Big 10 Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2009

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

The Season That Was
Politicians often talk about “Two Americas” – there’s the super-rich, lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills, and then there’s the rest of us. Well, this year, there were “Three Big Tens.” First, there was Michigan State, who won the conference title in a walk by four games. That’s the largest margin in a very long time (over 10 years). And just like this little credit crisis hasn’t forced Warren Buffett to fly coach [Ed. Note: Having read about Warren, he might fly coach anyways.], Raymar Morgan‘s long bout with pneumonia didn’t slow down the Spartans one bit. We predicted Michigan State to win, we just didn’t know it would be this easy.

Then there’s the middle, which was filled with parity. Second place through ninth place was separated by 3 games. Call it the Big Ten’s middle class. Purdue didn’t develop into the team everyone thought they would. Sure, Robbie Hummel‘s extended absence hurt, but it was really the big steps back taken by E’Twuan Moore and Keaton Grant that made the biggest difference. Illinois actually overachieved this season, after last year’s debacle. The truth is that the Illini weren’t that bad last year, but suffered a lot of close losses. A big turnaround was to be expected. But to go from 16 wins to 23 (and counting) without adding a single player of significance was beyond optimistic. That’s exactly what Bruce Weber‘s team did though. Wisconsin will see their streak of 30-win seasons come to an end this year, and despite what you might read or hear about this team, it was the defense that let them down. In fact, the Badgers sported the league’s best offense on a per possession basis. But without twin towers Brian Butch and Greg Steimsma, opponents shot much better from inside the arc.

Penn State continued its happy-go-lucky ways, going 10-8 in conference play despite being outscored (handily) by its opponents. But good for the Nittany Lions, it’s wins that punch Dance tickets, not scoring margins. Ohio State might have had the most talent in the league, but finished right in the middle of the pack. We said that before the season started that Ohio State would be hard-pressed to improve on last year’s performance. We were right – Thad Matta is finding out that landing All American Recruits isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Speaking of attrition, Northwestern had virtually none, and that went a long, long way into fueling their best post-war season. The Wildcats will come up short for landing an NCAA Tourney bid unless they win the conference tournament, but that shouldn’t diminish the job Bill Carmody‘s done. Another turnaround was present in Ann Arbor, where John Beilein has Michigan on the brink of their first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 10 years. The Wolverines have looked like giant killers that took down Duke, UCLA, and nearly UConn; but this is also the same team that was outscored by opponents in conference play. They need to find that early-season magic for the stretch run. Minnesota has been somewhat of an oddball team as well this year in that this is the worst field goal shooting team in the conference, but they’re also tied for the best free throw shooting team in the conference. Clearly they have the talent to score more, but it just hasn’t happened.

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Midwest Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

The rest of the previews are going to be much shorter than the East Regional Analysis because the other regions aren’t as loaded. Ok, you got me. That preview took way too much time given my schedule. Plus, the other regions suck. . .

Teams
#1 Kansas: Bill Self leads a loaded Jayhawk team into the tournament. They have all the tools–experience and talent in both the backcourt and frontcourt–that they need to win (although they are one of the few teams in college basketball that doesn’t take advantage of the short 3 point shot). The question is that will Kansas end its reputation for choking in the tournament. With a few exceptions (1991, 1993, 2002, and 2003 come to mind), the Jayhawks have found a way to lose to vastly inferior teams. The most notable example are 2005 and 2006 against Bucknell and Bradley respectively. We think the Jayhawks are too talented for that to happen, but the Jayhawks have proven us wrong before. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Georgetown: As we stated in our Big East finals review, we noted that the Hoyas have all the tools to win the tournament. They have experience, a very good backcourt, the nation’s best 7-footer, and a solid coach. Before the bracket came out, we were worried about Hibbert’s tendency to disappear for stretches when he should be able to dominate. However, their road to the Final 4 seems particularly favorable, which means they are a trendy pick to make it to San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Wisconsin: While we don’t think the Badgers have much of a chance of winning the NCAA title, they definitely deserved a 2 seed over Duke. Like your typical Bo Ryan team, they play excellent defense. Led by Brian Butch and Michael Flowers, the Badgers are team capable of making the Elite 8, but will have a difficult road getting there (probably USC and Georgetown). Schedule/Roster.

#4 Vanderbilt: Vandy is an exciting team to watch and capable of beating anybody (ask Bruce Pearl). They have a solid all-around lineup with 3 seniors. However, their mediocre defense all but guarantees they will trip up somewhere along the line. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Clemson: With a win over Duke and three close games against UNC, Clemson can play with anybody in the country when they are on. The Tigers are athletic and had a nice run in the ACC tournament, but their awful FT shooting will catch up with them making them unlikely to advance past a round or two. Schedule/Roster.

#6 USC: We think that everybody knows about and has seen USC at this point. OJ Mayo has turned the Trojans into one the tournament’s most talked about “sleepers”. After reaching the Sweet 16 last year before bowing out to UNC, Tim Floyd added 2 “diaper dandies”. Ok, so maybe that isn’t 100% accurate since Mayo and Jefferson are closer to Depends than Huggies and Mayo’s recruitment was more like OJ adding the Trojans to his schedule. One of the interesting and challenging things for the Trojans has been how the freshman were integrated into a team that was already good. After struggling early, USC has come together at the right time. Mayo has reined in his tendency to dominate the ball although he still lapses into his old habits occasionally. The Trojans NCAA fortunes will like ride on which Taj Gibson shows up. Gibson, who has been college basketball’s version of Steve Slaton, will need to come up big if the Trojans want to make a deep run. Either way, we enjoy having another guy named OJ at USC. We hope that he has better “luck” with relationships. Schedule/Roster.

#7 Gonzaga: At this point, Gonzaga is way past the point of being a Cinderella. This team has a lot of talent including several guys with pro potential. They have a solid squad with 4 guys averaging double figures. Their first round matchup with Davidson will be a must-watch. Schedule/Roster.

#8 UNLV: These aren’t your old school Running Rebels. Lon Kruger returns a very different team from last year’s Sweet 16 team as most of the roster changed (including his son). Their own hometown doesn’t seem to believe in them, as Vegas has put UNLV (the higher seed) as 2 point underdogs against Kent State. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Kent State: As we noted above, Vegas has Kent State as 2 point favorites. Apparently they don’t agree with the selection committee. The Golden Flash should be a tough matchup as they feature a balanced attack with 4 scorers in double figures. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Davidson: Led by Stephen Curry and coming in with a NCAA-leading 22 game winning streak, Davidson is a very dangerous team. The committee made an interesting decision to pit them against Gonzaga. This can be interpreted in one of two ways: knock out a dangerous mid-major in the first round or ensure a dangerous mid-major in the second round Schedule/Roster.

#11 Kansas State: We would love to see Michael Beasley make a run deep in the tournament, but with his sidekick Bill Walker most well-known for peeing in a towel and going 0-for-14 against Texas it will be a short run for the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Villanova: Jay Wright’s team was likely the last at-large team invited to the tournament. They are a young team with some talented players (most notably Scotty Reynolds), but they appear to be a few years away from being a threat to make a run (assuming nobody does anything stupid by leaving school early). However, Clemson’s awful FT shooting may let them stay in the game and allow Villanova’s talented players to steal a game. Schedule/Roster.

#13 Siena: Before you get too excited about their win over Stanford, you should remember that Brook Lopez was suspended earlier this season making Stanford a very different team in November. With a young team and the talent to beat Stanford (even if it wasn’t at his peak), Siena will be a very dangerous mid-major in a few years. However, their matchup with Vanderbilt will be a stiff challenge even if Vandy is soft defensively. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Cal State Fullerton: A team full of transfers (literally everybody transferred from somewhere else), CSF is a team that likes a fast pace, but will find out in the first 10 minutes that Wisconsin prefers a slow pace. They will quickly learn that it is easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up. Schedule/Roster.

#15 UMBC: The winners of America East, a horrible conference except when Germain Mopa Njila becomes a household name for 15 minutes, UMBC should enjoy their hotel and the scenery because Georgetown is too talented and has too much experience to let UMBC hang around. We think. . . Schedule/Roster.

#16 Portland State: We’ll save both you some time (and us some research time). No #16 has ever won a first round game. Schedule/Roster.

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International Incidents

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2007

The real dog days of summer are here, and that can only mean one thing to hoopheads - international basketball.  Yes, we know that you’ve all missed the trapezoidal lane and goofy emblazoned unitards preferred by our international friends.  Harkening back to the days of our youth when we trotted amateurs out there and still actually won these events, we should take solace in the knowledge that, even though the world has indeed caught us in team basketball, we still own the patent on And1-style showmanship.  If only there was an international competition that allows four steps after picking up your dribble followed by random acts of dancing with the crowd.

Skip to my Lou

A Team USA Led by S2ML Could Win This Competition

The Senior Men’s National Team will get most of the hype this summer (will Kobe play?  will Team USA qualify for the Beijing Olympics?), but there are two other international teams filled with collegians that we’re keeping an eye on – the Pan Am team and the Under-19 World Championships team (see rosters below).   

Pan Am Team USA Roster

 Pam Am Team USA

The Pan Am team (coached by Villanova’s Jay Wright) begins play in Rio de Janeiro on July 25, and at least half of the roster is filled with players who will be NCAA All-Americans next season.  What’s most interesting about this roster is the names of some of the players who were left off the squad.  Preseason first-teamer Chris Lofton apparently counterbalanced global warming all by himself as he froze up the gym with his shooting stroke during the trials and was left home, as were Kansas guards Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers and Duke sharpshooter Jon Scheyer.  It was also peculiar that Wisky’s Brian Butch was left off the team, as it leaves Roy Hibbert as the only true center available – let’s hope he stays out of foul trouble.  Jay Wright realizes that the four-guard offense that he employed at Villanova was out of necessity, yes?  Nobody asked us, but this team seems heavy on shooters and wings and extremely light in the middle.  That’s probably not a strong recipe to win in international competition against stronger, older and more experienced players.  We’ll see…

Seth Davis gave his insights after watching the trials here.      

Under-19 World Championships Roster

U19 Team USA Roster

The Under-19 Worlds team, coached by the Undertaker, has already won its first five games in pool play heading into a showdown with 4-1 France tomorrow.  K-State’s incoming freshman Michael Beasley (14 ppg; 6 rpg; 70% fg in only 17 mpg) and Davidson guard Stephen Curry (11 ppg; 3 apg; 61% fg) have led a balanced attack for the high-scoring (99 ppg) American squad.  Arkansas guard Patrick Beverly is the only Team USA member earning more than 25 mpg thus far, while Donte’ Green and Damian Hollis appear to be the only two Americans not getting substantial minutes.  From what we’ve seen so far, it appears that Beverly, David Lighty and Deon Thompson are poised for breakout years at their respective schools, while Big 12 fans should just hang on for the one-year ride watching Beasley and DeAndre Jordan perform.  The eight-team medal round begins on Friday in lovely (especially as compared to Rio) Novi Sad, Serbia.

Beasley Team USA

Michael BEASTley

We’ll be checking back in periodically with these teams to see how they finish in their respective competitions and, more importantly, whether any particular player(s) shows what to expect next season. 

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