this season. That’s going to be a problem for Boston College, a team that ranks #267 in offensive rebounding and had a rough time against the Aggies yesterday. The Eagles shot it well from three for the first time all year against A&M and that’s something Steve Donahue may want to take advantage of again today. Wisconsin ranks #298 against the three, the one thing they don’t do well defensively. BC isn’t much better however, ranking #293. Expect a well played game at an average to below-average speed as Boston College protects the ball very well and Wisconsin doesn’t force many steals and turnovers due to their deliberate style of play. The Badgers have assisted on 63% of their made shots this year, a sign of a disciplined offensive system led by Jordan Taylor. We expect this to be a close game but Wisconsin has the edge in most areas and that should be good enough to advance to the finals of this tournament.

76 Classic Semifinal: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State — 2:30 pm on ESPN (**)

Oklahoma State got by a pesky DePaul team in the first round on the back of Marshall Moses’ 27/9 on 11-14 FG while Virginia Tech rolled over Cal State Northridge. This game features a lot of statistical contrasts and most would seem to favor the Hokies. The most glaring of which has to be turnovers. Virginia Tech does turn the ball over too much but they also force a bunch due to their style of play. Oklahoma State turned it over 25 times against an up-tempo DePaul team while Virginia Tech forced the same number against Northridge. That doesn’t bode well for today’s matchup if you’re a Cowboy fan. The Hokies get to the line extremely well and that should give them a big advantage in this game. The Pokes of OSU foul a lot, ranking #321 in FTA/FGA, a measure of how often your opponent gets to the line. Virginia Tech doesn’t take advantage as much as they should, averaging 69% from the stripe. Malcolm Delaney is the creator and best player for Seth Greenberg while Jeff Allen has had a nice start to his senior season in the post (11.5/9/4). He’ll play a key role defending Moses if he chooses to enter the paint. Virginia Tech blocks a lot of shots, ranked #16 in blocked shot percentage. Oklahoma State is even better at #12 so expect a war in the paint. Neither team shoots or defends the three very well so a lot of the action should be confined to be inside the arc with guard penetration and dishing to guys like Allen and Darrell Williams for OSU. The Hokies have an edge in talent and Travis Ford still isn’t too sure about what to expect from his club in a transitional year. Virginia Tech is a solid favorite here and should advance. For Oklahoma State to win, they’ll need to do a great job controlling the ball and getting rebounds in order to limit opportunities for the Hokies.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.24.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 24th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivobut we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Maui lived up to the hype. Kansas City? Not so much. We’ve got two more good ones from paradise today, Thanksgiving Eve. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Maui Invitational Third Place Game: #3 Michigan State vs. #15 Washington – 5 pm on ESPN2 (****)

All Walker, All the Time in Maui

How’s a top 15 matchup for a third place game? Courtesy of Connecticut’s upset of Michigan State, that’s what we have. The Spartans were the latest team to fall victim to the Kemba Walker show as the Connecticut point guard put up 30 points yet again on 10-19 shooting. Tom Izzo’s Spartans did not hold their customary edge rebounding wise which cost them and poor games from Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious certainly didn’t help the cause, either. Washington lost one of the hardest fought, intense games you’ll ever see this time of year to a Kentucky club that dominated the boards and got to the line enough to win. Former Washington commit Terrence Jones torched the Huskies with 16/17 as he and Brandon Knight (24 points) led Kentucky to the championship game. This figures to be another war but Michigan State must get meaner and more physical if they hope to beat Washington. The Huskies are going to get it up and down quick meaning Michigan State has to hold their ground defensively, be active in the passing lanes and stay in front of the Washington guards. Lorenzo Romar hopes Isaiah Thomas can rebound from a sub-par outing and help prevent a 1-2 finish in Maui. The unbelievable thing is that a top 15 team is going home 1-2 no matter what happens in this game tonight. This is a noon local tip so one or both teams may get off to a sluggish start. If Washington can get better looks and shoot it well, Michigan State will have their hands full. Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday need to be strong in the post against a tough Spartan front line for Washington to get an edge on the glass. We don’t think it’s crazy to think Michigan State will be the top 15 team to leave Maui with two losses on the young season.

NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinal: #6 Villanova vs. UCLA – 9:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Villanova has defended much better so far this year, ranking 14th in defensive efficiency. That’s a big improvement from last season’s 62nd ranked defense which failed the Wildcats down the stretch and ultimately resulted in a second round exit to St. Mary’s after being pushed to overtime by #15 seed Robert Morris. Offense is not a problem for Villanova but defense will determine how far they can go this year. So far, the early returns look good. Jay Wright loves to get his team out in transition by causing turnovers. Villanova is in the top ten in steal and turnover percentage and ranks 30th in two point FG%, probably a result of all the layups created through turnovers. One thing the Wildcats have not done, surprisingly, is shoot the trey well. That’ll play right into UCLA’s hands as they rank 8th in three point defense. There is reason for optimism in Westwood after last year’s disaster as the Pac-10 is weak yet again and Ben Howland’s team has a great chance to finish second and get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have been led by 6’8 sophomore forward Reeves Nelson (19/10) and Tyler Honeycutt (16/8). These two more athletic players could cause problems for Villanova’s Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou inside tonight. While UCLA can hold their own there, the Wildcats will have a big advantage in the back court. Malcolm Lee is listed as probable for UCLA but will still be hampered by a bum ankle. The Bruins will count on Lazeric Jones to steady the ship and control the basketball against the aggressive Villanova defense. Try as they might, Villanova is too tough for UCLA to handle behind a trio of stud guards. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns lead the way and Corey Stokes is a big guard who can really shoot it. Villanova simply has too much talent and depth for the thin Bruins, playing with just ten scholarship players. It’s not impossible for UCLA to win but it seems highly unlikely tonight under the bright lights of the big city at Madison Square Garden.

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RTC Conference Primer: #2 – Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the Big East correspondent for Rush The Court.


Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Villanova (15-3)
  • T2. Pittsburgh (14-4)
  • T2. Syracuse (14-4)
  • 4. Georgetown (12-6)
  • T5. West Virginia (11-7)
  • T5. Marquette (11-7)
  • 7. Seton Hall (10-8)
  • T8. Notre Dame (9-9)
  • T8. St. John’s (9-9)
  • T10. Connecticut (8-10)
  • T10. Louisville (8-10)
  • T12. South Florida (7-11)
  • T12. Cincinnati (7-11)
  • T14. Providence (3-15)
  • T14. Rutgers (3-15)
  • T14. DePaul (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Corey Fisher, Villanova (13.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.8 rpg)
  • G: Kemba Walker, UConn (14.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 spg)
  • F: Austin Freeman, Georgetown (16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 44.4% 3pt)
  • F: Kris Joseph, Syracuse (10.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 spg)
  • F: Kevin Jones, West Virginia (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

6th Man

Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 42.9% 3pt)

Impact Newcomers

  • Fab Melo, Syracuse: Melo should have an immediate impact as the starting center for the Orange. Regarded as one of, if not the, best center in the class, Melo has more polish offensively than most bigs do as freshman, but his size in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone may be more important.
  • Vander Blue, Marquette: Blue should step in and start immediately for the Golden Eagles. He’s everything you imagine when you think of a Marquette wing player. He’s tough, athletic, and can slash to the basket. He’ll remind some of Jerel McNeal.
  • Nate Lubick, Georgetown: With the Hoyas losing Greg Monroe to the NBA, they will have a gaping hole in the middle. Lubick has the skill set to be the high post forward of the future for John Thompson III, and he could immediately slide into the starting lineup.

Jay Wright has Villanova in the driver’s seat, with Pittsburgh nipping at the Wildcats’ heels. (AP/Michael Perez)

What You Need To Know

As much as it pains me to say it, the Big East is going to be down this season, especially near the bottom of the league. The two best players in the conference are probably Austin Freeman and Corey Fisher, and while I don’t want to take anything away from those two — I love the way that both play — they are a long way from being lottery picks. Providence, Rutgers and DePaul are as bad as any three teams at the bottom of the power conferences, which is saying a lot considering what the cellar of the Pac-10 and SEC have to offer. Now think about this: If the Big East wants to get more than six teams into the Big Dance, the teams that will likely be fighting for the last couple of at-large bids this season are Seton Hall, St. John’s, Notre Dame and UConn. And that assumes that Marquette and West Virginia are dancing. Yuck.

Predicted Champion

Villanova (NCAA #2 Seed): I like Villanova a lot more than other people do. I think Corey Fisher has a chance to become a star this season as he steps out of the shadow of Scottie Reynolds. I think Maalik Wayns has a chance to come into his own as well. Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek should provide some size, athleticism, and versatility on the perimeter, while Jayvaughn Pinkston and Isaiah Armwood provide the same along the front line. The trio of Antonio Pena, Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton is one of the better front lines in the conference. More than anything, however, I think that Jay Wright has answered the biggest questions his team had last season. Without a doubt, Villanova will be better inside with Yarou healthy, Pinkston on the roster, and Armwood and Sutton a year stronger. They should also be better defensively without Reynolds and Fisher sharing the floor. This team has a great mixture of size, athleticism, youth, experience, and versatility. They remind me quite a bit of the Villanova team that made the 2009 Final Four.
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Preseason NIT: Weakened Field But Still Special

Posted by rtmsf on August 17th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago we broke down what will arguably be the top holiday tournament of the 2010-11 season, the Maui Invitational.  The other Big Daddy of pre-conference tourneys, the Preseason NIT, released its brackets today, and at first blush, the field is not all that exciting this year.  Take a look at the below bracket and tell us where you get a little tingly thinking about the downstream matchup possibilities?

The only legitimate national contender in the field is Villanova, with 105-point scorer Corey Fisher returning along with a whole cadre of talented inside players including Mouph Yarou, Antonio Pena and Isaiah Armwood.  If the expectation is that productive freshmen become superb sophomores, then the Wildcats are a team with as much upside as anyone else in America next year.  The dropoff in talent from VU to the next best squad, Tennessee, is significant, but the real precipice occurs after that point.  The Vols lost Wayne Chism, JP Prince and Bobby Maze from their Elite Eight team, but they bring back star-in-waiting Scotty Hopson and add Tobias Harris to a solid cast of role players, so UT has a chance to be very good again.  We’d expect these two teams to sleepwalk their way to the finals on Black Friday in Madison Square Garden.

The third and fourth seeds and regional hosts Wake Forest and UCLA are two of the weaker teams we’ve seen in this position in some time.  Neither is a likely NCAA Tournament team next season, and it says here that both schools will have trouble getting out of their PNIT region despite the fact that it will be played on their home courts.  Wake returns two promising sophomores in CJ Harris and Ari Stewart, but the loss of all-ACC players Al-Farouq Aminu and Ish Smith, not to mention head coach Dino Gaudio (replaced by Jeff Bzdelik), will be too much for the duo to bear so early in the season — expect the Deacs to crumble against a strong VCU team with something to prove.  UCLA returns more than Wake Forest, but if you’ve somehow been in a fugue state for the past twelve months, the Bruin program has fallen on hard times due to poor recruiting, team chemistry and injury problems.  The talented but enigmatic Malcolm Lee returns along with several other young players (Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson, Jerime Anderson), but the addition of five-star stud Josh Smith to the mix isn’t going to suddenly remind UCLA how to win games.  A second-round matchup against Pacific, with its top four players returning, or Nevada, always looking for a Pac-10 scalp as a member of the overlooked WAC, will be difficult for UCLA, even in Pauley Pavilion.

The one thing we will continue to give the PNIT folks credit for, though, is that they actually still understand the meaning of the word “Tournament.”  Yeah, yeah, we know that other entities get around it by using words like “Classic,” but a bracket is a bracket and it really only makes sense when a team advances into the later rounds by, you know, winning.  There are no guarantees — Villanova, Tennessee, Wake Forest and UCLA will actually have to beat two visiting teams to earn the privilege of a trip to New York City during Thanksgiving week to play in the World’s Most Famous Arena.  So from that perspective, we’ll still enjoy watching the Preseason NIT this November if for no other reason than they get it right.

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20 At The Top: Big East Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

There’s little doubt remaining that the Big East is the superpower college basketball league. When it’s pegged as the premiere conference prior to the season, it always seems to live up to the hype. When prognosticators predict its decline, it surprises us all and we’re left wondering why we underestimated the Big East again. Some team like Syracuse of last year emerges and elevates the conference to higher levels. Even with record-breaking seniors such as Scottie Reynolds, Luke Harangody and Da’Sean Butler moving on and lottery picks Wesley Johnson and Greg Monroe also departing, the Big East should be strong once again in 2010-11. The fight at the top will likely pit Villanova, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Syracuse and a sleeper that’s yet to be determined. As I did with the ACC and Big 12, here are your top 20 players heading into next season in what could be a guard-dominated Big East:

In a close race, Freeman is the best of the pack

1) Austin Freeman, Georgetown- I had a difficult time ranking the top six in this list before ultimately settling on Freeman at the top spot for a handful of reasons, notably perimeter shooting, efficiency and basketball IQ. He had the least question marks and negatives to his game than any of the other candidates. Freeman emerged as a sharpshooting weapon in Big East play for an up-and-down Hoyas team. Some may credit his career high three point percentage on defenses keying on Greg Monroe, but 44% is still a fantastic total even shooting alone in an open gym. Freeman utilizes his strong frame to fight around screens for open looks and possesses a picture perfect shooting stroke. One has to be intelligent on the basketball court if you want to play for John Thompson III; Freeman limits his turnovers and ranked near the top of the Big East in both offensive rating and efficient FG%.  Where Freeman can improve during his senior year is using that frame to be more aggressive to the rim. Shooting under 100 free throws on the season isn’t going to suffice with the Hoyas lean frontcourt depth. Having an entire summer to deal and manage with his diabetes- a possible factor for his fading down the stretch last season- will certainly help to a degree.

2) Corey Fisher, Villanova- It’s now Corey Fisher’s team at Villanova. With Scottie Reynolds’ decorated four seasons a thing of the past, Fisher will play the lead role in 2010-11 for Jay Wright. The expectation doesn’t change perennially for Wright-coached teams along the Main Line: contend for the Big East crown. Fisher is a tough kid from the Bronx that should be able to shoulder such pressure. The 6’1 speedster has improved through each of his three seasons in Philly, bumping his FG% up to a solid 45% clip as a junior, remaining dependable at the charity stripe and greatly increasing his three-point shooting to  nearly 40%. His floor skills and court vision also lead me to believe he can handle running the up-tempo Nova attack and he continues to be a headache to try to defend. His spot-up jump shooting has always been a strength and Fisher also features a series of tricky floaters, up-and-under moves in the paint and an impressive dribble-drive repertoire. The only caveat: a five-minute suspension in Villanova’s first round NCAA Tournament game last March does bring maturity into question.

3) Kevin Jones, West Virginia- Jones has come a long way from two summers ago when his home state Syracuse Orange wouldn’t even offer him a scholarship. Now faced with the departure of Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, Jones knows head coach Bob Huggins is expecting him to be the featured offensive threat for the Mountaineers. A tremendously hard worker on and off the floor, KJ improved his game in every capacity from his freshman to sophomore campaigns and was an under-appreciated player nationally during West Virginia’s Final Four run. He was a huge factor in WVU finishing second in the nation in offensive rebounding, upped his three point percentage from 21% to 40% and his PPG more than doubled as a result. The 6’8 power forward plays bigger with a lengthy wingspan and tremendous energy. His turnover rate is also very small for an underclassman. Jones may never become a star due to his dribble penetration limitations and inability to create his own shot consistently, but there’s two years left of eligibility at Morgantown for him to prove more critics wrong.

4) Kemba Walker, Connecticut- Lost in the tumultuous season in Storrs was the marked improvement in Walker’s overall floor game, erasing what was a fatal flaw and continuing to excel in other areas. Walker put in tons of work last summer boosting a weak outside jump shot and it paid off tremendously when practices turned into games. His jump shooting both outside and inside the arc transformed from a liability to one that opposing defenses had to respect. With Jerome Dyson no longer hogging the ball on the perimeter and taking ill-advised threes, Walker will have to learn to balance being the depended offensive weapon for the Huskies and also limiting poor shot selection that tends to show up on occasion. One area of his game that doesn’t slump is his quickness from baseline to baseline that would make Ty Lawson blush. His court vision and passing ability are also strengths; after all, he did average 5.1 APG on a Connecticut team that often struggled to score en route to the NIT last season. While his smaller stature does allow bigger guards more room to elevate over him for shots, Walker makes up for that with quick hands and feet on defense, always primed for a big steal and bucket on the other end in the blink of an eye.

5) Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame- The most dependable Irish player last season will have to do even more in a rebuilding 2010-11 with Luke Harangody, Ben Hansbrough and Tory Jackson all departing. Abromaitis was quietly one of the most efficient players in the nation as a junior, a season in which he really came out of nowhere after redshirting the prior year. His basic stats were more than solid: 16.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 50% FG, 87% FT, 43% 3pt. But what if I told you Abromaitis ranked second in the nation in offensive rating among players who used 20+ percent of his teams’ possessions? Or that he finished second in the Big East in efficient FG% and among the top echelon in turnover rate? While those stats could go down during his senior season while defenses key on him more often, don’t lie and tell me those numbers didn’t at least sort of shock you coming from Abromaitis. He’s under-appreciated nationally but primed to make more of a name for himself this upcoming season. His 3.7 GPA in finance and First Team Academic All-America honor means more to me than an underage drinking arrest from last weekend.

6) Kris Joseph, Syracuse- Joseph is a player I expect to take off this season and eventually become a first round pick, especially with Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins’ departures opening up plenty of opportunities to shine. Joseph’s minutes doubled as a sophomore and so did his production. The physical tools are evident, and if the athletic Montreal native just adds some more bulk this summer, he could be an effective weapon at either the 3 or 4 spots for Jim Boeheim next season. Joseph loves to face up and beat his defender off the dribble or pull up for a reliable foul line extended jumper, although his range doesn’t extend much further out towards the arc. That athleticism and impressive motor also leads to plenty of free throw opportunities and there’s no reason to believe Joseph can’t average close to 7-8 RPG in 32-34 MPG for the Orange in his junior season. Whether it’s Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Rick Jackson or one of the hyped freshman, someone must make a huge leap if ‘Cuse wants to repeat as regular season Big East champs. I’d put my money on Joseph.

Ashton Gibbs could be an all-Big East performer

7) Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh- There are flaws in Gibbs’ overall game: any time a guard averages 1.8 APG in just under 35 MPG, his skills as a distributor are probably not overwhelming. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon may have to play Travon Woodall at the point more often than he’d like this season because of that very fact. Gibbs’ defense also isn’t superb. But few in the country can get as hot as Gibbs scoring the basketball. Blessed with a quick release and unlimited range, Gibbs will be the #1 weapon on a balanced Pitt scoring attack in 2010-11. The most improved player in the conference last season, Gibbs has the offensive repertoire to score nearly 20 points per contest for the Panthers. His three-point percentage of 44% as a freshman is much more likely to be repeated than his 39% clip of his sophomore year. There’s no doubt Gibbs can light it up on occasion, but scoring efficiency, as well as improvements in other facets of his game, will be necessary for Pitt to reach their first Final Four since 1941.

8) Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall- Where to rank Jeremy Hazell was one of the biggest challenges I encountered making this list. I’ve seen him do some incredible things on the court, single handedly bringing the Pirates back from nearly insurmountable deficits when he finds the right shooting stroke. Averaging over 20 PPG in the Big East is nothing to sneeze at, even if that number is in large part a result of former coach Bobby Gonzalez’ high possession strategy. In a two game stretch against West Virginia and Syracuse last year, Hazell attempted 64 shots, so it’s fair to conclude he can win you games with his shot and lose you games at the same time. There’s seemingly no heat check for this senior. Hazell’s long wingspan and good hands make you think he could be a solid defender, but he often becomes lazy on that end. Hazell also needs to work on penetration and creating his own shot rather than relying on catch-and-shoot plays. He can become too predictable and easy to defend with such an unbalanced offensive game. Even if the defense picks up on that and he’s covered, it really doesn’t matter: Hazell will shoot anyway. Still, make no bones about it, his return to The Rock for a senior campaign gives new coach Kevin Willard a legitimate shot of dancing in March. He’s that explosive of a scorer.

9) Chris Wright, Georgetown- Wright and fellow Hoya Austin Freeman will form one of the best 1-2 backcourt punches in the nation next season. Fairly inconsistent for most of his junior season, Wright really turned on the jets in March, scoring in double figures every game and probably would have garnered Big East Tournament MVP honors had Da’Sean Butler not gone all Superman again. He was also the only one seemingly interested in preventing Georgetown from being embarrassed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Wright has a strong body and is a sneaky good athlete. His jumper has been just average throughout his Hoya career, but the solid mechanics gives evaluators hope it can drastically improve as a senior. Wright excels defensively, providing JTIII with max effort on every possession and is a reliable free throw shooter, an imperative strength for a point guard. The Hoyas won’t have much in the way of backcourt depth after Wright, Freeman and Jason Clark unless freshman Markel Starks makes an impact right away, so 35-37 MPG may be in the cards again for Wright.

10) Gus Gilchrist, South Florida- An ankle injury in mid-December derailed Gilchrist’s sophomore season, but prior to the injury there were few more productive big men in the conference. The inside force working alongside dynamite scorer Dominique Jones, Gilchrist scored 18 or more points and grabbed seven or more boards in six of the Bulls first eight games. Utilizing a huge 6’10, 235 pound frame to bully over defenders, containing Gilchrist was certainly a chore for his overwhelmed opponents. Still, it’s worth noting that none of those opponents reached the NCAA Tournament, and when Gilchrist did return from the injury in mid-February, his statistics dipped substantially against Big East foes save a 21/6 against woeful Providence. It’s far from a sure thing Gilchrist takes the Big East by storm as the number one option in Tampa. He absolutely has the capabilities, the body and the potential, though. Great size, toughness and physicality in the paint all help Gilchrist, but it’s rounding out his game with a  constantly improving shooting stroke that has USF fans drooling over what could be a breakout season.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: Second Round 03.20.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 20th, 2010

Now it’s a party.  The first round is done.  The next 48 hours of games will define which big-time teams can handle the pressure cooker that is the Big Dance, and it will identify the Cinderellas we’ll be talking about for years.  If you’re a double-digit seed, winning one game is nice, but you don’t receive your wicked stepsisters, pumpkin coach, and glass slipper until you at least reach the Sweet 16.  Oh, you’re a big-conference bigwig?  Then the next round is still probably less than what was expected of you.  People don’t remember Second Rounders.  They remember teams that make the Sweet 16 and beyond.  The first round was fun.  But it’s over.  Here are the teams vying for the Sweet 16 on Saturday:

  • #2 Villanova vs #10 St. Mary’s
  • #5 Butler vs #13 Murray State
  • #6 Tennessee vs #14 Ohio
  • #1 Kansas vs #9 Northern Iowa
  • #3 Baylor vs #11 Old Dominion
  • #3 New Mexico vs #11 Washington
  • #2 Kansas State vs #7 Brigham Young
  • #1 Kentucky vs #9 Wake Forest

We’ll be here all day, watching the games with you.  We hope you’ll join us, and we definitely look forward to seeing you in the comments section as we all climb in to ride this rollercoaster for the third time.  See you right here about fifteen minutes before the first tip!

12:55: Here we go!  For the Sweet 16, gentlemen…let’s play!  Some interesting matchups throughout the day.  Looking especially forward to Baylor vs ODU and KSU vs BYU.  To me those look like the more intriguing games.

1:05: St. Mary’s off to a quick start!  The inside battle between Omar Samhan and Mouphtaou Yarou and/or Maurice Sutton is gonna be fun to watch.  God, Samhan looks bigger every time I see him.

1:15: I guess Jay Wright’s “minor teaching point” is over.  Samhan could not have asked for a better start to this game.  Eight points on 4-6 shooting.  SMU does not look intimidated early.  I fact, Villanova still looks like they’re getting over whatever hangover they were nursing that caused them to almost get beaten by Bob Morris.

1:26: Samhan just rooked with that second foul.  I agree with Raftery.  That should have been a no-call.

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RTC Live: West Virginia @ Villanova

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

When the Big East scheduled this game back in September, everyone assumed the stakes would include the conference regular season title, the #1 seed in the Big East Conference Tournament and maybe a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse’s remarkable season has altered the circumstances,  but when West Virginia meets Villanova at the Wachovia Center in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday, the Mountaineers and Wildcats will compete for the #2 seed at Madison Square Garden, with the winner taking the inside track for a #2 in the NCAAs as well. West Virginia, fresh from their 81-68 destruction of Georgetown on Big Monday, is led by senior Da’Sean Butler who scored 22 points in that game. Villanova will counter with a senior of their own, Big East Player of the Year candidate Scottie Reynolds, who scored 17 second half points in Villanova’s 77-73 win over South Florida on Tuesday. Injuries forced West Virginia coach Bob Huggins to develop his “Four Forwards Offense” (Butler, Devin Ebanks, Wellington Smith and Kevin Jones are matched with sophomore guard Darryl Bryant ) to get his five best players on the court. Villanova will counter with two speedy guards (Reynolds and Corey Fisher), a wing (Reggie Redding? Corey Stokes?) and a pair of low post players (Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou). Can Villanova’s “quicks” compete with West Virginia’s “length”? Join us Saturday at noon, as RTC Live blogs from the Wachovia Center in teh City of Brotherly Love.

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(Elite) Eight Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on February 23rd, 2010

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

This week’s Scribbles column will take on a new twist- which eight teams I’d select to reach the four regional final games in late March. Now, I realize individual matchups within the bracket will determine the fate of these teams, but these are the eight clubs I feel like have an excellent chance of winning three games to reach the Elite 8 regardless of the teams that stand in their way. Some of these teams are the favorites, those expected to reach this level or their season will be labeled a colossal disappointment. The others are mild sleepers that certainly have the capabilities to make a serious run. Without further ado:

1. Kansas- One screaming commentator keeps telling me there’s not one clear favorite heading into March Madness this season. There’s no one team that stands above the rest akin to last year’s North Carolina entering the field as the favorite to hoist the championship trophy on that Monday night in April. This claim continues to baffle me for two reasons: 1) North Carolina was NOT the clear favorite to win the national championship last season. They entered the NCAA Tournament coming off a semifinal loss in the ACC Tournament to Florida State and were chosen as the #3 overall seed in the Dance behind Louisville and Pittsburgh. They were also dealing with question marks around Ty Lawson’s playing status. For a sample, I checked back to the NCAA Tournament pool I conducted last season and North Carolina was picked to win it all less than both Pitt (the most frequent) and Louisville. Even though the Heels featured the most pure talent, let’s put an end to this false claim. I also vehemently disagree that one team doesn’t stand alone this season ahead of the pack. To me, Kansas is the clear cut #1 favorite to win their second title in three years. Bill Self has the second most efficient offense and the third most efficient defense. He’s slowly but surely cut down his rotation and found a perfect balance. Most great teams start with a dominant point guard and center and Self has both of those covered. Even the enigma known as Tyshawn Taylor received a jolt from a surprising start by Self last Saturday and responded. I haven’t even mentioned the scorching hot Xavier Henry. The Jayhawks are an obvious Elite 8 team.

Taylor and Self finally on the same page?

2. Kentucky- If any team can hold a candle to Kansas at this stage of the season, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats have matched Kansas’ road triumphs in the Big 12 with impressive wins away from Lexington against Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. John Calipari has blended complicated personalities to perfection and found the ideal concoction to finally win a national title. I mentioned Kansas has a tremendous starting point with Collins and Aldrich; they’re actually topped by the inside-outside duo of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Wall has emerged from a mid-season turnover slump to play more like the December John Wall the entire college basketball world fell in love with. He’s absolutely deadly in transition and continues to make clutch plays down the stretch. Cousins will be the single most difficult player to guard in the entire NCAA Tournament, evident by his top-five rank in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He has guard skills in a 6’11 body and is the most effective rebounder in the nation. The real question is if Kentucky can play a halfcourt game against the likes of Purdue and West Virginia should they run into either team. The Wildcats are much more ordinary than spectacular when they play a game in the 60s and are forced to settle for outside jump shots. Still, this team has the goods and the talent to reach a regional final.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 02.08.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 8th, 2010

We couldn’t resist.  This evening we’ll witness two of the biggest games of the year.  I don’t have to tell you, but I’ll tell you anyway — we’re talking Villanova at West Virginia at 7 PM, then Kansas @ Texas at 9 PM.  We’ll be commenting the whole evening on the games, so hit that refresh button and let’s hear what you have to say as well!

7:03 PM: Big Monday?  Heck no, how about HUUUUUGE Monday?!?  Two great games.  Raftery has already given us a “mn-a-mn!!”  Aside from the obvious excellent guard matchup, I’m interested to see how the refs are going to call this one.  PLEASE, let these guys play.

7:12: First question…did the Pirates at least give a tryout to the kid who hit the Pittsburgh assistant coach with that coin?  I’m not saying there was anything like that in the works, and we at RTC certainly don’t advocate such terrible behavior in spectators, but are you going to tell me that the Pirates’ outfield couldn’t use a guy who can throw a 500-foot strike with a nickel?  Senators, maybe?  Just a thought.

7:18: It led to free throws only, but Corey Fisher just put a Bozo the Clown suit on Da’Sean Butler.  Took the ball on a long outlet pass, took a dribble, saw Butler in front of him, gave him a QUICK shimmy-shoulder fake, and went around Butler as if his feet were in cement.  It even got a WOW and a WHOO! from Bilas and Raftery (respectively).

7:24: It has to be said: I like watching Taylor King play this game.  The guy does everything.  I dig the way’s he’s ALWAYS the first guy on the floor going after loose balls, he’s back-tapping balls, grabbing steals, snagging some offensive boards, blocking a couple of shots…and you can’t leave him open from anywhere on the floor.  He’s a difference-maker.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles… (With a Wednesday Twist)

Posted by zhayes9 on February 3rd, 2010

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

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

10. Duke

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

What Makes Duke 2010 Different than Duke 2006-09?

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

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

9. West Virginia

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

Ebanks is the X-factor for West Virginia

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

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

8. Texas

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

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 26th, 2010

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

1. I’d be fairly shocked if Gonzaga is any lower than a #3 seed when the brackets are unveiled in March. In fact, I’d be fairly shocked if the Zags lost again this season. Think about it: they’ve already notched wins on the road against the three teams most likely to shock Mark Few’s team by dispatching Portland, Saint Mary’s and San Diego on a single road trip. They have one challenging non-conference game left against a rebuilding Memphis team in which Gonzaga will surely be favored. The only team I could see possibly stunning the Zags is Pepperdine and their explosive guard Keion Bell. The Waves only fell by seven in the Kennel this past week behind Bell’s 37 points, but they’re still 7-13 on the season and I highly doubt Bell is going to post 37 again on a stingier Gonzaga defense. Win out and Mark Few is looking at 27-3 (16-0) heading into the WCC tournament where they could finish with a 29-3 (18-0) overall record and an RPI in the top-20 with their only losses at Michigan State, at home against Wake Forest and Duke in MSG. That sets up Gonzaga for a #3 seed in the Spokane regional, meaning two quasi-home games until the regional (and they could be in the Salt Lake City regional). German import Elias Harris has spear-headed the Zags hot streak. He’s averaging 16/8 and shooting nearly 60% in a tremendous debut campaign.

Vasquez heating up for the Terps

2. Remember that Greivis Vasquez guy on Maryland who’s had a pretty damn good career? After scoring in the single digits in his first four games and struggling mightily with his jump shot in Maui, the brash and often polarizing emotional sparkplug for the Terps is heating up in a big way. And that’s bad news for the rest of the wide-open ACC. Vasquez has now scored in double figures his last 14 games including a 30-point outburst at Wake Forest and 22 in a big home win over Florida State. He played his most efficient game Saturday in the blowout win over NC State, notching 19 points on 7-11 FG and 3-4 3pt. Despite the concerning start, Vasquez is now playing like the ACC POY contender he truly is. His 43% FG is only second to his 44% as a freshman (but he only needs three more shots to match the amount taken that season), his 39% 3pt is far and away a career best, and he’s also contributing with 6.1 APG and 4.6 RPG, solid totals for a 6’6 guard. I fully expect Duke to win the ACC- they’ve already played two of their three most difficult ACC games- but Maryland is absolutely a contender to finish second behind Vasquez, the continued improved play of Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes (46% 3pt), plus the superb coaching of Gary Williams.

3. Other than maybe Georgetown or Notre Dame, the most disappointing team in the nation last season may have been Baylor. The Bears entered the season fresh off reaching the NCAA Tournament just a few years following the Dave Bliss fallout with Scott Drew being lauded as one of the best young coaches in the game. Even though a late-season Big 12 Tournament and NIT push healed some wounds, the 5-11 Big 12 mark a season ago was still a campaign to forget. What led to the downfall? For one, Baylor ranked #103 in defensive efficiency in 2008-09. During their crippling six game Big 12 losing streak, the Bears surrendered 95 points to Oklahoma, 89 to Missouri and 83 to Texas Tech. In a related story, Baylor is ranked in the top 25 this week and ranks 41st in defensive efficiency. What has sparked the change? A big reason is the human eraser Ekpe Udoh in the post, a Michigan transfer who ranks sixth in college basketball in block percentage (Baylor ranks first in the nation in the same category). Baylor as a unit has also turned up the intensity on the defensive end, ranking third in the nation in opponents two-point FG% behind just Mississippi State and Florida State. Baylor hasn’t forgotten how to score, either. They rank 15th in offensive efficiency and eighth in effective FG%. Anyone who watched the Bears go toe-to-toe with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse last Monday knows this team can play.

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