Checking In On… the Big West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 28th, 2012

David Gao is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can also find his musings online at Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, or on Twitter @dvdgao.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was

  • Long Beach State Halfway Home: UC Riverside’s David Chavarria was one made free throw away from handing the 49ers their first conference loss of the season on Thursday, with the game all tied up at 63 and two seconds left. Fortunately for Long Beach State, he missed, and the game went into overtime. Coach Dan Monson’s crew proceeded to take control of the extra period, propelling the 49ers to a 77-70 win and a sparkling 8-0 conference record halfway through the 16-game schedule. Thursday’s UCR game would have been a classic letdown game after Saturday’s impressive blowout of UC Santa Barbara on national television, but it’s clear that Long Beach State is determined to win out.

    Dan Monson Has Long Beach State Playing Excellent Basketball

  • Cal Poly Ties NCAA Record: The Mustangs made their first 11 three-pointers against Cal State Northridge on January 21, tying the all-time NCAA record for consecutive made threes. Cal Poly shut an incredible 71.4% on the night from long distance, going 15-21. Of course, they followed that up by shooting a paltry 3-29 the following game against Pacific (10.3%). The two nights added together equal 18-50, good for 36%, or their approximate season average.
  • Big West Lands Slew of Midseason Transfers: Some of the future stars of the Big West officially enrolled for the spring semester recently, with Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton the big winners. Arizona State star and southern California native Keala King is transferring to Long Beach after averaging 13.7 points in 13 games with the Sun Devils this year. Rumored to have character issues since high school, it will be interesting to see if King can settle in to lead the new era of 49er basketball along with fellow transfers Tony Freeland (DePaul) and Edgar Garibay (Loyola Marymount). In addition, Cal State Fullerton pulled in yet another D-I transfer (they currently have eight on their roster) in UTEP’s Darius Nelson, a freshman who never played a game for Tim Floyd. While some D-I transfers have excelled as expected (Orlando Johnson comes to mind), others haven’t received as much playing time as anticipated (Nate Garth, Johnson’s teammate).

Casper Ware And The 49ers Have Control Of The Big West. One Question Sure To Be Asked Is Whether They Have The Insurance Policy Of An At-Large Resume Worthy Of A Bid. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Long Beach State (15-6, 8-0) – Long Beach State fans were able to let out a huge sigh of relief on Thursday against UCR during the aforementioned missed free throw from David Chavarria with the game on the line, as Long Beach went on to complete the first half of conference play at a perfect 8-0. What’s more impressive is that arguably their three toughest games in conference, on the road against Cal Poly, UCSB and UCR, will all go down in the books as wins. Their supposed biggest test coming into conference play against UCSB at the Thunderdome, a game televised nationally on ESPNU, turned out to be a laugher, as the 49ers ran away with a lopsided 71-48 win. The question going forward remains the same: can Long Beach’s heavily used starting group stay fresh and maintain enough energy to close the season strong? Edis Dervisevic being reinstated from his academic suspension helps as the 49ers look to keep their NCAA at-large chances alive. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 12.22.11

Posted by bmulvihill on December 22nd, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tu Holloway is back from suspension to face Casper Ware and Long Beach State

There are too many three and four star games tonight to count, so in the interest of analyzing a few teams we have not touched on before, we picked three neutral court games that should be great.  Let’s get to the action.

Missouri vs. Illinois – 9:00PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • There are two reasons Missouri is flat-out destroying opponents this season — they shoot lights out and they protect the ball. The Tigers are first in the country in eFG% at 60% and first in the country in offensive turnover rate at 13.6%.  It is very difficult to beat a team that hits a majority of its shots and does not have empty possessions.  The Mizzou offense will be matched up against a solid Illinois defense. The Illini gets on the defensive boards and blocks shots.  Unfortunately, Bruce Weber’s guys are a little soft on their perimeter defense giving up 35.5% from three. Tiger guard Kim English, who shoots a ridiculous 53.2% (33-62) from beyond the arc, could have a field day tonight if not checked.
  • Illinois cannot try to outshoot Missouri tonight.  They will get blown off the court if they do.  They must focus on defense if they are to have a chance.  Keep an eye on 7’1” Illini center Meyers Leonard and what impact he has on the game against a small-ish Tigers team.  The tallest Mizzou starter is the 6’8” Ratliffe, who will have to check Meyers.  However, there is still a significant size difference.  Meyers will need to have a career game to lead Illinois to a victory.
  • Missouri’s shooting will dictate who wins this game.  If the Tigers shoot their average, they should take the victory.  Expect them to shoot a few more threes than normal against a weak Illini perimeter defense.  If Illinois is to keep this game close, Meyers will have to find a way to dominate on both ends of the floor.  Illinois needs to slow the game down and D.J. Richardson needs to continue to protect the ball against the Tiger press for the guys in orange to have a fighting chance.

Baylor vs. St. Mary’s – 10:30PM EST on ESPN3 (****)

  • In Baylor’s last game against a West Coast Conference team, it barely escaped 86-83 at BYU.  Despite being outshot by Baylor by a significant margin, the Cougars kept the game close by dominating the offensive boards.  St. Mary’s is a better offensive rebounding team than BYU, so keep an eye on how many offensive boards the Gaels grab in this game.  With Baylor blocking so many shots and creating steals on 13% of opponents possessions, their long and athletic front line makes scoring on them very difficult. Speaking of front lines, keep an eye on the Bears’ forwards Perry Jones, Quincy Miller, and Quincy Acy on offense as well.  St. Mary’s does not have the same level of athletes to match-up with the trio.
  • Baylor is by far the toughest test of the season for Randy Bennett’s team.  Keep an eye on how the Gaels handle the initial Baylor onslaught.  In order for the Gaels to stay in this game, they need to own the boards on both ends.  They are currently one of the top defensive rebounding teams in the country and solid on the offensive boards as well. St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is going to have to shoulder the offensive load.  Keep an eye on how he responds to the pressure.
  • St. Mary’s appears to be outmanned in this game, so hustle will be the key for them.  The size of the Baylor frontcourt could be too much for the Gaels.  Rebounding will be the key factor.  Baylor shoots the ball very well, but SMC can keep in close if they hit the boards.  Baylor needs to hang on to the ball and take advantage of their athleticism and length to win.

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Key to UNC’s Title Hopes Lie With Kendall Marshall (But Not the Way You Think)

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011

Will Rothschild is a RTC correspondent. He can be found on Twitter @warothschild. He filed this report following Saturday night’s North Carolina-Long Beach State game from Chapel Hill, N.C.

Long Beach State knew the blueprint to win in Blue Heaven. At this point it’s not a big secret:

Each Team Facing UNC Has a Marshall Plan

  1. Challenge Kendall Marshall on the defensive end.
  2. Challenge Kendall Marshall on the offensive end.

It may seem counterintuitive to dare one of the top two or three point guards in college basketball to beat you. But that’s the strategy opposing teams are sticking with so far – if for no other reason than no one has found any other vulnerability on a team that was the consensus preseason favorite to win the national championship. Of course, this is a program accustomed to being a big target – this year marked the third time since 2007-08 the Tar Heels entered the season ranked No. 1. And if any of the current Tar Heels understand the tradition in Chapel Hill and the pressure to perform that comes with wearing the famous argyle-trimmed uniform, it’s Marshall. The sophomore from Dumfries, Virginia, fell in love with the Carolina program as a grade-schooler, and committed to Roy Williams before his sophomore year of high school. So it’s perhaps fitting that Marshall, more than any other Tar Heel, is who must shoulder the burden of the one player opponents look to try to attack the most.

Case in point was Saturday night’s 84-78 defeat of Long Beach State. Betcha’ never seen a stat line like this before from a preseason All-American:

  • 1-for-6 shooting.
  • Two points.
  • Three rebounds.
  • And… wait for it… 16 assists.

And when Marshall – now averaging an even 5.0 points to go along with 10.2 assists per game – was at his best for about a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, Carolina was rolling, the Smith Center was rocking, and the Beach was on the verge of getting routed. Reggie Bullock was pouring in jumpers, Tyler Zeller was finishing on the break, and John Henson was dunking, all at the other end of Marshall’s room-service passing. But – and there always seems to be a “but” with Marshall and the Tar Heels these days – you could argue the game against the 49ers (4-5) was a lot closer than it should have been because of how well LBSU stuck to its Marshall Plan.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.28.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 28th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The quality of games kicks into high gear this week with a pair of good ones to start it off.

Long Beach State at #9 Louisville – 7 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • Louisville’s depth has taken a big hit recently with Wayne Blackshear, Mike Marra, and Peyton Siva all dealing with injuries. Siva returned from a sprained ankle Friday against Ohio in a closer than expected Cardinals win but he remains in a shooting slump. He is just 5-24 (20.8%) in three games this season but is managing to dish out six assists per contest. The Cardinals are winning games defensively as they are ranked second in the nation in defensive efficiency while only putting up 67 PPG on the other end of the floor. A Long Beach State team that plays quick without much defense could be the recipe Louisville needs to gain more confidence offensively. However, Louisville must avoid turnovers against the 49ers, a team that loves to get out in transition. The Cardinals are averaging 15 turnovers per game with Siva at a shaky 3.7 per game.

    Louisville Will Have Its Hands Full With Long Beach State

  • Long Beach State has lost twice on the road since winning at Pittsburgh, falling to San Diego State and Montana. The 49ers defense has not been up to par and that is hurting them significantly. They love to play at a fast pace but they are very average defensively as well as on the boards. Casper Ware going up against Siva should be a terrific match-up and he will need to carry the team all night as he did against Pittsburgh on November 16. Long Beach State is not going to get many opportunities to score against the strong Louisville defense so limiting turnovers, especially on the road, has to be its top priority. They average 15 a game but simply cannot afford that many in this game. To win, Long Beach State must play its best defensive game to date and get to the free throw line where they will have a significant edge over Louisville. Depth has to be a concern for Dan Monson, whose team only goes seven deep.
  • Larry Anderson and James Ennis have a height advantage at the two and three positions against Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric, but they must stay in front of their men all game. Ennis is a good on-ball defender averaging 2.3 steals per game, but the Louisville guards may be able to exploit Long Beach State from the three-point arc. In the paint, T.J. Robinson is a terrific rebounder but he will be going up against the 6’10” Gorgui Dieng (3.4 blocks per game) and a Louisville team that rebounds well as a unit. To earn more possessions for his team, Robinson likely has to have a big game on the glass as well as offensively. That will be extremely difficult against a Cardinals front line that allows only 33.5% shooting inside the arc. Long Beach State does have a chance to win the game but there is one major difference between Pittsburgh and Louisville. It is defense and that is why we feel the Cardinals have the ultimate edge in this game tonight.
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Overvalued/Undervalued: November Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on November 23rd, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve made it a priority to absorb as much college basketball as humanly possible. From Manhattan to Puerto Rico to Maui, there’s been an abundance of quality matchups and intriguing contests across the landscape, and, thanks to a lack of consequential responsibilities (college is fun), my mission has gone off without a hitch.

Of course, so much changes after the month of November. Teams alter their playing style, discontented reserves transfer for more playing time, someone blows out their ACL in practice…it’s inevitable that the outfits we see in March will only partially resemble our impressions today. We all remember the roller coaster ride for Connecticut a year ago – undefeated during a grueling non-conference, .500 in the Big East, 11-0 in postseason tourney play.

Still, trends are developing, players are emerging and teams are starting to separate themselves, especially after an unusually high number of premiere early-season games. Plus, as the saying goes: First impressions are the most lasting. Here are some players, teams and coaches I kept help but judging as either undervalued or overvalued after the first 3+ weeks.

Anthony Grant has Tide fans thinking about more than football

Overvalued: Wisconsin. The Badgers are turning some heads early on by posting lop-sided final scores and holding opponents to absurd point totals and field goal percentages. Allow me to pump the brakes for a moment. Those opponents that the Badgers are bludgeoning into oblivion are Kennesaw State, Colgate, UMKC and a Wofford team that lost their top three scorers.  Amidst the blowouts is actually a disturbing trend. Without Jon Leuer posting up or any feared back to the basket presence, Wisconsin is jacking up a three-pointer in 47.2% of their possessions, tops in the nation. Making 48% of those treys is fool’s good and completely unsustainable for any team not consisting of Jon Diebler clones. If they’re relying on so many threes against the dregs of Division I, what happens when Michigan State or Purdue muscles the Badgers around?  Bo Ryan has a real solid unit and Jordan Taylor will start to accrue more of the scoring load as the season wears on, but don’t be fooled by the lopsided scores and buy into Wisconsin as the 11th-best team in the land.

Undervalued: SEC top tier. The popular belief heading into this season was that the Big East would once again reign supreme among conferences. It certainly helps to have 16 teams, but that belief still holds true; the Big East could legitimately receive ten bids to the NCAA Tournament this season depending on how expected bubble teams like West Virginia, Notre Dame, Villanova and Georgetown develop. Among the expected contenders at the top of the league, though, the SEC stacks up with the powerful Big East. Kentucky finally has an ideal mix of ultra-talented rookies and returnees. Florida should have an outstanding campaign, especially after Patric Young held his own against Jared Sullinger. Vanderbilt will improve once Festus Ezeli returns. But it’s Alabama that swung the pendulum. Their smothering team defense, length and athleticism serves as the backbone for an emerging top-15 team in Tuscaloosa.

Overvalued: Andre Drummond. Sometimes we forget that Jared Sullinger is the exception to the rule. Most freshmen, especially freshman centers who don’t control as many possessions as guards, are humbled when they make the considerable jump from high school or prep ranks to the rigors of college basketball (Fab Melo anyone?). Drummond stunned the hoops universe by enrolling at his home state school for what everyone anticipated was a one-year cameo. Drummond will surely improve and post more inspiring numbers, but 23 points scored and 14 fouls committed through four games isn’t exactly the resume of a lottery pick. Drummond is in the midst of a challenging transition process, even more so than other rookies like Brad Beal, Anthony Davis or Quincy Miller. Luckily for him and most of the college basketball populous, there’s plenty of time till March.

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The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by KDoyle on November 20th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor and the Patriot League correspondent. Each week he will examine the other 26 non-power conferences in college basketball. You can find him on twitter @KLDoyle11.


Well this is refreshing, isn’t it? College basketball on the tube every night, several Other 26 teams already knocking some ranked BCS teams off of their high horses, and a whole lot of goodness upcoming with more early season tournaments and games. There is not a specific theme that has made itself apparent to open the season — I will usually try to hone in on a theme during the introduction of each column — but business has been usual to open the season. We have seen two major upsets with Long Beach State and Cleveland State shocking Top 10 teams — both have crawled into our Top 10 as a result — and we have not seen The Jimmer all over ESPN routinely hitting shots from 35 feet, something that was all too common last year. Rest assured though, as more and more games are played, storylines and themes will naturally develop. For now, let’s dig into the Top 10 teams for the week.

The Top 10

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Checking In On… the Big West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2011

David Gao is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can also find his musings online at Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, or on Twitter @dvdgao.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Long Beach State Posts Signature Win: Possibly the biggest win of the season comes early for the conference with LBSU topping No. 9 Pitt 86-76 on the road. Casper Ware and the 49ers were a nationwide trending topic on Twitter when they took down a Top 10 team in its own arena on Wednesday night. Ware shined, pouring in a career-high 28 points and six assists in 39 minutes, while newcomer James Ennis verified his status as a noteworthy addition with 19 points and six assists. How big is this win? It’s the first time Long Beach State has beaten a Top 10 team since 1993. On top of that, Long Beach won emphatically, as the Panthers never seriously challenged a nine-point Long Beach lead at halftime. The win snapped Pittsburgh’s 58-game non-conference winning streak at home.
  • UC Santa Barbara Gives Strong Outing: The Gauchos’ routed Santa Clara 89-56 last week. Although understandably not as headline-grabbing as Long Beach State’s win, the Gauchos’ 33-point drubbing of a middle of the pack West Coast Conference team is a good sign. The two-headed beast of Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally were back at it, leading UCSB with 21 and 24 points respectively.
  • Pacific, UC Irvine Sluggish Out Of The Gate: Two teams pegged to struggle in the preseason poll have well, struggled. Pacific posted an uninspiring win over the D-II Otters of Cal State Monterey Bay before getting trounced by previously winless Nevada, 78-54. Coach Bob Thomason shuffled through 15 players, trying to sort out who could contribute the most to his team of new faces. UCI has looked shell-shocked in losses at No. 24 Cal and lowly San Jose State, which was nearly a buzzer-beating win until Adam Folker’s last second put-back was deemed too late by video review. There’s nowhere to go but up for these two teams.

Casper Ware And The 49ers Stunned The Oakland Zoo On Wednesday. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

Power Rankings

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Jumping To Conclusions: Why Pittsburgh Is Overrated… For Now

Posted by mlemaire on November 17th, 2011

Tucked away, within the second-to-last sentence of the preview of his team in this week’s Sports Illustrated,  Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs flashed a little bit of braggadaccio. “We’re good enough to win a national title,” the 6’2” senior told SI‘s Rebecca Shore when she asked about the collection of talent on the Panthers’ roster. And although it’s still very early, after last night’s 86-76 loss to a veteran Long Beach State team, that bold claim looks quite a bit bolder. Of course, when Gibbs gave that quote, the season hadn’t even started yet and coach Jamie Dixon is looking to him for leadership this season, so what else is he supposed to say? But he isn’t the only knowledgeable source who set high expectations for Pittsburgh this year. Many experts readily picked Pittsburgh to finish near the top of the Big East alongside Connecticut and Syracuse. Some even picked them to win the conference title.

If last night was any indication, Jamie Dixon will need to do a lot of coaching this season.

And why not? The team lost three excellent veterans in Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, and Gary McGhee. But they also returned a solid nucleus of Gibbs, Travon Woodall, Nasir Robinson, and Dante Taylor, and a highly rated recruiting class that included consensus top-10 recruit Khem Birch. They also had one of the most consistent and proven coaches in the country steering the ship. But after watching the 49ers thoroughly outplay the Panthers on their home court, it may be time for expectations to be reset.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.16.11

Posted by bmulvihill on November 16th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

After a twenty-four hour marathon of hoops yesterday, we settle things down a bit and get into the groove of regular season college basketball.  Let’s check out a few games for you to watch tonight.

Indiana @ Evansville – 8 PM EST on ESPN3 (***)

Cody Zeller Leads Indiana Against Evansville

  • Picking up right where it left off last year, Evansville continues to win games at the free throw line.  Junior guard Colt Ryan scored 14 of his game high 23 points from the line in the Purple Aces’ overtime win against Butler last Saturday.  Ryan was not the only scorer for Marty Simmons’ team, as four other players scored in double figures.  With 40% of the team’s points coming from the line, Evansville relies on free throws to fuel their offense like few other teams.  Since Evansville does not look like it will be a one-man show, Indiana will have to be cognizant of fouls across the board so as to not find itself in the double bonus early in each half.
  • At 6’11”, Indiana freshman Cody Zeller gives the Hoosiers an athletic big man to go along with guards Vardell Jones, III, and Victor Oladipo.  IU has a significant advantage down low since no Evansville player is taller than 6’8”.  Indiana’s two-point shooting has been on target for the first two games, hitting 64.3% of its shots from inside the arc. Look for Zeller and the Hoosier guards to score from the paint regularly against a soft Evansville interior defense.
  • This game, like most Evanville games, hinges on the Purple Aces’ ability to attack the basket and get to the free throw line.  If they are not getting to the line they will assuredly lose.  They do not have the size to guard Zeller or create second-chance points for themselves on missed shots.  Simmons’ team faced similar circumstances against Butler, though, but pulled off the win thanks to a hefty 32 points from the line.  If Indiana can continue to defend the two well without fouling, they should have no problem leaving Evansville’s new building with a 3-0 record.

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The 2011-12 ProZach Awards

Posted by zhayes9 on November 8th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @zhayes9.

Every August, ESPN college football guru Kirk Herbstreit releases his Herbie awards, a grab bag of honors and predictions about the upcoming season covering everything from quickest running back to hardest-hitting linebacker. The Herbies are so popular they even resulted in their own half-hour show hosted by Herbstreit and Erin Andrews. With no equivalent in the hoops world, I volunteered to step up to the plate. Some of these awards are Herbie knock-offs, some are 100% original and all are intended to be fun. Whether they look ridiculous by March…well, the jury is out. Here are this year’s Pro-Zach awards, passing out happy pills since 2011:

Washington's Terrence Ross is ready to make the leap

All-Next Chapter

  • Team Irreverence: Players Who Don’t Get Enough Respect – GOLD: Rodney McGruder (Kansas State), SILVER: Kent Bazemore (Old Dominion), BRONZE: Doug McDermott (Creighton)
  • Shhh, Don’t Tell: Best Kept Secrets – GOLD: C.J. McCollum (Lehigh), SILVER: Alex Young (IUPUI), BRONZE: Dominique Morrison (Oral Roberts)
  • Forwarding Address: Top Transfers – GOLD: Mike Rosario (Florida), SILVER: Royce White (Iowa State), BRONZE: Brandon Wood (Michigan State)
  • Fresh Approach: Top True Freshmen – GOLD: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), SILVER: Austin Rivers (Duke), BRONZE: Andre Drummond (Connecticut)
  • Off and Running: Ready To Take It To The Next Level – GOLD: Terrence Ross (Washington), SILVER: Keith Appling (Michigan State), BRONZE: Michael Snaer (Florida State)

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