RTC’s 2009-10 Impact Players – Northeast Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 2nd, 2009

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

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


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

Impact Players NE 2

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

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About That Syracuse National Title Next Year. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2009

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

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

Jim will be busier this off-season than previously expected

Jim will be busier this off-season than previously expected

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

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. PittsburghXavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

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NCAA Preview: Syracuse Orange

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2009

Syracuse (#3 seed, South, Miami pod)

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

Vegas Line:  Syracuse -12


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

General Profile

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

Nuts ‘n Bolts

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

NCAA History

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


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

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

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ATB: Epic Night in MSG

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009



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

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

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

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

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

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Maybe John Calipari Was Right. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on March 5th, 2009

You may remember that one of the big stories from last year was Memphis and its inability to hit free throws. John Calipari was routinely questioned about it and shrugged it off essentially saying that his team was winning so it didn’t bother him that much. And with the national title game winding down they were in a position to bring Memphis its first title by knocking off Kansas. Then the unthinkable happened. Following the game Calipari was roundly mocked for his bold proclamations leading up to the game that free throws didn’t matter. You could definitely count us among those who made plenty of jokes at Calipari’s expense. Well it turns out that we may have been wrong. . .

Following up John Branch’s article on the remarkably constant free throw percentages over the past 50 years, Jack Styczynski decided to look deeper into free throw percentages. Styczynski, who was perturbed by Branch’s statement that ““there is little correlation between free-throw percentages and winning percentages”  looked through the NCAA’s basketball database and compared the team free throw percentages to the teams that made the Final 4 since 2000. Here is a summary of his findings:

  • In 2005 and 2007, none of the teams in the Final 4 were in the top 50 in team free throw percentage.
  • Last year, UNC (#13) was the only team in the Final 4 that ranked in the top 50 in Division I in free throw percentage.
  • In 2006, national champion Florida (#34) was the only team in the top 50. Apparently Billy Donovan decided to stop working on free throws the next year (and it didn’t matter).
  • Michigan State was the only other national champion to finish in the top 50 (#27 in 2000) during this period.
Rumeal Robinson hit some of the biggest FTs in NCAA history
Rumeal Robinson hit some of the biggest FTs in NCAA history

While all that historical information is nice, we at Rush the Court like to look to the future (namely this March and April) so I broke down the free throw percentages of the top 25 teams in the nation through the games that ended on March 3, 2009. I used the ESPN/USA Today rankings, which are slightly different than the AP rankings, but they have the same teams so we’re looking at the same sample either way. Using the NCAA’s statistics for games through March 1, 2009, the 50th best free throw shooting team (Seton Hall) was shooting 72.6% so I’m using that as the cut-off for this analysis. I have listed the free throw percentages and color-coded the teams into groups: red (<70%), yellow (70-72%), and green (>72%) .

fts-as-of-03-03-09The narrow range of the yellow group (2%) indicates how closely bunched together some teams are, but there are standouts for better or worse. UNC is by far the best free throw shooting team at 2.5% higher than Villanova (76.5% vs. 74.0%), which is the next best FT shooting team in the top 25. Syracuse is on the other end of the spectrum having the worst FT shooting (64.4%) of any team in the top 25, which has to worry Jim Boeheim a little bit. The primary cause of Syracuse’s poor free throw percentage is Arinze Onuaku, who shoots a horrific 31.1% (last in Division I for a player shooting over 100 FTs). The rest of Syracuse’s team isn’t that bad at the line (70% from the FT line). In any case, you can assume that you won’t be seeing much of Onuaku if Syracuse needs to seal a game from the free throw line. If anything, Rick Pitino should be more concerned as Louisville only shoots 64.7% and they lack someone like Onuaku who can be hidden on the bench late in games. For some perspective on these percentages, last year’s much-maligned Memphis team shot 61.4% from the free throw line.

What does all this mean? According to Branch’s article and tournament performance since 2000 it doesn’t mean much, but I do know that John Calipari would like to spend a little extra time in practice at the free throw line if he could go back to last year.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2009

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

Player of the year.

How do you define it. Who put up the best stats? Who is the best player on the best team? The most valuable player? Maybe the guy that, if you were to have a draft involving every player in the league, you would pick first?

My criterion is simple – who is the best player? Easy enough, right?

As of now, there are only four players that should be considered for the award, and another few that deserve a mention in the conversation.

  1. DeJuan Blair, Pitt – 15.7 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 5.8 Orpg, 60% FG
  2. Jerel McNeal, Marquette – 19.9 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.2 spg, 44% 3PT
  3. Terrence Williams, Louisville – 12.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.1 spg, 1.93 a/t
  4. Hasheem Thabeet, UConn – 13.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 4.3 bpg, 64% FG

Others deserving mention: Luke Harangody, Jonny Flynn, Jeff Adrien, Levance Fields, and Da’Sean Butler.

Right now, I have no idea who deserves the award. Two weeks ago, I thought McNeal would run away with it. Last week, I thought Thabeet would made a run at national player of the year. This week, well, just scroll down and read about the player of the week.

There are great arguments to be made for each of these four, as well as the five players deserving mention (I mean, Luke Harangody is the only player in the country to be in the top five of points and rebounds per game, and barely cracks the top five for Big East POY?).

What it is going to come down to is who leads their team to the Big East regular season title. Each of the four players listed are the MVPs of the four teams currently tied (in the loss column) atop the Big East.

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Set Your Tivos: 02.11.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

First, welcome to the “new and improved” Rush The Court. This is pretty much the same interface we were using before, but there are a few minor differences so it may take us some time to work the kinks out. Anyways, there are some note-worthy games tonight. You may have heard about a little game going down in Durham, North Carolina tonight.

Game of the Night
#3 UNC at #5 Duke at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Yeah. I know it’s not exactly the scoop you were expecting from us, but this is probably one of the 5 best match-ups so far this season so I’m not going to go with another game just to be contrarian. The big match-up in this game is on the inside featuring Tyler Hansbrough and Kyle Singler. The Blue Devils will need a big game out of Singler who has struggled lately who is only 9/38 FG in his last 3 games. The other key match-ups will be on the perimeter with Ty Lawson against Greg Paulus at the 1 and high school teammates Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson going against each other. UNC should win this game fairly easily with the way that Duke has been playing lately. If Coach K wants to knock of Hansbrough in his last game at Cameron, he will need Singler to play like he did earlier this year and Jon Scheyer to be hitting any open looks he gets.

Other Games to Watch
#22 Syracuse at #1 UConn at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: On almost any other night this would be our “Game of the Night”, but there is that small rivalry we mentioned before. Jim Calhoun‘s team is starting to look like the team that some thought could threaten this year’s G.O.A.T. UNC team with the emergence of Hasheem Thabeet as a black hole on the inside. Syrcuase will need a huge game out of Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf against the UConn guards (Jerome Dyson, A.J. Price, and Kemba Walker) because Arinze Onuaku isn’t going to be shooting 70% with Thabeet lurking on the inside. I’m going with the Huskies by double-digits in this one.

#13 Xavier at Dayton at 7 PM on ESPN Classic: I’m guessing that both teams were caught looking ahead to this game as both lost their last game to inferior opponents. These two teams are probably the class of the Atlantic 10 so this might end up being a preview of the conference championship game although St. Joseph’s and Duquesne may spoil the party. If Dayton wants to pull off the upset (and have a “Rush the Court” situation), they will need to contain Derrick Brown and B.J. Raymond. Normally, I might lean towards Dayton to pull off the upset, but I think the Musketeers will be too focused after losing to Duquesne in their last game.

#2 Oklahoma at Baylor at 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: This is a game that Baylor needs to win if they are going to have a chance to make the tournament. It probably isn’t fair to make a game against the #2 team in the country and national POY (yes, I’m calling the race) Blake Griffin a must win, but it isn’t fair to lose 5 straight in conference and still make the NCAA tournament. If the Bears are going to pull off the upset, they should focuse on limiting Willie Warren because they aren’t going to stop Griffin and hope that Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn both have big games.

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