AAC Team Previews: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Posted by mlemaire on November 1st, 2013

Our team preview style has been heavily cribbed from the microsite writers over in the Pac-12. We love them and assume they would take our attempt at loose imitation as flattery and not plagiarism.

Rutgers

Strengths: It was a bit surprising to see the conference’s coaches pick the Scarlet Knights to finish dead last this season because the team has one of the better and more experienced backcourts in the conference. No, they won’t enjoy the fruits of Eli Carter’s labors, but Myles Mack is a fearless scorer who can pick up some slack, and Jerome Seagears has plenty of potential if he can become a more efficient offensive player. Coach Eddie Jordan will also be in charge figuring out how to fit junior college transfers D’Von Campbell and Kerwin Okoro into the backcourt rotation, but those are four high-major talents to anchor the team’s guard play, and that doesn’t count Malick Kone, who is an experienced role player and adds depth. The Scarlet Knights were a relatively efficient offensive unit last season despite playing a slowed-down style. The pace won’t be much different this year as Jordan favors a Princeton-style offense, but the coaching staff has the tools and the talent in the backcourt to make it work.

Wally Judge Is Going Have To Come Up Huge In Rutgers' Frontcourt This Season (Tom Ciszek/NJSportsPhoto)

Wally Judge Is Going Have To Come Up Huge In Rutgers’ Frontcourt This Season (Tom Ciszek/NJSportsPhoto)

Weaknesses: The frontcourt has talented pieces like Kadeem Jack and Wally Judge, but they don’t have any true interior presence. Jack and Judge are big bodies whose styles are better-suited on the wings than in the post, and there is no one on the roster to protect the rim and nobody averaged more than Judge’s 5.4 rebounds per game. The good news is that the conference is backcourt-heavy when it comes to talent and Jordan’s starting lineup should be pretty competitive, but depth in the frontcourt and the team’s ability to defend against opponents like Montrezl Harrell and TaShawn Thomas and all of the lightning-quick guards who like to attack the hoop mean that the offense will have to shoulder a heavy burden, which is not likely given the style of play expected.

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Season in Review: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Posted by Will Tucker on April 26th, 2013

Rutgers went 15-16 (5-13 in conference play), earning the No. 11 seed in the Big East Tournament, where they blew out DePaul before losing to Notre Dame in the second round. Mike Rice declined an invitation to the CBI, marking the seventh consecutive year Rutgers did not appear in any postseason tournament. Subsequently, an ESPN exposé involving footage of Rice abusing players in team practices got him fired and got AD Tim Pernetti shoved out the door, disgracing his athletic department in the process. New Jersey’s governor even called Rice an “animal” and said he should have been fired in November; not exactly ideal publicity heading into the offseason.

Preseason Expectations

We had pegged Rutgers #15, dead last in our preseason Big East rankings, based on poor frontcourt depth, lack of senior leadership and uncertain expectations for transfer big man Wally Judge. Big East coaches ranked the Scarlet Knights #11 in the preseason.

eddie jodan

Eli Carter is not walking through that door for Eddie Jordan (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

The Good

When Eli Carter (14.9 PPG, 86.4 FT%) suffered a season-ending injury in February, his team actually developed a more cohesive offensive identity in his absence. Wally Judge (7.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) in particular benefited from the opportunity to adopt a more assertive role; he showcased his abilities with a 20-and-10 performance (shooting 9-of-9 from the field) against DePaul in the Big East Tournament. And Mike Rice finally got fired -– does that count? Seriously, a clean slate is most obvious silver lining for Scarlet Knights fans after the former Robert Morris coach won 16 Big East games in three seasons. New head coach Eddie Jordan, who took Rutgers to its 1976 Final Four before embarking on an NBA coaching career, rekindles a nostalgic connection with the program’s heyday, and comes from a professional environment that doesn’t tolerate player mistreatment.

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Big East M5: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 25th, 2012

  1. After spending time in LouisvilleSports Illustrated’s Seth Davis has some strong convictions about this year’s Cardinals team: “They have depth, athleticism, and they are as good defensively as any team in America. And to state the obvious, they are very, very well-coached. In other words, the sky’s the limit. It says here they’re going back to the Final Four.” After gelling so well down the stretch last season on their run to the Final Four, it’s easy to see why Louisville is such a trendy championship pick this year, and Davis does a great job of outlining it in this piece. The Cards have a great mix of veteran leadership and young talent, they play tenacious defense as Rick Pitino-coached squads are wont to do, and they have a number of unique, dynamic players who should blend well on the court.
  2. Elsewhere on SI.com, Andy Glockner named the Big East as his second-ranked conference in his preseason conference power rankings, right behind the top-ranked Big 10. Glockner is also on the rapidly-filling ‘Ville bandwagon, saying the Cardinals “could be the best team in the nation.” Glockner goes on to say that Syracuse has “national title sleeper potential,” and has kind words to say about some of the conference’s second and third-tier teams like Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Marquette, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and even Connecticut. The Big East loses points here due to their weak teams at the bottom of the conference. The Big 12, SEC, and ACC round out the top five.
  3. Things haven’t been easy for Rutgers seniors Dane Miller and Austin Johnson.  The two have not seen the postseason since coming to Piscataway, and would like to see that change in their final year. Mike Rice expects the two to have a big impact in leading this year’s Rutgers team, where he expects to see improvement due to added experience, strength, and depth. Last season, Rice was criticized a bit after setting rather lofty expectations for his team, stating that he saw his team going 10-8 in conference play.  The Knights fell way short of that goal, going 5-13 in the Big East, but that hasn’t discouraged Rice, who is optimistic about this season:

    “I like coaching this team,” he said. “I’m more excited and energetic after practice than I am when I start the practice. That’s always a good sign. It wasn’t like that last year. It was a drain. [...] The players took the energy and focus. Now they’re giving it. It’s fun to be around and that’s important. We had some growing pains, but I think we should bear the fruits of that youth and inexperience.”

  4. Despite stating that he’s “walking side by side” with recently-retired coach Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie hasn’t been afraid to implement some changes to the normal Connecticut practice. One of these major adjustments is the implementation of live referees in practice. Shabazz Napier has already seen this move pay dividends: “You can tell it’s different. When you mess up, it’s good to have somebody on your back, but at the same time giving you that positive push. A lot of guys need that — keep pushing them.” Despite the change in coach and the fact that the Huskies will not be allowed to participate in any postseason play in 2013, the players seem to be coming together well as a team under Ollie’s brand of leadership, which will be important if he is to have the interim tag removed moving forward.
  5. Notre Dame made some notable adjustments to its normal routine as well, moving one day of practice to the South Bend Kroc Center. The move allowed the Fighting Irish to engage with the local community as well as benefit from a change in scenery. Mike Brey invited local kids to take part in Notre Dame’s lay-up lines, and from all accounts, everyone involved had a great time… except, perhaps, Jack Cooley, who really wanted to go down the water slide: “I asked if I could come here whenever, but they said that you needed a membership, so I don’t know.” One day, Jack, one day. In crucial Brey mock turtleneck news, because he has eclipsed the 5,000 Facebook ‘Like’ plateau, the Notre Dame coach will be wearing a pink mock in the upcoming scrimmage against D-II Quincy University in support of breast cancer awareness month.
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Big East Summer Capsules: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Posted by mlemaire on August 17th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Last but not least is Rutgers.

1. Wally Judge is ready to play, but is he ready to replace Gilvydas Biruta?

Just when it seemed like coach Mike Rice had the rebuilding train rolling, the wheels started to wobble a bit. The Scarlet Knights weren’t awful last season and they seemed poised for a winning season next year considering that it appeared they would return pretty much every worthwhile contributor. Then, right after the season ended, third leading scorer and second leading rebounder Gil Biruta announced he was transferring out of the program. Despite all of his physical gifts and ability, Biruta often displayed a poor attitude and was a frequent target of Rice’s wrath, but still, it isn’t easy replacing 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, especially when you consider Biruta added toughness and physicality to the young team. Replacing Biruta’s production now falls on the shoulders of Kansas State transfer Wally Judge. A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Judge may actually be more talented and athletic than Biruta, but now the question is whether he can turn that talent and athleticism into production. The DC native averaged 5.5 points and  3.8 rebounds per game in 17 contests as a sophomore for the Wildcats, but as one of the Scarlet Knights’ only viable interior players, he will be asked to do a lot more than that this season. By all accounts Judge has put in the work and is impressive in team workouts and summer games, but time will tell whether he can become the immediate presence that the Scarlet Knights so desperately need in their frontcourt.

2. Rutgers has a point guard problem, except it’s the good kind of problem.

Rutgers Coach Mike Rice Has His Hands Full Deciding Which Of His Three Talented Guards Will Play

It’s probably not a reach to say that the three best players on the Scarlet Knights’ roster are sophomores Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears, and Eli Carter. The only issue is that all three of the tantalizing sophomore basically play the same position — point guard. Rice knows he will need to find a way to make sure all three players are on the floor as often as possible, which will likely mean that the head coach is going to do some rotation juggling this summer. Carter, the team’s leading scorer last season, is a high volume shooter and probably belongs off the ball where his shooting ability can be put to better use. Mack, the smallest of the trio, also has a propensity for chucking but seems like the most natural fit to assume the role of primary ball-handler. Seagears, the team’s leading assist man last season, is a smaller combo guard who will probably get plenty of opportunities to play on and off the ball. Common sense dictates that Rice should play all three of his star guards at once; after all, plenty of other Big East teams have had success employing similar lineups. The only issue is that the Scarlet Knights do not have a lot of size up front or experience for that matter, so is Rice really willing to sacrifice all that size just to get his best lineup on the floor? The best-case scenario is that this situation sorts itself out with each player becoming comfortable in his role and helping the team in a number of different ways, but Rice will need to do an incredible job of finessing this situation, otherwise someone might end up upset.

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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was
  • Number One Goes Down:  For the seventh time, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took down a top-ranked team in the Joyce Center, knocking off Syracuse 67-58. Despite all of that prior success, the Irish hadn’t beaten a #1 team at home in 25 years. That didn’t matter on Saturday night. Taking advantage of Fab Melo’s absence, Notre Dame slowed the pace and worked the ball inside, scoring in the paint or kicking it out to an open shooter on the wing. Notre Dame shot 50% for the game and limited the Orange to 34%. Using a +13 edge on the glass, Notre Dame was able to control the tempo and prevent Syracuse from getting out in transition where it is so lethal. I have to say I was surprised. Looking at Syracuse’s schedule last week, I thought the Orange could run the table. They had played better than any team in the nation on a consistent basis but drove into a buzzsaw on Saturday. Even if Melo had played, I’m not sure it would have made a major difference.
  • South Florida On A Roll: It seems as if nobody has noticed, but South Florida is 5-2 in the Big East after a 2-0 week with wins over St. John’s and DePaul. USF has won on the road at improving Villanova and also took down Seton Hall at home when the Pirates were ranked. The Bulls also beat Rutgers, one game after the Scarlet Knights beat Florida. How has USF done it? Jawanza Poland has played very well since returning from a back injury and Stan Heath is getting timely contributions from guys like Victor Rudd and Ron Anderson Jr. However, the two main reasons for USF’s success are point guard play and defense. Freshman Anthony Collins has been fantastic at the point, averaging 5.3 APG in Big East play to go with a #28 national ranking in assist rate. Although he’s turning the ball over a bit too much, Collins has given the Bulls a huge boost at the most important position in college basketball after years of bad guard play in Tampa. On the defensive end, South Florida’s opponents average only 57.6 PPG, tops in the Big East. With a combination of defense, good rebounding and timely scoring, USF is starting to make some noise in the crowded middle of the Big East.

Pat Connaughton Celebrated With Fans After The Irish Stung The Top-Ranked Orange. (Matt Cashore/U.S. Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (20-1, 7-1) – The Orange remain the best team by far in the Big East and I still think they are the best team in the nation even after losing at Notre Dame. Nothing went right for the Orange against the Fighting Irish. The Orange were out-shot 50% to 34%, out-rebounded by 13, and couldn’t string stops together when they were trying to get back in the game.  Should we have seen this coming? The cracks in the foundation appeared in a closer-than-expected win over Pittsburgh last Monday. The Panthers probed the Syracuse zone fairly well, getting to the free throw line area and making good interior passes. Fab Melo had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks in that game, but didn’t play in South Bend due to a mysterious academic issue. Pitt out-rebounded Syracuse 38-24, meaning the Orange were minus-27 on the glass for the week. Syracuse ranks #320 in defensive rebounding percentage, an issue that needs to be addressed immediately by Jim Boeheim, with or without Melo. Syracuse is struggling from three point land as well, tenth in three-point percentage in Big East games (31.9%). Scoop Jardine had 12 points and ten assists against the Panthers, but didn’t make a field goal (0-5) against Notre Dame. A tougher than expected week is ahead. Could the Orange lose again after winning 20 games in a row? This week: 1/23 @ Cincinnati, 1/28 vs. West Virginia. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Realignment Circus Continues: The latest blow to the Big East came just recently as West Virginia was accepted into the Big 12. That leaves the Big East with 13 basketball schools remaining and a handful of others (football schools) desperately trying to flee the sinking ship. Commissioner John Marinatto has said he is committed to holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the 27-month notice provision in the conference’s bylaws but one has to wonder if a financial settlement will be worked out in order to expedite the transition and move the conference into rebuilding mode. It’s going to be quite awkward if these three schools remain in the league until 2014. All of the current Big East members should eventually find a stable home in one form or another, but the days of Big East basketball as we know it will soon come to an end. Enjoy the 2011-12 season because it just might be the last year of this remarkable 16-team behemoth.
  • How Many Bids This Year?: After sending a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, can the Big East reach that mark again? That seems unlikely but you never know how things will truly play out. I’d say there are ten contenders for NCAA bids and to make 11 you would need all of those teams plus one of the three New York City-area schools to have a wildly successful year and snatch a bid. The Big East is quite possibly the best conference in the land yet again but 11 NCAA teams is far-fetched. Eight or nine bids this season would seem to be much more realistic.
  • Can Connecticut Repeat?: The technical answer is yes but it will be extremely tough to do. There’s a reason only two teams have gone back-to-back in the last 20 years. College basketball is as deep as ever in terms of talent and quality teams, plus there’s someone missing from last year’s Connecticut team. Kemba Walker is now in the NBA and, despite Jim Calhoun’s impressive recruiting haul, there is a major leadership void to be filled. This team is stocked with talent but Walker was a one-of-a-kind leader who took complete control in Maui and parlayed that into a way of life for the rest of the season. Jeremy Lamb figures to take control but remember how young this group is. They’ll get better as the season progresses and may even win the Big East but when the chips are down in the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be able to call on Kemba and that’s why I feel they will not repeat.

Calhoun Won't Have His Mr. Everything Around This Season

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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Shocker: Blake Griffin declares for the NBA Draft

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2009

With all the suspense on college campuses about whether or not underclassmen will be leaving perhaps the least suspenseful announcement of the week came earlier today when everybody’s national Player of the Year Blake Griffin announced that he will forgo his final 2 years of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft. In his second year at Oklahoma, Griffin became the 3rd straight national player of year from the Big 12 (save your e-mails and comments UNC fans; we both know that Michael Beasley deserved it last year).

Blake Griffin dunk

Griffin, who averaged 22.7 PPG and 14.4 RPG, was clearly the best player in college this season and was only derailed in the Elite 8 by eventual champion UNC when his Sooner teammates went 2/19 from 3-point range. Even in defeat, Griffin showed everyone why he will be the most clear-cut #1 pick since LeBron James in 2003 as he dominated Tyler Hansbrough and the other UNC interior players. Griffin finished the year with 30 double-doubles (second all-time to only David Robinson‘s 31) and 504 rebounds (second all-time to only Larry Bird‘s 505).

While everyone knows that Griffin will go #1 (assuming some brain-dead NBA GM doesn’t do something completely insane–not outside the realm of possibilities), the big question is what will happen in Norman where Jeff Capel turned down numerous job offers to stay as the Oklahoma head coach. The Sooners will be losing Taylor Griffin, Austin Johnson, and Omar Leary with only the first 2 contributing significantly. Although the Sooners will certainly take a step back next year, they can still compete in the top half of the Big 12 next year if freshman Willie Warren can resist the temptation of the money that comes with being a lottery pick and sticks around Norman for another year (or two). With a nucleus of Warrnen, Tony Crocker, and Juan Pattillo, Capel has a team that should challenge Kansas and Texas 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. Pittsburgh-Xavier 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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ATB: Flowers Blooming in Austin

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.29.07

Recap. ESPN2 stepped it up today with its sextuple-header from Noon to Midnight. And heck, at least half of those games were worth watching. Ok, maybe four of the six.

Games We Watched. Wisconsin 67, #7 Texas 66. We started the day with this game, which once again proved to us just how good of a coach Bo Ryan is. Every year we see all these methodical players in those Wisky uniforms, and every year we underrate them because of it – you watch, by March this will once again be a top 3 Big Ten squad. Lesson learned, as winning in Austin today was a fantastic win, and oh my, how they got it done! The Badgers’ Michael Flowers hit the game-winning three with two seconds remaining, and then proceeded to steal the inbounds pass in the corner while flying out of bounds. He then made the smartest play we’ve seen all year – 99% of players would have a) tried to call timeout; b) thrown the ball back into play; or c) simply landed with possession – in all three cases it’s a hustle play but Texas would get the ball back. Instead, Flowers had the presence of mind to launch the ball high into the air, knowing fully well that the last two seconds of the clock would expire while the ball floated out of reach of everyone on its way back to the ground. Brilliance. As with its previous game versus Michigan St., Texas once again showed that it has problems with beefy front lines (making its win against UCLA even more impressive, in retrospect). DJ Augustin (16/4/9 assts) and Damion James (21/15) had nice games for the Horns, while Brian Butch also added 21/11 for the Badgers.

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#11 Tennessee 82, Gonzaga 72. Every time we’ve watched the Zags lately, we have a lingering feeling that they should be better than they’re showing. Granted, Josh Heytvelt clearly isn’t himself yet, as he continues to recover from ankle surgery. But we just wonder if there aren’t issues beneath the surface on this team. In this game, Chris Lofton continued to struggle shooting the ball (4-13), but the rest of the Vols more than made up for his output, as the troika of Smiths combined for 39/14/10 assts. Tayshaun’s cousin, JP Prince, had another fine game, going for 12/3 in only 18 mins – he seems to have a knack for making timely plays. No doubt this is an impressive nonconference win for the Vols, but we still ultimately have questions about how deep a team playing this style can go into March.

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Oklahoma 88, #24 West Virginia 82 (2OT). This was the game of the day, no doubt. West Virginia probably should have won this game several times, but Oklahoma simply would not quit. Yes, we were impressed with OU’s frontline dominance (Longar – 22/4; Griffin – 18/16), but the guy who continually made big shots and dropped superb dimes down the stretch for the Sooners was Austin Johnson (13/4/9 assts). Color us impressed with his heady play and court vision tonight. One play in particular, where the camera from the baseline showed AJ never looked up yet still found Griffin right on the money flying to the hole for a lob, was sick. How did OU lose to Stephen F. Austin??? On the other side of things, WVU looked solid as well. They didn’t shoot that well (41%), but their players clearly remembered the Beilein backdoor cuts, as they used the play several times in the second half to get easy buckets. All the hallmarks of a classic Huggins team are already there – hustle, defense, scrappiness – the only thing missing is the Thuggins personnel that will start showing up in Morgantown next year.

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#1 Memphis 76, #18 Arizona 63. This was one of those games where Arizona was never really out of the game, but they were never really in it either. Not once did we ever have a suspicion that an upset was actually brewing, even though Arizona regularly cut the second-half lead to two possessions. Every time Memphis needed something, they’d get it from CDR (17/5) or Shawn Taggart (15/7) off the bench. Jerryd Bayless (knee) was sitting out for Zona, and the Cats clearly needed his offense, as Chase Budinger (20/6) and Nic Wise (10/4/5 assts) were left to their own devices most of the time. We’re still not sure what we think of Memphis – having defeated the toughest teams on their schedule (Oklahoma, UConn, USC, Georgetown and Arizona), and with only two home nonconference tests remaining (1/26 v. Gonzaga; 2/23 v. Tennessee), we could be looking at a strong possibility of an unbeaten regular season (31-0). Games at Houston (1/30) and at UAB (2/16) figure to be the toughest conference games on their schedule, but both are likely wins. We pretty much agree with Steve Lavin’s comment tonight during the broadcast, though. If Memphis goes into the NCAAs unbeaten, they will most definitely not win the national title.

Upset Alert. #25 Dayton 80, #8 Pittsburgh 55. Look at the A10 again. What an asskicking the Flyers put on Pitt tonight. Things really couldn’t have gone much worse for Pitt – Dayton’s Brian Roberts exploded for 31 pts on their vaunted perimeter defense, and Levance Fields went out with an ankle injury in the early second half. This was a statement game by Dayton, and we heard the message loud and clear. We bet they wish they could get that George Mason loss back now (67-56 in their second game of the year). Winthrop 76, #17 Miami (FL) 70. Was it an upset? Only in the sense that Miami was heretofore unbeaten this season, but Winthrop is undoubtedly the stronger program overall, so we’ll call this one a very minor upset. The Eagles haven’t had a great nonconference run (7-5) this year, but they have beaten two ACC teams (Ga Tech is the other). The question is what will happen to Frank Haith’s Hurricane team now that they’ve tasted their own blood? They get one more breather (v. Penn) before the ACC games start. There are now seven unbeatens remaining.

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #3 Kansas 86, Yale 53. KU continues to roll with 18 steals in this game.
  • #5 UCLA 76, UC Davis 48. Davis had 13 rebounds for the game. Thirteen!
  • #6 Michigan St. 93, Wisconsin-GB 75. Raymar Morgan with 24/8.
  • #9 Georgetown 78, American 51. Roy Hibbert isn’t getting any better, is he (one measly board)?
  • #12 Marquette 77, Savannah St. 37. There are too many D1 teams.
  • #13 Indiana 97, Chicago St. 59. DJ White with 21/15/4 blks. See above re: Marquette.
  • #14 Texas A&M 83, Florida A&M 54. DeAndre Jordan’s FG% actually dropped from this game (6-8 FG).
  • #16 Vanderbilt 92, UT-Martin 85. Surprisingly close home win for Vandy. AJ Ogilvy with 21/9.
  • #19 Villanova 71, Lasalle 58. Dante Cunningham with 12/12 and Scottie Reynolds with 19/4.
  • Boise St. 73, #21 BYU 70. Trent Plaisted held to 12/9. Is Boise (9-3) worth watching this year?
  • #22 Rhode Island 85, Georgia Southern 80. Will Daniels blew up for 28/8.
  • #23 Clemson 78, Samford 45. Before ESPN, were there any good games this time of year?

Other Notable Scores.

  • San Diego 81, Kentucky 72. Prepare for the full-scale mutiny in Lexington soon.
  • Washington 73, LSU 65. Another second-half meltdown for John Brady (LSU led 41-27 at halftime).
  • Florida Gulf Coast 60, Penn 30. Um, Penn had six points at the half in this one. Ugh.
  • Furman 67, Howard 62. The Purple Paladins earn their first win (1-11)!
  • Illinois St. 80, Creighton 67. Early MVC battle for primacy between good teams.
  • Drake 62, Wichita St. 54. Staying in the Valley, Drake is now 10-1.

On Tap Today (all times EST).

  • Mississippi St. (-3) v. Missouri (ESPN FC) 1:30pm – game of the day – MSU needs this one.
  • Wake Forest (-11.5) v. Air Force 2pm. nice intersectional contrast in styles of play.
  • Georgia Tech (-4) v. Florida St. (FSN) 5:30pm - ACC matchup pitting teams vying for 8-8 on Selection Sunday.
  • UNLV (NL) v. Minnesota 7pm - probably Tubby’s toughest test so far in GopherLand.
  • UNC (-24.5) v. Valparaiso (FSN) 7:30pm – Valpo is 10-2, but it won’t matter…
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