NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.21.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 21st, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • No one team had a more impressive day yesterday than the Ohio State Buckeyes. Their tremendous play may be due the emergence of freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who dished a career-best 15 assists. Craft, who comes off the bench, plays starter’s minutes for Thad Matta’s squad.
  • Once thought to be an afterthought on John Calipari’s Kentucky team, big man Josh Harrelson has made a huge contribution in leading the Wildcats to the Sweet 16. If Kentucky wants to continue its run, Harrelson needs to keep putting up solid numbers.
  • After their second-round upset over Syracuse, former bubble team Marquette is headed to the Sweet 16. Head coach Buzz Williams, a man known for his wide variety of emotions, could not be happier with his squad.
  • While Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes mostly lit up the stat sheet, Dexter Strickland served as a defensive menace in North Carolina’s win over Washington. Strickland was key in the Tar Heels’ comeback, as he was handed the assignment of guarding Washington’s Isaiah Thomas.
  • Following Washington’s loss to North Carolina to end its season, many are beginning to wonder if junior guard Thomas will return to school or enter the NBA Draft. Last week, coach Lorenzo Romar acknowledged that he would encourage Thomas to at least test the waters. The Huskies have turned Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson to the league in recent years, so in that regard, another early departure would hardly be surprising.

Southeast

  • Who would have thought at the midpoint of the season that Butler would be headed to another Sweet 16? Right now, their upset win over #1 seed Pittsburgh is gaining great acclaim across the country.
  • While Florida is happy with its Sweet 16 berth, its ultimate goal is beyond the Sweet 16. This should not be surprising, as the program knows how it feels to win college basketball’s ultimate prize.
  • After their healthy win over Gonzaga, BYU finds themselves in the Sweet 16. One Salt Lake Tribune columnist argues that the Cougars have a chance at the Final Four.
  • Wisconsin has recently held the reputation of being a quality team that gets quality contributions from a variety of guys. This tournament, it seems as if their role players are stepping into a more important position.
  • Florida’s advancing to the Sweet 16 was hugely influenced by the hot shooting of guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. The two guards, who have struggled with inconsistency in their careers, look to be on a hot streak for Billy Donovan’s Gators.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 14th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse asks who the best prototype player in the game is, backs the Princeton Tigers, and laments his bad bracket luck. Yeah, Jesse…tell it to Coach Greenberg.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..trying to figure out a unique question. I was having a debate with someone about Connecticut, and in the course of that argument said that “you have to remember, the Huskies don’t have five Kembas.” Well, my buddy (RTC’s own David Ely) asked which player I would take five of in order to form a team that would be the most competitive against a full squad from another school. Think about it, it’s a really interesting question. They have to be able to handle the ball if a team pressed, have to be big enough to compete on the boards (is 6’4 or 6’5 big enough?), have to shoot well enough to keep a D honest, have to be a versatile defender, etc. I think Jordan Hamilton from Texas might be my pick, but here are some of players that came to mind: Harrison Barnes (he’s the prototype you’d think of, 6’8 with some guard skills), Kyle Singler, Derrick Williams, Daniel Hardy, Brad Wanamaker, Scotty Hopson, DeAndre Liggins, Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph. Who would you take?

Is Barnes the Best "All-Rounder" of a Player?

I LOVED…..two perfect buzzer beaters. Kemba Walker and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas gave us a couple of doozies to salivate over this week, and I liked them for different reasons. With Kemba, it was the ridiculous move. Yes, he had a post player on him, but that stepback was so comically absurd (Pitt’s Gary McGhee fell down) that the only critique might be that he exerted too much energy getting more space than he needed. He’s still my POY, by the way. With Thomas, it was the perfect setup. It was an incredible game (a TITLE game), overtime, swings for both teams…and a perfect ending. Thomas played the clock absolutely perfectly, and the backboard lit up just as his J swished through the hoop. Oh, and by the way, Gus Johnson was on the call (watch to get excited for this coming week): “Thomas….shake….crossover….stepback…..AHHHHIAAHHHH!!!!! AT THE BUZZER!!! YOUNG!!!…..ZEKE!!! (someone told Gus that Thomas was named after the NBA great PG)…….. COLD!!!! ….. BLOODED!!!!!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 03.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 12th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

When we’re this late into Championship Week, every game is dynamite and a must-see event. There are too many games to preview in their entirety so here are a handful you absolutely have to watch today. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

ACC Semifinals (at Greensboro, NC): #5 Duke vs. Virginia Tech – 3:30 pm on ESPN (****)

With the status of Nolan Smith uncertain after suffering a toe injury yesterday (bad toes have killed the Blue Devils this year, right?), Virginia Tech can lock up a bid for certain with another win over Duke this afternoon. After a scintillating conclusion to their game against Florida State, one tenth of a second may be enough to vault this Hokies team into the Big Dance regardless of what happens today. If Smith can’t go, Kyle Singler and Seth Curry become Duke’s go-to players. Singler played like the guy we saw last year against Maryland yesterday, posting 29/9 on 10-15 FG, while Curry did a nice job filling in at the point after Smith left. Virginia Tech slowed the pace down in their win over Duke last month but more importantly committed only five turnovers in that game. The Hokies also held the Blue Devils to 20% shooting from three and owned the paint with Jeff Allen and Victor Davila combining for 29/25 in the win. To beat Duke for the second time, Seth Greenberg needs a similar game plan. If Duke can get out in transition, Virginia Tech’s limited depth will become a major concern, as will their propensity to turn the ball over. The Hokies are at their best playing in the half court where they work the ball inside to Allen and crash the glass, not when Malcolm Delaney is jacking up ill-advised deep shots leading to long rebounds and fast break points for the opponent. If Smith can’t go and Curry doesn’t make his teammates better, look for Virginia Tech to use a lot of zone (they might anyway) to force Duke into deep jumpers, especially Singler. He shot the ball poorly in the first meeting and was a big part of why Duke lost that game. A game like he had against Maryland will lead Duke to a win but Virginia Tech knows what is at stake and can definitely win this game if they stick to the blueprint we just outlined.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 02.09.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2011

  1. Bruce Pearl returned to the sidelines last night in a game against Kentucky in Lexington, having served his eight-game SEC suspension.  Gary Parrish believes that the Big Orange head coach will be nailed with a full one-year suspension by the NCAA when it finally metes out its punishment for lying to the governing body (among other things).  This would be a reasonable punishment considering the NCAA simply cannot let one of its star head coaches get over on it like that.  Still, Tony Jones as the interim coach would be a good replacement (he was 5-3 with two close OT losses while Pearl was out), giving him a chance to move on to another top coaching job the following year while keeping a fair amount of continuity within the UT basketball program.
  2. Luke Winn uses more graphs than you can shake a frosh at in comparing the offensive progress of nine of the best collegiate rookies in the country this year.  You should read the whole thing, but here’s a synopsis:  Steadily rising – Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, Harrison Barnes, Will Barton; Marginally Rising – Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Brandon Knight; Decreasing: Terrence Jones, Joe Jackson.
  3. And articles like these are why NC State continues to be the laughingstock of ACC basketball.  Not only does the author lose all credibility when he states that Herb Sendek is on the hot seat at Arizona State this season — the same Sendek who won 22, 25 and 21 games in Tempe the last three seasons — but he fails to understand that the key difference between the first five seasons of Sidney Lowe vs. Sendek is that the latter clearly was building toward something.  Lowe only appears to be building toward a stigma of perpetual ACC bottom-dweller.  The other significant fact that he fails to recognize is that the ACC has been a pathetic shell of its former self the last five years — if there was ever an opportunity for a non-Duke/non-UNC team to step into the top tier, it’s been during this period.
  4. Georgia Tech’s Brian Oliver will miss up to three weeks with a broken left thumb that will require surgery.  The 6’6 sophomore guard is the team’s third-leading scorer and fourth-leading rebounder for a team that is going nowhere in the ACC and nationally, but the expectation is that he will be back in time for the postseason.
  5. Pete Thamel at the NYT gives casual fans just tuning into college basketball a primer as to what the season has been so far.  His argument is that the lack of stars — from the injured Kyrie Irving to the gone-pro Wesley Johnson and Greg Monroe, has led to a wide-open season of parity.  We agree with the last part of the statement — the field is wide open this year.  But wasn’t it wide open last year as well?  Duke wasn’t an extremely popular pick to win it all, but they did anyway.  The two other teams considered most likely to do so — Kansas and Kentucky — never even got to Indianapolis.  As for the lack of star power, well, again, this happens just about every year — guys like Johnson and Monroe go league, while the next generation of stars, the Fredettes and Sullingers, take their place.  This wasn’t Thamel’s best work.
Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.28-01.30

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 28th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor

This weekend brings us yet another great slate of games with plenty of ranked teams heading out on the road to face unranked opponents. How many will go down this time? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#21 Georgetown @ #6 Villanova – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

Despite their win at the Carrier Dome over Syracuse last week, Villanova has lost two of its last three games and now welcomes their rival Georgetown Hoyas to the Wells Fargo Center. The Hoyas have won three straight over the New York-area schools to climb back to 4-4 in Big East play. Georgetown has won four true road games but none of those wins were against teams the caliber of Villanova.

If Freeman and the Hoyas Plan On Finishing Strong, Tonight's a Good Night To Start

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.19.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 19th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Three interesting contests headline tonight’s schedule, including NC State’s endeavor to pull a shocker of its own over now-#4 Duke. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Cincinnati @ #16 Notre Dame – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Abromaitis Plays the Most MPG for the Irish But Has Been Held Under His Season Average for Three Straight Games

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.07-01.09

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 7th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The first big hoops weekend of 2011 features many important games across the land. Here are five key games followed by a host of others. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Cleveland State @ Butler – 7 pm Friday on ESPNU (****)

With Butler’s loss at Milwaukee on Monday, folks in the Horizon League used to the Bulldogs’ dominance are excited that this may be the year someone else takes the title. Cleveland State leads the league by a game over Detroit and Wright State while holding a one and a half game lead over Butler heading into tonight’s game. Should the Vikings win on the road tonight and plow through the rest of their Horizon schedule, expect to see Cleveland State win the league. Obviously we’re a long way off from that but CSU is currently in a nice position. Butler’s problems have been on the defensive end. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 73.6 PPG in their losses while their defensive efficiency has dropped significantly from their top five ranking of a year ago.

The Bulldogs Need Mack Back On Track Tonight, And From Now On

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.04.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 4th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tuesday is a relatively quiet night for hoops fans but there are a few interesting games out there. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#13 Connecticut @ #16 Notre Dame — 7 pm on SNY/ESPN3.com (****)

Hansbrough Can Get Hot Anywhere, Especially At Home.

The Huskies enter a difficult road environment struggling somewhat after their hot start. Connecticut was beaten soundly at Pittsburgh last week and had a very hard time putting away Big East bottom feeder South Florida at home on Friday, needing overtime to knock off the Bulls. As has been the case all year long, Jim Calhoun’s team hasn’t found a third scorer to take some pressure off Kemba Walker and Alex Oriakhi. Walker needed 27 shots to score 31 points against Pittsburgh and Connecticut is going to need a third option tonight against an experienced Irish team with a lot of scoring balance. Notre Dame has five players averaging double figures when you round Scott Martin’s 9.8 PPG up, and each player knows their role in Mike Brey’s newly disciplined offense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

So… About Those Spartans?

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2010

In case you hadn’t noticed, Michigan State’s 52-game non-conference homecourt winning streak ended with an icy thud tonight as a young, athletic Texas team went into the Breslin Center and dominated Tom Izzo’s team, 67-55.  Before we get to the “problems” that the Spartans have, let’s consider a little bit of historical context with this program before we pull the alarm bells at the firehouse.  Since the last time MSU entered the NCAAs as a #1 seed in the 2001-02 season, Izzo’s teams have been to nine NCAA Tournaments with an average seed of #6 coming into the Dance.  Remember, seeding is a general reflection of a team’s season resume, and the standard profile of a #6 seed is something in the neighborhood of a 25-9 team that finished third or fourth in the Big Ten — a solid  above-average major conference team but nothing special.  In six of those nine years, the Spartans overplayed their seed expectation by a total of ten wins, which essentially means that if Izzo’s team was expected by seed to make the Sweet Sixteen, he usually took them to the Final Four instead (in two other years, MSU performed exactly to its seed, and only in 2006 did the Spartans perform below its seed).

No Need For Frowns, Fellas (DFP/J. Gonzalez)

So what’s happening here?  Is this a situation where the “real” Michigan State is the one that sleepwalks through much of the season, vulnerable to several head-scratching games a year despite a surfeit of talent on the floor?  Or is the actual team the one that shows up seemingly every March and plows through NCAA Tournament opponents as if they were #16 seeds with multi-directional names?  We’ve seen this Izzo dog-and-pony show long enough to have become fully convinced that it’s the former.  He recruits numerous good but not great players (only two first-rounders since 2002) who buy into his system and win a lot of games, but nobody will ever confuse Kalin Lucas with John Wall or Durrell Summers with Evan Turner — and yet, those MSU players have been to Final Fours while the others have not.  It comes down to this.  We believe that Izzo is such a fantastic motivator and game coach that when the NCAA Tournament arrives, he elevates his players to the point where a #6 seed from a talent/resume perspective starts playing like a #1 or #2 seed, and before you know it, Sparty is again booking tickets at the Final Four.

That collective disgust you heard tonight was the college basketball community once again throwing its hands up in the air as MSU looked slow, tired and generally unathletic against the much more aggressive and high-flying Longhorns.  The Spartan goals sphinctered up to the point where they shot only 29% for the game and 19% from deep while committing six more turnovers than the younger ‘Horns, including several from Korie Lucious that nearly made Jay Bilas get up out of his analyst’s chair and deliver a tirade at the Final Four point guard himself.  And as for that legendary Michigan State defense?  Well, it guarded the foul line well (11-21) and not much else tonight, as UT’s big four of Jordan Hamilton, Gary Johnson, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph went for 59 points on an array of dribble-drives and ensuing layups/dunks that often made the Spartans look cemented into the hardwood.  To a casual observer of this game, it would be extremely difficult to explain to that person why Michigan State is still the better bet in March, but riddle us this:  will anyone out there go on record to say that the Spartans definitely will not make it to Houston in April?  Or that Rick Barnes’ Longhorns will?  Yeah, didn’t think so — to do so would be to deny what we know to be true, that Izzo will figure out a way to make the magic happen again.

Here’s the takeaway from tonight’s loss to Texas.  There’s nothing wrong with Michigan State — they are who they are and who they will continue to be — an above-average team with above-average players who will lose some games and cause everyone to doubt them again during the regular season before making another shocking and completely unexpected run in March.  Sure, it’s annoying because we tend to celebrate greatness and denigrate unpredictability, but there’s really nothing unpredictable about MSU’s modus operandi.  They do this almost every year.  All we can say is, fool us once…

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 12.22.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 22nd, 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.

Tonight you’ll catch three really good games (including two heavyweight Big 12/Big Ten clashes) if you sit down, relax, and watch ESPN2 all night. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Texas @ #12 Michigan State – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Like It or Not, Izzo and the Spartans Need This One

It’s always fun when two name-brand programs go at it and this one is no exception. This is a big game for both teams but especially so for the homestanding Spartans. A loss here would drop Michigan State to 7-4 against D1 competition and once again ignite the questions about this team’s ability over the long haul, regardless of Tom Izzo’s history. Speaking of Mr. Izzo, he’s back after serving a one-game suspension for employing someone connected to a recruit at his basketball camp. Sparty had no problems against Prairie View A&M but Texas poses a stern test for State. The Longhorns look like a better team this year, playing with good chemistry and stronger defense. Both of these teams rank in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency with Texas in the top three in defensive effective field goal percentage. Rick Barnes has a cohesive unit this year that can score as well. With Jordan Hamilton draining threes and Cory Joseph taking over at the point, Texas may just be starting to hit their stride. The key matchups in this ballgame are Hamilton against Durrell Summers and Joseph versus Korie Lucious. When he’s on, Summers can match Hamilton shot for shot. Izzo has moved Lucious to the point many times while shifting Kalin Lucas off the ball. It is essential that each point guard control the ball and get others involved, plus we’re curious to see how the freshman Joseph reacts to the intense environment of the Breslin Center. Each team is deep and talented so the point guards cannot expect to be the stars of the show. The problem for Michigan State all season has been turnovers, something Texas will be eager to force. The Longhorns are deadly when they get out in transition and Michigan State just can’t afford another game chock full of giveaways. Pay attention to the three point line tonight. Michigan State is a very good three-point shooting team, the least we’d expect from what Izzo called a “pretty-boy jump shooting team” after their loss to Syracuse. However, Texas is very good at defending the arc and even better inside it, ranked seventh in two-point defense. The Spartans have three legitimate deep threats and will look to put Texas on notice early and often. On the other end, Michigan State is not good at defending the three. That’s a potentially lethal situation when you have a gunner like Hamilton on the other side. This would seem to be a great time for Michigan State to turn the corner and re-establish itself as a contender with a convincing win over a solid Texas team. We see this game as a closer contest however and Texas can put themselves on the map for good this year with a strong road win. Michigan State is the favorite at home and we’ll take the Spartans by single digits.

#10 Missouri vs. #21 Illinois (in St. Louis) – 9 pm on ESPN2 (****)

The annual Braggin’ Rights game between these two border state rivals is always a must-watch, especially when the teams are good as they are this season. Plus, don’t you love seeing that dividing line right in the middle of the arena separating black and gold from orange? Each team is in the top 25 for the first time in seven years but both programs are dealing with a bit of adversity. The Illini are coming off a brutal loss to Illinois-Chicago while Missouri lost freshman Phil Pressey to a broken hand and will welcome Michael Dixon back from suspension in his place. The story of this game will be pace, essentially who establishes their style of play. Everyone knows Missouri loves to get out and run but Illinois can control this game by protecting the ball against the aggressive Mizzou defense, running efficient half court sets and playing to their strength, defense. Ranked #18 in efficiency, the Illini defense needs to always have a man between Missouri and the basket to stop the ball, otherwise the Tigers will carve them up in both the half court and in transition. Illinois will have success if they force Missouri to play half court offense, taking time off the shot clock and limiting possessions. The most important player in this game is Demetri McCamey. The Illinois senior runs their offense and can shoot the lights out from three. He has to take advantage of Missouri jumping the passing lanes and make good passes to his teammates leading to open looks. Bruce Weber’s team has to take advantage of the mismatch on the perimeter when they have the ball. Illinois ranks #19 in three point shooting while the Tigers are #215 in defending the trey. Meanwhile, Missouri can exploit a weak spot in the Illinois defense inside with Ricardo Ratliffe. Illinois’ interior defense is ranked #118 and the Missouri big man should be able to get Mike Tisdale and/or Mike Davis into foul trouble. Missouri has a bunch of scorers on its roster but, remarkably, they don’t get to the foul line often. Illinois is even worse when it comes to free throw rate but they may get there more often against the foul-prone Tigers. Expect a very close game between two fierce rivals with the outcome in doubt late into the second half. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a determined and focused Illinois team rebound from the UIC loss by knocking off Missouri this evening.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 20th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • Finals week for most schools and that means a slow week in the Big 12.  For the most part, the conference sat idle from Sunday to Friday with a few non-conference cupcake tune-ups played here and there.
  • Saturday however, signaled a return to basketball with ten games and several intriguing matchups throughout the league.  Kansas State played in the only battle between ranked teams as the Wildcats took on Florida as part of the Orange Bowl Classic in Frank Martin’s hometown of Miami.  Unfortunately, the homecoming didn’t turn out the way Martin would have hoped with both teams playing an ugly brand of basketball and the Wildcats never put things together, scoring just 44 points in a 13-point loss to Billy Donovan’s Gators.
  • Another Big 12 contender, the Baylor Bears, struggled as well in their first game against any form of true competition.  The Bears took on the Gonzaga Bulldogs as part of The Showcase in Dallas.  The Bulldogs sit 6-5 with four losses to top 25 opponents, but were able to pull away from the #9 Bears  behind a 7-9 free throw shooting effort down the stretch.  The loss was the first on the season for the Bears and exposed some of the vulnerabilities that were expected for a new look Baylor squad with plenty of talent but an assortment of new faces.
  • The Texas Longhorns further solidified their top 25 ranking by heading on the road to a neutral site game that was hardly neutral when they played the North Carolina Tar Heels in Greensboro.  In a great game from start to finish, the Longhorns would receive a boost from freshman Cory Joseph, who stepped up and knocked down the game-winning basket with just 1.4 seconds left on the clock.  The game is another notch on the belt of a young Longhorn squad that has looked solid against good competition throughout the non-conference schedule.
  • Another true freshman stole the show in Lawrence with the much-anticipated debut of Josh Selby in a Kansas Jayhawk uniform.  The Jayhawks squared off against a USC team fresh off a win over fellow Big 12 team Texas.  The Trojans added a guard to their lineup themselves, as transfer Jio Fontan entered the lineup for the first time all year and helped the Trojans take the game down to the wire.  In the end, it was Selby knocking down a three pointer with just 26 seconds on the clock to go ahead by one and secure the Jayhawks’ 65th straight win in Allen Fieldhouse.
  • Another team emerging in the contender category would be the Texas A&M Aggies.  The Aggies took on the Arkansas Razorbacks as part of the The Showcase in Dallas and in a game that would feature a bench clearing brawl and extra five minutes of overtime, sophomore forward Khris Middleton would score 31 points and lead the Aggies to a nine-point win.  Mark Turgeon has the Aggies playing a tough brand of basketball and A&M more and more looks to have the weapons to compete with anyone in the league.
  • Elsewhere, Missouri would win a pair of games in impressive fashion against a pair of tune-up opponents.  Oklahoma State continues to position themselves as a middle-tier team with a very real shot at being the fifth, sixth or even seventh tournament team in the Big 12.  This is the role that many thought Colorado might fill, but the Cowboys seem to be better than expected.
  • Speaking of Colorado, the Buffaloes would improve their record with two easy wins as the group in Boulder continues to improve and find themselves as a team.  Iowa State would continue their run through the preseason extending their overall record to 10-2 as Scott Christopherson continues to fire at will.  While the troubles in Lubbock and Norman show no sign of letting up.
  • The news in Lincoln was good on the court with a win over Eastern Washington on Saturday, however Doc Sadler continues to struggle in keeping the talent happy, as Christian Standhardinger is the fourth player from the 2009 recruiting class to leave the Cornuskers.
  • At this point the Big 12 is what it always seems to be in mid December.  The contenders are separating themselves with big wins and marquee games against better competition.  The pretenders and bottom half of the conference is padding the win loss column in hopes that they can hang on for a bubble birth come March.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (10-0) – The Jayhawks moved to 10-0 in a nailbiter against the USC Trojans.  The good news is the Jayhawks were not the only team in the conference to look sluggish after a long break and Josh Selby at face value looks like a player that can help some of the Jayhawk offensive weaknesses in a hurry.
  2. Texas A&M (10-1) – A&M has gone from a team that was surprising to a team that has some serious talent developing.   Khris Middleton, Nathan Walkup and David Loubeau are a trio of forwards that are physical, talented and leading the way from a scoring standpoint for Mark Turgeon.  This may prove to be too high for the Aggies as the season goes on, but in the world of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately power rankings, they look as good as anyone in the South.
  3. Missouri Tigers (10-1) – The Tigers weren’t tested in two fairly sizeable wins, but they are disposing teams in the manner you’d expect from a good team.  Mike Anderson’s team set a school record with a 116-point output on Saturday and they look like a group beginning to hit their stride.  This week’s Bragging Rights game against Illinois will be a great measuring stick to gauge improvement since the early loss to Georgetown.
  4. Texas (9-2) – Rick Barnes and Texas have an argument for a higher spot without question.  They’ve played a challenging schedule, for the most part they’ve played well, and they have a real opportunity to be a very difficult matchup as the players become comfortable in their roles.  A big opportunity this week for Texas comes in the form of a game against Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
  5. Kansas State (9-2) – Something just doesn’t seem right in Manhattan right now.  The Wildcats are still one of the toughest defensive teams in the conference and they’re going to make you earn every point, but on the offensive end, it isn’t clicking.  Curtis Kelly hasn’t stepped up to the level expected and Jacob Pullen is doing well, but it’s difficult for him to completely carry the team when he’s the focus of every opposing defense.  It’s hard to believe Frank Martin won’t get things going, but for now the Wildcats haven’t played to the level expected.
  6. Oklahoma State (10-1) – The Cowboys moved to 10-1 this week but they still lack a statement win.  The good news for Cowboy fans is that different players are stepping up at different times and they‘re beating teams in different ways.  They’re likely the seventh-best team in the conference in terms of talent, but they could cause some trouble in a wide open South.
  7. Baylor (7-1) – Everyone has been waiting for the Bears to play someone and in the first attempt to do that, they fell to Gonzaga in what was basically a home game.  Gonzaga was due for a win, but they still don’t look like the top 15 Bulldog squad that was expected this season and they managed to handle the Bears even with Steven Gray hobbled from back spasms.
  8. Iowa State (10-2) – Scott Christopherson continues to have a green light and the Cyclones continue to win.  Still there isn’t much in the way of competition against which to truly judge Iowa State.   With three relatively soft games remaining in the non-conference docket, it’s possible Iowa State could enter conference play with 13 wins already under their belt, yet still sit ill-prepared for the gauntlet that awaits in Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri in the North.
  9. Colorado (7-3) – Two games, two easy opponents, two comfortable wins.  Colorado was a team with high expectations early, but they fell flat and haven’t done enough to restore hope.  A solid opponent awaits this week in New Mexico and a chance for Tad Boyle to restore some of the lost faith.
  10. Nebraska (9-2) – Nebraska sits at 9-2, which is a good record.  Typically, they don’t do much to test themselves early, but the win over USC looks better and better every day.  This is still a team that doesn’t jump off the page, but they very well could battle Colorado and Iowa State for fourth in the North.  Still, at this point, it’s hard to see much that justifies the nod.
  11. Oklahoma (5-6) – After a two-game uptick, the Sooners fell to a decent Big East team in Cincinnati.  It’s enough to give them the edge over Tech for now, but it’s still not pretty in Norman.  Statistically speaking, they do very little that could be considered a strength, unless of course you want to give them credit for mediocre shooting.
  12. Texas Tech (5-6) – Texas Tech is on a three-game skid with the last two coming against mid-major talent.  Tech had the offensive talent returning, but they needed to improve defensively and on the boards.  Neither of those things have happened.

A Look Ahead

  • This week’s Big 12 slate takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday before a long holiday weekend.  All 12 teams play between the two nights with Kansas State kicking things off in a tough contest taking place at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.  In the Wildcats’ third game in Kansas City this year, K-State will play host to another ranked opponent in the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.  Coming off the loss in Miami, the Wildcats and their fans will be anxious to see if the offense can get back on track.
  • Another game to watch in the conference on Tuesday will pit the Oklahoma State Cowboys against Stanford in Stillwater.  The Cardinal hasn’t been particularly impressive, but it is a name opponent from a name conference and a chance to learn a little more about the Cowboys.
  • Wednesday night is a big night if you’re a Big 12 basketball fan.  The highlight of the night will likely take place in St. Louis, as the Missouri Tigers square off against the Illinois Fighting Illini in a matchup of two top 25 teams.  The game lost a little luster when the Illini fell flat against Illinois-Chicago this weekend, a loss that will drop them from top 15 status, but it’s a big game and a heated rivalry nonetheless.
  • The game just prior to Missouri and Illinois on ESPN2 will be another big opportunity for the Big 12, as Texas heads back out on the road for a big game against Michigan State.  The game is another example of the bold scheduling approach taken by Rick Barnes and a big time opportunity for the Longhorns to reassert themselves on the national stage.
  • Rounding out the night will be Kansas heading to Berkeley for a road game against a Pac-10 opponent.  The Jayhawks have had their struggles against the Pac-10 conference this year but have managed to slip by every challenger.
  • Another good one to keep an eye on will be New Mexico in Boulder against the Buffaloes. This is a game that Tad Boyle needs to start rebuilding some of the confidence and excitement that was lost after the stumble out of the gates in the early season.

Stats, Quotes and other Notables

  • 21 Points on 5-8 Shooting from three – Debut line for Kansas freshman Josh Selby.
  • 11 points in 11 minutes – The offensive drought that ultimately doomed the Kansas State Wildcats against the Florida Gators.
  • 4-22 from three – Just one example of the mediocrity taking place on the offensive end for the Oklahoma Sooners.
  • 7 Players Scoring in Double Figures - The Missouri Tigers are balanced, they showed that against Central Arkansas with this impressive stat.
  • “We were sleepwalking, [The scuffle] seemed like it really changed the game for us.” – Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon talks about his team coming to life after a rare bench-clearing scuffle at mid court against Arkansas.

Player of the Year Watch (No Specific Order)

  • Jacob Pullen – (16.3 PPG, 3.8 APG, 40% FG) Even: Pullen is doing everything he can, but the loss of Denis Clemente is clearly being felt.  From a numbers standpoint, Pullen is maintaining pace, but the Wildcats are looking like a team slightly lost offensively.
  • Marcus Morris – (16.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 62% FG) Even: Morris wasn’t great against USC, but he got a lift with the addition of Josh Selby. Morris still looks like a player that can sometimes score at will, it’s just a matter of getting the team chemistry back where it needs to be.
  • Alec Burks – (20.3 PPG, 51% FG) Even: Burks is slowly becoming a smarter player on the offensive end and his efforts on the defensive end aren’t going unnoticed.  Statistically it’s pretty much the same player, but he’s improving day to day.
  • Jordan Hamilton – (19.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG) Even: Texas could be turning a corner.  The players around him are doing more, but Hamilton is still the most explosive option for the Longhorns.
  • LaceDarius Dunn – (21.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.6, 2.2 SPG, 48% FG) Trending Up: Baylor loses to Gonzaga, but Dunn is looking like one of the more complete and impactful players for his team.
  • Marcus Denmon – (16.8 PPG, 1.9 SPG, 51% 3P%) Trending Up: He continues to be the best player on a VERY deep team.  Denmon is turning into the leader for the Tigers and he seems like a player that has even more to give.
  • Scott Christopherson – (16.5 PPG, 55% 3P%) New**: Christopherson’s chances are probably slim unless he can somehow lead the Cyclones to a surprisingly successful season and a top 3 finish in the North.  Still, he’s a player whose early-season efforts deserve a mention and he’ll be a thorn in everyone’s side in conference play.
Share this story

BGTD: Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2010

Hello, Donnie. Get ready to see head coach Donnie Jones and his Knights of Central Florida in the next Top 25 that comes out in about 48 hours. They knocked off Miami (FL) earlier, 84-78, and are now 10-0. Understandably, your attention may immediately gravitate to Marcus Jordan (15.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.4 APG), given his famous papa, and he was outstanding tonight with 23 points. The name you also need to know is Keith Clanton (16.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG), their star 6’8 sophomore forward. They’ll next put that undefeated record on the line at Massachusetts on Wednesday.

Save somethin’ for the second half (of the season), big fella. There’s not much else to say about Jared Sullinger, but it’s still fun talking about how ridiculously good he is. South Carolina isn’t exactly long, and they looked like a team feeling the effects of a post-finals week, pre-holiday road trip — they shot terribly (38.3% FG, 42.9% FT), didn’t take care of the ball (15 turnovers) and their defense in transition was non-existent — but 30/19 for the Ohio State big fella is still an outstanding performance. And when he’s hitting halftime buzzer-beating spinning jumpers off glass from near the hash marks, you know what kind of day you’re in for.

An Early Christmas? Perhaps a little post-finals malaise from Illinois? You might drop a clanger of a game every once in a while and get away with it, but 18-55 (32.7%) from the field and 4-17 (23.7%) from beyond the three-point arc wasn’t going to get the Illini by Illinois-Chicago today. The Flames (now 5-7) forced some late Illinois turnovers and UIC’s Darrin Williams took advantage of every late scoring chance he had in helping his team pull off the upset, but the story here was how the Flames removed Illinois’ bigs from the equation. The Illini starting front line had a combined 13 points on 5-16 shooting, and they only got five more points from big guys off the bench.

Making a Point. North Carolina will take the next step forward when Kendall Marshall eats up more of Larry Drew II’s minutes. Drew plays twice as much as Marshall on the average but Marshall has shown to be a better distributor of the basketball, is great at getting into the lane and finding an open teammate, and is a little more comfortable getting physical than Drew appears to be. What do you think, Tar Heel fans? Would you be comfortable with Marshall seeing more time at Drew’s expense? Despite Harrison Barnes’ clutch three to tie it at 76 (his first three of the game and only UNC’s third) Texas just stunned the Heels in Greensboro on Cory Joseph’s stick in the final seconds.

Orange Bawl. From here, Kansas State has officially removed itself from consideration as one of the elite teams in the nation that could conceivably contend for a national title. We probably gave them longer than most people, actually. Losing to Florida in the Gators’ home state (this was an Orange Bowl Classic affair) is no crime, but that the Wildcats can be goaded into some of the shots they took tonight (15-55 or 27.3% FG, and 3-19 or 15.8% from three) shows that they aren’t ready to be considered among the big boys at this time.

Share this story