RTC Final Four Preview

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2009

We’re  here.  After five months of winnowing down 341 college basketball teams, we’ve got four teams left standing – UNC, UConn, Michigan St. and Villanoa.  None of the four are surprises (although Villanova probably didn’t expect to be here) but all four are worthy candidates for the crown of 2009 National Champion.  Let’s break down both games for you, and keep in mind that we’ll be running our usual Boom Goes the Dynamite starting about a half-hour before tip at 5:30pm EDT.  See you then…

Dave Zeitlin and John Stevens contributed to this report.

Michigan State (30-6) vs. Connecticut (31-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Michigan State got by Robert Morris, then knocked off a series of highly athletic teams in USC, Kansas, and Louisville, the last of which destroyed a lot of brackets. Connecticut enjoyed their time in Philadelphia, just throttling Chattanooga and Texas A&M, then outlasted Purdue and Missouri. Advantage: MSU.

COACHES: Two of the biggest and baddest in the business, here. Both have championships to their credit. Izzo has to get his team fired up and prepared for what is basically a home game. Not to question his mental toughness (it’s certainly iron-clad), but Calhoun and staff know that all that awaits them, even if they were to win a title, is more talk about this Nate Miles recruiting thing, and maybe the occasional rogue “journalist.” Izzo’s got it better. Advantage: MSU (but just barely)

BACKCOURT: Kalin Lucas is military-quick and has a couple of fine supporters in Chris Allen and Durrell Summers, but A.J. Price has been superb in the tournament and he’s gotten more than sufficient assistance from Kemba Walker and Craig Austrie. I never thought a team could lose Jerome Dyson and still have a backcourt advantage, but that’s how good the UConn guards are. Advantage: UConn

FRONTCOURT: MSU has one of the best backcourt duos in the game with Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton. Suton seems to get better every game, since he came back from his injury. The problem is, what awaits them is what could be the best frontcourt in the country with Hasheem Thabeet, the inestimable Jeff Adrien, and the underrated Stanley Robinson. Watch the frontcourt battle between these two teams. It’ll be glorious. This is one closer than you might think, but…Advantage: UConn

BENCH: Michigan State utilizes their bench much more than Connecticut; the Spartan bench contributes a full 10% more to MSU’s total scoring than UConn’s (35% to 25%), and they’ll come off the bench with 1-2 more players than UConn on the whole. Advantage: MSU

STYLE OF PLAY: This has been billed as UConn’s speed and fast-break attack versus Michigan State’s slower, plodding style. Be careful, there. UConn averages about 78 points/game, but MSU averages about 72. Both teams have good guards and versatile big men. You might hear that whoever controls the tempo will win this game, but both of these teams have the ability to play at any speed. The winner will be determined by nothing more profound than defense and shot selection. Advantage: Even

X-FACTOR: The freshmen. Delvon Roe and Kemba Walker are significant contributors for MSU and UConn (respectively), to say the least. How will they handle the Final Four stage? Advantage: Even

AURA: Connecticut comes in here with the most mystique, so to speak. They blew out their first two opponents and they’re one of those teams that can deliver a Joe Louis-like knockout punch in short order; seriously, you can lose focus for 45 seconds and by the time you look up, UConn’s got you down 14 and they’ve turned on the full court press. Michigan State paper-cuts you to death with physicality and efficiency on offense, like a tennis player who uses a lot of slices and drop shots, then blows a single 150-mph forehand by you. No real difference, here. Advantage: Even

KARMA: Well, as noted above, UConn has this whole Nate Miles thing I know they’d like to forget, at least for now. MSU must be living right, having made it to the F4 in virtually their backyard. Advantage: MSU

MASCOT: Spartans were trained in the art of war from the age of seven and were so good at it, they considered archery an “unmanly” means of warfare. Huskies are dogs. Cool dogs, cold-weather dogs, high-stamina dogs. But this game will be an actual war. Gotta go with Sparty. Advantage: MSU

RIVALRY: MSU-Michigan is only slightly more relevant these days than UConn-UMass. But still…Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: I love Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Donyell Marshall, and Cliff Robinson as much as anyone. Great basketball players and ambassadors, all. But added together, they don’t equal the plastic end of Magic Johnson’s left shoestring. Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: You could probably include Magic in this category as well, given all he’s done outside the realm of basketball. But we won’t do that. UConn has…Meg Ryan? Moby? MSU can boast James Caan and a man by the name of, uh, James P. Hoffa. I’m not messin’ with that. Advantage: MSU

PREDICTION: It’s the feature game of the Final Four (despite being the first game). If Connecticut fans think they can crank up the pace and run MSU out of the gym, think again. Michigan State will run with you. They have the athletes. and they’re the runningest (forgive me) team in the Big Ten, for what that’s worth. This has all the makings of a classic. It involves two teams whose similarities actually outnumber their differences, despite conventional wisdom. We’ve got legendary coaches, fantastic guards, excellent frontlines, and the biggest stage our sport has. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see some extra time played in this one. But in the end, in a great one, Connecticut just has too many options on offense. The Huskies get it done, 81-77.

———————————————————————

Villanova (30-7) vs. North Carolina (32-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 8:47 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Villanova, the No. 3 seed in the East Region, survived against American, throttled UCLA, humbled Duke and then stunned top-seeded Pittsburgh with THE play of the entire tournament – a coast-to-coast runner from Scottie Reynolds in the final second. North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South, had little trouble with Radford, LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma on its way to the Final Four. Advantage: Nova.

COACHES: The affable, well-dressed Jay Wright is on the verge of cracking the elite echelon of college basketball head coaches. Roy Williams is already there. Advantage: UNC.

BACKCOURT: ‘Nova junior guard Scottie Reynolds had been up-and-down during this tournament before delivering one of the greatest endings in NCAA history. Ty Lawson has been virtually unstoppable since coming back from his toe injury – and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington are pretty darn good, too. Advantage: UNC.

FRONTCOURT: Forward Dante Cunningham leads Villanova in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 ppg). But he’s obviously not at the same level as four-time All-American Tyler Hansbrough. Advantage: UNC.

BENCH: Villanova’s bench may be relatively short but Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher can hit shots and spread a defense, while Antonio Pena can bang inside. Veteran guard Bobby Frasor and 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller may both play big roles for the Heels. Advantage: Villanova.

STYLE OF PLAY: ‘Nova has kicked it old school during its NCAA run, suffocating teams with its defense and toughness. UNC boasts maybe the best offense in the land. Advantage: The public.

X-FACTOR: Reggie Redding may not be flashy, but the smart, defensive hound has been vital to Villanova’s success and is a favorite of Coach Wright. (He threw the inbounds pass to kickstart the game-winning play against Pitt in the Elite Eight.) Everything is falling into place for Danny Green, who will finally get to play in front of his father. Advantage: Even.

AURA: If you’ve watched any of Villanova’s tournament games, you’ve seen the camera fixated on former coach Rollie Massimino, who led the Wildcats to one of the great championship-game upsets in 1985. Rollie will be there for Saturday’s game, as will probably every other player, coach, cheerleader, band member, fan, booster and groupie from that ’85 team. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, booked their ticket to the Final Four by winning its record 100th tournament game. Advantage: Nova.

KARMA: Villanova was knocked out of the 2005 tournament by UNC thanks to a phantom travel call on Allan Ray. The ‘Cats remember. The Tar Heels’ road to redemption started when Hansbrough and company did the unthinkable by passing up the NBA draft to avenge last year’s first-half debacle against Kansas in the Final Four and win a national title. Advantage: UNC.

MASCOT: A wildcat is a hunter of small mammals, birds and Ginyards. A Tar Heel is apparently derived from North Carolina’s 18th-century prominence as a tar and pitch producer, but their mascot is a ram. I’m confused. Advantage: Nova.

RIVALRY: Dick Vitale may or may not be wearing pants when he broadcasts Duke-UNC games. When Villanova and Saint Joseph’s hook up, it’s referred to as the “Holy War.” Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Was Kerry Kittles as good as Michael Jordan? How about if Kerry Kittles drank Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff? Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Don McLean dropped out of Villanova after four months before writing the immortal American Pie. Speaking of great American things, Moonlight Graham and Peter Gammons both went to North Carolina. That’s an impressive baseball combo. Advantage: UNC.

PREDICTION: North Carolina may beat Villanova nine times out of 10. But as Rick Moranis said in the classic sports movie Little Giants, you just have to win one time. (What, you don’t think Little Giants is a classic?) Villanova keeps its magical run going, 75-74.

Share this story

Why UConn Will Win…

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2009

As part of our ongoing attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage anywhere, we enlisted the editors from the finest blogs we could find to write posts explaining why their team will win today.

This submission is from our friends at UConn Blog.

They won’t. Seriously. I’m one of those stick-in-the-mud fans who can’t acknowledge how good their own personal rooting interest is. Everything tells me that UConn is pretty good, and obviously you don’t get to the Final Four without having some talent.  But I can’t explain why the Huskies, who looked so sloppy at the end of the regular season and into the Big East tournament, have, played four dominant games to make it to Detroit. I do know that they must be way overdue for a Big East tournament-esque poor performance.

Nor can I explain why no one has gotten Hasheem Thabeet in foul trouble yet this tournament; nor how Stanley Robinson morphed from an introverted, inconsistent caterpillar into a 14-point, 7-rebound-averaging butterfly in UConn’s starting lineup.  I don’t understand these specific parts, probably because I’ve watched just about every game these guys have played for three (in Jeff Adrien’s case, four) years and I could tell you their every flaw. And if I, a simple layman, could see these things, you’re telling me Tom Izzo can’t?

781090214013_uconn_v_seton_hall

As for actually-helpful analysis: UConn plays defense (0.883 defensive points-per-possession) and they rebound. If the Huskies limit other teams’ chances on offense and funnel everything inside to Thabeet, it means the gameplan is working. And I like UConn’s chances against anyone if the gameplan is working.  But that gameplan assumes that Thabeet is on the floor. So far, he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble, but, as UConn fans learned with Emeka Okafor in 2004, all it takes is one bad call to lay the best plan to waste.  Plus, if Thabeet gets the call Saturday to guard Goran Suton, he’ll be playing away from the basket quite a bit, neutralizing (part of) his shot-blocking abilities.  Offensively, A.J. Price must handle much of the load this weekend. When he’s on, Price is one of the best players in America. If he hits his first long jumper, the opposition is generally in for a tough night. Price’s importance might be mitigated a bit by freshman Kemba Walker, who was the best player on the court in the regional final victory over Missouri.

In most realistic scenarios ending with Connecticut cutting down the nets, Price averaging something like 17 and 5 assists is a given. Thabeet getting a near-double-double with a bunch of blocks is a given. Beyond that, a couple other players will have to step up. In order of importance: Jeff Adrien must own the boards and make his beloved elbow jumper; Stanley Robinson has to get to the rim early and often (he is always capable of doing it, but he loses focus at times); Walker must use his quickness to create havoc in the opponent’s interior defense; Craig Austrie must knock down a couple 3s; Gavin Edwards must play like a “statistical Jeff Adrien clone,” as he was dubbed by Basketball Prospectus’ John Gasaway the other day.  The Huskies don’t need every one of those things to happen to win. But in a lineup that goes seven-deep, probably three out of those five are vital.

Still, in a four-team event where three teams will go home unhappy, there are plenty of reasons to believe that UConn won’t win the title: Seventy thousand fans will be rooting against UConn on Saturday; the Huskies don’t have the depth of Michigan State; Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansborough are really bad matchups; Scottie Reynolds and Villanova could reasonably have beaten UConn in Hartford a month ago .

There’s that nagging pessimism, again. But UConn has the talent to beat any of these teams. The Huskies have been dominant for most of the tournament thus far, and should be prepared for anything they’ll see this weekend. And, remember, Jim Calhoun is 4-0 in the Final Four all-time.

So maybe it’s a bit melodramatic to say UConn won’t win the national title. Obviously, they could. I may not be as confident as, say, North Carolina fans, but the Huskies should at least make it to Monday night if they play up to their abilities. After that, it’s all a crapshoot anyway.

Share this story

RTC Aftermath: #2 UConn 72, Notre Dame 65

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2009

I’m assuming that most of you got a chance to see this game unlike the last RTC Live when Providence knocked off #1 Pittsburgh. As a result this RTC Aftermath will not be quite as extensive as our first edition, but what we lack in length we will make up for in quality.

This was my first trip to Storrs, Connecticut and I have to say that I was surprised at how small the town is. I’m not sure if I missed the town center coming off of I-84, but it’s easily the smallest town for any state school that I have visited. The campus itself is pretty nice even if it lacks the uniqueness of some other campuses I have visited on this year’s RTC Live tour. Gampel Pavilion is a relatively nondescript building much like the other places we have visited this year with the except of UNC with the Dean Smith Center. Interestingly, the Huskies split their home games between Gampel and the XL Center in Hartford. While the XL Center seats more fans (16,294 compared to 10,167 in Gampel), the students seemed almost unanimous in agreement that they prefer the atmosphere when the games are held at Gampel. The one complaint they did have about Gampel was the lack of student seating. From what we were told (and my eyes seemed to confirm it), students are confined to a small section behind one basket and in the upper level behind another basket. Most of the students would have preferred to have been situated along the sidelines to make the atmosphere more imposing for visiting teams similar to Cameron Indoor at Duke as much as the students hated to say it. I’m not sure how the boosters seated along the sidelines would react to the proposition, but it is an interesting idea.

Pre-game
Pre-game
My view from underneath the basket
My view from underneath the basket
Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz
Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz

Pre-Game: For the second game in a row, we were there for a team’s Senior Night. Or was it Senior Day this time since the opening tip was at 2 PM? While the Huskies did not have as many seniors as Providence did, the scene was no less emotional as the fans were particularly excited for two players: A.J. Price, who has battled personal problems (he was the other guy in the Marcus Williams computer theft case) as well as medical problems (radiosurgery for an arteriovenous malformation and ACL surgery), and Jeff Adrien, the team’s physical inside presence and fan favorite for his interaction with the student section before and after games. As an added bonus, Jim Calhoun was honored for winning his 800th game (on Wednesday at Marquette). The student section was given cardboard Calhoun faces (think PTI’s Role Play) and they unveiled a banner celebrating the fact his 800th win although there were some technical difficulties when they tried to unveil the banner.

Adrien and Calhoun
Adrien and Calhoun

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Live: Notre Dame at #2 UConn – Saturday 2 PM ET

Posted by nvr1983 on February 26th, 2009

rtc_live

We’re following up Tuesday Night’s RTC Live where Providence knocked off #1 Pittsburgh leading  to the first RTC Aftermath with a trip to Storrs, Connecticut, where Notre Dame will attempt to knock off UConn. While the game is significant for the Huskies (a win would mean they would go back to #1), it is enormous for the Fighting Irish. Mike Brey‘s squad remains on the bubble despite winning 4 of their last 5 games (including a 33-point annihilation of a very good Louisville team that played very poorly) after going a month without a win (7 consecutive losses), but a win over Jim Calhoun‘s Huskies would be huge for their NCAA tournament resume and would put them in position to finish 10-8 in the Big East with their remaining games against Villanova and St. John’s in South Bend.

The last time these teams met was on January 24th when UConn came into the Joyce Center and beat the Fighting Irish, 69-61, to end Notre Dame’s home winning streak at 45, which was the longest in the nation at that time. In that game, UConn held Notre Dame to 33% FG and used a 13-1 run in the 2nd half (along with a huge edge at the line–30 attempts compared to 4 for the Irish) to put the game away. Jerome Dyson, who won’t be playing on Saturday as he is out for the year with a meniscal tear, led the Huskies in scoring with 15 points to go with 9 rebounds. Jeff Adrien also had a big game with 12 points and 19 rebounds. Luke Harangody led the Irish with 24 points and 15 rebounds despite playing against Hasheem Thabeet, the likely national defensive player of the year. Notre Dame’s other big scoring threat, Kyle McAlarney, started off hot hitting his first three shots from beyond the arc before going pulling a John Starks-in-Game 7 performance by missing his last 12 shots from the field. Senior guard Ryan Ayers also struggled with his shooting going 1-for-10 from the field in the game.Since that game, which was featured on ESPN GameDay, the teams have gone in opposite directions. The Huskies went on a roll with the exception of their hiccup last Monday against Pittsburgh while the Irish, who were ranked 19th in the nation at the time, lost their next 5 games as part of their month-long 7-game losing streak.

The big match-up in this game will be in the middle where Harangody will be battling Thabeet, who called out Harangody on an ESPN cover in the pre-season (Thabeet later apologized). These two will likely end up on the first team All-Big East squad and on an All-American team. While Harangody dominated Thabeet statistically in the first match-up, Thabeet’s defense disrupted Notre Dame’s attack enough to help the Huskies escape with the win. [Please don't leave a Chamberlain-Russell comparison in the comment section. This also applies for Michael Lewis-style Shane Battier arguments.] One of the interesting aspects of this match-up outside of the obvious offense/defense contrast is whether Harangody’s outside game can draw Thabeet away from the basket opening up space for Notre Dame to clean up underneath. Unfortunately for the Irish, they don’t have another interior presence on the offensive end. Thus, barring an explosion from Harangody, which he is capable of, the interior match-up will probably end up being a draw with Stanley Robinson and Adrien making up for any statistical advantage that Harangody has over Thabeet because I’m not expecting much out of Zach Hillesland (5.4 PPG and 5.5 RPG) against the Huskies frontline.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2009

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

Player of the year.

How do you define it. Who put up the best stats? Who is the best player on the best team? The most valuable player? Maybe the guy that, if you were to have a draft involving every player in the league, you would pick first?

My criterion is simple – who is the best player? Easy enough, right?

As of now, there are only four players that should be considered for the award, and another few that deserve a mention in the conversation.

  1. DeJuan Blair, Pitt – 15.7 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 5.8 Orpg, 60% FG
  2. Jerel McNeal, Marquette – 19.9 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.2 spg, 44% 3PT
  3. Terrence Williams, Louisville – 12.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.1 spg, 1.93 a/t
  4. Hasheem Thabeet, UConn – 13.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 4.3 bpg, 64% FG

Others deserving mention: Luke Harangody, Jonny Flynn, Jeff Adrien, Levance Fields, and Da’Sean Butler.

Right now, I have no idea who deserves the award. Two weeks ago, I thought McNeal would run away with it. Last week, I thought Thabeet would made a run at national player of the year. This week, well, just scroll down and read about the player of the week.

There are great arguments to be made for each of these four, as well as the five players deserving mention (I mean, Luke Harangody is the only player in the country to be in the top five of points and rebounds per game, and barely cracks the top five for Big East POY?).

What it is going to come down to is who leads their team to the Big East regular season title. Each of the four players listed are the MVPs of the four teams currently tied (in the loss column) atop the Big East.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Game Night: Pittsburgh at UConn

Posted by nvr1983 on February 16th, 2009

Obviously, the big game tonight is #4 Pittsburgh (23-2) at #1 UConn (24-1). We were unable to obtain a media credential for this game, but in our quest to provide you with the best college basketball coverage anywhere (that doesn’t require any broadcast equipment) we’ll be covering the big game from the RTC penthouse in Boston.

Preview
I’ll keep this short since there are already a ton of experts out there who have offered their thoughts on this game. Although I believe the news that Jerome Dyson is out for the season is a big deal long-term for UConn, I don’t think it should be a major factor today as the Huskies did not expect to have him in the lineup today anyways. From my perspective, I think this game comes down to 3 key match-ups: Hasheem Thabeet versus DeJuan Blair, Jeff Adrien versus Sam Young, and A.J. Price versus Levance Fields. While there are several other role players (Kemba Walker, Craig Austrie, and Stanley Robinson for UConn and Jermaine Dixon, Ashton Gibbs, and Brad Wanamaker for Pitt) who could potentially have a big impact tonight, I believe that whoever wins 2 out of the 3 big match-ups should win the game.

Thabeet vs. Blair: Thabeet’s ability to block and alter shots has been discussed ad nauseum already this season and we have just crossed the midway point in February. Needless to say, he has a big presence in the paint. One of the interesting things that most people don’t realize is that when Thabeet goes outside of the paint to try to block a shot, it leaves a huge gap under the basket for the opposing team to clean up. Take the Huskies win against Seton Hall on Saturday. Everyone has been raving about Thabeet’s 25 points, 20 rebound, and 9 blocks, but most people have completely ignored John Garcia‘s 22 points, 13 rebounds (6 offensive), and 6 blocks for the Pirates. While I can’t hold Thabeet responsible for Garcia’s 6 blocks, the offensive numbers Garcia put up are pretty startling especially since he is a mediocre player (8.4 PPG and 7.4 RPG). I think Thabeet has an advantage over Blair when they are matched up one-on-one, but watch out for Blair picking up a lot of “garbage” points and rebounds when Thabeet goes after a block.

Adrien vs. Young: This is probably the least hyped of the three match-ups I am featuring, but these two are the leading scorers for their respective clubs. Their numbers are pretty similar with Young having the edge in points and Adrien having a big edge on the boards, but their games are very different. Adrien likes to bang on the inside (only 1 3-point attempt this year) while Young likes to play on the perimeter (95 3-point attempts this year) although he doesn’t mind bringing it inside for the highlight reel finish (see below). Normally, I’d give the edge here to Young, but with Thabeet inside to clean up Adrien’s mistakes, I think it will come out being closer to a draw between these two.

Price vs. Fields: With the two other match-ups probably being pretty close tonight, the match-up at point guard will likely decide the game. Neither guard is a great scoring guard, but both teams have enough talent that they don’t need their point guards to score. Price has a respectable 1.6 to 1 assist to turnover ratio while Fields is currently at an absurd 4.2 to 1. These two guards are fairly evenly matched and it probably would be a draw (or even a slight edge to Fields) if I had to match them up without allowing them any substitutes, but Jim Calhoun‘s ability to utilize Walker or Austrie shifts this match-up in favor of the Huskies. Jamie Dixon has some solid perimeter players in Dixon (9 PPG) and two 3-point threats in Gibbs (49.1% from 3) and Wanamaker (45.2% from 3), but nobody of the caliber of Walker or Austrie.

Prediction: UConn by 5 in a close one that comes down to execution at the end. I’d expect Thabeet to end up with at least 1 block in a frantic final minute of action.

Live blog after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Jerome Dyson: Done for the Season

Posted by nvr1983 on February 16th, 2009

We just came across the news that UConn guard Jerome Dyson is done for the rest of the year. It looks like the meniscal tear he suffered against Syracuse was more serious than it was originally thought. For more on the injury in general (trust us, we could go on for a long time on the topic), we’ll refer you to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons page on the meniscal tears.

Some UConn fans believe that losing Dyson won’t affect the Huskies as much as some in the media think because of UConn’s outstanding perimeter depth with Kemba Walker and Craig Austrie picking up the slack, but the bigger problem may come on defense. Dyson has been one of the Huskies best defenders averaging 1.8 steals per game this year. Walker isn’t that far behind at 1.0 steals per game, but any time you lose a defender like Dyson who can create that much havoc it has to be a blow for the team. I’m assuming that Jim Calhoun would have A.J. Price on Levance Fields for most of the game against Pittsburgh tonight and the Huskies may be able to get away with it because the Panthers do not have a great perimeter scorer. However, against a team like UNC, which has 2 legitimate perimeter threats in Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, Dyson’s injury may come back to bite the Huskies in late March or early April.

The one positive thing for the Huskies is that this should lead to more driving by the opposition and more shots for Hasheem Thabeet to block.

Share this story

Set Your Tivos: 02.02.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 2nd, 2009

Set Your TivosNow that the nation has been relieved of this football non-sense, we can move forward onto more important topics. . .like the latest game of the year in college basketball.

#1 UConn at #7 Louisville at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: With Duke’s loss to Wake Forest last week, Jim Calhoun‘s Huskies have taken over the perilous #1 ranking. As a reward for this accomplishment, they have to travel down to Freedom Hall to face a squad that is likely the hottest team in the nation. The victor (particularly if UConn can pull off a road win) will likely emerge as the favorite to win the Big East regular title in what is shaping up to be a 4 team race (UConn, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Louisville) entering February.

To pull off the win on the road Calhoun will need Hasheem Thabeet to play like he did on Saturday when he posted a triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 blocks) against a hot Providence team. Thabeet and Jeff Adrien will be the key inside if the Huskies are to contain Louisville’s trio of interior stars (Earl Clark, Samardo Samuels, and Terrence Williams). This is probably one of the best interior match-ups you will see all season unless Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough meet up in the NCAA tournament.

While the battle on the inside will likely grab all the headlines, the play on the perimeter will likely determine the outcome of the game as getting consistent play from perimeter players is the key the title hopes of both teams this year. The Huskies have 4 perimeter players (Jerome Dyson, A.J. Price, Kemba Walker, and Craig Austrie) who can have a major impact on the game while the Cardinals are a little more limited on the outside with only 2 players who have emerged as threats from the perimeter (Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith). Dyson will likely be matched up against Earl Clark, which might be the most interesting match-up on the court as Dyson try to take Clark outside while Clark will try to get Dyson in the post. If either guy gets in foul trouble, that could cause some major problems for their team.

On paper, UConn seems to have the advantage particularly on the perimeter, but the Cardinals have the home court and are probably the hottest team in the nation. It will be a close one and probably be decided in the last minute. I’m going with the homecourt and momeuntum and take Louisville here.

Share this story

Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2009

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

We are just a week into Big East play, and it is already obvious how much fun this conference is going to be. UConn was supposed to be the best team in the country outside of UNC, but the Huskies lost their Big East opener to Georgetown. At home. And loss isn’t quite the right word. Embarrassed is better. Once everyone was firmly entrenched on the Hoyas jock, they went out and lost back-to-back games to Pitt and Notre Dame. Pitt is the new #1 team in the country, but the Irish were coming off a loss to … St. John’s?

No one is going to make it through this league unscathed. I’d be surprised if anyone finished the season with less than five Ls in league play. If you are one of the nine ranked teams (yes, nine Big East teams are currently ranked), then there are three things you will need to do if your plan on reaching the NCAA tourney:

1) Win your home games. With so many quality teams in the league, defending your home court will guarantee you at least a .500 record in the league. Regardless of your opponent, the top nine teams will almost universally be the favorite when playing at home which leads me to my second point.

2) Beat the teams you are supposed to beat. The top nine (and maybe ten if you include Cincy) are going to beat up on each other all season. I doubt the committee is going to want more than a quarter (8 of 31) of the at-large bids to go to one conference. So if all nine (or ten) want in, they need to take care of business against the South Floridas and DePauls and Rutgers.

3) Pray! Like I said, I doubt that the NCAA wants to have one conference send so many teams to the tourney. If nine Big East teams are going to make it, they will need to catch some breaks during the season. The top four in the ACC need to run through the league (UNC didn’t help on Sunday losing to BC – did anyone else notice that win sent BC from unranked to #17?). The top three in the Big XII need to roll. Likewise for the Pac Ten, Big Ten, and SEC (well, only Tennessee in the SEC). Teams like Davidson, Gonzaga/St. Mary’s, Butler, Xavier, and Memphis need to win their conference tournaments. Essentially, they need to hope that there are as few teams on the bubble as possible.

When it comes down to it, every Big East team is going to have an opportunity to knock off numerous top ten and top twenty teams during the conference play. If any of them finish league play below .500 and without a marquee win in conference, then frankly, they probably are not good enough to deserve a bid.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2008

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

The Big East is proving why it is the best conference in basketball, as the 16 teams in the conference have lost a grand total of five games. I mean, Seton Hall barely sneaks into the top 10 in the conference and they are 4-1 with wins over USC and Virginia Tech early on. To be fair, most of the games that have been played at this point in the season have come against cupcakes, but a Big East team has already knocked off a marquee team in every other major conference (UConn has beaten Wisconsin and Miami (FL), Syracuse beat Florida and Kansas, Notre Dame beat Texas, and Seton Hall beat USC).

Power Rankings (AP, Coaches):

CONTENDERS

1. UConn 5-0 (#2, #2) – It is pretty tough to argue with UConn atop the BIAH Big East Power Rankings. They are 5-0 and coming off of a victory in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. More on the Huskies in a bit.

2. Notre Dame 4-0 (#8, #8) – Notre Dame gets the nod at #2 because of their win over Texas in Maui. Now that Kyle McAlarney has found his stroke (13-23 from the floor, 11-20 from deep in his last two games after starting the season 2-13), it is clear that the Irish are going be able to put up points with anyone. Their biggest question mark right now is defense and rebounding. Against Texas, Notre Dame was out-rebounded 45-33 and gave up 15 on the offensive glass.

I know that the Irish have two first-team all-conference players on their roster, but PG Tory Jackson is just as, if not more, valuable than both McAlarney and Luke Harangody. He is the guy that makes the potent Irish offense run. He is as quick as they come and can get into the lane against just about anyone, but he plays under control and rarely picks up a charge. When he gets into the paint, he is just as good at finishing as he is at drawing a defender and finding an open man (he’s led the Big East in dimes the last two years). To top it off, he has been knocking down his perimeter shot this season.

3. Louisville 2-0 (#3, #3) – It is tough to gauge the Cardinals at this point in the season. They have played just two games, both cupcakes and both blow outs, and they won’t really be tested until mid-December. What we do know thus far is that freshman Samardo Samuels looks as good as advertised – he’s averaging 21 ppg and 5 rpg through two games. The ‘Ville also got good news when Terrence Williams was healthy enough to play in their first two games (he underwent minor surgery after tearing the meniscus in his knee). He’s not there yet offensively (6-17 from the floor, 14 points in two games), but he has been filling up the stat sheet as usual (9.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 3.5 spg, 1.5 bpg).

4. Pitt 5-0 (#4, #4) – The Panthers, like the Cardinals, are undefeated but have yet to really play anyone. They have, however, been getting phenomenal play out of their big three of DeJuan Blair (17.5 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 71%, but he missed the Belmont game on Tuesday with swelling in his knee), Sam Young (19.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 60% FG), and Levance Fields (13.6 ppg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 t/o’s). While Pitt lost Blair for the Belmont game, they got some good news with the return of wing Gilbert Brown.

The key to the season for this Pitt team is going to be their wing play, which is a big reason why Sam Young, the Panthers best perimeter shooter, is playing on the wing this year. It is still early, but the early indication is that after Fields (10-19) and Young (5-16). If someone can step up and knock down shots (back up PG Ashton Gibbs is trying to, he’s 5-11 from deep), they will see a lot of the court.

5. Syracuse 5-0 – The ‘Cuse are for real this year. They are 5-0 with wins against Florida and Kansas (in what was essentially a road game) and have looked unstoppable on offense at times. But they have also looked disinterested and lackadaisical at times as well, especially defensively. The Orange start and end with the play of Jonny Flynn, who has reinforced the notion that he is one of the best PGs in the country. Flynn is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch (and I am a UConn fan saying that). While Flynn may be the best player on Syracuse, he is far from all that they have. Paul Harris is just as tough as always, but has added a 15-17 foot jumper that you must defend. Arinze Onuaku has gone from a 275 lb fat boy to 275 lb of muscle (seriously, he looks like he should be on World’s Strongest Man). Kristoff Ongenaet, Rick Jackson and freshman Kris Joseph all are going to be able to provide hustle, rebounds, and defense inside. And they’ve gotten back the two things they were missing last year – perimeter shooting from the wings (Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins) and another guy that can penetrate and score or create shots for others (Devendorf). But the biggest change I see in this year’s team is that Jim Boeheim has them playing a lot of man-to-man, which makes it all-the-more difficult for a team to prepare for the Orange. Boeheim has himself a tough team that is going to make some noise this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Quiet Before the Storm

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2008

afterbuzzer1

News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93.  He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.  Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history.  May he rest in peace.

pete-newellPhoto Credit:  LA Times

Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was.  Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win   Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else.  SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough.  In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson.  People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.

Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land.  Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games.  No longer.  Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%).  Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort.  So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.

Preseason NIT Action.

  • Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous.  33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting.  The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back.  They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
  • Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far.  Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls.  MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
  • BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts.  BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
  • St. John’s 86, Cornell 75.  The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75.  Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
  • Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half.  E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win.  Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
  • Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53.  Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
  • Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62.  Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight.  The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced.  UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.

Big East Tuneups.

  • Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year?  Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
  • Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
  • Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville.  Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
  • Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season.  Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
  • Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game.  UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away.  AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack.  Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.

Other Games of Interest.

  • Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts.  He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
  • Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont.  He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts.  AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
  • Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row.  Another 26% FG shooting night.  Can we send them back to D2 now?

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST):

  • 24 Hour Marathon of College Hoops – see separate post here for schedule and times.
  • Indiana v. IUPUI (BTN) – 6:30pm
  • Bucknell v. Boston U. – 7pm
  • Tennessee (-25) v. UT-Martin (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Ole Miss (-10) v. South Alabama – 8pm
  • Texas (-22) v. Tulane (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • USC (-16) v. New Mexico St. - 9pm
  • Gonzaga (-27.5) v. Idaho (FSN) – 9pm
  • San Diego (-5.5) v. Nevada (ESPN FC & 360) – 10pm
  • Arizona St. (-3) @ San Diego St. (CBS CS) – 11pm
Share this story