Daily Obituary: 03.09.09

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009


Team: Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 19-12 (8-8)

Preseason Expectations: The Wildcats fell into the “others receiving votes” category in both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today polls. But in a year most people predicted the SEC to be weak, Kentucky was predicted to finish third in the SEC East by most publications, and were considered a good bet to be in the NCAA tournament come March. A distant glimmer from AD Mitch Barnhart saying the Wildcats would accept an NIT bid.

Best Wins: Kentucky won the Las Vegas Invitational at the end of November, and had to beat Kansas State (74-72) and West Virginia (54-43) to do so. But there most impressive win is obviously their 90-72 victory in Knoxville over Bruce Pearl and co. If you were hiding under a rock during that game, Jodie Meeks dropped 54 points on the Volunteers. They beat  Tennessee again in late February, 77-58.

Worst Losses: Allowing VMI to score triple digits in a 111-103 loss on in their opening game was not the start that Billy Gillispie was looking for. But their worst loss came just five days ago when they had a chance to strengthen their tournament resume and got beat by a scuffling, rudderless Georgia team at Rupp Arena.

Where it ended: Right after their second victory of Tennessee, it looked like Kentucky was in a great position to make it to the field of 65 as they sat 19-8 (8-4). But just four days later the ‘Cats got embarrassed on the road by South Carolina (77-59), which started the four game losing streak they are currently on which includes uninspired losses to LSU, Georgia, and Florida.  Now a deep SEC tournament run is the only thing that will save them.

What went wrong: It should be impossible to finish just 8-8 in the SEC with two players as good as Meeks and Patrick Patterson, but the Wildcats did a darn good job of it and their lack of a point guard is to blame. Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, and most recently, Michael Porter, have all tried their hand at the position with mixed results. In fact, no one on Kentucky averages more than 3.1 assists per game and only little used reserve Landon Slone carries an assist/turnover ratio better than 1.2/1. Sloppy play and rookie mistakes plagued the ‘Cats all season and have cost them down the stretch.

What’s next: A lot of analysts seem to think that if Kentucky fails to make it to the NCAA tournament, they could lose both Patterson and Meeks to the NBA which would be a crippling blow to Gillispie. Kentucky has four prospects signed for next year, including five-star center Daniel Orton, but no one outside of Lexington thinks that three-star GJ Vilarino will come in and save the team at the point position. Kentucky’s best hope is to put on the full-court press for uncommitted stud Eric Bledsoe and hope that Meeks and Patterson stay around another year.


Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

Record: 17-13 (7-9)

Preseason Expectations: The Hokies were predicted to finish sixth in the ACC but received no love from the national polls and were left out of everyone’s top 25. But, they were a trendy sleeper pick at the beginning of the year if they could get improvements from sophomores Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen.

Best Wins: In the middle of January the Hokies traveled to play a streaking Wake Forest team that had just earned the No.1 ranking, and thoroughly outplayed the Demon Deacons, weathering a late rally to hold on for a 77-71 victory. Their only other victory of note came in late February when they beat Clemson 80-77 in Blacksburg and get Hokie fans talking about the tournament.

Worst Losses: For Seth Greenberg and his team, it really depends on how you define “worst”. This team wouldn’t even be on the bubble if it hadn’t been for some heart-palpitating, last second losses. The team lost to Xavier in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff 63-62 on a 60-foot buzzer beat from Dante Jackson. Just 10 days later they got beat by Wisconsin 74-72 when Trevon Hughes hit an improbable runner in the lane with less than one second left. Then, at the end of January, they lost to BC by one point (67-66) on a Rakim Sanders put back with less than one second left as well. The team also had bad losses to Seton Hall, Georgia, and Virginia, but those three heartbreakers are what they will remember if they are playing in the NIT this year.

Where it ended: One might say in ended when Sanders hit that put back, because since then, the team is just 3-6, and although they have beaten Clemson and North Carolina State over that time, playing well down the stretch counts, and the Hokies have lost their last three games, albeit all to ranked teams. The Hokies don’t have the worst RPI (59), but they are the No. 8 seed in their conference tournament, and even if they do make it past Miami, that means a date with No. 1 seed North Carolina in Greensboro…Good Luck!

What went wrong: Virginia Tech is a very hard team to figure out. You could cite end of the game execution and focus as to where they went astray with those three back-breaking losses because if they didn’t lose those games, we would be talking about a 20-win team. But really they went wrong when their big three (Delaney, Allen and A.D. Vassallo) started disappearing in key games. For example, in losses to Wisconsin, Georgia, and Florida State, Allen had two, eight, and six points respectively. In losses to Xavier and Duke, Vassallo had four, and seven points respectively. And, in their past three losses, Delaney has shot a combined 10-40 from the field. If those players had stepped up in crucial moments, this season would have gone differently.

What’s next: Seth Greenberg must be getting frustrated. Every year, the Hokies are so close, and yet fail to come up big down the stretch. But, assuming that both Allen and Delaney will be back for their junior seasons, the Hokies are in good shape. They lose their leading scorer in Vassallo, but they only lose one other player, and Cheick Diakite is a non-factor. Greenberg has also been successful on the recruiting trail. He has signed a solid, well-balanced, five-man class that features all three-star players. With added depth, and continued improvement, the Hokies should be a tournament team in 2010.

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Daily Obituaries: 03.08.09

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2009


Team: Davidson Wildcats

Record: 26-7 (18-2)

Preseason Expectations: The Wildcats were the heavy favorites to repeat as Southern Conference champions and both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today poll had Davidson at No. 20 in their preseason polls. It can be argued that ranking was inflated because of the star status of Stephen Curry because this team was clearly not the same without players like Jason Richards and Thomas Sander.

Best Wins: Davidson beat North Carolina State (72-67) and West Virginia (68-65) in back-to-back games in early December and a quick glance at the schedule shows that those wins were far and away the team’s best although the win over West Virginia should come with an asterisk.

Worst Losses: With Curry out with a gimpy ankle, Bob McKillop‘s club got shellacked, 64-46, by the Citadel on February 18th. The Citadel, under the guidance of Ed Conroy, has made vast improvements this season and finished third in the Southern Conference, but getting trounced by the Bulldogs was inexcusable for a team hoping for an at-large bideven if Curry was out.

Where it ended: Right around the beginning of the second half of today’s game against College of Charleston. The Cougars outscored the Wildcats 39-23 in the second half to send Curry and company home in the semifinal of the Southern Conference tournament.

What went wrong: Aside from the second half of the game against College of Charleston, it can’t be stressed enough how important former point guard Richards was to this team. He averaged 12.7 points per game along with 8.1 assists per game, and had one of the better assist/turnover ratios (2.8/1) in the country. Without his steady hand to run the offense, Curry was forced to move over to the point guard and was unable to run around the court trying to get free on screens. Teams were able to focus their defense on Curry and he struggled with all the attention.

What’s next: It is a very good question, and one that Bob McKillop would more than likely like to put off thinking about it for at least another month. But if the Wildcats fail to make the tournament, it is a realistic possibility that Curry will go pro. While the cupboard won’t be bare, the Wildcats will have scoring issues without Curry and Andrew Lovedale (a senior) on the court. The team will be forced to shift their offensive focus to developing players like Ben Allison and Frank Ben-Eze.


Team: Maryland Terrapins

Record: 18-12 (7-9)

Preseason Expectations: Most analysts probably would have put Maryland right where they are now, fighting for their life to squeak into the tournament. Maryland was predicted to finish seventh in the ACC according to the ACC preseason poll. They currently find themselves tied with Miami and Virginia Tech for seventh in the ACC, so, in the words of former Cardinals football coach Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were.”

Best wins: Maryland has two fantastic wins on their resume: they had a borderline miraculous comeback victory over North Carolina, 88-85 in overtime, and they also had a big win over Michigan State, 80-62, early in the season when they played in the Old Spice Classic.

Worst losses: Unfortunately the Terps also have two very bad losses. They had every opportunity to solidify their tournament resume on Saturday in Charlottesville against the Virginia Cavaliers, but they blew their opportunity with sloppy play and porous defense as the Wahoos prevailed 68-63. But, possibly a worse loss was back in early January when the Terps let a double-digit lead slip away at home and they lost to Morgan State 66-65.

Where it ended: When Mamade Diane hit a 3-pointer with just under 40 seconds left to give the Cavaliers a three-point lead, Terps fans could see the NCAA tournament slipping away. The Cavaliers gave Maryland every opportunity to step up and run away with the game, but the Terps let the Cavaliers hang around and eventually take the lead in the second half. From that point on Maryland was forced to play catch up and they just didn’t have the firepower to pull it off.

What went wrong: Gary Williams had all year to develop someone to play second fiddle to Greivis Vasquez, and at times, Cliff Tucker, Landon Milbourne, and Dave Neal all played that role. But the role players on the squad were maddeningly inconsistent, disappearing for stretches of the season. In the end the Terps were too reliant on Vasquez to create offensive opportunities with his drive and kick, and Vasquez didn’t respond well to all the responsibility as there were times when he forced bad shots and tried to do too much.

What’s next: If Williams and company don’t make it to the NCAA tournament, Terps fans can take solace in the fact that it will give Williams more time to court top prospect Lance Stephenson, who would be the perfect offensive weapon to add to the Terp arsenal. Neal is the only player who will be moving on unless Vasquez decides to go pro, and the Terps add depth on the frontline with the addition of recruits Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Even if Stephenson does not end up in College Park, the Terps will have a great shot to end their tournament drought.

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