2009-10 Conference Primers: #22 – Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2009

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Glenn Junkert of GrizzlyJournal.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Weber State (22-9, 12-4)
  2. Montana (20-8, 11-5)
  3. Montana State (16-12, 11-5)
  4. Idaho State (13-16, 10-6)
  5. Portland State (14-15, 9-7)
  6. Northern Arizona (11-17, 8-8)
  7. Northern Colorado (12-18, 5-11)
  8. Eastern Washington (8-21, 3-13)
  9. Sacramento State (7-22, 3-13)

All-Conference First Team:

  • Anthony Johnson, Montana
  • Damian Lilliard, Weber State
  • Steve Panos, Weber State
  • Phil Nelson, Portland State
  • Bobby Howard, Montana State

All-Conference Second Team:

  • Amorrow Morgan, Idaho State
  • Will Bynum, Montana State
  • Dominic Waters, Portland State
  • Brandon Moore, Eastern Washington
  • Shane Johannssen, Northern Arizona

MVP: Anthony Johnson, Montana

Impact Newcomers:

  • Franklin Session, Weber State
  • Eric Platt, Northern Arizona
  • Raason Young, Montana

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What You Need to Know.  Last year Weber State senior point guard Kellen McCoy earned his Big Sky MVP medal by shaping his young teammates into a cohesive unit early. The Wildcats shrugged off a home court loss to Montana State and promptly forged a commanding conference lead with a league-wide road sweep, a rare feat in the Big Sky, though three other stellar guards — Montana’s Anthony Johnson, Montana State’s Will Bynum, and McCoy’s teammate, frosh Damian Lilliard — had second-half performances equal to McCoy’s, the Wildcat senior was a shoo-in for directing his cats to a rare 15-1 record in league play.

Predicted ChampionWeber State (NCAA Seed: #14). Weber State basketball IS coach Randy Rahe, and what Rahe has done best in four years at WSU is: 1) Recruit a balanced combo of quality junior college and freshman talent; and, 2) Demand the utmost in ensemble discipline and teamwork from his players on the court. The result? Deuces wild: two league titles and two “coach of the year” awards in his four years at WSU. The Wildcats graduated seniors Kellen McCoy and Daivin Davis, but Rahe will rely on the leadership of sophomore guard Lilliard, who’s expected to get support from highly regarded JC transfer Franklin Session. Otherwise, Rahe’s stellar coaching should be enough to earn the Cats a second straight league title.

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05.26.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 26th, 2009

It’s been a while since we updated things (Wall to Kentucky), so let’s get caught up this evening…

  • RIP Wayman. You’ve undoubtedly heard the sad news about 44-year old Wayman Tisdale’s passing on May 15.  Obviously, we never met Tisdale, but everyone agrees that he was a person who touched the lives of many through his athletic and musical career.  ESPN takes a look back here, and CNNSI reflected on his legacy in the state of Oklahoma here.   Jeff Goodman tells a story about Tisdale following through on a promise to a budding jouralist (him).   Tisdale’s public memorial service was last Wednesday.
  • Smoke, then Fire.  We mentioned previously that it’s unfathomable to us that USC wouldn’t take Renardo Sidney, given their astonishing and proven ability to look the other way.  Maybe they knew that Rodney Guillory’s associate, Louis Johnson, was chirping like a parrot to anyone who will listen that he witnessed Tim Floyd handing Guillory a cool grand in return for the delivery of OJ Mayo.  Now Mayo’s talking to the feds about Guillory, and at least one writer thinks the whole darned ship is going up in flames.  The million-dollar question is whether the NCAA investigators have the sack to do it.  (our response: yes, but half-assed).  Update: Noel Johnson, a 2009 signee, left the program today, leaving Dwight Lewis, and um, Lil Romeo?
  • Transfers. Iowa’s Jeff Peterson (11 ppg) will transfer to Arkansas for the 2010-11 season; Indiana’s Nick Williams (9/5) will return to the South to play for Ole Miss (he was the Alabama POY in 2008); and, Clark Kellogg’s kid, Alex, will leave Providence for Ohio University (Bobcats, not Buckeyes) to play his senior season.  In corollary news, Oklahoma’s Juan Pattillo was shown the door by Jeff Capel for undisclosed team violations.
  • NBA Draft News.  Duke’s Gerald Henderson made it official and signed with an agent, forgoing his final year in Durham.  Xavier’s Derrick Brown, a borderline first-rounder, is highly unlikely to return to XU next season.  Meanwhile, word last week was that Florida’s Nick Calathes signed a contract for $1.1M/year (+ a home, car and tax credits) to play in Greece (where he holds dual citizenship), and Clemson’s Terrence Oglesby is leaving school after his sophomore year to pursue a pro career in Europe (he’s also a dual citizen with Norway).  Southern Miss’s Jeremy Wise will not return either.  BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari decided to wise up and will return to the Cougs for his senior season, as will Arkansas leading scorer Michael Washington.  FYI, now that the draft lottery is set (Clips win!), the new mocks are coming out.  Here’s NBADraft.net’s Top 14.
  • Obligatory Kentucky News.  It’s out with the old and in with the new, as three scholarship at Kentucky are given the pink slip to make room for Calipari’s motherlode of talent.  The buzz is already loud for Kentucky as the preseason #1 next year, but we’re a little surprised Jodie Meeks hasn’t made his decision yet (he’s unlikely to move up to the first round).
  • Coaching News.  Illinois top man Bruce Weber got a $500k raise and a three-year extension based on his stellar work in Champaign last season.  Villanova’s Jay Wright talked to and then withdrew from the search for a new Philadelphia 76ers head man.  Wazzu’s new man Ken Bone signed with the school for seven years and $650k per year, according to school records.   Michigan’s John Beilein will chair the NCAA’s Ethics Comittee, featuring Johnny Dawkins, Jeff Capel and the omnipresent Dave Odom…  does anyone else find it odd that Beilein’s charge here is to clarify the rules as written, even though he used legal loopholes to get out of his stated buyout with WVU when he left for greener pastures?   Finally, here’s a rather-suspect list of the top ten coaches in America today – it omits Bill Self and John Calipari, which leads us to believe that the author did not watch the 2008 national championship game.
  • Other Errata.  CJ Henry is officially enrolled at Kansas and will get to play with his brother, super-wing Xavier Henry, next season in Lawrence.
  • Former Tennessee guard Ramar Smith (whom Coach Bruce Pearl kicked off the team in 2008) was arrested for robbery (the holy trinity: money, guns and marijuana) last week, and he’s currently awaiting trial.
  • Luke Winn gives us a glimpse at what Mississippi St. will look like next year (with John Riek and Renardo Sidney in the fold).
  • Please tell us that some irate Kentucky fan with rivers of money will buy these and burn them.
  • What WILL we do with those nefarious message board posters!?!?
  • Campbell University will rejoin the Big South (its former home until 1994), leaving the Atlantic Sun after the 2010-11 academic year.
  • The Big Sky is moving to a Friday/Saturday conference weekend model to save costs beginning next season.
  • This is a sad story, but we’re glad that the authorities found this Olympic champion safe and sound.
  • Well, sucks for them (next, USC?).
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East Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round (pt. 2)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2009

EAST REGION GAME PREVIEWS – PART TWO (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

Once again, we will be picking the East Regional games, while also pitting non-basketball alums from each school in a no-holds barred battle for March supremacy.

Friday’s Games – Dayton, Ohio

(8) Oklahoma State vs. (9) Tennessee (12:25 p.m.)

DZ: This match-up is about as even as they come. Both teams play fast-paced, high-scoring basketball. The Cowboys’ James Anderson (18.6 ppg) will be the best player on the court, but the Vols are stronger in the interior with Tyler Smith (17 ppg) and Wayne Chism (13.8 ppg). I’ll go with Bruce Pearl and the Vols here – but you might be better off just flipping a coin.

SM: Usually, these 8 vs. 9 games include at least one so-called mid-major team against a BCS conference team, and I usually lean toward the little guy with my pick. But as the only 8/9 game between two mediocre big boys, this is a total toss up. I have to go with the team I know more about, and that would be Tyler Smith and Tennessee. The real question is whether Bruce Pearl will break out the day-glo orange blazer.

Alumni Throwdown – Gary Busey (Oklahoma State) vs. Chris Hadfield (Tennessee)

DZ: Like the real game, this has all the makings of a great match-up with an actor lost in space going up against the first Canadian to walk in space. But the astronaut wins when Busey gets distracted trying to figure out the life force of a basketball.

SM: Busey had a great turn in a recent season of Entourage. But once you’ve appeared on a reality show called Celebrity Rehab, you’re disqualified. I’ll go with the Canadian astronaut, eh?

(16) East Tennessee State vs. (1) Pittsburgh (2:55 p.m.)

DZ: If the national championship hopeful Panthers have a hard time with this one, they could be in trouble. High-scoring guard Kevin Tiggs (21.5 ppg) helped ETSU win the Atlantic Sun tournament championship, but you may have heard Pitt has a couple of stars in its own in DeJuan Blair (15.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg) and Sam Young (18.8 ppg). The Panthers coast into the second round.

SM: I’ll lay it on the line – Pitt is my pick to win it all. So if they show ANY signs of trouble against a school whose finest alum is a late bishop, my bracket could be in trouble. Tiggs may be a small-conference gunner against Lipscomb and South Carolina-Upstate (yeah, that’s a real school), but DeJuan Blair is a big enough force to block out the (Atlantic) Sun. Panthers rest the starters late, and still run away by 20-plus.

Alumni Throwdown – Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr. (East Tennessee State) vs. Mark Cuban (Pittsburgh)

DZ: It will take a wing and prayer for ETSU to beat Pitt, but prayers are what the late bishop has (sorry, there aren’t many famous ETSU alums). Look for the bishop to prove faith is stronger than money by knocking off the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks in the feel-good upset of the (fake) tournament.

SM: I don’t want to vote against a bishop, but I also don’t want Mark Cuban to rip me on his blog or his Twitter or whatever it is the kids are doing these days. Cuban politely edges Bishop Hunt in this one, but then gets fined by David Stern for excessive celebration.

Friday’s Games – Boise, Idaho

(4) Xavier vs. (13) Portland State (7:25 p.m.)

DZ: The Musketeers notched some signature wins early but have just a .500 record since Feb. 7. Meanwhile, pint-sized guard Jeremiah Dominguez, the two-time Big Sky MVP, fuels a very good shooting Portland State team that knocked off Gonzaga, on the road, earlier in the season. Xavier is a tourney-tested team under head coach Sean Miller, but I like Portland State here in the East Region’s upset special.

SM: I’m on record saying Xavier is a little high as a four seed, but Portland State may be the one team in this region with an even more favorable ranking. I was the one person who watched the Vikings win the Big Sky title at the buzzer, and they did not look like a 13 seed. The Musketeers handle their business rather easily in this one. After that, though, I make no promises.

Alumni Throwdown – Robert Romanus (Xavier) vs. Holly Madison (Portland State)

DZ: Madison, one of Heff’s girlfriends on Girls Next Door, matched up against the actor who played Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? This one would be over before it starts with the Playboy model easily wooing the overconfident sleazeball. (“I woke up in a great mood. I don’t know what the hell happened.”)

SM: Blondes aren’t usually my thing, but in this matchup, it’s a no-brainer. I mean she’s a Playmate, for goodness sake. Personally, I would’ve gone with Phillies legend and Xavier grad Jim Bunning, but a certain Mets’ fan picked this alumni matchup. At least he has a World Series title to back it … oh, wait.

(5) Florida State vs. (12) Wisconsin (9:55 p.m.)

DZ: Averaging over 20 points per game, the Seminoles’ Toney Douglas is one of the best players in the region. But Wisconsin is a pretty solid team for a 12 seed, allowing less than 60 points per contest. Florida State should win a close one, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 12-13 game in Round 2 here.

SM: I’m much higher on the Big Ten than most folks this year (Purdue to the Elite 8!), but not in this case. The Badgers have been totally unimpressive this year, and first-round games are often decided by the best player on the floor. In this case, that is FSU’s Toney Douglas – this year’s breakout star in the East Region. The ’Noles win a tight one late, possibly on a Douglas trifecta.

Alumni Throwdown – Burt Reynolds (Florida State) vs. Stephen Ambrose (Wisconsin)

DZ: Because why wouldn’t we pit a famous actor and former Florida State football player against a late historian and author of Band of Brothers? I’m going with cool guy Reynolds since Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing one of my old professors at Penn.

SM: That’s the best a large state school like Wisconsin has to offer? No Bud Selig, Steve Miller, Joan Cusack, or Charles Lindbergh? This one goes to Burt Reynolds in a landslide. The man nearly stole the show in Boogie Nights – a film that included Heather Graham and not a lot of clothing.

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ATB: Mike Singletary Redefines “The Zone” Tonight

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2009

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Redefining The ZoneTexas Tech 88, Texas A&M 83.  Mike Singletary set a new career-high tonight in Texas Tech’s first round Big 12 Tournament game against Texas A&M… in the last ten minutes of the game.  That’s right, Singletary caught lightning in his shooting hand, as he exploded for 29 straight points (9-10 FG; 8-10 FT) in the last quarter of the game (previous career high: 25) as he brought his team back from a 21-pt second half deficit.  His performance was the second-longest such conflagration of consecutive points, ranking only behind (you know this one, right?) Bill Mlkvy from Temple fifty-eight years ago, who threw up an ungodly 54 in a row in a game against Wilkes.  Courtesy of ESPN FC, we got to see the second half of this one, and we’re glad we did.  Singletary didn’t look particularly quick or athletic or smooth – he just hit nearly everything he threw up at the rim.  Oh, and did we mention that he didn’t even start the game tonight – maybe Pat Knight should just play him in the final ten minutes of the game from now on.  Texas A&M, on the other hand, may have just watched its NCAA dreams die with their second-half gag (Mark Turgeon, double-team the guy torching your defense!!!) tonight.  Probably not, though – the Aggies’ RPI is still strong, and they did finish hot down the stretch.

Other Important Bubble Games.

  • Providence 83, Depaul 74.  PC allowed the Blue Demons to hang around in this one, and by virtue of playing the 0-18 team, they probably didn’t help their RPI or SOS any… but a win is a win, and with the win comes the opportunity to play #1 seed Louisville in the Big East quarters tomorrow.  The good news for the Friars is that Louisville is lifetime 1-3 in this tournament, but the bad news is that the only team that has beaten them all three times has been Pittsburgh.
  • Baylor 65, Nebraska 49.  NU probably didn’t have much of a case for an NCAA bid, but this loss solidifies their exclusion.   The more important question is whether Baylor can salvage their extremely disappointing season by going on a run to win the Big 12 title.  They will play #1 seed Kansas tomorrow, and although highly unlikely, KU is still a rather young team and could be vulnerable.
  • Oklahoma St. 81, Iowa St. 67.  OSU will get a chance to renew bedlam with Oklahoma tomorrow based on their handling of ISU tonight.  The Pokes were already in solid RPI position, but this win ensures their bid.  Now it’s a question of seeding, and with two hard-fought Ls to Oklahoma already, will the third time be the charm?
  • West Virginia 74, Notre Dame 62. ND meekly slithered into the night (NIT) with their loss to WVU today.  The Irish really needed a strong run into the late rounds of the Big East Tournament, and instead they couldn’t out-physical a team that thrives on that style of play today.  Alex Ruoff had 25 pts and Devin Ebanks had 7/18 in the winning effort; the Mountaineers will get Pittsburgh tomorrow in what is sure to be a slugfest.

14 Down, 51 To Go...

#13 – Robert Morris (24-10, 15-3 NEC). Dallas Green instantly became a NEC legend tonight as his shot from the baseline after scooping a loose ball off the floor was the game-winner that sent RMU to it’s sixth NCAA Tournament, but its first since 1992.  It was his only basket of the game, and even his coach said “oh no” when the ball scooted to his direction. Much-maligned Mezie Nwigwe scored three points in eighteen minutes of play.

RMU Begins Celebrating (Gene Puskar/AP)

RMU Begins Celebrating (Gene Puskar/AP)

Projected Seed: #14

Something to Remember: Although it didn’t show tonight (4-14), the Colonials are a strong three-point shooting team, averaging 39.1% throughout the season.  They hit nine against Miami (FL) in an 8-pt road loss.

#14 – Portland St. (23-9, 11-5 Big Sky).  PSU nearly let their second consecutive Big Sky title get away from them tonight, as they allowed upstart Montana St. to come back from ten pts down late to tie the game.  But it was Julius Thomas’ dunk with 3.5 seconds remaining that gave the Vikings the lead back and a strong defensive effort on the ensuing MSU possession ensured that Jeremiah Dominguez and company will make a return appearance in the Big Dance.

Projected Seed: #14

STR:  Beware.  This team is an experienced squad that lost by one point at Pac-10 champion Washington and beat Gonzaga by seven.  #1 Kansas ripped them last season, but they should have a higher seed this time around, and if they can catch a somewhat limited offensive opponent, they have a chance to pull the upset.

Other QnD Tourney Updates.

A10.  St. Louis, St. Joseph’s, Duquesne and Richmond all advanced to the quarterfinals tomorrow.  RTC Live is there with College Chalktalk live-blogging all of the action.  The best game of the day Thursday will likely be the streaking Richmond Spiders (6 of 7) taking on Dayton.

Big 12.  The only other game not covered so far was Texas’ win against Colorado.  There are some juicy matchups in Oklahoma City tomorrow, but we’re most looking forward to the third incarnation of Bedlam – OU vs. OSU in a true neutral venue.  OSU just might do this one.

Big East.  Marquette had an easy time with St. John’s and Syracuse got into a bunchastuff with Seton Hall before finally pulling away late.  We’re going to say it right here, right now.  Tomorrow’s quarterfinal round is the greatest collection of teams in a conference tournament’s quarterfinals round EVER.  There are four teams with realistic F4 chances and seven teams with legitimate S16 possibilities.  Providence is the only weak link, and they managed to beat a #1 team this season.  All of the games are worth watching (damn you, Dauster), but we’re most excited about the Marquette-Villanova game at 2:30 EDT so we can see how to parse these two teams.

Big West. Two minor upsets with UC Davis and UC Riverside today, but this league is completely wide open.  Don’t be surprised if an eight-seed wins this thing.

CUSA.  Over in the Retread Conference, Rice (Ben Braun), S. Miss (Larry Eustachy), Tulane and Houston (Tom Penders) all advanced today.  The best game tomorrow is the Houston-UTEP matchup.

MEAC.  No upsets in this league tonight, as all the higher seeds but one (who will play tomorrow) advanced to the semifinals.

Mountain West.  In the opening round game, Air Force knocked off Colorado St.  Tomorrow keep an eye on UNLV-San Diego St., a game with potential bubble implications depending on how deep the winner of this one goes.

Pac-10.  Stanford and Wazzu advanced to the quarterfinals tonight.  Several good games in the quarters tomorrow, but we’re most interested to see how UCLA responds after its loss a couple of weeks ago to Wazzu, who they’ll play again tomorrow night.

SWAC.  The top two seeds in the SWAC advanced tonight.  Two other quarterfinal games continue tomorrow.

Starting Tomorrow.

ACC.  The first round matchup of Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech holds the most interest, as both teams have been slumping down the stretch, but have enough talent to turn things around in short order.

Big 10.  The first round begins tomorrow, and clearly the best game here is the Northwestern-Minnesota game.  Neither team will get in from winning this one, but they will assuredly be out if they lose it.

MAC. The MAC continues with its quarters after a day off as well.  No idea which game to keep an eye on here.  None whatsoever.

SEC.  None of the first round games are very good, but if you must pick one, go with Kentucky’s attempt to win 4-in-4 to keep the NCAA streak alive, starting with Ole Miss.

Southland. The quarterfinals begin, and Stephen F. Austin is the favorite.

WAC. The WAC is picking back up after a day off in its quarterfinal round.  Remember that RTC Live will be there for the Utah St. vs. Fresno St. game, which should be the most interesting game of this round.

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ATB: 12 Down, 53 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

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A couple of newsworthy notes before we get started with tonight’s Dance Card.

Now… on to the three dance tickets punched tonight.

# 10 – North Dakota St. (26-6, 16-2).  NDSU is going to get a lot of national attention in the next week by virtue of the fact that this was their first eligible year in D1, and several players including star guard Ben Woodside redshirted their freshmen seasons to have the shot at the NCAAs they’re enjoying tonight, but remember that our very own John Stevens was all over this story before anybody – way back in mid-December when Woodside ripped the nets apart for 60 big ones.  Tonight it looked as if their long-sought-after dream was dead, as the Summit League regular season champs found themselves down ten points with nine minutes remaining in the title game.  Slow and steady, the Bison worked itself back into the game, and after Oakland’s Keith Benson tied the game with a dunk with 0:12 remaining, the ball was put into Woodside’s hands and the rest is history, 66-64.

Projected Seed: #13

Something to Remember:  NDSU has the fifth most efficient offense in the country, and it’s predicated on great shooting and ballhandling.  The Bison are #5 in three-point shooting at 41% and they are #11 in fewest turnovers per game.  Whichever #4 or #5 seed gets this team had best bring their defense.

#11 – Cleveland St. (25-10, 12-6).  Bubble teams all over America were cursing Gary Waters’ Cleveland St. Vikings tonight, as their Horizon League automatic bid earned over at-large lock Butler took one of the 34 available spots away from some hopeful team.  Was it Creighton?  Florida?  St. Mary’s?  We’ll never know for sure, but CSU held Butler stars Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward to a combined 21/12, and in so doing was able to make just enough plays on the defensive end down the stretch to get the upset win over Butler, 57-54 in their house.  RTC Live had the liveblog coverage here, but if you were lucky enough to see the television coverage, you saw a team in Cleveland St. that wanted this game just a smidge more than their HL counterparts.  The Vikings’ NCAA bid is their first since 1986.

Projected Seed: #14

STR: Cleveland St. played Kansas St. and West Virginia tough in losses earlier this year, and of course they beat Syracuse on the ridiculous 75-footer, so this is a team that won’t be intimidated as an underdog in the first round of the NCAAs.

#12 – Western Kentucky (24-8, 15-3).  WKU started this Sun Belt title game on an 11-0 run, but South Alabama wasn’t going to just give the Hilltoppers the game so easily, as the Jags fought back to tie and even briefly take the lead in this one for a period in the mid-second half.  But WKU, led by AJ Slaughter’s 18 pts and Stephffon Pettigrew’s 15/7, was not going to be denied, and Ken McDonald should be commended for the excellent job he’s done with a team that lost its star backcourt of Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton (not to mention head coach Darrin Horn).  Western Kentucky earned its 21st trip to the NCAA Tournament and its second in a row tonight.

Projected Seed: #11

STR: This is an unpredictable team.  Although they finished the season winning eleven of their last twelve games, earlier in the season the Toppers lost by 28 to Murray St., 32 to Evansville and 28 to Mississippi St.  They also defeated Louisville by 12.  This is probably why WKU ranks #265 in Pomeroy’s consistency statistic.

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QnD Conf Tourney Updates.

Big East.  Did you hear that the sixteen-team Big East Tourney started today?  Georgetown and Cincinnati must not have gotten that memo, because neither team showed up for its own funeral, losing first-round games to the dregs – St. John’s and Depaul, respectively.  Yes, Depaul, the same team that was 0-18 in the regular season.  At least Seton Hall managed to beat S. Florida and Notre Dame kept its disappointing season alive for another day.

Big Sky. In the semis, #2 seed Portland St. advanced, but #6 Montana St. knocked out #1 Weber St with the upset, including one of the greatest open-court facial dunks of the year (if anyone can get a link up, let us know…).

MAC. The MAC first round was today, and there were no major upsets.  CMU, Kent, Ohio and Akron all advanced.

MEAC. The MEAC also began today, and the two higher seeds Hampton and FAMU advanced.

WAC. Another opening round, where Fresno St. “upset” the higher seeded Hawaii.

For Tomorrow’s Viewing Pleasure. We’re starting to get serious now.  The Big Sky and NEC hold its title games Wednesday, and the A10, Big 12, Big West, CUSA, Mountain West, Pac-10 and SWAC get it started.  We’re rapidly approaching bracket nirvana.

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Checking in on the… Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2008

Jordan Freemyer is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Big Sky Conferences.

The non-conference season is winding down in the Big Sky, and teams throughout the league have had a varying degree of success in their tune-ups for the all-important conference season. Four teams in the Big Sky still hold winning records.

Conference Standings:

  1. Portland State (7-1)
  2. Eastern Washington (6-2)
  3. Montana State (4-3)
  4. Montana (5-4)
  5. Weber State (3-4)
  6. Northern Colorado (2-4)
  7. Northern Arizona (2-5)
  8. Idaho State (2-7)
  9. Sacramento State (1-8)

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Checking in on the… Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008

Jordan Freemyer is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Big Sky Conferences.

(ed. note: this post was originally scheduled for publication on Friday 11/28, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to delay publication until today.  Please accept our apologies.)

In the early going this season in the Big Sky, there are only four teams with less than three losses. Two of them are preseason favorites proving themselves and the others are teams picked near the bottom of the conference but have surprised.

Portland State was the preseason favorite in the Big Sky, and they are showing everyone why that is. The Vikings are 4-0 on the season, with wins over quality opponents including a 76-75 win over Cal State Fullerton.  Senior guard Jeremiah Dominguez is scoring 14 points per game, an average helped by a 24 point effort in PSU’s opener at Rice.

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RTC Back to School: 2008-2009 Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2008

rtc-08-09-preview

For those of your who haven’t been spending as much time on Rush the Court the past few months as you should (looking at myself in the mirror), we thought we would offer you a quick guide to what we have been working on over the past few months.

General Overview: Some top quality writing/prognosticating to get you in the spirit for the run from today until the early morning hours of April 7th, 2009.
- Finally, It’s Here: New RTC feature columnist John Stevens offers his thoughts about the upcoming season.
- A Little Preseason Bracketology: RTC co-editor (Do we even have titles?) rtmsf does his best Joe Lunardi impression and makes a surprising pick for his national champion. I’m smelling an attempt to make the RTC preseason bracketology championship the new Madden cover.
- Vegas Odds – Preseason Check-In: For the degenerate gamblers out there, RTC co-founder rtmsf offers an analysis of the Las Vegas odds for the 2009 NCAA champions for pure academic purposes. . .
- Preseason Polls Released: The surprisingly employed (I’m running out of titles here) rtmsf analyzes the AP and Coaches polls going into the season with a deeper look at unanimous #1 UNC’s early schedule.
- ESPN Full Court: 562 Games of Gooey, Delicious Goodness*: Once again, rtmsf comes through with the entire ESPN Full Court schedule with a Steve Nash-style assist from Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball.

Big Early Season News: While there are several big stories going into this season, there were 2 major stories that have come out recently that you should know about before you start watching games.
- Tyler Hansbrough Out Indefinitely: Who? Oh yeah, that guy. Everybody’s favorite for national POY and NBA Draft Day snub (get ready for the annual Dick Vitale rant) Psycho T will be out for a while, but we think the Tar Heels will be ok by March.
- Jai Lucas Leaving Florida: In a story that isn’t getting nearly the attention that the Psycho T story has (for good reason), Billy Donovan has lost last season’s starting point guard on the eve of the new season. While it appears that Lucas was probably heading towards a role as a backup point guard on the Gators, the timing of this announcement is surprising. It will be interesting to see what the Gators will do if freshman guard Erving Walker struggles in adjusting to SEC basketball.

Conference Primers: As part of our attempt to make a new-and-improved RTC, we hired the finest journalists in America to make our site more all-inclusive of the little people in the college basketball landscape. To that end we put together 31 conference previews (31 automatic bids to the Big Dance means 31 previews from RTC) with the help of the aforementioned correspondents.
- ACC
- America East
- Atlantic 10
- Atlantic Sun
- Big 12
- Big East
- Big Sky
- Big South
- Big Ten
- Big West
- Colonial
- Conference USA
- Horizon
- Ivy League
- MAAC
- MAC
- MEAC
- Missouri Valley
- Mountain West
- Northeast
- Ohio Valley Conference
- Pac-10
- Patriot League
- SEC
- Southern
- Southland
- Summit
- Sun Belt
- SWAC
- WAC
- West Coast Conference

As the season progresses, we will have more features and content including updates from all 31 conferences. We hope all of you are looking forward to the new season as much as we are and even if your team looks like it will struggle to make it to the NIT, remember the words of Kevin Garnett, who incidentally didn’t play a minute of college basketball (that’s another post), “Anything is possible!”

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A Brief Conference Primer Interlude…

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

We’ve made it through eighteen of our thirty-one season conference primers so far, and our correspondents continue to top each other with their breadth of knowledge and coverage of the one-bid leagues.  So we want to thank them and once again highlight their fantastic work over the past few weeks by anchoring their primers in one post here, so that you (and we) can easily access them.  Going forward, we’ll primarily be dealing with the traditional multiple-bid conferences or conferences that should expect to see multiple bids this season.  Conference #13 will go up tonight, and we’ll be counting down to tipoff on Nov. 10, when the #1 conference primer will be unveiled. 

Also, keep in mind that our correspondents will continue to bring RTC comprehensive coverage of each league throughout the season.  Each of the above leagues will have an update post every two weeks, beginning in mid/late November. 

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2008-09 Season Primers: #24 – Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2008

Jordan Freemeyer is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Big Sky conferences.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Portland State  (20-9, 13-3)
  2. Northern Colorado  (21-10, 11-5)
  3. Idaho State  (15-14, 10-6)
  4. Montana  (18-11, 10-6)
  5. Weber State  (13-16, 8-8)
  6. Northern Arizona  (12-15, 7-9)
  7. Montana State  (11-17, 6-10)
  8. Eastern Washington  (10-19, 5-11)
  9. Sacramento State  (6-23, 2-14)

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  The Big Sky is a nine-team conference stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the southern Rocky Mountains. The Big Sky has historically been an eight-team conference, but added Northern Colorado as its ninth member in 2006. Unlike most conferences that feature a balanced eight or twelve team tournament, only the top six Big Sky teams get the chance to go dancing. The conference is generally a power in FCS (formerly I-AA) football, but does not have a rich men’s basketball tradition. However, Weber State in particular has been noted for big upsets in the NCAA Tournament. In 1995, a #14 seed Weber State team beat #3 seed Michigan State 79-72, and in 1999 the Wildcats repeated the feat, taking down another #3 seed, North Carolina, 76-74. More recently, Montana made a run to the second round in 2006 with a wins over #5 Nevada.

Predicted Champion.  Portland State (#14 NCAA). This is a relatively safe pick, as the Vikings won both the regular season and tournament championships last season. Portland State returns three starters, including 2007-08 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and Player of the Year Jeremiah Dominguez (pictured below). The 5’6” Dominguez scored 14.4 points per game last season, while averaging 4 assists per game and leading the conference with 1.9 steals per game. Also returning for the Vikings is junior Kyle Coston. The 6’8” forward averaged 7.4 points per game last season and made over 40 percent of his three-point attempts. PSU lost leading rebounders Scott Morrison and Deonte Huff, but return enough firepower offensively to make them the favorites in the Big Sky.

 

Others Considered.  Behind the Vikings is a pack of about four teams that can challenge them. Northern Colorado is my pick to finish second in the league. The Bears return nine letterwinners from last season, the most in the conference, and are led by all-conference center Jabril Banks. Banks led UNC last season with 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Idaho State should also contend for the conference title; the Bengals are led by guards Matt Stucki and Amorrow Morgan, who combined to average just under 22 points per game last season. Perrenial favorites Montana and Weber State should also be in the mix, led by forward Jordan Hasquet and guard Kellen McCoy, respectively.

Important Conference games.

  • Northern Arizona @ Montana State (1/10/09) – This game could go a long way toward determining the final berth in the Big Sky Tournament.
  • Portland State @ Northern Colorado (1/19/09) – This is just Northern Colorado’s third year in the conference, but Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion is already proving to be one of the toughest places to play. The Bears were 9-4 there last season.
  • Idaho State @ Weber State (1/31/09) – Dee Events Center should be rocking for this matchup between rivals that will have a big impact on what the top of the conference standings look like.
  • Montana at Montana State (2/7/09) – It’s Montana against Montana State, when is it ever not important?
  • Big Sky Championship Game (3/11/09)

RPI Boosters.

  • Northern Colorado @ Colorado State (11/18/08) – This is perhaps the biggest college basketball rivalry in the state of Colorado. The Bears beat the Rams, 72-59, last year.
  • North Dakota State @ Northern Arizona (11/25/07) – This is the first of two meetings between the two teams this season, and catches the Bison in the midst of a very tough three-game road trip.
  • BYU @ Weber State (12/3/08) – This is yet another chance for the Big Sky to prove itself against an in-state rival. You can bet the biggest venue in the Big Sky will be nearly full for this one.
  • Portland State @ Washington (12/14/08) – This game presents a good chance for the Vikings to make a statement against a quality Pac-10 opponent.
  • Idaho @ Idaho State (12/29/08) – The Bengals host their former conference-mate and in-state rival at Holt Arena with a chance to prove basketball supremacy in the state of Idaho.

Neat-O Stat.  Sacramento State hired a new head coach for the 2008-09 season, Brian Katz. This is Katz’s first NCAA head coaching job, but he is not the only coach in the league that is in a relatively new place. Only one coach in the Big Sky, Northern Arizona’s Mike Adras, has been at his school for more than four years. Portland State’s Ken Bone is entering his fourth season with the Vikings, and is the second-longest tenured coach in the conference. Idaho State’s Joe O’Brien, Montana’s Wayne Tinkle, Montana State’s Brian Huse, Northern Colorado’s Tad Boyle and Weber State’s Randy Rahe are all in their third season with their respective teams. Last year, Eastern Washington brought coach Kirk Earlywine into the mix.

65 Team Era.   The Big Sky is only 3-24 (.111) over the era, but as stated above, it has some quality upsets on its resume, with #14 Weber St. in both 1995 and 1999, and #12 Montana breaking into the second round in 2006.  Its champion typically receives a #14 or #15 seed in the NCAAs, but generally avoids the dreaded #16.  Here’s an amusing YouTube clip of some of Portland State’s practice and media session before playing #1 Kansas in last year’s first round below. 

Final Thoughts.  The Big Sky should be a very interesting conference to watch this season. There are about five or six teams that could win the regular season title, and the conference tournament should amount to a crap shoot. Whoever wins the league, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see them upset a big conference team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Conference Primers: Single Bid Conference Recap

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

So we figure we’ll be done with these conference primers by Christmas 2008 Thanksgiving, which is about the time most people start keeping an eye on college hoops anyway.  In the meantime, we thought we’d take a moment to recap the seventeen single bid conferences we’ve already reviewed.  Keep in mind, our definition of a single bid league is a conference that does not regularly compete for multiple NCAA bids (even if they occasionally get multiple bids).

31.  SWAC
30.  MEAC
29.  Northeast
28.  Atlantic Sun
27.  Ohio Valley
26.  Southland
25.  America East
24.  Big South
23.  MAAC
22.  Ivy
21.  Patriot
20.  Sun Belt
19.  Big Sky
18.  Summit
17.  Southern
16.  Big West
15.  MAC

Some brief Single Bid Conference superlatives while we’re at this point:

  • Best Team. Davidson (#9 Seed NCAA) - this team has a shot at the Sweet 16 this year
  • Possible Spoiler. Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt) – everyone loves WKU in the Sun Belt, but ULM has an excellent team returning
  • Low Major All-Americans.
    • Stephen Curry (Davidson) – POY
    • Bo McCalebb (New Orleans)
    • Kyle Hines (UNC-Greensboro)
    • Jason Thompson (Rider)
    • Alex Harris (UCSB)
    • Hon. Mention – Courtney Pigram (ETSU), Arizona Reid (High Point), Courtney Lee (W. Kentucky), Tim Pollitz (Miami (OH))
  • Conference We Wish Were on TV More Often. America East. We dunno why, other than we’ve enjoyed watching teams like Albany, Vermont and BU over the past few years.  Seems like a fun conference.
  • Conference We Wish Would Re-Organize (or Implode). Sun Belt.  Despite a long and proud history, there are simply too many teams (13) located in too many places (from Denver to Miami).  This conference has lost its bearings.
  • Conference Champ You Can Count on to Cover the Spread in NCAA Tourney 08Big West.  Although Ivy league champs tend to stay close, Las Vegas knows that, so we like the Big West instead, where teams not named Long Beach St. have lost by an average of only 7 pts during the 2000s.
  • Conference Champ You Can Count on to NOT Cover the Spread in NCAA Tourney 08Summit.  In its last nine first round games, the Summit champ has lost by an average of 22 pts.

And here’s how our Consensus Conference Picks are shaping up (RTC choice in red):

Consensus Conf Picks 11.07.07

Since last time, we added the CBS Sportsline picks as well as the conference media days selections for each league.  We had three more leagues came on with a full consensus (Patriot – Holy Cross; Sun Belt – W. Kentucky; Southern – Davidson) to join the OVC (Austin Peay), while the Big Sky (Montana) was only one vote short.  The Big West (UCSB) and MAC (Kent St.) were solidly in one team’s corner, while the Summit (IUPUI) and Ivy (Cornell) weren’t far behind.   We’re still not buying that Ivy selection of Cornell, though.

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Conference Primers: #19 – Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Montana (21-6) (13-3)
  2. Weber St. (19-8) (12-4)
  3. Portland St. (17-10) (10-6)
  4. Northern Arizona (15-13) (9-7)
  5. Montana St. (12-16) (8-8)
  6. Sacramento St. (9-17) (6-10)
  7. Eastern Washington (9-18) (6-10)
  8. Idaho St. (8-21) (5-11)
  9. Northern Colorado (5-22) (3-13)

Big Sky Logo

WYN2K. The Big Sky is a league where what you see is typically what you get. It consistently rates in the lower teens in the computer rankings, and its record vs. OOC opponents the last three years is 109-173 (.387), but make no mistake, this is a one-bid conference every year. A typical Big Sky year goes something like this – its league champion is a team that didn’t win it the year prior (only one repeat champion in the last 13 yrs – Montana – 2005 & 2006), it usually gets an NCAA seed in the range of #13-#15, and its NCAA stay is typically short-lived (3-23 in the 64/65 team era, .115). Every 6-8 yrs, a Big Sky team will pull an upset and win one NCAA game. Stir, mix and repeat. This high-scoring league (#3 nationally at 74.5 ppg) is characterized by top-heaviness where several teams have mid-level D1 profiles, while the bottom teams are often very bad (ranking in the bottom fifty teams nationally).

Predicted Champion. Montana (#14 seed NCAA). We’re going with the media pick of Montana here. The Grizzlies return four starters from a 10-6 team, including quality big men Andrew Strait (#43 nationally in eFG%, 61.1%) and Jordan Hasquet, both of whom were all-conference performers last year. They also bring back last year’s Big Sky ROY, guard Cameron Rundles, who shot a ridiculous 47.8% from three last year. One area of concern is that the Grizzlies give up a whopping 42.1% against the three-ball (negating Rundles’ effectiveness!) last year. Nevertheless, with a solid inside/outside game, a little better three-point defense, and the experience garnered in Montana’s back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2005 and 2006, we feel that Montana is the team to beat.

Others Considered. This is not to say that we think Montana will run away with the title, because Weber St. is in good position to defend its tournament crown. They lost their best player and conference POY David Patten to graduation, but they return a solid complement of players, including seven of their top nine scorers and three starters from last season. All-conference guard Juan Pablo Silveira runs the show for a very good shooting team (#34 nationally in eFG%, 53.8%), both from two (52.1%) and three (38.7%). Our only concern with this squad is their apparent lack of experienced size, an area where Montana should have an advantage. Portland St. is another team that could make a run at the conference crown with a roster that returns three starters (including the superb backcourt of Dupree Lucas and Deonte Huff) from a 9-7 team that gave Weber St. all it wanted in the semis of last year’s conference tourney (losing by three). Last year’s regular season co-champ Northern Arizona is set to take a step back with the loss of its top three scorers, all of which were all-conference selections last year. Still, the Lumberjacks have an excellent coach in Mike Adras and they have made the last three conference tournament finals, so they can’t completely be counted out.

Games to Watch. The key games to watch will be the home-and-homes between the three primary contenders listed above – Montana, Weber St., and Portland St. Gotta love conferences with true round robins.

  • Weber St. @ Montana (01.20.08) ESPN FC & Montana @ Weber St. (02.21.08)
  • Montana @ Portland St. (01.31.08) & Portland St. @ Montana (03.01.08)
  • Portland St. @ Weber St. (01.10.08) & Weber St. @ Portland St. (02.16.07)
  • Big Sky Championship Game (03.12.08) ESPN2

RPI Booster Games. The Big Sky plays a steady diet of Pac-10 and Big 10 teams in addition to several strong mid-majors, and this year is no different. Last year the league went 3-21 against BCS teams, with Northern Arizona (defeated Arizona St. 75-71), Montana (defeated Minnesota 72-65), and Portland St. (defeated Arizona St. 71-67) pulling the victories. Some of this year’s best opportunities:

  • Portland St. @ UCLA (11.09.07)
  • Sacramento St. @ Kansas St. (11.09.07)
  • Montana @ Gonzaga (11.11.07)
  • Northern Arizona @ Arizona (11.13.07)
  • Northern Arizona @ Kansas (11.21.07)
  • Montana @ Washington St. (11.23.07)
  • Weber St. @ Illinois (12.01.07)
  • Weber St. @ BYU (12.05.07)
  • Sacramento St. @ Marquette (12.15.07)
  • Montana St. @ Arizona St. (12.18.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. None. 23 years, 23 bids.

Neat-o Stat. Eastern Washington’s Rodney Stuckey (the 15th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft) was probably the best player to have ever played in the Big Sky conference, despite only playing at EWU for two seasons. He won the conference ROY and POY in 2006, becoming the first player to ever do so in the same year. Yet, while his numbers were sick last year (24.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 spg, incl. nine 30+ pt games), there is some question about his leadership abilities, as his team was mediocre throughout his tenure there (26-29) and EWU didn’t even make the Big Sky conference tourney in 2007 (the top six conference teams make the tourney).

64/65-Team Era. As stated above, the Big Sky is 3-23 (.115) during this era, with each of the three wins spaced out somewhat evenly – 1995 (#14 Weber St. defeated #3 Michigan St. 79-72), 1999 (#14 Weber St. defeated #3 UNC 76-74), and 2006 (#12 Montana defeated #5 Nevada 87-79). Both Weber St. teams were close to reaching the Sweet 16 (losing by two to #6 Georgetown in 1995 and by eight in OT to #6 Florida in 1999), but no Big Sky team has reached that goal in the 64/65 team era. Unfortunately, with the notable exception of Montana in 2006, the general rule has been that the Big Sky representative has gotten ripped by an average of 18.0 points in the last six appearances. But why focus on the negative? We couldn’t find any footage of probably the Big Sky’s greatest moment – Harold “The Show” Arceneaux carrying Weber St. to victory over UNC in 1999, but we instead found this clip of a Rex Chapman clone named Kral French who played for Montana St. back in the 80s throwing down some of the most disgusting dunks you’ll see from a white guy.

Final Thought. We have to admit we don’t know much about the Big Sky other than its location in the lonely expanse between the Pacific Northwest and the Great Plains. But our mind’s eye suggests that places such as Dahlberg Arena (Montana), the Dee Events Center (Weber St.) and Worthington Arena (Montana St.) would be no fun for many visiting teams to play in. The word “pit” comes to mind. A quick review of 2007 records shows that those three teams were 32-13 at home last year. Yeah, just as we thought. Maybe that’s why no BCS teams visit those arenas.


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