Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach

Posted by DCassilo on February 1st, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What a couple of days it was for our freshmen across college basketball. On Tuesday, there was Nerlens Noel, who provided one of college basketball’s best performances of the year by blocking 12 shots in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, his teammate Archie Goodwin posted 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. A day later it was Baylor’s Isaiah Austin stealing the show with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Anyone who believes talent is down this year for the freshman class just hasn’t been paying attention.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

After starting the season on fire, Bennett has not been nearly as dominant in the Mountain West Conference. He clings to a spot this week after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds over his last two games. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Zeller has drawn a lot of criticism this season, mainly because of expectations that were too high in the first place. When the dust settles, he’s still the top scorer and rebounder on the third-best team in the country. This week: February 2 vs. Michigan, February 7 at Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season.

With the below-average competition in the West Coast Conference, Olynyk isn’t posting monster numbers lately because he really doesn’t have to. He’s coming off a week in which he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds, while the Bulldogs cruised to two victories. This week: February 2 at San Diego, February 7 vs. Pepperdine

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Early foul trouble against West Virginia on Monday had McLemore destined for his worst game in ages. But he still found a way to finish with a solid 13 points and four rebounds. It must be nice to have a freshman that you can pencil in for at least those numbers every night. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

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Saint Louis Provides Blueprint For Rattling Brad Stevens and Company

Posted by dnspewak on February 1st, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this from Chaifetz Arena following Saint Louis’ 75-58 victory over Butler.

The world’s leading scientists have two theories on Butler coach Brad Stevens. The first is simple. He is a robot. The second is a bit more complicated — that Stevens is technically a human being, but he intentionally bottles up his emotions on the sidelines and plays up his poker face to keep his basketball team under control in all situations. Not even Einstein’s quite sure how the 36-year-old coaching prodigy’s brain works, but every hypothesis concludes with the same result. Brad Stevens is a mastermind. He is a genius with an unshakeable demeanor, a fierce general who leads with his actions not his words. He never screams, never yells, never loses his cool, never argues with the officials, never lashes out at reporters and does not even offer a fist-pump when his team wins on the most improbable of buzzer-beaters. Nothing rattles Brad Stevens.

Except for the Saint Louis defense. Oh, those Billikens defenders could send General Patton running for the hills. As he watched his team turn the ball over time after time after time after time during a humbling 75-58 loss at Chaifetz Arena on Thursday night, Stevens showed his human side on more than one occasion. When Khyle Marshall threw the ball away under his own basket in the first half and gave Saint Louis two free points – one of 16 turnovers before the break – Stevens called a timeout and lit into his junior forward. Freshman Devontae Morgan was the next victim of verbal abuse after some sort of indiscretion on the defensive end. Stevens chased around official Ted Valentine at times, and in the postgame press conference, he fully admitted his ninth ranked team looked like a disaster for 40 minutes. “It was an absolute joy to watch one team play,” Stevens said. “Problem was, it wasn’t the team I was coaching.” It wasn’t as though Stevens put on a show with his antics on Thursday night. Compared to the rest of the hooligans roaming the sidelines in Division I basketball, he looked like Mother Theresa. Still, Stevens showed noticeable frustration as his team suffered through a 26-4 Billiken run in the first half. The Bulldogs had difficulty getting the ball up the court and running even a single set in the halfcourt.

SLU Players Got to Celebrate Too

SLU Players Got to Celebrate Too During the Rush The Court

It was oddly reminiscent of another vintage performance by Saint Louis back in December, when the Billikens held New Mexico to fewer points (13) in the first half than turnovers (16). They punish teams with picture-perfect help defense, and they have quick forwards who may not block a ton of shots but certainly disrupt opponents with their foot speed. Wing Dwayne Evans’ hands are all over the place. Cory Remuken is the shot-blocker and hustle player in the frontcourt. Jordair Jett is like the Tasmanian devil in the backcourt. They are fast, tough, smart and almost impossible to score against when they are at their best, but Saint Louis stepped it up a notch against the Atlantic 10 newcomers. “We’re just getting stop after stop, just converting on offense, but it started on the defensive end,” Jett said. “We’re just thinking, ‘Step on it. Make the lead bigger.’”

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Award Tour: Ben McLemore and Brad Stevens Reach No. 1 For the First Time

Posted by DCassilo on January 25th, 2013

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

The two players I have the most trouble with every week are Russ Smith and Michael Carter-Williams. With Smith, it’s because his on-ball defense, arguably his biggest strength, doesn’t show up in box scores or highlights, so I need to watch his entire games to stay up to speed. And I have to be honest, his reputation sometimes gives him credit in games he doesn’t deserve it. Couple that with a streaky jump shot, and he falls short of the top-10. As for MCW, I have a real problem ranking him because he’s a terrible shooter and a turnover machine. People say he makes the big shots, but if he made them in the first half or didn’t keep giving the ball away, there wouldn’t be big shots to make. So like it or not, that’s why those two guys aren’t on the list at this juncture.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Since the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer, Greg Whittington, was ruled ineligible, Porter has raised his game to another level. Over his last four games, he’s averaging 19.8 PPG and 9.3 RPG and played a full 40 minutes in Georgetown’s upset win at Notre Dame. This week: January 26 vs. Louisville, January 30 vs. Seton Hall

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Indiana and Cody Zeller Also Finished Strong in the Big Ten (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller has a lot of work to do to get back up the rankings. (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Zeller did not register a single field goal on Wednesday against Penn State, but prior to that, he had back-to-back games of at least 20/10. While people have made the case that Victor Oladipo is more valuable to the Hoosiers, I still think Zeller will dictate the big games. This week: January 27 vs. Michigan State, January 30 at Purdue

8. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Against Wyoming on Thursday, Bennett’s scoring finally returned, as he finished with 17 points. But the rebounding has disappeared. Bennett has just 13 boards over his last three games. Once a double-double machine, it will be interesting to see if he gets it back.  This week: January 29 vs. Nevada

7. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG

For those who didn’t see it late Thursday night, Olynyk had a night to remember against BYU. He went 9-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line en route to 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Make sure to catch him next time he’s on TV because he’s fun to watch. This week: January 26 vs. San Francisco, January 31 at Loyola Marymount

6. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Since breaking out against Iowa State to start Big 12 play, McLemore has been a steady contributor for the Jayhawks. Although teams are devoting more defensive attention to him, he finds a way to get his points. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia Read the rest of this entry »

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Night Line: Butler the Latest Casualty of an Unpredictable Atlantic 10

Posted by BHayes on January 24th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Last weekend belonged to the Butler Bulldogs. With College Gameday in town and the national spotlight shining brightly on Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Dogs delivered as dramatic a victory as you will ever see when Roosevelt Jones coaxed in a floater at the horn to defeat Gonzaga. It was a transcendent moment that will stand alone well after this season ends, but it also vaulted Butler into the top 10 of both polls – rarefied midseason air, even for Butler. But the intoxicating high was short-lived in Indy, as Butler dove back into A-10 play tonight, coming up short in a 54-53 loss to La Salle. The Bulldogs weren’t the only team to be smacked in the face with the reality of this rough-and-tumble version of the A-10; St. Joseph’s fell at home to St. Bonaventure, while Xavier’s first Atlantic 10 loss came at the hands of surprising Charlotte – all further evidence that nights off aren’t an option in one of the deepest conferences in America.

LaSalle And Ramon Galloway Showed Butler That Life On The Road In The Atlantic-10 Is Rarely Easy

LaSalle And Ramon Galloway Showed Butler That Life On The Road In The Atlantic-10 Is Rarely Easy

A chaotic night in the conference indeed, but don’t mistake the happenings at La Salle as any sort of major upset. The Explorers were actually favorites in Vegas for this one, although an available Rotnei Clarke may have altered that. Either way, this has to be John Giannini’s most significant win at La Salle, and it adds some real legitimacy to his team’s at-large case. Lots of wins still need to come his way, but at 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the conference, this team undoubtedly will have the opportunity to play their way into the field.

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Morning Five: 01.23.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. The question of whether states other than Nevada will allow legalized sports gambling reached a key decision point on Tuesday as the US Department of Justice intervened in a case brought by the NCAA and the four major professional leagues against New Jersey disputing a 1992 law that prohibits betting on sports. The Garden State passed a law last year (signed by Governor Chris Christie) that would allow sports gambling in its casinos and race tracks statewide, but the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL along with the NCAA, citing “significant harm” to their leagues, filed suit against the state questioning its constitutionality under federal law. Tuesday’s decision by the federal government to intervene on the side of the plaintiffs gives additional weight to the side that supports the ban. Although not unprecedented, it’s somewhat unlikely that the DOJ would stake its reputation in federal court on a case where it stands to come out on the losing side of the matter. As a result, if you live in New Jersey and are hankering for a legal method to place a wager on future Big East Tournament games involving league stalwarts South Florida and East Carolina, you may want to go ahead and book those annual March trips to Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t appear that you will have the option in New Jersey.
  2. Harvard has been kind of under the radar this season after being the team du jour last season and part of that reason is because of the loss of Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, who withdrew for school a year after they were implicated in a wide-reaching cheating scandal. We had not heard what the two were doing as they waited to return to school next year, but The New York Times was able to catch up with them. Both of them returned to their hometown with Casey working for a nonprofit group and Curry selling life insurance. It will be interesting to see how the two adjust to rejoining a Harvard team that they were expected to lead this season, but has grown to play without them.
  3. We have reached the point of the season where John Gasaway publishes his weekly Tuesday Truths. Last week was technically the first week he did it, but there was so little data that I didn’t think it was worth linking to. For those of you who are not familiar with the column it looks at the difference in a team’s offensive and defensive points per possession to calculate an efficiency margin (more details here). In this week’s edition, Gasaway goes through the conference’s per his usual routine taking particular interest in Florida‘s dominance of the SEC. We will be completely honest that while we find the numbers interesting and somewhat enlightening we don’t find it to be quite the revelation that many of our colleagues seem to think the Tuesday Truths are.
  4. For a different type of weekly recap, Pat Forde offers his Forde Minutes, which is similar to his Forde Yard Dash that he writes when he is covering college football. While this lacks the number-crunching of Gasaway’s Tuesday Truths, it offers an equally comprehensive look at what is happening in college basketball. Of course, since it relies more on words than numbers it has to work off a central theme and this week’s theme is Brad Stevens and his emotional reaction (or lack of) following Butler’s thrilling win on Saturday night. Forde also offers an all-encompassing look at the player of the year and freshman of the year of races as well as who is hot and who is not.
  5. At the beginning of the season college basketball writers obsessed over the triangle of basketball power between IndianaLouisville, and Kentucky. While that area may still be the strongest in the country (substituting Butler for Kentucky at the present time), Matt Norlander feels that the designation of best basketball state should go to the state of Kansas. In addition to boasting the always solid Jayhawks, the state also has two other potential powers in Kansas State and Wichita State. As Norlander points out part of the state’s strength is its impressive win percentage which is bolstered by only have three Division I teams in the state. As you can imagine there are a few states which have not taken too kindly to this analysis and you can see a sampling of their thoughts in the comment section.
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Rushed Reactions: #13 Butler 64, #8 Gonzaga 63

Posted by WCarey on January 19th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s game between Gonzaga and Butler. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Atmosphere At Hinkle Fieldhouse Was Sublime. With ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasting live from Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Butler fans definitely brought it all night long. Not only did the place fill up long before the opening tip, the place was loud long before the opening tip. The noise level only rose as the night went on, seemingly reaching new heights at different points in the game. The Butler faithful were dead set on letting Gonzaga know just how devoted and faithful they are. Gonzaga did not shoot one free throw without being under a copious amount of verbal harassment from the Butler fans. When Roosevelt Jones nailed the game-winning buzzer-beater, the fans spilled out onto the court and joined the team in what was essentially a mob. As the team made its way to the locker room, the fans stayed on the court to celebrate the hard-fought victory.
  2. Despite Defeat, Gonzaga Once Again Showed Its A Very Good Team. On a night where Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. combined to score just five points, the strength of the Gonzaga frontline was on display all night. Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk, and Sam Dower each turned in impressive performances going up against a player in Andrew Smith, who had essentially contained Cody Zeller earlier this season. Harris threw in 20 points and collected seven rebounds. Olynyk added 14 points and seven boards. Dower came off the bench and provided a great spark by scoring 20 points – 16 of which came in the first half. Not only did the Zags’ frontline perform well offensively, it also turned in a strong effort on the defensive side of the court. Smith, who entered the game averaging 12 points per game, was held to just seven points and was only able to get off five field goal attempts. While Gonzaga is surely not pleased in defeat, it should be pleased with the effort it got from its interior players.
  3. Never Count Butler Out. Ever. Butler has been college basketball’s darling for quite a few years now and there has been no indication of that changing any time soon. Earlier this season it was sophomore former walk-on Alex Barlow who hit a shot with 2.1 seconds left in overtime to top then number one Indiana. Against Gonzaga, Butler looked to sophomore guard Roosevelt Jones for the late-game heroics. After Butler turned the ball over trailing by one with just 3.5 seconds seconds to play, Jones intercepted the Gonzaga inbounds pass and raced into the lane putting up the game-winning shot a fraction of a second before the final buzzer sounded. Considering Butler’s history in close games against strong opponents, no one should be surprised with how the Bulldogs topped Gonzaga. Butler is a team that has adopted the calm and collected demeanor of its coach Brad Stevens and uses this approach no matter the situation. With Stevens at the controls and Butler playing as a team, there really is no situation this team cannot handle or conquer.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott is the New No. 1 Player and Nerlens Noel is Looking Special

Posted by DCassilo on January 18th, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

For the first time this season, Doug McDermott is atop the Player of the Year race. It’s no fault of McDermott’s, but when a guy from a mid-major conference is having a season like he is having, there is always some skepticism. How would he do in the Big Ten? How would Mason Plumlee do in the MVC? These are fair points, but one thing I do know is that McDermott gets a defense’s best look every night he’s on the floor, and putting up numbers like his against that type of attention is always an impressive feat.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 18.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Outside of McDermott, the hottest player in the country might be Olynyk. In his last three games he scored 33 points against Santa Clara, 31 against St. Mary’s and 21 against Portland, in a game in which he went 8-of-9 from the field. Keep an eye on him against Butler on Saturday.This week: January 19 at Butler, January 24 vs. BYU

9. Russ Smith – Louisville (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 SPG

Being the best player on the best team in the country has to get you a spot on this list, right? While Smith can score, he’s probably most valuable when his defense takes another team’s best player out of the game. This week: January 19 vs. Syracuse, January 22 at Villanova

8. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG

McLemore is one of those shooters that NBA scouts drool over. He’s shooting 50.3 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from deep and 87.7 percent from the line. Translation: get this man as many shots as possible. This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

7. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.7 BPG

Jeff Withey is a Defensive Force With a New Found Offensive Game for KU (AP Photo)

Jeff Withey is a Defensive Force With a New Found Offensive Game for KU (AP Photo)

One of the most difficult things for me this week was trying to figure out who was more valuable to Kansas: McLemore or Withey. It’s almost impossible to figure out whose development has been more important, so if any Jayhawks fans have an opinion, drop it in the comments.  This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

6. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 8.9 RPG

So far in Mountain West Conference games, the trend for Bennett has been that he doesn’t perform well versus ranked teams. Against New Mexico and San Diego State, he’s averaging 11.5 PPG and 4.0 RPG. This week: January 19 at Colorado State, January 24 vs. Wyoming

5. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG

It apparently took until Big Ten play to wake Zeller up, as he’s already recorded as many double-doubles (two) in conference games as he did in all of his non-conference games. The loss to Wisconsin was a setback for the team, but he had 23 points and 10 rebounds in defeat. This week: January 20 at Northwestern, January 23 vs. Penn State

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Award Tour: Ben McLemore Rises As Conference Play Begins and a Russ Smith Sighting…

Posted by DCassilo on January 11th, 2013

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

While the non-conference schedule gives us some fun match-ups, conference play is the time of year where we really see what players and teams are made of. Look no further than Ben McLemore. The Kansas freshman was on our radar before Wednesday, but his performance against Iowa State elevated him to another level nationally. So don’t be surprised when you see so many new names on this week’s rankings. It’s just that time of year.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Russ Smith – Louisville (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.6 SPG

Always a dangerous scorer, Smith makes his debut this week due to the versatility he’s been showing lately. Against Seton Hall on Wednesday, the junior grabbed seven boards and had six dimes. His ability to be useful even when he isn’t shooting well is what will make him a contender. This week: January 12 vs. South Florida, January 14 at UConn

9. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 16.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG

The Buffaloes were no match for Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Ben McLemore is in the middle of it all for Kansas. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

McLemore had perhaps the best performance in college basketball this season with his 33 points and 6-of-6 three-point shooting against Iowa State on Wednesday. That included a banked trey as time expired to save Kansas’ home court win streak. The freshman is now on everyone’s radar. This week: January 12 at Texas Tech, January 14 vs. Baylor

8. Jack Cooley – Notre Dame (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 15.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG

Here’s a player getting absolutely no love for Player of the Year, and I’m not quite sure why. Cooley is averaging a double-double and has carried Notre Dame to a 14-1 start. He may not be a pretty player to watch, but he’s still really good. This week: January 12 vs. UConn, January 15 at St. John’s

7. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG

Zeller has been one of only four players to stay in the top-10 all season. While he was expected to be a little higher right now, he has been consistently solid for Indiana, and that is why he is still here.  This week: January 12 vs. Minnesota, January 15 vs. Wisconsin

6. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 20.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Here’s another player that isn’t get as much love as he should. Yes, Ohio State probably isn’t as good as we expected, but Thomas has been a scoring machine since the season began, and he can rebound too. This week: January 13 vs. Michigan

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CIO…the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 4th, 2013

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Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

Another Saturday, Another Scalp: Reeling from an inexplicable 10-point loss to Canisius (72-62) on December 19, Temple bounced back with a stunning 83-79 upset of #3 Syracuse, all the more surprising given that it happened in the confines of Syracuse’s “second home”, Madison Square Garden, on December 22. The Orange, notorious for not leaving the state of New York before the start of conference play, were unable to contain Khalif Wyatt and sophomore center Anthony Lee as both scored career-high points. Wyatt, a slasher who can play either guard spot in addition to the small forward was a perfect 15-of-15 from the line on the way to scoring 33 points. Lee was manhandled by Duke’s Mason Plumlee two Saturdays before, schooled fellow Philadelphian Rakeem Christmas and his teammate James Southerland to grab nine rebounds to go with his career-high 21 points. Butler traveled to Nashville the next Saturday and housed the Commodores of Vanderbilt by 19 points, 68-49. The Bulldogs’ backcourt paced the team with 40 points (Rotnei Clarke – 22, Kellen Dunham – 12, Alex Barlow – six) while Khyle Marshall missed a double-double by a single point (nine points and 11 rebounds).

Versus Other Conferences

With nearly 98% of the non-conference schedule on the books (as of January 1), the Atlantic 10 has compiled an outstanding 64.3% winning percentage (126-70). Bettering their 2011-12 winning percentage of 62.6% (107-64), the conference posted a number of superb wins over power conference teams in the process.

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The mark is not without a few blemishes, especially with respect to the seven power conferences where the A-10’s conference-wide record declined over their mark last season. Especially disappointing was the conference mark versus the ACC (3-10, 0.231) and Big East (6-11, 0.353). While they continue to dominate against those non-power conferences with whom they share a similar profile (the CAA, Mountain West, Missouri Valley, West Coast Conference, and Western Athletic Conference), the overall record masks losing records versus the Missouri Valley Conference (3-4, 0.429) and the West Coast Conference (1-3, 0.250).

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

The teams largely wrap up non-conference play over the mid-winter break, with only a few standings-changing games on the last and this week.  Games/records are through January 2.

  1. Butler (9-2, #18 AP) – The defense of 2011-12 is starting to round into form for the Bulldogs. Coach Brad Stevens’ squad has allowed opponents on average 0.93 points per possession in the six (Division I) games since their loss to Illinois on November 21. After five starts, freshman Kellen Dunham returned to his sixth man role and appears to be thriving. If Player of the Year polling commenced today, transfer Rotnei Clarke would garner more than a few votes outside of Indianapolis, but as much as the newcomers (Clarke and Dunham) have sparked the Bulldogs, the contributions of the front court, Roosevelt Jones, Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith are key. Though not the focal point of the offense, Smith and Marshall are a devastatingly efficient combination, contributing over 1.1 points per possession on offense while hauling in over 12% of the offensive rebounds apiece when they are on the court. Butler will host Penn and New Orleans before opening conference play on the road against Saint Joseph’s (see below) on January 9. Read the rest of this entry »
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Award Tour: Anthony Bennett is a Stud, Tubby Smith is a COY Contender, and the Most Overrated Teams…

Posted by DCassilo on January 4th, 2013

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Can a team affect a player’s candidacy for Player of the Year? It’s a question I’ve been struggling with lately. There’s no question that guys like Erick Green and C.J. McCollum have played like top 10 players this season, but should they suffer because their teams are well outside the Top 25? The Wooden Award says that the honor is given to the most outstanding basketball player, and there’s no mention of team. But I think to be an outstanding player you need to find a way to lead your team to victories. So in the end, Green and McCollum stay, but if their teams continue to play poorly, that might change regardless of their individual numbers.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.2 SPG

Otto Porter has his Georgetown Hoyas back in the fold as a Big East contender (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

Otto Porter has his Georgetown Hoyas back in the fold as a Big East contender (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

It’s a long overdue appearance for Porter, who has done a little bit of everything for Georgetown this season. While his per game averages seem a little low, keep in mind he played six minutes in his season debut before leaving with injury. His stock could skyrocket with a strong start to Big East play. This week: January 5 at Marquette, January 8 vs. Pittsburgh

9. Erick Green – Virginia Tech (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 24.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.6 APG

While Green’s ranking is on the decline, it’s hard for me to remove someone from this list who has had just one bad game all season. His Hokies, though, are struggling and having to do it all is starting to take its toll on Green. This week: January 5 at Maryland, January 9 vs. Boston College

8. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 25.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.0 APG

Lehigh suffered an ugly loss to Bryant last Saturday, but it was no fault of McCollum’s, who poured in 34 points on a season-high six three-pointers. Despite receiving extra defensive attention every night, he still leads the nation in scoring and is shooting an impressive 50.8 percent from the field. This week: January 5 at VCU, January 8 vs. Muhlenberg

7. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 12.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.1 APG, 3.0 SPG

Carter-Williams has recorded double-doubles in his last two games, and has actually shot well (11-of-20) in the process. It’s the first time he’s shot 50 percent from the field in back-to-back games this season, and that is what the Orange need to win the Big East. This week: January 6 at South Florida, January 9 at Providence

6. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG

Zeller opened up his Big Ten season with a bang against Iowa by recording his first double-double since December 8. At this point, the sophomore will need a monster conference season to get back to No. 1. This week: January 7 at Penn State

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Butler at the Turn: Just How Good Are the Bulldogs This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2012

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s game between Butler and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Butler came into Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt boosting a resume’ that included wins over Marquette and North Carolina in a run to the championship game of the Maui Invitational, and an upset of then top-ranked Indiana in the landmark game of the season on December 15. On the other hand, it included an early-season thrashing from a pedestrian Xavier team, as well as a blowout loss to Illinois in the Maui final. After playing for the national championship in consecutive seasons, coach Brad Stevens’s 2011-12 squad missed the NCAA Tournament in its Horizon League swan song, and as the Bulldogs head into their inaugural run through the Atlantic 10 conference schedule, the question facing them is whether they can be a dominant team in the league, or whether they are merely a team that raises its level of play for big games but is prone to lapses against lesser opponents.  If Saturday’s second-half demolishing of a mediocre Commodores club is any indication, Butler may be the team to beat in the A-10.

Rotnei Clarke and Butler

Rotnei Clarke and Butler Easily Handled the Commodores in the Second Half Last Night

The Bulldogs led just 25-22 at the break, but came out in the second half and blitzed Vanderbilt with an early 19-7 run, riding the hot shooting of senior guard Rotnei Clarke to a 68-49 win. After missing his first six attempts of the game, Clarke went on a torrid run in the latter part of the first half and early part of the second that saw him hit five three-pointers on his way to a game-high 22 points. The Bulldogs’ only other double figure scorer was freshman guard Kellen Dunham, who finished with 12. “When Kellen and Rodney get going, we should win.  Those should be the nights we win,” Stevens said after the game.  Given the performance of his two guards, and the second half run, Stevens had to be pleased that his team took care of an inferior opponent in a hostile road environment.

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Award Tour: Ben McLemore Rises and College Basketball New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by DCassilo on December 28th, 2012

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

With the lack of college games lately, I’ve been catching up on some NBA action. To tie in with my article, I focused mostly on players who have won the Wooden Award over the last decade. To no one’s surprise, Anthony Davis is already starting to be a force in the NBA, but that’s not the case for most. There are stars (Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin), starters (Jameer Nelson, Evan Turner and Andrew Bogut), role players (J.J. Redick, Tyler Hansbrough and Jimmer Fredette), and T.J. Ford, who was forced out of the league due to injury. Overall, being the top player in college means little more than likely getting drafted. There’s still a lot of work to do.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG

While Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall were supposed to lead UNLV, that responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Bennett. He’s been more than up to the task and is our first freshman on this list since the preseason. This week: December 29 at North Carolina, January 3 vs. Chicago State

9. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 24.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.1 APG

Lehigh\'s C.J. McCollum Is an Elite Guard

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum will need to keep lighting it up.

With his injury, McCollum will go 21 days between games. He’ll need to shake off the rust quickly to move back up the list. This week: December 29 vs. Bryant

8. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 12.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 10.3 APG, 3.4 SPG

While Carter-Williams does a lot while he’s on the court, it will be hard to get much higher than No. 8 until he improves his shooting. Over his last two games, he is 4-for-23, 1-for-9 from three-point land and 16-for-25 from the line. This week: December 29 vs. Alcorn State, December 31 vs. Central Connecticut State, January 2 vs. Rutgers

7. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 20 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Two of Thomas’ worst games this season have come in titanic tilts against Duke and Kansas. He’ll need to play better in big games, as the Buckeyes will have plenty of them come conference play. This week: December 28 vs. Chicago State, January 2 vs. Nebraska

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 14.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.0 BPG

While Thomas struggled in the game against Kansas, Withey put together his second straight double-double. It’s a promising sight, as Withey has never been a dominant rebounder despite his size and athleticism. This week: December 29 vs. American

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