Big 12 Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.  The Big 12 Tournament begins on Wednesday at Noon CT.

Final Standings

  1. Kansas (15-1, 29-2) – Obviously the Jayhawks are above and beyond the best team in the Big 12, and regardless of what they do in the Big 12 Tournament, KU will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, this season has been a wildly successful one for the Jayhawks, but Bill Self and his team will not be satisfied unless they’re hoisting the trophy in Indianapolis.
  2. Kansas State (11-5, 24-6) – After losing two straight games, one to Kansas in Lawrence and another to lowly Iowa State at home, its safe to say that KSU backed its way into the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas State was one of the many surprise teams in the conference this year, and they’ll hope to continue surprising people all the way into April.
  3. Baylor (11-5, 24-6) – This is probably the best team in college basketball that few people are really talking about. Ranked #20 in the nation, Baylor has the resume to be a three seed in the NCAA tournament. After where I picked this team in my preseason poll, I think Scott Drew is a safe pick for my coach of the year in the Big 12.
  4. Texas A&M (11-5, 22-8) – After the loss of Derrick Roland I thought the Aggies were done. But behind great leadership from Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, TAMU had a legitimate shot at finishing in second place. Even though they didn’t achieve that feat, Mark Turgeon’s team looks pretty good heading into the conference tournament as the winners of three straight. I think if anyone is going to beat Kansas again it could be the Aggies from A&M.
  5. Missouri (10-6, 22-9) – The Tigers are still adjusting to life without Justin Safford (1-2 without him, the one win coming off of a last second buzzer-beater in OT against Iowa State). Mizzou has the best shot to improve their tournament seed if they can beat A&M in the quarterfinals. A third shot at Kansas is what everyone in Columbia is wishing for, but I’m not sure another 20-point loss to Kansas is what MU needs before the NCAA Tournament.
  6. Texas (9-7, 23-8) – If there is any sportswriter in the world that picked Texas to finish sixth in the Big 12 please come forward and let me bask in your wisdom. I think its safe to say UT is the surprise team of the season in this conference, even more so than Oklahoma. The Longhorns have one of the most talented teams in the nation and they will probably end up being a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament. No one in Austin is satisfied. However, if the Longhorns go on a run we could still have the Big 12 final that everyone expected, Kansas vs. Texas.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-7, 21-9) – If the Cowboys want to make some more noise on the national level now is the time to do it. James Anderson will keep you in just about every game, but the other players around him need to step it up. I think this team could be the surprise of the Big 12 Tournament this season, remember they beat Kansas State in Manhattan back in late January and the Wildcats would be their second round matchup if OSU gets past Oklahoma.
  8. Colorado (6-10, 15-15) – Find me one person in Boulder that isn’t happy with an eighth place finish in the Big 12 and I’ll be overly surprised. CU has finally gotten themselves out of the cellar, and this could be enough reason for Cory Higgins to skip the draft and make a run at the NCAA Tournament next season.
  9. Texas Tech (4-12, 16-14) – What started out as a promising year for the Red Raiders has ended quite terribly. Right now TTU is riding a seven-game losing streak and even if they were to beat Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament, it is highly unlikely they could beat KU to make some kind of improbable run.
  10. Oklahoma (4-12, 13-17) – OU fans would love to see an upset of their in-state rival in the first round game, but I also think many Sooners fans feel the same way about this season that the Coates family felt about Old Yeller. Sure, you’d love to see the season go on, but it might be time to put this team out of their misery and head to the offseason.
  11. Iowa State (4-12, 15-16) – I think ISU pulled off the biggest upset of the year in the last game of the regular season. The Cyclones are playing their best basketball at the right time, and Texas can’t take this first round game lightly or they could find themselves on a bus back to Austin as early as Wednesday night.
  12. Nebraska (2-14, 14-17) – The Cornhuskers and Mizzou will meet for the third time this season, and the good news for NU is that usually its hard to beat the same team three times in the same season. However, I don’t see the Huskers pulling off an upset of that caliber, and it looks like NU fans can finally focus on the women’s team, which is undefeated.

Season Awards

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ATB: Hoyas Sink, Horns Swim…

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

#8 West Virginia 81, #20 Georgetown 68. Georgetown’s margin for error is just not very large against good teams, especially top ten teams on the road.  It showed tonight as the Hoyas clearly missed the third primary scoring option that Austin Freeman, out with the stomach flu, typically provides. WVU’s Da’Sean Butler, playing in front of the home fans for the last time, dropped 22/6/6 assts in a well-balanced Mountaineer effort that jumped on top of Georgetown early and never relented.  With this win, West Virginia clinched a double-bye in next week’s Big East Tournament and still has a chance at the overall #2 seed with some luck and a weekend win over Villanova.  Georgetown has now lost four of five games, and two of those losses (Notre Dame and Rutgers) were inexcusable for a team with their talent.  It could be that the heavy minutes are wearing down JT3’s team, as four starters average over 33 MPG and the Hoya defense has been considerably less potent recently than it was when beating top-10 teams like Duke and Villanova.  One thing is for certain, though.  For Georgetown to make any noise whatsoever in the Big East Tournament or NCAA Tournament this year, they have to get production from all four of Freeman, Greg Monroe, Chris Wright and and Jason Clark/Julian Vaughn at the same time.  With one more loss on Saturday against Cincinnati, the Hoyas will drop to 9-9 and jeopardize their chances at an all-important first round bye in the Big East Tournament next week.

WVU Towered Over Georgetown Tonight (AP/David Smith)

#25 Texas 87, Oklahoma 76. For a while it appeared that the Longhorn meltdown was imminent, as visiting Oklahoma took an 11-point lead five minutes into the second half as Cade Davis and Tony Crocker repeatedly lit up the Texas defense.  An 11-2 run got Rick Barnes’ team back into the game, and with Damion James (24/8) and Jordan Hamilton (12/11) finding their way to the hole for layups, UT avoided the unthinkable tonight in a game that should bolster their confidence.  It was just six short weeks ago that Texas was the #1 team in the land, but the shutdown defense that got the Horns to that lofty spot has been largely missing since, and tonight we only saw it in spurts as the Sooners shot 48% and hit ten threes.  Additionally, the J’Covan Brown experiment as a starter appears to have been nixed, as Justin Mason got the nod (3/3 in 21 minutes) and Brown easily outdid his last two performances (15/5  in 33 minutes) off the pine.  Texas is safely in the NCAA Tournament, but right now they appear to be a directionless team who, if they’re not careful, will be walking into a lion’s den at Baylor next weekend.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

  1. Kansas (13-0, 27-1) – After taking care of Texas A&M in College Station and Oklahoma on consecutive Big Mondays, there is only one game left that I could see the Jayhawks losing (at Mizzou). However, after Kansas dominated the Tigers at home earlier in the year, it looks like KU is in great shape to finish the Big 12 season undefeated.
  2. Kansas State (9-3, 22-4) – This year’s surprise team won two games against some of the conferences’ worst teams. The Wildcats are in the best position to finish second in the conference as of today, but their next three games (at Texas Tech, vs. Mizzou, at Kansas) are definitely not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
  3. Texas A&M (8-4, 19-7) – The Aggies and Wildcats are in similar positions. TAMU has the tiebreaker over Missouri, so if they take care of business down the stretch they will grab the three seed in the conference tournament. However, their last four games are all losable (at Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma). Bryan Davis is coming on strong for this team as of late, and he will have to continue his dominant inside play if A&M wants to hold on to a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
  4. Baylor (7-5, 20-6) – I can’t fault the Bears for losing in Stillwater, especially when the best player in the conference is on the opposing team. In my opinion, Baylor has the best chance of any Big 12 team outside the state of Kansas to make the Elite Eight. Watch out for Quincy Acy, he is going to be key for Baylor in this home stretch.
  5. Missouri (8-4, 20-7) – The Tigers got a huge win over Texas at home on Wednesday that probably propelled them into the NCAA Tournament. Of the teams fighting for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament I think Mizzou is least likely to get the spot because of its two games against Kansas State and Kansas, plus Baylor and Texas A&M have tiebreakers over them. Still, Mike Anderson and this MU team have been proven many critics wrong all season, so there is really no science to accurately predicting how the Tigers will finish.
  6. Texas (7-5, 21-6) – Luckily for the Longhorns they somewhat control their own destiny. If they beat Texas A&M in Lubbock and Baylor in Waco they will most likely finish in the top four of the conference. The problem is that UT has been a pretty bad road team in Big 12 play (3-4 to be exact), so any Longhorns fans that blindly assume they’ll win those two games are most likely hallucinating.
  7. Oklahoma State (7-5, 19-7) – The best news for the Cowboys in the last two weeks has to be the fact that Obi Muonelo has been stepping up his game. In games when Muonelo is in double figures scoring, OSU is 14-3. So it is pretty obvious that he is key to the Cowboys’ success. Outside of Muonelo, James Anderson continues to awe college basketball fans around the nation. He is certainly making a case for why he should be a First Team All-American.
  8. Texas Tech (4-8, 16-10) – The Red Raiders are officially dead after dropping two games last week. To their credit, no one thought they would even be in the discussion come February. Good news for Tech fans is that Pat Knight has this program going in the right direction, and he is recruiting some pretty good players for future seasons.
  9. Colorado (3-9, 12-14) – The Buffaloes picked up a nice win over OU in Boulder on Wednesday, and they have the opportunity to maybe get two more wins before the season is over (vs. Iowa State, at Nebraska). I’d say this year has been somewhat of a success for CU, the Buffs acquired another prolific scorer in Alec Burks and they have been a lot more competitive in conference play.
  10. Oklahoma (4-9, 13-14) – The 09-10 Oklahoma Sooners are the definition of letdown. They were returning one of the best freshman from the 08-09 season, and had a stellar recruiting class around him yet they couldn’t get it done. Tiny Gallon has returned, but with Willie Warren out due to mono it’s hard to see OU pulling off an unprecedented run in the Big 12 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
  11. Iowa State (2-10, 13-14) – The Cyclones have lost some heartbreakers this season, but overall it has also been a big letdown. Many people thought this would be the year ISU returned to its glory days and got back into the NCAA Tournament on the back of Craig Brackins. However, Brackins has seemed to have regressed from last season, and while JUCO transfer Marquis Gilstrap has made a huge impact it hasn’t been enough to get ISU even on the bubble.
  12. Nebraska (1-11, 13-14) – One of the more underrated players in the conference is Ryan Anderson of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ leading scorer is a great three-point shooter, and does a pretty good job rebounding the basketball for his height (6’4). Outside of Anderson, NU has few bright spots.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State – Anderson had his third thirty-point game this week in a huge win over Baylor at home. In that game he also pulled down 12 boards and was 80 percent from the free throw line. Since his “bad” game against Texas Tech the Cowboys are 3-0 and Anderson is averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Team of the Week – Oklahoma State Cowboys – Travis Ford and his Cowboys need only two more regular season wins to feel good about their chances for an NCAA at-large berth. This last week moved OSU from a team on the wrong side of the bubble to feeling comfortable especially after the huge upset over Baylor at home on Saturday.

This Week’s Predictions

Kansas State at Texas Tech (Tuesday February 23,  8:00 PM ET) – I usually wouldn’t see Kansas State losing this matchup, but they have been cutting it close against lesser opponents recently. If the Wildcats let up at all in this contest they will be on the wrong end of the scoreboard. On top of that, Mike Singletary is one of the better players in the conference and he usually plays very well in Lubbock. It isn’t a Big 12 Weekly Update if I don’t mention Jacob Pullen, but I think he will have a tough time against the Red Raiders who still haven’t given up hope on making the Tournament. By no means will a win get TTU instant consideration for a bid, but Pat Knight will have his players going hard like it’s a tournament play-in game. So I’m picking a huge upset here, and saying that the Red Raiders take down one of the hottest teams in the nation on Tuesday.

Winner: Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) – Both teams are on long losing streaks and they really want a win. You never know what can happen with a talented team like Iowa State if they can put together a run before the conference tournament starts. Nebraska is an abysmal road team, and I don’t see them putting up too much of a fight, even against Iowa State.

Winner: Iowa State

Colorado at Missouri (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) – The only team the Tigers have really dominated in conference play is Colorado. Mike Anderson has never lost to the Buffaloes in his tenure at Mizzou, and I don’t see it happening for the first time in Columbia with his team playing their second to last home game of the season. Keith Ramsey had a big game in the first matchup between these two teams so look for him to be a key part of Missouri’s attack.

Winner: Missouri

Texas A&M at Baylor (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Here is a tremendous matchup that has huge implications for first-round byes in the conference tournament. Neither team can afford a loss, especially Baylor, because teams like Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State are nipping at their heels attempting to overtake them in the conference standings. It provides a great inside matchup between Bryan Davis and Ekpe Udoh, and also a great guard matchup between Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes of A&M vs. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter of Baylor. These teams are about as even as any in the conference, so I will go with the home team in this game and say the Bears win an overtime thriller.

Winner: Baylor

Oklahoma State at Texas (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) – If any of you remember the Big Monday game between these two teams a few weeks back, you must recall James Anderson’s stellar first half performance. Then OSU faded in the second half and Texas took care of business in Stillwater. UT has a lot to play for because they still think they can win out, including the Big 12 Tournament, and maybe get a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be a tremendous accomplishment at this point in the season. Damion James is the key to UT’s success, as he had an ok performance against Mizzou and the Longhorns lost that game on the road. If UT wants a big win they need James and Dexter Pittman to play like they were at the beginning of the season. I don’t like how Texas has been playing lately, but you still have to go with the Horns in Austin.

Winner: Texas

Iowa State at Colorado (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) – It’s a possible CBI Final preview in Boulder on Saturday. I like the Buffs in this game because they are the better team, and believe it or not they are not easy to beat at home.

Winner: Colorado

Baylor at Oklahoma (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) – The Bears should watch out here because it is the definition of a trap game. Norman will be loud as always, and the possibility of having Willie Warren back (although there is no way he would be close to 100 percent) is scary for BU fans. Tommy Mason-Griffin of OU is one to look for in this contest, as he has been the most efficient player for the Sooners all season and can be deadly from behind the arc. All that said, I don’t see any scenario in which Scott Drew lets his team lose focus and let this one slip away.

Winner: Baylor

Texas at Texas A&M (Saturday February 27, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) – The Longhorns seem to always struggle in College Station, then again so does most of the conference. I think Texas has the advantage of many mismatches in this game, for example UT’s experienced frontcourt against TAMU’s relatively inexperienced one. It’s hard for me to pick against the Aggies at home though, especially when the game is going to be sold out against an intrastate rival.

Winner: Texas A&M

Texas Tech at Nebraska (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET) – The Red Raiders should be hot coming off the Kansas State game and will blow out the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. NU is just overmatched athletically against every team in the Big 12, so its hard to think they will win any more games this season.

Winner: Texas Tech

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET CBS) – The best player in the conference will be going up against the best team in the conference on Saturday in Stillwater. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are looking to stay undefeated, but James Anderson and Obi Muonelo should provide a tough roadblock for the Jayhawks to break through. I love Travis Ford and what he has done with the Cowboys’ program, and there is no doubt that Stillwater will probably be one of the louder places in the country this weekend, but I’ve learned my lesson picking against KU before. This team is too good, and they always find a way to win the big game.

Winner: Kansas

Missouri at Kansas State (Saturday February 27, 8:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Everyone in Manhattan has been waiting to get revenge on Missouri since the Tigers upset K-State in Columbia back in late December. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will be the key players for K-State if they are going to destroy MU like they’re capable of doing. I think Mizzou comes in and plays tough for the first 30 minutes, but then they will hit a second half scoring drought and the Wildcats will pull away with a big conference win over a rival.

Winner: Kansas State

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (11-0, 25-1) – The Jayhawks have pretty much made the rest of the Big 12 look like they belong in the Pac-10. The only game remaining on KU’s schedule where they have a reasonable chance to lose is the last game of the year, at Missouri.
  2. Kansas State (7-3, 20-4) – The Wildcats took care of the bottom feeders, beating ISU, CU, and NU in their last three games. They have another cake game at home against Nebraska and then they have a tough four game stretch starting with Oklahoma and ending with Kansas.
  3. Texas A&M (7-4, 18-7) – TAMU had the opportunity to pull off a huge upset on Monday night, but Kansas was just a little tougher and grittier down the stretch.
  4. Baylor  (6-4, 19-5) – What a win for the Bears over Missouri. After a very questionable intentional foul call on the Bears, Baylor came back and won the game on an Ekpe Udoh tip in. Baylor has already solidified their NCAA tournament hopes, but now they’re in a five-team battle for a top four seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
  5. Texas (6-4, 20-5) – Well if the 40-point win over Nebraska wasn’t a statement game, I don’t know what a statement game is. UT really needed to clear their heads before they start a road trip against two teams desperately in search of another signature win (Missouri and Texas Tech).
  6. Missouri (6-4, 18-7) – It was heartbreak city for the Tigers in Waco on Saturday.  Mizzou needs to beat Texas if they want a bye in the Big 12 Tournament.
  7. Oklahoma State (5-5, 17-7) James Anderson came to play against Oklahoma, and unfortunately many OU players did not, literally.
  8. Texas Tech (4-6, 16-8) – The Red Raiders were so close to getting back to .500 in the conference, but they just couldn’t hold the lead against Texas A&M late in the game.  TTU needed that win because their next three games should be losses.
  9. Oklahoma (4-6, 13-11) – As if things weren’t bad enough in Norman, now they have two freshmen suspended (including Tiny Gallon), and Willie Warren is out with an illness. This year has got to be one of the biggest disappointments at Oklahoma for quite some time.
  10. Iowa State (2-8, 13-12) – The Cyclones were my sleeper pick this season, but that didn’t pan out nearly as well as I would’ve liked it to. Marquis Gilstrap will be back next season, but Craig Brackins will probably be going to the NBA.
  11. Colorado (2-8, 11-13) – If Colorado just had a big man they would probably be closer to around .500 in the conference than where they are at right now. Cory Higgins and Alec Burks are talents that will help them next season (if Higgins skips the draft), but other than those two players there isn’t much the Buffaloes have to throw at you.
  12. Nebraska (1-9, 13-12) – The 40-point loss could not have helped Doc Sadler make a case for why he should keep his job.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State. Anderson went for 31 points against his archrivals. Right now he is almost guaranteed the conference Player of the Year honor in my book.

Team of the Week – Baylor Bears.  They cut it close against Nebraska and Missouri, but they ended up getting two huge victories. Ekpe Udoh, LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter are some of the best players in the conference and it’s scary that they’re all on the same team.

This Week’s Predictions

  • Texas Tech at Baylor (Tuesday February 16, 8:00 PM ET) – I don’t think its possible for TTU fans to fathom making the NCAA Tournament after the loss to TAMU on Saturday. Sure, if the Red Raiders won at Baylor it would be a huge win but it wouldn’t do enough for them in the long run. I don’t see Tech giving Baylor much of a game. The three-headed monster of Udoh, Carter, and Dunn are going to be too much for Pat Knight and his Raiders to handle.  Winner: Baylor
  • Nebraska at Kansas State (Wednesday February 17, 7:00 PM ET) – It’s going to be tough for NU to play hard after that forty point loss against Texas on Saturday. Kansas State will also show no mercy now that they’re moving up in the national rankings. Look for Jacob Pullen and company to continue their winning streak.  Winner: Kansas State
  • Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Wednesday February 17, 8:00 PM ET) – This is a must win game for OSU because right now the Cowboys are squarely on the bubble. OSU cannot afford another bad road loss and they need to keep this winning streak going if they want any shot at a top four seed in the conference tournament. With all that said, I think Iowa State will pull off the upset behind great play from Marquis Gilstrap and Craig Brackins. The Cyclones almost pulled off a win at Missouri last Wednesday and I think they will find a way to contain Marshall Moses, which will leave OSU throwing up a lot of bad outside shots.  Winner: Iowa State
  • Oklahoma at Colorado (Wednesday February 17, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) – I like Colorado in this game for various reasons. First, I’ve always liked the scoring duo of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. Second, there is no guarantee OU will even have some of their “better” players on the floor. Third, it’s in Boulder, which can be a pretty tough place to play.  Winner: Colorado
  • Texas at Missouri (Wednesday February 17, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) – This is definitely the most intriguing game on Wednesday’s slate. Texas is on a roll it seems after blowing out Nebraska. Missouri is trying to forget the heartbreaking loss to Baylor and get another signature win for their tournament resume. The Longhorns’ big weaknesses are turning the ball over and shooting free throws, two things that Missouri will make you do if you want to beat them. Missouri’s glaring weakness is the fact that they don’t have a big frontcourt player that can compete with the likes of Damion James and Dexter Pittman. I’m taking the Longhorns in this game because they are the hot team and I think they might be gelling at the right time.  Winner: Texas
  • Baylor at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 20, 1:30 PM ET) James Anderson has had some pretty impressive performances at home this season, and I believe he’ll continue with that trend on Saturday when OSU avenges their loss to Iowa State and upsets a ranked Baylor team at home. The Bears have seemed to garner a ranking and then lose it the next week every single time they’re in the polls, so I don’t see why that will change this week.   Winner: Oklahoma State
  • Texas at Texas Tech (Saturday February 20, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) – The Longhorns put up 93 points on TTU the last time these two teams played so I don’t think there’s any question that this one will be high scoring. If the Red Raiders want to win they need to contain the inside and force Texas’ young guards to make shots. Sometimes Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton will make their shots, but I think you’re better off putting the hands in the game of those young guards than James or Pittman on the inside if your Tech. Still, it won’t be enough to stop the Longhorns, even in Lubbock.  Winner: Texas
  • Colorado at Kansas (Saturday February 20, 4:00 PM ET) – Here is the rematch of one of the most surprising games in the Big 12 this season, in which Colorado overcame a 16-point deficit to force overtime in Boulder. This time around I don’t think CU has any chance and this should be all but over before the second half begins.  Winner: Kansas
  • Texas A&M at Iowa State (Saturday February 20, 4:00 PM ET) – The Aggies play an up-tempo style of basketball that the Cyclones just can’t compete with. Mark Turgeon is making a case for Coach of the Year in the conference after losing Derrick Roland to a gruesome injury earlier in the year, and Turgeon will be able to lead TAMU to victory even if it is a close game.  Winner: Texas A&M
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma (Saturday February 20, 6:00 PM ET ESPNU) – In my season preview I listed this as the game that would be the battle for third place in the Big 12. Obviously I was way off, but KSU does have the opportunity to distance itself from the pack if they can pull off a win, which is sometimes tough to do in Norman no matter who is on the court for the Sooners. In the end, however, Kansas State will have enough firepower to wipe OU off the court.  Winner: Kansas State
  • Missouri at Nebraska (Saturday February 20, 6:00 PM ET) – Mizzou had a rough time in the first 30 minutes with Nebraska when they played in Columbia. However, it was one of Missouri’s worst shooting performances of the year and they still won by 17. If the Tigers can shoot well out of the gate this one shouldn’t be too close.  Winner: Missouri 
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Messing With Texas — What Happened Here?

Posted by jstevrtc on February 9th, 2010

If it wasn’t being asked before, it sure as heck is now.  The biggest question in college hoops on this day — the Day After Kansas versus Texas facsimile-of-Texas — is what exactly has happened to the Longhorns.  This former 17-0 and top-ranked team has now lost five of their last seven, including consecutive defeats at the hands of their most bitter rivals, Oklahoma and Kansas.  With the exception of Damion James, the rest of the Longhorn squad has entered this part of the conference season with not even anything close to the spark with which they began the season.  Kansas did their part in living up to the bargain of the Kansas-Texas game hype.  Why not the ‘Horns?

James needs more floor time and more touches

From here, we see two levels to the recent backslide in Austin.  First, Texas has three star freshmen in Avery Bradley, J’Covan Brown, and Jordan Hamilton, all of whom play substantial minutes and take a good chunk of the shots for the Longhorns.  In Texas’ five losses, though, those three have shot only 47-146 (32%), and this accounts for over a third of the team’s shots in those games.  In their last five wins, they’ve shot 68-139 (49%).  When you have a team that relies heavily on freshmen, you invite this kind of inconsistency.  We’re sure he’s addressing the issue in practice, but Rick Barnes can right this ship rather quickly if he can get his freshmen to buy in to the concept of taking not only fewer shots on the whole, but better ones.  The two starting seniors, James and Dexter Pittman, can also help with this.  James is only averaging 29.7 minutes in a given contest; Pittman (a 67% shooter from the field) is on the floor for an average of 19.7 MPG — not even a half.  Having big-time freshmen is great, but it’s time for the Longhorns to rely on their seniors, and it’s time for those seniors to demand the basketball.

The second tier to Texas’ recent woes is more abstract.  As we alluded to in our most recent ATB, this is the time of the season when players hit the wall (especially freshmen).  They forget the fundamentals, they forget the little things that need to be done to win.  Yes, there is a chicken-and-egg aspect to this question, but when you start settling for threes early in the shot clock and stop getting the ball to your 67% shooters and your POY candidates, you’re just going through the motions.  When you’re the top rebounding team in the nation — Texas averages 40.8 RPG as a team, the best there is — and you stop boxing out, then you’re mailing it in.  Ask yourself — is what we’re seeing now the same Texas team as the one from the first 17 games of the season that attacked their opponents on all fronts and put teams away early?  Are they attacking the boards with the same ferocity?  We say no on all counts.  Telling fact even though they pull down the most rebounds of any squad in the game, in their losses (and even in recent wins) their opponents have kept up with them on the glass or even out-rebounded them.  Texas can help their cause by getting back to the little things, and especially the things they already do well.

We’ll be the first to admit that these fixes that we’re recommending sound pretty simple — calm down the freshmen, get the ball to your seniors on the inside, get back to fundamentals, care more about what you’re doing — but even when dealing with complex problems on a team, the best solutions are often the simplest ones.  We know Barnes is preaching this stuff in practice.  We’ll see if the Longhorns are listening.  If they’re not, teams will continue to find it pretty easy to mess with Texas.


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ATB: El Busto on Blockbuster Monday

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2010

Not a Blockbuster Night — More Like Netflix.  Back in October, we wrote that tonight’s two featured games between West Virginia-Villanova and Kansas-Texas were two of the top twenty games of the year on the schedule.  At the time, we thought there was a good chance that the first game would feature the best two teams in the Big East, while the second game could involve the top two teams in the whole country.  As it turned out, the Big East game did in fact involve two of the top teams in the conference (but probably not the best, Syracuse), but the Big 12 game only got half of the equation right — the #1 Kansas part.  Still, the slate tonight held four of the top 14 teams in the latest polls, and we anticipated a great evening of college basketball ahead of us.  That assumption was wrong, as both games tonight were rather ugly affairs involving poor shooting and a bunch of turnovers.  All we can hope is that the rest of Rivalry Week looks nothing like tonight’s tandem of busts.

Scottie and Nova Move to the Top of the Big East (AP/David Smith)

  • #5 Villanova 82, #4 West Virginia 75.  Villanova and Scottie Reynolds continue to win games where on paper they appear to be at a disadvantage.  Tonight the Wildcats ran out to a quick lead in Morgantown behind a hot Corey Fisher, but it was (who else?) Scottie Reynolds who broke out with 19 of his 21 points (along with 4 rebs/5 assts/3 stls) in the second half to ensure that the Cats moved to 10-1 in the Big East race (tied at first with Syracuse).  To win at WVU, you need to do several things very well on both ends of the court, and Villanova did most of them, such as hitting 57% of their FGs, missing only three foul shots and going +10 on the boards.  Perhaps more importantly, VU also held Da’Sean Butler to a mere 13 points on 2-12 shooting, easily his worst game in over a month and a far cry from the 43 he dropped on Jay Wright’s team last season in a beatdown of the Wildcats.  Now that both Syracuse and Villanova have gone into Morgantown and gotten wins this year, we’re confident in stating that those are without question the best two teams in this league.  WVU and Georgetown are on the next tier, and then there’s a mess of about 4-6 teams that are largely equal but not serious threats this season.  The top of this league is better than any other conference by far, though.

Kansas Continues to Roll (AP/Harry Cabluck)

  • #1 Kansas 80, #14 Texas 68.  The second game of the night was even uglier and less exciting than the first.  After a good start for the home team to lead 14-8, Kansas went on a ridiculous 22-0 run over ten minutes to effectively put the game away very early.  It was a comedy of errors for the Horns as Kansas repeatedly stole the ball for easy runouts and three-pointers, and even though the halftime lead was only ten points, nobody in the building (including the Texas players) gave a sense that they were going to come back and win the game.  KU punched Texas in the mouth and the Longhorns didn’t like the sight of their own blood.  How bad was it for UT?  The two Kansas all-americans Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich combined to shoot 5-23 and yet this game was never in question after the second tv timeout.  Let that sink in for a moment… As for Texas, we’re starting to believe that this team is finished for the season.  There appear to be underlying problems that probably relate to definition of roles and teamwork, because the Horns appear to be a bunch of individuals playing out there.  Damion James had his typically strong night with 24/10 and J’Covan Brown had a strong second half (26 pts), but only three other Longhorns even scored tonight (Gary Johnson, Avery Bradley and Dexter Pittman combined for 16 points)!  With all of the individual talent on Rick Barnes’ team, that’s simply inexcusable.  Kansas moves to 9-0 in the Big 12 and Texas drops to 5-4, two teams clearly headed in opposite directions.

Other Games of National Interest.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (8-0, 22-1) – The Jayhawks have been cutting it very close against some of the conference’s weaker opponents. The game in Boulder was incredibly surprising given that Alec Burks was out of the lineup for the Buffaloes, and KU led by 16 at one point in that game. Then on Saturday the Jayhawks had a very close call with Nebraska in Lawrence, and if they’re not careful they could see their number one ranking slip away once again if they drop a game to a far lesser opponent.
  2. Texas (5-3, 19-4) – The Longhorns stay at number two because I still believe they are the second best team in the conference. Sure, they have had their share of rough performances, but with a veteran frontcourt and an experienced coach, I don’t see UT sliding any further than where they are now.
  3. Kansas State (6-3, 19-4) – The Wildcats still can’t get the monkey off their back, even when they’re playing the Jayhawks in Manhattan. The tiebreaker against Texas is going to help a lot when it’s determined who will get second place in the conference.
  4. Texas A&M (6-3, 17-6) – I feel like the Aggies probably had one of their best weeks ever. They went from being a team on the bubble to a team that has all but secured its spot in the NCAA tournament. Congratulations to TAMU, especially after the loss of Derrick Roland.
  5. Missouri (5-3, 17-6) – The Tigers destroyed Colorado, but that was expected because that’s the only team in the Big 12 that Mizzou can consistently outrebound. The Tigers have a good shot at beating Iowa State in Columbia on Wednesday in a game that, depending on how the others go, could have the Tigers sitting alone in second place.
  6. Baylor (4-4, 17-5) – That was a bad loss at A&M, mostly because they blew a late lead. The Bears are not in the tournament yet in my opinion, but if they beat Missouri at home on Saturday, it should solidify their spot.
  7. Oklahoma (4-4, 13-9) – Huge home win for the Sooners, but its probably too-little-too-late as far as the tournament is concerned. It seems this OU team is destined for the NIT.
  8. Oklahoma State (4-5, 16-7) – The Cowboys really had a tough time in Lubbock on Saturday. It proves that this team is nothing but James Anderson, and when he got into foul trouble early in the first half, OSU didn’t know what to do.
  9. Texas Tech (3-5, 15-7) – The Red Raiders kept their slim NCAA tourney hopes alive with an “upset” over Oklahoma State on Saturday. In order for this team to make the tournament they’re going to need one heck of a second half. Finishing 5-3 in their next eight games with a win in the Big 12 tournament would still probably have TTU on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday.
  10. Iowa State (2-6, 13-10) – Good news for Iowa State: Craig Brackins is back after his 30-point performance against KSU. Bad News: You’re still in 10th place.
  11. Colorado (2-7, 11-12) – That was a terrible follow-up to a great game against Kansas. Missouri is a tough team to play, but many CU fans felt that this was a game they could steal from the Tigers. Cory Higgins fouling out certainly didn’t help, but the game was out of reach by then regardless.
  12. Nebraska (1-7, 13-10) – Kudos to the Cornhuskers for not giving up against KU and showing some pride. I think if Nebraska plays like that every game, they could steal a few more wins at home this season.

Team of the Week Baylor Bears.  It is no easy task beating Texas in Austin, especially when arguably your two best players (LaceDarius Dunn and Ekpe Udoh) foul out in OT.  Tweety Carter carried this team on his shoulders and it paid off, because now the Bears have another signature road win to show the tournament committee.

Player of the Week – James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State. If there was any question as to who the best player in the conference was, James Anderson gave us a clear answer last week. With 31 points against Missouri and 28 points against Texas (although both came in losses), Anderson showed why is without a doubt the most prolific scorer in the conference, and should be considered for 1st team All-American honors.

This Week’s Predictions

Kansas at Texas (Monday February 8th, 9:00 PM ET ESPN) – This is the game that both teams and all Big 12 fans have been looking forward to since the pre-season rankings were released. The number one team in the conference (and the nation) will be playing in an incredibly hostile environment against the only team in the conference capable of matching their interior size. For Damion James and Dexter Pittman, Texas’ senior forwards, this is probably the biggest game of their careers. This game will be the difference between a #3/#4 seed for Texas in the NCAA tournament, and the possibility of attaining a #1 seed if they were to beat Kansas again in the Big 12 Tournament. When it’s all said and done, I think that the environment will be too much for KU to handle, and they will drop their first game in conference play. They narrowly escaped Manhattan with a win last Saturday, and this time I don’t think they’ll be quite so lucky.

Winner: Texas

Texas Tech at Oklahoma (Tuesday February 9th, 8:00 PM ET) – Two teams with totally different seasons thus far, but they’ve both let their fans down in one way or another. Norman is an incredibly tough place to play, and if there is one thing Oklahoma is good at its scoring in bunches. Pair those facts with the fact that TTU has one of the worst defenses in the conference and we have a victory for OU.

Winner: Oklahoma

Iowa State at Missouri (Wednesday February 10th, 7:30 PM ET) – The Tigers are not going to lose two games in a row at home, even if they are terribly overmatched on the inside. Iowa State has had problems turning the ball over, and that plays right into Mizzou’s gameplan. Not only do I expect Missouri to win this game, but I don’t even think it will be that close.

Winner: Missouri

Baylor at Nebraska (Wednesday February 10th, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) – The Bears overmatch Nebraska in almost every category, then again so does almost all of the conference. Ekpe Udoh should have a huge game, as Nebraska has absolutely no one that can stop him on the inside.

Winner: Baylor

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles… (With a Wednesday Twist)

Posted by zhayes9 on February 3rd, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

This week’s Scribbles column will look ahead to a couple months down the road in Indianapolis, where 65 deserving teams will be whittled down to just four, and to that blissful Monday night in April when one lucky group will be dancing at mid-court to the tune of One Shining Moment. In my estimation, there are ten squads with a promising-to-slight chance of hoisting a 2010 National Champions banner during their home opener next season. I’m here to tell you those ten teams, why they have hopes of winning a national title, what’s holding them back, and the most realistic scenario as I see it come late March or beginning of April. These teams are ranked in reverse order from 10-1 with the #1 school holding the best cards in their deck.

10. Duke

Why they can win it all: Their floor leader and senior stalwart Jon Scheyer is the steadiest distributor in all of college basketball, evident from his incredibly stellar 3.28 A/T ratio and a 5.6 APG mark that ranks third in the ACC and 23d in the nation. Scheyer is also a deadly shooter coming off screens when he has time to square his body to the basket, nailing a career-high 39% from deep to go along with 44% from the floor overall. Duke is also a tremendous free-throw shooting team as a whole and Coach K has the ability to play a group of Scheyer-Kyle Singler-Nolan Smith-Mason Plumlee-Lance Thomas that doesn’t feature one player under 70% from the charity stripe. Duke also features a ton more size in the paint than during previous flameouts in the NCAA Tournament. When Singler plays small forward, Coach K can rotate Miles and Mason Plumlee, the glue guy Thomas, rebounding force Brian Zoubek and even Ryan Kelly at two positions with no player under 6’8. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more efficient backcourt in the nation than Scheyer and Smith. And it’s widely known that exceptional guard play is the ultimate key to winning in March.

What Makes Duke 2010 Different than Duke 2006-09?

Why they won’t win it all: Depth could certainly be an issue for the Blue Devils’ chances of raising their first banner since 2001. Andre Dawkins has fallen almost entirely out of the rotation and Coach K has started to limit Mason Plumlee’s minutes during important games. Also, Brian Zoubek’s tendency to immediately step into foul trouble limits his availability. It wouldn’t shock me to see Duke play Scheyer, Smith and Singler 40 minutes per game during their time in the NCAA Tournament. That could cause those key players, who rely primarily on their jump shot, to lose their legs and start throwing up bricks. Kyle Singler isn’t quite the superstar he was last season, either. Singler’s numbers are down across the board — scoring, rebounding, FG%, 3pt% — and he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury that may not improve in the weeks and months ahead. Duke also lacks the athleticism of teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Texas. They could struggle with quicker guards like John Wall and athletic rebounders of the Damion James mold.

Likely scenario: I see Duke reaching the Sweet 16 as a #2 seed where they fall to a more athletic, quick group of guards that can explode to the rim and draw fouls. Duke may have height, but most of that height just isn’t a threat offensively by any stretch of the imagination. Eventually getting into a jump shooting contest could be the Blue Devils’ downfall if two of Smith, Scheyer and Singler go cold.

9. West Virginia

Why they can win it all: Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in the nation when the chips are on the table. If the Mountaineers need a big shot to keep their season alive, Butler will demand the basketball and more than likely deliver. He’s downed Marquette and Louisville on game-deciding jumpers and led the second half charge against Ohio State. West Virginia is also supremely athletic and Bob Huggins’ teams always crash the boards with a tremendous ferocity. No contender can match the height across the board that West Virginia touts other than Kentucky. Huggins has experimented with lineups in which all of his players are 6’6 or taller, including 6’9 Devin Ebanks acting as a point-forward and 6’7 Da’Sean Butler capable of posting up smaller two-guards. Sophomore Kevin Jones is an incredible talent and a rebounding machine (7.7 RPG) that hits 55% of his shots from the floor and 44% from deep. West Virginia has the luxury of any of their forwards being able to step out and drain a mid-range jumper, from Ebanks to Jones to Wellington Smith to John Flowers every once in a full moon.

Ebanks is the X-factor for West Virginia

Why they won’t win it all: Let’s face it: Bob Huggins doesn’t have exactly the best track record when it comes to NCAA Tournament success. Huggins hasn’t reached the Elite 8 since 1995-96 with Cincinnati and only one Sweet 16 in the last ten years. In 2000 and 2002, his Bearcats lost just four games all season and yet didn’t reach the second weekend of March both times. Most also question whether the Mountaineers can hit outside shots on a consistent basis. They’ve struggled mightily in the first half of Big East games and can’t afford to fall behind against elite competition in March like they did against Dayton last season. Point guard play is a prudent question for West Virginia, as well. Joe Mazzulla is a quality perimeter defender and a capable distributor, but he’ll never be the offensive threat he was two seasons ago due to that shoulder injury. Darryl Bryant can certainly catch a hot streak shooting-wise, but in all honestly he’s more suited as an undersized two-guard. Bryant is averaging just 3.6 APG in 25+ MPG of action.

Likely scenario: I’m still fairly high on this team. I love Butler at the end of games and Ebanks can do anything for Huggins — from score to rebound to run the point — and Kevin Jones is one of the most underappreciated players in the Big East. In the end, I see a clankfest from outside ultimately costing West Virginia their season. And for all their rebounding history, the Mountaineers are in the mid-60s in the nation. The Elite Eight seems like a proper place for their season to conclude.

8. Texas

Why they can win it all: No team boasts better perimeter defenders than Texas. Anyone that watched Dogus Balbay completely shut down James Anderson in the second half Monday night knows he’s the best perimeter defender in the nation, even stronger than Purdue’s Chris Kramer. Avery Bradley came in with the reputation as an elite defender and he’s certainly lived up to that billing. Even J’Covan Brown off the bench is a capable defensive player and Justin Mason is a plus defender. When Dexter Pittman stays out of foul trouble, Texas boasts a legitimate shot-blocking presence that can negate quick guards on the rare occasion they slip past Balbay or Bradley. Texas is also the deepest team in the nation and Rick Barnes has the capability of playing 10 or 11 men on any night if he feels the need. The preserved minutes could pay dividends in the form of fresh players come March. Damion James should also be on a mission come March as a senior. He’s never reached a Final Four during his Longhorns career and came back for a fourth year in Austin to accomplish that very feat.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.01.10

Posted by THager on February 1st, 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Connecticut @ Louisville – 7 pm on ESPN (**)

It’s not too often that a team can be ranked one week and out of the Tournament the next, but that is what UConn could be facing after following up a #19 ranking with back to back losses.  The Huskies lost at Providence and allowed Marquette to come back in the final minute for another loss, and the Huskies now stand on the outer edge of the bubble at 13-8 overall.  Their RPI ranking is fairly acceptable at #44, but they are going to have to play well at Louisville to give themselves a chance.  The Cardinals, who have not been ranked for a while, have a lower RPI and really need to turn things around soon to receive a Tournament bid.  They have lost four of their last five games and the Huskies have lost five of their last seven games.   Both of these teams are going to have to play to their strengths if they want to be successful down the stretch.  Louisville has a solid offense at 79.8 points per game, largely due to their efficiency and solid rebounding.   The Huskies have played well defensively this year, leading the country with 8.5 blocks per game.  These teams have occasionally struggled even when they have been able to play their style.  UL lost its only Big East games when Samardo Samuels scores over 20 points, and Connecticut has lost games when they gave up 70, 68, 67, 64, and 68 points.  Still, UL is not going to win games by holding opponents to 60 points, and the Huskies aren’t going to be lighting up the scoreboard.  The Huskies have not won on the road this year, and I do not expect them to start winning tonight in the midst of another losing streak.

#6 Texas @ Oklahoma State – 9 pm on ESPN (***)

James Has Been On Fire Lately

These teams are struggling despite some of the best individual performances we have seen in the Big 12 all year.  The Longhorns have lost three of four games, but senior Damion James has been on a tear.  He’s averaging 24/13 in his last three games.  Oklahoma State’s James Anderson scored 31 points in his last game against Missouri and still lost, largely due to giving up 95 points to a Missouri team that shot 55 percent from three in the game.  Nobody knows what to expect from either of these teams anymore, but look for the Cowboys to get a close win.  Oklahoma State is undefeated this year at home, while the Longhorns have dropped their last two road games.  Despite the Longhorns ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency on the year, they have played quite poorly as of late.  They have surrendered over 80 points per game in this four-game stretch, and have also seen their offensive numbers drop.  UT is second in the country at 85.3 points per game, but when they only rank 34th in offensive efficiency, they are going to lose some games when they play poorly on the other end.  James and Anderson can only lead their teams so far, so somebody else will have to step up and make a difference in this game.

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ATB: UConn Remains Relevant and Other Assorted Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

This Weekend’s Big Games.  This wasn’t an exceptional weekend of games, but there were three that, at least on paper, held significant hope.  Two of the three turned out pretty well, but the third was a disappointment.  Let’s see if you can figure out which.

Good to See Ya Back, UConn...

  • #22 Connecticut 88, #1 Texas 74.  If you haven’t beaten a ranked team all year long, then what better place to start than to take out the team on top.  True, Texas was a lame-duck #1, having lost to Kansas State earlier in the week, but let’s not quibble.  For the Huskies, this wasn’t exactly a great time for a possible NCAA Tournament top seed to show up in town; so far this year, UConn had underachieved their way to an anemic 12-6, dropped three of their last four, fallen out of the AP Top 25, and their coach — a man known for his toughness as much as his two titles — was going to miss his second straight game because his doctors told him to get away from basketball for a while.  It’s not a matter of talent on the team, that’s never been questioned.  It just hasn’t been there for UConn; they’ve shown nothing close to the confidence and will to win that they’ve possessed for so long.  Sure, Texas had lost on Monday and was probably going to lose the top spot in the polls, but they were still a potential #1 seed come March, and the K-State loss wasn’t exactly a shocker.  After a half, this looked exactly like the game everyone expected.  Connecticut was listless and turnover-prone.  Texas looked like so many fine teams coming off a loss — angry, and wanting someone to pay.  The Huskies were down 42-34 at the break and showed no signs of a likely second-half charge.  And then — they found something.  Hard to say what it could have been — did they suddenly realize how talented they were?  Did they rally around a “Let’s do it for Coach Calhoun!” mentality?  If you’re a Connecticut fan, do you even care?  Because a different Connecticut team came out of the locker room.  Suddenly, you saw UConn players getting down in defensive stances instead of standing straight up.  They seemed three times as quick and hundred times as interested as their first half doppelgangers.  Like it so often is, defense was the trigger.  Runs of 13-0 and 9-0 paced the Huskies to a second half that saw them outscore the ‘Horns by 22, shut down Dexter Pittman, and frustrate Texas into a game total of 30 fouls.  The offense flowed through Jerome Dyson, whose 32 points (on 12-32 shooting) often came courtesy of Kemba Walker’s 10 assists (not that his 19 points and six steals didn’t help) on possessions started by one of Stanley Robinson’s (17/12) 12 rebounds.  For Texas, Damion James’ 23/7 and Avery Bradley’s 15 points simply couldn’t match whatever transfused into Connecticut at halftime.  Lots of questions, now, mostly on the UConn side.  We know Texas hasn’t peaked already, but what of Connecticut?  Can they continue to summon whatever it was that visited them at halftime of this game?  If they can, the Big East just got even more interesting than it was 48 hours ago.
  • #6 Duke 60, #16 Clemson 47.  This was what you call a defensive lockdown by the Devils.  Taking a page from the way they played Gonzaga earlier this season, Duke allowed do-it-all Clemson forward Trevor Booker to go to work (22/6), but other than Demontez Stitt’s 10-point effort, the rest of the Clemson starters had a grand total of one field goal.  The openings just weren’t there, and with no three-point shooters on the court to help instigate a prolonged run, the Tigers couldn’t get enough consecutive buckets to ever threaten Duke in the second half.  Nolan Smith (22/3) continues to play impressive basketball, as he shot 8-13 yesterday and is showing an aura of confidence that well suits a player shooting lights-out this season (49% FG, 51% 3FG).  It was his nine points during an 11-2 Duke run early in the second half that broke open the game and quieted the combustible Littlejohn faithful.  If you want to know one reason of many that Duke is playing so well this year, look no further than how well the Duke backcourt holds onto the ball.  The trio of Jon Scheyer, Andre Dawkins and Smith all rank among the top 315 players in the country in turnover percentage, with each turning it over less than 15% of the time.  As an example of this, Duke had twelve TOs yesterday in a hostile road environment against a team in Clemson that ranks in the top in forcing them — the Duke backcourt only had three.  We still have concerns about the Duke players wearing down over the course of the season, as both Kyle Singler and Scheyer played the full forty minutes and Smith logged thirty-seven.  But for now, Duke has avoided the injury bug and Coach K is very good at providing his players spot rest during games when needed.  As for Clemson, it’s back to the drawing board for Oliver Purnell’s team.  The Tigers are going to have to figure out how to find more offense beyond the consistently good play of Trevor Booker and the occasional good night from Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith.

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