Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

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

Looking Back in the A-10: Road Warriors & Homebodies

Playing some part of the out of conference schedule away from the comforts of the home arena is increasingly a fact of life for every Division 1 program that has any aspirations for life beyond the conference championship tournament. Travel is a budgetary requirement for some teams in a few conferences, but by and large A-10 teams travel either because of the challenge (Temple’s former Head Coach John Chaney had an “anytime, anywhere” policy for scheduling out of conference games), for the RPI bump or for the national exposure that comes from participation in the early season invitational tournaments. The Road Warriors this season are listed first in the table below:

In addition to counting all away (a game played in the opponent’s arena) or neutral court games as a “not at home” game, I also count games neither neutral nor technically “away”, but out of the program’s home arena, as a “not at home” game. That half of the conference has played at least 50% of their games “not at home” is a little surprising (but not shocking). That ten of the conference’s 14 members (71.4%) play at least 40% of their schedule away from their home arena makes me wonder if this is a strategy to help the boost the conference RPI. For Xavier, the strategy may have backfired. The Musketeers took three neutral court games at the Paradise Jam and scheduled an away game with Miami (OH) as a balance to their west coast trip to Gonzaga (this Wednesday) and their Crosstown Shootout game with rival Cincinnati, but they lost the Miami game in possibly their worst performance of the season. Rhode Island’s Jim Baron scheduled quite a few for the Rams this season, especially in the early part of the season. Duquesne had a terrible travel record last season, and Coach Ron Everhart appears to have taken the bull by the horns and scheduled a greater number of road games early in the season. The Dukes opened a four-game home stand with a game against IUPUI, and will take to the road to open the A-10 conference season (and take one last out of conference road foray, this time to cupcake Houston Baptist in Houston, TX).

Can anyone blame Fordham for being a bit road shy? Going into the season it appeared Coach Tom Pecora would have his hands full just logging wins. The Rams have done that much and more, logging their first road win in two seasons already.

Taking the team on the road is one thing, but how did A-10 team’s fare once out there? The table above suggests that the teams perform about as well as teams from most “above the Red Line” conference can expect. Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s, the two programs that have taken the largest portion of their schedules out of their own arenas, appear to be underperforming (compare their won-loss records with their efficiency differential in the far right column above), which might be expected from so much time away from the comforts of home. Massachusetts and Fordham might surprise, but remember that Fordham has taken very few games out of Rose Hill, and two of the Minutemen “not on the home court” games came in the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles away from the campus and thousands of miles (and a few climate zones) away from the homes of Texas Christian and New Mexico State. Given the last minutes roster changes at St. Louis, the Billikens’ difficulties are hardly surprising. Replacing critical members of the squad is tricky enough, but having to implement the transition in hostile environs can really kill a team’s post season chances. The biggest disappointment on the list (so far) has to be Dayton. The Flyers are supposed to mount a serious challenge for the conference title this season, but though the squad has a good share of upperclassmen, they have struggled at times. The road loss to Cincinnati was devastating, and the efficiency numbers for out of home court games reflects that.

Power Rankings

Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, and leapfrogged George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.

1.  Temple (8-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois 84-74

Next Week: 12/22 @Ohio

Like most teams, Temple faces that between-the-semesters slump in student support. Coach Dunphy penned a thank you note for fan support at the Georgetown win (December 2, 68-65) and an appeal for a big turnout for the Northern Illinois game last Saturday. The response from the Temple fanbase was a bit less than resounding, though probably better than all but one other Division 1 game played in Philadelphia last Saturday. If Ramone Moore was upset he took it out on the (NIU) Huskies, as he earned his third Honorable Mention from the conference for his 21 point, (career-high) six assist and (career-high) two blocked shot effort Saturday night. He scored his 21 efficiently, recording a 62.5% eFG% on 7-12 overall (1-3 on threes, 6-9 on twos) and 6-10 from the stripe.  The nucleus of the Temple offense is forming around senior forward Lavoy Allen, junior center/forward Michael Eric (when he is in the game) and a committee of junior guards Juan Fernandez, wing Scootie Randall and Moore. The Northern Illinois game is the latest in the pattern that saw Allen and Eric score efficiently (and often) when they are in the game, with either Moore of Randall lighting it up from the back court/wing spots. Fernandez might join the party as well, or just set the others up offensively. For NIU, Moore was hitting his shots and Randall was not.

2.  Richmond (8-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech 54-67

Next Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro, 12/26 @Seton Hall

Down by one at the half (25-24), the Spiders managed to take a two point lead (36-34) 25 minutes into their game at Atlantis in the Bahamas on a Kevin Anderson three. Over the last 15 (or so) minutes of the game however, the Spiders collapsed…on both sides of the ball. Over their last 25 possessions Chris Mooney’s squad posted a terrible 0.63 points per possession, considerably less than the 1.0 considered minimally efficient in D1 ball. Georgia Tech by contrast converted their possessions to points at a 1.34 rate, good enough for an additional 33 points and a 13-point winning margin. If fouls and turnovers are an indication of lost composure, Richmond’s 10 fouls and five turnovers over that last 15 minutes suggest the squad unraveled a bit. The Jackets managed a 123.1 FTA/FGA, capitalizing on Richmond’s tendency to foul when Tech went to the basket. Justin Harper and Darien Brothers in particular struggled with their shots, going a collective 2-10 overall (1-5 for threes, 1-5 for two point attempts) from the field.

3.  Dayton (9-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina 71-60, 12/20 vs. Winthrop 73-58

Next Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall

The Flyers posted a 2-0 week as senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference honorable mention for his career-high 30 points in Dayton’s win over Western Carolina. The senior forward scored another 10 points versus Winthrop to average 20.0 for the week. Freshman point guard Jawan Staten dished 18 assists against 4 turnovers in the Flyers’ two wins.  Coach Gregory’s squad returns to the New York City metro area, scene of their NIT triumph last March, as they look for this season’s 10th win at Seton Hall. Rush the Court will host a live blog Wednesday night from Seton Hall’s home court (“The Rock”) in downtown Newark, NJ.

4.  Xavier (7-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest 83-75

Next Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga

With the win over struggling Wake Forest, Xavier pushed their record to 7-2. Junior guard Tu Holloway shared Player of the Week honors with St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. Holloway notched a triple-double when he scored 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, the rebounds and assists are career-highs for Holoway. Junior Kenny Frease paced the X-men with a double-double of his own, his third this season. Frease scored 22 points on 11-19 overall shooting and 0-1 from the line and pulled down 14 rebounds.

5.  Massachusetts (7-3)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida

Finals and end of the fall semester sidelined the Minutemen last week.

6.  Rhode Island (7-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire 64-52

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette

Coach Jim Baron’s squad downed New Hampshire by 12 points as senior Delroy James again led the Rams in scoring with 22 points on 8-22 overall (4-8 three pointer attempts, 4-14 two point attempts) and 2-2 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic was the second squad member to break into double figure scoring, as he hit 3-6 overall (2-4 three pointers, 1-2 two pointers) and 3-4 from the line to score 11 points. The Rams should have little trouble taking Lafayette out of the Patriot League, and they two more chances for resume wins as they host Boston College on the 29th and travel to Florida for a game on January 2nd. They should have suspended sophomore Orion Outerbridge, benched this fall for academic problems, back shortly. Outerbridge should provide more rebounding and another scoring option to go with James, Malesevic, and guards Akeem Richmond and Marquis Jones.

7. La Salle (6-5)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell 77-89

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Rider

Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his fourth conference honorable mention for his career-high 28 points as the Explorers dropped the second straight game in their home stand, 77-89, to Bucknell of the Patriot League. Although two other squad members, guard Ruben Guillandeaux and forward Jerrell Williams chipped in more than 10 points apiece (15 and 13 respectively), La Salle could not avoid their fifth loss on the season.

8.  St. Bonaventure (5-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio 112-107 (4OT)

Next Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech, 12/28 vs. Siena

The conference split the Player of the Week honors between Tu Holloway and the Bonnies’ forward/center Andrew Nicholson this week. The junior joined the list of “Most Points Scored in a Single Game” in the Bonaventure program at #8 while posting his fifth consecutive double-double. Three other Bonnies, senior Ogo Adegboye (with 13), sophomore Demitrius Conger (with 23) and junior Michael Davenport (with 19) scored in double digits in the longest game played by a St. Bonaventure team.

9.  Duquesne (5-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. IUPUI 81-54

Next Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason

The Dukes pushed their record north of 0.500 with a 17 point win over IUPUI.  Four Dukes, senior wing Damian Saunders (12 points), freshman forward Joel Wright (11 points) and junior BJ Monteiro (11 points) scored double-digit points as senior forward Bill Clark drew his fourth conference Honorable Mention in six weeks for his double-double which included 17 points and 14 rebounds. Clark also dished five dimes, tied with freshman point TJ McConnell and two less than freshman guard Mike Talley’s seven.

10.  Saint Louis (4-5)

Last Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville 69-64, 12/18 @Missouri State 61-85

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/23 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/24 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup)

The Billikens continue to struggle to get north of the 0.500 mark. Coach Rick Majerus is looking for leaders, and so far the freshmen appear to be the ones stepping forward. The St. Louis scoring leader in both games last week was freshman guard Jordair Jett (16 vs. Jacksonville and 18 versus Missouri State), with junior wing Kyle Cassity next (14 and 11)  the third scorer in each game was a different player, but always a freshman (Jacksonville – Dwayne Evans with 11; Missouri State – Mike McCall with 11).

11.  Charlotte (5-6)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee 49-48

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State

The 49ers recorded the first big win of the Alan Major Era with their one point win before 8,400 fans in the Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. The game was played for 60 possessions, about 12% lower than the Division 1 average, and about 15% below the 70 possessions the Vols normally play for. Darrio Green was the most efficient Charlotte scorer, converting at a 50% eFG% rate with a 1.32 PPWS, though he only took 17% of the shots while he was on the court. Jamar Briscoe, playing about the same amount of time (92.5% of the minutes at pg) took 32% of the shots and hit at a far less efficient 30% eFG%. Briscoe scored a point more than Green (14 vs. 13), but was considerably less efficient doing so.

12.  Fordham (5-4)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State, 12/27 @Georgia Tech

The Rams are on hiatus, concentrating on finals. Coach Tom Pecora’s charges will swing back into action against Kennesaw State and then take a post holiday trip to Atlanta, Georgia to face the Yellow Jackets.

13.  George Washington (4-5)

Last Week: 12/18 @Oregon State 87-79

Next Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina, 12/27 @UAB

Freshman forward Namanja Mikic became the latest name in the Rookie of the Year conversation with his 19 point performance against Oregon State last Saturday. Mikic shot 6-11 from the field (6-10 three pointers, 0-1 two pointers) and 1-3 from the line for a striking 81.8% eFG%. The eight point win was the first Colonial road win over an above the Red Line team since 2001. Junior wing Tony Taylor also drew an Honorable Mention for his double-double versus the Beavers. Taylor scored 19 points while dishing 11 assists.

14.  Saint Joseph’s (3-7)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/21 @Boston University,

Off for finals and a much needed regrouping, the Hawks take to the road to play Boston University.

Looking Ahead in the A-10

  • Rush the Court will play close attention to the road games of Dayton and Richmond this week, as both travel to the Rock in Newark to take on the Pirates of Seton Hall University. This correspondent will host a live blog from the Rock in Newark for each game.
  • Rhode Island should have news about Orion Outerbridge this week. If the sophomore has passed his fall classes he should rejoin the team for the Rams’ Wednesday game versus Lafayette.
  • St. Louis will head south to participate in the Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational. The Bills drew Northeastern in the first round, with East Tennessee State or Southern Mississippi in the second round. Third round candidates include Mississippi, Appalachian State, Colorado State, or Texas State. This three game set will be the longest out-of-Chaifetz experience for the Bills this season, with ESPN televising some of the games. The Cancun Governor’s Cup is the second-to-last invitational tournament in which an A-10 team is slated to participate. Fordham will play two games in Santa Clara, CA on December 29 & 30 to close out the A-10’s early season invitational participation.
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Set Your Tivo: 12.09.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 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.

A clash of offense vs. defense in Philly and a huge game between two teams needing a big win headline tonight’s schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#8 Georgetown @ Temple – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Georgetown & Austin Freeman Have Taken On All Comers This Season

Temple earned their biggest win of the year in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night defeating Maryland in the BB&T Classic. Tonight they welcome Georgetown to the Liacouras Center hoping to pick up their fourth win over a power conference team. Temple ranks #7 in defensive efficiency while Georgetown is #6 in offensive efficiency so it’ll be interesting to see which team can impose their will on the other. After all, you’d have to figure something has to give. There are also two great individual matchups, one at the point guard position and the other in the paint. Chris Wright runs the offense for the Hoyas and he’ll go up against Juan Fernandez. They’re both point guards but one can really stroke it. Wright shoots the three extremely well and has distributed the ball effectively, averaging seven assists per contest. Fernandez lacks a strong shooting game but uses his body and basketball IQ to his advantage, driving to the bucket and creating for his teammates. His production is down a bit this year but he’s still a dynamic threat when he has the ball in his hands. In the post we’ll see Georgetown’s Julian Vaughn battle for position and rebounds with Temple’s Lavoy Allen. Each player averages seven rebounds per game and whoever holds the edge on the glass stands a good chance to win this game. Extra rebounds will give Georgetown more opportunities to get the ball back out to the perimeter where they’re one of the best in the country while Temple will look to use extra possessions in the paint. The Owls get 67% of their points inside the arc, tops in the nation in that department. Georgetown is the complete opposite, leaning on the back court trio of Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark for 63% of their scoring output. Freeman is 25-46 (54%) on the year from three while averaging 20 points each time out. The preseason Big East player of the year has lived up to the hype and carried Georgetown to a top ten ranking. Clark has seen his minutes drop by two a game but his production has increased drastically. He’s the glue guy for John Thompson III, a steady hand and a clutch shooter in late game situations. One area of concern for Georgetown tonight will be turnovers. The Hoyas average 15 per game and cannot afford to be handing out extra possessions on the road in what should be a hostile arena. This is Temple’s marquee non-conference home game so you can expect the Philly fans to be ready to rock. Temple can win this game by shutting down Georgetown’s three point attack and you have to believe Fran Dunphy emphasized that in practice this week. Georgetown is the better team however and has already won two games in tough environments, at Old Dominion and against Missouri in Kansas City. This will be a close game but Georgetown has the talent and experience to come away with a very good road win.

Butler @ Xavier – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2010

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

A Look Back – Side-by-Side Analyses

A simple method to project winners and losers in conference play involves comparing scores against common opponents. It is crude, but, if timing and conditions are roughly equal, potentially effective for developing a rough sense on how the teams will match up. While the out of conference schedule features 189 games over (roughly) three months, there are quite a few common opponents. The problem with score and margin of victory comparisons is that they do not control for pace. I wanted to match teams that are projected to finish relatively close to each other in the conference rankings, and while this is very early in the season, two side-by-sides looked fairly interesting…

Temple side-by-side with Xavier

Both Temple and Xavier played (and beat) Seton Hall within a nine-day period. Temple may have had a slight advantage on November 12 in that they played the Hall at home, but given it was the season opener, the advantage may not have been that great. The Hall’s leading scorer, Jeremy Hazell, was injured before the Xavier game, another factor to consider in the comparison (that would go against the Musketeers’ defense). As the offensive and defensive efficiencies suggest, defense is decidedly ahead of offense in the first fortnight of D-I play, at least for these two A-10 teams. Seton Hall’s defensive efficiency is, however, consistent with the offensive numbers posted by the A-10 teams. What can the side-by-side tell us about the Owls and Musketeers, particularly when they meet each other? If things progress, probably not volumes, since their appointed time is about six weeks away. Several elements are worth noting though. Temple will probably control the offensive boards, they did a better job matching up with the Hall bigs than did the X-men. Temple will block shots on defense, while Xavier will steal the ball. Neither is particularly adept at getting to the line, and while both turned the ball over quite a bit, that was uncharacteristic of either squad (and neither squad forced turnovers either). The Owls’ shot conversion efficiency (eFG%) has not improved much over the past six (or so) games, and if that element of their offense remains a problem for the next month, expect them to have to compensate for lack of efficiency by grabbing offensive rebounds and limiting. For Xavier, rebounding will no doubt be an issue in a matchup with Temple. The X-men will have problems matching up with Eric Michael and Lavoy Allen, particularly if the Owls’ Allen overcomes his slow start. While pace, according to Pomeroy, can be overrated as a deciding element, Temple showed it can play fast or slow. The SHU game was played for approximately 72 possessions on a neutral floor, about 10% higher than Temple usually plays the game. Xavier played slower than usual, possibly pace dictated by a undermanned SHU squad, and the Musketeers were still successful. Against each other, if the common opponent game is a good predictor, expect a slightly lower than usual possession game — about 65 — with Temple taking a close (one-to-four point) decision.

Fordham side-by-side with George Washington

These are two teams that, according to preseason projections, may not see the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. True to form, both lost to the Hampton Pirates of the Mid-East Athletic Conference (MEAC). Hampton, it turns out, is on something of a tear, going 6-0 after dropping their season-opener against Wake Forest. Kyle Whelliston analyzes elements of Hampton’s success in an Unfiltered posting over at Basketball Prospectus. According to Whelliston’s analysis, the Pirates are terrible shooters but great shot defenders. Checking out GWU’s shot defense — that has to be very good news for Fordham (and anyone else who plays the Colonials). Hampton, true to Whelliston’s post, did not turn the ball over much, but Fordham’s turnovers, the Rams’ lost one in three possessions without taking a shot, a very high hurdle to clear if you want to win (Fordham lost by 10 points). Fordham and GW are scheduled to meet January 12, about a month from now. How would the two A-10 teams do against each other? Fordham actually looks pretty good in this comparison. Against a very good shot defender they converted in the high 30s (nothing to write home about), but better than the Colonials who appear to be searching for a scorer (or scorers) to replace the lost Lasan Kromah. Both rebounded well (offensively) against the Pirates, and I would expect Fordham to (again) do a bit better based on the side-by-side. If Fordham can get turnovers under control they should do very well against GW, though given that Chris Gaston and Alberto Estwick are two of Fordham’s principal options on offense and they seem to be contributors, this may be problematic, especially with a seven game lead time. Given the elements though, this one, based on the side-by-side, looks like a close win for Fordham.

Power Rankings

The rankings are jumbled again by a series of unexpected losses (and a few unexpected wins). Next week I will take a closer look at how the conference has fared against some traditional rival conferences.

1. Richmond (7-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion 70-77, 12/5 @ Arizona State 67-61

Next Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth

The second week in December turned out to be another 1-1 week for coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders. Richmond’s loss to Old Dominion, featured an outstanding effort by senior guard Kevin Anderson who scored a game-high 23 points, while logging a very efficient 76.7% eFG% and 1.53 PPWS. Junior wing Justin Harper’s 14 points and freshman Cedrick Lindsay’s 15 points (70.7% eFG%, 1.44 PPWS coming off the bench) provided strong compliments to Anderson’s efforts. The Spiders led at the 36 minute mark, but 12-0 run by the Monarchs over four and a half minutes dug a nine point hole that Richmond could not climb out of in the remaining 1:45 of play. Two stats that stood out in the loss were the 23.5% offensive rebounding rate, below Richmond’s usually very low 27.4% (ranked #291) and the 1.6% FTA/FGA rate. No, that is not a typo; the Spiders had a single free throw on 63 field goal attempts. They made the most of their opportunity going 1-1 from the line.

Richmond’s bounce-back road win over Arizona State featured an outstanding performance by Harper, who was given an Honorable Mention for his game-high 23 points on a very efficient 10-14 (3-4, 7-10) and 0-0 shooting . Harper garnered an 82.1% eFG% and 1.64 PPWS, outstandingly efficient shooting. The Spiders did a much better job on the boards, grabbing 32.0% of their misses, while limiting the Sun Devils to 34.1% of their misses. Richmond’s FTA/FGA was 37.3%, a significant improvement over their performance against the Monarchs.

2. Temple (5-2) AP #21

Last Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan 65-53, 12/5 @ Maryland 64-61

Next Week: 12/9 vs. Georgetown, 12/12 vs. Akron

The Owls recovered from their disastrous Old Spice experience with two wins last week. Senior forward Lavoy Allen, who had struggled through Temple’s first five games, broke through with his first two double-doubles of the season, performances which earned him his first Player of the Week citation from the A-10. Allen posted 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win, but junior guard Juan Fernandez scored the team-high 18 points, shooting a 66.7% eFG% with a 1.34 PPWS. Wing Ramone Moore 16 points on a volume shooting night, posting a 40.0% eFG% and 0.90 PPWS. The star of the night, however, was the Owl defense, which limited the Chippewas to a very stingy 0.88 points per possession.

Allen followed with another 13 and 10 performance against Maryland in the BB&T Classic on Sunday. Like the CMU game, Moore provided points (16 points, the team-high) on another volume shooting night, while Fernandez chipped in 14 points and 3 dimes in 38 minutes. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad limited the Terps to 0.91 points per possession with a sterling defensive effort that limited Maryland to 45.5% eFG%. But uncharacteristic of those earlier losses against California and Texas A&M, the Owl front court contingent of Allen, Eric Michael and Rahir Jefferson, along with wing/forward Scootie Randall, controlled the boards, snagging a strong 37.8% of their missed field goal attempts, while limiting Maryland’s second chance points by collecting 75.7% of the Terp’s missed field goal attempts.

3. Dayton (6-2)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State 68-73, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH) 70-58

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/11 @Virginia Commonwealth

Coach Brian Gregory’s squad recorded a 1-1 week, like the balance of the conference elites. At least the Flyers came out on top of a head-to-head with cross-state (and conference) rival Xavier with a win over the RedHawks of Miami (OH). Freshman point guard Juwan Staten continues to impress the conference front office and fans around the conference, as he earned his second citation (co-owned with La Salle’s Tyreek Dureen) as Rookie of the Week for his performances against both opponents. Staten earned 14 points against East Tennessee State, while posting eight points and dishing five dimes as the Flyers overcome a second half deficit against Miami. The freshman sank every on of his eight free throw attempts in the last 2:30 of that game. Senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double for the week. His 15 rebounds against East Tennessee State was a career-high. Though the Flyers lost that game, they had four players, junior forward Chris Johnson (15), senior guard Paul Williams (11), Staten (14) and Wright (13) score in double figures. The fan concerned that the ETSU result hints at a regression to last season’s inconsistent outings can probably relax and chalk it up to a learning curve that caught the new point guards off balance. In an odd turn, the game saw Staten, Williams, transfer point guard Josh Parker and rotation front court player Luke Fabrizius take larger-than-normal roles in the offense. Staten, Williams and Fabrizius took 32.8%, 24.3% and 29.8% of the possessions when they were on the court, the higher than normal possession rate due in some measure to the turnovers each committed (five, four and one) during their playing time.

Possessions returned to a more typical distribution with the Saturday game versus Miami, as Johnson and Wright took most of the possessions and shots, while Staten and Parker stepped back into the background and concentrated on distributing the ball.

4. Xavier (5-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH) 64-75

Next Week:  12/9 vs. Butler

What happened at Miami on Wednesday is anyone’s guess, but mark this one down as a “what the heck?” game. The official recap chalked it up to a “slow start”, but I bet coach Chris Mack filed a “Missing Persons Report” after the game, because the Musketeers’ defense definitely did not show up at the game.  Xavier gave up an appalling 1.14 points per possession (ppp) to the RedHawks, while garnering about 0.98 ppp for themselves. Miami OH shot an efficient 51.8% (eFG%) while tallying a PPWS of 1.16. Miami OH scored on 34 of their (estimated) 66 possessions, just north of the 50% mark. Tu Holloway led Xavier scorers with 18 points, matched by sophomore guard Mark Lyons’ 18, but the lead guard, taking 30% of the possessions and 24.4% of the shots when he was on the floor, simply made it too easy for the RedHawk defense. Holloway’s 18 points was scored by volume shooting, 5-13 (1-4, 4-9) and 7-9, an inefficient 42.3% conversion rate (eFG%). Lyons managed to shoot an equally unimpressive 4-11 (0-3, 4-8) and 10-11, yielding a 36.4% eFG%. Senior forward Jamel McLean did turn in a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), but the scoring was neither efficient enough (McLean excepted) nor distributed enough to make the Miami defense work. Going into the season, the question was how the squad would make up Jordan Crawford’s production. As of this week, the question is still unanswered.

5. Massachusetts (7-1)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac 66-64, 12/4 vs. Boston College 71-76

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Maine, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall

Senior guard Anthony Gurley made the conference Honorable Mention list for the third time in four weeks as he posted an average of 20.5 points in the two games played last week. Poised to move up again in the rankings, coach Derek Kellogg’s squad fell five points short against Boston College (ACC) on a semi-neutral floor, the TD Arena, in Boston. Gurley scored 19 points on 8-13 (1-2, 7-11) and 2-2 shooting against Quinnipiac for an eFG% of 65.4% from a player known more for quantity the past few games. The surprise of the Quinnipiac game was high-scorer Javorn Farrell, a 6’5 swingman who scored 25 points on 9-16 (1-2, 8-14) and 6-7 shooting. Gurley scored 22 against Boston College, on 10-20 (0-4, 10-16) and 2-4 shooting. Sophomore guard Freddie Riley is struggling, placing a good deal of the scoring load on Gurley.

6. Rhode Island (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 @ Providence 74-87

Next Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac

College coaching is not an especially good career path for a curmudgeon. If you are going to be irascible, then you better win consistently, at least beat your biggest rivals. The disgruntled elements of the Rams’ fan-base grew a bit louder last week when Jim Baron’s squad dropped a double-digit decision against their biggest in state rival, Providence. This is supposed to be another rebuilding year for the Friars, so the 13 point margin was especially disappointing. Delroy James scored a team-high 25 points while three other Rams, Marquis Jones (15), Daniel West (13) and Nikola Malesevic (10) scored in double-digits as well.

7. La Salle (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma State 87-92 (2 OT)

Next Week: 12/9 @ Boston University, 12/11 vs. Villanova

Both sophomore center Aaric Murray and freshman guard Tyreek Dureen drew conference nods for their work in games on November 29 (Delaware State, a 65-61 win) and December 4 (the two overtime loss to Oklahoma State). This gives me some idea of how far the conference believes this Explorer program has come this season. Murray, a Conference Honorable Mention, was one of five La Salle players to score double digit points in their 65-61 win over Delaware State. The 6’10 big man tied with senior forward Jerrell Williams for a team-high 23 points against the Cowboys on Saturday. Dureen was cited for his scoring and assists (and steals) in the Delaware State game, and for the amount of time he played (43 minutes) in the Ok State game.

8. St. Bonaventure (4-2)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo 76-74

Next Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s, 12/11 vs. Niagara

Bonnie point guard Ogo Adegboye drew Player of the Week honors with his performance against Buffalo. Andrew Nicholson may not have drawn his third Honorable Mention (in the three week old season) but his double-double effort will be noted here. The junior #5 scored 16 points (0-1, 6-10 and 4-6) and grabbed 10 (2-8-10) rebounds in the win. Junior forward Da’Quan Cook and sophomore guard Demetrius Conger continue to be efficient second and third options on offense as they take about 21.6% and 17.2% of the shots, converting at rates of (eFG%) 58.8% and 58.3% respectively. If Adegboye can keep his assist to turnover ratio above 1:1 (and get Conger the ball a bit more often), the Bonnies could beat the preseason projections.

9. Duquesne (3-3)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh 66-80, 12/4 @ Penn State 73-77

Next Week:  12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay, 12/11 vs. West Virginia

The Dukes suffered through an 0-2 week, though senior forward Damian Saunders recorded a double-double (20 points and 11 rebounds) in the Pittsburgh loss and another 23 in Duquesne’s loss to Penn State and draw an Honorable Mention from the league office. Fellow senior wing Bill Clark matched Saunders point production in the Pitt loss, while freshman guard B.J. McConnell chipped in 14 points on 6-11 (2-5, 4-6) and 0-0 shooting. The key stat for Pittsburgh was rebounding; the Panthers outrebounded the Dukes by a 56-35 margin. The Pitt bigs simply overpowered the smaller Duquesne front line. Clark logged the double-double against Penn State, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 (6-4-10) rebounds. The Dukes had no answer for the Nits’ Talor Battle though, as the senior guard torched Ron Everhart’s squad for 31 points on 12-18 (5-8, 7-10) and 2-4 shooting.

10. Saint Louis (3-3)

Last Week: 11/30 @ Portland 60-69

Next Week: 12/11 @ Duke

The pace was deliberate, about 59 per side, as most Rick Majerus games tend to be, but the defense was very un-Majerus, as the Billikens gave up a whopping 1.15 points per possession to the Portland Pilots. The Pilots’ conversion efficiency (eFG%) was a discouraging 61.7%. Cobbling together a defense for Duke on Saturday will be tough, as the Pilots have logged a Ken Pomeroy adjusted offensive rate of 108.1 good for a #57 ranking in D-I basketball. Duke, by contrast, is 121.9, good for a #1 ranking. Problems for the Billikens however, tend to occur more on the offensive side of the ball, a problem that has persisted for several seasons now, due in part to roster turnover. Saint Louis is (by Ken Pomeroy) currently ranked #157, very middle-of-the-division, with a 100.5 offensive rating (1.005 points per possession). This edition of the Billikens has been a bit of a mulligan stew, which has relatively prominent roles in the offense going to freshmen, while the more experienced players are either struggling (sophomore Cody Ellis), stepping back into minor roles in the offense (junior Kyle Cassidy) or both (sophomores Christian Salecich and Corey Remekun and junior Paul Eckerle). The “reliable” nucleus appears, at this point, to consist of Cassidy, junior Brian Conklin and freshmen guards Dwayne Evans and Mike McCall.

Why McCall has been ignored by the conference front office is the mystery of the season so far. The freshmen scored an extremely efficient 14 points against Portland, converting at a 66.7% (eFG%) rate, good for a 1.41 PPWS. In his last three games, McCall has maintained a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

11. Charlotte (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina 61-62

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop, 12/11 @Davidson

After being declared “probable” for the Winthrop game, graduate senior Charlie Dewhurst broke his finger and is out again, this time indefinitely, pending diagnosis. Charlotte dropped a one point decision at East Carolina, though 49er high-scorer Phil Jones drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 14 points and 10 rebounds. The only other Charlotte double digit scorer was Darrio Green with 11 points. Life after Spears is proving tough, at least on the court. With a week to practice and reform the offense, the Winthrop game should tell the fans where the team is headed this season.

12. Saint Joseph‘s (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Drexel 50-62, 12/3 @ Villanova 71-60, 12/5 @ Princeton 65-74

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota, 12/11 @ Creighton

Phil Martelli’s Hawks drew an oh-fer last week, losing all three scheduled games. If Drexel was regrettable (but expected) and Villanova predictable (but regretted), the Princeton game had to frustrate the Hawk faithful. While projected as a contender for the Ivy League title this season, the Princeton squad should not match-up well against Saint Joseph’s. The Tigers do not have a power forward to stop CJ Aiken, and their backcourt, the strongest area of their squad, should not match-up with Carl Jones and Langston Galloway. And yet SJU dropped a nine point road game largely on lack of defense. They allowed Princeton to score 1.12 points per possession and shoot a very efficient team-wide 60.0 eFG%, while mustering only a 0.98 ppp and 50.9 eFG%. Princeton had players in double-digits, while Saint Joseph’s guard Carl Jones scored 24 and only one other, freshman forward Ronald Roberts, scored more than nine points (10 points on 4-7 and 2-3 shooting). Such are the growing pains with freshmen-dominated rosters.

13. George Washington (2-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ George Mason 46-60, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic) 57-64

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Towson

Lacking a consistent shooter/scorer, the Colonials are riding a four game slide through the weekend, the last two coming in December. They dropped the over card match at the BB&T Classic to a 4-6 Navy team (out of the Patriot League) which Pomeroy ranks #316 in D-I for offense. Ouch. Of the 11 players identified (and rated) by Ken Pomeroy who have a possession rate equal to or greater than 12.4 (very limited role player), only three (junior Tony Taylor, along with freshmen Chris Fitzgerald and Nemanja Mikic) have offensive ratings of 101 or better. Two (Taylor and Fitzgerald) have ratings of about 101. The Towson game should be very interesting for both teams, as Tiger coach Pat Kennedy is under the gun with a team that has struggled for the past three seasons and currently sports a 2-4 record.

14. Fordham (3-4)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Harvard 57-80, 12/4 @ Lehigh 74-67

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan, 12/11 vs. St. John’s

The Rams are on a roll! Coach Tom Pecora has recorded his third win of the season, and a road win, the first win not in Rose Hill since 2009, to boot. The sky is probably not the limit, but the prospects for several conference wins this season have improved dramatically. The Lehigh game delivered other good news – Chris Gaston, who logged his sixth double-double of the season was not the high-scorer for Fordham. That honor went to senior guard Brent Butler. While that may sound odd, the sophomore forward draws a good deal of defensive attention whenever he is on the court, and with some justification as he accounted for over 1/3 of the Rams’ possessions and 29.3% of the Rams’ turnovers when he is on the court. Butler, combined with junior guard Alberto Estwick (and occasionally freshman guard Branden Frazier), give three to four legitimate scoring threats for Pecora to throw at an opponent’s defenses.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC Correspondent for the Big East conference.

[Ed. note: this post was written prior to Tuesday night's games]

A Look Back

Last week, I wrote about how the Big East had won a number of the early season tournaments.  Six, to be exact. Two other teams made the finals of their respective tournaments. I had this to say about it: But is it possible that, while looking at the Big East’s faults, we happened to overlook just how deep the conference is? Yes, apparently. I’m taking it a step further this week.

The Big East, as of today, might actually be the best conference in the country. There are 19 college basketball teams left without a loss on the season. Seven of them are members of the Big East conference — Pitt, Georgetown, UConn, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville. Three more have just one loss — St. John’s, Villanova, and a 9-1 Providence team off to their best start since 1988.  True, the Big East has 16 teams, more than any other conference. But in comparison, the Big Ten and the Big 12, the two other leagues that can realistically join the conversation, have just two undefeated teams each.

I think we can all agree, however, that this is not the best way to determine the strength of a conference. Is RPI? Because the Big East has the No. 1 conference RPI according to RealTimeRPI.com. If you want to get even more in depth, Albert Lancada of ESPN put together a formula that incorporates four different computer rankings as well as both polls, and he found that the Big East was a close second to the Big Ten when it came to the best conference.

Honestly, I don’t love breaking down conference rankings. I think it is actually pretty boring, but it is a good discussion starter. Anyone that follows me on twitter knows how much I enjoy a good twi-scussion.  Even the most die-hard Big Ten and Big 12 fans have to admit that the Big East may currently be leading that discussion.

Player of the Week: Chris Wright, Georgetown. Team of the Week: Georgetown Hoyas

This week, its all about Georgetown, and not just because the majority of the Big East didn’t play anyone this week. It’s about time that we start to consider Georgetown as one of the favorites to win the Big East and to reach the Final Four. That’s what happens when you start the season 8-0 with wins against teams like Old Dominion, Missouri, NC State and Utah State. Only the Utah State game was at home. Last week, the Hoyas beat two completely different teams. On Tuesday, they went into Kansas City to take on the Tigers in what was the single most entertaining game of the young season, 111-102 (OT).

On Saturday, the Aggies came to town. After playing a methodical first half which saw USU’s offense execute to precision, John Thompson III threw on a press in the second half which the Aggies could not handle. Turnovers and easy baskets led to a 68-51 win over the WAC favorites despite Chris Wright being the only player that reached double figures for the Hoyas.

Georgetown beat two very good teams this week. Those two teams played styles that are at opposite ends of the basketball spectrum. Both teams were able to execute their game plans to a degree — Missouri got the game into an uptempo shootout, forcing turnovers and scoring in transition while Utah State was able to keep Georgetown from shooting threes (the Hoyas were 2-9 from deep) and kept the pace methodical – the Hoyas won both games.

Chris Wright was Georgetown’s most valuable player this week. Against Missouri, he had 21 points, ten assists, and hit the three that forced overtime with 0.3 seconds left. He also had 21 against Utah State, the only player to reach double figures in the game.

Deserving of a shout-out: Brandon Young, DePaul (because we all know none of you will make it down to the DePaul section of this post)

Quickly, name the best freshman in the Big East. I bet the name Brandon Young never came up, did it? Young is the fifth-leading freshman scorer in the country at 16.3 PPG. He averaged 24.0 PPG last week as DePaul actually won two games, knocking off Central Michigan and Northern Illinois. Against Central Michigan, Young exploded for 31 points, the second most for a freshman this season and the most for a DePaul freshman since Quentin Richardson. He also went 6-6 from three after going into the game 1-9 on the season.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

1. Pitt 9-0 (1)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Duquesne 80-66, 12/4 vs. Rider 87-68
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Delaware State, 12/11 vs. Tennessee

Brad Wanamaker had come back down to earth after a terrific start to the season, culminating in an ugly performance against Duquesne where the senior guard had four fouls and seven turnovers in just 16 minutes. He responded in a big way against Rider, scoring 16 points and dropping 11 dimes while turning the ball over just once. Ashton Gibbs is still playing terrific, efficient basketball. And Pitt’s front line is starting to come alive. Dante Taylor scored 21 points this week. Gary McGhee had 12 points, 13 boards, and 7 blocks against the Dukes. Nasir Robinson went for 14 in that game. Yeah. Pitt’s good.

2. Georgetown 8-0 (4)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. Missouri 111-102 OT, 12/4 vs. Utah State 68-51
Next Week: 12/9 @ Temple, 12/12 vs. Appalachian State

See above discussion of Team of the Week.

3. UConn 7-0 (2)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. UNH 62-55, 12/3 vs. UMBC 94-61
Next Week: 12/8 vs. FDU

Kemba Walker had another terrific week, putting 30 on New Hampshire before notching a triple double (24 points, 13 boards, ten assists) against UMBC. But the Huskies may have had their fatal flaw exposed this past week. Combined, the Huskies gave up over 30 offensive rebounds to two teams that should not be able to rebound with UConn. Alex Oriakhi is a horse inside, but he’s one of the only frontcourt players on that team with any strength. What happens when Roscoe Smith tries to box out Rick Jackson or Dante Taylor?

4. Villanova 6-1 (3)
Last Week: 12/3 vs. St. Joe’s 71-60
Next Week: 12/8 @ Penn, 12/12 @ La Salle

All of a sudden, the Wildcats have no depth. Nova was able to bounce back with a win over St. Joseph’s in one of the great college basketball rivalries, but they did it with Maurice Sutton out with ankle problems and Isaiah Armwood dealing with back spasms. Worse, however, is the fact that JayVaughn Pinkston got word this week that he will be forced to miss the entire season as a result of the fight he got in earlier this year. Throw in the struggles of Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns the last two games, and Nova had to get bumped down.

5. Syracuse 8-0 (5)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. Cornell 78-58, 12/4 vs. NC State 65-59
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Michigan State, 12/11 vs. Colgate

The Orange have yet to really put together an impressive performance this season. This week, the NC State team that lost to Wisconsin by 39 points went into the Carrier Dome and nearly beat the Orange. While they continue to struggle to find their range from three, we at least have a reason for Fab Melo‘s slow start — he’s playing with an injured achilles and a dislocated finger.

6. Notre Dame 8-0 (7)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. Indiana State 81-72
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Kentucky, 12/11 vs. Gonzaga

We will have to wait until next week to really get a feel for the Irish. The win over Wisconsin is nice, but the Badgers haven’t been the most impressive team here early in the season. Notre Dame will get Kentucky on the road before playing host to the Zags. It will be interesting to see how the Irish match up with a team as athletic as Kentucky or Gonzaga.

7. Louisville 6-0 (8)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. FIU 92-55, 12/4 vs. South Alabama 97-70
Next Week: 12/8 vs. San Francisco, 12/11 vs. UNLV

The Cardinals still haven’t done anything wrong, but they really haven’t had an opportunity to. The win over Butler is looking less impressive after the Bulldogs lost to Evansville. They will get a really good test on Saturday when UNLV pays the Yum! Center a visit.

8. Cincinnati 7-0 (11)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Wright State 77-69, 12/4 @ Toledo 81-47
Next Week: 12/11 vs. Utah Valley

The Bearcats are, in fact, 7-0. But they also haven’t beaten much of anyone this season as Dayton is not as good as many believed they would be. The sad thing is that Cincy can realistically make it to the new year undefeated if they can handle Xavier on New Year’s Eve.

9. Marquette 6-2 (9)
Last Week: 12/4 vs. Longwood 96-65
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Texas A&M-CC, 12/11 vs. Wisconsin

Marquette needs to spend their Christmas break down time taking jumpers, because the Golden Eagles’ biggest issue right now is that they are shooting under 30% from beyond the arc. Once those jumpers start dropping, this will be a different team.

10. West Virginia 5-2 (6)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. American 71-50, 12/4 @ Miami FL 76-79
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Robert Morris, 12/12 @ Duquesne

Perhaps the biggest testament to the strength of this conference is that West Virginia is 10th in our rankings. Tenth! That’s what happens when the same team that battled Minnesota for 40 minutes for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off title loses to Miami. Casey Mitchell finally came back to earth, finishing just 5-15 from the floor after breaking the 25-point mark in five straight games.

11. St. John’s 5-1 (10)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Wagner 69-61
Next Week: 12/7 vs. St. Bonaventure, 12/11 @ Fordham

The Johnnies have now won five in a row after knocking off Wagner 69-61. I hope you didn’t write this team off after their loss to St. Mary’s. DJ Kennedy, who has been struggling, came off the bench to score 20 points, a personal season high.

12. Providence 9-1 (14)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Northeastern 77-72, 12/4 vs. URI 87-74, 12/6 vs. Brown 91-64
Next Week: 12/8 @ Boston College, 12/11 vs. Alabama

The Friars are off to their best start to a season in a long time. You always have to consider the competition and pace of play, but Providence currently sits 11th in the country in rebounds per game. Not bad for a team whose big knock in past year’s was their extreme guard orientation. If they win at Boston College, it’ll be time to start talking about the Friars.

13. Seton Hall 3-3 (12)
Last Week: Nothing
Next Week: 12/11 @ UMass

The Pirates didn’t play last week, but they still lost. Jeremy Hazell is out at least another month after having surgery on his broken wrist.

14. South Florida 5-4 (13)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. VCU 60-59, 12/4 @ Florida Atlantic 42-50
Next Week: 12/12 @ Kent State

It’s a shame South Florida had to go and lose to Florida Atlantic. I was just starting to like this team. They were coming off of back-to-back wins against Texas Tech and VCU, and did not have a bad loss on their resume.

15. Rutgers 4-2 (15)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. NJIT 66-54
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Marist, 12/11 vs. Auburn

Auburn vs. Rutgers on Saturday will air in 3D on ESPN, according to a tweet from Mike DeCourcy. With Auburn being one of nation’s worst Power Six teams and Rutgers struggling to generate interest even in their own fanbase, I’ll bet five people see it, and none in 3D.

16. DePaul 3-4 (16)
Last Week: 12/2 vs. Northern Illinois 86-84, 12/5 vs. Central Michigan 71-62
Next Week: 12/8 @ Indiana State, 12/11 vs. Ball State

Brandon Young’s status as an overlooked freshman was chronicled earlier in this space. As one of the nation’s lowest “Power Six” schools in KenPom’s rankings, there’s not much else to get up for with this group.

A Look Ahead

While some teams use the holiday season to feast on cupcakes, that’s not the case with the Big East. High-profile opponents this week include Michigan State (Syracuse), Tennessee (Pittsburgh), Kentucky and Gonzaga (Notre Dame), and Wisconsin (Marquette).

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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

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

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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RTC Live: Utah State @ Georgetown

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2010

Game #55.  RTC Live returns to the nation’s capital for a possible trap game for the streaking Hoyas.

While KenPom may be telling you that Washington State over Kansas State is the upset to watch out for, Utah State and Georgetown will absolutely be a game you need to keep an eye on while Kentucky invades Chapel Hill. Stew Morrill runs one of the most consistently underrated programs in the country. Generally, he avoids playing road games against power conference teams without a return game, but after living on the bubble for much of his tenure, Morrill made the decision to schedule the Hoyas. They are an experienced group with some good perimeter defenders. Tai Wesley is a better post player than Ricardo Ratliffe of Missouri, who had 22 points against the Hoyas. And Nate Bendall is back in the lineup, although he is still battling the foot injury that has plagued him this year. Throw in a potential hangover from Georgetown’s thrilling win over Mizzou, and the Aggies seemed primed for an upset.   That said, Georgetown may have the best baskcourt in the country with Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark. Utah State better make sure they close out long, because those three are all hitting well above 40% from deep.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2010

 

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

The Week in the A-10: Invitational Tournaments

When the NCAA rewrote and relaxed the exemption rules for early season invitational tournaments, they expanded the number of tournaments and the number of bids that could be extended. Playing in a mixed field of high-, mid- and low-majors has become the norm rather than the exception in the 15+ tournaments that dot the D-I schedule from roughly the season tip off (the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic) to the end of the calendar year (the Cable Car Classic and ECAC Holiday Tournament for example) but peak over Thanksgiving Weekend. Although the power conferences continue to dominate the invitational seeds, a variety of higher-profile conferences, not among the above “the Red Line” elites, are increasing their own representation. Dan Hanner’s blog, Yet Another Basketball Blog (YABB), lists 18 separate by-invitation-only tournaments, nine of which have an A-10 team in their field this season. I added the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, because it is an exempt tournament (though none of the teams in the field are from above the Red Line conferences), which brings the total to 10 invitational tournaments this season.  That is more invitational tournaments than teams from the Pac-10, the SEC, and the Big Ten are playing in this season. For a conference that has had problems getting home-and-home contracts with brand-name teams, the invitational tournament offers the next best chance as it provides a match on a neutral court. The door is open, how many conference teams walked through?

Overall, the conference racked up a 22-10 (0.643) record in the eight tournaments played so far. If George Washington held a level (1-1) record through the preliminary pod (held outside of Philadelphia), they were consoled with the hosting responsibilities for one of the three consolation sites. The Colonials finished the tournament with an even 2-2 record. Good surprises included the Richmond sweep of the Chicago Invitational that included a win over #8 Purdue in the tournament finals, a Saint Joseph’s sweep of the Philly Hoops Classic that included a win over Big East representative Rutgers and the 3-1 record posted by La Salle in the Cancun Challenge included a win over Big East representative Providence. The most disappointing showings were turned in by Temple at the Old Spice Classic and Charlotte at the Charleston Classic. The Owls dropped two of their three games over Thanksgiving Weekend, one to a very beatable California team from the Pac-10, and the other, a one possession-squeaker, to Texas A&M of the Big 12. Charlotte may still be working out the kinks in rookie coach Alan Major’s systems, but an embarrassing losing margin to George Mason (22 points) and the consolation overtime loss to Coastal Carolina suggest the 49ers have a good deal of work ahead of them. Eight A-10 players were named to All-Tournament Teams, one taking the Tournament MVP.

Power Rankings

The latest round of invitational tournaments has turned the power rankings into scrambled eggs. The A-10 is used to giving, not receiving, upsets in these early season rows.

1. Richmond (4-1)

Last Week: 11/26 vs. Wright State 71-61 @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/27 vs. Purdue 65-54 @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion, 12/5 @ Arizona State

The stumble against Iona (hey, it was an away game after all) is all but forgotten by the neutral win over #8 Purdue at the Chicago Invitational Challenge. Spider point guard Kevin Anderson earned Player of the Week honors for his performance at the Chicago Invitational, where the tournament committee recognized his efforts by naming him the Tourney MVP.

2. Xavier (5-1)

Last Week: 11/27 vs. Wofford 94-90 3OT

Next Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH)

Brad Redford’s absence is felt still, as the Musketeers, according to Ken Pomeroy, have converted only 31.7% of their three point attempts, earning them a #285 ranking (out of 345) among Division 1 teams. The X-men needed three overtime periods (the first triple overtime game since their 2005 loss to Massachusetts in Amherst)  to subdue Wofford, their only opponent last week. Xavier was 4-12 (33.3%) from beyond the arc, 1-7 (14.3%) after the first half. Jamel McLean and Kenny Frease recorded double-doubles, scoring 22 and 12 points respectively with 12 and 18 rebounds apiece.

3Massachusetts (6-0)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. American International (D2) 83-56, 11/27 vs. Holy Cross 83-76

Next Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac, 12/4 vs. Boston College

The Minutemen swept the field at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, an event that has grown from a single game (scheduled in Springfield, MA, the birthplace of basketball) to a four-game exempt event. Among the victims were New Mexico State of the WAC and Texas Christian University of the Mountain West (soon to be Big East) Conference. The 6-0 start is the best since the 1995-96 season during John Calipari’s coaching tenure. The Massachusetts faithful have every reason to be optimistic, as senior guard Anthony Gurley now has six consecutive double-figure scoring games — but best of all — the scoring responsibilities have been distributed across the lineup. The sophomore class is providing good support, as forward Sampson Carter has four double-figure scoring nights this season and guard Freddie Riley has three. All three players are averaging double-figure point scoring through six games.

4. Dayton (5-1)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. Florida A&M 80-60, 11/27 vs. Cincinnati 34-68

Next Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH)

No, 34-68 is not a typo. The game was a good trap opportunity — four games in eight days right after beating SEC contender Mississippi in a come-from-behind-effort — and the Flyers walked right into it. After their comeback win over Mississippi on November 20, the team faced a pair of low-majors with one day of rest between. Though not particularly efficient efforts, the Flyers won both.  The point margin is deceptive, Cincinnati was not particularly good offensively either, Dayton was just far worse. The Flyers scored on about one in five possessions, producing an offensive efficiency of 0.51 points per possession (o-ppp). Collectively the starters (Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Juwan Staten, Devin Searcy and Paul Williams) shot a forgettable 6-35 (0.171), accounting for 16 of the total 34 points scored. The staff and junior guard Josh Parker blamed unfocused practice sessions and lack of discipline for the let down.

5. Temple (3-2), AP #21

Last Week: 11/25 vs. California 50-57 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/26 vs. Georgia 65-58 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/28 Texas A&M 51-54 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan, 12/5 @ Maryland

“We are a work in progress… Our defense is pretty solid. We’ve got a chance to be a good basketball team,” confessed Coach Fran Dunphy in the aftermath of the Texas A&M game that concluded the Old Spice Tournament in Orlando, Florida, last Sunday. The Owl offense ran through guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, along with power forward Lavoy Allen.   In the three games in Orlando, those three posted these numbers…

The table confirms there was too little production (ignore the points and focus on PPWS – points per weighted shots – less than 1.00 is “unproductive”) from those three. The lack of efficient point production can in part be traced to turnovers, but the truth is none of the three, as suggested in Dunphy’s postgame comments, shot the ball particularly well — note the eFG% is well below 50% for each of those players. For the combined three games (a loss to California, a win over Georgia and a loss to Texas A&M) the Owl offense converted possessions to points at an 0.85 rate, well below the 1.00 considered minimally efficient for D-I ball. Each of those teams hails from a BCS conference, schools whose RPIs will improve with conference play. Temple whiffed on two good opportunities, and with Villanova still ahead, the chances to impress the Selection Committee are dwindling.

6. Rhode Island (5-2)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. Drexel 74-68, 11/27 vs. Davidson 71-58

Next Week: 12/4 @ Providence

A week without additional roster attrition is a small victory for coach Jim Baron and the Runnin’ Rams. The coach used an eight man rotation in last weeks games, bringing Ben Eaves, Dan West and Nikola Malesevic off the bench for double digit minutes in each game. As option #2 at the point West, a late August JUCO pickup, has averaged 24 minutes and compiled a 1.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The conference named forward Delroy James an Honorable Mention for the third consecutive week the forward recorded his 1,000 point of college play.

7. La Salle (5-2)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Providence 84-73 @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/24 vs. Missouri 83-71 @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/29 vs. Delaware State 65-61

Next Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma City (Philadelphia)

Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his third consecutive Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double in the Explorers three games. Murray was named to the Cancun Challenge All-Tourney team.

8. St. Bonaventure (3-2)

Last Week: 11/27 @ Cleveland State 51-69

Next Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo

Despite his summer with the Great Britain National Team, Ogo Adegboye continues to struggle at the point. Demitrius Conger and Adegboye combined for five assists (50% of the teams production) in the Bonnies’ loss to Cleveland State but the pair also accounted to nine turnovers (37.5% of the teams turnovers) in the game. Andrew Nicholson drew his second Honorable Mention for his double-double effort versus the Vikings. Nicholson scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss.

9. Duquesne (3-1)

Last Week: 11/27 vs. UMD Baltimore County 101-69

Next Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh, 12/4 @Penn State

The only A-10 school to score 100 or more points in a game this season, Coach Ron Everhart’s squad has done it twice in four games, the second time against Maryland-Baltimore County. Six Dukes players scored double-figurepoints against UMBC, led by senior guard/forward Bill Clark’s 18. Since stumbling against Robert Morris in the second game of the season, junior guard/forward B.J. Monteiro and sophomore guard Sean Johnson have gone on a tear, scoring 33 and 24 points respectively, in the next two games. Good news for Everhart that the scoring has been so balanced. A-10 fans may be looking at Dayton’s Juwan Staten as the presumptive Freshman of the Year, but Duquesne faithful like T.J. McConnell, a freshman guard who has started all four games and averaged 10.0 points so far. his team-high 12 steals is nothing to sneeze at either.

10. Saint Joseph‘s (3-2)

Last Week: 11/23 @ Fairfield 60-51 (Philly Hoops Classic), 11/26 vs. Rutgers 76-70 (Philly Hoops Classic, Palestra)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Drexel, 12/3 @ Villanova, 12/5 @ Princeton

After stumbling to an 0-2 record to start the season, the Hawks have put together a 3-0 run to cross over the .500 mark. Langston Galloway took Rookie of the Week honors for his 17.5 points per game average through that three game run. He scored a career-high 20 points against Rutgers on 11/26 to help Saint Joseph’s to the Philly Hoops Classic title. The freshman dished seven dimes in the tournament final.

11. George Washington (2-3)

Last Week: 11/23 vs Hampton 51-62 (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod), 11/29 vs. NC Wilmington 69-73

Next Week: 12/1 @ George Mason, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic)

The Colonials beat the two weakest teams in the NIT Tip-Off field, but had problems with Boston University (American East Conference) and Hampton (MEAC!), not a good sign for coach Karl Hobbs’ squad.

12. Charlotte (3-4)

Last Week: 11/24 @ Oregon State 70-83, 11/27 vs. Radford 73-52

Next Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina

Despite some early optimism, the transition from coach Bobby Lutz to coach Alan Major has not gone smoothly. All eligible members of the squad that finished the 2010 season may have decided to stay, but Major did not, apparently get them all on-board with his agenda over the summer. Injuries to two squad members can account for the sub-.500 start, but a one game suspension (for violation of team rules) doled out on the eve of the 49ers season debut suggests that the battle for their hearts and minds continues. After a terrific showing in the Charleston Classic, that included an average of 16.0 points per game and double-figure scoring in all three games, senior Shamari Spears was named to the five-man All-Tournament team (not to neglect the Honorable Mention awarded by the A-10 front office). No sooner had the senior forward collected his certificate than he was suspended indefinitely by Major for what other sources describe as an indiscreet tweet. A number of programs have told the players to close their social networking accounts before the season began to minimize the chances a down night might trigger a hasty (and later regretted) note.

13. Saint Louis (3-2)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Tennessee State 78-50, 11/27 vs. IUPUI 58-55

Next Week: 11/30 @ Portland

How is Coach Rick Majerus adjusting in the absence of stars Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed? If the Tennessee State and IUPUI games are typical, he appears to have enlarged his rotation, as only one player per game logs more than 67% of the available minutes at their position. He looked to freshman Mike McCall (72.5%) in the Tennessee State game, and Kyle Cassity (82.5%) in the UIPIU game. As for possessions and shots, the freshmen McCall, Rob Loe (#4/#5), Jordair Jett (#2 guard), along with junior forward Brian Conklin appear to have formed the nucleus of the Billiken offense, with sophomore forwards Cody Ellis and Cory Remekun and junior Kyle Cassity providing support.

14. Fordham (2-3)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Long Island 70-82, 11/27 vs. Hartford 61-57

Next Week: 12/1 @ Harvard, 12/4 @ Lehigh

With the win over the Hartford Hawks, Coach Tom Pecora’s 2011 Fordham entry managed to match their 2010 win total under two different coaches. There are more wins to be found in the schedule. While sophomore forward Chris Gaston managed his third Honorable Mention from the conference, there are others on the squad who turned in good efforts in the last week, among them freshman guard Branden Frazier, who scored 39 points in the two games (24 vs. LIU, 15 vs. Hartford) on 15-24 (9-16, 6-8) and 2-2 shooting, for an eFG% of 75.0%, and sophomore guard Alberto Estwick, who scored 30 points on 11-20 (6-13, 5-7) and 2-2 shooting (his eFG% was 67.5%).

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ATB: Georgetown Lights Up The Heartland

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2010

The Lede.  Tonight had a bit of a March feel to it, with so many big-time programs taking on other big-time programs and culminating in a thrilling back-and-forth shootout in Kansas City with Georgetown taking on Missouri.

Your Watercooler Moment.  The ACC is horrible right now.  Already down 4-2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after tonight’s thrashing (only moribund Wake Forest managed to get a W), we’re having trouble seeing anybody other than Duke getting to the second weekend of the NCAAs once again.  We’re on record in this space that the ACC, the traditional standard-bearer of basketball conferences, has for at least five years been living off two things: that gilded reputation built through several decades of across-the-board excellence; and, the ability of two teams — Duke and UNC — to make runs to the Final Four and win championships.  In the last five seasons, the ACC has only put seven teams into the Sweet Sixteen, and only one of those seven (Boston College in 2006) was located on a highway other than US 15-501.  The  2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge only crystallizes how far the rest of this league has fallen behind Duke.  Tonight Georgia Tech walked into Northwestern and got destroyed, giving up 55 first-half points; Florida State, possibly the second or third best team in the league, ‘defended’ its home court for the second time in a week with another pitiful offensive performance; Clemson allowed a weak Michigan team to enter Littlejohn and defile its building; and, old reliable UNC with its stable of McDonald’s All-Americans still couldn’t figure out how to properly run an offense or make a free throw.  It’s ugly out there in ACC-land, and tomorrow promises to only be marginally better.  The ACC has three home games (and three Vegas favorites), but do you honestly believe in anybody other than Duke at home?  Are you willing to trust Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland or NC State based on what you’ve seen out of this league so far?  Look, it could turn out that Duke wallops MSU (a likely scenario) and BC, VT and the Terps all get wins (less likely but possible) so that the ACC notches yet another victory in the Challenge, but such a result still doesn’t change the reality that this league is light years from where it once was in terms of quality and depth of talent.  The Big Ten has at least four teams that are Sweet Sixteen-worthy and the Big East and Big 12 aren’t far behind; even the lowly SEC has two or three teams at that level this year.  How many do you see out of the ACC, realistically — Duke and who else?

Game of the Season (So Far)RTC Live was in the house in KC tonight for this instant classic, and our correspondent Brian Goodman reported from the scene.

Georgetown 111, Missouri 102 (OT).  Georgetown and Missouri spun a November tale from which March memories are made: a big comeback, a missed free throw that proved vital, career nights by players on both sides, a buzzer-beating three, and ultimately for the Hoyas, a highlight win to remember. Georgetown used a scorching perimeter attack from Austin Freeman (31 points, including 19 in the first half) and Jason Clark to race out to an 18-point lead in the first half, but from then on, Mike Anderson’s Tigers systematically wore Georgetown down. Gradually chipping away at the deficit, Missouri guard Marcus Denmon sent the frenzied semi-home crowd into hysterics with a three to pull ahead in the second half. The Hoyas, noticeably fatigued by the Tigers’ trademark press, still had enough in the tank to battle back and took advantage of a window cracked by MU guard Michael Dixon (who came into the game shooting 85% from the line). After the sophomore missed a free throw in the waning seconds, the Hoyas corralled the rebound, and when a loose ball swung out to Chris Wright on the perimeter, the guard cooly sank a three just before the buzzer to send the game into an extra frame. Wright, who was 1-6 from three before that crucial moment, then passed the baton to Clark. The junior from Arlington, Virginia, made three consecutive threes in overtime to seal the 111-102 victory, and Missouri went from having a huge win in their back pocket, to sitting in the interview room talking about missed opportunities in the span of 15 short minutes. Georgetown, with a big non-conference win to add to their already-impressive Tournament resume, returns to DC flying high on their continued consistency beyond the arc and a perfect 18-18 night from the stripe. Both teams still have work to do — the Hoyas are looking for answers down low and Missouri needs rebounding help outside of Ricardo Ratliffe — but each now knows what they need to improve upon in the next several months.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • The VS Fashion Show.  If there’s one thing that can distract all of our tweeple (99% of whom are American males between the ages of 18-35) from the Game of the Season (So Far) in college basketball, it’s a Victoria’s Secret television special.  It was actually fairly hilarious — one tweet would be about Jason Clark dropping another trey on Missouri while the next one would be about Katy Perry’s husband cavorting with the models backstage.
  • Kemba Walker’s 30 for 30.  After six games, Walker is averaging exactly 30 PPG, and he’s doing it in the coveted 50/40/80 zone, hitting 51.4% of his shots, 40.5% of his treys, and 88.5% of his foul shots.  Furthermore, as he did last night when he shot 16 FTs, he’s getting to the line at a prolific pace for a guard, averaging ten trips per game.  All great scorers know that the foul line is where the points are, and Walker is getting nine of his from there each night out.  Can he average thirty for the entire year?  It’s doubtful, but at this rate, who knows?  For a little context, only two players in the last twenty years have reached the prestigious 30 PPG threshold — Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1993-94 (30.3 PPG) and LIU’s Charles Jones in 1996-97 (30.1 PPG).
  • Georgetown’s Backcourt.  There may not be a better guard trio anywhere in America than the Hoyas’ Austin Freeman, Jason Clark and Chris Wright.  Experienced, athletic and physical, the three are combining for 42 PPG, 11 RPG and 12 APG while shooting the ball exceptionally well (15-32 from deep last night and 48.4% on the season).  Somewhat reminiscent of the Villanova teams of Foye, Allen and Nardi a few years ago, if the Hoyas can keep their big men on the floor to play defense and producing where needed, they should be very good again.
  • JT Terrell, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Tobias Harris.  Tonight’s freshman corps showed what they were capable of in varying degrees — Terrell hit seven threes including the game-winner for Wake en route to 32 points; Sullinger dropped his third dub-dub of the season with 11/13 in 36 physical minutes against FSU; Jones did likewise with 18/10 while his teammate Knight added 23/6/6 assts; Harris continues to impress with another solid 21/6 outing for UT;
  • Syracuse’s CJ Fair With the Sicknasty.  His only bucket of the game was, needless to say, rousing.

… and Misses.

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RTC Live: Georgetown vs. Missouri

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2010

Game #50.  RTC Live is back at Sprint Center in KC for some BBQ n’ hoops, as Georgetown travels to a semi-road game vs. Missouri. 

Exactly one week after last Tuesday’s top five showdown between Duke and Kansas State, RTC Live returns to Sprint Center in Kansas City for another matchup of ranked teams, as the Missouri Tigers square off against Big East contender Georgetown in the John McLendon Classic. Mike Anderson’s team is off to a fast 5-0 start, including wins in Cancun over Wyoming and La Salle, as they get set for this semi-home tilt. The Tigers are an experienced team led by juniors Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers, while juco transfer Ricardo Ratliffe has been outstanding on the glass, averaging 9.6 boards a game to go with 10.8 points per contest. The Hoyas will counter with a backcourt attack led by Preseason Big East POY Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. Freeman, at 20.2 points per game, has lived up to the hype and trails only Kemba Walker and Casey Mitchell in scoring in the Big East. John Thompson III’s troops include eight players who average 15 minutes or more per game, proving that he has the depth to keep up with Anderson’s frenzied “40 Minutes of Hell” style. Both teams are hungry to hand the other their first loss of the season, so expect a hard-fought, physical night on the hardwood.
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Set Your Tivo: 11.30.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 30th, 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.

After Virginia’s upset of Minnesota last night, the ACC is off to a good start in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. Will that continue tonight as the games ramp up? We also have a really good Big East/Big 12 clash on tap this evening. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#2 Ohio State @ Florida State – 7:30 pm on ESPN (****)

Chris Singleton Has Been Mostly Outstanding This Season

Ohio State’s last journey to the state of Florida was a rousing success, a 93-75 shellacking of Florida in Gainesville. The Buckeyes face an opponent with a much different style, but also a team that was beat by the same Florida team that lost to Ohio State. We said this was a crucial week for Florida State and now it becomes even more important as the Seminoles are in danger of going 0-2 at home against two quality teams in a span of three days. FSU star Chris Singleton was held in check by the Gators, shooting just 2-12 on the night. Singleton must get back on track for Leonard Hamilton and his team to have any chance against Ohio State, it’s as simple as that. This game features two of the top five teams in defensive efficiency but Florida State’s offense has held them back. The ‘Noles rank #94 in offensive efficiency, a far cry from the Buckeyes lofty #4 perch. Florida State has to have a strong defensive game against an explosive Ohio State offense but it doesn’t stop there. A solid performance on the other side of the ball is imperative. Florida State can play all the defense it wants but they won’t win without better scoring. Michael Snaer had a great game against Florida, going 5-6 from beyond the arc. He’ll need more of that against an Ohio State perimeter that can match or better him with guys like Jon Diebler (48% from three) and David Lighty. Singleton versus Jared Sullinger in the post will be one heck of a matchup. Perhaps the best defensive player in the nation goes up against one of the best offensive post players (62% FG) and whoever gets the edge could lead their team to victory. Two key areas bear watching in this game: turnovers and rebounding, especially on the offensive end for Ohio State. The Buckeyes rank #6 in forcing turnovers while FSU is #276 averaging 18 turnovers a game. If Florida State is turning the ball over that much they can essentially forget about getting a win tonight. Ohio State is #10 in offensive rebounding percentage while the Seminoles are #187, not doing a good job on the defensive boards. Ohio State is the favorite here but it would be hard to imagine them playing so well again away from home. Florida State isn’t desperate but they are in need of a big time win. They may not get it tonight but we think they’ll come out with a strong effort and make this a very interesting game.

#10 Georgetown vs. #10 Missouri (in Kansas City) – 9 pm on ESPNU (****)

Both teams tied for tenth in our latest RTC Top 25 released yesterday, though their playing styles could not be any more different. Missouri uses Mike Anderson’s version of “forty minutes of hell,” acquired from his time spent as an assistant under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas. The Tigers rank #16 in tempo and are second in the nation at forcing turnovers. That could be a problem for a Georgetown team that likes to play at a slower, more deliberate pace. The Hoyas average 15 turnovers per game and rank #222 in turnover percentage. Georgetown gets most of its points behind the three point line from the trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. All three shoot at least 45% from the arc with Freeman checking in at an astounding 58%. As a unit, Georgetown is the sixth best three point shooting team in the nation. Missouri, #196 in defending the three, is going to need its taller wing players such as 6’6 Kim English (two steals per game) to harass the Hoya shooters with his length and athleticism. Missouri as a whole is not very good at three point defense (#196), but neither are the Hoyas (#189). Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon Jr. are Missouri’s best deep threats and will need to minimize the pain of the Georgetown three point attack by making shots of their own. Coach Anderson uses a deep bench to rotate fresh players in and out in order to keep the defensive pressure strong throughout the game. No Missouri player averages more than 26 minutes per game. While Georgetown is almost exclusively a perimeter oriented team, they’ve received good contributions from Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson up front, combining for 19/14 a game. Missouri holds an edge in the front court behind Ricardo Ratliffe (11/10) and Laurence Bowers (12/7). The Hoya big men need to rebound the ball effectively against a solid Missouri front line that will stay fresh with two other contributors coming off the bench for Anderson. Georgetown is going to need something good off the bench from a few other players in order to keep their starters fresh against the relentless Mizzou pressure. This should be a tremendous basketball game and whoever holds the edge in three point shooting or rebounding should come out on top. Expect a forty minute battle with the outcome not determined until very late.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference.

A Look Back

The Big East had been questioned coming into the season.  I did it myself.  They didn’t have their usual firepower up top. Their preseason player of the year candidates — the Austin Freemans and Corey Fishers and Kris Josephs of the world — barely make a peep on NBA Draft boards. And the bottom of the league? Don’t get me started on the bottom of the league.

But is it possible that, while looking at the Big East’s faults, we happened to overlook just how deep the conference is?  Yes, apparently.  The early season tournaments aren’t just an entertaining way to kick off a normally bland start to the college basketball season. They also act as a gauge, a way to measure how each respective conference stacks up against one another.

And the Big East was, in a word, impressive, in the 2010 installment of the early season tournaments:

  • UConn beat Wichita State and upset Michigan State and Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational.
  • Syracuse beat Michigan and Georgia Tech to win the Legends Classic.
  • Notre Dame notched wins over Georgia, Cal, and Wisconsin to with the Old Spice Classic.
  • St. John’s beat Arizona State in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout.
  • Pitt won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by beating Maryland and Texas in NYC.
  • Georgetown won the Charleston Classic with a win over NC State in the finals.
  • Villanova lost to Tennessee in the finals of the Preseason NIT.
  • West Virginia beat Vanderbilt in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off before losing to Minnesota in the finals.

By my count, that is six tournament titles and two second places finishes. Both of the second place finishes came via loss to a top 25 team. With the exception of Louisville, who didn’t play in one of these tournaments, each of the Big East’s top eight teams finished either first or second in their respective tournament. The ESPN/USA Today poll currently has five Big East teams in the top 25, and eight in the top 29. The AP poll looks even better, as those eight teams are all in the top 27, with Notre Dame also sneaking their way into the top 25.

The top of the Big East is a far cry from where it was in 2009, when they sent five teams to the Sweet 16, three to the Elite 8, two to the Final Four, and logged three of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.  But with the depth of this conference — among the schools already listed, keep in mind Seton Hall is playing without Jeremy Hazell and with half of Herb Pope and Cincinnati just beat Dayton 68-34 — there is no reason we shouldn’t expect another season with eight or nine potential NCAA Tournament teams come March.

Player of the Week: Kemba Walker, UConn

It has to go to Walker, as much as I would like to pass the award elsewhere. Kemba absolutely took the college basketball world by storm out in Maui. Coming off of a 42-point performance against Vermont, the Huskies point guard put the team on his diminutive back and carried them to a Maui Invitational tournament title. He averaged 30.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 2.7 SPG during the event, leading his team to wins over then top ten teams Michigan State and Kentucky and into the top ten of both major polls.

Team of the Week: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Irish stormed through Disneyland, taking home the title in the Old Spice Classic held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex. Along the way, the Irish knocked off Georgia, Cal, and Wisconsin. There are a couple things that really impressed me about this team. For one, they are just as good defensively as they were last season. They held Wisconsin to 51 points two days after holding Cal to 44 points (and 5 in the first half!) The second thing that impressed me is the versatility they have in their lineup. The Irish can play big if they have too, using Tyrone Nash and/or Jack Cooley on the front line. But, as they did against Wisconsin, they can also go small, using essentially five perimeter players, with Carleton ScottScott Martin, and Tim Abromaitis on the front line. They also have a freshman point guard named Eric Atkins that proved his worth on this trip. He will allow Ben Hansbrough to play off the ball when need be. The third thing is their resiliency. The Irish were down 11 late in the second half to a good Wisconsin team before coming back and winning. Against Georgia, the Irish switched to a zone in the second half that helped then comeback from 12 down at the half.

Power Rankings: (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pitt 7-0 (1)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. Robert Morris 74-53, 11/27 vs. Penn 82-58
Next Week: 12/1 vs. Duquesne, 12/4 vs. Rider

Pitt looked like Pitt these two games. They smothered an overmatched opponent defensively, waiting for a big second half run to take control of the game. The Panthers are easily the best team in the Big East right now.

2. UConn 5-0 (9)
Last Week: 11/22 vs. Wichita State 83-79, 11/23 vs. Michigan State 70-67, 11/24 vs. Kentucky 84-67
Next Week: 11/30 vs. New Hampshire, 12/3 vs. UMBC

The only thing I want to elaborate on from above is that the Huskies role players have been pretty impressive. Shabazz Napier is a playmaking point guard that is a tough defender. Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb are both impressive athletes with enough skills to be capable thus far. And Niels Giffey is the kind of all-around talent — defends, shoots the three, handles the ball — that UConn has been missing the last few seasons. The question is whether it lasts.

3. Villanova 5-1 (2)
Last Week: 11/24 vs. UCLA 82-70, 11/26 vs. Tennessee 68-78
Next Week: 12/4 vs. St. Joe’s

Villanova is desperately in need of a leader. Against Tennessee, the Wildcats just simply could not get into any kind of a rhythm offensively with their three back court stars struggling. Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns combined for 6-20 shooting from the field and six turnovers. And Corey Fisher? He finished the game 1-10 from the floor with five turnovers and just three points. Worst still, he didn’t seem like he wanted any part of the ball down the stretch. That’s not a good sign for the kid that was supposed to fill Scottie Reynolds shoes.

4. Georgetown 6-0 (3)
Last Week: 11/27 vs. UNC-Asheville 87-72
Next Week: 11/30 vs. Missouri in Kansas City, 12/4 vs. Utah State

Last week, we talked about how the Hoyas’ big men were playing better than expected. Well, this week, we should now talk about how the back court may actually be outperforming expectations. Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark are averaging a combined 47.2 PPG and 11.1 APG. Wright and Clark are both shooting over 45% from three. Freeman? He’s hitting an obscene 57.6% of his triples.

5. Syracuse 6-0 (4)
Last Week: 11/26 vs. Michigan 53-50, 11/27 vs. Georgia Tech 80-76
Next Week: 11/30 vs. Cornell, 12/4 vs. NC State

The most important part of two more unimpressive wins for the Orange was that Kris Joseph finally looked like the player many of us thought he was going to be all season long. Joseph had 22 of the Orange’s 53 points in the win over Michigan, then Joseph scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half — after fighting foul trouble in the first half — in the title game against Georgia Tech.

6. West Virginia 4-1 (5)
Last Week: 11/27 vs. VMI 82-66
Next Week: 12/1 vs. American, 12/4 @ Miami

The Mountaineers played just one game since their impressive second place finish in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. In an 82-66 win over VMI. Casey Mitchell, once again, was the star, hitting for 25 points in the win. Kevin Jones hasn’t quite developed like many expected, but perhaps the bigger issue is that Truck Bryant was held out of the VMI game for “disciplinary reasons.”

7. Notre Dame 7-0 (8)
Last Week: 11/25 vs. Georgia 89-83 2OT, 11/26 vs. Cal 57-44, 11/28 vs. Wisconsin 58-51
Next Week: 11/30 vs. Indiana State

See above – Team of the Week

8. Louisville 4-0 (7)
Last Week: 11/27 vs. Marshall 80-66
Next Week: 12/1 vs. FIU, 12/4 vs. South Alabama

There’s not much more to say about Louisville than we already have said. They are 4-0 and have five guys averaging between 11.0 PPG and 12.0 PPG. Most surprising? Walk-on point guard Elisha Justice, averaging 7.0 PPG and 2.0 APG.

9. Marquette 5-2 (6)
Last Week: 11/22 vs. Duke 77-82, 11/23 vs. Gonzaga 63-66, 11/27 vs. Milwaukee 75-72
Next Week: 12/4 vs. Longwood

I’ve been high on Marquette all season long. They create quite a few matchup problems when they put their best lineup on the floor. But how impressive they were in a loss to Duke was erased in a close win over Milwaukee and a loss to Gonzaga. Marquette is always going to play close games, but until they start winning more impressively, the Golden Eagles have to slide.

10. St. John’s 4-1 (11)
Last Week: 11/25 vs. Ball State 88-83 OT, 11/26 vs. Drake 82-39, 11/28 vs. Arizona State 67-58
Next Week: 12/1 vs. Wagner

St. John’s looked like the St. John’s we expected this season. Playing four time zones to the west, the Johnnies rolled through the Great Alaska Shootout, capping their tournament victory with a come-from-behind win over Arizona State. St. John’s did it in the second half with a great press and on the back of 17.7 PPG from Justin Brownlee.

11. Cincinnati 5-0 (12)
Last Week: 11/24 vs. Savannah State 54-41, 11/27 vs. Dayton 68-34
Next Week: 12/1 vs. Wright State 12/4 @ Toledo

Cincinnati was flying far off of my radar, even with Sean Kilpatrick doing his best Lance Stephenson impression. But what the Bearcats did to Dayton? That just wasn’t right. The final doesn’t do that beatdown justice. The score at one point in the second half was 56-19.

12. Seton Hall 2-3 (10)
Last Week: 11/22 vs. Clemson 58-64 OT
Next Week: 11/29 vs. St. Peter’s

There’s not much to say about Seton Hall since last week. They still are operating without Jeremy Hazell, and Herb Pope still isn’t back into shape. The Pirates will be good, but we may have to wait until the Big East season to see it.

13. South Florida 4-3 (12)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. Liberty 60-43, 11/26 vs. BYU 75-77 2OT, 11/27 vs. Texas Tech 64-61
Next Week: 12/1 vs. VCU, 12/4 @ Florida Atlantic

The Bulls looked impressive when they took a very good BYU team to double overtime. The next night, they proceeded to beat Texas Tech, and while the Red Raiders may not be a tournament team, its still a nice win for USF. Jawanza Poland and Ron Anderson look like they may end up being pretty good players one day.

14. Providence 5-1 (14)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. La Salle 73-84, 11/24 vs. Wyoming 84-77
Next Week: 11/29 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/1 vs. Northeastern, 12/4 vs. Rhode Island

The Friars are 5-1, but they haven’t beaten anyone of substance. The only borderline team they have played was La Salle, who they lost to by 11 points.

15. Rutgers 3-2 (15)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. Norfolk State 83-57, 11/26 vs. St. Joe’s 70-76
Next Week: 12/1 vs. NJIT

It looked like the Scarlet Knights had bounced back from an opening night loss to Princeton. That is until they lost to A-10 cellar dweller St. Joseph’s.

16. DePaul 1-4 (16)
Last Week: 11/25 vs. Oklahoma State 56-60, 11/26 vs. Cal St. Northridge 66-88, 11/28 vs. Stanford 74-81 OT
Next Week: 12/2 vs. Northern Illinois

The good news is that DePaul looked competitive in their losses to Stanford and Oklahoma State. The bad news? Stanford and Oklahoma State are going to be spending a lot of time at the bottom of their respective conferences. The worse news? DePaul lost by 22 to Cal St. Northridge.

A Look Ahead

  • …way ahead. In 2012-13, TCU will jump ship to the Big East, as was reported Monday afternoon. With the conference growing to 17 teams in basketball (assuming no defections in the meantime), let the scheduling and logistical nightmares commence, not to mention nightmares on the basketball court – the Horned Frogs haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1987.
  • Things cool down for the most part, now that the early season tournaments have wrapped up. The biggest highlights on the schedule for this week are a semi-road game for Georgetown, who faces Missouri in Kansas City, a visit to Syracuse from NC State, and another ACC-Big East date, as Miami hosts West Virginia. To dig a little deeper, VCU, whose performances against Tennessee and UCLA  turned a few heads in New York City, will make a trip to South Florida Wednesday.
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Set Your Tivo: 11.21.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 21st, 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.

All of these games are from tournaments played on a neutral floor. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Third Place Game: #17 North Carolina vs. Vanderbilt — 5:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)

After losing to an upstart Minnesota team on Friday, North Carolina and Harrison Barnes are trying to avoid going 1-2 in this tournament. The star freshman couldn’t get anything to fall against the Golden Gophers as he shot a dreadful 0-12 from the floor. Vanderbilt is one of those teams that always seems to exceed expectations, mostly because of their underrated head coach Kevin Stallings. The Commodores had a strong second half against West Virginia in their last game but fell just short of a berth in the championship game of this event. John Jenkins shot it well from long range but was only 1-8 inside the arc. He figures to have more trouble penetrating and finishing against the taller UNC front court so you have to imagine he’ll play to his strength and shoot quite a few threes yet again. This should be a closer game than some might imagine, mainly because both teams are playing their third game in four days and Stallings always gets his club to fight hard even when they aren’t as talented. Vanderbilt seems to be doing a lot of work on figuring out its rotation as the minute distribution has been fairly balanced and spread out amongst many players. For UNC, Larry Drew II needs to take better care of the ball and get others more involved. His assists are down a bit to start the year but that could also be due to freshman Kendall Marshall earning some quality minutes at the point. North Carolina should win this game but it won’t be easy. Vanderbilt is going to surprise some people this year whether it’s this evening or later in the season.

Paradise Jam Semifinal: Old Dominion vs. Clemson — 6 pm on Fox College Sports (***)

Games like this, where contrasting styles go head to head, are always fun. In this case, the up-tempo Clemson Tigers meet an Old Dominion team that would like nothing more than to turn this game into a slow defensive struggle. Each team got a fairly easy draw in their first round game with Clemson knocking off Long Beach State and ODU taking care of St. Peter’s, though the Monarchs had some trouble closing them out. Blaine Taylor’s team has tall guards and wings who can really get after it on defense by using their length against smaller guards. That’s exactly what they’ll see in Clemson’s Andre Young and Demontez Stitt. Both are talented players but it’s going to be hard for them to get anything going against a stout Monarch defense that ranked tenth last year in defensive efficiency and is 20th so far this year. A great matchup should occur on the wing between each team’s leading scorer, Ben Finney for ODU and Tanner Smith for Clemson. Both are listed at 6’5/220 and have enjoyed solid starts to the season. The teams are evenly matched inside height-wise as they each have two important players that stand at 6’8. You’d have to favor Devin Booker and Jerai Grant for Clemson against ODU’s Frank Hassell and Keyon Carter. One statistic to watch is rebounding, where Old Dominion should enjoy an advantage. Clemson is definitely the more athletic team and probably the more talented one as well but we like the Monarchs to advance to the Paradise Jam finals in a close, low-scoring affair.

Charleston Classic Championship Game: #18 Georgetown vs. NC State — 7:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

NC State received some bad news late Saturday as ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported that senior forward Tracy Smith will miss three weeks with a knee injury suffered on Thursday against East Carolina. The Wolfpack had no problem against a decent George Mason squad as they placed five players in double figures in a balanced effort, but Georgetown is a different animal. Smith could really have helped NC State expose a suspect Georgetown front court but now they’ll have to turn to others to make up for the loss. The most likely candidate to see his minutes and production increase is stud freshman C.J. Leslie. He scored 21 points in an opening night win over Tennessee Tech and figures to be a main contributor for Sidney Lowe this season. NC State is a very young team, even more so now without Smith in the lineup. That youth, including another freshman star Ryan Harrow, will be tested by the experienced, strong and versatile Georgetown back court trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. Clark has been a pleasant surprise for John Thompson III as he’s increased his production quite a bit from last year. Georgetown’s offense is predicated almost exclusively on the backcourt this season, a far cry from historical Georgetown teams dominated by front court strength. The Hoyas are relatively thin yet again with the three guards all logging over 30 minutes a game. Georgetown has tall players on the roster but they’re very inexperienced and rather ineffective except for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson. Look for NC State to take advantage inside early even without Smith and maybe jump out to a lead, but we expect the experienced Hoya back court to assert itself down the stretch as they did against Old Dominion and pull this one out.

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