Welcome back! Another weekend means another edition of everyone’s favorite college basketball live blog. Assuming they all actually happen (there was, like, a huge snowstorm, you see), there are actually some pretty darn good games happening today (Michigan at Kansas, anyone? Maybe a little Xavier at Butler?), and since we know you’ll be watching, and we know we’ll be watching…why not watch with us? We’ll be commenting all day, but we want to know what your thoughts are on the games as they’re being played. So keep checking this space and hitting that refresh button, and let’s have your comments as well. It’ll start at noon and go all day long, so I suggest you grab some hot chocolate (or your beverage of choice), turn on your favorite game, and join us. Keep checking back every few minutes!
12:03 pm: So here we go. Starting off with Michigan at Kansas on ESPN as our principle (and as of right now, only noteworthy) game. This is a good but perplexing Michigan team. Their four losses are Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and at Utah. Michigan was a tournament team last year and returned those two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, which would make me think they should have at least won a couple of those. BC is tough, but Michigan has to defend the home floor against a team like that if they want to be taken seriously. Quite a tall order they’ve got today. As I type this, Michigan’s last three shots have been threes, none of which went down. Meanwhile, Kansas has been getting the ball inside every trip down.
John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.
Wright State (3-1)
Green Bay (4-2)
Youngstown State (3-2)
Cleveland State (3-3)
Horizon League regular season: the regular season for the Horizon League kicks off on the first weekend of December.
Close calls, not breakthroughs: no Horizon League team — besides Butler — has managed to knock off a power conference team. The Bulldogs’ only power conference victory was over Northwestern and even Butler has a loss to Minnesota on Thanksgiving.
Youth will be served: there are a lot of young Horizon League teams leading to a variety of results thus far.
David Sanchirico is the RTC correspondent for the MAC.
Kent State 3-0
Bowling Green 1-1
Miami (Ohio) 0-2
Ball State 1-0
Eastern Michigan 1-0
Central Michigan 2-1
Western Michigan 1-1
Northern Illinois 0-2
The MAC continues to struggle during out-of-conference play as potential upsets slipped out of teams’ hands, others succumbed in blowouts, and teams that were expected to win, didn’t.
But there were also some good showings from a few surprise teams, including a club from Oxford, Ohio that almost pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory. The first week of basketball really set the stage for what should be an intense and competitive season in the MAC.
Rush the Court currently does not have a correspondent from the MAC so if you would like to represent the conference and educate the rest of us, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Kent State (10-6)
Bowling Green (9-7)
Miami (OH) (8-8)
Ball State (8-8)
Northern Illinois (7-9)
Eastern Michigan (7-9)
Central Michigan (6-10)
Western Michigan (5-11)
David Kool (G), Sr, Western Michigan
Darion Anderson (G), Jr, Northern Illinois
Jarrod Jones (F), So, Ball State
Brandon Bowdry (F), Jr, Eastern Michigan
Zeke Marshall (C), Fr, Akron
6th Man. Brett McKnight (F), Jr, Akron
Impact Newcomer. Zeke Marshall (C), Fr, Akron
What You Need to Know.To begin with this is the MAC not the MAAC. Sienadoesn’t play in this conference so if you came here expecting to see a preview for them you are in the wrong place (at least for a few days). This conference, the MAC, is ridiculously unbalanced. While none of the the teams in the MAC would be considered contenders for a national title there are four good teams in the East that might actually pique some interest when they played a decent BCS school as an “Upset Alert.” There isn’t a single team in the West you could say that about even if they were playing a cellar-dweller in any of the BCS conferences. In fact, last year the last-place team in the East (Ohio) would have been tied for first in the West. The winner of the automatic bid will almost definitely come from the East with Akron and Buffalo being the top contenders. The edge may go to the Zips who lose less of their championship team from last year (only Nate Linhart) and add a 7’0″ center in the middle with Zeke Marshall while the Bulls will not have Greg Gamble and Andy Robinson this year.
Predicted Champion. Akron Zips (NCAA Seed: #13). Coming off a 20-win season and the MAC title/NCAA bid the Zips are loaded by MAC standards. The only significant player they lose is Linhart (the MAC tournament MVP), but the Zips should have more than enough to stay up at the top of the MAC with the McKnight brothers (Chris and Brett) leading the way. Even though Brett came off the bench last year, he still led the team in scoring and figures to do so again although I’m not sure if he will stay on the bench with Linhart’s departure. With the McKnights and Marshall controlling the inside, Daryl Roberts and his 39.6% from beyond the arc should get his fair share of quality looks. With so much returning talent, the key for the Zips will be how quickly Marshall adapts to the college game. Marshall, who FoxSports.com rated as the #13 impact freshman this upcoming season, could give the Zips something the MAC hasn’t seen in a long-time–a legitimate seven-foot center. His presence, even if tips the scales at a relatively svelte 218 lbs, could be just the boost that the Zips need to repeat in the MAC and scare some big-name school in the 1st round.
The nightmare for mid-major haters out there has been realized: Butler will be a top ten- yes, top ten- team for the next two full seasons. Their starting backcourt of Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored are both sophomores. One of the best frontcourts in the nation- post presence Matt Howard and inside-outside stud Gordon Hayward- is a junior and sophomore, respectively, with neither likely to enter the NBA Draft before four years at Butler. They lose two seniors who receive regular minutes after this season with swingman Willie Veasley (8.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and forward Avery Jukes (3.2 PPG) departing, but neither should pose a crippling loss. Sharpshooter Zach Hahn (41% 3pt) is just a junior and backup guard Shawn Vanzant is a junior, as well. Coach Brad Stevens has lured the #32 center in the nation Andrew Smith into the fray for this year and the #22 small forward in the country Khyle Marshall for 2010. The Bulldogs are loaded for the foreseeable future and should run roughshod over the respectable Horizon League, possibly beginning a historical conference run for the next two campaigns beginning with a visit from rival Valparaiso on December 5.
Butler has a realistic shot at a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament and backed up their high standing with a challenging non-conference slate coupled with a Horizon League schedule that has Hinkle Fieldhouse inhibitors wondering if undefeated is possible within the conference. Let’s dig deeper into the path Butler must take in hopes of being the first mid-major to reach the Final Four since George Mason in 2006.
Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8.5. The Bulldogs will be challenged in mid-November when they make a trip to fringe-NCAA contender Northwestern in Evanston. The Wildcats return star forward Kevin Coble and his perimeter shooting along with senior point guard Michael Thompson. They have hopes of making the field of 65 for the first time in school history. Butler enters the most difficult preseason tournament this season in Anaheim with a tremendous first round game against Big Ten contender Minnesota (returns nearly everyone including freshman Royce White entering) and a possible second round contest against UCLA. Potential top-ten team West Virginia looms in a possible championship game along with Texas A&M and Clemson. Butler also welcomes a bolstered Ohio State team to Hinkle followed by a visit a week later from Xavier and new coach Chris Mack. Butler also faces Georgetown- featuring Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe- to headline the Jimmy V Classic in NYC and travels to rebuilding UAB. Even with the high standards at Butler, that’s a hell of a non-conference schedule for a mid-major.
Cupcake City: The frosting isn’t too heavy for Butler. Stevens does have a return game from Davidson, who obviously won’t be nearly as lethal without Stephen Curry. Evansville has some decent pieces- and Butler must travel there- but the Aces shouldn’t challenge Butler too long. A short trip to Ball State also looms as less-than-imposing. That said, those 300+ RPI teams that most teams stack at least a few times on their non-conference slate is lacking from Butler’s schedule. Once again, give Brad Stevens tremendous credit.
In our attempt to provide you with the best college basketball coverage on the Internet, RTC is starting the “Boom goes the dynamite!” project. Yes, it’s a blatant rip-off of Deadspin’s Hugh Johnson Project for college football, but we have found someone who does something similar for college basketball, which is a vastly superior sport. This will be an evolving project so you may see a complete different format next week or even tomorrow as we figure out how to make this better. One thing you may notice is that my coverage of the games on TV may be a little spotty at times, but that’s partially a result of there being 5 early games being broadcast on my TV and the fact that the RTC East Coast HQ only has one television. [We’re the fiscally responsible RTC office.]
For those of you who are totally confused by the title, it’s a reference to one of the greatest sports news videos of all-time featuring Brian Collins, then a freshman at Ball State, trying his hand at broadcast journalism. The hilarious result:
For our opening weekend, we’ll primarily be covering top 25 games (due to our lack of resources) unless something notable happens in another game.
Noon Games #11 Clemson def. NC State, 63-51: NC State was able to keep this game close for 25 minutes (tied at 33 at that point) before Clemson went on a 24-10 run to blow the game wide open. A pretty ugly game overall with NC State shooting 31.5% from the field and having only one player (Courtney Fells) scoring in double digits with 10 points. Trevor Booker was the only good player on the court with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Not much else to say here since the game was at Littlejohn Coliseum and I don’t think NC State is that good (all of their most impressive games this year have ended in losses). If you want to know what we think of the Tigers, check back with us after the 17th when they play Wake Forest.
#21 Louisville def. #17 Villanova, : After the Cardinals led by as much as 11 points in the 2nd half, Villanova came storming back to cut it just 3 point game with just under 6 minutes left. Louisville was hurt by its inability to connect from long range (3-for-25) and Samardo Samuels (15 points and 4 rebounds) fouling out with 4:43 left. For the next 2 minutes, the game continue at a frenetic pace before Dante Cunningham (a game-high 21 points) hit a 15-footer from the corner to give Villanova their first lead all day at 58-57 with 3:06 left. Rick Pitino immediately called a timeout to tell his entire team they could transfer calm down his team. The final 3 minutes were “highlighted” by both team’s inability to hit shots until Terrence Williams (12 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists) made a driving lay-up with 12 seconds left that must have bounced around the rim for 2-3 seconds. After that huge basket, Louisville tried to double-team Scottie Reynolds on the inbounds, but Villanova was able to find a streaking Corey Fisher who found himself with a 2-on-1 and dished it to Antonio Pena (solid with 14 points and 8 rebounds) who was fouled with 4.9 seconds left. Pena missed both FTs, but Louisville was unable to handle the rebound and Villanova got the ball back with 4 seconds left. They ran a good play coming out of a timeout finding Cunningham underneath for a contested layup, but he missed that and his teammates missed 2 more tips giving the Cardinals a hard-fought road win.
#15 Marquette def. #22 West Virginia, 73-55: This game was a lot closer than the final score indicates. The Golden Eagles only led 51-48 with 7:55 left then went on a 22-7 run to close it out. Jerel McNeal was the best player on the court with 26 points and 7 rebounds. The Golden Eagles also had a big edge at the FT line going a Duke-like 24-for-27 from the line compared to the Mountaineers 6-for-10. Bob Huggins will have 2 easy games (Marshall and USF at home) to get the Mountaineers playing well again before returning to the Big East gauntlet with games against Georgetown and Pittsburgh.
#25 Tennessee def. Georgia, 86-77: This was a game of big runs. Fortunately for Bruce Pearl, his team had the last one. The Volunteers, who will likely be out of the top 25 in the next poll, had to come through down the stretch after the Bulldogs took the lead 74-73 with 3:17 left. Tyler Smith led the Vols to victory with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Bruce Pearl will need his team to step it up as their next 7 games are tough (by SEC standards). After coming into the season as the heavy favorites to win the SEC, the Vols have failed to live up to expectations and will likely face a tough challenge from an underrated Arkansas team.
1 PM & 2 PM Games #2 Duke def. FSU, 66-58: You’ll have a hard time finding a stranger game. After the ugliest first half you will ever see, Duke led 19-14 at break. After that the Blue Devils came out on fire in the 2nd half opening up a 46-21 lead with 12:48 left. Then FSU came back to cut it to 50-40 with 6 minutes to go. Duke held on to win, but FSU earned a lot of respect with that near comeback. Gerald Henderson led Duke win a career-high 25 points. Jay Bilas was correct in pointing out that this year’s Duke team has a lot higher ceiling than last year’s team because of Henderson’s development. Teams should watch out for the Seminoles who played #1 Pittsburgh tough earlier this year. Am I the only one who heard the douchebag behind the ESPN announcers yelling “The Cameron Crazies suck!” and “We want Paulus!”? I guess when you go to a school with girls as hot as they have at FSU you shouldn’t expect to have the most intelligent crowds.
#6 Oklahoma def. Kansas State, 61-53:Blake Griffin is a beast. That’s about all there is to say about this game. Griffin put up 29 points and 15 rebounds. I would have liked to have seen the #6 team in the country win this game by more, but it’s a conference road game so I guess the Sooners still have to be happy. It’s too bad we couldn’t see Griffin matched up against Michael Beasley, who is having fun coming off the bench in Miami this winter. Monday will be the big test for Oklahoma as Texas comes up to Norman in a match-up that will help determine the best team in the Big 12.
#8 Michigan State def. Kansas, 75-62: After a slow start the Spartans opened up a big lead (37-18 at half) and continued to hold it for most of the 2nd half, but the Jayhawks showed a lot of poise at coming back to make it a close game. Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan helped the Spartans counter a strong game from Sherron Collins (25 points and 8 assists, but 8 turnovers).
#10 Georgetown def. Providence, 82-75: Georgetown had to rally to win this game as they trailed by as many as 9 in the first half. After a quiet first half, Greg Monroe ended up having the type of solid all-around game that makes NBA scouts drool (13 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks).
#13 Notre Dame def. Seton Hall, 88-79: This was actually a tie game with 8 minutes left, but the Fighting Irish were able to pull out another win at the Joyce Center. Luke Harangody had a rough day from the field (8-for-24) but ended up with 30 points and 16 rebounds to lead Notre Dame to the win.
#16 Arizona State def. Oregon, 76-58: Not much to say here except that it’s amazing how far Oregon’s program has fallen. A solid if unspectacular game from Pac-10 POY candidate James Harden (19 points).
#20 Butler def. Detroit, 54-50: Butler came out flat in this one falling behind 26-22 at half to a team that came into the game 4-10. The scarier thing is that they were at home for this too. Matt Howard was the only player in double figures with 15 points. If there was ever a time you should have your ranking drop because of a win, this would be it. If I voted in the BlogPoll, I would kick Butler out of the top 25 for this “win”.
#23 Baylor def. Texas Tech, 73-61: Nice win for Baylor here as they were led by Kevin Rogers with his 14 points and 14 rebounds. They look like a solid #3 in the Big 12 after Texas and Oklahoma.
Nothing like 100-degree heat to make you think college hoops, right:
Our future Prez (ca. 2016 unless some redneck jacks him first) was a baller! Barack Obama starred at D3 Occidental College back in the day (highlights here – let’s hope his FT shooting acumen is not indicative of a lack of concentration under pressure)
FAMU head coach Mike Gillespie was fired for stalking his ex-girlfriend – and yes, because you wouldn’t need a girlfriend unless it were so, he is married.
What the hell is going on at Ball St.? Coach Ronny Thompson (son of JT2) resigned in July, leaving in his wake an athletic dept smeared by his cries of racism and unfairness (also leaving a 9-22 first year record on the table). The two black Ws – Wilbon and Whitlock – chime in with conflicting viewpoints on the situation, and new head coach Billy Taylor (from Lehigh) is now left with a mess to clean up. Why couldn’t David Letterman take care of this?
The NCAA says no more Pembroke States and UC-Davises in D1 for four years.
Al Skinner is getting a raise from BC. He’d better sign that extension quickly because Tyrese Rice by himself probably can’t cash those checks in 2007-08.
Im-ass is getting sued for slander by one of the “nappy-headed hos” at Rutgers. The conservatorium is up in arms over this, but we’re not really following their logic – are they really saying that this woman (and her teammates) were not defamed by Imus’s comments? Seriously?
Celebrations ensue in Madison, Columbus and other places midwestern as the Big 10 Network released its 2008 hoops schedule. We’ve already circled that Feb. 6 tilt between Minnesota and Northwestern on our iPhone.
W4M: ISO orange-clad GOB who won’t be offended by mannish tendencies and spirited versions of Rocky Top. Must be willing to be dominated in life and bedroom. Appreciates the nuances and subtleties of women’s sports (read: boring and lame).
ESPN invented a way to air OJ Mayo three times early in the season – create a new Tournament! The Anaheim Classic features USC and a bunch of mid-majors. Expect to see The Juice Deux on tv a LOT this upcoming season.
We’ve never heard of an athletic department bailing out the academic side of the shop, but we’ve also never seen an athletic juggernaut like Florida either.
Gary Parrish exposes the seamier side of recruiting in this article. Wait, there’s a seamier side? We thought the whole thing was slimy to begin with.
MMAS puts forth its summer thoughts in two detailed postings about (mostly) BCS teams, but there are some valuable insights here. Btw, we agree about the Vols.
The WWL has an interesting piece on how teams push the envelope with the rules to get an edge.
Rivals is well under way with its Top 64 teams of 2007-08.