Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Other Friday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Auburn vs. Seton Hall and Louisville vs. Vanderbilt. 

Vanderbilt v. Louisville

Vanderbilt and Louisville will feature two top 25 teams facing off in the KFC Yum! Center.

Mike: The matchup has all the makings of a classic offense v. defense battle. Even without senior center Festus Ezeli, the Commodores are a prolific scoring team (#23 in adjusted offense) and swingmen John Jenkins (20.2 PPG) and Jeffery Taylor (15.4 PPG) can fill it up in a hurry. Of course they haven’t played a team as talented as Louisville. Even with the injuries to Wayne BlackshearMike MarraStephan Van Treese, and Rakeem Buckles, the Cardinals are still undefeated and the main reason why is they play suffocating defense (#3 in adjusted defense). However, with apologies to Butler, Louisville has played a relatively easy opening slate, and their depth will be tested against Vanderbilt’s talented lineup. Offensively the Cardinals don’t have a go-to scorer per se, but they do have seven players who average at least seven points per game, led by sweet-shooting forward Kyle Kuric (12.5 PPG). They also have a rugged, albeit thin, frontcourt which is led by talented freshman Chase Behanan (9.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and center Gorgui Dieng (8.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG) who has been one of the best shotblockers in the country thus far and is a big reason why Louisville is so successful on defense. But as balanced as Rick Pitino’s club is, star guard Peyton Siva is still what makes the team go, and he hasn’t quite found his comfort zone yet, missing two games with an ankle injury. Siva had 11 points, five assists and five steals in the team’s last game, a win over Long Beach State, but he also turned the ball over six times. No matter how good Louisville’s defense might be, Siva and fellow guard Chris Smith cannot be careless with the ball, because Vanderbilt is too efficient on offense to be gifted with so many extra possessions. What do you think, Brian?

Will Rick Pitino employ his full court press against Vanderbilt's struggling guards

Brian: I agree that this should be a great one. I think Vanderbilt will really be tested in this matchup. The Commodores haven’t taken good care of the basketball, and Louisville is a team that uses a full court press and creates lots of turnovers. Brad Tinsley has struggled when pressured, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Cardinals’ defense. You pointed out Vandy’s efficient offense, but you were nice by not mentioning its struggling defense. The ‘Dores have struggled to cut off opponent’s three-point shot allowing three teams to shoot at least 40 percent from outside the arc so far this year. Louisville loves to shoot the three, so it could be a long night for coach Kevin Stallings if his team lets the Cardinals get hot. It will be interesting to see how Stallings handles the defensive assignment for Siva. Siva is a player who could really hurt Vanderbilt with his penetration. He can score, as you point out, and he can also find open teammates. And one of the teammates he may find in this one is Dieng. Dieng is still developing his offensive skills, but his 6’11” frame could be difficult for Vanderbilt’s post players to defend. 6’9″ Steve Tchiengang and 6’8″ Lance Goulbourne will be down low for Vandy, but they will have to box out better than they did against Xavier when the Musketeers grabbed 25 offensive rebounds.

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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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Conference Report Card: Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 19th, 2011

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • College basketball has never witnessed a season like this year’s Big East. The conference destroyed its own record of eight NCAA bids by placing 11 clubs in the Big Dance this year and also claimed the national champion with Connecticut, which spent most of the season in the middle of the pack in the Big East. The Huskies also gave the conference its first title since the Huskies last did the trick in 2004. While there was not a truly great team in the Big East (including Connecticut), the league was better than any other from top to bottom. Of the five teams that failed to make the NCAA Tournament, only South Florida and DePaul were truly uncompetitive. Rutgers showed signs of improvement while Seton Hall managed to win seven league games and gave some good teams a major scare in the process. Even Providence, which finished 4-14, knocked off Louisville and Villanova in consecutive games back in January. Despite the lackluster NCAA showing by most Big East members, it says here the conference boasted the best player in the nation (sorry, Jimmer) and a deserving national champion. Additionally, ten Big East teams were ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point this season. Say what you want about its postseason performance (it’s certainly fair to bash the league in that regard), but this was by far the best conference in the nation this year.

Jim Calhoun (left) and Kemba Walker will be inextricably linked to UConn's memorable NCAA Tournament run. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Team-by-Team (teams are in order of finish, but grades are based on performance vs. expectations):

  1. Pittsburgh (28-6, 15-3): The regular season was terrific once again for Jamie Dixon and the Panthers but, as has become common over the years, they fell short of their goal–getting to the Final Four. Pittsburgh lost four of their final eight games after starting the season 24-2. A mid-season injury to Ashton Gibbs was thought to bring them down a peg, but Pitt responded with wins at West Virginia and Villanova without him to quiet any doubters. That turned out to be their peak. Dixon did not really test his team out of conference except for two games at Madison Square Garden against Maryland and Texas back in November as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer event and a “home” game (in Pittsburgh) against Tennessee, which they lost. Looking back, one theory could be that an average non-conference schedule did not adequately prepare this team for the NCAA Tournament which is all about match-ups and teams you haven’t seen before from other leagues. While Big East coaches love to use the strength of the league as a crutch when questioned about a lack of non-conference heft to their schedule, I think this is a theory that has to be taken into consideration. Big East play is obviously rough and tumble every night but that can actually be a detriment come tournament time when games are officiated tighter and you don’t have as much time to prepare for an opponent who you likely don’t know very well, if at all. Pitt will lose Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee to graduation while Gibbs tests the NBA waters. I expect Gibbs to come back to join a very good recruiting class led by five-star forward Khem Birch. Despite the loss of three senior leaders, look for Pitt to be in the thick of the Big East race yet again next season. Dixon has established a culture of winning and I have learned never to doubt him after witnessing the 2009-10 campaign, a season that certified Dixon as one of the best basketball minds in the country. While this year was a great success during the regular season, Pitt’s inability to get to the Sweet Sixteen and eventually the Final Four renders this year a disappointment. GRADE: B- Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your Tivo: 02.09.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 9th, 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.

Rivalry week kicks into high gear tonight with a clash of Big East titans and the greatest rivalry of them all on Tobacco Road. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#13 Georgetown @ #12 Syracuse – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

JT3 Has the Hoyas Back On Track and Peaking At the Right Time

Syracuse has stabilized itself after losing four straight but will run into a streaking Georgetown club tonight at the Carrier Dome. The Hoyas have won six straight games and look to be back in the thick of things with a chance for a double-bye at the Big East Tournament. Syracuse leads this classic Big East rivalry 46-38 and will have to keep up their defensive effort if they want to win for the 47th time against the Hoyas.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: Early Games – 12.11.2010

Posted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2010

We are back with our world famous BGTD. However, this year we are changing things a bit. Instead of our traditional format that utilized stream-of-consciousness analysis we are doing most thorough and hopefully thoughtful analysis of the day’s action. We will be posting intermittently throughout the day so check back often. Also, let us know what you think about the new format. Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments along with your thoughts on our thoughts.

  • Questions about Michigan State again? It seems to happen every year. Michigan State comes in ranked highly and struggles in the early season. Fans and analysts question the Spartans and point to holes in their game. Lack of a reliable scoring presence. Not enough depth. The inside play isn’t good enough. You name a potential reason as to what is wrong with Michigan State and it has been used in the past few years. That is every reason except for coaching. With Tom Izzo manning the sideline for the Spartans there is always a sense that things will be ok for the Spartans. That doesn’t mean that the Spartans don’t have some major issues to work out, but they are not as vulnerable as some people might say. Their losses thus far? To UConn, Duke, and Syracuse (a tough set of opponents by any measure). Even today’s game, a 1-point win over Oakland, isn’t as bad as some might make it out to be as the Golden Grizzlies gave Illinois a very good game earlier this week despite playing on the road. So before you write off the Spartans for their lackluster early season play just remember that the Spartans have been in this position many times before under Izzo and things tend to work out.
  • Duke rolls, but all is not well in Durham. Don’t be fooled by Duke’s easy victory against St. Louis today. The Blue Devils aren’t even close to being the same team without Kyrie Irving in the line-up. Losing Irving means that they simply don’t have the player who can drive to the basket and create for others. This isn’t a knock on Smith, but players are built differently. Nolan Smith is a fantastic player who can get to the basket, but most of that results in offense for himself. Irving gets to the basket and creates for both himself and his teammates. Nobody on Duke’s roster has been affected by Irving’s absence as much as Mason Plumlee has as his production has dropped off significantly following after Irving left the Duke line-up. Duke can still repeat this year, but until they get Irving back they are just one of about five contenders instead the prohibitive favorites that they appeared to be before Irving’s injury.
  • Louisville and Rick Pitino are back. It might be time to put those “15 seconds” jokes on hold because it looks like Rick Pitino has a very good team in Louisville again. Ok, we know you are still going to use those jokes in Lexington. After a sluggish start where UNLV looked like it might run away with this game in the first half despite being the “West Coast team playing the early game on the East Coast”. Early on it looked like Peyton Siva was the only player on the Louisville roster who decided to show up. The Cardinals regrouped and showed their depth and prevailed thanks to great games from Preston Knowles (all 20 of his points coming in the 2nd half before fouling out), Kyle Kuric (17 points equaling his total for the rest of the season), and Chris Smith (a career-high 17 points). If the Cardinals can continue to play like they did after an rough start, they could contend in the Big East.
  • Having said that. . . Before we buy into Louisville we are going to need to see them do something on the road. Winning games at the YUM Center is nice, but unless they can play all their games in the YUM Center (they can’t due to NCAA rules) they will need to prove that they can win in a hostile environment. So far the Cardinals most impressive wins (all of which have been at home) are against a Butler team that is still struggling to find its identity and a UNLV team that was playing in a game that started at 9 AM on their West Coast clocks. Unfortunately we might not get our answer about how good Louisville is until January 12th when the Cardinals travel to Villanova in what could be a huge game if the Cardinals can knock off Kentucky on New Year’s Eve.

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Checking in on the… MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – There are no undefeated teams anymore in the MAAC. Last Saturday , in a rematch of last year’s MAAC championship, host Rider knocked off Siena 90-88 to hand the Saints their first conference loss of the season. The victory secured the two outstanding player of the week awards for Rider. 

Sophomore guard Justin Robinson earned Player of the Week honors. Robinson scored a career high 25 points and had three rebounds in that win over Siena. Novar Gadson, a freshman swingman, earned Rookie of the Week accolades with his 17 point, 4 rebound , 4 assist performance in the same contest.

The standings as of Friday February 13, 2009:

  1. Siena  14-1
  2. Niagara  11-3
  3. Rider  9-4
  4. Manhattan  8-7
  5. Fairfield  8-7
  6. Iona   6-8
  7. Loyola  6-8
  8. St. Peter’s  4-10
  9. Marist  4-11
  10. Canisius  2-13

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Checking in on the… MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2008

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences.

LYNDHURST, NJ – The MAAC plays a few conference games prior to the New Year, so the time was appropriate to get a tempo free look at the results.


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