Sights & Sounds: Top Four Dunks, A Ridiculous Buzzer-Beater, and Other Weirdness From Opening Night

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2013

Opening Night produced a number of great individual moments, if not so many great games. We’ll have our full After the Buzzer feature on Monday morning covering the top storylines from the entire weekend, but we thought it would be fun to highlight the best sights and sounds from last night beforehand. We’ll start with a fantastic buzzer-beater, and sprinkle in the top four dunks of the evening and some other things. Here goes…

Buzzer-Beating. The best buzzer-beater of the night came from Irvine, where Fresno State’s Allen Huddleston hit a half-court bank shot to win the game, coming on the heels of four straight previous back-and-forth scores by each team leading to the fantastic finish.

Husker Crue. Tommy Lee performed at the opening of Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena on Friday night.

Former Nebraska Student Tommy Lee Performed at the Opening of the Pinnacle Bank Arena

Tommy Lee Performed at the Opening of the Pinnacle Bank Arena (credit: 30FPS)

#4 Dunkdafied: Baye Moussa Keita, Syracuse. He looked like he was going to continue flying on through the backboard.

Armed Forces Cluster. Really enjoyed the Armed Forces Classic between Oregon and Georgetown, but not  so much this botched version of the national anthem.

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ACC Team Preview: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Chris Kehoe on October 23rd, 2013

The Syracuse Orange had a great season last year, largely overachieving on their way to a 30-10 record and a Final Four appearance. After struggling to an 11-7 conference record in the swan song for the mighty Big East Conference, they rode a wave of momentum behind their tenacious zone defense all the way to Atlanta where they fell to Michigan. Much of their overall success was due to senior leaders Brandon Triche and sixth man extraordinaire James Southerland. Losing these two seniors and play-making savant Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA Draft lottery removed much of the nucleus head coach Jim Boeheim relied upon in the 2012-13 season. However, Syracuse does return arguably the team’s most valuable and versatile player in C.J. Fair, who led the team in points and rebounds per game from the forward slot. Much of the team’s success this year will rely on Syracuse’s patented zone defense and Fair’s ability to shoulder an even larger offensive role without Southerland, Carter-Williams and Triche around to help shoulder the burden. There certainly will be a nice “shock factor” present in unleashing their vaunted defense against the rest of the new ACC this season that will have Boeheim cushioning his already exorbitant wins total.

syracuse-preview-2013

Returnees

  • Senior forward C.J. Fair: Widely considered one of the best players in the ACC. Should be in a compelling year-long battle for ACC Player of the Year with Virginia’s Joe Harris and Duke’s Jabari Parker. A second team all-Big East performer last season, Fair is a versatile and athletic leader for this Syracuse team. Big things are expected from the Baltimore native in a transition year for Syracuse athletics to the ACC.
  • Sophomore forward Jerami Grant: The 6’8” DeMatha alumnus is pegged by many analysts to have a breakout season. While he did not have a successful freshman season, he is a future project based on his rangy and lanky body type and the athleticism he has exhibited. He certainly has successful basketball genes in his family, seeing as his brother Jerian is a senior point guard star at rival Notre Dame and his father Harvey had a successful NBA career with multiple teams.
  • Redshirt sophomore guard Trevor Cooney: This redshirt two-guard sure has no trouble scoring the basketball. He is a prolific shooter but needs to improve other facets of his game to secure his spot in Syracuse’s starting lineup. The Delaware native has two years of practice with Boeheim under his belt which should help his knowledge of the 2-3 zone and offensive schemes.

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Final Four Previews In-Depth: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 5th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

It would have been easy to lose faith in Syracuse near the end of the regular season. The Orange sputtered to a 5-7 finish over their last 12 games, which in itself was enough point-blank evidence to jump off the bandwagon. The swirling rumors of NCAA impropriety and looming specter of coach Jim Boeheim’s retirement added to the general malaise that fell over this program as it hobbled into the final Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. What’s happened since? This In-Depth Final Four preview, the last installment of our four-part series, should give you a pretty good idea. The Orange are to be feared, and this, in long form, is my explanation why.

(Revisit previous entries Wichita State, Michigan and Louisville)

Smart and controlled point guard play from MCW has pushed Syracuse into the Final Four (Getty Images).

Smart and controlled point guard play from MCW has pushed Syracuse into the Final Four (Getty Images).

Pre-Tournament Capsule. Non-conference schedules in Syracuse, New York, are unfailingly bland subjects. The Orange hardly ever leave the state of New York, and when they do – as was the case this season when they opened the season by traveling across the country to play San Diego State on top of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, as well as an SEC-Big East challenge game at Arkansas – it’s extremely rare and/or typically not of their own volition. The Orange “ventured” to Madison Square Garden three days before Christmas and took their only loss before Big East play, a four-point defeat to Temple. They buzzed through the early part of conference play looking like one of the four or five best teams in the country, with wins at Louisville and home Notre Dame sprinkled therein. Things got ugly in the portion of the hoops calendar we like to call the “dog days” – the mid-to-late February stretch of conference play where teams start running on fumes at the tail end of a long league schedule. The Orange dropped four of five to close the regular season, then got off the mat and played their way into the Big East Tournament championship game, an emotional conference sendoff that ended with fellow ACC-bound member Louisville tearing the lid off MSG in a pristine second-half effort. Syracuse may have fallen in the finals, but that ugly stretch at the end of conference play was officially a figment of the past. The Orange were ready for the Big Dance.

How They Got Here. There was nothing circuitous or fluky about Syracuse’s path to Atlanta. They drubbed Montana in a game many thought could give the Orange real problems (HA!), pulled away from Cal in a hard-fought second half, put the nation’s then-No. 1 efficiency offense (Indiana) in the 2-3 blender and dropped Big East foe Marquette in the Elite Eight. Looking back, astonishing as it may seem, that round-of-32 bout with Cal was, I’d argue, the most trying game Syracuse has played in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Final Four History. Only one of Syracuse’s Final Four appearances came before Boeheim inherited the head coaching job in 1976, and Boeheim was very much a part of that one too, only in a different capacity. When Syracuse reached the national semifinals in 1975, Boeheim had been an assistant for six seasons. Little did he know the head coaching job would open up one year later, and the rest – the four Final Four appearances, the 900 wins and counting, the national championship – became part of the legendary coaching monolith we know invariably associate with Syracuse basketball. Boeheim’s last Final Four trip with the Orange was led by one of the most dominant freshman stars in the modern hoops era and ended with a title. That would be Carmelo Anthony circa 2003.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 3rd, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Michigan

  • Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary, who has exploded onto the scene in the NCAA Tournament, said Tuesday that he will return to the Wolverines for his sophomore season.
  • The Wolverines are basking in their “rock star status” around Ann Arbor as they prepare for this weekend’s Final Four.
  • To replicate the challenges of the length of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, coach John Beilein is having reserve forwards Jon HorfordBlake McLimas, and Jordan Morgan challenge the Wolverines’ jump shooters during practice this week.
  • Very interesting story from Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports about how coach John Beilein is a descendant of the soldiers who inspired the film, Saving Private Ryan.
  • During last summer’s workouts, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scared his teammates with his intensity and his relentlessness helped set the tone for the team’s successful run through the season and into the Final Four.

Syracuse

  • Jim Boeheim is well-known for his no-nonsense approach to coaching and that approach has served him well as he has the Orange back in the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
  • The Orange’s 2-3 zone has successfully stifled its opposition due to the fact that they have a height advantage at every position. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams are 6’4″ and 6’6″, respectively, and that gives them a height advantage over nearly every backcourt they play.
  • Jim Boeheim famously blew up at ESPN‘s Andy Katz after a loss to UConn in February, but the coach is back on speaking terms with Katz and he even appeared on Katz’s ESPNU show Tuesday.
  • Forward Baye Moussa Keita does not fill up the stat sheet for the Orange on the offensive end of the court, but he has emerged as a key cog in the team’s stingy zone defense.
  • USC made waves when it announced late Monday night that it had hired Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield to fill its coaching vacancy. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was a bit perturbed by the move, saying that his associate head coach Mike Hopkins, who interviewed for the position, was by far the best candidate for the job.
 Louisville
  • Guard Russ Smith is turning in an historic NCAA Tournament. The junior is averaging 26 points per game and is shooting an impressive 54.1% from the field.
  • Injured guard Kevin Ware was released from an Indianapolis hospital Tuesday afternoon. His first stop following his release was to the team’s practice facility to return the Midwest Regional trophy coach Rick Pitino had left with him in his hospital room.
  • The positive attitude that Kevin Ware has shown in the face of his serious injury has earned him worldwide support from a multitude of people.
  • With Ware sidelined, coach Rick Pitino is mulling the possibility of shifting small forwards Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock to the backcourt in some defensive situations for Saturday’s game against Wichita State.
  • Louisville mayor Greg Fischer declared Friday as Cardinal Red Day in Louisville to honor the school’s men’s and women’s Final Four teams.

Wichita State

  • Redshirt freshman guard Ron Baker has taken an improbable journey from a lightly-recruited prospect to a walk-on to a key player in the Shockers’ unexpected run to the Final Four.
  • Coach Gregg Marshall serves as a reminder that coaches can have a “good life” away from the attention that coaching in a high-major conference brings.
  • With the team’s run to the Final Four, the players are becoming much more comfortable with all the media attention that is being levied on the squad.
  • After transferring from Oregon, guard Malcolm Armstead had to pay his own way at Wichita State and he did this by detailing cars for an area car dealership.
  • Gregg Marshall confirmed Wednesday that UCLA had contacted his representative last week, wanting to talk to the coach about the then-vacant coaching job.
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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013

After starting the season 18-1, Syracuse looked to be poised for another run at a Big East title and a top seed in March. However, the Orange struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing seven of their last 12 contests in Big East play. With their hot early start and a few big wins — including one at then top-ranked Louisville — the NCAA Tournament was never really in question, but their seeding looked to be in real jeopardy as the losses piled up. Jim Boeheim was able to right the ship in his last Big East Tournament, and with wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown before a tough championship game loss to Louisville, Syracuse seems to have regained a lot of momentum heading into the Big Dance.

syracuse-arkansas

Has Syracuse Regained Its Midseason Momentum; Or Is This a Mirage?

Region: East
Seed: No. 4
Record: 26-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Montana in San Jose

Key Player: Michael Carter-Williams is Syracuse’s most talented player, and C.J. Fair is certainly the most consistent player on the squad, but no individual may be more important to Syracuse’s Final Four aspirations than senior forward James Southerland. Southerland put on a clinic from long range in the Garden last week, hitting 19 of his 33 three-point attempts in Syracuse’s four games. When he is on, he’s as good a shooter as there is in the country, and his mere presence really spreads the floor for the Orange, opening things up for Carter-Williams to penetrate opposing defenses and Fair to get good looks on his dangerous mid-range jumpers.

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Morning Five: 12.26.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 26th, 2012

morning5

  1. If you missed last night’s game between Arizona and San Diego State in what was billed as the battle of the two best teams on the West Coast you missed an excellent game with a crazy finish. After what could be can most gently describe as a slow start where both teams struggled to make even basic basketball plays, the level of play increased significantly. We are not ready to jump on the Arizona bandwagon with both feet, but after their 68-67 win we are looking for an open space to hop into pretty soon. The Wildcats are still a work in progress and we are not sure if we fully buy into a team that relies on Mark Lyons as its point guard, but they have a solid combination of youth, talent, and experience to make them an intriguing team in March. Most of the country will probably forget about the Wildcats until March as they don’t play another ranked team the rest of the season, but they would be wise to keep an eye on what is going on in Tucson.
  2. We are pretty sure that we have never linked to a college football article in the Morning Five before, but the article by the NCAA (hello, propaganda) about how San Jose State turned around its APR by focusing on student academics at all levels caught our eye. While we certainly can appreciate the work that the school did to achieve this change we are sure that some will view this as nothing more than an attempt by the NCAA to get people to support its APR system that has been criticized by many as being ineffective in judging a school’s performance in educating its student-athletes. While we will leave you to ponder that, we found the last quote in the article amusing given the current economic/unemployment situation: “But if you have a degree, you are set for life.”
  3. While Syracuse has had to deal with its share of bad publicity over the past week there are still some good stories happening on campus including a basketball player–Baye Moussa Keita–and a football player from Senegal and the Ivory Coast respectively who are making a substantial impact on their teams. While they have somewhat similar backgrounds (coming from Africa to the United States in their teens, there are some key differences as the article illustrates, but they still managed to form a bond at the school. We don’t know much about the football player they talk about, but we can say that Keita has certainly improved over the years and plays hard. We doubt that he ever play in the NBA, but he should have a professional career overseas.
  4. As we near the start of conference play, we have seen some sensational freshmen performances even if none of them may quite match the impact that Anthony Davis had last year. In his weekly Freshmen of the Year column, Jeff Borzello takes a look at the top freshmen in the country. While the ranking should not come as much of a surprise, looking at it should serve as a reminder that even though this year’s freshmen class may not be as loaded as some in year’s past there are still several freshmen who could merit consideration for first team All-American consideration by the end of the season.
  5. Depending on where you live you have heard varying amounts of Christmas caroling over the past few weeks, but we doubt that you heard many carols from a college basketball team. We know it’s a little late now (or maybe a little early if you are already looking forward to Christmas 2013), but Jeff Eisenberg collected some of the best (or worst) renditions this holiday season. Now none of these approach the brilliance of a #DMXMas, but they are worth a listen if you are sitting around doing nothing today even if only to satisfy your curiosity as to how such a production would turn out.
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Big East M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 5th, 2012

  1. St. John’s 81-65 loss on the road at San Francisco may have seemed like just another non-conference game in preparation for the Big East gauntlet which kicks off in early January. To Steve Lavin, though, this game meant a whole lot more. Steve’s father Cap Lavin played guard at San Francisco in the early 1950s, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1997. With his son’s trip out west, the school honored Lavin at halftime. San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kroner’s piece on this father-son relationship is an excellent read. Where many sporting parents may push their children towards athletics, Cap never put any pressure on Steve, but instead made sure that his career goal of becoming a basketball coach wasn’t him taking “the path of least resistance.” Steve’s relationship with Cap was also instrumental in helping him triumph in his recent bout with prostate cancer.
  2. The Big East Tournament has always been a big event for Connecticut faithful, and this spring’s tournament, with the impending departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, promised to be even more meaningful… until, of course, UConn was banned from all postseason play for poor APR scores. School president Susan Herbst is still fighting the ruling, citing the school’s stronger, more recent APR scores as evidence that the program has learned and improved upon past academic failures. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs theorizes that if UConn wants to overcome the “chaos” that has befallen the program and be readmitted to the Big East Tournament — and on a larger scale, be seen as having a strong athletic department again — they need to quiet Jim Calhoun. As we discussed in yesterday’s Big East M5, Calhoun recently stated that he would “never say never” in ruling out a return to coaching. Jacobs believes that Calhoun’s thirst for attention, which doesn’t seem to have dissipated even after his very public and odd retirement, is undermining the program.
  3. While the Syracuse low-post trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman, and Baye Moussa Keita have combined for a solid 18.2 points, 15.6 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game this season, Jim Boeheim still believes that this group is the one that must progress the most if the team wants to make a championship run this season. The Orange’s 2-3 zone has been especially active and long this season to the tune of 81 steals through six games, but their corresponding interior defense has been a bit weak at times. Boeheim is worried that a good mid-range jump shooter or a strong offensive big man could do some damage against his defense. Syracuse could also use a strong presence inside on offense when the shooting stroke from outside runs cold, as it did for stretches against Eastern Michigan on Monday.
  4. USF (the Big East one this time) seems to be gaining its sea legs after a rough few games to start the year, and are prepared to take on #23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. One can point to the improved health of Anthony Collins as one reason for the Bulls’ improved play. After missing a game against Stetson due to a lingering calf injury, Collins had one of his best games of the year against Georgia, scoring 17 points and adding 10 assists. A win in Stillwater would give USF a solid non-conference road win, and re-energize the thoughts of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. After the Oklahoma State game, USF has a 13-day break to focus on practice and schoolwork, so look for the Bulls to come out with a very strong effort knowing that rest is on the way.
  5. Pittsburgh could get back junior swingman Trey Zeigler as early as tonight for the Panthers’ City Game against Duquesne. Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan after his father Ernie was fired as head coach, was charged with a DUI on November 26 and was suspended indefinitely from the team. The scoring guard was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and had averaged 6.2 points per game for Pitt before his suspension — during his two years with the Chippewas, he averaged around 16 points per game so he could provide a great offensive spark for the Panthers if he gets back into a rhythm.
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Tracking The Four: Voices of…

Posted by EJacoby on February 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

The ‘wildcard’ version of TT4 is back, and this week we take a look at the voices of each team. Below you’ll find key quotes throughout the season from players, coaches, and media members who cover each of our four squads. With just three games remaining (or less) for each team in the regular season, it’s an appropriate time to take the pulse of the programs before they head into the home stretch:

Tom Crean Has Had Much to Say This Season for the Surprising Hoosiers (AP Photo/A. Colwell)

Indiana Hoosiers

  • “They’ve been punking us the past couple years and we realized that. This year we had to go toe-to-toe with them.” Guard Victor Oladipo, 12/31 (after win over Ohio State)
  • “Our mindset is next man up.  We know that a lot of different people at different times can step up and make a play that helps us win games on either offense or defense.  We have done a good job of being unselfish and worrying only about getting the win.” Guard Jordan Hulls, 1/3
  • “The bottom line is this team gritted it out again. They have won 14 games 14 different ways with a lot of room for improvement, and I’m excited about them.” Coach Tom Crean, 1/5
  • “We can’t be satisfied with moral victories.” Center Cody Zeller, 1/18
  • “I think the most difficult thing to swallow from one game to another, though, is simply the consistency of this basketball team in recent weeks. You really just don’t know what you’re going to get from week to week, game to game, minute to minute. And that’s what I find to be the big difference between the 15-1 start and the 2-5 record since then. It comes down to consistency. And it’s across the board.” Beat writer Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star, 2/2
  • “If you’re going to get physical with [Zeller], he’s going to respond. The only soft thing about Cody is that he’s soft-spoken on the court, but other than that he’s a tough, tough person.” Coach Tom Crean, 2/9

Murray State Racers

  • “Coach has a great personality and he cares about our team more than anything, and the same way he cares about us we care about him and we try to go out and play as hard as we can for him.” Guard Isaiah Canaan, 12/15
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Tracking The Four: Rebels Starting to Slip

Posted by EJacoby on February 21st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

After cruising along with a top 10-15 ranking for much of the season, UNLV is facing its first patch of serious adversity now, having lost three of its last four games (all on the road). Last week, the Rebels took a loss against a mediocre TCU team and followed that up with a blowout at the hands of New Mexico. UNLV all of a sudden finds itself a distant second in the Mountain West conference standings. Meanwhile, Indiana suffered another slip-up on the road, but Syracuse escaped in their task away from home. Murray State had the best week of all with a massive victory over St. Mary’s in the BracketBuster game, so let’s start things off with the positive trending Racers this week:

Murray State Racers

Murray State is Soaring Right Now After Taking its Only Loss (AP Photo/J. Wright)

  • Trending UP Because… – They’ve recovered well after dropping their only game of the season. Since falling to Tennessee State at home on February 9, the Racers (26-1, 13-1 OVC) have played their best ball and capped it off with a dominant win against St. Mary’s in the primetime ESPN BracketBuster matchup on Saturday. They still have two road games remaining against the best the OVC has to offer, but Murray State is undoubtedly headed to the NCAA Tournament now, and they certainly passed the national-audience eye test as a team with some weapons that can do damage offensively.
  • This Week’s Key CogDonte Poole. He led the team in scoring with an 18.0 PPG average in the past week, to go along with 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals as well. The senior guard carried the Racers with 25 points in their Wednesday win at Southeast Missouri State.
  • Play of the Week – This ESPN announcer has now idea how to pronounce Isaiah Canaan’s name (it’s CAN-non, like the weapon), but watch this sweet alley-oop from the star guard to Brandon Garrett for a big-time dunk.
  • Talking Point – Coach Steve Prohm talked about how the win over St. Mary’s could help his team’s postseason seed: “If we can finish the season strong, it gives us a chance to get a good seed. But, regardless of where you’re seeded – five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 – you’re going to play somebody good.”
  • Can’t Win For Losing? - It’s starting to look like taking a loss was the best thing that could have happened to this team. By losing at home, Murray State removed the pressure off its back to run the table, and the Racers have played much better since the public doubted their legitimacy as a Tournament team. The win against St. Mary’s was their toughest opponent in over two months and the least amount of points they’ve allowed in over six weeks.
  • Stats Central – For the season the Racers are now shooting 41.3% from three and allowing opponents to shoot just 29.2% in that area. A massive gap, Murray ranks in the top 20 nationally in both statistics.
  • What’s Next? – Murray State finishes the regular season this week with two challenging road games. First is a rematch at Tennessee State on Thursday (8:00 PM ET, ESPNU) against the only team it has lost to this season. Then the Racers travel to Tennessee Tech on Saturday (8:30 PM ET) against the team ranked fourth in the OVC. Both are losable games, but Murray should win if it can play at the level it has over the past week and a half.

Syracuse Orange

  • Trending EVEN Because… – The Orange avoided a bad loss by escaping Rutgers with a 10-point win on Sunday. Syracuse (27-1, 14-1 Big East) remains a lock for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as long as it doesn’t suffer a losing streak down the stretch.
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Tracking The Four: UNLV Enters Top 10, Indiana Nearly Drops Out Entirely

Posted by EJacoby on January 31st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

This week in TT4, the team out in Vegas has entered the top 10 in the RTC rankings. UNLV continues to impress, this time getting it done with back-to-back gritty overtime wins on the road. Meanwhile, Syracuse escaped for a win with some help from the referees, and Murray State found out whom they’re playing in BracketBusters for a major upcoming challenge. Our only team trending downward, Indiana, scored 50 points in a loss and 103 points in a win in consecutive games, and we’ll try to make sense of it all. With plenty of important news to get to, let’s jump into this week’s breakdown:

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

The High-Flying Runnin' Rebels are Finally Being Recognized as a Top Team (AP Photo/J. Gurzinski)

  • Trending UP Because… – It wasn’t pretty, but they survived two road tests in the past week with victories at Boise State and Air Force. Now, the Runnin’ Rebels (20-3, 4-1 MW) are in the RTC Top 10 and are knocking on the Top 10 door of the AP and USA Today Polls as well. Most bracket projections have Dave Rice’s team as a #3 seed, and it’s hard not to be impressed when you see this team play. Tough tests remain, and a few losses surely await in the competitive Mountain West, but UNLV is proving to be one of the most explosive teams in America.
  • This Week’s Key CogMike Moser. For the second straight week and fifth time this season, a Reb was named MW Player of the Week. This time it was Moser, for the third time, after he averaged 22.5 points, 16.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 51.7% from the field in two road victories.
  • Play of the Week – Check out Oscar Bellfield’s set-up to Moser for the alley oop in this highlight against Air Force on Saturday.
  • Talking Point – Coach Rice drove home the point that he was happy with the road win at Air Force, no matter how much the team struggled at times: “The bottom line is, we found a way to win. We got huge stops down the stretch when we needed them and made huge offensive plays as well. Now we’re back fighting for a conference title again.”
  • Sick Performance - Moser not only dominated the Falcons on Saturday, but he also put up a career-high 21 rebounds with 18 points in the Wednesday win at Boise State — all while he was ill. The forward was battling a sore throat and head cold and had been vomiting before the game, yet still came through with one of his best games of the season.
  • Stats CentralChace Stanback had the worst shooting performance of his career on Saturday (1-10 from the field, two points), but he contributed in other ways with six rebounds, four assists, and four steals, including the crucial one with two seconds remaining to seal the victory.
  • What’s Next? – The Rebels have two tough matchups this week, first a home game against Colorado State on Wednesday (10:30 PM ET), followed by a road date at Wyoming on Saturday (4:00 PM ET). CSU is ranked #15 in the RPI and a current NCAA bubble team while Wyoming is 12-2 at home this season. Both games are televised on The Mountain TV Network.

Murray State Racers

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Stanford vs. Syracuse

Posted by AMurawa on November 25th, 2011

When the last remaining undefeated Pac-12 team, Stanford, knocked off Oklahoma State on Wednesday night to advance to the championship game of the NIT Season-Tip Off to face the #5 team in the country, Syracuse, we had our Pac-12 game of the week all set up. Let’s preface the rest of this post by saying that we, like most of the rest of the college hoops public, have no expectation that Stanford will win this game. The Cardinal are a young team, still very much in the process of improving, and they’re facing a team that is arguably as talented as anyone in the country on a neutral-site court that will be anything but neutral. Can Stanford beat Syracuse? I point you to Exhibits A, B and C, to show that, sure, anything can happen, but the fact is Cardinal fans should temper their expectations. The goal is to win, but if they play the Orange close, that’s a success.

Josh Owens, Stanford

Josh Owens Will Play A Big Role As Stanford Tries To Attack Syracuse's 2-3 Zone

So, how does the Cardinal go about playing the Orange close? First and foremost, they need to be thankful today for their video coordinator and go to school on Jim Boeheim’s zone. Conventional wisdom says you attack the 2-3 zone by getting into the middle of it and playing inside out. Stanford has two good candidates to man the middle offensively against the zone: senior forward Josh Owens and sophomore forward Dwight Powell. Both are capable passers who can handle the ball a bit when needed, and each can turn around and hit the 15-foot jumper on the rare occasion when they are given space. Either player is also capable of flashing to the baseline when the ball is kicked back out to the guards and either hitting the baseline jumper or putting the ball on the floor and attacking the meat of that lengthy Syracuse zone. However, because of that length (the Orange feature seven-footer Fab Melo in the middle, with guys like 6’7” senior Kris Joseph, 6’9” freshman Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” sophomore Baye Moussa Keita, and 6’7” sophomore C.J. Fair elsewhere along the frontcourt), not only will the windows to get off jumpers disappear quickly, but any shots inside will be challenged.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

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

Team of the Week: Syracuse Orange: The Orange reached a critical point in their season on Wednesday. They had lost four consecutive games, there were all kinds of rumors involving turmoil within the locker room, and the team was heading to Hartford to take on then-No. 7 Connecticut. But the Orange were able to slow down Kemba Walker and knock off the Huskies, regaining some confidence along the way, before going into Tampa and whooping up on South Florida. James Southerland has seen his minutes cut, playing just two minutes in the past three games, while CJ Fair and Baye Moussa Keita — who are more active on the glass and better defenders than Southerland — have taken those minutes. Dion Waiters has also played better since he was benched at Marquette, scoring 19 points the past two games. Syracuse has a big week coming up, as they play Georgetown, Louisville, and West Virginia in the span of six days.

Player of the Week: Corey Fisher, Villanova: Villanova head coach Jay Wright switched around Villanova’s starting lineup, sliding Maalik Wayns to the bench, Corey Fisher over to the point, and moving Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood into the starting lineup at different times. Wright did it for two reasons — he wanted to make Villanova a better defensive team, and he wanted a bigger team on the glass. More importantly, however, he wanted one more player on the floor willing to get the ball into the big guys inside. And believe it or not, this Villanova team is actually at their best when they run from the inside-out. How did Fisher respond? By averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 55% from the floor in wins over Marquette and West Virginia.

Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pittsburgh (21-2, 9-1) (1)
Last Week: 2/5 vs. Cincinnati 71-59, 2/7 @ West Virginia 71-66
Next Week: 2/12 @ Villanova

The Panthers win at West Virginia on Monday proved just how good the program is that Jamie Dixon runs. Pitt won at West Virginia, a rivalry game on the road, without their most dangerous offensive weapon (Ashton Gibbs is out for two weeks with a strained MCL) against a team that was tied for second in the league standings. Nothing in the Panthers’ game plan changed. They still ran their same offense and they still crashed the glass, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds. Saturday’s matchup with Villanova should be quite a bit of fun, even if Gibbs is out.

2. Villanova (19-4, 7-3) (3)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Marquette 75-70, 2/5 vs. West Virginia 66-50
Next Week: 2/9 @ Rutgers, 2/12 vs. Pitt

See the “Player of the Week” section for a breakdown on Jay Wright’s tinkering with the starting lineup, and how Corey Fisher in particular has benefited.

3. Notre Dame (19-4, 8-3) (5)
Last Week: 2/3 @ DePaul 83-58, 2/6 vs. Rutgers 76-69
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Louisville, 2/12 @ South Florida

I’m still not sold on Notre Dame being the third-best team in the conference, but they continue to win and own the single most impressive victory in the league, a win at Pitt. Ben Hansbrough was once again sensational this week, averaging 24.5 points per game in two wins that, frankly, didn’t tell us much. The Irish blew out DePaul like they are supposed too before winning a tougher-than-expected game against Rutgers.

4. Syracuse (20-4, 7-4) (4)
Last Week: 2/2 @ UConn 66-58, 2/5 @ South Florida 72-49
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Georgetown, 2/12 @ Louisville

See the “Team of the Week section” for analysis on Syracuse getting back on the right track despite undue stress.

5. Georgetown (18-5, 7-4) (9)
Last Week: 1/31 vs. Louisville 62-59, 2/5 vs. Providence 83-81
Next Week: 1/9 @ Syracuse, 1/13 vs. Marquette

The Hoyas are arguably the hottest team in the Big East right now. With wins over Louisville and Providence, they Hoyas have won six in a row after starting off Big East play 1-4. That winning streak becomes all the more important with a trip to the Carrier Dome coming on Wednesday. Julian Vaughn has played very well of late despite having a bad ankle. He had ten points, including a number of important buckets, and four blocks against Louisville and followed that up with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Providence.

6. Louisville (18-5, 7-3) (6)
Last Week: 1/31 @ Georgetown 59-62, 2/5 vs. DePaul 61-57
Next Week: 2/9 @ Notre Dame, 2/12 vs. Syracuse

Right now, Louisville is simply surviving, as Rick Pitino put it after the Cardinal’s four-point win against DePaul. The issue for the Cardinals isn’t their talent level (which is low, given their ranking) or Pitino’s coaching (which has been as impressive as anyone in the country), it’s simply that they cannot get healthy. The latest injury has come to leading scorer Preston Knowles, who sat out the win over the Blue Demons with a hamstring injury.

7. Connecticut (18-4, 6-4) (2)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Syracuse 58-66, 2/5 @ Seton Hall 61-59
Next Week: 2/10 @ Providence, 2/13 vs. St. John’s

The Kemba Walker riddle has been solved — play UConn in a zone. Syracuse did it. So did Seton Hall. It makes it easy to help onto Walker and prevent him from getting one-on-one opportunities, and with the youth and inexperience on the UConn roster, it is very easy to get this team out of an offensive rhythm. Zones are difficult to beat when you don’t have great passing big men, and if you have seen Charles Okwandu or Alex Oriakhi play this season, you know they are not exactly Greg Monroe.

8. Marquette (14-9, 5-5) (7)

Last Week: 2/2 @ Villanova 70-75
Next Week: 2/9 @ South Florida, 2/13 @ Georgetown

Once again, the Golden Eagles suffered a tough loss against a quality opponent. But that doesn’t mean that this team is in any danger whatsoever of missing the NCAA Tournament. They’ve lost five of their last eight games, although in that eight game stretch, Marquette played seven teams (seven!) currently ranked in the top 15 in the country. All five of those losses were to top 15 teams, while the Golden Eagles also boast wins over the likes of Syracuse and Notre Dame. Only two of their last eight games are against ranked teams.

9. West Virginia (15-7, 6-4) (8)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Seton Hall 56-44, 2/5 @ Villanova 50-66, 2/7 vs. Pitt 66-71
Next Week: 2/12 vs. DePaul, 2/14 @ Syracuse

This is not a typical Bob Huggins team. There’s no toughness on this squad, mentally or physically. They are an atrocious 310th in the country on the defensive glass after Monday night’s debacle against Pitt. Kevin Jones and John Flowers are inconsistent and get pushed around inside too easily when they aren’t in foul trouble. Deniz Kilicli can score on the block, but he can’t defend anyone and doesn’t appear to know what a box out is. Cam Thoroughman is a blue-collar player that is tough and physical, but he just doesn’t have the talent to be an impact player. This team, believe it or not, is soft.

10. St. John’s (13-9, 5-5) (11)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Rutgers 58-56, 2/5 @ UCLA 59-66
Next Week: 2/10 vs. UConn, 2/13 @ Cincinnati

Dwight Hardy went for 32 against UCLA, which was impressive, but the rest of the Red Storm decided to not make the trip to LA. It’s a shame, because the Johnnies really could have used that win. Thanks to their blowout of Duke, all this team needs to do is finish above .500 in the Big East to make the dance.

11. Cincinnati (18-5, 5-5) (10)
Last Week: 2/5 @ Pitt 59-71
Next Week: 2/8 @ DePaul, 2/13 vs. St. John’s

The bubble may be obscenely weak this season, but the Bearcats still look like they could end up being a longshot to make it. They played the 284th-best non-conference schedule, and while their win over Xavier looks better every day, they need to notch a victory over one of the top teams in the Big East. That will be tough if Yancy Gates, who didn’t make the trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday, remains suspended.

12. Seton Hall (10-14, 4-8) (14)
Last Week: 2/2 @ West Virginia 44-56, 2/5 vs. UConn 59-61
Next Week: 2/12 vs. Rutgers

Seeton Hall is playing well, but they cannot close out games. Unfortunately, after digging themselves a hole early in the season, the Pirates cannot afford losing close games.

13. Rutgers (12-11, 3-8) (12)
Last Week: 2/2 @ St. John’s 56-58, 2/6 @ Notre Dame 69-76
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Villanova, 2/12 vs. Seton Hall

The Scarlet Knights have now played three straight tournament teams down to the wire. Mike Rice has this team playing the right way. Once he gets some better talent into the program, Rutgers will be alright.

14. Providence (14-10, 3-8) (13)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. South Florida 68-63, 2/5 @ Georgetown 81-83
Next Week: 2/13 @ UConn

Marshon Brooks is now the leading scorer in the Big East at 24.1 points per game after dropping 43 on Georgetown in a losing effort.

15. South Florida (8-16, 2-9) (15)
Last Week: 2/2 @ Providence 63-68, 2/5 vs. Syracuse 49-72
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Marquette. 2/12 vs. Notre Dame

On Saturday, South Florida was outnumbered by Syracuse fans 3:1 in their own arena. Shameful.

16. DePaul (6-16, 0-10) (16)
Last Week: 2/3 vs. Notre 58-83, 2/5 @ Louisville 57-61
Next Week: 2/8 vs. Cincinnati, 2/12 @ WVU
The Blue Demons nearly got one against injury-depleted Louisville.

Looking Ahead
We have four terrific Big East matchups this week. On Wednesday, Georgetown heads to Syracuse in the first of their two games this season, while Louisville makes the trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. On Saturday, Syracuse and Louisville do battle while arguably the two best teams in the conference tip off in ESPN’s Gameday game as Pitt travels to Villanova.

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