Set Your Tivo: 03.07.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Four automatic bids will be handed out this evening in places stretching from Connecticut to Las Vegas. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Colonial Championship (at Richmond, VA): VCU vs. Old Dominion — 7 pm on ESPN (****)

Old Dominion looks like a safe bet even if they lose but VCU more than likely has to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament. The Rams and Monarchs split the season series, each winning on the other’s home floor. This game will be all about pace and one team’s strong defense against the other’s potent offense. If Old Dominion can keep this game in the half court, they can let their stellar two point defense and rebounding take over. The Monarch’s are the best offensive rebounding team in the country while VCU ranks #303 in defensive rebounding percentage. Old Dominion also ranks highly in defensive rebounding, placing them among the best overall rebounding teams in the nation, led by Frank Hassell, averaging just under 15/10 on the season. Over his last eight games, Hassell has been even better, averaging 19/10 down the stretch. Not coincidentally, the Monarchs have won all eight of those games and 12 of their past 13. ODU is #9 in two point defense but allows 36.9% three point shooting, #298 in America. That has been the bugaboo for Blaine Taylor’s group and the Rams are one team that can really take advantage of that. Four out of ten VCU field goals attempted are threes and they shoot it at a pretty good clip, 35.6% this season. However, that percentage drops to 33.7% when you look at CAA games only. The Rams must create offense through their defense by forcing turnovers. That will offset part of the rebounding edge ODU is almost sure to have. An energetic and aggressive defense can help push the pace and take Old Dominion out of its rhythm. The Monarchs struggle to shoot and score, relying on their defense and rebounding to win games most of the time. Shaka Smart should use some zone from time to time in order to force Old Dominion to make jump shots, something they don’t do well. Rebounding out of a zone is always difficult (especially against the #1 offensive rebounding squad) but we feel it’s worth the risk. VCU shouldn’t spend all game in a zone but mixing it up defensively will greatly help their cause. Old Dominion gets 57.5% of its points from two point range but they have a few threats from deep, most notably Kent Bazemore. He’s arguably their best three point shooter and also a terrific defender, ranked eighth nationally in steal percentage.  The Rams shouldn’t have that much trouble answering Old Dominion from the arc considering they have a number of quality shooters, including Bradford Burgess (16/13 vs. George Mason yesterday), but they need to get some looks inside for Jamie Skeen. The Wake Forest transfer has had a terrific year in Richmond and is averaging 21.7 PPG over his last three. It’ll be tough to score against Old Dominion’s interior defense but Skeen should look to get to the free throw line where he’s a 73.7% shooter. VCU is a good free throw shooting team overall and they’ve made it to the line on 41.5% of their possessions in conference play. Foul trouble for Old Dominion would open up the interior a bit and allow the Rams to spread the floor easier. VCU had lost four of their last five games heading into the conference tournament but seems to have found new life just down the road from campus in Richmond. They’ll be slight underdogs tonight but this is anybody’s game. Old Dominion will likely win the rebounding battle but whoever controls the turnover margin and the tempo will likely win this game and clinch the automatic berth.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.03.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Another Thursday night of mediocre power conference games means the mid-majors take priority, with the biggest one of all (Gonzaga, if they still are one) on the ropes. Apologies to Valparaiso and Cleveland State, but their game is not on television. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Wofford @ Charleston – 7 pm on ESPNU (**)

A Smiling Goudelock Means He's Hit a Rhythm, and You're In Trouble

These are the two best teams in the Southern Conference and they both happen to reside in the South Division. They’re tied in the loss column but Charleston won the first meeting in Spartanburg, as the Cougars shot 51% and out-rebounded Wofford on their way to victory. This game features the two best players in the conference, Wofford’s Noah Dahlman and Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock. You probably know about Goudelock from his exploits against North Carolina, Maryland and Tennessee, but Dahlman may be the best player most folks don’t know about.

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ATB: Nobody Wants to Play These Middies

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Championship Monday Night.  Four middies had their conference tourneys tonight, and we’ll be damned if we didn’t see at least a couple of RTCs out there (and a half-RTC in the WCC just for good measure).  Make no mistake, though, the four mid-major teams that won their leagues tonight are all excellent teams that nobody, we repeat, NOBODY, is going to want to see opposite their name in the brackets next week.  Every one of these four squads are seasoned, experienced and battle-tested units that won’t get rattled by seeing some bright lights, a big arena and a brand-name team standing at the other end of the court.  If none of these four teams pulls a first-round upset, then we don’t know anything about this game.

WCC ChampionshipSt. Mary’s 81, Gonzaga 62.  This game came down to a team that looked like it was playing for its NCAA life versus a team that was just happy going through the motions.  It was a complete mismatch in the second half of the WCC title game, as St. Mary’s confirmed its bona fides in a cathartic victory over its biggest rival and in the process serving notice that there are two powers coming out of the WCC this season.  The Gaels broke up a close game at halftime with a 51-point second half that included 68% shooting in the second half led by multiple threes from Mickey McConnell (26/6 assts/4 stls) and Ben Allen (20/9/4 assts).  Essentially it was a do-no-wrong kind of half for Randy Bennett’s team to the point where his team didn’t even need a big offensive night from their superstar center Omar Samhan (9/7/6 blks).  As for Gonzaga, this was the latest in a series of disappointing no-shows during the last six weeks where Mark Few’s team looked largely uninterested and apathetic — losses to San Francisco and LMU were similar occurrences.  Elias Harris in particular was miserable tonight, shooting 3-13 for eight points, and the entire team seemed to have grease on their hands with fourteen TOs in the game.  We realize that the Zags are always a threat to do some damage in March, but we’re just not convinced that this is one of Mark Few’s better teams, so it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if it was St. Mary’s that sticks around a little longer next week than their better-known counterparts in the NCAA Tournament.

Nope, SMC Didn't Surprise Us (AP/I. Brekken)

MAAC ChampionshipSiena 72, Fairfield 65 (OT). For an oh-so-brief moment, every bubble team in America held its collective breath.  Colin Nickerson’s three-pointer from the left corner was in the air to win the MAAC title for Fairfield, and if it had dropped, the weak bubble would have suddenly gotten a little more crowded with Siena joining the party.  Of course, it didn’t fall, and instead Siena capped off its title game comeback by dominating the overtime period and capturing its third straight MAAC championship to return to the NCAA Tournament.  For the third straight night, Siena found itself down at the half (this time by eleven) but as appropriate for a seasoned team, they never panicked, instead keeping their cool and eventually working their way back.  Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, veterans of four NCAA Tournament games in their careers, combined for 49/19 to lead the Saints, but it was Ubiles’ 360-dunk in the second half that signaled to Fairfield and the rest of the building that Siena was not going to leave without a victory tonight.  Forget about the six losses on Siena’s record this year — five of those were away games, and the last we checked, the Tournament is played on neutral floors, and we know what this group is capable of in that respect.  Ask Vanderbilt or Ohio State: nobody wants to play this team next Thursday or Friday.  To close out the MAAC, check out this video from SienaSaintsBlog of the RTC tonight.  Great stuff.

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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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