Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades


  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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Checking in on… the Big 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten bubble picture is so muddled that it’s not worth even trying to sort through it at this point. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota have all thought they were assured of dancing this season before some difficult events transpired. Right now, the Fighting Illini look to be at the top of the heap, but it’s almost guaranteed that some middling Big Ten team will end up on the outside looking in.
  • Thankfully, the conference will have three heavyweights waiting to defend it in the NCAA Tournament. Purdue vs. Wisconsin and Purdue vs. Ohio State showcased the quality of the upper tier teams in this league. They’re built for March and all three have contributors that can have a big night.

Team of the Week: Purdue – You can’t have a better week than Purdue had last week. The Boilermakers beat Wisconsin on Wednesday and then followed it up with a victory over Ohio State on national television. Lewis Jackson had a big game against the Badgers with 18 points and five assists and JaJuan Johnson had 20 points and ten boards. Sunday, though, belonged to the guy named Player of the Week.

Player of the Week: E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue: Moore scored 19 points against Wisconsin, but with his team playing the #2 team in the country on Sunday, he really delivered. He scored 38 points. He did it efficiently too, shooting 13-18 from the field, 7-10 from three-point range and committing three turnovers. The senior shooting guard also had five assists and two steals.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: After an off night against Michigan State – during which he had 11 points, Sullinger went out and dominated the Purdue front line on the way to 25 points on 9-14 shooting. His rebounding totals have slipped a bit lately, but he’s still averaging almost a double-double at 18 points and 9.9 boards per game on the season.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (25-2, 12-2) – Thad Matta keeps shortening his rotation, but if he does it much more, he won’t be able to put five players on the court. In the victory over Michigan State, DeShaun Thomas played three minutes. While he logged 12 against the Boilermakers, a lot of that was due to foul trouble from Dallas Lauderdale. Can the Buckeyes make a deep tournament run with only six players?

2. Purdue (22-5, 11-3) – Purdue beat the team above it and the team below it in the Power Rankings this week. So why are the Boilermakers ranked below Ohio State? Through a full season of work, the Buckeyes have been slightly more consistent and both of Purdue’s victories came at home. Maybe Matt Painter’s team will get a chance to even the score in the Big Ten Tournament final?

3. Wisconsin (20-6, 10-4) – Purdue showed that Jon Leuer can get his points and Wisconsin can still lose. He scored 23 against the Boilermakers, but it wasn’t enough. At home versus, Penn State Keaton Nankivil went 5-5 from three and scored 22 points and Josh Gasser added 11 in a much more balanced effort that ended in a 10-point victory. The Badgers are going to need to have players step up on the road moving forward.

4. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) – If Illinois follows its up-and-down pattern, the Illini are in for a huge victory at Ohio State on Tuesday. Their last seven games have evenly alternated between wins and losses. The latest, a loss at Michigan State, may have helped the Spartans jump back onto the NCAA bubble.

5. Michigan (17-11, 7-8) – The Wolverines needed overtime and 30 points from freshman guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., to beat Iowa. Still, they got the win and that’s all that matters right now. Darius Morris had 20 points and nine assists in the victory and Jordan Morgan continued to build on his strong play of late with 18 points and eight boards.

6. Michigan State (15-11, 7-7) – The chances just keep on coming for Michigan State to prove it deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans played well but faded down the stretch against Ohio State on the road before beating Illinois at home. Kalin Lucas has been playing great basketball as of late. He scored 25 points against the Illini and was the only Michigan State player in double-figures.

7. Penn State (14-12, 7-8) – Talor Battle is always going to get his points. The senior guard scored 28 against Minnesota to keep the Nittany Lions in the NCAA discussion. A tough schedule makes their overall record a bit deceiving, but a loss to Maine and zero road wins are pretty tough sells. Penn State gets another chance for a road victory when it goes to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday.

8. Minnesota (17-9, 6-8) – In-season strife has hit the Gophers harder than any other team in the Big Ten. Minnesota will now essentially play four straight bubble elimination games down the stretch of the regular season. Three of them are home games, though, which should give the Gophers a leg up on the competition.

9. Northwestern (16-10, 6-9) – After beating Iowa and winning at Indiana, the Wildcats’ record looks somewhat respectable. Now comes the hard part. Northwestern has to win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin to have any chance of finishing .500 in league play, but before that comes a tough test against a Penn State team that just seems to have Bill Carmody’s number.

10. Iowa (10-17, 3-12) – Two close losses against Michigan and Northwestern don’t help the Hawkeyes. They want victories. Melsahn Basabe and Jarryd Cole both scored in double-figures in both games this week. Cole’s 17 points against Northwestern tied a season-high that he set in the very first game against South Dakota State.

11. Indiana (12-15, 3-11) – The Hoosiers allowed Northwestern to come into Assembly Hall and win for just the second time ever even with a week to prepare and the Wildcats coming off a two-day turnaround. The Wildcats shot 21-25 from the free throw line compared to 14-19 for the Hoosiers in the six-point game. With four really tough games to end the season, Tom Crean could be looking at some angry fans come March.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 2/22 – Illinois at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/22 – Michigan State at Minnesota, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/23 – Wisconsin at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/24 – Penn State at Northwestern, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/26 – Michigan at Minnesota, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/27 – Purdue at Michigan State, 1 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/27 – Indiana at Ohio State, 4 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom:

  • Ohio State is no longer the #1 team in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Duke passed the Buckeyes after their loss to Purdue. The game against the Boilermakers was Ohio State’s worst per possession offensive output in conference play this season.
  • The Wisconsin-Penn State game featured some spectacular offense, and not much defense. 76-66 on 55 possessions is one high-scoring affair. It was Penn State’s second best showing of the conference season, just behind its opener against Indiana.
  • The metrics don’t believe in Michigan or Ohio State at the moment. Both teams have suffered from difficult schedules. It should be noted that the Buckeyes (+0.11) are third in efficiency margin in the conference behind Wisconsin (+0.13) and Purdue (+0.12).
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The Week That Was: Jan. 17-Jan. 24

Posted by jstevrtc on January 25th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Get ready college hoops fanatics. Get ready for the stampede of casual fans that are about to crash the sports bars once the NFL season comes to a close. They’ll have to find something for their sports fix and they’ll turn to college basketball. So be prepared for people asking things like, “Who’s that big guy for Ohio State? He looks pretty good.” Or “San Diego State’s in the top five? Really?!?” Just try to smile and nod at those fools. No need to let them ruin the season’s stretch run.

What We Learned

TWTW Loves Jimmer and Kawhi, But Prefers E'Twaun and the Boilers Traveling to Columbus This Week

Even with SDSU and BYU squaring off on Wednesday, TWTW feels that if there’s only one game you watch this week, make sure it’s Purdue at Ohio State, tonight at 9pm ET. Matt Painter’s squad is one of our favorites and TWTW thinks they’re a good bet to pull off the upset. Purdue rebounded from back-to-back losses at Minnesota and West Virginia to grind out a win over a plucky Penn State squad and then took care of business against reeling Michigan State. It would have been easy for the Boilermakers to fold at the first sign of trouble this season. They have the built-in excuse of Robbie Hummel’s injury, and no one really believed they could sustain their early-season success once they hit the meat of their schedule, but seniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore wouldn’t let that two-game losing streak turn into a prolonged swoon. Johnson scored 25 points in the win over PSU, while Moore poured in 26 against the Spartans.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.21-01.23

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 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.

Almost all of the action is on Saturday but what a day it will be. A couple of huge games start us off right away at noon but the rest of the day will not disappoint. It’s very unfortunate but #21 St. Mary’s @ #23 Vanderbilt is not on television and neither is Belmont at East Tennessee State on Sunday, a battle for first in the Atlantic Sun. You obviously won’t be able to watch those games unless you’re attending but definitely check and see how they play out. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#1 Ohio State @ #18 Illinois – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Sylvester and the Buckeyes Had the Last Laugh When Illinois Was #1 in 2005

It should be a crazy environment in Champaign on Saturday when the #1 team in the land pays a visit. Illinois is having a good year but probably not as good as some of the more optimistic Illini fans would have hoped. That can change in a big way with a marquee win over the Buckeyes. You’ll recall what happened almost six years ago in Columbus. Illinois was #1 at 29-0 on the last day of the regular season and lost on a Matt Sylvester three with five seconds to play as the unranked Buckeyes knocked off the eventual national runner up. By the way: Gus Johnson was working that one in 2005 and he’ll be in Champaign on Saturday if you even needed another reason to tune in.

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Behind the Numbers: The Buckeyes Are Ready

Posted by KCarpenter on January 5th, 2011

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor. 

(ed. note: this article was prepared and written prior to Ohio State’s Tuesday night win over Iowa)

When is the appropriate time to start talking seriously about which team is going to win it all? I know that everyone wants to hear predictions before a single game is played and that can be a fun exercise, but how often does it yield any actual insight? Pre-season polls have their place and wiser minds than mine find at least one pre-season poll very useful and interesting. That said, polls and summer hype can lead to some pretty silly results, as pre-season First Team All-American Harrison Barnes is happy to remind you.  So when do we know that a team is win-it-all-good? After they blow out a bunch of cupcakes? After a strong showing in a pre-conference tournament? Do they need to have beaten at least one tough, quality opponent? Do we need to wait for conference play to start? For it to be halfway through? To end? Should we even bother making predictions at all?  Of course,we should: predictions are fun and if we make them too early, who cares? If predictions were always right they wouldn’t be fun. So, in that spirit, it’s time that we start talking about how good Ohio State is.

Winning is Fun, and OSU is Doing a Lot of It

But, wait: wasn’t everybody already talking about how good Ohio State is? Well, yeah. Rush the Court, the AP, and ESPN/USA all think that Ohio State is the second best team in the country behind also-undefeated and still-rolling Duke. That said, they may be better. The electronic seers that Ken Pomeroy has captured and employed now seem to think that Ohio State is the best team in the country, and looking at some of the numbers, I can’t help but nod my head and praise the wisdom of our future robot overlords.

Ohio State has the third most efficient offense in the country and easily the most efficient defense. How good is the defense? The current mark is better than any team, ever, since Mr. Pomeroy started crunching adjusted defensive efficiencies in 2003. They have been, so far, amazing on that end. Thad Matta’s team seemingly never fouls and barely ever sends their opponent to the line, actually leading the sport of college basketball in this category. They force turnovers at a hellacious rate (27.4%, 3rd in the country) and that same gritty defense has held their opponents to 45.3% effective field goal shooting. They are among the best in the country at securing defensive rebounds, thereby limiting opponents’ second-chance opportunities. This is not a forgiving defense.

On offense, the Buckeyes are devastating as well. Looking to keep the national player of the year crown in Ohio, Jared Sullinger has been a force of nature. He shoots the ball at a very efficient clip, he rebounds effectively on both ends, gets to the foul line and rarely turns the ball ever. The ridiculous numbers he’s been putting up aren’t a function of him taking a ton of shots or the team playing at a fast pace (Ohio State, unsurprisingly for a team in the Big Ten, plays at a pretty pokey speed). The ridiculous numbers Sullinger has been putting up are mostly a function of Sullinger actually being ridiculous. He’s not alone either.  Jon Diebler is having the most efficient season of anyone in college basketball on the offensive end. He isn’t shooting a lot, but when he shoots, the ball goes through the hoop. Right now, Diebler is maintaining an other-worldly 74.6% true shooting mark, largely driven by his 51.2% three-point shooting. This isn’t a small sample size fluke either: Diebler has already taken 86 threes this season.  Outside of Sullinger and Diebler, the Buckeyes have plenty of quality offensive options. William Buford, Aaron Craft and David Lighty are all strong playmakers and skilled shooters making the entirety of the starting lineup potentially dangerous.  Freshman Deshaun Thomas has been a pleasant surprise, providing outstanding offensive rebounding from the bench. When a team can surround the likely national player of the year with such an effective arsenal of weapons, what else can be done?

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 21st, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

A Look Back

  • Until the shock of the week in college basketball on Saturday, Illinois 57-54 loss to UIC, not much happened during Big Ten play. Finals kept most teams quiet and the ones that did play mostly scored easy non-conference victories. But now, conference play is just moments away, and don’t we all wish it would just start already.
  • Team of the Week: Ohio State: This award was handed to the Buckeyes because they beat South Carolina, which was probably the best win in a middling week for the conference.
  • Player of the Week: John Shurna, F, Northwestern: In two games, against Long Island and American, Shurna averaged 27 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game and 4.5 assists per game. He shot 19-25 (76%) from the field for the week.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger scored 30 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the victory over South Carolina. He also had 11 points and two steals against Florida Gulf Coast.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (10-0) – The Buckeyes dominated South Carolina to continue their stranglehold on the top of the power rankings. Sullinger was dominant again. Maybe Keith Benson and Oakland can make him work a little harder this week. Fun fact, recently tweeted by John Gasaway, the Buckeyes’ Dallas Lauderdale is blocking almost one in every five two-point attempts by opponents when he’s on the court.
  2. Wisconsin (9-2) – The Badgers topped Green Bay to finish a sweep of the state of Wisconsin and is now in the midst of a 10-day layoff.
  3. Purdue (10-1) – The Boilermakers beat the Indiana State Syrcamores, which elicits nothing more than a bunch of shrugs.
  4. Michigan State (8-3) – The Spartans beat Prairie View A&M last week, but this week, they play one of the most interesting Big Ten games of the week as Texas comes to visit. Tom Izzo’s one-game suspension will hardly be a footnote in his career.
  5. Minnesota (10-1) – The Golden Gophers beat Akron. Yeah!
  6. Illinois (10-2) – Bruce Weber was hoping to have a Top 10 team by Christmas. Now, with the loss to UIC and a tough game coming up against Missouri, I think he’d be happy to be in the Top 25 come next Monday.
  7. Northwestern (8-0) – Two relatively easy wins over relatively inferior competition don’t impress anyone, especially at home. The Wildcats have a chance to at least creep onto the national radar if they can win the MSG Holiday Festival this week. After blowing out St. Francis (NY) on Monday, they’re off to a nice start
  8. Michigan (9-2) – The numbers are starting to look very good for Michigan. The Wolverines are up to #52 overall in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings after a very good 18-point win over Oakland and a rout of North Carolina Central. My guess is Bryant isn’t going to give them any trouble this week either.
  9. Indiana (9-2) – Indiana needs a good win over Northern Iowa this week to prove they’re for real and then will get a chance to play either New Mexico or Colorado. If it’s the Lobos, it’ll be a great test for the Hoosiers. Then Tom Crean gets four days to work the remaining kinks out before the first conference game of the season versus Penn State.
  10. Penn State (7-3) – The Nittany Lions were idle, and take on Maine before they go to Bloomington.
  11. Iowa (6-5) – The Hawkeyes got a good win in beating Drake by seven. Now they have to hold serve against Louisiana Tech on Tuesday.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 12/21 – Northwestern vs. St. John’s or Davidson at MSG Holiday Festival; 7 or 9:30 p.m., MSG
  • 12/22 – Michigan St. vs. Texas, 7 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/22 – Indiana vs. Northern Iowa at Las Vegas, Nevada; 7:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
  • 12/22 – Illinois vs. Missouri at St. Louis, Missouri; 9 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/23 – Ohio State vs. Oakland, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/23 – Indiana vs. New Mexico/Colorado at Las Vegas, Nevada; 7:30 or 10 p.m., CBS College Sports
  • 12/27 – Indiana vs. Penn State, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Four Big Ten teams currently rank between 50 and 54 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. New Mexico must really wonder what the heck they did to get mixed up with the rest of those guys.

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Ohio State Confirms Title Contender Status

Posted by zhayes9 on November 17th, 2010

Thad Matta knows his team is elite/ Orlando Sentinel photo

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

Every year, coaches around the country will say there are 10-12 teams that have a legitimate shot to win the national championship.  The regular season is the four-month grind where these teams are separated into clusters, from the favorites (as Kansas and Kentucky were a year ago), to the contenders (Duke and Syracuse) to the semi-contenders (Villanova, West Virginia and Ohio State) and the fringe contenders (Kansas State, Butler and Michigan State).  Prior to tip-off 2010-11, it was a near consensus that the national champion would emerge from this group of 11 teams: Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, Villanova, Kansas, Florida, Syracuse, Gonzaga and Illinois.  It was also common knowledge that one team stood taller than the rest of the pack: Duke.

After Ohio State’s 93-75 road thrashing of fellow title contender and preseason SEC favorite Florida, a dominating performance in which the Buckeyes shot 63% as a team and committed just eight turnovers against the Gators unrelenting pressure, Duke has company at the top.  Anyone who watched the Buckeyes systematically and thoroughly deconstruct the Gators in front of their pom-pom waving raucous home crowd will confirm this bold statement: Ohio State can win the national championship in April.

The Buckeyes didn’t exactly surface out of nowhere. Thad Matta’s team was ranked a lofty #4 in the AP poll and our RTC rankings placed Ohio State even higher at #3. Yet, questions lingered regarding the legitimacy of Ohio State.  Most pressing was an obvious query: could they replace national player of the year Evan Turner, a complete package that Matta relied on not only for late game scoring, but also as his steadfast point guard? And could they replace Turner with a freshman at that so very vital position?  Would Jared Sullinger live up to the weight placed on his wide-bodied back since his first dunk at Columbus’ Northland High School as the Buckeyes first reliable low-block scoring presence in years?

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Set Your Tivo: 11.16.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 16th, 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’s slate is loaded with quality games, mostly from the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#21 Virginia Tech @ #3 Kansas State – 4 pm on ESPN (*****)

Seth Greenberg decided to beef up his non-conference schedule this year after being left out of the last few NCAA Tournaments and this may be his team’s toughest test. The Hokies enter the Octagon of Doom looking to make a statement and ease any NCAA bubble worries, at least temporarily. Most prognosticators say Virginia Tech will be a lot better than the bubble but that thought has to creep into the back of some fans’ minds at times. Led by Malcolm Delaney, four seniors return and all are starters. Kansas State has had some problems early on as coach Frank Martin benched senior Curtis Kelly against James Madison on Friday for not practicing with energy and needing to be a better teammate. His status for today’s game is unknown. Point guard is also a question for the Wildcats as Denis Clemente has moved on. All-American candidate Jacob Pullen can play the point but is better off the ball. K-State seemed to play point guard by committee in their first game as Pullen, Nick Russell, Rodney McGruder and Martavious Irving combined for all 14 of the team’s assists. Kansas State shot only 53% from the free throw line, a problem that plagued them all of last season. Both teams like to play fast but also can get after it defensively as each finished in the top 20 in defensive efficiency last season. Virginia Tech is not a particularly good shooting team so that could play right into the hands of an active Wildcat defense encouraged by their energized crowd. The Hokies may have an issue with depth, especially early in the season when they’re trying to establish a rotation. With J.T. Thompson lost for the season and Cadarian Raines still out with a foot injury, Greenberg is down to seven major contributors. He’ll need freshman Jarell Eddie and Erick Green to step up and become threats off the bench. Kansas State needs to protect the ball and defend well in order to win. Va Tech was fifth nationally in steals and 36th in turnover percentage last year so they’ll be ready to exploit the uncertain K-State point guard situation. Virginia Tech may not have enough shooting to win this one but if Kelly is out, the door will be open for the Hokies to grab an important road victory.

#3 Ohio State @ #8 Florida – 6 pm on ESPN (*****)

ESPN wants to open Louisville’s new arena in prime time but this is really the marquee game of the Tip-Off Marathon. It features a Florida team that returns all five starters and is the trendy pick to win the SEC East and possibly make the final four. Ohio State, a final four favorite, returns four starters of its own and adds super impact freshman Jared Sullinger in the paint. Thad Matta’s Buckeyes have a good blend of youth and experience and are incredibly deep as a result of their terrific recruiting class. If you like three pointers then this is your game. Florida loves to shoot the three and so does the Ohio State backcourt led by Jon Diebler. The Gators struggled a bit in their opening win over UNC-Wilmington as they allowed the Seahawks to shoot 48% from the floor. Florida only shot 32% from behind the arc and they’ll need to do better than that if they hope to beat Ohio State. They’re also going to need players to contribute off the bench because as good as their starters are, you can’t rely on five players to carry your team. Erik Murphy should be the best bet, though a talented group of freshman should see their minutes increase as they settle into their roles in Billy Donovan’s system. Donovan, a Rick Pitino disciple, plays an up-tempo system that emphasizes pressing and three point shooting. For Florida to execute the press properly, they need a fresh stream of bodies coming in and out of the game. While that’s not as important in a single game, depth issues will take their toll as the season moves along. Ohio State is absolutely loaded with a powerful backcourt, frontcourt and bench. Diebler can flat out stroke it from deep and guys like Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty add toughness and experience to their rotation. Florida needs a good game from senior leader Chandler Parsons and they just can’t afford to have Kenny Boynton go without a three again as he did against UNCW. The Buckeyes throttled North Carolina A&T in their opener behind 24/8 from freshman DeShaun Thomas. Another solid game from him or another OSU freshman could push them to an impressive road victory in the hostile O-Dome. This will be an unbelievably competitive and hard fought game but Ohio State’s depth and talent advantage gives them a great shot to earn a road win that will help build their resume for a possible #1 seed.

#12 Butler @ Louisville – 8pm on ESPN (****)

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Morning Five: 08.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

  1. Former Oklahoma State head coach Sean Sutton pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as a result of his February arrest for possession of painkillers without a prescription.  Sutton recently spent 115 days in a rehab program in Sundance, Utah, and will face no jail time for his three-year probation period so long as he stays clean, pays a $2,850 fine and performs 100 hours of community service.  In an interview prior to the hearing last week, Sutton stated that the down time in the two years since he was forced out at OSU contributed to his addiction: “Idle time is no good for anybody.”   Texas head coach Rick Barnes, for one, doesn’t think Sutton’s coaching days are over.  Of course, his father, 800-game winner Eddie Sutton, has had his own demons with alcohol addiction over the years.  Let’s hope both Suttons have put those days behind them.
  2. Kentucky fans filled a tiny gymnasium in Windsor, Ontario, on Sunday night, as John Calipari’s 2010-11 team played the first of a three-game set in Canada to break in the many new faces wearing Wildcat blue next season.  We mentioned UNC freshman Harrison Barnes blowing up in the Bahamas last week; well, Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight made sure that we remembered his prodigious talents as well.  Knight’s line:  31 pts, 9 rebs, 4 assts with ZERO turnovers in 29 minutes of action.  Let the hero-worship begin.
  3. Connecticut requested and received an additional two weeks to respond to the eight NCAA alleged rules violations meted out by the governing body in May.  The new deadline will be September 3, which means that the compliance folks in Storrs may actually get to enjoy Labor Day weekend.  The Hartford Courant interviewed several experts to give readers a sense as to how the school may respond.   The general consensus is that UConn should show that it takes the charges seriously and can police itself; anything short of that may give the NCAA cause to bring the hammer down.
  4. Ohio State center Zisis Sarikopoulos is reportedly on the verge of signing a professional contract with a team in his native Greece, which could impact Thad Matta’s inside depth next season.  Sarikopoulos was expected to provide spot minutes for returnee Dallas Lauderdale and incoming stud Jared Sullinger, but OSU may be without that option in a matter of days if this is true.
  5. Memphis is heading to the Bahamas this week, but three of their newcomers won’t be making the trip as a result of eligiblity issues with the NCAA.  According to Dan Wolken at the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, the trio of Will Barton, Hippolyte Tsafack and Chris Crawford still have to be cleared by the NCAA before they will be allowed to play.  Barton is appealing the NCAA’s denial of his eligibility, while Tsafack and Crawford are still waiting to hear on their initial review.   In an unrelated personal issue, Jelan Kendrick is also not making the trip because he needed to head home to Atlanta.  Not a good way to start the season for Josh Pastner’s crew.
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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Tennessee  (Midwest Region)

We know the Buckeyes have had three full days of rest since their second round game against Georgia Tech.  But Thad Matta has shortened (and by “shortened,” we mean “set on fire and forgotten about”) his bench so much late in the season and in this tournament that you have to even wonder if that’s enough time for the Buckeyes to recover.  Jon Diebler has played every minute of the Buckeyes’ first two tournament games.  William Buford has missed two minutes of action TOTAL out of the possible 210 minutes of game time in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.  David Lighty and Evan Turner have only sat for five minutes in that same time span.  The only starter who sits for any amount of time is big man Dallas Lauderdale, and he still plays at least 30 minutes a game.  Yet, the Buckeyes keep rolling.  The only thing Jon Diebler seems tired of is finding himself open behind the three point line.  He’s 11-22 in OSU’s two tournament games, and a lot of these things aren’t monitor-checkers.  They were deep.  And of course Turner has shown us his usual excellence.  There aren’t any surprises with the Buckeyes.  Tennessee, though, is a different story.  You never know whose night it’s going to be.  Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince…any one or two of these guys can get hot, but then you have to worry about players like Brian Williams or Melvin Goins or Bobby Maze stepping up with a 15 point or 12 rebound night.  OSU’s four-forwards-and-Turner (who’s officially listed as a forward!) will be able to keep the Volunteer guards from getting too out of hand, but can they guard and rebound against the slightly taller Tennessee bigs?  As a team, rebounding is one of the few Buckeye weaknesses, and Tennessee has shown the capability to dominate the glass this year when they put their minds to it.  Both teams are among the nation’s best when it comes to guarding the three, but it’s OSU that gets a little more of their offense from the long ball.  On paper, the matchups are not favorable for OSU.  And the Tennessee kids are the kind who will relish the fact that they’re “supposed” to lose this game.  We doubt it’ll be a blowout, and remarkably both of these teams are fantastic in games decided by ten points or less.  In those games, OSU is 10-5 this season, and Tennessee is 13-2.  It’s gonna be a fun one.

The Skinny:  If both teams guard the three well, it will hurt OSU more than Tennessee.  Factor in the possibility that all those minutes could be catching up to the Buckeyes, and you have the makings of an upset.  It’s not easy taking the Volunteers in this game, because of how they can sometimes take nights off between the ears.  But Tennessee has had two chances to underestimate their opponent in this tournament, and didn’t either time.  They won’t here; they know what OSU can do.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Volunteers emerge.

7:27 pm – #3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (South Region)

The Gaels come into this game as one of the tournament’s Cinderellas, but this time Cinderella is actually the Tournament’s giant with Omar Samhan who has been the most dominant big man in the field so far after dominating Richmond and Villanova to the point where analysts were ripping Jay Wright for not doubling down on Samhan fo abusing Villanova’s interior players. In Wright’s defense, doubling down on Samhan would leave the St Mary’s guards open on the perimeter where they rank fourth in the country from beyond the arc. Scott Drew probably won’t be saddled with that dilemma since he has a center in 6’10 Ekpe Udoh who is every bit as good as Samhan. Even if Samhan does get the edge on Udoh here he will have to deal with 6’10 Anthony Jones, 7′ Josh Lomers and 6’7 Quincy Acy. With such a strong interior defense, the Bears block more shots than any other team in the NCAA Tournament at more than seven blocks per game so don’t expect Samhan to dominate the Bears like he did the Spiders and Wildcats. In addition to the challenge for Samhan on the offensive end, he will also be under pressure on defense going against a likely first rounder in Udoh. After hearing that you might be forgiven for thinking that this game will be decided solely on what happens on the inside, but you would be wrong. The matchup of guards featuring LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter against Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova could be the key to the game with the Bears having the edge in athleticism and the Gaels having the edge in shooting. Saint Mary’s will need their perimeter players (especially McConnell who is a ridiculous 75-145, or 51.7% from 3 this season) to hit treys against Baylor’s zone to open up space for Samhan to operate. If McConnell and Delledova can keep Dunn and Carter in front of them most of the time, the WCC might get its first team in the Elite Eight since 1999 when Gonzaga made it their before losing to eventual champion UConn (yes, that is the last time the Bulldogs made it that far).

The Skinny: Everyone will be talking about Baylor coming into this game with the homecourt advantage since the game is being played in Houston (a little over 180 miles away from Baylor’s campus in Waco), but Baylor doesn’t have a strong following like other schools in the state do. In fact, we might get a “Duke at Greensboro” situation where UNC fans (or in this case Texas and Texas A&M) root against the local team. Still the combination of Udoh, Dunn, and Carter should be enough to get it done as Samhan’s beastly NCAA Tournament run comes to an end.
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