BGTD: BracketBuster Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, writer of the weekly column, The Other 26, will be providing some BGTD-style analysis throughout Saturday’s BracketBuster games, mostly focusing on the evening sessions.

(ed. note: we’ll work our way backwards so the most recent update is always at the top of the post.)

8:34 PM – UNI is holding onto a slim lead against George Mason thanks in large part to the strong play of Kwadzo Ahelegbe. The senior from Minnesota already has 18 points as the Panthers are up on GMU 54-50 late in the second half. I have not seen Ahelegbe play once this year, but I love his pure stroke from beyond the arc and his quickness while attacking the basket. If Northern Iowa can hold on against GMU it would be a huge confidence booster heading into the MVC tournament.

7:58 PM – The Panthers are besting George Mason 36-32 at the half and are playing the kind of basketball they have failed to play lately in the Missouri Valley. UNI lost three straight in the MVC and are no longer contending with Missouri State and Wichita State, but seem to be peaking at the right time. George Mason, win or lose, will still be the favorite in the CAA going into the conference tournament, but a win in Iowa over the Panthers would certainly help their resume if they falter in the CAA tournament. Cam Long and Ryan Pearson are two of the CAA’s best and are a tough match up for any opponent. I’d argue that the outcome of this game means more for GMU than UNI for the sole reason that Mason is still in contention for an at-large berth.

7:15 PM – College of Charleston ended up defeating Vermont 85-70 in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate. The Cougars proved how dangerous of a threat they are due to the play of one player: Andrew Goudelock. The senior from Georgia tore apart Vermont and in doing so proved they are they class of the Southern Conference. Can Charleston do what Davidson did a few years ago? Probably not, but Goudelock is a very similar player to Stephen Curry in how he is able to take over a game.

As for the other 5:00 game, Valpo soundly defeated Missouri State 80-67. The Crusaders, along with Cleveland State who thoroughly defeated Hofstra earlier today, appear to be the clear favorites in the Horizon League.

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The Other 26: Week 14

Posted by KDoyle on February 18th, 2011


Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor

Introduction

If you are a true fan of Mid-Major basketball, then this is the weekend for you. Many fans who find a whole lot of joy in watching teams from the smaller conferences compete, share the common gripe that there is not nearly enough coverage of these teams. Well, at no other point during the season will you see ESPN dedicate an entire Saturday of basketball almost exclusively to the best Mid-Major teams around the nation.

Playing against the same faces within a team’s conference can become monotonous, but the BracketBuster weekend enables 114 teams around the country a brief recess before the final stretch of the regular season and tournament time to play an opponent they would otherwise never play. Although many of these games will have little meaning in the grand scheme of things, there are a select few that have serious implications as several Mid-Major teams partaking in the BracketBuster weekend sit squarely on the bubble.

Brace yourself for a great day of college hoops on Saturday. With so many of the top Mid-Major teams in the country playing—George Mason, Utah State, St. Mary’s, Cleveland State, Old Dominion, Missouri State, and Wichita State—you can bet that at least one of these teams, if not more, will be wearing Cinderella’s slipper come March.

The Other 26 Rankings

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ATB: Charles Jenkins Shows His Pride From Deep…

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2011

The Lede.  It’s not that often that we lead with a relative unknown on a weeknight, but it’s also not often that a single player rips off 25- and 30-footers to keep his team alive and win the game at the buzzer.  America, meet Charles Jenkins.  If you knew him, great; if you don’t, take a moment.  He’s one of the best mid-major players in America and could probably give the Jimmer and others a run for their money if he got the chance.

Meet Mr. Jenkins (Newsday/J. McIsaac)

Your Watercooler MomentCharles Jenkins, Hero of Men.  It’s one thing to hit a buzzer-beater to tie a game to send it to overtime, but it’s quite another to do it again to win the game a few minutes later.  The video below is entitled “Charles being Charles,” and if you’ve never seen the 6’3 senior guard from Queens play, you’re in for a treat.  The reigning Colonial POY with the ungodly ability to make just about everything he throws at the basket — 53% FG, 43% 3FG, 83% FT — knocked out 28/4 assts tonight against William & Mary, including two long threes as the horn went off to ultimately give his team a top-four seed in the upcoming CAA Tournament.  In the first case, W&M held a three-point lead when Jenkins received the inbounds pass with 6.6 seconds left, begging the question as to why they didn’t foul him rather than let him get off the tying 24-footer.  The Tribe didn’t have that option in overtime, as Jenkins took ball upcourt with 4.5 seconds remaining and the game tied, but maybe they could have employed a little better pressure to keep him from receiving the pass… or at least a double-team on the catch?  William & Mary didn’t, so Jenkins found space on the left side about thirty feet away, and he drilled it, winning the game for his Pride.  Along with Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock and Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, Jenkins is one of the best players in America most of us have never seen play — but let’s hope that he and the others will be able to find their way into March Madness so that they all can entertain us on the game’s greatest stage.  In the meantime, this mini-compilation of tonight’s highlights will have to do…

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Butler’s Surge.  The defending national runners-up won their fifth game in a row tonight over Green Bay to move to 11-5 in the Horizon League, showing some of the resolve that we expected all season from a Brad Stevens team featuring a couple of studs in Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack.  Mack and Howard combined for 35/10/7 assts this evening, giving the Bulldogs a fighting chance to once again win the regular season title in the Horizon League and guarantee home court during the conference tourney.  Butler only has two games remaining (both winnable), but league leader Valpo has four games remaining and Cleveland State three — if Butler can get into one of the top two slots, we think it’s likely they’ll figure a way to get back to the NCAAs in an otherwise trying season.
  • The Johnnies.  We have to hand it to Steve Lavin’s coaching performance this season.  He’s managed to take a group of talented, experienced kids who had underachieved throughout their careers and turn them into a group that is finally and inexorably playing to its potential.  With three wins in the last six days, including another nice 80-68 win at Marquette this evening, SJU is approaching its first NCAA Tournament bid in nearly a decade.  The Red Storm do not excel at anything other than forcing turnovers (18 tonight for Marquette), but they hustle, claw and defend with a ruffian’s mentality befitting their NYC attitude.  Good for them.
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Constructing The Perfect College Basketball Player

Posted by zhayes9 on February 4th, 2011

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

Every college basketball player has flaws. Even the scoring leaders, double-double producers and faces of blueblood programs have portions of their game open to exploitation. For all of Jimmer Fredette’s heroic shooting performances, there’s the flat-footedness he sometimes shows on the defensive end of the floor. For every time Kemba Walker splits a ball screen and tear-drops a beautiful floater through the depths of the net, there’s questions abound regarding the reliability of his outside shot. For these numerous transformative qualities that make the cream of the crop in college basketball so memorable, no 21-year old can possibly have perfected his overall hoops arsenal.

That’s where I come into play. Working tirelessly for hours with the MIT Science and Engineering departments this week, I’ve successfully capitalized on the celebrated strengths and disposed of the much-critiqued flaws of some of our favorite players into one finished product. It is my honor and privilege to present my final creation: the perfect college basketball player.

David Lighty's defense adds another dimension to our perfect player

Pure Scoring Ability of Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins- No player in college basketball can put the ball in the hole with as much variety and skill as Jenkins. The Queens native and two-time Haggerty Award winner as the top talent in the New York area will go down as the greatest player in Hofstra basketball history and one of the top scorers in CAA history. Jenkins’ efficiency totals are off the charts: 21st in offensive rating, 43rd in effective FG% and 14th in true shooting percentage and his raw numbers (23.3 PPG, 54% FG, 42% 3pt) are doubly impressive when one considers there’s only one other double-digit scorer on the Pride and, as a result, Jenkins has to deal with endless double and triple teams from opposing defenses. Jenkins shows an equal propensity and efficiency both driving to the basket and drawing contact (161 free throw attempts already this season) while defenses must also respect a pinpoint outside shot. Jenkins could play, start and contribute for any program in the nation, but his unwavering loyalty to the Hofstra program through losing seasons and coaching changes only renders Jenkins college career even more extraordinary.

Defense of Ohio State’s David Lighty- There were other candidates that certainly could have qualified for this specific trait, but the experience of a fifth year senior, his winning credentials and the aptitude to guard multiple positions were the main reasons Lighty received the nod. Folks tout Lighty as the ultimate glue guy, but he’s so much more than that because of his defensive prowess. Lighty can effectively guard a scoring point guard with the shot clock winding down or contain a bruising power forward in the lane with the same excellence. He has a remarkable ability to corral loose balls, take timely charges, collect steals without gambling and quickly transfer from defense to transition. There isn’t a smarter player who’s seen more different situations under the spotlight in his five years in Columbus than Lighty.

Versatility of Arizona’s Derrick Williams- There’s not a tougher player in America to guard than Derrick Williams because of his ability to score from any place on the basketball court. The raw numbers are, frankly, staggering: 19.9 PPG on 64% FG and 24-35 3pt. Williams not only possesses solid post fundamentals and a variety of scoring moves on the block, but he’s also lethal facing the basket and operating in the mid-range game all the way to the perimeter and beyond. The sophomore forward is also wildly efficient and supremely intelligent, showing tremendous awareness, a high IQ, length and athleticism. This makes Williams nearly impossible to contain once he touches the rock. His operational ability both around the rim and on the perimeter is the ideal blend of versatility we need.

Craftiness of BYU’s Jimmer Fredette- Combining the pure scoring ability of Jenkins with the overall offensive repertoire and craftiness of Fredette would certainly be something to behold. Unless you’ve been trapped under a rock the last two weeks, The Jimmer has become the face of the sport for his previously unimaginable shooting displays. How Fredette collects his 40+ point performances without even breaking a sweat has to be witnessed to truly appreciate. First there’s a spin move and a scoop in the lane amongst the trees. Then there’s a hesitation dribble, killer crossover and explosion to the rim for an and-1. Respect the drive and he’ll pull up in a split second for a dagger three from NBA range. There are no limits on the basketball court for Fredette on the offensive end. This year’s frontrunner for National Player of the Year has the intelligence and scoring craftiness that’s simply unmatched on the collegiate level today.

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The 10 BracketBuster Games You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted by KDoyle on February 1st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.  His weekly column, The Other 26, explores the minutiae of the twenty-six Division I conferences outside the BCS sextet. 

One of the best weekends of the year prior to Championship Week and, of course, the NCAA Tournament, is when the BracketBusters are played. It provides a nice break from conference play, and some of the top mid-major teams in the country have an opportunity to strut their stuff, build up that all-important resume, and have a last opportunity of picking up a quality non-conference victory. Because many of the top games are televised, it is also a great chance for all you guys out there that solely pay attention to the BCS teams around the country to gain some insight of who may have a shot at upsetting a higher seed and advancing a round or two when filling out your Tournament bracket next month. Here are my top 10 BracketBuster game, from tenth to first:

10.   Kent State at Drexel—February 18, 9PM (ESPNU)

Neither team is in the running for an at-large bid, but obtaining additional confidence heading into their respective conference tournaments is what both will play for. Drexel is just a step below the top teams in the CAA, while Kent State is right in the mix for the MAC crown as there has not been one team that has truly distinguished themselves. The Flashes, led by Justin Greene’s 16 points and 7.5 boards a night, are one of the more balanced teams in the MAC as five players average nine points or more. Chris Fouch, arguably Drexel’s top player, will really test Kent State’s backcourt.

9.   Austin Peay at Fairfield—February 19, 1PM (ESPNU)

Fairfield has been flying under the radar playing in the MAAC this year—not as much attention has been given to the league due to Siena’s return to mediocrity after a great run under Fran McCaffery—and they are one of the hottest teams in the nation. Aside from a tough one point loss at Loyola (MD) in mid-January, Fairfield has not lost since November 23 against St. Joseph’s. They are currently the favorite to win the MAAC, but there are a host of teams nipping at their heels. The Stags will take on an Austin Peay squad that sits atop their league—the Ohio Valley Conference—as well. The game will feature two of the better point guards in the land of mid-majors as Derek Needham for Fairfield averages 14 points and 5 assists, and Caleb Brown for Austin Peay is second in the OVC in assists.

8.   Hofstra at Wright State—February 19, 11AM (ESPNU)

Hofstra and Wright State are both teetering on the edge of becoming legitimate contenders in their respective leagues. The Pride got out to a quick 5-0 start in the CAA, but have gone 3-3 in their last six to fall behind Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason. In the crazy Horizon League this year, it is anyone’s best guess who will be the last one standing. Cleveland State with Norris Cole looks to be the current favorite, but Wright State is not far behind. The storyline for this game will undoubtedly revolve around Charles Jenkins who has a legitimate shot of hearing his name called by David Stern on NBA Draft night, but don’t be surprised if Vaughn Duggins for Wright State steals the show. The fifth-year senior has scored in double figures in every game save two, and is the fourth leading scorer in the Horizon League.

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by KDoyle on January 28th, 2011

Introduction

We are just about halfway through the conference schedules and the true contenders are beginning to reveal themselves, while the pretenders are wallowing away after deceiving the country for so many weeks. Take a team like Central Florida, for instance. They looked like a legitimate top 25 team and a definite candidate for an at-large berth after breezing through the non-conference with an unblemished record, but their 1-5 record in Conference USA makes that great run in the non-conference all for naught. Conversely, take a gander at Duquesne. The Dukes went a modest 8-5 in the non-conference with losses to Robert Morris and George Mason, but have gone onto take the Atlantic 10 by storm. Suffice to say, it is hard to gauge just how good some teams are based solely on the non-conference. Some coaches will elect to challenge their team by scheduling a tough OOC schedule, while others will stockpile a bunch of cupcakes to pick up easy wins. The distinction between the pretenders and contenders will continue to be illuminated all the way up until the conference tournaments. Up until then, we sit and watch teams rise above expectations heading into conference play and watch others flounder.

The Other 26 Rankings

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Set Your Tivo: 01.27.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 27th, 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.

Tonight we highlight the little guys. First place is on the line in the Colonial while St. Mary’s looks to widen its lead in the WCC. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Hofstra @ VCU – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

VCU Will Need a Little More From Rodriguez This Evening

Both teams are tied atop the CAA at 8-1 but the Rams are the favorite here at home where they’re undefeated on the year. VCU has lost only twice at home in the last three years and both defeats were to the same team: Northeastern. Shaka Smart’s team loves to shoot the three, but is missing a key part of that attack with Brandon Rozzell out due to a broken hand. Without Rozzell in the fold, VCU will turn to Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess for the bulk of their three point shooting. Rodriguez is coming off a season high 28 points at Towson while Burgess is making 44% of his threes this season. Against a Hofstra defense ranked #290 against the trey, you can bet VCU will be firing up plenty of them tonight, as they usually do.

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ATB: Notre Dame Sets Pitt on Fire With Its Burn Offense

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2011

The Lede.  On paper it didn’t appear to be much of a Big Monday, but Notre Dame’s visit to Pittsburgh tonight changed all that.  The lesson from the last eight days in the Big East might just be that nobody is safe in this exceptional basketball conference.

Hansbrough and Co. Silenced the Oakland Zoo Tonight (PPG/M. Freed)

Your Watercooler MomentNotre Dame Burns Pitt.  Perhaps Notre Dame caught the Pitt Panthers in a post-celebratory Steelers hangover tonight, or perhaps the Irish are just a very good team that has had the Panthers’ number the last two seasons.  Whatever the case, Notre Dame’s win this evening at the Peterson Events Center, a venue where Pittsburgh has only lost eleven games over the last nine years, is the kind of win that can catapult a team to great things.  Pitt, ranked #2 in the AP poll and #3 in the RTC poll that came out earlier today, was stymied by the same offensive strategy the Irish employed last season on its way to two wins versus the Panthers.  Notre Dame calls it the “burn,” as it is designed to slow down the Panther attack and force its defense to play 35 full seconds and respond accordingly.  It almost sounds counterintuitive, right — slow down Pitt and force them to defend?  Yet this year’s version of Panthers are actually an incredibly efficient offensive team (#1 according to Pomeroy), and while defense and rebounding are always a Jamie Dixon staple, the best way to defeat Pitt this year is to limit their offensive possessions.  The fewer they have, the less opportunities they’ll have to score.  Notre Dame slowed the pace down to an unrelenting crawl, ultimately topping out at a Division I season-low of 48 possessions (for context, an average Wisconsin game has 58 possessions, or ten more than tonight’s molasses-induced game at Pitt).  The game’s slow tempo and Notre Dame’s patience never allowed Pitt to ignite a major run that would set the Oakland Zoo on fire, so that in the last nine minutes of the game the margin was close enough for Ben Hansbrough to do his work off the bounce (13 of his 19 points in that period).  Psycho-T’s little brother utilized simple ball-screens to come off for several open jumpers and forays to the rim for easy layups down the stretch.  Pitt couldn’t seem to figure it out, and as a result, the Panthers lost for only the second time in 53 games at home (but its third in a row to ND).  Carleton Scott’s timely three-point shooting throughout the game (5-6) was also instrumental for in  the big upset.  With the win, the Irish, who have already lost road games in the Big East to Syracuse, St. John’s, and Marquette, may want to consider running the burn more often — with four winnable games on the immediate horizon, Mike Brey’s team could be sitting at a strong 10-3 going into the last dash of the Big East schedule.  No matter how the rest of the season turns out for Mike Brey, this was a season-defining win the Irish should be proud of.  Now that both Pitt and Kansas’ long home court winning streaks have come to an end this season, is Duke next?  The Devils host dangerous BC at home Thursday night.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • Did Kansas State Save Its Season? Well, it’s a start.  What we do know is that if Frank Martin’s team couldn’t see the gigantic eight-ball in front of them coming into tonight, then they had some serious 3D shades on.  A loss tonight would have dropped K-State to 1-5 in the Big 12 with a trip to Lawrence pending next weekend.  This was as close to a must-win as we’ve seen this season for a team at this point in the year.  The game tonight was ugly, boring and in many ways comical in the two teams’ ineptitude, but it was a key win for Kansas State regardless.  Who knows, maybe now the Wildcats will start putting things together, but the truth is that this team has every earmark of a season-long disappointment rather than a late bloomer.
  • Charles Jenkins Rallies Hofstra.  When you’re the best player in the CAA, as Charles Jenkins is, you’re going to have some games where you’re asked to carry your team to a victory where your team otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance.  With sixteen minutes remaining and Hofstra down fourteen points tonight in Hempstead, Jenkins turned on his scoring abilities and dropped seventeen points in a variety of ways to bring his team back, sending the game to overtime at 79-all.  He then scored six more of his team’s thirteen in the overtime period to lock up a key win that keeps the Pride in a tie for first place in the CAA with VCU at 8-1.  Jenkins 35/3/5 assts/2 stls wasn’t his most impressive performance of the season — he dropped 40/5/6 assts on Binghamton in December — but it was right on cue tonight.  Jenkins is having a phenomenal year — 24/4/5 APG while shooting 56% overall and 45% from distance — we really hope that he finds his way into the NCAA Tournament so that some first round BCS opponent will sweat bullets trying to figure him out.

and Misses.

  • And Lots of Them.  As in misses.  Tonight in the craptacular second half of the Big Monday slate in Manhattan, preseason All-American guards Jacob Pullen and LaceDarius Dunn combined to brick their way to 8-30 from the field and 5-15 from three.  Their poor performances tonight are indicative of the struggles that both teams have had with the burden of big-time expectations this year.  Baylor is still seeking its first quality win of the 2010-11 season while K-State is hoping those Washington State and Virginia Tech wins back in the first few weeks of the season wear well into the late winter.

Tweet of the Night.  Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 21st, 2011

 

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

Well, a lot has happened since our last check-in. Way back then (err, two weeks ago), this was a relatively quiet league with a pretty decent out-of-conference showing. Sure, there were occasional upsets (like Drexel over Louisville or Delaware over Old Dominion), but not too much to turn the conference on its head. Now, seven games into conference play, that has changed. Big time. Virginia Commonwealth and Hofstra have lifted themselves to the top of the conference standings, while Drexel and Northeastern have fallen a long way. Nobody seems safe anymore and with everyone beating up on one another, the CAA’s chances at being a multi-bid conference seem all but vanished.  That, however, doesn’t mean there’s no reason to enjoy the games. In fact, this probably makes it far more exciting to be a fan of the conference. It’s becoming quite clear that spectators should watch these games with no preset notion of which team is going to win, because that’s likely to be wrong. Without too much more chit-chat, let’s get to the recaps and all-important power rankings in this week’s CAA check-in.

  • Player of the Week: Joey Rodriguez, G, Virginia Commonwealth: The senior guard has been an understated part of the Rams’ league-second-best offense (72.9 points per game) as he runs the point with the poise and experience of a fourth-year player. In two victories last week, he contributed 14 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists while turning over the ball only four times and creating four steals. There’s little doubt Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess, and Brandon Rozzell would be able to do what they’re doing without Rodriguez’s steadying presence.
  • Team of the Week: William & Mary: Don’t act so surprised. The Tribe has, in the previous two games, been able to do what many teams in this conference have not on consecutive nights – blow teams out. In a league where every matchup is seemingly a nail-biter, William & Mary upset Drexel (which was coming off a win against Old Dominion) and then beat Towson by a combined total of 29 points.
  • Stat of the Week – 6: The number of CAA teams in the most recent Mid-Major Top 25 poll, which speaks to the amazing talent and balance at the top of this conference.

Charles Jenkins Watch

Week Four of our Charles Jenkins Watch, and he’s still at it. The senior guard hasn’t scored less than 13 points all season (and other than that one game, it has been less than 19) and last week compiled 41 points in two contests. He was, however, only 6-16 from the field in a loss against Old Dominion, but the Queens native still ranks seventh in the nation in scoring with an impressive average of 23.2 points per game.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(14-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 22, SOS 40)
Last week: L 62-57 @ Drexel, W 75-64 @ Hofstra, W 64-58 vs. James Madsion
This week: 1.22 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.24 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.26 @ Georgia State

Previous rank: No. 1

What a wild week it has been for Old Dominion. And for that matter, everyone in the conference. But for the Monarchs in particular, this was a week during which they could prove their mettle, and why they’re the highest-ranked CAA team in the Mid-Major Top 25. After faltering on the road against a baffling Drexel team, Old Dominion rebounded nicely with a win against previously undefeated in the CAA Hofstra and then snapped James Madison’s nine-game winning streak. Not a bad way to round out the week. And the kicker is, they’re still gridlocked in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings.

2. George Mason
(13-5, 5-2 CAA – RPI 44, SOS 56)
Last week: W 66-51 vs. Georgia State, W 71-47 vs. Drexel
This week: 1.22 @ James Madison, 1.24 @ Delaware, 1.26 vs. Towson

Previous rank: No. 3

Ranked 12th in the Mid-Major Top 25, the Patriots have been one of the few teams who have played things out according to script – lose to teams ahead of you, beat those below you. George Mason has the second-highest RPI of any team in the conference right now, and continues to feast on a high field-goal percentage (48.4 percent – 18th in the nation). If that keeps up, along with the 14-points-per-game scoring averages of Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, there’s little doubt the Patriots will more than be in the mix come season’s end. Want even more of a reason to feel good? Check out how many games kenpom.com has the Patriots losing the rest of the way.

3. Virginia Commonwealth
(14-5, 6-1 CAA – RPI 68, SOS 163)
Last week: W 73-64 vs. Northeastern, W 71-54 vs. Georgia State
This week: 1.22 @ Old Dominion, 1.24 @ Towson

Previous rank: No. 5

Would you look at that? Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the Rams are at the top of the conference and have pieced together a five-game winning streak in a league where it’s becoming apparent that that’s quitter a difficult task to accomplish. VCURamNation is buzzing, and rightfully so as the Rams most recently exacted revenge against Georgia State, which handed them their only conference loss thus far. A showdown against Old Dominion at the Constant Convocation Center looms on Saturday, so Jamie Skeen and company better eat their Wheaties.

4. James Madison
(15-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 63, SOS 201)
Last week: W 79-67 vs. Georgia State, W 63-54 vs. UNC-Wilmington, L 64-58 @ Old Dominion
This week: 1.22 vs. George Mason, 1.24 @ Hofstra, 1.26 vs. Drexel

Previous rank: No. 4

Everything was lined up perfectly for the Dukes to steamroll into the toughest portion of their conference schedule riding an unprecedented winning streak. That is, until they lost to Old Dominion, and now must find a way to regroup with George Mason, Hofsta and Drexel on the horizon rather than look to extend a record streak. Still, what the Dukes accomplished during their impressive run (the school’s best since 1992-93) won’t soon be forgotten and a showdown against George Mason at 11 a.m. on Saturday probably has leading scorer Denzel Bowles (17.1 points per game) champing at the bit.

5. Hofstra
(12-6, 6-1 CAA – RPI 103, SOS 143)
Last week: L 75-64 vs. Old Dominion, W 66-57 vs. UNC-Wilmington
This week: 1.22 @ William & Mary, 1.24 vs. James Madison, 1.27 @ Virginia Commonwealth

Previous rank: No. 8

A mistake is a mistake, and it appears as though last week’s rank of No. 8 was way too low for the Pride. After the conclusion of the non-conference schedule, Hofstra simply skyrocketed and now sits tied with Virginia Commonwealth at the top of the standings. If not for a loss against Old Dominion, the Pride would be roaring even louder. Naturally, Charles Jenkins receives a large amount of attention, but don’t underestimate the minutes Mike Moore (14.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game) contributes. The key to Hofstra’s success so far has largely depended on its ability to hang on to the ball (17.2 turnover percentage) and nail free throws (75.5 free-throw percentage).

6. Drexel Dragons
(11-6, 3-4 CAA – RPI 65, SOS 95)
Last week: W 62-57 vs. Old Dominion, L 80-66 @ William & Mary, L 71-47 @ George Mason
This week: 1.22 vs. Northeastern, 1.24 vs. Georgia State, 1.26 @ James Madison

Previous rank: No. 2

You can’t help but think that Drexel did this to itself. Maybe it was coach Bruiser Flint’s suspension, maybe it was the realization that rebounding alone cannot win basketball games, maybe it was the high from downing Old Dominion, or maybe the Dragons had become such a target that other teams played at their top level in order to defeat Drexel. Whatever the case, the Dragons already have lost four conference games and back-to-back games in humiliating fashion. First it was an 80-66 pounding at the hands of William & Mary. Yes, you read that right, and yes the Tribe shot 60 percent in that game. Then the Dragons dropped a 71-47 decision to George Mason in which they scored 17 second-half points. So in a two-game span, Drexel lost by a combined 38 points and completely undid what little chance there might have been for an at-large bid.

7. Delaware
(9-8, 4-3 CAA – RPI 137, SOS 180)
Last week: W 66-63 @ Towson, W 54-52 vs. Northeastern

This week: 1.22 @ Georgia State, 1.24 vs. George Mason, 1.26 @ William & Mary

Previous rank: No. 6

This is where the dividing line starts to fall between the CAA’s top teams and the rest of the pack. But with that said, any of the teams ranked sixth and below have proven very capable of beating anyone in the upper tier. The Blue Hens probably had a bit rougher week than anticipated as both victories against Towson and Northeastern came down to the wire – especially Jamelle Hagins’ dunk with 21 seconds remaining to give Delaware the victory against the Huskies. The Blue Hens are the last remaining team on this list with a winning record in conference play.

8. UNC-Wilmington
(9-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 131, SOS 110)
Last week: L 63-54 @ James Madison, L 66-57 @ Hofstra
This week: 1.22 vs. Towson, 1.24 @ Old Dominion, 1.26 vs. Northeastern

Previous rank: No. 7

It wasn’t the best week for Seahawks anywhere as UNC-Wilmington dropped down to .500 by losing consecutive contests to James Madison and Hofstra. Granted those are two of the better teams in the conference, but it was a hit UNCW probably couldn’t afford to take more than midway through the CAA slate. The Seahawks do a lot of things well, but nothing great which is pretty much the recipe for a .500 squad. Chad Tomko (16.1 points per game) and Keith Rendleman (10.2 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game) continue to leads a team that’s right in the thick of things, but probably not good enough to down the big boys come crunch time.

9. William & Mary
(6-12, 2-5 CAA – RPI 245, SOS 132)
Last week: W 80-66 vs. Drexel, W 83-68 @ Towson
This week: 1.22 vs. Hofstra, 1.24 @ Northeastern, 1.26 vs. Delaware

Previous rank: No. 11

The Tribe picked one heck of a way to snap a seven-game losing streak, eh? Not only did William & Mary trounce Drexel, but then it turned right around and dismantled Towson. In two games, the Tribe has beaten its opponents by a combined 29 points and have turned their downtrodden program into a respectable one in a matter of days. The real test will come Saturday, when the Tribe has to face a difficult Hofstra team at Kaplan Arena.

10. Georgia State
(8-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 205, SOS 200)
Last week: L 79-67 @ James Madison, L 66-51 @ George Mason, L 71-54 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: 1.22 vs. Delaware, 1.24 @ Drexel, 1.26 vs. Old Dominion

Previous rank: No. 11

While Georgia State has lost three games in a row, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they’re the only team in the conference to beat both Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison. The CAA’s version of a spoiler, no doubt. Last week, however, both school exacted their revenge on the Panthers, who are still searching for a go-to scorer down the stretch. Those three losses, however, came to three very talented schools. Don’t be surprised is Georgia State pulls a few more upsets before season’s end – snow-delayed games or not.

11. Towson
(4-13, 0-7 CAA – RPI 267, SOS 168)
Last week: L 66-63 vs. Delaware, L 83-68 vs. William & Mary
This week: 1.22 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.24 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.26 @ George Mason

Previous rank: No. 10

Towson joins Northeastern as the two winless teams in CAA play But the Tigers do appear to be in slightly better shape than the Huskies. No, it’s not because they’ve only lost six straight instead of eight. But because they are getting contribution across the board (four scorers average double figures) and their rebounding (33.4) and points (70.1) averages aren’t nearly as bad. No game is going to be easy for Towson the rest of the way, but there’s little doubt the Tigers won’t get that first conference victory sooner rather than later.

12. Northeastern
(4-14, 0-7 CAA – RPI 184, SOS 30)
Last week: L 73-64 @ Virginia Commonwealth, L 54-52 @ Delaware
This week: 1.22 @ Drexel, 1.24 vs. William & Mary, 1.26 @ UNC-Wilmington

Previous rank: No. 9

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Well, maybe not mighty, but certainly not many could have predicted the Huskies would be winless through seven games of conference action. Northeastern has lost eight games in a row and is having trouble both scoring (62.8 points per game) and rebounding (28.5 rebounds per game). And in a conference where rebounding is king, that’s a problem. One quick look at Northeastern’s kempom.com page, and the amount of red tells you all you need to know. The Huskies haven’t beaten a team with an RPI higher than 130 this season. Thought if it’s any consolation, their strength of schedule is a robust 30. It will be interesting to see who wins Saturday’s matchup of two struggling programs in Drexel and Northeastern.

A Look Ahead

For whatever reason, the chips just happened to fall on Saturday as a huge day of games for the conference. Here’s a look at three games you won’t want to miss this weekend. And mine as well throw the NFL’s championship weekend games on top of that as well. Those things are gonna be good÷

  • Jan. 22, George Mason (13-5, 5-2) at James Madison (15-4, 5-2): Set the coffee maker and make sure you wake up for this one, which tips off at 11 a.m. from the JMU Convocation Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU and, more importantly, will provide a big road test for the Patriots, who are coming off a big win against Drexel. Player to watch: James Madison’s Denzel Bowles. The senior forward has compiled back-to-back 20-plus point games and boasts the top field goal percentage on the team (and second-best in the conference) at 60.9 percent. He also has yanked down double-digit rebounds in three of JMU’s previous four games.
  • Jan. 22, Virginia Commonwealth (14-5, 6-1) at Old Dominion (14-4, 5-2): If possible, this game might carry bigger implications than the George Mason-James Madison battle, if only because VCU sits atop the league and on a five-game winning streak. That said, Old Dominion is out to prove it’s still the top dog in the CAA. Player to watch: Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell. Two of his five double-doubles on the season have come in his past two games. The senior forward has the ability to take over a game, so watch out if the crowd gets behind him.
  • Jan. 22, Hofstra (12-6, 6-1) at William & Mary (6-12, 2-5): While this might not be the sexiest matchup of the CAA’s Super Saturday, it has the potential to be an important one no matter which team wins. If Hofstra takes it, it does no worse than maintain its position atop the conference. If the Tribe pulls an upset, it extends its winning streak to three and proves that nobody should take it lightly. Player to watch: William & Mary junior swingman Quinn McDowell. In his previous three games, he has scored 45 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. As the lead contributor on the Tribe, he’ll need to step up. It will also be interesting to see who guards Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins.

Caught on Film

Remember, if you like CAA basketball highlights (and we’re assuming you do since you made it this far), check out the CAA’s YouTube page for regular highlights.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.14-01.16

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 14th, 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 action-packed weekend awaits grateful hoop fans as we’re about two months away from March Madness. Conference play is really heating up and races are beginning to take shape. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#23 Vanderbilt @ Tennessee – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (***)

Often Overlooked, Ezeli Is A Workhorse For the Commodores.

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The Other 26: Week 9

Posted by KDoyle on January 14th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

The non-conference is often times a good barometer for determining how strong a team will be and how they will perform within their respective conferences during league play. There are times, of course, when a team will challenge themselves by scheduling many BCS opponents and tough mid-majors, and compile a poor OOC record. Despite the lackluster record, they still may be a quality team. In some instances, however, it simply takes teams longer to gel and come together—conference play is when they finally peak. Likewise, there are always a handful of squads that will play nothing but cupcakes with extra frosting on the top, and run up many wins throughout the first half of the year, only to flounder during conference play. After witnessing teams play several games against conference opponents, let’s take a look at who may be exceeding expectations based on a struggling OOC record, and who has fallen flat on their faces after soaring through the OOC:

Surprising

  • Binghamton (6-10, 3-0)—Although they have beaten three of the weaker teams in the America East, the Bearcats are out to a nice 3-0 start nevertheless and have one of the best pure scorers in the league in Greer Wright. If Binghamton can knock off Vermont and Maine—two of the top teams—then they will be taken as a serious threa
  • Hofstra (11-5, 5-0)—Any team with Charles Jenkins has a fighter’s chance. Jenkins has the Pride as the last unbeaten team in the CAA, but a crucial game looms with ODU this weekend.
  • Wagner (8-8, 4-1)—Don’t bet against the Hurley family. Dan and Bobby Hurley are both in their first year with the program, and have already brought in some great recruits and wins to go along with it.
  • Holy Cross (3-13, 2-0)—Gone are the days where the Crusaders would breeze through the Patriot League en route to the NCAA Tournament. Now, Milan Brown has the daunting task of building Holy Cross back into the mid-major power they once were. After a disastrous non-conference, HC has won their first two league games.

Falling

  • Cleveland State (15-3, 4-2)—The Vikings look to be a notch below the upper tier teams of the league. After winning their first 12 games, Cleveland State had a rough weekend this past losing to Butler and Valpo.
  • Loyola Chicago (10-8, 1-6)—Similar to Cleveland State, Loyola Chicago looked like they could be a force in the Horizon League, but have lost all their games to the top five teams in the Horizon. They began the year 7-0, and their first loss was only by two points to Butler
  • Northern Iowa (12-6, 3-3)—After defeating New Mexico to win the Las Vegas Classic, UNI looked like they would challenge Wichita State and Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. They are just 3-3 in their last six games, with the most disappointing loss coming in a lackluster effort against Indiana State where they lost 70-45
  • San Jose State (9-7, 1-4)—Adrian Oliver, a transfer from Washington, may be the best player in the WAC, but his Spartans have not been able to follow suit. San Jose State went 8-3 in the non-conference, but have gone onto lose four of their last five games.

Granted, conference play is still very young, and no team has even gone through the first go-around of games against their counterparts, so there still is ample time for many things to happen. With that being said, the preceding 10 teams certainly did stick out when analyzing their play in the non-conference and comparing it to their performance in their league.

The Other 26 Rankings

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ATB: NPOY Race Getting Crowded With Jimmer, Nolan, Sullinger All Crushing…

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2011

The Lede.  It was an eventful night across the college basketball landscape, from Tennessee’s beatdown to Jimmer’s blow-up and the general sense that Duke might never lose a game again.  There were undefeated teams staying undefeated and there were disappointing teams staying disappointing.  Let’s flesh it out.

Fredette Was Unconscious at Times Tonight (LV Sun/J. Bowen)

Your Watercooler MomentMust-See Jimmer.  Was it when Jimmer Fredette pulled up from 28 feet the first time or the second time?  Was it when Memphis missed its second 1-on-5 fast break or the third time against Tennessee?  Since we’re feeling charitable tonight, we’ll go with Jimmer.  Thanks to CBS College Sports for allowing the nation to see BYU’s game at UNLV tonight, because otherwise, Fredette’s superb 39-point performance would have just ended up as another box score line without any real context for how ridiculously hot this guy can get.  Here’s a brief synopsis: at the five-minute mark of the first half, Fredette had five points and was 2-8 from the floor.  Not coincidentally, BYU was down eight points and looking shaky in a rocking Thomas & Mack Center.  Then: 3-ball, 3-ball, 3-ball, 3-ball.  All before halftime, as BYU took a three-point lead into the break.  Fredette hit three more in the second half and Jackson Emery added six more himself as the Cougars tormented UNLV from the perimeter with ball-fakes leading to open jumpers and pull-ups off the delayed break.  When Dave Rose’s team is hitting bombs like they were tonight (14-28), they appear unbeatable; of course, that’s not always the case, but Fredette is approaching that JJ Redick/Adam Morrison level of explosiveness where his games are nearly must-watch theater just in case you miss something special.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • Heir Jordan.  UCF moved to a perfect 14-0 after defeating Marshall tonight, as the younger progeny of MJ (Marcus) seems to have really found his confidence.  He blew up for his second consecutive game of 26 points (plus six rebounds and five assists), and it’s clear that the sophomore guard is asserting control over this team.  He is looking to attack the basket relentlessly, and although he doesn’t have the athleticism or size of his pops, he’s showing an ability to get into the paint, create scoring opportunities and draw fouls (6.5 per game).  We’re starting to wonder if he isn’t just scratching the surface of his talent.
  • Forget Singler — We Should Be Talking Nolan Smith For NPOY.  Kyle Singler is still a fantastic player (he passed the 2,000-point mark at Duke tonight), but his teammate Nolan Smith is killing it right now and frankly deserves to be in the NPOY discussion at this point in the year.  In his last five games, the senior guard is averaging 26 PPG and knocking down over 60% of his twos and threes.  On the season, he’s at 20/5/6 APG and it’s hard to believe that we all thought Duke might struggle somewhat without Kyrie Irving around to run the Blue Devil offense.  Obviously, ACC defenses are familiar with how to play Smith after three previous seasons defending him, but we have to give it up for the guy.  He’s only getting better and better.
  • Bruce Pearl With His Back Against the Wall.  It never fails.  EVERY time the Vol coach looks like he’s down and out in Knoxville, his team comes out and plays like a top ten team.  We’ll get to Josh Pastner’s band of buffoons below (seriously, someone ranked them?), but in the last game before Pearl’s SEC-imposed suspension, his team ran, shot, blocked and dunked all over intrastate rival Memphis tonight.  The twenty-point margin was a gift, honestly, as UT spent most of the game up thirty points or more.  That this same Tennessee team lost to Charlotte, Oakland and Charleston shows that the only problem with Pearl’s team is between the temples — when they are focused and ready to play, they’re as talented as all but a few teams in America.  Oh, and PS… his quote that he told his team they shouldn’t get too excited over beating a CUSA team… priceless.
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