SEC M5: 01.11.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 11th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Kentucky escaped with a 60-58 win over Vanderbilt Thursday night, the Wildcats’ first true road win of the season. The victory wasn’t without controversy however, as Nerlens Noel’s short jumper with 17.3 seconds clearly should have been called a shot-clock violation, leaving Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings incensed and ESPN’s Bobby Knight perplexed. Despite their continued troubles shooting from long range, Kentucky looked to be in top form in the first half, coasting to a double-figure lead at the break. A different team came out of the locker room after halftime, though, appearing passive on the offensive end as Vanderbilt switched to a zone. “They outworked us,” John Calipari said. “They beat us to 50-50 balls, they beat us to rebounds. We were lucky to win the game.”
  2. As it was the only SEC game of the night, I’ll keep rolling on Kentucky-Vanderbilt. The Wildcat offense had an abysmal second half, but the defense wasn’t far behind. The Commodores put up 34 points after the break, or one more than they managed in 40 minutes against Marist. The culprit on the UK side isn’t tough to identify. “You can sit here and sugarcoat it, but you all watched it,” Calipari said. “They went at Kyle [Wiltjer] every single possession I had him in the game. Every single possession.” The shockingly slow stretch forward only provides value on the offensive end, but making only a single field goal in 14 minutes isn’t the type of production that will keep him on the floor. His minutes have been steadily declining throughout the season, and Wiltjer may find himself struggling to stay in the rotation sooner rather than later.
  3. The Los Angeles Athletic Club released its 25 finalists for the Wooden Award, and, as you might have guessed, the SEC’s representation isn’t overly impressive. The conference earned only two nominations, trailing each of the other power conference except for the Pac-12 (completely snubbed). The nominations both come from the same team: Laurence Bowers and Phil Pressey. The Missouri power forward and point guard are deservedly included, and there shouldn’t be much of an argument from the rest of the league that anyone else should have been there. Florida is a well-rounded team without a true standout star, and none of the talented Kentucky freshman have shown the required consistency to be on the short list.
  4. In its first game since receiving confirmation that Jeronne Maymon will miss the entire season with injury, Tennessee had a chance to make an impression as the Vols opened conference play against Ole Miss. The Rebels pack some punch on both ends of the court, but if the Volunteers still consider themselves to be contenders for an NCAA at-large bid, this was the type of home game they needed to win. Of course, Mississippi dominated the game from start to finish, out-rebounding the Vols by 10 boards and leaving Cuonzo Martin’s squad with more questions than answers. Junior guard Jordan McRae and his 26 points were the lone bright spot for the home team, but he realizes how much his team will miss their most experienced big man. “I told Jeronne after the game that if we could just find one guy to get the rebounds he always got,” McRae told Mark Wiedmer of the Times Free Press. “Because he seemed to get every rebound last year.” How can they fix it? Said McRae, “”Well, there isn’t anybody like Jeronne.”
  5. A home win over South Carolina is rarely cause for celebration, but for Mississippi State, dubbed a “public embarrassment” by coach Rick Ray earlier in the week following a loss to Alabama A&M, opening up conference play on a positive note is quite a surprise. “Great to get the first win in SEC. For most of our guys, it’s the first time they’ve experienced SEC basketball,” Ray told reporters after Wednesday’s victory. Mississippi State took advantage of 24 South Carolina turnovers (they rank in the bottom 10 nationally in turnover percentage), as the Gamecocks couldn’t find an answer for the Bulldogs’ 1-3-1 zone. Fred Thomas and Tyson Cunningham were especially impressive on the defensive end, combining for eight steals while forcing USC’s Bruce Ellington into nine turnovers.
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Big Ten Edition M5: 11.19.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 19th, 2012

  1. Conference realignment is a hot topic again, but this time the focus is squarely on the Big Ten. The conference reportedly is interested in expanding to the east coast markets, specifically targeting Maryland and Rutgers to become a 14-team league. University officials at Maryland may make a decision as early as early this week on whether to apply for admission in the B1G. Maryland will have to pay approximately $50 Million if it chooses to leave the ACC, and if Maryland leaves its conference, it is likely that Rutgers will follow suit from the Big East. From a basketball perspective, the Terps would make an excellent addition to the Big Ten.
  2. ESPN is putting Bobby Knight in some tough situations during this year’s broadcasting schedule. First, he called a Kentucky game, and now he is scheduled to call an Indiana game. Knight will call the IU game against Georgia with Dan Shulman on Monday’s ESPN telecast . It is well settled that Knight has not associated himself with the Hoosiers since he was fired over a decade ago but he will have to cross paths with the university now. The broadcast will likely be oriented around the game as usual and there might not be much else to this event except for Knight being around thousands of vocal Hoosiers fans during the game.
  3. Coming into this season, Illinois head coach John Groce has expressed his concerns about the guard play on the Illini roster. Despite depth at the guard position, he was not sure if there was a true point guard fit to run his up-tempo offense without turning the ball over. After three games, Tracy Abrams is doing a great job at that position but Groce has bigger issues with his big men. The Illini were outrebounded by 20 by Hawaii on the road on Friday night, and it took a buzzer beater by D.J. Richardson to win the game. Nnanna Egwu and Sam McLaurin will continue to be a focal point as opponents will try to dominate the Illini in the paint and this could be a concern for Groce as the season goes on.
  4. Speaking of big men, Michigan State freshman forward Matt Costello played for about 11 minutes against Texas Southern and that was enough to impress coach Tom Izzo. Costello injured his back during an exhibition game and had not seen any playing time until Michigan State’s home opener over the weekend. Freshman guards Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine have already shown their abilities but Costello may provide some valuable minute for Izzo off the bench to complement Derrick Nix. He averaged 25.1 PPG and 19.1 RPG in high school but understands that he needs to be patient throughout this year and hopes to constantly improve his game to earn more minutes on the floor.
  5. Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas is doing everything he promised so far this season. He scored a career high 31 points against Washington as the Buckeyes beat the Huskies 77-66 on Sunday. But Thad Matta knows that his team needs a “third guy” on offense in addition to Thomas and Aaron Craft who can consistently contribute. Lenzelle Smith Jr. was supposed to be that third option but he did not score a single point on Sunday. Matta understands that there will be certain days when Craft or Smith won’t be effective so he needs a couple of the sophomores to step up in order to achieve their long-term goals. Amir Williams and Laquinton Ross may be able to provide that spark over time — Williams is more effective defensively but Ross has the offensive skills to contribute 8-10 PPG for the Buckeyes.
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Big Ten M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 17th, 2012

  1. Good freshman classes are usually not dominated by only one player. Indiana freshman Yogi Ferrell may just end up starting at the point guard position for most of the upcoming season but his classmate Hanner Mosquera-Perea has also been very impressive in practice so far. Tom Crean spoke recently about his early impressions of Mosquera-Perea and views his game as bringing a different angle to the Hoosiers. The freshman forward is recovering well from a foot injury he suffered over the summer and hopes to play an integral role on the front line off the bench. Derek Elston (2.4 RPG) will be the complementary big man to Cody Zeller (6.6 RPG) but Perea can earn some minutes if he commits to crashing the boards and playing solid defense in the paint.
  2. Michigan State needs a primary scoring option this season after the graduation of All-American Draymond Green. Tom Izzo will look to returning guard Keith Appling and the junior guard does not want to disappoint his team. Appling has been working on his jumper after shooting only 25% from beyond the arc as a sophomore. Making 500 shots a day will certainly help his shooting form and he hopes to become more efficient with it as the Spartans look to give Indiana a run at the Big Ten title. Appling averaged 11.4 PPG last year and will undoubtedly be the primary scoring threat especially during the non-conference season until freshman Gary Harris gets used to the speed of the college game.
  3. Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith can only hope that his star forward Trevor Mbakwe will stay out of trouble during the season. A healthy Mbakwe is key, but Smith more importantly needs him to stay disciplined and focused on the court. Mbakwe has consistently been in some sort of trouble the past several years and has one final chance to help the Gophers make the NCAA Tournament again. He averaged 10.5 RPG before injuring himself last season and he can be a formidable presence in the paint if he can play consistently. After the departure of Ralph Sampson III (4.6 RPG), the Gophers need his rebounding if they hope to compete for the top half of the conference standings.
  4. Speaking of big guys and the need for rebounding, Michigan’s Mitch McGary will flex his muscle this season in Ann Arbor. McGary is 6’10” and weighs 250 lbs., which should help John Beilein with regards to rebounding as Jordan Morgan desperately needs help in the paint. Morgan averaged 5.6 RPG last season but the Wolverines struggled when he got into foul trouble and couldn’t stay on the floor during key stretches of the game. McGary has impressed the coaches and his teammates with his energy and personality during preseason practice. Having a good personality is a huge positive for McGary, especially if he hopes to mesh efficiently with a star-studded Wolverines squad that features explosive fellow freshman Glenn Robinson III and returning wing Tim Hardaway, Jr.
  5. Former Indiana head coach Bobby Knight continues to remain in the headlines. Knight, who has acted as a regular commentator on Big 12 games for ESPN, has been assigned to the SEC for the 2012-13 season and is scheduled to call two Kentucky games. Why is this a big deal? It is because Knight has been vocal about Kentucky’s approach to recruiting, specifically voicing his issues with John Calipari’s strategies. Knight called the “one-and-done” player a “disgrace” to college hoops and is clearly not a fan of the current state of Kentucky basketball. Regardless of Knight’s views about Kentucky, he makes for an interesting watch anytime he calls a game for ESPN.
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Big Ten Mount Rushmore

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 21st, 2012

When the Big Ten recently added Nebraska and thus broke into two six-team football divisions, fans and pundits alike broke out in disdain over the “Legends” and “Leaders” distinctions. But while every conference has its legends, the Big Ten’s leaders are the men who rise to the top and would adorn its Mount Rushmore…

The man they called “The General,” as fierce and unique a competitor and coach the game has ever seen.  One of the greatest student-athletes (Jerry Lucas) in the history of college sports, and another coach who lives for the month of March every single season (Tom Izzo).  We only wish we could take credit for the Wizard of Westwood, as the legendary John Wooden — you could mold a Mount Rushmore consisting of Wooden’s students alone — spent his playing days at Purdue. Alas, we think we’ve got a pretty good group without him.

Bob Knight

There are very few coaches in all of basketball at any level that demand the complete respect of the players and Bobby Knight is one of them.  Basketball in the state of Indiana has been well-documented for decades but Knight took it to a different level during his tenure in Bloomington.  Every father in Indiana hoped for his son to play for the IU coach because of what he meant for the state and the game.  Three National Championships over his tenure are just the tip of his accomplishments.  What meant more to the state and rest of the Big Ten was how he went about his business.  He had an incredible graduation rate with his players and they played the tough-nosed basketball that has been a staple of the Big Ten brand for decades now.  In addition to his championships, he is the last coach to lead a team to a perfect season (1975-76) and also added a couple more Final Fours to his name.  His knowledge of the game is a treasure to all of college hoops and there was no better representative of the Big Ten’s message at the national stage than Knight.  He dominated Big Ten conference play as his teams won 11 regular season championships during his tenure, and, did we mention that he graduated from Ohio State? He is a true Big Ten icon.

Jerry Lucas

The Ohio State University is known for their football legends – Woody Hayes and Archie Griffin just to name two of them.  But Jerry Lucas left Columbus as the second most influential Buckeye upon graduation in the early 1960s, right behind Jesse Owens.  Lucas’ individual accomplishments include being named the Big Ten MVP three times and as a first team All-America for three years.  He led his team to three NCAA final games including one championship.  He was as good as Oscar Robertson during his college career and he topped it off with an Olympic gold medal in 1960.  He dominated the game during his era and was a great ambassador for Big Ten basketball.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 22nd, 2011

The agony and the ecstasy. Not sure there’s a better quip to define the ACC’s night in the eyes of two fanbases. Boston College was absolutely dismantled — at home — by a team picked to finish twelfth in the A-10. The Eagles lost by 36 to Massachusetts. NC State, on the other hand, found itself looking at a tough spot down 18 with eight minutes left in the second half against a talented Texas team. The Wolfpack went on a 28-2 run to take the lead before earning the victory.

  1. ESPN – Grantland: Sebastian Pruiti breaks down Austin Rivers‘ flaws with meticulous detail. And while it’s true the freshman has struggled early, I think this article is a bit of an overreaction. Pruiti readily admits that Rivers has all the tools, he just isn’t consistently making the best decisions. This is to be expected. The college game is much quicker, taller and stronger than anything Rivers has ever played before. It’s still very interesting to look, via screen grabs, at Rivers’ tough transition to the college game, and I love that we’ve got NBA writers now covering college sports. For an example of the types of plays that define Duke’s offense (especially on set plays), check out this gem from The Mikan Drill.
  2. Washington Post – Opinion: In wake of major fiscal issues, Maryland has decided to cut eight varsity sports. Unfortunately, these teams all have incredibly high graduation rates and really represent what the NCAA is supposed to be about. Charles Lane takes a pretty hard stance, but I think his ire is well-grounded (even if I disagree). There’s still a chance the teams could be saved if enough money is raised to cover their costs.
  3. SportsMemo.com: I mentioned the Boston College smackdown earlier, but SportsMemo.com points out a very interesting side note. Boston College opened as a 2.5 point favorite over the Minutemen, but so much money jumped on the Minutemen that the line was pushed to 4.5 points the other way by game time. Six points (and changing the winner) is a lot of ground to cover, and it should tell you that the betting public and sharps have very little faith in Steve Donahue’s Eagles.
  4. SI Vault: Curious where the Maui invitational got its start? Look no further than a mammoth upset of top-ranked Virginia by host Chaminade in 1982. “From now on, wherever athletes must face an impossible task, the cry will go out, ‘Remember Chaminade!’ Virginia will.” That’s not totally true, but it’s a mind-blowing upset. Since the invitational’s inception Chaminade has pulled off six more upsets, although none quite as astonishing and far-reaching as the victory over Ralph Sampson’s team three decades ago.
  5. Fox Sports Carolinas: Andrew Jones looks at the top coaches in NCAA basketball history. He narrows it down to Bobby Knight, John Wooden, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. Shockingly, that’s the order from fourth to first of his final rankings. I agree that Knight falls a cut below the other three. But I don’t agree with leaving Adolph Rupp off the list or placing John Wooden third because of Sam Gilbert’s slush fund and improper benefits. It’s tough to put a man with more than twice the national championships as anyone else at third; Wooden actually has more titles than the rest of Jones’ list combined.

EXTRA: Check out Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts to learn what tips he’s got for NBA fans trying out college basketball during the lockout. Also you should get pumped that more NBA writers will be using their brains to look at college basketball. ESPN stat guru John Hollinger is already at it with a look at at a modified version of his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and a breakdown of what the numbers mean in the long run.

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20 Questions: Is Indiana Slowly Getting Over the Hump?

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist.

Question: Is Indiana Slowly Getting Over The Hump?

Indiana has long been considered a college basketball “blueblood,” one of the top six programs in the sport’s history.  But over the past 15 years, its hold on that distinction has become increasingly tenuous.  Since 1994, the Hoosiers have advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament just once, during a surprising run as a #5 seed to the 2002 national championship game.  That one shining moment aside, the last decade and a half has seen one disappointment after another :

  • The faded glory of the latter Bobby Knight years, which, by the time of his controversial departure in 2000, were distinguished mostly by NCAA Tournament flameouts and an exodus of key transfers.
  • The tumultuous tenure of Mike Davis, who, despite some early signs of turning things around, proved to be in over his head for a job with the pressure and expectations that Indiana brought.
  • The initial promise of the Kelvin Sampson era which soon imploded in a recruiting scandal that was a humiliating blow for a program that had long prided itself on doing things the right way.

Is Tom Crean Two Years Away From Competing at a High Level?

Which brings us to the Tom Crean era.  It is difficult to overstate the depths to which the Sampson saga plunged the Indiana program.  Crean inherited zero scholarship players in his first year at the helm.  As a result, Indiana fans, though no stranger to high expectations, have given Crean a long leash as he has worked on a multi-year rebuilding project.

So far, Crean has done just about everything right off the court.  He has embraced Indiana’s traditions and fan base, making them the centerpiece of his recruiting pitches.  He has been a vocal and outgoing representative of the men’s basketball program and university.  He and his family have immersed themselves in the campus community.  He has built and rejuvenated in-state recruiting networks to take advantage of Indiana’s tremendous talent base.  He has recruited high-character kids who represent the school well.  For all these reasons, Crean remains popular with the fan base.

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RTC Travelogue: New Orleans, Part II

Posted by jstevrtc on April 4th, 2011

RTC’s John Stevens covered the Southeast Regional in New Orleans last weekend, and wrote a travelogue about his time in the Big Easy. Part one of his adventures, if you missed them, can be found here. Part II is being published during the national championship game…to minimize potential readers. When last we left the story, he was in the French Quarter on the middle Saturday, and had just found a spot to watch the Kentucky vs Ohio State game.

Having attended concerts, visited friends, and been to basketball and football games (don’t judge me) in both Lexington and Columbus, I know both towns well and therefore found myself adored by both pockets of fans at Storyville as we all watched the UK vs OSU game (and I chowed on an unreal hot sausage po’-boy). While chatting, I had given an OSU fan one of my extremely handsome RTC business cards, and as he passed it around, it became evident that supporters of both sides had heard of us. One of them even quoted me from a post I had published, not knowing I was the author. That earned him a free beer on the RTC expense account (which doesn’t exist).

New Orleanians Are Allowed As Much Humor As They Want On These Issues

Despite my lack of affiliation to either side, when William Buford’s last-second three missed and the Kentucky victory was sealed, I was carried around the bar by the UK supporters who assumed that because they had won I was going to write all kinds of great things about them on the site. When I let it be known that I was in New Orleans to cover the Southeast Regional and would not be writing about the East, the love affair was over. Seriously, what an I idiot I can be sometimes. But I will say here that they were all incredibly friendly and did nothing to dispel the observation that Kentucky fans live and die by and root for their team more passionately than any other fan base out there. And I’ll give credit to the Buckeye fans for taking the loss rather well. In their minds, it was football season the moment Buford’s shot bounced off the rim. But they didn’t carry me around at any point or buy me free Abitas.

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The Week That Was: Mar. 1-7

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

Congrats are in order for the following teams that locked up automatic NCAA berths this week: St. Peter’s (MAAC), Old Dominion (CAA), Wofford (SoCon), Gonzaga (WCC), Indiana State (MVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and UNC-Asheville (Big South). It’s always fun watching these teams celebrate their conference championships because the excitement just feels more honest than, say, when an Ohio State or a Pittsburgh wins its conference tournament. Championship Week is great for television purposes because there are so many great games to watch, but there usually is less urgency among the teams from the major conferences. For them, conference tournaments are about posturing for seeds and surviving the weekend injury-free. Roy Williams once called the ACC Tournament a big cocktail party, and it’s not surprising that his two title teams both bowed out in the semifinals.  

What We Learned 

 

Davies Will Obviously Be Missed, But Charles Abouo's Emergence Has Mitigated the Sting

 

If you’re a big time recruit and have BYU in your top five, you might want to reconsider your stance on the Cougars. Seriously, why would a player with options want to go to BYU now that its draconian honor code system is in the national spotlight. By now, everyone knows Brandon Davies (BYU’s third leading scorer and leading rebounder) was suspended from the BYU basketball team for allegedly having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Davies’ suspension is a crushing blow for the Cougars, who have gone from a sexy popular national title pick to a team some think won’t make it out of the first weekend.

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Morning Five: 03.08.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

  1. He’ll coach in the Big 12 Tournament, but after that, you can run down the curtain on the Pat Knight era at Texas Tech. The school released Knight on Monday after a three-year run that resulted in no NCAA Tournament trips and an overall 50-60 record. Now, we know in terms of basketball tradition, Texas Tech is not Indiana, but following Bobby Knight at any coaching job is certainly an unenviable position, and we’re intrigued to see how Pat does as the top dog someplace where his father’s influence never reached, a place where he can stake his own claim and not be known simply as the default-hire son of the legend who preceded him. The linked article also explains how Knight the Younger knew this was coming.
  2. Knight is unfortunately not the only coach to endure the fall of the axe (or at least the prod in the back) on Monday. Pat Kennedy resigned at Towson after seven seasons; Kirk Earlywine was dismissed from Eastern Washington; and Kennesaw State released Tom Ingle, citing academic shortcomings of Ingle’s players rather than the 8-20 record posted by the Owls this season (Ingle was 248-215 overall). That’s the only negative about March: coaches lose jobs, and the coaching carousel begins.
  3. On a much lighter note, for any coach who finds him/herself without employment over the next few weeks, for renewal of purpose, we submit this story from Jeff Goodman about Greg Lansing. He’s headed to the Tournament as the honcho at Indiana State, tournament champions from the Missouri Valley Conference. Just a few years ago, he was fired from his  assistant position by Steve Alford when the two were at Iowa. There’s also an interesting tidbit in there about the positive omen Lansing received on Saturday, the day before his squad beat Missouri State for the MVC tournament title.
  4. Texas is taking some punches from hoops fans everywhere, these days. Not surprising, when you consider that they dropped three of their last five games this season, and upon remembering that Hindenberg of a stretch run last year. A burnt child shuns fire, after all. But if you think the late-season missteps this year indicate a return of last season’s problems, senior Gary Johnson says it’s a mistake, but invites you keep on thinking that if you wish. Others within the Texas basketball family evidently join him in that sentiment, and contend that UT is still a national title contender.
  5. Big game in the Ivy League tonight, as Princeton travels to Penn for the last game of the Ancient Eight’s regular season. If Penn wins, Harvard clinches the Ivy title and goes to their first NCAA Tournament in 65 years. If Princeton wins, the Tigers would sit tied atop the league table with Harvard and force a one game playoff (which would be played at Yale) on Saturday. If that’s not cool enough for you, tonight’s Princeton-Penn game is at The Palestra — the home of the Quakers, and one of the most regal, venerable buildings in our sport (P.S.: we can’t wait to get there!).
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The Week That Was: Feb. 8-14

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

What a weekend. We’re still reeling from the Saturday’s chaos in Madison. It’s always a bittersweet day when the final undefeated team in the nation suffers its first loss. Do you think the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers pop champagne and toast themselves every year once that game clock hits 0:00 and their legacy is preserved for one more year? Sure, they aren’t the ’72 Dolphins, but we easily could picture Bobby Knight smirking to himself and lighting a cigar after Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin. 

What We Learned

Taylor May Be the Most Talk-About Player In America Right Now

Ohio State wasn’t an invincible juggernaut and we already knew that. OSU endured close calls earlier the season against Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern. It wasn’t a matter of if Ohio State would suffer its first loss, it was a matter of when some team would rise up and topple the Buckeyes. Cue the Wisconsin Badgers. Jordan Taylor exploded in the second half scoring 21 of his 27 points to lead Wisconsin to a come from behind win and an all-time RTC. But here at TWTW, we’re not as interested in single game scenarios; we focus on the big picture. So in their win, did the Badgers show the nation a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes? The main quality a team needs in order to emulate what the Badgers did against OSU is offensive efficiency. Ohio State is the #12 team in the nation at forcing turnovers, causing them on 25% of opponents’ possessions. Wisconsin values the ball more than any other team in the NCAA, turning it over on just 13.6% of its possessions, and on Saturday the Badgers had just eight turnovers. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to point out that fewer turnovers increases your win probability. But what’s harder to duplicate is the Badgers’ enigmatic guard. Taylor pretty much single-handedly propelled Wisconsin to the upset. Few clubs have a guard capable of putting up that many points that quickly. So while opposing coaches can point to Saturday’s outcome merely as proof that OSU is beatable, it’s difficult to emulate the Badgers’ winning formula. Here’s the best recipe for beating a highly ranked Ohio State squad: schedule the game in Madison. Neither the OSU football nor basketball teams are invulnerable to the powers of Bucky Badger.

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The Week That Was: December 18-27

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

It’s that time of year again: Conference season. UConn and Pittsburgh opened up the Big East slate Monday night with the first of what will be many highly-anticipated conference matchups over the next couple of months. It won’t be much longer until we get Pitt-Georgetown, Duke-Maryland, Washington-Washington State, Ohio State-Purdue and plenty over other mouth-watering games. It’s definitely a more appealing prospect than watching Kentucky pummel Winthrop or Texas beat down North Florida.

What We Learned

Taylor & Pitt Easily Ripped UConn

  • It might have been wise for Jim Calhoun to schedule some true road games for his young UConn squad before its Big East opener at Pittsburgh. The Huskies certainly played as though they weren’t prepared for what was waiting for them in the amped up Peterson Events Center. But honestly, there was little reason to think that this game was going to be anything other than a wakeup call for UConn. The Huskies boast seven freshmen, and only three players in its rotation that had ever played at that venue. No surprises here that the Panthers jumped out to an early double-digit lead and cruised to a 78-63 win. At least the Huskies can take solace in the fact that they don’t have to face Pittsburgh again until possibly the Big East Tournament. The Panthers’ length along the perimeter makes them a tough matchup for Kemba Walker, who needed 27 shots and 11 free throws to score 31 points against the likes of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.
  • After a less-than-stellar start to its season, in which Butler got smoked by Louisville and lost in overtime to Evansville en route to a 4-4 record through its first eight games, it now looks like Brad Stevens’ squad has righted the ship. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and just beat Washington State on Christmas Day to win the Diamond Head Classic. Key to the Bulldogs recent surge has been their improved play on the defensive end. Butler has not allowed more than 68 points since Mississippi Valley St. put up 71 on Dec. 11, and in their last four wins, the Bulldogs have allowed their opponents to shoot the following percentages: Stanford, 31.4%; Utah, 39.6%; Florida State, 38%; and Washington State, 40.7%. The Bulldogs’ defensive numbers still aren’t great, they rank 48th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings and they’re #272 in turnover %, but they’re on their way back to being a squad that can win games on the defensive end. As the schedule shifts to Horizon League play, the Bulldogs again are a safe bet to claim another conference championship.
  • When we last checked in with Tennessee, the Vols just had erased most of the momentum gained from a win over Pittsburgh with a home loss to Oakland (nothing to be embarrassed about, but not what we like to see from one of our top-10 teams). As it turns out, that loss to the Golden Grizzlies was a harbinger for what turned out to be a very unhappy holiday season for Bruce Pearl. The Vols lost their next two games, both to unranked opponents. Tennessee lost 49-48 to a Charlotte squad without leading scored Shamari Spears, who was kicked off the team a few days earlier. Then the Vols lost again by one point, this time to USC. To make matters worse, their win to halt the three-game skid did little to make people believe the Vols aren’t in the middle of a tailspin. Tennessee blew a 13-point lead to Belmont and needed a layup from Scotty Hopson with 5.7 left to escape with a 66-65 win. Despite his last-second bucket, Hopson’s recent play has been a major reason for the Vols’ struggles. Hopson scored a combined 28 points his losses to Oakland, Charlotte and USC on 8-31 shooting. He rebounded to score 19 points against Belmont, but he’s still suffering from a shooting slump. Hopson is 2-14 from three in his last four games.
  • TWTW isn’t a huge fan of making sweeping proclamations before conference play begins, nor do we like to divulge its national championship favorite until the most opportune moment. (Personally, TWTW prefers to wait until about 10 seconds left in the title game to announce who we think will win it all). But if TWTW was forced to name a team it would be Ohio State. UConn, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas are all fine choices, but there’s something about the Buckeyes that separates them from the pack. Everything starts with Jared Sullinger, who is first on the team in points (17.5) and rebounds (10.1) and is the clubhouse leader for national freshman of the year. Sullinger has owned the paint from Day 1 and has shown a knack for dominating games like few other big men this year (see his 40/13 against IUPUI and his 30/19 against South Carolina). What’s remarkable about Sullinger, though, has been his ability to avoid foul trouble. Sullinger hasn’t fouled out of one game this season and only has one game (his first) in which he had four infractions. But OSU isn’t just limited to Sullinger. The Buckeyes boast five players who average at least 10 points a game. They can beat you just as easily outside as they can inside with shooters like David Lighty and Jon Diebler, who shoot 45.5% and 47.4% from three, respectively. And freshman Deshaun Thomas is the kind of athletic wing that can score in bunches off the bench. Could Ohio State be better without Evan Turner? TWTW thinks so.
  • People wondered how Kansas would be able to integrate freshman phenom Josh Selby into its rotation once he returned from his NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension, the question being whether Selby’s presence would disrupt the Jayhawks’ chemistry from their 9-0 start. After two games, two wins and two electric performances by Selby, it’s obvious there was never a need to worry whether his addition would be anything but welcome. In his debut against USC, Selby scored 21 points and drilled a go-ahead three with 26 seconds ago to lead the Jayhawks to 70-68 win. There was no need for any late heroics in his second game, but Selby still made his presence felt, to the tune of 18 points and a 3-4 shooting night from beyond the arc. Selby’s already established himself as one of Kansas’ go-to scorers, and the fact that Bill Self had Selby not only on the court in the waning seconds against USC but shows how important Selby will be to any title run for KU.

Media Blackout

The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.

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Morning Five: 12.20.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 20th, 2010

  1. It is still a few days before Christmas, but quite a few coaches got early Christmas presents in the form of players making long-awaited debuts. The most notable of these debuts was that of Josh Selby, who more than lived up to the hype as he was the best player on the court in Lawrence on Saturday and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to propel Kansas to a hard-fought victory over USC. While Selby justifiably received the majority of the hype he wasn’t the only notable player making a debut as Jio Fontan was making his debut for the Trojans. Unfortunately for the Trojans Fontan did not has as auspicious of a debut as he stepped on the sideline after catching an inbounds pass following Selby’s 3, which eventually led to the Jayhawks hanging on for a victory. The other notable debut over the weekend was that of Renardo Sidney, who managed to score 12 points in a losing effort for Mississippi State against Virginia Tech.
  2. Tonight Duke will play Elon in a game that probably doesn’t mean much to the average college basketball fan, but it will hold a special meaning for Coach K as he will going for win #879, which would tie Dean Smith for 2nd all-time win list. Everyone can appreciate the meaning as how it relates to the Duke-UNC rivalry, but it will also mean something for Krzyzewski on a more personal level after he spent more than a decade trying to emulate Smith to make Duke into a program comparable to UNC.
  3. While we are on the topic of Coach K, The Fayetteville Observer has an excellent 3-part series on him analyzing him from all points of view. It is definitely worth your time even if we will all be getting bombarded with about a million pieces on him as he approaches Bob Knight‘s all-time wins record.
  4. Earlier this season Len Elmore chimed in saying that he thought that Bruce Pearl should be fired and now Jay Bilas has voiced his opinion and he agrees with the Elmore’s take (Insider only, sorry). So now we know where ESPN’s basketball/legal department stands on Bruce Pearl. We can only hope that someone brings this up when Pearl is being interviewed by Elmore and/or Bilas, but we doubt that the executives at ESPN will let that happen. One more thing about the Bilas column: This is the first time we have ever seen the term “Chillax” on a major website.
  5. We are a men’s college basketball site, but we would be remiss if we did not congratulate the UConn women for their 88th consecutive victory tying the record set by John Wooden‘s UCLA team. The Huskies will be going for #89 on Tuesday night at home against FSU.
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