The Week That Was: Jan. 11-Jan. 17

Posted by jstevrtc on January 18th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Only three undefeated teams are left in the nation after Duke and Syracuse suffered their first losses of the season within the past week. Who will be the next team to go down? Ohio State travels to Illinois on Saturday and Kansas hosts Texas. TWTW wouldn’t be shocked if San Diego State is the only unbeaten team remaining in this space next week.

What We Learned

Kemba Walker Is The Governor: He Always Saves You At the Last Moment (J. Woike/Hartford Courant)

When ESPN uses its full arsenal, it can put on a great day of college basketball. Monday (in honor of MLK Day) ESPN had a 24 Hours of Hoops Lite. They gave us four great games, three of which pitted two teams in the top 25 against each other, while the other featured a nice matchup in Kansas-Baylor.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 18th, 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.

A few teams face key road tests tonight, one night after the home squads went 3-1 in the season debut of ESPN’s Big Monday. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#19 Michigan State @ #18 Illinois – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

A Top 50 Rebounder, Green Has Been Solid Of Late For MSU (Excepting That 2-10 Against Penn State)

The Spartans needed overtime to dispatch their last two opponents at home, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Michigan State is doing just enough to get by as Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers have struggled lately. Lucious went 0-8 from the floor against Northwestern while Summers has scored just seven points in the last two games. For MSU to have any sustained success going forward, Tom Izzo must get these two players going somehow. Luckily for them, Draymond Green has stepped up, averaging 21/8.5 over the last two games.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 conference.

A Look Back

With non-conference play in the books, it’s time to name the All-Conference Team, based on first half performance. These are the five players I like best for end of the season conference honor. They are off to great starts.

  • G – Tu Holloway, Xavier; the guard struggled against Cincinnati, but he continues to be Xavier’s best weapon.
  • G – Bill Clark, Duquesne; the Dukes are back and Clark is a big reason.
  • F – Chris Wright, Dayton; he may not assert himself enough in tight games.
  • F – Justin Harper, Richmond; how Harper goes, so go the Spiders.
  • C – Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure; junior center has been cited in six of the nine week old season.

Honorable Mention – these seven are very much in the hunt for Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition:

  • G – Kevin Anderson, Richmond; last season’s POY cannot be left out of a conversation about Player of the Year.
  • G – Derrio Green, Charlotte; like Nicholson, his chances for conference recognition will depend as much on how his team finishes the season as how well he plays.
  • G – Ramone Moore, Temple; a big reason Owl fans have not missed Ryan Brooks.
  • G – Tony Taylor, George Washington; the junior has come on strong in December and January, as have the Colonials.
  • F – Lavoy Allen, Temple; his team’s ranking will boost his prospects, but he needs a few signature games to go with some game-to-game consistency.
  • F – Delroy James, Rhode Island; James has been cited by the conference in six of the season’s nine weeks. Like Green and Nicholson, his prospects may hang as much on his team’s finish as his own performance.
  • F – Chris Gaston, Fordham; strong individual performances have earned him multiple conference citations, but how will Fordham finish?

Rookies I Like: The following seven freshmen are the collective favorites for the All Conference Freshmen Team, with TJ McConnell, given Duquesne’s standing at this point, probably the strongest challenger to Juwan Staten.  Staten, the projected Rookie of the Year, has had a good season so far, but the Flyers continue to perform inconsistently. The freshman point guard remains my odds-on favorite for Freshman of the Year, but the race is competitive and contains a few unexpected faces.

  • G – TJ McConnell, Duquesne; Duke fans were high on this high schooler out of central Pennsylvania, has been cited twice for Freshman Honors.
  • G – Tyreek Duren, La Salle; one of two crucial freshman at La Salle this season, important building blocks for the Explorer program.
  • G – Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s; one of four freshmen recruited by coach Phil Martelli to revive the Hawk program.
  • G – Brandon Frazier, Fordham; not a favorite due to Fordham’s continued struggles, but has a solid chance, with a solid season, to make the All-Freshmen Team.
  • F – Nemanja Mikic, George Washington; with Lasan Kromah’s injury, the Colonials drifted, but have started to so signs of pulling the team together. If GWU makes a serious run at the top half of the conference, Mikic will be a big part of that push.
  • C – CJ Aiken, Saint Joseph’s; Big men take time, and if Martelli is patient, this one could turn his program around.

Power Rankings

Seven teams had perfect weeks, while six others were winless. Several teams around the conference midpoint have moved according to their currrent records, but the conference season for most, is only two games old.

1. Temple (11-3, 2-0) #19 AP

Last Week: 1/5 @Fordham 70-51, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis 57-53

Next Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure, 1/15 @Duquesne

Temple jumped back into the AP’s Top 25, up to #19 on the January 10 poll on the heels of a 2-0 week. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad traveled to the Izod Arena in Secaucus, NJ, to trounce Fordham by 19 points, then returned home to hold off a late Saint Louis rally and notch a four-point win on the Bills. Ramone Moore drew an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Owls in those two wins.

The Owls get an early-season test in the form of a road trip to Duquesne. The Dukes, an early season darling for stats geek Ken Pomeroy, have cooled off a little, so if Temple has plans to stay ahead of Richmond (who will host Duquesne at the end of the season) and remain in the Top 25, a win is important. The challenge is even greater with Juan Fernandez’s knee injury. The Owls survived the Billikens over the weekend, but will need a mobile point guard if they are to consistently break a press.

2. Richmond (13-4, 2-0)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte 71-59, 1/8 @La Salle 87-68

Next Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island

The Spiders keep pace with Temple atop the A-10, having opened, like the Owls, with a 2-0 week. Senior forward Justin Harper continues to have an outstanding season as in addition to being cited for three conference Honorable Mentions, he was named conference Player of the Week for his work in the Charlotte and La Salle games. According to the citation, Harper was 19-29 overall (65.5%) and 7-13 (53.8%) from beyond the arc. Against La Salle, Harper also recorded his second double-double in the last four games as he scored 25 points and 10 rebounds at La Salle on Sunday.

Coach Chris Mooney‘s squad will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.

3. Dayton (13-4, 1-1)

Last Week: 1/5 @St. Louis 60-50, 1/9 @Massachusetts 50-55

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/15 @Xavier

The Flyers finished a puzzling 1-1 week, snapping their winning streak at six. Senior forward Chris Wright was cited with a conference Honorable Mention for his double-double (14 points and 14 rebounds) at St. Louis. His work at Massachusetts, six points and seven rebounds, was just not enough in that very low scoring game — game breakdown in the Massachusetts recap.

Coach Brian Gregory’s squad will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday and travel to Cincinnati for a Saturday game with Xavier. With three out of conference losses and now a “what the heck?!” effort against Massachusetts, the 2011 edition of the Flyers will have to be more consistent game-to-game if they want avoid a repeat of the 2010 conference season. That starts this week with two important games. Saint Joseph’s is too young to surprise Dayton, ranked #330 out of 345 by Ken Pomeroy for experience, but it is the type of situation (home game, not well regarded opponent) that could give the Flyers unexpected trouble. Saturday’s game at Xavier carries conference seed implications. If Dayton can take the road game in this annual two game series, the Flyers will have an advantage later when the X-men travel to Dayton, and when the two teams are seeded for the conference tournament. Take both games and the Flyers will have the advantage in a tie-breaker with Xavier and two good (but not Top 25) wins for the Selection Committee.

4. Xavier (8-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati 66-46, 1/9 @Rhode Island 72-45

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts, 1/15 vs. Dayton

The 20-point trouncing at the hands of crosstown rival Cincinnati has to be a bucket of very cold water to the Musketeers, who have dominated this series of late (7-3 over the last decade, coming into this season). Their bounce-back game, a 27-point beat down of Rhode Island may have been a release (that helped earn senior forward Jamel McLean an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 18.5 points (18 and 19) and 9.0 rebounds (six and 12) against Cincinnati and Rhode Island respectively. .

Chris Mack’s team could use a good run through the conference to revive their hopes for a sixth NCAA post season bid. Hosting two conference opponents gives the X-men a solid opportunity. The Dayton-slaying Minutemen visit on Wednesday and the Flyers follow on Saturday.

5. Massachusetts (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton 55-50

Next Week: 1/12 @Xavier, 1/15 vs. La Salle

Can you win a basketball game while hitting 12 field goal attempts total and shooting to an overall conversion percentage of 27.3%? Yes, apparently, if the planets align and your opponent is Dayton. Though Dayton actually converted at a higher percentage than UMass (28.6%) and had more field goals, the Minutemen nearly double-upped the Flyers at the free throw line (36 vs. 19 free throw attempts) and scored 16 more points from the line than the Flyers.

With postseason prospects dwindling, Massachusetts and Xavier have an early conference test coming up Wednesday. Massachusetts returns home to host La Salle on Saturday.

6. Duquesne (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s 75-63, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist 81-64

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis, 1/15 vs. Temple

The Dukes ran their winning streak to four with another 2-0 week. Senior Bill Clark earned his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Dukes also snapped their nine game losing streak when playing Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. Duquesne’s road record versus Saint Joseph’s is 2-19.

Coach Ron Everhard‘s troops has an important two game home stand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday.

7. St. Bonaventure (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock 68-55, 1/8 vs. Charlotte 92-88 3OT

Next Week: 1/12 @Temple, 1/16 @Rhode Island

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 2-0 week, raising their 2011 mark to 2-1, and their conference record is an unblemished 2-0. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his game-high block buster 34 points in the Bonnies’ three overtime win over Charlotte. The junior also logged a stunning 55 minutes of playing time in the Bonnies’ 1-0 start.

Saint Bonaventure faces a week on the road in what should be a good early season reality check for their fans and well-wishers. Nicholson and company travel to Philadelphia (weather willing) to take on the conference-leading Temple Owls, then swing out to Kingston, Rhode Island, to face the Runnin’ Rams.

8. Rhode Island (9-6, 0-1)

Last Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier 45-72

Next Week: 1/13 @Richmond, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure

Coach Jim Baron‘s charges got their conference season off on the wrong foot with a 26 point home loss to Xavier. While Delroy James earned his sixth conference Honorable Mention this season (tied for highest number of mentions with Bill Clark of Duquesne and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure), a 26-point home court loss has a way of messing up a tournament resume. The Runnin’ Rams have picked up six losses so far this season, and post season prospects are dimming quickly.

The road to revival runs through Richmond, and any serious hopes for a postseason beyond Atlantic City has to start next week.

9. George Washington (9-6, 2-0)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle 72-67, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s 78-71

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham, 1/15 vs. Harvard

The Colonials kicked off conference play with a 2-0 start, beating La Salle at the Charles E. Smith Center and taking Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan in Philadelphia. Junior guard Tony Taylor earned his fourth Honorable Mention from the conference by averaging 24 points for the Colonials’ 2-0 open of their conference slate. Taylor scored a career-high 28 points against La Salle.

George Washington will host Fordham on Wednesday and Harvard on Saturday.

10. La Salle (7-9, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 @George Washington 67-72, 1/8 vs. Richmond 68-87

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/15 @Massachusetts

La Salle had an 0-2 opening week in conference play. Frustrated with the lackluster and tempermental play against George Washington that included a technical assessed to senior forward Jerrell Williams, Coach/Dr. John Ginniani benched sophomore Aaric Murray for the entire game with Richmond, pulled Ruben Guillandeaux out of the starting line and held the senior gurad out of the game for the first five minutes. “I know how [Murray] responds when things hit rock bottom,” Giannini said. “He really steps it up…”

Dr. Giannini’s predicted turnaround should start Wednesday against Big 5 rival the University of Pennsylvania. The Explorers have a road game at Massachusetts on Saturday.

11. Charlotte (6-8, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Richmond 59-71, 1/8 @St. Bonaventure 88-92 3OT,

Next Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham

Charlotte stumbled to an 0-2 record in conference play last week. After a 12 point home loss to Richmond, the 49ers traveled to Olean, NY and dropped a four point game to St. Bonaventure. They did not however, go quietly, taking the Bonnies to three overtime periods before bowing. Junior Javarris Barnett scored his second career double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, in Charlotte’s triple overtime loss to St. Bonaventure. Barnett’s achievement earned him his first Honorable Mention and the second citation (his first, last week, was a Player of the Week honor) of the season. Barnett is the fifth member of the 49er squad to draw a nod for strong play from the conference.

Coach Alan Major‘s squad continues their Northeastern sojourn as they take in a game at Fordham on Saturday.

12. Fordham (6-7, 0-1)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Temple 70-51

Next Week: 1/12 @George Washington, 1/15 @Charlotte

Fordham’s losing streak has run to three with the conference-opening loss to Temple. Things may not get better for coach Tom Pecora‘s Rams next week, as Fordham has a two game Southern road swing starting on Wednesday at George Washington and another stop in Charlotte on Saturday.

13. Saint Louis (5-10, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton 50-60, 1/9 @Temple 53-57

Next Week: 1/12 @Duquesne, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s

The Billikens’ losing streak stands at five after Rick Majerus’ squad dropped two more games last week. Majerus’s absence ran to three games as the coach did not take the trip to Philadelphia when Saint Louis played Temple. Majerus is expected to miss one more game (Duquesne on Wednesday). The other personnel question surrounding the team is the status of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed. Both re-enrolled at Saint Louis for the spring semesters. Mitchell has practiced with the team and awaiting clearance from the NCAA before he can resume play. Reed’s suspension from the team continues. Mitchell may, pending NCAA clearance, play in the Duquesne or the Saint Joseph’s game.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne 63-75, 1/8 vs. George Washington 71-78

Next Week: 1/12 @Dayton, 1/15 @Saint Louis

The Hawks may console themselves on the relatively close loss to George Washington, but there will be no pause in the schedule next week as they take a two game road swing through the Midwest, taking in Dayton on Wednesday and Saint Louis on Saturday. The Dayton game may be problematic, but Saint Louis game, with an undermanned and possibly distracted squad might be winnable.The result may factor into a tie breaker at the end of the conference season.

A Look Ahead

My season preview predicted between three and four (with a bias towards four) teams would garner bids to the NCAA Tournament. At this point last season the conference had six teams whose out of conference records had bracketologists buzzing. The conference showing in their out of conference was below expectations this year,  however, and even ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has only Temple in his field of 68 this week while the Mountain West, Missouri Valley, CUSA, WAC and West Coast conferences get multiple bids. Teams at the bottom of the A-10 may not be as weak as last season, but the teams at the top have not demonstrated yet that they are as strong as teams at the top were last season. The conference has three, possibly four legitimate candidates, Temple aside, but each has flaws and a good deal of work to do.

  • Temple is the clear favorite to sweep the regular season title and conference championship. Lunardi seeds the Owls #7 this week, but the conference schedule favors the Owls, and with an extremely strong showing at 14-2, 15-1, coupled with a run through the conference tournament, they should be able to improve that seed by three or four spots.
  • Richmond — Lunardi lists the Spiders among the eight bubble teams on the outside looking in. Not blessed with a schedule as favorable as Temple’s, Coach Mooney’s squad can help it’s chances with favorable results in three games at the end of January. The Spiders travel to Amherst for a game with Massachusetts on January 22, then swing out to Ohio for a second road game with Dayton on 1/25 and finally return home to host Xavier on January 29. 3-0 through that week-plus (and no more fumbles before or after) should put Mooney’s charges in the field of 68; while 2-1 would not be fatal, anything lower might not jeopardize the team’s conference standing but will diminish the Spiders’ chances to make it’s second straight NCAA appearance in 2011.
  • The Dayton Flyers appear to be plagued with the same inconsistent play this season as last. They rally to win road games at Mississippi State and Seton Hall, only to be run out of the U. S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and dumped four days later by East Tennessee State. The result of the Massachusetts game last Sunday really hurt their postseason prospects. Dayton has a crucial game this weekend versus Xavier, and after a trip to Fordham, the Flyers return home to host Richmond and then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne. 4-0 through this sequence (counting Fordham in the win column) with solid margins would help settle the “good enough” questions. 3-1 would not be fatal, but it depends on how those four in turn finish there seasons.
  • A home loss to Florida along with road losses to Gonzaga and Miami (OH) (RPI #91), have damaged the Musketeers’ postseason prospects. Rehabilitation of their prospects has to start this week when the Musketeers host Massachusetts then Dayton. Xavier probably needs both. The Southern Road Trip, a journey that takes the Musketeers through Richmond and then Charlotte, scheduled on the cusp of January and February, may well settle Xavier’s prospects. Should the X-men be undefeated going into those games, a 2-0 result would be very good news, while anything less will be very damaging.
  • Of the three 9-6 teams — Massachusetts, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure — Duquesne may have the best shot. Of the Dukes’ five losses (to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, George Mason and Robert Morris), Robert Morris (RPI #99) is the most damaging. Fans should learn a lot about Duquesne this week when Saint Louis and Temple visit. 2-0 is possible given injuries and absences in those programs. The Dukes’ home-away series with Dayton, home game versus Xavier and season-ending road game versus Richmond are the four game Duquesne will have to record a 4-0/3-1 record. That assumes they sweep the other nine games.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 12th, 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.

We’re going to mix it up today with this feature. With so many good games tonight (one of the best nights of the season thus far) here are some quick hitters on 10 important games you should be following this evening, including the top five teams in the land all playing on the road. Additionally, key conference battles are on tap throughout the night. Enjoy it, folks. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#2 Ohio State @ Michigan – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (***)

The Wolverines nearly knocked off Kansas on Sunday and they’ll get another crack at a top three team tonight when their rivals visit Ann Arbor. Michigan has to shoot the three well to win but that’ll be difficult against an Ohio State defense ranked in the top five in efficiency. Though Darius Morris (15.0 PPG, 7.0 APG) will try his best, Ohio State has too much talent and offensive firepower for Michigan to handle. Michigan needs their best defensive effort of the year combined with an off night for the Buckeyes in order to have a chance. John Beliein can rotate plenty of bodies on Jared Sullinger but that may be a futile effort against the uber-talented big man.

Sullinger, Lighty, and Co. Have Bucknuts Already Looking Forward to March (and April)

#5 Pittsburgh @ #19 Georgetown – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

The Hoyas are in serious danger of dropping to 1-4 in conference play as Pitt comes to DC. Georgetown hasn’t shot the ball well recently and has lost three of four as a result. The inconsistent play of point guard Chris Wright can certainly be blamed, but take a deeper look at the numbers. Georgetown’s defense is rated #61 in efficiency; not terrible, but it’s the lowest-rated Hoyas defense in six years (#66 in the ’04-’05 season). The Hoyas have given up 66.6 PPG, not a good number when your adjusted tempo is only 66.5 possessions and rated #228 in the country, indicating a slower pace. Georgetown’s dynamic guard trio has certainly struggled, a key reason why they’ve lost three of four, but the defense has also played a part and must get better. It’ll be put to the test against a Pitt offense rated the best in the land. The Panthers can punish you inside and out as well as on the glass. Yours truly has maintained for a while that this Pitt team is the best interior passing group in America and I see no reason to back off that statement. What Jamie Dixon has built in Pittsburgh year after year is quite remarkable but this may be his best offensive squad ever. The Panthers have played just one true road game all year (at Providence) but they’re experienced and so well-coached that it doesn’t figure to affect them all that much. Expect a desperate Georgetown team to come out ready to play, but we’ll take the Panthers here in a close one.

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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on January 8th, 2011

With the first weekend of major conference action upon us, we’re back with another weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  The idea behind this is that we’ll update after each three-hour (or so) block of games with some instant analysis on what we’ve seen so far today.  So here goes…

  • Georgetown Moves to 1-3 We’ve been touting Georgetown for most of the early part of this season, but it’s obvious that the Hoyas have some serious identity problems at the halfway mark. By that, we mean that they have to find a way to succeed when Chris Wright is off his game. Wright had a miserable shooting day in today’s loss against West Virginia (65-59), going 3-13 from the field, including 1-7 from three. The other problem is that they have to learn how to finish games. Four straight turnovers at the end of the game doomed the Hoyas, but losing the battle on the offensive glass 15-4 and coughing up 18 turnovers will ruin you every time, too. Even the effort of Jason Clark (16/6) couldn’t offset the poor play of Wright and Austin Freeman today. Casey Mitchell continued his excellence for the Mountaineers (28 pts on 10-18) and showed that WVU will be a force in the Big East this year despite very little early season talk about them.
  • Upset Saturday? Looks like we have a little bit of an Upset Saturday brewing. Oklahoma State beats Kansas State by 14, right as people were starting to regain a little confidence in the Wildcats. What’s odd is that OSU was able to win despite showing just 40.4% and 2-10 from three. The defense was the story here for the Cowboys, snagging eleven steals and forcing 21 turnovers. KSU only got production fron two players, namely Jacob Pullen (20/5, but on 4-11 from the field) and Rodney McGruder (19/6 on 7-11). Oklahoma State showed up in force, placing four players in double-figures, led by reserve Jan-Paul Olukemi’s tasty double-double of 22/11 on an efficient 7-9 from the field. At 13-2 and a win over a ranked K-State team, you’ll see Oklahoma State grab some votes this week.
  • MSU Continues to Lapse.  We’re trying, Tom Izzo. We’ve defended your Michigan State squad pretty loudly this year. We know that you guys usually save the best for last. But it’s getting tougher. Yes, life on the road during conference play is tough, especially in the Big Ten. But if we’re going to keep backing you, you have to pull out games like this one you just dropped at Penn State (66-62). Talor Battle drilled a jumper with 18 seconds to seal the win for the Lions, who put four players in double figures, as opposed to Sparty’s two. Looks like there’s a little road team virus going around the country this weekend.
  • Another Top Ten Loses.  If you require further evidence for that diagnosis, we give you Missouri, who got shelled, 89-76, at Colorado. Of course when Alec Burks loses his mind on you with 36/8, where you’re playing matters a lot less. The Buffs owned the Tigers on the boards, 46-31, and the Missouri defense, known for forcing opponents into frustrated turnovers, could only coax 11 out of Colorado. Not a bad way to start your final Big 12 campaign, Buffaloes.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 5th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.

A Look Back

Closing the Book on Invitational Tournaments

The conference’s “Invitational Season” ended on a disappointing note as both Fordham and Saint Louis struggled in their respective tournaments. Saint Louis won their first round game in the Cancun Governor’s Cup against Northeastern, but dropped the last two, first to Southern Mississippi and the second to Mississippi (Ole Miss lost to Dayton at home in November). The Cable Car Classic harkens back to the days of Christmas-to-New Year’s tournaments that typically revolved around the bowl games. Unlike most, the Cable Car filled the field with non-BCS teams.

Richmond’s run through the Chicago Invitational field included a 65-54 win over #11 Purdue, but the conference co-favorite Temple squandered opportunities to garner positive national attention when the Owls dropped games to Texas A&M and California at the Milk House in Orlando. Xavier advanced to the finals of the Paradise Jam, but fell 67-58 to tournament winner Old Dominion. Saint Joseph’s collected the conference’s other tournament trophy when the Hawks beat Rutgers in the finals of the Philly Hoops Classic. The Philly Hoops Classic has undergone several format revisions over the tournament’s four0year history, the number and locations of the preliminary round games has changed nearly every season, but that each member of the city’s Big 5 takes a turn hosting the event has not changed.

Power Rankings

Is the entire conference regressing to the mean? The top teams lost while the bottom team(s) won. Three teams had perfect weeks.

1. Temple (9-3)

Last Week: 12/30 @Villanova 74-78

Next Week: 1/5 @Fordham, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis

The Owls dropped out of the AP’s Top 25 again, one result of their four-point loss to Villanova. Despite leading 40-39 at the half, Temple’s shooting cooled off in the second half and the Owls could not hold the lead. Lavoy Allen scored 22 points and nine rebounds in the loss to earn a conference Honorable Mention. Point guard Juan Fernandez scored 20 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc. Ramone Moore (16 points) and Scootie Randall (11 points) also scored in double figures.

Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will open their A-10 slate against Fordham with an away game at the Izod Center. They return to Philadelphia to host Saint Louis Saturday.

2. Richmond (11-4)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. Wake Forest 90-74, 1/2 vs. Bucknell 61-62

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte, 1/8 @La Salle

Richmond stumbled to a 1-1 record last week, missing an opportunity to pass Temple in the power rankings when they dropped a one point decision to Bucknell, 62-61, on January 2. The Bison snapped the Spiders’ 11-game home winning streak. Bucknell managed to limit Kevin Anderson’s touches, and limited the point guard to 13 points on 6-14 overall (1-3 on threes, 5-11 on twos) and 1-2 from the line shooting. Senior forward Justin Harper shot 6-8 (3-3 from beyond the arc and 3-5 on twos) and 4-6 from the charity stripe. The Bison also contained Justin Harper by taking him off the floor his fourth foul at the 10:00 minute mark of the second half, with Richmond down by five. Harper sat for the next six minutes. Coach Chris Mooney put Harper back in on an offense-defense rotation, but the forward had cooled off, going 1-2 overall (1-1 on threes, 0-1 from twos) and 0-2 from the line to close out the game.

The Spiders drew a favorable mention last week as ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas listed Richmond as one of six teams which deserve “more love” (subscription required). The widely respected announcer and analyst of Division-I basketball identified Richmond’s senior stars:  “The Spiders have Kevin Anderson, the A-10 player of the year, and have one of the most unheralded players in the country in Justin Harper. If this guy played at Butler, we’d be talking about him incessantly…Richmond can play with anyone…”

Mooney’s charges open the conference slate on Wednesday when they host Charlotte.

3. Dayton (12-3)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. George Mason 73-67, 1/1 vs. New Mexico 76-73

Next Week: 1/5 @St. Louis, 1/9 @Massachusetts

The Flyers had a 2-0 week, extending their winning streak to five. Senior forward Chris Wright shared conference Player of the Week honors with Charlotte’s Javarris Barrett for his performance in both games, scoring a total of 30 points and collecting 23 rebounds in the two games. The Dayton faithful have waited four years to see Wright put the team on his back in the late going in close games. He did it twice last week, first scoring all of his 13 points and grabbing five of his nine rebounds versus George Mason in the second half. Against New Mexico, Wright scored 12 of his team-high 17 points and nabbed six of his 14 rebounds in the second half and two overtime periods it took to settle matters with the Lobos. Dayton opens opens conference play Wednesday against St. Louis.

4. Xavier (8-4)

Last Week: 12/28 vs. Albany 88-64, 12/31 vs. Florida 67-71

Next Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati, 1/9 @Rhode Island

If the fried gator offered at the concessions did not give the Xavier faithful heartburn, the game itself, a 71-67 beating at the hands of Florida (a return engagement) last Friday most certainly did. The loss, Xavier’s fourth (an unusually high number of losses in out of conference play lately), snapped a 30-game Cintas Center winning streak, and put even more pressure on the Musketeers to do well in conference play. Tu Holloway played all 40 minutes and led all scorers with 26 points. Jamel McLean scored six points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

Coach Chris Mack‘s squad could use another out of conference resume win to counter a few of last month’s head scratchers, and Crosstown Shootout rival Cincinnati may be just what the doctor ordered. X travels to Fifth-Third to take on their Big East rival – even better for the RPI if they win. Xavier opens their A-10 slate this Sunday, when they travel to Kingston, RI to play Rhode Island.

5. Rhode Island (9-5)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. Boston College 67-65, 1/3 @Florida 59-84

Next Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier

The Rams finished their out of conference slate with a 1-1 week, knocking off Boston College and then losing to Florida on the road. Coach Jim Baron threw reinstated forward Orion Outerbridge right into the fray, allocating to the junior forward 41 minutes of play in the two games. Outerbridge scored 20 points total, grabbing eight rebounds and bocking three shots. Against Boston College, three other Rams, Akeem Richmond (15 points), Marquis Jones (11 points) and Nikola Malesovic (16 points – team high) recorded double digit points. At Florida, the Rams’ senior front court players, Delroy James (29 points – game high) and Will Martel (13 points) led the scoring.

Rhode Island opens their A-10 regular season schedule Sunday when they host Xavier.

6. Massachusetts (8-5)

Last Week: 12/31 vs. Boston University 71-54, 1/3 @Central Connecticut 63-92

Next Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton

Massachusetts snapped their four-game losing streak when they beat the Terriers of Boston University on New Year’s Eve. The celebration however lasted only slightly longer than New Year’s, as the Minutemen dropped their next game, a 29 point thumping at the hands of NEC member Central Connecticut on January 3. Both games reinforced perceptions that the Minutemen fortunes rest on the scoring abilities of senior guard Anthony Gurley. Gurley led Massachusetts scorers in both games, garnering 21 points versus Boston University (next highest UMass scorer was sophomore forward Sampson Carter with 10) and 18 points versus Central Connecticut (the next highest total from a Minuteman came courtesy of freshman forward Raphael Putney with 14)

7. St. Bonaventure (7-5)

Last Week: 12/28 vs. Siena 82-79, 2/2 vs. Marshall 65-74

Next Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock, 1/8 vs. Charlotte

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 1-1 week, finishing 2010 on a winning note against MAAC member Siena but opening the new year with a loss to CUSA member Marshall. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew an Honorable Mention for his game-high scoring week. Nicholson scored 26 points against the Saints on Tuesday, and returned to score 29 against the Herd on Sunday. Guard Michael Davenport was second high Bonnie scorer in both games, recording 20 versus Siena and 14 versus Marshall. Senior point guard Ogo Adegboyo continues tomake progress. The Nigerian-by-way-of-London import averaged 32.5 minutes for the two games while scoring 23 points and dishing nine dimes versus three turnovers.

Saint Bonaventure will travel to Arkansas-Little Rock to finish their out of conference slate against the Sun Belt Conference member and return home to Olean, NY to face Charlotte on January 8.

8. Duquesne (7-5)

Last Week: 12/31 vs. Northwestern State 91-64, 1/2 vs. Norfolk State 95-73

Next Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist

The Dukes pushed north of 0.500 last week with two strong wins against low-major competition. Senior Bill Clark earned an Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Northwestern State game featured five double digit scorers. Clark (21 points) plus four others, BJ Monteiro (15 points), Mike Talley (11 points), Joel Wright (10 points) and Sean Johnson (10 points) logged double digit points. Clark earned a double-double by nabbing 10 rebounds. In a impressive distribution of scoring in the Norfolk State game, Clark (13 points) and five teammates, Johnson (19 points – game high), Damian Saunders (14 points), Montiero (11 points), Eric Evans (10 points) and Wright (10 points), scored ten or more points.

Duquesne opens in Philadelphia as they visit Hawk Hill for a game with Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, then close out their out of conference slate by hosting Houston Baptist Saturday.

9. La Salle (7-7)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. Towson 90-93 OT, 1/2 vs. Binghamton 87-64

Next Week: 1/5 @George Washington, 1/8 vs. Richmond

La Salle had a 1-1 week, an overtime loss to Towson of the CAA was countered by a win over Binghamton of the American East. Freshman point guard Tyreek Duren took Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season, tying him with Dayton’s point guard Juwan Staten for most times recognized. Duren was cited for averaging 18.5 points and 5.0 assists in the Explorers’ two games. Senior forward Jerrell Williams also earned a conference citation, in his case Honorable Mention, for upping his career-high scoring to 32 points in the Towson game.

Dr. Giannini’s squad will open at George Washington on Wednesday, and return home to host Richmond on Saturday.

10. Charlotte (8-6)

Last Week: 12/30 @Mercer 64-63, 1/2 @Georgia Tech 86-83 2 OT

Next Week: 1/5 @St. Bonaventure, 1/8 St. Josesh’s

Coach Alan Major’s squad squared their record at six with a 2-0 sweep of the week. The results are impressive because both were taken on the road. The A-10 recognized Javaris Barnett, a junior guard/forward for two tremendous outings. Barnett shares the honor with Dayton’s forward Chris Wright. Barnett led the charge with a team-high 18 points (career-high) as the 49ers came from behind to beat Mercer by a point. Barnett chipped in 15 points, to support Derrio Green’s game-high 21 points in Charlotte’s 3 point, 2 overtime win at Georgia Tech.

Charlotte opens their A-10 slate in Olean, NY, as they face St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, then return home to host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

11. George Washington (7-6)

Last Week: 12/31 vs. Holy Cross 58-57, 1/3 @Howard 85-50

Next Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s

Freshman forward Nemanja Mikic drew a conference Honorable Mention for his nine three point field goals over the Colonials’ last two games. George Washington’s 2-0 run put Karl Hobbs’ team over the 0.500 mark for the first time since game three of the season.

12. Fordham (6-6)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. American (Cable Car Classic) 57-73, 12/30 TBD (Cable Car Classic) 70-85 Next Week: 1/5 vs. Temple

Fordham was knocked back to an even record with an 0-2 run in the Cable Car Classic last week. Prospects for staying at or above 0.500 through the week are bleak, as the Rams open their A-10 slate by hosting Temple on Wednesday.

13. Saint Louis (5-8)

Last Week: 1/1 vs. Bowling Green 61-67

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton, 1/9 @Temple

The Billikens dropped a six-point decision to the Falcons of Bowling Green on New Year’s Day. In possibly a bad omen for the team’s fortunes, coach Rick Majerus left the game with a lacerated leg and did not return. The 62-year-old coach missed the previous game, St. Louis’ third round the Cancun Governor’s Cup game versus Mississippi at the end of the year. Majerus’ recovery will extend to the Billikens’ A-10 opener Wednesday against Dayton.

The roster headline this week is that suspended center Willie Reed completed his paperwork for re-admission to the university. Billiken fans are hardly unanimous on whether Reed and Kwamain Mitchell will be granted admission, but the reality, that the semester-long suspension for all practical purposes ended the season for both players (there is a consensus forming that they will most likely red shirt the season, concentrate on academics, so that they will be in a strong position to graduate in May of 2012).

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-8)

Last Week: 12/28 @Holy Cross 65-54, 12/31 vs. Siena 58-48

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne, 1/8 vs. George Washington

Freshman CJ Aiken was named to the conference Honorable Mention rolls for averaging 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during the Hawks’ 2-0 run last week. Saint Joseph’s, having a single out of conference opponent left (Big 5 rival Penn) on their schedule, will open their A-10 schedule by hosting Duquesne on Wednesday and George Washington on Saturday.

A Look Ahead

  • Saint Louis fans will wait to find out if suspended players Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed will be re-admitted for the spring 2011 semester. Without an official statement, fans will not know until class lists are released on Monday, January 10. Coach Rick Majerus’ status is less than certain, as his leg injury will hold him out for at least one more game.
  • Stats guru Ken Pomeroy ran simulations for the 335 teams affiliated with the 31 Division-I conferences and released his projections in two separate posts on Monday and Tuesday this week. Pomeroy noted in his introductory notes that the simulation assumes the Pythagorean Winning Percentages (the heart of his ranking system) will not change over the course of the conference season, a factor that skews the simulations to overly favor the highest ranked team. Pomeroy notes that those teams which finished second, third, even fourth in his projection had better possibilities for improvement than the first place teams. Pomeroy ranked (and divided his postings) by the degree to which the conference race would be competitive. Least competitive conference races were published in Pomeroy’s Monday post (part 1), while the more competitive conferences were published Tuesday (part 2).
  • Pomeroy ranked Atlantic 10 race #15 of the 31 races in competitiveness and placed the conference in the second post, among the more competitive races. Temple, the highest ranked A-10 team in Pomeroy’s system, won 54.6% of the simulations, with #2 Richmond winning 27%, surprise team, #3 ranked Duquesne, taking 11% and #4 Xavier 4%. Duquesne has played a fairly light out of conference schedule, but the Dukes’ wins have been by comfortable margins. Pomeroy, while not quite ready to proclaim the Dukes legitimate threats to win the conference (“Let’s keep an eye on the Dukes over the next two weeks…”) does suggest they will be good enough “…to screw up somebody’s tourney hopes…”. The other surprise is the relatively low ranking (#7) for Dayton. The Flyers won 0.7% of the conference race simulations, a strong suggestion that the Flyers, while not absolutely precluded from winning the conference title, will again fall short in conference play.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume V

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 3rd, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..trying to figure out just how far one extremely talented player can carry a not particularly talented team. We all knew Kemba Walker wasn’t going to keep UConn undefeated for long once conference play started, but it’s been a blast watching him try. Critics will say UConn looked vulnerable this week while losing to Pitt and eking out a win against South Florida. I say, holy crap, Walker kept them in the game at Pitt despite no help (he had 31 points), and he wouldn’t let them lose a letdown game the next time out. Fingers crossed that he doesn’t wear out, because it could get ugly for the Huskies if that happens.

The Huskies May Have Finally Dropped One, But Kemba Still Gets IALHR Props.

I LOVED……some more innovative marketing, this time from Xavier, which served fried gator to commemorate a game with Florida. A fun idea, but they might have to nix that with some other teams on the schedule if they’d like to avoid the wrath of animal rights groups (Bulldogs, Bearcats….maybe not so much). They also play the Charlotte 49ers, so we’ll guess the Musketeers aren’t advocating cannibalism. Here’s another question, though – say Xavier played the mighty Banana Slugs from UC-Santa Cruz……would they dare? It can’t be worse than escargot, right?

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Set Your Tivo: 01.03.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 3rd, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Two ranked teams take to the road this evening against a couple of clubs trying to crack the top half of their respective conferences. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#8 Georgetown @ St. John’s — 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Can Hardy And the SJU Boys Maintain Recent Gains Tonight Against the Hoyas?

Steve Lavin makes his Big East home debut tonight at Madison Square Garden as St. John’s looks to score a big win and move to 3-0 in conference play, already off to their best start since the 1999-2000 team began 4-0 in the Big East under Mike Jarvis. The Red Storm have looked like a different team over the last four games. Since an embarrassing loss at Fordham on December 11, St. John’s has won four straight over better competition. The offense started to click in the second half against Northwestern and they haven’t looked back at all. Lavin’s offense is on fire due to the inside play of Justin Burrell and Justin Brownlee, the former shooting 76% over his last three games, as well as Dwight Hardy on the perimeter. The 6’2 senior guard has scored 41 points over the last two games and is shooting 40% from three over the last three. Even with the improved shooting, Hardy is still under 30% on the year from deep giving you an indication of how much he was struggling before this hot stretch. St. John’s gets a lot of points inside (59% of their total production) and has only attempted 17 threes over the last two contests. They shoot 53.5% inside the arc and utilize their forwards and dribble penetration effectively.

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Set Your Tivo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 1st, 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.

A lot of the college basketball world was in action on Friday and we have just 27 games tipping off on New Year’s Day. However, a handful involve some pretty good teams. A number of games are on Sunday but not many happen to be compelling matchups.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

West Virginia @ Marquette – 11 am Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

An important game for both clubs, this one tips at a strange time (10 am local) on New Year’s Day. West Virginia suffered a surprising loss to St. John’s at home earlier this week and doesn’t look like a vintage Bob Huggins team. The Mountaineers have struggled a bit with defense and rebounding, two staples of Huggins’ coaching career. They rank just #278 in defensive rebounding percentage and aren’t as strong inside as they have been. West Virginia fouls a lot, leading to foul problems and many free throws for the opposition. Marquette will look to take advantage of that with their free throw rate against, ninth in the nation. Look for the Golden Eagles to have a significant edge at the line as a result. A big part of WVU’s struggles has been the reluctance of Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli to explode and become big time players. Jones is still a good player but he hasn’t improved to the point where most expected him to. One player who has is Casey Mitchell, averaging 17 PPG which leads the team. The Mountaineer offense is very efficient (#9 in the country) due to effective point guard play from Darryl Bryant. “Truck” sets the tone for a very good half court unit. West Virginia does rebound well on their end, resulting in a lot of second chance points, but their defense and rebounding on the other end of the floor has let them down. St. John’s put up 81 points against them, a stunning number for a team that isn’t considered an offensive powerhouse by any stretch. Marquette will look to push the ball and work it inside in order to get easier looks and be fouled. Buzz Williams has an undersized team but they do a great job of using their athleticism by getting in the paint and creating good looks. MU gets 62% of their points inside the arc and is #11 in the country in two point percentage. They have a good turnover margin as well and will look to get points in the paint through lots of transition opportunities.  Jae Crowder has added another dimension to the Marquette attack, giving them a good scorer inside and out as well as a solid rebounder. He and Jimmy Butler will be key players for the home folks today. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Williams is the play of Darius Johnson-Odom over the last two games. His struggles from three have been well documented this season but he’s hit seven of his last eleven trifectas. Keeping that hot shooting going will be tough against West Virginia’s #4 rated three point defense but you have to think DJO has some good vibes now. Marquette’s three point defense isn’t very good but they must try to contain Mitchell on the wing. This should be a fairly close game but we like the Golden Eagles to win at home. Nobody knows how the players will react to such an early start but Marquette is playing better right now and should take this one.

#16 Notre Dame @ #4 Syracuse – 3:30 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)

This matchup has turned into a really good one with the surprising success of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish picked Georgetown apart (no small feat) earlier this week and will look to grab a big time road win on Saturday afternoon. The keys here are Notre Dame’s rebounding and three point shooting. The Irish run a great offense at a relatively slow pace and will have to get comfortable in the half court against the Syracuse zone. If the three’s are not falling, this will be a long game for Mike Brey. However, we think they will and Notre Dame has an excellent chance to go into Syracuse and grab a win. Notre Dame is an experienced squad and knows what they need to do here. Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough will look to shoot over the 2-3 zone while Tyrone Nash will play a big role inside against Syracuse’s Rick Jackson. Nash is the best player in the country at drawing fouls, an important statistic against Jackson and Kris Joseph (52 points in his last two games) inside. If the Syracuse bigs are in foul trouble, Notre Dame has a tremendous chance to win. As a team, the Irish are one of the best at getting to the line and keeping their opponent off it. Their free throw rates are very good on both ends so Syracuse will have to get it done shooting the ball from the floor. That’ll be tough against a Notre Dame team coming off a tremendous defensive performance against the Hoyas. Each team takes good care of the ball so turnovers don’t figure to be a huge factor in this game. The rebounding battle may decide the outcome. Both teams do a nice job on the glass but Jim Boeheim has the best rebounder on the floor with Jackson in the middle. He averages 12 RPG and can single handedly carry the Orange to victory. Getting the ball to Jackson on offense falls to Scoop Jardine, a very good point guard averaging six assists per outing. This is a great matchup between two teams that should contend for a double-bye at the Big East Tournament in March. Syracuse will be favored and obviously has a good chance to win but we’re going to go out on a limb here and take the Irish in an upset on the road.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

After Pitt’s win on Monday night over UConn, I’m officially declaring the Big East a four team race between Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse and Villanova as we prepare to kick off conference play. Here is a breakdown of why each team will and/or won’t win the conference:

Why They Will Win

  • Georgetown: Its a topic that has been beaten to death, I know, but the Hoya backcourt is just that good. Its more than just the individual talent of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. Those three play so well together. They are just so in tune with each other on the offensive end of the floor. And, more importantly, John Thompson III has allowed them to play more in transition, taking advantage of the ability of this group to play in the open floor.
  • Pitt: The thing I love about the Panthers is just how in tune they are with what Jamie Dixon wants them to do. Every player on the team understands what his role is and how to execute in that role. Their offense is a thing of beauty to watch, which is not something you often hear said about Pitt. They run their plays, they get the look they want, and they ferociously attack the offensive glass.
  • Syracuse: Rick Jackson is a new man. He’s streamlined his body and become the most dominant big man in the conference. Think DeJuan Blair plus a few inches and minus a few pounds on the bench press. He anchors a front line that is has been as good as any in the conference and still is not at full strength. With Kris Joseph starting to round into form, the Orange seem to have hit their stride this season.
  • Villanova: The Wildcats are going to be in this thing the entire season. Why? Because this team defends. I’ve said it all season long. This group reminds me so much of the team that went to the Final Four in 2009. They have a number of versatile players, they can utilize a number of different lineups, and they have frontcourt depth. That’s not something that you would have said about the Wildcats last season.

Why They Won’t Win

  • Georgetown: I’m concerned about the Hoyas winning under pressure. As I said, this team is experienced, but they haven’t exactly experienced success under pressure. In 2009, this team crumbled under lofty expectations and finished below .500 in the Big East. Last season, the Hoyas seemed to lose every time people started talking about them, including in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Ohio. This year, there have been two games against elite competition where the Hoyas had the final possession and were losing. Both times, Hollis Thompson forced up a tough three pointer with plenty of time on the clock. The Hoyas were bailed out against Missouri when Kim English saved the ball under his own basket, but they weren’t so lucky in the loss to Temple.
  • Pitt: The Panthers are not as good defensively as they have been in year’s past. They are physical on the perimeter, they are big inside, and they rebound the ball, but they also allow a lot of open shots from the perimeter. Tennessee exploited that defensive weakness. Texas nearly did as well. Even UConn got and missed a number of good looks from the perimeter.
  • Syracuse: Are the Orange going to be able to score consistently against better defenses? Putting up 100 points on Colgate is nice. Scoring 53 against Michigan isn’t. They’ve looked better of late, but a lot of teams look good playing cupcakes at home. Which Kris Joseph and which Scoop Jardine show up during Big East play will determine how far this team goes.
  • Villanova: Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns have not been able to fill the leadership void left by Scottie Reynolds. They’ve also not played well in his absence, shooting a combined 38% from the floor and 22% from three. If those two continue to struggle, Villanova is going to be in trouble.

1. Georgetown (11-1) (3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola MD 99-75, 12/23 @ Memphis 86-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ Notre Dame, 1/1 vs. DePaul

2. Pitt (13-1, 1-0) (2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. UM Eastern Shore 97-64, 12/22 vs. American 61-46, 12/27 vs. UConn 78-63

Next Week: None

3. Syracuse (10-0) (1)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Iona 83-77, 12/20 vs. Morgan State 97-55, 12/22 vs. Drexel 93-65

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Providence, 1/1 vs. Notre Dame

4. Villanova (10-1) (5)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Delaware 78-59, 12/22 @ Monmouth 76-36

Next Week: 12/30 @ Temple, 1/2 vs. Rutgers

5. Connecticut (10-1, 0-1) (4)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Coppin State 76-64, 12/22 vs. Harvard 81-52, 12/27 @ Pitt 63-78

Next Week: 12/31 vs. South Florida

The loss at Pitt will end up being a good thing for the Huskies. They needed to come back to earth. UConn is not a bad basketball team, especially with Kemba Walker on the court, but they certainly were not the fourth best team in the country. UConn looked bad against Pitt, but their younger players struggled in the Big East opener on the road against an actual top ten team. For the freshmen, it was their first Big East game ever, and it was also two days after Christmas. It is not yet time to panic with this team.

6. Notre Dame (11-1) (6)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. Stony Brook 88-62, 12/22 vs. UMBC 93-53

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Georgetown, 1/1 @ Syracuse

I really like this Notre Dame team. I like the pace they play at. I like their ability to execute offensively. I like that they have multiple lineups that can be effective. I like the number of different weapons they have. The problem? This team doesn’t force any turnovers. Playing great defense, forcing tough shots, and cleaning up the defensive glass is commendable. But the Irish will be that much better if they can start getting easy baskets off of turnovers.

7. Louisville (11-1) (7)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Gardner-Webb 78-49, 12/22 vs. Western Kentucky 114-82, 12/27 vs. Morgan State 104-74

Next Week: 12/31 @ Kentucky

Louisville slipped up against Drexel, as the Dragons were able to control the tempo and force Louisville into bad shots. So how do the Cardinals respond? By hitting 33-53 from three in routs of Western Kentucky and Morgan State, two teams expected to compete for their conference’s crown. Louisville may not have a star, but in those two games they had three guys (Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles) go for at least 25 points.

8. Cincinnati (12-0) (8)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Oklahoma 66-56, 12/21 vs. Miami OH 64-48, 12/23 vs. St. Francis PA 94-58

Next Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul, 12/31 vs. Seton Hall

I’m getting sick of writing this about Cincinnati. Their backcourt has been better than expected, their frontcourt is big, and they are undefeated against a Charmin-soft schedule. Come the New Year, we’ll finally start to get a grasp of how good this team is.

9. Marquette (9-3) (9)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Centenary 81-52, 12/21 vs. Mississippi Valley State 104-77

Next Week: 12/29 @ Vanderbilt, 1/1 vs. West Virginia

I say it every year, and then I sit back and watch as people disregard my advice until it comes to fruition — don’t count out Marquette. This is a scrappy team that competes as hard as anyone in the country. Once Darius Johnson-Odom finds his stroke, the Golden Eagles are going to be a team no one wants to play.

10. West Virginia (8-2) (10)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Cleveland State 74-63

Next Week: 12/29 vs. St. John’s, 1/1 @ West Virginia

I cannot figure out this West Virginia team yet, and I’m guessing Bobby Huggins hasn’t either. Casey Mitchell went for 20 ppg scorer to 20 mpg role player. Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli have had as many brain farts as post moves. Truck Bryant can’t stay out of trouble. There are a lot of pieces in Morgantown, the question is whether or not Huggins can put the puzzle together.

11. Providence (11-2) (11)

Last Week: 12/21 vs. Sacred Heart 84-76

Next Week: 12/28 @ Syracuse, 1/1 vs. St. John’s

Providence is going to be fun to watch this season. They run the floor, they shoot a lot of threes, and they score a lot of points. But will they play enough defense to win games in the Big East? Regardless, Marshon Brooks is a name you need to remember.

12. St. John’s (7-3) (14)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Davidson 62-57, 12/21 vs. Northwestern 85-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ West Virginia, 1/1 @ Providence

The Johnnies may have had the best half of any game from any team this season when they went 16-20 from the floor in the second half against Northwestern. But can that half erase the memories of a 21 point second half lead they blew against Fordham?

13. Seton Hall (6-6) (12)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT 68-45, 12/22 vs. Dayton 65-69, 12/26 vs. Richmond 61-69

Next Week: 12/31 @ Cincinnati

The Hall’s season went from bad to worse when Jeremy Hazell was shot on Christmas Day. I just don’t think it is in the cards for the Pirates this season.

14. Rutgers (9-2) (13)

Last Week: 12/18 @ Monmouth 79-56, 12/23 vs. St. Peter’s 55-52

Next Week: 12/28 vs. UNC, 1/2 @ Villanova

The biggest news coming out of Piscataway this week was that the Scarlett Knights opted to redshirt Kadeem Jack. Jack is a top 50 recruit and has the potential to be a very good player down the road. No sense in wasting a year of eligibility on half of a meaningless season.

15. South Florida (6-7) (15)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. James Madison 61-66, 12/22 @ Cleveland State 62-69

Next Week: 12/28 @ Seton Hall, 12/31 @ UConn

Gus Gilchrist quit the team. Then he came back. How many people noticed?

16. DePaul (6-6) (16)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola IL 81-74, 12/22 vs. Florida Atlantic 71-62

Next Week: 12/28 @ Cincinnati, 1/1 @ Georgetown

DePaul won two games this week. With Big East play starting, it may have been the last two games they win all season.

Looking Ahead

Big East play is kicking off this week. I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for top 25 matchups, Big Mondays, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery, Bob Huggins’ track suit, Jay Wright’s Gucci suit, Jim Calhoun’s scowl, the claims that the Big East isn’t the best conference because it’s too big, 3 am replays of Providence-Marquette on MASN, the trash talk between Georgetown and Syracuse fans, and, most importantly, arenas packed to the gills with drunk, screaming college students cheering on their team in games that actually matter.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.23.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 23rd, 2010

***** – 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.

Not a bad set of games tonight but nothing that jumps out at you as a must watch. The best games of the night may very well be in paradise as opposed to Memphis. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#11 Baylor vs. Washington State (in Honolulu, HI) – 6:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

A Rare Klay Thompson Sighting on National TV Tonight

The theory that good guard play wins in college basketball will be put to the test in this game from the Diamond Head Classic. Washington State’s guard-heavy lineup goes up against Baylor’s powerful front court, though the Bears have a star guard in LaceDarius Dunn. The Cougars have surprised this year and sit at 9-1 with wins over Gonzaga and Mississippi State in addition to a close home loss against Kansas State. Washington State shares one common opponent with Baylor, that’s Gonzaga. Baylor lost to the Bulldogs this past Saturday in Dallas while Washington State rolled the Zags 81-59 at home ten days earlier. Baylor’s offense has struggled a bit against the two decent teams they’ve played, Gonzaga and Arizona State. Combine that with the fact that Washington State defends the three exceptionally well, the Bears should look to use their strength and athleticism inside and pound the ball into the paint. Rebounding is a concern for the Cougars, especially against a Baylor team that averages 41 RPG. Even if the Bears miss some shots inside, they’re sure to get a bunch of put-back chances against the WSU front line. For Washington State, DeAngelo Casto must have a good night on the glass in order to contain Baylor’s front court, led by Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. The Cougars must look to their back court for scoring and they’ll feel comfortable knowing they have Klay Thompson on their team. Thompson had 28 points against Mississippi State on Wednesday and will be in the running for Pac 10 POY honors. In addition to Thompson, Faisal Aden has enjoyed a terrific season so far. Aden and Thompson form a strong guard duo capable of draining three’s with regularity. Washington State is very good inside the arc as well but Baylor’s interior defense poses the toughest challenge the Cougars have faced so far. They need to be clicking from deep or else it could be a long night. Baylor’s back court isn’t too shabby either with Dunn and A.J. Walton, but each player struggles with turnovers. Washington State enjoys a great turnover margin and that’s how they’re going to get extra possessions against the turnover-prone Bears. With the expected rebounding problem, Washington State has to create turnovers to win this game. Expect Baylor to have an edge at the free throw line as well, enjoying a nice free throw rate on both ends of the floor. The Bears also shoot five percent better from the line than Washington State. The Cougars are a good team but Baylor has something to prove after falling to Gonzaga. We’ll take the Bears behind a big game from Acy inside.

#9 Georgetown @ Memphis – 8 pm on ESPN2 (***)

With the departure of Angel Garcia, the injury to Wesley Witherspoon and their struggles on the court, Memphis is going through some adversity. How Josh Pastner gets his young team to overcome that will determine how far he can take his talented group of players. The Tigers have had three close calls against bad teams and are struggling a bit offensively. Memphis averaged 85 PPG in its first seven games but that number has dropped to 69 PPG over the last three contests. Memphis is not a particularly great shooting team but they get to the charity stripe often and do make up some points there. The pregame story is whether or not Witherspoon will play, as Pastner did not rule him out and said he was day-to-day. If he doesn’t play, the guard-laden Tigers will be severely undersized and thin overall. If he does play, they’ll still be undersized but at least will have a scorer capable of pulling the Georgetown big men away from the basket. For the purposes of this preview, we’ll go on the assumption that he doesn’t play and wouldn’t be near 100% even if he does. Memphis already struggles rebounding the basketball and that’ll be a huge problem against a Hoya team with good rebounding guards and two strong post men. Look for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson to own the paint with Witherspoon out. For Memphis, Will Coleman and Tarik Black have to make their presence known, otherwise Georgetown will focus its defense on the Tiger guards all night. A freshman, Black has had a tough time adjusting to a bigger role on this Memphis team. Tonight is a huge opportunity to assert himself and make himself a strong option for his head coach. The story for Georgetown is obviously their terrific trio of guards. They account for 57% of their points and all are great three point shooters. Point guard Chris Wright is also averaging seven assists per game during his senior season in the nation’s capital. Jason Clark is one of the most underrated players in the game today and has the potential to break out at any time. Austin Freeman is their rock. The preseason Big East POY leads the team in scoring and is a lights out three point shooter. When Freeman is hot, Georgetown is incredibly difficult to beat. The Hoyas are third nationally in offensive efficiency, first in effective field goal percentage and fourth in two point percentage, showing they can get it done both inside and out. It’s no surprise Georgetown hoists a lot of three’s, getting a third of their points from the arc. Memphis has to do a good job defensively on the perimeter otherwise Georgetown will shoot them out of the building. The Tigers also have to worry about turnovers, currently averaging 16 per game with Joe Jackson accounting for almost a quarter of those. Jackson is another freshman who’s incredibly talented but a bit undisciplined at this point in his career. He needs to play well and also get Chris Crawford and Charles Carmouche involved from the arc. With almost all of their players being guards, Memphis is going to have to try to match Georgetown’s outside shooting and get to the foul line. The Tigers will be in this game if they can disrupt the flow and score by getting to the stripe but Georgetown is just too experienced and talented for the young Tigers to overcome. Expect the Hoyas to pick up a nice road win at the FedEx Forum tonight after missing an opportunity at Temple a couple weeks ago.

A few other games to monitor:

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RTC Live: Dayton @ Seton Hall

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

Game #80.  RTC Live is back at The Rock in north Jersey for an interesting A-10/Big East matchup tonight.

The University of Dayton Flyers, winners of the 2010 NIT at Madison Square Garden New York, return to the New York metropolitan area seeking win #10 of the 2011 season. They are led by senior forward Chris Wright, named to the Wooden Award Watch List for the second consecutive season last October and junior “bookend” forward Chris Johnson. The Flyers have a flashy new guard, freshman Jawan Staten, a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year honors in the Atlantic 10 Conference, to set the table for Wright, Johnson and senior center Devon Searcy and backcourt mate guard Paul Williams. They may be looking for that win in the wrong places though, as The Rock, in downtown Newark, NJ, is the home court of the Seton Hall University Pirates, a Big East team with senior leadership, a new coach and dreams of postseason glory. Pirate Coach Kevin Willard will counter the Flyers’ talented frontcourt with talent in the person of Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson and freshman Fuquan Edwin. The Pirates, despite the loss of all Big East Conference first team candidate Jeremy Hazell in early November has, after a stumble or two, made the adjustments and are on a three game winning streak. Join RTC Live as Dayton and Seton Hall clash at the Rock.

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